A World of Experience, Literally

I’ve started writing this blog about 138 different times because I can never seem to capture in a few paragraphs what being abroad has meant to me. It’s been a year now, and I still can’t find the words.  Here are all of my leads and attempts, which I’ve decided to meld into one, official, final blog post.

I knew this semester was going to be life-changing; but what I didn’t expect was for me to come back a changed person. When I said goodbye to my parents I didn’t realize I was also saying goodbye to myself.

I had so many firsts. I left the country without either of my parents, I flew on a plane by myself, I ate foods I never thought I’d even touch, I traveled to Africa solo, gave a speech at a retreat, and discovered a love for life outside my comfort zone. 

Madrid is 4,426 miles from St. Louis. And I was 4,426 miles outside of my comfort zone when I left on September 1st. Here I am almost 4 months later, a new woman. It took 3 continents, 9 countries, and 8 Spanish cities for me to find myself. In these past 4 months I’ve done more than I ever thought would’ve been possible at my age. I hiked in the Swiss Alps, rode a camel in Morocco, got some luck when I kissed the Blarney stone, was blessed by the pope in the Vatican, and admired the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower. It’s been quite the life-changing semester.

Throughout the semester, the lines of my comfort zone faded. Between standing up and giving a speech at the Ignation Retreat, traveling solo to Morocco, and eating Madre’s meals I escaped the mindset that once held me back. My Spanish improved and so did my directional skills. I navigated my way through countries where I didn’t know the language. By the end of the semester, I held a conversation on the phone with a Spaniard.

Leaving Madrid was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place. Like, you’re not only going to miss the people you love, but you’re going to miss the person you’ve become because you’ll never be the same as you were in those moments. I found a part of myself in Europe, but I’m also leaving a part of myself here too. I called Madrid home for 4 months. It’s hard to leave a place when you have a relationship like that. Not only was it hard to leave the city, but also my host family. I think Madre and Padre really grew to like Jess, Rachael, and me. I was stuffed into an elevator with all of my luggage. The doors were closing and my last image is Madre yelling, “Don’t forget me!”

 How could I forget that woman? It’s hard to leave people that changed your life.

Coming home is hard because you’re expected to pick up where you left off, when in reality you’re miles away from that spot.  But coming home is worth it. (http://thoughtcatalog.com/2013/why-coming-home-is-hard/)  

 You can’t fully comprehend all that I learned, saw, and experienced abroad in these fragmented statements, but a picture is worth a 1000 words and it seems that I have one today that might capture my feelings:

Image

My tattoo. It’s brand new, just a day. I got it yesterday on September 1st, the year anniversary of the day I left for Madrid. I had been planning it for over 6 months. I gave myself time to make sure it was what I really wanted. It was late in February when the idea of getting the passport stamp tattooed on my body came to me. That night I couldn’t sleep because I was so excited. I had texted all my friends about my original idea and vowed I would wait 6 months to make sure I was ready for this permanent decision. When I realized that 6 months would be up at the end of August, I thought the perfect time to get it was on the year anniversary.

A lot of people don’t like tattoos (my parents included). I think there’s something truly remarkable about its permanence. I hear people say, “You’re not going to like that when you’re older and it’s faded.” When I’m older and looking at the ink etched into my side, I know I’ll experience nothing other than happiness and gratitude. Happiness for all the adventures and memories I had abroad and gratitude for the people who helped me get there, for those there with me, and for God who created all the beautiful things I saw in the world.

 I originally wanted to put the tattoo on my foot, but feared that would be too visible for picky future employers. For me, I personally didn’t want it showing on my wedding day and for professionalism’s sake, it had to be covered for work. Thus, I chose my ribs. In the beginning I was worried about this placement for fear of people asking to see my tattoo in public. I wasn’t sure that I was comfortable enough with my body to partially lift my shirt to show them. During my 6 month thought process, I was more and more drawn to this placement because in being abroad, I found myself and became more comfortable with Molly (or Madrid Molly as many people have come to call me).

 I had a completely meaningful tattoo.  The date: September 1, 2013; exactly 1 year after I departed on the greatest journey of my life. The image: a copy of the passport stamp I received when I entered Madrid for the first time. The placement: a way to prove to myself and others that I have changed for the better and am comfortable in my own skin, inked and all.

