Featured Photos by Rachel Jones

Share Button

Resume: email sojournjones@gmail.com


Nease running back Jared Bassett, right, struggles to break free from St. Augustine’s defense during the first quarter of Friday night football action at St. Augustine on Sept. 14, 2012. Augustine triumphed 36-14 on their home field. (Photo by Rachel Jones)

Justin Blakely closes in on the finish line of the Color Me Rad 5K at the Jacksonville Equestrian Center on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012. Runners were plastered in color throughout the race, and a portion of the proceeds benefitted the Duval 4-H Foundation. (Photo by Rachel Jones)

Marcelle Altshuler, 20, rappels down a 150-foot cliff at Foster Falls in Tennessee, silhouetted near a spider on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2012. Altshuler, a neurobiological sciences junior at the University of Florida, was on a weekend trip with the Outdoor Adventure Recreation Club. (Photo by Rachel Jones)

Sailors having a good time before the start of the Navy-Marine Corps Classic basketball game between the University of Florida and Georgetown University on the USS Bataan on Friday, Nov. 9, 2012. The game was canceled at half-time due to concerns for players’ safety because of the condensation on the court. (Photo by Rachel Jones)

First lady Michelle Obama speaks to supporters at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center at the University of Florida on Monday, Sept. 17, 2012. Gainesville was the first of two Florida cities she traveled to Monday to promote her husband’s campaign. (Photo by Rachel Jones)

Abby Hogan restocks herbs at the Citizen’s Co-op on Monday, Oct. 1, 2012. She recently moved to Gainesville from Curacao and started volunteering at the co-op once-a-week to get more involved in the community. (Photo by Rachel Jones)

Bailey Piper, 21, climbs at the Gainesville Rock Gym on Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012. Piper is a wildlife ecology and conservation senior at the University of Florida. (Photo by Rachel Jones)

Tornado Rider performs on the Front Porch Stage at Magnolia Festival on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012, at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak. The festival is four days long and full of music. (Photo by Rachel Jones)

Cassandra Zawojek, 21, poses for a portrait near Norman Hall at the University of Florida on Sunday, Aug. 26, 2012. Zawojek is a senior majoring in english. (Photo by Rachel Jones)

Jackie Jones, 15, poses for a portrait in downtown Jacksonville on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012. The name of the shoot was “You know its urban when it smells like…” (Photo by Rachel Jones)

Snappy & Floyd perform at the Laboratory in Gainesville on Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012. Their set includes a slideshow of images to accompany the beats. (Photo by Rachel Jones)

Sailors and civilians watch the firework display off the USS Bataan during half-time of the Navy-Marine Corps Classic basketball game between the University of Florida and Georgetown University on Friday, Nov. 9, 2012. The game was canceled at half-time due to concerns for players’ safety because of the condensation on the court. (Photo by Rachel Jones)

First lady Michelle Obama grasps the hands of supporters after speaking at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center at the University of Florida on Monday, Sept. 17, 2012. Gainesville was the first of two Florida cities she traveled to Monday to promote her husband’s campaign. (Photo by Rachel Jones)


Gallery by Rachel Jones

Share Button

No AC in Fairytales.

Share Button

We felt the heat with the start of classes Monday morning. Air conditioning just isn’t a thing here, not even in a palace-turned-university. Here we were, thinking we’d be escaping the scorching Florida Sun for the summer…we were wrong.

We opened the windows, and with a breeze it’s bearable. I now truly understand firsthand why UF’s AC is always blasting…you’re more likely to stay awake shivering than sweating.

But I mean — I go to school in a palace, I can’t complain. It’s just a significant difference between our daily lives and the daily lives of people who aren’t used to being any temperature they desire at any point in the day.

We each have two German classes a day, and were assigned interaction leaders to hang out around Mannheim and speak German with. Sabrina, Jason and I went to the Neckar Strand on Monday to meet our interaction leader, Mone.

We had refreshments with our toes in the sand and watched the sunset right over the Neckar, the northern of the two rivers that pass through Mannheim.

Jason and I got döner from a little place in the Turkish district on the way back to our dorms. It was a tad spicy compared to what I’m used to, but so good. I don’t know how to describe döner if you haven’t tried it. It’s sort of like a gyro, I suppose, but different, delicious and cheap.

