Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Back in New Berlin

Hey everyone! I am finally home in New Berlin, WI... woohoo! It's not as exciting as it sounds! I find that the only times I get moody and frustrated are when I am bored, or I don't have anything productive to do (because literally none of my friends are home for the summer this year so I depend on my family for entertainment).

I freaked out on my dad yesterday because I felt isolated, and for some reason I thought that having my texting back would fix that... it didn't. Instead it just made me more angry when ppl didnt text me back! GRRRR.

So instead I decided to go get a gym membership to start working on a little problem I like to call, "Being flabby." After spending 2 hours at the gym I definitely felt a lot better. Though, I am not sure that it will solve my problem forever... I mean honestly, can I spend the whole day at the gym?

So today I am outside working in the yard in 90 degree weather picking weeds and re-doing the s. side planter of the house... hoping to get paid for my labors. Later tonight there is a Brewers game that I am kind of excited for, but mainly I just miss human interaction with my peers. WHERE IS EVERYONE?!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Just what I needed

Traveling with Jason and Lynn for so long has definitely helped me re-center myself! I am back in Madrid and on my own again and I am loving it!.I not only feel a lot more confident, and out-going again, but I am loving being back in a country where I can speak the language! Who ever would have thought that I would grow to feel so comfortable with Spanish?! Long story short, loving life right now.

Plan for next couple of days:
-See as much of my boy friend as I can before I come home.
-Work out every day so I won´t hate myself as much when Jason and I start trainng together.
-Go to Toledo with Hamid on Tuesday to collect my stuff.
-Fly home on Wednesday!!
-Drive to MN on Thursday to help gparents move and to see all of my friends!
-Get back into the real world (aka get a job!)

Love and miss you all! Thanks for all of the support over the last 6 months! Some if its been hard and you guys have really helped! Tons of LOVE!

Friday, June 12, 2009


I miss feeling like I belong somewhere.

So I've finally pegged it down. Its not that I am lonely or I miss a ton about New Berlin or Minneapolis because I know there are things I will miss about Spain too. Its just that I feel like I don't fit in either place, like I don't fit anywhere.

I am a drifter, not settling anywhere for too long. For example, I took off freshman year for MN for nine months, headed out to MI for 3 months, to a new apartment in dinky town for 4 months, lived in Toledo, Spain for 4 months, and moved around Europe for 2 more months, and now I am heading back to New Berlin? I haven't been able to establish myself or my life at all.

I once saw all this traveling and moving around as a way to challenge myself, to grow as a person, because I wasn't afraid to step out of my comfort zone. However, this has only resulted in the loss of my comfort zone. Where do I feel comfortable? Nowhere. I don't even fit-in in my own home town. I have out grown it and everyone else has also moved on without me. So here I am in Berlin, for the second week in a row, (I am really sick of this city) and ready to move on, but cant. I am all out of money.It doesn't help either that every time I spend 100€ almost $200 comes out of my account... losing money twice as fast with no way of earning it back.

I am still with my brother but we are both too similar and are kind of in the same funk. He is ready to go home and so am I. Or am I? I think it's not Europe I want to escape, or the US that I yearn for, but rather, quite simply, some stability and order to my life instead of being stuck in this limbo. 5 days and I will be home, another move, for another temporary amount of time.

Friday, May 29, 2009

On the road again...

Hey everyone! Its me again, and from the road this time! I hit up Barcelona Tuesday through Friday (staying with a friend who studied in Toledo with me, and is now doing research in Barca), and I am currently in my hostel in Munich waiting for Jason and Lynn to arrive! These last couple weeks I have learned a lot about myself and I wouldnt exchange the experience for anything in the world (even though it had its great times and its tough times)

The last few weeks I have learned that:
-I am, in no way, to the stage in my life yet where I am ready to surrender myself 100% for love or to a relationship
-I need do be doing something to be happy
-I need to be outside everyday, at least a little, to be happy.
-I don't like being alone
-Often times I am too serious
-Traveling isn't fun unless you have someone to share it with
-Your heart and your head dont always agree
-Find something that makes your truely happy, because money is soon spent and gone. Money won't keep you happy forever.
-I miss the Butchers and my heart yearns to see them.
-I am fat, and I don't like it.
-I miss having a structured life.
-I want a dog.
-I need quality "re-finding shannon time" surrounded by people I love and ppl that have the same values.
-Ready for a quality Milwaukee summer.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

With all this free time...

Well, wouldn´t you know it, with all this free time I have, I have been doing a lot of people watching. After careful analysis of the past few weeks, I have come to the conclusion that "Aladin Pants" as I like to call them, have hit the Spanish Fashion market, and hit it hard. I have seen everyone from ladies in their 50s to girls in their teen years wearing them... and I can´t figure out why?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Enough of wishy-washy Shannon

I am sick of this new indecisive person I have become! Where did confident, decisive, dont look back Shannon go??

Well decisions have been made and I am sticking to them. I am staying until June and here is what I plan to do:

Moving in with my boyfriend and his Uncle for 2 weeks to avoid the horrible costs of hostels (saving some money for the time I will be with Jason)

Meeting Jason and Lynn after the hit up France and Italy so we can do Prague and Germany together.

I will see you all after I get back to the states on June 13th! Love you, and thanks for all the support!!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Spanish living... on my own.

Well, I´m back in Madrid! And I must say, I am loving it! I have seen different parts of the city every day, and have had a lot of "me time." However, I´m not going to lie, having my boyfriend this close and seeing him everyday is probably affecting my perspective a little bit :)

So here I am again, pondering on whether or not to stay... at this point I feel that I am just wasting money. I have no urge to travel and "see more"... I kinda want a stable life for a while.

However, everyone keeps telling me I will regret it if I come home, so here I am, still on the fence.


