Tuesday, December 11, 2007

mi portatil ha muerto.

For those non-spanish speakers, my title means "My laptop died". So, this is a really quick entry coming from my roommate's computer. I can't even believe it. Once I get back to the good ole U.S.A. I'll get the nerds at the geek squad to fix it. Let's pray they can salvage my pictures and my music. Or else I'm going to cry for a verrrrrry long time. So, it's finals week and I'm busy studying. Not exactly the way I would have liked to spend my last week in Madrid, but what can you do?

So, one more week! Can you believe it? I can't! This is one of the most bittersweet things I've ever experienced...I'll be more detailed in a later blog. A summary blog, if you will. But until then, this is Sarah signing out :o) Love you guys...

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

mi familia espanola

Here are some pictures from my spanish family:
1) Teal, Cheryl, and I
2) me and Maria
3) me and Pilar
4) Andrea and Jesus, lounging





Sunday, December 2, 2007

embracing transition

So, things have been winding down in school in preparation for finals. It just recently hit me that I will really be returning to the United States in approximately two and a half weeks. After nearly four months of living in a different country, it is hard to wrap one's mind around returning to all things familiar and comfortable. At this point, I'm accustomed to speaking spanish wherever I go, be it a restaurant, the grocery store, or Starbucks. It will be funny to switch back to my "tall nonfat sugar free vanilla latte" instead of my "grande latte con vainilla y leche desnatada". In a few short weeks I will be able to speak english wherever I go, and not have to hear "where are you from?" almost every time I open my mouth. This familiarity will be nice. I am excited to be around my friendly southerners again, too. But I'm also wondering how much this experience has truly changed me. I haven't had to make "nice conversation" with perfect strangers in four months. You just don't strike up conversations with people you don't know here. Madrileños don't roll like that. I guess I will see how much "opposite-culture shock" I go through. Katie Plu said she was experiencing the high pace of American life already...and I'm reallllly not ready to return to that. Spaniards live life a little slower. I love it.

I'm also preparing myself for leaving my Spanish family. I am so blessed by them. I truly feel like I am part of this family. Yesterday, Teal's parents were visiting our house with their family friends. When Cheryl and I came home, Pilar says to the family friend (in spanish, of course), "You said you have five children...well so do I" and then she proceeded to count Maria, Andrea, Teal, Cheryl, and I. I almost cried right then and there. She calls us her niñas. Of course, I am overjoyed to return to my family, but it just recently hit me that in a matter of weeks this most exciting, life-changing chapter of my life is going to come to a close. I will leave Spain, come home, and return to everything familiar and close.
Nevertheless, I am so thankful for this experience. Like I said in the last post, I can't get stuck on living in the future. Right now, I live in Madrid and I will enjoy it. Today, Teal's parents are taking us to "Botin", the oldest restaurant in the world (founded in 1725). Now that's something to look forward to!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Las navidades!

So tonight was the first night the Christmas lights in Madrid were lit up. Of course I was there to see it! I was so excited for this, since I had been seeing the sad, un-lit lights up for a few weeks and I was ready for the Christmas celebration to begin! Cheryl, our friend Martin, and I went to some of the best parts of Madrid to see all the lights. I couldn't wipe the smile from my face because the city looked so beautiful! I took lots of pictures of it's glorious-ness.

We bought some roasted chestnuts (yes, they actually "roast chestnuts on an open fire" here). Cheryl really liked them, but I thought they were too hard to eat. They have a good flavor, but ehh I wouldn't pay 2 euros for them again. Next time I'm going to buy the corn they roast-- mmm.
So, seeing all the beauty of the lights and of the big city really made me happy to be in Madrid. I am glad I can be joyful in these next few weeks. Being content where you are can often be a hard thing to do (especially me, because I'm a dreamer)...but I've been putting forth an effort and I've been seeing the benefits. So, just a few more weeks (22 days I believe) left en Espana, and then back to the States. While it will definitely be sad to see my time in Madrid coming to an end, I can't wait for school to be over! But, anyway, here are some pictures from tonight for your viewing pleasure:






field trip!


This past weekend, I went on a class field trip to Caceres and Merida, two smaller cities in the south west-ish part of Spain. I had somewhat low expectations for the entire trip, seeing as the last one was mediocre (there's just not too much to do in Zamora!). This trip was a huge pleasant surprise, however!




In Merida, we saw some of the best preserved Roman ruins in Europe (besides those in Rome, of course). There was an amphitheater and a Roman theatre, a forum, and a temple of one of the Roman gods.

In Caceres, we saw some beautiful churches, but overall it was just a beautiful city.


All of our meals were provided for us (besides dinner), and I ate some of the best meals I've had in Spain this weekend. And good food is always a picker upper. We also stayed in a really great hotel in Caceres. I guess it was just nice to be out of the "big city" and seeing the beautiful smaller ones that I wouldn't have ever gone to otherwise.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Feliz Dia de Accion de Gracias!

I must say, "Feliz Dia de Accion de Gracias" doesn't have the same ring to it as "HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!" As I'm sitting here, working on my finance project, it is hard for me to envision the glorious day that is unfolding in the United States. I'm convinced if Spaniards even experienced this holiday one time, they would be all over incorporating it into their long list of holidays. After all, who doesn't love eating delicious food in the company of loved ones?


This Thanksgiving, I will be missing out on cooking with my mom and sister all of the favorites: Grandma's homemade stuffing, candied yams, mashed potatoes, green bean salad, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie cake, and who can forget the turkey! I always go for a good third helping of stuffing. What can I say, it's my favorite. I must also comment that there is something victorious about that miserable, "I can't believe I just ate that much" feeling. My dad always gets mad at us when we eat so much that we can't move, but I say, hey it's once a year! As class of 2005 would say: Go Big or Go home. hahah.


It does make me sad that most spaniards have never even heard of Thanksgiving. But now that I think about it, it is a most peculiar holiday. For the first time, maybe since Kindergarten, I am remembering why we actually celebrate it. Of course, it is meant to be a time of expressing gratitude for our blessings, but supposedly the origins are the Pilgrims and the Indians. I wonder how much truth that holds to it. Were the Pilgrims and Indians really sitting around eating mashed potatoes and turkey together? If so, that's pretty cool.


Well, this year, being so distant from my closest family and friends has obviously made me realize to the full extent of what I am thankful for. I am thankful for my parents. They are the ones who have worked so hard to provide me everything: my college education, living in Europe, and a roof over my head :) I'm also thankful that we have such a close relationship. I realize not everyone has that, and it is a huge blessing in my life. I am thankful for my brother and sister...there is something incredibly special about siblings. We are all crazy. It makes for verrry fun times. Paul will say stuff that sends me and Carlie into a laughing spell. Carlie is becoming this beautiful young lady who I absolutely LOVE hanging out with. I can't think of a cooler 17 year old. And as far as my friends are concerned, there are too many blessings to list that come from having them as friends. I have often thought about my friends and been dumbfounded as how I could be so blessed! The closeness of these friendships most definitely comes from the bond that we are brothers and sisters in Christ. That changes everything...we have a friendship based on eternal value. It's pretty much amazing.


So, while I don't get to chow down today on some of the world's best food... I guess I can still be in a Thankful mood. I will be content in the knowledge that my mom is so amazing that she has promised me "Second Thanksgiving". Until then, looks like more Jamon Serrano for me!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Mi aventura a Sevilla...

This past weekend, I went on a little adventure all by myself down to Sevilla, Spain. I hopped on a bus in Madrid and took a six hour journey to the south of Spain. Now, what one must know about southern Spain is that it is what most likely comes to mind when "Spain" is mentioned. My roommates and I would say "typical espanish"...in other words, Flamenco is more prominent here, the buildings are white with wrought-iron balconies, and the way of life is slower. In fact, the southerners still stick to the "siesta" time, whereas Madrid has modernized to the point where only a few shops close from 3 to 5.


