Friday, May 4, 2012

La úlitima blog post...


La última blog post…

I officially leave Spain in a week and a day. You know how people tell you that time flies and you nod your head in agreement but don’t truly believe them? Well, I won’t be doing that again; they are completely correct. Before I continue my sentimentality, I want to write a bit about my Ireland adventure…it deserves the time and space.
If I had to describe Ireland in three words, which would I choose? Hospitable, rugged, and wet. *laughs* Wet might be an understatement. We arrived in Dublin at 12:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, having caught a plane with my friend Rebekah’s brother, John. I met Rebekah in church, and when I asked her where good places to stay in Dublin were (she is from Ireland), she told me to stay with her family! So Sarah and I get there in the early morning, and food has been left out for us. Let me tell you, that was our Wednesday/Thursday/Friday morning; the family fed us breakfast, offered us tea, and saved us dinner. They were truly the most hospitable family that I’ve met in my life, and it both floored me and challenged me to live in a similar manner.
When we woke up Wednesday morning, we officially met Vinny, a student in his late 20s who is studying for a master’s in chaplaincy. Vinny has been living with this family on and off for months, because he lives across the country. Instead of going home each week, they let him live there (wasn’t kidding about hospitality!). He was heading back to Galway, but he offered to show us around Dublin and proceeded to do so for the next three hours. And when he heard that we were bound for Galway during the weekend, he volunteered to show us around. Irish hospitality=inescapable.
Where does “wet” come in? Wednesday it poured for about 10 hours straight, with winds that turned your umbrella inside out just to laugh at you. We more or less acclimated to the wet clothes/shoes and visited the Guinness Factory, did a bit of shopping, drank lots of coffee, and went swing dancing! So so fun…now I’ve danced in Spain, France, and Ireland. Approve.
After another day of touring, we went down to Galway; Vinny made good on his promise. What a sweet, sweet man. He took time out of both Friday and Saturday to show us the cathedrals, take us to coffee, drive us out to the rugged land of Connemara, dedicate a song to us in an Irish pub, read us poetry, and just share life with us.  This deserves pages, but I can’t adequately describe it now, so I’ll leave it at the fact that God truly blessed us through him.
We also went on a day tour of the countryside, and I was floored. I chose “rugged” because while there are portions of Ireland that are pastoral, my favorite parts were undoubtedly the coasts, the hills with jagged rocks, the ocean crashing against my beloved lighthouse…*nods* It was incredible.
Also, I have to give a shoutout to the most PRECIOUS B&B ever. Roncanalli House, run by a 70+ year old couple, was the cutest little place with lovely food, cheery rooms, and just a sense of peace surrounding it. The man would walk around the house singing, and the woman, Carmel, was as sweet as her name. *smiles*
Everything couldn’t be perfect, though—that’s not fair, right? *laughs* Sarah and I got SICK—we had a long day of traveling interspersed with more rain and a bus breaking down at 12:30 a.m….didn’t get home until 8:00 a.m. By that time, neither of us could hear a thing; when we went to the doctor, we found out that we both had ear infections. She has bronchitis, and we both have pink eye. Ha. TOTALLY worth it. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Now I’m leaving Spain…a month ago I thought I was ready for it. However, now the language is beginning to flow, and I’ve developed in my character. I’ll risk more, ask more questions, be the fool in order to get things done. Now I speak Spanish with my dear friend Manu, who is so patient with me as I ask him countless Spanish grammar questions. I’m realizing that while I still am yearning to go home, this has become a home to me as well (I NEVER thought I’d say that—I was a Sevilla hater for the longest time =P). It’s going to be hard, guys. Really, really hard.
On the bright side, I’m excited to see everyone in a week and a day...

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Three Weeks Left...


