Sunday, December 20, 2009

Things have definiltly cooled down on my side of the planet! The most drastic change that's happened since my last post has been the drop in temperature. At about -7 celcius for the mornings and 0 for the day on average? It's proven to keep my rapidly walking every morning to and from school, as well as run extra fast at cross in the afternoons to keep my body temp up. School here is broken into trimestres, so in two days now, tomorrow being monday and then tuesday I will officially be done with my first trimestre in my private catholic spanish school! In turn with the end of a trimestre you have final exams. Whoa. Now that could have quite possibly been the most stressful week of my life for various reasons, but mainly just the hours of studying and translating -- then coming to school to study for 2 more hours in the morning, one 2 hour final after break, then have our lunch and come back to another 2 hour final. All week long. It was honestly a miracle surviving. Most of my finals were in Catalan; however the understanding teachers gave me finals in Castellano. Completely drained I got through in one piece, and enjoyed the two days break we had this week. I know my scores weren't exactly compelling...having that switch of not seeing a good grade on a paper can take some getting used too.

Had a lovely day yesterday in Barcelona with other AFSer's, on an unofficial orientation for a intercultural merienda. Everyone had to bring a typical dish of their native country or state; I decided to make a halibut ceviche, for the reasons a.) being the dish had to be served cold and b.) it was relatively easy to buy the fresh ingrediants. Turns out my point b wasen't exactly very truthful! Using a cookbook from AK all the measurements were in cups and so I had to guesstamate roughly by taste and look. A little bit iffy about my final product because of the unbelievable smell of citrus, I couldn't bare to taste it. Just wait for the surprise and take the hit if it ended up being terrible. So the next day embarked off to Barcelona at 7am and enjoyed a beautiful market - the bustling people, blazing colors, and powerful aroma's. Then a promotional AFS walk including baloons in las ramblas. This involved my dear friend claire and me meeting a wonderful artist named Rafael, successfully sparking interest in exchange while speaking in very broken Catalan, and a good lunch of paella. Man I can never get enough paella. Next we met at a nice flat where we had our merienda, which is the typical snakc time at 6pm. And it turned out everyone loved the ceviche. Score! or as I would now say here !Toma! It's always a great time to see the other exchangers. I love all of them so much :) So now just to get through the next day and half of school, then it's break time for me! I hope you all enjoy the magical wonders of this holiday season...and remember the most important aspects of peace and love! Bon Nadal!

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Here's some miscellaneous pictures my parents back home insisted I put it up.

So...although it's pretty late coming here's Pilar, Jaume, Sabina, Perico (Sabina's Cumple Regalo) and me! Were missing Ramon though! What a great photographer :)
Some creations of Sabina in the kitchen - I marvel her amazing ways of judgement in the realm of cooking, something I lack. I'll be lucky to learn a thing or two this year!

Paella lunch in Barcelona with Julien's family! Julien is a great friend from Belgium! He even shares his chocolate his parents send from home!
And finally some photos of Poblet! A beautiful monastery about 30min from Tarrega. Although our tour was in rapid Castellano, I think I picked up a thing or two. The deep history here in Spain is really mind boggling and I can't wait to explore more of it.

