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grab your passport and my hand…

A lo hecho, pecho — June 15, 2015

A lo hecho, pecho

There’s no use crying over spilt milk.

(But there is use crying over losing an EIGHT HUNDRED WORD blog post when your computer decides to crash… Yes, I’m writing this for the second time.)

Anyway, this weekend there have been puddles and puddles of spilt milk.

It all started on Friday morning, MC and I had stayed out a little late (ahem 5 a.m. just tryin’ to live like the Spaniards) and had our alarms and our minds set on taking a 9 a.m. bus to Ronda. So we woke up, showered, and started trekking along to the road that we thought our bus would be waiting on. No bus. We asked several bus drivers if there were headed to Ronda and they all treated us like stupid americans- because in this moment I suppose we were.

Soon enough it was 9:15 and we were still bus-less, confused, and frustrated. We retreated to the center to get some *wifi* and do a little internet digging. We found out that the bus station was an actual building/station. Go figure. And we bought another 11 euro ticket for 11 a.m.

TAKE TWO! We boarded an bus that honestly smelled even sketchier than it looked, and arrived in Ronda around 1 p.m. The first thing we noticed when we unloaded the bus was that the usually sunny and hot Spanish climate was in a windy, cloudy, and even rainy mood. In the hectic morning rush, Mary Carson and I had failed to check the weather- and we were painfully unprepared in our tank tops. Faced with these pressing issues, we did the only thing we knew how to do…

We activated full-on tourist mode. We followed bright yellow signs all the way to the tourist information center where we received oversized maps and asked the man at the counter where we could buy warmer clothes. We were basically forced to go shopping (sorry mom, had no choice ;)), but with our new sweaters and scarves we were ready to face the day.

The moral of Friday’s story was that having the chance to explore this beautiful place was so worth all of the struggles that we endured to get there. Ronda was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before- and made me wonder what other gorgeous places there are in the world that I am unaware of. I’m excited to find out.

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As the weekend went on, the milk just kept spilling. Our host mother, Blanca, invited us to spend Saturday at “el campo” a.k.a. their country home (horses included)… When we woke up on Saturday we had a text from Blanca informing us that her husband had been in a biking accident and instead of the campo, they were headed to the hospital 😦

It was a good thing that we had a Plan B. Mary Carson and I spent the day doing a plethora of the most random Seville activities. The day consisted of buying a kilo of plums (that’s 15 plums, people) and a carton of strawberries for only THREE EUROS, going to the aquarium, climbing the Torre de Oro and ending with a movie night.

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As Sunday approached, things were really looking up. My friend Helen and I had decided to board a train and spend the afternoon in Cadiz, a beach town in the south of Spain. We took taxis to the station and politely asked the man behind the counter for “two billetes a Cadiz.” “No,” he said. “No?” we said. “No hay billetes.”

WHAT? Who were these 135 people that took our spots on the train? This was unheard of. We turned to the large board glowing with foreign city names and after a few failed attempts at looking for a new destination, we settled on taking a bus to a field of sunflowers in a small town nearby.

Thankfully, Helen led the way because she had done this a few weeks before. We hopped on a slightly scary city bus that dropped us off in a small town called Valencina. We hiked down the road to the massive field of sunflowers only to find that their season had ended. 90% of the flowers looked sad, they hung their heads in exhaustion from the summer heat.

It was tragic. And I laughed. Helen proceeded to comment on my “sunny” personality which I attributed to being born in the midwest.

In a cliche: life is always going to give you lemons and spill your milk- especially when you’re living abroad. You’re always going to find a bump in the road or a mountain to climb and in both cases there’s just no reason to become upset. In my time here I have been shaped into a more optimistic and easygoing person, I have learned to face life’s hiccups and accept my own disabilities.

I guess when God gives you a field of wilted flowers you gotta search for the survivors and make yourself a beautiful little bouquet.

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Thank you so much for reading, stay tuned for the arrival of my mom and aunt in just two short days (!!!!!!!) *Jane in Spain*

Hasta luego,

Jessie

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El tiempo pasa inexorablemente. El tiempo vuela. — June 11, 2015

El tiempo pasa inexorablemente. El tiempo vuela.

Time waits for no man, time flies.

