Friday, May 30, 2014

Semana 1 down!

Today, we took a group tour to Caserío Igartubeiti, Aránzazu, and Zumaia!  Caserío Igartubeiti is an old farm house up in the mountains of Gipuzkoa (the province in the Basque Country).  The view on the bus ride there was a little cloudy with all the rain, but it was still so pretty!

I don't know if I explained in a previous post, but Basque is another language that is spoken in Spain, and is not related to Spanish at all.  Most people who speak Basque can also speak Spanish or English, but since San Sebastian is in Basque country, one side of the street is written in Basque and the other in Spanish, so it can be a little confusing!

It was cool to see the old farm house that was built in the 17th century, and see the museum explaining the cider press and some Basque culture.

Then, we went to Aranzazu, which is Basque church.  We ate lunch at a restaurant nearby and had paella--my favorite!-- and flan for dessert.  It was pretty cold still up in the mountains with the rain, but once we got to Zumaia, it was really nice out!  The weather here can't make up its mind.

Zumaia was such a cute town!  We hiked up to the cliff and saw a breathtaking view, and our tour guide explained to us the significance of the layers in the stone.  After we hiked back down, we took a boat ride to see the other side of the cliff.  It was really windy, so the waves were pretty big--which made us all feel a little sea-sick :/  It was so worth it though!  But once we were back on land, it was definitely a relief haha.

Well, made it through my first week of class!  Hopefully the weather will warm up a little so we can all get to the beach!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

lluvia, lluvia.. go away

My Spanish is getting better every day and I'm getting more used to their customs as well.  I learned that the eating schedule is much different that in the US.  My host-sister explained their meals:

"Desayuno"- right when you wake up (8-9am)
"Almuerzo"- around 11 or mid-morning snack (which we learned in school that Almuerzo means lunch!)
"Comida"- after work/school (2-3pm)
"Merielida" (I think that's how it's spelled)- is a small snack of fruit or coffee. (6pm)
"Cena"(our dinner in the US)- is right before bed (10pm)

I thought that was really interesting and now thats the meal schedule I follow for the most part! When in Rome, right? My favorite thing that my mom has made is tortilla de patada. Tortilla de patata is kind of like an omelet or kish but mainly potatoes.  

Another different thing was that at breakfast, she put out cereal and warmed milk(their milk isn't refrigerated and comes in a carton).  I asked her if it was for the coffee, but she said it was for the cereal too!  I told her that in the US, we drink it cold but I actually liked it a lot!

My host-parents are great.  My mama doesn't work, so she walks me to the bus stop in the morning and asks me when I'll be home and to call if I need anything.  She calls me "bonita" too whenever getting my attention instead of saying my name :) I love it! They're adorable.

Today was rainy again and my mama gave me an umbrella and boots to borrow.  I can't wait until it warms up! It's warmer back home right now than here by at least 20 degrees :(  Hopefully it'll clear up soon so I can make it to the beach and maybe take some surf lessons!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

San Sebastian- Mi familia y la primera día!

We arrived in San Sebastian Sunday and had orientation and the placement tests on Monday, so it's been a busy last couple of days!  My first impression of the city wasn't quite what I expected because of the cold and rainy weather, but today was beautiful and I got a chance to walk around.  I love the city more and more every day!  It's sooo pretty and I like the atmosphere much better than Madrid, with it being a smaller city (and close to the beach :)).  You also don't have to worry so much about getting pick-pocketed by gypsies.  The view is amazing with the boardwalk along the ocean.  I'm getting used to the city and can't wait to go for a run along the beach!

I met my host family Monday after orientation, and I couldn't be placed with a more perfect family for me!  They live in a small, but very cute apartment in Gros, which is a reallyy nice part of town (but also on the opposite side of the University where all my classes are).  I shared a taxi with another girl that lives close to me to get from the school to our homes the first day because they suggested that that would probably be the easiest way to get exactly where we wanted without getting lost--any other day, I would save the money and take a bus!  We tried to make some conversation with the cab driver on the way over and then he dropped us off at the first girls apartment…. soo, I knew my family's apartment was close, but didn't know quite how to get there.  I asked around at the plaza that was nearby, and finally found it!  I knocked on the door, and sure enough, I made it to the right place.. SUCCESS! I was greeted with a kiss on both cheeks and a small dog named Zoe (pronounced Tho-e) at my feet.  The couple has two daughters, one that lives with them and teaches english to young kids, so it's super helpful that she knows english so that she can clarify anything that I'm having trouble with.  Mi host mama y papa remind me so much of my parents back at home. They even look like the spanish version of my mom and dad!!  They are such a sweet family and I've already learned so much spanish speaking to them and living with them every day.  They're very helpful and right away made sure that I feel as much at home as possible.  My 'host-mom' even showed me around the city to make sure that I didn't get lost and knew how to get back to the apartment.

