Life of an Exchange Student

I write when I am either frustrated and need to vent, or inspired and want to share. For example, I was inspired to write ‘Finding your Happy Place’ and frustrated enough to write “The Weekend from Hell’. For a while now, however, I have been neither inspired nor incredibly frustrated, which means that writing requires a lot more effort. That’s not to say that I haven’t been doing anything, au contraire, I’ve been pretty busy with volleyball, tutoring sessions (yes, I am now a tutor!), school and weekend excursions with the rest of the students from Rollins. I definitely have a lot of material to work with, but for some reason every time I sit myself down to write, I find myself distracted by other things. Thus, instead of writing in great detail about one experience or place, I’m going to break this into sections and write a little bit about everything I’ve been doing.

Siempre escribo cuando estoy estresada y necesito desahogarme, o cuando estoy inspirada y quiero compartir mi experiencia. Por ejemplo, yo estaba inspirada para escribir “Finding Your Happy Place” y estaba tan estresada que escribí “The Weekend from Hell”. Pero durante un tiempo ahora, no me he sentido estresada ni inspirada así que escribir es mas difícil. No quiero decir que no he estado haciendo cosas, al contrario, he estado muy ocupada con voleibol, la universidad, las clases de ingles (si, soy profesora ahora!), y los viajes con los demás chicos de Rollins. Entonces, tengo mucho material con el que puedo trabajar, pero por alguna razón cada vez que siento e intento escribir, no puedo. Entonces, en vez de escribir solo una experiencia o un día con pelos y señales, voy a romper este blog en secciones y escribir un poco sobre todo lo que he estado haciendo.

Volleyball

I guess I’ll begin with volleyball. It’s been about month since I started practicing and playing with the team, and it has been interesting to say the least. I played volleyball in high school and wasn’t half-bad, I even played club ball for a close to a year. Unfortunately, my long absence from the sport combined with my inability to understand the coach (his accent is especially difficult), has made me less than stellar. Because of my height (especially obvious in Spain), the coach thought my level was close to professional and because I could talk to the girls on the team, he thought I was basically fluent in Spanish. This led to me playing in my first game, not knowing the names of any of the positions, running around like a chicken with its head cut off. Not my proudest moment. Apart from disappointing the coach however, it has been a pretty positive experience. The girls on the team are awesome. One of them is even teaching me French to help prepare me for my trip to Paris. So if you see a tall, female American wondering around Paris speaking French with a heavy Spanish accent, don’t be afraid to say hi, it’s probably me.

Voleibol 

Supongo que empezaré con voleibol. Hace un mes más o menos, que comencé a practicar con el equipo, y ha sido interesante por no decir menos. Jugué en secundaria, incluso jugué en un club por un año. Desafortunadamente, mi larga ausencia del juego combinada con el hecho de que casi no puedo entender al entrenador (su acento es muy difícil de entender), me ha sido menos que fantástico. Por mi altura, el entrenador pensaba que yo era una profesional o algo así, y porque podia hablar con las chicas en el equipo, él pensaba que era casi bilingüe. Esto me llevó a mi primer partido sin saber los nombres de las posiciones, corriendo como un pollo degollado. Sí, no es mi momento más orgulloso. Pero a parte de eso, ha sido una experiencia muy buena. Las chicas en el equipo son la leche. Una de ellas esta enseñándome francés para prepararme para Paris. Así que ustedes ven a una Americana alta, andando por Paris, hablando en francés con un acento español, deben decir hola porque, probablemente, soy yo.

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School 

I am currently taking classes in a specific part of La Universidad de Oviedo which is called La Casa de Las Lenguas (The House of Languages). Here, exchange students from all over the world take classes that help them learn Spanish. I am currently taking Art, History, Oral Expression, and English to Spanish translation. Although I should be in the advanced levels for all of my classes, I chose to remain in intermediate for several reasons. First, advanced and intermediate count for the same amount of credit at Rollins College, and second, with everything else going on, I simply don’t have time for too much homework.

The classes themselves are pretty good. I’m especially enjoying Art, where I’m learning the latin roots of a lot of words, and History where we just finished watching Gladiator in Spanish. The students in La Casa de Las Lenguas are usually American or Chinese and in their late teens or early twenties. It’s absolutely fascinating to hear the accent of the Chinese students and I find it impressive that there are so many in my English to Spanish translation class.

La Universidad

Estoy tomando clases en La Casa de las Lenguas, que es una parte de la universidad de Oviedo. Aquí, estudiantes internacionales de todo el mundo, estudian y toman clases para aprender español. Yo tengo clases de Arte, Historia, Expresión Oral y Tradución Ingles a Español. Las clases son muy buenas, especialmente Arte, donde estoy aprendiendo las raíces de las palabras. Los estudiantes en La Casa de las Lenguas son normalmente americano o chino y de edad joven (como 19 o 20). El acento de los estudiantes chinos es muy interesante y estoy impresionada que hay muchos chinos en mi clase Traducción Ingles a Español.

