Sunday, December 19, 2010

End of the semester/Rome!

Hello everyone!

I am finally done with my first semester in Spain!  I can't believe how fast it went, and am very glad to have a second semester here. It was a crazy last week of classes, with a short trip to Rome with some friends.

We had found cheap tickets to Rome, Italy for Tuesday-Wednesday of this week.  We left on Tuesday after classes, and then came back late Wednesday night.  It was a very short trip, but we had just enough time to see all that we needed/wanted to see, and eat some GREAT food! :)  Of course you could spend a week in Rome and not see it all, but for having just one day of sightseeing - we saw a lot.

Tuesday evening we arrived in Rome and made our way to our hostel.  It was close to the main train station, so was very easy to find.  Once we checked in, got a recommendation for a restaurant, and a map of the city, we were off!  We first went to eat - pizza of course - which was amazing!  (after 4 months of Spanish food, Italian food was a very welcome change)  We decided to go to the Trevi fountain that night, and after getting a little lost - we finally found the fountain.  It was great to go at night because there was no one else there!  We spent a while there, taking pictures, throwing money into the fountain, and relishing in the fact that we were in Italy.  After we were frozen all the way through, we made our way back to the hostel, and went to bed excited for our busy next day.

Isabelle, Riitta, Marzia and I at the Trevi Fountain :)
The next morning we got up early, had a quick breakfast at the hostel, and headed toward the Vatican city.  Since we were close to the metro station, we decided that it would be easiest to take the metro to the Vatican.  Now before I came to Spain I was a public transportation virgin, I had no idea how to use it and got lost almost everywhere I went.  Now, I am quite good at it.  The Madrid public transportation is one of the best in the world,  or so I had heard, but had nothing to compare it to.  Now I do.  The Rome metro is really dirty, it is slow, the stations are ridiculous (it takes longer to find the exit, and get to it, than the amount of time one spends on the actual train) there are only 2 lines, and you cannot get anywhere in the city using it.  But we still managed to get to the Vatican and all around the city, although we walked most of it. 
Vatican museum and the Sistine Chapel
Once we got to the Vatican, we went into the museum, which houses the Sistine Chapel.  After the museum we went to St. Peters Square, where they were setting up for Christmas.  We walked all over the city, and found some lunch - amazing pasta and coffee!  After lunch we went to the Colosseum and spent some time there.  This was a great time to visit because there were not a lot of tourists.  It was however freezing, so we took a lot of coffee breaks. :)
Inside the Vatican
St. Peter's Square


After more walking we made our way back to the train station and back to the airport for the flight home.  We flew Ryan Air which if you didn't know, they don't provide seat assignments...So people think they have to be the first on the plane so they can get the best seat.  This is ridiculous because 1. all the seats are exactly the same, and 2. everyone is going to get on, they have their tickets!  But regardless we got in-line right when we got there and waited for over 1 hour.  (the combination of running on Italian time and Spanish time means that everything runs at least 45 mins. late)  We didn't end up getting back to Madrid until 12:30pm and had to wait until 2pm for the night bus.  It was a great trip, and I hope to visit Rome again sometime.

The semester ended on Friday for me, and it feels great to be done!  I can't believe how fast the time went, but I wish it wasn't over.  I am looking forward to second semester, which is weird because back home no one ever looks forward to the next semester starting....I guess that is a good thing!

This weekend was crazy!  There were so many parties, celebrating everyone and their brother, and my friends guilt tripped me into going to most of them.  ("Ali, its our last weekend together, pleaseee!?!") What was I supposed to do...?  Anyways, it was really fun, and I will have relaxing time in Chatel, France with the family!!!  My flight leaves tomorrow morning to Geneva, Switzerland and I will spend the rest of December and most of January there with my family.  I am really excited to see everyone, and look forward to all the shenanigans starting tomorrow.

Keep watching for photos and stories of the "French Family Vadeboncoeur" Christmas in France.  :)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Happy December! :)

Wow!  Its already December (I know, its the 9th of I am a little slow that is all)
Its hard to believe that I have been here for over 3 months!  Its gone by so fast, and as all the other students prepare to go home, I am very glad that I am staying another semester.  Maybe its because from the beginning I was mentally prepared (or at least was pretending) to be here for a year, but I feel that I have so much left to see and learn that I am not be ready to go home just yet.  I am defiantly ready for the semester to end, to see my family (15 days!!!) and to have snow.  Some of you may think that its great to not have snow, but I don't feel like its Christmas time without it....hopefully there will be plenty of it in Chatel, France!

