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Gap Year Abroad

32 posts categorized "Eliza McKenney"

04/23/2015

Budapest

So Budapest was also amazing and in totally different ways. We got to Budapest late on Saturday night and after a slightly sketchy ride to the apartment, got settled in and everything. The apartment was super cute and worked perfectly for what we needed, and its location ended up being really good even though it looked really weird when we were coming in that first night. Here's the building, which is a pretty good representation of a lot of buildings we saw there: so beautiful but sort of falling into disrepair. The apartment was new and very nice though.

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This is the building. Obviously NOT new, but still very pretty.

One of the more shocking things was a total language barrier. There are definitely a good amount of people who speak English, and we didn't really have too much trouble because the people we needed to talk to always spoke English (tourist info people, tour guides, etc) but it did get a little complicated when buying groceries and stuff and trying to figure out what stuff is. Or trying to find your way around and the street names look like this:

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Or just the signs in general being totally illegible, like not even close to anything I've ever seen before. I think it's probably the first time in my life I've been totally at a loss as to how to communicate with some of the people. For example, I went into this little grocer to get some eggs, and the woman didn't speak English. How in the world do you convey the question, "do you have eggs here?" with hand gestures or whatever?? You cannot. It is impossible. There is no international sign for eggs that I know of. So I just sort of looked wildly around the grocer, which was just one little room packed with produce and random stuff, until I spotted eggs on a shelf behind the counter and I pointed and held up 4 so she knew how many I wanted. Also, 4 eggs costed about 50 cents, or 170 Hungarian forint. The forint is obviously not the strongest currency out there, but we learned that although Hungary is a part of the EU, the euro won't be used in Hungary until their economy gets stronger. But anyway, a new experience in the communication way for sure.

The first day we were there was Easter Sunday which made things a little tricky since a lot of stuff was closed. However, it was all good once we found the center of the city because most things were still open. We had our first Hungarian meal (Hungarian food is AMAZING-- ranked 5th in the world, according to our tour guide). And it's also so cheap. We got three course meals, that were delicious, for like 7 euros. Pretty nice. We then went on a free walking tour, which was really nice not only because it was free. The guide was really enthusiastic and we learned a lot of the really interesting history of Hungary and it was a good orientation to the city.

IMG_8988This is one of the trams that the city is famous for.

IMG_8997This is the old palace of like the Queen of England or something. Strange, I know. Maybe it wasn't the Queen of England, but it was definitely originally built for the Queen of a different country who only visited Budapest once. I think it's now a government building of some kind. The building to the right of it is a really expensive hotel that I also can't remember the name of (wow my memory is impressive). The owner of the hotel originally wanted to build it inside of the palace, but the city said no. So they gave him some land beside it instead.

IMG_9005The building looks like an owl omg.

IMG_9009St. Stephen's Cathedral

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IMG_9028 IMG_9031Not really sure what this is all about but ok. Hungarian Santa?

IMG_9053Pretty pretty

IMG_9056A lion on the Chain Bridge

IMG_9058Fierce

IMG_9062Views of the Danube River from Buda, one side of the city. Buda and Pest used to be two different cities and now they're Budapest!! So cool. We were staying in Pest, which has the center of the city as well as more residential districts. The Buda side is wealthier and has the palace and some other touristy destinations. Off to the left is the Parliament.

IMG_9080Braids 'n' beauties in Budapest

IMG_9085Faves

IMG_9088This isn't a great picture but it includes are guide, which is totally worth it. He was SO funny and spoke with a Hungarian accent and was really expressive and stuff when he talked, so he ended up sounding like Gaston or something. It was fantastic.

IMG_9095This is one of the attractions on the Buda side, a big old cathedral (or just church?). We didn't go inside but it was really incredible from the outside, anyway.

IMG_9100Spring springing into action

IMG_9102Fisherman's Bastion

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IMG_9120More Fisherman's Bastion 

We then took a round-about way home to go see the Parliament, which is one of the most famous landmarks of the city (rightly so).

IMG_9141Soo  incredible.

IMG_9151 IMG_9156

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IMG_9159:))

IMG_9176Storm's a'comin'.

IMG_9185Navigation team

IMG_9191This is so cool... It's painted onto the side of the building.

On the way home we stopped and got groceries. We were really improvising, to say the least. Our Easter dinner was chicken nuggets, sweet canned corn, and pasta all mixed together with marinara sauce. It actually was not bad at all. We also had some famous Hungarian wine. Didn't know Hungary was famous for its wine? Me neither. What our tour guide said was that Hungary is really good at making wine but really bad at marketing it. BUT kind of good news for us because that means you can get really high quality wine for around 3 euros. Pretty nice. We went out after dinner to the famous "Ruin Bars", which are bars that were converted from buildings that had fallen into ruin. They are SO cool. I couldn't really get pictures because it was too dark, but it was sort of the skeleton of the building and furnished with every cool thing you could think of that you would find at a flea market. For example, one room was decorated with old desktop computer monitors. Another had an adornment of a ton of old wine bottles stacked up in chicken wire. There were chairs hanging from the ceilings and old rocking horses and just anything you can think of. It was super cool. 

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On our second day we went to the Turkish baths, something Budapest is also known for. These are big old beautiful buildings filled with tons of different shapes and sizes of pools with all different temperatures, indoor and outdoor. We hung out there for the majority of the day because it was so cool. I obviously couldn't bring my camera into the pools so I don't have any pics:( Maddy took some with her GoPro but hasn't put them up yet. 

We then went to this really cool fair that was next to the baths. We think it was going on because of Easter. This was SO fantastic because we got to try some of the really typical Hungarian foods. It was also a really cool atmosphere and the buildings were, again, amazing.

IMG_3550So coool.

IMG_3547YUMM chimney cakes.

IMG_3546Final product

On our last day we just walked around the city a lot. Saw some pretty fantastic things.

IMG_9199I don't understand how all of these cars parked perfectly and identically but it made for a good picture so I'm ok with it.

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IMG_9215We didn't understand these at all. They're just regular busses, but for some reason are attached to cords above. Not sure.

IMG_9223This is the US Embassy. Not bad right?

IMG_9227There were a lot of monuments that we just weren't really sure what were all about because they had writing in Hungarian. But they were all really pretty.

IMG_9228Ran into Ronald Reagan while there!! Such a small world.

IMG_9240Parliament from the back

IMG_9241Another cool monument that we didn't know represented.

