Thursday, September 30, 2010

Portland baby! And JOHN WULF.

Once again, I am behind with my blogtivity! Darnit! I always have such grand plans to write more frequent blog posts, but  they somehow seem to remain grand plans. Hmmm...So, in my efforts to not have you react with an "ag, (or as my American friend JOHN WULF would say "uck") this is too long to read!", I will try to keep this as BRIEF as possible. The past two weeks have been super busy and filled with all kinds of activities, but alas, I will not give you a complete rundown of EVERYTHING that has been going on - just some highlights.

Saturday night saw the international students venture into the city of Portland for a night on the town. Can I get a woop woop!! Yes, we were going clubbing! Downtown Portland is really awesome and well laid-out: all the bars and clubs are in the same area (how convenient), so there is a great vibe on the street as people walk from one place to another. We went in a couple of cars and got taken to a club called 'dirty' - and yes, the name really does say it all. But hey, the music was good and I was keen for a dance. I also met up with some friends from church (JOHN WULF included), and went to a bar nearby for a chilled drink. After that, I returned to the club to continue jamming with the Europeans. As the night neared its end, we began to move towards the exit of the club, only to be most rudely interrupted by a freaking DRIVE-BY SHOOTING! Right outside the club! Really? I mean, I felt quite at home, but still, it was rather a shock. I wasn't yet outside the club, but some of the other students were, and so they had to do the whole get down on the pavement thing - so crazy. Many of them had never heard gun shots before, and so at first thought that it was fireworks (seriously). So ja, that was our eventful night in Portland! And apparently that kind of thing seldom happens in Portland (although they say that gang violence is on the increase). Obviously it would happen when all the Europeans are there. Murphy's Law.

It was my roommate Ally's birthday yesterday. Yay! I woke her up in the morning holding two muffins with a lit candle in each muffin (a 1 and an 8 - she turned 18, duh), as well as gifts and the happy birthday song (it seemed appropriate). That was fun. The two of us went out for dinner last night and discovered a GREAT sushi place, that is really close to campus and really cheap too! C'mon! It even has a sushi belt and everything. We are both pretty stoked and plan to return soon. We then took a li'l walk to Safeway and bought an ice-cream cake (or ice-cream pie I think). Ally loves them and I had never tried one before...they are good!

Just after we got back from Safeway there was loud knocking (well, banging really) on our door. Four girls from one of the sorority houses on campus had arrived to present a formal invitation to me to join the Alpha Chi sorority house. I was invited there for a little Meet&Greet on Monday night, got a tour of the house and met a bunch of the girls who lived there. And they have now invited me to join! Sororities and fraternities are quite a big deal here, but I'm not quite sure what this would entail, since I don't think that I would actually move in to the house. Anyway, more on this later... watch this space.

What else? Hung out with friends from church last night, which is always fun. I am making good friends in the church I am going to, and think that that, more than anything else, is probably why I feel so settled here. JOHN WULF and his housemates were a part of the party, and they were my chauffeurs (or chaperones?)  for the night (thanks JOHN! (and Ryan and James) Lol.

Hey, our first performance is on Saturday! (The Willamette Singers that is, and not the band of circus midgets that I recently joined). We are performing in a Choral Leadership Workshop. I was chosen to sing the solo in one of the songs, which means that I will be singing solo parts in two songs (fun!), and playing piano on one of the songs too.

The other really important event of this week was the commencement of my internship at the Statesman Journal - a local newspaper. Apart from the fact that it totals my afternoons, and leaves me an ever-decreasing amount of free time (as it adds up to 12 or more hours per week), I am LOVING it. They have thrown me right into the deep-end and given me stuff to write, as well as a business feature story to cover (as of today). Can I get a woop woop!! for journalism experience and a significantly enhanced CV (otherwise known as a resume - to all my American friends out there, like JOHN WULF).

Ok, I'm going to stop! We all know that this is already long, so I'm not even going to try and qualify it (other than by saying, "What can I say? I have a lot to say!"). hehe. Thanks for reading though! (if indeed you are reading this sentence, which means that you have actually read all the way through).

PLEASE NOTE: JOHN WULF was not harmed during the making of this blog post.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

a day in the life of...

Tuesday 21st September 2010:

Yesterday I took a leisurely stroll to Safeway (kind of like a Pick 'n Pay) to pick up a few things. The sun was out and it was a good day to go for a walk. Who knew that you can now buy apple slices in a supermarket?!? These goodies are ready-made (i.e. sliced) individually wrapped and ready to go. In what world, I cry, do we not have time to slice our own apples??!!! In what world are we wasting that amount of plastic in order to package a single apple slice??!!! Ours.

