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. ...

Druthers: Hiatus Picks the Week’s Best Bets

“Belle De Jour” – March 8, 7 p.m. – MCASD, $5 A few weeks ago, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego offered us Bunuel’s “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie” — and today it big-screens another of his classics: “Belle De Jour.” The film follows Severine (Catherine Deneuve), a bored housewife who indulges in secret desires and becomes a prostitute. Balancing her erotic fantasies with a lack of intimacy at home proves no easy task, especially when different men begin to enter her life. Bunuel balances the true struggles of sexuality with the surreal elements of the mind’s eye, never becoming condescending, but rather stepping back and letting the characters act naturally — a great film on all accounts. (CM) Eileen Myles & Ali Liebegott – March 9, 7 p.m. – D.G.Wills, La Jolla, FREE If you’ve never experienced the exuberance of UCSD’s writing series on campus, then you can get a taste on Friday when two prominent writer/professors, Eileen Myles and Ali Liebegott, will read from their newly-published books. Myles, the patron saint of razor-edge, feminist punk poetry, will be reading from “Sorry, Tree,” her new collection of poems on love and politics. Liebegott, a poet and fiction writer, will read from her critically acclaimed debut novel “The IHOP Papers,” which is filled with her signature philosophical compassion and innocent maturity set amongst all-too-real situations. Each approaches her work with curious honesty and a search for unexplored truth. (CM) ...

Contention on the Ancient Warfront

If you have a stomach for brazen sex and violence – and this movie will put many to the test – then “”300″” is a visual feast more satisfying to the warmonger inside of you than anything before or after it for many years. Never has a movie utilized so much of the screen. Every inch of every frame is such a stunning masterpiece that we can safely give cinematographer Larry Fong next year’s Oscar right now, without question. It’s that impressive. The Spartans are huge – absurdly huge. These burly goliaths, clad in Speedos and red capes, put Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, even in his prime, to miserable shame. Each of the 300 men have a six pack that could grind a tank to dust – that’s 1,800 packs of skull-crushing abs. The Persians just don’t stand a chance. Hundreds of thousands are slaughtered on the tips of Spartan spears before a single Greco he-man dies. Half a dozen slow-motion rampages of blood-spraying carnage help the movie play out like a graceful ballet of gruesome maiming and horrible death. After the first few waves of Persian soldiers, the Spartans busy themselves by making a wall of corpses 20 feet tall, and the unlucky enemies keep on coming. But there’s no reason to pity these lemming hordes: As in all good action flicks where untold scores of baddies must give up the Persians’ ghosts to progress the plot, their faces are covered with long scarves, scary masks or full helmets. The story is as simple as it gets: the bad guys are coming, and we’re going to stop them, no matter the odds. There is a historical basis for the story: the Persian king Xerxes’ failed campaign to conquer Greece, and the Greek play “”The Persians,”” by Aeschylus, about the cause of that defeat. But Frank Miller’s “”300″” stands alone. Many characters are entirely fictional, and even the real ones take on comic-book proportions, from a Spartan traitor who looks like Quasimodo on steroids to a godlike Xerxes, who towers several feet over the tallest Spartan. The Greek template for the story was political for its time, exemplifying a pivotal Greek victory as a showpiece for the consequences of hubris. “”300″” is no different, lacing every line of the movie’s dialogue with political bias a la the current Iraq war. When not extolling the supreme value of freedom every chance they get, Director Zack Snyder’s characters like reminding themselves of the cost of freedom with the repeated line “”freedom isn’t free,”” and parallels with the Marine invasion of Iraq are palpable when the Persian campaign of terror arrives at the Spartan doorsteps and the Spartan king Leonidas (Gerard Butler) decides to lead an elite troop of hoplites to defend their country’s freedom. But his fellow leaders disapprove of his brash actions. Sound familiar? There is even a climactic plea by the Spartan queen before an assembly of senators, begging them to send more troops. Despite the unnecessary politics, the movie doesn’t suffer because it remains true to its ultimate goal of providing its audience with an endless stream of kick-ass fight scenes and compulsory nudity. Unlike “”Gladiator,”” in which the plot drives the violence, the violence in “”300″” clearly drives the plot, and audiences seeking a serious look at war, or Greek history for that matter, should simply look elsewhere. “”300″” is really just about violence for the sake of violence, and nudity for the sake of nudity. If that’s what you’re after, then you can sit back and gorge on this visceral masterpiece. No one involved in the movie has a very exciting resume. Snyder’s only significant claim to fame was the absurd romp in zombie land that was 2004’s “”Dawn of the Dead,”” and his co-writer Kurt Johnstad has nothing but forgotten independent films under his belt. Fong’s only experience has been in television shows. But they came together to breathe amazing life into Miller’s comic. The “”300″” comic book upon which this movie-theater powerhouse is based never received much acclaim, but it’s going to leave a dent in box-office sales like few before it, and movie stills are going to litter laptop wallpapers across chemistry classes for years to come. ...

Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor, Regarding Jim Shen’s article “”Controversial Origins”” on Feb. 26 and Jeremiah Runyan’s and Eddie Herrera’s subsequent letters to the editor: When Albert Einstein proposed his theory of general relativity in 1915, it was met with enormous resistance and controversy. Yet he did not lobby legislators to enact laws to force its teaching into classrooms or start a public relations campaign to influence the public debate. He presented his ideas in public where their validity could be challenged by experiments. It wasn’t until 1959 that technology improved enough to show that Einstein’s predictions offer our best understanding of the universe. Despite Runyan’s and Herrera’s passionate defense of intelligent design, the theory has not yielded any empirical evidence that supports it or that directly challenges evolution. There is a fundamental distinction between the search for intelligent design in archaeology, which involves the study of physical remains left behind by ancient human cultures (human design), and the search for the supernatural in explaining the origin of man. Runyan and Herrera lack an understanding of the scientific process. ID proposes that there are biological systems in nature that are “”irreducibly complex,”” and therefore the only plausible explanation is the presence of an intelligent agent. Simply saying something appears too complicated to be the product of evolution does not prove the alternative hypothesis of ID. If ID is truly hypothesis-driven and testable, then its supporters must provide evidence for the intelligent agent and its effects on the natural world. Supporters have not even proposed experiments that directly test their hypothesis, let alone provide evidence. ID also proposes that the fossil record does not have enough intermediate species. This claim is continuously being refuted by paleontologists uncovering new species, including the recent and notable discovery of a transitional fish fossil from the late Devonian age (approximately 375 million years ago) which has fins and scales, but also a neck and the precursors to modern shoulders, wrists and elbows (Nature, April 6, 2006). The more we discover about nature, the more evolution fits the data. Herrera’s definition of science is wrong: Science is not a belief system and scientists do not “”believe in evolution.”” We accept or reject theories based on empirical evidence. Theories are constantly revised as new evidence is produced, and often times scratched entirely when they can no longer explain it. ID as an explanation for our origins is a belief system, as Herrera notes, because it requires faith that God shaped the process. These are beliefs that are neither provable nor testable, and therefore not science. Scientists look at a problem and say, “”We don’t know what the answer is yet, but if we ask the right questions and do the right experiments, maybe we will some day.”” ID looks at the same questions and says, “”We don’t have an answer for this yet, so it must be the work of an undetectable intelligent agent.”” I would hate to think we are trading our pioneering spirit of discovery in favor of giving up because things seem too complicated or because we’re too impatient for answers. – Aaron S. Parker Graduate Student Division of Biological Sciences ...