Thursday, September 15, 2011

One Year Ago...

The 15th of September has come again, yet this year under very different circumstances. Exactly one year ago, I was sixteen and embarking out into the world without anyone to rely on but myself. It was the beginning of me growing up, of getting not only my foot outside of the door to independence, but my whole body as well. Freedom had at last reached my freckle laden face.
Looking back upon my 365 day younger self, I seem to be a child, so ignorant and unexplored. Setting off into the world seemed to have the same effect as a firecracker upon me. I was lite up, I bloomed and now I'm a firework with no end to the things I can do. I feel unstoppable. 

My second weekend in Spain, I attended my swim teams end of the season gala. Of course now I wish I could attend again, for I now have an emotional connection with the people, team and experience. It is something that is a part of who I am now. And so when my host sister asked me to make a video for the gala tomorrow evening I agreed, although maybe with a bit of hesitation. So I thought for the first time I would give you guys a look at me speaking Spanish, and so for all of you who have been begging me to talk to you in the unique romantic language, I hope you enjoy.


Getting back into school has been tough, but it has been good in the sense that I am no longer wallowing in my room for hours on end. It is good to be back to a regimen, but at the same time I feel confined. Even though it may be good for me to get back into it, I feel even more lost than ever. My partner in crime has already established herself without me around, leaving me know where to fit in. I don't know where to begin, and I find myself wondering why I can't meld in, here in my own country, when I seemed to do it so effortlessly abroad. I mean shouldn't it be easier here?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sinking In

It is finally beginning to hit me that I am home. I guess that maybe I shouldn't call it home, because home is where the heart is and at the moment my heart is still in Spain.
Getting back is hard. Everything is not the way I left it. I have to recreate a life here. I did not keep in touch with anyone, aside from a handful of people, which now leaves me bored and alone most days... well the majority of the days actually. I don't even want to begin to think about school again, considering the first day is going to be the worst. People always talk about the first day of school as being awesome, yet I'll just be glad when its over.

We just finished up with our family vacation to the beach which was actually really nice. I was surrounded by a large majority of my family and had a very safe circle for my re-entry process. Thank goodness for big, noisy families.





Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cultural Differences

As I have been immersed in the American cultural for a handful of days now, I've been taking note in all of the cultural differences. All the small and or large things that are different from one country to another. 

Let the contrast wars begin...


http://us.cdn2.123rf.com/168nwm/zentilia/zentilia0807/zentilia080700152/3279356-3d-rendering-of-a-badge-with-the-american-flag.jpg










In America:
  • there are stop lights
  • a large majority of the cars hold more than five people
  • people will go to the super market in their pajamas
  • everything is rushed...don't want to waste time
  • everything happens earlier



http://us.cdn3.123rf.com/168nwm/zentilia/zentilia0807/zentilia080700150/3279309-3d-rendering-of-a-badge-with-the-spanish-flag.jpg










In Spain:
  • there are round-abouts instead of lights
  • all cars are small city cars, five people maximum
  • people will get dressed up just to go to the super market
  • time is limitless, why rush things when you can go at a nice comfortable pace
  • everything happens later

I have to say, before spending a year abroad,  I was fine going to the store in grungy clothes, and I didn't mind eating dinner at 5:30pm, which should technically still be the afternoon. However, after a year of adjusting myself to looking nice just to step outside or to eating dinner at 11pm, I'm having a challenge readjusting to the oh so popular American ways. 
What has really been the hardest for me to welcome back into my life again is the time schedule. I had to work really hard at the beginning of the year to adjust myself to the Spanish time cycle and now when my family begins heading to bed around 9:30-10, I'm just left alone trying to figure out something to do... and reminiscing is what usually ends up happening, which isn't the greatest idea, because I always end up feeling more lost in life than when I began.

I would love to say that transitioning back into my old life is easy, but that would be far from the truth. I feel like an alien from mars, and I can't quite figure out what I am suppose to be doing.

    Wednesday, July 20, 2011

    Home Sweet Home... ?

    Its strange how time changes somethings while to others it leaves them the same. While in this past year I have changed considerably, while almost nothing has changed here in Maine. Well sure... the pool may have new flags, or the construction project that began last summer is further along, but I thought something exciting might have happened here this year in correspondence with my exciting year abroad. Although deep down I knew that I was coming back to all the same things I had left.

