24 December 2009

Te echo de menos.

Palabra del dia: descansar --> to rest

It's funny how things hit us at just the right time it seems, like a kind word, coffee with a friend, a Christmas bonus, or mono. Yes, that's right, mono. And strep too, if you want to be technical about it. For the past two weeks, I have been tired and sick. It allllll started with a golf ball sized swollen lymph node in my neck. I proceeded to buy a half gallon of orange juice and chug it at will, up my vitamins, and try to get extra sleep in an effort to heal my body before it could be taken down. But oh no, this sucker wasn't going to leave my body without a fair fight. Two weeks later the doctor confirmed what I suspected all along (thanks to my boyfriend who gave me the idea): strep and mono. Oh joy, just in time for Christmas.

But really, it couldn't have come at a better time. Kinda sorta, anyway. I don't have to deal with homework or finals or worry about infecting the people in my dorm. I actually have time to rest, sleep ungodly amounts during the day, and claim "mono!!" when the parents ask the kids to do chores. Although it does mean one thing: I can't go to Texas this Christmas to see my Dad's side of the family. Normally, this wouldn't sting so badly. But this year, there's something different. The new baby, the end of an era for me, the fact that for the past 15 years, my brother and I have trekked to Texas the day after Christmas, fighting snowy roads, long lines in the airport, and annoying travelers who are obviously unpracticed at flying. But this year, it will be different. And it hurts and it sucks and I hate it.

In all of this sickness and my intermittent naps, I have had a chance to think. A lot. I have one semester of college left. And that's scary. I have to find something to do that doesn't include William Jewell College next year. In one manner, the world is my oyster. I can do whatever I want. I can fly to Spain and teach for a year, I can establish myself near family and friends in KC, I can get a job in Texas and be close to family I've never had an opportunity to be close to before. If only someone would make the decision for me, that might just be easier. One thing I know for sure: I will not move back home unless absolutely necessary. I must move and live on my own and be independent.

I've also been thinking a lot, due to a brother of mine the same age as me getting married 3 days ago, about marriage. The conclusion I've come to: I am 22 years old. Ain't no way I'm getting married anytime soon. I am too young. I have so much ahead of me, and I am most definitely not ready to tie myself down. No way, no how.

Last thing: life just isn't fair, especially when you are a part of a blended family. For those of you who don't understand that lingo, it means step families. It's something I've come to accept and try to ignore, no matter how much it stares me in the face.

So for now, I'll go take another nap, eat another Christmas cookie, and wrap presents I've been procrastinating on. Merry Christmas!!

06 November 2009

La musica de mi corazon

Palabra del dia: flamenco --> flamenco, a form of dance originating in southern Spain, called Andulacia

One thing I was able to bring back with me from Spain was a CD called "Cositas Buenas," which is filled with all sorts of different Flamenco songs. While I was in Spain, I had the privilage of taking a Flamenco class from an incredibly talented flamenco dancer. Flamenco is a type of dance that originated in Andulacia, which is the southern part of Spain. It is characterized by specific beats and rhythms, as you can see in the video below. The dancer in this video is named Isabel Bayon. She is a famous Flamenco dancer. Click on the link below to view the video on YouTube. I promise you won't be disappointed.


At the end of the class, we were required to perform what we had learned for our host families and friends. I have a video of it on Facebook, but I can't figure out how to put it on here. If you're interested in watching my mad skillz, check it out on my Facebook. It's super sweet.

Anyway, the CD that I came back with has been on repeat on my iTunes for the past couple of weeks. Listening to it reminds me of the passion and spirit that come with Flamenco dancing. It helps me to relax and not take things so seriously. And, because I can't understand all of the words in the songs, it's great to study to!

It's incredible how the country, the people, and the traditions that I was introduced to while in Granada keep impacting me to this day, nearly 5 1/2 months later. I am forever changed.

03 November 2009

La vida perfecta

Palabra del dia: feliz!! --> happy!! (exclamation points added for emphasis)

My life has been a whirlwind these past couple of weeks. I'm already 1/4 of the way through my senior year of COLLEGE. I can't believe this. It means I have to find a job. But while everyone else seems to be stressing out about grad school, law school, and finding a job, I find myself surprisingly calm. Sure, every now and again I have a freak out "OH MY GOSH I HAVE TO PAY MY LOANS STARTING SOON!" or "CRAP, MY PARENT'S HEALTH INSURACE WON'T COVER ME IN ABOUT 7 MONTHS!!" moments, but it's okay. For some reason, I know it'll all work itself out. In talking with a close friend of mine today, I was relieved to find that I'm not the only one who is (probably a little too much) laid back about this whole joining-the-real-world thing. And it made me smile.

My plan right now is to go back to Spain. Yep, you read that right. SPAIN. About every 3.654 days it hits me hard, the remembrance of something in my Spanish life last semester. The clacking of my boots on the pavement, the Spanish coffee sitting on my dresser, the flamenco music that has been on repeat (and I'm pretty sure my residents think I'm weird for it...), or simply hearing Spanish spoken. All of these things will put me right back there. And then I miss it, so badly.

Still, I have been able to find little glimpses of contentedness in my everyday life. These include speaking with Nico, the French foreign exchange student who is incredibly interested in learning the English language. Or sitting in on my internship class and talking about language and its many differences. Or going to Los Compas with a friend and talking to the waiters and hearing their Mexican accents. It's like music to my heart!

Back to the word of the day: happy. I am incredibly happy right where I am right now. Sure, my motivation to do anything related to school was left in Spain. And all I want to do is speak Spanish everyday and go have cafe con leche with my friends. But, some pretty great things have happened as of late. You can infer whatever you want to, but I'm just stinking happy. Like, my face hurts from smiling, happy. And it's goooood.

11 October 2009

Estar viva

Palabra del dia: despertar --> to awake

Am I avoiding homework? Well, claro que si! But I have good reason.

I'm sitting in Starbucks (to get away from the dorm for a while) doing homework. This guy comes and sits down in the seat next to me. I've been here for probably about an hour, in this seat at least, and I just introduced myself to him. I wanted to find out where he's from, because he is obviously not from America. He's from Ethiopia. We didn't have a long extensive conversation, but we chatted about school, America, Europe, the usual. But it's probably the highlight of my day.

Everytime I talk with someone about going overseas, or talk to someone foreign, I feel like my heart is being reawakened. I am almost put back in Europe, where I would meet foreigners everyday. The mix of people and the intense amount of diversity made me feel alive. I absolutely love talking with people about their countries, lives, language, and whatever else it is that differs from my seemingly normal American life. It's incredible to me that people who are so different than me have this effect on me, but I'm beginning to think it's for a reason. I'm pretty sure I'm onto something here...

On another note, I had the opportunity to talk to a close friend of mine that I haven't seen in about 10 months the other day. She studied in Granada a year before me. Talking with her made me remember that my experience there was real. She validated all the feelings I have felt for the past 4 1/2 months about missing Granada, confusion about who I am now, and how to move forward. It's like she is reading my mind, literally. I think she might be the only person in America that truely understands how I feel. And I'm extremely thankful for her.

Back to homework I suppose. Que aburrido!!

08 October 2009

Un agujero en mi corazon

Palabra del dia: extrañar --> to miss

When I woke up this morning, it was raining. Not a hard rain, but a mist, with cloudy skies. I checked the temperature for today-- 55 degrees. First actual cold day of the season. This meant only one thing: no dress today. So I pulled out a turtleneck and my boots to make me feel sassy. The thing is that I haven't worn the turtleneck since I was in Granada. This is evidenced by the clothes pin marks on the bottom of the shirt, showing it had last been dried hanging outside my window in the Granada air. When I realized this, it all the sudden hit me. I'm Granada-sick. And it's bad.

Days like today make me think of Granada in a strong way. As I was walking to class, the clack-clack of my boots made me remember walking through the plazas on the way to class in Granada, my boots making the same distinct sound. Suddenly I was put right back there. Sitting at breakfast, eating the toast with strawberry jam that I came to crave each morning, and drinking my cafe con leche. Looking up to see Ma in the doorway, a smile and "buenas dias!" coming from her cheery self. I miss walking (half-sprinting because we were always late) to class with Ronni and Betsy, laughing and being the loud Americans we were told not to be. The people, the buildings, the birds, the flower salesman, the tile roads that my traction-free boots would almost make me wipe out on everyday, I miss it all. Hearing "hola guapa!" as I walk to class, feeling like I'm the most beautiful woman in the world, even if the attention is only because I'm a blonde in a sea of brunettes. Greeting Hermi each morning, his half-smoked cigarette dangling in his hand, arms outstretched for a comforting hug. I've got it bad.

