Uncertainty

Although I consider myself a generally flexible person, I do not like uncertainty. In fact, when there is uncertainty in my life, I tend to obsess over it. However, my life was thrown into a cloud of uncertainty when I began my semester abroad.

Even after seven years of studying the Spanish language, I can only completely understand someone speaking to me about 80% of the time. Even when I feel as though I can properly translate the sentence, I doubt myself and even question the cultural differences that may be in play during the exchange. When I speak to others, even when I am sure I am saying the correct thing, I worry that I may mistake a word or conjugate incorrectly. I am never completely confident or certain in my speaking abilities.

The uncertainty that I have faced everyday has made me uncomfortable, but it has also challenged me to become comfortable with the unknown. This is because, frankly, I have no choice. I could ask “Que?” after every time someone speaks to me to ensure that I had heard them correctly the first time, but that would get old very quickly. I could quickly Google Translate everything I want to say before I say it, but that would not help me improve my Spanish. For now, I am “winging it” and choosing to live with uncertainty, to a certain extent.

Barcelona, Spain

“Dancing through the streets in Barcelona” – Barcelona, Ed Sheeran

We started off the weekend on Friday with an early flight in. Once we got there, we took the metro to city center and headed straight to Park Güell. We had a lovely time at the park and we even met some girls from Boston traveling for their spring break. We went with them to a lovely tapas restaurant and had a great meal. After that, we separated and headed to our hostel to check in.

The view of the sunset at the lookout. Not the best lighting, but you get the idea!

In the evening, we went to Parc del Guinardó which has a fabulous lookout over Barcelona. We didn’t realize, however, that it was such a hike to the top! Either way, the  view of the city and the sunset from the top was totally worth it. We took a few bottles of wine to the top (as does everyone), then had to be super careful coming down once the sun had gone down and we had had a few glasses of wine (yikes). Since we had lunch rather late and were not hungry for dinner, I had a yummy hot dog from a small place we passed on the street.

On Saturday, we got up and immediately headed to La Sagrada Familia. I had been there several years ago, but it is much more magnificent than I remember. It’s funny how memories can fade as time goes by. Or maybe I just have a greater appreciation for these things than I did when I was fourteen. I was totally astonished and loved every minute that we were in the basilica.

Me and my juice.

After La Sagrada Familia, we made our way to Las Ramblas. Of course, we had to stop at La Boqueria for a snack. I remember this as my favorite part of my previous trip to Barcelona, and I think it was nearly my favorite part of this trip as well. The endless lines of vendors and yummy foods to try are just indescribable. I was pretty full from lunch (we had burgers, yum), so I only had a juice (mango and coconut), which was delicious.

In the market, there are a ton of little tapas bars. At one tapas bar, there was a raw, straight-out-of-the-ocean-lookin’ octopus sitting on the counter, less than half a foot from where customers were eating. I thought this was kind of funny. I stood there admiring the situation when a chef walked over to the octopus and cut off one of its tentacles with a giant knife. The customers eating at the counter didn’t even flinch; I’m not even sure they were aware of the situation. It was kind of cool to see for me, though! Wish I had snapped a picture of the octopus on the counter – hopefully you can imagine!

There were a couple factors that made this weekend so great. I realized just how much I love all of the amigas that I have met here. Also, our hostel was absolutely incredible. There were many opportunities to meet other travelers and the employees were all very knowledgable and helpful. Overall, Barcelona yielded a fantastic weekend of little sleep, lots of walking (nearly fifteen miles on Saturday alone), and many memories.

A Weekend in Sevilla

Me outside of the Alcázar in Jerez.

This weekend, I decided to stay in Sevilla and catch a breather from weekend traveling. Although I was not initially thrilled about it (I thought that I spent enough time here during the week), I could not be more thankful for my decision to stay here. 

