About Me

My photo
I'm spending all of 2012 learning and experiencing new things. This blog is my way of documenting it all, while keeping my family and friends back in the states in the loop. Here's to 2012. Check out my website- Kat Carney Photography

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

It's easy to get lost when you're finding your way

I started my journey on the Camino Ingles (English Way) alone.  I honestly don’t know what I expected. I guess I thought I would walk the entire 120 kilometers by myself, thinking about life and taking pictures. But in reality I spent about 2 hours of the Camino alone before I met a group of four people from Andalusia. I asked them where they were from and we walked together for the next 110 kilometers or so. None of them speak English although they had a lot of fun trying, and I was able to practice my Spanish a lot. It is a great feeling being able to make friends in a language that is not your own. It makes me so happy every time I do, because I know that if I would not have put forth the effort to learn their language we never would have become friends. And we certainly became friends. We struggled through blisters and exhaustion together. We laughed a lot. We saw a lot of northern Spanish countryside on foot. And we generally enjoyed each other’s company. One of the stereotypes of people from Andalusia is that they are always happy and singing. I have to say that this is mostly true. I don’t think I could have spent my five days on the Camino with a better group of people.

The Camino Ingles is one of the Caminos de Santiago that pilgrims from all over the world take every year. They journey on foot from France, Portugal, and all over Spain to their final destination- the holy city of Santiago de Compestela. A lot of people make the journey for religious purposes. For them it is a spiritual journey. Although I consider myself a spiritual person, I have to admit, for me, I thought of it as more of a physical challenge. It turned out to be spiritual though. I learned a lot about Spain, a lot about myself, and a lot about the kindness of strangers.

The Camino Ingles is the typical journey that pilgrims from the UK, Ireland, and the Scandinavian countries used to make when they landed at the port in Ferrol in the north of Spain. From Ferrol the journey is 120 kilometers through beautiful northern Spain.

I started in Ferrol alone and got lost before I had even left the city. A jogger ran by and yelled, “Peregrino, para ya, para ya!” Which means “Pilgrim, to the right!” I don’t know why but a lot of times instead of using “de recha” and “izquierda” (the words for “right” and “left”) they often say “para ya” and “para ca”. It seems a little crazy to do the Camino alone in a foreign country, but I have enough confidence in my Spanish now to get by with only minor difficulties. A lot of the frustration of not being able to communicate is now gone.

I met my Andalusian friends just outside of Ferrol. I was planning on staying in the albergue (backpacker’s hut) in Neda but we arrived there early and my friends offered to call and see if there was an extra room in the hostel where they were staying for the night. There was a room so I kept walking with them. When we got to Fene (18 km) we had a delicious dinner and did some sightseeing before going to bed.

The next day it rained on us almost the entire way from Fene to Betanzos (28 km). Luckily we all had ponchos. My new friends were two couples- Fernando and Loreto, and Tamara and Pedro. Loreto and I started getting blisters first because we were both hiking in new shoes. She taught me to puncture and lace them with a sewing needle so they didn’t keep filling up, and also how to clean them properly. That day there was a huge city party in Betanzos and we went out to look around. It was a beautiful city situated in a valley and it was buzzing with people.

Day three from Betanzos to Bruma (29 km) was basically a blur of pain, but I remember some beautiful sights as well. My feet were bleeding and oozing puss and I was overjoyed when we made it to the alburgue in Bruma. Bruma is home to about 40 people and there is not a store in all of the little village. We were the first backpackers of the day to make it to the albergue and the caretaker talked our ears off. Luckily we were able to order food from a nearby town and they delivered it to us for both lunch and dinner. That night we sat around the table, compared blisters, and chatted with all the other backpackers about the journey. I was the only English speaker, but they all thought I spoke Spanish really well. I still feel like I don’t speak it well, but I am overjoyed that people can understand me and I can understand them.

After Bruma we trekked to Siguiero (27 km). We had dinner and laughed a lot, bought more bandaids, and then prepared for our final stretch of the journey the next day. At this point my feet felt like death. So I constructed makeshift cushions from sponges and taped them to my feet the next morning. My feet felt better for about 6 km and then began to ache tremendously again. But it didn’t matter because we were almost there. We waltzed into Santiago at 11 a.m., went to Mass and received our Compestelas. I had one last dinner with my new friends before I caught the train up to A Coruña.

It was such a memorable and wonderful experience and even though there was pain, I got lost, and I had no idea what to expect, everything worked out for the best. It’s a strange parallel to life when you think about it. Sometimes you have to start the journey alone, knowing nothing and no one. When you take that step into the dark you can’t think about the what ifs and the maybes. There will be pain. There will be joy. There will be laughter and friends. Take the step. It will all be worth it.

In other news... The boyfriend made it to London and is now training with team U.S.A. in Birmingham. He throws the 8th and 11th of August! CHEER LOUD AND PROUD! USA USA USA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I go to Scotland in a week and then London on the 6th of August. Back to the states the 15th!
My friend Laia from Barcelona in A Coruña.
A Coruña at night.
Images from the trail. Mis cuatro amigos!
Pedro and Tamara


The beach I wake up to every morning in A Coruña. I left the Mediterranean for the equally awesome Atlantic Coast of northern Spain.



Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Awesome things

Holy crap my boyfriend is going to the Olympics! His name is Craig Kinsley and he qualified at the trials this week. I hope everyone I know will watch and cheer like crazy with American Flag painted faces on August 8th and 11th when he throws. I am so pumped for him. I was following the results here in Spain from 3 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. and when I found out he was going to London I did a couple silent punching jump kicks in my room, so as to celebrate but not wake anyone up. I'm going to London too, and it will be the first time I will see him in about 8 months. Needless to say I can not flippin wait!

I have a few days left in southern Spain. Then I head to northern Spain for three weeks and Scotland for two weeks, before arriving in London. To be honest I can't wait to leave Murcia because it is about a trillion degrees here everyday now. And I feel like once I get on the road time will fly by and it will be super fun too. I have a problem where I really hate routines and I would say I am thoroughly in a routine here now. It's about time to break it and shake things up a bit.

I have so many pictures I haven't even looked at yet. I might be editing for years after the next few months of my life.
Hiking in Aguilas 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

To: A younger me

I have this vivid memory of walking through the doors into the sunshine on the last day of school when I was in 6th grade. "I don't want to be a 'sevie'," I said. I linked arms with my best friends at the time and we crossed the threshold into the summer before our seventh grade year together. There are so many things I would say to that little girl now that I am a quarter century young.

I would say that she needs to stop wishing she had brown hair like everyone else. Your red hair is beautiful and different and when you are 25 you will be unbelievably thankful that you have never had to color your hair a day in your life. It's fierce and awesome all on its own. And the boys sure don't seem to mind now.

Your parents are right, the braces will be worth it.

The boys you have a crush on now will gain 25 pounds in college due to excessive drinking and you will wonder how on earth you ever found them remotely attractive. When you're 25 you will have a ridiculously handsome 6'2, 200 pound ball of muscle for a boyfriend. He's smart and nice and stuff too ;).

Pay attention when learning the metric system because your boyfriend is a professional javelin thrower and speaks in meters and kilograms. Learn to convert.

Also, one day you will be cliff jumping into the beautiful Mediterranean Sea when your Spanish friend asks how many meters the jump was, and how many meters deep the water is. You swim to the bottom and you think it is about 20 feet deep and the jump is about the same. But it takes you at least 5 minutes to convert that into saying just over 6 meters- in Spanish.

PAY ATTENTION TO MR. WHITWORTH IN SPANISH CLASS. You will use it someday.

Sometimes the people you love most in life hurt you. It's best to forgive and keep stepping forward. You are not perfect and neither are they. All hurt eventually fades with time, don't hold on to it longer than necessary. Also, some people just aren't meant to be in your life. Let them go with grace, harbor no ill feelings, and remember them with fondness.

The above being said, sometimes guys suck at life. They say one thing and do another. Don't sweat it, when you meet a good one (and you will- summer 2008) all the bad ones of the past fade away quickly. Luckily I don't need to teach you a lesson in self-respect. You got that covered!

The friends that are meant to be in your life will be there, through everything. Even when you don't see or talk to them for months on end because you moved to New York, or Arizona, or Alaska, or Colorado, or Spain... When you get back things will just pick up right where they left off with these friends.

Listen to your coaches. Drop the attitude and always play like it's your last day on the court. One day it will be, and you'll be surprised to learn where that is. Volleyball will always be your first love.

Which reminds me, skip the first practice of your sophomore year of high school (torn ACL #1). And during the Dowling game (game 2, score 21-13) your senior year of college don't go up to hit a beautiful set that Heather throws your way (torn ACL #2). The one right after you block the Polish girl like you're building a house and she hit the roof. Audrey screams, "that just happened!" in your face right after. Yea, the next set, don't hit it. Just fall over or something.

Freshman year of college, don't go anywhere there is a lake in the middle of a road.

Life gets so much better after high school. Like better beyond your wildest dreams. You will be thankful that all the things you wished for from 7th grade to high school never came true. You'll be thankful for the failed and successful relationships, all the hard work your parents made you do, all the time you spent working out or on a volleyball court somewhere, and all the time you spent learning about cameras and taking hundreds of thousands of photos.

Live your life with passion. Everyday is an adventure.

Blue and Orange. Normally this little pool is crystal clear and great for diving, but this day it was orange. It seemed to be from rain run off coming down from the red rocks and bringing the color of the rock with it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The long in short

Many things have happened since I last wrote, but I will keep it simple and tell you the basics-

- My boyfriend is a total BAMF and threw (javelin) the Olympic A Standard in Chicago over the weekend. He PRed by 4 meters with his throw of 82.31 and is currently second in the U.S. to a guy who threw barely further just minutes before his throw. The two furthest throws in the U.S. in about three years. He throws for a spot on Team USA next week. Check out his website to send him a comment or message of encouragement. USA!USA!USA! He's the best :).

- I bought a plane ticket to Scotland- in Spanish. I bought it in Spanish because I realized that was easier than figuring out how to change the language setting. I will arrive in Scotland on the evening of July 24th.

