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Girl Genius, Oggie, Jenka, Studio Foglio, Jagermonster
Both graduate schools I applied to rejected me.  I haven't gotten so much as a callback from any internship or summer job I applied for.  My own parents view me as a failure, especially compared to my little sister, who now enjoys the favorite child position I enjoyed before I decided to do what I wanted to do with life, instead of what my parents dictated (coming out as bi was also a factor in my black sheep status).  

Trying to figure out what to do with my life.  Wondering if I have a future.  I specialized so much in nutrition because I was assured by professors/advisers that I could find a spot.  I feel betrayed.  I feel depressed.  I feel like not doing anything but sitting and reading because what's the point?  I tried my hardest, worked myself into several stress-related ailments, wrecked my body....and for what?  Why bother?  Why try if all I'm going to do is fail?

Creation Meme
Girl Genius, Oggie, Jenka, Studio Foglio, Jagermonster
Nicked from http://alicebentley.livejournal.com/102564.html
I promise* I will do my best to make something handmade for the first five people who comment. They are encouraged* in turn to post this and make something for the first five people who comment on their status. The rules are it has to be handmade by you and they must receive it before 2012 ends...who's in with me?!

*Changed from the original meme *requirement* because I don't require anything of anyone in regards to this.

A-Kon 2011
Girl Genius, Oggie, Jenka, Studio Foglio, Jagermonster
 A-Kon Report 2011

Last week, the minions and I headed down to Texas for A-Kon 2011, my first con and one of the best weekends of my entire life. We met up with friends, hung out, and had a lot of fun, and of course, the highlight of the weekend centered around Girl Genius.
A bit of backstory: how I met Travis is that the summer of 2010, I printed off May 14th’s comic and brought it into work, and as I reread it, sighing all fangirly, Travis looked over my shoulder and recited Tarvek’s line of “Have you no shame?” I was thrilled to meet another fan of GG, and we skived off work and spent hours talking. Now not only are he and his wife, Kristina, my best friends, but Girl Genius is what brought us together, and so is an important part of our lives.

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I Have Achieved Recursion! Holland in Holland Part One
Girl Genius, Oggie, Jenka, Studio Foglio, Jagermonster
 I have achieved recursion!

That’s right, folks – at the moment yours truly, Holland, is in Holland: Amsterdam, to be more specific. I arrived yesterday, and have been having fun (albeit at a slightly higher price than I expected). I am spending till Tuesday here, and it is awesome.
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Epiphanies / My Recent Mental State
Girl Genius, Oggie, Jenka, Studio Foglio, Jagermonster
 Okay, I know I said my next post would be about Las Fallas, but today, in between panics and class (okay, during class but in my defense he was talking about sports and once he got through the odd Basque stuff and into the soccer stuff, it was really boring), I had some positive introspection, which, lately, has been rare for me, and writing it out helps. So bear with me on this. (and please read)

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Sevilla! (yeah I'm a bit late on this, sorry)
Girl Genius, Oggie, Jenka, Studio Foglio, Jagermonster
 So I know I haven’t updated in a while (almost a month). Busy with traveling and schoolwork, and also…well, I didn’t feel like it. But am updating now! So two trips to talk about this time: Sevilla, and Las Fallas. Sevilla entry now, Las Fallas in the next.

A few weekends ago I went to Sevilla, and had a great time. It rained pretty much the whole time I was there, and my hostel had ambulances going past it every 20 minutes it seemed, but it was a nice place. The first night I got there, it was late, so I checked in and had virgin strawberry mojitos on the rooftop terrace with other people at the hostel for a few hours. Talked to some people from Argentina, Belgium, the US, and Australia, and it was nice interacting socially with non-geeks.

The next day I toured the city. I went to the Alcazar, which is lovely and has wonderful gardens. In one that was full of orange trees, there were also several ducks. They were brazen, very tame, and I discovered that, like my dog at home, ducks love clementines. It was cute – they fought over the pieces I tossed to them. I wish I’d brought more. I went to the cathedral and climbed the belltower, and was up at the top right as the bells chimed the hour (very very loud) and the view was awesome. Took tons of photos, as usual. I wandered around, got lost a few times, had cheese and nonalcoholic beer at a very nice tapas place, and then returned to my hostel for a siesta.

After the siesta, I went to a flamenco show at Los Gallos, as recommended by Rick Steve. 27 euros for a two-hour show that was amazing! I had a great time, and it made me want to learn flamenco (except for the fact that I have no sense of rhythm whatsoever). The music and the dancers were amazing and I was just mesmerized by their artistry. I took my new fans to the show (a black floral one and a red one with a bull on it) and sat next to a nice couple from the UK. And after the show, I went and got fried cuttlefish from a seafood-by-the-pound place and took it back to the hostel to eat.

