God is still good

How funny that my next post is also on a night that I am having to stay up all night. I should be working on my homework, but I need a break and needed to write here.

I’ll be honest, this semester has been rough. Winter tends to hit me harder–perhaps I have a seasonal component to depression, although I’m not completely sure. Last semester, for the most part, was really good. I was able to manage my stress well and I stayed pretty level in terms of my mood. I coped with my challenges in a healthy way. This semester has been different. At first, the semester was going alright, but in dealing with the stress of school and the additional stress of getting applications for grad school done and planning and writing my thesis, it was harder to cope in a healthy way. Winter sucks, and there was a period of probably a month and a half where depression hit me hard; the only motivation I had was to lay in bed and avoid homework and people. It wasn’t fun, although it was familiar; I saw myself act in ways that I hadn’t for a while.

I was taking a lower dose of my antidepressant until about a month ago when I switched back to the higher dose. This was a huge struggle for me. I had this plan of going off my medication completely this semester, and it felt like I was moving the opposite direction. Up to this point, I felt like I had this great story about how I had been depressed but got help, and people told me that my story was beautiful. I could see through my story how God has worked in me and it was a good feeling. Since I had this story, it was even harder for me to admit to others that I was struggling. Maybe that’s because I tend to fall into the line of thinking that I can conquer depression once and for all, and then I’ll never struggle with it again. But I know that I will deal with depression for the rest of my life.

When my counselor told me she thought it would be good for me to go back up to my higher dose, I was simultaneously relieved and depressed. I felt like a failure. I thought, this is the opposite direction that I had anticipated. But I was relieved because I knew that the past few months, I wasn’t me. I felt like a failure because as I mentioned before, I had this story that people admired, and would it be that anymore if I went in the opposite direction with my medication? I was perpetuating the stigma–the stigma that I hate so much–onto myself. I was frustrated at myself, that I couldn’t just get it together, believing that I shouldn’t need the medication, that needing it made me weak. But that was my mind being dumb, because none of that was true. As I had multiple friends tell me, medicine is just one tool that God has provided for me, and utilizing it doesn’t make me a failure. As much as I felt like a failure, I knew that switching to the higher dose would help.

And it has. I feel like myself again. It was only when I started to feel like myself that I realized that I had been so weighed down the past few months. Probably the one thing I’ve learned throughout all this is that God is still good. Even though my story has changed and I’ve lost some friends, God is still good. He still has plans for my life–not only that, but this is a part of his plan. He’s not looking at me thinking that I’m a failure for having to change my medication. I’m re-learning that it’s okay to struggle. And it’s good to open up and be honest with people about it, because they never respond the way I make myself think that they would. I think being open about our struggles makes us more authentic, something we desperately need in this day and age. A jar with broken pieces glued together lets the light out better than a perfectly in tact jar. God works through our weaknesses. Not only that, but being aware of our own weaknesses makes us more aware of how much we need God. My hope is not in some inspiring story, but in God, who will work all things for good, even if they’re bad things or things that I would prefer not happen.

So here I am, saying that even though my story has gone a different direction than I anticipated, that’s not bad, and it doesn’t make me a failure. Maybe my brain will always need this dosage to feel like myself. Even if I have to take it for the rest of my life, that’s okay with me, because not only does it help me feel like myself, but it reminds me that throughout it all, God is still good.

I heard this song by Jason Grey called The Best Days of my Life, and some lyrics hit this point home: “But if my heart hadn’t broke in two, I never would’ve run to you, where you loved me in my loneliness and I found I was never alone … But in my broken places I discovered how good your grace is, as you picked up the pieces, thank you Jesus for making me whole again.”


I should be working on final projects, but of course I’m not. I’m gonna write this blog. It’s something that’s been on my mind lately as I think about who I am and where I’m at in my process. Not too long ago, I took a look at some old journals. Sometimes it’s hilarious; other times it’s sobering. This particular time left me feeling quite blessed. I’m going to share some of a journal entry I wrote two years ago in hopes that it will encourage someone, whoever you are, that things can and do change.

November 20, 2012

I have no idea what I’m doing, Jesus. No clue. I’m not myself. Depression has come so easily. Suicidal thoughts and despair even easier. I look at all my thoughts and crap I’m dealing with and I wonder how I can go through the rest of my life dealing with this and I can’t, and I want to die, Jesus. I want to die, I hate myself…I don’t see anything worthy of love. I see how constantly I’m falling short of my standards…Jesus, I feel like I’m fucked up. Like I’ve fucked myself up. I’ve created all of these problems. I feel like I’m the problem, like I’ll never be okay, like there will always be something wrong with me. And that’s why I want to die…I am constantly falling short of my standards and goals, and everything is frustrating. I am not good enough for myself.

