She Used to Be Mine

Yes, it’s been a good while. I need to finish this, at least for now. I think as I look forward, something like this will be able to come back into my life. Perhaps this blog will remain, and be revamped as I look to my future. Maybe not. I should talk about going to London. Who knows if that will fit or not? Right now, not me.

But for now, I must finish this chapter a little bit.

Part of the reason I have not blogged in a while, other than my apparent inability to blog, has honestly been a disgusting cocktail of my depression and anxiety. Once I returned home from my spring break, it hit harder than ever that I didn’t have much time left. I looked at my peers and did that really bad thing of comparing my experience to theirs. I found mine to be inadequate. I shut down and cut myself off from a lot of people. I asked myself what the point was; if my experience did not match theirs.

When, in reality, my experience was my own. I am my own person. I know this, and once I left Alicante, I saw it. To make it easier it is time to look at the lies I told myself, and find how I grew, I will use bulletpoints. Buzzfeed likes it. Why shouldn’t I?

  1. I didn’t go out enough (Lie) 
    1. Maybe this has a bit of a truth in it. In reality, I simply did not trust the people I called “friends” enough to go out with them. Which is partially a manifestation of my anxiety. The other part to this is simply I don’t like going out. I don’t like clubs. I don’t like being up extremely late. This is nothing new. Plus, the culture in Alicante is a summer one. I was there in winter. What I would have done is what is happening now.
  2. I didn’t make enough friends (Lie) 
    1. It turns out that my “forever” friends were people I hadn’t talked to much. Timing sucks, but they’re my friends now and that’s what matters. I also have social anxiety. That doesn’t help any “making friends” situation. But you know what? I know how to do it the next time I jump completely out of my comfort zone. It’s not a waste. Just a stepping stone.
  3. I didn’t make myself busy enough (Lie) 
    1. I am someone who thrives off of an insane schedule. Thriving, that is until I lose my mind. I needed the time I had in Alicante to teach myself how to actually take care of myself. You know what I did a lot of? Reading. I read so much more than I have in years. For fun. I’m not kind enough to myself. I know how to do that a little better now.
  4. I worked on myself too much (BIG FAT LIE) 
    1. See the last response. I needed me time. I needed to evaluate and connect to myself outside of the world I knew. Now? Now I’m ready to take on the world in a way I only dreamed of having the confidence to do. Sure, this will still be wrought with fighting my mental illness(es) and pain. Yet, at the end of the day, I can’t just erase the last five months from my life. Everything happens for a reason. I’m ready for me, to be unapologetically me.

Simply put, saying goodbye was a few days of near panic attacks and a lot of tears. Why? Quite simply, in this small Spanish city, I found myself. Or parts of myself. Looking at home, I was looking at going back to where I was only the girl I used to be. Now? I can only recognize her because she used to be me. We are the same body, but different people now. I’m afraid of becoming her again because no one wants to be nothing but the best possibility of who they are. What that means to them is individual, but it’s still the truth.

Well, that’s not going to happen. No matter what. I may only have a vague understanding of what I am now, but that’s normal. I’m 21. What am I supposed to know from barely two decades of life? Things, but not the thing I will know in another twenty years.

So despite my soul-crushing panic of the last month of being in Spain, it turned out to have a silver lining. Which is all I can ask for.

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She is messy, but she’s kind/ she is lonely, most of the time/ she is all of this mixed up, baked in a beautiful pie – Sara Bareilles, She Used to Be Mine
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Sirens Have Accents Too

The world isn’t out to get you. No matter what my anxiety induced twitching may imply every time it spikes, the world is not out to get you. In every place you go, you will find more people willing to help you than not.

 

If you read my previous post, you are aware that I had three weeks off for Spring break.

Eleven of those days were not spent in Spain because when you have eleven days off as an American in Europe, you take advantage of it.

Three of us decided to travel together. Katie, Mary and myself. Rome, Dublin, and Paris. Three days in Rome, three days in Dublin, and four days in Paris.

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Before I get into a tl;dr of what we did, I want to talk about traveling and traveling buddies.

The first thing I have to say is that it was an amazing experience. I’m very happy that I did it.

The second thing I have to say is that you should choose your travel partners wisely.

It wasn’t an awful or traumatic experience. The girls and I may not have agreed on everything. We had different ideas on what safety was when being on a trip, what being together meant and what being alone meant. When looking at what to do it would sometimes come to two against one because three is a crowd and sometimes someone is unhappy. All of these things doesn’t mean that it wasn’t worth it. It just means that each of us learned a lot about ourselves and each other. We learned how to pick travel partners, and that maybe saving a few euros here and there by virtue of booking early may not be worth it. When you’ve only known someone for a month and decide to travel with them within two months, you need to remember that you’re going to learn who that person actually is instead of who they try to be.

In my case, I was not forward thinking enough. I wasn’t thinking of myself and my mental health. I was looking at the idea of the group regarding my physical safety and comfort. Both of these sides of your life are very important, but when you begin to neglect one, you will suffer in the other. Which is why I spent the last week of April, and am still spending very much time alone. I’m an introvert, by definition, this means that I need alone time. Being around people for too long literally drains my energy. In total on our trip, I probably got about four hours total of time completely to myself (not counting showers). 24hours x 11 days is a math that Keelin does not want to do right now. But you get the picture. I need to recharge.

