Here’s to breaking my idleness, hating idiots, and loving my fam

I want to believe that my month+ long absence from the blogosphere has to do with reasons like: “been too busy living it up”, or “sorry, can’t talk, gotta run back to my glamorous Spanish socialite lifestyle”, but I’d rather not lie to myself. Really, the excitement of being in a new country has faded away like a momentarily radiant red hair dye– I’ve simply gotten caught in the everlasting brassy-orange shade, which is monotony and routine in this analogy. (Eat, school, homework, nap, go out). I guess most would call this a lack of inspiration, or a lack of motivation. I call it laziness and I apologize to myself.

If you’re reading this then you might be interested in what I’ve been doing (you’re awesome). For starters, I’ve been having weekly, hour-long exchanges “intercambios” with a native Spaniard who studies English. It’s a pretty cool addition to my abroad experience and has been a great tool for me.

What’s way cooler is the fact that my sister and parents came to visit me for about a week. My awesome little unit of a family was just the slice of home I needed to energize me and tide me over for a few more months. Seeing as we were in Spain, we did as the Spanish do and saw a flamenco show. Flamenco is really an unprecedented art form; the telling of a story through rhythmic clapping, stomping, traditional song, and intensely sensual body movement. Unfortunately, there was a group of horrible American teenage girls in the audience, and they decided to focus their attention on taking selfies, gossiping, and bursting out laughing at things as simple as a woman who had fallen asleep, instead of allowing themselves to be transfixed by talented performers conveying profound emotions in a completely enchanting format. My sister and I were beyond horrified at such idiocy and couldn’t help but glare any time they were being awful. Total simpletons.

My lovely little week with my family was the best. They left to Morocco after the flamenco show, and once we said goodbye, I wanted them back instantly. Mad love to the Strauss house xoxoxo

Sydney

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Halfway

At the end of next week, I am officially halfway through my program. How is that possible? I feel like I have only begun to experience Spain and am only starting to understand the language. At the same time, I feel like another 10 weeks seems like an awfully long time before I can go home. It seems to be a constant battle- having the time of my life in a place so different and beautiful while at the same time aching to see my friends and family. This last week was definitely a struggle because my cousin’s wedding is quickly approaching and I really want to be there to celebrate with my cousin and his fiance. I even found myself looking at flights home! But then I talked to my roommate and she suggested that I need to redirect my energy. I need to appreciate that I am in Spain every day, rather than following a mundane routine. So I did. I take a new route to school every day so that I am finding new plazas and cathedrals and adorable children’s stores. I started an exercise class, so I am fighting the equivalent of the Freshman 15 for Study Abroad and learning new Spanish lingo in the process. Today, I watched a procession walk through the streets of Granada in celebration of Los Reyes Catolicos Isabel and Ferdinand and yesterday I went to the beach and swam in the Mediterranean. And last weekend, our entire program went on a hike, which was beautiful! All of these things are making me so glad to be in this wonderful place, learning and experiencing new things every day.

Chloe

Another wonderful thing happened this week that made me glad that I have another 10 weeks before I go home. I spoke Spanish. I know that sounds silly, but actually it isn’t that easy for me to have a chance to have long conversations in Spanish. Most of my classes are lecture based, so we give our responses in Spanish but we don’t converse in the language very much. And when we are talking with our host mom, my roommate does a lot of the talking. But my host mom’s brother came to visit on Thursday, and he did not allow me to just sit and listen. During dinner, he began interrogating me about Seattle and what is so great about it. I was nervous to be put on the spot at first, but then I really began to enjoy having this conversation with him. It gave me more confidence in my speaking abilities and I have opened up a lot more since then. I have a long way to go before I will become fluent but this was definitely a good step!

I also started working with my intercambio last week, a student my age who is learning English. We spend a half hour speaking Spanish and a half hour speaking English. It is really helpful because we talk about things we both know and understand, and she can explain which phrases are conversational and which are more formal. I am learning a lot from my interactions with her!

That’s my life in Spain!

Adios!

Chloe Bodine

Mi descanso

This last week for my descanso, or 6 day break before new classes started, I traveled to London and Paris. I had a great time with the three girls who traveled with me. Our hostels were relatively clean and I saw almost everything I wanted to see in 5 days, which was pretty impressive, I must say. We only made it to one museum- the Louvre, of course- but it was incredible. I also tried escargot AND a baguette and cheese in Paris, fish and chips AND high tea in London, and went to Platform 9 3/4 in King’s Cross Station! In the 4 days we had in Paris, we walked up the Eiffel Tower in Paris; spent several hours walking through the Palace of Versailles; saw Notre Dame and La Basilique du Sacre-Coeur de Montemarte, which were absolutely beautiful. The last day we took a boat tour along the Thames River to see the sights one last time. Did you know that Notre Dame is the starting point for measuring any distance in Paris?