Anyway, I had the wonderful opportunity to stay with my Aunt Mary and cousin Erica's good friends, Clayton and Jessica Thompson. They are missionaries in Sevilla, and right now are learning Spanish (taking classes for about 20 hours a week!) Also living in Sevilla are Susan and Oscar, other friends of Aunt Mary.
(Susan, me, and Jessica are pictured here!)
Friday night, they all picked me up and we went to a local Tapas restaurant which was deeeelicious. Afterward, we went back to Jessica and Clayton's apartment.


I'm going to step aside and talk about how wonderful it was to stay with them. First of all, when I entered their apartment, it smelled like Yankee Candle Pumpkin Pie. Besides that being wonderful enough, it was decorated beautifully, like an American apartment. This made me SO happy since I've become accustomed to the "Spanish apartment"(which equals 1970s fall colored curtains and knick-knacks scattered around anywhere there is a flat surface). I stayed in their guest room which had the most comfortable queen sized bed. I rolled around in it (hey, I've been sleeping in a single bed for the past three months). On my bed, Jessica had left a card welcoming me, a mini yankee candle, a new minty chapstick, and a tootsie roll pop. It was SO sweet! One day, I want to be just as good of a hostess.


Moving along, the next day Susan took me around to see all of Sevilla. She is a GREAT tour guide, and knew so much about the city. We went on a tour of their Plaza de Toros (bullfighting ring) and learned about the whole history of bullfighting...super interesting! We also went to a local mercado, where I saw bunny rabbits hanging in the meat market for sale (to eat). After that, we saw the "Callejon de la Inquisicion" where people were taken down to be executed for NOT being catholic. Que fuerte! Also, we saw the Plaza de Espana, where (shout out to Jordan, Michael, Ahren, Christian, and all Star Wars lovers) part of Star Wars 2 was filmed! We saw many more sights, and I am thoroughly convinced Sevilla is one of the most beautiful cities in all of Spain!

That afternoon, I went back to Jessica and Clayton's apartment and took a much needed two hour nap back in the comfy queen. It was glorious. When I woke up, I had a cup of American coffee (mind you, I, Sarah Miller--queen of Coffee--has not had a normal cup of drip grind coffee since August 21st...until this weekend.) I was maybe the happiest person in the world to drink that cup of coffee. I was so happy, in fact, that I drank yet another cup. I should also mention that I ate two of the best peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I've ever had this weekend. You have no idea how good peanut butter can taste after three months of complete separation from the stuff.

Jessica and I sat at the dinner table and talked for two hours until we realized that it was 9 and we hadn't eaten dinner yet (no biggie for me...dinner time is 10:30 in the Pilar household)...so we ate dinner and crawled up on the couch with Susan to watch, oh yes, Bend it Like Beckham. The next day, I enjoyed another cup of coffee and an overall "American breakfast". In a lot of ways, felt as if I got to be in the States for a weekend. I think it was just what I needed. They sent me off from the bus station, and I was back home to Madrid.

I could not have asked for a better weekend! It is crazy for me to think that now I have a remainder of 29 days left in Spain...que locura. I am going to put forth my best efforts to soak it up in these next four weeks. Then, back to an endless supply of peanut butter, coffee, and all things american! Woo!









Thursday, November 15, 2007

mornings and holidays

Ahhh this semester, some of my favorite days have been Tuesdays and Thursdays. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I don't have class till 3:30 (which happens to be my Latin Rhythms dance class: so fun!). This means, I have plenty of time to sleep in, eat delicious breakfast of hot chocolate and magdalenas, read a bit, and just relax. It's quite wonderful. My mom and I both share a love for unhurried mornings, no matter the cost. This means, if I have to be somewhere at nine in the morning, I will wake up at seven so that I don't have to hurry around all flustered. One of my favorite parts of the day is taking a long time to put on my makeup. I'm convinced this isn't because of vanity of any sort, but more because of a desire to be artistic.


This Thursday morning's wonderfullness has been amplified by the fact that I'm listening to Mariah Carey's Merry Christmas album. If I can suggest any Christmas CD, it would be this one. It's actually not 100% about "Santa Clause"...in fact I would say a good 3/4 of it are songs about Jesus' birth! The album came out in '94, and if we all remember correctly, that was when Mariah was fresh out of her Gospel choir singing roots. The songs are beautiful! It's getting me very excited about this holiday season.


Speaking of the holiday season, I would like to talk about how new this holiday season is going to be for me. First of all, it is very different already, considering that I will not be eating Thanksgiving this year. Luckily enough for me, my mom has promised "Second Thanksgiving" on Christmas, so that I may enjoy Turkey, stuffing, marshmallow yams, and all the goodies. But I can't help but be a little sad to think that next Thursday I will be doing nothing festive.


On a happier note, I must say there is a HUGE benefit to being in a 'catholic' country. They LOVE Christmas! And, seeing as I also love Christmas, Spain and I are getting along wonderfully. All the streets have lights up already. Principe Pio, my metro stop/mall is decorated to the brim with Christmas flair. It makes me very happy. I can't believe, though, that I will be spending a majority of "Christmas season" in Madrid. I will be in the states for a total of 6 days before Christmas. Crazy!!!


Well, this post is a little long...tomorrow I leave for Sevilla and am staying with family friends. I am so excited to see Andalucia and meet the church plant there! Let's see how I handle their accents (supposedly, it's a little harder to understand...) More later!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

geneva!

Well, what a weekend! Cheryl, Kate, and I went to Geneva, Switzerland. I was blown away by its breathtaking beauty! The trees' leaves were changing color, and ranged from deep yellow to bright red. The clean, cold, and crisp air even made breathing a nice activity...the weather was a little gloomy but all in all it was a perfect contrast and escape from Madrid. The people in Switzerland smile at one another on the street, and in general are a more helpful people. We learned this at the Red Cross Museum...which was founded by Henry Dsomething from Switzerland. The Red Cross truly is an amazing humanitarian foundation that has helped and continues to help millions across the globe. We also saw the outside of the United Nations and envisioned how many important diplomats had been in our same exact steps. Besides that, we roamed the streets and soaked up the cute Swiss architecture which is what one would envision "Switzerland" to look like. We saw the Jet d'Eau which is simply a fountain that shoots up from Lake Geneva. It does go freakishly high though. Later on, as night fell the lights of the buildings fell upon Lake Geneva, leaving a beautiful sight to see. We met up Cheryl's friend Joe for dinner and he took us to one of his favorite Chinese restaurants. It was delicious.

The next day, we continued sightseeing, and saw the Rolex rose garden, a protestant cathedral, as well as a huge memorial to the founders of the Protestant reformation. This was really neat for me to see since I had read most of their works in my Christian Heritage class at Baylor. We ate at a wonderful french restaurant, which was surprisingly inexpensive. I think I ate half of a hen (for real). Later on, we went to the first real grocery store I've been to since I've entered Europe, called Manor. It actually looked like HEB in there. It made me realllllly miss grocery stores. But anyway, we were there on a mission for Swiss chocolate. And boy did we succeed. I got some chocolate alright :) After that, we went to Starbucks as a shelter/warm up from the freezing cold. I drank a gingerbread latte which was practically heaven in my mouth since Starbucks in Madrid doesn't offer the Christmas flavors(saddest thing ever, I know). Even though the coffee should have woken us up, we decided to go back to the hostel and re-group with a little nap after that. It was just the break we needed before we went to our amazing dinner: Cheese Fondue. I was so happy to get to eat some fondue. It's so creamy and melty and amazing! Someone had warned me not to drink water with it because it "congeales the cheese in your stomach"...so I drank Coca Cola light and hoped that that was all a wives tale anyway. I'm feeling fine today, hahaha, so it must not be true.

So, we ended our trip on a very high note...it could not have gone any smoother. It is rare that one returns from a weekend of travelling more refreshed than when one left, but I can say that Switzerland had that effect on me! What a wonderful place!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

health is good thing

Praise God that I am now healthy. My sickness was really interesting...it was the quickest, most intense sickness I have ever had. I went from having a 103.8 fever on Monday night to feeling more than fine on Tuesday night, with no fever. Now, it is Thursday and even though I am still on a strict schedule of antibiotics, I would say I am fully recovered! Hallelujah! I hate being sick. But, then again, who likes it?


