Saturday, December 30, 2017

Week 22: Dec. 25th-28th (London)

The Final Chapter...

Well, you might be wondering why I jumped from week 16 to week 22 and that's because it has been 22 weeks that I've been abroad. 17 represented how many weeks I spent in Sevilla. But for the final chapter, I thought it was only fair to include every week I have been in Europe. It has been almost exactly five day short. I left July 29th and am returning December 28th. 

So, I am on my way home now--currently on the airplane over the USA, not quite yet to Charlotte. I am counting down the hours until I land at DIA. That's when I'll really feel like I'm at home. DIA has always been my favorite airport but hey, I'm biased. All right, so here's what happened this final week...

Christmas Day...I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas!! Ours (mom, dad, me) was uneventful. We knew most things would be closed on Christmas Day so we had bought potatoes and eggs and juice the night before to have for breakfast in the morning. It still cracks me up that people think that eggs are for dinner instead of breakfast... Seriously, most of Europe only eats a piece of toast and butter with coffee for breakfast or something super duper small like that. If they have eggs/bacon/sausage/potatoes/etc. it is definitely called the "American Breakfast" on the menu. During breakfast, we watched a movie all snuggled in on the couch together. We tried to find a Christmas movie but we had already watched all the good ones (that we had access to) and so we had a couple of failed attempts before settling for a love story that was not Christmasy. It was good but sad though, so then we watched another movie afterward to cheer us up. The wind was blowing and the clouds were dark so we felt better about being inside rather than trying to venture out. Since we stayed a ways outside of London in Greenwich, there wasn't much to do or places to go that we wanted to walk to and taking the metro required effort and we didn't even know if it was open. Christmas Day is an excuse to be lazy, right? I figured if I would have been at my Grandma's house (which is where we normally are on Christmas)--we would have just been stuffing our faces and doing nothing (in the best way possible). I did miss playing games and spending Christmas Day with the family and I especially missed the food. For our Christmas dinner in London, we went to look for a restaurant and ended up finding only a couple places open which was an American grill and this Lebanese place or something. We didn't want to be boring so we tried the Lebanese place (if that's even what it was) and it was...interesting. There was no flavor to the food really and when I asked about what was gluten-free, our waitress didn't even know what gluten or flour or wheat was. We figured she must not have spoken English very well. That was pretty much our Christmas Day.

Tuesday...we had looked up the weather and it was set to rain in the afternoon so we decided to go out early and try to be back by mid-afternoon. So, Google Maps is my very best friend and my life-line. You'll understand later why I said that. So my data expired on this day because I didn't want to renew it for only two more days and both my parents had plenty of data (or so they thought). My dad did well with the bus system and our Apple Pay and we got more downtown by the Shard, which is a famous really tall building in London. Fun fact, it is the tallest building in the European Union. So we saw that and then realized we were hungry for breakfast and found this adorable cafe. I got hot chocolate, fresh orange juice, and an American breakfast with bacon, mushrooms, eggs, gluten-free toast, and tomatoes. It was yummy, yummy. After that, we walked through the Christmas market along the river and for some reason I was shivering. I was chilled to the bone. But I really was liking London. We went to London Bridge and then decided we should take the metro to the other part of town where all the big attractions are: Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, etc. Well this is when we discovered that my parents' phones wouldn't work. We had to "steal" Starbucks wifi for 30 seconds just so I could figure out how to navigate us downtown. We figured it out but were very confused why my parents had no service and realized we would have to be resourceful. We made our way to this huge mall that my parents had gone to the first time they were in London. They wanted to show me the pretty Christmas lights and then a delicious crepe place that had gluten-free crepes as well. I had a mouth-watering buckwheat (gluten-free!) crepe filled with Belgian chocolate and bananas. It took forever for us to get them because it was so busy but it was worth the wait--the crepe was so good and filling. We then went to Buckingham Palace--took our picture of course--and then to Westminster Abbey, the Parliament buildings, this private school that looked like Hogwarts where amazing people attended (like Picasso I think but I could be making that up), and then took an amazing picture with Big Ben. That last statement is sarcastic because Big Ben is currently under construction for the next 3-4 years and it is very boring with all the scaffolds around it. Oh and then we also saw the Eye (Ferris Wheel) and the lit up building next to it (The Main County building or something) with Christmas colors. We accomplished all of that by 4:30pm and then realized we were ready to go back but had absolutely no idea how to get back. We were trying to use my parents' phones again and they weren't working so we thought we were stuck there forever. We seriously had no idea what to do... there's no just reading a map in London. There are way too many metro lines. It's too complicated. I finally tried my data and got enough "juice" to get us back home on a bus. I got to ride a double decker bus on the top level!!! Did you even go to London if you can't say that? 

