Sunday, October 14, 2012

More than Skin Deep

This is a little bit of a tangent, I'll admit it, but I had a conversation today that sparked my passion, and I need to stand with my megaphone for a moment or two.

You are beautiful. You are so much more than what you look like on the outside, or what someone else judges you to be. You are a marvelous and wonderful being, full of so much life, and beauty and potential. This world is better off because you are in it.

My dear blog reader, I wish I could be sitting next to you, looking in your eyes and telling you this in a way that would reach to your soul, that somehow you could hear it, internalize it and never doubt it.

Today, I had a conversation with a friend about the judgments someone passed on another based on solely their looks. This comment wasn't even directed at my friend, rather a third person, but still these comments still provoked doubt and uncertainty in my beautiful, cool, confident friend. She is incredibly tough, and beautiful way beyond skin deep. She understands that person A was being incredibly shallow and immature. However, as we both noted, this drives us crazy. Person A making these comments creates a culture where girls-women, constantly question their image, because somehow we have decided that image determines self-worth. These comments create a culture where women, living in a foreign culture, with amazing new food, are self-conscious and worried about gaining weight.

My soapbox is this: you are infinitely and unaleinably beautiful. Your body is a wonderful part of who you are, but it is only a part. You are beautiful for the way you smile, what your laugh sounds like, the jokes you make, how you help other people, that little quirk you have that makes you uniquely you. Believe it. Hold onto it.

You are beautiful!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Osos y La Sella

This past weekend I soaked up the wonderful late-summer weather with a couple of wonderful adventures. On Saturday afternoon, my host mom and I drove a couple of towns over to see the bears (osos) of Asturias. The two girl bears were rescued after their mother died, and have lived on the reserve all their lives, and the male bear, Furaco, was a gift to Asturias in hopes that he and Tula or Paca might produce baby bears. No such luck yet, but all three live on the reserve, and a park has been built around it, with biking and walking trails to see the bears and the gorgeous surrounding countryside. 
Furaco about to take a swim

The beautiful Asturian countryside

On Sunday, I was lucky enough to have another awesome adventure. With a group of international students from the University of Oviedo I kayaked for the first time, down the River Sella. I didn't realize until later that there is an internationally famous kayak race that happens here every year, I just appreciated passing a wonderful day with my friends. It was warm enough to be able to swim, but not so warm that we were uncomfortable. Plus, the entire 16k route was gorgeous! 
We stopped at this really awesome footbridge over the river and went exploring! 

My awesome partner gathering chi from the raging river!

The views were simply breathe-taking. For the whole six hours we kept saying "this is what it means to be alive. We are 20 years old, in Spain and living, this is so cool!"


Life is good here in Oviedo. It's hard to believe that I arrived just two weeks ago today, so much has happened in such a short amount of time. I'd like to introduce you all to mi familia, my family here in Oviedo. This is my host family, Eugenio, Olga, me, my host-sister Yumi, who is from Japan, and her friend, Natsuki.

I am so happy here, especially at home. I've been truly blessed with a wonderful, amazing host family, and they make the transition and accompanying culture shock so much easier! Life is good!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

La Fin de Semana

So much has happened in the past couple of days that it seems unreal that it's only been a long weekend since I arrived. I had more flight trouble coming to Oviedo, and didn't get in until 1am on Thursday morning. Thankfully, I have a truly amazing host family, and my parents drove half an hour out to the airport to pick me up. Thursday was orientation, and then Friday and Saturday we went on an excursion to the western part of our state, Asturias. 

At the Basillica at the shrine of La Virgen de Covadonga, a super important site to Asturias. 

The locals and other volunteers shared some of their lunch with us, including Cabrales, the cheese you can see Luis getting. It is famous, and is from Asturias. The flavor is very strong, and it smells and tastes like goat. I liked it, but couldn't eat very much of it.

After doing a service project in the morning, my group went out and climbed on the rock on the left, and then went swimming in this bay of the Atlantic Ocean!
My group had decided to stay after the volunteer project, so instead of taking the bus we took the train across the state back to Oviedo! These are my friends, Anna and Rachel. We had so much fun, and it felt so much like this is what study abroad is supposed to be about, talk with the local, swim in the ocean, drink cafe con leche and ride the train through the countryside. So amazing! 

Today, Sunday my family went on our own mini excursion to the coast, which was a total blast! It has been an amazing, overwhelming, fantastic time in Spain so far! 
This is my family: Eugenio (my dad), Olga (my mom) Natski (my sister's best friend here), and Yumi (my sister).

This is the last of the coastal areas we went to before exploring a town and heading back to Oviedo. It was so cool because nowhere we went was super touristy, it was all local areas. As my mom put it, it wasn't a tourist route, it was 'the Olga y Eugenio ruta'. 

I love it here!


In Transit: Italia

The first thing I noticed when I stepped off the plane in Rome was the humidity. It was warmer, and there was significantly more moisture in the air then there had been in London. This is also a very busy airport. There are people going every direction, all the time. Due to my changing plans and unusual circumstances, I had to go through immigration, pick up my bag, and then go check in again with a different airline. The first part of that was easy, I managed to get in a fast line and just breezed through. My bag however, must have been one of the last off the airplane. After all of the trouble I’ve had over the past couple of days, the wait for it was making me nervous. While I watched, I thought about something my brother said before I left, and tried to decide on a name for my bag.  This is what she looks like, she's on the bottom:

Right now I’m torn between Tulip and Hope. Opinions?

