Remember when you were about 12 years old and your mom would come pick you up after a sleepover at a friend's house and you didn't want to leave so you'd hide in some ridiculous place like the pantry or the coat closet or just casually put a bag over your head (because obviously if you can't see mom, she can't see you)..? I think I'll be doing that, but on a much larger scale. I'm going to hide in Spain, and I wish Lara and Jake all the luck in the world trying to find me, because I am motivated dammit, and I will not be leaving. I'm not ready. I won't be ready next week or next month or next year. I am in love with this country. I love the cañas and the coffee and the culture and the chinos and everything else that apparently starts with C because I was on a roll there..
I will not, however miss the exams. You see, I've done it poorly. I have a flight out on the 14th, I finish exams on the 13th. I do not have time to lay around with my friends and just talk about nothing. I do not have time to go out with my flatmates or sit on the couch and watch stupid youtube videos and laugh. I do not have time to meet Alvaro for a beer or listen to new German music with Lara or sit around with Jake and throw things at him when he isn't looking. Spain is evil and drags exams out for a month long period of super much fun. I have completed my first two exams and am currently (not like right right now bc I'm typing this but like now-ish) studying for my second two, which are conveniently the most difficult classes I have ever taken in my life and happen to be in my second language. La vida is buena. Pray for me or send good vibes or whatever you're into bc I'm going to need all the help I can get.
So here is where my current conundrum is stemming from: I have 6 days left in Spain (unfortunately once you're under a week, it's hard not to subconsciously count the days, no matter how much it hurts). Mind you I really can't complain because I'm leaving and traveling and then heading to Germany for my internship BUT I will complain anyway because leaving Spain and Lar and Jake and my flatmates and amazing friends is going to rip out my heart and stomp all over it and you just cannot mentally prepare for that while also trying to study for two impossible freaking exams AND packing AND saying goodbye to everyone who leaves before you as our Erasmus numbers dwindle and there are only a few of us left AND try and stop at all your favorite places and get all your favorite coffees and cakes because no one makes coffee like Spain does AND try and see the few people who are left (I have basically moved in with Jake and Lar so as to spend as much time with them as possible before leaving) AND trying to maintain what little sanity I ever had claim to in the first place. Suffice it to say I'm just doing everything I can to keep my head above water. I. Am. Not. Ready. To leave.
I was living in a solid state of denial until all the stuff I have to do came to the foreground of my life. Things like closing bank accounts and deep-cleaning my apartment and packing my bags and taking my exams have been dropped into my lap (I say all that as if I didn't know the end was near and it's taken me completely by surprise) but in all honesty it really has. It crept up on me out of nowhere. I remember getting here my first day and going grocery shopping with Ysa, waiting for Er and Jake to get to Murcia and meeting Er at Bicoca for coffee, a cafe I have now been to more times than I can count. I don't know how to leave this place that I have fallen so deeply in love with, but the promise I've made to myself that I will come back and live here is what has held me together thus far. I don't plan to live in Murcia again, there are too many wonderful memories and living here again would truly just tarnish everything this city means to me, but I know it will always hold a place in my heart and I could never even begin to forget what living in this country has done for me, and I plan to come back to live in southern Spain soon after graduation. Granted, I also plan to come back to live in southern Germany as well.. and I live in southern California...... Guess I have a thing for the South, what can I say.
Anyway, I guess this is the part where I go back to studying so that maybe I won't completely bomb my next two exams (Spanish Narrative Lit and Spanish Syntax and Semantics - life is good).
No word of the day because any word I gave you would have to do with medieval Spanish picaresque narratives and no one should have to suffer through this pain, so I leave you with my love and appreciation for reading this whole post, you're thebomb.com.
Xoxox mis amorcitos
Barcelona is not Murcia. Yes, I am fully aware that this is a statement that would be evident to most literate human beings that retain cognitive function, but for me it is a relatively important statement. Barcelona is not Murcia. Coffee in Murcia is 50 cents; coffee in Barcelona is 2 euro. Bars in Murcia are comfortable and welcoming and around every corner and lack an entrance fee; bars in Barcelona are few and far between and more formal and charge an entrance fee more than the average college student can afford. I can get you wherever you need to go in Murcia almost without hesitation; in Barcelona I need a map. I don’t have to watch out for pickpockets in Murcia because it’s one of the safest places in Spain and the people are (yes I know I sound naïve) on the whole, good people; in Barcelona I have to keep my hand over my bag and in front of me not hanging to my side. In Murcia I know exactly where all the best places are to eat, whether you want a kebab or tapas, and I know when they close; in Barcelona I have to walk and wonder and hope I pick a decent place to eat that doesn’t cost me the blood of a unicorn and my first born child. Murcia may not be a landmark city of Spain, nor does it have many more sights than the Cathedral and the Roman Theatre, but Murcia is home. To quote Goldilocks, Murcia is just right. The perfect size, the perfect people, the perfect place for me at this time in my life. Truly, I don’t know how I got so lucky as to live here, but God knows I’ve enjoyed every single minute of it. Barcelona is truly one of the most beautiful cities I’ve seen in Spain, if not ever, but it will never be home. It’s too big for my taste. For any of you who have been to Portugal, I’m the kind of girl that would absolutely love to live in Porto but would rather not live in Lisbon. The size, the tourism, the prices, none of it makes me want to call a place like that home. In short, beautiful to visit, but for me, never to live in.
Want to hear something scary? Every time I go to a new place, my first thought is whether or not I would be willing to live there. Ky noticed it on our first day in Barcelona, I looked at the city as not only a new adventure but also a prospective next step. I catch myself saying things like, “Well, when I live in Portugal, I want to live in Porto, because..” and realize the kind of life I’ve been blessed enough to live while simultaneously coming to the conclusion that there is no way on God’s green earth that I will be able to stay in one place for a very, very long time. Countries in which I plan on living include: Germany, Spain again, Portugal, Brazil, Australia etc. The list of countries I want to visit…. Pretty much all of the countries…. Ever. But that’s the thing; I’m 20 years old and in my life I’ve been all over the States and have thus far visited 11 countries. How many 20 year olds get to say that? I personally blame mom, she started me traveling on my own when I was 7 years old. Don’t get me wrong, I know at some point I’m supposed to grow up and settle down and make life happen, but I think maybe for me, settling down is something I’m going to do over and over again, all over the world, and I will love and appreciate it more and more every time. How could you not?
There’s something about traveling that gives you so much more perspective than anything else ever could. On the one hand, there is the sentiment that traveling the world shows you what a small part you really play in the grand scheme of things, and while that is truly humbling and an absolutely overwhelming idea that I have come to accept and even embrace (because obviously that means whatever problems I have can only really be so big), it is not really representative enough of my view on travel. It makes me feel big. Significant. Important. Things happen when you travel. Friendships are formed that never could have existed otherwise. Horizons are broadened. Yes, absolutely, travel is humbling and shows you how small you can be, but it can also show you the astronomical effect you can have on the world, even if only little by little. Yesterday I met and exchanged numbers with a guy named Miguel, who just so happened to take Ky and I’s order at McDonald’s. I began ordering in Spanish and by the end of it he asked me where he was from, because he couldn’t tell if I was from elsewhere in Spain or from out of the country. First off, I was floored. As a linguist (nerdy as it sounds) that’s literally the best compliment you can get. After talking to him for a bit he told us he was learning English and had been to the States several times. The kid’s English is fantastic, by the way. Anyway, he got my number and we’ve been talking ever since, about travel and language and life and meeting up sometime, because he was precious and we have so much to learn from each other. How FREAKIN AWESOME is that? All because I walked up to his register at McDonald’s.