In London, we saw the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, London Bridge, Big Ben, and the Parliament Building all in one day!
Transportation was pretty easy in both cities, although we didn’t realize that our hostel was an hour away from the airport we chose in London, so we paid a steep price for the cab ride the last day. Live and learn, I suppose.

Now that I am back, my real classes have started. I am not in the higher level like I hoped but I am taking a class called The Political System of Spain and the EU which is pretty interesting. I am also taking a Spanish culture class, a grammar class, and a writing and speaking class. My schedule gives me enough time to work out every day, which is greatly needed with all of the sweets our host mom keeps feeding us!

Loving Europe,

 

Chloe

Three cities, One week

When I was a junior in high school and was starting to think about applying to college, a family friend who was tutoring me through the process gave me an essay to read from a student that had been accepted to NYU. In the essay, which is apparently very well known in the world of college admissions counselors, the student responds to  a question about formative moments in his life that define him as a person by listing a combination of real and clearly fictional experiences that he has had; a gutsy move, if you ask me. Although  I think I was supposed to be inspired by the creativity of the piece or the author’s impressive application of every adjective and adverb in the English language, what it actually made me think most about what how little I’d done, seen, and experienced in my own 18 years of life. For some reason, this essay came back to mind yesterday as I was on the last leg of my week of travel.

This past week I was lucky enough to travel to 3 different cities in 3 different countries: Barcelona, Dublin, and London. I’m still wrapping my mind around all that I saw and did…and how many miles I walked in the process. For fear of forgetting anything, I’ll go through them individually. Heads up: this is about to be a really long post. Now would be a good time to get a snack before you get in too deep :)

Barcelona:

We (2 friends in my program and I) took a 10:30 flight from Granada to Barcelona after returning from a day excursion to Cordoba with our program. After riding a bus from the Barcelona airport to our hostel, we were exhausted and decided to go to sleep and get an early start the next day. The next morning we woke up early and decided to participate in a free walking tour around the city. During the tour we covered over 1,000 years of Barcelona history and countless miles of Barcelona sidewalk. It was a fantastic way to see the city, regardless of the Spanish sun enveloping us in the heat of the day.

Later that day we made our way across town to visit one of Barcelona’s/ Spain’s most well-known sites: The Sagrada Familia. Let me just say now that there are no words or pictures that can explain or encompass what this building is really like, but I’ll try. From the outside, it’s a unique hodgepodge of modern, religious, organic, and artistic forms; the inside a perfect mix of similar features and vaulted ceilings, cloaked in the light from the towering stained-glass windows. After standing in awe for a few minutes, we got in line to go up into one of the finished towers. Looking at the Sagrada Familia and the city of Barcelona from a different perspective, so high above the architecture and crowds of tourists, was a refreshing juxtaposition from the earlier part of the day.

To end the day, I was lucky enough to meet up with my friend Erik,  another Redhawk in Spain, who showed me around the nightlife of Barcelona. Coincidentally, it was the first day of school back in Seattle, so it was really nice to reunite with another SU student to mark the occasion in our own way.

The next day I spent the hours before my afternoon flight exploring a massive market off of La Ramblas, a popular street in Barcelona. Overall, my time in Barcelona was unforgettable and helped me to expand my understanding of Spain as a whole country.

Dublin:

As soon as our plane dropped  below the clouds and I saw the rolling green hills of Ireland, dotted with sheep, I fell in love. Then when I stepped off the plane and heard the accents, I knew I was in love. As it happened, we arrived in Dublin on  one of the best Irish holidays: Arthur’s day.  The day that celebrates Arthur Guinness, who created this beer that people kinda seem to like in Ireland. Early in the evening we strolled around the beautiful campus of Trinity College. When we reached the “football pitch” we found what seemed the be the campus bar, which was flooded with Trinity students enjoying a pint or two. In an attempt to embrace the local culture, we decided to join in and try our hardest to seem like locals. I don’t think we succeeded, but it was so much fun nonetheless. The rest of the night consisted of hopping from bar to bar in the Temple Bar District of Dublin where local bands were playing traditional Irish songs (Galway Girl was my favorite) and there was no scarcity of pints of Guinness.

The next day started with walking around almost every part of Dublin, seeing the major churches and cites, and finding Claddagh rings to take home. Then, our last stop in Dublin was, of course, the Guinness Storehouse. Besides learning about how Guinness is made, I also learned how to pour my own pint of Guinness! I even have a certificate to prove it. A lunch of beef stew with mashed potatoes on top and Guinness bread capped off the tour, and my time in Dublin quite nicely.

