Check out the new site!! This blog will close in a few days, follow my adventures on zoeystravels.com
Check out the new site!! This blog will close in a few days, follow my adventures on zoeystravels.com
Check out the new site!! This blog will close in a few days, follow my adventures on zoeystravels.com
Today was pretty eventful!
Besides uploading pictures on Facebook and writing in my old blog, a few students from UCF and other schools decided to go on an adventure to Madrid. We were going to El Rastro.
On our way to the train station we found an event at the Plaza de Cervantes and stayed for a little bit to enjoy it. There seems to be something every day in this town. I love it!
About El Rastro:
El Rastro might be the biggest open aired flee market in all Europe. It seems like it’s a Spanish tradition because it takes place every Sunday morning in Madrid. However, El Rastro is not just a market, it’s a journey of delicious tapas and beer through the neighborhood of La Latina. There is music in every bar, people performing on the streets, galleries and bookstores and people everywhere. It is incredibly crowded. You can barely walk but it’s an experience that you should not miss. Join the Spaniards for delicious food and feel like a local. This is the time to use those Spanish skills you have acquired throughout the years.
El Rastro is also an international spot especially during the summer days. You will see people from all over the world buying all sorts of things. You will see backpackers and hippies. You will see gypsies and men in suits. You will see girls in bathing suits and children running around. You will see a lot that might not make sense but just breath it all in. These are the Spanish ways.
I personally loved El Rastro. There were so many beautiful things and if I had the space in my suitcase or the money I would have bought a lot. There were so many books for 1-5 euros and I had to stop myself every time, because books are heavy and again, no space in my suitcase… Regardless, it was an amazing experience and I would recommend it to everyone visiting Madrid.
After we came back from Madrid, I went home and watched T.V. with my host family and I still can’t handle the Spanish accent on the American shows. I laughed for hours watching law and order. Also, there is a really funny Spanish show called “La que se avecina” which is kind of like the Spanish show “Aida”. It was a great way to end the weekend before starting classes the next day.
Law and order:
-“Pero… ¿Qué ha pasado?”
-” El tio se ha tirado por la ventana”
We stayed out late last night and I realized after reading the last sentence of the last post, that the weekend is really just starting…
I woke up around 10-11am. The plan that day was to go to Madrid and either stay the night or come back really late. I think the latest we could come back was at around 2am because of the bus and train schedules.
I met up with some students from the program and while I was walking to the plaza I saw a wedding ceremony taking place. Well.. more like the dancing part of it. It was awesome!
After everyone goes home for lunch, it’s really hard to get back together to do something. Everyone has lunch at different hours and want to do different things. We tried for hours to plan what to do that day through Facebook messages but having a lot of people agree on what to do for one day is really not as easy as I thought.
I spent an hour sitting at the Mcdonald’s by the Plaza de Cervantes messaging back and forth to try to figure out what to do. (Mcdonald’s has Wi-Fi). I decided to walk around and get lost in this little city and that I did.
I got lost. And then I kept walking and I eventually found my way home.
We decided to go to “El Rastro” the morning after. A very popular open air flee market that they have every Sunday in Madrid.
After I went back home, I watched T.V. with my host family and realized that every American show was in Spanish and had a Spanish accent from Spain. It was the most hilarious event. Don’t get me wrong I laugh with the Simpsons, but hearing Marge telling Bart, “No me agobies que me he quedao viuda” made me laugh so much, even after the show was over. I had never enjoyed the Simpsons so much.
When you study abroad you enjoy everything a little bit more. You get impressed by the little things. You appreciate the every day.
This right here is a picture of what my Spanish breakfast looked like. I learned there that breakfast in Spain is not really that big of a deal as it is in the U.S. Usually the breakfast is the lightest meal of the day and a lot of Spaniards don’t eat it at all. Well… coffee. Everyone has coffee.
In the picture there is a croissant, a magdalena or muffin, orange juice and chocolate milk, because I’m not that big on coffee. Now, this chocolate milk is made with a chocolate powder called cola cao which I miss dearly, and even though I like my very continental American breakfast, I do miss my Spanish breakfast. It may just be the memory it brings mixed with the fact that I’m unable to find cola cao here in the States, but sometimes that’s all I want after I wake up.
