País Vasco

Hola amigos,

Last weekend I took my first trip to the Basque Country, located in the north of Spain. My friend Jo and I visited the beautiful cities of Bilbao and San Sebastián. We took the train on Saturday morning from Madrid and it was a five-hour journey with some of the most incredible landscape views I have witnessed. Madrid is a very dry place and it was so refreshing to see hills of green, lush plant life, rural towns, and open space again. After dropping stuff off at our hostel Ganbara, we found a spot to enjoy some yummy pintxos. Pintxos are different from tapas because they are more filling and rich and are truly little works of art. Sorry Madrid, but pintxos are waaay better than tapas. Next, we walked over to the Guggenheim museum, which is the main tourist attraction in Bilbao. It’s a futuristic building that resembled the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. The museum consisted of three floors and as Jo and I were listening to the audio guide, we loved hearing the stories behind each painting. Many of the artists were inspired by wars, important historical and social events, and spirituality. This museum is a must-see if you are in Bilbao.

As we walked around Bilbao on Saturday I found the city’s eclectic bridges and urban planning to be very striking. The city is so clean and well-designed! Residents of Bilbao rank high on overall quality of life because of this and I can see why. As the sun was setting, we took a lift up to this viewpoint of the city and watched the sunset. There was a little park up top, a skating area, and lots of flowers and plants. If I lived in Bilbao, I would watch the sunset there everyday. There’s something so peaceful about admiring a city from above and just chatting about life with a friend. 

On Sunday we took a bus to San Sebastián and spent the day there. The trip was a little over an hour and the views were incredible! So much green, beautiful lush mountains, and small towns. When we walked out of the bus station, the river and bridge reminded me so much of Florence that it felt like we were in Italy. I swear, it was almost identical! We walked along la playa de La Concha and it was mesmerizing. The ocean was a mixture of greens and blues, people were walking or out in the water paddle-boarding, or on their boats. Another fun detail about San Sebastián is that all their benches are white and the city is sprinkled with tulips and flowers in every color of the rainbow. My absolute favorite part of the day and the entire weekend was lying down on this grassy hill beneath a palace overlooking the ocean. Jo and I just lied there soaking up the rays of sunshine, staring at the sky, admiring the sea, and we did some yoga too 🙂 

When we returned back to our hostel in Bilbao on Sunday evening, we met an American girl and a guy from Italy who were both staying in our room. Hostels are always an adventure because you never know who you’ll share a room with, but its such a fun way to connect with other travelers from all over the world, and fortunately they were both kind people. 

Before catching the train back to Madrid Monday afternoon, we took a historical walking tour in the Old Town quarter of Bilbao. Our tour guide was amazing and it was so fascinating to get a taste of the city’s roots. The people of Bilbao have such a fierce spirit and it is shown through their saying “Bilbaonada”. It means Go Big or Go Home and that is how the people of Bilbao have carried themselves throughout their history and in the present as well. Bilbao has a rich history of mythology too and they have this beautiful flower of prosperity called Eguzkilore that is supposed to protect you from evil spirits and other dangers. This flower is seen in various jewelry items and I picked up a keychain with this symbol for myself 🙂

The north of Spain is known to be cold and rainy, but Jo and I lucked out during our visit because we had nothing but sunshine and warm weather. I love the sense of peace, lush nature, open space, and the people of the Basque country. Immersing ourselves in the Basque culture was a delight and I can’t wait to visit again. Traveling with Jo was also a treat! She is human heaven and I loved wandering, taking pictures, chatting about life, and enjoying it all with her. 

Lastly, I went to an Atlético de Madrid match this past Tuesday evening and it was electric! I forgot how much I missed watching live sports and it left me itching to play tennis again. My mom’s boss in LA was visiting Madrid with her son and they had an extra ticket, thank you again Stephanie! Lots of chanting, screaming, and craziness from some hard-core fans but it was entertaining.

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Love,

Manders

you are only at war/

with what you don’t surrender to/

/// chris ferreiras

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Esperanza y La Sagrada

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Hola amigos,

I am finally returning to work tomorrow after taking all of last week off to rest and recover. 2 words, esperanza and sagrada, have been on my mind lately…

“Sagrada” = SACRED and “Esperanza” = HOPE. What is hope? I have never appreciated hope more in my life than I do now in this moment. We cannot live without it. Hope is what inspires us to keep going in the face of all the rumbling and tumbling of life. It is that nudge and beacon of light that draws us forward: to march onwards and upwards. Even a small glimmer of hope can be our salvation, our saving grace in a time of utter darkness.