 With my new ink came so many emotions. Laying on the table while Iron Age artist, Caleb permanently scratched the image into my skin was a rush. I was so relaxed, so ready.  I almost didn’t even realize he started working. I had to ask Bridget if he had. I shallowly breathed for the next 20 min hoping I wouldn’t move and mess up a line. Halfway through Caleb asks me, “Are you sure you’ve never gotten a tattoo before?” I was absolutely sure. “You’re a pro, great job, you haven’t moved at all!” he continued. 

My shallow breathing paid off and I walked out with the perfect reminder of the best four months of my life.

Pre tattoo pic:

Image

Determining size:Image

Terrified/Nervous/ExcitedImage

Stencil:Image

Image

Thank you, Caleb for giving me this permanent reminder. Image

And the final product:Image

 

 

I know it’s been a year, Madrid. But I’ll be back. This is my promise.

What a year.

Where Fuchs is Fox: Berlin, Germany

It’s been a month since I left for Germany so I guess now is a great time to blog about it. Besides Morocco, I was most excited for our trip to Berlin. I would finally be in a country where people knew my last name!!

When we left for Berlin, we packed a little heavier than our typical one backpack for RyanAir requirements. Since we flew SwissAir, we were allowed to check a bag for free!!! Unheard of on RyanAir! We felt like princesses on the flight. They brought us complimentary drinks and sandwiches. I was overly excited when my sandwich had butter on it. My grandma always puts butter on sandwiches and said it was a German thing. And I was on my way to GERMANY.

 Since this was our last trip, we had it down to a system. We landed, found a bus to the city, hopped on the metro to our hostel, and settled in before finding food. Once we pulled ourselves together and fed our stomachs, we sprawled out the map of Berlin and planned the next 5 days.

 Thursday we ventured out into the tundra that is Berlin to visit the nearest concentration camp, Sachsenhausen. The entire camp was outside minus a few memorial museums, so we froze. We had seen pictures of the prisoners’ uniforms and quickly learned how hypothermia was one of the main causes of death in the camp. It was an eye-opening experience. This camp specifically wasn’t an execution camp like Auschwitz, however thousands lost their lives on the grounds.

Our stay in Berlin started off on a tragic note, but I learned a lot. I don’t normally enjoy history, but when it’s a whole different world when I get to experience it first hand. The history of the concentration camp really came alive for me when our tour guide mentioned that some of the buildings were used to train the police force. It seemed like history was ready to repeat itself. I didn’t take a lot of pictures at the concentration camp because it felt out of place to snap a shots in such a horribly memorable space.

 …So I’ve officially spent 5 months on this post.

 After bearing the frigid temperatures outside at the concentration camp, we were more than prepared for our 7-hour walking tour, or so we thought. Naturally the 3 of us couldn’t agree on just one short tour, so we ended up on this marathon. Meeting our tour guide was one of the highlights of our trip. The man who sold us our tickets said, “Your tour guide is Ricardo and is standing over there.” We walked over to meet “Ricardo” who then introduced himself as Leo in a thick Spanish accent. Accent and all, he was a great tour guide, even when he said things like “Factory Revolution” instead of “Industrial Revolution”. In our 7 hours of walking we saw Checkpoint Charlie, Reichstag, the site of Hitler’s bunker, Humbolt University, Holocaust memorial, WWII memorial, the Berlin Wall, and a few palaces. I think I learned more in those 7 hours than I did all semester in my history class.

 At this point we had been on our feet for the past 7 hours. And I had been traveling the previous 7 weekends. Needless to say when we got back to our hostel I went into hibernation despite Leo’s attempts to show us all the hip Berlin clubs. I was overly exhausted and slept the next 16 hours.

 We slowed our pace on Saturday and spent the day Christmas market hopping. They were the cutest stores/stands! And they were all over the city! I took advantage of my German heritage and the souvenirs as I picked out a few gifts for my family. The three of us ended up buying hats, gloves, and an extra pair of socks. We clearly couldn’t handle the weather. That night we ventured out to an ice skating rink in the winter wonderland.

 Sunday was the last full day we had in Berlin. We spent it viewing the East Side Gallery, or the remaining standing 1.3 kilometers of the Berlin Wall. One of the coolest things about Berlin was that its history was so recent. The Berlin Wall being a prime example. The mere fact that it was still standing, and that I visibly could distinguish the East and the West side of the city by the buildings, stores, and people proved that the divide still existed, wall or no wall.  We ended up the day hitting up the rest of the Christmas markets we missed on Saturday.