Today was our first day of classes, and I love all of my professors!  My host sister was nice enough to bring me and a few other girls to class in the morning before work, so that was nice to not have to learn how to take the bus the first day!  We were a little early, so we got some coffee in the cafeteria.  All the classes are taught in spanish but it's very easy to understand because they talk much slower.  I'm taking a conversation class, a Spanish art history class, and a Spanish culture class.  I've already made friends with a lot of the students and feel so much at home here!  I'm so glad that I decided to come and take this adventure :)

Tonight, my 'host-sister' and I went to dinner on her "moto" (scooter/motorcycle) with her friend who is an intercambio (a student that lives here that is paired up with one of the USAC students), and a couple other students.  They were teaching us some of the slang phrases that we don't learn about in school.  It was fun teaching them a couple of ours too!  They liked using the term,"I'm down," to say that they wanted to do something haha.

I also took a walk with my host-mom and dad around a park and they introduced me to their nephew, Marco, who is two months old!  He was adorable and it was fun walking around the city with them.  They seem to know just about everyone walking on the streets!  It's fun to talk to them because they only speak spanish but they know that I'm just learning, so they use very easy-to-understand terms.  They also had a phone at the house from the last girl that stayed with them, so they showed me how to buy a phone card and be able to use it here in Spain because I was living off of WiFi (pronounced We-Fe here haha, I thought that was funny the first time I heard it!).  It'll be nice to have a phone that I can use anywhere just in case!

I'll have to post more pictures of the beautiful city of San Sebastian later, but for now-- buenas noches! :)

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Experiencing Madrid!

The first couple of days in Spain have been soo great!  Breakfast at the hotel today wasn't quite what we're used to as Americans.  We had croissants, with ham and cheese, and café con leche.  I don't know if thats a normal thing in Europe, or if our hotel was feeding us for lunch! But, it was nice considering they don't eat lunch until the 'siesta' around 2 or 3, so it tided me over.  A siesta is when shops and everything close for the trabajadores to take a nap or eat lunch because lunch is their biggest meal of the day, like dinner in America.

We took the bus to Toledo the first day, which is one of the oldest cities in Spain.  It was by far, my favorite place yet!  It was such an old, and charming city, with narrow streets and hanging baskets with flowers everywhere!

We got lunch at a small café, and then toured a beautiful cathedral and synagog.

On the way home, the bus dropped a few of us off that wanted to go to an art museum called Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia.  We had a few hours to kill because it wasn't free admission until 7.  So, we went to a nearby park and walked around a little. We also went inside the train station in the center of town looking for a bathroom.  When we finally found one we had to pay .60 euros to use it!  After that, we made our way to the museum where we saw lots of protestors.  Signs said "podemos" which means "we can."  I'll have to research more what thats all about but there seems to be a lot of it all throughout the city.

Today, we took a walking tour through the city, and went to another art museum called Museo de Prado.  I liked this one much better than yesterday because it was a lot more of the paintings I recognized from school like el Greco, Diego Valazquez, and Francisco de Goya.  It was cool to see the actual paintings that you read about and study in class!  The other art museum had lots of abstract art from Picasso, and the famous painting called "Guernica," which I definitely took a picture of before I read the sign saying "fotos son prohibidos!"…oops (shhh).

After the art museum, we walked to the Royal Palace.  This was beautiful!  Today was much warmer than the past few days, so it was a perfect walk.  We toured 25 of the hundreds of rooms in the palace, which were all so ornate with paintings on the ceilings, and gold everywhere, tapestries on the walls, and marble floors.  I couldn't imagine living in something like that!

On the way back, I try to take everything in and listen to the people playing accordians and saxophones in the streets.  I love the atmosphere here!  Tonight is the big World Cup "fútbol" game with two teams from Madrid (which rarely happens), so everyone is wearing their jerseys and getting excited for the game!  It'll be fun to experience and watch tonight!

Tomorrow, we leave for San Sebastian, and I will meet my host family Monday (lunes :)).  I am super excited to meet my family for the next month and see the beach and the town!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Aqui finalmente!--Madrid

I am now in my hotel in Madrid after a long flight and morning of exploring the city!  I slept most of the 7 hr. flight, so it went a lot faster than expected! Yesterday couldn't have gone more smoothly since my last couple fiasco posts.  We woke up early to make the trip to Detroit--the closest emergency passport agency-- and met the security guards right at the opening.  They were super helpful and cool and got the info for my new passport right away. While waiting for the info to be processed and printed, we explored downtown Detroit a little.  We got lunch and soon enough the passport was ready, and we were on our way to the airport cutting it a little close!  Of course there had to be a detour and lots of traffic to make it interesting.

I finally got to the airport and got my boarding pass, and said bye to dad once again.  I could tell he was a little nervous about sending his baby girl off to Spain all by herself.

I made it safely to Philly where I had a 3 hr. layover.  It seemed like there were a ton of young people just like me, studying abroad on the same flight that I got a chance to talk to, so that was comforting.  I even met a couple guys who are in the same program as me that missed their flight yesterday too! We decided to ride the bus to our hotel together and decide what to do from there since we missed the group tour to Segovia today.  We walked around Madrid for a while, and saw Plaza Mayor, Plaza de Cibeles, ate at a small breakfast place, and went to the mercado de San Miguel for some tapas.  We tried to speak Spanish as much as we could, but when they reply back in English and laugh a little, you know that they know you're american haha.