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Me, Catey and Sara (my conversation partner), taking a break from school and enjoying a club night in Gijón

Tutoring

The classes in school are fine, but they pale in comparison to my tutoring skills! (just kidding, I’m still figuring this whole teaching thing out). My host mom put a tutoring add on some website when I first got to Spain, and I finally got a a response about two weeks ago. So now I am the proud tutor of a fifteen year old boy named Sergio. He’s planning on spending the next year in Ireland, but he still isn’t comfortable having a conversation in English, so it’s my job to prepare him. I will admit it’s not as easy as I thought it would be. For one, it’s very hard to figure out his level of English; sometimes he seems to understand everything I say and sometimes he’s entirely lost. For another, it’s very hard to not speak to him in Spanish when he doesn’t understand my English. I constantly have to remind myself that I can’t just repeat my statement in Spanish, I must find another way of rephrasing what I said in English. The hardest part, however, has been finding fun vocabulary games for two people.

So far we’ve played ‘memory’ using different English verbs, good old twenty questions, and boogle. I’ve even had him listen to English songs while reading lyric sheets that I gave him and filling in the blanks. Does anyone know any other games we could play?

Las Clases de Ingles

Las clases de la universidad son buenas pero son nada en comparación a mis clases de ingles (estoy bromeando todavía estoy aprendiendo como ser profesora). Hace un mes, mi mamá española puso un anuncio online que dijo que yo era un nativo en ingles y que yo podia enseñar, y por fin, recibí una respuesta hace dos semanas. Ahora, soy la profesora de un chico de 15 años se llama Sergio. El va a vivir en Irlanda durante el próximo año, pero todavía falta mucho con gramática y vocabulario. Tengo que admitir que enseñar no es fácil. Es muy difícil averiguar el nivel de ingles de Sergio porque a veces al puede entender casi todo, y a veces ni una sola palabra. También es muy difícil encontrar juegos divertidos de vocabulario para dos personas. Ya hemos jugado ‘memoria’ usando palabras en ingles, 20 preguntas y Boogle. Alguien sabe mas juegos que podemos jugar?

 

Excursions

Finally, to end the post I’m just going to quickly mention that I was lucky enough to visit both Ribadesella, (almost as beautiful as Santiago de Compostela–definitely a must see!),  and León, which has beautiful cathedrals.

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I only have one picture of Ribadesella, but If you go to my friend Mary’s blog, there are a ton

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Catedral de León

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So that’s what I’ve been up to. I hope you have enjoyed reading and if you know of any fun vocabulary games, please let me know.

 

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The Weekend from Hell

You know that old saying ‘when life gives you lemons, make lemonade?’ Well in my experience life will sometimes give you lemons, sometimes it even gives you a freshly squeezed lemonade with a little umbrella straw, and then sometimes it gives you rocks instead of lemons and instead of handing them to you, it throws them at you while giggling like an immature child. Unfortunately for me, life has picked me for target practice these last couple of days and has proceeded to bombard me with a shower of lemon-shaped rocks.

It all began yesterday (a Thursday for those who aren’t up to speed with the calendar). It was a Spanish holiday so there wasn’t any school and all of my friends had gone to go traveling over the long weekend (I elected to stay behind so I could hopefully play in my first volleyball game on Saturday). I woke up Thursday morning completely stuffed. I couldn’t breath out of my nose and phlegm wads were ensconcing themselves comfortably in the depths of my throat (wow, who knew something so gross could be described so poetically?). Needless to say I did not feel my best at that moment. Nevertheless, I got up, persevered and went to the gym (I’m really proud of myself for that btw). When I got back I was exhausted so I basically spent the day on the sofa doing absolutely nothing productive, and falling deeper into the rabbit hole that is Youtube. At around 9:00 pm, I finally stopped watching videos and eating cold pasta long enough to call Siubhan, (a.k.a. my number 1 home skillet) back in Illinois. We talked until she had to go to class then I watched a couple more movies and tried to go to bed. Not being able to breathe made falling asleep pretty hard, but the worst part was my hair. For some reason my head itched like the dickens. After a good thirty minutes of restlessness and scratching, it slowly dawned on me that I had felt the exact same itchiness before…in sixth grade…when the school had an outbreak of, wait for it, lice…shit. I tried to remember when exactly my head started itching but the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like it had been itchy for a while. The only place I thought I could have gotten it was from sharing hairbands during practice on the volleyball team.
Once I had the idea of lice on my head there was no way in hell I was going back to sleep. I knew no pharmacy would be open or else I would have run down there and bought every bottle of lice shampoo they had. Instead, I frantically searched the Internet scouring for any homemade treatments I could use as a substitute. I finally found a simple one involving coconut oil. Fervently thanking past Shannon for packing coconut oil, I began scooping copious amounts onto my head. I was a tad overzealous with it, however, because when I stood up to find a shower cap, a huge glob splattered around my feet. Not really caring, I jump over the gelatinous mess, shoved a make-shift, plastic-bag shower cap on my head, and set the timer for two hours. Waiting was horrible, now that I had the lice image stuck in my head, I could feel the little critters crawling around in my hair. When the two hours were up I took a hot shower, vigorously washing my hair, got out and inspected the bath water. And sure enough I found one. At least I think I did. It wasn’t moving or anything, but I could see the tiny little legs. Throughly freaking out by this point, I run back to my room to start tearing off the bedsheets, trying to resist the urge to scream and/or light my hair on fire. In my panic, I failed to see the giant glob of coconut oil on the floor. I fell. Hard. And let out a stream of impressive curse words in both English and Spanish. Now, my friends, as impossible as this may seem, all of Thursday night was just a light drizzle of lemon-rocks, the real storm came today.

