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TBS Abroad Week 7: Fast Food

By Emily Weaver on March 27, 2019

Week 7- Fast Food

It’s easy, it’s convenient, and it’s everywhere. No matter where in the world you are it is likely that you will be able to find fast food in some form. Over 100 countries have a McDonalds and you are likely to find at least a street vendor to buy a quick meal. Just like with culture, not all fast food is the same across the globe. This week tell us about any fast food you’ve seen while abroad. Is it pretty similar to what you can get in the US or are the staples that we are so used to changed and novel in your new location. Have you had any fast food experiences while abroad that you found especially memorable?

Renee Congdon

Fast food in Spain is surprisingly similar to fast food in the US, as far as I could tell. Fast food chains in Spain that are particularly popular include McDonald’s and Burger King. From what I saw, it seems as though Burger King is a hot spot for younger kids, while McDonald’s is more popular among high school and college-aged people. For instance, my host mom’s goddaughter had her 7th birthday at a Burger King (which I attended), and her and all of her friends seemed to have a blast. One funny note here is that a lot of Spanish people (my host mom, most notably) refer to Burger King as “El Burger”, hard emphasis on the r’s. With respect to McDonald’s, I went a few times with University friends of mine. Once, when I wasn’t sure if I should join them for lunch at McDonald’s or catch the metro home to work on an essay, they convinced me to go with them by saying it was only right that the token American in our friend group accompany them all to McDonald’s, seeing as how it’s such an iconic American fast food place. I found this pretty funny, especially considering I can’t remember when the last time I set foot in a McDonald’s on US soil was. Another interesting thing about McDonald’s in Spain is the ordering system- every McDonald’s I went to there had large electronic screens to order from, which meant almost no one actually ordered in person. Additionally, there are a few 24 hour McDonald’s in more busy night life areas, like La Puerta del Sol, where the entire inside space is made up of these electronic screens, no actual cashiers are available, and one small window opens and closes to give people their orders. I’ve never seen this sort of system in a US McDonald’s, which I found sort of intriguing. Additionally, fast food chains in Spain will often have some additional, more regional menu items, such as the McIbérica sandwich. Lastly, these American fast food chains sell beer and wine in Spain! This was perhaps the difference I found most interesting. It’s odd to see people drinking beer out of little plastic McDonald’s cups.

Lastly, I want to briefly comment on a more “Spanish” fast food joint. One in particular, called Cien Monteditos, was an all-time favorite of my friends and I. It’s a very cheap fast food restaurant that sells hundreds of different types of small bite-sized sandwiches that range from 1 to 2 euros each. They all sell appetizers, like little cheese or chicken poppers, as well as big jars of beer, hard cider, or tinto de verano for 1 euro and 50 cents each. I spent countless afternoons and evenings at Cien Mont with friends, and I have to say it’s my favorite fast food style restaurant in Spain. There’s practically one on every corner, it’s incredibly cheap, and the cheese poppers are surprisingly addicting. Attached below is a photo of me and some of my friends from the University at the Cien Montaditos nearest to CEU’s campus. I love you, Cien Mont- I can’t wait to return.

Trey Spadone

In Indonesia, there are several fast food chains like McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, etc. In fact, I had my first piece of Pizza Hut pizza while in Yogyakarta. (Slices is way better though). However, night markets are where it’s at for “fast food.” Two of the best treats are pisang goreng (fried bananas) and terang bulan (square pancakes with chocolate or cheese or some other filling). I tried these treats within the first couple of days of being in country and they never fail to disappoint.

A not so fun experience with fast food happened earlier this week. During orientation, we were advised to avoid meat-based street food during our first few weeks. We needed to give our bodies time to adjust to a new environment and diet. Now that we are two months in, I figured it would be safe to try bakso (meatballs). I tried a singular meatball during the afternoon and went on my merry way. However, my stomach was not on the same page as my mind and began to reject the meatball at 2:00am and every hour after that. As the Indonesians say, it was tidak bagus (not good). Needless to say, I will not be eating anymore street meat anytime soon.

