Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Feliz Navidad

How am I suppose to sum up my first Christmas away from home with just words?

The real truth is that Christmas did not visit me this year. When the people around you don't celebrate, any day can just become a regular day. Even though we didn't celebrate Christmas it was still hard for me being away from my family, as I knew in the back of my head, that everyone was opening gifts and being with family. I skyped my family a few times and it felt as though I was watching a movie, for I knew something was happening yet it didn't seem real. I saw the living room decorated in wrapping paper and all of my aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents, yet it was as if it were a dream and when I hit the "end call" button I am brought back into reality. The reality of me being in a different family for 10 months and living a different life.
I've had battles with myself over whether or not skype has been a good or bad thing. It has been amazing for the fact that I get to see the faces of my family, because if I didn't get to see them for 10 months they would become strangers to me. Yet on the other had it has been bad...I shouldn't say bad, its just been difficult for me to "participate" in things. For example, I was skyping with my family when it came time to celebrate my 5-year old cousins birthday, its hard watching my family do things that I am normally a part of.

When it comes to Christmas here, Christmas eve is usually the more celebrated day/night. Here they have the Reyes Magos, which are the three kings who come the 6th of January. Some families celebrate just Christmas, others just Los Reyes or both. I've heard from people that the Reyes are better because there are three of them so they bring more presents. I guess that one is definitely a preference.
For Christmas Eve we had a big family dinner and then Ana and I went out with her cousin to one of her friends house's and danced and just hung out.
When you go out to a party, what time do you usually go out? Maybe 8 or 9...how about 1:30am? Yes folks I pulled my first all-night-er. I officially got in bed around 6am but fell asleep around 5am on a sofa at the party. It was quite the night, however partying all night its not really my thing, I would much rather prefer to sleep. And to add to that I'm not a big group person, even more so with people I don't know. 

                     The long dinner table and my host cousin "testing" it out
                                                 Ana, Me, Rocio
                                      Some good old swim team fun!

A bunch of the girls on the team came to the camp for a sleepover on the 25th which was quite entertaining, and it helped me realize something...my Spanish might be good in regular conversations, but when it comes to girl talk I am lost.

This Christmas will definitely be one to hit the books

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Notas, Navidad and Miles

Grades are in and I got a way to go HIGH FIVE!!!

I wasn't given grades for this semester, but a note was written at the bottom of my report card saying how pleased all the teachers are with my effort and that my Spanish is improving tremendously and that I deserve a nice holiday break. I have to say that receiving words rather than numbers is much more satisfying.
Looking back on this semester, it seems so long yet so short. I remember my first day at school and now here I am about to celebrate Christmas with a different family in a different country. It all still seems so unreal.

With Christmas and New Years fast approaching, my emotions can't seem to straighten themselves out. Am I excited, nervous, sad, scared, happy. How am I suppose to know if they all seem to take control at different times. I say this with remorse, yet I'm not really looking forward to the holidays, only for the fact that I know its going to sting a bit in the heart. But hey that's what I'm here for right? No, not the pain, but the growth that comes from the pain and the new adventures that accompany it.

How many people here would like to swim a mile...straight? Its really boring believe me. The coaches here are crazy, today we had a practice that consisted of 3x1500. Quite the horrendously boring set when your a sprinter and want to be doing about 1400 less than you actually are.

Well tomorrow is Christmas Eve - Nochebuena which means fiesta, and everyone keeps telling me that no one sleeps. I have NEVER pulled an all-nighter and the truth is that I don't think I can. I'm a guessing that I will be able to dedicate a whole post to my lack of sleep after tomorrow night.

Wish my body luck!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT

Monday, December 20, 2010

Without Words

There is so much to say about the past few days, yet I am at a loss for words.

The most difficult thing for me to do when I write is finding the words to describe my feelings, for if it's not perfect then it will not be expressing the adventures of my inner workings.
I was reminded the other day that we are our own best friend and our own worst enemy. That you are the only one that can build yourself up and on the contrary tear yourself down. With the holidays edging ever so much closer my emotions have been running a bit low, as everyone is talking about being with family I can't help but yearn to be with mine.
I've always known I'm strong, yet what I realized is that it takes strength to ask for help, encouragement and support. I sent an email to my family the other day asking for words of wisdom to lift my spirit for the swim meet we had over the weekend. I received wonderful words, but most of all I heard the words that I needed to hear the most. That everything comes from YOU. No one can do anything for you, yes they can give you words, but when it really comes down to it, your the only one there for you. The sooner you realize it the better off you will be. The reality is petrifying, but life's a challenge and we're all along for the ride.

Okay, enough emotional stuff on to the swim meet.
The meet went well, it was a really fun experience to be in a different element with the team. I got a better feel for the team. Not in a good or a bad way, just a better understanding.



                       This picture is of our 200 medley relay.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Kudos

This last week has been full of a little bit of everything.  However, to start off I want to show all of you guys this snapshot of my blogs stats. When I saw this for the first time I was shocked. Who would have thought that people all around the world be tuning into my year abroad.



I have a bunch to say in this post, but nothing is in a nice story form, so hence the following bullet points.

