Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The End

The night before my nine hour bus trip to Barajas Airport was another random holiday in Spain: San Juan.  At around 22:00 my host brother and I met up with Kirsten, her host sister, Sara and Jess and we walked down La Caleta with folded up note cards in our pockets.  We got to the Columbus fichus trees and saw crowds of people…hundreds walking down to the sea. Walking down the ramp onto the sand, the view of the beach reminded me of Carnaval.  Groups of people sat together in circles; drinking, talking, smoking. Old, young, infant, elderly; everyone seemed to be on the beach.  BOOM!  Everyone shuttered from the loud noise and the sky lit up.  BOOM BOOM! More fireworks lit up the sky above the fortress to the right of the beach.  Reds, blues, greens, and yellows illuminated the crowd and the little boats floating in the ocean.  We watched it under a bungalow until they ended and then found a spot in the sand. 

I looked back at the group of teens smoking behind me, asked for their lighter and we all took out our note cards and burned them in a pile.  There were a bunch of fires on the beach ranging from tiny ones like ours to bonfires where University of Cádiz students burned their notebooks and printed out slides.  On a piece of paper we wrote down a wish and burned it at midnight in regular custom of San Juan.  Then everyone went into the ocean for some symbolic reason (no one seemed to know why).

We made our way to the port to a dance party by some pirate ship looking boats and then made our way down to the discotecas to dance the night away.  We danced on stage, sweated to death in the packed crowd of “Aki Te Quiero”, took a couple breathers and decided to leave early to head down to the beach again.  At around five we got back to the Caleta, stripped down to our skivvies and ran into the warm ocean while groups of people looked on by their scattered fires on the bottle and bag littered beach. 

We swam out farther and farther until we got to some boats floating in the middle of the outlet.  We pulled ourselves inside and sat on the wooden bench alone in the middle of the ocean inlet looking up at the stars and on the glittering fires on the beach.  The night was still somewhat warm and the peaceful slapping of water splashed up with the small waves heading to shore.  Kirsten and Yeyo jumped back in the water while Jess and I stayed back in the boat for a few.  I sat back and soaked in the quiet starry night and looked out onto my Spanish city.  The beach held so many memories: Our first day in the city, tanning, stealing boats, February swimming adventures, studying, bridge jumping, parties, and too much more.  La Caleta turned into a symbol of Cádiz, of all of the good times and great adventures in the past 6 months: a kiss under the stars, countless sunsets, friends, new family…As I sat in the boat looking back at my city and my second home I realized that in hours I would be leaving it for my American home.  It was time I guess…even though I love my new friends and family, and even though deep down I never wanted to leave Spain, it was time to go.  So with that, I jumped in the water and swam back to shore leaving behind a boat filled with memories, ready to start the next chapter in my life.  Cádiz I will miss you.    

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Tortilla: the new soul food

The day started at 10:00.  I woke up and was craving some Muesli Cereal so I pulled a box of milk out of the fridge and ate my oats, dried fruit and cereals ready to start my day.  I got inspired to go for a jog (which rarely happens here) so I put on my shorts and shirt as quickly as I could and went on my way before I could change my mind.  I started along the Eastern coast facing the mainland, ran under lanes shaded by palm trees, continued along to coast passing La Caleta (now on the Atlantic facing the United States) and towards the cathedral.  I passed through a few parks with blooming purple flowers and tropical birds chirping the morning in, made my way to the harbor, and finally ended up at my starting point: the Cádiz Island circuit.

Feeling accomplished for the day, I showered up and relaxed a bit before lunch: A good start to my first day of summer.  We ate lentils, meat balls, and some bread and Yeyo and I were able to make it to the beach by 15:30 to tan up since we've been cooped up in the house for the past month because of exams.  The tide was high so Yeyo, Kirsten, Chelsea and my new Texas roomate: Hely decided to do some bridge jumping by the Island fortress: you make recognize it from Pirates of the Caribbean.  I got up on the ledge, looked at the huge drop before the water, jumped and 4 seconds later splashed hard into the water; heart racing and blood flowing.  Everyone else jumped a few more times too and then we went back to our towels to swim in the bath-like water and tan up. (I woke up this morning looking really dark).