    I feel completely and utterly lost in my own home, in my own country. My first night in my house I actually was a bit scared. The house is so big and my bed room is like an elephant compared to my mouse sized room in Spain. Its as though I don't know the house or the neighborhood, yet everything is so familiar. I went out to run errands for my mom the other day, after my family finally convinced me to get back behind the wheel again, and I felt like I was running errands on Mars. I had no idea what I was doing, I was wandering around in a daze and had to think before I spoke other wise everything would have came out in Spanish. I've had times when I get frustrated that no one speaks Spanish. I can't express myself the same. I'm speaking in English but the words come out in the Spanish order. I'm a mess.

    My room has been a mess since I got home, and it even overwhelms me to try and clean it up, so it is being organized little by little. I've found that about half of the stuff in my room I want to get rid of. I'm ready to reinvent my personal space, bring in my new and improved self.

    I can't say its not nice to be home, because, in a way it is. Although when people tell me its so "great to have [me] back," I can't respond that its great to be back, because I really had a great thing going over there. I felt like I fit in.

    I've kind of been avoiding blogging, because I, myself am having a very difficult time deciding how I feel and it doesn't seem fair to me to be writing to you guys about how I feel, when I'm not really sure of how I feel.
    I'm going to pace the exporting of my emotions in the posts so keep your self up dated and I promise the days in between posts will shorten.

    Sunday, July 3, 2011

    Hola y Adios

    In the past week or so more than enough emotions have been felt for the remainder of my life time...

    Welcoming my parents back into my life was both exciting and scary. I wasn't sure if I wanted them to be here and then on the other hand I couldn't wait for them to meet everyone. Waiting for my family to come through those doors was nerve racking, a few times I had to grab onto my host brother's arm to assure myself that everything was going to go fine. Seeing them come through the doors was the strangest thing, here I've been this whole year by myself and then out of the blue my family enters. Tears were running down my face even before I got to my mom. It was the classic reunion scene, the two people hugging and crying with all the random people staring at them like their ridiculous.
    My two family's got along like they were long lost friends, everyone laughing and having a good old time together, totally disregarding the language barrier. It was cool watching them all get along so well, everything just seemed to click.


    Saying goodbye to my life here was WAY harder than I thought it would be. I knew that saying goodbye was going to be hard, but I definitely did not expect to have my heart broken the way it was...
    I ended my last few days with my team at our championship meet, and I could not have asked for a better way to end my time with them than a weekend of fast swimming, cheering, lots of smiles and tears.

    The meet went well, I finished with a bang tying for 2nd in the 50 breast stroke and assisting in a strong feminine 2nd place finish. Friday night after our team meeting type thing they put on a movie with music and pictures summing up my year with them and than gave me a framed picture of the team. Even before the movie began I was in tears, I couldn't do anything to stop crying, the tears just kept on running.
     
    The last day of the competition was emotionally tolling. The team made me feel so special. They were all chanting my name, and then I was chosen to go up and receive the first place trophy for the combined points and then after the team picture I was swung into the pool, clothes and all.
    Saying goodbye was down right heart braking, I couldn't stop crying and when I saw the bus turn the corner and disappear from my view I felt as thought a part of me had been torn away.
    I didn't realize how large a part of me I had put into the team until I saw it drive away. They were my life here and I really can't imagine my life or this past year without them. Never in my life have I ever put so much of myself into something for fear that it would be all ripped away, yet this year without even noticing, I gave my year abroad everything and in the end Spain is the one that has my heart. The goodbye's that were said are not forever, because this place is where I am meant to be...

    Friday, June 24, 2011

    The Joining of Worlds

    It is unreal to think that I'm going to see my family in less than 24hours. I knew it was coming, but when you think about it this whole year has been: "oh, I get to see my family in a few months" yet now here I am just a handful of hours away.
    I don't know if I'm ready to welcome them into my Spanish life. I've kind of liked just having something that no one else can have, something all to myself. And the fact is that this year has been something that I will never be able to share with anyone else, no matter how hard people may try and understand. This year has made me into the person I am going to be in the future...

    I'm having a really difficult time collecting my thoughts, so once all of this craziness has passed I will sit down once again and put my scrambled thoughts to the keys.

    Sunday, June 12, 2011

    17 and Confused

    Seventeen is definitely not your normal age to have lived in a different country for 9 months and to have created a whole new life for yourself. Nor is it the age to have to say goodbye.

