Week 13 – Vienna, Prague, and Budapest (Last weekend of traveling!)

I finally got around to seeing Gaudi’s church or otherwise known as La Sagrada Familia, and it happens to be maybe a 10 minute walk from my apartment so I see it from the outside all the time. Seeing it from the inside was just crazy, Gaudi’s work is almost unreal. Everything is so detailed, unique, and properly placed. The stain glass windows on the inside illuminate shades of a rainbow through out the church, which just adds to its beauty. The work on the church began on 19 March 1882 from a project by the diocesan architect Francisco de Paula del Villar. At the end of 1883 Gaudí was commissioned to carry on the works, a task that he did not abandon until his death in 1926. Since then different architects have continued the work after his original idea.

La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia

Inside La Sagrada Familia

Inside La Sagrada Familia

It felt like I had just returned from Morocco when I had to turn around and repack for my next trip! Myself and two other girls in my program decided to do a “mini Eastern Europe” tour for our final weekend of traveling. We flew to Vienna from Barcelona and wow is it beautiful! Reminded me a lot of Paris, just smaller but equally as “posh.” We visited a few churches and a house that was known as the “tree house” and walked around the city. The next night we went to Prague and it was an interesting city, we walked up and thru the Prague castle, saw the John Lennon wall, and the  “old town” of the city, but didn’t get to see as much as we’d like since we only had one day.

Christmas Markets in Vienna

Christmas Markets in Vienna

St vitus cathedral in Prague

St vitus cathedral in Prague

Parliament in Budapest

Parliament in Budapest

The next two days were spent in Budapest, which was definitely my favorite of the three! Everyone we met was so nice and welcoming. The buildings/neighborhoods were beautiful, food was good, and there was a lot to do. We visited the parliament, a cave church, walked around town, and went to a bathhouse. A bathhouse can vary by definition, but the one we went to in Budapest was like a huge outdoor hot tub that people hang out in, but also a spa. We all got massages, it was so relaxing. The parliament was really fun to tour actually, we got the tour in spanish to challenge ourselves…it was still quite hard to understand. I originally didn’t plan on making this trip, mostly because I had no interest or any idea what there was to do or see in these countries/cities. I am so glad that I did go though, I saw some beautiful places and learned a lot about these countries. It also hit me that my time to leave is fast approaching, and I don’t want to leave! Three months have passed by way too fast.

Week 12 – Morocco

This weekends trip was through a non-profit organization called Morocco Exchange, and their whole goal is to give you a real non-touristy experience; which I feel like I definitely got. We missed a day of class this week in order to do the program Nov 21-24th. We arrived in Tangier, Morocco about 230 pm that Thursday and thats where we met our program coordinator Kristen, I went with a bunch of people in my program since we were all encouraged to do this particular program ( a group of about 15 people).  I went into this very open minded because I honestly I had no idea what to expect, and after weeks of traveling around Europe i’ve learned that nothing is going to be like what I expect!

Roof top of the women's center- Tangier.

Roof top of the women’s center- Tangier.

We started our trip with a drive to the local women’s center in Tangier and got to learn about the program that they have there, which is for women to come in, pay a small fee, and they are taught a skill. The main skill that was taught was two different types of rug making (modern and traditional) so that they can make a living with this learned skill. We also got the opportunity to ask anything we’d like to the women who ran the women’s center while we were eating dinner, it was interesting to learn about what they think about the U.S and current issues around the world. They were all every educated and open to answering all of our questions and I really enjoyed the time I had there.

