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4 posts categorized "Adam Reiss"

12/21/2010

Closing Time. Tears Ensue.

Well. The time has come. The fastest four years of my life are coming to a close. And I am at a loss for words--a paradoxical situation to be in for trying to compose a blog right now. I don't know where to begin. I've done so much, I've seen some amazing things, I've been knee deep in confusing cultural situations (my jokes still don't quite translate in Spanish), and I've met incredible people. And THAT is my excuse for not writing in this blog more. I was busy doing all those things. Seriously.

Man. What to say? When I first got here I was scared out of my mind. I was so nervous, so confused. I was tan and I weighed a bit more, also.  All of these things, including the weight, faded over the course of the semester as I grew into a more mature individual, as I learned about myself by being forced into uncomfortable and challenging situations. Trying real hard to avoid cliches here. But really, when you've just had the best time of your life it's pretty hard to not say things like this was the best time of my life. Because it was. The best time. Of my life. And everything I've seen and done in these 4 months will be things I will carry with me forever. I am a compilation of everything that's happened this semester, and I know my life will never be the same because of it. More cliches. When in Rome.

I've been on a lot of buses, a lot of planes, a lot of trains, I've seen a lot of cathedrals and street performers, I've consumed way too much cafe con leche, I've confused way too many Spaniards in my attempts to communicate, I've gotten lost in lots of places, I've made a lot of friends and I've set foot in 5 countries in 4 months. This is one of the rarest opportunities anyone will ever have in their life. If you have the opportunity, take it. Make yourself uncomfortable. Try new things. Eat octopus. You'll thank yourself later. It's all worth it. As they say in spain, it values the pain.

And here's the biggest pain of all: leaving. The friendships I've made here are some that I will never forget (even if I try). The experiences I've had are like none other. And man, it pulls on my heart. I can't even organize my thoughts. I guess the only thing I can do is thank everyone for what they've done. The staff was amazing, the teachers were amazing (and patient! Real important with 27 American goofballs), the program was amazing. And I am thankful to every single individual for contributing to the wordlessness I am now experiencing.

Everyone that has studied abroad knows what I'm talking about. Everyone who's considering it: do it without hesitation. And then you'll know, too. And you'll wonder how to reduce such an overwhelmingly emotional thing into a blog. Man. My heart is gonna burst. I'm home.

Adam, signing out.

11/29/2010

Better Late Than Bitten by a Monkey - Morocco

I know. I know. I'm how many weeks late. But that's okay. To save some time and effort I've used what I wrote for myself and copied it and then appropriately adjusted it here. Ta da! Here it is. Begin!

Of course, the excitement leading up to finally departing Alicante exceeded my desire to make physical contact with Natalie Portman. Margaret was also apparently so cripplingly excited that she forgot to pack underwear. I forgot to pack a tooth brush. Good start.

The flight was uneventful until we finally touched down on African soil, an occurrence which prompted Margaret to make some sort of guttural screech and my hands to start sweating like fat kids in a sauna thinking about homemade fudge. Similar to that one time I was in a Spanish brothel, I could only think of how freaking cool it was that I was here (that is, in Morocco). I got let into the country despite some language confusion and my giddy winking at Margaret while my passport was okayed. Sick. We caught a bus from the airport to the Medina (the old part of the city where we were staying), decided eff it man, how hard could it be to find our hostel and embarked on what wound up being quite the journey. Through all the contradicting directions we were given, we made it. After several hours. Yus.

The hostel was fantastic, if not a little hard to find. The middle of the building is kinda like an indoor courtyard and it was so cute that birds flitted around it serenading us in French. Upon checking in, they gave us complementary Moroccan tea (which is soooooo good) and confused looks in response to my Spanish. I left Margaret to the communication duties mostly. For the record, for pretty much the whole trip, Margaret navigated everything beautifully with her magnificent French skills. I would’ve been way lost without her, despite the fact that a decent number of people spoke English.

The hostel bathroom was pretty good and clean, although the stalls were incredibly small which made it quite the journey to take pants on and off. Also, I think the toilet paper was serrated, but it apologized by also being pink. I forgave it.

Our first excursion into the city took us into a place called the Souks, which is the world’s largest open air market. It’s nuts, so much going on, so much weird stuff being sold, and it can be pretty overwhelming at times. Everyone here vies for your love and affection and business with super friendly greetings but we learned quickly that responding to these solicitations excites them beyond anything they’ve ever experienced before and to prevent anxiety attacks it was best to ignore their advances. Regardless, we still had a grand time going around the Souks and teasing venders across the city. At one point we could’ve bought turtles and a squirrel. Excitement ignited. But would ryanair let that fly on the return flight? And then, hey, a joke about an herb to get Margaret to stop snoring was interpreted as “I’d like 5 kilos of that powdery stuff, please.” Excitement through the roof. No thanks. Oh! Hopes crushed forever. :( Sorry vendors.

