Hey hey everybody!! Last time I updated I was about to leave for MÃ¡laga, so I'll start there. We had about a three hour ride to get there. The landscape grew more and more mountainous the closer we got so I was getting excited. It was really neat to get out of the city and just drive through the countryside of Spain, I was so tired but couldn't sleep a wink on the bus---the window had my full attention. Upon arrival a bunch of waiters in suits brought out trays and trays of drinks for the whole crew, the hotel was very nice and I was impressed! There are a couple pictures from the hotel amidst the hundreds posted, so good luck finding them =) MÃ¡laga is supposedly one of the poorest cities in Spain but we didn't stray far from the very main city/beach area and from what I saw you couldn't tell that it was a poor city. I'm sure once you exit the little touristy part things change quickly though. We spent a couple hours in a Picasso museum which was very interesting. Very high-security type place....I had to check my belongings at the door and there were guards standing in the corners of every room. It was about 8 p.m. when this ended and we headed back to the hotel with the rest of the night to do whatever we wanted. I love how much freedom they give us with this particular study abroad program. We have planned events that usually are things that we actually want to see and do then they let us explore for ourselves with no regulations the rest of the time. For dinner we went and got takeout and had a small fiesta in our hotel room with a group of our friends and then around midnight we hit the town. Things get started late here, it's just the norm. A huge group of American students wandering around a city in Spain that none of us had ever been to before with nothing but a fold-up map and I knew it was going to be an interesting night. MÃ¡laga nightlife didn't let us down, we bar hopped for a while and then landed at a discoteca where we danced the night away. Come time to head back to the hotel around 5 a.m. I was the only sober person and also had the map so given my excellent sense of direction and map reading skills, it is needless to say that we got lost. It's ok though, getting lost proves to be a learning experience time and time again! You'd think that being so late/early that there would be few people still out but the streets were bustling right on into the morning. I think I laid my head on my pillow going on 6:30 in the a.m. and woke up the next morning ready for a spanish mountain hike. The whole group was struggling but thankfully unlike the others I wasn't suffering from a hangover! :) I will say that the continental breakfast from the hotel is one of the best I've ever had except when I went to grab a sugar packet from the little dish and you won't believe what crawled up from the bottom of the dish...a SPIDER. I wanted to die. Luckily the others at my table were less pansyish than I and they calmly killed it for me but I think my heart raced for atleast the next hour. Those little devilish 8 legged creatures just won't leave me alone, they know how much I hate them. Anyyyyways, there are lots of pics up from the hike, the rocks we saw were so neat-- much cooler in person but pictures will just have to do. We stopped at something slightly classier than a gas station for the grossest lunch I've eaten since I got here then finally got back to Sevilla sometime that evening. Naps were in order for everyone.
I had my first exam on Tuesday; I studied mucho and got an A woooohooo! Wednesday we didn't have class because of a Spanish holiday so a group of about 8 of us woke up early and headed off to the bus station to buy tickets to the beach in a town about 1 hour and 15 minutes away. None of us had ever done this before so it was interesting getting all of us with the right ticket on the right bus. I'm pretty sure it would have been easier if all the talking and writing wasn't in espanol! We learned the hard way that they sell far more tickets than they actually have seats for on the bus. There was no orgainzed line to get on what-so-ever, so it was a giant pushing match to see who could get on and fight for seats. Survival of the fittest I guess you could call it, or as one of my fellow American students put it, "Survival of the Spanish people who know what the hell is going on." haha. So true. About half of our group had successfully boarded the bus (myself not included) when I noticed that there was no way we were all gonna get on. This set off my internal alarm system, so not wanting to be left behind in some loading dock of a bus station in Spain I knew it was time to get a little rowdy for my place on that bus. Since I'm about a foot and a half taller than all of the locals I pretty much just trampled them and hopped on. Good thing I did because 2 of the girls that were supposed to be with us didn't make it on! It turned out ok though, they hopped the next bus which they were allowed them to use their previously purchased tickets for and we all met up in our arrival city. The bus driver was completely out of his mind. He had to 100% slam on the breaks to keep from rear ending a car driving in front of him and some lady's cell phone went flying from her seat in the back of the bus tumbling down the isle all the way to the front. The other cars weren't even driving poorly, we just had a moron bus driver. Once we got on the beach though, the weather was perfect--hot and sunny with a little breeze. I had been longing to see the beach for a while so my craving was satisfied and I couldn't have been happier! The ocean was freeeezing but we still got in. There was a random massive rock a little ways out so some of us went out and climbed it then did a little mini-cliff jumping!! (pictures of that to come).