At the beginning of my time here in Spain, I was terrified to travel anywhere significant alone. A little while ago, I had some issues with my iPhone, and so had to travel to Murcia, and then Valencia alone to fix it (Alicante does not have an Apple store). This was my first step to learning that I can do things alone. Eleven days abroad taught me that, yes. I can probably travel alone, be happy, and be safe.

The world isn’t out to get you. No matter what my anxiety induced twitching may imply every time it spikes, the world is not out to get you. In every place you go, you will find more people willing to help you than not. It is how the world works, and I honestly think that we forget this given the current global climate. As mister Rodgers said, look for the helpers. I also like to think, be the helper. It’s only going to make the world a better place.

If you don’t have the confidence at the beginning to go out alone into the world, then don’t rush into things. It’s much like choosing a roommate. Maybe you’re not the best of friends, but you can travel together well. If you don’t make the best choice, still make the best of it, because you all deserve it. For some people, what you’re doing is a once in a lifetime experience or something they don’t get to do at all. So make the most of it.

Now, onto what we did. Highlights from eleven days abroad.

They don’t tell you that parts of Rome smell like Basil and that it feels like love. Paris may be the “city of romance” but for the most part, I felt more accepted in Rome (and Dublin) than in Paris. This is why Rome is more of a loving city to me. It has thousands of years of history, knows it, and is proud of it. Yet it isn’t pretentious about it. It’s the love of a family, not the love of a lover. Paris may be passion, but Rome persists. Plus it’s hard to really be pretentious in a city where you make two left turns from one amazing Piazza to another and then WHOOPS you find the Pantheon.

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My favorite though was the Vatican. I’m a huge fan of this guy named Gian Lorenzo Bernini and he designed St. Peter’s Square and theBaldacchinoo. Also, the Vatican Museum has an amazing collection of thousands of years of art.

Plus, you know. Michelangelo all over the place.

We decided to climb the steps to the dome of St. Peter’s Basicilia (thank you Mary. I was hangry and she convinced me).  We got to go all the way up to the cupola and look over Rome. On the way down I bought a granola bar and ate it on the roof of St. Peter’s Basilica. There is a café up there. I recommend it.

 

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St. Peter’s Square from the top of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica 

 

Dublin felt like home. I’m an old soul, and while I’ve always been comfortable in the Buffalo/Niagara Falls area, it never has sat exactly right with me. Dublin is the older version of where I grew up. There are amazing traditions of art and music, and cloud cover for my sensitive –northern European skin. There’s also a thing that in European cities, for the most part, you can see the sky. You may feel trapped by narrow streets, but you don’t feel trapped by skyscrapers. It’s my type of comfort.

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But my favorite part of Ireland was the trip we took to the Cliffs of Moher. Ireland in itself is a place that three days is an awkward amount of time for. You have enough time to do a lot of things, but also not enough time to do things. What you want to see is just spread out that way. Taking a day trip is a good idea, and we chose the cliffs. We got to cross the island of Ireland with a great tour guide, get some history, and see more than the city and the cliffs.

Which, by the way, was the most amazing thing I’ve seen in a while. I’m used to natural wonders of the world (as I would cross into Canada about once a month for a legal adult beverage) and I chose Alicante partially for the sea. I like nature, and from my youth I always thought “I think I want my future husband to propose to me on the cliffs of Moher”.

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I went there, and my dream has been fortified. Congrats, little Ireland obsessed Keelin. You’ve officially raised the bar way too high for so many people. Good luck with that.

Paris was the end of our trip. At this point, I admit. I was exhausted. I was sick of never being alone, and the interest based differences between the three of us was starting to take a toll.

My favorite place to visit was Versailles and the Louvre. Two absolutely ridiculous palaces filled with amazing examples of art.

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But my favorite night was the second night. We had spent the day in Paris, I think it was when we went to Notre Dame and Sans Chappelle. We wanted to wait to go to our Air BnB outside the city, because we wanted to see the Eiffel Tower at night.

We ended up stumbling across this little Easter festival with shops and food (Crepes are both yummy and cheap). We talked to some people from Colombia, and then went and waited for the sun to finish setting. We sat on the edge of an overlook to the river, talked to some people and honestly enjoyed the city.

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To really know a city you have to live there. But you can take a few moments and grab a coffee in a corner or an ice cream, wander around and see more than what a tourist sees.

This is why I like that night. The rest of the time in Paris felt more like running around and trying to see things, instead of just being there and being together.

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So in the stressful things, there is good. In the good things, there are stress. The big picture is that it was a good time. The small moments of stress and disappointment won’t change that, because I won’t let them.

Also, PS, sirens have accents too.

 

 

 

Mostly Semana Santa

Yes, yes I haven’t posted in a while. April has been a little crazy. We have about three weeks off, and half of that time I spent trekking around Europe without my own laptop.

Now, after a brief period of recovery, I shall now play the catch-up.

So why do I have three weeks off, you ask?

Well, as much as some (many?) Americans believe that the United States is a Christian country let me tell you this. That’s a laughable concept here because while Spain isn’t exactly a practising Catholic country, there is no doubt that Catholic traditions have a bit of a vice grip on this culture.

