Lifestyle

Travel: Arusha

While some students here at UCSD may yearn for the typical ease of summer vacation, and may seek travel locations during their break that assist their escape from the rigors of college life, others seek adventure and satisfaction at the price of sacrifice. Some will abandon dreams of sunny beaches or plush hotel rooms in order to serve the global community. These students will face one of the scariest epidemics on our planet, AIDS, head on in the place where AIDS is literally everywhere, Africa. These students will be a part of the Arusha Project, which sends students to Arusha, Tanzania to volunteer in schools, hospitals and clinics. The project, according to its Web site, addresses gender equality and sexual health and exposes students to these issues through hands-on experience in the global community. Stephanie Moody-Geissler, a senior from Revelle College, went to Tanzania last year with the project, and with the chancellor’s research scholarship for $3,000, to look at the availability of antiretroviral drugs to the women of the area. The experience changed her career ambitions drastically. Moody-Geissler wanted to be a forensic pathologist since she was about 8 years old, but the trip made changed her focus to public health and HIV across the world. While in Arusha, Moody-Geissler volunteered in the testing clinic of the district hospital, where she would sit in on counseling sessions, administer tests and do other assorted odds and ends. “”Three days before I left, they just got their first computer,”” she said. “”They looked at me, and they said ‘You set this up.'”” Moody-Geissler will return with the project this year for another trip. Giving up the easy live to volunteer in far-off places, like Arusha, does have its rewards. Ryan Shepherd, a Sixth College junior who also participated in the program last year, gladly soaked up the culture and enjoyed the local ways. “”In their language, they call everyone brother, father, mother,”” he said. “”I was always kaka Ryan, which means ‘brother Ryan.'”” Shepard was placed at a preschool to teach English, often in the form of song (Twinkle Twinkle Little Star was a favorite). He enjoyed how the locals would talk to him on the street with sincere interest – ‘what’s the news’ is the greeting of choice, as a simple ‘hello’ does not exist in Swahili. Most of the students, like Rachel Keeler, a Sixth College senior, say that volunteering in a place like Tanzania trumps tourism any day. Keeler, who studied in Spain prior to going to Arusha, says that just visiting a place will give a traveler only a superficial experience. “”It’s completely different if you live in the place and work with the people,”” she said. “”It’s such a better way to get to know a place.”” ...

Travel: London

With some of the best professors and teaching assistants in the middle of an international metropolis as laid- back and lively as London, summer school at the London School of Economics and Political Science is an adventure that is guaranteed to be memorable. If studying abroad during the academic year doesn’t work out, this is the next best option. Not only do they speak English, but the LSE is ranked in the top 15 schools in the world, making the credit-transfer process as an Opportunities Abroad Program less of a hassle. In a six-week-long program, teachers – known as TAs in the United States – can easily become friends. Case in point, the teachers make the quick pace of summer school completely digestible, then drink with their students at the end-of-the-term open bar that is sponsored by the university (and student fees). Students from all over the world take one course ranging from economics, international relations, accounting and finance to media, government, law and management per three-week session, with two back-to-back sessions offered per summer. The three to four hours of class per day allow for plenty of learning during and time to explore the city at night. Culture shock isn’t, and shouldn’t be, much of a concern in London. That is, unless you can’t handle interesting books sold in trendy music shops and great-tasting, grocery store-brand ravioli from Italy always on sale – one of the benefits of European Union that can be learned firsthand after listening to a lecture on it earlier that day. High Holborn, the most popular residence hall, is only a five-minute walk from campus and is located equidistant from three tube – London’s subway system. Being in the middle of the theater district, student tickets are easily accessible. Public transportation in London makes it easy to get to Hampstead Heath, the region’s version of a national park. The site has amazing views of the city and lakes in which to swim; classical music concerts at Royal Albert Hall, where standing room in the pit at the British Broadcasting Corporation Proms only runs £5; and Camden Town for the underground British music scene. If museums – which are all free in London, except for special exhibitions – and sightseeing don’t sound exciting, the pubs fill up and spill into the streets at 5 p.m. when most of the city gets off work. Music festivals and outdoor concerts are planned throughout the warm summer, and attract comfortable crowds. Weekend trips to Oxford, Cambridge, Paris and Brussels are also easily accessible, and it’s even cheap to fly anywhere RyanAir, EasyJet and Transavia travel since local airports are their major hubs. Turn in applications early, as the rolling admissions process is easy to take advantage of since there are no letters of recommendation required; however, popular classes fill up quickly. Don’t forget, room and board is in British pounds, which makes the £3,351 fee for both sessions cost approximately $6,790, given the 2.0265 exchange rate. Good thing student discounts and pub lunch specials are plentiful. One final note: In a single day in London, a single person is taped approximately 250 times by CC-TV, the closed-circuit surveillance system in the city. So, despite the weather, try to smile a lot. ...