Madrid could definitely be overwhelming at first, but the more I walked around, the more I got used to it.  I was reminded of one of my favorite verses, Joshua 1:8-9. "Do not let this book of the law depart from your mouth. Meditate on it day and night, so that you will be careful to do everything written in it.  Then you will be prosperous and successful.  Have I not commanded you, be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged.  For the Lord your God will be with you WHEREVER you go."  Ever since I was little, we would say this verse as a family as we crossed state lines.  It's a good reminder that no matter how far I am from home, He is always there.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Cambio de planes

After packing and unpacking, and shifting things around in my suitcase to make 5 weeks worth of stuff to fit in one bag, I was finally ready to go!  I woke up this morning excited to begin my journey to Spain, thinking that I would be on a plane to Madrid at this time, and trying to fall asleep in the window seat, while the obnoxious guy next to me snores and the kid behind me kicks my seat--both of which I could've dealt with as long as I was on my way to Spain.  But no… I got to the Dayton airport, got my boarding pass, said goodbye to my dad, and my typical American life.. until the lady at the desk tracked me down before I get to security and told me that I might not be going to Philly (where my connection flight was).

It turns out that in order to go to a foreign country, your passport must be valid for at least three months after your date of return to the US.  Who knew?!  So even though my passport didn't expire until the end of July and I would be coming back to the good 'ole States in June, my passport wouldn't get me anywhere.  So why even have an expiration date??  I don't know. Yeahh, still a little salty about this whole situation.

So, that was my first "learning experience," before my trip even began.  In the meantime, I'm freaking out about not getting to go to Spain at all, and wasting thousands of dollars.  Thankfully, the guy at the desk was extremely helpful and directed us to the passport agency number.  We called the number and long story short, changed my flight to tomorrow at the same time and will be hopefully getting an updated passport in the morning (fingers crossed!).

 I am definitely going to have to send that man a thank you note for dealing with me, and making sure that I didn't fly all the way to Spain, when they would've sent me right back on a plane to the US right when I got there.  It's people like him that you know God must have placed there just at the right moment to be an answer to prayer.

I guess tomorrow's the day then!  Theoreticallyyy, it should all work out perfectly and I will get to Madrid right on time for our group tour with USAC thursday morning.  This whole thing just was meant to add a little excitement right?? Cause it would be wayy too easy and boring if it went exactly as planned.. ;)

I want to remember every part of this trip--good and not so good-- to Spain so I'll be keeping everyone back in the States updated as often as I can on all my crazy adventures to come through this blog in the next couple of weeks!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Grandes Sueños: From the Beginning

In just 8 short days, I will be going to San Sebastian, Spain to study abroad!  So, before I get too much into how extremely excited and terrified I am to travel alone (minus the fact that my friend, Molly will be studying in another city about 4 hours from me), across the ocean to a foreign country to stay with a family that I know nothing about and study in an unfamiliar city for 5 weeks, I'll tell you a little bit about my intriguing life in the small town of Ada, Ohio.  

I am 19 and have lived in Ada for my whole life.  I love everything about this small town from the friday night high school football games, the small town festivals, and how everybody knows everybody.  I am so blessed to have grown up here with the best family and friends I could ask for.  I graduated high school last year, not knowing quite what God had in store for me.  I always knew I wanted to do something medical when I went to school so naturally, I followed by brother and sister's footsteps and applied for Pharmacy school at Ohio Northern University (that makes, soon-to-be, 5 Pharmacists in the family.. needless to say, my parents will be set in about 40 years when they don't know one medication from the next!).  This was the last place I would've wanted to go 2 years ago.  I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and go somewhere where I could do big things and meet new people, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to go to school at one of the best Pharmacy programs around.  I learned that God's timing is perfect and that my own plans can be selfish.  

"Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails." -Proverbs 19:21

I came to ONU to run track, and study Pharmacy, and never imagined how much of an impact my first year of college could have on my entire life, even though I never left the "Ada bubble."  I met soo many great people, even though my social life was lacking with all the studying I was doing.  BUT, that's besides the point because guess what??? It's SUMMER! I don't know whyyyy… but I've always loved the idea of summer, and sun, and all things hottt.. (to all you 'Frozen' fans out there.. sorry, couldn't help it, I'm obsessed.) -Olaf, the snowman.

So, I guess that brings me to why on earth I am going to Spain in a week.  After months of talking with the study abroad office and my spanish advisor, waiting for placement test results and approval for a late application to USAC, and countless prayers, my fantasy for traveling the world and studying abroad in Spain will finally become a reality.  Somehow all the pieces fell perfectly into place after I didn't think it would be possible to get into the classes that I need for my Spanish minor after I passed the deadline to apply for the program.  It's no wonder I made it though finals week without going crazy and thinking about my trip to Spain in the next couple of weeks!! 

That pretty much sums up the past few months of my life- So until next time, Hasta luego!