Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving in Spain

So this year I was lucky enough to celebrate Thanksgiving twice.  One Spanish style and one the old fashioned American way.  Needless to say I definitely had a favorite dinner, but was appreciative of them both.  :)  

On Thursday, the actual date of Thanksgiving, our study abroad program threw us a very nice Thanksgiving Day dinner.  It was a dressy affair held in the banquet room of Hotel Bécquer.  It looked like a reception dinner for a wedding!  Minus the dance floor of course.  :)  We sat down at our table and waited for our food.  We were served a large helping of turkey, mashed potatoes, and some veggies as well.  And to drink we had coke, water, and even some wine!  I was very impressed by the amount of food that was there and there was no limit to how much food you could have!  They definitely nailed that aspect of Thanksgiving.  The food on the other hand was decent, but just not the same as a home cooked meal.  The turkey was…turkey, and the veggies just weren’t as buttery.  Not that I didn’t like the food, oh no I DEFINITELY ate it all, but I miss the huge golden turkey on the table with the slight crisp as you cut into the skin.  My mom’s turkey is always sooo buttery and juicy and will melt in your mouth the second you take your first bite.  AND STUFFING…oh I miss the stuffing with turkey.  My great grandpa’s stuffing is to DIE for.  Man I can almost smell it as I sit here writing this.  To be honest I can’t even really remember what’s in it..I just know that it’s amazing.  SOOOOOOOOOO good.  I can’t wait to eat 5 pounds of that when I get home.  :)  Back to the dinner…after we finished with the dinner it was on to dessert.  I was definitely hoping for some pumpkin, apple, cherry, or pecan pie…any of those would have sufficed.  But no.  We got some lemony cream thing…ok so I know for you Spanish people this isn’t your holiday or anything, but LEMON?!  In what American movie have you seen a lemon tart thing being served as a dessert!?  FAIL.  I was a bit disappointed…the dinner was very very close, but the dessert was off by a mile.  I didn’t really like it that much, but they tried.  I suppose you can’t expect 100% American when you’re 6,000 miles away.  Overall it was really fun and I’m really glad I got to spend my Thanksgiving with some friends and some good non typical Spanish food.  :)

Now on to Friday.  :)  Jesse has some friends from church who happen to be American and wanted to share Thanksgiving with their Spanish friends.  Show them how good American food can be.  We went over to their apartment late afternoon to start making an apple pie.  Although we decided to celebrate an American holiday we still had to keep the Spanish dinner time.  No one was gonna show up until 9 or so.  9:00 P.M. in America on Thanksgiving, most people would be in a sleep coma due to all the food they had just consumed.  But no not here in Spain.  It was kinda neat to eat a late Thanksgiving dinner, something I bet not too many Americans get the chance to experience.  :)  

When the late hours finally rolled around my stomach could no longer handle all the wonderful smells without growling every 2 minutes, we finally began to eat.  There was a long row of food lining the table and the buffet table.  We had enough food for 20 people.  Good thing too!  Because that about how many people showed up to this dinner!  Mostly Spanish people, but there were also some other European countries in attendance as well.  It was beautiful.  At the head of the table were the mashed potatoes, gravy, soda drinks, and…chicken?  Apparently turkey is very expensive in Spain..(no wonder I haven’t seen it around very much.  Lol)  Well I suppose chicken is the next closest thing to turkey in the bird family.  As we move down the line we had two HUGE bowls of homemade mac and cheese.  :D :D :D :D :D :D!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I LOVE MAC AND CHEESE!!!!!  I almost cried when I saw that.  I haven’t had mac and cheese in sooo long either!!  Mac and cheese is my ultimate comfort food.  It wasn’t Kraft mac and cheese, obviously, but it was still mouthwatering none the less.  Then next to that were the sweet potatoes.  OMG…SWEET POTATOES.  My other favorite Thanksgiving dish along with stuffing.  I definitely ate most of that dish.  Oops.  They weren’t the caramelized version my mom makes with the marshmallows on top, but this was still pretty good!  They were mashed I guess you would say, with pecans on top.  Amazing.  Next came the green bean casserole.  Yum..And finally my favorite part..Dessert.  :)  There was the apple pie that Jesse and I made, pecan pie, and peanut butter cookies.  I had at least 2 helpings of every one of those dishes.  The pies were heaven to my taste buds.  How I’ve longed for a proper dessert ever since I got here.  They just don’t know how to do sugary, unhealthy desserts here.  They have ice cream and that’s about it.  

This dinner was definitely my favorite one out here in Spain.  Even though there was STILL no stuffing or pumpkin pie, it was waaay better than the one on Thursday.  Maybe it was just because American people cooked it or because I helped in making something this time.  It was such a fun party.  Made me feel closer to home than I’ve felt in a while.  I guess I never really knew the definition of “American” food until now.  It’s not hot dogs and hamburgers, it’s Thanksgiving.  A truly all American meal.

