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.

Florence: day 3

I started out my morning pleasantly enough-by tumbling down the stairs. Okay, I'm exaggerating. It was only the last few. The staircase here is really dark, so it's impossible to see the bottom steps. I banged my arm against the corner of the wall and twisted my ankle a bit, but otherwise I was okay.

We arrived at the Accademia around 9 AM and surprisingly didn't have to wait in line at all. Most of the art got repetetive after a while (baby Jesus and Mary, baby Jesus and Mary, baby Jesus and Mary, oh, look, baby Jesus and Mary and a creepy looking angel!). It was cool seeing the David again, though. I don't think I appreciated how impressive it is when I saw it in high school- I mean, when you're sixteen and you see a massive statue of a naked man, your attention probably isn't focused on the artistic details. It's an amazing sculpture; right down to the veins in his arm, the David is unbelieveably lifelike (besides twenty-foot height and all-over marble complexion). There was also a musical instrument exhibit that I really enjoyed; it was a nice break from the practically identical biblical paintings, anyway.

After the Accademia we planned on going into the Duomo, but all of it besides the tower was closed, and entrance to that cost six euro. We decided not to waste our money on getting winded climbing four hundred something stairs, opting instead to climb the ones to the lookout from the day before to have lunch there again. Most of the group decided to take the train to Pisa a little after lunch, but I passed. I had a bit of a headache, and anyway, I'd already seen the leaning tower before; there's not much worth seeing in Pisa besides that. Kristen chose not to go either, so we napped back at the hostel instead. Now I'm going to shower, relax a bit more, and then the two of us will grab dinner later (pasta tonight-YES!).

I just got back from dinner. Bruschetta Fiorentina, ravioli and mushrooms in truffle sauce (which I'd never had before but had heard about on cooking shows and I was curious), and a canoli with candied orange rind and chocolate lining the inside of the pastry. I am going to gain back every pound I have lost, drag our plane back to Spain crashing down under my ungodly amount of Italian food-induced weight, and I will die happy.

Florence: days 1-2

First of all, I'm surprised we made it to Italy alive. This is not an exaggeration; the turbulence during the descent into Bologna was a nightmare. It felt like we were on a roller coaster, the way it was dropping so fast and tilting from side to side. One girl actually had a panic attack. Kristen and I were grabbing our armrests, staring at each other, terrified, thinking we might actually die. Once we landed on the ground (and I resisted the urge to drop to my knees, sobbing, and kiss the grimy airport floor), we took a bus to the Bologna train station, took a train to Porto, ran like crazy to catch the connecting train to Florence, and finally reached our hostel around 7:30. It's pretty nice; small, but comfortable, and the Romanian girl who works at the front desk is really sweet.

Once we had settled in, we headed out to find somewhere for dinner (pizza, of course). The place the receptionist recommended to us was packed, and we stood there for an hour, squashed against the walls by masses of rushed, loud Italians (not exactly helpful considering my combination of agoraphobia and jet lag). It was well-worth the wait, though. Holly and I split a prosciutto and mushroom pizza. I had forgotten how incredible authentic Italian pizza was until last night. It will take every ounce of my self-control not to eat it for every meal this week. After dinner, we returned to the hostel and crashed.

We woke up about an hour after Holly's alarm went off on Saturday. I would have loved to sleep in until noon, but we had a lot of sightseeing to do as we're only in Florence for two full days. We stopped at a grocery store for breakfast (pastries and fruit) and made our way to the Santa Maria del Fiori Duomo. Just seeing it brought memories flooding back; standing between the Duomo and the Battistero, it didn't feel like five years had passed. After pausing for some photos, we continued walking toward the Arno. I don't remember going to Ponte Vecchio during the high school trip; at least, I hadn't heard "O, Mio Babbino Caro" (which was stuck in my head for most of the day-EVOC's version, of course) so the name wouldn't have rung any bells at that point. It was pretty sunny, and the Arno was beautiful, deep and green and glittering; nothing like the muddy trickle running through Granada.

