December 30, 2010


I'm home, but I mostly just feel lonely. Everyone I studied abroad with is glowing with delight about being surrounded by family and friends again, but I don't have any friends here... and I'm beginning to think there's almost no correlation between what I do and arguments I get into with my mom. Things are pretty peaceful right now, but I just feel... distant. :( Even Tidbit is only sleeping in my room half the time, and it actually gets cold at night here.

December 29, 2010

Random Status Update

Starting to get excited about Germany:

Check out how far I can go on Public Transport for free as a student!! It takes me right up to the border with France, for one thing. And it implies I might only have to pay a "supplement" for trains going to other regions in Germany?!

Other than that I'm mostly in organizing mode. Tidying my room and sorting photos. I go through an album on Picasa and tag all the good/unique ones as "good". Then I tag the whole album as "bad". Then I search by "good" and untag all of those pictures as "bad". Then, I search by "bad" and delete all. It works well.

Last night I cooked Chicken Spaghetti, only it wasn't actually chicken (*cough* leftover turkey) and it wasn't actually spaghetti (*cough* rice and quinoa noodles). I need some good Asian food stat, all this good ol'fashioned, hearty Midwestern fare is about to do me in.

I need to be writing (emails and for writer's club). But right now I'm not in a very creative mood. I did squeeze out four posts about my road trip on the Pamplona blog. Three more, (Valle de Roncal, Embalse de Yesa, and Castillo de Javier), and two of those quite short, and I'll have wrapped up those TWO DAYS. I swear there were more hours in the day in Spain.

December 27, 2010

Goals for the Long Break

There's no big, all consuming mission. Instead, I'll -

Minor Goals:
Try to be a good daughter while I'm home
Get my photos all sorted and archived
Brush up on my German
Catch up on my emails
'Finish' my Pamplona blog
Reduce Clutter
Show my mom Picasa

Major Goals:
Babysit as much as I can
Improve my writing by reading, practicing, and going to writing group.

December 26, 2010


Sorauren is a little village in Navarra, really close to Pamplona. I walked there one November day.

If you look up Sorauren on Wikipedia, there are three paragraphs about its location, it's stone bridge, it's cultural scene (??), and a battle that took place there during the Peninsular war. After these paragraphs, there is a sentence mentioning that a residential street in Toronto is also named Sorauren.

If you look up Sorauren on, you see page after page about the street in Toronto. Looking for Sorauren + Spain, Sorauren + Navarra, or Sorauren + Pamplona returns no results.

December 25, 2010

Christmas Day in Florida

I know I'm still a Missouri girl when... bare feet and sandals in the grass make me think of summer afternoons, not Christmas day after-dinner.

December 17, 2010

Last Times

Last time on Goroabe Bridge, last time in Plaza del Castillo, last time on campus in about half an hour, maybe. Probably. Gotta turn in library books and take a last exam and I can't imagine why I'd go back after that.

But there's a last time for everything. You can choose to cry about it, or not.

December 15, 2010

3 Days and Counting...

Last day in Askatasuna today. They bought me a scarf as a Christmas present!! ;_; They totally didn't have to do that! And they even got black because they noticed that my coat was black and that in the picture I had of my friends and me I was wearing black! One of the teachers (the sweet one who wants to live in the U.S. for a few years, and loves skiing etc) gave me a piece of paper with her phone number, address, etc on it, that says, "You will welcome at my house." She also told me this herself and was muttering something about San Fermines when another teacher took me away for something. So nice. ^^

Hotel in Bilbao booked, buses figured out, itinerary sent home. Package sent to Austria (a little stressful and twice the expected price, but still a slight savings in the long run. and a lot easier). Took my second to last final. Didn't feel great about it between the different format / different expectations / Spanish / the material being a bit hard to study for (almost common sense... you know the type). But, what else is new, and I keep reminding myself that I only need to pass, and I only need like a 50% to pass.

I weighed myself out of curiosity. Despite churros and Milka and having a deep fryer in the house that I've become quite good at using, I'm going home the exact same weight as I left. Which meant I could go to Beatriz and buy one last box of Garrotes. I met up with Sofia and Nadine one last time and we went to a little cafe called La Hormiga Atomica (the atomic ant). I ordered in Basque, but that meant all of one word was in Basque, and he didn't seem to notice. :P I got photos with Nadine, Sofia, Patri, and Daphne, and they all signed my flag (Patri signed for Daphne ;)). Tomorrow if I get signatures and photos from Florencia, Gema, and Mary, then that's really everyone. Even Gianfranco's coming back so I'll get his!

