¿Hablas Español?

ImageI’ll be back in 10 minutes (more or less).

I’ve been home for about a week now.  It’s weird, to say the least.  Everything is the same, my house has to many cats, my dad is obsessed with a new (ugly) car, my nephew is going through his terrible twos, and my grandmother is drinking her PBR in the corner. Yet, somehow everything is also different.  It’s always hard to remember that everyone else’s lives move on while you are away.  It also makes me sad that the last four months feel like a dream.  Did the last four months really happen?  If it wasn’t for all the cheap souvenirs crowding my room and the jet lag, I wouldn’t know.  I’ve been avoiding writing this last blog post, but I know I need to now, before I forget anything.

Everyone keeps asking me, how was Spain?  I answer, “It was great.  I had a lot of fun.”  They normally move on to something else after that.  Wow, is that all I have to say about it?  I guess I’ve finally realized that I really can never explain my time abroad and I’m okay with that.  It is an experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life.  In fact, yesterday my mom had my grandmother’s Christmas present delivered to the house.  My mom came running upstairs and woke me up,

“Jaclyn! Are you awake?”
“No.”
“Well get up, the men are here to set up Mom-Mom’s shuffle board and two of them are from Granada, Spain!”

Woah!  My host family was from Granada and talked non-stop about it.  I came rushing down, hungover from the night before at the sports bar with my dad and looking fabulous.  Who cares?  It’s just an old Spaniard setting up a shuffleboard.  False.  I came down to six supermodel looking men, looking like I was 12 in my oversized Backstreet Boys t-shirt.  Thanks for the warning, Mom.  I was surprised when the Andalucian didn’t tell me “Oh, tienes mala cara.”  You have bad face.  I got over it, sat downstairs and spoke to them in Spanish.  It was so comforting to hear the familiar accents, gestures, and phrases.  I then quickly texted my host family and told them.  They responded by telling me, “Maybe we won’t have to come all the way out to the United States for your wedding!” Ha, I don’t think my 90’s boy band shirt impressed them.

photo 1   The days leading up to the end were emotional and stressful.  I ended my time there the same way I came, with too much of everything, not enough space, and of course waiting until the last minute to pack my bags.  My second to last night I spent with my host family.  We went to my host sister’s holiday concert at her school where she sang “All I Want For Christmas Is You” in her cute little accent.  Later, Beli made me a special seafood dinner and even brought out the champagne.  We spent the entire night talking, laughing and watching La Voz (The Voice) until 2am.  My little sister was so excited because One Direction was on the show that night.  We were all curled up on the couch together, Jorge, Beli, Sergio, Berta and me.  It wasn’t sad, it was just a normal night with my family.

The next day I spent every second packing (when I wasn’t out buying more suitcases).  Berta was my little helper and didn’t leave my side.  I gave her mundane tasks such as wrapping up trinkets and she photo 3was thrilled when I gave her my extra clothes and hair straightener.  She even told me in English, “Jaclyn, I am going to kill the next host student so you can come back!”  Um, okay Berta. My mom facetimed me to make sure I was actually packing, she knows me, and Beli came in to say hi.  Before I knew it, both my mom and Beli were crying and I was standing awkwardly in the middle.  Beli then went running downstairs and I followed.
“Beli, are you okay?”
“Sí!  I’m not going to cry anymore, you need sandwiches for the plane!  I’m going to make you sandwiches!”
I laughed and 30 minutes later Beli had four sandwiches ready for me.  She’s just like my mom, needs to keep busy to not be upset.  I stayed up until about 2am that night curled up on the couch with Beli and my sleeping host dad.  She told me that she loves me and that even though these past four months have gone by so fast, that she feels like she has known me for a long time.

Before going to bed, Berta came into my room with tears in her eyes.  She looked up at me,

“Adios, Jaclyn.” Goodbye, Jaclyn
 I corrected her, “No es adios, Berta, es hasta luego” It’s not goodbye, Berta, it’s see you later.
 A smile just barely reached her eyes and she responded, “Nunca es adios.”  It’s never goodbye.

Berta gave me a big hug and went to bed.

My alarm went off early the next morning and little Beli helped me carry my obnoxiously large suitcases down the stairs.  I handed her my keys and she hugged me one last time.  “Mi hija.”  My Daughter. She whispered in my ear.  I got into the cab and was on my way.  It was a strange feeling.  I was used to leaving my Sevillan home every weekend, but this time I wasn’t coming back.

150 euros in over weight bag fees, 10 hours of flying, and 2 crappy airplane meals later, I was back at JFK.  The flight attendants said “Adios” to me as I exited.  I quickly replied, “Gracias, adios” not photo.PNGknowing the next time I’d be using my spanish and walked out.  My dad was waiting for me outside. We walked to his car, loaded my bags, and I lost it.  I hadn’t cried once while leaving Spain or on the plane, but it finally hit me that my time there was really over and that I wasn’t coming back to my Sevillan family that Monday like all the past trips.  Just then, I received a bunch of text messages from my host family telling me how much they love me and miss me and that they will see me so soon.  We’ve spoken every single day since then.  Yesterday, Beli texted me saying her very first host student from four years ago is coming this summer to visit her. “See Jaclyn, even after all this time we are still close.  One day I’ll be going to your graduation, your wedding, and to meet your first baby.  I love you, hija.”

So now that I’m back in the states, I have souvenirs, photos, plane ticket stubs, 10 inch shorter hair, a spanish keyboard on my phone, and a chipped tooth from a cruzcampo.  I had a hell of a time abroad.  I didn’t study for a single exam and didn’t understand half of my Spanish lectures, but I learned more this semester than all of my years in school combined. I’ve spent the last ten years learning an obnoxious amount of Spanish grammar.  The funny thing is, I just realized that grammar really has nothing to do with being fluent in the language.  What does it mean to be fluent?  It means finally being able to be your true self.  You can be funny, flirty, insulting, witty, rude, and most importantly for me, sarcastic.  You can hug and give dos besos to strangers on the street.  You can greet your neighbors.  You can eat lunch at 4pm and dinner at 10pm.  You can siesta like a pro.  You can order something without the waiter answering in English.  You can be confident.  You can be an Andalucian.  You can be YOU.  So this brings me back to one of my very last interactions in Sevilla.  The taxi cab driver looked at me as I climbed into his car and asked, “¿Hablas español?” I looked back at him in his rearview mirror and with my signature smirk, I answered, “Sí, hablo español.”

