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Sunday, April 12, 2015

Semana Santa; Budapest


This year for Spring break, I had the amazing opportunity to go to Budapest for 4 days with my roommate, Megan, and her brother and sister-in-law.  We stayed at an apartment near the river on the “Pest” side of “Budapest” and did loooootttsss of walking.  And also ate way too much good food!  







Hungarian dishes are quite heavy and have pasta noodles, or potatoes, lots or meat and lots of Paprika.  Also good beers!   Hungarian people are also very proud of their culture and language, as we discovered on our walking tour.  Both World Wars knocked Hungary down as a country and they were in political turmoil up until the 1950’s.  Their country has suffered lots of hardships, and they are getting back on their feet slowly but surely.  They are part of the European union, but they still use their own currency.  Which is extremelyyyyyy confusing.  The exchange was 300 forints to 1 euro, and we had to check and double check our math throughout the week.  Needless to say, I used more math those few days than I have since college…




 

The city is split into Buda and Pest, but the river Danube that runs between it.  Buda, is the older part of the city with a huge castle and cathedral nestled into the hills while Pest is the flat, newer area with Parliament and the new political powers.  It has a good mix of old Turkish influence and Eastern European buildings.  Turkish food and baths have remained, and we thoroughly enjoyed the food.  


We also got to go to one of the most famous Turkish Baths while we were there, which was a very relaxing and unique experience!  The old building had about 7 different pools with hot, cold and lukewarm temperatures, as well as a few saunas, wet and dry.  The weather was really cold while we were there, so it was crazy being in a heated pool outside with steam coming off of it!  We just changed into our bathing suits (thankfully everyone was wearing them!  Proper protocol...) and hopped around from pool to sauna, to pool to sauna and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  



Budapest had some of the coolest bars I've ever been to...very unique and a bit trippy as well....






Budapest offered such a unique experience, I would definitely recommend checking it out if you get the opportunity.....

Sunday, March 8, 2015

IAmsterdam


Catching up
I know I have taken a long hiatus from writing, and for this I apologize!  I have been taking some time to take advantage all the activities I can do in Madrid and have tried to stay busy these past few weeks :)  That being said here are the updates!  

Amsterdam

A few weekends ago, my roommate Megan and I went to the Netherlands to visit Amsterdam and a friend of hers who lives in Rotterdam.  We arrived to the train station and left our luggage in the lockers to pick up while we explored.  As we dropped off our stuff, we noticed a huge sign saying “TOURISTS!  Be cautious when buying cocaine off of people on the street.  There has been a problem with tourists accidentally buying WHITE HEROIN and misusing it, causing several tourist deaths and hospitalizations.”  Welcome to Amsterdam……






The first thing we did was eat some incredible Dutch pancakes which were huge, thick, crepes, that we chose to fill with savory items.  Delicious.  Next stop was the Anne Frank House.  Everyone knows her story, and most of us have had to read her diary at school.  It was extremely humbling to walk through her attic hide-away and try to imagine living in one space for 2 years.  It was left empty by request of Otto Frank, who was the only survivor out of the 8 people who hid in the attic.  If you get the chance to go to Amsterdam, I highly recommend going.



Afterwards we walked around a bit more, enjoyed a few Belgian beers, caught the train to Rotterdam, to stay with Marinte, a friend of Megan´s from college.  The next day Marinte took us around Rotterdam on bikes (of course!) and we got to see a Holland flea market and sample lots, and lots. of cheese!  The Netherlands have an interesting reputation, everyone knows about weed being legal and the Red Light district still being an active part of the city.  But what people don´t always say is how beautiful the landscape is and how quaint the streets and buildings are.  Or how much cheese there is!  Megan is from Wisconsin, so she was in heavennnn and we checked a bag on the way back to make sure we had enough room for all HER cheese.  They were delicious!










We spent one more day in Amsterdam before we caught our flight back home, and we just walked around the streets, enjoyed the beer and food.  We walked to the Rijksmuseum, but didn´t have time to go through it, we just marvelled at the beautiful scenery and were tourists! We also did get a chance to check out the Red Light District...it was odd, because it was actually in a beautiful area of town. But of course filled with sex shops, scantily clad women in windows, and many groups of tourists walking through the streets, trying to look interested in the history behind district.  

 
I enjoyed it more than I anticipated, and it was more beautiful than I expected as well.  If I get the opportunity to go back, I definitely will!  







Monday, January 12, 2015

Roma Vacaciones pt1

For Christmas this year, the family present was a trip to Rome!  My parents did not have the opportunity to go when they lived in Germany many years ago, so I know they were excited at the chance to see one of the world´s most Historically rich cities.  That being said, it takes a lot of time and energy to plan, and accomplish, a trip in Rome.  There are so many sites, museums, art galleries, and restaurants to go too, that it can be a bit overwhelming!  This planning for this trip started months in advance, and it was nice to enjoy the long awaited trip.  

It was also exciting for everyone to meet my boyfriend, Nate, who they had only ever seen through Skype before.  A big trip for all of us, and I loved having them with me in the same city.  While Nate was with us, we went on a bus tour, to the Colosseum, and Pantheon.  

