The last hurrah (the end AND the beginning)

Yours truly couldn’t stay away from the blogging world for too long. Sincerest apologies to my loyal readers for my temporary time-out. The writing bug was causing a major itch. I decided it was time to scratch. So, last we left off, I was saying a bittersweet (but mostly bitter) goodbye to Sevilla to gallivant around Europe with my family. I would like to avoid belittling the amazing memories I made with my family in the most beautiful places. So, this brief (and extremely delayed) rundown of my post-Sevilla European adventure will serve as somewhat of a transition. This way it won’t be too much of a horrendous shock to your system when I begin telling you about my mundane daily life stateside. But okay, before I begin, I feel the need to add a disclaimer that my life (even stateside) can only be so mundane..you all should know by now I always have a story..and my stories tend to have a pop of flair to them. So, stick with me even though I’m no longer in exotic and foreign places; I promise I’ll try my best to make it worth your time.

Hangin with the baes on the 4th with a decent backdrop
Hangin with the baes on the 4th with a decent backdrop

Before you begin reading about my two weeks of travel throughout Europe with my family, I feel the need to defend my delay to the final travel blog post game. Coming back wasn’t a seamless transition. I’ve been busy catching up with everything, including my internship with the Chicago Reader (holla). While my internship is awesome, and seeing all my friends and family has been great, it’s not like I can flip a switch and pretend that my entire semester was just some amazing dream. Due to the dream-like reality I lived through, I lost a little of the motivation and excitement to do the real world stuff I’m used to. Don’t worry, I’m finding it! For the sake of ending this rant, let me just say, thank you Europe for the experience of a lifetime (though I will be back again during my lifetime)..even though you sent me back to the states with my head still in the clouds.

Enjoying Park Guell with the endearing Pruim fam
Enjoying Park Guell with the endearing Pruim fam

The first stop was Barcelona, and I loved it..again. Although, this time was not quite as magical..I didn’t see leopard man or seahorse farmer lady and Melissa wasn’t there. But I was reunited with my family so it’s a give and take. As I was lazy and waited too long to write this post, some of the details are unfortunately a bit hazy. I’ll ignore how devastating this is and explain some of the details I do remember. Our time in Barcelona involved a rude Airbnb host who blocked my brother on What’s App (so at the time this was annoying, but now it’s just pretty funny..okay it was a little funny at the time too). It also included a second hike up Park Guell hill (this time with parents in tow..props to the rents (and bros) for being young and nimble and making this sneaky lil hike to the top of the city for some of the most beautiful views in all of Spain..(note: “some of”..we were no longer in Sevilla).

Just looking out at the alps/one of the most beautiful sights my eyes have ever been graced with
Just looking out at the alps/one of the most beautiful sights my eyes have ever been graced with

Next up was a flight to Zurich, Switzerland where we met up with Swiss family friends and proceeded to gallivant through MunichSalzburg, and Obersaxen together. Having friends host you in a foreign country makes the experience so much better. I had already been to (and loved) Munich, but Salzburg and Obersaxen especially were completely different than anything I had seen and absolutely, unbelievably breathtaking.
It’s hard for me to rank all the places I’ve traveled because they were all different and I had different experiences with different friends in each of these places. However, Obersaxen allowed me to hike (which I had not yet done during my semester of travels). And this hike lent itself to one of the most amazingly beautiful landscapes I have ever seen. I took pictures, but after a few I gave up because I just wanted to stare and rejoice and be part of the beauty. So, needless to say, despite refusing to rank the cities I’ve been, Obersaxen nears the top of the imaginary list.

I promise I didn't find this on Google images
I promise I didn’t find this on Google images

After finding the serenity in Obersaxen to continue with our trip, we were on our way to Italy. We started our tour of Italy in Cinque Terre (or should I say Cinque Terrific? Actually probably not because that’s a little nerdy..but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t proud of myself for coming up with that fun lil pun right there..and now I’m rhyming too. Rachel Pruim: Master of Wordplay). Tangents aside, Cinque Terre boasted a stunningly picturesque landscape as well, but in a different way. There were (MANY) more tourists, there was much more wine, and the hiking paths along the alps were swapped for hiking paths along the coast. The strenuous hiking, fine wine, and unmatched views landed Cinque Terre as my number one Italian destination.

Almost as soon as we arrived in Cinque Terre, we departed for Florence, and soon after Rome. Of course, both cities were beautiful and possessed an impressive amount of rich history and culture, but by this point the Pruim clan was pretty burnt out. We enjoyed the statue of David, the gourmet gelato, and the Vatican, but as our collective European adventure was coming to a close, we were (somewhat more) willing to accept the looming goodbye.

I realize my delayed narrative about Europe seems to be a desperate case of yearning for the past, but honestly I am just a horrendous procrastinator. Okay, maybe it’s a little bit of both. But as I leave for school in about a week and a half (!!!), let’s hope this procrastination diminishes just a touch. To wish it away completely would be akin to expecting horses to fly (pigs are overdone, I’m trying to add a little spice and variety to my figurative language skills). I digress. It has been a wonderful summer that consisted of performing exciting internship duties, bonding once again with friends, and discovering all the new and wonderful things Chicago has to offer.

So, let this post serve as a transition into what will be the chronicles of Rachel’s senior year. I feel disgusted that I said the S word just now, but let’s not dwell on it. Let’s instead be excited for the tear-jerking, laugh-inducing, thought-provoking posts coming your way. (But most likely none of the above now that I’ve oversold it).

To stay up to date with my riveting life state side, head on over to my new site here.

Cheers,

Rachel

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An open love letter

I know in my last post I promised that the next one would be Greece-y. I lied. Yes, I went to Athens. Yes, it was amazing, cheap, delicious, beautiful. But I can’t find the inspiration to write an entire post about it, and I don’t want to put my readers through a sub-par post. That’s not to say it wasn’t eventful. Every travel is eventful with the Pruim luck. There were 6 planes, a monocle, artificially-colored gummies, toilet paper trails, and a (nearly) second lost purse. There you have it in a highly abridged nutshell.

Sevilla, no me ha dejado.
Sevilla no me ha dejado.

I couldn’t find the inspiration to write a whole post about Greece because in a few short days I leave my paradise. And this harsh reality has been looming in the back of my mind, creeping to the front with each passing day. Soon I must say many goodbyes (that are hopefully only “see you laters”). This place has given me so many memories that I’m laughing and I’m crying — simultaneously. These four months have been surreal. They have been a vacation wrapped in tranquility with a side of bliss. No gesture is grand enough and no words are strong enough to express my gratitude and adoration of this city, but this post will be an attempt to find some words; this post is an open love letter to you, Sevilla.

Before diving in, two things must be addressed:

1) Mom, Dad, Grandmas, and Grandpas — thank you so much. This experience would not have been possible without your love and support.

2) Warning: cheese (and hopefully a sprinkling of humor) lies ahead.

Things Sevilla has taught me:

