Settling into Mauri…What?!

Waww, I have only been here for a few days and so much has happened already! I feel like a cameleon, adapting smoothly to my environment. So: where to start?!

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It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives.

It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” – Charles Darwin

Sunday I arrived and I got to know my host mother a bit. She speaks some French but mostly Créole and it is obviously not always obvious what she is trying to say. She is very nice and kind, but also a little bit possessive in her own unique hospitable way, as she is cooking dinner and makes me eat whatever she likes. She made me eat the weirdest things, fortunately she is Hindu so I am not supposed to eat meat (lucky vegetarian I am!).

I was very happy to meet my fellow roommates after a few hours of being drawned into a little culture shock, having no internet, no phone, no toilet, no shower and so on. Emily is an American student who is staying at “grandma’s place” (as she calls it) as well, and Francesca is also an American student who is staying in the house next door, where I go to shower and use the internet. The house next door belongs to the children of ‘Grandma’.

Where I stay there is no bathroom at all, unless you consider the open air sink as a bathroom. So I have to walk through a garden and knock at the other houses door, which is not really a problem actually. But not really a luxury either! :p In the shower I got company of Mom and Daughter Cockroach, so yes… I have already made some friends here, and built up a reputation as murderer!

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Going out to get some streetfood with my roommates

But enough about the house and the weirdest food being served there, I am here for Ethnographic Fieldwork, not for wishing I was at the beach all day! And dear friends, I hope you don’t keep thinking that that is (the only thing) what I am doing here. Anthropologists do have a hard life! 😉

Because as fast as I arrived in the house, so fast was I gone again. After a terrible too sweet and pink drink that I was offered to drink as a way of welcoming me into the family, I was invited at a Knife-Walking ritual in the village of Pointe-aux-Piments. So I did not even have time to put my luggage down and check my room, as my host father and I were already gone again.

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Colorful Hindus in Pointe-aux-Piments

The ritual was exactly what it sounded like: people were literally walking over knifes, while playing music, burning essence sticks, while suffering and so on. I had never seen a ritual like this before – and I am not expecting to see many of these again in my life – and I was also not really understanding much about it either. The only thing that is for sure that is they sacrifice theirselves for their religion (Hinduism). I was told that before the ceremony those people were praying and fasting for several days, and during the ceremony partcipents would then envoken their godess whilst making a sacrifice. Walking over the swords appears to be a very meaningful and extreme ritual for hindus, in which they are seeking to prove their piety by withstanding their pain.

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Walking over Knifes… A quite unsual religious practice in Mauritius!

Monday it was time to go to school at 9AM… Dimitris Xygalatas, the Summer School professor, an anthropologist who is very experienced in doing research on extreme rituals in Mauritius, opened the course by overviewing all practical concerns and reviewing the syllabus. I got to meet all the other students. We are with 18 students, coming from different countries such as Denmark, United States, Germany, the Netherlands, Finland, Peru, Servia and Belgium (which is represented by myself). After introducing ourselves, our field of study (we come from different degrees in social sciences, varying from Bachelors to Masters levels), the instructors also presented themselves. Apart from Dimitris, there are a few other instructors as well, who are basically research assistants or connections of Dimitris who are also researching within Mauritius. So we are a group of +/- 25 persons.

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Having classes at the beach. This is The Life!

So what is this “Ethnographic Field School” all about?

Well, the course will “provide empirical training in ethnographic fieldwork through immersion into the field and engaging in qualitative as well as quantitative field studies involving a variety of methods such as participant-observation, interviews, surveys, and behavioral and biometric measures. The course also examines key methodological, epistemological, and ethical issues pertaining to the study of culture and working with human subjects. Furthermore, it involves a series of field trips and lectures on Mauritius, its diverse culture, and its fascinating history”, as it is mentioned in the syllabus.

So: again, we did not come here for 3 weeks of paradise and sunbathing, but we came to experience “the real Mauritius” (even though you can start questioning that, if you think about being a large group of Western students living closely to each other for the next few weeks).
After that first general session in the morning, we had our first lunch break and everyone was excited to get to know each other better, to overcome to culture shock and make some new friends. We decided to explore the coastal area of Pointe-aux-Piments (the village were we stay), and so we discovered our first beach at only 5 minutes walking from the classroom, which is actually located nearby a fancy hotel: Récif Attitude Hotel*** (about €90 per night for a standard room, which is kind of affordable for a paradise island!)

