erika travels

blogging my three month adventure in europe

25 Jul

2 weeks in scotland

it’s been two weeks since i’ve been in scotland and i’m just now forcing myself to blog about it.

scotland is beautiful. it’s incredibly green. the city is so old and gray and the weather is so cool and breezy. it’s crazy that it’s july and i’m wearing jeans and sweaters and boots. i like that i use the bus to get around town, it gives me time to take in the city.

edinburgh is extra special because it involves harry potter and now i get so many things about it. the buildings and houses remind me of the movies. there really is a trolly on the train, the train stations use platforms and there is a night bus. i’ve visited the elephant house, the cafe where JK Rowling got wrote the first harry potter and seen the view that inspired her. now every time i watch the movies i will think of this city and my time here. 

the people speak english with funny accents and the scots say funny phrases like “a wee bit” or “throw your rubbish away” or “mind the gap”. i love it. while london has always been my dream city to visit, being in the united kingdom is just as great. i’ve always wanted to be british and now i’m here.

so far, i’ve done some great things in scotland. i went to loch ness, a place i’ve seen plenty of documentaries about. sadly, i didn’t see nessie. i’ve touched the north sea, water that has always seemed so very far away. i went to a ceilidh dance, which reminds me of the scottish version of texas square dancing. and probably the most exciting thing i’ve done so far happened today, going to the olympics to see the United States vs. France in women’s soccer. the olympics!

scotland is great but i can’t deny that my heart is still aching so very much for sevilla. sevilla just beats this place so much in everything. in culture, the people, the language, the experience. hearing spanish people visiting scotland makes me very sad. hearing them speak spanish in their accents or hearing them say “vale” brings me straight back to sevilla. i miss that place so so much, it’s hard to explain the feelings i have for that spain and it’s hard to restrain from talking about it. my memory of sevilla is just so vivid. it’s only been a month since i’ve left but i feel like i could recollect every day of my 6 week stay.

when the fringe festival starts in edinburgh, i hope it changes my feelings about here. i hope seeing different shows makes me excited about here. it’s frustrating that all i think about is spain and i need to get my head straight that i’m here in scotland, in the united kingdom. all i want to do is practice my spanish but now i think in a scottish accent occasionally. i do like the UK, i’ve been considering getting a job here after i graduate. anywhere in the UK would be fine with me. everything about here is perfect whereas the only thing i didn’t like about spain was the weather. 

the possibilities are endless. i’m only 20 and being in europe for 2 months now has helped me see that the world is huge and i could live anywhere, not just austin like i used to think. 

29 Jun

I’m dreaming.

Ten minutes. Ten minutes until I leave my host family’s home and then meet the group to get on the bus to Madrid. We’re driving overnight to get to the airport at 4 in the morning. My flight doesn’t leave until 5pm. I’ve got a long day ahead of me.

Is it really over? It can’t be. I remember landing yesterday. My heart is already aching because I will probably never come back. Sevilla, how could you become my home in a month? I’m sad. I’m going to miss this place. No one else is going to understand my experience here, just the friends I’ve made from St. Ed’s. Only those people will understand my love and absolute adoration for this beautiful city because they feel it too.
I hate saying goodbye but this is it. While I’m truly sad about leaving, I do have my next stop to look forward to. Italy. Italy for two weeks and then off again.

But for now, all I can think about is engulfing every little thing I’m seeing in Sevilla. Studying abroad was the best decision I’ve ever made. As of now in my life, this is the best thing I’ve ever done. I feel like I’m really living life and seeing everything it has to offer.

Sevilla. NO8DO. No me ha dejado. You’ll never leave me.

24 Jun

my last weekend.

yesterday i went to aracena, supposed jamon iberico capital of southern spain or something like that. i guess that’s the only thing they can be proud of because it’s a really small town. we visited the cathedral at the top of the city and then the caves. the caves were gorgeous!! amazing, beautiful, surreal. i felt so insignificant. some of these formations have taken millions of years to happen. i loved it but hated that we couldn’t take pictures. i would have taken hundreds because it was just so beautiful.

afterwards when we came back to sevilla, i went to the Mushrooms to watch Spain play France in soccer. it was awesome! i’ve been waiting to watch a game in that kind of atmosphere with nothing but spaniards around cheering hard for their team. everyone was wearing red and chanting and waving the spanish flag. what an experience. and when spain scored, wow!! everyone was going crazy. and then at the end of the game when they won, the waves of people leaving was awesome, i don’t think you can see that kind of excitement and pride for your team in the united states. the closest thing is the super bowl maybe but this isn’t even the championship. i’m just glad i got to experience it, i hope to go again this wednesday when they play portugal.