Our room at our home stay in Rabat

Our room at our home stay in Rabat

We left that evening and had about a 3 hour car ride to Rabat, which is the Capitol where we would meet our host families for the next two nights. The drive went by fast and myself and two other friends of mine in the program grouped together for the same host family. One of the girls in our home spoke english very well, but everyone else…not so much. The language barrier was a little strange at first, but after getting to know the family and eating dinner it didn’t seem to matter so much anymore. I don’t know how to explain it, but even without being able to communicate to our “host mom” we still all felt very welcomed. The food we ate was AMAZING, possibly the best meals i’ve eaten since I started school in Barcelona. We all at together out of a communal dish, very different, but I got used to it.

dinner at our home stay

The next day we got the opportunity to hang out with Moroccan college students in the area, and I went in thinking they might be a little more conservative than maybe other students in the U.S but oh was I mistaken. They we’re all so open with everything! We talked about everything from gay rights to our favorite musicians/actors; it was so much fun and an awesome learning experience. We hung out at the beach and conversed over some hot chocolate, it was a good day. This night was our last night with our host families and it was so sad leaving, they all made me feel so welcomed and told us we could come back and stay whenever we liked.

Houses in Chefchaouen

Houses in Chefchaouen

Our last full day was spent in Chefchaouen , which is a much smaller town than Rabat or Tangier, and almost all of the houses there are painted some shade of blue and its absolutely beautiful. We got to meet with a family in a small village for lunch, we had to hike through a bit of mud since it was rainy, but definitely worth it. We all cut up bread, fruits, vegetables, and meat and sat around a table cloth and ate together. We got to ask the family questions about their lives on the farm the dad owned, and basically how life is there for them. The next morning at about 6:45 am we all woke up and went on a small hike to the Rif Mountains to see a view of the whole village from a high point, and oh was it beautiful. The sun was rising over the mountains and you could see for miles and miles. Unfortunately, after this we had to head out to the airport and back to Barcelona for the rest of our Sunday.

Village view from the Rif Mountains in Chefchaouen.

Village view from the Rif Mountains in Chefchaouen.

This particular trip was very eye opening for me, I didn’t feel like a tourist in this country I got the opportunity to feel like apart of a family and see these cities from a locals point of view. Learning about a Islamic country was so intriguing and eye opening, and it has me more of an educated person and also made me appreciate the luxuries I have in Barcelona and at home. I will definitely go back someday! I loved every minute spent in Morocco.

Week 11 Paris

So this week was pretty normal, homework, class, coffee, and caught up on a few of my favorite American shows. In my Urban approach to Spain and Europe class we went on a field visit to the Raval neighborhood in Barcelona. This particular area is focused on art, culture, and music. It’s an up and coming part of the city, it has an urban feel to it with a mixing of low/high income residents and housing. There are a bunch of cute “artsy” shops, vegan/vegetarian restaurants, vintage shops, and graffiti in every corner. It’s probably my favorite neighborhood in Barcelona. The city has made it a priority to rebuild and bring people to the neighborhood, and it’s actually the only neighborhood in Barcelona where the foreigners outweigh the born residents with 60% of the residents being immigrants. That was the highlight of my week, and then this weekend I went to Paris! It was a really short trip though, a Friday to Sunday. I saw the Eiffel tower (of course), Norte Dame, the “lock bridge”, Moulin Rouge,  walked around downtown Paris, and the Luxembourg Gardens. We didn’t get time to go to The Louve, but definitely doing that next time I go, because there will definitely be a next time!

La Raval field visit

La Raval field visit

Norte Dame

Norte Dame

Luxembourg Gardens

Luxembourg Gardens

Week 10 London

This week I made a spontaneous trip to London with one of my friends here! We literally decided to book tickets/hostel just two weeks before. London was probably one of my favorite trips. I got to see and take a ride on the London eye and see a view of all of London, it was incredible. I also took the “Queens walk” where you walk along the river and see all of the bridges, graffiti, and a lot of shops. I also went to Buckingham Palace, which was beautiful but I honestly thought it would be bigger! Its crazy to think that I was right outside the royal palace. It was really nice to be able to communicate easily with everyone because they all speak English! Don’t get me wrong I love Spain, but it was nice meeting locals and being able to keep conversations going. We didn’t get the chance to visit any museums but we did stumble into a modern art gallery along the Queens walk and got to appreciate some of the local artists work. I didn’t do much in Barcelona this week, it was one of the girl’s birthdays so we all went out to dinner, and I didn’t have much homework so you could say it was a good fun filled week.

