One weekend, Two Countries, Three Cities, and a Ton of Monkeys

When my sister and I were kids and lived in California, we used to play a strange “game.”  My sister’s room was above our garage and on the days she would tolerate having me hang around, we would listen for the door to open each night.  When it did, hell broke loose.  We would sprint down the steps yelling “Daddy’s home!” at the top of our lungs and the first one who reached him at the garage door won.  I also think this is when my sister started giving me Indian burns if I ran ahead of her…we were weird kids.  Anyways, that was my best attempt at describing how I felt this weekend when my host family and I arrived to Soto Grande where my parents were staying.  I feel like I have not seen my family in so long and when the garage opened up, I went running into their arms just like the old days.  It’s hard to explain how happy I was this weekend.  Having my host family and my parents finally together was absolutely incredible.  It was also pretty amusing to watch my parents struggle with the dos besos greeting and I do slightly regret quickly telling my dad that men don’t do it with other men.  It would have been pretty amusing to watch him try to kiss my host dad.

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This weekend we were living the life of the rich and famous.  My great uncle, Ambassador Bienvenido Tantoco has houses just sitting around all over the world.  I am very removed from this side of the family, but my dad and Tito Benny, as we all call him, are pretty close.  Let me tell you, this 93 year old knows how to live.  His house had everything you could imagine, a chef, driver/body guard, pool, gorgeous views, enormous terraces,  and more rooms than we could count. Damn, forget accounting, I want to be an Ambassador when I grow up!  Think Santa Clara has a major for that?  It was definitely a very different experience than the hostel/backpacking trips I’ve become accustomed to.photo

Our first night there, we had a very authentic Filipino dinner prepared by Susan, our chef.  My little host sister breathed a sigh of relief when I told her she didn’t have to eat anything she didn’t like.  However, even she ended up with a clean plate at the end of the meal!  Then it was time for a lot of talking and by a lot of talking, I mean a lot of translating on my end.  My host parents no hablan Ingles para nada and my parents are equally as bad with Spanish.  I was impressed when my mom knew how to say Hola.  My dad did seem to be pretty happy once he realized how much spanish I have learned since being here and that he wasn’t just paying for me to party in Europe (although he’s been paying for the too, sorry dad).  The next morning, I was feeling really great about my Spanish and started to get a little cocky.  While I was pretty focused on figuring out what I was eating for breakfast, I realized my host parents were waiting for me to translate something to my dad.  I quickly repeated the last word I heard, ladrones.  I turned to my dad, “robbers.”  Oops, better start listening again.  My host parents and dad were discussing our trip to the rock of Gibraltar that we had planned for later that day.  I turned to my host mom and asked, “Los ladrones están en Gibraltar?”  “¡Sí!” She replied.  I translated to my dad, “She says there are robbers at the top of Gibraltar!”  My host mom then continued, “Y ellos tienen culos rojos sin pelo.”  I translated, “Um and they have red hairless butts…”  My dad and I exchanged a worried glance and he asked, “Son africanos?”  My host mom answers, “No, son Inglesas!”  “Are they Africans?…No they are Englishmen!”  My host mom then asked, “No hay los con culos rojos sin pelo en los estados unidos?”  “There aren’t those with red hairless butts in the United States?”  Um, nope, can’t say there are.  My dad and I could barely hold back our smiles and I told my host mom to repeat the whole thing again por favor.  Then it all came together.  She was referring to the monkeys that live on Gibraltar as los ladrones/robbers!  Oh!  So there aren’t little english men running around the top of Gibraltar with red hairless butts trying to rob tourists?  I could have sworn that’s what you said.  We all started laughing so hard once we realized how lost in translation that conversation was and it was the ongoing joke for the rest of the day.  My bad.

