Back in Barcelona

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I was excited to re-visit Barcelona after almost a decade, especially because it would be the first time I ever returned to an international destination (unless you count Turkey, of course).  I was also a little nervous.  I fell in love with the city immediately the first time; I loved it even more than I loved Paris, which is really saying something coming from a former French major.  I wondered how different it would be, and even though I couldn’t possibly expect it to be the same, I hoped I would love it just as much.

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The moment I stepped off the bus and into the city, I wondered what I had even been worried about.  Even though we were exhausted and it was late, the second I set eyes on the beautiful Casa Batlló all lit up under the night sky, I felt elated to be back.  We struck gold with our accommodation, scoring an incredible apartment with a balcony in the city center with one of the kindest hosts I have ever met.  It was after midnight when we arrived, but she waited up for us, ready with maps and all the advice we could possibly need to explore the city.  I couldn’t recommend the place enough!

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When we woke up from a good night’s sleep ready to explore, we headed first to the famous Sagrada Familia.  I was curious to see how much it had changed since I had seen it last and was amazed to see how big the crowds were and how much had been added to it!  I really do wonder if it will ever be finished.

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We continued on to the other Gaudi essentials in our area and then headed to the Gothic neighborhood, which was something I hadn’t done on my first trip.  It was a gorgeous, sunny day and there were tons of people and street performers in every alley!  There were also a lot of delicious restaurants and we definitely overindulged on chorizo.

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We slowly made our way to the marina, where my husband – who is something of a nap enthusiast- took a nice siesta in the sunshine.

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Before the sun set, we made it over to Park Guell, another of Gaudi’s masterpieces.  We got some really great views of the city up on the trail.

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After a long and tiring day of trekking all over Barcelona, we ended our day perfectly with an enormous pan of paella!

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I was so not ready to leave Barcelona, or Spain in general, and I remember snapping this sappy last photo from our balcony window!  Barcelona, you still have my heart.

La Alhambra

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What a beautiful, magical place this is…certainly fit for royalty.  A feast for the senses, to be sure, with lavender-scented air, sunshine, a light breeze, and some of the most stunning architecture known to humanity.

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It is impossible to fully capture the beauty of this place, with its intricately carved pillars, arches, tiles, and ceilings…but seeing it in person was the real treasure anyway.

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I dare you not to pretend you’re on Game of Thrones when you see these chairs.

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If you want to visit, you have to be diligent and plan ahead.  The tickets often sell out weeks in advance, especially during peak season.  They also do not issue tickets anywhere but at the palace, so you have to be prepared to wait at least an hour just to retrieve your reserved tickets…and then you have to be sure you can make your appointment to the Nasrid Palaces (the most beautiful part by far) because you will not be allowed to enter at any other time.

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In spite of the logistic difficulties, it is more than worth it to see this small slice of heaven. Don’t forget to enjoy a cold Spanish beer in the courtyard after your tour and let it all sink in.

Sunny Sevilla

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Perfect weather, fabulous food, and outstanding aesthetic that is typical of Spain were waiting for us when we arrived by bus in the early afternoon.  Right away we opened our city maps and started exploring.

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First on our list was the beautiful and enormous Seville Cathedral (the 3rd largest church in the world!).  The highlight was definitely climbing the bell tower to take in the panoramic views of the city below.  Fun fact:  the giant bell tower was once a minaret.

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Our next plan was to see the Alcazar, but unfortunately they were all booked up for both of the days we would be there.  We didn’t want to waste time on mourning, so we set our sights on exploring the rest of the city, including the cool and quirky Metropol Parasol.

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On day two, we spent most of the day at Plaza de Espana, which was  incredible!  We rented a rowboat for a better view and afterward, we rented a tandem bike and rode through the whole park.  Talk about a magical afternoon!

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We walked back towards the cathedral for a good dinner (pork covered in pork with a side of garlic and more pork…) and a pitcher of sangria.  We especially enjoyed watching all of the street performers, among which included some snazzy flamenco dancers.

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We only had two days, but it felt like we were able to do so much and easily could have stayed longer and found more to do.  It was an amazing leg of our journey and definitely a must if you’re visiting Southern Spain.

On the Streets of Andalucia

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I fell in love with Spain when I first visited in 2009 on my very first trip abroad.  The people were friendly and laid back, the food was delicious, and the architecture was out of this world.  I knew next to nothing about travel at that time, but even then, I knew that Spain would be a place to go back to.

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My husband – who is a bit of an architecture and street photography junkie – suggested it as a Spring Break destination and it just felt right.  I was stoked to see an old favorite place with more experienced eyes, as well as explore some new parts of the country.

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On my first trip, I only made it to Barcelona and Madrid; this time, I had my heart set on the sunny south.  I wanted to see the enchanting remnants of Moorish architecture and wander the streets in search of new tapas.

