Last few days – Day 118

After finishing finals I had one last weekend to spend here in Europe before leaving from Madrid on Monday…

First, on Friday I went with four friends to a beach on the southern coast of Spain (on the Atlantic, west of Gibraltar) called Matalascañas. It was a lot of fun, despite two slightly disturbing realizations we had once we arrived at the beach: first, that being topless is totally okay there, and second, that the temperature was somewhere in the upper 90s Fahrenheit with a super high UV index. Yes, I did put on sunscreen, and yes, I did burn anyway.

That night I took an overnight bus from Seville to Madrid and met up with a missionary family, the Andersons (friends with my pastor and his family). They are teachers in a small suburb of Madrid. I managed to take a good solid nap and also hang out at their school’s yard sale for the day. Saturday happened to be my sister’s senior prom and I was super bummed to have to miss it but I got to Skype in via my dad’s iPad and see the fuss and picture-taking part 🙂 I went to the Andersons’ church the next morning and then set out for the train station, where my friend Koko picked me up.

mom, Ash and dad taking pictures before prom. i’m in that little screen there but you can’t really see me 😉 trust me, i was smiling from ear to ear!!!

Koko was my family’s exchange student for two summers (I was about 14, I think) and she lives in Madrid, so it was very convenient for me to stay with her and visit for a day before leaving Spain. I got to meet her boyfriend Oscar and have a really fun time with her and some of her friends when we happened upon a group of people she knows playing instruments in a park – they were great musicians and just kind of jammed away as we sat and listened. Lots of people walking by stopped to have a listen as well 🙂 For dinner we celebrated Koko’s birthday at an Indian restaurant. The Andersons, Koko and Oscar were a huge help in dragging allllllll my luggage all over Madrid 😉

As I write this, I’m on a plane bound for Amsterdam, Holland, to connect for a flight to JFK in New York, where I’ll meet up with my parents. When I left home everyone told me that four months would fly by and I have to be honest, I did not believe them… but as usual, I was wrong 😉 It has flown by and it’s been an amazing experience. I’m really grateful for all the people who have let me stay with them or gave me a hand or prayed for me or gave me advice this semester; I definitely couldn’t have seized all these opportunities without them 🙂  And I’m grateful for all of you reading this!!! Thanks for sharing in the journey with me.  😀

Finals and my last week in Seville – Day 113

Today is my second-to-last day in Seville! The time has flown. I’ve taken three of my four final exams, so just about all that’s left is to pack up and say good-bye to all the people I’ve met here!! I’ve mostly written posts on here about travelling outside of Seville, so today I’ll tell you a bit more about what it’s been like living in this lovely city 🙂

Classes: I have four classes at the University of Seville. They are all taught in Spanish by Spaniards, but the majority of my classmates are Americans who are studying abroad just like me. The classes have been easy to follow (although boring at times; Spanish professors are less apt to use visual aids such as PowerPoint) and enjoyable – my classes are Introduction to Translation, Introduction to Modern Spanish History, Cultural Anthropology of Latin America and Spanish Art in the Twentieth Century.

i have a 2-hour break twice a week and i like to sit by the river Guadalquivir and eat lunch, do my homework, or nap 🙂 unfortunately today’s nap resulted in a painful leg sunburn 😛 rats.

Friends: Yes, I have them! The majority of the people I’ve gotten to know well here are American study abroad students, especially those from my program (ISA). We had a few days before our arrival in Seville to get to know each other and make new friends, and these are the people I’ve spent the most time with while abroad. I’ve also gotten to know several Spanish people, including university students who are my age – Cecilia, a friend I met through my church; Abel, a student who was assigned to me as an ‘intercambio’ language exchange buddy; Pacita, Jesús (the padre) and Jesús (the hijo), my host family, etc.

last night for dinner Pacita (my host mom) took us out for tapas (Spanish-style appetizers. SO GOOD) with her sister and her sister’s American students 🙂

Free time: I have this, too! It’s delightful. While here I’ve spent my free time travelling, relaxing, meeting friends, doing Bible studies and playing volleyball. I did a weekly Bible study which was really encouraging and interesting with some American students (it’s nice to learn about God in your native language every now and then). The University of Seville has several different departments and each one has its own intramural sports teams, so I joined the girls’ volleyball team for my department. Since it was the language (filología) department, we had quite an international team – American girls, Spanish girls, Belgian girls, German girls, British girls…! It was fun to play and to get to know more people through this 🙂

my volleyball team!