IMG_9265This one was, thankfully, in English.

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IMG_9291Back to St. Stephen's Cathedral

IMG_9297And this time we went inside.

IMG_9311Had to.

IMG_9321More pretty buildings

IMG_9349Thrift shops are always interesting.

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IMG_9358Russian Princess Eli.

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Overall, a really incredible trip. How lucky I am to have this opportunity in the first place?

This week is Feria and it's CRAZY. I was a little sick before and after staying out 'til 5 a couple nights in a row I'm pretty much dead. Skipped going yesterday and hoping to rally today. So beautiful out. I'll put up a Feria post soon! Xo

04/22/2015

Ireland

OK finished editing Ireland.. Here we go.

So we got to Dublin no problem but definitely felt a little shocked by crazy winds and rain drops when we stepped off the plane (after leaving 80 degree Sevilla oops). We got a little mixed up getting to the hostel but had a nice little walk around the city before arriving. Ha. But from then on everything was fine. The hostel was awesome-- a little different from other ones I've stayed in because it was a really universal one with people of all different ages, but still really cool. Had a bunch of different people in our room-- German, Croatian, English, American, etc. So that night we did a pub crawl with the hostel and met some really cool people. We also discovered how brutally cheap Sevilla is after seeing how pretty much everything in Dublin is 4 euros or more. But that's ok. Anyway. Didn't really take many pics the first day so on to the next..

Second day was kind of Dublin day in general. We did a walking tour and learned about some of the history of Ireland, which was really, really cool. It's weird how much you miss in history class in school, even if you feel like you're learning a lot. I guess it makes sense that a lot of the time we really only study things that the U.S. has been involved in, but we miss a lot of other interesting things. For example: the Irish population, as a whole, never recovered from the potato famine in the 1800s; that's to say, in the 1800s, the population was over 8 million, while today it's only about 4.5 million. There were that many people who died or emigrated. WILD. Also: only 1.8% of the population speaks Irish daily, and only 6% are fluent. Pics from the tour: 

IMG_8111This is a statue of O'Connell (important person in Irish history that I now forget given that its been like 3 weeks since I was there oops)IMG_8115Cool building

IMG_8130PIES so clever

IMG_8132Temple Bar, the main (but touristy) bar area in Dublin

IMG_8133Cool building art

IMG_8137Pretty Dublin streets in ugly Dublin weather

IMG_8152This is a historical building that's now some kind of office building complex for government officials that's SO beautiful

IMG_8160The left part of this is newer, but the tower thing on the right is the original castle (I think of Vikings?? Don't quote me on that.. We talked a lot about Vikings and can't remember where).

IMG_8166This is where Dublin got its name. It used to be a bog/pond, which in gaelic they called "dubh linn" or black pool, therefore, Dublin. 

IMG_8174Pretty colors

IMG_8175

IMG_8179

IMG_8185

IMG_8188

IMG_8197Because it's Ireland

IMG_8200Blue walls make for good pictures sometimes

IMG_8205All of these people are waiting in line to try to be chosen as an extra on the show Vikings.. At first I was really surprised. Seemed like kind of a waste of time. But our tour guide told us that extras actually get paid really well, and sometimes don't have to do anything. They get something like 200 euros a day and sometimes that day means doing normal extra things, or sometimes they just tell you they don't need you that day and give you the money, or you have to do something sort of horrible (i.e. he told us this story about one of his friends who had to lie face-down in the mud in the rain the entire day because he was playing the part of a dead person.. Yay!!).

IMG_8211I loled at this

IMG_8212Went back to get some of those pies..

IMG_8215Waiting for pies...

IMG_8225PIES

IMG_8228Bye pies.

IMG_8229More Temple Bar

IMG_8250Trinity College, Ireland style @jillbooth

IMG_8252More Trinity College

IMG_8256And some more.. Super pretty.

IMG_8261The words that come first are in gaelic, which they just call Irish there.

IMG_8266In da park

IMG_8268More park activities

IMG_8269So much green

IMG_8277Daffodils!!

IMG_8286Cool statues

After the tour, we went to the national museum and saw some AWESOME Viking stuff and some dead bodies that were found in the famous bogs that are all over Ireland.

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IMG_8295Just some Viking knick knacks, whatever.

IMG_8297Viking ladies must've cleaned up good.

IMG_8299Real life hollowed out canoe. !!!!!

IMG_8300DEAD PEOPLE

IMG_8302Literally still has his hair.. How weird is this. Apparently, the minerals and stuff that are in the bogs where these bodies are found conserve the bodies really well.

IMG_8305Another one

That night we went to this awesome bar to listen to traditional Irish music and drink Guinness and hang out. So fun. The people in Ireland are definitely more similar to me-- much more casual style, much more laid back. Love my Sevillanos but it was nice to be among kindred spirits. 

Day 3 was museum day. We went to the wax museum which was much different than I expected but sort of better because it had a lot of historical figures that were cool to learn about. Pics. 

IMG_8307What up James Joyce.

IMG_8310Just hangin' with St. Patrick himself.

There was also a "horror" section that was legitimately scary.

IMG_8322Haha!! Fun!!!

IMG_8326

!!!!

IMG_8328Hangin' out with my friend Franskenstein :))

And then some famous people too. 

IMG_8331Eli's taking on Irish politics.

IMG_8332Accompanied by Maddy & co.

IMG_8337Jack and the beanstalk!!

IMG_8338UR A WIZAHD HARRY

IMG_8341Letters to Santa

IMG_8344Eli or Hermione??

IMG_8352She wishes

IMG_8356U ain't nothin' but a hound dog

IMG_8362Supermaaaaan!

IMG_8368Which one is real??

IMG_8369New Bond girl, look out world.

We then went to the Guinness Storehouse (obviously) which FUN FACT is the largest tourist attraction in all of Ireland. So funny. It was SO COOL. They really take their beer seriously.

IMG_8372Found this wall along the way and thought it wanted a little love.

IMG_8376And we arrived.

IMG_8378:))

IMG_8383Horsies

IMG_8393Guinness hops

IMG_8399Arthur Guinness!!

IMG_8401They definitely take this seriously.

IMG_8406

IMG_8407

IMG_8408

IMG_8410Yum

IMG_8411Toucans

IMG_8414Amen

IMG_8416I thought this was pretty good.

IMG_8417Explanation^^

IMG_8423There was this really cool room full of screens that showed a ton of Guinness ads (old and new) and wow it was cool.

