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

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Tale of Two Cities : Part One, Barcelona

I'm sure you have all been wondering "Oh my goodness where is Tanika and her smiles!?" or maybe I'm just giving myself too much credit here. These passed few weeks have been ridiculously filled with adventure and if I get into every story and detail my fingers will fall off and I'll be asleep before I get through the first description of our first magical destination. So to save my finger strength and your reading time I'll break it up into two posts, two parts, a tale of two cities. Here we go!

 Chilly air and the world is going golden. Fall to Winter in Pamplona.


Before continuing I'd just like to clarify something to the rest of the world. Barcelona or BCN is a city (an amazing and beautiful city) Barça is a fútbol team (an amazing and talented fútbol team) just clarifying before you make the journey out there which I know you all will because once you see this place you will never know another city like it. Ok on with the before-grandeur.

It had been a week of exams (sleeping in and hanging out with 10 year olds for me) and after presenting our school show in which I displayed my extreme capacity for embarrassment, it was finally time for the weekend. I'm going to skip Friday night because that's a story not worth sharing (as the Spaniards smirk at me and the Americans begin swarming me with questions) But Saturday was quite the opposite.

Taking pride in my baby bird, Twerky the Thanksgiving Turkey!

Thanksgiving!! I was a tornado in the kitchen swirling from oven to fridge picking up and putting down bowl spoon and -is this a whisk or a spatula? I was dizzy from the spinning. But after hours of Food Network worthy cooking I had finally done it, my first Thanksgiving all cooked by me and boy would Martha Stewart be proud of the presentation! I couldn't bask in the glory for too long because pretty soon it was on to the packing Barcelona awaits!

Barcelona Bike Tour

The blinding and beautiful Barcelona sun.
At first it started as a glow and then it started to grow! Until this Spanish sun, which I swear burns brighter than any other, was shining its way through antique window panes into my sleepy eyes, early morning imploring me to cease the day! 5 more minutes beautiful world! But the bike route had been planned and my super American neon coral Nike's were telling me and any onlooker within a 3 mile radius, that I was ready for it.

Here's the thing about Barcelona, its hilly... really hilly. We'd go up up up then down down down only to go up up up once more. I wasn't complaining though, the sun was out and even the run-down fruit stands looked like something you'd find on a vintage magazine cover (yes any vintage magazines looking for amateur photographers I am happy to apply!) I'd made it to the top of the world and back again and as I looked out from the artful over hanging of Parque Güell, or the open balcony atop the magisty of Sagrada Familia or even from the dusty roof of our host apartment building, thoughts over took me. I'm going to stop the touristy stories and instead share these thoughts with you.

Pieces of Me

I first had a thought, as we were biking. I had repeatedly passed mosaics, pieces of pottery beautifully broken and put together. They climbed buildings of low rent hostels and created the staple for Gaudi master pieces. No matter where they showed up they served the same purpose, fragments from other places coming together and forming something new, something magnificent. Without sounding too vapid, I thought of myself. Part Pervian, mix in some Boston, dash of Carolina and a sprinkle of Califonia now slowly adding the Spaniard its a recipe for something unique and I love the taste of different.

A master piece made of pieces.
The better thing about the mosaics is that they aren't perfect. They have bumps and cracks, smooth and rough. And that's life, at least that's the life I want to keep. Not perfect, but whole. I can always be working for something and know that things can get better but still take a step back and look at my life, look at myself and be happy with what I have and what I've worked for. In the end the cracks and the rough edges are what make beautiful things real. And when you step back the master piece is still just as beautiful and more unique because of them.

A Thank You to the Rainbows 

I admit, I haven't been to church since before I could spell "Conquer" (for my love of writing you think I'd make a good speller too but no I didn't get passed the 2nd round in the 3rd grade spelling bee) Any way it was a long time ago and only because my mom bribed me with ice cream but in Sagrada Familia, despite the tourism buzzing around I felt drawn to take a moment. Sitting on the wooden bench as stained glass rainbows washed over me, I bowed my head because it just felt like the thing to do. 

Afternoon sun became afternoon inspiration.
I wasn't really sure how to pray or if praying was even what I was doing. I smiled as I awkwardly made my way through a thank you letter to the air and whoever else may have been listening. So God or Universe or simply listener, I know we haven't talked in a while but since this is all your doing, I'd just like to say thank you. And on I went, smiling as I thanked for my mixed up background, for my mixed up families, for my mixed up life that I wouldn't change a day of. I just wanted to send out thanks not only for the people in my life but for the chances their presence had brought me, every chance. There had been so many, and the only thing I could say, I wish I'd taken more of them. But to whomever or whatever I was thanking I also made the clear promise to live this year and the rest of my life to the absolute fullest, day in day out, happy or on the lesser but still likely sad, I would be giving it 100% no matter how strange, hard or impossible it seemed.

Just outside Sagrada Familia, I love bubbles!
I know I got rather heavy on you all in that passed part but as my Spanish has begun conquering (yes I did spell check for that one) my English I just want to see if I'm still capable of thinking oh-so-philosophically. That was Barcelona. Now your thinking "What the heck Tanika you just talked about biking and how you compare yourself to a piece of art or soup or something?" Well fellow readers in another philosophical sense I've come to realize that the points on map, the moments captured in a lenses, even the emotions of seeing them, can't nearly match the significance of the thoughts we have in the moment or in retrospect and I'll do my best to keep those thoughts on record.

When I said you'll know no other city like it, I quite mean there is no other ciry like it.
So with a little lighter ending I have Part Two, Madrid under construction for you all! Holiday hecticness (I just found out that this isn't an actual word) is also on the horizon so if I disappear again just know it's because my love of Christmas has me embedded in a gingerbread baking, Jingle bell rocking, How the Grinch Stole Christmas marathon!