Undergraduate: Done!

On December 19th, I graduated from Penn State with a degree in linguistics and a minor in Arabic.
It’s been a few days and I still can’t get over everything. It’s weird to be done. I keep thinking that there’s homework that I need to do or something, but there’s nothing.

 

I received a part-time job offer to do language research on children, so I cannot wait for that to start in January. There are not enough words for me to say how excited I am.

I am still trying to find a second part time job to get me through until I can apply for some full time positions.

Life just kind of feels surreal at this point. Mostly I’ve just been catching up on sleep and trying to gain motivation to do all of the things. Hopefully the motivation part will kick in any time now.
So here’s to the next stage: research and prepping for graduate school.

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Arabic Influences on my Life

If you haven’t realized, I love languages. I could go on and on about how fascinating languages are. (Fun fact: after only a few days, a newborn infant’s cries mimic the melodic contours of their language). In spite of this, I’m going to focus on Arabic today. 

 

I have been working with Arabic for almost two and a half years. I have laughed, I have cried, I have thrown my book in frustration. But as I look back, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Linguistically and socially, Arabic has become a foundation stone in my academic career and, furthermore, my life. 

Linguistically, Arabic is insanely different from English. Infuriatingly so. At the two year mark of my Spanish career, I was starting to obtain an (almost legit) accent, was attempting to read the first Harry Potter in Spanish, and could generally hold a conversation with someone if they spoke slow enough. In Arabic, my reading sounds like a mixture of Siri and a person with Wernicke’s aphasia. It is horrifying. I cannot even say that I read like a two year old, because I’m positive that they can read better. 

Arabic is written from right to left (the opposite of English). I clearly remember one day in Arabic I, after working on the alphabet for what seemed like ages. I looked down at my notebook; I had started writing my English backwards. As amusing as it was then, it still happens now. But I have noticed something interesting. For the longest time, my cursive ‘s’ was akin to a pointy triangle. I had even started writing my s’s this way when I was printing. Today, I looked down at my notes and my s’s were a lot softer and rounder. . . and as I noticed this, I realized that they had started to look similar to the rightmost part of ص, one of the Arabic s’s. This sounds like nothing, but I just find it interesting that Arabic is beginning to influence my writing style.

Like most students, I have a tendency to get bored in some of my classes (General Education courses, I’m looking at you). The amount of random Arabic words in the margins of my notebooks is insane. Usually, there is a beautiful mix of Arabic, Spanish and English.

While we are talking about my tendency to mix my languages, I think that I should mention my Arabic exam notes. As I was preparing my list of things to go over and making notes of what to ask Khaled, I decided to let the languages have free reign. The result kind of surprised me. My Arabic is not very good, but it was the second most frequent language, with English being the first. I know that I shouldn’t be surprised, since I was doing notes about Arabic and it would only be natural to writing them in Arabic; but I was a little sad that more Spanish did not surface.

 

 

Alright, language nerdy-ness aside, I am extremely blessed to be working with Khaled and Reham this semester. They have legitimately been there from the first day of my first Arabic class and it feels right that the last classes of my minor will end with them. They are two of the kindest, most wonderful people that I have had the pleasure to meet and I cannot believe how lucky I have been.

My first memory of Khaled is one of frustration. He was not one of my habitual teachers for Arabic I, but I still saw him relatively frequently. I remember that he was having a group of us play Chutes and Ladders in Arabic and I hit a bad square and had to spell a word in Arabic. I knew the word’s meaning, I just didn’t know how to spell it and he would not let me off the hook. He was super stubborn and I knew that he was going to be an interesting character.

The main emotion that I associate with Reham is kindness. I have never seen her angry and have never heard her say a bad thing about anyone. One day in Arabic II, I told her that I had tried to make an Arabic dish and it hadn’t turned out very good. The next week, she brought the dish in for the entire class. She has always managed to be there when I’ve needed her and helped me out in any way that she can.

 

This semester has been very trying. I have been stressed to the point of breaking since the very beginning. I have been attempting to finish my research project, study for the GREs (they are on Saturday and I feel like I am going to vomit pretty much all of the time), apply to graduate programs and try not to fail my classes. I have almost dropped my minor two times, just to try to make time for the other things on my plate. Every time that I have gone up to Khaled, he has managed to talk me out of it. Reham has done the same. The support that they have been giving me has been such a help this semester. They have both been extremely understanding in spite of my less than stellar attitude and performance. Khaled has never failed to ask me how I am doing (with GRE and the breathing habit) and has put up with me on the verge of tears on multiple occasions. I can always count on Reham for a hug when I’m down. Both Reham and Khaled have gone above and beyond what I could ever have expected in an effort to ensure that I am able to receive my minor in Arabic and have no idea where I would be without them.

