THURSDAY, MAY 5, 2011
Home Is Wherever I'm With You
(the title is a reference to this song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjFaenf1T-Y)
Coming to Spain has been one of the best experiences of my life. I feel pretty lucky to have had this opportunity and had it work out so well. I've grown in a million ways, seen a million new things, and feel like I have a million more things to tell all of you. Two big themes in this semester were 1) meeting wonderful new people and 2) missing all of the people back home.
During my week in Germany, Hans-Dieter (nicknamed Hadi) and Elke (married and with their kids out of the house) were talking about how they are constantly traveling to different countries and moving from house to house. Hadi called himself "The Gypsy" and said that he could never stay in one place for too long. Then Elke said someting that I thought was pretty great. She said, "Well, to me, I am never away from home. Hadi IS my home. So I am never homesick."
I seem to recall one of my favorites, Lauren Haney, writing something similar about her study abroad experience in Australia. She said (I think) you just leave little pieces of your heart everywhere you go with the people you meet and invest time into, so your "home" just gets bigger. Now I have a home in Sevilla with my Señora and family, at school with my professor and friends, in Germany with the Gesches, in Wisconsin with my parents and family, in Westchester and Connecticut with my brothers, at Trinity Christian College with my friends, at Camp Calvin with the counselors, and the list goes on. I carry all this with me. To me, "home" is becoming more and more classified as a person than as a place. And I guess when you push the idea far enough, when the Lord is your best friend, your "capital-H" Home is with you wherever you go. Pretty swell.
Woah, it is really happening. TODAY, I go back to one of my homes, Trinity. This blog has really been fun for me to keep up. I am going to miss it a lot! I love writing updates, reading comments, and hearing feedback and ideas from everyone who was interested. It's been a wild ride in Sevilla, and many thanks to you for reading along with me. It always felt good to know that even as I was across the ocean people still cared about what was going on in my life. So it is time for "adios" to España for now.
¡Abrazos y besitos! See you on the flip side!
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Yesterday Ashley, Nicole, and I had quite the cultural experience! We went to an afternoon of bullfighting at the Plaza de Toros. Apparently Sevilla and Madrid have the two best bullfighting rings in all of Spain. It was a beautiful spot. But when the fights started, I had to cringe. To be honest, we started to actually cheer for the bulls. Have no fear, I'm not joining the local chapter of PETA anytime soon and I will never give up my love for a properly cooked steak, but this is one little tradition I think the world could do without. Oddly though, it was incredible to be there because the atmosphere was amazing. A once in a lifetime experience - a bull fight in Spain - and so glad I didn't miss out on this one.
MONDAY, MAY 2, 2011
Tonight marked my first time at Feria. It's basically the Spanish version of the county fair. It is BEAUTIFUL with tons of lights, tents, food, and rides. Todo el mundo (everyone) is dressed to the nines and is dancing flamenca along with the music. All the tents are privately owned and people go there, invite their friends and family, visit one another's tents, dance, eat, drink, and repeat. We left at 2:00 AM and were the lameo early birds. We have been hearing from the natives that lots of Sevillians literally only sleep during siesta (3:30-5:30 in the afternoon) for the entire week of Feria so they can stay out all night and just go straight to work from there. Crazos. I happened to have an extraordinary time there for two reasons. For one thing, I found the biggest cotton candy of my life, and the second, I overcame my dread fear of roller coasters to ride "Top Gun" with my friends, going upside down, backwards, and thrown around everywhere. It was insane, but I loved it.
SUNDAY, MAY 1, 2011
Not really, but I AM finished with all my classes and exams. Friday marked my official last day of being a junior in college. Woah. Sorry all you Trinity people who have a bit to go yet, but it feels wonderful. I had an interesting situation with my class this year. There were only TWO beginners in the entire program, another girl (Rebekah Jongert for all you Trinity people who know her) and I. Our professor, Cecilia, is wonderful and we had a blast with her. Class was three hours a day and completely in Spanish. From time to time she would throw in fun things; we would have class in cafés for a change of scenery, along with little field trips to the Giralda (cathedral), Museo de Bellas Artes (art museum), the Alcazar (old royal gardens), and walks in the streets and neighborhoods for little scavenger hunts. Unfortunately, two weeks ago, Rebekah had to go back home early due to being really sick. So the last two weeks have just been Cecilia and I, basically just having lots of conversations in Spanish about what we find interesting (favorite movies, politics, religion, travels, etc.) and more class. Last week she had me over to her house and made me lunch as we watched Harry Potter 7.1 in Spanish - awesome.