    I'm still astonished at how fast 9 months has all of the sudden turned into 13 days. I remember the 15th of September as thought it was yesterday. Me sitting all by myself in my room, preparing to leave and trying to soak up everything, have it become a part of me so that I would always have a bit of home for when the times got rough. I remember picking my sister up from school and us all eating lunch in the car while driving down to Boston. And then came the goodbye... I remember it seeming easier for me to say goodbye than it was for them, although deep down, pieces were falling apart. I remember me being the strongest 16 year old self I could be when I watched my life walk out the door, and a new one waiting for me in the room right behind me. And that's when it all began...

    Now here I am so close to seeing my family, yet so far away from everything. It is scary to think of what is to come, and the worst part is that I have no idea where I stand emotionally, I am totally and utterly lost. I don't know if I want to be there or if I want to be here. One moment here the next there. I want one thing from here and another from there. I want people from here and people from there. I feel as though I'm lost somewhere in outer space, with my life flying towards me at top speed, yet I'm just struggling to get rid of the blind fold and figure out what I want.

    I am 100% lost in an emotional battle...

    Saturday, June 4, 2011

    Until The Dawn

    I've lived in Spain for a little over 8 months now and up until Thursday night I had never been to a discoteca. I guess that might have something to do with the fact that I choose to swim this year, and also that I'm under age. Everything is Spain begins 3 years earlier than things back home.
    When you think of a Thursday night, what do you see? Of course the answer is going to be different for everyone depending on the age, however for me, when I think of Thursday I don't think of taking a nap at 9pm and heading out in a dress and heels around 12pm. When in Spain do as the Spaniards do!
    I have to say I've never really been to a huge party at all so I wasn't really sure what to expect, but I definitely was not disappointed. Since the end of the school year is arriving, the "seniors" are finishing up school and Thursday night was the graduation and then of course the after party, which was what I went to. I went with a couple people from swimming and met up with some girls on the team who were also graduating.
    The discoteca was a big dark room just beating with music. It was fantastic to just throw everything away and just dance. Just let loose and be yourself.
    I arrived home around 6:30am. Of course I was tired, but there is something about being free that lifts everything off your shoulders and your just you.



    With my last few weeks ahead of me, I'm just trying to live here and now, not try and pull away which is turning out to be very difficult. I just want to leave without having to say goodbye, because I know that is going to be the hardest part...

    Wednesday, May 25, 2011

    In A Blink

    It seems as though just a few months ago I arrived, and now here I am one month away from seeing my family. I remember having to say goodbye to my family as vividly as though it was yesterday, it was something that I could have never imagined doing nor how I would react. Now here I am, after months that have gone by both fast and slow, getting ready to welcome my family into my Spanish life, and I am once again questioning how I'm going to react. I'm feeling emotionally confused when it comes to leaving. A part of me wants to stay and a part of me wants to go, and I'm having a bit of trouble straightening out my feelings, in a way its as though I've been brought back to the beginning of September...

    Friday, May 13, 2011

    Italia

    Now, I never imagined getting the opportunity to study abroad in Spain, let alone getting the opportunity to travel to Italy for swimming and a bit of sight seeing.
    To sum the experience up, I think the word spectacular would fit in quite well. The first day, was a bit challenging for me with the language, because it was as though I was once again brought back to ground zero when it came to communication skills. However it was nice to have people there that did understand me, either in Spanish or in English, and in Italian, well chao, prego and gratzie, were about the only words I took away from that experience. What amazed me was the fact that I was understanding things by the end of the trip, I could have a conversation with the coach almost perfectly. Once you learn one romantic language, you can understand them all... quite convenient.

    FLORENCE:








    VENICE:


    Our team captain

    please take a good luck at this picture, the bird and the boy. Of course I have another version, but I thought this one was a bit more interesting

    our trip coincidented with the arrival of the Pope, you could say we killed 2 birds with one stone, sight seeing Venice and seeing the pope, all in one long, wonderful day.

    Our girls team and one Italian

    Group foto!
     
    FAENZA:
    al agua

    equipacion y todo


    I never imagined that I would ever travel to Italy, and let alone under the circumstances that I did. At moments I felt emotionally touched, I feel as though this year, I'm the luckiest girl in the world, it seems as though everything is going perfectly.

