And the countdown to deportation begins…

So I’ve grown to appreciate all sorts of new things throughout my experience in Spain. I figured why not make a blog post of everything, big or small, that I’m going to miss about this country? Lord knows I need to write it down anyways if I ever want to remember it all. So here we go..

1. It’s amazing to walk out of my building to hike my early morning brisk walk to class and hear different styles of live street music played on the way. I will never forget the accordion man on Pedro Antonio. 

2. And with that being said, I think I might miss the beggars on the street as well just a little bit. Mostly the one outside of Zara who speaks Spanish like google translate.. “Ho-la gua-pa… ayuda-me por-fa-vor.” Love that guy. I might just ayudarle before I leave in 10 days just to show him how much he has stood out to me this semester. 

3. The people in Spain are so family-oriented it’s beautiful. Walking through town with arms linked, 15 year old kids still holding their moms hands, older men pushing their even older father’s around in a wheelchair, men and women greeting each other with a kiss on each cheek, men greeting each other with hugs and firm pats on the back. At first I expected to feel uncomfortable by the comfort zone of Spaniards or lack-there-of. Turns out I’ll most likely be bringing it back to the states… so prepare yourselves :)

4. So get this.. you’re hungry and want a beer. So you go to a bar/restaurant, order a round of beers.. 2 minutes later a free plate of food is being brought out due to the round of beers. Repeat this process by 3 or so. You get the gist of it I’m sure. 4 beers + 4 free servings food. This process is called tapas by the way. Probably my top 3 favorite things about Spain. Well, Granada, I should say. It doesn’t happen in every part of Spain. Mostly Granada because it’s such a huge college town and we’re ballin’ on a budget.

5. 100 Montaditos. Preferably on a Sunday or Wednesday. 

6. Walking everywhere rather than driving. I absolutely love that most things are within walking distance here. Walking distance consisting of 5-35 or so minutes to wherever I need to go. It’s nice to constantly get fresh air throughout the day and take in the surroundings. Don’t get me wrong though.. sometimes I miss being able to hop in the car and drive my happy ass where I need to go. Mostly because I like to jam out while I drive. I guess that’s what headphones are for while I’m walking though.

7. Churros and chocolate. Everyone has their own personal hangover remedies, mine are churros. 

8. SIESTA. Even though I rarely participate in the actual “siesta” aspect of the “siesta” time… I still appreciate the tradition. Except for when the store or market I need to go to is closed during siesta and I have to put my life on hold from 2:30-5:30. Siesta is mainly for relaxation though which, for some reason, is when I feel like being the most adventurous. So sometimes I just wander around. Other times I take advantage of this country-wide nap-time.

9. How easy it is to hop on a bus and take a ride for a few hours to a city halfway across the country for only 13 euros. Oh, and the flights across the CONTINENT or country for less than 100 euros. Ryanair, baby.

10. The beautiful, bearded, perfectly dressed and groomed spanish men. I won’t miss the beautiful, flawless spanish women though because they make me not want to leave my apartment.

11. The SOCIAL drinking atmosphere in comparison to the American binge drinking atmosphere. The simplicity of having several drinks with your friends but still remembering everything the next day and also having your dignity remain.

12. To totally contradict the above statement…. the chupiteria aka the chup aka the shot bar. 100 different types of shots all for 1 euro each. These are for the nights when we feel like being the american binge drinkers that we are. Oh and you get a ticket for each shot you get at the chup, 75 tickets gets you a thong that reads “Chupiteria 69” … I think 100 for a hoody. Classy, huh?

13. Whatsapp!! What a beautiful creation of an app. Except for the fact that you can totally tell when someone has read your message and not responded and vice versa. But there’s just something about that app…

14. The random, obscure art on the buildings around town.

15. Buying a bottle of wine for less than 2 euros (5 out of 7 nights of the week) and not being judged. Well, not too harshly at least. 

