asi es la vida

Sitting on my bed here in Spain, looking out my balcony doors. The sky is ombre blue and there is not a cloud to be seen. People walk their dogs and push their grocery carts, and I watch them as I jam to whatever song comes to mind. I’ve got papers to write, assignments to complete, but they cannot put a damper on my mood. I think of my time here, and of the adventures ahead of me. I’m so excited to get home and see my family, and I know that I will have an incredible time celebrating my return in Bowling Green. And then I will depart again and head to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where I will spend the summer sweating and subtracting on a research team. Louisiana will be quite the adventure as well, and when I return it won’t be long until I move into my first big girl apartment. I HAVE SO MUCH TO LOOK FORWARD TO, and yet I wish time would stop right here. Spain is incredible, and the thought of leaving is petrifying. My days on this bed, looking out this window, are oh so numbered. I’ve still got gelato to eat, boys to kiss, and sunsets to capture. I’ve still got Italy to see, and unfortunately final exams to complete. I am so happy right here, and perpetually astounded by how good my God is. However, that is no surprise. Such is God, such is life.

27/1/17

I’m on my way home from a day spent in rainy (for once) Madrid, thanking God for where I’m at right now.

We caught a train early this morning to attend a discussion about the crisis in Syria, and Spain’s role in aiding the people there. There were a few very influential organizations who sent representatives and spoke on what they do and how Spain is supporting them in their efforts to uplift the Syrian people. The testimonies and facts that were shared were appalling, but I am so glad I was able to hear them. One of the representatives said that it is our responsibility not only to know about what is going on but to spread awareness. If we desire to help, this is the best way. I left feeling educated and inspired, along with very blessed that I don’t face the struggles that they do in Syria.

 
Later in the day, Kelsey and I went to see La La Land. The predicament between Ryan and Emma reminded me of my love and I. Life just kind of seems to want us in different places, but we love each other and we’re going to work at it until it doesn’t work anymore. Until then, I’m lucky to have him, that pain in the ass of mine.

 
He’s going to a Kesha concert back home tonight and I am proud to say that I talked him into it. I convinced AJ to splurge on Kesha because it’s what I would have done. I’ve always been very willing to spend money on experiences, and think I always will be. I’ve never regretted paying for memories. I definitely think I get this from my mom. She’s always carried the motto “I’ll buy the boat,” such to say that “this money will be useless when I’m gone, and so if I can buy something to serve a purpose or make someone happy, I’m going to do it.” However, I do think that I also know when it’s sensible to save money and I generally am very thoughtful in this manner. I always have these weird moments where I realize that even though it sucks that my parents’ personalities were no where near compatible, if they had been any different I would be different too. My dad is ruthlessly stingy, and always taught us to take care of our responsibilities first. This drove mom crazy, and more than likely contributed to their divorce. Although, their values and qualities influenced me equally, and I’ve come to be quite proud of my ability to choose when to save and when to splurge. Having realizations such as this affirms my confidence that everything is meant to be, and works strictly according to God’s plan. He is so good!!

 
And finally, I’m writing this on a train in Madrid, Spain. This is my LIFE. THANK YOU JESUS!!

Just running with it here

Being here in Spain, I’ve found that I have an astounding amount of free time. Taking 13 credit hours of classes that don’t give much homework really is as easy as it sounds, trust me. I’m used to having a MUCH busier academic schedule at home, with lots of added extracurricular activities as well. SO, in pursuit of something to fill my time, I’ve decided to pick running back up.

Quick history: I used to like to run for exercise up through middle school and high school. I participated in track and always enjoyed it. However, coming to college, exercise basically fell to the very bottom of my list of priorities. I had better things to do, as I am generally more concerned with developing my mind than my body. My body is just my shell for these 100 years, whereas my mind shapes my soul, the identity that will remain. Ya feel me??

