Thursday, May 28, 2015

Elena and Morry Fitzroy in New Zealand!

Kia Ora! Greetings from Aotearoa!

That’s the Maori name for New Zealand, and translates as “Land of the Long White Cloud”.
What made me decide to come to this place of all places in the world? Well, let me start out by confessing that I really knew nothing about New Zealand when I filled out my Study Abroad paperwork. “That’s the island somewhere near Australia or something, right?” (It’s actually divided into the North Island and South Island!) Perhaps if I was a bigger fan of the Fantasy film genre, I would have known a bit more about the country, which filmmakers love to make use of for its breathtaking scenery and widely diverse landscapes. My Lord-of-the-Rings-fanatic roommate probably had a much clearer reason for choosing to study here. But me, well, I’m fairly certain that I didn’t actually choose New Zealand at all – I believe it chose me. It just felt like the “Elena thing to do”. And since I typically like to follow my heart when making big decisions, that’s exactly what I did. 

Flying over the South Island
It wasn’t until right before my trip that I found out that my very own godmother had travelled to New Zealand herself when she was just around my age, a few decades ago. She fell completely in love with Aotearoa but hasn’t been back in many years, simply because it breaks her heart too badly every time she has to return home. Perhaps that gives you somewhat of an indication of just how enchanting New Zealand is!

After just a little over three months here, I can certainly say I understand now what my godmother was talking about. With a population of only 4 million people - but 30 million sheep - there is plenty of room for Morry Fitzroy to roam around and take flight over the sandy beaches, rugged volcanoes, and luscious island forests, not to mention the icy glaciers, splendid mountains, and rolling green hills. He’s been having a lot of adventures here in the beautiful south Pacific, and even made it across the Tasman Sea to Australia for a week! Morry Fitzroy delighted in finding koalas, kangaroos, wombats, wallabies and emus in their natural habitats while hitchhiking along the Great Ocean Road. He also liked to get lost at the Queen Victoria market among all the fresh produce, relish the Melbourne coffee culture, and explore National Park wonders. 

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

In the midst of the jungle

Wilson's Prom National Park, Australia

Morry Fitzroy at the Queen Victoria Market

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Monique and Simeon in Spain!

I arrived in Spain during the festival of San Isidoro. The entire first weekend, the kids and the adults were dressed up in similar outfits. 
Parade for San Isidoro

 The apartment that my host family lives in is literally the middle of Madrid. From the balcony of my room I was able to watch a few of the parades. This location is perfect! We can find something to eat, do a little shopping, go to the bank, go to the pharmacy and get free entertainment, all without leaving the block. I really believe that I got placed with the perfect host family. Not only is their apartment the perfect location, but they are super welcoming, fun, and understanding of our various levels of Spanish proficiency.

My Spain family!

Now to every good there is some bad. Living in the middle of Madrid, means breathing constant dry and polluted air. This is not fun at all when you pair this with allergies. The first weekend in Spain I went to the pharmacy at least 5 times. Maybe this is why there is a pharmacy on almost every block. It took two days for my eyes and body to adjust to all the dust. After 10 days, my body has still not adjusted to the air. I mean constant congestion is not the quite the souvenir that I had in mind. Living in Spain has completely messed up my diet. Spaniards love their pork, white bread and ice cream! Don’t get me wrong, it all tastes great.  

A quick tourist pic

So far I have been having a wonderful shopping experience. There are lots of little souvenir shops, shoe stores, and clothing stores everywhere that have good prices. Near my apartment there is a huge Apple Store, H&M (3 huge floors!), and Cote de Ingles (9 floors!!!). Cote de Ingles is like a huge shopping mall with everything you want; prices vary but we have found some great deals so far. Now ladies know that sometimes it seems like cute comfortable heels are hard to find, or that they don't exist, but I have found them here in Madrid for great prices! Every Sunday there is a really big flea market called El Rastro that spans like 3 really long streets. My housemates and I found really great deals here. 1 Euro scarfs, 10 euro rompers, 6 euro painting, and much more.

During my first week of classes, I let my little buddy Simeon (sí, el dragón!) chill and relax in the house with my host family. However, I brought him along for our trip to Segovia. Segovia was gorgeous and we took a lot of wonderful pictures. The best part was the castle, Alcazár. Most of the castle has been turned into a museum. Each room is filled with elaborate furniture, architecture, ceilings and fantastic views of the town. The most beautiful view was at the top of the tower, which was 152 steep and narrow spiral steps high. So for all my fitness lovers, Segovia=Leg Day (lots of stairs and lots of hills). We were given a lot of time to explore Segovia after our castle tour. In theory this was wonderful but like many towns, they follow traditions more than big cities like Madrid. Many of Segovia’s shops closed down for siesta (national nap time).

Simeon waving at the Segovians

A view from the top of the tower at Alcazar

All in all, little Simeon and I are enjoying our study abroad experience in Spain; however, we still have some adjusting to do. 

Monique Jones
UNCG in Spain
Madrid, Spain