When I read that, I can feel the pain that I felt when I wrote it. I remember the desperation, and I especially remember feeling like nothing would change. Depression is that weight that oppresses you, sucks out all your hope, and tells you the biggest lie: nobody understands, nobody would care if you were gone. Somehow, by God’s grace, I mustered up the strength to take the first step towards the light, away from the many lies depression told me. I reached out and got help. At first it was just the thought that maybe I should try medicine since all the things I had been trying to do to get rid of this never-ending darkness weren’t working. And then one of my friends I talked to to get advice about this told me she had recently gotten in contact with a counselor for me.

So I started counseling. I started to work through my junk. A month in, we made the decision to try medicine. My doctor put me on a medicine, but the dose wasn’t right for me and had the opposite effect. That month and a half from Spring Break until the end of the semester was probably the darkest period of my life. I won’t lie, I was really suicidal. But when the semester ended, I saw my doctor again and he changed my dose, and that dose worked. And 16 months after starting the higher dose, this past September, I went back to my original dose. Next semester, I plan on going off my medication completely. That’s both scary and exciting. I think the scary part is obvious. The exciting part is that when I first started the medication, I had no intentions whatsoever of ever getting off of it. And here I am. I am alive, I am thriving, I have no desire to die, and I am no longer chained by the giant weight that is depression. Sure, I still deal with depression. That’s life. But I’ve done a lot of work to be at this place. I am okay.

So, I write this to say, there is hope. The darkness won’t last forever. And believe me, if I said that to the me of two years ago (and believe me, people did) I wouldn’t believe it. I didn’t believe it. And if someone had told the me of two years ago that two years later I would be applying to grad schools with the intent of getting a MA and PhD, I definitely wouldn’t believe you. When I was in that darkness, I couldn’t see a future at all for me. That happens when you’re suicidal. It’s just not there. Two years later, I am doing things I never imagined. More shockingly, living gives me joy. The future scares me, but that’s natural. The fear of the future I have now is way different than the fear in that entry: wondering how I could keep living with the weight that was on me.

Here’s what I will say. It’s really hard to live with depression. It seems harder to ask for help. But it’s worth it. I had to work through a lot of stuff (believe me) I’m so thankful God kept me alive long enough to do it. One of the things I’ve learned (and am stubborn to accept) is that it’s a process. It’s a really long process. But I’m glad I am still going through it.

It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to ask for help. Find some safe people and tell them what you’re going through. Some people don’t understand what depression is like and may react negatively, but keep trying to find safe people. People who won’t judge you and will be there. I write this to help dispel some of the stigma surrounding depression. What is needed to fix this stigma is more understanding about depression, and I hope this post helps some of my friends understand it better. And I hope it also helps people to know that there is hope, things won’t always be this way and they will get better.

Un año después

«Una bolsa quiere?»

«Qué?» pensé a mi mismo. Quiero un monedero?  Esto fue mi primera experiencia comprando los abarrotes en España. La cajera tuvo que repitiese unas veces y señaló a una bolsa. Rápidamente, entendí y di «sí.» La palabra del vocabulario que he aprendido en la escuela también refiere a una bolsa en España.

Esto fue un ejemplo de la confusión que me sentí. Me había ido a España hace poco tiempo, y fui literalmente a través del océano desde todo lo que conocía. Me sentí como extranjera. Tropecé a través de mis palabras en las primeras semanas porque ha pasado tres meses desde que hablaba el castellano. La gente hablaba muy rápido y no podía entender. “Tres euros” sonaba como “trece.” Cuando pude descansar después de casi un día y medio de viajar, lloré. Estaba tan reprimida. Me preocupé de cómo sobreviviría cuatro meses en este país y tanta quería volver a los EEUU.

Hace un año hoy, abordé un avión y volé a medio camino del mundo por mí mismo. Es difícil creer que ha pasado tanto tiempo. No tenía ni idea de lo que sucedería. Pero ir a España me ha cambiado la vida. Cada día, lo echo de menos. Puedo decir que viví en una cultura extranjera con exito y navegué la vida allá por cuatro meses. Es una hazaña.

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Idas y vueltas
31 julio 2013  ||  23 noviembre 2013

Hace una semana y pico, puse una foto de Málaga con una descripción en Facebook y es probable que voy a repetir algunas cosas. Pero España me ha cambiado la vida, de verdad. La manera más obvia es que cuando estuve allá, me ha dado cuenta que me encanta la literatura española, y que quiero enseñarlo en un nivel universitario. Antes de ir a España, no sabía que quería hacer después de la universidad. También, ir a España me creció como una persona. Tuve dificultades, como tener alguien en mi familia española robar mi dinero, y cuando estuve en Madrid, alguien me ha robado mi iPhone. Pero estas cosas no me disuade de volver. Mi amiga Emily acaba de volver de Chile (puedes leer sobre su experiencia aquí) y estaba hablando con ella antes de que ella volvía, y ella descubrió algunas de mis sentimientos bien:

Cuando llegué, pensaba, «si esta experiencia está mala nunca querré viajar jamás» y incluso con las experiencias malas, es como soy adicta de la aventura y nuevas experiencias ahora…Me encanta vivir con menos cosas. Me encantar estar libre de ir a lugares. Me encanta sentirme independiente y capaz porque puedo navegar un pais extranjero razonablemente bien la mayor parte del tiempo debido a las lenguas que sé. He tenido algunas experiencias horribles aquí pero no cambia cómo me siento sobre todo…estas experiencias casi se hace sentir como un pato con agua que sale de su espalda tener estas “experiencias malas” que se supone de ser pesadillas de viajar, y sobrevivir de ellos más ileso de se pensaría. Y se da cuenta que las cosas desgraciados tal vez sucederán, pero no significa que es el fin del mundo.

Eso es como me siento…que a pesar de tener malas experiencias, y tener que aprender lecciones difíciles, me creció como una persona.

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Un poco antes de volver de España, estuve en un autobús y vi alguien tratando de comunicar con el chofer, pero esta persona no pudo comunicar bien porque él no pudo hablar el castellano bien. Me causó un poco de dolor de verlo, pero me dio perspectivo, porque me hizo pensar en mi primera experiencia hablar con un andaluz.

Fui a dos carruseles del equipaje del vuelo de Madrid, y no vi mi maleta. Tuve mucho estrés, pensé que mi maleta estuvo perdida, y un hombre me preguntó: “Hablas español?” Sólo entendí eso, él continuó hablando muy rápido. Repitió la palabra «maleta», pero pensé que maleta significaba boleto, entonces cojí mi pasaporte, que tuve la calcomanía del equipaje, le mostré y el me dirigió a los carruseles internacionales. Fui allí, y ya estuvo mi maleta.

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Me sorprendió que mis habilidades de hablar el español volvieron tan rápido. Dentro de una semana de vivir con mi familia española, estaba hablando mucho mejor que el primer día. Ser completamente inmerso en la lengua se ayuda mucho. Mi primera familia española no hablan inglés, y por eso tenía que mirar muchas palabras en el diccionario. La cosa que me encantó de quedarme con una familia que pasamos mucho tiempo hablando. Ellos me corrigieron, pero no en una manera antipática. Si se tema cometer errores cuando se habla, no se habla. Así que dije algunas cosas en una manera estúpida, aprendí de mis errores. Algunas de mis memorias favoritas en España fueron sentar con mi familia y hablar en español. La cosa que más echo de menos de España es hablar el castellano.

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¿Sabes cómo algunas canciones te recuerda de ciertos momentos de tu vida? (¿O tal vez yo soy la única persona?) Pues, eso me pasa. Algún día, al principio de mi tiempo en España, tomé una siesta. Las siestas no me ayudaron con el jetlag, pero ¿cuándo se está en España, se toma una siesta, no? Me acuerdo despertarme oyendo la canción “Wake Me Up” por Avicii muy fuerte a través del suelo. (hay un video con las letras en el enlace). Bajé las escaleras al ver mis padres españoles bailando. Ni de los dos hablan ingles, y me dijeron que le gusta cómo sonó.

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Cuando pienso en España, pienso en muchos recuerdos. Es difícil poner en palabras cómo ir a España me cambió, pero quizás ponerlo en palabras simplemente es la culminación de cuentitos como estos. España es una parte de mí. Es mi entusiasmo por la literatura española. Es mi afinidad por las corridas de toros. Es mi pasión de viajar que está aumentando. Está en la manera que es difícil para mí oír palabras españolas pronunciado con acento inglés. Es mis anhelos por la comida española. Es los sentimientos agridulces que tengo pensar en los recuerdos que fueron creados allá, y cuando miró las fotos.

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 “Cuando se ha viajado, el viaje nunca termina, pero se juega una y otra vez en las cámaras más tranquilas. La mente nunca puede separarse de la jornada. “-Pat Conroy

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Tuve suerte en estar en Málaga en el medio de agosto por su feria que ocurre cada año. Básicamente, es una fiesta en la calle que dura ocho días, que celebra la reconquista de la ciudad por Fernando y Isabel. La gente baila flamenco en las calles. Al fin del evento hay un desfile que conmemora la entrada de los reyes católicos. Las discotecas están abiertos todo el día, creo yo. Hay una atmósfera muy interesante, tan despreocupado.

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Calle Lairos, la foto atrás, es un destino popular. Lleno de tiendas y restaurantes, hay mucho que hacer. No se permite coches en esta calle. La calle cambió desde un lugar desconocido e interesante, a un lugar que echo de menos, para mí. El nombre completo es Calle Marqués de Lairos. El mayor de las calles están nombrados en la memoria de gente famosa. Viví en Avenida Pintor Joaquín Sorolla. Hay mucho que decir, pero creo que es una manera interesante de conmemorar gente.

