Friday, May 7, 2010

going home

Well, it looks like the Sevilla trip isn't going to happen. My travel buddy is backing out on me two days before we planned on going; so much for that. Needless to say I'm not too happy, but I guess I'll have a little extra money in my pocket, which will be good for when I get home and I have to pay rent. Aww, man...that's right. I have to get back to real life and be all responsible and junk. Boo.

I'm going home in nine days. With final exams breathing down my neck, I'm looking forward to those days flying by so I don't have to worry about tests and papers anymore, but I don't want to rush the little time I have left here. This has been an amazing experience and I know I'll miss Spain the second I set foot on the airplane in Madrid. Still, I know I'll be happy to be home.

Things I miss in Minnesota:

Those of you who know me well know that my family is really tight-knit. I've never gone longer than a couple months without seeing them, or at least knowing that if there was an emergency they were only a couple hours away. Thank God for Skype. I don't know how I would have survived five months without getting to see their faces occasionally. I can guarantee there will be tears on my end when I see my parents and sister at the airport.
I've met a lot of great people here, but I miss so many people back home. I've missed birthdays, performances, weddings, and other important events of theirs that I would have been at in a heartbeat if it hadn't been for the inconvenient distance.
I love my pets. Misty may be a fat lump the size of a bear cub who leaves a disgusting layer of gray fur over all of my clothes, and Jones may be certifiably insane and use my hand as a scratching post/chew toy, but darn it, I'm going to cuddle the hell out of both of those adorable furballs when I get home.
I miss my ridiculously comfortable bed. I miss my beautiful electric keyboard that I can't play to save my life but can plunk out melodies and sing along. I miss having a shower bigger than a vertical coffin where I don't have to worry about cracking my head against the wall bending over for a shampoo bottle. I miss living in a house where the air isn't permeated with the smell of cigarette smoke and seafood soup. I miss having the freedom to invite friends over and just hang out, order pizza, and watch a movie, rather than feeling forced to go out every weekend.
I've had the strongest-and strangest- cravings while I've been here: macaroni and cheese with hot sauce, orange chicken and cream cheese wantons from Dragon Palace, loaded burritos and chips and guacamole, pancakes drowned in syrup, bacon and scrambled eggs, raw veggies and dill dip, peanut butter and pickle sandwiches (I KNOW it sounds weird, but don't knock it until you try).
Spanish is a beautiful language. I wouldn't be majoring in it if I didn't like it. But I miss my native language. It's really hard to be sarcastic when you have to translate it first.
I don't mind walking everywhere for the most part. It's good exercise, and now that the weather's nice it's really enjoyable. It's not as much fun when it's down pouring, though. I've also completely worn out my sneakers; they look ready to fall apart at any second. I definitely miss the convenience of driving.
I miss stores that have EVERYTHING- clothes, food, movies, medicine, whatever. The only place like that here is Corte Ingles, which is basically a mall and ridiculously overpriced. I miss Target and Kohls and Walgreens. I miss stores that don't close for the afternoon (one downside of siesta) and stay open later than 8:30 P.M.

Things I will miss about Spain:

More specifically, the sweets. Churros con chocolate, sugary pastries the size of my head, super rich ice cream, the strongest, most delicious coffee I have ever tasted, pikotas (these sugar coated strawberry flavored chewy candies)....I have no idea how I managed to lose weight here.
I've met so many great people here. Not just Spaniards, who helped me with my Spanish and taught me about the culture, but other students from all over the U.S. who were going through exactly what I was: the culture shock, the new experiences, the classes. Hopefully we'll stay in touch after we leave.
I don't know why they don't do this in the U.S., especially in college towns. Cheap drinks that come with delicious free food? Yes, please.
There is SO much to do here. Live music, dancing, eating, drinking, exploring- all until the wee hours of the morning.
The river has become a popular hang out spot for my friends and me. We go to the supermarket across the street, buy a ninety-nine cent package of juice-box sized boxes of wine (because we're classy like that), and sit against the wall and talk until sunset.
I'm not much of a napper, but I love living in a country where there's a designated time period in the day to be lazy. This really should be established back home.
While I might not be a fan of the store hours, I LOVE their merchandise. I've gotten a decent amount of cute clothes here, and thanks to rebajas, these crazy sales that go on in all the stores from Christmas to March, it was all pretty cheap.
Classes here are ridiculously easy. Teachers assign little to no homework. They show up about ten minutes after class is scheduled to start. I'm looking forward to my classes in Winona next semester, but I'm going to have to get used to actually having assignments and tests given regularly.

Yeah. It's definitely going to be a bittersweet goodbye. I love being here, but I could never live here. Hopefully I'll have more chances to visit in the future, especially since there's so much of Spain that I still haven't seen. If I do end up teaching high school Spanish maybe I'll get the chance to chaperone some school trips. If that doesn't happen, I could always marry rich. Yes, that is my backup plan if teaching doesn't work out.