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No me ha dejado.  Hasta luego Sevilla y mi familia.  Siempre tiene mi corazón.  Gracias para todo y voy a regresar pronto.  Los quiero.  “Nunca es adiós.”

No te Vayas, Miss Jaclyn!

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For the past semester, I’ve spent every Tuesday morning teaching English to a class of fourth graders at a local elementary school.  Anyone who knows me, knows just how comical this is.  This being because 1. I don’t like kids and 2. Kids don’t really like me and 3. I don’t wake up before noon.  When I showed up on my first day, surprisingly on time but completely unprepared, I was greeted by a classroom of rowdy 11 year olds with the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen.  They stared at me like I was a movie star and were in awe the first time I spoke (way too fast might I add).  The first day, their teacher told them they could ask me anything they wanted as long as it was in English.  Oh, crap.  Kids are brutal. The questions started out easy enough.  In cute little accents they asked, “Where are you from?”  “Why are you in Spain?”  “Do you like fútbol?” When we all grew more comfortable with each other the kids got down to business.  “Do you have a boyfriend?”  “Do you like the Sevilla team or the Betis team” (Sevilla’s BIGGEST sports rivalry) “Do you like Justin Beiber?” and my personal favorite, “Are there a lot of blondes in America?”  I left that class feeling more awake than ever and I hadn’t even had my cafe con leche yet.

ImageThe next classes I came armed with Powerpoints, games, and prizes.  I may not have learned everyone’s names, but I quickly deciphered their different personalities.  It’s hilarious how you can tell who is the class clown, the nerd, the girly girl, the teacher’s pet, etc.  They were so young, but already so distinct and unique.  One of my favorite student’s name was Lucia and she has down syndrome.  She was the very first one I noticed in the class, not because of how awesomely she rocked that extra chromosome, but because she immediately came running up to me and gave me a huge hug and dos besos.  She then recited in one breath, “Hi. Miss Jaclyn.  I am Lucia.  I am good.  Thank you!”  The teacher told me she had been practicing that with her for days. Each class after that, Lucia continued to greet me with a big hug and kiss and simply referred to me as “Guapa.”  I’m really going to miss her.  She had a heart of gold and I began to really look forward to my Tuesday morning hugs with Lucia.

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This Tuesday was my last day teaching.  The teacher had asked me to give a lesson on Christmas in America.  We spent the hour watching clips of classic Christmas movies, singing carols, and exchanging stories.  I told them all about Santa Claus and they told me about the Three Kings that bring them presents in January.  We ended on an ear screeching rendition of “Frosty the Snowman.”  Christian, the lovable trouble maker, then presented to me a card from the entire class.  It was filled with little notes and their signatures.  They asked me to take pictures with them and Lucia demanded plenty of selfies of just her and me.  They told me they loved me and to come back to teach them as soon as I can.  “No te vayas Miss Jaclyn!”  Don’t leave miss Jaclyn!  “Stay here!”

Their innocent request tugged at my heart.  Fighting to hold back tears I didn’t even know I had, I told them, “I wish I could kids, I really wish I could.”

 

Roma, Italia

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There is something I need to admit right up front. My only expectation I had for Rome never was fulfilled.  I was not discovered by a Roman back stabbing pop star as an Italian singer’s doppelgänger and forced to play a sold out concert at the colosseum.  But I guess Rome was still pretty cool.

If you aren’t a girl born in the 90’s then the above reference probably meant as much to you as whatever the creepy Italian men yelled at me on the street this weekend.  Scusi?  Anyways, what I knew about Rome before this trip consisted of a mixture between Roman Holiday, The Lizzie McGuire Movie, and facebook stalking my “Big” who studied abroad there last year.  I arrived at the airport late Thursday night and quickly realized why my flight was so cheap.  Besides the fact I flew the classy RyanAir, I also flew into the other airport.  Let’s just say they seemed to struggle to even get taxis to show up there.  My girlfriends and I waited in the obnoxiously long cue for one to show up.  After 20 minutes of ignoring our frozen bodies and the gypsies trying to get us to go in their fake taxis, a cab finally came our way.  It came through the designated “Official Taxi Area,” had all the right markings outside, and had a meter inside.  We told him the address to our hostel and we were on our way or so we thought.  Silly us thinking all the official taxi signs meant anything in Italy.  After driving for about 10-15 minutes the driver pulled over to the side of the road.  “Here is zee uh metro.  Should be openuh.  You need to gettazt here.”  Great, because the three American girls decided to wait 20 minutes for a taxi so he could instead take us to the metro in the middle of the night in a foreign country.  Let me just grab my bag and be on my way!  Since I had no desire to change my “Lizzie McGuire” experience to “Taken” we refused to get out.  After pointless arguing, he finally took us to a different taxi and said he was his friend.  Of course having his sworn personal reference set all of our minds at ease.  We told this new dude that under no circumstances are we leaving this cab until we were at our hostel and that we are not paying more than the originally promise 30 euro cab fair.  The guy ended up being nice enough and explained to us in broken spanish that the other driver was not a regular cab driver and if you do not have your taxi license, you cannot enter inside the city.  We were still confused, but decided to take it for what it was.  We finally made it to our hostel, “The Yellow,” frustrated and tired.  How to explain The Yellow?  The Yellow is like “The cool mom” that every friend group has. Let’s you get drunk at the house, be as loud as you want, encourages safe sex, and makes a mean breakfast.  But no matter how cool she is, she’s still your friend’s mom aka place was good, but still a hostel.

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After a great night of sleep, we woke up ready to do as the Romans do.  To me, this meant pasta, pizza, and gelato (yes, and not or).  Our first stop was the Colosseum.  We joked while walking out of the metro that this place better be staring us in the face when we walked up.  We weren’t laughing two seconds later when we emerged from underground to see the overwhelming site of the Colosseum right in front of us.  After messing up nearly all of my touristy trips before, we finally remembered to buy all of our tour tickets ahead of time.  We got to run past the insanely long lines and go straight into one of the most incredible structures of all time.  I tried imagining what this place looked like back in its day, the amount of bloodshed that happened in front of me, and the excitement that filled the stadium.  The Romans definitely weren’t afraid to party.