Vale La Pena 

I have taken about six years worth of Spanish classes. I don’t remember every second of learning this language, but I remember only having minimal difficulty. I remember being able to easily understand people talking (assuming that they were talking decently slow). I remember vocabulary coming easily to me due mainly in part to cognates. Heck, I even remember a time in an English class where I was trying to think of a synonym for the word “darkness” and couldn’t think of anything other than the word in Spanish. 

Even so, I was terrified (and am still terrified) to speak to people in Spanish. I know in my head that mistakes are a part of learning, but I just hate the idea of not being perfect. You can tell yourself a million times and have bilingual friends tell you a million times that you are doing fine; but at the end of the day, you are still going to feel dumb when you make a stupid gender mistake or conjugation error. 

Earlier this evening, one of my bilingual friends posted a snippet on Facebook and I was finished reading it before I really realized that it was in Spanish. 

It sounds so little and stupid, but this made me incredibly happy. It was no novel (I’m still trying to work my way through “The Fault in Our Stars” in Spanish), but it was just nice to flow through something in another language. 

Now cut to Arabic. This is my last semester at Penn State and I am taking two Arabic classes to finish off my minor. One of them is the next class that I would have had to take and the other is a more independent study based class focused on reading literature. 

My first day of classes ended in tears because I could not understand what was being said in the second class. By the time I picked out a work, identified it, and translated it in my head, the teacher was three or four sentences ahead. 

Later in the week, we were reviewing grammar concepts and case markings in the other class and they just won’t pull back up in my head, which means that I have to relearn and recommit them to memory. 

I have spent hours this week making notecards with vocabulary and trying to push my mind to work in Arabic and my brain wants nothing to do with it. 

This is so different from my Spanish experience, where I just seemed to absorb the language without any strenuous efforts on my part. But the thing is, I like the effort. 

I hate talking in class. I hate when the teachers ask me to read something aloud or ask me to answer a question. I can feel my heart rate jump up when I get ready to try to read something and hope that I have the right short vowels coming out of my mouth (only happens about 1/4 of the time). I get so mad when other people seem to remember vocabulary when I just can’t seem to keep any words in my head. 

And yet, I am still in class. I have wanted to quit. I have realized how much easier school and life would be if I wasn’t working on Arabic. There would be less frustrated tears and I wouldn’t have a mountain of flash cards in my backpack. 

But I wouldn’t be challenged. And in the end, the challenge is what makes it interesting. 

Transitions

It’s been over a month since I got home.

The flights back were uneventful and I only had one delayed flight in Philadelphia.

Being back in the States has been weird to say the least.

Most of the things that I notice are related to food…surprise there.

First of all, I am continually shocked at the portion sizes here. I got so used to small sodas and tiny cups of coffee that I consistently remark on the sizes here. I’ve stopped at McDonald’s for tea a few times and every time I get a small, it looks larger than the larges over in Spain. Too much sugar. Too much liquid. Not a fan.

Secondly, I keep getting sick. My body does not handle grease anymore. I keep forgetting and I keep relearning my lesson a few hours later. As much as I’ve tried to transition into my pre-Spain diet, I don’t think it’s going to be possible. One day, my mother and I grabbed breakfast at McDonald’s before work. I got a sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich and ended up having to leave work within 2 hours because my stomach revolted. I think this is probably a sign that I need to rework my dietary habits.

Third, I miss good coffee. I brought home a kilo of coffee beans from my favorite cafe, but it just doesn’t taste the same. I wish I could just pick up the entire cafe and move it here, but unfortunately, my muscles are not quite that strong. Dang.

With relation to people, I keep getting frustrated. I have less tolerance for people who rag on other people’s culture or language. I know part of this is because I live in the middle-of-nowhere, PA, but I am definitely sure that I am not meant to stay in this area. This has lead me to seriously think about grad schools (cue insane terror).

As a result of grad schools, I have been trying to work to finish up the research coding and preparing to take the GRE, plus trying to research schools on my downtime.

My last semester starts in 2 weeks and I have so much work to do. This semester, I’ll be continuing some research, so I’ll try to keep things here updated with relative frequency.

Goodbye to Granada

Today is my last day. I’ve decided that (overall) I am sad. Don’t get me wrong; I am really excited to see everyone back home. But I said goodbye to the man who makes my coffee everyday and I almost cried. It sounds stupid, but I’ve seen this guy nearly every single day since I arrived. He’s almost become one of the symbols of Granada.

