Author Archives: mawkingbird

About mawkingbird

A dragon-loving, fantasy-reading, art-working, amateur kickboxer living for a year in Spain as an exchange student.

Back at Home

Way too much has happened between my last post and the end of my Spanish journey to be chronicled.

In short, I’m back with my real family.

Now, I’m not going to lie and say that my stay in Spain was all cupcakes and rainbows and glittery unicorns. There are, of course, those times when I had absolutely no idea what to do, how to feel.

But I would definitely recommend an exchange month, semester, or school year to all those students who feel like they don’t know enough about the world. Yes, it can be hard. But it’s incredibly rewarding. You have all these stories and experiences and new skills that you never had before. You change. You adapt.

This doesn’t actually sound like it’s a very motivating piece of writing. But if you’re wondering about whether or not you should do an exchange year, feel free to ask any questions…

I really need to get back into a workout, fitness, healthy eating groove. I’ve fallen off of the tracks.

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Birthdays, Gifts, and Parents

As a few of you who know me personally might know, my sixteenth birthday is this Friday.

Yup. June 21. The day of the year where the Northern Hemisphere typically gets the most amount of sunlight. It’s also the first day of summer (officially). It is the birthday of the first First Lady, Martha Washington. I totally don’t remember if that’s correct or not. Upon checking, Wikipedia says it’s actually June 2, but other sources say it’s June 21.

Huh. Just discovered something kind of… off-putting, if you will. Let me give you a hint; what day is my birthday on?

It’s Friday.

Friday.

It’s gonna go down on Friday.

Everybody’s lookin’ forward to the weekend, weekend.

Have you guessed yet?

My birthday is on the exact same day and year as THIS.

Not that it’s really a bad thing, I just think it’s interesting to note that we even share the same first name. And we both shouldn’t sing about Friday.

Anyway. 16. Yes. I have a few questions about this. Such as:

  • Wow. Am I going to learn to drive when I get back home?
  • Why is “Sweet 16” a thing?
  • Do I want anything for my birthday?
  • WHEN THE HECK DID THIS HAPPEN?!

Just a quick thing, for the people who want to know! And because I am in a very presumptuous mood…

A list. Of things that interest me.

This book, and anything having to do with weird animals in general.

Also this book, because combining creativity with MATH is awesome.

Wall-art or posters from DeviantArt, especially those of fantastic landscapes or dragons.

The T-Shirts from DesignByHumans are really cool.

The Sierra Club will let you sponsor a piece of the wild.

SPANISH BOOKS!

In my book taste I’m actually not that picky. I really enjoy fantasy, but only good fantasy. Topics such as animals, nature, environmental concerns, science, dragons… just not romance.

I also like animals a lot. Especially weird ones.  Like these things.

Admit that this is the most terrifyingly adorable thing you have EVER seen.

NOW IMAGINE ME FINDING A BOOK WRITTEN ABOUT THEM

LIKE  STORY BOOK STYLE

A BEDTIME STORY

ABOUT NUDIBRANCHS

THIS NEEDS TO BE WRITTEN

As we return to the sane world…

I got my first birthday present today! Granted, it’s a little early, but I don’t think anyone would object to receiving THIS.

Just look at that bish. She knows she's fabulous.

Just look at that bish. She knows she’s fabulous.

This ended up in me dramatically opening it after dinner…

This is like Christmas morning.

This is like Christmas morning.

Not just fabulous. Majestic.

Not just fabulous. Majestic.

True love.

True love.

…and conceding a few of the fruits to the delighted children. Luis was thrilled to discover that chocolate-covered-strawberries taste good, and Laura was entranced by the strawberry roses and pineapple hearts.

My parents had sent me an email a few days before, mysteriously advising me to immediately open any package I received and refrigerate the contents. I never expected something so beautiful, though.

I was feeling so many feels. I have to say that I must be the luckiest 15-almost-16-year-old on the planet, to have parents who organize something like this for me. Love you, Dad. Love you, Mom. You are the best parents I’ve ever had and I cherish you both. You have both done so much for me that I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to live up to it.

Having you two in my life is the greatest gift.

~Mawkingbird

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2 Weeks 2 Go!

WHY HELLO THERE DEAR VISITOR!

Make yourself comfortable, stay awhile. I have peanut butter and muffins to offer you.

The picnic with the Openmind coordinator was sort of awkward, but it was nice. I ate all the cookies except for three, which were, of course, for the other girls. When I took the metro to the meeting place I still had some free time, and I wandered around thinking about thrift shops and looking for any sort of establishment that was actually open… Sundays are kind of slow.

A scruffy looking man came up to me with a note. Scribbled in blue pen were the words “money for food,” and he held out his hand. I had my case of cookies, and I was more than willing to offer one to him, but when I showed him one he growled angrily and left. I’m sure the cookie would have satisfied him at least for a while; peanut butter, dark chocolate, almonds, banana, oats and the usual flour-sugar-egg mixture would have given him enough energy to walk for a long time…

Anyway, the bread was crunchy and the meat was meaty and we managed to keep the conversation going well enough.

ON MONDAY. The day after the picnic. There was fire in the classroom. As in, that flamey stuff that we use to cook food and scare predators and burn schools down with. The school didn’t actually end up a smoking pile of ashes, but here’s what went down.

We’ve had a problem since last week with moths. Every time we open the windows for fresh air, a few of them flutter into the room, probably horribly confused and terrified. The girls squee and either try to kill them or move them outside, with very low levels of success. This makes the boys all hyped up, wanting to get in on this non-educational action. One of them had actually brought in insect killer (a huge aerosol can of it) for this purpose. This being a mental institution in disguise, one of them also had a lighter. I think you get where this is going here.

Let’s just say that we had a flame thrower in the classroom for a while.

And did we get in trouble? Of course not. The teacher was not even in the room.

