Pre-departure Post-Holiday

I love Málaga.

The week of November 14th was a generally slower paced week. I only had one test so I was really able to explore the city with my friends a lot more. We ate dinner out a few times and did a lot of shopping (more specifically, window shopping because I have such a tight budget). That weekend my friends and I went to explore the castle of Malaga which ended up being only 80 euro cents with a student ID! Haven’t been that excited about history in a long time!

Throughout the next week it felt like the school work really piled on. On Monday I realized that I only had 32 days left in Spain. And even less than that to take my finals and complete and present all of our final works. Whoops! But they are coming along well now and I really am not too worried for my finals in my classes. That Tuesday I participated in a community service project in cleaning up a beach a little past where I go to school. It was a beautiful beach in a really cool location but in the summer concerts are held there so there are countless amounts of cigarette buds. I was excited to be out in the fresh air doing something different than I would normally be doing. That Thursday was Thanksgiving and ISA took us out to a really nice restaurant for dinner! We had everything including, turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, and pecan pie. It was so nice to be able to spend Thanksgiving with such a fun group of people in Spain. Although on Fridays I don’t normally have class, we had a make-up class the next day which made an already long week feel even longer.

On Saturday we traveled to Cordoba with ISA for the day! It took about two and a half hours to get there by bus and as soon as we arrived we went for a tour of the Mesquita/Cathedral of Cordoba. It is a really neat building with very interesting architecture because it has Muslim atchitecture to it but then after the “Re-conquista” by the Christians, they added some Christian aspects to it, including a cathedral. Outside there is a beautiful patio full of orange trees with a great view of the alminar, from which the Muslims would be called to prayer five times a day. Then we went for a tour of the city and had some free time of our own. I have now decided that I prefer to discover things on my own than have a tour guide take me around and tell me about them. Overall I enjoyed Cordoba and would love to go back on my own sometime but I think it really only requires a day trip.

 

The city of Cordoba is like a typical Andalusian town with narrow streets filled with tapas bars and white washed buildings. What really stood out to me about Cordoba was all the flowers. All of the walls would be covered with flowerpots and from them would be flowers of many different vibrant colors.

Granada and Co.

The week of November 7th was my normal school routine with the addition of several midterms. In my classes here we don’t have any schoolwork except midterms, finals and one final project. They are all worth big chunks of your grade and unfortunately they are piled up around the same time. I had exams in my Art History and History of Latin America classes. They went fine but I also had the added stress of Spring Semester class registration that that Thursday. And it was a nightmare. The home Longwood server went down for about 45 minutes and while that was happening at 6am for everyone at home, it was 12pm in Spain and in the middle of classes. Quite inconvenient. But I ended up getting all of the classes that I needed which I was really relieved about.

That Friday I went to a cooking class taught by ISA. We learned how to make “huevos rellenos” or “stuffed egg” and the typical Spanish tortilla, or Spanish omlette. The class was really fun and the best part about it was that we got to eat what we cooked.

That weekend ISA took us to Granada, Spain for an overnight trip. On Saturday we met at 10am to take the hour and fifteen minute bus ride to Granada. We arrived on time, grabbed a bite to eat and some coffee and met up again to see the cathedral. It was really cool to see but I have to say that I felt the cathedral of Malaga is more impressive from the outside. We learned a little bit of this history and then saw where “los reyes catolicos” are buried. After that we went on a walking tour of the city. I really loved Granada. I feel like all of the cities in the south of Spain have a similar feel and this is definitely true about Granada. It was similar to Malaga in the style and the clear Arabic influence but had more streets running though the center which made it a little bit more crowded on the sidewalks. After our tour we had free time to do whatever we wanted for a few hours so a handful of my friends and I went to explore the tapas that Granada is famous for. And rightfully so. At any of the bars there, if you order any type of drink, you get a free tapa. You could also order your tapa of choice but your free tapa would still come. It was so funny to only have to buy a drink in order to be able to eat. After that we did a little shopping and then met back up at the hotel for a surprise that ISA was arranging for us. They told us to wear comfortable shoes and I was so happy that I did because we took quite a hike. The streets of Granada are all cobblestone and, depending on your shoes, very uncomfortable to walk on. After a while we were finally at our destination- a beautiful view of the Alhambra lit up at night! It was so cool to see from such a different perspective and the lighting on it was beautiful. We took pictures there and then headed to another surprise- FLAMENCO! This show was by far the best flamenco I have ever seen. There were four women who each took turn dancing, a man singing and a man playing the guitar. At the end we had one more performance by a man. His style pf dancing was obviously different than that of the women but equally impressive and intriguing. Once the show was over we headed for more tapas until late and night and then headed home.

