Mystery Artist of the Vegan Station

One of my favorite writers has started a game of sorts on his twitter called #OfficeArt, where he and his followers share artwork that they or their coworkers create at the offices they work in. When this began, I was intrigued with the idea, but I was unable to contribute much, because 1) I don’t work in an office and 2) I can’t draw.

However, I have started to stumble across art of sorts in my workplace.

This might not be what you would expect, seeing as I work in the sub. This semester I work early mornings at the chef’s table and vegan station, usually cooking bacon and sausage or whipping up tofu scramble for breakfast burritos. And over the past few months at my vegan station shifts, I’ve started to find mysterious art, drawn on anything and everything. I have no idea who has been making it, or if it’s more than one person, but it is seriously cool.


It started out simple enough – the star drawn into the center of the fan above, the addition of the word “prime” after “optimus” at the bottom.


Then there was this box of saran wrap, clearly marked VEGAN in cool graffiti-type lettering. A little more artistic skill there.

Once I looked around the station I started finding more:


Mostly done in sharpie, but a few in ballpoint pen, like this:


And then there’s this awesome frog:


I don’t know who you are, mysterious vegan station artist, but I dig your stuff. I’m keeping an eye out for more.



Fun fact: winter nighttime temperatures in the TCI rarely fall below 65 degrees.

No, the School for Field Studies did not get a Thanksgiving break.  But we go home on Thursday, December 5, so I guess that’s understandable.  And we did get a Thanksgiving dinner, despite the fact that (1) as a study abroad program, we’re kind of by definition not in the United States, and (2) half of the staff members are British and are therefore horrified by the thought of sweet potato casseroles with marshmallows.  It involved a bit of logistics, because if you want to make something, you have to order the ingredients far enough ahead of time for them to arrive via the infamous food ship, and then juggle the baking of various things with the restraints of having a single functional oven to cook for 50+ people.

I suppose the "big blue" beyond the wall of the reef is rather aptly named.

I suppose the “big blue” beyond the wall of the reef is rather aptly named.

In the spirit of recognizing that the semester is almost over, our last two dives were yesterday (diving in December without wetsuits!), so our gear will be ready to be packed up once it’s dry.  Those dives, incidentally, are worthy of a blog post in and of themselves – the divemaster said we were going to drop in “over the big blue,” and none of us realized what that was until we backrolled off the boat into the water, let the air out of our BCDs, started descending, and realized that, despite the perfect tropical visibility, there was nothing around us.  We descended without a single point of reference, freefalling into a sort of vast emptiness, before levelling off when we hit a hundred feet and swimming up to the wall of the reef, watching it slowly appear through the blue haze.  I don’t know why we haven’t been doing that all semester, but at least none of us will ever forget those final dives here.

Final exams are over, data collection has finished, directed research papers are turned in, and research presentations, cleaning, packing, and an afternoon visit to the tiny and uninhabited Long Cay are all that’s left.  When we first got to South Caicos, it took a while for me to really accept that this was going to be my home for three months.  And now that it’s just about time to leave, it’s hard to accept that I am, most likely, never going to see this place again.  I won’t miss the mosquitoes.  But I will miss Cerano’s Jamaican jerk chicken.

It’s also just about impossible to picture the transition from 90-degree weather here to 30-degree weather at home in Northern Virginia.  I don’t think I’ve felt a temperature below 75 degrees since May in Washington.  You know the scene from Cool Runnings where the Jamaican bobsled team flies to Canada – how they feel the icy grip of below-zero temperatures through an open door in the airport and gape in horror?  I’m unspeakably glad to not be flying from the Caribbean to Minnesota, like one of my roommates.  Call me Sanka, but I somehow suspect that my cold tolerance will be a bit lacking for a while.

How is it December Already?!?