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After another pasta lunch followed by some Nutella gelato we went to go find the metro to head to the Pantheon.  Some blind turns later, we saw an enormous roman “ruin” standing in front of us.  Well this looks promising.  Once inside the Pantheon, we looked at all of the statues of the gods and took a few pictures.  It was very different than we expected and I think we left about 15 minutes later a little disappointed.  We blamed this on our our exhaustion and decided to go back to the hostel for some rest.  Instead of finding the nearby metro stop, we ended up accidentally running into the Trevi Fountain.  Convenient. Luckily, I came fully prepared for my wish at the Trevi.  I dug through my bag to find the single quarter I had brought with me from the states, closed my eyes, and let it fly.

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We woke up the next morning rather early.  Courtney’s dad had very generously gifted us with a private tour of the Vatican State.  We rushed over to our meeting spot where we met our adorableSONY DSC tour guide.  “Hi, my name is Angelica.  Like the angel!”  Precious.  The Vatican is something I have wanted to see my entire life.  I could not believe I was actually about to go inside.  All I could think about was my late grandmother on my dad’s side, Lola.  My great uncle, Tito Benny, was the ambassador to the Vatican for the Philippines.  Lola was his only sister and he loved to spoil her rotten.  One day, he showed up on he door step in Pennsylvania and told her he was taking her to the Vatican to meet Pope John Paul II.  Lola left with the clothes on her back and let her big brother take care of everything.  Here, she shook hands with one of the most beloved popes of all time, played the piano for him (she was a concert pianist), and even got to meet Rod Stewart.  Who, by the way, met the Pope in pink pants.  Our tour guide took us through the Pope’s private gardens, Rafael’s apartments, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peters Basilica.  One site was even more spectacular than the next.  It was life changing.  Also, our tour guide was hilarious and told us about all of the different scandals that have gone on here through out the years.  The past popes really did like to party.  They used to be way more of a _DSC0394political figure, almost king-like, in comparison to the religious influence they hold today.  They would live in the Vatican with their mistresses and many children even.  Some popes were poisoned, assassinated, and lived the lives of the rich and famous.  Also, she told us about the people who worked at the Vatican.  Personally, I really enjoyed all of her stories about Michelangelo.  He was a sassy little feller.  I think I would’ve liked this guy.  We learned that pretty much every time he was asked to do something, he was pretty pissed about it. Poor Michelangelo, always having the pope asking him to come decorate the Vatican state. Turns out, he never actually knew how to paint since he was a sculptor and architect.  One of his competitors at this time knew this and when the pope asked who he should hire to paint the Sistine Chapel this guy suggested Michelangelo.  He figured Michelangelo would start painting so horribly that the pope would fire him immediately and Michelangelo would never be hired again.  Instead, the stubborn Michelangelo decided he was going to paint this Screen Shot 2013-12-09 at 8.24.57 AMplace and that it was going to be damn good.  So his first shot at painting was the Sistine Chapel.  Talk about beginners luck.  Walking into the Sistine Chapel was incredible.  It was silent besides the security guards screaming over the loud speakers for everyone to be silent.  They are very strict about not taking pictures inside and are more than willing to knock your camera on the ground or take away your memory card (challenge accepted).  Our tour guide informed us that this had nothing to do with the preservation of the artwork, but was just a way to make people buy their photos.  So I decided to use those years of secretly snapchatting in class to my advantage and snuck in some classic selfies.

Now it was time for one of my favorite parts of the trip.  St. Peters Basilica brought tears to my eyes immediately.  It was beyond beautiful.  I’m not overly religious by any means, but you could just feel how powerful this place was.  The soft light shone through the massive windows and danced across the different precious metals.  We walked slowly through with our necks craned in every direction.  We even got to see some mummified popes, cool!  I am not nearly a good enough writer to describe St. Peters Basilica, but whether you are religious or not, you should go there.  It is breath taking.  A few rosaries and bottles of holy water later, we finally forced ourselves to leave.

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That night we stuffed ourselves with more pizza, desserts, and wine than you could imagine.  Courtney, Cindy and I sat at the table laughing and sharing abroad stories for hours.  The musical sound of Italian and the smell of fresh baked pizza pies filled the air.  It was the perfect evening.  We _DSC0513woke up early the next morning with a nice headache to remind us of this and a serious dent in my wallet. We rushed off to St. Peters Basilica once again to try to make a morning mass.  Turns out people line up at about 5 am to get in so we were ushered into the square along with everyone else.  We didn’t really know why everyone was waiting out there since it was obvious no one was getting in.  With our curiosity peaked, we decided to wait it out a few minutes.  Next thing we know, the crowd erupts and the Pope walks out to the window second to the right waving to the audience.  He then read something in Italian for the next 20 minutes blessing the crowd.  We were beside ourselves.  We had no idea that the pope would be up there, outside of the church, and were in complete awe.  Did I really just hear the pope speak live?  This is the one time I will ever say without sarcasm that I felt blessed (without the #).  Okay, so with a little sarcasm.

After one last stop at a nearby pizzeria I was off to the airport.  Turns out the shuttle was full and a dozen of us were left stranded and short on cash.  I yelled out that I was grabbing a cab to the airport if 3 others wanted to split the 30 euro fare with me.  Next thing I know I am in a cab with 3 travelers from Dublin, Paris, Brussels and an angry Italian cab driver.  The lady from Ireland was fluent in both English and French. The driver spoke to me in Spanish, I spoke to the Irish lady in English, she spoke to the Parisian in French, and the Brussels lady seemed pretty hung over and snoozed.  I had to laugh to myself a bit.  This was my last trip abroad and I know this is something I would never have done 4 months before.  Here we are, five different countries sharing one cab ride to the airport and speaking all these different languages to communicate.  The only thing strange about this was how normal it all felt.  Within four months abroad, I’ve been to 9 different countries, a countless amount of cities, and met people from all over the world.  I’ve embarrassed myself more times than I can remember.  I have tried more food than I ever could have imagined. I learned how to say hello, thank you, beer, and bathroom in over 5 different languages.  And here I am, ignoring the angry grunts of our cab driver and the funny sounding languages surrounding me in this little taxi in Rome.  Smiling to myself, I realized once again how small the world truly is, how similar people really are, and no matter what color the passport, sometimes everyone just needs their own Roman holiday.

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Amsterdam, Netherlands

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“Coffee” shops, shrooms, and prostitutes: You guessed it; I went to Amsterdam.  It was quite the trip.  Just like every other college student abroad, I had heard plenty about Amsterdam.  Most of this involved drugs and feeling higher than a high school kid on 4/20, but what isn’t mentioned enough is how absolutely beautiful this place is.  Canals line all of the streets and the Christmas décor topped everything off.  I was in complete awe as I simultaneously took in the sites and dodged the crazy bicyclists. Fun fact, you need a cross walk to get across the bike lane and yes, I did get clipped a few times.

