Monday, December 6, 2010

It's nice to be back. I'm working as a physio receptionist in Glebe (the commute is almost painful), which is such a lovely suburb and full of all sorts of people and those artsy looking cafes. We put on the radio at work, and it plays the same songs over and over and I get stressed about what I have to wear every day (pyjamas, I wish), but it's great to have a steady job (assuming I don't get myself fired for messing up too much, which is more or less what I feel like I'm doing most of the time) and knowing that I can spend my own money.

It's always very cringe-worthy to look back on old diary entries and blog posts. I feel embarrassed about feeling how I felt and then pouring it all out into emo adolescent whinges. But I think I'll keep blogging (occasionally), just so that I can read in retrospect and laugh at myself.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I'm a bit of a mess at the moment.

Let me explain. I was gathering my stuff to head to the gym yesterday afternoon, only to realise that my iPod was missing. It had been more or less twenty-four hours since I'd last used it, and because I was in such a rush on Monday evening, I hadn't noticed that it wasn't with me. I remember pulling it out of my pocket at the gym to turn it off and wind the headphones around so they wouldn't get tangled, but that's it. I'd dropped my locker key on the floor as well, and had to go back upstairs to the gym room to get it but don't recall seeing my fat, rather noticeable iPod on the ground with it.

I'm sounding rather rational at the moment, but I was in tears all yesterday evening and I honestly could not feel worse - yes, it is replaceable, and while all the music and videos I had on it aren't on my iTunes (new computer before I left), they are too...but it is pretty much all my fault and there is nothing I can do about it. I'm still feeling pretty crap.

My host sister, when I mentioned it to her, was pretty negative about it - she says that if people have the opportunity to take something, they will. I don't know what's worse: seeing someone drop something valuable and taking it on purpose or stealing it out of their bag (I don't know which happened and suspect it to be the former, but it really could have been either).

It's a lot of money. And important to me, because it motivated me in the gym and the reason I was there in the first place was so that I could start losing weight.

It's a lose-lose situation.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

just before i go to bed...

I love my new church. It made my day. (Except the five days of the week are pretty bad.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

School started up again today, and while I guess I'm glad I have something to do with my time (other than cook and get fat and then complain about it to whoever is around), it's just tiring and not all that fun.

I had hoped that we would be finishing at 12.30pm this year, but I'm afraid I was misinformed, or probably misheard (more likely). This would have meant that I would get home by 1pm and still be able to Skype home. It turns out that we do have fewer classes but they go until 2.30pm, Monday-Wednesday. On Thursdays, we go home to have lunch at 1.30 and come back for two more periods in the afternoon (but hopefully I will wiggle my way out of that), and Friday we finish at 1.30. So at least I can see mum once or twice during the week. It was nice to be able to kind of hang out and talk about recipes and other useless stuff, though. JYC (the exchange company here in Spain) discourage us from talking to people back home, but I've found that keeping in touch gives me more comfort than not knowing what's going on. I feel less lonely, even if it means I'm not getting into the whole being Spanish thing.

I guess Spain isn't really for me. I think this has impeded my ability and willingness to learn Spanish (but I would still nominate laziness as the main culprit), which is of course a huge disappointment. I probably won't get over that for awhile and will be complaining about it (at least to myself) for months to come. I still think that the country is a great holiday destination and that there are wonderful things to see and do here. But, as Simon (side note: I joined a church, and Simon is from Northern Ireland and is very nice, as is everyone else at church and I am really enjoying going despite having taken so long to get off my butt and find one) said, if you're a foreigner here, it's so hard to integrate properly. I think it's part of the culture, and perhaps they are unwilling to be completely open because they are so proud of who they are. This is only a hypothesis and I'm unsure what I'm trying to get at here, but this aspect of Spain is one I find both interesting and sad.

So yeah! I joined a church. It's called Oasis Madrid, and is an international English-speaking community. Six of us went for a hike on Saturday, and while I feared a bit for my knees on the mostly-way-down, I really enjoyed getting out and doing something I don't usually get to. They do a sandwich route for homeless people on Saturdays too, so this week I might go do that.

Counting down the weeks until I get on that plane (December the 2nd). There is so much I want to do when I get home.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

I got back from my fabulous European holiday just a few days ago, and I already miss my Uncle Trevor and Aunty Sue. Seeing them and being able to live and travel with them was such great fun, but touching base with home has left me homesick. I wake up feeling blue and can't distract myself by keeping busy when it's so hot and there's no one to do things with. I've spoken to my parents and friends a lot since, to help, and have ultimately decided to come home early. In time for Christmas, I hope. (Unless I suddenly end up not feeling homesick and decide to stay.)

