Thursday, October 30, 2014

These Little Lists of Happiness

I was trying to keep these posts a weekly thing but the adventures and I've been working on a presentation I'll be giving next week (let you know how that goes!) Now I've doubled my overjoy in one post to make up for the days that I've been away! So if you're in the "Let's not smile" mood well then I encourage you to read on because this will get very happy and rainbow-like in a few moments.

Please ignore my baby hands and enjoy the Pepper looking magnificent.

I'm big into lists, which doesn't make much sense considering how unorganized and scatter-brained I am. But the fun lists the, "Places to Go"&"Adventures to take" -lists, those are my favorites. Since I have around 30 hours of class a week about 15% is spent on listening and the other 15.5 hours (yes that is about all the math I've done since June) is spent on day dreaming, drawing and creating these little lists of mine. I'm sorry to all of my hardworking Spanish friends that study there butts off while I'm being a no work ethic little FES (Foreign Exchange Student, come on do you watch That 70's Show?) You all inspire me, and I'm sure in a year I'll start studying again, but for now I'm indulging in the fruits of fun.

Who says Spain doesn't do Halloween?
So why do I love these lists? Quite simply they let me dream which gets me to the ultimate goal, making me smile. Without further ado, my little lists of happiness.

The Bucket List

The most cliché yet most important of lists, The Bucket List outlines our most ambiguous dreams while also leaving room for the little adventures we take along the way.

I have left space for the grander ideas yet to come.

"They say I'm a dreamer" because how many people plan, as in have already looked up the amount and cost to fill a pool with Jell-o (about 300 boxes at 50cents each, a total of $1,500 for an experience of a life time. I'm really doing more math today than I have in months!) My Bucketlist encompasses the short-term long-term wild ideas that cross my brainwaves. Some with more effort, more time or more money required but ultimately all the same. You can't put a price on happiness... but you can describe it.

500 Reasons to Smile

Though they aren't on my list, Pamplona tomatoes the size of my head definitely make me smile.

If you're tired of my over-positivity well then I doubt you're reading this post anyway, but if you like to smile too then please join me on this happy smiley journey of happy smiley things. The other day my host mom and I were having a conversation about happiness and how it's choice and lifestyle but sometimes something more. She said asked me a question that really made me think. "Algunos nacen feliz. Como tu. Desde que eras un bebĂ© has sido tan feliz como asi no?" >> Some people are born happy. Like you. Since you were a baby you've been this happy right?

So this is what I do in class. I'm hoping my messy handwriting keeps you from reading them all... some are strange I guess :)

Though I don't know my 9 month old self I have a feeling she was a happy one. (Except for my Terrible Two's which I made truly terrible, or so I've been told -"I WANT BARNEY!!!"). Going through this list I realized that I've spent the majority of my life smiling. I thought of all the moments when I felt the unexplainable warmth that builds inside, and it lights up your eyes, your smile, your life! Don't leave me hanging people! It would be a sad, sad day for me if I found out that none of you have felt it too.

Well we made it! I felt great pride in filling this empty space with happiness.

This list clearly transfers from the things that can make anyone happy, to the more personal (and/or strange) things that make me particularly happy. So I'm opening up to you all now, please don't laugh. Or better yet laugh, laugh a lot because then I'll have accomplished my goal, #501 making my readers happy :)

I got a care package this week that also made me smile!

Spanish Adventure 2014-2015

This is yes another bucket list but of a specific category, my epic journey as a FES (refer to the second paragraph if you've skipped ahead. Do people actually do that? :/ ) I can't wait to feel the prideful joy of checking them all off!

After only a month and a half I have been able to check off a lot of these!
Check off #8 I'm still alive!

Making these lists and making this post created a lot of smiling-at-inanimate-object moments for me and so I thank you for that readers. You give me things worth smiling for :)

Monday, October 20, 2014

So You Had a Bad Day

I now realize that I have mad a horrible grave mistake in this blog. I have created a world where you all believe that my life is perfect! In this alternate universe I'm no longer a blogger, I'm no longer a human, I'm some fairytale super girl. Though I see most of the world with bright lights and positivity I can't let you believe it's all perfect all the time. Everything I have said up to this point has been 100% true but I haven't shared the moments of stress that even for an overly up-beat smiley face like me, happen. Welcome to the dark side of Mrs.Positivity *Mwuah ha ha* ... Ok not really that sinister!

