Wednesday, August 21, 2013

After the End

It's been a whirlwind of weeks since I arrived home. Those weeks have become months, and with that, the struggle of readjusting and trying to get comfortable in this country again has become easier. My exchange is over. It took me a little while to fully realize that fact. On the drive home from the JFK airport in New York City, I listened to Pablo Alborán on replay, silently crying and trying to make sense of everything.

But as the time's passed, life here has normalized. I've felt myself falling back into the typical patterns of life here in America. It's such a shock because living abroad puts you on the outside looking in. It's a unique experience to be on the margins of society. It's a temporary situation, but not always easy. But it's something you really can't experience in any other way, and it's that outsider perspective that makes people change and grow and mature so much during exchange years.

Spain shaped me, it changed who I am. I'm so grateful for the experience. I'm so grateful for all the wonderful people that befriended the American, the people who I may no longer talk to daily, but who will always be in my heart.

I don't want to create the impression that an exchange year is a short-lived thing and when it's over, it's over. Because it isn't like that. The memories will last forever. Sometimes I feel like my time in Spain didn't actually happen, that it's just all a hopeful creation in my mind. I hate thinking like that. But returning to my home here in Ohio was just like a jolt. It was like while I was on exchange, I was swinging higher and higher. Spain was an adventure and it kept me swinging. Until suddenly I fell off the swing and onto my back. I was dropped into a completely new place. On the ground again, where everything familiar that I know and love is. But I had to start, rev up that swing again.
I know that's kinda a crazy metaphor. I hope you all get it. I don't know how else to explain the experience and how re-culture shock was so strong yet nonexistent.

I have a whirlwind of thoughts swirling around my head, as far as where my life will go from here. I like being undecided and not knowing. I don't want to tie myself down to any one idea or life choice or career path yet. So going into what it sure to be an insanely busy and fun-filled senior year in high school, I will take all the lessons that Spain taught me and put them to good use. I will not disappoint.

Besos besos besos, Lani.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The End

The last few days here, really the last week here, has been the absolute best week of my life. It's so sad to be here, in the experience, but at the same time on the outside, watching it end. I'm actually running on 3 hours of sleep right now in the last two days so sorry if I make no sense. Anyways, my little remaining time was just spent with some of my favorite people in all of Spain, and that was what made it so awesome. Here's some of the amazing things that have happened lately:

I made chocolate chip cookies that finally turned out well!

I went to a pool party at Maria's house.

Made a really great new friend <3

Look right beyond the pool is the ocean!

So, there is this song that's popular in Spain right now. And I really like it, and took to learning all the words. Well, at a night out a few days ago, I actually met the singer! It turns out he is from Huelva, my city! I was starstruck to say the least, I love his song and I've never met anyone famous in my life. Well anyways, I went up to him and I was like "Hi, I'm your fan americana!" And he was just like "Really? Well sing me my song." Well at that point I couldn't remember the lyrics to the song for my life, even though I knew them by heart, but I was just like wait, I really do know it! And after a few seconds they came to me and I sang his song to him. He was like "Oh my gosh, this is awesome dude, an American fan! Give me a hug!" Um yeah, it was an amazing experience and I ended up talking with him for a lot longer, and I promised I'd share his song with the USA. So here it is, and here's my picture with him. It was an amazing night. (You'll see him in the video, he's the one that sings the repeating chorus, not the rap.)

We were walking back at 6 am on Tuesday night, after this fiesta where I met the singer, and Maria and I were just like "Let's go swimming!" Maria is my best friend in the entire world by the way. And we did, yes we are some chicas locas but night swimming was the coolest thing ever, especially in her illuminated pool.

I walked through my loved Mazagon for the last time, or until next summer at least. This wasn't really a happy thing but at least you can all see how beautiful my pueblo is. :)

On my very last evening, we jumped off the bridge that there is by my house. It was terrifying, I'm not gonna lie. People had recommended us not to do it, apparently there are tons of jellyfish in that area of water (and I have seen them before), but we all wanted to for my final night in Spain. And as frightening as it was, I wouldn't take back that experience for a second. It was an amazing adventure.

And the absolutely best thing of all, a bunch of my Spanish friends made me this video. It's one of the sweetest things anyone has ever done for me, and I will never ever forget all the kindness shown towards me in my year here. A todos en Mazagon: sois los mejores, nunca os olvidaré, gracias por todo lo que habéis hecho por mi, y nos vemos pronto.