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So if you are like me two days ago and know absolutely nothing about the Rock of Gibraltar, let me give you a little history lesson.  Disclaimer: I am using the word history very loosely since I was way more interested in the monkeys than the facts.  However, Gibraltar used to be Spain’s and for the past 300 years or so it has been a British territory.  The British like to remind the Spaniards of this as much as possible by putting things like the famous red phone booth right at the entrance of boarder patrol. _DSC0735 Nevertheless, everyone from Gibraltar speaks perfect Castilian Spanish and British English interchangeably.  It’s pretty cool how they treat the two languages almost as one.  This rock was once the most fought over place in Europe for some time for its’ military advantage.  From the top of it, you can see everything, including both the end of Spain and the start of Africa.  It is pretty incredible.  To my host parents disgust, when you go inside the military caves, all of the cannons are pointed straight at Spain.  Awkward.  Our tour guide then took us to the most beautiful cave I have ever seen.  It was filled with beautiful lights and music echoed through out it making it seem even more majestic.  My host dad said that the columns in the middle of the cave are so incredible because it takes 100 years to form one centimeter of the solidified rock and water.  _DSC0817I really want to say that this natural wonder was my favorite part of Gibraltar, but then I’d be lying and everyone knows the internet is a place for truth. It was all about los monos for me.  The monkeys were seriously awesome!  My host parents were right though, they were little ladrones.  They tried to get into my bag and pick pocket the other tourists.  All of the guides knew these wild animals by name and the monkeys had certain guides that they were friends with.  These lucky ones would jump right up on the car and sometimes in the car to get a free ride to the top.  They understood everything the guides said to them.  It was wild.  One even jumped into our car while we were driving and grabbed the steering wheel. The driver just pulled out some nuts and started feeding him like it was nothing.  Later, my guide asked me if I would like to have one on my shoulder.  Duh. So he held a few nuts in his hand near my shoulder and the monkey instead jump right on my head. Wow, did his culo rojo sin pelo smell nasty, but it made for a great picture.  The rest of the trip pretty much consisted of me playing with these monkeys and simultaneously trying not to get my passport stolen by them.  I must say, once we got to the top of the rock, it was absolutely incredible to look out at two different continents.  Africa and Spain, two places I never thought I would see like this and by that of course, I mean with a monkey on my head.

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The next day we woke up at the crack of dawn and made our way to Granada.  Having a driver this weekend was so convenient and we all slept the entire way there.  Two hours later, we were at La Alhambra.  This is one of the most visited places in Europe and I have been very anxious to tour it.  My host dad grew up right outside of La Alhambra in the beautiful white houses surrounding the walls.  We like to make fun of him for how much he talks about Granada, but now I understand.  _DSC0968From the outside it is absolutely enormous and breathtaking from the size alone (let’s be mature now), but the real beauty lays on the inside.  The Muslims did not believe in having a decorated outside and kept it rather simple.  They also based it off of the pantheon with the square exterior and circular interior.   We had a private tour guide take us all through the castle, the old town, the wives’ homes, and the summer castle.  She explained to us that the Sultan had many wives and these chicks lived the life.  We toured their living area and through their gardens.  The one that really had the good life though was whichever was lucky enough to be the Sultan’s favorite wife.  As you could imagine, this wife was upgraded faster than the newest iPhone and when the sultan upgraded to favorite wife 2.0 the old one got the boot.  One fun story our guide shared with us was about an affair between the Sultan’s favorite wife and another man.  Scandalous.
_DSC0043Legend has it the favorite wife would meet her lover by a tree in the garden every night.  Now this chica was bound to get caught considering the garden was inside la Alhambra.  I mean seriously, if you’re gonna cheat on a sultan at least try to be sneaky about it.  Surprise surprise, the sultan found out.  So he did what any jealous sultan would do who caught his wife cheating.  He went full Game of Thrones Red Wedding style and had a party for 36 men from the lover’s family.  After the party, as each man entered the sultan’s living area, he cut off their heads one by one.  Moral of the story, don’t cheat on a sultan.  I kind of wish the guide told me this story after I had walked out of that room because standing in the exact spot 36 men were murdered definitely freaked me out.  _DSC1067We then continued our tour to the old military barracks and later to the ancient town for the workers within La Alhambra. Unfortunately, pretty much everything there was destroyed by the French when they attacked back in the day.  Damn French ruining my pictures.  We ended our tour at the summer castle.  The sultan’s never actually slept there for safety precautions since it was outside La Alhambra walls, but when they needed time to relax they would head up there with their friends or mistresses for some R&R.  I think the most interesting part about La Alhambra was how different every section looked.  It has been conquered so many times that the architecture is a plethora of many different cultures, religions, and styles.  This I’m not even going to attempt to give the history on because I know I would completely butcher it so google it if you’re curious.

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After a bomb bocadillo with my family and the purchase of the coolest jewelry/music box made of animal bone, it was time for me to head back to Sevilla.  I reluctantly hugged my parents good bye, but knew I’d see them again in Sevilla in just a few days and got on the train.  I pulled out my spanish books to study for my upcoming midterms this week; instead they made for a great pillow as I drooled all over them for the entire 3 hours back to Sevilla.  It’s nice to be back home in my own bed, but I definitely wouldn’t have minded staying at my uncle’s place a few extra days.  However, I think the next trip I make is going to be to the pharmacy down the street.  My eye is definitely starting to itch and I’m beginning to think it might not have been such a great idea to let a bunch of monkeys crawl all over my head this weekend.  Como se dice pink eye from a monkey culo en español?  Hm, I’m gonna go wash my hands a couple hundred times. Gross.