This is why kindness should not be underestimated. A simple smile, giving someone a helping hand, sending a love letter, comforting someone in their time of need…These are all powerful ways that we can serve humanity and help our brothers and sisters rise up from the ground. Be that beacon of light for someone today. And if you are the one on the ground, have the courage to ask for help and you will witness the light pour into you once again.

Creating the Sacred Space- I remember doing my interviews for my Senior project in college for Sociology and discovering how important it was to build rapport with my interviewees and create a space with them that was open, safe, and sacred. I found that creating this sacred space with them from the get-go was the key to having more in-depth conversations about my chosen topic of social media and its effects on their body image. It was after this trust and openness was created, you could call it a special bond even, that they could be vulnerable with me. And this is when the magic would happen.

They would reveal to me stories that they had never told anyone else in their lifetime or have revelations about themselves because they had never had the opportunity to explore these deep topics. I can’t tell you how beautiful of a process it was to create that sacred space with them and just have an honest heart-to-heart conversation with them about anything and everything related to the topic of body image. It was magical to see how raw and deep we could go once we developed that bond.

Since then, I’ve been inspired to take this approach outside the classroom and apply it to my personal life and all my relationships with people. Right now, as I am dating, I have noticed that creating this sacred space with your date, is the key to healthy and fun dating. All of us want to feel loved, heard, seen, safe, and valued in the presence of another person. We all innately know the difference between a person who makes us feel safe and loved and a person who makes us feel NOT these things.

Its all in the energy we experience with another person. And this is why it is SO important to realize what type of energy we ourselves are giving off to other people. Without this self-awareness, it can be reckless to go around in our relationships because we’re not taking responsibility and honoring the sacredness of the heart space between two people. This simple shift in energy awareness and projection has the power to change and uplift EVERY area of your life. Are you ready for it? So, I ask you…what type of energy are you giving off as you go about your day?

Love,

Manders

Liking someone is a lot like jumping off a cliff…you are high on adrenaline, and you are falling, sometimes falling so fast that you don’t know what to do about it…into the abyss, into the unknown, transported to an alternate universe where you don’t know how long you’ll get to stay…so much excitement, so much mystery, so many possibilities…you don’t know what the end will look like or if there will even be an end…you don’t know if your feelings will be reciprocated, but you won’t know anything until you try…until you let go and surrender to the sacred dance of two people coming together as one

 

Salud

“It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.”

-Mahatma Gandhi

Health has always been a topic that is close to my heart, but this past week has reminded me just how valuable our health is.

I caught a cold before leaving for Copenhagen, but it didn’t get bad until I returned to Madrid and decided to go to work after being sleep deprived, traveling the past two weekends, and feeling sick. What can I say, I can be a little stubborn sometimes. Fortunately, I have slowly been regaining my energy and strength, but I was quite shaken because I had never felt so weak and debilitated in my life. I struggled to get out of bed in the morning and would feel out of breath just eating or walking to the bathroom. As someone who is normally an energizer bunny and likes to go to the gym and be active all the time, I have found myself sometimes getting so frustrated in this situation. The doctor told me that I am recovering from a virus and that abstaining from work, taking medication, and resting should do the trick. Despite my occasional frustration and sadness, this experience has really humbled me. It has highlighted how much I have taken my health for granted, shown me where I can better take care of myself, and inspired me to have greater compassion for those who battle sickness on a regular basis. 

We take for granted that most of us can walk, talk, hear, see, taste, touch, smell, and breathe without pain. Its so easy to get caught up with life and what we don’t have, but when is the last time you celebrated the fact that you could walk outside and enjoy the sunshine? It’s simple I know, but these small capabilities are gifts. And they are gifts that not all of us get to enjoy. Nothing in life is more important than our health. Everything else is just extra toppings on our ice cream sundae. Our health and wellbeing is the foundation for living a good life. When the roots of our health have been planted into fertile soil and we regularly water it, our branches can finally blossom. The sky is the limit! But without those strong roots and daily nurturing, our tree will not make it.

During my time in Copenhagen with Rhys, we talked about the healthcare system in Sweden. The max amount of money they will pay per year for their health care bills is 100 euros!!! MAXIMUM. Of course, their country has much higher taxes than the United States, but think about that for a minute…How nice would it be to know that no matter what happened to your health, you would be taken care of by your healthcare system. To know that they have your back. You wouldn’t have to worry about fighting the system because the system is designed to have your back. I’m not trying to hate on my country’s healthcare system. I recognize that every country and system has its pros and cons, but the United States is for sure a country that you do not want to be sick in, especially if you do not have the socioeconomic means to cover yourself.

