Its been just about nine months now, and my foreign exchange is about to come to an end. In all honesty, its been a very long year but its been a pretty good one. In some ways its been one long vacation, but it in other ways its been far more difficult than it would have been in the United States. When I look back on my time in Spain during the years to come, Ill certainly look at it as time well spent. With that being said, Im really looking forward to getting back home. I miss my friends and family a lot, American food, and a lot of other things. Ill be said to leave Spain when June 5th finally does roll around, but Im really excited to get back home.
First of all, Ill recount some of my favorite memories in Spain and what Ill miss about Spanish culture. Ive got quite a few good memories of my time here, but one sticks out in my mind. It isnt really a crazy story or a once in a lifetime type event, but I went to play a game called padel, which is like racquetball and tennis mixed, with three of my friends from school one day. I got to spend a few hours after school that I would usually spend sitting at home with my friends, and I really felt like a part of the group and like I fit in perfectly in Spain, which I didnt always feel. New Years Eve was also another one of my favorite days in Spain. My host family and I went over to my host moms parents house to celebrate with essentially the entire extended family. We dressed up in costumes and did typical Spanish stuff and shot off fireworks at the end of the evening which was a really great time. Culture wise, Im going to miss the three hour long meals, everyones laidback attitude, the later meals, and taking siestas. Spain also has a great public transport system and tons of parks which we really dont have in Columbia or in many places in the United States which Ill really miss.
On the other hand, there are TONS of things in the United States Im REALLY excited to get back to see, do, and eat. I cant wait to see all my friends and family, which is what Im most excited about. It almost doesnt seem real that in less than two weeks Ill be back with everyone Ive known for my entire life, and after nine months of meeting nothing but new people, thats a pleasant feeling. I know after two months Ill be ready for another adventure, and Ive got 50,000 people in Gainesville, Florida Ive never met, so two months at home will be a good rest. I also cant wait to get home and eat American food, and eat a lot of it. Ive been somewhat hungry for what seems like nine months now, Im excited to get home and just eat myself to death like I used to. Another thing that goes hand in hand with that, is going back to the gym. I havent been able to go to the gym in few months and I feel like a part of my life is missing, because I have a lot of free time Id like to be spending in the gym. My rock hard, greek-god-like body has slightly disappeared after a few months out of the gym and a healthier diet with smaller portions, so Im excited to get back home, eat a ton, get in the gym, and return to my head-turningly-muscular physique. Im also really looking forward to getting home and speaking English. Im not incredibly athletic or good looking, but I think faster than just about anyone youll meet so I usually win people over with my quick wit and sense of humor, and when Im speaking a foreign language that edge I have kind of disappears. Other than that, Im really just looking forward to getting home and being able to relax, work, and get ready for college.
We have been doing so much the last couple of days it will be very difficult to remember everything. Ive enjoyed Italy a lot more than Morocco, and its a really amazing place. The first place we went to in Italy was Rome, and we stayed there for a couple days. It seemed like nearly everyone was on spring break, so there were thousands of kids everywhere in Rome, which was kind of a pain. No one really liked Rome because of that, but I loved it because it was a very lively city. I remember when we walked down the street from our hotel for the first time and the Coliseum and a bunch of other ruins were just sitting there next to all the other modern buildings was really amazing. There are tons of historic sites in Rome and Im convinced I didnt get to see all of them. At every corner there is something new, so I think Ill have to go back.
Next we went on to Venice, which is a smaller city in the northern part of Italy, so it was a lot colder. Its the city thats famous for having only canals and walking paths and no cars, so that was interesting to see. We spent plenty of time on the water taxis and we got to see the city from the water, and spent a lot of time walking through the city and seeing the sites. There was a big square there with a lot of huge buildings and churches which was really interesting to see.
We went from Venice to Milan, which is said to be the fashion capital of the world. Milan was actually a really awesome city, and it was probably my second favorite behind Rome. It had a big city atmosphere and not as many historic sites, but it was fun to walk through all the expensive stores and see the outrageous prices of everything. I held a $12,000 white gold and marble Mont Blanc pen, for example. I dont think I bought anything the entire time I was there besides food because everything was so expensive, still a really cool city though.