Goodbye Lani

Saying goodbye to so many people here was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I feel like it's the end of an era. I know that's so dramatic, but I don't know when I will ever see many of them again and I so enjoyed sharing life with all of them. I have some of the best friends in all of Spain. Sin duda. Saying goodbye to my host family was heart-wrenching as well. I will never be able to thank them enough for all they've done for me.

I think this post puts a nice end to things, and there probably won't be any more posts from me while in Spain. This year for me has been hugely successful, and more than anything for all the amazing amazing people I have met. Thank you all for sticking with me and reading a long, I love you all.

Thank you thank you thank you thank you
Besos, Lani.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Life Lessons in Spain

 I've learned and been exposed to so many new things in my 10 months in Spain, and here I share with you all the best things that this country has taught me.

Good things can come out of awkward situations.
I had a pretty awkward introduction to one of the sweetest girls I've met here who has been so kind to me. And who I can now call one of my best Spanish friends. There's been a lot of those, actually. Awkward moments are common in the life of an exchange student, I'd say.

The most important things in life are the relationships and connections we make with other people.
There's a reason we are 7 billion people on this Earth and not just 100. People are meant to form connections with other people. That's how babies are born and new relations are created. That's not exactly my point with this one, but basically now I just talk to anyone. Because why be bored on a long bus ride when there's a perfectly talkable person sitting right beside you that you don't know anything about?

Just go for it.
The decision to come to Spain, (made that one overnight), travel to Barcelona/Madrid/or wherever it may be., to pierce my nose, all the little daily decisions.. have all been what you could say split-second decisions. It's not that I didn't think them through, but I certainly didn't over-think. I used to be someone that needed weeks to make a decision, I've learned to in the end just kinda go for whatever my intuition and my heart tell me. (within reason!) That everything will turn out well in the end. So Why Not?

Don't worry so much.
I'm a much more relaxed person now than how I was before this year. I've become much more laid-back, and that is surely due to how the Spaniards live. If you spent the whole morning talking to a friend you run into in the supermarket, oh well. There's always time to get done what you had planned on finishing. When you go out for lunch, the important thing is that everyone enjoys each others company and that the food is delicious. The lunch can last 5 hours, but that's okay. Life goes on. Just relaxxx.

How rewarding they are, and how much you learn from difficult experiences.
This year has been the most challenging year of my life. It has been a much-needed year, though, and therefore a good year. In the end, I, like many, am sad to go home. It's not that I don't want to, just that I don't want to leave my life here behind either. But the end was inevitable from the beginning.

So, USA, I'll see you in 4 days. Hasta luego, Spain.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


So, two weekends ago, I had one of the coolest and most fun weekends of my life with a bunch of amazing friends in Barcelona. We (Milena, Shawn, and I) stayed at Albert and Julia's house. So that's Milena from Switzerland, Shawn from the US (Arizona), Me from Ohio (yay), Albert from Spain, and Julia from Austria. Julia is staying at Albert's house as an exchange student this year so that's kinda how we all met each other. I couldn't have asked for anything more from my precious time spent in Barcelona (except for maybe a little bit of warmer weather ;) .. So I will just let the pictures do most of the talking.

Firstly...traveling there.

That's the city of Barcelona!
Trains in Barcelona
 A bunch of random pictures of the city...just because.

Milena <3

In Plaza de Catalunya, the big center plaza in Barcelona:

 I was reunited with Subway after almost 9 months:

And they had this really high-tech drink machine.
My absolute favorite thing about Barcelona, this market!!!

Oh yes.
Fruit smoothie drinks, 1 euro each
A stand dedicated entirely to eggs.
And my favorite foods :)
The Beach:

Why don't we have this in the US?!? soo yummy
Germany, Spain, and the US
Then, we climbed up to see an awesome view of Barcelona:

Love these guys so much
Other little snapshots of Barcelona:

The flags of Catalunya
So gorgeous.. the port of Barcelona

Thank you all for keeping up with my adventures! Even though there's less then a month left, I still have lots of fun to come! Hope everyone is doing well. x

Besos, Lani.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Beyond the bounds of possibility

I have four weeks left here. That seems so unreal, so infeasible, so "beyond the bounds of possibility." It's like a have a life here. And it's normal, I've reached a point where I saw no end in sight. Why would it end, it's my life. I forgot completely about what I left behind in the US. And I mean all the little parts, the details of that far-away life. Not the people of that life, not my family and friends, although some of those people are like fuzzy pictures in my head. 10 months is a long time when you've only lived 17 years.

There's things, and feelings I love about my Spanish life and others I will be happy to leave behind.

