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Gap Year Abroad

7 posts from March 2015

03/29/2015

A Love Story

Holaa

With the change from winter to spring, the days are warmer, the flowers are blooming, the birds are chirping, and most importantly, love is in the air. I was at Parque de Los Principes, the park near my house, and I fell in love, sorry Mom. It all started when I was laying in the grass, just minding my own business, and I saw this boy in front of me.  He was dressed quite handsomely, in a light blue sweater with a button up underneath, so sophisticated. He had just gotten off his bike and appeared to be picking flowers, I thought he looked pretty cute so I decided to take some pictures (not creepy). Then, he looked at me. It was love at first sight. We exchanged smiles and he began walking towards me with something in his hand. My heart was pounding. Without saying anything, he handed me a beautiful yellow flower that he had just picked and walked away with my heart, an eye for an eye I guess. He then picked me some blades of grass and again, walked to me, handed me the grass, and walked away. Next it was a few ants that he picked up (and accidentally killed in his strong grip), then it was a fallen leaf, and a couple more blades of grass. What a romantic. Then his dad came up to him and told him it was time to finish their walk around the park. We waved goodbye and I thought that was it. But then, after a few hours had passed, I saw him again. Now it was clear that he was actually leaving the park, he waved at me from a distance, walked towards me a few times, but then he got nervous and turned around each time. His dad came up to me and confirmed my suspicions, that his son had indeed fallen in love with me too but was too embarrassed to come over and say goodbye. His dad grabbed him by the hand, brought him over to me, and said give her a kiss goodbye (on the cheek, obviously). Sadly, for the third time, he got shy and ran away. And that was that. I may never see him again, but I know we'll never forget each other, a love like ours is forever.

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Before we met

 

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Initial eye-contact

 

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Ahhh coming towards me!

 

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The yellow flower <3
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My very own blade of grass
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Coming to say his final goodbyes
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Running away

Feria is coming up, which I will explain in a later blog when it is closer to the dates, but the point is that most women get to wear these unbelievable flamenco dresses during Feria. My host sister and I recently went shopping for our own Feria dresses and, wow these gowns are incredible. They're all very bright, many with designs of flowers, polka-dots, or just solid colors. They're also very heavy, but the beauty is worth the weight. To accompany the dresses, it's common for women to wear large flowers in their hair, shawls around their shoulders, jewelry, and of course heels. I bought a red flamenco skirt adorned with black and white polka-dots, and my sister has her eyes on a pink and white spotted gown. Some previews of what's to come during Feria:

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Lola guapaa

 

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Other dresses

Miscellaneous:

Last night was the birthday celebration for one of my friends, and also a fellow blogger, Bee MacBain!! We all went out to this Italian restaurant, La Piemontesa, for dinner. As for the food, I'll let the pictures do the talking..

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The pizza I ordered, I ate half :)
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Happy Birthday Queen Bee!!

Also, I went to get tapas with the fam yesterday <3    Update: They still rule

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Okayyy, that's it for now!! Hasta luegoo

Besitos

-Alex

03/26/2015

Quick update

Hi everyone!!

This is just going to be a really quick update with some pictures and a couple thoughts.. Not too much to add right now. I'm a little under the weather with a cold so I figure it's a good time to do this. 

Last weekend, Ben (new this semester, was in Chile last semester, is awesome) and Eli and I went to el Parque del Alamillo with a picnic and chilled for the day. 'Twas very nice. Pics to demonstrate the niceness shown here.

IMG_7486Super cool bridge

IMG_7487Different bridge perspectives :))

IMG_7503Walkin' on sunshine, I guess.

IMG_7519Cool tree of names 'n' what not

IMG_7522Almond tree in bloom

IMG_7524Pretty nice, right? Niceness is in full display here, if you ask me.

IMG_7529Just so much NICENESS.

IMG_7533Shoes are off.

IMG_7539And the cards are out.

IMG_7543AND Oreos. It just can't get any nicer.

IMG_7602Post-park hangin' on Eli's terrace. More niceness, if I do say so myself.

IMG_7608Sevilla is just so unattractive and horrible and I really so much dislike it!!!!! (ha ha) (ha) (ha)

IMG_7610San Jacinto in all its glory.

IMG_7611Looking across the Triana bridge

IMG_7618Where's Waldo/La Giralda??

IMG_7655There she is.

Alright, couple other things..

Starting to REALLY gear up for Semana Santa-- next week!!

