January 4, 2010 § Leave a comment
True to form, I have done a horrific job at keeping up with this blog. Right now, I am at a subpar (service-wise) hostel in Florence, using free internet. Tomorrow we go to the Uffizi and leave for Rome, our last destination, in the evening. It’s been almost three weeks since we’ve begun traveling, and I have been in Europe now for exactly four months. Four months sounds a lot longer than three just by default, as if passing that little number somehow entitles you to more experience and time than perspective would suggest. Since we’ve begun our Eurotrip on December 18th, we’ve been to Amsterdam, Paris, Prague, Budapest, Vienna, Munich, and now Florence. And although that sounds like a lot and I wish we had more time in certain places (Paris) and a little less in others (Prague, Budapest), everything feels a lot more distinct that I would have imagined. There’s been little internet access, especially the free kind, and many keyboards that I had to adjust to. German keyboards switch the y and z letters, and French ones are just all over the place.
I’ve done my fair share of waking up at ungodly hours. Travel logs show sleeping overnight on the floor in the terminal (not the gate) of the Madrid airport while trying not to freeze and then ‘waking up’ at 4:30 to get into a crazy line for EasyJet. We left snowy Amsterdam by waking up at 4 AM yet again to take the train to Paris, only to find that 1) the night buses weren’t running and 2) we had to pay 30 euro to get a taxi to the station. Then, our train was delayed. After leaving Paris for Prague at (yet again) 4-5 AM, I think I’ve got night traveling down. Luckily, our other situations weren’t quite as dire on my sleep schedule. Two nights ago we took a sleeper from Munich to Florence, which housed about six people in a space that was maybe a fourth the size of my dorm room at school. On the train, unable to sleep due to excessive heat\cold\noise, I randomly started to remember the strangest things, from high school, middle school, etc. Maybe it’s the clarity of mind brought on by weeks with poor internet access. In other words, I was a little less on edge, finally.
But of course, things come to an end. The realities of having to apply for internships, studying for the LSAT, having to do real work at school, and keeping track of extracurriculars are looming ahead, as always. Everyone knows, of course, that this is what happens when study abroad ends, and this experience becomes something so encapsulated that sometimes I already feel like it’s just some random memory. Best to enjoy the moment.
My last night in Spain was full of, what else, horrible coincidence and Voltaire-quality irony. After having been without internet access yet again for two weeks, it came back that afternoon. Of course, I could not actually enjoy it, since I was finishing up packing and trying to say goodbye. Since my bedroom wasn’t heated, I slept in the next day’s clothing, socks, and my winter jacket. Still froze to death, unfortunately. It’s strange to think that I won’t be going back to Sevilla, that the first day there was so many months ago, that all you have are photos and random souvenirs. For a more coherent goodbye, I think Rebecca’s post was better. I don’t really know what to say about Spain- especially now that I’ve been elsewhere in Europe and seen places that are significantly less beautiful but with a signficantly better attitude about it. Such is the trade-off that you get, though. Italy is similar, the same kind of streets, the same trashy teenagers, a more similar language. It’s probably too soon for me to actually think about what happened. Maybe by the time I have to study for next semester’s midterms, my eyesight worsening in the library, hoping for even an hour of free time, I’ll think back to watching Glee with Colleen, obsessing over Mad Men, tapas, constantly packing for over 15 trips during the course of the semester… it’s been real. A horrible sign-off, but that’s all I have. For now.
November 11, 2009 § 1 Comment
To quote Staind (sans e). Clearly, I am not the blogging type. Or, at least, the consistently blogging type.
My internet was sadly out for over three weeks, but of course I have been out of it for far longer. Since the last time I deigned to record something online, I’ve been to Salamanca, Segovia, Ávila, Granada, Morocco, Santiago de la Compostela, & La Coruña. This weekend, heading off to Portugal (Lisbon).
I’ll only be in Sevilla for another month or so, and it’s strange to think about. The whole concept of ‘going abroad’ has been this solid block of time, an entity that one rarely considers in the framework of regular time. And, considering how it’s been consistently in the 80s and 90s temperature-wise until this week, it’s easy to fall into the mindset that time isn’t even passing here. Still, the inevitable catches up to us- I’m sitting in my room with the washer (which runs for about 2 hours each time) humming outside, decked out in a sweatshirt and shoes starting to break apart. Behind me are three midterms, three independent weekend vacations, and questionably improving spanish skills.