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Getting to know each other at the beach of Pointe-aux-Piments

Well, I have to admit… It is kind of paradise here, right? And I guess not many of you reading this have lunch breaks as I am having here. So God bless the life I lead, and thank God for this amazing opportunity! But to all good things come to an end, quite fast, because lunch break was “only 2 hours” and then it was time again to return to the afternoon class. The only thing that I could think of, was that this might become an extreme ritual that people must start to practice every day and everywhere, lol.

This session an introduction about Mauritius and its culture was on the schedule, but as smart as Dimitris is (yes, we can actually call our professor here by his first name!), he started with a little quiz to test our knowledge about Mauritius, or in other words: did we read enough, and prepare ourselves well for this course? I spare you the answer to be honest… Woops! 😉

Funny facts you might like to know about Mauritius:

  • Did you know that Mauritius is about the size of Luxemburg?
  • Did you know that Mauritius has no official language? (But English and French are taught at school)
  • Did you know that the tallest mountain on the island is about 800 meters high?
  • Did you know that Charles Darwin has written not only about the Galapagos Islands (which I visited last year), but also about the flora and fauna of Mauritius?
  • Did you know that there is actually a town called Pamplemousses (grapefruit) in Mauritius?

But… maybe most important, do you actually know where in the world Mauritius is located? I bet most of you readers don’t, which is actually not really a problem (because I also did not know it very well before I heard about this course and looked it up). The most important is that you know that it is NOT “one of those French islands in the Caribbean”, but that is actually “one of those islands in the Indian Ocean, near Madagascar and La Réunion”. Or to be more specific… here’s a map:

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Enough educational stuff for today! Unless you really want to know more interesting facts about this island, then you should look at this nicely written article! Tomorrow I’ll write about more interesting facts, but more important: my interesting life and experiences here, a Sega dance night and much more fun!

A big kiss for all of those who are so great to keep following me!

You’re the best! Thank you for all the support!

x x With Love x x

Julie

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THE BIG TRIP – Day 5: Gibraltar (U.K.)

TRAVELOGUE – Blogpost 8: Day 5 (01/4/13) – Gibraltar (U.K.)

Our trip through Spain was over. After having visited Altea, Benidorm, Alicante, Granada, Malaga and Ronda, it was time for something else. Portugal? No, not yet. That was for later! First we would travel to UK … Well, it is to say … GIBRALTAR! This is a British overseas territory.

Onze reis door Spanje zat erop. Na Altea, Benidorm, Alicante, Granada, Malaga en Ronda bezocht te hebben, was het tijd voor wat anders. Portugal? Nee, nog niet. Dat was voor later! Eerst zouden we nog naar Verenigd Koninkrijk reizen… Wel, het is te zeggen… GIBRALTAR! Dit is een Brits overzees gebied.

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A little bit of history … (or “what were those Brits looking for here?”)

Gibraltar was conquered  during the Spanish War of Succession in 1704 by an Anglo-Dutch military force. The area was then “forever” transferred to Britain under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. It was an important base for the Royal Navy.

Een beetje historiek… (of het “wat zochten die Britten hier dan?”)

Gibraltar werd in 1704 tijdens de Spaanse Successieoorlog door een Engels-Nederlandse troepenmacht op Spanje veroverd. Het gebied werd vervolgens in 1713 onder de Vrede van Utrecht “voor altijd” overgedragen aan Groot-Brittannië. Het was een belangrijke basis voor de Royal Navy.

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The sovereignty of Gibraltar is a major point of issues in the Anglo-Spanish relation as Spain claims Gibraltar. Gibraltarians rejected proposals for Spanish sovereignty at the referendum of 1967 and again in 2002. According to the Gibraltar Constitution of 2006, Gibraltar governs its own affairs, though some powers, such as defense and foreign affairs remain the responsibility of the Government of the United Kingdom.

