Posted by: meganlpiper | August 4, 2009

Back to the Future

Taking big steps...

Taking big steps...

26 hours of traveling by bus, plane, shuttle, and car brought me home, to the future- which for me is being a grown up. Starting a job, moving into a house that includes mortgage payments, planning a wedding, and starting a scary but exciting new part of my life. I couldnt have asked for a better celebration of college coming to an end than 6 weeks in Segovia, Spain with 18 strangers that I now call friends.

It was so weird waking up in my apartment in Georgia this morning. I was wide awake, since it was noon in Spain, and starving for some reason. Dreading unpacking, which is finished now- who knew I had so many things shoved into those well packed, under 23 kilos, dirty from the airport bags. Im driving my car again, and I had to think about being careful as I havent driven in a while. My American cell phone works now, when I didnt have it for six weeks I got out of the habit of texting or always talking to people. I think I will continue that trend; I like the time to think and to prolong conversations for face to face communication.

Some of my Real World Segovia favorites...

Some of my Real World Segovia favorites...

The best part of being home has been getting online and seeing the pictures and messages tagged and sent between my Segovia friends, my Study Abroad family. We have all exchanged phone numbers and started a thread on Facebook having mini conversations. For six whole weeks we mainly only talked to each other. Every day getting on Skype and seeing them on- immediately starting a conversation about our lunch or what we would do that night. Its a little sad to no longer have those things between all of us. At the airport, everyon split- I think maybe we didnt even think about the fact that we wouldnt all end up on the next leg of our trip together. It was better this way, no goodbyes- just moving on, knowing we will talk soon anyway. We are all back with our family, friends, loved ones. Our lives were meshed together with no other choice, and now we are all thrown back into reality, gone our separate ways. Thankfully, we have 18 new friends to come back with, future plans that we have come back  to, and now we not only have memories and pictures and experiences to last a lifetime, but we have friends that were there with us too. Adios, amigos- thanks, because I couldnt have asked for a better trip! 

*thanks, Kami, for the pictures on this post!

~M

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Posted by: meganlpiper | August 2, 2009

Im coming home, baby!

The airplane. My misery.

The airplane. My misery.

How many times can I reference Michael Buble in the life of one blog? As many as I want because I love his music! He sings a song, Coming home, baby! that is good for this occasion. Simply because, today is my last day in Segovia, and I am coming home! I thought I would cut all the sentimental-ish talk for now, and stick to the facts. Here is our schedule on coming home. None of us, well thats probably not true, most of us have no idea what exactly the times or hours of our trip is because of the time change, sitting around in airports, etc. Our flight times to begin with are 6 hours ahead of the US and our arrival is US time…We just know when to get on the bus tonight, which is at 1am. Here is my understanding of what will happen tonight/tomorrow…

1am Meet at Lobo, downtown Segovia and get on the bus.

2am Arrive at airport, check in, check bags, get through security

3am Sit down to wait for our flight, watch a movie on Itunes (bullet # 12), try to sleep.

6:20am Flight to Germany

8:55am Arrive in Germany

12:10pm Flight to the US, an almost 10 HOUR plane ride through a time zone so the times make it look like a shorter flight. Misery.

4:10pm Arrive in the US

5:00ish See our friends and family, my fiance! Drive 3.5 more hours to Savannah, Ga. Crash for a couple of days, finally home.

This is our itinerary. It basically means we will be traveling for a day, and I think that stinks. I hated the flight on the way over here, but hopefully it will be better on the way back. I bought chips a hoy cookies and Special K bars in the Dia grocery store across from my house to eat on the plane. This will make me happy even if I am miserable in my tiny airplane seat- I love chocolate chip cookies! I also have muffins and kitkats. I hope that I can sleep a little, and if not- at least I will be home soon!

Home in Savannah, Ga. with my love~ be there soon!

Home in Savannah, Ga. with my love~ be there soon!

