Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Hasta luego, España

The time has come when I must say goodbye to this wonderful city, country, and all of it's fantastic citizens. In three hours I will head to the bus station, take a three hour bus with about 10 other Cal Poly students, arrive in Madrid at 3 in the morning, and hang out at the airport until my flight leaves at 7. Maryn and I have a flight to London and then about a 2 hour lay over before our flight to SFO. It will be a very long day.

The past few days have been jam packed with so many different things to do and different emotions to go along with them.

For one, we had finals which took a lot of energy. I had a 2,000 word essay due on Monday for my wine class (I got an A on it!), a history final that afternoon (even though I studied a lot, the essay topic I received was very hard), and two Spanish finals on Tuesday in grammar and culture. I am not sure how I did on the grammar one, but I studied and I did my best. The culture test wasn't too hard.

Kristen and I taking a break from studying to drink some tea... I love her

Afew of my Taiwanese friends. I'm gonna miss these girls a lot!

This past weekend was full of "last weekend in Valladolid" celebrations as well as studying and packing and everything else that we had to do. All in all, it was a fantastic weekend... only a little exhausting ;)

After our finals on Tuesday we were all so relieved to be done! But we headed back to our houses and everybody (I think) packed up their suitcases and prepared for the next 24 hours which have been slightly crazy. I also got to go ice skating with some of the Wisconsin kids (who I will miss dearly) and it was such a blast! Wow, I just realized that Tuesday was YESTERDAY!!! I feel like I've done so much in the past 24 hours...

Some of my friends from Wisconsin :)

Last night we ALL got together and went out for one final Hurrah! Wisconsin kids mixed with Cal Poly kids (and other people who were in our classes) and we all went around town together. There were so many of us but it was an absolute blast to be able to spend my last night in Valladolid with all my new friends from not only Poly but every where else as well.

Ashley, Marian, Paul, Kayla, and me!

This morning at 12:30 we had our graduation ceremony at the same location that we had our Cal Poly classes. It was very nice, we all received diplomas (which my mamá made!) and had a very nice snack-social afterward. That is where I said goodbye to my Wisconsin friends. It was sad, but I held it together and didn't cry (which is a big deal for me... I used to cry at every single holiday/family get together because I didn't want to leave my family). We all took pictures together and had fleeting goodbyes so we wouldn't get upset. I got to take pictures with all of my professors which was super exciting!

Some of the most amazing women I've ever met. So glad they all go to Poly!

Me and Mamá!

La Comida after the ceremony

One magical thing that happened this morning was that it SNOWED!! It wasn't a heavy snow, but it was light and nice and beautiful. On my way to graduation I was walking in the snow and listening to Christmas list. It was such an amazing gift to experience that on my final morning in Spain. Not to mention that Valladolid has a bunch of Christmas decorations all over the place which just make the whole city feel like a giant winter wonderland.

Plaza Mayor all decked out for Christmas!

Me in Plaza Mayor

As of right now, I am all packed up, waiting for my last "cena" with Mamá, and then heading back to the United States. I can't believe my time here has gone by so quickly!! Although I was so nervous about it before I came, I am so glad that I allowed myself to go on this amazing adventure and that I enjoyed every single minute of it.

Today, when I was talking to Dr. Hiltpold, he marveled at how much he has seen me grow these past few months. He said, "The girl I am looking at now is not the same girl who came into my office six months ago crying because she was so anxious and scared of this experience." That was such a big compliment to me. In my Spanish classes, as well, we were talking about what has changed in us since we've been here. I said "Ya, no tengo miedo de las experiencias nuevas" ... Now, I am not scared of having new experiences. I am still a little nervous about new things, but I know that I can survive them. I know that I am a bigger person than I thought I was and I can do whatever I set my mind to. Yeah, there are still things I need to work on, but I think I have come such a far way from who I was before. Maybe I'll still freak out and have breakdowns and get anxious, but I'm stronger and better for this experience.

I'm not going to be able to say how much this experience has changed me and altered my life for a really long time; maybe I will never be able to fully see the changes it has made in my life, but I am thankful for what I can see and what it has done for me.

