España

ENTRY 1: 16/1/18

Murcia, España ~ Arriving

I’m not sure in which way I will write these entries… Spanish or English?! Spanglish?! Creo que si. Maybe I can set the goal to write more and more in Spanish as I go on and see how I improve. Today is my fifth day in Murcia, I love this place. I traveled around the city solo today and it was awesome. On the first day I arrived in Spain, I spent a night on my own in Madrid. My Madrid solo travel day was much more stressful, but that makes sense since I already know Murcia much better and Madrid es mucho más grande y intimidante. In Madrid, the hostel I stayed in was so comfortable and private, I spent a little extra money knowing that the first night was going to be hard and that I wanted to feel safe alone across the world for the first time. Today in Murcia, I went to the catedral which was STUNNING. It blows my mind how humans have created such insane dedications to their Gods. Even I was feeling spiritual in there, said a prayer or two.

I was really proud of myself today when I was walking home and I heard the sound of flamenco castañuelas and I followed them into this building, a school for arts. I asked this guy in Spanish about a class for beginners, I was so nervous but so happy that I even had the nerve to ask. They had nothing for me, but he recommended other places for me. That is another new objective for this trip. I hope I learn so much about traveling alone while I’m here and how to fearlessly be myself in a new place where there is very minimal english and I know no one.

I have already met some of my future classmates and my roommates through school orientation and moving into my apartment on calle ronda de levante. I already have many feelings about so many people on this trip, just affirms to me how incredible my friends at home are. Not going to be too quick to depend on anyone.

ENTRY 2: 1/2/18

Murcia, España ~ First impressions about university life and fellow international students

Woah it’s February! So many thoughts and things happening I don’t know if I can write them all.

It’s so true that nothing could have prepared me for this experience, I already feel myself growing in ways I couldn’t have imagined and ways I can’t articulate. The changes are subtle and massive at the same time. More than anything, I feel as though I am constantly being tested. My sense of self, my confidence, my independence, my passion for different cultures, and my language proficiency are all challenged on a daily basis. Today, I began writing because I finally found the spark of inspiration that the last several days have been lacking. This journey never stops going up and down. This, I have noticed in myself is often impacted by the people I surround myself with. I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing. I’m trying to control when negative people hurt me and not give them that power, or not let uninspiring people diminish my inspiration.

For example, sometimes I am exceptionally vulnerable when I am speaking Spanish because I feel anxious about not being understood or making mistakes that make me look dumb. I try not to let myself fear failure but I find it hard to control my anxiety when I walk into the city by myself and everything around me is so unfamiliar. I love that feeling, but sometimes when I don’t have energy to exert, I get nervous. In this state of nervousness, all it can take is a store clerk treating me like an idiot or being bothered by my inability to communicate, that can make me want to curl into a hole where everyone only speaks English and never come out again. There is also the opposite; when someone smiles at me and asks where I’m from and how I like Spain. That small bit of kindness can help carry me through even the hardest days.

Staying in the American bubble of unmotivated borrachos gets me down, and I need to make sure to seek out things and individuals that inspire me. I find it strange that study abroad programs attract the most interesting individuals trying to challenge themselves and learn while also attracting so many that are just looking to party. I need to practice mental control over what does and doesn’t affect me. As Lucy said, this is my study abroad experience, do what I need to do to be happy. Lucy is another American that I met in our advanced Spanish language class, she is from Vermont. She is my favorite. Before our university classes began, we did a two week Spanish class with a very sweet Murcian professor and about 8 Americans were accompanied by students from Italy and Portugal that had hardly taken any formal Spanish previously. However, those Italian and Portugese students well surpassed our Spanish skills by using a strange mix of their languages with Spanish and emphasis on a Spanish accent.

When I did have my first week of university classes, my first revelation was that Spaniards are wild. Please tell me any other university in the world that spends entire class periods debating the class schedule in order to work around partying on Thursday nights. Mind blowing. A bit uncomfortable being only one of six Erasmus students (what they call all international students) in the class, and hindering the other 70 Spaniards from changing their horarios (schedules). However, it is also a great bonding experience for those six Erasmus students. Professors are hard to understand, but basically all say they are here to help us and were once Erasmus themselves. My new Arabic class, after changing from the easiest one, is absurdly hard. Thankfully I have been in this position before with scary Arabic classes where I am the farthest behind and I know I am capable of making it through. It is exactly like Arabic my sophomore year when I thought I would die of embarrassment every time I opened my mouth. Except now, when students try to help me out, they translate the Arabic sentence for me into Spanish, and then of course sometimes I’m still confused. I know I’m going to grow so much in all of my classes. I just need to get my act together and study my butt off.

