Goodbye, Bilbao

Tomorrow I will leave the city I have come to know as my “home away from home.”  I cannot believe how fast this semester flew by!!  It feels like not so long ago I was just getting to know my host family and unpacking my bags…and today – my host family really does seem like my second family, I am almost done repacking my suitcases.  (It blows my mind that my entire life for the past 4 months is going to fit into two suitcases, by the way.)  Lately all I have wanted to do is soak in this city as much as I can.  I spent most of this past week spending time with my host family and revisiting my favorite spots in the city – getting a glass of wine with friends at our favorite bars, grabbing a coffee and people watching on Gran Via solo, and watching Disney movies in Spanish with my host family.  I don’t know the next time I will be back in Bilbao, so I needed to do all my favorite things one last time before I left!

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My last time tutoring Mikel in English 🙂 What a cutie.

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Last grammar class. Me encantan estas chicas.

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Me and my host family 🙂

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Me and Katie with our favorite bartender in the city!

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Merry Christmas from Bilbao public transportation!

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At Deusto’s closing ceremonies.

It blows my mind how transformative this semester was for me.  I learned a new language, made a new city in a foreign country my home, gained confidence and courage I didn’t even know I had in me, and formed relationships with amazing people who have touched my life forever.  It is unbelievable to me that I am leaving to return to the United States in less than eight hours, simply because I can’t imagine myself having a life in another place other than Bilbao!  As much as I am looking forward to being in Virginia with my family and friends, I am sad to say goodbye to this city.  However – I am trying not to think of it as goodbye.  It is just:  “Hasta luego, Bilbao!  Hasta la proxima vez.”

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“See you later” to Bilbao, my Spanish home.

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A Family Visit!

Hello, friends!

Over Thanksgiving break, my family came to see me here in Bilbao! It made me so incredibly happy to have them here for an entire week!  In fact, when I finally laid eyes on my dad, my  mom, and my sister for the first time in almost three months in the Bilbao airport, I definitely cried out of happiness.  I was just so overjoyed and relieved to have the people who know me best here with me in Bilbao, my “home away from home.”  The whole week was me familiarizing them with Bilbao – I showed them my favorite spots for a drink or a coffee, to study/people watch, to wander and explore, and to shop!  And of course, I had them try pintxos – lots and lots of pintxos!  (My mom kept saying that we were “eating our way” through the city – but what better place to do that than in the gastronomy capital of Spain?!)  For those of you who do not know what they are, pintxos are little appetizers/snacks that people in Bilbao have in between meals at bars, usually with a glass of wine or beer.  They are very similar Spanish tapas.  In fact, I’m rather certain they are the same, even though my host brother Ignacio insists they are not – although I think that may just be Basque pride speaking!  Here are some pintxos and us trying them at the bars in Bilbao, as well as us at other yummy stops!

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A typical pintxo bar!

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Me and Haley at one of my favorite pintxo places in Bilbao!

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Another pintxo bar!

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Bilbao pastries!!

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One of the yummy restaurants we ate at!

One of my favorite things about having my family in Bilbao with me was that they were able to finally meet my host family and get to know them.  Some of my favorite parts of the week were just when the seven of us were gathered around the kitchen table over a meal!  Speaking of which, we had a very pleasant cultural exchange at mealtimes between my two families: My host mother made my family a traditional Spanish three-course lunch upon their arrival to Bilbao and on Thanksgiving Day, we made an (almost) traditional American Thanksgiving  meal for my host family!  I think both sides were very pleased with the exchange, if I do say so myself.  Although we couldn’t have an exact American Thanksgiving (chicken instead of turkey, no pumpkin bread, etc.), it was still delicious – and my Spanish family absolutely loved it.  I think they were surprised that we Americans eat healthily on occasion (even if it is in unhealthy amounts)!  They also got a kick out of the fact that we have this day off of work and school in order to spend time with friends and family giving thanks, and instead we slave away in the kitchen all day.  (“Always going, going, going – you Americans never stop, even on your day off!!”) I guess that’s what it looks like from the outside looking in, you guys!