The next day we had an amazing breakfast in the hotel, packed up all of our stuff and headed to the buses. We drove to the Alhambra where we had a very interesting but very long 3 hour tour. The Alhambra was as impressive as I was expecting but my favorite part was the view of the mountains. The leaves were changing colors there and that has been something that I really missed about fall. There were also amazing views of the albaicin, or the town of Granada. Once we finished up the tour we got back on the buses to the main part of the town and had some free time for a late lunch. The meal of choice was again tapas with a little Turkish twist. Overall I really loved spending time in Granada. I would really love to go again in order to spend more time exploring the city but also do go the Alhambra again. For me, such a long guided tour takes away a little bit of the fun so I would love a chance to explore it on my own and teach more of the history to myself.

Barcelona

On Wednesday, November 2nd at 11pm I finally arrived home from my long and amazing trip in Morocco. I ate dinner, unpacked, tried to shake out as much sand as possible from my backpack and then re-packed for my trip to Barcelona to visit my best friend from high school. I was nervous at first because I hadn’t even checked-in or printed my boarding passes yet and I had school all day the next day. I was able to check-in online that night and then printed my boarding passes on my break in between classes. I got home at 3:15, grabbed my bags and left for the airport at 3:30. My flight was easy and one of my friends ended up being on the same flight to meet up with her parents. Once we landed I took a bus to Placa Catalunya to meet up with Manmeet and from there we went to dinner. That night I was able to meet all of her friends and saw a little bit of the nightlife in Barcelona.

The next day Manmeet and I went to the Sagrada Familia. It was so nice to be inside for a couple of hours because it was very rainy outside. We met up with her friends later that night to have dinner. The next day we strolled along Las Ramblas, the most famous street in Barcelona, and spent the rest of the day in the Parc Guell. That was by far my favorite part. The entire park looked like candy land and had amazing views of the city.

After that, it was somehow already Sunday and I took the bus back to the airport. I loved Barcelona. It is very differnt from Malaga in that it is much bigger, huge actually. I really liked that Barcelona has a metro system because Malaga doesn’t and on my long bus rides to and from school I always wish we did. I liked how much more centralized everything in Malaga is though. In the center it is all pedestrian only so it’s super easy to just walk wherever you want. After a very long two weeks I was very happy to come home to my room and relax.

Morocco

On October 28th at 3:00am I woke up to catch my bus to Morocco! This trip was an optional trip through my study abroad program, ISA, so our group met up with some other students from Sevilla and Granada. We traveled for about 3 hours by bus to the city of Algeciras, Spain. From there we went through Morocco’s very relaxed “customs” and caught the ferry to cross the Strait of Gibraltar. The ferry ride took about an hour and a half but it felt like forever. We we were in port we got back on our buses and continued driving. We knew from that start that this day would be a lot of traveling but they really weren’t kidding. We stopped for a quick lunch on the road which was only one of the two meals that weren’t already paid for. We didn’t arrive to our destination, the city of Fez, until about 5pm. For some reason the Morocco time zone was 2 hours behind Spanish time even though it was only right below Spain. I still don’t know why that is. Some of my friends and I went for a quick walk around our hotel for a little bit but didn’t want to stay out too late because it wasn’t a good idea to be out at night. We had a delicious buffet style dinner in our hotel but with so many people it felt like the line never moved. Because our bodies weren’t adjusted to the bacteria in the water in Morocco we had to drink bottled water the whole time and we couldn’t eat and fruit or vegetables that weren’t cooked. We couldn’t even brush our teeth in the tap water. Our directors had told us before hand that some people would inevitably get sick but for the most part we were a pretty healthy group. Once dinner was over it had gotten pretty late so pretty much all of us went straight to bed.

