Futbol, Homesickness and Spanish Class

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Hola Amigos!

Since last time I have been on a tour of the grand Catedral de Sevilla. It was quite a sight to see. Much like the rest of the sights I have seen so far it was such a wealth of history and knowledge. To think this part of Spain has over 3,000 years of history still blows my mind. The Catedral is one of the burial places for the remains of Christopher Columbus, all 128 grams that are left. And while I don’t find him to be any sort of hero or idol of mine, I do believe him to play an important part in history. I’ve also noticed that even though I am more spiritual than religious I find interest in visiting buildings of various religious significance because I deem them as historical monuments. Monuments that we can all learn from whether we are a catholic visiting a mosque, or an atheist visiting a Buddhist temple. I’ve learned not to close the door on potential knowledge simply because it is something different than what I may choose to believe in. After the tour we climbed to the top of the tallest tower, La Giralda, and got an amazing view of Sevilla. The 34 floors on a 95 degree day were well worth the climb. Looking out upon this historic city was breath taking and something I’ll always remember.

Speaking of things to remember, my Spanish intensive class began last week. Having not taken any formal Spanish education prior to this I was excited to begin the journey. The first week went fairly smoothly and I felt that I saw immense progress in my writing skills. I went from knowing nothing to being able to write about myself and my family (well, just the basics ;)) The second week however has been a bit of a struggle. I find myself feeling overwhelmed frequently and I have to stop myself from going into panic mode. My professor Carlos has to be one of the most amazing people I’ve met thus far. His patience and excitement for teaching are unmatched. Thanks to his encouraging words I am finding comfort in knowing that with patience I’ll get there. Little by little my Spanish will improve. All the seeds of knowledge he has given us will grow into big beautiful flowers with practice. Patience really is a virtue…but practice is key. It’s okay to look funny or to make a fool of yourself. I’m here to learn and if that’s what it takes then so be it, in the end nothing good ever comes from taking ourselves too seriously.

This last Sunday some fellow CIEE students and I went to a futbol game at our neighborhood stadium. The match featured the Sevilla team versus Malaga, a big time rival. The energy and passion the fans exuded was absolutely astonishing. While America does have great fans, nothing quite compares to how much the Spanish love their futbol…and the historic rivalry between these two teams. Each time the Sevilla team scored the entire stadium roared. The fans waved Sevillano flags, chanted and sang songs. The little kids at the stadium sat at the edge of their seats, enamored by their idols. The fans gave me chills and being in environment seemed vital to understand Spanish culture. Futbol is life :). I’m hoping I have the opportunity to attend a basketball game sometime in the near future, I can only imagine how great that will be.

I’ve been struggling with some homesickness lately and finally feel myself getting out of the funk after a couple of days. Part of it has to do with having such a supportive group of people around me. The girls in my group are always down to talk and share their stories, and it helps knowing we are all going through the same thing. Part of why I think I’ve been feeling this way is that I allow myself to get overwhelmed with these built up expectations for how quickly I should learn Spanish or how events should play out. It’s these expectations that hold us back. Once we release them, is when we can enjoy our lives for what they are rather than for what we think they should be. Life isn’t always going to go as planned… I know shocking isn’t it. Fluidity is part of life, its the beauty of it. I came not knowing what to expect, and once I had been here for a while I started forming expectations for the remainder of the trip and that is when the homesickness and anxiety started to creep in. My family and friends will all be there when I return and my trip will be amazing even if not a thing goes as planned. It seems that embracing the unknown is why I’m here. And as my friend Mackenzie said, “Isn’t it amazing to have such a great home that you can’t wait to go back.” It truly is amazing to have such great people in my life. It is something I am eternally grateful for.

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With that said…I’m not ready to come back just yet. Sevilla is starting to feel like home more and more each day, and it seems that leaving this historic place and all its treasures will be  alot harder than the treck it took to get here.

Primer Día de Clases

ImageHola Amigos!

Since the last time I wrote I’ve had the opportunity to visit a few pretty amazing sights. The first of which was the beach at Roto which is near the city of Cadiz, south of Sevilla. The bus ride to Roto was around an hour and a half.  Although it was cloudy when we arrived, it was actually a nice change from the 100+ temperatures we had been dealing with in Sevilla. The sand felt so soft between my toes and the water so warm. We spent the day talking and relaxing, and I, of course, squeezed in a headstand picture. :)

The next day we visited the Royal Palace of Alcazar. It has to be one of the most magnificent things I have seen thus far. The history behind this palace is so rich and the construction so intricate that, as my friend Rachel said, you can go there a million times and always find something new. It is an eclectic mix of different religions, different royal leaders and time periods. It is as if it shows the history of Sevilla on it’s very walls. I thoroughly enjoyed this trip and look forward to returning and even showing it to my parents when they visit.

