“No hay en la vida nada como la pena de ser ciego en Granada”

(The title, translated, means “There’s nothing in life like the pain of being blind in Granada.” – Francisco de Icaza)

Well I suppose it’s about time I update you on the last week of the trip, huh? I started to write on Monday or Tuesday for about 2 hours… and then the draft got deleted. Have you ever had that happen, and then you just don’t feel like rewriting everything, because you liked what you had before but you don’t want to rewrite it because it won’t be as good as the original and you don’t remember exactly what it all said? Yeah, that’s what happened to me. My apologies :p

I’ll start out by saying that I’m in the Detroit airport, and about the only thing on my mind is how much I want my Packers jersey or Bucky Badger t-shirt. Wisconsin pride, yo!

State rivalries aside, my time in Spain was…. unbelievable. Mostly in the literal definition that I had such a hard time believing I was back in my querida Granada… but it was also just amazing. I didn’t get to do everything I wanted (most notably go to a salsa club, boo!) and I had my fair share of traveling mishaps (an accident on the French railways which caused 2-hour delays and provoked a breakdown on my part/me never being so happy to hear Spanish in my life; waking up late and missing my train from Granada to Barcelona; waking up late and almost missing my flight from Amsterdam-Detroit), but come on man, I was in SPAIN last week. This is about all the complaining I can bring myself to do. Even though we never went to a salsa club I still never went back to my hostel before 4 am. I ate doner kepabs and tortilla española and at least 7 cups of gelato. I had dinner with my old host family and good friends who stayed with them this semester. I went to the beach and swam in the ice cold Mediterranean three different times and got burnt to a crisp on my back. I went shopping and drank wine and ate tapas and went up to the Alhambra at midnight and just walked and walked and walked around my city. I took hundreds of pictures and laughs with friends, both old and new. And it was all fantastic.

The week went by quickly, as I knew it would, and although the 13-hour bus ride from Granada to Barcelona (that I was extremely lucky to catch less than an hour after oversleeping and missing my train) was long to say the least, I never tire of the breathtaking hills and mountains, rolling about the Spanish countryside, and to the other side, the sweeping Mediterranean. I passed through cities I know nothing about but would love to visit someday, and giggled at the extremely random choice of en-route movies shown overhead (Life is Beautiful, an oooold Italian movie; The Mummy; and A Walk in the Clouds, what seemed like a newer movie, with Keano Reeves and Debra Messing, which I also enjoyed a lot – all dubbed in Spanish). Upon arrival after midnight, I made my way to the hostel and spent about 4 hours there before taking my flight to Amsterdam.

At this point, I had maybe gotten 4 hours of sleep in the prior 2.5 days. I was to the point where I would close my eyes and fall asleep almost instantly; I’m extremely surprised I even made it to Amsterdam thanks to the drowsy haze about me. I had a 23-hour layover in Amsterdam, which I chose on purpose in hopes of seeing a bit of the city. On my flight there I wasn’t sure if I could muster up the energy to do so. But of course, put a travel addict in a beautiful and intriguing new country/city, and well, they’ll find the energy for almost anything.

Well I just lost everything I wrote about Amsterdam again, I don’t remember what I wrote and don’t feel like rewriting it again… ugh. I remember writing that I immediately fell in love with the charming brooms and streams that dabble the flat and unimaginably green countryside, and the winding canals that make up “downtown” Amsterdam. I put downtown in quotes because despite the city’s population (and reputation), you tend to forget it because of its laid-back, small-town aura.

In the 9 hours I realistically spent in the city, I managed to find the stamina to learn and see more than I ever imagined with an incredible 3-hour walking tour. I was happy with the (infrequent, from what I heard) gorgeous weather, the delicious tradiional apple pancakes I devoured and the colorful and fragrant floating flower market. I was pleased that I got lost and accidentally found the powerful, to say the least, Anne Frank house, where she wrote her diary and where her family hid during the war. I also marveled, as I always do after speaking and hearing Spanish for any length of time, at how much easier speaking and hearing English is, and how much we take language for granted (and how friendly Dutch people are compared to Spaniards! I loved it!). I was also surprised at how much Spanish I heard, and how much influence the Spanish had on Dutch history. It always makes me a little home-away-from-homesick, but I always enjoy it nonetheless.

Except for the part where my room was on the 5th floor of an elevator-less hostel, and the part where I woke up at 7am before my 8:05am flight back to the states (I think I need a new alarm, for serious), I really loved the strong-willed and liberal (almost to the point of notoriety) and beautiful city. Like I said, I learned and saw so much for such a short period of time, but I’d love to go back there someday and explore more!

It’s bittersweet to be back in the states, but drastically less-so than last time. I know I have lots of people waiting for me at home, and I have an exciting summer ahead of me! It’s so weird to think that I have less than two weeks before going out to DC, and I will definitely enjoy my time at home while I can and update again before I leave! Stay tuned and take care!


