Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Wake Up Call

Hello, everyone!!!

Alright. So this entry is going to jumbled. Frazzled. All over the place. Explosive. Exciting. Tantalizing. Refreshing. Eye opening. Basically, it will be like the taste of a Whatchamacallit. (One of my most favorite candy bars.)

For starters, I am going to be introducing a new section of my blog, appropriately entitled "Bachelor of the Week." Starting my first week in Spain, I will be posting a picture of a local hottie. I'd like to thank my good friend Dachelle for this GREAT idea. I feel that it will make this blog even more real. (Of course, I will be asking permission from the individuals photographed.)

I LOVE taking pictures, so my new-ish Canon SD940is is going to definitely come in handy for this task, as well as photography of my new home in general. I am pumped. I am scared. I am nervous.

Christmas has come and gone; a majority of my gifts are meant for travel, so I feel pretty well prepared for whatever the travel gods may throw my way. I have also taken this week to say my final goodbyes to some great people. This is my last week working at PharmaHealth until my eventual return to the Fairhaven area in July; it will be hard to punch out for the last time on Friday and not have these wonderful people along for my Spanish ride.

My BESTEST friend from Saint Michael's, Kate Condon, will be leaving for Ecuador in a few days to visit with the host family she stayed with during HER study abroad experience; and, seeing as I must be returning to Maine after this week, we had to say our goodbyes. It was difficult. We had a marvelous time at Borders, shopping for travel books (and this book about science and sex that I am PUMPED to read on the plane), and sitting down for a great cup of Seattle's Best coffee. We talked for hours, drove to Chipotle for a "snack" (which consisted of two full size chicken burritos, fully loaded, for each of us). We then proceeded to talk about love. Such a great discussion. And abroad. We talked about my ex, her exes, and her current relationship. Flawless.

A quick interjection with a GREAT QUOTE from Eat, Pray, Love (I'm almost finished with it!!!):
"One must always be prepared for riotous and endless waves of transformation" (75).

I totally feel this right now. COMPLETELY. I have changed so much, not only in the previous semester, but also in these final weeks of my stay in the United States. I have decided that, much to my friends' applause, I will NO LONGER be holding back in this blog. This is mine, damnit! I'm going to talk about the uncomfortable; I'm going to make you question your logic; and I may say some things that may be viewed as offensive.

***There is an X button on the internet for a reason.

This is the one and only time I will bring this up here at this juncture: relationships. Sometimes, people find themselves with someone who they think is right. They may even convince themselves that he or she is the "one." Or break up a few times and get back together, only to realize that the relationship just wasn't meant to work. Let us take a moment to think about all the assholes of our past; the narcissistic, self-righteous numbskulls who don't really understand what they are doing or what they actually have in front of them. Yes, if you can't tell, I am venting. And it feels so good. After talking to my recent ex, I learned a lot. I heard some things I was not expecting. More bluntly: I WAS COMPLETELY BLINDSIDED. My friends know the details; I cannot, and will not have them written here as a constant reminded. Needless to say, he is completely out of my life now. A huge weight has been lifted. I thought I would cry, but I laughed instead.

I laughed at many things. Namely, my stupidity and naivity. I forgot who I was for a while. What makes me smile, what makes my cry, what makes me me. I was so wrapped up in this relationship that I lost sight of what was important. This blog matters. As well as my future. And my upcoming flight to Barajas nest Thursday.

Look in the mirror. Smile. You are worthy of getting great things, and of being with someone who treats you the way any human being should be treated: with love, dignity, and respect. You deserve the truth and to not have things hidden under the carpet. You deserve to only want the best for yourself, while seeing that the person in front of you (who does treat you right) is what is right for you. Don't neglect the fabulous; discard the ignorant. There is my speil.


Anywho. Christmas time is over, and the NEW YEAR IS AROUND THE BEND! I am so excited. I get two fresh starts: abroad and 2011.

Life is good. Stay tuned.

This blog has only started to get good.

YOLO YOLO YOLO YOLO (say it over and over. It helps!)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Language Exchange

I'm no stranger to hearing a foreign language. Here's a fun fact about me: I am around Portuguese speakers ALL the time. As we speak, I am watching a Portuguese soap opera "Caminhos da India" with my grandparents (avos in Portuguese).

It is quite ironic that I am looking for a language exchange partner in Madrid whilst listening to our native mainland language. Hailing from the Azores, however, my grandparents' accent and verbiage is slightly different. I am seeing a fair deal of parallels to the language I am about to be immersed in. (Side note: my grandfather just switched the channel from the soap to RTP, a channel that comes directly from our native island of Saint Michael (Sao Miguel in Portuguese, San Miguel in Spanish)). It is so interesting to be down here, constantly immersed in a foreign language in my native country. For the time being, I am working at the PharmaHealth Pharmacy branch in the South End of New Bedford, my place of birth. I completely understand the Portuguese spoken and have an extremely easy time deciphering the broken English of the Azoreans and Portuguese (although, coworkers poke fun: I am one of the Portuguese employees who cannot speak the language).

