The GoGlobal Blog

Month: June 2011

¿Qué has hecho este año?

¿Qué has hecho este año?

¿Qué has hecho este año? Was hast du dieses Jahr gemacht? Ché hai fatto quest anno? What have you done this year?

The question that is probably hardest to answer. So why am I asking it of myself? As of 10.10 this morning, I am finished with school in Europe. I turned in my Spanish final exam, thus concluding a year of study abroad in three countries, in three languages, at three different universities. The packing has already begun, and is almost finished. At this point it is only the minor items that need to be packed. Today is my last day in Madrid and in Spain. It is a bittersweet ending- I am just beginning to really feel comfortable here, and now it is time to leave. Over the past weekend, I “came to terms” with the fact that on Sunday (wow, is it really only 4 days away?!) I will be flying back to the United States after an amazing year abroad.

Spain has been amazing, in so many ways. I have gone rock climbing, backpacking and camping, seen castles and windmills right out of legends, and even an Egyptian temple! All in Spain. My class was interesting- only having 3 people made for a really intimate experience, and ensured we could always ask questions. Although I know I still have a lot of work to do on my Spanish, at least know I am better at it than I was before. And with time, it will be ever better.

I was unsure about Spain at first. I wasn’t sure why I didn’t just go back to Germany, or stay in Italy, but now that I have completed this month there, I am glad I did decided to come here. I have meet so many new people and had so many wonderful experiences. I would not trade this month looking back upon it now. But, all good this must draw to a close. The past week has been an emotional roller-coaster for me. I am excited to see my family and friends in the US, but sad about leaving my home here in Europe. I was talking with one of my roommates from Germany, and she pointed out something that I have taken to heart: Well, going home means you can go away again- Maria. She is right. But I also know that the friendships I have made here will last even if we are on opposite sides of the world. And that is a comfort.

Four days. It seems surreal. After all these months, I am going back at last. I have watched groups of friends come and go as their own study abroads have begun and drawn to a close. And always for me it was there is still another part, or July is still a long away off; well, here it is…

So what have I done this year? Oh where to begin… I jumped into the world of German back in August, not knowing anyone, and doubting my language skills. I survived and thrived, however- I formed some of the strongest friendships of my life, I explored the German university system and dived into the language and culture, with aid from my friends and roommates. I traveled all over Europe and Germany: I went to the 200. Oktoberfest, I went to Poland, returned to Mannheim, hiked mountains in the black forest, spent Halloween in Salzburg, Austria with three amazing friends, I had snowball fights with my roommate Paul at 23.00 outside the WG (apartment), and walked along the streets of Freiburg on the last night all of my friends were there as the snow gently fell.

Somewhere between Christmas and finals and visas, in January I found myself stepping off a plane in Rome, Italy, where I was greeted by a friend at the airport who helped me navigate Italian and the way to Monte Mario, the location of the John Felice Rome Center, which I would call home for the next 4 months. Italy was hard at first- I was homesick for Germany and my friends. It was a rough first month. I felt like I couldn’t relate to many of the other students-they were all new to Europe and study abroad. They weren’t unintentionally comparing this experience to another one. Then I renewed old friendships with several students who had been in Rome the semester before and were full year students. It was wonderful and helped me learn to love Roma (even if not the transportation!). They knew what it was like to have lived for 5 months already in Europe.

As I grew to love Italy and Roma, I again found myself making strong friendships and growing more as a person. My path took me to Assisi, Prague, back to Germany, Greece, Pompeii, and more. I saw the Pope at least once a month, and had class all over the city, including at the Vatican. Questions about life were answered, and new doors opened, even as it seemed ones that I had come to know slowly closed, but this time, by my own will. Then, somehow, all the students of the JFRC were gathered at a banquet, honoring the past year… Another end had come. Those who had been in Europe for a year were preparing at last to return home, but not I. I still had one more. It was sad, but I didn’t feel the sadness they felt at leaving, while at the same time, the excitement of seeing old friends and familiar places.

The day most of the students left for the US, I found myself once more on my way to Greece to meet up with my sister. We would travel over the next two weeks throughout the Greek Isles before making our way to Barcelona and then Madrid, where we parted ways, this time not for many months, but only one. As she returned to the US, I was settling in in Madrid. Here I found myself at first struggling to remember Spanish- Italian was at the forefront of my mind. But it became easier, slowly. Then University started- the last new beginning here.