IMG_3515It was also April Fool's Day... Ha.

Day 4 was a day trip to a couple different destinations across Ireland, the feature one being the Cliffs of Moher. So, so incredible. The pictures can't really do them justice but they're the best I can do. 

IMG_8446Irish countryside

IMG_8451THERE THEY ARE.

IMG_8476And there's me.

IMG_8484

IMG_8497Lil bit windy

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IMG_8554_3

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IMG_8583

IMG_8609

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It's weird how small Ireland actually is. It's square mileage is about 32.5 thousand, which is slightly smaller than Maine (35.4 thousand) (yes I did just Google that). So we actually went all the way across Ireland-- Dublin on the east coast and the Cliffs on the west coast-- just in one day. We also saw this AWESOME place that I can't remember the name of that was basically just rocks that went on forever and ever.

IMG_8616SO COOL

IMG_8626

IMG_8638_3

IMG_8645_3 And then we went to Galway, and small city (a little bigger than Portland), which was really cool, too. And there was a food festival going on so that was ok, too, I guess.

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IMG_8671

IMG_8674

IMG_8677:))

IMG_8692_3Main street in Galway

That night we unsuccessfully tried to go out; it was Good Friday and everything was closed. Oops.

On our last day we went to Howth (pronounced "Hout") which was this GORGEOUS fishing village about 20 minute by train outside of Dublin. We had such good luck with the weather and it was sunny and beautiful and reminded me a little of Portland. 

IMG_8703_3Ireland or Maine??

IMG_8707_3

IMG_8723How cool is this seriously.

IMG_8727_3:)))))

IMG_8737Celtic Fisher. So Ireland.

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IMG_8767

IMG_8768Maddy's first seal spotting

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IMG_8788

IMG_8803

IMG_8805

IMG_8816

IMG_8824SO COOL diving boards off cliffs. How AWESOME.

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IMG_8881And then there were these flowers on the hillside when we were walking the cliffs that were 1. so beautiful, and 2. smelled SO good. Not sure what kind of flower they are but it was amazing.

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IMG_8908This was the walking path along the cliff we were on. It went all the way around the island but we didn't make it that far-- had to go back for our train.

IMG_8956Some kayakers

IMG_8957

IMG_8964Seriously though. So incredibly beautiful.

IMG_8969And for the finale.

Wow you made it through 128 pictures. I applaud you.

Now (quick I promise) for a list of funny things that were different:

- "Craic" is a word that I think is Irish and basically means like fun activities or parties or something. They use it all the time. 

- List of words/expressions they use differently:

Turn up not show up

Hectares as unit of measurement (no idea how much it is)

Cheers not thank you

Clamping instead of towing

Car park instead of parking lot 

Motorway not highway

Set down area not unload area

"Zed" instead of "zee" to pronounce the letter z

- There are lots of housing developments

- Rugby is the largest growing sport there and it's CRAZY. We saw a match on TV and it's like football but more brutal and without pads.

- There's actually toilet paper in the bathrooms. This does not happen in Sevilla.

- Less discos more pubs.

- There was a lot of emphasis on recycling-- lots of signs and different colored bins for sorting and what not.

OK YOU HAVE DONE IT. You have finished this post. Thanks for looking at it because it's taken me about a week to complete. WOO.

04/13/2015

La Semana Santa

Semana Santa was an absolutely unbelievable experience. I, unfortunately, was only there for two days, but even that was enough to see how amazing the whole week is. Technically, it's a religious holiday, but in practice, tradition and culture are equally important. The story I heard was that Semana Santa started originally after a plague a really long time ago (oops don't remember the year) wiped out a large percentage of the population, so people started to lose faith in God/the church. As a result, the church began La Semana Santa as a way to regain popularity. So obviously, it was a religious thing. It's also something that's celebrated all over the world, mostly in Spanish speaking countries. I think in Latin-American countries it's a little different, but all over Spain it's roughly the same, in format at least: all week long, there are different "cofradías" or "hermandades" ("brotherhoods", which are the religious organizations that belong to the churches) that bring their "pasos" (kind of like big parade floats but with statues of Jesus or Mary or other religious figures) around the city. These pasos are carried by a group of men called "costaleros". Most cofradías have a paso of Jesus, followed by a paso of Mary, which is usually the more important one. One whole cofradía can take hours to pass one spot because there are anywhere from hundreds to thousands of "nazarenos", which are the scary looking people in white hoods in the pictures, as well as "penitentes", which are the cross-carrying people without the pointy hood, and a band that follows the paso. The pasos usually start after lunch (3 or 4) and go until 3 or 4 the next morning-- so people who are in the cofradía as nazarenos or penitentes or costaleros are walking for 12 to 14 hour usually. CRAZY. Some of the cofradías are stricter and you're not allowed to eat or drink or talk or anything when you're marching, but the majority unofficially allow people to eat/drink/leave if they need to go to the bathroom or something. A lot of kids march as nazarenos so they obviously don't usually go for all 14 hours. And so all of the pasos leave from their churches and go to the official section of their march, which is in the center by the Giralda and what not, and then they head back to their church. Some take longer because they live farther; some are closer. Ok so that's the basic idea. My favorite paso to see was La Estrella, one that comes from a church in Triana, because we saw it on its "recogida" (on its way back into the church) at night while it was crossing the Triana Bridge. La recogida is usually the best time to see the cofradía because they're not on a time frame (like they are in the official section) so they do all kinds of cool stuff and the costaleros do cool things to make the pasos move in different ways. It was so impressive to see the paso, lit up with candles and shining and beautiful, surrounded by thousands of people, crossing the equally beautiful Triana bridge at night. It was one of those things that's just indescribable but gives you goose bumps and you sort of forget to breath for a second. We also saw a "saeta" with La Estrella, which is person who sings this specific kind of flamenco called saeta. Some of them are official and paid and some are spontaneous. The one we saw was spontaneous and it was so cool cause he was just standing in the crowd looking up at the paso and singing and AH so cool. Ok, now for pictures. 

IMG_7880On Sunday (called "Domingo de Ramos"), Elvira, Lucía and I went out to lunch before all the festivities. It was SO good.

IMG_7882I did Lucía's hair and it turned out pretty well, I think :))

IMG_7894El Domingo de Ramos is a really big day for La Semana Santa and everyone gets SUPER dressed up. Great example of that here. Makes very little sense: lots and lots of walking, and yet heels that aren't even comfortable to stand in. Help me understand, Spain.

