Some Kid’s Hero

Hola y Hello a Tod@s:

I wrote this blog post a while ago but never got around to actually posting it . . . . Some of you may have heard this story before if I talked to you on the phone, but I hope you enjoy it anyways.

On Thursday February 26th at 11:00 A.M., I began the long rainy walk to the university. Everyday on my way to school I pass an elementary / middle school. On this particular day, as I passed the school about 15 kids were huddled up against the playground fence and facing the sidewalk where I was walking. One of them started to yell, but I couldn’t make out what he was saying so I just kept going on my way. The sidewalk turns into a set of stairs and then continues to the right and takes you under an overpass. As I crossed into the shadow of the overpass I passed an old, fragile looking gentleman. He wore oversized glasses and a beret slightly tilted to the right, in one hand he held an umbrella and in the other a muddy soccer ball.  It took me a second to realize how out of place the abuelito looked in the middle of the sidewalk. I stopped and looked from the abuelito to the kids above us lined up at the fence. Connection! The kids must have kicked their ball over the fence. I backtracked to the abuelito.

       

“¿Creo que la pelota es de los muchachos, no?” (I think that’s their ball, right?)

“Si pero alguien necesita bajar, no puedo subir” (Yeah, but one of them is going to have to come down, I can’t go up to them)

“Bueno, puedo subir, no me importa” (Well, I can head up, I don’t mind.)

 

And with that the abuelito handed me the ball and I headed up the stairs. As I made my way up the wet muddy hill all 15 kids began to cheer. One boy was even animated enough to yell out “¡Guapa!” (Good looking). I tossed the ball over the fence to who seemed to be the leader of the group and he thanked me for rescuing the ball. I turned around and headed back towards the overpass, and I couldn’t help but feel a little tinge of pride.

Now back on course, I had a new pep in my step. In the distance I could make out the same abuelito who had had the ball earlier and although he must have been 100 yards away I caught up to him a second. I decided to continue walking with him, my next class wasn’t until 1:00 P.M. anyways and by this time it was only 11:40. It took us 20 minutes to finish out what is normally a 5-minute walk, but I didn’t mind. I listened as he told me about he was investigating the life of one of his ancestors who had been a governor in Ecuador during the 15th century and was appointed by Felipe II to the Court of Santiago. Once at the library the abuelito turned to me and said, “Gracias por la charla” (Thank you for the chat) and I kindly responded, “El gusto era mío” (The pleasure was mine). Later that day, I excitedly retold the events to my friend Pilar over a cop of hot coffee at the Dublin House. When I finished, she smiled looked up at me and said in her Spanish accented English, “So you made a new friend and where some kid’s hero.” I paused for a second to take in her comment then laughed and said, “Yeah, not to bad for a Wednesday morning, huh?”

 Un abrazo fuerte,

Casey

Yes, I am alive!

 

¡Hola y Hello Tod@s!

It’s been a while, but I am still alive.  I’d like to say that I’ve been so busy “living la vida española” (1) that I haven’t had time to write, but the truth is I just got lazy.  Well, it’s time to get back on the horse or in my case the computer.  Here are the highlights of what’s happened these past couple of months: I sprained my ankle, cut my hair, did some traveling and participated in some Spanish cultural events, reunited with a friend I haven’t seen since the first day of school, made some pretty exceptional friends from really extraordinary place, and kicked ass on my midterms. I wanna’ give you guys all the details but you’ll have to wait a little bit (what a tease, right?) For now, I’d like to take this time to give a shout-out to Joe Brown and Jami Klingensmith.  This week, they were my catalyst in helping me find the motivation to get things done.

Un abrazo fuerte, and we’ll talk later,

Casey

Yeah for "Sports Day!"

Yeah for “Sports Day!”

 

Time for a Change

Time for a Change

 

Bambi!

Bambi!

