Finally, MADRID

 WAHOO. After 8 hours on a bus, I am all moved in to my new apartment in Madrid! Anna and I each have our own room, and we share a bathroom. Her room is bigger, but has both of our desks (for our “homework”) so it evens out. Our host mom, Emi hardly speaks any English, but we manage to understand each other- at least the simple things (like, “For the love of God, WHAT IS THE WIFI PASSWORD?!“). She walked us to the metro stop which is literally the next block from our building, and drew us a couple maps explaining how to get to and from school, and to a local park so we can jog. We even have our own mini fridge and great wifi, so keep reading my blog. <- See what I did there?

I’m all unpacked now, and feeling a lot more comfortable than I expected to at this point. Maybe it’s because I’m exhausted, and have yet to bring myself to read the surprise hidden card from my mom (that will be emotional, I’m SURE), but also I think it is because I am truly, madly, deeply excited for this adventure. I’ve had a couple years to mentally prepare, and a couple months to physically prepare, and right now I’m ready and rearing to go. I’m sure I’ll have some difficult times, and I’ll just have to deal with that when it happens. Right now, I’m about to embark on a journey I’ll be wishing I could relive for the rest of my life. Let’s begin:

Times I’ve Cried Abroad (so far)

Times I’ve Cried Abroad (so far):

–       Realizing that I would actually have to take classes here

–       Listening to “The House That Built Me” about 15 times on the 6-hour bus ride

–       Laughing at my roommates puking in plastic bags behind a cathedral

–       Every day when I have to have ham and bread for breakfast, lunch and dinner

–       When I remember the dollar/Euro exchange rate

–       Looking at pictures of Jesus at the Cathedral (Surprise! A serious one)

–       Frustration at planning international travels

–       When I couldn’t stream Pretty Little Liars abroad 😦

–       When I gave up trying to sleep on the bus

–       When my best friend e-mailed me the latest PLL updates, no spoilers! 🙂 

–       When I realized I only have one semester for this incredible experience. 

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What I miss most about the US is:

Some things you don’t need until they leave you, then they’re things that you miss”. –Matchbox Twenty

What I miss most about the US is:

-Wi-fi access everywhere

-Chobani yogurt & peanut butter bagels

-My lil puppy

– Driving a car

-My summer schedule

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-Iced coffee

-Alone time

-Normal ketchup

– Hugs from my family

– Cuse friends still at Cuse

Sorry if you didn’t make the list, I’m sure there will be additions to it later in the semester.

Granada: Sunny & 95

Finally, I am here in the city that started my daydreams about Spain way back in middle school. GRANADA. Everyone knew the best way to avoid learning about grammar during class was to get Sra. G to start reminiscing about her study abroad experience in Granada, and now it’s even easier to see why. I also learned the day before I left that my neighbor’s girlfriend had studied in Granada and she even gave me a quick highlight reel of some of her times there. Talk about building anticipation.

Although Córdoba was an easy wade into the Spanish city life, two nights and a couple full days was plenty of time to see what we wanted to see. We took a bus to Granada, and it didn’t take long to realize that the only thing to see between cities is n o t h i n g. Most Spanish people live in and close to the major cities, so when we turned a sharp corner and I pulled back the curtain to see this, I knew we were there.

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We got to our hotel (much nicer than the last one, good job SU), passed out for 2 hours a little bit and then went to dinner, WHICH WAS SO GOOD. I sampled paella, chicken, meatballs, French fries, salad, empanadas, and so much other stuff. Not all delicious, but paella was for sure my favorite. There was watermelon for dessert, cream puffs, assorted cakes, chocolate croissants (fan favorite), and these perfect-sized baby ice cream cups! All so good, I’m feeling hopeful for Madrid, but missing my mom’s cooking!

The wifi access has been horribly spotty, which is extremely frustrating. We were all so sick of saying and hearing “wifi” that we used “broccoli” as a substitute word. Made for some pretty funny exchanges, but unfortunately didn’t really help with connecting to FacebookInstagramTwitteriMessageViberWhatsappEmail when trying to get a little piece of home.

The first full day in Granada (Thursday) I hung out by the hotel pool chatting with some girls from the trip, and then in the afternoon, after a lesson (this seminar is 3 credits, mind you) we went to La Alhambra, which is a magnificent Moorish palace that attracts over 8,000 visitors a day! There was a light glaze of clouds today, making it a bearable 90 degrees instead of the usual 99 in the shade, but I bet the breathtaking sights and perfect panoramic view of Granada would have been impressive even in the rain.  I liked the Courtyard of the Lions the best, and again I was amazed at the Moorish architecture and how much precision went into creating and assembling this place. It redefines “detail-oriented” and goes in the 1,000% Must-See List if in/near Granada.