De soevereiniteit van Gibraltar is een belangrijk twistpunt van de Engels-Spaanse relatie omdat Spanje aanspraak maakt op Gibraltar. Gibraltarezen verwierpen voorstellen voor Spaanse soevereiniteit bij referendum in 1967 en opnieuw in 2002. Volgens de Gibraltarese grondwet van 2006 regelt Gibraltar zijn eigen zaken, hoewel sommige bevoegdheden, zoals defensie en buitenlandse zaken, de verantwoordelijkheid blijven van de regering van het Verenigd Koninkrijk.

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Anyway, to get in Gibraltar we had to get first out of Ronda, of course. And we did not manage to leave Ronda before noon, thanks to our late breakfast (about which you can read more in the previous blog post). Moreover, it was very difficult to find parking near Gibraltar. At least … FREE parking. Because to approach Gibraltar, you can better park in La Linea de la Concepción. This is the last village in Spain before the border point.

Enfin, om in Gibraltar te geraken, moesten we natuurlijk wel eerst van Ronda daarheen geraken. En we vertrokken pas rond de middag van daarginds, mede dankzij ons  late ontbijt (waarover je meer kan lezen in de vorige blogpost). Bovendien was het ook heel erg moeilijk om parkeerplaats te vinden, tenminste… GRATIS parkeerplek. Want om Gibraltar te benaderen, parkeer je best in La Linea de la Concepción. Dit is het laatste dorp in Spanje, voor de grensovergang.

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Ultimately we managed to find free parking, but we had to do some more walking. And there we were … Holding our identity cards ready to cross the border! BUTTT … That was without taking count of Nafisa. Unfortunately she could not cross the border because she is of Uzbekistan, and her Spanish “residence permit” was not sufficient to be able to leave the country. And her passport was still home in Gandía. We decided to leave her behind with pain in the heart, but on the other hand we wished her a nice day at the beach to La Linea de la Concepcion!

Uiteindelijk lukte het dus wel om gratis parkeren, mits een kleine wandelopgave. En daar waren we dan… Met onze identiteitskaarten klaar om de grens over te steken! MAAAAARRR… Dat was buiten Nafisa gerekend. Helaas mocht zij de grens niet oversteken omdat zij van Oezbekistan is, en haar Spaanse “verblijfsvergunning” was niet voldoende om het land te mogen verlaten. En haar paspoort lag natuurlijk nog lekker thuis in Gandía. We besloten haar met pijn in het hart achter te laten, maar wenste haar anderzijds ook een fijne stranddag toe in La Linea de la Concepcion!

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Nafisa: SHE WILL BE BACK! : D

One obstacle is our Gibraltar adventure was just “solved”, or other obstacle was already waiting for us … As you may know, Gibraltar is a very expensive destination because it is so isolated, and they use the British Pound. So … As you may already know too, we are budget travelers, and we wanted to travel as cheap as possible to the top of “The Upper Rock” (the top of Gibraltar, let’s say).

De ene hindernis is ons Gibraltar-avontuur was nog niet voorbij, of het andere avontuur stond ons al op te wachten… Zoals je misschien wel weet, is Gibraltar een erg dure bestemming omdat ze zo geïsoleerd is, en men gebruikt er ook nog eens de Britse Pond. Dus… Zoals je misschien ook al weet, zijn wij budgetreizigers, en wilden wij het zo goedkoop mogelijk aanpakken om tot aan de top van “The Upper Rock” te geraken (de top van Gibraltar, zeg maar).

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Therefore we decided to share a taxi, that would drop us at the foot of the mountain, so we could continue walking, and then we would descend by feet around sunset. BUT …. The taxi drivers were a real market vendors, embezzlers, liars, profiteers, … No word describes it well enough how much they dared to ask and how laborious they did about the prices.

Daarom besloten we om een taxi te delen, die ons aan de voet van de berg zou afzetten, zodat we daarna zelf verder konden wandelen, en tegen zonsondergang zouden we vervolgens afdalen. MAAR…. De taxichauffeurs waren één voor één echte marktkramers, foefelaars, leugenaars, profiteurs, … Geen woord beschrijft het goed genoeg hoeveel ze durfde vragen en hoe omslachtig ze deden over de prijzen.

