Sunday, November 29, 2009

Dia de Accion de Gracias

So it´s been a while since I´ve last posted. Let´s see what there is to update you on.

School has been really tough. We learned the subjunctive case and imperatives, formal and informal, last week and the test was this past Friday...and I don´t know how I did--it was muy challenging. But whatever, I did the best that I could.

Thanksgiving day was fun. We got out of class like half an hour early and went over to our professor´s house where we all helped prepare lunch. I didn´t do a whole lot because I´ve been sick, but am mostly better now! But yeah. We didn´t have turkey because a turkey wouldn´t fit in her oven, but we did import some stuffing and we had apple crisp and yum. It was a lot of fun.

Last week in class one of our professors played a true and false game of interesting facts about her, and I won the game! So she bought me a free breakfast, coffee and a pastry. It was really nice of her. Then my friend who I walk to school with everyday forgot to tell me he was going to class early so he bought me a coffee the next day! Hooray for free coffee! Oh and then the girls of our group went shopping for decorations for a party we´re having for our host families and she bought us coffee as well! Haha.

I hang out at my friend Andrew´s house a lot to do homework (he´s really good at Spanish) and so his family invited me over for lunch! But they had paella de mariscos, or seafood paella. And I don´t like seafood. But I went anyways and she served me something else, and it was a lot of fun! I didn´t understand much of the quick paced conversation, but it was still fun.

Hmm, what else has been going on in my life. Not a whole lot. We´ve got a little over a week left in Denia, we leave next week Tuesday and then we´ve got a week in Madrid and the surrounding areas. Wow! Time has gone by so fast. Hokey pete.

Last night I watched Glee for the first time, someone in our group has been watching it all season so he let me have the first two episodes. Oh my gosh, SO good. I loved it. I want to get the next few episodes but I know that I ought to be studying or working on my paper due next Monday. Ugh. No fun.

Well...thanks for reading. Love to you all.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Europe Trip!

So I am just warning you, this is going to be the post of a life time. Seriously. All in all, the trip was fantastical with a few ups and downs, as any trip will have. Let’s begin reliving my trip day by day! Join in the fun.

FRIDAY THE 6th: We, meaning, Alyssa and Meredith and I got out of class early on Friday, we got out at like 12:40 so we all went home and finished getting ready and or eating lunch. Then we met at the train station at like ten to 2 and our bus left at 2:10. We got on the bus from the bus station in Denia and we get to Valencia, just north of Denia. We get completely lost trying to find the airport and we finally figure out that we have to use the metro to get there. So we’re at the airport and we fly to Milan, Italy. We then have to wait in this TINY TINY airport in Milan, but it’s actually a town outside of Milan called Bergamo. So we spend the night in the airport. We wait for at least six hours. We meet this Romanian guy named like Marius or something like that and he buys us all pops which is nice because we’re broke. Haha.

SATURDAY THE 7th: We fly from Milan to Paris! When we get there we have a bit of a scare, Alyssa thinks that she has lost her passport. But don’t worry—she finds it deep amongst her things. We take a bus to the more downtown area of Paris. We get out and have no idea where to go or where we are. So Mer hears this lady speaking English to another gentleman and she asks for directions to the metro. And here’s the crazy part—naturally—this lady offers us her apartment for the two nights that we are there! Her name was Jane and she was AMAZING. Seriously. She basically drew us a map and handed us her keys! At first it was weird and I was a bit hesitant but then I remembered that hostels in Paris cost like 30 euro a night and then I was extremely glad for her generosity. So it took us a bit but we found her apartment near a children’s clothing store, apartment number 18. Her apartment is fantastic. Literally. Three bedrooms and two showers. The bed was memory foam and like heaven to sleep in. Mmm. I miss it. Haha. So after we drop off our stuff we take the metro tickets, that she gave us, and we take the metro to the Opera Bastille. It was a bit disappointing, not as pretty as I had hoped. Then we walked to Notre Dame. Beautiful. All I have to say. Then we walked to the Louvre and found out that it closed at 5:30 so we decided to go back the next day so that we’d have more than an hour and a half. Then we walked back to her apartment area and found a place to grab dinner (mmm, pasta!) and then we went back to Jane’s, took showers in her 7 inch shower head(!!!) and went to bed at 8:30pm. Haha. We were exhausted from the previous night’s lack of sleep.

