Siempre viviendo, siempre aprendiendo

Here's to a semester in Spain that's full of new friends, amazing experiences, & lifelong memories.


It all comes down to this…

Today was my last day in Granada. How crazy is that? It feels like just yesterday that I was looking at colleges & checking to make sure that they had study abroad programs to Spain, & now the whole adventure is drawing to a close. The only reason I haven’t been a sobbing emotional mess all day (well, truth be told, I am now…) is because I’ve been choosing not to believe it just yet. I’m still here, right?

I woke up this morning thinking that this would be an epic day & I would end the semester with a bang, but I spent the day doing regular things like sitting in the park, eating ice cream, visiting the AIFS office & chatting with my family at the kitchen table. It’s funny how you can spend five months traveling to all these amazing places seeing all of these incredible things, but in the end, what you remember is the relationships that you’ve made with people that will carry on through the rest of your life. And now that I’ve given the final goodbye hugs to most of the people I love the most, I’m starting to realize just how much they’ve meant to me.

Anyway, it’s impossible to sum up my entire semester in one blog, but I’ve been making a list all the things I want to include in my final blog, so without further ado, here are my thoughts on the last five months — in list form!

Favorite Spanish words

  • Tontería: a stupid thing (The reason I find it so funny is that the suffix -ía in Spanish is what you use for stores generally, so it kind of translates to “stupid store.” And it just works for so many things, I love it!)
  • Rincón: corner, like of a room (I think it’s a adorable word!)
  • Gilipollas: an idiot (It makes a good insult, & it’s so very Spanish.)
  • Nena: little girl, but also used as a term of endearment between mothers & daughters or friends (I LOVE THIS WORD. The word for a boy in nene but that’s not as cute, in my opinion.)

All the ways that I got to say “Thank you” during my travels

  • Gracias (Spanish)
  • Merci (French, in Switzerland & France)
  • Grazie (Italian)
  • Hvala (both Croatian & Slovenian)
  • Shukran (Arabic, in Morocco)
  • Cheers (okay, it’s English, but it only means “thank you” in England)
  • Obrigado (Portuguese)

Favorite moments

  • Dancing on the Sea Organ in Zadar, Croatia with Hollie, Gabe, Kendall & Alexis
  • Soaking up the sun on the beach in Nerja with my family
  • The crazy night of bad words, a photo shoot & flamenco dancing with my host family & the French boys
  • Talking through the family drama with Josefina (host mom) & Esther (host sister) & feeling closer because of it
  • Paula’s wonderful TLC when she brought me to the hospital on Easter Sunday
  • The amazing contentment I felt on the boat in Geneva, Switzerland with the wind in my hair
  • Sightseeing in the gorgeous town of Chefchaouen, Morocco with Mr. Toto, the adorable old man who was our tour guide
  • Hearing anyone with a British accent :)
  • Stopping to listen to a guy with a guitar sing Beatles covers by the bay in Barcelona with Hollie
  • Laughing about the cultural & language differences with Bonnie, Manolo & María over tapas every week
  • Literally five minutes ago when I saw the note that my host mom Josefina left for me & Hollie that told us to leave our keys on the table, then wished us a good journey tomorrow & told us “We love you!”

The only thing that’s keeping me from curling up in the fetal position right now & never coming out of it is the thought that it’s never “goodbye,” just “see you later.” Right now I don’t know if that’s true, because in all honesty, I don’t know when I’ll be able to come back to Spain, but it’s the hope that keeps me going! That & the fact that it just doesn’t seem real that I’m leaving in four hours for home. Is this real? I don’t think it is…

Anyway, I guess I want to end with what I learned this semester. So here goes nothing:

  • A language cannot be learned without learning the culture too. They go hand-in-hand.
  • It’s possible to like anyone if you spend enough time with them. But if you spend too much time with them, you’re bound to get sick of them. Time away from people is necessary.
  • Deodorant SUCKS in Europe. If you ever come here, bring your own.
  • One of my goals this semester was to learn a new way to worship God, & I realized that one of the best ways I can do that is just rejoice in the glorious creation he’s made, like the gorgeous blooming flowers at Parque García Lorca, the amazing view of the Alhambra from the Albaicín, or the wonder of the snow softly covering the mountains. To realize the true beauty of nature is to realize to true beauty of God.
  • If you really want to do something, sometimes you have to do it alone. And that’s okay.
  • I know I said this at the beginning of my blog, but I wanted to say it again: the most amazing thing about this semester hasn’t been the places I’ve visited, but the people I’ve visited them with & the ones I’ve met along the way. Building relationships will forever be the most important thing in my life, & I want to say a MILLION thanks to everyone who’s been with me through this journey. It’s been incredible, but mostly because of the people that have become my friends & family along the way. I’ll never forget any of you, & I’ll never forget this amazing experience. Ever.

