Friday, March 13, 2015

Melting Clocks

Twisty tree was demanding I cling to it
The sun. The sun. THE SUN.  I feel like I'm coming out of an unconscious hibernation and it's better than good, it's a sunny heaven. Since the day I could walk home from practice and still have the daylight accompanying me, I've been out soaking all of it in, the vitamin D and the good vibes. After so much bad news, bad luck that I'd rather not go into, I took a break from the world.

Looking forward to my morning walks.
About a week ago, a day of windy rain, I closed the door, closed the curtains and shut the out world. In a few moments of silence I thought of all the things I had done this year, all the things I would do in my lifetime and I exhaled. Opening my eyes I came back to reality and just felt lighter. The next day the skies showed it. For the first time in months I was actually waking up to the sun. It has only gotten brighter since.

Yes that really is Cauliflower
Mean green fighting Machine Bread
(Now say that 5x fast)
Getting back into my yoga (I finally have the splits checked off my bucketlist!... well at least on the right side.) and my weirdly healthy experimental kitchen is making stides in all that is weird and healthy (I made pizza with cauliflower and green bread! Please refer to the delicious pictures on either side of you before making any rude barfing noises) Doing all these little things has me feeling more me. So as the sun shines higher in the sky so do my hopes.

I'm looking at all the adventure slowly filling my calendar in the months to come, bubbling to tell you all about it. The big news first, I AM GOING TO SWEDEN! Yes you heard my outburst correctly, the "Rule book writers" are letting me go in May. I'll get to see the Midnight sun, swim in an Archipelago but most importantly I'll be able to hug my Swedish sister whom I haven't seen in a near year. All this excitement is enough to carry me until May but with all the good energy I've been putting out there, the universe is working double time to keep up.

Toni dancing with the belly dance I still can't stop laughing

Let's focus on the now I'm closing in on the deadline for my art contest entry and my perfectionista tendency is falling on my shoulders. I step back and like it but don't love it, could change here, a little their, nit picking till the last pen mark. Like all things I just need to set it free and trust the process, what's meant to be will soon come. Of course it helps/hurts hearing all the good feedback on it as it builds my confidence/nerves. I'm just going to relax, add a picture and leave the nit picking to you all. In two weeks it'll be in the mail on it's way out with it my worry.

First attempt

2nd attempt (Minus the mouth)

Bubble Burst

The tedious and tiring search is over, I have made the long delayed purchase of my graduation dress! In and out of dressing rooms (do Spanish girls not have shoulders because half the time I felt like a bodybuilder in these tiny dresses) until I was blown into "Stock", a huge sale of all high brands selling the last of their- well stock. Amidst the racks and rows of designer-this chiffon-that I saw a coral sleeve poking out. I twirled in the dressing room seeing myself twirling at graduation suddenly I stopped. Oh my gosh it was March already! The room, my year, it all kept spinning and I had stayed in one place not aware of everything moving around me.

Basking in the Spanish sun I hadn´t noticed the, falling calendars, the melting clocks around me. With all my excitement for summer I never realized what was nearing was the end and how could I possibly be excited for the end. I held my dress in the middle a bittersweet lesson, all good things come to an end. This year is only the first step in a long life of sunny days and adventure, best to start living it now.

What's to Come

Today I'm off to Zaragoza taking part in tree planting and more exchange student antics. The following weekend we are heading out to Toledo what I consider a classic Spanish city of history, beauty and hopefully dancing through windmills. Then it Semana Santa in

Last time we were in Zaragoza it was so windy it tilted the church!
It's clear what little time I have here, so as I did my first day waiting in the airport, I'll drink up as much Spanish sun as possible and make the melting clocks stop ticking. So instead of being sad about the end I smile, at everything that is here and now because soon it will all be there and then.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Up Down and All Around

Ahhh where have I been!?! If I told you, you might not believe me. So much has happened I don't know where to start. With the change of family has come a change of pace. Everyday is something, soccer, dance, tennis, training. I keep busy here in Pamplona because I only have one year; I keep busy here on Earth because I only have one life. Sometimes people sleep through life (well in Spain when "dinner" goes until 4 in the morning I don't blame them) but I just can't be a part of any drowsy demographic.

Preparing for out 50k pilgrimage in March
When people say "Gap Year", all I can think is How dare you! I'm doing everything to make it just the opposite. I always need to feel like I'm doing something, but I've also had a lot of down time to just think and discover how much this year is teaching me. Catching two butterflies with one net (because that whole bird-stone saying is just too gruesome for a animal-lover like me), here are my stories and discoveries all wrapped in a sushi roll of ups and downs.

