The GoGlobal Blog

Author: Rebecca Flynn

My name is Becca Flynn, and I am studying at SLU Madrid this semester. I chose to study abroad because I have never been out of the country and am hoping to gain a new world perspective. I am beyond excited to get the opportunity to practice my Spanish skills in España, and to travel throughout Europe.
Camels, Crack, and the Cold

Camels, Crack, and the Cold

WOW IT’S BEEN SO LONG!!! While Liam Neeson hasn’t had to come rescue me yet, these past few weeks I have actually found myself in a way scarier predicament. Believe it or not, I have been in Spain for about a month and a half now, meaning that it is MIDTERM season. How the heck did that happen!?!?!? But anyway, due to this unfortunate situation that my professors have created with their grossly long and thorough testing, I have not found much free time to blog. So before I completely digress into a pointless tangent about midterms, here is my life-recap for the last 3 weeks!

During the last weekend of January, my friends and I traveled outside of Spain for the first time to Morocco! We booked our trip with a tour agency, who provided all of our transportation and other accommodations, leaving us with very little to worry about. After an extremely long bus ride to the Southern tip of Spain and a ferry ride over the straight, we arrived on the continent of Africa. We were herded (quite literally) right into our planned activities for the day, which included camel rides on the beach, a visit to the Hercules Caves, and a walk through a traditional Moroccan market. The camel rides were incredibly cool, and a little scary. Camels can apparently be pretty dang reckless when they don’t want people sitting on their backs. Who knew. However the bumpy ride was definitely an awesome experience and something that every tourist visiting Morocco should do in my opinion. Blooper: the wind was horrible on the beach that day, so any pictures you see of my friends or I on the camels were 100% staged and had a lot of behind the scenes effort that went into them. Please throw these pictures a “like” to show solidarity with our situation and efforts. The caves were next on the agenda and were also very cool. They were especially beautiful since we arrived right as the sun was setting over the ocean. Lastly, our stroll through the traditional market was very, um, interesting. The vendors could definitely sense the euros in our pockets and thus were very aggressive. Luckily, our guides were good at keeping us moving through the stalls and at pushing the locals away when they did become too eager to sell their goods to us. However at an exchange rate of 10 dirham for every 1 euro, the deals were very enticing. Everyone should expect to receive Moroccan oil from me as gifts for the next few years, as I stocked up big time. We ended the day at a Moroccan restaurant where we got to relax while listening to a live band and brought four courses of food. As someone who loves Mediterranean food, I was definitely in heaven during this trip as the food was both extremely cheap and served in huge portions with multiple courses. We retired to our hotel that night, eager to sleep in a real bed, as the over night bus ride the night before did not leave us feeling too well rested. The hotel itself was very nice, which was surprising to us as we were convinced that “4 Stars” in Africa might be a tad different than the “4 Star” accommodations we think of in the United States. But much to our surprise, we were wrong, and the hotel which was located right on the beach, was perfect. The next morning we headed to Chefchaoeun, nicknamed the “Blue City” for its blue buildings and walls. I loved walking the city, as the markets here were much more calm and friendly to visitors. We spent the whole day here shopping around, relaxing at restaurants, and admiring the aesthetics of the small city. The only negative aspect that I could find were the vast number of cats that roamed the streets. Now hold up. You might be thinking to yourself, “Becca complaining about cats? What has Europe done to this future cat lady?” Well don’t worry, as I still do have an unhealthy level of love for little kitties, but the stray cats in Morocco were honestly the nastiest. One, which we nicknamed Snaggletooth, could be the poster-cat for rabies. But other than the occasional need to run away from Snaggletooth or his gang of friends, the city of Chefchaouen was magical and was an incredible place to visit for the day. The next day we headed home, which included another 11 hour bus ride. While agonizingly long, this did give me much time to reflect on my brief visit to Morocco. It was my first time in a place in which I did not have the slightest clue as to how to read, speak, or understand the language. Communicating with the locals thus was very different and I was reminded that while, fortunate for us, English is spoken in many countries across the world, we can’t always expect this. As a visitor in Morocco, I probably should have researched some basic Arabic phrases that would have helped me communicate, instead of relying on the locals to understand my native language. Another thought I had on the long ride home was about how differently religion has shaped different areas of the world. While Christianity has pervaded the United States and most of Europe, it is Islam that shapes Morocco. The influence of this religion is apparent everywhere, from the more conservative or traditional beliefs,  to the more modest dress. While different, it was extremely interesting to experience.

