miércoles, 13 de febrero de 2013

Can't Believe It's Over but This Experience Has Changed Me Forever

 I've been putting of this blog entry for a while now, and the reason is I never wanted this day to come and I never thought it would come so soon. I've now been abroad for 4 months and in Madrid for 3 and half of those months, and if it's not apparent already I absolutely love it here and have been having the time of my life. At this point I've adjusted so much, and gotten so used to life here that to me it is home and so when I get on that plane tomorrow and fly back to the States it will feel like I'm leaving home and leaving behind a big part of me. I'd love to say how excited I am to come home but I'm honestly not, I'm excited to see my family and share this experience with all of them but a part of me wil always be yearning to come back.
 Over the time I've been here I have grown so much intellectually, socially, and mentally; I have met tons of new friends both American and Spanish; and I have had the great opportunity to reconnect with old Spanish friends again. I also have had the great privilege of living in a home with the nicest, sweetest, most hospitable host mom who has truly made me feel at home here. As I look back on it all there is so much I have gotten to do while I've been abroad that so many other people never get the opportunity to do in their entire life times and that makes me truly thankful for my experience and for my parents for being so supportive because they are the reason this is all possible. I really have been able to see the world, the final tally is I've been to 10 countries over here Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Portugal, Ireland, England, Italy, the Vatican (it really is its own country, I asked just to make sure), and of course Spain; and within those countries I've been to over 20 cities. Before coming abroad I'd left the country twice, once to the Dominican Republic on a service trip and Canada a few times, but lets be serious that really doesn't count. I was a lot like the Europeans before they discovered America, the US was all I really knew except for pictures and stories of my parents many travels all of the globe.
 I decided to put the second half of this blog off until I was back in the states to document being back and what that initial feeling was touching down back in the US after 4 months of being immersed in a different culture. Well I succeeded in doing that much but I put it of way longer than I had meant to. It's now been 2 months and 2 days to the day since I got back to the United States and at this point I have pretty much fully adjusted back to my normal life, with a few exceptions. When we first got back it was such a surreal feeling, there was so much excitement flying over MA and looking down and recognizing all this local landmarks such as downtown, my high school, the pond by my house, the country club I work at and have grown up walking and the towns of the south shore where I spent all of high school days. I literally felt like a little kid on Christmas eve, I couldn't sit still in my seat and I just wanted to jump out of the plane and parachute down to my city, I mean thats so much more logical that staying on the plane and flying all the way to JFK first just to hop on another plane 3 hours later and fly back right? When we were in the airport I found myself feeling like a foreigner in my own country and ordering coffee and food was a little difficult at first because I still ordered in Spanish and got weird looks from the cashiers. And then there was American money... what was this rectangular stuff that actually fits in my wallet? Where's my monopoly money? When I finally made it to Logan that night I was so giddy to get picked up and drive through the city and just look at, I literally had to pinch myself to make sure it was real and wasn't a dream. When my parents picked me up they were obviously way happier to see me than I was to see then, but then again what would you expect I'm a grown kid I can't be bothered with sappy hellos and hugs. Nonetheless it was great seeing them even though I had seem them 3 weeks earlier when they came to visit me. The first few days of being home were pretty surreal and it was a lot of walking around town and driving all over the place to just because I wanted to drive through all these familiar places I'd been away from for so long.
 Now back to the present, it is currently 1:41 AM and I'm finishing this blog as a means of procrastinating from writing this paper on WB Yeats' for my 100 level English class... yes I am a junior taking a 100 level English class... and yes its as brutal as it sounds, I really should of just saved myself the pain and taken it as a freshman so I wouldn't have to be the only upperclassman in a class of 17 freshman. But anyways at this point I've been at school for exactly a month and I feel like I've pretty much re-acclimated but there are some things that have changed permanently. One that isn't permanent is realizing that I have to actually do work again and its not all fun and games and that there are grades to maintain, might be another month before that fully sinks in though. The permanent changes: a college party will be never be nearly as fun as they were ever again for as long as I live,  I find myself constantly yearning for something different, something greater and something new that I think will only be satiated by continuing to travel to new corners of the world and pushing myself outside of my comfort zone and daily routines. Another permanent change is that Burlington doesn't feel the same to me anymore after spending a semester in a huge and lively city like Madrid. I guess not event the US feels the same, in the back of my head I constantly think about Europe and the places that I saw and got to spend a weekend exploring and how much I missed exploring there, let alone all the other countries and continents I didn't get a chance to visit.
 I am a new person now, my horizons have been broadened and I have a thirst that cannot be quenched for new things and new experiences and constantly pushing all of my limits. After a semester in Spain it feels like home to me that same way Boston does and at the same time after travelling and being exposed to Europe and the many different countries and cultures that it is comprised of I feel like the world is my home and I don't have any specific place to identify as home. My love for Boston has not been diminished rather my eyes have been opened and the world has shrunk to me, I can now relate to so much more and have had so many stereotypes proved wrong that the world literally feels smaller. It's an amazing feeling and I can't say enough just how happy I am that I took advantage of this experience and how blessed I feel for my parents allowing me to make this experience a reality, it was a truly amazing experience that has changed me forever and that I will never forget; it really wouldn't have been the same without the wonderful people and friendships I made along the way either. Well thats the  end of it, time to hang up the cleats and quit my career as a blogger and actually go finish this paper that I have to wake up and turn in in a short 6 hours, its been a pleasure and thanks for reading.