El último finde

I really never thought I’d be here with only three days left of my semester abroad. Where did the time go? The final weekend has passed, & now I’m in the midst of finals week, trying to study so I can pass my classes but also trying to make the most of what I have left! But my last weekend here was a great one, so let me tell you all about it. I made sure to include lots of pictures!

On Thursday night, I met up with my friend Bonnie & our Spanish friends Maria & Manolo like we do every week. This week they took us to a bar called Salón El Barco, which was literally a boat! It was a really cute, quiet little spot over the highway & they gave us lots of great tapas. I tried fried octopus for the first time! It was actually pretty good. We had a lot of fun together like always & finally took some pictures! I’m going to miss them so much when I leave but at least we get to meet one more time tomorrow night :)

Friday was a busy day for me. Our program took us to the Abadia del Sacromonte, which is a museum/church on top of a hill on the outskirts of Granada. We saw some great views of Granada & the Alhambra from there! After that I had my last class, then that night we had our fiesta de despedida (goodbye party) at a restaurant where we saw a flamenco show. The show was amazing! They started by singing traditional flamenco songs with a flamenco guitarist, singer, & a guy on a box drum. The drummer was also a dancer — he & the girl dancer switched off doing different dances & ended the show by doing a little dance together. They were all so good!

The food was really great as well — they brought us tapas all night, so it wasn’t like a normal restaurant, but it meant we got a lot to choose from. Meat & cheese selections, croquetas, tortilla española, calamari… you name it! I was soooo full by the end. But of course I had room for the dessert! They brought us a dessert tray with all sorts of treats to choose from, & I only had to share it with only one other person so we got to stuff our faces with all sorts of amazing food. My favorite was the chocolate lava cake!

After the show was over & everyone was done eating, our program director Paula got up & thanked us for the great semester. We were all close to tearing up, & then when she announced her assistant director Inma was leaving to go be the director of the new program in Barcelona, we couldn’t hold it in anymore! It’s the end of a trip for us, but the end of an era for Paula & Inma, because they’ve worked together for 16 years now. But all things come to an end, I guess… I had to get a picture with all of the AIFS staff though before we left the restaurant so I’d have something to remember them by. I’m going to miss them all so much, they’ve been so helpful this semester!

After the goodbye dinner though, the party wasn’t over. Because we were already in the Albaicin, we decided to head over to the Mirador de San Nicolas where you can get a pretty view of the Alhambra. I had never seen it by night but it was incredible! We took lots of pictures & enjoyed the view. I’ve been pretty blessed to live in such a gogreous city & be surrounded by so many awesome people!

After that, we headed to a bar for our big night out. It was on my Granada bucket list to stay out all night at least once this semester because I’ll never get to enjoy nightlife like that again in that states. We spent a couple hours at Hannigans 2, then we went to a club called Vogue (pronounced Boh-gay in Spanish) around 2:30. It was pretty funny when we showed up & it was almost completely empty. People don’t start showing up there until about 3 AM & it doesn’t get really fun until about 4 AM. Spaniards love their late nights! We ended up having a LOT of fun there because they played really great music, & we finally left at about 5:30. I didn’t make it to sunrise like I’d hoped for, but I had a great night!

The next morning I went to the park to study with some friends, though we didn’t really get much studying done. We did make a little puppy friend though! Somebody’s dog came running up to us begging us to pet her, then she jumped right up on her bench! Her name was Tula, according to her owner. She was pretty cute.

After the study sesh, we went to La Casa de la Pasta, an adorable little pasta place close to our school that’s owned by Italians. They have takeout pasta that they make themselves — it’s like a little taste of Italy! I got pasta with a delicious spinach cream sauce & then some yummy authentic Italian dessert. It was so perfect!

On Saturday night I decided to go out again, since it was my last Saturday night in Spain! The club El Camborio was having a Goodbye Americans party, so a big group of us went there to dance the night away one last time. I didn’t plan on staying out super late, but I ended up staying there until almost 5 AM because we were having so much fun! I’m definitely going to miss nights out like this. Where else can you dance in a cave until 7 AM!?

On Sunday I didn’t do much — I slept in late, did some studying, & went to church. But when we were eating dinner that night, our señora made a comment about the weekend having passed, & it hit me that my last weekend in Spain had finished up. Time does crazy things to us; it seems like just yesterday that I arrived here with no idea what I was doing! I’ll never understand how the days & months can pass so quickly. But I won’t get sad yet because I still have three more days! :)

For the curious souls who want to see where I’ve been this semester, here’s a map of all the places I’ve visited. It’s seriously amazing that I’ve gotten the opportunity to see so much of Europe!