Sunday, May 3, 2009

Tour de France... Tom Morrison Style

Well where should I begin?? Lets see... classes in Spain ended, we had a closing ceremony, I went out to the irish pub we frequented in Toledo one last time with my friends and went home to pack. Finding myself exhuasted I went to bed planning to wake up at 7 and do it in the morning before leaving for Madrid (and eventually France). All went as planned, I left a bag in Toledo with my host family and off I went. And who did I meet at the train station? A Notre Dame girl and her boyfriend heading to Italy for a week. Out planes left at the same time so we rode the bus together, and braved the long metro trip together. FAST FORWARD... Once in France I found my dad and diane with out toooo many problems(thats another story). The following are the day by day events:

-First dinner in Paris with Harsh, Maryse, dad and diane
-Breakfast and lunch and we are off to the first Chateau
-Fountainebleu, Holiday Inn
-Chateau de Blois, Cheverney, Wine Tasting, Cheneceaux (murdered the spelling of that) and Bed and Breakfast (wine, broken english/french and pizza)
-more chateauxs, more wine, next B and B, Villandry, met nicest British man and a dog named Pongo
-Ussè (sleeping beautys castle) Saint Mont Michele, Holiday Inn, best dinner ever
-Normandy Beach, Cemetary, Paris
-Eiffle Tower, Arc de Triumphe, some famous shopping street.
-Dad to airport, Notre Dame (mass and tower tour), lunch, reading by the river, park (where i was stalked by a man and decided it was time to leave), dinner with Harsh and Maryse.

The question still remains: to stay or not to stay, but more importantly... where to stay!!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Emotional roller coaster...

With the last week approaching (exam week), and the departure of all my new friends, leaving my new home, and my boyfriend looming in the air, I can't help sporadically go from laughing to crying... and I can't figure out why! Here are my thoughts to as why:

1. Everything I have come to know and be comfortable with is about to change... once again.

2. I am going to have to say good bye to people I have met and grown to love, not knowing when I will see them again.

3. I need to decide if I want to stay on my own for 2 months or if I want to go home (its always on my mind and causing me a lot of stress... one the one hand, I know I will never have this opportunity to travel with Jason ever again, but on the other hand I really feel like I need to go home, I need familiarity, and a stable life for a while...)

4. I think I've finally let myself realize that I am in fact in love with my boyfriend... just in time to leave him.

5. I miss me family even more that I have seen my mom and sister and realize that I'm missing out on being a part of their lives (going to miss Jenna's first prom, Jason's last band concert etc)

6. Exams start in two days and I haven't started studying

7. I am just an emotional person

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Just a quick note:

This weekend was chill and consisted of:

Thursday night, I had full intentions of heading to school and playing soccer with the kids that live at school. As soon as I get there most of my friends are leaving, to head to a friend's house. We met some really sweet dudes from California that graduated last May. They have been living in Toledo since September and are living here and teaching English for a year! How cool is that? Anyways, we always head over there to hang out before we go to the bars. It was really relaxing, played a few casual card games and listened to music on the terraza. Went home around 2 so I could wake up in time (around 7am) to catch the bus for the school day trip to Cuenca.

Friday: Went to Cuenca where we went to a science museum and visited a monastary on the way home. Didn't feel well when I got home so I stayed in, lay in my bed and watched Sweet Home Alabama, Bride Wars, and an episode of 24.

Satruday: Slept in, went to the mall, watched Chaos Theory, and went to the hookah bar with my friends.

Sunday: Slept in, went to a cafe to do homework and get some coffee, went to school to do some homework, came home to watch Bedtime Stories with Nicole and Jeff, more homework, watched Charlie Bartlett.

Overall, did a lot of movie watching.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Random thoughts...

I took a hint from Teri's blog, and I've decided that I'm just going to start putting bullet points. That way I can talk about more things in one post, that aren't related, and it saves time. Don't get me wrong, I love writing "eloquently" and having fun using puns and what not, but this way I can keep you guys more updated with my life!

I have been pondering on:

-The fact that everyone needs to read the book 1984 by George Orwell. It has some crazy, amazing, relevant, and applicable ideas about politics in there that are still being practiced hoy en día (presently). We discussed one of the ideas in my Politics and Society of Latin America class, and I just beamed the entire time we talked about it 'cause I already knew what we were talking about! It goes like this: If the government is corrupt, or there are problems (ie financial crisis) they "create" a dispute/war/controversy/distraction with another country. This way they create a common and external enemy for the entire country to "hate" so the country will unify behind this new cause in order to beat this "said threat." This is exactly what's happening with Bolivia and Chile right now. Obviously there are some hard core financial problems everywhere in the world right now, however, to distract their people from the internal crisis, Bolivia has convinced them (with the help of a lot of press) that their strife is the fault of Chile who has robbed them of their access to the ocean/ robbed them of their ports. This happened... how many years/ centuries ago? And their now bringing it up? Anyways, long story short. George Orwell= smart man, and everyone should read that book.

-After looking at everyone else's facebook pictures I am now really excited to go sit on the beach of Mallorca for 5 days with Nicole! I'm ready to get some fun reading in.

-My iPod is again alive (I thought it had died), so I guess not all of my electronics are failing me yet... just camera, and sometimes the ordenador (laptop).

-My spanish is actually getting better! I had a few compliments today, "How are you so good at Spanish" and "you have a really good accent" YAY

-I can't wait to see my mom and sister... they are coming in 17 days!!!! I miss my whole family and have decided that one of the major things that will ever keep me from living abroad for an extended period of time (besides in Spain... 'cause there are more reasons than just this one to not live here) is my family. I would miss them too much, miss being a part of their lives, and seeing them!

-I am very unsatisfied with the physical shape I am in right now. You know when you start getting lazy and you try to convince yourself, "oh, I don't look that bad"...? Well I've been saying that for too long, time to get my big butt out and running, and stop eating so darn much (Ps I ate dinner at 11pm tonight... GREAT).

-It's really hard to appreciate/enjoy a culture when you don't enjoy the food.

-I want to join a Spanish club when I get home... I don't want to lose everything I've gained, and the only way to do that is keep talking to natural spanish speakers.

-I already have a list of things to do when I get home: EAT copious amounts of mexican food, and papa john's pizza, Visit the Butcher family in MI, summerfest '09, visit Chicago, WORK OUT, spend an unmeasurable amount of time with my family, visit my grandparents!, road trip?, six flags, valley fair,sit all day and read in my hammock, read, read, read... did I mention reading?, prepare myself for the coming semester, find a job, see new harry potter movie, catch up on all the movies I missed, camping, make my dream book, LIVE, LAUGH, LOVE.