  • Lets begin on Saturday, which was to say the least reassuring. Just the other day I found out that there is another American living in my neighborhood, literally a 3 minute walk away. Shes been here since the beginning of September and is in the class of a kid I swim with, and no one thought of mentioning either of us to the other until 3 months later. I have to say that for me knowing that another American is here really isn't a big deal for me or at least I didn't really think that it would have a big impact on how I'm feeling in my journey so far. I was a bit wrong, because meeting a girl my age who is taller than me and is from Atlanta, seemed to reassure me that I'm not all alone and that if I need someone she is right down the road. However what I do know is that she is going to be a bad influence on me learning Spanish. Which brings me to my next point. 
  • I know that a lot of you have been waiting for this moment. The post when I say that I have dreamed in Spanish! I would love to tell you what my dreams are about, however I'm too tired to remember when I wake up. And most of the time I'm too tired to dream at all. But the other night I remembered speaking in Spanish in my dream, I only remember me saying very basic sentences, but then when I thought back I was speaking real, complicated Spanish. Lets say that the JOURNEY had begun. 
  • How many times at home have you seen a fight, and I mean a real fight...people throwing punches, etc. Its not that often now is it?! Here its normal, mostly in a fun playful sort of "guy" way, but yesterday at practice my host brother and a fellow swimmer who is a beast went at it. No punches landed, but charges were made. Its quite frightening to see how quickly a person can change. They can go from the person you always see them as, to a scary creature. And the worst part is that their team mates. A team should be like a family, not a rival gang. 
  • Being on this adventure, I need to always look at the positives, which at times can be quite a grueling task so early in the morning. However, a week or so ago I was told that I smile a lot, by a guy to whom I had never been formally introduced to, so his comment was a quick judgement, to which I was proud of myself for finding the positive in lifting. 
I'll wrap this one up for now, want to keep them short and entertaining to read. This weekend is a swim meet in Extreamadura, with a group of 16 carefully selected kids to represent Natación Mairena. Wahoo go me! 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Full Day

 So yesterday was my first day away from home for the whole day. When I say that I am referring to leaving the house at 8am and not getting home until 11pm. I endured another grueling 4 hours of exercising. Spanish swimming has not only done in my body, but has also broken down my drag suit. Literally down to its component pieces. The fabric, the elastic and the thread. I was planning on purchasing a new one in Mallorca, but since we didn't get there I had my host siblings pick me up one. I received a USA drag suit, that fits like a trash bag and drags like one too. Just what I need when my body is broken down...a couple more tons to pull around.









After training a girl on the team had her birthday party that went on for about 6 hours. It was fun, however the first few hours I was just doing my best to be present and keep my eyes open.
Straight from the party, we went into Seville for a silent comedy show. Follow the link below to see a skit on youtube.

Tricicle: waiting room skit. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Heat Wave

Today began just as any other day, with morning practice. However, we have fiesta Monday and Wednesday, which means no school until Thursday. And when there is no school, we get 2 hours of training, an hour off and then back in the water for another hour, and as all coaches love to do, its in the morning so there is no sleeping in. JOY!

Today was unusually warm. Walking outside this morning in a sweatshirt and windbreaker, I almost broke into a sweat. Which is strange, because the past couple weeks have been unusually cold for this time of year as I've been told. If I think now is relatively warm, I can't imagine how I'm going to feel in April let alone June. And to add to that, we will be training outside which means there goes my hopes for bikini lines. For I will forever be stuck with a circle on my back and a drag suit tan...my dream come true.

It seems as though all of my hard work is paying off, not in times wise yet. However, I was selected along with seven other girls to represent our team at the championship meet of Extremadura. Which is a providence above Andalucia. I'm looking forward to getting of compete outside of our region, I think in will be cool to see where I stand, as well as getting to know kids on the team a bit better.

This weekend has gone by extremely fast, as they always do, and my host siblings are due to return home this evening. I would be lying if I said I missed them. I've REALLY relished having a lot of time just to myself this weekend, and being able to go out with friends and come home all by myself. It's felt like I'm my own person, something that I've never really felt before. Not that that's a bad thing, only that for me its a new and intriguing experience.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Ridin' Solo




video 

A very common sight


Rio Guadalquivir
La Giralda towering over Seville

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Disappointment

I've decided to squeak in one last post before this month comes to a close.

I have my title has "disappointment," because no matter how little the deciding factor can be it always hits home, and maybe even more so when your 3000 miles away from your real home.
I've been waiting for a package for just around 7 weeks now. It contains some really nice stuff, that would be a total bummer to lose. A package arrived today, and we thought for sure this was the one, but it wasn't. And no matter how grateful I was to receive that package, I was unable to control my disappointment. The tears came flowing.
I have to say that for the amount of time that I have been here and the change that I am going through, I have not cried as much as I am sure I need to. It is very rare that I get time alone, and I am not a big fan of public crying.
This post is not meant to be, well the way it is. I just wanted to write about how hard it is to have expectations be crushed, or better suited, hopes.

My time is going great. My body just this afternoon, died quite hard. So it will relish this "weekend" break. This weekend we are going to Mallorca, which is in the Baleares islands off of Barcelona. Don't worry this isn't a vacation. Did you really think I would be going somewhere so soon without swimming being involved? The meet this weekend is the Championships of España, I will not be swimming since I have not been a resident of Spain for one year. However my host siblings are going to be swimming so I get the pleasure of tagging along and seeing some cool stuff...and hopefully some fast swimming.
Everyone on the swim team is really great, and I feel as though each week I get to know everyone just a little bit better. I've really been enjoying myself the past few weeks, not that I wasn't to begin with. Thanksgiving was a bit of a challenge. I got to skype with just about all of my extended family, I got all the grandparents, and missed just a few aunts. It was really cool to see everyone and their tables and turkey's. However I wasn't sure if the skyping was for the better or the worse considering, I got a little more homesick with each session.

