Monday, September 28, 2015

First week of school!

First Day!
It’s Thursday night and I’m coming to you from my bed. I’m headed out on a trip this weekend so I figured that I’d do a recap of my first week of school for you before I head out! I’ll start off by saying that I’d call my first week of classes a success if not a roller coaster. There are several types of classes that are available for me to take: JYS seminars, cursos concertados, and regular university classes. I’m taking 3 cursos concertados, which are university classes taught by university professors specifically for students from the United States, and one regular university class, which is just that, a regular old university class. The regular class is very overwhelming, but the topic is interesting (“Modern” European History) and the professor is great. He gave me a breakdown of what exactly I need to read/do (for the rest of the students it’s just recommended reading) because it’s very difficult to keep up with him in class. I’m looking forward to the challenge, though I’m very anxious to get going with outlining everything for the coming week. Since I’m traveling though I’m going to have to wait until Monday to go to the library. Studious Holly does not like that and wants to start now. My other classes are good, they have interesting topics but it’s hard because they are all 2 hours. My regular class is only 1 and I’m used to 50 minute/1 hour 20 minute classes. It is nice that the cursos concertados are small though, it reminds me of SBC! (Also the fact that they are all either all or overwhelmingly female) My regular class has over 70 people and there aren’t enough seats for everyone so people have to sit on the floor. I try to sit in the front but on Tuesdays/Thursdays when I have another class right before and most of the seats are taken before I get there. Also, today there were significantly less people, but the professor said that was normal.
It’s really interesting being in such a big school (and I’m only in one building, each “department” has their own building). There’s 70,000 students total! The atmosphere is definitely different than Sweet Briar’s. It’s good to have a new experience, but I’m thankful for what I have at home! There’s no shortage of people watching and I do love being able to run to the cafeteria during the breaks in class and grab a café con leche para llevar (to go).

Note: It is now Monday morning. A recap of my trip will come soon!
Other things I did last week besides school: On Sunday I went to a “Festival of the Nations” that they had in Parque de Maria Luisa. It was like a big flea market. I mostly did window shopping but then ended up buying gelato and this elephant shirt. The guy who sold it was really nice and we had a pretty good conversation. He’s from Peru so we talked about that and how I wanted to go there at some point. He said I’d get there someday and I said I’d be sure to wear the elephant shirt! I love how sometimes it’s just so easy to have conversations in Spanish! I was also really proud when one day last week my host mom was telling us all a joke at lunch and I got it before her kids! One of the struggles with Spanish (or any second language) is not being able to joke or be sarcastic. It’s just difficult in general to have your personality show through. Oh, it was also hilarious when my host mom was showing us the church bulletin and there was two announcements from the same family within days of each other, one for a baptism and one for a wedding :) 

Okay, that’s all for this week, Portugal trip report coming soon!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

11 razones que España (Andalucía) es para vegetarianos

Guest post from my other (Spanish) blog :)
Todo el mundo sabe que España es una cultura que encanta su carne. Desde chorizo a pescado a jamón, los españoles parecen comer el carne con todos las comidas. Desde he estado en Sevilla, he comido mucha comida vegetariana y puedo decir-es fantástico. Aquí están 11 comidas vegetarianas debe probar:
  1. Gazpacho- una sopa hecho con varias verduras (con un base de tomates usualmente) y se sirve frió
  2. Tortilla española- es más como un “omelette” de que un “tortilla” pero está hecho con huevos, patatas, cebolla y aceite de oliva
  3. Pisto- varias verduras se sirven fríos y puede ser como “ratatouille” también. Puede usado solo o como relleno por empanadas
  4. Huevos a la flamenco- un mezcla de verduras y pimientos salteados con huevos (puede tener carne)
  5. Croquetas- son similares a “mozzarella sticks” pero es común tener croquetas con jamón y otros carnes
  6. Pastel de pan y queso- esto es como un “grilled cheese”. Contiene pan, huesos, y queso horneado en una cazuela
  7. Sopas- hay muchas sopas españolas que son vegetarianas, algunos son calientes y otros son fríos. Algunas de mis favoritas son sopa de garbanzos, sopa de puerros, sopa de calabaza y sopa de lentejas
  8. Pan- pan es un parte integral de comida española. Españoles comen pan para desayunar con tomate, jamón, mantequilla, aceite de oliva o mermelada. Para almuerza o cena hay pan en la mesa (usualmente) para comer y esta usado para poner comida en un tenedor. ¡Pan es el base de un bocadillo también!
  9. Frutas- hay muchas frutas disponibles en Andalucía. Mis favoritas son piñas y mandarinas y chirimoyas 
  10. Postres- todos los postres: pasteles, caramelos, helado, pudín, arroz con leche, tartas y muchas otras y no he probado, todavía.
  11. Mi favorita- berenjenas fritas con miel. ¡Que perfecto! No necesito explicar, pero deben probar.
¡Buen provecho!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