I know that my blog posts are becoming increasingly few and far between, and I’m sorry for it. The Internet situation has become increasingly worse, and I only have another 3 weeks here. Crazy, no? I assume that by now there are very few people who read this, and I deserve that =P However, for the few of you who do read this (Hi mom =P), I’ll keep it up.
I’m currently in a “piso” (apartment) in Tarifa, Spain-- the southernmost point in Europe. Today I stood on a bridge; on my left I saw the Mediterranean sea and on my right was the Atlantic. The Atlantic was furious, with strong gusting winds and giant waves. The Mediterranean was its contrast, a blue, crystal sea with far less wind.  Five friends and I rented an apartment here for a beach weekend, and it was more or less a success. Granted, the winds are strong enough to explain why the Atlantic beach is famous for its kite surfing and it’s only about 65 degrees, but it’s been sunny enough to…well, as Kevin says, “Beach ourselves like whales.” 
The pasts two weeks have been a blur, spending time in classes and wandering Sevilla. I’ve been blessed to get to know Manu, a Spaniard who has been wonderful to me. Last Sunday we went to las Cetas (the Mushrooms), which is a series of huge white wooden structures that look kind of like mushrooms. We went up and walked around them, him speaking in English and I in Spanish as a kind of intercambio (exchange). I’ve only met with him a few times, but he’s been wonderful, correcting all of my mistakes and being willing to answer my endless stream of questions. I wish I had met him earlier, but I’ve improved after just talking with him twice. 
He also took me to watch the Hunger Games dubbed in Spanish (no subtitles). Guess what? I understood CASI TODO! Almost everything. Let me tell you, after being discouraged at the language plateau that I’ve hit, it was a blessing .
This Spain thing has been awful for my self-control and for my work ethic. My goodness, the food I have consumed and the homework I HAVEN’T done. I am making myself leave the beach early to get back to Sevilla and do homework. Why? Because…
IRELAND! In three days I’ll be there, and in four days I will be able to dance again. Love.  Dublin for 3 days and Galway for 3 days….Cliffs of Moher (think Princess Bride =P) and the national park (think PS I Love YOU)…and  I splurged and booked a B&B so we don’t have to stay in a hostel. 
Miss you guys…coming home May 12th. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

European Adventures....

I know that it’s been quite a while since I’ve updated, but it’s been a busy few weeks. Last week was my spring break, so I went to Paris, Rome, Florence, and Venice with my dear friend Tasia. It’s still surreal; I had always dreamed of traveling to these cities, but I never really thought I would, you know? What a blessing.

I had friends here in Spain who jokingly criticized me for leaving the country; “You’re here to learn Spanish—stay here!” they told me. I understand that mentality, and it is wise, but Tash and I had planned on going on our trip already. And the result? Wouldn’t have changed a thing. In fact, I practiced Spanish almost as much abroad as I would have here! When we arrived in Paris, we checked into our hostel in Spanish. Our roommates were from Spain and Latin America when we stayed in Rome, and we often sat by Spanish speakers on trains. We also made it our rule to speak in Spanish whenever we stood in lines; thus, we practiced for hours =P

There’s no way to recount all of the trip, but I’ll write out my highlights/things I learned/our schedule.

Friday 5:30 a.m.: leave for Paris

Sunday 5:30 a.m.: leave for Rome

Tuesday morning: leave for Florence

Wednesday morning: leave for Venice

Thursday night: leave for home

Friday night: arrive home.

Ha. Traveling home….*laughs* Ready for this? FUN day. Thursday 7:30 p.m. take a train back to Rome. 11:30 p.m. -3:30 a.m. stay in a 24 hour McDonalds waiting for the bus to take us to the Rome airport. 7:00 a.m. Friday flight to Valencia, Spain. 12:40 train to Madrid, Spain. 4:00 p.m. train to Sevilla. Arrive home at 7:00 p.m. Friday night. After that, I feel like I can do anything =P

Highlights from Paris:

-Men falling in love with Tasia (we get much better service that way…free chocolate, too!)

-Shakespeare and Company bookstore

-Our hostel (imagine a closet with 6 beds, a shower, 3 dirty men, and 1 nice German man to watch out for us. All I could do was laugh…)

-Climbing the Eiffel Tower (Thank you Lord for sustaining my knees!) while listening to Josh Groban’s French songs.

-Watching the Eiffel Tower light up at night, and then going to a cave/restaurant and swing dancing the night away

-Walking through the Moulin Rouge district at 5:30 a.m. (I almost punched someone. A little too sketchy for my liking…but a good story I suppose.)