IMG_7912NOT the KKK. Really shocking at first but these are the nazarenos. The building behind them is the parliament.

IMG_7918It was that hot.. The candle was sad. So was I.

IMG_7923More nazarenos. They walk in these two lines the whole time.

IMG_7934This is the first paso I saw and this is one of La Virgen (The Virgin, aka Mary). The pasos that have Mary on them are different in that they have the canopy thing above them, called a palio, that moves as the costaleros walk and it's SO pretty. 

IMG_7936These are the flowers that are on the side of this particular paso. All of the pasos have flowers but they can be of all different colors and kinds and what not. The funky looking ones above the regular ones are actually made of wax.

IMG_7940Most of the palos are wooden and painted with silver or gold paint, but some of them are actually solid silver or gold. This wasn't one of them, but I did see some that were like that. Those ones are obviously much heavier, which makes the movement of the paso really graceful and beautiful (although the costaleros probably don't love it too much).

IMG_7954La Gerald looking spiffy for Semana Santa

IMG_7956These are the seats that line the official section of the "parade".

IMG_7962These are some kids on their way to their cofradía. They're probably not nazarenos because they're too young, but there's another role that kids often take in the cofradía.

IMG_7974So cute

IMG_7997Hello

IMG_7998This is La Cena (which means dinner) because it's a depiction of the Last Supper.

IMG_8006Pretty palio going through a narrow Sevilla street

IMG_8009Pretty pretty

IMG_8016Lots of matching children

IMG_8027So cute

IMG_8029Killin' it.

IMG_8033Working real hard.

IMG_8036Me and Lucía :))

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IMG_8055A paso of El Cristo (Christ)

IMG_8057Just a couple of people.

IMG_8094This paso is called El Amor

My camera very sadly died after this, so I don't have pictures of the night on the bridge.

IMG_3443San Jacinto during La Semana Santa is wild.

IMG_3444Crazy

IMG_3450More San Jacinto (thx to Eli for inviting me over to her casa to see Semana Santa from her balcony)

IMG_3460La Virgen with flower petals on the palio (the shade thing on the top); people throw the petals from balconies onto the paso when it first comes out of the church, so then it goes through the city with petals on the top. So pretty.

IMG_3475Another one of the traditions of Semana Santa is that the little kids go around and when the nazarenos stop (which they do when the costaleros need a break), they ask them for wax. So by the end of the week they make balls of wax, and they save them, and over the years the ball gets bigger and bigger. It's pretty cool. Lucía has a huge one in her room from when she was little.

IMG_3495This is the nazareno that basically keeps the other nazarenos in line (head honcho nazareno) and he has to walk up and down in the middle of the two lines so he gets wax dripped all over him. I thought it looked kind of cool.

IMG_3506These are penitentes, which are like nazarenos that just carry the cross and don't have a pointy hood on.

IMG_3511Mini nazareno

More than anything, I can't thank Lucia enough for giving me the experience that I had. Although Semana Santa would be super impressive to anyone, it's best when you get to follow someone around who knows where to go, when to go, and how to explain all that's happening.

OK cool so that's Semana Santa. Thx for making it through with me. While writing this post over the last couple days I've managed to edit the Ireland pictures, but still working on Budapest. So that will be coming up soon. Xo

04/09/2015

Soccer game!!

Hi!!

Got home from the trip yesterday and I'm SO overwhelmed with pictures right now from Semana Santa, Dublin, and Budapest so UNFORTUNATELY this post will not have those things because there are over 2,000 pictures that I need to sort through/delete/edit/HELP ME SOMEONE. But it's ok. I will survive.

So, alternatively, this post is about the Spain vs Ukraine soccer game that some of us went to a couple of weeks ago and I never got a chance to post about. It was SO FUN. So much Spain pride. And they won, which just makes it even awesome-er.

IMG_7784Love it.

IMG_7825Happy Eli

IMG_7794Really focusedIMG_7807Frandz

IMG_7815Madgirl

IMG_7842Lol

IMG_7855Normal friends are boring anyway.

IMG_7871Spain pride

IMG_7876Crew love

IMG_7878The whole crew :))

Ok that's it for now. Starting the editing process now on the rest of the pics. Pray for me.

Xo

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..

03/12/2015

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.

02/28/2015

Barcelona etc.

Helloo.

So I went to Barcelona last weekend with a couple friends. Took lots of pictures, obviously.

IMG_6487We left on Saturday morning really early and went to a Barcelona soccer game later that day. The game was actually kind of horrible-- Barcelona did not play well at all-- but it was still really fun to experience it and all. They lost to Málaga, 1-0.

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Hello.

IMG_6499This is the section of crazy crazy fans that start all the chants and everything.. Seriously, it reminded me of our high school sports games on a huge (HUGE) scale: These people were constantly waving flags, making noise, being rowdy, and then the rest of the crowd would follow along if they started a chant. It was pretty cool.

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Piqué

IMG_6533Worst part of soccer by far.. Someone trips over a blade of grass and the game stops for five minutes because he's rolling on the ground in clearly very excruciating pain. COME ON.

IMG_6536Neymar

IMG_3312Camp Nou

IMG_3314Gift shop after the game.. Imagine how much this club makes in just one day. It's seriously amazing.

IMG_6550On the second morning we got up at 6:30 in the morning to go see the sunset on the beach. A little bit of a stressful experience trying to get there since we left a little late and basically had to sprint to the beach to make sure we didn't miss it, but definitely worth it. The clouds were so, so cool and looked like big white mountains.

IMG_6552So pretty

IMG_6561:))) IMG_6574

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IMG_6657So close..

IMG_6678The boardwalk. Fun fact: Barcelona's beach is actually man-made, created before the '92 Olympics for tourists.

IMG_6682Marina.. So many beautiful and huge sailboats.

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IMG_6705Cool street art seen on the walk home

IMG_3289One of Gaudí's famous houses on Passeig de Grácia. Don't the windows kind of look like skull eyes?

IMG_3291And this is the other one.

IMG_3301Cool fountain

IMG_3307I LOVE these things. I really wanted to get one when I went to Barcelona over Christmas, and I really wanted to get one this time, too, but I just don't really think they'd travel well. I'll have to make one for myself at home.. So cool though. Who wouldn't want a mini mug magnet with a mini cactus in it?