November has been quite the month, and I am looking forward to what the next 7 months have to offer.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Quiet Flame

"There can be no transforming of darkness into light and of apathy into movement without emotion." Carl Jung

With my first real holiday away from home just around the corner, I've been feeling lost and unsure of my emotions. My mind wanders without a defined direction and my motivation is somewhere lost on another day.
It's strange for me to think that my family will be together without me. I know that it will be hard for me, but what will it be like for them. Did I make enough of an addition to the family to feel like a gap when everyone gathers, and I am not there? That sounds like a terrible sentence, because honestly I know that I was a large enough part of the family to make a gap. Its just difficult for me to imagine what they are going through. How is me being away going to effect everyone's holidays?

I know that for this year everything is going to be a little shaken up, a little different from years past.

Its hard to imagine that just one person can have an effect on many, how bonds have been built and retained, over and through tough times... for example this adventure. I feel so thankful to have so many wonderful people in my life.
I got to skype with my family on Sunday evening (per norm) and my two best friends just happened to be there. I really miss the four of us together
I just miss having them around and the wonderful energy that surrounds us all, its almost like a bubble. Talking to them was good, just like old times. Yet, it was at the same time yanking a my heart, for I want to be with them. It was hard to watch them all be together without me.



And maybe it was that skype session that a lit the quite flame inside of me that now longs for home. For something familiar and for a break, a rest from my go go go life and the need to always pay attention.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Gaining Ground

What a world wind of change, learning and growing that has graced my life in the past two months. And everyday never ceases to add something to my ever growing bucket.

This past week was a challenge. I've gotten a bit of a cold, and just need a bit of down time, however with my go go go Spanish life style, I have to go without. Leading to my emotional, and now physical collapse. Not literally, but much pain was suffered this week, as well as tears being shed.

I was able to make it through today, which was a FAN day, in regular terms...swim meet.
The morning began with the 200brst, which I was able to finish with dropping time. And then the 50brst. We don't get to swim 50's in the states so I had a lot of fun with that one. Came out with a 35.09 which ended up being a club record. Now that's cool! Here I am this strangely tall, and now grossly jacked girl from Maine, just swiping the record. And to tell you the truth, the coaches seemed a bit more pleased than I was. To me, at least right now in my "new" situation, a record means nothing. I'm just out there doing my best and if something comes of it great, but right now I'm not going for anything. Which lead to my 50fr in the relay when I split a 27.8. For me it was no big deal, me just doing what I do best, but the coaches seemed shocked...quite comical.
For the afternoon, after my 200fr (not quite a flop, but not amazing) the coach started talking about how if I want to get on the 8fr relay I have to pull out  2:15ish. I just let him talk, not wanting to burst his bubble by saying that the last thing I want to participate in is the 8fr relay. The coach here is crazy, not literally but he sure does have his moments. Just imagine, a therapist, who is into Buddhism and spiritual stuff, being your swim coach. Yes, if you guessed that he makes the strangest metaphor's, and therapy relations to what we are suppose to be doing in the water, then you are 100% correct. He's always talking about having fun and smiling and laughing in the water. Its annoying, and ridiculous! Although sometimes he has a point, and then other times I just want to burst into laughter, however that would be rude.

I feel as though I have ranted enough for now...

Monday, November 15, 2010

8 weeks...

And many more to come.

The other day on facebook another girl who is studying abroad in Spain right now wrote that she has six more weeks until she gets to see her family. That made me think about how many more weeks I have, in total it's around 34! And eight have already passed, that's a total of...a lot!

So today marks the day that I left Maine, exactly two months ago. WOW! What an adventure so far. And today was no less of an adventure than yesterday. For yesterday consisted of a lot of old teenage guys, their girlfriends (just imagine because I don't want to describe) and a bounce house. Entertaining, I would say yes. And today was a monumental day, because I took my first French test and totally flopped. I think in total I left about 5-6 answers blank because I had no idea. How am I suppose to be able to remember French vocabulary when I am just trying to get a grasp on Spanish.
The class corrected the tests after we finished and me having once again good luck got a nice girl who "fixed" some of my answers to be correct and had me write in some of the questions that I didn't answer because, well because I didn't know the answer. Its cool that people are looking out for me, even people I don't even know.

A thanks goes out to all of those people who have helped me along the way thus far, and whom I know will never read my blog.

p.s. I got a 5 on the bio test!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Ever Changing Plans

Or just wrong information.

There was no swim meet today, well there's still four more hours in the day so maybe, but lets hope not. Instead we had a practice that seemed to be made just for me, even though it was not. It was a sprint set!! Finally something that I enjoy and am averagely good at.
However my spirit was then pounded to the dirt when lifting began and then even more so when we got back in the pool for another hour. Making that a total of four hours for the day. And now here I am a little over an hour away from going to a party, running on about seven hours of sleep.