Windy November Blues

Leaves are falling, trees becoming bare - the wind sings with each gust. Yes, its that time of year. Fall in Spain. Living in the more central plateau has proved to live up to it's extreme temperatures. It seems like several weeks ago I was walking around in sundresses, shorts and tanks. Just last night I was with my friends in Pati with my nepali knit gloves, patagonia jacket, sweatshirt and jeans freezing to the bone! How everyone makes fun of the unprepared, cold Alaskan! I keep insisting that where I live the temperature is rather mild and the same as here, but they don't believe me. Goes to show what a rap Alaska gets. Life seems to mold into one day here with school and cross during the week and then my weekends free for fiestas. Halloween is a HUGE deal here in Spain. I saw decorations up at least a good two months before, and theres deep, rooted tradition in making panuets, which are small cakes covered in pinenuts and powdered sugar, and then buying castanyadas! Roasted chestnuts! Anually theres a competition in Sant Josep for making panuets, and my brother, his friends and I decided to give it a go. Hours in the kitchen adding flour, eggs, sugar - from a sticky, thick consistency to almost liquid...we finally came out with something presentable. The Spanish love rich, flavorful food so naturally they are splendid cooks. Since I've been here helping in the kitchen we haven't once used a recipe and everything has been beyond delicious. My body seeing the affects of this...lots of meat (sausage, pork, jamon) and fresh vegetables. More specifically lots of vibrant peppers! One of our kitchen counters usually has a boxful scattered in an array of yellow, red and green.
Although everyday is a new adventure my most memorable escapade has been my first outing to an official discoteca. Big Ben is supposedly the largest in Catalunya and lucky for me is only about 15min from Tarrega. I had missed going out with my friends from school the previous weekend because I had an AFS orientation in Barcelona, so I was pretty pumped to finally get to go. Especially on halloween! I got ready with a girl from my class Sandra who lives in small village about 5min away and met up with some other kids when we got there. The whole evening was just so different from anything I had ever really experienced before...getting past the bouncers (thank goodness for being blonde and american..I hate to say it! But it's really what got me in since I had forgotten my identification :O) crazy light shows, revolving tables, open bar (don't worry, no drinks were consumed) go go dancers dressed in costumes and walking around on stilts through the crowd! The theme of heaven and hell was pretty evident with the women in etherial angel costumes and the men in bright red. There were 3 different rooms packed with people, dancing the night away. I had an awesome time and can't wait till I go again after exams! Till then the normal routine of sipping cafe with some friends, reading every article of english that comes my way, early morning walks to school with Sabina, late night music and singing sessions with Jaume...I can hardly believe that its already settling into mid November. Here are some whimsical photos from my orientation in Barcelona. All I can say is that I love these people so incredibly much. It's amazing how close you can come to someone when you go through something like this where you really only have each other to fall back on. They definitly carry my heart, lovely characters that can always bring a smile to my face. Which really isn't that hard. Everyone here in Spain has classified me as the girl that is always smiling! My teachers, friends, family! I guess that's really all I can do. And when you look back on it why not?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

vino, jamon y mas vino!

It's obvious that futbol rules above all here in Spain. It can pretty much consume people's lives - presidence over work, family obligations even food and drinks! But alas I decided to join my town's running team, which consists of a lot of younger children and a couple older kids like myself. We meet three times a week here in Tarrega and then on Friday's I go to the atletismo and track in Lleida where I train with another group. The people that I train with in Lleida are extremely talented, kind individuals who I really love to be around. Most of them are older then me..well actually all of them are! One girl is currently ranked number one in Spain in the 400m for her age of 23 and then another girl who is 17 is second in the 200m. In my workouts I run with a group of guys who range in age from 16-23 and they are extremely fit and fast! It's been very challenging but I feel that I'm up for that challenge and I enjoy the workouts so it's good. Keeps me in shape and so far has been keeping off the weight I should be gaining because of all the olive oil, bread and chocolate I've been consuming here!! So today was my first official race in Spain! It was a 7km road race in Mollerussa, which is a town about 20km away from Tarrega. Unlike before most races today I was very calm and really had no worries about how I would do, place or anything. I had stayed out the night before with friends and was looking forward to a nice run the next day! It was a gorgeous, brisk morning! The sky was clear but the sun was shining so brightly...I went through the usual routine: warming up, stretching, granola for breakfast and for some reason wasen't really bothered by the 300people that were running around me! Although more then half were running the half marathon. The gun went off, loud music blaring and 300 runners all in spandex (did I mention all runners here in Spain have an obsession with spandex? I think I was the only runner, for real, in actual shorts) took off. I felt really good, kept a good pace and when the 7km runners peeled away from the half marathoners I felt like I was in a good position, but honestly wasen't really worried at all about the actual race! Just on finishing! I ended up finishing with a time of 35min which I was super excited about and also surprised - even more surprised when Sabina told me I was the 4th woman! I was the youngest woman entrant so I really had no idea what to expect so my morning was blissful. When I ran through the shoot and received my 'goody bag' I also got a bottle of wine which I thought was just so Spanish and fantastic! Then when they had awards I got even more wine! 3 aged bottles from around the country to be more specific! The winner got a haunch of ham and then the others got more wine. What awesome prizes, right? I thought so! To top of an already amazing day my family and I went to another Espanyol futbol game in Barcelona and Espanyol won! My first time to see our team score a goal and boy, the energy in that stadium was just pulsating! I spilt my water when we scored because I even jumped up right away to wave my scarf!! A great Sunday here in Spain..too bad tomorrow I have escuela :(

