"We have more reasons to love each other based on our common humanity than to victimize one another because of any difference."

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Spirit of Winter

Barcelona is a beautiful city and perhaps even more beautiful in the winter. The floral street stalls have begun to sell Poinsettias and miniature Christmas trees. The city spends hundreds, actually probably at least a million, dollars beautifying the city with thousands and thousands of beautiful, christmas bulbs, life size nativity scenes, acapella singing groups, and fun Christmas festivals. And seeing as I don't pay the taxes that provide this wonderful ambiance I'm ready to completely enjoy it!

The strands of Christmas lights are stung out across the narrow streets. A lot of them form designs like Christmas trees inside metal frames that are hoisted above the bustle of the city. I've been waiting for two weeks to actually see the lights on but it still hasn't been my lucky day. I'm hoping this week.

Meanwhile, I've been busy crocheting, studying for my two finals tomorrow, writing papers, and just generally wondering where the time has gone. I'll be home in 16 days???? I still have so many Christmas cards to make, sights to see, pictures to take, dinner parties to attend, and friends to hang out with! This weekend Monste, Hannah and I are headed to Monserrat a famous mountain an hour or two drive from Barcelona where an old church is located at the summit. I always love the adventures Monste takes me on so I'm looking forward to it. But, I'm also really looking forward to coming home!

I'm really looking forward to spending time with my family, cooking again, crafting, and being back in my drafty cold house (there's no place like home!) Plus, Christmas time is just one of my favorite times of the year!

Hey family, see you soon!!!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving is a day for families

I have to admit that I am a little sad to spend this Thanksgiving in Barcelona away from my family and friends. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It comes with no expectations except good food and family.

I've been thinking about all the Thanksgivings we have spent with the Reedys (my mom's family in San Francisco). We usually wake up to find mom already making a mess in the kitchen and Uncle Ted already freaking out about it. We all spend most of the morning darting in and out of the kitchen to see what goodies my mom is working on. We make fun of Aunt Jane for not being able to cook. We have an annual soccer game Reddys V. O'Bigelows in which the Reedys always cheat and someone always storms off crying. When Papa was alive we'd all go around complaining about how hot it was in the house because he cranked the thermostat and we'd see if we could get away with cracking the windows. Mom always wants to play a board game and has to drag all of us to the table. Dinner was always fantastic, there was always some amazing homemade pie for dessert.

I love Thanksgiving.
Since I don't have the opportunity to say what I am thankful for at the table I'm going to say it here instead.

First and foremost I am thankful for my wonderful and amazing family. They are always supportive, always loving, and I miss them very much. I am thankful for my beautiful friends who always make me smile and laugh. I am thankful for the opportunities I have been given and for being able to study in Barcelona. And I am thankful for my plane ticket home for Christmas. I can't wait to hug everyone....

Well, I've succeeded in making myself cry.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Dear Santa, I want a raclette for Christmas

Last weekend I went to my first ever raclette party. More common in Europe, a raclette is basically a grill top and below is a second layer where each guest cooks their own mini ´frying pan´. I loved the raclette party for the same reason I love fondue parties and hookah nights. It brings people together for long periods of time around a table to simply talk (well, and eat! Double bonus)

Each guest brought different goodies to the raclette party. Hannah and I brought spicy sauteed zuccini, steamed asparagus, spinach, and eggs. Other people brought bell peppers, chicken, tuna, cheese, potatoes, pineapple & chocolate. It was basically just a fun mix of things, add in bottles of red wine and good dinner conversation and you have a fantastic Saturday evening.

After we had finished off most of the food Ingamr brought out four pints of delicious ice cream and we sampled strawberry, cheesecake, carmel banana, and mint chocolate chip. I was in heaven...and also very full.

The next morning I sent my mom an email saying I want a raclette for Christmas! I can already imagine all the fun dinner parties in my future...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Things of the day...

I learned how to crochet and successfully completed my first pot holder! (almost entirely without Hannah's guidance).

I dropped my already fritzy ipod in the gym toilet today. It isn't working...I haven't started crying yet because I'm still going through the shock phase.

I had my LAST grammar class today, my how time flies! (Now I need to start finishing/starting my final papers)

I am going to the ANDREW BIRD CONCERT tonight and I am so so so excited! He is one of my favorite artists!

I organized a crochet/knitting party this Friday! Some BCA girls and I are meeting at a little cafe to drink tea, chat, and knit. How cute!

I waited a good chunk of the morning for a meeting that isn't till tomorrow...opps.