lunes, 3 de diciembre de 2012

The Gangs All Here

 Just last weekend (week of Thanksgiving) my family was in town visting for the week, it was really great to see them and awesome to spend time with them especially for the holiday. Since we all had gotten in on Sunday (I was coming back from Rome) we were all beat so we just chilled for the day and got "dinner" at Mercado de San Miguel, this big market in Madrid that sells all kinds of tapas, food, drink, and pastries. Over the course of the week we went around Madrid and I showed them all the must see sights and then some of the places I frequent. We took a bus tour of Madrid which was actually pretty cool because it took us to the southern part of the city which I don't know very well. Gotta say though sitting on the top of a double decker bus with an open roof in the end of november with only a sweatshirt on while Clare kept the window open to be able take a picture of literally everything that we passed was not my best idea.
Xmas picture in Toledo
 My Dad and I went on a tour of the palace together, it was my first time going inside and the place blew me away, its got to be hands down the nicest most lavish palace/castle I've ever seen. Theres a whole room made out of porcelain and the chapel is literally covered in gold and black marble.

Paloma (host mom), Dad, and Mum
 While they were here we took two day trips, one to Segovia and one to Toldeo. Since I'd already been to Segovia I was able to show them around there too which was fun and also being with them we had time to see more stuff that I didn't get to see when I was there the first time, like going inside the Cathedral for example. Toledo was my favorite of the two though, its another old town thats set up on a hill just south of Madrid. We took the high speed train there which was really comfortable and got us there in only 35 minutes. It was really fun taking a trip with them since our family trips together always get really goofy and end up being us dying laughing for the majority of the time usually because Joe and Kitty are trying to act our age. In Toledo we saw the Greco house and museum, the Jewish museum, Victorio Macho Museum, the Cathedral, and the famous Burial of Count Orgaz by Greco. The Greco painting were really cool, he has the great impressionist/distorted/dark colors thing he goes with which is really cool. So when we got back on our last night my mom and I went to the Prado, it was again my first time and we were there for an hour and a half and had to rush to even make a dent in seeing everything. But we saw the Greco's, Velazquez's, Goya's, and a bunch of other famous painters thanks to Rick Steves and it was a blast hanging out with my mahjah. It was a bummer to have them go at then end but it also meant my time in Madrid was coming to a close (a subject that has been made off limits). It was great to see them and I'll see them again soon enough.