Wednesday...well if you remember back to my blog about Albuferia or if you happened to read about when I was in Portugal, you might remember that I met a whole bunch of guys from England. Well, one of them, Byron, and I have kept in touch and we had set up a date to meet in London, the 27th of December (aka Wednesday). So, my parents and I had tried to problem solve the data and decided to go into the store the next day because of our need for Google Maps. I told you it was our life-line. And we needed to be able to communicate since I wouldn't be with my parents that day. I brought up the Google Map plan before we left and took us right downtown to the store where we figured out the issue--the first time, the company had gave my parents the wrong sim to begin with blah blah--all technical, frustrating things. Well, we ended up getting the right sims to last us for a day--yipee. And it was worth it. So, I had originally told Byron we would have to meet the "old-fashioned way" since I didn't have data so our meeting spot was the Victoria Memorial in front of the Buckingham palace. I thought that would be easy enough. Well, of course it was raining and freezing and, on top of that, right as we were set to meet, the palace was doing the "guard change" so the roads were all closed off and he was in the middle and I was on one of the roads and couldn't get to him. But it was cool to see the changing of the guards, although by the time I realized it was happening, the guards had already walked past me and I didn't get to take a picture. Oh well. I finally was able to cross and meet up with Byron. Okay so we definitely got our steps in for the day. We started by walking to a 'Pret a Manger' (a coffee shop) because they are seriously everywhere and I wanted to say I went at least once. We got a warm drink to warm our hands up. Then, we just chatted for a good while so I could just listen to his accent and then I shared with him all my British words I had come across to see if he actually used them. My favorite was wellies. When he first saw me, one of his first comments were on my bright "wellies" but I literally had no idea what he said. He pointed to my boots and I go, "Oh! My rain-boots?!" And he got a good kick out of that. He thinks Americans are so literal. Rain-boots are literally what they are and same with the side-walk. They call it "pavement" or "footpath" and he thinks "side-walk" is literal. I think British English is literal. Their exit sign says "Way Out." Any who, after we were warm (or as warm as I could be), I told him I had wanted to see the Harry Potter store and the Platform 9 3/4. We metroed (is that a word?)...took a metro there (better) and got jammed into a crowd. There was a massive line to, as Byron said, "Take a photo where you are pretending to push a cart into the wall." The "queue" (or line) was over an hour wait to take a photo and to go into the store. We decided we weren't that big of Harry Potter fans and so we next decided to go to the National History Museum. When we got there, there was a long queue there too... Wednesday after Christmas is apparently a busy day. But there was this pretty ice rink there and we had talked about going ice skating originally but I had thought it was going to be too cold. However, we did great. He said he was bad but he was actually really good! It was a highlight of the day. After, he wanted to show me this store called Harrolds which is sorta like Corte Ingles in Spain or IKEA or Macy's or something. It is a really fancy store with six levels that has a ton of fancy stuff that college students can't afford. It was so amazing and fun to walk through though. It was a mall in itself. Then, we went to Piccadilly which is similar to New York Square but so much smaller. Then, we decided to walk towards "The Winter Wonderland" at Hyde Park and we passed by so many Christmasy streets and that was a great time too. Like I said, we got our steps in...but it was good to walk and keep moving so we stayed warm. The Winter Wonderland was super cool. It was like walking into a Christmas festival. We walked around and then it was already 6pm and we needed to get dinner before his coach left that night. We found this cute restaurant and enjoyed dinner together and then he headed back to his city and I headed back to meet my parents. We had a lot of fun and he is super kind! I can say I went on a date with a British man in London. It was pretty special and probably a once in a lifetime opportunity...unless I move to London because I do like the city and the accents...they just talk so proper and I found myself talking proper with Byron just because it flowed better. I was proud of myself for not being the American that said "like" every other sentence. At least he said he didn't notice me saying like a lot. But then I also did realize that British people aren't always the nicest. There were quite a few angry people amongst the crowds throughout the day...London just needs more kind souls like Byron. But see maybe that means people outside of downtown London are nicer... who knows?

Well after my date, I took a bus home and then my parents were supposed to meet me but couldn't because the police had blocked off the entire street for a "crime scene." I walked right past it and I think what happened was a pedestrian was hit... scary stuff. I finally caught up to my parents and we went to this restaurant on the corner of the street that was literally a five minute walk or less from our place. My dad had the best salmon and of his life and my mom and I got butternut squash soup. It was so tasty. Then, we went home and packed up because the plan was to stay up all night and leave at 2:30am to get to the airport by 3:30am because my parent's flight was at 6:30am or something like that. Mine wasn't until 9:45am--and no, we weren't on the same flight since I booked mine for abroad way in advance... in case you were wondering. We were gonna watch a movie to stay up but our plan failed and both mom and I ended up taking naps before leaving because we were so exhausted. At least I figured I would sleep on the flight. The next plan that failed was my parents and my plan to go through check-in, security, and customs together and then separate at the gates... but that didn't happen because our flights were in completely different terminals so I got dropped off at 3:30am all by myself in terminal three. There was hardly anybody even there so I think I did sleep a few winks and then checked in at 5:45am. But then there was confusion because one person sent me to one line and then the other sent me to another and then I had to go in the back of the line and ahh, it was so stressful. I hit that point where I was just absolutely done with travel. I was so happy this was my final trip for awhile. I just wanted to be home. It got a little better after that... security was easy and then there were comfortable spots to wait and a coffee shop called Caffé Nero, which is an Italian coffee shop. Side note, out of all the countries I visited, my favorite coffee was in Italy. This coffee shop just further proved that because I had the best chai of my life. Yes, I know it isn't coffee but still. I also got a gluten-free sandwich to eat on the plane because supposedly they weren't going to feed us during the eight and a half hour flight. I found out right before I boarded that they actually do serve food but you have to tell them about food allergies 72 hours in advance. We had tried but couldn't figure it out...but I had come prepared this time. I learned my lesson the first time (on the way to Europe where I missed my flight, had to switch airlines, and then they yelled at me for not pre-ordering gluten-free even though that wasn't even my original flight). 

Well, it is true they fed us several times but I could only eat the salad...but I was also served a hefty glass of wine so that was nice. And I was thankful I had my sandwich and a bar although--strange thing--only about an hour after the flight left, my stomach started to get a really sharp pain. I tried sleeping through it, but was in and out of sleep and then I finally decided to watch a movie called 'Everything.' 