The next weekend I ventured to Dublin, Ireland. I knew it was going to be an awesome time right away, as I received a huge welcome after a customs worker noticed my last name. This happened even after I tried speaking to her in Spanish, forgetting where I was and that, you know, they actually speak English in Ireland. Duh. Our first day in Ireland was actually not spent in Dublin at all, but on the opposite side of the country at the Cliffs of Moher. We booked a day tour that showed us historic and interesting sights around the Irish countryside on our way to the Atlantic coast. I was shocked at how green the countryside was, even in the beginning of February. I also found it funny that the Irish countryside looks exactly how you’d think the Irish countryside looks – complete with rolling hills, stone fences, small farm cottages, and pastures with grazing animals. The scenery looked almost familiar and like something out a movie, which we later learned, could possible to true as many famous movies were filmed around the Irish countryside. When we finally arrived at the Cliffs, it was an awesome sight to take in. Now, I had seen a million and one photos of the cliffs that past study abroaders had posted, so I had them pegged in my mind as something that would be cool, but mainly a necessary sight for tourists to visit. However I was absolutely blown away when I finally saw them in person. Pictures can not put into perspective just how massive the cliffs are and how beautiful they are with the contrast of the ocean in the background. We were told that we traveled to the cliffs on the nicest winter day imaginable, with relatively clear skies that made them even more impressive to look at. Our tour guide gave us a few hours to spend there, which you may think was unnecessarily long as I originally did, but believe me when I tell you that I could have sat there all day just walking the area and staring at the view. On the ride back to Dublin we all knocked out, as apparently sitting on a bus and looking at cliffs makes for an exhausting day. However upon arrival back in Dublin, we took the advice of our tour guide and headed to a restaurant/pub called The Celt, where we were in for an Irish culture shock. The restaurant was authentically Irish, which prompted my order of bangers and mash with a Guinness. Props to the Irish, because who knew some mashed potatoes topped with sausages could be so freaking good. And the Guinness. Wow. This was my very first Guinness, which being in Ireland, I deemed an appropriate time to officially try. Needless to say I was very happy with my choice, as it has become my new beer of choice. Halfway through dinner, a live singer emerged to entertain the now extremely crowded pub area which created a really fun atmosphere. When we finally did leave, I was happily surprised to find that most of the popular pubs included live music, which I thought was absolutely awesome. I really loved that the pubs in Ireland were laid back, which then attracted a huge diversity of people. In any particular pub, you could find an array of drunk 50 year old men attempting to Irish dance but also young people dressed for the club. The variety of people made people watching very interesting, but also made it acceptable for me to wear gym shoes on our second night out without feeling like a complete idiot. Not complaining at all. Our second day in Dublin was spent exploring the city. We visited Trinity College, Dublin Gardens, Dublin Castle, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and the Guinness Storehouse to name a few of the sights. One of the coolest things, in my opinion, was being able to find my family crest and read some information about the “Flynn” family origins. By the end of our stay, I had fallen completely in love with Ireland. From the laid back feel of the cities to the beautiful countryside views, I was completely in awe the entirety of the time we spent in Ireland. I must admit that I was so in love upon my arrival back to Spain, that I actually started looking up law and graduate schools in Ireland. Nevertheless, I am extremely excited to have the chance to visit again at the end of the semester with my parents, and am hoping to feel the same awe that I originally experienced.

