Japan 2017

Quinn Sipes
Japan
6/22/17
I arrived in Japan extremely jet lagged and confused. My flights went over without many problems. It was a 13 hour flight from Toronto to Tokyo and I ended up staying awake the whole flight because the guy behind me decided to knee me in the back every few minutes. Luckily I was able to power through and saw that by staying up the whole flight would help me get onto Tokyo time.

Shibuya Crossing

Shibuya Crossing

I travelled to the heart of Tokyo in Shinjuku to sign over my life to Sakura House and receive my keys to my house near Yoyogi Hatichiman Station. I originally got off at the wrong station…actually I went on the wrong train line all together. To say that my brain was fried when I arrived is an understatement. While trying to navigate the train stations in Tokyo is hard enough; picture following signs that are in both English and Japanese but then suddenly turn into solely Japanese, during rush hour in Tokyo’s busiest train station with one hiking backpack and one suitcase weighing approximately 15 pounds and 26 pounds respectively. I was in total sensory overload and everything moved so fast that I had a really hard time trying to keep up!
I finally made it to my room and quickly unpacked while also stripping down to wash the grime of 24 hours of travel and 3 hours of Tokyo train hopping off. After getting comfortable in the quiet neighborhood where I will be spending the next month I quickly slipped into a coma. When I woke up I met my two roommates; one from Hawaii and the other from Tunisia. I woke up at about 5 am in Tokyo time and went outside to explore the area I now live in. Now comes literally all my advice; to make it easier to digest they will be listed below:
1. Nothing is open at 5 am in Tokyo, especially in a quiet residential area filled with elderly people and children.
2. Take out enough Yen in cash because card isn’t accepted everywhere.
3. Make sure you have enough money before coming here! (I do have enough, but I am actually waiting on it to all come through so I have to budget literally everything!
4. Don’t wander with no sense of direction…(I walked about 4.5 km in a big circle because I had no idea what I was doing or where I was going).
5. Before you leave write down as much information about the places you need to go, in case google maps and your phone decide to be dead weight (you guessed it I am going into this month long experience completely blind).
6. Watch what others do and just copy them, until you figure out what to do in certain situations.
7. Walk on the left! And on escalators you stand on the left walk on the right.
8. Wait in line for the subway and trains…don’t rush into the car!(this one came a little naturally for me, during rush hour everyone was in a line so it was easy to just follow behind).
9. Learn the language!! I can’t stress that one enough! I have 0 experience with this language that has 3 alphabets and sounds absolutely foreign when people are speaking (obviously it will be foreign…good observation Quinn…).
10. Buy a Passmo or start walking (a Passmo/Suica card is what gets you on the trains, subways, metros, and bus lines throughout Tokyo and other parts of Japan. Pass up a Passmo and you may as well just start walking because buying tickets at every stop is a real big hassle).
The above points are only some of my advice…if I added anymore it would be a sensory overload and I can’t do that to you. I got very lost the first full day in Tokyo.

Meguro shopping area

Meguro shopping area

I started walking in one direction hoping that if I got super lost I could consult Google Maps to get me back on track. However, my phone is not supported in Japan even if I bought a Japanese SIM card. I guess that’s what I get for getting some bootleg off brand smart phone. Also Japan is sorely lacking in its ability to provide free Wi-Fi so be prepared to buy a mobile hotspot if you really need it (like me). I somehow got from my house to where my class will be held at the Kita Nohgakudo in Meguro, a Tokyo neighborhood about 20 minutes from where I live, to Ikebukoro which is about an hour from where I live! How did I get there? I have no clue! Luckily I made it back to my house at about 8 pm and ate my first meal in two days: a cold soba noodle with tea from the 7/11 down the street from the station near my house.
After these past few days, I am so exhausted from all my walking and getting lost I really wish I studied this language a little bit more. I think when the class starts in a few days I should be okay as I will be in class for like 12 hours a day from 10 am to 10 pm with like a two hour break. I plan on doing a little more exploring, but maybe less spending until my outstanding checks make their way into my account! Until I go on another crazy adventure in a land where I am hardly in tune with the culture or language or direction of things, I guess that means tomorrow, have a wonderful day filled with a whole lot less confusion than mine! If you want to see pictures of the craziness that is Tokyo follow me on Facebook or Instagram.