Anywho, this decision entailed a few purchases, but my love for shopping and Spain’s beautifully low prices made this a pleasure. I contemplated bringing running shoes to Spain, but my hot pink Nikes didn’t end up making the cut. Instead, I opted for a comfy pair of lavender sneaks ($30) from some European sports brand. I also invested in another sweatshirt, but it’s usually about 50 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, so luckily I don’t need heavier layers!! I’ve run three times this week, and have been enjoying the hell out of it. There is a river that runs through Alcala just south of my street, and there are endless trails and mountain paths to explore.

The first time that I ran I kind of stuck to the river, but the second time I went in the opposite direction and found a super cool deserted building to explore, and then a few minutes later a recreational park. When I went in the park, I saw an older man walking with a walking stick up a peak and decided to follow him. He ended up helping me up to the top, and offering to take a picture for me. He told me that he goes there almost every day to hike, explore, and collect herbs. I found out, too, that he once hosted a foreign exchange student from Michigan!! It was very cool. On my third run I ran closer to home, through neighborhoods and then back along the river. Running has made this week alone pretty exciting, so I’m pumped to see what other adventures ensue for the rest of the semester!!

Updates. Crucial ones.

On the first week, I disclosed to you all some things that were relatively troubling about my time here in Spain. I know you’ve all been holding your breath, but rest easy as the following issues have been relatively resolved:

  1. Coffee: Our madre had been offering us instant coffee for a week or so, but we didn’t really get the impression that she or padre drank it. This was because 1. Instant coffee and 2. They make it with milk (??? so like more weird???). But later on, she made a comment about how she doesn’t know how we get through the day without it, and that she has some every morning. That was a HUGE “Aha!” moment for Kelsey and I, and I was then able to explain that yes, we are coffee addicts, we are just accustomed to coffee from a coffee machine. She nodded understandingly as she often does and we didn’t really think much more of it. THEN, on Sunday night, we walked into the kitchen and LOW AND BEHOLD, A COFFEE MAKER. It was obviously used and Kelsey and I got the impression that she maybe got it from work or a family member. The sight made our whole day, we were ecstatic to finally have coffee. The only downfall is that she makes like 10 cups at a time and then we heat it up for three days. So old coffee, but at least coffee right??

2. Lights: After the third time that the power went out and Kels and I were helpless, Constancia explained more clearly how to fix the problem. Granted this was the next morning after he woke up to no power again, so it was kind of awkward. However, we are now proficient operators of our breaker box, and know that if we can’t figure it out, he would prefer us to call him and wake him up.

3. Info about my padres: I knew very very little about my host parents after week one, but I’ve found out a few more things.

We didn’t really know their names, but after a couple of statements-in-passing, help from a friend who has lived with them, and snooping at the mailbox, I can confirm 100% that my host dad’s name is Constancia and my host mom’s name is Victar. Spanish last names are a little confusing, but those were also on the mailbox, luckily.

They have two daughters, who are 36 and 37. One is Christina (unsure about spelling), and she has two sons, Nicolas (aka Nico) and Martin. They are 2 and 5 (??), respectively, and so so adorable. The only thing that’s a bit confusing is that one of the last names used is Martin. We’re pretty sure that’s the last name that Victar got from her dad, so we’re not entirely sure if it was handed down to her grandchildren, but like I said, just confusing. Is Martin’s last name (or one of them) also Martin? Or does his last name not include Martin but they wanted to keep the name in the family? Or was it just random? Who knows.

We also know that our host parents daughters work at the same place that they do. Although, for the longest time we were unsure whether they’re doctors or hairdressers. Yes, you heard me correctly. When constan described what they do, the only word we caught was estético, a word we had seen advertised on both clinics and hair salons. Though, we now know that they met and started working at a very young age, so our assumption is hairdressers. Still searching for confirmation on that one.

4. Where I live: as I mentioned above, we found our mailbox, where the address is posted in the format to send something. We never formally asked about receiving mail, but Kelsey had her mom send her card in the mail according to the address we saw and it arrived. Go us!!!

Holla @ having basic knowledge, am I right?!