It was 59 degrees outside… I woke up really early today. I’m guessing it’s because I was really excited. I didn’t even need my alarm, which is a miracle. My host mom walked with me in the morning to the university, where I had orientation all morning. We took a placement test and discussed important topics such as: historical facts about the city of Alcalá de Henares, information about the university, safety tips, information about public transportation, information about field trips, disciplinary norms and information about internet access. Basically, a lot of information about everything we needed to know.
In orientation, I met other American students from across the country and after orientation was over, we took a tour of Alcalá de Henares. The city is beautiful. While we were touring, a guy that wasn’t part of the tour started screaming, which scared us all, until we realized that someone was recording him. We later found out that high school kids were doing that when they found tourists, as a joke, to put the video of the reactions on YouTube. We laughed afterwards, after the creepy moment had passed.
That last picture is tapas. Something you will love while you’re there. Tapas are basically a variety of Spanish appetizers and snacks that are served when you buy beer or sangria or wine… The concept of the tapas is that you buy an alcoholic beverage and you get free tapas. Apparently, this was something that was done throughout Spain but lately you are unable to find it in most places. (the concept, not the actual tapas. Tapas are everywhere!). However, Alcalá is one of those places where you can still buy a beer and get delicious tapas for free.
We then went to the train station to take a train from Alcalá to Madrid…
Madrid was a city I had been dreaming of for a long time. When I was little, I remember my friends wanted to go to Paris or Rome, and don’t get me wrong I want to go to Paris and Rome as well but Madrid was the place I was always thinking about.
We toured Madrid walking as well, and it was fun being able to see everything but we didn’t really have enough time to stop anywhere, so the guides explained where things were located and how to get to them so we could go on the weekends. They were really sweet and fun.
Madrid is beautiful but that first impression wasn’t the best. It didn’t feel like I thought it would. I took pictures and walked with the group trying to figure out why it didn’t feel like home away from home. The amount of tourists didn’t help either but I kept on walking and snapping away. It turns out, it was just not the right time. I would figure that out, later on…
I believe we came back from Madrid around 9pm and my host mom was waiting for me at the plaza because I don’t know my way home yet. Once we got home, I ate, took a shower, got dressed and met up with students from UCF and other American universities.
We went to a really nice tapas bar, and later on to an Irish pub that was playing bachata and some mix of reggaeton with techno. Jackie and Sydney walked me home after the night was over.
It was the perfect ending to a hectic weekend of cultural immersion. I was sleep deprived and I still couldn’t believe that I was living in Spain…
I like to think my life is full of pretty random moments. Today, I had one of those…
My sister, my sister-in-law and I were strolling down the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan when we walked into a Hindu Festival.
Now, Hinduism isn’t a big religion in this island conquered by Spaniards for over 400 years. Needless to say the majority of the population, 85% to be exact, is Roman Catholic. So, to be able to find an exotic gem in this tiny place was beyond amazing.
Apparently, “Ratha Yatra is a hallmark of the Bhakti tradition, and dates back over 2,000 years. It symbolizes one’s spiritual self pulling the Supreme into his or her heart. In essence, reconnecting with the Supreme. The original Ratha Yatra, still celebrated in Puri, India, attracts millions and can be seen from space” (Wikipedia).
The first thing that caught my eye was the traditional Indian clothing. It was incredibly beautiful and full of colorful patterns.
After that, we noticed a line of people waiting by a table to our left to get their faces and hands painted.