ON WEDNESDAY. After school Spanish classes were canceled, and so I made spontaneous plans with a classmate to go shopping for clothes. I can now feasibly survive for a week without having to wear T-Shirts. I have come so far.

ON THURSDAY. I pissed off my Kickboxing teacher. Since this is my blog, I’m going to be honest and tell you what happened. He was demonstrating a move on me where he ended up with his arm over my neck, pushing me down so he could knee me in the stomach. While he was saying something along the lines of “And now there’s not much you can do,” I decided that it would be both funny and possibly helpful in a fight to punch him in the gut. It didn’t hurt him in the least, seeing as how we all had gloves on and I wasn’t at a great punching angle. But after that he let go and explained to me, very seriously, that if I wanted to disrespect him I could get out and leave. If I didn’t want to take learning seriously, I could go, and if I really wanted to spar, we could do that too. Both options were terrifying, so I kind of stayed mute and probably looked like an idiot staring at him with huge eyes. I apologized and continued to do pattern-exercises with the only other student there, a 12-year old girl who is probably better at kickboxing than I am. After a while of awkward silence, the teacher had us randomly soft-punch each other while the other defended. We had never done this before and I was scared. I was not very good at all at dodging and defending punches, and it made me very frustrated. My partner did a bit better.

After the lesson I made sure to again apologize for my behavior, and promise not to do it again. In the changing rooms, it was very quiet. I commented on my failure to block, trying to start a conversation, but the other girl muttered something that I had to ask her to repeat several times before I understood that she was telling me that I had pissed off the teacher. I thought this was a bit obvious but could understand why she was put out by it; it’s super uncomfortable watching people get lectured.

Meh and then at home I was all frazzled by it but I survived. And I’m going back on Tuesday, because I paid for the class and I only have four more classes and even if there’s awkwardness I can stick it out.

I also made muffins some time this week. They turned out pretty salty, even though I followed the recipe and used less salt than they asked for. But whatever, the girls at school still ate them, so it’s all cool.

This weekend was really nice! I visited a friend on Friday, watched Laura dance at her recital-thing, and discovered a whole new side to Mirasierra when I walked to the church to hear the Grandmother sing in the choir. And today I spent almost all day outside, lounging next to the pool, reading, studying, procrastinating, and playing with a random 4-year old who happened to be there.

And on Saturday morning I ate home-made morcilla. One of my friends in class makes them when she visits her village; please keep in mind that this sausage is made with BLOOD. Anyway, I probably microwaved it a bit too long, as it turned out a bit hard, but it was DELICIOUS.

Hahhh. *huge sigh of happiness* This has been a wonderful weekend.

For the first time this year, I’m uploading pictures! Check it out! I just haven’t figured out how to make them all organized and crap.

The sunset when I left the church choir recital. Red leaves made it even more special.

The sunset when I left the church choir recital. Red leaves made it even more special.

My goodness. This park is huge and wonderful and green! Once you get past the tourist-frequented restaurant area it's pretty peaceful, too.

My goodness. This park is huge and wonderful and green! Once you get past the tourist-frequented restaurant area it’s pretty peaceful, too.

Another marvel of city life.

Another marvel of city life.

I am so proud of you, strange man. Just so proud.

I am so proud of you, strange man. Just so proud.

Sketch of a gift-drawing.

Sketch of a gift-drawing.

Didn't get any good shots of Laura, who's in a younger group, so here's some other dancers.

Didn’t get any good shots of Laura, who’s in a younger group, so here’s some other dancers.

An art project I dragonified. We had to include our dream school, our names, our present, future, and motto. Can you find them all?

An art project I dragonified. We had to include our dream school, our names, our present, future, and motto. Can you find them all?

Don't go thinking this is normal. A one-day occasion that was made difficult by 90 degree Fahrenheit weather.

Don’t go thinking this is normal. A one-day occasion that was made difficult by 90 degree Fahrenheit weather.

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CHOCOLATE AND COOKIES EVERYWHERE

Well hello there dearies! Long time no see!

These last few weeks have been sort of a downward spiral into unhealthy eating habits, complete with muffins and chocolate and palmeras and cookies and general bombs. I think it all started with Chips Ahoy cookies, but I’m not exactly sure.

If it did start with Chips Ahoy cookies, then I’m pretty sure it’s all the fault of one of Luis and Laura’s cousins who lives next door. He spontaneously invited me to his birthday party (he turned eight) and I spontaneously decided to go because he seemed so excited. Instead of going for the entire party, though, I stayed at Grandma’s house and played with Iciar, who is an adorable little blonde-curled girl of 2 or 3 with a sugar cookie face. It was warm and sunny, and we played making sand castles and whatnot while her mother took a well-earned siesta. I really like her mother, who is pregnant with a baby boy. I’ve visited her in Sevilla with Marian and Co. once, and she’s super nice and loves salad like me.

Anyway, his party was at some kind of sciency university or whatever, with three or four scientists entertaining about 40 squealing children with self-inflating balloons, homemade slime, and various other thingamajigs.

AND THEN THERE WAS CHIPS AHOY.

I will never understand small children, despite having been one myself, because once the cake and the cookies came out, those kids ate ONE piece of whatever it was and then ran off to play tag or whatever.

Leaving me to eat the rest of the cookies and the cake.

I probably ate at least an entire box of Chips Ahoy that day…?

And so after that, I slowly started to increase the consumption of cookies, chocolate, muffins, etc.

I’m not going to bore you with all the sugary details, though.

We had a student from Germany in our class for two weeks! She was this little blond lollipop kind of girl who drew the male population of the school to her like flies to honey during her stay. I think we got along pretty well, especially because I tried my best to not make her stay awkward or lonely for her. That being said, I really doubt we would have maintained a good relationship if she were to stay longer, simply because I’m not a club queen and prefer not to stick drugs and man-parts into myself.