Speaking of the effects travel can have on the traveler and the world around them, Be is freaking leaving me. LEAVING ME. I know I’ve mentioned her several times throughout this blog, but for those of you who don’t know, Be is the first friend Er and I made when we came to Spain. And the bitch is leaving me. Let’s see, how to paint an adeaquate picture of Abbe with just words.. Be is a solid like 5 feet flat. Her hair game is even stronger than mine, basically imagine a Persian princess and you’ve got your mental image. Gorgeous. And then she’s like the nicest person you’ll ever meet. Don’t you hate those kind of people? Be is precious. She’s all of the joy in the world embodied in one little person. She’s the kind of girl who you can have the deepest possible talks with but then she jumps around the room dancing like a psychopath and doesn’t care who sees. She’s the girl who sees you across the street and instead of a casual wave, you get this adorable little creature jumping up and down waving and waiting for the cars to pass so she can run up to you and give you a huge hug considering how tiny of a person she is. Be is a huge part of the reason I had such an amazing time in Spain, and I’m truly so much more than blessed to have met her. Luckily she goes to school a few hours away from Er and I, so road trips will be taken, I’m not even worried about it. The Dynamic Duoz will be reunited, and sooner rather than later.
Alright so I guess I’ll actually talk about Barcelona now, huh? Ky and I got 2 hours of sleep and took the 6:30 train from Hell from Murcia to Barca. We arrived around 1.30 and took the metro to our impossible-to-find hostel, where for the first night I was the only girl in the damn place. The owner was an exceptionally friendly Scottish guy who showed us where to go and how to get there (thank God, because Lord knows Ky and I need all the help we can get to get around). We hit pretty much everything we planned to the first day, including the Boqueria – a famous Spanish market that just so happens to have the best chocolate delicacies ever tasted by mankind ever – and then a magnificent park with beautiful works of art placed sporadically throughout which was truly breathtaking. Day two involved a lot more tram travel to get to Camp Nu – the FC Barcelona stadium , the Olympic Arena from the 1992 Olympics, and Park Guell, a park that took Kyle and I about 37 years to find and was subsequently remotely underwhelming considering all the effort that went into finding the damn thing. Also it was hot and there were a lot of stairs, so that may have had something to do with it. Yesterday Ky and I slept in and went to the beach for awhile – he got to put his feet in the Mediterranean for the first time! We soon realized how tired we were and went back to the hostel for a quick nap. Post nap, Ky and I went to a bar to watch the game and then grabbed dinner (at a few different places, actually – but we made sure Ky got his beer from McDonald’s, more for the principal of the matter than anything else). We grabbed some coffee and headed back to the hostel, where I started to study and Ky got ready to go out with some friends of mine. After they’d been out a few hours I got a message asking me to meet them for a bit, and they didn’t have to ask me twice (I was so over studying by that point I thought my brain was going to fall out – it’s small, it can’t handle much) so I headed out to meet Ky and Jake and co. We went to some super cool bar that served super cool drinks with super cool straws – mine looked like a dog bowl, which Ky and Jake enjoyed immensely – and talked with the rest of the group for awhile before heading out and eventually heading back to their hostel to play some pool and ping pong and relax before we all headed to bed (at 5am mind you, because this is Spain). Ky and I were up by 10:30 today because la vida es una putada and we had to catch our noon train back to Murcia. I currently sit 3 hours into said super fun train ride, with a little over four hours to go. I’ve only been gone 4 days and I already miss Murcia like crazy. Suffice it to say in three weeks, marbles will be lost. LOST, PEOPLE. But I refuse to think about that, I am currently living in denial and let me tell you it is a WONDERFUL place to live, almost as great as Murcia.
The word of the day is actually going to be a sentence and instead of Spanish it will be German, because that’s what I’ve been studying most recently: Wir koennen es schaffen. Basically, it means “We can do it.” To be honest, I’m not sure it’s an entirely true statement, but with the impending finals I figured I’d try to offer some sort of encouragement type thing… or something. Good luck my Spanish lovelies, we got this <3
Till next time
PS. So I wrote this two days ago and since then, I have tried and failed to get Ky to Librilla for the FOURTH time this week - mind you this time it was because I had us on the COMPLETELY WRONG TRAIN, walked both Be and Ky to the bus station at some ungodly hour of the night, eaten and drank away my sorrows with Palomitas and Desperados, and watched a beautiful sunset over one of my favorite places in the world with a pretty awesome person. As hard as it will be to leave these people and this amazing place, I'm realizing that I will see them again, and all I can do is enjoy what little time I have left with some of the coolest people you or I could ever have been blessed enough to have met.
You know, I was doing a damn good job ignoring the inevitable until I got an email from UM about getting the last minute getting-out-of-Spain stuff done. If you ask me, that was a carefully planned maneuver to make us all face reality. I have a few choice words for these UM people, but they're probably not particularly appropriate for a blog post. There is a taboo, in our friend group, for the "leaving" word. If you don't talk about it, it's not real, right? Absolutely right.
Last night the girls and I went out for drinks because first off why not and secondly it was our last night that we all had free before Ky arrives and finals start and everything really gets into motion. It was pretty solid until the waiter decided we should get a few rounds of free shots... then it was even better. Madrid was playing Juventus so the atmosphere was pretty vibrant until Madrid lost their place in the finals. Regardless the girls and I had a pretty great time just catching up; the four of us usually have a tough time getting together all at once because our schedules are completely different, but when we can make it work, it's pretty fantastic.
My flatmates and I are going out dancing tonight and I think Er and Lara are going to join us as well. On the one hand I'm super excited because I adore my flatmates but on the other hand they're ridiculously attractive so spending time with them is just evil and mean.
Major highlights of this past week included:
Studying all of the much.
Erasmus day party at the pool on a lake right outside of Murcia.
Received more bug bites than I ever thought possible.
Experienced the best bocadillo of my entire life.
Decided where I plan on living in Spain upon my return. (Malaga)
Realized I should be passing at least two of my exams, which believe it or not is a big deal.
Experienced a day in Murcia at a temperature of 104*F.
So there's that..
In regards to the bug bites, here is my issue: Spain does not believe in air conditioning. I'm not sure whose idiot idea that was, but it's a thing. Therefore, on days when it's 100*F and you have no AC and it barely cools down to 80*F at night and you're trying to ward off death by heat stroke, you keep your window open because it's remotely cooler outside and even the slightest breeze can help save you from the inferno that is your room. This, my dear friends, is a mistake. Apparently opening your window is actually the universal sign to mosquitoes and moths EVERYWHERE to PLEASE come hang out in your room because the Spanish also don't believe in SCREENS on windows. I find at least two new bug bites every day. I would like to buy a fan, bur I'm poor and I'm only here for another *shudder* month. SO, I suffer in not-so-much-silence.
GUYS KYLE COMES TOMORROW OH MY GOODNESS!!! I'm picking him up from the train station tomorrow night and taking the poor, exhausted kid out for a drink. We already reserved a hostel in Barcelona and I cannot wait to see the city!! Poor thing is coming during finals month so I'll still have to study a few hours a day but on the plus side he already knows Er and I have pretty amazing friends so I have no doubt he'll be entertained.
Today's word of the day is actually a sentence: De 0 a prefiero morir, ?Cuántas ganas tienes de tomar los examenes? Literally this means: On a scale from 0 to preferring death, how badly do you want to take exams? In all honesty, there's not much else I can say to illustrate my feelings towards exams.
