Saturday, July 23, 2011

"Personal Safety and Security Abroad"

Note to Mama- this is a "we would rather you have this information and not need it than a this could seriously happen to you" information.

We recieved a "Personal Safety and Security Overseas" paper/sheets of paper. It had tons of info (read 8 pages) so I will include the main titles only. Well, expand on a few pieces that are intersing to me. Also, it has tons of really good info, and if you are interested me comment, or email and I will send a copy to you. So some of this is info I think others should know.

Air Travel
Ground Travel
At the hotel

If you become a Victim.
  • remain calm and alert
  • if the assailant demand property, give it upAgainst overwhelming odds (weapons, multiple assailants) try reasoning, cajoiling, begging, any psychologial ploy
  • If you feel your life in endangered and you decide to physically resist, commit to the decision with every fiber of your being. Turn fear into fury.

Yes you read that right. We have a section on personal safety overseas on kidnappping. Here it is in its entirity:

As an American/Westerner you may be targeted for kidnapping. Those who  perpetrate these crimes are either promoting a political agenda and//or seeking to gain financial ir political dividend. Travelers are highly advised to be aware whether there is a history or rik (known threats, tareting) of kidnapping in places they attend to travel and take necessary precaitions {note to mama- there isn't}. Because histage situations vary greatly, the following considerations should be applied based on one's best judgement at the time:
-The US government policy not to pay ransom to kidnappers is firm.
-The gratest risk of physical harm exists at the point of capture and during a resue attempt or upon release.
-Remain cal and alert, exert control on emotions and behaviors.
-Be passively cooperative, but maintain your dignity.
-Assume an inconspicious posture, avoid direct eye contact with captors.
-Avoide resistance, belligerence or threatening movements.
Make reasonable, low-key requests for personal compforts (bathroom breaks, a blanket, exercise, books to read, etc.)
- If questoned keep your answers short. Volunteer nothing.
-As a captive situation draws out, try to establish some rapport with your captors.
-Avoid discussing contentious issues (politics, religion, ethnicity, etc)
-Establish a daily regiment to maintain yourself physically and mentally.
-Eat what your captors provide. Consume little food and drink. Avoid alcohol.
-Keep a positive, hopeful attitude.
-Attempt to escape only after weighing the risks and when you are certain to succeed.
So here you go- how to avoid a getting kidnapped, but if you do, here you go, directions on what to do.
See you around the globe!

Friday, July 22, 2011

"[Anticipation] might be the best part."

In the style of Woody Allen (a refernce which I do not understand, but am includeing for you in case you do get it), the first speaker said that the preperation to leave could be the best part, because reality rarely lives up to expectation.

Along with that advice, we should "use this experience as a launching pad."

We had a general overivew of the Balkans (well part of them, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Albania, and Macedonia at least). This was to give us a worst case senario of what could happen and to give us some of the history of the area.

The history part was interesting for the rest of the Balkans, but he didn't really mention anything that I didn't arealdy know about Macedonia. BUT, he did for some of the people who had never thought of going to Macedonia until the Fulbright offer.

The worst case scenario in Macedonia/this area of the Balkans is if the Albanians rise up together to form a "Greater Albania."

Which is not plausable , by the way.

After a delicious lunch, we went to our country sessions.

These were run by a full time staff member of either IIE (student) or CIES (scholar) but mostly the returning students/scholar talked.

We answered all of our questions in the first two sessions and didn't really need a third session, but had one any way.

We learned some important cultural things:

-If you are invited out for "drinks" in Macedonia, do not order food. This is seen as rude to eat when someone else is not eating. On the flip side, if you are invited for "food" order something becasue if you are not eating when someone else is, it is also rude.

-You can buy good summer clothes there, so pack mostly for winter. And pack dark clothing.