  • I’m a regular old Magella. This name has come to be known as my alter ego as my friends and I have discovered that I possess a highly acute sense of direction. (I am well aware that I have omitted the “n”. I am the girl version of Magellan, and I believe that Magella has a more feminine vibe to it). Those of you who know me may be laughing. This is not a joke. Sevilla required much walking on many winding streets. Turns out that when it comes to life or death situations (or rather short or dangerously long walking situations), my navigation abilities come out to play. Have no fear, Magella is here.
  • Relationships defy language barriers. I have had the most splendid time tripping and stumbling over my words and making a general fool out of myself in the process of forming relationships with Spaniards. Most importantly, I am grateful to have tripped and stumbled over my words with my wonderful host family. It is miraculous that in a matter of four months (and in a second language) I formed such strong bonds with my host mom and 8 year-old host sister that will make leaving Sevilla immensely more difficult. I laughed unabashedly as big Marg told me a story about her see-through yoga pants or her magic hands that cure any ailment. I smirked knowingly as lil Marg rolled her eyes whenever she was told to do a chore. I smiled contentedly as big Marg called me “hija”. I ached earnestly as either one cried over life’s misfortunes. Families do not stop living their lives over the course of four months for a stranger, so this stranger became honorary family. And I am so thankful that my family was so candidly and compatibly sassy (and compassionate).
  • I am an orange peeling connoisseur. Seriously, I ate an average of about two oranges a day, I had to learn the most efficient way to peel these bad boys — and that I did. And I know that now you will all be coming to me when you find yourself with a craving for an orange and you don’t want to bother with the tedious task of peeling. It’s okay, I will gladly come to your rescue. It will be a nostalgic moment for me..so no promising that I won’t accidentally cry a little on your orange. Okay I’m kind of embarrassed that this bullet point got so long. But whatever, oranges are an important detail of Sevilla, and love is in the details.
  • No pasa nada. This little phrase got me through a lot during my time abroad. No problem. It doesn’t matter. Just go with the flow. I think this is such a wonderful concept. As some of you may know I (used to) get frazzled easily. Ok let’s be real, it’s me..I’m not saying my frazzle tendencies have completely disappeared, but they have diminished quite a bit. It’s unrealistic (especially with my luck and way of life) to expect nothing to go wrong in the course of 4 months. Things went wrong. But they kept mattering less and less. I am fortunate for what I have and I am fortunate that things didn’t go worse. I am in Sevilla, living a dream; if something unfavorable happens, it’s time to wake up and smell the oranges. Sometimes you just have to take a deep breath, relax, and say no pasa nada.
  • Spaniards love gummies. Seriously. The phenomenon strikes at any moment, too. It could happen while you’re at the movie theater watching The Theory of Everything when suddenly your 25 year-old Spanish friend pulls out a huge bag of gummies of all different sizes and shapes and colors to enjoy as a movie snack. It could happen while you’re in the airport waiting for your flight when suddenly you look over and notice a 40 year-old man is munching on a bright pink, sugar-coated gummy. It could happen while you’re at a club at 5 in the morning and a bartender is weaving through people, silver platter in hand. What is on that silver platter? You guessed it (or actually hopefully you didn’t guess it because this is just outright bizarre) — gummies. I am legitimately not even exaggerating about that last one. I wish I was, but I couldn’t make that up if I tried. Despite how peculiar it felt at first to watch an old man chow down on neon sugar, I have become more and more desensitized. Spaniards (of all ages) just love gummies and they don’t care who knows it.
  • I am less hesitant to speak my mind. (LOL I know you’re probably confused because “wait Rachel, you already spoke your mind”). But en serio, living in another language has given me the freedom and the desire to express myself more clearly and more confidently in my native language. Although, at times, while grappling to master (or rather survive) in a second language, I stumbled in my first language as well. Nevertheless, I believe I will return to the states as a more well-spoken version of myself (in two languages!!)

Okay, that about wraps up the list. I could say so much more, but I suppose I’ll keep those little gems of wisdom for myself. Among the many visitors that friends introduced, one hit the nail on the head when he came here for a few days (despite the fact that those few days were 2 of the maybe 7 total days of bad weather we have had in Sevilla). He said, “you guys really hit the study abroad jackpot with Sevilla.” He could not be more right. Sevilla is the perfect city. Not too big, not too small. Not too touristy, not too exclusive. Not too outworn, not too modern. I could honestly go on forever, but you get the idea. Sevilla – you are wonderful, you are exquisite, you are my favorite place in the world.

IMG_3631FullSizeRender-2FullSizeRender

I will even miss the old men who only take a break from their pigeon-like gait to blow cigarette smoke in my face and the people that seem to take up the entire width of the sidewalk as they saunter at a glacial pace, failing to make room for you to pass once they see you coming (especially when you’re running). (Deepest apologies for that run-on, but it was much needed). I will even miss the sub-par wifi and faulty printer my program supplied. I will even miss the 35 minute walks back home after nights spent out until 7 am with friends and the measly 4 hours of sleep following those nights spent out. I will even miss the tissue pushers and lottery salesman that line the sidewalks soliciting my business. Because all of these things meant I was in Sevilla; I was home.

Okay, as I near the end of this post, to lighten the mood just a bit here’s a quick list of English phrases I’ve seen on t-shirts that Spaniards wear (that make me giggle):

  1. “Simply perfect not less”
  2. “Monday” (for context, I saw two separate men wearing this shirt on the same day..it was a Tuesday)
  3. “Free in nature”
  4. “This is tropical”
  5. “I love daisies”
  6. “The sun”
  7. “Black is my happy color”
  8. “Get to rock”
  9. “I’m not sorry”

Well, it’s about time I study for finals or pack my suitcases (with tears)..(but more accurately go to my favorite local bar for a glass of vino because I’m not ready for either of those things because I’m still trying to be in denial about leaving). Although (on a positive note) leaving means that my family is coming to Europe very soon and I cannot wait to gallivant around the continent with them. Sevilla, I love your people and your tapas and your palm trees and your river and your magnificently unique charm. I look forward to seeing you again someday. Te quiero.

Abrazos and besos,

Raquel

The Spanish pianist prodigy

I feel it’s only fair that I start with a forewarning: this post may or may not get a little introspective. It may also get a tad cheesy. To spare my readers, I’ll try to just stick to the introspection as 1) we all know the real cheesiness will come with my goodbye post, and 2) we also all know that introspection is a dangerous game and if we sprinkle any form of cheese (no matter how much we all love cheese..and if you’re thinking “no Rachel, actually I don’t like cheese”, I may have just lost some respect for you) on top we are playing with fire, which may very well result in a blazing death for my unsuspecting blog.

Lil Marg making the cave that much more beautiful!
Lil Marg making the cave that much more beautiful!

Okay, so I already got off to a terrible start here with my weird combination of run on sentence and mixed metaphor (but my tangent about the cheese was actually quite important, so I felt it warranted a spot in my opening). Moving on..I did something really cool yesterday. I went to a cave in Aracena, which is a region of Huelva, which is an hour or so north of Sevilla. I went to said cave with my host family to watch “un concierto” that they had invited me to. I blindly accepted the invitation, not knowing what was in store. What transpired was a dripping gruta (cavern), a 16 year-old Spanish pianist, and a fierce wave of 4 months worth of emotions bubbling to the surface.

As this 16 year-old boy seamlessly and beautifully moved his hands across the keys and Clair de Lune filled up this cavernous gem in the south of Spain, how could I not sit back and let my emotions and memories and experiences from these past four months absolutely just take me over. This is life.

Life is stopping mid-run in the most secluded and beautiful corner of your new home to just sit and revel in both the charm and lessons it has graced you with. Life is befriending and spending unforgettable nights with Brits in Barcelona and Uruguayans in Brussels and Scots in Paris. Life is missing a plane to Germany and subsequently stumbling upon a hotel pool in Barcelona. Life is (nearly) missing a plane back to Sevilla and emptying out your wallet for the most expensive cab ride you will ever board to make it back to your beautiful home. Life is losing your wallet and then walking through the Anne Frank house and remembering how lucky you actually are.

Life is meeting people whose favorite band is Nickelback (come on, not everyone you meet in Europe will be hip and nifty) and meeting people who will make saying goodbye so incredibly difficult. As I sat in this cave with these people I have known for less than four months listening to this music that this magic boy was producing (seriously, he was magical..I don’t know how his hands were moving the way that they were), I was reminded how remarkable all of this has been. I was given the privilege of getting to know a second mother in a second language and developing the relationship to the point of countless political policy conversations, lessons about the human body, and overdramatic stories about yoga class that could only be recounted through physical imitation.

Feria is coming, Feria is coming!
Feria is coming, Feria is coming!

I have been fortunate, I have been humbled, I have been enriched. I have learned so much, and contrary to popular belief, much of this learning did not occur in the classroom. I can’t measure my fun or joy or experiences in social media because all of these things happen when I am not focused on social media. I can more easily communicate with others after having had to find unique ways to say different things in any language other than English.

Okay, now I’m reigning it in because this is starting to sound like a goodbye post (and I spy some cheese sneaking its way into the post), and IT IS NOT TIME TO SAY GOODBYE and I’ll be damned if I don’t live these last three weeks up to the fullest — no early goodbyes allowed. I’ll leave it on this note: traveling does something to a person. You learn more about yourself, you learn more about others, you master getting through an airport security line in ± 3.7 minutes. But most importantly, you realize that laughter is a universal language, that sadness is relatable across all cultures, and that kindness is welcomed in any place in the world from Schwandorf (with a population of about 37) to Paris (with a population of…a much bigger number).