Anyway, since this next week is going to be filled with finals and essays I probably won't get another chance to update, so this will be my last post (I know I said I'd have at least two more but...I lied). Thanks to everyone who's been reading this blog. Even if you haven't commented, my mom has told me that a lot of you have been telling her how much you've enjoyed it, and that makes me happy. I can't wait to see everyone when I get home and ramble more about my adventures to your lovely faces.

Nos vemos pronto (see you soon)!

PS: Not sure why it says I posted this on the is the 13th. Silly blogspot.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

ten random facts about Spain/Granada

Three weeks. I have THREE weeks left here. Where did the time go!? I definitely have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I know that this has been an incredible experience and I'll be lucky if I ever get to be here again anytime soon, so I'm trying to make the most of these last few weeks. On the other hand, I am so excited to go home and see my family and live in my own house and speak my own language. It's definitely going to be a bittersweet goodbye.

I've learned a lot living in a foreign country for a whole semester, and I've compiled a small list of random facts I have picked up over the past few months:

  1. If you smile at someone in the street it means you're making fun of them (if they're the same gender as you) or that you want to have sex with them (if they're the opposite gender). I didn't learn this until a few weeks after I arrived and hadn't shaken off my Minnesota Nice habits. Whoops.
  2. If you are crossing the street and a car is coming, even if they are about twenty feet away, they will honk incessantly and SPEED UP as if you were a target in Grand Theft Auto.
  3. Even though they're supposed to, people never clean up after their dogs. There are also a lot of strays, and obviously there is no one to clean up after them, so you really have to watch your step.
  4. Bars here close at four A.M. Clubs close at seven A.M. I am going to have serious problems adjusting my weekend schedule when I get home.
  5. It is now illegal to perform music in the streets (at least in Granada; I don't know if it applies to the rest of Spain) but people still do it anyway, which I love. Nothing makes your day a little brighter than an adorable Spanish guy playing violin.
  6. They greet each other here by a kiss on each cheek. The first person to greet me this way was my gorgeous host brother. WIN.
  7. Schedules here are pretty relaxed. From classes to meal times to meeting friends, "on time" generally means "ten minutes after we agreed to meet." It's nice in the sense that you're rarely ever late, but if you're a spaz like I am and have to be on time for everything, it takes some getting used to.
  8. The Spanish pronunciation of Laura and "la hora" ("the time/hour") sound very similar, which often results in me looking around, confused, and then feeling like an idiot.
  9. People here are loud. It's difficult to tell if people are fighting or just having a very animated conversation.
  10. Swear words here are called "tacos." This will never fail to make me giggle.
Hopefully this was enlightening for all of you. Clearly, the really important aspects of the culture have stuck with me.

I'll probably only update this a couple more times before I go home. There are still quite a few things I want to do and see before I leave, and with those on top of finals looming around the corner I probably won't have much time to write here. I promise at least two more posts before I leave.

OH, unrelated to Spain, but last week I was voted president of Sigma Delta Pi (national Spanish honor society) and found out that something I wrote is going to be published in Satori, WSU's annual literary arts magazine. I'm really excited about both pieces of awesome news from home so I felt like sharing it here. :)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I can sleep through an earthquake

Apparently, I did. There was one in Granada early Monday morning, but I guess it was about six hundred kilometers deep and didn't make much of an impact; no injuries or deaths, no major destruction. It's still cool to say that I survived an earthquake, even if I wasn't aware of it when it happened.

Nerja was absolutely beautiful. I bought a ridiculously overpriced disposable camera and took some pictures while I was there, so I can't wait to get them developed. It was pretty windy but otherwise warm. I got something resembling a tan. Awesome.

I registered for classes back in Winona for fall semester. ALL English courses. I'm really excited, and I'm psyched all the classes I needed were available, but it's going to be so weird not taking a Spanish class for the first time in about fifteen years. Oh, well. I'm still in two Spanish clubs at school, and I've got my tutoring job, so hopefully I can keep practicing that way.

There's nothing else really exciting to report. I just felt like I should update. Five more weeks here. CRAZY.

Friday, April 9, 2010

I finally went to a discoteca last night-Camborio. It's up in the Sacromonte and the view is absolutely breathtaking; you can see the Alhambra all lit up. It was SO cool. The club itself was actually pretty nice too; not exactly my scene, but if I had to go to one night club while I was here, I'm happy it was that one. It wasn't that big or crowded, which definitely appealed to my slightly antisocial tendencies, because I didn't feel too overwhelmed. It was ladies' night, which meant free entrance, free champagne, and free cocktails (basically the only way to get me on the dance floor). I ended up leaving around 3:30 (early by standards here; my roommates left around 5:30, I think). It was fun, but considering how my stomach feels this morning, I think it's an experience I don't necessarily have to repeat.

