No pasa nada

For those of you who do not speak Spanish, let me say that the title of this blog has come to be one of my favorite parts of the entire Spanish culture.  If I were to sum up Spain in three words…well, I guess I just did.  “No pasa nada” is more than just a phrase here in Spain, it is a way of life.  The simple translation is “no worries”.  What a way to live life, free from the self-imposed worry and stress that our hustle-and-bustle lives have created!  I think we can all agree that life moves fast enough on it’s own.  That

said, I don’t believe there is any need for us to continually inject it with the steroids of faster living and increased activities, nor stuff it’s mouth with the over-caffeinated energy pills of more obligations and “bigger and better plans for our lives”.  It’s an id

eology that I truly believe could save thousands of hairs from being pulled out of the heads of those stuck in a never ending limbo of hustle and bustle, noise and racket.

Now let me tell you how much I HAVEN’T applied this to my life lately.

Life has been crazy the past couple of weeks, and it doesn’t show any sign of slowing down any time soon.  Due dates, cultural excursions, and classes have completely saturated my schedule.  It’s as if I spilled a liter of insanity on my planner and now everything in my life is completely soaked!  Ay, I think I need some time to air out a bit (don’t worry, I ce

rtainly have not forgotten about Christmas break).  To save you the pain of wading through the mess of my scholastic life as of lately, allow me to leap over that part and skip to the fun parts:  Andalucia.  As you discovered in my last blog, I have fallen hopelessy and madly in love with Southern Spain.  My time in Sevilla was amazing, as I already told you, and my excursion with the study abroad group was equally if not more awesome!  We took a group of 150 people (the first and most likely the LAST time I will EVER travel in a grou

p that big) on a four day extravaganza down to the Souther province of Spain, Andalucia.  There we visited five amazing cities, in rapid succession.  Our first day took us to the city of Granada, home of the amazing architectural and historical landmark known as Alhambra.  Alhambra is an ancient Arabic medieval palace, the only one of its kind to have survived to this day.  It was once one of the richest cities in all of medieval Europe and was the parchment on which was written one of Spain’s deciding historical chapters.  I coul

d go on an on about the magic of this place, but I suppose the pictures will have to suffice.  After Granada, we went to Cordoba, home of one of the most beautiful pieces of Arabic architecture in all of Spain, Mezquita.  This ancient muslim mosque is filled with beautiful golden mosaics and countless rows of stone columns crowned with red and white horseshoe arches.  As my travel guide to Spain put it, it’s hard to exaggerate the beauty of this place.  After Cordoba, we made a quick day trip to the British province of Gibralt

ar.  Gibraltar is a fascinating place for so many reasons, the primary one being the monkeys.  Yes, monkeys.  380 to be exact, last time they counted.  The province is right at the tip of Africa and the only entrance to the Mediterannean from the Atlantic Ocean.  When we arrived, it was raining quite hard (I suppose it felt a bit like Britain), but t

hat didn’t stop us from enjoying the amazing bus tour around the city.  Except for the unpleasant exchange rate (they use the British pound), everything about Gibraltar was amazing.  Now I can say I’ve had a  monkey on my shoulder and that I could “just about touch Africa” (see picture below).  After Gibraltar, our caravan of foreigners traveled to the city of Cordoba, home of the Muslim mosque known as Mezquite.  After Cordoba, we went to Malaga and then Jael, arriving safely back in Valencia that Sunday night.  And

that’s the short version.

As I’m righting this blog I can hear the quiet dripping of the infrequent visitor to Val

encia known as “rain”.  The weather has been fairly good lately, with a few days of

rain but mostly sunny and cool, what one would expect from the Fall season in a Mediterranean climate.  In just two days I will be heading to Munich for a few days with a friend, where (prepare to be jealous) we’ll get to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers in c

oncert.  Yep, you read correctly.  I’m so looking forward to seeing a bit of German culture, checking out the open air markets in the city (which I’ve heard are amazi

ng, especially in Christmas time), and of course enjoying an ice cold German beer in Germany.  I’m not sure how yet, but I know that somehow I’ll manage to finish all of my work in spite of my galavanting around the world.

Well, I’m afraid that’s all the time I have for this edition.  You’ve been a wonderful audience!

And remember:  No pasa nada.

Jake

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‘Twas the Month Before Christmas…

Deadlines.  Cathedrals.  Gasoline.  Chicken Spinach Alfredo Pasta.  Christmas.  Being Sick.  Madre mia, there’s been a lot going on the past couple of weeks, and  I must admit it’s made me feel a bit like Charlie Sheen:  “I have one speed, I have one gear: Go!”  Somehow I’ve got to figure out how to gather up all of my scattered experiences and shove them all (in a creative and orderly fashion of course) into one post.  Why am I not getting paid for this….?