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I arrived in Amsterdam late in the afternoon Friday night.  As soon as I stepped outside and took a whiff of the air, I knew I was in the right place.   I found my best friend Erica and we were off.  We went to go grab some coffee and soon were starving.  It was time for the Christmas market!  Amsterdam is very touristy and makes everything available to us abroad students in one spot.  The Christmas market had every kind of food, treat, and souvenir one could possibly ask for.  We decided _DSC0049to dive into the culture and try everything, starting with some chocolate drenched waffles and crepes.  Yum.  After stopping at a few of the corner stores and walking around a bit more, we went to the Van Gogh Museum.  When we first walked in, we thought we were in the wrong place; we were very confused.  They had a DJ playing, the first floor was a bar, and the walls were covered with projections of Van Gogh’s trippy artwork dancing across the walls.  It was definitely a very different environment than I was expecting.  Erica is a history buff and I am an art nerd so this was the perfect place for us to spend our evening.  I was so entranced by the different beautiful paintings.  The longer I looked at them, the more they seemed to come alive and change with every angle.  It was definitely very dreamlike.  I highly recommend this museum/bar if you ever find yourself playing in Amsterdam.

We couldn’t really decide what to do and kept finding ourselves walking in circles.  The beautiful uniform canals definitely make this place labyrinth like and impossible to navigate for the directionally challenged like me.  Eventually, after a few confused looks from the people who watched us walk past them about three times, we decided to just make our way back to the Christmas market.  I was definitely not complaining though.  I was very content with my white chocolate with sprinkles covered apple.  Who needs alcohol when you have chocolate?

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Several wrong buses later, we finally made it back to our hotel for a much-needed night of sleep.  The next day, we actually woke up on time.  I would say it was because we wanted to go see the historical aspects of Amsterdam, but I really think it was our need for more chocolate waffles.  Oh well, whatever works.  Our first stop was to the Anne Frank House.  It was a failure.  The online tickets were sold out and the line was wrapped over a block around.  We decided to settle for a few pictures _DSC0249outside and an online tour.  We then got some smoking hot coffee to fight off the cold and headed over to Vondelpark to relax and enjoy the day.  We sat here and took in the sites and the people until we decided it was time for yet another sweet Amsterdam treat.We followed this up with a beautiful sunset canal tour.  It was nice to be off of our feet and relaxing after a long day of site seeing.  Here we got to see every famous building from world renowned museums to the largest floating Chinese restaurant in Europe.  I’m not sure how many other floating Chinese restaurants there are in Europe, but apparently it is quite the accomplishment.    That night we headed out to Dam Square to finally enjoy the nightlife.  Amsterdam’s bars and clubs did not disappoint in the least.

The next morning, we woke up at 11 and quickly called down for a late check out.  Around 3pm we finally made it out and knew we only had one last thing to check off of our list: The Red Light District.  I knew this is where all of the fun really happened, but did not know of any specifics.  As more and more sex shops appeared, I continued to ask Erica, “Is this the Red Light District?”  She would shake _DSC0290her head and tell me I’ll know when we are there.  Then I saw the red lights, but of course that’s not what gave it away.  Each red light lined window held a different woman seductively posing or casually checking her phone while waiting for their next client.  Yes, I snuck in some pictures, but no I’m not posting them on here because I’m still unsure how I feel about this.  My initial reaction was to laugh, my typical awkward _DSC0288response.  Then I started to feel bad.  I couldn’t imagine a worse life and I didn’t understand how something like this could be legal.  Later, someone brought up a good point to me.  Prostitution happens in every single country, but at least here the women are safe and protected.  They have licenses just like any other profession and if they are ever in danger they can have the cops there within a few minutes.  I’m still not fully convinced, but it was a good viewpoint to consider.  We stopped at some more souvenir shops to buy some weird Amsterdam trinkets then were on our way.

In the end, I’d say it was a pretty wild weekend.  We definitely took advantage of the touristy aspects of this place and enjoyed the beautiful weather and city.  The people were extremely nice and gorgeous.  At every turn of the head there was another potential super model.  I wouldn’t say it is the most cultural place in the world, but if you are looking for a good time, I would definitely recommend a trip here.

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Prague

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In the fourth grade, a new girl moved onto my court.  Yes, I referred to Cento Court as MY court and was not afraid to let this other girl know it.  She was brunette, pigeon toed, and I immediately deemed her annoying.  We did not hit it off right away to say the least.  However, over the next few months we bonded over our love for razor scooters and heath bar ice cream.  Eventually, she became a little less annoying and I became a just little less bratty.  We decided to be friends. Obviously, the first step to any friendship is making a club together.  Our club was called the Kool Kids Klub. One day, when Erica and I were making our Kool Kids Klub posters, my older sister walked down with a horrified look on her face when she saw KKK hanging up all around our garage.  She quickly suggested that we change the words to start with C’s and to call it C Cubed.  We didn’t understand why, but we figured high school kids always knew what was cooler and changed it.

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This situation basically described our friendship ever since; never knowing what’s going on, but always coming out with a good story.  Erica goes to Chico State aka she is crazier than me in every way, shape, and form.  When we get together, she is always my bad (good) influence.  So when she asked me to come visit her in Prague this past weekend, I packed up my highest heels, bought an extra bottle of advil, took out some cash and was on my way.  Upon landing, I was greeted with the ice cold weather of the Czech Republic.  I skipped the bathroom and went running out to where Erica said she’d meet me.  In typical Erica fashion, she wasn’t there.  Another reason why we are friends, we are both perpetually late.  So I sat and waited with a huge pumpkin spice latte and chocolate muffin.  What?  The cold makes me hungry!  30 minutes later, Erica graced me with her presence and we went running into each other’s arms.  It was then time to catch each other up on our lives since it has been about 24 hours since our last skype session.

ImageMy first move was to raid her closet for the warm clothing I severely lacked.  Then Erica brought out tickets to the ballet!  I had been looking forward to this all week long.  We were going to see Romeo and Juliet at the famous ballet house.  I tried to ignore my exhaustion, got all dressed up and strutted into the enormous hall.  We took our seats and the music started.  I couldn’t believe how beautiful the venue was.  The music began to play and I got more comfortable in my seat.  I felt so cultured and mature!  I’m at the ballet in Prague!  I made it until the balcony scene and the next thing I knew, Erica was shaking me awake.  Oh well, it’s not like I don’t know the ending.  Erica and I headed back to her apartment for a much-needed nap, followed by a few cups of coffee, and then it was time to go out for the night.  I must say, I did enjoy being able to wear a huge coat out to the clubs.  We danced the night away to some DJ that sold out at Ibiza and set our alarms for early the next morning.