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La Plaza de la Merced está en el centro de Málaga. Hay restaurantes cerca de ella. La casa natal de Picasso está en la esquina. El monumento en el medio de la plaza, en la foto arriba, rinde homenaje al general Torrijos y sus 48 soldados que fueron asesinados, cuyos restos están allá también. Me encanta la vida de la plaza en España en el verano. Está tan relajada. La gente come en los restaurantes y se sienta y charlar por unas horas. La gente se sienta en la plaza y los chicos juegan el fútbol. Es un lugar que echo de menos.

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Un parte de la feria en un pueblo es la corrida de toros. Normalmente, hay una corrida cada día durante la feria. No pude ir a una corrida en Málaga, pero fui a la última corrida de la feria en un pueblo que se llama Fuengirola. Es un evento muy impresionante, y la atmósfera es única. A pesar de la controversia en otros países, los españoles se encantan sus corridas de toros. Disfruté las dos corridas que fui, y me gustaría ir a más corridas.

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Hay un arte cuando el matador guía al toro; un baile con la muerte. Algunos de los matadores se mueren. Mucha gente se muere en la corrida de los toros en Pamplona durante San Fermín. Ya con cada pase el matador muestra su poder encima del toro.

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Esta foto es una de mis favoritas fotos de España, y creo que captura la esencia de la corrida de toros. Es un estimulante, agotador ordalías por la gente que lo hace. Se puede ver el agotamiento en la cara de este torrero. Un matador está considerado bueno cuando puede matar el toro con una zambullida de la espada. Un rejoneador que vi, puso la espada en el toro, desmontó del caballo, y esperó, levantado con sus manos arriba, tan confidente en la entrega, hasta que se hundió el toro. Fue una experiencia surrealista.

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Tambien, los matadores son guapos.

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Hay carteles como eso que están cerca de la ciudad durante la temporada, que son la forma sóla del anuncio. Los detalles son diferentes para cada corrida, pero todos los carteles tienen un aspecto distinto.

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Málaga es el hogar de Picasso. Estaba nacido allá. Esta escultura está en un banco en la Plaza de la Merced.

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Su casa natal fue impresionante, pero no se permite tomar fotos adentro.

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Es la escuela que asistí. Pues, esta parte es el alojamiento en que se quedan algunas estudiantes, pero conecta a la escuela, a la derecha. Me encantó mi tiempo allá y toda la gente extraordinaria que conocía. Todavia mantengo contacto con algunos de los profesores.

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Este restaurante fue uno que iba con frecuencia. Está muy cerca a la escuela, y arriba de la colina donde vivía. No tomó mucho tiempo para la camarera saber lo que pedía. Siempre una pizza pepperoni y una coca cola. Ojala que hablé a ella más, porque cuando la hablé, muy cerca a mi ida, ella me dijo que mi español ha mejorado. En mi última noche allá, cené en O Mamma Mia y ella me dio un tiramisu. Me preguntó si volvería, y mi respuesta fue lo mismo que está ahora: sí. No se cuándo, y no se cómo, pero volveré.

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Me encantó la plaza de toros.

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Mientras estaba allá, viajé a Granada y pude visitar la casa natal de Federico Garcia Lorca. Fue un poeta y dramaturgo, y un parte de que se llama la Generación del ’27. (1927). He leído algunas de sus poemas y obras de teatro. Fue impresionante para mí, para ver su casa natal, aunque fue una parada muy rápida.

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Unas de mis cosas favoritas fue las salidas y puestas del sol. Vi tantas salidas y puestas bonitas. Aquí, en los EEUU, nada compara con estas salidas y puestas, pero a veces hay unas salidas y puestas bonitas.

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Esto es sólo un parte de lo que España significa a mí. Estoy muy agradecida que podía pasar un semestre en el extranjero. Tengo un dolor en mi corazón para España que no descanse hasta que vuelvo. Aprendí muchas cosas en este viaje. Aprendí mucho de mi mismo. Aprendí que soy capaz de vivir y prosperar en una cultura extranjera. Soy capaz de mantener horas de conversaciones en español con la gente. Aprendí que tengo una perspectiva muy estrecho, y aunque no me considero una americana ‘típica,’ en algunas maneras, de verdad yo fui. Aprendí que todos somos etnocéntricos, pero es posible y tan beneficioso para dar un paso en los zapatos de otro cultura. Aprendí sobre la belleza de la vida española. Aprendí que, a veces, estar a través del océano de todo  se conoce del mundo se ayuda a arreglar problemas. Aprendí tanto y conocí tanta gente y le echo de menos. Es difícil poner España en palabras, o caberlo en una cajita ordenada. La experiencia y todo sobre ella está infusa en mí, es un parte de quien soy. No sabía que pasará hace un año cuando salí de los EEUU, pero me alegro que duré los sentimientos malos y aprendí como amar a España. Ojalá que habría tratado más cosas y comidas, pero  ya que he ido, que la próxima vez haré más esfuerzos para experimentar con cosas extranjeras a mí. Hay un bar de tapas en Chicago en que quiero asistir, y alguna vez, quiero tratar de hacer comida española. La primera comida que está en la carta es churros con chocolate. Hace un año, abordé un avión. Y todo sobre mi experiencia, todo lo que me pasó en España, me ha hecho la persona que ahora soy, y en mi opinion, una persona mejor. Pero ahora tengo que volver a leer The Sun Also Rises (en español, Fiesta) por Ernest Hemingway…tengo que conseguir me dosis de España!

