International connections & the death of my stamina

The day I said goodbye to my family, I geared myself up to head down to the city of Cádiz for Carnaval, a holiday marking the beginning of Lent– naturally, a beach fiesta with drinks and costumes and outlandishness, so as to get every last drop of crazy out of your system before a more solemn 40 days. My day in Cádiz was just as I had expected: soaking up the sun in my swimsuit, dancing in the sand, saying “nah” when strangers ask me what my tattoo means, making new friends, etc etc…you know how it goes. This average story gets a little loco when I find myself chatting with a random American stranger while I sit with him and his friends. He tells me he’s from Houston, and I do what any sensible college student would do: “oh word dude, my roommate’s from Houston, do you know Michelle Globe?” because Houston isn’t a giant city or anything. “WHAT?!”, he replies, “what….”, I say to no one in particular, except maybe God. Do people ever actually have success dropping names like that? Well, apparently I was on the coast of southern Spain sharing drinks and conversation with my good friend’s buddy from high school, so I guess the answer is yeah, sometimes. The Spanish equivalent of “it’s a small world” is “el mundo es un pañuelo”… I think it’d be chill to say right now that el mundo es un pañuelo, without a doubt. What even.

The sun was setting in Cádiz, so I said bye to our newly-made friends as we left the beach. As it continued to get colder and colder, it began to dawn on me that I still had about 8 more hours of cold to endure in clothes that were packed by an over-zealous girl stuck on the phrase “beach party”. I tried to go all night but my stamina ran out, I couldn’t stop shivering, and in that moment, I gave up on life: I kept my sunglasses on the whole night. I buttoned my flimsy flannel all the way to the top button. I wore sweats with excellent shoes. Everyone was dressed in an amazing costume while I had nothing. “Your costume is mierda”, a Spanish guy told me. “GGRAAAHHHH I KNOW PLEASE GO AWAY.” I really did growl. (Mierda is a ‘bad word’ in Spanish… you may look it up yourself).

By the last two or three hours the wind was a force to be reckoned with, so reckon I did not. “How are these Spaniards still at it?!” I asked my friends and I while eating girl scout cookies curled up in a ball hiding from the wind in an alley, shaking my fist angrily at the heavens above. When 5 am rolled around after what felt like a backpacking trip throughout every region of hell, I got on the bus and instantly fell asleep.

What Cádiz taught me is that Spanish people party way harder than you and if you try to keep up you may fail. When I say you I mean me.

Until next time, Carnaval

Sydney

Speak slow

I was very surprised to find out how common it is for Austrians to know English. German is their most widely spoken language, but English was everywhere. Every restaurant had English translations on the menu, every server spoke a decent amount, and some street signs were even in English without any German accompanying it. Speaking so much of my native language that weekend was a delight and a treat, and hearing a language I didn’t know a single word of really cemented my confidence in the fact that I actually do know how to speak Spanish. When I returned to Granada, I really started to put my all into the language portion of this abroad experience of mine.

I made the very difficult decision to abandon the book I’m currently reading and instead pick up one of the novels on my host mom’s bookshelf, which are of course all in Spanish. Seriously tragic and seriously necessary. It seemed to me that I needed to integrate Spanish into every possible facet of my life, and reading for pleasure is surely one of the big ones–exclusively utilizing Spanish in a completely language-based activity felt like one of the best ways for me to do what I came to Spain to do. So for now it’s hasta luego to Milan Kundera, and hola to Gabriel García Marquez. It took me about an hour to read 4 pages (my reading in Spanish process entails looking up every unknown word, writing them down, reading over what I just read out loud, trying to figure it out like a puzzle if something still doesn’t make sense, thinking to myself for several moments, waiting for an aha! moment, continuing that process for the next section of the page, then reading the page out loud as a whole when I’ve finished). It’s terribly frustrating and it makes me feel nearly illiterate, but it has also been extremely effective in better understanding how to use words and phrases in context. At the end of that hour, I knew exactly what was going on in those four pages, and I’m really proud of that. #1hour4pages say it with me now.

My classes started and now I have a full schedule. I’m taking Political Systems in the European Union (my favorite), Oral and Written production (basically practice with reading/writing in Spanish), Contemporary Art in Spain, Islamic Culture in Spain, and Development of Spanish Cultures. In case you’re wondering, yes, all my classes are in Spanish, and I understand my professors with ease! If only all Spaniards enunciated every sound like my professors do…SIGH. Even more than reading novels in Spanish, speaking with natives on the street is a really great way to make me feel like I know absolutely nothing. A natively spoken sentence in Spanish is a string of beautifully flowing sounds, and could almost be one giant word; it’s hard to tell when one word stops and the next begins. My original New Years resolution was to become good enough at Spanish to articulately talk about philosophy, but I see now that that’s too difficult. My modified resolution is to be able to hold a conversation with native Spanish speakers, truly understand what they’re saying, and feel relatively confident about it. Say some prayers for me or somethin’

Here’s a cool fact: I was talking to a guy in Vienna (in English) and he told me I spoke English very fast and needed to speak slower. Ha!!! Felt very nice being on the other end of that scenario, for once

Sydney

I went to Vienna (not to be confused with Venice, guys!)