Last week I had to register for classes, which I conveniently believed to be the day after the day it was really was. Disaster ensued, etc. Another reminder of how life will taste by the time I get back to the US. The paradox of living without constant stress is that you become complacent, and can’t actually consciously enjoy it. I suppose now, with 5 weeks left to go, I’ll begin.
In mid-October, I went to Salamanca with Melanie and met up with Sophia. A grand reunion, or something of the sort. The city itself didn’t lend itself to its oft-rumored nightlife, mainly because of police crackdowns in the last few years. Disappointing- I even got carded- what? Still, the city was the first exposure I had to a Spanish city outside of Andalucia- a bit of a shock, really. Not every city is rooted in some strange, kitschy antiquity.
Due to my (not-so) newfound laziness, the quality of photos will be lowered a bit… no time to upload them individually onto this site.
The streets of Salamanca.
We visited the Art Deco museum. I loved the movement in this sculpture.
My inability to do justice to the plaza mayor.
Afterwards, we took a day trip to Segovia. The main attraction there is the giant Roman aqueduct, which is pretty much a sight to behold.
We also visited the Alcazar, which is apparently what the Disney castle was based on. However, apparently it was a reconstruction of the original thing. Disappointing.
Our final day trip was to Ávila, which was definitely my favorite of the weekend. The entire old city is enclosed within the old city walls, which resemble castle walls. The inside is very quaint, peaceful, and delicious (yemas!)
The Salamanca trip was my first experience in a youth Hostel. Strangely, I haven’t been in a room that big since. This will definitely change in the upcoming weeks. There were a few … interesting guests who complained/snored/otherwise amused us greatly. Showers were a bit questionable, but so goes life.
Our next trip was to Morocco. We decided to go without a guide, which apparently does not happen very often. Overall, I didn’t find that sans-guide was much of a life-or-death hassle, although it could easily be, I suppose, for people who can’t take any responsibility for… noticing what’s going on around them. We were in Tangier, a port city very close to Spain. Upon arrival, a travel agency attempted to cheat us, but we had none of that, and headed to our hotel, which was an actual HOTEL with an amazing view:
I don’t have many photos of the bulk of our trip- which was traversing around the Medina until we were actually familiar with its giant maze. In general, men screamed “sayonara!” and “konnichiwa!” at me & Melanie at every chance- I suppose Japanese tourists are a commonality. Still, I wonder what purpose it serves. I don’t particularly feel compelled to make a purchase, no matter what language they’re screaming at me in. Then again, it’s just business. Plus everything else I’m too ambivalent to want to deal with. The streets were full of men- barely any women were out. It also made eating out difficult and a tad awkward, since, by nighttime, the cafés are full of men sitting auditorium style and watching football on the television.
On the second day, after making some purchases at a more heart-warming exchange rate, we wandered into a more residential part of the city (probably ill-advised) and found ourselves at a precipice overlooking the port. Ran into a couple of boys playing around who kept trying to talk to us and wanted us to take pictures. Eventually, they tried to discourage us from going in further, because, apparently, our new favorite spot coincided with the meeting spot of the local mafia. Comforting. Now, I can say I’ve actually seen some form of a mafia and recognized it as such. … …
Hopefully, after I get back from Portugal, I’ll write a bit about Granada, Galicia, and Lisboa. For now, looking back at all the trips, it’s almost overwhelming how much I’ve done without actually ‘doing’ anything. In Sevilla, I’ve reached the point where I feel like a resident (although not really, considering how everyone stares at me). But we’ll be gone soon, and I wonder what’ll end up sticking with me more- all of these travels dispersed through so many places, things that almost feel routine now whereas I’ll be hard-pressed for any vacation at all back in the States, or my time in Sevilla, banging my head against my desk during classes, eating tapas, going to the film festival, marveling at how the weather continues to dip up and down at will. I do wish I were accomplishing some more tangible things here, but it seems like a lost cause at this point. I think, when the time comes, I’ll be relieved to go back to the US. More than anything else, the biggest difference I’ve noticed between European and American attitudes is their view of identity. When we couch-surfed in Galicia, our host, Marcos, asked us what nationality we’d think he was if he was on the subway in the US. We all said that we would assume he was just American, when the obvious European answer would be: Italian. Even though, ironically, he’s actually Spanish. Things to ponder, but not actually ponder, because of course we all knew that. Still, I’m beginning to see the difference between knowing something and understanding why we take those assumptions for granted. A bit juvenile and precocious, but it’s all I’ve got.