Anyway, I've gotta go be a real life productive person and get some work done,
Until next time caris
I have come to the realization that “time flies” is an understatement. An understated understatement. That’s not me being redundant, or me exaggerating. Time. Freaking. FLIES. I don’t have enough time to do everything I want to do, and I know that sounds ridiculous because I’ve had five months here, what can’t I have done by now right? Wrong. I haven’t been to Sevilla. Barcelona. Granada. Toledo. Southern Italy. I guess I’ll just have to move back, that seems like the only logical solution. Next time I live here I’m thinking somewhere southern and beachy, maybe Malaga? We’ll see. But the only reason I’m going to be able to leave in June is because I know that there’s no way on God’s green earth that I will not live in Spain again. This place is home. One of my many homes, sure, but still home.
Okay, so I know it's been awhile, and I'd like to apologize for depriving you of my titillating stories of Spanish escapades, I was simply too busy escapade-ing. In all seriousness, I haven't been insanely busy, but it's been enough that typing up a blog post comprised of complete sentences and proper grammar seemed impossible, especially considering how mixed up my languages have been lately. And don't even think about giving me any crap, you try translating something from German to Spanish while explaining something to your partner in English and tell me you don't want to rip your hair out. Suffice it to say that by the time this exercise was over, I could barely put two words together that didn't involve expletives.
Alright so my last post was about two weeks ago, let me think here for a moment… The past week has been a bit of a blur, there has been so much to get done and without a seriously structured schedule it's hard to say "You know what would be way more fun than sleeping in? Going to the store to pick up note cards to study with, and then actually studying things." In my defense, I did have a Syntax exam and a German presentation this past week, so it's not like I was completely unproductive. Granted, I had classes cancelled on Thursday and Friday, so it was also a four day week.. Spanish life is tough, I'm tellin' you.
Okay. So Syntax exam Monday – I passed. German exam Tuesday – my prof literally thanked me for presenting with a super surprised look on his face because I never talk in his class so he assumed I was a certified idiot – an honest mistake. Wednesday was a day of rest and seeing Jake and Skyping John for like 3 hours (I miss him more than I care to admit). Thursday was a very, very long day. I hit the gym in the morning and pretty much had the rest of the day to do whatever. To be honest with you, I cannot currently recall what I did Thursday… I’ll get back to you on that. OH WAIT, Er reminded me. We went to a kickback on the Irish’s roof and hung out for a few hours before they went clubbing and I dipped out – it was 3am, and 3am is my bedtime. I spent pretty much all of Friday in bed because I was just that exhausted – the girls and I tried to shop but that wasn’t happening because it was a freakin’ national holiday, so it was back to bed for me.
Saturday was a bit of a surprise. I woke up to messages from Er telling me that whether I liked it or not, I was going to the music festival she and Lara had attended the night before. Naturally, as Er is not a force to be reckoned with, I accepted. At around 12 I met the girls for some quality Daily Wok and to do a little bit of shopping. We wandered Murcia’s town center looking for: a flask, nail polish, a new pair of converse, and a bikini. Can I just say how talented we are for having found all of those things in one day? Like, we felt way more accomplished than we should have. Anyway, we headed for coffee and then went home to rest before getting ready for the pregame at the other Irish’s flat. We rocked up at eeeeexactly 8:30 because half of Spain was staying in Lara’s apartment and as much fun as it was to get obnoxiously hit on by a bunch of exceptionally drunk Spaniards, it wasn’t. So we headed to Jamie and Cathal’s right on time and immediately changed whatever music was on to some solid trap music – there were two other Americans with me to back up the music change and music from home is something everyone can come together on. Like, I miss with my whole heart a firm appreciation for country music. The only person I’ve met here who can appreciate it is Alvaro. ONE MAN IN THE ENTIRE COUNTRY. Luckily Jake likes it and Er is warming up to it so I’m not completely alone. Sorry, back to Saturday night. We started off with maybe 14 or so people but only some of us actually made it out – lightweights. We headed out for the festival, which was across the bridge – for those of you (all of you) who don’t know, it’s a solid half hour walk minimum from yours truly – and when we realized it was 2.30am, Lara and I decided not to go in, because I hadn’t bought a ticket yet and it would have been 50 euro for a few hours. Instead we went back into the city center for drinks and pizza and really crappy kebabs. We stayed out another few hours before coming to the conclusion that it was about time to head home, so we went back to my place because sleepovers make the world go round.
Sunday was a rough wake up but we made it. Lara started off the morning by taking a swig of sangria which was distinctly different from my approach which involved a lot of lying in bed hoping for death to take me. We headed over to Lara’s to make sure the Spanish people staying in it hadn’t burnt it to the ground and then headed back out for lunch and coffee. I subsequently took a very long nap at her place because going back to mine was just so long of a walk, and then headed home for dinner and the like.
All in all it was a damn good weekend. In regards to upcoming events, Ky gets here in 9 days and I am NEGATIVE prepared. Oh my God 9 days. I hadn’t counted yet. Ohhhh no. I need to get my ass in gear, people. Oh no oh no oh no. So much to study, so little time. Is it possible for me to sound more like a nerd than I did just there? I think not. Still haven’t planned our Barcelona trip for while he’s here… I should probably get on that too.
OH MY GOD THE HEAT HAS BEGUN. I can’t believe I almost forgot to mention it. Walking around yesterday it felt like the sun was LITERALLY TOUCHING YOU. It was so unfortunate. Luckily apartments here aren’t big on air conditioning and I refuse to buy a fan for 1.5 months so I assume death will take me by heat stroke or the like in the coming weeks. Also, I can no longer go to the gym during the day. Jake (who is insane) wants me to come with him AT 7:30 IN THE MORNING but since that’s not happening I think it’ll be night-time gymming for me from now on because the Spanish don’t believe in air conditioning, even at the gym.
Currently sitting in Syntax thinking about food, as luck would have it… I had an apple and a pack of Belveeta crackers for breakfast, which believe it or not is relatively insubstantial. My professor just finished with one chapter and instead of letting us out just a liiiiittle bit early, Professor Satan started the next chapter. I may die in this room. Is it possible for your stomach to start to digest its own inner lining if it gets too hungry? I think that’s where I’m at right now. Luckily I get to look forward to going home and cleaning the salon and pulling rent money out of the bank, gee whiz am I excited.
That’s all for now loves,
I have been in Spain for 105 days. I know that to you that may not sound like a lot but can you imagine living somewhere completely unlike anywhere you’ve ever lived before for a total of 161 days? A whole freakin’ lot can happen in those days, and yet it simply isn’t enough time.
I have gone to more schools than I have fingers on my hands and have lived in even more houses. I know how moving around works, and I like to think I’ve gotten pretty good at it. I know how to unpack an entire room in just a few hours. I know how to walk up to a random group of people on the first day of school and make friends. I know how to make my presence known when necessary but I’m just as capable of becoming a wall flower. I know how it feels to leave people and I know exactly what I need to do to make it easier for myself when I go – my methods on that one could be improved for the sake of others but they do work for me. Moving around so much has prepared me for a lot, including my move to Spain. I was always pretty confident but good God it’s a whole other level of humiliation to have to walk up to someone and ask where your campus is in relation to your current location while you try not to stumble over your second language. It’s not easy having your family in a time zone 9 hours behind your own so that the only time you can Skype is the weekend. It’s not fun when you had a good group of friends back home and you come to a new place and realize it’s hard to find such quality friendships wherever you go. Living somewhere new is hard enough when they speak your language and there are no cultural barriers. But this post is not for me to complain. It’s for me to appreciate.