I am blessed to have such a great family and to have so much of an exposure to a "foreign" way of life. For me, however, I have grown up around all of this and am accustomed to the language and customs. Every Summer, my brother and I would spend at least two weeks with our grandparents here in Fairhaven. It is strange for me to be so nostalgic, realizing that the town and home that was once my vacation playground is now the place where I get up at 7:30am to be at PharmaHealth for 9 and work until 5pm, where I am a Pharmacy Technician filling various prescriptions for the Pacheco's and Costa's and Ferria's (all common Portuguese last names). I absolutely love it and feel that I already have a pretty solid foundation upon which to build my next foreign living experience.

Here's a the welcome sign of the current town I'm in, as well as a picture of my favorite employer:

(In case you're wondering, this picture is from the Grand Opening of our Fairhaven location on Alden Road. I'm all the way at the left, next to one of my favorite pharmacists, Karen. I am so glad to be in such a great picture with so many wonderful people. Coworkers in picture, from left to right: Top row: me (I was receptionist at the location at the time), Karen, Richard (the owner and president of PHP), Jen, Abby, Kim, Audrey, Jackie, Lori, Louise (BFF), Michael (on of my most special friends), Jocelyn (my picnic table buddy), Amy, Kristen, Jessica (Juicy), Rhonda (her head is kind of hidden), Carmen, Marina (my aunt), and Rosemary. Bottom row: Eric, Beverly (she trained me!), Jim, Mike T, Phil (COO), Carol, Sara, Enget, Adam, and Heather. EVERYONE there is my favorite!

Tomorrow I am being transferred temporarily back to my original location in Fairhaven; I am SO excited to see everyone that I worked with last Summer! I need to make sure I scan my Portuguese passport and send it to API... I don't need a visa because I'm a Portuguese citizen, remember?

Ok...so I was totally side-tracked....LANGUAGE PARTNER.

As we speak, I am looking on SpainExchange.com. I'm not even sure if it's a good site to search at or not, but what the hell? (YOLO, remember?) I'm just going to wing it and pick someone. But who? A male or female? Someone young or old? Give me a second...searching...browsing...Hmm: user "ruizjura" is 27 and male, from Madrid. "aitorpulido" is male and 19...maybe I should talk with another male? "monicamardi" is 27 and female from Madrid... So many choices. I feel like I'm being idealistic here, but I want the RIGHT partner. I plan on having them the entire time I'm abroad and hope to build connections and network with them. And, with their permission, include them in this very blog. After all, they will become an important figure in shaping my journey. They will teach me their customs, show me where to shop, help me to improve my Castilian accent...

I'm leaving you all in suspense. Here's the climax...who will I choose. Stay tuned for the next episode of Language Exchange: Madrid. Hahaha...kidding. Watch for my next post!

Inhale, exhale, smile. YOLO

Monday, December 20, 2010

Divine by Design

Alright. I'm trying to be proactive here and learn as much as I can about Madrid's culture before I depart. And brush up on some subjunctive. I've just been so fixated on learning as much as I can about the fashion and trends in Spain...

Here's a little known fact about me; I'm willing to share because I promised I'd bear it all on my blog. Once upon a time, I dabbled in the modeling and acting industry. I had a comp card, a portfolio, video clips of my performances...the works. Since my experience with modeling, I have had an undying desire to look good and stay up with the current trends. (The picture to the right is me looking mad fly with a cherry blossom and a tux, getting ready for the hilarious fashion show known as the JUNIOR SENIOR PROM! Oh, high school...)

H&M is most definitely one of my favorite stores; prices are PHENOMENAL and styles are always good. It is distinctly European, and many of the clothes have a great deal of small details, which I LOVE. (Right now, I'm trying to insert some images from some of my favorite designers and the H&M website...haha I'm still trying to figure that out.) In the meantime, here is a blast from the past:
That, right there, is one of my first pictures.

Anywho. I have this complex that I need to look flawless when I'm abroad. I don't want to look American at all. I've started researching Antonio Miro, a notable fashion designer from Spain, and I must say...I REALLY WANT TO BUY HIS CLOTHES. If only I had more money...(If I did, I would buy a bajillion pairs of Italian leather shoes to match my stylish designer bod.)

After more research, it appears that I have MISSED the Cibeles Madrid Fashion Week. Gahhh. Here's a GREAT look I found, coming from the Spanish designer, Adolfo Dominguez:

<----Can I just say how much I LOVE the blue? The detail on the shirt is great, and I can totally see myself rocking the pants and suede shoes. Also mention the different sleeves...this would be a GREAT conversation piece at a Spanish fiesta or discoteca...

So my idea when I arrive is to immerse myself as much as possible. I want to learn the language, culture, and of course, fashion. To do this, I came up with a plan. I'll start by making a really strong connection with my host family. I'm signing up for a language exchange partner tonight as well...I am pumped! My time there is meant to be spent LIVING the "Madrileno" lifestyle (I meant to have a tilde over the n to sound like "MAH-DRIL-ENYO")

I am also working on finishing Eat, Pray, Love in preparation for my journey. I picked up the newest issue of Oprah magazine, as the title story is "What's your next chapter?" I think I'm going to start reading it now. Keep an eye out for my next post!


