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Worldwide InstaMeet: Go on an adventure!

We’re very excited to announce that on Thursday the 26th of July you’ll have the chance to get together with other Instagrammers in your town by organizing your very own adventure for the fifth Worldwide InstaMeet!

Don’t worry — if Thursday doesn’t work for your local community, feel free to plan your InstaMeet any time over that weekend, July 27th through the 29th. We’ll be featuring some of our favorite images & group shots here on our blog the following Monday.

For more information visit http://www.meetup.com/Instagram and be sure to keep an eye on our InstaMeets page where we’ll be sharing tips and featuring recent InstaMeets to spark some creativity.

And god said, “let there be straws.” (Taken with instagram)

And god said, “let there be straws.” (Taken with instagram)

Taken with instagram

Taken with instagram

Pain has subsided; no need to be alarmed. Now, time to turn this bad boy into a thesis. (Taken with instagram)

Pain has subsided; no need to be alarmed. Now, time to turn this bad boy into a thesis. (Taken with instagram)

05 septiembre — day 5

Listening to the first American music I’ve heard in a few days on iTunes right now… it’s Two Door Cinema Club, they’re from Europe… therefore it’s totally acceptable. Waiting for lunch but probably going to take a nap beforehand, or read first and sleep after.

We just got back from a half-day hike through the mountains that surround Granada (which was painful but interesting), followed by a trip to Los Baños Arabes (“the Arab baths”) which was AWESOME. You move between three different temperature pools over the course of like two hours, and somewhere in the middle you receive a pretty fantastic back massage… it’s unbelievable. Dark and eerie inside but quite awesome. Homework time tonight, blah, can’t wait. I absolutely can’t believe I’ve only been here for four days. I still have three and a half months ahead of me… wait, I still have three weeks ahead of me to explore the city and have fun before classes begin. That’s amazing to me. The lifestyle here is amazing and I’m definitely spoiling it by being on the computer so much. Maybe I won’t post as often? I like recapping so I’ll hop on every so often, but I’m definitely going to actively take a break from the computer after this post… if only so I can read and enjoy the outdoors and explore the city and hang out with my host mom and my friends some more. It’s definitely helped to talk to my parents and James throughout this whole adjustment, but I feel more and more independent every day. I walked home from the Plaza Nueva just now and felt totally cómoda (comfortable) being by myself. I love it, seriously. I’m glad I can say that at this point!

Anyway, time to go hang out on my bed. I need more descanso (relaxation). For serious. Those Baños Arabes will be a weekly trek, I’m sure :)

Hasta luego,
Courtney

04 septiembre — day 4

Oops! 

So, it’s been two more days and I’ve tried about three times to start a new entry about what’s happened, but I keep leaving in the middle, which is unsettling and throws me off. Every day I’ve come up with so many things that I want to say or talk about, and I know I could never write them all down (although I do try). I often hear Isabel and Molly talking in the kitchen, which is next door to my bedroom. It’s clear that Isabel is extremely friendly and interested in conversing with us, and that has given me a lot of confidence when it comes to at least trying out my everyday Spanish, which is slightly different from in-class Spanish. Another random note, it’s much easier and more efficient to take showers here, because they’re built with shower heads that are meant to be handheld. Either mine doesn’t fit on the hook or it was never meant to be held up high, but either way, it results in a much quicker shower and much less water wasted. There’s a general shortage of water in the region of Andalusía, where Granada is located, because it’s so dry — very comparable to Los Angeles county or further inland in California — so short showers are much appreciated.

To continue about yesterday… we started the day at school, bright and early (10:00 am) with a preliminary placement exam, just so our program director, Amalia, can gauge our abilities and figure out how to structure the class. Amalia will be teaching the 3-week intensive language course that starts on Monday, as well as a seminar called “Issues in Spanish Society” that we’ll take during the semester along with our other courses. After the “examen” we had a discussion with Teresa about cultural differences, safety precautions, etc. that we should keep in mind while we’re in Spain. We were let out of class around 1, and Molly and I had a chance to walk around and explore the city for an hour or so before lunch. We found a “supermercado” nearby and bought snacks, even though we’re not supposed to have them (I found Oreos, I hope they taste the same! edit: no, they don’t. meh.) — then we returned to the house and had a variety of small dishes for lunch, including seafood, pork, bread, and of course, watermelon.