It was really lovely to see Alexia and the Pretis, even though we didn't do much besides hanging around at home and being lazy because it was so hot. I told them I would like to see them again in January, but I hadn't counted on an early return home. Nevertheless, I might visit again next year as I hope to go with mum and dad (and maybe Ed if she wants) to Europe.

The highlight of my holiday was definitely Poland. There were so many small moments and a lot of shared laughter and when I get home I need to steal Aunty Sue's travel diary so I can keep those memories. (I've never been good at keeping records.

One notable comparison between Poland and Spain is the way men treat young women. I got a lot of curious and interested looks or even stares from many people, women and men alike, but particularly the younger guys, but they were mostly polite (or flirtatious, but I just ignored those). It was obvious that many of the Poles we encountered on our trip hadn't seen an Asian before, but on the whole they were still respectful about it. In Spain, however, I can't go out without receiving a seedy sounding comment from creepy old men or even younger ones (and there are many Asians here). Their attitude really disgusts me and puts me off stepping outside the house. It's become much more noticeable since I've come back, and I'm sad to say that it's hard to ignore and gets to me quite a bit. Hola, guapa, is fairly common, even for older women, but lately the comments have gotten worse (I was out with Anna Szabo, who had come to visit, and a group of guys noticed us conversing in English, and decided to come out with 'hey girls, like your arse', or something to that effect) and the lewd, 'appreciative' stares are in no way welcome. I accept that it is partly due to culture and the general attitude of Spaniards, but it doesn't mean that I like it.

Anyway, that's only one of the reasons I'm beginning to be unhappy here. I also dislike the uncleanliness and dirtiness of being in Madrid - for example, my host family don't wash their hands after going to the toilet, and the dog tends to do her business around the house (unpleasant surprises in the middle of the night), and as they are always busy working (not something I fault them at all), the place is never clean. Dog hair keeps appearing in my room despite my keeping the door shut and wiping the surfaces in my room often; dirt and dust sneak in somehow. I hate smelling like smoke, and because of my bad allergies, it hurts my eyes after being exposed to it for seconds. I'm lonely. Although I easily make acquaintances and friends with my classmates, because of both an age and language barrier, I have no one to really talk to and share with. And now that it's summer, I don't see them on a day-to-day basis.

All of this must sound awful and like I'm a complete snob (and I probably am, a bit), but it's not like I'm not all right with tolerating it. I would simply prefer otherwise, and need a bit of an outlet - and I'm just not sure how much longer I want to put up with not being totally happy here.

What I'm ultimately getting at is that while my exchange here in Spain has definitely not come out like the perfect overseas experience that I'd planned in my head, I've learned all these unexpected lessons from being here and, now, wanting to go home.

I remember telling James a little while before I left, probably while I was still deciding whether or not I truly wanted to go on exchange, that I wasn't sure where my roots were; that I didn't know where I belonged. I didn't feel like I really fit at home; that perhaps I should go elsewhere to find where I did. I've realised, from constant messages from people I care about, that I am loved and wanted, and home is where I have everyone that loves me. I see how much I love our lifestyle in Sydney, and appreciate all my home comforts.

I recognise that I always make high expectations of myself, and that most of the time, things don't turn out as I want them to. I can accept that even if I don't reach them, I can still keep working towards them. Even if I go home early and can't speak Spanish fluently as I'd planned, I can take lessons and improve. I've forgotten my French. Before, this horrified me. But when I visited Alexia, it wasn't too bad. She'd forgotten her English. If we didn't know something, we tried it in Spanish or went to look it up and asked about it. And I can revise and relearn more French when I go home, too. I didn't get into Physiotherapy. I can do the Masters course. I don't know if some of you know how hard all this would have been for me to acknowledge, before. My main problem now (and this I am completely sure of), is to work hard and not be lazy when I come back. This vice I have yet to overcome.

Decision making is still hard, but I think I'm getting better. Acceptance comes easier. I am a little more secure in myself (this one is sometimes the most difficult, and depends on the day). My mum says she notices good changes in me as well (what were they again, mum?). Sometimes having your parents tell you that they've seen improvements is the best news you can hear.

When I left, I hadn't thought all these were lessons I had yet to learn. I don't care that I'm not having the time of my life, as other exchange students (or even people at home) have said I should be. Yes, if I finish my exchange early, I might have regrets. (The three I can think of would be about the language, not experiencing Christmas Spanish-style, and not being able to travel in Europe again as I'd planned.) The first I can probably deal with, and the third might be rectified: I want to come with my parents next summer, or maybe do a uni exchange...well, we'll see.

I love you all so much.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

And here are just a couple of photos from a little while ago. I went out to dinner with some girls in my class (and some other ones too) for Paula's birthday.

Paula, the birthday girl, and Lara, who is my French class buddy. We pretty much sit there while I work and grumble about the teacher, who is hopeless.

