“Reverse Culture Shock”

I was told that when I returned to the United States that I would experience “Reverse Culture Shock.” I was even sent a list of things to do to help this so-called shock.

Luckily for me, I flew into Miami from Madrid for 24 hours to visit my sister. It was a nice buffer because Miami feels like its own Hispanic country, not like a state in the US.

Also, it’s been crazy busy for me since I stepped off the plane so I didn’t have time to fight jet lag, stuff my face with all of the food I have missed, or enjoy the incredible humidity I forgot about.

The only culture shock I experienced was when I was on the plane from Miami to St. Louis. I was sitting in my seat in a row of 3 and I was waiting for the other two to sit down. A young man was walking down the aisle and he was looking at me and smiling. I assumed one of the seats next to me was his, so I questioningly pointed to the seat next to me and he laughed. He said, “No, that’s not mine.”

It took me a second to realize that he was just being nice and/or flirting. I have been living in a culture that no one looked at each other while walking. It took me a couple of days to look at people and smile. I wonder how b*#?+y I looked walking around Menards just looking at people he not smiling. I would like to apologize to all of the people not reading this post for not smiling back.

My bad.

To be honest I didn’t experience a culture shock when I was back in the US. The only thing that felt different was seeing my family. I missed them so much and it didn’t seem real sitting with my sister and brother in law in Miami or playing with my nephew back home.

It’s also nice having a home with air conditioning, eating home grown peaches, eating homemade deer sticks, playing with my puppy dogs, seeing my friends and loved ones face to face rather than on FaceTime…the list goes on and on.

I wish I could say I came home to a peaceful place, I slept for days, and slowly got back to normal. In reality, the second I walked off the plane I had things to do and I still have a major to do list two weeks after.

Unfortunately, the GRE won’t take itself, my job won’t do itself, my room won’t clean itself, my books won’t buy themselves, my house won’t remodel itself…and the list goes on and on.

It feels great to be back! I can’t deny that. But it should be proof enough that I’ve been busy since it has taken me 2 weeks to write a small, boring post about the mythical “Reverse Culture Shock.”

I will leave you with this though:
Jet lag is a very, very real thing.

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Odds and Ends of Paris

I’m a week late with my post about Paris but I guess late is better than never. Unless you don’t enjoy this post…then it would have been better not to write it.

I have been in Spain for two months and it has been a love-hate relationship between the two of us. I went to Paris for a weekend and fell in love. Would it have been different if I were studying in France and took a weekend trip to Spain? Probably. But I didn’t want to leave Paris. A weekend was not long enough.

I’m pretty sure that Paris might be the only place that you can have a coffee and hangout with Van Gogh, Renoir, Picasso, Monet, Hemingway and many others. I watched Midnight in Paris quite a while before I left for Spain and I loved it! Obviously, I did not time travel but I felt like I did.

I know there are old cities in the world but Paris seemed to be an eclectic version of ancient and modern. You can spend days at the Palace of Versailles and pretend you’re living like the king or you can imagine what it was like to film on set with Kirsten Dunst just a few years ago.

My uncle told me he was deeply jealous of me traveling to Paris. At first, I thought it a because of his artistic nature. Why wouldn’t an artist want to travel to Paris?

Then I realized why. One of the best parts of Paris was doing nothing. The art of nothing is something I have not learned. Paris tried to teach me though.

I didn’t want to sit in a restaurant and eat. I wanted to take my food and sit anywhere in the city and watch the city go by.

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I have been to Rome and Paris now and in neither city I was with a significant other. Rome I felt like I needed to be with a loved one to enjoy most of the sights. Paris wasn’t the same. I felt like I could have been in Paris by myself, with my family, my best gals, or my boyfriend. It wouldn’t have mattered. Because no matter who you are, Paris will wow you.

Sainte-Chapelle

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I know that not everyone is a fan of Paris. How could there be one single thing in this world that every single being loves? Let’s just say I would find it very hard to understand why one may not like Paris.

Maybe those who didn’t like Paris got stuck with too many tourists (like I did in Rome) or didn’t take the AMAZING CultureFish tour like I did. (You can’t do Paris without their tour..you pay by tip only! Check them out!) Or maybe they thought French people were rude (I definitely did not…but then again I’ve grown accustomed to the people in Spain).

Yes, there were tourists. Yes, it was hotter than you know what. And yes, the language is quite difficult. But you can escape from all of those things.

My cousin and I did Rome in 2 days. It was possible. It was kind of a blur but we did it. On foot.