And now, a month has gone by. Where, and how, I am not sure. But I know that I am grateful to all my friends and family who have made this year possible, who have supported me, have traveled with me, and have shared in this year, either because they were here, or because of this blog. So now it is time to finish packing, grab some food, and meet up with friends in Retiro Park for a picnic before Tapas to celebrate the month in Madrid, new friendships, and for me, a year of bliss.

Tomorrow, Roma, for the last time as well. Hasta luego mis amigos y hasta pronto.


I am melting

I am melting

No, this is not a joke. I think I am starting to melt. It is 23.30 h here, and about 32 grad (90 F). No wind, no moving air… only heat. I know understand why the Spaniards eat at 23.00 h: it is just too hot to cook at any other time. We “cooled off” today at 20.00 when the temp dropped from 35 grad. If only there was a beach here… then this weather would be perfect. Alas. So why am I still up at this hour? Well, besides not being able to sleep due to the heat, it is also my last week here in Madrid. I have class Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday is my final, and then Thursday I leave for Roma, Italia. The last week in Europe after a wonderful, amazing year…

Don’t worry, the recap isn’t this blog, but soon. This one is dedicated to Portugal (and the oven that is known as Madrid). So Friday the started at 5.15 when I was up, making sure I had packed everything I would need, then on the metro by 6.00 when it opened to get to the airport by 7.15. The flight was at 9.20, but as we were not sure what security would be like with this being a holiday weekend, we decided to play it safe. We ended up having plenty of time, which allowed us to grab a bite to eat, and then be at our gate with plenty of time.

Here is where I have to have a quick advertisement. Thank you RyanAir for being affordable and for allowing me to travel all over Europe. To all those who are wanting to study abroad, get to know RyanAir and EasyJet. They will be good friends of yours!

Anyway, we arrived in Porto, Portugal with no problems. After finding the metro (which wasn’t hard) we caught the metro to the stop we needed, and from there we set out to find the bus to our hostel. And the adventure starts. So we could not find the right bus stop at first (there were about 6, we needed the one with 402 or something like that). Of course the last one we check, which is closest to the metro entrance was the one we needed. As we are looking at the sign, an old man who was standing there asked first in Portuguese where we were trying to go, then he repeated it in English.

Side note: Thank you Italian, Spanish, and the few words of French I know. I discovered it Portuguese is spoken slowly, I can understand a good part of it. I cannot respond for the life of me in that language, but I can follow a conversation. I also discovered I can read it. Thank you for sharing bases across languages!

Anyway, so this old man was going to the same general area as us. He ended up telling us a lot of the history of Porto, the Holiday (yep, it was a holiday in Porto as well!), and how to get around easiest. He also told us his life story. He was an interesting man, and extremely helpful and nice. We it came to our stop, he got off with us and walked us to the hostel so we wouldn’t get lost, pointed out how to get to the center of town, where some restaurants were, and where the local store was. He was incredible. Then he took his leave and set off. Sometimes strangers really surprise me and make me really appreciate the kindness and good fortune I have had in my travels.

After checking into our hostel, we decided to walk along the river and eventually, make our way to the beach. The river walk was gorgeous. I think I took about 100 photos just of that part of town. And I am glad I did! Since it was the Festival of S. John, there were carnival stands set up along the river and beach as well. But, since we were in a residential part of town, there were next to no tourists! It was bliss! And prices were reasonable. Much lower in fact, than I thought they would be. Also. We had a leisurely walk and then we ended up at the beach. I have now seen both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, and have swam on both sides of it. Pretty cool.

The water was cooler than the Mediterranean, but still just as nice. Espeically since the sun is strong and it has been so warm. We spent some time just relaxing there, exploring a bit (there is a great pier with a lighthouse providing perfect views of the coast and city), before heading up the boardwalk in search of food. After some searching, we found Casa de pasto da Palmeira- a small place, with a lot of charm: there was no complete set of anything. It was a lot of miss-match (glasses, plates etc), like you would find in the local run grocery/deli. I was able to decipher enough of the menu to pick something to eat. At this moment, I could not tell you what I had, besides it was Portuguese and good. Then we went back to the Hostel, changed, and set off to explore some more, this time in the direction of the center of town. We walked about 3 km from the hostel, along the river, to the center of the city.