Also, I may have purchased 20 euros worth of his coffee… So here’s hoping that customs does not steal it. That would really make me cry. I never really adjusted to coffee in America. Eventually, I acclimated to Starbucks coffee, but I never really got into ‘real’ coffee… You know, the coffee that is at least 60% coffee and is not mostly made up of syrup and sugar. Every time that I tried coffee with milk back home, I wanted to spit it out. Here, it is fantastic. At our goodbye dinner, Manolo, the man that worked with us and found us living arrangements, said “Coffee in the US is dirty water” and I am going to have to agree with him. One of the things that I will miss most is the coffee here. And my croissants. I’ve grown very accustomed to good pastries, so I’m in for a nasty shock when I get back to State College.

I finished the last of my souvenir shopping. The only things I needed were gifts for Sharon, Janet, and Marianna and I knew exactly what I wanted to get them. Now I just have to wait until I see them again.

My last meal was at the German restaurant….Yes, yes. I ate there two nights in a row. But it’s sooo good! Literally the best food I have ever had the privilege to consume.

After dinner, Haoyun and I walked up and looked at some shops and ended up near the cathedral. I said goodbye to the cathedral and Haoyun. Afterwards, I came back to the apartment to finish packing up and backing up all of my data (in three different places. I’m not obsessive or anything).

In about 8 hours, I will be in the Granada airport. In about 12 hours I will be arriving in Madrid. In 24 hours, I will be home in State College. I am definitely going to miss Granada, but I am excited to see home.

The Penultimate Day (and the previous night)

Tomorrow is my last full day in Granada. I don’t know how to compete with all of these emotions. A part of me is ecstatic to go home and see my family and friends, but a part of me wants to stay in Granada. Two months was not long enough. I really love this city and am so lucky that Penn State gave me the opportunity to come here.

Last night, we went to a Flamenco show. It was definitely interesting. Not my favorite type of dancing, but it was cool. Kind of a mix of tap, stepping, and hand gestures. Before we went in, Annie and her mom warned me that the expressions were going to be very intense….They were so right. Oh, Lord. I was trying not to laugh for a decent part of the show. The female dancer at least made some facial expressions; the man was just stone-faced.

After the show, we went to the Mirador for my last time. **Sniff, sniff** I will miss that view.

Today, I woke up decently early and met Jon, Annie, and her mother and we went up to Sacromonte. Beforehand, we went and got churros con chocolate. They were fantastic! It was my second time having them, but the first time was a huge letdown. The churros I had today were everything that I hoped and dreamed.

We did two museum trips. I want to say that I am super impressed with how affordable museums are here. They are usually 5-7 euros. I wish that American museums were that cheap. I feel like there is just a higher focus on making educational things more affordable here, which I really appreciate.

The first museum was the Museo de la Abadía del Sacromonte. This building had been a church and a university. It had a bunch of cool books in Arabic, Spanish, and Latin. There was a tour guide that spoke about the building and the artifacts, but I had some trouble. She did not give us enough time to move around and look at the items, so I had the option of trying to pay full attention to what she was saying in Spanish, or pay half attention and look at the artifacts. I chose the latter, so I understood maybe 20% of what she was saying. There were some caves underneath the building which was really cool.

This was the view from the Abadía. Utterly breathtaking.

The second museum was the Museo de las Cuevas (Museum of the Caves) and had a bunch of gypsy caves that were furnished and open so that people could walk through and see how these people lived. It was really interesting and I think that I could definitely live in caves like these. They were not really deep or anything (most only extended back maybe 12 feet or so), but they were cool and sheltered. They had different ones for loom work, pottery, and cooking. The whole experience was really cool and apparently there are still gypsies and other people living in caves similar to this one; we could see some of them up the hill from the museum. I think that it’s cool that they preserve that simpler way of life. It kind of reminds me of the Amish back home.

This was a half finished piece of pottery in one of the caves.

After exploring, we ate and I went my own way to start packing. Let me tell you something. If your suitcase is pretty full when you leave for a foreign country, it will be super full when you are ready to go back home. Even with my plan to throw out my towels and soap products, it’s still going to be a tight fit. I hadn’t realized how many things I had bought (mostly souvenirs for other people). There is no scale at the apartment, so I am praying that the weight of my suitcase isn’t over 50 lb. and that I won’t have to pay a fee for extra weight. I am hopeful since I gave myself an 18 lb. buffer zone for purchases. Also, I’m trying to fit as much stuff in my backpack as possible.

In the evening, I saw Annie and her mother off and went to the German restaurant with Felix. Overall, it was a good penultimate day.

Playing Translator And General Update

If you have not noticed, I tend to eat breakfast at the same cafe everyday. Partially because it is super close to the apartment, but mostly because their coffee is the most amazing thing that I have ever tasted.

The other day, I was there ordering my coffee and croissant. As I was waiting, two people came in. My first glance told me that they were tourists and a longer glance made me guess that they were Americans. Once they started trying to order in Spanish, I was positive that they were American. The owner listened to them for about thirty seconds and then pointed at me. Obviously, I was terrified. I hate being put on the spot and I knew exactly what was happening.

