Fulbright Almost Over…

Here we are, almost at the end of my journey with Fulbright. Time really flies. I am officially done with work, so no more teaching. As of for the rest of May and June, I will be allocating more time for Arabic classes and tutoring and doing more day trips. Perhaps going to museums or places I have not had a chance to…just within and around Jordan. Maybe some side trips outside, but I am trying to save money for the summer. Many Fulbrighter’s are leaving before June ends, so goodbye’s will commence soon.

The first set of pictures are from Umm Qais, and the ancient ruins of Gadara. These ruins are located in the North of Jordan, close to the city of Irbid, which I also was able to visit on the same day. Irbid is known for beautiful hiking spots, fresh air, and the Guinness World Record of a university street holding more than 150 internet café’s in less than one kilometer! It’s a bit funny sometimes how traveling to places like Irbid or Jerash, is cheaper than taking a taxi to some parts of Amman. Now that I have so much free time, I can definitely save money by traveling farther to different Jordanian cities, castles, and exploring more.

Umm Qais

Irbid, Jordan with Sea of Galilee in the background, the lowest freshwater lake in the world

AMAZING avocado smoothie, which sounds super healthy and gross, but actually, it is so delicious. On top, coconut, pistachios, cashews, almonds, strawberries, cream, and honey. yummmmmmm

Playing a fun game here called Jackaroo

At our favorite little café in Wast Al Balad, Jameeda Khanum

Farmer’s Market on a beautiful Saturday, with kale chips, soaps, accessories, watermelon juice, and even natural peanut butter.

I was notified 2 weeks ago that I was accepted into a graphic design 6-week course in Beirut, Lebanon. I am so excited and fortunate to have this opportunity, and will look forward to being in a new city for a few weeks, since many have said Beirut is absolutely fantastic. After that, I will be doing some traveling and returning to Jordan for my job hunt and commence of a second year abroad.

That’s all for now, thanks for checking in.

Peace from the Middle East!

The Force of the Unicorns

So, I’ve mentioned a bit about the English Language Olympics competition, but I will elaborate more on what happened during the three days. First, let me just say I had the pleasure of working with a great group of high school students (plus one in 8th grade). Although it was stressful at times, and difficult to manage everyone, they all held strong and finished all the work needed to be done by the deadline.
There were four components to the competition, all revolving around the theme “Education in 2025.” The last component was a Junior TOFL test.

Research Project : This was a 10 page paper on our topic: Lack of Creativity in the Jordanian Educational System. They learned how to find sources from books, websites,  and even inquiry from professionals like teachers within and out of our school. On top of this, they had to come up with a possible solution, that if chosen, could get proposed to the Ministry of Education in Jordan. Their proposal was an online curriculum that includes subjects like Art, Music, Biology, Physics, Geology, and History. Each tab has educational videos that are part of an integrated curriculum, promoting different types of learning. It caters to different learning methods, as well can be updated each year. This application is called Creativity House, available on Google App Store.

Community Service: They held  2 day bazaar (bake sale) at school during recess selling pastries, food, and also educational books. With that money, as well as our sponsor, we bought and donated 13 tablets to two organizations, with 5 educational applications downloaded like Duolingo, Qulzlet, English for Kids, Learnist, and Classical Words. One organization is an orphanage, and the other is a center that houses and takes care of cancer patients in Jordan.

Film: The film was a stop-motion comparing education now to the ideal education in the future, which included technology in the classroom, a change of setting, proper teacher to student interaction, and engaged students.

We met 3 to 4 times a week during their recess, and would work on some weekends as well, in a café. My job as a coach was to support, refine their ideas, and even work alongside the group, while my supervisor would work on the administrative stuff like booking buses, appointments with the centers, inquiring questions from the competition organizers, and other important parts of the projects. I made sure that in their presentation, they broke down all facets of the project, so the judges wouldn’t have many questions.

This competition helped them on writing skills, presentation, professionalism, organization, teamwork, and competitive mindset, to name a few benefits of this English Language Olympics. And, I keep reminding them that this will go on their resume, and that they need to write everything they did for this competition on it. This will help their university prospects, especially those seeking education outside of Jordan. ( When the time comes…they are only 16.)

right before their presentation…they were AWESOME!

