Hello Budapest, Eager to Meet You

I started this blog as a way to reflect upon the cultural study tours I embarked on with students. It was a direct result of processing our experience in Peru. And then it kept going…. interestingly enough, people other than my mom wanted to read about it and started following this page.

But about a year and a half ago I changed roles at my institution and this blog sat oddly silent since. What I do now is less, well teacher-y and more administrative. Challenging and rewarding in its own right, but the give and take led to relinquishing the student travel program to someone else’s capable hands.

This is my first adventure sans students. Eastern Europe, particularly Budapest, has been on my bucket list for a while. Eager to start exploring.

*SPOILER ALERT* for those of you who know me, I have a love-hate relationship with the jungle. I love to hate it. There will be no jungle this trip, that’s right – no giant man eating bugs, no rotten brigdges to cross over dizzzing heights, no waterfalls to scale. Sorry if you were hoping for another of my rants on the jungle and why I hate it. Anyway I digress…

Already, less than 48 hours in, this trip has taught me things.

First, I don’t sleep. I’m not the best sleeper at home either, but I always blames my inability to sleep abroad on my worry over what the students were actually doing while they were supposed to be sleeping. Can’t blame them this trip. Hence, my 3 am blogging. 

Second. You can take the girl out of Anthropolgy but you can’t take anthropology out of the girl. Observering, recording, reflecting, interpreting – its second nature now, even without the students. Thank you East Carolina University and Florida State University, you have made me, well me. Fortune and glory, my friend. Indiana Jones had it right ūüôā

So for this trip, no students, no jungle, but still musings about where I am and what I learn. As is often the case, cultural exploration is not only about experiencing the other, but also learning about yourself while reflecting on your journey. 

Well, it’s almost late, or early enough?, to pretend I’m just an early riser and head out for some coffee on deck. Oh, did I mention this adventure is a cruise, a taste of 5 countries. With someone else doing the planning and logistics. We shall see if the control freak can let go….and enjoy. Touring the city today. Update you all when I return.

Glad you are along for the ride. 


Pearl of the Danube

It has been a while my friends!

This adventure has a new theme, purely for fun – no students, no study, just exploration of a new place in the world with friends. 

We start our journey in Budapest, Hungary. I hope you will join my musings.  Today was a travel day. 23 hours to get here. Our gypsy is tired! Tomorrow starts our adventure in Eastern Europe. Can’t wait. Until then a few photos to tide you over.

The view from our ship.

Jeff has found some golf fun already!

A few selfies from our wine tasting aboard ship.

The Autumn Equinox is Here! Wait, Whats the Autumn Equinox?

Happy Fall, Y’all!


It comes twice a year and is related to the change in seasons, but a lot of people don’t understand this celestial alignment.

Source: The Autumn Equinox is Here! Wait, Whats the Autumn Equinox?

I Love the First Day of School!


I love the first day of school.¬† Geeky, but true.¬† For those of us who are still on campus at the end of the academic year, summers are way too quiet.¬† I miss the students ‚Äď yes, even when they are naughty.

On the 1st day there is so much promise.  The building come alive with students, walking, talking, and sometimes looking around with confusion about where to go next.  When I arrive in my classroom, they are all there.  Yes, 100% attendance, it only happens again on final exam day.  The difference between that day and today is that today they are excited to be there; eager to see what possibilities the course has to offer them.

Pencils have sharpened points, notebooks are crisp and white. They talk, they contribute, they still think I am cool.  This is all before the mid-semester doldrums hit or they realize that I actually expect them to turn in work.

Today we talked of many things ‚Äď what archaeology is, what they thought it was, if they will have a chance to try it themselves, places archaeologists go. No, we don‚Äôt do dinosaurs.¬† No, I don‚Äôt carry a whip, and X never marks the spot.

I spoke of doing fieldwork in North Carolina, Florida, Mexico ‚Äď both on land and underwater.¬† I make the same 1st day joke I do every semester ‚Äď I became an archaeologist because they let me have a machete.¬† They always smile. Yep, cool factor goes up a little.

We also talked about places students can go ‚Äď Peru, Ecuador, Ireland, Costa Rica as part of our study abroad program; Most of you have learned all about it too.¬† This year is Scotland.¬† Hopefully, you will hear about our progress towards that trip this semester and what we learn once we return in May.¬† Maybe one or two of my new archaeology students will come along on the Scotland trip.¬† I hope all of them will enjoy the course and learn a little more about archaeology than they came in with.

I love the 1st day of school only in the way a teacher can….

Study Abroad Costa Rica Highlights

Study Abroad Costa Rica 2015 from cyndibellacero on Vimeo.