IMG_3417This is one of the MANY churches in Sevilla. A lot of these churches have been open the last couple weeks (Well, I guess they're always open? Not really sure) with these event things where people can go and kiss the hand or the foot of the "imagen", the statue thing, which is either of the Virgin Mary or Jesus. A little strange but a very typical tradition here.

IMG_3419One of the "pasos" (like a float in a parade) ready for the statue to be put on it

IMG_3438Chairs set up in one of the most important plazas of Semana Santa-- every "paso" has to pass through this plaza. All of these chairs cost money and are paid for by the year and are EXPENSIVE.

This weekend I made cookies with Lucía!! So fun. They didn't have Hershey's kisses here so we improvised.

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And final picture: Guess How Much I Love You, discovered in Spanish :))

IMG_3414So cute.

On a more serious note, thoughts and prayers go out to friends and family of the downed Germanwings plane. Too horrible to imagine.

Hope everyone's having a good week and that spring is at least trying to get started back home. And happy Easter! The next post will be a super-duper one because it will have stuff from Semana Santa, Dublin, AND Budapest (I leave on Tuesday for the trip!!). Much wow. Ok, 'til then..

03/21/2015

Gooaaallll!

Happy Spring everyone!  Lots of things have been going on here in Spain. For instance, the election for the President of Andalusia is tomorrow, March 22 (Andalusia is the southern region of Spain); Seville is preparing for it’s busiest week of the year – Semana Santa; and we are experiencing some rain after about a month of sunshine - crazy.

This past week I completed a personal goal of mine: to go to a FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Sevilla FC soccer match before I return home. Last weekend I was in Madrid and got to see Real Madrid play, and this past Thursday I went to a Sevilla FC match. Both games were great! Soccer is one of the most popular Spanish pastimes, similar to how popular baseball, basketball, and football are in the United States. Fans are passionate about their respective teams and know every little detail about what’s happening in the program.

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Real Madrid Stadium

 

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Goal!
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There he is
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Marcelo and Isco
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Chicharitooo!!!

Games are usually scheduled at 8 or 9pm, right around dinnertime for the Spanish population; so many fans bring bocadillos (a packed lunch/dinner) to eat during halftime. At every game I went to there was a lively section of fans leading the rest of the stadium in cheers to support their team…or distract the opposing team.

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Animated fans in Barcelona

Something really interesting about the soccer culture here is the whistling. When the crowd is angry for whatever reason (bad call by the ref, a foul, bad play), they make an ear-piercing whistle that vibrates throughout the stadium. I think that someone should measure the change in decibel level in the stadium when they whistle – it’s that loud.

I mentioned earlier that Semana Santa (the week before Easter) is coming up soon. Sevilla is one of the most well known destinations to watch the processions of Semana Santa. People from all over the world come during this week to see them. Another tasty aspect of Semana Santa are the sweets. One typical treat is la torrija (a.k.a. Spanish French toast). Torrijas are made with bread, eggs, milk or white wine, oil, honey and cinnamon. They are easy to make. First you dip the bread in the milk or white wine, and directly after into the eggs. Then you fry the bread in the oil. When it is cooked (or has buena pinta), you take the torrija out of the oil and put it in a dish. For the finishing touch, pour a warm mixture of honey and cinnamon overtop of the torrija. Yummmm…..

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Jin hard at work. (Photo credits to friends Anina and Eli)

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The final product
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Great food with great friends. :)

 

 

03/15/2015

Came for the Paella, Stayed for the Kids

Holaaa

I have a lot to catch up on, so lets just dive right in

During the past few weeks I had another volunteering activity where I went to a language school for elementary students to teach them about America. Before signing up, I was told that the school would be making paella for us..so obviously I couldn't refuse. For those who do not know, paella is heaven on a plate. It is a rice dish with a mixture of vegetables and different meats, commonly seafood, and it rules. Upon arrival, there was indeed paella, and it was indeed amazing. As for the actual volunteer work, I, along with a few other amigos, had the pleasure of working with a class of adorable four-year-olds. We began with a very dangerous task...waking them up from their nap time. Most of the kids woke up semi-easily, of course all of them had immediate confusion when they saw four Americans standing over them, but they warmed up to us pretty quickly. For others it was a little more difficult, which I completely understand, I think that I could sleep through an earthquake. One of the last little boys to wake up had quite an interesting reaction.. his teacher gently said, "Wake up, our Americans friends are here,". The boy sat up, stretched, and looked at me from across the room. I smiled, waved, and said a warm hello, and within seconds of looking at me he burst into tears! But no worries, he was just a little caught off guard, or maybe I just looked really scary, either way, he got over it. After all of the zombies woke up, we gave them a presentation on the differences between America and Spain. Keep in mind that these kids are four-years-old, and even though they are learning English, I think that every word we said was a little over their heads. So we decided to move onto something a little simpler, coloring the American flag! At first the kids were a little nervous, but by the end, they were running up to us and showing off their colorful flags-most of which had colors other than red, white, and blue, but hey, I liked the creativity. Then we painted the American flag on one side of their faces and the Spanish flag on the other and also had reading time. The kids were ecstatic, climbing all over us, bringing us a new book every two minutes to read aloud to them, it was precious. Before I knew it, it was time to leave, so we hugged and said our goodbyes, one boy even said "Goodbye, chicken-face" to me, too sweet.