On a side note away from the dinners that I had while in Spain, I realized a lot on this holiday.  Being away from home this Thanksgiving definitely put things in perspective this year.  It’s the little things I’m thankful for, but I also learned to be thankful for all these wonderful experiences I get to have in this 4 month period.  

I’m thankful for how lucky of a person I am.  I truly live a charmed life.  So many people will never have the opportunity that I’ve had to live and breathe another culture.  Be it financial wise or due to other causes.  But by some luck of the draw I have been chosen by fate to have the life I have.      

I’m thankful for all the things that have happened to me out here.  Good or bad.  Either way they have impacted my life in some way shape or form, and now because of them I have a new perspective.  I’m not 100% different, no.  I’m still me, just with a better understanding of myself, my life and what I want the future to be. 

I’m thankful for all the wonderful friends I’ve made out here who have made this adventure even more special.  With them I have shared so many experiences and memories that will never be forgotten.  Hopefully we will all keep in touch over the years.  These people have touched my life and left their handprints on my heart.

And last but not least, I’m thankful for my family and friends who have been so supportive of me and encouraging me to keep going even when times are hard.  Without all the encouragement and support I probably would have quit this program and never finished what I started.  It takes a lot to leave everything you ever had and venture out into the unknown.  I know many people who have done that and I feel I can finally relate with them on a new level.  We no longer just share a friendship of interests, but now of similar experiences as well.  :)    

“Remember, no man is a failure who has friends.”-Clarence (It’s A Wonderful Life)     

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Córdoba and Granada

Once again after returning from another excursion in Spain, I am left speechless.  Not because I am tired after two very jam packed days or that I have had minimal amounts of sleep lately.  No, I’m speechless because of the very sights I saw and things I experienced while in Córdoba and Granada.  Every place I go just keeps getting better and better.  It’s like they save the best for last or something like that.  As our trip has been winding down, already into the last few weekends left, I was sure these two cities would be impressive…little did I know that not only would these two cities impress the hell out of me, but that I would leave a different person.  I know I’ve mentioned change throughout my study abroad experience, however I feel like these two cities have shown me sights and histories I never thought possible.  I have experienced beauty beyond words where only my memory holds the true image.  Through photos I’ve tried to capture everything I possibly could with a little lens and a slightly old camera, but I fear they will never be good enough.  It’s ironic to think that something so beautiful can never be described in a still image, whether it be in a picture, a painting or even in writing for that matter.  But I suppose it’s meant to be that way. 

We left bright and early Friday morning as usual and headed out for Córdoba.  Didn’t get to see many sights on the way to Córdoba, since I slept most the way, but when we arrived it was gorgeous.  We walked over an old bridge into the city and into one of the coolest “cathedrals” ever.  Why the “” for many reasons…one because it does not have the design of a normal cathedral and two because originally it wasn’t even a cathedral!  Way back in the olden days it was  a Christian church called San Vicente, then in 785 the Muslims tore it all down (except for the foundation) and started to build a mosque.  It was finally finished around the 10th century.  200 years to build a mosque…that’s some serious dedication!  And it definitely shows!  Interesting little fact about the mosque/cathedral thing is that a lot of the material used to build it is even older than the year 1. Yep…that’s right.  700 YEARS BEFORE YEAR ONE THAT IS!  We’re talkin Roman pillars.  Instead of wasting their time making new pillars for the mosque, the Muslims used ancient Roman ones that were already there in the city!  They took them from Roman buildings and used them in the mosque to create the amazing archways.  Needless to say there are no more Roman ruins in Cordoba, but every column in the mosque is unique because of this little borrowing of materials.  No pillar is exactly the same style or size so to make up for that they made different size crownings?? (I guess you would call them) so that they would all make the same size archway.  Go look at the pictures…you’ll see what I’m talking about. 
They enjoyed the mosque for a few more centuries until the year 1236 when the city was conquered by the king, later saint, Fernando III.  Not wanting anything to do with the Muslims they kicked them out and turned the mosque into a cathedral by knocking down some pillars, adding some stained glass, adding capillas (chapels), and overall adding crosses and catholic things all over the place.  But because of this little rearranging of the architecture, the used to be mosque was saved from the Spanish Inquisition.  Now for those of you who don’t know what that is…shame on you.  For those that do, let’s recap.  Only Catholicism was allowed in Spain during the 15th century so every mosque or non catholic church was destroyed.  But since the mosque was “converted” they didn’t tear it down and to this day we can still enjoy the ancient Islamic art. 