It ain't all good baby but it's all right: Real life

In front of the cathedral of Sevilla
I’ve come to love Sundays in Seville, it’s kind of like camp! I’m back at Café de Indias this week, I was going to go to this place with waffles but the pastries was just calling me in. Cappuccino carmelo and a chocolate pastry, Sundays are for treating myself…I should actually uphold that though because I eat wayyy to much gelato during the week!

More than anything, this felt like my first week actually living in Seville. I still had that “honeymoon feeling” but things are becoming a bit more “real-life” than vacation. Now, what do I mean by that? Several things actually. For starters, I’m beginning to realize that some comforts of home I just can’t find here. For example, earlier this week I had the worst stomach ache, probably from eating something with too much egg. I wanted to go find some ginger ale to calm it down. I must have gone to 6 different stores and I couldn’t find one that had it. I settled for a 7-Up and pretended that it was the same. In reality I might have been successful at El Corte Ingles (a huge department store) but the closest one is over a half hour walk and it was like 10pm. I was also really craving an iced coffee from Dunkin one day and finally broke down and went to “Dunkin Coffee”, which is basically the Spanish version of DD. They had lots of good looking doughnuts but the iced coffee was one of the saddest iced coffees that I’ve ever had, complete with a bunch of caramel syrup sitting at the bottom. Not worth it. Finally, I haven’t been very successful in watching any of my TV shows, because Spain. Not to be totally negative-I did find an illegal version of the new Cinderella online and loved watching that, along with a recording of the GOP debate.  Also this week my host mother has made the Spanish versions of both grilled cheese and mac and cheese.
Cathedral in Cadiz

Another more “real-life” experience has been signing up for things. I signed up for flamenco classes at the start of last week and went to my first one on Tuesday. I loved it! There are only three of us in the class at the moment. It’s fun to take a class in something that is at the very beginning level. I think as a dancer I expect (and others expect) that because I have dance experience that I’ll pick things up faster, or be more rhythmic/flexible/not a real beginner. As a perfectionist, this expectation can literally ruin a new experience. It was a blast to do something where I wasn’t expected to be any good, and believe me…I wasn’t! It was also interesting because the whole class was given in Spanish (obviously). I was really proud of how much I understood. I also had a conversation with one of the other people in my class before, so that was exciting. I am missing ballet, but the studio that I’m taking flamenco at does not have ballet classes at a time that I can take them. I also joined a gym this week. Signing up for that was more of a struggle as far as language goes, but you win some you lose some. It’s always frustrating when people resort to their bad English because your Spanish is just that terrible. I’m excited for the gym though, I took a Zumba class on Friday which was great, and the energy was amazing. Oh also, I’ve discovered why people where make-up to the gym. It’s a whole other world from the gym at SBC! I’m going to restart my “Kayla” workouts (I took a break after camp ended) tomorrow and I’m also signing up for a 10k at the end of next month. This is super exciting because when I don’t have a workout schedule I tend to get stressed because I’m not active enough (working out is my “me time”). I’ve been on some runs but I like to have a routine. You know somewhere is becoming home when you make a workout schedule!

This week I’ve come to terms with what I want out of myself in a social aspect too. Since I’ve been here, I’ve felt as though I wasn’t “taking advantage” of my time if I didn’t go out every night-nightlife is big here if you didn’t know. Since that’s not the type of person I am at home, I spent several nights over the past few weeks sitting in my bed, exhausted and stressed that I was being “lame”. I do enjoy going out, but once or so a week is good for me. I realized that just because I’m in another country does not mean I need to totally change my socializing habits. I went on Friday and had a great time (woooo free sangria!) but was perfectly happy staying in last night and watching the ballet Carmen.

So what else, besides experiencing “real-life”? Well I start classes tomorrow and I am SO EXCITED. [I just flipped through my journal and pretty much every day this week I’ve written about how excited I am to start school] I have been in love with school since I was five and this has been the longest summer of my life. I don’t care how nerdy it sounds; I’m pumped for class tomorrow. Speaking of which, I need to go buy some notebooks today.
Museum in Cadiz
Earlier this week one of the students that my host family hosted 6 years ago came to visit. It was so cool to meet her and see how much the family loved her. She’s done some pretty awesome things too. I hope when I come back to visit they’ll be just as excited to see me!