Sustainability & Civic Engagement

We spent the last few days working on the “study”in our study abroad. We visited an organic coffee farm, the teenage pregnancy center, and a rural school. We also attended a lecture on globalization in Latin America.


Lexi left her camera unattended and we left her a surprise for later ūüôā


Yesterday we had a few hours free. Hmmmm…what do you do with a gaggle of girls and some free time? Go to the mall ūüôā

¬†Profe! What’s with that face?

Hicimos Amigos Nuevos

Yesterday was a great day as well.  We traveled to Barrio Mercedes in order to spend time at the Instituto Naccional de Aprendizaje where we visited college students who are learning English.

Here are Krystin and Knight meeting some new friends.

We spent some time helping them practie their English with icebreaker games.  It was a lot of fun and their English was very good.

The last part of our visit had the students in small groups dicussing global issues.  Then we all got back together to share what we learned in our groups and generally from each other.  The morning went very quickly.   Las Chicas Fuertes exchanged facebook invites with some of thier new friends and a quick photo before we left.

In the afternoon we had a lecture on Tico nutrition and traditional foods and then Odie  graciously opened her home to us for an empanada lesson.

We made empanadas from both maiz y plantanos.  Here are the plantain, bean and cheese empanadas waiting to be cooked.

Just for the record, Knight did not help prepare the empanadas, but found his way to the corn empanadas stuffed with vegetables and chicken once they were done.

Here is what knight was doing while the ladies were having their cooking lesson Рwatching telenovelas with his new friend Oso Azul.  Such a rascal he is!

¡Pura Vida! 

Las Chicas Fuertes

¬°Hola Amigos!

What a weekend we had.  Non-stop, action-packed fun Рmuy divertido. We left Atenas at 6:30 de la manana to head to Vocano Poas.

We made a selfie stop along the way to take in the beautiful vistas. ¬†Here are Lexi, Profe, and I hamming it up with Lexi’s selfie stick.

We also bought a few snacks and tried a new fruit called a granadilla. It was similar to a pomegrante, but sweet.

We hiked to the active crater and then on to Lagoon Botas, where we stoped for another quick selfie. ¬†Starting from the left is our adopted friend Lexi from Charlotte, Jessalyn, yours truly in the silly hat, Profe, Krystin hiding behind Profe’s elbow, and Dominique. ¬†Esteban from Immersion Abroad Costa Rica is hamming it up in the front. ¬†It’s an all girl group, but we decided to make Esteban an honorary chica¬†so he could hang out with us.

While we were hiking around the lagoon, Profe and I were talking about our Ecuador slogan from the 2013 trip РSimepre Listo Рthat we adopted after buying braclets with that slogan from the boyscout troop there.  We decided we needed a name for ourselves this time too, something with chicas, since we were all girls.  We decided it would just come to us at some point.

We stopped for a quick picnic lunch and then headed to La Selva Verde in the Braulio Carrillo¬†National Park. ¬†Now those of you who remember the Peru trip know how I feel about la selva. ¬†For those of you who don’t, let’s just say it’s a love-hate relationship. ¬†I love to hate it. ¬†Seriously, I had to walk across a ba-zillion mile long metal bridge over a river that swayed with each step we all took just to start the hike yesterday afternoon. ¬†Whaaaat, no, no, no, no, no. ¬†Okay, so I did it anyway, but I didn’t like it. Did I mention it was the only way back too, sigh…..

We hiked for 2 hours through the rain forest finding two-toed sloths, Howler monkeys, tucans, frogs, leaf-cuter ants, bullet ants, and various other birds and insects. ¬†Oh, we saw a bat that was living under the leaves of a plant too. ¬†It cuts all the leaves so they drop and make a little umbrella. ¬†It was interesting. ¬†If only I didn’t have to go back across that ridonculous bridge again. ¬†Did I mention it started pouring down rain right as we got back to cross it again. ¬†stupid-rain, stupid-head.

After our death-hike we checked into a local Inn for a nice long hot shower and some dinner. ¬†Here are all mi chicas¬†with Odie and Esteban from Immersion Abroad Costa Rica, and Sammy – our extremely nice and ever patient driver. ¬†The inn made some kickin’ Nutella crepes that we all had for desert. ¬†We earned them!

This morning we were all up bright and early for another action-packed day.  We started with a hearty desayuno of gallo pinto (rice and beans mixture that is only eaten at breakfast), eggs, corn tortillas, mango, and cafe of course.
First up was zip lining.  We did a course of 12 lines that started easy and then got faster, and faster, and faster.  It was Krystin, Dominique and my first time and we were a bit scared.  It was way cool.  I am so doing it again any chance I get.  We paid a bit extra to have them take pictures while we were doing the course, so I will upload them when we get back next week.