To begin with, last week I was privileged to travel to Seville, Spain with my friend Carter.  Thanks to RyanAir’s Mercedes quality and Wal-Mart price, we were able to go for next to nothing.  Seville is in the province of Andalucia, the southern most part of the country, and just a mere 40 minute flight from my lovely home base of Valencia.  The morning we left our prospects were not looking too good.  The drizzling rain seemed to foreshadow a cold and gloomy excursion down South, yet we surprisingly found ourselves in beaming rays of sun by the time we started out on our morning tour of the city.  The hostel we stayed at was amazing and gave two free daily walking tours of the city, both of which we attended on Thursday.  By the end of the second tour I felt like my knowledge and appreciation of Spanish history and culture had doubled in mass and I found myself breathless at the depth of what lay all around me.  The Catedral de Seville would have been worth the price of the entire trip alone.

The poor structure has been tossed and turned, twisted and flipped around so many times I’m sure it doesn’t even know what it is anymore.  It was originally built as a Christian cathedral on top of ancient Roman ruins (remember this fact), before the Moorish invasion.  After the Muslims took over the city, they decided that instead of tearing it down they would simply turn it into a mosque.  Hence the Arabic inscriptions and other architectural motifs.  However, what’s worth noting is the structural genius of the enormous tower (at the time of construction the tallest in the world).  When an earthquake shook the city after the Christians were again in power, most of the cathedral was destroyed, save the tower.  The reason?  Just as all modern day skyscraper foundations are built with absorptive capabilities (aka:  they jiggle and jive when the ground shakes), so the Roman ruins below acted as a shock absorber for the tower.  So thanks to Rome I was able to climb 150 ft. to the highest point in Seville to receive a miracle of a view of the city.  Breathtaking.  Some other quick interesting facts I digested:  Columbus left Spain from Seville, much of the Spanish Inquisition took place in Seville, Columbus might have been Jewish, and Napoleon wasn’t as short as people say he was.  There you have it.
Upon returning to Valencia in slightly less than perfect health, I threw myself back into my design project, working furiously from Sunday till Wednesday night, seemingly without stopping.  With other deadlines and test dates looming on the horizon, my academic activities have been rather full and fast-paced.  But fear not, for Christmas is near!  At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself to try to make it through my workload.  I know it’s really not that close but I just made my plans for the break and now my mind is unable to focus on anything but vacation!  (As if studying abroad isn’t a vacation in and of itself).  But as we are on the topic of Christmas (did I mention how excited I am about Christmas?), I am happy to share with you that I will be joining two friends on the most amazing journey of epic porportions to DUBLIN!!!  Oh green, celtic, sheep covered land, how I long to see you.  But before that we will meet up in Barcelona on Christmas day to celebrate for a few days, before commencing our post-Christmas plans.  And after that who knows?  Rome?  Paris?  Munich?  The world is at my fingertips (well, at least all of the world with a RyanAir connection).

Scaling it down a bit, I’ve had some great joys in many of the smaller things going on in my life as well.  This week I learned how to make chicken spinach alfredo pasta, of course with garlic mashed potatoes on the side.  Unfortunately it seems that no one here has even tased alfredo pasta, not even my Italian classmate.  Not even my friend ALFREDO!  But even if I am the only person in Spain to have ever tasted this dish, I will delight in every bite until the pot is bone dry.  Another major win for me has been finding clients for English lessons.  At this point I have two people, one whom I sit and listen to for a half hour, occasionally correcting and at times discussing work-related dialogue.  10 euros.  Bam.  Starting this Saturday I will begin to be paid for playing with two little niños for an hour and a half, speaking in English of course.  15 euros.  Shazam!  See, it’s easy to earn money while studying abroad in a foreign country!
I’m the type of person that needs a lot of alone time to reflect upon and process all of the information that I face.  Often times it’s while riding my bike next to the onion fields and irrigation channels on my way back to my flat, or as I am walking along the tiled sidewalks in the gleaming sunshine on my way back to my hostel.  Me, myself and I have many a good talk, and I often come away with a new perspective on some aspect of life.  This past week, as I was walking throughout Seville, admiring it for all it’s beauty, I walked past a group of construction workers at a job site.  As the sight of the dirty, sweaty men hit my eyes and the smell of diesel smoke from their machines entered my nostrils, it was as if I was briefly jolted back to some sense of reality which I have been living apart from for so long.  And I remembered then that the experiences I have been blessed to have lately, the travelling, exploring, sight-seeing, and sun-soaking, are incredibly precious and rare, so much so that I began to feel the guilt from having taken them for granted.  So while I am enjoying my stay on cloud nine, admiring the view from above of all the hardships and toils of the lives of the majority of the people below, I will work diligently to hold on to the threads of reality and not lose sight of how incredibly blessed I am.  I will remember of what real life smells, of onions and diesel smoke.

