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January 25, 2011

Undergraduate Research Symposium (URS)!

The URS is coming up on April 16, 2011 and so it's that time again to start submitting your work!

The URS provides an opportunity to present, perform, and explain the projects and research or creative activity that they have been working on over the past semester(s) and year. The deadline for submissions will be Friday, February 25, 2011. Please visit the URS website for additional information!

Life on a Trip

Last year, I went on a trip.

The trip consisted of:

- three weeks on the tiny island of Ikaria, and one week in Athens, with Argie Manolis' "Aging in Greece" program -- hot, strong coffee in small paper cups, furious gray waves and jagged cliffs, people who invited you into their homes and fed you cookies, the Parthenon, stray cats, stray dogs, and this feeling that you were at the center, you were where it all began;

- a month in Bray, a suburb of Dublin, through the English Language Teaching Assistant Program - here was a small duplex with a yellow kitchen and seven other students, three of whom were from UMM; the school was a boys' school, full of little gentlemen in ties and blue sweatshirts; my class was a class of ten-year-olds, solemn kids who'd come from India, China, the Philippines, Andorra, kids who knew that their teacher didn't know very much but humored her;

- a month in County Cork, in the west of Ireland, a little town called Macroom that had a castle full of stores and a medieval-feeling farmer's market; I was there through the Worldwide Workers on Organic Farms program, had called a number I'd found on the Internet and wound up here, with a woman and her four children and her otter and her goat and her chickens and her pigs and her husband; I swept the floor and made bread and moved wood and fed the pigs;

- then, finally, Munich, Germany, where I'd been intending to go all along; a semester at the country's biggest university, a Harry - Potter - esque cathedral of a school with domes and arches; stately pastel-colored buildings, thousands of bicycles, a massive green park at the heart of the city; rivers, beers, trips to the Alps --

It was all very fast and very slow, all at the same time. It wasn't all Europe and excitement; I spent moments waiting, too, waiting guiltily for the next thing, up in my yellow room in the old farmhouse in Ireland, waiting for friends to call, waiting to leave the school at the end of the day. But in retrospect, yes, it is a whirlwind -- a flurry of beautiful pictures.

When I left the country in December 2009, my plans were this: that I could have this one beautiful semester-plus of Living, and then it would be back to school; that I would return in September and graduate, like everyone else, in June; that then I would go to grad school, since at that point it seemed inevitable, and I would have all these stories to tell while I paid off the loan from the trip.

Instead, I am in Munich again, except now Munich is home.

I was out with a friend my first week in Germany, expecting nothing from the evening but a beer and more stories -- but then this young man came up to me, and the next day, expecting nothing, I found myself out on a date with him. And slowly, over the semester, I realized that not coming back was no longer an option -- that I was in love with him and with the city.

I left in August, and in October he was in Morris, laughing with my friends and going to Improv Club and being shocked by the cold wind (he used to live in Iran -- he says he is not made for the cold). And then, two days before he left, he and I sat down with my mother and we booked my ticket back together.

I graduated in December, got on that plane, and now I am here again, cycling through the English Gardens, wandering through Marienplatz. It's a more-disorienting trip: I have no plan except to find a job very quickly, as I must in order to stay in the country, but I'm sure everything will work out as it did last year. I miss Morris, but it's nice to be here -- in my future that is also my past -- and I'll keep you updated on what happens.

January 20, 2011

Ajmer and Pushkar

Our class went on the most amazing field trip on Friday to a slum. The slum was an amazing field trip... It is a home to hundreds of diverse artists: painters, puppeteer, jewelers, quilters, India dancers, folk dancing, musicians and so much more. The field trip involved trying all the different jobs in small groups. I began by beading an extravagant necklace... you can see the picture... knowing these women do this every day all day is amazing to me, their tiny little nimble fingers, the strain in their eyes, and their backs bending over all day to do that is incredible. Then I moved to the quilt making where I sewed the blankets, which was a lot of fun, but once again similar to the beading WOW!!!

After the beading and quilting I went to the dancing, where we were taught to do some Indian dance moves, a musician patted on the drum as we danced in a tiny space of her home. It was so much fun, we danced like no body was watching, looking like fools next to the most amazing dancer! She looked beautiful in her costume! We watched her children dance too, filthy, barefoot and un-groomed they danced giggling and loving every second of the attention we were giving them :)

The next stop was a puppeteer and drummer. the puppeteer was SUPER AWESOME!!! We got to try it... surprisingly I have the hidden talent... I guess I did quite well guiding the incredibly heavy puppet across the floor, while the man beat on his drum, we were all clapping and loving being in the shack.

The last stop was the dancing with the traditional costume of a horse. OMG so embarrassing. Everyone was staring at you with a horse costume on... fifty small children watching and countless adults. It was a lot of fun, and incredible, but I also felt stupid... LOOK AT PICTURES to fully understand.

After it all we had a program of all the artists performing and the final piece asked us to get up and show everyone what we had learned in our sessions! It was so fun! It was amazing to see the slums, make the children's day and learn about what they do. Which brings me to the next thing....