Finally, this last weekend was spent Berlin, Germany. My friend and I met up with my cousin who lives in Germany, which was awesome as we got our own private tour guide who speaks the language. I must say that I’m incredibly proud that my friend and I were even able to find the hostel without my cousin, as the German language is quite intimidating to a foreigner. But we spent out first afternoon walking around the area near our hostel and got our first taste of the deep and complex history that the area boasts. We walked to a church named the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church which stands today in ruin from bombings that took place during WW2. The church was purposefully kept in ruins as a reminder of the horrors of war, and while the church itself was very powerful, I think I was more intrigued by a recent historical development that happened in that spot. The plaza that the church sits on was also the sight of the 2016 Berlin terror attack, in which a truck drove through a Christmas market killing 12 people. There was a memorial that featured thousands of candles, flowers, and other tributes to the victims on the plaza, which was both beautiful and saddening. How awful, that such a horrible atrocity happened directly next to a monument meant to warn against the destruction of war and hatred. I thought that it was very powerful as it provided a glimpse of the sad reality facing our world today. The next day in Berlin was similarly thought-provoking and disheartening, as we took a walking tour around the city that showcased important WW2 sights. While I cannot say that this was the most fun three hours of my life, I believe it was incredibly important to see, learn about, and attempt to understand what occurred during that time in history. Some of the sights that stuck with me were an old apartment building that, like the church, had kept its original facade after the war. The building was completely covered from top to bottom with bullet holes, without even a square foot left untouched. Again, this is meant to remind the future generations, whom might not experience war firsthand, of its devastation and destruction capabilities. We learned that this building was rare in that it survived the war, whereas most of Berlin was reduced to rubble. It shocked me to learn that because of this, much of Berlin is very new, with some buildings intentionally being rebuilt to appear “old”. This should not have been a shock, but it had never clicked in my head that the need to rebuild virtually everything was another consequence of the war. We also were able to visit the Holocaust Memorial, which features hundreds of cement blocks of all different heights. As you walk between the blocks, they grow in height, leaving you feeling trapped and overwhelmed the farther you venture into the memorial. One interpretation that our tour guide offered us was that the blocks symbolize the organized terror that marked WW2. In the beginning of the war, or at the beginning of the memorial, you notice the blocks, but because they are small and you can still see an exit, you do not think much of them. However as you venture inside, the blocks grow, and an exit is not so easy to find. Eventually the blocks are so tall that you become disoriented and even a little lost, despite the fact that the blocks are organized in a logical, grid-like pattern. This is meant to symbolize how the Nazis were able to enact their terror during the war, as once people allowed them to get away with the “smaller” acts of hatred, their organized system grew until it was all encompassing. Our tour guide was great at pointing out and explaining the meaning behind the sights we saw, and gave us insight into the modern German mindset. She explained how younger generations are taught at a very young age about the atrocities that happened, and that the Germans have chosen to fully acknowledge everything that occurred. I think this is incredibly important and I applaud the modern German government in taking this path, as I believe it is now more than ever important to remember the past and to attempt to learn from past societal mistakes. In my head, I dubbed this day our “WW2 day,” and the next day in Berlin was our “Cold War day.” I feel stupid even admitting this, but I honestly had no idea how big of a part Berlin played during the Cold War. Of course I had heard of the Berlin Wall, but it never registered in my head that it was used to restrict as entire population of people from leaving or entering a section of the city. When we visited the East Gallery and some other sections of the wall, I was honestly a little shocked that I hadn’t learned about this in school, however it later dawned on me that this part of history is so recent that it might not even be written into text books yet. The Berlin wall was especially powerful in light of recent political events, and sections that had been painted with verses saying “NO MORE WALLS” in the 90s are conveniently very relevant again and sadly ironic. We visited Checkpoint Charlie and spent a few hours at the Topographies of Terror exhibit, learning about how the horrors of WW2 turned into the horrors of the Cold War. This could be the German in me, but I felt a little defensive for the city. Like couldn’t the whole Soviet-American face off during the Cold War have happened anywhere else other than Berlin, an already injured and depressed city? I will also admit that my inner history nerd was thriving during this weekend in Berlin, as there was so much to learn about and take in. You could barely walk to the local currywurst or bratwurst vendor without getting slapped in the face with some tidbit of history. Because of this, it might not have been the most over-the-top fun weekend of my life, but I thought it was very cool to stand in a city that hosted events that absolutely shaped the world we live in. While Ireland still has my heart, the history of Berlin along side the new modern vibes, great food, and fun people definitely made it my favorite trip thus far. EVEN THOUGH IT WAS SO FREAKING COLD, I MUST ADD. At one point I didn’t think my toes were going to make it through the weekend. Thankfully all ten were troopers and survived. It was around 20 degrees, which is actually really normal for February in Chicago, but as I have been spoiled and pampered with 50-60 degree weather in Madrid, it was absolutely necessary to complain during our three days spent in real winter temperatures.