I return to the U.S. on Monday after a weekend in Madrid and at the beach, so look for one last blog post then!

The Tale of my Train Ride with Drunk Italian College Kids and the Quadrilingual Austrian Priest — Day 108

I told my mom a story about one of my train rides in an email and my dad suggested that I put it in my blog… i think you’ll find it entertaining 😉
on tuesday while i was travelling, at one point in the journey ((i felt like i was on the amazing race b/c there were so many legs to my journey…. hike, bus, train, train, plane, plane, bus, walk :P))  i had to take a train from Spoleto to Rome, which was about 1.5 hrs long. the train was pretty full but i was alone so i found an empty seat, not too hard. so when i sat down i made sure i was in 2nd class by asking the guy next to me, in italian ((somehow i managed to piece together a sentence that was coherent)). the guy next to me was a priest, he had on the black suit and white collar so i could tell. when i sat down i noticed that the people across from us and also next to us across the aisle of the train were in their 20s and probably college kids, all italian. then i notice that the priest is reading a Bible in german! and i’m curious to talk to him but don’t say anything. then i realize that the book i want to read while i’m on the plane, Marley & Me, is in German ((in Spoleto they didn’t have many english language books and i was out of reading material so i thought it’d be fun to try a book i’d already read, but in German. it’s slow going but pretty fun!)). so eventually i pull that out and then he notices so when he says ‘excuse me’ he says it in german. so i ask him, ‘kommen Sie aus Deutschland?” and he says “nein, aus Österreich [Austria]”. he asks me in german where i’m from and i say the US and immediately he says, “Oh, you’re from the States!” in english. so we have a little conversation in english and make some small talk here and there, and his english is really quite good. and then he gets on his cell phone and i realize he’s speaking in Spanish, with someone in Madrid!! and i’m like wow, this priest is trilingual! and THEN the college kids (who, by the way, have been rolling cigarettes and taking swigs from a few larrrrrge bottles of wine the entire trip… so it’s only 9am and they’re already pretty wasted) say something to me and the priest, and the priest responds to them in italian!! the italian kids were very surprised when they asked and i told them i was american. i don’t know what they were expecting??  maybe German because of the book. ((also, on my day off in Spoleto, two different people told me “merci beaucoup” 😛 i think they could tell i was a foreigner, just didn’t know from where)) so then after this the priest and the college kids go on to have a long conversation about philosophy in italian!!!  they asked him what the Pope smokes (like, weed or whatever) and i think they said that priests are parasites, and then i lost track of what they were saying in italian but i caught random snippets and names, like “Michael Jackson”, “Nietzsche”, and “God” … yes, all in the same conversation.  it was such a funny train ride!!
With all those different modes of transportation I was bound to miss something… but I was also determined to arrive at the farm on time, gosh darn it! I missed one train from Rome (there weren’t many signs at the train station and it was hard to find the platform)… I arrived at one train JUST as it was pulling out of the station 😛 and then I discovered a “Last-Minute Info” booth with a helpful English-speaker. Thankfully, I caught the next train, and although I didn’t “validate” my train ticket — which could have resulted in ugly fines — the ticket-checker on the train was merciful and let it slide. Then, the last bus to the town where I started the uphill hike to the farm (Piedipaterno) left the train station at 8pm and my train got in at EXACTLY 8pm… so I hit the ground running to catch that bus! I wasn’t about to get stranded in a random town in italy 😉 I just barely caught it as it was starting to pull away. WHEW. Then, once the bus let me off in Piedipaterno I followed the directions from the farm’s website to get to the farmhouse … you can’t imagine how absurd these directions sound until you actually read them, so here they are. By the way, I arrived at night… nerve-wracking! [I brought a flashlight but in the barcelona airport I realized that my batteries were corroded so I bought a whole new flashlight; praise God i noticed when i did!]…
“Stand up and move to the front of the bus about 5 minutes after the bus gets out of a long tunnel, so the bus driver remembers to stop and let you off in Piedipaterno. Once you’re off the bus, cross to the other side of the highway and walk uphill on a smaller asphalt road (about 50 meters to the right of Bar Valnerina). Continue up, up, up, walking up the narrow stairs where the road seems to dead-end to car traffic (on your left there will be a small stone church with a bell tower). Cross the road at the top of the stairs and keep walking uphill, on a road parallel to a small paved streambed which usually has water running in it. This road will do a hairpin turn around a large pink house, follow it and keep walking til the asphalt ends near a brown temporary building. About 15 meters after the asphalt ends you head left into the forest then immediately see a fork in the path, where you head right (uphill). Follow this path uphill through the forest for about 300 meters, until it flattens out and you’ll see the farm gate with a “Località il Piano” sign. Important – always leave this gate chained securely shut so that our animals don’t get out! Once through the gate, head uphill to your left 20 meters then curve right along the fence. Walk through the greenhouse filled with hay, behind the strawbale barn, and along the road up to the big stone farmhouse. Come knock on the door of the ground-level floor.”
What an adventure 😉

