Span-Germ-Anglish

As an American it´s pretty obvious my native language is English. My second language was Spanish and then my third, German. However, the last time I attempted to speak more than a “gracias” in Spanish was in the fall of 2009. Yeah, it´s been almost four years.

So, my Spanish is rusty to say the least. But I figured it would come back to me as I traversed Spain. And maybe it will. But today, in Barcelona, I created my own new language: Spangermanglish

When I first started taking German I always said ¨”Si” because that had been drilled into me. Four semesters of German later, anytime I go to say “Si” here it comes out as “Ja.” No works the same way. I said “Entschuldigung” instead of “Perdon”. But that´s not the most embarassing, though that was pretty bad. What´s bad is that as I walk down the streets and see words or think of how I should say something essential in Spanish (Where is the train station for example), my mind instantly answers in German. Or a mixture of Spanish and German. I had wanted to say “It is a hostel.” What it came out as was “Es ist una Hostel.” That´s Spangermanglish for you. The es was probably right. Hostel…no idea what the Spanish word is. But the “ist” is 100% German.

Remembering my Spanish is not the biggest problem I have encountered – it is the fear of making a mistake or not being able to understand. Around 1:30 when I left the hostel to walk around Barcelona I was starving. I didn´t eat until 3, partially because I couldn´t find anything but partially because of the language barrier. Barcelona speaks Spanish but Catalan (I believe it´s Catalan) first. That means I am two languages removed at all times. I had no idea how to order and thankfully the poor waitress took pity on me and used English on me.

From this post you´d think I´m not having a good time. I am! Barcelona is beautiful, albeit odd. I am staying at a very swanky (but not swanky price) hostel that is on the main shopping street. I can´t wait to explore it more when I get back from Madrid.

Pictures will be up eventually. There´s no SD card reader in the computer I´m using so for now, you´ll just have to live without pictures. Tomorrow, I tackle the Spanish bullet trains, Ave, and head to Madrid!

Memories (All Alone in the Moonlight)

I’ve started writing my goodbye letters/cards and planning my last few days in Aber. It seems a little surreal. Didn’t I just get here?

It seems as I’m getting ready to leave Aber, the memories are returning at every corner. Just yesterday I was walking along the twisted, confusing outside steps and inside corridors of Hugh Owen. I remember thinking that first day that that was the weirdest building I had ever walked through, in, around. Now, not so much. Yes, Hugh Owen is really, really weird. The numbering scheme makes no sense. And the fact you can enter from the outside on any floor but E or F (I believe) is incredibly weird. But I’ve gotten used to it.

I remember thinking I was going to use that cute little convenience shop near my flat. Yeah, not so much. I remember thinking on that first night when I walked out of the train station and we sped along to the flat, “Where the hell am I going? What are these buildings? What is behind that railing?” (Okay, maybe not the last one. The sound of the ocean was a little too obvious for that stupid comment.) I was so confused. Nothing really made sense the first week I was here in Aber. People told me to meet them at Spoons. I must have looked so confused so they asked where I did know. I knew the train station and they said Spoon’s was the train station. It took another few days before I realized Wetherspoon’s is commonly called “Spoons” by the locals and is normally around train stations, airports, etc.

There are other memories, some hazy, some clear. Going to the hospital is pretty clear. My first Archives class… a little hazy. Some people I remember meeting for the first time – others, not so much. Most people I can say with confidence where I first had a conversation with them. Heather is special because we knew each other via Facebook and Skype before we actually met.

Some people I remember far too much. I can tell you what they were wearing, where they were standing, how they were standing, where they sat during the meeting and most of what they said to me. Or, the jist of it. It’s a curse of a photographic memory – you can remember what it looked like, what it felt like but not what it sounded like. It’s annoying at times because I so, so want to remember what some people said at certain moments. See! I do have reasons for liking to have fights over texting or Messenger.

Anyhoo… it’s been a great year and I am reminded of that wherever I go. Yes, I remember the bad moments too. But the good ones? Those are the ones when you remember as you’re walking into the Union, they hit you and you just have to stop and say “Wow. Life is kind of awesome.”

Hugs and Talkin’ to My Momma

Image

There could be a country song somewhere in that title I imagine. But I digress.

There are five different love languages, or so we’re told. Out of a scale of 1-12, I am a 10 on “physical touch” meaning I love hugs, kisses and especially holding hands. Absolutely nothing in the world makes me feel more secure in my world than curling up with my Dad to watch (read: fall asleep) a baseball game or holding my Mom’s hand while we’re grocery shopping or when she used to drive. Nowadays I drive her around and I haven’t mastered one-handed driving quite yet. 

