I’m busier than ever but sometimes feel like…I’m NOT DOING ENOUGH. I see these opportunities to volunteer, organize fundraisers, and help out and stop only worrying about what is that I'm doing..but then I just don't realize where it would all fit in..

Today I literally almost fell asleep at the wheel…multiple times. It was scary that I couldn’t snap out of it! & sad that after a 3 day/4 day weekend, however you see it, I was so tired. (I was NO form of productive on Monday, Labor Day so I’m not sure why I was so tired. So that, for me, in of itself was just sad haha after being up for only 3 ½ hours I was internally crying for my bed.)

I wanted to make sure that I spent no time idle now that I’m home from school. As much as I’d love another “summer” at home with no obligations other than stay fit and do whatever I had intended that day, I wanted to make sure that I could take advantage of this year off.

I am: Graduated (still have NOT received my diploma!)
But: Am not employed full-time (by choice/my lack of being able to find opportunities I deem fitting…).

With that being said, I am employed part-time in two different positions, have earned two different internships with non-profit organizations, am starting up my photography business, and for the past 3 weeks have begun my 6-7 week study plan for the GRE. My scrapbook project to document my experience in Spain and abroad this year 2012 has been put unfortunately, completely on hold.

Today I woke up feeling like I have taken on waaaay too much, and in addition to that had feelings that I literally could not manage it as I once had strongly believed/that I would fail. I left for my 6:15 AM CrossFit class dowwwwn on my spirits –It wasn’t until before my second work shift this afternoon that I received a little text message that helped me reevaluate not only my negative thoughts from this morning but also my relationship with GOD. I didn’t ask for less, although I thought about it! This morning I literally thought to myself, well maybe I should just contact her and tell her that I overstretched myself and can’t take on this at this time... BUT the text message said that I’ll really only be needed for certain days and don’t have the full responsibility of what we had agreed on (yet). It felt like a weight was lifted off of my shoulders, allowing me, and demanding of me to finally get fully organized and comfortable to make BIG things happen. As I study for the GRE, I cannot let my 12 hours a week plan falter, and can no longer avoid the grad school and program process. I need to stay on top of things like I was BEFORE I decided to take on a million new things and get involved.

This is what my weeks look like these days…

Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays
5:40 AM Alarm
6:15 AM 1.5 mi bike ride to CrossFit class
8:15 AM Leave for Work at PHC
8:30-11/11:15 PHC
Lunch
12-2 PM Study for the GRE
Prepare Meal #3
2:15 Leave for Work at PHC
2:30-6 PM PHC
Mid-October begins:  YMCA Volleyball Team Practice 7-9pm

Tuesdays, Thursdays
5:40 AM Alarm
6:15 AM 1.5 mi bike ride to CrossFit class
8:15 AM Leave for Internship with Changing Children’s Worlds Foundation, Geneva, IL
9-11:30/12 PM Internship! – Lunch brought to the office
12/1-Home to study for the GRE until 2
Prepare Meal #3
2:15 Leave for Work at PHC
2:30-6/7/745 PM PHC
Evening – additional cardio/running

Some Thursdays I sleep in and save workouts for just later!
Saturdays = Crossfit mornings + additional cardio/running

*To be added in soon: Private lessons for the YMCA, Reffing on Sunday at the Y and/or Coaching my team at tournaments
*My commute to the local PHC office can range from 10-15 minutes, so I lucked out there! But the commute to Geneva can range anywhere from 35-50 minutes depending on the time of day and traffic:/

*The 6-7 week study plan for the GRE leaves me taking the exam in late September, which will free up my afternoons...to nap (unlikely) or be productive in other ways. The #1 that I've already discussed would be extending my time spent in the internship office on Tu and Th afternoons, if I'm being honest.



 
 
Welcome back to those of you that have been following my travels this year. I'm back today because there has not been a day, a week, or a month that I have not thought/dreamed about my half a year experience in Spain with my host family! There isn't anything that I don't miss...my study abroad crew from located all over the U.S., my fantastic study abroad director abroad, my hectic, non-stop class schedule, my high days and my low days, my good Spanish days and my bad ones, my nightmare experience under the Eiffel Tower in France, the crazy nights that turned into mornings, and  of course my Moroccan host family and the language barrier that was a challenge everyday to cross with them!