I thought that after almost 4 1/2 months, the same amount of time that I was in Granada, I would be okay. But I'm not. I thought I would go back to normal, but I was wrong. I admit, some of the changes in me are for the better, but that doesn't change the fact that it is different, very very different. I thought life, especially in a place as familiar as Jewell, would go back to normal. But it hasn't. And I don't think it will.

I feel like I'm biding my time, trying to soak up all the time with my friends during my last year here. I'm waiting for the day I can apply to go back to Spain. Not because I hate it here, but because a huge chunck of my heart is left there. I will return to claim it back. I have to.

Until then, I'll keep buying cheese that makes me think of Spain, wearing clothes with pin marks, and walk in boots that threaten to take my life each time I wear them, all so I can remember where I've been, and what I have to look forward to. Hasta luego...

04 September 2009

Amor esta mejor

Palabra del dia: amistad --> friendship

My friends have never meant more to me in my life than they do right now. I am at a place where I want to run and explore and have an adventure. Certain things are confusing and muddled, and I can't seem to figure things out. Yet at the same time, I am completely content, and I seem to know what is going on. A huge part of me feeling like I'm going to be okay where I am is because of my friends. To be honest, I have been overwhelmed by the amount of love and friendship I have been shown since returning to Jewell, and I am incredibly thankful.

I believe love is a basic human need, and a right. Everyone deserves to be loved, and we need it in order to be healthy human beings. I have had two friends recently who are hurting badly because of circumstances, and all they need is love. They both need someone to pay attention to them, listen, have a shoulder to cry on, and just love them. Through it all, they have inspired me to be a better friend, and to simply love.

Because without love, we have nothing.

17 August 2009

Es suficiente para mi.

Palabra del dia: gracia -->grace

For some reason, there is a big God in my life that likes me. Take that back, loves me. A big love too. I don't know why, and I can't figure it out. My religious past tells me why He loves me, that's good and all, but really? Why? I have done nothing to deserve this, and what's worse, sometimes I do things undeserving of His love. Actually, everyday. Every. Single. Day. Ridiculous.

But somehow, in the midst of all my failures, He continues to give me grace. Case in point: I tend to overlook things sometimes, er, many times. Like a deadline for a program that I am one year away from completing. I was informed of this deadline today, and actually already have things in the works to complete it. But there is only one reason why: grace. He's helping me figure things out, even though I don't deserve it, even though I haven't asked for it. Why? Grace, that's the only reason. Okay, I'll take it.


I have an ant bite on my foot that has caused the whole upper part near my toes to swell. Little devils!!

I'll admit it, the last 2 1/2 months have been the hardest I have ever gone through. And not for any reasons that one might think. I haven't been impressed with the way I've handled it, or who I've been. But, it's looking up. And I'm going to figure out who I am, once again.

My brothers are some of my favorite people on this planet. They can make me laugh until I cry, get so angry I scream, and love me more than I could ask for. Thanks, brothers, for being you.

It's ice cream time!

16 July 2009

Estoy en mi salsa

No palabra del dia ahora, porque he escrito 2 entradas hoy y es suficiente. Too bad for you if you can't read that... deberias aprender espanol.

I just wanted to say how amazing the last part of my day was. I was feeling all pouty and crap, but it's amazing how some simple things can turn your day around. Here's a short listing:

1) Went to Wal-Mart with my mom. She's quite a hoot, let me tell you!
2. My car died, for the third time (yes, third) this summer, on my way to work. The part about this that makes me happy, I didn't freak out (probably cause I'm used to it by now) and after letting it sit a few minutes, it started right back up. Awesome.
3- I made good money at work, despite it being a slow night at first.
4> The customers that came in later were very pleasant. Some of my favorites, actually. It was nice to chat with them and have them tell me I'm the best waitress ever (or something like that).

OH, I forgot why I originally was going to write this post. Here goes. Little brother, Craig, just got back from some sort of hippie convention (pottery workshop) in Pittsburgh. He is talking about going to Denmark for a whole year. We got to talking about Europe, along with some other people at work, and I got SO excited!!! When being removed from the situation, it's easy to forget how you felt when you were there. But, I know that I, in fact, LOVE Europe, and going back would be a dream come true, and probably a smart move. I was literally jumping up and down.

Pues, necesito dormir porque tengo que ir mi coche al mecanico manana. Hasta luego!

Corriendo en circulos

Palabra del dia: aburrido --> bored

America the... boring. Or maybe that's just Springfield. It could be the fact that my life is a routine of waking up, eating breakfast, working out (if I'm motivated), being lazy, then going to work. I crave adventure, spontaneity, and Europe. It seems everyone I know is either in another country, or going to one. I'm so frustrated right now because I just want to be with my friends, in Europe, not alone in Springfield. But yet, there is still a light at the end of the tunnel (or something like that), which is going to St. Louis this weekend to see friends. I will be surrounded by people I haven't seen in months, hanging out and forgetting all my cares for a weekend. And then next weekend, I get to go to Kansas City and see more people I love. This is good, because it reminds me that my boring summer is only for a season... and for 5 more weeks.

On the flip side, this whole being away from my friends for 7 months (and counting) thing has taught me a lot about friendship. Without friendship, I don't know where I'd be. It is interesting to see who sticks around when all you have to rely on is Facebook chats, Skype dates, and emails. To be honest, I'm really really blessed with my friends, and I don't know what I would do without them. I can't wait to be reunited with all of them when I return to Jewell in 5 short weeks!

Okay I'll end with one (or maybe a couple things) that I love about Springfield, especially in the summertime: thunderstorms that are so loud they shake the house and make you want to stay in bed all day and sleep. Watching it rain while sitting on the deck. Sitting outside on the deck with my momma, reading the newspaper and drinking coffee. Andy's Frozen Custard. Running on the trails through the park in the midst of the hot summer sun. Riding in my car with the sunroof open and music blaring. Playing with my adorable pup, Abbie. Sunsets that take your breath away.

With that, I am off to be productive. Paz afuera!

22 June 2009

Esta aqui ahora mismo.

Palabra del dia: paciencia --> patience

I went on a bike ride the other day (despite the near 100 degree weather and humidity that makes you feel like you're in a sauna) because I needed to get out. I needed to feel the wind on my face in a way that running couldn't give me. I needed to get out in nature, where I always feel most alive. I needed time to just me. And it was goooood.

I talked to God. I asked him what in the heck I was supposed to be doing with my life. Or more specifically, what I was supposed to be doing this summer, stuck in Springfield when I just want to be back in Spain. This is what I feel like he told me: even though I don't like this place right now, that doesn't give me an excuse to like the people. Sure, there's many many many things I don't like about America. But others, it's not so bad. Springfield is my home, this is true. It helped shape me into who I am. I am grateful for that. I am ready to move on, yes, but I am here now, and there's nothing I can do about it (especially cause I have no money to go anywhere else!). So that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to love people. I'm going to volunteer, hopefully speaking Spanish. I miss speaking it so badly. I try to speak it at home, but you can imagine the look on my mom's face when she doesn't understand a word I'm saying. I'm also going to love people at work. Even though they can drive me nuts, I'm going to love them. I'm going to serve them. I'm going to soak up the time I have with my mom and step-dad at home, and little brother who I see mostly at work, because I know in a few short weeks, I'll be back at school.

Another question running through my head has been what the heck am I doing with my life?! What am I supposed to do after I graduate? I only have one more year of school left, and it's just now hitting me. Okay, I love Spanish, Jesus, and people. There's gotta be a job for that. Mission work? I don't know. Non-profit organization? Possibly. I know I have a strong desire to go overseas, and I feel like that will happen.

It's funny to think that me, who didn't want to leave Springfield when she left for college, is now ready to move on from this place and see the world. Or part of it. Or all of it, that'd be swell. It's incredible to me to see the change in myself, when I once remember thinking "Change? Right, like I'm going to change!" Hm. All in all, I feel like I'm in a good place right now. I have a new perspective on life, and even though I have ants in my pants about going back to Spain, I somehow can understand why I'm here now. It's good.

