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: vacaciĆ³n --> 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 composiciĆ³n 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!