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One year later

“Una bolsa quiere?”

“What?” I thought to myself. Do I want a purse? This was my first experience buying groceries in Spain. The employee had to repeat herself a couple times and then pointed at a plastic bag. I quickly understood and agreed. The vocabulary word I had learned as a purse in school also referred to a plastic shopping bag in Spain.

This was a little taste of the confusion I felt. I had recently gone to Spain, and was literally across the ocean from everything I knew. I felt like a foreigner. I stumbled across my words the first week or two because it had been months since I had spoken Spanish. The people talked fast and I couldn’t understand. “Tres euros” sounded like “trece“. When I finally got to rest after nearly a day and a half of traveling, I cried. I was so overwhelmed. I worried about how I would survive four months in this country and wanted to go back home.

A year ago today, I boarded a plane and flew halfway across the world by myself. It’s hard to believe that it’s been that long. I had no idea what I was getting into. But going to Spain changed my life. I miss it every day. I can say that I successfully lived in a foreign culture and navigated life there for four months. And hey, that’s a feat.

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Departures and Arrivals
July 31, 2013  ||  November 23, 2013

A week or so ago, I posted a picture of Málaga with a description, and will probably repeat myself here. But Spain really did change my life. The most obvious way is that it made me realize how much I love Spanish literature and how I want to teach about it at the college level. Before I had gone to Spain, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. But Spain grew me as a person, too. I went through some hard things, like getting money stollen from someone close to me (at that time) and getting my phone stolen in Madrid. But even those things wouldn’t deter me from going back. My friend Emily just got back from Chile (you can read about it here) and I was talking with her before she got back, and she articulated some of my feelings well:

When I first got here I was like, “if this is really bad I’ll never want to travel again” and even with the bad experiences it’s like I’m an addict for adventure and new experiences now…I love living with less stuff. I love being free to go places. I love feeling independent and capable because I can navigate a foreign country reasonably well most of the time due to the languages I know. I’ve had some horrible experiences here but they don’t change how I feel about everything…they almost make you feel a little more like a duck with water rolling off your back to have these “bad experiences” that are supposed to be travel nightmares, and coming through them more unscathed than you’d think. And you realize that unfortunate stuff might happen, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the end of the world.

That’s how I feel…that despite having bad things taught to me and having to learn some hard lessons, it grew me as a person.

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Near the end of my time studying abroad, I was sitting on a bus and observed as someone tried to communicate with the driver but couldn’t because they couldn’t speak Spanish very well. it was kind of painful to watch, but offered some perspective, because it made me think of my first experience speaking with an andaluz.

I had gone to two different luggage carousels from the Madrid flight, and my luggage was nowhere to be seen. I was stressing out, thinking my luggage was lost somewhere, and an employee approached me and said, “Hablas español?” That was about the only thing that I understood as he proceeded to speak super fast. He kept saying maleta, which means suitcase, but I thought meant ticket at the time. I pulled out my passport and showed him the sticker on the back and he directed me to the international luggage carousels. I walked up and my luggage was right there.

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 It surprised me how fast my Spanish-speaking abilities picked back up. Within a week of living with my host family, I was speaking so much better than I had. There is something to be said about being completely immersed in the language. My first host family didn’t speak any english either, so I had to look up a fair amount of words in the dictionary. The thing I loved about staying with host families is that we would just talk, and they would correct me, but not in a mean way. If you’re afraid of making mistakes when you speak, you won’t speak. So even though I said some things stupidly, I just kept talking and learned from my mistakes. Some of my favorite memories in Spain were times I sat with my family and chatted in Spanish. The thing I miss the most about Spain is speaking Spanish.

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You know how certain songs remind you of certain times of your life? (Or maybe I’m the only one?) Well, that happened for me. This one day, early on in my time in Spain, I laid down for a nap. Naps probably didn’t help my jet lag, but hey, when in Spain, take a siesta, right? Anyway, I remember waking up to the song “Wake Me Up” by Avicii blasting through the floor. I go downstairs and my host parents are just kinda dancing around. Neither of them spoke English and told me that they just liked the way it sounded.

