Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Oh hey, I forgot I have a blog

No, I didn't really forget, but it probably seems like it to most of you.  The truth is, I have been dreading writing this because I convinced myself that I no longer wanted to document my time here; that I don't want to remember being here at all, and putting it in print will make the memories last forever.  But, it seems like people actually want to know why I do all day long here, so I guess I will try to keep on a regular schedule with my bloggy.

Again, here are some things that I can remember from the past few weeks, or so.

First of all, I went to see my dad in Paris for a few days - he was there for a week on business.  Let me back up, though: figuring out the logistics of being able to see him was hell on earth.  Basically, he was coming, then he wasn't, then he was, then he wasn't.  So, I spontaneously bought a plane ticket on Friday the 17th, and left to go to Paris on Sunday the 19th; however, I was starting to get sick a little on that Thursday, and by Saturday I was really feeling it, especially in my throat.  But since I was determined to see my dad, I think I made it seem like less than it really was.  Fast forward to Sunday night, and my dad is taking me to the hospital (urgent care) in downtown Paris.  Yea, I was that sick.  I am so sorry, dad, that we had to walk all over the damn city looking for the stupid place in the middle of the night.

I ended up having a severe virus in my throat (I basically had strep throat symptoms), and the French doctor (who spoke broken English) prescribed me some medicine with codeine (I wish it would have been stronger because it really didn't help my swallowing pain much at all) to dissolve in water.  Europeans are big on medicine that dissolves in water.  All of my experiences so far have indicated this.  "How many times have I been sick in Europe?" you ask.  Well, I was sick the entire first half of the WAM (Wisconsin Ambassadors of Music) trip in 2008, so I got medicine in London and Switzerland - dissolvable; and my host mom gave me dissolve-y stuff.  So did the French.

In summary: my Paris excursion was worth it, although not at all what I was expecting.  Faj and I got to see the Eiffel Tower together, and we also went out shopping a little on my last night there :)  I am just so glad that my dad was there to take care of me :)

Before Paris I went to see the Seville Royal Orchestra at the Teatro de la Maestranza, and it was amazing!  They played a Mozart symphony, a Tchaikovsky piece with solo cello, and part of a Stravinsky ballet, which featured three vocal soloists.  I loved every minute of it..of course lol.

W.A. Mozart, Sinfonía nº 27, en Sol mayor, K. 199
P.I. Tchaikovsky, Variaciones sobre un tema Rococó, para violonchelo y orquesta, Op. 33
I. Stravinsky, Pulchinell, ballet en un acto para pequeña orquesta y tres voces solistas

I am totally going to go to more concerts, but I am disappointed because they just finished doing the opera "The Marriage of Figaro," and several Mozart orchestra cycles.  Dammit.  I will get to an opera, though - you can count on it.

With API (my study abroad coordinating organization) we visited the Alhambra in Granada.  Here is the Wikipedia synopsis to make it easier: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alhambra.  I gotta admit, it was pretty spectacular, but I was still fairly sick during the visit.

Otherwise, I really have been a pretty boring person.  I have spent a large majority of my free time watching TV shows online (I have to stay current with Grey's, Modern Family, and Once Upon a Time, just to name a few! lol) and reading.  To my surprise (and to the surprise of anyone who knows I don't read books for fun..ever) I have read two whole books already.  Go, me.

One final mini story..
Today I went for a walk with Carmen María (the daughter of my host mom, and the mom of the three-year-old, Delek), and I had such a fun time.  We talked in English for the first half of the walk because she wants help with her English, and then we talked in Spanish on the way home because, well, duh.  We didn't talk about anything in particular, but it was just nice to have someone to spend time with here :)  And she said that we can do it more often, so that will be good.  And I can tell that it was really good for my Spanish.  

One final, final mini story..
Mamá Carmen cooked traditional Spanish paella for lunch today, and it was so gross lol.  Well, I had a separate little vegetable, vegetarian version, but Abbie and Nicole got the crazy seafood one.  I felt so bad for them because the little shrimps had their eyes and legs and all right there in front of us.  Carmen was like, "just pull off the spine and the head and the legs..." NASTY!  They were actually telling me how lucky I was to be a vegetarian at that moment.  Score.

peace & <3 folks

Sundays suck

So I thought I published this entry, but apparently not.  This is from February 12th, I think.

First of all: lo siento mucho.  I have been a very negligent blogger as of late.  I actually didn't realize that I hadn't updated since last Saturday.  That feels good to say - last Saturday.  That means I am a week closer to going home!  But really, I do kind of feel bad because now this entry will most likely be a pretty hefty one.  Oh and one more thing: I am currently listening to Jack's Mannequin on my iTunes.  For those of you who aren't familiar with this band - the most amazing band on the face of this earth - you really need to listen to them.  Trust me.