After a little more exploring and sightseeing we went up to this lookout (the stairs reminded me of how disgustingly out of shape I am) where we had lunch. After that, we went to the Galleria degli Uffizi, which is enormous. It made me regret not paying better attention in western civ in high school, because I recognized a lot of names but couldn't remember much about them. After that we explored a little more, tried to buy tickets for the Accademia (but the office was closed), then finally returned to our hostel to rest before dinner. We ended up getting pizza again (well, five of us did). I have no regrets in my decision making regarding food...OH! I got NON-CHOCOLATE gelato today! When I was here last time all I got was chocolate, so I decided I'd fight my addiction and branch out a bit this time. I chose mixed berry and it was amazing. I might have to go back to my usual tomorrow, though.

When we got back to the hostel, most of the group went upstairs to hang out/drink, but I gave in to my not-so-inner nerd and stayed in the room and read. I started my book yesterday on the plane, and now I only have three chapters left. I'm not trying to brag. Honestly, it's a bad habit, because I don't enjoy the book as much as I should and I run out of reading material too quickly.

Anyway, I'm falling asleep on my notebook and we're getting up at 7:30 so I will wrap this up. Buona sera (or is it notte? I forget)!


Ciao, tutti! I just got back from Italy around 8:30 this morning. One week is not enough. I love Spain, and I know that I haven't done much travelling otherwise, so saying this might sound silly, but Italy is my favorite country. There is so much history there; it's like stepping back in time just walking around it. I was mistaken as being Italian at least three times, which was pretty cool. People singled me out of my group of friends to ask me questions, so I felt pretty special, although I felt bad that I couldn't answer; my Italian vocabulary is limited to "hello," "goodbye," "please," "thank you," "you're welcome," "Don't touch me," "Go away," and a couple more colorful words. Being in Rome and Florence brought back great memories from the EHS choir trip, and I made some great new memories with my new friends here. I kept a journal while I was there, so I'll copy the entries here.

Oh, and there is no way I can smoothly transition into this, and there's nowhere else that this fits, but it played a big part in our travels, so it has to be mentioned one way or another. Jake and Mike, two of the guys I was travelling with, decided to say "Eet's-ah-ME! MA-rio!" or "Eet's-ah-ME! LuIgi!" (respectively) about five hundred times a day EVERY day we were in Italy. They probably pissed off so many Italians with their horrible, obnoxious imitations, but it still made me laugh every time I heard it, because apparently I have the sense of humor of a twelve-year-old boy. Seriously, Mario Brothers became the theme of our trip and I loved it.

Alright. Moving onto the journal entries. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I'm sunburned!

It has been sunny for the past six days, and there's a chance of rain only once this week! THANK YOU, Spanish weather, for finally living up to my expectations! Walking to school is so wonderful during the day: no need for my coat, get to sport my super cool prescription shades, ha ha. Yesterday Kristen and I sat out by the river for about two hours just soaking in the rays. It felt amazing! Hopefully it just keeps getting better from here.

Emily was here last week, and we had a blast. My roomies and I had so much fun showing her around Granada, stuffing her full of churros and chawarma, and hanging out on the roof of her incredibly cool hostel. We took her to Cafe Futbol, R&S, and the cathedral (a first for the rest of us; it's SO overwhelmingly beautiful) and she did some cool activities with her hostel people while we were in classes. I was so bummed that she had to leave on Sunday, but I suppose WSU probably wouldn't accept "extending my spring break in Spain a week" as a decent excuse for skipping classes. Darn. Oh, well. It was really fun having her here and we all miss her!

Sunday I went to Ronda with the CLM. I'd never even heard of it before signing up, and it's a really small city, but it's absolutely breathtaking, with all these views of huge cliffs and rolling hills and crumbling castle walls. It's really well-known for bull fighting too, which doesn't interest me too much- I think it's really cruel- but we went to the bullring and the bull fighting museum, which was cool to see just for the historical aspects (and the pretty costumes...). I took loads of pictures (and practically exhausted my camera battery) so expect them on facebook/flickr sometime this week.

The week after next is our spring break because it's Semana Santa (Holy Week). Kristen, Holly, Karl, two guys from our class, and I are going to ITALY!!!!! We leave next Friday and come back to Granada the following Thursday. The first half we'll be in Florence and the second half we'll be in Rome. I swore after the choir trip I'd go back someday, but I didn't think it'd be so soon! So much for learning Italian before then...oh, well! I'm also meeting up with a friend from high school, Lindsey, who's studying in Rome, to take the bus to L'Aquila for a day. My great grandparents on my dad's side are from there and I really want to explore and take some pictures for my family. I'm beyond excited! It still doesn't seem real. There's a good chance. I'm going to have to try so hard not to start sobbing when I see the Trevi Fountain again.