Feria (a large fair celebrated in Sevilla) is right around the corner along with a certain out-of-country trip. So, my next post will most likely be less cheesy and more Greecey (and fun..hopefully!) Thanks for grinning and bearing my introspection; as always my loyal readers are so appreciated.

Un abrazo,

Rachel (who is apparently more reflective than one may have thought)

The amaaaazing tale of planes, trains, and automobile (buses)

My oh my has it been a while! I greatly apologize to my loyal readers for being MIA, but the good news is I’m back in the blog game and ready to give a full update of my most recent antics. And let me tell you (yes I know, I use this phrase a lot, but I like to consider it an endearing Rachelism), I have quite an abundant story bank to draw from (come on, it’s me.) Since my last post, I have happily danced through a whirlwind of visitors and travels and overall euphoria.

Being touristy at Alcázar with Katie
Being touristy at Alcázar with Katie

First and foremost, shout out to Kfleg for paying me a visit and taking a glimpse into my new life. Your company was oh so appreciated, and I am so glad I got to show you my paradise.

Now, when I said whirlwind, I meant a highly intense hurricane of event after event that caused a certain level of stress, but ended with a certain level of joy. A few days after Katie left, my spring break began — the most epic spring break I have heretofore experienced. And when I say epic, I mean a week and a half of travels for *extreme travelers* (read: *frugal college students trying to pinch a penny*) that consisted of some nights without real lodging and a total of about 3.7 hours of sleep per night. My treacherous journey began Wednesday when my friends and I set out to Munich (on a flight with a layover in Barcelona…I think you know where this is going). Of course, we missed our connecting flight and had to stay overnight in Barcelona (in a hotel near the airport and nowhere near the city). Spoiler alert: the theme of this post is transportation snafus (but sharing countless fits of extreme belly laughter with friends regardless).

Clearly Jackson hadn't the faintest idea about the smoky cockpit incident either.
Clearly Jackson hadn’t the faintest idea about the smoky cockpit incident either.

So, needless to say, our accidental night in Barcelona was one of the best nights of the trips. We enjoyed a comped hotel and dinner buffet, good company, and typical 20-something shenanigans. And so, the next morning we were off (again) to Munich. I enjoyed a deep sleep for the whole flight and awoke as we were landing to a frantic Luci explaining that we had only flown for 5 minutes and were back in Barcelona. Something about a smoky cockpit? I appreciated the precaution, but at this point we contemplated calling it quits and camping out in Barcelona for the next week. Clearly the travel gods were not in favor of our journey to Germany. After some more waiting, we were off (again..again) to Munich! By this point we had missed the train that would take us from Munich to a castle in Neuschwanstein, but hey – no pasa nada. My crew and I are young, flexible, and in Europe; rolling with the punches is what we do best.

MUNICH:

Munich was wonderful, sublime, captivating. We enjoyed the sights, the smells, and of course the beer halls. The beauty of the beer halls is the communal style of the seating. This means that Martin had the opportunity to annoy multiple people! After pretending to take the menu from the guy sitting across from him about 12 times and attempting to engage in playful banter with the waiter (which was not received well due to obvious language and cultural barriers), Martin had effectively given us sore abs from our ensuing laughter, and the beer hall was ready to say goodbye to us…for the night (we happily returned the next night..to the waiter’s dismay).

Go ahead, be mesmerized by Munich's beauty
Go ahead, be mesmerized by Munich’s beauty

PRAGUE:

So, we awoke early Saturday morning, and arrived to the train station groggy and out of it (as proven by the infamous banana sneeze..I’m not naming names, but just heed my warning that sneezing while eating a banana never ends well).  We found our train to Prague, which was due into the train station at 2:30 pm. I think you know where this is going. Soon after boarding the train, we learned that the tracks were undergoing construction, so after about an hour we would have to get off the train, board a bus, drive around the tracks under construction, and get back on the train. Naturally, the bus driver dilly-dallied and we missed our connecting train from Schwandorf to Prague.

Schwandorf isn't too hard on the eyes
Schwandorf is easy on the eyes

This left us with nothing to do but twiddle our thumbs for three hours in Schwandorf, Germany..a city with a population of about 37 (okay okay..142,918 as of 2011..yes I looked it up and have absolutely no shame). Believe it or not, our unexpected layover in Schwandorf was a subtle front runner for greatest moments of the trip. We sat outside a cafe enjoying our ice coffees (notice I said ice and not iced; think root beer float, but instead of root beer, coffee..aka heaven). For the next three hours we reveled in the joy of good friends, genuine laughter, and appreciation of Europe’s hidden gems.

I couldn't explain the hot dog incident without including a picture..that would have just been rude.
I couldn’t explain the hot dog incident without including a picture..that would have just been rude.

8 pm rolled around and we finally arrived at our hostel in Prague. We had little more than 24 hours in Prague, so we had every intention of taking advantage of every last minute. We began the quest of 24 hour tourism with the delicious delicacies Prague had to offer. It was in this moment, eating our decked-out sausages, that we began to notice there was something off about the way Jackson eats. This theory was confirmed the next day when we had to stop and sit in the street as Jackson finished his mustard-slathered hot dog because he was incapable of walking and eating a hot dog simultaneously (in his defense that’s some strenuous work..and there was A LOT of mustard..and he only had one napkin..). I’m not about to lie to you here, I think the sight of the the hot dog break was the highlight of Prague for each of us. Trust me, this is not belittling Prague in the slightest. Prague was one of the most beautiful places I have seen in Europe, and I wish I had more than a day to explore all it had to offer. I also must say Prague was a wonderland because it is home to Sassmaster Nicole. Nicole’s sass was born on this leg of the trip, and we all know I both love and respect a little sass, so this was such a beautiful moment. Nicole, I better see some of that sass again despite the fact that we have left its motherland.

Come Sunday night, we ventured down the street from our hostel to the last supper (in Prague) where Martin proceeded to order two large entrees. Frankly I’m proud of ma boy considering the food was amaaaazing and the price was a steal. Following the feast, we made our way to the bus station to catch our 11 pm bus to Budapest.

BUDAPEST:

You heard that right. 11 pm bus to Budapest. Due into Budapest at 5:45 am. I told you we were smart about this trip. Well..so maybe frugal would be a better word choice, as our bodies and sleep schedules were not too pleased with our “smart” planning. The sleep on the bus was minimal and what can only be described as the sensation you get when you feel a sneeze coming, but suddenly it disappears and it won’t come back and it leaves you with nothing but empty disappointment. We arrived at the Budapest bus station dazed and confused. After (somewhat) aimlessly dragging our suitcases across the cobblestoned streets of Budapest for nearly an hour and a half, we found our Airbnb, where we were greeted by our adorable 4’9″ host, Ibolya (also known as Felicia). She made us some of the best eggs that have ever graced our taste buds, and we proceeded to treat ourselves to a (much needed) four(ish) hour nap.

Thanks Budapest, so do you.
Thanks Budapest, so do you.

We *started* our day (started is surrounded by asterisks as we technically started our day with Ibolya’s magical eggs) with a walking tour and continued the day with langos (fried dough with sour cream..which resulted in absolute slovenliness for some..again I won’t name names), innumerable cough drops, and nighttime run-ins with Brits (as per usual).

We spent all day Tuesday simply wandering around the city and exploring (admittedly our stomachs did much of the exploring). We have come to learn that this is the best way to get a true vibe for a place and come to appreciate it. Our flights were at 6:30 am the next morning, so obviously we didn’t pay for a place to stay that night, and instead opted to bring our suitcases to a bar and camp out there for the majority of the night. If you haven’t rolled a pink suitcase down a cobble-stone street in Budapest at 2 in the morning, you haven’t really lived. The Budapest airport is where da crew parted ways, so bae (Melissa, obvi) and I could enjoy our romantic getaway in Paris and they could return to Seville (and most likely sleep forever). After navigating our way toward the Ryanair section of the airport, which can only be described as a high school field house of sorts, we were en route to Paris.