It wouldn’t have been right if our last trip didn’t involve some sort of transportation dilemma. Nearing Christmas time, the airport was chaotic. Amid the chaos was a strike by the airport employees. Just our luck. We spent the better part of our time searching for the correct line. There were so many people that we couldn’t distinguish the different lines. We eventually boarded our plane an hour late where we were informed that the delay was caused by airport problems, not the weather as we had been previously told. Jess, Rachael, and I cringed. We had only had an hour to catch our connecting flight from Munich to Madrid. We tried our best not to worry because there was nothing we could do about it, but I’m always a mess. The Munich airport was no less hectic due to the mass of people missing their connecting flights. Almost 12 hours later, our luggage and we arrived safely in Madrid.

What a weekend. 

Dancing Queen

It’s been almost 2 weeks since my first and last on-stage dance performance. I never thought I’d enjoy a dance class like I enjoyed Latin Rhythms. The first day of class I was mortified and by the end of the semester I was dancing with a broom on stage in heels. My comfort level made a 180; a theme that seems to be prevalent throughout my semester abroad. 

The classes leading up to the performance were stressful. At that point in time, I was hating it. I was struggling to get the dances down and Susi wasn’t happy with our work. After a stern speech, we pulled it together just in time for the performance on Tuesday (Dec. 4th). The performance, referred to as “A Night on Broadway”, required that we be at the theater all day. 2:00-10:30 was a rollercoaster of emotions from excitement to nervousness. We’d spent all afternoon practicing, so you’d think that by 7:30 when the show started I’d be ready. That’s funny. I was too nervous for my own good. I mean, my confidence level was through the roof dancing in that spandex, sparkly dress and witch hat. I was glad that tango was my first dance; I knew that one best and at least I had Manny to lead me as my partner if I messed up. We nailed it. And I actually had a blast. The crowd loved it and my friends in the audience were yelling my name. A semester’s worth of dance lessons was paying off! There were times when I definitely wished I wasn’t in a dance class, but the performance made it worthwhile. I had a blast and a half dancing on stage. Didn’t see that one coming. As worthwhile as it was, I think it’s safe to say that was my first and last dance performance. 

Here’s the link to my tango performance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWRgmCp-vYk&feature=youtu.be

And here is someone else’s video of my whole class’s performance: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10152277750590324&set=vb.716435323&type=3&theater (I come in during the Tango, at the “Love is Wicked” song, and at the end of the wheel dance. I’m not positive the link will work.)

Now that it’s over and my Tuesday and Thursday afternoons are no longer spent at the dance studio, I kind of miss it. Ending that class was bittersweet. Whenever we go out dancing to clubs/bars now, all I want to do is break out my salsa, merengue, and bachata moves. 

Here’s to not letting the expansion of my comfort zone end with my Latin Rhythms performance. 

London, Finally

I’m sitting in the airport about to write about my trip to London last weekend while I wait to go to Morocco. Is this real life?! I can’t believe that this is actually happening!

Before we left for London, we got to celebrate an American Thanksgiving with a dinner through the university. After classes on Thursday, Jess, Alex, Rachael, Angela, and I went to the Thanksgiving theme decorated cafeteria near SLU. We had invited madre and padre to come, but they weren’t able to get there until an hour later. So we grabbed our plates of turkey, stuffing, peas, mashed potatoes, corn, and cheesecake before joining other SLU students at the dinner table. It was nothing close to the home-cooked Thanksgiving meal I get at home, but it was still a good feast. When madre showed up, all our friends got to meet her; it was great. Of course everyone loved her. When we were all stuffed to the brim, Jess, Rachael, and I went to go see SLU’s production of Tartuffe. It was a spur of the minute decision to go, I didn’t have anything  better to do, and it turned out to be pretty funny. The play ended and it was time to head back home so that I could skype my family for Thanksgiving. I had a blast and a half seeing everyone and answering their questions.

I started this blog in the Madrid Airport waiting to go to Morocco and now I’m finishing it in the Zurich, Switzerland Airport waiting to go to Berlin. My life is perfect.