While Berlin was obviously very insightful, I assure you that I also learned a thing or two in Morocco and Ireland as well! So here is the “I promise I’m actually learning while living it up in Europe for 5 months” list for the last three trips!
– In Morocco: 1) Arabic is written right to left, who knew?? 2) Morocco, while on the African continent, actually still receives snow. You can see it high up on the mountains while driving through the countryside. 3) Tangier is home to a Laughing Cow production factory. As such, I ate a ton of Laughing Cow cheese that weekend.
– In Ireland: 1) In Galeic, “crack” is synonymous with “fun” or “having a good time.” So for example, I can say that “I had so much crack in Ireland” without it meaning that I ingested really scary, bad drugs. Hence the title of the blog post. No need for concern or drug therapy. (Also if anyone brings up the title and does not know what it means, then I will know you did not read through this post entirely, and thus you will be exposed for being super fake and I will not like you anymore.) 2) St. Patrick was not from Ireland, but from Wales. 3) It take 119.5 seconds to properly pour a pint of Guinness. This was obviously the most important fact from the trip, and why I saved it for last.
– In Berlin: 1) While giving a speech in Berlin, JFK attempted to express empathy to the citizens and say something along the lines of “I am also a Berlin citizen.” Due to grammatical issues, he instead said “I am a jelly donut.” 2) Berlin has the second highest Turkish population outside of Turkey itself. As such food such as the “currywurst” have been popularized, something we can all be happy about. 3) The interior Reichstag, or main governmental building, is mostly made of glass so that citizens and visitors can observe their government while they meet and decide important government things. It is so open today because they messed things up so badly in the past, to say the least.

So I know I know I know it took me forever and a half to finally write this post, but I was obviously just building suspense. I like to keep the demand higher than the supply (can you guess my major???). But I do hope this was worth the wait, and thanks for reading everyone!

One Country, Two Weekends, Three Trips

One Country, Two Weekends, Three Trips

Hola amigos y familia!

To make good on my promise for frequent life updates, I am currently coming to you live from a bus traveling back to Madrid after a long weekend away. These past few weeks have been insanely busy with both school and traveling in full gear, and so I have only now found the time to write this update as I sit here grumbling over the eight freaking hours I have left on this bus. *Sigh,* life is hard. Anyway, before the semester starts to speed on by, I want to recap the first couple free weekends that I have had in Spain. So without further ado, here is my review on the Zaragoza Province, Toledo, and Barcelona.

On the Saturday of our first free weekend, a group of us traveled to the Zaragoza region of Spain on a pre-organized trip to see the Monasterio de Piedra. The Monastery was a long two and a half hour bus ride from Madrid, and brought us into a rural area of the country with beautiful scenery and backdrops. It was a cold and rainy day, even snowing at one point, however we still loved walking around the old Monastery and learning the history of the region. The highlight of the trip, though, was actually the surrounding gardens of the Monastery, which featured a huge number of beautiful waterfalls. We spent the day hiking around the picturesque garden area and admiring all of the immense waterfalls, crystal-clear lakes, and vast caves. It was a wonderfully organized trip, that left us feeling as though we had stumbled upon a hidden jewel in the heart of Spain.

The next day we traveled to Toledo with the same prearranged group. This too was a very fun trip that offered loads of information about Spanish history and specifically the medieval town itself in relation to this history. We visited the huge cathedral and the various religious quarters that are situated around the center of the city. Eventually, a smaller group of us wandered off to explore the city for ourselves and hiked around the winding, cobblestone streets. The day trip was incredibly relaxed, and we took our time eating lunch and sampling the locally-produced sweet, marzipan. Toledo was extremely interesting to visit due to its turbulent history involving the coexistence of Christians, Jews, and Muslims all within the city’s boundaries. Evidence of such differing religious preferences is still very evident within Toledo, thus producing a very unique culture set within the context of a visibly ancient city. Now, because I have been cursed to live a life characterized by an endless string of embarrassing moments, it was only a matter of time before this was transferred over to my life abroad. The most notable embarrassing moment from this particular trip, (note that I say the MOST notable, signifying that I could actually write an entire blog entry on embarrassing moments from these first few weeks alone), occurred when we were visiting a synagogue that had been converted into a museum. After walking in the entrance, I spotted a trash can in the corner of the room which I proceeded to dump a pocket full of tissues in. This was immediately followed by an angry security guard yelling that it was not in fact a trash can as I had originally thought, but an umbrella holder. Feeling super flustered and embarrassed, I did the only thing that seemed logical in the moment, and ran away to hide in the middle of my tour group. I spent the rest of the museum tour simultaneously admiring the old synagogue and hiding from every security guard that passed, as I was SURE that they were all after me for my tissue debacle. My American education failed me, as it did not prepare me for culturally-superior Europe where umbrella holders are apparently a thing. However don’t worry about my self-esteem, as I will continue to blame my great country for all of the failures that I have already experienced and will surely continue to experience overseas.