A Tango to Pride

I love dancing (are you getting tired of me saying how much I love everything?). I knew I was in the right place when my host dad blasted the radio and danced-sang his way through the cook-cleaning on my first day in the Guardia. So when asked if I'd like to take ballroom dance class with them could there be any response besides an instant !

They took me to sushi I ate it too quickly to take a picture but here's my tea.
First class we jumped right in, Tango, Swing, Cha-Cha-Cha we were taking on the entire season of Dancing with the Stars and I was having the time of the life. Being without partner (yes all you nosy people Tanika Santos is without a Spanish boyfriend) the professor took my hand had me full swing in my first Waltz. I knew Shakira hip-shaking heart-pumping rhythmic dances not the grand ball dance that I was sure only existed in movies. But always feeling confident on the dance floor I held my make believe swan neck high and 1-2-3'ed my way through it. The music the movement took me to 19th century England and I the princess of the ball and-- the music had ended all too quickly and soon the air was filled with claps and cheers. "It isn't me. She's the one who moves marvelously." The professor bowed to me like the queen I was feeling I could be.

On the way home my host dad looked at me in the rearview mirror and said something that still makes me smile. "Cuando ella esta bailando me quedo impressionado. La verdad es que tengo mucho orgullo en nuesto hija adoptive." >> "When she dances I remain impressed. The truth is I'm very proud of our adopted daughter." I let the tittle of Dancing Queen and all it's glory carry me in the clouds for a few days until the first omen hit.

The Policeman's Flashlight

Learned how to make "Roscos"
sorry Dunkin but these got you beat.
Friday nights, when all of Pamplona is preparing to party, I'm practicing. Not complaining, I love soccer but from when it's 10pm, below freezing and you're sprinting while the rest of the country is having dinner and getting pretty, ya feel a little grudgey. I listened to the downpour and drooped a little knowing that rain-snow-storm, we play. Until my host mom came running in worried, "You're not going to practice right? If the river floods you won't be able to get back." I gave my coach a quick call just to confirm and pulled on my sweats ready for one my famous Home Alone Parties!

Music cranked on full blast, I started getting ingredients, zucchini bread for the family, an after opera surprise. Mixing the bowl, mixing my hips, just getting to the chorus when the music stopped, the oven clicked off and the lights, out. I stood in the kitchen holding the bowl and spoon in the quiet dark. I didn't think much, pulled on my coat, not bothering to change my clothes and marched down to the police station (How convenient it is to practically live in one).

The officer's came to my rescue, or at least they tried but with 20 minutes of switching lights and levers I started feeling really guilty and told them I was fine in the dark. They offered me a giant flashlight like the ones from COPS and wouldn't take no for an answer. Again not wasting time I pulled out my phone, blasted that music and started dancing by flashlight. It wasn't long before my parents came home flicked a switch taking me back into the real world. They told me how all the policemen were downstairs worrying about me and said they were happy to know I was alright. I was more than alright I had a great night. But that was the last great night before the first worst night.



First Snow, First Sob.

Snow. Snow. One more time SNOW! At first if came down beautifully, covering the world in it's powder and then it started to freeze and what was first a fun fluff became a deadly slick surface. On that day I'd broken my boot, broken my nail and when I got home an icky stress cold sore was sitting on my mouth like an unwanted guest (even mother nature was warning me, this was going to be a bad day) Normally I ignore these "omens" and believe in the power of positivity but when the sun went down things took a turn for the worst. Remember when I said I'd be honest with you all? Here goes.

Snow? Rain? Either way you're cold and wet.
Skip the details, I had my first cry. I can't even say if it was for one thing but for everything, all the little things that I hadn't let myself be sad about. But I wasn't thinking of the reasons I just let all the emotions drain out of me, another lesson to remind myself that it's ok to be sad, it's ok to be vulnerable it really is ok to cry.

Bounce Back

I can't say the next day was much better. Yes I'd washed out the bad but I'd washed out everything else with it. I walked like a ghost, people asking at school if I was ok. Seeing them, thinking, I may never see you again worse I don't think I'll ever be ready for goodbye. I wasn't on the verge of tears but with the night before I feared them. I needed air.

The walk to school. I have become a wimp to the cold.