For the curious souls who want to see where I’ve been this semester, here’s a map of all the places I’ve visited. It’s seriously amazing that I’ve gotten the opportunity to see so much of Europe!

Things I’m looking forward to in America

  • Peanut butter & jelly sandwiches
  • Mac & cheese
  • AIR CONDITIONING
  • My brother’s graduation from high school :)
  • Ice water
  • Carpet floors
  • Not thinking about what I’m going to say before I go to a restaurant or store
  • My big comfy bed!
  • My cat, I guess…
  • A whole lawn full of grass
  • Being able to use the kitchen
  • Driving with the windows down
  • A huge selection of sugary cereals
  • Being able to have friends over to my house
  • Using a real cell phone again!
  • Cities97 & my other favorite radio stations
  • Caaaaake & other sweet treats
  • Girls’ nights with all my besties where we stay up all night talking
  • Bonfires
  • Having all of my favorite clothes again!
  • DEODORANT THAT ACTUALLY WORKS
  • Walmart, Target, & stores that are open 24/7
  • Hugging instead of the cheek kisses
  • My hot tub!
  • Rachel Niebur’s cabin
  • Seeing my cousins again!
  • Drive-thru fast food restaurants
  • Pandora Radio
  • Going out on my dad’s boat
  • Mexican & Chinese food
  • Spending time with my family & friends

The reality of the my approaching departure date is starting to sink in for me. When I was getting ready to leave for Spain, I didn’t really think it was actually going to happen until a few days before when I was frantically taking care of last minute errands & trying to figure out what pack my suitcase. Before I knew it I was on a plane! And in about a week, I’ll be on a plane once again, returning to my homeland & saying goodbye to the wonderful country of España & all of the amazing people I’ve met here. As it is, I’m trying not to think about it because I refuse to believe it’ll happen — and there are still adventures to be had!

The past couple weeks have been pretty fun & relaxing, despite the fact that finals that are coming up next week. As soon as I got back from Portugal last Monday, the temperature decided to skyrocket & summer was upon us in full swing! It’s been nice to finally get to wear my sundresses but I’d appreciate if it didn’t get up into the nineties every day. It sure does make you feel like classes should be over though when the weather gets this hot!

The one nice thing about the high temp days is that they make for PERFECT beach weather. Last weekend our program took us down to Almería on the Costa del Sol, a nice little beach town where we got to spend two full days soaking up the sun. I love traveling with my program because nothing beats staying at a 4-star hotel that you don’t have to pay for! (Well, technically we paid for it in the price of our program… but it feels like it’s free!)

We spent all day on Saturday on the beach. It was such a hot day that all we really wanted to do was swim, but we found out as soon as we got there that there were a lot of jellyfish in the water so it was a little dangerous. One of the kids on the beach caught a medusa. He & his adorable little sister came up to us to tell us all that they had itin a bucket & then they brought it over to show us. It was amazing to see in real life!

It turns out that jellyfish come close to shore when it’s hot outside, which makes it really dangerous to swim for very long. I went into the water a few times, but we always had spotters so that no one would get too close to a jellyfish & get stung!

The other excitement of the day was concerning Spanish rules about beachwear. We learned in January during our culture meeting that all beaches in Spain are topless, & since it was our last time of the semester on a beach in Spain, we all decided to go topless for a little while! (Don’t worry, there were no guys with us & hardly anybody was around!) It’s pretty normal for Spaniards, but for a bunch of American girls it was definitely a new experience. Check that off my bucket list!

After a long day in the sun, we went back to our hotel where we got free dinner & it was one of the best I’d ever had! It was all buffet-style, plus there was free wine & beer, & they even had a little cooler with ice cream cups for dessert! I was a very happy camper that night :)

On Sunday we went to the beach again for a while. We couldn’t stay long because we had to go back to the hotel to check out, but we did stay long enough to see the jellyfisher kid catch 10 jellyfish in about one hour though — he was pretty impressive! We spent the rest of the day laying out & swimming in the pool. It was so relaxing! I’m going to miss the great beach weekends here in Spain, & I’m definitely going to miss all the awesome girls in my program!

My weekly activities here in Granada have continued to go really great as well, though they’re coming to an end. Volunteering at the after-school help has been one of the best parts of my study abroad experience. Last week I had the pleasure of tutoring a little adorable 7-year-old named José on Tuesday since my kid wasn’t there that week. He had to study for a test so I quizzed him on the material, but he was soooo quiet & shy! The next day I tutored Álvaro, my regular kid, & we ran out of things for him to do (really he just didn’t want to do his homework) so he taught me a new game that was really fun. Yesterday was my last day tutoring though, & I’m so sad that it’s over! Berta, the nun in charge of the program, is the sweetest lady — she gave all of us tutors gifts on Tuesday & thanked us profusely for all of our help. She & all of the kids have been such a blessing to me during my time here. I’m really going to miss them!