Molly went out for coffee with her friend Amy while I took a quick nap, then the whole group met up around 6 for “chocolate con churros” — churros are really different in Spain, they’re less crinkly and more smooth, like giant, straight funnel cake. (Yeah.) We then had a chance to walk around “el centro comercial,” which I thought would be more… well, commercial like businesses, but it ended up being a 3-hour window shopping trip. (Yes!) I dropped the first charge on my Citibank debit card buying two dresses that I undoubtedly will wear everywhere; in fact, I wore one out last night! After returning home and talking to mom (at Loyola) and James (at home) for like the 500th time, Molly and I “nos hicimos listas” (got ready) to go out and meet up with our group at Hannigan’s, the bar we had visited with Teresa the night before. Problem is, there are TWO Hannigan’s in the city… so there was a mix-up and we never found our group! We went back and forth between the two but stayed at the more familiar one, whereas our group waited for us at a different Hannigan’s until they couldn’t wait anymore. Nevertheless, Molly and I spent the night out together, half looking for our group, half just having a good time. We went to two different tapas restaurants (it’s like putting together a makeshift dinner, a little at a time), hung out for a while at Hannigan’s with a much older, much more Spanish crowd than I had imagined, and ended the night with a pit-stop at an on-the-go Mediterranean food place near our house (I had falafel on a pita — sooo beyond delicious). We returned home around 2am to get some sleep, although I chose to talk to James (who was in Boston) and start a book, and thus I didn’t crawl into bed until a little after 4.

And sleep we did. I woke up at 11:30 and Molly slept until 1:30 in the afternoon today! We both waited to eat our usual big lunch; Isabel made us “arroz con carne,” or rice with meat (pork), a typical Spanish dish that is prepared very hot but cools off quickly, a memo I clearly didn’t get, because I scalded my tongue and it’s been hurting all day (waahhh). It was delicious though, and for the first time I didn’t take a nap after lunch! Instead, since siesta is not as strictly regarded on Saturdays, Molly and I took a walk through the town (city?) to El Corte Inglés to search for gluten-free snacks. We went downstairs to the supermarket section, and the moment the food aisles came into view, I realized that there is a God here in Granada: HARIBO gummy bears! I bought a bag to replace my empty one, and I’ve since eaten at least half of the new bag.. whatever. Go me. I decided that one of these days I’m going to take my gummy bear addiction to the streets and bring a bag of them on a tour, taking photos with everything I see, until I can show my real bear around the city when he visits later.

After our excursion to El Corte Inglés, we met up with Amy and got coffee at a cafetería near el fuente. It was siesta time so no one was there and basically no one was walking around, even though it’s Saturday. I guess that goes to show just how religious Spaniards are about their midday break! At 6 we went for quite a long walk with the group through El Albaicín, a section of Granada posted high up in the mountains with lots of houses carved out of the faces of hills and lots and lots of white brick walls. Photos coming soon, once my camera battery recharges.

Tonight we were supposed to meet up with the group again, but another mixup happened (or whatever) so Molly and I ended up approaching another group of American students and asking if they wanted tapas. It was great to hang out with other kids from the USA, but I was surprised at how strongly they insisted on speaking English, even at the bars. I’m far more inclined to try to assimilate and not stand out as an American student, but such is life; we had a really good time, I had a few “tintos de verano” (red wine + Fanta), and we took down numbers (for when we finally get our cell phones!) before parting ways.

In other, shorter news… I still need a small desk fan and I’ll be happy, even if it’s only for a few weeks. I heard a few songs at the café today and tried to write down the lyrics, but I’ve had no luck finding the songs. I’m anxious to keep reading the book I started, called All Souls — it’s a book from the posh prep school genre, but it’s actually written really well and has been a challenging but fun read. It’s now 1:45 am and we’re going on a hike through the mountains tomorrow starting at 8:30 in the morning. Thankfully we’re finishing the day with a trip to the Arab baths, which are essentially a spa setting with a whole bunch of cool features, like three different temperature pools and free back massages (wooooo!!!) for all of us. Thus, it’s bedtime for me.