Paris is all over the place! Don’t want the city? Escape to the neighborhoods.

Sacre Coeur

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Van Gogh’s Home

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Of course I want to return to the city. I definitely won’t be staying in a hostel next time and I won’t have such a short time limit. And hopefully, next time I return will be with a significant other so I can finally enjoy one of the most romantic cities in the world with someone I love.

Famous Lock Bridge

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So This is Where I Have Been Living…

Normally when one goes to a foreign country or city he/she puts on the tourist cap, de-lenses the camera and buttons up the fanny pack. It’s a natural thing to do.

When one has to live in a foreign country he/she should try to think like a chameleon and blend in with the people. The person doesn’t give herself hat hair, uses her iPhone very sneakily for pictures, and I will make no comment on wearing a fanny pack.

*side story for fanny pack:
I’ve got nothing against fanny packs. They are a practical way to hold belongings…apparently men in Spain think that way too. I’ve never seen so many fanny packs in my life. Not even when I went to Disney World. Grown men and young men all wear fanny packs here. I cannot take them seriously knowing that they think it’s fashionable and practical. I’ve seen “murses” (man purses) as well. I know I’m in Europe but after a month and a half I still have to look away so they don’t see me giggling at their carrying devices…if I see a bejeweled one or something of the like I will definitely crack.

Dang…I’ve gotten so distracted about fanny packs I honestly can’t remember what the point of this blog post was…

Oh right! Valencia!

I’ve been here for nearly 2 months and I am continuing to find new places of the city. Most importantly, I’m learning new information about this place. Did you know that the city was founded in 138 BC? Neither did I! Until I had to google it for my culture class.

If my father reads this I know he will be shaking his head. My sisters heads are probably shaking too. I have self-diagnosed ADD so I find it difficult to pay attention in a classroom when being taught in a foreign language that is being thrown at me 100 miles per hour. Forgive me for not picking up all of the facts.

We went to a museum that is a building that is on top of the ancient ruins of the original city. You literally walk through the building on a glass catwalk that is over the ruins. Pretty cool huh? I thought so! My class almost had to drag me out of the building.

Below is part of the ruins that is at the entrance of the building. There was a sign that said no pictures…refer to sneaky-iPhone-non-touristy-usage comment above.

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For many years I have been doing volunteer archaeology work with my father during the summers. My favorite thing to dig/find is ceramics. I was drooling over these.

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After we left that building we went to La Llotja de Mercaders Patrimoni Mundial (Commodity Exchange Building World Heritage Monument) aka the Silk Trade Building. I’ve walked past the building multiple times and never knew what it was. It was beautiful! Time for a fact: It began being built in 1483! Apparently it stopped functioning after a drought killed the majority of the population of silk worms.

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The point of this post is to show that you can never stop learning. If you become bored or complacent then you have closed your books of education. Learning is a never ending book.

Every day that I’m here I’m learning something new, whether it’s about the culture, city, language, or a new set of vocabulary words for my GRE study prep. Should I take this time to quote a famous movie? Oh I think I shall.

“Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while…you could miss it.”
-do I even need to tell you where this is from? If I do, re-read the quote and rent yourself Ferris Buehler’s Day Off for goodness sakes.

I have been meeting great people this month and obviously I’m learning a lot. Next week is a 4 day trip to Paris! No, I do not know any French besides the most basic phrases. No, I do not have a lot of money to spend there. And no, I couldn’t tell you most of the history of anything I will be seeing while I’m there.

But you can bet your bottom dollar that I will be lacing up my sneakers, strapping on my camera bag and ironing out my tourist guide. I will learn an incredible amount of information while I’m there so my dad and sisters don’t strangle me for not knowing what I took pictures of.

So I wonder what will happen when a poor, American college student walks into Paris?

Even the Strong will Fall

If you know me personally you will know that I don’t cry often. And by that I mean ever.

Now that my blog has been put up on the school website and in our local paper the stress of writing is growing. My mom has also been reminding me that I need fresh material for my new readers.

That’s fine and dandy but a writer can’t just write. If Jane Austen just wrote to write then we would probably have been reading about the romantic way that wax falls from a candle stick. We wouldn’t have been transported to the English country side where we all (yes, ALL) fell in love with Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy. If Shakespeare wrote to just write we might have been reading about the smelly, dirty streets and crazy happenings of old English streets. We wouldn’t have been immersed in beautiful writing that taught us about love and horrible, tragic destinies.