today, we went to matalascañas to go to the beach because it was supposed to be 106 degrees today. HOT. but it didn’t feel nearly as hot as that when we were at the beach. and there were so many people there! i’ve never seen that many people at a beach before. but then again i’ve only been to the beach a handful of times. the water was so cold, it felt so nice to just stand and swim in it and then to go sit on the beach and dry up just to go back in the water. what a nice relaxing way to spend my last weekend in spain. 

i don’t even want to think about leaving saturday, it makes me too sad. i didn’t know living somewhere for just a month could make you feel this kind of emotional attachment. spain has a very special place in my heart. 

15 Jun

hey, i live here.

today, i realized i live here. like i really live here. i have a routine, i have a home to come back to, i have friends here, i am starting to know the parts of town. at the same time, i realized that i leave here in about two weeks and still have so many things to do.

i have to finish doing the touristy things in town. have to go to the top of the Sevilla Cathedral, have to go visit some museums, have to buy gifts for people back home. in between all of that, i still have class and eating (it takes more time than you think) and ofcourse my siesta. my weekends are booked til i leave, granada and cordoba this weekend and hopefully barcelona the next. as busy as i am, i love that i am doing something every day.

this is a great town. spaniards in general are so different from americans. more stylish, less distracted, more relaxed. i could really fit in here. my spanish isn’t that great but with time here, i could get better and better. i already feel like i’m improving, i’m gaining more confidence. i even care about soccer (if i buy an España shirt does that make me a poser?). 

i think it’s funny that the roller coaster of emotions they told us about while studying abroad is absolutely true. in the beginning i was really homesick (whether that was due to my previous host family or not i don’t know). then i had my ups and downs. but now i like it here. this place isn’t too bad, it’s actually really nice. i think that with time, anyone can come to love any city they live in. if i had to move anywhere, i don’t think i would be as nervous anymore because i’ve gone through all these emotions. the feeling of finally liking the place you live feels rewarding in some weird way. i almost feel sevilliana if i didn’t know i was leaving in 2 weeks.

12 Jun

where is the time going?

i went to morocco for four days and i feel like it changed my life. it was instantaneous culture shock. 

as i reflect on my visit, i saw some beautiful things but i also saw the saddest things in my life. we visited the medina of fes and the medina of meknes and the poverty and skill i saw really made me think. there were kids trying to sell you jewelry and flowers, men trying to sell you jewelry and wallets and hats and just people of all ages asking for money. this is their life, this is probably what they do every day. it was so sad. i wanted to help them all. at the same time, i saw people handmaking pottery, handmaking metal plates, and scarves and rugs. their work is so beautiful and so talented, especially when so many things are mass produced. 

walking in the medina, the girls were told to respect the culture and wear clothing that covered our legs, shoulders and chest but we still stuck out like a sore thumb. of course though, i didn’t expect us to blend in. still, as we walked, the glares and stares and words in foreign languages heard were very intimidating. i was never scared, just felt very foreign.

there are so many more things i can write about my experience in morocco but i can only sum it up in one phrase: it was life changing, like i stepped back in time. in texas, i can drink the water and use as much of it as i want. i can eat anything i want and if i want something, the store is down the street and i can get it. i can wear anything i want and do as i please. but in morocco, they don’t seem like they can do that. yes, they can wear what they want but their access to water doesn’t seem as easy as ours is. we visited a hammam and our intercambio moroccan student told us that people go there once a week to shower because some people don’t have access to hot water in their homes. the hammam was an experience in itself (oh hello random moroccan woman, you’re going to scrub my naked body? cool thanks). 

i heard the call to prayer from my hotel room and at first it was freaky but then it gave me the chills to see people stop and go into a place to pray. the other memory that will probably stay with me the rest of my life happened after we had lunch. all of our meals in morocco were big, almost too much for people to finish. after lunch we were walking to another place to visit and as we walked, there was a piece of bread on the street. it looked like it had been run over maybe, definitely not fresh. a woman who was walking stopped to pick it up and kept walking. i wanted to cry. i wanted to give her a hug and buy her a nice meal, buy her something to eat other than a piece of bread on the street. some people there are so poor they will eat off the street and for us, when a piece of food falls on the floor we won’t even think twice about throwing it away. i felt guilty that i was only visiting the country for a few days for tourism and all i’m seeing is their every day life that’s supposed to entertain me.