It was a great walk. The city is a mix of old and new, modern and historic. Plus, since it was the holiday, there were concerts all along the river, all of them free. This is the Europe that I know, that sadly doesn’t always exist in the larger cities, like Madrid or Roma. When we made it to the center of town, we walked around, taking in all that we could, while making plans for what we wanted to see the next day. Then it was back to the hostel, shower, and dinner. We ate at a place right across from our hostel, on a terrace overlooking the river and the coast in the distance. It was a great way to end the first day in Porto.

Saturday we spent the morning in town, walking around, checking out stores and churches, and seeing the city. The best way I know how to describe it is a cross between Warclaw, Poland, and Prague, Czech Republic. It has the old feel and look, while being history and modern, but without every building having been renovated or restored. You can see the age of the buildings. For lunch we found this hole-in-the-wall place in the center of town. The other tourists blew past it without a second glance, but we decided to check it out. I had the carne assada con arroz e batatas and it was wonderful. I had decide on it before we asked for recommendations. It was also interesting because we used Spanish everywhere we went. We even passed off as Spaniards a few times.

The afternoon was spent on the beach, soaking up some sun and enjoying the ocean. It probably sounds like we didn’t do a lot, but it was more than enough, as we all wanted to relax, and as this was my last trip in Europe, I wanted it to be restful and not rushed. I was able to see the city, nap on the beach, swim, try the local foods, and not feel pressured to do anything. It was a perfect weekend.

After the beach, we went to a restaurant along the beach we had found the day before. We had dinner there, overlooking the ocean as the sun began to set. We all had traditional foods while sharing a bottle of white wine, with the sea breeze blowing, and the sun shining on the water. It was one of my favorite dinners of this past year, just because I was able to sit, stare over the ocean, which was to the west, and across which I will be flying in a week, and reflect on this past year, and all that I have done and seen. We ended dinner with a Port Desert: a crape with ice cream and port wine (hey, we were in Porto, after all). Then we walked back down to the beach and watched the sunset into the ocean: the best way to end my last trip in Europe, and the weekend in Portugal.

Today, we were up at 4.15 to get to the airport to fly back to Madrid. Normally, I would not like that, but given that I would have most of Sunday here in Madrid, I was happy. Upon arriving, I went to the outdoor flee market that only is open on Sundays. I spent a few hours there, walking around, checking out a few items, before returning to the apartment, showering and taking a siesta (hey, 4.15 wake ups are not nice, nor are 35 grad temps!). jaja Since then, I have been cleaning, packing, and trying to study and do homework. All in all, it has been a great weekend, and I am glad I went on this trip.

So, time to write that essay. Hasta luego!

View from the pier of Porto
Looking up the River in Porto
Looking at the Cathedral from Torre dos Clérigos
Walking the beach at sunset
Backflip on the beach
Sunset over the Atlantic
Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail. -- Anonymous
Carnival along the water
Sexuality and Honor Killing in Jordan

Sexuality and Honor Killing in Jordan

Maybe it was the progression of conversation that startled me. Or that most cases of adultery in America end in a sleuth of curse words and regret for lack of a better prenup.

Over tea with my homestay family, a traditional Muslim family consisting of seven sisters and three brothers, I asked Hadeel–a 26 year old sister who works for Jordanian Customs–if it makes her uncomfortable that I have a boyfriend back in the states.

“No,” she told me. “What you do there it is your life; in our culture it is different.”

This segwayed into the topic of sexuality in Jordan. “If a Jordanian woman is harassed, the family will often take care of it,” Hadeel said nonchalantly. Then, with a shrug, “But if a girl has sex before she his married, her family will kill her.”

The role of honor in Jordan is largely incomparable to the provoked feelings of pride

Marj Al-Hammam, where a 19-year-old man killed his 17-year-old girlfriend who may have been pregnant last month to restore honor to his family.

Americans tend to feel in times of familial hardship or workplace instability.

Silly me for thinking honor killings were a thing of the past in Jordan–for assuming these kinds of rituals only happened in Saudi Arabia or rural Yemen or Libya.