Hi again to all you new follows:) My name is Genevieve and I do have a confession to make: I am an avid traveler and amateur photographer! TRAVEL: because I am obsessed with people, language, and culture and PHOTOGRAPHY: because I feel most comfortable looking through life in a frame, to capture all of the beauty Life has to offer. My confession is something I need to admit to all of YOU and to Enrichment Voyages and Camels and Chocolate [http://www.camelsandchocolate.com/2012/08/enrichment-voyages-cruise-giveaway/], who are sharing a FOUR WEEK (25 day long) ship trip with one lucky person and their guest.

I sacrificed my final semester of undergrad to pursue my dreams to live and study in a Spanish speaking country. During my time this year (2012) so far I visited numerous cities in Spain, France, Portugal, and participated in an exchange program in Morocco in AFRICA, all the while intensely studying Spanish at the Estudios Hispanicos level (with native speakers!) and also chose to start a new adventure with a 2nd foreign language, French! When I was finished with the semester I turned around nearly 9 days later (after returning home to the states to see my family) to hop on another flight to tour Holland & the Netherlands--this time not to delve into pages and pages of other language but to learn about another culture through sport--to compete at the professional/international level on a USA sponsored women's volleyball team (traveling with USA Athletes International Travel.Compete.Experience) with a men's team. Mainly through on the court interactions, music, fashion, food, national sporting events, and travel/tours/competitions in different cities, I fell in love with yet another country and active (definitely an understatement) culture.

[To finish my high school career in 2008 I had my very first opportunity to tour overseas with my Club Fusion 18-1 volleyball team to tour, travel, and compete at 17 years of age neighboring the Eastern bloc in Maribor, Slovenia, Munich and another city in Germany, Vienna, Austria, and Prague, Czech Republic.]

2012 alone has been a great journey for me, but honestly, I don't want it to stop there! Now that I've graduated (I chose to sacrifice attending my own graduation ceremony that to many symbolizes the induction/right of passage into the real world), I have my sights set on new endeavors (graduate school after 1 year of working part-time, soul-searching, interning/volunteer work, growing personally, [and returning overseas?!]) and always desperately wish that they could take me back abroad! But am simultaneously asking myself, how can I do it all at once?? How can I: Make money, save money, grow as a person, challenge myself on a daily basis, gain appropriate experience, pursue further studies, AND fulfill my innerself's need to be outside of the walls of this America? When I started to see the Facebook activity of fellow Facebook friends this week publicizing about this 25-day opportunity my emotions went haywire. I had to do something! I don't have much luck when it comes to contests where winners are drawn, etc. and majority of the time am blessed with clumsiness, but I figured there would be no harm in trying.

My next journey of choice would most definitely be to South America. Of course world wonders and fascinations exist in the US but other there, I know and believe that there's more. So why Latin America? So my Spanish speaking abilities would be freshened up and put to use, of course, but also to accept a new challenge!  When I choose to travel it's not simply to set foot in another part of the world, it is more so to study and immerse myself in another culture...to the point where I can become familiar with it, understand it, and learn to love it because it becomes second nature/natural. Not all Spanish-speaking countries are the same! For reasons they may/may not like to admit. That would be the biggest challenge. & I am willing to accept that. I feel to fully understand the culture of the general umbrella of the Spanish language itself I need to explore and identify with all Latin/Hispanic cultures and regions.

For now my travel is limited to the city centers of the southwest Chicago suburbs, into the heart of Chicago itself, short family vacas (we just returned from the Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri with some family friends) and into the depths of my imagination..where there are no limits. The places I have yet to discover I travel in my daily thoughts and dreams at night!

So I guess the biggest question that stands now is would I drop everything that I'm doing currently/have planned for December 8, 2012 - January 2, 2013 to embark on a trip that I have no doubts would change my life and tempt me to challenge the myth that we only get one chance to fall in love? Just try me, of course I would. :) & When I think about the specified detail of 'as a trip for 2' it could be a rather gracious gift for the 2 people in the world that brought me into it...there are always options.

A Final, Closing Note about the Enrichment Voyage: I have LIKED both pages on Facebook as well as mentioned both pages in a recent status, followed both accounts on Twitter @genevievelygirl & tweeted the designated catch phrase, commented on the listed site with the correct answer to the question of "How many passengers can the MV Explorer accommodate?", and have now blogged about it. I would Pin it but I don't have a Pinterest account :/ with all of the social media sites I am currently using would prefer to keep it that way.

 
 
down and a little defeated if I'm being honest. BUT I'm trying to keep those thoughts as aloof as possible.