I have three weeks off because of Semana Santa, Easter, and then this little thing called Santa Faz.

Let’s start with Semana Santa.

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So Semana Santa was the week preceding Easter. It’s the Holy Week. Every day during this week, there are multiple processions around dusk that navigate from one point in the city, back to the Church. They have a structure to them. There’s generally a marching band, some women in black who I believe are widows, and pasos. Large icons/statues from the life of Jesus that men (and sometimes women!) carry across the city.

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Streets shut down and instead of being filled with cars, they’re filled with the lovely smell of incense and the terrifying sight of the traditional robes.

Why are the traditional robes terrifying?

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Because this thing called the KKK stole them (maybe? probably?) and decided to use them for intimidation tactics. Google is giving me varying opinions on this fact they may have been appropriated, they may have been separate entities.

Either way, as an American it’s jarring to see little kids running around happily, their parents wearing these costumes, and sometimes even being chained together like this parent did to their child, in a not so creepy robe situation.

However, I do believe that incense adds a special touch to any parade. I had to go and invest in some more cold-weather clothes before I left, and I got trapped by a procession (these things go slow. The pasos can weigh lots of pounds) and while I wasn’t entirely used to the idea of what was going on, it was really interesting to see. There would be people giving candy to small children or very old women, people with their puppies, and just a general sense of togetherness.

I’m really glad that at Niagara I have to take religion classes. In intro to Christinanity, we talked about how culture and religion form, and how they bounce off of one another and are never really separate. So while people are separating from the religious aspect of these processions, believing less in the iconography, they’re still doing them because of the culture. It connects them as a people, which is really cool to see.

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It’s cool because, in Spain, people aren’t brought together by much. In the States, I’m used to a sense of bleeding patriotism that hurts your head after a while (sorry it’s true). Due to historical events (see Franquismo), there’s really very little sense of “Spain” except in two things, really. Soccer, and religious tradition.

After Semana Santa, there’s Easter. Which I was in Ireland for. So, unfortunately, I really cannot speak for Spanish Easter traditions. I’m pretty sure that there’s not really a bunny that brings them treats though. At least not gifts.

Then this week (today actually) which is Santa Faz.

Santa Faz is an Alicante thing. Apparently an 8km walk outside of the city there’s a thing called the Veil of Veronica. This is apparently a piece of fabric that was used to clean the face of Jesus while he was on his way to crucifixion. It’s really interesting how so many of these relics are all over Spain, and how many Spanish people don’t practise, but still care.

 The second Thursday after Easter Alicantinos, or those who just want to experience it the day, make a pilgrimage to the Monastery of Santa Faz. Since I am still recovering from my trip, I could not manage to get up in time to join, but I did see people returning from the hike. Also, the unfortunate part of today is that it’s cold. About 60degrees. Which sure, compared to the 30degrees is absolutely balmy, but I’m learning about what humidity actually does to heat.

I know this is short, but I’ll have more thoughts soon as I sadly zip towards the end of my time here in Spain. Obviously, there’s a lot to decompress and analyse. What is, (who I am) what was (who I was) what could have been, what could be.

But now is not the time for that here.

Two Months

I wrote a poem this time, because it’s how I felt.

IMG_2371Today I wandered down to the beach

To take some pictures of the waves,

To listen to them preach.

Because lately, I have been afraid.

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The world is scary, and so I feared

But now I know

How quickly it can revoked

What I have always revered.

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Thus I sat,

Toes entangled in the sand

Me in the liminal space of sea and land

I opened my journal, wrote the date

To which I found my mouth agape.

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I knew time had come to pass

I knew that this would not last

But how could I have managed not to grasp

The futility of future that had become the past?

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Days had passed, weeks, and months

So I sat upon the sand, stumped.

More has passed than will to come

And yet what have I really done?

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Sure I’ve lived, yes I’ve grown

But have I sown?

Time will tell, the answer yes.

Until then I shall do my best.

File Mar 26, 22 18 32

Aprovecharé será aproveché

En camino a mi propia calle.

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Friends in Cold Places

So a week ago I was in Barcelona. Why am I just talking about this now? Well, that’s because I’ve been writing this in my head all week. Part of being a writer is actually writing. So here we are. Obviously, if this is being viewed by eyes that are not my own, there’s either a ghost sitting over my shoulder as I write this, or I’ve written it. I really hope the latter.

(P.S. This is a long one.)

So a month or so ago, I got curious as to whether or not a friend of mine from home was around Europe. My friend’s name is Nate, and he graduated my freshman year. He was the first person I worked with on lighting things, and that’s my theatre technology. Stage Management is my production. So I’ve always looked up to Nate as a possibility of who I’ll (never) be- (because he’s a million times better at everything lighting technology than I am.) He taught me a lot, though, and sparked my real interest in lighting. So I thought if he was around maybe I could see him and learn about world tours. I want to specialize in international theatre. Anything helps.

So turns out he was scheduled to be in Barcelona the second weekend of March. I had that weekend off. Facebook messages back and forth, finding a friend to go with me (Katie!), train tickets and Air BnBs later- Katie and I are on our way to Barcelona to see Frozen on Ice (and Nate!!!).