Travel: South Africa

South Africa may be the last destination students think about when going abroad. Spain, Australia, France and Costa Rica all seem like common choices, but I doubt many people on campus are even aware that South Africa is a possible option. Well it is, and it offers plenty of advantages over other regions; those wanting to shirk requirements to take year of foreign language to go abroad but who are interested in spending a significant amount of time in a unique political and social environment will want to make South Africa their destination. With the disgusting policies of the apartheid regime still fresh in most South Africans’ minds, the racial dynamic in the country is unique, but never as dangerous as it is pigeonholed to be. Locals can be wary of white Americans “”visiting”” their homeland – but a simple explanation that you’re California and didn’t vote for Dubya can render a local friendly. A huge South African draw is the country’s beaches, which may seem lackluster when compared to San Diego’s coast, but the beaches running from Durban to Cape Town dwarf La Jolla Shores. The city of Cape Town is definitely the best metropolitan area in all of South Africa. Not only does it boast Cape Point, where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet in a picturesque setting, but Cape Town is also home to great hikes to the top of Table Mountain, an amazing restaurant and nightclub scene and a great mix of cultures that is unmatched, including my diverse hometown of San Francisco. For those under-21-year-olds sick of the underage life in San Diego, the drinking age in South Africa is 18 and the wine country of Cape Town is beautiful, offering affordable wine tours and many other unbeatable excursions. Because of a school system that is nowhere as demanding as the University of California, and an exchange rate that favors the dollar, traveling is an option for every weekend. I personally made it to Swaziland, Zambia and Malawi and other members of my program went as far as Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Botswana. Wherever you decide to go in your spare time, utilizing hostels will keep adventures affordable for skydiving, shark-cage diving, scuba diving or snorkeling, white-water rafting or just spending a day at a game reserve admiring the animals that you can normally only see at San Diego Wild Animal Park. No matter what you decide, South Africa and the rest of sub-Saharan Africa offer an amazing abroad experience and an enlightening experience into political, racial and class issues that face many people outside of the American bubble. ...

Travel: Australia

Australia’s culture is an easy transition because it is Americanized. But don’t fret; although Australians are English speakers, Australia’s vernacular consists of lingo that is far from American. Do not be surprised if a “”bloke,”” Aussie slang’s equivalent of “”dude,”” turns to you and says, “”G’day, how are you going?”” A must-see destination for the student traveler in Australia is the Great Barrier Reef, located off the northeast coast of Australia. The best part about visiting the reef is its easy access to snorkeling or scuba diving. Rainbow-scaled fish, life-sized clams and sea turtles are just some of the creatures you are likely to glimpse while snorkeling or scuba diving. Brushing your hand against a sea turtle’s back is just the beginning. Australia may be famous for its sea life, but its unique collection of land-locked wildlife is what sets it apart from other countries. Australia’s native marsupials, kangaroos and koalas, offer photo ops with cute little furry things in their natural habitat, not in a California zoo. Other native animals, much less cute, include the platypus, emu, wombat, dingo and the Tasmanian devil. Even if you aren’t an animal fan, you will be captivated by Australia’s remarkably contrasting sceneries. Australia has a variety of topographical regions, including the Outback, the coast, the rainforests and desert terrain. Visitors can also familiarize themselves with Australian aboriginal people and their customs. The aborigines are well-known for their art, especially sand paintings and wood carvings. A way to embrace the aboriginal culture is to visit Ayers Rock or Uluru, which is a sacred site to the aborigines in the Northern Territory of Australia. Uluru, like a Monet painting, changes color throughout the year, depending on the varying light angles and intensity of the sun. Visiting Uluru can also be a physical endeavor; tourists can scale the 800-meter rock formation for a spellbinding view. Dining out under the stars in front of the desert landscape is an experience you will cherish forever. When it comes to Australian beaches, surfing is king. A great place to enjoy the surf is Surfer’s Paradise – home to a great night outdoor market where merchants sell hand-crafted goods. If you visit Surfer’s Paradise in the summer, you can catch Lexmark Indy 300, the annual car race. Another interesting sight in Surfer’s Paradise is the gold bikini-clad meter maids. These women, scantily clad to fight the thick Aussie heat, drop coins into parking meters that have expired and leave a calling card underneath the driver’s windshield wiper. After visiting the beach and the Outback you can enjoy the city life in Sydney, the capital of Australia. Sydney is home to the world-renowned landmark of the Sydney Opera House, which stands proudly by the stunning Darling Harbour and under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The ultimate way to experience the bridge is to take a climbing tour up to the top and savor the sweeping views of the city. Studying abroad in Australia encompasses the best of both worlds: an excellent environment in which to study and learn and an abundant amount of exciting and fun places to visit. And best of all, the U.S. dollar is worth more in Australia, a trend we’re all hoping to cash in on considering the currency’s plummeting value worldwide. ...