The next day I wandered around the shopping areas – Calle Tetuan, Calle Sierpes, and did some shopping. I looked at lacy shawls (all really expensive), got two new books (in English), and outside the Corte Ingles, at a bazaar, I got a new purse and a shawl (not as lacy or fancy as the expensive ones, but cute and pretty). Also, the Discworld books are really popular here – and they transliterate the Igors’ lisping as “zzzz”-ing instead, which was a neat way to still accentuate the linguistic differences. I still might get a Spanish edition of a Discworld book…but they’re e10 and I don’t like to buy books I already have back at home (and I have all the Discworld books save The Las Hero and the first three Tiffany Aching ones).

The story with one of the books is interesting. A friend of mine back in the US had Patrick Rothfuss as her creative writing professor, and she recommended his book, The Name of the Wind, to me. Given that this is the same author who wrote the cover quote for the Girl Genius novel, and later made a cameo in the comic, and given how other GG fans were lauding his work, I said I would read it back in the US, since I doubted I’d find a copy over here. How wrong I was! Looking in a bookshop for English-language books, what did I find? So I figured that it was one of those “God things” and got it. Turns out it’s really popular in Spain – I keep finding Spanish-language versions of it in bookshops, too, and it’s on the bestseller list. I casually mentioned to the check-out clerk that the author of the book was a professor of a friend of mine, and she went all fangirly, saying how awesome the book was, so that was neat. And I’ve read the author’s blog – he seems like a really nice guy. I’m reading it as soon as I finish Don Quixote (which I really need to get read).

So after shopping and wandering around, I got lunch at Burger King (which is a lot more expensive here than in the States, but it was still cheaper than Starbucks and the restaurants in the area were all full because it was the lunch hour), and then I got a bus to the Museo de Las Bellas Artes. I had a good time there, too – it’s a former monastery full of works by southern artists, and some very nice religious paintings. I passed the afternoon there before returning to the bus station and trying to get homework done before the bus left in the evening (the station was really noisy). On the way back, I was sleeping in the back of the bus with some other girls from my group when we stopped, and it was a checkpoint. A man came on with a flashlight, asking people questions. When he got to us, he heard my sleepy “wha’s going on?” in English, asked the three of us “Inglesas?” and when we nodded, turned around and questioned the other side of the bus. Still no idea what that was about, but he was asking people where they were from/heading to, etc. Strange.

All in all, had a great time (only one panic attack!) And it is a beautiful city. I definitely want to go again.

Las Fallas entry to come! 21 days till I see Mom, 38 days till I get back to the US! And this weekend, I go to Gibraltar! W00t!

Sorry for the Delay......Thoughts on Spain
Girl Genius, Oggie, Jenka, Studio Foglio, Jagermonster
 So, I haven’t updated in a while. Sorry about that. I kind of had my health go splat for a bit – trouble sleeping combined with low-grade cold combined with stress = mini panic attacks that went on for quite a while. Travis and Kristina were a huge help to me via Skype and IM…I seriously can’t thank them enough. I think I have found a way to mostly manage my stress/homesickness, and I am really enjoying my life here in Spain.

I went to Grenada and Cordoba last weekend with the group. It was fun, though I would’ve liked to have spent more time at places. The group was constantly running late, so that impacted stuff, and I felt rushed. I guess that just means I’ll have to go back sometime! (not this trip – tickets for the Alhambra have to be booked way in advance anyway, but sometime in the future). I did do a bit of shopping – wandering around the narrow alleyways and shops of Grenada, but it was at the Mirador (awesome viewspot well worth the hike) that I got my ‘souvenir’ (I did get some postcards and stuff too): my ring.

To understand why this ring is pretty awesome, you have to understand my history. Way back senior year of high school, I was in jewelry class and we got to cast our own silver rings. I made mine – a heavy one with a sort of freeform organic style to it, and wore it proudly, hardly ever taking it off. And I had it till sophomore year of college, when at some point living in the dorms, I lost it. Even after I cleaned everything up when I moved out, I never could find it. And I’d missed the familiar heavy weight. So I kept looking – but heavy rings are hard to find. And then, while wandering around looking at the hippies/gypsies who were selling stuff, I saw the ring. Silver with copper inlay, organic design, heavy, and, as I tried it on – just my size. I tentatively asked the price. 28 euros, I was told, and I winced. I only had forty euros left of the forty-five and change I’d brought with me for the weekend – 28 euros would mean I wouldn’t have money for food the next day (as our food was what we bought, had brought with us, or the free stuff the hostels had – ie, not much. I’d brought food from my host mom, but it was perishable and it was a 3-day trip).

The guy saw the look on my face as I put the ring back and asked why. I said I loved the ring, I really did – it was perfect, but I was a broke college student with only forty euros, and if I bought the ring, I wouldn’t have any money for food the rest of the weekend. I was just about to leave when the guy called out, offering twenty euros if I didn’t tell his girlfriend he’d given me the deal. Twenty euros I could live with. I handed over my bill and walked off with a really lovely ring, that even now I’m wearing. It’s Chilean silver and copper, the guy had said, and it is awesome.

