Birthdays in New Places

This was a weird birthday for two reasons.

1. I turned 21, which is the last big milestone birthday until 50 (unless you count 25 when I can rent a car on my own).

2. This was my first birthday without my actual twin or de facto twin ever.

I did not go out and get drunk on my 21st (because I’m responsible and have class and am waiting for the weekend thank you anyway). But I did go out and have a great classy dinner and dessert with wine (first drink that would be legal in all my favourite countries!)

After we swore that we would take pictures of the food, we promptly forgot the first round (a delicious noodles dish with a Japanese sauce/spices).

But then came the arroz negro (“black rice” aka rice drenched in squid ink) and no way could we forget to capture the moment.

11260475_920263888030881_1202588037_o

To be honest, I was slightly nervous to try it, but it had been on my food bucket list long before getting off the plane in January and what better time to suck it up and be an adult and try something new than on your 21st birthday?

It was slightly crunchy, which was unexpected but an interesting texture for rice. And squid ink is extremely delicious but I’m hard-pressed to find an equivalent flavor to help describe it. All I can say is–don’t miss out.

Dessert for me was a cheesecake that didn’t taste like cheesecake, but add in raisins on top and strawberry sauce and I was happy. Alejandro had a brownie filled with melted chocolate that also looked amazing.

11273479_920263278030942_1164244100_o

 

 

And who can forget the pictures of finally being legal?

11328189_920263868030883_1533285644_o

This is my “I know you want candid pictures and I’m smiling but if you take a picture of me actually eating my food instead of just pretending we’re going to have problems.”

first legal drink

Cheers!

Thank you to all my friends who extended birthday wishes and took time to send a note. I am so blessed to have such great friends. It wasn’t the 21st I’d always thought I’d have, but it was amazing nonetheless, spent well and in good company, and a memory I’ll cherish.

 

Sevilla Life Updates Part 2

Hi everyone!

So I’m just checking in with random little bits of information about life here.

I’ve gotten to do a few trips since the last time I checked in!

I wrote about Malaga, but I also got to go to Aracena in the Sierra Huelva of Sevilla and also Italica in the last month.

Aracena is a town with beautiful views, an old fortress, and the main point of my trip with CIEE, la Gruta de las Maravillas, which is a huge cave system filled with stalagmites and stalactites, underground pools, and is just an incredible piece of nature.

11069768_906599622730641_1491977175_o

It’s lamb season!

11106060_906601762730427_1385613577_o

Aracena is a really cute and pretty town filled with white houses (making it a “pueblo blanco” for which Spain is famous)

11087768_906598796064057_1597989401_o

A reflection in one of the cave’s pools

11067740_906598999397370_1847908512_o

This past weekend was an early birthday trip to Italica for part of a day. Italica is the oldest and most well-preserved Roman town in Spain. It was the childhood home of Emperor Hadrian (if Hadrian’s Wall in England rings a bell, same guy).

11204812_915550035168933_498968992_o

The mosaics were some of the best-preserved pieces and were gorgeous.

11207978_915549895168947_122173703_o 11249539_915549525168984_164245473_o

11215495_915549985168938_616424408_o

Italica is a huge city (with even more hidden underneath the modern town nearby). Thus I was glad the weather cooperated with us and all the walking!

11211741_915550101835593_500773232_o 11242915_915549608502309_6311888_o

11244558_916147241775879_1499008939_o

My favorite part though was the old Roman theater. It was (almost) as good as going to the Colosseum in Rome. As Ale said, “Could you name any building built today that would be as well-preserved as this 2,000 years from now?”

11246014_915548405169096_1027117916_o

This part of the theater would be filled with water to stage “sea battles”

11245202_915548218502448_2125198016_o

And in a bit of advanced travel news, I have a lot of upcoming trips! I’ll be going to Basque Country (San Sebastian and Bilbao) at the end of the month! Trips to Ronda (a small town on the way to Malaga) and the beaches south of Sevilla are also in the works. And then in June, my mom and cousin are visiting! The three of us will be going to Madrid and then Germany, before my cousin goes home and my mom comes to Andalucia (Sevilla/Cordoba/Granada) and bonus Portugal/Gibraltar trips.

Because of that, June will also be crazy because it’s exam months! I have a final project in May before leaving for Basque, but then have two exams close to each other upon my return and thankfully a break to study before my last (and probably hardest) exam at the end of June.

Students here are slowly starting to get into exam mode. My classes and the study nooks seem a little fuller these days and I’ll soon be among them. I’m used to having good attendance credit/homework grades/paper grades to bolster my usually lack-luster or average exams that having classes based solely on a final exam is a little terrifying. But I’m trying not to panic too soon :)

Volunteering is also going well. The girl I have been volunteering with left to go back to the States last weekend so now it’s just me. The kids are great though. I helped one girl study for her English test last weekend. It was fun (“fun”?) to go through verb conjugations and sentence constructions with her. It definitely makes you think when you have to explain when to add “-s” and when to “-es” to make words plural (I did remember though. THANKS FOR THE WRITING CLASSES MOM!)

