Monthly Archives: September 2014

Culture Shock, Sevilla, and Mi Ciudad (my city)

I was told this would happen but I suppose I had formed the impression that culture shock would not affect me. I now realize how ridiculous this is. When literally everything you have known is upturned and sideways and backwards it is pretty hard not to feel a little lost. I am adjusting to this different way of life but at times it has been very difficult. Around 12 nearly everyday my stomach begs for food and I just gulp down a cup of Spain’s finest coffee and ignore my American hunger. Lunch is usually closer to 3 and dinner is at 8 or 9. This is only one of the miniscule differences that I am still adjusting to.

I think the biggest change I have had to deal with is not knowing anyone. It is easy to feel lost and alone when there are no familiar faces. But it isn’t like I haven’t had to start all over in the past; I am reminded of my first few weeks of freshman year at Whitman. I remember wandering the long hallway looking for open doors and friendly faces and scrambling to find a group to walk to brunch with. I remember feeling overwhelmed by small talk and just wanting to find people I didn’t have to try so hard with. It was scary and new, just as this is but I also recall the spurts of independence and adventure I felt once I got settled. I am a comfort creature I like lists, routines, familiar spaces, and people, so studying abroad for four months was a big step for me but I do not regret it one bit. I have plenty of distractions to keep my mind off of missing home. I think the program was designed that way because we have very little tiempo libre (free time).


This past weekend we boarded the familiar charter buses to the picturesque cities of Ronda y Sevilla. We stopped in Ronda for lunch and got to tour the famous Arab baths. The design of the baths, a hot room (sauna), slightly cooler room for massage, and a final room with a cold pool, is now used in spas worldwide.



Ronda (above)

We reached Sevilla in the late afternoon and I promptly got on a bicycle and followed my program director through busy cobblestone streets trying not to get hit by a car or anger the locals. This was probably one of my favorite things that I have done in Spain so far. After walking many hours and acquiring countless blisters almost everyday since I’ve been here, zipping around on a bike for a few hours in what is thought to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world was pretty incredible. Sevilla has one of the oldest cathedrals in Spain (built in the early 16th century), beautiful gardens, a river that runs through the city, and a mix of historical sites and familiar stores like Starbucks. If I hadn’t been to Granada before coming to Sevilla I probably would have fallen in love but the kind people and no pasa nada lifestyle has made me loyal to Granada. When we returned on Saturday evening I was so glad to be home en mi ciudad (in my city). I had a new appreciation for the slow moving people on the sidewalks and the tapas gratis (free tapas). Even though at times I feel overwhelmed by the Granadan culture at the same time I am starting to appreciate and enjoy it and Granada is becoming my home.





Professional flamenco dancers. It was amazing!

sevilla mesevilla

The palace in Sevilla and me posing in front of it 🙂


(I will post more pics of Sevilla later for some reason they don’t want to upload. 🙁 )

Cabo de Gata

I was both dreading and looking forward to this past Saturday’s day trip to Cabo de Gata, a breathtakingly beautiful national park with beaches (even nude ones) and mountains (that you wouldn’t think to climb to the top of). We were informed ahead of time as we boarded the bus early Saturday morning that it would be a 6-kilometer hike and we would reach San José after about 6 hours of hiking and stopping at the beaches. The numbers were overwhelming for me. My entire summer I had spent working which, involved making copies and lecturing, not climbing mountains or hiking in 98-degree weather for hours at a time.

After we spent two and a half hours on the bus we stopped in a tiny town fifteen minutes from where we would start the hike. Our director Javier, recommended we buy another bottle of water. I was in disbelief when he told us we would probably need around 4 Liters of water and my two 21 oz water bottles would not be sufficient. Considering he was the expert I purchased one humongous bottle of water, which, I would gulp down in about two hours during the hike.

The ninety of us divided up into four groups, the muy rápido, rápido normal, lento normal, y muy lento. I was determined not to be pathetic and last even though my current stamina was probably better suited in the last group. I felt good in the third group until we reached a long most likely forty-five minute stretch of hill. It just kept going up and myself and a few other students had straggled to the back meaning that every time we caught up to the group they did not give us an opportunity to rest because they had been waiting on us. Usually when I am doing something strenuous I give myself little goals to accomplish like reach the mass of thirty people standing at the top of the hill but I also need a moment to revel in my accomplishment before setting a new one; the rest of the group was not courteous to this system.

The hike did serve as an effective bonding experience. I met a girl named Jenny in the thick of this hellish climb and we huffed up the hill together barely speaking due to lack of energy. Every once in a while I would look over at Jenny red-faced and sweaty, just like me, and then joke “Estoy moriendo” because my body was rebelling against me. My feet had blisters, my calves were protesting loudly, my back spasmed, my head hurt from dehydration, my mouth begged for water, and my face itched with layers of sweat and sunscreen. I don’t understand why people love hiking so much.