The couple started trying to speak to me in Spanish and the owner said, “No, no. She speak English”. After an obvious look of relief, the couple told me what they wanted and I tried to translate it into Spanish for them. I am still learning Spanish and the finer points of coffee vocabulary escape me, but between the four of us, we made it work.

I found this experience interesting for two reasons. First, I thought that it was nice that the owner trusted me to be able to translate. He deals with me every day. He knows that my Spanish is not awesome. However, he still thought that I would be able to accurately translate what these people wanted. It gave me warm fuzzies. Second, I thought that it was interesting that the Americans did not recognize that I was American. I knew within a few seconds of them walking in the door. Annie, Angie, and Haoyun have told me that I look stereotypically American. At first, I was really excited that I was fitting into the culture and blending; apparently, that is not the case, but I’ll still take the happy feels.

Participants are going well. I have four more to test until I have finished my secondary goal of 25. There is sooo much data that I have to look at. I am a little daunted.

I already know that my summer is going to consist of work and data coding. I can feel it in my soul. My goal is to get 90% of the work (or more) done before the semester because the upcoming semester is going to be rough.

This semester (hopefully my last), I will be taking 19 credits. A ‘normal’ load is generally 12-15. On top of this, I will be conducting the second leg of my research project and coding for that. Plus, I am looking into auditing a graduate linguistic class for funsies. And I have to prepare for the GRE and apply to graduate schools and internship programs/figure out my life plan and goals. Let’s not forget work. I usually work 25-30 hours a week and I am hopeful that I can keep up 15-18 so I can pay for gas to get to the university. And I have to get back into martial arts. I can feel a panic attack brewing just thinking about all of this.

So for now, I put music on (right now I am on a Phantom of the Opera spree), take a deep breath, and soldier on.

Barcelona: The Man with Five Tigers

On Wednesday night, Annie, Angie, Haoyun and I took a late plane to Barcelona for a language conference. We arrived around midnight and caught a cab that was to take us to our hostel. . . He took us near-ish our hostel and said it was good enough and he wasn’t sure what direction the hostel was in. It was lovely.

We found our hostel with relative ease. It was not a nice place. The first night, we had a mixed dorm and shared the room with 4 guys. Three of them were not a problem, but the one guy closest to me snored soooooooo loud. That in and of itself was not a huge problem. But when we woke up, he blatantly stared at Angie and I while we got ready. Not good. We hightailed it out of there ASAP.

On top of the weird experience with the guy, the place was gross. There was no fan or anything and it was so hot that you would stick to the sheets. Additionally, the bathroom was not clean by any standard. One of the shower doors was broken and water would get everywhere every time it was used.

However, we sucked it up and survived. We left for the conference really early and got to the university maybe 30-45 minutes early…way too early to check in or anything. So we sat in the auditorium, found outlets, and charged our phones (the hostel only had two outlets for a room with eight people).

The conference was nice. After listening to the talks, there was a break, so we walked down to the beach. Fun fact: there is no problem with being nude at the beach here. We found this out when we saw a full frontal of a woman. That I can deal with. Not ideal, but whatever. I have girl parts, I have seen them before. But when you throw man parts into the mix, I’m out. They should have warnings or something! However, this piqued my interest and I decided that I would go skinny-dipping…but more on that later.

After the beach, we got crepes and they were wonderful and full of rainbows and happiness. Once we finished the meal, we had to rush back to the university for some more talks. Christian’s plane arrived and he met us at the conference. Seeing someone else from Penn State was awesome. I also got to meet Yanina, a friend of Annie, Christian, and Haoyun.

Once the conference finished up, we checked into a different room of the hostel and walked to the Sagrada Familia cathedral, which began construction in 1882 and is still in progress. It’s one of the most breathtaking things I have seen. After seeing the Nasrid palace at the Alhambra, I thought that nothing would ever be more beautiful or intricate. I was wrong. Gaudi was definitely a genius.

However, we could not get into the cathedral because it was closing soon. So we found a restaurant that was a short walk away and headed there for dinner. Afterwards, we realized that we were really close to the Dragon House and walked over to see it. By this point, it was too late to get in, but I definitely wanted to go back and check it out in the daytime.

The next day, we finished up the conference and decided to go to the Dragon House and the Cathedral. Both of them were pretty expensive, but they were so worth it.

The detailing of the Dragon House was intense. Gaudi even built some of the furniture to go in the house. I had heard about this house in high school, during one of my Spanish classes and it has been on the bucket list for years. It was nice to finally cross it off.

If possible, the cathedral was even grander. I had never heard of the Sagrada Familia before, but it was easily the most amazing architecture that I had ever seen.