So we decided to go on a Thursday night, have Friday and Saturday morning to explore a little, but really take it easy. Katie is going to Barcelona again at the end of the month with Mary, and I’m going at the end of my trip because that’s the city I’m flying out of. So we both decided, you know, we don’t have to go crazy this time. Which turned out to be a good thing.

Katie wasn’t feeling super well on Thursday, but it was one of those things that maybe she was just a little under the weather. Nothing major (or so I thought). Our first hint of how our weekend was going to go should have been when our taxi driver had to get out of the car to wake up another taxi driver who had a passenger in his car. One thing after another, it seemed, because Friday we wake up and she’s worse. So she calls Pepa as I’m getting ready for the day and we find that we should probably go to a clinic or a hospital. We eat breakfast and our lovely Air BnB host tells us the closest and best clinics. Katie decides that since it’s close, she wants to try Park Guell before we go to a doctor. Okay. Let’s try it.

One thing after another, it seemed, because Friday we wake up and she’s worse. So she calls Pepa as I’m getting ready for the day and we find that we should probably go to a clinic or a hospital. We eat breakfast and our lovely Air BnB host tells us the closest and best clinics. Katie decides that since it’s close, she wants to try Park Guell before we go to a doctor. Okay. Let’s try it.

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Park Guell is beautiful. What we didn’t really know were the restrictions on times for tickets. So this happened in Barcelona a lot, where you had to buy a ticket for a time to go in. Maybe it’s because I haven’t done much tourist-ing on my own or it’s that Europeans care more about their national treasures, but this happened at the Sagrada Familia too. (I digress). So we wandered the part of the park that you didn’t have to pay for, and we went into the Gaudi museum, aka his house before we even tried buying tickets.

His house was really cool. Each room had a chandelier that I fell in love with, for one. There was also so much intricate detail in the walls and so much floral detail that it makes sense that I started to believe that Barcelona was built by fairies. I loved it so much. There was a video playing that was a nun who took care of Gaudi’s home reflecting on the artist. It gave me a much more humanistic image of the man. He is one of the most important architects in history-yet that doesn’t mean he wasn’t a man. He was extremely religous, but I felt like he was the type of super-religious person that I could be friends with. He did his own thing and followed his own ideals, but at the core was kind and creative.

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This is the Gaudi I imaged walking through the park.

As we went on, Katie slowly got worse and worse. So we decided to buy our tickets to The Monumental zone (which is where you want to go when you to Barcelona) and had to wait an hour and a half to get in. So we found a cafe, I grabbed an orange juice and a water, and we wandered back up to find someplace to sit. Which wasn’t an entirely bad thing. Katie got to rest a little bit, but then we got a concert too. Which was interesting. The public, free areas of the park are full of people selling things, art, music, selfie sticks, food (I want the water sellers to have a competition to see who can say “agua/water one euro” the fastest). Which reminds you that Park Guell is a park. Even though it’s one of the most famous places in Barcelona and the world, and the Monumental Zone is heavily protected for its artistic importance, it’s still a park. It was meant for people to relax, it was meant for people to enjoy their day. It is almost sad, to be honest, that it’s so beautiful and so important culturally and artistically because it’s a tourist trap and locals can’t enjoy it as much as they probably would.

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I digress, though.

We rushed a little through the Monumental Zone, because I wanted to get pictures for people back home, and we paid for the tickets anyway. It was absolutely gorgeous. I really think that my next tattoo may be in the style of a Gaudi mosaic, but we’ll see what happens on this trip to maybe change that.

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Once we rush through the pretty parts and I fawn over how much I love taking pictures of details, Katie is not looking good. So I pull out my phone (which, to note, isn’t actually my phone because mine broke on Wednesday so it’s a phone I’m very unfamiliar with) and search the nearest clinic or hospital.

It’s a hospital. It’s close. I get Katie there as fast as I can, so she can sit down and rest.

This is the first real test in Spanish, to be honest. We survive. It’s funny how in a grammar class you feel like you’re drowning, but once you’re in the street you can get along just fine. We spend three hours there for antibiotics and ibuprofen. I think it’s important to note that it was ridiculously cheap compared to American healthcare, oh my god.

So on our way back to the flat, we find a Pharmacy. Katie gets her medicine, I pick up some deoderant because I somehow forgot mine. We get back, and she takes a shower to go to bed. I charge my phone up and write a bit, waiting until a reasonable time to go searching for food. Katie naps, and once I feel my phone is charged enough for me to be able to call for help if I need it-I go out for food.

This was one of the first lessons I learned about traveling: if you want to find the cheapest food, just get up and go. I wandered down towards the closest main street and found sandwiches for like 6.50euro each. Google was telling me only about places in the middle of the tourist traps-not the wonderful little place down the street. So, if I give you reader any advice don’t rely on your phone all the time for finding places. It’s great for when you’re trying to get to a landmark, but if you need food or a pharmacy, get up and go. You’ll find it.

After dinner, we play cards to kill time and relax. I teach Katie Rummy 500 and she teaches me Spit. Off to bed again to see what the morning will bring.

The morning brings Katie feeling worse. Which is to be expected. So she decides to spend the day sleeping so that she can go to the show. I decide to spend the day wandering around Barcelona. First I go to the Sagrada Familia.