Intensive language course for the next three weeks… also coming up are (hopefully) a better / more organized going-out weekend, then beach weekend, then Madrid weekend, in that order… still more and more fascinated by Granada every day I’m here… all in all, I can’t complain. Oh, and for the record, Spanish Oreos taste NOTHING like American Oreos!!!!!! I am extremely disappointed and might have to ask my mom to ship some over.

To all in the USA, I hope you’re well and that Earl didn’t destroy anything near/dear to you! If you would like a postcard from Granada (!!!), reply or Facebook me with your address and I’ll send you one asap. Que estáis bien y que disfrutáis el fin del verano (o el principio del otoño… already?! yikes!)…

Courtney

02 septiembre — day 2

Wow, what a long day! I want to try to recap this without looking at my schedule for reference, but we’ve seriously done a lot of amazing things today.

It is uncomfortably hot in my room even though the temperature outside cools down at night. I’m thinking of buying a small desk fan to keep next to me so that I can sleep through the night. I went to bed around 1:30 last night, woke up at 2:30 to the sound of people walking around either inside the apartment or in the one downstairs, and woke up again at 6:15am feeling fully rested! Jet lag is still lurking… after a quick video chat with James I went back to sleep for a few hours and finally arose for the day around 10.

Molly and I had to be at “la fuente” (fountain) in one of the main “plazas” (squares) at 11, so we ate a quick, light breakfast: a chocolate croissant and juice for me, and just juice for Molly because she’s gluten-intolerant (I can’t even imagine!). We walked to la fuente with Isabel and met up with the rest of our group, then headed back toward the house as we traced the path from la plaza to the class building (“El Centro de Lenguas Modernas” — The Center for Modern Languages), which is right near my apartment. There, we heard from a representative from Orange, a mobile phone company, about a seriously great plan that his company had designed for our group in particular, since Orange has such a loyal relationship with CLM. We then spent an hour getting to know each other, where we all live (on a map), and what to expect in the intensive language course. Amalia (the program director) and her assistant Teresa discussed the schedule for a bit, and I found out that my Columbus Day weekend plans are definitely going to work out! Things are falling together much more nicely than I expected, and I’m glad to finally feel a sense of freedom, even though my obligation to this program has been fully self-induced.

After our discussion at CLM, we had an hour to ourselves where we were free to walk around the city. It definitely feels much more like a huge town, with no city blocks but rather smaller side streets and alleys between buildings. The center of the city is both commercial and residential, and it’s not uncommon for a plaza to seem much like a playground in the afternoon (especially during the summer) where children play in the streets. Also, many of the streets are tiled and feel like they should be walkable only, but those are typically one-way streets designed for small cars and motorcycles/mopeds, of which there are TONS throughout the day. It’s quite beautiful and very different from the blacktop, triple-lane major roads found in the United States in all cities and towns, no matter how small.

Molly and I visited a bank to try and convert money, but the banks in Spain are very specific about having an account before you can even make such a basic transaction. We went to a hotel to convert cash instead, then visited El Corte Ingles, a huge Spanish department store (think Filene’s + Target), to buy small alarm clocks for our rooms. I feel much better knowing the time and having a way to wake up now! We returned to the house and had lunch with Isabel and her daughter, Laura, who is in her 30s and lives fairly close to here. I took a nap during siesta, surfed the internet a bit (that’s a habit that I don’t think I’ll break), talked to Molly, and essentially chilled in the house until our second group meeting at 7:30pm.