I am now about 30 minutes away from landing in the US, which means it will be the first time I've touched foot in America since July!!! And I did it!! I completed my goal... I made it to 10 different countries. And who knows how many cities... I'll have to count them all soon before I forget.

I am very excited and a little overwhelmed. I will be starting classes in six days from now....but I can't think about that right now. I am just going to focus on being home and enjoying the New Year!!! Happy New Year friends and family. I wish you all the best. Thank you for reading my blogs... I have enjoyed writing them to keep track of my adventures. There has been so much that has happened and so much has changed and I feel like more change is right around the corner. 

Study abroad is an amazing opportunity and one I would encourage any and everyone to do. I honestly feel like there is no way to describe it in words... even the best authors in the world would have trouble finding a way to make someone who has not studied abroad understand. It is one of those things you have to experience for yourself and I am so glad I have. It has broadened my world view more than I could have ever imagined. I will now forever live by this quote that my dear professor Rubén shared with the class. It's by Ludwig Wittgenstein and it says, "The limits of your language are the limits of your world." What better way to broaden the "limits of your language" than to learn a whole new language and culture and live in Spain for five months? And now, my goal is to not stop there. That might not mean learning French or German, but it does mean to be aware of how I can expand even my own language, which is English (I think...hehe). Well--this might be the final chapter of my study abroad, but it is not the final book. I know that for sure. Hasta luego Europa... gracias por todo. 

My British date!

This is the luggage we lugged up and down stairs and on trains... I was SO sore the next day. 
Reppin' "Stanton" in London

Tower Bridge..but I kept singing "London bridges falling down"

Westminister Abbey!

Hogwart-looking school where famous people attended

The amazing Big Ben picture!!!!

London Eye

Harry Potter Platform--I can still say I went...

National History Museum!

Ice skating!

Pretty streets!

More pretty streets!

Winter Wonderland!!!!


Amazing chai!!!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Week 16: Dec. 18th-24th (Prague, Czech Republic)

(Pictures below!!)

Well mates, it is Christmas Eve and I want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas!! I am in London right now--or technically Greenwich--and I am exhausted. However, it has been a great week and I am so thankful for the time with my parents.

Monday... well I had a final at 9am in the morning yet I stayed up FaceTiming my parents until 1am and then studying until 3:30am. Then, I went to take it the next morning and finished it in less than half an hour and then had a plan to meet my parents at one of the stations in downtown Sevilla. Well, I got there super fast and tracked my parents on Find Friends and decided to surprise them and meet them halfway down the Avenue. I was walking on the sidewalk right by the cathedral when I spotted them... I knew they didn't expect to see me there and they were on the other side, too, so they were far enough away...I doubted they would see me. When I was almost directly across from them, I sprinted across the road and ran into their arms. It was a glorious moment. #moviemoment and I never wanted to let go. After some tears were shed and love was spread all around, we went to the neighborhood where I lived and had some classic Spanish breakfast--a toastada thing with a drink. I'd never eaten out for breakfast and I didn't get anything, but I guess this cafe was pretty good. but not the best Spain had to offer. However, it was a very local place and the camarero (waiter) came up to us and, when I asked for menus, he said he was the menu so I had to do the translating for my parents. Then, he did the bill all in Spanish without any paper or anything, as well, so it was a great chance for me to show my parents how much Spanish I had learned. We then went to my apartment where I showed them around and then told them I hadn't packed yet. So we proceeded to spend the next few hours packing all my stuff and trying to make sure my bags weren't going to be too big or too heavy. Why are bags so restricting? There's just too many rules... well we finally were getting close to finish around 4:30pm and we were all starving. We were going to go to a cafe and get some food but, of course, it was right during siesta time and everything was closed. I had never experienced that firsthand, so it was strange, but I told them we would do what Spanish Kellie did all the time and go to the supermercado and get meat and cheese and olives and lentils and go back to the apartment and eat there. It worked out because I got to say bye to my friend, Miguel, at the Jamon supermercado, and I even took a photo with him. And then he gave me a gift of chocolates as we said goodbye. That night, I was going to go back to the Airbnb with my parents but decided I wanted to have one last dinner with my host family so I could give them their gifts and say a proper goodbye. I sent my parents in a taxi back to their place with my luggage and then Carly and I had one more night together of sitting in our comfy beds and then going to dinner. It was really hard to say goodbye to my host parents, but they loved their Christmas gifts and we had a great host mom is such a good cook. Then, I hopped on the bus and met my parents at the mushroom, which is a famous attraction in Sevilla so they could see it and we could walk around for a bit. They got to experience the culture of the Spaniards being out even late at night and even on a Monday night. We stayed in a really cool neighborhood that was lit up with Christmas lights. I loved our Airbnb--it was chilly like all Spanish houses, but it was modern and had nice accommodations. 