Not that I’m putting her down for knowing how to party in different circles, I just prefer different kinds of entertainment.

Though I’m pretty skeptical of the idea of letting anyone that close to me.

MOVING ON.

Somehow we spent the entire two weeks talking about nothing but her and the boy she admitted she liked in our class. We gave him the code name Antonio, because nobody in our class has that name. We giggled and generally did not pay attention.

On her last day was the Abschlussfeier (graduation party) for two of our classmates… apparently in Germany you can graduate after 10th grade? In any case, there was a party being set up, and since I was in charge of some sort of dessert, I headed over to Taste of America and bought a box of Betty Crocker to make some hyper-American chocolate chip cookies. Oh, and I bought peanut butter. And Reese’s Cups. I TOLD YOU.

And so half of the dough managed to disappear before baking… The box said it would make 3 dozen cookies. That is a lie.

Yes, I know what salmonella is.

Anyway, the party was a success, I guess. Blondie put some makeup on me between classes, which was really strange because mascara makes your eyelashes feel super heavy and fat and like they should take a shower. I wore a nice shirt and nice pants and nice shoes, but didn’t put on a dress because I’m not that much of a go-getter. I also do not own a dress.

There was a buffet, which is the most horrible kind of food option there can be, at least for me, as I will go around eating 10 pieces of everything because I don’t have any kind of discipline whatsoever.

We took lots of pictures with my friends’ fancy phones, which they have yet to send me… and I hope I can remember to remind them!

After the party, most of the class left together. We ended up at a pub, and a bunch of the boys, as well as Blondie, ordered beer. I did not, but ended up scarfing down the little salty snack things they set out for us. I don’t even know what they were. The sun was shining through the leaves of the street-trees, and the breeze was soft and mild, and it was nice.

Other things of note… I held a presentation in German class about being a Game-Designer. I suppose it’s a possible job for me, but I’m still completely clueless as to my future.

After Blondie left, we girls spent some time rehashing our complaints about her… which I suppose is natural, but I’m sort of wondering if that’s going to happen when I leave. I can think of a few things they could complain about, mainly my snailness, but… meh, I won’t dwell on it.

Ooh! I have tons of stuff I need to draw. I’m sorry, but most of the stuff I’m drawing is doodles… and the finished pieces are gifts that I forget to photograph before I give them away… which is why my art gallery is stagnating on DeviantArt. I actually DID draw something, something pretty epical actually, because one of my dear classmates had her birthday this week. She got a brawny Zoro Roronoa dragon with muscles everywhere and general badassery.

Um, we went to a thrift shop today. Okay fine, it wasn’t really a thrift shop. It was kind of like a charity flea market, held by one of the many, many churches that seem to be everywhere. After we got there everyone just kind of dispersed into various directions. I liked it a lot, and for some reason spent a whole bunch of time in the clothes section. All I ended up buying was one of those shoulder bag things (finally), two shirts (one of which I will tank-topify) and a book. The Clan of the Cave Bear, to be exact. I’ve already read it in English, but Spanish is why I’m here and so I think it will be GOOD for me.

Otherwise, tons of English for Luis, as he has an exam coming up. He’s concentrating a bit more now, which is a huge relief to me.

Tomorrow I get to go on a picnic! I have to bake cookies for that tomorrow, with which I will hopefully get rid of all the chocolate I bought myself… we can always hope.

Other than my sudden bad eating habits, everything seems to be going just fine!

 

I take that back. I have discovered www.food-gifs.com. This is bad.

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DETERMINATION

So yesterday’s post was pretty depressing.

Don’t worry guys, I’m back to myself again, as far as I know. I have decided to deal with the problem by grabbing it by the horns and violently thrashing it back and forth like a shark until it slowly bleeds to death.

Okay, maybe more like a puppy with a sock puppet, to give you a better idea. Because, judging from my skill in kickboxing and Taekwondo, I’m about as likely to beat someone up as the moon is to fall into the sun.

WAIT WHAT IS THAT A ZUTARA REFERENCE.

Moving on…

So yeah, I’ve cheered myself up again. Maybe this has something to with going to Laura’s communion today…?

I wore a black-and-white skirt, a white sleeveless blouse thing with a fan/shell/curtain fold design on the back, black flats, and a necklace that the Grandmother made me wear (hah!). I also had tights. Feh. The package said they were for women who weigh “66/78 kg”. Yeah right. Let me crap in your mouth, why don’t you? (common Spanish insult… haha).

Okay, so I have to admit that the communion, despite me being super nervous about it and Marian fraying her nerves about it for a long time, was, as a whole, enjoyable. The religious church part was uncomfortable and cold, and I somehow didn’t feel the churchliness that I do when we go to Kensington every Christmas for their Christmas special thing. I possibly felt more churchly-togetherness at Youmacon during the Vic Mignogna panel. Because everyone was screaming in joy at the same time and it was just this whole feeling of unity and togetherness and love and excitement… But whatever, the choir was pretty good. One thing I dwelled on for a while in the church was the fact that Marian had reserved a bank near the front for Laura’s immediate family, and when I followed her there she told me I had to find a seat that wasn’t reserved, i.e. all the way at the back. That hurt a bit, realizing once again that I’m apparently not considered part of the “family”.

I managed to swallow that though.