G’Day Australia 2016

Ryan Kluk

Blog 8: Goodbye Perth

Five weeks comes and goes in the blink of an eye. Just thirty-six days ago, I boarded a plane in Charlotte, North Carolina and headed west for Perth. I have truly enjoyed my time here in Australia and the lifelong friends that I have made during my study abroad experience.

I’ll never forget the fourteen hour ride from Perth to Yardie, throwing quadrat after quadrat, begging to be in Paul’s car, the cold water of Rockingham to scuba dive, the rainy rugby match, or all the time spent in Freo shopping and exploring. I learned so much about the culture of Australia and tried a variety of Australian cuisine. Kangaroo was by far the best meat I have ever tasted, and the fish & chips here were stupendous. I also learned and retained heaps of knowledge about marine ecology and Western Australian in general.

Ningaloo was an amazing experience that I will never forget and will treasure for the rest of my life. Swimming with majestic marine creatures like the whale shark and manta rays are something I will tell my kids about one day.

Sadly, my time down under has come to an end and I must fly back home. Australia had a piece of my heart before this trip, but now Australia has even more. I cannot wait to come back and see more of the beautiful outback.

This is Kluk signing off for the final time. Get ready U.S., I’m coming home.

G’Day from Australia 2016

Ryan Kluk

Blog 7: Sanctuary Zones in Ningaloo

A marine sanctuary zone is an area in the ocean that is specifically set aside for conservation. All marine life, corals and fish, and the habitat if completely protected from human impacts and pollution. There is a total of twenty-one sanctuary zones along the Ningaloo Reef. The sanctuary zones allow for humans to look, but not take. These zones are one of the most effective ways of protecting the species that live in the reef and conserving the true nature and beauty of the reef.

The Ningaloo Marine Park, which encompasses the entire reef and the sanctuary zones, protect Australia’s largest fringing reef. A fringing reef is a coral reef that lies close to the shore. Since the sanctuary zones are protected, they make great spots for snorkeling for tourists and help the ecotourism industry that relies on the Ningaloo Reef. Not only is the snorkeling great, but the sanctuary zones offer heaps of information and visuals about the biodiversity of Ningaloo. The sanctuary zones also allow scientists to run research just like we did with the Tridacna maxima. Scientists have the ability to understand species in their natural habitat with limit to no human disruptions.

Sanctuary zones help preserve nature as it was meant to be, while providing researchers and tourists the opportunity to see the beauty nature has to offer.

Striped convicts, swimming in the Nigaloo Reef.

Striped convicts, swimming in the Nigaloo Reef.

G’Day from Australia 2016

Ryan Kluk

Blog 6: Coral Reef Protection

Ningaloo Reef has been a protected World Heritage Site (WHS) since 2011. A WHS is listed by the UNESCO as having important cultural or physical significance that is special just to one area of the world. Other World Heritage Sites include: the Great Barrier Reef, Amazon Rain Forest, and the Great Pyramids of Egypt. UNESCO listed Ningaloo as a WHS because of its abundant marine life, vast majority of megafauna, cave fauna, and the contrast in colors from the water to the Cape Range Mountains.

Being a WHS allows Ningaloo to be a protected coral reef. Ningaloo being protected is important because coral reefs all over the world are dying and fading away due to climate change. Ningaloo is well maintained by the locals and the government of Western Australia. The biggest threat to coral reefs are humans and climate change which causes the water temperature to increase. The Ningaloo Reef also has a good balance of cool and warm water rushing through thanks to the Leeuwin and Ningaloo currents.

With Ningaloo being protected, coral species can flourish and spawn which ultimately brings the megafauna that Ningaloo sees during the winter months. The megafauna of Ningaloo begins in a huge ecotourism industry that sustains small towns like Coral Bay and Exmouth.

Ningaloo is also home to many species that are only found in Ningaloo. If not protected, those species would become extinct and the diversity of earth would decrease. Australia knew the importance of Ningaloo many years ago and now the world knows, thanks to UNESCO.

A picture of myself, 30 feet under the surface, relaxing right about the corals.

A picture of myself, 30 feet under the surface, relaxing right about the corals.

G’Day from Australia 2016

Ryan Kluk

Blog 5: Cows (Mother Humpbacks) vs. a Hungry Pack of Killer Whales

Killer whales (orcas) are apex predators that work as a pack to attack their prey. The same is true for the killer whales that predate on humpback calves in the Ningaloo Reef. Humpback cows (mother) and calves (child) migrate from Antarctica up the western coast of Australia, past Ningaloo Reef to their final destination-the Timor Sea in northern Australia. During their migration, killer whales will follow and hunt the humpback calves to feed the entire pack.