-most people have 2 phones, because they do not want to have to call people on their non Tmobile/ VIP pohone becasue that costs more. So we might need to get two phones. (I am not sure about this one yet, but we will see)

-You can call a taxi company and order a taxi with food, and they will charge you for the delivery, and the food, but no real upcharge. (good thing if you happen to get sick apparently)

-Arrive 10-15 minutes late. If you are on time, they will not be expecting you. And will not be ready for whatever you are early for.

Also, we found out that we will get some money for language training, through reimbusrment, to start or continue language training in our host countries.

That is most of the info. Stay tuned for an interesting inclusion in our packet as well as an introduction to my fellow Fulbrighters (will be later when I recieve the picture from Jen.

See you around the globe!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Orientation Day One

Getting up 4:15 am is only worth while if you have travel plans. Or in my case are going to DC for Fulbright Orientation.

Arriving in DC at 9 am without being able to check into the hotel until 3pm = interesting idea.

I traveled with Adam, a student from IU who is studying Russian and going to Moldova (yes, they speak Russian in Moldova. Moldova is here.) His wife drove us to the airport and dropped us off, and will pick us up on Friday night when we get in.

When we arrived at the hotel, the rooms were not ready but they were willing to place us on a list where they will call us when the rooms were ready. Or at least Adam was put on the list.

My reservation was cancelled.

Yup, my reservation was cancelled. The Fulbright commission cancelled the reservation. It was with a English Teaching Assistant (ETA) to somewhere (they provided us names and where people were going, and emails). I have no clue why it was cancelled, but the hotel felt bad, so they gave me one of the first rooms available.

I dropped off stuff and then headed out to the Smithsonian National Art Museum, which is only a few blocks from the hotel. I couldn't do the entire museum because I was feeling a bit out of sorts because I donated blood the day before. So, I decided to come back to the hotel and just relax and look over the stuff that they would give us.

They gave us a lot of good info (more to come in a separate post).

We had a dinner reception with yummy pasta and a gazillion deserts. I also got to meet all of the people that are going to Macedonia (once again, in a different post). We also meet the returning students who gave us some advice.

Then, we stayed almost 30 minutes past when the official end time was and the hotel staff as nice as possible kicked us out!

See you around the globe!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

So Where Don't I go? (OR) travel plans!

I decided to wait to book my travel until I could book the round trip ticket, so that I wouldn't have to pay for a change fee later on. Which meant I had to wait until July 12th to book the ticket. So agonizingly waiting and checking the price for tickets for 10 days- don't recommend it. But it did help me realize that I was getting a good deal when I finally did book the flight!

However, it is one of those itineraries where you look at it and go- there has to be something cheaper for the airline than where they are sending me. See, I leave the closest airport to my house on Aug 28th at 7:30AM CST and then I go to Washington, DC, where I have a 7 hour layover. Then I fly to Munich, Germany and arrive the next day. I then get 1 hour and 30 minutes to go through customs and board my next plane to Sofia, Bulgaria around 12pm local time (or 4am CST). Which isn't that bad of a trip, with only one international connection- I didn't think Bulgaria would have enough demand to have direct US service, so not too surprising.

However, on the way home I get to visit Austria and Switzerland before heading back to the us! And I get to navigate customs in Austria with only 1 hour and 15 minutes. And I can't even fib that language! I am fully expecting to miss my plane in Vienna. Can I hope for a long enough lay-over to get to leave the airport? lol.

Confused? Maybe a picture would help:

no? me either!

But I have also booked my hostel in both Sofia and Skopje for 7 nights.

Why am I going to Sofia, you ask? Well, I figured I would be over there anyway and it is cheaper to travel once you are on that side of the pond, so might as well. And Bulgarian is supposed to be similar to Macedonian. SO I thought I would give it a try. What's in Sofia (or Bulgaria for that matter) you ask?

I have no clue.                               But it sounded fun! :)

No really, I just got some guide books at the local library to look up what to do in Bulgaria. It looks like I can make several day trips from Sofia to other parts of Bulgaria and then come back to one hostel with all of my stuff.