To be honest, I am a little nervous to go home. I feel like I have been dreaming for the past few months. I don't know how home has changed. I don't know how the new me will fit in with my old routines. I guess I just need to wait and see. I can't wait to see my family and friends though. I miss you all so much, you have no idea. I'm going to miss Spain a lot, but you are all my home. You are the ones who have helped shape me into who I have become over the past 21 years, and you are the ones I can't wait to go home to.

Thank you for supporting me through this experience. I am so lucky to have had these past three months in this country, and I can't wait to continue traveling and learning about many other different places, people, and cultures. I also hope to continue my Spanish education in the hopes that one day I can claim to be fluent. It is going to take a lot longer than 3 months in Spain to be able to speak this language with no problems.

This journey has been eye opening, full of lessons and self growth, fun, difficult, but all the while amazing!! I seriously cannot wait to see what other adventures I will get to experience throughout the rest of my life. This was just the beginning!

As for now, I am going to say goodbye and go soak up my last few hours in this apartment with my mamá.

España, tienes un parte de me corazón por siempre. Te amo, y ojalá te vea otra vez. Hasta luego.


and now, just like we say "And they lived happily ever after..." at the end of a fairy tale or story, the Spanish say....
Colorín colorado, este cuento se ha acabado!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cuando en Roma, haz lo que los Romanos hacen

Last weekend was absolutely fantastic. Helena and I headed up to Italy for a five day wonderful vacation. Maryn was supposed to come as well, but long story short her ticket purchase didn't go through and she wasn't able to join us on our trip. It was a definite bummer, but it was still nice to spend time with Helena. We got to do so many cool things, the food was fantastic, the people were wonderful, and the cities were beautiful.

We decided to skip our Thursday night and Friday morning classes and head out early. We took the bus to the Barajas airport in Madrid and from there we flew to Rome.


Unfortunately we didn't have much time on Thursday night to make our way around Rome. We got to the city, took the bus through town, and made our way towards my friend Amy's apartment. Amy has been studying in Rome since September and had two couches that we were able to sleep on. Her roommates were wonderful for letting us sleep there! That night we went to the only restaurant that was open in the area and ordered pizza, spaghetti, and wine to share. It was delicious and the food only got better from there!

On Friday we got to see the Spanish Steps and go to a street market with Amy and her roommate Kaitlin (who also happens to know my good friend Laura Tyson from high school). They showed us around for a little bit, and then we went our separate ways. Helena and I wandered around Rome for so long! We made our way towards the Colosseum, saw the Roman Forum, and wandered around forever. Unfortunately it was raining on and off, but it wasn't too bad. It amazes me how many times we were just walking and stumbled upon ruins; it's just like, there they are, right there in the middle of a huge modern day city! We got lunch at a little restaurant called L'Insalata Ricca. We got a salad, bread, pasta, and gnocchi. Yum!

The Colosseum

Roman Forum

Our delicious lunch :) It was all gone by the time we were finished!

Later that afternoon we met up with one of Helena's friends from high school, Martin. He showed us around Rome at night and it was absolutely beautiful! He took us to the Pantheon and to a gelato place right next door. He took us to the Trevi Fountain (if you throw a coin behind your back it means you will one day return!) and we got to see the Colosseum at night and all the Christmas lights that were around Rome. We also went to a famous café called "Caffé Greco" and got to have wonderful cappuccinos. After that, he took us to the place where the kids from his program are staying and we met the other Americans who are studying with him as well as his girlfriend. The four of us went to dinner and had a wonderful meal of pizza, pasta, and more gelato! Martin walked us home right past the Vatican. Some of these buildings are so beautiful at night!!

the Colosseum at night... stunning!!