These are just some thoughts that I wanted to share as early as after my first spring break (beginning of May). While here the words that pretty much epitomized my life here abroad were "new appreciation".
I have a new appreciation, enthusiasm, and inspiration for everything I've already seen and lived in life and what the possibilities exist for the future. For culture, people, places, different things..
Maybe I can't say exactly RIGHT now in this moment since I'm feeling a little out of things BUT because I am here in Spain away and have walked away from everything I know, I have grown, changed, and become better. When I return I need to keep being ambitious and commit to taking myself even further to the next level, this includes academically, physically, emotionally, and in the labor force.

I have one suitcase packed and sitting at about 46-47 lbs. It's Tuesday dinnertime (although no one is in the house yet...), right now I'm going to spend some time going through the STACK of school documents etc. to decide what I should come back home with/what I can go without. In addition to the list of MUSTS before I leave every day I'm constructing lists of daily MUSTS.
Little by little we can achieve lo que sea.
 
 
It's that time! To check things off of my to do list. They suggested that we physically make this list so we can make our "lasts" a reality and not leave with any regrets! It seems like it was almost forever ago that my parents were here but they left just over 2 weeks ago!

Want to keep me accountable?
Here it is. [And we're in finals week SO, there's a lot to get done in addition to this list I've created of priorities :). Three more essays to turn in and three exams left.]

.Federico Garcia Lorca (as much as possible.. without burning and changes 5x shades..)  As always, everyyyyday. Going to try to see how many miles running I can rack up in 4 days! Days 1 & 2 - 10.4 miles
.At least one photo shoot (in the park? with the family?)
.The Last: Churros / the famous tart ice cream from Los Italianos / the not as equivalent, yet still famous schwarma? (if I do I'll go for the cheaper, smaller, and therefore less harmful minirollo (mini schwarma)
.Letras! - to future students / people that need to know how much I've learned, grown, and appreciated from my time here!
.Mercadillo   
.Serrallo Plaza (the new mall!)   
.Tour / workout in YO10 once!
.Haircut? OR Zaidin one last time?
.Run Albaicyn..
.Buy souvenirs and gifts!  ✔  & in the process of finishing up:)
.Finally decide if I want to buy a UGR sweatshirt!
.Successfully ride the bus without confusion ;)    
.Apply for more jobs/find more opportunities for the fall - ALWAYS IN THE PROCESS
.Pack my bags..  One done!
.Get refund for bus card previously purchased!
.Get rid of as much change/exchange as much change as possible! (Today I counted 18.08 euros in change...)
Print it and frame it!
.Goodbyes :/

 
 
I feel closer than ever with my relationships with my family. The past few weekends my host family has been in and out of the house with previous engagements --communions to attend! One day (Sunday May 13) Marisa had 2 to go to and while she had a millisecond of time to rest between the two we got to talking and I felt like she really confided in me with the information we were sharing and stories she was telling me. It felt really good. Close. I just wanted to shout in English, you can confide in me! Clearly there are many things that I sometimes don't feel comfortable expressing myself in Spanish still. Part of the reason why I wish I was enrolled in a year program here ;) 

During the week on Wednesday we had scheduled the inter mural awards ceremony. I wasn't expecting it to be a big deal or anything and figured I could come right at 1 when it started because as the stereotype goes (that I have physically witnessed and lived here), I figured it would start later than planned. When I arrived the main patio of the CLM was filled with a horseshoe of people around a main table with people talking on a microphone. I arrived just in time before they started giving a little background about the volleyball inter mural league. They called the first place team and they accepted their trophy and t-shirts. Then "IOWA", my team, was next! As the captain when they called IOWA as the subcampeon I knew I had to go up in front of everyone and give a little speech and thank the people. As soon as I grabbed the mike I was comfortable and the words flew naturally and suavely from my lips. It was a good feeling. I did make ONE mistake, and say estamos en vez de somos but that didn't matter. That feeling felt better than holding the big trophy in my hands! Well, maybe equivalent to. None of us were expecting winning ANYTHING for second place but of course we were pleasantly surprised. Our t-shirts serve as the memory we will take back with us of when we competed in Spain at the Fuente Nueva campus. Although the Central College Iowa program and Veronica have many other trophies from past years, we felt honored to present it to Veronica and take pictures with her and it even though it was just an inter mural league.