Friday was sort of a convocation at the University. All of the American students, from all the various programs met to listen to information about the different services and stuff that US (U of Seville, confusing I know) has to offer. It was a bit frustrating because everything was translated into English. Many of the other programs don’t have as high of a Spanish requirement as we do. It was cool to see the people who would be in my classes though. We got some cafe and pastries after and a chance to walk around the university and look for our classrooms. Afterward, Chris (the other year student) and I had to go to the police to apply for our TIE (Tarjeta de identidad de extranjero) cards. We were coached the day before by María in exactly what we needed to do, and the student assistant Sydney was taking us there so I wasn’t really worried. We got to the police in the Plaza de España and we got our appointment to get fingerprinted (because having to get it done in the states is obviously not enough). Easy-peasy. Then we just had to go to the bank and pay the 15 or so euros and get a stamp on the paper. This was so much easier than driving 11 hours to get my visa! Jokes. We went to the bank that we were supposed to (without Sydney), and after waiting first for a truck that was backing into the bank (only in Sevilla) and then waiting in line, we were told we needed to fill out the paperwork first (we were originally told that the bank would tell us how to do it/what we needed to put). So after doing that we waited in line again only to be told that since we only had a passport and not an NIF or other identification, they couldn’t process it-even though the paperwork was to apply for another form of identification! We went to another bank down the street and luckily they were able to do exactly what we needed, but the whole experience was very frustrating and that was exacerbated by the heat and the fact that I was wearing boots and pants. But we got it done, and so as they say in Spain “no pasa nada”. We’ll see how fingerprinting goes in November!

Cadiz (with an authentic fisherman)
On Saturday (yesterday) we took a trip to Cadiz. In the past this has been a weekend trip, but for some reason it was just a day trip this year. It was exciting to travel out of Sevilla for the first time, and I was actually excited to sit on a bus (after walking so much it’s nice to be able to sit and watch the scenery). Cadiz is only like an hour and a half away but it was cool to see the landscape-I was surprised how arid it is though. I can’t wait to go up to northern Spain and see some green! We did a walking tour and my favorite part was the museum, for two reasons. The first is that they had this really great collection of maps of the city from back in the day and the second is that they have a full, to scale model of the city (also from back in the day). It was pretty amazing. After the tour we went to the beach and I ate my bocadilla. I didn’t go swimming but Madeline and I waded in the water. It was a cute little beach and so relaxing. I love the ocean, I can’t imagine not living near it. We went to go find a snack (gelato) and ended up at this cute little French pastry shop (mostly because everything was closed for siesta). It was yummy, I got my usual mint chocolate chip gelato (I really need to cut back, this is where all my money is going). One of the most exciting parts of the day was when we were talking in Spanish trying to figure out where the beach was and this lady across the street overheard us and gave us directions, in Spanish! This is a big deal because 1. She understood what we were saying and 2. Figured that we could understand what she was going to tell us. It’s the little things. The trip also made me very excited to start traveling on the weekends!

French Heladeria in Cadiz
Some difficult things this week: in a few conversations I’ve had with fellow JYS students I’ve just started to realize that I will indeed be missing an entire year of college. I’m not normally one to suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out), but explaining traditions like Junior Week has been rough. I miss SBC! Note: I should be writing a “Why you need to go to Sweet Briar” post soon, since it is application season! Also I’ve been very self-conscious about being blonde this week, especially when we went to the Spanish club on Friday. While it was a lot of fun and the music was 100x better than the other clubs I’ve been too I felt like I was sticking out a lot. I’m sure most of it is in my head, but some most definitely is real.

I’ve also been thinking about what I want to do with my life after college because a lot of the other students are starting to apply for summer internships already. I’ve got nothing. My current game plan is to apply to a bunch of different things and see where I get accepted. Not very concrete but I’m kind of hoping for an epiphany or something. I’m working on setting up some internships/volunteer work here, so maybe that will point me in a direction? Let’s be honest, I’d be happy dropping everything to stay here (or go anywhere) and teach children ballet for the rest of my life.

I start my traveling this weekend! I might write a blog post before I leave and then a separate one for the trip. We’ll see how the week goes though, but hopefully I have a lot to write about! Recommendations on music? I’m about to spend a long time sitting on a bus!

To end: I love seeing t-shirts written in English. So far I’ve seen things like “T-shirt” and “Friday made me do it” (of course I can’t think of any others right now) but hands down my favorite has been a 40 or so year old woman with one that said “Let’s make out!”