 

Elena

Hola y Hello tod@s,

First, I’d like to apologize for my delay in posting, these past couple of weeks I have been busy getting adjusted to a new lifestyle.  So much has been running through my mind, and I had a very difficult time deciding what to blog about.  However, I would like to write about my experience living with my host mom, Elena, because she has been (and will continue to be) a central part of my life in Spain.  I have concluded that the experience I am having with Elena is very unique, and that I am blessed to have the opportunity to live with her, but before I jump into my experience with Elena, I would first like to explain why I chose to live with a host mom.

To study aboard in Pamplona I had three housing options to choose from: rent an apartment, live in a dorm on campus, or live with a host family.  I knew right away I did not want to live in a dorm.  The dorms here are NOT like the dorms at W&J.  First, nuns and priest monitor the dorms, there is a curfew, and if you want to go out with your friends you must inform whoever is in charge of your building prior to leaving.  This is not a very popular housing option amongst the students at the University of Navarra, however; it does have some benefits.  You don’t have to do your own laundry and breakfast and dinner are provided for you (there is a dorm mom, so to speak, who will take care of these things).  In addition, since you will be living with other students, you have the advantage of developing strong relationships quickly.  Also, if you are a person who likes a structured routine, this could be a great option. However, for me, experiencing the culture and the life of a typical student in Spain was something I wanted to experience, so I knew the dorm life wouldn’t be a good fit.

Now I was down to two options: rent an apartment or live with a host mom.  If I rented an apartment with other students, I would have had the freedom to do as pleased, and would have hopefully developed friendships with my fellow flat mates, however; I also would have been responsible for cooking, cleaning, and navigating my way through Spain on my own.  I also would have been responsible for finding other people to fill the apartment to help split the cost of rent.  While I do enjoy having my freedom, I knew I was not ready to take on all of these responsibilities in addition to all the work I would have to do for school, so I opted to live with a host mom.  My university has a webpage where students can contact people who are willing to host exchange students, and it was through this resource that I found Elena.

So what’s Elena like?  Well, she’s 44 and lives alone in Pamplona – but by no means is she boring! She used to be a dancer, and is now currently selling Mary-Kay products.  She is absolutely determined to earn a pink Mini Cooper (in the US if you work for Mary-Kay and sell “X” amount of products, you have the honor of driving a pink Cadillac.  Here in Spain, it’s a pink Mini Cooper.) She has a quirky sense of fashion and frequently wears bold vibrant colors and flower print clothing. She has tight spiral dirty blond curls and is approximately 5’4’’. She is an intelligent and cultured individual who has traveled to the US, Mexico, Ireland, Egypt, China, Germany, Norway, Italy, and many other places.  She can speak Spanish, English, German, Italian, and a little bit of Japanese.  She is currently going to school to learn Portuguese. She loves SpongeBob, Hello-Kitty, the color pink, and fine china tea sets.     She also loves to sing and will frequently bust out lyrics from American songs.  Since I have been in Spain, Elena has gone out of her way to help me get adjusted.

She has helped me open up a Spanish bank account, buy a cell phone, navigate and my way around Pamplona.  She has also taken me to different events and cities in Spain and has introduced me to so many people.  Her family lives 5 minutes away from her and they have taken me in as if I were one of their own.  I’m lucky to say the least; I know some people have been less fortunate with the host families they ended up with.  However, I’d like to point out that everything is not a fiesta all the time.

First, if you are living someone, it is inevitable that the two of you will get on each other’s nerves.  Elena and I have certainly had those days.  For example, there have been days where Elena and I have struggled to understand each other, and that certainly took a toll on the both of us.  You will do things that annoy your host family without even realizing it.  For example, after we went to the beach I got sand all over the house.  Elena was very patient in explaining I should be more careful next time, and since then I have made a mental note to dust myself after going to the beach.  While you and your host family will face conflicts, it is important that you take it all in stride, and pay attention to your actions.  As long as there is a level of respect and understanding maintained between you and your host family, everything will be ok.