- This weekend I went to La Manga with the family I live with because they have friends with a boat there. La Manga is this really thin strip of land between the Mar Menor and the Mar Mediterraneo. You can walk from one body of water to the other in literally 2 minutes. The Mediterranean beaches there are world class, and while the Mar Menor is a really cool experience but it should be called El Mar de Medusas Millones (The Sea of a Million Jellyfish). I had never seen a jellyfish in my life before this, but I saw enough to fill a lifetime in one day. Everyone I was with got stung at least once, but I somehow managed to escape this fate. Even though I went diving with goggles and my underwater camera and was absolutely surrounded by them. It was insane.

- This week I am teaching 5 volleyball classes at a school here- in Spanish. Lord help me. I forgot how to say thumb (pulgar) several times yesterday, but the kids helped me out. It was fun.

- I take my tests this week to determine my Spanish level! Wish me luck.

- I head north in 2.5 weeks to spend the rest of my time in Spain on the north coast, in La Coruña. I am going to do the English Way of the Camino de Santiago at some point.

The next three months look like this for me- Southern Spain, Northern Spain, Scotland, London, Wales, Ireland, New York, Connecticut, Newport, Boston, (New Hampshire Vermont Maine Canada New Foundland Nova Scotia- yet to be planned), East Coast road trip, final destination for a little while- Florida Keys. Whoa, how am I ever going to edit all these photos and video?

An old one from Semana Santa, but I love it because that old guy's name is Hermano Gaspar and he is one of my favorite people here.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Blues, beach, boyfriend

I went to a Yemen Blues concert in a Plaza in Murcia the other day. It was incredible. The band is a mixture of people from Israel, the USA, Finland, and Morocco. Their music can be described as "mesmerizing and earthy sounds of West African stringed guimbri, and rocking Middle Eastern rhythms, all coursing together in a raucous party of a stage show. With Kalahani’s soulful vocals alternating between the grit of the Mississippi Delta to the falsetto of Prince-style funk."

It was incredible and my friends and I had a great time. What an insane cultural experience. In a Spanish square with everyone around me speaking Spanish, listening to this eclectic and really freaking good band sing in Arabic. Just before the concert we went to an African dance and music show held at a museum. One of the dancers spun for over 10 minutes while throwing about colorful skirts and fabric. He looked like a human top. Me cuesta mucho describir esto porque es algo que necesitas para ver, y lo que digo no se compara.

I have been going to a different beach almost every weekend. I love the waters of the Mediterranean. They are a color that is unlike anything I had ever seen before. Everyone needs to see it and experience some sort of Mediterranean culture at least once in their lives. Could I live in this culture forever? Absolutely not- they are far too impractical for me. My dad would go insane here...haha! But I love it all the same, and I can appreciate and enjoy it. Every single week (if not every single day) I think to myself what an amazing experience this is, and has been, and will be.

Those of you who know me well know I have an awesome boyfriend. A lot of you probably know him too. Craig is really good at throwing a spear, and is currently throwing his way to London 2012. Read about his season here. Read his updates here. And go donate to his sponsor, USA Athletic Trust, here. He is an incredible athlete and person and I hope you will all cheer him on as he continues his journey towards the Olympic Games in London this summer.

Mediterranean Sea



Thursday, May 17, 2012

Updates

I miss Kansas because sometimes, during the Spring, you are in the mood for a good old fashioned, crazy, terrifying lightning storm- most likely with tornadoes involved. Ya know what I mean? Of course you do.

Nothing but boring, old sunshine in Spain. Who am I kidding, I'm not going to complain about sunshine! If that is the most I can complain about, I'd say life is pretty good. Here are some of my Spanish experiences I haven't written about yet...

Semana Santa was like a month ago now, but the amount of photos I have from it is intimidating. So intimidating, in fact, that I have only edited one photo from this entire week. I will get around to it eventually. The week consisted of massive processions with men carrying giant religious sculptures and handing out candy. A very interesting sight indeed. But they are literally every day of the week, and honestly if you see one, you see them all. They are all the same, but the men wear different colors everyday, and some days have different themes. Like one day was complete silence. Another is at night, in the dark. All around a cool experience.

Las Fiestas de Primavera were the week following Semana Santa and this week is full of more parties and parades. It's a little like Carnival in Aguilas, with scantily clad woman dancing, drunk people everywhere, and people throwing toys all over the place. Definitely a cool cultural experience. My mind was blown some of the time.

I spent the weekend in La Carrasca en Sierra de las Cabras. It's a mountain town home to exactly 19 people. Far from absolutely everything. The first day I was there I went on a long bike ride through the countryside. I saw one car the whole time. I rode into "town" as well and talked to a couple kids in the street. They were astounded to meet an American with a weird accent. The second day, I was violently ill and I almost threw up on some sheep crossing the road as I took photos of them. The third day I hiked a mountain. Good times.