I think that’s everything, talk to y’all soon!!

Love and lollies,

PS: Mom and Dad-did I write enough “new stuff” for you?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Current events: a mid-week update

What do you think?
I was sitting at my favorite heladería this afternoon (after I left the gym of course) and I saw this nifty poster across the street. I was a bit confused as to why there was a (very pretty) Spanish girl dressed like a “Native American” looking at me until I read the poster. It’s an advertisement for English language classes with the tag line “Your tribe speaks English”. At first I was confused because Native Americans didn’t speak English. According to a quick Wikipedia search, they spoke Adai , Algic, Alsean , Atakapa, Beothuk, Caddoan, Cayuse, Chimakuan, Chimariko, Chinookan, Chitimacha, Chumashan, Coahuilteco, Comecrudan, Coosan, Cotoname, Eskimo–Aleut, Esselen, Haida, Iroquoian, Kalapuyan , Karankawa, Karuk, Keresan, Kutenai, Maiduan, Muskogean, Na-Dené, Natchez, Palaihnihan, Plateau Penutian, Pomoan, Salinan, Salishan, Shastan, Siouan–Catawban, Siuslaw, Solano, Takelma, Tanoan, Timucua, Tonkawa, Tsimshianic, Tunica, Utian, Uto-Aztecan, Wakashan, Wappo, Washo, Wintuan, Yana, Yokutsan, Yuchi, Yuki, Yuman, and/or Zuni…among others. I was feeling slightly offended until I noted that the Union Jack had also worked its way on to the advertisement. OF COURSE they were referring to the “tribes” from England! How could I be so uneducated?

In other news, Rey Felipe and Letizia of Spain are in the states this week. After visiting Capitol Hill, Felipe went and spoke at Georgetown, his alma mater. Please tell me that if you go there you went to see him!
I watched the GOP debate this afternoon so I could keep up on US politics while I’m here because YAY I actually get to vote this time. I don’t want this to be a political blog, but as with every debate (regardless of party) I spent half the time cringing and the other half feeling like our country could go somewhere great. But alas, only time will tell.

Oh, how could I forget? This blog was originally about Burkina Faso (if you’re new, go read some old posts…). There was a coup last night. It’s very upsetting, but now understandable because elections are coming up and I couldn’t have expected a perfect governmental transition. I’m blessed to have gone when I did but my heart breaks not only for the people there but also for families who have been working on adoptions that are now sure to be extended even farther with the unstable government and closed borders. Ugh.

Well that’s all for now, look for my weekly post on Sunday! I’ll be trying to do more mid-week posts on things other, there’s just so much I want to write about!

**Also still looking for a hostel/place to stay in Munich in January!!**

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The woman who follows the crowd will usually get no further than the crowd: or don't be afraid to do things by yourself

I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t looking forward to blogging all week. Even though I journal every day, it’s more fun to blog because I’m telling a story to other people as opposed to recording it just for myself. I like the opportunity for my inner author to come out-did I ever tell you that I want to write a book? Before we get to chapter 2, I just wanted to let you know that 1. I’ve started to put pictures up on Facebook and 2. I have a Spanish blog as well; it’s less stories and more my thoughts on various things. You can check that out at

Without further ado, here’s chapter 2!

Let me set the scene: it’s colder this morning so I’m eating inside at Granier on calle Asuncion. I have a plain old cafe con leche and a caña de chocolate. They’re warm and yummy. I managed to order everything and answer questions without faltering in my Spanish. My laptop battery is half dead so I need to focus.

Off to the market! (thanks Asian tourists!)
Last week after I finished blogging and had lunch, I went on an adventure to Alameda de Hercules. A few of the girls who live in the neighborhood next to me went to a “medieval market” with their host family that morning and told me that it was cool, so I decided to check it out. Now I’m just going to assume that you know nothing about the geography of Sevilla and tell you that it’s at least 2 miles from my house. Of course, I didn’t pay attention to that as I put on my sandals and didn’t grab my water bottle. After trekking across town, I found it. It was so cool! There were a bunch of vendors, everything from meat and cheese and jewelry to cool themed stalls where you could drink tea in an Arabian style tent or try your hand at making pottery. I spent a bit of time watching kids try and make bowls on the pottery wheel before a gelato stand caught my eye. Now it could have been the heat (85 degrees) that attracted me or it could have been the fact that they made their cones by hand right there. I watched for a minute before deciding that some chocolate gelato would be the most amazing thing ever. As I was about to order a huge family beat me to it. I spent probably 20 minutes waiting (since they had to make the cones and wait until they cooled down) but in reality the family was adorable and I’m now an expert in the ancient art of cone making. When I finally did get it, it was nice and cold but I regretted my decision immediately for two reasons. The first was that gelato does not quench your thirst and the second was that I walked by a sangria vendor. I know I could have easily gotten something to drink, but let’s be honest I’m too cheap for that. After walking around a bit I decided to start heading in the general direction of home, but taking the back (shady) roads. I ran into a woman from California who was looking for a museum and tried to help her (using the “” app-LIFESAVER). We weren’t successful so I continued on my way and after walking past Nuestra Señora de Buenos Libros (my new favorite Virgin) I found myself in the plaza of the museum we had been looking for. I was sad that I wasn’t able to help the lady find it, but then SURPRISE, 5 minutes later she walked right into the same plaza. Unfortunately it was closed, but we had a nice conversation anyway.
Cone maker