Tuesday...we did so much walking. We only had one more day in Sevilla so I had to show my parents everything and we had to do it the Spanish way, which is walking. Also, because the metro doesn't really take you many places as far as touristy places go. So first, we walked to a breakfast place and had 'tortilla de patata' which is a Spanish egg/potato omelet and some coffee. The sun was out and we just soaked in the sun and it was glorious. We then found this maze of colored mirrors and played like little kids in it and took some photos. After, we meandered our way downtown where we were on a mission to buy a duffel bag or small suitcase as an overflow for extra things that didn't fit in our luggage. Mom found a very Spaniard, very cute duffel bag. After, we got some ice cream--which was yummy despite the somewhat chilly weather. After downtown, we walked through some Christmas markets in Plaza Nueva/Plaza San Francisco and then wandered down to the Santa Cruz neighborhood. There are a bunch of cool shops and streets behind the cathedral and it's away from the main tourist Avenue. We thought about going into Alcazar but I gave my parents a choice between exploring Alcazar, which is based on Game of Thrones and none of us are into, or going to a rooftop bar, which is a hidden gem I had stumbled across. I had wanted them to try 'Tinto de Verano' so they decided to go to the rooftop bar and this was actually my mom's favorite part of Sevilla. The sun was beautiful and shining right on us and we sat up there with our Tinto de Verano (Summer Wine is the direct translation for that... it's a mix of wine and Fanta soda) and cheese and bread and just enjoyed the view of the cathedral and chatted. It wasn't busy--it really had never been in the three times I'd been there. It was just perfect. After, we made our way to Plaza de España, which is a must-go for anyone visiting Spain. It is a beautiful park with a beautiful building that you couldn't capture in a photo even if you wanted to. It's too long of a building and a panoramic photo doesn't do it justice. Fun fact, a glimpse of it is seen in one of the Star Wars movies. The third one, I believe. So, as we were there walking around and taking pictures of the fountain, I remembered that I had forgotten to stop by the ISA office to pick up a certificate. Luckily it was only a ten minute walk so my parents got to see that part of my life as well since I did tutoring at the ISA office every week. I ran into quite a few friends downtown and really all over the city, which was fun. After the park, my parents and I walked all the way back to Triana on the complete other side of the city, which is the neighborhood most of my friends lived in. We met my friend Mary Jo there so she could meet my parents and then we walked along the river so we could look at the houses in Triana. After we walked down the main street in Triana, we decided to sit at a bench and rest and people-watch. We had done about 21,000 steps at this point. I was going to meet up with a group of friends to say goodbye to them and then head to a farewell dinner at a hotel and so my parents went on their own and I met up with my friends at a tapa bar. We got drinks and a couple tapas and said our highs and lows of the semester. I was so thankful for the group of girlfriends I had made... they mean so much to me and it broke my heart to leave them. But "hasta luego" (see you later) is how I said "goodbye" because I know I'll see them again someday. We ended up paying our bill with all our coins that we wanted to get rid of. Our waiter was not super pleased but he was understanding, which was nice. Carly and I walked to the farewell dinner together since no one else wanted to go that far. It was about a 40 minute walk... just more steps for the day. The best part of the farewell dinner was the walk and chatting with Carly and spending one more evening with her. The actual dinner seemed awkward and I only went to say goodbye to Rubén and Lola, my tutor from UPO, and say bye to two friends. Well, my two friends never showed up and my goodbye with Rubén was super awkward... like all of our encounters. But it was an unfortunate goodbye in my opinion, but I at least got a picture with Lola and got to say bye to Tamara who was one of our main program directors from ISA. Carly and I were also late to the party and so we only stayed for about a half an hour because it ended quite soon after we arrived. It just was kinda pointless overall, but oh well. After, I said my final goodbye to Carly in Spain and then was going to take a taxi home because I was just too exhausted to walk another 50 minutes home. But then I remembered I still had to use up the money on my metro card and I could take a bus to a stop that was five minutes away from our Airbnb. I wasn't sure if I had enough money because I had used it with my parents the day before. Well the bus showed up within the next five minutes and I swiped my card and it beeped--.05 cents left on it. How much more perfect could that have been?! It's the little things in life that make me happy.

Wednesday... today was a travel day. We left for the airport in the morning and took a taxi. The taxi driver and I had a good conversation in Spanish and he was super nice. Then, we got to the airport and checked in our bags and Vueling (the airline) said we had three free bags we could check-in on top of our two already paid-for checked bags. We decided the less luggage, the better... because we had a layover in Barcelona for 45 minutes and didn't want to be running through the airport with it. We checked everything except my backpack and my mom's duffel bag. We were going to have a nice Spanish meal in the airport, except Sevilla has nothing to offer in that area. The airport is kind of a joke. Security was a breeze--as always--but then we had to settle for seven euro salads that weren't even super great. We finally made it on the plane and headed on our way to Barcelona. The flight was easy enough but then, when we landed, we realized that we only had 15 minutes before our next gate closed and it was quite a ways away from the one we flew into. So we were running through the airport, with everyone else that was on the same connecting flight as well. We were thankful we didn't have much luggage. We made it no problem, but they were already boarding once we got there. We got on the flight and headed to Prague. It was about 9pm when we landed in Prague and we were ready to crash. We landed and waited for our luggage except it never came... Oh no...we had a feeling it didn't make the quick layover. We filed a report where they told us we should get it the next day. We then had the choice to take a bus, metro, then tram to our place or just a taxi. However it was a 30 minute or so taxi drive but that's what we ended up doing because we were much later than we originally planned to be. We made it though and the lady who checked us in was so nice and her place was so adorable. It looked very newly remodeled and was super nice. The heat came through the floor--a feature very much needed in Spain. We were bummed we didn't have any of our stuff but we figured we would make due for one night. We were starving since all we had eaten that day was our overpriced salads at the airport, but it was almost 11pm and we didn't know the city so we just decided to go to bed. 