IMG_3310Just building a casual human tower.

IMG_6716One of the days, everyone else went to La Sagrada Familia and I went to to the Palau de la Música since I had already been to Sagrada. It was really cool and beautiful, and also really impressive to hear the history of it. It was built in 1891, during the Industrial Revolution in Catalonia (It was so strange to hear those words in Spain.. Obviously we learned about the Industrial Revolution in the U.S. but nothing like that ever happened in Andalusia, so they just don't talk about stuff like that here. But anyway.), and was built all on donations from people (costing just 6000 euros). On top of that, the building was finished in three years, a really short amount of time for a building of such detail. The tour guide told us that they did that by doing most of the artisan work outside of the building while the workers built the actual structure. Pretty impressive. So these are some of the columns that are outside the windows on the second floor. Since the streets are so narrow in this part of the city, and therefore the buildings very close together, these pillars were designed to make it look like the buildings on the other side of the street are farther away.

IMG_6720The Palau was designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner (yes I did have to Google that) around the same time as Gaudí, and they shared a similar style. You can see this in the way that he uses a lot of nature in his work, just like Gaudí does.

IMG_6731This is the chandelier-ish thing in the main concert hall of the Palau and is meant to be modeled after the sun (which you can see from this angle) and a drop of water (which you can see in another picture later).

IMG_6737These are tributes to the first women who sang in the Palau in a women's choir.

IMG_6744Another angle of the chandelier thing where it looks like a drop of water.

IMG_6756This is a building (I'm not really sure what it is.. A church? Some sort of religious institution I think) that is the first of its kind dedicated to the adoptive father of Jesus, Joseph. I had never really thought of Jesus having an adoptive father but I guess it makes sense.

IMG_6786We also visited Parc Güell and went into the "memorial zone" which is where most of Gaudí's famous works are.

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IMG_6839Just hangin'.

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IMG_6890So many people taking pictures of the famous lizard statue.. And people would get really feisty if you accidentally stepped in front of their selfie. It's a dog eat dog world.

IMG_6897We also, of course, went to La Boquería (Barcelona's famous market) and they had these WONDERFUL creations.

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IMG_6902I was pretty jealous at this point.

IMG_6904Yum..?

IMG_6908Pretty popsicles

IMG_6910Mmmmm.

IMG_6911The artist behind these wonderful creations

IMG_6916Just an octopus on a plate.

IMG_6918"WHAT AH THEY SELLIN'??" @pow @jill

IMG_6923Omg hedgehog chocolates.. Revolutionary.

IMG_6928We walked down by the water and saw the monument of Christopher Columbus. I'm assuming this is Queen Isabel.

IMG_6936Lion whisperer

IMG_6937This guy just can't wait to be king.

IMG_6948So REGAL.

IMG_6949Christopher Colombus' statue.. You would think he'd be pointing toward America (logical, right?) but he's not. Just kind of pointing at something in the distance.

IMG_6958This seagull apparently wanted in on this pic.

Alright, that's it. Fun weekend :)

In other news.

This was the view from the Triana Bridge a couple weeks ago in the morning..

IMG_3265Kinda crazy, right??

Also, my mom seriously should win so many awards for this.

IMG_3326-1I shared with Elvira, my teacher, and Irene and got some pretty good feedback. Oh, and my favorite Southerner (Maddy) but she thought it was too sweet. Too sweet?? Your tea is too sweet. -_-

Ok couple things to add to the list..

Things that are different:

- The other day I saw two Americans run by in shorts and tshirts then a Spanish guy run by in leggings and jacket and hat.. Not surprising.

- At soccer games, instead of booing or shouting when the fans are mad about something (a call, something the other team did, whatever), they whistle. It's pretty impressive how loud they can whistle, too.

Things that are the same:

- They apparently have these little mini boxes of cereal here like we do at home.. Reminds me too much of camping when I was little. And everyone fighting over the Froot Loops and Lucky Charms cause it was either that or Corn Flakes and boring, un-sugarfilled ones.

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Ok, that's all for now. XOXO

02/17/2015

Pretty pics

Ok just wanted to share these pictures now because they came out really well and I really like them.

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IMG_6325Love the riv'.

Alright moving along. On Sunday, Eli and I went to Los Carnavales de Cádiz. It was SO cool and such an interesting experience. So Carnavales is something that is celebrated all over the world, most famously in Río de Janeiro, but also in various places all over Spain and in much of Latin America, I assume. I assume this because I think it's a Catholic thing-- a pre-Lent celebration. I think it takes slightly different forms in different places, but the one in Cádiz is a combination of maybe Christmas carols on steroids and Halloween, in a really awesome way. That's actually a pretty poor description of it but it's the best thing I can think of in relation to US holidays. Basically, people dress up in the coolest and most creative costumes, a lot of times in big groups of people, and go to Cádiz. And in Cádiz, there's a ton of singing groups called chirigotas that are a mix of a lot of different things: some are official ones that compete in the competition (I'll elaborate in a sec), some are "illegal" that just go to Cádiz and sing in the streets, and the amount of people in each one depends on the group, but they all sing songs that are usually comical and have some sort of social commentary threaded into them. The competition is something that takes place over the weeks before the actual festival weekend in Cádiz and is televised and what not, and there are different categories and winners that are announced the Friday before the festival weekend. I really didn't understand the lyrics of many of the songs I watched because what with the music, and people clapping and singing and dancing along, and talking in the background, and this and that, it was basically impossible, but it was still really cool to see all the funny costumes and what not. The amount of people was INCREDIBLE. If there was a chirigota in one of the streets, which were very, very narrow (as to be expected), you literally could not get through unless you threw some elbows. And then just normal walking in the streets was pretty claustrophobic, but you kind of went with the flow of the crowd and that was that. Eli and I went with Irene (my intercambio) and three of her friends, which was SO fun. We got lost a couple times, but no big deal. It was really fun talking with them and getting another wave of that cultural exchange: them being dumb-struck at the thought that I have my driver's license, and me telling them how weird it was for me to not go barefoot in the house. They were all super, super nice and great to get to know, and practice Spanish with!! Really the coolest part of the festival was people-watching; at one point, we sat down on the sidewalk to have lunch and just watched the people walk by. It was funny to see how some of them had gone super hard with their costumes, others were just wearing funny glasses or a hat, others without costume, and others still really dressed up and pretty. Another thing about Carnavales is that your experience really depends on when you go. Saturday night is the crazy night; people usually get busses to arrive there around 9 and then come back in the morning (no sleep). Sunday is a little more tranquilo, more family-oriented, more chirigotas instead of just fiesta fiesta. I was also surprised that I noticed very few foreigners on Sunday-- not sure if that was just a product of the fact that there were so many people, or if it was actually that way, but either way I liked it.