We're going to the beach in Nerja tomorrow, and I'm pretty excited. I've heard it's a bit of a tourist-y area but it's supposed to be gorgeous, and I've never actually been to the ocean, so this will be a fun first for me too. I love that it's nice enough to go to the beach. The weather has been amazing since mid-March; it's just been non-stop sun and seventy+ degree weather. I'm actually getting something resembling a tan, which never happens (my mom has said before that I go from looking like a corpse to flesh-colored in the summer, but that's normally as far as it goes), so hopefully by the time I get back to Minnesota I will be noticeably browner.

I can't believe I only have a little over a month left here. I'm kind of excited- I love it here, but I'll be happy to see my family and friends and pets and enjoy the comforts of home- but there's so much I want to do before I go! I'm hoping I can make a day trip to Sevilla-the school's not planning one this month so I might just have to go on my own (well, with friends, but not with a guide or tour group or anything), I still need to see a flamenco show, check out the Capilla Real where los Reyes Catolicos are buried, the Parque de Ciencias (I'm getting annoyed of spellcheck underlining all of these Spanish words as I'm typing), and a few other things that I can't remember. Holly, Kristen and I made a list of things we want to do before we go home so I'll have to check that.

Anyway, I'm off to do a little souvenir shopping. Hasta luego!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Rome: day 7

This morning started out eventfully. Kristen and Karl almost got arrested. Apparently any store in Italy has to provide you with a receipt, but we've been using these vouchers our hostel gave us to get breakfast at a bar nearby, so we haven't gotten any. A cop saw them drinking a bottle of water, and when they couldn't show him a receipt he asked to see their passports. He didn't speak English either, but luckily a nearby customer was able to translate for them. Once everything was explained, neither of them were in trouble, but the hostel and the bar might be. Yikes.

Our first stop was the Cripta di Capuccini, this crypt decorated entirely with human bones. The patterns on the ceilings, the holders for the torches and lamps, the few small pieces of furniture-all bones. There were skeletons of all these monks displayed, still in robes, either lying down or posed with crucifixes. Some of them weren't even skeletons yet; a couple corpses still had something resembling skin (sorry, I'm sure I'm grossing a few of you out, but it was fascinating). It's creepy and old and unbelieveably cool. It definitely appealed to my horror addiction.

After that we went to a park, where Holly and Karl rented this bike-cart hybrid thing while the rest of us sat in the sun and ate. A flower vendor tried to hassle us, but I told him I was allergic and pretended (very poorly) to sneeze when he shoved the flowers in my face, so he left me alone.

Once Holly and Karl were done, we went to a gelato shop that has the reputation for having the best gelato in the world. I got rum and chocolate and I can honestly say they lived up to their reputation. After that we wandered around a little longer-Holly wanted to buy postcards and Kristen wanted to get some pizza-then took the train back to our hostel, grabbed our stuff, and headed to the airport. Now we have a two hour flight to Madrid and sleeping on a cold marble airport floor until our 6 AM flight to Granada to look forward to. Yippee. Oh, well. This entire week was worth a little discomfort at the end of it. I'm so happy I got the chance to see Italy again, and even if I don't have my camera, I know I don't need it, because I'll never forget this trip. Maybe I should make this a tradition and go back in another five years...on my high school teacher's salary...hey, it could happen.

Rome: day 6

We arrived in St. Peter's Square around 10 AM. It was absolutely packed towards the front. Why? BECAUSE THE POPE WAS THERE!!!!!! That's right. We saw the POPE. Well, we saw him from a distance. He drove around the main crowd where the chairs were (we were toward the back of the square) in his Pope-mobile, then he said an Easter blessing in English, Spanish, German, French, and Italian. Apparently he does this every Wednesday, so we really lucked out being in Rome for this half of the trip. I mean, I'm not exactly religious, but seeing the Pope in person, even if it wasn't close-up, was insanely cool regardless.

After the Pope left, we went into the Basilica. I had forgotten how gorgeous it was. I saw the part where we had our first concert during the EHS choir trip, so I had fun reminiscing about that. After we were done looking around, we went outside and got in line to climb to the top of the Cupola. We met a couple Austrian boys who were standing behind us; they were eavesdropping for a while (I could hear them repeating things we said in between their German) and then they asked where we were from. "We thought you were from some rich country that spoke English," one explained when I told him. We didn't get much of a chance to chat more once we started climbing the FIVE HUNDRED AND FIFTY-ONE STEPS up to the top. It was spiraling too, and the walls turned inward and were closer together as it got higher, adding serious vertigo and claustrophobia to my exhaustion. It was completely worth it, though. The view was breathtaking; we could see all of Rome from up there. It was a beautiful day for it, too, sunny and clear and breezy. We ran into the Austrian guys on the way down and they asked if they could take a group picture with us. It was cute how excited they were about getting their picture taken with us, although my friends claimed they asked us just so one of them could get a picture with me, because he went to stand next to me right a way. I definitely didn't get that vibe, but they did high-five when they walked away, so if my friends were right I guess I should feel pretty flattered; he was kind of cute. Maybe Austrian guys find sweaty, winded, dorky American girls incredibly sexy. Lucky me!