I’ve also tried a lot of different restaurants/bakeries these last few weeks. There’s a cupcake bakery near the CIEE study center that we went to after our final last week to try out. Amazing. I can’t believe we haven’t gone before.

11211644_915022608555009_1346226124_o

Chocolate cupcake with mint icing, carrot cake cupcake with buttercream icing, apple cupcake with cinnamon icing, lemon cupcake with unknown (but delicious) icing. And a brownie with nuts.

11242761_914995921891011_898994091_o

I might have discussed these before but this these are butter croissants from a tiny bakery near where I live and they are to die for. I get them about 2-3 times a week.

I might have discussed these before but this these are butter croissants from a tiny bakery near where I live and they are to die for. I get them about 2-3 times a week.

11067706_887568834633720_1606779089_o

Churros are as Spanish as paella or tinto/sangria. Also they’re delicious and will make you fat but will be worth it. There are two main kinds of churros: Churros rellenos that are kind of like a long john donut but with chocolate filling. Then there’s churros con chocolate which are churro sticks that you dip into a cup of piping hot chocolate. These are my personal favourite and will have for breakfast/lunch/dinner if permitted.

Finally, Karishma and I tried out a coffee shop that opened a few weeks ago (we're struggling to remember what used to be in that spot). It is cheaper than starbucks, a lot brighter space with more comfy chairs, and also they had an amazing lemon muffin (accompanied by an iced latte with a shot of vanilla. Spanish Lesson!!  Sirope=syrup)

Finally, Karishma and I tried out a coffee shop that opened a few weeks ago (we’re struggling to remember what used to be in that spot). It is cheaper than starbucks (though still a chain), a lot brighter space with more comfy chairs, and also they had an amazing lemon muffin (accompanied by an iced latte with a shot of vanilla. Spanish Lesson!!
Sirope=syrup)

And finally, some more pictures at this already picture-heavy post. Please give your computer a hug for me for having to deal with this.

11092873_899239213466682_1804190348_o

Sunset from Las Setas during Semana Santa

11231992_916475825076354_1318713135_o

“La primavera en Sevilla es una maravilla” (Spring in Sevilla is a wonder)

11144728_901975006526436_1594656625_o

A small courtyard hidden across from the Cathedral

11230081_917250654998871_884977573_o

Wandering the University of Sevilla while trying to find an office

We still don't know what this was. It looked like a Semana Santa paso made completely of children. There were young boys carrying the float and crosses, but the young girls were all in flamenco outfits (complete with shawls and flowers). The spanish couple we asked didn't know what was going on either.

We saw this this week and still don’t know what it was. It looked like a Semana Santa paso made completely of children. There were young boys carrying the float and crosses, but the young girls were all in flamenco outfits (complete with shawls and flowers). The Spanish couple we asked didn’t know what was going on either.

And ta-da! The End.

The Fiesta To End All Fiestas

Guys.

Can I admit something really fast?

I actually enjoyed Feria more than Semana Santa.

*Waits for lightning*

Really though. I loved the solemnity and religious aspect of Semana Santa because it was so different from religious celebrations at home and Easter is one of my favourite holidays.

But I loved Feria simply because I loved Feria.

Please imagine the party atmosphere of New Year’s Eve added to the alcohol use and fireworks of Fourth of July, the family gathering aspect of Christmas, the non-stop dancing of senior prom (albeit a bit more orchestrated), then add huge dresses and flowers on the top of women’s heads and men in suits. Please imagine this all happening in one part of one neighbourhood in one city.

Please imagine this all happening for a week, from noon-7am every day.

Now you have the general idea of Feria.

OPENING NIGHT:

The lighting of the “Portada” or the giant ornate archway leading into Feria (there’s actually a million ways to get into Feria but if you don’t use this one at least once, go home. You’re a disgrace).

11167445_907867445937192_870173278_o

Pre-lighting. I was very fortunate (unfortunate) to be in an apartment a block away from the portada. This meant that making it to Feria despite the crowds was not that big of a struggle. It also meant that sleeping was impossible.

 

11148305_907866285937308_1215894107_o

Post-lighting. Isn’t it pretty?

There was no official countdown (nothing like New Year’s Eve) so we were all anxiously waiting with phones/cameras in hand because it lit up about two seconds after midnight with no warning or fanfare.11182839_908821912508412_1691421085_o

 

Re: Feria wardrobe

Guys are expected to be in full suits, and failing that, at least in presentable pants and a jacket. E.g. do not show up in shorts and a tshirt.

Girls wear the “traje de flamenco” or like the men, get dressed to the nines. I wore the dress one full afternoon/evening out, went back out one morning to pretend like I fit in while I wandered, and then gave up and just wore nice dresses.

11171424_908317172558886_67363504_o

Excuse Casey and I squinting. We wore our dresses on THE hottest day of the week. Of course. My dress and flower was a hand-me-down (at a super reasonable price) from CIEE and the shawl a gift from a friend. It’s a bit of an older style but I liked it as it was lighter in weight than more modern dresses i.e. not as stifling hot, though still uncomfortable.