Hittin’ the (Spanish) books

As I look through some of the things that I’ve documented throughout my journey so far, I realize that I have yet to talk much about my classes and academic investments. This semester I’m taking 5 classes, and they total to 13 credit hours. Also, I’ve been tutoring a woman named Mercedes in English for some pocket change. Here’s the run down:

On Mondays and Wednesdays I have 3 classes and tutoring. I start my day with my culture class, which I have found to be very interesting. Not to mention, this class is more discussion-based, which I tend to prefer. The professor is knowledgeable yet fun and I find that my first hour and a half always flies by. Next I have advanced grammar. This class isn’t my favorite because it’s a lot of nitpick-y tedious rule learning, but luckily most everything is review. Although, grammar does come easily to me and the things that are slightly new or different are interesting because the grammar that we learn is exactly what is used in every day speech here. Then, we have a lunch break, which is followed by our literature class. I like this class a lot too as it is also very discussion-oriented. Furthermore, studying literature gives us a great excuse to widen our vocabulary.

After school ends and I come home for lunch, I walk about 10 minutes to Mercedes’ piso to help her with her English. Mercedes is the sweetest 30-something year old woman, studying to become certified as a bilingual teacher. The test she is studying to take is an oral test, so so far we have mainly just been engaging in normal conversation. She tells me about the Spanish school system and the American TV series that she watches, and I tell her about my experiences here and my life at home in the United States. It has been so much fun to chat with her, and her English is very strong. I am confident and hopeful that she passes her upcoming exam, she certainly deserves it!! Furthermore, passing the exam would allow her to get a job closer to home, and spend less than 12 hours out of the house for work every day. I can imagine that gets exhausting.

Then, on Tuesdays, I don’t have class!! Holla. Come March, I will be sitting in on a math class on Tuesdays just to listen, but until then I don’t have formal class. I do, however, have the service component of my service learning course. This consists of me hosting a free conversational English class at the Immigrant Center in Alcala de Henares, a resource for anyone who wishes to use their services. The first week, nobody showed up (which I had mixed feelings about). Although, this week I had five students. One was a teen from Romania, and the rest were middle-aged adults from the Madrid area. All of them were super friendly, and all but one could understand and speak very well. I could tell that the student who was having more trouble was feeling uncomfortable, and I think we may arrange to meet outside of class instead to do a sort of language exchange. I’m really excited for the rest of the semester with my new pupils, and I hope that I can make the class beneficial for them!! Starting February 7th, I will also be “tutoring” for another family on Tuesdays. I say “tutoring” because I’ll really just be playing with a 2 year old and 4 year old in English as a way to help them develop their language skills without them even knowing it.

On Thursdays, we have our oral proficiency class and our service learning theory class. Oral proficiency is only a 1 credit hour class, and we spend it discussing topics that interest us regarding Spain. For example, last class period we talked about fashion and weddings and other social get-togethers. The professor we have for this class is from Spain, so it is always interesting to hear what she has to say about Spanish culture in contrast to American culture. Then, in our service learning theory class, we just talk about our experiences with our service projects each week and the best way to move forward.

With no Friday classes, I finish the week early and usually with minimal homework. Who knew life could be so wonderful, am I right??

Toledo, Spain

If I could use one word to describe my trip to Toledo, it would be serendipitous. Over Thursday night tapas, some friends and I decided that we might as well cross this Spanish bucket list item off early. So the next morning, we woke up early and made our way to the train station with not a single plan for what we’d do when we got there. And yet, I would say that the trip was very successful.

We managed to figure out what to do and how to buy mid-distance train tickets, and in a timely fashion for that matter. We got to Toledo by around 11:00 am. The map on the wall of the beautifully antique train station made Toledo looked huge, and I think we were all a little intimidated. Nevertheless, we spent two euros on a map and headed off in the direction of the rest of the city. Walking relatively aimlessly, we encountered escalators up the countryside, the street dedicated to Toledo, OH (woot woot!!), and a free entrance to the Cathedral. The free entrance to the Cathedral may or may not have been for people going to pray, but we accidentally took full advantage. On our way out of the Cathedral, we ran into a teacher who was also a craftsman. He directed us to the Convent of St. Isabel, where you can enter the workshop of local craftsmen who hand make gold-embellished jewelry and other things. Their creations are sold on-sight amongst other souvenirs. None of us bought anything (we were high key ballin’ on a budget) but admiring the pieces was a very memorable moment from the trip.