At our table at the competition, waiting to present. To kill time, they would play a rap song in Arabic about the competition, and the chorus said “ELO, ELO…” so everyone sang along. They must have played it 20 times in those 3 days.

Gifted with a frame of appreciation from the cancer center

In front of the orphanage!

 

Demonstrating the applications on the tablets to some girls from the orphanage

This was their official team poster. When they were judged for Teamwork during the competition, they came into the judging room with this poster and talked about their process in making this, as well as how they worked together.

This was part of the Teamwork, they had to create a poster in 45 minutes. This was their work…with my help a bit.

Needless to say, this team worked great together, thankfully. There were some bumps in the road, but they always stuck together and stood up for each other no matter what. Such great team spirit, with a name like Unicorns of Equilibrium, because they bring balance to education in Jordan. It was fun being a coach, and really rewarding. I know they’ll go on to do great things, and hopefully they will compete next year and win first. Trust me, they have all the potential to win first.

There’s so much more, but I don’t want to make this post longer. So, that’s all for now.

Peace from the Middle East!

 

My Dad Visits Jordan

**WARNING LOTS OF PICTURES**
For the past week, I’ve been hosting my dad on his visit to the Middle East. Since I knew I would have Holy Week off, I had told my dad to plan his visit during this week precisely. It worked out fabulously! I planned a hectic itinerary that included visiting parts of northern Jordan, the south of Jordan, and some places in Amman. We rented a car to make it easier for road trips and loaded each day with something new. I think one of the best aspects of this trip for my dad is coming to a new place completely out of his comfort zone. And even though it was all so new to him, I knew he would be able to find resemblances between Colombian culture and Jordanian culture, maybe through hospitality or even certain areas aesthetically similar to cities in Colombia. Also, it’s always different to be told about a place, then to discover it or feel it for yourself. Visiting Jordan with his own eyes gave him perspective and understanding of life here he wouldn’t have from just this blog. He left very happy needless to say!

First night he arrived, we ate at the famous Hashem Restaurant in Wast Al Balad, ate some Kanafeh, and met up with a friend for some tea.

The next day, we covered Madaba, Mt. Nebo, Jesus Baptism Site, and the Dead Sea.

By the Moses Memorial Church in Mt. Nebo

Empty roads, driving, and spotting some camels

Jordan River at the Jesus Baptism Site

floatin’

Dead Sea with mud on our bodies

Then, we went on the epic road trip my university crew to Petra, Wadi Rum, and Aqaba. The funny thing was that since my dad is from Colombia, he looks Arab. So, needless to say we passed him in Petra as a Jordanian, without question. But since I was dressed in layers and wearing a hat, a bit androgynous (not as your usual super girly Jordanian girl), the guard looked at me and asked for my ID of Jordanian Residency. My friends all laughed, but were so glad that my dad’s entry went from 50 JD, as the foreigner rate, to 1 JD the resident/citizen rate. On the streets, everyone would start talking to my dad in Arabic, and he would just look confused and smile in return.

Petra

University Crew, best guy friends I could ask for. They helped plan the Petra, Wadi Rum, and Aqaba trip for my dad….negotiating prices, buying all the food to cook in the desert, and booking everything. So much fun with these guys!

Sunrise in Wadi Rum

Aqaba, where two of my friends got pricked by Sea Urchins….the porcupines of the sea

The day we got back from that road trip, our bodies were dead from all the walking we did. So, the next day, we took it slow and went to Jabal Al’Qala, Roman Theater, and Cave of the Seven Sleepers. (My dad has some of these other pictures)

Roman Theater

Then Wadi Mujib and Jerash
I think my bargaining skills are increasing as time goes by. I was able to get my dad in as a Jordanian to Jabal Al’Qala, and bargained the prices on some souvenirs he bought. Before coming to Jordan, I was a lot shyer to do this. I am slowly learning.This is a good skill to have, especially to defend yourself when someone is trying to charge you more in taxis or while souvenir shopping. It’s one of the many milestones of living in Jordan for 7 months already! For Wadi Mujib, I was able to get the tour guide to take pictures with his camera, since mine had no waterproof protection and was dying of battery. I reminded the man at the reception that last the last time I hiked in Wadi Mujib, our tour guide took pictures on his phone for us. After a bit of negotiating, he agreed and the tour guide sent me all the photos to my phone!