A little Sunday morning run while the city sleeps around me.

Lost, Lost

Yes, I have been lost twice in this 1st month (but 2 times for 30 something days isn't too bad). My first time was a pretty big stress bomb. It was my first week of school and thinking I was close to home (when actually on the other side of the city) I decided I'd walk back.

When breakfast is too perfect not to photograph.
Follow the mountains, I live by mountains right? Well little did I know that Pamplona is kind of surrounded by mountains so that plan took me up down and all around a city that I didn't know as well as I thought I did. It's ok just ask for help. But, I can do this I'm Tanika the wonder exchange student and I can find my way home! My pride kept me from asking and I was once again following a rotating mountain.

Here is where my words of positivity fell a little short. I was lost for the first time, with too much of an ego to ask for help and the beautiful Spanish sun that I'd come to love was now burning through my button up and my positivity. I stopped for a moment and let the weight of my backpack fall from my shoulders. Like a numbnuts I carried all my books home (5) unsure of which locker was mine. What the hell am I doing. I'm not a super hero, I'm not a Spaniard, I'm not "The Great Tanika". I'm just me. And my 15 minutes of Failure stopped there.

"Just me" is more than enough! I've been moving and learning and growing all my life and one new city is not going to change that. I closed my eyes, shed my button up (yes I did feel tempted to tie it around my forehead like Rambo) and let the sun become beautiful again. When I opened my eyes I looked around. I recognized a bus station and an odd sculpture that we had passed before. I didn't know exactly where I was but I knew I had the right idea.

After a few wrong turns I saw the super market we shop at, and the church we live near. There weren't many people around so yes I did a celebratory dance. Skipping all the way to my front door I pulled out my-- keys? Where are my keys. Greaaattt.

Even as fall begins, the green goes on and on.

Doors, Locks and a Place for Socks

I've had very few enemies throughout this journey. The first being, the door, or more so, the lock. Every day after school I would struggle with this lock, Open for me, WHY WON'T YOU OPEN!!! There were even times of climbing over fences rather than dealing with such a nonsense. I stared down the lock like it was my last set at the gym, I'm sweaty, I'm drained and I'm a beast. I will beat you! Is it sad that I used the same montra for lifting heavy things as I did for opening a door? Nope, because after a few miles in the hot sun I was at that point. I didn't get it the first time, nor the second, not even the third. But after a week or so of hard work and dedication (again, I'm just opening a door and I attack it like a sport) I finally got the satisfactory *click* and yes again I did a victory dance.

Along these castle walls I'm Repunzel, ready to let down my hair, forget little worries and just enjoy life.

Yes socks have been a struggle for me. To begin, maybe it's the fact the my parents lived in Japan, but in the states I always took my shoes off in the house. Here, that isn't a thing. So when I'm walking around barefoot I feel every track of grass or bread crumb sticking too my toes. The second sock problem I have is that they don't last! I walk/bike/run everywhere here, therefore my run down converse and miss match Pippy Longstocking socks are no match for the miles of cobblestone I take to everyday. Smelly and torn, I made a trip to the mall specifically for sock shopping! But even as I say this I want to kick my self with my now open-toed converse because I sound so darn, foreign.

How can anyone be sad when there is a such thing as gelato roses?

Foreigner for Sale

Right from the beginning I did not want to be labeled as the "American" but this is high school people where labels identify this generation #speakingtruth. So after realizing no matter what I did, I'd still be the American, I figured I could at least be the Nicest-Funniest-Craziest American they'd ever met. But to do so the language would come first.

Ohhh colors!

I know I had it way easier than most exchange students, 4 years in Spanish class and a dad who speaks fluently but knowing how to say your colors and where's the bathroom won't make you the cool kid in school. So there were days when I'd be in a group and if I listened I could understand what was going on. But heck that took a lot of effort with 20 people motor-mouthing and me reassembling every sentence. It became a tiring challenge. And speaking up? Forget about it! Some days I'd have to talk myself through the frustration of not being instantly good at this but if it wasn't a challenge it wouldn't be worth it.