Rome:

-Amazing gnocchi, gnocchi, and cappuccino

-the market (nice Italian men and wonderful gifts for friends!)

-the Colosseum

-24 hour McDonalds (when it’s either that or staying outside for 5 hours, McDonalds is the most appealing place in the world). Plus, another man fell in love with Tasia and bought her a strawberry shake, so we got free food. We also made friends with the security guard (yes, necessary in that part of Rome), so no one messed with us.

Florence:

-David statue

-playing “Guess Who” in a room full of Roman heads (“does your person look demon possessed? “ “They ALL look demon possessed…” )

-Meeting a new friend, Ian, in line and getting advice for my New York trip

-The B&B (after hostels, our own shower and room were INCREDIBLE)

Venice:

-Being on the water

-Living on Lido (cutest little island…with YARDS! It’s amazing after living in a city like Sevilla the things you miss…)

-The men (we can all appreciate God’s creation, no? He happened to place a lot of nice looking men on that island—it would be rude not to admire His work, right? =P )

-Shopping ….normally I despise it, but after seeing more famous monuments and museums than I could keep track of, simply walking around and looking at shops was a wonderful change of pace.

-The pastries and coffee. Hehe.

More later hopefully…time to actually do my homework. Pictures are on facebook.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Japanese +Frisbees+ Bikes + Knees=Interesting Week...

This Spanish adventure wouldn't be complete without hectic midterms, Japanese people, bike incidents, frisbee cravings, and medical emergencies, no?

Well, it's good to know that I'm still the same person in some ways here that I was in the United States. I had five midterms last week that I really hadn't studied for, but the weekend before, I had the strongest urge to play frisbee. So I decided to go look for frisbees instead of studying on Monday; how hard could that be, right?

*laughs*

They play every sport in the world here BUT frisbee apparently. When I asked shop owners, I received an, "I'm sorry ma'am, we only play sell them in the summer. Although perhaps you could find them in the children's section..." Well, I tried again Wednesday instead of studying and received the same response. Then I crammed...tested, and life was fine. However, I still didn't have my frisbee.

The next step was to order it online. I tried, and the next day received a message that my order was rejected. My daddy was understood my frisbee need and let me use his credit card, but the same thing happened. So what is there to do?

Answer: walk to a bus station 45 minutes away, ask where the nearest sporting store is, get the number of the bus, ask the bus driver to tell me when to get off, walk through a sketchy neighborhood until I can find someone to give me directions, find the store, buy the BEAUTIFUL frisbee, ask someone for directions to a bus stop for Sevilla, and make it home. It was a good, good day...

You know what makes the day better? Almost-medical emergencies. I ran into my friends Kevin and Robbie, and we decided that we'd break in the new frisbee after their classes. Kevin got out early, so we went to go play. While we were playing, he decided to show me one of his old tap dancing moves (theater majors! Good boys), and as he was doing his turn, he screamed and crumpled to the ground. I ran to him, and he was holding his knee in his hand, telling me that he had dislocated it. At this moment in my life, I was really kicking myself for never having taken the first aid class that I had wanted to. I just kept thinking, "I'm a police officer's daughter. I should know better than this...fail." I didn't want to call an ambulance right away, because he didn't seem to be dying, so I gave him water and made him lay still as I called one of my friends, Ian, who I thought would have had experience in this sort of matter. He told me he'd be there in ten, and same with Robbie. So we sat there, me talking at him, holding his hand, and making him drink water every time he started saying how idiotic he was. The boys made it, and they spent 10 minutes discussing the best way to go about helping Kevin. Suddenly, he gave a yelp. We turned at him, and he said, "It popped back in!" *laughs* After giving him drugs (ibuprofen) and chocolate, he was a happy camper. And guess what? I still got to play frisbee =)

Last weekend we made a day trip to Córdoba, which had a beautiful Mosque/Cathedral. However, I will shamelessly admit that I spent as much time looking at the Japanese tourists inside as the building itself. *laughs* Yes, I miss Japan...

About bikes...I just think I should avoid them. At all costs. They aren't good for my knees to begin with, but I needed to get home in time for dinner, and I was late. My friend offered me the chance to use his public transportation bike, and I accepted hesitantly, warning him that I was sure to screw something up. He laughed at me, asking how I could possibly do that. Ha. It's me--I'd find a way.