Emily Weaver

Iceland is one of very few countries that lacks a McDonalds. You won’t find those trademark Golden Arches here. There are actually very few fast food places that we would traditionally recognized in Iceland. There’s a Taco Bell, but its located outside of Reykjavik, the biggest city in Iceland. The main traditional fast food chains that you’ll find are Domino’s and Subway. There are several subways across Reykjavik and a handful of Domino’s as well. While I was there I didn’t frequent these fast food places very much, I think I only went to Domino’s twice and never to Subway. The times I did go to Domino’s I was with a group of my friends and we ended up waiting in the store until our pizzas cooked because living in hostels limited us wanting to have it delivered.

One thing that Iceland is known for is its hotdogs. For some reason, whether it’s the special sauce they put on it or the hot dogs themselves, Icelandic hotdogs are famous. I like to think of them as a fast food because you could get them from street food carts across any city. They were warm and fresh and it was fun to stop and grab one every once in a while. I am not overly fond of hotdogs and don’t typically eat them at home. In Iceland though, there was no one I could spend an entire semester there and not try something that can be found all over the place. While I don’t think I have been completely converted over to hotdogs, I can say that Icelandic hotdogs are far superior to American ones!

Jenny Lundt ’19: An Eco-Exploration in Colombia

By Emily Weaver on March 22, 2019

In January 2019, senior Jenny Lundt travelled to Colombia on a quest to build her knowledge about “earthships.” Using a Benton mini-grant she was able to take a deeper dive into the idea of repurposing our waste. Below she details her journey and shares what she learned along the way.

Winter break of my first year as a Colgate student, I traveled to Central America in search of some sun. Along the adventure, I met a British family who invited me to come visit their family in Southern Belize on an “earthship”, an “off the grid” house and property made entirely of recycled materials. I couldn’t believe that what they were describing could actually be possible… so I did what any person would do, of course I went!

I never could have anticipated how wonderful this “earthship” would be. A family with three children living a fully sustainable life on land next to Lubutuum, old Mayan ruins. I was completely enchanted with them and their lifestyle as it was so unfamiliar to the way I lived.

Earthships are houses that meet three very specific criteria; first, they are built sustainably, using materials indigenous to the location they are building as well as recycled materials. Second, the homes rely on naturally received energy sources and are thus fully off “the grid”. Finally, they are financially viable both to create and sustain.

The “Chaos Oasis”, as it is endearingly referred to, is made out of thousands of bottles, cans, tires, packed trash, and cement. People from all over Belize have collected and brought their recycling to the Atkinsons to be used in construction.

This is the only earthship I had ever seen and I have been surprised how many times I have referenced it in the last few years either in class, dinner parties, or conversations with friends. It piqued my curiosity into learning about other earthship movements around the world. Would every family and every house be as lovely as the Atkinson family’s was? I decided that I wanted to learn more. So I started researching earthships and sustainable housing movements. I found that the Southwest and specifically Taos, New Mexico has many different Earthships. I also found movements emerging from South Africa, Spain, the Netherlands, and Belgium.

However, I found a few blog posts referencing the construction of an earthship in one of the most remote places in the world, the Darien Gap in Colombia. I searched and searched for more information, but I couldn’t find a thorough, comprehensive source anywhere. So I did what any person would do… applied for a Benton Mini Grant to explore this movement in Colombia.

On Jan 5, 2019, I celebrated the new year by flying into Cartagena. The first place I went was not an earthship, per se, but they represent another interesting conversation in eco development, Islote de Santa Cruz, the most densely populated island in the world. A population of an estimated 1,200 inhabit an island no larger than two football fields in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. The 45 families have a population density that is four times greater than that of Manhattan.

  • Solar panels on Islote de Santa Cruz
  • Aerial of the Island Photo credit to National Geographic: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/photography/proof/2017/10/most-crowded-island-santa-cruz-del-islote-photograph-colombia/

Besides fishing and seafood, all other food and supplies must be brought in by boat. There is no natural drinking water and thus bottled water is a treasured commodity. The island’s power is supplied by panels of solar panels visible in the lower left corner of the photo above. I got a brief tour of the island. I was amazed at how life passed here just like normal despite there not being much room for anyone. Things like funerals become difficult with no land. But, the locals are making due just fine!