Lastly, I'm going to Texas this weekend for my dad's wedding. I'm so stinkin excited! Except for the 100+ degree weather, humidity, and fire ants part. I get to see my brothers and sisters-in-law and niece and nephews (one of which was born in March and I haven't met yet!!). It'll be a great family time. Also, my soon-to-be step-mom, Gracie, is Mexican. That means her family is Mexican too. And they're going to be at the wedding. Which means... (drumroll please...!!!!!) I GET TO SPEAK SPANISH TO PEOPLE WHO UNDERSTAND IT THIS WEEKEND!!!!!!!!!!!! YESSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!! It's like a friggin' dream come true, I tell ya. I don't think I could be more excited. I might even just act like I don't understand English so they don't have a choice but to speak Spanish to me. Muahahahahaha!

Okay now I'm just gettin ridiculous! Until next time................

12 June 2009

No tengo un idea.

Palabra del dia: soledad --> loneliness

So. I've been back in good 'ole Springfield, Missouri for about 2 weeks now. It's a strange feeling. I have days where I think I'm doing alright, and others where I hate this place. Mostly, I have been feeling pretty lonely. It's strange because usually there are quite a few people around me on a regular basis. It's not that I necessarily have a lack of people to hang out with (though, I say this as I'm sitting at Starbucks, alone, on a Friday night...don't judge). **Random thought, I have a book in my possession called "The Path of Loneliness" that a friend lent to me before I left for Spain. I think I've read about 8 pages of it. Maybe now is a good time to dust it off?** Anyway, loneliness. It's a strange thing. I've spent my recent days house sitting, hanging out with my favorite cousin Laura. She is one of my favorite people. Her and I have always gotten along and understood eachother in a special way, almost like sisters. Though we don't live close, we tend to be somewhat close. We have been house sitting for our grandma together, and it's been a great time to hang out and talk and really just get to know one another better. When I'm not hanging out with her, I've been at my new job waitressing, or at least trying to waitress. It's a bit overwhelming right now, but I'll get the hang of it, I'm sure.

The loneliness part comes in here: No one here understands me. Not a soul. All my Granada friends (who are American) live everywhere but the Midwest (with the exception of Steph who, if I had the money, time, and a car that didn't leak antifreeze like it's a job, I would visit in Chicago). Like I said before, I am a different person. I believe different things. Or I should say, I think I do. Because I don't even know what I believe about certain things. It's a strange feeling when you come back to your home and don't agree with it. Like your favorite childhood food, sometimes when you try it later, it just doesn't agree with you. And maybe there's nothing I can do to fix this. But in the meantime, I intend to try to figure it out, by whatever means I have to take to do so.

Here's some recent random things that have happened to me as a result of this:
1) I overheard a woman the other day saying something about going to Mexico. She said (and I quote), "You know, if you go to Mexico, you almost have to speak Mexican." Um, EXCUSE ME?!! Mexican?! Lady, that is an ethnicity, a type of food, NOT A LANGUAGE. It's called Spanish. Seriously. How ignorant can people be?! I don't get it. I wanted to chew her out. Too bad it wasn't my place, (and I may have gotten fired from my job on my first day) because I totally would have done it.

2) I had a weird dream the other night. I was with a group of people my age-ish. We were somewhere, I don't know, a camp or something, sitting outside in the grass. Everyone else was already there, and I came up to the group to join them. As I approached them, I saw iPhones, iPods, everything material, and heard the dreaded "So like..." way of talking. You know what I mean. And, in my dream, to these people I said, "Whoa, I have to leave. I can't be around you all right now cause I'm just going to judge you. Bye." I think this probably explains some of my attitude right now, as much as I try to fight it.

These two examples are just part of my life right now. I know it's because I've been exposed to a different life, different religions, different everything, that certain aspects of the American way of life are just not... suitable?.... for me anymore. It's not what I want, or what I understand, or what I agree with I guess. Maybe it'll get better, but I don't see that happening anytime soon.

Please understand me: I don't hate America. Or Americans. I'm just going through culture shock right now, against my own culture, and it's weird.

Back to being lonely. I don't know what to do. There are so many people that I know understand me in my life, friends and such. But here's the problem. NONE OF THEM LIVE IN MISSOURI. Not cool. I need a transporter (or just a new car, unlimited money and time) to go visit them all. Seriously.

Last thing, when people ask me if I'm going to go back to Spain, my response is "Why yes, I am. After I graduate. For a year to teach." I tell people this to A) show them how much I love Spain and B) convince myself and get it into my head that it is actually going to happen, because if I don't convince myself, it won't happen. However, while I was running the other day, I decided why not? I don't have anything holding me back. I won't get this opportunity again. While others are busy getting jobs here, going to school, getting married, whatever they may be doing, I will be going to Spain. Because nothing is holding me back. And I like it like that.

Please do me a favor. Yes, you. If you see me, please give me a hug. I could really use it. And if I cry and sniffle on your new shirt, just grin and bear it.

30 May 2009

Where am I?!

Palabra del dia: incomodo --> uncomfortable/awkward

Isn't home where you're supposed to feel most comfortable? My recent life experiences have proved this isn't true. I arrived home (well, Kansas City for the weekend with my sister, my second home) on Thursday night. It was a looooong journey, to say the least. It started with a 4:30am (Spain time) wake up call in Malaga, where we had stayed in a hostal the night before. I didn't sleep well that night because it was hot, there were people being loud in our hostal, and since Barcelona had just won the "SuperBowl of Soccer" (as my host brother Nacho likes to call it), people were shouting and honking and being loud in the streets for a really long time. Needless to say, I was tired from the start. My friend Sarah and I got up and got to the airport for our respective 7am flights. She headed to Athens to meet her boyfriend, me to Madrid. When I arrived to Madrid, I got some Starbucks (much to my dismay, actually. I really miss Spanish cafe con leche!) and sat to write in my journal. Literally, as I was sitting there, I was fighting tears. This has been a common occurance for the past 3 weeks or so. There's been a number of things attributing to this, the biggest one of them all being the realization that I have to leave Spain. Really I just wanted to get it all out, but I knew that wasn't the time. So I had a 3 hour layover in Madrid. I wrote, wandered, and got $33 American dollars back from my 15 Euro and 5 UK Pounds left. Cha-ching!

Finally boarding time came and I was relieved to get on the plane. But not so relieved to leave Spain. I almost cried again. Sheesh. I ended up sitting by this 40-something year old guy who thought I was Spanish (um, what? Do you see the blonde hair?) and kept calling me "senora." **Side note, senora is used for older women, it's senorita that is used for younger. Thanks.** We didn't talk until food finally came around. Then we figured out we were both American, go figure. His name is John, he works at Macy's and lives in Chicago, and he said his life revolves around going to Europe. Interesting flight. I didn't barely sleep cause I was crammed in my seat. Note to the wise, the table doubles as a good head rest, even though it's slightly uncomfortable being bent over in that small seat. Whatever, I was tired.

After 9 hours, we finally arrived in Chicago. We had to get off the plane, get our bags, go through customs, and recheck our bags for connecting flights. Long story short, I missed my connection because this all took too long. We got in a little after 2pm (central US time) and I wasn't able to catch a plane until 8:35pm. So that means 6 HOURS in the Chicago airport. At this point, I want to tell you about some things I immediately noticed about America in my exhausted, I-don't-want-to-be-in-America-right-now state.

1) I found that I am a lot more aware of diversity. Everywhere I looked I picked out the non-white people in my brain. And, I favored those who looked Spanish or Middle-Eastern. Go figure. Maybe it's the familiarity of it all?

2) I'm sorry, but America as a whole is a lot fatter than Spain. It's the truth. Sorry if you think I'm being insensitive, but it is clear when you look at it.

When I finally got on the airplane to Kansas City, I was surprised I hadn't fallen over from sleep exhaustion. At this point, I had legitimately been awake for at least 24 hours. Mom advised me to "drink some coffee so you actually get in the right car when you get to Kansas City," as in actually find my sister. Haha, thanks for the advice, Mom.