After the crowd settled down and the awards ceremony was over I planned to go join some friends for their "good bye" lunch at a local Mexican restaurant. They had just finished their final exam and were celebrating with margaritas and had invited me to join. Little did I know that the famous graffiti artist, El NINO, was coming to the CLM to work on a piece of art and have all who wanted to, watch him in action! It was a sight to see. ( www.elninodelaspinturas.com/ ) He didn't end up leaving his work at the CLM which was a bummer but he ended up inviting two girls from my program to drinks afterwards! I hear while being extremely talented he is a very nice guy. Little did I know that when I returned from the restaurant, there was a tapas celebration in the CLM with food and free beer! For lunch we were invited to margaritas and had discounted meals so it was alright in the long run. The celebration was hosted on the patio of the CLM for the CLM students that had finished their courses for the semester. I wonder if they'll have one for L&C students and CEH students (like me)!

This past weekend my Spanish sister had another recital and I was so excited that I could have a chance to see her in action with her rhythmic gymnastics, it was honestly like nothing I had ever seen before! Many of the participants are dancers committed to the sport year round. Paloma just joined the team at her school and this was her first year participating. I was SO proud of her! To watch the recital I was with Marisa, her mother, Juan, and met his mother for the first time. There were sooooo many children, mostly females, ranging from 3 to probably around my age, so it was a long show. It started late, and of course we had to wait until the awards ceremony. It was a competition and not just a performance so of course some are going to get awards and some aren't but they gave so many out that it would have made sense to give something to all of the participants :/ Paloma's spirit was a little down but I sincerely hope that she commits to this sport because I even told Marisa that I think she could have a lot of success in it if she keeps going! While we were in the car on the way home she asked her mom if next year she can join the club team. :) She's always dancing and moving in the house so it's easy to see the passion that she has for this art. It was fun to see her put into action all of the seemingly odd moves that she's doing in the house. She has talent!
 
 
Honest, There's always so much to tell! I've been writing essays for class reflecting on my time here, completing assignments on assignments on assignments, watching Spanish historical movies, watching American movies translated into Spanish, and literally never resting! I've been dreaming in Spanish for a while now and losing common (and not-so-common) English words. Besides making travel itineraries for people coming I've also been making travel recommendations in other cities of Spain and for other travel abroaders. The weather's changed so much here many have been started to say that summer's well on it's way. I've been spending time with my family and friends to take utmost advantage of the time we have left together. So I've been doing cultural visits around Andalusia and spending MORE than enough time in the sun! And I've been trying to grasp as much Spanish as possible while focusing on what's NEXT after I return to the states. In doing so I've acquired a summer time internship, much needed to keep me busy as well as help me have some source of income, AND serve as the confidence boost I needed! Amazing how one thing can do all that:) 

El 3 de Mayo – HOLIDAY
Dia de la cruz, celebrated all over Spain involves construction of magnificent scenes of elegant crosses of all shapes and sizes with religious replicas and pears! (Yes, pears; to cut the ‘peros’, which means to cut the BUTS, or negativity out of life this day. For example, “Yes, it’s very beautiful BUT (PERO) it could be better in this way…”) For one of my classes my classmates and I walked around the city to see some of the nearby displays of crosses. For lunch my parents invited me to private property for lunch and another Spanish BBQ. Unsure of where we were going I dragged my heavy bag of stuff I had kept in the apartment with my parents for the week to to Paseo de los Tristes. I would soon find out that we would be dining, exploring, and celebrating the holiday hidden in the “secret” gardens hidden underneath of the Alhambra. It was another group gathering and goodbye party for one of Antonio’s workers so although I recognized many of the faces I didn’t know what constantly be talking about. Either way, I was glad to be able to see that beauty. Truly felt like VIP and royalty living in Granada. After we climbed the property to really embark on a true adventure, weaving in and out of caves, finding bats and secret garden doors, I found myself really tired from the day of activities. To go home from the secret fardens of the Alhambra, most host father, Antonio and I rode his Beemer motorcycle ride down. It was awesome! First motorcycle ride ever through the city of Granada. I had imagined this more so to have happened on the back of a cute Spanish boy but the security of my host father I'm sure was the safer bet.

It was a tiring week, full of class and things like that. With the forecast of weather for the weekend we knew we wouldn't be as lucky as we had earlier in the week. Rain.

