Rushing and racing and running in circles

Today is December 14, 2012. 4 days from now I will have said goodbye to my dear Pablo and Salud, have schlepped my things too many times to count, and be en route to Madrid for the first leg of my venture home.

Last you heard from me I was raving about Paris, and now I take a break from studying to reflect on the whirlwind of things going on during an already high-stress time in any college students life. Like any good blogger, I must share the difficult experiences same as I share my amazing ones.

This week has been a juggling act, an a very difficult one at that. I began my week prepared for the academic challenges ahead of me, as well as the sure to be interesting packing ones, all while anticipating the hectic running around of doing my favorite Sevillano things one last time. What I wasn’t prepared for was the huge wave of emotions flowing from one end of the spectrum to the other weaving themselves into this already stressful time. I’m pretty sure I’ve hit em all this week (at least the big ones anyway); anticipation, anxiety, excitement, jealousy, sadness, nostalgia, frustration, guilt, bliss, appreciation, annoyance, resentment…just to name a few.

You see I didn’t realize how leaving would truly affect me. At first I found myself going through the motions, and just agreeing with my friends with they carried on about how bitter-sweet it was going to be to leave, or how they were so totally ready to go and return home to everything they know and love. Then as my friends from Elon’s finals began to end, and they started their own journeys home, I became extremely jealous, wishing I could be the one en route to my loving family, big bed, and Strathmore bagel.

I threw myself into studying, finding every excuse to not be home and passing my time in my regular cafe, in the library, or at a friends apartment. With each time I threw on my backpack and called out “Me voy” to my host family, I saw Pablo’s face droop a little more each time, and would return home to his solemn comments of “You’re never home”, “You don’t talk to me anymore”, “You’re always out”, “You’re always studying”, comments that began to make me feel guilty for resuming to my normal finals week study schedule. I go to class, eat lunch, go to study, eat dinner, and by the time that dinner roles around my brain is so totally fried after being stuffed with democratic transition actors and comparative analysis points of Souther europe that it simply can not handle a causal conversation, an especially not in Spanish, something my roomates understand but my host family does not. I wasn’t used to having to juggle a family (with a huge language barrier), saying goodbye to all my friends (who I will most likely never see again) and a most perfect city all on top of exams. And it was / is emotionally exhausting. I started to feel like an outsider in my own home again, as if I was no longer welcome, which deep down I knew will never be true. But this feeling of being resented only led to my even more frequent absence from home, to the point that today I ate all my meals out with friends.

Feeling overwhelmed and frustrated, I called the one person I knew could help me figure this all out, calm me down, and give me the perfect advice on how to handle the situation… Dad. Getting to sit down and chat with him was like a breath of fresh air. Finally someone who I could talk to about what was going on that would truly understand and help me out. I would try to talk to friends here about it, but with all of us going through the same thing we are all kind of helpless right now. Our long much needed chat ended with Salud’s sing song voice calling my name from the living room for dinner, so I reluctantly said goodbye to Dad and off I went to dinner with a new attitude and determination to make the most out of these last few days in my home stay. I realized that while I am forced with having to say goodbye and leaving this beautiful city, my new friends, and especially my amazing second family, they are also faced with goodbyes. They have come to be my family, who I know deep down care about me, and who I care about too. By realizing that it is going to be extremely difficult for me to say goodbye to them, I also realized that they have a hard goodbye of their own.

I sat down to dinner with intentions of quickly eating and rushing off to meet friends at the bar, but found myself lingering. I enjoyed each bite of Salud’s expert cooking, commenting on her latest Christmas decorations, laughing at Pablo’s never ending appetite, and teasing Pongo into doing tricks for pieces of bread. Tonight was a family night, and I know that come January when I am missing Spain and the Ruiz’s, I will be happy I set aside this night to spend with them.

Friends I cannot wait to see all of you in just a few days, it feels like I have been gone forever and I fall asleep each night now to picturing how amazing it is going to be to get my passport stamped and step through those doors back into the United States of America. 4 more days. And I intend to make the most of them.

SEE YOU WEDNESDAY AMERICA.

Midnight in Paris

Hello friends! When we last talked I was recovering from my girly slumber party weekend and packing my bags to spend a glorious weekend strolling Champs-Élysées, gazing upon the sparkling iconic Parisian monument and sampling macaroons the entire way. Still don’t know? I WAS IN PARIS!