I only got to sleep for a few hours after skyping with my family before hopping in a taxi to the airport to catch our 6:30am flight. We arrived in London and found a cute little café to chill and plan out our weekend. We started off with the famous wax museum, Madame Tussauds. It was so cool!!! I couldn’t get over how life-like the figures were. Since they were sometimes scattered on the floor, I mistook a few of them for real people. We walked around for a while posing with our favorite celebs. Naturally I got my picture with Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, and the royal family. Other molds there were Robert Pattinson, Russell Brandt, Justin Timberlake, Obama, Hitler, Gandhi, Churchill, E.T, Marilyn Monroe, and a ton more. After our star treatment we went to go see a musical. Theaters were everywhere and there were a ton of advertisements for ½ price tickets. While we were riding the Tube, we saw and advertisement saying, “If you love Big Bang Theory you’ll love Loserville.” So obviously we went to go see it. It ended up being the most cliché, catchy, and generic musical out there. Other than a few Star Trek references and the overall theme of nerds, it was nothing like Big Bang Theory. Still, we walked out of the theater with all of its catchy songs stuck in our heads. Afterwards, we caught a glimpse of London’s nightlife as we walked around the city area.
Saturday we wanted to do the Fat Tire Bike Tour since we loved it so much in Barcelona. On our way to the bike tour, we passed the famous Tower Bridge; so we stopped there for our classic abroad selfies before meeting up with our bikes. So like London, it started raining when our tour began. Now I have done both of the bike tours in the rain. We plan on doing one in Berlin too because a guy on our ride in London said it was fabulous so I’m hoping the rain will hold out for our third and final bike tour. On our bikes we drove through 3 Royal Parks and saw Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Parliament, Big Ben, and The Princess Diana Memorial. It didn’t quite live up to the greatness of Barcelona’s, but it was still a blast and a half. After riding for almost 4 hours in the cold rain, it was back to the hostel to warm up and get a quick nap in before going on a pub crawl. It’s funny when we go out in other countries because in Madrid we usually leave our apartment around 11:30/12:00. The pub crawl started at 7:30 and we just can’t handle that. The first bar we actually went to closed at 12:30. That’s unheard of in Madrid. Kapital didn’t even open until midnight in Madrid. So we left a whole lot earlier than we’re used to and were back by 1:30am. So weird.

Sunday was yet another early morning. Jessica had wanted to do the Harry Potter tour, so Rachael and I went to visit the London Tower instead. At the Tower we got to see the crown jewels and a lot of other royal paraphernalia. The grounds were impressive and we spent at least 4 hours walking around the museums and premises. Bedazzled by the royalty, next on our agenda was to shop around the Portobello Market. Apparently on Sundays it’s a winter wonderland. We were ready to pregame for our trip to the Berlin Christmas Markets. I expected the streets to be crawling with vendors. It was a baby compared to El Rastro. They had lots of cool vintage things and a variety of food stalls. We paraded around the area eating delicious food and drinking hot chocolate. It was an awesomely chill Sunday afternoon. When we’d hit up all of the shops, we walked to the British Museum mainly to see the Rosetta stone and meet up with Jess. Fortunately, they put the main attraction on the first floor: easy access. We admired the language inscriptions for a while. It was fantastic. I still can’t get over all of the things I’m seeing that I’ve learned about in the past. After the museum, we just casually strolled around the city doing some shopping. We headed back to our hostel at a decent hour so that we could get a few hours of sleep before we had to catch a bus to the airport at 5:30am. It’s going to be a great day when I can finally sleep in and not set an alarm for some ungodly hour. It was another one of those get in early in the afternoon and go straight to classes.

Overall, London was amazing. I could sit an listen to their accents all day. However, I could not study abroad there. The dollar to pound conversion was out of this world; it ended up being my most expensive weekend. Since we only paid 21 euros for our round-trip flight I guess I can’t complain.

What a weekend. 

Molly in Morocco: Day 3

No different from any other weekend, I woke up bright and early praying that this day excursion would make up for my cancelled 2-day adventure. We hopped on the minibus and drove for a while until we reached a Berber village. The Berber house that we got to tour was eye opening: dirt floors, no doors, and stone-age appliances. Our group followed chickens and children through the maze of rooms to the kitchen where the women were making tea. They showed us to a lounge room where we sat and sipped the traditional Berber mint tea and munched on bread dipped in honey, olive oil, and butter. When we were leaving, the Berber children followed us out of the house begging for dirhams ($$$). The guy in front of me had a hard time resisting their cuteness and eventually gave in. The second he pulled out a coin the kids seized the opportunity and dove for it. The fought each other, tackling the other kids to get the coin. It was mayhem. Someone else had given them a bag of chips and they freaked out, fighting over that too. While the guy was peeling kids off of him, one of them managed to stick her hand in his pocket and take some money. Our tour guide literally had to hold the kids back while we jumped back into the van on our way to the Berber garden.

The Moroccans who work at the garden told us about all of the oils, creams, and medicines that come from the plants they grow. And of course, at the end of the tour they offered us to purchase saffron, Moroccan oil, and other varieties of spices, creams, and medicines.