They’re not the only ones I’m going to miss though — I don’t want to say goodbye to my host family, Paula, my favorite professors, my Spanish friends Manolo & Maria, or any of my American friends that I’ve made here. But I do have a whole week left, so I better go make the most of it!

Las preciosas playas de Portugal

After three weekends in Granada & a LOT of rainy, cold weather, I was more than ready for a beach getaway to Lagos, Portugal. It was especially exciting because the trip was through a program called DiscoverGranada, which is designed for American study abroad students. All you have to do is sign up — they plan everything for you! After all of the mishaps of previous travels, it was refreshing to have someone else do the planning. Plus it ensures a great hotel!

The trip started out at 6 AM on Friday morning, when we had to meet the bus on the other side of the city. It was a sleepy morning on the bus, complete with way too many stops (Spanish law says you have to stop every two hours), lots of naps, & Forest Gump. But finally around 2 PM we arrived in Lagos! Our first stop was a gorgeous overlook where we could see the grottoes that this particular coast is famous for. As soon as we stepped off the bus, I was excited for what lay ahead because the views were so incredibly beautiful & the weather was PERFECT! I couldn’t believe I was in a place so wonderful!

After reveling in the beauty, we hopped back on the bus to head to the hotel. We weren’t disappointed, because the it was really nice & literally right on the beach. As soon as my friend Bonnie & I walked in the door to our room, we quickly changed into our swimsuits & made our way directly to the beach!

All of the beaches in Lagos are postcard quality — I know that sounds like a line from a cheesy tourism booklet but it’s true! The beach that our hotel was stationed on was one of the smaller ones but it was surrounded by cool rock formations & the sand was really soft. When we got to the beach, I was so exhausted from the long journey & early morning that I fell asleep for a little while in the sun! I put my feet in once or twice but the water was freezing, so I didn’t actually go swimming. After a couple hours hanging out on the beach, Bonnie & I changed into normal clothes & went for a little hike around the hills on the coast. There were lots of little caves & things, so we had fun exploring. We realized that the rocks were actually made of lots of crushed shells, which was interesting. We discovered a few secluded little beaches, we climbed on rocks, & we saw lots of seagulls. The views were absolutely gorgeous too! Lagos is home to some of the most amazing beaches I’ve ever seen.

Later that night we went out to dinner with the rest of the group at a restaurant called Nah Nah Bah. I was starving, so I got their famous burger called the Toucan Burger & it was absolutely delicious! After that we were brought to a really crowded bar but we didn’t feel like staying there, so we wandered around for a little while outside. It started to rain though, so we went to a bar/club where we were to get free drinks through the program. We were earlier than we were supposed to be, but they started the music for us anyway! Bonnie & I didn’t stay very long though because we were both so exhausted from the day. We had to walk back in the rain to our hotel & we got a little lost but eventually made it home! The receptionist laughed at us because we were dripping wet, & we were so happy to change into our warm pajamas & go to sleep!

The next morning we got up, ate our breakfast, & headed on our next adventure. It was sort of cloudy & chilly in the morning but Bonnie & I decided to take a walk to the lighthouse that was at the end of the road from our hotel. Along the way we saw all sorts of cool things, among them being:

  • someone’s dogs that were sleeping by the fence next to the road & woke up to greet us when we walked by — we love friendly dogs!
  • a big beautiful field of wildflowers
  • a fox that was running down a path a little ways of the road — I made sure to take a picture for my roommate Hollie because she loves foxes!

We stopped along the way to climb around on some cliffs & hills by the coast, which also led to some interesting sights. There was a huge abyss that we walked right next to — I did NOT want to fall down that!

We had our fun being adventurous, then we headed back to the main road to make our way to the lighthouse. It was a really pretty lighthouse with more amazing views, so we sat down on a cliff’s edge for a little while to take it all in before making our way back to the hotel. On the way we realized that there were permanent Stations of the Cross set up all along the road, which we thought were really cool.

After changing into our swimsuits at the hotel, we headed out again for more time in the sun. The weather really liked us this weekend because it only rained at night & the sun came out at the perfect time on Saturday for us to enjoy it! I took the bus with everyone to the city center where they departed for their sangria boat tour with the program, but instead of going with them I wandered around downtown by myself for a little bit. It was perfect weather & it felt so vacation-y with the palm trees everywhere & bright sunshine overhead!

My main goal though was to find a beach to hang out at until everyone came back from the boat cruise, & I found one right downtown that was really pretty. I was in heaven, listening to my beach playlist on my iPod & watching the dogs & kids play on the beach!