So, for those of you planning to study abroad, it is important to take into consideration the type of person you are and the environment you are looking for.  Also, take it upon yourself to research your housing options. In some universities you must live on campus or with a host mom.  In addition, understand that you will have your bad days regardless of where you are living, but it is important to just “keep trucking,” as my dad would say.  Also, pay attention to how your actions affect you and others, so you can build healthy relationships with the people around you.  I am blessed to be living with someone who is compatible with my personality and hopefully through research, and a little bit of luck you will end up in the place that is right for you.  Until next time  . . .

Saludos y Sincerely,

Casey

What a Night

¡Hola y Hello!

It is 4:00AM and my host mom, Elena, and I just got back from the clubs! Alright America, we gotta’ step up our game! These Spaniards know how to kick it! This is how the night went down . . .

After dinner my host mom and I meet up with two of her friends, Ana and GuyWhosNameICan’tRemember. This is around hmm . . . 10:30 maybe 11:00PM. Ana picks us all up and we drive to this little café in the city center of Pamplona. We walk in, talk, and drink coffee until midnight. After we are all properly caffeinated we head to the clubs.  The first club we arrive at is awesome. It’s this cute little place with great smash-ups of American and Spanish songs and it’s bumping! This club is so different than anything I have experienced in America.  Everyone is with a group of friends actually dancing! Not grinding, I’m talking these people are busting out modernized versions of the running man, the robot, and anything else you can think of.  At about 1:30AM we decide to leave and go to another club

At the second club, I feel like a baby seal on shark week! There were maybe 30-40 men in this club and about 10 women. I saw two guys dancing with each other.  If that doesn’t scream desperate I don’t know what does.  So I causally look at my host mom and say, “There are a lot of men in here,” to which she responds “Too many.” So we book it like it’s 1993.  Then, we drive to this club where people only Spanish dance (Salsa, Mamba, Tango, etc.). Alright guys, so in addition to not fluently speaking Spanish, I know absolutely nothing about Spanish dancing: Zip, zero, nada. Another Spanish sin to say the least.  Well, there’s no time like the present to start learning.

We walk in and every couple on the dance floor is perfectly in sync. Our friend, WhosNameEscapesMe, also does not know how to Spanish dance. He kindly offers to dance with me and we stumble and shuffle across the dance floor. Then, he asks, “Hey do you want something to drink?” and I respond, “Yeah, a beer would be great!” Heads up, the legal drinking age is 18 in Spain, I was totally in the clear.  Anyways, WhatsHisName and I sip on our beers and watch the dancers.  As the night progressed I danced with several guys, all of which unfortunately did not know I could not dance until we were on the dance floor. For the most part I held my own pretty well and with the exception of two dances. One with a man who was so tall I was staring into his arm pit the whole time, and one with a man who had a very well manicured mustache, but my favorite dance, by far was with Santiago.

Alright, so if I had to put money on it, I’d say I was the youngest one in this club, which makes sense. My host mom and her friends are in their mid forties so of course they’d run with an older crowd. Santiago was my small token from God.  First, after clumsily dancing with an older gentleman I head back to the bar to sip my beer and stand next to my friend WhatsHisFace when “Besame” by Elvis Crespo comes on. I love this song! Even more so, this is the only song that I can sing every single word in Spanish, and I even dance in my dorm room to this song! I think to myself, “I cannot not dance to this song,” and that’s when I spot Santiago.

He’s at the bar wearing a plaid shirt, hipster glasses, black jeans and converser. His shaggy black hair falls perfectly on to his 20 something year old face! He is absolutely adorkable! So I walk up to him and this was how our conversation went . . .

Me: “¿Quieres bailar?” / Wanna’ dance?

Santiago: “No sé cómo bailar: / I don’t how.

Me: “Perfecto, yo tampoco.” That’s perfect because neither do I.

Santiago: “¿Qué?” What?

Me, now shouting because the music is super loud: “No sé como bailar!” I don’t know how to dance!

Santiago: “¡Yo tampoco!” / Me neither!

Me: “¡Vamanos!” / Let’s go!