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Therefore we took the cable car and we paid about € 12 each for a single ride which took only 2 minutes. Scandalous! But … We were then finally up the rock, and all in all it went very smoothly.

Tevergeefs namen we bijgevolg alsnog de kabellift en betaalden we iets van een €12 elk voor een enkel ritje van amper 2 minuten. Schandalig! Maar… We waren dan toch eindelijk boven, en het ging al bij al vlotjes.

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In the cable car there was an automatic cassette that warned us not to feed the animals, and that personal things should be held close to the body and that it was on personal responsibility, and so on. And yes, we were not even 5 minutes out of the cable car, and they were already there …. The MONKEYS!

In de kabellift werden we door een automatische afspeelcassette al gewaarschuwd dat we de dieren niet mochten voederen en dat persoonlijke belangen dichtbij het lichaam gehouden moesten worden, en dat het op eigenlijk verantwoordelijkheid was, enzovoorts. En jawel hoor, we waren nog niet goed en wel uit de lift gestapt of daar stonden ze al…. DE AAPJES!

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And how could it be otherwise, of course they stole part of our lunch … Right at the beginning!

En hoe kan het ook anders, natuurlijk stolen ze deel van onze lunch… Meteen bij het uitstappen al!

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Christophe could still laugh happily after all, but we were all very careful afterwards.

Christophe kon er gelukkig nog om lachen, al waren we daarna toch allemaal wel op onze hoede.

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The monkeys were after all so used to seeing tourists, that they dominated them. They were the boss, and to take some pictures, you had to do your best to manage it here and there. But it gave something exciting to the whole experience of “The Upper Rock”!

De apen waren het immers zo gewend om toeristen te zien, dat ze ze domineerden. Zij waren de baas, en om wat foto’s te trekken, moest je toch goed je best doen hier en daar. Maar het gaf wel iets spannends aan de hele beleving van “The Upper Rock”!

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We went to a viewpoint from which we had a magnificent view over the town of Gibraltar, La Linea de la Concepcion and the mainland of Spain. And in front of us was this beautiful rock formation, and that all against a background of bright blue sky and azure sea … It really made me dream awat! “I’m on top of the world!”

We gingen naar een uitkijkpunt van waaruit we een prachtig zicht hadden over het stadje van Gibraltar, La Linea de la Concepción en het vasteland van Spanje. En voor ons prijkte een prachtige rotsformatie, en dat tegen een achtergrond van helderblauwe lucht en azuurblauwe zee… Het deed me echt wegdromen! “I’m on top of the world!”

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And after some walking, and passing monkeys we reached the other side of the rocks. From there we had a view over… no more or no less then: AFRICA! I think this was the closest to the African continent that I had ever been, and we could see Morocco a little bit in the distance. With a little bit of creativity, you’ll see it in this photo:

En na even wandelen, en aapjes passeren kwamen we natuurlijk de andere kant van de rotsen tegen. Van daaruit hadden we uitzicht op niet meer of niet minder dan: AFRIKA! Dit was volgens mij het dichtste bij het Afrikaanse continent dat ik ooit al was geweest, gezien we Marokko in de verte al konden zien liggen. Met een beetje creativiteit kan je het in deze foto wel zien:

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We also made some super cute pictures of each other.

We maakten ook enkele superleuke foto’s van elkaar.

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The sun burned on our shoulders, we sweat a lot from time to time, but oh God, this was a wonderful hiking trip! I did not expect that much nature today!

De zon brandde op onze schouders, we zweten ons bij momenten te pletter, maar och God, wat was dit een heerlijke trektocht! Ik had zoveel natuur niet verwacht van vandaag!

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And everything was so breathtakingly beautiful!

En alles was zo adembenemend mooi!

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Eventually we kept wandering around these rocks, and we saw about all the sights around the rock.

Uiteindelijk bleven we rondtrekken in deze rotsen, en zagen we zowat alle bezienswaardigheden.

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We hiked back down around sunset just because we HAD TO. Otherwise we would have preferred to stay a little bit longer. I’m sure about that!

We daalden af tegen zonsondergang omdat we dan wel MOESTEN. Anders hadden we best nog langer gebleven. Daar ben ik zeker van!