Highlight of the day: When I went to the bathroom after Español de América (a class on the various forms of Spanish used across Latin America and the United States), I ran into those two sweet girls from my old Arabic class who remembered my name, complimented it, and said they want to visit me in DC. We bonded over our mutual creepy love for the Arabic teaching assistant that participates in all of the class levels. He is easily the most gorgeous man I may have ever laid eyes on. The amount I could go into it is borderline embarrassing.

My romance with ****, this sweet boy from the north of Italy, was short lived. He speaks extremely minimal English and is just getting comfortable with Spanish, as am I. At least I leave with the language experience of trying to break it off with someone in a second language, hard enough in the first. He is wonderful and romantic and I really hope that we can be friends once time does its thing. He is a special person but I know I made the right decision about not getting involved. I prefer to not to let a boy distract me from this journey. Cheers today for finding inspiration to write!

ENTRY 3: 14/2/18

Águilas, España ~ Drunken Carnival de Águilas and romance

Happy dumb Valentine’s Day, I’m dumb and back on with that Italian boy. I’m anxiously waiting to see what **** left in my house for me and debating what the hell I want to say. I am literally hiding in my Canadian roommate’s room waiting for him to leave me chocolates because I don’t want to confront him and it was supposed to be a surprise that my roommate was “helping to orchestrate”. I really confused this poor boy at Carnival of Alguilás this weekend. It really got the best of me, not in too terrible of a way, but a little bit wasn’t like myself. In this circumstance, I think it’s a good thing and a bad thing.

The Erasmus Student Network from La Universidad de Murcia arrived to Aguilás around 5pm with costumes on and alcohol in hand. We brought with us: multiple large bottles of sangria from Mercadona, a 5 gallon empty water jug filled with suspicious jungle-sangria, and a water bottle of vodka. The event security would not let us bring that many filled containers inside of the event, so we of course had to sit by the beach and all chug all of them. The Americans taught everyone else how to play what are the odds to get the job done and the Mexicans shared a game where you had to go around the circle and count. Each person going around the circle had to chug for longer than the person before them.

When I tried to stand up to now enter the carnival, I ate shit immediately, never done that after drinking before. I was wandering around carnival with these friends that I now felt very close to. When I first entered, I thought to myself that I was too intoxicated to be in such a large crowd. Anyways, I didn’t mean to get that drunk, but that tends to happen with a very excited group of Mexican, Italian, and American international new-found friends. It truly was a fantastic time surrounded by incredible people, so maybe not regrettable actually.

Anyways, I will now explain why I am hiding on the floor of my roommates room waiting for **** to leave. Somewhat regret dancing with **** in front of all of our friends and making out with him on the beach at this carnival. Only because I’ve now confused him and given him hope. I get mad at myself for not wanting to be with him but then when I think about him saying “puedo cambiar tu vida…” makes me sure in my choice, joder. I don’t need a boyfriend to take care of me or make me feel better when I’m sad on this venture and when I’m having a bad day. This is what he promised he can save me from.

I want someone to talk about music with, to inspire more adventure, I think those are the reasons to seek love, and he just isn’t that for me. I don’t need someone to save me from sadness, I’m already pretty good at that. Of course a sweet human being to provide emotional support would make me happy, but if that is all that I am getting, I’m better off alone. When I feel alone and want a companion, quiero un electric spark, algo especial. I’ve never experienced that type of love. My ex boyfriend was pretty damn close, maybe that’s the closest I’ll ever get. But part of me hopes for more, if it exists. My biggest fear is if I’m asking too much. Oh well, only time will tell. Time for Arabic class, the only class I actually can’t be late for. Cheers!

Entry 4: 16/2/18

Murcia, España ~ A date night

I went on a date with **** tonight, I really do learn so much from trying to engage romantically with someone as we both stumble through our second language. It is a challenge that I am hesitant about but enjoying and growing from. I do care for him, but am just playing that American back and forth commitment game, his Italian intentions cannot exactly understand what I am trying to accomplish through our time together.

Nonetheless, tonight we went to a really good movie for five euros a ticket on Tuesdays that was in a mix of basque, Spanish, French, and English. Wowza. I will never forget or conversation about bidets where he was trying to understand how I could possibly wipe my butt after shitting without one. Again, I am trying to understand this question in Spanish and he is trying to gracefully phrase it in Spanish. He was so confused, and said “oh, so I think I understand. American girls are just very dirty then, like the French.” Um, no. I didn’t really know how to tackle that one.