Volleyball is over now, but there is a beach league this summer. The team ended up third in Spain. I had an amazing time, but I have to say it wasn't the same as playing for my college team. I was more disconnected...and maybe it was the language barrier, maybe it was because I was only there half the season, and maybe it was because I had just met all of these girls and they have known one another for a long time. The president asked me to play for them next year, but I don't think I'm going to. If you would have told me five months ago that I would be turning down this opportunity I would have called you crazy. It's a combination of my knees sucking, me not really connecting, and a few other things. Part of me would love to stay another year, maybe get that connection finally, learn how to speak Spanish perfectly, and generally be entrenched in Spanish life. But I think at this point in my life I would rather start chasing another dream. Maybe it's time to hang up my volleyball shoes and start paying attention to the other things I want to do. I can't express enough how happy I am I did this. If only to know that I could do it. Volleyball has been the love of my life for so long, since I was probably 8 or 9 years old. It was there when boys weren't. It was there when I was angry, happy, sad, and a million other things. It's always been the thing I could do when I didn't want to think about anything. I could forget my problems for the two or three hours of practice a day and think of nothing but playing. That is a great feeling. That focus is incredible. It's not like I'll never play again. I just won't compete indoor at this high of a level. I never said anything about beach ;) I need a partner this winter in Florida.  Who's in?

I went to Bolnuevo beach last weekend with some American friends. I had an amazing time and every Spanish beach I have been to is incredible. The Mediterranean is such a unique and wonderful body of water. I have about a million photos from this weekend I need to edit as well. We went to Mula for a festival the next day and had a great time hanging out with all the locals. I'm pretty sure we were the only foreigners there.

There have been more times than I can count where I stop doing whatever I am doing and think, "Whoa, this is my life. EPIC!" I love those moments. It happens when I'm having a conversation with Spaniards in a tiny town in the middle of Spain called Mula. It happens when I walk through the streets of Murcia ever morning. It happens when I'm swimming through the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean, and it happens when I'm riding a bike through a Spanish mountain range and come across sheep on the road. I'm thankful each and every time and I look forward to the rest of my life feeling like that.

Swimming in the Mediterranean 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Family

I miss my mom. I miss my whole family, but you know how sometimes you just really miss your mom? Is 25 too old to feel that way? Ok, but my mom is literally the best mom ever. And she always knows what to say, even if I don't want to hear it. And damn it, she is always right. It's to the point now where if my mom tells me something I know I really need to do what's right and just follow her advice. No more questioning, no more mulling over the problem. Her word is law.

I'm so thankful my parents repeated these phrases when my four brothers and I were growing up- "life isn't fair" and "you can do anything you want to do if you want to do it bad enough" and "do your best and if that's not good enough piss on it."

They didn't shield us from the world, instead they pushed us into it and surrounded us with great people. Life still isn't fair and that is okay because life is awesome. I've found out what it means to want something so bad that I find a way to get it, and to not want something badly enough, so I lose it- both in my personal and professional life. In a few months I'll be starting a new journey towards an old goal. And along the way I've felt as though I've failed many, many, countless times. Failing sucks. It hurts. And it hurts even more when you admit that it was something you really wanted. But that's okay. It means I'm still doing things that fuel my fire. And I'd rather fail 1,000 times than not try at all. But at 1,001 times...well shit, then I'll just piss on it (that's for you Grandpa :)

For a while I felt like I was failing everyday trying to learn and speak Spanish. Now speaking is coming more and more easily, and I understand most conversations. It's kind of true what I'd heard. One day you wake up and the language just doesn't sound and feel all that foreign anymore. It's a good feeling. Now I see people on the streets I know. I stop and have conversations with them. All in Spanish. Learning a language in a foreign country gives a new meaning to the saying "Learn something new everyday." I really feel like I am.

My parents are awesome. My dad is as just awesome as my mom. He is this very practical, straight-to-the-point kind of guy who likes basketball, beer, and barbeque. He is also wildly intelligent. I feel like I could ask him anything random and he would know the answer. He's like a walking encyclopedia. But one of my favorite things about my dad is that he has this ability to make people feel like they matter. And not in the normal way people typically do this. He doesn't hand out compliments. That's not really his thing. In fact, a lot of times he doesn't really say all that much. He has always said that a person's favorite topic of conversation is himself. So my dad listens. He has a presence. The same as my grandpa had. When he talks people listen, and when people talk, he listens. It's such a simple thing, but I think it makes people feel like they matter. The thing I love the most about him is not just that, but it's that it is the same regardless of who he is talking to. It could be a drunk in a bar or a rich businessman. Everyone is equal in his eyes. No one is above or below him. I love that about him. I think my older brother Zach has some of these same traits, but with the social personality of my mom mixed in.

I feel very blessed to not only love my parents, but to like and admire them as well. This is a really long post about my family, but I miss them so I thought I'd write about them. I have a lot to say about my recent adventures in Spain, but that will have to wait until next time.

Spring smells like flowers in Spain, and this reminded me of my mom's roses in the backyard at home.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sometimes I wish I lived in an Airstream

"Sometimes I wish I lived in an Airstream, homemade curtains, live just like a gypsy. Break some hearts, roll out of town. Cuz gypsies never get tied down. Sometimes I wish I lived on a mountain, drank from a stream instead of a fountain." Miranda Lambert

I literally looked into buying an Airstream for when I return to the States. That way home is everywhere I go, and everywhere I go is home. I told my boyfriend this and he just laughed. He said that is something you definitely don't want to lug around with you all over the place. Maybe he's right. But come on, there is something a little bit enticing about living in an Airstream.