PARIS:

Paris was stunning and beautiful (and frigid) and the quintessential page out of a grandiose storybook. After the three hour commute between the airport and our hostel (during which Melissa was pushed to the ground by an androgynous character in the ticket line for the metro), we were beyond exhausted.

Yes...that is it.
Yes…that is it.

Luckily the exhaustion was (slightly) squandered as we enjoyed the excitement of being in the city of light. We wandered through the Louvre, indulged in crepes, walked through the Luxembourg gardens, watched the Eiffel Tower twinkle, and then wobbled back to our hostel that night. (Wobbled is the only fitting verb, as our weary feet were aching with fatigue (and satisfaction!) after our eventful day.)

The next day, we were well-rested and ready to fulfill our duty as full-fledged tourists. We visited Saint Chapelle and Notre Dame and walked down Champs-Elysses. Obviously, nothing is ever as simple as a laundry list when it comes to my blog (or more accurately my stories in general).

Saint Chapelle, stay beautiful.
Saint Chapelle, stay beautiful.

The line for Saint Chapelle included walking through security, where I set off the metal detector. Naturally, the security guard waved his electric wand over my body. Unnaturally, he finished the wand search by bopping my head with the wand. Even more unnaturally, the wand beeped when he bopped my head. He did the same for Melissa. Her head did not beep. He bopped my head again. It beeped again. So, despite the fact that we had just learned that I’m a robot or have a chip in my head or something, they let us through to see the marvel of the stained glass. Shout out to you mom and dad for never telling me the truth about my genetic makeup.

During our wait for Notre Dame, we witnessed a girl pull a 2/3 eaten Nutella crepe out of her backpack and finish eating it. I have two major qualms with this atrocity: 1) why are you buying a crepe and not finishing that edible treasure in one sitting? 2) I am very concerned that the entire inner lining of your backpack is now coated with chocolate-hazlenut spread. Why ya gotta put your backpack through such an ordeal?

Okay okay, I apologize for my (lovable?) tangents..moving on. That night we found our way to a fondue restaurant in our neighborhood. The restaurant had outstanding food and a wonderfully unique vibe, but the best part about the establishment was that it introduced us to Allykat, our dearest Scottish friends.

Melted cheese and bread is always a winner in my heart.
Melted cheese and bread is always a winner in my heart.

Ally (Allister) and Kathy had traveled in from Scotland for the weekend to celebrate Kathy’s 39th birthday (we still don’t believe she was 39..if I can look and act like Kathy when I’m 39, it means that I will have found the magic elixir of youth.) We chatted with them throughout the entire meal, and I was informed by Kathy that I am the spitting image of Emma Stone. This brings the tally of people who think I look like Emma Stone up to two, so clearly the resemblance is uncanny. Mom, dad, did you leave me in the dark yet again about my true bloodline? At least I know now that I’m Emma Stone’s long-lost robot twin.

Allykat, Melissa, and I were enjoying each other’s company too much to part after dinner, so we hit the town to ring in Kath’s birthday together. While out on the town, we encountered both Bellatrix (who cackled and had no concern for personal space) and Dobby (who wore thick glasses, stood at 4’5″ and spoke broken English) in the same local bar (I’m telling you, Europe is just the land of doppelgängers). We parted ways with our Scottish friends to catch some shut eye before our last day in Paris (and of our trip!!!)

We spent our last day wandering around Montmartre and Saint-Germain-de-Prés appreciating the vibes of each respective area, and enjoying every last second of our Parisian adventure. We eventually found our way back to our sketchy airport two hours outside of Paris and were back home in Seville by 1 am to our exhausted bodies’ delight.

Oo la la
Oo la la

This trip was strenuous. It was stressful. And in spite of it all, it was stupendous. Through each trip, it becomes more and more clear that the best way to enjoy a new place is not necessarily by mindlessly hopping from landmark to landmark, but rather by getting a feel for the city by wandering around with good friends in tow. And frankly, each travel snafu was a blessing in disguise. It gave me the opportunity to appreciate not only some new cities in new ways, but also to appreciate what great friends I have made and their ability to make me laugh like a loon in seemingly undesirable situations.

I’m not even going to bother apologizing for the length of this one because I condensed six cities (and countless anecdotes) into one post, so I’m giving myself a pat on the back. And now I give you a pat on the back if you made it this far without giving up on me.

Yours truly,

Giggly Girl (aka Rachel)

Barcelona: the seahorse farmer and English breakfast tea

As you may or may not know, I spent the last weekend in Barcelona. My oh MY I know — it has been quite the month of travels for me! Needless to say, airport procedure is now second nature to me..though I still dread the inevitable baby that WILL be crying for the entire flight on every flight I board. My reason for going to Barcelona was Abroadfest (essentially a three-day party for students abroad) that I had bought a ticket for with friends from IU months in advance. The reason I loved Barcelona was NOT for Abroadfest. Okay..I feel the need to reiterate that point..the reason I loved Barcelona was in spite of Abroadfest. I thought the event would be something akin to Lollapalooza. It was not. But thank you “Abroadfest” for getting me to Barcelona and teaching me a lot about myself.

Here's a picture of a cool gothic church.
Here’s a picture of a cool gothic church.

So, I guess I better elaborate. For this post, the importance does not lie within the big picture, but rather the little details. Okay, let’s be real, this is the case for most of my blog posts. But that’s the beauty of my time abroad; the best moments come from the seemingly most insignificant events. We arrived late Thursday night, settled into our hostel, and soon headed out to the first Abroadfest event at some club. Within about an hour of being there and noticing the growing crowd, Melissa and I realized we were much too tired and much too irritable to tolerate the scene (call us old, call us boring, or what have you..it had been a long day!), so we headed back to the hostel and turned in for the night. We rose early Friday to enjoy a free 3-hour walking tour with dearest Billie, a spunky Irish woman who gave a comprehensive and upbeat history of the Gothic barrio. The tour did not end up being free as I tipped dearest Billie 5 euros, of which she deserved every last centivo. We ate good food (duh, it’s Spain), walked through a pretty park (Parc de Ciutadella) where we ran into a few friends studying in Barcelona from IU (studying abroad has really shown me what a small world it is), and headed back to the hostel to get ready for night two. This time we had our game face on; we were prepared to have fun. While enjoying a few drinks in the common area of our hostel before heading out, we had the pleasure of meeting a handful of Argentinians. As a general pattern, it seems we have a knack for seeking out the Spanish-speaking strangers. This might sound silly as we were still in Spain after all, but believe it or not, Spanish speakers in a hostel in Barcelona are few and far between. After treating our ears to the lilt of their Argentinian accents and some rich conversation, it was time for us to part ways so Melissa, Kelsie and I could head to da club. All I need to say now is that Melissa and I were again not about the club on Friday. After walking in, witnessing the blaring EDM music, girls with unnecessarily skimpy clothes, and bros’ tunnel vision for the girls with the skimpiest clothes, we headed back out after about 5 minutes. I still consider the night a success, as Melissa and I spent the 45-minute walk back in deep conversation evaluating what we actually consider a good time and realizing that being abroad has taught us that said good time involves meaningful conversations with new people rather than what we had just walked away from.

Just taking advantage of the undeniable photo op in Parc Ciutadella
Just taking advantage of the undeniable photo op in Parc Ciutadella

This brings us to Saturday (also known as the day of the delirious descanso, leopard man, Mr. Caricature, the Moroccan Gods, and English breakfast tea). We walked from our hostel in the Gothic quarter to Sagrada Familia and then to Parc Güell. Those who have an extensive knowledge of the layout of Barcelona, feel free to drop your jaws now. After fighting through the trenches (and by trenches I mean 90 degree angle streets..ok ok maybe 45) and finally arriving at Parc Güell, we took a quick (delirious) break and proceeded to head inside. The park was a beautifully unique area boasting Guadí’s talents. Aside from its beauty, we found other things within the park to amuse us as well. Other things include (but are not limited to):

1. Watching a grown man have another grown man draw an (inaccurate) caricature for him (seriously, if you have never watched a caricature drawing unfold, please do so..we were laughing for about five minutes straight at the sheer awkwardness of the situation).