Now for a tangent. I don't know if you notice this, but I think that first class is the stupidest invention ever. EVER. Seriously, what purpose does it serve? Unless you want to shell out enourmous amounts of money on a flight, why else would you sit first class? The only excuse I could find was on a looooong flight (I'd say over 4 hours) in which the comfortableness (yes, I just made that word up) of the seat would be good for sleeping. On the plane from Chicago to Kansas City, I thought it was ridiculous. The flight attendant brought a glass cup with some sort of alcohol to almost every passenger in first class. Really, people?! Is it necessary? You can't hold off for an hour and a half till you get to your destination? YOU'RE PAYING FOR A GLASS CUP!!!! I think it's ridiculous.

So now that I'm back in the States, how am I feeling? Well, I feel like I don't belong. My poor sister, God bless her, is such a sweetheart for putting up with my not-always-positive attitude. I can't even describe it. It's like I'm a stranger in a strange land. I literally don't feel like I belong. I know this will pass with time, but right now I'm exhausted and confused. I find myself getting tired of speaking in English and still speak in Spanish. This can't be good for one's brain. I know I have to adjust at some point, and I'm sure I will. The trick will be combining the me now with the me I was before, because I'm different now. So if you see me, and I seem confused/upset/dazed/cranky, please just go with it. I'll be better soon, hopefully.

That's all for now. I'm going to go sleep off some more jet lag.

23 May 2009

Parting is such sweet sorrow.

I am so exhausted. My brain is on the fritz. Seriously. I can barely think in Spanish. Or speak for that matter. My room looks like a war zone. It's my last day in Granada as part of the IES program. I hate goodbyes. (But I do get to say hello to my best friend, Kelsey, when she arrives here TOMORROW!!! Seeing her is the silver lining, for sure!)

This whole thing has been such a dream/amazing experience/more than I could have imagined. And it's almost over. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. If I had my way, I wouldn't go back. Not now. Maybe not ever. I'm really going to miss it. Everything about it.

That being said, I need to go pack and spend some quality time with Ma. More later when I can think straight.

21 May 2009

If I don't show up in the States, you'll know where I am.

Palabra del dia: el final -->the end
I can't believe it. The end is near, too near. Three days, to be exact. I will be moving out of my homestay in three days. However, the good thing to note is that I'm staying here for another week because my flight doesn't leave Spain until May 28th. Haha, suckers!! Just kidding. Kinda.

I know it's been a while since I've blogged, but I promise I've had a good reason, and his name is Rayner. My Kiwi friend (that means from New Zealand) came to visit me on May 7th for a week and a half or so. It was SO FUN! I had prepared in advance and gotten most all of my homework done so that I didn't have to worry about it while he was here. I was determined to show him the magic of Granada without my homework on my mind. In the week and a half he was here, I'm pretty sure I saw more of Granada and explored more here than I have in the 4 1/2 months I've been here. Lame, I know, but sometimes things just don't get done, ya know?!

So what'd we do? Well, let's see. I took him to all my favorite tapas places, and there's a lot. We walked around the city and saw the history of it all. In the afternoons, we stopped for ice cream or a drink at an outside cafe and watched the sunset (at 9:15 or 9:30pm, might I add!). We wandered around the Albaicin, the old historic district of Granada where all the hippies live. On Sunday, we went to Nerja, a beach about 2 hours from Granada by bus, with my friend Montana and her Spanish friend Ivan. It was so fun just the four of us. We lazed on the beach, ate the heaps of food we had, swam in the freezing cold water, and got sunburned. Ahhhh Spain. I'm livin the life, I'm tellin you! If it weren't for the homework, it'd be perfect! Let's see what else did we do... we ate a lot of ice cream. There's this great ice cream place that I always go to and they have the BEST dark chocolate ice cream. I don't know how they do it, but it's fantabulous! On Tuesday we made a day of going to the Alhambra, something I hadn't been able to go see yet. It was gorgeous, especially when we were at the top and the sun was starting to set. I took some sweet pictures you'll see soon. On Wednesday, Ma (my host mom, as I affectionately call her) invited Rayner over for lunch. She made paella, a traditional Spanish dish. It was quite interesting because Rayner doesn't speak any Spanish, and Ma doesn't speak English. The translators were Nacho (my host brother) and I. However, I know Spanish a little better than Nacho knows English, I think, so I did most of the translating. It was weird to be in that position but gave me a lot of confidence in my Spanish skills. There were even times when I would hear Spanish and forget to translate it in English, because it doesn't seem foreign anymore. I like the sound of that! We also went to Parque de las Ciencias, a museum that was pretty cool. I hadn't been before, mostly because it's literally on the other side of the city and hadn't had anyone to go with, but it was cool. And they had an Antarctica exhibit which was a nice relief from the hot weather outside! Besides that, we just explored the city, did some shopping at the Arab stores, you know, all the great stuff about Granada.

My favorite part of the week was being able to hang out with someone that I met randomly in Europe and just talking and learning about one another. We're from different sides of the world, literally, but we have so much in common. I'd laugh at his funny Kiwi words he'd use and he'd use his incredible sense of direction to figure out where we were when we took streets I didn't know. We had so much fun just hanging out, and it makes me really thankful I was able to have an experience like this in Spain. It is definitely something that I did not expect, but it's one of my favorite memories from studying abroad.

Now to the sad part. Most of my friends are leaving in the next three days. Our last dinner is tomorrow night. We got an email from our director telling us about how we're going to miss Granada and have an "olive-smelling emptiness" when we return back to the States. I don't quite know what that means, but I know I'm not going to like it. I'm going to miss walking to class and seeing all the people I see on a regular basis: that guy with the hat and scarf that I always pass, the kids on their way to school, the guy who takes off his shoes and talks to himself in Gran Capitan Plaza, the cute guy that works in the fruit store on the corner of Plaza Trinidad, the adorable old lady that sells bread in the same plaza, the flower guy who always says "buenos dias," the construction workers who always look at me weirdly cause I'm obviously not Spanish, and all the hippies who mingle in Plaza Nueva, to name a few. I have taken it all for granted, I'm sure, but I know I'm thankful for it. These past 4 1/2 months have been the most unexpected, challenging, growing, life-changing months of my life. I am not the same person I was when I left in January, as I have said before. I hope to not return to the person I was before when I get back to the States either. I think I've changed for the better, and I'm proud of who I am today. That being said, those of you who will be around me a lot when I return, please be patient as my transition is not going to be smooth I don't think. And please just nod and smile and look interested when I say funny Spanish phrases or tell Granada stories. I just need to share my excitement, okay?!

Nerja, compliments of Rayner. He's a really good photographer, he just won't admit it!

Cafe con leche y tostada con tomate at my favorite cafe!

Stopping to smell the roses in the gardens at the Alhambra.

Palaces at the Alhambra. These kings were filthy rich!

This is one of my favorite pictures of me at the Alhambra.

Coolest. Picture. Ever. At the Alhambra, of course.
Us at the Alhambra. Smile Rayner!!!!!!!!!!!

Okay so I need to add more pictures, I know. But it's tapa time, and I'm late. Hasta luego!

03 May 2009

Any more brain busters?!

Palabra del dia: aprovechar --> to make the most of

I have a new favorite word. It's aprovechar. That translation that I gave is literal. What an amazing word. We don't have one like it in English, and it's really a shame. This is how I've lived my life for the past four months. I've been aprovechar-ing everything. Why not, right?! I'm in Spain, it's the time to do it. I've lived life (or tried to) to the fullest and reaped the benefits of it. Stay out till 6am? Aprovechar. Eat that last fresh shrimp even though I don't have enough room left in my stomach? Aprovechar. Take a nap in the park and blow off my homework? Aprovechar. I've learned a new love of life and its amazingness. As my time starts to come to an end, I find myself reflecting over so many things.

A. What am I going to be like when I go back to the States? I am a different person now. I've learned, grown, and changed. I don't want to go back to how I was before. I think this is going to be something that I have to constantly think about, at least until it becomes me for real, because right now I feel like I'm living in a dream of sorts.

2. One of the things that I've loved about my life here is that I've allowed myself to say what I think. Life is short, and there are many opportunites we pass up because we're scared of what people will think or how they'll react. Just forget it all, and do what you want. Say what you need to say, as my friend John Mayer says. It's become such a huge part of my life, and I want it to stay that way.

