Saturday, January 25, 2014

Let the good times roll

Hola mis amigos!

This past week has been a blurr of good times.

On Sunday my roommate Yara, from France, invited me and my other roommate Kaia, from California, to see a free movie with her! Of course, hearing the word gratis and pelicula in the same sentence, I said ¿¡por que no!? The movie was in this really interesting bar. In the from it is a video rental/shop, the middle is the bar, and in the back there is a room with a projector to watch the movie movie of the week which was "mar dentro" or "the sea within me." It is about a man who wants to petition to commit suicide after becoming paralyzed from the neck down after diving into shallow water (the shallow end of the sea). It was a wonderful film, all in Spanish of course but there were subtitles which helped me learn some new words.

Monday was a very interesting day. After class I walked around the city with my new friend Joe, from England for a good hour and a half. It was such a good time to just walk around the city. We talked about pretty much everything you can think of. After the walk we went our separate ways. When I got to my apartment Yara once again invited me to go out with her. This time we went to this club called foster's. "A club on a Monday! What up with that!?" You are probably thinking, but it wasn't that kind of club. It was a social event. We walked in and there were tables with different languages on the top of them: Inglés, Español, Aleman (German), Frances, and Italiano. The point is to sit at the table that has the language that you want to practice speaking so naturally I went to the español table. It was such a wonderful way to meet people and practice my Spanish. I was very pleased at how many compliments I got on how well I spoke. I also met a few people: José (Toledo), Sara (France), Kevin (Philadelphia), Alexandro (Italy), and Estelle (Murcia). All in all it was a good night!

Tuesdays I have to say are my favorite. Every Tuesday for only one euro ($1.38) I have a two hour salsa lesson from 10-12am. Yes that is very late to be staying out on a school night, but the night life here is too hard to pass up! I get to dance with several devilishly handsome young men. This last Tuesday I danced with two guys Alfonso from Spain and a young man from Italy who's name escapes me at the moment but is a fabulous dancer who has requested to dance with me next Tuesday! After salsa we go to the international club called Badulake. My friends go for the free beer, but I go just to work on my freestyle dance moves (watch out Jazz III).

Wednesday was a very relaxing day. After class Kaia and I went to the grocery store and bought some chocolate (our guilty pleasure) and some bread for pb&j sandwiches (our lunch everyday). After that at 5:00 me Joe, Iris, California, and Caroline, Arkansas, worked out in the park! It was a blast and we all felt so good afterwards. When we finished that, we all walked with Caroline to the corte inglés, the only grocery store that sells American treats such as peanut butter, so she was not walking alone in the dark. It was a great cool down. Later that night we had our weekly potluck (checkin) with all the international students at Vivian's (West Virginia). I made my peppers with goat cheese which were a huge hit again.

Thursday was our last class of the week, so rather than sitting in the class, our professor decided to take us to the farmer's market. It was so fun! Churros with chocolate sauce, fresh vegetables and fruit, dried mixed fruit and nuts, and of course shoes and clothes. The main difference between the farmers market or mercado here compared to the u.s. Is there is not much artesianal sales. The clothes were all bought from a store and then re sold at the market for a lower price which was okay with me because I needed to go shopping for new clothes anyway. I definitely did not bring enough.

Friday, because we had the day off from class, I slept until 10:30 and then went for sushi with Joe and Natalia, from Poland. We were a bit skeptical because good fresh sushi is hard enough to find in the U.S. but to find it in Spain was a stretch. We found a place just 5 minutes from where we all live called sushi. It was delicious And it was a good price. After that we went to Smöoy. Smöoy is this fantastic real frozen yogurt place! Honestly, if I didn't have any self control, I would eat there everyday. Then we walked The Gran Via which is equivalent to the miracle mile in Chicago. Good thing I don't have tons of money otherwise I would be there everyday too! Then at about 5 Joe and I did an ab workout in some random grass, which is very hard to find in the city, that we found across from hotel. We got stared at by plenty of people because apparently the only workouts people do out side here is run or walk or bike, otherwise they go to the gym.