We didn’t hear the alarm a single time.  Our only incentive to get out of bed was the hot bagel and pancake breakfast that Erica promised me.  It was so worth it.  Now it was time to finally see the real ImagePrague.  The only way I know how to describe this majestic place is straight out of a Disney movie.  I could have sworn people were about to break out in song at any minute.  The city is magical and the architecture is different than anything I have ever seen before.  It is such a mixture of different styles and I was in complete awe.  The city is covered with structures built by a very famous controversial artist that Prague adores.  I didn’t really understand the dead babies climbing up the TV tower or the giant metal pregnant lady, but hey, what do I know? Erica then took me to all of the main tourist spots, the castle, cathedral, the old clock tower, the mini Eiffel tower, and much more.  My personal favorite was that night at the top of Petrin hill to look out over the entire city.  I also didn’t mind the tram that took us to the top of the hill. The full moon completed the scene as we looked out at one of the most beautiful cities I have ever laid eyes on.  Yes, Prague is definitely underrated.

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That night was another crazy night with my best friend.  We ended up at this club called Double Trouble.  It looked like it was in a cave and I could not have been happier to be with my life long partner in crime.  Who would have thought the two chubby little kids from Cento Court would one day be traveling the world together?  Apparently, little pigeon toed and bowl cut Asian girls make the best of friends.  This girl is my soul mate and the most genuine person I know.  I have no idea what I would do without her and I am terrified to find out since she will be abroad in Prague all year long.  Well, we never did end up making it to the John Lennon wall.  I guess I will just need to come back this year so I can get the complete experience (after stocking up on more advil of course).  My next 2 weekends are planned with Erica in Amsterdam and then in Sevilla.  Wish me luck!  I’ll need it.

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مغربي (Morocco)

This weekend I learned I was uninformed.  I was ignorant.  I was wrong.

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I was 9 years old.  I was getting ready for school just like any other morning.  My mom was in Pennsylvania visiting my grandparents and was supposed to fly back that day.  My grandfather had gotten very sick and my mom decided to change her flight for a week later.  My older sister had a TV in her room that I could see from our shared Jack and Jill bathroom.  She was watching the news and was very quiet.  She wasn’t exactly a morning person so this was normal.  I was brushing my teeth and saw the reflection of her TV in the mirror.  There was a building on fire in New York.  I went downstairs and ate my cereal.  I was picked up by our carpool a few minutes later.  I spent every morning in the gymnasium with the other students who had to come in early because they also had older siblings in the neighboring high school.  I remember seeing all of the teachers gathered by a TV and watching two buildings burn and seeing a ton of smoke.  I went outside to play on the playground worrying whether or not I’d get a swing.  I did not know what had happened until later that night and I did not understand what had happened until I was older.  Being a child in California, I didn’t really know what the Twin Towers were.  I remember being terrified when I was told planes crashed on the east coast and I thought my mom was flying back that day.  She wasn’t.  I remember the first time I heard the word Muslim.  I remember learning where the Middle East was on a map.  I remember seeing men with their heads covered on the news everyday.  I heard the words Koran and Allah.  This was the first time I heard all of these words.  Unfortunately, this was also the first time I learned the word Terrorism.

I frequently hear that my generation is the last one that was old enough to really remember September 11th.  Therefore, it is our responsibility to never forget what happened, but more importantly, it is our responsibility to teach the future generations what really happened.  An extreme group of radicals decided to use religion as a political weapon to do an awful act and thousands of Americans lost their lives to the hands of terrorism.

ImageI feared something I knew nothing about.  Even worse, I never even realized the prejudices I had until this past weekend — 12 years after I learned them.  I feared a group of people.  I feared a religion.  I feared the unknown and I never took the time to educate myself.  This is not okay.  This is something I am ashamed of and was a problem that I never knew I had.  In the states, I never thought twice when I saw someone wearing a hijab.  I criticized anyone that did and labeled them as prejudice.  However, when I stepped off of the ferry this past Thursday and walked into a main street in Morocco, I was in shock.  I had a moment alone outside while my group was exchanging money.  I was terrified.  I was a woman in a country that I thought hates women.  I was surrounded with people who covered their faces.  I felt like every man was looking at me.  I felt unsafe.  I was scared.  My group returned and our guide took us through a market.  There _DSC0007were bright red carcasses and animal parts hanging all around me.  The women had their entire bodies covered.  The workers were all male.  The smell was awful.  My shoes were slipping in unknown liquids.  I fell behind the group and lost our tour guide.  I ran out with two other girls and found our bus.  I waited.  I breathed.  I thought to myself, what is your problem?  Why are you acting like this?  This is when I realized that I had been prejudice against a group of people without even knowing it.

Our first stop was at Darna.  A women’s organization in Morocco where they educate women to read and write and train them in different job skills.  I was so relieved once we got out of the street and entered this warm environment.  We had Moroccan women and one Moroccan man join our group for lunch.  We were allowed to ask them anything we wanted.  “Anything?”  We hesistated.  “Anything,” our guide repeated. The next two hours consisted of the three topics we have been trained our whole lives to avoid at the dinner table: sex, drugs, and politics.  Word by word I became more comfortable.  _DSC0050These young adults were being so open with us.  I asked why some women wear the hijab or cover their entire faces while some don’t wear anything.  One woman, whom chooses not to wear the hijab, explained that it is a personal choice.  That in the Koran is says to wear a hijab which translates to covering yourself.  It tells you to be modest and she said it is the women who chooses what is modest and what is not.  The woman sitting next to her, who was wearing a hijab, agreed and said she interprets modesty as covering her head, but that everyone chooses this for themselves.  It is solely between the person and Allah.  We asked their opinion on the king and their political system.  They didn’t answer us about their king (and we later found out it is against the law to criticize him), but they did explain that there is an extreme amount of corruption in their country. They told us that the law does not protect women.  If a woman is raped it is likely blamed on her.  She seduced the man.  She wore something provocative.  She provoked it. If a woman breaks the laws of the Koran and drinks or has sex before marriage, she is a disgrace.  If a man does the same, it’s because he’s just a boy and it is accepted.  They said none of them drink and that they have no desire to.  They all agreed they are happy and no matter how many problems their country has, it also has a beautiful side to it.  It is home sweet home to them and after only a few hours I realized why: the religion and the people are incredible and kind.

