I’m Back!!!

I am back in America! Yay!…?

What it’s Like to Be Back

It is so *insert emotion/adjective here* being back. I am overjoyed to be back with family and friends that I haven’t seen for a while. My favorite thing about being back is all the welcome-back-I-haven’t-seen-you-in-forever hugs. I love them so much. It’s worth being gone just to be able to say hello again!

At the same time, it is so weird. It seems like nothing has changed except me. Of course, some things are different but for the most part I don’t feel like I missed anything. In many ways, it feels like I haven’t even been gone. When I see someone for the first time, it feels like it hasn’t been that long since I’ve seen them but for them it feels like it has been a long time since they have seen me! I think it’s because I haven’t been around to notice my own absence. It’s all very surreal.

Lastly, I miss Spain already. I keep saying “at home” and I’m referring to Madrid. I miss the language and public transportation the most. If I could make America speak Spanish and put better public transportation in the suburbs, I would be a happy camper. I think what would be ideal is if I took my family, my friends, my church, and my university and put them in Madrid and then put Madrid on a beach. Yes.

That being said, God is moving in Southern California. Everyone I have talked to has told me that He is changing their lives and the lives of those around them in miraculous ways. I am so happy that I’ll get to be a part of it! In fact, I am positively elated that I am a part of it!

What I Learned

I learned “un montón” of things. Montón is my favorite word in Spanish, I think. I’ll name a few here.

Firstly, I learned to live with a lot less. I had two jackets to choose from every day in Madrid, but then I came home to probably twelve jackets and sweaters. I had four pairs of shoes to choose from every day in Madrid, but I have twenty or so pairs here in Cali. I brought three T-shirts with me, and I have about 50,000 here. I had a serious case of anomie (AKA the paradox of choice AKA being so overwhelmed that you refuse to participate in making a decision) so I got rid of half of my closet. A lot of the articles of clothing were old, but there was a lot that I simply did not need! As one of my friends said, I bet our eyes would be opened a lot more if we went to a third world country.

Secondly, I learned how to live a slower and less complicated life. On the same day that I was sitting by the fountain in the park being happy, I realized that you don’t have to be busy to live a full life. All I need to be happy is Jesus, other people, and telling other people about Jesus! That is what we were put here for, after all. Everything else – all the other business – is just…stuff! The key is using that stuff to tell people about Him. I was too busy before I left, so I am planning on simplifying life and taking up less things. Worth is not measured by business.

Lastly, I learned a lot about my purpose. I discovered the things that God put in me naturally that I can do better than many people, and this will affect which activities I choose to take part in. This includes a job, extracurriculars, volunteer opportunities, etc.

How was it after all?

Spain was…amazing. It was phenomenal. It was the best experience of my life. It was one of the happiest experiences of my life. (The happiest?) It was beautiful. It was an adventure. It was a challenge. It was a blessing. It was wonderful. I honestly can’t say enough good things about it. As a mentor of mine said, it kicked fear out of my life. I tackled the fear of the unknown and overcame it. This has made me a much more open person. I welcome change because I know that God is with me and that He has final say over my life. I did a lot of things I would not have done before (sleep in a hostel with four strangers, to name one), and even though they weren’t necessarily big things, I learned that I am capable of a lot more than I thought. I will be much less likely to turn down a (seemingly) crazy opportunity now.

To anyone who is reading this that is playing with the idea of going abroad: GO ABROAD. It will be one of the best decisions you ever make. If you have the opportunity, take it! I am so blessed to have a family that was so supportive (physically (money) and emotionally) of my going abroad.

I hope that my blog posts inspired you, my reader, in whatever way it might have been. Thank you for sticking with me on this journey. It seems like my journey just ended but really, the journey has just begun!

On Studies and Roommates

It was brought to my attention that I haven’t posted anything about the main point of studying abroad: studying. Whoops.

