The truth is, time is just as fast on this side of the ocean (and even the Mediterranean Sea) as any. We now only have one month and a one day left here! I feel like things are going really well lately, I'm really starting to truly enjoy being here! I've had a great attitude and I'm feeling adventurous and really enjoying the people around me. I've been trying to be more intentional about how I use my time in order to get the most out of being here and really enjoy it but it's also just come naturally with knowing the people better and still meeting some great new people!
For me to enjoy being here sometimes I would just have to force myself to get out of the house in the afternoon after lunch instead of letting the siesta time run on while I sit around inside. The weather has been warm so recently I have gone to Parque Maria Luisa (the big one nearish the center), walked to pueblo San Juan with a friend just to get out of the city for a bit, studied with friends for a test in the gorgeous tranquil gardens of the Alcazar (the Alcazar that Prince Charles apparently visited the other day since he's in Sevilla so I hear), have been stopping in random stores more often just to see what they're like (and I can never tire of grocery stores), and taken time to sit by the river more often. To top off all the little things I've been doing this weekend I went on two wonderful day trips!
Friday morning (we didn't have class) I showed up at the bus station and met Sarah and Derek and we pointed on the map where we felt like going, somewhere in the Parque Natural Sierra Norte. We ended up going to Constantina on a bus through El Pedroso from Plaza de Armas. I'm quite sure we were the only 3 "guiries" in the town that day which was such a change from being in Sevilla where you're just another extranjero student in one of the many programs here (Acento was here first though). Constantina was cute and little but the best part was doing some hiking/walking through the surrounding countryside. It was lovely: gravel roads lined with fields of olivos surrounded by grass and flowers, fincas with white washed walls, foresty areas, lizards, birds, pigs, and flocks of sheep. We climbed some trees, wandered around, and ate lunch on a stone wall nearish some big brown toros grazing in the shade. Another great thing about it was the quiet- every place that I've found "naturaleza" near Sevilla it's still noisy with highway sounds but there it was wonderfully quiet, except for the sound of the bells on the sheep every once-in-a-while. We had some great conversations which made it all the more enjoyable!
The only plan I previously had for Saturday was to go see the Cathedral in the morning with some art professor and a group from the university and go from there and if others were taking the bus to the beach I was going to go with them but hadn't heard anything specific. 9 am rolled around and instead of my usual alarm for school, my phone rang, it was someone calling and seeing if I wanted to go to Gibraltar! So, as I often say here (and will probably continue to say a lot), I said "por que no" changed, ate a quick breakfast, stuck some stuff in a backpack (like my passport so I could leave the country and come back in), left a note for my señora and met Brynn, Joey, Lindsay, and a friend of Brynn's Will with the rental car! We really took advantage of having a car by rocking out to some great nasty tunes all day. We got to go to Tarifa where you can stand in Spain and see Africa across where the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean meet. There I touched the Mediterranean for the second weekend in a row. Then we drove on over and crossed the border into a bit of the United Kingdom: Gibraltar. The town itself isn't super exciting except that there's more English things and if you were to order food you could speak in English (I know, weird, right?). What we found exciting is turning down all the 25 euro "discounted" tours of the Rock of Gibraltar to just walk right on up to the top! It was a lovely hike through some botanical gardens and then on roads and then a huge flight of stairs. We saw the monkeys, one of them basically attacked and bit Lindsay on the arm but otherwise they were generally cool. It was such a gorgeous day with some nice views across the water to Africa and across the bay towards Algeciras. It was such a fun group of people and we all returned very satisfied with our spontaneous day!
Did I mention that I was sore waking up before going to Gibraltar and hiking up the rock? Well, I was. Sunday morning was no better but the day was great day despite the rain and soreness. I went to church and got to talk with people, then I met up with the SARUS group after their mass to go to a picnic. Since it was out of the question to picnic by the river we went to the house of Álvaro, the leader of SARUS, talked, laughed, ate some great food, and enjoyed learning about each others' cultures. We were a bunch of spaniards, a girl from Portugal, some girls from Italy, me and Julie from "los estados unidos" and my friend Ola from Poland! Did you know that "The Sound of Music" has a distinct name for most countries, they don't just translate it directly? After lunch we all tried these polish apple pastries Ola made that were like pancakes filled with apple pie filling. After cafe, Ola and I went to an evangelical church called Encounter afterwards where I saw more friends from school and some spaniards that I had hung out with before. It was cool to go somewhere new here but already know lots of the people and even introduce some people to each other.
Sunday night it was nice to return home and have a normal supper with Blanca and Nicole. Even though I hadn't gone on one big trip over the weekend I really hadn't been home much. It made me realize how I really do feel at home here and live here. Now that we only have one month left I have gotten to finally see more parts of the city and really connect with people. What a great month this will be!
So it seems my Gibraltar pictures didn't load- I'll work on those and add some of them later but here's an extra toro picture for you while you wait to see the amazing blue waters etc. by the straight of Gibraltar.