Our Spanish tour guide was amazing and he kept calling us his “little family.”  I love when Spanish people try and pronounce English words.  THEY ARE JUST SO DANG CUTE!  Not sure if I sound the same way or not in Spanish, although I’ve been told I don’t have the typical “American” accent and some even think I’m from Spain.  :’)  So proud of myself.  :)  ANYWAYS…on to the rest of the day.

A group of us headed out for lunch and then it was back on the bus for the next city Granada.  Another 2 hours away, but for this ride I stayed up more.  And I’m so glad I did.  As we were climbing up into the mountains which hide Granada, I saw the most beautiful colors I’ve ever seen.  The colors didn’t come from cars or flashing neon lights, but the trees and mountains.  I’ve never seen such colors in my life.  I guess growing up in Arizona, you miss out on things like fall.  Come to think of it, this might be one of my first falls ever where I have seen trees turn colors.  I’ve been to the East Coast, Midwest, and even California where trees do change, but never in the fall.  I’ve always been in school studyin my a** off like usual :) and never had a chance to travel.  Well I got my chance and was amazed by it.  Half of my pictures of Granada are not of me, or friends, or building..they’re of trees!  Orange, yellow, red, and green in a balanced mix no human mind could ever possibly imagine.  I’ve decided when I grow up and actually have a house and job…or even no house and no job, I’m moving somewhere where the leaves change colors.

We got to Granada around 7:30 P.M., checked-in to the EXTREMELY NICE hotel, and then took off for the flamenco show.  Of course our meeting point for the ISA group had to be outside in the fricken cold.  We huddled together outside all bundled up for what looked like an Antarctic adventure instead of the cold weather of Granada.  We looked like a group of penguins all trying to keep warm.  Luckily I was one of the firsts in the huddle so I was in the middle and kept very warm for a while until we finally started moving on our way to our destination. 

We stopped at a view point in Granada and got to look down at the city at night.  Simply amazing.  We took so many photos and just enjoyed the stunning views.  You just can’t find this stuff in the US.  It just doesn’t exist in my opinion.  Nothing will ever come close to the things I’ve seen here in Spain.  :)  We headed down the hill to the flamenco show and got up close and personal to the dancers and musicians.  There was no real stage per say, just a wooden area with seats all around.  The show was sooo cool!!  It’s so passionate and strong.  Flamenco has become my new favorite dance.  :) 

After the show was over we went out for drinks and tapas.  Best part about Granada, FREE TAPAS!!!! Ahhh!!!  You order any drink, free tapas!  And they are good sized ones too!  They don’t rip you off by giving you something you could finish in one bite, it’s a really well sized amount I’d say.  Good thing I decided not to study in Granada or I’d come back with another 59 pounds of body weight.  All in all a fun night with good food, good drinks, and good friends. 
The next morning I walked downstairs into the lobby for the hotel breakfast and was amazed at the sight in front of me.  HUGE BREAKFAST.  You know how long it’s been since I’ve even seen a box of cereal???!!! AND. THEY. HAD. PANCAKES.  I almost died of joy.  And there were eggs, meat, fruit, yogurt, granola, muffins…name it they had it.  I had two huge helpings of random food and about 12 pancakes.  My breakfast here in Sevilla consists of a piece of toast with jam and a glass of milk.  That’s it.  I’ve always been a large breakfast type of girl and not having that here has been a huge loss for me.  One of the first things I want to do when I get home, at least within the first 48 hours of my arrival in the states is eat an IHOP breakfast.  Endless pancakes here I come…Most people in Spain don’t even eat breakfast!  That’s the most important meal of the day people!!!  I ate till I seriously couldn’t shove anymore food into my mouth for fear it would just come right back up.  Perfect start to a perfect day.  :) 

After breakfast, we loaded back onto the bus and headed out to La Alhambra.  As always I find myself at a loss of words for how this place looked and the impact it has had on my life.  The place is just gorgeous.  The architecture is beautiful and just the way the building is…it defies every rule of gravity.  I really don’t know how people managed to build these things without cranes and machinery!!  And the patience they must have had in order to make every single thing by hand?!  Ridiculous.  They made all the millions of tiles one by one, all the wooden cut outs and designs one by one, and just the thought that every inch of marble floor you step on was made thousands of years ago blows my mind.  I found myself in complete awe at this magnificent structure the size of 12 football fields.

Not only was the building itself breath taking, but the nature surrounding it was even better.  This place/castle thing is situated in a mountain overlooking the city of Granada.  You walk outside into these huge gardens and breathe in cool mountain air.  It was cool up in the mountains, but I hardly noticed at the time.  I was too busy looking at all the views and scenery that surrounded me.  I debated if I should even take any pictures just because I know I wouldn’t be able to get everything I wanted into one shot.  Nor (like I’ve mentioned many times) would it do any justice to the ambiance I found myself in.  Why take picture of something when you will never see it the same way through a lens?  Despite my internal battle with myself, I decided to take pictures.  If it wasn’t for all you people who aren’t here with me, I would have no photos of this place.  But since I want you to see the things I see, I suppose I have to try and capture the memories in my mind.