16. Being overly fed by my spanish host mom because she thinks I need to put on some weight or something. “Quieres más?” “Quieres fruta?” “Quieres postre?” “Algo más?” Nooo mamá, estoy llena. After the dinner that could’ve fed a family of 6 was split between my roommate and I, I don’t think I can manage to fit dessert in my stomach but I truly appreciate the concern and hospitality. No, she really is a great and fantastic woman though. I was incredibly blessed with Marian as my host mother.. it’s possibly that I’ve been contemplating adult-napping her. I can’t even fathom leaving her in 10 days.

17. The coffee. So much cheaper than Starbucks. So much better, too.

18. The architecture. I am infatuated with spanish architecture and even after 3 and a half months of living in Spain, I have never once became even remotely bored with the designs and buildings. I spot something new everyday, something worthy of taking a picture of. My dream home WILL include spanish architecture.

19. The Andalusian accent! I was terrified to live in this region of Spain at first due to the extremely different accent, but now I love it and have even picked up on it myself. It makes so much sense why they pronounce the “c’s” and “z’s” with what you would consider a lisp, obviously different than the “s’s” .. that slight difference in pronunciation can completely change the word you’re trying to use. I applaud you, Spain. Your use of vale, vosotros, and the andalusian lisp have totally transformed my spanish (for the better). 

20. The well-behaved dogs. Minus the shitting in the streets. But honestly I don’t really blame them considering there is absolutely no grass in Spain. So it’s not their fault they have to shit in the street, but the owners should definitely clean up after them. Other than that… the dogs are so much more well-behaved here than in the states.

21. That goes for children too… it’s rare that you hear a child throwing a tantrum in public. The children really seem to mature at a more rapid rate than the children in the states. Maybe it’s because they actually go outside and be humans and speak face to face with other humans. Rather than having their faces glued behind an iPad. Technology is amazing but it’s deteriorating our social skills/lives. 

22. The beautiful sunsets in the mountains. We like to hike up through the albayzin to the Mirador de San Nicolas and watch the sunset over the Alhambra. It’s honestly magical. Especially if you bring some nice red wine, loaf of bread, cheese, chorizo, and grapes and have a little bit of live background music playing. Not much else compares.

23. My overall favorite aspect of Granada is the slow-paced lifestyle that everyone lives. Nobody is in such a rush that they cannot appreciate their loved ones and the small things in life that are truly essential and important to stay sane and happy. Things that are easily overlooked back home. I’ve learned to pay more attention to detail and have my ears, eyes, and heart open while I’m exploring this new, strange world. There is so much to learn and the majority of it can be done simply through observation. La prisa mata :)

I’m going to end it at that because I could probably continue my list to 100 and I don’t want to bore you to tears. Granada is truly a magical city and I’m so content with the life I have created for myself here because I’ve made it impossible to not return in the future. :)

Acción de gracias :)

Happy thanksgiving, everyone! My first thanksgiving away from home but that’s alright because thanks to Skype, I can see my family and feel like I’m right there with them :) I also have my spanish family and friends to spend time with today so I have a lot to be grateful for. 

I figured I would be cliché today and list a few things that I’ve learned to be thankful for over the past few months (some I was thankful for before this experience as well, obviously). 

- Growing and changing.
- The ability to adapt to a new, unfamiliar environment and thrive in it.
- Family, not only my amazing blood family but the family I’ve created all over the world.
- The best friends I’ve met in Spain who have grown so close to my heart in such a short time frame.
- Central heating.
- Long, hot, 30 minute long showers while not having to hold the shower head.
- Egg nog. 
- Music… the one thing in my life that keeps me sane when I’m ready to fall apart.
- The cleansing process of tears, tears of happiness and sadness. 
- Socks and rugs.
- Technology to keep in contact with my loved ones halfway across the world from me.
- My own personal spanish grammar teacher (my beautiful host mother).
- My queen size bed back home in the states.
- The gradual progression of my language development… increasing my level month by month.
- A new sense of patience, something I’ve seemed to lack my entire life.
- Learning to transform negatives into positives, life’s too short to be full of complaints.