After getting what I needed (which, I might add, took a while to find: I was asked by a shop assistant if I needed help finding something, and I politely replied that I was fine and would manage to find what I was looking for - hoping that I would discover its location on one of the display boards above the aisles. Needless to say, I wandered around for another few minutes before I eventually stumbled upon what I was looking for. You see, the things I was looking for were... well, let's just say Safeway calls them Feminine Products - or something along those lines. The shop assistant who asked me if I needed help was (you guessed it) male. And call me old fashioned, but I didn't REALLY feel like asking him where I could find "feminine products". Anyway, he ended up walking past me (twice) while I was standing in front of all the "feminine products" deciding which ones to buy. Gotta love how life has a knack of doing things like that.

I then grabbed a Chai Tea Latte at Starbucks on my way out, and headed back towards campus. I would like at this point to make special reference to Revolution Cafe in Grahamstown, South Africa: There just isn't anywhere else - probably in the whole word, but certainly in South Africa and America (America being Starbucks) - that makes a better Chai Tea Latte than that little restaurant in that little town. I have yet to find a better Chai Tea Latte!

Anyway, I decided to wander into the State Capitol park (right across the road from campus, where the capitol building is located), and found a bench to sit on and have some alone time! It was nice to just chill a bit and think about things (whilst drinking my less than satisfactory Chai Tea Latte). No sooner had ten minutes passed than a guy named Sean, who is in my French class, cycled past and stopped to say hi. An hour and fifteen minutes later, we said goodbyes and parted ways! Turns out we had a lot to talk about! :) But it was definitely one of those unexpected moments or conversations that leave you feeling like a more enriched individual.

After dinner (there's that word again), I went to an address given by a guy named John Perkins who has just written a book called 'Hoodwinked' and also wrote a book called 'Confessions of an Economic Hitman' (which was on the New York Times bestsellers list for seventy weeks!) He is a fascinating man who spoke about what we (as a human species, but specifically as the USA) need to do in order to change the current state of the world, especially in terms of the current environmental damage and social injustice. It was a truly thought-provoking address, and was given by someone who really knows what he is talking about (as an "economic hitman", he used to work for big corporations and seek out countries with coveted resources. These countries would be given "loans" (that went into the pockets of a few) by corporations who knew full-well they would never be able to pay them back. The corporations would then extract the resources that they wanted all along as payment for the loans). Scary stuff.

Unfortunately I was unable to stay for the question and answer session, as I was meeting some friends to go downtown for movies! Willamette is located right next to downtown Salem (as in, we are basically IN downtown Salem), which is really awesome as this means that most of the coffee shops, restaurants, shops, bars and businesses are within walking distance. This includes Cinebar - a really nifty movie theatre where you can have a full meal served to you while you watch a movie. In front of each row of seats there is a long table on which you can rest your meal, popcorn, drink, etc. Waiters come in during the movie to check for order slips and then bring you whatever it is that you want (well, if it's on the menu). Myself and a French girl Stephanie decided to order some popcorn together. Little did we know that we would be receiving a whole giant bowl of popcorn! Talk about giving new meaning to a "large popcorn"! We watched 'Inception', which is an absolutely PHENOMENAL movie that everyone should watch. It is brilliant on so many levels and will completely blow your mind.

And there ends a day in the life of Hanna B. I crawled into bed around 1am with the feeling that it had been a GOOD day.

'Til next time...

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Singers' Retreat, an Open Mic, a Football game and Oktoberfest.

As usual, I am horribly behind with my blogging and have far too much to report than is possible to write on one blog post without boring you all to death, tears or some other awful fate. Instead of harping on about any number of things that I could, I will just give a few highlights of the past two weeks or so...

Last weekend I went away with the Willamette Singers on a retreat (and have been teased endlessly about "singers retreat"/ "jazz camp"/ "band camp" by church friends). Needless to say, the retreat was lots of fun. It involved plenty of rehearsal time, as well as time getting to know one another. I am really happy to be a part of this group, as it is comprised of really great guys and gals who are fun to be around, and the group singing is so much fun! I have not done serious group singing since Primary school (many years back!), and so it is really wonderful to be doing it again. The jazz melodies, rhythms and harmonies we work with are awesome...and very intricate! So it is quite a challenge keeping up with all the music. Singers comprises 16 actual singers (4 basses, 4 tenors, 4 altos, 4 sopranos) and then a small rhythm section. At the moment I am playing piano on one of the songs; I'm really glad that I get to keep up my piano playing too!