One of my girlfriends asked how they felt about September 11th.  They explained to us that it
_DSC0059disgusted them.  That those men were terrorists to them as well.  In the Koran it says taking one life is the same as stealing the soul of millions.  Killing is absolutely forbidden.  Those men used their peaceful religion as a political tool to manipulate others into doing a horrible act.  This has nothing to do with their culture nor Islam.  After lunch, they gave us a tour of Darna.  They wrote our names in Islamic letters.  We took pictures together and laughed with the Moroccan girls. We talked about shopping, music, and TV.  I asked a girl where she got her adorable shirt which matched perfectly with her hijab.  I took her picture and she asked me to send it to her on Facebook.  The one girl then had to leave because she was going out with her friends. They were just 20 something year old women.  They were exactly like us.  They were exactly like me.  

I walked out of Darna into the same street as before.  I saw the same outfits.  I saw the same people.  But something had changed.  Everything looked different.  I then realized that I was changing and that I was different.  I had realized my prejudices and even if I still had some of them, becoming aware was the first step.  I felt stupid for fearing something as simple as trying to look modest before god.  The men had never been looking at me.  They were just going on doing their work as normal.  The women were not hated once so ever.  The meat market still grossed me out, but I laughed as the men smiled and waved at me through the hanging carcasses while I took pictures.  I had only been on this continent for half a day and I already knew everything I had once thought was completely wrong.

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Once we were back in the van, I took a much needed nap.  Suddenly, I was woken up to a bunch of joyful screams.  We had pulled up to the edge of the beach and our guide turned around and said, “Speaking of coos coos, who wants to ride some camels?!” Camels.  OMG.  I ran outside and jumped right up (and almost face planted off) on a camel and road off feeling like I was straight out of Aladdin.  Screw a magic carpet – this camel just hugged me.  Life is complete.

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We drove to our home stays where we were strictly warned to stay away from pretty much all of the topics we talked about during lunch.  Our host parents picked us up from our guide and took us to their homes.  The homes were absolutely incredible.  Giant, colorful, wooden doors welcomed us into open rooms lined wall to wall with colorful couches and beautiful tile work.  Our home was three stories and there lived our host parents, host brother, and host sister.  Only our host sister spoke English.  Unfortunately, she was not there when we arrived and our host parents only spoke Arabic _DSC0584and French.  Again, my lack of knowing any French continued to haunt me.  I awkwardly sat on the couch facing my host parents along with my two friends/roommates for the weekend, Logan and Sarah.  I think we were only sitting there for 10 minutes but it felt like an hour.  We awkwardly half smiled and patiently waited in silence since we realized we couldn’t even pronounce a word in Arabic.  Finally the daughter showed up and we were shocked with how eloquently she spoke English.  She was very sweet and sat to talk with us before dinner.  We definitely did not want to say anything that would offend her so we started off with some easy introductions, said what we studied, where we are from, and what we like to do.  She was 19 years old and studied business at the college nearby.  I asked her what she likes to do for fun.  She responded, “You know, look up Youtube videos of the experts.”  I stupidly replied, “The experts of what?”  I think I was the only one out of us three that didn’t know what she was referring to because I saw Logan mouth “careful” at me from the corner of my eye.  “The experts of _DSC0438my religion of course!  Whenever I am not studying I am researching my religion and learning more about the Koran, Sooma, the prophet, etc.” Oh, oops.  We had only been here a few minutes and I already accidentally brought up the number one topic we were told to avoid.  She then went on about her religion and seemed extremely comfortable talking to us about it.  So we kind of tested the waters and went for it.  Before we knew it, we had spent over an hour learning about Muslims, Islam, and about her personal views.  We later were told by our guide that we were staying with the most religious family in the program and also found out we had a very different home stay experience than the other students.  The other students had very progressive families where the husband and wife did equal amounts of work.  Many women didn’t cover their heads.  The dinner table was surrounded with laughter and conversation.  Their stereotypes were broken, while unfortunately some of mine were being enforced.
_DSC0240While our host family was extremely kind to us, the wife was like a maid.  She did not laugh or smile.  She was married when she was only 15 years old to her 20 year senior husband.  We later asked the daughter if she wears the hijab.  Since she was in her home and only around women, she did not have one on.  She replied in a very sweet voice, “Yes, if you do not cover your head, you go to hell.”  Oh.  Okay then.  We tried to talk about a less serious topic.  “The food is delicious!  Is this lamb?”  She replied, “Thank you!  Yes, it is, we just slaughtered it last week as a sacrifice.”  Oh.  Logan asked, “Where did you do that?”  She pointed next to us, “Right there!” Suddenly Baba Baba Black Sheep was stuck in my head and I lost my appetite for a second.  Since the conversation had been going just dandy, I decided to ask even more questions.  “So who do women have to wear a Hijab around?”  She replied, “Only outside of the house and not around family, well except your cousins of course.”  “Why around your cousins?”  I asked.  “Because you have to cover your head around anyone you can marry.”  Um… “So you’re saying you can marry your first cousins?”  -“Yes!  Of course!  They don’t do that in the United States?”  -“Nope, pretty sure it’s illegal.”  -“Strange.” She replied.  I then asked, “So is that very common in Morocco?”  She smiled and sat up a little straighter, “Yes!  My parents are first cousins!  And we know Allah allows it because we don’t have any mental disabilities so it is good.”  Logan, Sarah, and I tried our best not to exchange looks and I’m pretty sure it took everything in us not to quote Mean Girls, “Well you have your cousins, then you have your first cousins…that’s not right is it?” No, that’s so not right…Thankfully it was then time for bed.

At 5am the three of us woke up to an unfamiliar sound blasting through our windows.  It took me a minute to realize that it was the call to prayer that is projected from the top of the Mosque five times a day.  It was alarming at first, but very interesting (in a good way).  After a short time, it stopped and I was back to sleep, for about two seconds.  My only complaint about Morocco: that damn rooster outside my window.  This thing would not shut up.  I was about to jump up and catch tonight’s dinner if I heard another cockadoodledoo.  Fortunately, in the morning our sleepy eyes were welcomed with a platter filled with different jams, butter, olive oil, and honey.  We covered the delicious bread with these sweets and drank the famous Moroccan sweet mint tea.  I could not get enough of that stuff.