III. Laugh, love, and live without inhibitions. Cliche, maybe. But in all honesty, it makes life better. Way better, trust me. Oh, and laugh at yourself, even if you're the only one laughing. Life is just better that way.

d. Homework is lame. Blow it off and spend time with people you love, and taking naps in the park. That's my life advice.

I have soooo many things going through my mind right now, I just can't put it all down here. I'm excited to go home and see family and friends, but super sad to leave. I'm trying to make the most of every day. I love life so much, and being here has reinforced that. There are so many things/people to be thankful for. I'm so blessed in so many ways. I LOVE LIFE!

I don't really have anything else to say. That's okay though cause I should really go and write my paper. I have 4 pages out of 10. Making headway, that's for sure. I'm determined to finish it today. Wish me luck! Hasta luego!

24 April 2009

Could my brain be more muddled?

Palabra del dia: there's not one Spanish word for procrastinate. Maybe that's a sign?

This week has come and hit me like a slap in the face. I have literally 25 pages of paper to write, in Spanish and English, in the next 2 weeks. That means I should write 1.7857 pages per day approximately. I think I can handle that, right? Yea, if I can ever get started. Do you even know how hard it is to sit inside and write when all I want to do is go and explore?! I really need to just sit and write, write, write till my eyes cross and my fingers are calloused. Quite an attractive image, eh?

Life here is almost over. I've been here for 13 weeks. That's 3 months and one week. Or 91 days. It's amazing how your life can change and you can grow and learn so much in such a short period. When I go home I'm not going to be the same person as I was when I left. I have experienced so much in so many regards here. I've learned to stay out until 3am and not think it's a big deal. I haven't gotten up earlier than 7am except maybe 3 times all semester, and that was only to catch a bus to the airport. I've become accustomed to red wine so much so that I no longer like white. I've learned to consider 9:30pm as early. I've gained confidence in mismatching my clothes, and it's rather freeing. I've gained confidence in who I am and who I want to be, even if I don't quite know who that is. And I've learned that not knowing is okay too. I've learned (or at least started to) trust my instincts because many times, they are right. Recently, I've learned that just saying what is on my mind is better than hiding what I'm feeling because of worry about what someone will think. I think it's lame that we hide what we're really feeling a lot, so I've really started just saying what I'm thinking, with discretion, of course. Some of the conversations I've had because of this have been slightly awkward, but some of the most real I've had in a long time. I've slacked on my running, and it's been glorious. I've learned how important my loved ones are to me, and what I mean to them. I've traveled around Europe all by myself and didn't think twice. In general, I love what this Spanish/European/study abroad experience has done to me. And I don't think I even know the full extent of it yet.

I really did have a point to this blog when I started writing it, I swear. Now I'm just blabbering. So now I'm going to go buckle down and write. If you need me, I'll be the cool one sitting in the corner hunched over her computer with smoke coming from her furiously fast typing fingers.

18 April 2009

A (not so) foggy day in Londontown... and Germany

Palabra del dia: aventura --> adventure

So sorry it's been a long time since I've blogged. I promise it's a good reason. That reason is... Semana Santa, aka my spring break. And boy do I have some fun stories to tell you!

Saturday April 4th I left for London. When people asked me where I was going and who I was traveling with, some of them thought I was crazy for traveling alone. I guess traveling alone around Europe is a big deal? Well actually, that thought never crossed my mind when I made my plans. Back to the story. After getting up at too early on Saturday morning, I caught my flight out of Granada to London Stansted. *Side note, if you ever go to England, be prepared to be interrogated. They were ruthless at customs!! They wanted to know the exact address of where I would be staying, how long I would be there, why I was in Spain in the first place, how long I'd been in Spain, and they wanted to see my return tickets to Spain. Okay, really? You're not that important, England. Sheesh.* There I had to get the train to Liverpool Street where I met my friend Stacie. She's studying in London this semester and is a friend of mine alllll the way back from elementary school. It was sooo good to finally see a familiar face in the midst of my European adventure! When I got there, we got me an Oyster card (underground/tube pass) and headed to her dorm. After we dropped off my stuff we rested a little and got ready to go out with her friends from the dorm. It was weird because they were talking about eating dinner and it was only 5pm or so. Way different from my Spanish schedule I've become so accustomed to. We ended up at a pub close by called Gloucester's, one that they go to all the time. In England, I think they start drinking practically after breakfast. And they don't just drink a little, they drink by the pint. Needless to say, one is enough for me, thank you very much. We didn't stay out late, as the pub closes at 11pm every night (something else different). It was so weird because alllll the pubs close at 11pm, then you have to go to a club if you want to stay out. But what if I don't want to go to a club?! Well, than you're out of luck. Bummer. So we just went home after that cause I was tired anyway.
Next day, Sunday. We got up, had breakfast, and went exploring to some markets. First thing, it was weird that there was anything open on a Sunday. I was obviously not in Spain. Stacie took me to all of these really cool markets where you can buy almost anything. We also went to some really cool antique stores with clothing and bags and shoes and stuff from decades past. At the markets, I ended up finding some white Converse for 9 pounds and a neat wallet for 12. There was also a lot of food (my sweet spot!) from all over the world. We had some Moroccan food (not as good as actually in Morocco, go figure). We also found cheesecake lollipops. Cheesecake on a stick covered in chocolate. Mmmmm me gusta! For the rest of the day we just went shopping and Stacie showed me the city. We went to this store called Primark. In order to go to this store, you literally have to mentally prepare yourself. You go in and there are people everywhere, lines everywhere, clothes being strewn everywhere. Why the madness? Because things are so cheap. It's like a Walmart of only clothes. I didn't find anything cause I couldn't handle the madness, but that's okay. It was the experience we were after anyway. Later though, I did end up finding a new coat for 15 pounds at H&M. Yes, I am a bargin shopper. :) That night wasn't too exciting either. We went to another pub, then went home.
Monday, oh fateful Monday. Stacie had told me before I came that she was going to have a lot of work to do. I was okay with that and was looking forward to exploring London on my own, though it did seem a little daunting. With the help of her awesome friends in the dorm, we found a free tour to go on. Stacie pointed me in the right direction and off I went. There were a ton of people at the tour, and I ended up meeting this guy from Springfield, MO. Yes, that's right. A guy who knew people I knew back home, he was in London. What are the odds?! It was nice to have familiarity all the sudden. The tour was called the "Royal Tour" and took us to Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Parliament, and Gordon Brown's residence, among other places. It was a walking tour, which was really fun! We saw the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace and wandered around London for 3 hours seeing the sights. After the tour, our tourguide pointed out where the underground was and let us go our own way. My Springfield friend had left me at this point, so I called Stacie to see where she wanted me to meet her. I walked to the underground and was trying to figure out what to do next when this guy that had been on the tour approached me. I had noticed he was alone the whole time and had considered going and talking to him and inviting him along, but hesitated. He introduced himself. His name is Rayner and he's from New Zealand. He's touring Europe for about a month, and had just arrived in London that day. He asked what I was doing next and asked if he could tag along. Of course I say yes (because he seems nice, he's cute, and I'm just a nice person like that, ha!). So him and I hop the tube and head to meet up with Stacie. Rayner ends up hanging out with us all day. Then he asks if I want to hang out the next day (because I was going to be alone anyway, due to Stacie's term papers sucking away her life). Long story short, Rayner and I hung out for the next 2 days. We toured London, went to the British Museum, ate lunch in the park (both days), spent hours talking about life and getting to know one another, and just enjoyed having a buddy to hang out with. I can honestly say that Rayner made my London experience. If it hadn't been for him, I would probably have been a little bored. It was so fun to explore the city with him and learn about someone who I wouldn't meet in my normal life. And, he decided (after I talked it up a lot) that he's coming to Granada to see Spain...okay and me too. :)
I left for Germany early on Thursday morning on 2 hours of sleep. I don't do well with little sleep, but it was worth it because I was able to hang out with Stacie and Rayner the night before. I made it to Germany alright and met up with Uli and Manfred. They are longtime friends of my mom and grandma who I had a chance to meet in October when they were in the States visiting. They had offered their home and time to show me around Germany if I wanted to visit when I was in Spain, so of course I took them up on that offer! Though I was tired when I got there, we went to Wurzberg and had lunch and looked around the city a little bit. First thing I noticed about Germany, they spoke a foreign language that wasn't Spanish, and many of them had blonde hair and blue eyes. I FIT IN FOR ONCE! It was nice to fit in and not get stared at like I always do in Spain. Later we went back to their house where I was finally able to rest a little bit (despite the fact that I had fallen asleep in the car earlier, haha!). Their house is so cool! It's very modern and... clean? I don't know how else to explain it. It's very clutter free, which I like. My bed there was HUGE and soooo comfortable to sleep in. For my time in Germany, Uli and Manfred treated me so well. They fed me, let me sleep in their house, let me put my feet up on the couch/nap on the couch, let me do my laundry, and drove me around Germany.
Okay so Uli and Manfred deserve their own paragraph. They are a couple about my parent's age. They have a 27 year old son named Garrit who is a character. It was good to have someone close to my age there for a little while to interact with. Oh but Uli and Manfred. Uli speaks English really well (even though she doesn't think so) and Manfred can speak alright, but understands almost everything. Manfred is probably one of the funniest people I have ever met. Eighty percent of the time, I had no idea what he was saying because it was in German. But he would make jokes in German, then laugh at himself! And the funny noises he made when he was frustrated with stupid drivers on the autobahn made me laugh too. He is just a goofy guy in the best way. And Uli, well she's a feisty German woman. I loved the way she took control of any situation and did things her way. I aspire to be like her. :) Together, Uli and Manfred were hilarious. They compliment each other so well, with Manfred being laid back and funny and Uli making sure everything is taken care of. The last day I was there, I was able to see more into their relationship. They love each other so much. We had gone to get ice cream (like we did at least once every day I was there) and they were cracking me up. The way they interacted, you could tell it was out of a deep respect and love for one another. I can't even explain it better than that. To see a couple so in love after so many years of marriage was incredible, to say the least.
Back to Germany. We went to Heidelberg and Rothenberg too. And other places, but I don't remember their names. My favorite was Rothenberg because it is an old town that still has the city wall built up around it. It's a tourist city now, but has a lot of history. We saw castles and lots of landscape of the Germany countryside. And we drove like 100mph on the autobahn.Que guay!! My favorite part was sitting outside in the sun (or shade) eating cake and drinking coffee (or a beer) and chatting with Uli and Manfred while people watching. Apparently they do this everyday, eat cake and drink coffee. What a life. Um, America? Why don't we do this? Get with the program, please! Learning about life in Germany, the history, the stories, and the people fascinated me way more than the castles (though they were pretty sweet!).
Finally, on Monday, I went home to Granada. It took me exactly 12 hours to get back from the time we left Uli and Manfred's house in Germany. Long trip, but so worth it! I even met a new friend on the bus from Malaga to Granada, Stephanie, who is studying here. She's really nice and we decided we wanted to hang out and be friends in Granada too! Yay for meeting new people, even if they are American!
Oh something else worth noting. You know how I said I wanted high top turquoise Converse? Mission accomplished. They're my new best friends!