John Totterdell (the guest lecturer on orcas) did a study on the killer whale predation of humpback calves. His study found that killer whales attack and succeed at capturing the humpback calf with great success. The humpback whales have very little protection to provide the calves from being eaten by the killer whales. The two main options are as follows: the mother humpback whale can hug the reef to protect her calf and keep the calf in shallow water or the mother humpback whale can have male “escorts” helping protect the calf from predation.

During his study, Totterdell could not conclude why the escorts would help the calves and the mother. Totterdell thinks that humpback whales might be more social than previously perceived but he is not sure how the behavior of being an escort is adaptive.

Orcas attacking humpback calves is part of nature, and humans are not overly concerned because both populations, killer whales and humpback whales, are stable. More study is being done on whether or not the killer whales attack silently or not.

A Humpback whale and her calf seen while on a boat tour in Ningaloo.

A Humpback whale and her calf seen while on a boat tour in Ningaloo.

G’Day from Australia 2016

Ryan Kluk

Blog 4: Clams! Clams! And more Clams!

While in Ningaloo Reef, we conducted research on clams, specifically the Tridacna maxima and the Tridacna Ningaloo. These two species are both part of the giant clam family and are very similar with the only difference being a genetic difference. These giant clams live all along the coast of Western Australia, not just Ningaloo Reef.

Giant clam from Nigaloo Reef

Giant clam from Ningaloo Reef

The giant clams obtain food through two separate processes: filter feeding and photosynthesis. To undergo photosynthesis, the clams have a mutualistic relationship with zooxanthellae, a microscopic algae that lives in the clams’ mantle giving the clam the colors and patterns on their “lips.” These colors can range from bright blue to docile brown. Each clam pattern is unique due to the zooxanthellae that inhabit the clam.

The biggest threat to clams are humans and habitat damage. In 2014, parts of the Ningaloo Reef were flooded. The increase in sediment made the clams ability to undergo photosynthesis impossible because there was not enough light piercing through the water. Without photosynthesis, the clams lost half of their food supply and eventually died. Humans are a threat to the clams because the clams are used for their meat and shells.

Much research is done on the clams because of their importance to coral reefs. The clams provide food, shelter, and act as reef builders and shapers once they have settled down permanently. The calcium carbonate that the clams release help frame the reefs that form around the clams. Clams are indicator species. Being indicator species allow scientists to observe the clams to determine the health of an ecosystem or habitat. Without the clams, many species would not be able to call the reef home because the clams provide sustainability to the reef.

G’Day from Australia 2016

Ryan Kluk
Kluk Down Under Blog 3: A day in Freo

Fremantle (Freo for short) is a suburb of Perth just to the west. Freo is located at the mouth of the Swan River and is a port city off the Indian Ocean. This small suburb of Perth is a hustle and bustle town containing around 27,000 people. Freo is home to the Fremantle Dockers, and Australian Football League team. Freo is also home to two local breweries: Little Creatures and The Monk. I have eaten at both and I would have to say that Little Creatures has better food, but The Monk has better beer. I would definitely recommend the Monk Apple and Strawberry Farmhouse Cider. The cider is sweet, but has a great flavor that is not too fruity. However, there is more to Freo than just the two breweries such as the monuments and originals buildings.

Round House

Round House

The Fremantle Round House was built in 1831 and was the first permanent building in Freo and still stands to this day. In fact, the Round House is the oldest building still standing in Western Australia. The Round House was used as a prison for the city. The other historic building in Freo is the actual Fremantle Prison that was built in 1855 and is now a World Heritage Site. The prison used convict labor to help fix any issues with the buildings construction as well as the construction of Freo. The prison is almost original from when it was initially built. These two buildings are a must see, because they give the present day a look back to the early colonists days of Australia. After you look at the history of Freo, you have to walk Market St. and poke your head into all the little shops. And at the end of the road you will find the Fremantle Market, built in 1897.
The market only operates on the weekend and helps local farmers sell their products. Not only does the market have produce, but multiple stands that sell a variety of items from clothes to pottery to boomerangs. The market is always crowded, but is an experience all on its own. I could spend a whole day in the market if I was given the chance, but I have to study and get my assignments done.

High Street, a view from my camera.

High Street, a view from my camera.

