Sevilla & Málaga: Spring Break Part 1!

(i’m back in edinburgh now, jetlagged and tired but happy to be back. at last, my blogs on spain and morocco are being published!)

I was struck first by the heat. When i can’t so much as leave your desk without unraveling a blanket and donning another sweater, walking outside without so much as a sweater on made me feel utterly nude. And there were palm trees! Actual greenery, not just peeps of emerald grass between halfhearted plops of snow!

plane, watermarked

flying in over the andalucían mountains!

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Spain was looking to be an excellent choice for Spring Break.

We cleared customs in Málaga without so much as a who-are-you, acting like stereotypical Americans giggling over our stamps and mispronouncing every Spanish word in sight. We were giddy with the heat. There was a train and cab ride to the hostel, where our driver got lost in the network of Málaga tiled streets. He pointed down an alley that better resembled a linoleum-floored kitchen than a road, and we found at last our place for the night. There were drinks and tapas and superb sheep’s cheese. Really superb.

The next day was spent in jeans and tanktops – a delightful breath of fashion-themed fresh air – walking around the pier and beach. I dipped rainboot’ed toes into the Mediterranean, and before long we were on a train to Sevilla.

malagueta

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Actual TILED streets. Who knew?

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And though i’d not only worn a tanktop, seen the Mediterranean, and actually tasted humidity, this was the best part of the day. Our route wound itself through the Andalucían mountains, painted in white pueblas and craggy rock-face mountains underneath the bluest stretch of skies. Fields of grapes textured the landscape. It was breathtaking.

train ride

Once in Sevilla, where the streets no longer required mopping, we found a haunt to dine. Spain has a meal consumption time unlike anywhere else i’ve been – my guidebook (trusty Lonely Planet, as ever. I’m still waiting for my sponsorship) even bore an entire chapter devoted to the subject. You snack, at various hours, throughout the day until a MASSIVE lunch come 2 PM-ish. Then there’s dinner, around 9 PM, with more snacking.

Lucky for travelers catching mid-morning trains, it was prime lunch time in Sevilla.

Unlucky for non-Spanish speakers, we hadn’t a clue what the menu offered. So we played my favorite travel food game: ask the waiter in sign language, point at random on the menu, and hope for the best.

I’ve had delectable surprises in the past, especially at Indian restaurants. You can’t really go wrong there.

Apparently in Spain, though, you can. A steaming plate of fried anchovies on a platter of boiled carrots arrived. We looked at each other, mildly horrified. Our first course of paella (deliciously seasoned rice with a plethora of seafood) had just gone so well.

Appetizing.

Appetizing.

Real-time reactions.

Real-time reactions.

A trashcan stuffed with suspiciously fishy napkins later, we left a hearty European tip and walked out. For future reference: átun does not mean tuna.

My favorite part of Sevilla, needless to say, was not the cuisine.

My favorite part of Sevilla was, in a move totally outside of my character, the enormous cathedral-mosque in the heart of El Centro. The builders conceived it with the hope that future generations would think them mad. I think they achieved their goal.

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cathedral 1

It’s jaw-dropping. Even after my nine-church-tour of Edinburgh/London/Paris, the 7800 pipe organ and orange grove garden was humbling. The clash and harmony of Moorish architecture with Spanish gothic sung a beautiful melody of history and beauty. Besides, i’d love being in any garden in a comfortable sixty-seven degrees farenheight. The fact that the cathedral had a darling orange grove within it made it all the better!

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The warmth of Spain had yet to abate. In two days, we’d seen the beaches of Málaga and the cathedral of Sevilla, survived a meal of anchovies and made up for it with plenty of Spanish wine. It was a delightful start to what was promising to be a delightful week!

current jam: ‘sons & daughters’ the decemberists.

best thing: cotton leggings.

Wandering Writes: Scotland Edition.

Throughout the course of my two decades on earth (how trite) i’ve had an innumerable list of life ambitions. When i was seven, i dreamed of nothing more than a career as a dolphin trainer who worked as an author/singer/inventor on the side. I even had an old refrigerator box in my room that i used to collect tools to use for “inventing;” a favorite creation were DIY roller-skates (tennis shoes with matchbox cars taped to the bottoms).