Whenever I go to a new place I always fear that I won’t find someone who craves and needs that physical contact as much as I do. Words are great and I need those too – but give me a choice between someone saying “I love you” and giving me a hug? I’ll choose the hug. When I came to Aber, I imagined that my British friends would be the uptight, stereotypical Brits who only showed affection to dogs and horses. Enter in some of my best friends here. They love hugs. And they’re good at them too. Not as good as my mother or dad or sister, but good. 

When the Boston Marathon bombings happened, I was away from the people I usually hug here in Aber. And more importantly, I just wanted a hug from my mother. There has to be some healing property in mothers’ arms because I always feel better after one of those hugs. My Dad said he married my Mom for her hugs. I can see why. 

I wanted a hug not because the tragedy affected me personally or that I felt particularly unsafe. But as I sat, watching the news coverage, I kept thinking “I need to talk to my mother.” We talked about the most random things that day and barely touched on Boston, other than my saying that’s why I called. Her words, random as they may have been, calmed and soothed me. 

I will miss my hugs from my Aber friends (one of whom I named the Hug Whore after he said (and I paraphrase): “I don’t give out my hugs freely. It’s whorish to just give a hug any time, any day.). But I am also happy to know that soon, in less than a month, I get to have a Mom-hug. And then, a few months after that? I get to find my new hugging friends at the University of Maryland.

Living in the Sunshine

Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations.

I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty,

believe in them, and try to follow where they lead. ~ Louisa May Alcott

Instead of writing about Malta (it’s not going to happen, sorry), I thought it’s time to reflect on good news.

April is the sunniest month of the year (or so people keep telling me) in Aber. That means the restaurants, pubs and cafes are getting good use out of their outside seating and the seagulls are getting fat off of stealing people’s chips/crisps/food in general.

Sunshine is an interesting thing. As clouds pass by the sun the beams are changed, shaded and refracted in a way that is unlike many other things in the world. It is warmth and coolness at the same time. Sunshine has the ability to burn away fog or fight through the clouds, banishing them to another day.

My sunshine right now is my acceptance and decision about graduate school. I am going to be a Terrapin at the University of Maryland in the fall! I am beyond excited about that and I truly believe that that is what is keeping me sane. It is not that I am overly stressed or that I have a lot on my plate. It is more that I am so ready to go home. I am ready to be over and done with Aberystwyth. Not mainly because of the people, but because I am ready for the next step. And that next step is this summer.

And, if I’m being honest with myself, there is another reason I’m ready to leave Aber. It hurts to be here. I ended a friendship that was incredibly hurtful to me a few weeks ago and now I see reminders of it everywhere. I know I will still have reminders in the United States but I am hoping that being surrounded by the love and warmth of my family – people who would never treat me that way and know better than to mention this person – will help cure the hurt.

But, I live my life in the sunshine. Knowing it will burn away the ickiness – the clouds – in my life. I know that graduate school is the next big step for me. And I’m terrified and I’m so incredibly excited. And I’m ready. Because the thing with steps and dreams and aspirations is that they are like sunshine – once you hit them, they move to shine on a different spot, spreading warmth into a place you previously thought was dark.

San Giljan and Sliema

I stayed in San Giljan (Saint Julian’s in English) for my week. St. Julian’s is a beautiful town on Balluta and Spinola Bays. It’s filled with restaurants, though not much shopping. It’s hilly (like the rest of Malta) and the yellow limestone buildings are a classic around St. Julian’s. Malta’s only skyscraper is in St. Julian’s as well.

A traditional wooden balcony in Saint Julian's

A traditional wooden balcony in Saint Julian’s

I loved St. Julian’s. It was a beautiful town and one that was very walkable. I walked to get gelato a few times from the hostel and even though the hill was annoying, it was do-able.

Paceville (pronounced Patche-ville by the Maltese) is the party town within Malta and I didn’t really wander in there except by accident my first day there. So sorry, no reviews of the clubs.