Then, we walked two steps forward, and when we looked to our right we found a man greeting us with foreign words and offering each of us a disposable plate. He wanted us to taste Indian cuisine! And so we did 🙂
I think I had chick peas, yellow rice, potato and broccoli curry and Indian pudding, but I’m really not sure. The food was cooked without any salt making it hard for the Puerto Rican palate to adjust, but I really enjoyed it. The blending of the sweetness of the dessert with the rest of the food made the meal more like what my palate is used to… sugary things 😉 Then we enjoyed the music, the singing, the dancing, the performances, the beauty, the sunset…
All photography by me 🙂
❤ (Mónica Zoé Cruz Ríos) ❤
I first saw a picture of Angkor Wat in an elementary school textbook and became fascinated with it. The caption read something to the effect of “…one of the largest buildings/temples in the world.” Having little else in the picture to put the size of Angkor Wat into perspective, my mind wandered. For over a decade, unbeknownst to me, it wandered. Flash forward to April, 2014 and the curiosity reignites.
It had been four years since I went to Germany – my last trip. Itching to go somewhere again, I looked for trips online. “To Asia”, I thought, “That’s exciting! I haven’t been anywhere over there yet.” Looking through my options, I happened to come across a trip to Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. Initially, I ignored it in favor of China. Another glance, though, and something caught my eye. I knew I had seen it before, long ago. It was a picture of Angkor Wat. Suddenly reminded of this place, I searched for as much information as I could find about it. To have that childhood curiosity come rushing back to life…what a crazy feeling. I said to myself “I’m going there.”
A few months later I was in Cambodia, driving up to the temple itself. There I was, on the other side of the world, looking at what had brought me all this way. It felt so surreal. The first night there, I sat on the steps of Angkor Wat for what felt like hours and watched as the sun lowered beyond the canopy of trees. It was quiet; a cool, breezy evening with nothing more than the white noise of windswept tree leaves and the distant chatter of fellow travelers to listen to. I don’t believe I have ever been more at peace than I was at that point in time.
Upon returning the next day, we explored the inner confines of the temple. This is what I had been waiting for – to explore this place as best I could. Almost every wall and column of the entire compound has a story carved into it. Be these a mere form of symbolism or a portrayal of historical events, there is much to be learned from them. The temple itself is incredibly beautiful…well, you know, as far as 900-year-old stone temples go. I did this for a few more hours, taking in every little sight that I could see. In the native Khmer language, ‘Angkor Wat’ translates as ‘City of Temples.’ Unfortunately, no number of pictures will do this place justice. It must be seen in person.
Walking out of the inner section of the complex, I found a small marble lying amongst the stones. I picked it up and carried it with me to the outer entrance where I accidentally dropped it. Looking down, I pondered a while and decided against picking it up, believing that I would return someday.
You might say I lost my marble that day, as I and the rest of my group later drove off. But perhaps this was not the case. Two days later, from one of the many local and very talented artists, I bought a painting for my mom. Beautifully rendered across this canvas were two elephants in the foreground of Angkor Wat. The painting has no title, but I call it simply “Elephants at Angkor.” They say an elephant never forgets. Perhaps I am that elephant. Perhaps I have been for all these years. I will return someday to this childhood dream. Until then, I’ll wander elsewhere. After all, I am a citizen of the world – all its places are home to me.
My name is Roberto Rodriguez Calderon and I’m 19 years old. I live in Canovanas, Puerto Rico and I’m a third year B.A. student of psychology at the University of Puerto Rico in the town of Carolina. Usually in my free time, if I ever have any, I like to write, read subjects of astronomy, neuropsychology, philosophy, physics, literature and history, listen to music and sleep.
What do you think about traveling?
I believe traveling has to be a vital decision on the life of every human being, especially on young people. If we look at it from a philosophical point of view, its stated that we humans are always trying to understand our surroundings, of course some of that understanding can be done by reading books, but obviously it doesn’t compare to what you experience by actually doing the traveling. It is in that particular experience that you learn from the world and about yourself, at the same time. Traveling helps you grow as a person and brings personal joy, when you realize that you know a lot more about the world you live in.
What do you think is most important, the journey or the destination?
I pretty much believe that the journey is the most important thing. Because, yeah choosing the destination is always a hard choice because they’re a lot of places that one wishes to go, but it would definitely be the journey you do since most of the learning that really counts occurs from the moment you go out the front door until the moment you come back.
Before this summer, had you traveled anywhere outside the island of Puerto Rico? Did you learn anything?