That day I became a tree. (OK now you can say I've gone crazy) But really I just sat outside on a bench and let the sun regenerate me. I felt it warming my frozen nose, filling my empty insides and when I opened my eyes I felt the love I'd always had for this place wrapping me in a welcome home hug and I just wanted to hug it back! I ran around awkwardly in my puffy jacket and oversized hand-me-down snow boots. Jumping in what little snow remained throwing it in the air and twirling in it like falling stars. I whispered with every little toss, Te amo Pamplona, con todo mi alma, te amo. > I love you Pamplona, with all of my soul, I love you.

My backpack being a model.
Things have only gone up since that day, granted it's only been a week but hey I've got a new book, a fresh batch of protein bites and nothing but good vibes (that could seriously be the chorus to a hipster vegan anthem). The next night only clarified the end of my down days.

The choco-protein bites to be the cover of my first hipster-vegan album.


The Dance in Me

The way dancing had made me to happy in the beginning it has been the savior yet again. One of my Christmas presents, likely my favorite, was a ticket to the Flamenco dancing spectacle, Sara Baras. I had become enamored with the lively Spanish dance long before my arrival. My excitement only grew as we took our seats among the rows of red. The curtains rose.

We couldn't take pictures inside and it pains me that I can't share the beauty of the show with you all.

My heart skipped to the beat of taconeos, soared with the rise and fall of dress hems. Sara Baras. Slap, twirl, golpe like a storm was raging through her. Then softly arching her birdwings, as though her body were the air itself, the air being taken out of me, I watched in a trance. The guitar came winding down with her hands setting free mine I clapped to the point of red palms. I had moved so far forward in my seat I was practically clapping atop the bald head in front of me.

I really am sorry for no pictures I only hope my description gives a little life to the amazement I witnessed.

The dances passed with my heels clacking, my soul alive and and all too quickly it was over. The dancers, musicians came out to take their final bows and then Sara did something beautiful. She quieted the audience like a mother calming her child. Despite the power she'd radiated through her dance, her voice was soft whole-heartedly thanking us. Tears filled my eyes as she dedicated the entire performance to little girl with a rare disease in the audience. She took off the spotlights, speakers and flare, dedicating the final dance to Pamplona.


It felt as though she had opened a door to her home, inside they were having a party and we were all invited. I didn't even feel the sting of the wind as we walked home, every cell in me was alive with the need to dance. That night I dreamt of flying, the winds of Andalusia lifting the dance in me and I breathed Flamenco.

Exiting the tunnel and into the snow we go

What's Ahead and What's in Here

In truth I love writing for you all but I hit a lot of speed bumps I'm not sure what you want to hear so I just write what's going through my head. Please tell me, you're the readers, more experiences, less feelings, more specifics, less whatever it was you were saying about being a tree? like seriously who says that!? I'm willing to put a new spin on things for you guys after all, you are the reason I write and for that I'll keep thanking you.

On another up note, I'm going to enter into an art contest for youth exchange. I'm feeling pretty proud of how it's going and the more I work on it the more I love the idea.  I'll be sure to take pictures for you all and post it with the next post that (fingers crossed) won't take too long.

Not sure which way my future is pointing, I'm just here enjoying the ride.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

2015: The Year of Adventure

I mean it was Paris <3
Wow I haven't typed to you guys since last year, you're looking great! (Ok done with the cheesy New Year's jokes, for now) I know I've disappeared yet again,  but it's been quite a bit of adventure and next to no blogging time. New Year's Resolution, Write more for you guys.. and get the splits (I'm so close!)

My photos will not be in chronological order.

Ville en Selve: The Land of Wild Hogs

Everything was just go green!
After an unforgettable 100 Days in Spain Celebration leaving me with only 2.5 hours of sleep, we loaded up the caravan and were heading off to a new adventure, Christmas in France. Despite my exhaustion I didn't want to miss a single green hill of this foreigner's paradise. Unfortunately/luckily the fog was covering us like we were driving in a cloud, and in a cloud it's fairly easy to fall asleep (Well it's fairly easy to sleep anywhere when you've only had 2.5 hours to begin with). My butt numb and hair a nest fit for birds to perch, this 11 hour car trip was soon coming to an end.
Watching how the famous champagne becomes famous.
Infatuated with the pink toiletpaper
Though I doubt I would have been woken if it weren't for the rollercoaster of winding roads throwing me back and forth. Up down and all around we were speeding through the night-fright horror movie woods of northern France. As we jerked right, swerved left they explained what the woods were known for, Javelina.
(Translated from Spanish)
-Yeah Javelina running through the woods and getting hit by cars at night.
-OH so like deer?
-Nooo. You know oink oink?
-Yes "wild hogs". We'll probably be having one for dinner. (We did, in meatloaf form and really it was delicious)

