When in Rome…

Eating some delicious chocolate and banana gelato!

The distinguished pyramid that let us know we were close to our hotel.

The Famous Colosseum

Part of the ruins in the Roman Forum and the city around it.

The Pantheon.

Trevi Fountain

The river that passes through Rome at night.

Night life along the river.

Eating dinner on the riverside.

St. Paul’s Cathedral

Fruit candy.

Famous Italian Pizza!

The Spanish Steps.

View from the top of the Spanish Steps.

In one of Rome’s beautiful parks.

I’m not sure what this thing was but it looked cool and it was in Vatican city.

The famous paintings by Michelangelo

The Creation of Man

A perfect example of Europe’s small vehicles.

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Home Sweet Home

A picture of Mt. Hood from my flight, I’m home!

Post for August 12, 2012

I have now been back home for about two days. I still feel like I have lived an amazing dream. Things still seem surreal. Upon arriving home I felt a sense of relief. I think that may be because I felt safe and happy that everything during my entire trip went well. It was a huge difference as to when I arrived to my homestay in Barcelona because there everything was unfamiliar and new. I approached things with caution. Here I know and am comfortable with most things already that I felt a bit more at ease. That’s not to say that I didn’t like being in Barcelona though. There’s a few things I miss about it. I miss going out with the friends I made there and just exploring different parts of Barcelona or trying new foods. I miss interacting with my host family. I miss the beach and how exotic/interesting everything seemed in my eyes. I also really miss the random kindness I got to enjoy from strangers I would just talk to sometimes on the streets.

I am happy to be home though. Especially now that my brother and my mom have returned from their trip to Mexico. I feel more at home and like I truly belong. I love being able to use the kitchen and make whatever I feel like eating. I also appreciate all the commodities we have here like a fully functional washer and dryer, and consistent warm water with good pressure in the shower. I love finding it easier to relate to my family here.

The following photos are what I hope will convey how I feel being home again.

Happy to be with my family celebrating my brother’s 15th birthday.

I chose to include this picture because we don’t often take pictures together and it makes me happy to see this and know that I have a family of my own to love and be a part of.

Beautiful Oregon

I chose this photo that I took on the road from Monmouth to Salem because it shows a little bit of Oregon’s beauty with the sunset lighting and the tall trees. I think this picture carries meaning not just because it’s of the road I commonly drive on to get from home to school but because there’s a road that lies ahead and much of Oregon I have yet to see. I am happy to be back and while I was in Spain I realized that I don’t have to go far away to see new things. There’s so much of Oregon that I have never seen or even made the effort to explore and that is why one of my new goals is to set out to explore more of Oregon when I have free time.

All Good Things Come to an End

An overview of Barcelona

Post for Aug. 1, 2012

I know I’m blessed. I know I’m privileged. I’m thankful for what I have and the life I’ve lived. This whole trip has been like heaven on earth to me. I am at awe with the world and the small bits of it that I have seen. I only spent four days in Rome and I loved every minute of it, and having this one last day to be back in Barcelona puts a nice end to my trip. I plan to make a short post separate from this one to display some of my pictures from Rome. I spent most of the day today resting and getting my stuff ready and packed to return back to Oregon. Earlier though (in the evening) I went to go see the top of Mt. Tibidabo because I had heard so much about it and had not had the opportunity to see it until today. Once I got to the top I took a minute to soak in the beauty of the view it had. You could see all of Barcelona from the top of Tibidabo.

For some reason listening to all the children’s cheers and laughter made me kind of sad.

At the top of Tibidabo is a small amusement park that is over 100 years old! It was fun to walk around it and see all the kids and their families having a good time together. It kind of made me miss home and my childhood a little bit though. For such an old amusement park it still felt quite alive and functional, though kind of expensive in my opinion.

I’m glad my final memory of Barcelona is going to be of Mt. Tibidabo.

I walked around taking pictures by myself and I liked just having some time alone even though I was surrounded by so many strangers. While I was walking it started getting very windy and the wind brought a cloud onto the mountain. It was a cool thing to see because it was just a thick fog you could see moving up and through the mountain.

I almost got to go to the very top and touch Jesus’ feet but they were closing. Maybe some day I’ll get to come back and walk to the top.

One of my goals for the night was to “touch Jesus’ feet” at the top of the church which as at the ultimately highest point of all of Barcelona. Unfortunately they had just closed off the gate a half hour before I got there and they didn’t let me walk up to the top. I was a little disappointed, but not entirely because I thought of it as something I had left to do in hopes of returning some day.