my experience and my opinion from visiting fes and meknes are truly my own and i don’t mean to offend anyone. it just really made me think about my life and the opportunities i have. morocco was in no way a vacation, i can’t even say it was a good trip because good isn’t the right word. it just allowed me to see a different culture that i will probably never get to experience again and i’m so glad i went. the things i saw will stick with me forever but they were necessary to see. 

i was happy to come back to sevilla, it’s not yet home but it’s comforting. three more weeks.

05 Jun

gut feelings

i moved host families. something in me told me to. and i’m glad i listened to myself. my new family already seems like the perfect fit. i am now about 10-15 minutes from my school. my señora is a spanish teacher who used to teach for my university so she understands an american student coming to spain with broken spanish. my señor seems like a relaxed guy. they are both young and have a 5 year old son named Javi. another sign that my move was the right choice.

i think i’ve gotten over my rough patch. i was homesick like crazy. i still am, but not nearly as bad. right now i just miss food from home. elgin sausage, hot salsa, tortilla chips. anything spicy really. spaniards don’t like hot stuff and its difficult to get used to. i think most of my anxiety was from where i was living before but now i just feel better, like a weight is lifted off my shoulders. its difficult to describe.

i like it here. when i get over the heat and sweating, these people live a much different life than what i am used to. my friend pointed out that when people walk the street, very few are talking on their phones or buried in texting. if you bump into someone you don’t have to say excuse me because they don’t care, they just move on with their lives. when you finish your meal at a cafe or restaurant, the waiter doesn’t rush to give you the check, you can sit there and chat for as long as you like and when you’re ready, you get the waiters attention. their lives here are relaxed.

last weekend, i went to Jerez and Cadiz. in Jerez, we went to a winery to have sherry and i actually liked it. i’d never visited a winery before and it was big, to me at least. we also saw a horse show where horses kind of danced and they’re trained at one of the best schools here in spain. but i thought it was kind of sad and cruel. i’m sure they’re treated a lot better than the horses that pull carriages but still, their movements didn’t seem natural and i kind of felt bad for them. in Cadiz, we went to the beach. the beach was so pretty. it reminded me of hawaii. i can’t decide which one is more beautiful. the water was cold but felt great after the sun came out. it just felt good to sit on the beach and look out into the Atlantic Ocean. it was kind of surreal.

thursday, i go to morocco. i am nervous. i have to wear clothes that cover my legs and shoulders and chest. wearing blue jeans will probably sweat out every ounce of water i’ve got left in my body so i have gone shopping to find something stylish but covered. i found a pair of harem type pants that are lightweight and blue, i think i am going to buy another pair because of how comfortable they are. i have no expectations of what to see and i think that’s okay. they’ve told us that we are going to smell unimaginable smells and see some people that are much worse off than we are. i just hope to make it back safe, which means i will be sticking as close to the directors as possible. i will probably never go to that country again so i hope i remember every beautiful and sad part i see.

05 Jun 3kindsofyes:

perhaps considering a no8do tattoo…

3kindsofyes:

perhaps considering a no8do tattoo…

04 Jun

things about sevilla

things i like about sevilla
there is history everywhere
everything is beautiful
most things are older than america
the relaxed atmosphere
taking my time to eat and chat at cafes
no tipping
public transportation 
late late nights
finding something new about the city every day 

things i do not like about sevilla 
random liquids falling on top of me
dog poop everywhere
walking everywhere combined with heat equals excessive sweating 
no air conditioning
air drying clothes 
they don’t split checks 

despite the good and the bad, i still can’t believe i live here. this place is amazing. i’m so blessed and proud of myself for being here. i think i can almost figure out how these people live here.

29 May

Walk 40 minutes to school
Intermediate Spanish 9-11am
Grab a coffee at a bar with friends
Shop
History of Spain 1-2:30pm 
Walk 40 minutes home for lunch
Siesta
Going out 

Day three in Sevilla and I think this will be my schedule for the rest of my time here. It’s very different. I’m not used to walking everywhere and my feet yell this at me with every step. To shut them up, I am going to start using the bike system here in Sevilla because when I got home today, the entire back of my dress was drenched and I felt disgusting. They have a lot of bike stations everywhere and you pay a weekly membership to use it as many times as you want. You ride it and park it at another station. Grab and go. Much better than walking. 