Wow this post is long. So I'm going to end it here, but not before the pictures of couse.

Buckingham Palace. The changing of the guards was going on, so I couldn't get too close because there was un monton of people there. Or as Rayner would say, there were "heaps" of people there. Haha!

Dad, Matt, and Tim, this is for you. I thought you'd like to know that something "Texas" exists in London... even if it's just a restaurant.

Me in front of Big Ben. There was also a protest going on by a group of Sri Lankans, that's what all the red in the background is. There's a civil war going on in Sri Lanka and they were protesting the UK government because they're not doing anything about it. It got pretty intense and was eye opening to be in the midst of it.

Parliament at night. So gorgeous, I really can't do it justice. And I'm just an awful photographer.

Stacie and I in front of a cool part of London at night. You can see the ferris wheel in the background that I never got to go on. Someday when I return, I will!!

One picture I know you've been waiting to see. :) Rayner and I in Hyde Park on the last day I was in London. Sorry for the squinty eye, that sun will getcha!

London at night.

Castle in Heidelberg, I believe. It was an old castle, obviously. The castles in Germany all used to have moats too, so it was cool to see a "real" castle like you see in the movies. Reminded me of "The Princess Bride" movie.

My favorite part of going to places is the people. These kids were adorable, and almost fell in the fountain!

We would do well to follow this guy's lead. What a life!
The single picture I have of Uli and Manfred, and they're not even looking at the camera. Oh well. We were in a German restaurant and I guess they were admiring the huge beer-making things next to us.

Rothenberg. See the city wall on the right? I thought that was really cool. And apparently, so does every other American that comes to this city. I guess it's a big tourist city, but can you see why? You can walk up in the wall too, which is really neat.
I wish I could share all of my pictures and stories with you, but I guess this will have to do. Hopefully you enjoyed seeing a little bit of my last week!! Now that I'm home in Granada, I have tests and papers and projects and craziness going on. I only have 5 weeks left here in Spain. Que triste!! I can't believe it's coming up so quickly... I try not to think about it.
A little bit about my life here. I've reflected lately on the people I've met since I've been here, and how they have taught me things about myself and life in general. There's a few that stick out to me.
Maricarmen: this woman is exceptional. She puts every ounce of herself into making my life easier. For the past 3 months she has shown me nothing but love and hospitality. She cooks, cleans, and is patient with me when I can't quite conjugate the verbs I'm using. I'm really going to miss her when I leave.
Montana: she's actually someone I didn't expect to be so close with at first. I guess I really noticed how cool she was after we traveled to Barcelona together. Her laid back attitude has taught me even more to be laid back. We have deep conversations all the time about life and people and just things. I appreciate her point of view and take on the world, and I really enjoy her company.
Betsy: this girl is amazing also. She is loved by everyone who meets her and is a beautiful woman inside and out. I love her spunk and sweet, often imitated, never duplicated style.
Ronnie: definitely not what I had pictured when I first met her. You might think she's quiet or way girly, which I guess she can be, but she is stinkin hilarious! Sometimes I wonder where she thinks up the things she says.
It amazes me how people come into our lives and we learn from them. We don't expect it or ask for it most of the time, but it happens. And it's so unique that we learn such different things from each person. I hope that I've made even a small impact on someone's life while I've been here, and that I continue to do so in life in general.
So now that I've spilled out some of my heart, I'm going to be done. :) Hasta luego!!

03 April 2009

Little tidbits

I don't have a word of the day for you today, so sorry. I just wanted to write a few things that I've seen here the past couple of days that were rather... odd?

Yesterday, on my walk to school, I saw an old lady (probably about 70 years old) haulk (hawk?) a loogie. Sound effects and everything.

There was a mannequin in a store yesterday that looked like the spitting image of Tyra Banks. It quite possibly could have been her, because all of the mannequins are extremely real-life looking here. It's creepy.

I went running through the city today with a friend. Everyone knew we were American. Opps.

I really want to buy some turquoise high top Converse. However, the cheapest I've found them here are 58 Euro, which translates to about $65. Correction, $77. I just checked it online. Bummer.

As of Sunday night, when I talked to my ridiculously funny mother and sister, I started to miss friends and family really badly. Maybe it's because it's the halfway point. Maybe it's because midterms were awful this week. Or maybe it's just because I'm in a foreign land. I don't know. But I don't like it.

Okay that's all I got.