We then drove to an NGO in Salé to speak with some more Moroccan university students.  This conversation was even more heated than the first.  They opened it up for questions.  I couldn’t help myself and immediately asked, “How do you feel about marrying your first cousins?”  The entire room laughed.  One particularly spunky girl replied, “It’s totally normal.  If you marry your cousin from your mom’s side, not your dad’s side, there won’t be any birth defects.”  I am certainly not a _DSC0332scientist so I really couldn’t comment on this.  We also talked about homosexuality.  They explained that they personally have friends that are homosexual and it doesn’t bother them.  However, it is a common belief that “homosexuality is a choice.  You are genetically born with it and it is your choice whether or not to act on it or not.  The act is a sin.”  The one girl then asked me, “How do you feel about it?”  I didn’t hesitate for one second.  “I 100% support gay rights.  There are so many actual problems in the world.  Who are we to stop people from loving who they love? Everyone has a right to happiness.”  The conversation continued for a few more hours and they asked for a final question.  I asked, “What is your favorite part about being a women in Morocco?”  The girls smiled and replied, “Moroccan women are so spoiled.  We get whatever we want.  We love it.”  Well, can’t say I would disagree with that.  I left this conversation with only one question remaining.  What did the one girl do to have such fabulous cheek bones and hair?!  Seriously. This girl was a super model.  Tell me your secret!

So this is where things get weird.  I’m talking laying naked across from one of your good friends while two 300 hundred pound topless Moroccan women scrub your butt and sing to you in Arabic.  No, that _DSC0277wasn’t just an expression.  If you haven’t guessed it already, that night we went to the Hammam.  This is a very common bathhouse in Morocco where people go up to 4 times a week to get squeaky clean.  I don’t know if I felt clean after leaving there, but I’ve definitely never have been so exfoliated in my life. My skin feels awesome! We ditched our tops and walked inside this three chamber room, each one being hotter than the previous one.  I was expecting it to be like a japanese hot bath with the giant pools, but instead it was a bunch of naked chicks with buckets and spigots. The very large Moroccan lady that worked there told me and Sarah to lay down aka she pointed at the ground and said something in Arabic to us then yanked my arm until I sat.  Then it was time to scrub away about 5 layers of skin.  Things then got weirder (yes, that’s possible).  These women started singing and all the girls nearby started laughing.   Sarah and I were so confused.  Finally, a girl who spoke English turned around and said, “She is singing to you two because she thinks you are beautiful.”  In any other situation this might have been cute, but all I could think of was that some huge women is currently scrubbing my butt.  Sarah and I had to laugh at the awkwardness and agreed if we weren’t friends before, we certainly are now! I think it’s safe to say that the Hammam is definitely one of the ultimate bonding experiences.

The next day we went to the country side to speak with another family.  This was a very different experience than in the city. Everyone rode donkeys and there was barely anything around us.  Animals roamed everywhere and people dressed very conservatively.  The family welcomed us with a delicious coos coos meal and told us we could ask them anything.  The conversation was way racier than I had expected and they were extremely open and curious about American culture.  They asked us about sex before marriage, abortion, politics, you name it.  They did not judge us for anything and only wanted _DSC0548to learn.  They were adorable together and I was so happy that I was able to meet this Moroccan couple after my home stay in Rabat.  They would playfully nudge each other and were all smiles and laughter.  Their little kids crawled all over them and ran all around.  The wife would talk right over her husband and said whatever she damn pleased.  They were happy.  They were in love.  I asked our translator to ask them how they met.  The husband replied that they had only known each other 15 minutes before getting married and that luckily everything worked out and they are so happy.  He called her a gift from Allah and that his only jobs in life are to provide for his family and to be loyal to his wife.  Both of these people only had 5 years of elementary education combined between the two of them, yet they _DSC0455knew more than anyone sitting in that room.  They knew that happiness didn’t come from things and that love is love.  They lived off of the land and wanted the best for their children.  They sent all of their kids to school and are extremely open minded.  They live in the middle of no where yet were some of the wisest people I have ever met. It really made me reevaluate what I prioritize in life.  What is actually important to me?  What do I really need?  What have I let slip away?  It was extremely eye opening.

We said our goodbyes and were off to the final stop of our trip.  Chefchaouen was incredibly beautiful, but the most touristy visit for us.  Everyone spoke English, Spanish, French, Arabic, and probably even more languages.  I began counting the different ways I was greeted:  Hello, Hola, Bonjour, Aloha, and my personal favorite, Konnichiwa (of course).  Logan and I then proceeded to buy everything.  I mean everything.  We realized that we just started buying random things as presents because we loved to bargain and pretend we were Spaniards.  Safe to say all of my Christmas shopping is done.  Moroccan gifts for everyone!

It was the most incredible weekend I have had abroad by far.  Perhaps, the most incredible 4 days of
my short life. I learned so much.  I completely changed my views and I experienced things I never thought I would have the opportunity to experience.  Yes, Morocco has its’ fair share of problems, but can you name a country that doesn’t?  I may not be some religious or political fanatic but what I can tell you is that the people of Morocco are some of the kindest men and women I have ever encountered in my life.  On the last day I bought some final gifts from a street vendor.  We had a great conversation and I thanked him and began to leave.  He quickly stopped me and told me he had a gift for me.  He reached up and grabbed a shiny pair of earrings.  He showed them to me and said “You are such a gentle person.  Take this as a gift.  It is the hand of Fatima, Muhammad’s daughter, I want you to have these to remember us by.”  I accepted the gift, shook his hand, and told him that Morocco is somewhere I will never forget.  شكرا , shukran, thank you.

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Paris is Always a Good Idea

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Audrey Hepburn could never be wrong.  Therefore, when my mom offered me a 7 am flight to Paris the morning after Halloween, I decided that even then, Paris is always a good idea.  This little decision did almost end up with me having to go to the airport in my gypsy/genie costume from the night before.  As I ran back from the club at 4:30 am I begged the cab driver to wait for me to change.  I would have never gotten through security with all those little medal medallions hanging off of that outfit.

Once I arrived in Paris, I dragged my groggy self straight to the nearest taxi.  Like the typical American I am, I assumed everyone in Paris would speak English.  Of course my cab driver did not.  This is the moment I realized my French consisted of what I learned from Beauty and the Beast, Lady Marmalade, and Katy Perry.  So unless I wanted to say, Bonjour, Voulez vous couchez avec moi ce soir, or Ménage à trois to this poor dude, I was out of luck.  I must be the world’s worst charades player because he continued to give me a blank stare no matter how hard I tried to explain to him that I needed to pay with a credit card and go to my hotel.  Finally after a few minutes of awkwardness, I was about to get out of the cab and find a driver who spoke English.  But first, I took a shot in the dark and asked “Hablas Español?” His face lit up.  “Sí!” Go figure.  Once we found a common language, the rest of that drive was a breeze.