Sunday, October 4, 2009


Last weekend was my first time officially traveling alone and independantly here in Spain! I managed to finally get the okay to go to Barcelona for the weekend from my parents to celebrate fiesta Merce with my friends! I was pretty much left on my own from the get go - right after school packing my messenger bag, then walking across town to buy my train ticket and (hopefully) catch a bus to Barcelona. The bus station and ride itself was pretty informal. I probably could have just not paid the 15 Euros for my ticket, hopped on, and just hitched a ride into the city; but that would have brought some bad traveling karma for sure, so I'm glad I didn't. Driving into the city at night was probably one of my highlights of the whole weekend. It was magical to just appear downtown with all the lights and colors, watching people whizz by on bikes, roller blades. It was great to see that there was a designated lane for pedestrians. Something I wish we had more in the U.S! Not exactly sure where to get off, but hoping that the bus had a destination stop of Barca Nord (where mi amiga Claire was said to pick me up) I sat nervously by the window, absorbed into the city. Soon enough I looked around and noticed there was probably only 4 people left onboard. In my bad Spanish I asked if the autobus was heading to the station, and received a friendly reply of "Si". I like to think that I'm becoming more and more confident with my speaking skills, it certainly helps when your in situations where you're forced to speak the language. Finally pulling into the station was a relief and then seeing Claire's face even more. It seemed like the bus had been winding down side streets for ages and I was beginning to think that if it indeed wasen't going to Barca Nord I would be in for a big adventure. Claire already had some good plans for the nigh and I was alreay jazzed up to start seeing the city. Right away we went down to the metro. I can't really describe my love for the metro systems of Barcelona. It definitly runs deep. Theres something about the feeling of joining hundreds of other people for a brief minute on your seperate paths and journeys of the day. Sometimes, well most of the time, you can start up a conversation with almost anyone especially if they are younger and it's the weekend. Claire and I met some really nice chicas on our way to the Forum and it was just incredible how happy they were to meet us. Sharing drinks, inviting us to go with them - not caring at all how horrible our Spanish was! So we ended up spending most of the night with them. The forum is a huge outdoor music/art center or something of that sort. It has 2 big stages, one of which was hosting and MTV event that night, and the other was some rock band. Then there was a smaller dj booth with some dancing music. There were literally thousands of young people walking around, dancing, sitting with their friends, just simply enjoying the evening. That was an awesome time - the pulsating MTV beats were running through my head even on the subway back home. The next day we met up with another afs'er who lives outside of Barcelona in the suburb of Terassa. We took the subway to las ramblas where Andrew was going to meet us for some lovely lunch! After some great pastries and cafe we decided to mosy through some amazing small streets of the city. Not having an itinerary for the day was probably the best plan - it let us stumble upon some unknown places and even hit the beach up! That evening was correfocs, so I guess we did have some sort of a plan. It's a huge event celebrating el diablo. Some people dress in red and carry pitch forks that are on fire, and others have tall sparklers and dragons that spit out sparks! The spectators dress up in layers of clothing and then run through the fire! So Claire and I really wanted to participate. My first weekend in Barca and with something like this going on it would be ridiculous to not do! However; we didnt really have the right attire. We were both wearing skirts and tanks, luckily our good friend Ricard who is lucky enough to live in Barcelona lent us some pretty badass jeans and sweatshirts. Muchos gracias Ricard :) So with our new outfits we got to dance under some fire in the barcelona starlight. The next day was definitly a lazy Sunday. Claire and I went on a nice morning walk around her neighborhood. I had my first smoothie in over 4 weeks! A great way to cap of the weekend. The plan for my return back to Tarrega was pretty darn vague from my family. They had really only told me to meet them at the Espanyol futbol stadium at 7pm. It hadn't really occured to me that I needed to find my way to the stadium, alone, with my bags until about 5:30 when I madly thew some of my clothes together and grabbed what was in visible sight, quickly gave Claire two kisses and ran to the subway, map in hand. Again, Ricard saved my butt by giving me some subway directions so I had a vague idea of where I was going but it was looking like I would have to switch lines a couple of times and ultimately I didn't even know the name of my final stop. Thankfully everyone that I asked for directions from was super friendly, and eventually after running through about every station I was on the bigger train heading outside the city in the direction of the stadium. Although I was on the right train, going the right direction, I had no idea which stop was mine and get this, my mobile's battery had died the day before so I really had no way to call my family, Ricard or Claire. I had also asked everyone in my car where the stadium was and no one had a clue. Clearly all were Barca fans and could really care less about team Espanyol. It wasen't untill a lovely older gentleman walked onboard that I finally found out I had gone one stop passed! So I got off, and ended up just running to the stadium instead of waiting the 14min for the next train. I had about that time to get to the stadium. So here I am running again, through the streets asking random people for directions as I'm looking at my ipod every minute to check the time. The suspense was almost to much to handle :) I ended up making it to the stadium only 7 minutes late, completely winded and looking like a wreck, but I met my family and suddenly none of that mattered. I was so proud of myself for my first real, independant adventure in Spain. All I can say is I defintly slept well that night! What a great weekend it was!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Life here seems to drift by, and my judgement of time is beginning to fade away. I've been attending Colegio Sant Josep's for about one week now; living in spain for two, and it has probably been the most emotional and physically draining weeks of my life. So much new information and people leads to a buzzing mind that is constantly working. I'm partcipating in Primero Bachillerato - Social so my class load consits of Matematiques, Literatura de Catalan, Religion, Humanities, Filosofia, Catalan Lengua, Ed. Fisica, Economia, Castellana, and Ciencia del Mundo Contemprani. All of my classes are conducted in Catalan which is the regional dialect of Catalunya. It sounds very much like French when spoken but when written resembles Russian or something crazy like that. No offense to Russia. I havent been able to follow much of the work, but afterwards many of the teachers will summarize in Castillan and mostly from there I can manage the huge homework load that I get everynight. I attend a private school and in my personal opinion it's evident in the work load that is assigned...but, then again it takes me about 30 minutes to read one page so I'm not really one to judge. Staying in one class has been a different experience for me as well! It leads to a very close knit group of kids, making it hard for a new person (as myself) to mesh in, but each day is getting better and better! Most of my friends attend the public school in town so I try to spend time with them after Sant Josep's. When I get out at 5pm, which is incredibly late!