Anyway, after that I finally made it out, and then found out that my airline doesn’t check anyone in more than two and a half hours before the flight, and I was 5 hours out. So, I found a place to sit down, stay cool and wait. After playing around for about an hour and a half, I decided to get some lunch. From where I was sitting, I could see what looked like a good place, so I went up and first observed. It was crowded around the counter, and I speak next to no Italian. Also, the Italians do not queue well, so I had to assert myself, get up to the register, and I just gave the woman the name of the slice of pizza-thing that I wanted. Thankfully, that was enough, then and when I went to tell the man behind the counter what I wanted. Two of the few words I do know in Italian though, are gratzie and prego, so I was able to thank him properly when he handed me my food.

I was more than a little pleased with myself as I went to sit down. Also, the food was fantastic. I’m not completely convinced it was worth the 5.30 that I paid for it, but then again, I am in an airport, and at least I did manage to order it myself! 

Slight Change of Plans

While there are significantly more pleasant places to be than the waiting room for citizen services at the US Embassy in London, I’m also quite sure there are many much less pleasant places to be as well. It’s well lit, with large windows, and children playing and saying adorable things. Due to a bizarre and unfortunate turn of events I found myself here today applying for an emergency passport. Mine disappeared somewhere between the first security check and boarding my flight yesterday. It quickly turned into a long, stressful day; I missed my flight, and despite repeated checks of all of the security gates and everywhere I went in the five minutes between going through security and realizing my passport was gone, it didn’t turn up. I had to go through immigration as a special circumstance, with only a copy of my passport. (And thank goodness I decided at the last minute that morning to keep my boarding pass from Charlotte to Gatwick as a souvenir! That turned out to be the document that made my passage through immigration possible, as it proved my story that I had been in England, and therefore could return) Then, I had to wait for over two hours as my bag got rerouted and rerouted before finally getting to me. I was exhausted, stressed out, and so incredibly relieved to see Suzanne & Valerie when I came out with the arrivals gate. Through the whole ordeal though, there were so many bright spots: the security agents who personally checked every lane, the British Airways woman who escorted me and rerouted me free of charge, the baggage me who personally assured that my bag got to me, the other British Airways woman who rechecked everything for me before I left, and of course, Valerie  & Suzanne who, in the midst of getting Val ready to move to France, came and got me, and helped me figure it all out.

Even getting where I am today was an adventure. Last night, after the whole ordeal at the airport, I e-mailed the consulate to get an appointment, according to protocol. I was terrified I either wouldn’t get an appointment, or wouldn’t be able to make it in time since the Hyde’s house in Weybridge is at least an hour from Lodnon proper, plus I had to have passport photos and proof of travel to show at the Embassy. It was another tense morning getting ahold of the Embassy and British Airways, then printing my reservation from the library, hectic train and tube rides, a slightly sketch place to get passport photos (and after all that, it was definitely not the best picture of me), and then almost not finding the embassy.

But now I’m here (or was when I wrote this originally) and it looks like I will indeed get my emergency 6-month validity passport (I did). My first flight for tomorrow is set, Heathrow to Rome, but I will miss my original flight from Rome to Oviedo. Hopefully I’ll be able to rebook that once I get back to Weybridge later (Also accomplished).

I finally feel like I can breathe again. I know I’m not out of the woods yet, but enough is settled that I finally feel okay. My passport is being processed, my flight is booked, and by tomorrow night I’ll be at my host family’s house in Oviedo, settled in one place. And another couple of bright spots: 1) I am still okay to go to Germany in December and 2) I’ll be able to convert my temporary passport to a normal, ten-year validity one free of charge upon returning to the US! 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Get Set!!

Tonight, my lovely mother planned and bought supplies to have a going-away open house so friends and family could drop by and see me before I leave for Spain! Me being me, I decided to have some fun decorating, and this is what our entrance looked like: (I love sidewalk chalk!)

The whole evening was a blast, with family and friends coming and going. Here is one of the pics, me with some of my church ladies, Mary, Julie and Charlotte. 

It was so nice to get to chat and catch up with people that I hadn't seen in a while. It fills me up for tomorrow, which will be laundry and packing and last minute errands as I get ready for my big day of travel!

Thursday, September 6, 2012


This is where I will be in just under 3 weeks!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Packing my Bags!

As I write this, I am in the midst of the throes of packing. My apartment probably appears to outsiders like someone ransacked it, with the way things are scattered everywhere as I work through the process of both packing to leave for study abroad and also packing up everything I own to store in a friend's garage. I'm at the point, where I'm both super excited, incredibly stressed, and still slightly terrified. While reading this new book that I bought, Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed though, I came to the conclusion that it is okay to be terrified. It's all part of the whole package deal that this adventure brings, and the fact that I am scared does not change the fact that I can do this, and it is going to be wonderful and amazing. I can live with the fear and still continue to stuff my red travel backpack and put everything else into boxes. I can do this. T-minus 23 days!