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Dublin, Ireland

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The first thing I learned from my over zealous cab driver in Dublin was that “It is a mortal sin to touch another man’s pint.”  Bad luck they say.  As I’m sure you’re aware, the Irish know a thing or two about luck.  Well let’s just say I must’ve touched another man’s pint because the night before my flight I was very much lacking the luck of the Irish, Sevillanos, Americans, you name it.  Being abroad on a college budget allows us to have experiences unlike any other.  For those of you who have flown Ryanair, you probably know the direction this story is headed in.  Everyone lucky enough to have never flown with this less than glorious aircraft, let me fill you in.  Ryanair is the cheapest of the cheap and for us abroad kids at the very bottom of Spain it is the only way to get around.  However, they like to find any way possible to charge you, bag looks a little big?  100 Euros.  Forgot to print out your ticket?  75 Euros.  I like to think of it as a game, like Monopoly (I was always bad at Monopoly).  Unfortunately, I ended up in that pesky jail spot and realized the night before my flight that I did not have a spot on the plane.  Lesson number two, NEVER I repeat NEVER use the website eDreams.  Two of my friends here abroad have had their credit card numbers stolen after booking with them and apparently they send out confirmation emails that are not real confirmation emails.  After a 3 hour long phone call back and forth between eDreams and Ryanair (in spanish) they generously told me, “No tienes un billete.”  “You don’t have a ticket.”  Guay hombres, guay.  So after weighing my options and realizing that I already had booked everything for the weekend, I brought out my credit card with a heavy hand and bought yet another ticket.  I was going to Ireland whether they liked it or not.

I frequently refer to my life as a struggle between my half Asian and half Irish side.  Asian half wants to stay in and study a few more hours while the Irish half wants to go out and drink.  My mom likes to remind me that she thinks the only Irish I have in me is my freckles, temper, and liver.  I can’t say I disagree.  I clearly take after my Filipino side in looks, but escaped the famous asian drinking glow (thanks mom!), but I wanted to discover that little leprechaun within me! 

_DSC0299My first impression of Ireland was from my hilarious taxi driver.  He gave me a full history lesson on Dublin and told joke after joke in our 45 minute cab ride.  He pointed out the different places I should visit and taught me some Irish slang.  For example, when someone refers to a pub and says “The crack is good in there!” it is not what you think.  He seemed to really enjoy my initial reaction to that comment and then explained that it means “The environment is fun in there!”  Good to know.  He went on to tell me a story about a group of four women between the ages of 70 and 80 from Manhattan, New York.  It was their very first time out of the city and decided to do a “girls” trip to Ireland.  When he went to get into his driver seat one of the old ladies was already sitting there.  She was so confused why it was on the opposite side of the car and the 3 women in the back started laughing so hard that one of their dentures fell out.  He  had to pull over and help her find them under the seat which she then popped right back into her mouth (remind me never to get old).  He frequently referred to their president as a leprechaun since he is so short and also told me a story about Obama originally being from Ireland.  _DSC0181First time I heard that one, but I just smiled and nodded along.  Once my very informative cab ride was over, he dropped me off at the Temple Bar.  He said he could already tell I was Irish since I was going to the pubs straight from the plane and with my bag on my back!  Temple Bar is not actually a bar, but is a very touristy/college run street of pubs.  It used to be called Temple Bahr.  Temple being the families last name and Bahr meaning owner, but eventually they just changed it for simplicity I suppose.  Also, do not get Temple Bar confused with THE Temple bar, two different things, clearly.  With the help of some extremely friendly Irish women, I was able to find my friend who was on the earlier flight to Dublin.  I couldn’t believe we actually found each other since we both did not have phones and this was our first time being in this country.  Her blonde hair and very Irish looking skin did not help me distinguish her from all the other blonde hair blue eyed Irish folk.  Fortunately, we were staying with her 6’5 red head friend from home.  Whenever, we were lost, we just looked up and found him.  For those of you from Santa Clara, he was kind of like the light at the top of Swig.