SUNDAY THE 8th: On Saturday night, Ben and Luke, two guys from our trip, called Alyssa and we made plans to meet up. So on Sunday morning at 9:30 we met up with the guys to go to the Louvre. We saw tons and tons of art. And the Mona Lisa! Which was a bit disappointing to be honest—it was really small. Mer and I got separated from Alyssa, Ben and Luke and I thought we’d NEVER find each other. I was really worried, but God blessed us and we accidentally met in an exhibit. So we made plans to meet up at 12:30 at the information center. Then after the fantastic Louvre, we went and saw the Arch de Triumph (or however you spell it). After that we walked over to the Eiffel Tower. From there we decided to go grab a bite to eat so we found a restaurant near the Eiffel Tower and I had a wonderful quiche and amazing crepes with chocolate sauce and whipped cream. Mmm! Afterwards we decide to go up the Eiffel Tower. We didn’t want to wait in the long line to use the elevator, plus we wanted adventure, so all five of us climbed the 700 stairs to the second level! (Don’t worry we didn’t count, they were numbered!). We paid the extra money it took to take the elevator to the very top. The sights were amazing. The sky was clear and it was dusk—so pretty. Then the tower lit up! We were on the tower when it was glittering with lights! Ahh.  We then descended from the tower and waited until it lit up again so we could see it from the ground. Earlier in the day us girls realized we forgot the map that had the code to get into Jane’s apartment so we trek back and start trying all sorts of codes. Finally in my frustration I decide to yell JANE up to her window. And surprise surprise—she hears me! So she lets us in. And then comes an even better surprise—she feeds us dinner! We had a fantastic rotisserie chicken, salad, vegetables, French bread, and a mixed drink! So we stay up for a bit and chat with her. Then after another wonderful shower we head to bed. What a glorious day!

MONDAY THE 9th: We woke up at 4:45am. We took the metro to the train station. We ended up missing all the trains because they were full. We made reservations for the next available train, but it was leaving from a different station—it was leaving from the airport! So we are off on another adventure to find the airport. But lucky for us *note the sarcasm* the metro lines we needed were closed because the workers are on strike! We end up paying 15 euro for a bus to get us to the station, only to miss our train! We have to wait in the airport for SIX hours to get the next train to Brussels—our stop on our way to Amsterdam. UGH! So six hours later we get on the train to Brussels. Towards the end of our ride the train starts going backwards and we start to freak out thinking we missed our stop and that it was heading back...but I guess that’s just what it was supposed to do, because we ended up in Brussels! Then we find our train to Amsterdam. We meet this man who knows Mer’s friends dad (an Olympic bronze winner in running) and he is in charge of something huge in Nike—so we chat with him for a bit. Then when we were waiting for our train, the name disappears off the screen and we find out at the very last minute that they switched our platforms—so we literally RUN to find our platform and we almost miss it, but alas, we made it to the train in time. Hooray! Then we arrive in Amsterdam and we almost stay in a hotel called Hotel Ben, but it was a bit too expensive, so naturally we find a hotel IN the Red Light District (it’s only 12.50 euros! Cheap cheap!) and we stay there. So after we put down our stuff we walk around the Red Light District (sorry mom, we went at night!) It wasn’t as bad as I had expected it to be. Don’t get me wrong, it was degrading to see all those girls just standing in the windows selling themselves, but I dunno, I don’t know how to explain it. So then we found a nice coffee shop called the Sheeba coffee shop and we hung out there for a bit before heading to BK and then to bed. We had one other person in our hostel and his name was Will. In the middle of the night he starts freaking out and searching through all of his stuff. It woke us all up—it was really weird. But he was a nice guy. Another weird thing I woke up to was someone in the neighboring room having sex. Ugh. Not so fun.