Trip summary: 1st minute: run into a boy. 2nd minute: ride into the most crowded area and have to walk the bike. 4th minute: get stuck behind deaf men who can't hear my bell. 8th minute: turn onto a street with no sidewalk and a 100 car traffic jam. 9th minute: be THAT American pretending that her bike is a motorcycle and can compete with the rest of the traffic. 12th minute: see a shooting star (worth it!). Next day: find out that the bike wasn't put in right---we'll see how much I owe my friend in fees =P I'm going to just keep walking...

I hope that you all had a wonderful Spring Break and have been enjoying the gorgeous weather. Email me and update me on life if you get a chance--I LOVE hearing from you all. Or even better--write me a letter? Favorite thing EVER. I'm off--I have to do a few things before class. Lisbon, Portugal this weekend!








Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Barcelona, Extremadura, and Christie Albain!

My internet and I have been having a month-long war, and the current update is that it has won 3 battles. I still can't use it at home, and this has been my first chance to get out to a coffee shop and do a real update.

I've heard that it's in the 60's and 70's at home. Crazy? Happy for you =)

What an incredible couple of weeks it has been, though! Two weekends ago 6 friends and I went to Barcelona for the weekend. I prefer that city over Madrid, or at least the parts of it that I was able to see. Madrid has some wonderful aspects, but I love the mixture of cultures in Barcelona. To be able to walk down the street and hear someone speaking Castellano (Spanish), Catalán, English in 3 different accents, German, French, and Japanese...oh, I was in heaven. The normal "attractions" of Barcelona did not interest me as much as it did others; Gaudí's architecture was interesting, but I don't love it. Plus, Piccasso and I really don't get along. I did enjoy Park Güell, which was Gaudí's design, and a cute old man gave me a 10 minute summary of the city there. However, awesome moment---I ran into Tasia Widner at the Sagrada Familia! Small world, no? =P

Highlight...I suppose you all can guess: dancing! Yes, there was Lindy Hop there, and I danced two nights in a row. What I find fascinating about dancing is that it's like another language--perhaps that's why I love it so much. I was able to communicate through the same dance with people who live halfway across the world. *dies* I do have some work to do, though, for they Charleston far better than I do!

During that trip, I got a message from Christie Albain asking if she could visit me the next week. Umm, yes?! So she showed up in Sevilla on Monday evening, and she spent until Friday with me. While I had class, she explored the city--she found out more than I have about Sevilla =P I'm grateful for her, though, because she threw a wrench into my routine and sparked my curiosity again. I am now exploring as much as I can, as much as my time and knees will allow. We definitely had a tea party in a terrace on top of her hostel overlooking Sevilla, and we also tried to make a Spanish Omlette. It tasted incredible...but it turned out like scrambled eggs with potatoes =P

This past weekend was Extremadura. About 25 students and our leader, Kepa, took a bus three hours north into the more mountainous landscape. I can't begin to describe how refreshing the trip was. On Friday, we visited Merida, which held the remains of an old Roman amphitheater and stadium. We then traveled to Trujillo, where we visited an old castle (please don't ask when it was built--my mind has lost the capacity to sort out which building was created in the 15th century and which in the 14th!). That part was a turning point for me in my trip, although I didn't think about it like that at the moment. There was a small chapel at the top of the castle, and I spent 20 minutes up there, just praying about my knees. It's been a hard thing to handle here--I don't think I can accurately put into words how emotionally painful it is. However, I gave it up that night. There has to be a reason for it--it's not arbitrary pain, and I know that. It was time for me to trust instead of nurse bitterness about it. The next day I would see the fruit of that decision.
Before that story, we definitely had an amazing night. 5 friends and I had a 4 course meal, and we just sat there for 2 hours and enjoyed ourselves. Afterwords, we were able to go up to a terrace and see the castle lit up under the stars. *shakes head* Amazing. I vote America gets some castles.