Sometimes I wonder why life is so good! When "grown-ups" used to tell me never to be in a hurry to grow up because life as a grown-up is full of bills and problems. They were right about not being in a hurry. The best part is savoring those great, and sometimes fleeting, moments of awesome happiness that happen throughout the day. Then again I don't have any kids and I don't really have any bills either...haha. So it's highly likely that I am not grown-up yet. But those things are just a result of choices I have made up until this point in my life. I like to think they were smart choices. I had A LOT of bills during and after college. I didn't like having bills. So I worked constantly and paid them all off. And I have to admit that even though sometimes life sucked because I was working so much, I had a lot of fun doing that too. I worked jobs that I never thought I would...i.e. teaching Intermediate Algebra classes at NCCC for a year and a half. Even that turned out to be fun. At some point in life I'm sure I'll have kids, and along with that comes bills. But if I can have fun teaching Algebra, I'm certain I can have fun doing anything.

De las fiestas de Primavera

Winning

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Wild Places

I love wild places and open spaces. I mean wide open spaces, the kind with big skies, and nobody in sight for miles. I like the way it feels to be completely and totally alone. Nothing but the earth and the sky and you. I think that is why I'm so drawn to the mountains. The ocean has that lure too if you can manage to isolate yourself on a boat, but beaches are normally crowed and I get seasick easily.

I feel like some of my most vivid memories are etched in these places. When I think about Kansas I think of insane lightning storms and crouching in a field (stupid, I know) taking long exposure photos of bolts shooting across the sky and striking the ground. Or driving down dirt roads I had never taken before just to see where they went and then watching the sun sink low on the horizon as the endless fields of wheat dance and sway in the golden light. Kansas is so beautiful despite what many people say. They say that because they have only driven through. They don't know what Kansas is like any better than I know what China is like. Step outside and look. There is beauty everywhere, and people normally find what they are looking for. Also, nothing makes you appreciate home more than leaving it for a while.

When I think of Alaska I remember the last few steps of an exhausting climb and the first sight of what lies beyond the mountain I had just conquered...vast, open, and seemingly endless space. Well, that and more mountains. I remember being in a semi-grumpy mood because of sheer exhaustion but I put one foot in front of another for hours until I almost fell into an incredibly bright, blue glacial pool. My exhaustion and bad mood instantly disappeared and was replaced with pure joy. To this day that is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. When the sun finally started going down again I remember staring up at the sky and thinking I have never been so close to the stars before. They were so close, within reach it seemed. And then there was the night when I saw the northern lights flow like a bright green river from mountain top to mountain top. Alaska is the kind of place that can change a person and the kind of wild that most people only hear about and never experience because they choose to go to Cancun instead. Once you've been to Alaska, you will never feel a desire to go to Cancun again. Or maybe you will if wild and free isn't really your thing and you're scared of bears and moose.

When I remember my time in Arizona I think about laying on the beach at the very end of Navajo Canyon at Lake Powell and staring at the brilliance of the night sky when there are no lights around to impede on the natural beauty. The next day we woke up with the sun and a pack of wild horses galloped past my friends and I, so close I was actually very frightened. Then we found a hidden waterfall, a natural spring, and Anasazi ruins.

These memories are why I keep traveling. I keep looking for the same feelings of peace and joy in different places. When all the walls and barriers fall away leaving you and the open space. You and nature. You and God. I think that is what freedom feels like. To me, it's kind of a spiritual experience. Like maybe I know my purpose and I fit into the natural world. If only for a moment.

Here in España I have felt that way a few times. But I live in the city, and although it is possible to feel completely alone in the city, especially a foreign one, it is a lot more difficult to actually be alone. I felt that way after a storm one day when I was out in the beautiful countryside of south Spain. A rainbow came out and I grabbed my camera and ran. I ran through puddles and mud. I ran past horses, over hills, and out into the open space where I could see forever in every direction. There was nothing but the earth and sky and me. I thought of nothing but breathing and being. And I was perfectly happy.

Glacial pool in Alaska 
Stars in Arizona

Dirt road in Kansas

Lightning in Kansas

The end of a rainbow and wide open spaces in southern Spain

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Crisis

A few days ago we were all sitting around the table outside in the warm Spanish sunshine after enjoying paella con verduras, caracoles, y conejo (basically spanish rice with vegetables, snails, and rabbit meat). It was my first time trying snails. They tasted similar to a clam of some sort. Anyway, the discussion turned to the economic crisis in Spain. At this point I realized I had been listening to people speak Spanish and more or less understanding what was going on. Not only that, but I was responding and adding input also in Spanish. One person said in order for the situation to improve in Spain, people are going to have to change the way they do things. No more siestas and four hour coffee breaks in the middle of the day. Others agreed. While we were enjoying a four hour lunch. Unemployment is around 27 percent in Spain. The average salary is 24,000 Euros a year. None of these people were unemployed, and it would be safe to say they can afford their four hour lunches because they make more than the average Spaniard.

I was in Madrid a couple weeks ago when my friend said something like, "There's an economic crisis here in Spain, you know? Don't really notice, do you?"

And I didn't really notice. People are always out eating, drinking, and generally being merry. Everyone takes coffee in the middle of the day after la comida. The whole process takes anywhere from 2 to 5 hours. I found it incredible and somewhat insane at first. I always feel like I should be doing something. Well, that and I didn't really drink coffee. I do now.

