Friday, February 25, 2011

Otra Pagina

The other day I realized my original blog, "Mezcla del Dia" was becoming way more of a mezcla than I ever intended...

My intentions of creating a travel journal to share with friends and family while studying abroad evolved into a continuance of trivial story telling and random epiphanies.  I found I enjoyed blogging well after returning to the U-S-of-A and even more, that some of my friends enjoyed reading my insignificant postings.  In order to keep my Spain travel-logs from being lost underneath a pile of irrelevant posts, I created a a second page dedicated to the present adventure in which I attempt to figure out my true identity as the student/future teacher/shopaholic/grammarian/party goer/over-under achiever /indecisive and hypocritical female that I am. 

Check it out here.
I love followers and feedback! XXOO

Monday, August 30, 2010


I've been back in the States for almost two weeks now and there is no more appropriate word to describe my feelings other than "bittersweet." Unless, of course, we're speaking Spanish; in that case agridulce would fit just fine.

Although I was sad to leave the beauty of Spain and the friends that I made throughout my stay, I couldn't help but recognize the presence of a yearning to get home where my family would be waiting with a Tony's pizza hot and ready on the table.

My seven week vacation (I'll be honest with myself - I don't think I'll ever get another month and a half getaway) was hard to leave, but I think it would have been harder if I didn't have something(s) to look forward to when I got home. As soon as I arrived in the states I spent time with family eating and sharing souvenirs, my best friends came over to hear me tell my exhausted stories, and I spent the next few days preparing myself for my next move into College Park. The excitement pre- moving into my new beautiful Commons apartment, starting two new jobs at school (to replenish my depleted bank account) and gaining back a normal routine, made the absence of daily tapas and mediterranean beach days bearable.

I can't think of a better way to express the bittersweet feeling I've been enduring for the past two weeks, than to clearly lay out the conflicting aspects of being home and not being in Spain than a pro/con list.

- Gelato withdrawal
- Missing the beautiful landscapes
- Not being able to speak Spanish to everyone
- Being 20 and not being able to order alcoholic beverages (in moderation, of course.)
- All I want to do is talk about my experiences, but everyone around me definitely has agendas that include things other than listening to my worn-out stories.

Sweet/ Dulce
- Being with my family and friends
- Working ($$$)
- Receiving flowers from my handsome boyfriend for no reason at all except for the fact that now he can :)
- Calling friends/family/boyfriend whenever I want - email is great, but too impersonal after awhile.
- Access to fresh produce, and avoiding the frozen food and excessive olive oil aisle I fell prisoner to in la casa de Rafaela

Move in went smoothly and I've spent the past week here decorating my new room with carefully selected photos from Spain in attempts to merge the sweet things of my summer abroad with the awesome time I know I am going to have in College Park for the next two years. Now that I've been to Europe and back I have a feeling it will be difficult to ever actually leave it behind.
I can't wait to get back to Europe, but I'll admit I am pretty damn lucky to be where I am now.

PS - Kristen, I wish I had something more exciting to write about for your Birthday Blog Post - but for now, Happy birthday and let's cheers to the fact that this semester will lead to many thrilling things to share :)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Mejor la basura que la cintura

"Better in the trash than on the waist!" I learned this spanish idiom last night over a pizza dinner too good to be wasted in the trash :)

Marie and Carmen treated Lauren, Reghan and I to a delectable last supper of sorts at a Spanish owned pizzeria with an authentic Italian twist. Our primer plato was an ensalada with pistacios, goatcheese and a honey-balsamic dressing ...mmmm. For our second dish we shared two thin and crispy pizzas: Prosciutto y Melanzada. Translated: one with sweet ham (I'm sure you're all familiar with Italian Prosciutto, but the Spanish version is slightly different and described as "jamon dulce") and the other with caramalized eggplant and a sweet honey and balsamic vinaigrette (my favorite!). When the last two slices were left hopelessly waiting for one of five of us chicas to devour them, I volunteered my cintura to save room for the basura. This pizza was way too good to be put to waste!

