Friday, April 23, 2010

Mallorcan Relaxation, Feria, and Birthday Shenanigans

Hi! A couple of days ago I got back from a fabulous six day Mallorcan relaxation vacation. Mallorca is one of the Baleric Islands in the Mediterranean that belong to Spain. We actually got really lucky because we were staying in Spain (and Spain is Southern Europe, of course) and our flight was not affected by the ash cloud from the Icelandic volcano! We did see a ton of people waiting in line for refunds and flight changes. A lot of my friends' plans were adversely affected by the ash cloud seeing as they were going to places like Bulgaria and Germany and such. But we got to Mallorca A-ok and traveled from the airport in Palma to Port de Pollença on the other side of the island, checked into our modest hostel, and hit the beach. It was incredibly beautiful. The sand was so soft and white, and the water was SO clear. There were no waves either. Completely bizarre to me, but so awesome. Mary, Arianna, and I literally did nothing for six days but lay on the beach, swim in the water, and chill in our room. It was bliss. Just what the doctor ordered. Its funny, because at school you can tell that everyone is getting worn out from travel and work, its like we are running out of batteries...all at the same time. As unfortunate as it is, we all still have final papers and presentations to do before its over, and let me tell you 5-10 page papers in spanish is no walk in the park.

But Mallorca was really great and we got to come back to Feria in full swing. Feria is incredible! Imagine every color flamenco dress imaginable, and multiply it by styles, prints, colors, flowers, and ruffles, and increase exponentially by a million, and you have a teeny understanding of all the colors and fabulous dresses of the women, the men dressed in riding gear and suits, casetas (tents) lining the streets, and if you are lucky enough to know people you can get into one, drinking and dancing. THEN on top of all these festivities, there is an amusement park attached. Imagine State Fair rides and multiply your mental image by about 100. Not kidding. It is amazing. And the people are there 24 hours a day for seven days. It doesnt matter what time you get there, its the same, 12 noon, 7 pm, 1 am, 4 am, 9 am... the same. and little kids! everywhere, at all hours. it is incredible. It is also really fun to dress up in our flamenco dresses and feel a part of the crowd.

Sunday is my 21st birthday and we plan to go to feria for part of the day and stay and see the closing ceremony which includes fireworks! other than that, who knows? :-)

12 days of class left
23 days till Abby gets here
25 days until my last exam is over
26 days until Dane gets here

less than a month left....where did these past three months go???


Friday, April 9, 2010

Plane billetes, final ensayos, y tutoring

Hola a todos!
Nothing huge has really happened since my last blog other than the end of my Barcelona trip, and that was SO fun. Park Güell was super cool, and really really awesome, and the outside of the Sagrada Familia was beyond words. Arianna's parents got here safe and sound and we headed to Sitges on the train. Sitges as it turns out is a little tiny town just to the South of Barcelona right on the coast. The parents had rented an apartment there (from a Nike exec. no less - just an old friend of the family...jeez), and Mary and I were able to stay with them for free for a night before the two of us headed home and let the fam have some time together. It was so relaxing and nice. Mary and I headed home and the next day we went to a mercado to do an observation for one of our classes and then headed to the center of town to catch a glimpse of some paseos for Semana Santa, they really are quite beautiful and the live music is really amazing. BUT I have NEVER seen so many people in Seville, it was bonkers.

Anyway, the girls and I are headed to Mallorca next week for some chill beach time before Feria de Abril arrives. And Abby has officially gotten her ticket to come visit me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am SUPER excited! We are entering into the last few weeks of school here and the work load is getting heavier. I have several final papers that need to be started and finished, on top of my regular homework load...phew! Also, I think I have forgotten to mention it before, but I am tutoring a guy twice a week in English! It is turning out to be a really great job, and he is learning a lot, and so am I.