I don't have much to tell about what I have been doing the last week...homework and such.  University has gotten a lot harder, with the end of my semester approaching.  Its just like back at Carroll, too many exams/presentations/projects due, and not enough time.  Here they are big on end of the semester group projects.  I hate them, because there is NEVER time for everyone to get together.  And of course because Spanish people are always late, and like to put things off until the end of the semester (including the professors) everything is piled on to these last weeks.  Planning ahead or providing semester plans is so overrated.  *said with large dose of sarcasm*

I have learned a lot about myself, and noticed how I have changed since arriving in Madrid.  The biggest thing that I have learned is independence.  When you go off to college there is a sense of independence and doing everything on your own, but for me that was nothing like the independence I have experienced since I arrived here.  I am also a lot more self-confident in my abilities of going somewhere foreign, and figuring it out, on my own.  Its a pretty cool feeling, when I look back at the first couple weeks here, and realize how much I have learned, and how much I was missing out on before this experience.  I am grateful that I have another semester to study here, and a summer to work here. :)

Now I am off to the office to meet with my future boss and discuss the details of my internship!  (a little first "real job" interview, yikes!)  until next time...


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Spanish/American Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  We always go to my grandmas house in Arkansas for the week with the entire family.  Its is a lot of fun, and this was the fist year, in my memory, that I was not in Arkansas.  I had to do something to celebrate so I decided that I would make a Thanksgiving meal for my host family.  Quickly after making that decision I realized that I had no idea how to make any of the food...let alone in a kitchen where I don't know where anything is, or the name of it in Spanish.  I also knew that I could not make a Turkey, the whole idea of touching it is enough to make me gag...gross.

So I talked with my host mom about it and she thought it was a great idea and said that she would make a chicken, because apparently they don't eat turkey here...  So I began looking for the food that I wanted to cook, and started at an American grocery store in Madrid.  I went to the "store" with Marzia, but I don't think you can call that a store.  It was more a pantry, with American food brands.  (Soooooo tiny!)  I did get some pumpkin for the pumpkin pie, but they were out of pie crusts, and stuffing mix.  (But I got oatmeal and some crunchy peanut butter!!!)  Normally, making stuffing or pie crust from scratch is not a big deal, but when the ingredients are all different, and you have class all day on Thanksgiving, it makes it a little harder.  In the end, I decided that chicken, vegetables, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie would be the Thanksgiving menu for this year.  5 grocery stores later, I finally had all the stuff I needed to make dinner! :)

I had to go to classes all morning, which was very strange to be in class on Thanksgiving and in a country where they don't celebrate it.  (no one was in a particularly good mood, which was weird because I kept forgetting they don't celebrate, therefore it is just a normal Thursday for them...lame)

Anyways, when I got home from classes, my host mom and I began cooking and had a great time together in the kitchen watching TV and translating recipes and converting units.  All the food turned out great, and I was excited for everyone to have their first Thanksgiving meal! 
They were all quite skeptical about the pumpkin pie, because pumpkin here is only used as a vegetable.  (It would be like making a broccoli pie, I see where the skepticism comes from)

But they all tried everything, and liked it all, (even Raúl who apparently has the taste buds of a 4 year old, because he doesn't like anything)

After dinner I skyped with everyone in Arkansas and my host family which was really fun.  It was difficult to translate everything quickly, because there is always at least 7 people talking at once but it was fun.  Overall it was a good Thanksgiving, nothing like being in Arkansas, which I look forward to next year, but a it was fun to bring some American culture to Spain. :)

Last night I went to Madrid with some friends to look at Christmas lights around the city, they finally turned them on!  The city was so festive and beautiful, but freezing.  I am sure it is still warmer here than at home, but damn!  I am not used to cold anymore!

Some of the Christmas lights near Sol - hopefully more picture to come!

Tonight we have tickets to the theater in Madrid, not sure what show, something in Spanish I assume. :)  And tomorrow consists of homework, 2 presentations on Monday, yikes!  (Its like I am a real college student again...)

love xoxo

Monday, November 15, 2010

A free leg of ham!!!

Hi all!
These past two weekends have been awesome.  I traveled with friends to different parts of Spain by train, which is great because its very cheap and I get to see many different parts of the Country.

Two weekends ago Marzia and I went to Ávila, a small city about 2 hours away by train.  Its famous for its walls, and they very nice walls.  We didn't really have a plan about what we were going to do, we didn't even know where to go when we left the train station!  But we figured out how to get to the old part of the city and walked around all day.  It was a beautiful fall day, and we had a great time.  We had lunch at a little restaurant right outside the walls, and finished the day with more walking around and a little shopping.  Ávila is very touristy, but because it is not tourist season, there were not any crowds which was good, but a lot of stores closed early.  We decided to go back to the train station early to see if we could change our tickets to an earlier train and luckily there was a train leaving in 20 minutes that we were able to change out tickets to - for free!