The part after the church, however, was way more enjoyable. We went to a very fancy hotel and had lunch there. For appetizers someone had rented us this little open-inside area with loungy lounge chairs and huge televisions and general luxuriousness. Everyone was walking around, talking to all the other family members, and servers threaded their way around us at regular intervals, carrying trays with cheese-cream-filled-cones, slices of cured ham, tiny fried fish, croquettes, fried calamari, larger fried fish, teeny bread-things with tomato paste… in general, delicious things. I also forced myself to introduce myself to the older kids that I didn’t know, and after extreme awkwardness in the beginning it was pretty nice. One of the boys was from Sevilla (I could tell by his accent; Sevillans don’t pronounce the ‘s’) talked to me for quite a while, which I appreciated. There was a two small incidents with Luis, one of which included broken glass and wine all over the floor, and the other being him getting feisty with his cousin, which resulted in two insulted, sulking little boys with rumpled shirts. Which was very amusing to the rest of the, erm, non-adults.

The food we had after, in a big white fancy dining room, was delicious. I got to sit at the table with Laura and her two female cousins, as well as all the little kids (as usual…). But I did get the adult food. Which means I got vegetable pure instead of spaghetti, some kind of fish, and a hunk of beef. It was yums. Also, there was scrumtious and chocolatey and just mmmm.

Even after that was enjoyable. I spent a while at one of the adult tables talking to some random relative, which was fun and made me feel happy. She really seemed interested in my parents and why I was in Spain and such. At the very end, Luis, Laura, their various older cousins and I prowled the rest of the hotel, where we eventually found a little girl playing “River Flows in You” by Yiruma on a piano. I also attempted to play, but I haven’t practiced in forever and I didn’t have any sheets so that didn’t turn out too successfully. The little girl was super cute and also from Sevilla, and we talked about the piano and how cold it was in Madrid right now and how comfy the hotel was and general small-talk.

When we got home, I scrubbed off what little makeup I had on, extracted my legs from the tights and the skirt, and proceeded to dress myself in jeans and a T-Shirt. Such bliss…

Oh, and I’ve also spoken a bunch to Luis and Laura in English, both today and yesterday.

I am going to freaking take this challenge.

I will prevail.

Nothing can stop me.

I will become the badass multitasker that I have to be.

Anyone else want to add fuel to my fire? You’re all welcome to…

MAWKMAWKMAWKMAWKMAWKMAWK GRAWWWWWWWW

*hundreds scream and cheer as paints own face with the blood of enemies*

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Clueless

I have the distinct feeling that my host mom doesn’t appreciate the time I’ve spent here.

Today, while driving me to Grandmother’s house again for lunch with a bunch of other family members, she told me (again) about how disappointed she is in me regarding my speaking in English to her two children. She said I left the house every day during the week and that, at most, I speak with Luis about once a week for 25 minutes. She went on to say that with all the places she’s taken me to she can’t imagine treating me any better than she already is.

It is true what she says. I go to Tae Kwon Do and Kickboxing Monday through Friday. I don’t speak with Luis very often. She has taken me on various field trips.

I would definitely take my gym classes way earlier if it were at all possible. I get home way before the kids do, but there are no classes before 6 P.M., and this is of course pretty much when they get home most days.

Speaking with Luis; I would probably want to talk to him more if he would actually respond to any efforts I make. He almost never responds in English, and that’s super frustrating. Then when we do talk, he starts going off on tangents that eventually lead to him not remembering the name of a movie or a person or whatever and having to go get his iPod to look it up online; otherwise, he yells, he’ll “stress himself”! This is very, very annoying, and doesn’t make me feel inclined to have conversations with him.

I feel sort of trapped. In Math we’re going to talk about things I’ve never heard of but apparently the rest of the class has at least partially learned about. In Natural Sciences we have to do a project on blood pressure and heart rate, and I offered to do the Powerpoint. I really can’t throw my gym classes to the wind, as I’ve already paid for this month and the month of June. I speak German at school and English at home, and those gym classes are possibly the places where I’ve learnt most of my Spanish. I don’t feel like I can fix this in any way. It’s basically either schoolwork or gymwork has got to go. And most likely, of course, social time. Not that I’ve had that much social time here during my stay. I’ve been to a few people’s houses, but I can truthfully say I can count the number of times on two hands.

And I was looking forward to possibly going out with my Tae Kwon Do group next weekend.

Writing this down makes me feel like I don’t have any kind of problems, like they’re insignificant. Because they don’t take up that much space.

I don’t know what to do. I’m sort of scared. I don’t want to call anyone, because that costs Marian money and I don’t want to give her more reasons to scold me. I don’t want to give up gym, because it makes me feel good and I can socialize a little too. I don’t want to give up schoolwork because I think grades are important.

And actually, I thought I was doing rather well here. Two weeks ago Luis was sick; on Wednesday I cleaned up vomit with my bare hands and on Thursday I couldn’t go to Kickboxing because I was reading in English to him (which he of course ignored and eventually started playing on his iPod). That really stressed me out, but I thought this week, what with all the good vibes coming from school (except for the Natural Science project), the exercise and the good feelings between Marian and me, was going pretty smoothly. There was an incident on Thursday that marred it though; just as I had gotten out the door to go to Kickboxing, Marian calls my cell phone and asks me to please tell her kids to call her. I respond that I can certainly do that, and ask if I could go to Kickboxing; maybe she wanted me to stay home? She says not to worry. We hung up, and I unlock the door again. The kids are watching television, and so I tell them they have to call their mother. Luis jumps up to get the phone, and I leave. About 10 minutes later, on the bus, Marian calls me again to report that her children had not called her. She was very disappointed that I had left the house before making absolutely sure they did. This call made me sort of angry, and when I get angry, apparently, is when those stupid tears are most likely to come out.

I spent kickboxing beating up the sack.

The thing that frustrated me the most about this was that, when I did get home, I wanted to tell Luis that I didn’t ask him to call his mother because I wanted her to get angry with me because he hadn’t done it. Marian interrupts that by saying that the phone wasn’t hung up correctly. Seeing about zero logic in this, but all my courage already squashed, I say, “Well, then I don’t know what to say,” and go to my room to feel sorry for myself.

Ugh, am I pathetic or what?

