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!