I caught on that bargaining is the thing to do here rather early when Margaret and I decided that we were in fact married and that I therefore needed a ring. So our buddy Abdul (who, oddly enough and like most people in Morocco, for whatever reason, thought we were Spanish at first. This tickles me.) takes us into his shop of goodies and pulls out a whopping crate of assorted rings. The process begins. Found a winner, asked how much and Abdul responded: 500 DH. DH is the currency in Morocco. Wasn’t entirely sure what DH stood for at first, but decided that it’s most likely duckheads and that people of Morocco pay for things with the heads of ducks. 100 duckheads, more or less, is about 10 euros. So I respond to Abdul’s response, hey buddy I only have 100 duckheads and he’s like “Alright fine, 400 duckheads.” Dude, only got 100. “300.” 100. “250.” 100. “200.” Still 100. Long story short I got it for about 106 duckheads. Score. Talked down from 500 to 106 in less than a minute. He claims I got a great deal because it’s real silver, but it’s staining my finger as I write this. Either way, I’m effing married now. Not sure how to feel about that. This wound up being, of course, the source of endless jokes and a few awkward situations when we told varying accounts of our marital status to fellow hostel-stayers.

Adventuring around the market was quite interesting. When we entered a main plaza at one point we saw a man with a monkey. Margaret, being the uncontrollable person that she is, immediately shouted “MONKEY!” Now keep in mind, if eye contact makes the street venders smile and start pitching you on everything from pointy shoes to alligator skin, one can imagine what enthusiastically shouting 'monkey' might do. Bam, like a crowd of frat boys to the only woman in the room, this guy zipped over. He started off in broken Spanish, following the pattern of everyone thinking I’m a Spaniard, introduced himself and it was here where I made my first mistake. I shook hands with him. He does not let go. Gripping my hand, he tells me in poor Spanish to “guard my monkey. Here, take it.” I know these gypsy tricks. They want money for everything here and holding a monkey is as good as signing a contract that I am now obliged to give this man a metric truckload of duckheads. I think not. I protested immediately with a no, hey, no, let go of my hand and he’s like “Oh come on. Guard my monkey,” and tries to hand it off to me, causing the monkey to get totally stoked and nearly bite me. Context: I felt teeth on my hand. I got my first chance to say some real rude stuff in Spanish and pulled my hand from his grasp, monkey-free. Needless to say, while I’m shaken up and adrenalined-out, Margaret thinks this is the funniest thing in the world. Realistically, the whole scene probably lasted under 30 seconds, but when a man is not letting go of your hand and trying to hand you a monkey that just tried to bite you, that’s 30 seconds too long.

Another highlight of the market was purchasing a gift for a friend (dead chameleon) and then having the vendor try to talk Margaret and I into purchasing some aphrodisiac, the effects of which he proceeded to describe in a mix of French, English, whistles, and crude gestures. He’s looking totally stoked at the idea of Margaret and I having a bedbreaking tossfest with this herb and we’re like “Ho ho, you’re too kind. But no thanks.” We begin to walk away after a ridiculous talk and he calls us back over. Slightly confused, we head back over and he gives me two things of aphrodisiac for free and seems really really happy. I thanked him graciously but I’m yet to consume the herb. With my luck I’ll just get soul-shattering diarrhea from it. Also, what does this say about how the dead chameleon is supposed to be used if it comes with an aphrodisiac? Huh.

And this was all just the first night.

The rest of the trip was odd, spent in a trance-like state that comes with going somewhere so drastically different. We spent a good deal of time being lost but it was never that big of a deal, it seemed like it was just part of the experience. We saw some mosques, some palaces, some out-of-commission schools, a museum, and just weird stuff. It was quite the adventure. One day we opted to get away from the bustling of the Souks by going on a hike with some French people. This was probably some of the prettiest (and rockiest…and most, uh, trailblazingest) hike I’ve been on. We really just made our own trail through these gorgeous mountainous areas. The reward was a waterfall. Pretty sweet. Although the French seem like sissies they have badass habits like taking cigarette breaks during their hikes while I’m huffing and puffing without the smoking. Huh. However, in a massive symbolic victory for the states, Margaret and I beat the Frenchies on our way down the mountain. America: 1 France: 0. This is, of course, ignoring the fact that we booked it down the mountain primarily because I misread the time on my phone and thought we had like 20 minutes to catch our ride back to Marrakesh. Heh.