These past few days I've spent a lot of time pressing into God's word and in prayer and I can make one conclusion: there is nothing better than being in God's presence. He truly is the All in All, the bread of life, living water, in that in Him all needs are satisfied. When one's soul is satisfied, it's hard even to notice physical needs. It is absolutely glorious. I am praying for more and more and more of that each day. I am thankful that "when we are weak, He is strong" because my flesh is weak. But I am trusting that Jesus will guide me through a strong finish to this semester in Madrid. I want to finish here victoriously, in awe of everything this semester has taught me.


On another note, tomorrow my roommates, Kate Peeler, and I fly out to Geneva, Switzerland. We have on our itinerary: The United Nations, some nature sites, and a little visit to a Fondue restaurant. I'm extremely excited about the fondue. I intend on eating cheese fondue for dinner and chocolate fondue for dessert :) I have wanted to go to Switzerland ever since my brother brought back pictures from his trip to Europe in high school. It seemed like the most beautiful country, with rustic cottages and lush countryside. We will experience a little less of that in Geneva, but it's possible we'll take a bus to a little bit outside of the city. Katie Pluhowski described Switzerland as "A little piece of Heaven on Earth"...and that makes me pretty darn excited.


So it looks like an adventuresome weekend in store for me, followed by a hard week of class (one test, lots of Finance, management group project...) But this is the nerdy in me when I say I'm kind of glad because it will keep me busy. This is gonna fly by...

Monday, November 5, 2007

tonsilitis and life lessons

Well, I'm sitting in my bed right now sick with what I believe to be either tonsilitis or strep throat. The thing is, I went to the doctor to see what I had, and the system is a bit different than that in the United States. In the U.S., a nurse would take your temperature, blood pressure, and pulse and tell you to wait till the real doctor comes in. Then, once the doctor was there he would probably swab the tonsil, look at it under a microscope, and give you amazing drugs that cure tonsilitis extremely quickly. Not in Spain. In Spain, you go into a sort of office, tell the doctor your symptoms, and then he decides to give you generic antibiotic and ibuprofen. How does he know that the antibiotic is going to work perfectly for what I have? He doesn't even know what I have...

This whole experience is of course making me really homesick. I just want to go to good ole Dr. Ovella, get some meds, sit on my comfy green couch and let my mommy take care of me. I miss the United States so much right now. I miss my family, my friends, and the way of life. Right now, I just miss hanging out at the Gilbert's for hours upon hours, talking about sometimes deep life issues and other times foolishness. I would eat all their food and we would all be together and everything would be magical. But I still have to wait a month and a half for that. That makes me pretty sad.

Praise Jesus though, for Pilar, my host mom. She has taken such good care of me up to this point. She took me to the doctor this morning, and now she is making me lunch even though that's not part of the meal plan. She is an angel.

Speaking of Jesus, this weekend I hit rock bottom. It is so hard to live in Madrid sometimes because the culture is SUCH a party culture. In spanish, they say "todo vale" which pretty much means "anything goes." So instead of living a lifestyle honorable to Jesus, I had been making my own decisions. Well, I learned this weekend that if I am going to claim to be a follower of Jesus, I have to live like it. Not because following Jesus is going by the rule book, counting up my "good doings" versus "bad doings". Rather, he sets up these "guidelines" of how to live so that we may experience His "abundant life". Jesus says, "I have told you these things so that you will be filled with joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!"--John 15: 11-12 To put it simply, He has the most amazing things in store for us if we follow His will. And I can't do His will on my own, as I've learned. I need Him SO much! While it is easy to beat myself up for what I have done, I have to keep in mind that His grace is free and cannot be earned.

So, while I'm sitting here in bed, sick as ever, I am comforted by the fact that I am not alone. I have the Creator of the Universe who unconditionally loves me and will provide everything I need. And that's nothing to be sad about.

Friday, November 2, 2007

crazy/beautiful

Yesterday, I saw a disturbing sight. Cheryl's friend Dom from U Miami (who is studying in Rome) is currently on fall break visiting Madrid. So, we were showing him some sights and just walking around the city when I saw these three little kids. I would say the oldest boy was probably ten and the other girl and boy were most likely eight or nine. They looked like they were up to no good and I remember Cheryl had told me she had seen a couple get robbed by a group of young kids at an ATM machine. Well, we just so happened to be walking right by an ATM with a man getting money out, and the little boy stood on one side while the other kids took up the other. When the money came out, the boy on the right snatched for it!!! Thank God, the man at the ATM had such an extreme reaction that the kids ran away with no money, but I was still in disbelief. This world is in a sad state of affairs if we've come to the point where we can't even trust children anymore. Apparently, these children can't be punished for their actions, either, because there is a lack of the equivalent of "juvenile hall" in Spain.

We continued on, in a little bit of shock. We passed a bakery that had little pastry balls filled with whipped cream, chocolate, coffee, mousse, and pretty much anything that you can think of that is delicious. We drooled in the window for a little bit before we decided we HAD to buy some. We purchased a couple each and went on to the "rosales" which is this beautiful rose garden. It has soo many different types of roses and the whole place is absolutely gorgeous. After that, we decided to go on a ride at the Teleferico which is a cart that rides over Madrid's Casa de Campo. It was really cool because we got to see Madrid from an aerial view. Luckily enough for us, they had the same two 1989 Phil Collins songs playing on a loop, which made it realllly romantic. We laughed pretty hard about the music selection, to say the least.

All in all, yesterday I experienced some of the ugliest and prettiest aspects of Madrid. Today we're being touristy again, which I really enjoy since sometimes I forget that I truly need to experience this city everyday, and not sit back complacently. We will be going to the world renowned Parque del Retiro and row some boats in the big lake. I'm so excited!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

How could I forget!

Also, I just wanted to say Happy Halloween and remind everyone to eat too much candy (especially candy corn...completely inaccessible in Spain) in honor of me. This holiday is completely UNcelebrated in Spain. Que lastima!

goin for the gusto

Sometimes, those moments of, "I can't believe I just did that," bring an incomparable sense of satisfaction.
"Whatever could you be speaking of, Sarah?" you ask.
Backtrack: For those consistent readers of this blog, you most likely know who my "Starbucks boyfriend" is. Victor used to work at the Principe Pio Starbucks (my metro station) so I would see him often, seeing as I'm obsessed with coffee and Starbucks in general. Well, I had not seen him in a couple weeks and finally asked about him, only to discover he had switched locations to La Reina Sofia (across town). I was pretty bummed, to say the least. I enjoyed our encounters, as well as the frequent dicounts and free lattes. Plus, he's really cute.

I put a lot of thought into what I should do about the situation. I had a few options. I could forget about the whole deal and just move on. After all, showing up at his new work location would be extremely forward, and maybe a little creepy. Plus, who was I to assume that he even wanted to see me again?

But just giving up didn't sit well with me. I didn't feel like having that feeling of "what if". After all, I'm only in Madrid for a short time and I have to make the most of it. My friend Gretchen confirmed my thoughts on the situation when she told me what her Pastor, Kyle Dunn, had said on dating: "Sometimes, the guys are so dense that girls just need to be forward. Go up to a guy and say 'hey, I like you. He're's my phone number." This "forwardness" does not apply to all situations, and in most ways I am a traditionalist in that I believe the girl should be pursued. But sometimes, certain situations call for different actions.

Fastforward: So today, with the moral support of my amazing roommate Cheryl, I did it. I walked into his Starbucks with much anticipation of what his reaction would be. I was greeted with a big smile, so I felt a bit better.
" Hola Sarah, como estas?/ Hey Sarah, how are you?
"muy bien y tu?"/ Good, you?
"bien!"/ good
"Porque has cambiado de lugar?"/ "Why did you change locations?"
"jaja, es la culpa de ellos".../ "It's their fault.....this parts too long to type the translation...Victor got a promotion and so they made him move to the new location even though it's further away from where he lives. He's now assistant manager! que bueno!