 In any situation in life, perspective and attitude is key and will create your experience. I am reminded of my family member from the Netherlands, Adriana, who is a beautiful ray of sunshine despite having an auto-immune disease. She is always so positive and smiling and grateful for the things that she can still enjoy. Like Adriana has shown me, my intention is to turn any painful or difficult experience into something beautiful. Find the light. No matter how dark our circumstances can get, there is always a light. Find the light and decide to dwell in hope and gratitude instead of living in fear or anger or sadness or confusion. Trust that there is light and CHOOSE to live in Hope. 

Lastly, I want to express my gratitude for the people who have helped me during this time. My family is far away from me right now but thank you to Renee, Jackie, Clara, and Javier for having my back. A lot us, myself included, are hesitant to ask for help, but it is when we lean on others that they have the opportunity to show us how much they love us. Asking for help is a doorway to love and miracles. And it will show you who your real friends are.

Wishing you all the good health in the world! 

P.S. Photo credits belong to my amazing friend Javier, while doing the Camino de Santiago in Portugal 🙂

Scandinavia with My Girls

img_20190308_235425Hola amigos,

Two weekends ago I reunited with my teammates from the University of Portland in Copenhagen. I left UP during the 2nd week of my sophomore year and eventually transferred to Sonoma State University, but these girls were my 1st college teammates, so you can say that they are a little bit special 🙂 Lucy’s friend, Pauli, also joined us on this trip and the five of us had a lot of fun together. I arrived in Copenhagen on Friday night and met the girls at a hostel called Steel House. This was our first time seeing each other in 3.5 years! I can’t tell you how good it felt to lay eyes on them again, hug them, hear their foreign accents again, and just be with them. Best feeling ever! We went to McDonald’s before heading back to our Airbnb, which was located just outside the city center. I mean…what’s a trip without a visit to McDonald’s, right? But seriously, the McDonalds’ in Europe are so much nicer looking than the ones in the U.S. 

The next morning, we took a day trip to Malmö, Sweden. Taking the bus, it took us only about an hour. The weather was pretty rainy and cold during the bus ride over, but fortunately it was sunny once we arrived in Malmö. We walked around downtown, took lots of pictures, went inside a church, walked through a cemetery, saw the tallest building in Sweden, ate at a super cool food market, admired the ocean, then walked some more, and ended at Espresso House for coffee and dessert. Malmö is a small town, so we covered most of it during our visit. It was pretty barren of people and lacking a sense of liveliness, but maybe it was just because of the weather and time of year. The winds were incredibly strong that day and it was difficult to walk at some points. 

Sunday was our last day together and we all had breakfast at our Airbnb, except for Sarah, who had to leave for the airport before we ate. We walked around downtown Copenhagen, visited a castle, saw the Opera House, sat with Hans Christian Andersen, endured a little hail storm, and walked around Nyhavn. Nyhavn was one of my favorite parts because of the beautiful multi-colored buildings along the canal. It was breathtaking and it felt like you were transported into a real-life storybook or fairytale. 

I forgot how much I love and missed these girls. I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time. You know when you laugh so hard that you start to cry, and your stomach hurts, and you can barely breathe? Yeah, we did a lot of that. Maybe it’s because we are very similar. We are wanderers and rebels at heart. We love to travel, we crave spontaneity, we run towards adventure, and we welcome new life experiences. We want to explore, experiment, and expand ourselves in every area of our lives. Sometimes it hits me how strange life is…how is it that an American, a Serbian, a Slovakian, and a German can be good friends and have a reunion in Copenhagen, Denmark? The answer is tennis. We are bonded through our love-hate relationship with our sport and first love. The blood, the sweat, and the tears. We have experienced the same thrills of victory and conquering and also the same pain of injuries and losses. This sport is what brought us together, but the glue is not tennis. The glue is love. 

I spent Sunday night on my own at a hostel downtown called Urban House. I booked a dorm room with 5 other girls and got really lucky. Hostel’s are so darn cheap, I only spent 19 euros for 1 night and it is a really nice hostel too! I met two beautiful girls, one was from Stockholm and the other was from Taiwan. This is the beauty of staying at hostels…you never know who you will meet and you often meet very like-minded people who also share your love for travel and adventure. 

