Friday, July 22, 2011

Provo Library Happenings

I'm not sure if many of you know this, but the Provo City Library has some of the best events of any library I've ever seen! You all know that I've attended many of the Children's Book Festivals, Teen Book Fairs, and author events (to name a few), and now is your chance to go too!
The biggest and closest event is happening August 2nd, with author Kiersten White coming to visit! White is the author of Paranormalcy and Supernaturally, two books I haven't read yet, though I currently have checked out from the library (hello weekend reading!), but from what I hear, they're amazing and full of supernatural fun!
Tickets go up for grabs TOMORROW July 23rd at the librarian's reference desk at the Provo Library at 9am, so stop by and pick them up! I know where I'll be tomorrow morning!
Check out this link to find out more info:
Hope to see you there!


Hey, so sorry for such the long vacay from the blogging world--I know you all missed me SO much! Anyway, I'm going to finish blogging about my times in Spain (I still have the rest of February and all of March to blog about--lands!) and my romp through Paris and London! Stay vigilant for my upcoming posts--let's hope I can remember everything!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

From London to San Fran

So, unfortunately I haven't been able to blog lately because of my limited use of internet time that will be explained later, but I just wanted to inform the masses that I'm coming home tomorrow! I'm sad to be leaving Europe, especially London, but I'm excited to be back in the States again! Yay! I'll post more when I have the chance, and I can't wait to see all of you soon!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Don't Worry-I haven't Been Taken. Or at Least Not Yet.

Hello, my lovelies! I can't believe this, but I'm blogging to you from Paris! Increyable! So far I've seen nothing of Paris, just because we landed this evening and were only on the train and metro until we got off at our stop near our apartment, but I can tell that I'm going to fall in love with this city in a matter of hours.
Becca, Michelle and I are staying in a loft apartment in Paris, right down the street from the Bastille (yes, THAT Bastille-eeeee!), and we're stoked to see the city and have a heyday living it up! The good thing is that even though we've heard horror stories about how the Paris Metro system is extremely sketch and dangerous, we were lucky enough to make it here without any harm, or loss of luggage, persons, or valuables. Result!
Since we got in so late, our original plan to go to a market/grocery store to buy food was dashed, but luckily we found this in our little apartment:

3 yogurts, chips, and a bag of popcorn that we brought with us from Spain. However, it was only semi-cooked, burnt popcorn that we nibbled around because our microwave in our apartment is of the devil, and when we tried to make the popcorn, it almost lit on fire. So Becca burnt it over the stove instead. And almost set off our smoke alarm--oh, wait. We don't have one of those.

These are our horrible gross pit stains and sweat stains from all of our efforts carrying 2 large backpacks and 4 pieces of luggage through the Paris Metro system. Woo!

Lovely boot sock sweating stains.

And then I got really sad once I saw that the really small shower is just like the shower that Pilar has. I HATE these showers. Drop something, and you're not seeing it again until you exit.

Our night ended when Becca changed into her new leggings and pranced around our little apartment in them--she actually ended up buying the wrong pair; she meant to buy these amazing leggings that Michelle and I own with fuzzy, soft sweater-like material on the inside of them that kept our little legs warm all throughout the cold Mediterranean winter in Spain. Instead, Becca bought leggings that are scandalously see-through with garter-type stripes around both of her thighs. I documented this discovery, but for some reason she refused to let me post them on the blog. Weird.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Whever I Go, There Are ALWAYS Crazy Events That Turn Into Crazier Stories!

Stories I need to tell you once I get back to the States--don't let me forget!
  • Going to a bullfight and getting hit on by a drunk Spaniard family--subsequently, getting kissed by their son
  • Getting groped in Valencia at Las Fallas
  • Defending the BYU honor code to a drug dealer in a jazz club
  • Inappropriately touching a missionary--whoops!

Things I Will/Won't Miss About Spain

Things I'll Miss:
1. Fresh fruit markets
2. Being able to walk and/or take the metro everywhere I want to go
3. Being surrounded by history EVERYWHERE
4. Hearing Spanish, and other Spanish dialects when I'm in different regions of Spain
5. Pilar, Pilar's cooking, Pilar's conversations
6. The "Grand Theft Auto" parking style of cars
7. Rebajas (Sales)
8. Cute, short little old people decked out in their best furs and jewelry, walking around the plaza
9. Traveling and weekend trips
10. Having someone cook and make my meals for me and then clean up after me
11. Being in freaking EUROPE!!!!!!
12. Paying less than $100 to go to a different country
13. Churros and chocolate, chocolate napolitanas, chocolate truffles, Bueno bars, and just chocolate
14. The San Miguel Mercado in Madrid
15. Doner kebabs
16. Being able to see all of these great destinations and sights that are on all the "must see before you die" lists
17. The pretty Spanish policemen
18. The Prado, and being surrounded by beautiful art in every city
19. Our small group of 5
20. Not feeling guilty about taking naps and fobbing it off as a cultural experience
21. Staying in swanky hotels
22. Thinking of something fun/cool to do and having it actually exist in Madrid
23. The buttery, fruity smell of bakeries
24. Hearing so much about "Los Reyes Catolicos" (Ferdinand and Isabel)
25. Getting into museums for free because I'm a university student
26. Being called "guapa" (which means pretty) everywhere I go
27. Westies everywhere!
28. BULLFIGHTS!!!!!!!!!
29. Seeing all of the cute girls that are in my program every day :(
30. Being able to speak/communicate in Spanish reasonably well