I speak Spanish with a fluidity now that I never thought possible. I never get lost in Murcia and I can even show other people how to get where they want to go – for those of you who know me well you may be surprised considering I can barely find the mall in Temecula – but it’s true. I Skype with my family on the weekends and if I’m not already messaging them on Whatsapp every day I’m using Whatsapp to call them – freakin’ amazing development by the way, well played Whatsapp. I may have had a wonderful group of friends back home but times change and people change and while I will always have such wonderful people in my life, nothing is the same when you come back from a year abroad. Leaving a place you have such fond memories of is even worse, because when you return you expect exactly those memories and people and atmospheres but that isn’t what you get. You may still have those individual relationships – Jess, for example, will forever be one of my favorite people in the whole wide world - but everything will be different. You are not who you were when you left and they are not who they were when you left them.
Luckily for me I found an absolutely amazing group of people here in Spain. Erin fell into my life freshman year and after moving in together last semester she and I have been stuck like glue, and moving to Spain together was just the cherry on top. We met Be - the sweetest, most wonderful human being you may ever meet in your life - shortly after coming to Spain. Obviously we pulled her in real quick and now she is our own personal adorable little nugget. I met Lara in German – possibly the most unfortunate class anyone will ever take – and may or may not have fallen in love. She’s probably the most similar person to me that I’ve ever met in my life but with a way cooler accent because she’s Irish. She’s already taught me so much about life and who I am as a person in just a few short months, and I think I’ll keep her. So the four of us made our own group, and I truly wouldn’t have it any other way.
Cultural barriers have even fallen. My group of friends in my translation class met me and were so excited to have met an American and were asking me all these questions and while it was fun and interesting, it wasn’t quite friendship yet so much as “look at our new toy.” But now we talk about their lives and mine and I’m treated no differently than anyone else – sometimes they even forget Spanish isn’t my first language – and we just have a good time. It’s so refreshing. I know when I walk into a restaurant whether I should sit and wait for a server or go up to the register and order. I know what kind of coffee I like and which places have the best tostadas. I know all of these things and I am so comfortable in this culture, and I freakin’ leave in 56 days. What the Hell is that about?
I know I can’t actually complain because I got to live in Spain and I’m not even going home after this I get to go to freakin’ Germany and my life is a fairytale and I totally wouldn’t argue with any of that. I swear I know I’m blessed. But leaving sucks, I don’t care who you are, and I’m not ready to do it. The girls and I have agreed not to talk about how long we have until we leave but it’s like a freakin’ I don’t even know what because I can’t think of a decent metaphor right now but pretend I said something clever and you now sympathize with me. It wouldn’t be so bad except Be is from Colorado and Lara is from Ireland so reunions will be few and far between, unfortunately. But I’m really not worried. I love these girls, and I know that truly nothing could keep me from seeing them again. Nothing could keep me from living in Spain again either, by the way, the only reason I can handle leaving is because I know damn well that I’ll be back.
Things I will miss when I leave: THE FREAKING COFFEE OH SWEET GOD THE THOUGHT OF NOT HAVING IT ANYMORE CAUSES ME PHYSICAL PAIN, Belvita crackers – which may be the actual reason the world turns because they are that good, 40 cent beers – you know damn well you’d miss them too, the freakin’ sangria oh good Lord need I say more, the drinking age – ours is officially unacceptable, the drinking and coffee culture which I’ve explained in previous blog posts, having Spanish all over the place – it truly is such a beautiful language and after being in Malta for only a week I missed it like crazy, the relaxed lifestyle, the freedom, the way this place feels like home, the freakin’ bocadillos, my flatmates, my friends, all of it.
Things I miss from home: Mom’s home cooked meals, mac n’ cheese, CALIFORNIA FRIGGEN BURRITOS, having a car, obviously friends and family, OH MY GOD ALSO IN N OUT, the American university system – believe it or not it’s actually really organized compared to here, MY PUPPIES, freakin’ WVU school pride, football games, the ability to go out at 3am and get food because everything is still open and I feel like it, JIMMY JOHNS MY ONE TRUE LOVE, not getting stared at because of my hair color, America in general.
Clearly my heart is torn in tiny little pieces and scattered all over California, West Virginia, Spain, Germany, etc. and I get the distinct impression that that won’t be changing anytime soon, only getting worse. But it’s so, so, so worth it. I have enjoyed every moment of my life here in Spain and I absolutely adore WVU and Temecula and I cannot wait to get back to Germany. You know, if this is what life is going to be like for me for awhile, I have absolutely no complaints, I only hope that in continues.
Guess I’ll leave this suuuuper nostalgic post at that, because I’m not mentally or emotionally prepared to handle thinking about it anymore. Hopefully writing it out a little bit will get rid of the feeling in the back of my head that keeps reminding me it’s going to end because at this point all I want to do is enjoy the time I have left – as much as a college kid can enjoy anything during finals month – but you know what I mean.
Til next time
PS. This may be my way of coping because honestly I haven’t actually accepted in any way, shape or form that I will be leaving this country. I refuse to accept it. This is me being a mature adult about it. But according to Kate, denial is the first step, so it can only go up from here, right?
PPS. The Spanish phrase of the day is “ideas preconcebidas” which means “preconcieved notions/ideas” which I feel like everyone inherently posesses when thinking about another country and culture. If you ask me, in order to truly integrate yourself into a new culture and way of life, you have to forget all your predispositions in order to be unbiased when learning about the way things really are. Contrary to popular believe, not all Spanish people dance the flamenco and take a 2 hour siesta every day, nor are they all bullfighters – a disgusting practice by the way, culturally acceptable or not. While I know these generalizations are blanket statements and it’s the same as saying all Americans love guns and are perpetually yelling about freedom, a lot of people somehow hold them as basic references in their minds when thinking of a place so foreign as Spain. I just think it’s really, truly interesting how different our preconcieved perceptions of a place can be to the way it actually is, and I’m so glad I got to learn and experience it for myself. The siesta thing is kinda true, by the way, these people love to take breaks.
As my friends back home go into the home stretch of their fall semester and cram for finals week’s imminent approach, I sit through lectures a few days a week and sip sangria on the weekends. Wow that was fun to say. No but really, I am actually doing the whole college thing. Don’t get me wrong, this semester in and of itself has been a vacation from life, for me. I wake up every day grateful for the life I’m living. How many people do you know whose stories all begin with something along the lines of “Remember that time in Malta..” and involve people from places like Australia, Spain, Morocco, etc.? I’m tellin’ you, this semester I was spoiled. Unfortunately, however, my spoiling will soon come to an end. Or at least a brief pause. Fiiiiinals are cominggggg.
So the Spanish don’t do finals like we do. In the States, you get one week of exams to show you actually got something out of the classes you took and that you have a basic knowledge of what’s going on. The exam is usually anywhere from 20% - 50% of your grade, but you already have some general idea of what you did all year so at the very least you can usually pull a passing grade. Usually. And then we have Spain. Spain does not do what we do. Spain does not do what we do even a little bit. The Spanish have their first round of exams over a twenty day span from the end of May to the middle of June, and then there’s a second round for the (many) poor souls that screw up the first one. In Spain your final is at least 70% of your grade. Seventy. Percent. I’d like to point out that “Spain” and “Satan” start with the same letter, so do with that what you will. In America, we have exams throughout the semester to make sure you know what’s going on and you’ve kept up with the class and you at least know what class it is that you’re actually enrolled in. In Spain… No. Attendance is not taken except for in the occasional practica (mandatory class). There are no midterms. There is no homework. As the semester progresses you begin to see how screwed you really are. It’s like you’re casually playing in the middle of some train tracks – not sure why you’d be doing that but work with me here – and your shoelace gets stuck in the track. It’s cool, no big deal, there’s no trains coming, these tracks are almost deserted they’re so rarely used. But then SURPRISE every train that ever could have come down these tracks friggen’ flys around the corner and all you can do is sit there and curl up into the fetal position and hope you get lucky and they have really good brakes. Basically, the trains have just come around the corner and your favorite 20 year old idiot blonde is so not ready for them.