Days of Class left: 16
Days until Abby Gets here: 37
Days until Dane Gets here: 40

It's bittersweet that the end is so close!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Camels, Survival, Black Beaches, and Gaudi

Hiya folks. Sorry it takes me so long to update these days. Anywho. Last time I blogged I was preparing for my weekend trip to Morocco. Yes, Morocco as in Africa. WOWOWOW i know. It was a really cool trip. A totally, completely new experience. The culture was so different. i mean SO different. Everyone there speaks at least three languages: Arabic, French, and Spanish and a ton of them speak English as well. That just blows my mind. completely. We rode camels and bargained with street vendors and drank delicious moroccan tea. Then it was back to school for one more midterm and three more days of class until Semana Santa break. (Semana Santa is the week before Easter..holy week)

I PASSED ALL MY MIDTERMS!!!!! yess. so excited. And then Wednesday night I crashed at Arianna's place to prepare for an early morning trip to the airport. We began our excursion to the Greek Island of Santorini at four thirty in the morning Seville time. Following that was the flight from Sevilla to Barcelona, then a couple hours in the airport, then the three and a half hour flight from Barcelona to Athens, then an hour bus ride from the airport to the port (for the ferry) and then another bus and some walking to our AWESOME huge amazing ferry. Then a five hour ferry ride...a really altogether pleasant experience...then a little van ride to our hostel on the other side of the island...and at one am we had arrived! We woke up at a reasonable hour, headed to the little mini mart two blocks away for some groceries (and when i say mini, i mean MINI) and then we headed to the GOREGOUS Perissa beach. Perissa, by the way, is famous for its black sand. Yes, i said black. It was sooooo cool, the sand didnt stick to anything! it was like little pebbles. Best invention ever, thanks God. And thanks to the active volcano on the island! four days of complete bliss on the beach and in our hostel - which by the way was really a villa masquerading as a hostel: three rooms and a bathroom a balcony and a kitchenette all to ourselves. not to mention that everyday a maid service came in and changed our sheets AND did our dishes for ten euro a night. i know, wow. one of the days we woke up bright and early and rented two ATVs (four wheelers) for the three of us and drove all over the island: to Fira (the capital) and to Oia (the famous sunset place) and had a BLAST. we swam in the mediterranean and bathed in saltwater (no fresh water on the island) and got a suntan. amazing. it was incredibly beautiful. Then at the end we flew to athens early in the morning our last day, spent the whole day touring athens and seeing ruins and eating gyros (souvlaki), and then headed back to the airport for a flight to Barcelona.

Barcelona! that's where i am currently with Mary and Arianna (the three traveling musketeers) and we are here for two more days, Arianna's padres arrive in Barcelona tomorrow and they are gonna be in Spain for a week! Today we walked around the gothic quarter, had some comfort food at Hard Rock (where they spoke english to us YAY) and where we all ordered mixed drinks...well, frankly, just cause we could, saw the cathedral, and toured the Picasso Museum. Tomorrow we are going to Guell Park (a park full of Gaudi creations) and the Sagrada familia before heading to the airport to pick up arianna's fam. :-) what an exciting life i lead....SO BLESSED.


Friday, March 19, 2010

Rota + the Beach, Aracena + the mountains, and Midterms

Time continues to fly as I progress through the semester here. I can hardly believe that March is over halfway done! I do miss home, but I am having an absolute blast in Europe, I am traveling as much as I can, and trying to experience all that I am able to in this short time. Last weekend my friends Lisa, Lauren, Mary, Arianna, and I went to Rota for the beach for the day. Rota is where the American Military base is and it was a beautiful beach location. Yes it was around 65 degrees Fahrenheit and we were laying out in our bikinis. We'd been living in a clouded depression zone for a month! And to us Americans, 65 is WARM. Of course all the Spaniards there looked at us like we were absolutely nuts and you could basically hear them saying "stupid, crazy Americans." we had a blast though, and scoffed at them in their coats and scarves. These people dont know warm when it hits them! haha of course I suppose they have a right to when it gets over a hundred easily in the summers here. We all got a little sun and went home that night full of Vitamin D and happy warmth.

The next morning Mary and I met up with a large group of kids from our school (exchange and non exchange) and went on a trip to Aracena in the Mountains in the provice of Huelva next to us. It was incredibly beautiful. It was amazing to see how much the landscape changed with just an hour of driving. Aracena is completely rural and totally surrounded by mountains. There is a huge castle (ruins) on the top of their highest peak, and they are surrounded by miles and miles (or should i say kilometers and kilometers) of nationally preserved land. We parked the bus and went on a two and a half hour hike through the goregous mountains. The weather was absolutely perfect and I felt right at home. Although we were all huffing and puffing cause Sevilla is so flat comparatively, it was exhilarating, and great exercise. We then toured around the town and saw all the museums and stuff. Aracena is apparently quite famous for their Jamón (ham). ok Jamón is a Spanish specialty, and NOTHING like spiral cut ham at home, bacon, or country ham, or deli ham. It is unlike everything i've ever had. and it is AMAZING. and Aracena ham? yeah, there's definitely a reason for it being famous. it was super delicious. Also, another cool thing about Aracena is that underneath the city, there is a whole system of underground caves/caverns. you know the things with underground lakes and stalactites, and stalagmites?? yeah they were awesome too!