Sometimes I feel an evil, evil joy to think that when I leave, they’ll finally have to clean the kitchen after every meal ALL BY THEMSELVES.

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Home Stretch

I’ve been thinking; I should probably change my name to Mawkpie. From Magpie, instead of from Mockingbird. Because I constantly get distracted by different shiny things, such as Wood-Splitter-Lee and muffins and domestic foxes. And I don’t actually mock people that much.

Many, many things have happened since I last posted. I made muffins, for one. Actually, I made muffins after one of my friends brought in cupcakes to school one day, and then I spent the rest of the week (and the week after that) obsessing about muffins and bread and cupcakes and in general wasting time on the Internet looking for recipes. I did find a banana muffin recipe, but after copying it down I was like, “Whuh-eveh” and basically just eyeballed and changed ingredients based on my whims. It worked out surprisingly well. They were quickly devoured by friends, family, and me. But mostly me.

We’ve had what seems like a lot of exams this month. We had a Natural Sciences exam, which was terrifying. I studied for that by actually writing out everything we had learned about twice, with pictures included. Which means I drew the basic skeletons and organ-systems of a dog and a bird. Twice. That was fun. In that class we’ve also made silicone fossils of shells, which sounds way more interesting than it turned out to be. We’ve also done different experiments to show whether or not different substances contain different ions. It’s not that fun either. I think this may have been a bad month for our teacher, because he’s been hacking away on everyone. He also wears a ton of cologne.

Another interesting thing that happened at school was when our English/German teacher left the room for ten minutes. She specifically instructed us to work on some worksheet, but the problem is that our class is about 70% testosterone, 29% “don’t give a crap”, and 1% common sense. Which means that, within seconds of her leaving, chaos broke out. It mounted steadily, and eventually there were small things flying out the windows. Somebody tore two posters off the walls and folded them into paper airplanes, which were then also launched out of the room. People were yelling and jumping up an down and it was generally loud.

And then the door slammed open.

I think, had it been our teacher, nobody would have minded all that much. But this teacher was blonde, unknown, and serious. There was that freeze thing that happens when you are caught doing something you’re not supposed to be doing. Silence.

Shortly after the teacher started lecturing us about throwing things out the windows and making the walls shake, our very own teacher arrived, looking extremely uncomfortable. Out of all the class, I think about 6 people did something on the worksheet. And we have 5 girls.

And…!

Nothing happened. We weren’t really punished or anything. It was amazing, and kind of disappointing. After relating this story to my aunt, she gave me several more ideas, such as having a yogurt eating contest until the winner vomits all over the classroom and unscrewing the door handles so the teacher can’t come in. I am not ruling these out as impossible for my class.

What’s occupying my mind right is now is choosing classes for my next year of high school in America. I have absolutely no idea what I want to be when I grow up, and so picking classes based on my interests is sort of difficult for me. I recently had a scare thinking about that, and this caused me to think about learning programming or woodworking, because those are very marketable skills.

I think it’s because I just have no idea how to be a grown up.

Also, I wasn’t sure which of my classes would be recognized back in America. And where I am math-wise is basically completely unknown.

My host-sister’s communion is coming up in May, so I went shopping to buy adequate clothing (jeans and T-Shirts are not accepted, apparently). I now have everything I need except shoes, which was obviously going to happen because Spain has issues with my foot size. Serious issues. The only shoes I found that would have even slightly fit me were 200 Euros. And they weren’t even fancy, just those ballerina shoes. Um. I have a problem with this.

But anyway, what’s amazing is that I basically only have two more months left in Spain! It feels weird to think about it. On the one hand, I can’t wait to go back home and be greeted by all the things I’ve missed; my family, my friends, the library, Panera Bread, our mixer… but on the other hand, Spain is amazing. I haven’t even seen all of Madrid yet. The food is so different and good (at least, I haven’t seen Americans eating baby eels and black spaghetti noodles before) and the people I’ve met are all amazing (even the boys, but they’re slightly less amazing.) I’ve made friend at school and at Taekwondo and Kickboxing. Laura really likes me. It will feel strange leaving this place.

This week I’ve felt sort of… I don’t know, drained. I decided to stop my 3-days-a-week afterschool workout (adapted from the workout presented in Joel Runyon’s No Excuse Workout) because I feel like I might be too stressed. This might have something to do with the fact that I’m sick right now (and I have a presentation tomorrow, great) but I think it was even before that.

I have used up so much toilet paper wiping my nose this week, it’s not even funny. And I’m really tired right now, despite getting a long night’s sleep and not having done anything today except eat, drink, and sit at the computer. Maybe I’ll go take a nap.

Yawn.

~Mawkingbird

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Shenanigans again

Hello dear, lovely readers!

I’ve been gone for a while, yes, I know. Bunches of things have happened, and I probably won’t be able to remember every single tiny detail, which is probably a good thing for your eyes and your brain. Let’s get cracking! (Please note that this is not an allusion to the occasionally hilarious www.cracked.com).

From Madrid we drove down to the Sierra Nevada, which, according to my translating skills, literally means “mountains that are snowed upon” or something along those lines. “Snowy Mountains” perhaps. As we were zigzagging and spiraling up the mountains, I noted with glee the dropping temperature and the increase of white that surrounded us. As soon as we got out of the car, SNOWBALLS.

Anyway, Marian had rented out this little three-room apartment domicile (bathroom, hallway-ish thing with a bunk-bed, kitchen and living room) for 4 days of freezing fun on the slopes. Luis and Laura threw up a huge fuss over who should sleep on the top bunk, as Laura called it first and Luis denied any interest. Then when we discovered that the only bed I actually fit in was the long black couch, making Luis completely P.O.ed because “Mamá, Laura siempre duerme arriba y nunca puedo dormir dónde quiero y siempre estás de lado de Laura y no quiero turnarme! Mom, Laura always sleeps in the top and I never sleep where I want to and you’re always on her side and I don’t want to take turns!” and a bunch of other random stuff, and the whole time I was thinking MY KIDS (if I ever have any) ARE GOING TO BE THE MOST WELL-BEHAVED CHILDREN ON THE PLANET BECAUSE WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM CHILD LIKE SERIOUSLY.