Anyway, that's everything of interest for now. I can't believe I only have two months left here. Time really is starting to fly. I can't wait to see what the rest of this trip brings!


Monday, March 1, 2010


The beginning of the trip was a little shaky. We decided to take a bus to the bus station this time rather than a taxi and save a little money, but we didn't consider how horrible the traffic is around 1 PM here. Our bus to Madrid left at two...without us. We went to see if we could switch our tickets to a different time. Nope. We had to buy new ones. And we ended up on different buses, so Alisha got to Madrid about an hour before I did. Once we were both there, we took the metro to Gran Via and took about a half an hour to find our hostel. It was on the seventh floor of this building and not really marked, so we passed it a few times. The place was really nice, and the couple who owned it was really sweet and helpful. We shared a room with a couple of guys, one from Wisconsin and one from New Jersey, and they were both really nice, although we didn't meet them until the next morning- they were still out when we went to bed.

The next day, Saturday, we had breakfast at the hostel, then went out to explore a little before meeting Abby and Tina. The weather was awful- windy and raining on and off. Apparently it was about eighty degrees and sunny in Granada on Saturday. Clearly bad weather just follows me everywhere in Spain. It was still fun walking around and taking pictures, though. We went to Abby and Tina's hostel around 1, but they weren't there yet so we went to a little Italian restaurant across the street to have lunch while we waited. We finally saw them walk up to their hostel and I nearly wiped out running to meet them. I was SO happy to see Abby. After being so far away from home for a couple months, seeing a familiar face was the best feeling in the world. I'd met Tina once before, when I had visited Abby in Boston, and she was just as nice as I'd remembered. We decided to meet up again at four so they could check in and relax after their flight, so Alisha and I headed back to our hostel, first stopping at a supermarket to buy microwave popcorn (our host family doesn't have a microwave and we've been desperate for popcorn, so when we found out our hostel had a microwave we took full advantage of it).

At four, we met up with Abby and Tina and went to Plaza Mayor. Besides being an absolutely beautiful part of the city, there are lots of really unusual street performers. Madrid must be obsessed with Disney characters, especially Mickey, Minnie, and Winnie the Pooh, because I saw three or four of each of them. The best, though, was Fat Spiderman. Weird, I know, but my friend Stevie, who came here last year, told me to look for him, and he was well worth the search. He was hilarious. He spoke English, so we had fun talking with him about crime fighting and his spidey babies (which is why we had to donate a few cents-gotta support the spidey family) and taking some great pictures with him. After that, we bought coffee (and hot chocolate in Abby's and my case), checked out a few souvenir shops, and went back to our hostels to rest until dinner.

At eight thirty we met up again and walked around until we stopped at the least crowded and most appetizing restaurant we could find. It was great; I hadn't really gone out to eat (besides tapas) before then, and the food was amazing. Abby had croquettas for the first time too (we have them at home a lot and Kristen and I devour them) so it was fun watching her react to one of the most delicious Spanish dishes. After we were done eating we looked for a bar. The first one we stopped at was horrible. The bartender was a complete ass, and the place was packed wall-to-wall (trying to walk from the bar to the bathroom was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life). We left pretty quickly. The next bar was a little better, and we each got a free sangria, which was nice, but we were pretty tired and ended up going back to our hostels pretty early (and by early I mean like 1:30, which when most people start going out here). We met up the next morning and went to a cafe for breakfast, and then Alisha and I headed to the bus station nice and early so we wouldn't have a repeat of Friday.

The ride back was torture thanks to an obnoxious couple sitting in front of us. PDA is not uncommon here. I don't like it much, but usually I can ignore it. Not on Sunday. The girl would climb into her boyfriend's lap every five minutes to make out with him. I closed my eyes and tried to sleep so I wouldn't have to watch them. I listened to my iPod so I could tune out their disgusting smacking noises. I turned up the volume so I wouldn't have to hear them giggling stupidly into each other's mouths. I finally managed to ignore them, but I still really hoped that the bus would make a really abrupt stop and send their slobbering faces slamming into the seats in front of them. I understand it's a long bus ride, but seriously, buy a crossword puzzle or something and spare your fellow passengers five hours of nausea and discomfort. We were beyond thrilled to get back to Granada.