Only a 5 minute boat ride away are “Casa en el Agua” and “Isla Roots”, two eco-accommodations floating by itself in the middle of the water. Both of them are committed to sustainability and have a number of rules and regulations that keep them eco-friendly. They have dry toilets where you #1 in hole #1 and #2 in hole #2. To flush, you use a cup of sawdust lime mix. Every day, they take the mix to nearby Tintipan island where they have a composting process to produce fertilizer. They also have bucket showers that are only available for limited hours in the evening. In the theme of earthships, they reuse the glass bottles the kitchen and the bar for bricks and decoration. With any tin cans, they collect and send them to the mainland to be sold for recycling. It was a very relaxing and interesting few days spent here learning about sustainable practices and tourism.

  • Credit: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g6503207-d7139652-Reviews-Casa_en_el_Agua-Isla_Tintipan_Archipelago_of_San_Bernardo_Cartagena_District_Bolivar_.html

For the next phase of my trip, I took the long journey to Capurgana in the the Choco region in the famous Darien Gap. The Darien Gap is one of the most isolated regions of the world. To get here, I had to take two long bus rides to the Colombian city of Neococli to take the choppiest boat ride of my life to Capurgana. That feeling of pulling into the harbor, two hours later and seeing a little strip of settlement shrouded by dense jungle as far as the eyes could see.

I have always heard and read stories about the natural power of the Darien Gap… It is infamous for being the only break in the Pan-American Highway, the 19,000 long high way that extends from Northern Canada to Southern Argentina. The Gap is a wide expanse of dense rain forest and has been associated in recent years with drug trafficking and paramilitary groups. I have read many stories about this place, but even knowing all these things could not prepare me for how the Darien Gap actually is. The sound of howler monkeys mixed with the lap of the water in the town will forever stay in my memory.

The blog post that I had found telling me about the earthship in this region didn’t have any information about how to get there. When I started asking around, people didn’t know exactly where or what I was talking about. I was pointed to a bunch of different directions.

Interestingly enough, although this has become a new sustainability fad, many local people have been using trash and other recycled materials to build their structures for dozens of years.

My first stop was Casa de Botellas, which I had not previously heard about. The man, by the name of Carlos, has been working for the last 22 years to take trash out of Capurgana and the ocean.

He told me that the way the ocean currents work, a lot of trash from North America ends up washing ashore in this region. And because there is no “dump” as there is no recycling plant, many locals have decided to kill two birds with one stone by using this trash to construct their homes. This home is particularly well known in the town for his work.

  • Casa de Botellas
  • Casa de Botellas
  • Casa de Botellas: he is building the world's longest chain of out of can tabs.
  • Casa de Botellas: Here is a mural he built out of bottle caps modeling a famous pop-culture slogan
  • Casa de Botellas: The path to the garden is paved with old TV screens
  • Casa de Botellas: He has even taken to elaborate projects in an attempt to use trash by creating a large Eiffel Tower sculpture in his backyard.
  • Casa de Botellas: He has comfortable, big chairs out of tires.

There was another eco house a 30 minute walk North of Capurgana along a cliffside. This house built on natural hot springs is called La Coquerita. I had the opportunity to chat with the man who built the structure and he spoke about the importance of true eco tourism. His house is completely made out of driftwood and bottles. They open up their house to tourists and only serve food on reusable plates.

Walking around the town the next few days, I saw many, many structures that used bottles and other trash. Many houses have used this technique.

I was blessed with a visit from my friend Shirin Vetry who is a Fulbright Scholar in Colombia. Since we went to a wild high school together, I invited her on the journey to find the earthship I had read about online. We weren’t really sure where to begin, as the directions online were extremely, extremely vague. So, we started by taking a choppy boat ride 10 minutes to the closest village to the south. There were only around 10 houses here and the space between them grew further and further as we headed more south. We found two people outside who knew what we were talking about as we tried to explain the concept of an earthship in Spanish. They motioned that we just needed to keep heading south and gave vague instructions about passing a farm and chickens and climbing a few hills. So we did. About an hour later, we found ourselves scaling up a very steep muddy path with not a soul within 20 minutes of this. This gave me quite a panic as I had no idea what sort of animals would be awaiting us in this thick we had just lost ourselves in. I was sad to abort the mission, but safety won out in this case. Shirin was a loyal trooper until the very end.