The next day we traveled to a little city, and the bus dropped us off to do a ten mile hike through the mountains to our next city. For the longest time, I had planned on not doing the hike--if I couldn't walk more than 3 miles without being in significant pain, how could I do this? Well, I told Kepa that I wanted to try...for some reason I felt like I needed to. Kepa looked and me and said, "You know, you have to make it all the way. There's no option." I told him I could. And you know what? God was so good. I hiked ten miles through the mountains, and it was the best decision I've made all trip. Finally I trusted Him...and He was so faithful. I felt hardly any pain in my knees, and I was able to do something that I hadn't done in almost two years. *smiles*

That night we stayed in a monastery built in the 15th century---BEAUTIFUL! My room had a balcony and a rocking chair--what more do I need? =) There was also a secret room above my mine with a spiral staircase leading up to it.

Needless to say, I got no homework done that weekend, even though I have 5 midterms this week (yes, 2 tomorrow and I am updating instead. Good life decision). However, I wouldn't change a thing. Good conversations, fresh air, an inner refreshing as well...so necessary.

I really ought to go and start studying. I think it will be easier after getting happy stories into writing.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Oh, culture...

Preface: Random and slightly cynical post.

Cultural differences intrigue me. Each time I encounter a new one I can’t help but laugh.

New game idea: Spain vs. U.S. –Who is worse? The objective of the game is for each country to show its most strange or obnoxious cultural differences.

Spain: Well, we spit in the street all the time…

U.S.: That’s nothing new. People in River Falls do it constantly and it grosses Katie out…

Spain: Well, we are overly dramatic all the time. Qué horror! Qué fatal! No me digas! My life is going to end!

U.S.: Well, at least most people in Spain don’t drink to get wasted like the majority of people in the U.S.

Spain: That’s okay, everyone smokes on the street and spends 10 euros a day on packs to make up for it…

U.S.: That may be true, but at least you enjoy your lives! We run around from 6:00 a.m. and drop into bed at midnight, exhausted by the amount of work we’ve done.

Spain: Well, we do laugh at people who say they want "liberty" and "rights." Working less and being taken care of is a good trade off for liberty.

Eek I wonder how many people I offended with that =P Yes, it's general stereotypes and doesn't apply to everyone.I honestly enjoy many things about both cultures, but some things are frustrating. Good to realize that one isn’t “better” than the other, you know? Different. Entirely different.

Fun fact: Did you know that people don’t do crazy proposals in Spain? Women hate the attention. If you do it, she’ll probably hit you.

I’m off to Barcelona tomorrow! Excited for the city, the culture, and the dancing (a month is far too long to go without swing dancing).

As promised, highlights of my trip via pictures....oh, fakeout. Upload failed...and I have to finish packing. Well, pictures are on Facebook, but I'll post some Barcelona ones when I get back.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Pictures when I get Internet--Scouts Honor...

Hello! First off, I would like to apologize to everyone I haven’t responded to yet on facebook or email; my laptop likes to steal all the bandwith from the other computers in the house and then not actually use it. Thus, I have about 5 minutes of Internet functionality before it dies. My phone has wifi, but emails are…inconvenient that way =P

Last weekend I went to Granada, which was gorgeous. Sevilla is a flat, metropolitan city with its gorgeous touches of antiquity: the cathedral, the 3 foot wide alleyways that lead to secret plazas, the countless parks with orange trees and fountains, etc. However, Granada is an entirely different kind of beautiful. Mountainous, jagged, with thick dark forests close to the Alhambra. The city is hilly as well, which made it even more beautiful (Ah, the irony of bad knees and a love of hiking). We saw a flamenco show in a cozy cave (Dad, the worst place in the world to have a fire—I thought of you as I realized that if anything went wrong, I’d be burned alive or trampled in the back of a crowd of panicking American lemmings). Flamenco is a beautiful, passionate, aggressive dance; I enjoyed it for the first 20 minutes, but that was enough for me. I’m sorry, but there will be no cultural transfusion coming from me—no desire to learn. We also toured the Alhambra, the palaces built by the Muslim kings before the Christians took over. Gorgeous, but again, not my interest. I honestly enjoyed the gardens far more than I did the buildings and history. Mom, you and Grandma and Randy would have just died.