From Milan we went to Florence, but we only got to spend about a day in Florence. Florence was an awesome city but we didnt get to see all of it. We got off the train in the station and we were right in the middle of the city. We went to see the Statue of David which was really cool to see, then we went and walked around the city looking at the other historical sites. Florence is home to the first ever Gucci store which we went in to, and they have a Gucci museum we also went in to.
After Florence we went to Pompeii, an ancient city that was destroyed by a volcanic eruption. We walked through the ruins of the ancient city which was cool, because some of the walls were painted on and were more than 2000 years old. It poured for about six straight hours while we were walking through the ruins though, so by the time we got back to the hotel we were all completely soaked. Also, while we were walking back from the ruins we sat down at this place to rest and get something to eat for a while, and the restaurant next door was playing some techno music, so my cousin started dancing and the shopkeeper ended up coming outside to dance with him. That same day, we went to Vietri which is just a little coastal city 20 or 30 minutes away to see the coast and the famous pottery the city of known for. It was cold and raining the whole time, but the ocean looked really cool with the mountains and houses on the hillside in the background.
Today, for Easter, we went back to Rome for the afternoon to see the Pope in St. Peters Basilica which was really cool. We had to squeeze onto the subway with hundreds of other people who were going to the same place, and there were thousands of people in the plaza to see the pope. We had to go through security and everything, I felt like I was at the Superbowl or something. The Pope blessed us all real quick in about 15 or 20 different languages and it was really fun to be there, to see the spectacle.
Now, we are back in Pompeii in our hotel, and we are going to go back to Vietri tomorrow.
My mom, sister, and aunt got into Spain a few days ago, so it was nice to see all of them again. They got in to Madrid the 22nd to celebrate my birthday with me, then we flew out to Casablanca then to Marrakech in Morocco the next day. We had a late flight so we didnt get in to Morocco until about 10:30 or so at night. We got dropped off the airport bus right outside the Medina in Marrakech which is like the main square in the city. We had to walk down a few side roads to get the hostel we were staying in, which was really nice, which was a strange experience. The streets were filthy, dark, and they smelled absolutely awful. There was trash thrown about in the corner and it was just a generally dirty area. The hostel was really nice and the people were very friendly, which was a nice experience.
The next day, we woke up really early and boarded a bus for our camel tour in the Sahara Desert in the city of Merzouba. The bus ride from Marrakech was nine hours, so we were in for the long haul. There were probably about 15 of us on the bus, with about 10 different nations represented. There were a few Portuguese guys, some French people, a couple Spanish guys that live like 10 minutes away from me, a Croatian girl, and a Greek girl. It wasnt really a bad bus ride because it was an enjoyable group of people on the bus that were all really interesting, but the bus seats were incredibly uncomfortable. The camel ride itself was fun, but riding the actual camels was surprisingly painful. There actually dunes out in the patch of desert which was really interesting. We spent the night out in the desert in Berber tents, which were pretty comfortable. It was really cold in the evening, though.
We got back to Marrakech the next day and spent the day in Marrakech. We went back to the Medina to see all the little shops and the hustle and bustle of an African city. It was really hectic with hundreds of people packed in a small square with a ton of little mopeds and animals and bikes. The city was really alive and busy, and the people in the city were not very friendly. They were really aggressive trying to sell you things, and then when you finally wanted to buy something they were really rude discussing prices and things like that. I personally didnt like Marrakech at all because the people were awful, the city wasnt really that interesting, and it smelled absolutely AWFUL. It was really interesting to go once, and Im glad I did but I would never go back. And, if anyone asked I would not recommend going.
After Marrakech, we took an overnight bus to Fes, which is a city further north closer to the border of Spain. We spent a lot of time walking through the city and looking at all the different things. There were a lot of little shops like Marrakech which were a dime a dozen and really uninteresting. The main attraction of the city was the tanneries, which smelled HORRIBLE. We walked upstairs to a balcony that overlooked the tanneries, which were huge pools and disgusting liquids and enormous piles of rotting flesh and animal skin. As you got up to the balcony the handed you some mint leaves to put under your nose to partially block the smell. It was interesting to see, but the smell was unbearable. That same afternoon we drove up to Chefchaouen.
Chefchaouen is nicknamed the blue city because all the walls are painted blue. There were a lot of shops and things, and we had a good breakfast that was cheap and the owner of the restaurant was funny. I personally thought it was another subpar city.
