Monday, June 30, 2014

Home sweet home!

I got back home late Saturday night after a flight from Bilbao to Lisbon, Lisbon to Philadelphia, and Philly to Columbus!! It feels great to finally be home after a long trip!

Last thursday night, after all my finals were over, my host family took me out to dinner at a restaurant right on the beach.  Before dinner, we went to one of their cousins concerts in one of the nearby bar/restaurants!  It was fun to listen to, and most of the music was english--which I noticed was pretty common there!  It was sad to say goodbye to my "second family" for the month, and hope I'll be able to make it back and visit them sometime!  I think God definitely placed me with the best family I could've gotten to stay with for the month for sure.

On friday, I packed up all my stuff, and went with Miriam in her car to Mount Igueldo! It was such a pretty view of San Sebastian and the perfect end to my trip.  There was an old amusement park that Miriam said hadn't changed since she was a kid!  After that, we went to the bus station to meet my host-mom, and say goodbye and catch my bus to Bilbao.

It was about an hour bus ride, and I went stayed at a hotel there since my flight was taking off at 6am the next morning!  I took a bus into town and walked around Bilbao for most of the day and saw the giant puppy statue made of flowers and the Guggenheim museum! It was so cool to see (que guay, as the spaniards would say :)), and the city seemed similar to San Sebastian, just not right on the beach.



After walking around the museum, I decided to go in a couple stores, and some reason became determined to find the second book of the Divergent series so I would have something to do on the plane. haha  I finished the first one pretty early in the trip, and looked for the second one everyone in San Sebastian, but they only had it in Spanish! I probably went to about 10 liberias in Bilbao and was directed to a different one down the street by each cashier.  I walked in to Casa de Libros and asked the lady working if she had the book, and she showed it to me in spanish…. so, I told her that my spanish isn't that good and that I think I want to read it in english, and she told me that my spanish was really good! (thats always a good compliment to get, but really all I wanted was the book in english haha)  But sure enough, they had the book! So, once my quest was over, I headed back and stopped at the fruiteria for some dinner and then took the bus to the hotel.  I watched Despicable Me in spanish, and went to bed to get some sleep before my early flight!

All the flights went really well, and its so interesting the people you will meet on planes!  On the flight from Portugal to Philly, I happened to be sitting by a couple from Kenton, which is 20 minutes from Ada. Small world!

In Columbus, my parents waited for me, waving me down with colorful "WELCOME HOME" signs in hand (made by Moriah, of course).  It was so nice to finally see my family again and be back in the US!  I will never forget this trip and all the people I met, the awesome things I've seen and done, and everything I have learned--in the classroom, and out--but there is no better feeling than being home and seeing the people that you love.  I definitely have learned to appreciate home after this trip, and couldn't ask for better family and friends. Thanks for following throughout my trip, hope you enjoyed reading about all my adventures!




Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Hola to Olas!

Yesterday, I did my normal routine of waking up, going for a run, coming back to breakfast set out for me (including freshly squeezed orange juice), and riding my bike to and from class, coming home for lunch, going to the beach if it's nice out, and after went to a dance class with Miriam!  It made me want to be part of a dance class back at home too! Superdivertido :) 

Today, I gave my presentation, and took an exam and only have one more exam and presentation left!! Woo! After lunch, Miriam and I have been talking about going surfing all month, but haven't quite had the chance to yet!  Soo, we rented some surf boards and made our way to the beach.  I've never surfed before in my life, so you can use your imagination to see how the first couple of waves went.. haha!  Miriam was really good at it, and I finally stood up a couple times toward the end but I definitely could use some more practice for sure! (Now I just need to find a surf board and beach close to home lol).  


(It's funny how many times people have asked if Miriam and I are sisters, or have mistaken me for her!  I can definitely see the resemblance in this picture haha)


Monday, June 23, 2014

Eve of St. John the Baptist

This is my last week here in San Sebastian, and I can't believe where the time went!  Last weekend, mi amiga, Molly, came to visit me!  She is also studying abroad in Salamanca and we both study Pharmacy at ONU! It was nice to see a familiar face again, and we had a great weekend. :)  

Molly got here on friday night, and stayed with me in my host-family's home until Sunday night.  On Saturday, we went to the beach, and then had lunch with some of my host-sisters boyfriend's friends that were traveling around Europe from the US for the month.  We had homemade paella with mussels and shrimp (YUM).  

(Miriam asked me if the food, mussels, and muscles on your body are spelled the same--and I go hmmm.. yeahhh I think so!  After we looked it up, we joked that maybe I should learn English first before I try to learn Spanish haha:P)

After that, we climbed to the top of Mount Orgull!! (We like to make it sound like it was such a strenuous hike haha)  But it's such a good view of the city and overlooks the island and the ocean!



Then, we went out to dinner with another friend, and I showed Molly what pintxos are all about here.  On Sunday, we spent most of the day beach bumming before Molly's train took off! 