Oh, okay you are going to love this. So last night we were walking to the car after swim practice and my host mom was like, "yeah were going to celebrate Juan Maria's birthday tonight, having dinner with him and his girlfriend." I got the impression that we were going to eat dinner at home as a family, etc. However, come 9:30 and I'm skyping with a friend and the mom comes in, saying "are you ready to go," I was totally taken off guard. A little bit of miss interpretation, but I was able to pull myself together quite quickly, and then we were off. It was cool, all of us being out to dinner. I felt like part of something, and at one point I  just thought to myself, "wow this is really a reality," because I remember in January when this ball began to roll and then it just kept rolling, without me knowing really what was happening. But know here I am, so far from home, with something that was hardly a spark, now burning like a wild fire.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Reality of Tomorrow

Who know what will come tomorrow...

As for today,
we had a class excursion to the European film festival where we got the pleasure of watching a movie about out of lesson boy and their girl problems and sexual urges. If that doesn't sound bad enough, the movie was in french with Spanish subtitles. An excursion sounds fun right?! However even after the movie my brain hurt from having to read the subtitles, comprehend what I read and see what was being shown on the screen. Who knew a movie could be such hard work to watch.
My time is going well, swimming is totally draining my body as it should be, however it is not the most welcomed thing at 6:30 in the morning, nor at 9:30 at night. I feel as though I could sleep for 20 years and still wake up tired. Its always the journey that makes the experience though, right?
This weekend is going to be full of swimming, studying and partying. Saturday during the day is a swim meet, and then at night a girl on the team is hosting a party, lets hope this times there are guys. Sunday we are celebrating my host brothers birthday that was on Monday. Imagine this...our whole swim group (tons of teenagers and above) and a bounce house. This should be interesting. And in all of these exciting things, when am I going to have time to study French? Because, me being an exchange student coming to Spain to learn Spanish wouldn't want to fail French class, now would I?!

Don't worry you will be updated ASAP :)

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Lighter Note

Well tomorrow is definitely going to suck considering I just found out that I have to train from 8-10pm tonight.

My day went a little like this:
Ana was sick today so we didn't go to morning practice, well actually I just didn't wake up to go because I had no idea she was sick. Plus I wasn't totally motivated, who would be at 6:30 in the morning. I went to school by myself, and I felt like a kinder-gardener on their first day of school. I was a bit excited to go to school on my own, see what it would be like. It went fine, nothing exciting happened like I guess I was hoping would. The bio test was fine, the teacher told me that I had to answer at least 3 out of the 6 questions. Just because of me maybe taking longer than the other kids, and to tell you the truth that was a great relief, because 2-3 of the questions I had no idea what they were asking, or how to answer them.
This afternoon, my host father and I went back into Seville, for the next step in getting my student residence card. We have to make only one more trip, in about 45 days to pick up the card and then its official, I'm here to stay...at least until June that is.

My last post was a bit in the heat of the moment, however it was just what I needed to get out. And on top of that, to all of you who responded, thank YOU, because those comments were just what I needed to hear.
I understand that what my host sister is going through is just as hard as what I'm going through. Her having to share her space with a complete stranger, and include me into her everyday life. I get how hard that would be. And I what to put in a but here, but I am going to refrain.

Today is my host brothers birthday, so we are going to celebrate sometime later this week. Yes, another late school night!

Until next time...

Friday, November 5, 2010

Sadly the Truth

When I think of my blog, I think of writing about the wonderful experience that I'm having...along with a few rough posts. But something has been bothering me lately, and I want to write about it, and since it is part of the "experience" I am going to share it with you.
I am not at all trying to hurt anyone in this post, I'm just speaking MY truth.

Well here goes...
I feel like my host sister doesn't like me, or at least doesn't take me seriously. Shes always commenting on how tired I always am, and that I got 8 hours of sleep so how can I still be tired, and then after a challenging swim practice (for me) she'll say "and that wasn't even a hard practice." I just feel like she's not looking to see who I am, I feel as though she is comparing me to her. I'm a totally different person in a MILLION ways, I just wish she would stop judging.  And she's not even trying to get to know me, she has not once asked me a question about my life, where I'm from or who I am. You can't get to know someone just by reading their application.
I need a lot of sleep to begin with and then throw in 4 hours of working out and everything in a different language, I think I have the right to be tired by Monday. Obviously I'm not used to doing doubles everyday, so this is going to take some getting use to, granted I don't think I will ever get use to it, or at least the lacking sleep part, because just trying to stay awake in school sucks, let alone paying attention and comprehending.
Ana seems to think that I need her help with everything. We have a Bio test on Monday (not going to be pretty) and she came into the living room where I was studying Philosophy and said "we have a Bio test on Monday are you going to study?" Well right now is Friday night, and I'm just trying to pull myself together after a long week, why in the world would I want to study right now? And yes I'm not stupid I know we have a test on Monday, and yes I'm going to study. I just wish she would have a bit of confidence in me. I wish everyone would.
Don't get me wrong, I enjoy my host sister, its just that I've been feeling fragile and vulnerable lately, and look whats come of that. 

Okay well on a brighter note. We had a presentation in world science today, and the teacher before we (it was in groups) began, came up to me and seemed super surprised that I was going to present too. She said that just for getting up there and speaking that she would give me a good grade. For me right now its just the effort that counts! And to top it off, after reading off my paper I received a small round of applause from the class, and the presentation wasn't even over. In fact I was the first one to speak.
Good to know people are cheering me on.  

Thanks for listening...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Bits and Pieces

I feel like blogging right now, but I'm not really sure what to write about...well I have a few random things to say.