I register for my classes tomorrow.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

View from the balcony

This is the view from our balcony at night.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Mushroom Hunting!

Today was possibly one of the most FANTASTIC days!

Hannah and I climbed into Montse's car early this morning and began our hour plus drive to the mountains. I was wondering why Hannah was so quiet and when we finally got there she said she had been busy trying to resist the urge to puke because she was car sick. The fresh air will do us good.

We got out of the car and walked around to the back. Montse pulled out three wicker baskets and our faces lit up. I was so excited! Spain has had an unusually dry winter which means that the mushrooms are scarce. There is actually a mushroom crisis. I see updates on the news about it. So we weren't expecting much, which is good because we didn't find much. But, god, it was fun! We were just hanging out and walking through the trees.

Being out in nature has always been therapeutic and relaxing for me. And although I don't believe in God I always feel most spiritual in nature. The day was beautiful. The air was clean and fresh and the leaves were turning beautiful yellows. We were surrounded by cute little streams and breath taking waterfalls. Hannah especially loved it because it reminded her a little of home and the nature that she is so accustomed to in Maine.

But we didn't come away completely empty handed. We returned with a bag full of wild chestnuts and four precious mushrooms.

Here's a few to wet the palette. You can find the rest by pasting this link into your browser:


Where would we be without our handy guide book?

Monste, you're the best!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Top Five

These are my top five favorite smells

1. The Earth after it rains
2. The bakery shops in Spain
3. This fantastic cinnamon tea I bought
4. Coco butter lotion (or coconut in general)
5. Citrus

Thursday, November 19, 2009


I finally got it folks, the long awaited photo contest email! It said:


Congrats on winning this week's photo selection!

Please submit the winning image to the photocontest folder on the pdrive, and would you also e-mail me with a tagline for the image, a description of where/when it was taken, and your class year?

Also, e-mail Candice Hersh, as to when you can claim your $25 prize!

Chris Bender
Social Media Manager
Juniata College

Hannah was with me when I opened the email. I fell to the floor and rolled around a bit laughing and making funny noises. Let's just say I was excited.... Then I wanted to see what photo it was! So I clicked on the link and waited biting my nails to see what picture it was! And drummmmm rolll ladies and gents, here is the picture:


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Something Sunny, my baby.

Last summer I had an internship with the Mexican Government. I was working in my cubicle when my boss popped her head in to tell me I was going to accompany her to Tlaxcala. I didn’t know where that was but I was eager to get out of the office. She told me to run home and grab a sweater and to meet her back here in 30 minutes. We left at 12:30, keep in mind my internship ends at 3:30 everyday.
I’m assuming that Tlaxcala is somewhat close…three and a half hours later we are still driving. We arrive in the CITY of Tlaxcala and she asks me if I would like to be dropped off at the city center or the shopping mall. I stammer, “I thought I was coming with you?” She looks at me and says, “No. I have a business meeting. I’ll meet you in front of the Catedral in 4 hours.” So without a phone, without money, without a camera, I exit the car. Do you have any idea how impossible it is to find a bathroom without money in Mexico? It took 40 painful minutes to finally find a bathroom. I didn’t have any money to buy food and I hadn’t eaten lunch…I was going hungry that day.
I’d also like it noted that last summer my Spanish didn’t compare to what it is now. I often had trouble understanding conversations without a context and had trouble communicating, especially when nervous. I felt like crying. I walked through unknown city streets feeling a little scared and totally alone.
I ended up wandering down a back alley that in hindsight probably was fairly dangerous. It led me to what I can only describe as a sketchy hippie barrio. Before I fled for a safer part of town I noticed a small boutique tucked away on the corner. I entered the boutique and found to my surprise and enjoyment a picture frame boutique. It was full of bright colors, funky designs, and pop art figures painted onto thick wooden frames. I loved it! I thought they would be really cool in my dorm and thought to myself I should try and reproduce some when I get back to San Diego. (If I get back)
After a couple more hungry hours I made my way back to the cathedral where I was suppose to meet my boss. She was almost two hours late to pick me up. I was furious, upset, and frustrated. I got back that night at midnight.
When I got back to San Diego later that summer I headed to Home Depot and bought some lumber. I made four bright frames with a sunflower design. My mom took a look at them and said, “Caitlin! These look fantastic. You should sell them.” That was the only encouragement I needed.


I will be applying for $5,000 dollars of seed capital money from the Juniata Committee December 8th. After a year and a half of business plan edits, countless hours spent in the studio, pulling my hair out over color combinations, and I have no idea how many business meetings this summer I will be launching my business. My baby. I am so excited. Let's hope the committee funds me! Wish me luck!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

November 15th???!?!!?!!?!?!?!

