This week was my birthday! I turned 17. I was really sad in the beginning since this is my first birthday ever that I’ve had away from my family. But thankfully everything turned out great!
My host sister’s birthday is the day before mine and her boyfriend threw her a surprise birthday party which was really fun. The party really helped us bond. I’d been too shy to get really close too my host sister but now we talk all the time! She got a pair of hamsters for her birthday which she is absolutely obsessed with their names are Candy and Bellota.
On December third I went with Cristina and Elia to the center. We went exploring all over. I finally got my sister a leather European bag like she’d been begging me for since I got here. I also got a thick waffle with melted chocolate they sell them on the street in little candy stands and they are so delicious!!!! It’s my new favorite food in the entire world! It even beat gelato. Se llaman gofres aqui y son buenisimo!
The center is all decorated for Christmas. It’s all lit up and Christmas carols blast over loud speakers. I love it! I haven’t been much of a “Christmas-spirit girl” since I learned the truth about Santa Clause but this made me love it again. It’s because of the city. Seville makes me happy to wander around and get hopelessly lost and watch the people walking by and the street performers, coble stones and old buildings. I love it! I want to come back and and show my family and friends around the city so I can share this special feeling with them. Elia says I should work in tourism, then I’d get to travel, sight see and introduce the world to people. It sounds perfect!
We explored the city until very late into the night. Then Elia blindfolded me with a handkerchief she bought at a chino store we’d been in earlier. They took me by both arms and we laughed and screamed as they guided me through the city. I ran blindly with no idea where I was or where I was going , just trusting these new amigas with my life.
When they took off my blindfold we were at the Guadalvivir river. It was night and the moon and city lights reflected off the water. It felt so magical and beautiful and it made me so happy! I twirled on the grass and had to be stopped from jumping into the river. We walked along the riverside and I watched people talking around little bonfires. Everything is better and more exciting at night. Cristina told me that that was a very special place for them and they shared it with me because I was a good friend. I felt so special and honored.
Everyone was exhausted and starving since it was so late at night. We wandered around looking for the perfect restaurant. I was starting to feel homesick and just wanted to forget about dinner and go home and cry. But Cristina finally found the perfect restaurant. I didn’t want to go and was ready to just ask to go home. But there was a guitarist playing flamenco songs across the street and a huge crowd was gathered around him dancing and singing along. It made me remember where I was and how going to Spain was basically what I’d wished for on my last birthday and I felt much better.
I got a giant delicious pizza with pepperoni and basil on it. It was so amazing and delicious! It’s the first pizza I’ve eaten here that I’ve liked since all the other pizza’s are made with ketchup instead of pizza sauce.
Elia kept disappearing during the dinner and I didn’t know why. At exactly midnight the waitress came out with a piece of chocolate cake with a candle on top and the entire restaurant sang me happy birthday just as I turned 17! It was my best birthday ever!
The next day Elia threw me a surprise party in her house. It wasn’t exactly a true surprise since she had whispered about it to other people in front of me and kept asking what day I was free that week but it was still so sweet. Elia,Cristina,Pablo,Sandra,Sasha and Cynthia were all there. It was amazing! I didn’t think I’d even get a cake this year much less a party. I got two cakes in fact one made by Sandra and Cynthia made from 3 kinds of chocolate since they know that I’m a chocolate-aholic and an orange chocolate flan made by Elia And Cristina. The cake tasted kind of like pudding which was interesting and there was a ton of Mediterranean zumo which is my favorite kind!
Sandra tricked me into thinking that it was a Spanish tradition to get your face pushed in the cake…it isn’t but I didn’t know that and so I let Pablo push my face into the flan cake 3 times – I ended getting my face and hair full of chocolate, and some even got up my nose!
Elia made me a DVD with pictures of all the adventures we’d had together in Spain and videos of people wishing me happy birthday. It was the best present I’ve ever gotten! We spent the rest of the night eating popcorn and singing karaoke on Elia’s computer. All in all it was an amazing birthday!
So this has been an insanely busy week! It’s one of those crazy weeks in which so much has happened that I can hardly remember anything even though I’ve made so many great memories.