Thursday... my dad and I had found a cafe that we wanted to go that had some yummy breakfast options. It was not a far walk from our place either. We started out around noon. We had a slow start...what can I say? I didn't realized Prague was hilly but we climbed a pretty big hill and trekked through a park and then, voila, we were at the cafe. It was sorta underground and it was warm and quiet. Mom and I had chai tea and dad had hot chocolate. The drinks were delicious! We then ordered an egg and meat breakfast and it was the first "real" breakfast I had had in almost five months. It tasted real good, although the sausage tasted a little strange. We sat there for quite some time and then went exploring. We ended up walking downtown which was a 40 minute walk or so but came across this market place in the middle of the streets with food and drinks. It was a Christmas market. There was hot wine and Trdelniks all over the place. My parents got a Trdelnik, which if you are wondering what the heck I'm saying (writing), it's a famous pastry in Prague that is like a cinnamon roll in a round shape. I'll post pictures below. I got hot wine since I couldn't eat the pastry... my mom thought the man who was selling them was cute and I admit he wasn't bad looking. It was pretty chilly but we continued to walk around because we were determined to find Old Town Square. We came across a couple more Christmas markets but then walked into this Plaza with this beautiful cathedral and then--BAM--a gigantic Christmas tree with a ton of markets and Christmas music and more Christmas-y stuff. We took our pictures and enjoyed walking around. After, we made our way to the Prague castle. It is up on a hill so it was more climbing but it was like a little town with the church and castle in it. It was great to go at night because there weren't that many people that were there. We enjoyed the lit up church and the cute little town that was endless. It would take hours to explore the whole thing. We figured out the tram on our way home (even though it took us awhile) and took it back to a place near where we lived. We stopped at this Oysteria restaurant and, although it wasn't quite what we expected, it ended up being pretty delicious. We had chosen it because TripAdvisor said it had a lot of gluten-free options, but the waiter ended up saying they didn't have many gluten free things and the menu was also on the board and written in Czech so it was hard for us to understand or decipher what was happening or what to get. Our waiter was really kind though and wrote down some things that I could have. I ended up getting this turkey meat with potatoes and vegetables, my mom got a Mediterranean salad and my dad got some kind of pasta. My meal was so good... the sauce that was on it was heavenly. I was a very happy camper and was pleasantly surprised. After that, we went back home in hopes of getting our luggage, but to no avail. The website said "Finding Luggage" or something like that--which did not sound good. It had already been 24 hours.

Friday... we had found this gluten free cafe place where they said they could fix gluten-free pancakes and crepes which sounded amazing to me so we headed straight there in the morning. We had a slow start again and it was about 1pm before we got there. My dad was trying to get our luggage found and was trying to make phone calls. He was supposed to have service because he had paid for a plan in London, but he was not having any luck. We finally said to send them an email since we knew that would go through and we had to continue about our day. Day 3 without luggage--that was not a good thing. Especially since we literally had nothing. My mom and I switched sweaters this day since we had worn the same outfit two days in a row. We were starting to get real creative. Well, the food at the cafe was INCREDIBLE. I can't even begin to explain to you--my mom and I got coffee to start and my dad got hot chocolate. We all agreed we liked the drinks at the first cafe better, but the food..... oh my good.ness. (That's pronounced: good-ness with a pause between the two words.) We split a breakfast plate with bread, eggs, bacon, sausage, and a salad and then split a plate of gluten free cinnamon pancakes, maple syrup pancakes, and crepes with strawberry marmalade inside. MMMMMM. If you weren't hungry before, I bet you're drooling now. We gobbled every bit of that up. We decided to go back to our Airbnb after that to wait for our luggage. We ended up just lounging around and watching a movie. We had a great set-up at our place. In my parents' room was a flat screen tv and I had my computer and HDMI cord so we watched Christmas movies or some kind of movie every single night. It was a big bed that we all snuggled together on, too. We finally got our luggage at about 6pm that night and then went out to dinner after to celebrate...and just to eat dinner. My dad called to make a reservation and it didn't go through again so my mom and I finally decided to help him because we figured he was doing something wrong. He was typing in the international codes and area codes wrong. He thought the airline numbers he had been given were faulty or even just "busy" lines and he had tried calling them for hours that morning... we won't speak of all the wasted time. At least I got to sleep in... but we finally helped him figure it out! Even though it's near the end of the trip now... Anyway, we went close by to this pub/Italian type of restaurant. It had really yummy food, as well! We stuffed ourselves... we got hot wine (by accident). I ordered regular wine I thought, but we ended up with hot wine, which was good, expect my parents never drink so my mama was pretty goofy. We all had some kind of pork but I had grilled pork stuffed with mozzarella and dried red peppers. It was sooooo good. Again, the sauce made it so heavenly... We had a good time just sitting there and talking and enjoying everyone and everything around us. My mom noticed they play English music no matter where we are. We were right by a heater and then, after drinking some hot wine, I was roasting. But then, you go outside and cool right off... it was quite cold in Prague. 