So I’ve been keeping busy. An essay a week and a speech a week for one class, a paper a week for another, and various worksheets and reading assignments (I’m using this weekend’s trip to get some reading done for lit class – have a novella I have to finish by the last week of March so I can write a paper on it). This weekend, I’m going to Sevilla on my own, leaving Thursday evening and getting back waaaaay early Sunday morning. I’m also going to Las Fallas with the group for one day (and bus to/from eliminates need for pricey hotel – yay!). Early April I’m going to Madrid and Segovia one weekend, Gibraltar and Tarifa the other, that trip with two girls from my group.
Spring Break will be very awesome. I’m spending Friday through Tuesday in Amsterdam, and then flying out Tuesday morning to London, where I’ll be meeting my Mom, who is flying out to spend almost a week with me! We’ll tour London, see museums, and have fun, and it will be awesome! I can’t wait!

So I have a lot of neat stuff planned, and am looking forward to it. Viva España!

P.S. I’ve been reading the Girl Genius novelization every night before bed (and sometimes during the day too…not many English-language books around though did get a few from the library). It is very awesome. Check the comic out! www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php

Madrid y Toledo Trip - Part 2
Girl Genius, Oggie, Jenka, Studio Foglio, Jagermonster
 And now, part two of my awesome weekend trip!

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Madrid y Toledo Trip - Part 1
Girl Genius, Oggie, Jenka, Studio Foglio, Jagermonster
 Sorry for the long gap in updating - partially due to being busy and partially due to forgetting.  Will update more often, I swear.

In the meantime, let me tell you about my first foray into the world of traveling alone.  I spent the past weekend in Madrid and Toledo, and it was awesome.   Stayed in a hostel for the first time, went to a bunch of museums, and had an amazing time.  More detailed info below.

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Can't Believe I've Been Here Over a Week...
Girl Genius, Oggie, Jenka, Studio Foglio, Jagermonster
 Sundays, nothing is open but the churches and everyone rests.  So I thought I'd use the siesta to update this.

Since moving in with my new host family, things have been going well.  Mati, my host mom is very awesome, and a good cook.  Today during lunch we watched the news, something about the Spanish equivalent of the Jonas brothers, it seemed.  Am getting better at understanding what's being said on tv (they talk really fast).  My host mom is a nurse, so her food is really healthy - breakfast is cereal and fruit, and today for lunch we had roast beef with carrots, salad, and chicken noodle soup.  Everything nice and tasty, and we chatted as we ate.  We talked about dogs - I've shown her pictures of Jack, and she has a Yorkie named Iru (not sure how to spell it, but that's the phonetic pronunciation at least).  Iru's decided she likes sleeping on my lap when I'm on the couch, and also has figured out that I'll rub her belly for her, which she loves. She;s cute - she doesn't so much lie down as stop and then fall over, which is adorable.

Yesterday we went to Trujillo as a group - not sponsored or anything, we just all wanted to go and bus tickets were cheap (e3.50 each way).  Another 4.70 got us guidebooks of Trujillo and admission to a bunch of places, including the castle, a cathedral, the Pizarro museum, the cheese museum, and the clothing museum.  It was all very fun.   We were joking as a group, and I made a completely corny joke that people liked:

Me *pointing across the square, and hamming it up*: Yonder lies the castle of my father!
Claire: Holland, that's the cathedral.
Me *turning around and pointing in another direction*: -Yonder- lies the castle of my father!

People got the reference, which was awesome, and they laughed.  We toured the cathedral and castle during the morning, when the weather was really nice (I took off my coat and sweater - warmest day since I'd been here).  The cathedral had a really steep staircase up to the belltower, and it was completely dark.  I got some scrapes on my hands from clinging to the stone as I climbed, but the view was so worth it.  I also wrote my name and the date in a guestbook they had up there (a 'prove you made the climb' sort of thing).  

The castle itself was also amazing.  The gardens are so beautiful, I'd love to picnic there someday.  All these medicinal plants, and then there's a part which has flora brought back from the New World, including a patch of aloe that's over six feet tall!  We walked along the castle battlements, and were able to see for miles around.  The countryside is beautiful - reminds me a bit of southern California, actually.  I kept expecting to see the ocean, it was so much like the scenery around San Diego.    We also saw the Pizarro museum, which has a lot of treasures brought back from Chile and Peru.  

Extremadura is known for its cheese, and the cheese museum didn't disappoint.  Our entry got us samples of a bunch of different cheeses, and (miraculously) not one of them made me ill!  I took a picture of this one goat cheese I really liked - I wish I could bring back some to the States with me, because it was so sharp and creamy and good.......

Speaking of food, we had lunch at La Troyas, a very nice restaurant on the square.  For e15, we got appetizers, salad, first and second courses, dessert, and drinks.  The food was so amazing, we all decided we had to return sometime to eat there again.  Clint was in awe at the flan (which was amazing), and took several photos of it.  

After lunch, we finished up the museums and got a bus home.  Trujillo is very hilly, and the streets are very steep (as were the stairs everywhere we visited).  We were all quite tired and sore when we got back, and I'm glad I had today to rest (there's also a sinus cold going around, and I seem to have caught it, as did several others).  

Traveling around Spain really is fun, and I can't wait for the next journey!  Miss you all!