Towards the end of this week I had a huge Latin test that I was freaking out about. Latin is the hardest and most boring subject in my coars hands down and I was way behind. So I went to Elia’s for an intense study session. The vocabulary was easy enough, what really had me was the conjugations. They were everywhere!!!! Not just the verbs change but the nouns and the adjectives too! You have to be some kind of grammar wizard to construct a single sentence!!! I barely passed English grammar and I promptly forgot everything about it once I left middle school. But prepositional phrases and indirect objects reared their ugly heads again. It seemed impossible. Luckily Elia knew from my constant singing that I’m an extremely auditory person so we made up a little rap to remember the conjugations. Ultimately the test was a disaster but that rap was the most fun I’ve had studying in a long time.
The rest of the week was pretty uneventful till the weekend. I’ve been begging to go dancing since I got here so we went out looking for clothes for a night at the discoteca. We looked in a ton of stores but nothing worked. Ultimately we ended up wandering around the center of Seville. We bought delicious chocolate and gelato. It seems like this is becoming the story of my life chocolate and gelato. I can’t help it its just so yummy!
The next day I went with Elia and Cristina to the discoteca. Bars here are different than back home, more of a family atmosphere. We met an adorable little 11-month-old who danced with us on the dance floor. We played pool and drank juice and soda out of fancy glasses and sang karaoke. All in all it was a great week!
This weekend Elia,Cristina and I planned to have a “dia de guiri” where we walked around old Seville to gawk and take pictures of all the tourist sites that as native Sevillians they never get to appreciate. It was partly my idea but mostly Elia’s since she refused to let me go alone to the center of Seville again on account of my now famous ability for getting lost. Personally I don’t think I’m as directionally impaired as every one seems to think, after all I always find my way home eventually, but it was much easier being with people who actually knew where they were going.
First we walked for about an hour to have a picnic of bocadillos in a park. I love parks! They’re so peaceful to sit in and watch people talk and play. There was a little fountain that doves would fly down to drink from and bathe in. We threw them little pieces of bread from out sandwiches and gave them names.
When we had finished playing with and eventually terrorizing the doves we went to the paseo de castellana (which looked like a giant mushroom). It took us up in an elevator to give us an amazing view of all of Seville. I felt like I was flying!
After that I got an ice cream cone. I am still amazed by the deliciousness of Spanish icecream! I want to channel Pablo Neared and write odes to it. I tried to share it with a horse but he didn’t want any.
Elia decided that I couldn’t be a true fake tourist without going to the Plaza de Espana. What she didn’t know is that I’d already been there on one of my many solo adventures where I got lost and wandered around for hours until I found my way home. But I have to admit it was much more fun going with them. We had to decide between renting a row boat or a 4 person bicycle, we went with row boat. There is a moat inside the plaza and you can rent a boat for just five euros!It was one of the funnest things I’ve ever done! There was a lot of laughing and bickering and splashing and crashing . We were so unbelievably slow, people who left at the same time as us had been to the other side of the moat and back by the time we got to the middle. Eventually we decided that going any farther was probably a bad idea since we were likely to capsize at any minute from all the crashing into other boats and the side of the moat.
After that we went into the castle and I took pictures of all the names and messages written on the walls. I know that it’s graffiti but I love it. It reminds me how many other people have been there before me, how we’re all bonded by that one place.
Cristina had to leave to meet up with another friend. Elia and I wandered around a little then found a book fair tucked away somewhere in old Seville. There were books in all different languages and from all different time periods. I loved it! I am in love with all books and to have so many stories, poems and words all around me made me dizzy . I ended up buying some old postcards with a picture of El Patio de Naranjas and El Catedral de Sevilla. One of the postcards is dated 1929 and tells a story of best friends who took a trip to Seville. The card made me wonder if the friendships I’m making here will be lifelong, like that of the post card’s author. I really hope they are.
One of the major things that I’ll miss when I go home is definitely the food. All the sweets here are so much better! The chocolate is richer and the ice cream is creamier. Actually all the food here has stronger flavors. Especially paella, it has so many flavors going on in your mouth! The saffron, and the rice and all the different kinds of fish are all “buenisimo!” My mom has been bugging me to learn how to make paella so when I get home I can cook it for her. But it seems so complicated. Besides, it has been universally agreed that I can’t cook.
