Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Eve, Last Day of Meaningful Existance

The amount of pictures I've taken has decreased dramatically and it's raining.Both are sure signs that it must be time for a big change.

My stomach has been in a huge knot the past three days and I just don't want to think about what I'm going back to. I have to live with my parents

 and suffer. ew.

 Not only that, I will be immersed in a touristy culture that doesn't have adequate public transportation or any grasp on the meaning of respect. I guess Vegas can be easily confused with Barcelona, but that's why their touristy. They're meant for short term durations, not for living comfortably. Yes, each city has it's fun, shimmery, light-hearted side. But it's shallow. Everything is based on alcohol, spending exuberant amounts of money, and raunchy behavoir. (Don't get me wrong, there is a world of difference between "raunchy" and "sexy". They are not equal, but opposites).

I'm quickly loosing hope on returning to Spain/Switzerland soon. My parents are keen on having me attend University of Nevada, Las Vegas. It's not a bad university by any means, it's just not where I see myself. I never had a dream University that I wanted to attend when I was in high school. I had my hopes high on attending Universite de Lausanne in Switzerland but they don't want my u.s. american credits. I don't think Spain will be as particular.

(That awkward moment you remember your socks and favorite pair of underwear are hanging out the window at a hostel in a different city).

On the smiley side, I found a pair of pants that fit (!) at Zara, on sale. They're in that salmon pink color popular in western europe. I went for a walk around the Zoo and saw some monkeys...I've been drinking coffee like an addict (because the world knows a cup of Starbucks coffee in the US is nothing short of 4.00 USD, nor is it particularly good).

Hostel Showers

What an uncomfortable experience.

It's you, half of your luggage, and the shower. One tiny space. If there's no basket to put your bag of toiletries, it risks being nearly unrecoverable. So there you go, you loose q-tips, cotton pads, band aids...

It gets even more irritating when you have to dry these things off. This is not a matter of being too lazy to do the job. It is a matter of towel size. If you're like me and frequently only traveling with a small face towel to save on space and weight, you are out of luck. It's you or your wet toiletries. It can be nerve-wracking. Most times, hostels don't give you the luxury of a free towel so, like in Hungary and Bulgaria, I used a washcloth in place of a full shower towel.

Then, of course, there's no trashcan in the designated shower area. So the hostel-goer is there with a pile of garbage (q-tips, old socks, empty Bulgarian perfume bottle...) to juggle after the shower.

Shall I continue?

I forgot to bring flip-flops...

ew. But I've gotten used to it. Showering in hostels without flip-flops is looked down upon, though I really don't think a thin piece of plastic between my foot and the floor helps too much. I've simply embraced it. And I scrub extra hard.

My hair dries slowly so the timing of a shower in a hostel is imperative. There usually aren't hair driers so I normally have to shower in the morning and stay in until my hair dries. I don't want to catch a cold.

Speaking of "cold", most hostel showers don't reach 70 degrees F/21 degrees C (think Madeira). Pensions are much better about this but you never know until you get there. Sometimes water temperature is based on the country.

Usually I'm only with a bar of soap and a small travel container of face soap. Shampoo, conditioner, razor, and loofa are not in my vocabulary while traveling.

After the shower, the shower-er struggles to find the right toiletry in the toiletry bag. It's packed to the brim, making things like bobby pins a nearly impossible find.

Getting dressed is another story I just don't want to delve into.

Hostel showers are most certainly uncomfortable, but after two years of this process, the ups and downs that come with it, I believe the hostel showering experience to be nothing short of fulfilling.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Quebra Nozes em Lisboa!

Ten stanzas and I pulled out a pices of toilette paper for my eyes. The ballet corps and symphony from Moscow were perfect. I was thoroughly impressed, despite the theather. It didn't feel cozy. Even Broadway felt warmer than this Coloseu in Lisboa.

The salsa bar we ventured to afterwards was far and we had to pay an entrance fee. The music didn't vary from salsa to bachata to merengue or anything. It was just pure salsa for a solid hour. uff. I mean, I like salsa, but I need a bachata-warm up. It only makes sense.

Oh, the days of Malta and Valencia are so far away...

Last stop in Porto

Cemeteries are some of the neatest places. Like doors, they can tell you a lot. Before departing Porto, I made a pit stop at Cemetario Oriente, yet another eerie Portuguese destination.

Everytime I turned a corner, it seemed to sprawl in a new direction. Mausoleum's were more common than what my eyes were used to. Some had curtains and a layer of glass behind the gate. A few even had wooden doors, eroded by weather, time, burglary. Yes, you could look inside of most of them and see that some things were just not there, not right...

But the ones that hadn't been touched weren't to my liking either. You could look inside, see the tombs, dust, rotting flowers from the 1930's. Most times, there weren't even names listed in the mausoleums, rarely a year noted.

One that had been broken into had the number "1496" on the front but I'm still not sure if that's the year of the tomb or just a marking system. It was in the older section, though I don't think it could have been that old. the door was just the normal steel gate we see in the States, but it was open. No one, not even the groundskeepers, had taken the liberty to close it. There was no missing this. Is there a superstition surrounding Portuguese tombs?? I saw three wooden tombs in each stone niche. Light was shining in from the small stained-glass window on the back wall. The corner of the middle tomb had been hit the worst: it was splitting, I could see the fabric inside. The body was covered, though, thankfully.

I left a little scarred.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


I can really feel the repercussions of the recession here.

Doors are usually a good indicator of a culture. This is just my theory, but think about it. A Croatian in Dubrovnik won't line up with a Maltese door in Valletta. Fact.

Doors here in Portugal are usually a deep color. I've seen very nice shades of red, shades of green, even orange on Madeira. The most favorable shade for the Portuguese is an acqua-blue, sometimes with purple or green undertones. You still see that in Porto, but...

Doors are worn in here. They definitely have seen better days. Wood underneath shows through on most of them or they're chipped and color is fading. The lock is loose. Sometimes, the door isn't fully attached to the hinges. Other times, it's not attached to hinges at all.

These types of doors are the biggest problem. Doors not attached to hinges are not easily repaired. Behind these doors is dust. Abandonment. There isn't any other country where I've seen more abandoned buildings, homes, failed businesses. Going to Spain December 2011 took me off guard, but Portugal has been hit harder.

Spain has a plethora of "for sale" and "for rent" signs. You see that in Portugal, but not as much, it seems. I really think people are giving up here. They aren't even trying to sell or rent; they're just leaving. Spain still has hope but Portugal is sinking.

Economists don't look at culture. Who is going to get more Erasmus/foreign exchange students and tourists? Spain.  Who is going to spend more on big parties, alcohol, pigs to roast on a spit with 30 other people? Spain.

Portugal isn't a party culture like Spain. Think: Nochevieja, Feria de Orujo, etc. Party means entrance fee, adult drinks, nice clothes, transportation. This is my theory, please don't mess with it. ;) But going out really isn't cheap, easy, and it is most definitely an unwavering part of Spanish culture. It's probably why there aren't as many abandonded buildings, yet.

Oh, and I've been in Porto since this morning. it was only 13.00 euro for a full-priced ticket on the high speed train. !!!

But I had some older Portuguese lovers following me, whispering at me from a distance...the older men here aren't helping me enjoy my time in Portugal...

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas in Coimbra II

The random Thanksgiving post was posted last night, written in October I think. (Sorry, just forgot to post and didn't notice it!)

I spent the night of 24th tasting various sorts of Portuguese delacacies. I had bought one at a cafe and the rest came from the hostel's generosity. I still managed to stir-fry some vegetables. (Warning: always look at the bottom of containers that hold things like vinagre and olive oil when in hostels, there could just happen to be little fruit flies floating, like ten of them. Questionable).

The most elaborate Christmas dessert throughout Portugal is Bolo Rei. It's basically a bunt cake with nuts and the kind of dried fruit you never see in North America with cinnamon. Very sweet yet still very delicious. However, I prefer a much more simple dessert. It's about twice the size and shape of a thumb and is made out of sweet potato, sugar, and wheat flour. I'm not quite sure what it's called. Does it matter? It's a thick, filling dessert that you don't need too much of but still satisfies as a dessert (unlike a scone. How boring is a scone??)

After the tasting, I went to a bar with some of the girls in my dorm. I didn't think anything would be open, but I ordered my first Bacardi Pina Colada. It was nothing special. I prefer la Crema de Orujo.

To bed around 3:00, up at 10:30. I ate breakfast alone, but no worries, it's Portugal. I of course had a tv nearby. I went through the cycle three times looking for a Christmas morning ballet. (For some reason I have a feeling that's what I used to do in Cheyenne...). Of course, I found E.T. in German streamed from  Austria, BBC and English floods, and an American knock-off company of CNN discusing finance schools in the middle east and how to attract more girls. But no Christmas morning ballet. No Tchaikovsky, no Baryshnikov, no Nureyev (uh, Nureyev. keeper.). So that's what I'm doing at this moment, listening to a 1959 recording of The Nutcracker and deciding if I want to go back to Lisboa early to see the Russians perform it. I can always take day trips around central Portugal. There isn't a place up north I've been dying to see or anything, just Porto. If I do see The Nutcracker, then I'll have four days more to get there.

I've been thinking hard about this the past few days. Not only that, I've been checking the status of seat availability everyday since before I went to Madeira.

Christmas morning breakfast? cereal with honey, passion fruit juice, and a mango.

Everything is closed today, naturally. I should get out anyway. It's a beautiful day (even though it rained last night)!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Canadian Thanksgiving Sunday

After some good ol' fashioned homework and reading aloud for practice, I went for an evening stroll. I went shopping down a street I've never visited before. I didn't find any outstanding deals on clothes, but I did pick up some chocolate soy milk, cheese from Castilla y Leon (this provence), and a butternut squash.

I enjoyed a 21:00 dinner of eggplant slices topped with Spanish cheese. For desert I just simmered some yellow Spanish peaches with honey. This is me being creative.

I met up with my roommate and her friend at this little hole-in-the-wall bar we found along Gran Via. It was such a gorgeous night I don't think we actually wanted to sit in a bar; we did anyway. The bar, Havana Club, was decorated with old brass and woodwind instruments. It was done tastefully, though. (They had four versions of my beloved mellophone hanging galantly, where I could sip my red Vermouth and gaze on).

