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13 posts categorized "Cleo Reiss"



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     Imagine that it’s homecoming at your university. Thousands of people waking up early, wearing your school colors, friends coming from all over to celebrate this day with you, drinking, eating, singing, dancing, etc. Now picture that amount of people, food, and beers and multiply by five hundred or so. This is what Oktoberfest was like. Millions and millions of people, food and beer. This type of environment made the decision to attend the festival fairly easy.

    Cassie, my roommate and very close family friend, and I went out on a whim in early July and booked tickets for the festival. We did minimal research, but we knew hotel prices were only going to increase. With little hesitation, I entered my debit information into hostelworld.com and one minute later it was confirmed. We were going to Oktoberfest. But we weren’t only going to Oktoberfest, we were camping at Oktoberfest. I texted my friends who had gone the year prior and, based on their responses, I instantly regretted our decision to camp and not look into other arrangements. A friend of mine told me that “It was the worst experience ever”. Her entire campsite got food poisoning, it was freezing cold, and that the bathrooms were repulsive.

    I tried to take what she said with a grain of salt and see if I could convince myself that I hadn’t made such an awful impulsive decision. After all, I felt like an expert camper after surviving four nights at Firefly Music Festival through a tropical storm, so could it really be that bad? I was nervous to tell Cassie what my friend had said. Cassie’s a nurse and likes keeping things sanitary, you know, the whole not spreading germs thing…So, I sugarcoated it :), by saying it would be an experience and to my surprise she was fine with the plan!

    And to both of our surprises we loved our campsite. Yes, the bathrooms were dirty and there was never any soap or toilet paper, but we knew that so we came prepared. And maybe we didn’t shower for three full days (no judgement zone) because it was too much of a hassle, but it’s all a part of the experience right? 

    When we got to our campsite I turned to Cassie and said, “Where’s our welcome beer?”, half joking, half serious and two seconds later one of the workers magically appeared and said in his Aussie accent, “You girls need a drink?” It was clockwork. 

    We were escorted to our tent which was a teeny tiny small orange tent, perfect for two people. IMG_2116
There were two air mattresses that filled the tent to its entirety, but after sitting on mine for ten minutes it started deflating. That night I ended up sleeping in some sort of V-position. My legs elevated, my butt on the hard ground, and head elevated. Needless to say it led to a sore back the next morning.

    Our campsite was a melting pot filled with with people from all over the world. We met Brits, Parisians, Latin Americans, fellow Americans, etc. We stayed at the campsite Friday night because that’s what you do when you have unlimited beer and awesome DJ's. We had one gigantic international party. 

    The next day we arrived at the actual festival around 9:30 AM and among the mass of people (literally millions) somehow found our CIEE friends. Immediately a waitress, dressed in her drindl, managed to carry over ten steins. There’s about three to four beers in one stein and the glasses they come in are heavy. So, she was carrying about 35 beers…Pretty impressive.

    In midst of paying for my stein the entire tent started cheering and chanting. I looked up and a girl who was about my age, was chugging her entire stein while standing on the table. I later learned that this was going to occur about every minute. If you stand on the table and finish your beer everyone applauds you and of course you get bragging rights. However, if you do not finish it, the crowd boos and throws pretzels at you.

    My friend Jackie and I decided to do a practice round to see if we could handle the real deal. Total fail. We couldn’t even get through half the stein without needing a break. And to stay I just graduated college -__- 

    About an hour later we started mingling with the other people at our table. The second weekend of Oktoberfest is also known as Italian Weekend and low and behold we shared our spot with some Italians; a man who we eventually nicknamed Papa, his friends, and his sons who were 21, 18, 16. He was such a sweet man, talking about his sons and how he wants us to date them. He didn’t speak any English and I can’t speak Italian so his son had to translate for us. Almost every minute he would cheers us, stein to stein, and start laughing hysterically for pretty much no reason at all. We started chanting Papa, Papa, Papa, several times encouraging him to stand on the table and finish his beer. But he refused as his face reddened and instead chose to chug on the floor. IMG_2194

    To my disappointment, I only lasted four hours at the festival before heading back to the campsite. I missed the food and the rides, but I still had an incredible experience. After all, it is the largest beer drinking festival in the world, holding over 6 million people and dating back back to the year 1810. The amount of consumed beer is 7.5 million liters, enough to fill three olympic size swimming pools! Prost to that!


Photo credit: Amanda Boccardi 


Good "Piso" Hunting

    I felt like a chicken with its head cut off trying to find an apartment in Madrid, especially in September. As the summer comes to an end, everyone in Madrid returns from vacation, the international students begin their semesters abroad, and thousands of auxiliares, just like me, hop across the pond for our 10 month journey in Spain’s capital. What do all three of these groups have in common?...