We stayed in his dorm at the University of Dublin.  He even gave Michele and me his bed!  What a gent.  I am convinced there’s no one nicer than the Irish.  We spent the night going from pub to pub and then decided to head back since we wanted to wake up at 9:00 am to go to mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  So as we rolled out of bed around 11:00 am the next day I decided it was the thought that counted, right?  Instead of some holy bread and wine, we went to have a greasy traditional Irish breakfast. It was incredible.  Thank god I am not studying abroad here because I would eat myself into a coma.  This breakfast consisted of eggs, garlic potatoes, sausage, black pudding (pigs blood), bacon, and some tomatoes for the health conscious.  I ate every bite.  Obviously, we all knew exactly where we wanted to head to next, the Guinness Storehouse. I did pass St. Patrick’s Cathedral on the way there though and took a quick stop to explore Trinity college.  Cultured.

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Once at the Guinness Storehouse (not factory!) we met up with Michele’s best friend and her dad.  This was the best decision we made all day and that says a lot considering how amazing that breakfast was.  Her dad is the head of sales for Guinness (or something like that) in the states and we all got to skip every line and go in for 5 Euros instead of the usual 17 Euros and he treated us all to drinks and a private tour.  It was quite the experience.  We had originally planned to only stay there for an hour and then to go see some of the green parts of Ireland, but before we knew it we had spent the entire day there.  It was a blast.  We had our first authentic Guinness’s in the Sky bar and then became certified Guinness pourers!  I also learned some fun facts about this place.  For example, when Arthur Guinness signed the lease for the land, he signed it for 9,000 years at 45 Euros per year.  Talk about a deal.  Also, the beer is not black, but a deep burgundy.  Besides that, I don’t really remember much and decided to just enjoy my beers.

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When we finally made our way out (after a pricey stop at the gift store) we went to a traditional pub for some Irish stew.  They had live music playing and it was the perfect meal to compensate for the freezing weather.  The 85 degree days in Sevilla have left me very unprepared for the rest of Europe.  That night we went to the pubs in Temple Bar again and then out to the clubs.  When I pictured Ireland, I did not imagine a club scene.  My pub wardrobe severely lacked what was needed for this, but we went out anyway (and were let in).  We had two choices, go back to the dorm a little early and catch a few hours of sleep or we could stay out until our 7 AM flights the next day.  We chose the latter.  We went back to the dorms, grabbed our bags, and it was time for the airport.  I was suddenly very thankful I was not in club wear.  After a few quick purchases in the airport, a Dublin magnet for my host family’s collection and an overpriced Claddagh ring for myself, I was on my way back home to Sevilla.

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So even though things started out rocky, in the end I found my luck in Ireland, but more importantly, I found this leprechaun.  Enjoy.

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Los Días de Sevilla

Note to self: Never drink coffee before siesta.  I don’t care how tired you are, being awake during siesta could not possibly be more boring in Spain.  Anyways, since I am up while the rest of Spain dreams away, I’ve decided to write about my past few days here.  Unfortunately, I do not have another weekend in Sevilla for another month or so since I have trips planned for almost every week.  So I decided to go all out this weekend.  My wallet is currently crying and the bags under my eyes tell a story of their own.  The energizer bunny has nothing on the Spaniards.

I am a firm believer in Karma, that betch always gets you, but sometimes she’s not so bad.  Thursday night I went to this five story, very Americanized, club in Sevilla called Buda.  Sometime during the night/early morning I went to use the bathroom in a sad attempt to fix my nasty sweaty hair (I swear all I do in Sevilla is sweat, it’s gross) when I heard a little mumble come from one of the bathroom stalls.  I’m not sure why I did this, but I slowly pushed the door open and found a blonde american girl passed out on the bathroom floor.  I shook her a bit until she opened her eyes and barely made out the words, “Gonna be sick.”  Great. Well, I can’t just leave her.  I asked these other girls standing by if they knew her and just got laughed at when I realized they were Spaniards and heard them exchange a couple “Typical American” between one another.  Then it was time to hold the random blonde chicks hair for the next 30 minutes.  Damn it, this is what you get for caring about your stupid hair while out at a club, Jaclyn.  Eventually, the episode ended and I was able to get her to sit down in the least dirty corner.  I found her cell phone and called the first number that showed up in her call history.  Turned out to be the ex boyfriend, typical.  He came to the girls bathroom and I could tell she was in good hands with him.  He thanked me over and over and was shocked that I helped his ex that much.  After my good samaritan act and washing my hands at least 5 times, it was time to try to find anyone I knew.  I did not realize how long I was in there for.  It kinda sucked to spend my night doing that, but if that ever happened to me I would really hope some girl would do the same.  Ironically, the next night I found myself in a similar situation.

