Thursday, April 29, 2010

5 Weeks 'til California...WRITER'S BLOCK!

As of today, I only have 5 weeks left in Spain. I know I could be feeling various emotions right now...sadness/anxiety/disappointment/excitement/relief...all pertaining to the fact that I only have limited time left here, but for some reason, I don't feel very much. I seem to be taking it one day at a time, but I'm finding it hard to find both my feelings and my words. I've tried to write at least 3 blog entries in the last week, but for some reason, they all come out...well...bad.

Hopefully my weekend trip to Lagos (Portugal) will help. Maybe the beach is exactly what I need to sort through...well...whatever it is that I need to sort through.

With that said, here is a song I have been listening to on repeat for the past three weeks. Maybe this will shed some light on how I'm feeling...subliminally, of course.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pardon the Melodrama

I want to apologize for not having posted since Granada. And in regards to Granada, I didn’t provide any commentary because, well, the pictures pretty much say everything. Granada, for me, has been the prettiest part of Spain we’ve seen thus far.

Anyway, since then, I’ve been ill. (Are we really surprised? No. No, we’re not.) It started out as just allergies…a stuffy nose and a cough…nothing I can’t handle, right? Wrong. The stuffy nose completely took over, and before I knew it, breathing through my eyes seemed to be the best option (because if I breathed through my mouth, my lungs would give way to a hacking cough.) So, I took to my bed, and if I wasn’t blowing my nose or leaning forward with each convulsion of my chest, I was sneezing, eating, going to the bathroom or sleeping.

Then, just as things started to look up and I thought things couldn’t get any worse, they did. I woke up Friday morning, and the moment I opened my eyes, they began to sting. And then came the tears. But no, these weren’t tears of sadness and they most certainly were not tears of joy. So then, why were my eyes crying (and I say my eyes because I was most certainly not crying…my eyes must have been feeling sad that day)? Honestly, I still have no idea…

So, I was sneezing, coughing, crying, blowing my nose, not breathing, etc. But then Sunday, (God’s day, mind you), I woke up feeling better! A miracle! My nose was still stuffy and I still had a cough, but the crying had stopped along with the sneezing, and my cough no longer made me feel like my lungs were fracturing my ribs from the inside. I had more energy, and I started doing some homework, and I thought things were getting better. God’s day was good.

But God’s night....oh, God’s night….God’s night was so not good to me…

I was lying in bed on Facebook when it happened. (Maybe all of this is punishment for my consistent presence on the life-consuming social networking website??? No…God made man and man made facebook…so…facebook=good...right? Anyway, I was totally minding my own business, thinking that the next day, I would finally be able to make it through a full day of classes without wanting to faint at least 5 times. I went to get up to go to the bathroom, and that’s when it hit me. When I tried to stand, I nearly lost my balance. My feet quickly corrected my body, but my head still hung slightly to the right. There was an enormous amount of pressure on the side of my head, and that’s when I realized I couldn’t hear out of my right ear…

You can imagine the confusion/panic/fear/frustration/anger that surged through my body at this point. The reason my nose wasn’t stuffy at that moment was because the mucus…had drained…into my frigging ear!

I was completely defeated. My body felt better, but I couldn’t hear and I couldn’t focus and I knew I had an ear infection. Maybe I should have listened to my host mother 3 days prior when she said I should go to the doctor. But what good would the doctor do? I’m allergic to pretty much every effective antibiotic known to mankind. So, when I go to the doctor, they diagnose me quickly but then spend the majority of the time pondering over my allergies saying, “This is going to be difficult…” over and over again before they finally prescribe me something they “hope” I’m not allergic to.

So at this point, I have a cough, an ear infection and death in Spain seems to be looming on the horizon as I convince myself the antibiotics they prescribe will most certainly kill me. At least my nose isn’t stuffy…?

The next morning, Encarni takes me to the doctor. She’s one of our…advisors (for lack of a better word) here. She’s a tiny little fireball who smokes nearly a pack a day, speaks Spanish at the speed of light with such charisma it hurts, and has the tightest, jet black curls I have ever seen. She sees me and asks, “¿Cómo estás, maldita?” I just grin and shake my head.

The taxi ride consisted of me looking out the window half the time with the other half of the time trying to make small talk in Spanish so Encarni at least knew I was alive. I know I shouldn’t have wallowed in my self-pity for so long, but by this time, I had been sick 7 days, I was going to be sick for at least another 7, the weather was gray and the doctors were going to kill me. What choice did I have?

And just as I expected, the doctor at the clinic looked at my allergies and said, “This is going to be difficult…” the only difference being that she said it Spanish. Great. So now, I’m difficult in two languages. Perfect.