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Living from my Backpack!

Wow! Again- it’s been a long time.  A LOT has happened!  I met up with a friend of my brother’s friend (what a connection, I know) and had coffee with him.  We went on a hike from Sognsvann to Frognerseteren and made a pit stop at Ullevålseter, a cabin in the forest that serves hot chocolate, waffles, sandwiches, etc.  It’s mainly a big hub for cross-country skiers- I’ll be sure to make a trip there once the snow starts falling!

The following Thursday I began my big solo adventure to Belgium and The Netherlands.  I arrived in Brussels and easily found my hostel-  I toured the city a bit that day and ended it with a nice meal with fries (of course!) and a walk around the beautiful square with all the lights.  That night I met an English bloak who wanted to tour the same things as I the next day, so we spent the next day visiting a flea market,  the Atomium, the Palace of Justice,  and the Cantillion Brewery; which was a very unique brewery where they serve Gueze, a sourish beer that tastes……interesting.  But, it’s the only place in the entire world that they serve this beer, so I felt like I needed to experience it.

After much persuasion from family, friends, and folks and the hostel, I decided to go to Bruges. Oh man! What a gorgeous city, I’m so glad I decided to go.  The buildings were all in the old style, very well preserved. And there were probably 100 castles.  They had canals going through the whole city; it was like a cleaner, more old-fashioned Venice.  And what a pleasant surprise, there were some spectacular art exhibitions!  They had both a Picasso and a Salvador Dali exhibit going on, and they both were quite impressive.

The next day I set off to Amsterdam.  What a gorgeous city! I honestly wasn’t expecting it to be so nice, but I got off the train to see these beautiful buildings, canals, the sun shining, and friendly people!  I checked into my hostel- which was basically summer camp for grown-ups.  Equipped with a bar IN the hostel and plenty of comfy hang spots to sit down, relax, and meet some new people. I decided to forget all my sights and I wrote down and was planning to see and just took the city by storm.  I explored all around letting the canals guide me. J I stopped to eat a sandwich on some nice benches and an older Dutch gentleman sat down next to me.  After a while we started chatting, mostly about the birds that were trying their hardest to find some bread crumbs around the benches.  He knew that I spoke English, but I don’t think he quite realized that I didn’t understand Dutch- but, as I learned on this trip, laughter is the universal language.  Our conversation was mostly hand gestures, a mix of dutch-english-norwegian, and lots of laughter.

That night I met not one but 3 Americans!  I haven’t hung out with Americans in so long… we spent the night playing cards, going to dinner, and just chatting.  The next day my friend Peter whom I met in Bozeman while he was on an internship there came to visit me in Amsterdam (he only lives about an hour outside the city by train).  It was good to see a face from home!

The last day I spent walking around the city and meeting some more interesting people at the Hostel- it really did have everything you could possibly need, it was a great place to meet people.

I came back home to leave again in two days to Gøteborg, Sweden.  What a gorgeous city!  The buildings were beautiful and the atmosphere was pretty similar to Oslo- a big city, yet it had very cute little neighborhoods that make you feel all cozy inside.

On Monday I threw a Halloween party to show these Europeans how Americans celebrate Halloween- with costumes and candy and yummy food of course! It was a hit- especially the rice crispy treats!

Two days later I cooked dinner for my birthday (although, I cooked a pasta dish that my mom usually makes for me, and no matter how much I try…it’s never quite the same as she makes) and invited some friends over.  I got some nice gifts and of course great company.  Marie and Aisha got me a new troll for my collection- a little baby!  It was definitely the highlight and now my little troll family is complete!

This weekend I’m off to Bergen with Marie and Carolina- we will stay with some of Marie’s friends from Russia.  I’ve been quite the traveler- I feel like I’m in a constant pattern of packing then un-packing my backpack!