Entry 5: 24/2/18

Ronda, España ~ The fairytale trip: cross-country road trip through Southern Spain

“You can sleep when you’re dead!” I hear my Mom’s voice in my head. Sleep is a wonderful thing, but she is not wrong. Tomorrow I WILL wake up at 6:30am and go on a sunrise run. Please give me strength to get up that early! If I will it I can do it!

Ronda is exactly like a fairytale. There are rolling green and flower spotted hills, walls decorated in white flowers, stone bridges, constant sunset lighting, and deep valleys that look straight out of a fantasy novel. Two American friends and I, after much research of whether or not we should, decided to rent a car (even though we may or absolutely may not have had international drivers’ licenses) and drove from Murcia through five of southern Spain’s famous pueblos blancos – Ronda, Grazalema, Zahara de la Sierra, and Setenil de las Bodegas. I have a feeling this is going to be one of the best risky decisions I will every make in my life.

Driving through Andalusia today was beyond surreal. I need to road trip through the United States more often. I should always seek adventure no matter where I am in the world. I loved seeing the signs written in Spanish and Arabic along our roads, the most perfect blend of my learning passions. I think I picked the most wonderful place to study; with my Spanish major, Arabic minor, and forever desire to explore the culture of Southern Spain. I got so excited when I could read the sign that said Almería in Arabic, I mean I actually flipped out a lot of immediately bragged about my insane intelligence to my two travel companions; Lucy and Emma. The terrain in this part of the south is much different than Murcia. On this one drive, we have seen dry dessert mountains, green fields (very few), and mysterious snowcapped mountains. All on our way to our destination.

Again, Ronda is an insane fairytale, the cliche word that everyone uses to describe southern Spain for a very legitimate reason, because that is exactly what it is like. The streets are white and cobblestoned and tranquila and dare I say magical. The views are breathtaking, one day I should walk with my love through these streets. I already feel this love exploring with Emma and Lucy! They are such sweet positive girls and incredibly refreshing to be around. I am so thankful for this perfect weekend. I will try all in my power to treasure it.

Entry 6: 25/2/18 ~ Ronda -> Grazalema -> Zahara -> Setenil -> Ronda

It is day number two of our road trip adventure. The intention of the day was to live in el presente. I think I did a great job. I never feel like I succeed at taking in the moment no matter how hard I try, but maybe trying so hard defeats the purpose. Andalusia has called to me for a long time and now I know why. Some of the most calm and natural beauty I have ever seen. This reminded me of mountains and houses in Blacksburg, which made me more appreciate of where I live… and inspired me to explore more. It reminded me of gorgeous mountains in Ecuador.

Tragically I did not meet my goal of waking up early in the morning, I really did try. Take two will be attempted in 5 hours! I want to get one last look at the main bridge in Ronda. But I did accomplish another awesome goal I set today! I had a conversation in one of the pueblos (Zahara) with locals! An adorable and beautiful family from Cadiz talked to us for a bit. They also tried to get us to change our route like the guys at the gas station (they tried to get us to come to the feria they were going to, also more to the West), Spaniards are some of the best hosts on the globe, I’m convinced.

All the colors, animals, temperatures, vegetation, narrow streets, and people I saw today were so life-changing and made me feel so thankful and so much joy to be alive. That coupled with my first actual jamón, vino, great conversations with Emma and Luc about love, parents, siblings, where we were… all of this made for a truly unforgettable day. One of the best of my life.

I cannot wait until I return to this gorgeous spot on earth one day with more loved ones.

Entry 7: 26/2/18 ~ The baddest flamenco bitch

This week, I successfully woke up early and explored Ronda alone before we had to drive back to Murcia. We successfully avoided a crisis situation during our cross-country adventure. I attended my FIRST FLAMENCO CLASS IN SPAIN. I am now officially a bad ass fearless travel bitch. I could not possibly be more proud of myself! This was such a successful week and I just cannot believe I had the courage to walk into class with those beautiful Spanish women only speaking in Spanish with their rapid fire clicking heals and be as awesome as I was. I am now enrolled in flamenco classes once a week at a dance studio near my neighborhood, it is expensive for my minimal euro budget. I think this class, along with this weekend will be some of my absolute favorite experiences ever in life. No exaggeration.