Our group took a walking tour, mostly historical, of a few of the more famous parts of Granada. The city really is quite small, very easily walkable, and very safe, even for tourists. 1/3 of the city is comprised of students and it’s great to see the diversity of Spanish, European, and global students alike as we walk around. After the tour I thought I had completely crossed town, only to realize later that we had traveled in a circle and I was right near my apartment. Teresa took us all out for tapas, and I tried “vino de verano,” or “summer wine” (red wine with Fresca soda) for the first time. It’s interesting to be able to drink in public, generally, and it was interesting to observe some of the group members who haven’t been exposed as thoroughly to a binge drinking culture like the one that exists at BC. I felt better about my Spanish speaking skills as the night went on, which I’m sure was due in part to my alcohol intake. Although I only had two drinks I felt a lot more comfortable with the people around me. One girl, Liz, is having an especially hard time settling here and accepting the fact that summer is over. I’ve been trying to pull her out of her shell a bit and will continue to do so, but I’m sure she’ll be used to it after a few more days. I feel significantly less homesick than I did yesterday, which is a relief and I hope that pattern continues.

After tapas, Molly and I stopped at the “heladería” (ice cream shop) just like last night. I was quite full after all of that food, and we hadn’t even had dinner yet! We returned to the house, speaking a mix of Spanish and English the whole time (challenging but very fun). Isabel had made dinner for us — a vegetable dish with cheese and bread on the side — but I decided to save mine for the morning. After video chatting with the rest of my family (all of whom are in Baltimore to help my sister move in at Loyola University Maryland, SO sweet!), I sat down to write this entry honestly thinking I’d have close to nothing to say. Hm. This always happens.

Noteworthy things:
— A condom dispenser on a street corner near la fuente
— A potentially sweet cell phone deal??? and lots of confidence re: Paris and Madrid plans
— I never knew an alarm clock could be so complicatedly simple
— Heineken on tap here is better than the bottled kind in the USA
— I still have too many clothes
— Purchasing things in Spain is fairly easy despite the language barrier
— There are more things but I can’t remember them… can’t wait til I can jot down thoughts in draft text messages on a cell phone!

I’m hoping I can sleep through the night this time and not be awoken by back pain or heat overwhelm. Not crying before I go to bed will really help, I’m sure :)

Hasta mañana (o luego, no sé),
Courtney

(via quote-book — Words: lifeliveson, Photographer: pacific)
This reminds me so much of my trip!

(via quote-book — Words: lifeliveson, Photographer: pacific)

This reminds me so much of my trip!

01 septiembre — day 1

I told myself I would do a little bit of reading tonight and then video chat (for the third time) with James and my mom, but after reading some of my friends’ blogs I think it’s a good idea to update this with a general “what’s been going on” (not necessarily “how I’ve been feeling” because I could go on about that for days and still not explain myself fully).

I would be listening to music while writing this, but I haven’t listened to any American music so far and I want to keep it that way, at least for now.

My last 24 hours in Connecticut were pretty great, and what lay ahead of me still seemed totally surreal. We had a family barbecue on Sunday and I got to see Jackie, Joe, and James, among other actual relatives. James stayed over for the fourth night in a row, and it really helped that he was around to calm my nerves. He did get me thinking a lot about the fearful parts of what was coming up, though, but in retrospect I’m glad I was thinking ahead so that I could avoid a lot of that fear.

I actually got to packing on Monday, and it was fairly easy since I had stacked all of my clothes and gathered the packing necessities throughout the week. I packed two large, rolling suitcases (one square, one duffel) and stuffed my backpack and BC vineyard vines bag to the brim. I brought my pillow which ended up being a great call. I now have absolutely no room for souvenirs but I’ll find a way to bring them all back. Somehow…

Monday morning was a blur of emotions; it finally hit me that I was heading to Spain and this is what I had been preparing for all spring and summer. I met my dad at Shannon’s old school so that the family plus James could take me to the airport. Getting through security was funny but very rough and the panic started to hit as soon as I got to the gate. I met a girl who’s studying in Barcelona and shared an electrical outlet with her. The flight was long and I was seated next to a family with a 15-month-old baby who loved to cry. The TVs were sweet, though, and I was able to force about a half hour of sleep against an awkwardly angled window before landing in Dublin around 5 in the morning.