~M

Posted by: meganlpiper | August 2, 2009

Family Fun

My Spanish Family, missing Manuel

My Spanish Family, missing Manuel

Last night, I had dinner with my family like always, but we talked for longer than usual. We actually stayed up well into the night. We talked about my favorite parts of Segovia, what I did not like, what I look forward to the most when I go home, and different aspects of the differences in life in our countries. Their daughter is going to be doing the same thing that I have in the United States, living with a family and experiencing a different culture while learning english. My padre is usually working, and I have not had a great deal of interaction with him, but our conversation last night was interesting. He is funny, but also a bit sarcastic. Perfect for this American, except he did tell me that he thinks it is dumb to get married at my age (23 when I will be married in a year), even though this is the same age that Racquel was when he married her. He says many things can happen in a year, one of us may win the lottery and never come back! I love it. My only reply was, we will see- time will tell, but I think after hearing him talk about his girls, it is clear that he doesnt regret a thing!

One of my favorite meals with my family, Fiesta de Paella

One of my favorite meals with my family, Fiesta de Paella

My favorite parts of Segovia include living with a family-I think it is the best way to experience another country and to really feel at home, the beauty and history of the city- the atmosphere here is different than in other parts that I have visited on this trip. It is relaxed, but it also has a feel of another time, with everything being original to hundreds of years ago, meeting new people and learning about myself- I have made some great friends on the trip with me and here in Spain. It is something to speak of to spend time away from everything in your comfort zone to see yourself from different angles.

A self-reflective process

A self-reflective process

The differences we talked about between our countries were differences in the culture. With the people, its almost as though it is the same. You meet wonderful, kind people, rude people, funny or intelligent people no matter where you go. The other differences are in the culture, like how Americans are always busy and work alot with little sleep or how Spaniards have siestas everyday and are more relaxed. They told me that I am more outgoing and open than students they have had from England, which makes them think that all Americans are that way. I have found in my learning cultures, meeting people from different parts of the world- Ireland, Paris, England, Spain- it just matters who the individual is that you meet.

My apartment building coming into view on my daily walk

My apartment building coming into view on my daily walk

We also talked about movies, and they asked me about different things that they see in American movies and whether or not it is real. Like for example, do weddings really have all of those people in matching outfits with the Bride and Groom (bridal party). They couldnt believe that we really do that, haha. They only have their parents with them in their weddings- which probably makes more sense. They also wanted to know if people prayed at the table before every meal. We talked about war and religion, and how the United States is different in the aspect of religion because it is a mix (una mezcla) of all different heritages and people, where Spain is mainly Catholic, with some Jewish or Muslim congregations. Of course, not completely, but from their perspective- this is how they view their country. I had a great time living with them, and I am so grateful that they opened their home to allow me to experience a part of their lives. We exchanged emails, and I plan on keeping in touch- with pictures of my house and my wedding, while also seeing how their lives unfold. I have had the best time with my Spanish family, and I cant wait to come back and ring their bell, apt. 4D…”Hola, es Megan!”

~M

Posted by: meganlpiper | August 1, 2009

Celebration Dinner

The whole group doing the signature "Paco hand gesture"!

The whole group doing the signature "Paco hand gesture"!

Im not going to call it a going away dinner because it was more like a celebration of our trip. We all met at 8pm at the Restaurante Hidalgo to spend time together one last time as a whole group. Some people’s flights are today, Saturday, and some of the group is going to Madrid to spend their last couple of days, as for me- I will be here with my Segovian family until we leave on Sunday night. (I can’t believe that its tomorrow!) Trey, Frank, and I set out walking- the three musketeers of our neighborhood, who have always walked together. We met up with Christina and Joanna on the way, then Logan, then Kami. We made our way to the restaurant (my feet hurting from the bicycle adventure of the day), all dressed to impress and excited about hanging out with everyone.

The ladies of the trip!

The ladies of the trip!

The restaurant had a big open room for us, with a large table filled with tapas. (bread, cheese, sausages, tortillas, shrimps, etc) All of our professors were there as we talked, laughed, and ate for about an hour. It was nice to be outside of the classroom and talk to our teachers without the pressure of learning something or earning a grade. There were the few flashes as the photo taking began. Once everyone had stepped away from the table and began to relax and talk without eating, Prof. Suazo (Jorge for a couple more days) got everyone’s attention for a group share.

