Monday, June 16, 2008

Euro trip 2008!!!

First of all, i can´t believe that I come home in a week already!! This semester has really flown by...
So let me continue on with how life after classes went.
On the 16th, everyone from my program who wasnt staying around left for Madrid. I stayed, along with a few other girls who were all going different directions. I left for Barcelona on Saturday to meet up with a few girls. I originally thought I wouldnt be able to make it up there, but am so glad I got the chance too. So Caroline, Sam and I and another girl Alison spent a few days in Barcelona. That city is amazing!! So international, they speak a different language, Catalan, that is a mix of Spanish and French. The city is huuuuge, and has lots of crazy architecture from Antoni Gaudi (apparently its where the word gaudy comes from..) So after being there for a few nights, we left for Nice France. The French Riviera!! Absolutely gorgeous...we were in Cannes one day, while the Film Festival was going on! We waited around for a few hours near the red carpet, and sure enough got to get a glimpse of some stars! We saw Brad and Angelina Jolie, Clint Eastwood, and Tim Robbins. They were very far away on the carpet, but I got to see them nonetheless! The next day we went to Monaco, which is a little independent state or country just outside France. The Grand Prix was going on while we were there as well. We were supposed to leave France on Thursday, but there was a country wide train strike so ended up getting stuck in France. And by stuck I mean we got to spend a day relaxing on the beach on the French Riviera. Not too unfortunate...haha.
So on Friday Alison left for Italy, and the other two and I spent the day on the train on our way to Switzerland. We got in late Friday night, and woke up early Saturday morning. I signed up to go paragliding, which was suchhhhh a great experience! I took a bus up into the Swiss Alps, and we kept going higher and higher, and just when I though we couldn´t get any higher...we kept going. So there I was on the top of this mountain overlooking Interlaken (which in German means between lakes, there were two gorgeous lakes on either side of the city). So I´m standing there with Robert, my pilot, all ready to run off this mountain and jump in the air....and then we had to stop and wait for the wind to start going the right direction. So we waited for about ten minutes and then Robbie says walk so I start walking and walking and then he says RUN!! so i start running and running and the next thing I know my feet are off the ground and we´re flying over the trees and Im screaming (you know, one of those really obnoxious woooo hoooo!!! screams). So then we spent the next ten minutes flying over the mountains and over the city. It was a completely surreal thing, it seemed like I was in a movie actually. It was so calm and peaceful up there, and Robert and I were just talking away while flying in the air. Then he asks if I want a little excitement, and of course I say yes, so he starts twisting the parachute back and forth so we´re swinging around and my feet are flying above my head...absolutely amazing. Then he says its time to land, and said he would tell me when to stand up so we could land, and of course I end up on my butt. Haha but it was absolutely great and Im so glad I did it. Now on to skydiving!!!!
So after hiking around the mountains in Switzerland, then next day we left for Amsterdam. I spent Monday by myself because my friends went to Belgium first, and got to see a lot of the city. The Anne Frank house was my favorite, because I had read her diary as a child, and seen the movie a few times. Very powerful stuff.
On Wednesday the 28 of May it was time for the three of us to split ways. Sam was going on to Germany and Denmark, and she is now home. Caroline was flying to Greece before embarking on a crazy five week European backpacking adventure. She will be coming back to Sevilla this Thursday so we can spend the weekend together before leaving on Tuesday. She was the one that I met in the airport in Chicago, and now we will be leaving together. Not on the same flight, but the same day. It will be a great way to say goodbye.
After coming back to Sevilla, I slept for 20 hours straight! I woke up and spent a week walking around, seeing things here I had not yet seen, and hanging out in the park. I am staying with three brasilian girls who are all super sweet. A week after I got back, I left again to go to London, where I met up with my friend Renata from Brasil, and we left on the 6th to go to Poland! I got to see Kuba for the first time in five years, which was so awesome. We hung out with some of his friends, got to see lots of old buildings, the zoo, which is one of the biggest in Europe, and see a beautiful Japanese Garden. We were also there to see Poland lose to Germany in a soccer game, haha, which was not a happy think for the Polish. But it was an amazing trip to Poland, and Im sure I´ll go back some day.
I got back last Tuesday from that trip, and on my way back to the city met a girl who was traveling around Sevilla for a few days. That was fun getting to hang out with her and be a tour guide of the city a little bit. I also got to see my friend Danielle before she left. She goes to NIU with me and has been in Sevilla since last August. She left yesterday to go to the US, so it was nice getting to hang out with her one last time in Spain.
On Saturday I met up with my roommates in Granada, and we went to the Alhambra on Sunday. They had never gone before, and I wanted to see it again during the summer when the weather was nicer. It was even more beautiful than when I went before, although it was super hot! The weather here has been up in the high 3os, getting to 40 a few days. Probabaly pretty close to 100 farenheit! I´m not gonna lie when I say Ím looking forward to a little cooler weather.
So I have two more days here in Sevilla until Caroline comes. I still have a lot to see before I go home, and hopefully will get to do all of it.
Unfortunately, my memory card for my computer is not working correctly, so I havent been able to upload pictures. I realllll yhope I can get it to work back home, cause I will be very sad if I cant print out my pictures for everyone to see!!
Anyways, I get home next Tuesday!! Hopefully I will get to see everyone soon after that. Possibly the bar that night???? Anyways, can´t want to get home to see all of you!!!!!
Hasta luego