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Git’ er done

I have a confession to make: my life has been very normal the past couple of weeks.  Well, as normal as it can be given the fact I’m studying architecture in a foreign country all while enjoying the beautiful, sunny Fall weather.  When I say Fall, I mean cool breezes that make you want to breathe in as much air as your lungs can possibly handle and brightly colored crispy leaves on the sidewalk that provide endless entertainment when you ride your bike over them and the sun shining on your shoulders (though it is now slightly later in the morning and always goes to bed early).  Yeah, fall.  Remember that word fellow Montanans?  It’s been a long time since I’ve been privileged to enjoy this blessed quarter of the year, as Montana seems to have missed the memo that the autumn season should typically last more than one week.  All of this enjoyment has become my life’s training ground, a perfect opportunity to continue in my quest in learning to appreciate each and every moment that God so graciously gives me.  Thankfully I have had many of these moments lately.

Accomplishments:  I am now convinced that I am improving my Spanish.  Yes, at  times I did despair that I would never be able to understand this Latin language, and I feared I would be doomed to stare dumbly and mutter a quiet “Si, si” throughout all of my conversation.  Though my acting skills would certainly have improved, I can’t say that has ever been a goal of mine for my time here in Spain.  Rather, I have begun to be more comfortable in my conversations with native Spaniards.  I still laugh with them as I am sometimes forced to ask them several times to repeat their statement or question, yet the frequency of these moments is notably diminishing.  Just today two Spaniards asked me for directions in the school and I, beaming with pride and delight, confidently told them that the next staircase would indeed take them outside.  I’m certain they were awestruck with my ability to understand such an intricate request and then respond in such a clear and intelligent manner.

Work in Progress:  Oh salsa dance moves, why do you elude me?  My intention is certainly not to flatter myself, but I truly believe that I have some form of dancing ability.  Unfortunately I have not done a good job of demonstrating that to anyone at The Tucan Bar on Tuesday nights.  I went again a couple of nights ago, sure that my breakthrough in salsa dancing was looming upon the horizon, and that I would no longer fear that I would look down and find that I truly do have two left feet.  The horizon is a little wider than I anticipated.  I fear I must resort to practicing with youtube videos if I am ever to attain any level of comfort and ease out on the dance floor here.  Thankfully my desire to conquer the dance known as salsa outweighs my desire to keep my dignity.  As I think upon Montana, I must draw upon the inspiration of our great state’s motto:  Git’ er done.

In terms of my studies, my workload has certainly increased (to my fellow archies out there, it’s still nothing compared to MSU’s work load).  I am really enjoying my projects, which range from a wine store/cave exhibit to a comparative analysis of the city of Valencia with two cities in Colombia.  I’ve found myself forced to pick up some degree of study habits and self-discipline once again, which I know is truly best.  In less than one week I will be in the city of Sevilla with a friend, gazing upon the Alcazar, the palacio de Don Pedro, and numerous other amazing sights.  Sorry homework, but you can plan on being ignored for those three days.  I am beginning to adjust to the fact that promptness should almost never be expected, that one must be able to flow with the tide in order to best take advantage of the opportunity to learn in each class.

In my free time (not as much as I’d like lately) I’ve been enjoying reading The Heavenly Man, a book about a Chinese man who radically spread the message of Jesus Christ all over his country during a time of intense religious persecution.  And it’s in Spanish.  I’ve also been working on a drawing of a beautiful old monastery nearby that was converted into a library.  One more session and I should be near completion.  And of course I’ve been enjoying the company of friends on the weekends by hanging out, watching movies, doing beach evangelism, etc.

In summary, folks, life is good.  May I encourage you once again to stop and be reminded of the beauty which each moment holds in life for each and every one of us.  So go and try new things, ask hard questions, smell the flowers, and never wait to dive into the riches of life God has blessed us with.

Un Salud,

Jacobo

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Settled in :)

Yikes, it’s been a while since I’ve sat down and written anything down!  Salsa dancing went well, it was so much fun!  However, I underestimated how difficult it was going to be.  I looked up the basic steps beforehand, to get a basic understanding, but when I arrived everyone was whirling and twirling all over the place!  A few friendly guys showed me a bit, but I most of the time they would say I wasn’t letting them lead properly.  The following Thursday there was free entrance to a popular bar, so Maria and Carolina and I decided to check it out!  Given that late-night transportation isn’t great here in Oslo, we ended our night pretty early (which was fine, because I had classes in the morning).  Friday I met up with a friend and hung out with some Norwegians!  They were very nice with putting up with my poor Norwegian, but of course everyone speaks English so well here, it was no problem to communicate.  I found that I had to defend being from America quite a bit, which wasn’t a big deal, actually.  I would say I did our country proud with making sure they didn’t stereotype us, and of course being sure to have plenty of witty comebacks to prove we’re not all dumb and slow.  You’re welcome, ‘murica.

