La más hermosa

Mandatory excursions are a part of the ILACA Granada program–a main reason why I chose it. So far we have gone on three.

They have all been massive walks (maybe not to everyone else, but I was strugglin). It’s a good thing that anything that normally isn’t so great in the US is considerably much better in Spain. Even though I was tired and feeling out of shape, the simple things such as roads and street signs were enough to take my breath away and keep me going:
ggg

gg

g

gggg
And as for the not so simple things… Well, see for yourself:

a

aa

aaaa

aaa

How fortunate am I?

Sydney

A brief lesson in French history

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

This the Château de Bouquéron. I can see it from my front door and cannot help but stare at it every time I walk to my bus stop, morning and evening. I find it fascinating and I am compelled to get as close to it as I can. I’m not superstitious, but I am certain that this place has a certain character of its own, and it has certainly seen a lot in its time. Legend has it that it was built in the 770s, commissioned by Charlemagne’s nephew Roland, but the first mention of it did not appear until 1100. A house as old as this is bound to house some grand stories within its walls, and another local legend claims that in the late 13th century it was bore witness to a murder most foul, involving two men and their struggle to obtain the rights to the property. The daughter of the proprietor, Elmengarde, was forced by her father to marry the tyrannical Bertrand de Theys, also known as the black night while her brother was away fighting in the crusades. When he came back and demanded that Bouquéron be handed over to him, Bertrand brutally murdered him by stabbing him in the back with a dagger, thus becoming the new owner of the place. Supposedly Elmengarde’s brother brought back with him a treasure of the knight’s templar, but even when confronted with death she refused to tell her husband where it was hidden.

The manor also served as a hiding place for the Dauphin Louis II (who eventually became King Louis XI) when his father, Charles VII, sent a troop of men to try and kill him in 1456. At that time the proprietor was an textile merchant named Claude Coct. Louis appeared at his door in the middle of the night seeking refuge, and seeing as he was the son of the king Claude could not exactly refuse him. So he let him in and when the archers eventually came to the door, Monsieur Coct managed to save the Dauphin’s life by exclaiming that the room in which he was hiding was “la chambre du diable (the devil’s room).” Being the God-fearing Catholics that they were, these men quickly hurried away and Claude thus saved the future king of France’s life. Of course, he was rewarded amply once Louis ascended to the throne. He was allowed to make use of the nearby forges at the foot of the Belledonne mountains for the next 15 years, which he gladly accepted and used to restore the château.

The next big chapter for the Bouquéron was during the Belle Époque when it was converted into a bathhouse by the mayor, who happened to be a doctor and believe in the healing powers of the Isère region’s heavily mineralized water. However, the project fell through once he died and the house closed its doors to the public in 1905. In 1908 was purchased by a Parisian named Giraud and since then I imagine it has remained within his family. The building is not what you would call “homey”, and to my knowledge there is no longer anyone living within its walls. Just secrets, memories, and maybe the holy grail.

Kaitlin

AT NIGHT

Remember that episode of Spongebob, where the Krusty Krab turns into a 24 hour restaurant and Spongebob is really excited about doing everything he normally does, only at night?  “Hey Squidward, I’m chopping lettuce…AT NIGHT!” “I’m scrubbing the bathroom…AT NIGHT!” “Owww I burnt my hand! ….. at night!”

Replace ‘night’ with either ‘Spain’ or ‘Europe’ and you now have the formula for the majority of my thoughts that occur.

“I’m walking to school…IN SPAIN”

“I’m ordering a coffee IN EUROPE.”

“I’m going to a discoteca in a cave on the mountains overlooking Moorish castles dating back to the 9th-11th centuries….” oh wait that’s cool no matter where it is

It’s quite a dream being here!

AT NIGHT

but also during the day

Sydney

Learning to be Comfortable with Discomfort

I have a hard time denying the fact that I adore my comfort and cherish familiarity. The thought of home makes me sick with joy; talking to my friends and family makes my heart ache but also beat a little faster. A sentimental nostalgic. That’s what I am.