I didn't go clubbing, but I checked them out before going home...should have gone out Saturday. gah.

Went to bed and woke up to a barking dog. Oatmeal with honied peaches. Put a concotion of mint leaves and rooibos on my face; I looked like a tree. Anything to clear my face.

Now I have my Sunday to prepare for the week, take a siesta, tarea, and go to a Canadian Thanksgiving made by two Canadians!! I can not wait for tonight. We're having dinner at 20:00 at the apartment that my friend, Alycia, rents. She lives with two other Spaniards and they're coming, too. So it's going to be two Canadians, an American, and two Spaniards at a Canadian Thanksgiving meal in Salamanca, Espana. This is what I live for.

Christmas in Coimbra

You know that locks are on upside down in Portugal? After three hostels, this can't be an accident, but a cultural phenomenon. (What I mean is that when you put a key in the door, the flat side goes down and the ridges go up. This is considered "upside down" in the US right?)

I landed in Lisboa from Funchal, Madeira and stayed the night in the same hostel as before, Traveler's House. This morning, December 24th, I spent two and a half suprisingly smooth hours between a metro and train. And I'm just happy that the ticket for both means of transportation came out to only 20.25 euro. #TravelingInDepressedEconomy

Although it was a pleasant walk to the hostel, I kept on getting lost (lugging around a computer bag and a huge backpack isn't easy, even without the big suitcase which I left at Traveler's House).

Last year for Christmas, I was lucky. I was staying at a friend's house in Valencia. I was traveling from their place the day before, making a quick circle through Andalucia and Murcia, and was invited to Christmas dinner with a dear Murcian family. From 19:00 until 2:00, we feasted. That could have been the most memorable meal of my 20 years.

This year, not so lucky. (A lady in Madeira and her daughter invited me for their Christmas dinner but I unfortunately left too early...). I really shouldn't say that I'm not lucky, though. I'm still here, in this clean hostel, safe, fed. I went to the grocery store today; even though I won't be eating anona for Christmas dinner, I will still have a hearty vegetable stir-fry, topped with an avacado, and a mango with some traditional Coimbran Christmas fruit cake I bought at a pastry shoppe for dessert.

My family was never big on Christmas (or Thanksgiving or Easter or New Years...) but family does give you someone to talk to. I don't feel like I'm missing out on not being with family at all. In fact, the best Christmas season I ever had was last year ! (Dinner with friendly strangers and two exceptional weeks with Valencian friends, salsa dancing like crazy, without my parents).

I love parents, we're just not big Christmas people. Such is life. I want to be in Valencia salsa dancing. I am starved for human interaction with people I already know. Traveling alone can be fun, but to a certain extent. There's nothing that keeps me going sometimes. Why do I travel? Well, it doesn't matter because it will almost always be more fun with a friend. I do like my personal space, but it's not like I get that at a hostel...

You know, where there are hispanics and Spanish, there is fun. My mom was right. They have how many form of dance (salsa, merengue, flamenco, sevillanas, bachata, cumbia, tango, reggeaton, mas) in comparison to the rest of Europe/world (club dancing doesn't count, everyone can do that...). People everywhere learn salsa (proof in salsa clubs on Malta), but how many people learn square-dancing or irish step dance in comparison? hmmm???

--interjection: the girl in the bed underneath me has been fixing her hair since I arrived three hours ago

--there's a bridge I can see from my bed that has been sparkling with lights since the sun went down. It reminds me of the Eiffel Tower on a warm summer night!

So there's my reasoning, why hispanics/Spanish have more fun than the rest of the world. Even though their economies and governments never last the test of time, that's okay, they just dance it off. No pasa nada jejeje

Sunday, December 23, 2012

here It comes...

...the nostalgia is setting in.

My dad sent an email saying how close it is for me to come to Las Vegas. My flight to Lisboa departs this evening so I'm packing once again; this means that I only have one more week of, well, what? Of travel, yes, but it's not just the travel, seeing new places. That can get old fast. I think what I'm going to miss is meeting people, the quick encounters. I'll miss the flexibility, the freedom I have. I can decide what to do, where to go, who to be with all on a moment's notice. I can choose solitude or socialibility. There's nothing like it.

So now what am I doing? Well, I most certainly not packing and listening to Flamenco music.

I am not looking forward to Las Vegas. I attend university at the University of Salamanca, I know more about Castilla y Leon than Nevada, I actually know people in Spain (Las Vegas?? I don't know anyone there except my parents and the occassional relative that visits).

Pero no pasa nada. Que sera sera. But no matter. What will be, will be.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Some notes about the Portuguese...

--they serve coffee excessively hot, ye be warned innocent tongues and sensitive teeth

--their coffee is bitter, much more so than its Spanish or Italian counterpart

--Portuguese coffee is also super ridiculously cheap

--I have yet to see a restaurant/cafe without a tv in it

--they don't like Spanish (the language, I have no idea how they feel about the people)

--people are generally poorer here than in Spain/a Portuguese man told me he thinks that Spaniards are generally rich ( I don't know if he has been to Spain...guessing not)

--Portuguese think that the Brasilian accent is easier to acquire as a non-native speaker

--the Portuguese do not enjoy Christmas markets as much as other countries do, but they enjoy the Christmas season more. (ie, Frank Sinatra and Elvis Christmas music playing on stereos on the streets at night and in grocery stores)

--Portuguese food is better than Spanish food (even though I'm killin' for a bocadillo)

--Portuguese grocery stores are awkwardly set up (pans next to the cat food, school supplies next to baby food...), yet they have a better selection of yogurt than Spanish grocery stores

--Portuguese don't stay out quite as late/party as much as the other part of the Iberian Peninsula

More to come...


This 19th of December, I celebrated my birthday on a Portuguese island. Exactly.

I started the day by eating a perfectly ripe anona on the deck of my hostel overlooking a church, banana fields, and the ocean.

Two hours of surfing took up the next part of the day. Athletisicm is not my specialty and even though I was absolutely assulted by the waves, surfing couldn't have been a better option.

After a lunch of more anonas and avocados, I went for a wander, a walk, between small Portuguese villages. There were so many banana fields, avacado trees, anona trees, stunning views, goats that seemed to pop out of nowhere. After dark, I made my way down the mountain.

And I think this was the night I had three anonas for dinner. hehehe I'm really going to miss those things! Only three for a euro, can you believe that?? My mom talks about them like they're so expensive. (But I guess coming from a country where you just climb the treees to get them...)

It was a simple day away from a big city, just what I always wanted.

And happy birthday to Andrea Coelho, whereever she may be!

21 December 2012

I was one of the millions that didn't believe in the end of the world on 21 December 2012. The Mayans just didn't have time to finish writing their calendar or that's my rationale anyway.

After all that I had endured from surfing the day before, I went to bed early. There's nothing worse than being cut up and sick on vacation. It didn't help, though. At 4:30, three consecutive sounds resembling a bomb struck. The clock from the church rang afterward. Seriously, could this be the end of the world? Or maybe a terrorist group was raiding the island? I just couldn't believe the latter. The only sensible option to me at 4:37 in the morning was that a meteor had hit. I sat up in bed, lights on, nose running. I got out of bed, hesitantly, only to get a glass of water. Walking through the hallway, I noticed the light was flickering; it hadn't done that before. The door at the end of the hallway was also cracked open; hadn't I closed that the night before? I closed it, got my water, went to bed. Not that I could sleep well. I couldn't imagine what was happening or rather, what had just happened. I swore I heard faint screams, voices of young girls, from nearby mountains. All of this plus some slowly spun in my mind as I tried to convince myself that death by meteor would be easiest to handle while sleeping.

Two hours later I was terrified to hear the explosions again. Would this be the interval to expect until we were all dead?? At this point, I absolutely knew it wasn't a foreign raid and if I wasn't dead yet, I might be alive for awhile. Scared still, I stayed in bed until 7:15. Then for some reason, I jumped out of bed and ran to the porch; the door was cracked open again. I was sure I had closed it all the way. No matter, I heard loud chattering from the church. It seemed like the whole village was there. It was getting serious now. I ran back to my room. I stuffed my boots with my passport, airline ticket, and 30 euros. In case I would live through this, I of course put my pink point-and-shoot camera in my jacket pocket.

Walking outside, I hadn't noticed any structural damage, no bodies, no fire. I got to the church and only one person was seated in the pews. Everyone else seemed to be enjoying their last cappuccino in the cafe next door. Well, Portugal is one of the more religious European countries. Maybe they weren't worried about how they were going to die because they had so much faith. Possibly?...

I found a girl who spoke minimal English. She didn't tell me what the sounds were; she told me that if I wanted to know what they were, I needed to walk toward the sound. She gave me directions.

She didn't understand that I didn't want to walk toward something that, to me, could have been a bomb.

Alright, well, what will be will be, I thought. Might as well walk toward the sound that had given me so much grief.

I turned the corner and went into the first cafe. There, behind the bar, were two men and an elderly lady laughing away.

"Espanol? English? Do you speak English?" I think I asked too fast for them. Either way, they only spoke Portuguese. So I did this thing in Spanish. I was flustered and this guy was having a hard time keeping up. From all my eccentric hand motions, though, he got the point. "bomba...explosion a las cuatro y media....q paso????"

This was the moment I learned that the locals all around Madeira have their own Christmas traditions, this being one of them. Everyday since the 20th until Christmas, the "bombs", "explosions" would be set off. They were set off yesterday morning but I guess I just didn't hear them. One of the men took me into a small shack next to the cafe. The shack was filled with crates of fruit, a refrigerator, and the culprit. In the corner, the man pointed out a light brown stick, taller than me and thinner than a lamppost. I couldn't believe this little thing had produced so much sound. My blood pressure is still up.

I went home and ate an avacado, can't sleep. As for the screams, I'm almost positive they were just seagulls.

No more of this end of the world nonsense. Too much stress.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Goulash and Studel, I must be in Hungary


Christmas markets, pumpkin strudel, embroidery, cafe's, street musicians, embroidery, the Opera House, purchase of a handmade journal (dark green case, images of people sledding painted in gold. It's so eastern, so perfect.)