October 2, 2009 § 1 Comment
A Spanish version of Happy Birthday is blasting outside of my window with the random Spanish additions at the end (new songlust?) A tiring but fruitful Friday. Last weekend I went to a bullfight. Well, let the riots begin. I was unsure about it but I suppose it’s some kind of cultural theatre. Which basically sums up the experience in two words. Lots of yellings of ‘ole’, dismemberment, lovely violence all around. Well, that’s life.
I wish I could say more about it, but honestly I actually fell asleep at the 5th bull out of 6 because they were taking forever to off it and I just felt a mixture of pity/revulsion/boredom. Some things I suppose I see only because I am a tourist- it’s like going to the US just to watch a NASCAR game. Ok, no. But still.
Last weekend we also went to Córdoba, where there is an insane Mezquita that got converted into a cathedral on some parts of the inside, making it effectively the craziest and only hybrid religious structure I have ever seen.
The Cathedral bits looked pretty much like all the other cathedral photos I’ve already posted. Clearly, I am going to be a cathedral stalker in the future, regardless of my deep feelings on the matter. Córdoba seemed very small from my visit, but it was partially because we were, once again, forced to go on a tour with our program. I am not a huge fan of tours and they way they inevitably suck the soul out of you by forcing you to try not to fall asleep or wander away too obviously while someone who likely resents this job (or is too obsessed with it to be sane) blabs on about something I’d rather look at alone, in peace. But now I’ve said my piece. If a little brusquely.
This Tuesday we went to the contemporary museum of art in Sevilla. It’s in a giant park where the expo of ’29 and ’92 were, which means there is plenty of empty space and weird sculptures. I felt like I was in a strange video game- weird music drifting from various sculptures and all. The inside was an old monastery, but we could go into all the little cloisters, which had been turned into places for installations for contemporary art.
I’ve begun to settle into my classes. The problem is that while I wouldn’t mind taking 2 university classes I would prefer not to have NO class Th/Fr and 4 classes on M/W. That’s just rough. Right now I think I’m going to take 2 art history classes ( want to drop one of these but it’s on a Thursday/Tuesday schedule), Spanish film (maybe I will drop this), The Arabic World, and possibly one more Uni class if it is good enough. We shall see.
Last night I went to the only original-voice movie theatre in the city to see Isabel Coixet’s Mapa de los sonidos de Tokio. It was decent, although the cinematography was top-notch. When we got back, we were talking to my Señora about the beautiful photography and she told us that her cousin was a cinematographer whose movie, Volver a empezar, won an Oscar in 1984! He himself won a Goya, the Spanish equivalent. Insanity- I only wish I had been able to meet him- he passed away in the 90s. Still, it’s nice to have some kind of cinematic connection. In the cinema class I am currently in, we watched excerpts sometimes of English films…DUBBED in Spanish. The. Pain. El. Dolor. It’s seriously unbearable, and I see no reason why a film class should have to do this, especially to fucking West Side Story. I eagerly await the next massacre.
Today I went to a small mountain town called Ronda, which was glorious, tranquil, and beautiful. Will update about that later. For now, tomorrow, I must rise and shine early (yet again) to go on an overnight trip to Chiclana. We will be stopping in Jerez and taking a bus tour (…….) through Cádiz. Such is life! Such is life. Its been a busy week, but things are starting to come together, now that I’ve been here for a month and settled in. Time to… start writing more…? One can only hope.
September 26, 2009 § Leave a comment
It’s been a while since I posted last- which means that actually much more has happened than I expected.