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PAELLAAAA
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Zzzzzz
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Sooo sweeeeepy

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Big yawn

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Face painting!!!

One of the trips that CIEE organized for us this semester was to the beautiful city of Granada. My favorite site in Granada was the Alhambra, a massively complex palace. It was absolutely incredible, with its detailed architecture, elegant gardens and fountains, and the view atop the Alhambra is indescribable. We also had a lot of free time to explore the city on our own. There were a bunch of cool little shops and markets to roam around, and all the people were so nice and friendly. I even got to meet a few people from Sicily, which is where one side of my great-grandparents are from, so that was a wonderful experience in itself! Granada was without a doubt, one of my favorite cities that I have visited this semester.

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Alhambra

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Wall from the Alhambra

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That view!

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I promise, this view is real


Miscellaneous:
I saw a huge bug on the street one night and had to take a picture, then I got too close, got scared, and ran away. Here's the bug:

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Seriously what is this

Anddd on that note, I'm off! Hasta luego

Besitos

-Alex

 

Came for the Paella, Stayed for the Kids

Holaaa

I have a lot to catch up on, so lets just dive right in

During the past few weeks I had another volunteering activity where I went to a language school for elementary students to teach them about America. Before signing up, I was told that the school would be making paella for us..so obviously I couldn't refuse. For those who do not know, paella is heaven on a plate. It is a rice dish with a mixture of vegetables and different meats, commonly seafood, and it rules. Upon arrival, there was indeed paella, and it was indeed amazing. As for the actual volunteer work, I, along with a few other amigos, had the pleasure of working with a class of adorable four-year-olds. We began with a very dangerous task...waking them up from their nap time. Most of the kids woke up semi-easily, of course all of them had immediate confusion when they saw four Americans standing over them, but they warmed up to us pretty quickly. For others it was a little more difficult, which I completely understand, I think that I could sleep through an earthquake. One of the last little boys to wake up had quite an interesting reaction.. his teacher gently said, "Wake up, our Americans friends are here,". The boy sat up, stretched, and looked at me from across the room. I smiled, waved, and said a warm hello, and within seconds of looking at me he burst into tears! But no worries, he was just a little caught off guard, or maybe I just looked really scary, either way, he got over it. After all of the zombies woke up, we gave them a presentation on the differences between America and Spain. Keep in mind that these kids are four-years-old, and even though they are learning English, I think that every word we said was a little over their heads. So we decided to move onto something a little simpler, coloring the American flag! At first the kids were a little nervous, but by the end, they were running up to us and showing off their colorful flags-most of which had colors other than red, white, and blue, but hey, I liked the creativity. Then we painted the American flag on one side of their faces and the Spanish flag on the other and also had reading time. The kids were ecstatic, climbing all over us, bringing us a new book every two minutes to read aloud to them, it was precious. Before I knew it, it was time to leave, so we hugged and said our goodbyes, one boy even said "Goodbye, chicken-face" to me, too sweet.

IMG_6020
PAELLAAAA
IMG_6022
Zzzzzz
IMG_6023
Sooo sweeeeepy

IMG_6021

IMG_6024
Big yawn

FullSizeRender (9)

FullSizeRender (8)

Image6
Face painting!!!

One of the trips that CIEE organized for us this semester was to the beautiful city of Granada. My favorite site in Granada was the Alhambra, a massively complex palace. It was absolutely incredible, with its detailed architecture, elegant gardens and fountains, and the view atop the Alhambra is indescribable. We also had a lot of free time to explore the city on our own. There were a bunch of cool little shops and markets to roam around, and all the people were so nice and friendly. I even got to meet a few people from Sicily, which is where one side of my great-grandparents are from, so that was a wonderful experience in itself! Granada was without a doubt, one of my favorite cities that I have visited this semester.

