Archive for December, 2011

And so it begins.

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

The first post! It will certainly be the first of many, and I can’t wait until I actually get there and have something to write home about (literally).  Whether or not you readers out there are actually interested in the art of London (though I don’t see why you wouldn’t be…) I hope you join me on this blog! For now, y’all have a happy new year and I’ll be checking in soon. Thanks for reading!

Welcome!

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

Hey! Welcome to my blog about my intern and study abroad experiences! Feel free to comments and/or ask questions! Thanks!

2 Days till Christmas and 11 days till Paris! AAAAHHHH!!!

Friday, December 23rd, 2011
Good morning! Hope everyone is enjoying their time home! As you can probably guess from the title of this post there's a lot on my mind so its getting a bit nerve wrecking. (understatement! haha) I'm very excited to be writing my first blog post because this means I'm that much closer to starting my next six months abroad!
With only 11 days left till I leave the sates there's a lot to think about. For me the studying abroad process has reminded me of the college application process. It's been a roller coaster of stress, excitement, and fear. From the moment you finally decide where you want to go and which program you want to apply to (I plan on writing a post on picking your program with a focus on the MICEFA program) to the paperwork load to get to department a, b,c, etc, to the packing and days leading up to it. It's like from the moment you make up your mind you are super pumped and totally set on it and then as the days get closer, you buy your ticket, you leave campus (see you next fall!), reality sets in followed by some worried thoughts and mixed emotions about leaving. But as stressful as things may seem you still know your determination and desire to go abroad is stronger than any of your fears. On that note, I would like to share with you guys all that I am looking forward to and all that I am not so much looking forward to:

Not looking forward to:
1) PACKING!!! I am determined to fit six months of everything I may need in one suitcase. -- Mission Impossible? Possibly, but I've gotta try. (tips would be much appreciated!)
2) Working with MICEFA to find a place to live for the next six months! (More on the housing process and MICEFA to come)
3) the unfortunate condition of the Euro--yeah it sucks! that dollar is only gonna get you so far
4) Leaving my family, friends, and my dogs  :(  its hard coming home for the holidays and settling in knowing you'll have to leave just as your settling in back home
5) Making new friends! Now I will be the exchange student in a city of thousands of people from all over the world.
6) Hot Yoga!! :(
7) Trips to Bragg Hill with Shayda Rezazad!
8) Missing out on the last semester of college for my senior friends :( good luck you guys!!
9) Modern Family!

What I am looking forward to:
1) Seeing old friends!!! I can't wait to see my friends Annie, Gustavo, and Caroline when I arrive and go exploring Paris with them.
2) Meeting new friends!!
3) Museum hoping!
4) Espresso!
5) Shopping!
6) My new classes!!
7) Traveling to Spain and Italy to see my dear friends Terrence, Jacapo, and Agnese!! can't wait!
8) Food!! veg friendly---no escargots or frog legs for me! Crepes!!
9) Speaking in french 24/7!
10) Skype dates & sending postcards all my loved ones back home
11) new volunteer opportunities
12) PASTRY SHOPS! bc I have the biggest sweet tooth ever!
13) the political fever in Paris as the Presidential Elections of 2012 unfold!

Like I said, while there are things I am worried about there is so much more I am excited about. But with two days till Christmas, finishing my Christmas list shopping and enjoying just being with my loved ones for the holidays is first on my list of priorities! And on that note, I am off to finish tacking that list! Have a wonderful day everyone!

End of the Year Newspaper Article

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

Students asked me to write an article for the newspaper. I asked when it was due, how long it should be, and what it should be about, and they answered “whenever, about a page, something funny.” Thanks guys. I set the limit of Friday at lunch to try to finish it in time, but I just finished it about a half hour ago. For those of you that read my final address to the Sapgyo students parts of this may seem familiar, and that’s because I took direct inspiration from that address. I feel like something I can’t tell students enough is that when they come talk to me they’re not a burden to me, even if they are not very good at English, I still really enjoy talking to them.

Most likely I won’t update this blog until after I come back from traveling (January 15th), so I’ll leave you with my nice long newspaper article. Happy holidays!