TUESDAY THE 10th: We woke up at around 8am, got ready, and then headed to find the Anne Frank house. It was phenomenal. Literally. It was bigger than I had imagined. They shared rooms and whatnot, but still, it was a lot bigger than I thought. We got to see the actual diary of Anne Frank as well. SO cool. She wrote a ton. I think I need to reread the book after having been to the house. That’s for sure. After that, Mer splits up from us and Alyssa and I go to book our first night trains at the station. So after that Alyssa and I find the Rijks Museum and we visit that. The nice thing about it there is they have descriptions of the artwork in English as well as Dutch, so I could actually understand what the art was about! Much better than the Louvre in that regard. After that we walked around for the rest of the day exploring Amsterdam and its many shops and things of that nature. Next comes the night train. It’s a tiny bed room with six beds in one room and there were five of us in the room. We arrived in Berlin at 4:21am on Wednesday.

WEDNESDAY THE 11th: When we got to Berlin we basically sat in the McDonalds with our one euro cappuccinos and our breakfast. We booked our tickets. Then we found THE most fantastic walking tour EVER. Honestly. It only cost us 10 euros apiece and we got a fantastic five hour tour of the city. Derek was our guide—and a funny one at that. We got to stand on top of the bunker where Hitler lived, was married, and committed suicide with his wife! So incredible. We saw the Berlin wall. We saw the Reichstag. We saw basically everything cool about Berlin and its history that I now cannot remember because there was so much information that it just overwhelmed me. After the tour we took the S Bahn to try and find this palace. We found it but it was kind of not that cool. But whatever. I bought a cute shirt on the way. Haha. We walked back and grabbed some pizza at a little pizza place and then we took the night train to Munich.

THURSDAY THE 12th: We get to Munich and eat breakfast at the BK and get ready in the bathroom there. Then Alyssa and I split up and I am on my own. I take a train to Salzburg. After much searching I find the tourist information and then I find and use an internet café for a bit to kill some time before my Sound of Music tour. After using the internet, I find where my tour is located and then I just walk around Salzburg and I sit in a park for an hour or so enjoying the nice chilly day. Then the tour. The tour isn’t as fantastic as I had hoped. I think I was tainted by the fantastic-ness of the Berlin tour, also I haven’t watched the movie in quite some time. However, I did enjoy the Sound of Music tour a lot. I got to see the lake where the kids fell in, the trees that they climbed and ran around in, the houses they used, and the gazebo that they sang sixteen going on seventeen in! There were people on the tour from Cuba, Argentina and Columbia—one of them was a little girl—so I got to practice my Spanish a little bit. It was very rusty, haha. I also met a girl from Ball State University on the tour as well. She was studying for the semester in London and decided to come to Salzburg for the weekend. Her name was Sarah. She was very nice! After all that, I got on the train to Munich. I met this guy from a small German town named Karl Heinz, but he called himself Charlie—the American version of his name. He gave me some tips about Munich and we just chatted. He was very nice. I met another guy on the train who gives me directions to a hostel and thank goodness he did because tourist information was closed by the time I got there! So I asked a taxi driver and I found the hostel...only to my dismay—it was booked. So I found this other guy on the street outside the hostel and he walked me to a few other hostels and I ended up staying at the Wombat Hostel. It was an amazing hostel! I shared a room with four other girls and they had internet and a bar to hang out at and whatnot. Such fun! So I hopped in the shower and went down to the bar and joined a group of German guys. We ended up going to a few different bars and having a good time. They were nice.

FRIDAY THE 13th: Woke up at five thirty am to meet up with Mer at the train station. We took a train to Dachau. We end up getting there before it opens at nine so we wake for a bit and just talk and hang out. Then when it opens we pay three euros for an audio tour, and it was AMAZING. Oh my gosh. The place is kind of empty, I mean, there are buildings and whatnot, however it’s just eerily empty. We saw the barracks where everyone lived, the beds where they slept, the various rooms within the buildings, and the worst was the crematorium where they burned the bodies. We even saw the gas chambers but they aren’t sure if they were used at Dachau, but still—it was insane. It was made for housing 6,000 people but ended up housing 30,000 people. That’s ridiculous. Just plain ridiculous. I teared up when I saw some of the photos in the museum. We watched a movie on it too at like 11:30 or whatever. We spent a good chunk of the day there. I started feeling nauseas from lack of food, sleep, and just thinking about WWII. We took the S Bahn back to Munich and Mer left to go to Salzburg and I end up hanging out in Munich by myself. I took the advice of Karl Heinz or Charlie, and I found Marienplatz, the town square, and I find Augustiner beer—apparently the best beer in Germany and I find this certain kind of chocolate that he said is the best, but it turns out its kind of bitter. I still liked it though. After wandering around downtown Munich, I hop on the night train and get some sleep.