Hey, I practiced my oboe today for the first time in like almost a month (well, since band tour).  Ehh, it was alright.  "Mamá" Carmen really enjoyed it, though, haha.  I also spent a large majority of the day catching up on all of my TV shows online.  Lazy, lazy.

I suppose I should talk about my first week of classes.  The only class in which I actually enjoy the subject material is my Flamenco music-y class; the other ones are kinda stupid (but, sadly, required for my stinking major): Economy and Society in Contemporary Spain (blah), Anthropology in Andalucía (meh), and Phonetics and Conversation (I'd rather have a MUSIC class).  My music history class will most likely be cancelled due to lack of attendance, but there is still hope!  (No, there really is no hope.)
It was quite a trek to school and back once (and sometimes twice) everyday this past week, but I received my bike pass in the mail, so I can bike back and forth now, which is exciting :)  Most importantly, it will cut my daily travel time in half.

I also booked a flight to Amsterdam this weekend because my new friend, Amanda, and I will be heading there during one weekend in April.

On Friday night, I went out with my roommate and some other people; it was my first time going out since I have been here.  We went bar hopping for a few hours, and I had a fun time.  Don't worry, I only had a few sangrias and a couple tequila shots - I was hardly even buzzed.  I am not stupid.  I do not want to be heavily intoxicated in a random bar in a foreign country.

This song has been an inspiration to me for a number of years, and I want to share it with you.  It's all about perseverance for me right now..

You've gotta swim
Swim for your life
Swim for the music
That saves you
When you're not so sure you'll survive
You gotta swim
And swim when it hurts
The whole world is watching
You haven't come this far
To fall off the earth
The currents will pull you
Away from your love
Just keep your head above

I found a tidal wave
Begging to tear down the dawn
Memories like bullets
They fired at me from a gun
A crack in the armor
I swim to brighter days
Despite the absence of sun
Choking on salt water
I'm not giving in
I swim

You gotta swim
Through nights that won't end
Swim for your families
Your lovers your sisters
And brothers and friends
Yeah you've gotta swim
Through wars without cause
Swim for the lost politicians
Who don't see their greed as a flaw

The currents will pull us
Away from our love
Just keep your head above

I found a tidal wave
Begging to tear down the dawn
Memories like bullets
They fired at me from a gun
Cracking me open now
I swim for brighter days
Despite the absence of sun
Choking on salt water
I'm not giving in
Well I'm not giving in
I swim

You gotta swim
Swim in the dark
There's no shame in drifting
Feel the tide shifting and wait for the spark
Yeah you've gotta swim
Don't let yourself sink
Just find the horizon
I promise you it's not as far as you think
The currents will drag us away from our love
Just keep your head above
Just keep your head above
Just keep your head above
Swim, swim
Just keep your head above

-Jack's Mannequin, "Swim"

Saturday, February 4, 2012

First few days in Sevilla

I have been incredibly tired and just completely worn out these past few days, and that's why I haven't updated since Wednesday.  Here are some highlights in no particular order:

We had a brief tour of the University of Seville, where I will be starting classes on Monday.  Once I post some more pictures, you'll be able to see how different it is from a typical university in the U.S.  It is a massive, old building that has hidden staircases left and right and hallways that curve around; and two different types of numbers on the classrooms: normal numbers and Roman numerals.  As if that isn't confusing enough, the ones with Roman numerals aren't arranged in an organized fashion - like the 200's might be on the first floor.  Let's just say it will be a fun first day, as I'll probably get lost quite a few times.  Awesome.

Then there was the bike tour.  It sounds fun, right?  Yea, I thought so too.  You know, a casual ride along the river for maybe an hour or so.  False.  (1) we rode for almost three hours; (2) we rode for probably 15 or so miles; (3) we rode at a very brisk speed; (4) the bikes were small and the seats even smaller; (5) my ass hurt the entire time; and (6) I was sweating like a pig and fighting to keep pace the entire time :(
And when I say my butt hurt, I don't mean that it was a little numb or a little sore.  No, no it was this piercing, agonizing pain; I was waddling afterward.  Yes, it was a beautiful ride, but I was praying to Jesus that it would end the whole time.  I think the saddest part of this was that before the bike ride we climbed the tower of the cathedral - 34 ramps (comparable to flights of stairs) to the top.  So there was that, then the bike ride, and then I had to walk 30 minutes back to our house.  Holy shit.  Fat people are not meant for so much exercise in one day haha.

It doesn't seem like my Spanish speaking skills have improved much, if at all, but I realize that I have only been here for about a week.  Our host mother, Carmen, hardly knows any English at all, but this is actually a good thing, although at times it really is difficult to understand what she is telling us.  I don't mind the food here, but I wish it had a bit more flavor.  She has made me several vegetable soups, and they are so healthy because they literally consist of pure, fresh vegetables and water.  I wish I could add a little bit of sal (salt), but I don't want to offend her!  Last night for dinner she made small omelets with a type of creamy, white cheese (brie maybe?) in the middle, and that was really good.

