Monday, February 21, 2011

Yes, I am still here.

Hello all,

Yes, I am still here.  I know that I have been pretty bad about this whole blogging thing for a while (sorry), but you should all take that as a good sign.  I have been having so much fun that I haven't had time to blog!  Another reason, slightly less glamorous, is that because its my second semester here all of this is not necessarily new to me, so I don't even think about blogging it.  But I will try to be better about that.

On the last post I left off with saying that we were heading to Córdoba, which was great!  It was a really fun trip, and we did have great weather. :)  Córdoba has a very interesting and diverse history.  There was a mix of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim cultures all living in the same city, resulting a very cool city.  We began the day with tours of all the important things with Encarna, the history professor who comes on all the trips with us, trying to educate us.  My favorite place was of the Mezquita, or Mosque.  It was absolutely enormous and very beautiful - definitely recommend it.  The day was great, and all the new students in the program are all really nice.  I do miss all the students from last semester though, we started it all together and its weird to not have them here...


I have been spending a lot of time making new friends, which is going very well.  (yay me!)  I even have a hard time deciding what to do sometimes because I have so many options...I know, my life is so hard. :p  But hey, friends are essential, especially when your family lives 4,192.97 miles away.  (that is the exact distance - I calculated it)  So, besides the new friend quest that I am constantly on, I have been going to classes and trying to explore new areas of the city.  Overall having a GREAT time, loving life, and starting to freak a bit that I only have 6 months left here ... yikes!  Better make the best of the time I have left, because I know it will fly by... :(

This last weekend I was in Sevilla, having a grand time.  I really enjoyed Sevilla, and again had great weather, at least for me it was great.  (The crazy Spaniards think its freezing...but I just keep telling them they don't know what cold is, go to Wisconsin in February, that is cold.)  Encarna came with us again, and after a few small morning travel issues, we were ready to start touring Sevilla.  We toured all the important things with Encarna and had a great lunch all together.  My favorite part was climbing to the top of the Giralda Tower in the Cathedral for the amazing views of the city.

The tower
The view
The other thing I love about Andalucía (Southern region of Spain) is that there are orange and lemon trees growing all over!  That is something we definitely don't have in Wisconsin.  Unfortunately they are not edible...not sweet.  :( 

Orange trees!
The rest of our time in Sevilla was spent walking around exploring the city, getting lost, watching weird flamenco shows, and I say weird because it was not a normal flamenco performance, it was a theater show - with a bit of flamenco thrown in there.  Very strange - we were all expecting some big ruffled dress, polka dots, something, it was weird.  So now I still have to see a traditional flamenco show...I better get on that.

Next on the travel calendar for me is a possible trip to Salamanca next weekend to visit a friend.  Looking forward to (hopefully) seeing a familiar face from Carroll! 

Love you all! xoxo

Thursday, February 3, 2011


Hello everyone!
Second semester has officially begun along with all the organizational problems they seem to attract here...welcome back to Spain.

Last week, before classes started, I took advantage of the time and went to Paris and Slovenia with Riitta.  We had a great time, although it was much colder than we expected.  The first day we arrived in Paris, we made our way to the hotel, which was conveniently located in the red light district about 5 min. walk from the Moulin Rough...excellent start to the trip.  We got checked in, and decided to explore a bit.  We made our way to the Sacré Coeur, and stopped in all the little shops along the way.  It turned out to be a really cool neighborhood, with lots of boutiques, and artsy little cafes.  That night we went to see the Eiffel Tower, and attempted to go up to the top.  It was very cool to see the Tower lit up at night, and the light show was great!  Unfortunately the top was closed, so we decided to try back another day. 
The next morning we went to the Louvre and other touristy things to be done in Paris.  Going to most museums in Europe is great (free!) if you have an official student ID and/or are an EU citizen under 25.  Many times only one of those would be valid, and of course it would be the one I don't have.  Usually I would say that I was from Spain, and whip out my official resident card, to get in.  Most of the time that would work - so we got into almost everything for free.  Which was good because we were paying an arm and a leg for everything, Paris is so expensive!
After the first two days in Pairs, both of us were a little unimpressed....all we saw was a dirty city, with unfriendly people, and overpriced everything.  That is until we went up the Eiffel Tower.  Unfortunately we were not able to go to the top, (because of course its closed in January!) but the view from the second floor is still pretty amazing.  It was there we realized why people love Paris. 
(Now I have something to go back for, the top of the Eiffel Tower.)

Sacré Coeur

Christmas tree?  Guess those crazy Frenchies don't realize that Christmas is over...

Do I look cold?  Because I was FREEZING!!!
 The next morning we flew to Ljubljana, Slovenia.  Many of you are probably asking, "why Slovenia?"  And that is a very valid question...we really had no idea what we were getting into, only that it was a cheap flight from Paris with a rumored 'Best Hostel in the World'.  The drive from the airport to the hostel was a little frightening.  There was absolutely nothing, it was like driving in Northern WI in the dead of winter...nothing.  Once we got into the city it was still scary....very post soviet union ugly buildings, gray, not inviting...What were we thinking!?!
Then we got to our hostel.  It was an old military prison, in the artist district, with really bright colors, and graffiti all over...sweet.  Once we walked in I knew we would like it.  There was great music, friendly people, and lots of community involvement activities going on.  As I mentioned earlier, the hostel was an old prison, and was converted by the local university art program into a hostel.  Each "cell" is now a room, that was individually designed by a local artist, and had a really funky vibe.  We went to the restaurant in the hostel to get some food, and were surprised at how cheap, delicious, and how much food you got for only 4 euros!  (great change from Paris and Madrid)
The city turned out to be great.  The downtown is located on a river, with a cute little downtown and a castle overlooking the whole city.  We had a great time walking around, shopping in the small boutiques, and visiting all the surprisingly modern/artsy/posh coffee shops that had amazing coffee for less than 2 euros!  I think we drank enough coffee in those 2 days to last about 2 weeks! 
View of Ljubljana from the Castle

Best meal ever, Goulash and home brewed beer yumm!

Hostel Celica
After saying goodbye to our new friends at the hostel we made our way back to the airport, after waiting about 45 minutes in the cold after the shuttle forgot to pick us up...and headed back to Paris.  We spent a few more days in Paris visiting all the things we had missed, and then made our way back to Madrid to prepare for classes to begin...

This is the first week of classes, and they are going surprisingly well.  I showed up on the first day with no idea what classes I was going to take or what I was even going to do for the day.  I found Susan and somehow we came up for a list of classes for me.  I went to the International Office to register, only to find a line of about 500 other students waiting to register...ok so the 500 may be a bit of an exaggeration but it was a lot!  I noticed that the woman who usually helps us was not there, so I asked someone and they said she would not be in until Wednesday.  I am not sure how one of the 3 people who works in the International Office can be gone the first two days of a semester when all the international students are arriving...but I guess that is just how the Spanish do it.  So I signed up for an appointment to register, and decided to just go to the classes anyways. 

Classes so much better this semester than last, I actually understand what is going on!  Still tweaking the schedule a bit, but a lot less than last semester!  I have met the other American students in the program and they are very nice.  I have also found that making friends this semester is a lot easier!  Probably because my Spanish is a lot better, but also because I just start talking to everyone.  I think its because I no longer have a security blanket of having a friend from the states, so I have to make new friends....probably should have just done that from the start...oh well - better late than never! 

This weekend its off to Córdoba - and is telling me that is should be a high of 59 and sunny. :)  woohooo!