  1. We've been watching the news a lot lately, and the most recent public interest is about a 10 year old girl who is pregnant...by her 13 year old boyfriend. I'm pretty sure that when I was 10 years old I had no idea what all this stuff was. Its amazing how early kids are learning about stuff, times are a changing. 
  2. The other day is my language class, the class that I go to while my real class is in English, a girl asked me how I spell my name and I wrote it out for her, and she laughed, because she thought it was spelled Jeder. Taking for granted the fact that everything is pronounced differently here, but still...
  3. Oh, while on the name topic. At the first swim meet, when you got behind the blocks you had to tell the timer what your name was, and every time I had to write my name because no one had any idea how to spell it. One woman even asked me if my name is a rare name, and I had to tell her that I'm from the states.
I've been receiving mail, ever since I arrived, but I just want to say thank you. I know that a lot of the letters were written at my going away party, for those of you who attended. I love coming home from school or practice to find a letter sitting on my bed, a bit of good reading before bed.
I want to send a special thank you to my great aunt, Auntie Sam, because she is owning you all in the letter writing. I just received my sixth or seventh letter today:
                                Auntie Sam you rock!!

Until next time...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Fashion Across Continents

Okay, I've been asked this question a bunch and I think it would be fun to dedicate an entire post to it. So here goes:

Before leaving the states I was told that the people here in Europe are very fashionable and look nice everyday. That is a statement that is up for interpretation, because my idea of looking nice is different from the next persons.
People here dress similar to those in the states. Some looking quite nice and standing out from those who don't. A big style thing over here that I have to get use to, is that girls wear their pants with their underwear showing, like the guys in the states do. Quite a large change from the girls in the states who see how low they can wear their pants without showing their underwear.
Clashing colors and patterns is a big do. Not for everyone, but a large group of people wear a color patterned sweatshirt with a patterned scarf. It just doesn't go!!!
The most popular thing here is matching colors. And I'm not talking about multiple colors, I'm talking about wearing an outfit consisting all of one color. This is not something I enjoy doing, so when I wear a plain t-shirt with many different colors surrounding it, I stand out just a bit.

I don't really have anything else to say on this subject, because to tell you the truth its nothing exciting.
Quite a boring post :(

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Excursion

I attended my first class trip to Atapuerca, Spain.
It was great to be on my own for a bit, because my host sister didn't go, due to a championship meet in December. It was good to be able to hang out with different people, I got to talk a lot so that was really good for my Spanish. What I enjoyed the most about the trip was just being around teenagers, because my host family just has big kids and the swim team, I mean cmon their athletes, they aren't exactly the type to go out and party. It was fun to be around kids my age and do kids stuff.
Our first visit was the Catedral de Burgos, a enormous church.
The next day we visited a museum about sexual relations between the first humans, please don't ask me how we know that kind of information, because I have no idea.
Next we visited a dig site where the earliest human remains have been found.
Following the dig site we visited an archaeological park of Atapuerca
After that we got to visit a museum on human evolution, very cool.
The next day we visited a Christian monastery, more like a very ornate palace.  

Catedral de Burgos:








 Yacimientos de Atapuerca:


Parque Arqueológico de Atapuerca




Museo de la Evolucion Humano


                          http://www.museoevolucionhumana.com/home/Home/
Real Monasterio de las Huelgas


                    Roaming the streets of Burgos

Today for school, the majority of the class no-showed to we got the day off...how cool is that?!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Representation

Today was our first swim meet, it was a small, local meet, which are called FANS. Not really sure why, but I just go along with it. The pool was small and unable to host the whole team, so the older kids swam in one pool and the younger kids in another. A bit challenging to grasp the concept, but the same swim meet was going on in two different pools, just different age groups.
We warmed up in our 25m pool here and then got in a huge bus and traveled into San Pablo where the meet was being hosted. So for my first event I was going cold turkey, when it came to the block, walls, etc. A bit nerve racking, but I was able to pull out a 1:16.45 in the 100br, which correlates to a 1:08.4 in yards. Not too shabby for being in the water for a little over a month. Just as I had expected, all eyes were on me as I swam, which put a bit of pressure on me to want to perform well. So glad I was able to.

One of the things that I've been thinking about lately, is that I don't want a rivalry to come between Ana and I because we both swim breaststroke. I swam faster than her today by 2sec, but her back's been bothering her so she hasn't really been training breaststroke. She's more of a longer swimmer, like 2br and 4im, which are definitely not my elements.
The time that I went in the 100br is the cut for the championships of Andalucia (the providence that I am living in), so looks like I will be competing some more. My 100fr was fine 1:04.15 which correlates to 57.3 so pretty good, nothing special.

After that session we had about 2hours for lunch and a nap before heading back to the pool for warm up, then the bus to the pool. The afternoon was the 200br (2:51.49), ugh... And then the 100im (1:11.43), the coach was pumped because my time is either a new team record or super close! I was right next to a kid on our team (Ale) who just turned 16 and has Spain's record in the 100bk for 15year olds. I was keeping up pretty well, considering I'm a girl...I totally owned him on the start and we were even-ish at the first turn, and then came backstroke, and I'm sure you can imagine what happened. Wow who would have thought I could hold my own against these Spainards.

Over all it was a pretty good experience, I feel as though I represented my state pretty well, and now I'm looking forward to seeing what the rest of the season holds.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Culture Shock...or just Broken Down

I hope its hit because I would love to put a word to the way I felt these past few days. Its seems so small and innocent the ways I've been feeling lately. Its nothing over powering, and nothing that i can't handle, but they keep adding up. And yesterday I cracked.