I spent my last day with Rhys, the girl from Stockholm, before taking the train to the airport. We got breakfast at Lidl, which consisted of three different kinds of yummy pastries. Pauli introduced me to this pizza pastry thing that is so delicious and I’m curious if they have them in Madrid… So of course Rhys and I got the pizza pastry and LOVED it! We walked around downtown, witnessed a marching/music parade in the streets, went on a lovely boat canal tour, and had ice cream even though it was pretty damn cold outside. It was honestly the BEST gelato I have had in my life. And I have had my fair share of gelato. It even beat the gelato I had in Italy.

I feel so grateful to have met Rhys on this trip. It’s like I knew her in another life or something because we just clicked right away. She also loves to travel and is just one of the coolest girls I’ve met. She’s so free-spirited, funny, kind, easygoing, mature, intelligent, curious, open-minded, and badass. She is one of those rare soul sisters we occasionally cross paths with during our journey and I can’t wait to be reunited with her again soon! Hint hint…;)

A HUGE THANK YOU to Jetso, Sarah, Lucy, Pauli, and Rhys for making this trip one of the best experiences of my life. You all have a special place in my heart and I can’t wait to see your gorgeous faces again soon!

Love,

Manders

“What you seek is seeking you.”

-Rumi

Video-game Dating and Lust

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Why do we dehumanize each other? 

So I got a Bumble a couple months ago and MY OH MY has that been a portal to a completely new world. It’s honestly been such a deep learning experience for me, but it has come with both joy and pain. I have noticed that too many people treat online dating like its a video game and seem to forget that on the other end of their cell phone is a human being with a beating heart and feelings. Don’t get me wrong, dating should be fun, but its not a game and we should remember to treat others with basic human decency, even if we aren’t interested in moving forward with them romantically.

It is unfortunate that “ghosting” has become the norm and that vague or no communication is rampant in our modern dating era. So what are we to do about this? My man Gandhi says that we must be the change that we wish to see in the world. And so it is. I’ve learned that if someone ghosts me or disrespects me, I simply need to gracefully exit the situation and wish them well. Their poor behavior is a reflection of their character and has nothing to do with my self-worth or character. We can all do ourselves a favor and not put our time or energy into people that don’t value us or support us in our journey in life. The right people will come into our lives and stay. No need to put on a show or perform a circus in order to get someone to like us. 

One more thing…if we are to reject someone who we either don’t want to see anymore or don’t have romantic feelings for, tell them. Please don’t be another person who hops on the ghosting train. Even if they aren’t happy with your sentiment, they will appreciate your honesty, if not right away, sometime in the future. And do it with kindness! This is obviously a different situation if you have been abused emotionally or physically by someone, then do what you need to do to protect yourself and get out. But if its just a matter of you not being on the same page as the other person, communicate with them. 

After all, this is real life and at the end of things is often when our true colors come out.

Empty Promises

Pretty things that excite my soul, but give me nothing in return. Oh how badly I want to give you my heart, but I realize how grand of a mistake that would be since you don’t value me the way I value you. 

Cheap Love

I like you. I want you. But I’m realizing that I want the idea of you—the hope that you’ll be the right man for me. But you aren’t. I desire Real Love, but all you give me is this fake shit. Give me your all or nothing at all. I’d rather wait for a full meal at the dinner table than settle for these measly crumbs that you leave me.

Bewitched in Málaga

 

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Hola amigos,

The text below is an article I recently wrote for a writing scholarship and it captures my experience visiting Málaga for the 1st time with my friend Tasja a couple weeks ago. I finished my application for renewal next year as an auxiliar in Spain, but when I came back from this trip, I changed my location to Málaga as my top choice because I fell in love with the place. 

Close your eyes and imagine a summer getaway paradise—a sparkling turquoise ocean with a curvy coastline bordering a variety of elegant and historical buildings, a charming and vivacious city, streets lined with palm trees and vibrant flowers, ensconced by majestic mountains…Welcome to Málaga.

A couple weekends ago, my friend and I embarked on our first trip to Málaga. We were looking for a place with charisma, warm weather, and a beach. Málaga, an Andalusian city in the south of Spain, seemed like the perfect place for our weekend escape.

From my travel adventures thus far, I have noticed that each place has its own unique rhythm—the culture, language, natural landscape, architecture, history, cuisine, and local people all come together to create a heartbeat that can only be traced to that particular city or town.

Málaga’s heartbeat sings a song of serenity and overflows your senses with a feeling of pure bliss. The sunlight dancing along the ocean, the sparkling and flowing water, the smell of the sea, the cool ocean breeze; you can feel the release of tension in your body and just all at once feel your mind and body relax and switch into a lighter way of being.