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Lunchtime!!

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Both of my families together!

Sharing Bilbao with my family was so fun and really important to me, so I’m so glad they could make it happen!  It was so great to show them the places they have heard so much about from me, and for them to get to know my Spanish family that I’ve come to love.  It was a very special Thanksgiving!

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Me and my parents on the mountain in Bilbao!

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On my family’s balcony!

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The parents at the Guggenheim!

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Family photo!

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Walking around Bilbao with the family.

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Paris Vacation

After my adventures in Rome, I went to Paris for a few days with Katie! It was so nice to get away with one good friend for 3 days – and it was even better that our “getaway” destination was Paris, France!

Our very first night there, we dropped our stuff off at the hostel and headed to the Eiffel Tower – yes, the Eiffel Tower.  We had tickets to go halfway up the beautiful monument at 10:00 that night!  We took the metro and got off at a stop slightly around the corner from the tower, so we couldn’t see it right away – but as we rounded the bend and I laid my eyes on the Eiffel Tower for the first time, I teared up.  It was beautiful, shimmering and appearing so majestic against the black night sky.  That’s when it hit me that I was in Paris – one of the most impressive cities in the world!  After overcoming the shock at seeing the tower for the first time, we headed to the base to take the lift up it!  Although it was freezing cold, we still loved it up there.  We were able to see the entire city from one of the most famous city monuments in the world!  So, needless to say, it was very, very cool.

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Our first sight of the tower!

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The obligatory selfie on our way up the tower!

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View from the top!!

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Hello from the Eiffel Tower!

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The Eiffel Tower at night during its hourly light show!

The next day we took a short walk through part of the city to the opera house, in order to find our “Hop-on-Hop-off” bus. (On this little walk we found a Starbucks – which may have been the highlight of the weekend for Katie, I kid you not!)  We found our tour bus and rode part of the loop around some the touristy parts of the city.  It was so so very cold, but Katie and I stuck it out and rode on the top of the bus – we are tough troopers who wanted to do Paris the right way!  The first stop we made was at the Louvre Museum! It was neat to see the beautiful art in there, especially the Mona Lisa.  After wandering around in there for a little, we headed out to the bus stop…where I ended up running into a childhood friend.  I hadn’t seen Haley since first grade when she moved away, but there she was walking around in front of the Louvre too!  What a small world!!  After a couple moments of shrieking like little girls and a short catch-up session with Haley, Katie and I headed to our next destination – the love bridge!

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Selfie at the Louvre!

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Mona Lisa!

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Long lost friends meet in Paris!

At this bridge in Paris, it’s a tradition for couples (and more recently, friends/sisters/whatever) to buy a lock, put their names on them, lock them on the bridge, and throw the keys into the water to symbolize their commitment to each other forever.  Romantic, right?  So…Katie and I did it together!  (I know what you’re thinking – not exactly the same as eternal love, but we thought that a good friendship is something to commemorate as well!!)  On our way back from the love bridge back to the hostel, Katie and I hopped on a Ferris Wheel that overlooked the city.  At this point in the day it was dark, so it was really cool to see the city at night again from another point in the city!  We had a perfect view of the Champs-Élysées and the Arc de Triomphe.

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Love bridge!

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Katie and me with our lock!

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The Ferris Wheel!

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From the top of the wheel!

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The Champs-Élysées at night!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day was probably the coldest day I have ever experienced.  But that’s okay!!  We still rode on the top of our tour bus and squeezed everything we could into that day!  We went to the Notre Dame – which was one of the sights I was most excited to see.  It was so beautiful.  We waited in line to get inside, and I’m so glad we did!  I loved being able to wander through the columns in the cathedral and feeling its sanctuary envelope me.  I’m not a very religious person (I consider myself more spiritual than anything else), but I still really appreciated the beauty of this church.  I even lit a candle and said a silent little prayer.  It was very special.  Katie and I then grabbed lunch at “Le Quasimodo,” a little cafe where I had a delicious traditional French sandwich with a crepe for dessert. Yum!  On the bus again, we got to see more of the popular tourist attractions and then we hit  Champs-Élysées!  We were very excited to walk along the street because it was all decked out for Christmas!! We even saw Santa Clause and drank hot cider – so it was legit.  Christmas in Paris definitely put us in the holiday spirit!