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When I think about Spain, I think of a bunch of random memories. It’s hard to put into words how going to Spain changed me, but perhaps putting it into words is just the culmination of little stories like these. Spain is a part of me. It’s my enthusiasm for Spanish literature. It’s my affinity for bullfighting. It’s my ever increasing wanderlust. It’s in the way I find it hard to hear Spanish words pronounced with an English accent. It’s my cravings for Spanish food. It’s the bittersweet feelings I have thinking about memories created there, and looking back on photos.

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“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.” -Pat Conroy

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I was lucky to have been in Málaga in mid-August for their annual feria. It’s basically an 8 day long street party, celebrating the reconquest of the city by Ferdinand and Isabella. People dance flamenco in the streets. At the conclusion of the event is a parade commemorating the entrance of the monarchs. The discotecas are open all day round, I believe. It is an interesting atmosphere, so carefree.

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Calle Lairos, pictured above, is a popular destination. Full of stores and restaurants, there is plenty to do. No cars are allowed on this road. This street changed from an interesting, unfamiliar place, to a place I miss. The full name of the street is Calle Marqués de Lairos. Most of the streets are named after people. I lived on Avenida Pintor Joaquin Sorolla. They’re kind of mouthfuls, but I find it a nice way to commemorate people.

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La plaza de la merced sits in the center of Málaga. There are restaurants around it. Picasso’s birth house is on the corner. The monument in the middle of the plaza, pictured above, pays respect to General Torrijos and his 48 soldiers that were assassinated, whose remains are there as well. I love the plaza life in Spain in the summer. It’s so relaxed. People go out to eat and sit and chat for hours. People congregate around the plaza and little kids play soccer. It’s a site I miss.

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Part of a town’s feria is the corrida de toros. Usually they’ll have one every day during the fair. I didn’t get a chance to get to one in Málaga, but I went to the last corrida of the fair in a town called Fuengirola. It’s a really cool event, and the atmosphere is unique. Despite its controversy in other countries, the Spanish love their bullfights. I enjoyed the two bullfights I went to, and would like to go to more.

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There’s just such an artistry as the matador guides the bull; a brush with death. Some bullfighters get killed. Many get killed in the running of the bulls in Pamplona during San Fermín. Yet with each pass the matador proves his power over the bull.

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This is one of my favorite pictures from Spain, and I believe that it captures the essence of bullfighting. It is an exhilarating, exhausting ordeal for the people who do it. You can see exhaustion on this torerro’s face. A bullfighter is considered good when he can kill the bull with one plunge of the sword. One matador that I saw plunged the sword and then just waited, standing with his arms up, so confident in his delivery, until the bull collapsed. That was a pretty surreal experience.

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They’re pretty good looking, too.

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Posters like these are all around the city during the season, being really the sole form of advertisement. The details are different for each fight, but the posters all have a distinct look.

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Málaga is the home to Picasso. He was born there. This sculpture sits on a bench in La plaza de la merced.

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His birth house was pretty cool, but pictures aren’t allowed inside.

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This was the school I went to. Well, technically, this is the housing part that some students stay at, but it connects to the school, looping over to the right. I loved my stay here and all the amazing people I met. I still stay in touch with some of the teachers.

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This restaurant was one I frequented often. It’s very close to the school, and up the hill from where I lived. After a while the waitress knew my order without me having to say it. I wish I had tried to talk with her more, because when I did, near the end of my stay, she said that my Spanish had improved. On my last night, I had dinner there, and she gave me a tiramisu. She asked if I would come back, and my response was the same now as it was then: yes. I don’t know when, and I don’t know how, but I’ll come back.

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I loved the bullring.

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While I was there, I took a trip to Granada and got to stop at the birth house of Federico García Lorca. He was a Spanish poet and playwright, part of what they call the Generation of ’27. (1927). I’ve read some of his poems and plays. It was really cool to see his birth house, though it was a quick stop.

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One of my favorite things about Spain was the sunrises and sunsets. I saw so many beautiful skies. Here, back in the USA, nothing really compares to that, but sometimes there are some nice ones.

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This is only a part of what Spain means to me. I am so grateful that I got to spend that semester abroad. I have an ache in my heart for Spain that won’t rest until I go back. I learned a lot of things on that trip. I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I am capable of living and thriving in a foreign culture. I am capable of carrying on hours of conversations in Spanish with people. I learned that I had such a narrow perspective, that though I don’t consider myself a ‘typical’ American, in some ways, I was. I learned that we’re all ethnocentric, but it is possible and so beneficial to step into another culture’s shoes. I learned about the beauty of the Spanish life. I learned that sometimes, being an ocean away from everything you know helps you to work out issues. I learned so much and met so many people and I miss them. It’s difficult to put Spain into words, or to fit it into a neat little box. The experience and everything about it is infused in me, it’s a part of who I am. I didn’t really know what I was getting into a year ago when I left, but I’m glad I stuck out the initial bad feelings and learned to love Spain. I wish I had branched out a little more and tried more foods, but I know that now that I have gone, that next time I will try harder to branch out. In the meantime, I’m trying to make up for it. I’ve got my eye on a Spanish tapas bar in Chicago that I want to go to, and at some point, I want to try to start making Spanish food. The first food on the menu is churros con chocolate. A year ago, I boarded a plane. And everything about my experience, everything that happened to me in Spain, has made me the person I am now, and, in my opinion, a better person. But now I’ve got to get back to reading The Sun Also Rises…gotta get my Spain fix!