2. Observing a “street performer” (I put this in quotes, because I don’t even think he was looking for money..I think he was legitimately just enjoying his Saturday on some weird concoction of hard drugs.) Leopard man cannot be described in words, so my lackluster description of his tight leopard outfit, guitar playing, meowing, hissing, panting, and cackling will simply and unfortunately have to do.

Oh hey there Leopard Man.  The view behind you isn't too bad either.
Oh hey there Leopard Man. The view behind you isn’t too bad either.

After having walked a total of about 14 miles, our stomachs were growling, so we found a glorious little hole in the wall restaurant that sold bocadillos (sandwiches) with some Moroccan flair. We proceeded to make friends with the waiter and chef (befriending strangers is arguably the best part about traveling) and enjoy some great (and spicy..and cheap) food, and we hopped onto the metro back to our hostel (our poor little feet could only handle so much). As we prepared for the final night of Abroadfest, our anxiety about the impending club began to grow. I believe all three of us were silently suffering an internal struggle pitting our extreme desire not to attend this event against our wallets that were telling us we had already paid for this event, so we were going to go and we were going to enjoy it. Thankfully, I recalled a lesson I had learned from a psychology/philosophy class I took all the way back freshman year (ages ago, I know). This lesson of logic was called the “sunk cost fallacy”. The money was gone, there was no getting it back, and we knew our time would be better spent anywhere else, so luckily our desire not to go won out. This was our best decision of the weekend. We wandered around until we found a bar, and soon after we befriended some Brits (apparently we also have a knack for finding British people as well). A few hours, some English breakfast tea, nuggets and pizza, and some lengthy, meaningful conversations later, we found ourselves walking back to our hostel at 6:15 in the morning, beyond satisfied with how we had just spent our night. I went to bed that night, again having learned even more about myself, pleased with what I’ve been learning not only during this trip, but during my time abroad in general.

Naturally delicious juice found in Mercado Boqueria, the most charming little market.
Naturally delicious juice found in Mercado Boqueria, the most charming little market.

Following our three-hour *nap* after our later arrival back to the hostel, we woke up at 9:30 to check out of the hostel. As our flight back to Sevilla wasn’t until 9 pm, we had all of Sunday to continue exploring this beautiful city. Considering the eventful (this word always comes in clutch for me..it’s just the perfect mix of vague and explanatory) past few days, we used this day as one for relaxation. We took advantage of the beautiful weather and laid on the beach for the majority of the day. After some light walking around (really just walking around Barcelona and observing its beauty is a sufficient way to spend time), we headed back to the hostel to pick up our bags. While getting our bags, we ran into the lady we had been noticing lurking around our hostel all weekend. A woman of about 80 years who we would come to learn was once a seahorse farmer (I kid you not..I really cannot make this kind of thing up). So yeah, shout-out to you Melissa and Kelsie for suddenly being too entranced with your phones and leaving me to hold unwavering eye-contact with Ms. Seahorse Farmer as she recounted to me her life story, which ran the gamut from attending school in Hawaii, watching the police shoot a dog during Hurricane Katrina (honestly I’m still confused about that anecdote), and having a huge seahorse aquarium in her kitchen that was corrupted by evil jellyfish who brought a grisly end to the lives of the innocent seahorses.

Ok, this (finally) brings us to the end of the tale of Barcelona. Believe it or not, this was an abridged version (sorry..when I tell a story, I tell a story). But long story short, I got a lot out of this weekend — despite the sunk cost of Abroadfest. I am increasingly growing a better understanding of what truly makes me happy and what matters to me in life throughout each experience I encounter abroad. Here’s to the unknown, to the undiscovered, and to the amazing little details. And here’s to the joy in discovering them with good friends and new friends, all of whom are making my abroad experience unforgettable.

Abrazos,

Rachel

When in Africa..take baths in the dark?

A Morocco edition of my travels was promised, so a Morocco edition I shall deliver.

But first, let’s take a detour before we get to the promised destination. As you can imagine, following the tragedy of the lost purse, this week was not necessarily a breeze. As collateral, I had to order (and am still awaiting) a new debit, I had to inconvenience my host mom every day (as my keys were in the black hole of the lost purse), and I had to pinch every last euro I miraculously had lying around my room. (I promise this isn’t just a long string of complaints..I’m getting to a point..I think.) Despite these headaches (and various other bad luck situations that just happen to be indigenous to the world of Rachel), it was a marvelous week. As history has taught me, my bad luck situations tend to work themselves out, and what a waste it would have been worrying about things out of my control when I am in the most beautiful city. It is so easy to forget all of these stresses when I walk down la calle in the 70 degree weather, under the sunshine, observing all the care-free sevillanos occupying the street. I can only hope that UPON my arrival back to the States (though I will sadly lose these surroundings), this lesson will stick with me. Also, I was heading to Morocco on Friday so really everything else became irrelevant, and I don’t know why I’m still wasting words and valuable finger muscles typing about anything else.

So Friday 9 am rolled around, and my travels toward Africa commenced. The journey was extensive. When I say extensive, I mean to say that for the entire two hour drive to Gibraltar the young woman in the seat in front of me somehow lacked knowledge of proper bus etiquette, and I spent the ride with her fully-reclined chair in my lap. The silver lining: I have a deep newfound respect for you tall people out there..I guess at times you truly are the unsung heroes.

Hey lady, didn't your mom teach you manners?! Manners do not stop on buses!
Hey lady, didn’t your mom teach you manners?! Manners do not end on buses!

After the ride of the squished legs, we arrived in Gibraltar. For those of you who didn’t pay much attention in history (please, don’t be ashamed..I’m right there with you, and frankly I still don’t fully understand the concept after visiting), Gibraltar is a British territory located in the southern-most part of Spain. So basically this means there is an amazing, fascinating, impressive mix of culture. For example, there was a (RUDE) woman who — in perfectly British-accented English — asked my friends and me for permission to cut the line for food as she only had 20 minutes before she had to return to work. As we wanted to show that we are kind and thoughtful Americans, we obliged (to our growling stomachs’ disapproval). After 15 minutes and getting barked at by the impatient chicken-man, we discovered this lady was ordering for about five other people as well. Okay lady, we were hangry; feeding on our American innocence was not cool. Returning from my tangent: while waiting for our food, we noticed the lady was speaking to the impatient chicken-man in perfectly Andalusian-accented Spanish. I don’t give her props for consideration for others’ hanger, but I do give her props for (perfectly accented) bilingualism.

Look, I don't even need to go to London now.
Look, I don’t even need to go to London now.

So, after our short detour, we were back on the road to Morocco. Nearly four hours and an agonizingly long wait to cross the border with a bus-full of Americans later, we arrived at our hotel in Tangier. We enjoyed a nice dinner in our nice hotel and got some shut-eye before the big day ahead of us. Saturday was really our only full day, so we fit as many cool Moroccan things as we could into one short day. Cool Moroccan things include (but are not limited to): (short) camel rides on the beach, a tour through beautiful Chefchaouen (the blue city), and a “Moroccan fantasy dinner show”.

Okay but it really wouldn’t be my blog if I didn’t go into at least some detail. The camel ride involved a camel herder who let out inhuman moaning noises to his camels to get them to stand and walk and what not. The tour through Chefchaouen included pushy Moroccan men asking if “I had a husband and if I wanted one” and repeatedly calling me “a flower”. Um..thank you?

Oh look, it's a camel!
Oh look, it’s a camel!

So, between Chefchaouen and “fantasy dinner” we had some time to freshen up. Naturally, I wanted to shower the camel off me, so I hopped in. Before continuing, I must explain how lights in hotels here work: you have to put your key card into a slot to activate the lights. Let me also preface this anecdote by admitting that I occasionally enjoy showering in the dark (go ahead, judge me). But let me also say, there’s always at least some moonlight or light from the hall shining through. So, my roommates — conveniently forgetting the key card-light situation — headed for the lobby, and left me in the shower to the darkest dark I have ever experienced. I was scared guys, I was honestly scared. But what else was there to do other than continue showering? After relying on my (impressive) sense of touch to distinguish the conditioner from the shampoo, I was clean and it was still pitch black. I was too scared to step out of the shower, because I guarantee I would have broken a leg or cracked my head or something, so I started a bath and sat down, pondering life (in the dark) until my roommates returned to my rescue.