last week and this week we had midterms. ugh. They were not so bad, but i still have yet to receive my grades. so far i have gotten a 9 on one (A-) and a 7 on the other (B-), not so bad considering one was grammar and the other was culture and civ. And culture and civ happens to be so boring i cannot force myself to pay attention, i think a B- is commendable. :-) haha good Lord, in reality, i am having a minor heart attack, because, to me a B- is like the worst thing in the world. I really need to get a grip. ok. anywho, I am having a blast and in a couple hours I will be well on my way to Morocco for the weekend. horray!!!!!

oh, and by the way, Feria de Abril is coming soon and one needs an awesome flamenco style dress to wear and you have to have one to get in. And, they are like 300+ EURO, ick. But thanks to a friend, we discovered a thrift store with them :-) so guess who has an AWESOME new dress for feria? yes ma'am, that would be me, Katie Madison Shoaf the first :-)

love love love <3

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Irlanda and test preparations

So last weekend Arianna, Mary, and I utilized our five day weekend and took a whirlwind trip to Ireland :-) It was beyond incredibly beautiful there. On Wednesday night we were out at 100 montaditos as per usual and we ended up just staying there until about 11:30 or so, and then we headed back to Mary's place to meet Pepi and Juan (her señora and her señora's boyfriend) because they had offered to drive us to the bus station around midnight (our bus to Madrid left at 1 am). So we get on the bus and look forward to some sleep on the SIX HOUR BUS RIDE. yeah. I am NOT kidding. We doze a little but ultimately the bus is loud, hot, bumpy, and uncomfortable. ugh. Needless to say we got to Madrid at 7am a little grumpy and a lot tired. We had to keep it together though because we would have to get ourselves from the bus station to the airport (hopefully without paying an arm and a leg for a cab). We saw giant signs for the Metro there and I had overheard Lola telling Kiri a couple weeks ago that there was a metro line that runs straight to the airport! hooray...except we had to figure out which of the 20 billion metro lines ran there and how many times we would have to change, what kind of tickets to buy, etc. Thank the Lord for helpful Metro workers. an hour later we were walking into the terminal at Madrid airport. We were a few hours early so we found some comfy looking benches and slept a while. we woke up to a mass exodous from our gate...hmmm. We go to check our screen and find that not only has our flight been delayed THREE HOURS, our gate has moved. anyway, we do get on a plane and land in Dublin safe and sound.

Our hostels in Ireland were amazing. Super nice, clean, helpful, etc. Our schedule in Ireland went as such: night one - Dublin... cheap dinner and bed. day two - Dublin --> Limerick --> Cliffs of Moher --> Doolin -->The Burren --> Dublin (PADDYWAGON TOUR!!!) night two- same hostel in Dublin. day three - Dublin --> Kilkenny (by awesome train)...beautiful day touring the little town. night three - hostel in Kilkenny. day four - Kilkenny --> Dublin (by train again) hangin around Dublin...even though it was FREEZING. night four - head to the airport (we have a 6am flight and are too cheap to pay for a hostel). day five - flight to Madrid, metro to the bus station, bus to Sevilla. I am pretty proud for all the stuff we got to see. Pretty amazing. It was super fun and exhausting.

I have most of my midterms next week so i have been studying (or pretending to study) all weekend long. But last week I did splurge and have all my hair cut off a Spanish salon. it was a small miracle i came out of there with hair still on my head. A little confusing to explain what you want. haha. It was my first time in a salon (love you Mama). I like it lots :-)

love and hugs to you at home!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Alcazar, 21st birthdays, and Carnival

Okie Dokie. so my last update was just before Carnival in Cádiz. Well, It was fun for awhile and then it was the worst night of my life. Drunk people everywhere, trash everywhere, and we had to wait for the nine a.m. bus to go home. ugh. Staying up all night has never been my forte, and it was just miserable. Fortunately, it did not rain, but it was freezing cold. And my roommate, Lisa, managed to get a ticket on the 8 am bus and she traded it with me! how sweet of her. Anyway. We did not sleep at all on Saturday night, and I barely slept on Sunday, and Monday was awful, cause I was just so tired. Kiri (the girl that lived in my room last semester) came on Saturday and was here till Wednesday. She is such a sweetheart too, from Australia.