Rural Italy! — Day 107

Greetings!! Long time, no write. I returned to Seville Tuesday after spending a 12-day vacation from school in Italy as a volunteer on an organic farm near Spoleto, the capital of Umbria (a region, like a state). I volunteered through the organization WWOOF — this meant that I agreed to work a certain number of hours per day on the farm in exchange for room and board for each day. I’ve always thought living and working on a farm would be really great, and I enjoyed the chance to try it out for a while!! Though I’m not exactly ready to drop my studies and buy a chunk of land to plow, I learned over this week that lots of elements of farming are actually real possibilities for me! — whether it be growing a big garden, keeping a compost pile, or buying a few ducks to keep in the backyard 🙂

“The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run into it and are safe.”
Prov. 18:10

The farm I went to was recommended to me by my dad’s friend’s son’s Italian friend — yeah, we’re practically related. It turned out to be a great fit; the family living on this farm was kind and welcoming and very, very knowledgeable! The farm is located outside of Spoleto, in the mountains, and it is run by an Italian man named Adolfo and his American wife, Darcy. They have two small sons, and the farm has a very wide variety of crops and animals (asparagus, strawberries, olives, pears; chickens, ducks, sheep, goats … just to name a few). This farm is the kind where the objective is not to grow one crop really well and sell it to all the surrounding areas, but instead to grow a variety of crops so that they can subsist mainly on the things they grow and raise organically (without the use of chemicals such as pesticides and synthetic fertilizer) in their own backyard!  Adolfo and Darcy both have Ph.D.’s in agriculture, and they were very hardworking and excited to share what they know about farming.

“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all of the trees will clap their hands.”
Is. 55:12

Some of the duties I helped with during the time I was at Il Piano farm…

  • Weeding. wild asparagus, which Darcy calls the “cash crop” of the farm, was in dire need of some weeding — you could hardly see the poor plants!

    “He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”
    Acts 14:17

  • Dinner preparation and clean-up. each day i made breakfast and lunch for myself in my area of the house (the basement) and then joined the family for dinner
  • Patching up the barn. Adolfo and Darcy used their alternative agriculture sense to build a barn made out of straw bales (instead of wood). mice had gotten into the straw walls and eaten some of it, so it needed to be repaired with MUD 🙂 very fun. (except for the dead mice part; yes, i saw and touched a few)

    “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them at the inn.”
    Luke 2:6-7

  • Watching the kids. they were precious! lots of fun to play with and take walks with; both big talkers and thinkers — sometimes it was fun to just sit back and listen to them chatter away

    “Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him.”
    Ps. 127:3

  • Taking care of a baby goat. one of the baby goats (6 weeks old) had gotten trampled on a bit and had two bum legs. in the hopes that it would recover if given special care, we sanctioned her off and fed her carefully for several days. when conditions didn’t change, Adolfo gave her a special shot that killed her painlessly (sad, i know, but a two-legged goat just isn’t going to have a good life :/) — and then he skinned her and placed her in the kitchen sink just before dinner time. (skip this line if you’re queasy… i actually watched him tear apart the body to put in the freezer for meat. he cooked up some of her organs and we ate them for dinner the next day :P)

    “He makes grass grow for cattle, and plants for man to cultivate–bringing forth food from the earth.”
    Ps. 104:14

  • Gardening. Darcy has a lovely garden next to the house with potatoes, cultivated asparagus, artichokes, broccoli, strawberries, etc.