 

“It seems like it was just yesterday that I was worried about what to write for this newspaper, and now I am worrying about what to write again. In my last article I introduced myself and said hello to all of the students, and now inevitably I have to say goodbye, not only to the third graders who are graduating and starting a new chapter in their lives, but to the second graders who I will no longer teach. Thank you all for making my first semester at Changpyeong High School memorable.

As a native English teacher in Korea, who is studying Korean in her free time, my life is overwhelmed by language. The longer I stay in Korea the more the lines between English and Korean blur and while it is very fun, sometimes by the end of the day I cannot speak any language, let alone Korean or English. I’m sure you know what that’s like.

I think learning a foreign language is one of the most difficult things a person can do. It is very frustrating when you can communicate perfectly well in your native language, but can’t think of the simplest words in another. Not only that, but it is so easy to make very basic mistakes. The first few weeks I was in Korea every time I went to a coffee shop I ordered a 코피 [kopi - nose bleed] instead of a 커피 [keopi - coffee]. I’m sure that sometimes I still do. It is also easy to make vocabulary mistakes. In English we have two distinct words, “head” and “hair” whereas in Korea there is only the word [meori] 머리, so sometimes I make mistakes when listening to people talk about their hair or head. Therefore though it is easy for you to know what someone means when they say “머리를 자르고 싶다” [meorilul jareugo shipda - want to cut hair/head], I become very worried until I realize that they probably just want a hair cut.

However, the most difficult part of learning to speak a foreign language is not grammar or vocabulary, but self-confidence. The purpose of learning a foreign language is to communicate. In order to speak a foreign language you must feel two things. One – that you can do it. You know the vocabulary, grammar, etc. Two – that you are worth listening to, that you have interesting and important things to say. It is important to know vocabulary and grammar, however the most important thing when speaking a foreign language is your feeling of self-worth, and not being afraid to make mistakes. No matter how good your English is, if you feel that you are not worth listening to, it will hurt you more than bad grammar.

In my opinion, the best English speakers at Changpyeong High School don’t always have the highest grades – they are the ones who are confident in themselves. Because I am the foreign teacher, I know it can be intimidating to talk to me. You have to think carefully about your words, and it can be very stressful and tiring. However, even though you didn’t have to talk to me outside of class, many of you did. Some of you talked to me on the street, or in the hallways of the school, or on the bus, and for that I thank you. Thank you for telling me all of the best places to eat in Changpyeong. Thank you for explaining to how the dormitory works, and telling me stories about your roommates. Thank you for showing me pictures of your family. Thank you for telling me about your morning EBS classes, and the nightly self-study system, and how vacation days work, and other seemingly small things that help me understand Changpyeong students better. Thank you for giving me high-fives in the hallways. Thank you for sharing with me pieces of your lives – even if you think they were small or insignificant, you taught me a lot.

Have a good holiday, study hard (but not too hard), and I will see you again next semester. I’m excited to meet you again, and hear more stories.”

Overwhelmed but Happy

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

I’m currently working on a bunch of blog posts, like one based on my reactions (and those of the people around me) to Kim Jong Il’s death, so I apologize to everyone whose asked me that I haven’t gotten back to yet.

It’s the last day of school. Technically my contract says that I finished yesterday but since I’m not flying out until the 29th it didn’t make sense to skip school on Friday and have my co-teachers have to cover my classes. I’m glad I stayed, also because I just have so much work to do.

Here are my winter vacation plans, for those who are interested: I’ll be traveling in Cambodia and Vietnam from December 29th until January 15th. I then teach at my school’s winter camp from (not really a winter camp, just normal classes) from January 16th – 20th. Then I immediately fly out again and travel in Taiwan from January 22nd – 27th. Then I come home, rest for a few days, and move to Seoul at the beginning of February in order to take an intensive three week Korean program. Whew.

I’m also glad I didn’t miss school because I received a present from my club class girls. Yesterday was our last club class and when I came in they had turned off the lights and made a cake out of mongshells (similar to a chocopie cake, but a different brand) with a candle on top and were playing Christmas music. They made me blow out the candle, then we ate snacks and they presented me with the present – which they then took back because it wasn’t completed, and gave it back to me this morning.