The guys of the trip!

The guys of the trip!

He talked about our group, and how every year it is different and special to those individuals. This year has been one of the most cohesive as a whole, and he seems to have enjoyed it. He praised us for never missing a day of class and being responsible for the most part. We all took turns talking about our favorite parts of the trip, and the things that have meant the most to us. I wish I had gotten it on film, but its better this way, I think…to see it with both my eyes. It was a very sentimental time to hear everyone’s input, to watch the way they looked around the circle of people, who began as strangers and have now become friends. Of course there was the funny input, especially with Emi correcting everyone’s grammar. It was definitely enlightening to hear the stories, to watch the body language, and to see the reaction of everyone as we realized it really is coming to an end.

The Professors of the trip!

The Professors of the trip!

One of my favorite things said was from Paco, our literature teacher and field trip leader. He talked about how young we are, and how this is an adventure that we have enjoyed now- but it wont mean the most to us until we are home, maybe even older, and really realize how amazing it was. We will only be able to remember it, never to come back to this exact experience. Its a great thing to live in another country, with completely different people to learn about them and their culture, but also to learn about ourselves. What a great thing to be able to think back on, to remember, and to learn from for the future. I love that I have done this, and I loved our dinner together. Afterwards, we split up to get icecream, the guys went for food, or to various other places. We all met up again later in the Plaza Mayor, listening to live music and observing the culture around us. There was a very reflective, chill attitude about the rest of the evening. We made our way to La Luna, to tell our bartender friends goodbye, and to spend one last signature end of an evening there. Walking home was sad, but also exciting as we have so many great things to look forward to at home as we take with us everything from here. Hasta Luego, Segovia, me encantada este viaje, y voy a regresar en el futuro!

~M

Posted by: meganlpiper | August 1, 2009

Tour de Segovia

The journey begins...

The journey begins...

I have been thinking about renting bikes for a couple of weeks now. They have them for rent in three different locations in Segovia, and it looked like fun. I have never really seen anyone else on them, though, maybe people just dont know about them? OR, its so complicated to rent them that no one does! Joanna really wanted to rent them, and I am happy that she pushed the idea to get others excited. We went to the bike station by the Aqueduct, and read the sign to see how to do it. We had to walk across the open plaza to the visitor’s center (you should definitely check this out if you visit- they have all the information about Segovia and what to do here, but don’t buy souvenirs from them because its way too expensive). Once in the center, we had to fill out paperwork on ourselves, pay three euros, get a code for the bike, and use our cell phone to text the code to a number that unlocks the bikes. Whew, thats alot of information! Luckily, JoJo has a cell phone here and didnt mind us using it (of course not, she’s the best!). Christina took over as the cell phone holder, texting away until we all had our bikes.

The chicas and our bikes, taken by our Ga. friends

The chicas and our bikes, taken by our Ga. friends

The bikes. Las bicicletas. Did I mention that I maybe did not think this through completely? How long has it been since I have been on a bike that moves farther than the spot it occupies in spinning class? A long time…in fact, the last time may have been when I ended up in the hospital with stitches on a Christmas morning…anyway, not important. We all took a little practice ride in circles around the area, and then we decided to set off. Our bikes had bells and baskets for all of our things, which was good as we stopped for a little last minute shopping on our adventure. It was so much fun, laughing our way up the hills of the streets, weaving through the people and making our way to the castle. Tammy was so cute, calling us the VonTrapp children as she thought of the Sound of Music throughout our ride. It was a little like a movie, with bikes riding through the Plazas with art and music, gypsies selling scarves, and a castle coming into view.

Beautiful view from the bike

Beautiful view from the bike

We met some friends from Georgia, from Atlanta to be exact. They talked with us about their trip to Segovia and took our picture for us. It is so nice to meet people from home, makes me feel like it isn’t really so far away from here. Upon arrival at our destination, we took a little break and photo shoot at the Alcazar, sitting in the grass and enjoying our day. It was very hard work riding a bike here, but very much worth it to see all of our favorite places in one day. Our last day actually, all together in Segovia. We rode around, sometimes having little mishaps, like having to carry our bikes up the steps of La Luna to get to where we were going…stopping to buy water so that we didnt pass out (best 1.20 I’ve euro spent, by the way), and finally brought our tour to an end to get ready for our final dinner together in our favorite little place, Segovia.