From the garden, we jumped back into the minibus for lunch. We pulled into this cute little restaurant and ate on the rooftop terrace. I enjoyed a traditional tangier berber. I was a little nervous as to what I had ordered, but turns out it was just chicken and vegetables in some kind of spice. Crisis averted.

Now that our stomachs were full, it was time to walk off lunch. We began out hike up the Atlas Mountains to see the waterfalls. It felt a little strange. The mountains were snow-capped and looked just like the Swiss Alps. It was nothing like the picture of Morocco I had in my head. Our tour guide took us on this crazy off-beaten path. We essentially rock climbed for an hour.  Hiking through the Atlas Mountains wore me out and I slept almost the whole drive back to Marrakesh. I never would’ve thought I’d have an easier time hiking in the Swiss Alps over the mountains in Africa. To me it didn’t feel like Africa. My image was so different and I was looking forward to riding a camel through the flat, somewhat warm, Sahara desert. My expectations definitely put a damper on things, but I think I had the best substitute for my cancelled tour.

When we returned, it seemed a little early to call it a night, so I went back to the square to see the nightlife. I walked around for a while, enjoying my last night in Morocco. I’d have to say it was one of my favorite trips merely because it was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. The culture was so new to me as well as the environment. I had never been so uncomfortable and so ok with it in my life. I took quite a leap out of my comfort zone. It was also one of my hardest goodbyes yet. Maybe because it was my last RyanAir flight. Whatever the reason, I almost cried when I had to leave. Going to Morocco was such a big deal for me. I knew that I wanted to do it and I made it happen. 3 months ago I don’t think I would’ve ever had the guts to do what I did that weekend. It was a life changing experience that I wouldn’t trade for the world.

My flight landed in Madrid at 3pm. Just enough time to make it to my Latin Rhythms rehearsal at 4:30pm. After 2 hours of practice, it was time to go home and catch up on all of my homework from that weekend.

Tuesday came and we had the big general rehearsal with everyone for our performance that night. I was in the theater from 2-10:30pm. It was a long, exciting, fun, nerve-filled day.

I’ll blog about the performance after I finally catch up with London. Busy busy busy.

What a weekend. 

Molly in Morocco: Day 2

I woke up bright and early at 5:30am to be ready for my tour.  This was what I had been waiting for, my camel ride through the African desert!!! I nervously waited in my hostel for the tour guide to pick me up at 7am. The time came and no one was there. I didn’t think they’d leave without me since they’d picked me up from the airport and what not, so I waited a little while longer. Around 7:30 a group of people had gathered in the common room talking about the 2-day, 1-night desert tour and I assumed they were going on the same one I was. I followed the group out to the minibus. When people started paying, I told them I had paid the day before and showed them my receipt. Just my luck, I was with the wrong tour group. I panicked while the nice guides called the correct company and drove me to their office where I hopped on the right bus this time.

I couldn’t tell you how long we drove because I fell asleep, but it was long enough for me to get some significant rest. We abruptly stopped at this café because the road we were supposed to continue on was closed. Our guide explained to us that there was snow blocking our way to the mountains and that no tour group could pass. However, he told us not to worry because people were already working on clearing the snow and we should be on our way in an hour or so. I sat in this cute little café chatting with some friends I met on the bus while we waited for our tour guide to give us the go ahead. Unfortunately, an hour later he informed us that the entire 2-day, 1-night excursion was cancelled. I WAS LIVID. LIKE BEYOND LIVID. THIS TOUR IS WHY I CAME HERE. Utterly disappointed, we all got back on the bus to drive back to Marrakech. It was a long disappointing ride. I had no idea what I was going to do when I got back. Those 2 days were supposed to be spent riding camels and sleeping under the stars. There’s no way I would’ve come here by myself if I wasn’t going on that tour. What made me even angrier was that the company just kept telling us to rebook for tomorrow. Apparently they didn’t understand that some of us have flights to catch. They didn’t even give me all of my money back for the tour. Like I said, LIVID. As if I wasn’t upset enough, they wouldn’t drive me back to the hostel. I had no idea where I was.  I furiously marched through the big square on my way back to the hostel and stopped to look around all the shops and street performers. I spied some things that I wanted to buy, so I decided to go drop my backpack off before getting in too deep. What should’ve been a 15 minute walk turned into me struggling for an hour and a half through the maze that is Morocco.