We talked a little bit more and it was really cute...he mentioned to his co-worker that I was from New Orleans (attention to details, haha)...charged me a euro less than usual, and made sure to ask if I was going to be staying or taking it to go (that's not part of the Starbucks process, haha this isn't McDonald's). I told him I was taking it go, but then I decided it was now or never.

"Bueno, Victor, necesitas mi numero de movil"... "Alright, Victor, you need my cell number.." Asi que, si quieres, puedes llamarme"..."So, if you want, you can call me."

I looked up from the receipt to see a big huge smile on Victor's face. I was pretty happy to hear him say, "muchas gracias" and not "actually, I don't want to call you."

So. Some of you may be shocked that I would do such a forward thing. But I told myself that even if he never uses that phone number, it's not because he didn't have the chance to. Now, I can never have any what ifs, and that is satisfying enough in itself.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

locura!

Madrid is straight up crazy. I love this city. My marketing professor described it as a place where if you want to stay up all night and have a good time, you have a whole city to do it with. Last night, Cheryl and I went out without our roommate Teal (since she is in Germany) and headed down to Moncloa station to meet up with some friends. When we got there, it was like a huge mass of 18-24 year olds waiting to meet up with their friends. I even ran into my other friend from Starbucks (as in, he works there) Roberto. He flipped out. It was cute. We met up with our spanish friends from Villalba and went to this disco called Sala DuOm. It was realllly cool as far as aesthetics were concerned (the walls were lit up with green lights...cool effect). My only complaint is that they only played techno. Difficult to dance to. All in all, I was very pleased with my Friday night :)

Tonight, we are going to this disco called Cats which is approximately 99.9% spanish people (we avoid the places that attract Americans). I'm pretty excited about it.

Next week begins second round of midterms, which equals me not liking life so much. So we'll see how that goes. But for now, obviously, I'm enjoying my time before death week! wooo!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

schedule :)

I just want everyone at Baylor to know that they should be jealous of those who get to register early due to study abroad. I have attached my beautiful schedule for next semester. It is absolutely amazing. No Friday classes. No class till 11. Out by 3:20. Basking in pure glory the rest of the time. Yep. I love life.

Monday/Wednesday:
Marketing 11-1:50
PoliSci 2:00-3:20

Tuesday/Thursday:
Health 11-11:50
MIS3305 12:30-1:50
Spanish 2-3:20

Friday:
Nothing

Rest of the Time:
Basking in pure glory

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

the beat goes on...

For those of you who read my blog consistently (*cough* Michael Gilbert), my deepest apologies for the lack of updates. I can blame it on a mixture of business and laziness. Yet, I have returned to enlighten those of you who care on what has been going on here lately in Madrid.

First update: Tragedy in Madrid. Yes, tragedy. The last time I had seen my Starbucks boyfriend, Victor, was the day before I left for Paris (which, tomorrow, will be two weeks). So after quite some time thinking I was not having as much luck with running into him, I asked his co-worker and other friend of mine where the heck he was.
"Y, Victor, todavia trabaja aqui?"/ "And, Victor, does he still work here?"

"Ya no.."/Not anymore.

"Por que no?"/ Why not??
"Because I fire him (giggle giggle at his own "english joke")noo noo just kidding ya trabaja en el Starbucks de la Reina Sofia"

Victor straight up switched locations on me. I am depressed. This makes going to Starbucks about 90% less fun. The one he now works at is across town and I think if I just showed up at that one, it might be a little creepy.
Look, here's my haircut:

Second update: I got my haircut! Now, I have needed a haircut probably since about mid-July so it was definitely overdue. After seeing all the bad hairstyles here, though, I was a little nervous. So , I went to this salon called Marco Aldany and the girl who cut my hair had pink bangs. Just the bangs were pink. Not the rest of her hair. Needless to say, I was bracing myself for the worst. I asked for it to be "capeada" (layered) y "sin flaquillos" (without bangs)..."mantiendo mi largo" (maintaining my length). She did an awesome job, but it does look a little euro. I like the european
touch, though. I've gotten some compliments.

I don't have any huge "third update", but I did want to mention that my all time favorite place in Madrid is the Templo de Debod. Its sunsets are incredible! It's a place where you can really reflect on beauty and creation. On Monday, I went with my friends Martin (he's from Argentina and is sooo cute..he's also quite the photographer and we took a million and one pictures), Cheryl, and Christine. It was so much fun.

So, next week is more midterms which means I will not be liking life as much. I'm not really looking forward to that. I am thankful to be in Madrid this weekend and NOT travelling because that was getting tiring. I guess I'll be studying half the time, though. Woohoo. So, I will be working on updating more frequently. More later!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Paris=tres magnifique


This past weekend, Katie Plu and I finally went on our one-year-anticipated trip to Paris. All of the waiting and expectation culminated into two of the best days I've ever had in my entire life! Ok, and I know a lot of you know that I like to overexaggerate in my day to day speech, but I'm SOO serious about this! It was AMAZING!
So, first of all, I travelled all by myself with virtually no bumps in the road. I felt like quite the grown up. Katie and I meant in the Paris train station "Gare du Nord"...of course somewhere in the excitement of seeing her I ended up on the opposite metro platform. I yelled, "Katie! It's me!" and she proceeded to ask, "What are you doing over there??" I didn't really know what happened with my sense of direction. But we finally reunited and I had to stop myself from pulling a Janeen and crying. That afternoon/night we roamed around our hostel's neighborhood (which was SO cute...so french) and found this quaint little restaurant. I ate the best french onion soup I've ever had in my entire life, as well as this stuff called "bouef boulignon(?)" that was absolutely amazing. The meal was enjoyed with a great bottle of french red wine and topped off with a chocolate crepe. All of that delicious food and some of the best company in the world made for one of the best dinners I've ever had. Everything french food is hyped up to be is absolutely true, and now, I can vouch for it.

The next day, Katie and I got up bright and early to see all the sights. We got a day pass on the Batobus, which is the river Seine transportation (this was a great deal, since you can hop off and on the boat all day and see all the main sights in Paris). We started off with Notre Dame (HUGE!), then proceeded to the Champs-Elysees (totally went to the most amazing Sephora and prohibited myself from
buying anything), Arc du Triumph, and then took a lunch break. We ate at this swanky little restaurant that was like an inexpensive cafeteria. I don't know how to describe it, but it was a wonderful business idea that I might try and replicate one day. So anyway, then we proceeded to the Eiffel Tower which is WAYYY bigger than I thought. We ate this chocolate and banana crepe that we bought from a stand right by the tower. Ummmm, let's just say my mouth is watering at the mere thought of it. Delicious. Moving along, we went to the Musee d'Orsay, where we saw WONDERFUL works of art (including some Degas ballerinas that reminded us of Satterlee...and we talked about how much we missed her). A much needed cappuccino break was taken after that. We were revived enough to go to the Louvre and see, of course, the Mona Lisa, as well as many other amazing works of art that are too many to mention. We thought our legs were going to kill us at this point. But we pushed on, so we could go eat a baguette, ham, cheese, and wine at the Eiffel Tower. TOTALLY worth it. Getting the bottle of wine open was quite the sequence of events. I'll just continue to the rest of the weekend...
Needless to say, we slept REALLY well Friday night. The next day, we planned on going to Versailles. Haha. Well, apparently if a metro stop is called "Port de Versailles", don't believe that it will actually bring you to the door of Versailles. It's lying! So, we decided to move onto the tomb of Napoleon. He was a neurotic little fellow. He made his tomb so that you either have to lean over to see (so you're bowing down to him) or looking up to him. Never on eye level. This knowledge is courtesy of the wise Katie Pluhowski. After that, we got a ham and cheese crepe, again, by the Eiffel Tower. Mmmm delicious. We wanted to see the Moulin Rouge, too, but we didn't know where that was and frankly didn't feel like asking anyone about it either. So, we went back to our hostel to freshen up and then roam around our hostel neighborhood. Thank goodness we did this, because we saw the CUTEST little french parade! Katie and I think that the french people were like,
-"Hey, what are you doing tomorrow?"
-"I don't know, what about you?"
-"Well, I was thinking we could put on 17th century clothing and have a parade."
-"Alright, that sounds good to me."