“[Disavowing honor] is a disgrace to the family,” Hadeel told me. “When a woman does this, every family member going back to the third grandfather must leave the area.”

Jordan is rumored to have one of the highest per-capita rates of honor killings in the world–about 25 women per year in a country of less than six million. In America, 2,397 people are killed every year by familial violence, girlfriends or boyfriends. Roughly half are female.

The tradition of honor killing in Amman can be traced back to Bedouin tribes in the

Badia region of southern Jordan. These nomad tribes who roam the Badia have long-set guidelines for handling premarital sex and adultery.

In the city, some families will try to cover sexual indecency by marrying a a girl to her cousin and never speaking of it again. If a woman is raped, often she’s not killed but married to the man who raped her (“after he is punished, of course”).

Premarital sex and adultery not only ruin the lives of the women who commit them here, but the lives and reputation of the entire family. It breaks tribal ties, affects

King Abdullah II, who is of Bedouin descent, has been working to stop honor killings for the past decade.

employment, and prevents second, third, and fourth female cousins from being married.

Honor killing typically lands the perpetrator (usually a male member in the family or boyfriend) a few months in jail. The more violent the crime, however, the longer the sentence.

“Everyone here talks. If it happens, we hear about it. It is not common,” Hadeel told me. Last month, a violent killing in Marj Al-Hammam–an area mostly home to Jordanian soldiers–spurred much gossip and speculation amidst the city. But as in the States, it only takes a few weeks for gossip to recede and the families involved to reap the repercussions.

In Marj Al-Hammam, a man received six months in jail for setting his pregnant girlfriend aflame and throwing her in a dumpster. But in Jordan, a violent pursuit of lost honor will never wholly repair the shattered reputation left in its ashes.

Hey France, See You Soon!

Hey France, See You Soon!

There is less than a week until I leave Cincinnati! Although I have lists and directions and all the information I could need I am still anxious about jet-setting halfway across the world, but it’s the good kind of nerves I always get when I am overly excited. I can’t wait to say “Bonjour!” to Aix-en-Provence!

we have dogded the ropes of rain where the cats and dogs, well, they love to play

we have dogded the ropes of rain where the cats and dogs, well, they love to play

…on a handsome fella with an umbrella who once saved you your day…

there was really no doubling back once i stepped outside the apartment this evening, clothed in my swimsuit and shorts and sneakers.  We were in the middle of a typical random beijing storm and somehow i got the idea that it would be great to go running in the rain.  and the thunder.  and lightning.  and puddles.

and old scolding chinese grandpas and grandmas.  i was told a lot that i was going to get sick and saw a lot of shaking heads.  i got a few exclamations from the younger generation saying how crazy i was.  not that what i was wearing was indecent, but more that i was just an idiot running in the rain.  but, really, the school don’t have a pool, so running in the rain is about as good as it gets.  i may never go back to running when it’s dry.

although, if it weren’t acid raining, that’d be great.  but i did have a huge flash of self-consciousness as i stepped out of my dorm at first…but i didn’t have enough mettle to return to the room/roommate defeated.  so i was a coward somehow in there…dunno exactly how just yet.  but, really, beijing is really pretty when it’s raining.  i was running along the old wall that was built to keep the mongols out, so it was really cool. as i was getting ready to go out, i told my roommate that if i wasn’t back in about 40 minutes, i had either gotten lost or had died.  the latter is sadly just as possible as the former, both due to my lack of running recently and to the acid rain falling down upon me.  but i survived.

tomorrow i’m gonna go swimming in the cube, so i’m excited for that.  more excited than my classmates are to hold a panda….a panda is no michael phelps, and i’ll get to swim in the same pool where he WON 8 MEDALS.  EAT THAT, SUCKERS!

er…apologies for the outburst.  but, uh, as you can see, i’m pretty darn excited.  it’ll be a long course pool, i’m sure, so i’ll have to do without my walls.  not sure exactly what my workout will be, but it’s 50 kuai for 2 hours, so i think it’s a pretty good deal.  i just have to get there between 2 and 5, since the pool closes at 7.  and i guess i can also go on saturday if i really really REALLY can’t go tomorrow, but hopefully that won’t happen.  i’ll be sure to take pictures of the cube.

i wonder if they’d let me take some of the water with me….