Saturday, we made it downtown again but this time we figured out how to get 24-hour passes and used the tram to take us downtown. We went to go see the dancing house (an attraction) which was pretty cool, but nothing super exciting. Then, we walked across a bridge that we thought was the famous Charles bridge so we were taking photos of it and everything when we finally realized that it  was not the Charles bridge. Whoops. So we walked through the park towards the real Charles bridge and then came to the Lennon wall, which is famous in Prague as well. We took our one photo of it and then came across this incredible very Christmas-y decorated restaurant and decided to eat there. I'll post pictures... there is no way I could describe it well enough. The waiters were wearing Santa hats and there was Christmas music playing. It was cozy and there were lights and ornaments hanging all around with a snowman lantern, a sleigh, and poinsettias too. There were Christmas cups around and it was just wonderful... it was my kind of restaurant. Our waiter was a little on the grumpy side or appeared so and I wanted to call him the Grinch but I didn't know if that'd be appropriate in a different country... Mom ordered the best apple cider of her life that tasted like an apple strudel dessert. I had a winter wine drink that was hot wine with cranberries and raisins in it and dad had hot chocolate with homemade whipped cream. Then for food, dad and mom both had goulash (beef) with dumplings and potato pancakes. I had mushroom risotto that was quite tasty. After, we walked across the actual Charles bridge and took some pictures and just enjoyed all that was around us. I love exploring the city and walking around downtown and coming across all these fun places by accident. I like not having google maps out with a specific place to go all the time. We were walking towards Old Square...or at least that was the goal, but the streets are so all over the place and they don't make sense so it is easy to get lost. Well, I was craving a gluten-free pastry and I was looking all over for a good place to go and we were standing outside this cafe. I finally looked up and inside the door in the glass cabinet was a pastry labeled "Gluten-free." It was literally right in front of my face! It was a chocolate cherry brownie so I got that to-go or as they say here in Europe "as take-away." Mom wanted another Trdelnik and dad wanted some yummy hot chocolate or something. We finally made our way to old town square again which was cool to see in the daylight. Dad got a chocolate crepe and mom was going to get her Trdelnik but decided she liked the ones from two days ago better. I personally think she was hoping the same guy would be there to serve them, but she said they made theirs different there--more round or something like that. ;) So we made our way to that square and as we came across it, there was a group of carolers in front of the Christmas markets. But these were not any ordinary carolers. They were a group from a church called International Church of Prague and they had a screen for words all put up and were singing Christmas and worship songs. It was a #Godmoment and a #moviemoment. We all got emotional standing there singing Christmas worship songs in a different country half-way across the world from our home. It was nice to be surrounded by others that love Jesus like we do. That was just icing on top... mom got her Trdelnik and then we were going to go back to the original cafe, Cafe Jen, from the first morning for some drinks, but it was closed. At this point, we were glad we were close to our Airbnb so we just went home and snuggled on that bed and watched a movie with some hot chocolate that we had gotten at the store a couple of days before. We started with this movie called Hot Fuzz, which is a United Kingdom movie...but it was just too much for us. We couldn't take it... sorry, my wonderful English friends that like it so much... but then we watched V for Vendetta which I thought was pretty good. Then, we packed up and got ready for another travel day...on to London.

Christmas Eve!!! Merry Christmas Eve... we figured since it was a holiday (or practically, not officially) that there wouldn't be many travelers. But there were quite a few. We made it to the Prague airport using the tram, metro, then bus. We did good with all the luggage, but there were quite a few stairs and such, so I got my "Crossfit workout" in as my parents like to say. I was relieved to make it to the airport and then we made it through checking our bags with no problems which is always good because we are always afraid they will be too heavy. But then it was strange because we had to go through customs, which we weren't expecting. We made it through that but then, there was no security. We were confused. We made it to our gate "section" and then realized that security was at each gate or a group of gates. It doesn't make sense to me... and European airports also don't tell you your gate until 45 minutes before departure so it's like they are setting us up for failure... ugh. Well, we decided we had enough time to eat and then get on the plane. Well, we found this Mexican restaurant that was similar to Qdoba or Chipotle and ate there. We weren't there a super long time but then we realized we should probably head to our gate. The security line for the "B gates" was taking forever and we were afraid the gate to our flight would close. We were waiting in line when a couple comes up and asked if they could jump the line because the PA just announced that it was "Last Call" for their flight. The whole group goes, "We are in the same situation." And we all realized we were in line for the same flight that had said last call. We decided later that they do that just to scare you... We had to take a bus to our airplane because Ryanair is too cheap to pay the airport for their walkway connector thing. We made it on the flight and, luckily, we were priority boarding so we got some advantages there with our luggage and such. Oh and a quick funny story... I was getting on the plane and my seat was in the emergency exit row. One of the Ryanair workers came up to me and goes, "How old are you?" I go, "21" and he said "Okay, I just had to make sure because you look young." I asked him how old he thought I was and he said he had to make sure I was above 18. I was offended and said, "18?! That's three years off." He said it is a good thing to look young and that if it weren't for his facial hair, he would look young too. He then asked how old I thought he was and I guessed super young since he had told me that about his facial hair... I said 22 even though I figured he was older than that. He said "I'm 25. Aha, you were three years off. Now we are even." Boy, I was (fake) fuming. It was funny though. I slept most of the plane ride with my headphones in and my music loud since Ryanair never stops talking to you and trying to sell you things. We made it to London but then realized where we were staying was about an hour and a half away. We were trying to figure out the best way to do it and decided to take the train and then the DTL train or something like that. Well two hours later, we made it, but let me tell you... those underground stations are not meant for luggage. I got about 10 Crossfit workouts in today by carrying my luggage up and down stairs. Whew. We finally made it... stopped by a grocery story to get snacks and then planned to order pizza. We ended up going to this restaurant called Pizza Express and it was probably the best pizza I have ever had gluten free. That's hard to say because I am finding more and more yummy Italian gluten-free places (believe it or not) but this was amazing food. We got these dough balls that were gluten-free with garlic butter and I enjoyed them so much. I also got a gluten free beer and then an amazing gluten free Margherita pizza with pesto. I had my pizza and beer... I felt like one of the boys. We finished our Christmas Eve out with a brownie dessert--also gluten-free and also delicious with some vanilla gelato and a strawberry slice. The walk was even fun because it was through a cute neighborhood where kids and families were coming out of Christmas Eve services with a "candle" made with a glow stick stuck in an orange. Real creative London... I think I'm going to like you. I'm already in love with this city and I have hardly been here or seen the city. It's the accents that get me. They are wonderful...except it's weird knowing they are speaking English because I don't understand them very well... we shall see how I do over the next couple days...