Instead of staying at the restaurant for dessert like we traditionally do here in Alicante, Carmen decided it would be nicer to take a walk down the Explanada - a main street running adjacent to the marina outlined with artisan tents, gelaterias and souvenir vendors and bursting with locals and tourists alike enjoying the seaside atmosphere. At the very end of the Explanada is an outdoor gelateria at which Marie treated us. I got a blanco y negro - a sweet cream gelato submerged in coffee ... I wish I discovered this heavenly treat earlier in my trip, I was practically licking the glass at the end. Then again, it's probably better for my cintura that I only tasted it on my last night in Alicante....

Earlier in the evening I experienced my first bull fight! Plaza de Toros is located centrally in Alicante and the bull fights are a HUGE part of the culture here in Valenciano. Walking into the stadium reminded me of walking into a baseball stadium at home; fans held signs for their favorite matador, vendors were selling sodas and sunflower seeds, and the excitement for the commencement of the games was beaming from every corner! It's amazing to me how much of a cultural experience attending a bull fight is. Similarly to watching an American athletic event, the fans are aware of the strategies and techniques used during their fight and are very vocal about their opinions. On the contrary, it holds more tradition and culture than does a regular sporting event. The matadors double as athletes and performers - I loved the way they entertained the crowd and frequently paused to smile and pose at the adoring fans. The fight commenced with an introduction of the horses (yes this bull fight was conducted on horseback) and the matadors. Music and cheers accompanied the debut of the matadors and their well trained horses. The horses were magnificent. They were so well trained that they actually looked like they were dancing as they trotted. During the "Corrida de Rejones" (bullflight with horses) I couldn't help but feel like I was watching something completely regal. Now that I've seen the Rejones spectacle, I think I'll attend a traditional corrida de toros next time I'm in Spain - I'd love to see the different tactics used by the matadors on foot verses on horseback. Carmen told us she is grateful we chose to watch the Corrida de Rejones because the day before, at the traditional fight, one of the matadors got severely gored. I'm glad too. I could just barely hold it together watching the first bull get stabbed; I doubt my fascination in bullfighting would continue after watching a near human fatality. Bright red bull blood was horrific in itself, seeing that of a human might be overly traumatic for an American's first time bullfight.

Each matador had the ring to themselves on two different occassions, slaying two bulls each. That's six bulls in total (!!!) The biggest bull was over half a ton!! The gore and death of the bull was almost too much to handle, but I kept reminding myself to step out of my American mindset and put myself into the shoes of the Spaniards who regard this tradition as honorary and beautiful. After an apparently immaculate performance the crowd gave a twenty minute standing ovation, the pride these people have in the bullfighters is overwhelming I think I'll spare the gory details on this blog post, for those of you dying to know the dirty details I'll be happy to share in person! (I have tons of pictures.) I'm not sure that I completely agree with the bull fights, the people of Barcelona definitely do not - during my stay the government of Catalunya banned bullfighting in the region. When I first heard that news I thought "how very civilized." But now, I am more than happy I was able to see one in Alicante and I am definitely intrigued to learn more about the tradition and strategies behind this cultural event.

What a great way to spend my last Sunday night in Alicante. The bull fight was the perfect conclusion to my six week cultural immersion. And sure, the food at dinner was amazing but, as usual, the time spent with Carmen and Marie was priceless. Today, Laur and I only have a half day in Alicante before we train it to Madrid to catch our flight out of Spain (que lastima!!!) Carmen is making us a mid-day meal and Laura (our infamous Espadrille friend) will be joining us to say our goodbyes.

I imagine it will be very difficult to say goodbye to this beautiful place and the beautiful people I've met here, but I am looking forward to reuniting with the people I've missed oh so much back at home. I think today I need to learn the Spanish term for bittersweet .

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Lessons Learned

As I've reiterated a countless number of times, I've learned a lot on this trip. My spanish vocabulary has expanded, I can differentiate more types of ham than I ever even knew existed, and my wealth of cultural and historical facts has been supplemented enough that I am looking forward to the next time I play trivial pursuit with Dad at home!

Most importantly, however, are the lessons I've learned about myself. I've uncovered the treasure that iscafe con leche, and with that my caffeine addiction (which only became obvious to me when I was refused fountain diet soda and iced coffee in Barcelona.) I've discovered a resonating passion for anthropology, and I have been taught a simpler way of living, how to relax, and, excuse me for sounding terribly cliche, how to appreciate the smaller things life has to offer that I've been blind to in America. I could probably write a novel on self-reflections but I'll keep them within the confines of my journal in order to spare you the boredom.