The blue is to keep the mosquitoes away — Moroccans are onto something here!
The blue is to keep the mosquitoes away — Moroccans are onto something here!

Following the shower of darkness (and some pruny fingers), it was time for this “fantasy dinner”, which I shall rename “Moroccan meal” because it sounds less creepy and less sexual. It was great food, great company, and great entertainment had by all. Sunday was another early rise to visit the town of Tetuan. We had the pleasure of seeing the early stages of leather production and all the goodies of the Berber pharmacy (we’re talking Moroccan oils here, people). So, the tour of Tetuan ended, and we embarked on the journey back to our beautiful home. It was such an enriching weekend filled with culture so different from my own. The amazing part about being abroad is that after only traveling a relatively short distance, you have the privilege of discovering immensely diverse culture.

So this brings us to the end of the Morocco edition, but I have some great news for my curious readers regarding the missing purse. THE MISSING PURSE DECIDED IT WANTED TO BE FOUND! Late Sunday night, I met up with my friend who had retrieved the purse from Amsterdam, and to my absolute pleasure, EVERYTHING WAS STILL INSIDE. Like I said earlier in this post, my bad luck and stupid mistakes have a funny way of working themselves out, so I might as well bask in the Sevillan sun (and enjoy some quality wine) while I let life take its course.

To give you an idea of why I keep raving about this city: I casually walked passed this on my walk home today.
To give you an idea of why I keep raving about this city: I casually walked past this on my way home today.

Gracias y tened una noche estupenda,

Rachel

Making would-haves into opportunities in Brussels and Amsterdam

This post will be prefaced with a relevant quote:

“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” -Anne Frank

So, I spent this past weekend in Brussels and Amsterdam, and after painstakingly racking my brain for a proper adjective to describe the weekend’s happenings, only one word seems fitting: eventful. This trip taught me A LOT of lessons, which can be lumped into one warning: traveling is not for the light of heart.

PART ONE: Brussels

Melissa, Nicole, and I arrived in Brussels late Thursday night after all our traveling went off without a hitch. Our airbnb host greeted us AT THE TRAIN STATION and walked us to her home because she was a wonderful, charming, quirky human being who can best be described as an uncanny doppleganger to professor Trelawney in both appearance and demeanor. Professor Trelawney fed us the sparkling water that she had bought for us, and we went to bed as happy clams excited for the weekend ahead of us.

The next morning we awoke to a beautiful day filled with gloomy clouds, frigid air, and rain (all of which Professor Trelawney thoroughly apologized for later. Obviously her apology was warranted because it’s common sense that Professor Trelawney controls the weather). So, soon after we set out for the day, I realized I hadn’t actually put my left eye contact in. Whatever, no biggie, I only wanted to see Brussels with one and a half eyes anyway (the good news: I found my left contact in the bathroom when we got home that night. The bad news: I had a touch of a headache when we got home that night..and yes I’m fully aware that this is just the epitome of a Rachel situation).

A picture of Grand Place on  this gloomy Friday
A picture at Grand Place on this gloomy Friday

Moving on..we spent all day Friday wandering around the city center and Grand Place. Okay, the real truth is we hopped from restaurant to restaurant sampling waffles and fries and chocolate and beer. We felt guilty about lacking intellect or a thirst for culture or something so we also made a pit stop at the Musical Instrument Museum. We got to listen to some funky music as we looked at old instruments behind glass cases, so that was a nice break from the food.

A true depiction of our time in Brussels: a photo from inside a chocolate shop and a flight of Belgian beer.
A true depiction of our time in Brussels: a photo from inside a chocolate shop and a flight of Belgian beer.

That night we went to a highly recommended bar, where we happened to befriend 9 Spaniards. Leave it to us to find probably the only 9 Spaniards visiting the city of Brussels. We proceeded to spend our entire night in Belgium speaking in Spanish. Let me tell you, it was such a fun night. I was overjoyed that I was able to speak in Spanish all night about everything from piercings to the job market in Spain and to dance my little heart away (real, honest dancing, with spins and dips and all). Needless to say, by the end of the night, the 12 of us had emitted our vibes to the whole bar, which had begun to play an endless stream of Spanish music. We departed Brussels early next morning with a warm farewell from our most beloved Professor Trelawney, and set out for our train to Amsterdam. And so we begin part two…brace yourselves.

PART TWO: Amsterdam

We arrived in Amsterdam at around 11:30 to (not so) beautiful flurries of snow and more frigid air. Come on Professor Trelawney, we love and appreciate you and all, but can ya give us a break with the bad weather?! I can tell you this much, we came to appreciate Sevilla SO much more this weekend (and not just because of its beautiful weather). We dropped off our bags at our (sketchy) hostel, for which the check-in desk was located at the check-out counter in the souvenir shop two doors down. We’re college students in Europe..we’re doing what we can to pinch a penny. So, we were all settled and ready to explore!

Me bein me, casually posing in front of Vondel Park
Me bein me, casually posing in front of Vondel Park

After a nice stroll through Vondel Park and obligatory tourist photo ops at the IAmsterdam sign, we boarded a boat for a glacial and breathtaking canal tour. We had great tour guides, we drank gluehwein, and we met some very friendly Irish and Arabian men, so the tour was a success. Okay, let’s get down to it, I know you’re all wondering if I peeked my head into a coffee shop. The answer is yes, I had to see what Amsterdam was all about. We visited Bulldog, the first legal “coffee shop” and were promptly greeted by a wave of some potent aroma. After wandering around and getting yelled at after Melissa tried to take a picture, we headed to a bar for some drinks…and the night went on from there.

I m happy in Europe
I m happy in Europe

As tourists, part of our due diligence included visiting the red light district at night. It was something else. And by something else, among many other things, I mean to say my purse was lost to the dangerous temptress that is Amsterdam. After realizing my purse (along with the MANY contents inside..details only make me sad) had gone missing, we went on a wild goose chase to find said purse. The good news is apparently British guys take pity on poor souls who have lost all their money and identification and etc. and offer you free beer and free fries and piggy back rides (because apparently when you lose your wallet, you also lose your ability to walk). The bad news is the purse was not recovered before leaving Amsterdam. You’re going to want to read to the end of this post for the most up-to-date status regarding the tragedy of the missing purse.

To make this section less disheartening, here's a picture of an exotically beautiful bicycle I stumbled upon .
To make this section less disheartening, here’s a picture of an exotically beautiful bicycle I stumbled upon .

Well, the purse was an enigma wrapped in a conundrum and after we had exhausted our search, we decided the purse did not want to be found, and we made our way back to our (sketchy) hostel to catch a wink of sleep before our early rise to visit the Anne Frank House. Let me say, getting to walk through this hugely historic landmark the next morning helped me forget about such trivial things as lost euros and IDs and cameras. Getting to walk through this hugely historic landmark reminded me how grossly oppressed some people have been in the past (and continue to be in the present). At the end of the tour, there were videos of people reflecting on Anne Frank. One quote that struck me most during these reflections was as follows: “All her would-haves are our opportunities.” This was so powerful to me. Would Anne Frank have lost her purse in a foreign country? Maybe not. But I’m sure she would have loved the opportunity to do so. I had to keep this lesson in mind as the next chapter of our weekend trip commenced.

Upon arriving at the train station (Melissa please take note that I just naturally used the word upon), we realized our train back to Brussels (where we had to catch our flight back to Sevilla) was delayed 30 minutes. Uh oh. Seriously, uh oh..we really left no cushion time. Long story short (because it physically pains me to get into the details of this ordeal), we miraculously made it onto our plane back to Sevilla, and a couple short hours later, we were back home. And I cannot tell you how overwhelmingly amazing it felt to step off the plane and be greeted by a beautiful Sevillan breeze. I was honestly surprised by the wave of joy that completely overtook me upon (there’s the word upon again) seeing the Torre del Oro, crossing the Puente de Triana, and walking down Calle San Jacinto toward my home.

