Saturday, April 28, 2012

Two lives.


It's been about a week since I posted about my time spent in Granada.  I hoped you all enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it.  

It's April 28th.  In exactly two months I will wake up and spend the last full 24 hours in Spain.  I will board a plane bound for NYC on the 29th.  And in doing so, I will be leaving behind my new
family, home, the two cities I have fallen in love with, friends, and experiences.  

It's been 8 months. Those 8 months were full of experiences, hardships, opportunities, and life lessons.   I would love 
to say that " Nunca olvidaré" which means "I will never forget." However, the truth its: I, like most students, did not keep a journal in my hand, and a pencil behind my ear in order to document my experiences hour by hour, day by day.  Most of the hilarious Jokes and deep conversations, will be forgotten. I may forget some people, and some of them will most likely forget me.  However, those experiences happened, jokes were told, tears from sadness or happiness flowed. It is set in the past.  I have my blog, my limited but insightful personal journal entries, my memories, my pictures, and the friends with whom I will maintain contact to help remind me of what I did during my 10 months abroad.  

I will comeback to Spain.  I will go back to Sevilla.  To see Semana Santa and finally get to Feria and reunite with my friends.  To walk the same streets I did when I was 16.  I will make that drive to Malaga and take a deep breath when I see the ocean.  It will feel like coming home after a long trip to my other home in America.  Sevilla, Malaga, and Milwaukee.  They all feel familiar. I feel safe and happy to be home in all three. I could not imagine my life without them.

I, like many other students, have kept slight tabs on my friends back home via Facebook, Twitter and email.  I also, like every other AFSer abroad, wonder if they have forgotten about me. Even if it doesn't matter to me that much. Still we wonder.  Some probably don't miss my absence.  Some may wonder what I am doing right at that second.  What I would like them to know is that even though I preferred to be in Spain, I still wish I could have shared some of the typical American junior year experiences with them.  

I know I know I know that it's coming.  These few questions.  When I get home,  I will forever be asked these simple but incredibly annoying questions.
1. How was Spain?  Did you have fun?
2. What was your favorite part? Your least?
3. Would you do it again?  Even after knowing all that you've gone through?  

I have been thinking about how I can answer these questions with poise and grace without sounding like an annoyed snapping turtle.  I can't lie to you guys.  Even though I will appreciate being asked about one of the most important experiences in my life with genuine interest, a sense of  curiosity, and good intentions, it will test my patience.  I just didn't spend a year abroad.  I got a new life.  I lived in a new and different way. I made another life.  I did not stay the same person.  I changed drastically.   So as of right now I promise to have fully formed responses already practiced and recited so many times that it will feel as normal as breathing when I have to respond.  
1. How can I possibly tell you a story in a few moments when it took ten months to write it.  Of course I had fun.  But I cried, I was frustrated, I wanted to come home, I didn't want to leave, etc.  If you have a few extra minutes go read my blog. Those entries may offer incredible insights to what I did during my year.  If you want, I can come over and show you my pictures.  I would be happy to tell a story of one of the experiences I had.  Like the time when someone told me I was starring at a bunch  of famous people at a restaurant. But couldn't distinguish between 'los famosos' and the waiters.  
2. I can't tell you the best part.  Because that answer doesn't exist.  I had thousands of tiny but precious moments with friends.  I made memories.  I will never forget the night I went to my best friend's birthday party in the countryside in  Sevilla.  I had thousands of horrible experiences.  Switching families, the harsh reality of loosing friends.  My first day of school.  Again, read the blog.  It probably can tell you more than I can.  
3. Of course I would do it again.  Along with all the unpleasant moments I went through. There is no other experience that exists on the plant that could sway my mind.  From getting into creative discussions with the people with whom I did not see eye to eye, to climbing 'Las Setas' in Sevilla to look out over the gorgeous city, to seeing a play acted out at the ancient Roman amphitheater in Italica, to roaming around London with my classmates to drinking tea and eating the best gelato in Malaga with my best Spanish friend Mariam and my Spanish mother.  Like the quote from an unknown author says, "A bend in the road is not the end of a road, unless you fail to make the turn."  

I have made friends from all over the world.  I can't wait for the day that we will be reunited again.  Maybe I will go to Japan to see Kyo and Akria, or travel to Turkey to see San, visit Slovakia to hang out with Ivana.
I have really good American friends here in Malaga with me.  Ally and Julian.  However we are all from 3 separate parts of the United States.  Ally lives in Old Lyme, Connecticut on the east coast, I live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the Midwest, and Julian lives in San Francisco, CA on the West Coast.  I have made friends from Alaska, all the way to Virginia.  Ya never know who you will see walking down the street in Chicago or NYC.  