It’s December, and I can’t believe it! I haven’t written a post since October, and not because I’ve had nothing to talk about, but because I’ve been so busy exploring I’ve been forgetting to write it all down. After my last post of October, our program went to Madrid for 5 days to visit el Prado, la Reina Sofia, el Palacio Realel Escorial, Toledo, and Segovia. Several students in my program, myself included took the opportunity to see a Real Madrid fútbol game, visit ham fest, find some delicious tapas restaurants, and wander around the city’s parks.

Real Madrid Game

Real Madrid Game



The Castle that Inspired Snow White in Segovia

The Castle that Inspired Snow White in Segovia

November has been filled with family barbecues, hikes around Granada, a visit to Alpujarras and Jerez, midterms, salsa dancing, a flamenco show, lots of tapas, shopping at the gypsy market, finally taking the DELE exam, and planning out my post-program travels.However, rather than review the details of ALL of the amazing trips and memorable events from the last month, I’d like to focus on a few of the more recent and unique experiences.


Alpujarras :)

Alpujarras 🙂

The white walls of Alpujarras were incredible and there were flowers everywhere

The white walls of Alpujarras were incredible and there were flowers everywhere

Loving the chocolate of the mountains
Loving the chocolate of the mountains

In mid-November, I traveled to Alpujarras in the mountains north of Granada for a day with a student travel program (Low Cost Trips Granada). We bussed up to Capileira where we got out and were able to see the highest point in the Iberian peninsula. This was one of the towns that was built by Muslims in hiding when they were exiled from Spain in the late 1500s and early 1600s. The cities used to be built with brown houses to blend into the mountains, but now they are all completely white. From there we hiked over to Bubión where we got to see a tailor at work. We then got back on the bus and went to Campaneira to visit a chocolate factory, Abuela Ili, where we were able to try a ton of the 60+ chocolates they had in their factory. I was immediately turned into the child I am and tried every single sample they put out at least two times and bought 3 bars of chocolate and 2, large, pieces of chocolate bark. 🙂



We then went to Trevélez, the highest city in Europe, which is famous for its Serrano ham. We went into a ham factory where we were able to see the curing process and then had a tasting of a variety of hams paired with a sweet wine. I, of course, was compelled to buy ham as well. Then, as we were waiting to hop back on the bus and head back down to Granada, it began to snow! I have never been so thrilled to see fluffy white flakes falling from the sky as in that moment! There is something about being so close to the mountains in Granada, much like in Tacoma, that makes me feel like it should snow. Watching the snow fall down as I stood in the highest city in Europe made me long to go back to Steamboat to ski the mountain on opening day, but it also made me feel like Spain was more like home than I had given it credit for: just like Colorado, it has snow, chocolate, and wonderful small towns that I love so much!

Ham Factory in Trevélez

Ham Factory in Trevélez


The highest city in Europe... Trevélez

The highest city in Europe… Trevélez


A Week in Granada

A paseo (walk) around Granada

A paseo (walk) around Granada

The week after Alpujarra’s was the week of the DELE (the standard Spanish language placement exam), which meant no traveling the following weekend. So we spent the week doing our final practice exams and interviews before finally heading into the 4 hour test on Friday morning. And I’m happy to say that, despite being dreadfully long, the test was not too bad. Our program had done a wonderful job of preparing us for it, and there weren’t any surprises hidden in the test. However, upon completion I looked forward to a very relaxing and rewarding weekend. Immediately after I went with a few friends for Churros and Chocolate at one of the nearby cafes to celebrate. We went out for tapas near the Plaza de Toros that night and celebrated a 21st birthday the following day with a walk around the Albaycin and a discoteca to round out the evening.

That Sunday we went to our host mom’s niece’s house in the pueblo for a barbecue. We had chorizo, pinxtos, carne, peppers, and miga (kind of like stuffing), accompanied by sangria. Then my host cousin (who happens to work in a bakery) brought out dessert, bonbons, apple tart, and a plate filled with a variety of pastries. I had a slice of apple tart (since it was as close to thanksgiving pie as I was going to get) and a pionono, which is a classic pastry from Granada that tastes like a cinnamon roll on steroids filled with cream sauce. As to be expected I had no appetite left for dinner that night and had a hard time even eating breakfast the following day.

