“Sometimes all you need is a great friend and thirst for adventure.”
Most of the week continued as normal, however there were two major highlights: the zoo and a weekend trip to the mountains.
On Thursday Keisha (South Korea) and I spent the afternoon at the zoo. It was a beautiful day, with the high reaching 60 degrees. For the first time since coming here, I was able to wear only a t-shirt! The Ostrava zoo is only two bus stops away from our dorm and took less than ten minutes to reach. After paying the expensive price of $2.00, we entered into a huge and beautiful zoo. The very first animal we encountered was a red panda, who was sitting in his house peaking just his head out. He looked at us and yawned, and my heart melted.
We moved along to the next area, where there was a petting zoo with goats (including lots of baby goats!). Yes, we went in, and yes, we were the only adults without kids there. We watched as the derpy goats hopped, ran, and kicked, and I was able to catch one of the babies.
After spending an unreasonable amount of time with the goats, we moved along to see other animals. Many of you know that I inherited a special trait from my father. This is the trait that forces me to attempt to pet any animal I see, no matter the danger or obstacles between it and I. Naturally, I pet many of the animals we saw. I did not, however, stick my fingers in the enclosure of the ostrich, but let me tell you how mean that little booger was.
I was walking along the path right by his fence. He walked along next to me, keeping pace and watching me. I would talk to him soothingly and he would tilt his head. I thought we were bonding. At one point I got closer to the fence and pulled my phone out for a picture. I did NOT stick any fingers through the fence, but he came up close, looked right at the camera, and lightning fast his head and neck came through the fence, his beak completely surrounding my index finger, and bit down. It wasn’t a light nibble; it was a full-on chomp intended to remove a phalange. I screamed, stumbled back, and left the mean bird to spend time alone. What a jerk.
The rest of the zoo was less eventful. The vastness and beautiful landscape within provided enough paths and animals to spend the entire afternoon. They also had magnificent indoor areas with specific climates, humidity, and temperatures for different animal types. I saw my first hippopotamus (those things are huge!), as well as a crocodile, elephants, giraffes, and more.
Throughout the afternoon I got to know Keisha better, who spent last semester in Ostrava and is staying through May. She is a bright and cheerful person and I loved getting to know her and learning more about Korea.
Get to Know Each Other Weekend:
The ESN (Erasmus Student Network) at OSU hosts a three-day retreat in the mountains every semester for the international students. Also, every semester they have a different theme for the weekend, and ours happened to be Harry Potter and the Triwizard Tournament, which is, essentially, a dream come true for me.
So, on Friday afternoon we boarded the Hogwarts Express (a large travel bus) and set off the Hogwarts (a cottage in the mountains along the Czechia/Slovakia border). On the trip, we all received our acceptance letters and our randomly selected Hogwart’s house. Much to my disappointment, I was placed in Gryffindor (I consider myself a Hufflepuff, and sometimes, a Ravenclaw).
Nonetheless, I embraced my house and prepared to take down the other houses at all costs. Yeah, I guess I’m competitive. After a very long, narrow, winding road, we arrived. As we stepped off the bus, spells and jinxes started firing around us (firecrackers, roman candles, etc). We entered the great hall to Hogwarts music and the Goblet of Fire, filled with dry ice to create an awesome effect. After some introductions, we chose our champions. My good friend Gloria was chosen as the Slytherin champion.
After dinner, the first task for the champions began. There were three golden snitches hidden throughout the cottage, and the first three champions to find one would advance to the next task. We were given riddles, and we worked together to find one. Of course, we advanced.
On Saturday morning we played a lot of team building games among our houses, and each house was scored for each game and task. The indoor games were first, and we were mediocre at best. But then the afternoon games came and we moved outside. Once outside, we did a variety of races through several feet of snow. Some included getting dizzy and sprinting, some included piggy back rides, and some included rolling on the ground and plowing over everyone in your way. We won every task.
During our break, Gloria (Italy), Yaren (Turkey), Hae Lim (South Korea), Gesa (Germany), Victoria (Ukraine), and I stole some industrial strength garbage bags from the cottage and headed up the mountain for sledding. Several of them had never been before. The combination of the tree-free, steep slope and the icy, slick snow provided optimal (and dangerous) sledding conditions. For over an hour we climbed up the hill and sledded, laughing the entire time.
At one point in the afternoon, I was playing ping pong with some friends and the leaders of ESN approached me and asked me to step into the hall with them. Once there, they told me to go upstairs and grab my warm clothes. So, of course I did, and then followed them outside, where they led me and two others away from the cottage behind another small building. Then they pulled out ropes and blindfolds and began tying us up. I was a hostage.
Before too long the Gryffindor champion appeared and untied me, before realizing that I was not his hostage to save. After he left with his hostage, the ESN people retied me up and I waited until Gloria appeared and freed me. We sprinted back to the cottage, but unfortunately were the last to return, so Gloria lost.
That night we went for a night hike, during which we were forbidden to use flashlights and just followed a trail of glow sticks in the snow. It was steep, slick, and snowy, but we made our way to the top. At the top, we did a lantern lighting ceremony, where we released several heat-powered lanterns into the sky. Then the third and final task occurred: the two champions were told the Goblet of Fire was somewhere in the woods in “that” direction, and the first to retrieve it would win. Remember, it was dark, cold, and we were in the middle of the woods. And yet the two boys took off running towards the trees, eventually returning without the Goblet. They were given another hint and soon recovered it together.
On Sunday morning some of us set off on a hike up the mountains. It was about two miles each way and we hiked through thick fog. Although the view was not very clear, the hike was fun and I relished at being among the trees and mountains again. We spent several hours out enjoying nature before returning to the cottage.
During the closing ceremony, Gryffindor was announced as the winners (woohoo!). We packed up our stuff and headed home, all exhausted from our weekend of fun.
Life here is pretty great and time is starting to fly by. I still miss home, but the pain is less frequent and less severe. I have more plans to travel this week and am keeping myself busy.