Another solo trip, but I managed well. Hungarians are seriously some of the friendliest people I've met. As a modern day Lewis and Clark, I highly recommend Hungary for this purpose.

Sunset around 16:00 but that definitely didn't stop me from my explorations. I found a very chic cafe near my hostel. It definitely had a trukish feeling to it. Chalk drawings on the walls, cushions on the floor and mini tables, low lighting...I ordered a Melange. Latte Machiato with condensed foam to die for and a thick layer of honey on the bottom. For 500 Forints, or 3 euros, I'd say I should have gotten two.


Ana Furdo baths and saunas, gold domes, cherry and cottage cheese strudel, night in Communist-era building for 7 usd...omg. Christmas market in front of a Basilica where I bought two teacups with two matching saucers. Preciosas.


embroidery shop, pottery shop (with demonstration just for me!), private tour of the Communist museum on a day when the museum was closed (just for me!), tour of typical Hungarian village in Hungarian (we made it work...), cabbage strudel. I mistook a block of chees for a croissant. Yeah. The cheese was in the shape of a croissant and was being sold at a specialty cheese stand, so I figured it was a croissant filled with specialty Hungarian cows-milk cheese. nope. It reminded me of sharp tasting string cheese. Also went to a blues performance at the Serbian Orthodox church. My favorite stop in Hungary, hands down. Found travel buddies who didn't really speak English, but they wanted to help me out! Oh, Hungarian hospitality. And a free train ticket because the lady at the counter was feeling . =)

First snow since I left cheyenne! I was not happy...


Free entrance into the rehearsal of Madam Butterfly, Langos (basically hungarian pizza), Hungarian surrealism and history, those beautiful gold domes, antique shops, hot bowl of cabbage with paprika and chicken on a chilly december day....


Performance of the Wizard of Oz (hungarian style, no ruby slippers, toto talked, the wicked witch of the west wasn't green...), spicy goulash, chestnut puree (my new favorite desert), purchase of embroidery and handmade shirt, walk through the castle, creepiest wax museum of my life, Minaret, beautiful Hungarian musical with zombies on tv (wish I found the name!!)

Back to Budapest

I missed my flight. Long story, don't want to remember. But there wasn't anything  to Madrid until the next night. So, for a ridiculous price, I took a one way plane to Barcelona instead with Lufthansa. I felt so out of place. All those people in suits, stylish glasses, expensive haircuts and then there was me. Backpack, hair in a bun. And I did not smell nice after all that traveling. Lufthansa offered food and drinks and believe me, I feasted.

Arrived in Barcelona at midnight, went into the city to try to catch a night bus or train to Madrid, went back to the airport because the train/bus attempt failed, hung out with a Bulgarian for a few hours, couldn't buy a ticket for a flight because I had ran out of money on the card, couldn't eat for hours, cried a lot, talked to my bank for an hour when the money wouldn't work (gahh), flew to Valladolid at 18:00, tried hitch-hiking into town, lacked one euro for the bus into town and almost had a breakdown (but a man on the bus paid for me , haleluja), caught the last bus into Salamanca. Arrival time: 12:15. That, my friends, is over 40 hours of unnecessary travel.

Besides this little mess, it was a stellar solo trip.

Swiss Map

 Last night was Nochevieja in Salamanca. It's just a huge party for university students before everyone leaves for Christmas break. It wasn't well known outside of Salamanca until recently. Now, people fly from internationally and even take those oversized charter buses for this. What started out as a small get together has turned into upwards of 50,000 people in the Plaza Mayor.

Naturally, no classes the next day.

Before going to the Plaza Mayor, my dear roommate and I had some friends over. We ate pasta with Canada's best home-made tomato sauce. We cracked open a few bottles of wine. I pulled out my Swiss map, logically.

There was a Canadian girl whose parents are from, get this, Lugano and Luzern. (She even has family in Chiaso...). We professed our enduring love for all things Swiss.

Well, silly me. I took my Swiss map out of my wallet and didn't put it back. What was I thinking? This map is the original map. The original map I picked up one day at the train station in Lugano that would never be offered again. (Believe me, I've searched hard for another). My Swiss map, as ridiculous as this sounds, has been there for me. On every travel adventure since it came into my possesion, it's been with me. Through thick and thin, this Swiss map has kept me company. I would circle all the Swiss stops I've made, write notes and observations on the back...I would pull it out every once in a while and think about where I would want to go next, what I had experienced within the circled city names, sometimes just zone out.

You know how toddlers always carry around a blanket? Yeah, well I carry around a Swiss map. When I was scared, alone, at the train station in Plovdiv, Bulgaria at one in the morning, what comforted me? My Swiss map. When I missed my flight from Budapest to Madrid and I was at various airports for more than 40 hours, nothing could have been more soothing than looking at my Swiss map.

And I didn't put it back into my wallet, my map with holes in the creases. Wine spilled on it. Vino tinto. And it's not to be salvaged.

I'm a little worried to travel without it. You know I travel alone a lot; it's nice to have something familiar to hang on to.

I shouldn't be this attached to an inanimate object.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Naranjas, Bachata, Bocata

Confession: I've never actually been IN Valencia.

 This was my second trip to this seaside city of about 800,000. You'd think I would have made my way around the monuments, cathedrals, and such. Wrong.

I've only been to the big science museum, the beach (the Balearic Sea, not the Mediterranean), and various houses of friends.

Ahh, and are they some of my favorite moments within Spanish boarders.

Last year I went to a New Year's celebration with the friends I met in Malta. I met some people there and we've kept in contact ever since. Since my friends from last year were busy (or in Peru) I stayed in Burjassot, on the other side of town.

Once again, it was a long, merciless nine hours in a bus, but I arrived to a group of people I recognised. Oh, was it a good feeling.

So instead of Saul and Jessenia, I was with Vicente, Luis, Alexandra, and Ada (perrito). eek!!!

Spreading my wisdom like I do, I introduced them to Orujo. ;) They also thought I was absolutely psycho for going swimming in November. The water was really quite manageable, but Vicente didn't think so. The other two didn't even take their shoes off...

May I add that Vicente makes a stellar bocadillo? His aunt made paella for me. Between the two, I nearly died.

Oh! And Vicente made a dessert out of oranges for me. (Valencia is famous for its oranges) He boiled them with sugar and voila. Oranges a la Vicente. It's not a traditional dish of Valencia or anything, just something a native thought up.

To sum it up, I ate really well this weekend.

Saturday was spent at La Bamba, a salsa club. We had a reservation for 20 of us or so.

It. was. AWESOME.

And Vicente was the best date of my life. Even though, I fell on the dance floor, awkward. He was always trying to get me to salsa; I got him to bachata. Only once, though. jejeje I wore the dress I bought on sale in a little boutique in Split, Croatia (I feel like this is really important...). I was also wearing my woman shoes, the real high heels. Well, they're high for salsa anyway.

Entire night of dancing = angry feet. That really had to have been the best club I've been to in a long time (well, since Potes, Cantabria jajaja). Vicente ended up carrying me home on his back. All the way a Spartan.

We went to the beach again, we danced more bachata and merengue at his house, I helped him with his english homework, I missed my bus to Madrid. Less than 4 minutes...gah.

His mom sent me home with a bag full of Valencian oranges, which make fabulous snacks in between my grammer and History of Spain classes.

uff, muchisimas gracias para lo mejor finde Vicente, Luis, Loli, y Alex!! Visitame en Las Vegas!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Lke a Spartan...

...I took the weekend after the Feria de Orujo off. (and the crowd goes wild).

This was my first weekend in Salamanca to myself, EVER. (remember the first weekend I went to Avila and didn't get to Salamanca til Sunday).

Spain is starting to grow on me, though Switzerland is still my official European home, my official love.

Feria del Orujo!!

First things first:

Wow, I'm really going to miss Spanish coffee.

Now for another three week summary. I spent the 9th-11th of November in Cantabria. From Salamanca I bussed to Santander, but this wasn't my final destination. And I'm glad it wasn't. Santander didn't strike me as anything special (plus they were in the middle of replanning the city so construction everywhere and I didn't even make it to the beach). It didn't have the life San Sebastian had, not to mention the food... I did get lucky though. I asked a woman with a baby for directions to a decent pension and she saved me over 50 euros. But no, my goal for this particular weekend was more focused than most of my excursions. I went to Santander to ultimately go to Potes, Cantabria for, (get this), La Feria del Orujo!!! (Festival of Orujo!!!!) Have I not taken the liberty to mention this spectacular drink? Orujo is most traditional to Autonomous Communities (not provences, states, or cantons) Galicia and Cantabria. It's a licor made from zumo de mosta (juice of mosta grape). They make it in all kinds of flavors: Aguardiente, Blanco/Tostado, Cafe, Cafe con Leche, Yogur, Fresa (super delicious, super expensive), Crema de Orujo (my licor cabinet mostly contains various bottles of this type), de Hiervas, Crema de Aguardiente (I've only ever seen this in Valencia) y mucho mas...

There are so many types, most of them I've only ever seen in Cantabria. I discovered Crema de Orujo in the supermarket here in Salamanca. I wanted to try something new besides red wine or beer, but still, something Spanish. I asked a friendly-looking Spaniard what it was and she lit up when she explained it, so I took it. It continues to be my drink of choice by far...

I describe it as the best-kept secret of Spain. (We've all heard of Sangria and La Rioja, but have we heard of Orujo???)

Anyway, the next bus to Potes left at 15:30 and wouldn't come back until 11:30 the next day. As a competent human being, I was hesitant. As a youthful, naive traveler, I was ready. This trip would test me in ways I never thought possible. Just kidding. I speak enough Spanish to keep a conversation and I love Spanish clubs (no house beats!). I made some friends on the bus and we stayed together the whole night. Three of them were exchange students from Mexico and one was a master's student from Asturias (Espana).

Believe me, I had no idea what I was in for. Three shots of any kind of Orujo for 1 euro. This was not a classy Swiss wine tasting. A band played a remix of Enrique Inglesias' "Hereo" at the end of the night.