The next day (after a breakfast of croissants and cappuccinos) Helena and I went and toured the Vatican. We thought that it wasn't going to take that long, but with lines and so much to see, we spent about five hours there. We got to see the Sistine Chapel (even the walk up to the chapel was beautiful!), climb to the Cupola of St. Peter's Basilica, and got to wander through the throngs of people in Vatican City. Talk about amazing!! After that, we went over to  Piazza Navona, a nice little piazza that Martin told us to check out; we ate dinner there and did a little souvenir shopping. It was nice.

the walk to the infamous chapel (long hallway with beautiful painted ceilings!)

view from the Cupola at St. Peter's

inside St. Peter's

After wandering and saying goodbye to Amy's roommate Kaitlin (unfortunately Amy was already away on her weekend vacation), we headed to the train station and got the first train to Florence.


The hostel that we stayed at was pretty small, nice, and in a wonderful location. We were only about a ten minute walk from absolutely everything that we wanted to do. Because so many of our friends had either studied in Florence or had already visited, we had a whole list of things that we were advised to do. We tried to get everything in, but we only had a small window of time in order to complete everything.

That night we had a wonderful dinner at a restaurant. I got a Greek salad that I am still dreaming about (I became obsessed with salad after one experience in Rome). The next day we started our day with cappuccinos and croissants (again) and made our way through the San Lorenzo market which has a plethora of leather goods, hand made products, and other fun things. It was really cool and HUGE! Helena and I then went to La Academia and saw The David which was absolutely STUNNING!! (And ate lunch at a restaurant called the Little David which was actually the worst of the wonderful food we had on this trip... now I didn't say it was bad, I just said it wasn't as great as all of the other food we ate.) Unfortunately, it is of course a museum in Europe where you aren't allowed to take pictures (like all other museums we've been to). We got to go into the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore which is the famed Duomo of Firenze. It was stunning (once again)!! We got to wander around, took a nap, ate dinner, and got gelato at the most awesome gelato place ever (recommended by Becca) named Grom. I had pear and extra dark chocolate.

Helena and I at Grom (thanks Becca!)

View of Ponte Vecchio

The next day we went back to the San Lorenzo market, walked around an open air market, and saw the famed Ponte Vecchio, and walked to the other side of the river. From there, we walked up to the highly recommended Piazzale Michelangelo (every single person I've talked to about Florence said that the view was absolutely beautiful). From there we could see all of Florence, unfortunately it was slightly overcast so the view wasn't super spectacular, but it was still great. From the top, I bought a few paintings from a wonderful street artist. They cost a pretty penny, but I love them! We stopped at a little restaurant on that side of the river called "Casalinga" which Becca had recommended, and then was also recommended by every single guide book we came across. It was absolutely fantastic and totally authentic, like, nobody at the restaurant spoke any English!!

View from  Piazzale Michelangelo

view again

The street artist I bought paintings from

Of course, we got Grom again and then headed to meet some of the other Cal Poly girls who were in Italy at the same time. They knew of a little German Christmas market that was going on in one of the piazzas. They reminded me of the Christmas markets in Hungary. We ate German food for dinner on our last night in Italy which was kinda disappointing, but still delicious. After that Helena and I had a wonderful relaxing night of wine, cheese, and American Beauty at the hostel.

The next morning, we headed out to Milan because that's where our flight was leaving from. Unfortunately we didn't get to see too much of Milan because our flight left relatively early in the afternoon and we had our bags and stuff. We just hung out in the airport and relaxed. I completed a little homework and read the book that I took from the hostel: The Associate by John Grisham. No, I did not steal it, a lot of hostels have bookshelves where travelers leave and take books as they come and go.

We didn't get home until super late, and I am still tired from all the excitement and wonderfulness of the weekend, but it was totally worth it.

Thanks to everybody who gave us advice on where to go and what to see. Also, thank you so much to Amy and all of her room mates who let us crash on their couches for two nights!!!

I absolutely loved everything about Italy and I can't wait to go back another time, this time in the summer or spring when the weather is nice and clear.

Un Cumpleaños Muy Feliz

My 21st birthday in Spain was absolutely wonderful. It was nice, mellow, I got to spend it with a bunch of my friends, and I had an absolutely amazing time. I know that is not the way that most people describe their 21st birthdays, but mine was perfect.

Although I had classes and all that, I got to spend most of the day feeling like I was on top of the world. My friends were absolutely wonderful all day, as was my mamá. She even bought me a present, a beautiful necklace and bracelet, as well as chocolate cake! It was delicious.