Any who,  for my art class we took a tour of Henrik Vigeland’s apartment as well as the Vigeland museum- it was amazing to see how they made all the statues for Vigeland’s park  (which we walked through afterwards).  Tomorrow for art class we’re going to have a city walk, which our professor will explain the significance of all the architectural differences/similarities throughout the city.  The weather has been cold, but sunny, so it’s perfect fall weather J

Last weekend was Oktoberfest at Chateau Neuf- the student pub in town.  They had the German-style tent with the long tables and of course costumes were encouraged.  I tasted the yummiest beer I have ever had (which doesn’t say much, because I’ve only drank cheap, college-kid beer); it was Jacobsen Rose Wit- a mix of hard cider and beer, delicious for those who aren’t too fond of the rich, dark beers.

Last night I attended my first Opera with a friend from my Norwegian course!  “Fruen fra Havet” (“Lady from the Sea”), and yes, it was in Norwegian!  Luckily, they had a text screen so we could read what they were singing; we were both pretty surprised at how much we understood.  We of course read the synopsis beforehand so we had an idea of what was going on, but it was fun to put our Norwegian skills to the test!  Tonight we are having BI-nner; a dinner put on my BI, the business school here.  Maria goes there, so I get to go too. J

Last week I booked my trip to Brussels and Amsterdam!  Most of my friends here are European, so they came to Norway to see Norway, not Europe.  So, I decided why let that stop me, I’ll just go solo!  I’ve messaged a few people on Couchsurfing, but no replies yet- which isn’t the end of the world, I will just have to book a hostel.  My first couchsurfing experience was this past weekend, actually.  On the site, you have the option to offer a couch or simply to meet up for a coffee or a drink.  And since I live in such a small space, I signed up to meet for coffee.  So, last weekend I received two messages requesting to meet for a coffee! They were both American guys who were passing through for the weekend.  I showed them around the city a little bit, pointing out the Opera House, the Nobel Peace Prize center, etc.  I felt like a real Norwegian!  Hopefully by the time my family comes in November, I’ll have the city down pat and be a total expert on where to go and what to see and everything in between!

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Liquid Language

Over the past month or so that I’ve been blogging, I’ve done my best to try to relate to you my experiences, my struggles, and my excitement while on my Journey of Spanish Awesomeness.  But sometimes, like this morning, I find myself in a place nearly too incredible for words.  As I was walking back to my flat from my French class this morning, basking in the glorious Mediterrannean sun while listening to Latino dance music, I felt so alive and free that I didn’t know if I could even begin to describe it in words.  However, I promise to you that I will do my very best to tune your senses to the highlights of my life lately here in Valencia.  Here goes…

On Sunday the province of Valencia celebrated el Dia de la Comunidad Valenciana, a festival that has something to do with the Moorish and Christian influence in Valencia as well as Valencia’s rich, unique heritage.  The streets were filled with men, women and children, all awaiting the fireworks to come.  Actually it was more like what you would expect to hear during World War III all packed into one city plaza and all in 5 minutes.  I think my eardrums are still resentful toward me because of what I put them through.  But it almost reminded me of the 4th of July (but not quite; we still win in the patriotic field).  Everywhere I looked the streets were filled with the red, yellow and blue colors of the Valencian flag, some new and crisp while others proudly showed the love and pride of many a year.  As in several other Spanish communities, the people of Valencia are fiercely protective of their individual heritage and culture that often goes unnoticed to many under the umbrella of the Spanish nation.

Tomorrow Spain celebrates el Dia de la Hispanitat, a celebration of Columbus’s discovery of the Americas (anyone looking for a reason to skip work or school, you need not look further).  So I plan to fill my class-free day tomorrow with a little extra sleep (which will be much needed after salsa dancing tonight), a visit to the incredible Biblioteca Valenciana, a cooking lesson in which I will learn how to make paella, and a friend’s birthday party to top it off.  If there’s one thing Spain knows how to do well, it’s celebrating.

My spanish language ability has steadily been improving, though not in the manner I had initially expected it to.  For some reason, I first had an image in my mind of what the process would be like.  It looked like a nice little container, like an oil tank, which would carry all of my “language liquid”.  The gauge in the front would accurately inform me of my current status, my progress, and when I could expect to be completely full to the brim.  The act of learning would be as simple as cracking open a quart of oil and steadily pouring it into the tank.  Unfortunately, this is not the case.  There is no clear gauge to give me a hard measurement of the amount of language improvement I have ingested, and there is no set capacity in which I will be completely learned in the Spanish language.  Instead, I have found that it is more like training for a marathon.  Every time I run, I still struggle and find myself fighting to the very end.  Sometimes, it seems never ending, but then i look back at my initial time and compare it to my current and I realize I have a new Personal Best!  And so I continue on in my training, knowing that every time I accidentally turn a “let’s hang out” into a “wanna hook up?” brings me that much closer to mastering the language.