Between all the time I was there, I had tried all types of Orujo and we only went to two bars, but they were the two best bars of my existence. Not too crowded, steller music, no flashing lights, the bathrooms had toilette paper. Yes, in Spain, this is what makes a wholesome hotspot.

Not to mention, if you just stepped outside, you could enjoy the cool night air and gaze at the Picos de Europa while enjoying you're Orujo con Sabor de Fresa (four euros a glass, ouch!).

Can't forget the classics of Spanish bars: Noche de Estrellas, Hasta q Salga el Sol, Angelito sin Alas, remix de Danza Kuduro, Sube las Manos pa' Arriba, Bailando por Ahi, and the list continues.

Around 6:30, I hit my limit. The music was still bumpin and I was wearing good boots, but everyone has a limit.

The owners of the pension were concerned that I hadn't been there that night but they were quite proud of me for exploring where few foreigners dare to go.

Monday, November 5, 2012


Okay so let's catch up since the last time I wrote on 19 October.

-I streamed the Swiss movie I've been trying to watch for a year, Der Verdingbub. (I'm not usually one for films so this was big).

-A bus whisked me away to Leon, near the Picos de Mampodre, where I nearly broke my ankles and fell off the cliffs. These were two hard days of hiking, well worth it.

-Gloria, my travel buddy, visited me for three days!! After her Academic Travel through Andalucia, we explored Salamanca. It was a gorgeous few days, much needed. We were exhausted on our last day together and ended up taking a three hour siesta...

-Saturday morning, bright and early, we departed for Madrid. We had three solid hours of crowded Spanish renfe train, loud people, and lost American tourists. Our paths parted when she headed toward the airport and I took a bus to the Autonomous Community south of Madrid, Toledo.

-It was only meant to be a weekend trip, but it took so long to get to Consuegra (south of Toledo), my final destination, for the Feria de la Rosa de Azafran (Festival of Saffron).  !!! eek!! Yeah, locals made fun of me for being a tourist, but it was still my best weekend. Did I mention that I bought a baby jacket handmade? And the Peruvian guy that sold it to me gave me a head massage afterwards??  The windmills are stunning, though, and sky always sunny. It reminded me a bit of Cheyenne. That Saffron Festival was the equivalent of Cheyenne Fronteir Days...Spanish style. A little quirky, but still reminded me of home (in some twisted way I guess). Consuegra is much smaller than Cheyenne and well, maybe a lot of the people aren't so different...

-After  that, I spent that monday in Toletum, better known as Toledo. I hoofed through the city with my huge green backpack filled with all kinds of fun stuff picked up from Consuegra. I even found space to bring back some famous marzipan from Toledo and some handmade/handpainted earrings. They're dark blue painted hoops with some lighter flower embellishments. Oh! I even found a traditional Syrian restaurant! Um, highlight of the day? A good change of pace from empanadas and oatmeal.

-Because I had Gloria here and I had taken a day off, planning for my four day weekend was stressful. Really, I tried to go someplace far and wild, like Albania. I just looked at a map of europe and for some reason, Albania was calling. Well, flights were more expensive than I liked, so I found a bus to Vitoria, Pais Vasco the night before I was set to go. It wasn't that easy, though...I'm much more knowledgable about the ways of European airlines.

-In Vitoria, life moved pleasantly slowly. I bought a handmade dress. (Now I know where that Spanish style comes from!) It was  on sale, so  I had to. San Sebastian was definitely more hmm, eventful. Awesome hostal, Australians, seafood, swimming in the Bay of Biscay, bar hoping in huge group without a definite common language, Wyoming style uggs, traditional band, camera broke down. More lively than I imagined, perfect place for students. Arquitecture was a curious detail there...

My three weeks in a nutshell.

Okay, your turn.

Friday, October 19, 2012

ahh, back to oatmeal

My day has been unusually productive and happy =) except for this bocadillo vegetal I bought. Biggest waste of 3.80 ever. It had white asparagus and mayonese, which I hate. These were not listed on the menu. Extrememly ticked now that I'm eating oatmeal when I have a big hike this weekend.

I'm going to Picos de Mampodre. I signed up through the PE department and all 28 of us leave 6:30 tomorrow morning. We're staying overnight in a hostal somewhere around there, south of Santander up north.

I'm expecting it to just be me and Spanish students attending the USAL!!!

After class, I got two small yet delicious tapas for 1.80 euro, siesta-ed for about two hours then hit the town. I met with a freind from York, England. He's meeting his son in the Canary islands next week so this was his last weekend to explore a bit and such. We made a bunch of stops and we went to parts of town I still hadn't even heard of! I probably would not have ever made it there without him.

(I finished my glass of oatmeal; I'm still hungry.)

Powershopping was next on my list. I bought a pair of silver earrings made here in Salamanca for 6.50 euro and I reached my goal of finding a plain black headband. ??? Which was a lot more difficult to find than you'd expect. No jokes. I worked for that .60 cents. And in the process, I found a bunch of stellar shops I've been meaning to look at. Including a retro vintage store and a tienda that has hand-made Spanish bags! eek!

I went to my normal stores to make sure the things I want didn't sell. hehehe. You know if I had my way, my wardrobe would be fairly gaudy...

Almost 22:00, I'm still hungry, I haven't showered, I don't have everything packed, I haven't showered, I have to wake up at 5:30,  ug.  All in the name of travel.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Athens, Madrid, Salamanca

I walk through the Plaza Mayor everyday.  Between my second and third classes of the day, I enjoy the buzz of locals, tourists.

On this overcast morning, I walked through to find a group of students chanting together accompanied by the sounds of whistles, drums, and news reporters. I didn't really see this at first, I just heard it. It took me awhile to walk to the other side of the Plaza since construction has been going on for the upcoming annual antique book fair.

It was a young crowd of university students with cardboard signs with slogans like "Education isn't an expenditure, it's an investment". The back half of the Plaza was just teeming.

The window was left open during my next class. I wish I could have seen what was happening in the Plaza Mayor. They sounded like they were right under our window. The whistles and drums faded; their voices were the highlight of the moment. For maybe 30 minutes strong they didn't let up. The only thing the prof said about it was "Well, the people on the streets seem to be happy today."

By the time class ended, the Plaza Mayor was empty. Everyone must have gone back to class.

While Rajoy is in Bucharest today, I hope he knows his disapproval rating is getting much higher and the average age much lower.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Vigo, Galicia, Espana

I just came back from a three day weekend with two friends and already I'm writing out a list of things I need for my hiking excursion this upcoming weekend.

Vigo is quite the whole-in-the-wall. We saw very few tourists and a lot of the city. Not only did we see the city, hiked up to its castro (hilltop fortress), and find the bar with the best overall experience I've ever had at that hour, we made our way to Las Islas Cies (SEE-es). (Wow, I sound like a Las Vegas tour book).

We took the earliest ferry there and returned on the latest one possible. We started the morning off with a solid hike to an observation area, which wasn't as stunning and secluded as the hike up. That took us part way down the mountain over some golden-moss covered boulders where we dined on our lunch. Overlooking nearby archipelago and rolling waves, we ate our picnic of cheese and tomato on a baguette with peaches for dessert. It was the best combination of bread, cheese, and tomato I've had.

After lunch hours took us to a beach, la Playa Rodas (rated number one beach in the world...). It was quite stunning, but too cold for me to rate as the number one anywhere. That's right, in mid October, we swam in the northern Atlantic. (My friends are Canadian by the way).

It was a gorgeous view from the water. I even ended up picking up a particularly large shell straight from underneath me, which I'm sending home to my mum. But even that didn't compare to the Bulgarian side of the Black Sea in June. Sorry, Spain.

The clouds moved in toward the end of our stay. We sat inside and wrote postcards home.

After getting back to our hostel near the Marina, we took a two hour nap and went out for our last seafood dinner. There was only one thing that interested me on the menu: Risotto alla Fruta del Mari. Risotto with seafood. Of course, I couldn't help but to think of my dear Lugano or that I can't find a box of risotto in any grocery store in Spain...

What I miss most about Vigo was not the food or its surrounding island. I miss "El Rincon, de las artistas". We (the bartender from Uruguay, the owner from Argentina, and me) are still in contact (a whole two days later!). I showed up the first night after Caroline and Alycia went to bed. There was a three person troupe playing some kind of retro Flamenco. I tried three types of Orujo (a type of grape made into licor): tostado, blanco, y crema. I've learned; always order crema de orujo. It's sweeter than the kind I bought in Salamanca and has a spike. Not a kick, but a spike. The other two are just too strong for me. I want to enjoy my alcohol, not gulp it down. (Also, don't go for the licor de cafe. No caffeine, but it's just not very Spanish). After I finished my three shots, the Argentinian owner poured me a glass of Crema de Orujo, on the house. The Spaniards had just finished playing, the Argentian owner started playing tango guitar, and I had my favorite Spanish drink. It was lively and I was talking to people (no one asked where I was from!!). I don't think I could have been happier. Live, local music makes it or breaks it.

Three days later, I posted a total of 569 photos within five albums.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Another bright and sunny week

Although I was awake until midnight cooking a butternut squash, it turned out quite tasty. Unfortunately, it's already gone (a breakfast, lunch, and dinner later). Peach sautee with honey again for dessert. yes.

I walked to El Corte Ingles last night, which turned out to be the worst department store I've experienced. Ever. Good thing I was equipt with a batido con zumo de naranja y melocoton (smoothie with orange juice and peaches).

I'm on a peach streak.

At Flamenco class earlier I learned a new step, which I'm proud of. It's called "contra el tacon" (against the heel). It was deceivingly easy, then the instructor had us do it in double time. arg.

I've studied all my subjects tonight, wrote my two postcards to my cousins, and have started packing for my three day weekend in Vigo, Galicia!!!!

Thursday afternoon after class I'm going with Caroline, my roomie, and Alycia, two wonderful Canadians. We have Friday off for Columbus Day/ El Virgin de Pilar. Lovely, eh?

And here I am, getting ready to go to a salsa bar after a dinner of a scrambled egg with herbabuena y rooibos tea.

To be continued...

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Salmantino Nightlife...