Things I Won't Miss (in no particular order):
1. Cigarette smoke being blown in my face at every corner and crossing
2. The slow-walkers
3. Bobbing and weaving at the attempt to avoid the Spaniards who refuse to move. Ever.
4. People cutting in line/the lack of general lining up
5. Not being able to understand everything that's being said to or around or about me
6. The smell of Alcalingua, especially the smell of the bathrooms--gag me now please
7. My small shower--believe me, if I drop something, I'm not seeing it again until I exit
8. The perpetual car horn honking--my favorite is when they honk at a car that's parked, without a driver. Priceless.
9. The small and skinny sidewalks
10. Trash and dog poop everywhere
11. Getting stared at, unabashedly
12. Not having a dryer
13. Perpetually blue legs--I'm not sure if it's because Pilar doesn't have a dryer or the fact that she has powerful laundry detergent, but my pants have been bleeding their dye (they didn't do this in the states), which ends up on my legs until I scrub it off, which is only about once a week. I'm going to be so grateful when I don't have to do it anymore!
14. Maintaining a perpetual abnormally high level of caution when I'm on the metro and in big cities for fear of pick-pockets
15. The smell of Europe. I don't understand why it smells this bad, especially in winter.
16. Big group trips--28 students is a LOT of people
17. Church in fast, heavily accented Spanish--I'm SO excited to hear church in English again! This is definitely something I took for granted.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