The three classes I am took were Professional Communication, Families in Modern and Contemporary Society, and Madrid a Cosmopolitan Society. Each class was worth four credits, so I was taking twelve. Yes, it is the minimum, but I deserved a relaxing semester after taking seventeen units while working fifteen to twenty hours a week plus church and sleeping and living.

The school I am at is an American school whose main campus is in Boston. This makes it a bit hard to draw conclusions about differences between studying in Madrid and studying in America, but I have noticed a few things just from being at a different university. First of all, the professors tend to give less guidelines. I am used to very specific instructions to every assignment, so the vagueness is foreign to me. For example, my sociology professor (my Families class) told us that we can choose any whichever topic we want to write about for our final paper. Everything is fair game; it just has to be somewhat related to sociology and families. What?

The second difference is the workload. It is less than what I am used to. This could be because the professors know that most of the students won’t do the work anyway since they are traveling and staying out night after night. It is nice for now, but I know it will be shocking to return to my university at home!

The final main difference is the students. I am a good student and try to stand out in class if I can. Therefore, it surprises me when some of my classmates turn in papers weeks late or don’t even do the work at all. I have also been struck by the amount of complaining that takes place if a professor assigns work. I believe there is a false notion that this isn’t real school, but last time I checked, it is – in fact – real. The people I live with are all responsible, however, and we are equally surprised with this lack of discipline.

I completed my sophomore year two mere days ago. I absolutely cannot believe that I am more than half way through my Bachelor’s Degree. I am hoping to graduate early, so if this is the case, I only have three semesters left. Honestly, where does the time go?

I am not scared for graduation, though. Even though “real life” may be just around the corner, I know that the Lord has exciting things in store for me. I will not be bored for a moment. I am sure I will be out in the world somewhere witnessing for Christ.

Another interesting thing that happened to me by being on this adventure is that I am now a much more open person. I am open to new adventures, new places, and new people. The girl who was once terrified to leave what was comfortable has been replaced by a woman who is willing to go anywhere, knowing that the Lord will never leave her nor forsake her.

Roomies

Now what about the living situation, you ask? First off, let me explain the options I had. We were asked to choose between a host family, an apartment, and a residence. The first option consisted of, as implied, staying with a Spanish family. I would have chosen this one for the fact that one’s Spanish improves the most in this situation, but I was wary about it due to the negative experiences I have heard. Plus, I didn’t want to be isolated from the rest of the students. With the second option, you receive an apartment with three other people but are responsible for your own food and laundry (I believe). Food and laundry are taken care of with the other two. I chose the last option, and it was, indeed, one of the best decisions I made.

Generally, each residence is like a big apartment. They are apartments, but are just a little bigger sized than normal. My residence on Avenida de la Reina Victoria had eight girls in it. Before you sit bug-eyed wondering how eight girls could possibly live together in one place, let me assure you that there were five bedrooms and three bathrooms. Reina is only eight minutes or so away from school, which came to be quite handy when it was 16:35 and you had class in ten minutes. Each residence comes with a housemother, of sorts, who cleans, cooks, and does laundry. Breakfast and lunch/dinner are included, meaning the last meal we were responsible for. Our housemother was Eva, who makes the most outstanding tarta de queso (cheesecake) and pollo al curri (chicken curry).

While living in Reina, we had many people ask us how it was going and if there was any drama (everyone loves to find out about drama, don’t they?) The answer every time was, “No!” We quite honestly had zero problems. All the girls I lived with were incredible. I would say that our favorite things to do were eating and laughing. Since each of us were already comfortable with who we are, we could be silly all we wanted and knew that we would not be judged.

It was lovely being able to live with your best friends. I tend to under-procrastinate (if that is a word), which means that I will start a paper a month before it is due. This can make me a little crazy, but living with these amazing girls forced me to not be too studious and to allow myself to put down the books and sit in the living room to chat. These girls consistently built me up, and I never felt lonely.