I haven't written a blog in a while because there hasn't been much to write! I have been so busy working on my picture frame company that all the fun cultural stuff has taken a back seat. I've never felt so positive and excited about the possibilities. I almost feel like it's destined for me to make this work. I've met some girls here who will be instrumental in the completion of my business plan and financial documents. They are entrepreneurs too and have offered to help me pull it all together and are almost as excited as I am. I will be submitting my plan to the Committee December 8th. The Committee then meets again in March and I will know for sure whether I'll get the money or not by then.

Other fun stuff:
Vito, my Italian friend invited me over to his flat for an authentic Italian meal. It turns out he's a good cook! So I went to the dinner party with Hannah on Friday. He has a great flat in Gracia (the hip fun part of Barcelona) and lives with another Italian roommate. The dinner table was crowded with four Italian guys, two Spanish girls, and Hannah and I. Everyone was really great and I had a great time. We ate a seafood pasta, chicken dish, and for dessert bananas drizzled in chocolate. After that we headed over to a friend of Vito's flat for a birthday party.

We show up at the second flat and it's full of people drinking mojitos and hanging out. I talked to people from Belgium, Paris, Italy, and Spain. I felt so grown up and cultured! Hannah and I were joking that everyone has their own 'secret' language except us. The Italians could speak to each other in Italian without others understanding, and the French, and Belgiums and so on but everyone spoke english!

Saturday night the two Spanish girls we had met the night before invited us to their flat to celebrate Anna Carmen's birthday. They had made an awesome ice cream cake, an apple strudel, chocolate strawberries, vanilla ice cream, brownie cake, and this other apple cake. It was fantastic! There was also a good mix of people at their flat and Hannah and I ended up talking to two Belgiums for a large portion of the night. One looked like Heath Ledger!

It was a pretty fun weekend. I'm shocked by how nice people are here. It seems like everyone here is always inviting me to places or wanting to do fun things with me. I think it's amazing that after knowing girls for one night they would invite us to their birthday or that after doing some language exchanges with Vito he would invite me over for a great dinner. I met another girl who lives in a city South of Barcelona and she invited me to come one day and she would show me around the city. I don't know, I just think that's pretty cool.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Dark Chocolate & Port Wine

I got back an hour ago from a wonderful evening filled with delicious rich dark chocolate Toblerone fondue, fascinating conversations, and amazingly interesting strangers.

Our host was a 31 year-old German. He works as a computer researcher for Yahoo. He is trying to figure out and write codes for contextualizing query searches. Which means the data search engines based on previous information about you and outside environmental factors can help give more accurate results. Example: If someone searches the word ‘sex’ from a company computer during business hours it is more likely work and information related than if the word ‘sex’ is searched from a personal dial up computer at midnight. He also explained that Google knows things before anyone else in the world based on what people are searching. Google knows about health epidemics before governments and hospitals because they can track the symptoms people search. In addition to being a computer genius he has also completed a double iron man. That is a 5 mile swim, 200 mile bike ride, and a 52 mile run. It took him 36 hours to complete.

On the other side of the table was a Spanish couple. The man, who didn’t speak English was from Pais Vasco, a very interesting 'state' in Spain. Pais Vasco, like Catalunya (where Barcelona is located) also has a legal language other than Spanish which is not rooted in any latin words and extremely difficult to learn. I can more or less understand basic concepts in Catalan because the roots are latin and it sounds like a mix of French and Spanish. To demonstrate how different Eskudi is he turned to me and said, “What part of the United States are you from?” I didn’t understand one word, not even United States. What I found really interesting was when the discussion turned to the politics of the region. A lot of people in Pais Vasco, like Catalunya want independence from Spain. In the schools there they teach, ‘The History of Spain and Pais Vasco’. I followed the conversation, which was fast, complicated, and in Spanish, with complete ease. I felt like I was listening to it in English. I was thrilled not only because I understood so well but also because I was listening to the opinions of the Spaniards about something that I have been studying in my classes and find extremely fascinating.

And to think, I haven't even begun to talk about the chocolate! Ingamar, our host, bought five of the HUGE toblerone bars and seven bottles of high quality port wine, some of which were at least a decade older than me. We dipped bananas, oranges, apples, kiwi, muffins, and pears and also just ate chocolate. It was fantastically delicious!