Another highlight was an Open Mic Night that happened last Thursday (the 16th) on campus, and in which I performed! I sang a Xhosa song called Yakhal Inkomo, and I think people were generally impressed with all the African clicks coming out of a white chick's mouth. :) It was fun to do a bit of performing, and I even got to do it on a piano!

On Saturday I watched my first American football game! This was certainly an experience, and probably not one that I will hurry to repeat. Jokes, that sounds terrible. But in all honesty, it did ignite the fires of patriotism within me as I longed for good South African rugby. Ja, nee... Firstly, American football is slow...tiresomely so: there is a lot of stopping and starting, and not a whole lot of movement. Secondly, there are generally between 65 to 70 people in a team, or in Willamette's case 99 players! Come on! In other words, players are constantly being switched and swapped on and off the field, so that it is near impossible to keep track of who is doing what and in which position...ahem. In addition, this means that throughout the game, the side of the field is lined with footballers, making it (at times) difficult to actually keep your eyes on the real action (for obvious reasons...wink wink, nudge nudge). And finally, the game is VERY long; it seems to go on for hours. This is why, as I was politely informed yesterday by a fanatic football fan at church in his attempts to convince me that I simply need to watch a "real" football game in order to grasp its glory, it is fun (perhaps even necessary or at least recommended) to "tailgate" in between: i.e. barbecue during, in between, and after the football game. This leads me to conclude that in many respects watching American football is all about the experience - one which eludes me for the moment, but watch this space! There is yet hope!

Yesterday consisted of church, Oktoberfest (ironic) and lots of socialising with church peeps. It seems to be fast becoming a Sunday staple to stay out all day with friends from church, and arrive home in the late hours of the night, having done not a drop of work all day. A very out-of-character habit to be adopting, but hey, I'm abroad! ;) Anyway, yesterday was no different. After church I hit Oktoberfest with Moritz (an actual German, who could not stop complaining about the inauthenticity of the whole thing - especially the misspelling of words, which I must admit was a bit of a poor show) and friends from church. It was nice to get out of Salem a bit and explore a different town (Mount Angel in this case). The town is tiny, and pretty much all the streets (of which there are probably only about four) were closed in order to house food and clothing stalls, wine and beer gardens, and other forms of entertainment and general merriment. We had lunch there and wandered around a bit, seeing what was on offer. The remainder of the afternoon was spent chilling at various homes, playing games, watching a movie, and partaking in other enjoyable activities. 

A new week has begun on my AfricanAmerican Adventure, and who knows what it may hold? :) I will probably be starting an internship this week at the Statesman Journal (one of the newspapers here in Salem). The internship is part of my Politics course (making up the bulk of it), and I look forward to getting some good practical writing experience, and discovering (or coming closer to such) whether or not journalism is a potential career path for me! (This will be most helpful in deciding what it is that I actually plan on doing next year. No pressure).

Thanks for tuning in!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Living on the eDgE! And LABOUR DAY weekend.

I am proud to report that I have just arrived back from a somewhat spontaneous trip to Portland! Yes, it seems that when one is abroad the juices of spontaneity will flow. And I'm sure many of you are thinking - "finally"! (Ok, maybe just Amz and Niks...but still). So my partner in crime on this spontaneous expedition was my German friend Moritz. We left after class - around 11ish, and then I managed to get a lift back with someone after lunch, which was REALLY fortuitous, since the original plan included a rushed shopping spree for Moritz and then rushing back to Salem so that I could be back in time to leave for the Willamette Singers retreat (which runs from 17:20 today until 17:00 tomorrow). All around I feel it was a good decision to go to Portland (not one done without a notable amount of agonising over whether or not it was a good idea).

But enough about my little achievement...I have not updated my blog in a while, and so have a few new adventures and stories to share. Last weekend was Labour Day Weekend in the US - meaning that Monday was a public holiday - right on! :) Friday saw the international group being taken to the Oregon State Fair by our peer advisors. This was indeed fun, although I didn't venture onto any of the rides. Just walked around, checking out the scene (read: people) and examining a bunch of farm animals. Ja, for some reason people enjoy looking at pigs, goats, horses, cows, bunnies, sheep... in pens. I know what you're thinking...Hickville, right? There was even some kind of a sheep competition in which contestants lined up with their sheep (who were the real contestants), to show them off, and also did various things around an enclosed area. Weird.