After the boats came back, I met back up with everyone to go to the big beach where we’d spend the rest of the day. This beach didn’t have the pretty rock formations, but it was HUGE & it had the softest sand I’ve ever felt! It wasn’t long after I laid down my towel that a dog came up to me & dug himself a bed right next to me. He seemed like a stray since he was kind of raggedy, but I was so happy to have a puppy friend with me! Look how happy we were!

After a while my new best friend decided to leave me, so I decided to make friends with the people around me instead. DiscoverGranada attracts Americans from all over Granada, so there were a lot of people there that I had never seen or only knew from seeing them in class, so it was cool to meet some new people. I ended up playing beach volleyball with a bunch of people which was a blast! And I jumped into the water once too, but only once because it was freezing!

We spent a long time on the beach that day, so I was excited to get back to the hotel, shower, eat, & rest for a little while. But then that night was another exciting adventure — we all got on the bus to head for Cabo San Vicente, better known as the End of the World! We went there to watch the sunset over the very western & southernmost tip of Portugal (and consequently Europe), where they used to believe the world ended. It was cool to think that the next land in that direction was America. Plus, it’s not very often that you get to watch the sunset over the ocean! It was so beautiful. It was kind of scary too though, because we were all sitting on a cliff that was so high that when we threw rocks into the water we couldn’t even see them land! I guess that’s why I got yelled at when I wandered off on my own for a little while — but I found a starfish that I took home with me! Best free souvenir ever! Overall it was an amazing, beautiful evening, & I am definitely going to miss opportunities like this when I go home.

After the bus ride home, it was about 9 PM, which is normal dinner time, so most people headed downtown to get some food. Since it was raining & Bonnie & I had already eaten dinner, we just decided to call it an early night & head back to the hotel. We had spent so much time in the sun that day that we were super exhausted, so we watched a little Britain’s Got Talent on TV & then went to bed really early. It was kind of lame, but I think it was definitely worth it!

Sunday was our last day in Lagos, so we wanted to enjoy the sun as much as possible! Right after breakfast we donned our swimsuits & went up to the pool on the roof of our hotel to check out the views (we could see the ocean from there!) & soak up some rays. It was such a beautiful & perfect morning! Then it finally came time to check out of the hotel, so we went back down & packed up. After going to the nearest convenience store to get some lunch stuff, we made ourselves sandwiches & headed down to our hotel’s beach for a few more hours in the hot sun!

We had the option of going surfing on the west coast that day, but most people didn’t go, so the hotel’s beach was packed with people from the program. We spent the whole afternoon soaking up the sun! Everyone kept having to move though because the tide rose a LOT throughout the day. We had fun laughing at the oblivious beach sleepers who kept getting wet from the rising tide! It was also a lot of fun watching the people jump off of the big rock into the freezing cold water. I would’ve done it if I could’ve gotten a shower before the eight hour bus ride home to Granada later… Maybe. Regardless, we had another wonderful day on the beach & I was still amazed that we got to be in such a fantastic place! How is this real life!?

Bonnie & I needed to leave the beach after a few too many hours in the sun, but we still had time to kill before we headed home. I was craving some ice cream, so I convinced Bonnie to go down to the city center with me to an authentic Italian gelato place with cheap but AMAZING ice cream. I got cheesecake flavor — my favorite! It was the perfect end to the perfect weekend, & after we got back to the hotel I was more than ready to go home.

The bus ride back was long, but it wasn’t unbearable — we got to watch Friends With Benefits & Almost Famous, so that made the time go pretty fast. I didn’t get home until about 2 AM though, so I crashed when I got to my bed!

Overall the weekend was wonderful. DiscoverGranada is a really great program — our guides were really awesome & the weekend was really well structured. Lagos is honestly one of the most beautiful beach towns I’ve ever been to. I’ve definitely been blessed to have gone to all of these amazing places. If only this journey wasn’t coming to an end so soon…

This Thursday was a celebration unique to Granada called the Día de la Cruz (Day of the Cross). There are a lot of legends about the origins of the festival, but no one really knows the true story. It’s said that in 1625 some people made a cross in a certain neighborhood of the city & all of the neighbors in the area celebrated around it, dancing & singing. In the following years the tradition continued & expanded, with even more neighborhoods decorating crosses & some children making their own!

The tradition of the cross celebration has continued into today, though it’s been through many changes. I learned from one of my professors that the festival used to be throughout the entire city & everyone would be dancing, singing, & drinking all day & night. It got to be problematic though with the amount of drinking people were doing in the streets, so it’s been toned down a little bit, but they still have gorgeous crosses throughout the entire city & people of all ages wear traditional flamenco apparel!