And some how his awkwardness and my awkwardness were totally in sync as we danced to the sweet sound of Elvis Crespo. We were like two junior high kids at their first Spanish spring fling! He even twirled me and led the entire dance.  Afterwards he asked where I went to school, I responded La Universidad de Navarra to which he responded well I guess I’ll see you on campus. Then we parted, I drank the rest of my beer, danced some more, and then at 3:30 we peaced out and drove home.  Despite not knowing a single Spanish dance, I had a blast! I cannot wait to go to school and make some friends closer to my age! Below are other highlights of the day . . .

1.)  Went to lunch to celebrate Elena’s dad’s birthday. We went to this fancy restaurant, had a huge lunch then came home and took a siesta. I felt wonderfully lazy.

2.)  Elena’s family has officially adopted me and I now have Spanish grandparents, an uncle, and a mother.

3.)  I think I may have seen my mentor, Dino.  .  .  .  So for school I signed up for the mentoring program, basically the university will pair a foreign exchange student with a full time student (kind of like our Global Ambassador program) and this person is supposed to help you get adjusted.  Well, I’m friends with my mentor on Facebook and I swear I passed him on the streets tonight.  I’m going to write him an email and see if it was him. . .

Anyways, that was my second day of Spain. I’m going to go wash my face, brush my teeth, and go to bed! This chica needs some sleep!

 

¡Hablamos!

Casey

Pre-departure

When you think study abroad, you think of new adventures, new people, and new food. Rarely do you think of the pre-departure preparations.  For this blog entry I would like to talk about what it took to get to Spain because it is a topic that is overlooked but absolutely essential.  First, at W&J you are recommended to start planning at least one semester ahead of the semester you want to go.  Really, you should start planning to study abroad at least one year in advance.  It took me 8 months to get everything together to study abroad.  The biggest task I had to face was getting my passport and visa.

First, I applied for my passport. This included filling out the passport application, getting my passport picture taken at Walgreens, providing proof of citizenship and two copies of ID, and making an appointment to submit my application and have it signed by an acceptance agent. You should apply for your appointment at least three weeks ahead of the day you want to submit your application.  After you submit your application it takes four – six weeks for it to be mailed back to you.  If you are cutting it close on time you can have your passport expedited for an additional fee, which is what I had to do.  It is very important you apply for your passport as soon as possible, because you cannot make a visa appointment without a passport number.

Once I had my passport I scheduled my visa appointment. You should plan to schedule your visa appointment 90 days ahead of the day you want to come in; this is the earliest you are allowed to make an appointment.  Depending on where you live in the US and what country you are going to, there are different procedures you must follow.  Since I am a resident of Ohio, and I will be studying abroad in Spain for over 180 days, I had to apply for a student visa.  For my visa I needed to complete the visa application, surrender my passport and present a copy of ID, pay the visa application fee, and provide the original and one copy of the following documents: an acceptance letter from my Spanish university, proof of financial stability, proof of international health insurance, a state background check legalized with the Apostille of the Hague Convention both for the state of Ohio and state of Pennsylvania ( I am a resident of Ohio, but I am student in Pennsylvania so I needed a background check for both states), and a medical certificate stating I was in good health that also needed to be legalized with the Apostille of the Hague Convention.  To get all of this paper work together it took a lot phone calls, appointments, e-mails, and traveling back and forth between Ohio and Pennsylvania.  In addition, I was required to submit my application in a person at the Spanish Consulate that services residents of Ohio. This consulate is located in Chicago, so I had to make travel arrangements.  Once I submitted my application I received my visa within a month, but it can take up to six weeks. Despite all the craziness, I managed to get my visa. Now, that I am here in Spain I have 90 days inform the Office of Foreigners that I am in the country and obtain a Student ID, but after everything else I went through, this will be a walk in the park. Other task I had to take care of before I left were applying for my student loan, finding housing here in Spain, making sure I had away to pay for my bills, and making sure I had a debit and credit card that would work in Spain.

So for those of you reading this, the biggest thing I want you to take away from this blog entry is that proper planning is essential! Your life will be so much easier if you give yourself enough time to plan ahead and get everything together.  When I was finally at the airport waiting to fly out of Columbus, I felt so good knowing that my hard work had paid off.

 

Until next time,

Casey