    I have to say that this trip made me realize just how much a part of this team I am, and want to be. Leaving is going to be the ultimate challenge...

    Sunday, May 1, 2011

    Flamenco

    With "La Feria" beginning tomorrow, I thought I would give you guys a look into the tradition that the US lacks. The week of Feria, is basically a huge week long fair, filled with dancing, partying and of course the Flamenco dresses:





    You know your in Seville, when your surrounded by "La Sevillana." Seville's traditional dance...why doesn't Maine have a traditional dance, it sure does bring people together and makes everyone feel part of something bigger. 

    Saturday, April 23, 2011

    Semana Santa

    If one word had to be put to the wonders of Semana Santa, I think that I would put breathtaking.  Seville seemed to become a whole different city; the streets filled with people from different countries all united with the same curiosity to take part in a world renowned week.

    During the week of Semana Santa, which could literally be translated into "holy week," about 8 parades called "pasos" walk the streets each day. They consist of Nazarenos, people dressed similar to the KKK, however the colors vary. The Pasos can consist of as many Nazarenos as they want, the largest this year had about 2500, I believe. The Pasos each have 2 floats: the first of Christ and the second is of the Virgin Mary. The floats which are also called Pasos are carried by people called Costaleros, usually large men, each carrying about 50kilos. Quite a marvel.
    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_ZhCE2Q14w5o/TNl2MBM58bI/AAAAAAAAATU/XVtv-XNm8HI/s1600/costaleros01.jpg
    Costaleros  

    http://lolamantilla.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/nazarenos2.jpg
    Nazarenos
    http://media.laopiniondemalaga.es/semanasanta/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/semanasanta_20090405_205552.jpg
     Paso de la Virgen

    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_kBZNUtH7UTs/S7sC-Gflb_I/AAAAAAAABOw/oe2glUbRhzA/s1600/fiestas-semana_santa-sevilla-san_bernardo-img-1.jpg
    Paso del Cristo      
     


    The above video is a collaboration of a few videos I took of this past week. Hope you guys enjoy.

    Wednesday, April 13, 2011

    The Moment Is Now

    I haven't put much thought into this post, other than the thought that I have to post sooner or later, because it has been too long. I'm really working on just being here in the moment right now considering the days left compared the days that have already passed is like comparing a mouse to an elephant.

    This is my life now, the joy and pain (literally) are part of it, are part of everything. I've been thinking to myself lately, doing a lot of reflecting on the journey that I have already traveled, and the truth is that I am going to come out of this a whole new person. It is as though I've magnified a little bit of everything and added a bit of glitter. I'm curious to see how my new self will fit into my old life.

    I am sitting here writing with my entire body crying out in pain. I got my butt kicked today. We mixed dry lands and swimming together today and  it was like a mini biathlon. Oh and add in the 90 degree weather and you've got the perfect conditions. All there is left to do is get myself out of bed tomorrow morning and hit the pool before school. Nothing new, just part of my Spanish life. I will definitely be taking away a different sort of experience and vocabulary than the rest of the other exchange students. Unique.

    Next week is Semana Santa!

    Sunday, April 3, 2011

    A Way Of LIfe


    I can't imagine myself going home right now. I feel like I'm making my own little life for myself here: the daily routine, the friends and the family. It's been a challenge for me to open up to people here because I know that I'm going to be leaving, yet these past few weeks I've begun just letting myself be me. And the truth is that everyone is here for me, and I know that I've made a big enough impact on people that they will be just as affected when I leave as I will be.

    Our school... or more our class is going to Berlin, Germany for their end of the year trip and I opted out. One due to the money factor, but also for the opportunity to go to Italy with my swim team. (WOW! I just said MY swim team) something is changing in me. Anyway, on my birthday eve, I found out that I was chosen as one of the 5 girls to go! It was quite the wonderful birthday surprise. So instead of taking the SAT's on May 7th I will now be swimming in another country...not that I'm not doing that already. Just goes to show how straight my priorities are for the future.

    So Friday for school we went into Seville with our class for an excursion to the scientific parliament for kids. Defiantly wouldn't say it was the best trip, but it was interesting. When it was time to head back to school Ana headed off to Madrid with her parents for a swim meet, and I had this feeling in my stomach that took me off guard. I didn't want Ana to leave, I didn't want her to go to Madrid for the weekend. Of course this feeling was gone by the time I got home, but it surprised me because I hadn't realized that I had formed those kinds of feelings for her.