My Spanish has improved light-years since the first day I got here; I am amazed at how it just came to me after about a month. I would say I am better conversationally; the grammar is still not wonderful. But between talking in general on the street, all the mealtimes with my Señora and my family, and my professor, I have learned to get my ideas across pretty well. And furthermore, Cecilia is a stickler for the Andalucian accent (Sevilla is in Andalucia, a region of Southern Spain). This includes a "th" sound for every "z" and soft "c". They also drop the endings of words sometimes. So now, instead of "Gracias," I'm just used to saying what sounds like "GraTHia." I know, so authentic. Now just a few more days to enjoy Sevilla and then I'll be packing my bags for my flight back to Chicago. I can't believe it is May 1 already! See you all SOON!
Down By the River
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Last week my small group wanted to do something outside to enjoy the beautiful weather instead of always meeting at a café to talk. So for a change of pace we rented a paddle boat for an hour our on the river and enjoyed the beautiful views! The name of the little rental company is pretty clever - the river is the Guadalquivir and the shop is called "Pedalquivir." It was about 85 degrees and perfectly sunny. I couldn't help but think back to my paddle boat days in Birchwood on Little Birch Lake - a little shoutout to all the VanDrunen cousins for that one. There were two seats in the front with pedals and two seats in the back just for riding along. And I had to laugh because I just KNOW that each person who took a turn pedaling was secretly thinking that the other pedaler next to them was NOT pulling their weight in the foot-power effort.
My small group consists of Ashley, Angie, Sarah, and Hannah (who couldn't make it to the paddling excursion). It is great to meet with them and talk about prayer requests and other stuff every Wednesday. Ashley helped me narrate the video. Most of our group meetings are spent laughing half the time.
Row, Row, Row Your Boat
Sunday, April 10, 2011
Following the instructions of a children's song is harder than it sounds. The school paid for us to row the boats along the tiny river-thing in front of the Plaza de España, my favorite place here in Seville. We spent most of the time laughing due to our lack of rowboat. In spite of minor difficulties with rowing technique, it was SO cool.
Later that night I went with some friends to a tetería (basically a coffee shop, except with all tea) to talk and hang out. On Saturday morning, I went to a flea market with five other friends. I'll have you know that America does not have a monopoly on tackiness.
On Saturday night, I went with Nicole and Bre to see a free Flamenca show (intense!). I rediscovered my hatred for "shushers," as this flamenca place is notorious for shushing the whole crowd before they start playing. This was a fun weekend to take a break from the travel frenzy and just enjoy Seville again!
¡Visca el Barça! Weekend in Barcelona
Monday, March 28, 2011
Just got back from a whirlwind weekend in Barcelona with my friends Bre, Nathalie, and Nicole! This city is awesome. We got there Saturday at about noon and packed a lot of stuff into a day and a half. My favorite part of this place is the architecture - I could just stare at the buildings and be happy.
We visited the Sagrada Familia (a Gaudi cathedral that will be under construction for the next 50 years at least due to its extensive building plans), a huge open air market with amazing fruit and food, Park Guell for the view, Las Ramblas (a famous street with artisans and culture and stuff), the Pablo Picasso museum, Plaza Espanya, tons of designer stores that we had NO business entering. (Dolce and Gabana, Chanel, and Valentino? Ha.) I am the newest addition to the Gaudi fan club, also, in case you were wondering. I love how his buildings use stone and yet make it look like it was formed out of silly putty or play-dough, almost straight out of a Dr. Seuss book. Unreal. We had an interesting trip back to Sevilla.
Our flight left at 6 a.m., but the metro train to the airport stopped running by midnight. So we arrived at the airport at 11:30 and spent the night there - talking, playing cards, half napping with our heads down on random cafe tables, and giggling out of tiredness and our state of delirium. Got back to the city center of Seville at 8:45 a.m., with just enough time to walk STRAIGHT to my school in time for my 9 a.m. class. After a night of no sleep and a three hour stretch of class, let me tell you that my four-hour siesta this afternoon was PRET-TY sweet.