My host mom had heard my fall and subsequent cursing and came into my room at 5:00 in the morning to see numerous garbage bags sitting on a completely naked mattress. She asked me what I was doing and I, almost ready to cry, told her that I had lice (fun fact: lice=piojos in Spanish). I honestly wasn’t sure how she was going to react. There’s an old (and completely untrue I might add) stigma that only dirty people get lice. Would she accuse me of infesting her house and kick me out into the streets (hey, in my sleep-deprived brain that seemed entirely conceivable). But, she took it surprisingly well and basically told me to calm down, that lice aren’t fatal and they’re a lot easier to deal with than bedbugs. After making sure I wasn’t having a complete meltdown, she headed back to her room and I tried to catch a couple hours of sleep while sitting at my desk.

I awoke several hours later and if I thought my cold was bad Thursday, Friday it got  worse. Now added to my stuffed nose and phlegmy tubes was an inability to speak without, wait for it, hacking a phlegm ball (I know, my sexiness surprises even me sometimes). Anyways I had class at 9:00 but I didn’t want to wear a sweatshirt because anything I wore before buying the lice-killing shampoo was going straight into the wash. So I ran to school to keep warm, hocking a loogie every few feet. I forgot the money for the lice shampoo back at the house so after class, I headed back home to get it. Once there, my host mom told me that we needed actual dryers to kill the little buggers, and since she didn’t have one, she gave me directions to the nearest laundromat. So I headed to the the laundromat, 20 euros in my pocket, a giant garbage bag in each hand, snuffling and hacking spitballs, and with only the slightest sense of where to go. I started off pretty confidently, all things considered. It took me a good twenty-five minutes to find the laundromat and by that time my arms were pretty tired. The only person in the laundromat was an older gentleman, closing his eyes and listening to some music. I decided not to disturb him and figured out how to load and pay for the washing machine by myself. Unfortunately, the laundromat was a lot more expensive than I thought it would be. It was 10 euros every load in the big machine, which I had to use twice. Thus, I had no money for the dryers, which were the main reasons I had come in the first place. I was in luck however, right across the street was an ATM, I could simply take out some money, while keeping an eye on my clothes. I was at the ATM for a good twenty minutes trying to figure out why it kept telling me my PIN number was wrong. Finally, frustrated beyond belief, I called my dear old Pops. He told me that the PIN number was actually different but because I had tried so many times, they had locked my card for 24 hours. Perfect. I had no other choice than to drag two large, dripping garbage bags twenty five minutes back to my apartment, then return to actually dry them. This was just a little overwhelming for me (did I mention I was also on my period and thus more emotionally fragile than usual?). Anyways, what all this leads to is the following scene: I’m walking down the street, pissed off, tired, walking with a slight limp, dragging two wet garbage bags behind me and probably looking like I’m about to cry. I suddenly see a grocery store right in front of me and decide to check and see if they have the lice shampoo. They don’t. As I walk out the door to leave the lady at the cash register starts yelling at me. I turn around to see her running towards me, and of course, the first response my tired brain comes up with is ‘let’s run too!’. So I start running. It must’ve looked kind of strange; a cashier chasing down what could have been very tired, skinny Santa Claus hauling ass with trash bags flying out behind her. Well it didn’t take long for the cashier to catch up to me (even though I was carrying bags and had a limp it was still pretty embarrassing). She grabbed one of my trash bags and ripped it open. When she saw a pile of wet clothes and bed covers she looked confused and then turned bright red and apologized to me. I opened my mouth to tell her it was fine, and instead of words, I got a mouthful of phlegm. Unable to spit it out without the crowd around us seeing, I could only nod and kind of hum my lips together. So yeah…that was the beginning of my weekend, how was yours?

Author note: originally I wasn’t going to post this because it seemed kind of gross, but if I talk about the wonders and beauty of traveling and being in Spain, I think it’s only right that I mention some of the not so fun parts.

*Este vez no he escrito un sección en Español! Lo siento mucho! Intentaré hacer uno mañana.

Btw. I have my first volleyball game tomorrow, fingers crossed it goes well!

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Actually this was taken during San Mateo, but I felt like I needed to end the post with a happy bang (get it? no? Don’t worry it was pretty bad).