Later we wandered over to the El Greco Museum, which was especially exciting for me after having studied El Greco both in high school and college. The museum was very interesting, and we were admitted for free with our student IDs!! It was laid out as a sort of replica of what El Greco’s house would have been like in Toledo, and displayed some of his work as well as some of the work he inspired. I was tickled because the whole day was cloudy and sprinkly-rainy and based on the way that El Greco portrayed Toledo, it couldn’t have been more appropriate. I would have used dark colors and elongated strokes too, dude.

Other highlights of the day included exploring the “Jardines del Transito,” eating churros and chocolate, and seeing other sights such as the Puerta del Sol, Mosque of Cristo de la Luz, Acazar Museum, and Plaza de la Virgen. I feel like I saw enough churches that day for a lifetime, and we also got a chance to check out the Cervantes exhibit at the Museum of Santa Cruz. Fun fact: the exhibit said that Cervantes was probably born in Alcala de Henares. We certainly crossed that word out didn’t we?!

Needless to say, the city was a lot smaller than it seemed. Although we certainly got our steps in, we were nowhere close to needing to take public transportation. Even if we had needed it, most of the fun of this trip was wandering down narrow streets and finding new angles to view the spectacular city and river. I swore that I took the same picture 80 times, but each brought a different perspective on the architecture and landscape that make Toledo the magical city that it is. Now that, the magic of Toledo, was not serendipity. That was definitely intentional.

Rollos de Semana Uno (y otras cosas)

Or, challenges of Week #1 (and other things). One of my first assignments by my grammar professor was to start a personal “dictionary” including all of the colloquial words I learn inside and outside the classroom. One of the first words I recorded was “rollo: pain in the ass” (so maybe I censored that first sentence… yeah yeah). This week has been extraordinary. Full of adventure, but also full of difficulties I didn’t necessarily see coming. Here are a few:

1. MY HOUSE IS FREEZING. It’s probably ~60 degrees Fahrenheit in here. Seeking out slippers, I shiver in my sleep.

2. Winter is so mild!!! This one is not quite a rollo but it’s ~50 degrees F outside everyday and people here think it’s so cold. News flash: this is about 30-40 degrees warmer than home for me.

3. Where is the coffee?!? I don’t suppose everyone has this issue, but my host parents aren’t coffee addicts and I certainly am. RIP while I figure this one out.

4. Organization. My program was very poorly organized. So much so that our host parents didn’t know our names, let alone my roommate’s food allergies. Just today, three days in, we found out our address and the actual names of our host parents. Lol oops.

4. Who turned out the lights???? First, let me disclose to you that Constan, my host dad, does most of the talking. He’s very knowledgeable and this is all great, except that he speaks quickly and quietly. He showed us a control box to use in case things don’t work, but for the most part we nodded in semi-understanding hoping we’d never need it. Then last night, day two, Kels blew a fuse (I’m guessing??) blow drying her hair and there went all of our power. We tried to use the box thingy like he said but had no success. The lights came back on around 6am, I’m assuming because Constan woke up and fixed it. Nothing has been said since. Again, lol oops??

5. Who are my padres??? The more time passes, the more basic I realize our preliminary introduction was. And they don’t really know much about me either…lol

6. Where do I live???? I know my street name, but we’ve yet to ask them for the address. This is awkward, no?

Day 1: Spain edition

I’ve always loved Spain, even though I’ve only ever admired her from afar. But now that I see it up close, now that we’re getting to know each other, I’m appreciating her a little extra. She’s just as beautiful as she was with more water in the way, and then some, now that I’ve realized our personalities are so similar. 

Night owls and go getters, teeming with purpose and opportunity. I’m looking forward to our future together, España, they say intellectual compatibility goes a long way.