There are about 50 crosses set up throughout the city altogether. Some are wooden, some are ceramic, & some are made of flowers. All of them are decorated & surrounded by flamenco guitars, shawls, plates, flowers, & more. It used to be more of a tradition to serve food around the crosses, but we saw at least one cross that served tapas & drinks around it for good prices. All sorts of groups set up crosses — neighborhood associations, elementary schools, & the city council building all have their own. All of the crosses are entered into a competition & the best ones win prizes!

Lucky for us students, class was canceled in the afternoon on Thursday so that we could participate in the celebration! Hollie & I had our señora give us bocadillos for lunch so we could go out & explore right after we were done with class instead of going home to eat. We situated ourselves in one of the more popular plazas to eat our sandwiches. While we ate, we got to see a lot of adorable little girls in their flamenco dresses (and some boys in their flamenco outfits too!). Some of the girls had the whole look — hair gelled back into a pretty bun with the traditional comb, a flower behind their ear, the big earrings, the dress, & the shoes!

The crosses were all beautiful & surrounded by gorgeous decorations. One of my favorite decorations that most crosses had was the apple with the scissors in it. This is a traditional symbol that they use to avoid criticism that people might give about the cross, because an apple is also called a pero here in Granada, so sticking a scissors in it is like saying no peros, which basically means “no buts.” Clever, huh?

We ended the day by watching little girls do a flamenco dance in one of the plazas. They had set up a stage & had different groups of dancers up there all throughout the night. The ones we saw were adorable but didn’t quite know what they were doing yet!

Overall, it was a wonderful day. It’s always fun to go to a festival, especially one so culturally relevant! But if I ever come back, I’m definitely buying myself a flamenco dress & wearing it all day :)

Tirando…

True story: I should be sleeping right now. But I can’t yet because I have to write about my life before a new chapter unfolds! Tomorrow I go to Portugal for the weekend & I have to wake up around 5 AM, so that’ll be lots of fun. But I’ve had a very interesting week that I want to write about first.

Last week ended with a nice relaxing Thursday. In the afternoon I went to a tetería (Arabic tea house) with my friend Patsy so we could share about our experiences in Granada. It was great to talk to someone who isn’t in my program, because every program does different excursions, so they’ve had different experiences. It also felt like a little touch of home, since she’s from the Des Moines area of Iowa which is where I go to school! It was a really gorgeous day outside, so instead of tea, I ordered a drink that was sort of like lemonade but flavored with mint. It sounds strange, but it was delicious! Later that night I met up with my intercambio friends for another great night of tapas & conversation in English & Spanish. I’m going to miss them a lot when I leave Spain.

I had the whole day to myself on Friday, & the weather was absolutely beautiful. I took the opportunity to walk around all morning & enjoy Granada without an agenda, soaking up some sun along the way. After lunch, my friend Jen & I went to the park to lay out & enjoy the gorgeous sunshine even more. I couldn’t believe how amazing the weather was! The sky was bright blue & it felt just like a summer day. I got so hot that I changed into a sundress & we ate ice cream outside. After wandering for a while, I remembered that I had been wanting to go to a garden called Carmen de los Mártires, which is only open at certain hours, so we trekked our way up there to see it!

The garden was so much more beautiful in real life than I could’ve imagined. I knew that there were peacocks that lived there, but the fountains & the green hedges & the sunlight through the trees was so amazing. I honestly felt like I was in some sort of magical fairyland! It was clearly a truly gorgeous garden.

However, on Saturday the weather decided to turn on us. I woke up to rain, so I spent the morning in my bed watching Friends on my computer. In the afternoon I met up with some friends to eat at a little café that serves coffee & hot drinks with slices of cake for only two euros! I got ColaCao, which is hot chocolate, & a slice of cheesecake. It definitely hit the spot — nothing is better than a hot drink on a cold day. Afterwards we headed over to the movie theater to see Los juegos del hambre, or as you all know them, The Hunger Games! I had already seen them in English, but I really wanted to see them in Spanish as well. I do have to say that it wasn’t as good in Spanish; I think the dubbing sometimes makes a movie lose some of its humor or changes the sentiment. Regardless, I still loved the movie!

The rest of the weekend was sort of a blur, because I didn’t really do much of anything. I spent a lot of time in my bed on my computer, watching lots of Friends. A few times I went on little outings to the Albaicín to drink some tea or to the foothills of the mountains to hike, but for the most part it was just too chilly & rainy to do anything! That’s one thing I won’t miss about Granada — not being able to hang out at someone’s house when you want to be with friends but don’t want to spend money or be outside in nasty weather. There really aren’t a lot of options for us in bad weather here.

