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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

It is not "Adios." Just "Hasta Luego!"

I have been home for almost a week now. It is soooo great being home. I really missed my family and friends while I was away. However, a huge part of me misses Spain. I really wish I could have stayed longer. I did a lot and saw so much while I was there, but I feel like I could have done so much more. I miss my friends, travel buddies, teachers, and host family like crazy! But also, I feel like I took so much away from this experience abroad...which is why maybe it has taken me a week of reflecting before I could sit down and write this blog. Not only did I get to experience and be apart of such an incredible culture, but I did something completely out of my comfort zone...and I fell in love with it!! It is the strangest thing to have to rely on yourself for absolutely everything and having this cultural barrier to overcome at the same time. Keeping a budget, finding your way around a city, and communicating in a new language your basic wants and needs to a family in order to stay on the same page...it can all be extremely overwhelming. However, every single day I learned something new or over came a challenge  which made me feel absolutely awesome. It could have been something so simple like speaking up in my language class, or just telling my host mom something simple about my day. I even got around Barcelona successfully! I am proud of myself for going through with this whole study abroad thing :) It was truly a wonderful experience that has changed my life plans and direction. I can't believe how lucky I am to have had this opportunity. So blessed and thankful!!


The inside of the Center of Modern Languages (Centro de Lenguas Modernas)

Waiting for class...

A view of Granada near the school...the path I took everyday


My last gelato!!!

My lovely host sisters!!!

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Ups and Downs of Morocco

Ok, so...I apologize for the lack of updates!! You will see why I kinda had to let the blog go for a few days later in this blog...

So, I had the most amazing, once in a life-time opportunity to go to Morocco last weekend. It was definitely an experience. It was an adventure all in itself just to get there! We left at 3 am and drove to the port and took a FERRY (literally...I have been on every form of transportation the world has to offer this month) across and over to Africa. It was literally crossing into another world. The coast of Morocco was stunning. Beautiful beaches against the desert sand and little open walled houses all around in the high grass. Just beautiful. We drove down around the coast for 7 hours, turned at Rabat, and went straight to Fes. I wanted to stay awake to see the views, but unfortunately, I took a little siesta instead. We were on schedule until we got into a bus accident. We ran into a truck on the narrow Moroccan roads and the front window of our bus got taken out. No one was hurt, but it did delay our trip by about 2 hours because we had to get the police involved and wait for a new bus. Just an example of how you are not immune from anything when you are studying abroad. You have to be prepared for everything...as you will see again later in this blog :)

We finally got to Fes..18 hours after our initial departure. The next morning it was off to the Fes Medina. Basically, it was like a huge market place. When I say "huge" I mean HUGE. 7,000 individual streets laid out like a maze. Luckily, we had a very skilled, and super fun and sweet, tour guide to show us the ropes and take us around the Medina.

 Some yummy fruit and veggie stands in the Medina!

First, we stopped at a leather shop. They showed us how they dye and make their beautiful purses, wallets, shoes, ect.

A picture is worth a thousand words...

This is where they dye everything. Super cool, right!? :)

Then it was time to play "Let's Make a Deal!" Yep, Morocco is known for bartering. Basically, it is a way of life and a huge part of their culture. I saw a beautiful red, buff, and green backpack that I had to have, so I practiced my...urmm..natural bartering skills and got a great price on it! Really though, go in with a bartering plan should you ever be in this situation. I did not and probably could have even got a better deal on it. It is true what they say though about walking away. They will yell at you to come back and give you an amazinggg deal! :)

We spent the rest of the day walking around the Medina. We went to look at rugs (which I just could not afford) and a great shop that wove beautiful scarfs, table clothes, clothes, bags and so on. I have to say, my favorite thing about Morocco was the people. So friendly, nice, and approachable. I made my first Moroccan friend in this shop. He named me "Fatima" and we talked all about American and Moroccan cultural difference. People in Morocco are just so relaxed. They don't believe in being rushed all the time. It just creates stress. These are ideas that could take some getting use to for me, I am always busy and running around, but I think I could adjust!


My new friend and I! Yea...I got a picture with him....

After shopping all day, we had a great lunch!! I was a little afraid the Moroccan food was going to taste...funky...but surprisingly it was great!!! I could have easily eaten it for a month. Olives, bread, grilled chicken. Yum! yum! yum!! This may have been a mistake....

The next day we drove to the ancient city of Meknes to view the Roman ruins. Once again, I cannot even begin to describe how great our guide was. So friendly and nice!! I feel bad because I couldn't 100 percent focus on the tour because I was so HOT!!! I swear, sweat from every pore. I am not sure how hot it was, but I have never felt anything like that before. I am pretty sure I had a river flowing down my face. But look how amazing the view was! In hindsight...so worth it :)


So, as I said, our tour guide was great!! He became my second Moroccan friend. I was trying to take a picture of a random mule walking around the area. He picked me up and put me on top of the mule, took my camera and snapped a picture.

