Tag Archives: Life

Spring semester is finally over!

This semester was the most frustrating of them all. And I don’t have much to say about it but that I’m so glad it’s over. At the end, I realized that the things that happened, happened for a reason and that now I have an idea of what my future is going to look like.

Sometimes you just have to remember that even though after the sunset you’re left in darkness, the sun always rises the next day.

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:

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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”

Orientation, Alcalá and Madrid (May 30, 2014)

My Spanish breakfast
My Spanish breakfast

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.

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Orientation Packet

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.

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Jackie, me, Sydney

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Jillian, Leila, me

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Tapas

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.

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Leila

We then went to the train station to take a train from Alcalá to Madrid…

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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…

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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…

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Jillian, Jackie, me, Sydney (left to right)

Rambles of a first day: Alcalá de Henares (May 29, 2014)

From Barajas Airport to the Alcalá de Henares
From Barajas Airport to the Alcalá de Henares

Upon arrival we got our luggage and bags, went to the plaza across the street and met and left with our host families.

plaza alcala

First thing I noticed when I got to Alcala is the greetings. Spaniards kiss twice, once in each cheek. That kind of took me by surprise, but it was easy to get used to. To the point that even back home, we (UCF students that went on the program) still greet ourselves with two kisses.

Warning: Another thing you are going to notice a lot in this city are cigüeñas or storks in historic buildings. These are protected and the city makes sure they are well taken care of, meaning that they provide “them with an easy-to-reach special supply of twigs and branches for their nests, as well as making sure they suffer as few disturbances as possible”(AlcalaNow).

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My host family is super nice and chilled. We live 15 minutes walking distance from the university in an apartment. The homes here are small but cozy. The elevator to go to our floor is extremely small, I know my roommate and my friend Barbara would definitely opt for the stairs.

I have no curfew, a set of keys, a room and bathroom to myself. The house rules are pretty standard and I have a pretty cute bunk bed and a nice view.

Bunk bed
Bunk bed

Working Space
Working Space

I got to meet my host sister when she came back from school and Luna, the beauty in the picture below.

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Luna

Laura is three years younger than me. She is super nice, funny and loves languages. She’s also been to Portugal and Italy and has been telling me all about it.

Alcalá is such a beautiful place.

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After I took the siesta (yes! I did take the siesta, that’s why I’m still awake right now), we took a walk around the city so I could learn the route to school and just for me to know where places are at.

There is a bus stop right in front of the apartments. One bus takes you around Alcalá and the sort and the other one takes you to Madrid, to the central station, where you can take buses that go to the rest of Spain.

Alcalá is small but it has a little bit of everything. There are a lot of restaurants, bars, tobacco stores or estancos, “chinos” (which are like convenience stores owned by Chinese people where you can buy pretty much anything), supermarkets, and bookstores. You can also find cathedrals, museums, plazas, and a lot of people.

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So far, I really like everything and soon I will write more about it and post a lot of pictures. Tonight however, I’m about to go to sleep because tomorrow is going to be a really long day…

Tomorrow is orientation day, early in the morning, and then in the afternoon, we are going to take a trip to Madri”th”.

Extremely exhausted
Extremely exhausted

Good night!

Source: http://www.alcalanow.com/storks-alcala/

 

Saying good bye is never easy…

There is no way I can summarize how incredibly crazy this year has been.I’m still going to try though. Like I said in a post before, It’s been a year of first times and amazing adventures.

I was 19 for most of the year. I turned 20. I traveled to California and had to make stops in Texas and New York. I traveled to Mexico, Spain, Germany and Puerto Rico. I visited Puerto Vallarta, Las Caletas, Alcalá de Henares, Madrid, Málaga, Barcelona, Tarragona, Pamplona, San Sebastián, Bilbao, Segovia, Toledo, Oviedo, Wiehl, Cologne and San Juan. I studied abroad. I backpacked. I traveled solo. I found myself completely alone at times. I had wonderful relationships. I made new friends. I met people from all over the world. I spoke to people in English, Spanish, German and Portuguese. I learned to read and understand Portuguese. One of my closest friends moved to Japan. Most of my classmates graduated. I won a poetry contest. A dear friend passed away. I took 18 planes, 17 buses, 16 taxis and more than 30 trains/subways/metro. I was diagnosed with a disorder.

A poem was a finalist in another contest. Another one got selected to be in a book. I figured out my college life. I cried like I’ve never cried before. I was featured in my school’s arts and humanities website and in the modern languages’. I pushed the limits of my body and my mind. I laughed like I’ve never laughed before. I met romance. I met love. I met passion. I met intense pain. I met myself. I discovered the things I like and the ones I dislike. I became stronger and compassionate.

I was bit by a stray cat. I met disappointment. I was scared for my life. I got rabies shots. I met someone with my name. I realized what best friends are. I learned about literature and linguistics. About Latin American countries and about Spain. I learned to be an individual. To figure things out on my own. I met authors. I read around 40 books. I went to a Brazilian film festival, to the San Fermín festival, to a Hindu festival, to a Manu Chao concert at the beach. I traveled with strangers. I started a novel. I got injured and sick many times. I ran 5 miles without stopping.

Dedé Mirabal passed away. Luis Raúl passed away. My roommate turned 21. Presented a story at the Spanish Colloquial. I got new best friends. I did Relay for Life. I went to an ASL comedy show. I learned some ASL. I decided to go volunteer in South Africa. I applied for Peace Corps. I started my Capstone Project. I took a 7 hr a day intense class for 7 days. Made a stop in North Carolina on my way to Spain. Was incredibly jet-lagged.

Went to the Guggenheim Museum, to El Prado Museum, to The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, to the House Museum of Lope de Vega, to the Reina Sofia Museum. I hiked the Gibralfaro castle and the Alcazaba fortification in Málaga. I hiked the Monte Urgull in San Sebastián and The Park Güell in Barcelona. I hiked all the way to Roca El Yunque in Puerto Rico and to Cima del Malvecino in Alcalá de Henares. I stayed in hostels.

I watched soccer matches in Europe during the World Cup. I saw a wedding in Spain. I went to one in Mexico. Went to La Noche en Blanco in Alcalá. Went to las fiestas de pueblo in Valverde. Went to Kapi (7 store club). Went to the Festival del Mondongo, to the Calle Orange Festival.  I’ve felt unstoppable and heart broken.  I got the most amazing books. I tasted the best ice cream and the best empanadas I have ever tasted in my life. I got lost.

I found my favorite movie. I saw a gator up close. I read a book in Portuguese. I served as a translator. I went to a college football game. I read poems in Galician. I got insmonia. I went to Disney. I had poetry nights. I had partying nights. I got to be part of Sigma Delta Pi.  I made some delicious coquito. I finally created a decent blog. Reached 74 followers…

And out of all that the most rewarding experiences are the wonderful and frustrating times I’ve spent with family and friends during this year and understanding that I am stronger, wiser and more capable than I ever thought I was.

I’ll miss 2014, but It’s my mission to make 2015 even better!

Good luck to you all in making this upcoming year the best one!

Happy New Year!

A Puerto Rican in Israel…

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.

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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.

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