Finding your Happy Place (Santiago de Compostela)

Mi historia empieza un Jueves. Yo necesitaba unas vacaciones (si, yo se que estoy en España pero todavía las necesitaba) entonces Mary y yo compramos billetes a Santiago de Compostela y La Coruña para el fin de semana. Llegamos a Santiago de Compostela a las 9:00 mas o menos y fuimos al hostel se llama Albergues Semenario Menor (16 euros cada noche). Había muchos peregrinos en el hostel y con mis pantalones tipo cargo y mi cabello loco, parecía una peregrina también (un hombre me dijo ‘buen camino’). La primera noche, no vimos la ciudad, solo comimos la cena que Mary había traído en nuestros cuartos. Pero el día siguiente, exploramos la ciudad y me di cuenta que Santiago de Compostela es un lugar especial. Es muy difícil explicar porque tienes que ir a Santiago de Compostela para entender completamente como es, pero voy a intentarlo.

Imagina que estas sentado en una plaza. El sol se esta poniendo y hay música de gaitas en el aire. Todo a tu alrededor son personas: ancianas, jóvenes, familias, parejas y peregrinos. Todos están hablando en otros idiomas: inglés, ruso, aleman, francés y español. Cierras los ojos y escuchas todas las voces diferentes. En tu mano tienes un bocadillo gigante de jamón y queso. Sabe delicioso. La luz del sol poniente esta calentando tu cara. Respiras el aire libre y olvidas, por un momento, todas las cosas negativas en tu vida. Eso es Santiago de Compostela. Estar allí, me hizo feliz.

He oído una frase hecha, ‘Hay algunos lugares donde uno se queda y otros que se quedan en uno’ creo que esto describe Santiago de Compostela perfectamente. Estoy segura de que volveré.

I needed a vacation (yes, I know I’m in Spain but I needed one nevertheless). Thus, Mary and I made plans for a weekend trip to Santiago de Compostela and La Coruña. We planned to leave Thursday and spend the rest of our long weekend exploring the new cities. Thus, at five o’clock, we got on an ALSA bus heading to Santiago de Compostela. It was a pretty nice ride (I definitely recommend the ALSA bus company-very roomy seats with strong wifi and a lot of good entertainment). We got to Santiago de Compostela around 9:00 and headed straight to our hostel Albergues Semenario Menor. We didn’t really do anything the first night except eat some sandwiches Mary had brought for dinner. The following morning however, we went to the Pilgrims Mass in El Catedral de Santiago. The place was packed to bursting! There were pilgrims from all over the world, singing together and listening to the bishop (who happened to be from California). It was awesome. Afterwards, we explored the city and I soon fell head over heels in love with Santiago de Compostela.

Imagine for a moment that you’re wondering around an old plaza. On one side of the plaza is a beautiful hotel that looks like it emerged from an entirely different time period and right next to that hotel is a ledge overlooking the town below. The sun is setting, casting a golden glow on all your surroundings. The faint music of bagpipes wafts through the air, mixing with the sounds of a hundred different voices. You can discern half a dozen different languages from the surrounding conversations: Spanish, English, Russian, French and German. In your hand you’re holding a huge bocadillo (basically a sandwich made from a fresh loaf of bread). It tastes delicious. You close your eyes and let the warmth from the setting sun fill your eyelids and, just for a moment, you forget all the negative things in your life and just exist. That is Santiago de Compostela.

It’s no surprise to me that it is the end destination for the El Camino pilgrimage. To me, it’s like the embodiment of inner peace, except you don’t need a calmed mind or knack for meditation to find it. It’s just there, welcoming everyone who is lucky enough to find it.

Now before I end my blog post, I should probably talk a little about La Coruña. I think that if I had gone there before Santiago de Compostela, I would have loved it more, but after Santiago de Compostela it just seemed kind of- meh. It’s a nice city, there are some cool plazas and buildings whose stonework look strangely like lace, but I wouldn’t exactly call it the ’embodiment of inner peace’. That’s not to say there aren’t cool things to do in La Coruña. Mary and I visited a fascinating museum fortress-prison (free entrance!) called San Anton and also saw the Planetarium and Body Museum. Overall, La Coruña was rather difficult to get a read on. It felt more like an American city than Santiago de Compostela, but at the same time it was entirely different. I think I would go back if only to get better acquainted with the city and its vibe.

Thanks for reading and sorry for the wait. I joined a volleyball team last week (I know, I can’t believe it either!) so I’ve been pretty busy. I’ll explain more in the next blog

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The sunset I previously mentioned. PC: Mary

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PC: Mary (BTW check out her blog if you haven’t it’s awesome! Mary Vickers)

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I felt like I had found Narnia

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La Coruña: Plaza de Santa Maria

 

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The buildings I think look like lace

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Me standing next to the tallest man. Finally found my people.

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Rollins follows us #rollinslife

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San Anton

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La Coruña

 

My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of the Las Vegas Attack and all those struggling in Puerto Rico. 

Do Blondes Have More Fun?

Las rubias se lo pasan mejor? Esta es la cuestión. Para averiguar la verdad, me convertí en una rubia. Bueno, en realidad, no completamente rubia. La parte superior de mi pelo todavía es marrón, pero el resto es oro pálido. Ahora lo se que estas pensando “Pero Shannon acabas de cortar tu pelo, y ahora estas pintándolo? Porque tantos cambios? Bueno amigos, la verdad es que querría ser rubia por algún tiempo y ahora que estoy en España, porque no?