Allow Myself to Introduce...Myself.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
I figured it was time for a post that wasn't just pictures and adventures. Don't worry - more of those to come. But yesterday I was talking to someone about how this semester has definitely broadened my horizons. I've had to grow up in a lot of ways. I've changed in a lot of ways too, almost so much so that I hope I won't have to reintroduce myself to everyone at home. People generally know me as a picky eater, needing to be around people at all times, an English speaker, and not having a fabulous sense of direction. And, last of all, according to my Dad, I need to constantly be working on my "situational awareness." (Classic.) I've had to face my fears of speaking in Spanish, come here alone and make new friends from complete scratch, find my way around a million metro stops and bus systems for airport transportation and travel, walk everywhere and navigate around Seville, and to me, the most significant, is TRY NEW FOOD. Here is a list of stuff that I have eaten in completion for the first time in my life:
1. Calamari. Not only the fried variety, but also a cooked one that looked like a literal mini-squid in its entirety. Tentacles and all hanging off my spoon. The texture is squishy. And gross. But I did it.
2. Salad with iceberg lettuce. For me, this is a big deal.
3. Pasta stuffed with spinach
4. Cooked spinach. No, did not get stronger afterward like Popeye, just grossed out.
5. Garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas)
6. Bleu cheese. Smells like a foot.
7. Deep fried ‘fish sticks’, except not really sure what's in there. I think a lot of seafood matter. You just don't ask.
8. Squash vegetable soup
9. Deep fried minnow/anchovy-like fish, not sure exactly what they are. Ate the head, scales and everything.
10. Tomatoes. Served plain. Ugh - this one still gives me goosebumps when I try to eat them.
I think I'm different in a few other ways too. One little way is the fact that I don't care as much if people will like the clothes I buy, so if I like something, I get it without worrying if others will. I also have found that I am much more go-with-the-flow in group situations than I thought - my Type-A side has mellowed out a little.
One big way is that, being completely sans comfort zone, I've had to learn to rely on the Lord and own my faith for myself. It's a lot easier to "coast" in your spiritual life when you can hide behind familiar church services, school praise and worship, Bible studies, Christian friends and family, etc. Not that those things aren't wonderful - I just think coming here was an extra shove that I needed.
While these things are cool, I am still the usual me, por supuesto. In fact, I am not one of those people who will come back and tell you that Europe is just so much more cultured than the Midwest. I happen to love Wisconsin and Chicago and can't wait to see them again. I think I always will feel like that.
...and Mom - don't get any funny ideas with the above list. Your cooking is perfect as is.
...and yes, the title is a quote from the original Austin Powers. I went there.
An American in Paris
Monday, March 14, 2011
This weekend I went to Paris with nine others from my program - it was incredible! The French have definitely scored some brownie points in my book over the last few days. We fit so many activities into very little time. We visited three museums: the Louvre (the Mona Lisa's home), an impressionist museum with lots of VanGogh (Musée d'Orsay), and a contemporary museum with Picasso and friends (Centre Pompidou). I am a nerd this way and love art museums, so needless to say I was in heaven. Bonus for us = free admission for people with student visas! I didn't pay a single entrance fee all weekend. Apart from the museums, we went on a sweet three and a half hour walking tour of the city, led by a hilarious tour guide, saw the Eiffel Tower (three times), saw the Arc de Triomphe, went inside the Notre Dame cathedral during Sunday morning mass, saw the Moulin Rouge, went to La Basilique de Sacré Coeur de Montmartre (a pretty church), ate street hot dogs and probably 73 crepes, and navigated the crazy but really efficient metro system. Fun fact: I found that I have absolutely no ability to look at a word in French and figure out how to pronounce it.
Monday, March 7, 2011
Here is the first food post!
You are looking at my daily breakfast, circa 8:25 a.m. And people wonder why students who go abroad gain weight. On the top right you see a mug of ColaCao. Basically, their version of Ovaltine. It is delicious, and it is pretty nice to have a hot cup of goodness to wake up to. On the top left you see a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. I kid you not; my Señora gets up every morning and uses three oranges to go with my breakfast. I'm not sure that I'll be physically able to go back to Tropicana. And then, of course, el pan - the bread. Looks like this particular morning was a half-Nutella, half-fake butter day. Mmmm. Sometimes I switch it up to raspberry jelly. Something I miss immensely: PEANUT BUTTER. But alas, last week I found it at the grocery store in a TINY jar...so I bought some and added it to the cabinet here. The brand has nothing on Jif, but I'll take it.
Sing Like A Canary
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
I just returned from my first official travel weekend! Ashley, Nicole, and I flew to the Canary Islands and stayed on Gran Canaria, the "big" island, in a hostel overlooking the beach/ocean. Not too shabby.