Wadi Mujib is so beautiful

Jerash, trying to escape the guards who tried to kick us out early because the park was closing. But somehow, we managed to stay another 30 minutes after their warning…

Lots of pictures to show for my dad’s trip, and even more for him to show back home. I am so happy he was able to come, and now if I extend my stay here in Jordan, I will happy to welcome my mom and brother next. There is truly so many beautiful places to see here in Jordan.

Now…time to work hard for the English Language Olympics coming up next week!

Peace from the Middle East!

Job Searching…

Has it really been a month? Well, it’s been a month since I last wrote. Mostly, I’ve been busy updating my design portfolio, looking for jobs, and working with my students for the English Language Olympics 2017. I decided I would really like to stay in Jordan for another year. I think my language acquisition would benefit–learning through immersion, and possibly through a job that doesn’t require me to speak English all the time. I could continue to foster friendships I’ve made here, with the possibility of having the company of other Fulbright colleagues, who are also thinking of staying.

Of course, nothing is set in stone. I’ve had quite a bit of a learning curve in this job search process, particularly in the context of being in Jordan. First, you’re supposed to apply for jobs you are willing to start right away. I’ve been fortunate to have had 2 callbacks, and several interviews for the one company that were saddened by the fact that I wasn’t available now. Of course, I considered giving up my volunteer activities in order to be in good terms with this company, who promised me a full time job after June. But, I have a responsibility to the activities I am involved with. In addition, Fulbright gives us a certain amount of money for Arabic study, and we have to use it all. If we don’t, then we pay it back. Because it is a sizeable amount, I would rather use it all, and not have to pay it back. The work load for this job would have just been insane, so I had to say no.

Next order of business is to wait, play Jordan’s job market game their way, and simply apply later. I stop teaching late May, so I can increase my Arabic study and use up all the money before my grant is finished. Living here has taught me to trust uncertainty a bit, and it’ll all work out in the end.

Anyways, here are some things I’ve done during the weekends.

Jabal al-Qal’a, one of the 7 historical hills that used to make up the city of Amman

Jabal al-Qal’a, it was raining

Jabal al-Qal’a, roommate picture, awkward me

self timer jump!

blind contour drawings I like to randomly do at café’s

Reclaimed Childhood fundraiser event at Carakale brewery, all the expats in one setting, drinking…didn’t feel like Jordan (hint: I don’t hang out with Americans other than Fulbright colleagues)

Reclaimed Childhood fundraiser at Carakale brewery, and pizzaaaa + my Fulbright Colleague

eating fruit salad with nutella and oreo’s

My students coming on their weekend to work on the English Language Olympics research paper. I took them to cafe, so we could have a nice working session–that wasn’t inside a school setting.

Job searching has taken up a lot of time, so in this month, I haven’t quite done as many things. I have also been busy with my students for their competition coming up, in just a few weeks. My dad is coming in a few days, so I have even less time to help the high school students prepare for all the materials needed to be submitted. My time is coming to a closing soon, as I have just one more month of teaching, and then a lot of free time.

Thanks for checking in! Sorry for the heck of a delay.
Thoughts out to Syria…
Wishing peace to the Middle East…

 

The Dead Sea Hurt Me

Last weekend, I made so many trips! First, I hadn’t been to the Dead Sea yet, so I had to make it happen. With just a quick 45 minute drive out of Amman, I stayed with my friend in a hotel beside the shore, and enjoyed the early morning salty waters of the Dead Sea. To be honest, I imagined Dead Sea to look a bit darker, more purple…more like molasses. It was just my own imagination.