It's getting decently cold now. But I can make it a few more days, even without a coat. Tonight it was all in the wind (actually a balmy 0!) and when a wall or something blocked it for a second a sort of warm relief washed over me. Every time I take any little side street now I realize it might be my last time.

To do: Send christmassy things to Liisa and Rinna, withdraw a bit more money so I'm good for Bilbao (extra doesn't hurt, I can bring it to Germany so I'm okay on arrival). Buy presents for Todd and Rachel, Laura, and Zahra. Complete all obligations (from exams to parties). Get to Bilbao. Get home. Y ya esta.

December 14, 2010

Everything Else

I got done all of my packing today. I obsessively sorted out my coins and bills and made estimates about whether I'll need to withdraw any more. I rationed out my remaining food. I went and stole some boxes from the dumpster and packaged up and addressed my Christmas present to Liisa, a message in a bottle for Rinna, and the stuff I'm shipping to Austria to have in Germany. It's amazing how productive you can be when you don't want to study.

December 13, 2010

The Final Days

The last days are here. I'm leaving in less than a week. Yesterday I did the last load of laundry and today I started packing. Looks like I'm going to manage to get home in the same luggage - standard size suitcase, school size backpack, and briefcase - as I came in with, although I am planning to send a small package to Lea in Austria of things for Germany - medicines I bought here, (which may be illegal to ship in and out of the E.U. and I don't want to look it up), a few cute summery things I can wait a while on, etc. Not a ton, just enough to take off the strain and hopefully save my zippers. :)

I've got one more day of volunteering at Askatasuna, probably one more English lesson with Javier. All of my lectures are over and I have two more finals coming up. I haven't really said any real goodbyes yet, but I have them marked on the calendar and they're rushing up to meet me. My main friend group had a Christmas party that was also our last quiet event - we're going out on Friday which should be fun, but it's not really the same. Ainhoa's birthday party was on Saturday, and unfortunately I had to pick between that and the last official Erasmus event. :( But I made the right choice, I needed to go to Ainhoa's party after all she's done for me, and as a bonus we ran into a funny procession of men with giant bells on their backs, and I went inside a 'normal' Spanish house for the first time. :)

At all these events I'm careful to get some good photos. I don't want to regret anything like that that's so easy fixed now, so hard to fix later. Of course there are still a few loose ends - I realized the other day that I never contacted the other Couchsurfing person who told me to send a message once I arrived in Pamplona, and I never did grab lunch with Esther. But it's okay, really, and I plan to send a message to both of them to let them know that they made me feel really welcome, which is true. I had some semi-friends in Club de MontaƱa who I haven´t seen in a while because the November event was cancelled. So no real goodbye, but I´ll survive that. :) There are still so many things I haven´t seen, but they´re now just more reasons to come back. By and large, no regrets, I´ve done well by myself.

Jaime and I went downtown to take a few pictures tonight - of the Christmas decorations and just to have a few hours together outside of the house. The town was strangely deserted although it wasn´t even that late - do Spaniards adapt a different schedule in wintertime? But it wasn´t quite dodgy, more sort of peaceful, and we took some really lovely photos. It´s such a stupid thing, but I´m glad. We´ve been through so much together and I´m glad we have a nice photo or two to remember each other with. She has an exam at 8:30 tomorrow, but it was coming down to this - it was tonight or never. We really are in the final days. Where have the months gone?

December 05, 2010

Germany Income!

I found out today that I've been chosen to work on my school's study abroad blog. I sent in an application a few weeks ago and now it's on. :) The payment is 250$, and for that I have to blog about 15 times. Not professional rates maybe but definitely not bad, especially considering that I would be (and will be) doing the same thing for fun. 250 is what? Funding for maybe two whole weekend trips, and from Bonn that could get me anywhere - Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Berlin, Alsace-Lorraine, maybe even Switzerland. Further, if I'm willing to hop on a Ryanair flight from Cologne (connections should be good!)

It's a good deal, all told. I'm also going to try to find some gigs babysitting or teaching English. Pamplona's a bit small to just hope you walk into something like that, and people generally are looking when the international students first arrive. But getting paid 10 euros an hour is niiiceee for an American.