The day began with morning practice, as usual. My body is crazy broken down right now, I leave the pool shaking! So I've been just floundering my way though the practices lately, trying my best, but right now the best I can do is not drown.
School began with an exam in CMC, whatever that is. It was on early human life forms. Today in class the students graded them, which to tell you the truth I think is a bit lazy on the teachers part, but whatever. Luckily my test was given to a nice quite girl, and she was super nice when it came to grading. I'm not sure if it was because I'm the foreign exchange student or just because. Anyway, when it came time to reading the grades aloud, I was super nervous that I was going to be utterly embarrassed. But when the teacher said Heather, and my grader said 7.15, I thought she was joking! And then just to make sure I was embarrassed the class gave me a round of applause. Yea...I passed. For all of you who are wondering how in the world I passed with a 7, here you go. Here in Spain the grading is from 0-10.
Now to swim practice. UGH! We did some annoyingly boring set, 30x100's. And I was dying hard, and then of course when a few of the girls encouraged me I just burst into tears. That was the last straw for me, my body being broken down has evoked numerous emotions, and diminished the barriers that were to hold them back in public places. I was done after that, I talked to the coach for a bit, he's a therapist (just like my daddy!) so I got many Spanish words of wisdom. Maybe not exactly what I needed at the moment, but what could I do. I then proceeded to take my first long hot shower...and it was only 20min. And then to wrap up the day perfectly, I had tutoring, lifting and then a team meeting that I didn't understand and didn't end until 9:30! Then home, eating and to bed as fast as I could possibly manage.
Today was a bit better, although morning practice hurt like hell and I wanted to shoot myself...so maybe it wasn't a little better. School was boring, however I'm beginning to use my math book from my school, which I'm super pumped about, and now during Physics and Chemistry I get a free period to chill in the library and try and learn what the teacher's talked about in today's class. Specifically Biology. It was great to have an hour just for me, that was really the first time I've gotten to be alone with myself since I've gotten here.
Practice was better...I was going to ask the coach if I could not swim because my body is like a pile of mush and if he wants me to be able to move this weekend at our first swim meet, that I need a day off. However just as I was about to tell him, he pulled the "well you were kicking for about a week with your ears, so your just getting back into it, and it's totally normal the way you are feeling" card. Just my luck! I made it through the practice though save and sound, and in the end that's all that really counts.

This past weekend we visited the Virgen del Rocio and the beach.
 Me and the family plus the two grandmothers. The pics aren't that good because the sun :(



                                         Keep going and you will reach my house!!!

And finally the long awaited picture of....the pool.




This is the afternoon and Tuesday morning pool, 33.5 meters.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

My Brain Hurts

With everything now in a different language I have to always be on, which leads to my brain being totally fried my the end of the day, if not sooner. School is especially tooling on my ever expanding cranium. So far at least once each day I have wanted to just curl up in a ball and cry. I'm overwhelmed and tired of having to concentrate every single moment. However on a good note, my Spanish comprehension is expanding quite terrifically.

I experienced my first fiesta on Monday night, for the birthday party of a girl on the swim team. It was an all girl party, :(, but was still fun. There was a lot of dancing and I learned La Sevilliana, which is a traditional dance here in Seville and is a must know for the Feria, which is a week long festival in the spring. I'm not very good at the dance...yet, I just need more practice. I was a bit shy when it came to the dancing, because we hardly ever dance in the US, so I'm not completely sure with what I'm suppose to do. I just need more practice and opportunities to dance. I realized that it is a bit more challenging to dance to songs that you don't know, especially those in a different language.
A girl at the party told me that I look Spanish, with my oval face and dark hair. I wasn't really sure how to take that, but I took it as a compliment.

Swimming is going well, I'm working on adjusting myself to all of the different ways of training. Lifting here is a regular, and I've never really lifted before so I'm having to get use to that. I'm not really a fan of lifting, I have to say I'm more of a sucker for the body weight stuff.
Practice is interesting.
Yesterday was a 1500 for time, although not fast, a pulse rate (PR) of about 23. Mine was about 27 and I was the last one to finish. If that doesn't scream "I'm not a distance swimmer" I don't know what does. Well maybe also that fact that I died after about a 300. After that we did 15x100's and then another 1500. I was beat and on the verge of sinking by the time practice finally ended.
Today was a "test." It was 3x100's race from the blocks, best stroke. I did breaststroke (1:25.1 1:27.9 1:26.4) not too shabby and the coach was quite pleased.
This weekend I found out that in December we have a meet in Portugal!! And then in January or February seven of the fastest boys and girls are going to Italy to train for a chunk of time. How cool would that be?!?!?
I'm not really sure yet where I stand on the team, speed wise, but we have a meet next weekend, so I will be finding out. I have no idea if there is even a chance of going to Italy, but one can dream right?

Tomorrow is the one month mark since I left home on the 15th of September. I'm not really sure how I feel about it. When I think about it I wonder where the time has gone, because I can tell you how I felt the day I said goodbye. The though makes me want to cry. I still can't believe that I said goodbye to my family, that I had the strength to say goodbye to my family. Everything still seems like a dream, yet it all seems so real at the same time.


                                                            El Campo

On Monday I went into Seville with my host father Juan to get my student residence card. We when to La Plaza de España.