Eventually we figured it out and Luis was crabby for a while but that dissipated rather quickly, thanks to all things good and pure.

My only complaint about the place? Radiators in every room but the bathroom.

We had some days with wonderful weather (I eventually started sweating just standing in line) and days with lots of fog and snow and hail. On the day with hail I bought myself one of those neck-scarf things that you can pull over your face. Because ow.

My ski-teacher was very amiable and hat some sort of accent to his Spanish. He also had the most enormous fingernails I have ever seen on a human being.

The first two days or so there weren’t a lot of other people in our ski-group, but once more joined I really enjoyed talking to them. In Spanish, obviously. I have improved so much in Spanish that I’m starting to wonder if I should continue Spanish classes in America when I return. Because I’d like to learn sign language…

I think my only real complaint about the entire ski-trip was that I wasn’t able to eat the food I wanted to. Being in a salad phase of my life, I was disappointed a bit having to eat white bread and meats and pasta and fried things for lunch and dinner. I occasionally scored a salad, but could never make my own in the apartment because fruit and vegetables are expensive up on the mountain. Ah well, you can’t have everything, I guess.

The only thing I sunburned was the tip of my nose. I’ve removed the dead skin already and it seems to be healing nicely…

I wouldn’t say I’m a beginner to skiing, but I wouldn’t say I’m really good at it either. I would put myself in the “advanced beginner” category. Despite this I’m proud to say I only fell one time. YAY.

Noteworthy things; the two men who skied out-of-bounds and produced a mini avalanche. Well done, my fellow human beings.

After Sierra Nevada it was off to MARBELLA. This is probably a kind of equivalent to Miami, Florida, for Spaniards. It’s coastal, there’s palm trees, sandy beaches, shells, pretty houses/apartments for rent and tonnages of tourists from every country ever. I heard German, French, British English, American English, and a bunch of other languages that I can’t identify.

We were living in the house of the grandparents for four days. I got a room all to myself with huge windows through which I could see a fantastic view of the ocean. The bathroom was sort of cramped, but whatever.

The weather… I suppose I could describe it as late springy (for you Michiganders). Marian obviously did not think so and was wearing sweaters and long pants. And so was I, being an obedient sort of human. On some days I did need the extra coverage, but on others I was perspiring like… like an Inuit in a polar-bear suit in the desert.

Okay, maybe not that profusely.

It was a rather nice time. The one thing I remember the most would probably be an occurrence at a family lunch of paella… I had to go to the bathroom, but there were three tweenish girls in there being… girly, I suppose. I asked the parents if there was another one, and this little girl called Alejandra takes my hand and runs to a free bathroom. I would judge her to be about 4 years old, but I’m a terrible judge of age…

Okay, the following might be slightly cringe-worthy to some of you readers (silly prudes you may be), so be warned.

So this little girl enters the bathroom and does her thing. She’s obviously used to going to the bathroom with a parent, because she leaves the door wiiiiidddee open. After she finished I entered and attempted to close the door, but she didn’t leave and I really didn’t want to try to explain the confusing concept of “privacy” to a four year old. The thing is, I was wearing a swimsuit underneath my clothes in preparation of going to the pool later. So of course I had to remove my shirt and pull the suit down and the little girl’s eyes bugged out of her head because breasts. I smiled at her and said that she would eventually have them too. Being a child, she was understandably curious about these strange wobbly things attached under my chest.

Now, I’m of the belief (having read Petals on the Wind) that children shouldn’t be taught that genitals are something to be ashamed of. This just leads to weirdness later in life. And so basically that one scene from the book happened (where Catherine Dollanganger’s son Jory asks his mother why his friend was slapped by his mother for touching her chest) and the little girl reverently placed a hand on my breast. I couldn’t stop laughing because it tickled and because I had never imagined something like this happening before I had children.

We went to a bunch of restaurants. I can recommend Picasso’s Pizzeria. Yum.

Possibly the worst event was when we were returning from Marbella to Madrid. We stopped for a late lunch along the way in a tiny restaurant bearing the name “Los Caballos/The Horses”. I had some sort of fish on white bread because the salad was out. The water in the bathrooms was not potable and so I bought a huge 1,5 liter bottle of water to drink. I think it was around 6, and I understood Marian to say we would be in Madrid at about 8. So I drank most of the 1,5 liters, probably at least one entire liter.

Around 7:30 I started to get the toilet feels. Just small ones. Thinking we would be in Madrid soon, I repressed any comment.

At 8:00 it was starting to get dark outside. Marian commented “Una hora más y estarémos en Madrid/One more hour and we’ll be in Madrid!”. The urge to urinate had become stronger then, and so I asked if we could stop to use the restroom. Marian replied that she absolutely loathed driving at night (with the passion of a thousand burning suns!) and that I’d have to hold it.

I don’t know if any of you have ever drunk a liter of water and had to pee and be unable to use the restroom. It’s not fun. Not fun at all.

Long story short, I asked again at 8:10 or so if we could please stop to use the restroom and Marian got really angry and the answer was no. I’ve experienced her yelling at her kids a few times, but it had never been directed at me before. Being a doormat and unable to take part in basically any kind of fight, I held my tongue and waited in agony. There was silence in the car.

At 8:45 Marian left the highway and pulled into a gas station. I don’t know if it was for my sake or for gas or for Kit Kats or chips, but I was outta there. I probably was in and out of the restroom within 20 seconds. After this the mood lightened considerably and the kids and I spent the rest of the trip speaking in English (because Marian had quite forcefully pointed out her dissatisfaction with my English-teaching) and singing the doughnut song.