I got home from class on Wednesday, enjoyed a nice quick lunch with Pablo and Salud, and then it was off to meet the airport bus for the final time. 4 hours later I found myself plopped in the setting of many stories without a clue how to find my hotel, nor the language skills to inquire about it. No worries for this New Yorker! I jumped in what would be one of the most expensive taxi rides of my life and 20 minutes later arrived at an adorable little hotel situated perfectly in the 4 district of Paris.

I checked in an headed up to my room for some rest and relaxation until my friends from Barcelona arrived. With their flight a little delayed, after brief hellos and catching up we headed our respective ways to indulge in a full nights sleep before tackling Paris in the morning.

First stop? A PASTRY SHOP OF COURSE! How was I ever supposed to start my day without Pain au Chocolat?! Then it was off to explore the famous Champs-Élysées, set eyes on the Louvre for the first time, and stumble upon a wonderful Christmas market!

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Christmas Market!

Christmas Market!

We tasted French christmas treats all afternoon, sampling macaroons and silly chocolate covered fluff, I even tried hot wine! (not my favorite). That evening we followed the bible (remember my most helpful book from Portugal?) to a wonderful classic French restaurant not too far from where we were staying. Located in the more quaint square dressed in christmas lights, we ate Quiche Lorraine, grilled salmon and a chocolate banana dessert that melted in your mouth to top it all off, all while gazing out the window at the strands of twinkling stars that lined the square.

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The next morning we were lucky enough to wake up to nothing other than….RAIN! It seems to be just our luck that it rains at least once every time we travel away from our home cities. But just as in Barcelona and Brussels we embraced the frigid precipitation and spent our day cafe hopping and strolling along the river and through St. Germain when the clouds finally broke. Highlight of the day? Hands down the infamous Ladurée cafe pastelaria. Known for their macaroons and me being the pastry connoisseur that I am, I simply could not pass up an opportunity to sit in the jewelry box salon and sip on a coffee that complemented the light and sweet macaroon perfectly while the raindrops danced on the umbrellas of the elegant Parisians strolling by.

Laudree!

Laudree!

oh I see you fancy coffee

oh I see you fancy coffee

MACAROONS!

MACAROONS!

Will bellies full of french deliciousness, we ventured across the famed lovers lock bridge to the Notre Dame to gaze upon the expansive high ceilings, the intricate stained glass and the most beautiful nativity. We were lucky enough to walk in just as a mass was ending so our ears were blessed with the sweet sounds of the organ and the choir’s voices guiding us through the old church.

famous lock bridge

famous lock bridge

Notre Dame!

Notre Dame!

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One scene of the nativity

One scene of the nativity

We finished our lovely day with a stroll by the Eiffel Tower, delightfully surprised when it ignited into a beautiful burst of sparkles. Something we hadn’t heard about before and just happened to time perfectly. It was quite the day.

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower

LET IT SHINE!

LET IT SHINE!

Saturday was a day for wrapping up the famous French city, meaning we spent some serious time playing  exploring in the Louvre. Something awesome we discovered while at the Louvre other than that the Mona Lisa is wildly underwhelming? We are EU residents! That’s right! Meaning we get into all museums and monuments for free!! HEYYYOOO! Lucky us! You see most museums and monuments you go to are free for EU residents under the age of 26, little did we know, that little $80 green sticker in our passports (a.k.a. our visas) technically make us EU residents. So not only did we get to see Napoleons Apartments and thousands of other famous pieces of art, we got to do so for free!

Hello Louvre

Hello Louvre

Mona Lisa

Mona Lisa

Check out that ceiling !

Check out that ceiling !

Hey Napolean...when can I move in?

Hey Napolean…when can I move in?

For our final meal in Paris followed the Bible, and got a little daring. It was Creole food for us! We walked through the door and were immediately transferred to the French Antilles, in means of atmosphere, music, food especially the rum punch that I believe was 98% Rum and only about 2% punch (not exaggerating at all!). It was a wonderful last evening filled with alcohol induced giggles and quip conversation over fresh crab, catfish and spicy gumbo.