On a lighter note, I have learned something about myself very worth noting - apparently, I am allergic to seafood.

I'm not surprised that it has taken me this long to realize my allergy; the last time I ate fish was probably when I was eight, and it was most likely a tunafish sandwich. I don't like the smell of seafood, and of the far and few between moments where I was daring enough to have a bite of fish off a family members plate I crinkled my nose in distaste. However, with my newly found adventurous side I decided to take advantage of neighboring the sea and try the fresh Mediterranean seafood. As a result of being so daring (and quite honestly trying to please my hosts,) I am covered in hives. Luckily for me, this allergy presents a prohibition of something I definitely won't miss.

Friday, August 6, 2010


The last two days were spent in Granada in the beautiful and historical south of Spain. Before I begin my narration of the trip's events, I'd like to point out how lucky I am to be able to travel and see so much of this country I have grown to love. I need to thank Marie and Carmen for making our mini-vacation not only enjoyable, but also easy and nearly expense-free! I also need to thank Lauren and Reghan for being the perfect undemanding and agreeable balance to my occasionally high-maintenance tendencies while traveling :)

Our bus left from Alicante even before the sunrise, an exhausting commencement which made the four and a half hour voyage much more bearable with sleepy eyes. Marie graciously paid for our ida y vuelta (two-way) bus tickets, making the bus ride that much sweeter.

We arrived in the early afternoon and took a taxi to our hotel located conveniently al lado de La Alhambra. We spent the day sunning at the hotel pool, eating at the hotel buffet and finally taking a siesta atop fluffy hotel bedding :)

Carmen made reservations for us at a renown restaurant overlooking the most breathtaking view of La Alhambra: el Restaurante Carmen Mirador de Aixa. We must have been a spectacle for the employees of the restaurant: three giddy, giggling American girls taking as many pictures as bites of food. Not to mention when half way through our first course the Host approached us with cordless phone in hand, "Carmen Cortes," he hesitantly handed us the phone. Carmen and Marie had called the restaurant and asked to speak with "the three pretty girls with reservations" to make sure we liked the place.

"Te gusta mucha, eh?" Yes Carmen, we really really like the restaurant.
"Keep doing as you are doing, ok." Ok Marie, we will continue enjoying ourselves immensely thanks to you.
I guess you have to know Marie and Carmen to understand that while their mid-meal phone call to the restaurant may seem unprecedented (we all have cell phones), I have a feeling they do this often for all of their guests. <-- check out the website!

The food was amazing. A glass of white wine and a palate cleansing apple and frozen yogurt dish was presented to us to start. We ordered a white asparagus salad por el centro (to share) and each ordered our own main course. My choice was a suggestion of the house: steak in a mango and apple salsa, accompanied by carrots, truffles, and potatoes. De-lish. For dessert the three of us shared a warm brownie with ice cream, and white and dark chocolate "pearls" with a rasberry mouse. Needless to say, I never wanted this meal to end. However, all good things must come to an end, and by the end of the meal we experienced a beautiful sunset, the lighting of the Alhambra, and free mouth watering chupitos gratis.

Day two was spent sight seeing. I must precede the sights we visited with this fun fact: Michelle Obama followed us every where we went.

We had no idea Michelle and Sasha Obama were going to be in Granada when we booked our trip, but once we got there, it was impossible not to recognize their expected arrival. We heard people in every language having conversations on the street interspersed with "Obama" at every other word. It was amazing to me how excited these people were for the arrival of our First Lady - camera men were set up outside hours before her ETA and police men were patrolled on crowd-control on every corner.

Our first stop was La Catedral - unfortunately I think that the anticipation of Michelle's arrival somehow disillusioned our self guided walking tour through the giant church. Maybe I would have gotten more out of it if I wasn't constantly planning strategies to hide myself between pews to avoid the inevitable closing, and therefore retreat, of La Catedral for the Obamas....

When we were finally escorted out of La Catedral, we decided it would be a good idea to grab some Gelato (when isn't a good time for Gelato, right?) Wrong. Bad idea. We quickly were coerced outside of the gelateria by police officers - aparrently Michelle had the same craving for Gelato. After Michelle enjoyed her ice cream (a chocolate cup) we were allowed back in, along with cameramen and newscasters - we got our faces on TV eating at the same place the First Lady tasted her ice cream! The gelato was amazing ... good choice, Michelle.