I have my first exam May 27th, followed by one on June 6th, another June 10th, and the last on June 13th. Doesn’t sound so bad, right? Wrong. So much wrong. Studying begins now. I printed off – actually Er did it for me cause I was in class – all six of my 100-slide Syntax and Semantics powerpoint presentations so that I could start highlighting and outlining. By the way, printing here is dirt cheap. I printed a couple hundred pages for 4 euro. Anyway, I have those ready, I have my 900 page translation textbook which I also printed and had bound by the copiest, and I will be scouring the internet for synopsi and analysis of the books we had to read for my narrative lit class so that I have a better understanding of what the Hell is going on in there. As for German, I’m just going to talk to Lara in German from now on to keep it in practice and that’ll be the end of that. I have 8 weeks left in Spain. I have 4 weeks until my first exam. Part of me wants to curl up in a ball and die in fear of my impending exams, but another part of me thinks maaaaaaybe there’s some tiiiiny chance that I could pass. I mean, at least one or two. Sort of?
Aside from school, which is not so subtly taking over my life - probably to make up for my lack of academic involvement for the past few months – life is pretty damn good. I have some pretty amazing friends and flatmates, I live in one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever been to, and I truly couldn’t be happier. Actually wait, I take that back. I’ve been sick for 2.5 weeks now and if that could end I would be forever grateful. But aside from that, I’m golden.
Ky is visiting in just under a month! Cannot wait to show my favorite place to one of my very best friends! Showing someone else around the place I currently call home is such a crazy notion when that place is in freakin’ Spain. But it’s like this is my city too now, and that’s a pretty wonderful feeling.
I’ll have two weeks between the end of exams and the beginning of my internship and classes in Germany so as of now I’m thinking a week in Ireland with my favorite little leprechaun (Lara) and then a week with the German love of my life (Sassy). And that will be my summer. My classes and internship in Fulda will go until the week school starts at WVU and the vicious cycle will continue. Oh good God my mom keeps sending me little reminders that the academic calendar is posted for 2015-2016 and that my graduation week is on it. I may kill her. I refuse to grow up. You can’t make me.
Oh, I’m not sure if I mentioned this already and I refuse to look at old posts to check mostly because I’m lazy, but I’m registered for classes for my last Fall semester of college! That sounds freakin’ terrifying, wow. Not saying that again. I’m taking Spanish 480 – Problems in the Hispanic World, Foreign Lit 298 – Honors German Fairytales, Linguistics 411 – Phonology, German 440 – Cultural History from 350 – 1700 (L O L), Geology 101 (ew), and some sort of math that I’d really rather not take but that’s life. Going from 12 credits in Spain to 18 credits at WVU is going to be so much more than unfortunate but what can you do. I really am excited to get back, I adore Spain and plan to move back soon but if I must go back, I’m glad it’ll be to WVU and eventually all the way back home to Temecula. I miss it more than I have words to express, in any damn language.
Anyway, I think I’d better go. My lit professor is talking about a book we’re reading whose main character’s name is Alejandra and every time she says it I think she called on me and then I have a bit of an aneurism mixed with some cardiac arrest and my body just can’t handle that so I’d better pay attention, hmm?
Until next time
PS. When the girls and I went for coffee today I was chatting with the barrista while he made our drinks – we’ve been going to this place since the first day we arrived in Spain – and he told me that every day I come in, my Spanish is better than the day before. Best. Compliment. EVER. Will be riding that high all day. That is all.
PPS. The phrase of the day is "mala leche" which basically means bad mood like upset, but the literal translation is "bad milk" which I find amusing. It has no relevance to me because how can you live in Spain and be in a bad mood? The two things are mutually exclusive.
I've come to the conclusion that I really love airports. That may sound really strange to the average person because airports mean hours and hours of security and waiting around and sitting too long and praying you don't get stuck next to a small child who has yet to learn how to shut up on a flight. For me, airports are pretty great. If I'm at the airport, I'm either going somewhere awesome, or returning home to somewhere pretty freakin' awesome as well, rather that be my home in Spain, my home in California, or my home at WVU. How lucky am I that I get to have 3 homes?
So we're headed home from Malta today and good Lord has it been a trip. "Exhausted" doesn't even begin to describe where I'm at right now. Granted, our incoming flight was way worse because we had to be up at 4am to make our flight AND we were leaving our moms which was super crappy, so I guess I'll count my blessings this time around.
We arrived in Malta around 10am and got a shuttle to Hostel Malti. 10/10 would recommend. This place is awesome! Chris and Aaron (staff) knew everything from the best places to eat to the most beautiful beaches to the roots of Maltese - which if you're as nerdy as me you'll be interested to hear that Maltese is the only Arabic language written in the Latin alphabet AND it has 29 letters not 26! Nerdy is an understatement, huh..
Anyway, we moved into our 14 person room at the hostel and settled in. Our first day started slow, we went and got some fantastic food - all of this trip involved Italian food considering Malta's proximity to Italy so we really just basically ate our way through Malta in all honesty - and toured the coast with Robert, a Dutchman visiting Malta to go diving. The next day we visited Mdina and the Dglini Cliffs and some ancient ruins with an American named Mike. We got some life changing cake at Fontanella - chocolate hazelnut caramel for me - and headed home for the day.
On our third day we casually introduced ourself to the Aussies, a group of 5 that seemed worth getting to know - it was a damn good decision. Liam, Kate, Hannah, Matt and Harry are on their gap year between high school and college - gap years are super common for pretty much every culture that isn't ours - and we kind of fell into stride with them quicker than I've ever seen any two groups of people from totally different walks of life do that. Like, it was kind of scary. Funnily enough, Kate and Hannah worked at the same school and had met Harry the month before, and then Kate knew Matt from her childhood and he invited Liam. Then throw Er and I into the mix. Talk about serendipity. We talked to them a bit Sunday night and when Hannah invited us to join them in Gozo (another Maltese island) the next day, we gladly accepted. You know when you meet someone and then by about a day in, you're acting like you've known each other forever? It was like that, but with seven freakin' people. We took a hop on hop off tour of Gozo and saw the Blue Grotto and a few other breathtaking sights. That night we decided to go out. There was some running through Malta to get to the liquor store in time followed by some serious Australian drinking chants and then lots of pitchers, and I think that's all I'm going to divulge about that night. Also Kate got her photo taking abilities revoked. Oh, and potatoes. And cubicles.
We woke up the next morning and only Mama Bear (Hannah) was ready to get up and go but she is adorable and you can't say no to her enthusiasm so the hangover caravan headed into Three Cities and Valetta. No one was really at full brain power that day but we held it together and had a damn good day. Harry left that evening because the school he works at started earlier than those of the other four, so we had a slow night in and ordered pizzas - we had three but couldn't finish them.. Harry would have finished the pizzas.
The Aussies left the following morning and instead of being normal friends who meet at hostels that kind of give casual hugs and say have a nice life, we left when they did to walk to the bus stop with them. In a surprising turn of events, the bus came early, so Liam, Matt, Er and I were quite a sight to see as we ran down the streets of Malta hair flying huge suitcases dragging as we yelled profanities and ran straight into the open arms of Kate and Hannah for some serious goodbye hugs. Suffice it to say the group message is still going strong and we kind of loved them. The goodbye was short and sweet which is how I prefer it because if I actually think about what I'm doing when I leave people - or get left in this case - it would go poorly. Er and I sent them off and walked along the coastline. We stopped for coffee and thought about how lucky we were to have met such awesome people. We even invited the crew to come visit us in Spain or Germany or America whenever they got the chance. The rest of the day was slow, we went into Valetta and tried to shop and eat our way through the loss of our friends (totally sounds like they died but they super didn't we're just pathetic).