Desafortunadamente, yo escogí una semana muy complicada para averiguar la verdad sobre las rubias porque escogí la misma semana de las fiestas de San Mateo en Oviedo. Entonces es muy difícil saber si el cambio en el nivel de divertido es por ser rubia o por estar en San Mateo.

Me encanta San Mateo! Cada noche hay películas en el parque, conciertos en las plazas y comida y sidra en todos lados. He visto una banda se llama ‘La Oreja de Vangough” y me gusto mucho (pero son mejores en directo).

En Miercoles fui a los fuegos artificiales con Bea y los demás de Rollins. Fue muy divertido y después fuimos a bailar. La calle estaba tan lleno de gente que casi no podia moverme. Pero, cuando finalmente llegamos a un bar, bailaba hasta que me dolieran mis pies. Por la primera vez, yo estuve despierta hasta las 5 en la mañana. Casi soy una Española!

Para terminar, todavia no se si las rubias se lo pasan mejor. Creo que es una profecía autocumplida. Si crees que las rubias se lo pasan mejor, es la verdad. Eso es la verdad para muchas cosas, entonces ‘aparenta hasta que lo hagas’.

Do blondes have more fun? That’s the million dollar question. In order to ascertain the truth, I decided to become *gasp* a blonde! Well actually no, not really, I simply became blonder. The top of my hair is still pretty brown, but the bottom is now a very pale gold. Now, I know what you’re thinking, ‘Shannon didn’t you just cut your hair? What’s with rapid succession of hair changes?’ Well dear reader, The truth is that I have wanted to try blonde hair for awhile. I was actually planning on going full out blonde but highlights were cheaper and the nice hairstylist told me that it would look better if I left my ‘natural color’ on top (at least that’s what I think she said she was speaking very fast). So anyways, I am now a full fledged half blonde and on the path to discovery.

I will admit I picked a rather complicated first week to go blonde however. The festivities and concerts of San Mateo are so much fun, it makes it hard to figure out if the change in the level of fun has anything to do with the hair. Every night during San Mateo there are movies in the park, concerts in the cathedral plaza, and street vendors, music and food everywhere you look. Unfortunately for the first couple of days, it was rather rainy so most of my San Mateo experience consisted of listening to wonderful music beneath a sea of umbrellas. On Wednesday however, that all changed.

Wednesday night was the night of los fuegos artificiales and our hip, young Spanish teacher, Bea, was going to take all six of us to the fireworks. She told us to bring some snacks and plastic bags to sit on and she would bring us some bottles of sidra (hard, Asturian cider).

At around 7:00 Mary and I met at the Museum de Bellas Artes de Oviedo to complete our homework before the night’s festivities. The museum is absolutely darling (darling must be said in a deep southern accent–DARHling) and it’s entirely free, so I highly recommend it. There are beautiful paintings and sculptures (many by Asturian artists) hung in a very aesthetically pleasing manner all around the tiny, maze-like museum. After completing our homework, we headed out into the city to buy some snacks for the fireworks.

The city was jumping (yes, I’m bringing that phrase back). The weather was perfect, not a drop of rain in sight. Mary and I wondered around for a little while, ending up in the Parque de San Francisco (basically a minuscule version of Central Park). There we watched, what can only be described as one of the weirdest movies I’ve ever seen. It was like a Japanese cartoon with bright, almost neon colors but no dialogue, only music. The beginning must’ve explained everything because coming in during the middle made no sense whatsoever. Shortly thereafter, we decided to leave the bright cartoons behind and finally head over to Bea’s house. When we got to her street, I was almost knocked over by the sheer amount of young teenage hormones in the air. Bea’s street was packed full of 14-16 year olds. They were all standing in different groups and there were so many of them that it was like playing teenager obstacle course to get to Bea’s apartment. When we finally did, we met up with the rest of the Rollins crew and headed out to El Parque de Invierno.

Walking with our bags of snacks and cider, I felt like a fully fledged Oviedoin (or Ovetenses as it’s actually called). We found a spot on part of the sloping hill near the front of the park and arranged our plastic bags in a little group. We ate our snacks and learned how to properly pour la sidra (you must pour it from above your head and into the glass), while the park around us filled with people. Finally, the fireworks began. Out of all the firework shows I’ve seen in my life, this one made the top 5. It was pretty close to us and went on for close to half an hour! The only reason it isn’t higher on my list is because there was a tree obscuring part of my view. [After the magnificent fireworks were over, we packed up out stuff to head out. Unfortunately, Catey had to pee desperately and there were no bathrooms nearby. I volunteered to help her find a bathroom and thus we embarked on another Catey-Shannon adventure (this one shall be dubbed ‘Nature’s Calling’). Long story short- we began looking for an empty, out-of-view place for Catey to do her business, but when we finally found a darkish corner, I look back and see about a dozen girls following us. They finally catch up to us and ask where the bathroom is. I tell them that we couldn’t find one, and we were actually looking for a place to pee, you know, in private. Clearly not getting the hint, the girls (all of them) squat down right in front of me and start doing their business. I saw about seven fully nude butts that evening. I couldn’t stop laughing at the look of horror on Catey’s face as she realized she had to wait until all the girls were finished to finally get some privacy.