Sliema at sunset

Sliema at sunset

Sliema (pronounced Schlee-ma) is a sprawling town on the bays. It has beautiful stretches of rocks with funny paths grooved into it from the water. It has the higher-end restaurants and Malta’s biggest shopping mall – Tijne Point – which is paltry compared to an American mall. It also has the Sliema Strand which is the house of the ferries. You can catch a ferry from Sliema to the near-heart of Valletta, the capital, a harbor cruise around the creeks or even boat trips to Comino, Gozo and Sicily. The ticket sellers are crazy-aggressive but if you cross the street you have a nice park, shops and a brat seller. Genuine, German brats sold by an actual German.

Both cities are gorgeous because of the water. The streets are narrow and hilly. I couldn’t imagine driving on them! Thank goodness I didn’t have to! I think it’s also the good place to base yourself. From St. Julians or Sliema you can catch a bus to just about everywhere on Malta or get to Gozo as well. It’s got everything you need but, at least in St. Julian’s, it has a hometown feel.

I’ll post about the other cities, eventually.

Life in Malta

Tags

,

The water along Sliema

The water along Sliema

As it’s the last full day I’m in Malta, I think it’s high time that I posted about my trip. I don’t want to go day-by-day for the sake that it’s not terribly exciting for me and I’m sure it’s the same for you.

I was greeted in Malta with brilliant sunshine and crazy wind. The wind died down a bit but the sunshine stayed – all week. It has been between 70-80 degrees every day (21-26 Celsius) and the sunshine has caused many a person in my hostel to get burnt. Myself as well. However, my burn is fading and turning into a beautiful golden brown tan. My legs didn’t get it, but I wear skirts so infrequently in Aber that that’s fine.

The people are friendly, minus a few bus drivers. When I was on the bus to Marsaxlokk I dropped my water bottle and it went skittering across the bus. One woman snatched it for me and another offered me tissues to wipe it off. Seriously nice people! I rank them as the nicest Europeans I’ve met and potentially the nicest people ever. The Canadians are having a battle for first, though.

The food… carb heaven someone called it. And they are 100% right. You learn to live off of pasta or pizza simply because that’s what’s around. But the produce is amazing. I’ve eaten eggplant, avocado, something like a cross between a zucchini and a squash and strawberries that were all so, so fresh. I have probably eaten a gallon of strawberries in my time here. I’ve got a pint left for dinner tonight and breakfast tomorrow. That, and some Gozo honey. Gozo honey is usually made with bees that use thyme plants. Let me just say that that honey is the honey of the gods!

The scenery – someone described it as California scrub-brush land. I think it’s like Sardinia or Ibiza or maybe some pictures I’ve seen of Israel. They use their white limestone which is really a golden color, and these balconies that are wooden and usually painted in Georgian green (yes, as in King Geroge VI). They often look like they are in need of power-washing so Malta can look run-down if you aren’t paying attention. (The roads certainly are!) But it is such a beautiful, calm country. Not a lot of sand, instead rock ledges that you climb in and out of the sea on.

And the water is the color… so beautiful, I can barely describe it. A turquoise at times, a blue at others, that is so saturated that you feel like your eyes might just burn out.

The hostel is friendly – we’re very much like a family. Yesterday there was a barbeque on the roof and so a bunch of us were sitting on the long, comfy bench built into the wall, talking about where we’ve been and our experiences. It was a little chilly, but wonderful. Especially since it was the first burger on the grill I’ve had in forever.

I’ll tell you all about each city I’ve been to in time, but I think one of my hostel-mates wants the computer.

Escapes

Image

My bread pudding and caramel

There are many types of escapes in the world. There are the ones you use to escape the real world, those that you use to calm you, to heal you or to procrastinate. I’ve been discovering I have different escapes for different things.

For example – cleaning. Cleaning is an escape for me when I am mad or anxious about something. It lets me put all my focus into scrubbing the burners on the stove and takes my focus away from, say, the flight I’m about to take. There’s a reason why all the kitchen cabinets got scrubbed the day I left for Wales the first time.

Baking is another huge escape for me. Cooking, yes. But I prefer to bake. My flatmates teased me that they would try to purposefully stress me out so they could have baked goodies all the time. Thankfully (for my health, their health and my sanity) they didn’t. This year has been relatively stress-free for me. And yet, I bake. Baking is very precise. But it also allows a little fun. I’m making bread pudding with a caramel sauce right now. The recipe called for Jack Daniel’s and I didn’t have any. In fact, other than one bottle of beer that nobody in my flat seems to claim (and maybe some flat cider), we don’t have any alcohol in our flat. That, and I didn’t want the caramel to be ruined with the taste of whiskey. Instead, I added a fair helping of nutmeg and brown sugar. It turned out runny (I think it’s supposed to be) but absolutely delicious – spicy and pure amazingness. I’m now eating the bread pudding, hoping that it’ll last for breakfast tomorrow!