When I had finally arrived in the hostel, I was exhausted, but I pulled myself together and headed back to the square. On my way, I stopped at the sandwich place I ate at last night. At the sandwich stand I ran into Cal, the guy I ate with yesterday. Cal and I ended up heading to the square together. Since I had just spent the past 1.5 hours lost in the Moroccan maze, it was so great to have someone walking with me who knew where he was going. We strolled through the big square and the souks around it. I don’t feel any sense of danger walking around.  The people are harmless; all they want is you to visit their shop and buy their stuff. As long as you firmly say no, they won’t bother you again. I absolutely love walking around the big square. It’s full of snake charmers, monkeys on leashes, henna tattoo artists, and vendors. They just walk around free-nilly with those snakes!!! I was mesmerized. If you stare and watch too long, they assume you want to take your picture with one and don’t hesitate to wrap a snake right around your shoulder. Horrifying. As Cal and I were making our way through the square a man threw his monkey on my arm. I was taken back a bit because I knew he’d beg for money afterwards. Cal sniped a pic and like I anticipated, the man demanded money. Cal was pretty strong headed and merely shook the man off and walked away, no harm done. We walked around some more before Cal had to leave to meet up with some friends. I decided to hang in the square and do more shopping; after all, my plans had been cancelled. When I got here I really wanted to get real henna, not the silly ones you get on vacation in Florida. So I found a lady in the square and sat down at her little booth. She started drawing the intricate flowers and designs on my hand. She even asked my name so that she could write it in Arabic. I was a little nervous that she was actually writing something other than my name like the classic Chinese tattoos. As it turns out she actually did write my name! How do I know? Because after that nearly every vendor was trying to get my attention yelling, “Molly! Qué guapa!” Fun fact: everyone here thinks I’m Spanish. Strangely, American is their last guess. Vendors were shouting “Hola” all afternoon. I kind of take it as a compliment. I think it may have something to do with the way I’ve taken to saying “no”. Speaking Spanish has become second nature to me. It’s the first thing that comes out of my mouth and I love it. With Cal’s directions, I began the short trek back to the hostel, goods in hand.

At the hostel, the common room is the place to be. Everyone is just hanging out chatting, smoking hookah, and drinking wine. It’s the chillest environment. While I was just sitting on one of the couches, a guy who just arrived was talking about how he was starving and wanted to go get food but was too nervous to go out on his own. So I offered to walk to the square with him and grab a bite to eat. We were chatting up a storm and he was so shocked when I told him I just got here yesterday. His words were, “And you’re ok with walking around already?!” It was obvious that he just got here; still stuck on the rumors of danger in Marrakech. It felt amazingly awesome to actually know where I was going and how to navigate the markets. Someone was following ME. That rarely happens. He was a pretty cool guy. The people you meet in hostels are always so interesting and have the best stories.

It’s getting time to call it a night and pray that my tour tomorrow doesn’t get cancelled.

What a day. 

Molly in Morocco: Arriving

I MADE IT TO MOROCCO SAFE, SOUND, AND WET.

I’m just too excited about Morocco right now to even think about blogging about London. And it’s dark and rainy in Marrakesh so walking around the city is not ideal and it’s only 7pm.

This has already been one of the best weekends of my life. Nothing huge has happened, but the sheer fact that I’m in MOROCCO, AFRICA does it all. Since I didn’t leave until today (Friday), I had Thursday night to hang out in Madrid. We took advantage of the free night and went to Kapital!!!! We were all super excited since we’ve been denied the last 2 times we tried to go. (When I say we I mean me, Jess, her friend who was visiting, Rachael, Hannah, Sam, Marshall, Syd, Jenny, and Angela). Jenny knew someone who got us in without the line. It was fabulous. Since we were there pretty early we found a couch and lounged a bit before making our way to one of the 7 dance floors. We met some Spanish friends and made conversation when it started to get crowded and we moved to the main dance floor. It was crazy! There were go-go dancers on the stage, a saxophone player, and even some random people who just jumped up there to dance. I had a blast dancing all night. The craziest part was whenever it started getting too warm; they shot cool air from a cannon at the crowd. We danced till almost 3am before everyone was all out of energy. I was glad to end the night a little early so that I could get some sleep before leaving for Morocco. 

I was a bundle of emotions today. I woke up and finished packing. The entire time I was in the airport I was a melting pot of emotions. Excited, nervous, terrified, ready, and everything in between. I started getting nervous at the gate because I didn’t hear a single person speaking English. I had been banking on meeting someone on the plane. Everyone was either in a large group or a couple. So I boarded the plane hoping someone friendly would sit next to me. A Spanish woman took the seat adjacent to mine and had no hesitation in starting a conversation. She was familiar with Morocco and visited numerous times. She assured me that it wasn’t dangerous and that everyone was actually very friendly. We spent the next half hour talking about Morocco. In Spanish may I add. I felt like I was on top of the world; traveling to Morocco solo and having a real life conversation in Spanish.