After Catey was finally able to attend to her business, we rejoined Bea and the rest and went dancing. We stopped first at El Parque de San Francisco, danced outside, and then headed over to the center of the festivities and the bars. Oh, my, God. The streets around the bars were packed! It seemed like the whole world had come out to dance. It was a little hard to move from one place to another but it was a lot of fun. That was the first night I managed to stay up until 5:00 in the morning (which I’m told is quite normal here). I’m finally becoming an Oviedoin! (Kind of).

So, to end this rather long post, I’m still not sure if blondes truly have more fun, but you will certainly have a blast if you’re ever lucky enough to attend even a part of San Mateo.

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So I’m a half blonde now..PC: The Incredible Mary Vickers

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This (and some of the following pictures) were from the Día de Las Americas parade on Tuesday. PC: Bea the Bae

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Gijón, Ice-cream Lemons, and the Crash of Waves

Things are pretty crazy here in Oviedo right now. The festival of San Mateo just began. It lasts about a week and each night there’s new activities, movies and concerts. I’m hoping that I can try to Karaoke at some point, but we’ll have to see. Anyways, I haven’t had time to blog for awhile, so I’m finally writing about my trip last weekend.

Last weekend I went on a excursion to Gijón, the largest of the three main cities in Asturias. Despite being only about half an hour apart, the two cities of Gijón and Oviedo feel very different. When I first got off the bus at the Gijón bus station, I will admit I wasn’t very impressed. The city just seemed like a larger, more crowded version of Oviedo without all of the old, small town charm. That all changed however, after I saw the beach. The beach in Gijón is awesome. There’s a walkway the that runs right along side it, and allows you to look down on all the sun tanners and surfers enjoying the sand and waves. Sitting on one of the many benches along the edge of the walkway, was an accordion player, filling the air around him with music. With the sun shining brightly over my head, accordion music wafting through the air and the steady crash of the waves, I felt as though I had stepped into a scene from a romantic movie, all I needed was a glorious sunset.

After leaving the beach behind, Ana, our trip director and native Gijonion (a completely made-up word FYI), took us on a grand tour of the city. We saw the ruins of Roman baths, a small art museum, a sculpture of Gijón’s symbol on top of a beautiful, rolling green hill, and a bustling marketplace. For lunch, we ate at a sea-side cafe with a perfect view of the beach. Ana had called ahead and had reserved a table for us on the top floor. It was, hands down, one of the most beautiful and relaxing places to eat that I’ve ever been to. For desert, I had ice-cream stuffed in a lemon. If any of you are ever lucky enough to have the chance to try ice-cream in a lemon, take it. I’m not sure what kind of magical witch craft is used on this dessert, but it’s 100 times better than it’s regular ice cream counterpart.

After lunch, we headed to the aquarium (the entrance fee is a bit pricey, but I didn’t have to pay so I didn’t really mind). From the entrance, the aquarium looks kind of small, but the exhibit goes on and on, showcasing tons of different fish and amphibians. If you have the time, or an interest in weird, water-dwelling creatures, I recommend the Gijón aquarium. If you don’t make it however, don’t freak out, it’s very similar to all the other aquariums I’ve seen. After going through the entire aquarium, my friend Catey and I decided to head back to Oviedo ahead of the others.

All in all, Gijón was pretty incredible. I’m definitely planning on returning to see a sunset over the beach.

Hola todos, que tal? Espero que estéis bien. En este blog no hay un sección en Español. Lo siento mucho, pero la cosa es que ahora mismo tengo mucho que hacer (tarea, San Mateo,…etc) y mi cerebro no esta funcionado lo suficientemente bien para escribir en Español. Pero prometo que el proximo blog tendrá un sección en Español.

 

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The beach

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PC: Catey

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The symbol of Gijón

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PC: John

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Messing around in the marketplace PC: Catey

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For all you fish-lovers out there

 

Have you ever been really excited about something, started doing it and then immediately regretted your decision to do it, but because you already started, you decide to keep going until the end? That’s basically every activity that Catey and I do together. Take the photo booth incident for example. It began when we were waiting for the bus to come and take us back to Oviedo. We had been waiting for a couple of minutes, when I spotted what I thought was a photo-booth. We thought it would be fun to have a little photo shoot session in the booth to pass the time. Up close, the photo-booth didn’t really look like a photo-booth, but I was so excited to have my picture taken that I didn’t really care. I paid the two euros, and when nothing happened, Catey paid four more. After that, I was really hoping that the pictures would turn out super cute. Unfortunately, as the screen lit up, there was only room for one head in the photo. I thought that was rather strange, but simply flattened myself against the wall to make room for Catey. We were so squished together that we couldn’t close the photo-booth curtain, so everyone waiting in the bus stop had a clear view of us. Many of them were watching us with amused and also rather confused looks on their faces. Trying to ignore their stares and the fact that I was being smushed alive, I tried to look cute for the camera. We took four pictures, each one worse than the last, but we had to choose the best amongst them and make due. After hitting print and going to the outside of the photo-booth to retrieve our photos, I finally realized that the photo-booth was, in fact, not meant for taking funky, cute photos with your friends, it was meant for passport photos and the like. It suddenly dawned on me that the entire bus station had just witnessed Catey and me primp and pose for a passport photo. In hindsight, I should have realized what it was from the start, but in that moment I guess it just slipped my mind. Here’s the lovely photo (we look like an add for toothpaste)21743170_1092847894179353_6335381875860928397_n.jpg