Slight discomfort feels extremely uncomfortable. I’m bummed out that I’m simply not the type of person who, two weeks into a study abroad experience, has met their ~*best friends in the world!~ and **never wants to leave!!!** :):) No, not even close. I really do envy those people, though.

For the record, I’m not having a bad time. I’m really enjoying myself, in fact. But given my love for what’s known, sometimes I’ll think of Seattle and go “mmmmm. That sounds real nice right now.” Experiencing discomfort as I’m imagining my beloved home tricks me and makes me feel like I’m living a reality in a cold room with weird small barking dogs everywhere, as my body is awkwardly contorted and my limbs are strewn all over, with a mixed up and confused brain that was never fed the knowledge of speech. It’s a good thing this is blatantly false, and it’s a great thing that I’m aware of my tendency to get too stuck in my own head. I’m really doing alright.

Now, to extract myself from my self-made illusions.

My home life in Spain is really nice. My host mom Paqui is adorable and caring and loves to feed us. She calls us “corazón” (meaning ‘heart’, it’s an endearing nickname). When I say “us” I’m referring to my roommate Julia and me. As random chains of events would have it, we get along brilliantly. I’m entirely thankful to feel comfortable around someone as we live in this strange land together. Those who know me know that this can be difficult for me to come by.

Spain itself is really cool. Spaniards are very direct and don’t really sugarcoat anything–Spain: 1, USA: 0. At cafés or restaurants, employees will say “díme” (meaning “tell me”) when you’re ready to order. As a former waitress, I have the utmost appreciation for Spain’s dearth of obnoxious niceties. Although blunt, people are also, for the most part, kind and patient and willing to help. I almost always have to ask people to repeat what they’ve just said (Spaniards talk 4,000 mi/minute), and they always do so more slowly and without a trace of attitude. I feel no fear about speaking a new language to native speakers. It’s absolutely wonderful.

The best part, though, is actively noticing that my Spanish is improving actually every day. As my host mom says, “poco a poco” (little by little). Even when I’m falling asleep, my mind is occupied by a string of miscellaneous Spanish words and sporadic phrases. They aren’t coherent thoughts, but what this tells me is that my instant, natural thoughts are starting to convert to Spanish. I’m pretty excited about it.

Right now I have two classes: Spanish Intensivo and Development of Spanish Cultures. The content of both is useful and interesting, but the homework portion is unfathomably easy. I will spend 20 minutes at the most, not even every day, doing my homework. I have consistently had mind-numbing amounts of homework since I was 13 years old and I actually do NOT know how to deal with this drastic change. I even feel guilty about it, knowing that my friends in Seattle are in a very different boat. Actually, they’re not even in a boat, they’re on a sinking raft while I’m chillin on a yacht Jordan Belfort-style. Shoutout to my SU library crew, may your daily hours spent in Limieux be countable on one hand only. The sick part about this whole thing is that I’m kind of longing to be on the sinking raft. In about 1.5 weeks, though, my class count of two will become five, and I’m sure my desire to drown will then subside.

I have a four day break at the end of January and I’m going to Vienna. ¡¡¡¡¡Aventuras!!!!!

P.S. DISCOTECAS ARE INCREDIBLE

Sydney

Cape Town Bound!

777fc44ae52cfb1f96febb4494048efa

HELLO ALL!

In 3 days I will be calling Cape Town, South Africa my new home for the next semester!  For anyone who is reading this and knows me- It is safe to say I am happiest when I am traveling. The word love doesn’t even begin to describe my infatuation and passion with learning about different cultures, ways of life, and traveling. My brother made the remark to me that I should considering picking  a new hobby besides traveling, since traveling was expensive. He suggested fishing.

Anyways- I recently received my living arrangements and will be staying in a house with about 27 other CIEE students near the University of Cape Town where I will be studying. I am currently a Junior at Seattle University, majoring in International Studies.  I have spent the last quarter completing an independent study on South Africa, with a specific emphasis on the apartheid to help me have a foundation of knowledge to build on while abroad.