View from the London Eye and Big Ben

View from the London Eye and Big Ben

photo 4

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace

 

Week 6- Excursions

This week went by really fast. We had 2 big excursions and a small excursion to the Museum of Segovia. One of the things I enjoy about classes here is that our professors are all really helpful and try their best to help us fully understand what is being taught. Also, I only have class till 1pm which is nice and then at 2pm I have lunch.

I forgot to mention in my last post that I started teaching English at the non profit organizations Caritas and that has been going great. The feeling I get after teaching class is great. There are 3 of us girls from the program that teach the class. There are about 15 students each class and they’re all adults. I’ve really grown to get to know the people in class but I’m still working on learning names, I just recognize faces. Teaching the class is really helping me become more of a leader, I’m slowly enjoying being in the front of the class and teaching.

The museum of Segovia was really neat to visit. I especially enjoy going with my professors because they always explain everything really well. There is so much history in Spain and Segovia it’s unbelievable. Our next excursion was to La Montana. Here we were able to learn about the Spanish war and we saw where one war took place, we saw trenches and it was really cool to see with our own eyes where people fought and lived. The history part was really cool but the walk up was not easy.  I can only imagine how soldiers were able to walk up with all their gear and everything. The walk down was way easier. To top off this excursion the view at the top was amazing! To see Segovia and the surroundings from the top of a mountain was so neat.

Exploring the battle site

Exploring the battle site

Trenches

Trenches

Really cool picture! follow the leader :)

Really cool picture! follow the leader :)

Edu! my culture and civ professor. He's Awesome!

Edu! my culture and civ professor. He’s Awesome!

My host mom continues to make delicious food for me, this week we had Paella again except this time it was made of Chicken and it was really good. Since I was home this weekend my host mom really wanted to spoil me and she made Tarta de Queso (Cheesecake) it was really good. I told her I need the recipe so I can make it back home. Any weekend that I am here I go to Sunday mass with my host mom and that is nice because I go out with her and she enjoys that.

Our excursion to Toledo was awesome as well. I know I’m expressing myself a bit much but everything I’m experiencing here is so wonderful and I’ve fallen in love with Spain! Toledo was a really cool city to visit, it was once the capital of Spain but it is now Madrid. Toledo is seriously built on a mountain and is surrounded by the Tagus river all around. We visited the Greco museum and that was neat too. To travel around Spain and Europe in general is really cool because their is so much history in this country!

The view of the city!

The view of the city!

AHA Group

AHA Group in Toledo

The group from Oregon! they're all from U of O

The group from Oregon! they’re all from U of O

After our excursions I went out with the group and hung out with them. One night we went to dinner to La Juderia (a Jewish quarter where Jewish people lived) and we had Indian food at a nice restaurant. For it being my first time having Indian food it was really good. After dinner we went out to the bars and had a couple of drinks. It’s going to be different when I go back home because I’m of age to drink here in Spain but when I get home I’ll still have another year before I can drink. It’ll be different to not be able to tell my friends to just go to a bar and hang out since we wont be able to. I’m still not much of a stay out till 3-4am on the weekends even though. That is the common thing around here. It’s so interesting to see so many people out in the streets so late at night and to see little kids out with their families as well so late. They do have dinner at 10pm here so that is another reason they’re out so late but still. I still can’t stay up so late.

People out at night!

People out at night!

The life here in Spain is so much more relaxed and laid back. I’m really enjoying my time here it’s so different than the states. I feel less stressed and life is more tranquil unlike in the states everyone works and then goes home it’s like a non stop routine and here it’s so much less stressful. Midterms are coming up net week and then fall break! Time is flying. I’m halfway through my program.

Week 5- Paris!