Travel: Venice

People say that Venice is a city for lovers, and that Italian is the language of love. Movies such as “”Casino Royale”” and “”The Italian Job”” have captured the antique beauty of the city. Home to the famous Grand Canal, Piazza San Marcos and various palaces, Venice provides plenty of culture to see and experience. Though it may be one of the most romantic places to vacation in the world, it is certainly more than enjoyable if you are single, especially during the spring and summer seasons. Not only are Gondola rides in the Grand Canal mandatory while in Venice, but true tourists try the gelato – the slop made in the United States doesn’t even come close to the real Italian stuff. There are beautiful knick-knacks in tiny stores and street-side stands, and lovely little churches in just about every square. The best part is the collection of small outdoor cafes that serve wonderfully strong coffee – Starbucks has nothing on it. Another plus: You’re bound to meet beautiful people to match the city’s loveliness, whether you understand what they are saying or not (Italians are very tourist-friendly). Even if you can’t spare a week or two exploring the labyrinth of streets in Venice, a weekend getaway while enrolled in European study-abroad program is worth every moment – and Euro. ...

Travel: Korea

In Korea, there are enough Buddhist temples and royal palaces to enthrall a cultural connoisseur, and enough designer stores and open-air markets to appease any shopaholic. But best of all, there is enough clubbing and alcohol to satisfy both a sorority and fraternity of 19-year-olds. International students at Yonsei University are a heartbeat away from the artsy nightlife of Hongdae, popular among college students for its underground music and club days. On the last Friday of every month, thousands flood 10 local clubs – admission to each club is only 15,000 Korean won, or $16. At Noryangjin, denizens sample the freshest seafood: King crabs, snow crabs, abalone and more can be prepared as sashimi or hot pots. What palate could resist sides of chili and garlic, lettuce and wasabi? Seoul’s city streets envelope Korea’s historical landmarks: Gyeongbok Palace is popular for its ceremonial re-enactments and elaborate architecture, Dongdaemun stands as a great gate amidst the eastern markets and Jongmyo Shrine guards royal graves of the Chosun Dynasty. And for those who never matured past childhood, Lotte World is the local version of the happiest place on Earth – complete with the world’s largest indoor theme park, a luxurious department store and a year-round folk festival. ...