Monday, June 2, 2008

Italia...a little delayed...

So, I know that I promised a blog soon after the last, but let’s be honest…I’m in Europe, things come up….so here it is, a little late, but here nonetheless.
After my family left, my friends and I took off for our trip to Italy. I’ve talked about going to Italy since I was young (my friend Stephanie and I said we were going to go there when we turned 16, ha!), so I was very excited to go. My three friends Caroline, Caitlin, Sam and I met up with Sam’s friend from home in Rome, and we started our Italian adventure. The first three days we spent in Rome, Rome-ing around the Colusseum and old Roman Ruins. We saw the Trevi Fountain and Vatican City. I didn’t get to go to the Sistine Chapel on Saturday when two of my friends went, but I went Vatican City and got to see the Pope poke his head out of his little window and bless the crowd. That was really awesome, he spoke in about 7 different languages and welcomed everyone to Rome…I’d say it was better than seeing the Chapel.
On Sunday afternoon we took a train to Pisa, and got to see the Leaning Tower! The next day we took a day trip to Cinque Terre, which is five little cities all along the coast. You hike from one to the other, and it was an absolutely beautiful day which made it so perfect. That was probably my favorite part of the whole trip.
Monday night we were in Florence, had a quick dinner and then went to bed. We woke up and walked around the city, seeing the Duomo (dome on top of the cathedral) and much of the city. The next day we waited for about two hours in line at the Ufizi Gallery, and I got to see several works that I’ve studied in art history, the Birth of Venus being my favorite. That afternoon, Sam and I headed off to Milan, where we would catch the plane back to Sevilla. That was an adventure all in itself! Instead of taking the bus that the hostel told us to, we decided to take the advice of an Italian man who insisted that it would get us to our destination faster. We walked around in the rain for about half an hour trying to find the right bus, when we finally did, we pointed to the stop we needed, and the driver started rambling off in Italian. I said “oh okay, “ Sam said, “you got it?” and I was like surrree….when we got on the bus she asked again “Okay, so what did he say” I replied with “I have no idea…I THINK he said we have to get off at some point and switch buses…” So we just rode around for a while, eventually the bus driver got up and signaled for us to get off, and we transferred to the other bus. At this next bus the driver did the same thing, we pointed, he rambled, and then he signaled when it was time for us to get off. So, about an hour and a half after we’d gotten off the train, we were in the general area of where we needed to be, still walking around in the rain, looking for the hostal. We finally found it with the help of an Italian bus boy with little English, but with our Spanish and his Italian we found our way. This hostal was about the creepiest thing we’d been in. We walked up a few flights of stairs to a room poorly lit, (think flickering lights and cracked walls), only to be led down the stairs, to an alley in the back, and up another five flights. Once the man realized that the room he was going to put us in was full, we had to walk back down the stairs to another room, with a boy from China who was wayyyy too excited that there were going to be girls in his room with him. We walked into the room, and there was paint splattered on the walls as if someone had just thrown it around, no locks on the doors, and no lockers. I guess that’s what we get for booking the cheapest hostel just a few days before we arrive. Oh well, it was a good life lesson. (Nothing was stolen…)
When we got back to Sevilla the Feria was going on. That was an awesome part of the semester. On Friday I got to go with my friend Danielle to her boyfriends “caseta” (a little tent decorated like a house, with working bathrooms and bars!”. We spent the evening dancing flamenco and drinking rebuijito (some sort of white wine mixed with Sprite, gross at first, after about 5 glasses you don’t taste it anymore). The next day my friend Sam and I went pedalboating on the river, and just relaxed under the sun.
That was about six weeks ago. After that, I went to London for a weekend to see my friend Renata, and ended up deciding that I NEED to live in London eventually. The city is so amazing. I barely spoke one word of English the whole weekend because I was with Brazilians, and there are just so many people from all different parts of the world. I think it’s calling my name.
After London, it was time for finals to begin….ahhh!!! After a LOT (sarcasm) of studying….the semester was over, and it was time for everyone to go home. Many of the people in my program left on the 16th to go to Madrid to fly home, but others, such as me, Caroline and Sam, were off to go travel some more.
Okay, I’m going to end this post here….and continue on in a new one so no one gets bored.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Paris, family time, and everything in between!