While the two previously described trips consisted of short, day excursions, our trip to Barcelona required a full Thursday-Monday block of time. After traveling seven hours by bus to reach the city, my roommates and I spent the weekend exploring the different neighborhoods and attractions by foot. We visited the city’s infamous tourist sites, such as the port area, the busy La Rambla street, the open air La Boquería market, and the Gaudí house, Casa Batlló. We later realized that we had walked over seven miles this first morning in Barcelona, definitely justifying the 15 Euro haul of candy I had bought earlier in the day.  After a much needed siesta and late lunch, we hung around the hostel that we were staying in for the weekend and received our first taste of hostel-living. Much to our surprise, the hostel was not a gross, cesspool of random people, which definitely defied my initial expectations. In reality, the hostel was a fun living space which both motivated us to explore the city by offering special activities and facilitated interaction between the guests. We met travelers from around the globe, including from Scotland, Germany, Australia, Panama, and Egypt to name a few, and spent the rest of our weekend with these once random strangers. One of the girls we met in our hostel clicked so well with our group that not only did we spent the rest of the weekend sightseeing with her, but she actually came to visit us in Madrid a few days later. After this trip I feel confident in saying that I now truly understand the appeal of hostels and am looking forward to booking more during my travels. The next day in Barcelona was spent visiting La Sagrada Familia and the gothic neighborhood of the city. Both areas were very interesting, though in my opinion, only necessary to visit once in a lifetime, and for a short amount of time. We eventually found ourselves in need of caffeine and warmth, and so found a local Starbucks (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) to spend some time recuperating in. I am NOT exaggerating when I say visiting a foreign Starbucks has been the largest culture shock I have yet to receive in my time abroad. Drip coffee in Spain is not popular, but never in a hundred million years did I imagine that a Starbucks would not prominently display the “normal” coffee offerings that I have grown so lovingly accustomed to in the States. Please take a second to empathize with my situation, as I was unable to order my grande, blonde roast coffee with room for cream. I understand if you immediately feel disgustingly horrified, just as I did, at the fact that a young, culturally-stupid, American could not order her usual coffee beverage. Such a shame. I will say, though, that what Starbucks lacked in coffee offerings, they made up for in pastry options. They offered a huge selection of unique selections that I had to literally walk away from in order to resist the temptation. Now before I completely digress into this Starbucks tangent, I will stop myself and return to the deep, worldly, and thought provoking experiences that I am supposed to be having and that you actually want to read about. However while I am on the topic of food, we did end the night at a great tapas restaurant, where we ordered a huge selection of small plates to fill our food-deprived bellies. On our final day in Barcelona, we visited the famous Park Güell that had been designed by Gaudí. The park was a very great end to our trip, as it offered amazing views of the city. Our overall impression of Barcelona was incredibly positive, with all three of us roommates agreeing that we needed to return later in the semester when we could fully enjoy the beaches and warm weather that is typical of the city.

To end this post, I want to prove to my parents and any other haters out there that I am actually learning a thing or two in my travels.  Here is a compilation of fun facts that I have learned about/from the places I have traveled to thus far:

  • From the Monastery:
    • Drinking wine and eating pork in public areas were very important in medieval Spain, as it signaled that you were a “good” Christian. This was especially important during the Inquisitions, and is one of the reasons why butchers hung pork in the windows of their shops.
    • The alters of medieval churches are always oriented to the east. This is because Jerusalem is located to the east of these European countries, and so the alter was used to point the way toward the holy land.
  • From Toledo:
    • There are only three medieval synagogues left in Spain, which two located with Toledo. Much like the alter in the Christian Cathedrals, the Holy Wall of the synagogue was ornately decorated and always oriented toward the east to signify the direction toward Jerusalem.
    • The river that surrounded most of the city acted as a natural moat that protected Toledo from foreign threat. Walls were erected around the area of the city that was left exposed.
  • From Barcelona:
    • Park Güell was originally meant to serve as a backdrop and private park for the extremely wealthy families that would eventually be living nearby. However a lack of interest and money lead the park to be given to the city of Barcelona, who then opened it as a public park.
    • Gaudí is buried in the crypts of La Sagrada Familia, as it was deemed as his most cherished, life project.