As we were walking back, defeated and muddy, we found a suprise off the beaten path with an inhabitant extremely eager to show us his property. He, again, had used things he had found washed ashore to create this incredible open air structure that could only be called a treehouse. Perched along the water, I could only imagine the peace and serenity he gets from his breezy bedroom atop a tree with a view of the jungle.

We asked him about whether or not he had ever heard of the earthship that supposedly exists near where we were and he said that he heard rumblings of a failed project with a bunch of foreigners with no skills paying absurd amounts of money to do construction work on this house. He says he believes the house collapsed because they were so focused on the experience that they weren’t considering the actual difficulty and high standard necessary to build. I have no idea if this is true or not. A week after leaving, the Colombia earthship finally got back to me saying that they had no wifi while in the jungle and therefore they missed my message asking for an exact location. They also spoke about how hard it is to find without the exact coordinates and a sailor who knows them. I am not sure exactly what the truth is here, but it was certainly interesting to go and explore. If it really does exist, then it is certainly in one of the most rural, inaccessible locations on the entire planet. Pretty cool AND eco friendly!

This eye opening trip has changed the way I have conceptualized waste management. Generally, when we put out our trash, we think of it as out of sight, out of mind. But that is rarely the case and many of the times, our “out of sight” really means just dumping it in another place.  

People might be good about recycling, but that is not enough. The other Rs- reduce and reuse are important to attempt before simply throwing it in a bucket. I urge everyone reading this to figure out how the things in your life can be reused. There are a million uses for almost anything and if you are ever throwing away something, Google if you can reuse it first. Especially if you live in a warm climate, mini earthship projects are completely feasible to accomplish.

With my role in SGA, and the looming carbon neutrality in this year, I have thought a lot about sustainability and the direction our planet is heading if we don’t step up and be kinder to the planet. Seeing the trash washed up on the beautiful shores of Capurgana and Choco that potentially originated from us. Say no to single use plastics wherever possible

TBS Abroad Week 6: Crowds

By Emily Weaver on March 20, 2019

Week 6- Crowds

When we think of crowds we often think of rushing around from place to place and being packed together, having to wait for people to move, but this isn’t always the case. Sometimes crowds gather for cultural reasons. These places become community centers. This week tell us about the places where people gather. Why are they gathering? What is the atmosphere like in these places? Any particular memories about specific events that you have been to?

Trey Spadone

Community and collectivity are two major aspects of Balinese life. I witnessed this firsthand when I experienced a series of rituals related to Nyepi (Balinese New Year). On Tuesday, March 5th, nearly the entire village made their way to a nearby beach to partake in a purification ceremony called Melasti. The ceremony takes place on a beach since water is seen as the source of life. To get there I rode on the back of Risky’s (my host brother) motor bike in a sea of other beach-goers. It was almost like being in a biker gang.

On Wednesday, March 6th, I experienced an Ogoh-ogoh procession. In the weeks before Nyepi, communities construct these massive, mostly papier-mache sculptures of demons. The idea is that the Ogoh-ogoh are so big and terrifying that they scare any demons that are around away. Basically, the demons get spooked by their own hideous appearance. On the eve of Nyepi, the structures are paraded around the village. The Ogoh-ogoh are ultimately burned either later that night or a couple days after.

The Ogoh-ogoh parade was one of the coolest things I have ever been a part of. For starters, the Ogoh-ogoh were so intricate and certainly spooky. Each neighborhood within the village had its own t-shirt design which was super fun. Men, women, and children both walked in the parade as well as watched from the sidelines.

Emily Weaver

If we’re being completely honest, there are not that many people in Iceland. The crowds that I saw while I was there can not compare to the crowds that we see here in the US. Despite this, people still gather. One place that really stands out to me were the public pools. Every town had one and when asked about them, every local would say their pool was better than those of surrounding towns. These pools were both indoor and outdoor, operating year-round (an impressive feat considering how many months out of the year there is snow!).

The pools were a place for people of all ages to come and relax, play or exercise. Kids could amuse themselves for hours on the slides or creating competitions swimming laps. The adults could exercise and then take a rest in the hot tubs that were likened to the geothermal hot pots, or pools that dot Iceland. These pools were located in in places that everyone had access to, and swipe cards could be purchased to access the pools multiple times. Some of the people in my study abroad group purchased these swipe cards and were able to regularly go to the pool!