I'm 99% sure that's how it went down. We decided to continue roaming around our neighborhood later. It was the perfect area, because there were tons of locals. We were practically the only tourists, so I felt like we were getting the real french experience. We saw this cute street that was really hustly-bustly so we decided to walk down it. It was filled with "boulangeries" and "fromageries" and chocolate stores. Heavenly. At the end of the street, there were a TON of people, so of course we were intrigued. We continued on as I began to ask Katie, "where to from here?" she exclaims, "Hey, wait a minute!!"
We had literally stumbled upon the Moulin Rouge!

The way we found it was so hilarious and amazing that I couldn't stop laughing for a while there. We were so happy. But the street that Moulin Rouge was on was really sketchy and was practically nothing but sex shops. So we skidaddled out of there pretty fast. Yes, skidaddled. Our last meal together was another baguette, cheese, and ham. Glorious. Except while we were eating this really relentless guy came up to us asking for "only one euro" and I finally had to speak gibberish to him (my attempts at pretending like I was dutch) to try and convince him I didn't understand what he was saying. Props to Plu for not dying laughing.
Needless to say, Katie and I were verrrry sad to see our weekend coming to an end. But the time spent together could not have been any better. I am so blessed! Paris is certainly a gorgeous city meant to be shared with loved ones.


video
video

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

"and in this moment I am happy"

Some moments in life just need to be treasured. That's what I've been trying to do this week, and it's been glorious.

Maybe my new found positivity is due in part to the fact that this week contains no midterms and ends with a trip to Paris. But no matter, this week, my glass is definitely half full.

Experiencing the changing of seasons in Madrid is marvelous. The weather is getting chillier, yet the sun is still shining bright which makes the happiest combination ever. I've always loved autumn...I don't know exactly why since nowhere I've lived has ever offered much of a changing of seasons. But there's this certain feeling about it that is maybe impossible to describe. But that certain feeling is absolutely amazing. It's one of those feelings that comes over you and you can't help but to smile.

European style keeps getting weirder as the weather shifts to being cold. Spaniards love layers...they just throw on whatever clothes that are within reach--I'm convinced there is no reasoning behind it. I do enjoy walking down the street with my Ipod on and marvelling at all the different styles people can come up with. And yes, I still giggle at all the mullets I see. That never seems to get old.

I realized today how much I enjoy the little things about Spain. I love that it is standard to have a pig leg hanging in your restaurant window. I love that you have to look for a plaque on the side of the building to see which street you're on. I love that reallllllly old men and women still hold hands--all of them. I love that bread is eaten with every meal. I love that people talk with a lisp.

All that said, I'm falling in love. There's something about these people, this culture, and this country that I don't know if I can ever get enough of. It's absolutely addicting. Every day I seem to get happier to be here. Tal vez porque mis habilidades de comunicar han mejorado muchisimo. Puede ser. Pero no se...solo se que en este momento, estoy contenta.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

life is beautiful

Oooh how thankful I was for the weekend to arrive. It has slipped between my fingers yet again but the coming of this week also means something I've looked forward to for a very long time: A weekend in Paris with Katie Pluhowski! I am going to be researching Paris and learning a few useful french phrases in my preparation for this Thursday. I couldn't be more excited!
So Friday night can be described as "multicultural". First off, we went to Cheryl's mom's hotel room because she is in Madrid visiting. She's a riot! We visited with her and her aunt for a while and then headed to our friend Martin (mar-teen)'s apartment with the roommates and Alejandra. Being at Martin's apartment was one of those experiences where you sit back and think, "This is good." There were four Spaniards, three Americans, two Argentinians, and one French girl. We sat around speaking all of our languages...the spanish speakers were trying out their english, my roommates and I were speaking spanish, the french girl was teaching us hard to pronounce french words. We were just sitting around, listening to all styles of music: from Incubus to techno to classical. And then we shared each of our perspective languages tongue-twisters. It was hilarious to see everyone's reaction to my recital of "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. How many pickled peppers did Peter Piper pick?" The french tongue twister was insanely hard to say.
I loved being able to exchange thoughts on culture, politics, and life with those from all over the globe. We represented three different continents, yet I realized how alike we truly are.

Then last night my roommate Teal and I met our friends Kate, Vaughn, and Travis up at Plaza Espana to go and see the Templo de Debod at sunset. The Templo de Debod was an old Temple in Egypt and supposedly it got flooded so they had to move it. And so they moved it to Madrid? I don't really know any of the reasoning behind this, Spaniards just do what they want. So we made it at the verrrry end of the sunset but it was absolutely gorgeous. And we were able to see Madrid transition from daytime to nighttime...the Palacio was lit and the Temple lit up as well. We roamed around the park that surrounded the Temple and listened to this jazz quartet for a while. It was, again, one of those experiences where you realize: "This is so good." I was so happy to be there at that moment. Maybe next time I go, I'll be on a date. Because this place is like the most amazing date spot ever. One can only hope :)
So, I am soaking up all the cultural experiences I can and enjoying every moment of it. I think Italian expresses it best: La vita e bella.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

post script

Also...I have had midterms all this week and I am very burnt out. You know when you just think your mind WILL NOT allow you to study anymore? I have certainly hit that point and I still have to study for my last midterm tomorrow. ugghhhhh. Although it's difficult how Baylor does it (some classes have frequent quizzes AND up to four tests) at least they are spread throughout the weeks. Here it's all at once. Like death. And in most of my classes I only have 2 midterms and a final. Where's the opportunity to do well here? If I mess up one, I'm in for it! I hate stress with my whole heart. Shouldn't I just be enjoying my time in Madrid instead of....hahaha....getting an education or something? I guess I'm just speakin foolishness now. Welp, just thought I'd let out some of my frustration. I have never been MORE READY for the weekend.

jajaja

Ok. I had to edit my previous entry. My Starbucks boyfriend is definitely named Victor. And I'm an idiot.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

oh yeahhh

And just because I know everyone was on pins and needles after the last blog, I got another free latte today.

This flirting thing can be a profitable business venture.

Monday, October 1, 2007

novio de estarbucks

Ahhhh...so I have this novio (boyfriend) who works at Starbucks. Don't freak out. He's not really my boyfriend. But I like to flirt with him.
I just thought I would blog about this because it's one of those "little joys in life".
It all started when I was obsessed with Starbucks and God provided one, conveniently, at the metro stop/mall I have to go to everyday to get to school. So, of course, I quickly became a regular. Over the first few weeks, I slowly but surely met every employee there. They know me.
But the day I first met Victor (haha..come on the names are just unconventional in Spain) was special because I was in line like any normal day, but when he saw me he did this double take that was absolutely priceless. It made me smile for the rest of the day.
The next couple of times I saw him I was sure to give a cute smile.

The third time or so was a special occurence. It went a little something like this:
"Hola! Que tal?"/ Hey how are you??

"Bien :) y tu que tal?"/ Good! you?
"Bien, que quieres hoy?/ Good..what can I get for you?
"Quiero un latte../ I want a latte...
.."Grande con vainilla y leche desnatada?"/grande vanilla nonfat?
"haha siii..como lo supiste?"/ yeahh how did you know?
"...algo mas Sarah?/ anything else Sarah?
"es todo" / that's all...
So he knew my name. Now, I've worked at Starbucks so I know that it's not that hard to memorize regulars names and orders. But you only memorize the ones that make an impression on you.
It really sealed the deal when I got my latte for free... :)

And yesterday was amazing. I can't describe it without sounding gay. So forgive me. I was in line with my roommates and I got a "side glance" which let me know he saw I was there. The cutest part was when I was the next in line and he said "hola" to the people in front of me and then looked at me and mouthed "hola". I nearly died. So I finally asked his name. He said it really fast. But it's Victor. Starbucks was really crowded so I'm sure he was stressin a little bit. But he was sure to smile at me occasionally. When I left he waved at me from across the cafe.