I returned to Sevilla yesterday eager to get back to my pink sanctuary, but filled with jitters over my pending finals and the return home to my beloved home of the brave in just 8 short days! 192 hours from now I will have taken my last steps on Spanish soil and preparing to welcome the good old United States, my family, the Christmas season and all that comes with it. The next few days filled with studying, playing, and saying my final goodbyes will certainly fly by, a most bittersweet thought indeed.

I will try to keep you as updated throughout the week as possible on my sure to be difficult circus balancing act of school and play, but I cannot wait to tell you all about it in person in just 8 days!!!!!

Until next time!

December ?! When did you get here?

Holy moly I cannot believe it’s December already ! Where did the time go? My time in Spain is/was 120 days and now I am down to my last 15. It most certainly doesn’t feel like I’ve been here for 100+ days. Not one bit.

But at the same time, it feels like its been that long since I saw my friends, my family, not to mention had the opportunity to speak english everywhere I go!

It’s weird, we sit here in our favorite cafe panicking that we only have 20 days left on Spain, while most when given the opportunity to spend 20 days traveling abroad would comment on how lucky they are for such a long period of time! After coming to the strange realization that we only have 20 days or so left in beautiful Sevilla, my friends and I decided we must make the most of the time left, making sure we squeeze in every last thing we haven’t got a chance to do, all while balancing finals and studying too!

We kicked off our “bucket list countdown” this weekend, first starting with a proper Spanish night out on Thursday. Dinner, botellon, bars, club. It was an awesome night of playing, dancing and just having a good time with our entire program (flashback to the group of 50 guiri’s parading the streets with alcohol enhanced voices!). After dancing the night away to a perfect mix of hip-hop throwbacks, house music and current Spanish top hits, we hopped in what would be the most entertaining cab ride thus far and headed home. Let’s just say the music and partying followed us into the cab haha. I got home to my snuggly bed around 4:30, and woke up to my screeching alarm four hours later. All for good reason of course….WE WERE GOING TO TOUR A CONFECTIONARY!

In Sevilla there is a huge confectionary, Ines Rosales, that produces classic Spanish tortas and these wonderful Christmas cookies all throughout Europe (and even America too! – Check out Whole Foods). The company, started in 1910, is run by all women, and only have women making the sweet treats! We got a wonderful tour, in spanish, of the factory and loved strolling through in our silly confectionary outfits filling our noses with flour, sugar, anise, and all other delicious scents. Best part? We got to do a taste test of all the products!! Don’t worry I’ve scoped out the best ones, find me Christmas break and maybe if you’re lucky I’ll still have some to try!

Confectionary outfits !

Confectionary outfits !

With bellies full of sugar it was time to head home for a nice long siesta to make up for last nights lack of sleep. But not too long, we were meeting back up at 7 for dinner. Why so early you ask? Because we were going to see La Bella y la Bestia (Beauty and the Beast) at 10pm!!! Boy what an experience that was! 3 hours of disney fairytale live ….and in Spanish! It was a wonderful cultural way to end our full Spanish day spent with friends speaking all kinds of Spanish.

getting cultural

getting cultural

Saturday was a day of rest, I slept in, sans alarm, and woke to the sunshine (and Pablo yelling into the phone). I spent the deceivingly sunny yet frigid day home alone (yay!), catching up on sleep, cleaning, and homework, and indulging in the delicious tortilla Salud left just for me to eat for lunch (a WHOLE tortilla! aren’t I just the luckiest girl ever!).

around 7pm it was time to rally, Kat’s señora was out of town and we were taking full advantage of that…..SLUMBER PARTY!  The 6 of us decided we desperately needed some girl time and homemade american food, so we divded into teams, each were assigned a meal and off the to the Supercor for the first segment of our evening. We raced through the Spanish supermarket, gliding across the tile in rhythm to the Christmas music (!) playing over the speakers, stuffing our respective carts with American staples like eggs, cheddar cheese, mexican tortillas and real milk. The true test came at the checkout line; how much would our American feast cost us? Well let me tell you we are quite the shoppers because the whole thing came out to less than 10euro a person!

Dinner Team !

Dinner Team !

Best, I mean Breakfast, Team!

Best, I mean Breakfast, Team!

How much did your dinner cost?

How much did your dinner cost?