Upon leaving Madrid to go travel with my dad (what I am now doing), I realized that the reason Madrid will always have a special place in my heart is mostly because of the people I was with that made it come alive. When I return to Spain someday, I am sure that I will be reminded less of the places themselves but more of the people with whom I visited them.

One sunny day during Easter break, I went to the park that I frequent. I sat down on a bench next to the big fountain in the middle to just take the sun for a bit. I realized as I was sitting there that I was happy. I have learned that happiness comes and goes, but that joy remains. In this instance, I was both joyful and happy. A grand gesture was not necessary to give me this emotion. The simplicity of the laughter of children, the mist of the fountain, the warmth of the sun, the goodness of God, and the knowledge that I have been blessed with a good life was enough.

Barcelona

I went to Barcelona and it was extraordinarily wonderful. The end!

No really. That’s all I am going to say about it.

I have been thinking a lot lately (when do I not?) and I have discovered that because people post pictures/post about what they are doing, it eliminates the need to reach out and ask others what they have been up to.

I have an old soul. I love physical photo albums, handwritten letters, phone calls, and good old fashioned getting together with people. If you want to hear about Barcelona, Skype me! Email me! I would be happy to tell you all about it. And when I am home, I will show you pictures from a real photo album that I am currently creating on iPhoto.

I am in the process of deciding whether or not to participate in the social media world. I am leaning towards no, but I am not going to make any rash decisions yet.

 

Two weeks until home. Let me just say that you had better think twice before you ask me, “How was Spain?” because you will get a twenty minute answer. “It was good” should not suffice as an acceptable response!

100 Thoughts of a Runner

Join me in my mind while running 12 miles!

 

1. 12 miles…starting…now! *starts Garmin running watch*

2. Okay, it’s not too cold outside right now. After running in 25, I think I got this 50 degree thing.

3. Yeah, Person In Front Of Me, it’s really fun to walk at a snail’s pace.

4. You better watch it, dude. I am not moving out of the way for you. YOU move out of MY way.

5. I hate this stop light. It’s red EVERY time.

6. GARMIN WHY HAVE YOU NOT LOCATED SATELLITES YET??? I have gone WAY more than 0.0 miles. Definitely at least 0.1.

7. Still red.

8. Thanks lady for blowing your cigarette smoke in my face.

9. Green finally, thank you Jesus. No more stopping until 12 miles!

10. Or should I say 11.90

11. GARMIN

12. Hi people, have you heard of walking on the right?

13. Garmin’s working now. Okay, I’ll just add a quarter mile to my final distance.

14. So that would mean I need to stop at 11.75

15. …but it doesn’t seem like I really ran 12 if it doesn’t say that I did…meh

16. Alriiiiiight, turnin onto the track! I am so hardcore.

17. That’s right, I’m just going to pass you, Mister Walker Not Runner

18. And you too, Mrs. Slow Runner

19. Jogger? Slow Runner?

20. Man, I am a machine! I got this no problem.

21. 12 is so long though…seriously 2 hours.

22. I won’t be bored running the half, though, because I won’t just be running in circles.

23. Woo guy doing push ups! That looks awful.

24. Oh look, it’s Red-Sweater-White-Scarf-Gray-Pants-Glove-Wearing-Fast-Walker Lady! Does her apparel ever change? She’s wearing the same thing now that she wore in the dead of winter.