Ah I'm a stupid girl. Oh well, it's fun to have a little crush I guess. But if "history repeats itself" then nothing will come about. Story of my life.


Sunday, September 30, 2007

I think I smell like a Spaniard.

I just had this realization. I have been here for a month and a half now, roughly. Well, when I first got here, I thought to myself "Spain has a distinct smell." I don't know how to explain it. Something to do with the mix of food, cigarettes, different colognes, and I don't know. The air's just different. I could smell this smell for the first week and a half or so of being here. But now I can't. Not at all. And for a while my clothes smelled like the States. But by now, I've worn and washed almost all of my clothes (save the winter stuff). And there's no sign of any smells of the USA.

I noticed this morning. My hair smells different. Which must mean that I smell different. I think I must smell like a Spaniard.

Monday, September 24, 2007

¡Olé!

Last night, I went to the Plaza de Toros with my roommates to see the Bullfight! It was absolutely glorious! I know, for all of you animal lovers that this sounds like something very sad but it is actually an amazing tradition. First off, these bulls get WAY better treatment than bulls that are raised specifically to be eaten. They also get to live a longer life and their death is an honorable one.
That being said, the entire time in the arena I felt like I was actually part of this age-old tradition, and that in some way I was connected to the history of Spain because of it. The sequinned outfits of the Toreros are enough in themselves to marvel at. The techniques they use in "dizzying" or tiring out the bull look somewhat ballet-like. These boys train from a very young age to do this, and their skills are incredible. The whole procession of it really is beautiful, and I'm glad it's a tradition that has been kept up in Spain.
The President was actually there last night, and waved his "puñuelo" (handkerchief) with the rest of us at the death of the final bull. It was pretty sweet that he was there! So all in all, I had an amazing weekend. How blessed I am to be in Spain!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Go to sleep, Madrid!

Madrid truly is a city that never sleeps. For those of you who know me, I am a girl who always sleeps. I have a regular sleep schedule and like to get my eight hours as any healthy girl should! So, this may be one of the arenas in which Madrid culture and I clash a little. But, I'm embracing it to a certain extent and telling myself that I can always catch up on sleep but I can't always be in Spain.

This weekend was SO much fun. On Friday, my roommates and I were on the "list" at this club named Kapital. Kapital typically has an eighteen euro entrance fee. We got in for free! This club is the biggest in all Europe (at least that's what my host-mom told me). There are SEVEN floors...each with a different style of music. Surprisingly enough, my favorite floor was the techno floor because they had these go-go dancers that were dressed crazy futuristic and it was seriously like being in a movie. I felt like I was some sort of rock star or something. You always hear about places like this and never expect to go! It was a great night.

Last night was this big deal for Madrid called "La noche en Blanco" which roughly translates to: We don't like sleeping so we're not going to and no places are going to close and everyone can just roam around in the streets because that sounds like a fun thing to do until six o clock in the morning. Yeah. So some Spanish friends came into Madrid and we roamed around with them until roughly 4:30 in the morning. We watched "Singstar" playstation ( there was this huge stage) for a while which was really fun because the beautiful European architecture was all lit up and I was among this sea of Spanish people singing "Carolina". But after a night of walking throughout the ENTIRE city I was exhausted!!!
So we got home very late and slept in pretty late as well. It's all part of the experience, but come on Madrid, just go to sleep!

Friday, September 21, 2007

salsa!

So last night may have been the best night of my life.

For those of you who don't know, this semester I am enrolled in a "Latin Rhythms" dance class. This means I have been learning merengue, salsa, and bachata. Well, last week when I went to class, I was surprised when my teacher announced: "Next Thursday night at midnight we will be going to the Salsa club." I was like: This is the best homework I've ever had.

So last night, my roommate Teal and I ventured down to Plaza Espana, met up with my class and were on our way. When I entered the club, I checked my purse and entered the second set of doors to the dance floor.

This is when my jaw dropped open. There were all sorts of people: short, tall, fat, skinny, beautiful, ugly, young, old. And all of these sorts of people were dancing with all other sorts of people and making the dance look like the hottest thing I've ever seen. For instance, one forty-five year old chubby woman was dancing with a very handsome 20 something year old and they were some of the best salsa dancers around. I was entranced. I seriously couldn't wipe the smile off my face. There was this like four-feet-tall-fifty-year-old man there who was dancing with this like normal height girl and they were so good! Now don't get me wrong, it wasn't this huge freak show. I'm just saying no matter who the people were: if they knew how to dance, it was hot.

I danced with this guy from Ecuador and he was really good at leading so he made me look like a pro. I also danced with some guys from class and I was very proud of them! It's hard to lead, especially after only two weeks of learning how to dance.

My favorite part, though, was when the whole club broke it down into this spanish salsa line dance. It was CRAAAAZY!!! I'm telling you: this line dance KILLED the electric slide. It was insanely amazing. At this point, my friend Dave comes up to me and exclaims, "IT'S LIKE WE'RE IN A MUSICAL!"

And there is no better way to describe last night than I felt like I was living the West Side Story. Except for like without the whole white people versus hispanics rivalry. Just the singing and dancing and being freakishly happy. Ahhhhh, what a night!

Monday, September 17, 2007

spanish and guitars

The other day I had an epiphany: speaking Spanish is like learning to play the guitar. Bear with me in this analogy. You can learn to play the guitar in a variety of ways. You can teach yourself, you can buy a book, and you can even attend lessons. It is most definitely a slow process of learning the chords and combinations, getting a feel for the strings and over that awkward "how do I move my fingers?" stage. And after a bit, one may get cocky: "Yeah, I know ALL the chords and I can play like three Greenday songs!"

And then, you go to (pretend like he's alive) a Jimi Hendrix concert. He's wailing, and playing the guitar behind his back and with his teeth and stuff. And you're like: mannnnnn.....he's so awesome at guitar. I SUCK! There's no way I could EVER play like him!

And even though you love guitar and were actually getting pretty good at it, you get all discouraged and stuff because your skills feel SO below par.

And this is where Spanish comes in. You can go to school. You can learn how to conjugate a verb. You could "know" all the vocabulary in the world and be the smartest kid in Ms. Burtch's (holla) Spanish class. But then you get to the Spanish speaking country and feel like: I know NOTHING! Everyone's just spittin out spanish and jumbling words together and you're all like "Que??!!!" It's easy to get discouraged.

But Jimi Hendrix was like the Alpha male guitar player. Any old novice can't get all upset when he isn't as good as Jimi, who played his guitar for hours upon hours for years and years.

The thing is, much to the surprise of me and probably my roommates from home, is that I'm NOT hispanic. I haven't spent my whole life conversing in this language. So of course, I might talk with an accent and ask people to repeat themselves a couple of times, but it's a stage. And most importantly, it's a stage I need to embrace.

Some of us were born hispanic/freakishly gifted musically. The rest of us have to learn spanish/practice the guitar all the time till we get good. The End.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Bob Marley Mullet

This is an example of some of the hotties I see everyday. I created this beautiful work of art on Paint. Let me tell you: there is nothing more attractive than a man with short hair in the front and long, sexy dreads in the back.

Let's just say, I'm trying to conquer my gag reflex whilst in the presence of this haircut. And I'm averaging about four views a day.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Cultural notes


I just realized I haven't written too much about the "daily life" here in Spain. At first glance, Europeans and Americans seem to have similar lifestyles, but after a while one realizes that they truly are two worlds apart.

Starting with the food:

Every morning, without fail, breakfast consists of either: hot chocolate or cafe con leche (hot milk with instant coffee mixed in). This is consumed with some sort of sweet processed white bread. For instance "Magdalenas" are like little muffins that you dip into either of the drinks. No matter which sweet bread it is, it must be dipped. No questions asked. I find this custom to be one of the best in all of Spain. In fact, I completely plan on continuing this tradition in los Estados Unidos.