I signed up for a bike service because I decided that I can't stand walking 20-30 minutes every time I need to get to class.  I could act like a commuter and just stay at school the entire day, but we are supposed to come home for lunch.  That is a minimum of two hours of walking per day, and that will get really old.  What happens if I forget a paper or something?  I'll be screwed.  So, they have this service that costs 25 euros for the entire time that I am here.  There are a bunch of these bike stations all over the city, and you can use a bike (swipe a card and enter a pin number) for 30 minutes at a time.  There is a bike station right down the street from my house, and there are several right next to the university, so that is perfect!

Later today I am going to take the map of Seville and explore a little - I might go with my roommate Nicole or my friend Laura (but Laura lives pretty far away from me - she is on the other side of the university).  Or I might go by myself - I have to get used to being by myself; this hasn't been easy for me.

Oh, mom: I gave the heart table runner/wall hanging to Carmen, and she loves it :)  She kept going on and on about how it is so professional looking, and the stitches are so straight.  She put it on her side table in the dining/living room right after I gave it to her.  I thought I'd share this with you.

Emmy said that I need more pictures of me next to all of these cool places, but i hate pictures of myself. Emmy, I will try to add more captions to the pictures, ok?

Gracias por leer mi blog ;)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

An uphill climb

Tuesday, January 31st for real this time

I didn't tell you what I did, so here is a very short summary (it was a very full and tiring day).  We took a bus to El Escorial (a very old monastery/palace/school/library) outside of Madrid, and my favorite part was going under the church to see the tombs of past kings and queens of Spain.  Yes, I realize that this is slightly creepy and not something that I would generally like; however, I thought it was so cool that I was in the same room as the bones of Queen Elizabeth II.  Also, in the palace section some Spaniard (not in our group) threw up all over the floor on his way to the bathroom.  Yea, it was literally like five feet behind me.  Gross.

Me and two other girls went to a fast food restaurant for lunch, and I had a sub and mozzarella sticks.  Then, we were off to El Prado Museum (sort of like the Louvre of Spain), where we saw the works of Velázquez, Goya, and el Greco.  Afterwards, a group of us explored a nearby park and then braved the metro, as some of them really wanted to see the stadium where the Real Madrid soccer team plays.  Honestly, I didn't really care about seeing it, but I didn't want to be alone.  And the metro turned out to be really fun - we even had to transfer to several different lines, which is easier than it sounds ;)

After dinner, we went out to conquer a little more of Madrid, and I had yogur helado (frozen yogurt) with dulce de leche (caramel) and chocolate.  It had an interesting flavor because over here frozen yogurt is literally frozen yogurt - no sugar added or anything - so it has a bit of a tartness, which I did surprisingly enjoy.

Wednesday, February 1st

We left bright and early for Toledo, which is so much more beautiful than I thought it would be.  You should take a look at my pictures because they definitely convey this point more accurately than my words can.  My only complaint about this city is that the roads and sidewalks are so hilly and uneven, which can be very exhausting for semi out of shape fat people like me haha.

FINALLY!  We arrived in Sevilla.  It was like almost two hours from Madrid to Toledo and then another 4, 5, 6 something hours to Sevilla, I don't even remember.  I met my host family, and am now settled in - sort of.  The only saving grace in this whole situation is that they have wifi at the house, which is so fricking amazing.  I'll tell you about the host family more tomorrow or soon because it is like 1:30 am here, and I really need to get to bed, even though I probably won't fall asleep right away.  I can never stop thinking about how much I want to go home.  I'll let you know once I stop feeling homesick.  I'm taking bets!  I'd put your money on the very last day - when I get of the plane in Milwaukee.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Day two in Madrid

I realize that updating my blog almost every day versus every week is a little excessive, but I am mainly doing this, so that I can remember what I did each day.  In other words, if you have better things to do than read about my "adventures" daily, I completely understand.  Feel free to skim.  Also, I am sure that once school starts I won't have that many things to talk about, so I might update less.  Who the hell knows at this point.

Monday, January 30th

Today started with breakfast in the hotel lobby restaurant, and it was alright.  They had these mini pancakes things, and I had some coffee cake and kiwi - the kiwi was delicious.