Saturday, May 5 - CULTURAL EXPERIENCE
A program friend and I, Malissa, finally took advantage of one of the school-led cultural trips. So on Saturday with our umbrellas and bocadillos for lunch, we met at the Paseo de los Bosilios with almost 15 other students at 740 in the morning. With one of the most knowledgeable and amazing teachers I have encountered at the CLM, we were off. We learned countless things from our professor (although we might not remember them now if you asked us) because she is LITERALLY like a book! A history book and knows every detail about essentially everything. It’s amazing to hear her talk about history but also about life because she has a wonderful, although sometimes negative point of view, but always humortistic and still full of life! For 35 euros each we had transportation back and forth as well as paid entrance intro the cultural sites. On the way we passed: real alcazar de Los cristianos and some other places but I was awake in fullllllll slumber ( ha ) from the early rise and busy week.
First stop 1) Madinat Al-Zahra 2) La sinogaga 3) La mezquita: we were instructed to not act in manners that could be seem as distespectful, for example, taking silly pictures in the had-been mezquita, but then transferred into a cathedral in siglo XV. Of course when we were there I felt every urge to dance! It was a cool experience to see the ranging contrasts between the Arabic and catholic pieces of the immense structure. I always get inspired by the new place at at..here, especially after all of the history I have learned (heard) over the semester with the Islam and muslim influence in my hometown (Granada) and all over Andalusia, I wish I would have taken a Islamic history class or something of the sort.


CENA DE DESPEDIDA
Thursday May 10 -Something we were looking forward to yet dreading at the same time.Everyone looked amazing I'm glad we kept it a happy atmosphere:) We met at 9 in Plaza de Trinidad to take pictures and then walk  I don't even really know/remember the name of the place where we had dinner but it was a great time and the food was genial as well. Best dressed awards dress awards (if they really existed ha) would definitely have gone to Fatima and Gonzalo!First we got the beer, tinto de verano and water. (Unlimited amounts....) then we were served bread, then a cheese dish. Then a salad with chicken! Mini-meat wraps for everyone. AND THEN we got our main meal (which was salmon for some, tenderloin for others, and pasto (pesto) for la demas. AND THEN we had dessert, to share among groups of 4/5 depending on your table. I left uncomfortably and unnecessarily full :) but delightful. After we left the restaurant we went to go have a drink and dance off our full stomachs with our program director and staffer Jose. We exchanged words in Spanish, of course, and danced to the DJ's mix of well-known Spanish/American music. We called it a night right before 2am!
Pictures up on facebook, and hopefully to come here soon if you cannot access those!

SATURDAY MAY 12, CENTRAL COLLEGE IOWA (2012)
TAKES IT TO THE SUN & TO LA PLAYA - NERJA!
The following weekend on Saturday we had planned a program trip to the beach. I finally made it to Nerja and on the program's dime (included in our program fees), we even got to see the famous caves in Nerja! I'll admit I didn't do my homework on much other than that and additional historical and cultural significance. I don't think any of us really did. Our minds were completely set on the day we would spend soaking up in the sun. The bus from Paseo de los Basilios left at 9 in the morning, it was about a 1 1/2 hour ride to the cave site and a little further to the beach. So before 12 we had picked our spots in the sand. We would have until 6:30 to chill out. With the sun beating directly over us from basically 12 pm until 6:30, I tired out fast and wanted shelter, fast! I spent a good amount of time applying and reapplying sun screen and going in the freezing cold water to cool off but I really wasn't feeling the sun after a few hours. I always tire in the sun easily! It's a known fact. But I made it, although a shade or two significantly darker. We shared food, laughs, and sun burn (not me but MANY of the program). With a sun this strong, no one can afford to not cover-up and wear strong, protective sun screen! One of my friends, who will remain nameless, started peeling from every corner, crease, and direction on her face... she was shocked and slightly embarrassed when it appeared three days after her weekend getaway in Nerja. After 3 days in the sun, she had not applied sun screen once.

Speaking of the sun sometimes I feel like the heats so extreme/I'm not well adjusted to it yet that my hands (well, fingers) swell a little! It's actually kind of uncomfortable, as you can probably imagine. What's also crazy to think about is the fact that, the weather hasn't reached it's PEAK yet. June temperatures can reach up to and above 100 degrees in Spain!  Earlier in the semester I was never applying sun screen to go outside for my daily runs. Now I have awknowledged the fact that every day, when I'm walking for nearly a half hour to and from school, I have to apply it everywhere. I apply in the morning before my run and after my shower before I leave for school. If I have to leave again I make sure to reapply my 70 SPF! I've probably used what's equivalent to what I've used over years. My 70 SPF bottle (I didn't come with it full) is now empty! I have a 50+ SPF left but that's better than nothing, for obvious reasons.
 
