Well, I have decided it's finally time to muster up the energy and break my silence with a blog post. I have been living in Europe now for seven weeks, and I never want to leave. I have seen so many places and met so many people that I never want to let go of. It breaks my heart to think that we've reached the end of another month and now I'm almost half way done with this trip.
Thus far, I've ventured out of the country only once and went to Amsterdam the first weekend of February. I saw the Anne Frank house, did the Heineken experience and ate way too many crepes. While it was refreshing to be somewhere where my native language was widely spoken, and the scenery was obviously beautiful, this experience sort of reminded me how lucky I am in Alicante. Paying for every meal in Amsterdam really took a toll on the ol' bank account, and I missed the "bocadillos" my host mom had prepared for me everyday in Spain. In some ways, I felt a little out of place in Amsterdam, but I am glad to have visited. Once I left for a weekend, I actually found myself missing the home base I created in Alicante.
Since this excursion, we've stayed in Spain every weekend. We traveled to Calpe one weekend and hiked Peñon de Ifach, a beautiful natural park here in the province of Alicante. Every second of that four hour hike I was reminded how out of shape I am. We also went to Madrid for a weekend, which I found to be a lot like New York city. There were big stores like H&M and McDonald's restaurants on every corner. The only difference is no one seemed to be in a rush like they are in the big apple. It actually really tested my patience.
This past weekend we got to see the Spanish take on Carnaval, which essentially, in Alicante is Halloween on steroids. Everyone runs around in elaborate costumes, high on life (and I'm sure some other things, too), celebrating this interesting holiday that we ironically learned nothing about. There is music, fireworks and food trucks serving the best fried food until the late hours of the night. When I say late hours of the night, I mean I literally got home at 8 AM the next morning. My friend Michele and I were trying to figure out the whole tradition behind dressing up. "Maybe they're warding off spirits by dressing up.." "No, no. Maybe...maybe they are trying to blend in with the demons?" "This is a religious holiday, right?" Turns out, they just dress up for fun. Yep. It's that simple. I love Spain.
While there have been brief moments of homesickness, I can honestly say that leaving this place is going to be the hardest thing I'll ever have to do. I am the happiest I've ever been here. It's as if someone painted a permanent grin on my face. If I could, I would simply uproot the things I miss most about home (my parents, my dogs and my pork roll) and bring them here to live with me forever. I genuinely never understood the hype surrounding study abroad. It's something I always saw myself doing but I never expected to grow this attached to a country, to a new group of friends and to a new lifestyle. To say that Alicante has become my home away from home would be an understatement. I've already begun looking for opportunities, or excuses, really, to stay here for as long as I possibly can. Until my next blog, the good life continues.
Crepes in Amsterdam
The Heineken Experience, Amsterdam
Peñon de Ifach, Calpe
Obligatory sorority pose, Calpe
Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, Madrid
Palacio Real de Madrid
Las chicas before Carnaval, Alicante