This last weekend was our first regional AFS orientation! Hooray for going to beautiful Barcelona. I had really been waiting so long to see the city, but of course we really didnt get to walk around and mainly stayed at our youth hostal. Although! Being the curious, adventure seeking chica that I am -- I dragged Julien and Iva, my train buddies, to walk the city, opposed to waiting in the train station for two hours. Obvious choice right? So thank you, thank you Julien and Iva for trusting in my navigating skills, because I had a great time! The orientation was a lot better then the previous ones, filled with lots of games and more of 'bonding' activities, haha. It's hard to believe I've only known these people for 3 weeks, it feels like years. Sharing this amazing experience together will definitly bring us closer together then anyone else can understand. Hopefully I'm going back this next weekend because there will be a huge fiesta and just getting a small taste of the city is killing me.

A couple days ago my host dad, Ramon and I went to an 'informational' meeting concerning me joining a running team here. As you all probably know my love for running definitly runs deep and although I'm fine with my park runs alone, it would be nice to join a team! So it looks like next monday I will be showing up at the physical center to do some training! Running is definitly not a popular sport here whatsoever. Futbol rules above all. Above work, school, food. My family happens to be DEVOTED team Espanyol fans and I have joined this small but mighty group of people. Barca is the most popular team for sure in Catalunya, and probably all of Spain, so I definitly get some friendly joking about being an Espanyol fan. I've even picked up the spirit by joining in some pick up games here in Tarrega!