Lunch, which is eaten from the hours of 2-4, is the biggest meal. Honestly, I can't tell you the "spanish" customs on this because this is the meal that I have to supply for myself. But, I must say that the restaurants have a "menu del dia" which includes two courses, bread, wine, and dessert all for about 9 euros. It's quite the delicious deal.

And dinner...ooh dinner how interesting you are. We eat dinner at ten at the earliest. Again, not straying from their mandatory high carb diets, spaniards provide more bread at dinner. The most interesting meal I've had yet was this: Salchicha (spicy hot dog without a bun), a fried egg, rice, and bread. I was like, "Ok, why are we eating all these things at one time?" I think we may have had salad too: iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, olives, olive oil, and vinegar. Apparently "romaine" lettuce only grows in Rome and is not supplied to Spain because I have only consumed iceberg lettuce during my entire stay here. There's also this thing called ensalada rusa, which contains: (in no specific order, since it is thrown in a big jumble) iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, olives, eggs, tuna, potatoes, and olive oil and vinegar. Some of you are thinking to yourselves: disgusting? However! After a day of walking and being completely starved by dinner time, this is the most delicious thing known to man! OOhhhh, besides tortilla espanola. MMMMM. Tortilla espanola is precisely this and nothing more: A potato omelette. But something that I'd like to think of as Spanish magic makes it the best thing you've ever eaten in your entire life. So yeah, that's dinner in a nutshell.

Now for postre:

In all my years of spanish, I learned that "postre" means dessert. Which, it still does. However, every night Maria (my 12 year old sister) announces that it's time for "postre", and a basket of fruit is brought out. We then choose our fruit (if melocoton is present, I snatch it...oh peach) and peel it. They don't eat fruit with the skin on it. I think it's really weird.

So I wanted to talk about other things that make Spain culturally worlds apart, but I've realized that there is TOO much for one blog! So throughout the semester, I'll be commenting on these differences.

Maybe the next one will have to cover ugly Euro mullets...

Monday, September 10, 2007

iglesia!


Welp, it's been a couple of days since my last update. This weekend could be defined as: getting back on my Madrid high! It was wonderful because I was able to see some sights in Madrid that I hadn't seen before and enjoy its splendor.

On Saturday my roommate Cheryl and I went to Toledo, a Medieval city about an hour south of Madrid. It was absolutely beautiful, yet extremely exhausting. The whole town is situated on a series of hills, so I was practically doing the stair master for five hours. Don Quijote is from Castilla La Mancha (Toledo is the capital of which...) and so I took a picture with him.

Sunday was a good day...I went to church! As soon as I entered this church I felt a surge of peace overcome me. I had a sense that I was at a "home away from home." Where, although we have different backgrounds, languages, and appearances, we have the unity of Christ. I seriously sensed that I was among "brothers and sisters." It was awesome. It helped too that I understood the whole sermon (which was given by the equivalent of a Spanish Beth Moore). I've realized I can understand eloquent speakers perfectly...it's those mumblers that throw me off. Anyway, I believe I will continue going to Amistad Cristiana Iglesia while I am in Madrid.

And school was good today. Last Wednesday I felt like an idiot in my Spanish class. So this weekend I studied extra hard and answered all the questions correctly! YAY! Tomorrow I just have dance class and marketing. It should be a good day :)

Thursday, September 6, 2007

an angel!

So let me explain the past 48 hours to all of you: every time I attempted to communicate in Spanish it went horribly wrong. Seriously, not ONE successful time. It was getting to be comical ( like when a woman at the dance studio asked me if I was in Spanish or Latin dance and I responded...no I'm from the U.S.A.) Yeah. That sucked.

So, needless to say I was getting a little down on myself. I felt like an idiot. And I was sure the whole city of Madrid would have agreed that I WAS an idiot.

BUT THEN!!!

I was sitting at the bus stop bein all mopey and stuff when this cute little short spanish woman in a red suit sat next to me. And surprisingly, before she sat down she looked me in the eyes, smiled, and said 'hola'! Now, this sounds normal to you friendly texans/southerners/whatnots but this is a VERY strange occurence in Madrid. People here aren't just nice to strangers. They are more than nice to family, friends, and acquaintances but NOT to strangers. So needless to say the woman caught me off guard. Then she asked me, "has esperado un ratito?" ("have you been waiting for a little bit?") and at first she said it too fast so I thought "Here we go again, another idiot moment". But somehow I managed to pull together a little answer "ah, tres minutos, nada mas" (3 minutos, no more). Then she asked me if I went to the school around there, and I answered yes, the Universidad de San Luis.

Something at this moment told me I could confide in this woman. So for saving time, I'll translate our little convo:

"See, the thing is, I'm studying spanish. And for the past two days, everything I've said has come out wrong, and anything anyone has said to me I can't understand. And before this, I studied spanish for SIX years in school!! I'm so ...(paused because didn't know the word for frustrated)..ahh I don't know."

Then this little lovely spanish woman began to speak to me, and encourage me that I would learn a little by little and I can't expect to learn it all so fast! And she knew how I felt because she lived in Italy for a while and it's hard to adjust to a new culture, a new everything, and not even be able to adequately express your emotions about the whole deal. Turns out too, that she's a theology teacher at the girls boarding school that's two seconds away from where I go to school. A God thing? Um, doy.

So the bus comes, we get on and I finally catch her name. Teresa. Well, you know how Mother Teresa was like a LOT like Jesus because she spent a lot of time with Jesus, helping out the most poverty stricken people of the world? And so by being in her presence you felt like you were, in some way, in Jesus' presence? Well that's what it was like with woman. It made my day. I told her that.

So overall, things are brightening up here in Madrid! God is good. All the time.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

the aftermath

Well, this week has been an interesting time of drawing really close to God in a time of weakness and discouragement.

Let's just say, I haven't been this homesick since Space Camp in fifth grade. I guess the whole robbery thing really sent me on a tailspin of thinking about the U.S. and everything it represents for me:

1) You never know how awesome it is to speak the language until you go to a place where you don't. Let's just say I've never been so frustrated with Spanish in my life. Everyone who knows me knows that Spanish is something I'm truly passionate about. I think it's a beautiful language associated with wonderful people. But right now, I'm so sick of going to buy lunch, going to the mall, or even riding on the metro and being afraid of sounding like an idiot. Tonight sucked too because I went to the Farmacia to buy some bandaids (because my shoes gave me the worst blisters of my life) and spoke in spanish only to be responded to in English. I CAN UNDERSTAND SPANISH THANKS is what I wanted to yell. But I had to humble myself yet again.

2) I miss my family and friends. My whole life God has surrounded me with the most amazing family and friends I could have ever asked for and now I'm deprived of it all. It's really hard, because I'm realizing how much I truly do RELY on these comforts. Not to mention it's such an encouraging support group that I simply just don't have here.

3) Well, those are the huge things. Erica Denney: If you read this, you will be happy to know I believe that God is kind of showing me maybe I permanently belong more in an area with lots of Hispanic people, but not necessarily in a Hispanic country...( I don't know, maybe LA or something? hahah) I feel like I truly can relate to those people now...who have immigrated to the U.S. and don't know english. I seriously want to teach ESL for the rest of my life.