I wish I could be with my family today but in a few short days we will be reunited in Spain :) I absolutely cannot wait to see them!
Everyone have a blessed holiday!

I spent the past weekend in Barcelona, Spain. And let me tell you… one weekend isn’t even a quarter of enough time to see everything you want to see in that beautiful city. Although, for the small amount of time we had there, we sure accomplished an amazing variety of sight-seeing. Parc Guell, La Sagrada Familia, Camp Nou (partido del FC Barcelona y Granada), Tibidabo, the beach, discotecas, best churro of my life, metros on metros, an enormous strike, best brunch of my life, and that’s just to name a few. I’m so stoked I finally got to go on a trip with my girl Shelby, especially since my time left here is so limited. We had amazing hosts during our stay in Barcelona and there isn’t a thing I would change except having more time!

Blessed.

I think pushing myself out of my comfort zone and studying abroad is exactly what I needed in order to find myself. I have learned so much about myself and other people during my travels and experiences. I have learned the very importance of physical gestures and facial expressions because those are the only ways of communication that are truly worldwide. I’ve learned how to be more tolerant of people that I honest to God cannot stand. I’ve learned how to put myself in an uncomfortable environment and befriend people that I would never think of befriending back home in the States. I’ve learned how to quickly adapt to completely new environments and be friendly to people in different countries even if they aren’t the friendliest back. I’ve learned how to communicate, day by day, in a language that isn’t my primary. I’ve learned how to awkwardly be thrown into a random woman’s house and slowly view and treat her as my own mother/grandmother. And it’s worked out so well. She is one of the sweetest women I have ever met in my life and I have been so blessed to have her as my Spanish mama. She truly cares about my day to day activities and is interested in what I’m interested in. She’s interested about my background, my family, my interest in boys, food, bars, experiences, etc. I can’t believe how comfortable I’ve grown around this woman. She’s always there when I need advice about something whether it’s medical or something as stupid as advice about Spanish men. She always has such a helpful input. I can honestly say this woman will always be a part of me, and she is a part of my family now. She has been the best mom away from home and I know my mom would be so pleased to know how well I’ve been taken care of while in a strange and unfamiliar place. Although not so strange and unfamiliar anymore.

"Family isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life that want you in theirs; the ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile & love you no matter what."

I had entirely different goals coming into Spain. My primary goal was to come to Spain, learn about the culture and learn the language to the best of my ability (more than I already knew coming here). I had no idea how attached I was going to get to this beautiful country. It’s not even solely the country I have grown attached to, it’s the people who make up the country. The Spanish friends I have made have been one of the best parts of this entire experience, and I hope I have made just as much of an impact on them as they have on me. I love that they’re interested in my life back home, and the coolest thing about hanging out with younger Spaniards is attempting to learn more slang. 

I was a pretty independent person before I left for Spain, but now I have a whole new meaning to independence. I have demonstrated this in many different aspects. Traveling alone to different countries where I don’t speak the language, learning to adapt to new unusual resources (less resources at that), navigating around a continent at 21 years old when I have hardly been outside of the country except for Canada at about 12 years old (that doesn’t count).

This has been the most amazing experience of my entire life and I so wish I could be here for an entire year. One of my best friends here, Shelby, is here for a year and she’s really upset that I’m leaving next month because she doesn’t want to have to go through the process of making new friends all over again. But I’ve already made plans to visit my closest friends across the country once we’re all back in the States. My best friend Chelsea here only lives 12 and a half hours driving distance away from me. So I know all of us can make it happen.

I chose the perfect city in Spain to soak up the Spanish culture while learning some things about Arabic culture at the same time. I never realized how huge our world is but how tiny and insignificant I can feel at the same time. Laying in the Sahara Desert, stargazing, made me realize how truly small and insignificant I am in this universe. I always dreamed of traveling the world but I never actually thought those dreams would be fulfilled. It all just seemed like places I would study on a map, in a book, in middle school but never actually get to see.