Well, this has been long enough for now. Let me know if you like the new format, or if you preferred the other.

Besitos (kisses),

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Well, I guess I just can't brush my teeth tonight...

Water crisis: still on going. Apparently a laundromat sprung a leak, so two nights ago I came home and I couldn't brush my teeth, wash my face, shower, or even go to the bathroom. We only had one bottle of water left that had to last us until the next day until *hopefully* the water would be back, or we could buy some water.

Yesterday morning (St. Patrick's Day) there was water in the morning. I did all of the things I couldn't the night before (I thought my bladder was going to explode!) and headed off to class a happy camper. However, I got a text from Nicole while I was at class saying the water was gone again, fault of the same laundromat!

Well I got home from class, really excited to just go run. But what do you know, the water was still out, and people wanted to meet up for drinks for St. Patrick's Day in 3 hours... no telling if there would be water to shower or not. I got home last night around 1am and the water was back finally... Spain just continues to blow my mind. I would say its the least established country of western Europe... something I wasn't expecting at all.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

What I do when I´m not in class...

Hey everyone!
Spring has finally arrived here in Spain... or in my mind, SUMMER! It is crazy how warm it got and how quickly the warm weather has arrived! Honestly, by noon its is mid to upper 70´s and I am walking around in shorts and a tank... Meanwhile, the Spaniards are walking around in pants, boots, and jackets!! If I even put pants on I would be ON FIRE!

Well anyways, because it seems that my idea of summer has suddenly arrived I will recap last week's adventures in the sun: Tuesday, hiked up to the highest peak in Toledo and sat there for 4 hours admiring the beauty of Toledo. Wednesday, Hamid came so I took him there and we spent the entire day laying there in the sun in shorts and tanks. Friday: no class, so I spent the day with some friends at the Cali guys' house (they have a terrace) in my swim suite. Saturday: Nicole went back up to the mountains, and laid out in bikinis. Sunday: went to a park to write postcards, and sit in the sun. Needless to say... I'm a little pink. :) But loving it!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Revelation: I actually do want to come back...

Hi everyone! I am sorry it has been so long since I have posted, but life got really busy here in Spain due to midterms! Who knew that studying abroad actually included "studying"???

Well I made it through alive. Whoever planned midterms to be the week after Carnaval was just plain cruel. For those of you who haven't heard yet, Carnaval is a full weekend festival, a mix between mardi-gras (with street parades and plaza parties) and Halloween (EVERYONE, of all ages, dresses up in costumes)!! Half of the kids from school went down to Cadiz, and half of us stayed in Toledo. Needless to say it was an amazing weekend. The first night my friend and I dressed up as Minnie-Mouse, and the next night we were fairies! However, that following Monday was crunch time! Every waking moment (which was usually 20 out of 24 hours each day) was devoted to reading, studying, and writing papers.

I had two take home exams. One of the was for my Politics and Society in Latin America class where the directions were as follows: "Write a 5 page paper, single spaced about everything we have learned this semester, in whatever format you would like." Great, thanks for the guidance! I got an A though! The next take home was for my Businesses in Spain class where we had to classify two different Spanish companies into sectors, type of company etc, and write two summaries of two different Spanish companies from two different sectors. Still waiting on that grade. Another class (Linguistics) had an open notes/ open book test applying everything we have learned, and I got an A on that as well. My Spanish Culture class (which I studied the hardest for) was a 4 essay test that I had thought I did really well on... B-. VERY disappointed! The last one is another Business class (all about running/ opening/ operating/ a business and economy in Spain) and I'm still waiting on that grade.

Well after that crazy week we all went out on Thursday night and had a great time. We went to the house of two guys that are from California! They graduated last May and are teaching English here in Toledo for a year! It sounds like a fantastic job, something I might want to look into! Friday, I slept for a lot of the day (to catch up from the week of ZERO sleep) and went to a free play with a couple people from class. IT WAS REALLLLLLY WEIRD. Saturday a group of us went to Madrid to spend the night there. My boyfriend was finally coming home from Italy, so I met him at the airport, and went to his house for dinner with his friends, and went out to a couple bars with him and his friends. Sunday we had a luxurious breakfast at McDonald's and went to the market! A pretty chill weekend overall.

This week is the beginning of the second half of the semester and I've decided to crack down on classes. No more putting things off, I am doing things before they need to be done. I need to take more time to just think, figure things out, plan what I want to do, and just be me. These 6 months are going so fast! It's already March, in less than a month it will be Spring Break, and then the end of the semester, traveling for a while, and back to the real world, or just a different world. When I first got here I didn't immediately fall in love with the country, but it was different and new so I of course entertained ideas of staying here, studying here again, or working here in the future. After a couple months here though, I have come to realize that different isn't always better. There are so many things I miss about home and took for granted back home. For example, living on my own with friends. Here in Spain unemployment is approaching 20% and is most prevalent for people 35 and younger. For this, only 29% of everyone 30 and younger are independent economically of their parents and often still live at home! I am way too independent for that and quite frankly I am/ was a little annoyed that I am dependent on my parents for school still! I WANT to graduate, I WANT to get a good job, and I WANT to be independent. More importantly though, I want to do something I like... and right now I'm not sure what that is. This trip has made me re-evaluate many things, but one thing I do know for sure: I am coming home, and I am excited about it.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

All Americans are fat and live unhealthy lifestyles, right?

This has been bothering me for a while, and I just never posted about it. I've discussed it at great length with my fellow Americans here, but no one has actually written about it... well here goes nothing.