Two nights ago I just stayed in and relaxed, it was wonderful. I downloaded the season finale of Grey's Anatomy to my computer and bought myself an almond chocolate bar at the store down the street so I just laid in my bed and chilled. I was SO excited for Grey's. It was the perfect end to a perfect day UNTIL....Mr. King of the Bug Society Cockroach scurried across my floor in a panic to seek shelter under my bed. It was HUGE. I completely freaked out and I was home alone. I literally just sat on my bed in a state of terror until my roommate came home 45 minutes later. I had my computer on my bed so I emailed my mom to vent about my fear and googled things about cockroaches like if they can climb walls, what kind of environments they prefer, how long they can live for, etc. etc. because I was paranoid. I was sure that if I set foot on the floor it would emerge from it's place of hiding under my bed and scurry up my leg and then I would surely die (yes, I realize I overreact horribly to things like this). My roommate can handle things like that though so I made the leap from my bed to hers and she moved my bed out, found it, and killed it just like a champ. What would I do without her? I don't know how to tell Juan in spanish that there is a cockroach under my bed! PRAISE THE LORD that I had been keeping my room clean so there were NO clothes on the floor for it to nest in.
Haha, onwards now to other news: I'm loving my class-- I have the coolest professor ever, I'm learning so much from him in such a short amount of time and on top of that he is hilarious. I'm really excited because I've been getting to know some locals around my age so we hang out and that's awesome practice for my spanish + it's so interesting to have conversations with them. Last night I had a huge discussion with 3 local guys about America, Pres Bush, problems in each country, etc. etc. Each person there other than myself spoke atleast one language other than their own fluently and if they weren't also fluent in english, they were pretty darn good at it. One of them is fluent in spanish, english, italian, and french. It blew my mind how much they knew about America and other countries. America gets stereotyped for being ethnocentric and ignorant of cultures different than their own which is a shame but unfortunately, compared to the people I'm meeting here, it's true. I realize that not every American can be accurately characterized by that, but I will say that I think those who disprove that stereotype are more the exception than the norm. Growing up in America provides a world of opportunity and is such a blessing, I've got every comfort I could ever want at home, but living in the land of excess has some serious disadvantages as well. I'm slowly starting to experience what those are first hand.
I absolutely love being here, I'm experiencing the culture, learning the language, and having my mind and eyes opened to the world that exists beyond my sheltered existence that I've known for the last 20 years. I realize that I'm just experiencing the very tip of the iceburg here but you've gotta start somewhere, and my journey has begun!
I definitely miss my diet coke (they have coke light here, not the same at all), favorite gum (yes, they've got orbit here too but it tastes like a chewy cough drop), peanut butter (they seriously just don't eat it around here, if you can find it somewhere it's about 6 dollars for a mini jar), and going in a public bathroom that actually has a toilet seat and toilet paper (they're not all like this, but it's definitely common. Mini kleenx packs are magical!) but those are small prices to pay for an experience like this!
Oh and a quick funny story: They have all of our popular american movies here except translated into spanish and one of the guys was trying to explain to me what his favorite movie is in english and he kept saying that "Giant Father" is his favorite. We didn't know what the heck he was talking about until he said it had Adam Sandler in it and we realized that he meant "Big Daddy" so we got a huge kick outta that. Oh, the greatness of translation confusion. I would LOVE to be able to hear how I sound to all the native spanish speakers here when I use their language, I bet it's a hoot.
The weekend is upon us, and who knows what that will bring, so more to come later!! Thank you all so much for your message board posts, emails, etc. etc. I LOVE getting those and have so much fun reading them. Miss and love you all! =) Kristin