    “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?”
    Job 12:7-9

  • Picking flowers off of apple trees. Il Piano farm has more than 400 different varieties of apple trees — one of each kind! Darcy and Adolfo collected them and planted them all in their orchard. at this point, the trees are too young (only a few years old) and weak to bear the weight of the apples that would grow in the fall, so i was commissioned to pluck away the blossoms of the weaker trees in the orchard

    “That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither–whatever they do prospers.”
    Ps. 1:3

  • Watering potted plants. they have also collected quite the nursery of young potted plants, from olive trees to lilacs to palm trees
  • Collecting eggs. the chickens, ducks and geese laid lots of eggs and it was like an Easter egg hunt to try to gather them all!!

    “God made the wild animals according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.”
    Gen 1:25


What I visited on my day off…

  • Spoleto… the capital of Umbria, and the small town where Adolfo grew up. it has a rich history… i visited a castle, a bridge/aqueduct, a cathedral, a Roman house, a Roman theater, and a Roman arch (built in the year 23 AD!!!) — really old stuff!
  • Vallo di Nera… a small village just a short hike away from the farm; once nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (that means that it’s really old, culturally valuable, and really pretty ;))

Below is the link to see more pictures from my trip. Be sure to read the captions!

“See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you?”
Matt. 6:28-30

I can’t believe I only have 11 days left in Spain!!! WHERE has the time gone?!  Next up: final exams. 😛

Lisbon, Portugal — Day 89

This weekend I went on a trip with my program to Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. It was about a 6 hour bus ride from Seville, and it’s located right on the Atlantic Ocean.

The weekend flew by because we were only in Lisbon for Friday afternoon/night and the day Saturday, because we left at 11am this morning. On Friday when we arrived in Lisbon, we had a walking tour to the Castle of St. George (Castelo da San Jorge)… it was raining, so we just kind of chilled out and enjoyed a nice view of Lisbon. After this, a group of people went to a big department store called Corte Ingles — it’s a Spanish store with TONS of stuff, and this one even had a food court and movie theater. A few of my friends and I got dinner there and decided to watch Titanic in 3D… a totally Portuguese experience, you know. Luckily for us, most movies aren’t dubbed into Portuguese so we got to watch it in English with Portuguese subtitles.

a nice view of a bridge and off to the left, a Christ the Redeemer statue on the hill in Lisbon

a On Saturday, we had a bus tour with a guide and then visited the Monastery of Los Jeronimos (where Portuguese conquistador Vasco da Gama is buried) and the Belem Tower, two big monuments in Lisbon. Afterward I got lunch (an adventure… Portuguese looks like Spanish in writing, but it’s not easy to understand when it’s spoken. To me, Portuguese sounds like Spanish with a Russian accent, and with peanut butter in your mouth) and then went with a group of friends to a nearby town called Sintra. Sintra is a small town with lots of hills and several palaces/castles. It was very pretty and fun to see, and I mostly just walked around and enjoyed taking it all in 🙂

me and some friends inside the monastery

Tower of Belem, right on the water. so pretty!!!

cute little waterfall! in Sintra

the castle made to look like a fairytale in Sintra

We left this morning to return to Seville. I only have two and a half more weeks of school, can you believe it?!? And this Friday begins a 12-day vacation for the Feria de Abril (a special spring festival held in Seville) which I will spend at an organic farm near Spoleto, Italy!!

more pictures of Lisbon and Sintra at

European Vacation: Lorah-style — Day 81

It hasn’t been difficult at all for me to keep up with blog posts to inform and record about my traveling, but this write-up is a DELIGHT to recount. 🙂 I had a really fantastic week with my parents, my sister Ashley, and my boyfriend Bill. 

Some of you will understand my reference to National Lampoon’s European Vacation — I promise you, it wasn’t that bad.  Others of you will understand that when I say “Lorah-style”, you should read “with lots and lots of rain, and probably some thunderstorms and/or hail”.  For the last several years my family has taken rainy camping trips to Cape May as our family vacation but we took advantage of my semester abroad to celebrate some big birthdays in 2012 (50, 50, 21 and 18) and to have a fun week visiting me here in Spain. Bill’s Easter break coincided with this week and so he was able to join us, bringing along with him ALL of the rain that Grove City has been missing out on lately.