London:

The last leg of my trip took me to London, England. After getting in at 1:00am, sleeping for a few hours, and meeting up with my roommate and another friend from my program, we started the next day by taking the tube to Portobello Road. After walking around the market and enjoying some hearty Sudanese food from a food cart, we jumped back on the tube. The rest of the afternoon consisted of seeing famous London landmarks like Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and Tower Bridge. The day ended at a cozy little bar in Camden Town where we enjoyed some craft beers while resting our tired feet and watching football (the proper kind, as the British say) from comfy leather couches.

My final day in London started with attending a service at Westminster Abbey. Hearing the voices of the choir echo off of the ceiling and ornate tombs of famous Brits was something in itself. I still can’t believe I was there. Unfortunately I couldn’t take any pictures during the service, but it would have been impossible to capture the experience in a photo anyway. After the service, I ordered a cup of Earl Grey tea from a cart outside of the Abbey and set off to walk past Buckingham Palace towards Hyde Park. I was lucky enough to catch the end of the changing of the guard, even though it meant getting stuck in an ocean of people. Once my friend and I reached Hyde Park we decided to rent bikes in order to see more of the park. We spent the afternoon riding around Hyde Park and the Kensington Gardens, occasionally getting off to walk through some smaller gardens or to get a better look at a building. Zipping through the parks and feeling the crisp London air on my face was one of my favorite moments of the whole trip.

Begrudgingly, we finally docked our bikes to eat lunch, get overwhelmed while walking through Harrods, and make our way to Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus (which, as it turns out, is not a real circus). Our last ride on the tube took us to Regent Park where we found the quaintest book store in all of London. I bought a copy of Jane Eyre because I need a book in English to read, but mostly because I felt rather “posh” buying a classic piece of British literature there. In Regent Park we stopped to sit on a bench, watch herons land on a pond, and discuss just how content we were. The final stop of the day was a British pub where I got a Sunday Roast, roasted parsnips and Yorkshire pudding included. Since I won’t be home for Thanksgiving this year, it almost felt like a tiny piece of what has become our traditional American-British fusion holiday meal. I must say, Dad, your Yorkshire puddings are better than what I had in London.

I hate to play favorites, but if I were to pick one, I think I’d say that London was my favorite of the three cities. I could totally see myself living there in the future. I don’t know if it was the cold weather, the food carts, the fact that everyone spoke English, or that my second family is British, but London just felt like home and I was a bit sad to have to part with the feeling of familiarity again.

 

On Monday I boarded the last of my flights for the week, this one taking me back to Spain. On the brief bus ride back to my apartment in Granada, I again thought of that college essay I read years before. But this time it evoked a completely different thought in my mind. I’ve been lucky enough to do and see so much since my days as a Junior in high school. The list of experiences and events that have formed and defined who I am now has grown exponentially in the last few years, and now I can add the experiences from the whirlwind that was this last week to my list.

I’m so blessed.

Un abrazo,

Elizabeth

PS- I’ll work on adding pictures from my travels soon, so stay tuned!

BIENAVENTURADA

Spain is so beautiful. Not in a local charm, only certain types of people will appreciate it type of way. It’s beautiful in a stop and stare, can’t  wrap your mind around it, there are no words to explain it kind of way. The buildings, the people, the food, the history; just all of it. There have been so many moments this past week that have made me acutely aware of this fact. For memory’s sake, I’m just going to go through a couple of them.

1. This week I’ve been trying to walk around Granada more to explore the different areas of the city. As we’ve been learning more about the history of Granada and Spain, I’ve found it really interesting to see how the history of this town can be seen in it’s architecture. Granada is an amazing mix of European, Arab, and Islamic influences. Before being conquered by Isabel and Ferdinand (Los Reyes Católicos), Andalusia (the region that Granada is in) was under the control of the Muslim Nasrid Empire. After being conquered, the Muslim and Jewish residents of Granada were forced to convert to Catholicism and accept the reign of Isabel and Ferdinand. As the Catholic rulers took over the city, they converted many preexisting buildings for their use. Walking around Granada, its interesting to see the Islamic influences in the older Catholic churches, especially through the use of ceramic tiles and certain engravings.