Now today is Saturday it is only noon so not much has happened. I tried this new, new to me, pasteleria around the corner. It was good,but not as good as the others I have been to. Next I am off to get some more clothes so I don't boil to death when the warm weather hits or freeze to death while it Is still cold. Okay it has only been in the mid 40s here but that is still pretty cold and my leather jackets and my pink trench coat are not sufficient enough.

I definitely hope the good times keep on rolling!

Hasta luego

My new sweater!

Friday, January 17, 2014

So Far So Great!

Hola amigos!

Welcome to this Fridays blog post! This one will be a bit shorter but still interesting I hope. This was my second week here and my first week of my Spanish intensive course. The course is pretty similar to the Spanish classes I have taken at Millikin or in high school, but rather than only being in class for 50 min then getting out and speaking in English, the class never ends...and I love it! Everyday here is like a class because I learn something new everyday! Sorry, I had to ramble a bit there, I just got really excited! 

The topic of this blog is culture shock. "What is that?" You may have asked, but luckily you have me here to tell you. Culture shock is something that most all travelers experience. It is when you are in a new place and are literally shocked by the culture differences between where you live and where you are visiting. A lot of people may think they have never experienced this, but the signs can be very subtle. I had a bit of a culture shock myself when I first got here, and I am not talking about the plane situations that I mentioned in my second blog post. I had a severe loss of appetite, and had a deep disorientation. I also felt a bit lonely my first couple of days, and even the language barrier had me a bit nervous too. Some symptoms of culture shock that others may experience are excessive eating, extreme dislike of where they are visiting, never leave the house/apartment/hotel, and have an overall negative attitude about their whole experience.

Although these symptoms can be a bit intimidating, there are ways that you can overcome or even avoid culture shock! 
 Have knowledge about the culture: One thing you can do before you even go on a trip, is read up on or get informed about the culture before you arrive. For instance I was not freightened by my first European kisses because I was told about them ahead of time. 
Be open minded: Another thing, is to be open minded. Of course, when you go somewhere outside of your home town/country, there will be customs or everyday things that are different from home. If you are open minded, you may find that you like the customs and cultural differences of the place you are visiting more than your hometown. Example: I like the fact that everyone greets with kisses, even when it is the first time meeting. To me it says, "I don't know you, but we are equals, and I would not mind getting to know you better," rather than a hand shake that say, "I don't know you so I am going to keep my distance until I know your whole life story."
Immerse yourself into the culture:  Something that I found helpful was just diving right into the culture. Of course it was scary and yes I made mistakes, but that is how you learn. My first full day, although I was tired, most likely from jet lag, I got up at 9am, the work day starts at 10am here, and got myself ready for the day. Breakfast is least important here so I didn't eat it. When I arrived at my apartment at about 3pm it was lunch time so I ate a tiny snack. The hardest part was waiting for dinner because here, dinner is not until 9 or 10pm! That is still taking some getting used to. The next day, while my French roommates were in classes, me and my roommate from California walked around the city to get oriented to exactly where we are and what's around us. We even spoke in Spanish the whole time to practice and help each other with things we did not previously know.

Some other fun things I have done since I have been here are: I cooked dinner for my roommates, walked around and found something I wasn't looking for, a pastelería, (aka I got lost and stumbled upon it lol), had a potluck dinner with the other international students (we all spoke in Spanish the whole time), and I, yes me Toni Pennington, went out to an international club and danced and had fun until 5am the next morning (I went with my roommates and some friends from the program)!

I am having so much fun here! I love everything about Spain, the culture, the people...there is nothing right now that I can say that I dislike, except maybe the fact that dinner is at 9/10 but I am confident that I will adjust to that very soon!

Have a funtastic weekend everyone! 

¡Hasta luego!

Sautéed red peppers with goat cheese and spices! ( yes, I made that)

Caramelized onion tart (yes, I made that too)

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly


Finally it is Friday, the day that everyone looks forward. Not because it is the end of a long week, but because you all are so excited to read my blog...jk but I thank you for taking time out of your Friday, or what ever day you decide, to read my first post from Spain.

**WARNING: Because this was my first week, this is probably (hopefully) going to be the longest post so I will bold the parts I think you should read and the headings so you can get the gist of it.**

Although i have titled this blog The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, I feel I should start with the ugly and end with the good (who wants to end on a bad note?).