Week 5 in Spain went well. I think I have fully adjusted to the culture and lifestyle here. Taking classes that are all in only Spanish is a really neat experience. I feel I am getting a lot out of this program. Now being here for over a month I have even begun to speak the Spanish spoken here, I’m catching on to the language.

This week a few of the girls from my program and I traveled to Paris for the weekend. Paris was amazing! We visited all the main big attractions so it was really fun. The Eiffel tower was breath taking. Going to the top of the Eiffel I’d have to say was the highlight of my trip.

The view from the top of the Eiffel Tower

The view from the top of the Eiffel Tower

WOU in Paris!

WOU in Paris!

I went to the Louvre as well and saw the Mona Lisa

I went to the Louvre as well and saw the Mona Lisa

Traveling to France and spending some time there I feel that Spanish people are so much nicer and welcoming. Although I didn’t know the language and didn’t understand anything I feel that Spanish people are a bit more approachable even for people that don’t know the language. I did get to meet one of my friends cousins who lives in Paris and him and his wife were really nice.

It’s been quiet an adventure traveling in Europe especially with public transportation being our only way of transportation. Coming from Oregon where I live out in the country where public transportation isn’t really available I feel coming here I’m really getting a full experience of living life without a car. It’s the norm around here for everyone to walk or take public transportation. Not a lot of people use their cars, it’s just so much easier to walk especially in Segovia. My host family has a car but they never really use it. I’ve only been in their car once and that was the day they picked me up from the bus station.

My host mom is the nicest person, she absolutely loves me and treats me like I’m her daughter. Her cooking although took me some time to get used to I now really enjoy it and I’ve gotten used to the food here. I feel that I’m even more open to trying new foods. To be honest some of the foods I eat here especially vegetables I would never eat back home or even try. Although my host mom is all about the healthy food and I have times where all I want is a Coca Cola or some candy or junk food I really appreciate her for not having that in this household because it keeps me from eating so much. But I do go out sometimes and indulge in some sweets, we all need sweets in life. Something I noticed about lunch here is that we always eat plate 1 and then plate 2 of food. Plate 1 is always like a vegetable or soup and plate 2 is always a meat or fish. For the final plate it is either fruit or desert and we always only drink water in our meal. Back home we always just have 1 plate with all the food so having 2 plates of food here is a bit much for me. For breakfast though, since my host mom is still sleeping when I get ready for school I serve myself breakfast, I’ll either have toast or cereal with a glass of orange juice and a yogurt. The table in the kitchen is always set up for me with a plate, utensils, napkin and anything I may eat in the morning. I’ve heard from other students their breakfast is always a grab and go kind of thing or they make themselves whatever they want in the morning but it is never set up. I’d say I have a pretty great host mom!

Week 6 is fast approaching and I have 2 excursions this week. One to “La Montana” and the other to Toledo.

Week 4- Real Madrid Soccer Game

Getting back from Barcelona sunday afternoon and then having to do homework that night and go to class the next morning was a bit rough but I managed to get it all done. Classes are almost to the half way point, we have midterms in about 2 weeks. I’m pretty excited for midterms because once we’re done we get a whole week for fall break. I will be spending this week in Italy! Learning so much and keeping up with homework keeps me busy.

Highlight of this week was definitely experiencing a Real Madrid soccer game. Experiencing this with the whole group was really neat. A good game filled with so much excitement, seeing the players and winning 4-0 was a fun filled night.

The soccer stadium- Awesome!

The soccer stadium- Awesome!

Some of the group at the game

Some of the group at the game

Cristiano Ronaldo #7 Awesome soccer player picture credit to Tyler

Cristiano Ronaldo #7 Awesome soccer player Picture credit to Tyler

I feel like the weather is soon to get cooler but it still hasn’t happened. The sun shines every day and I’m still taking in the sun getting darker by the week. I can’t wait for the cooler weather and rain so I can feel like back home in the Oregon weather.