Since it was Thanksgiving this Thursday I decided to make apple pie for my host family. I figured it was the perfect all-American dessert that I could share with them. I’d helped my mom make tons of apple pies back home so I was pretty sure I could make one here without a problem. But things didn’t go exactly as I planned…
To start with, Spain doesn’t use cups or teaspoons and such to measure their ingredients so I I just had to eye ball it. Now this would have been no problem for a seasoned chef, or even anybody with good depth perception, but since I posses neither cooking or special ability it was very tricky. Since my mom wasn’t online I skyped with my boyfriend who took culinary arts in school last year hoping that some of his culinary genius would travel through my computer and gift me with pie making talent. Sadly that didn’t happen and the pie burnt to a crisp. There might be a million reasons why that evil pie burnt. It might have been the power of the industrial strength oven my host family has, but personally I think the gods of cooking just hate me. But for whatever reason it came out all charred and gross. I was so upset! I spent over three hours making that pie! And I was so proud and excited to share it with my host family. I had to peel and core the apples with a knife since my host family doesn’t have an apple peeler or corer. And trust me peeling and coring an apple like that is way harder than it sounds. I almost cut my finger so many times! I also couldn’t find the rolling pin (even though it was hanging on the wall right in front of me the entire time) so I had to improvise with a roundish thing I found in a drawer. I kept thinking that I was so cool and resourceful like a pioneer! I feel sorry for pioneer pie bakers now, they’ve got it hard. And even after all that work I had nothing to show for it except a charred, gooey mess.
Maybe I’ll have better luck trying a Spanish recipe. The proportions wont be as confusing to convert in my head and I’ll have someone to help me with the cooking. My host family used to own a restaurant so they know how to make a ton of yummy things. And my host mom said she’d teach me to make churros and hot chocolate! I promised to in exchange make pancakes but based on the pie experience maybe it’s best if I don’t.
My singing abilities and the fact that I will perform for chocolate have become somewhat widely know around my school over these past two months. When people are bored and waiting for a teacher who is late they always ask me to sing. So it’s gotten normal for me to just sing on command now.
Pablo, a friend of Elia’s, heard me sing and lunch one day and asked me if I’d sing with him and his band. I was flattered but I didn’t think it was an actual legitimate offer and so I agreed. But two weeks later during a free period Pablo showed up with sheet music and lyrics roughly translated by Google that he wanted help with. At first I thought that he only wanted help translating the lyrics into proper English (Since I am also a Spanish English dictionary). But then he asked me if I’d record the song with him! The song is so beautiful and I’d been secretly hoping to be able to sing it so I was extremely excited.
That week we spent every free period working on the song. I helped him write another verse and he added harmonies and a rapping for his friend and it’s coming along beautifully. My mom has been bugging me to start writing songs but I was too scared that they would be bad or I couldn’t come up with an idea, but this song comes so easily! It feels familiar, like I already know it somewhere in my soul.
I just can’t stop smiling! I keep playing it over and over in my head. To think that Pablo and I are the only ones in the whole world who have heard it! And I’ll be one of the first people to sing it. It’s like magic! Spain has really brought back my love of music and my confidence.
We only have a small window of time in which we can record since Pablo goes to music school after regular school gets out. We’ve recorded a little in the school library with a little microphone but we can only record at his house once a week. Pablo has a program on his computer where you can record vocals and layer them one on top of each other to create harmonies and key changes its so cool!
It’s so fun to look at my voice on the computer. I mean you can actually see it!!! Until now it’s been this invisible thing, but now I can see it squiggle up and down and it’s like looking at some sort of abstract piece of art. I look at it and think “I made that, that’s mine” it came out of me and it’s beautiful. It’s different than just hearing myself sing. It makes it whole and real. I can’t wait to see what it all looks like when it’s finished. I have little dreams of the song getting famous and Pablo and I being able to travel around the world singing it to crowds of screaming fans. I know the chances of that happening are like a bazillion to one but its fun to dream.