That was on Saturday, on Sunday Marzia and I had made plans to meet up with a friend, Isabelle, in Madrid for lunch.  After lunch we decided to go to the FREE Katy Perry concert.  The MTV European awards were here so Linkin Park and Katy Perry both held free concerts in the city.  The concert was great fun but I was really missing my American sized personal space bubble.  I also figured out that I am claustrophobic.  Not fun to figure out when you are in the middle of thousands of people all pushing you to get closer to the stage.  But once I got over that, it was great.  After Katy Perry we left the concert to go to a bar to watch Real Madrid play.  The game was against Athlético Madrid which is great because both teams are from Madrid!

The rest of this week was not very eventful.  Classes are getting a lot harder, and I now actually have homework and exams to study for...but I am also getting a lot better at Spanish.  I have even made some more friends, now I just don't even know how to balance my time! :)  I have also been trying to get my iphone to work since I got here.  I kept going into the local cell phone store trying to figure out how to get it to work here, but because they don't speak any English, and I didn't know how to ask all the questions I needed to know about the prices it was very difficult.  I finally had the genius idea to take the SIM card from the cell phone I have and put it into my iphone.  (I know, it took me 2 months to even come up with that idea...but that is not the point)  The next task was the take the SIM card out of my iphone - not as easy as it sounds.  After bending a bobby pin, breaking my tweezers, and watching every video on youtube about "how easy it is to remove the SIM card from the iphone" I finally got it out.  Then, after about 45 minutes of trying to get the SIM card unlocked in my iphone, I figured out that it just won't work here.  (I bet if I had an iphone 4 it would work...)  The next best thing that happened to me during the week, happened while I was eating breakfast and watching TV.  Spanish TV is...strange, they watch a lot of trashy talk shows and reality TV.  The commercials are just as bad.  However, one did catch my eye.  As I was eating my corn flakes, as I do EVERY morning, I saw an infomercial for an HP computer.  They always have free gifts and Spain is no exception.  In fact here it comes with 2 free gifts!  The first is a stylish laptop carrying case.  The second is a leg of ham.  Yes, an entire freaking LEG of ham!!!  I will order one just so I get the ham.

On Saturday, Marzia, Isabelle and I went to Cuenca.  It is another small city about 3 hours from Madrid.  Cuenca is famous for its hanging houses, which are very old houses, literally built into the side of a cliff...  It was a beautiful small city and we had a great time walking around and soaking up some sun.

It was a really fun day, and I know that it was because I came out of it with a poop story.  Some of you may think that is really gross, and yes it was disgusting, but think about it -  whenever you have a poop story, its always funny!  If you do not like laughing, then just skip to the next paragraph.  On our way home we all had to pee, but we were very close to the train station in Madrid so decided to wait and go in the station.  When we asked where the bathrooms were they said that there were none, but that all the trains have them.  We had to wait about 10 minutes for the next train to arrive and when it did we got on by the bathrooms.  Our nostrils were immediately filled with the most horrible stench ever.  I decided that I didn't have to pee bad enough to go into the bathroom but Marzia did.  She went in and as I am standing there holding her bag, gagging, I look around and everyone on the train has their scarves pulled up around their noses in disgust.  I go and sit down with Isabelle and we are laughing at everyone and gagging at the same time.  Marzia can't figure out how to close the bathroom door, and normally I would help her but I couldn't get any closer to the source of the smell.  Eventually she gave up and came out of the bathroom to sit with us.  We decided that we had to move to another part of the train to get away from the smell, but had to walk by the bathroom to get there.  We all prepared to make the journey past the stench and made our way to the front of the train.  At this point I am hysterical from the whole situation, with everyone on the train gagging, and Marzia not being able to shut the door, that I am almost peeing my pants (not good for someone who has had to pee for the past 45 minutes).  So we find three seat together towards the front of the train and as we are about to sit a man yells and tells us not to sit there.  We look around and there is a pile of puke on the floor.  So we move to another set of seats only to discover there is what appears to be a huge pile of poop on the floor.  At this point I can hardly contain my laughter, just trying not to die from disgust, and laughing at everyone else who is freaking out.  It was a once in a lifetime experience, and I am glad that it was only a 10 minute train ride.

That is all I have for now, hopefully I will have some other good stories for you all from this week! :)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Guadalajara/2 month mark!

Hi all!
Tomorrow marks two months in Spain for me!  yay!  I am still having a great time and learning new things all the time.  Everything is still quite challenging, the language, missing things from home; family, friends, food that doesn't come with eyes... but it gets better everyday.  I finally feel like my Spanish has taken a big jump forward.  I can watch TV and understand a lot, have conversations with people around me, and survive a weekend trip to visit the grandparents. ;)

The grandparents live in a small town near Guadalajara.  Its about a 2 hour drive from Villa.  My host mom told me that we were going to visit them for the weekend and I was under the impression that everyone was going...this is where the whole language barrier things still exists.  Anyways, turns out that it was just me and my host parents going.  That was ok because its easier for me to talk when there are less people around, the whole confidence thing, so I just figured that I would get a lot of Spanish practice in.  We arrived at the grandparents house and my host mom's 2 brothers and wives were also there.  They are all very nice, but don't speak any English, good for practice but very frustrating at times.  None of the other grandchildren came so I was there bringing down the average age a bit. :)  It was actually really fun, and eating dinner with everyone was a blast!  It reminded me a lot of Thanksgiving with my family, everyone talking at once, very loud, just like David. 