The following day we slept in and went out for breakfast. We got some more groceries because we were running low and Er is a beast that must be constantly fed or she'll eat you. We then went for couples massages - pause for envy and/or judgement - and came out of them feeling like entirely new people. It was like a freakin' magic trick, if I wasn't so poor I would do that more often. We decided afterwards to go to Mdina again (our only real motivation was more cake) but without Mama Bear to direct us we had a bit of trouble finding the right bus (the Malta public transportation system is crude but cheap and effective and it also happens to be able to outsmart two college juniors). We finally made it, after a very long bus ride with HungryHungryErin, and got some food in our stomachs. I know it sounds like we starve and die but I swear we eat consistently, like either I have a tape worm orrrr I'm gradually becoming obese. When in Malta, I guess? That's a thing, right? We listened to some obnoxiously old "My Heart Will Go On" type music accompanied by the bells from Hell which were ringing incessantly throughout our meal - I get the distinct impression that God was testing us and the fact that we didn't go temporarily insane and murder someone in a fit of rage means we passed.
Our last day involved quite a lot of getting lost. I'm tellin' you, having Hannah navigate for us made my navigation abilities fall out my butt. We headed into Mosta to see the Mosta Dome, a church that was bombed during WW2 with 400 people inside and the bomb did not detonate - the Maltese say that it didn't go off because Heaven was full that day - how precious is that? We then stopped for coffee and headed for Golden Bay and the two beaches connected to it. They were worth the visit. In and of itself my gelato would have been enough - God I sound fat - but the water was transparent and the sand brought me back home. It was fantastic. We sat on the beach and I had some delicious cider and listened to the waves hit the shore. We went back up the Steps of Satan (it was a lot of freakin' steps and I haven't been to the gym in almost 3 weeks now due to all this travel - yes life is hard) and grabbed some late lunch as our last meal out in Malta. This is kind of where it all went downhill for us. Er and I saw the 225 bus and ran to catch it because that's what we took to get to Golden Bay, but we didn't really pay attention to which direction it was going. After about half an hour of being unsure, we changed buses and somehow chose the wrong bus yet again because there was a serious communication error with the bus driver (I think he hated us) which led us to a third bus in which we apparently "missed our stop" which totally didn't happen so the bus driver was basically like get off so you don't keep going the wrong way, but this lovely man forgot to mention that we were in THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. Luckily Al Gore invented the Internet and some other guy invented GoogleMaps so Er and I figured out that we were a whopping half hour walk from our hostel. Let me just say that we were as in the middle of nowhere as you can get for a 16 mile island, I swear. We walked through some seriously sketchy areas but that wasn't really the issue, it was more of the whole lack of sidewalks and rapidly oncoming traffic which couldn't really see us in our all black outfits. Buuuuuut we made it! Yahoooo! We packed our bags and passed out so that we could try and make it on time for our 7am shuttle this morning to the airport. I, as per the norm, woke up about 10 minutes before it was time to head out to Er fully dressed and showered about to go make breakfast. Some things never change.
Malta was such an amazing and surprising and unforgettable experience, truly. The clear skies and beautiful water helped Er and I figure out the next step for us after college - we're thinking a gap year somewhere totally awesome - and all in all I wouldn't trade my time here for anything. I am, however, so much more than excited to be back in Spain. It really feels like home for me now and I'm so, so grateful for that. Unfortunately I made the mistake of counting how many weeks until our time here is over and kind of lost my marbles a little bit - 9.5 weeks for me. That's so not enough time. Then I get a two week break and Germany here I come! I am so, so lucky to have seen and done what I have thus far in my life, looking back on it it sometimes feels surreal that I could be so lucky, but here I am. Grateful for every moment.
PS. Walking down to the hostel lounge this morning I actually fell down the stairs because I lack basic motor function so my plane ride has been a relatively unfortunate string of different seating positions because I actually bruised my butt. This is how my life works. That is all.
PPS. 12 hours of travel later, I am only 2 more hours from home. Yay me?
PPS. Still sick. I may die. Wish me luck. I hate Matt.
Okay, so going back a liiiiiitle bit farther in time than my last post brings us to March 21st, which is the day my mom arrived in Murcia. My day started off cleaning my entire apartment because my flatmates, while they are truly wonderful women, are incapable of cleaning. Luckily I have friends like Laura who when I tell them of my plight are over to help me out within the hour. Fun fact: Laura is a Godsend. After some serious clean up and sweeping and mopping, my apartment was ready for my mama. Apparently, however, mama was not ready for the apartment. She landed in Madrid at 9:45am, but couldn't catch a train until 4:30, so she didn't actually make it into Murcia until 8:45.
I walked to the station (about 25 minutes) to go get her and she saw me before I saw her. In fairness, tall, curly haired blondes are rare so I'm an easy find. When we go out, my friends just look for my hair.. Like, it's that bad. But anyway, we walked home and naturally I talked about a mile a minute because I had so many words to say and not enough time to say them (daddy calls it talking "alex fast" - I have my own term). I got mom to my place around 9:30 - her 345lb backpack from Hell slowed us down - and made her some dinner while she showered and got ready to go meet my friends for drinks. We met up with Er, Laura, Be and Jaime at El Bosque Animado for some freaking delicious cocktails - mine was made with hazelnuts and happiness and all the joy in the world - we were some happy people. We talked for a few hours before it was time to head home and pass out.
Mom and I were going to go hiking on Sunday but it was super crappy weather and she was exhausted and I had an exam Monday, so we had a lazy day and I made mom some breakfast and we later met up with Er and Laura for döners (we get them every Sunday, I shared the tradition with mom). We went and got some coffee and then mom, Er and I went to mass at La Catedral de Santa Maria. Laur didn't come cause she looked like a homeless man at the time - she would call herself grim - and Er was nervous as a Lutheran in a Catholic cathedral but if you ask me God doesn't really care where you are or how you do it as long as you're thinkin' about him. The sermon was beautiful, as is the cathedral - grandma and grandpa Sandy and Craig would love it - and the priest was adorable. We went through the city center shopping on the way home and then I made mom Wahoos bowls for dinner! She says I'm getting to be a really good cook, I figure I get it from her and grandma Sharon.
On Monday I had my Semantics exam which was suuuuuper fun and then mom and I went grocery shopping. I knew it would be fun for her but good Lord the woman took pictures of eeeeeverything. It was hilarious. But adorable! I got her some fun things to try like pastries and the like. We got lunch at my favorite Spanish take-out place "Tu Cocina Siempre" and mom tried a Spanish tuna tortilla. We then met up with some friends of mine and headed to the mall to look for some Morocco pants - Morocco pants just basically means fun pants baggy enough to wear in a predominantly Islamic country without getting beaten up. I got two pairs but mom didn't find any she really loved - never fear, she got some in Portugal. Anyway, we headed home and I made mom some taco salad and we hung out with my flatmates for awhile - simultaneous translation is so not fun let me tell you (my flatmates speak almost no English) - and headed to bed.
Tuesday morning we went to Cartagena, somewhere I personally love, and spent the rainy day wandering the beautiful city and fighting with my quality 3€ umbrella trying painfully to force it not to bend to the will of the strong winds - my efforts were in vain. We headed home and got frozen yogurt with Laura. Mom went for dinner with the girls and I met up with Jake for a beer. We all met up later and went together for some sangria at El Togo. Luckily my friends and my mom are all pretty wonderful and the conversation was never ending and we were all very comfortable with each other. We talked late into the night until it was time for bed - some of us like to pretend we're decent college students who have to get up and go to class during the day - personally I've given up that facade.
