Sevilla

I went on an ISA excursion this past weekend to Sevilla.  It was actually my favorite spanish city so far, except for Salamanca of course! It was definitely a big city but it felt very small and comfortable at the same time.  It also looked the most “European looking”, or at least closest to my idea of “European looking,” out of all the spanish cities I have visited.

We got to Sevilla on Friday in the early after noon and immediately went for a walking tour of the city.  We thought Sevilla would be a nice break from the freezing temperatures in Salamanca, but we were sadly mistaken.  This tour was freezing and raining.  Luckily it wasn’t raining on Saturday, but it did stay cold for our morning trips to the Alcazar and cathedral.   My friend Erin from ISA has family friends who live in Sevilla and invited me to their house for dinner on Saturday.  It was really neat to meet a true Sevillan family and eat some amazing food! They were a really neat family too, they are from Sevilla but have spent several years living in different countries all over the world.

On Sunday we woke up bright an early and headed back to Salamanca but first stopped at Italica which is an old Roman city and site of greatly preserved roman ruins.  First we saw an old amphitheater which was really neat, almost a mini version of the Coliseum.  But my favorite part of this stop was seeing several foundations of old houses.  The coolest part of these ruins was that many of the mosaics that the Romans used to decorate their floors were still intact.  It was amazing to think I was standing in the same spot that hundreds of people lived out their daily lives over 2,200 years ago.  After all my tourist stops throughout Europe, it still amazes me when I really try to comprehend just how old so many of these buildings are.

Here are a few pictures from my weekend:

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Fiesta Mafiosa

This past friday was my first spanish costume party, and man that is an american university custom that I have really missed.  My friends Carlos and María had the party at their house and invited tons of their friends.  The theme was “mafia” and everyone went all out on their costumes because the invitation promised that “if you don’t dress up, you don’t enter!”.  So I had a lot of fun picking out things to wear and of course had a great time at the party.

Over the past few months I have been lucky enough to spend many nights and days out with Carlos and María and many of their friends.  This weekend, several of their old friends that live in other cities visited for the big party.  So this weekend was kind of like a big reunion and I loved being there along for the ride.  It has been a nice few days of long lunches at their apartment, tasty  dinners and of course long nights out.

So after several missed meals and many hours out of the house, my host mom Lourdes has now repeatedly asked me if I have a boyfriend.  Which I don’t, lol in case you were wondering.  But as I told mama Lourdes, I promise to let you know if my status in that department changes.

Here are some pictures from the party…..

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January

So January was the month I thought would pass by very slowly, but here we are, January has flown by just like the rest of them.  I started out this month, or I guess I should say this year, in Austria and then to Germany and then back to Spain.  The first few days were really slow, I was back in Salamanca which was kind of dead.  All the foreign students I knew had left after the semester or gone home for Christmas and all of my spanish friends either hadn’t come back to Salamanca yet or were busy studying for their exams.  So during those first few days I got back acquainted with my home, and my host family.  Then my cousin Lisa (who lives in Salamanca) and my other cousin Caitlin (who was visiting) got here and I finally had some other people to talk to.

Caitlin’s visit was really fun, it was really nice getting to see other family and having quality cousin time.  We spent a lot of our nights going out for tapas and copas and of course showing Caitlin all around.  Since Lisa is in the Translation program,  all of her friends speak english.  So it was quite convenient because Caitlin could actually get to know them all, and we all had a great time.

Of course Caitlin also had to be introduced to the infamous “Collía Express”.  These outings on the express were especially intense and will definitely go down on my list of favorites.  The first was when we got a private tour of the university library, which houses thousands of books dating back to times before Christopher Columbus was even born.  This visit was especially cool because most people can’t even go inside, and we got a tour and a special look at the books.  The oldest we saw was a bible from the 13th century, it was made of sheep skin and entirely hand written.  Truly amazing.  I also enjoyed the display that showed things found inside some of the books, like notes written by students from the 1700’s, newspaper articles and a condom made from pigs skin.  Of course this outing was then followed by a visit to a bar with tons of wine, cheese and meat…. oh those who know Paco truly know life.

The other notable outing was what I will forever remember as “the day of the steaks”.  So we met for some wine and tapas before, as always, but then the big daddy came when we went to the restaurant for the actual lunch.  We sat down and were served the biggest steaks I have ever seen.  This was kind of disappointing because I have always thought that Big Food was America’s specialty, but no haha.  It was an experience to eat that thing, but the shocking part is that at the end of the meal, the three of us Hawkins girls were surprised by how we weren’t even that full.  But, I am sure the look on the three of our faces after we were served that huge steak would have said that we thought otherwise.

Now Caitlin has gone home and Lisa and I need to get back into the swing of things.  I started my classes with spaniards on Monday and so far so good.  It is really nice to have sociology classes again, I have missed them since being away from UCLA! lol but my two literature classes will definitely be demanding, but working that much harder will just make the fun parts that much better!