I'm happy to have gotten the blog position. I actually wasn't certain - not to sound arrogant, but I thought I might be overqualified. I've had a personal blog (which one? duhhh) for almost 6 years, I've been maintaining what I think is a decent little blog for this semester in Spain, I'm a JOURNALISM student, and this is my second study abroad experience - maybe they want someone more fresh, more raw? I was also worried that Germany might be a bit too dull for them - EVERYONE goes to Germany. Maybe they wanted a student off to Indonesia or Ghana. But I guess not. Win.

Pictures of Pamplona

This is Pamplona, the beautiful city in Navarra, Northern Spain, where I studied and spent four months of my life. We've got four vibrant seasons, world class tapas, a beautiful old town, a cathedral, a huge sprawling fortress, rivers and mills and delightful suburbs all around, two big universities, a reasonable amount of nightlife, nuns everywhere, one of the main fronts of the Basque independence movement, a park with live deer in it, festivals in every season, and more. And still, some people manage to call it boring - and after one semester! These people make me sick.

I took all of these pictures either in Pamplona proper (the majority) or in a suburb that you can reach on foot (faster by city bus).

Pamplona in Wintertime

Another day, another protest

Plaza San Francisco

Plaza del Castillo

Little girl during San Fermin Txikito

Sorauren, nearby town. (Follow the Parque Fluvial)

Very popular banner for people to hang - it asks the government to
bring Basque prisoners back to the Basque Country.

University of Navarra

La Trinidad de Arre

Another little demonstration...

San Saturnino

El Alto del Perdon (lights of Pamplona below!)

San Fermin Txikito

The Casco Viejo

View from campus in wintertime

Medieval Market Petting Zoo

San Fermin Txikito

Giant Paella at University

Birch tree in Plaza Felix Huarte

Plaza del Conde Rodezno

Church Steeple

San Saturnino

Parque Fluvial

Nuns everywhere!

Best food in the world

Paintball at the University Sports Day

Biurdana Mill

The City Hall

Monument to the Running of the Bulls

UNAV Campus

Rincon del Caballo Blanco (great view of the mountains from here!)

Basque Handball Court in the fortress

The Cathedral

Last Two Weeks

I took my first legit final here. Maybe I failed it or maybe I did fine. The systems just too different and I wasn't 100% sure what they wanted from me all the time. But I passed the first mini exam, I went to all the classes, and I did reasonably well on the project... and I'm an international student. I should be able to pass the class, and that's all I need.

I swear I'm cursed when it comes to trips. The last three times I've planned anything involving a car, (and the last four out of five times) something's gone wrong. First it was Allan and the passport, then it was Ainhoa's mom's car breaking down and needing hers, and then this weekend we were essentially snowed in. We were hoping for four days of little road trips, getting the car Sat-Tues. But what looks like it's going to be the biggest snow of my semester fell Friday (when I couldn't really enjoy it) and the roads were still too icy Saturday to go out. Since the car rental place is closed Sunday, it's not like we can start today. And Monday and Wednesday are national holidays, so things are even more complicated!

But I shouldn't complain about these things really. Spain's air traffic controllers went on an unannounced strike and really messed up transportation around here. Apparently Spain has declared some sort of state of emergency that hasn't been used since Franco died. Yikes. My roommate Jaime made it to Switzerland okay (just in time), but my friends Sara and Colleen got stuck in Madrid (at least they live there, so they could just go home to figure things out) and are missing Prague altogether. They're resilient, though, now fighting to get their money back on the original flight and thinking they can still get to Vienna and such. So yeah, not complaining about my road trippettes anymore!

And, I think things will work out fine. I'm down to my last two weeks here, and the hardest exams are out of the way. I've done most of my Christmas shopping. Emily is arriving tonight, we're getting pintxos with my friends... tomorrow we'll go with Ainhoa (and her friend Andrea) to a Basque book fair in Durango, Tuesday with luck we'll get the car and go north to Elizondo and the witch caves. Then Emily leaves - on Wednesday Marketa and I are hoping to go East to the mountains after all (weather dependent). If I can see Ochagavia, the snow-capped Pyrenees, and Javier, I'll be a very, very happy girl. :) Basque final is Thursday but I'm not worried, I am planning to review a bit, and go to take the exam, for my own dignity - but I don't think the credit will even transfer.

This weekend I still might have a bit of fun - maybe a day trip with Ainhoa's car at last? :) And the farewell slideshow for international students... and Christmas party with my friends! I'll also start studying for my final two exams, next week - I'm not too worried about them, there's just Literature and Film and my Literature class, and I've read all the books and watched all the movies. I have to finish up my notebook assignment for Literature, but that's due Friday during the exam and helps me study, so not too stressful. And I'll pack and clean, ship Liisa's Christmas present to Finland and probably a box of things for Germany to Lea's family in Austria.