02 April 2009

Chasing planes

Palabra del dia: vacación --> guess that one!!
This week has been... stressful. I had two midterms. Normally midterms don't stress me out very much, but the fact that these tests are one of two in the semester is kind of a big deal. But oh well, it's over now, I can't do anything about it, so let's move on.
Last weekend I went to Barcelona with my friend Montana. We had booked our tickets through RyanAir probably a month ago, so we were good to go. I got a hostal booked and everything. We made it to the airport at 7pm or so, early enough for our 8:25pm flight. Shortly after arriving, Montana noticed a grave mistake on our part: we had missed our flight(s). Let me explain. First off, we booked different flights to Barcelona. Somehow, I booked an 8:25am flight (0825 in Spanish time) and she had booked the one we really wanted, a 4:45pm flight (1645 in Spanish time). Good job. How this happened, I have no idea. Luckily, we both booked the same return flight. After about one minute of contemplating if we should just stay in Granada for the weekend, we decide to find another flight. ClickAir is the only other airline that is flying to Barcelona that night. Lucky for us, there is a 9pm flight. Unlucky for us, it costs 126 Euro ONE WAY (our original roundtrip cost 45 Euro). So what do we do? Charge it (what are savings accounts for, anyway, if not for this?!)! We made it to Barcelona around 11pm and then had to find our hostal in the dark in a city that is quite a bit larger than Granada. But never fear, we found it! Too bad it was crappy, good thing we had booked a better one for the next two nights.
In the morning, we hurried out of the hostal so we could go find breakfast and our other hostal by 11am. After walking for an hour (we probably scaled the entire city on foot that morning) and buying food/breakfast at the first supermarket we found, we found our home for the next two nights: Urbany Hostal. If you ever go to Barcelona and need a stellar hostal, I highly recommend it. It was new, in a good location, had a gym/pool next door to use, lockers with keycard access that were big enough to fit my huge backpack, nice beds, friendly staff, kitchen, buffet breakfast included, and free internet access, all for the grand total of (drumroll please...) 15 Euro per night!!! AWESOME!

So what'd we do there? Well, Friday we got ourselves oriented with the city more or less and saw some sights. We saw the Sagrada Familia, the cathedral that Gaudi started before his death in 1926 and that they're still working on now. We bought fresh strawberries at a fruit store and ate the entire carton whilest we walked around the city. We found this bazarre flea market that has literally anything you could ever want. We found an art museum and got cheap tickets for it. We ate our bocadillos (sandwiches) in the grass. We visited a park that had buildings Gaudi designed. It was a beautiful day, we we enjoyed it to the fullest in one of the coolest cities in Spain. Later, after meeting up with some friends of Montana's, we made dinner in our hostal (yay for cheap, and yummy, pasta!) and went to sleep because we were exhausted.

The next day it rained. All. Day. Long. But that's okay, cause we had planned for it! Success! We visited the Picasso museum, a museum of which Gaudi designed the building (originally an apartment building), shopped a little bit, found the cathedral and marveled at it, and then wandered around for a while. We found the big market (I don't know what it's called) with all of the food you could ever want. Fresh fruit, veggies, and meat. Tons of candy and chocolate. This place is amazing!

After the market, we went back to our hostal to make dinner. While we were making dinner, we made friends! There were three guys from Italy making dinner as well. They couldn't speak English, and I can't speak Italian, but somehow we communicated. It's because of my Spanish knowledge, and the fact that Italian is somewhat close to Spanish. We also met four Spanish guys from Madrid. After we all had gotten dinner ready (pasta all the way around; nice to know everyone understands the magnificance that is yummy and cheap pasta!), we sat down at the tables and ate. Let me set up the scene for you: the three Italian guys were sitting at a table behind us. Then there was us, four American girls. Then next to us were the four Spanish guys. We were all having our own conversations in our respective languages, but then we started talking to one another. Mind you, there wasn't a common language between all of us, minus the one Spanish guy that knew English. It was so cool to sit there and listen to the languages, all different and unique, but know that somehow, we were communicating. That's why I love language, because it often surpasses knowledge of words and grammar and reaches into really wanting to know people. That dinner was probably one of my most favorite nights since I've been in Spain.
On Sunday, we checked out of our hostal and went walking. Or riding the Metro, really, because we had become experts by then. We walked down to a central part of town, Las Ramblas, and wandered for a while. We were trying to find another flea market, but didn't really find it. However, we did run into the water front and some friends of ours from the IES program that were also in Barcelona that weekend. Later we were able to meet up with some friends of mine briefly from Jewell, Jessica and Megan. It was sooooo good to see a familiar face (or 2!). Soon after, we headed for the airport, hopped our plane, and made it back to Granada just in time for me to write a composición for my Spanish grammar class and go to sleep.
Though our weekend had gotten off to a bumpy start, it turned out really well. I enjoyed traveling with Montana because she is really laid-back. We didn't have a set schedule at all, and that was nice. And she's a really good tour guide/map translator. I'm pretty sure we would have been lost if I had been in charge of that!
Now for the pictures.

At the market. Random cables, anyone?

No? Well then how about some coffee makers or a radio?

The view from the art history museum. Beautiful city!
Sagrada Familia. I think it speaks for itself.

More of Gaudi's amazing architecture!

At the food market. Yes, I'll take some fruit, please.

I think I'm in heaven.

Would you like to salsa? This is why I love Spain. Salsa in the middle of the plaza.
But even more so, this guy says it all:

Rainbow sweater, awesome 'stache, fedora hat. What more could you want?!
And finally, after a long weekend, the travel buddies head back home. Barcelona? Mission accomplished.

I'm off to London to visit a friend from high school and then to Germany to stay with family friends for Semana Santa. Oh but don't you worry, I'm sure I'll have plenty of stories when I return! Hasta luego!

24 March 2009

I want to be a polyglot

Palabra del dia: llustración --> enlightenment

First off, if this blog is a little scattered, it's because I have so many things swirling through my head from the last five days that I am having a hard time processing it. So hopefully it makes sense somehow.

I went to Morocco, Africa. We left in the morning on Thursday and got back yesterday (Monday) around 7:30pm. With the exception of when I went to the Everglades over a year ago, this trip was the most meaningful learning experience I have ever had. I don't even know where to start, but here it goes.

We left Granada around 10am on Thursday and headed for Gibralter, which is actually a UK colony in Spain. It was the strangest thing because we had to actually cross a border, show our passports, etc. Once we crossed the border everything was in English. It was like being in the UK (or at least how I would imagine it to be) except we were right next to Spain and also on the Mediterranean. The people there spoke English and Spanish, but mostly English. It was really strange to hear English all around me when I've been studying in Spain for the last two months. So what did we do there? Well, we loaded into two van/bus things and took off on a bus tour of Gibralter. Our tour guide was a little crazy. He liked to inform us over and over and over again that, in fact, Gibralter has been a colony since 1704 or something like that, longer than the United States has been in existence. Awesome, thanks for doggin on the US when you're amongst a group of United Statesians. Good thing he didn't get jumped (un chiste, hehe!). We went all around the city and up onto the Rock of Gibralter. We saw a really cool cave that reminded me of Fantastic Caverns in Springfield (yes!) and we saw monkeys. Yes, monkeys. This was a highlight of Gibralter. Later, after we came back from the tour, we decided to hike up the Rock of Gibralter. And it's quite a hike. Almost straight up at points, actually. Let's just say I got my workout for the week. But the view at the top was so worth it. Nothing can take my breath away like the outdoors and natural beauty. It was amazing.

After we explored the Rock on foot, we went back down into the city to find some dinner. We ate at this pub/restaurant called The Clipper, one which our director, Javier, has been to many times before. On the menu were things that I would find in the States, and it was really strange. I resisted the pull of the cheeseburger, though, and went with the quiche. Our waitress spoke English to us (duh) and had a British accent. And she called vegetables 'veg' as in "Mash with salad or veg?" (Kristen, I thought of you!). After dinner we were exhausted, so we went back to the hotel and slept.

Day two. We headed for Africa. Once we got through passport control and what not, we got to the ferry station. There we met our tour guide for the week, Ben, and proceeded to take the ferry across the Mediterranean from Algeciras, Spain to Tangier, Morocco. Side note on Ben, he is from Conneticut and has been living in Tangier for a few months. He studied in Granada when he was in college and since then has been obsessed with Spain/Morocco. He works for a company called Moroccan Exchange which takes groups of students (mostly college students) into Morocco and teaches them about the culture, language, and life of Morocco. He speaks Spanish and is slowly picking up Arabic and maybe a little bit of French too. Once we got to Tangier, Ben took us to a market that had tons of fresh food. Meat, vegetables (veg, haha!), fruits, and more olives than you could ever imagine. It wasn't the cleanest, but it was the start of our introduction to the Moroccan way of life. Ben navigated the market and bought us some yummy food (cause he takes eating seriously-- those are his own words). Then we headed for an organization called DARNA, an organization that helps women who don't have men to help them in their lives learn skills to survive on their own and what not. It was interesting to talk a little bit with some Moroccan students there. And then we had the most amazing kouskous I've ever eaten, followed with traditional Moroccan mint tea.