If I wrote to write you would be reading about how I’m sweating like a pig in my room trying to do homework or purely survive without dehydrating. Or maybe how many things I’ve been pinning on Pinterest in my free time because if I move a muscle I will instantly fall into a heat stroke.

Today, I received an email saying that there was a letter waiting for me in the program’s office. A letter? For muah? Who could it be from?

I tried to wait and go before my night class but I’m terrible at waiting. Hence why my mother still hides Christmas presents or numbers them even after my 21 years of age.

I practically ran to the office (which resulted in a full body sweat/detox) and found the letter. It was from my second home, aka work. I couldn’t believe it!

I opened it up instantly and walked down the streets back home with a huge smile on my face. The notes from my friends/family made my day/week/month. It’s ironic too because I have another postcard to send to work ready to be mailed!

I haven’t received much in the mail because a) it’s expensive b) hello 21st century, we have technology and c) it takes forever if it even makes it.

I didn’t think traveling for this long would bother me and it really hasn’t. I went on my first trip alone when I was 15 for two weeks and didn’t look back.

It all started to hit me when I facetimed with my nephew and he said “Hi, Aunt Ca-Ca!” Before I left he couldn’t even say ca-ca. Holy moly. How was I going to live without seeing him for 2 months?

Then I was trying to find an outfit for him and realized I don’t know how big he is! I haven’t held him in 1.5 months! I shrugged it off. He can’t be getting that big. I’m overreacting.

THEN my sister Jess went home from Miami to go to a John Mayer concert with my other sister. Cool! Of course I wanted to go but I’m in Spain!

Jess asked to FaceTime me with the whole family only to find out that SHE’S ENGAGED! I was so excited. But then it hit me that I’m not there to hug her or Paolo! I cried. I cried like a baby. I was the only one that cried out of the entire family, which is the most unusual thing.

Then I receive this letter from work and it only makes you realize how much family and friends mean to you. I have missed out on 3 of my best friends’ 21st birthdays, I will be missing another birthday, an engagement, celebrations for passing major exams, new houses, etc. Not to mention all of the fun I have every time I’m at work.

I’m not exactly home sick but I only wish that I could experience these things with the people closest to me. Maybe everyone should go away for a while to realize how many people they truly love. What’s the saying, “distance only makes the heart grow fonder?” Well I’m figuring that out the hard way!

The FaceTime moments with family and friends, the card from work, and comments on my blog make me feel so lucky. I’m grateful to know that I have great family and friends waiting for me to come home (possibly because they know I’ll come bearing gifts…) and that I have people sharing my adventures with me.

My sappy post is over and I hope to have an exciting post coming soon. Tonight Cassi and I will be going to a friend’s apartment (my friend Amber from Texas who I met in Rome…I’ll let that soak in). We are going to have homemade fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, Colombian cuisine for her roommate’s birthday, mojitos made by one of the roommate’s German girlfriend, and a tequila concoction made by the Americans. If we survive that we will be heading over to a flamenco show.

Let. The. Games. Begin.

British Invasion

‘Ello! My British side kick has finally arrived! My cousin Heidi is here and we are ready to take Rome by storm. Just kidding. Since I’m still awake and have to be up in approximately 5 hours, I will be taking Rome by zombie approach.

Nothing exciting happened this week, unless you want to hear about my classes. Don’t worry! I know you don’t, so I will not put you through that cruel and unusual punishment.

Tomorrow I leave for Rome. I can’t believe I get to say that. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner will consist of pizza and gelato. That means, come Monday, I will be blogging about my exercise routine that will get me out of my stretchy pants. I plan on having an Eat, Pray, Love moment…having multiple serious relationships…with my pizza! I’m drooling just thinking about it. (If you have not had the honor of reading the book or taking the lazy/faster approach of watching the movie, please do.)

There’s much to do in 2 long days:
1) eat until I can’t eat anymore (yes, that’s my number one…don’t judge)
2) buy a coffee mug for my dear friend Kate 🙂 I’ve got you girl!
3) dance in a fountain for Trina (might be blogging from jail soon…)
4) go to the Vatican with Heidi
5) go to the colosseum, Spanish steps, and the Trevi fountain

Heidi and I will accomplish these things by putting on our tourist panties and enjoying bus tours. I’m going all out with the backpack, tennis shoes, big camera, etc. I might even buy myself a visor and an, “I heart Rome” t-shirt. HA! Just kidding. I refuse to wear a visor and I’m simply too poor to buy a t-shirt.

Stay tuned my friends. Who knows what an American and a Brit can do in Italy, with no plans, little money, and a huge appetite?! Ciao!