We took off from Chefchaouen to head to Casablanca for our flight to Rome. We stopped for lunch at some random little village somewhere in northern Morocco and that was the beginning of the end. I cant really say with complete certainty what I ate that made me sick, but it could have been the meat sitting out at this little place. The people didnt speak any English so I ended up getting a few random plates of food, which I ate because I was starving. A few hours later in Rabat, where we stopped so my mom could get internet and teach her class, I spent some quality time in a hotel bathroom. I started to feel somewhat bad but I didnt think I was too sick. Anyways, we carried on to Casablanca.
We got to the Casablanca airport and I had to eat something because I was dying of hunger, and it was about midnight because we had a 1 A.M. flight. There was no selection at the airport restaurant, so I settled for the most god awful mystery meat sandwich I had seen in my entire life. The meat was light pink and the bread was rock hard, I had to take the lettuce off because it was so wilted and bitter. Anyways, I finished it because it because I was so hungry, feeling a little bit worse than I did earlier. The flight to Rome was about three hours, so I was sleeping a little bit on the plane. Maybe 30 minutes in to the flight, I woke up feeling like I was going to puke, and had to rush to the plane bathroom. I didnt puke, but I left the bathroom in ruin. I went back to sleep for a little while and woke up again feeling like I was going to puke, but I ended up being ok. Anyways I felt horrible for the entire flight, and then about two days in Rome, which I was not pleased about. All in all, Morocco was interesting, fun to do once, but Id never go back again. Dont eat the food, its garbage.
Well, a few more weeks have passed over in Spain and Im doing a little more of the same. My motivation to wake up in the morning has become somewhat suspect, but I pushed my alarm back to 7:30 (an extra 15 minutes of sleep) and I can usually arrive to school on time. However, with things like March Madness and a EuroTrip just around the corner I certainly have a few things to look forward to. I know I have been writing in blog quite a bit less, but I have been putting little notes in BlackBerry about things that are happening so, Im trying to do my part. Ill write about the things I put in my phone, in no particular order.
This Friday, I got home at 10:30 P.M. or so after hanging out with some friends, and when I got home my host family was eating dinner with my host moms parents. I hadnt eaten dinner so I sat down to eat, even though they had already finished eating and they were just chatting. My host mom fried me two eggs, something I honestly eat at least twice a week, and I sat down to eat. I was eating the eggs like a normal person would eat them, salt and peppered etc. However, my host moms dad was clearly upset with how I was eating the eggs. He looks at me and goes Landon cut some bread, you have to eat it with bread. Authentic Spanish. He uses an absurd amount of fragment sentences, also. He said authentic Spanish a few times. So I got up and cut a slice of bread and got back in my seat. I ate some bread and some eggs, separately, which I thought was fine. He put his head in his hands as to say this kid is killing me, and he goes to me, obviously just giving me a hard while the rest of the table laughed, Landon look and takes the fork from me and starts cutting up the egg. He then takes a piece of bread, puts the egg on top of the bread, and hands it to me. While all this is happening, my host dad is laughing and telling me just ignore him. So I ate the bread and eggs like an authentic Spaniard. And, to wrap it all up, as he was leaving with his wife he said something along the lines of how disappointed he was in how I was eating my eggs. Thats just a little taste of what a complete character this old man is, and to top it all off, three days he was in the hospital sick enough to where my host mom was tearing up at the dinner one night worried about him, and he came back and did that. This was a rather tame incident compared to the other time at dinner he claimed the nurse at the hospital (he was in the hospital this time for slipping on an icey driveway and busting his opened so bad he got staples) put her breasts in his face and was hitting on him, but thats a story for another day.
Another thing that I would classify as a piece of Spanish culture is running for the bus. Its legitimately inevitable that you will never have to run for a bus in Spain.
The other day, I was reading a random book my host sister had on her shelf in the park, and I was enjoying it. It was a pretty good book and I assumed it was an American book after the author started mentioning Cadillacs and things like that, so I flipped to the front cover to see what the English title was. Turns out I was reading The Catcher in the Rye, and I hadnt even realized. I thought it was funny I was reading an iconic piece of English literature in Spanish, without realizing.
American English is impossible for other Spanish speakers to understand, they say that we speak horribly, and that British English is much easier to understand.
Bruce Springsteen is also called The Boss in Spain, and everyone knows who youre talking about when you say The Boss, which is really strange I thought.
I have a few more things, but Im going to watch a movie with my host family. Ill write a few of them down later.