We spent a lot of time at the beach and hiked up the plateau for some great views. We stayed in a small beach town called Puerto de Mogan at Volver Hostel, which is built into the side of the mountain. Our stay there was a huge reason why we had such a great time. We met people from all over the world: A German hippie girl who makes pottery, a German student couple, a British girl, a Swedish dad traveling with his three young sons, an older lady from Iceland, a Palestinian woman who lives in London (she says she is so thankful for the freedom she has found there), a Cuban waiter one night for dinner (with a few choice words to say about Fidel), an Italian lady, and a Canadian guy traveling with his French girlfriend. The last two were especially nice to us and filled us in on travel tips about Paris for our future excursion there. The last night we sat up on the roof and talked with them for most of the night. The owner of the hostel is a German girl who is super artsy and original - the hostel is definitely one of a kind. We loved the decoration, the shared kitchen and living space, and the incredible view.
Thursday, February 24, 2011
As I am sure anyone who is learning a foreign language has experienced, I have definitely embarrassed myself in Spanish to other students and the locals. My mom just wrote me about her experience abroad in the Netherlands, when she ordered a fish with no legs (meaning to ask for a fish with no bones), only for the waiter to reply that ALL fish have no legs. I can relate. These are my worst two so far:
1. About two weeks in, I was at lunch one day talking with my Señora and fumbled my words (botched the gender, number, tense, the whole shebang) like four sentences in a row. Naturally, she couldn't understand what I was trying to say. So we were laughing and I said, "¡Estoy embarazada!", which cued more laughter from her. Apparently "Estoy AVERGONZADO" is the correct way to say "I am embarrassed." "Estoy EMBARAZADA" means "I am pregnant."
2. This past Sunday, my church, which is really small, had a cultural celebration day, where they had something interesting from each nationality represented in the congregation (of which there are TONS). Mainly dancing and singing. Then someone was like, "Let's get all the American students up there!" So there are about 15 of us, and we passed the microphone around to say one thing that has made Seville a great experience or that is different to us, etc. I love my Señora (who is a member at this church), so I wanted to say that she was one of the reasons I love it here; that she is the best in Seville. Small problem. Didn't really know the crucial difference between la mayor (the oldest) and la mejor (the best). So, on my turn, I took the microphone and told the whole congregation that I love Mari Carmen and that she is the oldest in Seville. Everyone laughed, including Carmen, and I fixed it. Not my greatest moment.
I love hearing stories like these - everyone in our program has at least one or two.
This week has been crazy. Just finished up my exam for Spanish 102 and am packing for an EARLY departure tomorrow to go visit the Canary Islands! Two friends and I are staying in a place near the beach on the south side of the big island. I'm excited to explore the area and hopefully get a cool hike in there somewhere as well. I’m packing myself as many sandwiches as I can so I can buy as little food as possible while there.
Cathedral and Carmona
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
These are pictures of 2 events: The first few are from a field trip with my professor to Sevilla´s cathedral, named Giralda, the third largest in the world. We walked to the top of the belltower and looked out over the city. Interesting fact: it used to be a Muslim tower, and since the call to prayer was 5 times a day, they took it easy on the bell ringer guy by constructing the path up the tower with ramps, not stairs, so he could ride a horse the whole way. The next pictures are in Carmona, a small city where we took a day trip to sightsee and walk around this past Saturday.
Sunday, February 13, 2011
In honor of Valentine's Day, I thought I'd show you a really cute element of Sevilla. To express their endless love for one another, couples in Seville will write their names on a padlock and lock it onto a spindle of the Triana Bridge. Then they throw the key into the river so that it can never be unlocked. Word on the street is that this love padlock phenomenon happens all over Europe on bridges in Prague, London, and more. Call me a hopeless romantic, but I like to think that all these couples are still together.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Here are pictures from last Friday's day trip to the city of Córdoba, about a 2-hour bus ride from Sevilla. We mainly focused on La Mezquita (The Mosque) de Córdoba. It's a really interesting building because it was first Muslim, then Christian, then Muslim again, and finally Roman Catholic. Each one sort of tried to top the last with its additions in construction.
After the tour, we ate lunch in a park and explored the city. The city was beautiful, but almost empty, which was a weird feeling. It felt almost like the set of a play. The colors here were awesome. I've decided I'm painting all the walls in my house yellow and red. Just a heads-up to Mom and Dad.