The next day we woke up and had breakfast at the hotel. It consisted of pastries and hard-boiled eggs and yogurt but was still good. We traveled by bus to the Medina of Fez, which is the old walled city in which the market is currently. It was like nothing I had ever seen. The streets were so dirty and narrow and anything you could ever need was sold somewhere within the market. It was like a mall. There were mules carrying huge loads on their backs and if you didn’t get out of their way they would run you over. Our tour guide first took us to a huge carpet store! Morocco very much deserves their fame for their rugs because they are quite impressive. They take their work very seriously and all the rugs are very detailed and intricate. They served us some of the best tea I have ever had and took out a bunch of their rugs to show us. Some people even ended us buying some on their credit cards and had them shipped home. No, Mom, I did not do that. After that we went to a metal shop and watched how they hand-engrave all of the plates they make. I really wanted to buy this small, metal camel that I found but it was too expensive. The Moroccan currency is the Dirham. 100 Dirhams is pretty much equal to 10 Euros which is about 13 or 14 dollars. Next we went to a spice shop! The smell inside was so strong it almost gave me a headache! They had so many jars of spices on the walls it was almost impossible to count them all. Pretty much all of us bought some type of spice in the store so I know they loved us. Later, we went to a fabric shop. They had everything from completely traditional Moroccan clothing to turbans to scarves and table cloths. There was a man working on the loom in the back of the store which was really cool to see. I couldn’t even keep up with watching his hands and feet so I was very impressed that he was able to work so quickly. It was funny because in Morocco you have ask to take a picture of people working in their shops because they don’t want to look bad. This man didn’t mind but every time someone would take a picture he would stop working in order to smile. After that, we went to a leather making shop. At the entrance they gave you mint leaves to smell the whole time because it smelled so incredibly bad. In the store is where they sold all of their leather goods but behind it is where they made it. Just watching the men work made me so tired because it was such an exhausting job. They had everything leather, from shoes to coats and bags to wallets and belts. And everything they had they had in every color of the rainbow. It was really impressive. After that we went to have lunch in a surprisingly huge restaurant. It didn’t look big from the tiny street it was on but it had probably 4 or 5 levels to it. We were so hungry and thirsty so we devoured our delicious cous-cous.

After lunch we got back in the buses and drove to a pottery making site. We saw how mosaics were made and saw men decorating pottery before it was to be put into the kiln. Then we got back into the buses and went to a beautiful overlook of the city to take pictures. From there we traveled to the Royal Palace. Unfortunately we couldn’t go in but taking picture outside of it was sufficient! After such a long day we headed back to the hotel around dusk to play cards until dinner. We had dinner in the hotel again which was just as good as the first night. After dinner we went to a traditional Moroccan dancing show which was a total blast! A lot of us got up to dance but no one  could dance like them! They even breathed fire.

The next day we woke up early to have breakfast in the hotel and then travel by bus all day again. This time we were on our way to Erfoud, a city right outside of the desert. Because we were in the middle of the desert there were obviously no rest stops or even trees so that made going to the bathroom interesting (and hilarious).  We stopped for lunch finally around 3pm. We ate in an area called Ziz Oasis, which is really an oasis. It was in the valley of the mountains with palm trees and a river while all around us was the desert and dry, arid mountains. We had the same type of lunch again, cous cous, cooked vegetables and chicken, but it was still as good as the first time. Once lunch was over we had some free time so some friends and I went to walk around a little. We came upon some of the native children and only some of them spoke English and none of them spoke Spanish. It was so fun to be with them though. They all looked so young but they were around 15 years old. They made us camels and bracelets out of palm tree leaves which is my most prized possession of the entire trip. We gave them some change for making us those and you could tell they were very happy after that. Then we got back on the buses for some more traveling.

We finally arrived to Erfoud around 7pm. We got all of our things off the bus and ran to the Jeeps! We were told before that the older the jeep, the better because it made your ride into the desert that much better. It was completely dark out and really dusty but our driver was going so fast! It was crazy but really fun. We were in the Jeeps for about 45 minutes and finally arrived to our campsite in the Sahara Desert! We were welcomed with music, tea and peanuts. All of us hurried to pick out which haima we would sleep in. They were like tents but really long and held up with branches and made out of woolen fabric. They were really long, with about 15 people in ours, with nothing but beds in them. Once we got settled in we went to the campfire for some more of the delicious tea and peanuts. Dinner was ready soon after that. We had the same type of food again but for some reason it didn’t get old. After dinner the people that worked there played a little music. Then my friends and I went to stargaze. We saw so many shooting stars! I have never seen the stars like that! They were so bright it was breathtaking. It was amazing how cold it was at night. We went to bed after that and I slept in sweatpants, a sweatshirt, a scarf, socks and ear warmers. I was happy that I had all of that because I was perfectly warm but some of the other girls said they got a little cold.