A friend and I are making a trip to Seville, Spain at the beginning of next month, which I’m really looking forward to!  Seville is in Andalucia, southern Spain, which is where all of the traditional spanish culture resides.  I’m sure I’ll have plenty to write about after that.

Last week my design studio class took a field trip to our project site, a town called Requena.  Our project for the semester is to design a winery in an existing building.  But the cool part is that there’s a FREAKING CAVE BELOW!!!!  I can’t say I’ve ever designed in a cave, so this an awesome opportunity to expand my architectural horizons.

Well, class is calling now.  Get to go learn about how three rivers in Valencia and Columbia helped form the city.  As I leave, let me throw some wisdom your way:  Don’t wait for a world-class, high cost trip or adventure to make your life memorable.  Enjoy each moment and you’ll have a lifetime full of world-class experiences.  Hasta luego amigos.

Jacobo

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“Kaw-Kaw-Way-Tay”

I just reached the one month milestone in my epic study abroad journey three days ago, and I feel the need to take the time to reflect a little on both the latest events in my life as well as my thoughts on my experience until this point.

There is currently a 30 degree difference in the temperature between Valencia and Bozeman (that’s 30 degrees in my favor, fyi).  The nights are slightly less miserable and sticky and suffocating, which makes going to sleep so much easier.  But its so nice to know that I’ll most likely be able to go to the beach well into October.  I believe we had our first blizzard in Bozeman the first week of October last year.  I’m doing my best to immerse myself in Spanish culture and am loving it!  Last night I went to my second salsa dance lesson.  Every Tuesday night at 11:00 a club downtown gives free salsa lessons and my friends and I have taken advantage of the opportunity to have a great time for free.  I guess I failed to think of how hard it would be to learn a new dance being taught in a different language.  Thankfully, I have my trusty American friend Libby to explain the new vocab to me (as well as the moves which my feet are stubbornly resisting right now).  If I ever do get it down, I will look forward to passing it on to friends back in the States.

While I have been having so much fun experiencing all sorts of new and exciting things, I have certainly had a fair share of difficulties and struggles.  While I love the Spanish language and am working hard to improve my skills in the language, I’ve found myself struggling at times with the level of difficulty involved.  Despite my best efforts to listen and understand others while they speak, it has been and remains to be a great challenge to understand native speakers, particularly certain individuals.  I now understand the frustration and embarrassment of other foreign exchange students in the United States.  It can be quite an exhausting endeavor living in a society where one does not fully understand the local dialect, and when attempting to join in the circle of communication often draws blank stares or, even worse, laughs due to your humorous attempts to communicate with them.  It felt the same way last night while I clumsily tried to follow along with the salsa instructor, trying to process the different dialect, understand the words, and then send that information to my hands, hips and feet (there might be a short circuit between the hips and the feet because the feet have not been responding correctly).  Honestly it can become slightly overwhelming, and I can’t help but think how much I miss my home, my friends, my language, and my familiar things.

As these thoughts and emotions have been on my mind, I’ve had to decide how I will handle it all.  And I’ve come to this conclusion:  right now, I will enjoy the little things.  That’s right, the little things.  Instead of beating myself up for not better understanding Spanish, I will choose to smile with my friends as I clumsily try to speak their native tongue.  I will laugh at the ridiculousness of having to ask how to say “butt” in Spanish, and I will enjoy the scenery while I wander through the city streets completely and utterly lost.  I will work at creating new friendships with Spanish students instead of focusing on the complete and utter lack of organization and guidance involved in signing up for classes.  And I will not cease in searching for funny-sounding Spanish words like “cacahuete” (Kaw-Kaw-Way-Tay), the word for peanut (I was appalled to find out that Spain has never discovered the joy and deliciousness of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!  Neither has Australia for that matter, but that’s beside the point).  As I was riding my bike to campus this morning, I realized that I am officially 1/5 of the way through my adventure in Spain, and it made me realize how quickly my time will pass, and how I want to remember this period in my life.  I decided that I would prefer to remember it as a kaleidascope of enjoyable and life-changing experiences.  In a way it’s like a beautiful tile wall, where each tile is a memorable trip to Barcelona, salsa dance lesson, or first taste of horchata, while the mortar that connects each tile is the countless “little things” that occurred throughout the semester.  I’ve realized that those moments will make up a huge part of my experience here in Spain; its up to me what I choose to do with them.