“Oh. I. Walked around the corner

And I walked around the block.

And I walked right into a doughnut shop.

And I picked up a doughnut.

And I licked off the grease.

I handed the lady a five-cent piece.

Well. She. Looked at the nickel.

And she looked at me.

And she said, ‘This nickel is no good to me.’

‘There’s a hole in the middle.’

‘I can see straight through!’

Said I, ‘There’s a hole in your doughnuts too!’

‘Thanks for the doughnut, so long!’”

Ah, childhood memories.

Marian and I have apologized to each other and everything is okay.

 

~Mawkingbird out

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Galicia Trip!

So I’m going to write this down before I forget it all again.

Friday. The taxi-man was scheduled to come at 5:30, but because I tend to overthink everything and want to make sure I have more than enough time I woke up at 4. Eat breakfast, stuff everything in your backpack, worry incessantly for a while. It’s seriously just a kind of problem I have. What if I forget something vital? Did I pack my toothbrush? Where’s my passport? How much will taxi fare be?

The tax-man arrived and called me on my phone. I was probably downstairs as fast as was humanly possible (can’t keep your transportation waiting after all). Once I got inside the taxi I could let go of some tension, and I sort of flopped onto the back seat and sighed a huge sigh of relief. The taxi-man was very amused. We chatted all the way to the airport, with him asking questions and me answering them and him telling me some of his life story. I really need to work on asking questions myself.

Taxi-fare ended up being a whopping 40 Euros or something like that. I’m not sure if I got conned of not, seeing as how this was the first time I’ve ever been in a taxi by myself. (Flashback to Chicago a bunch of years ago. Mmm, clam chowder…) I entered the airport and was surprised there weren’t any sparrows living in it… because the airport in Detroit is a haven for all sorts of wildlife. I wandered around for a bit until I figured out where my pals from OpenMind would be and reached them without getting irretrievably lost. This makes the whole ordeal sound super labyrinthium and stuff, but I’m pretty sure it was just my mind turning everything into a rat maze.

I meet the coordinator Carmen, a new girl named Siri, and an acquaintance of mine named Christina. We’re all quiet because it’s pretty early in the morning and we manage to get onto the plane. Not before the security takes away my shampoo bottle, though. The specifics were “less than 100ml” and I’m sure there were only about 50ml left in the bottle, but apparently because it has a capacity of 500ml and still had liquid in it, it was taken to be a dangerous weapon of some sort. No problem, shampoo isn’t that good for your hair anyway.

Plane ride uneventful, except that I got to see the “Sicherheitsballet” that I’d read about. And then the power went out during that and the stewardesses stood around smiling hugely while the emergency lights flickered on. That wasn’t too reassuring but it turned out to have no effect whatsoever on our flying experience.

When we arrived in Santiago, we had to wait a few hours… we played Uno and imitated the accents of people speaking over the loudspeakers. Then we finally meet the other 3 participants, two boys and a girl. It was awkward cheek-kissing and such, except possibly for everyone but me, seeing as how they all already knew each other. I got some fat respect from them all on account of being American.

Take a bus to Santiago de Compostela. The cathedral there really is impressive. I’m no architect, but just thinking that these kinds of structures take hundreds of years to finish is really, simply, brain-meltingly ASTONISHING. SUCH PATIENCE. I mean, I get frustrated and rage-quit after 10 minutes of not being able to Altaïr well enough to my liking. I’m pretty sure people used to be much more patient than they are today.

We wandered around that little town for a while and found a Chocolate Factory. Mm, it smelled delicious. I was going to buy a chocolate chicken but then my wallet said “No!” I was very disappointed about this. It smelled fantastic though.

Then it was bus bus bus time to get to our rented house. While the bus is getting there I will expound a little bit on all the participants…

Alina: dark-skinned, with a head of pin-straight dark hair that pretty much looked perfect all the time. She had a really “best friend” kind of relationship with Christian. Not that they were in love or anything, they were basically just twin souls. Very direct in her speech, though possibly only because she was glad to complain in German about the things that annoyed her without having the coordinators (who only spoke Spanish and English) having any sort of idea of what she was talking about. Not really the sort of girl I’d choose to hang out with if I had the choice, but super nice. She was funny and thought I was funny, for whatever reason. She had incredible skill with the Feminine Art of Doing Things To Hair.

Christian: hugely tall and robust (marshmallowy somehow) with dirty-blonde hair and blue eyes. Apparently a huge fan of German reality TV shows (think Jersey Shore and Wife Swap). Also absolutely comfortable with saying pretty much anything he felt like saying. Owner of one of those more professional looking cameras, with which he probably snapped close to a thousand pictures of us. He was very talkative, which was okay because we, being a cobbled-together group of adolescents, were mainly awkward penguins with each other at the beginning. I’m not really exactly sure how much I liked him; I appreciated his interest in me and his ability to keep things from getting awkward, as well as his humor. I think it was only the last night where he was acting a bit volatile.

Siri: owner of super-long hair and the frequent victim of Alina for hair shenanigans. Also a fellow artist, which I appreciated a lot. She did a lot of realistic medieval stuff, and I admire her patience with shading and backgrounds. Also super nice (all of the girls were) and skilled in making things with nature. She made Alina a lovely crown made out of Gänseblümchen (Gooseflowers?) and could whistle with grass and all that jazz.

Lukas: curly black mop of hair, also owner of an epic camera. Much more quiet. He didn’t really eat a lot until the coordinators showed up with a huge casserole dish full of noodles. Then he had about 4 helpings of that. He did tell of having problems in the beginning with the food in his host family. The food is apparently super delicious, but the family was appalled by how much he ate or something and then there were shenanigans. I have the feeling he wasn’t really comfortable during this vacation.