If you all have been paying attention to the FIFA World Cup that's going on, it's a huge thing here obviously!  Spaniards love their fútbol.  Spain lost already and are out, but my host-dad doesn't like them anyway although it would be cool to still have them in it!  US played last night and tied with Portugal.  This morning, I even enjoyed my daily coffee and croissant watching some good ole fútbol (btw coffee here is super strong, and you ONLY need one cup haha).

Tonight (June 23rd)  there will literally be hundreds on bonfires in the province of Guipúzcoa, including several in San Sebastián to celebrate the eve of the feast of St. John the Baptist (June 24). People jump over the bonfires for good luck.  The date of the summer solstice varies between June 19 and 23, while Midsummer is pegged to June 24, which is St. John’s day in the Christian calendar. The Pagan festivities of the solstice were appropriated to the Feast of John the Baptist, the cousin who baptized Jesus and announced that he was the savior foretold by the Hebrew prophets. The baal fires became fires of St. John, whom Jesus called “a burning and shining light”. 

I also have lots of homework, given that this is our last week and we have finals and presentations galore!  But, I'm going to try to go out to watch the tradition for a little bit after I get all of my work done for the night if the rain stops! 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Super-Afortunado!

I would like to just take this moment to recognize how extremely lucky I am to have the host family that I have!  I was praying about it for a long time before my trip and was just thinking how much of an answer to prayer they have been.  I will admit, I am getting sooo spoiled while I'm here!  My host-mom insists on making my bed, cleaning my room and towels, doing my laundry every week, and preparing every meal for me… I knowww.. it's a rough life. haha.  It's funny that the one thing that I've complained about is that she won't let me help her do anything--I guess it's a good problem to have, but I told her I'm used to helping around the house and I don't mind it.  She still says that she loves it and "no te preocupas," (don't worry)-- because she enjoys taking care of her family.

My host-dad is just about the same!  He is always super helpful and if I ever need anything, he's right there to help with homework, or find a bus/train.

I don't know how I got so lucky, but I am really going to miss them a lot!  Okay, that is all. :)

España España España..

So, I've come to the realization that I only have two short weeks left of this story book adventure!!  This is going crazyy fast and needs to slow down!  Last week we had midterms which means we're already over the halfway hump. I can't wait to catch up with everyone back home, but I feel like I'm just starting to get accustomed to everything here, and am loving the city even more every day.  I already know I'm going to have to make a trip back here to visit my host-family and travel around Spain some more someday.

On Saturday, me and a few others went to a medieval festival in Hondarribia with just an hour or so bus ride outside of San Sebastian.  I love how easy and cheap public transportation is here!  We got to the festival around noon, and went to a small restaurant for some lunch.  We all got small plates and just sampled each others meals a little bit.  I was feeling adventurous and got squid: Chiporones a la plancha.  It was actually reallyy good!

Of course, once we were done with lunch, it was "siesta-time" so all of the little shops and tents were closed until five!  So, we made the best of it and explored the town for awhile which was super old and the epitome of a european small town: cobblestone roads, clothes hanging out to dry outside the balconies, old stone buildings and cathedrals, and motorcycles and scooters lined up on the side of the roads.

The festival was filled with people wearing medieval costumes, playing instruments, and lots of homemade jewelry and things to sample.




On Sunday, I went to my other host-sister's dance recital.  She is around 25, and dances in her free time  for this company.  The show was fun to watch, and included all ages so the little "niños" were adorable! They did a dance with the theme song of the Disney movie, Mulan, which was different to listen to in Spanish.  There was also a Cinderella section at the end of the show that told the story.

Afterwards, we all had lunch at the house with most of their extended family!  I worked on some homework, and then went out to coffee with some of Miriam's friends until dinner time (which is always around 10 at our house!--but normally just consists of something light like a salad).

Today is a little cloudy, but I'm hoping to get to the beach if it warms up!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Bailando!

Last weekend consisted of going to the beach, and going to a flamenco festival!  On Sunday, I played in a sand volleyball tournament with some other students after helping clean up the beach for World Ocean Day in San Sebastian.  A little rusty, but I miss volleyball sooo much and it was great to get out by a net again!! We played 3 on 3, and our team was about half and half on the winning side but it was still a good time playing and watching the surf competition going on too.

After that, I worked on a presentation, and then me and my host-family made our way to Andalou, Francia for a Flamenco festival!!  It's kind of ironic that we went to France for a Flamenco festival when it's a dance that is known to be really popular in Seville (a city in the south of Spain).  It was a really quaint and cute town right on the beach just north of San Sebastian and full of people from all over!  Now my host family knows how I felt when I first got to Spain and barely understood a thing… this time we were in the same boat, not knowing how to read signs or order ice cream (apparently anana in French is not banana, it's pineapple haha).

