Wednesday, April 29, 2009

La Rioja

I will write more about this trip later (and soon, I will write about Paris! I am so behind...), but for now here are a few of my favorite pictures from the weekend. I went on a trip to Rioja, the famous wine region of northeastern Spain (near Basque Country) with Erasmus (euro study abroad group) and a few friends from my program. We Californians had a great time tasting wine and having fun in Rioja, which I can say in all honesty is one of the most beautiful places in the entire world. And I have been to Lake Como... just sayin' ;)




The hills are alive, with the sound of music



At the first winery with Lisa and Hannah!



The Californians + Kike after drinking some amazing 2004 reserve (I bought 2 bottles)



Lisa and I in Logroño before tapas hopping with the gang

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Introspective

After starting this blog 3 months, ago and flitting about the surface levels of my stay in beautiful Madrid, I think I owe it to myself and to my beloved readers to go a step deeper. Spain is magical, captivating and a place fit for adventure. I am having an experience I wouldn't trade for the world, meeting people and learning things, picking up a language I barely had a hold of upon my arrival. But like all other great things in life, it's not all fun and games. The truth will always find you.

This is probably the first time I have been legitimately homesick. Davis has never had the "far away" feel, since by plane I am only an hour from home. I have spent over 2 years living and studying there, surrounded by wonderful people who I miss very much now. But Temecula is what's calling me. I miss having dinner with my family, my Dad making up funny songs, talking with Mom in the car, being goofy with my bro. Yogurt runs, rumpusing on the floor with the puppies, all the familiar places like the church I grew up in and the beloved "second homes" of friends like Schmidtty and the McCulloughs. It has all never felt so far away. I suppose that this is all a part of Growing Up, becoming an adult and learning to adapt. I have always adapted well to new places, but it's different when you're all alone. There definitely came a point, after I had been here a few weeks, when I thought.. what am I DOING here? I hopped on a plane with a suitcase of belongings and came to live in Spain. Who does that?

Well, I do. I actually did the same thing when I went to Davis, I didn't know a soul but was in love with everything about the city and school. But in the 2 and a 1/2 years since my parents first dropped me off, Davis has become home. I have great friends from J Building, RA life (residents and staff), the Mondavi Center, classes, and of course, Chi Omega (RB). My days in Davis are spent surrounded by amazing people, some of which have become my greatest friends and confidants. Unfazed at the thought of picking up and running off again, away I went to Madrid. Here, making friends has been a challenge. This is new for me. I constantly feel socially awkward and, for the first part of my stay, had decided to just let it go and spend my free time with Rena (my fabulous amiga) and her roommates. Soon though, I realized I didn't really have any friends at school- what a change from Davis and my hundreds of sisters and friends!. Since then, I have made an effort to reach out to people and have met some really great friends. Melanie and I spent a couple of days in Paris together during the break, and I have begun to spend time with the rest of the Getafe crew. If all works out, Daniel and I will be going wine tasting in Rioja next weekend :)

What is spectacular about my coming to Spain is that, although I came alone, only knowing my wonderful friend Rena, I got something I wasn't completely expecting: a family. Living with the Mohino's is truly a gift. The time I spend with them (at home during meals, playing with the family dog Blackie, chatting with Concha, out and about with the girls and their friends) I will remember as perhaps the greatest part of my Spanish adventure. Their patience has allowed me to understand and speak more Castillian, to actually be able to express myself. It's something really incredible, to be on the other side of the world and be able to communicate with everyone around you (with minor complications, of course). Lastly, they treat me as one of their own. They are truly my Spanish family.

Something that has taken my off-guard here is the amount of time I spend alone. I have always been the type that needs alone time, at least an hour or so to be calm and breathe a little. Here in Spain I have a lot more time to contemplate things. There have been some interesting results. Suddenly spending great chunks of time by yourself (in Davis and Temecula something else is always happening or captivating my thoughts) can be scary. I find myself having to fight off thoughts of how much money I have left (not much), how much I miss home, getting a job after college. The last few weeks have been dedicated, in part, to concentrating on channeling this introspection somewhere more positive. Maybe there's something to this "power of positive thinking" theory. I spend a lot time thinking about Sean, which always brings a smile to my face. There are a lot of memories, both of our friendship and the love we now share, that I can (and do) ponder with a girlish smile. It proves difficult at times because without a doubt, I begin to let in the thoughts of how badly I miss him, and at times am overtaken with an acute sadness. How badly I wish I could hold his hand, breathe his scent, simply be near him. I don't quite feel right without him, but I know that me being here is important. I never wanted to be one of those girls who convinced themselves that they couldn't bear to part from their boyfriends. To study in another country has been my dream for a long time, and despite that great difficulty, I survive. I smile and I laugh and I travel, drink wine, dance all night, eat paella, make friends and... I'm happy. My survival instincts, my female instincts, are telling me that I don't need to be at his side to thrive. At the same time (more importantly), I know that I've been different since our last embrace, and that I will not be wholly myself again until I'm back in his arms. Until then, I will continue this great adventure I worked so hard to make a reality. Although I sometimes curse the thought, it makes me a stronger person.

For you who have chosen to read this, thank you for listening. No part of this was meant as a complaint and I neither expect nor want any comments of pity. My intention has been to highlight the many wonderful things about my life in Spain, as well as recognize that nothing is perfect. I believe it is unfair to fill people with an expectation that all great things are perfect. For example, people say college is one of best best times of your life. I would have to agree, but also add that in these 'best years of your life,' you will also cry, fight with your friends, fail a mid-term and learn that you can't stomach tequila. That is why I wrote what I did today, to fairly and squarely give you the whole picture.

I hope everyone is doing well at home :) I miss each and every one of you, my family and friends, and look forward to seeing you all upon my triumphant return to California. Chao-

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Strep Throat

My sincere apologies for having written nothing about Spring Break yet, it will eventually be done. I have somehow gotten ze strep throat, and I have no ganas to do anything, not even write! Home sick today, lying in my bed of pain. Hopefully I'll be up and about soon - there are many Spanish adventures yet to be had!

Notes and funny links sent via FB or e-mail would be greatly appreciated, since I am spending today in bed :) Hasta luego, my wonderful family and friends.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Catching up to do

I got a little behind again, here are some bullet points to catch up, and I will write more in detail tomorrow or Saturday :-)

* A bunch of UC Davis people just arrived to Madrid for their quarter abroad program, including my sorority sister Nikki, my friend from Spanish class Taylor, and my RA buddy Jess! I'm so happy they are all here and can't wait to hang out with them more.

* I just got back from spring break in ... Paris! I spent the first part with my friend Melanie from my program, and the second with Stacey, a friend from home (youth group!) who is studying in England. The whole trip was fantastic and I loved exploring the city. My favorite thing was probably the Sacre Coeur (Sacred Heart/Sagrada Corazon) - and I got to see the Louvre again :)

* Saw the new Pedro Almodovar movie, Abrazos Rotos, and really liked it - it's Almodovar, so of course it is strange. Plenty of food for discussion.

* Tried a unique drink called "Leche de Pantera," which is basically milk, sugar, cinnamon and 5 kinds of alcohol, one of which is green and tasted like licorice. It was strange and delicious and I will definitely be going back. Link to the bar, Chapandaz: http://www.chapandaz.com/combinados.html



Only about 7 weeks left in Spain - time has definitely crept up on me. Time to start writing papers and plan my final Iberian travels. And of course, better my Spanish! But for right now, I'm in recovery from my Parisian adventures. Bon soir!