Christina: wavy blonde hair and blue eyes. She’s the one I’ve been acquainted with for a while now, and probably was the quietest girl next to me. Her family has a lot of “little kid food”, as she calls it, and her host mom makes paella filled with mussels even though she’s made clear she doesn’t like them.We have plans to find a spa here in Madrid sometime.

Rebecca: socially awkward brunette with blonde tips. Occasionally at a loss as to what on Earth everyone else is talking about. She probably ate the most food and hung out the most with the coordinators. She also managed to deal with the 12 year old girl one of the coordinators/women had brought with her, humoring her while pretty much everyone else who spoke German was complaining about her presence. She also learned a few tips about hair from Alina and Christina, because she knows pretty much nothing other than ponytails.

Okay! The house was absolute awesomeness. We girls got three rooms, the boys got one upstairs. We girls immediately decided to share one room with two beds, just because we can. Amazingly, we did actually manage to sleep. Fancy that.

I think I’m going to miss the showers the most… in Madrid my showerhead is sort of weak. The showerhead there was like a Niagara Falls of water and it was the best thing ever. I will also miss the impressive tea selection that was available. And the beds, because my feet didn’t hang over the edge.

Spanish lesson deciphering common Spanish phrases that have to do with animals. The others were not very happy with the fact of lessons, but I was actually pretty bro with the idea.

Saturday was wet and cold and rain and we ended up being bussed around to Portugal and Tui. We saw a wine vineyard and more churchy buildings and stone villages that were pretty but would probably be much more appealing in summer. The day ended with us trudging around some random city that was made up of stores selling towels. I am not even making this stuff up. The only things being sold were towels, baby clothes, and the occasional pair of socks, as far as the eye could see. Fruitlessly we searched for a mini-supermarket or something to buy some apples, but the town wasn’t having any of it and just kept offering towel after towel after towel. I bought myself some big camouflage socks there because pajamas need socks too.

Yesterday the weather was absitively posolutely beautiful. The sun was shining. It was a little cold, but SUN. SUN SUN SUN SUN SUN. Yes. Just so much yes. We spent the morning doing Spanish lessons and basically lounging around outside the house, breathing in fresh air and absorbing sun and having flower-garlands made. We then ended up at the ocean somehow, which was even more yes. I took off my shoes and jumped around on the shell-boulder beach like some sort of awed goat. I think if I lived there (wherever we were) I wouldn’t get anything done. I would just lie on the boulders and let the waves wash every single thought right out of my head.

In the boulders I found a pool of water that contained fresh water and tadpoles. I was surprised. Tadpoles? Next to the ocean? What kind of frog lives next to the ocean? But I guess it’s not that important. I was delighted and that’s what counts.

This morning we got up at 5 to go to the airport… I think we could have slept a lot longer, because we had to wait a long time at the airport for our flight to arrive. But I understand that the program doesn’t want anybody missing their flight.

So THAT was a relatively huge undertaking you just finished there….

I’m only going to eat vegetables and salad and basically healthy things for at least a week. Because that’s the only way to get rid of the sick bloaty feeling I have from gorging myself on the edible food that was presented to us during our stay. Though I do have to wonder why I ate so much of the noodle casserole when my mother’s is so much better.

 

AHYES it’s super possible I’ll be going skiing with my host family! I hope this occurs because funfunfun and also more chances for Mawk to almost kill herself. Good times all around, right?

 

~Mawkingbird

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Time flies like butter

Did you see what I did there? Well, did you? Meh, it’s not really witty anyway.

I’m just going to post something because this upcoming Friday I’m flying to Santiago de Compostela and I wanted to update you all before that.

I’ve joined a kickboxing class. There’s very few people in it, which I think I’m okay with. There’s only one other girl who is really nice. The guys are also nice whatamisaying. Everyone in my TKD and kickboxing classes is nice. Glad we got that cleared. For this I have bought myself some red (because fine some color is okay) wraps that have already had the honor of gracing my hands yesterday when I was doing my push ups. I’ve decided against purchasing boxing gloves as of now, because myeh. They have an extra pair at kickboxing anyway. Also, I don’t even particularly mind the smell of hamster-home if it’s attached to some extremity far from my face, like my fists. If it becomes necessary I suppose I’ll have to spring for them.

Went to the movies TWICE this weekend. I know, I know. Shocking. I saw that one new OZ movie and also the Spanish dub of “Pitch Perfect”. Neither had a really intriguing storyline, but I enjoyed them anyway because I don’t judge. Also, the special effects and wing animation in OZ were enough to capture my attention. I’m not sure why. Pitch Perfect was just enjoyable because capella itself is just really awesome. PP got very repetitive because of that stupid blonde girl in charge of the Bellas ,who makes them sing the same song as many times as possible and after the third time there’s just this incredible feeling of why do I have to watch this over again I mean seriously what is your problem.

After Pitch Perfect a girl from school and I wandered around in the mall a while longer, until we got the idea to stuff me into clothes she deemed suitable. My problem might be the fact that I’m so used to wearing (and seeing myself in) jeans and T-Shirts that when I wear something else it doesn’t look right. And I will have to wear a skirt or dress soon; the horror.

AYESH. My flight to Santiago de Compostela. I’m super anxious about it. I’ve never used a taxi by myself before and my mind has somehow erased the knowledge of what kinds of papers I need to take with me. Passport, obviously. The ticket of purchase, yes. Anything else? No clue. I’m also over thinking everything and basically imagining everything that could possibly go wrong. Even though everything is probably going to go just fine. Myeh, my mother was right, I think too much.

I’ve been getting emails and general messages from friends back home… are you guys all okay? It makes me feel almost guilty to be enjoying myself so much when you guys are having problems…

 

~Mawkingbird

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