Image2 (1)
Alhambra

IMG_6098

Image4
Wall from the Alhambra

IMG_6100

Image3
That view!

IMG_6104

Image1 (1)
I promise, this view is real


Miscellaneous:
I saw a huge bug on the street one night and had to take a picture, then I got too close, got scared, and ran away. Here's the bug:

IMG_5943
Seriously what is this

Anddd on that note, I'm off! Hasta luego

Besitos

-Alex

 

03/13/2015

Granada-Spring Trip

Spring has sprung in Granada. The almond trees are in bloom and the remaining traces of winter can be seen on the snow-capped mountains of the Sierra Nevada.

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Last time I visited Granada, I saw some pretty cool things, except I did not visit the main attraction of the city: La Alhambra. This time, I got the chance to see the ancient castle. “Alhambra” means the red castle, and it’s called that for a good reason. When the sun sets on the building, it turns a deep, burnt red. Inside the Alhambra it is like a whole other world. During the early days of Spain and Granada, the Alhambra was the castle of the Moorish Kings. They had a long reign until 1492 (does that year ring a bell?), when Christian rulers King Ferdinand and Isabel II re-conquered Spain and Granada. 

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The Alhambra was a mini city in itself. There were places to live for the servants, architects, and designers of the castle, and outside there were vegetable gardens and shallow reflection pools to relax and enjoy the surrounding nature.

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Detail, detail, detail

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Did you know that there is a famous book about the Alhambra?  It’s called, Tales of the Alhambra by Washington Irving. He wrote the book during his stay in the castle while traveling throughout Spain. If you are looking for a good book to read, I recommend this one.

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We also went to the Albayzin, or the old Moorish quarter of Granada. Typical characteristics of this neighborhood are the narrow, winding streets and white houses. You can easily get lost if you are not paying attention to where you are going. Fun fact: the buildings are white so that they don’t attract the heat from the Spanish sun.

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Granada is a must-see for those who are planning to go to Spain. It is a melting pot of cultures sprinkled with rich history for everyone to enjoy.

03/12/2015

Lots of things

Helloo.

SO SO many pictures to share with you all and adventures and whew the time is FLYING. So crazy.

First. Some pictures from a while ago at the parque that I thought were share-worthy.

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Very chill much awesome

IMG_6974Studious Mad

IMG_6998Just so nice.

Ok second. Last weekend, CIEE brought us to Granada. It was a quick trip but SO much fun-- Granada is a seriously amazing city. It's a little bit smaller than Sevilla, or at least it feels like it, and has a really cool vibe. Also, it's, of course, incredibly beautiful, right in the middle of the mountains. AND it's also known for it's bars that give free tapas with every drink ordered. PRETTY NEAT RIGHT. It was pretty neat. There's also a ton of history in Granada having to do with King Fernando and Queen Isabel, the famous royal pair that ruled during the time of Christopher Columbus and when Spain was really an empire. Before them, Granada was ruled by an Islamic kingdom, who built the AMAZING structure/castle/fortress (I'm not exactly sure what to call it, can you tell?) La Alhambra. We also got to explore El Albayzín a little bit, which is a famous "neighborhood" (barrio, for those of you who remember what that means) in Granada. It's the older part of the city with these tiny little streets and beautiful houses, but my favorite part of it by far was the fact that it was literally in the side of the mountain. Because of that, the air was so fresh and nice and the views were incredible. So here are a lot of pictures of this really cool city and La Alhambra and El Albayzín.

IMG_7029Getting ready for La Alhambra.. Kate looks a little skeptical though. A lot of these pictures at the beginning are courtesy of Henry.

IMG_7050Including this one.

IMG_7051BIG smiles

IMG_7069Angel doing what he does best.

IMG_7078SNOW

IMG_7093Excited for La Alhambra.?

IMG_7118Even the ceilings were incredible.

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IMG_7175Columns looking so good

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IMG_7208More ceiling amazing-ness

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IMG_7279:)))

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IMG_7317Just hangin'

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IMG_7347Chick pic

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IMG_7363So much love

IMG_7394Almond trees in bloom

IMG_7406Yes, that is snow. (!!!) There's a place where you can ski (not really sure if you call it a resort or not, but it's at least a village I think) close to the city.

IMG_7408I think the trees were one of the coolest elements of the view of the city.. Love it.