Another day in Segovia

Another day in Segovia

Week 3- First trip: Barcelona

Another week of classes started and they went well. I’ve gotten used to living in Spain and made Segovia my home. Living with my host family has been going well as well. I’ve gotten used to the food and have found some of my favorite dishes. I had paella a typical Spain dish for the second time. I really like it. I’ve also gotten used to the Spanish tortilla which is not what I expected. It is made of potatoes and eggs. Potatoes are a really common vegetable around here, any vegetable really.

Seafood Paella

Seafood Paella

I’ve really adjusted to the language here as well because even now that I talk to my mom on the phone I start to say words from Spain. Although some words they use here are really strange to me, I enjoy learning the new words.

As week 3 of classes finished up my first trip with some of the girls from the group approached. Thursday night we took the night train to Barcelona. We spent the weekend in Barcelona and that was great. It was nice to visit a city that is filled with so many tourist attractions and to see the wonderful architecture and art by Gaudi. Barcelona has beautiful beaches as well and that was nice to take in the sun. Barcelona is filled with tourists. There are many bus tours available in Barcelona for a good price. A friend and I went on a tour bus and that was the best thing we could have done. We got to see so much of Barcelona which we would not have seen on foot. On Sunday we headed back to Madrid on a plane and that was so much better than a train. Our flight was only an hour and a half compared to the 8 hour train ride. I’m glad I got to see Barcelona, it’s a beautiful city.

Barcelona Bus Tour

Barcelona Bus Tour

La Barcelonata Beach. The Mediterranean Sea!

La Barcelonata Beach. The Mediterranean Sea!

La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia

Building by Gaudi- La Pedrera (Casa Mila)

Building by Gaudi- La Pedrera (Casa Mila)

Where the 1992 Olympics were held in Barcelona

Where the 1992 Olympics were held in Barcelona

Rambla del Mar bridge

Rambla del Mar bridge

Barcelona cathedral

Barcelona cathedral

The girls at the fountain show in Barcelona

The girls at the fountain show in Barcelona

I’m excited for week 4 because this week the whole group is going to a Real Madrid soccer game.

Week 2- It’s going good

After our excursion on Friday last week the weekend went by and that was spent exploring Segovia. There is so much to see and explore around here. There are beautiful views and so many places to take nice walks.

The view of the cathedral from the Alcazar

The view of the cathedral from the Alcazar

The view of the castle from a park

The view of the castle from a park

A jump in front of the Alcazar!

A jump in front of the Alcazar!

Week 2 of classes began and everything went well. This week we really began to get into the classes. I’m really learning a lot in all of my classes. I find it more interesting learning everything in Spanish. All of our professors are really nice and our director Marian is great too! We visited the Cathedral on Thursday, we were able to go inside. It’s such a big, well kept cathedral. As we walked around and Marian taught us about the meaning and history of many things I can’t but feel so privileged to be in Segovia and be learning so much.

The cathedral with the sunset in the background

The cathedral with the sunset in the background

I think I’ve adjusted pretty well to life in Segovia, not completely but I’m getting there. Adjusting to different meal times and the night life. Going out with the group out of class and going to the bars is nice because we all get to know each other and bond. One night we were out at a bar and played card games, that was so much fun. Although I may be the quiet one in the group I’m adjusting really well with the group and getting to know everyone.

As a part of our program we have the opportunity to have conversation partners with the cadets at the Academy of Artillery here in Segovia. This is a way for us to better our Spanish and for the cadets to better their English. We’ve gone out a couple of times and they are really nice to talk to and get to know. I’m really enjoying learning things about Spain and then comparing it to the U.S. My host brother is very much into politics and up to date on current issues so I enjoy talking to him and learning about things from his perspective.

The 3 female cadets at the Academy, they're great!

The only 3 female cadets at the Academy, they’re great!