The first few hours were a rush of French, flying everywhere and boy did I feel like an exchange student. Coming to Spain with a pretty good level of Spanish I never had the serious "Oh my, wow I have no idea what is going on" factor. In France, ya know where they speak French, I was blissfully lost. The blank eyed smile-nod became my new best friend and I was clinging to the Pre-exchange rule Rotary had drilled into my brain "Always say, Oui!" This would only help for the next newbie-catcher, the next course.

Let'ss take a walk

Cutting the Cheese and Running Your Hams

The plaza looking packed and fancy for Día de los Reyes Magos.
Food in France had been very up and down for me it was either "oh my god if this croissant had a bowtie I would marry it." or "I could go the rest of my life never putting that in my mouth again". But at this point in time I was only amidst the honeymoon food comma of a food network worthy quiche. Dessert. Isn't there always room? They rolled out a little cart with a covered platter. What awaited, rainbow macaroons, mini crème brulees? Obviously my foreigner was showing because when they lifted the cover it was not sugary sweats that graced me but a pungent odor that had my eyes watering before I could even see what it was.
Notre Dame from a different angle.
My gifts in my boot
Cheese for dessert? I quickly covered up my foreigner and accepted the unexplainably melty white slice in front of me. Observing before embarrassing, I watched as they smeared portions of cheese that out weighted their little pieces bread by at least 2 to 1. Everyone was smile-muching, laugh-smearing so I just went with it. Maybe it doesn't taste as bad as it smells. Mistake. I think the distaste was shining through my eyes because with a nudge of the shoulder and knowing look I snuck my cheese plate to my host dad.
The white melty one
yeah thats' the cuplrate.
Christmas went by super fast. There was gift giving and thank you kiss-hugging, lots of olive oil and wine. Before I new it we were rounding out Christmas day and I hadn't talked to my family yet! And then it was really hitting me. Did I just spent the biggest family celebration in the history or celebrations, away from my family? I pondered this more as we laced up for a run through the woods. My first Xmas away from home and I hadn't cried. Even though I didn't have morning cinnamon rolls nor salsa dancing until 2 in the morning, like the Christmases I knew so well, I was fine? I couldn't think too long because I was now experiencing two sensations the beauty of the woods by day and the taste of bursting lungs.
Does all of Fance just look so perfect?

Starting with the good, the woods. As the morning fog separated I could finally see. The ground was carpeted in clumping soggy leaves that squished as we ran and the way the air smelt like firewood and rain had me thinking of Christmas in Franklin, Massachusetts. And in those moments of sweat I found myself really missing home.

Visited a frozen castle.
 As we round out of the heavy treed forest my footing faltered with the shock of beauty before me. The trees broke out to a hill overlooking a rolling ocean of green. Seriously, I felt like I was in a laptop screensaver. My minor pause had my running partners questioning if I was ok "Oui, très bien!" my 3 favorite and only words I learned in French.
It's not about the talent to get down the hill. It's the strength to just go.
Let's get one thing straight I was running alongside host dad and host uncle both marathon runners, both with strides that could leave me in the dust. So when "very good" came out it meant "very good assuming we're almost half way and I won't die on this run". 8.5 Km later I started recognizing things again and we were mounting the last big incline (which did kill me). Pretty soon the next thing we were mounting was the car.
Cappuccino in Paris, Check that off the list.
After kiss-hug French-English goodbyes, I had a lot of thoughts going through my mind. I had skyped my family the night before. I hugged myself knowing that family is where ever you go. Behind a screen or behind a language barrier, the love is still there. Yes I missed them, to miss them is to love them, but to open your heart, to make your family all the bigger, letting love in and giving love out, I think that's the meaning of  exchange. Even more that's the meaning of life.