Now Spanish people are very concerned with how much you eat.  Apparently they think that I don't know how to put food on my plate, or know how to tell when I am full, because they are constantly making me eat more.  And its even worse when they are old!  And they are quite old.  My host grandpa was absolutely hilarious.  He is probably at most 4' 10" and is very round, with high pants, held up even higher with suspenders.  He can't hear and doesn't like to wear his hearing aid, or admit that he can't hear you.  Watching the interaction between everyone was very entertaining because they would all be talking and then he would jut in to say something completely off topic and then everyone would yell at him, and then talk in normal voices about him.  This continued for the entire weekend and was very amusing. 
Here are a few pictures from my weekend. :)

This is where my host parents got married, such a beautiful church in a very small town.

Not sure what that is, but I found it in my room...

A beautiful look-out over a lake in the mountains near Guadalajara

The calendar for this week is pretty empty still, but hopefully that will change!  Tuesday is a holiday in Madrid (imagine that...another holiday!) so I don't have any classes.  I am trying to plan a weekend trip or a day trip somewhere but am having difficulties with the internet.  (This is one of those moments that I wish I could speak Spanish fluently because I want to call and complain and order the tickets online but that conversation is a little above my abilities still...grrrr)  Anyways, miss you all and would love to hear updates of your lives!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

another week gone by

Hi everyone!
Another week has gone by, strange how that keeps happening... :)
Not as eventful as others but still found time to have some fun and do some tourist stuff.

Classes are getting a lot better, I understand more and have made some acquaintances in some of my classes.  (I now have about 6 new facebook friends)  Speaking of facebook, I saw the new Social Network movie, the story of Mark Zuckerberg, founder of facebook.  Didn't have very high expectations for it, was mainly excited for the popcorn - which did live up to my expectations, but the movie was great!  Very witty and its a great story in general, highly recommend it.

Anyways, Marzia and I found some time this past weekend to explore the Retiro Park in Madrid.  Its a beautiful park in the center of the city where we stumbled upon a canoe/kayak race going on in the lake.  We sat in the grass and watched the race, the strange people that the park attracts and enjoyed the sunny day.  (Have I mentioned its ALWAYS sunny here - fantastic!)  We also wanted to explore the Mercado de San Miguel, a covered food market in Madrid.  We made our way there and after a couple laps around the market to check out our options we decided to try different cheeses from all over Spain.  It was delicious!  

The lake in Retiro Park
Thursday night one of my new friends invited me to go out with her and some of her friends.  They were all going to Doblón, a club in Villa.  (its normal to go out on a thursday night here...)  Marzia went with me and we had a great time, although it was not easy getting up for class on Friday....

Saturday during lunch my host dad asked if I wanted to go to the Real Madrid game that evening, not sure why he had to ask, of course I wanted to go!  I went with him and my host brother and it was a lot of fun.  Much better than the first game I went to, probably because they won 6-1 so it was a lot more exciting.  After the game I met up with Marzia, Charlie and Elli in Madrid and went out with them for a while, good end to the weekend.

Next week there is not anything on the calendar, except for that its Halloween, which I guess they do celebrate here!  I don't know exactly how they celebrate it, but its a good excuse to party, not that they need an excuse.  :)

Until next time <3

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Hello everyone!
This past weekend my host family and I went to their beach house in Alicante.  Its about a 4.5 hour drive southeast of Madrid to the Mediterranean coast.  Now a 4.5 hour for me is not that long considering how far most of our road trips are back home.  However, a 4.5 hour drive with my host dad driving is another story.  Spanish people in general drive like they are from Illinois (no offense to the flat-landers out there).  They drive really fast, come right up on the next cars tail, and then slam on the brakes.  I don't think they realize that if you gradually approach the car in front of you, there is no need to slam on the brakes.  (and you would avoid causing everyone else in the car to get car-sick...)  But we made it in one piece and I had a few days to recover before making the trek back.

