Tag Archives: spain 2011

Galicia Profunda (Pontevedra, Ourense, and a little bit of Lugo)

El tiempo vuela…

 

Plaza America (Vigo).

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were a wonderful time nonetheless and it was great to spend time with the grandparents and hear their stories of when they lived in New York.  Andrea was positively hyper due to gifts from Papa Noel and the sugar rush from all of the turron.  A day later, it was time to bid farewell to everyone (and avoid an Iberia strike) and head back to the US.  Saying goodbye at the airport was extremely difficult (we were all crying), but I try to remember that it is not a true goodbye and I will see my Spanish family again sooner than I expect.

Oh, how I love Cádiz.

Ahh, Cádiz.  It may have been upwards of 40 degrees centigrade, but at least that deceptive breeze from the sea kept me temporarily cool (and duped me into thinking I wouldn’t need to reapply sunscreen…oops).

 

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Cádiz is unique in that many of the sights to see are spread out, rather than concentrated in one central location.  The beach is quite a distance from the cathedral, the cathedral quite a haul from some of the museums, etc.  Unfortunately, time was of the essence here; this is what happens when you only have a week off from school and want to see as much as humanely possible.  With only 24 hours at my disposal, I had to be efficient.

 

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Catedral de Cádiz: Definitely a humble cathedral in comparison to many of the others that I have seen in Spain.  That crypt, however…oh boy, how creepy.  The echoes, weird shadows cast along the walls – I didn’t spend too long down there.  If you walk across the plaza, you are able to enter the cathedral’s museum, which has all sorts of artwork and religious articles from the 15th century through the 19th century.

 

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Museo de Cádiz: I was amazed by the sheer number of Phoenician and Roman artifacts in this museum.  I was also impressed by how advanced many of the tools from this period were.  The museum also contains some modern artwork, the juxtaposition of which was very interesting.

 

I also can’t believe how content my stomach was from this particular trip.  Lightly fried seafood and albondigas de merluza (and beer and wine to cool down, naturally)…mmm.  Looks like shopping for all of the clothes I’ll need in Chicago will have to wait if I want to have anything close to an accurate measurement of my actual suit size.

 

Speaking of shopping, my dear dad had given me all sorts of random things this weekend that I’ve been toting around in a very heavy backpack.  I just couldn’t take it anymore and caved – I bought another piece of luggage.  At least I can now justify purchasing those espadrilles…

 

Córdoba…the British are coming?

The title of this entry is half-serious.  My first observation: There were SO many Brits in Córdoba.  My second observation: Good God, everything is at least twice the price of anything in Galicia.  A friend that I made on this leg of the journey, Luis, explained to me that there is a correlation between the two.  Wealthy British folks have made Córdoba their home and as a result, the city is like a modern-day Babel AND a can of Kas is 2 euros.

You call THIS a tortilla?!  Womp womp.

3) I ate the Famous Ray’s Original “The Real Deal” version of tortilla espanola.  And it was not pretty.  I’ll have to Yelp it.

4) There’s apparently a hipster bar in Córdoba, where one can drink cheap beer (if the beer in Spain isn’t cheap enough already!) and listen to indie dance tunes.  Cool!

5) It was 45 degrees centigrade.  In the shade.  I’ll let the Yanks do the temperature conversion on that one.

6) That Andalucian accent “drop the d” thing is catchy.  I wish I could speak like that.

After two action-packed days in Córdoba, it was time to move along to my next destination: Cádiz.  At the risk of sounding like a nerd, I’m on the edge of my seat awaiting the results from my exam!

 

A little bit of Córdoba…

Fountains at the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos

 

…with tales of my travels to follow shortly!

Playa America > Playa Misericordia

Playa Misericordia in Málaga.

 

Even though the water in Galicia is about 10 degrees centigrade, the beaches are much better maintained than they are in Málaga.  Although the beaches are very picturesque in Málaga, a lot of people litter (unfortunately) and the sand is pretty rocky.  With that said, I am now somewhere between amber and crimson in color…

…and then it was off to Málaga

After a lot of San Juan revelry, my first Spanish exam, and an “eventful” night, I was running awake for 48 hours with 2 hours of sleep.  As I like to say, there’s nothing a little caffeine can’t fix.  At 5:45am, I was off to the airport for the first stop on my Andalucian adventure: Málaga.  An even better treat: my dad made a stop in Spain to hang out with me on Saturday.