1 Day...

...left in Spain. I can't believe that it's the night before the night that I leave. Coming out here, three months in Spain seemed like such a long time, but now that I've done and seen everything I can't believe it's the end. I can't believe that I'm not going to be a train ride away from one of the greatest cities in Spain, let alone Europe. Although I'm traveling around Europe for another two weeks, I can't believe that I'm leaving this beautiful country, and possibly for good.
Life here has been one of the best experiences of my life--cliche, I know, but it's true. I came into this program with an open mind and heart, and I'm now leaving with a heart and mind full of love and appreciation for Spain and the Iberian peninsula and it's fascinating history. I'm so lucky that I was able to travel with 26 amazing girls (and 2 boys) who have taught me so much about myself and what I value, that I can't believe we're no longer going to see each other every day. I think that's what hurts the most--I'm not going to see the people that I've met and the friends that I've made while living here. I'm so used to seeing these beautiful girls every day that I can't imagine a road trip without all of them coming along as well.
It kills me to think that our little group of 5 will disband on Thursday. For the most part, we've spent every day together--EVERY DAY. That's nuts! After Thursday I'm no longer going to see Becca, Katy, Ashley and Michelle waiting for me at the train station; no more wanderings and adventures in museums, alleyways, and parks together. Not seeing them every day is going to be the culture shock that still hasn't set in.
What's so interesting about our group is how diverse and individual we all are, yet how we all mesh and compliment each other. We've had a running joke between the 5 of us this trip that each one of us has a use in our group: Becca's the leader/mom/older brother/boyfriend (when you need a shoulder to lie on) and is the designated Spanish speaker when we need something; Katy befriends everyone she meets, so gets us connections in random situations and opens the door for Becca to get down to the nitty gritty; Ash is great with bus lines and remembering train details, as well as being PHENOMENAL with money--she's the one to mentally split our bill when we eat out so that we all know what we need to pay--we've ended up with exact change all but once, which between the 5 of us is impressive; we joked that we couldn't find a use for Michelle and that she was the comic relief, but we realized a couple weeks ago that she brings the itouch to the table, which connects us to the internet and google and facebook when we need it (which happens more often than we'd like to admit); last but not least, I bring my little black book--it's my Moleskin Madrid city guide notebook that I bought prior to coming out here that has metro maps for Madrid, individual street maps of each district all around the city, conversion charts, and blank pages that I've used to write down everything important that could ever be asked. For example, I can tell you when museums are open (name one and I've got it--I've got them all), as well as how much you need to pay to get in somewhere and when you can get in for free, what metro line we need to take from the center of the city to a designated location, where to see Flamenco in Sevilla, as well as how to get to our hostel from the Lisbon airport, among other things. My little black book is really my secret power and without it we'd be destitute (or so I'd like to think), or at least have a lot of unanswered questions.
I'm so glad that even though I'm leaving Madrid on Thursday, I'm still going to see Becca and Michelle for another week--we're all traveling and renting an apartment in Paris until next week, which means that I'll be able to spend time with my two favorite people from this program for a little bit longer. I'm also fortunate enough that I get to travel to London with Michelle after our stay in Paris, which means that even though I'm losing my Becca-Bec, I still get to play in London with my Michelle-Bell. I've been planning this last 2 week stint with these girls all semester, and I can't believe that it's finally here! This is so surreal, and even though it means leaving Spain, I can't wait to go!
I'm so eternally grateful for my time here. I've learned so much while being here, mostly about myself, but I think the most important think I've learned is how I can have faith in Heavenly Father. Although coming to Spain was a leap of faith, I've learned that faith isn't something done in the heat of the moment. I like what Elder Scott said during last October's General Conference when he talked about faith in relation to character. He said, "Faith and character are intimately related. Faith in the power of obedience to the commandments of God will forge strength of character available to you in times of urgent need. Such character is not developed in moments of great challenge or temptation. That is when it is intended to be used. Your exercise of faith in true principles builds character, fortified character expands your capacity to exercise more faith. As a result, your capacity and confidence to conquer the trials of life is enhanced...We become what we want to be by consistently being what we want to become each day...As you walk to the boundary of your understanding into the twilight of uncertainty, exercising faith, you will be led to find solutions you would not obtain otherwise. With even your strongest faith, God will not always reward you immediately according to your desires. Rather, God will respond with what in His eternal plan is best for you, when it will yield the greatest advantage...Your character is a measure of what you are becoming". I think Elder Scott puts it perfectly. Hearing this talk last October seemed to be an answer to prayer, or at least a definition of what I was going through. This whole experience has helped me increase my faith in Heavenly Father and His plan for me. It's interesting to think that faith is built in the day to day choices we make, and living in a foreign country really helps you clarify those choices. Just to give you a glimpse of what my first couple of weeks were like in Spain, to retain a level of normalcy and brace myself against the impending tides of culture shock, I relied heavily on my daily scripture study, prayer, and my conference issue of the Ensign to make it through. Adjusting wasn't too bad and didn't take that long, but knowing that I had Heavenly Father to rely on, I knew I was going to be ok.
In short, my time spent here has helped me refine what I knew was already important to me. I've grown closer to my Savior, and not just because of the small and simple things I've tried to do every day. I can see His hand in the people here, most especially the members. Seeing the beauty and individuality of each city and region of Spain, I was taken aback by the wonders of His creations. Whenever I went into a new art museum or cathedral or saw another beautiful architectural creation, I knew that it was He who inspired the artists. Spain is a country full of love for the Savior, and my heart is full of gratitude and thanks that I was able to see all of it. This study abroad has turned out to be more pivotal for me than I could have ever dreamed of, and I'm sad to see that it's time to leave. Words can honestly not express how in love I am with this country and its history, but the best that I can come up with at the moment is: thank you, Spain, it's been a blast!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Week 11, OR, How It's the Beginning of the End

March 13
Pilar's roasted chicken with fried mashed potatoes with garlic and sweet vinegar. Fried mashed potatoes? What genius IS this, and why have I never thought to make it before?!

March 14
Oh, how I'll miss seeing the row of can-can multi-colored legs at the market.

March 15a
An hour and a half of dramatic, bold flamenco dancing; such passion! I thought Irish dancers moved their feet quickly--oh no. Flamenco dancers take the cake on that one. I had no idea the human body could move that quickly!

March 15b
After flamenco, we went to the El Junco jazz club in Madrid and heard a couple hours of jazz jam sessions. This topped off an already perfect evening, and hit the spot of my need for sultry, sexy, comforting music.

March 16
This is what I saw on the way home from the Prado museum. Um, yeah, I have no clue.

March 17
Happy St. Patrick's Day! Apparently the Spanish celebrate just as hard as the Irish on this blessed saint's day, or at least they did right outside my window.

March 18
Tonight was our last night with our Japanese roommate Yumi. I'm going to miss seeing her the last couple of weeks I'm staying with Pilar, but I told her that she needed to visit Utah, so maybe I'll see her sooner than I think. Please notice, however, the height difference between the three of us.

March 19
Las Fallas in Valencia was MADNESS and INSANITY! I'm not sure I can think of anything better than lighting 100+ foot paper statues on fire all around the city, strategically located by hanging electrical wires. Just wait until you see the rest of the pictures!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bridget, DAHLING!