Well, Merry Christmas once again mates (a very common word here in the UK). I hope it is wonderful and full of good cheer and celebrating the real meaning of the holiday. I apologize for the long post... so much has happened this week. Only one more post to go since we come home on Thursday. I'll write my next and final blog on the plane ride home on the 28th of December. I can't believe this chapter is really coming to a close... But then, a new chapter shall begin!  

My wonderful Host family!!
1st time seeing her in 5 months.. 1st pic back together

1st time seeing him in 5 months...1st pic back together

My friend Miguel from Jamon!

Carly and I where we spent the majority of our time..

Look closely... how many people can you count?

Santa Cruz neighborhood!

Plaza de España


Last photo of us together in Spain:( ....for now...

Hasta luego friends!

Lola!! Isn't she pretty?

Last time in Sevilla... for now

Hot wine baby

Merry Christmas!!

Old Town Square

The Castle/Church!!! Technically, the Prague Castle

Amazing Gluten-free pancakes/crepes located here!!

The "Dancing" house

A Daddy's girl :)
And....A Mommy's girl :)

Lennon Wall


The real Charles Bridge

Gluten-free in front of my face!!

Dad's chocolate crepe

Christmas Worshipers/Carolers -- our #Godmoment

Trdelniks!!! Don't they look yummalicious?

Our luggage on the train today in London... yes we lugged that around all day

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Week 15: Dec. 11th-17th (La Última Semana)

Well, folks. This is it: the last week of my living here in Sevilla. I'm not quite sure how to feel... it was a very long week for sure, but now--it's Sunday. Tomorrow is my last day walking to UPO ever and it's also my last day with my host family. But..... you know what that means?!?! My parents are here!!!!! They land in Sevilla in less than an hour from the moment I am typing this. I cannot wait to see them. I don't think I'm going to let go of them once I touch them.....

So I had three days of class this past week on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday which were just full of review and presentations and projects and essays. Then, Thursday I had two finals and Friday one. Now I have my last one tomorrow at 9am. Then bam--there goes my first semester/quarter of my junior year and my time studying abroad. Es loco (it's crazy). 

So on Monday I found out that I won the photo contest!! I entered a photo contest through my school where I had the chance to win a free sweatshirt. And I won it! I went into the office to get it and Rubén, of course, was there. He asked to see what photo I posted and said I had good photography skills. I don't know why I'm so awkward but I just get super shy when he talks to me in the office... although I did finally get a picture with him so I'm proud of myself (see below). But anyway, I really like the sweatshirt so thanks to everyone who liked my photo on Facebook so I could win, hehe. On Tuesday, it was the last day with the kiddos I have been teaching at the bilingual school outside the city. My heart was so full when I left because each one of them lined up and gave me a card and a hug. It was the sweetest thing ever. I cannot even begin to explain the emotions I felt after leaving them. I didn't ever want to leave... it will never be that way again. Ahh, it makes me sad just thinking about it. I wish I had more time with them. I would spend the rest of the year with them if I could. It was just a day of goodbyes I suppose because then, later that night, I had to say goodbye to one of my friends that I made in Morocco. Her name is Lindsey and she was in another program here in Sevilla which ended a week earlier than mine. She left to go home this past Wednesday. 

On Friday night, my friends and I finally made it to the discoteca that is right next to Carly and my place. It is called Abril and it's this massive place. We had a great time because they were playing great Spanish music and we just were dancing and people-watching. We realized that Spaniards seriously dress so nicely. It doesn't matter how cold it is outside... they will still be wearing dresses or bras (seriously, fancy bras) and skirts with tights and high heels. Me? I decided to go for the natural beauty/casual look. I wore jeans and a bright pink shirt and hardly did anything extra special with my hair and make-up. There were two things I learned from that club that night. One, no true Spaniard wears jeans. Two, they all wear dark colors. It was quite comical. I probably had five or six people touch my shirt or point at my shirt. There were the blue lights in the club so I was extra glow-y. At first, I thought people were just being touchy because that's what Spaniards do (they have no concept of space). And then I realized I was being touched and talked to because they were pointing out my bright pink shirt. Leave it to Kellie to stand out with her bright pink something or other. Oh, also... I've gone from trying to fit in and be a Spaniard to appreciating the uniqueness of being American and being myself. I'm proud of being American and proud of my American accent. There's no hiding it. I guess that's why I didn't think twice about the pink shirt. Also, if you put on an American song, I'm going to dance and sing every word. Oh, dancing gives me away too--I dance very "big" and just a lot... and Spaniards are very casual and tranquilo and move very slightly, however they usually dance very well. To be honest, I don't really care--I just have fun! I met this guy David, who talked with me for a little. It was so loud in there that he couldn't hear me so I wrote out what I was trying to say in Spanish and he would try to talk to me in Spanish or in English. At least I can say that I met a local. And of course I got a picture... because I take pictures with all the cool guys I meet. Well, we finally got home at 5am and went to bed at 5:30am. Then, we woke up at 1:30pm the next day. 