Fast forward to day three. Rabat, a main city in Morocco. The previous night we were introduced to our homestay families. A couple girls and I were put with Suad, a teacher who lives with her 2 or 3 nieces (she's not married). In the homestays, the first thing that struck me was the welcoming environment. Suad and her nieces gave us dos (or tres or cuatro) besos to welcome us and had the biggest smiles I think anyone could ever have. They fed us and showed us our beds so we could sleep.

We also got to ride camels on the beach. Kind of like riding a horse, but you have to hold on more when they get up. And it's higher up.

Okay, I want to explain to you a little bit about our experience in the homestay. First, Suad didn't speak English. Most Moroccans speak Arabic as their first language and then French, and then few speak English. So Suad spoke Arabic to her family, and French to us (my friend Montana knows a little French, so she helped us communicate a little). That being said, there is a language barrier. It was weird not being able to talk to my "mom" straight up like I can talk to Maricarmen in Granada. However, I learned that spoken language doesn't always matter. The language that came through was the love, hospitality, and openness of their lives and homes to us. This was my first direct experience with the Moroccan people and started to open my eyes to this culture and people.

In Rabat, where we spent 2 full days, we got to talk with the director of the soon-to-be-open IES Rabat center, Muhammad. He told us a little bit about his ideas for the Rabat program and got our feedback about what we think he should add/change. Then we talked with a woman who is studying gender issues in Morocco/Africa. More on this later.

We saw the Mausoleum of Mohamed V (the current king's father who died about 10 years ago; the king's father and grandfather are both buried there). Then we met Moroccan students and got to hang out with them for about 3 hours. This was really interesting, and definitely something I wouldn't be able to do had I come on my own to Morocco. They all spoke English because they're studying it. I talked with Muhammad, a 26 year old sailer whose English is less than perfect. We talked about life and jobs and school and the marriage system in Morocco. He couldn't always understand me because of my American "accent" (I totally don't have an accent), but he could understand a British accent, because that's what he was accustomed to. So, what did I do? You guessed it, talked in a British accent to him. Yes, me, a Missourian, talked to my Moroccan friend in a British accent. Hey, whatever you have to do to communicate, right?!

Later we went to the hammam baths, traditional baths in Morocco. The women (and maybe men too, I'm not sure) go to the baths once a week or so. The baths are basically three rooms connected with a doorway opening. It's like a sauna it's so hot. You go in and lather yourself up with some sort of special soap. Then you get buckets full of piping hot water and wash yourself. Then you use an exfoliating glove and scrub all of the dead skin off your body. Then you pour more water on yourself. Then you wash your hair. And more water. And help your neighbor scrub her back. And more water. You get the point. We sat in there for about an hour. It was quite an interesting experience, and a good bonding experience for us girls of the group. Oh, one more thing. So the Moroccan women go to these baths once and week and then usually shower only 2 or so more times per week. Interesting concept, but I understand because showers and water and such aren't the same there as they are in the US or even Spain. After the baths we got henna tatoos and went to sleep.

Day four. We drove to the Rif Mountains and hung out with a family in a small village all day. This family lives off the land. They have a turkish toilet (basically a hole in the ground that you squat over; these are actually all over Morocco and more common than "western" toilets). They had little electicity. The oldest son (17 years old) had to walk an hour to school. He actually lives at school and only comes home on the weekends. They don't have a car. They do everything with donkeys. They entertain themselves by talking, doing daily chores, playing with a soccer ball, whatever they can find to do. Simplicity of life.

After, we drove to Chefchaouen and got settled into our hostal for the night. Later, after we left the village we went back into town and did some touristy shopping stuff. Then we had dinner and went to bed.

Day five. We got up early and walked to a high point in the town of Chefchaouen. This town is situated in the mountains, literally. There is a wall that goes around the city that was used to protect the city's inhabitants from invasions. It was beautiful.

So what did I learn from Morocco? Well, a lot. First, I learned about Islam and how people practice it in their lives. The whole country is run on Islam. It's what their government is governed by. The King is highly respected (people have pictures of him in their house) and follows the Koran in order to rule the people. I think, as a US citizen, we have a skewed picture of what the Islamic religion is all about. For me, what I've been fed to know is that Islam is a religion that is somewhat crazy and that the people who practice it hate the US. Being in Morocco broke down all of these stereotypes for me. The people in Morocco are Muslim. It is their way of life. They pray 5 times a day in the mosque. They follow the rules of their religion, almost to a T. They can't drink or smoke marajuana legally. The women are treated as less, though there are movements to get women a higher place in society, such as an act that was passed in 2003 stating that women now have the right to divorce their husbands. But as far as being terrorists or something like that, it's not true of the vast majority of Moroccans. They are actually a very loving population of people. Everywhere we went people noticed us. They talked to us in English. They were happy we were there. They stared at us. They smiled at us. They simply loved us. As for their religion, it is engrained into who they are. It's part of their identity. So here's what has been swirling in my head about all of this:

Is it really possible to say that, even though these people aren't "Christian", they are wrong? I have a hard time believing it. They have shown me more love in 5 days than some "Christians" do in a lifetime. They are devoted to their religion. Every part of their life is saturated by it, even down to the language which centers around giving God praise (example, lhumdullah means "thank God" and they say it when something good happens, aka, all the time). And I know it's real to them. My friend Stephanie was sick and had to go to the doctor in Morocco. When she got home, her host father, who doesn't speak English, came up to her, put his hand on her cheek and forehead, and started saying a prayer over her. When she explained this to me, it gave me chills. Here is this man who she just met, praying for her to get better. He doesn't know what religion she is. He doesn't know her. But he cares. And he knows his god can make her better. He has faith. If that's not real, I don't know what is. So how can I possibly say that another religion is wrong? Though they have different ideas and theologies, some of which I may not agree with, I think it's possible we all worship the same God. It's the human interpretation that comes in and stinks up everything in between.

Second, American privilage. I hear this all the time, but never understood what it meant until now. In America, if there is a person from another country that doesn't speak English, we expect them to learn. In Morocco, they expected to speak to us in English. Whoa. They respected us. They were intrigued by us. They wanted to know us. When we left the country yesterday, as we were walking across the border with all of the Moroccans that were trying to get into Spain (which is a hard thing to do, and a whole other issue in itself), they created a pathway for us to get by. Respect. There is a girl in the program who is Lebanonese. She couldn't come on the trip because she would have had to have gotten a visa to enter the country because she has a Lebanonese passport. As an American, we didn't have to jump these hoops. American privilage. I am so blessed to have been born in the US and have the opportunities that I have.

Third, I learned that I want to know more languages. French is one I heard a lot of, and I realized it's really close to Spanish. So, I'm planning on taking French my senior year of college. And I'd love to learn German too, and maybe Arabic someday. Hence the title of the blog, I want to be a polyglot. That's a person who speaks many languages.

That's what I learned, in a nutshell. If you want to know more in-depth about my learning, let me know, because it doesn't stop here. My biggest question is, with what I learned, what am I to do? How do I go on from here?

Now for the pictures. Not all I have, obviously, but some.

Rock of Gibralter with a mosque in front. Yes, I climbed that.

Monkey business.

Top of the Rock of Gibralter overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Lots of ships.

Olives, anyone?

"Sarah, smile!" This is my "I can't believe I'm on a camel in Morocco/I might pee my pants" look. Apparently I need to lay off the galletas con crema chocolate.

Mausoleum of Mohamed V.

Tombs of current King Mohamed's father and grandfather.

Guard inside the Mausoleum trying not to smile. I'm sure he has about 572.5 pictures taken of him per day.

Moroccan family love! Left to right: Sister of Suad, Kawtar (niece), Suad (my mom), me, Lauren, Montana, and Fatima.

Dance party on our incredibly small bus.

Overlooking the city of Chefchaouen in the Rif Mountains. Beautiful city!

Our group for the 5 day trip. We used Turkish toilets, ate kouskous, danced with village people, went to the hammam baths, and bonded. I love these people!

And to top it all off, this was at the restaurant we stopped at on our way home. I couldn't resist taking a picture.

Sometimes the language barrier gets in the way. It's supposed to say "Please do not throw butts in the toilet" aka cigarette butts. Baha!!

Well, that's all I have for you. But it was an exceptionally long post. Soon I'll post my pictures from Valencia, but not now. :) Hasta luego!