Friday's my last exam - then I'll go out and party like crazy with my friends, one last time. It's not my ideal way to spend a final night, but that's the general consensus and it /will/ be fun - I just wish we had a quiet time after that. :) Then I'll sleep in, grab my stuff, and head to Bilbao - not looking forward to having to get there and to a hotel with all my luggage, alone, in winter time! My flight leaves early early the next morning, the 19th, and later that day (time difference!) I'll be home. I can actually see it approaching now. How time flies!

December 03, 2010

Still Life in Spain

It's snowing pretty hard today. First serious exam tomorrow - Cultura Visual.

My grocery list:

Relleno (bloodless blood sausage from Pamplona)
Tomato sauce
6 Eggs

I could have survived the day with what I had in my cupboard, and shouldn't have wasted the time with my exam approaching, but then again it only takes ten minutes, and tomorrow I'm busy, and Sunday it'll be closed, and Monday and Tuesday perhaps too - there's some sort of holiday. Even today lots of things are closed for Dia de Navarra, but luckily not the grocery store. Besides, I wanted to feel the snow under my own feet - this was an excuse.

Plaza Felix Huarte has nine new residents as of this morning - very pale and a bit misshapen. I don't know if they'll make it to nightfall - the temperature is only just at freezing, after all.

My room smells like the wet laundry hung up to dry. It's not unpleasant. There's enough light bouncing off the snow and coming in through the window that I can leave the electric ones turned off. The air is cool but I've got my wool socks and a sweatshirt on as I sit in bed and study with a mug of Colacao. Life is good.

December 02, 2010

Pamplona in Winter

Living with Ana

People ask me what's wrong with Ana. It's difficult for me to explain, because it's the never-endingness of it all that makes it so unbearable. Today, for example (I kept track of the details because I felt the need to record the terribleness of it all) she was trying to convince me to buy these sort of warm pantyhose things that she likes to wear. I thought I understood with just mentioning them what they were, but she launched into a 2-3 minute description of them in her style - meaning requiring you to give full attention the whole time, meaning expansive gestures, meaning she was standing so close to me that I had to smell her hideous cigarette breath the entire time. When she finished, she did it again. And again.

Starting at the third repetition, I started saying, "Yes, I understand what they are." as clearly as possible. Starting at the fourth, I started cutting her off mid sentence to repeat that I understood, again and again. Nothing works. After FIVE repetitions of the exact same description, she went and got a pair so she could give it AGAIN with a prop - this time slower and with some additional details such as here are white ones here are black ones. She can barely see, so although the price tag was clearly visible, she took about 30 seconds to read it off painfully slowly. Then she went to another pair (same price) and did the same thing. I thanked her and said I would go buy some and thanked her again. I got the description AGAIN - if you're still counting, this is now the seventh time.

I decided that desperate measures had to be taken, and I actually said, "You don't need to explain it any more, I know what they are." I tried to walk away, but as a closing remark she went through the information one more time. Then I sat down to eat while she put away dishes. Suddenly she exclaimed, "Que Suerte!!" (What luck!)

"Que?" I said. (What?)

"Que suerte!" she said.

"Porque dices esto?" I said (Why are you saying that?)

"Porque que suerte!" she said. (Because what luck!)

- A pause -

Finally, she added, "That Jaime's in Switzerland this weekend! How fun for her!"

Maybe Jaime's right. Maybe she does lace her cigarettes with crack. People suggest to me that she's just lonely. Maybe, but the only reason she's ever not bothering me is when she's on the webcam or the phone for hours, or has one of her children over, or a friend. She has loads of them, and good for her. But the house is ALWAYS filled with her voice. If she's lonely, she's insatiable.

People have suggested that it's a Spanish thing. The annoying speech patterns, the crazy gestures? Probably. The cigarette breath and lack of respect for personal space? Probably. The repetition? Maybe - the first 2-3 times. After that? I think not. Jorge said that in Spain they don't like to make people eat alone - they feel bad for you. Thinking he might be on to something, I very clearly explained to her that I liked to eat alone. But every time I did this, she looked so sad that I eventually relented and gave up on one of my favourite ways to relax - reading or studying over a quick snack or lunch.

As I'm posting this, she's eating across the table from me and staring right at me. The entire time. I should mention that I came into the kitchen first, and she followed me - It's not like I busted in on her private time. You want food in this house, you better be ready for some company.