Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I'd like to start this blog post with the top 3 things I love about my daily life in Barcelona:

1. The metro system makes it so easy to get to where I need to be. In a flash. It takes me 15 minutes, tops, to get to my classes at the COACB campus (it's 3 stops in the metro). Although, I also love walking to my classes at Main campus (2 stops on the metro) now that it's sunny and pretty.

2. The vespas are so freaking cute. Whenever I see a girl riding one, I always think, "Now she is badass." I really want a scooter when I get home. Maybe that will be my next big purchase (don't worry, Mom, I'll save up first). EVERYONE drives them. The sidewalks are always filled with these cute little motor scooters. I just want to steal one (preferably the pink ones).

3. The locals are so laid-back. When you eat at a restaurant, they don't rush you. They don't even bring your check unless you ask for it. You could literally sit there for hours, and they would think nothing of it. This is a sharp contrast from the US, where their goal is to get you in and out in record time. I love not feeling rushed and hurried.

Now, I know you are thinking these might be silly things. However, when you walk and see and do things every single day, you tend to notice and appreciate the small things, such as transportation. But you also take note of the negative things...

Top 3 things I despise about my daily life in Barcelona:

1. The dirty, disgusting men that find it necessary to holler, whistle, hiss, and make derogatory comments every time I walk down the street. Now, normally I would be flattered at receiving such attention, but here, it's only because I am [obviously] American. They think that just because I am from the US, they can degrade me by whistling at me. Seriously guys, do you think I am going to turn around and fall madly in love with you because you hissed at me?! Please. It's honestly the most annoying thing about living here. For example: Tonight I was on my way home from the gym. I was dripping with sweat, clad in a hooded sweatshirt (hood up) and work-out pants. Some guy walked past me and literally put his face in mine, and made some comment (I had my iPod in, luckily).  Does he really think that since I am not a local, he can get in my face and say dirty things? Apparently. It's disgusting.

2. Along with being laid-back comes walking slow. If anyone knows me, they know that although I'm cursed with short legs, I walk faster than most. In fact, my roommate gives herself a head-start when we walk to the gym because she knows I will undoubtedly catch up with her. Unfortunately, the locals here like to walk nice and slow, admiring each and every detail of every possibly thing. That's fine, as long as I don't have anywhere to go, but I always do. I get so annoyed when I am stuck behind a row of 5 elderly that walk an inch a minute. As much as I love old people, it would be nice for them to leave a little space for me to pass. Another annoyance is when people crowd the entrances to the metro or staircases. They make it nearly impossible to get around, and all I want to do is just shove on through.

3. I am tired of having to dodge dog poop, spit-wads, and countless pieces of gum when I am using the sidewalk. Honestly, have these people never heard of carrying a plastic bag when walking your dog? And do people know that it is NOT okay to spit in the metro train or inside the restaurant? Sometimes, I really do not think that Spaniards have learned proper etiquette. I know there are many cultural differences, but really. This should be a universal rule: NO SPITTING. Ever. Haha.

Lately I've been having really bad anxiety. I'm not sure what it's from, but it's really annoying and wearing me down. For starters, every time I get on the metro during rush hour (noon and 5 ish), I start thinking, "Oh my gosh, what if someone blows the train up? What if this is it? What if I die here?" and I really just pray so hard that God will protect me. I know that it most likely will NOT happen, but I just start thinking the worst. I'm not joking, this happens at least three times a week. I get so antsy and want to get off the metro, pronto. Another thing that has been really bothering me is taking off/landing on airplanes. I do not mind flying, in fact, I usually enjoy it. But every time we take off and land, I squeeze my eyes shut and start furiously praying that we'll be safe. I know there is nothing at all wrong with praying for protection, but the part that gets to me is the excessive heartbeat, light-headedness (is this a word?) that I feel. I just want it to stop. Lastly, I've had a really difficult time sleeping lately. For about the last three weeks, I have been tossing and turning, unable to fall asleep, stay asleep, and sleep in. Those who know me well know that I take full advantage of naps, sleeping in, laying around, etc. But for some reason, lately I have been laying there for hours. Last night, for example, I didn't fall asleep until 6am, then I woke up at 9am wide-awake. My body hates me. But I think about the dumbest things. I lay there and wish I could fall asleep just so I can wake up, shower, and get ready. I plan what I'm going to wear, do, eat, etc. while I lay there. Then, I just want the morning to come even faster. I don't know if it's excitement from being in Spain, my sister visiting so soon, or just me being anxious, but it's downright annoying. I am so tired, but so restless. I think I might start taking my antidepressants again, or at least try to find some melatonin. I am just exhausted.

That said. I would like to tell a tale of two girls named Kelly and Sara who wanted to take a vacation to the beach. Both girls knew they traveled well together, and they wanted to visit a place where they could lay on the beach all day and do nothing.  So, they found a town called Cadiz, which is located at the bottom tip of Spain (just the tip, to see what it feels like). They were so excited for their romantic getaway, but they knew they were doomed as soon as they stepped on the bus.  They had only gotten three hours of sleep the night before, but easily settled into the hostel and found the beach.