We’ve been going on many weekend trips to various old Roman cities. Some of which are great, some of which are very not so much. Sometimes (always) spending time in the city by myself (aka with fwends) is far more relaxing and infinitely more enjoyable than going out with a tour group. The pain, the heat, the constant counting and telling me what to do. I would say “this isn’t what I paid to do” except- well- it is. Today we went to Córdoba to see the famous mosque that also has a cathedral built into it from when the Christians took over. Unfortuntately we only spent about 1.5 hours inside the catedral and another hour walking around.
Last week was the last of orientation, and, on the last day, while taking an exam that was effectively 23% of my orientation grade and of which I and pretty much everyone was failing because of the hideous lack of correction instruction with regard to studying for the test, I suddenly remembered possibly the most life-changing fact of my study abroad experience: my grades here will not be counted in my GPA when applying to law school.
You heard that right. I can fail like a mug in regular university classes (likely) and it won’t even matter! Of course, I am not the world’s worst lazy student, but it still feels nice to know that I can take a few riesgos aquí and not have to have a heart attack at the end of it.
Besides school, I had a mini-crisis of the soul yesterday when the internet I am janking from my neighbors up and disappeared/died/left me a crumbling, shaking, stunned, zombified mess of terror and denial. My roommate and I spent the entire “afternoon” before lunch complaining and trying not to think about how we wouldn’t pay for internet for three months for 130 euros. Death. I went over to Melanie’s house for about 5 hours in order to get my daily fill of time-wasting. We even bought a few things in relation to resorting to possibly immoral actions in gaining internet. BUT! That didn’t really work because it takes forever, and when I woke up this morning, the internet returned! Now I am more paranoid than John Nash in the last 2/3 of A Beautiful Mind, but I will take whatever I can get.
On to things that actually may interest anything other than my now-fragile psyche. A few weeks ago we went to the Catedral in Sevilla, which is apparently the largest cathedral in the world (taking into account that many others are actually basilicas).
At the end, we all climbed up the giralda, all 33 floors, although they were ramps to accomodate the horses of the time. After many natural disasters and regime changes, we reached the top. And the view was, of course, glorious.
Last weekend, we went to the Noche de los Museos, where entrance was free and there was spectacle and tons of art. For the most part, I just stuck my body into various hollow pieces of art, as there was no security.
I’m still about a week behind in descriptions, but… generally, the most important thing is that we’re finally starting school next week, on Monday. It seems as if we’ve just been here forever, finally done with the excruciating orienation, and now I must go off and try to regain my life! I can’t even imagine being back at Brown.
Goal for next time: try to be more anecdotal. For instance, yesterday my roommate and I were walking down the street and some creepshow in a car yelled in this low, gravelly voice: “guaAApaaaSS!” Scary as fuck. That’s life, I suppose. That’s life….
September 13, 2009 § 1 Comment
Another Sunday, noticably cooler than the one before. There’s a little bit of thunder outside right now, and I’m beginning to question why I suddenly regard any temperature that is below 85 as chilly. Today I slept in till about 1:30, ate, and began to waste my time online. I was reading some art blogs- sadly it seems like I can’t even keep up with something as simple as this, let alone something with actual substance. Still, it’s free to enjoy, no? Fashion week has started in NYC and I have to say Rag & Bone is making me fall in love again. Totally irrelevant to anything about Spain (especially considering the bright, short, and bold clothing here), but I loved these looks:
Of course, I have a long ways to go before pulling off either of these looks, one main problem is probably growing 2-3 inches to not look like a saggy mess. Still, summer fashion week is never really too exciting for me- I probably will always prefer winter coats and cuts.
Last night we went to a discoteca (inside a mall, hrmm) named “Buddha”. Well, it was an experience, to be sure. The music was inanely awful, to put it mildly, but it was still an interesting experience, to be sure. Walking back around 5:00 AM, the churros stand was still open. Good stuff. Earlier that day, we had to get up to see these old roman Ruins of Italica. I am not really a fan of old stuff- pictures will probably come later- but really. Boring and hot and I had to get up at 8:00 AM just for that. Twenty-one hour days aren’t the worst thing, but they certainly don’t do themselves any favors by having a long, long morning.