On Monday we started orientation classes, they’re interesting but I’m just really excited to start regular classes. I’m going to be taking (at the moment) three “cursos concertados” which are for American students but taught by the university professors and one “curso regular” meaning a regular university class. I’m a bit nervous for it but my host mother says that I’ll be fine. I’m also excited because I think that it’s a good way to get a more authentic Spanish experience and meet Spanish people. Also go big or go home, right? On Monday I went on my first run-lol why is sunset so amazing?

I might be slightly obsessed with religious art, it's amazing
Tuesday was easily the most exciting day of the week. Well. Tuesday night was easily the most exciting night of the week, though it didn’t start off that way. I was having a pretty rough afternoon (a mix of various things, mostly stemming from being hot and tired). I went on a run at Plaza de España before dinner, which helped. After we ate I was moping around in my room while my roommate got ready and went out (every night is a goodnight to go out here). I was going to try and go to bed early but then like five minutes after my roommate left I had an overwhelming sense of 1. You’re in Spain, get out of bed and 2. I want sangria.  Well I couldn’t contact anyone because at that point I didn’t have my Spanish phone yet and people who were out were not going to have wi-fi (wee-fee). So I decided to go on an adventure. Without thinking too much, I got dressed and walked out the door, no turning back now! I remembered that there was a bar on calle Betis that had free flamenco on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so I headed out to find it. I finally got there, only to find a nearly empty bar. After reading the menu and debating for a couple of minutes I went in and sat at the bar (as opposed to outside). I immediately ordered a sangria (which was amazing) and looked around the bar. It was covered with Flamenco themed things and postcards from around the world. After sitting there awkwardly for like ten minutes I asked the bartender about the flamenco, which he said would start back up in two weeks. Another 5 minutes of silence later I asked about the best places to find “flamenco puro” (not touristy) in the city, and so started an hour long conversation about a million things-all in Spanish of course. I learned a lot about Seville and the bar, but also that he and his wife and his daughter (who is currently in India) are all vegetarians! I even got invited to come eat with them at some point! So after a great conversation and a shot of Miura, a Sevillan made liquor, I headed out. I have literally never been so proud of myself. I got about halfway home before I saw these two guys and this one girl sitting on the side of Plaza de Cuba. I walked by slowly and heard them speaking English. Since I always air on the side of skepticism I decided to see what they were up to, because the girl was clearly intoxicated. I found out that the guys were trying to help her find this party she was going to. Her friend ran over a few minutes later saying that she had found the party (it was an erasmus party, for foreign students in Seville) and they all insisted that I come along. The night was still young and the party was literally right there by the river, so I agreed. After about an hour of talking to some very cool people, it was time to go home. [If you’re reading this-I hope y’all got back to Ireland okay and thanks for a great night!] I learned many things that night: that I CAN go socialize and make friends by myself, my Spanish is not actually that bad, but most importantly that there’s a whole world out there, all you have to do is go. Go and something beautiful will happen. Go and something terrible will happen. Just go.

Roman Ruins
Wednesday morning was a struggle. Luckily, instead of class we got to go see the Roman ruins of Itálica. Itálica was the first great city outside of Italy, it was pretty amazing to see, though it is still hard to wrap my head around the fact that the Romans just casually set up this huge city so far away from the center of their empire. In other academic/culturally related news, I went on a paseo (walk) of Triana, one of the neighborhoods, which was really cool as well as one of baroque Seville, which I already knew a bunch about (thanks Mark). I also had a taller de flamenco which was amazing. I need to sign up for regular classes today or tomorrow.  On Friday (yesterday) we went to go visit the Alcazar, which was amazing, but I had seen it when I came to Spain in high school. My favorite part was something I hadn’t seen before, a huge map of Southern Spain and Northern Africa. It was so cool though because it was upside-down. It is just so interesting to me that they had that perspective. I mean, why should maps be the way they are? The earth is a circle, who’s to say what’s the top and what’s the bottom?