After class on Thursday, my friend Caroline and I decided to catch dinner and a movie. We ended up leaving too late to grab a “real” dinner, so we stopped for pizza by-the-slice at a place we’ve been eyeing by the Cathedral. It was delicious and we ate it while walking to the movie theatre. We decided to see Green Book (in English) and I loved it! It was definitely one of the best movies that I have seen in a long time. Of course, we had to get popcorn, Coke Zeros, and some M&Ms, but everything was still remarkably cheap. I think I spent around $8 for my ticket, candy, and a HUGE soda.

Time spent by the river is always time well spent.

On Friday, I had lunch with my host mother then left to go to the river. We grabbed a few bottles of wine, a blanket, our “homework,” and went to sit out in the park. The river is always very crowded on the weekends and afternoons. It is a very popular pastime for people in Sevilla, with good reason. Everyone always has a bottle in their hands and music playing while enjoying a relaxing afternoon in the sun. We stayed out until dinner, then headed home to eat with our host families. After dinner, a few of my friends and I headed to Las Bolas (our new favorite gelato spot) for dessert. 

Pepper, sardine, tomato, artichoke.

Saturday was an adventure for sure. My friend Kaylee and I decided to go to a nearby town, Jerez, to visit a bodega. We left around 10AM in a BlaBla Car, which is basically an Uber for long distance traveling. There were 5 other people in the car, which was a little over an hour long. We talked for the whole ride in Spanish, which was kind of fun. When we arrived in Jerez, we visited the local Cathedral and Alcazar (things you must do in any Spanish town). We then went to a nice tapas restaurant for a late lunch. Kaylee and I shared about seven different items, but this was probably the most interesting. A little skewer with artichoke, tomato, sardines, and a pepper. I’m not quite sure that was what we were expecting, but it was good!

After lunch, we went to the winery. We went to the González Byass bodega, which is the producer of a variety of sherry brands. Their most popular brand is Tio Pepe, which is sold in countries across the world. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the day, but it did not disappoint. The winery was absolutely beautiful. We got to see where the wine is stored and learn about the process of making fortified wine which is something I was definitely not familiar with. This bodega is “famous” and has lots of really cool visitors including Pablo Picasso and Steven Spielberg. Every time someone famous visits the bodega, they sign a barrel of wine. There is a whole room filled with signed barrels.

Is this not just the cutest thing?

Another funny this about this bodega is that there is a famous picture of a mouse drinking wine in the cellar. Apparently, at some point, one of the employees in the winery would give the cellar mice wine and bread to keep them from chewing on the bottoms of the wooden barrels. The employee even built a little latter so that the mouse could drink from the wine glass. They still have it sitting out, although I’m not sure that mice still use it, haha. Of course, no visit to a bodega is complete without tasting the wines. We tasted four different brands produced at the Bodega, and I was surprised that I actually enjoyed them all. 

Sunday will just be a chill day by the river. I have three midterms this week, so I have to start thinking about those at some point!

Shoutout

I would like to give a quick shoutout to Auntie Meg for being the most active (only? haha) reader of this blog AND sending me Extra Toasty Cheez-Its after I made a post about how I was craving some. Much love!!

Cologne, Germany

Einhorn spotting by the Rhine!

Carnival in Cologne did not disappoint! In summary, it was full of parades, Kölsch (local beer), and costumes. I spent the entire weekend dressed up as an einhorn (unicorn)

I was lucky enough to randomly make some local friends in the train station and be invited to their private celebrations, which was a very unique experience. They taught me some of the typical Carnival traditions and introduced me to Kölsch, the local beer, which is lovely and much more mild than Sevilla’s Cruzcampo. I also enjoyed some currywurst, pretzels, bratwurst, and some really yummy breakfast places.

Overall, a good weekend was had! I was really hoping to get to visit EL-DE Haus, the former headquarters of the Gestapo, but they were closed due to the celebrations. No worries – I guess I’ll just have to go back someday!