Sunday I went to church again, and this time I met an exchange student from Dublin, Rebekah. What a blessing! She taught me how to use the metro and was just a sweetheart—needed it that day. I spent the next 5 hours on Skype with Tasia planning out our spring break. As much as people rave about how cheap it is to travel in Europe, they fail to mention the relativity of the word “cheap.” Ugh. Good thing I have the rest of my life to work, no? *laughs* Tash and I are headed to Paris for two days, then we fly to Italy and spend the week exploring Rome, Florence, and Venice. Then we will take a ferry from Italy to Barcelona…and make it in time for a little swing dancing =) I may or may not buy a loaf of bread and a jar of Nutella and eat sandwiches all week, but I’ll be in France and Italy! Everything tastes better there, no? =P

Starting next Thursday, I’ll be helping teach English two mornings a week in a bilingual German/Spanish school. No big deal that the kids are learning their third language...*shakes head* I also met with a man today who wants a teacher for very basic English for children and conversation for adults. As much as I despise being in front of people, it means money, experience, and pushing myself. I vote yes.

I’m sorry that I have no photos in this blog either—I need to upload it before I lose Internet. As soon as it’s fixed there will be a blog with more pictures than words. Promise. Here’s to writing this on Microsoft Word and hoping the five minutes of Internet will be gracious to me…

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Week 3: Church Search Round 2, Travels, and Choclate

This will be a "grown up" blog post (aka no pictures for those of us who need pictures to keep us entertained--me included). I still haven't taken the time to take pictures of the city; honestly, it's cold and I'm waiting for warmer weather. Yes, you can make fun of me for calling 35-55 degrees cold.

Sunday was absolutely wonderful. "Church Search: Round 2" is how I thought of it. I decided to try a church about a half an hour from my house, hoping I wouldn't get lost this time. I made it about 25 minutes and was getting close, but I was also getting to the more complicated part of the city. Suddenly, I saw a well dressed yet semi-disheveled man on my left; he was carrying a Bible in his right hand. God seems to love sending me people to get me places--He knows I probably wouldn't get there otherwise *laughs*. So I threw my directions in my purse and followed him at a mostly-discreet distance. Poor man. Sure enough, I found the church. It wasn't until the preaching started that I realized I had followed the pastor...

What an awesome experience, though. I almost didn't go; throwing myself into a situation like that is entirely out of character. Plus, the church is quite small; only 40 or so people were gathered in a small room, so I definitely stood out. However, I really got to see real love in action; five people genuinely greeted me before the service, introduced me to everyone else, and got my email so that I could get to know the young people. Also, I understood nearly the entire sermon, and the service was wonderful.

Classes are going well, albeit busy. Granted, I might be one of the 4 students that actually do their homework in a study abroad program...*laughs* I worked hard already, so I may as well finish that way. However, I realized that reading a 30 page article in Spanish takes a significantly longer time to read than one in English...and that a page of translation may or may not take four hours. I truly love the classes, though.


Happy Valentine's Day! I hope you've eaten as much chocolate as I have today...in fact, one more before bed sounds perfect. *nods* It may or may not be dark chocolate with mousse in the middle...miss you guys.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Who needs street signs anyways?



One thing I often wonder about is why my father has such a wonderful sense of direction and didn't pass it on to me. Then I figured it out; would I have half of my adventures if I never got lost? *shakes head* I do apologize in advance to whoever I'm traveling with, and I promise that my sense of orientation is getting better.

On Sunday I wanted to go to a protestant church, so I looked up one on the Internet, got the address, and left for church. Mistake number one: I forgot a map. I did write directions, but they aren't very helpful if you make a wrong turn. In Spain, they don't post the majority of street signs in obvious places. They are written on the sides of buildings, or else they are just absent. I left 40 minutes before church, but by 15 minutes to service time, I knew I was completely lost. I knew which direction was home, but I didn't feel like staying in the house. As I was walking back, I saw a well-dressed father with 4 well-dressed children, and I figured they were probably heading off to church. I followed, and sure enough, I found a church. Granted, not the one I was looking for, but I got to experience a Spanish mass--an integral part of Spanish society.