    Birthday Girl

    We celebrated 3 birthdays in 1


    The chocolate chip cookies were quite the hit








    Championship meet in Cadiz

    A little swim team love
    I wanted to put a slideshow up but it's not letting me so I will keep trying and next post I will put up some videos.
    until next time...

    Thursday, March 31, 2011

    I'm Melting

    Today is the last day of March, and it turned out to be a hot one. Hitting 80 degrees around 7pm. It's a nice treat at the moment, yet I know that when June comes rolling around and 95-100 degrees everyday is a given, I'm going to be missing the freezing Maine waters.
    I'm planning on tapping into the suns powers this weekend, so that I can get a head start on my bikini tan. Considering come May and outside training, I'm going to look like I'm wearing my bathing suit 24/7.





    I know you guys are waiting for a post about my birthday weekend, but hold your horses. I'm gathering together all of the pictures that were taken, and putting together a little something special. Don't worry it WILL be worth the wait.

    Friday, March 25, 2011

    A Spanish Birthday

    I rang in 17 the Spanish way this year. Many embarrassing moments with people singing "happy birthday" just to me! Being a twin, I've always wondered what it would be like not to share the birthday song, however after yesterday I am more than content to share it with my sister.
    I kicked off my day with French class and getting a 2.7 on my test! I ended school with a biology presentation which my teacher thought I did super great in, however I thought the opposite because I read basically everything off the paper. Which means only one thing, I'm upping my expectations for myself in Spanish school, uh oh.
    To swim practice I brought a huge batch of chocolate chip cookies, which were gone within minutes, and my birthday gift was a balloon pink panther.



                           This seems to sum up the team <3

    Yesterday didn't really feel like my birthday, because none of the things that usually happen on my birthday happened. However one thing was the same... I opened gifts with my family. Okay that might be a stretch, I talked to my family when my sister opened her gifts and we sang to each other. It is strange celebrating my birthday all by myself.
    Today is my host sister's birthday. The truth is that if there is anyone who would have to be my other twin in a different country I would want it to be her. We are having a party tomorrow, so more pictures will be on the way.

    Thank you for all the Birthday Wishes

    Tuesday, March 22, 2011

    Summer Time

    I know that yesterday was the first day of Spring, however it felt like the middle of summer. My brain is lagging a little behind this one considering I'm still wondering where winter is. It's as if we just had three months of November and now were skipping ahead to July. I guess that's what I get for living in Maine...the state with ALL four seasons.

    This past weekend we had our championship swim meet in Cadiz. Unfortunetly, all of the sight seeing I got to do was the inside of the pool and the bus ride to and from the hotel. Although what I did see was quite beautiful...I got to see the ocean!
    The team got first over all:
                                               Our team captains

    This is the first time in the teams existance that they have won the winter championship, so everyone was pretty pumped.
    Our relay team for the 4x50 free relay placed 3rd which was super exciting for everyone because that was the first time that their girls relay had placed in over 5 years.
                    Our 3rd placing relay along with the 1st and 2nd place finishers

    I have to say that is meet really made me realize what I've become a part of, also meaning what I am going to have to leave.

                                                            My group!

    Monday, March 14, 2011

    Chocolate Chips

      Me being the very untalented and unmotivated cook that I am, took a crack at chocolate chip cookies on Sunday, which to say the least turned out to be VERY yummy. Everyone who tried them thought so too... probably due to the fact that I thought it better not to mention that they were made with a cup of butter.



                                       Elizabeth my American buddy.



    Today in philosophy (which I still do not understand), we had a debate about nature and culture and their interrelation, which to tell you the truth I did not understand at all. Of course it being a room full of teenagers and a safe area to express our true feelings, the debate went off topic and became a debate about cultures. I think this stuff is quite interesting so I was bummed that I had very little of an idea of what was going on. However, what I was able to decipher was that one kid had a totally different opinion than the rest of the class, so everything got a bit more heated which really made me disappointed that I couldn't understand.

    Oh the language barrier, I just keep telling myself it's all part of the experience and it works for everything...literally.