Humble Brag

Listen… I usually consider myself a pretty modest person, but I just HAVE to share. Today, one of my coworkers at the hospital told me that my Spanish is “better than some of the interns they have had before.” So basically, I’m not the worst. Which is honestly the best news I’ve heard all day.

That’s all for now.

Brussels, Belgium

Waffles at The Atomium with Zoë.

This weekend, my friends and I went on our first weekend trip outside of Spain and it was our best trip thus far! We flew into a town outside Brussels, Charleroi, as it was much cheaper than flying into Brussels. We got in around midnight and out Airbnb host agreed to pick us up from the airport. After an hour-long struggle to get out of the airport (very confusing signage with no English translations!!), we finally found him. He drove us very quickly and slightly recklessly to his house where we would stay for the night. He also drove us to the train station the next morning, just as quickly and just as recklessly. It was an experience to say the least. 

We hopped on a train and made it to Brussels in no time. Our first task was to figure out where our Airbnb was. The owner was out of town, so they had left the key at a local eatery. We went to the restaurant and they gave us the key in a golden envelope. It was kind of like getting the next clue in a scavenger hunt or something. We joked that we were “in a video game” or “on a mission” for the rest of the trip. 

This lunch was a little fancier than we are used to, haha.

After situating our stuff in our Airbnb, we decided to go back to the restaurant where we retrieved the key for lunch. It was a cute little place with about three menu items in addition to a “plate of the day.” I had the fish of the day, and it was delicious. It was a welcome deviation from the traditional Spanish food that I have grown accustomed to eating.

After lunch, we headed towards the city center. We stopped at several small thrift shops as well as the Manekken Pis. After arriving, we discovered that the main attractions in Brussels are the abundant chocolate, waffle, and fry shops. We hopped around and tried a bunch of different chocolates. I also had my first real Belgian waffle (it was incredible). After the waffle, we decided that we better try some fries as well. We got “Andalouse” sauce. I have no idea why it is called that – I’m pretty sure it would have been too spicy for anyone in Andalucía. 

After our fries, we went to a bar called Delirium. Delirium is a “village,” or a multi-building, multi-level bar. We tried several beers before heading to dinner at a traditional Belgian restaurant. We shared mussels as an appetizer and I had seafood pasta as my entree. It was lovely! After dinner, we returned to Delirium to try some more beers. Anyone starting to see a trend? We even came out with a few favorites!

My savory leek waffle (WOW!!)

The following day, we slept in a little before going to brunch at a restaurant called Peck 47. I had a savory leek waffle for breakfast, and it was delicious. After lunch, we decided to take the metro to the Atomium, which is about forty-five minutes away from the city center. Naturally, I had to get another waffle while we were there (I think I had five over the course of the weekend). The rest of the day was pretty chill. We shopped around, sampled some chocolates, got more fries, and tried a Belgian beer flight at another bar. We also had dinner at a lovely little Italian place. 

Overall, Brussels was filled with fries, waffles, beer, and chocolate (I case you hadn’t noticed). I really enjoyed this weekend and being able to get out of the traditional Spanish cuisine and customs. I hope to return to Brussels and the nearby city, Bruges, to explore more very soon!

Mi Práctica

In addition to taking classes while in Spain, I also have an internship (una práctica). Mi práctica is in the Intentional Department of a private hospital in Sevilla. The International Department has two main functions: translating the doctors’ orders to non-Spanish speaking patients and completing insurance claims for people from outside of Spain. So far, I have been mainly assisting in these two areas. Everyone in the hospital speaks to me exclusively in Spanish, which I really hope will hope with my Spanish skills! 