The next day the Berber people, the people who live in the desert town nearby, came to wake us it. It cracked me up because they woke us up by clapping. They took us to watch the sunrise in the dunes. It was beautiful and I’m so glad that I was able to see something like that. We headed back to the camp to get dressed and have breakfast. For breakfast we had bread, fruit, croissants, and some sort of pancake thing. They were really good though and they syrup/jelly we put on them was even better. After that we took a camel ride through the desert. Camels are by far the most awkward, uncomfortable animal I have ever ridden. They are such sloppy walkers so my harness was going in ever which way. We rode them for a while them hopped off to run up the biggest dune that we could see. It was so steep it was insane. I was slightly dying. Once we were up though it was one of the best views. We could see Algeria off into the distance! On the way down the Berber people told us to link arms and legs and pulled us the whole way down the dune. I got so much sand in my shorts but it was totally worth it. The sand is so fine it is almost closer to dust than sand and it is STILL in my shoes. We got back on our camels and rode into a small desert town. We walked around for a little bit but there really wasn’t that much to see. It looked more like a scene from Star Wars than anything. The bad thing about riding camels into town is that we had to walk back. Let me just say that it was much easier on camel. The funny thing was that we didn’t even really  a guide. It was just this little less than 10 year old boy that to us to follow him. We did because we had nothing else to go by. It was then that I realized just how hot it was in the desert. There was absolutely no shade and the air was so dry that I felt like I was dehydrating myself more and more every time i exhaled. Once we finally saw camp I was so relived until I realized again that we still had no shade. Inside the tents was too hot so we just sat there motionless chugging water. Luckily the temperate was quickly dropping and as soon as lunch was over it was much cooler outside. We went outside to get real henna painted on our hands! There were 4 ladies doing it but one was much better than the other 3 so her line was much longer and the other ladies just didn’t understand why.  After that we hung out for a while by the campsite and watched a soccer game between the local Berber boys and some of the boys on our trip. Then we went out really far into the dunes to do a little sand-boarding which was an epic fail. We stayed there to watch the sunset and then hurried home in order to not get lost at night!

The next day we woke up early again to see the sunrise and got dressed and had breakfast. We left soon after that for Erfoud by Jeep again. I was sad to be leaving the desert but ready to have some running water again. Once we reached Erfoud we got back on the buses and headed all day towards Meknes. We traveled literally all day and didn’t arrive to our hotel until nighttime. Because it was dark out we couldn’t really leave the hotel because it wasn’t safe so we had dinner and just hung out in the hotel. The next day we had breakfast there too and got back in the buses for even more traveling. The only good thing about it was the beautiful scenery that we drove through. I spent the whole time just looking out the window. We stopped in an area of the mountains where some of the nomads live and donated some old clothes to them. They were so happy to see us it brought tears to our eyes. We headed on our way once again to the ferry, on the bus again and then home to Malaga. I got home finally at 11pm dirty and hungry and not excited about school the next day.

Overall, my trip to Morocco was so much fun. It was so nice to have a trip like that planned through ISA because everything we did would have been nearly impossible to organize.

Morocco

On October 28th at 3:00am I woke up to catch my bus to Morocco! This trip was an optional trip through my study abroad program, ISA, so our group met up with some other students from Sevilla and Granada. We traveled for about 3 hours by bus to the city of Algeciras, Spain. From there we went through Morocco’s very relaxed “customs” and caught the ferry to cross the Strait of Gibraltar. The ferry ride took about an hour and a half but it felt like forever. We we were in port we got back on our buses and continued driving. We knew from that start that this day would be a lot of traveling but they really weren’t kidding. We stopped for a quick lunch on the road which was only one of the two meals that weren’t already paid for. We didn’t arrive to our destination, the city of Fez, until about 5pm. For some reason the Morocco time zone was 2 hours behind Spanish time even though it was only right below Spain. I still don’t know why that is. Some of my friends and I went for a quick walk around our hotel for a little bit but didn’t want to stay out too late because it wasn’t a good idea to be out at night. We had a delicious buffet style dinner in our hotel but with so many people it felt like the line never moved. Because our bodies weren’t adjusted to the bacteria in the water in Morocco we had to drink bottled water the whole time and we couldn’t eat and fruit or vegetables that weren’t cooked. We couldn’t even brush our teeth in the tap water. Our directors had told us before hand that some people would inevitably get sick but for the most part we were a pretty healthy group. Once dinner was over it had gotten pretty late so pretty much all of us went straight to bed.