…sorry, that’s a bit fan-girlish of me, isn’t it?  i suppose it happens.  we actually leave beijing this sunday, so i’m trying to cram everything i need to do into these last few days.  i can’t believe that we’ve been here for two weeks almost already.  still kind of feels like i just got here.

yesterday, we saw an original opera at the egg, a huge performance center for the arts that’s right next to tian’anmen square.  it was….interesting.  the lyrics were kinda iffy, but it was a good experience.  it certain was amusing at times to hear their deep voices sometimes singing “deng deng…”

or maybe i’m just perversely easily amused.  it’s a very real possibility…

today we also had a chance to interview some chinese students, which was really really interesting.  i wish we had more time (we only got about 45 minutes), but the lecture that our guest speaker gave afterwards was fascinating too.  and he had an awesome southern drawl, so i was pretty much paying attention the entire time.

and oh!  i got a chop/seal in the hutongs!  it’s really small, so i was really impressed that the guy could etch my name into it.  it’s pretty legit, and it has a hole through it so that i won’t lose it…yay for being able to attach it to something!  i know that i already have one, but it’s too precious and i’m too scatterbrained to actually keep it well, so i figured this would be a good substitute.  and i should really stop blogging and do my paper….

i guess i’ll leave you here, dear readers.  thanks for hanging with me!

a little taste of home

a little taste of home

ok, for the life of me, i couldn’t figure out why i was typing and NOTHING was showing up.

apparently my font was white.  what the?  anyways….i am currently ingesting a food from home…but not the typical american stuff.  i guess i did just eat a rice burger (read: seaweed with rice, egg, meat patty, and then more rice and then ends with seaweed), but that’s not really american.  it will be served at some point in the summer when it’s my turn to cook, so beware, family.

the food is….khong guan butter coconut biscuits!  i was gonna get the sultana….but then i figured i can eat those when in the fall, but i can’t eat these because they have coconut (and i don’t want celi to die).  mmmmmm…good stuff.

BUT, we went to the beijing opera house tonight, and the opera was fun!  granted, it wasn’t the most inspired drama i’ve ever witnessed, but the experience was good in general.  we had to check in our cameras and any liquids before we could get to the auditorium, though, but i managed to get everything back just as i had left it.  and, on that note, i bought a rather large container, i think it’s two litres, of green tea at seven/eleven yesterday and brought it around with me.  i got some weird looks from people as i proceeded to drink straight from the bottle….but at least i was never thirsty today, which may be more than many people could say.  yeah, i may look silly, but i’m not having a syncoptic episode due to dehydration.

aaaaaaaand…i need to shower.  perhaps more afterwards…and i have no pictures because some client won’t let me upload things more than 1mb big.  so i plead innocent.


in which the big ugly american can’t find the laundry

in which the big ugly american can’t find the laundry

For the longest time i couldn’t find the laundry place.  i must have really looked rather silly wandering around with two plastic bags filled with dirty clothes.  or maybe i just look silly all the time.  that’s a very real possibility.

right now i’ve been here for a little over a week, and it’s really strange, because it feels both very long and very short.  i’m only in beijing for a little bit longer before we hope on a train early sunday morning and start traveling the country.  i…have a lot of work to do before i leave.  and apparently this plug isn’t actually working because my computer is not charging.  which means i only have like…two minutes before it dies.  i’ll probably not be able to post much more until i can find a plug…which i thought i had found, but apparently it’s not functional.  which is weird.  who has plugs around just to look cool?

i don’t, and i do not approve…

btw, i’m on the top of a roof in the hutong district of beijing.  in a tibetan cafe.  with a dead computer.  sorry folks.  adios!

Done in Italy, Off to Greece

Done in Italy, Off to Greece

I’m sure you all have noticed that this blog has been pretty quiet in regards to tales of my European adventures, but needless to say, I have been less than quiet here. Somehow I managed to squeeze my way into an informational video about the campus for incoming international students. I’m sure the advisors picked me because of my stunning physique and pure charisma. Or whatever. Either way, I got paid 50 euro, and I’ll probably become YouTube sensation. Otherwise, the last two weeks have been pretty uneventful. I spent the last weekend in Rome, catching up on school and preparing for my exams. I did the usual stuff around Rome, like eat gelato and bob-and-weave between tourists. The school put on a nice banquet our last night in Rome; it as at a swanky bar downtown, with finger food and wine. It was more of a cocktail party. The whole session really came full circle considering we had a champagne toast our first night here. Catholics are definitely more fun in Europe.