The minimal sleep from this weekend is still weighing on me (this has become abundantly clear by the fact that I initially typed “weighing” as “waying”), so I must bid my readers adios. This weekend was definitely very educational (and also fun, I am still in Europe after all). But before I sign out, here’s an update on the case of the missing purse: I received a Facebook message from a Dutch man telling me that they found my purse and it is being held for me at the bar. By some dumb luck (probably Professor Trelawney working her magic to make up for the bad weather), I have a friend visiting Amsterdam this weekend who will be picking up my purse for me. I know I am so extremely lucky, but I don’t want to say how lucky until I get the purse back and see how much is actually left inside.

Well, thank you for letting me shake off my sorrows in this post to help me find my courage to brave another weekend trip this coming Friday (Morocco edition).

Good night dearies,

Rachel

A blissful month (with a side of adulthood)

Yours truly is back from a brief hiatus from the blogosphere. This past week has been quite eventful as I have participated in events running the gamut from new classes to a weekend trip in Granada.

I’m going to start a little out of order (I’m the worst, I know) so I can mention a very fascinating concept that I discovered in Granada this past weekend. At one point during our tour of Alhambra, we stopped in front of a fountain-type dealio that poured water into a larger pool (picture below, because apparently I’m atrocious at describing fountain-type contraptions.) The guide went on to explain that nothing in Alhambra is a coincidence and that this fountain (I really don’t think this is a fountain, but I don’t know how else to describe it) is very symbolic. The spout from which the water dribbles out signifies birth. The circle that the water swirls around in for a bit symbolizes youth (as childhood is easy and carefree, so too is a perfect circle.) The long narrow chute that feeds into the large pool is adulthood (because adulthood — along with long narrow chutes apparently — is the most difficult and tedious part of the journey.) Lastly comes the large pool, which symbolizes death (an immense and eternal destination.) I guess the nerdy part of me fancies symbolism, especially in this case (despite my inability to produce a poetic analogy in all previous posts.)

The symbolic fountain-like dealio mentioned above.
The symbolic fountain-like dealio mentioned above. The black thing in the middle is the spout (obvi.)

With this little lesson of historic symbolism out of the way, I will begin my post in which I will (loosely) follow the theme of the fountain symbol. Side note: if anyone thinks of a better word to describe this thingamajig PLEASE share it with me. Ok, here goes: I was born. Shout out to you mom and dad, you da real MVPs. Really not much to elaborate on there.. I entered childhood. Oh how sometimes I wish I could transport back to those carefree days of kickball, four square, and grass-stained pants. Let’s not dwell.

And so I entered adulthood. Adulthood is spending upwards of three hours discussing (in spanish) matters such as the evolving field of journalism and the Obama administration with a Spaniard. Adulthood is letting a drunk girl pee on your shoes as you shield her from the big, scary world. Adulthood is translating the exchange between your host mom and your family as they meet for the first time over Skype. Adulthood is a narrow, tedious chute that we must navigate our way through in the most graceful and fulfilling way possible.

My classes this past week helped remind me more than ever that I am, indeed, an adult. I’m in a class that has me translating sentences such as : “In such a case, one may need to go to square one, so as to reconstrue the source text in the light of one’s own understanding of it.” Ew..and I would also like to point out that reconstrue is technically not a word. I’m in a class where we analyze the importance of olive oil in Spain. Another class has me reading about myths regarding second language acquisition. And my last class has me looking at the characteristics of publicity and propaganda through various lenses, some of which include Lion King and Karl Marx. And yes yes yes, this is all in Spanish. Adults are expected to multi-task while traveling down the difficult and narrow chute, don’t ya know?! Regardless, I’m actually pretty excited for these classes.

I spent Friday exploring a market in el centro, which was home to some beautiful art and crafts.
I spent Friday exploring a market in el centro, which is home to some beautiful art and crafts.

After stumbling through my first week of classes, Friday arrived (holler for no Friday classes.) This was a special Friday because I had the pleasure of meeting my intercambio and her boyfriend. I brought Sophie along to ease any potential awkwardness, and the meeting went great! Her boyfriend also studies journalism, which gave us some things to talk about. All four of us chatted over coffee, and then cervezas, and then tapas (loving this Spanish lifestyle.) By the end of our cute little 4-way date, Sophie and I walked back to our neighborhood in silence (with the exception of a few incoherent mumblings..which actually really isn’t out of the ordinary for us.) Our brains had turned to mush after four straight hours of Spanish socializing. If you ever need a mental workout, PLEASE pick up a second language; it will do you wonders. Like help delay your arrival at that immense pool at the end of the narrow chute (because a healthy brain pretty much leads to immortality..that’s just science, duh.)

Finally Saturday arrived, and our adventure to Granada was afoot. Honestly there’s really not much else to say about this. Absolutely gorgeous. Very cold (40 degrees..not about it.) Very hilly. Free tapas when you order a drink (which is arguably the most important tidbit of info regarding this trip.) Alhambra. Generalife. History that dates back many many many many years about royalty and Arabs and Spaniards. Drunken people who walk into glass doors. And lastly: Granada means pomegranate in Spanish. Oh also, let’s not forget the “fountain” symbolism I learned. I had great times with great people, but I was excited to come back home Sunday night. And I was even more excited that I considered traveling back to Sevilla coming back “home.”

Sometimes I enjoy taking awkward selfies in front of breath-taking views.
Sometimes I enjoy taking awkward selfies in front of breath-taking views.

That about sums up this post. But don’t worry, the part of this post that you’ve been awaiting has arrived. As much as I’ve enjoyed keeping you on the edge of your seats, the time has come; why is adulthood letting a drunk girl pee on my shoes?! It is time for the (highly abridged) tale of the urine-coated booties. Last week, my friends and I happened upon an inebriated young woman. Said woman had a full bladder. I shielded said woman from unwanted eyes upon her decision (in the middle of the street) to empty her bladder. My shoes paid the price.

After just getting back from a spontaneous outing for cervezas and claras and olives with new Spanish friends, I am ready for some sleep. I hope you enjoyed my return to the blog game (despite this post’s unbearable length..also sorry that I apologize for the length of each post, but the posts just continue getting longer..) Here’s to Granada, a February filled with weekend trips, and the narrow (and rewarding) chute that is adulthood.

Buenas noches,

Rachel

The tale of the river-side run

Okay. I know I just had a very recent post, so you’re either: 1) annoyed by my incessant need to update the virtual world, 2) wondering why the hell I’m not outside enjoying this amazing city at the moment, or 3) so excited because you get to read another little micro post before my next big post. Let’s be real, you most likely chose option 3, although I’m asking myself the question option 2 posed. Well, the answer to question 2 is that I just got back from a run, so I’m waiting to stop sweating (ew, I know..sorry, but girls do in fact sweat. I assure you though, the droplets are made of diamonds.) before I take my shower. During this time, I need to release all the thoughts that were swimming around in my mind during my run. I warn you now: this post will be very disorganized as what is to follow will be a list of completely random thoughts I’ve been having recently. I can get away with this because I forewarned you that it would be a “micro post.”

This is a random picture of the bull ring here. Bull fighting is a super controversial subject in Spain right now. I wrote quite the riveting essay about it.
This is a random picture of the bull ring here. Bull fighting is a super controversial subject in Spain right now. I wrote quite the riveting essay about it.

1. The bad news: the entire past five months I spent running every day and getting myself into great shape was all for nothing. I know this makes all of you as sad as it makes me because I’m sure at least half of you saw me running the streets of Bloomington this past semester at least a handful of times, so you must have been as invested in my exercise regimen as I was, right? Well, I’ve been preoccupied adjusting to my new schedule, getting used to the narrow and confusing streets, and worrying that people would stare at the girl running past in norts and a cross country t-shirt (they definitely did stare more than usual while I passed in this get-up..I’m not being paranoid. This is just something I’ll have to embrace.) Needless to say, I haven’t fully felt like myself given my lack of running. Those of you who know me (Jackie and Liz, I’m especially looking at you) are probably sitting with your mouths agape at the news that I haven’t been running because you know I felt guilty going a day without working out and I would occasionally skip homework to make time to run. Just another challenge living in a new place poses.