Hasta luego my friends…

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Oslo Culture!

Fall has officially arrived here in Oslo.  The new season was made complete with a small cold I experienced for about a week or so.  Every year, like clockwork, I get a sore throat/runny nose/heavy head.  But, nothing a large amount of sleep and tea can’t fix!

It’s been an eventful past couple of weeks here in Oslo- a few weeks ago there was the Kulturnatt (culture night).  You could visit a lot of the museums and theaters free of charge and get a taste for what Oslo’s culture has to offer.  Speaking of tasting… there was also the Matstrief (food festival) the same weekend where a lot of Norwegian food places came to sample off their goodies.  There was a lot of fish and salami, mmmmhmm.

This past week there was the Elvelangs i fakkellys (River walk by torchlight).  You walked to the city center, following the river in town, stopping to view the various performances the city had organized.  There was ribbon dancers, singing, fire dancers, bell-piano performance, and so much more!  We unfortunately did not make it all the way to the end in time for the concert (but as far as I can gather, not many people did- too much cool stuff to stop and look at along the way!).  The walk was guided by candles along the way- the event was celebrating the autumn equinox.

The past two Sundays I’ve attended the Sunday night concert at Blå.  It’s jazz-fusion-oldies-whatever they feel like playing night.  Usually it’s a club, but on Sunday nights they put on a free performance.  So much fun!  I think this will have to be a Sunday night tradition.

Tonight I plan to go salsa dancing with a girl from my Norwegian course- she apparently is very into salsa dancing, and I have never been, so this will be a great learning experience!

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Classes have Started!!

Okay I’ve been a little bad about keeping up on my blog…..but I’m back. Classes have finally started up and I am now in the 3rd week of class.

I have to say it’s been an interesting couple of weeks. First I got to walk to school in what was left of hurricane Katina. Walking 2.5 miles to class (5 miles down & back) everyday is actually a good workout……except when you forget something back at the house, but when you have to walk 2.5 miles in 80mph winds not much fun.

I also registered with the Gardaí and got an immigration card…..took forever to find the place cause it was the opposite way the school was. Good part about it was it was close to my apartment. On the way back to my apartment I noticed an art store that was really close to my place. I went in and it was NOT an art store……it was like a Russian food mart. Not even kidding everything was in Russia and there was not a sketchbook, or paint brush in sight.

Class structure is very different from what I was use to at Northern. Firstly most of my classes are one 2-hour class once a week. There are 2 (History & Irish Language) that are twice a week. The set up for visiting students was interesting also. They allow you to try out classes for the first two weeks before registering for them to make sure that it will work for you. Which could be a double edge sword because most of the assignments are down via Blackboard (similar to Desire-2-Learn), and without technically being registered for the course you cannot get access to the lecture slides or readings. It all works out in the end anyway.

Registration day was on the 19th and while I was in line to turn in my registration form the fire alarm went off in the building so I had to go stand outside for another 20 minutes and then hand in my registration form. Another funny thing that happened this week was in my history lecture, halfway through the lecture the power went out in the lecture hall I was in. The teacher didn’t know what to do it was kind of funny.

Clubs and Societies also started up. I signed up for fencing (not Montana fencing, like sword fighting fencing) and I have to say I really enjoy it. Trainings are on Tuesdays & Fridays and I have to say they kick my butt and I’m tired when I head home. I also signed up for Equestrian, mostly because I’m missing my horses terribly. I think that you can take lessons or just go for a leisure ride, that hasn’t really got up and running yet.

I joined two societies also. I joined Drama just for fun. They had auditions for 1 semester plays on Wednesday. I also joined Film Society and I absolutely love it!! They do screenings of different movies sort of like a student theatre, but they also do workshops on making short films, documentary, cinematography, script writing etc. The first production meeting was on Wednesday at 9pm. Wednesday I was basically at the school from 10am-10pm and I was ready to come home.
I also went on another tour this time to Connemara & Cong which was completely different to the Cliffs of Moher tour I took a couple weeks ago. I’m still working on the Cliff pictures but I’ll put some more pictures up of the school and campus. And I’ll try the next couple days to put up pictures of Galway city.

Until next time.
Karlie Kafka

Pathway to the Marine center at the school.

There's a baby horse!!

View from outside the College Bar

The schooly gym....it's actually quite large on the inside.

Corrib River I cross walking the shorter way to class.

Main shopping street in Galway

A street performer. Every time someone put change in the bucket he'd change position.