This week so far has been a good one, for a lot of reasons. For one thing, we only had a day & a half of school, which is always nice! Today we only had morning classes, because today was a special celebration called Día de la Cruz (I’ll write about it in a different blog post soon!). The weather has been improving a little bit also, so I’m hopeful that it will decide to be real May weather within the next week. And tomorrow I go to Portugal!

However, the best part of the week has been the bonding that we’ve done with our Spanish family. This weekend Hollie & I were in the house a lot, so we were more aware of the situation at home, & we noticed that everyone was always tense & arguing a lot. We figured it had something to do with the stress of our host sister’s wedding in June which is slowly approaching, but we were also worried that we might be part of the problem. We talked to our program director about the situation, & she told us just to sit our host mom down & ask her if everyone was doing okay & if there was anything we could do to help.

Hollie & I were nervous, but we approached Josefina yesterday about the problem. And of course it turned out to be more of a bonding moment than anything else! She told us that our host sister was stressed about the wedding & that they were doing all they could to help her out, but sometimes it was just frustrating & hard for them to deal with. She told us not to worry about it at all because it had nothing to do with us. And then she unloaded a little of the weight of the situation on us by talking to us about it for a while, & afterwards gave us big hugs & kisses.

As if that wasn’t great enough, today our host sister Esther came into our room to approach us about the same topic, giving us the same reassurances as Josefina, but also giving her side of the story. It felt just like having a real big sister! Now more than ever I really feel like we’re part of the family.

I write mostly about my travels on this blog, always trying to make sure I remember the details of the places I’ve been & the sights I’ve seen, but it’s not the history of old castles or the stories of paintings in museums that I’ll be reflecting on many years from now — the most important part of this trip (and of life in general, really) has been the relationships I’ve made with the amazing people I’ve met here. I fly out from Spain three weeks from tomorrow to return to my home country, which is exciting but also terrifying, because there are so many people to whom I have to say goodbye. So I’m hoping to live out the rest of my days here as intentionally as possible. Here’s to an amazing few last weeks!

The enchanting, mystical garden of Carmen de los Mártires. I absolutely love this place, & I want to come here to read or write or just sit a few more times before I leave.

Rainy days & sunny days

After nearly a month of being gone every weekend on a trip, it’s been a breath of fresh air to have three weekends in a row to enjoy Granada. The only challenge lately has been the weather — when we came home from our long spring break adventure, it was nice for a few days until winter decided to come back to haunt us. It was warm & sunny for about a week, but today it decided to rain again. Granada just can’t seem to make up its mind!

During my first weekend back in Spain, it was rainy & cold the entire weekend. On Friday morning, we were supposed to have a walking tour of the Sacromonte gypsy caves in Granada, but it got postponed due to rain. Instead, Hollie & I spent the morning in our room, sleeping & being lazy. After lunch, I decided to go see the movie Blancanieves (Mirror, Mirror in English) with some of my friends — what’s better than a movie on a rainy afternoon? It was the third movie I’ve seen in theaters in Spanish now, & it was by far the funniest! I’m sure I would’ve gotten more of the humor had it been the English version, but watching movies is one of the easiest (and fun!) ways to practice my Spanish. I’m going to miss those stupid Spanish voice-overs!

I didn’t do anything again until the next day when we had a rainy cold excursion to Ronda, a nearby city in Andalucía. Although the weather was terrible, we couldn’t reschedule, so we all suited up in our rain gear & headed out, umbrellas in tow. I can’t say it was a very fun day, considering we were all miserably cold & wet, but our tour guide was nice, the scenery was beautiful regardless, & we did get to see some interesting things:

  • Ronda is home to a ridiculously tall bridge that joins the city over a ravine. It was built in 1740 & it’s over 120 meters tall! The architect of the bridge fell to his death when he tried to carve the completion date onto the bridge.

  • Ronda is also home to some of the oldest Arabic baths in Andalucía. Although they’re no longer functioning & they don’t even have a roof anymore, we got to see what the different rooms were used for.
  • We saw another cathedral. It basically looked the same as all the rest.
  • The best part of the day was the gorgeous bullring, which is the oldest in Spain that’s still in use! This particular city was the birthplace of modern bull fighting. We learned all about what happens during a fight & even got to stand where they keep the bulls before bringing them into the arena. Hearing the facts about it & some of the history behind it made me feel a little less bad about deciding to skip the real thing, because I got a little of the experience without having to watch bulls die!

We ended our Ronda tour about an hour & a half before we had originally planned because we were all soaking wet & freezing cold. The first thing I did when I got home was take a nice, warm shower — it was heavenly! Hollie & I spent the rest of the evening cuddled up in our beds & ended the night by watching Bridesmaids.