The building was a half circle and around the perimeter was a map and the name of each of Spain's Providence's.


Until next time...

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Conforming yet Exploring

I can't help but wonder how I have the strength to keep going when the times get rough, or to even have the strength to embark on this adventure. Was I born with this adventure already planned for me? How is it that one gains the characteristics that lead them to do unimaginable things?

I made my first official purchase yesterday at Adidas. Ana had to get pants for dry lands ( I have no idea how these people workout in pants, I would most definitely have a heat stroke ), so I was just wandering the store and saw a pair of shoes and was bored, so I tried them on, and what do you know...I bought them. Don't worry they were only 9euros, on sale. I under estimated the weather here a bit, and really only have one pair of close toed shoes, my sneakers...how fashionable. Here everyone wears "bambas" which are sneakers, but are fashionable sneakers.

So...here's my purchase, to me there not really Heather, and I can't help but smile at myself. What do you think?!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Little Heart to Heart

Had my first truly different experience this afternoon.

My ears have really been bothering me these past few days, with all the hours I seem to be spending in the water. So I decided to take the night off and just give my exhausted mind and body a break. I went to the pool anyway, after the doctors appointment to get my drops, to talk to Antonio (the head coach) about my ears and just update him about everything in general.
Upon entrance the overwhelming perfumes and heat wave greeted me a bit to happily, along with the coaches topless, hairy chest. Here everything is very close, so he put his arm around me and we walked to some chairs to sit and talk. He told my host mom to go home and that he would drop me off at home on his way to his radio show. And then he promptly invited me to his house for dinner! Along with my host sister and Eaula, the teams educational director.
Our conversation traveled through many different levels: my family, my likes and interests, his dog, his love of flamenco dancing. He said a lot of stuff that I agreed with, when I asked him who the best swimmer on the team is, he replied with "the best swimmer is the one we can't see." Quite appropriate. I was surprised at the amount of topics I understood and was able to contribute to.
I received many humorous looks from fellow swimmers and many mocking smiles.

Quite an interesting experience. And now I have to stay up until 10:40, when dinner is, and considering I've been having trouble just keeping my eyes open during school, tomorrow is going to be quite the day.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Strange Waters

A little bit of everything has happened lately.

However regarding the swim team, I’ve begun to notice what I do and do not like about the training. It’s all distance here. The coach loves long boring sets, which for the kind of swimmer that I am, does not at all suit my needs. However we are in the beginning of the season so meterage does need to be put in to boost back up the endurance. Another thing, everyone here cheats! And when I say that, I mean they cut turns like birthday cake. Just think...oh I’m a little too far behind the person in front of me, or I want to pass this person, I’ll just cut the turn out entirely. And one more thing, technique is definitely not the priority here, because, streamlines seem nonexistent, turns are wide open, and I saw someone dive in with there arms apart!
Any way the good things are that everyone is super nice and I enjoy going to practice. The regimen here is very intense, you have to double up 4 days a week. Which means morning and night practice, and if you don’t then you have to do more on Saturday.
What I’m struggling with is the fact that I’m here in Spain to get the whole experience and not just have swimming be my whole life like it was at home. I don’t want to not be able to hangout with friends, or go visit cool places just because I have practice. The other day at school, I was talking with my Spanish teacher and she said that the school does excursions, both during the year and at the end of the year. She said that last year they took and trip to Berlin for a good chunk of days. And that in the end of October they are doing a trip to a city above Madrid. I think that it would be a great way to practice my Spanish and to meet new people while seeing different parts of Spain. Now I just need to figure out how to tell this to my host family, because swimming is everything for them, and I don’t want it to be everything for me. Don’t get me wrong I want to get faster, it’s just that this is a once in a life time experience.

Food:
the food here is very different from what I am use to...veggies! Here olive oil is consumed as though it is water, and mayo as...I don’t know what, but it is eaten with everything. French fries and mayo, cheese dipped in mayo, sandwiches slathered in mayo. You name it, mayo is eaten with it. I’m not a big fan of mayo, so I just pass when offered. Bread here is eaten with every meal, and not just boring bread, I’m talking about giant baguettes. Yesterday I had a sandwich, except...I’m sure you know someone who likes their sandwich without the crust, well this bread came without the crust! That was the first time I had seen anything like that.

Yesterday night, well night for me, afternoon for them, I skyped my family while they were at a family friends house whose dad speaks Spanish very well, so he was able to talk to my host family, which seemed to put them at easy. It was a very strange, but good, experience to see my family and my host family being able to see each other basically face to face. Skyping was really great, it was good to see my family and friends, they all look the same which is a good thing in my eyes.

I had my host mom and Ana help me correct my first Spanish paper, for Biology. I had to write about why biodiversity is a good thing and necessary for our survival. And now I have to read it to the class tomorrow...all eyes on me...the strange girl from Maine...the state that no one knows. I need to begin carrying around a map with me!

Lets hope I can channel a bit of my Spanish accent...

Friday, October 1, 2010

One Step Closer...U2

Wow! A world wind of a week has past.