The windows in the Sagrada Familia were my favorite. The pictures don’t do them justice, but they were a wonderful mix of colors.

The blue windows were my favorite. They were made of hundreds of different blue hues, all worked together to create a window. It was fantastically crafted.

We eventually split into different groups and Haoyun, Angie, and I went shopping and sightseeing. We found some cool fountains and statues, and ate at an awesome Chinese restaurant. We keep trying to learn Chinese words; Haoyun is really patient with us and only laughs at us a little bit. At one point, she was talking to one of the workers and Angie and I heard her say “Shi-wu” which we learned to mean “food”. We got super excited that we recognized a word and told her…It was not food, it was fifteen. The difference between “shí-wù” and “shí-wǔ” is impossible for me to hear. But the food was wonderful and authentic, per Haoyun, and I got to try a bunch of different things, including some kind of rice noodles, dumplings, and duck with orange sauce.

On our last day, we went to the Park Güell, and walked around for a bit. Up this one hill, there was a guy in tight-fitting leopard print pants that was playing a guitar and calling all of the females walking by “tigers” and “panthers”. I think he may have been high, but I am not sure. Definitely an interesting character.

Christian and I were sitting on a bench while Annie, Angie, and Haoyun walked around. When they walked back over to us, the guy noticed that all five of us girls were with Christian and he called Christian out as “the man with five tigers” and deemed him a hero. He even requested to know Christian’s secret for keeping so many tigers around. It was mildly embarrassing, but still amusing. So, heretofore, Christian will always be known as “the man with five tigers”.

The main part of the park required a ticket to enter, but the wait was around two and a half hours and it was our last day in the city, so we decided to leave. As we started walking towards the metro, we passed a 4D Gaudi movie experience. Haoyun, Angie, and I decided to go in and Annie, Yanina, and Christian continued so they could explore one of the surrounding mountains. The 4D movie was awesome! It showed some of his buildings coming to life and how he may have been inspired to create them. Definitely a good experience.

Later, the three of us went back to the Chinese restaurant for food and then Angie and I headed to the Picasso museum. They had a special exhibit of Picasso and Dali artwork juxtaposed to show the influence that Picasso had on Dali’s work. I think I prefer Dali’s art. I just find it more striking and visually appealing than Picasso’s work. The cubismo of Picasso’s work is nice, but I like the more clear cut work of Dali. The exhibit was free because Angie and I are university students. I like the student discounts here. I wish they did more this in the United States.

After this, Angie and I walked around the Gothic quarter. There was this huge arch in the middle of a pedestrian area. Throughout this walkway, there were performers showing off their skills. The most impressive one was this man with a hoop. He was playing music and dancing, using the hoop as a prop. It was insanely awesome. The muscle control that this man must have was mind-boggling.

The last night in Barcelona, we decided that we were going to be homeless. The hostel was really gross and we figured that we had to be at the airport pretty early anyways. So Haoyun, Angie, and I went off on our own. These girls are extremely patient with me. They went to the beach with me once it was dark so that I could go skinny dipping. Angie went swimming in her suit, but I embraced the culture and went all out. It was an interesting experience, but I think I’ll stick to swimming suits in the future.

Since we had no hostel in which to shower, Angie and I decided to shower in the beach showers. Trying to shower with random people walking by is awkward. I had a shirt and undergarments on for this part, but the men walking by were still skeeving us out. I have to admit that showering on the beach was cleaner and had warmer water than the hostel…That’s pretty sad.

Haoyun and Angie held towels up once we were finished so that I could get dressed. That in and of itself was an adventure. Trying not to fall over and quickly change clothes in between random people walking by proved to be a challenge, but I emerged victorious.

Afterwards, we found a restaurant on the beach and stopped for dinner. The food was pretty good, but insanely expensive due to the location.

Once we finished eating, we caught a taxi to the airport and proceeded to sleep off and on. Apparently you are not allowed to sleep on the floor, because Angie and I got reprimanded and told to move. Who knew? We weren’t even in the middle of the floor anywhere; we were pushed completely up against a wall to make sure that we were not in the way.

After ages and ages, it was finally time to catch the plane and we all slept until we arrived safely in Granada.

Skype Calls and London Adventures

First thing first. Dad is doing much better. He is out of Hershey and is now in Pleasant Gap. He should be home within a few days. So that’s awesome.

I thought I would be done with participants by now, but I am not. It happens. I have three more until I reach my initial goal and 8 more until I reach my secondary goal. With just over two weeks left, I am a little nervous about finishing, but I know that it is a completely attainable goal.

Segmenting data is taking longer than I thought and I foresee me spending much of summer “break” working to finish everything. Angie and I have already discussed data coding parties throughout the summer.