Their present is a large black piece of posterboard with the cut-out of a pumpkin illuminating the back, and notes from all of the students in the club class (eight) posted on there, as well as a drawn iture of me, and a Santa Claus. It’s adorable. They’re all adorable. However, I’m going to share the two that touched me the most, written by my two favorite second grade girls (who I won’t be teaching anymore, because they’ll be preparing for the college entrance exam) because they answered a lot of the questions and insecurities I have been feeling recently as a teacher.

To. Emily
Emily!! I’m EH ~
I was happy to be your student. I felt many things through your class!!
Various thinking, culture, food, game, all of things were fresh and interesting to me. Emily, I’m sure your charisma, sense of humor (joke) and preparations (about class) make great teacher and diplomat. I’m sad because I do not CA [my note: CA = Club Activity] anymore. But I’m happy because you give me a present!! did you know? You give me a beautiful memory and brave. Thank you ~ <3.
Your present perfect to me when I pass 수능 [수능 = suneung = college entrance exam]
I want to visit your hometown with you and CA friends ^^.
I’m very proud of you !!!
Thank you for teaching me ~
Bye ~ From: EH

The above note was from one of the girls I took with me to the Youth Diplomacy program. I’m going to miss her!

To: Emily ~
Hello, Emily. I’m DH. I can’t believe I’m 3rd grade student (exactly soon) and can’t take your class anymore. Times run too fast ㅠㅠ. All classes that we had together were so great that I will miss the class. I think you are a person who are alive. Not just alive but vividly alive. When I see you I can feel your energy reaches me, which always motivates my passion. I was moved by your passion for teaching and respect to students. Carving pumpkin, mafia game, making mummy… and so on. All of our class won’t be forget. Thank you very much about all of that. I’ll visit your home in Washington D.C> later after KSAT.
Again Thank you Thank you… Bye!! See you later.
p.s. I’ll bring a baby kangaroo from Australia.. ㅋㅋ [this was one of the 3 students at my school who won a prize in the Damyang speech competition I helped out with - I told them all I wanted a kangaroo]
From, funny DH

Overwhelmed but Happy

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

I’m currently working on a bunch of blog posts, like one based on my reactions (and those of the people around me) to Kim Jong Il’s death, so I apologize to everyone whose asked me that I haven’t gotten back to yet.

It’s the last day of school. Technically my contract says that I finished yesterday but since I’m not flying out until the 29th it didn’t make sense to skip school on Friday and have my co-teachers have to cover my classes. I’m glad I stayed, also because I just have so much work to do.

Here are my winter vacation plans, for those who are interested: I’ll be traveling in Cambodia and Vietnam from December 29th until January 15th. I then teach at my school’s winter camp from (not really a winter camp, just normal classes) from January 16th – 20th. Then I immediately fly out again and travel in Taiwan from January 22nd – 27th. Then I come home, rest for a few days, and move to Seoul at the beginning of February in order to take an intensive three week Korean program. Whew.

I’m also glad I didn’t miss school because I received a present from my club class girls. Yesterday was our last club class and when I came in they had turned off the lights and made a cake out of mongshells (similar to a chocopie cake, but a different brand) with a candle on top and were playing Christmas music. They made me blow out the candle, then we ate snacks and they presented me with the present – which they then took back because it wasn’t completed, and gave it back to me this morning.

Their present is a large black piece of posterboard with the cut-out of a pumpkin illuminating the back, and notes from all of the students in the club class (eight) posted on there, as well as a drawn iture of me, and a Santa Claus. It’s adorable. They’re all adorable. However, I’m going to share the two that touched me the most, written by my two favorite second grade girls (who I won’t be teaching anymore, because they’ll be preparing for the college entrance exam) because they answered a lot of the questions and insecurities I have been feeling recently as a teacher.