I hope this doesn’t turn out to be just a dream. Because it definitely feels like one.

See you later! (Hopefully soon.)

Now I’m about to get a bit of sleep because I will be waking up at 2:30am to leave for the airport. I will definitely miss Barcelona. It now has a special place in my heart and I look forward to returning again some day. I am sure I will be reminiscing about this trip for years to come.

Hasta la vista!

Jose R. Garcia

My Final Day (sort of)

The entrance to the building where I took my classes.

Post for July 26, 2012

I can’t believe tomorrow will be my last day with everyone whom I’ve met at BIC. I say tomorrow is “sort of” my last day here because I won’t actually be returning home yet since I’m going to Rome for four days then coming back to Barcelona for a day and finally returning home. Tonight was probably the last time I will see most of the people in my program because most of their flights are quite early in the morning but at least I’ll see a couple and we just had an amazing end to our trip together, but I’ll get to that soon. It’s been such a looong day! I finished my final exams without dying though. I think I did well on both of them too, so that’s a huge relief. After school I made plans to to go visit Barcelona’s 1992 Olympic park since today was the 20th anniversary of it’s inauguration. I am so glad I got the opportunity to finally visit it on such a special and relevant day, especially since the Summer Olympics in London begin tomorrow.

One last look towards Plaza España

On my way to the Olympic park I took the opportunity to take some last pictures of several of the places I had already visited. I felt comfortable doing this since I was by myself and taking the time wasn’t going to annoy anyone else.

My last visit to Palau de Montjuic

Barcelona’s 1992 Olympic Stadium from the side

The 1992 Olympic Track and Field

Being so close to this track and field was kind of special to me because I used to compete in track and field in middle school and high school and I had quite a competitive spirit. Seeing this track made me miss our competitions and my races but it also made me think of how this place must have been such a large contributor to sports history made during my lifetime 20 years ago. Even just six months ago I would have never guessed that I would find myself standing there soaking in the feeling of inspiration and realization at the same time.

The Stadium Entrance

As I walked around the park I had some quiet time to myself in which I could reflect on my experience here so far and I felt quite happy deep inside. I have this feeling of fulfillment and I think it’s because I finally realized one of my dreams since I was very young. I had always said that some day I would travel far far away and see new and exciting things and I finally have. And I think I’ve become addicted to it. I want to see more of the world. I want to go to Asia, Africa, Northern Europe, Latin America, Australia, India, I want to go everywhere!! I’m getting carried away but it’s true. I love this trip and now I’m going to visit ROME! It’s still hard for me to believe that this is actually happening. I feel like I’m going to wake up at home a week from now and think this was all just a wonderful dream.

Our group pictures

In the evening everyone from our program had one last dinner together at a restaurant in which we ate, talked, danced, laughed and took pictures together. We also got the chance to say our last goodbyes to our program directors who were great at what they did.

My program directors and I

I really enjoyed learning from our program directors because they were fun and kind guides during excursions or whenever we had questions at school.

Finally we get inside the W Hotel and get to see it’s luxuries at no cost!

After our last dinner together several of us went to visit the W hotel because we didn’t want to leave Barcelona without ever seeing the bar on it’s 26th floor. I  was told it had an excellent night view of the city and they were right. This place was very fancy, but the best part of it all was that we never had to spend a dime in it because we just walked in and around it. We had to be dressed nicely of course but it was worth the visit.

Night view of Barcelona’s docks.

Even the bathrooms had nice views of the city.

My last night in Barcelona

As our last bonding moment, several of us walked along the beach just goofing around and taking pictures. It made me wish we had a few more days here together without the worry of having to go to school because these last hours were among my favorite during my entire trip so far.

I will miss you!

Tomorrow I will be leaving to Rome, but I will return on August 1st and I will be staying at my homestay for one more night since my host mom has very generously offered to let me stay here instead of renting a room in a hostel. I’m so glad she’s letting do that too because I much rather come back to a familiar place for my last night here.

My days here are counted…

Feeding the pigeons.