I had my first Skype call with Janet, my advisor, a few days ago. We had some trouble because the internet at the apartment was not working. I eventually ended up at a Chinese restaurant across the street and I don’t think they appreciated me using their wifi while I ate/talked to her.

Janet is wonderful. I tried to start off with taking about my progress with participants and she quickly switched the conversation to see how I was doing and how Dad was. It sounds like such a small thing, but the fact that she was more concerned about that then the project that we’ve been working on for the better part of a year meant a lot. This is why I adore her. She also spent time asking what all I’d been up to and where we had traveled. I told her that I was headed to London and she was really excited. I definitely couldn’t ask for a better advisor.

London was wonderful. Anyone who knows me knows that I am completely obsessed with Doctor Who and Sherlock (and a myriad of British actors).

The flight over had a few issues, but that’s to be expected. Ryanair charged me an extra 45€ because they said that I had never confirmed my flight (which I totally did and have a screenshot to prove it. I need to email them today to see if they’ll reimburse me). After that fiasco, I couldn’t figure out how to get to the gate I needed. Everyone kept telling me to go to Terminal 2, Gate 222 but that was just where you could check baggage and no one would tell me anything after that.

Eventually, I found my way and made it onto the plane. The flight was good, but the landing was a little rough. Once I landed in Stansted, I had to find a way to Luton to meet Carla. The buses were running late, but I managed to get there only 15 minutes or so after her plane arrived (this is with the 30-45 minute bus delay, so I was pretty happy).

Seeing Carla was awesome. For those of you who don’t know, she is the person that I work with in the Linguistics Lab on campus. This past semester, I barely saw her due to the amount of work that the PIRE project took to get running. So we got to catch up on the train to the city, which was awesome.

Once we arrived in London, we found our hotel and dropped our stuff. Obviously, it was time to explore. I think we ended up walking 8 or 9 miles. We stopped for fish and chips (surprisingly good) and saw some fantastic architecture. The architecture in London might be my all-time favorite after the Nasrid Palace in the Alhambra. Eventually, our walk took us past St. Paul’s and to the Thames and we could see the London Eye all lit up.

The London Eye is the huuuuggeee Ferris Wheel that they have in London and played a pivotal role in the pilot reboot of Doctor Who. I know, I know. I have a problem. But it was still super pretty and one of the things I wanted to see.

After walking over the bridge and to the Eye, we walked towards Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. As much as I loved the Eye, Big Ben was my favorite. Pictures cannot do it justice. I could have stayed there all night and stared at Big Ben…And it was even more impressive in the day.

After our long walk, we took the tube back near the hotel and crashed for the night.

The next day, Carla had booked a hop-on/hop-off bus tour so we got to ride in a double decker bus! (Another life goal completed). We went around the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey, then hopped off so we could look around. I wanted to do the Abbey but it was around 20£ (~$35) so we looked at the outside and walked by Big Ben again. I saw Big Ben, like, 10 times and every single time I just had to stop, completely awestruck.

Eventually, I managed to drag myself away and we got tickets for the London Eye. It moves so slowly, but the views are awesome!

Eye View

In an attempt to find the nearest station for our bus, we walked by the National Theatre. I may have geeked out a little. Benedict will be preforming Hamlet in October, so I’m a few months too early. But still. I stood somewhere he stood. If you count the ground as a person, that’s one degree of separation, which is as close as I’m like to get.

Throughout the day, we saw the Tower of London, the London Bridge, the Tower Bridge, and a multitude of other buildings.

The highlight of my day was Baker Street. Yes. Sherlock Holmes. I didn’t go into the museum, but I have pictures of it and of the door to 221B Baker Street. Carla even took a picture of me with the door.

I bought tickets for Carla and I to go to Madame Tussaud’s. It was awesome! The sculptures were so lifelike! There were multiple times when I thought that they were people and kept waiting for them to move. Carla was such a good sport; she didn’t get annoyed even when I asked for pictures with just about everyone. But I now have pictures with Emma Watson, Van Gogh, John Wayne and various other people.

The only thing that made me sad was that I couldn’t find the sculpture of Benedict Cumberbatch. I was really looking forward to that, but I’ll make sure that I see it (or preferably him) at some point in my life.

Carla headed to meet a friend later in the afternoon, so I did some exploring of my own. In true nerd fashion, I found 187 N Gower Street…The place where the film the exterior shots for Sherlock. I have selfies with the door and with Speedy’s Cafe. Pretty exciting stuff, at least for nerds.

After this, I was pretty tuckered out and found my way back to the hotel, where I passed out. Carla left early in the morning, and around 8:30, I headed out to St. Paul’s to try and see the inside of the cathedral. I couldn’t get in to see everything, just the main area where they were holding church service. What I did see was spectacular. The kind of intricate workmanship that takes your breath away.