Dead Sea happiness…

In reality, it’s a gorgeous blue color, as it hits the shore like normal waters do, but when you touch it, it’s quite bubbly. And because there is so much salt, it has an interesting texture. When you run your fingers through it, it almost feels like it’s drying against your hand because the salt takes over.
You obviously don’t dip your head in, just sit and your legs will float right up. Because the floating was so easy, I was scared because I kept floating over shallow waters and have difficulty getting up. The bottom of the sea, in the area that we were in, had sharp-glass-like ridges of salt. If I wanted to get back on my two feet, I would have to press my whole weight onto the ridges, and my feet would die of utter pain. Salt is painful, and especially when its so concentrated and it gets built up over time. SO MUCH PAIN. I definitely cut my hands from trying to lift myself up and unsuccessfully doing so. Either way, I survived. The Dead Sea is still wonderful.

The day coming back from Dead Sea, I had another trip planned with some friends to go to Little Petra, which is like Petra, but the free version people don’t know about as much. This was a trip was would require a lot of driving, 3 hours there and 3 hours back, which meant a good playlist and good company (both of which we had). We made it out by 2pm, with clear blue skies over watching the beautiful rocks in this natural abyss. For these rocks I had many analogies for what they looked like…chocolate chalk or cheesy bread were my favorite ideas. On top of this, it was my friend’s birthday, so this was a special trip for her to her favorite place in Jordan. Lucky for me, I hadn’t been to Little Petra, so I was happy I got to go with her and see something new too.

birthday girl and myself representing my pug shirt, shout out to my friend Karina for one of the best gifts ever

good company!

And finally, on that Sunday there was another birthday–one of the translator’s from Banaat Connect! She is so sweet, so I asked her what she was doing and she suggested for my friend and I go eat lunch and walk around Jerash with her. I said, “heck yea!,” and that’s how it happened.
It was a bright and sunny morning, though I think we sun bathed too long because I have a nose tan from my glasses. (Just a stark line as if you can tell I am wearing my glasses…I’ll pretend no one see’s it.) Anyway, while I had already been to the Jerash Roman ruins just back in December, it’s even more beautiful now because of the spring weather, and the touch of yellow flowers the grass has sprinkled all over. In addition, goats and sheep were meandering alongside the grass, standing in front of me, so majestic as can be.

In the Northern Theatre, an old amphitheater, the acoustics are amazing, and my friend performed a short song for the birthday girl.

And that I’d say was an awesome weekend. Surrounded by friends, salty water, and majestic goats.
In other news, I found out my dad and grandma are coming to visit next month, which I’m excited for! I’ll take them to places I’ve been, but will try to make it to Petra, since I’ve never been and other grandma friendly spots. Hoping to see my mom and brother also make it over, sometime this year (hint hint).

Now, so much fun but this week I’m sick. Just a bad cough and sneezing, I should go see a doctor, I know. Hoping I don’t cough my brains out, and that I will get better. I just need more soup and fluids…

Thanks for keeping up with my updates.
Peace from the Middle East!

Dancing, teaching, learning…

Well, my routine is officially more hectic, but definitely feels good to be busy. Weeks are flying by! This week will be the first week I have Arabic tutoring four times a week, so I need to obligate myself to sleep before midnight. (!) It will be the commence to the full schedule I had imagined and planned. Salsa included, every Wednesday…EVERY WEDNESDAY.

This week, I also started teaching English at the Gaza Refugee Camp in Jerash, Jordan. The program is called Banaat Connect, an extension of Hopes for Women in Education   (the organization I designed the purple banner for). Banaat Connect holds English classes for young girls from the camp, as well as the opportunity to Skype in with native English speakers from the U.S to practice conversational English. The classes are mostly for high school girls, which is an age group I have not worked with. I co-teach two classes on Saturdays, with a colleague from Fulbright, who is also doing research in the camp. This is an exciting opportunity for me for multiple reasons:
1) My Fulbright colleague’s co-teacher from last semester returned to the U.S.
2) I wanted to find a way to get more involved with the organization that I designed the banners for. It seemed like a great way to keep connected and truly understand the mission of the organization by interacting with the girls, spending time with them, and seeing how the site operates.
3) My colleague had mentioned about wanting to make the classes more conversation based, which is closely related to the English Oral classes I teach every week. I felt like I would be a big help, especially for only one day a week.