A delicious plate of bbq food







Finally, this past weekend, I went to Jerez with two other girls from UPS to explore the city and taste the world famous sherries. We took the train and got there on Friday night and went to our apartment (we stayed in an apartment that we booked through airbnb). After checking out a map to figure out where we were in the city, we wandered down to a wine bar about 10 minutes away. The streets in this  part of the city were virtually empty with a few pedestrians and the occasional car. They were little streets that wound this way and that around the buildings. Eventually we wound up in a little plaza filled with people and headed into the sherry bar. We had a few glasses and a few tapas and hovered by a little table along the wall of the crowded bar before deciding to try another place. We walked down the street a little farther, came to another plaza, and found a little restaurant tucked away where we sat and ordered more tapas and a bottle of Tempranillo. We soon discovered that there was another plaza in practically every block of Jerez.We also went sherry tasting at the famous Tio Pepe bodega, the largest in all of Jerez, and rode around the bodega on a golf cart in our own personal tour with one other man who was from Japan.

To get a taste of home while we were away we also decided to cook ourselves some of the breakfast food we’d been missing… pancakes, hash browns, fried eggs, and of course latkes for Hanukkah 🙂 Having the ability to pick my own eating schedule and what my meals consist of is one of the luxuries I miss most about home, so this trip came at the perfect time to remind me that home is not that far away and I can always do simple things to ease the homesickness that is so common with traveling.


I am very sad to report that our program will be over in just 17 days and then I will leave Granada, my incredible host family, and the amazing friends I have met this semester. I know that when I got here the first few weeks dragged on and I thought I would never be able to understand the language or feel comfortable ordering in restaurants, talking with my host family, or listening to tours in Spanish. However, now that we’ve come into the final month of our program I am amazed at how fast it has all gone by and at how distant that first month seems. Although I am looking forward to the next phase of my travels, including Prague, Italy, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam, I am cherishing every moment I have left in Granada and hoping that these last few weeks will drag on the way I thought they might at the beginning of the program.



November farewells

I just hugged my sister and parents goodbye who came up from CA for Thanksgiving. I am feeling confused, loved, and reflective; a good emotional recipe for a blog post. So before I dive into the December pre-finals college world I will share a few fond memories from my November.

  • Performing the first movement of Lalo’s cello concerto with the North State Symphony. Such a thrilling, rewarding weekend after 3 months of hard work! I am grateful for my UPS friends and the UPS cello studio being such constructive and encouraging listeners, for the support of my family and friends, and for the inspiration and guidance of my superhuman cello professor. My dream is to someday play the entire concerto with orchestra.

Lalo with North State Symphony

  • Taking a lab exam in the pouring rain at Point Defiance Park with Rite in the Rain paper which was invented by two brothers & UPS grads (Go Loggers!) It may seem strange to call taking an exam in pouring rain a “fond memory” but somehow it is. I felt like a true student of science shivering in the rain with my waterproof paper, identifying and classifying organisms. I don’t have any photos from that day– the rain would have been lethal to my iPhone– but I’ll share this picture from our lab trip at the beginning of the year of my professor & classmates looking for sea squirts:

lab at pt. defiance

  • Exploring the streets surrounding UPS, alone and with friends. I love looking at people’s houses and decorations, smelling their flowers, and petting their animals! Here are two beautiful cats that I met on afternoon runs:

  • Watching the sun rise from behind Mt. Rainer on the steps outside my dorm. Georgia O’Keefe said of the Pedernal,

“It’s my private mountain. It belongs to me. God told me if I painted it enough, I could have it.”

Sometimes I feel this way about Rainier– that perhaps if I pause enough times to appreciate it or if I take enough pictures of it, it will belong to me.

sunrise behind mt. rainier

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, November!