When I got into my history class that afternoon, I walked in and the entire class sang happy birthday. I had a seat all set up for me with 21 different types of candy (you know how I love candy) and a huge card that everybody had signed. I almost cried!! (Okay, so I had tears in my eyes but shh don't tell anybody).

After class, a bunch of my girl friends and I went out for Chinese food for dinner. The restaurant had such a wonderful menu that only costs 8 euros and 50 cents per person and the food just keeps coming and coming. It was delicious! The girls (and Kristen's wonderful boyfriend John) all went around the table and said their favorite memories of me. Then, like they do in Natalie's family every time there is a birthday, they all said something about me that they admire or love about me. Seriously, I started crying at that point. The things they had to say were so wonderful. I don't think that I've ever heard such amazing things. Honestly, these girls (and John) are so amazing. They are absolute sweethearts and I love every single last one of them.

Afterward we went to a café we like to call the Comfy Café because they have super comfortable chairs and it is a wonderful atmosphere. We all ordered (very expensive) mixed/blended drinks and, once again, they were delicious. When the girls told the waiter that it was my birthday, he brought me a little treat with a sparkler, it was brilliant!

By that point, everybody was getting tired so we kinda split up. Many of them went home, but I stopped in to see if anybody had showed up at the bar that night so that we could grab a few drinks. Luckily (and I say this in the nicest way possible) almost nobody did. I was greatful that Steven, Kayla, Paul, and Brian all made their way over. It was so sweet of them! Unfortunately I was exhausted, and we had class at 8 in the morning the next day, so we only stayed for one drink and then went home.

Like I said, it was a very relaxing and low key 21st birthday. I loved it that way though. I got to spend it with some of the most wonderful people in the entire world and I was so happy to be with them. Although I missed my family and my friends back home, I know that I will be able to celebrate with them when I get home (which happens to be in EXACTLY one week. Aka in one week I will have already been in San Francisco for almost exactly one hour!!).

Unfortunately I don't have pictures of my birthday. The only two people who have pictures are Maryn and Aubrea. Aubrea was trying to e-mail me pictures, but her computer crashed (poor Aubrea!!) and Maryn... well I don't know when I will ever get those pictures ;) When I get the pictures, though, I will definitely post them!

Thank you so much to all of my friends who made my birthday so wonderful. Thank you to my family who called or e-mailed, and to everybody else who has been there the past 21 years (all of them, or just some of them) and who have made them - for the most part - absolutely wonderful. I am so lucky that I have the people I do in my life and I look forward to having them by my side for the rest of the years I am here.

I love all of you guys. Thank you for making my 21st birthday absolutely unforgettable (once again, not something that very many people can say about their 21st!).

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Los Egan-Shaws Viajan a España

Last week, my dad's side of the family was in town. I can't believe how wonderfully lucky I am that my entire immediate family came to visit me while I was here. First Mommy and Jeffy, and most recently Daddy, Cindy, Caitlin, Kelley, Liana, Aunt Kathe, and Carol. Wow, what a wonderful week!!

I was so excited when I got to see Daddy early on Sunday, and then the rest of the family later that day. I almost cried (okay, I cried a little... but I don't know if anybody else saw me...)!

The entire group came out to Valladolid for Monday-Wednesday. They hung out, shopped, and hopefully enjoyed themselves. Kelley bought a super cute leather jacket, Caitlin bough a cute shirt (if I remember correctly), and Liana got to (briefly) see the large amounts of peacocks that wander through Camp Grande. We got to take Maryn out to lunch and my mamá out to dinner. Eva (my mamá) spoke English the entire time with my family and it was really weird to speak to her in a language other than Spanish! I wish I could speak Spanish the way she speaks English.

Liana with the "pavos reales" (aka Peacocks)

On Wednesday, the entire family headed back to Madrid. That day we got to have Hard Rock Café for lunch and it was absolutely wonderful. I had a huge plate of ribs, a raspberry margarita, nachos, and french fries!!!