To. Emily
Emily!! I’m EH ~
I was happy to be your student. I felt many things through your class!!
Various thinking, culture, food, game, all of things were fresh and interesting to me. Emily, I’m sure your charisma, sense of humor (joke) and preparations (about class) make great teacher and diplomat. I’m sad because I do not CA [my note: CA = Club Activity] anymore. But I’m happy because you give me a present!! did you know? You give me a beautiful memory and brave. Thank you ~ <3.
Your present perfect to me when I pass 수능 [수능 = suneung = college entrance exam]
I want to visit your hometown with you and CA friends ^^.
I’m very proud of you !!!
Thank you for teaching me ~
Bye ~ From: EH

The above note was from one of the girls I took with me to the Youth Diplomacy program. I’m going to miss her!

To: Emily ~
Hello, Emily. I’m DH. I can’t believe I’m 3rd grade student (exactly soon) and can’t take your class anymore. Times run too fast ㅠㅠ. All classes that we had together were so great that I will miss the class. I think you are a person who are alive. Not just alive but vividly alive. When I see you I can feel your energy reaches me, which always motivates my passion. I was moved by your passion for teaching and respect to students. Carving pumpkin, mafia game, making mummy… and so on. All of our class won’t be forget. Thank you very much about all of that. I’ll visit your home in Washington D.C> later after KSAT.
Again Thank you Thank you… Bye!! See you later.
p.s. I’ll bring a baby kangaroo from Australia.. ㅋㅋ [this was one of the 3 students at my school who won a prize in the Damyang speech competition I helped out with - I told them all I wanted a kangaroo]
From, funny DH

Em in Asia! 2011-12-19 21:27:59

Monday, December 19th, 2011

It’s the end of the year, so I’ve been a bit busy wrapping things up at school. Saying goodbye to my second graders is sad as always, but I’m excited to get to know my first graders better, because since they’re becoming second graders, I’ll see them once a week instead of once every two weeks.

Because it’s the last class, I’m gathering data for my winter camp class, which is going to be dating themed. The main activity is going to be a family-feud style game, where they have to guess the five most popular answers to questions, but the catch is the boy classes have to guess the girl classes’ answers, and vice versa. I’ve been asking every class 15 questions and tallying up the answers. Many of them are fairly predictable, like “Girls Generation” for best singer (boys) or “Tall” for most important quality in a significant other (girls) but sometimes individual students surprise me. For example, today SW became one of my favorite students in class 1.6A (1st grade boys, 15 – 16 years old) by announcing that his favorite English language movie was “Matilda.”

The end of an era

Sunday, December 18th, 2011

So here it is. The obligatory reflective post where I throw out life lessons about my life abroad! I’m about to lay some knowledge on you and get real cheesy, so prepare yourself.

ASE threw us a final tea at a classy hotel. We were served tea, cakes, the infamous clotted cream and sandwiches. After tea, the program director Jonathan (affectionately dubbed JHope) showed us a slideshow of hilarious pictures to “Don’t You Forget About Me.” (The song was chosen specifically because of our Halloween costume, yeah we’re that influential.)  We all clamored for pictures with The Butterworth, the smartest little British man you’ll ever meet and someone who will be at UMW in February to talk about ASE!

Butters!

 

We met for drinks afterwards, and then it was off to Jamie’s Italian, Jamie Oliver’s restaurant! The menu was so impressive we all had a hard time deciding what to nom. We shared wine, more reminiscing, more laughs. Everytime someone would bring up leaving or travel plans, we’d eschew that and say no no, we’re spending New Years in London right? And St. Patty’s Day in Dublin? We’re not leaving. OCCUPY PRIOR PARK! START A REVOLUTION! Last night out—we went full circle by returning to PoNaNa for Squeeze the Cheese night. And saw a fight between two morons. So what an interesting send off!

 

Forgive the logo, I didn't make it lol

There was no way we were going to sleep. Despite having to leave the house around 7:50 to catch my bus to Heathrow, we stayed up all night cooking, talking and stopping the tears because it’s NOT goodbye, it’s see you later. We engulfed each other in bone-crushing hugs and promises to plan a reunion. I left just as the sun was coming up, and indulged myself in a few quiet tears as the bus went by Nelson and the Abbey. Had to get it out of my system, because an airplane/airport is not the best place to have a mental breakdown ;) I did get to grab lunch at the airport with my beloved roomie and partner in crime though! We took off just as the sun was setting. So it’s another full circle affect—I first flew into London during sunrise, I left during a sunset.