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Later that night, we went to a Flamenco show at Cueva de la Rocío (the same place Michelle Obama visited on her vacation) after holding our breaths watching the bus driver maneuver down the most narrow winding streets I have ever seen. The venue was a cave-like room with flashing lights, loud accented staccato music, and graceful yet powerful flamenco dancing. A couple people (including yours truly) were pulled out onto the floor to dance a little with the performers. Definitely a highlight of the trip.

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Later (11:30 pm/12 am), the bus dropped us off on Gran Via en el Centro, and we walked two steps before we found blocks down the street to a wine bar. While all of us were more concerned about the free Wifi access, we sipped sangria and ate free tapas (Thanks for the tip Gabi!), which was some type of fried ham/cheese/potato ball of deliciousness. We then bar hopped and explored the city before settling in at Hannigan’s, an Irish pub in Granada (I know, I know).  We ended up meeting a guy at the bar who WENT TO SYRACUSE IN ’06 AND STUDIED ABROAD IN LONDON, where he now lives and works for BBC (#cusenation). Of course, we got a picture on somebody’s phone, and then spent the rest of the night chatting with some Italian guys about European adventures. So cool. When we got home (scary how fast that definition changes), Allison, Rhiann, and I rewrote the words to the underrated one hit wonder “Pop, Lock & Drop It” to describe our nightly skin care routine: “Pop, Wash and Creme It”.

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The next morning, we threw up in the bathroom of visited the Real Capilla de Granada Cripta y Museo de los Reyes Católicos, which sits right in the middle of the city, completely surrounded by modern day stores. I was surprisingly practically moved to tears by some of the paintings of Jesus on the cross, especially a close-up head-on one, and one with someone’s arms surrounding him, with their faces nearly touching. There’s something about painted pictures of hands that I just can’t stop looking at. So delicate, yet expected to hold whatever the artist chooses to include.

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After another four-hour bus ride, we have finally arrived in Sevilla! We overlap with the Azahar seminar group for a night here, and I cannot wait to see some more familiar faces, including my Madrid roommate, Anna. We also get our host family assignments soon. I feel like a freshman again, waiting to hear the news about a random college roommate. In other news, I have no idea what is going on in the outside world because I cannot access the Internet on my smartphone or MacBook (#firstworldpains), and I have only limited Spanish-speaking capabilities. If there are any updates you want to share, please comment below!

Until then, here’s a preview of our day tomorrow:

Córdoba: Bread & Ham

Today is already Wednesday, and I cannot believe how much we have done in such a short time! I am drafting this post on our four-hour bus ride from Córdoba to Granada, and when you can read it, you will know I made it to a wifi zone at our next hotel, where our AWESOME guide Elena says there is better food, better wifi, and a pool! THANK GOD. It is so hot here, and I haven’t seen a cloud yet. The blue sky makes all the white buildings with colored accents pop, but I would appreciate a nice cool breeze every once in a while.

Yesterday (Tuesday) we had our first and only full day in Córdoba. The morning consisted of hotel breakfast buffet (I had bread and jamón, seedy but super red watermelon, and delicious café con leche), a lesson in Spanish about the imperios ibéricos (hence, “Imperium” seminar) with some religious history of Spain, and free time to walk around the city surrounding our hotel. The immediate area is on the edge of the Jewish Quarter in Central Córdoba, according to my awesome guide book, Rick Steve’s Spain 2013, and after wandering around for a little while with a bigger group (travel note: bad idea to try to explore a city in a group of 12 indecisive people… gave me Disney ’11 flashbacks haha), a smaller group of us ordered a couple slices of pizza and watched a cooking show that was taking place in front of a pool. Qué interesante. (travel note: pizza is understood in every language, take advantage).

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In the afternoon, we walked through more labyrinthine streets over riverstone cobbles and I was amazed at how intimate the neighborhood felt. My favorite thing about Spain so far is the thick, whitewashed walls, colorful doors and windows, and narrow streets, while hidden within are manicured patios (if the door is open, it is an invite to look in!) with tiled signs and around every turn there is a tapas bar or tiny souvenir shop! I picked up something for my mom while I was there. She would love it here, so many colores.