Anywhoo, I took my last exam on Thursday, and was in Greece on Friday. Because the trip is only ten days, I was able to leave a bag in Rome at my school, so I’m not dragging my coffin-sized suitcase up the steps of the Acropolis. I tried to pack light, but since I’ve never been to Greece, the land of white houses and hairy women, I wasn’t sure what to bring and what to sacrifice; I think I made the right chose of packing half my bag with snacks. And I heard it’s going to be hot while we’re here. Great.

The whole program seems like it’s going to be a lot of fun. My professor from Rome is teaching it, along with another professor from Athens, who is surprisingly a southern bell. She was born in Canada, raised in South Carolina, educated in Great Britain, and now lives in Greece as a art historian / food critic. She seems like a big ‘ol ball of Greek fun with a southern twang. We’ll be traveling every two days in Greece, trying to avoid the riots with flying yogurt. Our professors assured us we have nothing to worry about in regards to Greece’s apparent turmoil. I’ll update you on that later. There’s 20 students on the trip, and they all seem pretty normal. For the most part.

We already left Athens today to went to Mycenae to see an ancient community, and then we headed to Nafplion to go to the beach. Doesn’t suck. The drive was about an hour, which is prime for sleeping and such. Mycenae was sparse, the only thing there were the ruins, but Nafplion is absolutely beautiful… we’re staying over night and leaving tomorrow. The beach is beautiful and the town is so pleasant. I’m really starting to think that I like Greece better than Rome. Rome has all the anarchy of a major American city, while Greece’s Athens is a lively big town with a small town atmosphere. But only time will tell how I feel about Greece in 7 days when I return to Italy for a final week. I’m sure you’ll get another post within the week!

Calcio? Er I mean Fútbal

Calcio? Er I mean Fútbal

So catch up time. Ironic that I am saying catch up when I only have 13 days left in Europe, and only 9 more in Spain. Has it already been a month?! It just doesn’t seem possible. It is time to really get out into Madrid and see all that I want to see, especially now that I have a good working knowledge of the metro and bus systems.

Allora (there really are just some words from Italian and German that are permanent parts of my vocabulary now). So 10 June I went back to Germany for the last time. I know, why go back? You lived there and visited last semester, but I wanted to see my friends once more before leaving. It was a relaxing weekend- we sat around and talked. There was not rushing around seeing as much of a city as possible or worrying about hostels and belongings being safe in a locker somewhere.  As Eugene Kennedy said, “the real test of friendship is: can you literally do nothing with the other person? Can you enjoy those moments of life that are utterly simple?” That is what my weekend to Germany was. The simple moments that mean so much to me, and they are what have made my time in Europe so wonderful, in Germany, in Italy, and in Spain, and they are what made my two hour flight back from Germany the longest flight of my life to date. I still feel as though I have left part of me in Germany with my friends. I look forward to the day when we see each other again.

When I was back in Madrid I had dinner with a friend, and then we did something else that I think is something that is missing from American culture: we had ice cream and sat in a Plaza for a few hours just talking and watching people. The slower pace of life truly is wonderful. It allows you to relax and actually see what is going on around you, instead of just a blur of color and noise. The past week, between that Sunday and Friday was spent studying and focusing on Spanish. On Friday, I had my midterm. It is interesting how much of the grammar is coming back to me as I see it again. However, my vocabulary still needs work. I can read the newspapers with only minor issues and have even been working on a novel. My receptive language is defiantly better than my speaking abilities. Hopefully with time that will change.