Map in question
Trips. Just to give you a mini update on that part of my life, I thus far have three trips planned for this semester as well as The Big Adventure. If you’ve talked to me recently you probably know all about them. If not, I’ll give you a few hints.

Trip 1: It feels like we’re going south, but we’re not
Trip 2: Cat boat and coffee shops
Trip 3: Return to the homeland (kind of)

I also realized that my birthday is over a long weekend and I think it would be amazing to go to Paris. I’m still trying to see if I can swing it budget-wise, but the thought of Paris in December is just too amazing to pass up-Christmas markets, ice skating, going to the ballet (not the Nutcracker though, because POB is too good for that). I mean what else could a girl want for her 21st birthday? (hinthintwinkwink mom and dad).

The Big Adventure: I’m going to start booking flights/accommodation for this today/tomorrow. It’s a bit intimidating to plan for a month long trip, but better to do it now when I’m not super busy. My itinerary? Some time visiting camp friends in the UK and then heading off the central/eastern Europe for three weeks! I’ll keep y’all updated on that one!

Mosaic work from the ruins
Some final observations: I have found that if I sake a siesta, I can’t sleep at night, which makes me tired/angry/frustrated, which makes it even harder to sleep. So no more siesta for me. I have to force myself to talk in Spanish to my American friends, it’s so easy to speak in English the whole time. When I spend time reading in English and then someone speaks to me in Spanish, I get caught really off guard, so I should probably just eliminate all English from my life. I love my señora’s cooking, everything is literally amazing but I think my favorite is berenjenas fritas con miel, fried eggplant and honey. ¿Efectiva? = cash or credit? It’s interesting to keep up with Spanish news and not US news (note I’m being PC and not saying American), it’s what’s on TV and all my news sites since my laptop realized that it is in Spain now. Public bathrooms aren’t real, even at McDonalds you have to buy something first. People dress so nice here and the stores are amazing, I want to buy everything.

At the Alcazar
Sometimes it’s difficult: I don’t want you to think that my life here (the whole 1 week) has been perfect. My beautiful friends at home can attest to that. I have gotten extremely frustrated with things here and at times have been absolutely miserable. That’s the thing, there’s no such thing as “perfect” (as I have slowly been learning the last few years) and sometimes things just suck. You get over it though. Ups and downs are part of life anywhere; they just seem to be amplified the further you are from home. There’s no point in me complaining about what makes me unhappy because luckily for me, the ups overtake the downs. Moving to the other side of the world hasn’t been easy, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still love it.

I’ll end with a funny story: My roommate and I were going to meet people on Thursday night and there was this guy sitting on the steps of Puente (bridge) de Triana wearing a Tom Brady jersey. Since it was game night, we asked if he was from Boston/a Patriots fan. He looked at us like we had three heads. I won’t lie, I was pretty disappointed!

Well, I’d love to keep going, but this is a novel as it is so I guess I’ll leave you here. I can’t wait to share my next adventures with you! ¡Hasta Luego!

PS: feel free to let me know how I’m doing/if you're actually reading this/what you want to see more of!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Sometimes you have to get lost to find yourself: My first days in Sevilla

Buenos Días! I’m writing this while sitting outside of Café de Indias, a coffee shop, on a wonderful Sunday morning (early afternoon) in Sevilla. It’s hard to write with a beautiful croissant and caramel coffee staring at me. If you haven’t already figured it out, I love it here. This is my third full day in Sevilla, and though there have been some difficult parts, it has been everything I have expected, and more.

El Parque de Buen Retiro en Madrid

So let’s start with my trip, grab a café con leche and get comfortable!

The Crystal Palace
We left for the airport around 1pm on Wednesday (American time) and after stopping at Panera (I didn’t get anything because the padres didn’t tell me not to eat lunch, and I wanted to eat on American time) and Dunkin (necessary-iced caramel with cream and sugar) we were off. The drive was pretty uneventful except for some traffic, having to stop a couple of times, and some discussions about how I had to come back and finish my degree. 