Unfortunately, that's not the only time I got lost. Yesterday, I was looking for our program's office (which is marked on my map...*shakes head*), and I couldn't find the street sign. I searched for a good hour before giving up. However, by then I was in an unknown neighborhood and couldn't locate the names of the streets on the buildings. However, I did by chance find a store with discounts for nearly everything I still needed, so much good came of the trip. I had wandered a good distance from home, but thankfully I did find a street I recognized and arrived home with sore knees but still a thick wallet. *nods* Yay for Chinese discount stores!

School has started as well, which is a relief. I didn't know what to do with all my free time--now, I don't think I'll have much. Five high advanced classes taught in Spanish will be enough to keep me busy for awhile. Two are literature, one politics, translation, and cinema.

I do wish I could share my food. My host mom is a wonderful cook, and I need to start taking pics of the food. One of the highlights of being here is that I walk much more than at home, and my appetite has returned. I eat my weight in carbs each day, and it's lovely.

I probably should start organizing myself for classes, but I'll leave you with a picture of my city viewed from the top of the Giralda (a large tower in the center of town). The city is a sort of contradictory feel of metropolitan and antinguity--not sure how I feel about it yet.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Toledo y Sevilla


The past few days have been...adventures. Before I begin, I must say that I spoke too quickly about beating jet lag. My poor roommate must have thought me crazy. I went to bed at 10:00 p.m. the night before leaving for Sevilla, and I woke up to her leaving the room. I assumed it was time for breakfast, so I got up and started getting ready. Two minutes later she returned and gave me a strange look. I asked her what time it was, and she said 11:00 p.m. I suppose that mistake is understandable if one does it once, but I did the same thing two hours later. *shakes head*

The next morning we stopped in Toledo before heading to Sevilla. I can't begin to describe the city; the landscape was rugged, and castles, churches, and homes from centuries past were still nestled in the hills and on top of cliffs. Inside the city stood the most venerated church in all of Spain, Catedral Primada Santa María de Toledo.

That night we arrived and met our host families. All of us looked as if we were going out on a first date/interview; I assume you are familiar with the pasty white face and the smile that you hope is authentic and friendly but in reality just makes you look more nervous? *nods* That was all of us. However, I couldn't have asked for a better host family. My Mamá is talkative, accommodating, and ridiculously sweet. Carlos, the father, is educated and often busy with work, but he has an easy smile and helps me with my vocabulary. Rosi, the daughter, is a student at the University as well, and she is lovely, although very busy.

Yesterday our group spent the day getting to know the city a little better. We toured the Cathedral here (the largest Gothic style Cathedral in the world and the third largest overall), and we saw El Plaza de España. You know in Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones, there is a huge plaza where they hold a fight? It was filmed there. I couldn't get a Panorama, so you have a video with me talking nonsense at the end of the post. Ignore me and enjoy the view.

By far the most humorous thing of this trip was the bike tour. In Sevilla, they have a running bike service where one can rent a bike and return it at a different location. There are bike paths on every street, and it's quite convenient. However, I don't think the services should ever be utilized in the way our group did. API decided to take us on a two hour bike tour of the city. Imagine 38 Americans in a single file line of bikes on streets busier than the Twin Cities'. We clogged the streets and undoubtedly provided free entertainment for countless people. For the first twenty minutes, I could hardly stand the stares, but then I realized that I was actually able to RIDE! Because of my knees, I haven't been able to ride a bike for more than 10 minutes the past 2 years. However, yesterday I rode for 2 hours; heck, I'd do the American bike parade again just to ride. What a blessing. Daddy, you'd be proud =)

Today we had orientation at our University. I honestly haven't been so excited to start school before; the building is incredible, and the challenge of taking classes in another language has me anticipating Monday. I'll post pictures of the University when I get a chance to take some.

Before I go, I got a chance to visit Real Alcalzares, or the Royal Palaces in Sevilla. Mom/Blond John--the gardens there are from my book, too =) Picture for you!






video

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Madrid




Traveling makes me realize how absolutely amazing the human body is. How one can travel for 20 hours, eat food completely unknown to the palate, and then walk miles upon miles for the next few days is beyond me. However, I'm quite grateful for it. In fact, I've been able to make it three days before my injuries have started to really bother me--total blessing.