That first night we drove down to the beach and walked around the city of San Juan.  Their  house is about a 10 min. drive from the beach and about 15 mins. to Alicante.  (San Juan is a smaller city on the coast)
The first full day we had in San Juan we spend the afternoon at the beach.  My host parents took me and it was great.  The weather was perfect and because the tourist season is over it wasn't very crowded.  The water was quite chilly but I went swimming anyways and my host mom and I walked to the end of the beach and back.
my host mom and I at the beach :)
After spending most of the day at the beach we went back to the house to change clothes, pick up Raúl (who for some strange reason didn't want to go to the beach...) and then went to lunch at a paella restaurant.  The paella was HUGE and very good, although I prefer the paella my host mom makes at home.  (I told her that, gained points) 

The next day we went to Valencia, another city on the coast about 2 hours away.  Valencia is the city of art and sciences and is very modern.  We spend the entire day at the aquarium, one of the largest in the world, with the most species of fish in one area.  It was really cool and a fun day with my family.  The aquarium is located in downtown Valencia in a complex that also contains a theater and the science museum.  It is a very famous complex designed by some famous spanish architect.  Here is a picutre of my host family and I in front of the science museum.  (the blue building in the background is part of the aquarium)
My host family (minus Héctor, who had to work)
Overall the vacation was really fun.  It was difficult to spend so much time with no english but I can tell it was worth it because I am understanding a lot more.
I am still having a great time and learning new things everyday.  I am feeling more and more like Madrid is no longer a vacation, but that also means the "honeymoon" stage is over.  The hardest part right now is that I don't have many friends.  Its a lot harder to make friends when you don't speak the same language, and can't tell a funny story or joke around.  But that will get easier with time, and I am currently trying to find a club or something on campus to get involved with and make friends that way.

Love hearing from everyone, thanks for the all the comments!  I like to know that people are acutally reading the blog :)


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

One month later, what I have learned so far...

I can't believe I have been in Spain for one month already!  Sometimes I feel like I have been here for 2 days and other times it feels like I have always lived here.  Its starting to feel a bit like a third home, after Lake Mills and Carroll of course. :) 

Thinking of what the big '1 month mark' blog should contain was quite a task.  Almost all the previous posts have been after something big, but lately things have settled down around here.  One night while riding the bus home from Madrid with Marzia, we were discussing everything that was different.  We started making a list of things we have noticed and had quite a laugh in the process, lets just say people were staring at us on the bus. 

So here it is, things that I have learned about Spaniards after living abroad for one month.

1.  Spaniards are very skinny.  I don't know how, because they fry EVERYTHING and eat loaves, and loaves of bread.
2.  Making out in public is normal, regardless of the time of day or the sobriety of the people.  I don't know what phrase is equivalent to "get a room" but I need to learn it, someone here needs to tell these people that PDA is NOT necessary at all hours of the day.
3. Spaniards are in general short.  Now some of you may be thinking, "yeah sure, coming from the girl that is 5'1" calling others short."  But really, I am average/above average in the height department around here.  Its great. 
4.  Style - Now everyone knows that Europeans are more stylish than Americans, and it is true.  Spanish women wear high heels everywhere.  I don't know how they do it, because they walk just as fast and on cobblestones!  However, there are some major fashion disasters that occur here too.  For example jorts are in style.  Jorts are shorts in the jean material for guys.  They are awful and should be outlawed, along with the euro "rat-tail".
5.  They like to party, a lot.  Anything in Spain can be turned into a reason to party; first day of classes, strikes in Madrid, Thursday nights, you get the picture.  Along with the extreme partying comes lack of sleeping.  I don't understand how people in this country survive because they never sleep.  I do not function well without 8 hours of sleep a night, so I compensate by sleeping until 3pm on the weekends. :)
6.  Work ethic is...different.  I don't know what people do all day at work here but they don't seem to get a lot done...and it takes a lot people to get that small amount of work done.  I think there is a lot of paper shuffling.  Lunch is the biggest meal of the day and everyone goes home from work during lunch.  They close down stores from 2-5 so they can "siesta"...(I guess this is when they catch up on the lack of sleep).  Its really annoying when you are out and about and all the sudden everything is closed.  And Sundays, are horrible.  Don't even bother making any sort of plans because everything is closed on Sundays.

Now Americans have a pretty bad rap around the world, and some of it unfortunately is true, but most is not.  One of the most positive attributes of Americans that I have realized since I have been here is that Americans are humble.  If its "American made" that doesn't necessarily make it the best.  For example Italian leather and Chinese electronics are widely accepted to be the best.  Spanish people are not humble.  If its Spanish, then its the best. 

So there you have it, some of the things I have learned after one month.