New City, New Hairstyle

 

So I’ve decided to cut my hair…(English in fourth paragraph)

He decidido cortar mi pelo. Tengo tres razones principales para esto. La primera es debido al clima. Cada día tengo que caminar hasta la academia donde me enseñan español, y el camino es mas o menos 30 minutos. En Oviedo la clima no es tan caloroso (en realidad cambia mucho como en Chicago) pero cada día después de caminar estoy sudando. Entonces voy a cortar mi pelo para no sentir tanto calor. La segunda razón es que soy perezosa y no quiero cepillarlo cada día y la tercera razón es que creo que es la hora de cambiar mi imagen. Bueno, puedes ver fotos de mi pelo al final de la pagina pero ahora tengo que contarte un poquito sobre Oviedo.

Cuando llegue a Oviedo con Mary y mi papa, me recuerda un poco de Seattle porque el cielo estaba nublado y la ciudad esta rodeada de montañas. Después de caminar un tiempo, mi padre me dijo que Oviedo es muy similar a Irlanda. Yo solo he ido a Irlanda una vez pero estoy de acuerdo, los dos tienen el mismo sentido de un lugar cómodo y amistoso. Muchas de las calles son peatonales, y es muy difícil saber donde la acera termina y la calle empieza. La ciudad parece pequeña pero es mas grande lo que pensaba (ya me he perdido muchas veces). En el centro de la ciudad hay una plaza donde hay una escultura. Su nombre real es “L a Maternidad” pero todo el mundo la llama “La Gorda” y eso es donde nosotros (los de Rollins) siempre nos encontramos.

Bueno, hay mucho mas que contar sobre Oviedo, por ejemplo el hecho de que los niños pequeños siempre llevan ropa de moda, o la manera en que un camarero escancia la sidra (una bebida típica de Oviedo), pero sería demasiado largo para escribir ahora porque no tengo tiempo. Entonces, ojalá que te guste y te contaré mas en el próximo blog. Ciao!

I want shorter hair for three reasons. The first is that the weather here in Oviedo is very similar to that of Chicago, which is to say that it changes every ten minutes. Every day I have to walk 30 minutes to my language classes and throughout the walk I experience everything from freezing my butt off to overheating like a lobster in a pot. Having shorter hair will hopefully make this temperature change less dramatic and less of a hassle. The second reason is that I really don’t want to brush my hair every day. I shed like a sheep dog in the summer and my hair always ends up everywhere, so cutting it shorter will make it easier to control. Finally, I feel like it’s time for a change, new city, new hairstyle. But enough of my hair (there’s pictures at the end of the blog), I must tell you a little bit about Oviedo.

When we first arrived in Oviedo, it reminded me a bit of Seattle. The sky was overcast and gray and we were surrounded on all sides by beautiful, soaring mountains. After walking around the town to find our hotel, my dad told me that the city reminded him of Ireland. Turns out, there’s a very good reason for that. Apparently, because of the mountains, one of the places that actually had the most influence on Oviedo in the past was Ireland. Thus, the music here is full of bagpipes and the buildings have an old, comfortable feeling, like that of a small town. Most of the streets in the center of Oviedo are full of restaurants and cafes with beautiful outdoor seating. The streets themselves are all paved with stone, so it’s rather difficult  to tell where the streets end and the sidewalks begin. At first, the city seems small, with maybe one or two main plazas, but after exploring for a bit you realize it’s a lot bigger than it appears. It reminds me of a beautiful maze, every street is surrounded by tall, majestic buildings, but if you’re brave enough to explore all the little side streets and hidden pathways there’s always something to find. I went walking around the city the other day with my friends Camille and Mary, and we stumbled upon a tiny little cobble-stone square and had a little photo shoot. The next day we found out that the tiny square was actually where the existence of Oviedo began. Apparently two monks stood at that spot and decided to build a church, this attracted the attention of surrounding villages and even a king, who decided to move his kingdom here and thus Oviedo was born.

The main plaza of Oviedo is called “La Plaza de Escandalera”, and in the plaza is a statue of a women and her child. The actual name of the statue is “La Maternidad” but everyone here just calls it “La Gorda” (the fat woman). Around the edge of the plaza are rainbow colored benches that show support for the gay community and right across the street is a giant park called Campo de San Francisco. It’s like a tiny version of New York’s central park and it’s full of cool statues and busy vendors.