IMG_5550Before anyone gets too excited, no, I was not drunk and passed out on a bathroom floor, but I did find myself very alone, with a dead phone, and not enough money for a cab.  My American friends and I went out to the opening of a new club called Abril on Friday night and were greated by fed up security guards and a line that was not going anywhere.  I was a little boracha and somehow got separated from my friends and ended up at the front of the line, alone.  Being short comes in handy when you’re trying to be sneaky.  The last text I received on my phone before it died was, “We all left, are you okay?” Great.  It’s a little late now, isn’t it?  Fortunately, alcohol is common ground in all of the world and I started talking with a group of four Spanish girls in line.  They only spoke Spanish and asked me if I was alone.  I explained to them my situation and they quickly said, “No pasa nada!  Puedes ir con nosotras!” or “No worries! You can go with us!”  Spending a night in a random club in spain with complete strangers that don’t speak English…why not? “Vale!  Gracias!”  After about another 30 minutes in line, the security guard FINALLY let us in.  The club was underground and amazing.  My new Spanish friends and I danced the night away and soon enough it was 6am.  One girl said she needed to go and her friends looked at her like she was crazy, “Why so early?”  I was very grateful I didn’t tell them how absolutely exhausted I was too.  We emerged from the underground dance floor and the girls new exactly what they wanted to do next.  Perritos!  Aka hot dogs.  Nice to know the drunchies are also universal.  After our 6am snack, the girls asked me where I lived.  It turns out I live very close to one of them named Natalia.  So Natalia and I walked home together.  We then discovered we were basically neighbors and she asked me who I was living with.   I told her I lived with a family of four and the parents name’s are Jorge and Isabelle.  She quickly chimed in, “Belle!?”  This is the nickname my host mom goes by with her close friends. It turns out the random girl I met in line and spent the whole night with is the daughter of my host parents very best friends.  Such a small world.  We exchanged numbers and made plans to meet up again the next night.

So even though I may not have been as bad as the girl I found, I was still so grateful that these girls invited me into their group with open arms.  It is amazing to me how similar people are in such different parts of the world.  Honestly, the only difference between us is our first language.  If people stopped being afraid of different cultures and learned how much people from all over have in common, I could not imagine how different the world would be.  I’m not going to lie, I am still shocked by Spanish culture at times.  First of all, they dress like they are in the 80’s, roller blades and MCHammer pants included.  Spaniards are also brutally honest.  If you wake up looking like crap from the night before, they will not hesitate to share this with you.  “Oh, tienes mala cara hoy.  Tienes hambre?”  “Oh, you have a bad face today.  Hungry?”  Another example, this weekend I went to my host little brother and sister’s basketball tournament.  During Berta’s game my host mom turned to me and told me that Sergio is the best one on the team, but Berta is very bad, she only plays when the other team is terrible.  Ouch!  I have to always remind myself that none of these things are said to be mean.  It is just the truth and why should they lie about it?  It is so liberating for them.  Imagine always knowing exactly what everyone is thinking and not being afraid of the truth because you have heard it your entire life?  There is also a very sweet side to them always telling the truth.  If a Spaniard tells you that you are very guapa or beautiful or nice, they sincerely mean it.  They aren’t like Americans who sometimes feel the need to give an empty compliment.  Spaniards do not waste their breath saying anything that they do not mean.

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So getting back to my original point, today I decided to try to live life like a Spaniard and to stop being so afraid of the culture. No, I did not throw on any MCHammer pants or roller blades, I can’t quite pull that off.  However, I decided to stop at a cafe after my classes and treated myself to a cafe con leche and a chocolate croissant.  I then just sat there enjoying my own company and people watching.  Staring in Spain is a hundred percent acceptable, another thing I have yet to get used to especially since being Asian is similar to looking like an alien here.  I couldn’t help but laugh at the gordita couple from London that sat in front of me with their very touristy Seville baseball cap, big camera, and their inability to speak any Spanish.  A couple of men sat to my right hand side and only spoke sign language with each other.  A homeless lady walked back and forth in front of me over and over having a very fascinating conversation (or perhaps fight) with herself.  I then decided to go completely against the whole “Don’t talk to strangers” thing when I saw this cool lady sitting behind me.  She sat alone with a funky style that reminded me so much of my Lola’s (my grandmother on my father’s side) when she was still alive.  She had big purple glasses on, a pink shirt, a bright blue blazer, and more costume jewelry than you could imagine.  Since I was having some weird self becoming moment, I decided to talk to her.  “Me encantan sus gafas.  Qué chulo.”  I love your glasses.  How cool.  She looked at me with a huge smile and immediately pulled out the chair next to her.  There was no shyness in this little lady!  We ended up talking for almost an hour.  She was 78 years old and told me all about how she got her glasses 30 years ago while her husband was in the military and how she moved all around with him.  When she realized I was American, she told me she was very impressed with my Spanish and then expressed her love for New York City and how she has a niece who lives there now.  She was so sweet and after telling me how much she enjoyed our conversation, I told her I had to get home for lunch with my family.  She gave me a big hug and dos besos and wished me a fun rest of my trip.  I walked away with a huge smile and feeling so happy that I was creepy and started talking with strangers.