Work… My next big project at work is the English Language Olympics: a great opportunity for students to build upon their team building, research, community service, and theatrical and film-making creative skills. It is a huge event, in which school enter teams of 7 students, where they work towards one common goal. Each project has specific guidelines and specifications on which to follow, and all these projects will be carried out in English. This year, the competition is focused around the theme of “Education 2025,” so all projects needs to be around this subject. Since I work with students on Oral skills and conversation, the supervisor registered me as a mentor and coach. I am really excited because it allows me to help our school team reach their goal, help with brainstorming ideas, push them towards excellency in how they carry out all their projects. The crazy thing is each project will be represented in only 6 minutes, so they will have be succinct and purposeful in their language. So, since last semester I was involved in English Day, English Language Olympics will be my dedication this semester. And, I’m excited because most of the students are in high school, so their comprehension and critical thinking can be challenged and pushed throughout the whole process. I even told them they can call me “Miss V,” instead of teacher or “Miss Vanessa.” This should be fun!

What is a meeting for Banaat Connect without some fresh bread?! Manaqeesh with egg and fresh herbs on it…yummm

Attending an Iranian film festival with my friend…FOR FREE! (yay free events)

Ma’in Hot Springs just 45 from Amman

Eating Mansaf, a traditional Jordanian dish. Sitting in a restaurant that serves only three choices usually, all with a “home-made” feel, but just in this small restaurant-kitchen. Meals are so fresh, cooked day of, and they serve what you would eat in a family home. It’s a nice break from the usual shawarma+french fries combination

Next weekend, I’m planning to go out of Amman with some friends, either to the desert or the Red Sea. It should be fun!

I’m slowly cracking out my shy Arabic shell, trying to use more Arabic in normal conversation. I have come to terms with making mistakes, especially in speaking, because these mistakes will be part of my process. This is a mini-breakthrough for me.

Other than that, all is well. Thanks for keeping updated!

Peace from the Middle East!

Meanwhile, back in Jordan…

I am back in Amman, and slowly getting into my routine again. It’s quite cold, although we’ve had a few nice days around 50 degrees (12 Celsius). I didn’t start work back up until February 7th, so I had a solid week to set my schedule, start Arabic classes again, and see friends again. I am trying to spend more time studying Arabic at home, something I haven’t done as much since I’ve been here (embarrassing). Besides ordering taxis and understanding some isolated words. Now, I am encouraging myself to keep forming phrases, asking my friends things in Arabic, and practicing reading more on a daily basis with children’s books.

I feel like it’s difficult to incorporate so many different activities into my schedule, without sacrificing sleep or enough time for myself. Ideally, I would like to do tutoring 4x a week, Arabic class 2x a week, volunteering with two different organizations 2x a week, applying for jobs, studying Arabic, hanging out with friends, and salsa dancing. We’ll see what happens. Thank you Google calendar for being my friend!

welcome back dinner, just after coming from the airport

Movie night and playing “Mortal Kombat 3″ in a public, PS4-movie-watching-chill-hangout spot These places exist for friends (mostly men) to meet up. Here is friend-hangouts Jordan 101: People have people over each other’s houses (males with male friends and females with female friends), but they usually have to check with their parents prior. Families like to have their privacy, and spontaneous hangouts inside the home are not as well-received. (Not everyone of course.) Women and men don’t usually go over each other’s houses, unless they’re family or a foreigner (like me).  Jordanians are very hospitable and will offer to cook traditional dinners for those who are friends with foreigners, like my friends did for me. Such restrictions may seem intense, but it’s just a different sense of normality. In the expat community and people living outside the family home, this may not apply or can be more flexible.

At work…the Pen Pal letter writing collaboration with my old middle school is still in progress. I showed my students the video the USA students for us as an introduction video. My kids were so excited to write the letters! I am so happy to be creating this memory for them, and I hope they do keep this experience as something they’ll always appreciate. I know for me, I had pen pals when I was in high school with some students in France and I loved it. Especially now, in a time where letter writing is a bit more obsolete, it’s happy to keep such an old tradition alive. However, we aren’t mailing them per say, my students are handwriting them and I scan and email them to the teacher in the USA. Proper mailing would not be cost effective and time consuming. I already emailed the first batch of letters, I still need 60 students to write their letters, which will happen on Monday when I have the class.