With backpacks stuffed with groceries (you have to pay for plastic bags here…poor college students..we improvised) we set off to Gato’s (gato..cat..get it ?) house. We got inside and oohed and awhed over the cute apartment she shared with her traveling señora  and then got right to work unloading groceries and changing into comfy clothes. As members of the best (breakfast) team, Rachel and I had the night off, and hung out while Gato, Sophie and Sam chopped chicken and sautéed onions, IT WAS FAJITA NIGHT! Of course no mexican meal is complete without GUAC! Oh how long its been since I tasted the deliciousness that is avocados, tomatoes and the respective guacamole seasoning, what a perfect way to kick off the night.

Dinner team working hard...

Dinner team working hard…

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…or hardly working

nomzz just look at those fajitas !

nomzz just look at those fajitas !

and all the pretty girls who are enjoying them!

With absurdly full bellies of onions, guac and all things fajita, it was tme to veg on the couch…..and stuff ourselves even fuller with microwave popcorn (finally!) and nutella (cause what’s a sleepover without facebook stalking, chocolate and of course a chick flick). We chatted and hung out for hours until we deemed it movie time and then snuggled on Gato’s futon and extra mattress and drifted to sleep with Love Actually filling our heads of RomCom dreams.

full bellies leads to lotssss of couch vegging

full bellies leads to lotssss of couch vegging

We woke up leisurely to the sounds of the 11:30 bells of the Church across the street, telling Rachel and I it was go time. We immediately started chopping potatoes and cracking eggs, preparing for the spectacular breakfast feast we planned. Rachel was in charge of Egg Scramble, and I was on french toast duty, two awesome classic american breakfast foods we had gone way too long without. Of course being the spectacular planners we are we had a rocking playlist to accompany us, and we boogied our way through breakfast, flipping pans, chopping fruit and even making our own syrup! (yeah you read that right! it was 5euro for Maple syrup but only two for some brown sugar, so with a little help from our friend google we were super domestic and made it ourselves!)

Rocky meets Loko….a.k.a. best breakfast playlist ever

we take our work very seriously

 

mmmm look at those pans go!

mmmm look at those pans go!

The final product, complete with mimosas (thanks Mom and Dad for the champagne!)

The final product, complete with mimosas (thanks Mom and Dad for the champagne!)

All in all is was a wonderful night, it was so nice to get to hang out and relax, just like I would do in the States. But the fun didn’t stop there! When I got home I put on some Christmas music and put together the miniature wooden christmas tree Mom sent me! My room needed a little holiday cheer, something to remind me its actually Christmastime.

Do they know it's Christmastime at all...

Do they know it’s Christmastime at all…

ANDDDD ontop of that, I also came home to……..wait for it………. A SPACE HEATER!!!!!! You see, it has been quite cold FREEZING here in Sevilla as of late. Like almost unbearably cold, Salud has 3 comforters on my bed which I need to climb into everytime I’m home just to keep warm! So you see, coming home to an awesome little device made to keep my room warm and toasty was like the best thing ever, and I slept like a baby all snuggled up in my toasty warm room under my snuggly marshmellow comforters, with finally thawed toes.

HELLO SAVIOR

HELLO SAVIOR

Sorry for such a long post friends, but it was an amazing weekend and I had lots to tell!!! I can’t believe I come home two weeks from tomorrow (eeep!!) or that I’m going to Paris on Wednesday (double eep!). The time is going to seriously fly between now and December 18th, and I can’t decide if I am happy or sad about that. On the one end I miss my family, friends and home terribly, but I also know that it will not be easy to say goodbye to my Spanish friends and family here. Oh may all my problems be as small…

Until next time! Hasta pronto!

Destination Thanksgiving

Hi friends!

I hope you all had a most wonderful Thanksgiving and ate tons of pie and turkey for me! My Thanksgiving was a bit different this year than years past as you can probably imagine…. certainly no turkey for this girl. No pasa nada, I worked it out and still had a wonderful day.

First off, I woke up wayyyyy earlier than usual to meet Matthew at the airport! I skipped my first class (shh don’t tell Mom and Dad) and we spent the morning nomming on tostada york, strolling through the old town, playing in Plaza de Espana, and soaking up the amazing spanish sunshine!

Then it was off to school for us, seeing as I had to give a presentation on illegal immigration into the EU from Northern Africa….HOW FUN EXACTLY HOW I WANTED TO SPEND MY THANKSGIVING DAY! But no worries, Matthew hung out in the library while I nailed my presentation and then we were off to get him settled into his hostel so we could explore some more!