2. On Saturday my roommate and I went to the beach. Even though we missed the bus to the beach we had wanted to go to, we still ended up in the beautiful town on Almunecar. We spent the day laying in the Spanish sun, exploring the town a bit, and swimming in the Mediterranean. Unlike the frigid waters of the Oregon Coast, the Mediterranean was nice and tepid; a little chilly at first touch, but warm enough that you can float around in it without loosing sensation in your limbs.  Learning from the actions of few Spaniards, I  realized that the best way to get into the water was to run at it at full speed and dive into a wave. While I’m sure I looked a little crazy, it  was a lot of fun.  Before we headed back to Granada, we hiked up to a cross that had been built on top of a cliff overlooking the beach. From here you could see the whole town and look out onto the sea. Floating in the sea while staring up at the white-washed buildings of Almunecar and standing on top of that cliff, looking off into what seemed like oblivion, were two near perfect moments.

3. Sunday was an important Fiesta in Granada (fiesta in this case means festival or celebration). In honor of the Patron Saint of Granada, La Virgen de las Angustias, hundreds of people flock to the Basilica every September on this day in order to bring flowers in offering to la Virgen. In the afternoon, the Basilica opens it’s large front doors, places the ornate statue of la Virgen in the front of the church, and arranges all of the offered flowers on the walls outside of the church. It was amazing to see the procession of people wrapping around the block and the process of filling the walls with flowers. Earlier in the day I brought some roses to the church in honor of my Nana, Rosemarie.

On a slightly different note, this week is going to be crazy busy at school. As our intensive language and grammar class comes to a close, I have a test on Thursday, Friday, and Monday. So, I’ll be taking a short break from exploring in order to study and learn some verb tenses and Spanish history. My homesickness is subsiding and I’m starting to feel more at home here. The days are flying by and I’m trying to get the most out of them.

I’m beyond blessed.

Un abarzo,

Elizabeth

EXPECTATION VS. REALITY

At the education abroad orientation we had in the Spring, they warned us that the study abroad experience would be like a bell curve. You start on this high of being in a new place and seeing new things and meeting new people. Then, like it has this week, reality sets in. You become more aware of the challenges that this new place brings and you start missing the comfort of the familiar. After a while, you start to go back up as you truly get to know and appreciate where you are. When I first heard this anecdote, I thought it was exaggerated and that I would be exempt from it. I’d lived away from home before, leaving the familiar behind. I was almost sure I’d be above it. Like most things I thought I knew about studying abroad, I’ve quickly learned that the exact opposite is true. And I feel guilty about it. Here I am living in the beautiful place, and I find myself missing my everyday life. Being able to cook myself dinner or do my own laundry or speak English in public without getting an occasional glare of disapproval. Everyone keeps telling me that this will be the experience of my life, that I’ll learn so much about the world and myself, but no one ever mentions that struggling is a part of that development. Questioning if I’m spending my time and money and energy in the right way. If I’ve gotten enough out of these last two weeks. Wondering if I should be more willing to go to discotecas at night instead of sleeping. If I should travel more, be on the internet less, meet more locals. If I’m being grateful enough.

The skylights in the old Arab baths. The mix of Catholic and Arab influences here is really interesting

The skylights in the old Arab baths. The mix of Catholic and Islamic influences here is really interesting

But here’s what I’m realizing: This is my experience and my experience alone. I don’t need to prove anything to anyone but myself, as cliche as that sounds. I don’ t need to spend hundreds of dollars traveling when it stresses me out, I’m just as happy wandering the streets of Granada. I don’t need to go to disoctecas and try and stay out as late as the Spaniards do; I’m pretty sure I’m not physically capable of that. I don’t need to test into a certain level of Spanish comprehension if I’m not there. I know what I know and I want to learn what I don’t. It’s okay to miss my friends and family at home. In fact, it’s a good thing I miss them as much as I do- they’re the reason I am who I am. And that’s just how it’s going to be.

There was a free music festival in Granada the other day. This band, La Kinky Beats, was really good!

There was a free music festival in Granada. This band, La Kinky Beats, was so much fun!

School started this week, which brought with it a nice sense of structure. 4 hours of intensive Spanish language and grammar classes everyday plus 2 hours of culture class every other day is draining, but I know I’m learning a lot. The more I get to know Granada, the more I like it. There’s so much history here, it’s hard to wrap my mind around. There are churches here that are older than my country. Heck, there are sidewalks here that are older than my country! The moments when I get to stop and just stare at the beauty around me are the moments that help keep me calm and make me feel more secure in this experience. Like the other day when I went for a run and wound up trekking up to the Alhambra to just stare at the view for a while.

Granada panorama

Granada is such a beautiful city. I’m in love with the white-washed buildings

Again I’m reminded of that saying that I capped off my first post with: laugh, cry, live your life, and enjoy it while you can. I’m trying my best to do just that, because I really am blessed to be here, struggle and all.

photo (31)

There are these tiny fountains all around the city. I found this one tucked away in a street leading up to the Alhambra. The water is always nice and cold and safe to drink.

Un abrazo,

Elizabeth