¡Visca el Barça! Weekend in Barcelona
Monday, March 28, 2011
Just got back from a whirlwind weekend in Barcelona with my friends Bre, Nathalie, and Nicole! This city is awesome. We got there Saturday at about noon and packed a lot of stuff into a day and a half. My favorite part of this place is the architecture - I could just stare at the buildings and be happy.
We visited the Sagrada Familia (a Gaudi cathedral that will be under construction for the next 50 years at least due to its extensive building plans), a huge open air market with amazing fruit and food, Park Guell for the view, Las Ramblas (a famous street with artisans and culture and stuff), the Pablo Picasso museum, Plaza Espanya, tons of designer stores that we had NO business entering. (Dolce and Gabana, Chanel, and Valentino? Ha.) I am the newest addition to the Gaudi fan club, also, in case you were wondering. I love how his buildings use stone and yet make it look like it was formed out of silly putty or play-dough, almost straight out of a Dr. Seuss book. Unreal. We had an interesting trip back to Sevilla.
Our flight left at 6 a.m., but the metro train to the airport stopped running by midnight. So we arrived at the airport at 11:30 and spent the night there - talking, playing cards, half napping with our heads down on random cafe tables, and giggling out of tiredness and our state of delirium. Got back to the city center of Seville at 8:45 a.m., with just enough time to walk STRAIGHT to my school in time for my 9 a.m. class. After a night of no sleep and a three hour stretch of class, let me tell you that my four-hour siesta this afternoon was PRET-TY sweet.
Allow Myself to Introduce...Myself.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
I figured it was time for a post that wasn't just pictures and adventures. Don't worry - more of those to come. But yesterday I was talking to someone about how this semester has definitely broadened my horizons. I've had to grow up in a lot of ways. I've changed in a lot of ways too, almost so much so that I hope I won't have to reintroduce myself to everyone at home. People generally know me as a picky eater, needing to be around people at all times, an English speaker, and not having a fabulous sense of direction. And, last of all, according to my Dad, I need to constantly be working on my "situational awareness." (Classic.) I've had to face my fears of speaking in Spanish, come here alone and make new friends from complete scratch, find my way around a million metro stops and bus systems for airport transportation and travel, walk everywhere and navigate around Seville, and to me, the most significant, is TRY NEW FOOD. Here is a list of stuff that I have eaten in completion for the first time in my life:
1. Calamari. Not only the fried variety, but also a cooked one that looked like a literal mini-squid in its entirety. Tentacles and all hanging off my spoon. The texture is squishy. And gross. But I did it.
2. Salad with iceberg lettuce. For me, this is a big deal.
3. Pasta stuffed with spinach
4. Cooked spinach. No, did not get stronger afterward like Popeye, just grossed out.
5. Garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas)
6. Bleu cheese. Smells like a foot.
7. Deep fried ‘fish sticks’, except not really sure what's in there. I think a lot of seafood matter. You just don't ask.
8. Squash vegetable soup
9. Deep fried minnow/anchovy-like fish, not sure exactly what they are. Ate the head, scales and everything.
10. Tomatoes. Served plain. Ugh - this one still gives me goosebumps when I try to eat them.
I think I'm different in a few other ways too. One little way is the fact that I don't care as much if people will like the clothes I buy, so if I like something, I get it without worrying if others will. I also have found that I am much more go-with-the-flow in group situations than I thought - my Type-A side has mellowed out a little.
One big way is that, being completely sans comfort zone, I've had to learn to rely on the Lord and own my faith for myself. It's a lot easier to "coast" in your spiritual life when you can hide behind familiar church services, school praise and worship, Bible studies, Christian friends and family, etc. Not that those things aren't wonderful - I just think coming here was an extra shove that I needed.
While these things are cool, I am still the usual me, por supuesto. In fact, I am not one of those people who will come back and tell you that Europe is just so much more cultured than the Midwest. I happen to love Wisconsin and Chicago and can't wait to see them again. I think I always will feel like that.
...and Mom - don't get any funny ideas with the above list. Your cooking is perfect as is.
...and yes, the title is a quote from the original Austin Powers. I went there.
An American in Paris
Monday, March 14, 2011
This weekend I went to Paris with nine others from my program - it was incredible! The French have definitely scored some brownie points in my book over the last few days. We fit so many activities into very little time. We visited three museums: the Louvre (the Mona Lisa's home), an impressionist museum with lots of VanGogh (Musée d'Orsay), and a contemporary museum with Picasso and friends (Centre Pompidou). I am a nerd this way and love art museums, so needless to say I was in heaven. Bonus for us = free admission for people with student visas! I didn't pay a single entrance fee all weekend. Apart from the museums, we went on a sweet three and a half hour walking tour of the city, led by a hilarious tour guide, saw the Eiffel Tower (three times), saw the Arc de Triomphe, went inside the Notre Dame cathedral during Sunday morning mass, saw the Moulin Rouge, went to La Basilique de Sacré Coeur de Montmartre (a pretty church), ate street hot dogs and probably 73 crepes, and navigated the crazy but really efficient metro system. Fun fact: I found that I have absolutely no ability to look at a word in French and figure out how to pronounce it.
Monday, March 7, 2011
Here is the first food post!
You are looking at my daily breakfast, circa 8:25 a.m. And people wonder why students who go abroad gain weight. On the top right you see a mug of ColaCao. Basically, their version of Ovaltine. It is delicious, and it is pretty nice to have a hot cup of goodness to wake up to. On the top left you see a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. I kid you not; my Señora gets up every morning and uses three oranges to go with my breakfast. I'm not sure that I'll be physically able to go back to Tropicana. And then, of course, el pan - the bread. Looks like this particular morning was a half-Nutella, half-fake butter day. Mmmm. Sometimes I switch it up to raspberry jelly. Something I miss immensely: PEANUT BUTTER. But alas, last week I found it at the grocery store in a TINY jar...so I bought some and added it to the cabinet here. The brand has nothing on Jif, but I'll take it.
Sing Like A Canary
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
I just returned from my first official travel weekend! Ashley, Nicole, and I flew to the Canary Islands and stayed on Gran Canaria, the "big" island, in a hostel overlooking the beach/ocean. Not too shabby.
We spent a lot of time at the beach and hiked up the plateau for some great views. We stayed in a small beach town called Puerto de Mogan at Volver Hostel, which is built into the side of the mountain. Our stay there was a huge reason why we had such a great time. We met people from all over the world: A German hippie girl who makes pottery, a German student couple, a British girl, a Swedish dad traveling with his three young sons, an older lady from Iceland, a Palestinian woman who lives in London (she says she is so thankful for the freedom she has found there), a Cuban waiter one night for dinner (with a few choice words to say about Fidel), an Italian lady, and a Canadian guy traveling with his French girlfriend. The last two were especially nice to us and filled us in on travel tips about Paris for our future excursion there. The last night we sat up on the roof and talked with them for most of the night. The owner of the hostel is a German girl who is super artsy and original - the hostel is definitely one of a kind. We loved the decoration, the shared kitchen and living space, and the incredible view.