¡Viva Barça!

So when I was here in Spain last year I never really got into the whole football thing. I understand that it’s a huge part of Spanish and European culture but I’ve never been terribly interested. American football? Okay, you got me. But soccer-football… Meh. After visiting Barcelona for the first time last year and falling love with the city, and seeing how much pride its residents had for the team, I decided that if I were to root for a football team, Barcelona would be it (much to the chagrin of several of my Spanish friends who are Madrid fans – Barcelona and Madrid are arch-nemeses!)

Now that I’ve had a year to mull it over, I sort of regretted not buying something of FCB pride when I was the first time. So, upon returning this week, I decided a Barcelona jersey was in order. Not to mention I got it for a good price – for you, guapa, my friend?€25! – So I did and I was happy.

I wore it after I got settled into my room and went to go walk around Granada on Sunday. The response I got from people – which is NOT the reason I wore or bought it – was interesting, since Granada doesn’t have its own team (as far as I know) and loyalty is split. For the most part, I got random calls of support my way. ¡Ala Barça! Or ¡Gana Barcelona! A couple people even stopped me to say something to the extent of (in Spanish), “Barcelona will win! Who doesn’t want Barcelona to win?!” or another guy stopped me to ask me if I thought FCB would be champions, and for me to call him when it happened. All this made me smile and feel proud to be a part of something that seems great. However, not everyone seemed so supportive. Some elderly women shook their heads as I walked past, while others shouted “¡Viva Madrid!” or “Barcelona, joda” (which you are welcome to look up the translation to, as I don’t feel it appropriate to say here). More

There must be more than this Provincial life!

Fun fact I learned while visiting my good friend from high school, Bre, in Aix en Provence, France, where she is studying abroad: Belle from “Beauty and the Beast” sings about wanting “more than this Provincial life.” Turns out she was actually referring to the province of Provence, France, where Bre is studying this semester and through which I traveled throughout the past few days! As a certfied Disney nerd, I was extremely excited by this and of course had songs from that movie stuck in my head the whole time!

AND SPEAKING OF SONGS!!! MY LIFE WAS MADE when Bre and I were on a home goods shopping kick. One of the Ikea-esque stores we visited was playing French radio…. WHICH WAS PLAYING CÉLINE!!!!! For those of you who don’t know me personally, I am also certified as one of Céline Dion’s biggest fans EVER, and well, hearing On Ne Change Pas in a location other than my iPod made me SO unbelievably happy. It’s one of many things I’ve come to enjoy about France (along with, of course, amazing bread and pastries! YUM :])

Nerdiness aside, France was wonderful and of course beautiful. I got my own tour of Aix from Bre and was able to meet and go out with a bunch of her friends Thursday night! Tons of fun!! Friday we continued sightseeing around Aix, then took a 45 minute bus down to the gorgeous port city of Marseille. It’s yet another city I fell in love with almost instantly, and I’m beginning to see a trend here – give me a city with a sea/ocean and mountains and I’ll be the happiest girl in the world! (for reference, I’m also a big fan of Barcelona – as previously noted – as well as San Francisco!)

I also never turn down a good hike with an amazing view at the end, which is something so common in Europe and something we did in Marseille! The old church at the top of the hill, Notre Dame de la Garde, takes a lot of stamina to get up to but the view is ALWAYS worth it!! I really wish I had access to a computer so I could show you pictures, even though they wouldn’t do justice. I’ll hopefully get to one this week – if not, when I’m home next week, for sure!

We also were able to go inside, and while the chapel wasn’t too impressive, the cathedral part was!! This church is probably one of my favorites I’ve ever visited, or if nothing else one of the most memorable. All European churches are gorgeous but many start to blend together after awhile. I visited the famous mosque-turned-cathedral in Córdoba, Spain, last year, which was really cool because it fused the two architectual styles together. But this Notre Dame didn’t have an Arabic section and a Christian section like the one in Córdoba – the entire Christian cathedral was in the Arabic style. Having studied a semester in Southern Spain where Arabic influences are EVEYWHERE, the Arabic influences in this church were so apparent to me and I just loved it. Apart from that, since it’s right on the sea, it is sort of decorated with a maritime feel. There are pictures of boats hanging up and even strings of model boats hanging from the ceiling. It was so unique and breathtaking and I just adored it. Again, I can’t wait to show you pictures because I’m really not doing it justice here!

After wandering around Marseille all day, we headed back to Aix for dinner (Doner Kepabs, oh how I have missed you!!) and turned in early. Bre had to leave for a film festival in the city of Cannes and I had a train to catch – both around 8am. After staying out late Thursday and walking a TON Friday, I think we both welcomed the much-needed slumber!!