Post for July 25th, 2012

This has been such a fun and stressful week! Tomorrow will be my last day of classes. It’s kind of a bitter sweet feeling because, although I’ve enjoyed them, I am exhausted (mostly from this week) because of my final essay in Spanish Culture and Civilization and the stress for tomorrow’s final exams. I turned in my essay today and I’m glad that’s done because I had trouble focusing on it. I wrote about the Spanish Conquistadors’ influence on what is now Mexico and how it contributed to it’s current culture. I thought it would an easy and interesting topic to cover but most of my better resources were so complex, in-depth, and boring I did not have the time to read through everything and then summarize what I learned. But alas that it is over, and I can focus on tomorrow’s exams. Even though I have been extremely tired from staying up late finishing my paper last night, I decided to make some adventurous stops on my way home after school today. I went to Plaza Catalunya with Shelby looking for the highest view from inside the “El Corte Ingles” mall. We went all the way to the top floor and took some pictures from there, but we didn’t buy anything from the fancy deli up there because everything was almost twice as expensive as anything I have seen so far. Before we almost decided to go back home, we stopped to feed the pigeons for the first time since we arrived to Barcelona. It was really fun because we learned how to get the pigeons to feed from our hands and the pigeons weren’t scared to stay on our arms as long as there was food there. No one showed us how to do it either. We just tried it without really knowing if it would work and it did! A few people even took pictures of us holding the pigeons as they passed by. It was quite amusing I guess.

Drinking from the Fountains in Plaza Catalunya

On our way to the metro station Shelby and I managed to get a picture taken with the Catalan police whom I’ve heard tend to be quite merciless law enforcers. I was also told they weren’t allowed to have pictures taken of them while they were working or in uniform but I guess these guys didn’t know or follow that rule because they were not at all reluctant to take a picture with us. Shelby also dared me to drink water from the Fountains in the Plaza. It is said that who ever drinks from those fountains will be destined to return to Barcelona, that’s the only reason why I really drank some of its water because it didn’t seem all that clean.

The mysterious building that lights up at night (sometimes)

Just before sunset Shelby, Chrystal, and I met up to finally go see the building that lights up at night. It was nothing too special it was just something we had been wanting to see in person because we always heard people joking about it because of it’s phallic shape. People referred to it as the penis or tampon building because of how it looks. Since we missed dinner at our homestays to go see that building we stopped by a little buffet with Italian-like food. It was a calm way to end the night, even though we should have been home studying.

Now I’m about to go to sleep because I plan to wake up at 7:30 to do some last minute studying for my International Marketing class.

Sincerely,

Jose R. Garcia

The Exploration Continues…

Magic Fountain.. again!

Post for July 22, 2012

I can’t believe my program is over in less than a week! I have some final exams coming up and a 7 page paper to write that I’m not looking forward to at all. Even though I want to get that over with I also don’t want my time here to be done. I’m kind of sad actually just to think that it’s almost over. I was actually thinking today about the stuff we talked about at orientation about jet lag, culture, shock, and homesickness and I’ve realized that I really haven’t felt much for any of those. I also think it may be because I’m only here for a month so maybe it just hasn’t had time to take effect but I’m kind of glad that I’ve enjoyed almost everything about my study abroad so far. Last Thursday I went back to see the Magic Fountain again because it has become one of my favorite places to go at night. I have so many pictures of the fountain and they all look pretty cool. I went with Shelby and Christal and we just walked around and took a lot of pictures. The picture below is of me posing by some of the fountains in front of the Montjuic palace.

Posing in front of the Montjuic Palace

An epic basketball game.

The picture of the poster above is an announcement of the basketball game coming up soon of the US national Olympic team versus Spain’s national Olympic team. I can’t wait to watch this friendly game because, aside from the US, Spain is a world champion in basketball and during the Beijing Olympics the finals were between USA and Spain, in which the US received the gold medal and Spain received the silver medal. The game is going to be here in Barcelona! I looked up ticket prices and unfortunately I think they are too expensive because the cheapest tickets start at 70 euros and I think that’s too much for me. Instead I am planning on watching here with my host family.

The Luxurious W Hotel

This week has been pretty relaxed. On Saturday I didn’t do much. I slept in and spent some time with my host brothers for most of the day. In the evening I had plans with a few friends to try  to go up to the “discotheque” on the 23rd floor of the W Hotel but that was quite the failure. We dressed up really nice because we have been told the people there are very picky and it took us forever to get to the hotel but once we were there and ready to go into the elevator, a lady with a clip board asked if we were invited. We were so confused because apparently you have to be on the guest list on weekends to be allowed up. The lady said our attire was appropriate but that we should instead return on a Monday night or Thursday night because it was more likely that we’d be let in. After that we kind of just walked along the beach until we got tired and went back home.