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Katie knows how to bundle up!

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Finally at the Notre Dame!

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Inside the cathedral.

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My lit candle is amongst those.

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So beautiful!

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Yummy lunch spot!

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Hot cider for Christmas in Paris!

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Arc de Triomphe!

On our final day in Paris, we visited the Palace of Versailles.  I loved it!  I was really blown away by how enormous the palace was – and even more astounded by its gardens.  I can’t even imagine how beautiful it is during the summer when everything is in full bloom, because it was already gorgeous in the dead of winter.  Not to mention is was just an incredible amount of land – trees and gardens as far as the eye could see.  I looked at that and thought – this was someone’s backyard??  Woah.  It helped me begin to see why people hated King Louis and why the French Revolution occurred.  I mean, how can a ruler live like that while his people are homeless and starving?  I thought it was so awesome to be in the same space that the revolutionaries stormed in rage centuries ago, as they fought to change their country.  I love history!

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Outside the palace!

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Golden gates!

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Bust of Louis

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One of the gardens!

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After Versailles, we started the journey home.  My weekend in Paris with Katie was very much needed.  I loved being able to travel with just one good friend – it’s much more relaxing to me than traveling in a larger group!   What I really loved about being in Paris was all the cool people Katie and I got to meet.  We met a group of people from Germany, a man from Algeria, people from all over the United States, and a group of guys from Brazil.  It was really fun just sitting in the hostel after a long day of sight-seeing, making friends with people from all over the world.  Just another perk of traveling!

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Hostel friends!

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A Weekend in Roma

Last weekend I went on my second personal excursion to Rome, Italy!  Three friends of mine and I hopped on a plane Friday afternoon and arrived there Friday evening. – just in time for an amazing pizza dinner! (Seriously, I don’t know if it was because I was absolutely starving by the time we arrived in Rome or because it was Italian pizza…but either way it was superior to any other pizza I have ever tasted!)  After the dinner we were free to wander around Rome for the first time!!  We hit the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain (where of course I made a good wish), the Pantheon, and more!

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The Trevi Fountain!

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The gang at the Trevi Fountain!

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Making my wish!

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The Pantheon.

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Saturday was our one full day in Rome, so we woke up early to go to Vatican City.  As it is technically its own country, we spent the entire morning there!  We took a tour of the palace and museum, and ended the visit with a view of the Sistine Chapel.  (Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures of the Chapel…so you’ll have to take my word for it!)  The Vatican was so impressive.  I loved standing at the outside of the Sistine Chapel, looking out onto St. Peter’s Square the best.

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The Vatican Palace

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Classic Roman busts in the Vatican Museum.

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St. Peter’s Square!!

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After the Vatican we took a small hike in the outskirts of the “toursity” part of Rome to see a beautiful view of the city.  This walk was so nice – the weather was perfect, the trees’ foliage was a beautiful mix of green, orange, and red, and the air was fresh – my favorite kind of day!  And I suppose that the panoramic view of Rome was not bad either!  After a yummy pasta meal (which still was sub-par compared to the pizza from the previous night) we headed to the Colosseum.  And it was about at this point in the trip where we hit a snag – we arrived at the Colosseum gates to have them literally closed in our faces.  Apparently, 4:30 in the afternoon is when the Colosseum closes, guys!  I was heartbroken because we were supposed to be leaving for the airport to go back to Bilbao the very next morning!  My only thought was: “There is no way in hell that I have come all the way to Rome to see everything except the Colosseum!!”  So we resolved to get up at 6:30 the next day to ensure we were the very first people allowed in on Sunday morning and so that we would still catch our flight back home…and all ended well!  We got to enter the Colosseum and the Forum and wander it as much as we could on Sunday morning.