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Tourism and pouring down rain is always a sucky combination.  However, we found some ghetto umbrellas and made our way out to the sites anyways.  My mom’s best friend Connie travels to Paris all the time and was our official tour guide for the weekend.  She took us to The Louvre, Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe, that bridge where all the love birds hang a lock with their name on it (or people like me who do it with her mom), the Eiffel Tower, and of course a ton of shopping.  I went to Paris with one bag and came back with three.

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As much as I (j’)adored Paris, I definitely prefer our gypsies here in Sevilla.  Here they bother you and try to make you pay them 5 euros for a cheesy palm reading and a twig that’s supposed to fend off evil, but if you ignore them they just leave you alone.  In Paris, these gypsies were extremely aggressive and sneaky.  The city is covered with warning signs in every language saying to beware of pickpockets.  The gypsies would stand out front of all of the tourist sites holding a piece of paper and try to get you to sign whatever they were pretending to petition for.  They come up to you and ask if you speak English and while you are distracted, one of their friends will pick pocket you.  This is when I suddenly turned into a Spaniard and every time one approached me, I responded with, “No te entiendo.  No.  Grac(th)ias.”  That normally got them to walk away.  However, while we were looking at all of the locks on the bridge, a lady approached my mom.  I was watching her out of the corner of my eye and saw her bend down with a gold ring in her_DSC0906 hand then stand back up.  She then asked my mom, “Did you drop this?”  I was confused because I clearly saw she had it in her hand.  My sweet little Irish mom smiled and said, “No, I didn’t!  Thank you very much though!”  The lady smiled back and said “Oh I have one just like it, go ahead and take it!”  Again, my mom didn’t seem to think much of it and told her she should keep it. Then good ol’ Connie came running over and said “NO.  Go away.”  The lady then yelled every single curse word she could think of and stormed off with her lovely middle finger waving in the air.  Classy.  Connie then explained that this is a very common thing that the gypsies do in Paris and they either steal from you when you’re not looking or make you pay them after you take the ring.

My mom and I were warned several more times to be very cautious of pick pocketing while touring the Eiffel Tower.  Now there are people who buy tickets to enter the tower and stay there all day stealing from the tourist.  So my mom and I had our Longchomp bags zipped up and tucked “safely” beneath our arms.  After a long but fast moving line, I handed my ticket over to enter.  The man smiled at me and said, “Oh are you with the group?” and pointed.  This is what the group looked like.

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Really dude….?

Once my mom and I finally finished laughing and got into the elevator, I looked around for some sketchy guy who was by himself and trying to rob us.  My mom and I never saw anyone that looked remotely like this.  Just a ton of tourists enjoying taking pictures at the top of the city.  There are different levels at the tower and you need to take two different elevators to get to the top.  While we were waiting in line for the_DSC0116 second elevator, these two girls around my age said to me in perfect English, “Oh go ahead of us, our friends are a few people behind.”  Cool! Thanks.  I walked past and accidentally bumped into the one girl, adjusted my bag so I wouldn’t hit her again, mumbled a quick sorry and went up.  I was a little bit confused when a few minutes later I realized they were still behind us, but didn’t think too much into it. At the top of the tower my mom and I took a ton of pictures until we were completely frozen and had to go down.  We then met up with Connie, who didn’t go with us because she is very afraid of heights, for lunch.  Connie then told us that a few hours before, she went to buy a snack from a vending machine.  There were three little girls on scooters waiting nearby and she told them to go ahead.  They shook their heads and just waited.  Connie looked around for their parents and put some money into the machine.  As soon as the change dropped, their little hands were in and out of the machine and they were off on their scooters.  Sneaky little gypsies.

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After an unbelievable crepe, we went to pay and my mom noticed a scratch on her bag.  She then looked closer and realized that someone had sliced a hole in it.  The hole was too small to put your hand through,but we could see the long line that the knife tried to cut.  Immediately, my mom knew what had happened.  Those young girls who looked like every other tourist with their cameras out and completely normal attire had tried to cut open our bags.  When they told us to pass them the first one tried with me, but I thought I bumped her and moved my bag right away.  My mom felt someone touch her bag and moved hers as well, but obviously a little too late.  As upsetting as this was, luckily they were not successful and weren’t able to cut all the way through to reach in.  This is concerning for several reasons.  One, that there are people who pay to go to a monument just so they can steal from people.  Two, that they look completely normal.  And three, that people can sneak knifes that easily past all of the security and medal detectors.  Weird.

While the French definitely have a strong reputation for being rude to Americans (and smelling like cheese), I met some of the nicest people there (and what’s wrong with cheese?).  My mom and I tried not_DSC0879 to let the incident at the Tower ruin our great experience so far.  Every waiter and store owner had us laughing so hard and were unbelievably friendly.  I actually really enjoyed the French people.  We rolled ourselves out of the crepes shop and went back to get ready for the airport.  My mom then realized she was missing 50 euro.  My poor little mom was having the worst luck.  She rushed back to the restaurant and to her delight our waitress had seen it on the floor and tucked it away for her.  So even though there are some awful people out there, the honest and kind ones like these certainly make up for it.

 

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It was then finally time to go.  My dad had left last week and it was so hard to say bye.  I knew it would be the same with my mom.  I hugged her tight and tried not to get my Parisian red lipstick on her and got into the cab.  I may go to school across the country from my family, but something about being on another continent certainly makes things a lot harder.  No matter how old I get, I’ll always be my parents little girl.  Luckily, I have an amazing host family here in Sevilla who have just adopted me as their own.  I was welcomed home with hugs and kisses and my little sister waiting anxiously to show me the new One Direction video, which I’ve given up on pretending to know anything about.  I gave them the little presents I bought them and heard all about their weekend.  We ate our dinner together with The Simpsons (in weird spanish voices) like we do every night and the kids got ready for bed.  I miss my parents, but it definitely feels good to be home here in Sevilla.  I never imagined having a family like this and every time I am homesick, a quick chat with my host mom can always cheer me up.  I love Paris, but it has nothing on my families.  I’ll take that over the Eiffel Tower any day, but fortunately, this weekend I had both.

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