 
Having my parents and aunt in Spain was a great experience for me. When it was the day for them to leave and I had already sent them off I realized how much I really missed them! My experience in Granada has been an eye-opening one. Every day I come to the realization that there is something that I am grateful in my life or something that I develop a new apprecation for. But these are all things that I can revisit in another blog. For now, to get up to date! Vamos a actualizar este blog!

It was a task trying to plan a week long experience abroad for 3 people! I felt very accomplished after ¨completing¨ the day-by-day schedule. The remaining day for that week where I would have class (Thursday, with classes at 10-11:30, 1-2:30, and 6:30-8), I didn´t realize how OVERWHELMED I would feel! Having it be my family´s first full day visiting my hometown, the last thing I wanted was for them to be sitting around in the apartment disappointed/bored all day. In addition to that, on Thursday my little host sister invited me to her dance recital ¨actualizacion¨, I believe she called it. She had asked me I think three weeks or so in advance and I took some time thinking on it because my parents would be here their first very day/night and the chances weren´t high of them being able to join us! Marisa, Marisa Madre, y Juan (Paloma's father) found out when we were at the performance that the entire performance was set up as a charity event to help a school in Haiti! I felt so proud that together we were able to share this and represent Haiti!

So I had to ask myself when was the next time I would be able to see my little sister perform in a show? When I did that, I found it to be a no brainer. I would skip class and of course, my family understood my thought process as well, and I was grateful! We arranged it so we could also have our first family meeting :) Although it was a little bit of a hassle to figure out the Granada bus schedule (because I KNOW I was ultimately useless in deciphering the stations and bus ¨map¨ my host father had emailed me...because I walk EVERYWHERE! So there are pros and cons to that... I get more exercise but when people are visiting me and we have limited time to get places...I felt very inutil and frustrated / embarassed! No matter how many times I intended to use that bus map to try and configure other routes other than the 11 Circular that seems like it takes you to the edge of the earth and back, I could never be certain what I was looking at exactly.) So next best options that we found as an alternative to walking? Taxis, duh. Thankfully since Granada is relatively small, making the small trips with the 4 of us wasn´t too much of a burden, I don´t think. Hope you can say the same/can vouge for that, Dad?

First family encounter:) Elevator up to floor 7! My host family was in a bit of a rush to get Paloma ready for the recital but she was dressed in her bright green Flamenco dress (she has to get a new one every year because she´s constantly growing!), glowing and practicing her steps. Marisa helped her with her makeup and luckily for me Marisa Madre (my host grandmother) had arrived just arrived my parents and I. Antonio made us all coffee and sat and spoke with my parents. It was fun to see all of the interaction, meaning..my mom speaking with Antonio y Marisa Madre y my aunt adding in some Spanish comments too, and then there was my dad, who was speaking at what probably seemed like 1,000 words a minute in...wait for it, ENGLISH.  It was also a little bit difficult to try to coordinate schedules with my Spanish host family too to make sure that both of my parents met one another and were able to spend a little time getting to know one another, but I felt we were able to do the best with what we could :) 

To recap the trip that could be described in millions of words and many different posts. Over the course of the week: We were able to have a Spanish dinner together with my Spanish parents and grandmother although my Spanish sister was away for the weekend) and we had a Haitian dinner, thanks to my mom and my aunt. We spent a day, a night, and an afternoon in Sevilla during Las Ferias annual festival although it was raining part of the time. Before we left for Sevilla we were able to try some Spanish churros although they were the best Spain's ever seen. When we returned to mi hogar, my parents came to support me in my very first race ever! Although it was only about 3.2 K and it was raining, it was still a cool experience for me to have in Spain. I was standing around the crowded starting line not knowing anyone and at the end of the race it was crazy trying to find my parents again out of what felt like millions of spectators and participants! Unfortunately in the apartment at night it was a bit uncomfortable with the cooler weather during the day, so the weather at night was much cooler than we desired. Luckily, when we went to our first REAL BULL FIGHT EVER --my family was able to experience some serious Andalusian sun in the Plaza de Toros de Granada. In our seats the sun was shining on us from essentially beginning to end. It was like we were the center of the show with my program.