I met another student named Bryant while going through security/customs who happened to be going to Germany. We talked about Oktoberfest and Europe in general. I video chatted with mom, Bryan, and James in the airport and watched the sunrise over the runway through the huge glass windows. Jayson met me at the gate after a short amount of time, and before I knew it we were boarding the second leg of my flight to Málaga, Spain. I forgot I had upgraded to business class (for €6 instead of, like, €500!) so my 2nd row seat was a pleasant surprise. I slept for two of the three flying hours, curled up on a fully reclined airline chair (wow) with my teddy bear and blankie. I ate half a bag of gummy bears to stop myself from crying right before debarking and heading to baggage claim. Jayson and I had an interesting time navigating the airport, as they had a separate carousel for bags that had come through customs (we though we’d lost ours for a few minutes). Our Spanish skills were immediately put to the test: we collected our bags from security guards, stopped at a cervecería to get a quick snack, caught a cab to the bus station, and purchased bus tickets to get from Málaga to Granada (a 1.5-hour drive). Spaniards are quick to notice when Spanish isn’t your first language, and 3 out of 3 times they were fairly nice and explained more than they usually do so that we understood what to do and where to go.

After napping for a bit longer on the bus, we arrived at the station and waited to meet Teresa, our program director’s assistant. She found us eventually and drove us about 20 min to my homestay, where I met Isabel, my host mom, and said goodbye to Jayson until tomorrow. I met Molly, a junior from Simmons who is my new roommate (although we both have our own room AND individual bathrooms!) and with whom I actually get along quite nicely. She’s really down-to-earth and we’re both having fun sort of taking it all in. I unpacked halfway, video chatted with mom and James again, cried a lot, then took a much-needed nap. I woke up in time for an extremely early dinner around 8 — chicken with rice, greens, and bread, with watermelon for dessert — and we had a long talk with Isabel about our lives and hers. Thinking in Spanish is becoming easier even after just the first day. I’ve noticed that my rate of speech has gone up even though I’m still struggling for the words, so I stutter more than I usually do, but my mind will catch up with my voice eventually.

Molly and I eventually decided to take a walk to an heladería in the main square down the street. Granada is much prettier at night and the population is very young and energetic. We found a row of restaurant/bars and took a bunch of photos, returning to the house fairly early (10ish) but satisfied with our exploration. We’ll see more in the morning, I’m sure.

I took a shower and finished unpacking all of my clothes — I have about twice as much as I really need, but I’m sure I’ll wear everything — then sat down to try to read, but decided to go online instead. A part of me feels bad for being so web-connected, but I figure I deserve it and it’s definitely worth it to talk to my family and James on a day like today. I’ll immerse myself more fully in the culture as soon as the intensive language course gets started and my sleeping and eating schedules adjust to the Spanish lifestyle.

I still feel very much by myself here in Spain and in the back of my mind there are thoughts about why I didn’t choose to go to Madrid or another city where I might feel more comfortable. But at the end of the day, I have my own room and a really cool roommate, a ton of activities planned for me over the next three weeks, and a large support group that will make sure everything goes well. Culture shock is strange but now I know how it feels; I felt it most at the airport and on the bus ride as we drove through the mountains inland toward Granada. I was comforted at one point, though, when I heard “Alejandro” streaming through the headphones of a young girl sitting nearby. That’s the first song I heard in Spain and I consider it a sign of reassurance more than anything. (Plus it makes me miss my roommates!!)

Orientation tomorrow will be a blast, I’m sure, and I can’t wait to meet the rest of my group. As for now, it’s 12:35 and even though I’m not very tired, I’m totally exhausted. Time to say hi to mom and James one more time and then get some sleep.

Even though I feel very far away from everything and separated from things in my life that are comforting (namely the American lifestyle and James), I know this will be the experience of a lifetime. I’m looking forward to embracing this as fully as I can, and I can’t wait to see how it all turns out. Here’s to independence, ice cream, Lady Gaga, and more adventures to come!

Til later,
Courtney

P.S. The number of my apartment building is 27. Go figure.