Castellers! Finally I found one!

Today I was quite the busy guy. Even though I should be studying for my final exams I took the opportunity to go see Barcelona’s Castellers (human towers) performing on the outskirts of the city. I had heard a lot about them but this was the only time that I knew of them performing anywhere nearby. It was such a cool thing to watch because men, women, and children of all ages were present to be a part of this tradition. I’m not going to lie though, I was scared for the children that made their way to the very top of the towers because it looks so dangerous. In one of my classes I learned that the children our now required to wear helmets because there have been too many injuries and even deaths from falling. I was very scared when I saw two of the towers fall. One of them had a girl who hit heard mouth when she fell and was bleeding and crying and another one had an older girl who was taken away by the ambulance but I don’t know what happened to her when she fell.

Amazing

After the Castellers performance was over I made my way to a park that my host mom recommended that I visit today. It was a very tranquil park with some sounds of small green parrots that are not originally from here. My host mom says they escaped some zoo and started to procreate and nest in the parks around the city.

I found a squirrel!

During my exploration of this park I spotted Barcelona’s only squirrel!! I’m kidding. But still. My host mom was surprised when I showed her the picture of this squirrel because she said they are very rare in Barcelona and she is surprised that I saw one. Honestly I don’t think I ever saw any other squirrel since I’ve been here.

My first ever Labyrinth

After the park I went to visit a labyrinth on the northern part of the city which was supposedly paid for by some rich old guy back in the day to entertain his guests when he threw parties. Now it’s a park you pay to go into but it’s still pretty awesome. There are is so much romantic scenery  there. I saw couples everywhere and even a bride and groom taking wedding pictures throughout the park. Regardless to say that I had quite the nice weekend and now I’m supposed to study for torture I will be receiving in class this week.

Sincerely,

Jose R. Garcia

Home Away From Home

My lovely host family in Barcelona.

Now I would like to take a moment to talk a little bit about my host family and my (day to day) experience/observations while living here.

(Rather than just write about what I’ve done or have seen.)

My host family has been super kind and generous. I will now be talking a little bit about them but for their privacy I will not be mentioning their names. I want to start off by mentioning how wonderfully welcoming they are. My host mom always has good things to say and she treats me as a friend. I like her because she is so accommodating and considerate of my needs. Just the other day I was feeling sick and she gave me some suggestions on what I should do to feel better and she was not offended when I could not keep down my dinner. Instead, she thoughtfully made me some tea that I think really helped to settle my stomach and after a good night’s rest I felt much better the next day. My host mom also gives me lots of suggestions on what to do around the city and it’s evident that she wants me to enjoy myself and truly puts effort in helping me figure out my explorations of the city. My host dad is a great cook and even though I don’t see him often I enjoy talking with him when he is home. He seems like a very nice person and a great father to his two boys. Both my host mom and dad are super encouraging and in no way have they put any unreasonable or strict limitations on me.

My two host brothers are really fun to spend time with. I think they are funny. The older one is very smart and talented. He loves to read and play music and he pays lots of attention to detail. The younger one is super creative and quite the character. He is always super curious about stuff and has his own way of doing almost everything, including the way he reads the Harry Potter book series. Both of my host brothers are a bit obsessed with Harry Potter so I introduced them to Pottermore online and I think they liked it. I have also enjoyed having small conversations with them and playing small games of soccer on the terrace.

My roommate has been fun to spend time with and talk to, although I don’t think we have much in common. He is still a very outgoing guy though. And the two girls from India were only here for a short amount of time and I only got to spend time with them during dinner some times. Unfortunately they are leaving today.

One of the things I have noticed about Catalonia is that people here are super friendly and easy going. I don’t think I have met any locals who I thought of as rude or anything but nice. The other thing I really like is that people don’t seem to be very stressed about anything, and time is not such a big deal. I kind of like that because it’s liberating in a way. I also love seeing so many old couples out on the streets walking together or just sitting on the benches. I think it’s nice to see that relationships here are still so long lasting and that it’s a norm. Even old friends sitting by a deli just having some juice or coffee. I see it so often and it warms my heart. I don’t know what it is about the way of life here, but it creates a peaceful ambiance and I really like it. It also seems to me like people here have a different approach to life but I still can’t quite tell what the difference is. I’m trying to figure it out.

Long story short, I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to come this far and get to experience life in this wonderful city and to be with in the company of such great people.