The next day we woke up and had breakfast at the hotel. It consisted of pastries and hard-boiled eggs and yogurt but was still good. We traveled by bus to the Medina of Fez, which is the old walled city in which the market is currently. It was like nothing I had ever seen. The streets were so dirty and narrow and anything you could ever need was sold somewhere within the market. It was like a mall. There were mules carrying huge loads on their backs and if you didn’t get out of their way they would run you over. Our tour guide first took us to a huge carpet store! Morocco very much deserves their fame for their rugs because they are quite impressive. They take their work very seriously and all the rugs are very detailed and intricate. They served us some of the best tea I have ever had and took out a bunch of their rugs to show us. Some people even ended us buying some on their credit cards and had them shipped home. No, Mom, I did not do that. After that we went to a metal shop and watched how they hand-engrave all of the plates they make. I really wanted to buy this small, metal camel that I found but it was too expensive. The Moroccan currency is the Dirham. 100 Dirhams is pretty much equal to 10 Euros which is about 13 or 14 dollars. Next we went to a spice shop! The smell inside was so strong it almost gave me a headache! They had so many jars of spices on the walls it was almost impossible to count them all. Pretty much all of us bought some type of spice in the store so I know they loved us. Later, we went to a fabric shop. They had everything from completely traditional Moroccan clothing to turbans to scarves and table cloths. There was a man working on the loom in the back of the store which was really cool to see. I couldn’t even keep up with watching his hands and feet so I was very impressed that he was able to work so quickly. It was funny because in Morocco you have ask to take a picture of people working in their shops because they don’t want to look bad. This man didn’t mind but every time someone would take a picture he would stop working in order to smile. After that, we went to a leather making shop. At the entrance they gave you mint leaves to smell the whole time because it smelled so incredibly bad. In the store is where they sold all of their leather goods but behind it is where they made it. Just watching the men work made me so tired because it was such an exhausting job. They had everything leather, from shoes to coats and bags to wallets and belts. And everything they had they had in every color of the rainbow. It was really impressive. After that we went to have lunch in a surprisingly huge restaurant. It didn’t look big from the tiny street it was on but it had probably 4 or 5 levels to it. We were so hungry and thirsty so we devoured our delicious cous-cous.

After lunch we got back in the buses and drove to a pottery making site. We saw how mosaics were made and saw men decorating pottery before it was to be put into the kiln. Then we got back into the buses and went to a beautiful overlook of the city to take pictures. From there we traveled to the Royal Palace. Unfortunately we couldn’t go in but taking picture outside of it was sufficient! After such a long day we headed back to the hotel around dusk to play cards until dinner. We had dinner in the hotel again which was just as good as the first night. After dinner we went to a traditional Moroccan dancing show which was a total blast! A lot of us got up to dance but no one  could dance like them! They even breathed fire.

The next day we woke up early to have breakfast in the hotel and then travel by bus all day again. This time we were on our way to Erfoud, a city right outside of the desert. Because we were in the middle of the desert there were obviously no rest stops or even trees so that made going to the bathroom interesting (and hilarious).  We stopped for lunch finally around 3pm. We ate in an area called Ziz Oasis, which is really an oasis. It was in the valley of the mountains with palm trees and a river while all around us was the desert and dry, arid mountains. We had the same type of lunch again, cous cous, cooked vegetables and chicken, but it was still as good as the first time. Once lunch was over we had some free time so some friends and I went to walk around a little. We came upon some of the native children and only some of them spoke English and none of them spoke Spanish. It was so fun to be with them though. They all looked so young but they were around 15 years old. They made us camels and bracelets out of palm tree leaves which is my most prized possession of the entire trip. We gave them some change for making us those and you could tell they were very happy after that. Then we got back on the buses for some more traveling.