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What a great day at “The Upper Rock”!

Wat een geslaagde dag bij “The Upper Rock”!

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Once down I was obviously very hungry and thirsty and longed for ice cream. So much that I did not even mind to pay almost 5 euros for it (take-away). What I want to say is: be warned that Gibraltar is very expensive!

Eens beneden had ik natuurlijk veel honger en dorst en nog vreselijk veel meer zin in een ijsje. Zoveel zin dat ik er zelfs geen probleem van maakte om er bijna 5 euro voor te betalen (take-away). Hiermee wil ik maar zeggen: wees gewaarschuwd dat Gibraltar duur is!

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After some post cards, souvenirs and photos (real tourists as we are) in the city center, we were finally finished and we walked back towards La Linea de la Concepcion.

Na nog wat postkaartjes, souvenirs en foto’s (echte toeristen die we zijn) in het stadscentrum, waren we toch wel klaar met Gibraltar en wandelden we terug richting La Linea de la Concepcion.

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From Gibraltar with Love???!!! No no no, From Julie with Love!!! 

For this we had – considering that we were on foot – to walk on the “Airstrip”. We all found it quite amusing and it was another experience: you do not walk every day on the runway! And the sunset was so beautiful!

Hiervoor moesten we – gezien we te voet waren – wandelen over de “Airstrip”. Dat vonden we allemaal wel leuk, en ook weer eens een ervaring: je wandelt toch niet elke dag over de landingsbaan?! En de zonsondergang was ook zo mooi!

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Once “back in Spain” we met Nafisa again. Luckily she had a little fun today, and while we were exhausted, she was now full of energy! That was an excellent excuse for letting her cook tonight! Hehe J And so said, so done. We drove to the supermarket for some shopping, and drove to Algeciras. This is also a town near Gibraltar, where the accommodations are in general cheaper than in or around Gibraltar.

Eens “terug in Spanje” zochten we Nafisa terug op. Gelukkig had zij toch een beetje plezier gehad vandaag, en terwijl wij uitgeput waren, zat zij nu met volle energie! Dat was een uitstekend excuus om haar vanavond voor het eten te laten zorgen! Hihi J En zo gezegd, zo gedaan. We reden naar de supermarkt voor wat inkopen, en reden daarna verder naar Algeciras. Dit is ook een stadje vlakbij Gibraltar, waar het overnachten over het algemeen goedkoper uitkomt dan in of rondom Gibraltar.

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We had booked an apartment, and it appeared to be really beautiful! Unfortunately we only arrived at 10PM and everyone was so tired. Moreover, it was already dark. But we had for only € 55 in total (5 persons) an apartment with 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a living room, a kitchen, a terrace and some stunning views. More should a person not have!? Long live the low season (which makes the prices so low). We think that this apartment will be “priceless” during the summer months. Aren’t we lucky bastards?!

We hadden een appartementje gereserveerd, en het zag er echt schitterend uit! Alleen jammer dat we pas om 22 u aankwamen en iedereen zo moe was. Bovendien was het al donker. Maar we hadden voor amper €55 in totaal (5 personen) een appartement met 2 slaapkamers, 2 badkamers, woonkamer, keuken, terras en prachtig uitzicht. Meer moet een mens toch niet hebben?! Lang leve het laagseizoen (waardoor de prijzen ook laag zijn). Wij denken dat dit appartement tijdens de zomermaanden “onbetaalbaar” duur is. Gelukzakken zijn we toch!?

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Nafisa made work of cooking and at midnight we were finally having dinner. What an hour! But what does it matter, “estamos en España” (we are in Spain). Here that is no problem: “no pasa nada”!?

Nafisa maakte werk van het koken en tegen middernacht konden we eindelijk aan tafel. Wat een uur! Maar wat maakt het uit, “estamos en España!” (we zijn in Spanje). Hier kan dat toch gewoon?!

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Bon appetit! With a glass of beer / tinto de verano we ended the evening.

Smakelijk eten! Met een glaasje bier / tinto de verano eindigden we de avond.

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The next morning was an early day and I felt like I was the only one that could get out of the bed at 7 am in the morning. But when I came outside – to look how our location looked like in the daylight – I was amazed, what a beautiful sunrise!