I grew older, and though my interest in marine life abated, the desire to write and make music did not. Middle school was filled with dreams of the Big Stage and worrying over training bras. That is, until the African Highway Project in Mrs. Bade’s 7th-grade-social-studies class. In studying a myriad of different countries that comprised the vast continent, and speaking with several Peace Corps volunteers who came to share their experiences, i caught a bug. Maybe the virus had been planted when i went to San Francisco with my dad and grandma at the age of nine. Or maybe my transient life lived in eight states prior to the age of six infected me from infancy.

Whatever the source, by the time i left Culbreth Middle School behind me i wanted to live in Africa. Particularly, i wanted to go to Mali (that’s where the cute Peace Corps volunteer had lived. Naturally, it became my favorite yet-visited destination).

At the age of fourteen, my passport was stamped for the first time. I was Africa-bound, on a pilgrimage that would teach me two countries (Rwanda and Uganda) could not be more different from one another. That “Africa” is a very, very big place and i was madly in love with a very, very beautiful place called Uganda. I never made it to Mali, because cute-Peace-Corps-person aside, i’d been called elsewhere.

If the infection was dormant before, it was in raging contagion now. Four years and three more countries later, this blog was born and my bags were packed for ten weeks of calling Uganda home.

It’s been a year and half since that incredible summer, and over a year since i was privileged and blessed enough to travel abroad. But i’ve caught a virus i think will last my life long: i need to see. I live for bruising suitcases with exuberant boardings of planes. I’ve wanted to study abroad again, this time academically, for a long while.

And yesterday i got the jubilant news that i have, officially, been accepted to the University of Edinburgh in Scotland for the spring semester!

Between now and my departure in January there are Visa applications to endure, Lonely Planet guidebooks to be earmarked, and painful goodbyes to withstand. The excitement of the impending adventure is overwhelming – grueling paperwork and all.

Fourteen-year-old me would have thought i was going to make a career out of traveling, living like this. Part of that girl is still very much alive in me. But for this semester, i aspire to take off the capital-F Future questions off the table for a little while. I intend to explore, and to let the excitement of exploration be enough. I intend to grow, pains of it and all, and i intend to embrace the change.

Right now, though, i’m just ecstatic. I can’t wait to share the photographs i’ll take, basked in nerdy wonderment, at The Elephant House Café (JK Rowling! Sat there! While writing THE BOOK!). I’m certain i’ll start slipping up and unconsciously imitate a Scottish accent (coming off as a total fake, i’m aware). I’m beside myself at the thought of learning and living in a new city with train tickets across the UK. But most of all, right now, i’m excited to share this news with all of you!

current jam: ‘then i met you’ the proclaimers

best thing: um, SCOTLAND.

The Comeback.

So i’ve been away awhile, and rather unexpectedly. I do keep this blog first for myself, but it is always pleasantly surprising to me when people, via the internet or human contact, express concern that i haven’t been writing. I appreciate this more than i can say – i live to write, so knowing that in some small way you, dearest reader, at minimum bother perusing my words is a treasured gift. But i also forget sometimes that writing, though its roots may be as a discipline for myself, once released doesn’t belong to me so much any longer. And i haven’t been writing here. I don’t apologize for this, because i needed what i have been writing to belong only to me lately. But i have missed your insights and the small exhilaration i get from putting this out into the internet-world, and for those who have expressed concern i return with thanks.

I haven’t been writing because, well, i’ve been busy living my life. For the past two years i’ve not spent more than a month at a time in North Carolina, and because of this i haven’t really relaxed in a long, long time. Despite working, though, i have really made an effort to cleanse and sift and breathe – thus the unannounced internet hiatus. It has been most wonderful – i am blissfully, truly content where i am in ways i could never have anticipated going into this summer. And rather than broadcasting such bliss, i’ve kept it for me. Obviously it’s because you do, in fact, smell rank, and not because i’m actually a socially awkward extreme introvert who occasionally doesn’t feel the need to spell out her innermost thoughts online so as to better process such happiness. Just so we’re clear.