This weekend I am going to Alicante with my host family.  Its a city on the Mediterranean coast where they have a vacation home.  Don't worry, I will get enough beach time in for everyone.  :)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


This weekend was awesome, we went to Barcelona as a group and had a fantastic time!  The trip started out at an ungodly hour (4am!) to catch the 6am train from Madrid to Barcelona.  I want to take all my trips by 'renfe' train (Spanish trains) because they are extremely comfortable.  The seats are huge, they recline, there is a food car, and they show a movie.  What more do you need during a 3 hour train ride?  It was great.  So we arrived in Barcelona and made our way to our hotel.  We stayed in a really nice hotel 1 block from the Sagrada Familia.  The city fiesta in Barcelona was going on, of course - another fiesta, so the city was extra crowded.  In Barcelona they do not speak Spanish, they speak Catalan which is like a mixture of French and Spanish and impossible to understand or read.  Once we arrived at the hotel we dropped our luggage, had some breakfast and then it was off to see the city.
Encarna, the art professor, came with us which was really cool.  We first went to the Picasso Museum which houses the largest collection of Picasso paintings.  The museum was extremely crowded, because of the city fiestas it was free, but was still really cool.  I like art museums but they seem to have this power of putting us all to sleep...

After the museum we had some lunch and then it was off to the Sagrada Familia.  It's one of Gaudí's (architect from Barcelona) most famous works and has been under construction since 1882 and is not expected to be finished until 2026!  It was absolutely amazing.
La Sagrada Familia at night

That night Marzia and I went out to dinner at a restaurant on the boardwalk and watched fireworks on the beach.  We didn't stay out too late because we wanted to get an early start the next day to see as much of Barcelona as we could.

The next morning Marzia and I got up and went out to breakfast at a little bakery near our hotel.  We walked around the city on the main street marveling at the great shopping and the  amazing architecture around the city.  We then decided to make our way to the Park Güell, another of Gaudí's works.  It is a beautiful Park with amazing views of the Mediterranean and all of Barcelona.  We spend most of the day at the park enjoying the sun and people watching.  After lunch we made our way to a popular square/street La Rambla.  It is famous for its living statues and to our surprise there was a parade going on.  There were thousands of people and in the parade were drumming groups of all ages, really cool.  We stumbled upon a market and walked around that for a while.  Before we knew it, it was time to get to the train station and head back to Madrid.
Marzia and I at the entrance to Park Güell

Park Güell and the view 

Casa Battló
The market
When we finally arrived back in Madrid we had to take a bus back to Villa, making the last bus in the nick of time!  (otherwise we would have had to wait for 1 hour for the night buses to start running...)  So we got to Villa and the bus driver told everyone to get off...but Marzia and I were confused because this was not the normal stop...  So we stayed on and to our surprise the bus driver turned around and started heading the other way.  Now this is not good for two girls who barely speak Spanish, have luggage with them, and have no idea where the bus is going at 1am!  We were beginning to freak out when we realized that the bus was taking an alternate route because the street was closed for what other reason than there was a fiesta going on.  :)

Overall it was a great trip.  Although I am glad I got to visit Barcelona I was happy to get back to Madrid.  Barcelona is very touristy and they don't speak Spanish, so I would never know what is going on!


Monday, September 20, 2010

Fiestas/Vuelta de España

Its been quite chaotic these last couple of days in Spain, but very fun! 
The city festivals began, and I was right, they don't sleep.  I went out the first night with my older host brother, Héctor, and his friends.  We first watched the fireworks, signaling the beginning of the festivals, as if they need fireworks to know its started, there is a freaking carnival right next to my house. (which I get the listen to all night long, but that is a different story)  After the fireworks everyone walks up the main street in Villa and parties.  There is music and dancing, and of course lots of drinking.  Its illegal to drink on the streets in Spain, but apparently the cops don't care during the festivals...weird.  Anyways, his friends were really nice and it was fun because we spoke Spanish the whole night, in a social setting and I understood about 80% of what was said and was able to participate!  Good confidence boost in my speaking abilities, which was desperately needed. 

The next morning, Marzia and I went into Madrid to watch the final stage of the Vuelta de España bike race.  I had emailed my future boss (I have an internship set up for this summer) at the Trek Madrid office asking him where the best place to go and watch was.  He offered to get me VIP passes, so obviously I took him up on the offer.  After some slight confusion at the race, we figured out where to go and had an amazing time watching from the finish line.  The best part was that Marzia and I got a car ride!  We rode in the medic car and got to watch, from the car, two laps.  We first followed the pelaton and then pulled off to the side to wait for them to come around again.  We began following the lead group, passed them going about 90 km/hr in downtown Madrid and finished off the loop by flying by all the police and other lead cars.  It was crazy.  After the race the Saxo Bank and Garmin Slipstream teams came into the VIP tent.  Frank Schleck was there and I really wanted to meet him.  I finally worked up enough courage to talk to him, and he was super nice.  Dad - he told me that I look like you. :) haha
I met Frank! (sooooo skinny) haha

Marzia and I in the VIP area :)

After the Vuelta, Marzia and I walked around Madrid and found a little bar to watch the Barcelona vs. Athlético game.  Its great fun watching fútbol matches in bars, although the fans are not as crazy here as they are in England. 