~M

Posted by: meganlpiper | August 1, 2009

OxigenArte Festival

Crazy, cool chair

Crazy, cool chair

“What happens if we breathe art?” The tagline of the event, great PR work from someone!

For the past couple of days, art has been springing up all over Segovia for the Art Festival this weekend. Its so interesting to see the different things that are incorporated into this. We live our normal Segovian lives and are sometimes suprised by the things  that we encounter just by walking our normal route. I really enjoy how Segovia has had something going on almost every weekend that we have been here, or during the week at night. Concerts, art festivals, dance festivals, shows. Its a really good time to visit.

Me with an art sculpture in the Plaza Juan Bravo

Me with an art sculpture in the Plaza Juan Bravo

The pictures are good, even though I havent gotten all of the art on film yet. I have really enjoyed being here, and I am very sad to be leaving soon. Im so excited though, to have the memories and experiences to take home with me from this trip. I should probably save all of this sentimental talk for some other final post, so just check out the pics- enjoy the art!

~M

Posted by: meganlpiper | July 30, 2009

Put on your Sunday clothes…Mass

The altar in the Cathedral

The altar in the Cathedral

Catholic Mass at the Cathedral in Segovia. With a Cathedral and a historic town like this- why wouldnt we attend at least once? We all made a plan to meet at the Cathedral on Sunday at 12pm. It started at 12:30pm, which is good because we are always late anyway. I like to think its the relaxed Spanish culture rubbing off on us. We walked around the Cathedral, waiting on it to start, wondering if we were in the right place as tourists flocked through with their fanny packs and cameras. (Not at all like us, of course, we live here now :))

As it got closer to time, the gates to the altar were opened and the scene began to take its expected form. The Priest and altar boys (Is that the right name? Im very not Catholic and wish I knew more of what Im talking about!) came out with all of the things needed for mass. We took our seat as the organ played. The Cathedral is amazing inside, its hard to focus as whispers of our religious beliefs are shared throughout the group as we wait.

The Cathedral

The Cathedral

We have many Catholic students with us, and I wish that I had such a heritage to experience in such a historical, beautiful place. This was a great way to discuss and get to know each other on a deeper, religious level. We were almost the youngest people there. Many people here go to smaller churches or do not go at all. There were mostly older people in Mass at the Cathedral, a few tourists, and a couple of families.

The group that attended Mass

The group that attended Mass

 I wish I had known what they were saying, but just being in Mass was a good experience, I felt as though it was appropriate as we pass by there every day. It so funny to think about the experiences we have had here. Its hard to describe them to you with short stories and pictures. For example, you miss out on the conversations surrounding the things that we do here, like Kami saying she is wearing a shorter skirt and its fine bc she is catholic and they have to let her in, Trey being mad that he isnt Catholic and cant take communion, Logan saying in the beginning of it that the Cathedral is older than our country, and then the little things like seeing how Mass touches those who havent been in a while. I really enjoyed it.

~M

Posted by: meganlpiper | July 30, 2009

Cut that Cochinillo, girl!

Action shot of me cutting the Cochinillo

Action shot of me cutting the Cochinillo

Famous last words of Connor, as I am walking up to sever the head of my baby pig dinner with a salad plate. I thought it would be a good experience to chop it up using a plate, just like the restuarants are famous for doing! I would have probably lasted longer on a mechanical bull- I chopped at it for about 5 seconds, maybe. Here is a video to relive the experience, which by the way, I loved!

Cochinillo Adventure Video

We had the best time, at one of the best restaurants in Segovia, Jose. There were around 16 of us there, and we had a long table with bread, water, and wine when we arrived. The pictures are great! 