Travel: The Cyclades

I’ve always pictured Athens as a godly laurel-wreathed statue, looking up onto the epic pillars of the Parthenon, bathed in Zeus’ lightning bolts that zing down from Mount Olympus. Turns out – as I learned while dragging my rolling suitcase over one too many piles of restaurant waste and cigarette butts on the crumbling sidewalk, sucking the native rotting-garbage aroma up my nostrils – Athens has gone a little downhill since earth-goddess Demeter retired as landscaper. While the modern-day Greek capital does keep up that dingy, rustic, cramped appeal, it’s not much more charming than our own friendly neighborhood slums – and those aren’t halfway around the world. But Athens can dirty my suitcase any day, because as the gateway city to a grab bag of the most desirable islands in Europe, we are willingly at its mercy. One sweaty heatwave of a travel day in, 30 minutes of standing on the metro (newly renovated after the 2004 Olympics) and a sardine-packed harbor frenzy later, we arrive at the ferry where vessels whisk their passengers southeast to the various islands that speckle the fabled Aegean Sea: the glorious Cyclades. Here, in the thick air of the Piraeus Port, is where the decision-making must begin – or, if you want to board any time that day, the decision should have been booked a few weeks ago. For the more parental, sophisticated sightseers among us (and these are sights worth seeing), a nine-hour ferry ride will be rewarded by the slopes of Santorini, a volcanic lagoon-ring of islands dotted with the most majestic of the Cyclades’ signature architecture – exotic pueblos white-and-blue-washed to match the crystal oceans and skies behind. Okay, so this is straight off the postcard, but what the hell – they couldn’t just make this kind of beauty up, could they? In all, the Cyclades comprise about 220 islands, many uninhabited. (If you’re feeling restless, I can think of no better adventure than trying to reach one of the more obscure islands. But for restraints of time and imagination, I’ll stick to the more worn destinations.) Of the other most famed islands, Ios is designated as the get-your-kicks party place for the an edgy college-aged crowd; Mykonos is a more upscale summer-home metropolis with nude beaches aplenty; and Naxos is the largest island, rich in ancient ruins and natural fertility. There’s really no such thing as a bad Cyclade, so closing your eyes and letting your finger drop on the map is a perfectly legitimate trip-planning strategy. My particular landing place of choice in July 2005 lay just to the west of Naxos, about a four-hour ferry from the port, on a surprisingly spacious boat with enough secret passageways to render me excited (that was, of course, before landing, when I discovered a whole new kind of labyrinth: fascinating homes, holes-in-the-walls and alleyways winding up into the island). Three friends and I arrived to the spinning wings of the legendary isle windmills – framed against the pinks and oranges of a perfect Paros sunset – and a heaping platter of cheap hotels with Greek salads and the best gyros on earth. The neighboring caves, beaches and views of Antiparos (the lesser-traveled offspring of the main island) were only a short day trip off. The nightlife in Parikia, Paros’ capital “”city”” (no larger than downtown La Jolla), is a lively kind of cozy, and the larger-scale clubs of Naoussa require only a thrilling half-hour long night ride by motorbike. Escaping the daily grind is a worldwide endeavor, and summer sees the Cyclades far more infested with European tourists than sunburned Americans, creating the “”Around the World”” party of the century. We drank ouzos into the night at the Dubliner (yeah, pretty much every country has a Dubliner or two) with the same gang of Dutch rowdies a couple nights in a row. Then we pulled some traditional Greek moves at the next-door old-town club Island, where the liquor flows like wine and the locals are surprisingly embracing (perhaps their friendliness is heightened if you’re a young girl willing to dance on the bar for some watered-down shots). Of course, there was that Arizonian douchebag who insisted we “”sprinkle our sexy all over the dance floor”” – but you can never truly escape America, no matter how far the ferry ride. ...