During the city festivals in Spain most cities have a 'running with the bulls' event followed by a bull fight.  In Villa there are three of them.  This morning my host dad and one of the other American girls and I went to watch.  The bulls run down the streets which are surrounded by tall fences that the spectators climb on to watch.  In the streets the 'village idiots' run with the bulls.  I watched from the fence and was terrified when the bulls ran past, thinking how much it would hurt for the horn to smash into my feet....They run the bulls through the city and to the bull ring.  (which is also right behind my house)  Once in the bull ring they simply irritate the bull and it charges them, but they don't kill it until the actual bull fight which is in the evening.  (I did not going because its really bloody and cruel)  I am glad that I was able to see the running, but its not something I care to go to again.

'Running of the Bulls' in Villaviciosa de Odón

Classes are going well, everyday it gets a little easier to understand, although I still miss some of the important things, like what the homework is, now its time to finish the homework that I didn't know I had. ;)  Until Next time...


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hello!  I have now been in Spain for 10 days and am starting to settle into a routine.  Its very different than in the US because I don't have that much to do, and don't know what to do with my free time...

La Noche Blanco (the white night) was so much fun!  I started out the night going to a Real Madrid fútbol game with my host dad and brother which was really fun.  I then met up with the rest of the exchange students in Madrid to celebrate la noche blanco.  The festival was crazy.  All the main streets were shut down and people were everywhere!  All the museums and restaurants were open late, and there were outdoor concerts all over the city.  We spend most of our night walking around the city and taking it all in.  I didn't get home until 6am....and when I left Madrid there were still tons of people out!  Spanish people like to stay up late and party.  I don't know how they do it every night?! 

My host brother Raúl and I at the Real Madrid game.

Classes began for real on Monday.  They are really challenging for me, I have never been so lost in my entire life!  Once I figure out what is going on, usually by someone explaining it to me in english or slow spanish, the material is very easy.  We spent an entire class period (2hrs) defining what culture is....but hopefully I will be able to improve my spanish in that class!  I added a literature and cinema class to my schedule but after one class decided that I need to drop it.  The professor talks very fast, facing the board...  The one thing I did understand was that we have to read 4 novels, which would take me like an entire I will try a different class. :)

This weekend the city festivals begin, which is an entire week of activities in Villaviciosa de Odón.  I imagine that everyone will stay out all night, again.  haha This whole not sleeping thing is going to take some getting used to....

Friday, September 10, 2010


I am in love with Spain.  I love the weather, the sights, the people, everything.  So far its been fantastic.  On Wednesday we went to the Prado Museum in Madrid.  It was of course an adventure getting there, because we had to take the metro system.  4 wrong train rides later we all arrived an hour late to the Prado.  At the museum we met with Encarna, a professor of Art in Spain who gave us a private tour.  It was really cool to have her with us, but we did not get to see everything so we all want to return for longer, and also to go to the Reina Sofía, the contemporary art museum in Madrid.  After the Prado we had tapas (basically appetizers that you have for lunch) at a cafe near the Prado.  Susan then bought us all tickets for the tourist buses (a double-decker with no roof) to tour the city.  We had a great time riding all around Madrid taking pictures and relaxing. 

On Thursday classes began at the University.  We were all very nervous but they turned out to be just fine.  We all had our Spanish language class together, which went well.  After that we went out to lunch at a local restaurant with Susan which was really good.  I was supposed to have another class that evening but I decided to switch that class because it was also on Fridays in the evening and conflicted with another class.  I don't like Friday night classes and Susan told me that I should switch is, so I did not go. 

On Friday we all skipped our classes, which I guess is normal to skip classes during the first 2 weeks because students are still arriving from all over the world.  We went to Toledo, with Encarna, which was amazing.  If you ever get the chance to go to Toledo you have to go.  It is only a short train ride from Madrid, about 30 mins. on a speed train.  Its a very famous city in Spain because there are many buildings and famous people from the city.  We visited the most beautiful cathedral there and 2 synogags.  We then had lunch and had time to walk around the city.  It was a great day and I am excited that I am here for two semesters because I can go back to Toledo when the next group of students arrives. 

Tomorrow, I think that I am going to a Real Madrid game with my host dad.  They have season tickets and its the opening match tomorrow.  I am very excited because tickets are very expensive.  Tomorrow night is also a festival in Madrid, La noche blanco (the with night).  I don't know what it celebrates but it sounds fun.  :)
Miss you all xoxo

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

let the crazy life begin :)

Well I am a little more settled, and when I say a little I mean that I finally got my clothes put away in my closet.  The first full day that I was here (Mon.) I met all the other exchange students from America.  There are six of us total from all over the US and one girl who is from Afghanistan.  They are all very nice and it was good to have some English spoken around me.  We all got cell phones, so if anyone wants to call me just email me for my number - however, it will be an international call for you.  We then had a walking tour of the city, Villaviciosa de Odón, which is a beautiful city of about 30,000 people.  I am already in love with the city.  We then had lunch all together at a cafe, which was very interesting.  This is what my meal came out looking like...