 

The flight was just over 8 hours. The only bump in the road was the family of screaming toddlers one row over—the parents seemed completely oblivious. But that’s alright, I had a window seat and the ability to watch Harry Potter and lots of Curb Your Enthusiasm. We made an obligatory Taco Bell stop on the way home, and it was everything I remembered and more…so special. It was surreal to wake up in my old room and NOT in my little room at the top of the stairs in Prior Park, feel the sheets that aren’t mine, hear my Dad’s deep rumbling voice instead of lilting feminine laughter, not have to wait in line for the bathroom. It’s insane to think that yesterday afternoon I was in England.

My semester's worth of reading

So what did I learn? What did this experience open up for me? Let me just say I now require a job that allows me either enough flexibility to travel often, or a job that consists of traveling, because there’s no way I could stay stationary behind a desk all day. I need mobility, adventurous co-workers, a spark of life in my work. After all the places I went and the people I met this semester, I can’t imagine staying in one place forever.

I learned sleep doesn’t matter so much. You can hit your second wind, and your third, and your fourth. Apparently, a collective seven hours of sleep within a 50-ish hour window is enough for me. I learned that you shouldn’t buy £1 frozen pizzas from Iceland unless you want to throw up in an airport bathroom the next day. I learned that you should never go anywhere in England without an umbrella and 3 layers of clothes—there will literally be snow one minute and bright sunshine the next. I learned:

1) Never turn down an Irish party

2)Prague is the most beautiful city in the world

3)Always pee before leaving the house

4) It’s impossible to laugh too much

5) Never bring your credit card when you go out clubbing

6) Give people chances, they may surprise you

7)Friends are just the family you choose for yourself

8) Don’t EVER settle

9) Get your ass off the couch and go do something outside, even if it’s raining

10) Buy toilet paper in bulk in a house full of tea-drinking girls

11) British men are NOT sissies, they just sound like it

12) Tea cures everything

13) Go to Europe at least once before you die

14) Dance often, it’s good for the soul

15) Turn off the stove so Sarai doesn’t die

16) When facing culinary strugs, always ask Hannah

See you later, Bath

No words could ever adequately sum up this experience for me. It was without a doubt the most incredible time in my entire life. I met so many amazing people, explored so many breath-taking places, took many chances. I shared my writing, got published in a magazine, climbed a mountain, explored ancient ruins, visited my homelands, loved worthy people. I’ll always carry a piece of Bath in my heart. When life gives you lemons, you shoot those lemons in the face and laugh at the remnants. The world is waiting, so GO GET IT!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A wee bit in denial ~ Full circle

Saturday, December 17th, 2011

As I spent today walking around Algorta in the rain (symbolic of Bilbao crying for our departure according to one of my professors, awwww), sat talking with my love, Elana, and watched a movie with Carmen, I found it hard to believe that I really am about to leave the place and the country that has been my home for the last 3 and a half months. I have made so many wonderful memories and friends while here that it’s hard to even explain it all. I’m nervous for the general question of “how was spain?” because I don’t have a general answer. Spain was awesome, fabulous, unreal, very much the dream that I was referring to when I named my blog!

SPAIN. I have a routine here, a real life within this foreign culture, one that I’m finally used to and could easily continue living. The body wash that I used as shampoo my first two nights here still sits in my shower, taunting me. The large tin that has housed the galletas (aka biscuits) that composed 80% of my Spanish diet is still full. The beach and my running routes still call my name. But my closet is once again empty, my suitcases full and next to my bed, most of my new friends are half way back to the US, I’ve said goodbye to my little spanish boys, and I’ve already drowned my tears more than once in what is the best spanish candy ever – sour, cream filled straws. Carmen has been telling me repeatedly how much she’s enjoyed having me this semester. When she found out the name and some info about her next host student, she tried to convince me to stay another semester. It’s so sweet and so sad. Along with everything else I will definitely miss this wonderful lady, crazy rants about sandwiches and all! 

