Sadly today marked the last trip we would be taking as a group. We went to Ronda. Our host mom warned us that it would be absolutely freezing there and we might need to bring 2 jackets. She even showed us pictures of previous students who have visited when it was cold. They sure did look freezing to me. Luckily we had some pretty fantastic weather. It was even better there than it was back home in Málaga. The sun was shining the whole day and there was a bit of a breeze but it was comfortable for the most part.
We arrived and met our tour guide Pepe and his grandson Julio. He was 7 and absolutely adorable. We all wanted to take him home with us. We then had a three hour walking tour through Ronda. There was so much to see. The bridges were beautiful. I loved the scenery, it was absolutely breathtaking. Ronda happens to be one of the oldest cities in Spain dating back to the Neolithic Age! Many people have had control of Ronda over the centuries. Much of the the buildings are in ruins due to the uneven terrain that the Phoenicians and Romans had to deal with .
The main attractions were of course the three famous bridges. Puente Romano (Roman Bridge) , Puente Viejo (Old Bridge), and Puente Nuevo (New Bridge). I have never seen bridges look like that before in my life. It was absolutely incredible. The way there were designed and the simple fact that they have been standing for so long. We also got to go into the Plaza de toros which happens to be the oldest bullring in Spain. I couldn’t get over how big it was. It was pretty cool to see a part of history like that. We also visited the Baños árabes (Arab baths) which date back to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.
After our three hour walking tour we had about 2 hours for a lunch break. Some friends and I went and had tapas at this place in the square. I had patatas bravas which are spicy potatoes. To me, they are not as spicy as I’m used to back home. In Spain, they are not known for spicy food.
All in all this was a great excursion. I’m glad I was able to see another part of history. My mom and I plan on visiting when she comes to see me next week! My journey is almost complete.
Since the beginning of November, Málaga has been frantically putting up all sorts of decorations and lights galore. It’s been a big tease because they’ve never actually turned them on. They had the light ceremony on Friday. My friends and I went early because we knew it was going to be packed. They had a DJ and people playing all sorts of instruments. Before the DJ they had some opening acts. We had no idea what time they were turning on the lights because everyone kept telling us a different time. So we waited and we waited and we waited some more. The DJ kept us entertained. We joined in when the malagueños were chanting all sorts of sayings. We did the wave. I felt like I was waiting for Christmas to start at that exact moment. Then, finally the DJ started counting down and all of us a sudden the whole city was lit up a sea of lights. It was gorgeous. You couldn’t help but to stare. It was really quite magical. I am so lucky I get to look at this until I leave! My friend Cindy and I are going to do some exploring in the coming weeks to see all the other lights. Can’t wait.
As you all know, I have been quite busy the past month or so with attending class, homework and some pretty cool events. I haven’t had time to blog and quite frankly maybe that is a good thing. Trying to keep busy is not a hard task when you have so much at your finger tips. ISA organized some events for us this past month including a cooking class, a flamenco class and community service day.
Carolina is one of our directors and she taught us how to make Spanish Tortilla and Huevos Rellenos. When I first arrived here one of the first meals Emma made for me was Spanish Tortilla. Before dinner, she kept talking about tortilla. I thought to myself now that’s interesting. In my head I was thinking we were going to make fajitas more or less. To my surprise it was nothing like that. Spanish tortillas consist of eggs, onion, olive oil, potatoes. You are more than welcome to add other things, but this is the one we made. Then, when you’re finished you cut it up and stick it on pieces of bread. It was delicious. Next, we made Huevos Rellenos. This is hard boiled eggs stuffed with tuna, mayo, and it’s mixed with the egg yolk. That’s one of my favorites. It reminds me of deviled eggs with a twist.
Next on the agenda was Flamenco class. We went to this studio in Málaga, I felt like I was a little girl in dance class all over again. Our instructor broke down all the steps for us and taught us little by little. Luckily, I already knew some of the moves so I could pick up on things a lot more easily. Our instructor then incorporated someone playing the drum for us. We practiced over and over again. Towards the end, we had our dance down pretty well and she had people singing typical Christmas flamenco songs. It was incredible. I had a lot of fun with that. I wish I could have spent more time doing that.