In the afternoon we walking around the center of the city. I had wanted to buy some clothes but it was all not really worth it. Zara, Mango, etc. ran about 30 euros, which, at 40ish dollars, is not my ideal price for clothing when I could be spending my money elsewhere in Europe. The styles are very cute, though, and if I had a lot more spare cash then I suppose I could justify spending more. Maybe at the end of the season when there’s some sales on the winter stuff that I can bring home to the E.E.U.U. We saw three weddings in these huge squares- very pretty stuff. My unavoidable horrible comment of the day is that I don’t really know how much better a wedding dress really makes someone look when they aren’t that great to start with, and I say that because it seems like a tux on some random guy makes a much bigger difference immediately. Life is unfair.
I keep remembering that I brought my sketchbook and wanted to write some more when I got here, but all I feel is lethargic and in need of foot healing in order to be able to walk tomorrow. I fear that being lazily addicted to the internet is something that has cursed me- perhaps it’s not the best thing I have wireless here. Oh, who am I kidding. I would die. And probably learn a lot. But that’s the dealbreaker, eh? Hopefully now that it’s cooled down a bit I can walk around and just take in the city more. Of course, being Asian here means that you will get stared at no matter where you go. I suppose I knew this all along, but it’s still a bit disconcerting when I think about how easily I can just wander around Boston, etc. Not that there’s much to see there. What a trade-off. Spain isn’t the place to be super pretentious with some coffee and a moleskine (not that I drink coffee), so I suppose the inspiration for anything must just come from letting yourself relax a little. Well, here I go.
September 10, 2009 § 1 Comment
Another day passes. Difficult to believe that I’ve been here for only a week. But, in this short amount of time, I have somehow managed to:
Day 1) Get lost on the way to the school for the first time because my roommate and I thought we knew where we were going, as we had gone there the night before.
Day 2) Walk out in the undying 12 A.M. humidity. Along the way, tried “el tinto de verano”, among other things. Saw a Flamenco performance whose quality I wasn’t able to judge, not only because of my amateur viewing status, but also because it was so unbearable hot I could barely pay attention or hold a camera.
Day 3) Went to la Calle Betis, which is full of American bars. They apparently have Beer Pong Tuesdays. It’s like I never left. In the morning, we watched A Cinderella Story with one of my Señora’s old students, dubbed in Spanish. Good stuff. Spanish dubs, by the way, are about 42 kinds of awful. Telenovela quality voices dubbing over already nauseating American actors. The only exception I found to this was flipping through the channels before we went out and watching a little of Woody Allen’s “Manhattan”. It’s like they have the Spanish Woody. Whatever that means. But considering that came out pratically 30 years ago, the explanation might not be as transparent.
Day 4) Went to a beach called “Matalascanas”- aka- Kill the Sugar Canes. I’ll keep that in mind for my next death metal album. Anyway, I got vaguely sunburnt and had a 7/10 time. Staying out in 100 degree+ (oh, sorry, 40 celcius+) weather is not my ideal flesh-baring temperature. On the way back I fell into a sun-induced coma on the bus in an awkward position and woke up with my neck in a rage. Sand everywhere. Ok, so I shouldn’t be complaining about the beach, but I suppose if you told certain individuals to use their right brains for two seconds, we’d see some atomic explosions.
Day 5) Orientation classes begin. As expected, they are even more mundane and inexplicable than Spanish dubbing. I don’t even know if I want to go into it, so that my brain can use the space for these memories for other things. Or really, just skip over it. The only good thing is that there is air conditioning. And I guess the words I will learn- otherwise what is there to do in September, eh? I suppose there is actually more to say regarding that – the heat is unbearable. Over 100 degrees every day, and the kind people here have decided that it would be best to start the classes at 5 PM, aka the fucking hottest time of day. Since we eat lunch at 3 PM and end class at 8 PM, I basically cannot do anything all day besides bake in the heat. I feel like a piece of ceramic.
Day 6) We went out at 11 (still boiling) to explore Triana, the more cutesy neighborhood of the city. Lots of walking, but antidote for the eyes what UV rays are to my skin. Since the city isn’t really ‘happening’ at that point in the day… well… I guess I get a lot of stares for being “china”, but you live and learn and deal, eh? We went to a few churches, streets with ceramic, markets, bridges, hitting up all the tourist hotspots in the Frommer’s guide. That’s how we do it. Yeah. … Well.