The Money's for Nothing Even if the Therapy Is Free

I suppose it should come as no surprise that I’ve been a customer of the campus’s psychological services. As the youngest sibling of three, my persona draws from a childhood spent tableside and bedside, ears open to stern, long-winded and often conflicting advice from elders. I’ve since been a walking sponge of sorts, drinking in all the counsel and input possible in preparation for an unforeseen day when I’m asked, “”Do you understand yourself?”” So, contextually, it makes sense that later in life, I would find my comfort zone in an easy chair, in front of another adult telling me what things mean and what to do about them. This month, I will have spent a year away from that chair and the shrink across from it. So, in therapeutic fashion, this piece is meant to chronicle a trek across years of psychological development (or regression, if you want to be mean about it), and hopefully provide some amount of useful introspection for other furniture-familiar students – and there are many. In 2004, UCSD Psychological Services served 2,000 students (a figure pulled from an article this newspaper published on issues of staff shortages and budgetary deficiencies). A year later, a university-commissioned report on students’ mental health formalized the problem: UCSD, specifically, had about 11.5 full-time employees at the time, a ratio of one psychologist to every 2,300 students. In some cases, the picture was even darker for other UC campuses, most of them reeling from the same state and administrative budget cuts that racked our campus in 2003-04. Modern-day politicalization of all things is inevitable, though it is truly sad when such a mindset is applied to health care. A personality becomes a number, and the intangibilities that we enjoy about life become demarcated in a colder, more definable manner. Revelle College then-sophomore Tracy Ho, an interviewee for the previously mentioned Guardian article, was one of many statistics forced to wait weeks for one appointment. Ho was then referred to UCSD Medical Center in Hillcrest, after her on-campus counselor told her there were not enough staff to accommodate her longer-term needs. I was luckier. My own campus therapist was both earnest and excitable, always pushing mental homework – which included forced conversation, Excel charts scribbled with daily emotive discourses and physical exercise. My give-to-get mentality kept me in the program week after week, but throughout it I realized, “”Man, mental health is hard to sustain.”” It’s a hard world out there. The hermit archetype is all but dead; it’s impossible to drop all things to wander into the desert alone, Biblical-like. Today’s world is a primitive one, where we are forced into moral fights as we sit and deal with our problems, our spouse’s problems, our neighbors’ problems, our children’s problems – the list is infinite. I often reflect on my own therapist’s investment in me (he extended me past the 12-session limit and continued the meetings until I cut them off), and realized further that other students lack such a luxury. Even a small deterrent – i.e. having to take a weekly bus trip to Hillcrest – is enough to stymie a student from seeking help for mental health issues. The last of my regular sessions occurred in the campus’s newest offices, in a collection of buildings that emanated an unsettling dead-tech, postmodern ambience. It was an unabashedly cold design for an environment meant to fit every warm, welcoming, couch-laying typecast. By the tail end of my therapy, I concluded that there was something self-serving about paying to talk about yourself – sessions became, for me, something unbecoming and shameful. But because departmental fees are divvied up to make on-campus psychological care free, students can enjoy one more degree of separation from embarrassment, and I can stop prying conversations with the “”hey, it’s free”” defense. But are psych services “”free,”” in the word’s strictest sense? Students pay mandatory fees, which have been directed to other campus units in previous years. But this is no whine-fest, stumping for psychological services while cutting down Student Affairs officials (who dole out fee money); this is a sincere reflection on the street-level impact of budget movers and shakers. I’ll be forever indebted to my therapist’s devotion, though such an extended experience in therapy is an anomaly for the cash-strapped state and university. But even just one session offered me a memorable epiphany: There is a gaping abyss between self-awareness and self-improvement, and I’m still trying to build a bridge to the latter. The issue of mental health, in all its sensitivity, can be supported by even a simple act, such as enrolling in one session. A simple slight, however, can be damaging on an equal level, and staffing and funding shortfalls are in no way simple. ...