He is not the best photographer, but here it is!!

Then he made me a crown of beautiful flowers!! I got to keep it too!
Hanging out in the Roman baths. Isn't he cool?! :)

The rest of the trip wasn't really...memorable in a good way. Later that night in the hotel my credit card got taken by the ATM so I had to go through a whole ordeal to cancel it. Then I woke up the next morning sick as a dog. The Moroccan food and sanitary conditions gave me a really bad bacterial infection. Ugh...I made it home alright thank god, but later that night I had a really bad fever and felt miserable. After following the advice of my host mother and ISA directors, I only drank my favorite drink ever Aqurius for 2 days...could have definitely been a worse diet! ;)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

All Nighter...

I decided not to sleep before I leave for Morocco so I can try to sleep through the 8-11 hour journey there. Can't decide if this is a good idea or not..but we will find out!! Africa here I come! Gateway to the Middle East! Definitely going to be a culture shock but I am so excited to see and experience this way of life that is so new and foreign to me. I can hide a little bit in Spain (expect when I run cross walks...I really need to stop that...) but I am going to stick out like a sore thumb for sure in Morocco. This will be a whole new experience for me and I am excited to see how I will adjust.

So, I have had a crazy week! I had a presentation in my Latin American class today and I have been spending all week working on that.

I spent this past weekend in Barcelona. We left extremely early on Friday morning to walk to the bus station to catch a bus to get to the airport to take a plane to the train station to take a train to the metro that would take us to our pension. Trains, Planes, and Automobiles x 10!! However, it was surprising easy to get around. Everything here is set up for very convenient travel. We stayed the Pension Sagre right in the center of town. We had a really nice 3 person private room that was relatively cheap. Honestly, my trip to Barcelona is a blur. We arrived and literally didn't stop moving for 48 hours. There was just so much to see. Barcelona is such a beautiful city. I know I say that about EVERY city, but if you are ever in Spain, please please please go there. Hands down my favorite city besides Granada which will always have my heart, of course. For me, it was an urban paradise with so much culture and places to go and explore. There was always something interesting that caught my eye. I had no problem walking around all day because I was just so excited to see what else I would find.

On the first day we went to the Picasso Museum... for 45 minutes...I know its a travesty but it is what happens when you have 48 hours in a city. We also went to this huge market in the center of the city. It is like the West Side Market in Cleveland only a lot bigger. There were so many types of fresh fruits and vegetables. It was so incredible! We even stumbled upon a vegan stand in the market. Sometimes it is just nice to take a break from fried meat with a side of fried something dipped in a gallon of oil along with a side of a huge baguette. Yay healthy detox lunch!

Day 2 was simply packed. We started the morning at Camp Nou, the futbol stadium home to FC Barcelona. I am in no way a "futbol" expert, but being in Spain really has made me interested in the sport and I've really enjoyed watching games while I've been here. It was a hard choice deciding between Real Madrid and Barca...but I think I made the right choice :) We took a tour of the stadium, got to see the changing rooms, press box, VIP section, and other places of sport-type importance. At the end of the tour,we got to hear all the fan chants and see Barca's finest futbol victory moments. It was just really awesome to see the city's enthusiasm and pride for their team. Kinda reminded me of Cleveland :)

Well, that is where I am going to stop for now. I have a limited amount of time and I feel just making a laundry list of everything we did does not do justice to this incredible city. Until next time!!


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Long Time No See..

Gah!! Sorry for the lack of updates lately. I've been really busy with school and everything. This weekend was crazy. Saturday I soaked up some much needed sun at the beach in Nerja. It is a very tourist-y city about an hour away from Granada right on the coast line. Basically, you go there if you want to practice your English. However, it was absolutely beautiful and seemed like paradise. I have never considered myself a beach bum person, but I guess that is because I have never been to a real beach. I know, sad but true. My "beach" experiences stop at Lake Erie. I have never seen such blue water in my whole life. The day was absolutely beautiful and clear. While I still prefer the action of the city, I think I could get use to the beach life. Simply relaxing and watching the waves..it doesn't get much better! I'm very fortunate.
A beautiful view of the water!
Even Muzzy had a fun! Thanks for sending him, Mom!