Before you start to read, go to this link for some background music 😉 Imagine thirty or forty thousand sevillano soccer fans singing this…

We spent the week in three parts: four days in Seville, two days in Barcelona (in Cataluña, in northern Spain on the Mediterranean coast), and one day in Madrid (the capital of Spain). We had LOTS to do!!  This is a good chance for me to tell you about some of the big sights in Seville (since I usually write about when I go to other places) so I’ll put lots of pictures in (and as always you can visit the link at the end of this post to see more pictures on my Shutterfly).

Saturday: They were all a little jet-lagged so I went easy on them 😉 We met at the train station and went to their hotel, and after they unloaded we went to the Plaza de España and Parque Maria Luisa. They had travelled during the night and not slept, so they made it until about dinner-time and then all went to bed.

Sunday: For breakfast we had “chocolate con churros” and “cafe con leche” — some typical Spanish breakfast items. We all visited the art market I visited at the beginning of the semester, where local artists sell their paintings. It was Palm Sunday, the first day of Spain’s Holy Week festivities, and the first of many several rainy days. (I am telling you, it rained SO LITTLE in Seville until this week…and now all of a sudden it’s overcast and rainy every day 😛 some luck). We went to a church service (it starts at 12:15pm!) … all in Spanish, so needless to say, they didn’t get much out of it 😉  but I was glad they went, and several people came up to us and welcomed us. After church we tried paella (a rice dish normally served with mussels, shrimp and chicken mixed in) and took a walk along the river. We got to witness a few interesting Holy Week festivities in Seville this week — the city is famous for its “Semana Santa” activities. There are dozens of “brotherhoods” who each belong to a certain church in the city and during Holy Week each brotherhood has a procession where they parade from their church to the cathedral in the center of the city. The procession involves a marching band, nazarenos (penitents who wear outfits exactly like the KKK), and a ‘paso’ or float carried by more men (usually the float is a statue of a scene or figure relating to Holy Week, e.g. Judas betraying Jesus, or Mary crying). For dinner we went to my host family’s house!! They made us Spanish tortilla, salmorejo (a special cold tomato soup), Iberian ham, etc. and we had a great time all trying to understand each other 😉 Since I was the only person who could really understand everything that was said, I wound up translating eeeeevery word of the conversation back and forth — I had a cold and by the end of three hours my voice was gone, but it was SO FUN! I appreciated the opportunity to show my family and Bill where I’ve been living and who I’ve been living with 🙂

Monday: I think it rained a lot on Monday and we considered visiting a small town near Seville but decided to go to the mall for a while instead 😉  so we slept in a bit and relaxed for the day, shopping and browsing and just hanging out 🙂  For lunch we treated ourselves to a delicious American meal at T.G.I.Friday’s 😉 We visited El Corte Ingles, a huuuuuuge Spanish department store. At night we had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go to a Spanish soccer game. My host brother had told us the night before that there was a special deal for tickets that night and we took advantage of it, only 10 euros per person!  It poured while we were walking to the game but the rain held off while they were playing and we definitely did not regret going 🙂  The energy in the stadium was electric, and Seville won 3-1 against Mallorca! There was one section of sevillanos who literally did not stop singing for the ENTIRE 90-minute game!! They had tons and tons of cheer type of songs that were impossible to understand but really fun to hear 🙂

Tuesday: This was our last day in Seville so we had to pack things in a bit — we thought about visiting the Alcazar (royal palaces and gardens) and the cathedral, but one was closed and the other had a long line. We went up to the walking area on the roof of the “Setas de la Encarnación”, a mushroom-shaped structure in the middle of the city…random, but it’s the largest wooden structure in the world. I showed them the ISA building where I had my first two weeks of classes, and my university where I now have classes. For dinner we went to the Carboner¡a, where lots of tourists go not only to get a typical sevillana meal but also to see a real live flamenco show — a style of dance and music that originated here in southern Spain, Andalusia.

If the last song ended already, you can go to this youtube link and see a TV commercial for Seville’s favorite beer — it’s an advertising masterpiece. It helps if you understand Spanish, but it still makes me excited to be in Andalusia every time!