We skyped our families (not exactly my best decision, it really wasn’t easy seeing everyone together while I was so far away) and then hit the town in search of a solution for our Thanksgiving dinner dilemma. We could have had “thanksgiving” dinner at our local Irish pub, but knew it would just be a poor attempt to replicate the grand feast we were used to, so we settled for a cute tapas restaurant near the cathedral. To our surprise we had a wonderful chicken avocado dish that quickly distracted our bellies from their yearn for turkey, stuffing and pie. With some ice cream for dessert we set off to stroll the beautiful Sevilla streets and see the Cathedral all lit up against the black night sky.

Thanksgiving dinner !

The next morning I was up and at em for a tour of the Andalusian Parliament for my democracy class while Matthew spent the morning sleeping in. After getting my fill of the electoral breakdown and history of the old Macarena building I set off to meet up with Matt. After a quick ice cream pit stop (I LOVE HELADO!) we were off to find Will who had arrived from Sevilla (after a long re-directed flight to Malaga and then a bus ride to my Andalusian capitol). Appalled at hearing they had never been to Cien Montaditos before, we immediately set out to the nearest one to fill our bellies full of toasty baby sandwiches and lots of 1euro cervezas. Needless to say of course my favorite little lunch spot was a huge hit, we sat for a good hour and half nomming and catching up, taking about home and laughing about the shenanigans from last weekend.

whaddup Parliament

Next stop? Why the Plaza of course! We found Kara just outside Cien Montaditos and headed off to my favorite place in all of Sevilla. After a quick Star Wars photo shoot in Naboo, it was time to take the boys to Plaza de Americas (a.k.a. Mom’s favorite place in the Plaza)……THE PLAZA WITH THE PALOMAS! Not believing that they just glide right onto your arm, Matt and Will had a great time playing with the Spanish pigeons, someone even donated leftover birdseed making them even more abundant!

Jedi masters

If you don’t get the reference above, seriously get your act together. Then watch this:

just playing with some palomas

Feeling sleepy from all the playing (okay maybe the beers helped too…) Kara and I dropped the boys off at their hostel and headed home to indulge in a giant siesta. By the time we met up again my friend Meghan had arrived from Barcelona with her friend Alli so the 6 of us headed off to a beautiful rooftop bar with a stunning view of the illuminated Cathedral, a perfect place for some pre-dinner drinks and a great photo-op.

all of us minus Meghan

For dinner we brought our Catalonian friends to Taberna Coloniales (the place with the amazing almond chicken) for some authentic Andalusian tapas. They were blown away by the delicious food, not to mention the extremely reasonable price too! It was deemed well worth the wait and we all left with very full round bellies.

Time to partake in another Sevilliano past time- the botellon! Botellon is when you buy your own alcohol and own mixers/chasers and go sit on the river (with every other college student in town) and pregame the bars, looking out over the sleek black river outlined by the twinkling Triana lights. My friend Cleo is also studying in Sevilla so we met up with her as well and had a wonderful time sitting on the river, just below the Torro de Oro, enjoying the cool night breeze, sipping on our plastic cups of supermarket alcohol, catching up and just hanging out. Checking our watches and realizing none of us had the strength to continue our night any further, we all headed home for a good nights sleep sans morning alarm clocks. Thank god.

Alli, Meghan, Me and Cleo enjoying our botellon

Oh how nice it was to wake up once again to the Spanish sunshine in my window! My eyes fluttered open around 11 and by 12 we had all met up and were headed to my absolute favorite horno to enjoy some morning tostada (something my Catalonian friends had never been served before…*GASP*). It was a day full of sightseeing, playing a food after that! We hit the cathedral and it’s majestic tower, my favorite cerveceria around the corner form my house for lunch, the Plaza for playtime, and the Plaza café for an afternoon snack. What a day!!

hanging out in the old town

Barcelona friends in Plaza de Espana

As everyone else trudged wearily back to their beds for a much needed siesta, Matthew and I headed to Avion Cuatros Vientos 12…..IT WAS TIME TO MEET THE PARENTS. All semester long Pablo and Salud have been going on and on about my novio and if/when he was coming to visit, what is he like, and will they get to meet him, so of course when he finally did come I couldn’t NOT bring him home! Much more laid back then when my parents visited, Pablo greeted us at the door in his house clothes, as Matthew exchanged dos besos with my jolly host dad and Salud. We sat down for a quick cafelito as Matthew’s spanish was put to the test. It was awesome to finally introduce him to my wonderful second family, and they all raved about him the following day, especially Pongo who took a verrryyy special liking to him!