So here’s to January- The greatest start to a year I have had so far!!!!

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Germany

So I am pretty delayed in posting this as I have been back in Spain for over a week now, but I thought I would still write about my trip to Germany over Christmas break.  I went to visit long time friends of my family who live in Augsburg, about an hour west of Munich.

It was SO much fun and I really got a great feel for the culture of that area, and it was definitely a culture I could get used to.  Here are some of the things I really loved or thought were interesting about Germany (in no particular order):

1. Long drives in Germany- We did quit a bit of driving and it was always the most incredible views.  Whether it was going through the wine country north of Augsburg or seeing the Alps covered in snow towards the south, it was always beautiful.  ALSO, there is no speed limit in Germany, so the average speed that we traveled on the highway was about 115 miles/hour, which feels kind of scary and really awesome at the same time.

2.  Feathers- When Christel showed me my room in their house she asked me “do you have a problem with feathers?” I literally laughed out loud before I realized she was serious lol, then I told her that I defintiely did not have a problem with those little pices of heaven.  So between that bed, and the two hotel beds I slept in over the trip, I can confidently say I am a huge fan of German sleeping situations, with their down comforter and pillows they seriously felt magnificent.

3.Glühwein- This is a typical drink served in German speaking countries. It is hot wine and very good! I had it a few times at the Christmas market down town and at the outdoor hockey game (which we watched while standing in the snow).  They serve it in these little coffee mugs and it is the perfect little something to drink to help warm you up.

4.  The Snow- The first day I woke up in Augsburg I looked outside the window and saw everything covered in snow.  It was so cozy and I kept just daydreaming out the window while I watched it fall.  I think the last time I saw snow was about 8 years ago in big bear.  so this was definitely exciting to see, and I felt like a little kid pumped up for a snow day.  In Austria, Bernd, Juliane and I went on a walk through the mountains.  During the walk the snow really picked up, it felt like it was a blizzard with snow just flying into your face.  I was always a long ways behind them because I had to keep stopping to make a snow ball or just see how far my foot would go in a big pile of snow.  It was really quite fun haha.

5. Food- The food was seriously soooo good at every meal.  It was very different from american food, and VERY different from spanish food, so it was really something new.  Our breakfasts were usually bread with butter and meat and cheese.  Then maybe sausages and pretzels for lunch and then of course a really incredible type of meat with potatoes and salad or something for dinner.  It was also lucky being there for christmas because I got to try all of the typical christmas pastries and desserts.  Streusel was one of my favorites, any dessert with a thick coat of sugar and butter definitely sits well with me.

6. Cappuccinos- In every country I have gone to in Europe I have tried to find out what the typical coffee drink is that is the best and that everyone gets.  In spain and portugal it is cafe con leche, in Italy it was a cafe latte and in Germany it was their cappuccinos.  Really great coffee, and the best part was that they always served it with a little cookie, so it was basically one of my favorite combinations.

7.  The Nills- Bernd, Christel, Katharina and Juliane were all so incredible.  I was so lucky to be able to go and visit them, having never really known them before, they really made me feel like family from the first moment.  They were soooo generous and were always trying to make sure I was experiencing german culture to the fullest.  They took me to Austria for New Years and all around Munich and Augsburg before that.  I think the best part of the trip was all the nights we would just sit around and talk about anything, over a bottle (or two haha) of wine.  It was really great getting to know the friends that I have always heard so much about from my family, and I really feel like they are family of mine now too.  The best part was seeing all the old pictures and hearing stories, especially about Grandma Lee, who they are all VERY fond of.

Well I don’t know when I will go back to Germany, but I definitely know it is something I want to do.  It was a really great trip.

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Italia

So far the award for most touristy trip goes to Italy! haha I just got back yesterday and am still so excited about everything I did and saw.  I started out in Milan and met up with Gregory (who is studying there).  Unfortunately I didn’t get to see much of Milan, I actually never saw the sun rise, because my flight got in at 11 PM and we left the next morning at 7 AM.  I was sad to not get the cultural feel for one of the fashion capitals of the world but the rest of my trip definitely made up for it.

At such and early hour Gregory, his roommate Courtney and I were off to Florence.  After 3 hours on train we arrived and began the search for our hostel, in the rain.  When we FINALLY made it to the address of our hostel we were greeted by about a half mile drive-way to its front door.  But after that mess we checked in and then were off on our Italian adventure.  That first day we went to the Duomo and then climbed the tower next to it.  By far the best part of Florence, and maybe even the trip, was seeing Michelangelo’s “David” statue.  I know everyone says it is amazing, and I am no art expert, but I could seriously  marvel at that thing for days at a time.