Ahhhh, well that's the straight up truth. I believe that going through this is definitely teaching me a GREATER lesson, so ultimately I am thankful for it. Prayers on my behalf would be greatly appreciated :)

Sunday, September 2, 2007

que lastima


Well. I have a ton to update:

I guess I'll start with the good! My first couple of days of classes went very well and I am excited for all of my classes (except finance...the teacher had the Spanish equivalent to jury duty I think, so tomorrow is our first day of class). My management class is taught by a young Italian man who prides himself on keeping the class interesting through class discussion. He says "no answer is a wrong answer" so even when I said a stupid answer the other day, I didn't feel like a complete idiot. I am taking Spanish Culture and Civilization, which is taught in spanish very rapidly but the good thing is that I can understand everything that's going on! It's just formulating my thoughts into spanish that is still giving me difficulty. The class seems like it's going to be very enlightening. Then onto Latin Rhythms dance class on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which is going to be AWESOME. I'm so excited about it...it's a good way to shake off some pounds too :) Speaking of which, I have never walked so much in my life and none of my jeans fit me anymore. I look like I have sag-pants all the time: not cute. But hey, who can complain about dropping pounds when you're doing absolutely nothing (besides walking a million miles) to deserve it! Finally, my first marketing class went very well! My teacher has a pretty strong spanish accent (since it's taught in english) but I have 100% empathy for him, so I can look past it. It seems like an extremely interesting subject that I will really enjoy, thank God since it's my major! SO overall school has been great and the semester looks challenging yet do-able.

And now for the sad news: Last night my roommates and I got robbed at knifepoint in the foyer of our apartment building. A thief had snuck in after us without us even knowing it, and proceeded to open the elevator door, wherein I kicked him and yelled "NO VIVES AQUI! (which means YOU DON'T LIVE HERE!!!) and then he held up a knife. So I was like, uhhhh I don't care about money, I'm not getting cut for this. So I handed over my belongings, which only included 35 euro, my chase debit card (which I immediately cancelled), and my drivers license. I seriously don't care about the money, it was just a very frightening experience that is rough to go through without having your mommy to hug after. Pilar, my host mom, did give me a hug though, which made me feel better.

All that to say, it made me realize how much I need God as my protector and as my everything while I'm here. Things can get really rough, and He is the only thing in the entire Universe that is a stable stronghold. Last night I definitely had the "peace that surpasses all understanding," and then this morning came the shambles with lots of crying. But I know that He is here with me, and simply the fact that I was not hurt at all and am safe lets me know He truly never forgets about us. Ahhh, but what a bump in my Madrid high! Hahahaha, it definitely took me down a few notches from the Honeymoon stage. I still love it here, and am going to be even more cautious than I was already. Things like this are just rough.

Ok well I love everyone and now I have an internet provider that is consistent so I will be updating more frequently!

besos :)

Monday, August 27, 2007

que guay...


Well, Madrid is even better than I could have ever asked for. I have an amazingly awesome roommate Cheryl who makes me laugh VERY hard...she's from Boston so I love her accent jaja. She has done a Spanish exchange program for three years in high school so she has friends from a pueblo called Villalba, about thirty minutes from here.

Well, on Saturday night we went to Villalba which is SUCH a cute town and her friend Alejandra picked us up en su coche. We went to Alejandra's house which had her dog Blanca, who was approximately the same size of the dog dragon in The Neverending Story. We ate dinner really early (about 8:30) and then went down to the bar to try and watch the RealMadrid/Atleti Madrid(HUGE DEAL) game. There was no space for us so we met Alejandra's brother and friends and then went on to McDonalds for un helado (ice cream). I had a McFlurry...mmmm sabe rico. After that we met up with Marisa, another friend of Cheryl's, and we went to her friend Chemi's house. It was really exciting for Cheryl because she hadn't seen half of the people in about two years! They were all VERY happy to see her, and of course I got to kiss all of them too since that's just what you do when you meet friends of a friend. I love this culture.

Later we went to a fiesta in the pueblo which was sweet...and then we went to a club and danced for a bit with Alejandra's friend Moi (as in Moises, as in the Bible)... Needless to say it was by far the BEST NIGHT yet...and there are SO many more to come :) I love this place. The people are incredible. More later...
Besos

Friday, August 24, 2007

Hola de espana!


Hola a todos desde Espana!

I arrived safely here yesterday morning and am already falling in love with Madrid. Besides some hecticness at the airport (I missed my connecting flight to Madrid, so arrived about 4 hours later than expected) I had safe travels. My only complaint is that I haven't gotten my baggage yet because it missed the flight too. It should come today...espero que si.

I can already tell that I am going to learn SO much spanish and really improve over the next four months. I already feel more comfortable speaking and it's only the second day. I actually can understand the Madrid accent very well. I've also learned if you don't use the lisp, (grathias) they won't understand you as well. Looks like I'm coming back with a spanish lisp! hahah I mean jajajajaja. Another interesting note about the accent is they also kind of do a "shh" with the "s", for instance gracias is commonly pronounced grathiash. Muy interesante.

I LOVE my spanish family!!! They are awesome! My mom's name is Pilar and my dad's name is Jesus. That's right, I live with Jesus. I have two "hermanas"...the 12 year old who is freakin cool is named Maria and the 17 year old is Andrea. I haven't gotten to spend as much time with Andrea yet but I'm excited to get to know her. I also have two roommates! They are awesome and I love having them as a source of comfort. One is named Cheryl, from Boston, and the other is Teal from Montana.

Cheryl, Teal, and I went exploring Madrid yesterday. We walked down to the Plaza Mayor (about 15 minutes of a walk), and then to the city center Puerta del Sol. Madrid's architecture is absolutely beautiful. So euro. We then went for tapas and ate croquetas de jamon y tortilla espanola. It was freakin delicious. We also drank some wine from the region :) Muy delicioso. After that we proceeded to the Palacio Real which is extremely close to our piso (about five minutes of a walk) but somehow got lost on the way home. No worries though, we found it.

So that whole "siesta" thing is not a rumor. It actually exists and I couldn't be happier about it. Shops close from like 3-5...so they can go home and nap. People usually eat tapas at like 6 or 7 and then last night we ate dinner at 10:15. It's pretty freakin awesome. Sooo anyway I have a million more things to say but I will update later. Love you guys!

Besos

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

asi empieza la aventura...

It's tomorrow!!! I get on the plane tomorrow! My adventure is finally here :) My last day at Starbucks was yesterday... Praise God!

Some prayer requests:
1)Safe travels
2) A good living situation
3) That I find other believers to walk with :)

I'm learning that community is extremely important in our walk with God...I would love to have at least one other person to share my heart with for the next four months. At least for that glimpse of encouragement in a predominantly agnostic culture.

A thought: I might be writing in Spanish a bit on the blog. But have no fear non-spanish speakers! I believe you can do "google translate" and it does a pretty good job at translating passages.

Also, I have just discovered/fell in love with Skype. Free internet to internet calls! My skype name is smillermadrid if any of you have skype and would like to talk to me!

Besos para todos,
Sarah

Sunday, August 5, 2007

mi casa nueva




When I was in LA this summer, I received my housing assignment for Spain. I was extremely excited considering this was my first choice for places to live. I will tell you about it:


My "mom's" name is Pilar Sierra and she has a husband in the military who travels a lot, as well as two daughters. She got rave reviews on being a great cook and a "motherly" type. I'm kind of hoping she doesn't speak much English just for immersion purposes. Any prayers on my family situation going well would be greatly appreciated.



Now for the location: I will be about four blocks from the Palacio Real. That means Royal Palace. Holla. My "piso" (apartment) is on the 6th floor and has a "grand terrace". I am a metro ride...or a long walk... away from the most bustling places in the city. My piso is about a thirty minute commute to my University.


I will update everyone once I actually live there, but this is what I know so far! Only two more weeks!


P.S. I was very encouraged the other day because I was able to hold a twenty minute conversation in Spanish with a man I met at the Spanish Consulate. He was from Barcelona (which he pronounced Barthaylona) and was in the US doing Cancer research. Praise Jesus! I'll be able to communicate!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

a blog? really?


Hello family and friends!

As most (if not all) of you know, I will be in Madrid this fall for Study Abroad. "Excited" is an extreme understatement for how I'm feeling right now. I'm on the plane in twenty days, but who's counting?

So, anyway, I decided to do this whole "blog" thing for a few different reasons.

a) It's way easier to update than if I were to simply mass email every week.
b) If you frankly don't care about what I'm doing in Spain, you don't have to read about it!
c) It's cuter than email.

I figure this is a way I can feel connected to you guys, as well as you to me while we are an ocean apart! So, happy reading...
besos
-sarah