We did do some shopping and got some souvenirs and were able to try the infamous Los Italianos ice cream, and of course TAPAS throughout the tour. To end the week tour of southern Spain we went to Mirador de San Nicolas, where we were able to see what is arguably considered one of the best sunsets of the world. The next and final morning, we had to wake up at 4am to make sure we could prepare all of their suitcases and etc. to leave the apartment clean. To catch the 5:20 airport shuttle bus from Calle Gran Via de Colon (right smak dab in the middle of the city), we made sure to leave the with all of their suitcases and necessities by 4:45. It was a very chill morning and as a family we sat outside at one of the bus stops. After the shuttle came to pick them up and we hugged and sad our goodbyes I returned to the apartment to get some more sleep. We had all gone to bed after midnight that night so when I woke up I didn't feel very refreshed. And when I woke up (because I had class at 10am), I woke up to voices, but I was saddened that they were not those of my parents. :( It was a different feeling that I had not experienced all the while while here in Spain... Obviously I've missed my family and friends and certain things about life in the states but I haven't been home sick or been so saddened about the life I've left behind (for a chapter of my life) to where I was moved to that feeling of sadness and teary eyes. I love you Mom, Dad, Yanick, and I'm so glad that you guys came to see me. I know it was a vacation for you guys (I sincerely hope that it felt like it..for the most part!) but having people visit me in a foreign city was a learning experience in itself for me. 

Here is the official schedule of the week to give all a better idea of WHAT we did as well as what type of plan I constructed!
You say you're coming to Granada? (Which is a must..) These are things that you should definitely intend to see! I recommend a week and a half, although a week could be sufficient (to see the main areas and must-sees of Granada) if you don´t do traveling within that week, as we had. And skip classes! (as I hadn't.. :P) To sell you some more, Granada is the ONLY city in Spain that gives FREE TAPAS with every drink ordered!

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After the Cata de Aceite de Oliva we all knew that our time here would start to really feel like before we knew it it would disappear. With that being known what we all really wanted was the opportunity to slow things down to really get to enjoy everything hasta el limite but with everything we had planned for the end of April and the beginning of May...we would feel the opposite, SO RUSHED. 

On the schedule?
(program) Flamenco Show on Monday, (program) Cata de Vino on Tuesday, and on Wednesday?  After a final group "reunion" and my classes..the arrival of my parents and aunt to GRANADA, SPAIN! I had a lot of plans to finalize and work to do for class.
We went to the Flamenco Show (10 euros each ticket) at the Teatro Alhambra on Calle Molinas. It was interesting for me because first of all, I had no idea that Flamenco involves movements that are very similar to what we call in the states "stepping". Where you slap your chest/feet...that left me a little confused. We were not supposed to take any pictures in the huge theatre but of course I snapped one with my iPhone. There was only one women dancing in all of the show, with a few outfit changes. On the left as you can see there are singers (all men) and on the right those that playing the Flamenco-style music. There were also men performers/dancers so it was fun to see all of the emotion and facial expressions of the dancers and the echoes of the Flamenco. After the very exhausting weekend I had with little sleep on Sunday night, I fell asleep near the end of the performance. . I had no intention to but I LITERALLY could not keep my eyes open any longer. (With my schedule of classes and TO DOS, the siesta is still a foreign concept to me. I do not take siestas during the day.) I woke up to the growing sound of the stomps of the women Flamenco dancers and growing voices of the singers. It was obviously an intense moment..that I almosttt missed. The theatre burst out into applause and I realized the show was at its end.
We started off the wine tasting in the bright light of the evening into the sun left us in darkness. At the restaurant chosen by our program we occupied the majority of the tables on the outside patio. We saw in tables of 5 or 6. At my table I had Fatima (pictured above, from NY), Griffin (from Indiana), Zach (from Iowa), Nick (from Pennsylvania), and JOSE (one of our program staffers)! It's always an honor to be able to sit with one of the staffers during cultural program events/experiences because you learn to do things the correct Spanish way, use the language, and have any questions answered if you need to ask!
We tried 4 different kinds of wines. One pink(er), two vinto tintos, and one vino blanco. In general if I have to drink wine I prefer white wine that's sweeter. These ones were good though! We learned the proper protocol, things like: your fingers shouldn't be on the glass because it can affect the wine, check the color/details with a napkin, smell the cup and then let sit, stir it a bit in your hand, then you're good to taste (SIP! not gulp). I may be a little mixed up with the order to forgetting something ha but it was fun to be able to do something like a wine tasting because as a student / young person you don't really go seek activities like this. It appears to be for older groups / crowds (in the sense of there being a generation that drinks to sip and to literally taste while there's another generation that likes to drink and doesn't stop to take a second and TASTE the beverage..).
At our final group reunion (we have had these periodically throughout the semester to talk about upcoming events/answer questions we have/fix problems with professors or classes, etc.) Veronica read the group a letter that she had written about our experience together. Before she even started she found herself moved to tears. It was a light but sweet letter and had us all saying awwww at the end. She doesn't want this semester to end, and neither do we! She referred to us as flowers in the letter and when she was done reading Jose walked in with 44 roses. One for each of us. :)
 