Americans think that we are in crisis mode with 7 to 9 percent unemployment (I honestly have no clue what it is now, I haven't seen, read, or heard very much American news since I came here about three months ago). But it is three times that in Spain, the land of four hour lunches and a place where everyone has both a home in the city and one on the beach.

In an earlier post I talked about the well dressed beggars here. I think that might be the only place I have noticed an impact of the crisis. There are many people on the streets that look like your average middle class person. Many of their signs read, "Tengo cinco hijos y no puedo darles comer." But every night most of these people go home and sleep in their bed. I often see them smoking while begging, and at times even texting. I think I would give up my cell phone before I took to the streets to beg. There is no doubt the culture and lifestyle in Spain is different from America and it should be interesting to see how these two nations and the rest of the world fare in the coming years.

Happy Easter everyone. This is from the Holy Week processions here. I'll write about these later.

Countryside after a "storm." They don't really know what storms are like.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Semana Santa

I'm can't believe I haven't written in a week! I kept meaning to do it and just never got around to it. Last weekend we had play-offs and we won all our games making us the best team in the second division in the Region of Murica. There are pictures somewhere. I'll try and hunt them down. I have my first Spanish medal!

Other than that I hung out with some new friends and this week has been full of Spanish class, volleyball practice, and teaching English. Next week is Semana Santa (Holy Week) and there are huge fiestas and processions everyday of the week in the city. There is no school for two weeks, and not very many people have to work for the next two weeks as well. The second week off is for Festivals de Primavera (Spring Festivals) and there are also giant parties in the street for that. It should be a good time.

Today, all of Spain was on strike. If you ask me they just wanted to start their vacation a few days early. Oh, the life of a Spaniard.

Giant oranges in Spain

The roof of a church

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Time flies

Yesterday around noon I saw a man riding his bike around Plaza Circular, which is just a giant circle where a lot of main streets intersect and the sidewalks are big. Naturally, there is a fountain in the middle. But he wasn't just riding his bike, he was only riding on the back tire. "Impressive," I thought, and I watched him for about five minutes because I was early to where I was going anyway and no one is ever early in Spain.

Later, that night I was walking home from volleyball practice at 11 p.m. and I saw him again, still riding around Plaza Circular on his back tire. This time I didn't watch him for more than a minute because I was tired and it was late, but I wondered if he had been doing that for 11 hours or if it was just coincidence that I happened to see him there again. Strange.

I have playoff's this weekend for volleyball. It's going well and I am finally able to have conversations, albeit broken ones, with the girls on the team. I'm having a blast.

Time is flying by. I've been here for two and a half months already. I can't believe it's almost April.





Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Just Passing Through

I've always been a firm believer of getting to know places instead of just visiting. I used to dislike just passing through a place because there is so much you miss out on. You don't get to experience late night talks on the front porch, the back roads, the secret treasures, the best hikes, sunsets and sunrises, and you miss out on so many amazing people. Those things are really the best part of any place. I don't want to settle for just seeing the awesome beaches or taking a well worn hiking path, but sometimes those things are really exciting too. When I was hitchhiking in the fall of 2009 I didn't get to really see very much of any place, but I had some of the ultimate experiences in random weirdness I could ever hope for. I would still prefer to get to know every place I go, but I've come to realize that I could spend my whole life trying to get to know people and places and never even leave the Midwest. So sometimes I have to take what I can get and get to know parts of places and make the most of my time spent in each one.

My purpose for learning a new language was simply that it radically increased the number of people I can effectively communicate with in this lifetime. I chose Spanish because is super useful in the United States and Mexico/Central/South America are likely my next travel destinations after Europe. Plus it's easier for me than learning Mandarin, for example. But I want to go everywhere eventually, and there is just not enough time in a lifetime to fully experience every place. Maybe one day after I have experienced much more this thought will change, but I don't think I have ever regretted a day that I have traveled. I've never wished I would have just stayed at home. And no matter how tired I get, how frustrating it can sometimes be, and how much I get rained on, I'm always happy I walked out of my door (or tent) in the morning and experienced something new in my day.

The Mediterranean. 







Friday, March 16, 2012

Happy St. Paddy's Day

I've been slacking on the blog. I was supposed to do it everyday, but I'd rather write something with purpose rather than repeat the same stuff over and over, like what new word I learned in Spanish.

That being said, this blog post really has very little purpose. I'm going to the beach tomorrow for the rest of the weekend. And it's a long weekend because Lunes es el dia de San Jose. Happy St. Paddy's Day to all you Irish folk, and all you folks who are Irish just for the day.

Real Madrid Stadium

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Madrid

The Spanish do fountains well, and there is a fountain for every important time, place, event, and person in Spanish history. If there is a monument, rest assure, there is a fountain around it to make it prettier. Madrid is no different than the rest of Spain in that respect. There is a fountain or water feature about every 10 feet or so because that is how much history lies within the city boundaries of Madrid. I like fountains as much as the next person. In fact, I would say I like them more than the average person. When I was 10 I checked out no less than 7 books from the library on water gardens and fountains. But I think the whole country of Spain has me beat on love of water features. I didn't think it was possible. I was wrong. All joking aside, Madrid has sooooooo much history. It was incredible, beautiful, and I am continuously blown away by how much history the cities and towns have here. The architecture is unreal and impressive.