Did everyone skip the clubs and just go to sleep early last night? After all that disappointment and build up from this week, I can say that I've had better nights in Lugano and even Frankfurt. I had read so much about Salamanca before coming and so much of it included the "nightlife". It is a quite peaceful town, though overflowing with student life. Spain could very well be the Las Vegas of Europe, but only to a certain extent. (I can't imaging this quiet continent wanting to do half the things I've only heard about in Vegas).

 The good part, though, was that everything was within walking distance. No bus, taxi, or train necessary.

As my friend Alyssa and I headed out the door and onto the main road, we were bombarded with water balloons. That's right, as we were walking, some kid was throwing water balloons from an eight story apartment.

Then we had a 17-year old Irish kid buy us drinks.


Shouldn't he have been in bed?

All I wanted to do was dance, maybe find a decent salsa bar hot spot. I'm just going to have to try another night.

Or just save my energy on studying and traveling.

Next weekend is a three day weekend. I'm thinking Galicia!!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

First week of classes, Salamanca style.

First week of classes???? Success!! Here is my schedule:

-Gramatica (dos horas)
-La Historia de Espana (un hora)
- El mundo arabe en el mundo espanol (un hora)
-Destrezas Escritas (un hora)

I attend classes from 9:00 until 14:20, without any breaks. I have a 10 minute passing period to get through the Plaza Mayor to my next building (which I can never find). With as much traveling as I do, you'd think I wouldn't be quite this directionally challenged...

I've been eating out for lunch everyday, though I have a kitchen. Grocery shopping has been tough because of the siesta hours from 14:00 til 16:30. The only things I have in the pantry are oatmeal, budget spanish chocolate, a huge jar of honey from Caceres, extra virgin olive oil from somewhere in this country, and licor de orujo (pressed from a Spanish grape and herbs, very strong, somewhat like Irish Bailey's).

More updates to come.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


And I haven't even arrived in Salamanca yet. I'm still in Avila.

After some minor mishaps, my plane landed 45 minutes late into Madrid. Nevertheless, I made it to this diamond in the rough with my miserly Spanish. The accent isn't too difficult anymore, it's just the phrases and colloquialisms that I need work with, but that is why I'm here.

I arrived in Avila just after noon. Long story short, I couldn't find the monastery my mom and I had booked a night at. To be honest, I forgot the name besides "Santa Teresa". Everything here is "Santa Teresa". How did I not see this coming? So this elderly lady native to the region took me under wing and took me to three possible locations. Two of them turned out to be student dorms. So now I'm staying at Universidad de la Mistica. It's a retreat for the study of Santa Teresa since she was from the region.

For 34 euros per night, I get breakfast, a location on the outskirt of town, and an immaculate bedroom with two single beds. I think the girl at the front desk upgraded me to this room because she saw how much stuff I had.

Back to the elderly spanish lady. We ate dinner together and now I know I don't like Sopa Castellana. She would just talk and talk and talk and I would shake my head in the appropriate direction and the appropriate time. It was awesome. I think she may have had dentures because her speaking was a tad muffled. She was still cute though, in her white blazer and orange creme colored slacks.

She wants me to send her a post card from Las Vegas.

I just finished breakfast which was successful. I ended up sitting with a group from Atlanta. I'm joining them for the duration of the morning. Mary, Wallace, Isias, and Antonio--thank you for making my first Spanish breakfast an enjoyable one!

There was this one awkward moment, though. I heard some people speaking German so I asked them about the breakfast cereal--is it oatmeal or muesli? I got the message that it was muesli, but then one of them just kept going and going....uh, ja das ist gut. 


It's been a beautiful life.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Eight Days til Freedom.

Eight days away from my dearture from the US and I'm stale. I'm not feeling the magic. Eh, it'll hit me once I get off the plane in Madrid.

My Half Pass for Switzerland ran out at the end of August. My Swiss residency permit expires on the 23rd of September. It's a tad discouraging. I don't think I even need a residency permit for Spain-I'm just a long-tern tourist.

Well, my bags are almost packed already. My one backpack and my one suitcase will be so much easier to maneuver than before. Lugging all my stuff between Lugano and Frankfurt was SO stressful. That's an eight our train ride I wish unto NO ONE.

Life is dry on this side of the world: the land, the air, my life.               

Maybe I should stop and come back when I'm not so nostalgic. Perhaps this moment isn't the right time for another move. Resettling is the most difficult part.

And I still don't have a definite University I'm attending this Spring. University of Nevada Las Vegas is more difficult to work with than I realised.


Monday, September 10, 2012


Upn my return to the United States, I landed in Las Vegas, even though home for me has always been Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Its been a little unsettling moving so much. From Lugano to Frankfurt; from Frankfurt to Las Vegas. Soon enough it will be Las Vegas to Salamanca. It's keeps life interesting, though.

There's always something to do in Las Vegas, but getting there is always the problem. This city is impossible without a car. Public transportation is almost nonexistent.

Even so, my parents still drive me to the other side of town every week to take me to salsa lessons. I guess you could call this my welcome home present. Do my parents know me or what? So I bought a pair of shoes on sale at Macy's and I hit the floor twice a week!

My parents and I go to the strip on weekends. We even took a day to hike through Valley of Fire nearby. We've eaten at every kind of restaurant you can imagine: Greek, Salvadorian, Bulgarian, Persian, Etheopian, Mississippi, kosher, Honduran, Russian, Cuban, cupcake...

We do not lack in culinary experience.

Through it all, I remember why I enjoyed my one year in Switzerland more than most of my life:

-there's no public transportation system to speak of (and I don't have a car)
- very few places in the US are "walking cities"
- there are absolutely no cheap flights (Ryanair, easyjet, wizzair)
-Under 21 and you're treated without respect (treat us like an adult, and we'll act like one.)
- there's no challenge for me (I know how American work, I understand their language. not fun)

So even though I live in one of the most entertaining cities in the world, I'm stuck inside the house. Even though I do live in a wonderful country, I'm not improving my French, German, Swiss German, etc. 

Oh, and there aren't any good Swiss cheeses at the grocery store. A bitter disappointment.

Countdown: 13 days until departure.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Summary of the Last Three Months

I made it though Bulgaria. It was four days of perfection at the Black Sea. Not only that, I also ran into many people I shared no common language with, which is always a kick. I managed to buy a handmade bowl, two handmade dolls, a traditional shirt, a pair of light blue leather sandals, but no honey. And my mom keeps on reminding me that I forgot to buy her a hand-painted picture of sunflowers, which I could have easily bought (but I was waiting to find the perfect one so it slipped my mind and wouldn't have fit in my backpack by the time I returned to the Plovdiv airport).

With my Inter Rail pass, I made it to Plovdiv in the south, Bourgas and Karabat in the east, and Sofia in the far west (almost in the Rhodope mountains).

Bourgas was my second stop. My train departed at 1:00am from Plovdiv. I sat in the station alone most of the time, except when I had to deal with train conductors who had never seen an inter rail pass before (???). That was stressful, but it all worked out. I ended up speaking with a Bulgarian man who didn't really speak english for a few hours. The trains made me anxious. I could hear them screach through the window of the cafe I was waiting at. It was dark and they definitely  appeared to be worn in. Then I remembered that the Bulgarian trains haven't been updated since the Soviets implemented them over 60 years ago...

But then, out of no where, a man I recognized from my flight sat a table near me. This gave me hope and some peace of mind. But then he started speaking to me in Bulgarian, great. Long story short, I found out that he works at the same Ernst and Young I did in Frankfurt. He's from the Ukraine but teaches German to Bulgarian children because he likes it. He's finishing up his Master's Degree in Minnesota or Wisconsin this year and speaks five languages. It was dark, I was scared, he helped me find a seat in those slow, unkept, trains without enough seats. We talked the whole six hour journey. If anyone sees him, he's missing from my life.

I arrived on the unspoiled beaches of the Black Sea where I didn't see a single European tourist or hear any English. It was beautiful.

On my last day in Sofia (pronounced: SO-fi-ah), I stumbled upon a group of students from a dance school performing tradional Bulgarian dances. The students were clad in tradition vests, garb, and colors. Some female students sang outstanding solo pieces while younger students danced. Parents recorded their children while I was standing there in the sun, front row, amazed at my discovery.

Unfortunately, I really need to summarize. Do I need to say how much I loved this country? For me, it's number two, next to Switzerland. All other countries just mess together for me. I've had exceptional experiences everwhere, but only a few can really stick out.

I went to London still trying to recover from my Bulgaria trip. Again, I traveled alone, yet going west always shapes up differently from going east.

So, long story short, I had a BLAST traveling on a charter bus with 30 English students from UCL (University of Central London) to Paris!!!  Don't tell me that doesn't sound exciting. Oh, so many selfies...heheheheh

I got back to Frankfurt a little disappointed that I didn't have any more vacation days. but I made it through the internship then headed to Switzerland for some of the most carefree days of my life.

Crossing the border into Switzerland and hearing Swiss German was an accomplishment in itsself. I had made it through a summer of interning for a tax corporation. Really, who knows how I got there. I dropped off my luggage at the Zurich airport and headed for Murten, Vaud, Schweiz. Bettet yet, I had planned this trip out well, so I booked a farm to stay at for the first two nights!! Okay, maybe a little kidish, but breakfast was included in the price, there wasn't a curfew, it was cheap (only 35 chf per night), and I used my half pass to go to surrounding towns. I was gone from 9:00 until at least 22:00 both nights. Okay, maybe that doesn't sound like a lot, but I would go to four or so towns in that time. My favorite spot I found on the second day.

Avenches-les-Bains is a medieval town situated on a hill next to Lac de Neuchatel. I changed into my swimsuit next to the water's edge, left my personal things unattended, and swam. There was no one around. And when people did come around, I didn't have to worry. The Swiss are the most honest, trusting people I've stummbled upon. I've never had anything stolen in this country. The water was so cold, so clean, I could see all the way to the bottom without my goggles, but I used my goggles, just for kicks.

I think it's noteworthy to mention that I hiked from Broc-Fabrique to Gruyeres. It was chilly in the mountains. I came back down during the latter part of sunset, after I had eaten my last round of fondue (motie-motie).