Our plane landed and I was beside myself. I had just landed in AFRICA. WHAT. I was nothing but smiles as I walked into the airport. My smile slightly faded when they didn’t even stamp my passport. I was looking forward to adding to my skimpy collection. My smile was quickly restored when I walked out of baggage claim to a man holding my name on a sign. Cross that off the bucket list. I knew he was from the tour group, but I was still a little on edge, I mean I was on a different continent. We started driving and he played cliché Moroccan music. My driver was all over the place. I don’t think he knew where my hostel was. So our first stop was the tour office where I paid for my trip tomorrow and was provided with a map of Morocco. I was a little shocked when they showed me where they dropped me off compared to where my hostel was. I was under the impression that they were going to take me straight to the hostel. Turns out that the street it’s on is too narrow for cars. Before I could pay for my tour, I had to find an ATM. My driver literally just pointed to a building and sent me to go get cash while he said he’d wait right there. I frantically ran across the street, still fearful of the rumors of Morocco’s safety, and collected my dirhams, which I love because 1 euro is almost 12 dirhams. When I got back to the corner where the driver was supposed to be, I wasn’t the least bit shocked when he was no longer standing there. A nearby tour company decided that the lost look on my face was their opportunity to ring me in. For a second I thought it was the same company and was a little confused. A Moroccan man was leaning on the wall behind me, seeing my struggle, and told the other tour company to back off. I was astounded; that was not what I expected to happen at all. When I still couldn’t find the driver I walked the half block back to the tour office and found him waiting inside. Crisis averted.

Now it was back to the car so that he could drop me off near the hostel. The streets are mayhem. People on scooties dodge cars left and right, immediately followed by honking. As we approached the narrow street, it became obvious that cars would not fit. It was maybe 10 feet wide lined with stores as far as the eye can see. It was everything I pictured it to be. But he dropped me off at this super narrow street and told me to just go straight for 5 min to the hostel. Not even 2 minutes into my walk a man asked me where I was going and said that he could take me there. I read in my travel tips that people who do this expect you to pay them afterwards, so I told him I didn’t have money to give him and walked away. 30 seconds later he came back telling me that he would take me there for free. I was hesitant, but I also didn’t want to risk getting lost when it was raining and getting dark, so I followed him. He took me off that path that I was supposed to just go straight on and I got a little nervous. I started lagging behind him more and more. He definitely noticed my hesitation and when we arrived at the door he pointed to the correct address and the “hostelbooker.com” sign before ringing the doorbell and letting me in. Another crisis averted.

THE HOSTEL. IT’S FABULOUS. Everything is so Moroccan. For starters, the door is so cute and little that I have to duck to get in. You immediately walk into this open room with colorful couches and pillows everywhere. The second I walked in I was told to have a seat on the couch and was offered the traditional Moroccan tea. I already don’t want to leave.

The walls are brightly colored pictures of camels, trees, and other Moroccan things. It’s perfect. And everyone hangs out in the huge, open common area sipping on the 24/7 free tea. You literally can’t be sitting here for more than 10 minutes without being asked if you’d like some tea.

The staff are some of the friendliest people I’ve met. They pointed out places to visit on the map and it only made me wish I could stay here longer. As I’m sitting on the couch typing this, one of the workers came over and put a pillow behind my back so that I was more comfortable. I don’t even get treated like this in the US. This is fabulous. People have been flowing in and out of the common room all night, mostly people who speak English. I’m realizing that I live in a bubble. Everyone in the hostel is so chill, hanging out playing cards, and talking about how they’ve been visiting all over Marrakesh. Why does everyone think it’s a war zone? My impression is that it’s nowhere near the danger level people think it is. I’ve been chatting with this guy here on and off. Not too long ago he turned to ask me if I was hungry. I was super worried about eating here. I actually planned on just snacking on the muffins I brought from home. Because I didn’t know where to even go to get food and wasn’t about to venture outside in the dark/rain by myself, I was filling myself up with tea. Another guy in the hostel had come back with this delicious looking sandwich, so we asked him where he got it. I ended up going with the man I had been chatting with to this food stand less than 2 minutes from our hostel. It’s invigorating walking down the street. This is a whole new and incredibly different culture that I can’t even grasp. I ordered my sandwich that ended up costing less than 2 euros and devoured it. I couldn’t even tell you 100% what I was eating and I was perfectly ok with that. All I know is that it was delicious.