Another difference I am trying to get used to is the limited air conditioning. I love AC. At home, I sleep with a ceiling fan in my room and a personal fan. Here, I have a window. This means waking up practically every night drenched in sweat. It feels disgusting. I take a cold shower before I go to bed in hopes that I can feel better when I sleep but this has only worked once. I’m starting to not like sleeping.

My skin is dry. Like really, really dry. My hands and feet feel like they are tearing my skin and of course I have to peel off any little cuticle I get. Lotion is my best friend right now, but it is competing with water and sun screen too.

One thing I do love here is the variety of food I am getting. Every mean I’ve tried something new and I think it’s really fun to try new things. I think I am going to include my meals in this blog, I think they’re really interesting and would love to document what I have.

My classes are fine. Intermediate Spanish is taught in Spanish by a Spanish professor. I have to focus on what she is saying to understand her but I think it will be okay. History of Spain is going to be fun, not only am I actually interested in learning the history of the beautiful country I am in, but all of us St. Edward students are together with our St. Ed’s professor and it’s a more comfortable environment.

I need to practice my Spanish more but I am still nervous to speak. I know it is good to be corrected but I feel dumb when I am corrected. Some of the words I speak are not considered the right word over here, blame it on the Spanglish/Mexican mix of Spanish that I somehow learned. This fear of speaking wrong has kind of led me to not talk to my host family as much because for the most part, I don’t know how to say what I want to say. Luckily my roommate is good at Spanish and can help me.

I am becoming more accepting of the fact that I am here in Spain. I couldn’t really believe being here but after kind of knowing my routine for the rest of my time here, I feel like I live here. I know how to get to school, how to get home, and most importantly, where the mall is. By the evening I will have a bike membership and can get around the city much faster than walking. I will also finally go out to the clubs and bars with my friends because tomorrow is a holiday in Sevilla (we even have another holiday next week). 

I do miss home. I miss my family and friends. After talking to them last night, it’s kind of crazy to feel that life is moving on without me. Not in a bad way, just that everything seems unchanged. I am over here living a new life, learning things about myself and discovering this city and country and nothing has changed at home. I can’t tell if this is a good or bad thing yet, but I do know that what I’m feeling about my progress within myself is very good. I know that with time, I will begin to love this city and know it like the back of my hand. And before I know it, I will leave it to go learn another country and city. 

27 May

Toledo was beautiful. It’s the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen in my life. I thought Hawaii was really nice but it doesn’t even compare. It’s amazing that some the buildings in these cities are older than America.

We toured the city, I still can’t believe people live in some of those buildings. They seem fake, like a movie set. The roads are made of cobblestone and really small, only one car can fit. When I walk on the road I sometimes forget it’s a street, I think it’s a sidewalk until a car comes from behind and starts honking. 

The pictures can’t even capture how amazing the site of the city was. It was so different from Madrid, much older and unbelievably old. I was kind of disappointed to only be in the city for a few hours. Our hotel was on the outskirts of the city, too far to walk so my group of friends ended up staying there to eat and drink. 

Today we came to Sevilla. We left Toledo at about 10 and arrived at 5. I slept the entire way, my body needed to catch up on sleep. When we got off the bus, we met our host family. I was nervous at first but when I met them, they were so nice. We came to their home and it is a two story house! Not a normal looking house like in America, it blends into the street shops almost like an apartment.

This home is so modern! I was expecting a small small apartment in an older style. This home is decorated in Ikea and I even have my own room when I thought I would be sharing with my roommate, who has her own room too. It is two stories with open space. And best part is that they have a pool in the backyard! Not having AC in the home isn’t so bad with that pool, I can take a dip to cool off. I didn’t have any big expectations for my host home but wow, this exceeded anything I was thinking.

My host mom and dad are very nice, they tell us over and over that this is our home now. My host sister is 10 and she’s very cute, she speaks Spanish really fast so it is kind of hard for me to understand. I didn’t realize how little Spanish I knew until I lived here with this family but this is good for me. This is the only way I will learn and in a comfortable setting, it’s why I decided to study in Spain afterall.

Tomorrow we get our class schedule and from that point, I think my time here will fly by. Hope my 30 minute walk to school won’t be so bad.