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We have arrived!!

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View looking down into the Colosseum

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Ruins of part of the Forum.

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Yes, this is real. Hello, Colosseum!

What I loved most about Rome was how ancient the city is.  I kept on reading these placards at historical sites that said years like “200 AD,” and I swear, I had to read them all twice every time!  My mind had a hard time wrapping around how old Rome was – which I think is saying something!  It was so cool to be able to walk where the Ancient Romans did, and see where they had the brilliant ideas that helped form the society that I am a part of today in 2013.  I feel humbled by my trip to Rome, to put it simply!  Traveling like this and learning about people from different times and places really forces you to take a step back and see more than just yourself and your life – it puts you in “your place,” which I think we all need once and awhile.

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Sunset at the Colosseum.

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My African Excursion

Hi all!  I’d like to share the first of my more “independent” (without the University of Deusto) excursions with you guys today.  Last weekend I went to Morocco!  I went with two friends from Deusto, but we traveled with a program for study abroad students called “Discover Excursions,” stationed in Sevilla, Spain.  Students from all over Spain were a part of the group, so it was cool to meet other students from America who were also studying in Spain – but that was only the beginning of the “cool” things that last weekend brought.

My friends from Bilbao and I arrived in Sevilla on Friday morning after riding alllllll night in a bus.  Although the ride was long, it was very nice to have almost the entire day to explore Sevilla before our departure for Morocco on Friday evening.  We got to see to main bull ring of Spain, the largest church in the world, and a multicultural fair that was serving delicious food from pretty much every country in the world!

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Statue outside the bull ring.

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Sevilla Bull Ring

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Sevilla Cathetral – Largest land area in the world

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Multicultural Fair in Sevilla!

 

After spending some time exploring Sevilla, we met up with the Discover Excursions group to head to Morocco!  We took a bus from Sevilla to a ferry on the southern-most tip of Spain, then the ferry to Tangier, Morocco, and then a bus to our hotel!  Phew!  It certainly was a lot of traveling all in a day’s time but it was so worth it.  Saturday morning we woke up early and headed to Chefchaouen, a small town about 1.5 hours away from our hotel.  This little city was beautiful.  The buildings were all small and perfectly white, while just the bottoms of every wall were painted a beautiful blue.  Now, I’ve never been to Greece before (it is on my bucket list), but Chefchaouen looked to me how I’ve always pictured an adorable little Greek island to look.  We were guided around the town by sweet old man named Mustafa – he showed us all the sights to see in town, as well as told us about its history and people.  I was fascinated by its people – they all seemed so “worldly” to me!  Mustafa, for example, told me that he is able to speak seven languages, and most of the other people in town could speak at least – if not more than – two languages.  Here I am, just trying to become fluent in one language other than my own, and these people converse in multiple languages daily!  I admire that.  Anyway, during our time in Chefchauen we all had a fun time haggling with vendors and shopkeepers, trying new types of foods, and just exploring this place that literally felt like a different world!

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Mustafa guiding us through Chefchaouen.

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A typical entryway into a house in Chefchaouen. Isn’t it beautiful?

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One of the many vendor stations!

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I liked this doorway.

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We ate lunch at a rooftop restaurant in Chefchaouen – this was our view!

The next day we went to Tangier.  There was a beautiful vista near the ocean on top of a very small mountain where we stopped to have a look.  There I haggled for some jewelry with a local vendor (which went very well, I must say)!  Then we went to the “Caves of Hercules”, which was pretty much one huge underground cave that looked out onto the ocean.  It was pretty cool to explore – and there were even vendors there, in the nooks and crannies of the cave!!  I definitely got the impression over the course of the weekend that Morocco’s local economies thrive off of tourism.  After the caves we got to take a short camel ride on the beaches of Tangier!  Those animals were so big – I was a little intimidated to hop on the thing, to be completely honest – but it was very cool, even a bit relaxing!