SATURDAY THE 14th: This is where the bad times begin. I wake up to get off the train and realize that my camera is missing. It is not in the little night car. I figure someone either took it when I was sleeping waiting for my train, or it fell out of my pocket when I was sleeping. Either way—it and all of priceless pictures—are GONE. Completely gone. I am crushed. I now have no pictures of me and the Eiffel Tower, or me and the Mona Lisa, or me and Notre Dame or me with ANYTHING that I saw. Granted I can and am going to get the pictures from my friends but they won’t have very many of me in them, so I cried. For a good long time. So I meet up with Alyssa and then I write a police report at the Rome train station (that is where my 12 hour night train took me!). It took her a while to find me because she got dropped off at a different train station. Funny how those things happen. Anyway...We find a hostel for the night, Alessandro Palace, and we drop off our things. It’s so nice not having to walk around with backpacks on our backs! Yes, you heard me right; I did this ten day trip with just a backpack!!! I am so proud of myself, haha. So we start to walk around Rome. We find the Repubblica but we never end up finding the Opera House. And funny enough, we completely get lost and stumble upon the Colosseum! We were like: “is that the Colosseum?” And sure enough, it was! So we paid a bit of cash and got a tour of the Colosseum and of Palatine Hill. AMAZING. One of my favorite things. After that we went to the Pantheon. It was closed, so we walked to the Vatican and St. Paul’s Basilica, both of which are closed. Sad day. We walked back to the Pantheon and it was open! So we went in there and looked around. Then after all that walking we found a nice Italian restaurant and had ourselves some amazing fettuccine! Mmm. And we had tiramisu for dessert. Yum. Then we headed back to the hostel for a bit of sleep.

SUNDAY THE 15th: This begins a very bad pair of days. We, Alyssa and I, wake up at five thirty am and we go visit the Trevi Fountain since we didn’t have time the day before. I wish to get my camera back, hopefully that still happens but I highly doubt it. We then walk to Termini, the main train station. We get sent in Italian to the other train station to find out that we are supposed to be at Termini. We find the place to buy tickets to the airport and we get on the train. We arrive at the airport, glad that we are so early only to realize that we are at the wrong airport! By the time we figure this out, and the annoying guy at the ticket booth gets off the phone, we figure out we’re not gonna make our flight. So we go to the other airport because its got cheaper flights and we take a train to get to the other airport. However, it doesn’t take us directly to the airport you have to take a bus. Which was an hours wait. We meet two young architect boys from London (who are designing a museum for MSU!) who decide to walk with us. Its farther than we realize and we get picked up by this lady who had given us directions and came back to find us! She was really nice, or at least she seemed nice, I couldn’t understand her Italian. Haha. We find out once we get there that there’s a 100 euro charge for missing your flight. We kind of freak out. After much searching and calculating, we figure out its cheaper to fly from the Milan airport. So we book a flight from there and decide to take the Eurail one last time to get to Milan. We had to wait at Termini for like five hours. We freak out again because we realize the flight information was sent to Meredith’s email so we ran over to an internet café and figured that out. Then we hopped on the night train to Milan. This was the first time that I didn’t pay for a bed and it was horrible. I hardly slept at all. But it was only 3 euros, so I cannot complain too much.

MONDAY THE 16th: So we wake up in Milan and we have to get to Bergamo, a small town outside of Milan where the airport is located. We had literally four euros in cash and a credit card. It’s about 17 euros for two bus tickets to the airport. Ugh. So we explain our situation and the driver says get on the bus and we’ll figure it out when we get there. After about an hour bus ride we arrive and the guy says: “you’re from the states, right? Smoke a joint for me when you get there!” And lets us off without paying! How nice of him! What a blessing. When we got there I got a bit of cash out of my account and we ATE FOOD. It was glorious. We hadn’t eaten for a while. Haha. Then we went to get our passports validated and we figured out that the guy at the internet café printed out our tickets wrong so we had a huge fiasco trying to reprint my tickets, but we got it to work! Hallelujah. So we wait and wait and we get on the plane and then we get on the bus to Denia and finally....finally we make it home to Denia! HOORAY! The end of a semi successful trip! Haha.