I will then take a 5 hour bus ride to Macedonia where I will check in at another hostel for 7 days as I arrange for more permanent rooms (read- apartment). I will also endeavor to find a Macedonian language class.

See you around the globe!

Friday, July 1, 2011

more Official notification

Today (well technically, I got it Monday, but My mom had to send it to me in Indiana) I got my official offer of my grant (with how much the grant is for), emergency contact form, travel/arrival information, host country contact & affiliation information, grant deposit information, and fly American regulations.

However, I have a deadline sooner than most, by a few weeks. because I want an eariler start date than is normal in Macedonia. Most have a start date on September 15, I want to start on about September 5ish, so I can get an appartment, set up a language training and get settled before classes start. Classes start on September 15 at the Euro Balkan Insitute.

The official total of the entire grant is $15, 270! Wow! that's a lot of money! Now for the breakdown:

Total: $ 15, 270
Prior to begining the grant: $7, 770
By the end of the third month: $3, 750
By the end of the 6th month: $2, 500
In the last month: $1, 250

Research allowance: $500 (included in the first check)
Base amount: $3, 530
Monthly: $1,250

In the information packet, we had a emergency contact form (do you really need this explained?).

- Travel/arrival information form-
An important part of completing a Fulbright, is the guidelines of Fly America.

Fly America requires that any US Government financed commercial foreign
 air travel shall be flown on a US flagship airline. I must follow a few "principles":
(1) US-flag air carrier service available at point of origin shall be used to destination or, in the absense of direct or through service, to the farthest interchange point on a usually traveled route.
 (2) When an origin or interchange point is not served by a US-flag air carrier, foreign-flag air carrier service shall be used only to the nearest interchange point on a usually traveled route to connect with US-flag air carrier service.

It is important to note that you can not fly on a non US flagship carrier only if it is
more convient

You may fly on a foreign air carrier if:
travel on US air delays you by more than 24 hours
you would have a lay-over of more than 6 hours

I will have to change my flight plans because it is cheaper to buy a round trip ticket and pay a change fee than it is to buy two one-way tickets.

THIS is where I have to make a


No it is not as important as I make it sound. :)

I want to travek in Europe before offficially starting my Fulbright grant. But I have to decide where to fly into before I send this paperwork back in the the IIE (people running the Fulbright). Thus


I have narrowed down my options to Sofia, Bulgaria or Sofia and Bucharest, Romainia. I don't have a burning desire to see either place like I do say, Antartica, but I do want to eventally see both places. Now, Sofia is WAY cheaper than Bucharest.

If I do both cities it will cost $1,774.30. (mostly airfare, which I guess isn't really fair to count, since I won't be paying for that. So about $214.30 for  hotels [4 nights Bucharest, 6 nights Sofia] + $87 for a train to Sofia + $23 bus to Skopje for a total of $327 Plus any extras like food or fun things.)

If I do only Sofia it will cost $1,711. (once again most of that is airfare. $170 for 10 mights hotel in Sofia [well technically hostel not hotel for both] + $23 bus to Skopje for a total of $183 once again plus any extras like food or fun things).

Now that isn't very much of a difference in the long run, but it is for a poor grad student with literally no income besides Fulbright. So, right now I am leaning towards spending 10 days in Sofia with lots of day trips to nearby areas. But I will have to make my decision by the end of this weekend (or at least that is my self imposed deadline).

More DECISION time.

I also have to find an appartment or do the research in Skopje while staying at an hotel/hostel. Currently I believe the best course of action is to just arrive in Skopje and find an apparment once I am there just so I know what I am getting into. However, I have some decent reccomendations about what part of the city to live in (from my Macedonian language teacher to a grad student currently over there). (This is another form that I have to fill out, where will I be staying when I get into Skopje.) So I will have to pay for a hotel room for a few days in Skopje.

So, what do you think?

See you around the globe!