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Tangier lighthouse.

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Outlook from Caves of Hercules.

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All aboard the camels!!

After the little camel ride we went to the neighboring town of Assilah.  This town was literally right on the beach – so in my opinion that right there makes it perfectly picturesque.  All through the little city there was also wall art of all different types – not graffiti, but beautiful paintings with every color all over the white walls.  We spent hours wandering the town – admiring the art and talking with locals!

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Looking left from una vista!

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Aaaand looking right!

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Artwork outside a school in Assilah.

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Wall art contest winner – the white writings are phrases from the Quran.

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One of the randomly beautiful artworks.

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Africa!

On Sunday night we made the long journey back to Sevilla.  My friends and I slept in the Sevilla airport Sunday night into Monday morning, when we caught a plane back to Bilbao…just in time for classes that day!  It was exhausting but it was sooo worth it because our weekend in Morocco was amazing.  The places I visited are unlike any I have ever been to before, which I think was my favorite part.  It’s boring and close-minded to visit the same kind of places over and over again!  But Morocco is so different from the United States, from Spain, from France, from Italy, from Guatemala, from Puerto Rico – all the places I have spent time in before.  I love being able to travel like this to destinations that my mind is not able to form expectations for because I go in with a completely open mind and just soak in everything I can – which I think is one of the best ways to live and learn.  I feel very blessed!

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My favorite photo from my Moroccan adventures!

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Hearts Full of Love, Laughter, and Happiness!

Hello friends ~

Right now I am writing to share my happiness with you all!  Where does all this happiness come from, you ask?  Well, one of my favorite people in the world came to visit me in Spain this week.  My best friend Lauren is studying in Bath, England this semester, so she took a hop across the pond to Bilbao during her fall break!  It is going to be difficult for me to explain how wonderful it was to have Lauren in Spain with me, but I sure will try!

Picking Lauren up at the airport was an adventure in itself – we made quite a scene with our reunion.  We were squealing from excitement, crying, laughing, hugging, the whole nine yards.  When we finally recollected our “cool” we made our way back to Bilbao.  It was so nice to show Lauren all my favorite spots to grab a pintxo, a glass of wine, read a book, and people watch!  That night she got to meet my friends and the people I study with here at the University of Deusto.  Then the next morning while I was in class, Lauren visited the Guggenheim.  After we poked around a few shops that afternoon, we headed up the Funicular Cable Car ride to the top of a mountain in the outskirts of Bilbao.  The fall weather was absolutely perfect for an afternoon up on the mountain, so we spent some time up there soaking in the beautiful view of Bilbao and – of course – taking selfies!

 

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At the top of the mountain in Bilbao!

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La vista.

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Fall in Bilbao!

 

Friday morning we got up early to head to San Sebastian for the day!  The little beach town was so beautiful.  All the old architecture along the ocean was perfectly picturesque!  In the old part of town we had the classic three-course Spanish lunch and – although the weather was questionable at the start of the day – the sun came out for us as we stepped outside the restaurant!  We walked the whole way along the beach to another Funicular that took us up to – what I think – was the best view I’ve seen in my time abroad in Spain so far.  No words can describe, so here is a picture:

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San Sebastian, everybody!

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She’s such a cutie.

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Our lunch spot.

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Beach walk in San Sebastian!

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Open ocean + mountains = love.

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The Funicular of San Sebastian.

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Upon our return from San Sebastian, we grabbed pintxos for dinner at my favorite spot and headed home to settle in for a quiet night.  We snuggled in bed with junk food and watched a movie that was one we had both been wanting to see – “Casablanca.”  As cheesy as this may sound, it was absolutely the perfect last night with my best friend in Spain!  Saying goodbye the next day was hard for us both because we had such a good time together…but we’ll see each other soon and have new adventures!

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Being goofy. It’s what we do.

