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?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Skating Across Decades


Now that 2011 has kicked in I have vowed to hit the books, mostly my 2-inch thick SAT book, as well as my math book, considering I have 10 chapters left and only 6 months to do them. That's what I was counting today in practice (along with the length), not the fact that I have many chapters to go, but the fact that I only have 6 months left. ONLY! How can I say only when that's 1/2 a year? I came into this experience with 10 months worth of challenging, yet life changing days ahead of me, and now here I am almost down to 6 months.
To tell you the truth, I can't imagine myself going home right now, as many of the semester students are getting ready to do. I'm just finally getting settled into the routine of life and the hard work that it takes to keep myself both mentally and physically healthy all by myself, that is without the help of my family. I'm now able to participate in conversations...comfortably. My Spanish is no where near where I hope it will be by the end of my stay, however I understand about 99% of what I am hearing everyday outside of school. School is its own special case, considering it is not your everyday language that is being used to teach Biology or Philosophy.
Over all I'm really enjoying myself, granted there are days that are really hard, but the majority put a smile on my face. So all of you out there who may be a little worried or concerned about how I may be doing, please put your worries to rest and enjoy a fresh new year.



Fun Facts: 1-eat lentils on new years eve
                  2-wear red underwear that someone gifted to you
                  3-eat 12 grapes in the last 12 seconds of the year
                        ALL FOR GOOD LUCK

                          my awesome new years eve outfit
                                    more swim team fun
                           new years day churros...umm
                     dipped in sugar and chocolate you can't resist

I wish everyone a wonderful new year <3