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The people in Sevilla are absolutely incredible and I am learning so much from them everyday.  They are so different then Americans but also so similar.  The girls love to gossip and the boys love their sports.  Brothers and sisters bicker and soccer mom’s are the exact same.  Friendships are created around dinner tables, a compliment in a cafe, and out at a club.  The only difference is sometimes we have no idea what the other person is saying, but with a smile and a laugh, it doesn’t really matter.  I continue to fall more and more in love with Sevilla every day.  Unfortunately, I always have that nagging thought in the back of my head reminding me that I have to leave in only a few short months.  So today I am making it a personal goal of mine to stop making days like these a rarity and to continue to put myself out there and embrace the Spanish culture.  I don’t have enough time to live here any other way.  How am I ever going to leave this place?…

The Very Touristy Couple from London. Can you spot the Seville cap and big camera?

The Sign Language Men, notice the awesome dragon shirt.

A homeless lady that walked back and forth in front of me for an hour having a riveting conversation with herself.

Yes, I am aware how creepy I am for taking pictures of these random people.  Do it for the blog.

Oktoberfest

The chanting became louder.  The Hofbrauhaus doors began to open.  The crowd pushed forward.  We grabbed and guarded the center table.  The beers came out.  We yelled “Prost!” There was a giant pretzel in there somewhere.  Things went black.

Enjoy the pictures.

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Now parents, before you call to yell at me, THAT WAS A JOKE, relax.  Right now, I am struggling to paint a picture of Oktoberfest.  The best way to describe this magical land of beer is as a weekend of pure joy, singing, laughing, lederhosen, giant pretzels/hot dogs/chickens, and the best time you will ever have with both old and new friends.

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My friends and I arrived in Germany on Friday afternoon to the HolidayInn in Munich City Centre.  I am unsure as to how this tradition at Santa Clara began, but every year, “all” of the students from Santa Clara University who are studying abroad in Europe reunite the second weekend of Oktoberfest and stay at the HolidayInn.  I’m not complaining though (insert remark about chilling at the HolidayInn here) it was a blast.  I was feeling pretty homesick last week since everyone was back at school and I had officially been away from everything I’ve known for over a month.  I can just see my Dad rolling his eyes at me as he reads about me complaining while I play in Europe, fine, I’ll stop!  Anyways, it was great to see everyone.  That first night I expected to do a little sight seeing, perhaps venture out to the castle, go around the historic parts of Munich, explore downtown and take in some German culture…nope.  The crew came barging in dressed and ready to go to Hofbrauhaus, the very Americanized tent at Oktoberfest.  So off we went!  I am not sure what I expected, perhaps a glamorized circus or carnival with all of the tent talk, but I was once again very wrong.  The famous Oktoberfest sign welcomed us with a warm glow at the front entrance and we walked into another world.  So this is Oktoberfest.  Everyone was dressed up in the classic lederhosen and dirndl attire.  People were falling all over each other and laughing as they hit the floor.  The rides were in full swing and the venders had everything a tourist could ask for.  The biggest surprise for me was that the tents are not actually tents, but enormous, fully decorated buildings.  As I took it all in with a very toothy grin, we found our friends waiting for us at the tent entrance.  The security guards would not let us in for at least 30 minutes, but once we were in we found the SCU table and joined in on the festivities.  This was actually a great idea for me to go the night before and to experience what an Oktoberfest beer meant.  They cost 9 euro which is actually 10 euro because the waitresses require a tip, especially from Americans.  I justified buying this $13.58 beer for the following reasons: it was enormous, it is 13.5% alcohol, I was in Germany, and I stole the stein it came in.  We did not stay too late since we had to be up by 5:30am the next morning.  We took the train back and had a great night in our hotel extra plush beds.
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I have never been happier to wake up at 5:30am before in my life.  We jumped out of bed, blasted some music, and pulled out our very festive outfits.  After a very healthy gas station breakfast, we were on our way!  The train took us directly from the front door of the hotel to the festival.  We marched in as a pack and then it was time to wait, catch up with friends studying in different countries, and take our pictures before the beer filters.  We must have arrived at just the right time, around 7:30am, because moments after we were followed by thousands of people.  At 9:00am the doors opened and hell let loose.  It was a ton of pushing, shoving, and screaming.  Unfortunately, I suffer from short persons syndrome where one believes their 5’2 frame is actually 6’5.  So I shoved back at the mostly Americans and some Europeans and quietly sent up a quick thanks that we were at the front and made sure I didn’t fall (anyone else remember how the parents in Superstar died? Picture that).  Two other girls and myself rushed inside first and grabbed the table right in the center of the tent and stood guard on the seats with outstretched arms.  Thirty second later, the Santa Clara crew saw and joined us.  As we all jumped on the table, we broke out with cheers and screams of pure joy and excitement.  The smiles were infectious. Quick side note, I do not suggest standing on the tables because the crazy waitresses will come up and pull out the table from under your feet and yell something scary in German at you if you don’t crack your head open, very safe. Despite what all the Oktoberfest blogs had warned, the beer came out almost immediately.   We threw those 10 euros into the waitresses hands and swung our glasses into the air, “PROST!”  Basically the rest of the day went on like this.  A day filled with more beer and more food than you can ever imagine.  As I started on my third stein I quickly realized this is no Keystone, if one considers that beer, and became very thankful for the enormous pretzel I was working on.