Entry 8: 28/2/18 ~ This week’s inspiration

I had a long conversation with my landlord Luis who talks incredibly fast for someone that always interacts with the many international students that he houses. He also has the thickest Murcian accent on the Costa Calida. We are going to make a fancy ham and seafood feast. I absolutely need to practice Spanish more, in every single step of my life while I am here. El tiempo es ahora, no puedo esperar más!! I had an incredible conversation with the receptionist at my dance studio, se llama Pilar. Successful conversations in Spanish still, no matter how many times they happen, still make my entire day and fill me with so much pride that I have arrived at this step in my language journey. I worked so hard to get here and I wanted to be proficient for so long, it was the first career aspiration I ever had before realizing that was what it was. Another success point this week: I got lost and didn’t freak out – I bought some snacks. Lesson learned: when stressed about getting lost and dying in the streets of Murcia, or just stressed in general, find and purchase the closest crackers and cookies. I am currently on a video call with Hannah (my sister), that is why I am writing down shorter sentences, but had to write down some notes about all of the things that have inspired me over the last couple days.

Entry 9: 8/3/18 ~ I am a woman.

Happy International Women’s Day!! Today, I am feeling many things. Because of the holiday, because I am on my period, and because I am in Spain. My period emotions are making me feel lonely, in need of anyone to give me attention – how annoying of me. When I drink tonight, I cannot let that emotion flare up – I need to let my other feelings take over! The feelings I’m having about being a woman are honor, pride, and confidence. Today, I am honored to be born with my intuition, my femininity, the ability to create life, and live this life as a woman and everything that that brings. I am proud at how I have grown into the woman I am today. And confident in who that strong woman is – physically, mentally, and towards others. I love women!! So much thankfulness that I am not a stinky boy.

The last couple of days have been a rollercoaster most likely due to my period. I got lost in my thoughts about International Women’s Day and wanted to post on my Fitsta. Now I have to get ready to go to Gabriele’s for our weekly family dinner of international students, and to help our Italian friends deal with their depression every Sunday evening that they are not having dinner with their actual families. Goals for tonight: Be happy, get wasted, dance a lot, speak in Spanish, stop getting in my head about things that don’t matter.

Entry 10: 11/3/18 ~ Friends becoming international family

Buenas. I am currently sitting outside on a beautiful Sunday in Murcia at a park called Jardín de Isaac Peral. I found it while running one day. I went to the left of my apartment instead of my normal route to the right towards campus and the catedral. If I go much farther to the left it is a bit of a rough neighborhood with construction sights, gas stations, trash in the streets, broken class, buildings under intense constructions, parked cars, and other fairly obvious signs that I shouldn’t run too much farther in that direction. Thankfully, I found this lovely part during that excursion! There are not many spots of green in Murcia, at least none that I have found yet. Per usual, I am laying out with tiny shorts pulled up and just a bikini top while my Murcian friends all have their jackets with hoods and jeans on. Lucy and her friend, Will, from Vermont will soon join me.

This little park has an interesting cement archway that looks like a wave. My favorite thing about this park is the palm trees, talls ones and short shady ones. If I look in some directions I feel like I’m somewhere tropical. There is also a tall cement structure with three pillars that have water cascading down the sides, also beautiful. When I thought of myself in Spain when I was back in the States, of course I couldn’t picture exactly this, but laying down in this park feels like Spain to me. I love my perfectly sized Murcia and thankful for weekends I can spend here, when I am not traveling. My goal for the next weekend I am here is to find another park like this one, a new restaurant, a new bar, or some type of live music.

My flamenco class also makes me feel like I am in Spain. When I walk by myself to class at night with my phones in playing my Estrella Morena playlist, I can’t help but dance as I walk and swing myself around poles that I see. Those evenings of flamenco class are exactly what I dreamed of. I am so fortunate. With my beautiful instructor, Leo, who weirdly reminds me of Mari Carmen with her piercing blue eyes, dark black hair, inviting smile, and the way you can’t stop watching her when she dances, and even when she speaks really.

Tuesday/Sunday night dinners at Gabriele’s make me feel at home, in the best way possible. I love the Italian way of gathering for dinner like family and including everyone and talking for hours on end. I know I will miss that a lot. Maybe it is a tradition I can bring back to the U.S. and share with friends. Being with Marrión and Ornella also makes me feel like home, the two sweet French girls that I met in my orientation Spanish class. We connected instantly though our struggled not being Italian or Portugese learning Spanish and Ornella’s ability to rap in English. Whenever the girls some from San Javier and we eat together(the beach town about 45 minutes outside of the city, they drive together, Ornella is one of the only international friends with a car), I am so happy. It is like home because it is such a strong friendship with beautiful people in a place where I do not have my normal family and friends that are like family. Again, how lucky am I. When I am lonely here I need to seek out these moments that don’t just make me feel happy, but make me feel like me. I will miss talking in our broken Spanish together so much. When I get back to the U.S., I have to be so obnoxious about making all my friends continue to speak with me in Spanish.

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