Today was the first day of school and knowing I had very little Spanish experience made me a bit nervous but then I remembered that nervousness isn’t bad. I think sometimes we associate nervousness as a negative emotion but rather than fearing the unknown I find my nervousness to be more of an excitement for what is to come. I truly think the relaxed Sevillano culture is rubbing off on me. I feel myself less uptight and more relaxed and it’s only been five days. It makes me realized how much of an agenda we have in the US. How we wake each morning with a to-do list and frantically run around trying to accomplish each thing, but when do we live? When do we get to enjoy our lives. Why not take a breath and move a little slower today and see how that feels? Life is more than just checking off errands on a post it note. I know I joke about siesta and how important it seems here but I’ve come to realize siesta is more than daily nap, it’s a mindset. It’s a relaxed, less uptight, “go with the flow” type of lifestyle—something I think we need a bit more of in the US.

My Spanish teacher’s name is Carlos and I’m so happy to have him as my professor. He is patient and full of energy. He makes Spanish exciting and accessible. I have completed part of my homework but the other portion involves me asking a Sevillano a series of questions regarding their place of origin, their age, the languages they speak and also getting them to pose for a photo with me. Class goes from 10-13:00 for the first two weeks, and although I have only been here for five days I feel my Spanish slightly improving each day. It’s safe to say I am extremely excited for my second day of class tomorrow!

I’m also happy to report that I have really bonded with my señora, my Spanish mama. We eat almuerzo together each day and are beginning to communicate more and more. It helps asking her to tell me the names of foods we are eating and things we are watching. I’ve also been carrying around a small notebook to write down phrases and vocabulary I learn along the way. When she speaks to me I try to pick up on keywords and I think that we have gotten pretty far in a span of just a few short days. I don’t think I can put into words how much I appreciate her welcoming me and being patient with me. I love my little señora and I think we are going to form a really special bond over the course of our time together.

Another activity that I took part in today that really got me thinking was a goal setting seminar. One of our leaders asked us to write concrete social, academic, personal and language goals. I set a few of each and am intent on accomplishing them all. This is the opportunity of a life time and I wake every morning feeling so grateful to be here. I plan on taking advantage of all the resources CIEE has to offer.

As I reflect on my experience thus far I don’t see this as something that is going to end when I leave Sevilla in December. I see this as a life altering experience that I will forever hold close to my heart. One that will change me for forever, not just by the experiences I gain but also by the connections I build with others, from my fellow Americanos to the Spanish students, to my dear señora.

I can’t say the transition has been an easy one without any bumps, but I can say that it has been completely worth it.

“Stepping onto a brand-new path is difficult, but not more difficult than remaining in a situation, which is not nurturing to the whole woman.”

Until next time, Hasta Luego!

España!

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Hola mis amigos!

The past few days have been a roller coaster of emotions! From my tearful goodbyes to finally stepping foot into my home stay and meeting my señora. Mi señora es muy bonita! Adjusting was a little difficult the first day. When I arrived I was greeted with 100+ degree temperature and plenty of hugs and kisses on the cheek. It was literally a warm welcome. ;) I had no internet upon arrival and can honestly say I felt extremely isolated not being able to contact my loved ones. I was worried about making friends, but after meeting the rest of the students I realized that everyone in the program is amazing. I have made great connections with all the chicas in my group! We are divided into six groups with roughly 10 people in each group. We each have a guide, ours is Alvéro, that shows us around the city. Last night after getting to know our barrio, Nervion, we decided to go out for a few drinks to a place called Tea & Coffee. Safe to say they weren’t serving tea and coffee. It was a great preview of the adventure to come.

Today has been another 103 degree day and we spent it vising El Centro and Plaza D’España. Gorgeous doesn’t even begin to describe the beauty I saw today. The tile work and the amount of time and effort it took to construct such a beautiful building is truly extraordinary. Tonight we are going out for tapas and flamenco with the group and then visiting some outdoor discotecas. Should be a great night with great people. 

When I first arrived I asked myself, “What am I doing here? Can I really do this?” It was a huge leap outside my comfort zone, but it’s about time. It’s about time I start living. I have spent far too many of my 22 years feeling unsure, insecure and frustrated. It’s time to let go and live. It’s time to stop holding my breath for fear of what’s coming and embrace the unknown with open arms. It’s true, amazing really does live right outside your comfort zone. When the safety net is taken away is when it’s time to spread your wings, breath deeply and let go—let go and live!

Some moments I feel like this is just a dream and I’ll wake up any moment. I am forever grateful to my amazing parents for allowing me to take such a trip. At moments I feel what they felt coming to a country, not knowing the language. But I know they had a lot more at stake and I know that if they could do it with two small children and little money, I can do anything. Mama and Tata, if you are reading, you are forever my inspiration.