Quick trip to Rome

 I have completely neglected my blog yet again and I have no excuse for it so let me attempt to recap my trip to Rome.
 Three weekends ago I flew out to Rome for a short trip to visit a couple of my good friends from my old school Loyola University Chicago. I was only there from Friday morning until early Sunday morning but I managed to do and see everything you can think of in that the short time I had.
 It was great to see Addy and Sam since I haven't seen them since I left Loyola, and also because they know the city so well and were great tour guides while I was there.
 First thing I did off of the plane was go see the Colosseum with John (buddy from here in Madrid) before he headed off to Florence and I met up with my friends. It was amazing to think that I was able to walk around and stand in a place where ancient Roman gladiators fought and royal senators and emperors would sit and watch. To me thats what one of the coolest things about Europe, is just how old it is and how much history it has compared to our "young" country. From the Colosseum we walked across the street to see the Temple of Athena and one of the big, old city gates (I can't remember the name). Although there is nothing really left of the Temple it was cool to see the remains of where one of Rome's most popular and special goddesses was worshipped.

Trevi Fountain
 The rest of the day we walked around and saw the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Pantheon, Wedding Cake building, went up to this hill and looked out over the entire city from a place called the Zodiac, and saw some of the famous government buildings around that area.

View From the Zodiac

Sistine Chapel

St. Pete's
The next day we spent most of the day at Vatican City where we walked through the Vatican Museum (place is hugeee), St. Peter's Square, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica. Seeing the Vatican was one of the coolest and most memorable things I've done since I've been abroad, there was so much cool stuff and so much history, and its just a really special and famous place to see and now I get to say I've been there and done that. After I had the best panini I've ever had at a restaurant across the street from the Vatican and then got gelato from Old Bridge gelateria which was 3 huge scoops for only 2 euro... it was too good  to be true, but the best part is it was true. That night for dinner I had the best meal I have had ever thanks to Akon, ok maybe not ever but top 5 for sure. We went to Jamm Ja', a nice Neapolitan  place in the Campo di Fiori, Alex gave us specific instructions on what to get since she had spent her entire semester abroad hanging out there; so for dinner we had margarita pizza, bruschetta, pasta bolognese, wine, tiramisu, and homemade lemon sorbet... meal blew my mind in terms of what thought was possible for food to taste as good as.
Sam, Addy, and me in St. Peter's Square

After Italy it was back on home to Madrid to see my parents who were flying in earlier that morning! 

miércoles, 14 de noviembre de 2012

You Sound Like You're From London

 This past weekend it was off to see the Queen in London. The theme of the weekend was no sleep, let me give you the rundown:

-woke up at 3:00am for a 6:30 flight (2 hours of sleep that night)
-land around 9 (1 hour of sleep on the bus to London)
-4 or 5 hours of sleep due to creepy dude snoring in our hostel

-walked around all day
-(most sleep all weekend) 8 hours of sleep on my friends floor

-0 hours of sleep 8:00am flight on Sunday
-Stayed out all night at the casino

-at 5:00 am 45 mins of sleep on the bus to the airport
-"2 hours" of attempted sleep on the plane home
-Got home around 2
-Nap? absolutely not I had my soccer game at 3:30

Sunday night got a record 14 hours of sleep to make up for it all

 Anyways we did so much in London its literally impossible for me to write it all without publishing a book and I'm too lazy to I'll bullet the highlights
Buckingham Palace

-Buckingham Palace
-Kensington Garden
-Green Park
-Trafalgar Square
-Royal Guard house
-Westminster Abby
-Fish and Chips for dinner
-Big Ben
-The Eye of London (the big ferris wheel)

Wes and I in Trafalgar Square
-Change of the guard at Buckingham Palace
-Portobello Market
-Tower of London (place was wickedd cool)
-Big Ben
-Monument to the Great Fire of London
-Whole Foods for Dinner
-Went over to visit my friend at LSE (London School of Economics)
-Went out with him and his friends
Big Ben 

-British Museum (huge museum that displays all the stuff the British have stolen from every continent over time)
Tower of London
-Went to a pub to watch the Aston Villa v. Man U game
-Dinner with one of my friends London friends
-Went out for the night
-Casino at 2:00am
-Lost 50 pounds at Hold'em
-Won 210 pounds at Blackjack
-Bought Pizza Hut
-Checked out of hostel where we had a 45 year old creepy pedophile guy who moaned in his sleep and stared at us from the shadow of his bunk when we were sleeping

-Flight home
-Soccer game (we won 4-3 so we are now 3-1... no big deal)
-Slept for dayss