 
After the Cata de Vino the next morning my intercambio group had scheduled an activity of sederenismo = Hiking! Because I had family plans that day to go to Albaicyn and celebrate the birthday of my host father's mother..for a BBQ! I was excited because the weather was amazing that day, naturally, perfect for a BBQ. I didnt know what to expect for a SPANISH BBQ but knew I didn't want to miss out. This was one of the major events where I felt extremely included in family outings, etc. and it also marked the first time since mid-January that I ridden in a residential vehicle! It was a strange concept to grasp for a bit. Honestly since there were so many older family members there that I took more of the position of listening and learning. It was the first time while abroad this time around that I had been in such a large family setting, to truly see the culture. The pictures were added much earlier to Facebook  and I feel depict well what type of experience I had. We ate, laughed, and drank from 2 on until the sun was about to set. We were so full we didn't need dinner, all we needed were our beds. When we got back home I made sure to thank them over and over to attempt to express how grateful to have been invited to their family celebration. My friend Fatima came back to toman after far travels soo although I was "muerta" I went to one of our favorite spots in Plaza Nueva to meet up with her and another one of our friends from Morocco. Went to bed later than planned but so happy after the culture-filled weekend I had just had. 

The next day, Antonio inivited me to another BBQ..this time, in the Sierra Nevada! Una Babacoa para celebrar el fin de la estacion para Los sanitarios. Had my second ride in a residential car in 2 days! Had to skip a class for this event but I felt it was necessary:) because I was with all of Antonio's work friends I eas very reserved except for a few conversations but I could always escape to the land of the jóvenes. Julia, Antonio's 5 year old daughter had joined us on the trip too, to the snowy Sierra! The kids were adorable, the company was great, and the food was AMAZING. The pinchitos were my absolute favorite! Again, we ate and We ate..and We all ate and drank to make it another long day. Antonio picked me up around 3 and we came back  in the evening again. Too full to eat another meal, too full of culture! ;)

It was a great ride up and down the mountain! Antonio pointed out the house along the way that they call "la casita de Blancanieves", that'd be a fun childhood story!

 
 
To follow the Spanish 'musical festival' anoche, our program had scheduled for us a Cata de Aceite (April 21). And let me tell you it was extravagante! I'll stop rambling for a little bit and let the large list of things we tried and their descripciones depict the story/speak for themselves!!

1) Three types of olive oil de Granada de Huelva y otro provincia de España 
2) 2 types of Olives from Málaga and Córdoba 
3) Tostada con zumo de tomate - We Were given mini loaves of bread and another platter of mini tomates and a dash of olive oil! Un like bruschetta that we know, we were tasked to just press/rub the tomate against the bread to in a way color the toast. Very delightful!
4) Aguacate with lemon y Basil - amazing! I could eat avocados like this every day! I had never really eaten avocados before. 
5) Queso cabra (covered/soaked in aceite de olivo) y también slices of tomate with aceite de olivo y pimiento..YUM. 

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6) Cerdo con pan y 4 different types of pepper olive oil (I know here I specified with bread BUT every mini-course was served with bread. Every table was given a basket of bread and when it was empty, in moments it would be refilled--a blessing and a curse at the same time.) 

7) Lechuga con sal y aceite de olivo (y ya está! Qué genial! So simple but such a great snack, light on the salt.)
8) Little trozos de queso con olive oil
9) Pestiño -dulce con oliva de aceite frita con azúcar ! --I only wish los trozos hubieran sido más grandes xD
10) tostada con aceite de oliva y trozas de chocolate (not as extravagant as the other minibread bowl chocolately sprinkled treat I had in another olive oil tasting but obviously, same effect!)
11) THE FINAL TASTE. Helado chococlate negro con sal y aceite de oliva del sabor naranja (Translation: chocolate ice cream with salt and orange flavored olive oil!)
I don't even like chocolate ice cream all that much but madre mía this was great and the perfect way to end the olive oil tasting! Luckily for me I had just finished a workout prior to arriving haha. 

Also a very monumental moment for us on Friday was the return dof Veronica our director to Spain! After her month time in Pella, Iowa we missed her a lot! Many of us maintaoned contact with her through emails for questions or simply just to chat, myself included.