After the Basilica, Kristen, Holly, Jake and Mike went into the Vatican Museum, but Karl and I were feeling a little strapped for cash (Visa is being stupid AGAIN so I'm not sure if I can take out more money while I'm here) so we ended up sitting by the river, listening to music on Karl's iPoid. It felt good to rest, and now I have a lot of new music I need to add to my collection when I get home.

Once the others had finished around 5:30, we sat in St. Peter's Square again, because we had to meet Lindsey at 7 for dinner. Weirdly enough, we saw a group of other CLM students while we were waiting. What a random place to run into someone. We chatted for a few minutes and then we left. OH. We saw a seagull attack a pigeon! It just divebombed the pigeon and grabbed it by the neck with its beak and almost flew off with it. It was terrifying. Poor birdie.

Lindsey ended up taking us to this great restaurant a couple blocks from her apartment. It was called Il Fate (the fairy) and we got the best bruschetta I've ever had, fettucini (made fresh that morning) in a creamy tomato sauce, this kind of soft biscotti covered in this coffee-flavored custard cream and really tasty white wine for just ten euro per person. They have a student menu, so you don't get to pick what you get, but everything was delicious and unbelieveably cheap. We hall headed back to our hostel full, tired, sunburned, and happy.

I can't believe tomorrow is our last day. I'm not really sure what we're going to do, because our flight doesn't leave until almost 9 PM. Probably more sightseeing...which would be a lot more fun if I had a camera. Grr. Oh, well. I'll have to enjoy being here while I can.

Rome and L'Aquila: days 4-5

We spent most of Monday travelling. The train ride was about four hours, and the hostel we're staying at is right across the street from the Ciampino train station. I like that our hostel is just outside of Rome so once we get tourist-ed out we can come back here and chill. Once we checked in and had lunch, we took the train into Rome and literally walked across the city. Our first stop was the Trevi Fountain, and I was grinning so hard I thought my face would fall off; I was so happy to see it again. We meandered for a while, stopped at the Pantheon and Piazza Navona, where I got some of the most amazing straciatella gelato I've ever eaten (sorry, Ring Mountain), walked along the Tevre and got to St. Peter's Basilica by the time it was dark.

This morning, while my friends went to tour the Colloseum and the Roman Forum, I met up with Lindsey and we took a bus to L'Aquila. I wasn't sure what to expect, since it was hit pretty hard by the earthquake last year. There was a lot of construction, but surprisingly most of the historic center was still intact. It's a really pretty town, super green and surrounded by mountains. According to an article I read, the state arcive building was destroyed in the earthquake, so I couldn't really do any research about my great-grandparents, but it was still so much fun being in a city that no one in my family-well, no one in my immediate family-has been since they left over a hundred years ago. Unfortunately, there's a good chance that the tons of pictures I took documenting the trip are gone-along with my entire camera. Once we were off the bus and were heading back to the train station I realized I didn't have it with me. I had left it on my seat. We ran back to the bus station but didn't have any luck. Lindsey's going to check back tomorrow and see if anyone turned it in, and I'd really like to believe that anyone who finds it would be nice enough to do that, but I'm not holding my breath. I started crying on the way back to the train statin (and felt even worse; I hate crying in public). I know it's not the end of the world; Lindsey took quite a few pictures on her camera, but I was still so disappointed. The part of this trip I was most excited about was sharing my pictures with my parents and aunts and uncles so they could experience it through my eyes, but unless I get really lucky that probably won't happen.

I need to stop bumming myself out, so I'll wrap this up. Vatican tomorrow.

On our way out to the common room, Karl stopped me in the hall and asked if I was okay. God, I hate when people ask me that when I'm not, because I can't say no. The waterworks just turn on automatically, as much as I try to bite it back. I managed to say something along the lines of "'s just...uh..." before dissolving into tears again, humiliated, and shuffled back to our room. He was so nice about it, though. He followed me into the room, gave me a hug, and tried to comfort me, saying maybe Lindsey would find my camera, and that he could make a CD with the photo's he'd taken here. I felt like such an ass, crying over something as stupid as a camera-although the only thing I'm really upset about losing is my L'Aquila photos, although I was crying too much to explain that adequately- but he was really nice about it. I'm lucky to have such good friends here. I felt a lot better after that (and even better after a little wine; God, when did I become such a lightweight!?). Anyway, things are good now. I'm happy I can end this entry on a positive note.