25. Whatever. You do you.

26. Why can’t people just all go counterclockwise? You would make all of our lives easier.

27. One mile! Only…11 left.

28. Hmm ,should I keep running in silence, listen to music, or listen to a sermon?

29. Silence is okay for now.

30. Ooo yeah that guy is NOT a runner.

31. You have to use your arms, ya know.

32. And get better shoes so your feet don’t pronate.

33. And not hunch.

34. Dog poop successfully avoided.

35. Why can’t Spanish people just pick up their dogs’ poop? Seriously.

36. One of these days, I really want to walk a cat.

37. Why do so many people hate cats?

38. I love cats. I think dogs are gross.

39. And dumb.

40. EXCEPT THAT LITTLE PUPPY!! How cute are you!?!?

41. Two miles down. Only 10 left. No wait, 9.75!

42. Because you couldn’t locate satellites, could you?

43. You had one job.

44. Haha! *Laughs out loud thinking of the “You had one job” memes*

45. Good, now that guy thinks I’m a lunatic for laughing out loud while running.

46. Music time!

47. Why do I have NO good songs on this iPhone?

48. Oh here’s one! TobyMac “Eye On It”.

49. Aw yeah, I dig it.

50. Three miles down!

51. Four?

52. I don’t want to look because it will probably say -3 miles.

53. Alright this lap will be dedicated to prayer.

54. Hey, how about another prayer lap?

55. Oh my gosh, it’s THAT guy

56. He’s such a punk, always going clockwise

57. And glaring at me when I run.

58. I’m sorry you’re jealous of my Jessica Alba bod.

59. Ooo I really want a KitKat bar.

60. But then I would have just ran twelve miles for nothing.

61. I guess tomorrow I’ll have a KitKat.

62. But wait, tomorrow we’re getting ice cream! Maybe the day after…

63. Hollaahhh 6 miles! Now I just have to do that again…

64. Maybe if I pretend like I’m just starting now, it will be easier.

65. I still feel pretty good, though. Machine!!

66. Musckles all up in herrr

67. Fine! Pass me! But let me ask you something: are YOU running TWELVE MILES???

68. I think not!!

69. Glaring-Punk Man again

70. 7?? Only 7?? It’s only been a mile!?!

71. It’s fine, only 5 left now.

72. 50 minutes.

73. Oh wait, 4.75 left

74. Stupid Garmin

75. Sermon time! It’s 49 minutes long so that will be perf

76. Smurf.

77. Blue.

78. Okay, concentrate on the sermon.

79. 8 miles…okay that means I’ll go around once more and end there which will be 9, then one more until that point will be 10, then to there 11, then if I start going back at 11.50 that will be good because a quarter mile home gets me to 11.75, really 12. So 4 more laps.

80. Okay concentrate.

81. Mmmm, amen! Preach it!

82. HAHA! *Laughs out loud again*

83. Same guy just passed me…still thinks I’m crazy.

84. 10! Okay, final stretch!

85. My back hurts now…meh

86. Where are all these people coming from?? Where were you when it was 20 degrees out, huh? HUH?

87. Not here, that’s where! But guess who was?

88. Me. Yup. I’m legit.

89. 11!

90. 11.25…

91. 11.50! Time to head home!

92. Ow stairs.

93. .75!!…ugh so unsatisfying.

94. I’ll go to the end of the block then stop.

95. Oh great, dog peeing on a tree. Lovely.

96. I am so thirsty.

97. I could so use a Jamba Juice right now.

98. Jambs.

99. .85! Technically 12 point something so good enough. I did it!!! I’m a-comin for you, half marathon!!!

100. Owww, knees!! I forgot what it’s like to walk…

N. Spain, S. France, and One Month Left

Last weekend was quite an eventful one! Where was I? Where was I not!

The trip was organized by the school, which was very nice let me tell you! Planning trips is a lot of work! We stayed two nights in Pamplona, but were quite busy during the day.

We arrived in Pamplona on Friday, where we had a lovely afternoon walk through the casco antiguo – the old city. We walked a bit of the Camino de Santiago, saw where the Running of the Bulls takes places, and visited Cafe Iruña – the place where Ernest Hemingway spent a lot of his time writing. We also saw this little shop called The Cookie Shop (in English just like that), so obviously I broke my gluten free-ness to have a hazelnut and chocolate cookie (so worth it). The night ended with chicken cordon bleu.