We (Gabby, Brandon, me) knew Vienna was going to be cold, so we bundled up like eskimos before we ventured outside the hostel. The chilly air met our faces (the only body part exposed) and the confrontation actually felt nice for awhile, like a splash of cool water after a long day. Something happened, though, and the refreshing breeze got upset and started slapping us with massive gusts of icy wind until our faces were tingling, almost numb. It was like a dog calmly sniffing our hands until deciding that it hates us and wreaking the subsequent havoc. Was it something I said….?

The shocking and painful cold never went away and it made venturing through the city really hard for me. My chin felt colder than anything else on my face which not only reaffirmed its physical prominence to me (I know, Cold, stop rubbing it in), but made finding a store that sells winter-wear to be my top priority. Gabby needed to buy a hat herself, so luckily I didn’t feel like a self-serving jerk dictating our destination.

In reality, however, the city itself was dictating our destination. Though we were on the hunt for scarves/hats, we were stopped dead in our tracks more than once by the awesome, unfathomable grandeur of Vienna’s beauty. She captured us, hypnotized us; we followed her beautiful features like a fly being summoned by a flickering light. My free will and everything else melted away while the beauty that I couldn’t quite comprehend came into focus. All I knew how to do was stare and get closer. Mesmerized, you could say.

This was our first unplanned, reality-altering stop:

vienna

vienna1
Obviously nothing can be captured in its full magnificence through a photo, but isn’t it absolutely stunning? It’s a cathedral called “Votivkirche”.

We had a few more of these amazing stops before I snapped out of my daze and realized I still really really really needed a scarf. The one I eventually found was big and warm and quickly became very essential to our cold routine (succumbing to our awe and walking around the city for hours, taking refuge in a warm cafe, journeying around outside some more, dinner and wine, sleep)

Vienna is most certainly the most beautiful city I’ve been to in my life thus far. It was a beautiful vacation, I had some great laughs with great company (shoutout to Gabby and Brandon!!) and I can’t wait to return to Vienna at some point when the weather is a bit more kind

P.S. EXTREME SHOUTOUT TO SWISS AIRLINES FOR HAVING SUCH COMFORTABLE SEATS AND GIVING US SERIOUSLY DELICIOUS SANDWICHES

Sydney

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:

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How fortunate am I?

Sydney

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

Primer día COMPLETADO

At first I wanted to write about how terrible my long day of travel was due to exhaustion and sickness, but that feels oh so minuscule now that I have some positive things to report.

The awfulness was prevalent for awhile, though, so I’ll touch on it.
5 hours in the Dallas airport blowing my nose and eating candy, 9 hours in the air to Madrid trying to sleep, groaning, and being the personification of sickness itself, 5 more hours in the freezing cold Madrid airport (the crux of that experience was feeling nearly flu-like and uncontrollable exhaustion). The positive aspects of my trip shall now commence.

I saw my roommate, Julia, whom I had performed Facebook recon on, walking onto our plane to Granada (my final destination). I abruptly approached her and even though I freaked her out a bit at first, it ensured me a compañera in the taxi and to our homestay.

In the taxi, I felt like a baby who had just been born: in total awe gazing at a world I had never seen before as well as not at all knowing how to talk. We arrived at a street which appeared to be completely in the center of all the action, just the way I like it.
Carrying our bags through the gate and then some was a complete nightmare, but praise be to something that there was an elevator.

Our host mom introduced herself as “Paqui” and instructed that we do not refer to her in the formal usted, but instead the casual “tu”, which set a nice foundation of comfort and warmth for the remainder of our five-month stay. Paqui gave us a tour of the house, told us her rules for living here, and gave us hugs and kisses before bidding us off to our room to unpack and relax until dinner at 8:30 pm. I fell asleep immediately.

It seems I beat jet lag completely with the help of sleep-inducing cold medicine. I had a beautiful night’s sleep, woke up naturally in time for breakfast, got ready for school and walked to el Centro de Lenguas Modernas (CLM–a program within la Universidad de Granada) with Paqui and my roommate. During the walk, I again felt like a newborn baby seeing the world for the very first time.

Today all we had was orientation, which meant filling out a lot of forms and listening to the program directors give us advice, talk about safety, etc. Afterwards, we were given a numbered list as our first homework assignment: a city-wide scavenger hunt of sorts. Somehow I managed to feel socially adequate and found myself in a small group to walk around the city with. Finding everything on the list took awhile, but it was fun and I spent my entire day casually speaking in Spanish like it was nothing. It already feels like it’s coming more naturally to me. (Except for vosotros, still gotta work on that). I also made friends and we had cerveza and tapas after finishing the list.

All I have to do now is eat dinner and study for my placement exam tomorrow, but I feel like what I know is what I know; where I get placed should be true to my actual Spanish abilities.

Also, possibly the coolest thing ever is that despite all the cultural elements that make people distinct and different, the sound of laughter is the same in every language. That’s some universal stuff that no one can deny the power of. (Sometimes sentences need to end in prepositions)

That’s all for now. ¡Gracias para leyendo, hasta luego!

Sydney