It was looking at me, and had teeth!!!
After I figured out how to eat the fish we all returned to our houses to take a siesta.  We had also decided that we wanted to try out the bus system and explore Madrid that night.  So we all took a bus (about 15mins) into Madrid and went out.  We walked around the city and sat at little cafes and bars and had a great time.  However, when we tried to get home that night we did not have great luck.  Once we figured out how to get back to the bus station we waited, and waited and waited some more.  Finally, once the bus was like 20 mins. late we decided to take taxi's back because the next bus wasn't until 5am and there were not any people around and we didn't think it was a great idea for a bunch of Americans to be hanging around a bus stop at about 3am.  So after flagging down 2 taxi's to take us back to Villaviciosa the challenge then became telling the taxi driver where we lived.  I knew what street I live on, Calle Gaviota, but finding it at night and in a car when I had only walked there was a different story.  But all worked out in the end and I made it home at about 4am.

This is a little cafe that we found in Madrid near the Puerta del Sol, a famous plaza in the city.

The next morning we all went to the Universidad Europea de Madrid (UEM) to register for classes and figure out how to get there on the buses.  It is a beautiful campus with modern buildings and lots of International students.  I am taking 4 classes, all in Spanish.  I am very nervous but I am in a few classes with the other Americans which is good. 

Tomorrow we are going into Madrid as a group to visit the Prado museum and see the city during the day.  We are also having Tapas at Mercado de San Miguel & Plaza Mayor and trying to buy Real Madrid tickets. 
Having a fantastic time, but do miss understanding everything around me... 

Sunday, September 5, 2010

I made it!

Ahhhh I am here, finally!  It amazing/beautiful/hot/crazy/confusing etc...  the list of what I am feeling incorporates any feeling or emotion that you can think of.  So the travel day was an adventure.  I got to sit in the Chicago airport, for a good 4 hours, which wouldn't be that bad if you were in any airport besides Chicago.  Seriously Madison has a better airport.  Once you pass security in Chicago there is NO food.  I had peanut M&M's for dinner, (mom style dinner).  Once on the plane, which I was really excited about having a "world traveler" seat which actually turned out to be the same as economy class.  I sat next to a couple that were moving to Africa to be missionaries, full time.  Once I landed in Madrid I was so nervous and excited that I couldn't hardly stand it.  They had me fill out a customs card on the plane, but I never had to go through customs.....crazy.  Hopefully I am able to come back to the USA next year. 
My host family was waiting at the airport with Susan, my liaison, ready to kiss me on each cheek.  They are really nice and I think I am really going to like them.  We drove home through downtown Madrid and its incredible.  Its such a beautiful city, I can't wait to spend some time there.  The language part is difficult, they don't speak any English but their two sons, Raúl and Héctor do speak a little.  I can understand most of it, but when more than one person in the room is talking or they talk really fast I am completely lost. 
Raúl, Héctor and I went out and met up with some of their friends, one of them is hosting two other American girls.  His friends were really nice and kept trying to get us to speak to them which we were trying but they would get going on these crazy tangents and then we were all lost.  We got back to the house at about 10pm and ate dinner then.  Mercedes (host mom)  made chicken fajitas which she told me were spicy so I was very cautious....however, I soon realized that even though they were all sweating,  I could have used some salsa.  :)  It was quite good though, so at least I know that I won't starve to death. 
My room is sweet.  They live in a row house and I have the top floor (3rd) which has a bedroom and a bathroom and a living area that has a pool table.  I am pretty excited, except for that it is like 110º up here....
Tomorrow's day is packed with meeting type things to figure out cell phones, tour of the city, safety etc.

They asked me what I wanted for breakfast, and then offered corn flakes, not chocolate dad.  :)

Hopefully I will have more exciting stories later on...

Friday, September 3, 2010


Packing sucks.  There is no other way to put it.  Tell me how I am supposed to pack for an entire year, and be able to carry it all in 2 suitcases?!?!  Its really hard.  I have a lot of shoes that really are necessary, and purses and jeans and jewelry.  I have all day tomorrow to make it all fit, and then the adventure begins!

We will be dropping my sister off at school early Saturday morning and then driving directly to the airport.  From the moment I land in Madrid, it will be 100% Spanish.  My host family does not speak any English....its going to be interesting. :/  Hopefully I will pick it up fast, otherwise it will be a long year.  :)

That is all for now, next post = SPAIN!!