I can’t even fathom everything that has happened in the past 12 hours. Although I wish that I had friends here to share the experience with, I couldn’t be happier that I took this opportunity. This is going to be one of the best things that will ever happen to me. I’m the luckiest girl in the world. 

I LOVE MADRID

(London blog still to come)

Today was perfect. It made me realize just how much I really truly love Madrid. Like, I’m moving here. It might have something to do with the fact that I call this place home, but of all the cities I’ve seen, I think Madrid is still my favorite. 

My day started off like every other Wednesday. Since I don’t have class until 2:30, a bunch of our friends usually get together for lunch at Tierra Burrito. But since I love churros and have eaten at Tierra the past 2 Wednesdays, I wanted to switch it up and go to the famous San Gines chocolatería in Sol. I asked our group if any one wanted to join me, but as soon as someone else mentioned Tierra everyone was set on burritos. I’ve been waiting to get churros for a while now, so I decided to just go off on my own. I also had to do some shopping in the Sol area too so I figured now was the perfect time. Last night I looked up directions to San Gines and set my alarm for my morning churros. 

I pulled a classic Molly move this morning and left my iPod at home with the directions. I knew what metro stop/exit to take but that was all. I figured that I would at least recognize the street exit if I saw it. Unfortunately, the exit I was looking for wasn’t there. So I took a shot in the dark and just chose one. I’d never gotten off at this stop before, so I really had no idea where I was going. Shocker. I knew the place was near Sol though, so when I saw a bus going to Sol turn down the street I immediately followed it. Moments later I ran into a street name that I remembered writing down the night before. I took yet another shot in the dark and quickly turned left, not knowing if I should’ve gone right. I walked down the block to see the name of the street that San Gines was on. Just seconds later I was standing in front of the famous chocolatería. I knew from the hustle and bustle around it that it was going to be fabulous. I couldn’t believe that I had actually made it there. I was so excited!! I walked in and ordered my churros, not really sure what to expect. The waiter was super friendly and in less than 10 minutes he brought out my plate of 6 churros and a cup of chocolate. It was heaven on a plate. I was more than enjoying my churros in the cafe when J. Biebs’s “Beauty and a Beat” came on over the stereo. At that moment I thought to myself, life is perfect. I downed my churros con chocolate in no time and then headed to El Corte Inglés to look at cameras. 

My camera has been having issues and won’t upload pictures to my computer or let me view all of them on the camera. I tried numerous things to fix it, but nothing seemed to work. There was no way I was going to leave for Morocco tomorrow without a functioning camera. When I saw a camera in the window similar to mine, I thought to ask if they sold just the USB cord to see if that was the problem before I bought a whole new camera. They didn’t sell the exact cord, but the cashier gave me a universal port to put my sim card in that could hook up to my computer instead. I was so proud of myself. I had walked in a talked with the man in Spanish about my camera and thought my problem was solved. It was such a great feeling. Now that my camera problem was temporarily solved, I was in need of leggings for our Latin Rhythms performance. I found this store while I was walking around, talked to the saleswoman and bought some leggings. I was on a roll today, chatting up a storm. From there, I just kind of walked around hoping to run into this store that Jess raved about. At this point I had walked 2 or 3 metro stops from Sol to the Gran Vía area. I was loving every second of it. I was just by myself enjoying Madrid more than anything. It was just awesome. I LOVE EUROPE AND THIS CITY. I still had time to kill before I needed to go to class, so I just kept walking and window shopping. As I kept walking I couldn’t believe what I had stumbled upon. THE TACO BELL OF MADRID. So obviously I had to stop and have lunch because my churros weren’t enough. It wasn’t quite up to US’s standards, but I was glad to have it. Fun fact: the phrases on the sauce packets are still written in English. 

Now that I was full with tacos and churros, it was finally time to head to school. I went to class, came home, did homework, tried to figure out my camera (which still isn’t right), and lounged around the rest of the night. Today was such a great day. It makes me sad to think that I only have 24 days left here. It’s gonna be a rough goodbye. 

What a day. 

*I took some pics today while I was out but can’t get them on my computer right now. I’ll upload them when I figure out what’s wrong with my camera*

T-MINUS 1.5 DAYS TILL MOROCCO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Blog at WordPress.com.