The Ugly:
When most people travel by plane, they probably think that when the ticket says they are going to land one place, that is where they are going to land. Furthermore, I do not think that people think about what they are going to do if they in fact land in a different place than they were expecting. If you do that, you are one step ahead of where I was when I boarded the plane to Alicante. Long story short, because of heavy cloud coverage my flight that was supposed to land in Alicante landed in Valencia. I was already nervous about going to Spain by myself. The original plan was that I was supposed to land in Alicnate, be picked up my a cab driver named Paco, driven to Murcia and get to my apartment by 9:00pm where my landlady would be waiting for me. However that is not what happened. Because we had to land in Valencia I had to wait two hours for a bus to Alicante that is two hours away, with all my luggage, then take a 45 minute taxi ride to my apartment in Murcia. BUT...because it was then around 3:00am my landlady was not waiting for me any longer and when I went to open my door it was locked with no hope of unlocking it so I got back in the cab and went to a nearby hotel. You better believe when I got into my hotel room I cried from being so nervous about being in a foreign country by myself and having to figure all this out on my own. At least I was alive right!?
*My Advice: Never follow a pre-made plan, without making a back-up plan of your own. Furthermore, Freak out after you have gotten through the hard stuff; focus on what needs to happen to get you where you need to go.*

The Bad:
Obviously, or maybe not so obviously for some (not judgement), it is impossible to take one flight from Charlotte, NC to Murcia, Spain; I had a few layovers here and there. I had a six hour layover in Minnesota and another six hour layover in Amsterdam. Nothing really happened in the layovers that made them bad, but they were a little bit boring. Of course I had my iPad and my cell phone but those can only be entertaining for so long. Luckily, when I got on the plane there was plenty to do like sleep, or watch movies, or even watch people watch movies; that was all fun but the in between not so much. I would have explored, but I am not a fan of exploring on my own. Although there were things to do on the plane, sometimes the people were not so fun. On the flight from Amsterdam 1. everyone including the flight attendants spoke some sort of dutch or German that I just flat out do not know, and 2. there were these three ladies who just would not stop pushing everyone around and getting frustrated with me when they would be trying to tell me things but obviously I did not understand so they would get visually frustrated with me and just push me around even more. I couldn't even tell them to stop properly because of our language barrier.
*My Advice: Always bring something to during during your layovers, and don't let other passengers get you down (or push you down)*

The Good:
Obviously, or maybe not I don't know, there can not be some bad without some good in between. 1. During the Ugly, when I was pacing the airport waiting to board the bus with my eyes huge and watery from holding back tears of frustration, the man who sat next to me on the plane noticed my distress and let me board the bus as his plus one so I would not get left behind or overlooked if the buses filled up (I didn't even get his name...but he gave me my first European Cheek Kisses). 2. When I got on the bus the man who sat next to me on the plane let me use his phone knowing that I had to call internationally to my parents with no hesitation once so ever and when I started to crack a bit he he said in his best English, "take it easy, we will be in Alicante soon" (which I appreciated more than he probably knows). 3. When I was on the phone with my dad, he knew I was nervous about my situation, so he encouraged me to stay strong and not to cry until I got to where I needed to go because tears would only make the situation worse (so true). 4. I was able to facetime with my family once I got into my hotel (more like cry to them but eventually we had a conversation). 5. Even though she knew I was really tired Carmen Aravena of Millikin, called to make sure that I was safe and sound for the night. 6. The cab driver only charged me for the ride from the airport to the apartment and drove me to the hotel for free and 7. When I got to my apartment, I was just in time for lunch and my roommates welcomed me with European Cheek Kisses and welcomes.
*My Advice: Always keep in mind that there are good people out there who will help you and remember that you have a support system and never be too overcome with emotion to reach out to them and ask for help and support (that is what they are there for).

Sorry this one was so long, but as I said, a lot has happened in this week. I didn't even get to say what I have been up after all of that went down! Oh well, if you really want to know, I guess you are going to have to wait until the next blog ;)

Abiento...oh wait that's French...Hasta Luego!