Last but certainly not least, community service day. A group of us went to plant trees along the Guadalhorce River. A lot of the surrounding area is trying to be brought up. Planting these trees not only helps nature and the indigenous birds but also helps to put a wall up between the natural park and the undeveloped city. We had about 20 trees to plant. My friend Lee and I were paired up to plant the same trees. We were then given instructions and taken to our spot to start planting. Little did we know we had to dig holes. When we thought the hole was big enough it clearly wasn’t. Lee and I took turns digging. We planted our two trees with much more ease. One of the guys, Raul, that is part of this project helped us when we weren’t quite sure about something. He was really helpful and I got to practice my Spanish in a new way!
Lee and I finished the first two and there were still more to plant. Since a lot of people in our group sponsored trees but were unable to make it, it was up to us to plant those as well. I planted one for my roommate Morgan. We set out to do two more. This was harder than the first two. We were basically trying to dig into clay. Needless to say it took a lot longer to plant those two. It was a lot of work. It felt good being able to give back a little something to the community. I get to leave my mark in Málaga. Our names will be on plaques next to our trees. As well as they will give us the GPS coordinates to know exactly where they are. The soreness I am feeling throughout my whole body was definitely well worth it!
Thursday was Thanksgiving in the United States, better known as Acción de Gracias here in Spain. It was like an other ordinary day here, but I felt as though something was different. I felt as though I was missing out on something. My life had forever changed the moment I had stepped off that plane. The first year without my family back home and it hasn’t been easy. Nevertheless, they’ve been there every step of the way.
The holidays are my favorite time of the year. There’s always a big group of us taking over someone’s house for the day. We have enough food to feed the neighborhood for the month. It’s never a dull moment and I am thankful for that. Thankful for the moments where you’re laughing so hard you’re crying. Everyone tells stories and yes they may be the same ones that have been told forever, but those are the best kinds. They seem to get better and better every time they’re told.
Every year people ask me what I’m thankful for and I generally say the same thing. But this year is a bit different. I’ve appreciated a lot of things in my life regardless of how long it takes me to realize it. I have been away now for almost 100 days. Being here really has made me appreciate the most simplest things that you couldn’t even imagine. I am grateful for my host family and the warmth and kindness they have offered to me since the moment I met them. It has made my journey much more enjoyable.
My directors took a small group of us out for Thanksgiving dinner. All day we were contemplating, “There’s no way they could do that.” or “Do they even know what stuffing is?” So many questions ran through our minds. We all dressed up and went to a restaurant called El Patio. I loved the setup and the decor. To our surprise we really had a Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potato pie with marshmallow on top, cranberry sauce, stuffing, gravy, green beans. You name it, we had it.
I was fortunate enough to sit next to some really incredible people. As the night continued, I began to realize that yes I did miss my family back home and yes it was a bit difficult, but my friends and I had formed a special bond with one another and it did feel like family. We laughed so hard we cried, we stuffed our faces, we enjoyed each other’s company. We did all the things that I would have done back home. After all of that I was quite content. Even better, I did get to speak with all of my family. It turned out to be a very successful day. Thank you to all who made it memorable. To my family near and far, I love you.
I’ve been fortunate enough to view some of the most incredible sunrises. When I first arrived here my schedule was different and I was unable to see these remarkable masterpieces. The only downside is that I am up early enough to see them, luckily it’s only a small downside. Morgan and I play musical chairs on the bus every morning just so we can take pictures of the sunrises. Some days we’re not quick enough with our cameras, but our eyes remember it all. The brilliant colors and breathtaking landscape make for quite a morning. I believe it’s a great way to start the day. I thought I’d share what I get to see just about every day. Life is beautiful.