As we were standing outside the Alhambra I felt a rush of emotion that I’ve never felt before.  I’m not sure if any of the other kids feel this way or not, but just staring down at this city made me really think…. “Wow.  I’m in Spain.  I’m in Granada.  I’m standing here in one of the most visited sites in the world right now.  This place is so old it makes me dizzy just thinking about it.  Some people will never get to see this in their lifetime and here I am right now, right in this very moment in time.”  I stared at the vast landscape for what seemed like hours.  It’s funny how beauty can take you away from the world for just a few minutes, yet within those few minutes your whole life has been changed.  All my thoughts in those moments revolved around my life and my experiences as a human being.  How could I have lived my life without seeing this?  How could I have thought my world was complete just staying in one place?  Time stopped and my world consisted of a happiness I have never felt.  My physical and emotional states became one and nothing else mattered.  I wasn’t cold.  I wasn’t thinking of home.  I wasn’t thinking about food like I usually am.  What was I thinking then?  To be honest, nothing..absolutely nothing.  I saw how minuscule I am to the world and how there is more to this trip than “studying.”  I’m not studying for school, I’m studying the world.  My way of thinking, of looking at the world, at history, at cultures, has all been changed.  I have a deeper understanding of myself now.  I thought I knew who I was and what I wanted with my life, but now…now I see that the world is more than just getting a job and growing up.  It’s about the experience.  It really is all about the journey and not the destination.  All those little sayings about how life is a journey and blah blah…man…they are beyond true.  For me, I suppose it was one of those finding yourself moments.  Some people have it through religious experiences, but not me.  Travel is my religion.  If I could have stayed there forever, that moment in time, I might just have taken that opportunity.                                         

We continued with our tour until the unwanted end.  I would pay whatever entrance fee again and again just to see it one more time.  We then broke off into groups and went for lunch and to explore the city of Granada.  After 2 short hours of free time, it was back on the bus to Sevilla.  I think it’s very obvious that this city made a lasting impression on me and I hope everyone gets to experience it someday.  I hope everyone can feel this passionate about something during their lifetime.  It’s truly an amazing feeling that forms you into a new person. 

I feel like I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of this very personal experience, even with the excessive 4 pages I’ve just written.  :)  I suppose it’s the way of the world saying, “If you wanna see this, you gotta come see it yourself.”  Well world, I have seen it myself, and yes…yes, I will come back.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


     Sevilla and Barcelona have to be two of the prettiest cities I have ever seen.  Last weekend two friends and I headed up to Barcelona to explore the region of Cataluña.  It was gorgeous.  Very different from Sevilla because the city of Barcelona is very modern, if you will.  Sevilla has a lot of oooooold buildings from like the 800s that you can see all over the place.  Barcelona on the other hand still has old buildings as well but not as many.  They have some buildings from the early days as well, but since the modernism movement started in Barcelona in the 1800s, old buildings were replaced by newer, cooler buildings.  Barcelona reminds me more of a “city” than Sevilla.  I would compare Barcelona as a Chicago and Sevilla as oh I don’t know..New Orleans?  Not that Sevilla got hit by a massive hurricane or anything, but I do see some parallels.  New Orleans and Sevilla are both places rich in culture and tradition, but only at certain times, both in the spring too none the less.  They also attract a lot of tourists to see all their wonderful sights, but have just a small number of people that actually live in the city year round.  Therefore, my pick for Sevilla is New Orleans.  Hopefully no hurricane will come to Sevilla now that I said that..Anyways, Barcelona and Sevilla are both beautiful cities with very different vibes.  :)

     Our adventure begins on a Thursday afternoon.. My friend Cindy and I took the bus to the Sevilla airport and waited for our Ryan Air flight to begin.  We pass thorough security no problem and go to our gate.  We get to the gate and find out our plane has been delayed a little bit.  (Typical in Europe I’ve noticed, especially in Spain.  Nothing’s on time, even me..not that I was ever good at making it places on time, but I fear leaving here has just worsened my sense of time and distance.)  It was actually a good thing our plane was delayed a little because our friend Maria still hadn’t made it to the airport yet!  She had had some issues with her ticket and had to try and get it reprinted at the airport.  Finally we see Maria in the distance and breathe a sigh of relief.  We all made it.  Awesome!  Now all we have to do is wait for the delayed plane.  The gate next to us finished boarding and then we see the flight attendants…assistants? helpers?  I have no idea what you call the front desk people…anyways, we see them switch over to our side and begin the boarding process.  So much for a late plane.  The helper/assistant/attendant people took their sweet time with one plane and to make it seem like it wasn’t their fault they just decided to say the plane was delayed.  Nice.  Not really complaining because it was only about a 40 minute delay and it was a good delay as well otherwise Maria wouldn’t have made it.  Now the boarding process…