IMG_7415Random cute couple IMG_7419 IMG_7433Takin' a break

IMG_7446Mainer pic

IMG_7453So pretty

IMG_7463Orange trees are forever a subject of fascination for me.

IMG_7471I really love this picture.. The city in all its glory seen through windows of La Alhambra.

IMG_3353This is taken from El Albayzín, the cool/old part of the city I was talking about. SO BEE-YOU-TEE-FULL.

IMG_3354Gah.

IMG_3355One of the super cool houses. Man, I was really in love with this place.

IMG_3356If you don't love this, you're not human.

IMG_3364This is taken from a part of El Albayzín called El Mirador de San Nicolás (Outlook of Saint Nicholas) which is famous for it's incredible view of the city and La Alhambra. I promise you, pictures could not do it justice if you had the best camera in the world.

IMG_3373Enjoying some Granada sunshine

Alright so that's Granada. Pretty incredible. Unfortunately, my camera died the first day during our tour of La Alhambra so I didn't get to take as many pictures of El Albayzín as I would have liked, but that's ok. I think I've drowned you in enough pictures, anyway. 

Third thing. Yesterday, we got to trying making torrijas, which is a very typical Semana Santa (Holy Week) food. It's a lot like French toast (but don't tell a Spaniard that-- it's NOT French toast to them), but more complicated. Apparently French toast actually comes from torrijas, as well as a similar food in Portugal and South America (of which I cannot remember the name). Torrijas were originally made because Semana Santa is lent, during which Catholics do not eat meat. Because Spain is very historically Catholic, there were a lot of people cutting out meat that week and there are, consequently, are lots of dishes people made up specifically for this week. They're usually pretty heavy dishes to keep people full and satisfied during the week. People definitely needed sustenance at this time because Semana Santa, while definitely a really fun week, is also a lot of work for the people who march and area actually in the processions. They can walk for 12 hours a day with only short breaks, and aren't even supposed to eat while they're walking. So obviously, when they get home after that (and this is mostly historically speaking; I think less people practice meat-less Semana Santa nowadays) it makes sense that they would want a filling meal, albeit meat-less. I can definitely tell you, it's very filling. But so delicious.

IMG_3395So the bread is first dipped in a milk and cinnamon (I think?) combination, then they went onto this plate, then into the egg plate (you're thinking this is French toast, I know), but then (PLOT TWIST) the bread is deep-fried. Or just regular fried. If we're being honest, I'm not really sure what the difference is. But basically it's put in a pan of sunflower seed oil and fried until it's golden brown.

IMG_3387The pieces are then brought over to the SYRUP station (wow yes I know). They're put in this casserole dish and have the syrup-y stuff poured of them. The syrup isn't really syrup-- it's a homemade thing made of honey, vanilla, cinnamon, and some other stuff that I forget (oops).

IMG_3394The syrup station. Scary.

IMG_3406My, oh my.

IMG_3412Happy campers.

Ok, fourth and final, a couple things to add to lists.

Things that are different:

- Ok, so I can't say I've confirmed this in Spanish law or anything, but my teacher's house got robbed a couple of days ago (so sad) and the laws that she explained to us having to do with robberies are UNBELIEVABLE. Again, don't quote me, but basically what she explained to us is that there is very, very little right to self defense. If someone's robbing your house or your bag, or whatever, and you hit them or hurt them in any way, they can sue you. And what's more crazy is that they'll actually WIN the case!! Apparently there was a case a couple of years ago with a guy who was trying to rob this girl and got beat up by her dad. He sued the dad, and the dad had to PAY 600 EUROS. For defending his daughter!!!! Ahh if these things are true my head is exploding. The thief has more right than you do!! Wow. No wonder they think we're crazy for having guns in our houses-- self defense is basically a moot point here. I think this changes if the person is actually trying to hurt you, but if he's just minding his own business while robbing you (ha ha), he's perfectly within his rights to go un-hit. What is life.

- It's been 75-80 and sunny by 1:00 every day this week. "But it's March!", you say? I know. I'm in shock, as well. Come May, I will be MELTING.

Things that are the same:

- Although it's already summery weather (by Maine standards) during the day, there's a variation in temperature from the morning to afternoon that is quite reminiscent of Maine freak weather. I usually wake up and it'll be 45-50, then I walk home and it's 75-80. It makes dressing a little difficult. But it's ok. I struggle through, somehow.

Things I miss:

- Starting to miss those open-faced sandwiches again :((

Alright. That is all. Xo everyone, until next time.

Gap Bloggers

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