Of course I will carry my habits from Spain to America.  As I have carried my habits from America to Spain.  I will be modified by another culture yet again (expect this time it is MY culture that will be changing me).  Maybe I want to take Siesta like in Spain.  I will want my 'heart healthy' all American breakfasts once again.  (If I don't go out to breakfast the first day I'm back, someone will suffer) I will want to go out later and sleep in later like in Spain; however, I can't do that.  I will be able to drive again.  But I probably won't ever take the buses in Milwaukee.  I will miss the buses, taxis, and the metro in Spain.  

I have two lives.  One here in Spain.  One in America.  The Harsh reality.  I can't have both.  And even when I return to my American Family and friends, my American life will not be the same as it once was. Even when I return to Spain, I can't have the same life as I did before.  My life in America won't be the same because it will be affected by my Spanish life and vice-versa.  I already know I will consciously and unconsciously mix the two lives together. I will continue on living "Sin prisas, sin pausa" which means " Without rush, without pause."

That's all for now.  Another deep post full of feelings and thoughts I have had during this past week.  I hope you all are having a great weekend. 


Friday, April 20, 2012

The Alhambra

Hola :)

The snow capped Sierra Nevada mountains stand
majestically behind the sturdy  fortress.  
I recently went to Granada to explore the city and visit the Alhambra.  Some of you might know that Washington Irving made a trip to Spain.  He rode horseback from Sevilla to Granada.  During his journey he composed a wonderful book called 'Cuentas de la Alhambra' or 'Tales of the Alhambra' published in 1832.  It is a collection of ancient, mystical, and mysterious stories that all took place in Granada and the Alhambra as well as 'recounts of his journey across Andalucia.'  The Moors, the Arabic Sultans, humble water-boys, etc.  The myths are all believed to be based on true facts. I read it, and I highly recommend it.  Even when I wasn't there, I could feel the cool roll off the brick walls. When I was there I felt surrounded by a hazy atmosphere.  It is tranquil, peaceful.  I realize that the Sultans were going for a 'Heaven on Earth' vibe when building the Alhambra.  If you think it's incredible nowadays, I'd love to go back a few hundred years before Ferdinad and Isabella (Los Reyes Catolicos) conquered the Alhambra. Back to when the fountains were bubbling with ice cold water, heavy incense burning in every dark corner, elegant princesses and princes wrapped in silk dripping with pearls and precious stones, lush gardens full of flowers of every color, relaxing music playing down the halls, etc.  It must have been beyond words. The Alhambra is also said to be haunted.  I don't think I'd like to be there alone after dark.  You really feel like you have been transported to Morocco or somewhere in the Middle East when you visit Granada.  Modern Presidents, Princes, heads of states all make a side stop to the Alhambra when they visit the south of Spain. The markets, the restaurants, the architecture.  It is a beautiful city.  Here are some pictures.  And Visit these websites if you want to learn more about the Alhambra and Washington Irving's 'Cuentas de la Alhambra.'



Columbus asking Isabella and Ferdinand to finance  his journey to find the "West Indies Pass"  He found the Americas instead.  

Long Reflecting Pools and trickling fountains.

View of Granada from the Generalife.  Still part of the Alhambra.  Just with a special name.

Palace of the Catholic King Carlos V

The Alcazaba

What an interesting cloud! After this, I fell down the stairs.  Got a bruise.  Mark falling down ancient stairs thousands of years old, the ones which Sultans, soldiers, Napoleon Bonaparte,  and Washington Irving all climbed and descended off my list.

Que no hay en la vida nada como la pena de ser ciego en Granada.
It says, "There is nothing in life like the pain of being blind in Granada"

Puerta de la Justicia.
Apparently, deep underneath these gates, a beautiful Christian princess is held captive by a 200 year old (well add a  1000 years  more) Arabic 

Granada from Gate of the Arms.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

"It's funny to think of how different your life would be if......."

It's April.
The middle of April.
My Birthday is on Sunday the 22nd.  