Looking back, my vacation was quite rejuvenating and refreshing. I am a bit more conscious on keeping myself eating well, soulfully-balanced, and making sure I am working towards my goals. I think it’s really easy to live here in Jordan and never take the time to apply for jobs. But, I know these things will not come magically, and definitely take time and effort.

On to better habits and getting the most out of Fulbright the year.

Peace from the Middle East!

A Date with Myself in Paris

Paris was absolutely stunning. I would have never gone had it not been for my uncle. He was very adamant about Paris being wonderful, and since my flight left from the airport in Paris, I decided to check it out. It’s a great fortune to have friends with friends in large cities. One of my friends from Jordan knew a lovely Tunisian couple living in the outskirts of Paris, so I stayed with them. The only caveat was the last train to that part of town ran until midnight. So, even if I wanted to go out salsa dancing, (which I found a place), I wasn’t able to because of the train schedule. I was only there for a day and a half, so I could only see so much. But, nonetheless I saw the Eiffel Tower, Centre Pompidou, Tour Mont Parnasse, La Seine on a Bateaux Mouches boat ride, Arc de Triomphe and The Louvre.

The weather was about 20° F (or -3°C)! It was colder than Denmark, and although I got used to it, my toes felt it. I think seeing so many iconic buildings at once in Paris was a magical sight. Also, the boat tour I highly recommend. You pass by the Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral, Musée d’Orsay, and Eiffel Tower– all within the same hour.
Traveling alone is quite wonderful for many reasons, but for one it allows flexibility of plans. On my last day in Paris, I was trying to find a place to eat on my way to Centre Pompidou. I couldn’t find anywhere, so instead I ran to a bakery, grabbed a croissant, and watched the cotton-candy sunset from Jardin des Tuileries. It was epic.

So many well-sculpted butts…

During the Bateaux Mouches, a boat ride through La Seine

From Tour Mont Parnasse…you can’t see the Eiffel Tower from the Eiffel Tower

The Louvre- my finger is a bit away from the pyramid, but oh well.

Famous French street artist “Invader” – found these creatures all over the city

Mona Lisa!!

Beautiful Arabic typography from the Islamic section of the museum

Arc de Triomphe

59 Rivoli experimental gallery space in the middle of Paris

The “funny” thing about Paris was my last day. First, I traveled to the wrong airport. Then, I arrived 20 minutes before boarding time and made it to my connecting flight to Ukraine. After I got off the plane, I realized I forgot my laptop in the carry-on section of the plane. Running frantically to the information desk, I nearly cried to the lady, who spoke little English, describing my laptop case to her. After 30 minutes of anxiously waiting, my laptop arrived to my hands, safe and sound. But, I was so happy to be reunited with my 7 year old laptop, that I almost missed my flight to Amman. Had I not heard the announcement through the over heard speaker, I would have been even more upset missing my flight to Jordan. I ended up running to the boarding gate at final call, and entered the plane. Finally, I arrived in Jordan and I realized I forgot my residency ID card in my luggage. I was scared I was going to have to pay the entrance fee as a foreigner. Thankfully, a stamp on my passport saved me and I was let in again, without paying the fee. WHAT A CRAZY FEW HOURS THAT WAS!

The moral of the story is check twice. Always check twice…

That’s it for my long vacation for now. More updates later…

Peace from the Middle East!

The time I followed Royal Guards…in Denmark

When I arrived in Copenhagen, I felt different than I did the rest of my trip. Perhaps because I had visited Barcelona and Bilbao before, the feeling of being in a new place went away quickly. I had no real expectations for Copenhagen, yet it did not disappoint. The first thing I did with my friend was visit the self-proclaimed autonomous neighborhood called Freetown Christiania. It’s a green, car-free neighborhood, with graffiti decorating almost every inch of this place, restaurants, some shops, and residents that have committed to an alternative lifestyle.
It was very cold! I bundled myself up to make sure I was warm, but only after while would I get used to it. Once of the things I realized with this trip, is how much you can discover by walking. Because my friend had classes, there were times where I explored the city by myself. The first night, I walked across Copenhagen for an hour. I considered taking the metro because of the cold, but decided against it when I realized I didn’t know what this city looked like. I walked through downtown, alongside the river, and into residential areas with beautiful Danish architecture. There are so many runners and bikers in this city! I was amazed with such dedication to a fit lifestyle, there were SO MANY runners out around 9:00pm.