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I’m a little awestruck by this place. Remember how I said I thought Gaudi and I could’ve gotten along? This place confirmed it. I’m not a religous person, and I’m not saying that the Sagrada Familia converted me; but I’m saying that Gaudi put something in that church that reflected the glory of God in a way that is both human and awesome. It’s something I agreed with. My favorite, and what explained it the best to me was that he didn’t want the tallest spire of the church to be taller than the tallest mountain in the Barcelona area, because the creation of man should not surpass the creation of God. Couple that with the pure magic of the church, I could get behind it.

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Barcelona was built by fairies. My theory grew stronger in that church. After, I decided to head towards the Gothic Quarter. I don’t think I really got there, I was mostly around La Rambla, but as I took my pictures I confirmed it. Barcelona was built by fairies trying to be human.

This is when I learned a lot about myself- when I was wandering around Barcelona alone. Sure, it may not have been the best idea. But it was daylight and I was careful. It proved that I was, 100% someone who could do these things on her own. I’ve always been the independent one-but there’s something different about being independent in your own city and in one whose main language you can barely speak. It honestly was the reason that I went to Murcia to fix my phone alone today. I could do it. I’m a grown a** woman, who just has a great deal of wonder left in her soul.

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I overpay for a cappuccino and a croissant, and people watch on the Rambla before returning to Katie. This is when I wondered if all Americans sound stupid or if it’s just most of them (update: just the loud ones. Don’t be a loud person if you’re a tourist. That’s a really great way to get targeted). Sitting there, though, alone and watching the people around me; it was relaxing and fulfilling. Not only could I get around Barcelona on my own, but I could get to know it for a moment-at least from the tourist perspective. This is also the human perspective. I think one of the most fascinating things about studying abroad is how stereotypes are both confirmed and destroyed. Yes, Americans are loud- but so are a lot of people from the U.K. Generally all tourists over the age of 45 wear the typical socks and sandals, or sneakers and visors get up-no matter what country they’re from. As you sit on La Rambla in any city-people are broken down and mushed together. You are you and they are them, and at the end of the day we’re all human.

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So-back to Katie. She slept a lot that day. She got up, I freshened up and changed. Then we got going.

This part has no pictures because Katie wasn’t feeling well, and I didn’t have my iphone. So sorry about that, everyone. But I’ll add something at the end.

This was interesting part #2 of the trip. Because I took us to the wrong place. The company that brought the show to Barcelona had a headquarters that was not the skating rink. Why did I not look at this more closely? Overconfidence I guess.

Nate had told us to get there at 7:00 to get our tickets. Well, it was 6:45 and we were not close enough to anywhere to get there on time.

So thankfully I had cash for a taxi. We got there right at seven. (There being Palau San Jordi. One of the central places for figure skating in the world. Also where the held the 1992 Olympics. Not a big deal).

Come to find out we could’ve gotten there at 7:15 but Nate thought the show was earlier.

Silly Nate.

So I catch up with him quickly before he has to go and take care of lights. Katie and I go to go in, maybe find something to munch on.

I glance at our tickets. 12:00 on the ticket. It’s a 7:45 show (19:45 to Europeans).

Oh no.

We’re sent to this little pop up ticket office in between the entrances.

Spanish test #2.

I tell them that my friend works for the show, and they ask for his name. Talk to production people. We’re good, but we have to wait.

Someone comes to find us and starts talking to us in Spanish. I respond. We make some small talk. I tell him my friend works for the show, and he’s like “the company?” and I’m like “yeah?” and this guy was like “Spanish is okay?”

There’s a small sense of pride when you can communicate in Spanish. Like I said about the hospital visit- grammar classes make you want to poke your eyes out. But then you can get your tickets sorted out, your hospital bills taken care of, and you can order your favorite drink with a wink.

Life works out nicely that way. It’s such a nice confidence boost, too.

We’re sent to the “bad” seats. I don’t mind because the sightlines let me see backstage and I’m creepy like that. Before the show, I go and find food and try to find Nate up at the board, because of course, he’s on the opposite side of the arena of us. I end up running back and forth like three or four times.

Turns out, it wasn’t Nate who messed up the tickets (which I did see the ticket request) but the guy who sets them aside. Nate took my one ticket as proof, the other one got thrown out with the food on accient, and so I only have the envelope as proof. But it’s there. I promise. 12:00hrs. Not 19:45hrs. But it’s okay. It was an experience.

But the show starts. Did I mention it was in Spanish? Which was fascinating. Of course, I know Frozen. I grew up on Disney and gleefully still support the franchise. However, being able to pick apart the translations was a little mind boggling.

That all stopped when we got to Libre Soy and the entire stadium is full of little children singing the song in Spanish that you’re used to little children singing in English.

Heartwarming and creepy at the same time. Mostly heartwarming.

I find Nate at intermission. We talk tech things. I miss talking tech things.

I go back to my seat and watch the second half of the show. It’s impressive, but it wasn’t what I remembered Disney on Ice to be. It was almost like when I saw Annie again after ten years of varying theatre experience. The image of these shows in your mind is so idealized and then it breaks. But it’s still impressive. You don’t take doing a backflip on ice skates, on ice, lightly. You appreciate it for the magic, but because you know how the magic is made.