When I got home Ben calculated how much chocolate I ate in pounds…. Just under half a pound. I guess I’m going running tomorrow...

pictures coming tomorrow! I'm too sleepy to put them up now :)

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Precious & Quaint Town of Girona

The best word to describe my day was lovely. I had a wonderful day.

This morning I woke up early to meet my art history class. We all boarded a bus and headed to Girona and the Salvador Dali Museum. The Salvador Museum was pretty cool, he was such a strange person....excentric doesn't even begin to describe it. I loved seeing some of the famous works that I have studied in school in person.

Even more fun for me though was exploring Girona afterwards. Girona is a beautiful, old and historic town 30 minutes from the Museum. It has old narrow cobble stone roads, adorable cafes, cute little artisan shops, gorgeous old buildings, and a river winds under bridges and through the town.

Today was a crisp chilly day and the sky was a gorgeous blue. I wandered through the city with some girls I don't usually hang out with and we stopped at a little cafe for drinks. We sat outside under the umbrellas, the cobble stones were covered with leaves. We had a perfect view of the street.

After the coffees we explored some of the little shops and I bought a white ceramic mug with a blue cow drawn the outside and the word 'Girona' scribbled on the back. The inside is a deep blue glaze. I also bought a post card with a picture of Dali's costal house. I was excited to see the picture because I had cut the very same one out of a magazine last year and had it hanging above my bed at Juniata. Our last stop was an adorable little tea shop tucked away on a side street. They had two walls full of lose leaf tea and I bought 200 grams worth in two different flavors. The teas smell fantastic. Maybe one of the top five smells I've ever smelled. I am enjoying one currently as I write this in my bed with a square of dark chocolate.

Today was an important day for me for other reasons other than a wonderful outing. Hannah has been sick for a couple days now and couldn't go on the trip. It forced me to hang out with other people, which is good because Hannah is only here for a semester so soon I will have to make a transition. I enjoyed hanging out with them.

I'm exhausted now and am about to settle down with my spanish book and finish that cup of tea.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My new FAVORITE place

So I love to cook. But, I especially love to cook with fresh, ripe, and healthy ingredients. I feel like we've been over that a couple times. So where's the new happening place in Barcelona makes me want to immediately run to my kitchen and try to make a million fresh new dishes? Barcelona's most fabulous food market. This week I went to Barcelona's world renowned market and I salivated over EVERYTHING. Row after row of exotic fruits, ripe figs, the freshest green vegetables you'll ever eat, stands of dried fruit, counters full of chocolates, olives, rounds of cheese....But I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Oh people you'll meet, the places you'll go...

Hannah and I met up with a young couple on Friday who wanted to have a cooking exchange at their flat. We set it up through couchsurfers (my favorite site ever). The guy was from Germany and the woman from Kazakhstan (near Afghanistan). They were some of the most interesting people I have ever encountered. Chris, told me a story about traveling to a jungle in Boliva. It is a famous national forest and the perimeters are very touristy. He wanted to go on a more in depth excursion but they are very expensive because you have to pay a guide, a man with a gun (for pumas), and an anti venom specialist.

Well as it turns out there is an indigenous tribe that has never had contact with the outside world living in this jungle. So the Bolivian government pays soldiers to guard the perimeter so no one can enter and disrupt their way of life. So Chris asked if he could volunteer to protect the people and the guards said, 'Sure'. So off he went into the jungle. He spent his days going from check point to check point by boat and hacking a path with a machete. He said these people knew every corner of the jungle they knew where the families of monkeys lived, where the trails were, where to avoid...Chris said you have to be careful of the monkeys because they are sneaky little bastards and they tag teamed him to steal his wallet. One distracted him by jumping on his head and the other knicked the wallet. He said the only real time he was scared was when they happened upon a family of Pumas and when he saw the soldier with the gun was scared he knew they were in trouble.

The dinner was great, I made a spicy lentil and sausage dish. We drank peach juice and they let the guests choose the incense we had at dinner. After dinner we talked about politics and Obama winning the Nobel Prize.

This weekend I have more couchsurfing parties lined up.
Saturday for lunch I am meeting up for a pot luck soup party. I am making a French Onion Soup. Also on the list Thai Soup and Pumpkin. Yum!

Saturday night I was invited to a chocolate fondue party (also through couchsurfers). The host is 31 and a computer science researcher and has just completed his third iron man. He is hosting someone the night of the party and then there is a woman coming who grew up in a small village in the North of Spain. She paid for school by running a bar in her home town and is now working on her PHD in interactive digital communication. I'm not even sure what that is but it sounds cool.

The interesting people you meet huh? Add in food and life just doesn't get any better!