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The day was everything I had expected and more. I even ran into 3 kids from my high school in New Jersey!  It really is such a small world.  Somehow I ended up befriending a bunch of Germans with my friend and exploring a German tent with them.  They taught us some songs and were thrilled to meet someone from California.  I also think I was the first asian they’ve ever seen.  “If you’re from America, why are you Asian?” “Omg, Rolf you can’t just ask someone why they’re Asian.” I had to quote MeanGirls eventually.  We ended up staying at their table for the next 4 hours and experiencing what I considered to be the real Oktoberfest in a tent filled with actual German’s and not American student’s chanting U.S.A!

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As the day drew to an end and my wallet was significantly emptier, I decided to call it quits.  I jumped on the train and headed back to the hotel with a quick pit stop for some of the best mediocre Chinese food I’ve ever had.  And then I passed out until my 7:30 am flight the next morning.  So in the end, Oktoberfest was incredible.  I am 100% going back one day and doing it all over again, but with a dirndl and a week long trip.  I may not have seen the castle or much of Munich, but I sure as hell felt German this weekend.

 

P.S. Oktoberfest, I love you.

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The End of the Earth

The End of the Earth

I was literally standing at what was once thought to be the end of the earth. When I say literally, I don’t mean figuratively like every person in our generation likes to confuse, but literally. This past weekend I stood at the edge of the earth and watched the sun fall into the ocean. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. Have you ever had one of those terrifying realizations that you are at your peak in life? I say terrifying because I know that things cannot ever be better than this. As I stood staring into the beautiful colors of the sunset pretending like I was Pocohontas (who wouldn’t mind finding the colors of the wind with John Smith?) all I could think was that I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. I am 21, living in Spain, and traveling the world every weekend. How am I ever going to return to the real world after these next four months? Once I realized that feeling bad for myself at that moment made me a complete idiot I brought out my camera for a million and a half pictures which later blew up every inch of my social media. I have officially turned into that girl I hate on Facebook, oh well.  It was worth it.