The Closing Scenes of a Labored Love

What’s a cowgirl like you doing with such a small truck?”” asks Jim, the head honcho at the Media Checkout. He smiles at us tying down dolly tracks protruding from the already-overstuffed bed of my truck. It’s Friday morning, and this is the last time Devin, Randy and myself (the small Friday crew) will pick up equipment and head out to Temecula before the rest of the cast and crew arrives. I am inwardly ecstatic. Rewind to a few years ago: me, terrified of going inside the Media Checkout – I don’t know what the equipment is called or what it’s for, and the gruff student employees have no time for newbies. “”It’s OK to be ignorant,”” says one of my film professors. “”But you must work to bridge that gap of ignorance.”” Skip back to this Friday: I waltz in with my cowboy boots on, I don’t have to say my name or what I am here for, because the people at checkout already know. I smile mischievously at the students just beginning, clutching their checkout forms while we stand next to our truck, roped and weighed down with hundreds of pounds of equipment. These are the kind of moments that interest me – moments of aftermath, where scenes drip with that invisible ghost of action that has led up to this moment. You can see the traces of movement, the invisible marks of my hands on the windowpane, Randy’s sweat on the truck bed and Devin’s fingers tying the rope, all intangibly marking the struggle that preceded this end product. This is, in part, what the world of my film is about: characters living in an aftermath. But this is also a parallel for the process of filmmaking. Film is an end-product, nothing more than two-dimensional ghosts existing in a frame, referencing the moment that existed at one point in time when these images were recorded on tape. Cut to a few hours later, in Temecula. I hold the camera while Randy and Devin throw logs into the water to simulate the truck crashing in – but the log keeps floating back into frame like an albino alligator. “”We should just drive the truck in the water,”” says Randy. “”Yeah, I guess we could,”” I respond. Ten minutes later, the back tires are spinning out of control, hopelessly stuck in the mud. Back up five days: Paul is spraying a violent storm of white powder from the fire extinguisher to put out the fire creeping up the side of the wooden shack we’re filming. Fast forward one day, Steven is yelling on top of the truck because I’ve slammed his hand in the closed truck door. Rewind a few hours and the sound of shattering glass rings in the canyon as Josh does a somersault down the side of a rocky hill. Fast forward to six days and five guys with hardhats are pushing the Volkswagen van up a hill; it’s my crew, my dad and my cousin, acting the role of construction workers, but we are not filming. We can’t get the key in the cantankerous ignition, so for every take where the van goes downhill, they must push it back up under the midday sun. Skip to the last Sunday. “”Dad, what’s the best way to cut a glass bottle evenly?”” A moment later my dad is raising an axe up while I hold a glass bottle against cement. Skip back to a quarter to midnight on President’s Day, and we have been rehearsing and setting up lights in an old abandoned house for hours. Everyone has gotten very little sleep in the past two days, and it is starting to show; the camera operator is nodding off, the assistant director has his eyes closed, the actors are falling asleep in between takes. Coffee keeps coming in, but is having no effect. I am shouting and trying to pretend I could go on all night. I pick up a c-stand and it drops limply out of my hand. Every glance I get and word I hear is asking me to utter those three pleasant words … that’s a wrap. A slow fade in to an empty field. It’s Saturday a week later, after the last shoot. I am back in Temecula by myself, filming forgotten shots. Holding the camera in one hand, a rock in the other, I am trying to scare some quails so they will fly up in front of the camera. It’s so quiet, you can hear the wind in the grass and the distant sound of children playing. The clothesline has fallen down. The plates are all askew inside the van, next to paper shreds gnawed by mice, and outside I can see a tiny piece of purple fabric stuck in a cactus. It’s another moment of comedown, of aftermath. No more Devin, no more Randy, no more Paul, Steven, Tricia, Mom, Dad, Tom, Josh, Jake, Norbert, Christie, John, Salomon, Adam. Just me in a field with a camera. Filming is done and now what’s left to show for all the action are seven Mini DV tapes, holding all our efforts in their tiny digital ones and zeros, like phantasms trapped on electronic tape. This is film, a 2-D memory. ...

Tuition Fee Policy Needed to Guard Student Interests

When the UC Regents meet on March 14, millions of dollars of student money will be in their hands. In Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s January budget proposal, he recommended that undergraduate student fees be raised 7 percent for the 2007-08 academic year, with some UC law and business programs facing 10-percent hikes. However, California’s nonpartisan fiscal adviser, the Legislative Analyst’s Office, urged that fees only be increased 2.4 percent for all programs, arguing that given the absence of an explicit policy on student fee increases, fees should continue to cover the same share of educational costs. The LAO’s increase would account for inflation. It is time for the regents to formulate a fee policy that is more transparent than their current “”compact”” with Schwarzenegger, which stipulates that fees always rise in accordance with California’s per-capita income (not inflation rates) in addition to increases (up to 10 percent total) that the board feels the UC system needs. Essentially, this means that under the compact, the regents can raise student fees up to 10 percent per year with very limited accountability. It’s no secret that the regents and the state of California have been leaning on students to subsidize the university’s bills at their discretion. However, an explicit fee policy from the board that protects student interests in the face of much more powerful political actors would reflect an attitude of respect toward the population that gives the university its leverage as the premier educator of California’s future. ...