Traditional eating at Feria:

Rebujito literally means a mixed drink. This traditional Feria drink consists of Manzanilla and some sort of lemon/lime soda (Fanta, 7-UP, and Sprite are all popular choices). It is beyond refreshing but also very easy to down a lot of before you realise that you’ve really consumed way more alcohol than planned. Thus, as the evening goes on, the people get drunker and the party merrier. It’s all part of the fun.

899677_908721005851836_2036117466_o

Buñuelos are little fried balls of dough topped with any sort of sauce/icing-like substances. I got mine with white chocolate and they were to die for. Churros are also a good choice and pop-up chocolaterias abounded in Los Remedios.

11167438_907865902604013_1768078702_o

 

 

 

Feria is a giant fairground basically consisting of two parts. The traditional part that pretty much everyone stays in and the attractions part with rides, ferris wheels, etc. that only families with kids and tourists go to pretty much.

(sorry for the huge disparity in quality of the rest of these photos. I was enjoying feria and kind of forgot that I might want to blog about it).

11072610_910930638964206_476496522144369658_n

Outside of a caseta along the very edge of Feria

11092880_908316732558930_1119938083_o

Inside of the caseta. DRAMA TIME: The lady in red looking at the guy bottom left of the photo very obviously did not know the guy but started flirting with him about five minutes after we got there. By the time we left a few hours later, they were kissing in a corner. #feria

Casetas are private or public. The public ones are crowded, overwhelmingly noisy, hot, and dirty. I went into one for about an hour and wanted to die.

I was fortunate that one of the days I went, I was with Spanish friends whose family belonged to a private caseta. Spaces in these casetas have waiting lists and are reserved for a few hundred euros a year.

11179896_908316749225595_958906733_o

Thank you Maria! We even scored seats next to a giant fan.

11171707_908441395879797_2027120004_o

 

Feria during the day is fun and it’s nice to walk around and get the lay of the land, like the many carriages and men traveling by horse throughout the neighborhood.

11171976_908316895892247_1127994000_o

 

But it really comes alive at sundown and is just gorgeous and a feast for the eyes:

11101548_907866245937312_413799203_o 11126247_908821849175085_1525916921_o 11167530_907866265937310_419593332_o 11183005_907865955937341_1537563625_o

And at the end of it all, fireworks. I was really glad I went out for this because

1. Churros one last night

2. I won’t be home for 4th of July so I was surprisingly really happy to see fireworks somehow this semester

10371952_910930452297558_1467496351197852986_n

 

I fully hope to be in Sevilla for Feria again in the future.

But until then, adios #Feria2015. Thanks for the party.

 

Día del Madre

*Shout out to WordPress for not publishing this on Sunday like I told it to. Better late than never.

 

HI MOM!

I’m sorry I haven’t managed to get on tv here and yell at you, but I’m going to keep working on it.

I just want to say Happy Mother’s Day!

I miss you.

Margarita’s cool and all. But she’s not you.

So just in case I don’t say it enough, thank you for everything (fighting about math so I could pass my college classes the first time, showering us with food, going to every special event or performance, supporting us no matter what, offering solid advice, etc etc etc).

See you in 37 days <3

Love,

Me

Málaga

First beach day of the semester!

So 30 hours in Málaga does not seem like much time considering the first 16 were spent finding the hostel, getting dinner, and sleeping.

We made the most of the short time though, seeing Picasso’s birthplace, a small museum of Picasso’s work along with his contemporaries, the old Moorish fortress of Alcazaba (hello hiking at 11am with backpacks), and then, of course, the BEACH!

Due to time constraints, we decided to stick with the city beach instead of going a little further out. Despite the gorgeous weather, it was not nearly as crowded as expected. And despite getting burnt (also less than expected but still), I loved it.

First, some architecture I enjoyed:

11179917_913798388677431_57228621_o 11181510_913798428677427_1063391437_o 11204704_913798682010735_395707583_o

 

11201453_913799122010691_1876722239_o

And then Picasso’s birthplace (no pictures inside sadly)

11202684_913798788677391_1872624383_o 11201453_913799032010700_2022982515_o 11194847_913799065344030_248142633_o

 

Then Alcazaba:

11221206_913832892007314_1920639376_o

Looking up from below

 

11067914_913832748673995_2138368253_o

Garden partway up

But seriously, look at these views:

 

11187862_913799812010622_101542059_o 11207943_913832778673992_325320200_o 11211713_913799668677303_646864057_o

 

I mistook slots along the bottom of the wall (not the ones behind my head) as openings for archers and was quickly corrected and told that the ones along the bottom of the wall were actually water drains. Who knew?

 

11201396_913799605343976_1911897039_o

 

And finally, the beach!!

11215333_913798335344103_43270655_o

Apparently buying beer from a random guy walking along the beach is a Spanish tradition.

11201325_913798272010776_1955227680_o 11204620_913798202010783_42652456_o

11199022_913839602006643_12562183_n 11204827_913798142010789_953929474_o

 

It got cloudy for the last 20 minutes on the beach but as it was 90 degrees that day, the clouds were welcome!