Wednesday: In the morning we caught an early flight to Barcelona and then took a bus tour while we waited for check-in time at the hotel… whew, that bus tour was an adventure. It was a “hop on, hop off” thing that stops at all the important sites in the city. Thing is, it was raining pretty hard at this point and the roof to the second story of the bus (it was double decker and there were hardly any seats on the bottom story) was temporary and quite flimsy. We all had to sit in the “window” seats, which meant that every time we made a turn the water accumulated on the roof of the bus would splash off into our laps 😛  Once we managed to secure seats underneath (by waiting until other people got off) we were soaking wet and notttt exactly in the mood to tour Barcelona 😛  We took a walk along Rambla, a market-ish street, after the rain let up, and visited a house we talked about in my art class, Casa Batlló by Gaudí.

Thursday: On Thursday we tried Bus Tour: Take II, a much more successful version of the first bus tour. This time we got out at a few of the stops and saw some cool stuff… the Olympic stadium from the 1992 Barcelona Olympics is still there and open to the public…until you hang from the I-Beams and get kicked out, as Bill and Ashley did 😉 (we snuck back in for a quick picture…we’re soooo wild!)… we also saw Gaudí’s “Sagrada Familia”, a huge art nouveau cathedral that is still under construction.

Friday: We flew to Madrid from Barcelona in the early afternoon and met up with our family’s exchange student Koko, who my family hadn’t seen for about five years!! She stayed with us for two summers and it was cool for my parents to meet her parents (they live in Madrid and I came to visit them three years ago here). We all went to a nice restaurant together and then they took us to Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol, two big plazas in the city, and also the royal palaces. Since it was my last night with my family and Bill, we went back to the hotel pretty early and relaxed and played some friendly Phase 10 (a card game), which Bill won… purely beginner’s luck 😛

Saturday: This morning we had breakfast at the hotel and then I went to the airport with everyone to see them off and to catch a train back to Seville :/  it’s hard to believe this week has passed already, I feel like they just got here!!  Now I have about 5 more weeks until I go home in May.

Thanks for following along — I hope you all have a wonderful Easter tomorrow celebrating our Risen Savior!

more pictures at:  (three separate albums)

Germany, and then some! — Day 70

WOW what a crazy weekend! My friends Ashley and Mary and I took a trip to Frankfurt, Germany… but we ended up visiting a totally different city every day this weekend! It was an adventure 🙂

I drew arrows on this map to show where we traveled:

Friday: Venice, Italy

When we booked our flights to Frankfurt we realized that there were no direct flights from Seville, and so we had to have a layover… for 12 hours… in Venice, Italy! Oh, darn. 😉  We ran into two friends who were headed for Venice on our same flight and spent the day with them.  Venice is a small city comprised of lots of little islands connected by canals… think Italian men with white striped shirts and funny hats, driving little canal boats! We walked around the city all day and ate lots of pizza 😉  There’s a cool bridge called the Ponte de Rialto with a great view of the Gran Canal, and a big basilica called the Basilica di San Marco. Between the five of us we were able to get a good price for a gondola ride…  that night we flew to Frankfurt Hahn, and spent the night in a nice hostel.

Saturday: Frankfurt, Germany

On Saturday we took a bus to Frankfurt am Main and spent the rest of the day seeing the sights there… there’s a row of museums along the Main river, a large cathedral, an old city hall building, and a fun shopping street in the city.  This was my first experience trying to get by with German (which I took in high school) and it was fairly successful! I was surprised at how words came back to me even though it’s been a while 😉  Some people even asked me for directions, since with my blue eyes and light hair I look (and am) German… usually my response was simple: “Ich weiss nicht!”  We tried some genuine potato salad, sauerkraut and wurst (sausage) at a little restaurant in town 🙂  delicious!

Sunday: Heidelberg, Germany

Ashley had to leave Sunday afternoon to return to Seville for Monday classes but on Sunday afternoon Mary and I took a train to Heidelberg, Germany. It’s a really cute little town with a river running through it. The nice German man at the tourist bureau in the train station (almost all the Germans we met were really friendly!) suggested that we get a fast food meal and take it to the bank of the river to have a picnic lunch, so we followed his advice and we weren’t disappointed! The view from the riverbank was great — we could see the Altebruecke (an old bridge), the Schloss (castle), and the Altstadt (old city), complete with church spires and pretty buildings. We shared a German beer in Heidelberg at an open-air cafe… and agreed that it was really gross.