     Now as we all know, or at least frequent European fliers do :) , Ryan Air is VERY picky about the carryon luggage.  You get one piece of luggage and that’s it.  No purse, no jacket in your hand, no small little plastic bag with food…nope.  ONE.  And it has to fit in this little box that they use to measure the size of your luggage.  I know most airlines have carryon sizes, but they never actually check.  Not Ryan Air!  If it doesn’t fir it doesn’t fly.  Or you check it for like 40 euros…that’s like 55 dollars!  I think…..I had just a travel backpack, but when I saw that size of the box, I’m not gonna lie, I got a little worried.  That thing wouldn’t fit most carryons!!  They do allow you to shove and squish your bag in there if need be, so that’s nice.  At least they give you a small loop hole.  :)  Luckily all ours fit and we were able to board no problem.  No squishing needed.

     We finally arrive in Barcelona around 10:30 at night and now it’s off to find the hostel.  The directions had us take a train, to a metro, and then walk from the metro station to the hostel.  Simple…except we have no idea where this train is.  We ask around and finally find the station next to the airport.  We missed the 11 o’clock train by just a little so we had to wait for the 11:30.  We hop on the 11:30 and depart from the airport.  While on the train we over here some people talking about how the metro ends at midnight.  Say what?  Come again?  Now we don’t know how far this stop is on the train to the metro that we NEED to catch, but the little time that we have seems to be slipping through our fingers faster than the train is moving. 
Finally at like 11:50 we get to our stop and run to the metro stop.  Of course we get to the stop and have to buy a ticket, but none of the machines are on.  Cool?  We go to the entrance gate to see maybe if there is a way we can get through.  At this point we are all ready to hop over a gate, barrier, and or run from cops if need be.  Maybe not that desperate, but this metro is fricken important!  As we frantically look for anyway in we suddenly notice that the exit door is wide open.  A little help from above maybe?  (Thanks guys, you know who you are.  :)  Miss you!  Wish you could be here on this adventure with me.)  Anyways, we take this rare opportunity to rip off Barcelona’s transportation system and run through the exit doors.  We here the metro coming and sprint down what seems like an endless flight of stairs, drop a suitcase down the endless flight of stairs, and then climb aboard the metro at last.  Free ride on the metro.  :)  Doesn’t get better than that. 

     We get off the metro, walk around for a little bit looking for this hostel and finally find it after some circles and back tracks.  We check in and then went to sleep ready to start the next day early at 9 AM.  We ate breakfast in the hostel and head out around 10 to take some pictures and then a Gaudí walking tour at 11.  The walking tour was really good!!  I have discovered yet another Spanish artist who I have just fallen in love with.  Se llama, Antoni Gaudí.  Best architect I think I have ever encountered.  Usually I don’t pay attention to buildings, but these were just simply amazing pieces of artwork.  The shapes and way he played with angles is amazing.  Some say he was crazy, and he just might have been after learning about his whole life while on the tour, but I say genius.  No one can ever recreate the things he built and the way he looked at everything so differently was really inspiring.  Perhaps not everything has to be exactly what it seems.  He gives me hope.  :)  My favorite building was the Casa Batlló.  It’s a house with an amazing design.  GO LOOK AT THE PHOTOS!  Lol  Facebook does wonders.  :)  Some say it’s the representation of Mardi Gras with masks and confetti, while others say it’s the story of St. George.  The scales on top represent the dragon, balconies are the bones of its victims, and the chimney with the cross represents the sword St.  George used to kill the dragon.  Obviously I vote for the latter story.  We also saw a church that he designed back in the olden days.  La Sagrada Familia, AND IT’S STILL NOT DONE!!! THEY ARE STILL BUILDING IT!!  40 years is the estimated finish date.  18 million euros a year too.  DAMN.  Might just have to come back to Barcelona in 40 years.  :)

     We then visited a park also designed by Guadí.  So pretty.  Obviously, Gaudí designed it!  After walking around all day we went out to get dinner, and then back to the hostel to change and explore Barcelona at night.  We were about to go out when our other roommates came back.  They were from Serbia.  We ended up talking to them the whole night and didn’t make it out of the room.  They were absolutely hilarious.  Good memories.  :)  We talked from 11 PM until 7AM.  The only reason we stopped talking was because they had to leave for the airport to catch their plane back to Serbia!  But before they left they gave us gifts from Serbia.  Shirts to be exact.  Now don’t worry, no one stripped, they just gave us shirts from Serbia to remember our Barcelona trip.  I got a soccer shirt and Cindy got a Serbian Air force shirt.  We have shirts from Serbia now and we didn’t even have to go there to get them.  :)