A little over a year ago I was given the opportunity to go and see U2 in concert with some swim friends. It ended up being one of the best nights of my life. Ever since then I have always wanted to see U2 again, the concert was life changing.
Now here I am in a different country, on a different continent for that matter, walking through the groucery store with my host mom and spot a sign that announced the arrival and concert of U2 on the 30 of September, only a week or so away. My mind was racing...how can I get tickets, I already saw them in concert, plus here I am in a different country with my less then adiquate spanish. Yet monday at school, Adriana ( a fellow classmate, who speaks english yet is spanish ) mentioned that she was going to go see U2 Thursday night. Again my mind was rolling. She got her ticket for 60euro which is the equvilent of approximately $80. Luckily due to La Huelga ( strike ) on Wednesday, Rocio, my host mother was in Seville and stopped at the store that Adriana had gotten her ticket and was able to get me mine.

Entrada General
Puerta Tunel Sur

Thursday was a long day: beginning with a field trip to Seville to visit a Biology exsibit. Once the field trip ended, we hurried to Seville's Olympic Stadium, where we met up with some of Adriana's friends and commenced standing in line for 2 1/2 hours. The previous concert that I had been to, was a bit more comfortable and luxurious. Riding to Boston in a limo, having dinner and then taking our perfectly posistioned seats. This time however, seemed to really embody the concert experience. Hot, sweaty and a lot of standing, running and sitting on other people.
Once we got into the stadium we got a premium spot only a few feet from the outside circle of the stage. It was incredible.

3746082204_68406fc970.jpg U2 360 Stage picture by Philippa_A 
Once we had gone to the bathroom one last time and I got a t-shirt, we again waited another 2-3 hours, before Interpol kicked off the night. The waiting was misreable, crazy hot out with tons of people tightly compact, with very little water. Interpol were good, but we wanted U2! Interpol was on for a little less then an hour and then at least another 45min until U2 took the stage. The stage for this tour is a rocket ship so the beginning of the concert was...freaking amazing. ( I tried to load my video, but for some reason it can't so I will try and put it on FB or on my other blog ).




                                     me & Adriana























































I was shaking and tears were streaming down my face I was so happy and if it hadn't been so hot in there I would have been covered in goose bumps. I couldn't and still can't believe that I was there, after everything that I've gone through in the past few weeks. This was just the time to let everything go and dance and sing like there was no tomorrow. The concert was unreal, amazing and over all fantastic. Being so close was so much fun, we were so close to the stage and the band, and the music was so loud that I could feel by body vibrating.
That night was probably the most fun I have had this entire trip so far.

I love you...U2 and thank you for making these hard times a little better


Monday, September 27, 2010

The Bloody Truth

Everything here has its pros and cons in my eyes because it is very difficult not to compare to home.


On Friday night the swim team that I am swimming on had their annual distinctions gala. Yes gala! It was a big deal, we had to get super dressed up and Ana even went and got her hair cut just for the occasion. It was fun in the beginning, being with all the kids that I'm swimming with, but out of the pool. Everyone is really nice and I feel very comfortable around them. The speaking and award giving seemed to go on forever...the boring part considering I didn't understand 90% of what they were saying. However I had to go up and received a "welcome award." Walking up there in front of a hundred plus people, being the "strange foreign girl" with all eyes on me, my heart felt like it was going to leap out of my chest. I was able to make it on and off the stage without embarrassing myself too much, despite the loud cheering sounds that came from the sections where all my fellow swimmers were sitting, when my name was called. The diploma that I received made me laugh because it said, basically, we hope you have a long stay on this team. And considering I'm only going to be here for less than 10months, that put a smile upon my face.
                                               Ana is to the right of me in this photo

 me and Andrea, the first day we met she was sooo excited and was practically bursting with excitement.

This past weekend we went to my host family's country house and that was really hard for me, because I was extremely home sick and just needed to talk to my family. Eventually I was able to get Madeline to call me, through Facebook (handy at times) and I talked to everyone in my family. Taking up just about 2hours of my afternoon, and I could have talked many more. Just hearing their voices made me feel better. Yet that only lasted a couple of hours before I wanted to talk to them again. I love you M2H2O!!!
On Sunday a ton of family came over. Brothers and sisters of my host parents, as well as both grandmothers and cousins...many kisses. One of the grandmothers made me feel so comfortable and seems like someone I could talk to. Reminds me of both of my amazing grandmothers. The cousins and everyone else was really nice and open to me being there.

Okay a few last points:

  • I feel as though I have totally lost all of my privacy, because here the house is the moms house, so she comes into our room and organizes my things, or smelled where my clothes are kept and decided that it smelled bad and went and got an aroma stick which is now an overwhelmingly powerful smell...makes me want to mass out everytime. But I can't say anything because it's her house.
  • Spain's version of extreme makeover home edition is way cheesy compared to Ty and America's version, FYI. 
  • While all the cousins were at the country house they were trying to explain to me youtube, and they were spelling it (verbally) and I was like "there is no such word in English." Finally I figured it out...how embarrassing. 
  • I talked at swim practice today...to the coach because he was asking how it compared to Seals, and I told him. He says he loves distance, just my luck. For example we did 8x400's today.
  •  Had my first test today...chemistry, naming and writing formulas...we didn't get to use the periodic table so I'm pretty sure I failed, although some kids got 1's (scale to 1-10) so maybe I won't be the lowest score, unless I get a 0!!
  • U2 is coming to Seville!!!! The concert is on Thursday in the Olympic stadium in Seville, and I just might be able to get tickets, send me your good musical vibes. It seems meant to be.
  • To be continued for days to come...

    p.s. bloody because I have to get blood drawn sometime this week for the team so that they can see if I'm healthy or not...help me!!