Tag Archives: happiness

A Sunday to remember (June 1, 2014)

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.

train to madrid

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:

Source: http://www.disfrutadmadrid.com

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”


The first Saturday as a “Spaniard” (May 31, 2014)

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.

“A Childhood Dream” by Colin Howell

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.

Cambodia 2

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.

Cambodia 3

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.

Cambodia 4

Contact Information:

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/colin.howell.31

EMAIL: cghowell93@knights.ucf.edu