 The family (minus yours truly) at the Hard Rock Café, Madrid

That night, the four sisters and Daddy all headed out to the Real Madrid vs. Zurich fútbol game. The Zurich fans were absolutely out of control! They were so loud. The game was a whole bunch of fun and we got to see Cristiano Ronaldo play even though he has been injured for a while. My guess is that Coach wanted to give him practice before the big Real Madrid vs. Barcelona game that was on Sunday.

Sisters at the Real Madrid game

Cristiano Ronaldo <3

Thursday, we went to the Thyssen museum that had a cool exhibit that displayed many different pieces of art that portrayed females and our status through history. I really enjoyed the photographs. They were very cool.

Daddy and his girls on the way to the Thyssen. It was raining, nobody had umbrellas (well, I did, but I am holding Aunt Kathe's so that the picture works better), so we purchased some at one of the souvenir shops. Each member of my family is now the proud owner of a brightly colored Madrid "paraguas".

After the museum, we went and saw the palace and then headed to Thanksgiving lunch at what is supposedly the oldest restaurant in the world, Botin. Apparently Hemingway was a fan. We got to have absolutely wonderful food, wine, dessert, and company. This Thanksgiving I was thankful for my family being able to visit me, everybody being safe and healthy and together, my experiences in Spain, and the people that I have surrounding me every single day I am here.

The most amazing sisters in the entire world. I am thankful for each and every one of them and I love them with all my heart.


That day was such a long day, and it didn't end there! Us four girls went and toured around the shopping areas near Plaza Mayor and bought a few things each. I got a new pair of boots, as did Liana, and Caitlin got shoes. We found a really cute hand made store and we bought a few different hair clips each. I even wore my hair clips the rest of the night! That's right... I had my hair up for the entire night.

My last night with them, we all spent sitting at a little bar, drinking whatever drinks we ordered, and listening to stories. Sitting with my sisters and my parents and my un-biological aunts, laughing, talking about different parts of life, and just spending time together was absolutely wonderful. We even got into a conversation with the waitress about Pork Rinds. It was interesting and I wouldn't have traded it for anything.

The family at McDonals after the little bar.. yeah, I know, healthy.

Unfortunately, I had to leave early on Friday so that I wouldn't miss any more Spanish class and so that I could go to the wine museum Peñafiel with Cal Poly (that is another entry). I was sad to say goodbye to my family, but seeing them made me realize that I can get through the next three weeks until I get to see them again. Although I am a little home sick, I am living every moment here to the fullest. I love this country and the friends and family I have developed here, but I really miss my home and my real family and my friends back home.

There is so much more that I have to write about, but that should be for other entries. It is midnight here, and I need to sleep so I can wake up early and pay attention in my Spanish classes tomorrow. The next few entries will hopefully come within the next 24 hours because after that, Maryn, Helena, and I leave for Italy!!!

Hasta luego, vos amo <3

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Los partidos de fútbol

So far in Spain I have been to two fútbol games. The first one was Valladolid or "Pucela" against Mallorca, and the second one was a friendly between España and Argentina. I had so much fun at both of those games! I don't think I've posted pictures of the Valladolid game, and I know I haven't posted any of the España game. I just wanted to share with all of you at home because these games were both so much fun and if you ever come to visit Spain or Europe, I highly recommend that you go to a futbol game.

 Cheering with all the "Pucela" fans and the Valladolid game

Valladolid fútbol stadium.. "Pucela" is the colloquial term for "Valladolid"

This past Saturday seven of us headed out to Madrid and got to spend the day there. Our main stop was a Mexican food restaurant named "Sí Señor." It was absolutely delicious.

Tacos, nachos, guac, salsa.... yum!

We had a wonderful time that entire day and the game was so much fun! We got to see some of the best players in the entire world play against each other (my mamá says that she thinks Messi is the best player in the world). Even though it was just a "friendly," both teams played their hearts out. Argentina got a bunch of yellow cards, but España won the game. There were so many fans from both teams, and I wouldn't have traded my experience for anything.

 España and Argentina getting ready to play

Atletico Madrid stadium for the España vs Argentina game

Iker Casillas ... one of the best goal keepers in the entire world

España's winning PK!!