As we were walking from one of the lines to another we were talking and Lexi asked what the word for strong was, Profe answered fuerte. ¬†Eureeka! That’s it, I said, we are Las Chicas Fuertes. ¬†Everone agreed. ¬†Now that is our herd name.

No slacking for us, just a quick water and cookie break after the lines and then off to the river for white water rafting. ¬†We spent 2 1/2 hours on the Sarapiqui River. ¬†Also muy divertido. Okay now we are wet, tired, and hangry. Let’s go find some comida¬†and then it’s time to make the trip back to Atenas.

Back now and muy cansado. It was a great weekend adventure where Las Chicas Fuertes learned that they are indeed strong and can achieve anything they set their minds to.

¬°Hasta Manana Amigos!

Exploramos Atenas

We spent most of our day learning the area we will call home for the next week.


We started our morning with a visit to the fresh market.  We had  list of things en Espanol to find, describe, and ask the vendors the cost of.  As you can see, Knight took a selfie break in the middle of our scavenger hunt.

When we returned to the center of town, we went out to explore the local businesses that surrounded the park and the school.  We made special note of where the ice cream shop was for later this afternoon.  I promised Knight he could have un cono de guanabana.  

It sure was a busy morning.  After all that caminando, we had our first clase de Espanol.

Between all the scavenger hunts and language learning, we worked up an appetite! ¬†At noon we set off to el Mercado Municipal¬†and had lunch at a local “soda.” Sodas are small family run shops that specialize in a local dish called casado. Casado translated literally means married. ¬†In terms of the dish, it represents a mix of several foods. The plate came with rice, beans, plantanos, salad, a choice of meats, and chayote – a squash-like vegetable.¬†¬†All that for the equivalent of $4. ¬†Very tasty.

After recovering from our food coma, we attended Odie’s lecture on Healthcare and Education in Costa Rica. ¬†It was muy¬†¬†interesante¬†to learn about how they differ from our systems. ¬† The last stop for our group adventure was the ice cream shop across the park.

Well off to pack an overnight back for tomorrow’s adventure. ¬†We leave bright and early for Volcano Poas and then Braulio Carrillo National Park. ¬†Sunday sounds fun too, with ziplinging (on my bucket list – che-check) and white water rafting.

!Nos vemos!

Hola de Atenas

Day one was long but also a blur.  Here we are at the New Bern airport waiting for our 6 am flight yesterday.  We had a 2 hour layover at the Atlanta airport from there.

As you can see, we appointed Knight keeper of the luggage.  We then took advantage of the down time and had some airport breakfast.  The flight from Atlanta to San Jose was 4 hours, but uneventful.  I will say the line to enter the country was impressive though.  It took us a hour from landing to make it through immigration and customs.

Odie and her hijo Esteban were waiting for us, and then whisked us away towards Atenas.   Odie and her family were generous hosts and opened their home to us upon arrival.  Her husband prepared a lunch feast for us.
As you saw ayer, the ladies enjoyed the pool for a while as we waited to meet a new friend Lexi.  Lexi is from Charlotte, NC and will be joining us in our itinerary for the next 8 days.  So I will have a small gaggle of chicas to explore Costa Rica with this week.

We spent the rest of the afternoon in an orientation meeting going over our itinerary and some general information on Atenas and our host families.  Entonces, it was off to meet our families!  The rest of the evening was spent getting to know our host families. I am staying with a young family near the center of town.  Luis is a beekeeper and Dixi is a college student studying to be a pharmacist.  They have a 7 year old hija, Tracy and dos perros. Their puppy has not gathered the courage to meet me yet, but their snauzer Pele and I became fast friends.  I love a scruffy little dog with bushy eyebrows.

Well, I am still getting used to the 2 hour time difference. ¬†I woke up this morning at 3:45 am. ¬†The sliver lining to that is that I have plenty of time to catch up on my posts. ¬†I can’t wait to meet mi¬†chicas and here about their familias tambien. Today we start off with an immersive Spanish lesson in the farmers market. ¬†Afterwards we will explore Atenas, have almuerzo in a local soda and then spend the afternoon learning about Costa Rican health, education, and environment.

¬°Hasta Luego Amigos!

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Chair of Social Science, Humanities,
& Foreign Languages

Liberal Arts & University Transfer
Craven Community College

800 College Court
New Bern, NC 28562
Email: bellaceroc@cravencc.edu
Phone: 252.638.7328
Fax: 252.638.3231

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