One of the churches I pass going the long way to class

One of the main buildings at NUI Galway

Front entrance to the school

Birds on a stone wall

Dunguaire Castle

Flowers growing in the window.

Dunguaire Castle

Mr. Happy Horse - The horse I pass everyday on the way to class

Castle Ruins

Church Ruins

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Towers, Tigernuts and Insane Assylums

As my classes have not yet started, I have had large amounts of time to familiarize myself with the beautiful city of Valencia.  I find it amazing that Spain’s third largest city, and a beautiful one at that, is so unknown to many people, at least in the US.  There’s so much to see here, amazing architecture and art, historical sites, the Mediterranean Coast, etc.  I, personally, am fascinated about the history behind many of the ancient European cities.  To think that I live in a city that used to be a guarded fortress hundreds of years ago, surrounded by a river, complete with castle towers, knights on horses, Kings and Queens, the whole nine yards!  So to date, here are some of the most memorable things I’ve seen:

In case you didn’t already know, Valencia used to be a kingdom.  There’s actually a separate separate language spoken here called Valenciano (although almost no one speaks it anymore).  I’ve noticed that the Valencian flag seems to be more visible in the sky than the Spanish flag and the Valencian crest is everywhere, including the logo for Valencia’s futbol team (that’s “futbol”, or soccer, not “football”).  Throughout the city there are several “torres”, or towers, the last remains of the fortress that protected the city from attack. 

During the open hours, you can climb all the way to the top of the towers, where you’re rewarded with a breathtaking panorama of the cityscape.  It seems like everywhere you look a domed cathedral is poking up from below, the new is blended with the ancient, and you can’t help but be mesmerized.
A cultural immersion would not be complete without diving into the food category, and Valencia/Spain has plenty to dive into.  One of the most famous meals, first created in Valencia, is a delicious dish called Paella (pronounced “pie-ya”).  This delicious meal consists primarily of spanish rice, a wide assortment of vegetables including peppers, tomatoes, and beans, paprika and some sort of meat.  Traditionally, Valencian paella contains an assortment of sea food such as shrimp, mussels, and squid.  Suffice it to say your taste buds will have a fiesta when they first encounter this amazing food.  Another local favorite is the delicious icy dessert called “horchata”.  Horchata is an icy cold drink made from a plant known as chufa(tigernuts), milk, and sugar.  In fact, it’s so good that I was unable to resist the temptation to pour myself a glass for myself as I wrote this blog.  Now with my taste buds appeased, I’ll continue.  The other favorite food here in Spain is “jamon serrano”, a type of cured ham that is quite famous in Spain.  Jamon serrano gets its delicious taste from its long cure time, typically a year, it has a deep, rich taste and firm texture.  It can be served in thin slices on tapas (small sandwiches) or in chunks for soups.  Don’t be surprised by it’s uncooked appearance.  It’s long cure time actually makes it healthier and less fatty than normal ham.

As an architecture student, the surround buildings are often the first thing I notice when touring a site.  One of the beautiful things about Valencia is it’s mix of ancient and modern architecture.  Valencia is known as being the birthplace for world-renown architect Santiago Calatrava (a personal favorite of mine).  His work is incredibly complex, and at times seems to defy the very laws of physics.  One of the highlights of Valencia is its Museum of Arts and Sciences, designed by Calatrava himself.

Palau de les Arts and L’Oceanografic

TThe set of buildings were incredibly difficult to design and even more difficult to construct. While the surface of the Palau de les Arts may appear to be smooth and seamless, it is actually composed of small, individual tiles that sparkle and shimmer in the ssunlight when you stand close.  At night on the weekends, the buildings are illuminated from the outside and take on a completely different feel, filling the atmosphere with an energetic and pulsating vibrance that draws large amounts of people to the very popular club next to the buildings known as Umbracle (sounds like “mmmm, broccoli”).  Loud music, colorful lights, and the vast crowds make it a completely different place on the weekend nights.

Just yesterday I visited the city’s public library, a more than 600 year old building that was converted into a library 30 years ago.  The library was originally built in 1409 as a response to the large amounts of mentally ill people throughout the city that were without any form of help or assistance.  It was, in fact, Europe’s very first insane assylum (yeah Valencia!).  On the exterior it appears to be a simple, stucco building from long ago.  But on the inside it is a beautiful, well-lit space with well-kept Renaissance architecture combined with a modern touch. 

There’s been so much to see, taste, and experience.  I still haven’t fully grasped the fact that this metropolis of incredible sights and wonders will be my home for the next five months!  I hope I never grow tired or accustomed to what is here, but continue to let it excite and inspire me.  Until next time, my friends.

“Jacobo”

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