After a few weeks of forehead scrunching I've finally reached the point where I can not only listened but be involved in the conversations. My biggest fear was that all my joking and sarcasm wouldn't translate and I'd just be awkward without my whit to carry me but get this, they actually think I'm funny! (Maybe it's the random dancing, yeah, that hasn't changed)
Freaky spided made of metal why must you look so cool!

"I Fall into My Family Ways"

In the rare 30 degree heat (about 86F) the weekend was making out to be a splendid one. We spent it in Bilbao, between a tennis tournament, soccer game and a twisted titanium museum that you can't pronounce without putting on a funny accent >> Guggenheim (Gooooo-gen-hi-em) I started looking at the map when then I heard music, so folky I swear I heard the beards behind the banjo's before I  saw them. It was a room titled "The Visitors". I could never have expected what was about to happen next.

The famous GoOOOooogenheim
 I walked in to a dark room of people some standing some sitting on the floor, their faces were illuminated by 10 screens. Each screen had a different person playing a different instrument of the same song in different rooms of the same house. (Are you following? Sorry no pictures were allowed) I listened and they were all singing the same thing over and over "Once again I fall into my family ways." At first it was a mantra and then if felt like a trance, I sat down with my back to the center wall as the music vibrated through my spine.

I closed my eyes and mouthed the words, each time "Family" passed my lips I saw my family. My dad hugging me, my mom crying in the airport, my sister waving goodbye. The room was dark so I let a tear slip and held my heart. The music started picking up, the voices becoming more impassioned and then they were moving. All the people in the different screens started moving to one. All of us "Visitors" did the same. We drew to that screen like bugs of the night, to our only light. These musicians of different height, different color, different places all coming together to make beautiful music in one family.

The last lines I mouthed along and this time each "Family" I saw more. My two dads , my two moms, my two siblings and so quickly I felt lifted. How lucky am I to have not one but two families who care so much. And in that moment the year ahead stretched out in front of me promising memories, lessons and a lifetime in one year.

I found California! It's as though I never left!
I don't get down too often. maybe my biggest problems are torn socks. But why should anyone spend more than a moment of the day being sad. With only a year to capture a lifetime I want to be awake and alive to do it all. So that is why all my posts seem so happy, why all my days seem so happy, why I am so annoyingly happy because as cheesy as it sounds life is beautiful and I'll keep enjoying it with a smile on my face.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Dreamy Days of 1st Impressions

Monday was my first Rotary Presentation. 5 minutes of talking sounded close to nothing for a motor mouth like me. Then again this was my second language and the day of the presentation I hadn't a clue of how I'd like to present myself to the people giving me the year of a lifetime. Good thing I had a day of class to prepare, if only my brain could focus on one thing!

This is that notebook everyone. No I do not know why it is upside-down.

Some days (ok most days) my brain is on hyper active "Let's explore every daunting question of life or at least draw pinterest stuff" mode. So focusing on my first impression took some work. And now I'll take you through the up down and all around path I take to get something written, including this post! Surprisingly all my teachers have responded nicely to my lack of studying. They find me to be "Una chica muy maja y con ganas de aprender" > A very nice girl with motivation to learn. (exchange student perks, but a smile always helps!)

Bio notes to Zentangle drawings with the snap of my fingers.
I seriously don't know why they're upside-down.

So about this presentation, Hola me llamo Tanika.... blah blah boring blah. I have to make myself sound exciting, funny, I have to be the most Tanika I can be! Oh but that sun feels so nice. I sit right next to the window, which doesn't help with my fluttering thoughts. Amidst school bells, children screaming and the wind blowing my hair around making me feel like a super model (quick cute Spanish boys look I'm being attractive!) it's a surprise I even read in class. Now as the sun is warming my left ear I just have to soak it all in and dream.