This is Ana. She has the loveliest hair. :P

And this is Angy, who is one of the few people in my class who does Biology.

This is Gus (pronounced 'Goohs', if you want to be Castilian-Spanish-accurate). He's pretty cool. Not sure how long he's going to survive, though.

Today is the fiesta de Corpus Christi, which means I got to sleep in and have lunch at the bar. They were serving cangrejos de rio (crayfish, but in more Australian terms, a yabby), but one had escaped and was hanging around on the kitchen floor. I think everyone reckons I'm a bit weird because I insisted on bringing him home (even though Manuel-the-brother and Manuel-the-cousin were the ones who named him - apparently it's short for Gustav).

You haven't really heard from me much lately. This is mostly because I'm still going to school, getting home, going to the pool some days and classes on others and getting to bed by 10pm (otherwise I get super tired the next day), or because when I get to my computer, I either have nothing to say or too much and am too lazy to be bothered trying to get it all out. I'll probably regret this later when I want to look back and remember some of the fun things that went on here in Spain, know me.

In June, classes are shorter so we get to go home sooner (too hot, is the reason: at 6pm it's still 32 degrees and it's not properly dark until a little bit after I go to bed, how sad). I'm liking this, but then I remember that there's so little time left in the school year. I'm a bit disappointed that come September I'll have different people in my class. I love sitting next to Lola and across the aisle from Sergio and laughing at stupid things and making fun of the boring lessons. I think I'll be asking if I can be in Lola's class when we start again in a few months.

Tuesday (the first) was also Manu's 16th birthday. I baked the Sarah Elix coronary-giving mud cake of awesome, which turned out not super but still decent. (Baking endeavours to date: 3. Plans include: good-luck cupcakes and/or cookies for exams and pavlova for Raquel's birthday.)

I've done a couple of touristy things in the past week - I went to see the Monet exhibition at the Thyssen and saw the permanent collection as well. It's a private art collection owned by the Baron and Baroness Thyssen-somethingorother and there are about seventy rooms. I stayed about six or seven hours in the end, because I couldn't very well pay to get in and not visit every one, but after the first floor I got quite tired and stopped looking for any deep arty meaning etc. in order to get through the whole place. I also stopped by the Caixa Forum, which has this cool statue of an elephant standing on its trunk and a vertical garden growing up a wall. There were these veggie animals that I thought my mum in particular would appreciate a photo of:

Summer is kind of fab in that I get three months of holidays. I'm planning to see Alexia for a bit, and travel with my Uncle Trev and Aunty Sue in Germany and Poland, but need to get permission first from JYC, my host exchange company. Fingers crossed.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Okay, so the thing is that I would LOVE to tell you all about what I did in Semana Santa and what I've done since, but there's just not enough time in the day. My host mum took over a bar on Sunday and it's pretty fun helping out there, but now I have school and Spanish classes and working there and I try to go for a run at least once a week and for a swim at least twice and I have a billion emails to reply to and things to plan (summer!!!!) and my GOSH what do I do?!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

written a few weeks ago in biology

Something I have learned while away is that sometimes you need others to be able to figure out what kind of person you are.

I decided to go on exchange on a bit of a whim, to be honest; it's one of those few things I've had a crazy idea about and actually followed through with (Rob, you'll know what I'm talking about). I've learned all these things about myself that everyone has probably told me at some point but I never realised for myself - that I am so blessed: I am well educated, lucky, intelligent and well-liked; that I have too many shoes. How world-like the world is, how life has routine and that sometimes it's good that way; that distance makes family feel closer. I still haven't learned to do things straight away (but might be getting better).

It's easy to make people happy (sort of).

some petty statistics about spain

Times I have cleaned the toilet: 5
Number of items of clothing I have dropped onto the outdoor-indoor terrace of the old lady downstairs whilst hanging up the laundry: 4 (pegs: 3)
Visible injuries sustained from inanimate objects (ground included): 9
Injuries sustained from animals: 2 (scratches and other, less-harmful bites do not count)
Approximate length of my room (in metres): 4.5
Times I have been approached and/or touched inappropriately: 2
Things Canela will not eat: 0
Phone calls made/taken/answered in Spanish: 2
Days spent away from Australia as of today: 79
Blog entries avoided: 4

Monday, April 19, 2010


Don't worry, it's okay. And yes, there are going to be some entries coming up about Semana Santa/Barcelona, other things, and...what I'm up to?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

In Barcelona for a few days - accidentally bumped into Steph Laird of Miss Turnbull´s Mathematics for the Distracted without previous plans - we knew the other was (does that even make grammatical sense? Or should I try `each other were´?) in the city, but hadn´t arranged anything. Will hopefully give you a nice long post when I get home, before I go back to school (ugh). I have photos! And met up with the other exchange people last weekend! Actually, there´s a lot to tell...