We watched the Flamenco dancers do their thing and Miriam and I even joined in a little haha. :)


We had a blast, and it's funny how similar my host-mom is to my mom (birth-mom haha).  She was even joining along a little too! ….side note: I thought it's really funny that they also use the phrase, "I love that look," when referring to someone wearing an outfit thats a little out-there. Lol, they actually use the english word, "look" too, so that was interesting….

Okay so back to the festival…..

After we walked around Andalou for a while, we got Talos for dinner.  Talos are a traditional Basque type of food, that are made of a corn tortilla and you can put chess and ham on the inside, or chocolate like we did on the excursion on friday.  So, it was cool to taste the difference in our home-made talos, and the legit ones.  The ones that we had for dinner had jamón and queso (both of which I have learned that Spaniards love).  

That pretty much sums up the weekend! 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Pyrenees Mountains

Yesterday, we had our last excursion as a group to the Pyrenees Mountains.  We took the bus across the boarder to France, and then hiked back across the boarder to a city called Zugarramurdi.  Add another country to the list (CHECK!)!  We also went to a museum explaining the witchcraft 'craze' during the Spanish Inquisition, and how people were getting accused of being witches left and right just like in America during the Salem Witch Trials.  We hiked through the caves where they were said to be practicing these things.

(straddling the boarder)

Zugarramurdi was soo pretty, and all the houses were white with cobblestone streets and mountains in the background.  We ate at a small family owned restaurant called "Kattalin" and had salad, lamb, and BREAD of course.  If there's one thing I've learned, it's that Spaniards love their bread haha.

Then, we went to another similar small basque town called Amaiur-Maya.  The drive there was the typical Basque countryside.  There were mountains with small farm houses and sheep grazing along the mountainside.  At Amaiur-Maya, we went to a Mill, which was said to be one of the last mills to stop working in the Valley.  The mill was horizontal and designed by Roman's-- not the type that you're used to seeing in America that go vertically.  The mill powered the grinding of wheat and corn, so we actually made our own "talos," which is a basque delicacy.  They can be filled with cheese, sausage, bacon, or chocolate--so of course, we used chocolate.

Then, we took the charter bus back to San Sebastian for the night after the long day!


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

History Unfolding!

History Lesson!  It sounds boring, but I promise it's not (if you're a nerd like me haha)!!  Every day around lunch time, I watch the news in Spanish with my host-mom, so I've learned a lot and it's actually always really interesting!  My host-mom told me that this is a huge deal for Spain right now, and to make sure I pay attention to 'las noticias.'

Okay, so after Dictator Franco died and handed over his reign to Juan Carlos (the current King), Juan Carlos converted the country to a constitutional monarchy. Yesterday, King Juan Carlos announced his abdication.  So, he is handing over the throne to his son, Felipe.  Many people in Spain don't like that there is a king in the first place because he is only a 'figure head', so they are paying lots of money in taxes to pay for it, when really he doesn't do anything anyway.  I asked my host family what they thought about the issue, and it sounded like my host-dad wasn't in favor of it, and my host-mom likes the idea of a Kind and Queen and thinks that they're a nice family.  So, I think most of Spain is split on the issue for the most part.  In Madrid, where I was a week ago, there are tons of protests filling the streets and it's crazy there right now!

This is the Plaza de Oriente in front of the Royal Palace, where I was last week after the announcement:


The streets are filled with people protesting the government and don't want a king.  I won't bore you anymore, but you should read more about it if you're interested!!

Oh, and don't worry I'm safe where I am… This is in Madrid-- I got this picture online! haha


Sunday, June 1, 2014

Fin de Semana

Yesterday, I went on a nice run (in the rain, of course haha) around the city and through a cute park in the morning.  I spent most of the day working on homework, which thankfully I have my host family to help me with!! Then, I met up with a group of classmates to go to the cider house nearby that night!  San Sebastian is known for it's cider I guess, so it was quite an experience. They first brought out enormous baguettes for the table to share.  Then, they brought us a plate of sausages.  Next, came the plate of fish which we thought would be the main meal… but no!  They brought a huge plate of very rare (like still mooing) steaks!  Probably the best steak I've ever had though.  And then, they brought cheese and walnuts to finish off the meal.  Oh, and a pastry for dessert! Phew.. never been so full in my life!  Not to mention the cider too (I got the kids cider hehe:)).

This morning, my host-papa and sister went on a bike ride through the city together!  There was a festival going on, so the streets were closed for bikes/joggers/walkers.  They said that the festival is because San Sebastian is going to be the cultural city of Spain in 2016! So there were lots of people out and about even though it wasn't the best weather.

Then, this afternoon, I met the rest of their family-- including cousins and their other daughter and husband.  We had dinner/lunch together and although they were all talking very fast and it was a little hard to understand, I felt like a part of their family!

Now, I'm going to finish some more homework and go to church with their family in a bit!