Needless to say, Madrid was awesome. I was there for two and a half days but, thanks to my wonderful friend Simon, I was able to see a lot of things in the course of one really fun afternoon.

I met Simon two years ago when he was riding his bike from Fairbanks, Alaska to the tip of Argentina. He couchsurfed at my house in Chanute, KS where I lived at the time. It was so cool to see him again in Madrid. From small town Kansas to Madrid...who would have thought?! He was the best tour guide I could have asked for. Not only is he a fountain (haha...a figurative fountain, not literal) of historical knowledge, he has an impeccable sense of direction (most of the time), and he is really good at monopoly.  Admirable traits, although apparently not sufficient enough to impress flight attendants.

I honestly can't remember the name of everything he showed me, nor can I remember even close to everything he told me about what we saw. I can remember that he pointed out a bank and said that it is unique because if someone tries to rob it and manages to make it past the laser sensors, when they attempt to leave it floods within 10 seconds and the thief drowns.  He also showed me a 3,000 year old gift of temples (naturally surrounded with water and a few fountains) from the Egyptians to Spain. I would tell you more about it but I was mesmerized watching a man blow smoke into giant bubbles while kids popped them. But everything we saw was beautiful and I had a great time. I also went to the Prado and the futbol stadium of  Real Madrid.
Madrid
Food
Cathedral 
Me with a fountain and a palace.

Simon navigating the streets of Madrid.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Gypsy market

I went to the gypsy market today, and it was awesome to the max! I really enjoy the company of gypsies. They are such characters, and Spanish speaking ones are no exception. I bought a pair of sunglasses (only 4 Euros) and I'm going back next week with a friend from England so she can experience it too! Think Canal Street in NYC, but replace the chinese people with Spanish gypsies. And it's all outside in the beautiful sunshine.

I have started dreaming in Spanish. Well not entirely in Spanish, but people speak Spanish to me in my dreams. It's awesome. Learning a new language gives new meaning to the term "you learn something new everyday." I'm learning a lot of new things everyday and it's been such a roller coster. Today is the two month mark. Two whole months here in Spain, and I only have five left. Time goes always seems to go faster than I think it will and it's getting better everyday.

Hanging out with a gypsy named Jose. Here he was shouting to his friend across the street that he was talking to an American. Then he started shouting about deals on shoes.

Fruit, tomatoes, and italian candy.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Spring

"I haven't slept for 10 days, because that would be too much." -Mitch Hedberg.

Well, I think I'm getting to the rough part of learning a language. The part where I know most of what people are saying, and if they ask me a question I know what I would like to say back to them, but actually piecing together my response is often a slow and painful process. I just want to say what I want to say at this point, sabes (ya know)?

Spring is here in Murcia and it is lovely. I'm going to Madrid this weekend. I think at some point I need to take a week off, rent a car, and road trip everywhere I want to go. Would anyone like to come with me?

"You know, I'm sick of following my dreams, man. I'm just going to ask where they're going and hook up with 'em later." -Mitch Hedberg


Old ship in Cartagena.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Stop Motion

This was shot over two months ago and it really didn't take me that long to edit, but I just got around to finishing it up. Craig needed to lose some hair and I had my camera on hand so we did a little stop motion video. His faces are priceless. What a nerd.

Anyway, sorry the quality is terrible on here. The higher quality video was taking forever to upload.

Higher quality video can be found if you click here.

video

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Nature

I was able to hike in the mountains surrounding Murica this weekend. It was nice to be alone with nature for a while. I stumbled upon the ruins of an old castle too.

Castillo de la Luz. One of the oldest castle ruins in Murcia. Found it on my hike.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Bilingual Beggars

I started my Spanish class this week and I absolutely love it! There are people from all over Europe in it and it's so cool to meet all of them and attempt to speak Spanish together. I'm having so much fun in the class already, and the teacher is great. It's a really relaxed atmosphere and we laugh a lot.

After class tonight I was walking to the bookstore to purchase my book for class with a couple other people. When we walked by someone begging for money he heard us speaking English and switched automatically over to English. Aside from that he was relatively well dressed. I have seen several people that could fit this description. I can't imagine one of these people on the streets of New York.

I also think I have failed to mention that I'm taking guitar lessons here. A guy comes to the house once and week to give lessons to the kids and Inma asked me if I wanted to have lessons too. I said I certainly wouldn't turn them down so now I have been taking lessons for a few weeks.

Alas, it is the Lenten Season again. I'm giving up negative thoughts for Lent. Negative thoughts about others and myself. Who needs them anyway? Nothing but positivity from now until eternity! Or at least until Easter. Maybe the habit will stick.

Loretico at a museum in Murcia that were ancient ruins were discovered only 7 years ago.

Monday, February 20, 2012

My birthday present

For my birthday God gave me Spain! I get to stay...legally! Apparently if you play "higher sports" here you can do whatever you want. Well, that's not entirely true you need a piece of paper that says you play in Spain and you can stay for up to a year, and then have it renewed if you want.

We checked with the lawyer for the professional basketball team here because I won't get my papers until a week after I have been here for three months, and he said "no pasa nada"which basically means it's all good. He said as long as the process has started now (which it has) we are okay.