Monday, January 31, 2011
One thing that will get me here if I'm not careful, both with my budget and my jean size…the DESSERTS. Since there's such a big gap between lunch and dinner, people get together at cafes in the afternoon to get coffee/dessert. The picture was taken yesterday, with my friends Bre and Nathalie. In front of me is probably the single highest calorie item I have ever eaten. It is a sugar waffle, covered in thick, rich chocolate syrup, topped with a scoop of ice cream and with a pile of whip cream on the side. And all for three euros (a little less than four bucks). When I saw it on the menu I had to try it. Happy with my decision to try it? Definitely. Ever ordering it again? Absolutely not.
This whole past week I have been sick on and off (hence my flauw-ness in the picture). Super annoying. So I'm planning to kick that this week. I'm starting to figure out good running routes with other people here and hoping to have a pickup futbol session with some guys in the park in a few days. Apparently there are Spaniards who like to get beat by American students. I'll let you know how it goes!
La Primera Semana
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
A week ago today I left the states for Seville. This trip so far has been an adventure in itself, and I am excited and curious as to what will come in the next 100 or so days until I return! Just to give you a general information update, I am living in the district of Seville called Triana with my host mom, Mari Carmen. My roommate is named Erica, who is from Azusa Pacific University. Also living with us are Carmen's son, Jose Antonio, his wife, Joanna, and Carmen's daughter, Julia. I started classes on Monday and have sessions every morning from 9:00 - 12:30 with only me and one other girl in the class because there are only two students at the beginning level (talk about a good teacher-student ratio). So far, the first few classes have been great and I am right with the material. Honestly, I learn the most Spanish at mealtimes with my Senora, who is awesome. In this past week, I've learned a few things about Spain:
1. The cold. It might be 45 - 55 degrees here, but that 45 - 55 degrees is FREEZING. Here's why: no heated homes. Yes, you read that correctly. In Chicago I have a massive puffy coat to my knees equipped with a fur lined hood (you Trinity people probably have seen me in it), and I warm up as soon as I come in my dorm room. I couldn't fit that thing in my suitcase to bring here. And in Seville, when you come inside from the cold, you never warm up. You just stay cold. So I've tried little tricks to help myself out. I wear tights under my jeans every day. Double up on socks. Adopted the Brian-Gesch-patented "cocoon" method with my blankets every night so that every iota of body heat is maintained within the covers. I'm coping.
2. The food. Actually, (brace yourself, mom) I am loving my meals. Carmen is a great cook and for some reason I am starting to like stuff I never really liked at home. As a notorious picky-eater, I consider this development a miracle.
3. The schedule. It is COMPLETELY different from home. Breakfast at 8:30. Lunch at 2:30. Supper at 9:30. Not only are the mealtimes different, but siesta closes the entire city down from about 2:30-5:30. How sweet is that?! A culture that blocks off 3 hours for everyone to take a solid nap. My kind of place. Also, nighttime just gets going at 10:00, so everything happens later. I've seen moms pushing strollers in the road at 1:30 a.m. Actually, it is safer for people to be out at 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning than it is to be out at 6:00 in the morning.
4. The social life. This is one part I love so far. In one way, it's kind of weird because from what I can tell at this point, nobody has people over to their house. You would never call up your friends, boyfriend, or girlfriend to come over. You always go out to meet at a cafe, restaurant, park, bar, or somewhere else. The socializing all happens in the streets. I love how "out and about" everyone is. It's fun.
Just a few wonderful things that are happening here. I still miss everyone a lot and if I think about it TOO much it's too sad, so I try to stay busy and keep my schedule going with stuff to do. I am meeting a lot of new people and am making some friends, which is cool. Thanks for thinking and praying for me at home from time to time; I definitely think about you guys a lot too! One week down, and many more to go!
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Just writing you guys a quick update from the Madrid airport! We landed here at about 7:30 a.m. (about 12:30 a.m. in Chicago time) and have a connecting flight to Seville at 11:30. The flight was pretty uneventful. I sat next to a girl named Chloe who was really nice – got me excited about meeting everyone on the program.
It looks like I beat you all to Wednesday, January 19. It's a great day; I think you all will enjoy it!
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Today is the day! My mom is coming in a few hours to pick me up, grab some lunch, and drop me off at O'Hare Airport. I already have that sneaking suspicion that I've forgotten something.
Last night my friends and I went out to eat at Buffalo Wild Wings so I could get my last fix of Honey BBQ. When I got back to my room, my Resident Assistant had made a big "We Will Miss You, Anna" sign and made a cake, and the girls all got me little gifts for leaving. So, I'm feeling the love but also sad to say goodbye and miss out with some of my favorite people ever for a whole semester. I will miss you all a LOT.
Even so, I am getting really excited to hit the road and start this thing! Peace out, Chicago.