It was also interesting talking to Elvira about it after (just like with everything else). She told me she really loves Carnavales, for a lot of reasons, but because it's more "democratic" that festivals like La Feria in Sevilla. This is because Carnavales is truly open to any person, however they want to experience it, no matter where they're from or how much money they have or whatever. However, La Feria is a little different because it has these things (that I can't remember the name of right now) that are basically tents put up for La Feria that are private clubs where you can go and hang out, eat, drink, dance, and use the bathroom. Key. However, you have to be a member of these clubs the whole year and you have to pay for these clubs for the whole year. Then there's also the fact that the dresses for La Feria are expensive, and a lot of people go in horse-drawn carriages, which are expensive, and the food and drinks are expensive, too. So basically, it's a different experience for people who are, 1) not from Sevilla and so can't get into these "clubs" unless they know someone in them, or 2) don't have as much money and can't afford some of the luxuries that make La Feria that much better. Interesting thought.. Makes you wonder what other festivals around the world are more "democratic" and which ones are less so. 

On to pics.

IMG_6343Eli is ready.

IMG_6346Fre$h.

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Totally hijacked this person's picture.. Looking good.

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BUNNIES (Jill look out)

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These guys were both dressed as SpongeBob and didn't look to pleased about it.. I just missed the picture before they walked by.

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Yup, I'm taking a picture of you.

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Mario Kart Bros 4 Life (or Burger Kings?)

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This was probably my favorite costume.. Mary Poppins takes Carnavales.

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One of the main plazas in Cádiz with just a few people in it

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Minnie Mice and some balloons!

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Look how cute.

IMG_6384Peace, love, mini guitars.

IMG_6390The ensemble is officially complete.

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So this is one of the typical streets in Cádiz except this one was a dead end so it didn't have any people in it.. But just imagine it full of people. Like really full.

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Indians

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Cows!

IMG_6398Their version of carnival food (no fried dough to be found).. On the left are tiny little shrimp that you eat whole, shell and all, and I'm honestly not sure what the things on the right are.

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Not really sure what these guys are but they get an A+ for dedication and creativity.

IMG_6400So many PEOPLE

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These were all over the place.. Little stands with last-minute costume must-haves.

IMG_6408The cathedral ft. Carnaval crowds

IMG_6414Work it

IMG_6417One of the typical souvenirs for Carnavales are whistles. This was a stand for personalized ones.

IMG_6421More Carnaval food, all sea food. (Cádiz is on the water, if you couldn't tell.) Snails, mussels, those little shrimps, etc.

IMG_6423Yes, those are sea urchins. For eating.

IMG_6428More funky costumes. The wigs are definitely big.

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Lots of confetti.

IMG_6431One thing I definitely didn't like about the festival was the HUGE (HUGE HUGE HUGE) amount of litter there was in the streets. People would just finish what they were eating/drinking and very deliberately throw it on the ground. Trash can three steps away? No problem!! I've got the ground to hold my trash even more effectively!!

IMG_6432This was the street where the parade passed through.. We actually didn't get to see it because, in true Spain form, it started an hour late so we had to go back to the train station before we could see it pass. But again, so many people lining the streets.

IMG_6437There's the ocean right over there!!

IMG_6438Killin' it.

IMG_6463Parade signs

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All the people walking up to see the parade

IMG_6469Mimes (I think?)

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Lots 'n' lots of potato chips

IMG_6471LOBSTERS IN SPAIN OMG

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Blue haired cheetah, 'cause why not.

IMG_6478Irene and María

IMG_6479Slightly terrifying clown statue

IMG_6484Just some Egyptians

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The whole crew

Hope you guys at home are all somewhat surviving the cold and snow.. Thinking of you!! XO

PS Shout out to Greely Swim Team for winning State title this week!! WOOHOO!!!

 

02/11/2015

Doñana National Park y Más

Hello..

Ok before I go into Doñana stories, just going to put up this picture that I took while reading by the river the other day.. It's unbelievable, so surreal, that it's February and outside is a place where humans can actually walk and breath and live and survive and what not. Who knew that actually existed??

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Simply brilliant.

Also..

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Strawberries by the river is always a good decision.

On Sunday, I went to Doñana National Park with Eli, Emma, Erin, Riley, and Kate. Doñana is about an hour and a half or two from Sevilla and is really, really beautiful. We went in really without a plan, just caught a bus and arrived, to find that you can't really walk around inside the park because it's all protected. So, the woman was nice enough to give us a private tour for the price of a normal, group/bus one since that tour got back after our ride back to Sevilla was going to pick us up. It was SO cool and so fun, like a safari but Spain-style. Before we left on the tour we walked around Rocio a little bit, which is the town from which the tour left. It's a really beautiful little village with a lot of history and culture: every year, thousands and thousands of people make a pilgrimage to their church because it has a famous statue of the Virgin inside it. It's said to bless children and have healing powers, so people try to touch it in huge hoards while they're there. There are also 114 "hermandades" (brotherhoods, which are religious clubs, sort of, that belong to certain churches) belong to this church and they all take turns visiting it on the weekends. This weekend was Granada's turn, which is apparently an important one, so there were a lot of people in and around the village.IMG_6010Lots of horse-drawn carriages and little shops and restaurants surrounding the main attraction (the church)IMG_6013Miniature ponies for kiddiesIMG_6034Little kid and his dad watching the procession go into the church. I'm still not really sure what the processions were because there were multiple of them, one right after the other, that went through the church, and I think it was the same people doing it every time. Not sure.IMG_6044This is the famous church and one of processions.IMG_6049Little kiddie riding a pony and his grandfather :))IMG_6055One of the processions coming back out of the churchIMG_6068Inside the church.. So many people!!!IMG_6071The crew.. New people, left to right: Erin (going to Colgate *cough* Sarah take note), Riley, Emma, and then you know Kate and Eli.IMG_6077Lots and lots of horses. There are actually more horses than permanent residents in Rocio.IMG_6091This is the marsh right next to the church area. It's completely dry in the summer, which is weird to imagine.IMG_6096Munching on some lunch.IMG_6098Got to wear my hat, a rare occurrence in fashionable Sevilla. I break enough rules on that front.. A hat feels overboard.IMG_6102One of the main streets in RocioIMG_6104Our first stop on our safari/tour, looking at flamingosIMG_6105And here are said flamingos.IMG_6111Eli getting in the safari spiritIMG_6119My favorite picture of the entire trip.. This guy saw me taking a picture and gave me this little smirk. It feels like a wink follows it, doesn't it? And a hat tip and, "Howdy, darlin'." Perfection.IMG_6121Ready to rumbleIMG_6133Marking down the animals we saw, which were mostly deer and lots of different birds.IMG_6134Our guide, Javi, with Eli riding shotgun in the Jeep. It was like driving in snow because there was really deep sand.IMG_6137This is a famous bridge the "pilgrims" (people doing the pilgrimage to Rocio) walk across before entering the village. All the plaques have the names and founding dates of the different hermandades that belong to the church in Rocio.IMG_6158This part of the forest was SO BEAUTIFUL. Javi told us it's his favorite part of the National Park during this season because it's one of the few places in Doñana that gets this green, and this is the best season to see it like this. In the summer, it dries out a lot and isn't so green.IMG_6167Eli didn't get the memo I guess.IMG_6171Pic under a big oak treeIMG_6174