We finally arrived to Erfoud around 7pm. We got all of our things off the bus and ran to the Jeeps! We were told before that the older the jeep, the better because it made your ride into the desert that much better. It was completely dark out and really dusty but our driver was going so fast! It was crazy but really fun. We were in the Jeeps for about 45 minutes and finally arrived to our campsite in the Sahara Desert! We were welcomed with music, tea and peanuts. All of us hurried to pick out which haima we would sleep in. They were like tents but really long and held up with branches and made out of woolen fabric. They were really long, with about 15 people in ours, with nothing but beds in them. Once we got settled in we went to the campfire for some more of the delicious tea and peanuts. Dinner was ready soon after that. We had the same type of food again but for some reason it didn’t get old. After dinner the people that worked there played a little music. Then my friends and I went to stargaze. We saw so many shooting stars! I have never seen the stars like that! They were so bright it was breathtaking. It was amazing how cold it was at night. We went to bed after that and I slept in sweatpants, a sweatshirt, a scarf, socks and ear warmers. I was happy that I had all of that because I was perfectly warm but some of the other girls said they got a little cold.

The next day the Berber people, the people who live in the desert town nearby, came to wake us it. It cracked me up because they woke us up by clapping. They took us to watch the sunrise in the dunes. It was beautiful and I’m so glad that I was able to see something like that. We headed back to the camp to get dressed and have breakfast. For breakfast we had bread, fruit, croissants, and some sort of pancake thing. They were really good though and they syrup/jelly we put on them was even better. After that we took a camel ride through the desert. Camels are by far the most awkward, uncomfortable animal I have ever ridden. They are such sloppy walkers so my harness was going in ever which way. We rode them for a while them hopped off to run up the biggest dune that we could see. It was so steep it was insane. I was slightly dying. Once we were up though it was one of the best views. We could see Algeria off into the distance! On the way down the Berber people told us to link arms and legs and pulled us the whole way down the dune. I got so much sand in my shorts but it was totally worth it. The sand is so fine it is almost closer to dust than sand and it is STILL in my shoes. We got back on our camels and rode into a small desert town. We walked around for a little bit but there really wasn’t that much to see. It looked more like a scene from Star Wars than anything. The bad thing about riding camels into town is that we had to walk back. Let me just say that it was much easier on camel. The funny thing was that we didn’t even really  a guide. It was just this little less than 10 year old boy that to us to follow him. We did because we had nothing else to go by. It was then that I realized just how hot it was in the desert. There was absolutely no shade and the air was so dry that I felt like I was dehydrating myself more and more every time i exhaled. Once we finally saw camp I was so relived until I realized again that we still had no shade. Inside the tents was too hot so we just sat there motionless chugging water. Luckily the temperate was quickly dropping and as soon as lunch was over it was much cooler outside. We went outside to get real henna painted on our hands! There were 4 ladies doing it but one was much better than the other 3 so her line was much longer and the other ladies just didn’t understand why.  After that we hung out for a while by the campsite and watched a soccer game between the local Berber boys and some of the boys on our trip. Then we went out really far into the dunes to do a little sand-boarding which was an epic fail. We stayed there to watch the sunset and then hurried home in order to not get lost at night!

The next day we woke up early again to see the sunrise and got dressed and had breakfast. We left soon after that for Erfoud by Jeep again. I was sad to be leaving the desert but ready to have some running water again. Once we reached Erfoud we got back on the buses and headed all day towards Meknes. We traveled literally all day and didn’t arrive to our hotel until nighttime. Because it was dark out we couldn’t really leave the hotel because it wasn’t safe so we had dinner and just hung out in the hotel. The next day we had breakfast there too and got back in the buses for even more traveling. The only good thing about it was the beautiful scenery that we drove through. I spent the whole time just looking out the window. We stopped in an area of the mountains where some of the nomads live and donated some old clothes to them. They were so happy to see us it brought tears to our eyes. We headed on our way once again to the ferry, on the bus again and then home to Malaga. I got home finally at 11pm dirty and hungry and not excited about school the next day.

Overall, my trip to Morocco was so much fun. It was so nice to have a trip like that planned through ISA because everything we did would have been nearly impossible to organize.