I have to apologize first off for the delay in my posts. I always intend to start them...and then something comes up!! So I have a lot of catching up to do!

My last post I wrote about Lisbon and Granada. Well two weeks after that my friend Lauren and I went to Paris to visit the boy that lived with us a few years ago, Antoine. Let me tell you something...those French sure know how to be amazing hosts!! Antoine, his best friend Laura, and his mother Michele showed us absolutely everything there was to see in Paris! We saved a lot of time and money by having them drive us around, and they offered to pay for so much. Lauren and I are very grate ful for their hospitality! We saw all the tourist things obviously, Eiffel tower, Notre Dame, and we got to go to Versailles as well. It was awesome getting to see all those famous places that at one time I never thought I would get to see! Paris is amazing...I loved it!

Two weeks after getting back from Paris I went on a trip to Morocco! That was a trip unlike any other...we took the ferry from Spain to Tangiers, and headed down to Fez after that. After spending a night there we started off to the desert, where we took four by fours to get to our hotel. The next morning we rode camels for about two hours into the middle of the Sahara! It was sooo peaceful and beautiful. We spent the night there in an "oasis", a large circle of tents right under a huge dune! We hiked up to the top of this huuuge sand dune to watch the was so pretty. Literally like out of a movie!! We had a lot of fun dancing and singing with the Berbers in the middle of the desert...the next day we took the camels back into the towns (it was not nearly as fun the next day...try riding a camel for two hours and see how your legs feel!!!). We left then to go back to Fez to stay for two nights...On the Monday that we were there we went to the Medina...and area of over 9000 windy little streets just like something out of Aladdin! It was a huge market with basically anything you could ever want. I practiced my bargaining skills (i'm not that great) and came out with some fun things. Scarves, a handmade Moroccan rug, and some medicine for my dads back from a pharmacy (where they sold all sorts of spices, lotions and perfumes!) were some of the things I came back with! It was definitely a reality check being there...there is lots of poverty but these people are so friendly. Literally all of them would say to us "Welcome to my country". All of them speak Arabic and French, and most also speak Spanish and English as well. It was amazing having a conversation with the Berbers that live in the desert. One little boy and I talked for about half an hour in Spanish, because he didn't know much English and my Arabic isn't all that great. (ha!). My parents would have loooved the food, but I was actually not to crazy about it. Lots of sweet flavors...but it was interesting. It was a very eye opening trip. Not somewhere that I am dying to go back to again, but I'm so happy I went.