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Sooo, in my Spanish class we were talking a little bit about how Latin America celebrates holy week, and my teacher showed some videos of the processions they do. It reminded me of a similar thing that happened while I was in Málaga, when the town was celebrating their patron saint. It’s kind of a hard thing to describe, but I took a couple videos of it. And today I was randomly going through videos and decided to upload all the videos I said I would upload later while I was in Spain but I never did. I won’t put them all in one post because there are a ton, and some of them aren’t done uploading yet. But I’ll try to go chronologically, zoo that means we’ll start with the feria! I wrote a blog post about it here, but basically, it’s a week long (I think 10 days, actually) festival to celebrate the Catholic monarchs’ entry into Málaga–taking the city back from the Moors (they’re muslims, but Moore refers to a specific ethnic group from Northern Africa, and they ruled Spain for 8 centuries.) Quick graphic that shows who ruled the land:

So they have a really long fiesta–Calle Lairos, one of the main downtown streets that has a ton of restaurants and shops, and doesn’t allow cars, only people, is packed to the brim. On a normal day (especially in summer) it’s pretty packed but this is packed. Here are some of the events that were going on.

It’s pretty cool. They also end la feria with a parade that serves as kind of a re-enactment of the monarchs’ entrance into the city. I got plenty of videos of that, too.

That is a lot of videos…whoops. Hope you enjoy!

Flashback #1


This was probably, no, was the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen. I took probably fifty pictures–at least–on my phone. Soon after I went to Madrid without copying them to my computer and when my phone got stolen, I lost most of them.

This sunset was surreal. I had an off day, and by chance I decided to get out of the house for a walk, to clear my mind. This was a spontaneous decision, and I just started walking on the Paseo Marítimo (meaning right next to the sea). Normally I take the bus into town, but I randomly wanted to walk.

And as I started, I watched this beautiful sunset unfold before me. In this moment I forgot about my problems. I felt like God was putting on a show for me, giving me a boost I needed. I felt so small. The sky was giant and the colors so vibrant. It was something you can’t describe just by a picture, but the pictures I took depicted it pretty well. I would walk and stop, until I finally found a spot and just sat, listening to music and taking pictures, sitting in awe. I watched the sky transform from normal colors to golden clouds, pink clouds in the opposite direction. This cloud formed, and as if formed it looked like a hurricane–I’m guessing because it was so windy that day.

Eventually the golden hurricane-like cloud got darker and pinker until it didn’t look like a hurricane anymore. I watched and took pictures until basically when it was dark out. I walked down on the beach, trying to get a good picture of the water and the sky, thinking of how blessed I was in that moment.

This is one of my fondest memories from Spain, although I have so many. Lately when I’ve been doing whatever, my mind will drift off into some memory or moment in Spain, and it’s almost like I’m in the moment, re-living it again. I’ve decided to do some posts about some of these “flashbacks” and I’ll post a picture and try to describe it and what was happening.







(Come on, I couldn’t just post one picture!)

Here we go!

I remember when I changed the design of this blog and after thinking of things for a while, came up with a catchy tag-line: “From America to Andalucía, learning Spanish, a new culture, and more about myself during Fall 2013.” It was a summer day, and I had been in Spain for maybe two weeks. I was excited, though dealing with adjustment difficulties, and I slightly felt like I didn’t quite know my place yet. This was all new. I had just moved into the housing at the school, after living with a host family a week and a half. And though soon after moving into the school I realized that I wanted to be with a host family, I had to wait until two weeks had passed. I remember this so well.

Now, I find myself changing my blog design again, trying to think of a different tag-line. I’m not quite there yet, but what I do know is that I am resuming my “normal” life…or well, my new normal. I’m back at EIU, resuming my studies, my job, and my extracurricular activities, and still missing Spain a ton. There’s something that seems to remind me of it each day, and sometimes they’re the most random things. Some days are worse than others, but being back in Charleston has given me time to really reflect on my experiences in Spain, and to reflect in different ways than I could at home.

Shortly before I came home/after getting home, I pondered this question…what do I tell people when they ask about Spain? I felt like I had so much to say but couldn’t find the words for it, so a lot of my conversations went like this: “how was Spain?” “good!”…and then awkwardness. Someone told me to prepare a response that I can tell people when they ask, and I tried, but I’ve got this response down since getting back to Charleston.