My flight plans for the morning are as follows: Sunday December 18th                               6:50am Bilbao, Spain to Frankfurt, Germany                                          12:45pm Frankfurt, Germany to Philly                                                   — 6 hour time change — : (                                                              6:10pm Pilly to Baltimore

By 7pm tomorrow evening I will be back in the US of A. I am, of course, super excited to be reuniting with my family and America friends but I am super sad to be closing this chapter of my life. Much love Bilbao!! Here’s to waking up from my Spanish dream…

” You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place, I told him, like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.” 
― Azar Nafisi            

When in Rome and Walkin’ up in Venice

Friday, December 16th, 2011

Another distinguishing factor about my wonderful trip to Denmark was that, unlike my usual weekend rendezvous around Europe, this trip was only the beginning of an 8 day trip thanks to two Spanish holidays and two thrown in “puentes” (bridge days between holidays – a great idea that the US most definitely needs to adopt). 3 hours after saying goodbye to Karoline and Denmark, I found myself (quite intentionally yet still surprisingly) in Italy, where I met up with two other girls from CIDE to embark on a 40-hour journey around the eternal city of Rome. With only two semi-days ahead of us before the departure of our overnight train to Venice, we were determined to start our Rome adventure on the right foot and, when in Rome, that can only mean one thing – Pizza! By 4:30pm we were happily fed and it was surprisingly dark. But fortunately that only added to the fantastic atmosphere of wondering through the half ancient, half modern city. Cue Coliseum by sunset. Yes please.

The rest of the night was spent hopping from piazza to piazza, throwing our coins into the Trevi fountain, and eating way too much gnocchi at an “off the beaten track” Italian restaurant, comprised of only 10 small tables and tons of character. Needless to say, eating at Sals will never compare! Aside from one of the girls I was with causing a slight scene by catching her bag on fire in one of the candles on our table, we were able to enjoy a truly authentic Italian experience, robust waiters and all. We may have spent over 2 hours there – watching our waiter dance the rumba, inventing the language of “Spantalian”, and laughing our heads off. And we’re used to long Spanish meals, so it was no big deal.

Tuesday we woke up bright and early for all things Vatican. After checking our bags at the train station for the day, we were ready for Italian meal numero tres – pastry and cappuccino yumminess. Note to self and any of you that may be thinking about going to Italy, café con leche is definitely the Spanish thing… when in Rome it’s cappuccinos all the way. Kay, now that that’s clear, our route to the Vatican was not the least bit comfortable, in any way. It started with a super packed metro full of people stepping on my toes and squishing me from both sides and then culminated with rowdy tour guides pestering us with their solicitations along the street. By the time we reached Saint Peter’s Basilica we were all a bit flustered but the beauty of the Basilica quickly turned our slight frowns upside down. The Basilica was so large and ornately decorated (even in its more quant side chapels) that I couldn’t possibly imagine going to mass there, but it was extremely impressive and amazing all the same. This church is literally covered with art from floor to ceiling, including the tiles. Pretty insane. And for some purpose, of which I can think of none except to provide a little extra entertainment, the guards at the door were dressed in primary color striped puffy pants – sophisticated sounding, I knowwww, but I couldn’t think of a better way to paint that picture!

Post Basilica we wrapped around Vatican City to the Vatican Museum itself, which was also very impressive. And artistically overwhelming. So many statues!!! Eventually we ended up admiring them from slightly afar as we breezed on, closely following the signs to the Sistine Chapel. Maybe a guided tour would have been worth it after all… oh well, we got what we could out of it and it was a cool experience no matter what! Sistine chapel = unreal! All that artistic detail. On the top of the ceiling. With half of it upside down. I was speechless and very eager for a photograph but resisted the “illegal” temptation and will maybe just have to steal one from my braver friends in the near future. Yes, done and done!

When we’d had our fill of beautiful religious art, we said good-bye to Vatican City and made the trek back into Rome, the whole mile that it is, laughing at how we can’t understand how they are two different countries, but we’ll buy it anyways, whateves. It was now daylight Coliseum viewing time and this time we were going inside, which I have to admit was pretty freaking cool regardless of its slightly morbid associations. Along with seeing the ruins, we found some signs around describing the distinct history of the famous structure. In addition to gladiator fights, the arena was used for fights with animals and labyrinth type competitions. After getting our necessary photographs, we intended to continue the ruins exploration at the Palatine Hill but were unfortunately too late to enter. Oh well. Walking back to the Trevi fountain to people watch while eating gelato sounded like a great plan B. And make that kiwi gelato? Yes please! We killed time being touristy until about 7pm when we headed over to a cafeteria for a risotto dinner and then braced our selves for our overnight train to Venice. Ciao Roma!