I can’t even put into the right words how much studying abroad has changed my life. I will never be the same again, and half of my heart will always remain in Spain while chunks will remain in all of the other places I have had the opportunity to visit. 

Morocco/Marruecos.

This past weekend (well, 6 days in total) I spent in Morocco, Africa. Lots of positives but also some negatives to the trip as a whole. I came out of the trip with a whole new outlook on life, but I also came out of the trip a little under the weather and having developed a new hatred toward buses. We spent WAY too many hours on a bus this past week. I wanna say like 40-50 in total. I can’t feel my ass. Not only because of that, but because of a 2 hour long camel ride. I’m not complaining about though, probably one of the top 5 highlights of my life.

Alright so that’s the end of my complaining toward the experience. We spent the first day traveling. Bus to ferry to bus, then we finally arrived to our hotel in Fes, Morocco. They claimed that the hotel was a 4-star hotel (meaning it was 3-star in Spain standards) but it’s been a really long time since I have slept on such a comfortable bed. It was more comfortable than my bed in my home-stay in Spain. It was at least long enough for my feet to not dangle off haha. I got to room with my 2 friends from back home in Missouri, one is currently studying in Sevilla and the other in Málaga. So that was really cool. We went to bed early that night because we were tired from traveling. The second day was spent in the Medina of Fes. 600,000 people live in the Medina which is made up of around 9,000 small alleyway/roads. No one in the Medina has health insurance or has to pay taxes, everyone pretty much does their own thing. Here’s an overlook of the Medina…

We spent about 6 hours shopping in the Medina, where I completed all of my Christmas shopping. Most of us got ripped off at least one time while shopping but I guess that’s part of the experience, right? That night we went to a Moroccan show with typical Moroccan music and belly-dancing. Then the next morning is when we left to head to the Sahara desert. We spent 2 nights camping out in the desert. The first day we got to the desert it was pretty late because it was a long day of traveling. Everyone was ready to be there. We took old jeeps that held 6 people each to get out to the desert which was a lot of fun but I wished my driver would have driven faster. We stopped in the middle of the desert somewhere to take pictures on top of the jeeps and my friends and I (Chelsea, Courtney, Mariah, Miles, and Steven) had an intense bonding moment while we were sitting on top of the jeep and all witnessed the same shooting star at the same time and simultaneously became scared because we thought we were going to die. It was amazing. The pictures taken directly after were even more amazing. Then we got to camp and picked out our tents with little cots in them.

Super cold at night but a sauna during the day. We just all snuggled to stay warm, it wasn’t too bad. One of my favorite parts of the whole experience was laying out in the dunes at night and looking at the stars. I have never seen such amazing stars in my entire life. It made me realize how small and insignificant I truly am in this universe. I think I had some sort of epiphany that made me want to take a class on astronomy haha. Also watching the sunrise in the Sahara was top 5 most beautiful sights of my life. We had a Berber (one of the Nomads living in the desert) take my friend Chelsea and I to one of his favorite spots in the desert to watch the sun rise. It was a long trek especially since I had a cold, but entirely worth it. He also drew our names in the sand, took pictures of us, encouraged us to slide down the sand dunes, and the list goes on. His name was Yusuf (José in español, Joseph in english). 

Alright and then later that day… we rode camels. I could hardly contain my excitement. We rode them for TWO hours. I’m still hurting from it. It was an amazing experience, kind of sad that we are using the camels for entertainment but hey, what else are they here for really? We rode our camels into the pueblo where we then went to this building with a pool and cooled off our dehydrated selves in the pool (well, we stuck our feet in the pool.. close enough). My favorite part of the trip was interacting with all of the children we came across.

These kids are completely content kicking around empty water bottles in the sand and doing backflips off of the tops of dunes. Such simple people. Content with what they have even though what they have is so close to nothing. It’s embarrassment to think of all of the greedy, materialistic nonsense that goes on in America. We need to cherish the people in our lives before they’re taken away. We need to start loving people again, not things.