FAMILIA!

On October 22nd my Mom, Dad and  Uncle Steve arrived in Malaga! I was so excited to have them here despite the constant rain. They arrived around 1pm so needless to say they were tired and hungry. We went to eat at a restaurant and it was so nice to have someone else pay! After many plates of food and some wine they were exhausted and jet-lagged so we all went to take a nap for a little bit. After that we met up again and went to the Oktoberfest tents where we had beer and bratwurst! It was such a fun atmosphere and I was so happy to be there with them. Then we headed to a bar to watch the Madrid vs. Malaga soccer game. We got crushed, the final score was 4-0, but we still had a blast! Some of my friends were there too and my parents really enjoyed being able to talk to them. Once the game was over around 11pm we headed to dinner! We went to El Pimpi which is an awesome, huge restaurant with typical Andalusian style food.

The next day we woke up early(ish) to catch the bus to Marbella to visit our very extended Spanish family! I still think it is so cool that I have family members that are 100% Spanish. Sili and Pedro don’t speak any English so it made for interesting lunch conversations. My mom doesn’t speak any Spanish and my uncle speaks a little so my dad and I ended up doing a lot of translating which I didn’t mind at all. We ate so much amazing food with red wine and then had shots pf pecan liquor after lunch. It definitely wasn’t my favorite. After lunch they gave us a tour of their house and our cousin’s house. Their homes are beautifully decorated with amazing views of the ocean. My cousins live there during the summer and they invited us to come stay with them whenever we wanted! They even invited me to come back sometime this semester with some of my friends for good food and fun times. I wish I had more open weekends to do that but it looks like that isn’t possibles this time. Then, we went for a stroll around Marbella and near the beach. Marbella is a beautiful town. As the capital of the Costa del Sol, parts of it are like the Beverly Hills of Spain, with huge luxurious cars and yachts.  Then they drove us to the bus station and we headed back to Malaga. We went out to dinner but didn’t stay out too late because unfortunately I had school the next day.

I got out of classes at 2:30 and got home around 3pm, where my dad met me in the street to go to lunch! It was still raining so we did a walking tour of the cathedral. That tour made it very clear that my mom and I don’t have the same interests as my dad. Then we went for a walk around the city, through the parks and to the beach. That night we went to a very unique restaurant to see flamenco. My uncle and I got called on stage to dance and it was then when I realized just how hard it is to dance flamenco! After that we went to the rooftop bar of their hotel to admire the city. It looked beautiful with all of the lights and I was even able to find our apartment!

The next day I didn’t have school so my family and I went to the market! It was amazing! Anything you could ever want is sold there from vegetables to fish to pig butter. The people there are so nice and it is just a really cool atmosphere. We went to a cafe to have a quick breakfast and then we caught a taxi to head to the botanical gardens! The garden was huge with so many different types of plants! After that we went to enjoy some sun on the beach for a little bit and then we went to a really fancy restaurant that I would have never been able to afford. Then we went to my homestay for my parents to meet my roommates and my family here! We had churros with chocolate and coffee and I was so happy to show them around! I love my homestay family. Later, we went to the Picasso Museum and walked around some more. We stopped to have tapas and wine on the street. My mom and I ended up eating fried shrimp, whole- shell, head and everything. Only later we did we learn that you’re really not supposed to eat the head. Oh well!

The next day was my family’s last day in Malaga before going to Madrid so they met me for my lunch break at my school. We had a few last tapas before saying goodbye. It was such a fun trip and I was sad to see them go but I knew that I had a lot of fun things coming up soon and that it wasn’t too much longer until I’d see them again! At first it was a little weird going back to my life here without them but everything was fine after that!

Fall 2011

Viva Italia!

So the week of the 10th was a really easy week! I only had classes on Monday and Tuesday!   Wednesday was a national holiday and on Thursday four of my friends and I went to Venice, Italy! We fly out of the Malaga airport really early Thursday morning and arrived in Venice that morning. We were so unbelievably lost at first so an off duty bus driver ended being like our taxi service taking us exactly where we needed to go. It was so nice of him to do that and we really appreciated it! We finally arrived to our hostel which ended up being really nice! We didn’t stay right in Venice, but in the mainland because it was so much cheaper. So after we settled in we caught the bus for Venice. When we arrived we were all thrilled! It was exactly how we imagined it! The little canals everywhere with water taxis and gondolas. The first day we were pretty tired so we just walked around for the majority of the day. We headed home after that and ate dinner in our hostel!

