Wednesday, October 15, 2014

They say time flys when you are having fun!

Not even sure where to start since I last posted! Let's go with Noche en Blanca (Saturday 10/4), the evening where there are street performances of improv or dance, free museum entrance, classical and jazz concerts, dance lessons and learning how to play different board games. Overall there was tons to do and see. My friends and I ended up going to an improv performance in the subway station and then an amazing jazz quartet of saxophones. Then we all went to go eat some tapas and chat before heading back to our respective homes. Sunday (10/5--also my sissy's birthday!), I went on a tour of Carmona where I learned about the history of the city and how it served as an important strategy city in terms of the military.

This past weekend I was in Barcelona with Greta and her friend, Jeremy. We had such a blast walking all over the city learning about the history, seeing the beautiful sights, and also making sure that Jeremy tasted all of our favorite tapas. From the museums of Picasso and Miro to hitting three world heritage sights in one day (the nativity facade of the Sagrada Familia, the Palau de Musica Catalana, and Park Guell) we made the most of our short stay. On the last night, we went to a fountain show with a mix of jazz, classical, and traditional Catalan music, which was so fun!

This week I got to go to my volunteering for the first time, which was really great! I am working at a school for children with special needs and get to go with the younger children to the pool and help them with water therapy. Each child has me or one of their teachers working with them in the water and their is an instructor for the class who first lead us through a group warm up and then told us what each child should do to help them with motor skills. The little boy I worked with, probably around 6, needed to work on walking by himself in the water, so we played keep away with some balls and also played a version of basketball. Then we showered and changed them all back into their clothes and headed back to the school. I left early since I had to go to class and I didn't know how long the walk would take, but next week I think I will have time to help them with lunch, too. The kids are very sweet and so far I think I know all of their names. Four more children are coming with us next week, which brings out number up to ten kiddos :)

Sadly, the day after volunteering I realized that I have a cold. Luckily for me, Jori knows all of the home remedies to get me back up and running. From keeping my neck warm with a scarf at almost all times to spoonfuls of lemon juice and honey mixed together (shout-out to my Dad who makes me hot water with lemon and honey when I am sick--you have an ally in your methods) and eating a spoonful of olive oil at breakfast and before I sleep, I should be better by the start of next week--fingers crossed!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Birthdays, Carrera Nocturna, Senderismo in Huelva and more

This week has been full of fun from figuring out my classes for the year to the most exercise I have done all month.

I have decided to take Social Psychology; Psychology of Development of Adolescence, Adulthood and Old Age; Theory of Knowledge; and Spanish Grammar. For my psychology classes there are small group classes where I get to know students better and do projects with them. Everything has been going well and I have started working on a project and was actually able to contribute to what we were talking about! My professors have been great thus far, as well :) And somehow I only have classes Monday through Wednesday which means I am in class from 9am until 8 or 9pm (with a lunch break-thank goodness) two of the three days but I have a long weekend if I want to travel.

Thursday was Greta's birthday so we celebrated her and our friendship with a fun night. We ate dinner together, got drinks at a beautiful terrace where we could see the Giralda and then went to a bar. Friday we ran in Carrera Nocturna, which is a race in Sevilla that more than 25,000 people run in. It was 8.5 km and I would say that I ran about 5 km which was a huge surprise. We got to run with people in funny costumes, give high-fives to kids watching, and were pumped up throughout the race by watchers who started chants and cheered us on. We ran along the streets of Sevilla and I got to see some new places! After we went to a market going on near by and got some gelato. I got to meet my other host family grandson on Saturday since he came to spend the night. He is just over one and is such a sweetie. I enjoyed getting to know him and talking more with my host sister (his aunt) who came to visit. Sunday, today, we went hiking in the area surrounding Huelva and wow was it gorgeous! We had a great guide who told us all about life in the farm land and the way that the people really have a harmonious relationship with the land. Definitely a place to return to and explore.

Par usual, my host family is super sweet-reminding me to take a jacket when I got out at night and chatting with me about the mix of good and bad in the world. While I don't always follow the conversation when they start talking quickly, I catch enough to follow along and I can always ask them to explain more.

Ack! I almost forgot to mention that I got to have dinner with my aunt and uncle while they were here in Sevilla about a week ago! It was so wonderful to see them and to catch up :) They treated me to a yummy cafe and we chatted about life. Such a special experience!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Livin' la vida loca

Where to begin! 

So I have been living in Sevilla for a week or more now and there are so many wonderful things about this place and the people I have met! I shall start with the band: Cayla, Greta, Bailey, and Rachel. The five of us have been to the beach Matalacana in Huelga together and since then have spent time together studying, going out for sangria and chatting, or planning what we are going to do with our weekends here. There are my huggy bunch of gals who I already miss when I don’t see them for a few days. There are so many great people in the program that I am getting to know, as well.