Questions I ask myself daily: WHY did I think one month in Spain would be enough? I’ve been here for almost two weeks… two weeks that have gone by ‘en un abrir y cerrar de ojos’- this phrase was actually on my exam I took yesterday *learning*. Time truly flies when each and every day is packed with new experiences.

Each day here has been eventful to say the least and here I am feeling a bit torn. On one hand: I finally crashed. Last night I was so exhausted I had to skip dinner and go straight to bed. I think days and days of go-go-going finally caught up to my body and last night it told me, “no.” And on the other hand: I feel time slipping through my fingertips and I can’t begin to comprehend that my time in this country is almost halfway over.

This time-strain that has fallen over me inspired me to make a Spain bucket list that seems almost impossible to complete. Luckily, the program has granted us a long weekend to travel, have fun, and explore. Mary Carson and I have taken these three empty days and filled them with ideas, plans and promises.

Tomorrow we are going to Ronda: a city in Malaga. Saturday we have a HUGE to-do list that involves all things Sevilla. And Sunday, if the uncharacteristically forecasted rain holds off, we are going to Cádiz to spend a day at the beach. Fingers crossed.

This week was a short one for school- only three and a half days of class for us WOO! And while I’m on the subject of school, I should mention that I absolutely love my class: the people, the professor and especially the content. It’s like this class was created for a business and spanish double major like me (probably because it literally was…)! I’ve learned hundreds of new words *gracias, tarjetas de flash*, all about the Spanish economy, and also brushed up on a couple aspects of grammar.

On Tuesday we attended a traditional flamenco show- which was awesome. It was in a small venue and our seats were in the center of the front row. It was so personal that the dancers would make eye contact. One of the male dancers had water/gel *praying it wasn’t sweat* in his hair and when he spun around we actually got splashed… misted… wet… All in all, the show was amazing and I’ve never seen anything like it before.

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On Wednesday we went to an art museum: Museo de las bellas artes. I have to admit, I’m not a big art fan. However, this museum was gorgeous with tall, detailed dome ceilings and MASSIVE works of art. There was a painting by Velázquez, one by El Greco, y one by Goya- the three artists I learned the most about in my culture class, so that was pretty neat. After the art museum, we went to a terrace on the fifth floor of El Corte Ingles (think Macy’s) that looks over the entire city. The entire experience was heavenly, but that could be the pizza and wine that we consumed talkin’.

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pizza with a view *hallelujah*

Today, we went to Itálica- the ruins of a Roman city. It was very interesting to see the remains of a Roman arena where there used to be gladiator fights. The tour guide got a little graphic for my taste but I suppose that’s history for ya.

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Alright, that’s enough of that! Thank you so much for reading, stay tuned to LOL at how many activities I try to cram into my final (NO) two weeks.

Hasta luego,

Jessie

p.s. my biggest concern before coming here was the scary foreign food. I was born a picky eater, but trying new foods has miraculously become one of my favorite parts of this trip. Here is a photo sequence of me actually eating the tail of a bull- Cola de Toro. Don’t let the nervous smile fool you, I couldn’t stomach this stuff.

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“face your fears”
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“here goes nothing”
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“just keep chewing”
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“what the heck did I just eat”
el sapo a la sapa tiénela por guapa — June 7, 2015

el sapo a la sapa tiénela por guapa

“beauty is in the eye of the beholder”

I’ve been thinking a lot about why everything here seems so beautiful. It takes every bit of self control that I have to resist taking photos of everything I see. Huge bushes of gorgeous pink, purple, white flowers on the sides of the roads. Tall yellow buildings with white trim, aged and chipping just enough for authenticity. Fields of bright sunflowers that seem to stretch on into infinity. Every darn plate of jamón and every refreshing glass of sangria. I see beauty everywhere.

But is it beautiful because it’s different? Do Sevillanos who walk by the Catedral de Sevilla every day still stand and awe at the towers as I do? Do the signs in the storefronts, the cobblestone streets, and the sight of Guadalquivir river still make their hearts sing?

Does time and familiarity lessen the beauty of a place?

Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder, and for this reason, I will continue to walk through the streets contently, wide-eyed, smiling, and holding up the group so I can take a picture and save the moment forever.

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On Saturday we took an obligatory trip to Córdoba. It was about a two hour bus ride through the countryside. Córdoba is quite a bit smaller than Sevilla but is home to some of the coolest historical sights in Spain.