Yes, it was a tearful goodbye. The flight was long and now I'm in Las Vegas, Nevada. These six weeks I'm here are just to prepare for my semester in Spain. I've seen so many dentists, doctors, and hey, I just got my wisdom teeth pulled on Tuesday. My skin is also a healthy shade darker.

I'll have to be better about posting during my studies in Spain. ahhhh, SPAIN!!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Norm

Work with Ernst & Young starts around 8:30 and ends about 18:00. If I go out to eat for lunch, I always go to ThaiTime across the street and order the spiciest thing on the menu. For instance, yeterday I ordered spicy tofu with spicy vegetables with extra spicy sauce. I ate it all. And it felt good.

My days are filled with filing, Excel spreadsheets, Mappe (folders), and large amounts of caffinated tea. For now anyway. The interns were givin a large assignment but we'll see where that goes.

After work on Tuesday I went to the Eschborn library. I was checking out "kids" books before but I've taken a step back. Some of them were more difficult than I realised so now, I check out books from the baby section. That's right, the small, square, cardboard kind that I could chew if I started teething again. So I'm starting from the very bottom, as a native, and working my way up. I couldn't find any eveing classes so this is the route I'm going. If it gets me to a level to where I can learn Swiss German, then I'm all for it.

I found a salsa club last night but it wasn't salsa was ragaeton night. gah. So I left and was home by 23:00. fail. But I plan on going again tonight with my friend from Turkey. We have yet to get together but this might be our chance. Or I could just invite her out to Vegas. =D

Update for the fall: I've officially eliminated the American University of Beirut for the options. It would have been too expensive and they didn't have a program that I was really passionate about. I would have attended if they had Music as a major, not just a minor. I was having trouble deciding between Anthropology, Nursing, Archeology, and whatever else was in my head at the time. They sound like fun, but I think my calling is elsewhere.

For breakfast this morning I chopped some dried figs and mixed it with the Russian buckwheat honey. It made this really thick paste. I put some really fresh, hearty Bulgarian yogurt on top and  whipped it together. That could have been one of the best yogurt breakfasts in the history of mandkind.

After a rough week in the office, I just want to go to Bulgaria. Swimsuit-check, camera-check, passport-check, Gloria Dumas-missing from my life.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Evening in the City

Life is exciting after work.

I found a Russian grocer's near the Zoo. With my luck, I got there six minutes after closing.That's okay though...more time to shop tomorrow!

The real excitement came when I went back to the Hbf. I decided to go back to the taxi area to look for the taxi driver who knows the other taxi driver who has my pillow. This has been an ongoing thing for me.

Since the first night I arrived, this one taxi driver has had my pillow. I put it in his cab, then we realised that my two gigantic wheelies, computer bag, Army backpack, and plastic bag would fit. We had to switch cabs, me on my own to tend to six pieces, not including myself. I had been counting my pieces all night; this was the first time I didn't have everything.

So after going to Fundestelle (Lost and Found) in Hbf (mainstation) once each week since I've been here and talking to all the cab drivers, I've finally put my foot down.

Today, I walked into that taxi parking lot demanding John, from Eretrea. He was my driver who told me he would hang onto it, even drive it back to my apartment for me. Yes, I waited up for him that night...

Cab drivers in general are kind of gritty. Not only are these guys gritty, they don't speak English. They think they do, but they don't.

One guy just tells me to walk around and look for him. So I did. Of course, gritty, non english speaking men were talking to me in German or who knows what language. Some of them I brushed off quite rudely because of their tone of voice (This is a red light district, you know).

I was frustrated. My contacts were dry. I had to use the toilette. The sun was in my eyes. It was all just really an uncomfortable encounter, so I took desperate measures. As gritty men congregated around me, one of them got John on the phone. I speak with him for a few lines, then the other Eritrean translates...gah.

While he is translating, I search my bag with determination for a pad of post-its and a pen.

"Well, I guess I'm just going to have to call your boss then." I scribble down the phone number and email address on the cabs. And the there was silence, like such never heard before in Germany. One man wet his pants, probably. I'm intimidating.

John should be leaving my pillow at Fundestelle.

"You really like that pillow, then?"

I walked to the sidewalk and this was my greeting, a German guy, about 24. Dirty blond. We chatted for a bit and I took my leave. No exchange of contacts even though I found out he's from Frankfurt; no exchange in names.

And that is how I almost had a date tonight.

But due to a serious cultural misunderstanding (I'm serious), neither one of us took that first step. Shame, huh?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

My life is so not Swiss...

As my second week of the internship ends, I realise how much my daily routine has changed since Switzerland.

Despite the stress of University, life was approached differently. People enjoyed long strolls by the lake, dressing up, and community activities. Although I was an outsider, I took part as much as I could and integrated into Ticinese life.

I came to Frankfurt not knowing what to think. I had only been to Germany once before (and that was for Oktoberfest, so I don't know if that counts). But now that I'm here, I can tell that it is very cosmopolitian. Trains, trams, and busses will take you in every direction. People are always hooked up to their iPods: this is something you would never, ever see in Ticino. This is definitely a "German thing"...I remember being shocked at how many Swiss Germans were listening to their iPods in Zurich, but it doesn't even compare to what you'll see here. Frankfurters like to wear solid colors, plaid, or strips. That's it. And the women don't like boots or dresses like they do in Switzerland and Italy...even Britian! It's rare to see women wearing makeup here...

The city is so large! I have to take a tram and a train in order to get to work; it takes no less than 40 minutes. I don't even work in Frankfurt. I work outside of it, but a few thousand other people commute to this same district each day as well, so what I'm doing isn't uncommon.

On the plus side, I've eaten paella Valenciana and Thai food this week, two things that would be way too exotic for the Swiss. Not to mention the Thai food was actually spicy! I've also found my new favorite store and the only place I will ever shop at ever again: Epiphany. A vintage place around the Zeil. I bought two dresses today and a top. Smiley face.

So there are some plus sides to this whole "big city" know, this is the first metropolitian city I've lived in? Exciting isn't it? Oh, the possibilities.

To Mrs. Coelho

Dear Mrs. Coelho,

This past weekend I traveled solo to Metz, Nancy and Doremey-la-Pucelle. It was a spur of the moment decision I had made the evening before.

It was sunny out the whole time, slightly breezy. Flowers had bloomed into a solid buttercup yellow in the countryside. though some fields were almost pure while.

I was able to practice my french the whole time as I can not remember meeting any native who could speak English or Spanish. I found myself in some tough situations where I couldn't get my ideas across. Not until I pulled out the French-English dictionary you gave me at Barnes and Noble before I left.

The dictionary was the first thing I packed for my weekend in France and I pulled it out at every chance!

The northern French were some of the most hospitable people I have ever met on my travels through Europe. Whenever I looked frustrated by the language barrier, I had at least three people trying to  figure out the problem and one looking for an English or Spanish speaker.

Oh, me and my little dictionary.

That being said, I needed to say thank you.

Also, my favorite location was Doremey-la-Pucelle. I spent the whole day between three museums, walking around the countryside, and the tiny village. My grandmother's family however many generations ago were from this region so it was on my list, especially now that I live as close as I ever will.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Last Day in My Swiss Home

My first big adventure of the day: buying my ticket into Deutchland--grand total of 92 CHF, with my half pass/after 7. Sent a second package back to the US for 77 CHF....less than I thought. So now all of my Swiss francs have disappeared. Ciao bellas.

Sat down to lunch at the Grotto with a few friends but the day was consumed with packing, cleaning, and organising.

I'm so nervous to leave Switzerland. The internship isn't what worries me, it's actually moving out of the country, doing an international move, on my own. Not to mention living in a place that uses the Euro...I don't know how I feel about that.

Switzerland just feels so secure. I'm not worried about traveling alone at night in this country, even with the amount of things I will be carrying, it's making sure I catch the train.

In Germany, I don't know what to worry about, if that makes sense...

With so many things on my mind and two finals tomorrow, I shouldn't be writing. I'll update soon though.

Favorite orchestral piece right now: Borodin's Steppes of Central Asia...bellisima

Monday, May 14, 2012

for travelers going from Italy to Switzerland...practical

A sensible bit of insiders info.

If your flight lands at Milan Malpensa, do take the Malpensa express bus from Milan to Switzerland instead of going from Milan Malpensa to Milan Centrale (train station), to Switzerland. You will save yourself many many hours and SO MUCH MONEY in the long run.

I have had way too many problems in Italy with the transportation alone that I really have no desire to go back at this point. (Yeah, I'm that girls that's crying in the station). I'm just too damn pampered with Swiss trains.

That being said. If you travel from Switzerland (assuming Lugano) to Milan (Centrale or Malpensa) just take the SBB train from Lugano (or other Swiss city) to Milan Centrale and from there, go outside and you will find the buses that take you to Milan Malpensa or Bergamo.

But there is really no need to go to Milan, just come to Switzerland. And there might be the added benefit that I can show you around.

excuse my grammer, punctuation, yada yada...

Sabbatical to Spain

Went to Barcelona this week---Wednesday through Saturday, or rather, the week before finals. My rationale: prep for Spanish and Macroecon finals.

Let me sell you on this one.

Not only did I practice my Spanish firsthand with native speakers, I did this getting my haircut, getting my legs waxed, and buying kiwi-coco-banana smoothies at the local grocers. While there, I increased my vocab...

Not only that, I slept on the beach for 8 hours on Friday. Ah, Friday. While my peers were scurrying to class (or drinking their brains out) in the sleepy hollow of Lugano, I closed my eyes and just listened. The sounds of the ocean, seagulls, ebbing waves, and Spaniard Spanish caught my attention. This is what I think of when I think of Barcelona. I lived the dream...while improving my listening skills. (Yes, listening on other conversations while lying topless counts toward the practice I needed for the listening portion of my upcoming final). The sun was intense, though I managed to stay awake for maybe an hour of my precious beach time.

Social skills: when a Pakistani approaches you, speaks fluent Spanish, and you scoot over so he can sit on your towel to have a nice chat. His family lives in the UK but he has been living in Spain for 15 years and his sister in the UK is an alcoholic and he can't find work. So what do you do when you're in this position? You go for long walks on the beach asking strangers how long they'll be in Barcelona for, apparently. Okay it sounds strange, but we really had a good heart to heart, right there on the beach...