Noni wasn't in when we got back to the house so Yeyo and I watched some TV and by 8:30 I decided to make us an early supper before we headed down to the beach.  I peeled, cut, soaked and fried 3 potatoes, scrambled up 5 eggs, made a big tortilla for the both of us and we went on our way.

Kirsten was at the top of the beach all dressed up and ready to go out.  As I was talking to her, Donna (Irish) came over and started talking and pointed us to the crowd of people standing at the edge of the beach.  All the British kids were there talking in little groups and I saw Chelsea, Sara, Jacqueline and her sister in one of the crowds.  I walked over with Yeyo, we said our hello's and we stayed on the beach to watch the sun set.  Next step: Lunar Eclipse.  Unfortunately only Europe, part of Africa and I think part of Asia could see it, but we all crowded on the beach watching the moon get bigger and bigger.

By around midnight we headed to Nahu and did our normal rounds to our favorite dance spots and danced the night away.  I must say Wednesday was the best end-of-school/start-of-summer I have ever had in my life.  Today, I am avoiding the beach and the strong sun and then probably going out again since it is Chelsea and Jacqueline's last day here in Cádiz...It's all ending so soon and I just hope I don't get too sentimental...We've been through a lot of stuff together: protests and uprisings in Marrakesh, long hikes and random goat herds in the middle of the Spanish countryside, scary trolls in Madrid, Lady Gaga entourage during Carnaval...We stole boats together, jumped off bridges together, suffered through horrible classes together, and became good friends and some even best friends.  Chelsea and Jacqueline leaving represents an end to the best time of my life...an end that seemed to not exist.

BUT! I still have 8 more days here and I'm going to make the best of them.  I really have no free time from tomorrow until the end of my trip...Why? you ask?? Well, just when I thought my traveling days were over, it turns out I'm going to be camping in a bungalow on a tiny Portuguese Island: No roads, no cars, no shops, no nothing; only me, 4 friends, some marshmallows, music, beach food, and a guitar....TOMORROW!!

Monday, June 13, 2011


I got my final grade back for Introducción al siglo XX class!  I got a 7.5 "notable" which translate to a B in the American system!!  All the last minute cramming really paid off I guess, but talk about high-stakes testing!!  Better get back to studying for art.  This month has been horrendously boring. Tomorrow the summer begins!!!  

Monday, June 6, 2011

June Madness

After 2 hours, I can finally say that I have finished one Spanish final exam!! After going to every class, rapidly writing down notes from 3 different teachers with 3 horrible powerpoints, and reading packets upon packets of information, I have finally completed Historia del Siglo XX!!  This was a humanities class that studied human ecosystems across history and into the modern day by splitting it up into 3 sections taught by 3 teachers: Julio taught us about the Grand Area (the Americas, their territories, and Great Britain with its territories), the other man -who's name escapes me- taught about Germany and their constant dominance over Europe, and Flavia taught us about Japan and the micro-system of Russia, the USSR, and the perifery.  They also made sure to talk about the changes in capitalism and jump around as much as possible in their lectures.  

I know I've mentioned it before, but all that I have seen from the University of Cádiz is terrible teaching.  Three teachers, with three subjects, teaching one class from the published works of one of the teachers seemed confusing and aggravating.  The main text was written by the first teacher and the assigned reading about the transitions to democracy in Central America and Reunification of Germany were both written by his students and edited by him.  It seemed very opinionated as well.  Another teacher didn't seem to know what she was talking about and even argued with me and some of the British kids over the split of Germany after WWII... supposedly East Germany was ruled by the USSR while West Germany was split into 4 zones; American, French, English, and by another country that she couldn't remember (or that didn't exist).  Questions were answered in round-about ways and people were made fun of because of their accents.  My poor friend Chelsea finally got the courage to speak up in class only to have the teacher respond to her in a super-American accent...This happened to Chelsea three times and to a British friend once which I think is pretty harsh.  Being judged by your accent and grammar is a language learner's worst nightmare.

Bashing the teaching aside, the exam was (in my opinion) not authentic.  "Authentic examination" is a teaching term that links the examination of students with material and forms of learning.  An authentic exam for this class would be multiple choice (since we only learned and memorized facts and dates) and short answer questions about either the evolution of a superpower, how the process of becoming a superpower relates at a global level, etc.  The exam should also cover everything learned in the class.  [My teaching classes at RIC make me notice things].  