Oooo ps: I didn't get sunburned! To my surprise, the Mediterranean sun did not consume me alive! For my skin, I am actually getting quite a nice tan! Not saying much...but I hope when I come back people can at least tell I have been somewhere other than Ohio :)

The next day my host mom took my roommate Tasha and I to the "campo." Our host mom is always talking about "el campo." Going to the campo, all the work to do on the campo, campo, campo, campo. The "campo" for you all of you not Spanish speakers is like the country side. A lot of rolling hills, valleys, trees, flowers, so on and so on. I was extremely happy our host mom invited us to see "el campo." My host family is very big so sometimes I feel a little uncomfortable speaking to them. Also, my Spanish speaking is pretty rocky. I am at the point in my language skills where I can speak and  make sense (more or less), but I don't feel like I have a personality yet in Spanish. I am really not sure if this makes sense, but I will say something and it doesn't seem natural. It is kind of like stating the obvious and not really have true feelings or thoughts behind what I say. Also, I don't know how to make jokes in Spanish. Believe me, I have tried and no one thinks I'm funny. That is probably the case in English as well, but that is not the point! Anyway, I suppose I just feel embarrassed talking to my host family, so having the opportunity to get out of Granada and experience and see something that is so important to my host family was quite the honor. They own this breathtaking 100 year old home in this pretty much deserted "campo" 30 minutes or so outside of the city. My host dad, Jaime, and his 12 brothers and sisters all own it together. I asked him a lot of questions about it.No one actually lives in the house permanently. They farm there, but it is not a business, just for personal use. It is simply for relaxing. There were so many members of the family there. They were all really nice and got me out of my comfort zone. They had a lot of questions about my culture, as I had a lot for them. We sat outside in a garden under the shade and just enjoyed the day. Lunch was amazing. In Spain, Sunday lunch is definitely the most traditional. We had a round of tapas followed by turkey soup and chicken. The uncle told me I was brave for eating the turkey...not quite sure why...then proceeded to talk my ear off the whole lunch. He was funny though and made a huge deal about how his farm has the biggest Cyprus in all of Spain. Then proceeded to make fun of me for eating too much and for the fact I can't ride a horse. He said my Spanish wasn't bad and I am able to think on my feet quickly...so that was nice :)

After lunch, we went cherry picking with my host dad. We drove up a huge hill and through a valley at high speed. Tasha and I were hanging on for dear life, but they all assured us that Jamie was a fantastic driver. I got sunburned while cherry picking. Everyone proceeded to call me the "blanca" all day and comment on my "rojo" skin.

Later in the day, I made friends with this 82 year old woman. She just came up to me and started complaining about cars and how the ruined the concept of family because now people move far away and never come back. She thought I was Spanish. Then she asked me what kids my age do on Sundays. I proceeded to tell her I was from the States, so it is a lot different. Then we talked about America and the importance of practicing languages. She would just randomly ask me "how do you say this in English?" then she'd try to repeat it and then teach me how to say it in Catalan as well. She was just really nice and welcoming and I felt comfortable taking to her. Her great grandson thought I was from Madrid. I wish!

Overall, it was my favorite day here in Spain. I got to know a really great Spanish family and explore some of the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen. It made me miss home a bit because I know my father would have loved it there. It was just so peaceful and tranquil. A perfect relaxing day in Spain.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Update coming soon!!

Sorry for the lack of action around here lately. I promise x 10000 I will update tomorrow. I did a lot of really amazing stuff this weekend = )

I am truly lucky and blessed to be here. <3

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMIaYXxLnUA

Monday, June 6, 2011

Sevilla!

I spent this past weekend in Sevilla. It was such a fantastic time! After we arrived, ISA pretty much let us have Saturday to ourselves so we could explore. It was a pretty random day of walking around Sevilla...which are the types of trips I happen to like best :)

First Stop: Plaza de Espana. The architecture  here was absolutely beautiful! The plaza ran in a half circle and in the middle was a little river where people where spending the day rowing little boats. It was right by the park and just the perfect little get away from the city. 

We wanted a "fun" picture so we started posing in front of this fountain. The on-lookers in the city thought we were hilarious...
Exploring the city some more!!
Had to stop to purchase my favorite Spanish drink, Aquarius. Basically, it is the European answer to the sports drink. I'm pretty much addicted.
Paella for dinner. Words cannot describe how amazing
It is really not okay that I eat gelato everyday in Spain

Well, this kinda turned more into a food journal than a blog post....

We spent the rest of the night simply roaming the streets and it was incredible! Sevilla was wonderful. However, I was kinda surprised by how much I missed Granada on this trip. What can I say...Granada unexpectedly has special place in my heart. However, it was lovely to have a full length mirror in the hotel ;)

Day 2 I fell ill and there are no pictures because I was miserable. Sorry! hahah.

School is going well. We have the coolest assignment ever in my Language and Grammar class. We have to go out and eat tapas! Well, it is a little more complicated than simply eating the tapas, but I am so excited! We have to go to 3 tapas bars and write about the history of the bar, the areas of interest around the bar, how the tapas tasted and what they were made out of...everything from the tiniest detail of what music was playing. I am sure the professors at BW will love reading this :)

Hasta luego a todos!

PS: I paid for my Morocco trip today. SO excited.