It is weird to think that after two weeks of class I had a midterm, but I did! And, after getting back my test today, I am happy to day I did well. Even though it has been longer since I studied Spanish, I am finding it easier than when I restarted Italian. I am not sure why, 100%, but I am thankful, as it has made my life easier. But I have found myself missing Italian and Italy. I never thought I would say that, but it is true. I miss sitting in a cafe in the morning before class drinking a cappuccino and having a cornetto, conversing in Italian and just enjoying the Roman sun. And this coming from the guy who was missing Germany for 5 months… jaja

That being said, the title of this blog probably has confused some people… So after the midterm, two friends and I went to Park Retiro to kick around a fútbal (soccer ball). As we were doing that and chatting, a boy came up and gave us that look that clearly asked “May I join you?”. So we asked him “Quieres jugar con nos?” to which he gave an enthusiastic ¡Sì! After a few minutes he asked “Dove… er de dónde eres?” So answered him, and then I pulled out the Italian of Parli italiano? It turns out he is from Milano and speaks some Spanish, Italian, and French. Not bad for an 11 year old. His brother who was 8,5 joined us later. We ended up playing World Cup with them for about 3 hours, conversing in Italian (with me) and Spanish with the other two. It was a relaxing afternoon, and a lot of fun. It is always heartwarming to know there are some things that transcend language barriers and countries: one is fútbal. And it is so nice to be in a place where I can take part in that.

Anyway, on Saturday I went with USAC to Aranjuez y la Mancha. Aranjuez is the site of the Palacio Real de Aranjuez, or the Royal Palace, that today is a museum showing how the royal family lived during the time of Isabella. It was used by the royal family until 1890. Sadly, no photos were allowed, and thus, all I have are memories. It was a nice palace showing what life was like. Again, I am always astounded at the decorations and details that have gone into many of the rooms. After touring the palace, we had free time to wander the gardens and the town where some friends and I bought some of the best fresh fruit that I have ever eaten. I would say it rivals that of Münstermarkt in Freiburg. Then we were off to lunch in La Mancha, an area of Spain. We had some amazing food such as Pisto Manchego, Duelos y quebrantos, migas de pastor, and queso manchego. They are all traditional foods of La Mancha. Now, some people might recognize that name…

Don Quijote. I have not read the entire book (it is on my list of books to get in Spanish and read), but I do know the part about the windmills. I can now say I have seen the windmills of la Mancha and even been inside one of them. In addition, we also had time to explore the Castillo de Consuegra, which was built along a ridge with many windmills. I was reminded a lot of Greece and some of the castles we were able to explore there during Spring Break. That was probably my favorite part of the trip, besides the food of course. 🙂

And that brings me to the present. So I only have 4 classes left, and the final, and then I am done with school here in Madrid. As I wrote earlier, I am not sure how this is possible. When I decided to come to Spain so many months ago, it seemed like a month would be a long time. It even seemed like that in March! And now, I am not sure where the time has gone. The past year has flown by. In 13 days I will be back in the US, which is an interesting and slightly scary thought. It has been a long time, and while I am excited to see my friends and family, I am also sad at leaving many of my friends here. It is bittersweet on both ends. But I am trying not to think about that yet. I must first make it to Thursday, which is a Holiday here in Spain: Corpus Christi. So no school! It will be a day of exploring Madrid and enjoying all the city has to offer. Holla! Then Friday, I am going on my last trip in Europe: Porto in Portugal.  I am excited as I have wanted to go to Portugal since August, and now I am finally going there. And the best part is I will be back by 10.00 on Sunday! So I will have all day Sunday in Madrid as well! This way, my last weekend is not completely spent away from Spain or Madrid. Win-win, I’d say.

Achso. That about sums up everything for now. Check back in to see how the last full week in Spain is going!

Hasta luego!

Windmills of Don Quijote

The Church near Don Quijote's InnPalacio Real de Aranjuez
Playing World Cup in Retiro
Universidad Rey Juan Carlos


I did not like Rome. Fact. Maybe it was a function of where I was staying, maybe it was being sick, maybe it was having just left Tunisia. There was a bit of culture shock after a month in Africa. Seeing bare shoulders and other uncovered…parts….was actually uncomfortable. Possibly also sick of all the spaghetti and pizza. Oh, and honestly, how many gelato places do you really need Rome.

I felt like cattle in vatican museum.

Enough about Rome. I’m in Istanbul now and I have met up with some of my friends from Tunisia. Were staying in the old city known as Sultanhmet, and its gorgeous. We had dinner last night on a rooftop terrace overlooking the Haghia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. ( I would post a picture of that but i’m being lazy). After we sat down at a sidewalk cafe for some nargeli and drinks. Some locals from the hostel took us out to the clubs and I dont believe we returned till sunrise. We’re all hurting a bit today.

But hey, check out these F’n camels