Our final stop was La Alhambra. (Although we had to rearrange our entry time to earlier due to Michelle's arrival at the same time at which our ticket was reserved. At this point I was getting pretty tired of Mrs. Obama following us around.)

La Alhambra is HUGE! What's even more impressive is the history behind it; I found the Islamic influence amongst the stores throughout Granada captivating, but walking through the Old Islamic Palace left me awestruck.

It still feels surreal that I have the opportunity to see all these amazing sites - I always thought the closest I would get to seeing La Alhambra would be on post cards....

Monday, August 2, 2010

Es la leche.

While it literally translates to "It's the milk," "Es la Leche" is the Spanish slang equivalent to "It's the bomb" in English.

This phrase is one I learned tonight at dinner, amongst other things. I've only been in Alicante for two full days and already I feel more enlightened, enriched, and enthusiastic about Spanish culture, and to be quite honest, a way of living in general.

For our ten day stay, Lauren, her cousin Reghan, and I are being hosted by their Mothers' cousin Marie and her best friend Carmen. The piso we are sharing with them is fabulous; it's like nothing I imagined living in here in Spain (especially after nearly six weeks in Rafaela's lackluster apartment). Leading up to the doorway of the building sits a beautiful plaza complete with small cafe's accompanied by friendly locals, and a gorgeous fountain surrounded by even more gorgeous flowers and foliage. Carmen's place occupies the first floor of the apartment building dating back to 1905. The original tall hard wood doors meet breathtaking woodwork at the ceiling, and antique tiles at the floor. As soon as I stepped into the piso I thought of my Mom and how much she would admire the original architecture. What's even better is that Lauren's family renovated the apartment to add central air conditioning, wi-fi (pronounced wee-fee here in Espana), and a brand new kitchen/bathrooms. =]

Yesterday was our first full day here, and we had an extraordinary mid-day meal (traditionally the biggest meal of the day for Spaniards): a tomato and cucumber salad, penne pasta with sesame seeds, onion and rabbit, and finally a shepards pie type dish with bull's tail - the meat was from the actual bull slaughtered at the past weekend's local bull fight.

We spent the rest of the day at the beach - only a block away - and exploring "el barrio" where the majority of young night life takes place. Alicante is much smaller than Barcelona, but I like it this way. It is less expensive and everyone seems to know at least someone wherever they go.

Today, we went to a a farther, very relaxing beach called San Juan.
Later in the evening Marie and Carmen took us to the house of their dear friend, Laura, whom lives on the outskirts of the city in an incredible house / studio. The outside of the house is bright blue and the inside looks like it come straight out of a movie! Laura owns her own online Espadrille store ( - check it out!) and the warehouse sits beneath her living quarters. Obviously, we got our own personal shopping experience. ;)

After an hour or so of shopping in Laura's home, we went out for an amazing dinner. The food was savory, but the company was even better. Ranging from 77 to 19 years of age, eight of us shared wine, tapas, and a million stories that had us laughing to the point of tears. I can't find the words to explain the entertainment brought on by the comedy act that is the "Marie and Carmen show" nor can I illustrate the absolute zeal for life, intelligence and generosity radiated by M&C and their friends alike. However, I think I can vow for Reghan, Lauren and I when I say that tonight was definitely one of the best, if not the best, nights in Spain yet. Alicante is a wonderful city in itself, but being able to enjoy it with these people has transformed my vacation into a magnificently life-changing event. It's only been two days in Alicante and already I realize how blessed I am to be here with these people. Marie, Carmen, and Laura all have incredible stories about their lives, and once I learn more about them I'm sure I will be sharing them with anyone who wants to listen!

I can only hope that I have half as much intelligence, culture, and absolute passion for life as these women do in 40+ years.

Two days in, and I can honestly say, this trip es La Leche.

Saturday, July 31, 2010


I miss Rafaela already. I miss the corrections she made on my Spanish grammar, the animated noises she made in place of vocabulary, her dinners, her racist jokes, her lessons on slaughtering, and even the bedroom we slept in for 6 weeks (although not too much, for the next ten days I will be spoiled with air conditioning.)

At nearly 73 years old Rafaela is quick, motivated and feisty. And I love it.

It's only been ten hours since I left her humble abode and I miss her already. To quote Rafaela in a few words, "Que Pena."