Friday, June 28, 2013


Sunday marks the halfway point of my summer here. What is life?!

While that is a rhetorical question I like to often throw out in situations of disbelief, I could probably easily answer myself with a list of adjectives including things like chocolate-y, relaxing, and beautiful.

Have you been anxiously beside yourself wondering what my days look like? Well, probably not. But I'll tell you anyway.
The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of:
-morning classes, which are at times challenging yet I really enjoy
-afternoons spent at the beach, which involved lots of tanning, lots of girl talk, playing volleyball with people from all over the world (German people can be quite strange...), and some hardcore people-watching
-aimlessly wandering grocery stores, which can be both educational and dangerous to my waistline
-McDonald's, because believe it or not, that is my Spanish hangout. You can't go wrong with 1Euro espresso with ice cream, free wifi, and air conditioning!
-making Spanish friends, which is actually my favorite thing to do here. The people are so kind and so patient with my limited language ability!
-running in El Rio, which is absolutely GREAT and I'm going to miss so much when I return to the States (at some point in the far, far distant future)
-eating the amazing food my host family prepares us. From blood sausage (yeah, you can read that one again) to seafood to soups to quiche to tortilla de patata, I've had the privilege of tasting quite the array of Spanish foods!

And now, of course, I'll show you a glimpse of these past few weeks in pictures.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Getting Cultured

It's said that after two weeks of being in a foreign country, the "honeymoon" stage fades a little and culture shock sets in deeper. Well, Tuesday marked two weeks for me (crazy!), and I have to say I still haven't experienced much culture shock!
That being said, I'm definitely not in America anymore. Though obviously Spain and America share a lot of similarities, especially in the city, both being "westernized" and developed nations, there are some stark differences too. However, I'm loving finding these out and attempting to completely engross myself in the Spanish culture. Below is just a sampling of a few of the different customs I've noticed thus far -

Yep, I said it.
Whenever you meet someone here, before you even find out their name, they're kissing you on both cheeks. That is also the common greeting (and farewell) between friends. At first this startled me a little, but once I learned it was expected and common, I warmed up to it. Now I love it!

People here don't mess around when it comes to their espresso. This is definitely an area where I fit in well! However, I have never once seen a person carrying around a coffee mug or a to-go cup. It's customary to sit down and take espresso or cafe con leche at a "cafeteria," it's never something to be rushed around the city with. I've even seen a "walk-up" window/counter, where you walk up, down your shot of espresso, then keep going on with your day!

My host parents think I'm crazy if I go around the house barefoot. This has been an adjustment for me- I always got in trouble at home if I was wearing my shoes inside! But I'm getting better at remembering to always at least have flipflops on.

Meal Times:
I've experienced the customary European dinner time at like 10pm before, but here all the meal times are different. Also, there are five meals!
It's a little bit confusing, but breakfast is a smallish meal consisting mostly of coffee and some sort of toast (at least in my house). Then comes almuerzo (which literally means lunch in Hispanic countries, but not here), which is a snack taken mid-morning. Next is "la comida" (literally is translated as "food" but actually signifies a certain meal in Spain), which is the main meal of the day served between 2-3. There is often a merienda in the late afternoon  (another light snack), then cena sometime between 8 and 10. I still generally only eat three meals a day, but I actually like the pace of the day better in regards to eating!

Okay, everyone knows what this is. But seriously, shops, restaurants, and entire neighborhoods shut down between 2 and 5:30. It's great. (and then consequently people are out in the streets until 5am)

This is only a sampling of some of the cultural differences between life in the States and life here in Spain I've observed thus far, and it serves to simply further my understanding of how diverse and beautiful this world really is!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

El Rio

So now that I'm getting more accustomed to the city and Spanish life, I'm feeling a little more like I belong. In my head I sometimes even pretend I'm a native, or at least fully used to living here. Until I open my mouth, that is. Then it's game over. But I'm hoping (and praying and hoping and praying) the language will become more master-able for me.

However, I already have a favorite spot in the city, no question about that : El Rio.

There used to be a river than flowed through Valencia, basically like every other successful and historic city. However, for some reason unknown to me, the river was diverted around the city many years ago, leaving a long, wide, and now-empty riverbank. Instead of a river now, El Rio is actually a park that spans almost the entire city, full of beautiful trees, countless trails for pedestrians and bikes, several playgrounds, futbol fields, a couple skate parks, fountains, and little places perfect for picnicking, reading, or simply sitting.
I'm so privileged that half of my 50 minute walk each morning (and consequently the returning walk later in the day) is spent in this beautiful park.

I love it. 

I've never seen so many runners in my life- they're everywhere in El Rio, of all ages and sizes and abilities and paces. It's wonderful. And of course, I enjoy running in there too! There's so much to look at and take in that I forget that my legs hurt or my lungs are working overtime. Runner's paradise for sure.
Also, dogs. I've never seen so many dogs and they're all SO well behaved. They're rarely on leashes but yet are always at their owners' sides and following directions. Kind of makes me wonder what we're doing wrong in America when it comes to pet training.
And finally, El Rio is not only a wonderful place to enjoy God's natural creation in all the variances of trees and flowers, but is almost like a secret celebration of life and it's diversity. There are so many people, not in a crowded way, but in a pleasant way. I try to listen to the conversations of the older ladies strolling around me, or the moms running after their kids, or the men walking to work. It's full of life, people coming and going, and also people just simply enjoying their day. To me, it's the heartbeat of Valencia.

I could probably spend the majority of my two months just in El Rio, which is actually looking quite possible.

(One of the many bridges. Seriously how beautiful is this?)

(Hard to see, but this bridge is entirely covered in flowers!)

(This looks like a playground but is actually a gym! It's just outside and free for everyone to use, and actually works my arms, legs, and core really well when I stop during my runs. I love the idea of it, and I love using it!)