The view of the night was the Cathedral, and everyone was dressed to impress. What a fun experience in our last week, talking and laughing through the night in our very European way of eating and enjoying company for hours. Our food came, and the waiters enjoyed the experience with us- bringing out the whole baby pig and letting us participate in the cutting of it. Only two of us tried it, me and Joanna. The pictures are priceless, as well as the video. In the excitement, it may not be the best video in the world or the best pictures, but you get the idea.

Cochinillo pig head

Cochinillo pig head

The waiter also brought out the head of the pig later into our meal, and Chris, Connor, and Frank tried out their very own Fear Factor skills by eating the eyes and brain, maybe a bit of the nose. For me, the taste was not something I would like to have again. I enjoyed the salad, bread, and potatos the most. I will say, though, that it depends on what part of the animal you get. I got the quarter with ribs and one leg, which was stronger in flavor. JoJo let me have a taste of hers, which was a little better. Overall, I am very glad that I tried it, as it is a signature Segovian meal, but order it again? Not likely.

~M

Posted by: meganlpiper | July 30, 2009

La Escorial y Valle de Los Caidos

Valle de Los Caidos

Valle de Los Caidos

Since our finals are 2/3 of the way complete, I thought I would catch up on all of my blogs. We do only have three days left here. I do not like the idea of leaving and going home to only remember the trip. I will never be able to just jet over and do this kind of thing again, what an interesting thought. Anyway, Ill share with you our field trip from last Friday- maybe I can also give you a little history on the places.

La Escorial: This is an interesting place. It is a historical residence of the King of Spain. It also serves as a monestary, a royal palace, a library, and a museum. It also holds the caskets of all of the Kings and Queens of Spain in a tomb, it was very interesting! We walked through the building on a tour, and then we spent time outside in the blustering wind! It was terribly windy, and we all have pictures of the group outside of the building. It was our last field trip of the trip, and everyone has been taking more pictures.

Inside the Basilica of Valle de los Caidos, an angel statue

Inside the Basilica of Valle de los Caidos, an angel statue

Picnic: We had a picnic in the area around our next stop, the Valle de los Caidos. We had our picnic lunches that our Senoras packed for us that morning. I had two ham and cheese sandwiches and an orange. I also had a bottle of water and a pineapple grape juice box, which I do not like very much. The best part of my lunch was the snack size bag of oreos that my fiance mailed me from home. Nothing like a healthy lunch of oreos and sandwiches.

Valle of los Caidos: The Valley of the Fallen is a Basilica (church) that also memorializes the National war victims of Spain. There are said to be thousands buried there, in the valley. There is also a cross that is the world’s largest free standing cross, very impressive when you see it in person. This place is also very controversial. Franco was the dictator that had it built, and his reign in Spain was one that has been scrutinized for his cruelty. The church inside does not feel like most churches, it is built into the side of the mountain, and is almost like a cave. Our Professor does not like to go into it because of the controversy surrounding its construction. It was built by political war prisoners, some of which died in the process of building it. It is a magnificently constructed building, but the overshadowing history gives you an ominous feeling not necessarily associated with a Basilica. Once outside, we climbed to the top of the mountain to go to the base of the cross. It was closed for renovations, so naturally we all just jumped the fence…the three fences with signs saying do not enter to be exact. There wasnt any apparent danger at the top though, just a good view. We made our way back down to the bottom with many more pictures and experience in the history of Spain.

Study Abroad Segovia 2009

Study Abroad Segovia 2009

It was a great last field trip. We learned a lot about an interesting piece of history, while also having a good time hanging out and taking pictures. Of all of our field trips. I think I liked the trips to the Museums the best, but this one was definitely in the running.

~M

Posted by: meganlpiper | July 28, 2009

101 ways to not study…

#1 way to not study

#1 way to not study

1. Write one of the many blogs I still have planned…

2. Facebook, this should probably be number one

3. Go to the pool with my familia instead of study session with my amigos

4. Youtube the finale of the Bachelorette, even though I never watched any other episodes

Im not going to make it to 101, but you get the idea. It’s time for exams here in our last week, and no one wants to take time away from our trip to focus on tests. However,  I have to so Ill go back to the books. More blogs that are much more interesting than this are on their way…Im sure Ill need a study break soon!

~M

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