    Wednesday, March 9, 2011

    As The Days March On

    This post has been long over due, considering it's been well over a week and you all deserve a decent update. Well...
    Nothing too exciting has happened, yet spring is on the way which means we are already in March, and to tell you the truth that makes me a little bit nervous. I don't know where all the days are going, but they just seem to be floating away into the never ending sky. Also March is when my birthday is and this is going to be the first year that I am going to be sung "happy birthday" to alone. Being a twin I always get to share the song and not just sit there awkwardly while everyone sings at me, however this year, I guess I will get to find out what all the fuss is about being a "single" person.

    Nothing too exciting has happened this month. School is going well, at the moment I think I am passing a majority of my classes which is something to be proud of considering I'm taking all the same tests as my classmates. Sometimes I fall flat on my face, like today with a Biology test. I wasn't super duper prepared yet it wasn't like I went into the test cold turkey, however when the test was placed on my desk it kind of felt like I had. Oh the joys of Spanish school.

    We have a championship meet coming up next weekend so we are starting to taper down, which is nice because we get to do short race stuff, but then the coach puts up 3000meters of nothing productive. Such a great way to pass 2 hours of your life.
    I've been out (that is to say I've been kicking) with an injury for over a month now, tendinitis in my shoulders to be exact. The tendinitis is now gone, but my shoulders still hurt and the physical therapists for the team have come to the conclusion that my diaphragm is blocked from behind which is pulling on my back mussels and the the mussels under my ribcage which in turn are pulling on my shoulders and neck. I feel as though I'm falling apart and having to piece it all together from Spanish to English doesn't exactly help my understanding of what is truly wrong with me. Oh well, I still get to race next weekend and I guess at the moment that all that really counts. 

    Welcome March... and the rain

    Monday, February 28, 2011

    Día de Andalucía


    On the 28th of February El Día de Andalusia is celebrated. Celebrating the discovery or creation of their providence in Spain. Every year the swim team hosts a swim meet, and the above video is of the raising of the flag and the song of Andalusia.

    Wednesday, February 23, 2011

    Speaking Of...

    Speaking, and my ever growing ability to carry on a conversation without having to translate in my head before letting it slip out from between my lips.  In the past few days I have done a few things that have made me realize that my Spanish has gotten really good, okay not really good, but I'm channeling the Andaluz (the very distinct Andalusia accent) and becoming more of myself since the language barrier has been and is still being demolished piece by heavy piece.

    The first thing that I did happened on Tuesday when I got up in front of my class and gave a power point presentation on the controls of alcohol. When I found out that I was going to have to stand up in front of 20 kids, my peers, who not only speak Spanish as their primary language, but are teenagers who judge quite quickly, I was petrified and to say the least I freaked out. However after building it up in my head along with memorizing what I was going to say, getting up in front of the class seemed like no big deal since it had been build up and brought back down with my sometimes over reactive brain. So in the end I stood up in front of the class and gave my presentation with a steady voice, and still hands and the best part was that when I met some classmates eyes all I saw was encouragement.

    The second thing that made me realize that my Spanish is progressing happened today. A sly comment flew out of my mouth even before I had a chance to realize what I was saying. Don't worry it wasn't rude or anything it was just a fact stating comment which resulted in a few high fives. All in all I have come to the conclusion that I just might be getting a hang of this whole "second language" thing. How exciting!

    Monday, February 21, 2011

    The Middle Zone

    Five months past on Saturday, which means that I have entered the back half of my journey. I'm not sure if I'm happy about that or not, considering some days I have moments when I don't want to leave, and others I just want some normal Maine living.
    I have titled this collaboration of thoughts, "the middle zone" due to my dad's wonderful insight as to where I am right now in the time line of my year abroad. I have conquered the mountain of getting comfortable and am in the peaceful valley before I have to begin to part ways with the people who have formed my life for nine months. Its a very serene feeling to know that I  am right where I am suppose to be, yet on the other hand it is chilling, because how often is it that someone is on their path that leads them to grow into themselves. At times I am still shocked and speechless that I'm here. That I have made it this far and continue to have the strength and courage to do stuff that I have NEVER done before. Its like a free fall, you just have to have faith that you will come out the other side alive. Notice how I said alive and not another word, because the truth is everyone is going to come out with a scratch or two maybe more, but the real challenge is having the faith and courage in yourself to continue to the end, when the reality is that it would be much easier to climb right back up that ladder and sit watching at the top.
                        