The majority of the world has this perception of Americans as fat, lazy, fast-food eaters that live unhealthy life-styles. I guess that makes sense, considering we are the fattest country in the world and we founded McDonald's, but I disagree. My friends and family back home live a MUCH healthier and active lifestyle than my family and friends here in Spain. Every time I go for a run my family looks at me like I am crazy, and questioned why I would ever run a half marathon for fun! The only active one in my host family is my youngest sister who is a swimmer, and the other 4 ppl in my family do nothing! I feel like comparatively they eat a lot more than we do back home (lunch is huge, I stuff myself at lunch and they still eat way more than I ever could!), and they drink way more soda and eat way more junk food than I ever do at home. People are constantly buying chips and snacks, chocolate, and drinking Coke... whereas back home my one guilty snack is chips (hint of lime) and salsa (or cheese). The people you see out running or riding bikes are in the minority, and are usually fanatics. The majority of the people here are sedentary, though, I guess they do walk more ('cause everything is closer) and drive less. Did you know that McDonald's sales are higher in Europe than they are in the US? That means they eat MORE McDonald's than we do! and Americans still get the bad reputation.

Overall though, I feel like I am leading an unhealthier life here in Spain than back home. I am eating until I am uncomfortably full (and still getting scolded for not eating enough), I drink soda (and not just for mixed drinks), and I eat crappy snacks like chocolate and chips (not together). I try to run 5 days a week for at least 40 minutes, but that's just not enough to make-up for the damage I am doing to my body with food and drink. I am frustrated, and ticked off that we still get a bad rep. while there are others that live unhealthier!

Side-note: There are extremes on both sides (skinny, and fat) and Americans usually tend to have more of the extremes while Spaniards are in general all around the same size...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

You never really know how good you've got it...

This post is going to be short, and to the point. (kinda like the last couple posts). You never really know how good you've got it until you've walked a day in someone else's shoes. If you think you're having a bad day, or you're tired, or you feel like you've been mistreated, just know that you're not alone. Someone else has already experienced what you're going through, and if not, then they've experienced something worse. So just be thankful, no matter what, and be joyful for that you do have, EVERYDAY! because you are Blessed!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Texting while driving.

Is anyone guilty of ever having texted while driving? I know I'm guilty, and most ppl are. It's a skill that you acquire after months of practice... but nonetheless dangerous. There's even some places (New York) where it's illegal to even talk on your phone while driving. And this is just for normal, every-day people. For public transportation drivers, that's 100% un-heard of!! Have you ever gotten on a public bus and the driver was talking on their cell phone? NO!

Well let me tell you a story. One day I got on the bus to head to class. For some reason this driver was driving verrrry jerkily. Was he just trying to be an ass-hole? Nope. I glanced up at him and saw he had his bright-red cell phone held in his right hand, texting, while he was steering with his left, making quick jerky steps on the brake every time he glanced up briefly and saw a car. GREAT! Was I even going to make it to class today??

Another day of firsts... this one I don't want to repeat.

Sometimes you just want to be taken care of...

No one likes being sick, but getting sick in another country is the worst! You can never find the medicine you're used to taking, and you just want to be in a familiar, comfortable environment. Mom, where are you?! Chicken noodle soup, hugs and kisses,tucking me in and a heating pad please!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Where is Captain Planet when you need him?

A couple of days ago (let's say Tuesday) was a day of firsts. I felt like I was punched in the stomach, slapped up-side the head, and glowing crimson with embarrassment... I was scolded again by my mom. This time, however, it was not for forgetting to call and let her know I wouldn't be home for lunch, but it was about taking a long shower...

Back home in the states, showers are my prized luxuries. I look forward to at least a 15 minute scalding hot shower ever day (especially after all of the cold ones I took this summer) if not longer when my muscles are sore. Here in Spain, that is a luxury that no one can afford to have. Simply, there just isn't enough water. You'd think that being surrounded by water on three sides, and being famous for beach destinations this country would have plenty of viable water. The fact is, they don't. The majority of this country is almost desert like. Most if the land isn't fertile enough for crops, and the land that is owes its vitality to irrigation from the only river big enough to spare water, the Tajo. Most of the rivers aren't big enough, or deep enough to act as waterways, or even irrigation systems. Quite frankly, my mom said the water table is low this week and we have to watch what we use, maybe shower only every-other day, and take 5-10 minute showers and not wait for the water to warm up. Never before in my life have I had to worry about such a thing. Coming from a state right next to Lake Michigan, and going to school in the "Land of 10,000 Lakes" water just has never been an issue (unless you count the sprinkling ban in New Berlin... who cares if your lawn isn't the greenest?).

Anyways, long story short: Start paying attention to how much water you use, because others don't have the same luxuries. Also, be thankful for what you do have, because it's not always greener on the other side.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Wow... time flies!

It's been over a week already and I have so much to share! I'm not sure really where to start...

I guess I can start with last week Monday. Hamid came to visit in Toledo, again. And I've finally decided to just GO with it. Seriously, how many great love stories do you hear about people that played it safe? And that's not just love, that's just life in general. It's the people that take chances, go for what they want that seem to have a story to tell. For example: Doing Southwestern. I could have simply gone home to New Berlin last summer, worked three jobs, and made a couple thousand. However, instead I took a huge chance (despite some advice from friends and family) to move to a new state and sell books door-to-door. It turns out to have been one of the best decisions I've made yet. My next big decision: studying abroad. People always talk about it, but how many people actually act on it? My next big decision: just go with it.

Alright, well moving on. The rest of the week was pretty chill, and typical. I did get to watch my mom make paella, pretty cool! She put the crabs in while they were still alive (wasn't expecting that!) and she kinda played with them before hand :)
Thursday evening Nicole, Ben, Taylor and I headed to Madrid to catch a a midnight bus to Barcelona. Nicole and I had a couple glasses of wine to help us sleep on the bus (which worked for me, I slept off and on for 3 hours, and 3.5 hours straight!). We got into Barcelona around 7:00 am, a little sore, but pumped to start the day. It was still dawn when we got off the bus, and we got off the bus at the wrong stop! So we took the metro into downtown, meandered around the Mediterranean coast, and headed off to check in to the hostel. When we got there we found out we couldn't move our stuff in until 2pm, but we could keep our bags locked up, so we took off to see the city with free spirits and free backs! We headed out in search of the Olympic stadium (Taylor's one goal for the day) and ended up seeing a ton of really neat places along the way. Various parks, museums, a fortress, and finally the Olympic stadium. After that, we were pretty tired, sore, and hungry so we headed back to town and our hostel. We got all settled in, Ben and Nicole napped, and I hung out in the common room. We then went and bought food from a grocery store, ate, and got ready to go out. I guess we were looking for night-life in the wrong places 'cause we only ended up staying out until 2:30 am... SAD, considering we were in Barcelona!