In addition to the local people or malagueños, Málaga had many Germans and other international people visiting to enjoy this delightful city. My friend and I were also lucky to be visiting during the time of Carnival, which is a popular festival that takes place before the Lenten season. Carnival is an exuberant celebration that usually consists of parades, dressing up, and partying in the streets. One evening, there were groups of people in costume singing downtown while small crowds gathered around to watch and sing along. There was also a party in the downtown plaza with music, dancing, lights, and people dressed in costume.

One thing that stood out to me about this place was its diversity of elements. No matter where your interests lie, there is something for you in Málaga. The beach and mountains offer a variety of outdoor activities such as hiking and paddleboarding. The downtown area is filled with delicious restaurants, ice cream parlors, shops, museums, and magnificent architecture. Málaga also happens to be the birthplace of Pablo Picasso and is home to one of his famous museums. It truly is a city that honors its history, but also embraces its future and you can clearly see that blend as you immerse yourself in this city.

Another lovely quality about Málaga is that it has beautiful neighboring towns and beach cities that you can easily visit using public transportation. My friend and I were able to take a day trip to Marbella and we absolutely loved it! The rolling hills, lush plant life, white Spanish buildings, and of course the beach completely bewitched us.

One of the highlights of our time in Málaga was visiting the Alcazaba and Castle of Gibralfaro. It was breathtaking to marvel at the architecture of the fortress walls and structure, the panoramic views of the city, and the gardens and flora. We spent about four hours wandering there and you can easily spend half your day walking the castle grounds. I couldn’t help but stare. My eyes were drinking in every inch of this charming city. It seemed like after every corner and down every street, my eyes grew wide with wonder and my jaw dropped in amazement. Never have I ever felt so smitten by a place and I know that this will not be my last time in Málaga.

I hope one day you have the pleasure of experiencing the enchantment of Málaga. Paradise awaits you.

Love,

Manders

An Open Picture- We all have this vision for ourselves, our goals for the future. It could be our dream car, dream job, dream partner, dream anything…I’m not saying it’s bad to have goals or know what you want, but I think it’s important in life to leave some cushion or space for mystery, for the hand of God or the Universe to guide you. Sometimes no matter how much we want something or work towards a specific goal, it doesn’t manifest to reality. I can think of a myriad of occasions in my life where I didn’t get what I wanted and sometimes I would get so caught up in sadness or frustration that I missed the miracle of the other opportunities that came to life because my initial dream didn’t work out. 

My friend Jackie told me this quote that encapsulates this idea…”Rejection is God’s protection”. It can hurt when we don’t get what we want want, especially when we have put so much of our time and energy into achieving it, but that doesn’t mean that we have failed by any means. Abundance, prosperity, success, and joy are available to all of us, but these gifts might come in a form we hadn’t expected and that is A-okay. Sometimes an ending to something or experiencing rejection is life’s way of re-directing you to something greater. 

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Chameleon

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How many of us have fallen prey to doing something to impress someone or to make them feel more comfortable? Probably most of us…

While it is wonderful to do things for others and be kind, this attitude at its extreme can backfire on you and the person you are trying to impress. Throughout my life, I have had this habit of being a chameleon. This can be a positive trait because chameleon’s adjust to their surroundings and adapt well. BUT, being too much of a chameleon is not healthy because you can easily lose yourself while adapting to those around you.

At times I can be so adaptable that I adjust/change who I am to match the energy of other people. I do this partly to relate to people deeply and connect with them, but partly it is for myself to appear like-able and make the other person feel more comfortable. Without realizing, this neutral approach prevents us from revealing our true selves to other people and therefore, we cannot genuinely and fully connect with others. Let’s use dating for an example…what if two people are together, but they’re both trying to put up a front to impress the other person? They may be kindred spirits or they may not be compatible, but they will never find out unless they show their true selves.

When you hide your true colors and pretend to be like everyone else, others who share the same kindred spirit, won’t recognize that you’re a fellow unicorn. No, not everyone will like you or show you the love that you crave and that’s okay…the people who are meant to be in your life will come to you and stay if you remain true to yourself and open yourself up to love. So show them your real stripes, yes, your scars too, wear your colors boldly and with pride, and you will be set free! 

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For my Oma

I see you in the flowers, I feel your presence in the cool breeze across my face, I see you in the trees, I feel your love in the warm rays of sunlight, I hear you in the crunch of dirt below my footsteps…

In the great outdoors is where I feel closest to you. It is here where I feel your loving arms around me and your cheerful gaze with me always.

“Find out who you are and do it on purpose.”

-Dolly Parton