Matthew with Pablo and Salud !

No siesta for us as we raced back to the hostel to meet up with our well rested friends for dinner round two! But first…back to the Plaza! I insisted it was something that needed to be enjoyed at night as well as during the day, so we made our way to the Prado station to gaze upon my favorite building perfectly lit against the clear black night sky. We sat on the stones, imagining Naboo, until our stomachs began to protest, insisting it was time for yet another amazing Sevillian meal. Although this time we settled for something different, seeing as we had eaten traditional Sevillano food for every meal since they arrived, Kara and I took our northern friends to our favorite Italian restaurant across the river in Triana. BEST DECISION EVER. It was such a cute restaurant with great service and even better food that left us feeling jolly and fully, especially after a few glasses of wine!

nomzzzz to Italian food !

It was back across for the river for us for a bit of botellon-ing before heading to Calle AlfAlfa, the big student bar street in Sevilla with the infamous Agua de Sevilla (a deadly concoction of various alcohols served in a great big jar with only straws to ration your sips). It was the perfect ending to a wonderful weekend.

view of “Sevilla” from Triana

botellon take 2

Will, Matt and I and our Agua de Sevilla

I loved getting the opportunity to show off my beloved little southern city, and my friends enjoyed the intimacy of Sevilla, along with its rich culture and historic feel. It was an amazing weekend which ended in the most perfect way, getting to hang out in my pajamas all day at home with Pablo and Salud and enjoying a wonderful lunch of soup, pork and potatoes, the first Sunday meal I’ve shared with them in quite some time.

Here are some of my favorite photos from last weekend in Barcelona! Until next time! Hasta Luego!

ICEBAR !

who are those beautiful deltas who all happen to be wearing the same outfit…. ooops! wasn’t planned I promise!

yay friends !

What are you thankful for?

On this Thanksgiving Eve, that I’m supposed to be working on a project, I sit in my room and think about all I have to be thankful for.

I have a wonderful amazing family, who means the absolute world to me. I could honestly not ask for three better people to share my life with. The package you sent me ment the world to me, I thought I was going to spend my holiday season without jelly rings *GASP* a very sad thought indeed. It’s so weird to think that I didn’t spend today baking pies with mom all day, or that tonight won’t be spent with old friends, and tomorrow chasing a football around our makeshift field at the elementary school. I won’t get to watch the noise level rise as the Hohne clan makes it’s way into my dining room, glancing longingly at the steaming delicious food on the table. I won’t be there to hear the room go silent, the only point in the night, when Dad sits at the head of the table to say grace, or toast my apple cider with my cousins squirming to eat.

But while I can sit here and think about all the things I am missing out on, I also need to think about all of the things I get to do. I live in Europe, in Spain, with an amazing host family who has taken me in as one of their own. I don’t feel like a stranger coming home, and being greeted every day by warm smiles, hello whistles and a very excited puppy doesn’t hurt either. I have a host Dad who doesn’t care whether my Spanish is perfect or not, but just loves to sit down after dinner and have a long conversation with me about life, our customs, and our family’s. I have a host mom who spoils me rotten with her never ending love, sweet dulces, and delicious food. And a host sister who has welcomed me into her life, and is always there to share an eye roll or a giggle with when Pablo and Salud are more loco than usual.

I am such a lucky girl, with two families who love me to the ends of the earth. Two families who I will miss dearly when apart from them, and two families who will always welcome me with open arms. I have two families, and some people don’t have any family at all. I cannot believe all of the the opportunities I get or the all of the amazing things I have done, but I am certainly thankful for them all.

So thank you Mom and Dad for giving me most of these wonderful opportunities, and teaching me how to sieze and make the most of them.

And thank you Pablo and Salud, for welcoming me into your home and treating me like a daughter of your own, even when you already have one.

Happy Thanksgiving friends, I miss you all terribly and cannot wait to see you in just one month.