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To put it simply, Lauren is my other half.  We laugh at the same silly jokes, find pleasure in the same sweet, simple moments, and of course – always have an amazing time together.  I’ve been really needing a familiar face in Bilbao, so her timing was perfect!  Sharing my new temporary home in Spain – as well as the experiences that come with it – with Lauren was very special to me.  Having someone here who just gets me without me having to say a word was very refreshing.  It’s hard to explain how happy this time with her made me; I think Lauren put it perfectly as we were sitting peacefully in silence together on our ride up the Bilbao mountain when she turned to me and said, “Robin, right now, I am so very happy in my heart.” <3

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Me and my girl.

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Enjoying the Weekends

Hello all!  Well – last week was very stressful for me.  I was a little homesick, first of all.  On top of that, I had too many things to do on my “to-do” list and I had trouble finding time to eliminate them!  So needless to say, by the time last weekend rolled around, I was very ready for it.  And the weekend that I had included perfect unwinding experiences.  Let me share them with you!

First, I went with my classmates to Southern France for the day on Friday.  The little French towns we visited were along the coast, and I’m sure I’ve ever seen places so quaint and picturesque.  The sights were absolutely beautiful – that is really the only way I know how to describe it, because I do not think my words will do it justice!  So I shall share my pictures:

 

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On this bridge in Southern France, recently married couples lock these all across the bridge..then they throw the key to the locks into the ocean! I liked this one the best!

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My glass of wine in Southern France!

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Little beach houses

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At the coast!

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The spectacular view from our vista walk.

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On Saturday, a couple of my friends and I got away with our host families to a vacation house in the country.  It was wonderful to get away from the city and all the people and just do absolutely nothing other than read, talk, and enjoy nature for the afternoon.  We literally just sat outside and soaked up the brisk fall weather in a small valley of the Pyrenees Mountains.  Talk about relaxing!

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This weekend was more of the same relaxing things.  I caught up on sleep, got ahead on my schoolwork, and spent some extra time with my host family.  Katie – basically my sister here in Bilbao – and I went to a classy party at the Guggenheim Museum on Friday night.  (Soooooo European, by the way.)  And today we watched a big rubber duck race in the river near Deusto that apparently was a big deal to the locals!  These past two weekends have been exactly what I needed just when things started to get a little crazy over here.  Now I feel rejuvenated and refreshed, which is perfect because I just booked so many trips for November!  I will be traveling to Paris, Rome, and – this just got planned out today – Morocco.  I’m so excited to explore all these places – and of course write about them here so share them with you all!  Hasta luego, lectores!

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El pato en la ria!

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Me and Ignacio goofing off!

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View of the city at night from the Guggenheim Museum.

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Lending a Hand

Want to know what’s even more fulfilling than simply the act of studying abroad (including learning another culture and practicing a language that isn’t your own)?  Helping others in your new “home” country.  That’s what I have started doing recently!  For one of my classes at the University of Deusto, I am volunteering at a school in a poorer city neighborhood, teaching English to nine year-old kids.  Although it is fun, it has turned out to be more challenging than I anticipated!  I’ve worked with kids around this same age in the United States, teaching English to second-generation immigrants to the United States.  I thought that it would be very similar to what I’m doing here in Spain.  Boy, was I wrong!  These children in San Francisco – the name of the “rougher” neighborhood in Bilbao – are very different from the ones in Herndon, Virginia.  It seems like they’ve been exposed to things that kids in Herndon wouldn’t be…things that have made them grow up much faster than normal.  Not only do they seem more aware of the adult world, but they also seem to not want to associate with people from that world – me and the other volunteers included!  I’m not sure if it’s because they do not trust adult figures, or if they simply would rather interact with people their own age while they are all together, but most do not seem interested in us volunteers from America.  I was very surprised by this because at home when I have taken time to help out kids, they love it and they feel so special!  It is a tad disappointing, but at the same time I realize that this is a very different experience than what I was expecting in the first place!  In fact, I think that this will be an especially rewarding and fulfilling experience simply because it is proving to be unlike anything I’ve ever done before – it’s definitely challenging me to expand my ideas of how to teach and get through to kids.  So all in all, I’m really looking forward to making a difference – even if it is teeny tiny – in Bilbao, Spain!