I have been here for 6 weeks now and I understand A LOT more of what people say now. However, I still find it difficult to piece together a proper sentence. But my Spanish class starts tomorrow so that should help, and I still study every morning with my friend.

What an INTENSE six weeks this has been.

Laundry

Sunday, February 19, 2012

First Game

My first game went really well! I played the whole time and had somewhere around 17 kills and one ace. We won in three games. Not too shabby for the first game.

We also talked to a lawyer who specializes in foreign athletes here in Spain and he said the paperwork shouldn't be a problem if we are in the process of getting it, and I get it before I try to leave Spain. We are still somewhat unsure because of the "what if" factor. I hope to have this all resolved by tomorrow, but things move a bit slower in Spain that back in the states and everyday I keep being told "We will know for sure tomorrow."

To be honest I just want to know one way or another. If I can stay, great. If I can't, fine. But I need to plan for the next chapter if that is the case.

I need to take more pics, but have been preoccupied as of late.

Friday, February 17, 2012

4 hour practice

It's one o'clock in the morning and I just got home from an intense four hour practice. First game tomorrow. I'm exhausted. Still don't know if I can stay in Spain legally. More later.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Hitch in the plans

Well, it is funny how quickly you can go from feeling on top of the world to the depths of despair to somewhere in the middle. I know because that accurately describes my last 3 days.

Monday I practiced with the pro volleyball team again and it went really well. I played well, still not 100 percent, but I certainly held my own. I was very happy and looking forward to playing all the time.

On Tuesday I found out that I do not have the right kind of visa and I have to come back to the U.S. at the end of March. I was incredibly upset. I don't want to go back to the states. I want to stay in Spain and play volleyball and learn Spanish.

Wednesday I realized I have an opportunity to work somewhere fun for the summer months. I'm thinking the Florida Keys or something like that. I wouldn't mind doing another seasonal job somewhere I have never been before. And then I will fly to Slovenia for try-outs in August.

So all in all, while I would rather stay in Spain for seven months instead of three, it is not the end of the world and this just gives me an opportunity to do something else that is really fun. After Spain, on to the next thing I suppose. 2012 is still going to be full of new and exciting things...and now it's even more exciting because I don't know what they are!

I think I will just keep practicing with the volleyball team in Spain until I have to leave and then go somewhere I can play volleyball often in the states and work for 4 months. I think Florida sounds good. If you have any ideas or opportunities please let me know!

I suppose this is just a lesson in rolling with the punches.

A day at the museum.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Random Thoughts

This post, as the title suggests, is simply random thoughts I have had while in Spain. I may or may not expound upon some of these subjects at a later date.

- There are a lot of cats here.
- So I knew this before coming here, but I am a very "get shit done" kind of person, and it drives me insane when I am absolutely starving and someone is taking like a million years to sit down at the table. If it was my family of course I would say screw it and just eat, but that is not polite. Also, that would never happen in my family because when it is time to eat everyone sprints to the table.
- I love trying new foods, which is normally a good thing, but there are so many new foods here I am eating A LOT. At the candy shop today I put pretty much one of everything in my bag.
- My breakfast foods are extremely unusual here and my family laughs every time I sit down to eat breakfast. I usually have eggs, or an apple with peanut butter, or toast with peanut butter and an orange. Here eggs are for dinner and apples do not go with peanut butter...in fact, nothing goes with peanut butter. I eat peanut butter constantly and I wasn't aware that was strange. Although, I prefer natural peanut butter, and I haven't found a good peanut butter here yet.
- I had an entire fish head on my plate the other day and I didn't blink an eye. Fine, you put a fish head on my plate I'll eat it. I literally think I like every food ever produced, grown, or concocted. I ate cheese with visible mold on it the other day. No worries, the mold was supposed to be there. Octopus is a normal part of the daily diet, and there is a giant dried mountain pig's leg on the counter. And I'm the weird one for eating a peanut butter and banana sandwich?
- I have never eaten so much ham or olive oil in my life.
- If the temperature drops below 50 degrees it appears as though the apocalypse has taken place. There is no one outside. Same goes for rainy days.
- There is SO MUCH HISTORY here. Many of the buildings were built in the 13th century, and when I visit the places it's insane to imagine how it once looked, with people walking around and lounging about and what not.
- Life is so good!

On my way to Mass today.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Volleyball

Ok, so I had my first practice with the professional team here in Spain yesterday. I can't say that it was wonderful, but I also can't say that it was awful. I hadn't really jumped/run/played in nearly 2 and a half months because of my knees, so I didn't expect it to be perfect. I wasn't jumping as well as usual obviously and I felt like I was definitely a step slow. On top of that I was thrown in to drills where I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing with a team whose language I speak very little of. Oh, and they are freaking good. Haha, quite an experience. There first month or so might be a bit of a struggle, but I just really need to get back into playing shape and hope my knees hold up.

I will get better one day at a time.

Bridge. I have been so busy lately I haven't taken many new pics!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Great Perhaps

I just finished reading Looking for Alaska by John Green. And now I'm off to discover my own Great Perhaps.

Perhaps it will indeed be great. Perhaps it will not, but at least I will be able to say I'm out there fighting the good fight.

"About to walk the path I've gotta take
I am packing up - heading out
Cuz' I can't sleep I'm dreaming way too loud"

Limoneros and sunset