After the show we got a quick tour backstage. I asked Nate more tech questions. Katie asked the typical production questions- and even some I didn’t think of. The most impressive thing being that the skaters have to learn the scripts in every language. It’s all lip sung, but they’re in a country for maybe a week and then they move on.

So many languages.

So many words.

So much impressive.

We meet up with the Master Electrician and a small, blonde, smiley (but still looks like she can kill you to be honest…) woman from Chester (not Manchester. Chester) (I am so sorry I am awful with names, I can’t remember anyone’s.) Nate and I talk, Katie trails about, piping in now and then. She’s still sickly, and honestly, she’s dealing with a version of me that people don’t know here.

During Tapas it was even more interesting. We end up being a group of seven. Katie and I order for everyone (the waitress thanked us because while she can speak English, Spanish is easier). The smiley blonde is impressed. I ask at some point who everyone is. A mix of technicians, oh and smiley blonde is a skater.

Katie upon hearing this is fascinated. It was really cute seeing her being kinda star struck. I admit, that being a skater for ice shows is impressive in so many ways, but I’m used to being around impressive people. My friends are ridiculously talented people. So when one more pops up it’s not the same for me as it is for someone who isn’t just immersed in this world. So it’s actually a good reminder for me that Katie was so starstruck. These people are ridiculously talented. They’re people. But they’re talented.

Anyway, we talk more. I learn about touring. We reminisce a little bit about home.

Home. It’s a funny word. In Barcelona it means Alicante. In Alicante it generally means Niagara. At Niagara it means where my parents are. With my parents, it means the house, but also sometimes Niagara. However, there, in Barcelona, I felt at home. Completely at home.

Which is to say, it’s not like I don’t feel at home in Alicante. Because I do. The fact is, though, so much of who I am is a theatre person. Sitting around that table in Barcelona reminded me how that doesn’t leave me. We’re a special, weird breed. I admit. Theatre people work hard, but also have fun. We’re perpetual children, but still adults. We just have more permission, I think, to retain our wonder and childishness through our extreme capacities for passion.

For the first time in months, I was back in my waters for an hour or so.

Nate covers our dinner (thank you so much), and we leave a little early for Spain time because Katie is sick and we have a six-hour train ride at 11:00AM.

We leave Barcelona the next morning.

I think I see a fairy.

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I am back in Alicante and I’m left wondering how any of that actually happened.

Which is what happens a lot here.

How is this happening? 

How am I here? 

I can’t question it too much or I’ll get into issues of reality, but the world never ceases to amaze me.

And I love it.

(Thank you so much, Nate. I learned a ton, and it was amazing to see you again)

 

 

 

 

Granada was Gray-te

Before I begin, this is a hasty one. I’m off to Barcelona for the weekend. Secondly, this weekend was an amazing opprotunity to dip back into photography. So while I learned a lot, I admit my paying attention was limited due to my pictures.

So let’s begin.

This past Saturday, I dragged myself out of bed at some ungodly hour of the morning to walk myself to Luceros at another, later, but still ungodly hour of the morning. While I was exhausted for deciding to be up until one o’clock the morning before, I didn’t want to be anywhere else. I was on my way to Granada.

 

There are a few places we learn about as we “grow up” in our Spanish educations. Barcelona, Madrid, sometimes other cities like Toledo or Cordoba, but one of the cities renowned for its history and art has always been Granada.

So as our six-hour bus ride through the southern Spanish interior rolled along, I managed to nap somehow. Between switching uncomfortable positions, I still found myself marveling at the world around me. I guess it’s a good thing that barely any day passes where I’m not thrilled to be on this adventure. Some days it does feel normal, and normal is not the best thing for an interesting life.

Despite the impending rain (which I did not pack for because “it never rains in Alicante”) I was buzzing. Saturday we didn’t have a very tight mandatory schedule, it was our free time. Sure, I was going to go on the tours of the Chapel and the Cathedral with the “official things the group offers” but what I was really excited for was Sunday. We were going to La Alhambra.

 

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Streets of Granada

 

But Saturday had to happen first, and so it did.

We had lunch at the hotel, the first time I had actual spaghetti since being in Europe, and then some siesta time before the tours started. They knew we were tired. I’m lucky in that I’m very used to traveling long distances in cars. So while my friends were a more exhausted, I was freshened up and ready to go in no time flat. Armed with my camera, I braved the chance of rain with a group of friends to make our way to the Royal Chapel and the Cathedral of Granada.

 

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I just haven’t seen a more European picture come from my travels yet

 

Unfortunately, in both places, my camera was not allowed to be used inside. I have no idea why, and I’m not bitter about it. At all. Nope.

 

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This is my rebellious picture from inside the Chapel…but not the fancy part where they would have an issue with

 

But I learned a lot. The struggle with European history and especially Spanish history is where the power came from. Spain was a global power because of its colonization of the North American continent. Which means all of the indigenous people that were killed and stripped of their cultures. So when we were in the chapel, listening to Pepa explain the rise of Spanish power through the marriage of Isabel and Ferdinand, then through their grandchildren, you’re like “Great! Cool! But they were the reason a lot of people died and a lot of cultures were lost!” but also it’s like “Really interesting cultures have grown from this too, and you can’t change the past!” It’s an internal conflict that you just deal with. You look at the history and you take it in. You take it, you analyze it, you learn from it, and while you may get angry, it’s an anger you use to change the future, rather than sitting and stewing about it.