"It's funny to think of how different your life would be if you never met the people who changed it." _ Author Unknown

It's so crazy what has happened to me since I arrived in the beginning of September.  I have meet so many people.  Some I only knew for a day, others I will be in contact with for a long time.  The littlest bit of kindness shown towards me will not be forgotten.  I've been so many places and my eyes have seen so many interesting things.  I've tried new foods. Been to new cities.  Thought new thoughts.  Some of my beliefs have changed.  I've been on this Earth for close to 17 years (mas o menos) and I believe that I have experienced much more than the average American teenager will ever experience.  I say that respectively of course. 

Not many teens are thrown into a situation where they have to fend for themselves.  No one speaks your language.  This is not your country.  You are a little shy and unsure.  You are not sure what classes you have.  The first day of school in Sevilla was one of the WORST days of my life.  WORST.  I emphasize the word WORST once more.  But my last day,  was also one of the hardest.  I came to love each and everyone of those kids.  Some of them were extremely good at English.  But essentially, they are my Spanish friends.  I talk to at least one of them each day.  Malaga is beautiful.  It is peaceful and chaotic at the same time.  The ocean gives it mystery the mountains in the background give it character.  However, even with this said.  Sevilla is my love.  The city.  My friends.  I may have not gotten along with a few people there, but that's life.  I do not have any hostile feelings towards anyone. 

Adults, children, kids my age.  Random people on the street.  People from different countries.  Everyone has changed my life or offered some sort of effect.  Every second.... you change.  You burn a calorie, or you eat a couple hundred.  You think a new thought.  You remember.  You smile, cry, yell....etc  You dream new dreams.  You get enthusiastic you get depressed.  The wish that you wished for on a star came true. Or didn't.  You CHANGE.  You want something new.  You throw something out.  You doubt yourself. You believe in yourself.

It's scary yet beautiful..... Change.  In my opinion, it's not what comes after that scares me, it's the responsibility I have. I know that moment of truth is coming. That moment of truth scares me the most.  I Choose A or B.  And the consequences are different for each choice.  You will adjust to the changes.  It's just taking that leap.  Choosing to put your toe over the line.  Over the point of no return.  You can't take something back.  Something you said, thought, saw... You can try to hypnotize yourself, but it still happened.  (Please, let's not bring Philosophy into this. I'm talking here.) My ability, the POWER to make something happen is within me.  I have learned that I am capable of anything I want.  I'm not talking about buying the moon, or becoming the next Princess (well... hey! ya never know).  I'm saying that if I really want to pass that math test.  I can make it happen.  

"Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it's better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring." Marilyn Monroe said that.  Imperfection is beauty.  Even the most beautiful faces are somewhat asymmetrical.  Nature, is full of imperfections.  It still takes my breath away.  Live each day so you won't regret it.  I'm not asking you to go out and get drunk or run up the down escalators.  (Well I did the 2nd once.  OK a few times.  FINE, even a security guard has given me a look)  
Being boring is awful.  Sitting around for something to happen will not get you anywhere.  It's a hard task to make a change, get off your bum and fight for what you want.  But it's necessary.  Hey, If you make a mistake.  You will learn.  No one is perfect.  According to Marilyn, if imperfection is beauty, then perfection would be grotesque.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, " People are always getting ready to live, but never living."  You can't sit in your room at your desk and keep asking yourself "WHAT IF?" I curse those words.  It is a poisonous combination of two harmless words.  It will give you nightmares.  They will pester you all daylong.  I will never be able to say, 'what if.'  Sure, They might pass through my mind, but I shrug my shoulder's, roll my eyes and say "Well, it really doesn't matter now!"  Lo hecho esta hecho.  What's done is done.  I've learned here, that you CAN go into a situation and wing it.  (MOST the time)  Going to a new city for the day? Google the place. Get some ideas.  And just GO!  Lost?  Ask someone which direction.  End up some place unexpected?  Awesome.  I was walking home from church.  This one elderly man asked me where some road was and we ended up having a hour long conversation.  He was Spanish.  But when you're only going to know a person for 1 don't have to be shy.  On vacation?  Like my mother says, "You're never going to see these people again."  

Ralph also famously said, "Imitation is suicide."  Don't try to be someone else.  BElieve in YOUrself. Don't sell yourself out for some cheap sideshow act.  Take a breath.  Smile.  Don't worry that people are judging you.  You are a beautiful person.  I'll pull a Lady Gaga, 'You were born this way.'

Lots upon which to ponder.  I have pictures from the Alhambra in Granada.  And a few stories.  

Un beso.