And how much more culture could I have soaked up after drenching myself in  sunburn? Well, lucky me--Friday was also a local holiday, Fiesta de San Ponc! It celebrates Barcelona's patron saint and they sell locally cultivated honey all over the place. Honey comb, honey soap, lip balm, nuts in honey, fruit in honey, honey "grande", honey "pequena", creamed, oh it was marvelous! What else did they have, you ask? Lot's of herbs and different kinds of fruit soaked in syrups. Jams were popular was well. They had green and red cheries, oranges, mandarins, prunes, limes, lemons, but the peach was absolutely the best, however difficult to eat (it was served whole).

I only wish my dad could have gone to the market where I bought my smoothies so we could have explored the meat section...they had lamb heads with the eyeballs still crystal clear which I know he would have enjoy.

And as for the supposed "bailout" or whatever that Spain is said to need....not going to happen. All the British and Italian tourists will keep them breathing, for the summer at least.

Friday, May 4, 2012


This school is just not doing it for me. It is too small; Lugano is too small; it is too close to Italy; it's  not close enough to an airport; I don't have a strong interest in learning Italian.

There aren't any music programs at this school either. Yes, I took an academic music course last semester but that just doesn not cut it. I really need to play. Now that I think about it, there hasn't been a time since I began playing an instrument at age 5 when I completely stopped music. I've never been physically so far away from my instruments either! Most days, I would at least have my violin, piano, flute at home. Sometimes I would bring the horn or Mellophone home; if I didn't bring them home, I would practice after school....oh the evenings practicing Massenet's Meditation from Thais in the band room.

I guess the small environment can be fun, but there are just too many negatives for me to outweigh the positives. Most Franklin students would agree that it can be very nice to have such a familiar student body (we see most of eachother everyday..we are only 420 or so). But there's a point when familiar becomes too personal. You know, I complain about living down the hill, but I bet this is keeping me sane.

Not only that, I'm dealing with university applications. So many of them. I've already been rejected to the University of Lausanne (kind of expected though), although I was accepted to the American University of Beirut. I'm also considering just taking a year or semester off to figure out what I want to many options.

Still deciding on which other schools I'll apply to. I don't want to speak too quickly so I won't say anything.

I tried reconsidering UW, but I just know too many people there. It would be like high school. ew.

I can't be Swiss living in Wyoming. ;)

Catching you up since 21st March, 2012


I went to Brunnen Switzerland by myself one morning and made my own Swiss Army knife. It's a beautiful thing. (You know what else is beautiful? Traveling in Switzerland on weekends for the one and only dashing young Swiss Army. They come in German, French, AND Italian.) Hiked for hours through four or so towns, ate some Rosti mit Eier at the end of the day.

My good friend Glo (aka Gloria) and I took a day trip to the Principality of Liechtenstein. Now my life is complete! We did what we do best: get free stuff. We departed Lugano at 5:10 with our half passes but, being strictly efficient, a Swiss SBB member almost charged us 100CHF each for a one way ticket just to Zurich. I cried a little, thinking that I could have spent that money on another easyjet trip, while Gloria tried convincing the lady that we had traveled before at this hour for free. (Our half pass allows us to travel for free in Switzerland  until 5:00). We were lucky it was Easter weekend, or else the lady would not have let us off the hook and we would have been put in the SBB hall (or neatly organised office drawer) of Shame.

We managed to get to this Principality and did the tourist thing: museums, the royal castle (which was built some 600 years ago and the royal family today still lives there)...We also found a vineyard with free winetastings. After the tasting, Glo told me that the manager was speaking with another customer in german. He knew we had no intentions of buying, we just wanted to try the local stuff for free. It was a damp day so it was good to get out of the rain.

I really just don't enjoy school. I'm not doing anything I want, there's no end goal.

Went on another school sponcored wine tasting the next wednesday in Mendrisio...too much wine, too much cheese.

A few weekends later, I went on another school excurion. for a whole day, I biked with my friends through the Gotthard Pass--from Airolo to Biasca. Amost the whole trip was downhill; it was like I was freefalling the whole time. The Alps surrounded us and the different shades of green on the trees casted the most unusual shadows. I had a small bottle of Valais/Wallis that I could enjoy at rest stops. I am convinced that I have never been happier.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Breaking News from Split

Split, Croatia:

After the walking tour, I hit the town. Here's what I bought:

--business skirt
--formal dress
--casual dress
--skinny jeans

All of this for only 120 USD. All of this was on major sale of course, but still!!! I finally have clothes!

Afterward, I went into the local theatre and asked when the next show of whatever would be. The man told me there was a ballet going on right now. It only took seconds before he just told me to go to the second level. That's right, I got in for free. The ballet had began only 15 minutes before I arrived. I saw Zorba. It didn't make sense until the last scene when that famous song came on. You know, the one they play throughout "My Big Fat Greek Wedding". There was no sign of a pointe shoe or tutu anywhere. Only long black dresses for the ladies and black zapato with a low heel and high ankles.

The plot was difficult to follow and there were three encores. Yes, the performers came out three more times to take a bow.

This ballet was unique and not what I was expecting at all, but it lacked a good view of the orchestra and a Franklin friend. For this, I have to say I enjoyed the Serbian ballet more. (This has nothing to do with the fact that the Serbians allign themselves with the Russians...)

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Our most beautiful and most navegatable city so far! I tried going in the Adriatic in this seriously remote location but it was so chilly I only went in up to my waiste. Call me extreme.

We stayed at a Hilton. It was very well lit and they had a pianist in the lobby. (It's amazing how many piano's we saw in this was the equivalent to Bosnia's extreme number of cemeteries.) The seabass for dinner the first night was probably the best meal we've eaten together on this trip! Breakfast was always bomb, too. I would never have to buy lunch, that's for sure...(haha, I had all these plastic bags with me so I filled them with figs and hazelnuts from the bar when the waiters weren't looking and took a pear and yogurt for the road!)

Dubrovnik was such a contrast from Bosnia. This is "western" territory so all of the Roman Catholic churches were plentiful. I actually walked into the main cathedral the first evening and found a group of girls singing, each one holding a candle. There was one soloist that stood out above the rest. They giggled as they practiced or worshipped, but I stayed and listened as long as I could to their chants.

Last night Julie, Priscilla, and I went looking for internet and a hat shoppe and found a wine bar in the meantime. Julie and I had a glass of Rose for 20 kuna each and Priscilla had dry red wine for 35 kuna. Besides the fact that Rose was slightly cheaper than red, I chose it because I've never had Rose before. Can you believe that?? Incredible I know. I just love my red. All the wine was locally produced in Dubrovnik so that was comforting. The ambiance was romatically lit with dim lights and had cases of wine in mahogany cases and barrels everywhere. The three of us were the only ones in there...then again, it was 7:15 in the evening.

Fuego, the Latino Club, is apparently closed in the winter from sundays through wednesdays...what kind of an Academic Travel is this?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Bosnian Food

Okay so I don't remember what they're called. I'll get the name later (It did begin with a "ce"). Whatever it was I ordered, it was pumpkin and it was served warm, mixed with local cheese, and in a bakalava kind of pastry. It was a bit greesey....a little sweet...eastern european food. yumm

For dinner last night, since we never eat traditional meals, we ate at the hotel again. Lauren and I had the vegetarian and we got two different things. There's always cabbage, but this time, they gave me an extremem amount of tomatoes.

Tomatoes in the salad. Lauren didn't want her tomatoes (grape or cherry served cooked, still on the vine). Extra, random tomato salad that came halfway through the meal. Don't forget the tomatoes that came as a garnish with my meal of grilled vegetables, rice, and steamed broccoli and cauliflour.

Desert was this fantastic mound of candied pear filled with crushed nuts and topped with a cherry! Uh, I'm salvatating.

Lunch was similar to the day before. I ordered another baklava-looking  thing but this one was cut in strips of about 10cm. For  2KM (like, 1euro) and 250kilos, I got them filled with spinich and cheese.

I love food prices here because it allows me to buy more stuff that matters, like turkish scarves and honey. hehehe

Bosnia, baby! day 2

Ended up going to bed around 1:00 last night and woke up before 7.

Opened the window and listened to some more Turkish music from a taxi.

Worked out then ate this delicious breakfast! Have to be honest, wasn't a fan of the yogurt, but the scrambled are the best in the Balkins, I'm convinced.

For the next three hours we went on the best walking/bus tour so far. Maybe it's because I'm in the city I wanted to visit the most. We visited the tunnel that took 4 months and 4 days to build. It was 800m and it's the path the Bosnians used to escape or bring supplies in starting from 1993. We also visited the bridge where Franz Ferdinand was assassinated by Gavrilo Princip. YES!! cool stuff, man.

Along the way, I bought some Bosnian-made slippers (19KM), dried plums (NOT prunes, 2KM for 1.5kilos), a Turkish scarf (15KM), and local honey (6KM). Score. Oh, I also bought a pillow for 5KM. The one I have at home is who knows how old...

I still need pants. You know, the loose kind like Aladin wears. more or less.

Time is running out and I have more Serbian Dinars than hairs on my head. Something like 2000. They are really hard to convert outside of Serbia. I knew I should have bought those boots yesterday...

We leave again tomorrow morning for Dubrovnik.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

After seven hours on our favorite bus, I. went. out.

I walked into an herb shop. The lady was Turkish and all her products were from Turkey, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Albania. I had to buy something. So for 2KM (Convertible Marka), I bought half a kilo of cinnamon sticks. The scents that hit me when I entered the shop were phenomenal. She had every herb in drawers in the wall. This place was tight. It was uncomfortable with five customers in there.

I went back to the hotel to get a massage. They were having a super special (turkish bath, exfoliant, and massage for the price of one. ) Never again. He loved my upper legs. Neverrrr again.

By the time I left that intrusive situation, it was midnight and I was just bored. So I went out. again. A British pub, Cheers, caught my eye so I stopped in for a glass of red wine. Dry, a bit tart, but to my liking. (I prefer Maltese wine, though). There was this live, local band playing and they were a jam.