Lagos, Portgual

To backtrack a bit, Lagos was never a place that I wanted to go to.  Fortunately almost my entire abroad group booked this trip through Discover Sevilla and my FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) kicked in and I brought out the credit card.  Discover Sevilla is a company that has always creeped me out a bit.  They are basically these club and excursion promoters that very aggressively target abroad students.  They find their way into our facebook groups, bribe us with free drinks at the clubs, and are constantly messaging us to represent them.  They are even banned from our university here because years ago they came uninvited to our orientation night and helped themselves to free food, drinks, and advertising. Plus, the main promoter’s name is Toba and looks like the lead singer in LMFAO, but that’s besides the point. Fortunately, we were not all warned about Discover Sevilla until after we had booked the trip.  I say fortunately, because the trip was awesome!  I understand why my program would be annoyed with them, but they sure know how to plan a hell of a weekend.  We all successfully boarded the bus at 10am that morning.  I learned from my Malága trip that staying out until 6am before an early bus does not work, so we cut our nights short to about 3am.  I slept the entire bus ride there and my lovely friends have some cute pictures of me drooling away to prove it.  My beauty sleep has never been beautiful.  Once we arrived at our surprisingly nice hotel it was time to hit the beach.  The free sangria was flowing and the water felt great after the long morning of traveling.  Unfortunately, all of our photos from the first day were lost when our friend lost her camera at the club that night.  The clubs were great.  It was calmer than Sevilla (which doesn’t say much) and had a lot more bars.  If you are ever in Lagos, make sure you go to the bar called RedEye.  It is definitely the best place there.  Also, don’t worry about finding anything because there are plenty of barefoot australians running around that are the friendliest people you will ever meet.  I swear I did not meet a single person that was actually from Portugal.  All of them were Aussies, but I definitely was not complaining.  Our second day there started off with a thunderstorm followed by some more rain.  The DiscoverSeville people did a good job of improvising.  We ended up going to this really cool look out point once it stopped raining and taking a ton of pictures.  Then to the beach in the bad weather to get lunch and play some football.  I’ve learned that with enough sangria, everyday is a beach day. Around 6pm we went to the “end of the earth” to watch the sunset.  I have never seen anything like this.  In front of me was the glowing orange sun and behind me was the moon.  The wind was blowing and it felt great to be in the cold air.  I have never seen a sun set that fast.  I just stood there mesmerized by what was in front of me.  My girlfriends and I did take a moment to feel bad for ourselves while we watched all of the couples around us.  Then we remembered that we were 21, in Europe, and single and felt a lot better.  That night we all had another fun time around the town and had the most amazing chicken kabobs in the world.  I kid you not, these things were the best food I have had since being abroad.  Our last day was my favorite.  We went on a Sangria Sail Boat all morning and took a small boat through all of these different caves.  It was incredible.  I did not bring my camera because I didn’t want to waste a second seeing things through a lens.  Sometimes you just need to enjoy the moment.  We then spent the rest of the day cliff jumping and laying on the beach.  I definitely recommend cliff jumping, I just wouldn’t jump first.

A few tips for going to Lagos:  Don’t go out to a club before 3am, go to RedEye, befriend the Aussies, never speak to someone in Spanish because they will be offended, thank you is “Abrigado,” and eat as much bread as possible because it is delicious but never use the spread they give you unless you’re a fan of cat food- then go for it.  I got back two days ago and was thrilled to be welcomed back into the arms of my host family.  I also haven’t left my bed much the last two days.  I am exhausted and need to sleep for about a week.  Cheers to you Lagos, you win.

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Universidad Pablo de Olvide

UPO

Fue mi primer día de mis clases.  Today was my first day of classes.  I am going to enjoy every second I write right now because I am finally able to think in English.  So I may or may not have realized that if a class title is in Spanish…the entire class is taught in Spanish. Yeah, you’d think that one would’ve gotten through to me.  Oops.  The history of Latin America would be hard enough for me in English let alone Spanish.  I definitely am going to try to get out of that one.

As for now, I wake up at 10am, leave for the train at 11am, and arrive at UPO around 11:45.  My day then goes from 12:00pm-2:50pm and I am home just in time for almuerzo and siesta!  I am taking “International Management” (currently my english oasis), “Actualidad Latinoamericana:Prensa Y Cine,” “Conversación en español nivel Avanzado,” y “Esclavitud en América Latina y el Caribe.”  I was also somehow put into a class called “Tapas:Una ventana a la gastronomía y cultura española.”  Me in a cooking class?  Forget about the advanced Spanish, anything involving cooking I would fail for sure.  Domestication at its finest.

It is nice to finally have some sort of schedule.  As I mentioned before, time is not important in Spain, except when it comes to your classes.  It is extremely disrespectful to show up late to class, eat or drink in class, or leave to use the restroom.  The CIEE prep team made sure to inform all of the Americans of this before the professors all thought we were barbarians.  UPO prides itself on being a different kind of public university.  Most European schools do not have a set campus, but we are lucky enough to have one at UPO.  It definitely does not have the beauty of Santa Clara University, but I am excited to be attending nevertheless.  All of our classes are held in the same building, both to make it easier for us and so the Americans do not bother the Spanish students too much.  The program does a great job at promoting flexibility and travel.  No one has class on Fridays, so there will be plenty more weekends available for me to explore Europe.  This is a bit of a tricky topic for me.  I want to travel all around Europe during my four months here.  I have already planned trips to Portugal, Paris, Morocco, Germany, Soto Grande and I want to go to Greece, Italy, Rome, Prague, and Amsterdam.  However, leaving so many weekends makes it very difficult to continue working on my spanish and spending time with my host family.  I wonder if seeing the world is worth missing out on these other opportunities?  I have yet to decide. Well, tomorrow is my second day at UPO and I will get to experience two more new classes.  Hopefully I am able to understand at least one of them!  Considering one is in English, I have high hopes.  Hasta Luego!