Saturday was a full day. First, we went to a town called Zugarramurdi, an old Spanish town right on the border of France. It was such a lovely day and there was so much greenery that we started singing Sound of Music! We saw huge caves, which were the places where witches supposedly performed rituals. The lunch we ate at the restaurant there was the biggest meal I have ever had in my life. For appetizers, we had jamón iberico, pâté, calamari, croquetas, and salad. (I was full after the appetizers.) Then for my main meal, I had steak and french fries. THEN for dessert, I had arroz con leche. THEN FINALLY I had coffee to wash it all down. Can you say food baby?

We then hopped the border and ventured to Sare, a cute town in France. It was absolutely adorable. Upon arrival, a little boy walked by. The curious thing was that he was wearing – get this – a beret, a scarf, a white shirt, and rolled pants, which is pretty much the French stereotype. I thought it was a costume at first. I had a delicious lemon tart and spoke some French. I actually got stopped by someone asking me for directions – in French! Apparently, I looked like a native!

We hopped back into Spain and had our final stop in San Sebastián, where I was able to see the beach for the first time in months! It was not really beach towny-y. Rather, it was like someone took Madrid and put it on the water. If this trip has taught me anything, it is that I need to live near a beach for the rest of my life.

Sunday began with an optional walk along the river back in Pamplona. Even though only a few people came with us (most people slept in), I enjoyed it very much. I had an iced coffee for the first time in Spain! They make it differently than Americans do. Instead of chilling the coffee, they just pour hot coffee over ice. I actually prefer it the American way (probably the first American thing I prefer), but it was good nevertheless. On our way back to Madrid, we stopped in a little town called Olite. The main thing – in fact, probably the only thing – to do there is to see the royal palace. My personal favorite part was being able to take pictures of the town. I really felt like I was in Spain at that moment. The buildings, the colors, and the atmosphere all felt so Spanish.

 

I can’t believe I only have one month left! It’s so weird to think that I will soon be saying that I studiED abroad. I think that when the time comes, I will be ready to come home. Right now, I feel ready to leave but at the same time I am glad I still have a month. In the mean time, I will be writing papers, going to Barcelona, running a half marathon, and enjoying Madrid!

ImagePamplona

ImageZugarramurdi

ImageSare

ImageSan Sebastián

ImageOlite

Regulars at Pan de Oli

Today, I had an experience that I had been awaiting for years.

My good friend (the same friend who took me on a tour of the Prado) and I found a cafetería right around the corner from our apartment called Pan de Oli. Not only do they sell café con leche for €1.40, but they also have free Wifi!

We have gone only three times before today, but on today’s visit, we walked in and the lady said, “¿Dos con leche?” We didn’t even have to order!!!

All my life I have wanted to be a regular, and now I am. Thanks, Madrid!

She Who is Faithful in Little

Let me start of by saying that God never ceases to amaze me.

What I Learned from My Visit to the Prado

Here in Madrid, there are three museums that are extremely famous and house many masterpieces of famous artists: The Prado, The Thyssen, and Reina Sofia. These three museums are also referred to as the Golden Triangle of Art.

I went to Prado once during orientation week and was not particularly impressed (no offense to all you art lovers). I did already say in a previous blog post that the kinds of art I really like include paintings of landscapes, sketches, photography, and realistic pieces like that. The Prado has mostly paintings of famous people, religious events, and other historical events. I have a friend that happens to be obsessed with art who also loves the Prado, so I decided to give the museum a second chance and go with someone who really knows what they are talking about.

It was definitely a much better experience! I enjoyed myself much more. I still can’t say that I would take time out of my life to go to more museums per se, but I left enlightened and felt that I had actually “done” the Prado. Check! I learned about many artists including Caravaggio, Roger van der Weyden, Goya, Titian, Velazquez, and Rubens.