Later, I went to the British Museum. They have a whole section on Egypt! I got to see mummies! It was fantastic! I felt like I hopped into “The Mummy Returns”. I definitely want to go to Egypt at some point in my life. Their history is fascinating. They had a special exhibition (which is where I saw the mummies) and they had displayed different things that they could surmise about their lives based off of different aspects of their corpses. The one girl was a Christian (which I found strange) that had gotten buried in the sand, preserving her body. You could still see part of a tattoo on her leg which I found to be absolutely incredible. Also, mummies are not as scary or gross looking as they are in “The Mummy” and “The Mummy Returns”. Just kind of awesome looking.
It was strange though. Since the museum had different aspects of their lives displayed, I started wondering what the people would think if they knew that people were walking around viewing their bodies and surmising information about their lives. Would it make them happy that they were being remembered, in a fashion, or would it make them upset that their bodies were disturbed?

Fun thoughts.

I also got to see Garuda, the little dude from Night at the Museum. He’s a cutie.

Garuda

I also got to see some Greek pottery and sculptures and all kinds of other stuff. There are a lot of things there. Like a lot, a lot. Someone told me that there were around 700,000 items there. That’s a lot of history.

After walking around the museum, I caught a cab (real London cab with a real British driver) and went to King’s Cross Station. I saw Platform 9 3/4 but there was a huge line and my love of Harry Potter was not enough to make me withstand a 2 hour wait.

At the end of the day, I managed to find my way onto the right train and eventually to the hotel that Carla was nice enough to find for me. The flight back left at 7:25 in the morning and, in typical Delaney fashion, I arrived about 4 hours early. So I bought a book and sat down to read (ended up finishing the book by the end of the day). The trip back was uneventful and I eventually arrived safely in Granada. Home, sweet home.

Ronda, Gibralter, Tanger, Oh My. 

Okay. It’s been a while. While I plan on writing extensively on the different trips we’ve done over the past two weekends, I want to start with the serious stuff. 

This bit is going to be hard for me to write, so I apologize. 

This past week, while full of blessings, has been shitty. I never swear on here, but that is the most mild of the words that somewhat accurately describes my week. 

Monday, I wasn’t feeling super great. I was dizzy and my vision was kind of blurry around the edges. 

Monday night, I had a full fledged panic attack. For those of you that don’t know, I suffer from anxiety and depression. This past semester has been especially tough, but nothing like Monday had ever happened to me before. I couldn’t breathe and was crying so hard that I didn’t think I would ever be able to stop.Eventually, thanks to wonderful friends, I calmed down enough that I could breathe without any issues. I thought that would be the end of it. Of course not. My body then decided that, in spite of the 80 some degree weather, that it was freezing and I started shaking uncontrollably. I don’t mean the little shivers you get when you have goosebumps. My body was shaking so hard that I had a headache within 10 minutes from my brain jarring around in my head. So I curled up in as many clothes and blankets as I could find and tried to sleep. Eventually I must have, because I woke up with my body feeling like it was on fire. I put my hands on my legs and they were radiating more heat than my space heater puts out. I then started having fever dreams. I never thought these were real, but they are scary real. I wish I would have had ones about unicorns and butterflies, but I had dreams about rotten hands grabbing at me and shadow people pacing around my room. During all of this, I tried to sleep but I had random strongs of numbers and letters reverberating though my head. It was definitely an interesting experience. 

Tuesday and Wednesday I couldn’t make it to the lab. My body more or less shut down and my stomach rebelled. I spend most of these days in bed and in the bathroom. Annie and Angie started threatening to drag me to the doctors, but in typical Wilson fashion, my body decided to miraculously recover so that I didn’t have to deal with doctors. 

Wednesday night, I got a call saying my dad was in the ICU and had had a stroke. Getting a call like that, when you are 3,800 miles away and can do nothing is one of the worst feelings in the world. I have never felt so helpless in my life. When my mom got surgery, I was at the hospital nearly every day. Even when she was 3-4 hours away in Danville. Now, I can do nothing. I emailed my professors in case the worst happened and I needed to leave Spain early. They are the most amazing people. They have been nothing but supportive and have been continuously checking in with me to see how I am. My one advisor that did most of the planning and logistics for my trip emailed me and offered to do anything, even drive down to visit my dad or spend time talking with my family. Ever since I got to Penn State, I never really felt like I had any friends or anyone that cared. That’s not true. I am surrounded by giants in the CLS lab and I don’t know what I would do without them.

Furthermore, the amount of support and well wishes people have sent to me and dad through Facebook has been insane. I appreciate everyone and can’t comprehend how much people have shown that they care. 