Its easy while abroad to want to just eat all your meals out, to taste and experience what this new place has to offer in food — but that is a trap. I learned last year, and though the rationalizations come in full swing again, spending money on train tickets is worth more than good food and beer all the time, even if it is Deutschland.

Marisol, Ryan and I took the number 4 train and found the rock gym! It’s north of the Neckar, not a far trek at all, and totally awesome. I’ll admit, I sort of miss the convenience of the rock gym in Gainesville, though that might just be missing having a bike. When we’re not on trains we’re on foot, and that’s neat, too.

Friday night, the ladies in the program dressed up and wandered to Filmriss, a trying-to-be-indie sort of bar. A few of us made some friends and went to the S.U.I.T.E., a club with two rooms on each side that played different music, so chances are there was at least something alright on at any point in the night. It played all sorts though, within the past 20-30 years. The vibe was cool, and we stayed late.

Days are long here. The sun is up around 4:oo and doesn’t set until nearly 22:oo. Military time isn’t new to me, so I don’t mind the 24-hour clock…except for the next morning, when all clocks tick’d me off a teensy bit…we had to wake up a short time later for a bus-ride to Baden Baden, but we slept on the bus and lack of sleep certainly didn’t get me down.

We went to Casino Baden Baden and if I could only use the word luxurious once, this would be that time.

The place was so decked with a wealth of history and splendor, it made me seriously consider selling my soul to attain such riches for a playroom of wonder like this.

We wandered to see the Roman baths, right down the way from the real baths that people who come to vacation in this town spend on. Baden Baden is a spa town. It is beautiful and clean and full. One day, I would like to return.

We split for lunch, and I saw a crisp orange drink on a blue-checkered table and just had to have it. I ordered the Käse Spätzel as well, and it was mouth-meltingly good.

On the bus again, we turned and twisted along the Schwarzwaldhochstraße, a road that reminded me vividly of the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, which I wound around in my Jeep earlier this summer. We could see the blues of the mountain ridges as we rode high above them. The evergreens grew higher than any tree I’d seen before, completely dwarfing the Christmas trees I’d picked from the snow-covered forest that grew from my great grandmother’s land as a child.

We had entered der Schwarzwald — the Black Forest.

We came to a glassy lake called Mummelsee. We were warned to resist the temptation to break its surface so as not to anger Neptune, the water nymph who lives in its depths. I’m not certain of the extent of her fury, as curious as I might have been, but legend has it she’d create a great storm.

Emma and I took off our shoes and let our bare feet feel the rich earth by the water. Mannheim is mostly gray and tree-less, so this was a much-needed natural refreshment.

We continued on to the Triberg waterfalls. It felt so good to be near waterfalls again, having just come from working as a white-water raft guide in the mountains of North Carolina. Since I couldn’t go down them (as I left my canoe thousands of miles west of here…) I climbed up.

For more adventures of UF students studying abroad, please check out the UFIC Blog from Abroad!

Guten Morgen, Mannheim!

Share Button

We arrived jet-lagged and exhausted Friday morning. Some of us caught the Fourth of July fireworks from the window seat during our evening flight out of America. I nibbled on airplane “food” and watched movies in German in an attempt to prepare for the next six weeks.

I flew out of Jacksonville, touching down in Newark, Boston, and Frankfurt before finally catching the train to my destination. Mid-afternoon, just about 24 hours after leaving, I walked along the streets of Mannheim, regretting the amount of luggage I brought from Florida. Luckily, the walk to the University of Mannheim wasn’t too far from from the Hauptbahnhoff (“train station” auf Deutsch).
I hadn’t realized I’d be attending classes in a palace(!!!)…As soon as I saw it I was reminded of Versailles in France, and our tour guide on Saturday said that’s exactly what it was based off of.

There’s 18 of us, split into two dorms in the center of the city and two German languages classes in the Schloss (“palace”). We received regional transportation tickets for the trains and buses, and a few of us decided to go on a little adventure our first Saturday here.

The next train out of the Mannheim Hauptbahnhoff was headed for Lampertheim. We hopped on. None of us knew anything about Lampertheim, but it sounded swell.

We got off the train and started walking.The streets were empty, bare of people and litter. It looked spacious even with the (huge) houses along the sides. Perhaps it was the width of the road itself, or just the cleanliness, but something about walking through the streets of this town was so surreal.