His coffee cup = My cereal bowl

Today I thought of trampolines. I haven't been very sad here yet, actually I don't think I've been sad at all.  But now as I let my mind bring me back to the days of jumping on my trampoline I felt this huge indescribable longing. Is it the freedom to be a bird "just cause I said so" or is it simply the need to feel something beneath my feet that will spring me back up, instead of tripping me up (Cobblestone streets and clumsy girls do not mix) Loving family, lifelong friends, my greatest love my hot-dog BoBo, all worth missing and I haven't cried once. (Am I heartless that the longing for trampolines makes me want to cry but for my family hasn't or am I just incredibly weird? Don't answer, I'm choosing the 2nd) So as the school bell rang I choked back my first almost sadness and let the sun be a sign, a sign from the universe that I today is my day, this year is my year. Each step in the sun brightened me a little and I looked the universe right in the eye. Yes I can universe, and yes I will.

That field, like playing on green clouds.
Will what? Gosh I just wasted the whole day doodling and was still empty on presentation ideas. (Oh hyperactive brain why must you skipper scamper all over the place!) Ok I still have a few hours still, I can manage that right? Well, wrong.

They don't have homeroom, study hall, free period whatever you'd like to call that class where you get to "study" aka. do nothing. But once a month the students the students celebrate all the birthdays for that month by bringing food for a "Merindola" like an in-class pot luck. Here's the catch, instead of bringing treats for the B'Day Boys and B'Day girls the ones being celebrated are the ones who bring food. Does this sound reverse to you? Me too. But in my overachieving "Let me spread some American sugar culture" way, I promised to make brownies. Did I know if I had the ingredients let alone the time to do this? Hmm nope! Once again in over my head and without baking powder to make chocolate goodies rise. It's off to the super market.

If when it looks like an icky gray day. There's always something to smile about.
I mounted my bike and zoom-zipped through the now familiar streets, stopping at Eroski supermarket. (My biking abilities have improved so much I'm seriously considering asking for a new bike rather than a car, oh how my parents would love me for that!) As I pondered the isles in search of all things chocolate. I reviewed all the things I could use in my presentation, well there are my families, school, soccer, my fatal shoe incident- maybe we'll leave that one out. I was stopped by the clock. Realizing I had 50 minutes to get home, get dressed and bake some brownies I nearly threw my Euro's at the cashier but not knowing how to say "Keep the change" and finding him fairly cute I took the extra 2 minutes to wait for my receipt to print. With a quick "Gracias" I was out the door and pedaling my way back to the house. Gotta go, gotta go, gotta go go go!

Fall is in the air and on the ground! Hot apple cider and Halloween!
 Wait do they do that here?

I'm not sure my mom knew what to do. I was a twister in the kitchen chopping, mixing, converting (why can't we all just use the metric system!) but once the brownies were in the oven I took a moment to breathe. With only 22 minutes to get beautified I looked down at my baggy sweat pants and flour covered Keep Calm t-shirt (oh the irony of life) and asked her "I can go like this, right?" She laughed as though I was a 100% kidding when I was only about 90% serious. What happened to this night needing to be my best first impression?

These were my 1st attepmts at Crunchy Banana-Nut Muffins.
 Without baking powder, they were more like cookies.

In 20 minutes the house smelled of chocolate and I of roses. Rotary Club de Pamplona here I come. Despite making the continuous mistake of offering my hand when hellooo we are in Spain where it's all about the kisses, I felt confident. It didn't matter that I had next to nothing prepared for my 5 minutes of fame, I'd been winging it half my life and done pretty well. We sat down and the room quieted. Presentation time. No volunteers? You guessed it. I was first!..

Taking pictures with yummy waiters because I'm an exchange student and we do these things shamelessly!

The Spanish girl inside me, blossomed. Though I don't remember all the things I said, I know exactly how I felt. I've always loved to speak in front of people. When I should be scared, I feel empowered. All eyes on me and if I can manage to make the crowd laugh with my jokes then any slip up is worth it. Luckily the slip ups were few and my overly bright smiling made up for them. After I attacked "dinner" (A table of appetizers does not constitute as dinner for a famished teenager) I continued talking with Rotarians and future exchange students, finding it easier and easier to just to be me. In another language I say that deserves brownie points.