Freo is a lovely town, but will keep you on your toes with a variety of architecture and vast array of people that inhabit the small but fast-moving city.
Come back to hear more adventures of Kluk Down Under.

This is Ryan Kluk signing off.

G’Day from Australia 2016

Ryan Kluk
Kluk Down Under Blog 2: Diving in Ningaloo

Ningaloo Reef has been a World Heritage site since 2011 and is gorgeous, but not nearly as popular a reef when compared to the Great Barrier Reef. Ningaloo is on the northwestern side of the country near Exmouth. Ningaloo reef is a fringing reef. A fringing reef is a reef that lies close to the shore, no more than 3 kilometers from land whereas the Great Barrier Reef is anywhere from 15 km to 165 km. Ningaloo reef is a very healthy reef that has little human stress added because of the reef’s remoteness.
While in Ningaloo, I had the opportunity to snorkel and swim with manta rays and a whale shark. First, I swam with the manta rays in Coral Bay. The rays were no more than twenty feet from me while I snorkeled at the surface of the water. Colors of the rays varied from pitch black to light grey. I got to snorkel with them during their feeding time. Now, the rays (as well as the whale shark) were in the wild. The only human interaction with the animals is humans swimming with them. I got to observe the rays in their natural habitat swimming on the fringe of the reef. Seeing the manta rays do flips to catch food was unbelievable. The rays were about four feet long with a wingspan of about nine feet.

Me swimming with a 14-foot whale shark at Ningaloo reef.

Me swimming with a 14-foot whale shark at Ningaloo reef.

Now, swimming with the biggest fish in the sea might give you a heart attack, but swimming with the whale shark near Exmouth was incredible. The shark we swam with was about five meters in length or seventeen feet. The whale sharks can reach up to eighteen meters or sixty feet when fully mature. These gigantic beasts are so peaceful and gorgeous. Our whale shark was a greyish-blue with white spots and was a juvenile male. I got to swim with the whale shark six different times over the period of ninety minutes. I was ten feet from the largest fish in the ocean and I couldn’t have been happier.
Until next time, this is Ryan Kluk signing off.

G’Day from Australia 2016

Ryan Kluk

Kluk Down Under Blog 1: Welcome to Perth, Western Australia

Hello, I am Ryan Kluk. I study at Hampden-Sydney College in rural Farmville, Virginia. I am a rising senior but for this summer I am studying at Murdoch University in Perth, Western Australia. I am taking two marine biology courses during my five week tenure here. Perth is so different from home back in the States. Perth is home to skyscrapers, 2.02 million people, and next to the beach. Perth is like Chicago, Illinois with its skyscrapers and enthrallment with sports but Perth is not nearly as cold and has 300,000 less people. Perth is a beach city, with suburbs like Fremantle (Freo for short.) Enough about Perth; let me tell you about Murdoch University.

Myself with a kangaroo

Myself with a kangaroo

Murdoch is about a twenty minute commute from Perth and containsabout 15,000 students. Murdoch is a wide campus divided into two separate parts. First, you have the academic side where all classes take place but where the courtyard and shops are stationed on campus. Murdoch is a gorgeous campus that has a wide variety of Australian wildlife such as: Australian Black Cockatoos, Quendas (Southern Brown Bandicoot), and Crows that wake you up in the morning and distract you during class. On the other side of campus, is the student living section. I live in the University Village. I share an apartment with four girls and three guys. This is my first time living with girls in a dorm and it is quite strange because Hampden-Sydney is an all-male school; where, I only live with guys. Here, I have my own room that is an average size with a bed, closet, and desk. We all share a kitchen and a common room that acts as a living room. My hall mates are great. I have truly bonded with them. All eight of us are from all over the United States. The rest of the students in my program live in the apartment style dorms that are across the street. There are thirteen of us total.
Classes started today and they are just like back home: fifty minute lectures with a five minute break in-between. However, we are not at Murdoch for long because we leave on Sunday, June 19th, 2016 for Ningaloo Reef near Exmouth, Western Australia. While there, we will be conducting research on the clams stationed along the reef.
Food here is not much different than in the States, except there are not nearly as many preservatives. Kangaroo meat is utterly amazing. It taste like steak, but better. Oh, and Australians love BBQ sauce. They put BBQ sauce on everything from breakfast sandwiches to pizza.
The Australian culture is amazing to experience. They love talking about sports and having a brew for lunch. Australians are extremely curious about American politics and ask about American stereotypes all the time. However, a lot of the Australian stereotypes seem to be true. A lot of Aussie’s drive jeeps, wear rustic clothing and are remarkably helpful.
Well, that’s all for now. Stay tuned for more adventures of Kluk Down Under!