     After they left, Cindy and I looked at each other and then the ever passing minutes on our clocks.  Well looks like a 2 hour nap and then gotta get up again for the second walking tour!  SWEET.  So needless to say after only 2 hours of sleep, we were zombies in the morning, but we made it to the second walking tour!  And to be honest I wasn’t very tired in the morning or at least not yet.  This time we went on the old gothic neighborhood tour.  Also a very impressive tour!  Saw old buildings from the Romans and other amazing sites that cannot be described in 100908 words.  The two coolest things that I saw there were the ancient Roman entrance way into Barcelona and the exact sight of where the Spanish Inquisition started (if you don’t know what that is go look it up, that’s what Google is for.  Too complicated to explain in this lil bloggy).

     Next we headed off the ocean to stick our feet in the Mediterranean Sea.  Not many people can say that they’ve done that. :)  I feel special.  :)  Mind you now we are all going off of like 2 hours of sleep here.  Now it’s like 6:30 at night.  As we were walking towards the beach I did something I don’t think I’ve ever done in my life…I don’t know if I’ll ever do it again either…ready??  I fell asleep while walking.  No joke.  As we were walking my head kept doing that bobbing thing that everyone does when they just CAN’T stay up anymore.  I closed my eyes for what seemed like just a second and when I opened them back up again I was like 100 feet away then where I remember being.  How I didn’t run into anything or walk off the sidewalk into a bus I’ll never know, but it was definitely an experience.  It gave us a good laugh too when I finally figured out what the hell had just happened.  We finally make it to the beach and guess what, IT WAS FRICKEN COLD!!!!  My feet were frozen for an hour after that.  After some time on the beach, we make our way back to the hostel, and stop for Chinese food on the way.  Yuuummm…It was a nice change from Spanish food. Lol  

     We get ready in the hostel to go out for a night on the town.  Since we missed that opportunity last night, we had to go out Saturday.  Still running on only two hours of sleep and what seems like adrenaline, we head out with some people from the hostel.  We had a great time and got to see Barcelona’s night life.  At about 3:30 AM we decide we should start to head back to the hostel to grab our bags for our flight at 7:00 AM.  4 hours away.  Yeeeeppp…we get out things leave, get a cab, and take off for the airport.

     We arrive around 5:30 or so to the airport and go to check in.  It’s then that I realize that I don’t have my boarding pass…somehow during the cab ride, the boarding pass fell out of my bag and I didn’t realize it.  Thinking it can’t cost that much to print a boarding pass I go up to the Ryan Air counter and ask what the charge is to print a new one.  40 euros the man tells me.  40 FRICKEN EUROS!!  HELL NO!!  I’ll just pay the cabby a tip to come back and give me my pass back.  SO we call the hostel, to call the cab, to come back to the airport with my lovely pass.  I wait about 20 minutes and then finally retrieve my MIA pass.  I tip the driver for being so nice and then walk into the airport.  We get to our gate again, and sit in the line forming for the plane ride.  It’s a bit like southwest airlines.  First come first serve seat basis.  After being up for almost 47 hours, I once again begin to dose.  This time I’m sitting however, and take a nap on the floor of the Barcelona airport with my bag as a pillow.  Cindy and Maria do the same till it’s time to board. 

     I don’t even remember taking off.  I was so tired; I sat down, and passed out.  I remember landing just not take off.  I was out cold.  We get to Sevilla around 10 and start the bus ride and walk back home.  Overall such a fun weekend.  I would do it again in a heartbeat. 

     Barcelona was a really cool city and I’m glad I got to see it.  Hopefully I will get to see it again sometime in the near future.  Don’t worry Spain…I’m definitely comin back.  :) 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

How Spain does Halloween

Not well in my opinion.  No, no Halloween was fun.  :)  Just different.  As many of you know Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday.  Not Christmas, not my birthday, not St. Paddy’s day.  Halloween.  I’ve liked it ever since I was a kid and I don’t think that will ever change.  You get to dress up into anything you want without being judged, AND YOU GET FREE CANDY!!  (clearly I never made it past 7 years old, but hey, I like it.)  Plus you get to hang out with friends, get some exercise, and munch on all sorts of goodies while you pass the time.  I did get to experience a new type of Halloween, but clearly America wins this time.  We got this holiday down pat!  Spain might need a few years to catch up…