I thought it was interesting how artists would paint the same scene someone else did but would do it in their own style and would do it “better.” I also thought it was funny that artists would intentionally paint bad portraits of people they did not like. Lastly, I noticed a reoccurring theme both in many of the paintings as well as in the actual lives of the artists: human love. Falling in love/being cheated on/having a broken heart because someone doesn’t love you back was as real eight centuries ago as it is today. Places and cultures change, but the underlying desire to be loved remains the same. It seems that God planted in us the insatiable desire for love, a love that can only be fulfilled by Him. No human can ever fill the void in our hearts. People are necessary for happiness of course, but God is the only one who will love us perfectly.

It is amazing to me how God can speak through so many different outlets. I was looking at “The Annunciation” by Fra Angelico (an Italian painter) and all of a sudden, I was so awestruck by God’s power depicted in the painting. I don’t know why that painting struck me the most – since I had just seen another Annunciation as well as many other religious paintings – but it did. I suddenly became aware that the annunciation actually happened. An angel – a real angel – actually appeared to a real girl. Holy Spirit actually conceived an actual child in her actual womb. For that matter, all the amazing stories in the Bible actually happened. I was filled with a healthy fear of how big and how powerful God is.

Seeking God

After this feeling went away, I thought about how much I want to see God work like that. I do believe that Holy Spirit is very ignored in this day and age. Christians in general seem to be so content with “normal” signs of God’s work: financial miracles, miraculous job opportunities, overcoming a difficult situation, etc. Of course these things are amazing, and many of them have happened to me, however I want to see the lame walk. I want to call fire down from heaven to show God’s power. I want my shadow to heal the sick. The Bible says that as He is, so are we in this world (1 John 4:17). The Bible also says that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). I want that. I desire to see God work through me in this way.

I told this to God in my spirit, and I felt Him respond to me with the question, “Are you seeking Me, or seeking an experience?” “Both,” I thought sarcastically, knowing of course that seeking an experience is never good. Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” Am I seeking Him enough, I thought? What else can I do, I wondered? What will get me to seeking angels and casting out demons soonest, I questioned?

Proverbs 19:2 hit me like a ton of bricks: Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way. I may be desiring to experience these things, but what if I am not ready for them? If I try to get there quickly, I’ll miss the journey and I might just get off the path. If you are driving toward a destination you have never been to before, it is better to drive slowly so you don’t miss the turns along the way.

Faithful in Little

A few days ago, Holy Spirit encouraged me to start praying ten minutes every day. I try to be in communication with Him all throughout the day as it is, but these ten minutes are supposed to be legit ten minutes. In fact, I have been setting a stop watch. I experimented by seeing if I could get ready for the day (take a shower, brush my teeth, do my makeup) and pray at the same time, but it is amazing how quickly the mind gets distracted. These ten minutes are just me in my room praying and doing nothing else. I have a feeling ten minutes will increase eventually, but for now I can commit to ten minutes without cheating.

Ten minutes is nothing really when I think about it. It’s half of a television episode; it’s the length of three songs; it’s a little over a mile running. I have listened to many sermons by Pastor Steven Furtick, and one thing he always talks about is how we tend to ask God for something else to do when we haven’t even done what He has already told us to do. We want some grand assignment, but if we haven’t even done the little assignments, why should we expect Him to trust us in something bigger?

David – that is King David – was a shepherd. He was teased by his brothers quite a bit for this since they were all soldiers. Next, David played the harp for King Saul. Again, not necessarily a “manly” job. The important thing is that David proved himself worthy of kingship by being faithful in these small tasks and doing them to the best of his ability. When he was in the field with the sheep, he had ample time to be with the Lord. This time of preparation was extremely necessary for him.

I believe that I am in a time of preparation. Even though I am chomping at the bit, I trust my Father and know that He will allow me to see Him work mightily. After all, that is His will! As for now, I am excited to see Him work mightily in the little things He has given me to do: 10 minutes of prayer, this blog, my guitar, my relationships with my family and friends.