I continuously get asked “Why South Africa?” Usually this question is followed by a description of a poverty-stricken village, with no infrastructures. This type of description always makes me giggle a bit. It is for this type of common misconception of Africa’s continent I have chosen to call Cape Town my home. In addition to this misconception, I wanted to get away from the common “American Dream,” and find my dream.  Many of us (including myself) grow up in a life consumed by the idea of “keeping up with the Joneses.” We often find ourselves measuring our success by the amount of money we make a year, the number of cars we own, and our ten day vacation in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico every couple years. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think these are “bad” things or is a “bad” way of living life. However,  this type of life isn’t the way I want to measure my success.

Here are a couple pictures of Cape Town…
d3abc_cape_town

d526e168e41130166e864ffc4c189c0c
ecd4aff5de0423bee9afaa483f8a5dc6

In saying this, me spending the next 4 1/2 moths abroad in Cape Town can only enable me to find my dream, learn about a completely new culture and reflect on my own life. I have spent the past couple minutes looking in the thesaurus for a different word than “excited” to explain my feelings for this journey. The word “excited” doesn’t even being to explain my feelings for embarking on this life changing experience. This is the perfect way for me to close one chapter in my life and open a new chapter.

CHEERS!

praat gou

Lo 

Listening More, Talking a Little Less

Grenoble is undoubtedly the most beautiful place I have ever lived at this point. It’s surrounded on three sides by some of France’s most well-known and most-skied mountains: the Belledonne’s to the east (bordering Italy), the Vercours to the West, and Chartreuse (like the monks and the liquor) to the north. It’s actually fairly impossible to get lost in Grenoble, even though I’ve done it now 4 times, because the mountains are all very distinct, and anywhere you are you can still see them. But they’re also a constant reminder of something much more literally foreign: my global placement.

DSCF3051
(Grenoble from the Bastille)

I’ve been becoming increasingly aware of my place in the world, and when your window looks out onto the most French-looking street this side of the Champs-Elysees, it’s rather inevitable. But aesthetics aside, the other non-ignorable constant is the culture shock I’ve been going through for the last two weeks since I was woken up from a nap on an airplane and realized I’d landed in this country.  Since then I’ve been hit over and over again with strange differences that I thought I’d be perfectly able to adapt to: no one smiling on the tram, kissing everyone’s cheeks, a constant stream of “bonjour,” “merci,” “bon journee,” and “au revoir” so the French don’t still not smile at you. And luckily, through all of that, I manage to clam up and squeak out a few “mercis’”.

DSCF3013

(The view from my French room)

It sounds a little stressful, but it’s not! It’s the most wonderful, cultural experience I’ve ever had. I’d been trying to put my finger on the exact language barrier when, in VERY RAPID French, my new grammar teacher put it perfectly. English allows you to say a lot of things in very few words, and even basic French requires a high level of sentence intricacy, the kind that I’m learning it takes years to master. But then I focused in on the coolest part of her having said that: I understood it all perfectly. Every single word. And maybe I couldn’t quite form the same sentiment in a perfectly grammatically correct way, but I understood it. Which honestly made me less embarrassed that I couldn’t quite say it yet. So I decided: I’ve only been here for two weeks, and I figure if I listen more and talk a little less, I could probably learn a thing or two. Au revoir! 

Amanda

Sick of Rome… but not the way you might think

Having been sick with the flu for several days, after my visit to Belgium, I was beginning to recover in my apartment in Rome. When I felt well enough I obviously wanted to go exploring the city instead of simmering in my germs all day. This was a mistake because I got much worse and developed sinusitis the next day, leading to my red eye visit to the public hospital.

First of all, everything I was warned about was true. American hospitals are luxurious in comparison. The nurses decide how serious your problem is based on a color coded system: red means you lost a hand, yellow means your water broke, green means you are very ill, and white is why are you here? I received green and would have had to sit in a stuffy waiting room if I had not felt so faint and had not been given a bed. The doors to the room I was laying in remained open for the duration of my stay, even during the examination they gave me. No privacy. And they want to get you out of the hospital as quickly as possible so they are not very sympathetic to any kind of medical anxiety, which I naturally felt as the nurse approached me with a big syringe intended for my behind. Was thankful to get an iv drip instead and I finally began to feel like myself again.

I was there until five in the morning. It was an unlikely situation but guess what? Free of charge.

Olivia