Hello from somewhere in the middle of the region called Andalucía in Spain. This region is known for growing olives and raising bulls. I am currently writing while on a bus through millions of olive trees to Málaga, a Mediterranean coastal paradise. But, before I get too carried away in the excitement. Let me catch you up on what I have been up to for the past few days.
Bridget, my sister, left to head back for the states on Sunday. She has a big girl job and a life that she needs to get back to so I understand. We had a blast exploring Ireland, Wales and England together. But, all good things come to an end. After she left on Sunday, I decided to take a nice stroll through the British Museum. That place is massive and filled with artifacts from every part of the world. I especially enjoyed the wings dedicated to the Ancient Greeks and Egyptians. Those exhibits are filled with mummies and their coffins, ornate pottery, sculptures, coins, armor and so much more. I was very impressed with their set up. In my opinion, the British Museum is a must see.
After a couple of hours at the museum, I traveled to the suburbs of London to stay until my flight to Madrid. Croydon, England (the suburb) was a little bit more authentic than what I was used to in Central London. But, don’t worry I found a mall (A.K.A. the homeland).
Monday night I traveled back into Central London to meet up with my teammate and best friend Kim who is studying journalism and communication for a couple of weeks. We grabbed dinner at a quaint English pub. We got a small table for us two, some fish and chips and London Pride beers. It felt really good to see someone I knew again and talk about familiar things. After dinner we went out for ice cream with a few students from her program. I had a blast catching up with a great friend.
On Thursday, I took a plane from London to Madrid to start my study abroad program through International Study Abroad (ISA). I was so anxious about getting to the right place, meeting the group and settling in. But, I made it! Right outside of the baggage claim was Iker, one of the directors for my program and a couple other girls from my group. We took a van to the hotel, had a little siesta and then had a meeting. After the meeting four of us girls went out for dinner and went through Buen Retiro Park which used to belong to the kings of Spain. It was a beautiful sun set that you can see in one of the following pictures.
The next day we had a walking tour planned and a tour of El Prado, one of the most famous art museums in Spain. Our tour guide was a younger woman who was very passionate about art and history. She took us to the oldest restaurant in Spain, many different plazas and mosques turned synagogues turned churches. This country has the coolest mixture of architecture because it was influenced by so many different cultures in the past. El Prado was filled with some of the most famous paintings in the world. We saw Greco, Goya and Velaquez… yes only three exhibits but this place is massive. Not surprising it took two hours to see three artists.
I don’t think I was quite prepared for the amount of Spanish I would have to use so soon. For example, ordering food is harder than expected because I am not sure about all the vocab on food. Not only is the language a bit of a struggle, this first weekend of meeting the group has been a typical group making process. I am a Business Management major and a lot of focus in my classes are about group behaviors, group forming processes and how the individuals feel in a group. Right now we are going through the forming and norming stages. Basically, we are trying to figure out who’s personalities fit together well, who are more dominant, there’s a little bit of conflict in deciding which way the group will break up to find food or do other activities. I find it awesome that I am connecting what I am learning in class to the real world. Anyways, back to the events of the days.
Saturday, we went traveled to Toledo which is about an hour away from Madrid. This city was situated on the top of a mountain, a natural form of defense back in the day. Toledo was everything that you imagine old Spain to feel like; cobblestone streets, allies, sunny and filled with people. I liked this city more, probably in a large part to our tour guide for the day, Mario. Mario is about forty-five years old, well dressed, gregarious and a jokester. He knew everyone, from waitresses to museum workers to random women on the street. He said hello to probably over thirty people within the three hours we were with him. He was a native of Toledo and knew all of the history. He did a great job of connecting history, his audience and humor. The group was enthralled with the way he spoke and told stories. No wonder he knew so many people in the city.
ISA has had us staying at very nice hotels and the Hotel Beatriz in Toledo was beautiful. There was a large pool that some of us students went after lunch. Relaxing and a gorgeous view on the side of the mountain overlooking the valley. That night we had a meeting of getting details on the placement test, classes, homestays, schedules and the city of Malaga.
This morning we got up to head to Malaga by bus. It is a bit of a gaunt. But, I am in love with the view, mountains in the distance, olive trees as far as I can see and bulls just chillin’. I find it amazing the difference in scenery from Ireland/England to Spain. Instead of sheep there are bulls. Instead of mustard fields there are olive orchards. Just makes me realize how amazing this world is.
Stay tuned to hear about my first week at school, my host family and the city of Malaga. Will I get better at speaking Spanish? Will the people of Malaga stare at my red hair like the other Spaniards? Will my skin fry in the Mediterranean sun? Only time will tell because even I don’t know the answers.