La Mezquita de Córdoba is a humungous islamic mosque (mezquita) that was constructed in 785 by the Muslims. The curious part comes with this story. In the 16th century, the Catholics held power in Spain and the Bishop gave his permission to build inside the mosque. A cathedral is literally smack-dab in the middle of this mosque, it’s truly insane. They preserved most of the mosque, unlike other cities where mosques were destroyed and replaced with cathedrals. The Mezquita is the most beautiful place I’ve been thus far in Spain. The details, arches, murals, and high ceilings truly blew me away. It’s like my Culture of Spain class from last fall is coming alive before my eyes… let me tell you, it’s 100x more beautiful in person than in the pictures on your professor’s powerpoint.

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To finish this up I’d like to make a quick comment about the ice cream quality here. It’s unparalleled. My friends and I have admittedly (without shame) indulged in two cones a day on average. One after lunch and one after dinner. My new favorite flavor is limón y hierbabuenas- Lemon and Basil! Delicious.

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Thank you for reading this post of odds and ends, I hope your Sunday is restful and beautiful- as if those two words aren’t synonymous. 😉

Hasta luego,

Jessie

A la cama no te irás, sin saber una cosa más. — June 5, 2015

A la cama no te irás, sin saber una cosa más.

Literally: don’t go to bed without learning something new.
Figuratively: go into the world and learn or experience something new every day.

(The Spaniards also sarcastically use this phrase when someone tells an uninteresting story LOL that’s besides the point.)

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Last night, I experienced something that was new to me but deeply rooted in tradition for the Spaniards. I attended my first bull fight or “Novillada de Toros” then *as a huge bonus* attended (read: crashed) the bullfighters’ after party at their hotel. I’ll explain that part later.

In almost every Spanish class I’ve taken in my seven-year journey with this language I have learned about bull fighting- but seeing the spectacle in person was a completely different story. On Wednesday night we toured the bull ring and the museum and learned about what actually happens in the bull fight. Then Thursday the sport came alive before my very own eyes. WARNING: If you don’t want to know how a bullfight actually goes down, I wouldn’t read the details below.

First, the bull is released into the ring and there are three “bandilleros” whose sole purpose is to rile him up. They swing their bandera (flags) and the bull charges. Often, the men only escape the sharp and strong force of the bull’s horns by inches. I had no problems watching this part of the event, because it was nonviolent and nonbloody.

Next, two men on blindfolded horses, called picadores, enter the ring and use a long spear to, in kind diction, ‘poke’ the bull from above. After this, the bandilleros each reenter the ring and attempt to pierce the bull’s back with two sharp barbed sticks. By this time the bull is beginning to fatigue and it gets pretty difficult to watch.

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Finally, the matador comes in and ends it all with a show-boaty performance and a swift stab of a sword into the bull’s spinal cord. Gruesome, I know. Unfortunately/Fortunately (I can’t decide which) I captured a perfectly timed photo of this act. I’ll insert it at the bottom of the post- to be viewed at your own discretion.

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If watching this through once doesn’t sound heartbreaking enough- imagine watching this process six times. SIX. TIMES. Each of the three matadors killed two bulls in one night. However, I’m glad that my roommate and I endured the entire event because, by chance, each bull was bigger and stronger than the last. The fifth bull punctured the matador’s leg with his horn, and the sixth bull tramped the matador… twice.

Speaking of the trampled matador, his name is Pablo Aguado. The 24-year-old novillero (matador in training) is our host mother’s friend’s boyfriend’s brother- practically they’re best friends ;). And our host mom convinced Mary Carson and I to add him on Facebook and message him- after a few exchanges he invited us to the after party at his hotel exclaiming “Yo encantado de conoceros!”

Unfortunately, he was exhausted from- you know- killing bulls and retired to go to bed and probably ice his entire body before we got there. We did, however, meet the 19-year-old novillero who was stabbed in the leg. Surprisingly, he seemed to be doing okay… considering…

In conclusion: I think one bull fight was enough to last me a lifetime. After covering my eyes, squirming in my seat, and seeing a man tossed in the air by a 2,000 pound animal I think I’m all set. Ah, it’s all part of the culture.

Six days in and I’m already feeling at home and in love with this beautiful, remarkable place. I know there are only more things to see and adventures to be had.