“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” – Luke 16:10

The Annunciation - much better in person

The Annunciation – much better in person

Quote

Food For Thought

There is a reason why the pilgrim’s journey involves going somewhere else. In order to experience transformation, the pilgrim must become vulnerable – he must expand his edges, crossing borders into new and unfamiliar territory. When the pilgrim journeys to a place beyond what he calls “home,” his senses are heightened, his vulnerabilities are brought to the surface and his perceptions are tested. In allowing these different parts of himself to come to the surface, he is able to be fully present in his journey amidst the discomfort and uncertainty, the mystery and the beauty. – Lacy Clark Ellman

What Have I Been Doing Lately?

What have I been doing lately? Gosh, what haven’t I been doing lately! Let me fill you in (in no particular order).

Segovia

My day trip to Segovia was definitely one of the top five things I have done in Spain. Segovia is a little Spanish town that is very similar to Toledo – or any small Spanish town, for that matter. It is so small that in the six hours we were there, we did everything there was to be done! You can walk from one side of town to the other in a little under an hour. Fourty-five minutes, maybe. While it was an adorable town, we wondered what on earth we would do if we lived there! We thought it would be rather boring to actually live there, but then again that would be normal for someone born there.

There are many things that make Segovia special. First of all, like all Spanish towns, there is the local cathedral. Now I feel like once you have seen the inside of one cathedral, you have seen them all, but the outsides are always unique. So far, I liked this cathedral’s architecture the most. Segovia also has the Alcázar, which is their royal palace. The landmark that is most specific to Segovia, however, is the Roman Aqueduct.

The aqueduct is impossible to miss. It is huge! I think we spent a good half hour taking pictures of it. I was in awe. The feeling one gets from touching something that is twenty centuries old is quite an indescribable one. It blows my mind to think that people from the days of Jesus probably touched it, too!

The food. The. Food. While the typical food of Segovia is a piglet, we did not feel up to that. Therefore, we ate the closest alternative: Italian food! (Please note the sarcasm.) I must say it was the best decision we made. I had the best pizza of my life. When I say that, I am not joking in the slightest. It was called Pizza Verdi, which had pesto sauce instead of marinara, mozzarella cheese, pine nuts, and chicken, drizzled with creamy balsamic vinegar. If you are ever in Segovia, please go to Il Tempietto Ristorante.

For dessert, we had a pastry called ponche. It is marzipan with egg custard and some sort of cake in the middle. This was absolutely amazing as well.

Good friends, good food, and a good city make an amazing day trip.

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Roman Aqueduct

IMG_3670

Cathedral

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My Delicious Pizza! (I had already eaten most of it by the time I thought to take a picture.)

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Ponche

Cuatro Torres

The four tallest buildings in Madrid are right next to each other on the top of a hill. When I flew in from California, I remember seeing them and thinking how they stuck out like a sore thumb. I walked to go see them the other day, and – like I expected – they were tall, indeed.

Museums

I am in a Spanish class that is all about Madrid. We meet once a week for three hours and visit a different area of the city. Two of my favorite classes consisted of us visiting the Sorolla Museum the Reina Sophia Museum.

Sorolla was a 20th century painter from Valencia. His passions were his wife, his family, the beach, and the light. All these are of course featured in his paintings. Thanks to my study abroad adventure, I have finally learned which type of art I like. I have found that I can only appreciate portraits and paintings that depict events if I know who the person it/what the event the painting was based on. Sometimes it does not help even if I do know. The type of art I do like, though, is landscape. Sorolla captured the beauty of Spain, and thus captured my heart!

As for my Reina Sophia trip, I enjoyed it mostly because I was able to see the Guernica. Guernica is one of Pablo Picasso’s most famous works due to its size, its style, and, of course, its meaning. It depicts the bombing of the citizens in Guernica, Spain during the 1930s. It was the first massacre where an innocent town was mercilessly destroyed for no reason other than to display power. I could have looked at the painting for hours! Picasso masterfully crafted various symbols into the background, and it is fun to try to figure out why he put them there.