                   "life ain't always easy, and everyday were survivors"

    I've experienced a lot of different things during these past few months, however one of the most unpleasant is being dead tired and having to go out, and then everyone just laughing at me because I'm so tired, but never getting the idea into their brain to take me home. An example of this was last Thursday when a girl on the team had her birthday party. She likes to have her party on the day of her birthday which just so happened to be a school night for me, and of course on Spain's super late watch the party didn't begin until around 10pm, which for me is the time that I like to be curled up and in my bed, however that never happens. It may not be fun, but it is always... "part of the experience."

    Sunday, February 13, 2011

    The Past Brought To The Present

    "The pain you feel is the weakness leaving your body."

    I was told this about 6 years ago by a swim coach, and each time it was said I hated it more and more. I couldn't find any relationship between what it was saying and my swimming. When I feel pain from swimming it is not weakness leaving my body, it is me over coming an obstacle. However, the quote came into my mind again this week and I finally understand what it means. All it took was 6 years and 3000+ miles away from home for me to figure it out, and now it makes perfect sense when applied to my year here.
    Saying that this experience has been easy would definitely be an understatement, I've experienced a lot of emotional pain, and obstacles that I've had to face on my own. And each one has made me grow stronger, which in turn is the same as saying that weakness is leaving my body. I'm changing as a person, I can feel it. I'm growing into myself, becoming more me. Discovering who I really am, it is not better or worse it's just ME!

    Tuesday, February 8, 2011

    I've Got A Feeling

    That I am right where I am suppose to be.

    I don't really know how else to elaborate on that considering it seems to sum up how I'm feeling right now. Well actually I guess I can't say that honestly, because that was how I felt last week. This week and past weekend, the homesickness has fallen back into my lap again along with the lost puppy feeling. I'll have times during the day when I feel lost and then other times when I feel like I'm right were I am suppose to be. Its an uncontrolled roller coaster that I highly doubt will end until long after I've arrived back on my home turf.

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011

    The Winds Are A Changing

    Well the first month of 2011 is over, and I've still been writing 2010 in my journal. I haven't quite gotten my head wrapped around the idea that its a new year and now a new month, it seems as though postponing my new years rituals has thrown my mind frame a little off cue.
    I've had a lot on my mind lately, yet getting it out of my mind and putting it in my fingers has taken longer than it should have. I have urges to write, but whenever I sit down, nothing seems to be put on the page, and a boring post is something I don't want you guys to be reading.

    The past few weeks I've been feeling as though my Spanish has been going down the drain a bit. I've had trouble speaking, forming correct sentences and getting words out, however something changed yesterday, I had multiple conversations. Now when I say conversations, I mean one on one or just a few people and me adding to the conversation which is something I haven't done for a long time.

    I've been in a good mood the past few days, which for me isn't exactly something that happens everyday, and when it does I enjoy it. As I've been here for close to 5 months now, I've established a place in my host family's life and also a position on the team. Yesterday something entered this picture and I'm not sure where to place it...her. She is a sophomore from Kentucky, whose here for 3 months (April) and is also a swimmer. I don't know how to feel, in a way I'm excited to have a "buddy" but on the same level, its bad for my Spanish and my "immersion." What made me smile the most was how excited everyone was the day of her arrival, it got me thinking if people were that excited when I was arriving, after all I was and still am the first exchange student this team has ever hosted.
    The teams website designer took a picture of the "two American" and it will go on the web site. Once it is up I will post the link so that you all can see two tall, very pale Americans, fighting for survival on a foreign team. Not literally of course, but some days it sure does feel like that.

    Sunday, January 23, 2011

    The "Apple" of Spain

    Would have to be Madrid, however it doesn't quite match up to the big NYC. Although the city doesn't shut down for siesta time, it does have quite the night life, but lacks the neck aching tall sky scrapers. I felt a little at home with the life style there, everything moving faster and everyone with a purpose and place to be and go.

    I've been thinking about this post for a few days now, configuring in my head how to convey with words the internal feelings while roaming Spain's largest city. I felt free and open, like I was on my own for the first time...ever. Thinking back, I've really had someone with me from the "get go." In Barcelona, I had all of the coordinators and now here in Seville I have my host family. But in Madrid I was really on my own, the coordinators would give us free time in the afternoon and we could just go out and roam the city all on our own. Walking through the center of Madrid, the small streets lined with shops and filled with people, was liberating. I went out with only the company of myself one day and felt as though at that moment I was exactly where I was suppose to be, and it felt amazing.