After he left, we carried on with our grueling pace, going to…The Palatine, Roman Forum, Museum Borghese and the Vatican/Vatican Museums.  I was fortunate to be able to go to Rome for Spring Break in 2014, so I appreciated that I got to see everything twice, and be able to marvel at the wonders before me.





This goofball...


Monday, December 15, 2014

Espiritu de Navidad

Last year at Christmas I was able to have the best Christmas present ever, seeing my family!  This year, I get to have the same wonderful present, which I have been looking forward to anxiously since I left for Madrid again!  The only thing about last Christmas, is it didn´t feel like a proper Christmas, it felt like an awesome vacation.  

So this Christmas I wanted to make it feel a bit more like the Holidays by doing a few things to get in the Holiday spirit!


  • Listening to Christmas music
  • Wrapping Presents
  • Making cookies
  • having a Christmas fiesta

  • German pickle I bought in Munich! 
    The tradition is, one of your parents hides the pickle somewhere on the tree,
    The first child to find it gets a little extra present from Santa!
    (We never did this in my house, but it was the one ornament
    specially saved for my Dad to put on the tree!)



    The apartment came with a little tree and lights!!


    Christmas cookies!  They came out pretty tasty, 
    but nothing like making them at home
    or the ones my Nana used to make...


    Saturday, December 6, 2014

    Dia de Accion de Gracia rnd II

    Last week I celebrated my second Thanksgiving abroad and hosted my first one!  My roommates and I decided after moving into our spacious apartment, that we had enough room to host dinner on the proper Thanksgiving day.  We enjoyed organizing and cooking for 25 people and everything turned out lovely!  I made my Grandma Larsen’s stuffing, took care of the gravy and helped with the 20 lb turkey we custom ordered for the event.  Well worth it.  


    Leaves Streamer I made!!  


    20 lb Turkey=leftovers for a week.  So yummy!


    Nate's second Thanksgiving


    Americanas in Madrid!  You know your an American abroad when there's a photoshoot with the Turkey....




    Hosting can definitely be a bit stressful, and trying to organize a potluck Thanksgiving and make sure you get all your favorites covered can be a lot of pressure too!  We had a great time and all took turns saying what we were thankful for…..

    A Few things I’m thankful for…
    -        -     My family, this goes without saying, extended and immediate.  It is hard to be away from everyone for so long and I appreciate that my immediate family is going to be here in 13 days!!!!!!!!  I am thankful they have the means to visit me. 

    -       -      My friends, for the friends back home, I am thankful that they are willing to put up with a “long distance relationship” and keep in touch with me.  I am thankful for the friends that I have made here and who help me navigate living in a foreign country and reminding me that there are still so many places to go


    -     -        The opportunity to be able to travel to live in Spain
    -      
    -  -   Being able to travel to other places while I’ve been here
    -      
    - -   Learning how to be independent 




    The Aftermath...

    Saturday, November 15, 2014

    La Rana

    This month of November has been pretty relaxed and full of enjoyable fall weather.  Last weekend I went on a day trip to a city called Salamanca with Laura, my German roommate.  Salamanca is about 2 hours away and is home to one of the best universities in Spain, and is a popular day trip for Madrileños   




    A popular tourist attraction it to find "Hidden Pictures" on the sides of various building walls.  The most popular one is to find "La Rana," or the Frog for good luck!  Can you see it?  (This is a very zoomed in picture...)



    School has been going well, and I've enjoyed working with my new Teachers and students.  We went to go see a play last Friday, which was put on by Spanish and English speaking people.  It's goal is to help the Spanish kids practice their English and have a cute cultural experience.  This year the play was about a reality show with 3 English people and 1 American trying to win a contest.  The American they portrayed was the most obnoxious version of a California girl I have ever seen, and it was embarrassing to watch.  At home I have made fun of these caricatures and know how many different types of Americans their are...and I know the students see me everyday and have a good example.  Still it was hard to watch and know that this is what most of the world think of (other than cowboys) when they hear about Americans...

    On top of that, when the winner of the contest was revealed as the old British lady, my students were disappointed.  One girl said word for word, "The girl should have won because she's pretty."   I shouldn't have been as surprised as I was, but I hated hearing her say that.  And she was just being honest!  A little heartbreaking that how much physical appearance has become a measure of value...

    I love teaching because I get to help students learn and grow in the way school was for me. So now added to my mission of enriching education, I'm going to stomp out these stereotypes and destructive, unhealthy view on looks! For at least a few students anyway...     



    Tuesday, October 28, 2014

    Ein Mas!


    My cousin Miranda and her husband Jody were celebrating their 10 year anniversary this past week and took a lovely trip to Germany!  They got to travel around and see some beautiful places in Bavaria and Austria as well.  How nice of them to invite me to tag along for a few days on their romantic getaway :D 







    Really though, it was so nice of them to invite me to check out Munich again and get to spend time with them.  Last time I was in Munich, I got very sick and did not have the best memories due to some bad food I ate.  Although I was a little wary to return to the city with the BMW museum and white sausages, the lure of getting to see some family, trumped my hesitations. 









    I am so glad I went back.  There were many things I missed out on when I went there the first time, that I got to do this round!  Vlad showed me the Modern aspect of Munich, whereas I got to see a few churches and historical aspects this time.  And also enjoy other fantastic German food and of course Beer.  And more beer.  With some café and kuchen thrown in the mix.