So there you have it. That is my tale. Sorry it is so long! I hope that I didn’t bore you. Now I am back to the daily grind of homework and tests and studying Spanish. But soon it will all be a dream so I am trying to live it up as best as I can. I am going to miss Denia and my host family—Maria and Raul. They have been fantastic to me. I love them! And I love you! Love to you my family and friends.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Esperando

Waiting. Waiting. Anticipating!

So it's Wednesday and we leave Friday for our trip! I am SO excited. I am NOT excited for our huge test on Friday over like four or five verb tenses and millions of vocabulary terms, but alas, I am still excited.

Here is a rough itinerary for me and Meredith and Alyssa, for those who are curious. Heavy on the rough!

6 Friday: Bus from Denia to Valencia. Plane from Valencia to Milan.
7 Saturday: Plane from Milan to Paris. Paris bike tour.
8 Sunday: Spend all day in Paris, Louvre at night (it's cheaper!) Train to Amsterdam.
9 Monday: Day in Amsterdam.
10 Tuesday: Amsterdam and Anne Frank house. Train to Berlin.
11 Wednesday: Bike tour in Berlin. Train to Munich.
12 Thursday: Train to Dachau. Spend time at Dachau. Then return to Munich.
13 Friday: Spend time in Munich. I separate from the group and go to Salzburg to see the Sound of Music tour. Then I meet up with Meredith again.
14 Saturday: Train to Rome. Meet up with Alyssa. Explore Rome at night.
15 Saturday: Explore Rome in the morning. Plane to Valencia. Bus back to Denia at 9:45pm. Arrive in el pisa de Maria a las once de la noche, mas o menos!

WHEW! Now isn't that QUITE the trip!? I sure think it is. It's definitely not enough time in each place, but at least we're getting a taste for everything. I am very very excited, yet a bit nervous as well. For those of you who don't know me, I'm not very good at directions or map reading or anything of that sort. So we'll see how this goes. Thankfully Meredith is a whiz at it all, so that's good.

Well, I'm gonna do a bit of Skyping con mi madre, if she ever signs on, and then I have to hit the books again. But farewell for a while! Keep me in your prayers for the test and the trip! Love to you all!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Castle, Cave, Montgo, Halloween!

So this past week has been quite the week!

The first few days of the week, Don DeGraff, off campus programs director at Calvin, came to visit with his wife. So on Monday we went to the Castle in Denia. We learned a TON of random facts about it but basically all I remembered is that it's been built and rebuilt many times. And that it's been attacked by various intruders. Here's a pic of our group on one of the tops of the castle:



Then later that night we went to Isla Tortuga for pizza, free from Calvin--always a plus. It was really good.

Then on Tuesday we went hiking to the Cueva del Agua, or cave of the water. It was neat! Here's a view of Denia from the hike:



Then the week progressed as per usual. Did homework and hung out with people. Nothing too too spectacular. Oh but I must mention that I got a package from my WONDERFUL parents. It literally made my week! Hooray! And I got a letter from my daddy too. :) And from my aunt and uncle again, so I wrote both of them back. I love letter writing.

Hmm. What else what else. We had a visitor come in to speak to our class on Friday. He did the advanced language program at Calvin in 1999 and fell in love with a Spanish woman and now lives here in Denia. He had some neat things to say.

Then on Saturday morning bright and early, three of us went on a nine hour hike up to the top of Montgo! It was amazing! Such an intense hike, but very fun none-the-less. Here's a pic of us at the top:



Then of course, Halloween! We went to the Super G first for a drink or two and then we went to Paddys, an English speaking bar which was outrageously priced so I didn't get anything. But I did get a free pumpkin hat which was cute. Haha. They gave out masks too. Such fun! I generally don't spend my Halloweens at bars, but we didn't really have much else to choose from. And it's fun being with the group, so I enjoyed myself.

And here I am today. I was up late last night so I feel like I slept most of the day away today. I did do a bit of homework though, so that's good. And I'll probably do some more before either going to bed or watching a movie. Who knows.

But thanks for reading. Love to you all.