Overnight train rides are certainly an experience, especially when your chair has a top and a bottom but no middle section – awkward 7 hour riding position. But we made it to Venice safe and sound and consequently the way we got there quickly became a mute point. At 5:45am the train station was too cold to bear for 5 and a half hours while waiting for the other half of our Venice group to arrive from Florence, so Molly, Jen, and I ventured outside and, viola!! There it was, the grand canal. Gondolas, water taxis and all. VENICE. Of course the city itself was pretty dead at that hour so we parked ourselves at the first open café we found and happily sipped on early morning cappuccinos while ignoring the raised eyebrows our pjs and suitcases were causing. Tourists?? No, of course not! But, sorry what was that last part? Ohhhhh, well we don’t actually know Italian… do you speak Spanish?? And that about sums up our morning.

Upon being joined by the rest of our friends around noon we ventured across our first Venetian bridge – the Gugglie – to the apartment we would be staying in for the next two days. It was adorably Italian and served us perfectly. After pausing for lunch, we set off to do the number one recommended thing to do in Venice – get lost. That’s right. Getting lost in the streets of Venice was actually our objective, the reason for going out without a map. And we were (unsurprisingly) successful.  Needless to say, we’d had lots of unintentional preparation. While lost we saw, well Venice – boats, bridges, and little shops selling pasta, glass figurines, leather purses, masks, and your typical souvenirs. One of my friends then decided to get up close and personal with the canal and that ended our little wondering spree as our carefree meandering turned into a pause of hysterical laughter and then hurried ushering back to a warm shower. Never a dull moment. Wrap up the evening with “personal” pizzas basically the size of Pluto and a surprise birthday celebration complete with delicious Italian pastries for none other than yours truly and that was Venice day one.

There’s really only one place to go from day one… Day two: Island Hopping. Instead of a metro system, Venice has public boats, lots of them. So day two we bought our selves 12 hour transportation passes and had pretty much found our entertainment for the day. I’m actually not sure which we thought was more exciting the island themselves, or touring around on the boats to get there – passing rowers, watching waves, and seeing sunsets. But anyways, the first island we visited was Murano – home of the glass blowing industry. We wondered into a storeroom to look around and found ourselves in the middle of a demonstration, learning amazing facts about oven temperatures and colors that I promptly forgot and consequently cannot relay to you… opps. After getting our fill of glass figurine browsing in the hundreds of stores lining the outside of the island, we migrated over to Bermeo – home of the brightly colored summer houses. Upon arrival, it was pretty obvious that this island was a summer dream land and a winter ghost town but the houses were pretty regardless of the lack of habitants and there still just so happened to be a gelateria that was more than happy to scoop out heaping cones of nutella and coffee gelato without worrying about the ridiculousness of it in 4 degree (Celsius) weather.

When we could no longer feel our toes, we bid Bermeo a fond fair well and hopped back on the boat to the main island. After fighting our way to seats in the heated section of the boat, I quickly abandoned mine to go stand in the freezing cold and watch the sunset over the water. Regardless of what my friends will tell you, it was SO worth it! Seeing the sky turn a beautiful red while standing on a boat in your 6th European country in 3 months is pretty impressive.  45 beautiful minutes later we were back on the main island, gathering goodies for a homemade meal in our apartment before heading out to Piazza San Marco to see all the twinkling Christmas lights at night. Although I still couldn’t seem to grasp that Christmas was coming soon, it was a very pretty sight. Before we knew it it was midnight and time to go repack for our return to Spain in the morning. During our 4 hour layover in Barcelona on Friday I had lots of time to reflect on the wonderfulness of Denmark and Italy and how truly blessed I am, watch Elf and still negate the fact that Christmas is approaching, think about exams coming up, and ignore blog writing hehehe.