While I don’t know all that España has to offer, I do that I am ready to take it all in. I am ready for the experience of a life time. I’ve stepped way beyond my comfort zone and I am ready to open my wings and soar.

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there you see differently, too. Going back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”

Until next time, Hasta Luego!

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Small Pieces, Big Voices

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There comes a time when we realize doing things simply for our own benefit does not fulfill us anymore. We all come to this crossroad at a different point in our journey, but what I think is so important to remember is that we are all capable of instilling change, no matter how small. We are capable of leaving our mark on this beautiful world.

So many times I have been told, “Maja, you can’t save the world.” But I can try. Even if in the end our world is doomed, does that mean that we should stop trying to make it a better place? Does that mean each individual cannot choose to act with integrity?

I know we are each a small piece of this huge puzzle of humanity but that shouldn’t leave us feeling insignificant. I matter, you matter, WE ALL MATTER! Now if we could all just realize how much our actions impact not only ourselves, but others in our community and the world. Imagine an entire community of passionate individuals acting mindfully and with integrity. This is not to say that we do not already do such things, we do. There are days however, when we feel our efforts to give back haven’t been a huge success. When those times come, keep pushing onward.

I’m not crazy, I realize we are each just 1 person out of 9 billion. We may be small pieces of the puzzle, but our voices are big. If no one ever thought they could, on an individual level, make a difference then no one ever would. We have to believe we can do it, believe that our actions matter in the grander scheme of things. Live life purposefully and passionately, whatever you decide to do with it.

Some may say, “Who’s to say we, ordinary people, can change the world?”

We say, “Who’s to say we can’t?”

Get out there and recycle, volunteer and give back any way that you can. Together we can do great things.

Freedom Isn’t Free

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We live in a country that emphasizes individual freedom but that doesn’t mean freedom doesn’t come at a price. There seems to be an enormous, invisible rule book that we, as members of society must follow, otherwise we risk being ostracized not only by strangers, but possibly even by those we love. To dare to be different and step outside the rigid mold society has set comes along with the possibility of living with the pain of standing alone. It takes true courage to be a free thinker. To stand up for what you believe with great passion knowing well that going against the grain can hurt. As we learn and grow we sometimes find ourselves in a double-bind. If we remain quiet about our true selves and conform we will never be truly fulfilled and there is no pleasure in living the life someone else has chosen for you. If we speak up and remain persistent we may lose the approval of someone we deeply care about. At the end of the day you must ask yourself, which pain hurts more; the pain of an unfulfilled life or the pain of forging your own path. I believe we were put on this earth to create ourselves. Everyday is an opportunity to learn and grow. Take nothing at face value but investigate and choose for yourself. Life is not a one-size fits all category. It is instead a journey and although I believe we should be allowed to be whomever we want, (as long as we are not causing harm to ourselves, others or the planet) that is simply not the way our world works. Question everything and always be informed. For it is easy to follow the crowd, it is hard to transcend but life isn’t about taking the easy route. Freedom takes courage.  

 

One of the greatest pains to human nature is the pain of a new idea.  ~ Walter Bagehot

Peace Comes From Within

 

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While we journey to find out who it is we want to be we are often distracted by outside influences. Whether it’s a reality TV show, social media networks or simply the feeling of envy, these factors deter us greatly from self acceptance. I have personally struggled on this journey of self love and I feel that it was only when I realized that I was looking in the wrong places for happiness and acceptance that the solution became more clear to me. All my life I have been comparing myself to the next person. It seems that this competitive battle to be better than someone else is a main focus in our society. Sadly, though many of us feel pain comparing ourselves we don’t realize that is the toxic habit that is preventing us from a balanced state. I’ve been in competitive sports since I was a young child and I always remember focusing on ‘being better’ than my competitors. Only when I left the competitive sports behind and delved into the world of yoga did it dawn on me, that’s not the only way to think. Yoga is much more than some strange thing tree huggers do when they bend their bodies into pretzels. Yoga is a way of life, an inner focus, a self loving philosophy. I was shocked to hear my teachers saying to accept my body’s limitations and focus on myself, not anyone else. I admit, a year and a half later I still catch myself in class, comparing my neighbor’s boat pose to my own but that is the beauty of this journey. We are constantly evolving, the goal is not perfection but simply to accept our imperfections and improve a little bit each day. So when you find yourself comparing remember that you are the best version of yourself. Stay within yourself. “Peace comes from Within, do not seek without.” -Buddha

 

 

Do you find yourself struggling to stop comparing? Do you have an insight about your journey to self love? I would love to hear from you :)

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