Our exam was one question (or statement rather) on the chalkboard: "The geo-strategy of North America".  With that we received white printer paper to write our essay...it didn't even have lines.  Three people put their names on a blank piece of paper and then left; those are Erasmus that only need to sit in on the class and their grades didn't matter.  The rest of us scribbled away trying to pull everything from the course together:  Harris treaty and Treaty of Kanagawa...manifestdestiny and imperialism...50 year war/Spanish American war...1898 and Islands in the pacific...espacio vital and Lebensraum...I wrote down as much as I could on a scrap paper, organized it according to the subsystems of capitalism, and wrote a 4 page essay entitled "Las claves de la geoestrategia norteamericana:  una examinación del poder estadounidense durante un sistema capitalista" [The key factors of the North American geo-strategy: an examination of American power during a capitalistic system].

I pulled everything I knew from high school American History class and cramming for this test, tried to link it to everything, and...I THINK...pulled it off pretty OK.  The grades get posted next week so we'll see how I do!!  42.9% of registered students pass the course...Linguistics exam on Wednesday too, this one scares me more.  50% of students fail the course according to the university website.  While more than half fail the Siglo XX class, the Linguistics class is much more complicated and we've missed months at a time due to Spanish holidays.  (Plus the course load is the heaviest in this class.)  Wish me luck!

Friday, May 27, 2011


We get off our tram at Náměstí Republiky and walk down the road towards our Hostel.  I met Carolyn, my almost next door neighbor back in Coventry, at the airport making a big scene with hugs and loud hello's but that's besides the point.  The area we were in was boarded by gothic/baroque looking buildings and streets that were covered in tracks for the trollies to navigate on.  Above the streets were black wires crisscrossing and connecting to buildings.  The sky was bright blue and not even stained with a puffy white cloud.  We made our way down to street Soukenická where we were supposed to be staying in the Art Hole Hostel (one of the best reviewed and cheapest hostels in the city).  We arrived at the building which looked quite decrepit.  The windows were dusty and there were card board cutouts of letters that spelled out "Art Ho" leaning against the window.  We looked inside to see an empty room: No doors inside, no furniture, dust, tools, and debris...Thinking they were just doing construction even though the construction looked untouched for 40 years, we tried to open the doors to only find out they were locked.  Scammed.  We walked down to the Police Station down the road but unfortunately it closed at 4pm and it was currently 6.  We walked over to a telephone to call the number on supplied to us...we were all in shock.  I inserted my euro and the phone went dead.  The lit up numbers disappeared and it became unresponsive...welcome to Central Europe.  Then from above we saw someone open up a window.  In a quick bolt of hope we went over to the building and noticed a hidden green door to the side.  We buzzed in and were let in. NOT scammed.  We walked up the decaying stairwell to the main entrance greeted by a Czech 20 year old.  He opened the door and we entered a colorful kitchen with new furniture and a clean environment.  We crossed over into the reception and noticed new computers, couches, books, green walls, modern lighting and murals.  We found the right place. We got our beds (mine was at the head of the about to puke man painted on the wall) and then headed out; happy and relieved. 

By this time it was getting dark out as we navigated the city.  We wondered into a huge plaza with a green statue covered in people and a Gothic cathedral in the background.  The buildings were adorned with statues and faces and so many details it was almost impossible to keep track of. It felt as if I stepped back into the 1500s.  Carolyn, her roomate and I walked around the plaza having a photoshoot and then sat on a bench to soak it all in.  Prague is definitely European but it has a unique feel to it.  The perfect cross between East and West. The language is pretty bizarre to be honest, but that just adds to the feel of everything.  I can feel the Soviet history and see the amazing architecture and let me tell you...Prague is definitely the most beautiful place I have visited in Europe.  Ok, I have to go.  We are catching the train to go to Terezin to visit a Nazi Death Camp.  It's a little distance from the city and kind of hard to get to, but I hear it's not a tourist hub like Auschwitz but still has the same effect.  Wish us luck!  