First and foremost, there are hardly ANY Halloween decorations here!!!  Some stores tried to put some cobwebs up, or hang a skeleton in the window, but honestly I just don’t think they understand the Halloween feel.  One lil cardboard cutout isn’t gonna make your store more inviting.  Halloween is the only other time during the year in which people go overboard in decorating their houses.  Pumpkins, lights, webs, scary yard things, luminaries, all the good things that I love about Halloween were absent this year.  :(  Maybe not absent completely, but definitely lacking by my standards.  Not to mention people don’t even live in houses over here, so the only things that really get decorated are some restaurants and the select shops whose owners actually now what Halloween is.  Decorating the house for Halloween is like my second favorite thing about October besides the trick or treating.  It gets you thinking about scary stories, long forgotten tales, and creepy situations that have you questioning the realm of the unknown and your sanity!  GAHHH!  I LOOOOOVE Halloween.  *Siiiggghh*  Looks like I’m gonna have to teach these folk the true meaning of Halloween. 

Secondly, kids don’t even trick or treat here!!!  HELLO!?  CALLING ALL SPANISH CHILDREN IN SPAIN.  FREE. CANDY. NOW.  I really can’t be the only one who understands this amazing concept can I?  The kids here just dress up….aaaaaand that’s it.  WOW…exciting.  Like I was saying earlier, they just don’t quite seem to grasp the whole Halloween tradition over here.  I understand it’s not from your country, but hell if America can celebrate St. Paddy’s Day and Cinco de Mayo that just proves it doesn’t matter what country you’re in, CELEBRATE LIKE YOU ARE!  Funny story actually about trick or treating here…involves host mom, child, and the lack of connection to Halloween.

*Story Section*
            So the day after Halloween, Jesse and I are sitting in our room doing our homework and studying for midterms when our host parents return home from, idk walking or something.  Our host mom comes over to our room and asks us if anyone came to the door while they were gone.  Jess and I look at each other with puzzled faces and then assure her that we didn’t open the door for anyone today.  She then proceeds to tell us that last night (Halloween) the little girl downstairs came up to their apartment and rang their doorbell.  Seeing as how it was the little neighbor girl Amparo (host mom) opened the door and asked what she needed.  “Trick or Treat!” said the little girl and waited for something to happen.  Amparo just kept staring at the girl and had no idea what she was talking about.  I don’t think it was a language barrier problem either because the little girl doesn’t speak much English or much Spanish either for that matter, she’s only like 2, but no.  I think it was more of Amparo had no idea what the girl was doing in a costume at her front door.  I guess she said they talked for like a minute and then the girl went back down to her house.  After almost bursting into laughter while listening to this story, we had to tell Amparo the tradition of trick or treating.  See Amparo, they ask for candy…and you give them candy…then they go away….but you need candy…HELLO IT’S HALLOWEEN!  Gosh…people here just need to get with the program!!  It’s been in session for the past like 100 years!!!  Clearly I need to go to the states if I want any chance of candy here.  Lol
                                                            *End of story section*  :)

                        And finally last but not least, no Halloween music.  :(  Usually you’ll hear the monster mash every now and then on the radio or the occasional scream over the radio announcing “scary low prices” but nope not here.  :(  Not even one little peep or mention of Halloween or scary sounding music.  I feel like Halloween could have passed right by and I wouldn’t have even noticed..if I wasn’t freakin obsessed with it!  Maybe I’ll throw myself a Halloween coming back party…haha!

            Although my Halloween wasn’t as normal as it usually is, I still had a lot of fun.  We went to a Halloween party the day before and had an amazing time.  :)  I didn't have a good costume though so I went as a genie and wore these Aladdin pants I got at the international fair here.  They seriously look like the pants Aladdin would wear!  They are all big and poofy and AWESOME by the way. :) By the end of the night I had acquired angel wings and a gangster hat that some people didn’t want from their costumes, sooo I don't really know what my costume ended up being.  A mafia-angel-genie?  Ya.  Let’s go with that one. 

Speaking of costumes…one other little tid bit of information I’d like to share before ending this blog also has to do with costumes.  Here they did encompass one aspect of Halloween very well.  Costumes.  Interestingly enough, even though the kids don’t trick or treat I saw a lot of older people wearing costumes on Halloween night than I think I would usually see in the States!  People my age and older were out and about on the streets just as we were, however they were more “trick-or-drinking” I’d say.  Anyways, their costumes were actually scary!!  Not like “omg I think you are actually Jason and going to kill me” but they were all about the blood guts and gore aspect of Halloween!  None of this sexy nurse bullsh*t, but actual H-A-L-L-O-W-E-E-N costumes, not “dress like a stripper day” costumes.  Everyone had fake blood and dark eyes.  Perfect atmosphere for an overcast cool night.  :)  It looks like maybe the younger generations are starting to get the hang of Halloween, but forget anyone over the age of 40.  I think they are beyond saving…    
It kinda sucks you have to wait all of October to reach that one amazing day and then poof!  It’s gone in a flash and then it’s on to another month.  But I guess that’s the magic of Halloween.  :)  Like magic it disappears into thin air. 