Thanks to everyone who completed reading this week’s blog! I promise they will not all be this extremely long, but I am a little behind and ask you to bear with me as I attempt to catch up in my entires. Please check out my pictures which I have uploaded to Facebook as well, I promise they are probably much cooler to look at than reading this blog is. Lots of love for you all, and stay tuned for entries detailing life in Madrid, trips to Morocco, and other random abroad experiences!

Hola from España!

Hola from España!

I am so happy to report that I have successfully both survived and thrived during these first few weeks in Spain. While the trip from Chicago to Europe began with many headaches due to seemingly endless flight cancellations, delays, and reroutings, the time has already begun to fly by here.

These first two weeks have been spent exploring my new surroundings while simultaneously attempting to fit in with the locals and orient myself to the European/Spanish lifestyle. “Becca,” you might ask, “who cares if literally everyone within a 10 mile radius can tell you’re not from Spain???” Well I would answer that with the sad fact that I have probably already used up the acceptable amount of “lo siento, soy americana”s x100. That being said, I am desperately attempting to drop all the signs of my Americanness in order to gain the full access to the Spanish culture. One of the biggest adjustments that I have run into thus far has been switching over to the Spanish eating schedule. The day begins with a small breakfast, followed by a normal sized lunch around 2-3pm, and finishes with a dinner around 10pm. While I had been warned about this schedule, putting it into practice has resulted in an embarassingly huge amount of necessary churro and bocadillo snack breaks throughout the day to save my starving stomach. These snack breaks were made even more enticing after I learned that a cafe con leche and pastry combo is sold at most cafes for less than 2 euro. Dinner is an especially important part of my daily routine in Spain, as my roommates and I sit down with our host family for an authentic, homemade Spanish meal. Our host family, to our surprise, does not speak English. While my broken Spanish skills have definitely helped bridge the language barrier, it can be quite difficult and intimidating to speak at lengths with them. Regardless, my host family is extremely caring and thoughtful, always making sure that my roommates and I have what we need and giving us advice about city life in Madrid.

I suppose this is the part that I should also mention that I am usually able to find time in my day to attend class (that’s for you, Mom & Dad)! My schedule for this semester consists of four academic classes and a piano class, the earliest beginning at 2:30 pm. I truly am roughing it this semester. I am very happy with my professors thus far, all of whom are not only vey intelligent within their given fields, but also truly understanding of our unique situation as students in Madrid.

Although I am loving Spain, I do admit to feeling homesick and the occasional FOMO. One thing that has definitely helped is that I have met a crazy number of students from my home university in Chicago, all of whom I had either not crossed paths with or whom I had never had a chance to talk with before this experience. It truly was the best feeling on the first day of classes whenever another student introduced themselves as “blah blah from Loyola Chicago.” This was usually followed by me yelling across the room, “omg me too!” Already these semi-awkward introductions have lead to travel groups being formed and plans solidified. This month has and will keep me extremely busy in terms of travel, as we have already visited the Monasterio de Piedra and Toledo on the first weekend and Barcelona on the second weekend. I have future travel plans to Morocco, Ireland, and Germany in the coming weeks, and to France and Italy over the coming months. I am slowly beginning to realize that I won’t have the time to see half of what I would like to, as I accidentally filled in every single weekend while making a tentative travel itinerary for this semester. I have attempted to block off at least one weekend a month to remain in Spain, as I am nervous that my travel plans might restrict me from truly experiencing life as a wannabe Spaniard. Again, should probably also block off the weekends before midterms and finals, because in case you are like me and keep forgetting, school is a thing here.

If you made it this far into the blog post, you must truly love me because this was really freaking long. I want to thank everyone for taking the time to read my thoughts, and am hoping to post at least once a week. I am so incredibly grateful for the love and support I always receive from my friends and family, even during some of my more crazier endeavors (ya know, like flying off to live in Europe for 5 months). Lots of love for you all, and stay posted as I attempt live the vida loca!