How was Spain? Spain was good. Spain was bad. I think I had more bad parts than a “typical” study abroad experience, but the good outweighs the bad, and even the bad things turned out good in the end. I can say with 100% certainty that Spain changed me. I know that’s the cliché response, but it’s completely true. Studying abroad does change you. I had never been outside of my culture, my country. In Spain I had to adjust to a different culture. Sure, down here at Eastern I’m “on my own,” but my parents were only four hours away and I could communicate with anyone I wanted to when I wanted to. In Spain I had to deal with being isolated…it was a really lonely feeling of isolation at times. I was literally an ocean away from my family, my friends, and everything that I knew about the world and my life. I pretty much had to wait most of the day to be able to talk to family and friends. When I skyped, it was at night–9 or 10pm. My mom dealt with a lot of iMessages around 4AM (which I appreciate!) but other than that, it kinda sucked having to wait for so long to be able to talk to people. Sometimes I would iMessage my mom in the morning, and she would be getting ready for bed. I don’t think words can really describe that sense of loneliness that I (and I’m sure others who have studied abroad) felt. I’m not saying I didn’t have friends in Spain…of course I did! And I’m so glad that we have the technology we do–I got to FaceTime into my family reunion and birthday parties. Basically I’m saying that I think this was the first time I was really on my own.

Spain taught me to trust myself. One of the hardest things I went through while I was there was getting a lot of money stolen from me. It was a mess. Basically a relative of my host mom abused my trust in her and over a few days was taking my debit card and taking money out from ATM’s. I never really mentioned it on the blog because it was a really complicated and hard situation and for a while I only talked about it with people that needed to know about it. I also want to mention that this is NOT a typical thing to happen on a study abroad trip…well actually I don’t know but I don’t think it is. What I’m trying to say is that as this situation was unfolding, it was one of the worst two weeks of my life. It was incredibly stressful. But it taught me to trust myself. Things were happening that did not sit right with me, and thing after thing I stuck with what I thought was right. I’m not one to really trust myself. I’m super indecisive. But people around me supported me and agreed with the things that I was doing. It was a really, really, hard situation, and I couldn’t see at the time how ANY of it could be beneficial, but standing on the other side now, even though that was one of the worst things that happened, it was really good for me. It’s not good to get money stolen, obviously, but it was something that grew me as a person. Like I said, Spain changed me. And I say this to everyone I talk to about it–going to Spain was the best decision I’ve ever made.

I also grew somewhat in independence. At the beginning, I never did anything apart from going to downtown by myself. In the last two months of my stay there, I took some trips by myself. I went to Fuengirola (an hour by train) by myself to see a bullfight. I took a bus to Gibraltar and spent the day there by myself. And last but not least, I took a weekend trip to Madrid by myself. And it was good (besides my iPhone getting stolen, but that’s in one of my other posts). Being in Madrid by myself was…liberating. Some people expressed their doubts about me going by myself, but I didn’t really think anything of it. Madrid reminded me of Chicago, and I’ve been in Chicago by myself and was fine. Taking trips like that by yourself is also good too. It’s great to go with friends, but there’s something about going somewhere by yourself, taking the city in, absorbing it, making your own itinerary and doing what you want to do, that also grows you as a person. I guess I should say there’s something about going on a trip by yourself  while in a foreign country that grows you as a person.

Spain is in my heart and memories, and I have so much memorabilia in my room–pictures collaged from my time in Spain, a Spanish flag and map (which I bought before going to Spain), prints of paintings by Picasso and Dalí. Spain is a part of me. One of my Spanish teachers told me in an email near the beginning of the trip that studying abroad is a big deal and when I came back I would be me but with Spain incorporated into me in a meaningful way. She was right. I have the stories, I have the pictures, I have the “response” figured out when people ask me about it. But another fun part is talking about it and being reminded of little funny stories. I will go back. I don’t know when or how, but there’s so many things that I didn’t do.

Meanwhile, I am in a different stage of life–back at EIU, taking on a new semester. Perhaps that merits a blog design and tag-line change :). But since I keep saying that I’m different, I’ll tell you some things I’m getting involved in this semester. Most things are the same, like I’m taking classes again, working at my job again, but I’m getting more involved with oboe this semester. We are having a studio class and recital (which is exciting because we haven’t had either before!) and I’m actually (much to my shock) learning to work on reeds. I’m still involved with Cru, but I’m getting involved with Spanish Club, which meets for an hour every week. I’m also participating in a program called Amigos and Friends, which is a program through the Newman Center where we teach people English–people that are here to work for their families back in Mexico or Guatemala. I’ve been a member of Sigma Delta Pi (the honors Spanish organization) but we’re planning cool stuff for the semester. Basically I’m trying to speak Spanish whenever I can…I miss being surrounded by it! That was the one thing I loved about Spain.

Anyway, I’m pretty excited about this semester and what it has in store. So there’s an update for you and a bit more of my reflections. This semester is gonna be great!


I miss the sunrises/sunsets the most.