 Looking back on it we had wayyy to much time in London and it wasn't as fun/interesting as I would of thought it was a really cool city and awesome to see the all the old historical sights. Plus winning the 210 pounds wasn't to shabby either.
London Bridge...and it wasn't falling down
Fish and Chips Dinner

 So I'm off on my last trip of the semester to Rome, and then my family is coming to visit me on Sunday so theres a lot going on in the next week and I'm pumped to see my family finally. Can't believe theres only 3 weeks left, definitely going to make the most of them! Anyways hasta la proxima vez, nos vemos amigos!

miércoles, 7 de noviembre de 2012

Should of known I'd get screwed by a cheap european airline

 Last weekend me and a couple friends were supposed to go up to Bilbao in the north of Spain for our long weekend. Why Bilbao?? It was stupidly cheap and we needed something to do since it was a long weekend. Anyways the day of our flight we go to check in and turns out they messed everything up. I never got a confirmation email and one of my friends somehow had my name on his ticket... oh and we had already booked a hostel for the weekend. So like normal people we both call Ryanair to complain about the issue and see how they are going to fix it so that we can get this resolved before we get to the airport. Yeah that didn't happen instead they told us that they have no ticket on file for me, even after I got the confirmation page after buying my ticket, and told my buddy he can pay 110 euro to change the name on the ticket. So since we paid 35 euro for the flight and paying 110 was not worth it at all we had to scrap the trip.
 Turned out to not be such a bad weekend in Madrid anyways. Our friend Josh's parents were in town for the weekend so Wednesday night they took Joe and me out to dinner with them and then for drinks after. His parents are hilarious, we were supposed to meet people at 11:30 but didn't end up saying good night to his parents until right before 1... and dinner was at 9. Wednesday was of course halloween too, it was interesting to see how different it is from back home in the states. Here it is not nearly as big a deal and the real holiday the celebrate is All Saints Day, but the celebrate halloween to and some people dress up but everyone tries to dress as something either really creepy or really scary.  For the most part the rest of the weekend was pretty chill, everyone else was away so we just hung out and hit up a lot of the local bars. Found this one great Irish bar near Banco de Espana called James Joyce that has live music which was pretty sick and cheap drinks so it was solid.
 Sunday was study day because this week was our last round of midterms. Brutal week I had 3 exams and 2 presentations (in Spanish) all packed together Mon-Wed. And so now that its over I'm off to London in 7 hours, and since I have to get up to go to the airport in 4 hours I'm going to leave it at that but I'll bring back stories and pictures from London at the end of this weekend. Hasta luego!

miércoles, 31 de octubre de 2012

Visit to the Homeland to hang with leprechauns

 This past weekend I too my first pilgrimage to Ireland to visit a couple of my irish friends. It was my first time flying in Europe since we landed and I went the the ever safe and reliable Ryanair whose reputation precedes itself. Turns out its not actually all that bad and I didn't end up dying thankfully but it has to be the most bizarre airline, might as well of just been a hallow alloy shell we all sat in. First of you have to get there early so that you can get to the front of the line when the board since they don't assign seats (thats the first warning sign you actually get what you paid for), and European airports I've noticed were built with making it easy to get to your gate in time since it takes about 20 mins to walk there from security. Next they don't actually have their own gates so they share with other cheap airlines yet all the employees at the desk are the same. So you finally get on the plane and its completely bright yellow, not even kidding so bright you need sunglasses or else you will go blind. Then you pick a seat and watch as everyone else behind you piles on and frantically tries to get the best seats available. Then heres the kicker, its true they have advertisements up everywhere, and you can only bring a suitcase the size of kids lunch box, and they make advertising announcements every 10 mins for the entire flight. And if things could get worse you get airborne and you lean your chair back to sleep... but oh wait the seats don't go back.