Even though I was barely in Provence for two days, I still feel like I saw and accomplished a lot. I LOVED spending time with Bre, meeting her host family and catching up with her, and I especially loved that she (obviously) speaks French and was able to translate for me! I’ve wanted to learn French for a LONG time (no, this notion has absolutely nothing to do with Céline… what are you talking about?!) and so I’m always excited to see how much I can understand, especially because it’s similar to Spanish in so many ways. As I’ve discovered, it’s next to impossible for me to understand 98% of spoken French because I haven’t been trained on what to listen for. Written French, I have a slight advantage – maybe 75% I can understand, on a good day. Either way, neither are nowhere near where I’d like and I hope to fix that someday, preferrably sooner than later!

Anyhow, that was my experience in Southern France!! I’m back in my beloved Granada, Spain right now and have plenty to share – but I’ll sign off for now and save my Spanish stories for another day not far from today! Au revoir!

Te quiero, Barcelona… ♥

Believe it or not, I actually made it to my hostel in Barcelona! After everything that’s transpired in the last 24 hours, I really wasn’t sure I would. (First of all, I apologize for any typos I’m too lazy to correct as this post grows longer… I’ve forgotten how strange Spanish keyboards are!! :P)

First of all, my Atlanta-Barcelona flight was indeed canceled due to everyone’s favorite unpronouncable volcano. They put me on the next best thing, which added a few hours and an extra layover. I was sort of dreading it at first but it didn’t turn out to be so bad! I flew Milwaukee-Minneapolis-Amsterdam-Barcelona. The overseas flight seemed a lot shorter than I expected. Maybe it’s because of their impressive selection of movies or the fact that I watched “It’s Complicated” (John Krasinski and Meryl Streep in the same movie??? How could you NOT love that?!), but either way it went well. Arriving in Barcelona… well that was another story.

Katie and I (another girl from WSU who I will be traveling with) decided since our flights were originally scheduled to land 15 minutes apart, we would just find each other at the airport. When mine was rescheduled for 3 hours later and hers was still on time, she said she’d still wait for me. So when I got off the plane in Barcelona (almost ready to explode out of the sheer thrill of ACTUALLY BEING BACK IN SPAIN), I wasn’t too surprised that I didn’t see her. Stuff happens, maybe her flight was delayed. I asked several different employees where I might figure it out? Turns out they don’t have a list of arriving flights anywhere in the terminal. That means Katie would have never been able to find me, and I wasn’t sure where to start looking for her. Long story short, I decided to make my way back to the hostel in hopes that she had stopped waiting for me and forged her own way. But that wasn’t the only obstacle. More


This is SO insane. I can’t believe I leave for Spain tomorrow!! Well, assuming that dumb volcano that I wrote about a few weeks ago doesn’t get my flight canceled or re-routed. Either way, I am hoping for the best and EXTREMELY excited :) I’ll try to write as much as I can while I’m there! I’ll be gone for two weeks, and in those two weeks I’ll have about three or four full days of simply traveling – so I’ll probably have time to update at least a few times! I’ll have my iPod with me that I can update on, otherwise I’ll try to get to internet cafes and perhaps upload pictures, too. We’ll see how it goes. Either way, stay tuned and if nothing else, wish me luck and see you in two weeks!

What’s next for struggling airline industry?

Alright you guys… finally, a real post non-related to my life (well, sort of)! I promised news commentary… here you go. The only news story I’ve kept up on, and frankly cared about (as horrible as it may sound) over the weekend is the volcano in Iceland and half of European airports and airspace shut down for the last 5 days as a result. This is mostly because my best friend from high school was studying abroad in London this semester, and she was supposed to leave for home today. That clearly will not happen – her and her mom and aunt, who came to visit her last week, have extended their hotel room until Friday – and now they’re left waiting to see whether or not they’ll even be able to fly out before next weekend. I’ve been reading at least 5 or 10 news stories a day from different sources on this topic, and have read some interesting quotes. Here’s what I’ve found most interesting from stories published this morning:

From BBC –

Mr. Bisignani, of the International Air Transport Association, has said the scale of the crisis facing the airline industry is now greater than at the time of the 9/11 attacks on the US.

“The decision that Europe has made is with no risk assessment, no consultation, no co-ordination, no leadership,” he said.

“Europeans are still using a system based on a theoretical model which does not work… instead of using a system and taking decisions on facts and on risk assessment.”

He said airspace closures were costing airlines $200m (£130m) a day in lost revenue.

European airlines have asked the EU and national governments for financial compensation for the closure of airspace, British Airways says. BA estimates that it is losing between £15m and £20m a day.

From USA Today –

Passengers [at Incheon International Airport in South Korea] complained about having to sleep on the airport floor due to a lack of hotel rooms and said they were only receiving a voucher for one meal a day at McDonald’s. Some were running out of money.