The sun inside me won't stop shining even on the rainy days it keeps it's glow burning strong.
My biggest fear was that I'd lose myself in a new language but if anything I've discovered more of me. I take pride in each smile I can make shine and even if it's only one person a day I feel accomplished. I'll keep on shining for months to come because Spain, followers, anyone who feels the sun, this year is our year!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Beach Days are the Best Days

I'm sorry for not write-typing enough to you (wow I actually have readers to apologize too! Is this what fame feels like?) But the more time I spend here, the better it gets and the more adventures I have. Every so I often I find moments to do a little typing but it's happening, I'm truly becoming a Spaniard... I take naps! Before I just couldn't-- so much to do, so much to see and night time is for sleeping, right? Not in Spain. Naps are the pre-workouts for plenty of after-hour mischief yet to come. Which only further better/worsens my Spain clock, late nights and still early mornings, but can you blame me when the curfew is "Cuando tu quieres." > "When you feel like." I've realize now why there are no Starbucks here, people need the real stuff, espresso cups to punch you awake! Though I have yet to get karate chopped by one of those caffeine ninjas, it has appealed to me. Especially this morning because guess where we're off to (yes, you and me!) We're going to the beach!

As the sun rose at each turn, the world got a little greener.

Picture Perfect Route

As we made our way to the French boarder, over the river and through the mountains, I wouldn't let myself blink (ok maybe once or twice) I just could not miss a moment of the movie-screen worthy scenery rolling out around me. The green green glorious green! I just wanted to hike up the mountainsides and get lost in the trees (sorry Twilight, Navarra has got you beat) While my eyes watered to lack of blinking the car filled with a mix of Spanish rock, French pop and a finale of- philosophical talk? (In French might I add) But I didn't die of boredom, nor of not understanding a word of French (strike that I know "oui, bonjour and croissant")at that point I was already =envisioning the sandy surf that waited just beyond these trees.

He did kindly slow down for a very snapshots, just for you readers!
Though I know nothing about European highways I distinctly remember seeing signs posting 80km in big read numbers and our speedometer holding fairly steady at a little orange 110. Did I say anything? Certainly no! My dad asked if I'd like to stop and take some pictures but when someone says that you can be in France, on a beach in 45 minutes if we hurry, you turn into Forrest and RUN RUN RUN! (My movie references are just so on point today!)
Host dad checking out the surf before we suit up.

A Surf of Countries

I have only been surfing twice in my life, both times with baby waves. So I was literally knocked off my feet when I saw the waves we'd be catching (or in my case fighting) this morning. Never the less I charged the incoming tide with determination and was quickly beat down to the sandy bottom. I'd been attacked by waves before, but once again never like this. In moments I was ball kicked and hit, punch and passed as the ocean simply played with me. "SUN-SURFACE-AIR!" Despite moments of fear that I still don't like to admit to, I always resurfaced, spit up water and plunged into the next one. And this year, this life will be worth it, with each crash. (Like the trillion metaphors I have on life, surfing makes the top ten.) Only after we trudged up to the sand did my dad say "No hemos hecho tampoco, demasiado duros." > We couldn't do it either, too hard." so I wasn't the only one struggling!

And where, might you ask, were all the cute Spanish/French guys to help me rise from my salty struggle? Doing what hot Spanish/French surfer guys are supposed to do, actually ride the waves, not drown in them. I still managed to get a whistle from one (you know after I had chocked up a liter of salt water and called it a day) Oh how hard it is to flirt here- no, in another language- no, in Pamplona- no... I'll find another time to write on this subject and I will specifically title GIRLS ONLY.

The sea tried to beat me. I conquered! P.S. I don't know why my ribs are popping out here?

 Tomorrow is a day of soccer up early for the game, and then spending the whole day bonding in Irun with the team. The things I love, soccer and friendship. Am I cheese ball for saying that? (yes) Well I'll leave you with this anything but sweet video of our city's team Osasuna chanting profanity that, as always being foreign, I just went with. OS-SA-SUNA NUNCA SE DICE!!