I’ve been doing that a lot while in Spain. Imagining what my life will be like when I’m older, whether I’ll keep traveling or just settle down somewhere and live there the rest of my life. I didn’t realize before the exchange how attached I was to my life back home. I thought it would be easy to pick up and leave but it’s proved much more difficult than I originally thought. I’m missing everyone back home a lot. I’m much better than I was in the beginning but now that it’s getting around the holidays I’m starting to miss home. But doing things like singing with Pablo and exploring with Elia make it better. I’m branching out and becoming a new more independent person.
It has been so unbelievably cold here this past week! And here I thought the Mediterranean was warm and pleasant. Well, I guess not all the time. It has been cold enough to see my breath on the way to school and to get goose bumps even when I’m taking a hot shower! I remember that last week when it was unbearably hot that I kept wishing for colder weather but I think I wished too hard! It’s 12 degrees! Even in Celsius that’s cold! And practically everything that happened this week revolved around the weather.
On Monday I got to cut school and go on a field trip with my science class. The field trip itself wasn’t anything super special. We went to an educational center to learn about astronomy. What was special though was what we did before. My class showed up to the learning center an hour early. It was freezing cold and nobody wanted to just sit there waiting so we decided to walk around. While walking we passed a place that sells churros and hot chocolate. OK, so I know that I’ve been here two months but I had yet to try a churro! So I begged the science teacher to let me go in and buy one. She agreed and ended up taking the whole fieldtrip out to breakfast! Churros are so amazing and so different than the churros back home. They are crunchier and don’t have sugar on the outside, the churro by itself is actually kind of bland but you get delicious hot chocolate to dip it in! Now if you’ve never had European hot chocolate you’re missing out. It’s not just milk and some nesquick that’s heated up, its actual melted chocolate mixed with warm milk! It’s so thick, and rich and creamy and absolutely delicious! It’s like magic in a cup!
So the next day I knew that I was in desperate need of warm clothes. Originally I had figured that Spain would be like California since everybody says they have the same climate. So I thought that like California it wouldn’t get cold here until late January and since I’m leaving in January I didn’t think there was any need to pack winter clothes. I was so wrong! I only brought short pajamas and gym cloths so I’d been freezing for weeks. So I finally decided that it was time to try to buy new clothes. However, my friend Elia, who helps me find good stores and tells me what looks good or is too expensive and helps translate when needed, was sick all week so I was pretty much on my own! Since the stores are in the center of Seville, a couple miles away from my house, and I had a vague idea of where I was going, I decided to walk by myself. Long story short I got hopelessly lost. The streets are built like a maze winding in and out of buildings and with dead ends all over. I had absolutely no idea how to get back home and it was starting to get late, but I someone pointed me towards the bus stop so I got safely home. I’ll have to get clothes another time!
So this has been an insanely busy week! It’s one of those crazy weeks in which so much has happened that I can hardly remember anything, even though I’ve made so many great memories.
It started with Halloween. I have always loved Halloween. The costumes, the free candy, the feeling of mystery and the crisp autumn air make it my favorite holiday. Elia, her boyfriend Rafa, Andrea and I decided to dress up and go to a late night horror movie at the theater in the mall.
I went to Elia’s three hours before the movie so we could get out costumes made. It took absolutely forever to get ready!!!! We decided to go as zombies so we painted our faces white, put black shadowing all over to give our faces the appearance of corpses. Then we added fake blood for the wow factor. We turned out looking really cool. Elia was a zombie doll and her mom said that I was somebody who died from a broken heart.
We had an hour to kill before the movie so we looked around for other costumed people to take pictures of. We met a lot of fun and crazy people that way!
Then we went to watch the movie. The funny thing about European theaters is that you have assigned seats: they print you out a ticket and that’s where you have to sit. It’s so different! The movie itself was boring and I fell asleep 3 times partly because it was a midnight showing and partly cause it was a painfully slow paced movie. Besides that, all in all it was a great night. To make it even better, we got off school the next day since it was a holiday, so I was able to spend the day recuperating in my bed from our crazy night.