After taking a dive into el oceano atlantico, they laid out in the sun the entire day. They then returned to the hostel, showered (and mopped, which was a requirement for staying at this hostel), and got ready for dinner. No one explained to them that in southern Spain, they take full advantage of siesta. In Barcelona, everything opens back up around 4 or 5pm, but in Cadiz, restaurants stayed closed until at least 9pm. After asking the worker at the hostel for somewhere to eat, to which she rudely replied, "I can't help you. I am too busy, I have too many things to do." they tried so hard to find somewhere to eat. It took almost an hour of walking to find an open restaurant, called Asia de Cuba, which was 1. empty and 2. neither Asian OR Cuban. Alas, it was the only restaurant open, so they decided to wing it. The ordered patatas fritas, which were soaked in oil, and crepes. Since they were running on little sleep and were upset with the hostel situation, they thought a drink was well-deserved.

Post-dinner, they accidentally walked around the entire city (they are both directionally challenged), but decided to make the most of it by having a photo session.

This is where the story gets even better, but the situation gets worse. You see, they were exhausted and so excited to get a full night of sleep. However, the hostel was extremely loud, due to yelling and music blaring, and they could not even remotely sleep. Then, this creepy man walked into the room and introduced himself as George. George was about 26, tall, and had a full goatee. He was also rolling and smoking joints inside the room. It was just three of them, and after introductions, he asked Sara if people thought she was boring because she looked like an intellectual (her glasses?), and then stated that he liked Americans, particularly dark-skinned (Sara--she's Italian), and blondes (Kelly). He then proceeded to state that he loved Americans because of their open sexuality and tendency to be erotic. He asked the girls if it is indeed true that universities are famous for their mass orgies and sex parties. He also said that he had a lot of experience having erotic and intimate cyber sex with American women from the ages of 18-60.  George then asked Kelly, "Do you have erotic cyber sex with your boyfriend?" Needless to say, this creeped them out like no other. They knew they had to escape the hostel, pronto, and wasted no time in packing up and getting out. Unfortunately, the worker at the front desk was not helpful at all. When they explained the situation, the staff member did not take them seriously and claimed that they should at least stay the one night because he wouldn't let anything happen to them. However, the girls knew that they couldn't possibly get any sleep that night. So they left the hostel and found another one, with a private room, 2 beds, and bath for just 10 euro more. Also, the man at the front desk was the sweetest and cutest old man ever. How helpful he was to let them get a room at almost 1am.

So, after attempting to get a full night's sleep, they woke up and headed straight to the beach. It was another beautiful day and they were so excited to lay there all day, with their baguettes and Diet Coke.
Kelly had forgotten her toothbrush, so she bought one that morning and brushed her teeth on the beach.
After the beach, they took a nap and got ready later. They learned their lesson about going out too early the night before.  Sara braided Kelly's hair, and she LOVED it.

They ate at a Mexican restaurant (yes, they know they're in Spain), and ordered delicious nachos and sangria.

The next morning, they attempted to lay in the sun, but it was too cloudy and windy. So they went to the market and almost bought a puppy.

It was only 140 euro, and they were both so tempted to buy it. They resisted, but did not resist any temptation to shop til they dropped. Sara and Kelly are equally bad influences on each other's 1. stomachs, 2. wallets. After spending an absurd amount of money (Kelly bought: 3 shirts, 2 dresses, a jacket, a skirt, a pair of boots, and a bathing suit, among other things), they trekked back to the hostel. They were walking through the plaza that was right next to their hostel when they heard a familiar voice yelling, "Kelly! Sara!" They looked over, only to see their good ol' buddy, George! Sara and Kelly looked at each other, wide-eyed, and booked it back to their hostel. What are the chances? That night, their last night, they made one last visit to the candy store.

They walked to the beach and took romantic pictures in the breathtakingly gorgeous sunset.

After this, they headed to a local Italian restaurant, right on the beach, and had their last dinner of their romantic weekend in Cadiz.

Although it seemed their trip was doomed from the beginning, Sara and Kelly made the most of it, and made fun of every situation that went wrong. They managed to have an amazing weekend getaway, and came back to Barcelona with less money, more clothes, and sun-kissed skin.
The end.

I'll leave you with this video I took at Jason Mraz last week:

Saturday, March 21, 2009

European dream.

Wow. So I didn't realize it's been so long since I've blogged! Sorry about that! Haha. I've had the most intense/fun/crazy month ever! I absolutely love Barcelona, but I've also loved going places and seeing things. I've never seen myself as an adventurous person, but being here has made me realize that I don't give myself enough credit! I mean, before I came here, I had bungee jumped in Florida, cliff dived in Nashville, gotten multiple tattoos and piercings...basically, I just am starting to realize that I really have guts. I'm not saying this to "toot my own horn", if you will, just that I am starting to realize that maybe I'm more of a risk-taker than I realized.