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Guernica

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Hike in Cercedilla

My school organized a hike in Cercedilla, a little town in the mountains. It was a hike, alright! Nonstop, it would have taken us about two and a half hours to get to the top. My calculations might be slightly wrong since I was not keeping track of the time, but the point is that it was no measly hike. While the length was a contributing factor, what made it extreme was the fact that we were walking in snow the entire time and that fierce winds started blowing when we were about an hour away from the top. I have never been so cold in my life. With wind-chill, I would say it was probably ten degrees. We did it though! Everyone had a pretty good attitude about the cold thing. We ate chocolate con churros afterwards, and chocolate con churros makes everything better.

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Gardens

Two of my favorite places in Madrid are Los Jardines de Sabatini and El Campo del Moro. These are both large gardens that surround the royal palace. Since Madrid is a landlocked city, parks and gardens are very important. While it isn’t exactly stepping out into the wild, it is nice to get in touch with greenery. Both these places are extremely relaxing, and on a nice day I enjoy going with a good book.

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Campo Del Moro

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Jardines de Sabatini

Food – it’s okay to be jealous

As far as real food goes, my favorite things in Spain are las croquetas, los albóndegas, and huevos rotos. Croquetas are basically fluffy cheese sticks with ham, but they are absolutely amazing. Albóndegas are meatballs, but the sauce they are coated with makes them incredible! Huevos rotos is a dish with three layers, each layer featuring one of the tree main parts of the Spaniard diet: eggs, potatoes, and ham (jamón ibérico, to be specific). I found a tapas place called La Llama that has all three dishes!

While curry chicken is not really a Spanish dish, Eva – the lady who cooks and cleans for us girls in the Reina Victoria residence – makes the best curry chicken ever. We love it so much that she makes it every Monday now! The rice is possibly just as amazing as the curry chicken. I have never watched her make it, but I’m sure she must put mostly butter in it.

Now for the desserts. First and foremost, one cannot come to Madrid without going to La Chocolatería de San Ginés. It was first opened in 1894 and specializes in chocolate con churros. The churros here are different in that they are not coated in cinnamon sugar. I would imagine that it is because you dip it them melted chocolate instead. My favorite part of this dessert is drinking the chocolate after. It’s literally like drinking chocolate soup.

My favorite dessert of all time is mazapán (marzipan), which is basically sugar and almond paste (gluten free!) Some people think it is too sweet, but to that I say, “How can something be ‘too’ sweet?” It is offered mostly at Christmastime, but thanks to help from my Spanish church friends, I have found places that serve it all year round!  One place is Casa Mira that opened in 1842. Another is Mercado San Miguel, which is an (overpriced) adorable market in old Madrid. While the prices are slightly high, San Miguel has the best mazapán. It melts in your mouth! The last one is Madrid’s own department store El Corte Ingles, which sells mazapán by the brick. My friends from church bought me one of these bricks and I ate it in four days. Am I shamed? Don’t be silly!

I am a frequent customer at Madrid’s own gluten free bakery, Celicioso! Gluten free pastries have the potential to be dry, but these pastries are so moist. Having been gluten expensive (opposite of gluten free?) for sixteen years, I don’t taste a big difference between these and normal pastries. My favorite thing that they serve is the banana bread. I get one every time I go, even if I am already buying something else! Again, unashamed.

A favorite hobby of mine is going throughout the city and finding different cafes. My favorites thus far are Miga, Mistura, and Ostería Gata. Miga is a little bakery by our school that I go to quite frequently, and it is where I am right now! Unfortunately, it does not have wifi but maybe that is a good thing. Mistura is a little hipster café that serves gelato, juices, and crepes in addition to the normal café con leche. Ostería Gata is another one-of-a-kind café that serves some food as well as coffee beverages. They have the best arroz con leche in the world. Seriously.

I suppose those are all my updates so far! Only a few weeks left!

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Miga

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Brick of Mazapán!

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Celicioso – my gluten free bakery!