The next morning we woke up early and it was so much colder than in Malaga! Quite the surprise. Today we wanted to head to the glass museum on another island, Murano Island. Venice is known for their glass blowing so this glass museum was amazing! It was kind of expensive to enter but well worth it. Then we explored the island and watched some glass makers in action! My friend Katie even got a glass ball specially made for her right in front of her! That was a really cool experience too. We headed back to Venice to the Basilica of San Marco and the plaza in front of it. The area around there was really touristy and PACKED. We ate dinner there and caught the last bus back to the mainland and called it a night!

Saturday was our last full day so we went to areas of the island that we hadn’t exlpored yet. It was so much fun to just walk around with absolutely no idea where you were. The streets in Venice are impossible to navigate without getting lost so we jsut went with it. If we stumbled upon a church we went in; if we stumbled upon a museum we went in and then left every time they told us the price. Even with student discounts we couldn’t afford to go to all of the museums that we wanted.

On Sunday we flew out of Venice at about 10 so we arrived at the airport a little earlier than that. We all knew that Spain and Italy are part of the Eurpoean Union but we sure were bummed that we didn’t have to get our passports stamped! We even asked someone (kind of jokingly, but also kind of seriously) if we could get it stamped to just have it and gave us a very firm “no”. So that was that.

We arrived back into Malaga around noon and headed home! As soon as i got home I took a nap because the weekend was really tiring.

The week of the 17th was a week of regular classes. The temperature has dropped a little here which is really nice. The beach is never as crowded and you can wear pants and be comfortable. On Friday I don’t have classes so I had a meeting about my upcomingn trip to Morocco and then a boat trip along the coast of Malaga. That was really fun but a lot of people got sea sick. After that I went to an intercambio and met some really cool people.

Today, Saturday the 22, we were supposed to go on a hiking trip in the mountains to a place called El Torcal but it was cancelled because of rain. Today is overcast and gloomy and the first time it has rained in two months. But I’m not too bummed about it being cancelled because my parents and uncle arrive into Malaga today! Their hotel is so close to my home stay that I can see it from my window. I am so excited to be able to show them about my life and my friends here.

“Que fuerte, tía”

Hi everyone! It’s been a while since my last post and a lot of new things have been going on! To start with, I took my final for my first month of class on September 30th. I feel like it went really well but I don’t get my grade for a few more weeks or so. Oh, Spain. That weekend my friends and I just enjoyed a weekend in Málaga. We went out and night and went exploring and hiking during the day. On Sunday we made an awesome discovery of this rock/mountain at the edge of the city. It ended up being an all day adventure but once we made it we could see the entire city perfectly. At the end of the day all of the new students for the trimester program arrived, including our new roommate Kristen. I am still sharing a room with Caity, my roommate from California and Kristen has her own room since she will be here until May. It is fun all talking together because Virginia, North Carolina and California are so different.

On October 3rd we had our placement exam for our next three months of classes. It went really well and I was pretty sure that I would be placed into the level that I needed to be in. The next week we had normal classes but now I don’t have Friday classes! Having a 3 day weekend instead of just a 2 day weekend makes such a difference! Thursday night we all explored the city together and then on Friday we had meetings and in our free time we went to the beach. At night I participated in an intercambio to practice my Spanish. It was really fun, but after 3 hours of forced conversation in my non-native language I was pretty exhausted.

On Saturday ISA took a day trip to a nearby city, Ronda! It is a small, “pueblo blanco” in the mountains of Andalucía. The city is historic and quaint and it’s setting in the mountains is beautiful. Sunday was a blast also! A few of my friends and I organized a snorkeling trip to La Herradura, a small town about an hour away. The snorkeling wasn’t the best but it was still a blast! We went all out with full body wet suits and they even let us try SCUBA!

Today is Tuesday and my last day of classes for the week! Tomorrow is a national holiday for Spain and on Thursday I go to Venice, Italy. I am SO. EXCITED. This will be my first time traveling within Europe and I can’t wait! I have such a fun few weeks to look forward to! Be back soon!