The good news: This silly pity party is over. Now that I’m getting into the groove of things and my semester-long classes start Monday, I’ve decided I need to start running again. I just finished my second run since I’ve been here and it was breathtaking — literally (let me tell you, despite walking a marathon a day, getting back in shape is hard) and figuratively. The weather was absolutely perfect, and I couldn’t have asked for much more beautiful views. If getting back into shape looks like this, it will be slightly more tolerable.

I'm not usually one to stop mid-run, but come on..look at this and tell me you wouldn't have stopped to take a picture.
I’m not usually one to stop mid-run, but come on..look at this and tell me you wouldn’t have stopped to take a picture.

2. Thank gosh that rant about running is finally over, am I right? On a more exciting note, I attended my first Spanish soccer game Thursday night (to my host mom’s dismay as she is a Betis fan), and Sevilla FC beat Espagnol 1-0. It was absolutely exhilarating being in the stands for such an important game. The entire stadium was packed for the 10 p.m. match (sandwiches in hand), and every spectator was chanting, whistling, and waving their bufandas (scarves) for the entire 90 minute duration — it was unreal. In April, I’ll be visiting the Madrid stadium, but I still don’t know if I’ll be able to go to the game that weekend (you better be crossing your fingers for me right now, as you will benefit from my attendance by gaining access to awesome pictures.) The oddest part of the Sevilla game was when they played Chelsea Dagger over the speakers. For a second I thought I had teleported back to the United Center and the Hawks had just scored.

Wait..you mean to tell me you don't spend the night before your final exam in a soccer stadium until midnight? That's weird..
Wait..you mean to tell me you don’t spend the night before your final exam in a soccer stadium until midnight? That’s weird..

3. My last little note is to say that contrary to what one may expect, it is not blissful paradise every day (only most days.) I love that I’m being challenged to speak in my second language all day every day, but sometimes it’s very difficult (hence why I feel the need to blog so often..sorry this “micro post” got kind of long, but actually not that sorry.) I have certain characteristics in English that I’m unable to translate into Spanish. I am not yet at the level of Spanish where I can be brilliant, or hilarious, or witty. I can say what I need to say and smile a lot or laugh at myself to foster SOME reaction from the Spaniard (because frankly otherwise they’re probably thinking to themselves that I’m a big dull dud living in the present tense.) Some days are better than others, and some days it’s hard not to feel a little discouraged. BUT, I’m only three weeks in, and I have over three months to go. I just found out the name of my intercambio which is an exchange with a Spanish student at the university who helps you better your Spanish while you help the Spaniard better their English. I’m excited to meet Clara and I’m hoping she will help me become more confident at speaking and more importantly at becoming myself in another language.

Ok, I’m done now, I promise. The sweat stopped a while ago, but near the beginning of this post Margarita told me to scream if I get in the shower and the water’s too cold, so I’ve kind of been delaying the icy grips of liquid death. I think this may have been my longest post despite promising it would be a micro post..oops. Time to enjoy a Sevillan Saturday (my favorite day of the week) in this beautiful weather.

Tened un buen finde,

Rachel

Mr. Accordion Man

Because you had to suffer through my qualms about academics in the last post, I will try to steer clear of that topic this time. Other than to say if you thought IU’s enrollment process caused a deep, burning ball of stress in the pit of your stomach, please refrain from enrolling in classes here as I would worry for your health. Instead, today’s post will be a little glimpse into a day in the life of an American girl in the heart of Andalusia.

A day in the life: kayak edition. On Sunday, I spent the day kayaking Rio Guadalquivir. The view, the weather, and the good times had were all perfection.
A day in the life: kayak edition. On Sunday, I spent the day kayaking Rio Guadalquivir. The view, the weather, and the good times had were all perfection.

Let me start off by saying Margarita is my main gurl. She is super chill, actually quite funny, and (usually) a very good cook. When I say usually, that means that I get the same breakfast every morning, and occasionally I’ll come home to a bowl of ramen or Mrs. Grass waiting for me. She knows I’m not picky, so I can’t fault her for this. The point of this little tangent is to say I wake up every morning to two pieces of bread on a plate that is centered in front of blackberry jam, jamón pate, butter, a peach-flavored juicebox, and a cup of coffee. (Today I was surprised by an extra delicious little breakfast cookie!) No complaints here. After I finish my breakfast of champions, I head out the door onto la calle and set off on my 35-minute walk to class.

En la calle, everybody stares at you. If ever you find yourself in Spain, do not be alarmed. You (probably) don’t have anything on your face, nor do you look like a celebrity. (Although how great would it be if I pulled a Lizzie McGuire and was secretly a doppelganger to a famous Spaniard, which inevitably led to a happily ever after involving riding off on the back of a handsome Spanish man’s Vespa. I realize this is unlikely, but I still have my fingers crossed about the Vespa part.) But in all seriousness, Spaniards tend to look you up and down intently as you walk down the street; it’s just in their nature. You have two options: either awkwardly avoid eye contact and pretend to look at that imaginary freckle on your hand you had never noticed before, or embrace the stare and stare right back. This second option is dangerous as you may (read: will) notice the Spaniard wearing cute shoes that you now desperately want. Sevillanos are always on point when it comes to style. Who cares about cobblestone streets when you can rock those awesome heels.

As I cross the puente de Triana, I always pass my friend, Mr. Accordion Man. Of course Mr. Accordion man plays beautiful music, but what really tempts me to throw a euro in his hat is his ability to simultaneously smoke a cigarette and play the accordion. Really, I can’t imagine the difficulty of playing an accordion (well), but throw a cigarette into the mix and we are on a whole new level. By the way, this is actually completely normal because it is few and far between to pass someone who is not smoking. Speaking of smoke, my next encounter involves Hugo the Nut Man. Once I fully cross the river, I inhale the wonderfully aromatic smoke that wafts my way. The smoke is coming from Hugo the Nut Man’s big metal bowl, in which he is currently caramelizing almonds. Though I pass his stand every day, yesterday was the first time I let my nostrils tell my brain what was up. My friends and I bought some candied nuts and indulged as we watched the sun set riverside; it was divine.

The nut stand. Taking this picture was completely awkward and void of any subtlety, so please excuse any blurriness as I snapped the photo in haste before I power-walked away.
The nut stand. Taking this picture was completely awkward and void of subtlety, so please excuse any blurriness as I snapped the photo in haste before I power-walked away.

As I get closer to the study center, I wander through Plaza Nueva, which is home to a little bakery that sells macarons. I’m slightly ashamed to admit that I have bought a macaron (not much larger than a quarter) from this establishment on two separate occasions, totaling a whopping 3,60 euros. This seems insignificant, but I promise you this adds up..especially when you purchase three huge weekend trips in one day. For clarification: yesterday I bought a plane ticket to Brussels, a plane ticket to Barcelona, and an all-inclusive trip to Morocco. Needless to say, my bank account is a little salty towards me right now. Pardon that tangent; severely wounding my bank account is (hopefully) not part of the average day in the life of an American girl living in the heart of Andalusia.

Pictured above are the macarons in question. This photo sends me into a frenzy of laughter every time I see it because of the sheer awkwardness at our attempt to be artsy. Sophie and Hannah, I fully expect you to be short of breath from the fit of laughter I'm sure you just experienced.
Pictured above are the macarons in question. This photo sends me into a frenzy of laughter every time I see it because of the sheer awkwardness at our attempt to be artsy. Sophie and Hannah, I’ve finally decided to give the people what they want.

As you can see, even my walk to class is exciting. The walk home is pretty similar, except most of my thoughts on the way back are all in Spanish, which I’m pretty sure is a good thing considering Spanish is my primary form of a communication now. On that note, I’m about to head to la calle to start my homework and enjoy a café con leche (or a cerveza..what kind of mood am I in?) I know you all secretly squealed when you read about the trips I planned because it must mean my blog is about to get a bit more exciting. Time to go finish my day as an American girl in Sevilla.

Tened un buen día,

Rachel