Wednesday morning I had class and then mom and I went to Librilla for a quick hike so she could see the view - it's worth the hike - of the reservoir. We kinda booked it up and back down because I was worried about missing my translation class, which I ended up skipping anyway, but what can you do. Mom was super fascinated by the fact that we walked to the train station to take a train to a small village to walk through the village to climb up a mountain to climb back down the mountain to walk back through the village to wait for the train to take us back to Murcia so we could walk back to my apartment. In fairness, it's quite the process. On our return Er stopped by to pick up some frozen food of hers that I'd had in my fridge since the beginning of time, and mom and I booked our hostels for Tangier and Chefchaouen. I packed my bags - mom was already packed, conveniently enough - and used my last few hours to get a whole bunch done before leaving for our 1:30am bus ride.
This, my dear friends, is where I leave you, because I do believe this brings me to the beginning of my Portugal post, which I hope you enjoyed.
Side note: I don't know about you but I do a lot of traveling. I've lived in lots of places and visited even more, and I'm very blessed to have done so. Even now my heart calls three places home: Temecula, Morgantown and Murcia. And in my head, my three homes are worlds apart, and they almost are in the literal sense as well, so it is such an interesting experience to have someone from one world come to visit another. My mom coming to Spain was such an amazing experience because I got to show her one of my other worlds. One of my other favorite places. One of the places I call home. I truly had such an amazing time showing her. She got to meet my best friends, see how I've lived for the past four months, and try to understand why I'm so in love with this country and its inhabitants and culture. Thanks for coming, mama. You are such a blessing in my life, and I'm so glad I got to share this with you.
Oh, and not to confuse you, but we're about to hop a bus from Chefchaouen to Tangier, so now you have last week's update aaaand my current location.
Alright so continuing with the whole confusing timeline I'd like to start this post with where I am right now and then go back to the beginning. I do this because if I don't write about my current frustration I may explode. We got on the bus at 1:30 - it leaves at 2 - because seats in the front are less bumpy and dizzying and the bus fills up fast. The bus is hot. Like, the phrase "Africa hot" that dad used after coming back from the Sudan has a whole new meaning. I'm. Melting. And naturally I'm completely covered up because shoulders and ankles and basically my entire body is just too much for the general public to bear to see seeing as I am a mere woman. So I'm melting. Cannot wear weather-appropriate clothes. There is no FREAKING AIR CONDITIONING on this bus because where are we? Africa. We are being stared at because our blonde hair is a novelty (I keep mine in a braid - I think if I let it down car crashes would soon commence). And, to top it all off, the stupid dumb preteen girls in front of us are blaring whatever Arabic music is currently popular for the whole bus to hear. I may kill them. If the heat doesn't kill me first, that is. Mom wants to play some Brad Paisley from her phone in retaliation but I get the distinct impression that country music would not be particularly popular here. OH SWEET ALLAH A MAN WITH THE WORST BODY ODOR ANY NOSE HAS EVER EXPERIENCED JUST SAT DOWN NEXT TO US THIS IS A 3 HOUR BUS RIDE PLEASE LET ME GET HEAT STROKE IM NOT GOING TO MAKE IT. I would do obscene things for a fan right now. Or better yet, a pool. Okay. Moving on from my current suffering.
Alright, so in my last Africa post I left you on the bus towards Chefchaouen, and now that I'm on a bus back to Tangier, I guess now is as good a time as ever to tell you all about Chaouen.
We arrived in Chefchaouen around 3pm this past Monday unsure of what to expect after our less than fantastic time in Tangier, but I was hopeful and mom - as usual and understandably so - was a little apprehensive. We took a whole bunch of pictures on the way over - actually mom leaned over me and took a bunch of pictures while I typed up a storm on my tiny little iPad. We got into Chaouen and as per the norm found ourselves with the perfect mixture of luck and skilled map reading to lead us to our hotel. This place was freakin' adorable. Charm out the wazoo. Beautiful colors, intricate patterns and artwork, wooden doors, the whole deal. Mama picked well. We unpacked a bit and changed into clothes for warmer weather and headed out into the city. Somehow as luck would have it we walked by an information desk with an adorable guy who was full of information and happy to help and spoke fantastic English - a rare find, let me tell you. We learned from him that the city has several public ovens to use for bread and later were lucky enough to find and take pictures of one, it was huge, like a mega pizza oven but for a whole town. He told us about the kasbah we should rock (see what I did there) and how to get into the ancient medina. We immediately went for the medina!
Okay so the medina gets its own paragraph. First off, it is literally everything you could possibly imagine and more. It is truly beautiful. Chef in and of itself is a famous Moroccan city due to its blue buildings and walls throughout the city. Gorgeous doesn't even begin to describe it. So walking around the medina or a Moroccan city in general you learn a few things. You learn that you need to keep your bag closed and in front of you. You learn that if someone charges you 120 dirham you shouldn't have a problem getting the price down to 50. You learn that somehow, somewhere, a lot of Arabic men were taught that calling a girl "flower" or "sweetness" was the way to reel her in - wrong. You learn that there are freakin' cats all over the city and they run wild - I guess no one ever considered spaying or neutering them. Interestingly enough, almost no dogs. You learn that you will never feel as helpless as you do when you can't understand a single word someone is saying because you never learned Arabic. You also learn that Spanish is way more useful and universal than you thought - I used more Spanish than English. You learn to not just dip your toe out of your comfort zone but to take a nose dive out of it. You learn that men are abrasive and women are very friendly when there aren't men around. You learn that if a restaurant is full of men, you should probably move to another one that has a decent number of women in it. Oh, and the men eating together all sit on one side of the table, it's strange. You learn how adaptable you are as a person. You see a whole new perspective on life and appreciate everything you have so much more than you already did. You learn how patient you are - having men truly every five seconds try to sell you something from their store and pushing you to buy something if you look at it for more than 3.4 seconds and telling you "they give you best price because you beautiful nice woman" reaaaally tests your patience, let me tell you. You learn how easy it is to get lost in a place with almost no street names where every street is blue and there are stairs leading to seemingly nowhere around every corner. I'm a decent people reader and I would say out of the dozens of men whose shops we went into, only one of them seemed to be a truly good hearted person who was not trying to seriously overcharge us, and that man happened to sell me a beautiful pendant that I plan to keep forever.
We ate in the medina for dinner both nights, kefta tajine and Moroccan salad and soups and fresh baked bread and lots of olives. We still have to try couscous, I think we'll get some tonight in Tangier. The 1.5 liter water costs about half of what the meal does - it ain't cheap, let me tell you. Moroccan mint tea and freshly squeezed orange juice rapidly made their way to the top of my favorite-beverages list - I will never look at tea or orange juice the same way again. The coffee was delicious as well with a strong milk base and was served with sugar cubes instead of packets. Their deserts are pretty fantastic as well, I could probably live off of them. I have issues with sweets.
In regards to clothing, there is an overall pattern. The vast majority of women wear head scarves, even a lot of the young girls. From there, there are two basic variations: either the women are in the entire burka getup, or wearing jeans and a long sleeved shirt. I'm really curious as to the root of the difference in women's apparel. Piousness? Regional differences? Husband's preference? Upbringing? I truly do not know. But nonetheless, every woman is covered up. The men are more casual in some ways, most men under 45 are in jeans and a tshirt while a lot of older men are wearing what basically looks like a pointy-hooded, long drug rug (sheep herder lookin' thing). Honestly, if they wanted to cover up so much they should've chosen a different place to live, Africa is like the 7th level of Hell kind of heat, man.