We got back from Morocco on Wednesday night, and then I went out to check out Semana Santa on Thursday. As I mentioned before, it is a very big religious celebration here. It was interesting to see how involved all of the Spaniards get. I'm not Catholic so some of the parades were a little intense for me, but I'm glad I got to go see it.

The next day, Friday, I actually flew to France to surprise my family! They had no idea I was coming. I had been talking to Solene so her family knew, and they did a great job of keeping it from my family! I met up with Antoine in the airport, and then Solene walked in with my parents. They were not expecting me at all! It was fun getting to surprise them and hanging out with them and Solenes family for the next few days. (even though I had to hike up a mountain in the Alps...not my favorite thing to do!) We all came back to Sevilla on Tuesday. I think they had a lot of fun here, we saw a lot of the touristy things and got to eat lots of Spanish food! I'm so happy that they could come to see Sevilla...

Two days after they left my friends and I left for Italy...but that is another whole blog I'm gonna end this one here. Lets just say there was lots of wine, pasta, and Pope blessing involved...(are you intrigued???) I promise I'll get that one up within the next few days...for now I have to go out and celebrate Feria de Abril!!!

Hasta luego...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

La vida es linda...

I haven't yet talked much about what it's like living here in Seville. I've been doing so much traveling that sometimes it seems as though I am just making pit stops along the way in Seville...but lemme tell you a little bit the city.
Right now, all of the orange trees are in bloom and the city has the most incredible smell as you walk through the streets. Honestly, like nothing you've ever smelt before! (smelt? is that a word?) The weather has been incredible lately, today was all clear skies and probably close to 75 degrees. I have classes four days a week, and today took two of my midterms. Next week we have off for Semana Santa, where the Spainards will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. I won't be here to see much of it, as I am leaving for Morrocco on Friday, but I will be here in time to see the best of the celebrations, which takes place on Thursday night. What happens is that there are these huge parades, where a group of 20 or so men walk through the streets with a float type thing on their backs. These can last for up to 8 hours my teacher told me today, because there are certain stops that each float has to make along the way before arriving at the Cathedral. It will be really interesting to see.
The food here is...decent. Some things I absolutely the stuffed artichokes my maid made last week. the jamon serrano (ham cut straight off the leg of a pig) I'm not to crazy about. The tapas here (appetizers...or little plates of food) are nothing like they have at the Tapas bars in the US. I have yet to see dates wrapped in bacon and some of the other delicious things they serve back in the US. There is a lot of ham...and a lot of tuna. (anyone ever had tuna lasagna??? I have!!! not very appetizing...). I eat a lot of bread...and our maid for some reason loves to cook soup. We have soup at least two or three times a week...lentil, garbanzo bean, cabbage and potato...its good, don't get me wrong...but one can only handle so much soup.
The nightlife is friends and I like going to little bars and having some beer or wine...and some of the night clubs are fun too (that is if we can stay up until about 2 or 3 am, when they start to get hoppin...). I've had a few nights where I am just getting in when the maid is coming in to work...haha. Sometimes we have to fend of creepy men...but for the most part its fun. We botellon every once and a while (like pregaming in college...but only we do it down by the river...). Its a very festive country...
I recently decided that instead of going home after the semester is over, at the end of May, I am going to be staying here in Seville until the end of June. I'm going to try to find a room to rent, and possibly get a job as a waitress or tutoring in english or something if I run out of money (which is quite possible). I think it would be good for me to be here during a time where I am no surrounded by American students every where I turn.
One of the hardest things about living here is making Spanish friends. I actually dont have any. I'm not lonely by any means, I have quite a few American friends here...but there are so many foreign students in this city that the Spainards aren't really interested in getting to know any of us...this is really different for me from living in Brasil, where I was the only American girl during that whole year, and the Brasilians were really interested in meeting me. I do meet people at the bars and school and stuff...but none that I have become friends with.
The past few weeks have been a whole mix of emotions and thoughts running through my what will I being doing a year from now? I'm supposed to be graduating in December with a degree in Spanish Translation...but...then what? I'll have quite a few loans to start paying unfortunately traveling carelessly throughout the world probably isn't an option...(as much as I would love to do so). I've given some thought to teaching english abroad...I'd love to go back to South America...but I guess we'll just have to see what happens.
Also...I've been noticing lately that more and more of my high school classmates and people my age are getting in serious relationships and engaged and even having children! Those of you who know me well know that I haven't been in very many serious relationships...I'm so picky when it comes to who I date (my dad reminds me all the time...)...but I just don't let myself settle for anyone thats all. But anyways,...sometimes it gets me I ever going to find someone that I feel I could live with for the rest of my life? Some of you know (and I know some of you had no idea) that for the past several months before I left for Spain I was seeing someone...not a lot of people know the details because I was kinda worried about the reactions that I would get...but it was someone that I cared really deeply about, but that I just don't see a future with because he would not be able to provide me and a family with what I would need and want in life. However, the fact that I was able to find out that there are people out there in the world that I can care so much about in that way was reassuring to me...because before him I wasn't sure! It's just another one of those things that will come when the time is right... that I've spilled my guts to everyone...its time for me to get going for a night out on the town. We leave at 5 am on there will be no bar hopping for me tomorrow night!! Hope everyone is well!!!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Granada y Lisboa