Dad is doing decently well. He is having trouble with his short term memory and will probably have to go to rehab. But he’s alive and stable and that’s so much better than it could have been. 
Alright. Onto participants. I am officially half way done collecting data. I hope to be done by the end of next week and will spend the rest of my time coding everything. I did one sound file (each participant has at least 4 sound files and I have 20 participants) and it took 8 hours so I expect to be working on this for most of the summer and a good part of the semester. Who needs summer vacation anyway? 

Okay, onto the happier and more exciting things. 
Ronda (last Saturday, May 23). Annie, Haoyun, Angie and I took a train to Ronda. It was super gorgeous. It was built on cliffs and there are amazing views.  

  


We ate at a restaurant on the cliffs and had a breathtaking view. I had leg of lamb and it was super good (I think my first time having lamb). 

After lunch we walked to the Hanging Gardens and a moorish mine. The mine went down all the way to the water at the bottom of the cliffs. 

    

There was a peacock in the garden and he was gorgeous. Like they look awesome in pictures but they are so cool in real life. We couldn’t get him to open his tail though. 

 
At the end of the day, we took a train back home to Granada. 
Gibralter. I had heard of this place before but I always assumed it was just a part of Spain. It is, however, a British territory. So I got a picture with a phone box! 

  
It’s not the Tardis, but i’ll make do. 

We took a cable car to the top of the rock. I was certain that we were gonna die, but we lived. 

  (We walked all the way down that thing; my legs still hurt) 
There were monkeys up there, just roaming around. I couldn’t get over it. I had never seen monkeys outside of a zoo and they were just chilling, walking around. 

A mommy just walked into the one building with her baby and sat on the stairs as people walked past.  


After watching the monkeys, we went to Saint Michael’s cave. They had disco-ish lights set up that changed colors and I guess they do concerts in there. It was pretty awesome. The way they had some of the lights set up made it look like the cave rocks were pulsing.  

   

  After this we went to see some WWII siege tunnels and then walked the rest of the way down the mountain and crossed the border, then a train back to Tarifa, Spain. 
Tanger, Morocco. We took a ferry to Tanger/Tangier. The ferry was awesome and super fast. It only took like 40 minutes to get there. They didn’t have much of an outer deck, but they had a cafe and a bunch of tables and stuff.

Once we arrived, the lady on the boat gave us to our tour guide. He was awesome. He spoke Arabic, English, Spanish, German, Dutch, French, and offered to do a few other ones. The linguist in me wanted to keep him. 

We got on a bus and saw a lighthouse. Then we went and saw my favorite animals….CAMELS! You could ride them, and Annie and Angie did. I wasn’t going to but they made me and I am so glad that I did. 

   
  

You might think that this has diminished my desire to own a camel. You would be wrong. I want a camel more than anything. They are noble beasts and I love them. 

Trying to stay seated when they stand up is interesting. They pitch around a lot when they stand. Once they are walking, they feel like a horse so I channeled my inner Lauren Tousley. 

That was easily the best part of the day. 

We also say a Phonecian necropolis and the Mediterranean Sea. After that, we went to the Casbah and say some beautiful architecture  

   
At some point, we were taken to a restaurant to eat. I have no clue what any of the food was besides the couscous and the tea but there was soup and some kind of cooked meat. The waiter said that it was camel but  he was kidding. The tea and the dessert were my favorite. The tea was minty and sweet and one of the best drinks I have ever had. The dessert seemed to be related to baklava, but the dough was different. The sauce was similar though. 

Before we had to get back to the ferry, we had an hour to do some shopping. My goal in life was to find at least one children’s books in Arabic so I asked the guide if there was one nearby. He said that there was one but it was closed but a few minutes later he came up and grabbed me and gave me to someone he knew, saying that he would take me to a bookstore. The guy tried to hurry off so I tried to quickly explain what was happening to the others. They did not think that it was safe but they came once I said that the guide had personally given me to the guy. He spoke English and Spanish so we had a random conversation about how I wanted children’s books to practice reading since I struggle with it in class. The book store was super sketchy as dark but he told the guy what I wanted and he handed me a book that is designed to help Arab children learn to read. It has all the vowels marked and case endings and everything which I thought was awesome. It was only three euros. The books that i’ve tried to find in the States are usually twenty or thirty dollars so I was super excited.  After this, Angie and I went souviner shopping. I totally think that I got ripped off, but I still spent $20 less that I had allotted so it’s all good. The thing that I found interesting was that street vendors would harass you. Like, they would follow you for 100-200 feet and constantly ask you if you want stuff, even after you say no. It got really frustrating because they would not leave you alone and would keep putting stuff in your face. 

On a happy note, when our group was walking around, there was this little old Arab man that was sitting on a porch and as we passed, he looked at us and said “Hello, tourist!” and smiled. It was easily the funniest thing that happened. 

After the shopping experience, we went back to the ferry and headed back to Spain.