Cooking is also an adventure escape. I am not an adventurous person but I will most definitely try new baking recipes!

Travelling is an escape, especially when it involves beautiful views. This is why I’m going to Malta. I need an escape from Aber. I need an escape from grad school waiting, from dissertation work, from living with five other people (no matter how much I love them). I need to get away to a beautiful, warm and friendly nation to recharge myself. 

So, until I get back from Malta, enjoy your own Easter holidays!

Pride in Where Your Footprints Are

Take Pride in Where Your Footprints Are

Along the Promenade in Aberystwyth there is a series of four in-lain lines alternating between Welsh and English. There’s one that I love that says, “Take pride in where your footprints are.”

It’s an interesting concept – take pride in where you have been. But, when you consider that Aberystwyth is a beach town, it takes on a different meaning. When I walk on the beach I know that my footprints will be swallowed by the sea at some point. Soon enough, come high tide, there will be no trace that I was ever there. In one way, that’s depressing. In another way it’s liberating. And in another… well, it’s a challenge.

It is a challenge to not only live every day to the fullest, but to remember the little things. Remember the impact you have on people. It is a little thing to hold a door open and soon, like the water over the sand, the motion will be over and forgotten. But you never know just how much one motion, one gesture, one word will mean to someone. It is a challenge to me to be the best person I can be to everyone I know, not just for myself but for the other people.

I saw a great speaker about a year ago named Paul Wesselman or “The Ripples Guy.” He promotes daily happiness with a quote or a kind word. Ripples are something that start small – with only a drop – but grow bigger than ever imagined. In the same way, know that even if you can’t see the impact because your footprints have disappeared, you have made one. Let it be a positive one.

On a slightly less deep note – I am definitely excited to be leaving on my Spring Break trip in a week! I am also incredibly excited to be 7/10ths done with my dissertation. I should get one more post out to you guys before I go on break but then expect lots of pictures!

Talk to the Locals

Yesterday was a crappy day until oh, about 7. But then I got news that I had been accepted to the University of Maryland’s HiLS (History and Library Science) program. The smiling began.

Then today I got my oral history project proposal back. My first 1st on anything I’ve submitted here so far! While the 1st (70/80 for you US folks) was great news in and of itself, it was my conversation with Arddun after discussing the essay and an email from Maryland that gave me the biggest reasons to smile.

Arddun, my Oral History module professor, is currently writing her doctoral dissertation on ex-Nazis or something related to that, using oral history as the basis. Her advisor is my advisor at Aber as well: an absolutely mad (but brilliant) man named Peter. She’s written her undergraduate, master’s and now doctoral theses with him and so she had some advice. She also advised me about getting free housing or potential, high-paying jobs, within the University setting. 

I don’t know why I hadn’t talked to her before about something like this. Money is an issue for nearly everyone doing a graduate degree and she’s gotten so far into it, and been at Aber for so long that I should have known she was bound to have some tips.

It definitely taught me a lesson (besides that British/Welsh people will look at you oddly if you have a ridiculous grin on your face as you walk down the hill alone). In any situation, talk to the locals. Talk to the people who have your supervisor about the tricks to getting them to email back, to know what they’re not great at, advising wise, or how to find a job that will pay for housing during your graduate education. Talk to the people who know where the best place to eat is. Talk to the woman who would know where the cheapest band-aids are. Talk with the locals. They probably know more than you think they do. 🙂

Eggs Benedict and Castle Views (ScotMUN Day 4)

Image

Edinburgh Castle from Prince Street Park

After breakfast at Mum’s we went to the National Museum of Scotland for some sightseeing. I had already been to the Museum before but I hadn’t seen all of it before, so I went to some different exhibits, letting the other three explore the Scottish history bit.

Every hostel I’ve been in has at least a wall (sometimes several) in which everyone signs as evidence they were in that city/hostel. So before breading out, we all signed the wall. Yes, I graffiti-ed. No, it wasn’t illegal.

We walked back to where the bus dropped us off by way of Princes Street Park which included a fountain which had a beautiful view of the Castle from. Despite being late, we stopped and took some beautiful pictures before heading out.

A bus, then a plane and then a train and I was back in Aber. While Edinburgh was gorgeous, I’m glad to be back home in Aber, especially because now I can sleep!