This week I also got to visit my volunteer site for the semester and I must admit I was nervous at first to learn that I would be an English teacher, have my own class and teach my own class. After talking to the director at the non profit organization “Caritas” I became more comfortable with the idea. The people I will teach to are adults that have no knowledge of speaking English. I asked one of my friends if she would help me out in teaching this class and she agreed so soon we will start to teach. I’m excited to teach people another language. I’m really starting to feel grateful and see the benefits of speaking two languages. Being bilingual is really beneficial and many people have told me how lucky I am to be fluent in both languages.

Today some of us from the group decided to take a trip to Madrid. It was quiet the adventure, we didn’t really have a plan of where we were going, we just grabbed the map and explored. Like anyone else, we were all craving our American food so we went to TGI Fridays for a burger, it was yummy! and of course we all grabbed some Starbucks too! Like in the U.S there is a Starbucks at every corner in Madrid. Madrid is really a big city and filled with so many people. It was nice to explore. I can’t wait for the rest of the exploring that lies ahead in my 3 month stay here. Being in Europe already trips are being planned to many places!

Madrid- The buildings are so unique!

Madrid- The buildings are so unique!

Walking the streets of Madrid

Walking the streets of Madrid

In front of the Temple of Debod in Madrid

In front of the Temple of Debod in Madrid

Week 1- Adjusting to new things

We had orientation on Saturday of the week we got here and classes started on Monday. We had a chance to meet our professors at orientation and that was really neat because we got to see that all of our professors were excited to have us. There are 6 classes offered this semester and I am taking 4 of them. My first one starts early morning at 840am. It is a 15minute walk to get to school. As Monday came along it was definitely hard to get up in the morning. I was not used to being up so early and then have to take a 15 minute walk to school since I would usually commute to school. Walking is all we do here, everyone walks, and they walk fast! My friend and I are determined to get to school in 10minutes by the end of the semester. It’s harder because our whole way is basically all uphill. But it’s really neat to be able to walk through the Aqueduct every morning.

Walk through the Aqueduct every day

Walk through the Aqueduct every day

Day one at school went well and by the end of the day I had learned lots of new things. We call our professors by their first name here and instead of going from class to class our professors come to us. I really enjoy my professors they’re all so nice and I have really been learning a lot from them. At first yes, I must admit it was like Spanish overload. We can only speak Spanish at school and everything is taught in Spanish.I understand everything it just took a bit to get used to my whole day of classes being in Spanish.

I’ve been here for a week now and have met many people. I have been asked several times “Eres Mexicana?” are you Mexican?. I’m not surprised to be asked but I am surprised when people say they can tell by my accent? I didn’t know I had an accent. But I enjoy having a bit of an advantage because I do come from a Spanish speaking background and Spanish was my first language. I feel that I comprehend everything better but I feel that although I speak the Spanish I’ve been learning so much. There are new words I’ve learned and I’m grasping the right Spanish not Spanglish. I’ve been told my Spanish is really good and that makes me feel good but I’m here because I want to be able to better my Spanish more not only in conversation but also grammatically. I want to be able to have a complete conversation and feel confident in what I am saying is in correct Spanish.

My host family has been great! My host mom is really nice and her son is too. They’re very welcoming and we always have long conversations about many things during lunch. I’ve had to adjust to the food, people here have a Mediterranean diet so foods always include vegetables and some kind of meat (specifically pork). Unlike having tortillas at every meal back home, people here eat bread at every meal.

On Friday we had our first excursion. We went on “La Ruta de los Castillos” The route of the castles. We visited two castles. First one was the Castle of Coca, we were able to go inside this one, it was really cool. The second one was El Castillo de Cuellar we were able to explore the outside of this castle because it is currently a high school (how cool would it be to go to school in a castle!) After the castles we went to a winery, tasted wine and then headed out to the vineyard. It was a great excursion I must say!

In front of the Castle of Coca

In front of the Castle of Coca

The group at the Castle of Coca

The group at the Castle of Coca

The vineyard, so pretty!

The vineyard, so pretty!

I’m ready to conquer week 2 in Segovia!