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From Granada to Sevilla and back again, every twist and turn looked like something straight out of a storybook.  If you find yourself on the streets of Andalucia (and you certainly should), don’t be afraid to get lost.  That’s half of the magic.

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B(eating) Burnout

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What a long, strange term it has been.  My life has pretty much revolved around nothing but work for the past two months and I can really feel it.  Now that we are reaching the end-of-term chaos, I am more exhausted than ever.  No amount of sleep or coffee seems to wake me up anymore and I find myself daydreaming about spring break at least twice an hour.

For the most part, we have stayed on campus this term, mainly because of work obligations.  After FIVE consecutive weeks of nothing but this tiny microcosm, I had to get out before I lost my mind, so we FINALLY went to Istanbul for the weekend for no other reason than to get the hell off campus.

Can you tell I’m a little burnt out?

Luckily, I dealt with it in the healthiest way I know how:  retail therapy and binge eating!  It was super effective.

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We started off with  breakfast at a new, hipster cereal restaurant in Moda called Crazy Flakes and it didn’t disappoint.  They sell cereal brands from all over the world, including my beloved Peanut Butter Crunch!  You can mix cereals with a variety of toppings, but I opted for a plain bowl with some sliced bananas on top.  SO good!  My husband went straight for the Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

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Afterward, we hopped on the ferry over to Galata, where we planned to spend the night.  We walked and shopped around Istiklal before taking a little detour to Cezayir Sokağı, known informally as “The French Street” for its pastel pink facades and floral decor.  It’s a fun-looking street, but there isn’t much that’s French about it.  After about five minutes of being harassed by waiters to come sit down, we headed back to Istiklal.

Turning back to Galata, we went to one of our favorite restaurants in all of Istanbul, Picante, for some delicious Mexican food and real margaritas.  After dinner, we were pretty much out for the count, so we called it a night and watched YouTube videos until we succumbed to our food comas.

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The next morning, we walked down to our favorite breakfast joint, Arada Cafe.  They serve a delightful mix of both Turkish and Lebanese foods and all of it is homemade and delicious.  We got the Turkish/Lebanese breakfast platter, which was basically an epic feast with all of the classic Turkish breakfast staples, as well as hummus, tahini, falafel, zahter, and all kinds of other delicious things I didn’t even know the name of.  Needless to say, I didn’t need lunch or dinner later that evening.

We tried our best to walk off the food babies while doing a little last minute shopping for SPAIN next week!  The end of the term is nigh and I am so ready!

Any teachers out there:  How do you deal with burnout?  I find it especially hard as an expat in a very small, sheltered community.

 

Sunlight

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in the far-flung corner of a dream,

i see myself and

the way the sunlight swallows wayward tendrils

 

i look older than i’ve ever been,

but there is beauty in the way i hold my cup

so intrepidly

 

from my unearthly vantage point, i watch the steam spiral

upward, like a great staircase

and i wonder where it would take me

 

if i followed.

 

***Hello, world!  I have been drowning in grading, duties, and exams, but I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t celebrate World Poetry Day, so here is my contribution to the cause!***

 

Happy International Women’s Day

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Gift from the art teacher, as per tradition.

This day always sneaks up on me and it sparks so many feelings all once.

Like my sophomore year of high school, when the guy they had hired to train the light technicians for drama club (I was one of two) would only teach the boy (meanwhile asking me to do menial tasks like hold ladders or grab lightbulbs), despite the fact that I had more experience. When I told the drama teacher about it, he simply said he was in no position to turn down free help and that I would just have to deal with it. I quit the next day.

Or my freshman year of college, when my Spanish professor would constantly ask where the female students were if not in class, would virtually ignore make students, and often made inappropriate remarks about clothing. I quit that too.

Or every time I’ve walked home alone ever…special shout out to the creep who followed me home while admitting he’d been watching me for awhile because he liked the way I dressed.

I also think of the good things. Like when I walked into my grandpa’s house and saw the sign that read “A woman’s place is in the House…and the Senate.” Or the time my little brother watched my sister get catcalled…and said how sorry he was that women were treated that way and vowed not to do the same.

I was pleasantly surprised today when I was wished a Happy Women’s Day by several colleagues, students, and pazar salesmen. I also had a good talk with my mentor students about the day; what it means, why we have it, where we go from here.

At times – when I hear sexist remarks, see sexist comments on the internet, or all of the horrible ilk that seems to be all of politics at the moment- I feel discouraged.  But then I see millions of women all over the world coming together to march in solidarity, people standing up and calling others out on their misogyny, and strong, powerful women breaking barriers every day and I feel hopeful again.  The world is far from perfect; we still need a day to remind humanity that it is shutting half of itself out.  It’s a work in progress, but at least we are moving.