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Outside and Across the Street from the Chapel

Anyway, the chapel was pretty- and ostentatious as baroque architecture always is. Plus, we got to see the caskets of Ferdinand and Isabel, you know, the first King and Queen of what we now know as Spain. Their grandchildren as well. It reminded me a lot of Mount Rushmore in Washington. An eternal honoring of the long-dead. Look at where we are, look at where we started… (Lin Manuel Miranda, Hamilton). Which, I think is both awesome and weird. Sit and contemplate the question of “When is it appropriate to stop honoring the dead?” for a bit like I have been. It’ll keep you occupied for a while. Or cause an existential crisis, but whatever works best for you.

 

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The Cathedral is huge and my camera was not ready for it 

 

Continuing on, we had the Cathedral. Which was one of the biggest places I have ever seen. We forget how big they liked to make things. I was actually talking to our tour guide, Estella, about the architecture at one point. How I thought neo-classical was almost funny because they wanted to be like the Greek and Romans, but they were just smaller because they really couldn’t. I’m not sure if it translated, but it was really nice to talk to someone about architecture. Thanks for starting that obsession, Niagara. That will never end.

So after the Cathedral (which, again, no pictures and I was really getting tired so I remember very little of this) we had the choice of going for a paseo ( in the rain) or making the most of our free time not with the adults. We chose the latter, making our way to Little Morrocco to check out the shopping before heading back to the hotel for dinner and rest before the evening.

Little Morocco is pretty cool. I’m not saying I know what Morocco is like (just yet) but it was like stepping into another world for a moment.

What I love about Granada in general, was the blending of cultures across time. This brings me to my next adventure: the Flamenco show. A lot of Spanish people don’t like flamenco. Which, I can understand. For one, most people associate Spain with bullfighting and flamenco dancing. These are two things the everyday person doesn’t exactly know much about, or even care about. But it’s what the outside world sees. But, it doesn’t mean that it’s not cool. Plus, flamenco is a little more ethical than bullfighting.

So before the show, which was at 11:00PM because Spain time, we went for a tour of the Jewish Barrio of town. Which was gorgeous by night; white buildings and old streets lit by moonlight and scored by people. There I got my first view of La Alhambra by night and nearly cried at how beautiful it was. But Sunday I actually went to La Alhambra and nearly cried so we’ll talk about that then.

 

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The flamenco show was in a CAVE

 

Then we made our way to where the Flamenco show was. Which was in a cave, mind you. We learned a little bit on the bus ride into Granada about how flamenco took off in I believe it was the 17th century. No one knows from where exactly it came from, but that it has roots in Jewish, Muslim and Romani (Gypsy) culture. So it would explain how the dancing and rhythms were so completely foreign to me-but it still worked. In my head, the clapping and the stomping didn’t go together with the fandango being sung.

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Yet you found it, somewhere in you, the strangeness found normalcy, transitioning to familiarity. It was beautiful, celebratory, and the energy the room shared was intoxicating. That’s what all of this is about, anyway, isn’t it? The strange becoming normal, the foreign becoming familiar, and you growing as a human being because of it.

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We got back around one AM. Sleep. Breakfast. Then what I’d been waiting for.

La. Alhambra.

For a bit of context, La Alhambra is a complex. Granada is a city that, over the years, has been home to many different cultures and groups of people. It makes sense to know that Granada means pomegranate in Spanish. The fruit of the city is the pomegranate-and when you open it you have lots of little, beautiful parts. The city was like that, and so is La Alhambra. In the massive complex, you have beautiful gardens, Islamic palaces, a medieval castle, and a renaissance palace (to say the least). Over the years it has been a location that instead of being conquered, it was incorporated. Granted, parts were destroyed for the sake of destroying the Islamic religion in Spain, but more of it than not has been kept in its unique splendor over the years.

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So we started with the lower gardens, the Generalife, which over the years has been used for rest and relaxation by the sultans and the upper class of society. Here, a more contemporary stage has been added for events.

It’s magical. I finally was able to take pictures of plants again. Cue my happiness and subsequent not-actually-paying-attention. (Whoops)

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We moved on from there, because there was actually a lot, we made a quick stop at the Palace of Carlos V, King of Spain. Renaissance architecture. Lovely doric columns for those of you who care about those.

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Next was the 9th century medieval castle part. This is where I found out how those arrow slits actually work. Also, the stairs. I’m not sure which class we talked about it, but there was something about the particular construction of medieval stairs in towers. The gist is, they’re very easy to walk down. Walking up? Not so much.

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But walking up, you get the best views. I got to see La Alhambra from the city, and the city from La Alhambra.

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But the next part was the Palace of the Sultans, which to me is the most beautiful part of the entire complex.

I like geometric patterns in art. For my entire life I’ve been attracted to the winding and weaving of Celtic patterns. A step east of that? You get the marvelous and miraculous Islamic art. In the religion, it’s not appropriate (traditionally) to re-create humans and animals in their artwork.