Last nite we arrived back in Seville after an amazing weekend in Portugal...but I haven't yet written about my trip to Granada which we did 2 weeks ago, so let me start there...

Granada is about 3 hours away by bus from Sevilla. It is a charming city filled with hippies and gypsies and lots of students. The streets are lined with little stores where you can buy hookahs, rugs and lamps (think Aladdin!). On Friday night we took a hike up to the top of the city to see the Alhambra at night. The Alhambra is a palace built by the Moors thousands of years ago, and it is amazingly beautiful. After taking some pics, we got to go see a flamenco show in a cave. These women and men train for years to become as amazing as they are, and it really was quite an experience seeing them.

The next morning, after a fun night out on the town, we left to get our tour of the Alhambra. The pictures don't do it justice, as it is something that really needs to be seen in person. The details in the walls and floors are so beautiful and intricate, and there is so much history behind all of it. There are fountains everywhere, and a labryinth made out of bushes that are filled with roses in the spring (unfortunately they weren't in bloom when we went). After our tour, we got back on the bus and headed for Sevilla.

As amazing as Granada was, Portugal was by far my favorite. We got into Lisboa around 2pm on Friday, and from there we went on a quick tour. We got to see an old castle and a little bit of the city, and then headed out for some food. The Portuguese in Portugal is sooo different from what I speak, so it was a little hard ordering. We were't quite sure what to expect, but we were all satisfied with our food. I actually just ended up getting some salmon and vegetables, but my friends got what they thought was going to be a chicken dish, that ended up being something french toast like filled with chicken and pork and topped with an egg and cheese...interesting, to say the least.

The next morning we took the bus around the city again. We went to a beautiful cathedral, and then afterwards a small group of us took the train to this cute little city called Sintra. It is so old and charming looking, and then we hopped on the bus to Cabo de Roca, which is the western most part of Europe! It was a really cool thing to see, although it was POURING!!! But I"m really glad I got to go see it. After dinner at Pizza Hut (yes, we needed some good ole' pizza) we headed back to Lisboa and got ready for a night out on the town.

We ended up drinking some tintos de verano (red wine mixed with lemon soda ...soo good!) in our hotel room before going out. Then we took some taxis to the docks, which is this strip of bars and nightclubs right on the river. Needeless to say, we all had an amazing time...the Portuguese are really friendly people.

