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


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

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 cool is that?!

Saturday, October 23, 2010


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 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 fashionable. Here everyone wears "bambas" which are sneakers, but are fashionable sneakers.'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.

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 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