Once we reached a plateau the trip became much less miserable. The view from the top of the mountain was indescribably beautiful. The blue of the Mediterranean was vibrant and bright and contrasted with the soft tones of the cloudless sky. I took a moment to acknowledge the incredible accomplishment behind me.


(Me after the ridiculous uphill hike)

It only took us another hour or so to reach the first beach. I ran into the water and felt the cool bliss melt away the hot sun stuck to my skin. Spanish beaches are nothing like Oregon beaches. You actually swim in the water. It isn’t a dare to go in for a few minutes. It isn’t just about seeing the sand and the horizon of the ocean. I immediately loved the Mediterranean.



We ate lunch and then climbed a rather steep cliff for another thirty minutes and ended up at a secluded nude beach. It was a little awkward being one of ninety IES students marching into a nearly empty beach and watching the three or four naked people quickly pack up their umbrellas and leave. I got to lay out on the sand for a while and become aware of my surroundings. I closed my eyes and became lost in a revelation. It was a Saturday afternoon and I was sprawled out on a beach in Spain, if I had been at school I probably would still be asleep or binge watching Netflix but I wasn’t. I felt incredibly lucky.


The next morning I woke up at 3:30 in the afternoon and when I tried to get out of my bed every single muscle in my body told me NO. I spent the remainder of the day hobbling around and avoiding the stairs at all costs. But I kind of liked that I was sore. It was a reminder that I did something new and intimidating and that I was lucky to have had the opportunity to experience a magical place such as Cabo de Gata.

FYI the first beach we went to is where they filmed the third Indiana Jones movie. My tour guide showed we a picture of Harrison Ford in front of the exact beach.

Mi primera día en Granada (My first day in Granada)

What a crazy stressful amazing journey it has been getting here. It took a train, 2 packed airplanes, two taxis, and a bus but I am finally here in Granada, Spain. I flew into Málaga first for orientation and myself and the other 80 IES students wandered around the center of the city getting our bearings and trying our first tapas and sangria. Tapas are basically any kind of appetizer usually some combination of bread and meat, they are delicious and cheap. Tapas and a drink are also the Spanish equivalent of a complete dinner. The portion sizes are pretty different here. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day and a very social event. I learned this on my first day in Granada.


Sunrise from the plane (left) and the streets of Málaga (right)

After adventuring in Málaga we all boarded four buses for two hours and met our host families at the IES center. My host mom, Josefína is so kind and fun to chat with. She always speaks with such enthusiasm and volume, in the natural Spanish way. She has two sons, Hugo, who is nine, and Mario, who is six. I could not have asked for a better family. Even though my Spanish is not perfect I am gaining confidence every day just from accomplishing communicating with them.

We got settled into our new home, a skinny four level flat with a quaint kitchen, four bedrooms, and a combined dining and living room. The table is in the middle of the rectangular room with two couches on either side and a television against the wall so the kids can watch TV during meals. My roommate Savannah and I, after a night of restless sleep, made our way down the angled staircase to the breakfast table. Mario and Hugo were watching TV and drinking a glass of milk while Josefína was working away in the kitchen. She poured us some coffee and popped some bread in the toaster. Once we were done eating Josefína and Hugo walked Savannah and I to our first day of orientation at the IES center. It felt a lot like I was starting kindergarten. We exchanged kisses on each cheak and she told us she would see us at lunch time. This meant we would have to remember the winding path we took to get here and the combination of narrow corners we would turn down. I couldn’t worry about that now though, we were thrown into language class.

The class focused on getting us immersed in the Granada culture as well as becoming familiar with important vocabulary such as directions and rooms in the house. We had two hours of this and then were released for a fifteen minute break. Since lunch is usually not until 2 or 3 pm it is traditional in Spain to get a coffee and snack around 12. My group made our way across the street to a coffee shop located in a marble courtyard. I asked for café con crema y hielo (coffee with cream and ice). It was way too hot for a warm beverage. The average temperature here so far has been 90 degrees Fairenheight, I had accepted my constant sweaty state. The coffee was immaculate; so rich and delicious. I knew my coffee addiction would reach a new height after that first sip.

I was surprised based upon my directional track record that it only took Savannah and I fifteen minutes to find the door to our flat and we only took one wrong turn. Lunch was a traditional Spanish tortilla, which is actually nothing like a Mexican tortilla. In Spain, a tortilla is made with potatoes, eggs, and onions. It is very thick and reminds me more of a potato omelet. We also had chicken sausage, I thought it was a bit unusual and bread, always bread. I had some watermelon for dessert and then Savannah and I felt weighed down by the large lunch and lack of sleep that we retired to our room for a siesta. This would become a regular occurrence.

So far I have fallen in love with Granada. The people are incredibly kind and the entire city has the vibe of “no pasa nada” loosely translated to no worries. It is a dramatically different way of living but I am getting used to it. I know I will soon feel home in Granada.


Granada viewed from the oldest neighborhood Albaicín located at the top of the city