IMG_6183The whipIMG_6204So many deerIMG_6225Hoof printsIMG_6229Pretty DoñanaIMG_6242Lovin' itIMG_6243Wilderness explorers at their bestIMG_625510 points for Gryffindor if you can spot the bunny.IMG_6264

SOOOARIN', FLYYYIN'

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Ready for my close up

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These are actual wild horses that live in a specific part of Doñana and just hang out and live wildly. Reminds me of Spirit (who remembers that movie????).

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More soaring birdies.

Ok, that's all from Doñana. Now I just have some stories and stuff to add to the lists that I haven't added to in forever.

First, feeling so proud to have teachers in my family.. I know how hard my mom has worked to become a teacher and how awesome she is at it (7th grade. Seriously.), and watching Elvira as a teacher has been so cool. She's only a part time teacher-- her normal job is in a doctor's office-- but she went back to school at age 40 to study social work and after became a teacher in her department. It's a conditional thing, meaning they call her if they need a long-term sub for someone, but she loves it so much. This semester she's giving three different courses, two of which she's never given before, so she's been really stressing out about it and working so, so hard to learn the material and make lesson plans. The other day was her first real class with one of those ones, and she got home and when I asked her about it, she just started gushing about how amazing it had been and how she learned so much and could tell the students were interested and engaged and how all her hard work had paid off. So happy for her.

On another academic note, I've been reading SO MUCH (lol free time, hello). I finished Fall of Giants the other day and I'm now feeling so smug about myself and about how much I actually knew what they were talking about in WWI (The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand anyone???). Shout out to Mr. Tureff and Mr. Tracey and two years of some combination of pain and triumph for that. I've also finished Wild, as I talked about in the last post, and I'm 85% done with all three of the Divergent series books right now according to the Kindle. Also, RIP to the bottom right side of the screen of the Kindle that no longer works. Sad day. 

Quick side note: Does anybody have any idea what a good source of movies is online, other than illegal ones and Netflix? That may or may not be free? Sorry, I realize those are pretty tough conditions, but if anyone knows of one, please share!! Or movie recommendations that are on Netflix would also be appreciated.

Also, notes on today: got home a little while ago from a scavenger hunt with students from a high school in Sevilla. Pic..

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Woohoo. We did not win. But that's ok. Made some friends. Moving on..

Things I Miss:

- Surprisingly, I miss home more than I did last semester. I think that might be because at the end of last summer I was just so excited, A. to be going to Spain and having this new, amazing experience, and B. to leave Cumberland (Cumby, I love you, but you suck sometimes). But now that I've been away from it for a while, and then kind of gotten a taste of it going back during break, I think I value it a lot more than I did before. I value my town and the community, my friends and family, and I miss it more. It's not that I want to go back, but it's sort of a nostalgic missing-- just a greater appreciation for what I had, I guess. Deep thought of the day.

- Miss my doggie so much still. I saw FOUR Golden Retrievers today and was dying to steal them.

Things That Are Different:

- Today is one of the coldest days so far in winter in Sevilla, according to Elvira. It's, like, 50 degrees. I was sweating on my walk to school. Not in Kansas(Maine) anymore, huh? And it's a little windy, which they colloquially call "viruji" (not sure if that's how you spell it), and it's apparently really distressing and freezing for everyone. It's not even bad. Coming from 100 mph wind gusts at Sugarloaf, pretty sure I can handle it. Elvira just walked in and asked me how I wasn't freezing (wearing short sleeves and window open). Oops.

- The music they play during the news is absolutely hilarious..  It's always American music that has NOTHING to do with the news story. Perfect example: Today they were doing a little piece on Will Gadd, the guy that ice-picked (not sure what the correct term is) Niagara Falls and was the first person to do it. Big deal, right? Pretty intense? Impressive? And the song choice? *Drum roll please* Treasure, by Bruno Mars!!! Will Gadd (on screen): intensely climbing up wall of ice beside Niagara Falls, reaching the top and looking super triumphant and proud and accomplished. Bruno (in background): "I know that you don't know it, but you're fine, so fine!! (Fine, so fine) Oh, whoaaaa, oh girl, I'm gonna show ya when you're mine, all mine!!!!!" Perfect song choice. Great work. A+. 

- It might be here somewhere, but I haven't seen boxes of Kleenex yet. At home we would always have back-up stores of boxes of tissues in the house, or at school, or whatever, during cold season. And it's cold season here-- Elvira keeps telling me to "abrigate el cuello!!" (wear a scarf, basically) because it's "gripe" (pronounced "greep-ay") season and I'm going to get "resfriada" (a cold). But in spite of that, no one has boxes of tissues. They just have the little travel packs instead. Strange. 

- I just noticed this. If Elvira and I, or I assume anyone, are in the same room, she can't help but carry on a conversation. I'll come into the living room to hang out and read a book or whatever while she's doing work, and she'll just end up talking to me the whole time. Reminder to me to not do that because I'm obviously distracting her. Oops.