But! I’m back. Really. No motorcycle adventures to document (yet) but since you, apparently, find my scrawls of interest i’ll give you a brief run-down of all that has been going on in the world of lizzie mcmizzie since last we spoke (or, rather, i pontificated and you stared at your illuminated screen in the dark of a 3 am college dorm room).With no further thus ado, i therefore give you:

The 5 Utterly Mundane and Totally Spectacular Things lizzie Has Been Doing While You’ve Been Snorkling, (Or Whatever it Is You Do in the Summertime):

1. Waiting tables. I’ve broken two mugs (expectedly), said more ya’lls than i think a Dolly-Parton-omoter could count, lost one nametag, acquired a minor burn (wouldn’t be summertime if i hadn’t!), and only dramatically screwed up a singular wine order. Highlights: a table of ladies who, at 11 in the morning, all had a double round of vodka tonics and one of whom has a goddaughter who attended Mount Holyoke; a gentlemen’s club who tipped me 30% despite the soup incident. Darlings.

2. Playing with the cats. Whew, i know you need to have a seat with this one because i’ve never once declared my unyielding devotion to felines publicly. But i’m here to tell you, it’s true. I’m feisty for felines. Or something. That came off a little too sexual for what i intended. Whatever. And, as it so happens, they provide the most ample excuse for why i haven’t written…because their fondness for my computer extends over my keyboard at the expense of writing. Evidence:

(taken courtesy of my webcam)

3. Attended my little brother’s high school graduation. So this item on ze list most certainly does not fall into the “utterly mundane” category. To refrain from going gushy on ye who read this blog for my sarcastic, pessimistic bite: i felt all gooey in my heart and tears a-welled up in my eyes as my precious babe of a brother, swaddled in his Men’s Extraordinarily-Tall-Robe for the Upper Atmosphere Dwellers graduation gown, crossed the stage basking in his five seconds of utter glory dipped in a glow of pride and delight.

4. Read more Junior Science Fiction novels than could be considered healthy even by the brainiest of librarians. Seriously, Bobby Pendragon and the Travelers of Halla and i have become such chums it’s fearful for Saint Dane. These are references only the twelve year olds of my audience are bound to get. Score one for the maturity scale!

5.  Been blissful in the face of unwavering, nostalgic possibility. And i’m going to leave it as cryptically and stupidly metaphorical as that.

So there’s my utterly narcissistic and indulgent write-up about the veryinterestingtome things going down in my life. Thank you, Mary Day Saou, friend and mom-to-be and blogger-extraordinaire who helped re-convince me that people might be interested to read more, and more regularly! Mary is a real gem. She also might be making a sneak appearance in my next blog post (perhaps as a surprise to her!). So stay tuned! Or go back to snorkeling, whatever,

current jam: ‘lily’ by ministry of magic

best thing: button-downs and j. also, extra ice in my tea.

thoughts in my head: on my i’s.

You’ve all, undoubtedly, noticed a shift in the grammatical structure of my posts as of late. Some of you have commented, messaged, or anonymously posted on forums that my lack of proper grammar is intriguing, jarring, juvenile, or otherwise a little out of place.

For your dissensions, comments, and inquiries: i thank you. Really – i welcome disagreements (they make me better for them).

But i want to explain: this is intentional.

Inspired by one of my favorite poems, i thank You God by E. E. Cummings,* the blogs of my friends Thera and Joel, as well as five years of French class, i’ve decided the time had come for me to blog in the way i write for my own self in my journals, notes, etc.

When i was thirteen and i first learned the tenses and pronouns in French, my understanding and relationship to language underwent a radical shift. For, in French, you never capitalize “je,” the pronoun for “I,” unless it as the beginning of a sentence. As i’d never encountered anything but English (and a few songs about hot chocolate in elementary school Spanish class) this was fundamentally challenging my concept of how we referred to ourselves. It seems silly, but to realize that in French it was unnecessary to make yourself stand taller in written form was pretty profound.

In high school, my women’s chorus was invited, for three years in a row, to participate in a concert of regional women’s choruses, held at UNC-CH. At the closure of the show, we all sang one piece together. My sophomore year, this piece was Eric Whitacre’s musical rendition of the poem by E.E. Cummings, “i thank You God.” Enter my discovery and subsequent love for Cummings, his wordplay, and manipulation of meanings by reworking and rewording and redoing the English Language. Most particularly, i loved how this poem used the lower-case-ness of the “i” to emphasize smallness, finiteness, when compared to the ‘divine, unimaginable You.’