I woke up on Sunday to more rainy cold weather, so I decided to spend another day indoors. Overall, it was a lazy weekend & I didn’t accomplish much. I was more than ready for the sunshine to come back!

The week was just another normal week, but I was plenty excited for the weekend. Even though I had class on Friday, I had a fun Thursday night which began with a great time out for tapas with Manolo & María, my Spanish friends who I meet up with every week to practice Spanish & help them practice English — we always have a great time! After that, I went to a friend’s birthday party at her apartment, which was also pretty fun. It was the first party I’d been to here in Spain, & it was cool to see so many people there from different countries.

I had a full day of class on Friday, but Saturday was my friend Bonnie’s birthday, & we celebrated by visiting the Parque de las Ciencias, which is an awesome interactive science museum! We were pleasantly surprised by the gorgeous weather that day, especially since half of the museum is outdoors. One of my favorite parts of the day was the tower. They take you in an elevator up to the top & you get a gorgeous view of the city below. I can’t believe how beautiful Granada is! I’m so blessed to get to live here:

The outdoor section of the museum also included a butterfly garden, a big fake giraffe, a giant chess game, & all sorts of other fun things! There was also a bird show, which we missed, but we still got to see the birds. They even had a vulture!

After eating a nice picnic lunch outside in the beautiful weather, we headed into one of the buildings for our planetarium visit. It was fun being in a planetarium because it reminded me of elementary school when we had a big inflatable planetarium right in our school’s cafeteria every year called Star Lab. It was really relaxing — so much so that Bonnie & I drifted off a few times!

The indoor exhibits were the best part. This year they have a temporary T. Rex exhibit which had mechanical dinosaurs that moved & made noise. The collection of bones wasn’t as interesting as some of the dinosaur exhibits I’ve seen before, but it was still pretty cool! My favorite was the body exhibit though. As nerdy as it sounds, I’ve really missed learning about science this semester since I don’t take any biology or chemistry or other classes like that here. There were interactive things like building a skeleton & pumping fake blood. And the museum has hearts from all different kinds of animals — the whale heart was almost as big as me!

After we were all scienced out, I took Bonnie to Los Italianos for some celebratory birthday ice cream. Los Italianos is the most famous gelato place in Granada — partially because Michelle Obama visited when she came to Granada in 2010, but partially because their ice cream is AMAZING! I got the tarta de chocolate, which is literally a piece of chocolate ice cream cake & they put it right into a cone. It’s so delicious! I’ll definitely be going back there again on another warm day.

Later we went out for drinks at a pub with a couple friends to continue Bonnie’s birthday celebration, then spent the night dancing at El Camborio, one of the popular clubs in Granada. We only stayed until about 3 AM (that’s early by Spain standards), but we had so much fun! I think it was the best night out that I’ve had here so far :)

However, Sunday was the day I had been looking forward to most all week. I had been considering going to a fútbol game sometime this semester & finally decided to go last weekend! The tickets were 35 euros, but it was worth every penny. For one thing, the weather was absolutely perfect, & for another, we had really good seats. It was also just incredibly fun to be at a sporting event, because it brought back good memories of all the baseball, basketball, & football games I’d been to over the years with my family. I felt right at home with all the excited fans!

Of course, there were quite a few things about the game that I wasn’t quite used to. The Granada fans have a special song that everyone sings it at the beginning of the game while they hold up their scarves in honor of team:

After the song & the team’s introduction, the game began! It was actually really fun to watch, because soccer has always been my favorite sport, so I actually knew what was going on. The crowd did all sorts of chants that I didn’t quite understand, but sometimes I joined in. Or tried, anyway! They sang the song occasionally throughout the game as well, & by the end, I had it stuck in my head. The game itself was really great — Granada scored in the first half & managed to keep the other team from scoring the rest of the time. I was actually expecting them to lose, because they’re basically at the bottom of the league, so it was a surprise when they pulled out with a win in the end. I was cheering nice & loud for them!

However, the most amazing part of the whole game was really not even how well the team did — it was the stunning view that we had from our seats. Right behind the stadium were the Sierra Nevadas, still gorgeous with the snow that hasn’t melted yet! I honestly can’t believe how beautiful the city is that I live in right now. You don’t see this everyday:

It was a really great weekend, needless to say, & followed by a great week of sunshine & relaxation. The weather still hasn’t made up its mind, considering yesterday I was laying out in the sun & today it rained the entire day, but my hopes are that soon it’ll get warm & stay warm so I can enjoy what little time I have left here! I really can’t believe how soon it is that I’ll be on a plane home & leaving this all behind, but for now I’m trying to focus on living in the moment.

And with that said, I think it’s time for me to go to bed, because at the moment, I’m pretty tired. I’ll be sharing about this weekend’s adventures soon!