That said, I want to talk a little about the trips I've been on. I went to Italy at the end of February to visit my friend who is living there. I flew into Torino, and from there we went to Pisa, Florence, and Milan. In 5 days, we saw 4 cities. Florence was my absolute favorite city that I've visited yet. I loved Tuscany so much, it was beautiful! It was honestly straight from the movies...we ended up walking all through the hills and saw farms and fields. Seriously, I was in heaven. It was warm. We were just walking, not having a clue where we were going. I didn't want to leave! Plus, did I mention the food? Italy truly has the best food. I ate pizza every day. I also ate gelato every day. Holy crap, if you've never eaten European ice cream, it's worth it to come here JUST for that. I have to force myself to NOT eat it every single day. My favorite kinds were tiramisu  and stracciatella. I'm not sure if that's how you spell them. But really, I highly recommend getting them. Together. In one cone. And eating them. Why is food the only thing I blog about? Haha. Maybe that's just my favorite thing about being in Europe...or anywhere. I love to try not food. I'm all about trying anything once. Even though I generally don't eat red meat, I will try different meats if they are a "staple" of the culture or whatever.

Speaking of which...

This was my first of four pizzas in Italia. It was amazing. I ate the whole thing.

This is me in the very center of Turin!

You can't go to Italia without seeing the leaning tower and taking this stupid pose!

In Florence, we climbed 414 stairs to be able to see the entire city and more. I was obsessed.

This is me with the river behind me. Isn't it gorgeous?

This was the first, and only, pasta I ate in Italy. It was super good, but honestly, I enjoyed the pizza better. 

From Florence, we went on a train to Milan and saw the Duomo and went to a football game. We saw Inter-Milan v. Roma. It was super fun...Europeans love their football!

This is me being Mary Poppins in front of the Duomo.

I loved Italy.

The weekend after, I went to Munich with my friend Mary. We stayed with my friend Marion that I know from Capital. She studied at Cap for a year, and I was so excited to get to see her again! I never had a huge interest in Germany. I mean, I have always been super interested in the Holocaust, so I definitely wanted to visit a concentration camp. But, I've never been like, "Oh I've always wanted to visit Germany!" So. My expectations were low. However, I was SO surprised by how much I loved it! It was freezing, but I thought it was fantastic. The language was awesome (Can someone teach me German, please?), the culture was just...so fun. Everyone was so nice and laid-back. And once again, the food was fantastic. Why is the food SO good everywhere I visit?

We got to visit Dachau, which was the main reason I wanted to visit Munich. I was so grateful to be able to see a place that I've always learned about and read about. We stayed there for about 5 hours, and got to see and read so much about it.

This is the main building where the prisoners checked in, showered, id numbers were administered, and they cooked and ate their meals.

These are the toilets in each barrack. They had this many toilets for over 2,000 people.

The "shower" in the gas chamber. Apparently it was never used, but rumor is that it was used once or twice for experimentation.

The ovens in the crematorium. For me, this was the hardest part about the entire experience. I couldn't help but imagine the bodies of so many innocent people burning. 2-3 bodies could fit in each oven, and it was used to get rid of the bodies, in order to not have to justify the deaths of so many.

This is the area where the prisoners stood for roll call each morning and night. They often had to stand for hours and hours just for roll call.

The only entrance/exit to Dachau.

It was an experience I'll never forget. It is such a different thing to be able to see where the history that you've always read about actually took place.

On a happier note, that night we went to Hofbrahaus for beer and dinner. I'm not a beer drinker. I refuse to drink beer, but Marion convinced me that if I got the half-Sprite/half-beer, I wouldn't be able to taste it at all. She was right! I actually really liked it! I never would have thought to mix those two.

Who even knew pretzels were German? Not me. But this pretzel was huge an delicious.

This is my first German meal. It's called Spatzle, and it seriously tasted like straight macaroni and cheese.

Me and Marion in front of the Hofbrahaus! Beerhalls were great.

Alright. This was my second German meal. It looks disgusting, but it was SO GOOD.

The three of us in Marienplatz.

Me chillin in Germany! I lovedddd it. I want to go back and see more!

I have been so blessed to travel so much while I've been here. It's been so much fun and I am so glad I've gotten to see the world! My top three places so far have been:
1. Florence
2. London
3. Munich

However, I am really looking forward to this next month because I will be seeing more Spain! From now on, apart from meeting my dad in London, I will only be traveling in Spain. I am pretty pumped about that.

In general, I like life here. It's so laid-back and chill. I love knowing where I am going and walking everywhere. Lately, it's been really nice out, so I have opted to walk everywhere. I barely took the metro at all this past week. It's so sunny and beautiful! My friend, Sara, and I went shopping for sundresses yesterday. I bought 4. Oops? But I seriously LOVE to wear dresses and skirts when it's warm out. It's so fun and comfortable, plus it makes me feel all girly and cute. Every girl should wear sundresses.

This weekend I stayed in Barcelona for the first time since the beginning of February. Can you believe that? It's been really nice just chillin and not having to worry about getting up and running around forever. Traveling really wears you out. Sara and I wandered through the streets today, and we had no idea where we were or where we were going. We walked for about 4 hours, but it was really fun to see parts of the city we haven't seen before. I am excited for my sister and John to come because we will be seeing all the parts of Barcelona that I have yet to see. I've been saving the tourist things for when they get here.