Finally, I chose to take an antibiotic that (although it’s in the same family of an antibiotic I’m allergic to) was a better option than penicillin… because I would have DEFINITELY died from penicillin. With this one, the worst that can happen is my fever spikes and I break out in hives. So, it was fever and hives or death. What a choice to make, huh?

So here I am today, ear infection and all, hyped up on decongestants, eardrops that could potentially burn off my ear if I’m not careful and Ibuprofen. I’ve made it to class and am now watching as students, whose shoes I will wear in a weeks time, are getting reamed by our professor for not knowing their facts. And if they aren’t getting scolded, they’re getting interrupted. Great.

I just need to make it through April…

Monday, April 12, 2010

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Sunshine and Oranges, and No, I'm Not Talkin' about Florida!

Orange trees line almost every street in Córdoba. It doesn't matter if you're in Ciudad Jardín where it's mostly residential or if you're in La Plaza de las Tendillas right in the center of the city. Córdoba loves its oranges.

But the oranges on the trees aren't for casual peeling and eating. You don't want to pick one off the tree and just pop it in your mouth. No, these oranges are bitter--they're meant for marmalade.

Still, the orange trees promise Córdoba more than just marmalade...

Before I left, the orange blossoms hadn't bloomed. Oranges hung from the trees, but my padres insisted that the experience wasn't complete without the orange blossoms. And now that they've arrived, I must admit: my padres were right.

As I leave my piso each morning, I'm greeted by the sweet smell of the orange blossoms. I never thought I would write something so terribly cliché, but... you can blame it on the orange blossoms.

They're just such a great start to the day. I walk out the door, and there is the sun (finally). I breathe in, and there are the orange blossoms. Then I turn the corner, and there are the orange trees. Perfect. Absolutely perfect. I can't help but smile inside and out.

Spring is here, and Córdoba is about to bloom in every which way--I can feel it.
Life is completely beautiful right now.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

My Final Thoughts on the Trip

Train ride back to Córdoba:

So the trip is officially over once our train pulls in to Córdoba. It’s gone by quickly, and it’s all been very exhilarating, but like all good things, it’s come to an end. Back to reality I go. I have to go through pictures once I get back, and I have to update my blog, and I have to talk to my parents and to my friends, and I have to check emails…

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday, but it doesn’t feel like it. It’ll be weird not celebrating with family. I’m actually a little sad about the fact that I’m not with them. I miss my family very much…

It’s so weird that I missed Spain. Every time we heard people speaking Spanish on this trip, we were all so comforted by it—it was as if they were speaking English to us!

Anyway, I’m just going to sit back, relax and enjoy my last train ride for a while. I’m going to miss Spain.

Actually…I already do…


Day #1:

I was overcome with relief once we pulled into Berlin earlier today. It’s our last stop before we head back to Córdoba, and well, it’s been a very long break. I’m tired, but I’m so glad I did this.

Anyway, Berlin is familiar territory, so I’m assuming that’s another reason why I felt relieved on arrival. I love it here for some reason. It’s just one of those places that feels “right” to me. It’s such a comfortable city.

The Holocaust Memorial is still my favorite part of the entire city: it’s a totally powerful experience, and walking through it at night in total darkness just made it even more powerful. I love Berlin, and it’s a true love.

Day #2:

Today was so gorgeous. A part of me is excited to go back to Córdoba, but the other part of me will miss travelling. Living like this is so easy in some ways. You do what you want, when you want and how you want. You don’t answer to anybody. Sure, it takes awhile to get oriented in a place, but once you know what you’re doing, it’s smooth sailing. And honestly, it’s so invigorating to know I can live like this and…well…survive.

I need to figure myself out. I feel like I’m not “myself”, even though right now, I’m probably more “myself” than I’ve ever been. This trip has made me fall into love with the world, and although we’ve had some weird moments, this vacation has truly been a beautiful experience.

Anyway, I’m so glad we ended our trip in Berlin.

But…I still have so much world to see. Will I have enough time? Will I ever be satisfied? Will I ever want to stay in one place forever?

There is just so much uncertainty right now. I can’t limit myself; I can’t be afraid; I can’t settle. I have to keep living and moving, and when it’s time to slow down, I’ll just know. But until then, this is the life I choose. I choose the world as my home; I choose an impermanent address; I choose to be young, free and unafraid.

The Wall


Prague has stolen my heart. I’ve heard that it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and let me tell you—it lives up to all the hype. Our hostel turned out to be a fully furnished 2-bedroom apartment with a living room, bathroom, kitchen and a view from the balcony that could make any heart break. (And it only breaks your heart because after you see it, you have to leave it…and that’s the last thing you want to do.)

The View.

The climb up to the castle and the metronome (both of which overlook the city) was totally worth it. I don’t even have the words to explain what I saw. It was sunny, 70 and the river shimmered. Sounds cliché, right? But it’s the truth. Prague was perfect in that moment. And actually, I think Prague would be perfect in any moment…rain, snow or shine.