 The next great thing about Sevilla is my host family. Jori and Juan are so sweet to me and I am having such a great time getting to know them. Juan used to work three jobs, one of which was at a radio station so he knows a ton about music and technology. One night we were talking about flamenco and cantores (the flamenco singers) and he played some records of different genres of flamenco that he had recorded from his time working at the radio. Jori is an amazing seamstress and has made everything in the house from the bedspreads to the curtains and even some of her clothes. She also loves to cook and everything she makes is phenomenal! The number of cookbooks she has in impressive and I know I will not go hungry by any stretch of the imagination. Juan cooks, too!

We also have some pretty funny conversations. My favorite so far is when I was doing homework for my intensive Spanish class (two weeks long) and we had some vocabulary we had to go over. The wifi in the house has been having problems/we are changing providers and they don’t have a dictionary so I couldn’t look any of the words up. Jori and Juan offered to help me and it turned into a game of how can we explain to the American what these different words mean. Through charades, showing me said item or explaining what each thing was I learned quite a lot-a box of matches, a snowflake, a gust of wind, a bunch of flowers, etc. They were explaining “gajo” which I learned is basically a section of orange. A debate ensued between Jori and Juan if lemons had these sections, too, and Juan ended up cutting up a lemon to prove his point. Now, he will bring it up every so often if Jori is telling him he is wrong about something.

I have also finally learned the word for sink! I think I asked Laura and Pepi how to say it a few times when I was in Valencia and now that I am here I have asked Jori and Juan. Then I would try and remember it at various points throughout the day and they would laugh when I said it wrong and tell me how to say the name again-fregadero.

This past weekend I went to their beach house in Rota and oh my goodness was it lovely! If you ever need a relaxing scenic beach vacation this is your place. Also, it is good for people who don’t speak a lot of Spanish since there is a naval base nearby and a lot of English is spoken in the town.

The second week of intensive classes has started off well and there is already so much going on! Figuring out classes for the semester is a bit challenging but I am sure things will work themselves out in the end! 

Off to get started on this weeks tasks!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


I have arrived in Sevilla and am now with my host family here, Jori and Juan! Saying goodbye to Laura and her family was sad, but I am happy to know that I will have the opportunity to see them more this semester.

My host family in Sevilla is so sweet and have hosted many different students in the past. They have three grown-up daughters and two grandchildren. So far, we have gotten along really well and they have been super kind and helpful. I also met with some other students today and will be meeting with them this week for our orientation to Sevilla. It just so happens that I met a girl that is in my group on the plane from Valencia to Sevilla. Everyone seems great, though a bit jet lagged. I feel lucky to be on Spanish time already. Tomorrow I will go see one of the universities and meet with some of the directors of the program. I can't wait! I am excited to learn more about the city and my nerves are subsiding for now. I imagine when I start classes in the university after my two weeks of intensive Spanish classes, I will be nervous once again. Until then, I will work on knowing my way around the city and making friends with the people in my program.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Early birds

Day trips from Munich-part three
Our train ride to F├╝ssen was great! I slept the first hour or so (up at 6:30 today) and then enjoyed the beautiful view as we wound our way towards the mountains. Upon arrival, we walked to the famous bridge where there is a lovely view of the castle Neuschwanstein. It was a long uphill walk but the weeks conditioning helped. A gorgeous view of the castle and the surrounding lakes greeted us. Then we went for a tour of the Neuschwanstein castle. The decadence and detail in each room were astounding! Ludwig II created a beautiful space, though it was never completed. Both Laura and I wished we had had more time to absorb everything but they keep us moving at a steady pace through a guided tour. Probably to be able to get more people in and out.

Laura and I then walked around the castle to a lake surrounded by mountains and then up to the other castle called Hohenschwangau. We walked around the outside and then went down to the town a little bit away. There were some art tents set up that we walked through and then we waited in the station for the train, as to not get wet from the rain.

On the ride back we were joined by two people who knew each other from staying in the same hostel. The girl was from New York and the boy from Malaysia. We had interesting conversations with them about traveling, vaccines, and being your own medical advocate. It was really great and made the two hours fly by!