November is a good month as well and also carries an important holiday where all Americans get to do what we do best.  EAT.  Lol.  Although I won’t be there this year to starve myself all day and then eat my heart out around 4:00, I will still try and find some turkey in Spain somewhere!  Yuummmm….Thanksgiving food.  Looks like Christmas is gonna be filled with Mexican food (enchiladas, tamales, and nachos), Thanksgiving food (stuffing, pumpkin pie, Yorkshire pudding, cherry pie, mashed potatoes, and caramelized sweet potatoes), and the all traditional Christmas party food (meatballs, weenies, eggrolls, ham, and taffy apple salad).  Man I can’t wait.           

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Halfway is halfway, is halfway, is halfway...

Hmm half way done…more than half way done actually.  I’m not really sure how I feel about it now.  Have I really stayed here this long already?  In some instances yes, I can believe I’ve been here for 67 days and sometimes I can’t. 

I can because everything has fallen into a routine now.  School is in session (finally), midterms are coming up, and I understand the vibe and way of the city now.  I know where things are, I know what’s open during the siesta hours and what’s not, I have my favorite spot, I’ve made amazing friends, I know what food I like and what I don’t, and this place is starting to feel more like a home than just a vacation of sorts….

I am still going to school let’s not forget, so even though it may seem that I travel everywhere and have a lot of free time on my hands, that’s not necessarily the case…although I do find the school system here less stressful of that of America.  The only things we are graded on here are two tests.  A midterm and a final.  No homework assignments, no pop quizzes, NADA.  Which is good and bad.  Good because I do have more time to explore and do the things that I want to do, and bad because well let’s face it, you do bad on the test….you do bad in the class.  There are no cushion points to help you out in case you slip a little.  But to me I find the two tests a good match for me.  Homework is practice therefore, you shouldn’t be graded on it.  Those who try and practice with the homework will do well, while those that could give a hoot will do poorly.  And being a semi-nerd myself, I always do the homework anyways.  :)  I guess the midterm grades will ultimately determine whether this type of teaching fits me or not…let’s hope it does!!!!

Enough with school now.  I have to go to it tomorrow anyways so let’s not dwell on that fact for too long..

I also can’t believe it’s almost over because..well.. I just can’t!!  It’s kinda hard to explain, but even though I’ve been going to school now for over a month and I’ve been here for over 2 I still feel like I’m living a dream and I’m gonna wake up any second.  I look back on my little countdown calendar and think, “Crap that happened 4 weeks ago?!  Where the hell did the weeks in between go?”  My mind is a constant session of flashbacks to memories past.  I’ll sit down and think of when I first left, arriving in Madrid, the first few days with my mom, meeting the group, getting to Sevilla, first nerve racking days of insecurity, making friends, going to Portugal, school starting, random nights in Sevilla, adventures with friends, and so on.  And then I have flashbacks to the future if that’s even possible!  I see myself packing, leaving Sevilla, getting on the bus to Madrid, airport, tearful goodbyes, London, waiting impatiently, flying across the ocean staring out the window until I see the first sight of American land, landing, approaching the gate, walking through customs, running down the hallway into the awaiting arms of family, and tearful hellos. 

It’s clear to me now that I am clearly in the middle of my entire journey.  I’ve done so much, yet have a while to go.  Its crosses my mind a few times as to why I made the decision to only stay for a semester rather than an entire year.  Time has already gone by pretty fast and I feel like I could do sooo much more with another semester.  I know where everything is now, I know how everything functions, and I’m no longer afraid of this city.  In some regards I do wish I had signed up for the year, but I'm not sure if I would’ve liked it as much.  Leaving friends back home and having to make new ones is fun, but doing it twice can get old.  It’s fun to make new friends, but it is a bit challenging too when you’ve had the same friends since FOREVER.  (all ya’ll out there know who you are. :)  )  And it’s not like you become friends are almost forced to be friends in a way because you have no one else.  Luckily all the people I’ve meet are simply amazing and I wouldn’t have met them if it wasn’t for this trip.  ALL IN ALL I’m am very thankful for the friends I’ve made here, so please don’t think I’m complaining.  I’m not sure if I described that well or not, but I suppose to really understand you will just have to live in another country for 4 months.  :)  haha!  It’s something only the select few will ever know.  :)  I'm not really sure if I would have enough classes to take here anyways seeing as how ill only have 2 Spanish classes left to take when I get back home, so honestly I don't know if I could have stayed for a year and gotten credit for it.  I think everything has worked out for the better and the way it was meant to be.      

To whoever hears me now, I await my return to the place I’m from, but anticipate a return to the place that changed my life.