Yeah, I traveled to the Dominican Republic, the states of Florida and North Carolina. I can’t say I learned much from those places since I was a little kid when I first visited them. But I still have the memories which I usually analyze and I get some bit of information that helps me think about deeper things. For example, I have memories of being with my family in the Dominican Republic and having conversations, even though we all speak Spanish, in which they would laugh about some words that I said. By the time I didn’t know the reason behind their laughter, until I read a book in which I learned that some Spanish words in a country have a different meaning in another country.
It seems that culture is always a key component when traveling. Why did you decide to go to Israel, out of all the countries in the world, during this summer?
That’s simple. I have a cousin that lives there and so I thought it would be a great idea to go visit her, visit the country and actually meet her for the first time. I had no idea about the political history, neither the language but I knew one or two things about their culture.
Did any negative events occurred while you were visiting? and if so, how did those events affect your stay?
More than an event I would referred to it as a social phenomenon which is war. Is funny because I always had this dream of becoming this great soldier, obviously I got rid of that dream once I got into college, but having experienced that phenomenon in which my family and I took on the role of the civilians suffering casualties, helped me recognize that I made the right decision on not joining the army. The war affected in great way the whole stay since we had to keep moving from city to city trying to escape the missiles. It was really hard because it didn’t matter in which city we were, we always had the alarms go on as a sign that there were missiles directed to the city.
When you heard those alarms, what thoughts came to your mind?
The first time I heard the alarms I was reading so I didn’t really assimilate what was happening. But after having the alarms go on from 4 to 8 times per day I started having thoughts on wanting to get back to Puerto Rico. I was scared that the airport was going to get hit by a missile and that the war was going to get out of control.
Having experienced a situation like this one, what would you say to people who want to travel but are worried about safety issues?
Well… I mean we always have to, not be worried, but conscious about everywhere we go. Because bad situations can happen anywhere and it’s just a matter of knowing what to do when things like that happen. But nevertheless you shouldn’t deprive yourself from traveling just because of safety issues, because at the end of the day we never really know what’s going to happen.
Considering this particular voyage, what has been your most memorable ‘out of my comfort zone’ experience?
I have some memorables ‘out of my comfort zone’ experiences from this trip. First, the fact that I was traveling alone and without a cell phone from Puerto Rico to Israel was a bit nerve-racking. Second, since every Friday afternoon we did a religious ceremony call “Shabbat”, through all the afternoon of Friday until Saturday afternoon we couldn’t use any electronic devices. That was hard because I’m always reading or studying from my laptop. And the last one was changing my eating habits for the period of time I spent there from eating rice, chicken and beans to vegetables, fish, bread and a lot of hummus.
From all the things you experienced when you traveled to Israel, what are the top places or main attractions that you would recommend to other travelers that are wanting to go to Israel as well?
I would tell that someone to go to the dead sea and have a great time floating in it covered in mud. If the person is into old fashion or vintage I would tell them to go to Tel Aviv/Yafo especifically the Yafo part. To those who like to be more active and go out I would recommend to go to Eilat, which is a city packed with a lot of hotels and a lot of people to meet. Jerusalem should be visited because it has a lot of history, plus visiting the wailing wall is a great experience. The beach definitely has to visited and stay there until you experience watching that beautiful sunset that Israel has to offer. The last one I definitely think it should be the Holocaust Museum(Yad Vashem) which is a World Center for Holocaust Research and has much information about the holocaust.
Do you have any travel plans in the immediate future? Or where is the number one place on your list to visit next?
For now I’m planning to visit once again the Dominican Republic to spend some time with my family and actually travel within the country and learn more about their culture, history and famous places. But my number one place to visit I believe is India. India is recognized as a place of much wisdom but at the same time much poverty, so it makes it really interesting for me.
Would you ever go back to Israel?
Yes, I would. Because even though I couldn’t experience much of the country because of the war, I had an amazing experience in those short periods of time that I was doing something else besides escaping. As a result, I ended wanting to see more and experience more and because of that I would love to go back to Israel and spend more time in that amazing place.