Lampertheim is a little town just north of Mannheim. It was a Saturday evening and nearly everything was closed, the only hoppin’ place was the ice cream cafe. We said nichts to that, we might as well continue on to Heidelberg, as there’s a bit more going on there…

Heidelberg ist sehr schön (is very pretty). A beautiful river runs along it with the town on one side and mountains on the other, the trees seem greener there somehow. Mannheim has a much more urban-vibe and much more grey than green.



For dinner, I ordered: “Ein paar Bratwurst mit sauerkraut, tagessuppe und kartoffelpuree” (a pair of Bratwursts, sauerkraut, soup, and mashed potatoes) — so good. German food is delicious.


We got the train back to Mannheim, as we’d be returning for a tour of Heidelberg the next morning, anyway.

A few of us went out to check out the scene that night. Not too far from our Studentenwohnheim (student dormitory) we walked right into one of the coolest bar/pubs I’ve been in, called the Blau. They played old school Sixties music (the Yardbirds, Rolling Stones, etc.). I’d known the Beatles had played one of their earlier shows in Frankfurt (and gotten kicked out because George was too young to be allowed in the bar…), so of course Germany can rock’n’roll, but it was really neat to see that young people in this culture can still dig and dance to an era of great tunes like I can.

For more adventures of UF students studying abroad, please check out the UFIC Blog from Abroad!

Crossing the Border

Share Button

We got breakfast at a fast-food chicken joint — yeah, you can’t escape those anywhere populated. We drank the water.

We spent most of the day on foot, the rides were the scarcest they’d been so far. I felt the road beneath my soles closer. There was nothing. The dripping sunscreen became welcome accompaniment.

We traveled more than a hundred kilometers that day.

A semi-truck stopped for us and took us to the border of Nicaragua. Another semi-truck took us a little further North, but we had to cut West. Our goal was a surfing hostel in Playa Madera that had hammocks to sleep in for cheap, it was supposedly just a bit north of San Juan del Sur. 

By the time we got to the coast, the sun decided the day was over and began it’s descent. We continued on.

The road north wound away from the coast.  The trees covered us, now. People began to slow down just to tell us to turn back. We didn’t. When they saw we weren’t going to, sometimes they’d let us get in the back of their pick-up trucks for a short spurt.

The warnings increased. We walked faster.

From the picture of the map on Mike’s cellphone didn’t show the hostel, just a vague label of where “Playa Madera” should be. We made left hand turns when they arose hoping this road will lead us to the coast, and on the coast, will be the surfing hostel.

Dark fell.

The sketch-factor increased significantly. We walked up and down and started noticing shelters we could, if it came to it, sleep in. At one point, Mike was further ahead than I was and a man walked along the road in our direction. The glow in his eyes I could see as I looked in them and he passed close by.

Then we were winding downhill. It was fully black now. We had headlamps.

We stepped onto sand. We saw the ocean.

All was still dark.

“You guys need a place to stay tonight?” A man appeared to our left. Mike dropped his rock.

Yes. Yes, we do. We followed him under this building just yards away. A light came on, there were picnic tables. There were surfboards. We had found it.

A green labyrinth, yellow jeep, & Upala, again.

Share Button

The day’s journey was not over yet. We still had to make it back – somewhere – before nightfall. Getting a ride down the mountain was easy, though a little uncomfortable — we were in a nice, rented SUV and we’re pretty sure the couple in front were whispering about how we stunk… the sulfuric aroma of the hot springs didn’t do too much for the clothes we were sweating in all day to get there.

They took a different route down the mountain than the one we took up. They didn’t know where they were going either, but the route was much longer this way, and put us much further from Upala…

They dropped us off at the bottom of the mountain, and we set off down the road again.

We stumbled upon a hedge labyrinth, and a bunch of carved plants shaped into all sorts. It made having to walk right past it just that much more worth it. Whatever it was, it was pretty neat.

We got the best ride ever from two young guys in a two-door yellow jeep. The wind beat against fabric over us in the “back seat,” as the driver drove like he was racing seconds against the gas pedal and conquering the wind in Spanish to keep up their conversation, which didn’t slow even when they picked us up.

And we were back in Upala again. 

We trekked to the northwestern side of the town and tried to hitch out, but the sun was setting and the dark came quickly. It was too late. We were stuck in Upala, Costa Rica, for yet another night.

So we bought a tub of icecream and killed it cinco minutos.