But right now I'm just stuck in this sense, this wavery feeling of unrealness. I cannot comprehend that it is ending. It wasn't easy, this year was without a doubt the hardest of my life. But I don't have even a wisp of resentfulness for coming here. I've changed so much as a person. I don't remember who I was before, but I'm happy with who I am now. I know it was the hardest emotional experiences of my life that I dealt with this year that transformed me.

Laying on the cold tile floor with my youngest sister today I started to think about all these things. She had her head resting on my stomach and I had my arm wrapped around her, and I just wanted to cry. My family here has done so so much for me.. and I am going to miss them so much. Plus, I can never give them enough gratitude for everything they have done, the opportunities they have given me. Without them taking me in, I would have been home in December when I needed to switch families.

My time on exchange has changed my perspective on life. The way I see other culures and languages, the way I see Europe and the world, understanding other people's ways of life. An Exchange Year is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I think it's a shame more people don't do them.

To close, I will leave you all with something written by another exchange student somewhere. (Sadly I don't have a name to give them credit.)

"A year has passed and now we stand on the brink, of returning to a world where we are surrounded by the paradox of everything and yet nothing being the same. In a couple of weeks we will reluctantly give our hugs and, fighting the tears,we will say goodbye to people who were once just names on a sheet of paper to return to people that we hugged and fought tears to say goodbye to before we ever left.We will leave our best friends to return to our best friends.

We will go back to the places we came from, and go back to the same things we did last summer and every summer before. We will come into town on that same familiar road, and even though it has been months, it will seem like only yesterday. As you walk into your old bedroom, every emotion will pass through you as you reflect on the way your life has changed and the person you have become. You suddenly realize that the things that were most important to you a year ago don't seem to matter so much anymore, and the things you hold highest now, no one at home will completely understand...

Just weeks from now we will leave. Just weeks from now we take down our pictures, and pack up our clothes. No more going next door to do nothing for hours on end. We will leave our friends whose random e-mails and phone calls will bring us to laughter and tears this summer, and hopefully years to come. We will take our memories and dreams and put them away for now, saving them for our return to this world.

Just weeks from now we will arrive. Just weeks from now we will unpack our bags and have dinner with our families. We will drive over to our best friend's house and do nothing for hours on end. We will return to the same friends whose random emails and phone calls have brought us to laughter and tears over the year. We will unpack old dreams and memories that have been put away for the past year. In just weeks we will dig deep inside to find the strength and conviction to adjust to change and still keep each other close. And somehow, in some way, we will find our place between these two worlds.

In just weeks."

Mil gracias por leer mi blog, Besos,

Thursday, May 16, 2013

May 16

First, I just wanted to share that video. You don't have to understand Spanish to get the message of the beautiful song and dancing. I love that video and Pablo Alboran (the singer) so much, I can't even put it into words.

Anyways, I'm off to Barcelona today! I am so so so excited to be going to this vibrant, fascinating city that all the Spaniards say is a must-see in Spain. I will be exploring Barcelona with four of my very good friends, what could be better?

Now, I wanted to share a story that happened the other day on the beach. My friends Solveig and Roosa were visiting me, and we went to a nearby town called Punta Umbria famous for its beaches. We had navigated our way there and everything, and had chosen a spot on the beach right next to a bunch of families with lots of little kids. We had a wonderful time swimming in the ocean, eating ice creams on the sand; you know, and when we were finally packing up to leave, suddenly one of the mothers that had been alongside of us began screaming "Lucia! Lucia! LUCIA!!" There was a clear face of panic on both the mother's and father's faces. Just a moment before, we had been watching the little girl drink from an oversized water bottle. She was adorable, 3 years old, with little black curls, and a pink frilly bikini. Now she was gone. The mother said she had taken off running down the beach. As soon as the parents started to scream her name, people all around us began to arise from their sun-comas, their towels and chairs. People began to stand up and look around. Minutes passed. The likelihood that we would find this little girl seemed to get slimmer by the second. There were hundreds of thousands of people on that beach (it's HUGE) and the Atlantic Ocean was right there.