Day 7) We went out for Tapas at night for the first time. It cost 76 euros for six people, but well worth it. Afterwards the waiter said that the next time we came he would give us a discount. Smooth moves. Like Shamu, only better. Anyway, the Tapas were tiny, but it’s probably for the best we don’t have New Orleans-sized portions anyway. Got ice cream on the way back, and then, the real “kicker”.
I sprained my ankle. Expletive expletive expletive. I got back and my Señora gave me some ice. I woke up in the middle of the night in some pain. It does hurt to walk, but I hope it gets better in about a week or so. I went to the pharmacy this morning to get some painkillers. Apparently each tablet of Ibuprofen in Spain is 400 mg. Yes. And he told me to take it three times a day. Yes. Well, I have taken it once. Honestly I think I will be ok, but the stinging pain is truly an annoyance. It puts it into perspective, though. How have I only been here a week and managed to fuck myself up already? One of the world’s greatest mysterious, no doubt.
Day 8) Woke up in pain and did the above mentioned at the pharmacy. Hobbled like a fool who already gets stared at to the office, where we ended up going on a tour of the royal palace. There were hoards of multinational tourist groups. Which makes any sojurn just spectacular, really. It was a quick tour- apparently we get to return for free with student IDs, so. A few photos to give the general idea- it was originally an Arab palace for the royals. I think I need to digest all of this first before I just go “woooww!” because now it seems like everything is thrown at us so quickly I take it for granted. Which is how life usually is….
At least the food is excellent! Nothing like the crumbs at school, fo sho. Tonight I had ham and cheese that was fried together, “fries”, pasta, bread, salad, and a pear. Which is actually a smaller dinner, because my roommate is out. So balanced and healthy- it’s like a commercial.
Now, I must attempt to figure out my life and do my homework, which is undyingly awful on both counts. Good news is my spoken Spanish IS improving- although not in class because the only time I am compelled to speak is apparently when I have no semblage of vocal coherence. Anyway, that’s not really anything new in any language.
The most noteworthy thing here, apart from the undying heat, is the schedule. I didn’t know that people still turned in “early” aka 12-1 on the weekdays compared to 4-5 or 6-8 (am) on the weekends. Of course I didn’t know this and took a shower when my Señora was already asleep.
Hasta luego! I will try and take some photos of myself with my own camera next time…
September 3, 2009 § Leave a comment
Well, now that I have been up for about 25 hours and taken a pitiful nap, about to go to bed again, I have somewhat settled in to Spain! This is an overstatement.
The plane ride was fairly uneventful- we watched The Proposal and my controls were broken so when I plugged my headphones in they blasted away and I was left with both of them worse for the wear. Damn.
The Madrid airport is amazingly designed- so pretty. We had a three hour layover in which I slowly lost my mind from tiredness and dehydration, and then a short plane ride to Sevilla. Upon arrival, I thankfully had all my luggage, and then was transferred roommates in a shakeup that involved no fewer than 3 señoras. But I persevered. And now I am in the center of the city, just across the bridge from the university. There’s stores all around me and across the street (even a vet shop, Alison!) and a pharmacy as well. I should go get a phone tonight, probably. My Señora’s house is so cute. It’s white and three stories high, and I am living on the top floor. I went out and bought a few things and walked around the city- so pretty! I miss palm trees. And of course the architecture is not to be beaten. Excuse me for my complete inability to express myself at the moment- as I said to my roommate, I haven’t felt this sweaty and disgusting (prior to my shower) since the last time I was at Six Flags in the middle of August. The lack of A/C is going to be a test of my willpower. It’s supposed to be 99 degrees here for the next week. Pardon me, 37 degrees big C. Probably until October. How will I go on…?
I’m just glad to have internet access. Spanish television is already ‘da bomb’. Saw Olivia Wilde from House on some Spanish talk show wherein she acted like a complete “wooo!” girl and almost stripped and went in some weird contraptions. That makes it sound far more scandalosu than it actually was. In other news, “He’s Just Not That Into You” is out in theaters here, and it’s called “Qué les pasa con los hombres?”