 

After catching up over a caña with my dad, we headed over to a tapas bar (El Tapeo de Cervantes) for dinner.  My dad and I caught up on life and strategized my move to Chicago.  (I honestly have no idea how I am going to pull this off.)  It only took two days for me to be known as a “regular” here and to have the bartender sneaking single malts my way.

 

Next stop: Córdoba!

A Day in the Life…

What a busy week it has been!  I’ve just completed my first week of classes; it’s mentally exhausting to sit in class for 4+ hours every day, trying to absorb as much information as possible.  Most of the time, I need an afternoon nap to feel refreshed enough to tackle the assignments and review my notes.  It’s really important that I do not fall behind though – on August 19, the Cervantes Institute administers an exam for a certificate in Spanish (DELE) that is globally recognized.  If I want to study at IE in Madrid for a semester, I need to pass this exam!

 

In the midst of all of the studying, I’ve been able to go on a few small excursions in Vigo and Gondomar.  The pictures below were taken at the Count of Gondomar’s mansion.  The mansion was constructed in the 16th century; the park and surroundings have the feel of an old horror movie (especially since we visited at dusk).  It’s a shame that the buildings have not been maintained over the years; I believe that the property could make for a great museum.

Oriana knows of the best places to find churros in Vigo.

 

 

Speaking of hiking through parks, I’m convinced that walking around Galicia is better for you than a P90X workout.  All I do is walk up hills with a minimum of a 30 degree grade (or so it seems).  At least I can be one of those parents that will tell their kids, “When I was your age, I walked uphill to class, 6 kilometers under the beating hot sun…”

 

Ah yes, and I’ve been eating very well.  Jose, the father of the host family, is an outstanding cook.  We’ve made a deal that he will teach me a few of his specialties (apparently top-secret) if I do the cooking one day.  No pressure or anything!

Hasta pronto!

I am at the airport; ready to board my flight.  I’ve been a bundle of nerves the past few days, but I feel much calmer now that I’m here and on my way.

 

I’m really looking forward to this summer.  In addition to taking courses in Vigo, I plan to take trips to the south of Spain and possibly Madrid to do a bit of networking.

 

Although Spain was “neutral” during World War II (and I put neutral in quotes), it should be interesting to be in Europe for D-Day.  As a history buff, I’m always curious to see how other cultures honor important dates in history.

 

Alright, it is time to shut the laptop down and be on my way.  I’ll be posting next from Vigo and sharing my stories with you all summer long!

On Dreams, Goals, and the Year of Action

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” – Paulo Coelho, “The Alchemist

 

2011 is what I have dubbed as “The Year of Action.”  It’s become common to hear people talk about their long-term goals, their dreams, what they ultimately aspire to do or be as though it is some unattainable, unrealistic, out-of-reach end state.  I’ve grown tired of forming conditional statements: “IF I do this…”  There is no “if.”  I WILL do this.

Almost time to surrender the passport…

What am I doing exactly?  I am going to live in Spain this summer, where I will be enrolled in various business and legal Spanish courses.  I also plan to network and make contacts while I am there.  There will be plenty of opportunities for fun because I am only kilometers from the Rias Baixas wine region and the beach.  Seems easy enough – all I do is fill out a few forms online and I’m living the good life in Pontevedra, right?

 

I wish!  The planning process itself has taken a few months – securing a host family and obtaining an acceptance letter from the university.  From there, I have been taking the necessary steps to apply for a visa.  The first step was having an FBI background check performed and getting fingerprinted.  (You can read my Yelp review if you need a little comedic relief.)  Next steps will include scheduling an appointment at the Spanish Consulate, getting interviewed, and paying for all of these courses (ouch).

 

Inevitably, there are moments when excuses and doubt surface, both internally and from others discouraging me.  

 

“Dana, you’ve been so busy with work, do you really have time to do this?”  

“Dana, this is really expensive.  Are you sure this is how you want to spend your savings?  Do you really think you’ll be fluent when you come back to the States?”  

That’s all in my head, but when others say, “Dana, you’re committing career suicide.  Why would you leave your current situation for something where the magnitude of the benefits is unknown?” I feel as though I am making the wrong decision.