     We are all searching for apartments, pisos. Reasonably priced, in specific neighborhoods, with decently sized rooms and cool, young, international roommates. This is a pretty specific search for someone who is racing against the clock and against thousands of other people to find housing. Some pisos were in the perfect location, but the rooms were the size of a shoebox or the rent would end up costing me my entire paycheck. Others were ideal, but the landlords didn’t provide contracts (which are highly recommended to have) or there were no living rooms to hangout and spend time with the other roommates. 

    After a few rounds of trial and error I began to learn the ropes. I took away four important lessons from this piso searching process.

1. It’s important to be open-minded. It’s very difficult to find exactly what you’re looking for, in such a small period of time. Don’t settle, but be open to changing your preferences.

2. Stay organized. I must have had 4 landlords named Maria, 3 Jesús’, 2 Javier’s, and surprisingly only 1 Carlos saved in my contacts. I couldn’t keep track of who was who, and what and where.

3. Ask questions first. It would be a waste to see an apartment that only had one room available when you were looking for two. Or to see an apartment in your ideal neighborhood, but not be able to sign a contract. Asking questions up front saves you time and energy.

4. “Be aggressive, be be aggressive.” You are more likely to get a response when you pick up the phone to call, than when you send an email. If they don’t answer, try messaging them on WhatsApp. If they have read your message but haven’t responded, send them a friendly reminder. The saying, "The early bird catches the worm" certainly holds true here. They want to rent the apartment just as quickly as you do. It’s okay to be a little eager. 

    My roommates and I were running around the city like mad women from appointment to appointment leaving each one with a frown on our face. We must have seen 12 pisos before we found the right one. But when you do find the right one, it feels like two fifty pound pesos, weights, (not to be confused with pisos), one on each shoulder, have been lifted from you. Then it calls for a glass of vino.

Our landlord Jesús, me, Amanda, Cassie, & Vanessa. 11998952_10153242035423860_6463739795258502422_n


El salón de nuestra piso - The living room of our apartment. 11951240_10204668421885586_484470810620539058_n (1)


CIEE Four Week Immersion Program Equation

     Our program consists of an equation that equals the CIEE four week immersion program. The first variable is our homestay for four weeks. There’s 6 of us from CIEE, 6 girls and one bathroom, and our señora y señor. 12004106_1203807829646123_4559109239859650606_n (1)
We have family dinners just about every night, which end up with us holding our stomachs because we are either too full that it hurts or we are laughing because of the language barrier / miscommunication. Needless to say, it’s a very special and enjoyable time for all of us. Secondly, we take Spanish classes for four weeks, 3 hours a day. We are divided by level and each class has two teachers, each for 1.5 hours. Lucky for my class, and from what I have heard about all the classes, is that the teachers are wonderful. We discuss practical things like recycling, politics, and social issues, both in Spain and the United States, so not only are we speaking, reading and writing in a second language, but we are learning and discussing topics that are important to us and society. And thirdly, our school, Tandem, gives us a weekly schedule of optional (highly encouraged) activities in which to participate. They range from museum tours, to flamenco lessons, to excursions to other Spanish cities. There’s a bunch to choose from that are free or come at a price. These three ingredients, homestay, classes, and activities are what truly make this an immersion program. If we were to miss one variable in the equation, we wouldn’t be getting the full experience.

    I want to talk about one activity in particular that helped me understand Spanish culture. It was titled Juegos de mesa epsañoles which translates to “Spanish table games”. Just like we have traditional card games that are played in the United States like Gin Rummy, Crazy Eights, and many others, Spaniards have different games that are common to play with family and friends. The two we learned were called Burro (which I will explain) and Siete y media, but first we learned about the deck of cards because they differ from the ones we use in the states.

    Just like we have Jacks, Queens, Kings and Aces, a Spanish deck, baraja, has sotas, caballos, and reys. Their decks are split into four suits, palos, called oros, copas, bastos, y espadas.

Spanish and American decks are similar however, a Spanish deck does not contain the numbers 8, 9, and 10.  A traditional deck contains 40 cards and by removing the 8, 9, and 10 from each suit, you reach 40. When I asked our professor why these cards were missing he said it was “tradition”, which is a very important value in Spanish culture. After we learned a bit about the deck we were able to begin our first game.

    Burro doesn’t require many skills, except quick reflexes. Each player gets an equal number of cards and puts down one, without looking. Simultaneously while putting down the card, the player says the consecutive number from the player beforehand. If the card number happens to match the spoken number, anyone can slap the deck while shouting "burro!". The person who’s hand is on the bottom collects the entire pile and begins again with number 1. If someone tries to sneak a peak at their cards, we call them una trampa, a cheater. Although this game is primarily based on luck, we learned that un tahur, is someone who is very good at card games, and la revancha, means to have the advantage. All in all, this game creates a lot of laughs and possibly some bruised hands if you aren’t careful!

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