I had my first all-American corn dog though! That was pretty exciting...well, up until I took the first bite and my arteries started screaming. A sausage (the contents of which are probably inappropriate to post on a public website), covered in a dough-like/bread-like/batter-like coating (uh, that would be the 'corn' part). Seriously? Oh well, at least I can say that I tried one, even if I have gone up a few dress sizes in the process. Speaking of going up a few dress sizes, the other discovery that we made were things called Elephant Ears...totally worth the calories (unlike the travesty that is the corn dog). Elephant Ears are basically just a soft, thick dough-like substance covered in cinnamon and sugar (and various other toppings). Kind of a very thick and large pancake, but really delicious and probably way more fattening. Oops, there goes another button.

On Saturday it was all aboard the train to Portland! Train trips are and always will be something fun, adventurous, and generally filled with feel-good feelings (maybe not the Paris underground - so I've been told). Upon arrival in Portland we took a brisk walk to the Saturday Market - so great! Browsed the stalls, chatted to some Americans, and ate of course! (pretty much all I've been doing since I got here. what a surprise). After getting lunch at the Saturday Market (a wrap from a Greek stall, plus more elephant ears!) we headed to the Pioneer Mall. Downtown Portland is really great, and fun to walk around in - cool city vibe, but not too hectic. After attempting some shopping (and I say ATTEMPTING because I was hopelessly unsuccesful in my shopping endeavours, and left Portland with NOTHING to show for it whilst everyone else picked up really cute things...sigh....I'm just not a gifted shopper), we headed to Powell's Book Store. WOW. Probably the size of a small country, Powell's Books is something to behold. Selling new and used books of all shapes, sizes and subjects, it is the kind of place in which I could get happily lost for days. Now there is a place where I would enjoy spending money (not that I did spend any money, but hey, details).

After experiencing the majesty and magnitude that is Powell's we ambled along the streets of Portland, and just happened to stumble upon (read: found on the map and hurried along to it) a Ben & Jerry's! Oh, look! Another place to buy calorie-filled food - hooray! This was quite exciting though, as I don't think I have ever had Ben & Jerry's before. And, wow! Now I can understand why women have secret love affairs with Ben & Jerry. I particularly enjoyed the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Butter Pecan flavours. Our delectable and decadent ice-creams were enjoyed on a patch of grass in a park nearby. And so, with our stomachs full and our wallets empty (well, some wallets), we boarded the train back to Salem after a fun day in the city.

On Sunday I visited a church called Church on the Hill with my friend Moritz. (As an aside, Moritz is a great Christian guy from Germany (also an international student at Willamette), who did a YWAM DTS in Australia in 2005. He met a young American guy on this DTS, and is now staying with this guy's family in Salem for the next year. Small world). I REALLY enjoyed Church on the Hill, and think I may have found a home.  :) There are a lot of young people, everyone is really friendly and open, and there is a real community feel in this church. After worship there is always a coffee and cookies break (hey, look at that, more eating), and there are even tables interspersed among the rows of chairs upon which you can rest your coffee cup and notebook). Neat!

After church Moritz's "mom" invited me over for lunch - yummy Thai food. I spent the afternoon at their house (along with some of their friends from church), just hanging out and chatting. We then went to another young guy's house, where we watched a DVD, ordered pizza and celebrated a farewell with a bunch of the church peeps a little later on. Bottom line is that I have met some really great Christian people, and so will probably continue attending this church with Moritz.

Once again this is turning out to be a really long post that you busy people probably don't have the time to read! Oops! In just over an hour I leave for the Willamette Singers retreat. This promises to be a fun time, as the group is a really great and mixed group of people (we even have the Rugby captain in Singers! Not that rugby is anywhere near as big as football over here, but still, I thought it worth a mention). I will be back tomorrow evening to continue with weekend festivities this side (whatever that entails), and maybe do some homework too. Maybe.

Thanks for tuning in...
P.S. I would like to give a special shout-out to my aunt Helen all the way in Kirstenhof, Cape Town. Helen is celebrating her 50th birthday this weekend! Happy Birthday Helen! Woop! You legend you. Enjoy the party! Will be thinking of you all. Lots of love.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Blog Design - so many options!

As you may have noticed, I am experimenting with different designs for my blog (duh).
Comments and suggestions as to which designs you prefer/ think best/ find easiest to read, etc would  be most welcomed! I'm not entirely sure what look I am going for, as I find that the looks I like aren't always the best in terms of reading and accessibility.

Look forward to hearing your insightful and helpful remarks!