So there's a facebook status going around where you grab the closest book to you, open up to page 56 and post the 5th sentence on the page as your status. Not wanting to feel left out, I grabbed my copy of Bridget Jones's Diary (the only book I brought with me that could fit in my suitcase) and opened to page 56 but realized that it's a chapter title page with "March: Severe Birthday-Related Thirties Panic", so turned to page 57 (which I'm sure still counts) and read the 5th sentence: "She was sitting in front of the mirror in an expensive-looking coffee-colored bra-slip, mascara-ing her eyelashes with her mouth wide open (necessity of open mouth during mascara application great unexplained mystery of nature)". I think this suits me QUITE well. I'd post a pic of me to go along with said status, but realized my bra-slip is teal, not coffee-colored.

Weekend Trip #7 Zaragoza and Barcelona Part 1

Can I tell you how pumped I was to go to Barcelona 2 weekends ago? I was SO excited! All I knew about my journey to Barcelona was that I was going to see a lot of art and architecture that thousands of tourists flock to see. However, before we got to Barcelona we first had to take an 8 hour bus ride across the country, which equals the perfect time to celebrate Ashley's 23rd birthday as documented below!

The birthday girl herself--the card was picked out by Michelle and Becca and said something to the effect of: Congratulations on getting married!

Ashley's favorite candy

Align CenterWe all love Bueno Bars, but this is a sister candy made by the same chocolate company called Happy Hippos that Ash wanted to try out. Oh, how we love you Kinder chocolate.

When we were shopping for Ash's birthday present, we found this cute little toy called a "Mar in my Pocket" that we HAD to buy, once we saw this on the front of the package:

"Stroke them so tender". YES. We may or may not have bought this solely for the description.

And stroke him so tender we did.

On the way to Barcelona, we had an hour stop in Zaragoza. The city has a beautiful plaza and cathedral that is different than any other cathedral I've seen in Spain; the interior is entirely Neo-Classical, one of my favorite styles of art! Though I love me my Spanish cathedrals, it was nice to get a break from the usual Gothic cathedrals that are peppered across Spain.

Zaragoza's Catedral and main plaza

The cathedral's roof had these sweet multi-colored tiles. The funny thing about this cathedral is that the outside is so completely different than the inside; you can't tell that the interior style of the cathedral is Neo-Classical based on the cathedral's outer architecture.

A cute kid I saw in the cathedral's plaza, running after the pigeons.

BARCELONA! To make things a little easier for me and these posts, I broke down Barcelona into sections instead of a day-to-day recording of what I did. Mainly I've just lumped all of my visits to Guell Park together, as well as La Sagrada Familia, and then everything else so that I can keep things straight. Let's be honest: sometimes blogging is a little hard, which may be why it's taken me so long to post this.

We got to Barcelona in the evening on Wednesday, and after checking into our hotel we booked it to Guell Park to see some cool Gaudi architecture without all the tourists that usually come with it.

Becca told us to interact with our surroundings. And I just decided to look pretty.

Cool cacti plants with carved inscriptions from past passers-by that line one of the pathways into Guell Park.

The plants on top of the arch look like pineapples and/or Spongebob's house, no?

The "wave" arch that just so happens to be where the finale of season 7 of America's Next Top Model had their fashion show walk-off.

Standing inside this was epic: arches, pseudo-wave, and THE runway of my favorite season of ANTM? Heaven!

Fun fact about these columns: not only do they support this amphitheater-like area, they can also double up as a storage area for water because they're hollow. Gaudi seriously thought of EVERYTHING.

Romani/gypsy guitar player in the amphitheater

This picture was taken at 10am on a weekday. Just imagine what it's like during the height of summer.

The infamous salamander/dragon

It really does look like a gingerbread house.

I saw the bubble man.

Childhood was recognized in this exact moment.

I admit it. I thought I wasn't going to like Gaudi's crazy-infused architecture in Barcelona, but after seeing it in person, I take back all my negative anti-Gaudi thoughts. Gaudi is a GENIUS. Case in point, an ergonomically correct bench in the middle of his Guell Park:

I'm a little obsessed with this bench, but if you sat on it you would be too. The entire park is made of recycled material, even the tiles. Gaudi went to different tile makers all over the city to get their scraped and broken tile to decorate the park. In planning the park, he was so conscious of the vegetation within the area that he made sure to include all of the wildlife in his plan, meaning that he didn't rip out a plant or tree to make his design "work". He incorporated everything into the design, making it fully functional and recycled.

I get REALLY happy when I buy awesome knock-off Rayban sunglasses in Guell Park in a color I'm pretty sure Rayban doesn't even make. RESULT! Best 4 euro I've spent.