De volgende morgen was het weer vroeg dag en ik leek wel de enige die om 7 uur ’s ochtends uit bed geraakte. Maar toen ik buiten kwam – om eens te kijken hoe onze locatie er in het daglicht uitzag – was is stomverbaasd: wat een prachtige zonsopgang!

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So I went to wake up everyone and we walked all together in the garden, like a bunch of happy children. Those are moments, memories to cherish. 😉

Dus ging ik even iedereen wakker maken en liepen we met z’n allen de tuin in, als een stel blije kinderen. Dat zijn momenten, herinneringen om te koesteren. 😉

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We even decided to have breakfast in style on the terrace. What a wonderful start to the day!

We besloten dan ook maar gelijk in stijl te ontbijten op het terras van ons vakantiehuisje. Wat een heerlijk begin van de dag!

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Then it was time to pack our bags and jump in the car, full of energy … because we would leave Spain again … This time for PORTUGAL! The beginning of a new story. A new country. A new adventure. So keep reading, follow and check this blog! 😉

Daarna was het weer tijd om onze koffers te pakken en de auto in te springen, bruisend van energie… Want vandaag zouden we Spanje opnieuw verlaten… Dit keer voor PORTUGAL! Het begin van een nieuw verhaal. Een nieuw land. Een nieuw avontuur. Dus blijf lezen, volgen en deze blog checken! 😉

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Love, Liefs,

Julie

Travelogue structure / Reisverhaal structuur:

  • Blogpost 1: Introduction
  • Blogpost 2: Day 1 (28/3/13) – Altea
  • Blogpost 3: Day 1 (28/3/13) – Benidorm
  • Blogpost 4: Day 2 (29/3/13) – Alicante
  • Blogpost 5: Day 3 (30/3/13) – Granada
  • Blogpost 6: Day 4 (31/3/13) – Malaga
  • Blogpost 7: Day 4 (31/3/13) – Ronda
  • Blogpost 8: Day 5 (01/4/13) – Gibraltar ==> you are now reading this blogpost!
  • Blogpost 9: Day 6 (02/4/13) – Albufeira
  • Blogpost 10: Day 7 (03/4/13) – Lisbon
  • Blogpost 11: Day 8 (04/4/13) – Sintra & Lissabon
  • Blogpost 12: Day 9 (05/4/13) – Fatima & Porto
  • Blogpost 13: Day 10 (06/4/13) – Porto & Braga

P.S.: Some of the pictures in this post are taken by my friend and awesome photographer, Ula. Thank you! 😉

A place to call home…

Where I will live the next 5 months… Some pictures:

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A (Faraway) place like this

I need an island in the sea,
Away from you away from me,
Beyond the waves beyond the wind,
Beyond the world that we live in,
Under skies of shining stars,
Away from lights and noisy cars,
Above the egos and the stress,
Beyond the world we made a mess.
A place for me a place for you,
An earth that’s green a sky that’s blue,
A place for you a place for me,
An open sky and light blue sea,
With dreams as solid as the ground,
A place like this I think I’ve found.
A happy thought no one can take it,
A place like this is where we make it.

I need a mountain in the sky,
Just beneath where angels fly,
Where snowflakes falling on the ground,
Is the most disruptive sound,
Above the waves above the wind,
Above the world that we live in,
Above my life above the stress,
Where I can lay it all to rest,
Under skies of falling snow,
Just above the world below,
Just above the trees and birds,
A place I can’t describe in words.

An empty place that’s so appealing,
How’d I get this stupid feeling?
Bad ideas come and go,
But none as potent as the snow,
I need no island in the sea,
Just the things that make me me.
I need no mountain in the sky,
Just to laugh try not to cry,
Forget these far off fantasies,
And manifest as realities,
Reach out and grab it in good time,
Seize the moment make it mine,
Catch the moment make it last.
Just be grateful when it’s past.

Sensations as real as the wind,
Try not to be sad when it ends.
A happy thought no one can take it,
A time like this is when we make it.
I need an island in the sea,
And all of that which makes me me.

Source: www.PoetryInNature.com