Saturday dawned bright at 11:30 for us! Showered, fed and ready to go, we went in search of the Guadi Park or "Parc Guell." After many directions from a nice old lady, we finally found it... or so we thought! We were in the "nature" part of the park and we wanted to be in the "architecture" part. So what did we do? We jumped a fence and went in search of it. Normally, this would have totally worked, however, a couple weeks ago a wind storm knocked down some really big trees and damaged some of the buildings, and hence were closed off. NOW we understood why it was closed off... but how did we get to the other side?! After about 30 min. and following other confused groups of tourists, we finally found it! I won't spend a lot of time describing Guadi's works 'cause I think my pictures describe it better (see facebook). I will say however, that I am in love with a dead man. Guadi got all of his inspiration from nature and incorporated it all in EVERYTHING! One of his masterpieces (la Sagrada Familia) is actually still under construction and is on schedule to be completed in the 2020's. We also got to see a guy playing a "Hang" (a musical instrument from Switzerland that probably has the most calming sound I've ever heard). Again, see facebook for the video. That night was really uneventful because we wanted to go to bed by 10pm so we could get up early for the half-marathon the next morning. The one success of the night was finding a pair of brown shoes (Mom, I finally found some cheap ones!) for only 15 euro.

We went to bed really early that night, and were up by 6:45 to get ready, eat, stretch, and make sure we had time for a light warm-up. Our friend Ben was going to hold our stuff while we ran, and we told him to meet us at the start (to take pictures and collect our sweats)... and we never found him. So literally minutes before the start of the race I stashed my sweat pants (favorite pair) and soccer warm-up under a parked car (praying they would still be there when I got back). And off we went! It was the perfect day for a run! Not a cloud in the sky, probably around 50 degrees, and 4,999 other people running around me... can't ask for much else! We started out down the main drag of Barcelona and basically got to see the whole city. I think I've found a new love for traveling and seeing cities... running through them!! I sang along to my iPod for the first 5 miles, then I got down to business. At about the 10km mark I was really wishing I was done... and I threw up at the 13km mark... and felt the on-set of arthritis in my knees at about 17km, but pushed through it and made it the full 21km, and even beat a lady to the finish by sprinting past her as the crowd cheered me on (she put up a good fight). :) It felt soooooooooo amazing to finish that race under the Arc de Triumph (not cliche at all!) ;) and have my friend waiting there for me. Needless to say, the rest of the day Nicole and I were in a world of hurt so we stayed pretty low-key. Shower, food, and visiting the Sagrada familia. Then out to dinner, ice cream (we deserved it) and off to the bus station to catch our midnight bus back to Madrid!

And that sums up my week and weekend in a nutshell. Oh wait! Nicole and I tried to buy milk to put on our cereal, and we were looking for little containers so we didn't waste a lot of milk and ended up buying "Chufas" Tiger Nut milk... What the heck?! I will NOT be buying that ever again.

More thoughts to come later. Love you all. Go for it!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I Wish...

I've been sitting here (and by here I mean in my room) reading an article for a one credit on-line class called "Getting the most of your Abroad experience." The article is all about culture shock (which apparently I should be experiencing right now)... and I wonder if I am really getting the most out of my experience so far? According to this article I should be having huge ups and downs, having a hard time relating to the people here, and I'm concerned because I feel like I'm not even that far from home! Is that just ignorant of me to feel that the differences that do exist are not catastrophic? Am I not examining the culture enough, am I not opening myself up to the differences? Am I being too ethnocentric? I wish I could sit here and say, "Jeepers, everything is so different, I see everything in a different light, how could I have not thought this way before?!", but the truth is I am sitting here thinking, "This family is just like mine, tight, and sometimes slightly dysfunctional, and urban... the only difference is the fact that they speak Spanish, but even that is getting easier."

Am I doing this wrong? I feel that at home I am already really independent so this trip isn't super challenging that way for me. Spanish can be challenging, but not super awe-inspiring. What am I missing? Let me know what you guys think!

Monday, February 2, 2009

A case of the Mondays...

Monday Monday, can't trust that day,
Monday Monday, sometimes it just turns out that way
Oh Monday morning, you gave me no warning of what was to be (don't know why I decided to quote the Mama's and the Papa's instead of the Bangles... But that's just how I'm feeling I guess).

I woke up with an achy neck, and sore throat AGAIN. Now I've pulled enough muscles before to know the difference between "oh, you just slept funny" and "yikes, you're sick"... this is the later. Usually I'll just try the home remedy (warm salt-water garggling, and copious amounts of Vitamin C intake)... which I did try last week, and I don't feel that much better. So off to el medico I go, right after class.

Alright, I'm finally breaking down and I'm just going to write about my man friend on here instead of having a lot of little side conversations about it. I met a guy in Madrid two weeks ago and we hit it off really well. He's part French (dad) and part Moroccan (mom) but is currently living in Madrid studying renewable energies. Last Monday he came to visit me in Toledo and we went and got coffee, and I tried to visit him this weekend, but Friday he had to work, and Sunday it snowed. So he's planning on coming down to Toledo today, and I will see him when I pass through Madrid on my way to Barcelona. No, I still don't have a picture, but maybe today? I'll let you guys know how our little "day date" goes soon.

Well, off to school to sign up to see the doctor. Love you guys. Miss ya.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

I like when people leave comments... and lately no one has been leaving any. Let me know if my posts are too long... if they are I'll totally shorten them!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

¨Happy Berthday¨ Part 2

Well it was Sunday, and my mom had told me we were going to have family over for "meriendas" to celebrate Silvia's birthday, but she never said when. So I assumed around lunch time. When that didn't happen, I decided to go have some quality time with my books and homework (which actually turned into a nap around 7pm)so my mom came in and woke me up, I quick changed clothes, and braced myself for meeting the whole extended family.