Freetown Christiania, just outside of the entrance

 

On a bridge in Christiania

Nyhavn, Copenhagen, DK

On one particular day, my plan was to visit the Danish Museum of Art & Design in the morning, and meet up with my friend after. I took the metro, got off the station, and started taking pictures, seeing some street art– nothing too crazy. I was very content and happy. Every city I have traveled in, besides Bilbao, I’ve had a map to guide me throughout the city. I got lost at one point, and ended up in Nyhavn, which I was not upset because it was a beautiful. I found myself again, and headed towards the museum. As I walked, I started hearing some music coming from behind me, and I couldn’t tell what it was. I was intrigued, but I kept walking. The music grew louder. It sounded like a marching band. The music was definitely coming this way, so I stopped and waited for what was the Danish Royal Guards playing marching band music. As they stopped traffic and kept following the street I was walking on, I was was filled with such joy that this odd occurrence was happening at the moment. Tourists started approaching, and we all mobbed and walked with the band, as they ended their march at the Amalienborg Palace. It was absolutely a fantastic occurrence. And, the design museum ended up being free for students! (…no date on the student ID.)

Assistens Cemetery, Copenhagen, DK

Botanical Garden with these interesting looking trees

Walking to the Nørrebro neighborhood, self-timer for the win!

In addition to tourism, I also was so happy to see my friend and spend time with her. We also did relaxing things like cook delicious food and spend time in her lovely home. It’s fantastic having friends all over the world. Copenhagen was unexpectedly awesome!

Peace from the Middle East!

 

One McDonalds map and Barcelona

Barcelona is not a new city for me. This is my second time in the last 2 years, so I skipped on most tourist attractions, except for the Dalí Museum of course, and focused on getting to know the city’s distinct neighborhoods. Some of the neighborhoods are known for their alternative scene, others for their historic buildings and cathedrals, each an enchantment to discover. I personally enjoyed taking long walks, and finding interesting stores, street art, or interesting architecture along the way. Walking through Parc Diagonal-Mar, hiking up to Búnquers del Carmel, and journalwriting outside the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art, were some of my favorite things! The map I used throughout the trip, (since I have a terrible sense of orientation) showed all the McDonalds in the city. This was a free map I got from the tourism office. Anyone who saw me must’ve thought I was really passionate about finding all the McDonalds in the city…

This trip was exponentially shorter than my previous trip to Bilbao, but longer than I’ve ever stayed in Barcelona prior. It was also different in that most of my days were spent by myself, with a few slivers here and there for family, when they weren’t working and/or available. This meant I was able to do museums at my leisure, plan my days according to my mood, and walk an hour for raisin bread if I wanted to (this happened). I’d say Cataluyna is not as well versed in food as the Basque country, while Barcelona may have some hipster, very specific spots for eating, the food doesn’t usually represent the region as a whole.

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Jardins de les Tres Xemeneies

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View from Turó de la Rovira, also known as Búnquers del Carmel – another old military fort, with a steep 20 minutes hike up, and with a magnificent view! I bought a bocata (Spanish sandwich on a baguette) and ate it as I overlooked all of Barcelona. It was quite majestic.

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Montjuïc Castle- military fortress dating back to 1640

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the spectacular Salvador Dalí Museum in Figueras, an hour away from Barcelona

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Discovering Poblenou, one of Barcelona’s neighborhoods

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Arc de Triomf

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Parc Diagonal-Mar

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Caught a picture of my cousin, in a cool typographic sculpture

I am glad to have had the opportunity to get a better grasp of Barcelona, and whenever I return, I shall have a better idea of what I missed.
Now…Greetings from København! I’m really excited to be here since its truly a place I’ve never been. Barcelona and Bilbao felt familiar, since I had visited before. Coming out the airport gave me the feeling of walking into the unknown, just because it’s my first time here. Well, on I go… continuing with my journey.

Peace from Denmark!