 Helena, Maryn, me, Steph and Laura with our España "bufandas" (bufanda means scarf)

Thank you SO much to Becca for going through all that trouble to get us all those tickets. I know you went out of your way and we all appreciate it so much.

Mommy y Jeffy viaja a España

Two weeks ago my mom and Jeff came to visit me in Spain. It was so wonderful to see them! They went to Toledo for a day, and then headed over to Salamanca where I met them on Saturday. Our Cal Poly group had a day trip there, so Mommy and Jeffy got to tour around with us while I attempted to translate what our tour guide was saying. Generally the most they got was "Something happened in the sixteenth century..."

Astronaut engraved on the wall of the Salamanca cathedral

The entire day, the weather was not very good. When we got there it was cold and windy, and then around lunch time it started to POUR rain. That was okay, though, because we were able to duck into a little restaurant-café and have lunch. The rest of the day, we toured around and hung out. We walked along the river a little bit and then caught a train back to Valladolid.

Me and Mommy on top of the cathedral

Salamanca (I just really liked this picture)

The next day I ate a wonderful breakfast at their hotel and then we got to go to the Sunday "mercadillo" with Helena and Maryn. There were booths with new clothes and stuff, but then there was also a flea market type section that was super cool. It looked like a bunch of stolen stuff, but we had fun walking through it and looking at all the cool old things like sewing machines, books, and old keys. I got a few good pictures, and Mommy bought me some old keys.

Books at the market

Keys from "el mercadillo"

That day we went to eat Chinese food which was actually really good! It was very similar to the Chinese food we get at home. I think Mommy and Jeffy liked it too. That night we ate at a little café and we were all happy because nobody was smoking! That's pretty rare for Spain.

The next day, Monday, I had class and Mommy and Jeffy took the bus out to the Centro de Idiomas and joined us for my Oral Communication class and met my mamá. I then took them back to my apartment so they could see where I live, and we grabbed tapas for lunch (Jeff really wanted to try out a tapas bar, so I took him to one... I think he was disappointed because he had a very different conception of what a "tapas bar" is).

Me and Eva, my "mamá"

Me and Mommy outside of the law school

Monday night Mommy and Jeffy took me, Helena and Maryn out to a delicious dinner. It was so wonderful!

I had an awesome time with them while they were here. I am sad I couldn't spend more time with them, but I am looking forward to seeing them when I get home in less than a month! I am also looking forward to spending time with the other half of my family when they get here on SUNDAY!!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

La Peluquería

Okay, so I know I have posted a lot within the past 24 hours, but I just thought that this was a pretty momentous occasion so I would post a blog about it.

For the past few weeks, I have barely been able to see because my bangs have gotten so long so this afternoon I got my hair cut at the "peluquería." Despite my 30 min conversation at lunch with my mamá where she attempted to teach me the words and phrases I needed to know in order to get my hair cut the way I wanted it, I didn't remember any of it and therefore none of it was helpful.

When I got there I sat down and was like "uhh I don't know how to speak Spanish so... (using hand motions) I want this shorter, this shorter, this in layers (although I didn't know the word for layers.. so I just motioned and she knew what I meant)."

She did a great job... but it is definitely a Spanish style haircut. It is not bad, it is just definitely not what I am used to. Before I left, she blow dried it for me and used a straightener to flip out the top layers... ummm definitely not something that I normally do. As all my friends said, I definitely looked more Spanish at that point.

Anyway, even though I was super scared to go in and get it cut, it was something that had to be done and I did it all by myself and communicated to the best of my ability and I even learned something along the way, aka Spanish vocab words for in the hair salon.

Its short and still a little flipped out... earlier it was definitely much more prevalent. But alas, I can see again!

For those of you who haven't been to the hair salon yet but will eventually need to go... here are just a few words that would have been helpful for me:
flequillo = bangs
a capas = layers
melena = long (well.. mane but it pertains to long hair)
liso = smooth (at the end, when she is going to blow dry it, she asks you what you want done with it, liso is just the basic blow dry with minimal styling and no extra product... at least that was my interpretation)