I also noticed another place that kids tended to gather often while we were in our homestay. The local town had this big inflatable bounce mat. It was like a trampoline, but it’s not elevated above the ground, making it much safer for kids of all ages to play on it. The one in Ísafjörður was located a short walk from the University Center and my peers and I, even at 20 years old, found ourselves venturing to this space after class. The younger kids were so welcoming to us and they, along with some of our host siblings, allowed us to play games with them. Everyone, from kids to adults, enjoyed the bounce pad; my host mom brought me to the bounce pad on my first day there and jumped around with me and my host siblings as well! It was a nice break from classes and allowed our inner kids to come out.

TBS Abroad Week 5: Sustainability

By Emily Weaver on March 7, 2019

Week 5- Sustainability

Colgate has pledged to be carbon neutral by our bicentennial year (which just so happens to be this year). Colgate’s pledge is a part of a trend that we’re seeing increasingly more often across the country and around the globe in an effort to reduce the effects of climate change and protect the world that we live in. This week think about how climate change is affecting where you are staying. Are they already seeing effects from climate change or are they wary that it’s even occurring. Are they taking precautions and pledges, like Colgate, to mitigate and adapt to these changes. What are some of the outward signs that people are conscious of climate change (e.g. recycling, climate plans) If you haven’t thought about it yet, what do you think will be the biggest impact of climate change on your study abroad location?

Emily Weaver

My program to Iceland and Greenland was all about climate change; how it’s affecting these countries, how they’re being impacted, and what they’re doing about it. After learning for years about Colgate’s sustainability plans and how to US Government is (or isn’t) tackling climate change, I was incredibly interested in learning about what other countries are doing.

Iceland, arguably, is one of the countries that is planning the most for climate change. Situated on a tectonic boundary, Iceland has the ability to heat its water, homes, and buildings and provide electricity to the entire country using a network of geothermal power plants. Not only has Iceland managed this incredible feat, they have also taken this one step further.

Even though Iceland is using a sustainable, reusable energy source, there are still some carbon emission related to the geothermal process. To combat this, a program was launched in 2007 to combat the carbon emitted during the geothermal process, giving birth to the Carbfix method. The process of Carbfix is simple, capture carbon that is emitted and sequester it away in a form that is not harmful to the environment. Specifically, the team at the Hellisheiði Power Plant, the pilot location for the process, captures the carbon that the power plant emits. They then dissolve the carbon so that it is in solution. After doing so it is pumped into the ground, where the basaltic rock in Iceland (which is rich in iron and magnesium) bonds with carbon to create a carbonate mineral that will keep the carbon trapped in the ground and out of the atmosphere.

The Carbfix process has been incredibly successful making the Hellisheiði Power Plant the first carbon neutral power plant on the planet. Currently the Carbfix team is working to extend the reach of the project and apply it in other locations. Accomplishing carbon sequestration is an amazing first step in reducing the world’s carbon footprint.

  • Hellisheiði Power Plant
  • Cross section of the pipes that transport geothermal energy across the country (Hellisheiði Power Plant)

Trey Spadone

Sustainability is a tricky subject in Bali and Indonesia as a whole. On one hand, there are a bunch of eco-friendly establishments that pride themselves on their sustainable practices. However, in areas that do not attract tourists, environmentally friendly practices are not the norm. Bu Ary, my academic director and an overall superstar, has cited education as one of the contributing factors. The importance of sustainability is not widely taught in schools or executed in Balinese daily life. I unfortunately do not know other specifics about environmental conservation as it pertains to Bali (those lectures are coming soon).

A sustainability struggle in Indonesia is the amount of plastic consumption. Since tap water is unsafe for drinking, plastic bottles are everywhere. Some are big, some are small, some are skinny, and some are wide, but they are almost always plastic. Furthermore, even though there are occasionally recycling bins available, the stuff that gets recycled usually ends up with the regular trash. While I do not feel great about using so much plastic, it is important to recognize that a core issue is the lack of access to clean drinking water. The ability to choose reusable water bottles over plastic ones is most definitely a privilege.