 

Whenever these thoughts arise, I have to ignore them and even prove them wrong.  Okay, I’ll stay up an hour later each evening if it means I need to devote more time to confirming logistics for my trip.  I won’t go out as much on the weekends or make any more Louboutin acquisitions in order to save money.  And because fluency is one of my top-priority goals, I am determined and will do everything in my power to practice once I’m back in the States.

 

When I first started the “living abroad” process, it was extremely daunting and borderline intimidating.  It’s a lot to risk.  But then I thought ahead to 30 years from now.  Inevitably, I would feel regret and be unable to live with myself for not living life to the fullest, allowing fear to paralyze me, or disregarding my dreams.

 

As Coelho also said, “It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”  I am looking forward to my time in Pontevedra and am sure if nothing else, it will make for a good story or two.

 

What are you doing to pursue your dreams?  What will you be up to in 2011?  Leave me a comment and let me know what you think.

 

un intermedio…

Pardon my departure from traditional themes, but I do have a bit of news to share with you.

First of all, I am well on my way (about 80% there) to securing my visa and to be a student at the University of Vigo this summer.  This is Plan D, assuming that Plans A through C do not occur.

It was actually someone who was once dear to me who taught me the valuable lesson to not vest myself completely in one thing.

So, in the midst of everything that has been happening, I have a contingency plan and have worked to 1) secure a visa to live in Spain, 2) secure a host family in the region of Spain that I feel would be most beneficial to my career goals, and 3) enroll in a school where I will be taking relevant courses towards my career goals.

But as I reflect on the past month or so, where I have had the opportunity to collect my thoughts, create a comic book (storyline, sketches, to final product…it was all me!), create a board game (playing card copy, board game design, tokens, the BOX the game comes in…yup, I did it!), and be involved in some pretty great initiatives, I have achieved something I am very proud of.

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Stern Top Chef Pizza Challenge: a success!

Picture this: I have been given the tremendous responsibility of publicizing the recent undergraduate alumni council’s biggest social event of 2010.  It took some deft maneuvering around a lot of the red tape that working for an organization as large as Stern presents, but I managed.  Viral and grassroots approaches were the sure way to go.  So as I tweeted, emailed, posted to Facebook, formulated contests to create incentives to participation, wondering if this all ultimately mattered…it came together…

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My good friend Alvin (who so kindly hooked me up with Rockmelt!) competing for the guts and the glory.  His team won second prize!

Things have been quite tumultuous on the leadership side of Stern administration of late.  In any case, towards the beginning of our event (which I had arrived early to prepare and set up for), no one from the administration was around to man the door.  So what did I do?  I greeted, checked all of our attendees in, and did some shameless plugging for our social media presence (man, did those Photoshop skills come in handy for the fliers I ran out of!).  With the help of Scott, I also made sure that plenty of moments were immortalized via my digital camera.  The event was a TREMENDOUS success.  We have not had turnout like this in quite some time.  Many of the attendees were first-time recent undergraduate alumni participants, which meant that I had done my part to foster meaningful engagement (and hopefully retention!).  I had never seen a collective group having so much fun and enjoying themselves.  Maybe it was the open bar, which I have successfully marketed to the finance community as “admission price arbitrage,” but I’d like to hope it’s something greater than that.

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What do you mean you don’t like your pizza well-done?!

So what does this one whopper of a tangent have to do with anything remotely relevant to this blog?  This one particular achievement has further motivated me to excel and pursue the things that are important to me.  So, I am pursuing plans A through C, but you know what, in case those don’t work out, I have a wonderful opportunity in Galicia lined up for me.  I had to work for every single bit of this, but has it been worth it?  Without a doubt, yes.

Which leads me to another tangent, which may possibly be a Plan E…from talking to one of my best friends, half-jokingly, about starting a pretty interesting concept for a bar.  What was once a joke about me still rocking my “Cheer Up Emo Kid” patches, Buddy Holly glasses, and belting out Morrissey after a few beers may soon become a reality.  Stay tuned, everybody!

So back to where I started.  Clear your calendars from May to August if you’re interested in Albariño wine, hanging out on the beach, and learning Portuguese and Galician and perfecting your Spanish with me.