After arriving back at our hotel at 630 we were able to lay down for a couple hours before getting back on the bus to Sevilla. The 6 hour bus ride was not very fun, I couldn't sleep because my butt kept going numb (my feet dont touch the floor of the they would just dangle there...not comfortable!). But after arriving in Sevilla last night I got a good night's sleep before going to classes this morning.

Portugal was so beautiful, and I absolutely fell in love with it. I'd really like to go back some day...and I"m sure I will! On Thursday my friend Lauren and I are off to Paris for a weekend, and then two weeks from that I will be in Morocco. That will be quite the adventure! Hope everyone is well back in the States...I'll see you all if a few months!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

A weekend filled with tintos and teardrops...

Last April, when news of the shootings at Virginia Tech surfaced, I thanked God that something that horrific hadn't happened at NIU. Last December, when school was cancelled due to the threats written on the wall in Grant, I prayed to God that nothing would ever come of it. And last Thursday, when I got a text saying that there had been a shooting at my school, I begged God to please be with the families, friends, and students at Northern.

Everyone always says "I never thought something like this would ever happen at MY school." But until it does, you really never think that it could. For me, it still seems unreal. I hate the fact that I can't go put flowers on the memorials that are set up around campus, or go to the candlelight vigils that have been held, or even just hug my fellow Huskies. I am very grateful that I was not there to see the chaos that errupted immediately following the shootings, but I am also very sad that there is very little that I can do from thousands of miles away, besides pray as hard as I can.

This weekend has been very hard for me. On Friday, a girl that is studying here in Sevilla from NIU, called to tell me that her friend Gayle had been killed in the shootings. I cried for her. I cried for Gayle. I cried as well for Daniel, Ryanne, Catalina and Julianna. I cried for Steven, for the motive that made him commit such a horrific crime. I cried for the other students who were lucky enough to survive, the students that were in the classroom, and the families and friends of all of those involved. I cried for all my Huskies, and I cried for whoever it is that will feel this pain in the future (because unless something drastic changes in the near future regarding the gun laws, it is sure to happen again).

Those of you who know me well know what a sensitive person I am. I joke a lot about how episodes of Full House make me cry (the one with Papuli gets me every time). I sometimes wish I weren't so sensitive...but then I realize that I am just making up for those selfish people in the world who don't care about others at all.

Tomorrow I will proudly be wearing my school colors, because according to Facebook, students around the country will be doing the same to show their support for the Huskies. I can not begin to thank all of the other schools around the country that have left comments on Facebook with phrases such as "We are all Huskies". It really shows how much tragedies bring people close together.

I am blessed to be having this experience right now. I am blessed to be living in such a beautiful country. I am blessed to have great friends here...and great friends and family at home. And I am so thankful to each and every one of you for just being who you are.

Experiences like this are life changing-no doubt about it. You meet people who will forever change your lives. There are two girls in my program from Virginia Tech. One of them, who has become a good friend, lost a friend last April. The other one immediatly posted on my wall on Facebook giving her phone number in case I needed to talk. Seeing these two girls offering their love and support to me makes me realize that soon it will start to get better...and I once again will be off doing bigger and better things.

I may be here, but my heart and prayers are with the Huskies. FOREWARD, TOGETHER FORWARD...For today, we are all Huskies...

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Carnaval en Cadiz!

Last nite we went to Cadiz, a city on the beach, to celebrate Carnaval. It's like a Mardi-Gras, Halloween themed celebration, and there were sooo many people!! It was insane. We went in the afternoon, hung out on the beach for a while, and then walked around. We ended up buying some bottles of wine to drink, and the costumes were insane! There were big groups of people dressed a like, and some of them were so funny. It was basically just a huuuuge party and it was a blast! The funniest part was when Caitlin saw two police officers, and got scared and she asked me to put the bottle of rum she had in my purse...and then I saw them taking pictures of each other and we realized they were just costumes! But apparently, anything goes at Carnaval!! We ended up getting a train at 5:10 in the morning and got back to our apartment around 8 this morning...and then slept all afternoon of course. I highly recommend it to anyone that comes to visit Spain during this time of the year!!!