Hasta luego,

Jessie

P.S. We also explored “Real Alcázar” today instead of having afternoon class. It’s an ancient palace built when the Arabs held power and then finished when the Christians took over. The style of architecture is called “mudejar”.

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*photo of literal bull stabbing below*

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Allá donde fueres, haz como vieres. — June 1, 2015

Allá donde fueres, haz como vieres.

Wherever you go, do what you see- or in a cliché: When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

Today, after our first day of class, we had a second orientation. Elisa Guidera, the resident director, made a big point of this and explained that the best way to become acclimated in a foreign country would be to observe and to imitate. In my first three days in Spain, I have found this to be extremely true.

On Saturday, I arrived to Sevilla around 12:00. I was helped into a taxi with my bright red, larger-than-life suitcase then dropped off in the Plaza de Santa Cruz. The taxi driver, who (to my pleasant surprise) chose to jam out to “Born to Be Wild” on the ride there, told me that he was unable to take me any further because the streets of my neighborhood were too narrow and crowded.

I soon found out that each of these narrow and crowded streets looked exactly the same. As I wound my way through Barrio Santa Cruz, I soon found myself completely lost, sweating from the 95 degree Sevilla heat, and making a huge ruckus with my suitcase rolling along the cobblestone streets. This episode screamed “LOST AMERICAN GIRL” but I was so heavily distracted by a combination of jet lag and excitement that I remained unbothered.

After asking near ten Spaniards for directions, I finally found La Plaza de los Venerables and my new home.

My host mother, Blanca, my two host brothers, Pedro and Jorge, and my roommate María (Mary Carson in English) have given me the warmest welcome. My host brothers are friendly but speak incredibly fast- I have trouble understanding their slang and slur. Blanca is encouragingly patient and helpful. Each day I have felt increasingly more comfortable and able to converse with them, but I know I still have a ways to go.

Yesterday, I visited the Plaza de España. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen in the States. It was constructed in 1929. The architecture and inner details were absolutely beautiful.

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We rented a four-person bike to pedal our way through the gardens which were filled with trees, flowers, and Spaniards relaxing on their Sunday.

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We went to lunch at a café where I had my first taste of Sangria and Jamón (ham, which is popular and delicious here- as a tapa or as a meal).

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After eight hours of walking through the city, I was exhausted.

Of course, I would love to write more- but I have a presentation to prepare for tomorrow’s class and a welcome party at the center later tonight. Thank you for following along with me as I overcome jet lag and catch my first glances of Spanish life!

Hasta luego,

Jessie

A la ocasión la pintan calva. — April 26, 2015

A la ocasión la pintan calva.

Or in other words: You have to make the most of the chances that come your way.

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Here’s my chance.

I’m currently residing in a middle-of-nowhere town called Hillsdale, Michigan and my upcoming voyage to Seville, Spain remains a dreamy idea in my head. I’ve been to Canada twice. And, forgive my harshness, a two-day camping trip in Canada is no more eye-opening than a two-day camping trip in my own backyard. Fortunately, I have been privileged to see a great vast of the United States and though enamored by our own country’s beauty, I yearn to see the rest of the world’s.

I’ve studied Spanish for six years now. Despite my peers constantly questioning “you’re still taking spanish?!” I’ve clung on. I’ve always been in love with the language, intrigued with its differences from English. And while I’ve learned a great deal in the classroom, I’ve been told time and time again that the best way to learn is through immersion.

My impending study abroad session comes with two goals. Firstly, I hope to learn. I hope to learn how to speak confidently with native speakers. I hope to learn about the culture of Spain. I hope to learn about the economy of the country and how business works (that’s just the marketing major in me talking- ignore her). Secondly, and simply, I want to step completely out of my comfort zone and open my eyes to what is out there. As of now, Europe is a place that, academically, I know exists. But I want to see, smell, and feel its beauty and its existence.

Along with this whole “stepping out of my comfort zone” thing- there come a multitude of questions and concerns. I think I’ve made it clear that I’m not the most wordly or the most traveled. What will the other students be like? Will they be much better speakers than me? How hard will my class be? What if I don’t make friends? Truly my biggest concern is companionship. Why travel if you have no one to experience it with? To discuss it with? To remember it with?

Silly questions clutter my head, but the excitement I have easily overshadows them.

“Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” -Mary Ritter Beard

Hasta luego,

Jessie