Saturday was really fun. After lunch, Carly and I went downtown where there is the Ferris Wheel, Christmas markets, and an ice skating rink. A group of my girlfriends and I skated for an hour or so, then rode the Ferris Wheel right as the sun was disappearing and it was so pretty. You could see the entire city. It was a very fast Ferris Wheel, which made it so fun! After that, we did a little shopping in the Christmas markets and then Carly and I were going to get sushi for dinner downtown somewhere. Oh, our host mom had this big party thing all day Saturday. We saw her at lunch and she was all dressed up and, man, she looked like a babe. She was so cute...she didn't want to leave us. Well she said she was going to probably be back super late and we didn't want to make Padre cook for us and we had wanted to get sushi so we decided to go get sushi. Okay, so back to us going to dinner. Carly and I were on our way to this sushi place we found and right before we got there--we saw a pizza hut. We smelled the pizza and we were like, mm.. let's just go look inside. Well, I know... I know we are lame, but we decided to get pizzas para llevar (to-go) and go back to the house, pick up a bottle of cider on our way home, and watch a Christmas movie while eating and drinking on our couch. It was a great choice. We watched a cute Christmas movie and ate our yummy pizza and drank our cider. Then, our friends wanted to meet up at a bar downtown. So we went to this Irish Pub. It was grand--we had our own table between the six of us and we were just chatting and listening to the very loud Irish-ish music. Oh, and I met this guy named Florencio who was super funny. So I went up to the bar to grab a drink and he thought I was copying his drink or so he said. Then, we just chatted for awhile. He was from Sevilla, too, so I can say I met another local. He spoke very good English and he was quite funny. So the Irish Pubs started to get super crowded and so I realized I had been gone a long time but my friends hadn't noticed because they just thought it was taking a long time to get a drink. Well, then the moment they happened to look over was when he was telling me the reason he got kicked out of this club. He had pulled out these animal masks, had put it on his head, and then given it to me to put on. So as my friends look over, they see me putting on this animal mask. They got a great kick out of it. Don't worry, I got photos (see below). His friend was pretty funny too. It was great meeting some more locals. Well after the pub, MJ and I (the OG) decided to go out to a discoteca again. There was one called Utopia which is really popular and was close by. So we go around 2am and end up waiting in a line for 45 minutes. We finally were done waiting since we hadn't moved much so we tried another discoteca. We had to wait in line there too and it took another 30 minutes. Then, right as we were towards the front, I texted Carly to make sure she made it home okay because she had left to go get a taxi an hour and a half before. She replied and said "No I can't get a taxi. Help!!!!" I was so confused on what she had been doing or where she had been for the past hour and a half. I was very concerned so I told MJ to wait in line and that I was going to go get her. Well, on my way to go get Carly, MJ called me and said she was the next person in line. I started to sprint back and we got up to the front, but then there was an entrance fee and I was like MJ we really need to find Carly and take her home. After waiting in line for so long, we had lost our motivation to dance. So, MJ and I left and went to find Carly. We found her on the corner of the street by her self, trying to hail a taxi. She ended up telling us that there was this massive line for the taxi and she didn't know what to do. She had tried walking home and then her phone died, so she asked someone to take her back to Triana, which is the neighborhood where the pub was, that way she was at least in a public area that was familiar and would have lots of taxis. There were just so many people out and about--it was ridiculous. And it was definitely not the warmest so... like I said, Spaniards are loco! Well, I have the application 'MyTaxi' on my phone so I called a taxi with that and we ended up making it home by 4:30am. It was quite a crazy evening though!

So now it is Sunday. I slept in until about noon. I woke up at 9am this morning with a bad cold, or so I thought. My nose was stuffed, my voice was froggy, and my head felt full and heavy. But once I fell back asleep and woke up again at noon, I felt quite a bit better. Then, host mom and Carly and I went to lunch "afuera" or outside the house at a cafe on the street. But, the first one we went to had really bad service (even for Spain) and the tables were in the shade so host mom decided we should go to the mall and eat at an American restaurant there. We had to ask for la cuenta (the bill) about four times or more. Host mom was not happy. But then, we went to Fridays which is TGI Fridays and had a huge meal there. It was exciting because we had to wait for a table and so they gave us one of those pagers that buzz when your table is ready. The host hands it to our host mom and she goes "Qué es?" like "What is this?" because she has never seen one of those before. Isn't that crazy?! We had fun with her. She got cajun ribs, I had a tex mex type burger, and Carly had french dip. It was the most American meal I have had in months. Yet, now I don't feel as good as I normally do so I have to admit, I really like my Spanish diet here... but it was still a wonderful time. I did a little shopping after and then came back to the house. Now... I really need to pack...but I really don't want to. So I am going to try to procrastinate, yay. 

Well, the next time I blog, I will be in Prague, Czech, with my parents. Ahh! That is so crazy. And then 11 days from now and I will be flying home to Denver. Wow--America--I'm coming for you.
Hope you guys are all doing well and are getting ready for Christmas and are enjoying the holidays! Hasta luego!
Host daddy with Felix, our fat cat

The hoodie I won!!

This is Wyoming.. my friend on the TV that we watch every night at dinner

This is Rubén!

My friend Lindsey!

I say "Kellie," they hear "Kaly"

En la playa (at the beach)

This is David (night #1) -- don't ask me what I was doing with my finger... I do not know

Ice skating!!!

The ferris wheel!!

The masks...

What he actually looked like... This is Florencio (night #2)

Florencio's friend -- the funny one

I'm gonna miss this girl (MJ) :((