The layout of the pub was disorienting for me and after the wine I guess I was  just lost. I tried walking between these two women that were sitting at two separate tables through this wooden structure, which I thought was a door. Some people were staring and I couldn't find the handle.

"Where's the exit?", I had to ask for clarification. The guys across from her were smiling.

"Oh, honey, it's over there!", she had to yell over the band. Those guys were bustin' out laughin. pff, so was I.

Balkanisation--problematic situation, unpredictable; negative connotation

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Zagreb: Observations

--have not seen a single jogger

--women don't wear bring pinks like they do in slovenia

--both professors we spoke with today wore light blue shirts with a dark red tie

--English language proficiency is higher in Slovenia (but better than Ticino, haleluja)

--streets are smaller, closer together than Slovenia. Buildings are also darker and more Gothic in color/style

--less comercial, less chains

--overall I believe Croatia is poorer than Slovenia

Zagreb, Croatia muah

Academic Travel continued...

had a haircut this morning in Croatia's capitol at 7:30. The lady didn't speak english; this was something the girls at the salon didn't tell me last night when I made the appointment. but it was fun. I had her chop off 5 centimeters. She washed my hair for an unreasonably long amount of time. She also didn't stop blowdrying my hair until I told her it was dry enough. I mean, I looked like a poodle after she blow-dried my hair!! So I just put it back in my typical bun and bobby pins after I left.

The countertops were clear of any products a typical Spaniard or US salon would have had; the lady brought out her bag of potions in something similar to my travel bag of toiletries.  There were three hair-washing stations. The lady took my jacket and scarf to hang it up right after I took it off. She even pushed the chair infor me when I sat down...I can't remember the last time a man did that for me...

The seats don't glide smoothly with the pump of a foot like they do in the States and Western Europe. The ambiance was a bit depressing. The colors were bleak, the furniture and hair driers were shabby, the woman was smiling.

I get cheap haircuts in the States, but I think this is some of the local differences you can see between different governments. I really think this place has seen the worst of socialism.

I paid 150 kunas. I'm very happy with it.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


Woke up this morning before my iPod, scrambled up, and headed out to meet the gang. I really thought the Grotto was suppose to be open so I could get my daily injection of cappuccino, but alas, it was not. How could I expect something that convenient?

Anyways, the bus was about 30 minutes late, we stopped for a 30 minute bathroom break, and had an hour to blow in Ljubljana. Everyone else I asked ended up sleeping more (because a six hour bus trip isn't enough time to sleep) but I. went. out.

I gave myself the grad tour of my surroundings and stumbled on the opera house (no shows tonight), and two art museums; and I hit the jackpot. Not only was the first museum I went into free for students, it was a specialy museum in Slovenian art! One artist sticks in my mind in particular: J. Petkovsic.

One scene of a peasant with wheelbarrel struck me. A placard mentioned his austere and melancholy undertones were what made him so promenent in this region. He only had half small room dedicated to his works with only six or so of his paintings on display. Maybe that's all he painted.

The opera house was not particularly striking. This was the first opera house I've seen though, where they have tutu's on display behind glass. It's a very simple form of advertisment, I think. Very sophisticated.

We went on a three hour walking The Maltese version was more pleasing.

Dinner wasn't anything to mention either. We just ate at the hotel. I could tell this professor wouldn't be big on "eating for cultural knowledge". And so far I've been right. Let's hope things improve.

And hopefully I can get a haircut tomorrow.

The rest of the evening was spent working out in the hotel (four stars) with my roomie, Lauren. Yeah man, pumpin some ironn.

Then I hit the sauna and steam room. I think those were well deserved after these past two weeks.

Oh, and there's a Zara right across the street from this hotel (Best Western) and the prices are outrageous. There's no place like Vegas...

Day 1 of Academic Travel

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Twas the Day Before Travel

Woke up with the sun only to be ditched by the person who said she was going to go on a hike with me this morning.

I had never gone hiking in Lugano before and she was suppose to show me the way. Not matter, two hours later a friend had tol me how to get there and I made my descent.

With each stride, I noticed it felt more like fall than Spring: there was a bite in the air, leaves were brown and scattered all over the muddy ground, unnoticed. It was almost disorienting.

Going up San Salvatore, I couldn't believe how many steps there were. Rocks littered the terrain underneath the sheath of leaves but the Swiss really love to put steps on their trails...

It only took me an hour to get to the top. That includes short stops for scenic views. This was the cleanest I've experienced Ticinese air and the most beautiful I've seen Lugano. The panoramic view from the top of the 19th century church was inspirational.

The church was one of Switzerland's more shabby, but a little ways down was a (free) museum of the area so I peeked inside. A lady wrapped up in what I considered a winter parka, greeted me immediately.

So, on this fine visit, I learned more about the geological and religious history of the area I lived in while improving my Italian and French.

I trekked back down thinking how much my parents would have loved to do something like that with me, but glad I was alone since they couldn't join me.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


FYI: If you ever have to deal with me, remember that I don't understand computers, especially Macs. I don't need to be told that I'm not intelligent when dealing with computers because I already know it.

And I don't know what's up with this whole "I'm turning into an introvert again" phase. I have my days yes, but sometimes I just really don't want to talk to the people here. Just some of them. Visit me and you'll know what I mean. It's not really the students, it's the professors. you wouldn't believe some of the things they say/wear/do. Maybe that's all University campuses and I just haven't the experience to notice it.

I just want my acceptance letter from UCAS please. Get me outta here!!

Just thought of something. The type of music I've been listening to has changed dramatically. My iPod syned with my roommates iTunes account and it's always like trying to find a good song on the radio during a bad streak so you just settle on something mediocre. I'm stuck until August with Katy Perry, Ke$sha, and a bunch of Korean stuff. I've given the Korean stuff a shot, but it just isn't the same as Chopin's Noctures, Vivaldi's Concerto's, or even Carlos Vives, my dearest Columbian.

This is why I'm getting stupider. I know it.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Take a look at THIS!: Itinerary for Academic Travel Spring 2012

This is "technically" referred to by FC students as The Magic Bus Tour part II because this is the second bus trip Professor Schlein takes in an Academic year, but this is the more famous one.

Keep in mind that what you are about to read will BOOGLE your minnnd! (is boogle a word?) All of this travel is done on a bus, meaning no trains nor planes will be used in the course of these two weeks.

March 11, Sun: Leave Lugano. Drive across northern IT to Slovenian capital, Ljubljana. Afternoon guided tour.

March 12, Mon: meeting with Slovenian economist/former gov't minister, slovenian prof of law. Drive to Croatia and capital, Zagreb.

March 13, Tue: tour or Zagreb. meetings with Croatian historian and an economist .

March 14, Wed: Depart to Belgrade, Serbia.
March 15, Thurs:  meeting at Mission to Serbia of the O.S.C.E , meeting with Serb experts on foreign policy and economy.

March 16, Fri: early morning drive to Bosnia and Herzegovina and capital Sarajevo, visit City Hall, meet with Deputy Mayor of Sarajevo

March 17, Sat: tour of Sarajevo, visit old Turkish bazar and where Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated.(I'm SO excited for this stop, thank you Mr. Bradley's sophomore year WWII history segment.)  meeting with a Bosnian prof and theater director for politics and culture.

March 18, Sun: depart to Neretva valley, visit old bridge of Mostar, continue down Adriatic coast, drive to Dubrovnik

March 19, Mon: tour of Dubrovnik, visit to University of Dubrovnik and meeting with professor

March 20, Tue: excursion to MONTENEGRO!! drive to Cetinje, Lovcen pass

March 21, Wed: Depart for Split, guided tour of Split, visit to palace of Roman Emperor Diocletian

March 22, Thurs: departure to Rijeka then to Postojna in Slovenia

March 23, Friday: visit/tour of world famous vaces of Postojna! then drive back through northern Italy to Lugano.....

arrive in early evening.

so it's much more acadmically focused than my Malta Academic Travel, but I get to go to 5 countries , all of which use different currencies ( I believe. I'm pretty sure Slovenia is the only one I listed that uses the euro...)

let me name the 5, just for kicks:

3.Bosnia and Herzgovina
not to mention new parts of northern

bahahahah, how did I find this place. I'M even jealous of myself right now. Wow it's getting late and I still have to walk down the hill. I guess I better get crackin

Break Time frum ma MidTerms

I had four classes today starting at 8:30am (Calculus, yeah!). That also included a group presentation in Marcoecon (I was the only one in my group who presented), frustrations with a Mac in my Communications course, and a mid term in Biology, not to mention the mid term I took in Calculus.

Right afterward I had an appointment with my calc professor--cool guy. Then I headed straight to the library, wrote a report on my presentation for output gap in Switzerland and the UK from 1600 til 2000, quick dinner, and now I'm here: taking a break from my Communications Audience analysis 6 page paper I have to do. I just got to the second page.....

Last Friday night, at like, midnight, I decided to apply for University of Lausanne! It has a language program for me to integrate in properly and learn French, not to mention it has a strong Economics and Russian program. Not to mention it's also SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper than University of Geneve. No, French isn't my beloved Spanish, but this is God taking me where He needs me. I'll do whatever it takes to keep me in Switzerland.

I sent the online portion in and I have most of the paperwork done, but I just saw today, gah, that I need to send in my CV. NO!~ my CV is SO far from being ready. I mean, I worked with the lady in the Writing Center on it but I have barely looked at the template since last week. Can't my beatuful American RESume suffice? please?...

So the group project I mentioned earlier. Yeah, I made the presentation, I found the graphs, I presented. I wanted this project to be solo and I got my wish. The first time I tried meeting with the two other group members, I waited for them for 45 minutes and neither of them showed up.

I. was. livid.

We didn't present because we ended up meeting the night before in their dorm building (15 minutes late) and they decided that this just was not possible.

Shoot me.

So for the sake of the group, I took a punch.

This morning, one of my group members was ill and the other couldn't find the graphs.

Okay I'm done with this. I can feel my temperature rising just writing this out.


On a happy note, the paper is turned in and the art museum by Lago Lugano reopens this Saturday. I'm going with my buddy from San Fran, Arnie!