Anyways got there thursday night and that night my friends took me to what they described as an "Irish Institution" called Coppers which is a bar/night club. It was a good time and packed full of Irish people, so I got an authentic experience. Friday we woke up really late at like 2 and then my friend Steve showed me the sights around Dublin. We both are big into golf and I know him from my golf club back home cause he worked there with me last summer, so we obviously went into this golf shop and I obviously couldn't leave without buying something so I got this sick gor-tex pullover jacket, then since we both felt broke after being there we went to Subway for lunch. Since it was freezing cold out we watched a lot of movies and American sitcoms (they love that stuff for some reason) so we watched a movie and then for the second night in a row ordered pizza, really authentic Irish cuisine. That night we went to a friend of his house outside of the city for her 21st birthday party. It was a blast, but it was hilarious because although everyone speaks english and it seemed enough like a normal American house party TO a certain extent, I felt so lost sometimes because I swear Irish english is a different language altogether.
 Saturday we drove out to his hometown of Kilkenny to hangout there and eat a home cooked meal, 3 nights of pizza was not happening. Kilkenny is a country town, very different from Dublin, but its beautiful out there. It has rolling grassy hills everywhere you look and fields for as far as you can see. The town of Kilkenny itself is a small quaint little town with cobblestone streets lined with little shops. We walked around the city a little bit and went up to see the Castle of Kilkenny as well. Compared to all of the other Spanish/Muslim/French/Roman castles I've seen it was much smaller but way more dark and medieval looking. We got lucky while in Kilkenny because there happened to be a food festival going on so we walked through tons of tents in the town square all selling different kinds of foods and deserts.

 For dinner we went to his family's house for a home cooked traditional Irish meal that his mom cooked for us. For dinner we had meat, boiled potatoes, roasted potatoes, veggies, and gravy; I have never eaten so much food in my life and it was so nice to have a meal like that after being away from home for 2 and a half months. For desert we had apple pie which I was so excited to see and this big meringue and cream tart with fruit. It was amazing and I felt so spoiled eating it all but also so lucky to be able to do so since I have friends from the country and they invited me into their house. His family was the nicest and his mom was so funny, she was so nice and it was hilarious because she was asking me all theses questions about the US for example "is it true at dinner you guys have these big bowls of food and pass them around the table like you see on tv shows?". We were only in Kilkenny for the day so we headed back to Dublin after dinner and when we got back we all watched a movie and then went to the movies to see the new James Bond movie. Sunday we walked around this huge new mall in Dublin for a little bit and then it was back off to the airport and home to Madrid.

 I know I've neglected my blog over the last two weeks but I'm back and theres a lot to catch up on. So two weeks ago now (October 20th) school offered a free day trip to Segovia for whoever was interested and so a bunch of my friends and I went, because who would turn down a free trip to tour Spain? Segovia was really cool and very very different from Madrid because it is a much older (and smaller) city. Segovia's claim to fame is their roast suckled pig and their 2000+ year old Roman aquaduct. It was incredible to see because you really don't realize your in Spain when you see it, it is enormous and the craziest part is it has been sitting there for the last 2000 years, through wind and rain and its not even held together with cement, just the power of engineering and arches. Besides from the aquaduct Segovia has lots of medieval history and buildings as well as remnants from the renaissance, its a lot like a cliff on the shore that has layers marking different periods in history.

 In all there were fourteen of us and one teacher, Medina who is the absolute man, it was nice having a small group because we got to see way more things and have a much more personal tour. We went to see the cathedral, which is relatively young at only a measly 500 years old, we also got to go see Isabella's castle which is built on the edge of a huge cliff looking over the country side. The castle has a foundation which is thought to be Roman, then the building itself is detailed with the classic Muslim prints, and the inside looks like Spanish medieval castle; so the castle itself in a way reflects the city itself with the different layers of history. The views the castle were incredible and we got an even better view when went up to the top of the castle tower, from there you could see for miles into the country side and all of the city of Segovia. After the Castle we had some down time and went to this really old restaurant that was started in the 1700's and is still run by the same family, its now the 4th generation that is the owner and his son is the head chef. This place, and Segovia in general, is famous for roast suckled pig... sorry to let you down but no I didn't eat it, its legit a whole pig so I skipped it and went for a spanish omelet. 

 After lunch we met up at a bakery where Medina bought us all coffee and introduced us to the famous desert of Segovia called "el ponche segoviano". Then we headed back to Madrid only a shirt hour and a half drive away up this huge mountain where you get lost in the fog at the top at 1900 meters (6233 ft).