Monday and Tuesday went by in a blur...but Tuesday I got a Valentine's package from Dane, and a package from Mom. Both were amazing packages. Wednesday morning we woke up super early and went into the city to see Kiri off on her train to Madrid where she was flying from. We had some coffee and made it back to school for class at 10:30. Wednesday afternoon we had our first intercambio event at school (mingling with spanish speakers trying to learn english etc.) and wednesday night was traditional 100 Montaditos.

Thursday we packed a bag lunch (bocadillo - well that means sandwich, but we use the term collectively) and headed into the city for our intercity excursion to the Real Alcazar, Sevilla's local palace. haha. It was pouring rain off and on (as it has been for the past week yick) but it was still a really fun beautiful! Thursday night was my friend Travin's 21st birthday, and true to American tradition, he gathered up all his friends for a night out on the town. I was resident photographer, so that he would not misplace his very nice camera between drinks. It was a lot of fun, we stayed out dancing until 5:30 in the morning. Then we walked a long way, so as not to over pay a taxi, and then I caught the metro home around 7:10 am. yes. that's what i said, 7:10AM, I made it to bed around 8am. phew. so fun though, and Travin had a blast.

So far so good here, the rain has been a little bit of a downer this week, but today is beautiful out, and I could go on a run outside. And this time next week, I will be living it up in Ireland!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Italica! The Cathedral! Tiana y el Sapo! and 100 Montaditos!

Pictures! the cathedral, the cathedral ceiling, the main altar in the cathedral, the climb, and a view from the top!

Ok. SO SORRY...i am way behind here. haha oops. Like I said before, Spain is a blur and time just slips right through your fingers, and before you know it, you are a week and a half behind on your blog. how does it happen??? oh well.

Soo. I am going to start back where i can remember...Ok two wednesdays ago (not yesterday, but the one before) we went to Cien (1oo) Montaditos....the coolest little restaurant ever. And Wednesdays are everything for 1 euro! it is awesome. they have a million little sandwhiches and drinks and its amaaaazing. SO FUN. We met new people, and bonded and had a grand old time.

Friday we went on the trip with school to the Roman Ruins of Italica (not in Italy, but in Spain..20 minutes from Seville...leftovers of Roman occupation a million years ago). It was pretty awesome...not going to lie. It was a beautiful day after rain the one before, and we had a fun tour guide and, you know me, I love ruins. haha. It was really fun.

The remainder of the weekend was spent mostly doing homework, but Saturday night we went to see The Princess and the Frog (new favorite movie) in SPANISH! Fortunately I could follow along because I saw in in english over Christmas with Dane's family. But it was still really great in Spanish...quite an experience. And, Sunday morning, Lisa and I ventured out to the Mercadillo in Montequinto (just to clarify because there is one in Sevilla too) before church. The mercadillo was really fun, like a flea market, but everything is new! its awesome...and Very cheap. haha. they have everything you could ever want there: fresh produce, underwear, clothes, jewelry, candy, shoes...its amazing. I bought red boots for 5 euro and a chunky sweater for 8 :-) its awesome. Then we went to sunday school at Lisa's church...such an experience! it was great though...pretty different, yet the same. it was nice.

Tuesday this week we packed a lunch and headed out straight from school into the city center to go on our tour of the Cathedral. A-MAZ-ING. it is incredible there! SO HUGE! ginormous! Truly awe inspiring...i cant even describe it well enough to try. Christopher Columbus is (allegedly) buried there! Wow. After the self-guided tour (spent mostly with our mouths open) we climbed the Giralda. The Giralda is a huge tower that you climb up (yes climb - 32 stories or something like that) But the views are incredible! the best in the whole city they say. This whole trip was free for us because we are UPO awesome. After that, Lisa and I headed to Starbucks to meet with our bible study group. Also really great; it was nice to be with others in the same boat as us and in the Word.

Last night (Wednesday) we returned to 100 Montaditos for more fun. And Mary, Arianna, and I purchased tickets to Ireland for the last weekend of this month! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO holleration. SO PUMPED. This weekend we are going to Cadiz for Carnival (big festival/costume party) and it is going to be a blast! Time is continuing to fly...but I am loving every second here! Cannot believe I am so blessed. finances are a little tight due to the school screwing me over a bit, but God will provide...and prayers would be appreciated (so that my funds can last!) Anyway, I love you all, and miss everyone tons.