Un Jardin en el Parque
We got to JFK about 2.5 hours before my flight and checked my bag (YAYY not overweight!!). We said our goodbyes and I immediately felt an overwhelming sense of “lol what am I even doing?” Security was the same old-same old. I always pack my carry on so that I can get to everything I need to take out easily, but it still ends up being super flustering. Once I was through security I went and found dinner (#overpricedairportfood) and then got comfortable. I started reading “The Martian”, and before I knew it, it was time to board the plane. Luckily I was in group one, so I didn’t have to carry around my ridiculously heavy backpack for too long. Luckily I also got to sit in the very last seat on the plane (yayy discount tickets!), which also happened to be on the aisle (which I don’t like). We sat on the plane for a whole hour, which I barely noticed due to the fact that I couldn’t put my book down.  When we finally did take off, our ETA was only 10 minutes later than originally planned…what kind of magic is that? The Iberia website wouldn’t let me change my meal so I had a nice second dinner consisting of a slice of cheese, a roll, and an apple pastry.  If you know me at all, you know that I can’t sleep on planes. Thankfully, “The Martian” was SO GOOD that I didn’t even notice the hours flying by. And then I finished it. At that point we still had 2.5-3 hours left and I didn’t know what to do with myself. The lady next to me kept doing that thing where you’re awake and then you fall asleep and then your head falls to the side and you wake up suddenly. I had a heart attack every time, so that kept me pretty busy. I mostly just sat there and journaled until the magic 1.5 hours till landing came around and we got breakfast. I had a blueberry muffin and coffee. Very yummy.  After going through border control, taking the metro to the main terminal 4 (I landed in the satellite terminal), checking my carry-on into “left luggage”, and hopping on an express bus, I was in downtown Madrid!
Since I had a 12 hour layover, I decided to spend a couple of hours in the city. I went to El Parque de Buen Retiro and saw the crystal Palace (which unfortunately was closed). I also walked through a feria de libros-a bunch of outdoor book sellers. You’d be proud of me because I didn’t even buy any. I walked a lot, and after just two hours my feet were killing me. So after walking around the Prado, a church and 75% of the way to Puerta del Sol, it was back to the bus station for me.
I have to say, wearing boots with heels and overstuffing my backpack were probably not my best choices, but in reality I didn’t really see any other options for getting everything I needed to Spain. My wait in the airport was awful. I was tired, sore, couldn’t get on the wifi, etc. I was happy to get on my plane. I flew Iberia Express which is the new budget wing (lol puns) of Iberia. It was really nice and I think I’m going to fly with them this year when I travel. I landed and got my bags by about 11:30pm, met my host mom and roommate and I was on my way to downtown Sevilla.
Book Market in Madrid, it was a whole street long

The first night was pretty overwhelming, but I was so tired that it didn’t really faze me.  We had to get up early the next morning and I was glad to get to sleep. Friday morning I woke up, showered (but couldn’t figure out how to get hot water), and had breakfast-café, zumo de naranja (OJ), and cereal. Then our host mother walked us to the JYS office. It was really cute to see the senoras walking all of us to school; it was like we were kids going to our first day of kindergarten. They were all chatting with each other and seemed so proud! The morning was an information session at the university (it’s amazing) that included a much needed coffee break. My first café con leche was also amazing. I sat with a few girls and we talked about the usual (name/school/major), it feels like I’m a freshman all over again!

After the session a few of us went to go inquire about cell phones at Orange and then we went home for lunch. The food here has been amazing, and I’m so lucky that my senora is accepting of the fact that I’m a vegetarian. I met my host siblings, Beatriz (16), Alfonso (18), and Esperanza (21). They’re hilarious! I’ve also met Esperanza’s boyfriend, he’s great too. Also it took me about 24 hours to realize that when someone leans in to hug you, they don’t want to hug you. They want to “dos besos” you, which means the two cheek kisses. #lifelessons

Going out on Friday night has been my biggest adventure so far. After getting drinks on Calle Betis (tinto de Verano-not as good as I thought), a HUGE group of us decided to go to el Centro. I really hated being with such a large group of Americans so I decided to head back to the house. LOL. I got so lost. I walked around for over an hour, having no idea where I was. I was as far away from the river as Las Setas (2.5 miles from home) and as close as La Hotel Inglaterra (about a 25 minute walk) without being able to figure out where the river was at all, I live on the other side. Luckily, 1. Sevilla is very safe at night 2. I got to practice asking for directions and 3. After 2 hours I hailed my first taxi. I was super tired but I’m also super cheap, so I only took the taxi to the bridge and walked to the apartment in Los Remedios. It was frustrating but that’s what I get for being stubborn and what a great way to get to know a city! Being a traveler = always up for an adventure!