We walked to El Palacio Real (The Royal Palace of Madrid) and toured the royal buildings, including the palace itself, its armory, and adjacent pharmacy (the guy made a big deal about the pharmacy, which I thought was a bit odd).  All of the rooms in the palace were very ornate, as most were either decorated in baroque or neoclassic styles.  My favorite part of the tour was when our guide brought us to a room that housed Stradivarius string instruments.  Since she was speaking entirely in Spanish, I couldn't always follow everything that she said, but I did hear the word "Stradivarius," and I almost jumped up and down in excitement (I didn't, don't worry).  And the funny thing was that no one else even seemed to care.  I was the only music nerd apparently.  Boo.  Well, I was overjoyed.  But because I just didn't want to believe that these instruments right in front of me behind the glass had been hand crafted by Antonio Stradivari, I asked the guide to be sure.  I said (lol), "¿Perdon, dijo que los instrumentos son de Stradivarius? [Excuse me, did you say that the instruments are Stradivarius'?]  And she said, "¡Sí, sí!"  And also told me that the palace was very fortunate to have them.  When I told her that I was studying music she also asked me if I played an instrument :)  It was just so awesome.

Afterwards me and two other girls got lunch at a cafe, but the food wasn't very good.  I had a "sandwich" that consisted of dry bread, lettuce, tomato, slices of hard-boiled eggs, and mushy, yellow, canned, gross asparagus.  Seriously, the asparagus looked and felt like slimy, pale human fingers.  I picked those off and pushed the hard-boiled eggs to the side, but since there wasn't any sauce, it was a pretty gross sandwich.

In other news, my roommate, Nicole, found out that we can safely drink the tap water (we thought we couldn't), so now I don't have to sparingly drink water to save money (1.50 euro for a small bottle will get ridiculous).  I am very happy about this.

Tonight was probably the most fun night so far because me and four other girls, including Nicole, went to dinner together.  After walking around we found a place that had a deal: sangria, gazpacho, and paella for about 15 euros.  Besides the gazpacho (it isn't terrible, but it was hard for me to get over the cold temperature), everything was amazing.  I could literally drink an entire pitcher of sangria - but I won't.  And since three of us ordered vegetable paella, they brought it out in a huge, flat, round paella pan, and it was so amazingly rich and delicious.  One girl, Laura, described it as mac and cheese with vegetables with love, or something like that.  If you aren't familiar with paella, it is a kind of stew with rice and a yellowish, creamy sauce with cooked vegetables (perfectly cooked, I might add).  It doesn't sound very interesting, but the flavor is ridiculous!  I love it now.  It also comes with meat, if you want. You don't want that, trust me ;)

Then we found the famous churro restaurant that we had seen yesterday, and we split some orders of churros with hot chocolate.  The hot chocolate is more like warm chocolate pudding mixed with fudge.  If you ever have the chance to go to Spain, make sure you eat some churros!  Yum, yum.

Even though I am still homesick, I was very fortunate to have found some people to hang out with - it really helped me take my mind off of missing home.  Nicole, if you are reading this, I just want to thank you for including me and inviting me places - I really appreciate it, roomie :)

Until next time, peeps..

Bienvenidos a España..sort of.

Since I am new to the world of blogging, I'll keep my first post short-ish.  As many of you know, I did not want to go to Spain for an entire semester by myself.  I was honestly terrified - I still am, actually - but I am trying to make the best of this once in a lifetime experience..maybe.  Ok, I am lying.  I really don't want to be here at all.  Call me an idiot, but I would give anything to be back at Concordia with John and all of my friends.

Saturday, January 28th - Sunday, January 29th

On the flight from Milwaukee to Chicago, I sat next to a gentleman, who is from Texas but lives in Kenosha; his parents are both Mexican, so he could speak Spanish, which was an interesting coincidence.  However, he swore like a crazy man and didn't shut up the entire way (taxi, take off, actual flight, landing, taxi).  I think he said his name was Leo, but that might not be right.  Anyways, although he was very friendly, he got progressively more annoying.  He even invited me to get a drink with him after we landed, and I was thinking to myself, "wow, this is getting slightly creepy," so I politely declined.

Then, while I was waiting at my gate to fly from Chicago to Madrid, I was reading my API packet of information when a girl came over to me and asked if I was going to Spain.  We came to realize that there were about eight or so of us from API on the flight to Madrid, so it was nice to have some people to talk to.  The flight went by fast because I fell asleep after dinner and woke up an hour before we landed, so I got about nine hours of sleep.  I normally can't sleep on planes, so I was very fortunate.

Once we finally maneuvered our way through the Madrid airport and got our luggage, we had to wait about two hours to get picked up by API at 11:00 am.  Waiting became the theme of this day.  We waited at the airport.  We waited on the bus for twenty minutes.  And then some of us had to wait for almost an hour for our hotel rooms to be cleaned.  I didn't know waiting and doing nothing could be so tiring.  It is.

I met one of my housemates, Nicole, took a nap, met my other housemate, Abbie, and then went to an orientation meeting, which was followed by a walk around the plazas by our hotel and dinner.  I took pictures of my dinner - they are on facebook if anyone wants to see.  Yum..fried vegetables (said with a sarcastic tone).  No, it really was ok, but I had to eat a lot of bread to fill myself up.