It turns out I was worried for nothing! It was really fun, everyone was really nice, and really patient! It was mainly aunts and uncles and a few cousins and I talked to almost everyone. :) Words can't accurately describe how welcome I felt, part of a family. It was like I was home with my family for a birthday celebration, just speaking a different language. I really enjoyed it 'cause usually I feel like I'm not actually part of the family, just a passer by. My host family talks of the other kids they've hosted and my mom can't even remember the girls names! I don't want that to be me in a couple years! I want to build life long relationships with these people and I'm starting to feel stumped on how to do it!

On Wednesday night I came home at 9:15 pm for dinner... no one was home. I took a nap until 10pm... no one home. No dinner for me that night, so I went out to the bars with my friends for a quick drink and the free "tapas" they serve with the drinks. And this morning, Saturday, I woke up to the sound of my family scrambling around trying to get out the door... I'm not sure where they went, or what time they're coming home... Sad. I think the worst part is I really like them, and I KNOW I would get along really well with my sisters 'cause they're really goofy like me... but it's hard to be the real me with this language barrier! I just don't know how, and I feel like they don't have the time to listen to me try to speak Spanish. I guess maybe I should just get over being scared, or timid... I don't know. If anyone has any tips, please let me know!

That's all for now.

P.S. I'm getting sick... most likely strep. :(

Whirl wind of a weekend. Madrid.

It´s been a long time, hasn´t it? Well, I´ve told a number of you about my crazy weekend, but for those of you that haven´t heard about it yet... take a seat, buckle up, a get ready for some fun! (WOW CHEESY! I hate myself sometimes).

Well the whole school has off on Fridays so we can take class trips. This first school sponsored trip was to Madrid! We arrived around 10:30 am and headed straight to the Palacio Real. With in minutes, while waiting in line to enter the Palace, a girl got her money stolen right out of her purse! For the rest of the day we all looked around suspiciously, guarding our bags with our lives!! Swiper no Swiping! (again... why do I do these things?). Needless to say, the Palace was FREAKING SWEET! All of the original carpets, tapestries, artwork, and furniture was still there! We had a personal tour of about 30 of the 2800 rooms in the palace and got to see the armory, and royal pharmacy! Haha :) We got back on the buses (which some friends and I nearly missed) and had a short bus tour of the city before heading to lunch at el Museo de Jamon (the ham museum... which isn´t actually a museum) where we were served fried chicken and french fries... AUTHENTIC! The day only got better ´cause the rest of the day was free time to explore. The girls and I went to find our hostel, checked in, and Nicole and I went on a wild goose chase to find a Movistar (cell phone company) so I could add more money to my pay-as-you-go phone.This search went on for about 3 hours, but I also think we went into EVERY shoe store that was selling botas (boots) too. Boots are all the rage... you can´t find a woman NOT wearing boots. Even 6 year old children are wearing them! (So of course we got some en rebaja!).

After a successful movistar and boot hunt, we headed back to the hostel to see what everyone was up to for dinner. As we walked in, it turns out the most of the girls had already gone grocery shopping for their dinner and were eating it happily on the floor. So again, Nicole, Jenna, and I headed out to find a supermercado to get some groceries. And what did dinner consist of? Nicole and I split a loaf of french bread, a bag of almonds and a bottle of 89 cent wine. YES, 89 CENTS FOR A BOTTLE OF WINE! ... And it wasn´t even half bad! Over here, wine is cheaper than water. Works for me! After our fancy dinner we all beautified ourselves for a night on the town. Most of the girls wanted to just walk around and find places to go... but Nicole and I decided to sign up for a bar crawl. 10 euros to get free cover for 4 bars and a discoteca, with free shots and sometimes beer, and discounted drinks. We also got to go out with people from a bunch of other hostels! We met people from Australia, Germany, France... it was an awesome night! (This is when I met Amin) :)

So Nicole and I made it back to the hostel around 4 am (which is still really early here in Spain) so when we met an Argentinian on our way up the stairs, we decided to sit and practice our Spanish with him in the lounge for... 3 HOURS! I didn´t know I was capable of talking in Spanish that long ;)... So long story short, went to bed at 7am, and had to check out of the hostel at 10:30 am... meaning 3 hours of sleep to fuel me for the next day of sight seeing!

I made it through the rest of Saturday seeing many things (see Facebook photo album for details) and headed home to Toledo. I was really surprised how at home I felt when I first saw the walls of the city where I now live. I felt calm, and relieved to be back home.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

"Happy Berthday"

My Wednesday started at 12 am with my sisters singing Happy Birthday to my youngest sister Silvia (who turned 18 yesterday!). At first nothing seemed out of the ordinary until I realized "wait, they're singing in english, to OUR happy birthday tune. Something's not right!" But so it was. None of the birthday celebrations turned out to be "authentic" or what I expected to be an "authentic" celebration for birthdays. My busy family met at the mall food court to share a special birthday lunch! Silvia, her friend and I decided to get Telepizza, Barbacoa for her friend, Pepperoni for Silvia and 4 cheese for me. Safe choice... or so I thought. 4 cheese turns out out to have goat cheese on it... which not only my mind but also my body rejected as "non edible" food. Ohhhhh jeez was the rest of the day a long day... and dry heaving and gagging all the way through my nightly run with Nicole. GREAT, THANKS GOAT CHEESE. At least my favorite class had been fun. And my day could have been a lot worse.

I haven't been sleeping really well for all of this week... and my first Thursday class was at 8:40 meaning I should get up around 7:10 to get to class on time. This morning I woke in a pitch black room and in a panic. Though I immediately told myself not to worry, and that if I was late it would be light in my room already. I thrashed around for my alarm clock, pushed the button to illuminate it and nearly had a heart attack... 9:30 am. My class would end in 25 minutes and had no way to get there that quickly, even for a little bit. Panic stricken, I ran to the bathroom to throw up... which I still blame on the goat cheese. I choked down some coffee (the only thing I thought I could keep down) and dashed to the bus stop, only to see the bus pulling away a block away from me at the bus stop. GREAT. My next class wasn't until 11:30, but I didn't want my teacher to feel that I had skipped class!
I waited the 10 minutes at the deserted bus stop for the next bus and calmed myself by belting out tunes I was listening to on my iPod. I was horrified to find out that my friend Jeff Far (say his name fast and tell me what you think of jaja) had also been at the bus stop the entire time and had heard me singing and rocking out to 80's ballads.