That’s all to report on this front for now.  Sorry for the lack of pictures on this post.  (I’d rather not post pictures of children I hardly know on the internet!)

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Spanish Excursions

My, these past two weeks have flown by! I have been busy trying to make the most of my time here in Spain.  Last weekend my “family” and I visited Bilbao’s mountaintop and also Bilbao’s neighboring city, Getxo.  Because it was my host mother’s birthday, we had a small lunch party here last Saturday with some guests. I really felt like part of the family.  After the feast we went to Getxo, where I was able to spend some quality time with my host brothers as we walked together along the waterfront of the city. The next day we went hiking to the top of a mountain in the outskirts of Bilbao, where we were able to see the entire city! Spending this extra time with my host family was really special, and I feel much closer to them because of it – I am so very thankful that these loving people have taken me in!

This weekend I traveled with the other students in my program to Madrid and Toledo.  Madrid was a very impressive city, simply because of its size!  It is huge.  Unlike Bilbao, it is nearly impossible to walk from one end of the city to the other.  Also unlike Bilbao, it was rather dirty and not very pretty!!  It made me appreciate my quaint little city that I call home now.  There were some cool parts of Madrid, though!  We visited the old Royal Palace where Spanish monarchs used to live, as well as the beautiful city cathedral.  I think my favorite part was the Prado art museum…surprisingly enough!  I am not much of an art person, but I was entranced by every painting in the museum.  I was fascinated – even emotionally moved – by the stories that the exquisite paintings told.  Perhaps I have found a new interest?

Toledo was absolutely beautiful.  The ancient architecture of the buildings nestled in the mountains was so picturesque.  On this trip it really hit me how incredibly old Spain is!  Toledo is the former capital of Spain, and I felt like I was walking back in time as I explored its cobblestone streets.  This country truly puts anything “historical” that we have in the United States to shame.  (Let’s just say that it was nothing like strolling through Colonial Williamsburg!)

In addition to my excursion to these other cities in Spain, I am also planning on traveling to Paris (and possibly Rome) in November!  I’ve found myself thinking, “Is this real life??”  But yes, it is really happening!  I can’t wait to see what else there is to see.

 

View of Gexto from the water.

View of Gexto from the water.

My "brothers," Ignacio y Carlos.

My “brothers,” Ignacio y Carlos.

View of Bilbao from the mountain!

View of Bilbao from the mountain!

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Fancy Madrid street sign

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The Madrid Royal Palace entrance.

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Madrid’s Cathedral

Plaza Mayor of Madrid!

Plaza Mayor of Madrid!

A real Velasquez! This was so exciting for me :)

A real Velasquez! This was so exciting for me.

Toledo <3

Toledo <3

Happy to be exploring Spain!

Happy to be exploring Spain!

 

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New Beginnings

I’ve officially been in Bilbao, Spain for one week now!  The first couple days, I walked around not really comprehending the reality my decision to live in Spain for almost 4 months.  I went from the usual “oooohs” and “ahhhhs” of first seeing a new beautiful place to thinking “Why on earth did I decide to do this??”  I have had a good week, exploring the city (Casco Viejo, or Old Town, is so beautiful, by the way!) and making new friends –  but this whole time I have still felt quite unsettled about the situation.  Now, though, I think I have overcome the first initial freak-outs of being in a strange country all by myself.  Today as I sat soaking up sun on a park bench next to the Guggenheim Museum in between classes, it suddenly hit me how amazing it is that I am living in Bilbao for the next three months. Like, wow. This is incredible – I am so lucky to be able to call this city “home” for the semester.  I cannot wait to know Bilbao like the back of my hand, and I’m so excited for the adventures I will have in Spain.

My view of the Guggenheim.

My view of the Guggenheim.

"Casco Viejo" ~ Old Town

“Casco Viejo” ~ Old Town

 

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