About Me

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I'm just a stressed-out-perfectionist-not-so-average-cupcake-making-graduate-student-from-Kansas trying to find my place in this world.
Current Adventure: Interning for the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in Washington, D.C.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Adventures in Spain

I love Spain. Actually, I just love Europe. I love the narrow, old streets, the architecture of the buildings, the little old ladies who pull little carts full of groceries behind them, the little old men who sit outside cafés smoking cigars, and of course, I love the chocolate croissants.

The ship docked in Cadiz, Spain on Saturday. My friend, Carren, and I managed to get off the ship really quickly (ahead of the other 600 students trying to disembark) and head to a café for some breakfast. I had a chocolate croissant—of course. We had to be back to the pier by 0945 since we were both going on the Cadiz City Orientation. The tour was definitely worth it, since in the space of about four hours, we got a good feel for the history of Cadiz and the province of Andalousia. We first did a panoramic driving tour of the little peninsula. Then, we walked to the Old and the New Cathedral, the Archaeological Museum, and the City Hall. By the time it was over, we were tired and hungry. Somewhere along the way back to the ship, we picked up about eight more Semester at Sea friends, and we headed for our first Spanish meal. I had seafood paella. It was delicious.

It was almost four pm by the time we were finished eating. Something interesting about Spain, is that every day, the shops close from about 2pm to 5pm for the siesta, and they are closed every Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday. Time is not important in Spain—the Spaniards spend hours at meals, they have long weekends almost every week, and they spend hours upon hours chatting with friends in the city squares. They also eat their meals at odd times of the day: breakfast is served between 10 and 11, lunch between 2-4, and dinner at about 11pm. Good luck finding a place to eat lunch at noon—no restaurant will even thinking about serving you until close to two.

The Semester at Sea Field Program Office has a donation box for tickets to day trips that students either cannot sell or end up not being able to go on at the last moment. Saturday was my lucky day, and I got a free ticket to the Andalusian Flamenco Night. All my friends were going, and I had been looking forward to the evening alone so that I could catch up on some journaling. But, I am so glad I got the ticket. It was the best evening in Spain that I had. We boarded the bus about seven thirty, and embarked on a thirty-minute bus ride to neighboring Chichlana. We arrived at a small outdoor arena, where we were served homemade sherry while we watched an amazing flamenco show (it involved dancing horses) and then an amateur baby bull “fight”. It was basically just practice for the bulls to see how brave they are. Then we boarded the buses again to a reception hall where we ate delicious tapas and drank sangria and watched more flamenco. Eventually, the flamenco performance just dissolved into a huge dance party—even the life long learners were up on the stage doing the Macarena.

On Sunday, Carren, our friend Lonyae, and I headed to Tarifa. Tarifa is the southern most point of Spain. I stood on the beaches of Tarifa and looked out over the point where the Mediterranean and the Atlantic meet and caught my first glimpse of Africa. It was incredibly surreal. The girls and I did some window-shopping and laid out on the beach. The only problem was the brutal, brutal wind, which drove the sand into our skin at 1000mph. Lonyae ended up catching an earlier bus back than Carren and I did. Our bus left at 7:45; however, it left from a different point of town than we originally came into. That, in itself, was not the problem. The problem was getting directions to this obscure bus stop. We eventually got to the place where we were supposed to be. We were chatting with some Spanish girls at the stop who spoke a bit of English until one of them made a phone call, started yelling in Spanish, and broke into a run and motioned for us to follow her. Apparently, the bus just decided to come in and yet another little stop. But we made it—just in time to sit in traffic for almost two hours while a procession of hundreds of priests riding horses and carrying statues passed in front of the bus. We did eventually make it back to the port, even if someone **coughCarrencough** had us get off at the stop that was waaay too early. We just ended up jumping on another bus and somehow communicating to the bus driver that we needed to go to the MV Explorer. Charades goes a long way in a foreign country.

Monday was an even bigger adventure. Carren and I headed to the bus station again to catch a bus to Granada. The Semester at Sea field office had told us that the trip from Cadiz to Granada was about three hours. Wrong. It was more like six. We met some other Semester at Sea girls (Loralie and Natalie) who we ended up hanging out for a couple of days. Once we finally made it to Granada, we headed over to the Alhambra. The Alhambra was the last fortress of the Moors in Spain, and it is absolutely breathtaking. At the top of the fortress you can see for miles and miles. It took us almost five and a half hours to go through the whole thing; don’t worry, I took over six hundred photos while I was there. A tour agent at the bus station had secured us a very nice hostel for all four of us for very cheap—the only downside was the lack of air conditioning, which made for a very restless night.

The four of us caught an early train to Sevilla the next morning. In Sevilla, I was able to call my family for a bit before we went to see the cathedral where Christopher Columbus was buried. There was a lot to see, but travelling has a way of physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting you, so Carren and I headed to a café where we sat and people watched for a few hours and caught up on our journaling. Something that intrigued me about Spain is that no one seems concerned about money. If you order food or even just a coffee, you don’t have to pay up front. You pay after a few hours of sitting and enjoying yourself. Even at our hostel, the front desk did not seemed concerned about when we paid.

 Carren, Natalie, and I headed back to Cadiz that night, and spent the last day in Cadiz soaking up the culture, writing our postcards, and enjoying our last tapas and sangrias.

As I watched the ship be pulled away from the dock by the little tugboat and the Old Cathedral of Cadiz’s outline get smaller and smaller, a wave of emotions hit me. Spain was fun, but did not take me outside of my comfort zone at all. I’ve been to Europe before, and even though I hadn’t been to Spain, I could easily (well, with charades) communicate and navigate their country. But what about tomorrow? Tomorrow, we will be in Casablanca. Tomorrow, I will be staying in an orphanage in a small Moroccan village and then heading to the Sahara Desert to stay with a nomad family. Of course I have a mental image of Morocco will look like, but I don’t actually know what to expect—and that scares me. But tomorrow is coming quickly (well, not super quickly because we gain two hours tonight!), so adios until after I return from Northern Africa!


  1. Bring me back something awesome from Africa, like... Tarzan or a monkey (a snowglobe is optional too, i guess). lol. have fun at the orphanage, tell all your friends I say HI. :)
    From your now 15 year ole sis,

  2. Hi Emma and Chester -

    We LOVED hearing about your adventures in Spain! We are curious what time the day starts in Spain? Where do the shop owners sleep at during their siesta? Do you know if the schools close for a siesta also? We would LOVE to have a siesta everyday at school! : )

    How is Chester doing? Did he get to lay out on the beach too? We hope that the wind did not hurt him!

    Be safe!

    Mrs. Howard's Level II class