I remember little moments from this experience. I remember seeing the father of this little girl running frantically up and down, crossing in front of us many times, his forehead glistening with sweat. Minutes later; the sweat pouring down his face in big droplets; that man never stopped running. People running up to the mother, exchange cell phone numbers, and setting off to help search. Everyone was standing up at this point. Everyone was looking. There was not a single person thinking about anything else than finding this little girl. That was the most beautiful thing for me. Seeing all of us work together. The parents were frantic, but they didn't have to ask anyone of us to help them. We just all did it. A search team of more than 200 people set off along the shoreline. Somebody said they saw her run to the left, so they went that way. Solveig, Roosa, and I went upwards towards the entrance to the beach. We tried to think as if we were 3 years old, what would interest us? Where would we run to? We searched on porches and and all around the entrance area, but came up empty. I think at this point it was about 15 minutes after Lucia had first disappeared. We walking back down towards the ocean, and saw a strange phenomenon. More than 300 people were walking back down towards our spot. We knew something had happened, but from far away we couldn't see the expressions on their faces. We stopped and watched the procession of people. At the end came the mother, little Lucia in her arms, crying and saying "La encontramos, gracias, gracias a todos." (We found her, thank you, thank you all.)

It was such an emotional moment. I started crying, as did many others. We had been imagining the pain and horror in our own lives if we had a 3 year old child and couldn't find her. But now we could be calm. With the help of every single person on that beach; the tourists, the natives, the world-travelers, the students, the little kids... we had found her. A little girl nobody knew personally, but that didn't matter. We knew what we had to do, and we did it. And I'm sure that mother and father have never been more grateful. And I will never forget all the beauty I saw in people working together that day. Nor will I ever forget little Lucia.

Those are those moments. Those little Spain moments that will be forever burned in my mind.

Thanks for reading guys, Besos;

Monday, May 13, 2013

La Romeria and My Birthday

This year, I had a birthday that I will never forget. I was pretty lucky this year, because not only did my birthday fall on a Friday, but it also happened to be the same day as the biggest celebration of my town. It's called La Romeria, and lasted Friday-Saturday-Sunday.
 *This post includes lots of little video clips and pictures, YAY!

La Romeria translates in English as a religious pilgrimage. It's a Catholic celebration that consists of a trip (in cars, floats, horseback, or on foot) that ends at a sanctuary or in our case, a church. It is an all day celebration that goes on well into the night.

Here's an interesting fact- the word "Romería" comes from "romero," meaning those traveling towards Rome.

It was fascinating for me to do that research just now to give you all the history and meaning behind the trip, because I've actually lived the experience and I can say it really is like Wikipedia says. I went into the weekend really having no idea what I was doing or what La Romeria even meant, but now all the pieces are falling into place for me :).

What I experienced was arriving to a street filled up and down with the majority of people in floats, some on horseback, and many walking (like me). We walked behind a sculpture/representation of the virgin (hence the Catholic celebration).

Everyone was dressed up in the typical, beautiful, filled with color Flamenco dresses, with big hoop earrings, and big flowers in their hair. The men dressed up in suits and ties for the most part, or horseback gear for the ones that rode on horseback. We started the journey around 2 pm, after a mass took place, and began to walk in the scorching sun.There was a man walking with us playing guitar, and we sang traditional Sevillana songs the whole way. Every fifteen minutes or so, we would stop for a "dance break" and the women would dance the Sevillana. (it's a dance that's broken down into four parts, and it's pretty challenging. In the end I only really succeeded in learning the 1st part, but oh well!)

The first part was about 1 hour 1/2, until we stopped in a very shady area to eat lunch. Which lasted about 3 hours. At that point, I thought we had already arrived. But that was where I celebrated my 17th birthday party with everyone. It was all the little kids from our float with their families, my sisters, and one of my good friends Nerea, and then all of my other friends surprised me by coming over to celebrate! (All the floats and groups of people were spread out at that point for lunch.) Here's a quick video:


So there we celebrated, danced and sang (sung?.. I honestly can't remember) a lot of Sevillanas. It was so fun, and a birthday I will definitely never forget.

Dancing Sevillana

My host mom made me this cake...Isn't it adorable?

Our float
Thought these three little boys conversing was cute

Love this little girl's posture in this picture
The float
With Nerea, my friend and Alba, my sister
Ana, Isa, Nerea, and Alba
Olga, Andrea, Isa

This picture explains us
That's me with my Spanish sister ahahaha
And with my youngest sister Fatima
Flamenco dresses

I think this picture is adorable

After all this fun, we actually had 1 hour 1/2 more to walk until we reached our final destination for the night. We arrived at like 8 pm, in a foresty area, and lots of people set up to sleepover for the night. From then on it was just a typical Spanish fiesta :). Lots of eating, drinking, partying, dancing, and singing. We stayed there until late into the night, just being with friends and enjoying ourselves in such a typical tradition here that only comes round once a year. It was definitely a birthday I will never forget.
Besos, Lani.