Nearly four years pass, and this summer i (as most of you know) lived in the Karamoja region of Uganda, where i lived with Thera and met Joel (and his lovely wife, Heather!) in South Sudan. If you’ve ever perused my friend Thera’s blog, you’ll notice she hardly ever uses capital letters – her reasons are her own (ask her!) but needless to say, we had a lot of really interesting conversations about grammar and wordplay. Similarly, my friend Joel’s blog posts utilize “I/i” in a way similar to the French language (though i’m uncertain as to his explicit reasoning, but nevertheless very much like the format!).

Which brings us to present. After some interesting writing exercises in my Speaking, Arguing, and Writing tutoring prep class, i realized how much i preferred the French system for capitalizing the notion of the self. For me, this symbolizes my own smallness, insignificance, and equality with words like “you” or “us” or “they.” I mean, why is it that we capitalize the pronoun that’s self – referential, but not the pronoun referring to everyone else? Inspired by all of the aforementioned people, poets, and grammatical lessons, i finally realized it was okay to be “grammatically incorrect” here on my own, personal, blog.

So there it is: my newly-revealed, but actually long-though-out, ideas behind toying with grammar. I recognize, by the very nature of having a blog and considering my ideas to be worth spouting out, i have a considerable, unhealthy level of narcissism. My lower-case’d i’s are a small way to remind myself that, at the end of the day, i’m just a human being with a slightly over-inflated ego and too much to say.

current jam: ‘meadowlarks’ fleet foxes

best thing in my life right now: you! (yes, you)

* who did, in fact, prefer his name to be capitalized

Thoughts from the Journey: London Edition

Once more, i am writing to you, dearest reader, from the comfort of my own desk in my own room, at my beloved Mount Holyoke College. It’s a strange feeling – being back – because there’s this sense of normalcy and regularity to my rushing to class, downing continuous cups of coffee, and making endless color-coded homework charts for the oncoming weekend. In some ways, i feel like i’ve woken up from a blissful dream to Reality, without a moment passing at all.

And while, to be fair, my time in London was incredibly brief, it was concurrently immeasurably special. England has existed in my mind for so long, shaped by my consumption of Potter novels and films, the writings of the brilliant Jane Austen, the pouring over my favorite Shakespearean plays. My thoughts and dreams of what London would be were undeniably influenced by Doctor Who, by my guidebook’s quips, and by what i longed for the experience to hold. To be on the streets i’d dreamed of while reading about Harry and Ron and Hermione, envisioned while singing along to My Fair Lady, was literally the summation of so many dreams – a treasure compounded by the fact that i could share the journey with my fantastic father.

Someone commented on my post about Day 4 spent in the city that places like London and New York exist in our minds long before we ever encounter them in person. I think this is indisputable; i also contend that my imagination will continue to paint my memories and thoughts of such places. London is tangible to me now, surely, for i can remember the hotness and cramped sensation of riding in the Tube – sensations i had not anticipated. Yet the wonder, the idyllic glow i’ve cast over the winding streets and platforms, shall persist whether consciously or not. My London will never be the same as any other’s interpretation, but my London has changed for me in the span of seven days.

It is this kind of living in the dream that is so often the best part of traveling. I didn’t stay long enough to be infuriated by the delay in traffic, or fret over the never-ending threat of rain. The time was brief enough that every moment was satiated with the exhiliration of uncovering a new place, and thereby discovering more about my own tastes and talents and shortcomings. The journey, wherever it may be, is always the greatest adventure in the scope of wandering around the world.

And, yes, I’m suffering a bit from post-travel tribulation (did i mention my weekend is now divided up according to green time for paper-writing and blue time for research?). But i know the UK has more for me to wander through, and that for everything there is a time and place. For now, my time and place is at this gorgeous university with my brilliant friends and a wicked amount of work to be doing.

current jam: ‘poison’ nicole scherzinger

best thing in my life right now: my new TARDIS mug! my friends in my life again!