- Sometimes I look at a building and just think, "That is probably older than my entire country." It's a peculiar feeling. This is an example, the one I was looking at when I thought of this the first time, although it applies to a lot of things in Sevilla. I don't even know what it is, other than a church.

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- I've been told here multiple times that rain washes away bacteria, so when it doesn't rain for a long time, the likelihood of the flu/cold/sickness spreading is higher. I don't know if that's true but I guess I'd just never heard it before because it's not like it ever rains during cold season, aka winter, aka snow, in Maine.

- Learned some more things in class the other day that you're not supposed to do in Spanish culture. One is whistle; just not an ok thing. And especially not for women because prostitutes used to whistle at men. The other is stretching. This is so difficult because you know when you feel the need to do something, and then realize you can't, and then that need just automatically becomes so much harder to ignore? Like that itch on your foot that you know you can't reach because you have a shoe on and you're not about to take your shoe off in public? That's what it feels like now when I feel like I have to stretch in public. Struggles.

- This is Elvira's pile of ***IRONED*** things. Yes, it is a pile of towels and sheets. Yes, I did say ironed.

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Things That Are The Same:

- Feria is prom, except for women of all ages (0-100, seriously). I came to this realization the other day when Lucía and Elvira were discussing Lucía getting a new "traje" (dress) this year and they were talking about white dresses. Lucía was saying how she shouldn't get a white dress because she has pale skin, and Elvira started telling me about how when women get white dresses for La Feria they spend the prior three months tanning (naturally or otherwise) and I just realized how familiar that sounded. I can't tell you how often people discussed the issue of tans and white dresses and being tan and going tanning and the struggle of it all when it came to prom. SIGH don't miss that. But La Feria, in that respect, reminds me a lot of prom.

- Triana is like Cumberland.. Sometimes it feels like it takes a lot of effort just to leave your little space and go out into El Centro (the main part of Sevilla), or in the case of Cumberland, another town.

Ok. That's it. Until next time xoxo!!

Oh, PS, another side note, if anyone has any suggestions on where I could find good online classes, let me know :))

02/02/2015

Already February..??

So weird that today is February second.. Can't believe it. Now that we've settled down, trying to plan trips is a constant occupation and, still, so difficult (shout out to my mom for always planning my family's trips). Flights are cheap with RyanAir, but linking them together and getting the best price and time and everything is just wow. I've actually made a flow chart of possibilities of where we could go. Totally normal, I know. Anyway..

I just have some random thoughts and photos to share. Nothing earth-shattering. Sorry guys.

[If you don't want to hear about politics in Spain, feel free to skip right over this paragraph.] I had a really long and interesting conversation the other night with Elvira about politics in Spain. This subject in Spain is a really weird thing right now just because so much stuff is going on: lots of corruption in the government, people still very much suffering from the crisis, new party (loved by some, loathed by others) called "Podemos" (which means "we can"), and a lot of dissatisfaction with the government in general. This dissatisfaction comes from young people, who are struggling to get an education in a country where education reforms (like very big ones) have happened too often in the past ten years, and who are also struggling to find jobs after finishing their degrees (a whopping 50% unemployment rate for young Spaniards) and often have to leave the country to make any money. Dissatisfaction is also very prevalent among older generations who have lived through the crisis, lost everything they had, and seen politicians promising so much while secretly stashing millions of euros away for themselves. Elvira and I talked about all of this and compared our countries.. I never realized how far-left Spain is. Not in a radical way, but the "conservative" party is populist, which to me would normally mean a liberal party. Here, no. It seems like a lot of people are at as loss as to what to do come election time; they're tired of what they've been seeing for the past however-many years, but they aren't seeing a whole lot of promise in the rising candidates. For example, Podemos is a new party that's gotten a lot of attention in the last year or so because they're totally new and unaffiliated with the tried-and-true parties and because they promise a lot of change. They're not career politicians and they're very grass-roots based. However, they are often criticized for being idealistic: many people believe that they don't have enough experience in politics to know that what they want to do isn't what they'll actually be able to do, due to red tape and bureaucracy and the EU overseeing it all. It seems like such a perplexing and almost panic-inducing situation to me because people really are suffering, but no one really seems to be doing anything about it. I don't know. I guess we'll see come election time what happens, but for now people are kind of waiting to see where the chips fall. I think a lot of people will be watching Podemos to see where they go with their campaign, as well as the situation in Greece, which is something that could become a model for Spain in the future. We shall see.

I'm starting a project for CIEE that I was starting last semester and decided to make it into my "spring independent project" this semester. It's basically like Humans of New York (which recently raised over a MILLION dollars for a school in NY, look it up, it's amazing) but not as bold because I just don't have the courage to walk up to random people and ask for their life stories. BUT basically what I'm doing is interviewing people from Sevilla on the topic of their pace of life and how they feel about it and how it compares to what I consider to be pace of life in the States. Should be interesting. I think my intercambios going to help me out, too, so that'll be fun.

OK, pictures.

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My desk in tip top shape. Thought it looked pretty.

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La Giralda lookin' good.

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Just finished this glorious book today, thanks to Mrs. K.

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I had the chance to go see this parade with my intercambio. It was a celebration of the 200th year anniversary of the death of her school's president, a guy named Don Bosco. She goes to a Catholic school and Elvira told me later that it's one of many all over Spain and Latin America. The amount of people there was amazing, though; students, teachers, parents, former students, etc. A mini taste of Semana Santa, too.

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This is the float with Don Bosco and an altar boy.

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On Saturday, we got to go to a dog shelter outside the city and play with the pups. They were so cute :))

I went to watch the Super Bowl last night at an American bar and it was the strangest and coolest thing I've ever seen. For one, it was the first Super Bowl I've watched beginning to end and actually been really into it.. I'm not a football person, but it's the Pats, and it's the Super Bowl. But the bar was literally like a little America in the middle of Sevilla. 99% of the people there were Americans, and we all belted out the National Anthem and America The Beautiful at the beginning of the game, and it was just ever so American in the strangest and best of ways. We got wings and nachos that were definitely sub-par but tasted like God's gift to the human race. And it was so much fun. Definitely more Sea Hawks fans in that particular bar but a good contingent of Pats fans too. The game started at 12:30am here, so that was a deterrent for a lot of people-- some left before the game even started, and a lot left at half. But there were still a good amount of people there when all the excitement happened. WOOO my throat is so sore today from screaming. So exciting. Go Pats. Go America.

Alright that's all I've got. Hasta luego..!


 

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