Monday: Palma (de Mallorca), Spain

On Monday we left Frankfurt and had another layover (just 4 hours this time) in Palma de Mallorca, one of the Balearic Islands off the east coast of Spain. Mary and I had plenty of time to leave the airport and grab a city bus to the beach for a walk in the sand and a yummy dinner in town 🙂  We finally landed in Seville around 12:30am after a 40-min delay on the flight.

This was a fun and busy weekend! It was really cool to get to visit so many places in such a short amount of time 🙂  My family and Bill come to visit in just FOUR DAYS!!!

more pictures at:

Ode to Beef — Day 65

When asked what American foods that I miss,

I needed but a moment to think on this.

“Beef!” said I, and what do you know,

A steak on my platter for dinner did show!

Though not the same thing as Dad’s steaks on the grill,

This dead cow in my mouth did cause a thrill!!!


This afternoon my host mom asked me what American food I miss, and without having to think twice I told her “beef!” (they prefer ham and chicken here because it’s cheaper and better quality)… little did I know that I’d get a whole DELICIOUS steak for dinner!!! It wasn’t exactly the same as we usually eat at home but it was wonderful to taste the sweet flavor of beef in my mouth ;);) Sorry if you’re a vegetarian… it was just so good. 🙂

Córdoba & Granada — Day 61

This weekend my program took us on a pre-paid excursion to the Andalusian cities of Córdoba and Granada. It was exciting to stay in a nice hotel and to be able to just explore and visit new places!

Córdoba is famous for its “mezquita”, or mosque — it’s really really old, like hundreds of years, and when the Christians reconquered Spain they turned it into a cathedral, and it has belonged to the Christians ever since.

We only spent a few hours in Córdoba and then took a bus to Granada. The first night, we went to see a flamenco show in a cave! Granada is a fascinating city because of some crazy Spanish history there — forgive me for the brief history lesson you’re about to receive 😉  During the time of Christ, when Rome ruled the known world, Spain was part of the Roman empire. After Rome fell, visigods entered the Iberian peninsula (Spain and Portugal) and ruled until 711, when Moors (Arabic Muslims) entered across the Strait of Gibraltar and took over almost all of Spain. The Muslims ruled every part of the peninsula except the very northern part, Asturias, which remained a fortress for the Christian visigods who once populated the peninsula. ((When I came to Spain to visit our exchange student Koko a few years ago, we went to Asturias and saw some of the places and learned about the people who organized the Christians remaining in Asturias)). Slowly but surely, starting with the Battle of Covadonga (which is Koko’s full name!) the Christians reconquered the Iberian peninsula… this was the “Reconquest of Spain”.  The city of Seville was reconquered by the Christians in 1248, and when the “catholic monarchs” Ferdinand and Isabella came to power in the 1400s, the only city still ruled by the Muslims was Granada. Ferdinand and Isabella allowed the Muslims to remain there and pay taxes to ensure their protection until 1492 — the “Spanish Inquisition”. In 1492 (coincidentally, the same year that Ferdinand and Isabella funded Christopher Columbus’s unknowing discovery of the Americas) the monarchs decided that they weren’t interested in having the Moors on the peninsula anymore and that all the Muslims living in Granada would have to either be baptized Christians or leave Spain.

SO with that said, Granada was ruled by Moors from 711-1492 AD and so the Arabic influence is significantly more noticeable there than anywhere else in Spain.  Two important sites we visited were the Albaicin, a very old neighborhood built into a mountain. On our first night in Granada we trekked up to a nice overlook in the Albaicin. From there we could see the city of Granada, and on a hill overlooking the city was the Alhambra — a fortress and palace from the Moorish period. Behind the Alhambra we had a FANTASTIC view of the Sierra Nevada mountains, very tall and covered in snow 🙂  The next day we visited the inside of the Alhambra, which was very pretty. There was lots of ornate architecture and decoration, and beautiful gardens. Because Muslims believe it’s bad to have visual representations in their holy buildings, they don’t ever create pictures of Allah or Muhammad the way we might have a picture of Christ or Mary in a cathedral or church. Instead, over the centuries they created beautiful ways of writing in Arabic, usually lines of Scripture or poems about their faith.