Besides missing my first class of the day, the rest of my 4 classes passed pretty uneventfully, I semi-planned my semester travels during lunch, and bought two pairs of shoes at the mall for 7.20 euros. However, when my mom got home I was scolded for not calling to say I wasn't coming home for lunch! I had totally forgotten 'cause I added a new class today that is during the usual time for lunch! JODER! Just my day. But all is well, tomorrow we're going on a trip to Madrid where the majority of us are staying overnight to check out their night-life, and check out a Real Madrid game. Disfrutense el fin de semana!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

First couple days of classes...

"Back to school, back to school, to prove to dad I'm not a fool. Lunch packed up, boots tied tight, I hope I don't get in a fight... Ohhhhh back to school..."
(For those of you that know I like to quote movies... try to figure that one out!)

Anyways, The first day of school came like any other. Woke up to my travel size alarm clock whose batteries are dying... so really the alarm sounded more like an whine than a beep. However, today the sound of my alarm didn't reflect my attitude toward classes... for once! I got to school early, ready for my first class... Linguistics! I have been wanting to take a linguistics class since I graduated high school and just never had time to fit it into my schedule with all of my Carlson Requirements. Sol (my professor) is one of the nicest and most animated ladies I have ever met! She is so excited for us to learn but reminded us that most importantly (even more than classes) is getting out into the culture, experiencing Spain for what it is, and meeting local people. How often do you hear that from teachers?! (Something more important than THEIR class... NEVER! ;) ).

Today was HARD! I didn't sleep very well last night, and went to bed too late... so making it through 4 straight classes (each an hour and 15 minutes) with only a short break for lunch was super hard. I caught myself dozing off a couple of times (the teachers were only going through the syllabuses after all) but tried to keep myself awake so as not to be rude! I wasn't very successful. After my last class of the day (Political Science in Latin America) I decided to go for a walk before making it back to school to watch the inauguration with everyone. It was a beautiful, crisp, almost spring day, and I saw parts of the city I had never seen before. I made it back just in time for the inauguration, and a local news team asked if they could come in and video tape our reactions and interview a few of us. I guess I made it on TV here and I've still never been on TV in my own country. Que guay! (which is synonymous to "chevere" here or "cool" for all of you English speakers).

As it approached 7pm my day still wasn't over! Sign-up for extra-curriculars like flamenco lessons, cooking lessons, or sports was right after. Then we headed back to our barrio where a friend and I stopped for a cafe con leche so I could stay awake through dinner. We discussed plans for our weekend in Madrid and current events (we cheated and spoke in English :( sorry). Now that I have eaten dinner (at 10pm) I am about ready to call it a day. With only one class tomorrow I look forward to buying my books, working on homework, and going out for my sister's birthday. I wonder if I should buy her a present?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A little on Spanish Cuisine

Hey guys! I just realized (after an amazing authentic lunch) that I haven't said much about the food here and that's always one of the biggest parts of any culture! So here's a little blip (and I promise to try and make it short!).

First: Cocido madrileÑo. This one is typical near and around Madrid when it's cold out. This is served in three parts: soup (sopa), meat (carne), and legumes (garbanzos). The soup is plain broth with thin and short noodles. The beans are sometimes put in the soup. The beans are usually made with other vegetables and it all varies by the preferences of the person making it. Prado made it with potatoes and carrots. The last part is meat. Prado cooked chicken and ham! Yum! Every meal is served with bread, but the longer french bread kind that is made fresh for every meal.

Second: Gazpacho. This is literally bread and cold tomato soup. Very popular in the hot summer months.

The last one is paella. Which I already mentioned, so I will just add a picture for your viewing pleasure.

First two nights in review

Well, according to my last post, I was suppose to have gone out with friends two nights ago. This plan, however, was never actually carried out.

Well, I decided it would be cooler and more authentic if I went out with my sister Ester, you know, "see how the locals do it" kind of thing. We left the house around 10:40, went to pick up her friend Monica and made it to Toledo a little after 11pm. Our first stop was at a place called Dodici a club/bar and tonight, a concert hall. One of the local bands (pretty well known and well liked I guess) was playing. Also, the lead singer just happened to be the cousin of her best friend/ younger sister's boyfriend David. Yes, you heard that right, my youngest sister Silvia is dating Ester's best friend. Yikes. Anyways, the music was pretty good, couldn't understand most of it (but neither could anyone else jaja). After that was over we went to another bar (can't remember the name) where I met more of her friends. My two favorites were both named Beatriz. They had been to the U.S. last year so we had a little to talk about, and they were really patient with me because they remembered what it was like to be completely clueless. Well long story short, besides a few minutes of small talk with the "Beas" as people called them, I was lost in translation, with no one to talk to, feeling dumb and boring.

However, after a quick pep-talk from Erika, the next day (yesterday) I was ready to make it count. I didn't wake up until 1:30 pm... yes I know that's late in the U.S., but after getting home at 4 or 5 it's really not that bad. So anyways, I walked into the living room where my mom (Prado) was sitting watching a movie and she told me we were having friends over for drinks and lunch. I was thinking at like 2:30 when we usually have lunch, but what do you know, a couple minutes later a family comes over all dressed up and I am still in my pajamas, hair in a pony tail, face not washed (luckily I had brushed my teeth) and I now had to hug and kiss these people I just met (which means close proximity, which means I probably smelled). A quick change and Bam we were sitting down eating Paella!!! It's a rice dish with tons and TONS of seafood! Love it!

After lunch I walked down to the end of the block (where two girls from the U live) and Nicole's mom, Isa, drove us to the mall (where I found some great buys! Everything is en rebaja). When we got home my mom made me some very authentic hotdogs and scrambled eggs for dinner (which I didn't mind). Later, I met up with Nicole and Ben (other kids that live in my neighborhood) and we went to a local neighborhood bar/club called La Luna. There weren't many people there, and those that were, were old. However, the drinks were CHEAP! I guess the bartender thought Nicole and I were pretty because he charged us 3 Euros (pronounced Ey-Oo-Roes) for two drinks and charged Ben 10 Euros for three :) We came home early, around 3, and called it a night. Today Prado has prepared an authentic lunch, later I'm going for a run in old Toledo, and stopping at school to talk to a teacher. And tomorrow... CLASSES START!! Until then, hasta luego!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Mi despertador no sonó!!