Monday, May 23, 2011

Birthday Day number 5! London Part 2

            First off, I should probably start this blog entry with a disclaimer…DISCLAIMER:  I do, actually, in all reality, truly have school work here.  I promise.  I know it seems like I am always traveling and going out, but that to me is the fun part of my trip and that is the only part I write about in my blogs.  If you have been noticing the long gaps in entries it is for that reason; my life is now filled with homework and essays.  For an update on my academic achievements, I got ranked the fourth best essay by my Lingüística Aplicada class! The professor told me how interesting she found my work about the intercultural mediation of Moroccan students in the sphere of the Andalucian educational system! (This was the 20 page essay, 1.5 spacing, size 10 font).  Then later in class she pointed me out in front of everyone to say how well written it was and that it was obvious that I was American because of my “well structured and factual essay.  Americans know how to write academic pieces really well”.  I’m really happy that everything is falling into place and that I’ve received amazing feedback so far!
            Now, back to the fun stuff!  I went to London again last weekend: happy birthday to me!  It was absolutely lovely.  I stayed at the same friend’s house, but this time he had to work so I got to explore the city by myself. I had so much fun that I lost track of time and ended up spending 13 hours walking, shopping, eating, and taking pictures.  I saw the sun set over Big Ben, I sat on the banks of the river, I explored Chinatown and ordered a coconut bubble tea.  It was a trip set to my own rhythm with complete freedom to do what I wanted, when I wanted.  I was alone but not lonely.  MUCH better than the Seville trip.  After an amazing day, I met back up with Adam at his apartment to watch TV and eat trifle.  I’d say my weekend was a success! Next stop: Prague! 2 days!!       

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


The gate opens and someone from above stabs me with a spear.  I run out into a ring away from the man and see three men around the perimeter, I’m trapped.  I run at one man but he jumps between a crack in the wood… too small for me to fit.  I see another man and try to get to him but he disappears as well.  From the corner of my eye, I see the gate open again but this time more men are coming out.  Two this time on tall horses.  The horses wear a thick padding over their body, hiding their legs and vulnerable belly.  Their eyes are blindfolded, probably because the sight of me would frighten them.  The men on the horses carry large sticks and position themselves around the ring, waiting for me to come.  Everyone else is gone now except for the two horses so I charge at one.  I attack it with my horns and try to puncture the thick padding but it doesn’t work.  I try to tip the horse to attack the man on top but the horse is too heavy.  A spear jabs through my back.  I bleed.  Another stab.  Cheers from the crowd above cut through the air.  I run away in pain.  The horses walk out through the gate and I see the three men again. 
            A fourth man comes into the ring now with two large sticks in his hand.  He is unprotected from his cape so I charge at him.  He charges at me.  He jumps at the last second and stabs the sticks into my back.  He runs away before I can get him.  I bleed some more. 
            He runs at me again. He hooks the spears into my back again.  Thick hooks pull at my muscles and tear at my skin.  He does it again as more and more blood pour out of my wounds.  The men disappear from the stadium and the crowd goes silent.  A man comes out now with a red cape.  He stands there in his skin tight suit and throws his hat on the ground.  His shirt sparkles in the sunlight as he looks at his cheering audience.  I charge at him and he waves his cape at me.  I try to gore it, but he pulls it away too fast.  His body disappears and all I can see is the movement of the cape.  I charge and I miss, I charge and I miss.  I get tired.
            Music plays in the distance.  Horns screech in the air with the pounding of the drums and crashing of syllables.  I continue trying to attach and continue missing. I tire out so much that I just stop.  The music stops as well.  The cape moves closer and closer but I have no energy left.  I see the man take out a sword and point it at me.  He runs and stabs me through the back. 
            It pierces my skin and tears through my muscle and my organs.  I run at him but the movement cuts my innards and tears my muscles beyond repair.  I paralyze myself as my insides get torn apart by the sword stuck inside of me.  I fall to the ground and look up at the man.  He comes closer with a dagger.  He stabs at my neck until I bleed some more.  He stabs again and again as I twitch and kick. Stabs again and I’m dead.  The crowd cheers as they wave white handkerchiefs and look down at my dead body.  The man cuts off my ear as the crowd shouts “OTRA OTRA OTRA!!” He turns over my heavy head and cuts off the other one.  He holds them up for the crowd and they cheer even louder.  A standing ovation. He throws them into the crowd and walks away to people throwing hats and flowers and wine at his feet as two men attach chains to my lifeless body and three horses charge away dragging my bloody corpse against the dirt, out of the ring to be disposed of…The next five bulls suffer the same fate.