As promised, I would dedicate a whole posting about my Starbucks visit. Oh Starbucks how I’ve missed you so. We received a special treat while we were in Sevilla. There were four Starbucks near the city center as well as our hotel. After the visit to the cathedral, Iker immediately pointed us in the direction of the Starbucks. The second my friends and I walked in there I knew it was going to be a good day. I missed that strong coffee bean smell, the sounds of the machines and the warm embrace the aromas gave. As we walked in they were playing Christmas music, which I immediately started singing and dancing to. I didn’t care if I looked silly I was excited. Then, I realized that it was the Hawaiian Christmas song that my mom and I love. The songs got better and better after that. Once I ordered my Toffee Nut Latte (which by the way you cannot get in the states) Cindy and I were off to find out nesting place. She started jumping up and down when she realized there was an upstairs. We found these great comfy chairs which were situated near the windows so that we could watch everything outside. And so the adventure continued as Cindy, Morgan, Falyn and I drank our pieces of heaven and ate a really amazing caprese salad (and they give you little bottles of olive oil with it!)
We had two hours to kill for our break. It was extremely cold outside especially with the wind, so we decided to stay warm and toasty in our comfy chairs for the duration of our break. One song after the other played and I of course sang every single one of them. I haven’t been excited like that in a really long time. I love Christmas with my family. It’s my favorite time of the year. This is the first year of my 26 years on this earth that I will not be with my whole family for Christmas. However, my wonderful amazing mother is coming here so we can spend 10 days together (including Christmas)! Málaga and many of the surrounding cities have done some extravagant decorating for the holidays. I cannot wait to see all of the lights once they are on.
Hola a todos! Hello to all!
Amazingly enough my professors have been keeping me on my toes this week. I’ve had 3 midterms so far and one more coming up on Tuesday. Antonio, my professor for Mujeres del Siglo 20 y 21 (Women of 20th and 21st Century) and Spanish Literature gave us a great review for both classes. He has made my experience at school so enjoyable. He’s quite entertaining. When he asks you to read a paragraph or answer a question he addresses us by saying “super Natalia”. All of us in the class laugh when he does because it’s something we’re not used to. Many of the professors here do that.
Best of all, he has been a great support system. If I don’t understand something I’ll go up to him after class and ask my question. He immediately tells me to relax and tells me exactly what I need to do or explains something I’m confused about. I love all my professors. They are all very helpful and make the classes entertaining. Antonio has a special place in my heart and has helped me fall in love with the language once again.
I have been very fortunate to have had professors throughout my Spanish career that have made my experience worthwhile. You need that passion and dedication not only for the subject but also for helping students aspire to their highest potential. Yes, the work is challenging whether I’m in the US or in Spain. However, my professors have made this journey rewarding. Gracias a todos por su apoyo. Thank you to all for your support.
Today I decided to do something a bit different. On the weekends I take a long walk through the port and down to my favorite beach. Today and yesterday have been absolutely perfect weather wise. The sun is shining, not a cloud in the sky and the temperature is about 70 degrees. I couldn’t ask for a better day. I always grab my keys and iPod and head out the door. But, this time instead of immediately shoving my headphones in my ears and shutting out the world, I decided to listen to the outdoors. Quite frankly I am getting tired of my music and sadly Spain is behind when it comes to getting rights to use Pandora. So for this reason, I am on my own.
I walked much slower than I’m used to and it gave me a chance to look at the scenery. The port had a glow to it from the sun covering every inch it possibly could with its beaming rays. I walked down where the cruise ships come in and watched as the tourists from near and far trickled off the ship. As I walked passed them I must have counted 10 different languages that people were speaking. Clearly I didn’t have the slightest idea what people were saying but it was interesting to listen to. What really caught me off guard was the group of Americans I passed on my way. I’m not used to hearing English, so when I did it made me think of home.
The slower pace got me to think about my time here and how I am more than halfway through my trip. Spain has taught me more than enough to last a lifetime. They have a different way of life than what I’m used to back home. They are much more relaxed and don’t take life so seriously. They know the value of living and I believe they respect the time they have on this earth.
My host mom and I had a chat today about life. How it is so short . If we have bad thoughts in our minds that we have the ability to change them. It’s our choice of how we want to live our lives and that we need to cherish what we have. Life is too short to have bad thoughts. We’ll miss out on the most important moments if we are stuck thinking of the bad rather than enjoying the good.
Today got me thinking about how much I miss home. I am excited for our upcoming excursions and plan to enjoy them to the fullest. Sometimes I just wish I could be experiencing all of this with the ones I love. And soon enough the time will fly by and I’ll be home once again. Until then, I am taking Emma’s advice and experiencing Málaga with a new set of eyes.