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We eventually made it to our destination, The Mezquita (or Catedral Córdoba), which is an enormous catedral that was previously a giant mosque and a Christian temple before that, built in 760 AD (And I thought Boston was old…). The most notable structure is a large tower that housed either church bells or the man who called the Muslims for prayer, depending on which religion ruled the area at the time. The juxtaposition of Muslim and Christian architecture is amazing, with a church with angels and statues of saints literally within a mosque, with Muslim architecture and mathematical patterns lining the ceiling. Again, I was amazed at the detail covering every inch of the high ceilings and walls. Outside, there is a giant wall enclosing the area, and there are fountains (FINALLY, AGUA) and palm trees to complete the oasis. Today, the Catedral is under Christian control, and holds mass regularly.

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After a quick fro-yo with Ferrero Rocher chocolate topping, Rachel, Hailee, Rhiann, Allison and I took a detour to see the Roman Bridge, and then had to ask an information booth for a map to get back to our hotel. He spoke English and was muy helpful. For dinner we had bread and ham (…again…) and a few other things, but I am definitely missing my mom’s cooking.

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After dinner Allison, Rhiann and I hung out in our room, chatted and caught up on the American pop culture we’ve been missing being cut off from modern civilization Twitter and Instagram. I had a little bit of a homesick spell, but after a quick pep talk via Viber and Whatsapp from Addy and Michelle, I was feeling much better. Culture shock is real, but the experience is all too short to be wasted on being sad.

This morning we had another quick lesson (you can probably guess what we had for breakfast) and then we went to see the Sinagoga, which was built in 1315 AD! Again, another example of the tumultuous religious history of Córdoba, but beautiful nonetheless.

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Castillo de Almodóvar

This castle sits atop a hill on the way to Granada, and was wonderfully renovated in the 19th century, making it an accurate representation of a fortress-type structure that served as a defense during the religious turmoil. The panoramic views were incredible, and even my awesome Canon camera can’t do it justice. The depth of the stone walls against the whitewashed town below and sprawling countryside was indescribable, so enjoy las fotos.

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Spain 2013: No Regrets

iHola friends, family, & followers!

After an eternity of traveling; two plane rides, 4 hours of waiting at JFK, a 6 hour bus ride… I am finally relaxing in my hotel room in Córdoba, Spain. We are 6 hours ahead over here, and surprisingly, I’m feeling ok, despite getting a total of 1.5 hours of shuteye.

My dad and brother dropped me off at the airport, and then I was off on my own! My last U.S. meal was a hamburger and french fries because… ‘merica.

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After an uneventful 40 minute flight from Boston to JFK, I faced another uneventful 4 hours of waiting until it was check-in time with the group. Luckily, I got to reunite with my freshman roommate who is also studying in Madrid, and we started the congregation of fellow Imperium travelers for SU Abroad at the gate.

My first international flight went well! One of the plane’s radio stations had a One Direction power hour thing going on, and between tears reading the notes from my sister and my friend, I got to figure out the hard way there really is no comfortable way to sleep sitting up. I got served this questionable meal, but at least the cheesecake was decent, and I was proud of myself for conversing with the flight attendant completely in Spanish, which consisted of “agua”, “pollo” and “gracias”. Still, progress.

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Customs and passport checks took less time than I expected, and then we were off to see the wizard countryside of Córdoba (which I also realized I have been pronouncing wrong all along…). It reminded me of Denver because of the mountains in the distance, but also a bit like SoCal and Florida all in one, definitely heavy with Spanish influence and fields on fields on fields of the same type of tree, which I think was olives or oranges? Will report back later.

IMG_26386 hours later we arrived at our hotel and got to shower and nap. I’m rooming with my friend Allison and it is going great. We had orientation, then dinner as a group (lots of meat, and still getting used to some of the ways the vegetables are prepared), then me and a couple girls on the trip walked the area around our hotel and shared a couple bottles of really cheap and really sweet wine at Mercado Victoria. I dig it.

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Tomorrow the seminar starts for real, and it is going to be 100 degrees F. Even today and tonight there were not many people out, and it was 88 degrees F at 11 pm.  WONDERFUL. I was feeling confident and volunteered to take tomorrow’s lecture in Spanish. We’ll see how that goes, but quick shout out to the Spanish teachers of GHS, both Sra. Gs, for really getting that stuff to stick in my head. Gracias!

Buenas noches!