Like Hungary, the Czech Republic suffered the same Soviet and Nazi occupations, but for some reason, Prague didn’t feel the same way Budapest felt. Prague has come away with some life in its back pocket, and the people seem much happier.

Anyway, I really think I could live in Prague. It’s devastatingly beautiful with its domes and spires and orange roofs and cobblestoned streets and Easter markets and eclecticism.

I’m so glad I came on this trip. I’m seeing cities that are beautiful, and such beauty is defined by a history. These cities are beautiful because of what they are and what they are not.

Prague isn’t like anywhere: I’m convinced. No place has ever made my heart ache like this before.


Train ride to Vienna cont’d:

This is what growing up should feel like. It should feel natural—not forced. You shouldn’t notice that you’re growing up—you should just wake up one morning and realize, “Wow, my life is beautiful”…and that’s growing up enough.

Growing up shouldn’t incite panic: it shouldn’t scare you. It’s merely the natural progression of life. And that’s how it feels right now, on this train, with my friends. I’m not afraid of growing up. I’m completely at ease. I’ve completely come to terms with it. And maybe that’s the ultimate growth—accepting all that comes with the passage of time rather than fearing it.

Day #1:

Vienna is gorgeous, but it isn’t as powerful as Budapest. It’s a very international city, and I feel like if you took away the palaces and the monuments, you could be in any big city in the world. However, I do appreciate the cultural diversity—I was actually shocked by how many different kinds of people live here. It’s a very good mix of eastern and western Europe, and there’s a lot of Turkish influence throughout the entire city.

Day #2:

On the way home from the club last night, we took a cab. My friend, being himself, proceeded to ask the cab driver where he was from. He replied, “Afghanistan.”

Now, I know this is horrible, but you could feel the energy in the cab shift with his response. We all tensed at hearing it, but I don’t think it was because we were afraid of him; we were more afraid of what he thought about us…being Americans and all…

Anyway, we came to find out that his entire family now lives in Vienna, and he considers the city very much his home. Then, he asked us where we were from (even though we figured it was pretty obvious because…well…it usually is). My friend paused before he finally answered, “The United States.” The cab driver got quiet and said, “Oh.” We all glanced at each other nervously.

Then, after some thought, he nodded and said, “America is good country”. He glanced back at us and grinned. It really was a beautiful moment at the time and looking back on it as well. I guess the world isn’t defined by hatred after all.

Sam’s favorite part of Vienna:

No big shocker here, but my favorite part of Vienna was definitely the open-air market. I’ll just post the pictures…

Budapest was Buda-ful

Day #1:

Budapest really surprised me. It’s beautiful, but it isn’t quintessentially beautiful. The skies aren’t the bluest, the buildings aren’t the most well kept, and the people are most certainly not the happiest people on Earth. But Budapest is beautiful because it isn’t and doesn’t have any of this. It’s very eerie actually. It’s dark and it’s old and it’s a little bit sad. I mean…I know there are a lot of “old” cities in the world, but this one feels old. The way people dress, the way store shop windows are arranged, all of it just screams “old”. I don’t understand why, but the city feels stuck.

Day #2:

The House of Terror explained everything.

“The ‘House of Terror’ is a museum now, but it was witness to two shameful and tragic periods in Hungary’s 20th century history. It truly was a house of terror.

In 1944, during the gruesome domination of the Hungarian Arrow Cross Party, this building, known as the “House of Loyalty”, was the party headquarters of the Hungarian Nazis. Then between 1945 and 1956, the notorious communist terror organizations, the AVO and its successor, the AVH, took up residence here. 60 Andrassy Boulevard has become the house of terror and dread.

This museum commemorates the victims of terror, but it is also a memento, reminding us of the dreadful acts of terrorist dictatorships.”

Someone really did a wonderful job designing this museum. Each floor is set up like a spiral, so you begin on the outside and work your way to the center, collapsing in on yourself. And the aesthetic (music, room design, pictures, etc.) is very…haunting. From what I have come to understand, this country was pretty much man-handled (for lack of a better word) by the Soviets and the Nazis. Now, I know that many eastern European countries were severely impacted by the same occupations, but you don’t really ever hear about Hungary, and…well…you probably should.

Train ride to Vienna:

I still can’t get over how beautiful Budapest was. It was so surprising, and I’m going to miss it. I think it’s one of those cities I’m going to want to see in 20 years, just to see how it’s changed. I’m glad I didn’t go in with any expectations for this part of the trip. It made the experience that much more enjoyable and satisfying.

This trip is going by quickly. I need to just keep my wits about me. And I need to remain flexible and not take what goes on too seriously because if I do, who knows how this trip will end up.