The past two days have been full of tourist activities, which is quite humorous to me. My mother will attest to the fact that I despise standing out anywhere and do my best to blend in. Now picture 70 Americans traipsing through the streets of Madrid, laughing and joking and unaware of the picture we make. *shakes head* I've decided it is a character building experience...

Yesterday we saw the Palacio Real, which is the Royal Palace in which the king of Spain entertains his guests. It is a gorgeous building; although we weren't allowed to take pictures of the interior, I can show a bit of the architecture.



While that was gorgeous, I far preferred El Escorial, which is both a world-famous monastery and also acts as the tombs of the past kings and queens of Spain. This is what part of the exterior looks like (again, we couldn't take pictures inside):


I'm about to nerd out for just a second, so feel free to skip this if you don't want my "fun facts." It was built in 1573 by Phillip II as a palace and is full of windows, frescos, staircases (88--the monks have to have some awesome quads..), and has a library. The library, one of my favorite places, contains thousands of books, and its oldest copy dates back to the 5th century. It was written by Saint Augustine, one of my favorite authors (although the book is called "Ceremonies for Baptizing Children," and I haven't read it...strange, huh?). 30 feet underneath is where kings from the 16th century to present day are buried. It now functions as a monastery and a school, but royalty is still buried there. Also, there is a room called "La Sala de Secretos" or the Room of Secrets. It's a small square corridor with a dome, and if you talk straight into one corner of the wall, someone listening in the corner across from you diagonally will hear what you say perfectly. Phillip did it on purpose...

My other favorite part of El Escorial were the gardens. Blond John--I think that the gardens of the Escorial are in the book of Spanish gardens you gave me! I took pictures for you, Mom, myself, and any other garden lover.


We went to El Prado as well, but by that time my knees were quite dead and my ability to correctly appreciate art quite diminished. I guess I can say I've been there, at least =)

I realized that this quite dry for anyone who hasn't seen the sites, so I'll stop there. Tomorrow we leave Madrid and bus to Sevilla, where I'll meet my host family. Keep me updated on your lives? I'd like that very much (yes, that means facebooking me--truly would make me happy).

I'll leave you with one thing I know I will dearly miss when I go home...

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Spain...at last

I cannot promise that this blog will be fancy or anything near those lines, but I will write. I've decided that it will be a mutually beneficial relationship for me and all of my friends: I get to share some of my experiences (namely the embarrassing moments that occur more often than not), and you can laugh at me. With me? I've laughed already. Laughter has been known to provide certain health benefits, you know.

Honestly, the flight over went as smoothly as anything could, and it was full of mini-blessings straight from God. I had the exact change for my favorite Starbucks drink in the MPLS airport, which made me smile because I had just grabbed a handful of random coins before I left. Blues music was playing, so I was the strange girl in Starbucks dancing to myself. I flew from MPLS to Dallas, and my flight was delayed there, but that was a blessing as well. An older Spanish couple was sitting next to me, and I had the opportunity to get that first awkward Spanish conversation out of the way. They knew a combined 39 words of English, and the woman was half deaf. Combine that with my gringo accent, and you get lots of blank looks, "whats?"and then my favorite facial expression when something finally clicks. But they were old and adorable, so I was content.

The flight to Madrid was better than anything I could have wished for. When I sat down in my seat, a man asked me to switch with him in a different isle. I wasn't particularly attached to my seat, and I did so. Two minutes later, a Mexican girl my age sits next to me, all smiles. She is studying abroad in Spain as well, but in Guenca instead of Sevilla. We spent all the time that we weren't asleep talking and laughing...someone felt the same excitement and fears that I did, and she shared the moment with me. What a beautiful woman she is, too. Sweet, sweet heart.

I'm now writing from my hotel in Madrid. I'm honestly surprised at how quickly I've gotten over my fear of using Spanish--or perhaps it is simply incentive mixed with necessity. I couldn't get into my room (roommate was jet lagged and sleeping) and had to get in somehow, which meant that I could either ask for a key or wait. Also, I needed a security key for the Wifi. The important things in life, right? *shakes head* So the Spanish battle begins. I have to admit, it's kind of fun. Kind of a lot of fun. Maybe I won't come home? We'll see how the first week goes.