“Tapas” (which means lid, or cover) is the Spanish tradition of serving a small plate of appetizers with a drink you might buy at a bar or restaurant. The tradition began with workers who would carry cups to drink in their workplaces and in order to keep bugs out, they placed small plates over top of the cups. Eventually it became popular to put food on these plates to snack on, and now in Spain you see tapas menus in nearly every bar and restaurant. In Granada, not only is it customarily to serve complementary tapas with drinks, but restaurants are obligated by law to serve you a free plate of tapas every time you order any kind of drink! So for dinner on Saturday night, my friends and I spent four hours going from restaurant to restaurant ordering one drink (Coke! Don’t get the wrong idea ;)) at each place just to try new tapas. At most places the chef decides what he happens to want to give you, but sometimes you can also choose which tapas you want. Some of the tapas we had were potato skins with sour cream and carrots, pork bits in sauce, sauteed mushrooms, and meat wrapped in little tortillas… all REALLY delicious!

The shopping in Granada was also a lot of fun 😉 the tourist-y places played up the Arab influence and walking through the narrow shopping streets made us feel like we had walked into another world 🙂

So it was another fun and educational weekend!  Oh, and midterms went pretty well too 😉  They were very subjective, mostly essays… hopefully we’ll get them back this week! Grove City accepts my transfer grades as pass/fail, and they don’t count towards my GPA so I’m not too concerned 🙂

Stay tuned for Frankfurt next weekend!  Thanks for reading 🙂 If you would like to see more pictures, you can click this link. (there are two albums, one for Cordoba and one for Granada)

Midterms — Day 54

Another delightful week in Seville has passed already! Thursday night I went to a flamenco show for my friend Lindsay’s birthday – it was cool! Kind of hard to see because it was just two dancers and two musicians in a crowded restaurant, but it was fun to experience because flamenco originated in and is very pertinent to Andalucia, southern Spain. On Friday I went for a long hike with a lot of students from my program. It was nice to see the countryside and get some exercise 🙂 Right after that I met up with Courtney, my roommate from Grove City (also studying in Seville right now) and we got ice cream and caught up on each other’s lives for a little while 🙂 Saturday was an excellent relax-at-home day for me… I watched some TV, studied for a midterm, and found a store (possibly the only one in the city) that sells Dr. Pepper and root beer!!! On Sunday I visited a new church and met lots of new Americans and Spaniards, which was exciting. I just finished lunch with my host parents and their adult children, as well as their son-in-law and granddaughter. We had swordfish! It tastes like chicken 😉

On our hike —

The church I went to today in Sevilla-Este … it’s HUGE compared to the other one!

This week we have midterm exams on Wednesday and Thursday, which will encompass everything we’ve learned so far this semester. It’s hard to know what to expect, because exams and grading tend to be very different here than in the US – these midterms and our final exams in May will probably be the only assessments that count towards our final grade! Kind of puts a lot of pressure on us this week 😉 but I’m not too nervous – I have friends in all my classes and I think we’ll be able to get together and study and talk through all the material we’ve learned.

A path in the park that’s on the way to my school 😉

As a side note, I always think of things that I want to tell people or remember to write in a blog post but I often forget them by the time I get to my computer… I’ll just spit a few out now 😛  The weather is GORGEOUS here; 70s all the time and very sunny. I have a two-hour break from classes on Mondays and Wednesdays and I love just sitting outside by the river or in the park, taking in the sun… also, despite the heat, most Spaniards don’t wear shorts 😛 hardly at all! It’s definitely more popular among younger people, but it’s really uncommon to see shorts. It could be that this is still “winter” weather for them 😉  Speaking Spanish is going pretty well… I felt very comfortable with it when I got here, which was a blessing. I think that all the time I’ve spent studying it in school and visiting other Spanish-speaking countries has helped me immensely. I just wish there were a way to ensure that I won’t forget everything I’ve learned once I get back home. :/  Speaking of which, my family and Bill are going to be here in three short weeks!! I’m VERY much looking forward to their visit and I know they are too 🙂

That’s all I’ve got for now… stay tuned for Córdoba and Granada, two other cities in southern Spain, after midterms!