Translation: My alarm clock didn't go off!! That's right, day two and I didn't make it to school today. But let me tell you the story first. Last night they told us we should arrive at the school at 10 am for a guided tour of the city. So I went home that night set my alarm for 8:40 so I could catch the 9:15 bus. Well I woke up an hour before my alarm was suppose to go off, but realizing the time I went back to sleep. The next time I woke up it was 10:35 am... what happened?! In a panic I check my alarm and sure enough it was set for 8:40 pm... I'm SUCH AND IDIOT! In a panic I weight my options. Rush over to the school where I know they would be gone already... or take my time, eat lunch, and plan it to get there around the time they should be getting back to the school. Well I decided to do just that. After a leisurely morning I got off the bus and who was right in front of me? A tour group! What luck!

Well this was just perfect because I had planned to buy a cell phone with my friends after the tour anyways. So we did just that and I stopped to buy some other much needed toiletries. After that we headed home for lunch and siesta. Lunch was rice, grilled ham, and bread today and prepared by mi hermana Ester (who is 19). It was delicious! I wasn't tired after just having woken up so I checked email and looked up words in Spanish before I headed out for a run with a neighbor, Nicole, around 5pm. It was kinda annoying getting cat-calls every two feet... so we didn't run for very long, that and she didn't bring her running shoes and was running in her brown day shoes. :)

As for the rest of the day I've been home alone. And to fill the time? Skype with my mom and dad (everyone should get it so I can talk to you guys... it's FREE!), and I've updated the blog with pictures, and facebook with even more pictures. Feel free to check out either one. Later dinner will be around 10, I'm going with some girls to meet at school and go out to the bars around 11 and then the clubs around 1. So for right now I have a date with my razor, and after that, a date with my bed! Catch ya on the flip side! Hasta luego!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

All settled into mi casa nueva

For all of you that don't speak Spanish that means "new home." Well I'm here, I've met my family, had dinner with them and spent some time with my new sisters. My mom's name is Prado, my dad's name is Jose Luis and my three sisters are Laura (22) Ester (19) and Silvia (will be 18 next week). My house has four bedrooms, a kitchen, two bathrooms, and a living room. Everything is so much smaller here, but it's enough room for me. During the week dad doesn't sleep at home (I haven't figured out why yet) so Prado and Silvia share a room, and the other two have their own. Tonight we had a very authentic dinner at around 10 pm... take out pizza! HaHa! I loved it, some of the best pizza I've ever had :) I really liked having dinner with them because it was just non-stop talking and laughing. It's almost midnight and everyone is still up even though we all have to get up at around 7:30 tomorrow.

I gave them their little gifts and they seemed to really like them (a Calendar of Milwaukee, and various body butter scents for the girls. We watched the soccer game Real Madrid against Barcelona tonight. It's nice to have some good soccer to watch! So tomorrow the girls are waking me up and I am taking the bus with Silvia into old Toledo (we are in a suburb about a 20 min bus ride from the school) so she can show me the ropes.

As for school tomorrow we have a whole day of placement testing, and signing up for classes. Only until about 1 pm when we will break for lunch and siesta!! (aka Nap time for everyone!) The entire city shuts down as everyone goes home for lunch with their families and a short nap. Everyone usually gets back around 3 and then works again to about 9. I have an orientation at 7:30 and a "Welcome" dinner at 8 at the school with all of the kids. Plenty of time to explore the city before that.

Well that's all for now, I'm hoping into bed and drifting off the sleep to the sound of my new mom and sisters talking from room to room and giggling. :) Buenas Noches.

Worst flight EVER

Well I don´t want to start out this trip as a negative nancy so I´m going to point out all of the good things first. All of my flights were ahead of schedule, and I sat next to a really nice man. However I didn´t sleep a wink the entire time, and now I am in Amsterdam in the middle of the day with zero sleep. Perfect! More to come later!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Contact Info

Well it turns out this blog and e-mail will be the best way of contacting me. I have also downloaded skype onto my computer which allows me to make calls and receive calls from other computers so I can hear all of your lovely voices! Other wise if you want to send a letter the place to send it is:

Shannon Morrison
Estudios Internacionales
Fundación Ortega y Gasset
Callejón de San Justo, s/n
45001 Toledo, SPAIN

I will be buying or renting a cell phone over there but it will only work for National calls in Spain. Even though it will be harder than usual keep in touch and keep me in your prayers!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Packing tips?

With the flight looming just 3 days over my shoulder... and no progress at all in the packing department, panic has set in. What if I forget something? What if I can't find what I need over there? Not only that, but how does a girl pack for six months??! I want to just pack my whole apartment into a duffle bag and call it a day but somehow I think the Airlines would charge me more than $15 a bag if I tried to do that! Everyone I've talked to has suggested packing 10 outfits, and most of it "clubin' clothes"... but what if I want to go skiing one weekend, or hiking another weekend? Won't I need my hiking shoes? My snow pants? Okay, okay. I'll get past all of that superficial stuff... but now what about the language barrier? Will my host family speak a little English? Is 8 years of Spanish classes enough to be considered "fluent", or at least enough to be understood??

**Deep Breath** This is going to be one of the greatest adventures of my life... and I'm scared. Yes, excited... but also very scared. No one likes to leave their comfort zone... and for 6 months... that's just ballz-y. I've already started some homework assignments, and should be reviewing some Spanish... but I feel that no matter what I do, I won't be able to prepare for the culture shock, embarrassing moments and amazing stories to come.

On top of all that, how do I leave the home and relationships I've built in Minnesota for six months? Will it change? Will they forget me? Will I still fit in when I get back?

I guess overall I've learned that nothing great is won or earned without a little sacrifice and taking some big chances... so on the count of three close your eyes, hold your breath and jump: 1... 2... 3...