City of Lights, Heart of Lights

Sometimes it takes a little perspective to see how grand something truly is
I know you're all shouting Tanika enough with the smelly cheeses and heartfelt sentiments, tell us about Paris!! We become infatuated with this city from the first romance movie we see based there, red berets, corner cafes and ze French accent. It's endearing, adorable, a dream. It's Paris. And that's exactly what it was, major photo ops, lots of tourists. I still couldn't help the fluttering heart as I stood in front of the Eiffel Tower or bit into my first macaroon.
The locks and the Seine Like it came straight out of the movies
Did I mention we went skiing?
Ultimately Paris is somewhere you can't tell, you just have to go and see for yourself. That's my challenge to you guys. Just go somewhere, anywhere. Even if it's only a few hours away, if you haven't seen it, see it, haven't done it, do it. Tell me about these little adventures, send me pictures if you'd like!. This world is too great of place for us not to all be experiencing it.
Going higher and higher until my feet can't touch the ground
Now it's onward into another new family, another new home, smack dab in the middle of a police base (not kidding). More stories to come hopefully without so many gaps. May your 2015 be full of discovery, inspiration and happiness that fills the heart :)
Over the horizons a new year awaits new places and new adventures.

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Tale of Two Cities: Part Two, Madrid

Merry Three-Months-in-Spain everyone! That's right you've been with me through it all so we're celebrating this landmark day in my exchange, lot's of flashbacks to come. Woo hoo break out the balloons, cake and Christmas trees? Holy holly it's Christmas time guys!

Pamplona knows how to do its Christmas trees. With wine bottles.! Many people know about my obsession with the holidays, and some are fairly annoyed by it (but we'll leave those Grinches out of our festive holiday happyfest). I was expecting the day I heard cheerful carols or saw the lights turning our city into a Christmas card, I'd be doubled-over in sadness. Surprisingly, or not surprisingly (I've kind of stopped being surprised by my strange reactions) I haven't been the least bit sad. Maybe that's because I haven't had the least bit of time for it.

Always wanted to a princess for a day, wouldn't mind living in the palace either.

With a day of rest after Barcelona (well a day of unpacking and repacking) I was soon venturing off  again, this time to the heart of Spain, Madrid. Did I have hopes for this adventure. I was thinking how quickly these 3 months (nearly a 3rd of my exchange) flew by. I wanted to make the most these days, soak in every view.

Too bad missed out on 4 hours of it as my post Barcelona sleepiness hit me on our drive in. I woke up the way I woke up on my first day in Pamplona, opening my eyes as the windows opened to a whole new world sights, tastes and the sounds of adventure. But first I'd have to freeze my way through it.

The sun made it look like summer but really I couldn't feel my toes.
What most people don't realize is that Spain isn't all warm ancient cities and nude beaches. It gets cold, like really cold. After 2 years of living in Mr.Heatmiser's domain I've unknowingly become a wimp to the cold.

That is unknowingly until now. If I'd ever looked more out of place it would have been frigidly tiptoeing through the city streets of Madrid, luckily there were a hundreds of people helping blend me in.

"Visit Bernabeú" Check off the Bucketlist
Seriously I could not believe the amount of people bracing the frigid night. Another flashback to my first Juevincho in Pamplona, sooo many Spaniards crowding the streets and I the little foreigner finding her way through it all.

Now 3 months later I feel closer to being a Spaniard and closer to being me as well, if that makes any sense. I've stopped with the worry, stopped with the who how what do I look like to everyone else. At this point in time, on the streets of Madrid, I've literally stopped and started starring.

Smiling, I looked up at the grand building of lights, el Palacio de Communicaciones. The frozen winds blew threw my layers and I was iced into that spot. It was adorned in Christmas and Spanish. I hugged myself from the cold but also from the joy of feeling my pieces come together as I watched the lights and flags wishing me a Merry Christmas and Happy Exchange Year.
Don't really know what happened with the green there but it turned out kind of cool!

I was only frozen for a moment before we were off again marching through the winds, people and
lights of the city. Heat lamps popped up between montaditos (little restaurant/Tapa bars) with doors open to the cold night breathing people into their warmth. Even with a red nose and frozen fingers I felt warmer. The air wasn't just carrying chilliness but the sounds of Spain and a holiday spirit that followed me all the way across the ocean.

It all begins here, The Literal heart of Spain <3

Across the ocean where a Christmas tree was being "populated", cookies being iced and red pjamma's put out for the coming eve. I knew Our Christmas so well, it was only just now becoming clear how different this one would be.

Once again I felt the way I did looking down on that first view of Spain, that first landing, that first day in this new home, an unexplainable tickle in my tummy. Nerves? excitement? Or could it just be the love of adventure, that I think will continue to captivate me for the rest of my life.

First sunrise in Spain, Happy 3 months to my beautiful home <3