Morocco in and of itself has been a huge life lesson, for both me and my mom. I think I liked it a lot more than she did, if only because she's a mom and she worries about what could happen and I have a (possibly dangerous) less cautious mindset. But we both really appreciated this experience. It was eye opening to say the least. Everywhere you looked was something different and new and unbelievable. The community ovens, the hourly call to prayer, women washing clothes in the waterfall, all of it. Walking up a mountain to a mosque or just strolling through the medina, this place will change your life. You learn about yourself and about the world around you, and it isn't an experience either of us could ever forget.
Today we're headed back to Tangier. Our hotel has a pool so we plan to take in the sun and walk down to the Straight of Gibraltar and put our feet in the water, stop by the Kasbat, and get some dinner. Tangier lacks the charms of Chefchaouen but we plan to get everything we can out of the rest of our time in Africa. We have a 2:30 flight back to Madrid tomorrow to meet up with Er and her mom for two days before the moms head home and Er and I leave for Malta! As if I need more of a vacation from the vacation that is my life.. But then we head back to school and exams start in May and if I don't get my life together I'll fail them all.
Until next time cariños
Ps. We are sitting on the bus and a man just wrote a note to us in broken English about how he is a moroccan teacher who met a beautiful german woman and they fell in love and he doesn't know whether he should treat his new whirlwind love logically or just go for it. Crazy to think that despite a sea of differences, we all have the same damn problems. Love is hard in every country, I guess.
I'm having a total mental block (I have a small brain) in regards to how to start this post so I'm just going to start talking at you about Portugal and see how it goes. We left Murcia at 1am and walked with Jake to the bus station for our 1:30 bus into Madrid. We got to the Madrid bus station around 6:30am and took a taxi to the airport because I was worried the metro wouldn't get us to the airport in time for our flight. The taxi driver was a jerkhead and totally charged us too much but I can only yell at a man for so long in Spanish before it's just not worth it anymore. Nothing particularly exciting happened and our 50 minute flight to Porto went smoothly. It was raining when we arrived (I swear the crap weather follows mom around) and we started the walk to our hotel. Can I just say that our bags are suuuuuper heavy? Like, you have to lean in the opposite direction to counterbalance the weight of the bags. It's the best when you can't find your hotel. Some might say the funnest ever.
We made it to our totally adorable hotel - whose only sign to show that it was indeed our hostel was bout 6inx4in right next to the doorbell - and we took a nap, because we were freakin' exhausted. Around 5pm we headed into the city to explore with only a map as a resource. Those who know me are fully aware that I am directionally challenged - I can barely get you from my home in California to the town mall - but in Portugal I earned the title of navigator. I mean it! I was mappin' it up, gettin' in there and gettin' some answers. It was pretty awesome if you ask me. Suffice it to say that I fell in love with Porto that first night. The monastery, the bridge, the river, the cathedrals, the cobblestone streets, all of it. Naturally I was also really fascinated by the language, a mix of what seems to be Spanish, German and French, with a totally Slavic pronunciation. Sounds terrifying but I mean I kinda wanna learn it... what can I say, I like a good challenge.
We walked through most of the historic and downtown areas and even made it across the bridge where all the best wine is supposed to be. At that point it was still cold and rainy and getting late so we stopped at a grocery store and got some snacks for the hotel and headed back.
The next morning we walked to the bus station (quite an ordeal) and took the 3.5 hour bus into Lisbon. Let me just say this: Lisbon is beautiful. Truly. But personally, I'll take Porto every time. Lisbon is huge. There are beautiful views of the water all over the city and beautiful parks and sights and it truly is worth a visit, but for me, it's almost too much. I know I sound like Goldilocks, but Porto is juuuust right. Lunch was at a little restaurant outside the castle where a mushroom omelet (it's a common dish i swear) caught my eye. Our kind elderly server secretly wanted to kill me so he brought it out with shrimp instead (the spanish words for the two sound remotely similar, poor guy), but eventually I got a meal that wouldn't kill me and it was delicious! I'd like to note that mom said I could cook better than the people that worked there - not to bash their cooking, she just thinks I'm gettin' good - and we moved on. Oh and also a little fun fact: in Portugal they bring out a couvert before your meal - a sort of appetizer of bread and olives or what have you - and you only pay for what you eat of it! Thankfully our waiter warned us before we were unknowingly charged and forced to work off our debt in the kitchen because I certainly don't have the money. We walked through Lisbon - it was great until we ended up on the wrong street at the wrong time of night with the wrong people - and mom earned the Indian name "firefeet" due to her Charlie Brown-esque walk/run from this area of town. Luckily I have a few inches on her and it's all in my legs so I was able to keep up pretty easily, despite Firefeet's quick pace. We headed home at a decent hour and let everyone at home know we weren't dead, looking forward to more of Lisbon in the morning since we missed a lot the night before.
We were not disappointed, in that regard. We headed straight into the city center after a very basic breakfast at our hostel and found a tour guide willing to show us on a map all the places worth seeing so that we didn't have to actually pay for a guided tour. This man was a lifesaver. As we walked we say the most beautiful views over the water and had to be careful not to get lost in the sights because everywhere around us were buggies and trolleys heading in all directions not really caring whether or not you got out of their way.
After a beautiful day in Lisbon, we headed back to Porto. It seems as though we were not meant to see this beautiful city in the daylight - both times we were there it happened to be later in the day - but it was picturesque nonetheless. Don't let it's beauty fool you, though. It has more hills than even Morgantown - anyone who's been to WVU would know that you can't possibly go to that school and not have decent leg muscles. Leg day every day, as they say. But these hills are cobbled and colorful and totally worth walking up and down and all around. The same cannot be said for Morgantown where God knows you already lack motivation to go to class so the stairs and hills that stand between you and Woodburn are soooo not worth it. We had a wonderful traditional Portuguese dinner - I got a local sausage wrapped in phyllo dough and mom got some sort of codfish casserole (seafood was their specialty - ew) and both were enjoyed immensely. My meal totally won, though. At about 9:30 as we were leaving dinner we realized our hotel had asked that you give notice if you will be arriving late for check in. How late, is late, exactly? W weren't sure but we sure did book it to the metro station, arriving only to find the train we needed rolling ironically and mockingly away and stared in horror as the worker said that the next train in that direction wasn't for another 28 minutes. Suffice it to say mom was losing her marbles thinking we'd be sleeping on the side of the road and it was freakin' hilarious. Fourteen metro stops later we got to the hotel which was right next to the airport. Luckily check in was no problem and there was already someone manning the desk. We got about 3 hours of sleep and then were back at it on the way to the airport after a light breakfast.
On arrival, we saw the security line was literally at least 300 people long and died a little inside knowing that our flight was in an hour and a half. Luckily this is Europe and when you aren't a huge target for terrorists like us lucky Americans, security is pretty lax. We made it through the line with ease and took the 50 minute flight into Madrid. This, my dear friends, is where I leave you, because the rest of this story is in my last post. I do apologize for the bass-ackward-ness of my blog but as you can see, I'm trying to catch up, I promise.
I write this from Chefchaouen, which I will post about very soon I promise! I still have to cover my week in Spain with mom and Las Fallas, which was two weeks ago! Good lord I'm behind...
PS. If you're poor like us, go to a MiniPrecio while in Portugal. We got lunch (bananas and oranges and a liter of water and crackers) for less than a euro. Happy traveling!!
I wrote this blog while living in Spain my second year of college - figured it wouldn't hurt to share.