The trip was awesome. It was really like nothing I’ve done before and I am so glad I did it. Woo! I think I’d probably go into more detail about everything, but I’m already behind by hella days on all this journaling and I think I’ll just let the photos speak for themselves. Also, the captions will help. Read as: Next post, coming soon, pictures!

10/28/2010

Oh yeah, almost forgot. Morocco tomorrow.

My apologies for not properly introducing you to the type of person I am. If I am a pool of ice water, here you go, jump in. Forgive my excitement.

I'm leaving tomorrow after my last midterm to go to Morocco con mi amiga, Margaret, aka Calabazita. This is quite the impromptu trip in the sense that we both are two really awful planners paired together to plan something. I mean, I knew I wanted to go to Morocco, but it was looking more and more like it wouldn’t happen and I didn’t have anything to do for Halloween weekend (which would be a bummer since we have All Saints Day off…which would mean an extra day of travel missed), but all of a sudden Calabazita pulled through and was like “Hey man, let’s go to Africa.” Algeria was too complicated to get to. South Africa was a little too far. Kenya was busy. So we found a flight to Marrakesh, Morocco and the rest is history. But we still need to book hostels. And Margaret thinks its a good idea to only bring 20 euros in anticipation of finding a bank. No pasa nada. Maybe we’ll wind up sleeping on the streets for a few nights, that might be neat. Adventurous even. Yeah adventure!

Now, I’ve heard mixed things about traveling here. Like be careful with your women sort of stuff.

The plan was to pretend to be a married couple so that it’s more kosher that one guy and one girl are traveling together, but I failed to find a ring that would fit my fat finger. So, what this means is sure, we might get harassed, BUT on the brightside I’ll be able to trade Margaret for two camels or something as a practical joke. Tee hee. I’ll have two camels and she’ll be hauled off somewhere to wash some floors and she’ll be like “Oh man, Adam sure got me good.” It’ll probably be rough to convince Ryanair that two camels don’t count as checked baggage though. Hmm.

Anyway I’m really excited. If I die, hey, I want you to know I’m happy. If I don’t die, but I come back without Margaret and perhaps I’ve been followed by some camels, tell Margaret’s parents that I have no clue what happened. Wink.

God this is so exciting.

AFRICA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! COOLER THAN  SANTA CLAUS SURFING! NEAT OH!!!!!!!!

This will also provide me with a better excuse than “I hate needles” to not donate blood now! Yay!

Lesson for future study abroad students to take away from this: Alicante is sweet because you can do cool stuff like this. How often can you go to Africa?

10/20/2010

Drawing Parallells: How walking 70 miles is kind of like studying abroad.

So. Alright.

I recently spent five days walking through the gorgeous greenery of Northern Spain, with vaseline filled socks, an open mind, and the ever present thought at the back of my mind of "what the hell am I doing?" This is, more or less (mostly less when it comes to vaseline socks, but I guess this varies from person to person), what studying abroad is like.

I'll spare you the finer points of the journey, known as Camino de Santiago, because I could go on for way too long about just how awesome it was. I'll get right to the important stuff here: the striking similarities between my 70 mile stroll and the overall experience of studying abroad.

I assume you are reading this because you are contemplating the vast endeavor of studying in another country. And I assume that I am writing this to help you out with that decision. So here. Here is my figurative hand, outstretched to aid you in figuring things out.

Both the Camino and Studying Abroad are difficult to capture with concise words. They're both experiences that remove you from your comfort zone (I mean, really, when's the last time you walked for 5 days straight?). At times they're difficult (do you have any idea how hard it is to communicate in another language? There's a fine balance between trying not to sound like you've just recently attempted a lobotomy on yourself and trying to say what you're trying to say) and the easy thing to do is just quit. But listen man. In the end, despite the second guessing thoughts of "what the eff is this" and despite an uncomfortable situation here or there and missing certain comforts (peanut butter), somewhere along the journey everything just clicks. You feel empowered, self-reliant, and (no BS here) you are a better person for having done it. If you're not, something went wrong.

I'm doing my best to not sound too cheesey here, while making a point by comparing two things I've been involved with...but I'm worried I'm making less sense as I go. This is what happens when you try to think after the feast that is a Spanish meal.

Alright, here: Studying Abroad is incredible. Alicante is incredible. The Camino de Santiago is incredible. But these journeys are not easy ones. They're filled with misunderstandings, perhaps some figurative blisters here or there (figurative vaseline in your figurative socks helps with this), and a whole lot of adjusting to new circumstances. But when all is said and done, hot damn. It's something you'll never regret.