The funny part about this whole thing is that having an internship really isn’t a “thing” in Spain. It’s not something that is very common for native students, so nobody really knows what to expect of me or what I expect of them. I won’t even begin to bore you with the other differences I have observed between the Spanish workplace and that in the United States. Instead, I will candidly share two embarrassing things that have happened to me during my first week of my internship:

  1. On my first day, within the first thee minutes of meeting my colleagues for the first time, I found myself in the ER assisting in the translation of a patient who had just come in. I was really enjoying this task and the hands-on experience that came with it, BUT, all of a sudden for some strange & unknown reason I began to feel faint. I tried my best to maintain my composure in front of my new coworkers, but eventually decided I needed to take a moment to myself and sit. I have no idea what came over me; I had eaten breakfast / gotten enough sleep / felt fine prior to entering the ER. And no, I have never been squeamish around hospitals. In fact, I volunteered at one for over four years! But anyways – it was slightly embarrassing and my coworkers have not asked me to return to the ER since (LOL).
  2. Last Thursday, I was shadowing in Admitting for the first time. One of the permanent workers in the department was asking me about my internship. After answering a series of questions regarding mi práctica, he asks “¿Tienes ganas?” The most literal translation for this phrase is “do you have wins,” or “do you have gains.” Obviously neither of those made any sense……… The next logical translation I could think of in my head was “are you getting paid [for the internship].” I immediately waved my hands and said “No(my visa does not allow me to get paid).  He looked at me confused….uh oh…that’s always a bad sign. The next day in class, I asked my professor (a native speaker) what exactly “¿tienes ganas” means.Guess what it means????? It means…..”Are you excited [to be here]?” YIKES. Now everyone thinks that I’m the new intern who is NOT excited to be at my new job. Oops!!!! I’m not exactly sure the best way to say “Hey, I messed up! Last week you said ‘¿tienes ganas?’ and I said ‘no.’ BUT, yes, I am very excited to be here!! Sorry for the confusion!!” in Spanish, but I’m going to go figure that out immediately. 

Starting a new job in the United States is difficult, but starting a new job in a different language is a whole other ball game. I have often heard my peers in the States talk about “workplace culture.” I am currently trying to simultaneously navigate “workplace culture” and Spanish culture and sometimes that can be difficult. Nonetheless, I am very excited to have the opportunity to learn about the international workplace firsthand. I know that I will learn so much linguistically, culturally, and professionally by being in the clinic this semester.

Granada (Like The Fruit!)

A granada on a street sign in Granada.

Granada was short but sweet (just like it’s namesake fruit)! In case you didn’t know, granada is Spanish for “pomegranate.” This becomes very evident after arriving in Granada, as there are symbols of the fruit everywhere from sewage grates to street signs. 

My friend, Morgan, and I at the Alhambra. You can see some of the intricate pattern work behind us.

Our first stop in Granada was the Alhambra. The Alhambra is a palace / fortress that dates back to AD 889. Like the majority of the historical constructions in Spain, the Alhambra has evidence of both Islamic and Renaissance style. It was incredibly gorgeous and we walked over three miles on our tour. There was so much to see! There are also some fabulous views throughout the tour (as always here in Spain!). 

After the Alhambra, we embarked on a “tapas hopping” adventure. Tapas hopping is when you go to several different restaurants and get a drink and a tapa, or several tapas, at each place. This is pretty common in Spanish culture; mi amigas and I have enjoyed tapas hopping throughout Sevilla and the other cities we have visited. One thing unique to Granada is that for each drink you buy at a restaurant, they will give you a tapa for free. We definitely took advantage of this! By the end of the night, we had visited four restaurants and we were all very full. 

After dinner, we headed back to our hotel. The hotel was definitely nicer than were anticipating and it was there that I had the best sleep I’ve had in Spain thus far!

Some graffiti in the neighborhood.

After a good night’s rest, we went to the Albaicín. The Albaicín is a district in Granada that is known for its narrow winding streets and the incredible reflection of it’s Moorish past. We visited a local market where you could buy Moroccan tea, tapestries, or handmade jewelry.

We decided to have lunch at a local tapas restaurant (mainly so that we would get a free tapa with our caña, s/o Granada). We then headed to the city center and got some churros con chocolate before boarding the bus back to Sevilla. 

All in all, a fantastic weekend was had by all – and we still have Sunday to play back home in Sevilla!