While Erasmus itself is an EU funded organization that provides scholarships and facilitates study abroad programs, many groups here call themselves something with “Erasmus” in the title and organize activities and such for international students. ESN is probably the largest/most popular of these and was the organization coordinating all of the activities we did in Gandia. In addition to organizing local activities, ESN (and other “Erasmus” groups) plans trips. Maddie, Alyssa, and I went on the ESN trip to Andalusia, a region in Southern Spain, about two and a half weeks ago. Several of our friends from Gandia had also registered from the trip, so we had plenty of company during our four days away. This was my first trip through ESN and it was interesting seeing the level of organization (or lack thereof) during our stay. Being a bit of a control freak, I’m not a huge fan of organized tours; I’d rather know what’s going on and have a plan rather than being in the hands of the unpunctual Spaniards that led the group. Nevertheless, the trip itself was a lot of fun, and it was nice traveling with so many people I knew. The trip lasted four days and we met a lot of cool people we’ve stayed in close contact with afterwards.
We left atrociously early in the morning and boarded a bus, stowing our luggage underneath the coach. Driving throughout the late night/early morning, we reached our first stop, Cordoba. After checking in to the hostel, Interjoven, we were on our own for lunch. A group of us walked around the city. I met a handful of new people, including Martin (German) and Francesco (Italian), both of whom I now hang out with regularly. Walking around the city, we saw a lot of the beautiful streets and even one small building fire of some sort. Ultimately, we ended up eating at an Arabic place, despite my dubious companions who hadn’t tried falafel or souvlaki before. We met up with the group soon afterwards to see the mezquita, an enormous cathedral which was formerly a mosque. The building was gorgeous and we could have spent hours just walking around looking at the massive columns that filled the large hall. The group went on a city tour and saw a synagogue, church, Calle de Flores (street of flowers), and the narrowest street in the city (where we all crammed into and took photos). On the way back to the hostel, I was finagling with my camera and ended up accidentally erasing all of the photos on my camera. I was distraught, but, thanks to the fact that Peter (Hungarian) was one of the few people to bring his laptop, I was able to recover all of the pictures in a few hours. Had a heart attack and recovered, all within a span of roughly 3 hours. In the evening, we went to a flamenco show, where we got a taste of authentic flamenco singing and dancing. A bit later after this, we went to a club, but not before we got Brendan to wear my skirt (to be honest, he didn’t require much convincing). We left early due to a conflict with him and the bouncers, but it was still a fun night. This day was also Valentine’s day, so Alyssa and I bought Maddie a few things on behalf of Adam and gave her the valentines he’d photoshopped for her of him with various Australian animals.
The next morning, we grabbed a quick breakfast at the hostel then got back on the bus, with the destination of Sevilla. We settled down at the hostel – another Interjoven – and headed off to the city for a walking tour. I pasted momentarily to take a photo and didn’t realize one of the many car barriers on the side of the street was directly in front of me, meaning I tripped on it, flying face (and camera!)-forward on to the ground. I ended up with a rather bloody knee and a broken/dented UV filter, but luckily Chester did not die. After shaking it off, we kept walking, seeing the Mexican consulate, Plaza Espana (a gorgeously large building with doves, a park, and boats), and Alcazar (a royal palace that was originally a Moorish fort) – all of which were ridiculously gorgeous. We split up for lunch and Maddie, Alyssa, Philippe, Lennart, and Max (German, new!), and I headed to a random tapas place nearby. The food was good; we got to sample a variety of different tapas, and we were enjoying ourselves when I looked over at Lennart and noticed a bird had shit on his face. Laughing as he went to the bathroom, I went to take a sip of sangria, when it splashed up in my face because a bird shat in that as well. Before we could be the victims of any further aerial attacks, we left the restaurant and instead walked around the city for a few hours. It was gorgeous, including the riverside and gardens we walked through. It was fun just relaxing and chatting as we walked; Max told us the story of a person who called himself the cookie monster and stole a giant cookie from a German company, holding it ransom until they gave a box of cookies to every child in a nearby hospital (this is a real thing. Not kidding… http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/44-pound-cookie-recovered-germany-thief-dressed-cookie-monster-january-article-1.1257230). We made a quick stop at a grocery store, got some ice cream, then headed back to the hostel to rest before heading out for the night. We went to a random plaza-like area and had a botellon (basically just chilling in the streets, talking and drinking) and then to a club. Some time between being here and getting to the next city, I lost my leather jacket, which I was pretty distraught about But life happens, I suppose, and it didn’t stop me from enjoying the beauty of the city.
On Saturday, we got on the bus and Jorge puked relatively soon into the trip – apparently, anyone who sat near Maddie got sick or felt queasy, haha. After reaching Jerez, we check into the hostel and grabbed a quick lunch at Telepizza (fast food pizza place) after awkwardly walking out of a restaurant after realizing it was more expensive than we had thought. Then, we all boarded the bus to Cadiz for Carnavale, a massive city wide party where everyone dresses up in costumes and parties in the streets. We walked around the city and beach for a bit, watching people in all-out costumes (including a group of people dressed as the Harlem Globetrotters, in blackface!). We wished we had a more elaborate costumes; we had only bought some face paint crayons. I tried drawing on Maddie’s face, but didn’t really have a plan, so it ended up just looking scary, haha. Needless to say, she was not pleased. After wiping it off, we got masks for a couple euro. We were lucky enough to find a restaurant with an outdoor space large enough to fit our group of over 30 people, and we spend several hours eating (delicious pork and fries!), talking, drinking, an throwing food at each other. A few parades walked through the area, with instruments, crazy costumes, and, best of all, lots of confetti. In addition to the ESN people, new and old, I talked a lot to random Spaniards too – everyone was incredibly friendly and welcoming. In line for the bathroom, an older man joked that he used to be a woman, but changed because he hated how long women’s bathroom lines were. Another man tried to give Madeline and I a quick lesson in Spanish (how to conjugate the word “emborrachar”). From the restaurant area, we went to a huge plaza with live music, where people were just talking and enjoying the atmosphere. We went to a nearby club for a little bit. I ended up losing the group when I went to the bathroom, but eventually got rid of the Moroccan guy that kept telling me he loved me (creeeeeeeep.) and made it back to the bus on time. This was easily one of the best nights in ever, and an experience I’ll never forget.
The next morning, everyone was exhausted, but we still managed to walk around Jerez for the city tour. During this, we ended up at a strange auto show, where the cars were bedecked with confederate flags. Needless to say, the Americans were all very confused. There was also a strange market next door to this, selling the most strange assortment of items. Jorge bought a tacky leather vest for a euro and I really wanted the plastic Pokemon scooter one of the stands had. After getting delicious tapas for lunch, we headed back to the bus for the 10 hour ride back to Valencia. The staff was a bit annoying at times, yelling on the microphone system/blasting music when people were trying to sleep. They also played some really strange movies. The first, Mientras Duermes, was about a man that would sneak into this woman’s apartment at night, drug her, and sleep with/next to her. It was, needless to say, pretty damn creepy. The second movie, Celda 211 was better, but still dark, about a prison guard that is Stockholm Syndromed when a coup allows for the inmates to take over the prison. We made it back around 1.30 am and headed home.
Overall, despite the ups and downs, the trip was fantastic and completely worth going on, if not only for the sake of meeting so many cool new people.
– from Mar. 19