After two days in Florence we headed to Rome where we met another of Gregory’s roommates.  Rome was incredible, we would just turn a random corner and run into some huge beautiful building that we had no idea what it was for.  When we first got into the center of the city I was overwhelmed with this feeling of intense excitement.  To my left I saw the Coliseum and on the right the Roman forum and plenty of other gorgeous architecture in between.  Going inside all of these places was surreal an it was so interesting to learn new parts about it all.  The next day we went to the Vatican and all of our jaws dropped as we saw a line stretch down three blocks and was estimated to last at least 3 and a half hours.  So we ended up giving in and paying for one of the MANY “english tours that will let you skip the line”.  The tour actually ended up being really cool because our tour guide pointed out several details about the Sistine chapel that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.  My favorite was that Michelangelo painted an angel flipping off the Pope that he hated.

The trip was really amazing, I am so happy to have been able to go.  It was great catching up with Gregory who literally makes me laugh like no other.  It was also a different experience traveling with all boys.  For instance, I did zero shopping, and I maintained the steady role of follower as the boys busied themselves with maps and directions.  It also helped that they all speak Italian, which by the way is almost too confusingly close to spanish.  In one Gelatería, a man was speaking with Gregory about the United States, when we left I was so excited because I thought I had understood it all.  I was like “so he has been to New York tons of times but now wants to go to other parts?” and Gregory was like “no…he has never been to the US and wants to go to New York really bad”.  Lol whatever, close enoguh.

So now I am back in Salamanca for just over a week before I head off to Germany for Christmas.  I can’t believe it is already that time of year, it is going sooo fast.  I am just comforted by the fact that I haven’t hit the half way mark yet.  Hope everyone is doing great! Merry Christmas and update me!

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Wheels are turning…

Just a quick check-in with an interesting update.

Yesterday I was skyping with William, my big bro, and we were talking about one of his snuggies.  Or actually it was his Fuzzy Wuzzy, apparently it is the new version of the snuggie with major motifications.  I wanted to say something about them taking the snuggie and improving it.  But when I said it, the spanish word for improve, mejorar,  came to mind before improve did. 

So Folks, the wheels are turning! At least I will for sure come back to America fluent in Spanglish.

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Morocco

I don’t know if you have already seen the pictures on Facebook, but last week I got back from a a 6 day trip to Morocco.  It was awesome, more than I expected.  The worst part of the trip was all the time in the bus, I think it came out to about 60 hours in total spent on that bus.  But it actually wasn’t as bad as it sounds because I did a lot of sleeping and they showed us several movies that I’ve been meaning to see.

So anyways, about the fun/not sitting on a bus moments.  We started our trip in Fez, one of the larger cities in Morocco.  We only had one full day there, and we spent it on a tour of the Medina (the huge market with narrow streets and tons of people).  We went to several different types of shops including: leather, textile, ceramics, carpets and a pharmacy.  They would first explain how everything is made, which was really cool, and then we had time to look around and buy if you wanted.  It was kind of ineresting because in the culture which insist women cover their bodies (we were included in that), there were several sexual jokes made throughout the tours, we all had a few laughs.  My favorite part of the tour was actually the time spent walking on the streets between stores, it felt more authentic because the stores were all definitely made for tourists.   There were constantly people asking you to buy something and promising that they’d give you the best price.  So basically the only moroccans we interacted with, both in the stores and on the streets, were trying to sell something.

But the next day we went to the Sahara Desert, which was so unbelievable.  I kept picturing where I was on the world map, and it blew my mind.  What was really cool was that my friends Casey and Christian from UCLA were there from other ISA groups so we got to catch up.  Christian is actually studying in Morocco so it was really cool to hear about all of his experiences.  He has also gotten pretty good at bargaining, and let us know that we payed way too much for everything we bought in Fez, so my stingy genes that always want the best deal were not happy about that.

The people that live in the desert are called Berbers, and while some of the ones we met also promised us “the best price” on things they were selling, we also got to talk to people who were not selling something, kind of funny that I was excited to talk to people without ulterior motives but that’s how it went.  Many of them can speak around 5 languages but have never gone to school, they just learn from talking to tourists, meanwhile I am breaking my back over trying to learn only a second language haha.  I loved our time in the dessert because it felt like we really got to experience their culture.  On our last night they had a huge party with a traditional band playing drums and singing.  All the berbers danced the night away, and I of course was right there with them.  It was so much fun seeing the way they danced because it was so different from what I am used to, but don’t worry, you know I caught on quick! haha

My motivation for going on his trip was that it was a “once in a lifetime opportunity”, but actually I think I would like to go back.  Maybe not just to Morocco but I think that trip definitely opened up some new possibilities for where I might take myself in the future.  Regardless of what’s to come, I had an amazing time and I am so grateful to have had the chance to go.

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