                               A typical sight in the streets of Madrid
                           La Puerta del Sol, the center of Madrid
           Jackie (another american!) and I outside the Museo del Prado
            Parque del Retiro or other wise known as the central park of Madrid
                        A bunch of us beside the small "lake" within the park
               The street performer or street sitter, outside al Palacio Royal
                          A fellow American and I with the royals military men

    Since everything in Madrid is relatively close we walked just about everywhere and by the end of the 3 days, my feet were killing me...literally. However it was all worth it, because we got to see some really great, world renowned stuff.
    It was nice to just get a break from everything for a bit. School, swimming and get some time away from my host family. Not at all saying that I don't like them, just saying that sometimes it good to get a little break.
    Over all it was quite the trip. I got a little bit of myself back, what with speaking a bit of English here and there. I'm a different person when speaking comes easily to me, where here in Spanish when I have a little funny remark to add to the conversation but I don't know how to say it, I usually just opt out of speaking. So it was a bit weird getting a bit of my old self back, but at the same time it was a nice refresher to know that I'm still there even if an invisible language barrier is trying to hide me. 

    Sunday, January 16, 2011

    A Level Playing Field

    Is definitely something I'm not experiencing here, considering well, my situation as a foreigner. However, I have also been noticing inequalities between the genders. I've grown up with my parents being equals: them both cooking, taking care of us kids and doing stuff around the house, whether it is cleaning or fixing something, they both can do it and will do it, the tasks are shared.
    Here, its my host moms house, she does ALL the cleaning and 98% of the cooking. The dad just comes home from work and sits on the couch reading the paper or watching TV. When it comes time for dinner, my host sister or I will usually set the table, while the dad just sits there. Don't get me wrong, its not always like this, but since that is not at all what I am use to, the times when it does happen really stand out to me.
    It all seems a little old fashion to me, the husband coming home from work and the wife caring to him. The world is changing...rapidly, and Europe seems to be falling behind that smashing of gender roles.



    A while as past since my last post, so I'll give you guys a quick update.
    We got back into the swing of things last Monday, beginning with morning practice followed by school and the usual. This week has been nothing out of the ordinary, except I would like to let everyone know that it is official, I have my foreign exchange student card and am allowed to stay in Spain until the 16th of September, not that I will...
    I am going to Madrid on Monday with my program for 4 days. I'm looking forward to seeing a new place and getting a chance to check in with my fellow exchange students to see how my experience matches up to theirs. I feel like my year abroad is going to end up differently than those of the other students, because of my involvement in a sport. At times I wonder what this year would look like for me if I was just a regular exchange student.

    Friday, January 7, 2011

    Las Cabalgatas y Los Reyes






    The above videos are of my adventures during the Cabalgatas, which in simple terms are parades. The parade is a procession of floats containing the 3 kings, a princess/star woman and then random other floats and people of foot such as those in the below picture. The parades are all about getting stuff...candy, t-shirts, stuffed animals, balls, you name it and they threw it.
    It was quite eventful to say the least except for the fact that having hard candy pelted at you can be quite painful.








    La Dia de Los Reyes, was difficult to say the least. I feel like opening gifts is something that you should do with your family, the traditions, the pace and tempo. But everything changes when your thrown into another family's special day. Stockings are by far my favorite part of Christmas, and when all there was were wrapped gifts I was a bit disappointed. I knew that there weren't going to be stockings, but when it came to the morning of, I realized that I wouldn't be opening a stocking until next year.
    With my family we usually make the gifts last until early afternoon, but here we were opening by 8 and done by 8:30. So much excitement and anticipation can be put into something that in reality lasts a very short time.
    I was gifted some nice stuff, although people don't really seem to understand my style. And as my mom said "when people go shopping for other people, they are drawn to what they like." Very well put, yet it is still hard to say, "I don't really like this" to the person who gifted it to you.




    I was skyping with my mom yesterday and we were beginning to pull together a ruff draft of when they are coming over, and I started freaking out. Just thinking about having to leave all of this, all of the people and places made me start shaking. It took me by surprise, and I'm still not really sure how to process the feeling, because what exactly does it mean?