So this will be good bye for now...I have a stack of yucky Economia homework to attempt. Key word in the sentance: attempt.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Hola! So this will officially be my first post in the beautiful land of Catalunya, Spain. Words can't even begin to describe how blessed I have been with a wonderfully loving and welcoming family, beautiful town to live in and the warmth from everyone I have met in this amazing country I will call my home for a year! After about the longest 32 hours of my life - orientation in NYC, the long flight to Zurich then Madrid and then another orientation in Madrid I finally took the AVE train to Lleida which is about 30min away from Tarrega. The whole train ride my heart was pounding beyond anything before! The thought of finally meeting my family whom I had corresponded with for several months was too much to comprehend; but, when I came up the stairs and I saw everyones smilling face I knew everything would be alright. Tomorrow will officially be the end of my first week which is already so hard to believe! Pilar, my mother, is an English, Catalan and Espanol teacher, so with her help I have already learned some new Catalan phrases! I have loved having a little sister! Sabina has so much compassion for life and so far we have been getting along very well; exchanging hugs every chance we can get. Jaume, my host brother is 15 and that makes it very easy for us to get along. He is extremely animated and funny just like Ramon! I can only say that it has been so nice to be around people who can joke and laugh with...reminds me very much of my family in Alaska! My life here has changed drastically! The Spanish lifestyle from the cuisine, clothing and scheduale is much more different then I had anticipated. Here we will sleep in very late (school even starts at 9am!!) and relax very much till lunch at 2pm. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day so it's very important to have the whole family present. At shool we are alottted 1 1/2 hours to come home and eat before returning to stay untill 5pm. After lunch we usually go visit friends then dinner is about 10pm. The total switch has been hard to get used to, but now that it has almost been a week I'm starting to settle in much better. This weekend is especially special and filled with many festivities because it is Firra Teatro! A very large festival of the arts here in Tarrega. It brings about 15,000 hippies, punks, children, parents - lovers of the arts! The streets are filled with lots of tiendas with jewelry and then tons of acts ranging from a crazy 'always drinking' marching band from Argentina too a puppet shows. I have truly been having the time of my life. So many open minded individuals who just love to celebrate life. Lots of dancing, singing, drinking and merriment! Last night was also my first Spanish party experience. My brother and his friends took me to a huge party in Verdu, which is a town about 10k away from Tarrega. It was a party sponsored by the most popular radio in Spain so the music was very, very good! A huge outdoor tent with a pool, crammed with many many people! It was a great time. Probably one of the best of my life! But I know that this year will be filled with many more...I start school on Monday! Estoy nerviosa! Wish me luck! Mucho amor! Besos

Friday, August 7, 2009

Alaska Summer Daze

Long time running since my last post, I do apologize. I guess all I can say is that my excuse would have to be my actions of trying to soak up every last sun ray, late night, homestead hike, beach drifting walk, minute with my friends, family dinners. The list could go on and on...It seems now that I have roughly 3 weeks left before I embark to NYC with both my parents and my aunt, that I'm starting to fully realize that I won't be home in 10 months. The feelings rushing through my head right now are so strong that it's almost tiring! A little bit of apprehension, fear, but it's definitely mostly excitement. I would have to say that a huge part of this feeling would have to be my amazing host families enthusiasm towards my arrival and letters of encouragement and kindness. A long while back on the weekend of my birthday, I got a lovely little AFS letter in the mail informing me of my PERMANENT host family! I will never forget that day, let alone that whole weekend. It could probably be on of the best weekends was of my life. My host parents are Pilar and Ramon. Pilar teaches at Sant Josep's School where both my siblings attend, and I soon in the fall. Ramon is a lawyer and loves to read. I have a younger sister, Sabina who is 12 -- she loves drawing and writing letters. Sabina also loves to take care of the family pet guinea pig 'Big Foot'. I also have a brother Jaume, who is my age of 16. Jaume is very friendly and sociable, but his true love is futbol aka soccer. I have talked to him several times over facebook and he has been very helpful answering my silly questions. My family seems like such a great fit for me while I'm away. The city I will be living in is located about 45 miles west of Barcelona. Tarrega has a population of 16,000, but has all the amentities of a larger city. The history runs deep into the streets with its romanesque and gothic structures dating from the 13th century. I truly cannot wait...however; for right now I'm just trying to enjoy all this beautiful time I have here at home. Much love for now :) Ciao

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Beginning

Greetings friends! I am so happy and excited to be part of the AFS community. I have been blessed in my life to travel quite a bit, and have developed a deep passion for meeting new people, listening to their stories, and learning about their culture. I have always known that traveling, and cultural understanding would have to be a part of my life. AFS is going to allow me the opportunity to continue with my passion, but also allow me to do something I have always dreamed about; living fully immersed in country where I can absorb the culture, people, and history for a long period of time. I think that for someone to understand daily life somewhere foreign, they must engage in daily activities; participating in school, joining a club, visiting museums, attending church, buying groceries. This is all part of the experience, and I can hardly contain my excitement for when I will be doing this in Spain. In closing I would like to thank you for reading my blog and for your support, whether it be financial or through your ongoing encouragement. I hope you check back sometime once I have left for my adventuresome journey in September. ¡Ciao!