Saturday was rough. Luckily our break included café and pastries! (see instagram). It was a pretty gloomy day so I sat around a lot. I did go on a walk around 8pm to this cute croissant place and got a mini crème filled croissant-so good. I also had a great conversation with my host parents at dinner and watched a bit of the Spain-Slovakia soccer game-qualifying for the European Cup next year. It’s interesting how sometimes I struggle with understanding any Spanish (lunch) and sometimes I can talk for days (dinner). It’s also frustrating how nervous I get when trying to speak, I can think of what I’m going to say in my head but then when I go to say it I stumble over the words. I didn’t go out last night because I was tired (read: lazy). I ended up Skyping the family and researching a trip to Lisboa (Lisbon, Portugal-I def always thought that it was Libson hahaha) in a couple of weeks (Thanks for the info Calee!)
La Iglesia

This morning I went to my first Spanish mass at La Parroquia de Nuestra Senora del Buen Aire. It was good, but I wish that I had a print out with all of the prayers and responses in Spanish so that I could follow along. It was a pretty church though with a beautiful Mary. They really do love their Marys, especially in this neighborhood! Almost every street is “Calle Virgen de…” It’s very pretty I do have to say.

So that brings me up to here, sitting still (an hour later) at this cute café, almost done with my croissant and cafe. I still can’t believe that this is my actual life now, it’s so amazing to think that I’m actually (finally) here!

Nuestra Senora del Buen Aire
Other observations: changing my eating schedule isn’t as hard as I thought it would be, but maybe I’m just still on American time. If you’re blonde you stick out, luckily my severe case of “resting bitch face” has been very helpful in getting creepy men to stay away (yayyy, I knew there was a plus side!). The salsa tomate that my senora makes is EVERYTHING. Pan (bread) does not go on your plate, it stays on the table. Spanish kids are beautiful, especially the ones with the dirty blonde hair and brown eyes. Actually, people here in general are super beautiful, or maybe that’s just due to the lack of yoga pants and other “lounge clothes”. When they say you walk a lot, they mean it. I've been averaging like 3 hours a day. The slow pace of life is good for your mental health-I know I haven’t started classes yet but I haven’t been stressed about anything (well maybe for a little bit when I was lost, but not much)-“No pasa nada” is a way of life. I have no idea how I’ll ever leave.
Well, my food is gone and I can’t get on the wifi so I guess this is my signal to pay la cuenta, head back to the apartment, add some pictures, and get this post online for y’all.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

En el aeropuerto

I have about an hour until my flight leaves. I ate a tomato and mozzerella bocadillo and have been reading "The Martian", it's a real page turner. After the initial sadness of saying goodbye and the frustration of going through security, I've been doing well. People watching at airports is my favorite! Well I'm off to go get some snacks for the flight, see you on the flip side!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Almost packed, but it doesn't feel like it Ft. search for the perfect quote

My will-be-checked bag is all packed and ready to go and I'm slowly finishing up my carry-on [my trusty LL Bean backpack]. I've had a lot of people tell me that I'm crazy for only having a suitcase and a backpack, but I think that it's freeing. It almost makes it more exciting, I'm going on this great adventure for 9 months and all I need are these two bags. In reality I've really only packed clothes, a few electronics, a couple of books, some toiletries, and a few odds and ends. I wonder how much I will actually use and what I could have left at home. Since I'm living with a host family I don't need to worry about things like bedding and towel, though I'm sure I would have just bought those things when I got there.

Yesterday I went to Barnes and Noble to pick up a Spanish phrasebook and a map of Madrid (for my layover) and wanted to get a novel to read. Being me, I couldn't decide on just one so I left with nothing but I've been thinking about this one, "The Martian", it's coming out as a movie in October and it seems really good the more I think about it, so I'm going to go get it tonight. I also need to order/pick up the pictures I'm getting printed to bring to Seville with me. Also, "Only in Spain" was great, the ending was not satisfying, but as it is about the author's actual life, it was fitting. Also on books, I read "Byrd" this summer at camp, it was amazing as was "The Mountain Story". I couldn't put either down and I highly recommend both!

Every time I go on a trip I like to pick a quote to inspire me while I travel. The first time I went to Spain, in high school, I used (thanks Jess):

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

And for my trip to Burkina I used: 
"It is in all of us to defy expectations, to go into the world and be brave, and to want, to need, to hunger for adventures, to embrace change and chance and risk, so that we may breathe and know what it is to be free."
 I'm still trying to work out what I want to use for this adventure, I have a few ideas in mind but I'm open to suggestions!