There is so much to tell about Oviedo, like for example, how stylish all the little kids are (seriously, I’ve seen a toddler in a full blown suit and tie), or how the waiters pour la sidra (a typical Oviedo drink made from apples) from above their  heads and into the glass without looking, but right now I’m afraid I don’t have time. I’m about to leave to see a silent Charlie Chaplin movie in the plaza. So I hope you’ve enjoyed this tiny glimpse of Oviedo, thanks for reading!

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It’s like my head lost five pounds! (weight loss tip: cut your hair)

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Mary and me eating pastries before I cut my hair PC: Camille

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PC: Mary

 

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The little cobblestone square where the Oviedo began PC: Camille

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It was hard trying to get my message across in Spanish. The hairdresser kept saying ‘segura?’ (are you sure?). PC: Catey

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One of the bigger streets, no cobblestone 😦 PC: Mary

La Belleza de España

  • *English begins in fourth paragraph*

Estaba tan cansada después del vuelo y lo que sucedió con mi equipaje que, por un momento, me olvide mi español casi completamente. Cuando llegue al hostel donde me quedaría por dos días en Madrid, la recepcionista me pregunto para mi reserva. Yo, pensaba que ella estaba ofreciéndome una cerveza, dije ‘No gracias, a mi no me gusta alcohol.’ …Soy una genia.

Pero después mi suerte cambio drásticamente, porque en eso momento mi amiga Mary llego. Ella no había tenido un problema con el equipaje como yo, pero yo había tomado una taxi y ella había tomado el bus entonces yo había llegado antes que ella. Después de saludarnos, Mary, mi papa, y yo, fuimos a ver la ciudad y a almorzar.

Madrid me recuerda de una mezcla entre Nueva York y Grecia. Hay los anuncios cubriendo las ventanas de las cuadras mas grandes como NY, pero también tiene la arquitectura vieja y elegante como en Grecia. Es una mezcla perfecta entre lo viejo y lo nuevo. Solo era un jueves pero La Plaza del Sol ya estaba muy repleta. Vi todos los tipos de personas en la calle; turistas como yo, empresarios caminando con prisa, ancianas sonriendo, niños gritando con risas, pobres pidiendo dinero, todo.

The last couple of days have been a blur. I am currently sitting in my new bedroom in Oviedo, trying not to give in to the call of the bed behind me (I must finish blogging!). For those who couldn’t read the above paragraphs, I’ll give you the run down. I was pretty tired after the flight and mix-up with my baggage so my Spanish was not at its prime. When I got to the hostel where we would be staying for two days in Madrid, the receptionist asked me for my reservation. Unfortunately, the Spanish word for reservation is ‘reserva’ and the Spanish word for a beer is ‘cerveza’. In my befuddled state those two words sounded exactly the same, so when the kind lady asked  for my reservation, I responded with ‘No thank you, I don’t like alcohol.’ Yeah, I’m off to a great start…

Madrid itself is quite beautiful. It reminds me of a mix between New York and Athens, Greece. There are advertisements all over the biggest squares just like New York, but among the modern day structures there are many buildings with beautiful Greek-like architecture that invoke feelings of ancientness and solemnity. Walking among Madrid, you feel the bustle of modern-day city life but also the insignificance of all of it compared to the ancient structures and civilizations of the past. Madrid is the perfect mix of the old and the new.

Although it was only a Thursday, the Plaza del Sol (which happened to be right outside my hostel) was already quite crowded. I was quite surprised by the level of diversity I saw. There were people from all over the world and from every walk of life; tourists like myself, businessmen and women talking loudly on their phones, old ladies smiling at passersby, young kids shouting with laughter and homeless sitting in darkened doorways. During the day, there was a feeling of busyness and a little chaos but during the night, things slowed down and almost everyone outside was dressed up and smiling.

The food situation in Madrid is quite interesting. The first restaurant we ate in was right off of the Plaza del Sol. The food from this particular restaurant was, in all honesty, quite disappointing. The pile of the sandwiches on display were made with a white, wonder-like bread that had no crusts and looked so processed that the pile looked like a cake with different layers of frosting. Later in the day, however, we found a Greek restaurant that was quite delicious and fairly priced (we got free chicken too, although I claim it was because our waiter was hitting on Mary). For dinner, we found another restaurant and had the chef’s choice of turkey with cheese sauce, which was quite good. The first after-dinner ice-cream was so delicious that Dad decided to get more at another place, but the second was so disappointing that he threw it away after a couple of bites. Thus, the food situation in Madrid is a mixed bag. Here are some of my observations: most of the food near really touristy areas is very expensive and not that good (definitely explore!), coffee here is actually more of an espresso with milk, and water isn’t a given drink during the meal so you must ask for it.

So there you have it! I hope y’all enjoyed reading and found the tips helpful. I gotta go now and figure out how to walk from my host mom’s house to the University tomorrow so I’m not late for class. Also, I just wanted to let everyone know that my suitcase was found and returned to me so I finally have a change of clothes!

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That architecture though!

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The Greek restaurant where Mary’s admirer gave us free chicken. The city is surprisingly clean!

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The highway outside the train station