Now Laura and I are in the apartment and are planning to sleep soon since we have to get up at one to catch the train to the airport. Our plane leaves around 6:30 but the only way to get there in time with the train schedule is to leave early! Can't believe we are already leaving Germany and I am that much closer to starting my next four months in Sevilla!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Salt mines and speed walking

Day trips from Munich-part two
Today we went to Berchtesgaden-say that three times fast! The train ride there was three hours through the beautiful country side though sadly it was very cloudy and rainey so we couldn't see the Alps. When we arrive the rain was in a steady downfall. I wanted to go to a salt mine and told Laura what I though was the name. We got directions and were waiting for the bus when Laura asked why we stopped in Berchtesgaden if I wanted to go to a different town. I was confused but then realized that we were headed to Salzburg instead of the mining place, Saltzberwerk. We were figuring out which bus we should actually take when a guy asked if we spoke English and could help him figure out the bus schedule. Turns out that he just needed to talk through it out loud because he realized what he needed to do. That happens to me all the time!We got to talking and he was from Sydney,Australia. We talked about where we were from and what we were  doing. Our good luck was that he knew of Salzbergwerk and gave us directions on how to walk there! What a friendly bloke.

Upon arrival at Sazlberwek, we bought a ticket for the salt mine tour and proceeded to eat our lunch. Once it was time for our tour, we went and got the special suits all people have to wear for the cold since the mines are kept at 12 C or 53 F at all times. There was a little train we took down into the mine and I was given an audio guide so that I could understand and learn about the mining. There also were two slides that we got to go down! Very fun. I learned that they find places that contain salt and add a lot of spring water to make a brine. I got to taste some and it was quite salty! The brine sits in these huge caverns for around 30 years and is then taken out and distilled to gather the salt.

After this tour, we went outside and were greeted with fewer clouds and no rain! We walked around climbing here and there in the mountain paths and then walked to the city center to see the castle, cathedral and lovely streets. A lot of this area was on a hill and we had a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains. Our next endeavor was to walk to Koenigssee which is a lake close by Berchtesgaden. At the information office we learned that it was 5 km away which is an hour and a half walk. Also our train was due to leave in two and half hours With Laura's encouragement, and reflection on our past speed walking, we took the challenge to walk there, take photos, and make it back in time. With the fastest speed walking I've done and some spurts of running, we made it to the lake in 45 minutes. We didn't get to walk all around since we were afraid of missing the train but we saw part of the lake and it was quite lovely. The walk back was a little slower paced and also easier since it was down hill! Round trip was an hour and 40 minutes. We then went to the grocery store to buy some sweets for the three hour train ride home. Feeling very accomplished and a little sore, we are now preparing to rest up for tomorrow's adventure-Neuschwanstein!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Magic tricks with trains

Day trips from Munich-day one!
Today we left for Ulm on a two hour train ride from Munich. When we got on the train we were joined by eight men dressed in traditional Bavarian garb and drinking beer. My thought was oh no. We talked with them and enjoyed joking with them (well mostly Laura talked to them since they did not know much English). But when they ran out of beer they asked a group of younger guys a car or so ahead for beer. When the guy came back we learned that we had been "traded" for beer-they had told the younger guys we'd go sit with them. So maybe kinda funny but then one of the guys kept pushing the issue and we started to get rather annoyed. Luckily it was at this time that the train stopped. But we weren't in Ulm. Turns out that the train had split in half, ladies and gentlemen. Yup. Half of the train went to Ulm and half went to who knows where. So we got off and went with the guys to take another train back two stops to get on the correct train for Ulm  By the last train we were not sitting with them and were happy to arrive in Ulm.

First, we went to the cathedral of Ulm which was stunning! And there was a tower to climb, which I was so excited about. 710 steps later we were almost dead but thrilled to be at the too spire of the cathedral. I was like a kid in a candy shop walking all around, taking photos, and absorbing the beauty. Then we walked down (a dizzying experience where you feel like you aren't moving since the walls and stairs all continue in a spiral) and went into the cathedral. My legs kept a shaking whenever I stood still as they were rather worn out from the climbing. The inside was also stunning-a gorgeous organ, different family crests, and wonderfully carved stone.

Afterwards we walk around and took in the lovely buildings and river. Ulm is quite picturesque. Then it was time to take the train back to Munich. We slept some and I listened to music. The landscape outside of the train was great and it was fun to see different towns and cities. Quite a few of the houses here have solar panels, which Laura says is part of the effort of Germany to be green. Upon arrival in Munich we ran to Milka welt since I had not yet gotten anything from there and we wouldn't have time other days. Good fortune that it had not yet closed and I was able to get some cookies for our breakfast and some chocolate to bring home (we shall see if it makes it until December staying in my bag :)). Laura and I are going out with a friend of hers from Spain that is studying here this summer. Luckily the Germans do not stay out until 7 so we will be home by 2 at the latest to get some sleep before we get up for our next day trip!

**we didn't end up going out but I somehow ended up awake until one. Whoops!