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So you get lots of calligraphy, geometric patterns, and beautiful nature-based artwork. So again, as I was vaguely listening to the history, I was snapping away.

After we finished at the Palace of the Sultan, we walked down to the city (which wasn’t a very long walk at all) which felt like it was a super long and difficult walk because lo and behond we had been at La Alhambra for nearly four hours. The entire time on our feet.

I bought a journal (because that’s becoming a habit of mine) and a necklace with a beautiful pattern inspired by La Alhambra. Then it was the six hour drive home.

A whirlwind, but a good one.

I ended up taking 975 photos over the weekend. Which deleted down to 790.

So here’s a series of some of my favorites, edited and unedited. Also, for your benefit (and mine) here’s a link to the official “know things about the pictures I took” because one day, I’ll learn how to pay attention and take pictures.

http://www.alhambra-patronato.es/index.php/Know-the-Alhambra/9+M5d637b1e38d/0/

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El Rey Gatito 🙂

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An Introvert and Carnaval

All I need now is to go run with some bulls and Pamplona and I’ll be set for life, right?

This weekend was Carnaval. Before I get too into what that actually means for la gente here in Spain, let’s get into a quick “What is Carnaval?”

So Carnaval is the modern offshoot of a Greek/Roman holiday called Saturnalia, which was a winter holiday to celebrate Cronus/Saturn (upon further googling, much more of a Roman holiday). Basically, Saturnalia was just a big party.

Eventually, it turned into “baile de la carne” which is where the word Carnaval comes from. What does baile de la carne translate to, my non-Spanish speaking friends?

Dance of the Flesh.

Basically, Carnaval is the “last hoorah” and the “big party” before lent, because while many Spanish people aren’t practicing Catholics, they’re very much a Catholic culture.

For those of you who know me, you understand how phrases like “last hoorah” and “big party” make Keelin feel.

But when in Rome, right?

So we planned our costumes over the course of February. Changing it from one giant group costume to little subgroups of fun. You forget how short February is, even abroad. (Also, side note, being a theater person doesn’t automatically make you good at costumes. Costumes for me are this pretty and magical mystery that I respect but know little more about than being able to say “that’s Cavalier because there’s a lot of bows and big hats”)

(I digress.)

I went with my friend Mary as a vague masquerade theme. She was black and gold, I was black and silver. I say vague because we really didn’t’ want to buy anything over 5euro that I wouldn’t use again. That being said, I did buy an outfit I would wear again. Mary borrowed a dress from another friend. It was great because now I have another black dress to add to my collection. (I have a lot of black dresses and I am very happy with this fact).

After I did Mary’s hair, she, Katie and I went first went out to experience the daytime activities (around 5:00, Spain time is a little skewed).

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Katie as Barbie and Mary as “masquerade”

This was Carnaval for the kiddies, and honestly, I enjoyed this part a lot more. There was a magician earlier on, balloons and candy being sold everywhere, as well as constant happy kid friendly music. Honestly, it was just a lot of fun to see the kids having fun.

Imagine Holloween, but not scary. Halloween came from a pagan holiday of protection, where they needed to scare the evil spirits away and hide their true identity. Carnaval is based in pure fun; it’s more like a celebration of life. Of course, some costumes are going to be scary. Some parts of life are scary, and scary can be fun too.

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Balloons EVERYWHERE

So we wandered around La Rambla in the city, and I took some pictures of kids that were really adorable. There was a concert for the kids that made me miss theatre so much because it reminded me of my summer job working on children’s shows. There’s just something beautiful about watching a little kid’s unjaded joy. Plus it was so much fun seeing the kids and the family costumes. It really is a holiday about enjoyment. which I appreciated.

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Kids are SO CUTE 

 

Which brings me to the evening. So after a quick dinner at home, I went out for wine with part of our group as we waited for the rest of them to be done with their dinners.

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Yay for vino!

Then we all went to Mary’s to retouch our makeup and share skills and YAY PICTURES.

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The big group before the Adult Nighttime festivities. Photo Courtesy of Mary D’Orvilliers. 

So then we went out, and like any good group of twenty-something-year-old girls; we eventually got separated into two groups of four. The group I was with ended up wandering around the barrio and got some free drinks because of bars trying to get us to spend money. Eventually, we found the cheap place called Parabarap or Parabarat (I call it Parabacrap now but hey, that was my mood) we had some mojitos, danced a little, then went to a concert that really was not my type of music. But you do you hard rockers of Spain. You do you.

A few of us ended the night early (I got home around 3:00AM, again, Spain time is skewed) but what I can to tell you is that I’ve lived in this city for two months now. I have never seen so many people packed into one place. Like, I don’t even have a picture because it wasn’t the time, but there’s a little strip between the city and the sea that’s a bit of a park-area. Probably the size of a suburban road. It was packed with people. I refused to dive into that mess because honestly, the night was enough of a “too many intoxicated people nightmare” for my personality to handle. Really. Not fun for the introvert who doesn’t like drinking that much in the first place.

But I did have fun. And I can say I  experienced Carnaval. All I need now is to go run with some bulls and Pamplona and I’ll be set for life, right?