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Pre-Departure thoughts

Ok, so I'm finally back down in Fairhaven after a long fall semester and lengthy unpack. My car was PACKED with everything from my old room in Pontigny. It was sad to leave, yet exciting: a new adventure is about to take place!

Everything--and I mean everything--seems new since returning home. My siblings are more grown up, my brother is another year older, and my hometown looks a little different. I was transferred to another branch at the pharmacy I work at. I'm not even entirely sure as to what my new job is, but I will take it on the best way I know how tomorrow morning. I am looking forward to working these next two weeks. Extra spending money for travel is ALWAYS good.

I feel like I am ready to go, but the goodbyes are the hardest things for me to get used to. I was just in Holliston, MA, at one of the best Holiday parties I have ever attended. I got to spend the evening decorating the Christmas tree, setting up the food table, and uncorking various wines for the festivities of the evening. To make it even better, I was able to do all of this with my best friend, Kate, and her family. It was so nice to see everyone and catch up, but it was also quite sad upon realizing that I would not be as physically close as I am now.

My other close friends keep talking about having "final get togethers." The word "final" is daunting.

I finished up my pre-departure orientation items on the API website (thank GaGa) and it really started to hit me that this is real. I even teared up a little when I was researching the metro system and Lisbon, Portugal, where I will be spending some time on an API excursion. I received my Portuguese passport today (yes, I'm a DUAL CITIZEN) and its delivery really solidified the idea of departure.

It also makes me laugh a little that I will be Portuguese when I arrive. My primary passport will be my Portuguese one, as I do not need a visa since I am a citizen of the European Union. I plan on making a good number of color photocopies...I recently learned that it is NEVER a good idea to carry originals due to possible theft!

YOLO is my new mantra. (Thank you, Bridget.) I look forward to seizing the day and living in the moment during these pre-departure days. Whatever happens, happens.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Why I chose to study abroad

Alright...so you all probably have your own guesses as to why I chose to study abroad in Madrid, Spain. Is it because everyone else is doing it? Absolutely not. Is it because I want to live a glamorous life in a foreign country? Partially.

The real reason?

I wanted to challenge myself. I have never been one for molds; I have ALWAYS made my own decisions and moved to the beat of my own drum. To be perfectly honest, my American college, St. Michael's, can feel quite small. I needed a break. I needed to explore another region of the world and start my next chapter of growth and development.

I did not choose the same city or program as my friends. Much like applying for college, I felt it would be more beneficial for me to place myself in a foreign environment; forcing myself to adapt, make new friends, and explore myself in a new locale.

I have been learning Spanish since I was in sixth grade. My family hails from these little islands, known as the Azores Islands, off the coast of Portugal; everyone could speak Portuguese, yet I knew nothing and was never taught. The compromise? Me taking the initiative to learn Spanish, a similar yet vastly different European tongue. I remember being fascinated with the language from day one: the sounds, the written word, the accents, upside-down question marks and exclamation points...what can I say? I'm a sucker for the language.

I was actually supposed to be in Spain during my Fall semester at SMC. I planned on studying in Salamanca, Spain with AIFS; unfortunately, finances worked against me in being able to do so. I was sad, but had eventually decided that I would remain at SMC rather than spending a semester abroad. I became complacent, alright with the fact that I would be staying with my great friends at my great school. I was in a relationship with a great guy at the time; unfortunately, we were on two different planes. The ending of this relationship caused me to re-evaluate my life, who I surrounded myself with, and what my future plans were.

I couldn't think on campus, so I took the initiative to get a job waiting tables at Applebee's and became a peer tutor for Spanish students. I was also working part time in the Student Activities office for my Federal Work Study. I frequently researched study abroad programs online while I sat there, waiting for the Student Activities phone to ring.

***And then, it suddenly hit me:***

Why not? Why NOT apply to a program, take some time out for myself, and get my life back together. In the process, I would be learning more about myself and growing as a student, learner, and free spirit.

I met with the Study Abroad Director, as well as the head of the Spanish (Modern Languages) Department. It was settled and sorted. API: Madrid, Spain--Complutense University, Spanish Culture program. My course was set.

I continued to work hard at Applebee's, serving dishes with a HUGE smile and silently refilling drinks as often as possible in an effort to make a 20%+ tip each and every time. I told tables about my plan in the hopes of making more, too. (It couldn't hurt, right?) Although I did not make as much as I planned, I am still excited. I won't be able to travel as much as some of my friends, but I'll be in SPAIN in less than four weeks! I've worked hard for four months for this, and I intend on meeting as many people as possible.

And hitting up every last dance club.

And smiling.

And taking TONS of pictures.

And being extremely thankful for what my hard work and dedication have fostered: the trip of a life time.

For now, I'm going to continue to blast some Rihanna and check out the orientation page on the API website. Keep your eyes posted for my next rant...hope this was as entertaining for you to read as it was for me to write.

~Live, love, and prosper.