Studying French in Senegal

Timothy Morgan 2015

Reflecting on my Summer in Dakar…

I am a person who craves the non-typical; anything I can find that will set me apart from the crowd. I think that’s what attracted me to something like Dakar, Senegal, a country and region which had been far from my mind, despite all my college-level French classes. Browsing the options, for an experience abroad through which I could improve my French speaking ability, I submitted my application for the Washington University in St. Louis Summer session in Senegal along with several other applications for various places, and didn’t have a second thought. When the professor reached out to me personally to see if I was going to continue the application process, however, I unknowingly boarded the fast train to traveling in a place I knew virtually nothing about.
While this was my first time out of the country, I imagine the first day hits everyone the hardest. I felt that the preparation, immunizations, and telling people of all my plans had adequately prepared me, but I didn’t really realize what I was doing until our plane was suddenly flying low, over clay-colored houses and earth, and I stepped off the plane to inhale the driest air I’d ever breathed. These surreal sensations juxtaposed with jet lag and stress made the adventure of the first day feel that much more like a dream. Top it all off with a hectic airport process, people everywhere speaking a different language, and my first experience taking the often perilous car ride to anywhere in Dakar’s questionably constructed infrastructure, and I was ready to call it a day.
My first day was a strong foreshadowing, a daily sense of adventure and opportunity, thanks mainly to the quick baptism into living and functioning independently in Dakar given by our guides. Our living conditions consisted of us (myself, one student from John’s Hopkins, and 6 from Wash U) living in the upstairs of a relatively high quality villa while our professor (who was also the director of the program) lived below with her husband, two children, and our guide Aimé. There were two classes offered, for a total of 6 credits, during our month-long stay: a language course, either French or the local language of Wolof, and History of Senegal. As part of the latter course, we each were required to perform our own independent project based on our personal  interest.

local orphanage in Saint Louis

Local Orphanage in St. Louis

I found an internship with a Childfund affiliate in a poor part of town, so my day would consist of 3 hours of class in the morning, then going to my internship after lunch. On the weekends, we would take trips, or have opportunities planned to see Dakar, or experience something relevant to the History of Senegal class.

Fishing boats in the village Yoff

Fishing boats in the village of Yoff

There are many things liberating about living in Senegal. For instance, there are almost no stop lights anywhere outside of the nicer part of downtown. Also, aside from a few chain stores that sold canned food or electronics, there is no set price used by vendors on the street, crowded marketplaces, and taxis. Essentially, one must understand how to haggle and barter in order to go anywhere or do anything. The unpredictability of losing power for a few minutes and dubious WiFi capabilities fundamentally change the way our American minds are wired to think. Africans generally don’t subscribe to the same concept of “time is money.” You could go to a restaurant and wait an hour or more for your food (which may or may not be correctly prepared), and then wait another hour for the check. By the trip’s end, I was happy to be able to take a taxi independently by greeting in Arabic, exchanging salutations in Wolof, negotiating a price based on the distance in French, and having a working knowledge of realistic taxi prices based on how far I was traveling.

Mosque in the holy city of Tivouane on Korite

Mosque in the Holy City of Tivouane on Korit

Among the most fascinating places I traveled were the holy city of Touba, the culturally rich sea town of Saint Louis, and islands Goree and N’Gor.

As the month continued and I became more and more adjusted to life in Senegal, I found myself drift further away from my classmates and closer to the people I had met in Senegal. Senegalese simply think differently from Americans. One of my classmates was doing her independent research project on psychological depression, and based on her interviews with a wide demographic of Senegalese people, one conclusion she came to was that the emotions of anger and discontent aren’t retained based on past traumatic experiences like she expected them to be. I can’t say whether it’s the vast Muslim influence in the region, the crippling dryness of the climate, or the simple, yet breathtaking beauty of the coast as well as the countryside, but life in Senegal was both eye-opening and equipping with the international perspective I had craved so much. Several times I was asked if I would return to Senegal. With difficulty I responded with “yes, maybe/hopefully so” but with uncertainty in my voice. The reason for this is my excitement to see and experience as many different places in Africa and the world as I can. God willing, Senegal has been the first stop on a list of many.