“We are on the floor,” Andrew Turner, a graduate student en route to London after a holiday in Sydney, told Korean Air officials, referring to sleeping accommodations. “We have one meal a day … at the moment a lot of people are not eating.”

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines said it had flown four planes Sunday through what it described as a gap in the layer of microscopic dust over Holland and Germany. Air France, Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines also sent up test flights, although most traveled below the altitudes where the ash has been heavily concentrated.

“There is currently no consensus as to what consists an acceptable level of ash in the atmosphere,” said Daniel Hoeltgen, a spokesman for the European Aviation Safety Agency. “This is what we are concerned about and this is what we want to bring about so that we can start operating aircraft again in Europe.”

From CNN –

“I believe this is one of the most serious transport disruptions we have faced,” [British Prime Minister Gordon] Brown said. “It’s got financial consequences as well as human consequences and we will do everything in our power to make sure all the arrangements are in place to help people where possible to get back home.”

Brown said that he had spoken to Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero about using airports in Spain — which have been less affected by the air travel chaos — as a hub through which to bring people back to Britain, the agency reported. Further information would be released later today, Brown added.

From NPR –

The loss of air transport to Europe has also wreaked havoc in countless other ways.

Some U.K. schools may not be able to reopen after spring break because teachers and students are stranded in holiday destinations.

Motorists cannot get their cars fixed because foreign parts can’t be shipped in.

Kenya’s fresh flower industry is losing $2 million a day and fresh fruit from Africa destined for Europe is rotting in warehouses. Still economists say Europe’s economic recovery should not be derailed unless the disruption lasts for many weeks or months.

I’ve been getting conflicting numbers, but from what I can tell, the last major time this volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier erupted (yes, this is really a name – an entertaining lesson in Icelandic pronunciation here) was in 1821. Eruptions continued intermittently for at least a year.

First of all, I’d like to point out what this says about our society, as far as globalization goes. I know it’s pretty cliché, but it’s incredible how much “smaller” the world has gotten over the past centuries. Right now, millions of people are stranded, some with little or no money or food. Billions of dollars, euros and pounds are being lost in an industry – and in economies – that are already struggling. People around the world are being affected by a naturally occurring event that, even 50 years ago, would not have been nearly as impacting. It’s times like these that make me, at least, step back and realize how much we take technology like the airplanes (directly affected by the eruptions), or the internet (used to communicate the news, and with people affected by the eruptions) – technology we now depend on – for granted. As the saying goes, “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.”

So what now? Do we keep waiting with no direction, no set system of rules, no certainty, until this volcano stops erupting? How long will that take, and how much more money will be lost? Not only does this event say a lot about society, but about the airline industry, already halfway down the hole. I think a serious change is in order over the next few years. What happens the next time this volcano erupts? I think there needs to be standard protocol – or more specific guidelines, at the very least – for crises such as this. Passengers are pointing fingers at airlines, airlines are pointing fingers at government officials, government officials are pointing fingers at Mother Nature… and it’s getting us nowhere.

And don’t even get me started on the already absurd standards that everyone just seems to accept about the airline industry. Charging prices as much as a ticket for a person – for LUGGAGE? Being able to double the prices of your tickets in the middle of you purchasing them – for NO reason? Being able to overbook flights? Charging $150 if you want to change your ticket? Providing little to no compensation for errors on their part, such as delays or lost baggage?

Right now, in my humble opinion, I don’t think the fate of the airline industry is looking so hot. There are a lot of standards that seem corrupt and a lot of issues that remain unaddressed. Now, I know I talk the talk, but I will never claim to walk the walk. As a college student and avid traveler, these facts affect and irritate me, but I haven’t the slightest idea of how to change them. It’s going to be tough; we’ve seen in the past, and will continue to see, that world-wide laws and agreements are next to impossible to achieve. Cultural differences prevent understanding and willingness to cooperate, even though both are needed so badly right now. Unfortunately, we depend on airlines as much as they depend on us, so that’s another reason why these standards will probably never change. We all complain about high fees and poor service, but they’ve got us. With our increasingly globalized world, we have no choice but to depend on them – and we will undoubtedly continue to do so.

But still, I think the airlines need to consider the human aspect of their business. At the very least, they need to provide better compensation for people put at a disadvantage by errors on their parts, or errors beyond anyone’s control. Perhaps once their customers – without whom the industry has no purpose – are treated with more respect, they’ll start making more money because people will be more willing to fly. There needs to be better protocol for emergency situations, and somebody needs to start taking responsibility for these problems. Blaming Mother Nature, as I’ve said, gets us NOWHERE.

As for how this could actually accomplished… well, I’m not the one being paid the big bucks to figure it out. But I think the industry owes it to their customers – and themselves – to do so, because nobody can afford a crisis like this to happen again.

What do you think? Is a major change in the airline industry coming in the future? Is it possible, is it necessary? Leave your comments below!