I have decided on an internship called Sadhna. It is a social business, a smallstart-up, vocational training for adults, empowerment for women, and rural location close to Udiapur. I think it will be similar to the field trip we did, helping women learn handicrafts to sell to help them have an income of their own. You can check out the website of the internship....

This weekend I went to Pushkar and Ajmer. They are both smaller Indian cities in between the mountains! They were so beautiful. We went to several different temples... I posted the pictures of their magnificence. :)

All my friends and family however are in trouble... I went to the holy water to pray for you. However the Brahmen religious leader told me I had to pay 300rupees per persona I prayed for.... ummmm didn't pay haha.... I paid a total of 50 rupees for all of you.

Sorry folks, I hope whoever was listening to my prayers understands my fear of people constantly trying to rip me off and take my money :P

After exploring Pushkar, we went to a lovely lunch at Pink Floyd Cafe where I met my new illegal friend Herman, a turtle on the roof of Pink Floyd! I guess its illegal to house or have turtles in India. Herman did enjoy the roof with us though, it was beautiful, the view was amazing and he seemed to enjoy playing with my straw!

After the cafe, we went to Ajmer where I had a bit of an emotional breakdown. While exploring Ajmer we decided to go to a mosque where we saw several people missing limbs amongst other disabilities. I have seen this so many times before. There are hundreds of people all over India with missing limbs, scooting around on scooters, riding it bikes pedaled with their hands but this was really different.

I think there is a problem with polio here. The people have legs but they are literally just bone.... soo sooo skinny, and because they are so weak, they move them in all kinds of awkward broken positions. Their knee pointed one way, their foot another, their toes missing, or distorted.

This sort of site doesn't phase me the same way it did one month ago, however one man in particular did.

The first time he walked by I thought little of the man in torn clothes who carried a large stick right in front of him... stomping the ground with the base of the stick in front of him... I could recognize he was blind... his face was looking at the ground so I could not look at him, but his stick pounding showed his disability.

The second time he walked by I saw his face.. his face was full of fear as he walked down the most crowded street of Ajmer, unable to see anything, his stick leading the way to scary path crossing the busy intersection. I saw his eyes and my heart skipped a beat. He had been blinded on purpose, his eyes were burnt from what had appeared to be acid... solid white with scarring covering his eyes and eyelids... He had his hand out between each sticks stomp, begging for money.

He was such a tiny little man.

The third time he walked by was when my eyes filled with tears as someone literally rammed into the man, knocking him off his balance and his face already full of fear became full of surprise, sadness and terror. I almost lost it in the market and was thankfully then allowed to walk into the mosque where I was distracted by many other people asking for my money, my handshake, and the curtsy of an introduction.

The whole town was amazing and incredibly beautiful. The entire city was completely different than Jaipur. We loved every second of our adventure!

New Beginnings

So... I'm in Morocco!

Actually, I've been here since September 6th, 2010, but my best-laid plans to blog during my fall semester went astray as I was overcome by the distractions of life in a completely new culture. Fortunately, I'm staying here through the spring, so I still have time to recount my best stories from last semester as well as post about current goings-on in my adopted country.

A bit about me: My name is Sarah Ranney, and I'm a native of Groton, Massachusetts, a junior at Morris, and currently a student at the École Superieure de Direction et de Gestion in Rabat, Morocco, studying on CIEE's Language and Culture program. A French major and Anthropology minor, I decided to study abroad in a Francophone (French-speaking) country rather than in France, due to my long-standing interest in Arab language and culture. The advantages and disadvantages of this choice have become apparent over the last few months, but overall I've been satisfied with the outcome. I'm not a big fan of trying to sum up complicated experiences in one pithy phrase, so for now I'll just say that I've had an amazing time here so far and am overjoyed to be lingering a few more months. Besides, I expect to be blitzing the ACE blog with posts in the next couple of weeks to make up for my past failure, which should give a decent idea of what my life in Morocco has been like.

Last semester, our program was quite small, with only ten students. The others were: Caítríona (Cat), who goes to Stonehill College in Boston; Rachel, Jake, and Jordan, who all go to the University of Oregon; Judith (Jet), who goes to Cornell; Meghan, who goes to Claremont McKenna College in California; Ethan, who goes to the University of New Hampshire; Courtney, who goes to Spelman College in Atlanta; and Nabila, who goes to Trinity College in Connecticut.

Cat, Nabila, Rachel, Jake, and I (aka half the program) are staying for the academic year. In late December, we said sad goodbyes to Ethan, Jordan, Courtney, Meghan, and Jet; and on January 24th, we'll meet our new friends the spring semester students. There are fifteen of them, so the program will double in size.

Another VIP is our resident director, Madiha, who matched us up with our homestay families and does her best to fulfill our every wish and need. She also happens to be the nicest person I've ever met!

I think that's enough background info for now. I'll be preparing for the start of the new semester over the next few days, but I'm sure I'll find time to post again soon. Thanks for reading!

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