Monday was a holiday here and we didn't have class, so the school week is even shorter than usual. My friend Emily is coming here on Sunday for spring break and I'm unbelieveably excited to see her and show her around! Hmm...what else...I seem to have a talent for embarrassing myself in front of Mamache's gorgeous son. Is he ever in the house when I'm dressed to kill, perfectly coifed and made up, and feeling remotely self-confident? No. He always sees me when I'm wearing my frumpiest outfit, having the worst hair day, and doing stupid, uncoordinated things like running into tables or nearly taking him out with the kitchen door on accident. Yay life.

Anyway, there's not much else particularly interesting to say. I'll try to update next weekend after Emily's visit.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Classes are still going pretty well. Twentieth century Spanish literature involves a lot of intense reading (obviously) but we do a lot in class- group work, assignments, projects. Varieties of Spanish is painfully boring for the most part, because for the first hour and ten minutes the professor just lectures without stopping. The fact that it's a morning class and the classroom is really warm does not make it any easier to pay attention; I've already seen at least three students nod off during his rambling. The last part is kind of interesting because he teaches us popular phrases and idioms, but that's only for about twenty minutes of the hour and a half class. Latinamerican literature and civilicion and culture of Spain are about the same, with a lot of lecturing, although there's at least a little discussion in those two. I'm also taking oral and written production, which I didn't sign up for but apparently is required, and it's probably my favorite class, just because we spend the whole time talking about completely random stuff. It's the smallest class- I think there's less than ten of us- so it makes the conversations a lot more fun, and it's really good practice with the language, of course. I can already tell my comprehension is improving, and I think my speaking skills slowly are as well.

Life with the host family is the one downside to all of this. I'm grateful to have someone to stay with, of course; I don't have to worry about meals, I get to practice my Spanish, and I get to see how a Spanish family lives. But I've gotten so used to living on my own for the past two and a half years (well, in a dorm, but still with more independence than high school) that living somewhere where I have to be home at a certain time for meals or let someone know whenever I want to go out is getting to be really annoying. Mamache does not make the experience any easier. Frankly, she scares me, and I'm pretty sure Kristen and Alisha feel the same way. She gets so impatient and frustrated if we don't understand what she's saying (which is most of the time; her Spanish is SO hard to understand because she kind of mumbles it). She acts like we're an inconvenience, in the way when the cleaning lady's here, having to plan around our class schedules (even though we had no control over those), having trouble finding certain foods for us (well, that's more because of Alisha-she can't eat gluten- but I feel so bad whenever Mamache complains about it because it's not something Alisha can change). At the same time, she freaks out whenever we mention travelling anywhere, even if it's just for a few days, like she'll miss us horribly, even though half the time it doesn't seem like she even wants us in the house. According to a girl Kristen met who lived with Mamache last semester, you just can't win. At least it's good to know that it's not just us. Yeah...that's a huge consolation. At least Rafael's cool. He's a lot more patient with us, and actually seems to enjoy explaining different Spanish words or phrases, which is a great help.

Okay, on to a lighter topic...I still LOVE the night life here. We went to a new bar last night, Poe. A friend of mine who came here last summer told me about it but I had no idea where it was until now. It's small, get's crowded really quickly, but still has a relaxed, comfortable feel. It's run by this cool old British guy, so we don't really get to practice Spanish...oh, well. That's what salsa night at R.S. is for. The tapas and drinks are delicious. I tried absinthe for the first time too, which really wasn't as much as people make it out to be, although it was cool the way the bartender set it on fire. It definitely burns going down (not because of the fire...he blew that out, obviously...I just mean the alcohol...) but it tastes like licorice, which is cool. The bar is really close to the residence halls, too, so I met a couple other CLM students; one was actually from Minnetonka, so it was nice finding another Minnesotan.

Anyway, not much else to report right now. I'm going to Madrid next weekend, so hopefully I'll have a lot to write about after that!

Hasta luego!

Friday, February 12, 2010

My first week of real classes went pretty well, although considering it was a short week and all we did was talk about what we'd be doing throughout the semester, it's still a little early to say for sure whether or not I'll like all of them. Tuesdays and Thursdays are pretty busy. I have two classes back to back from 8:30-11:30, then have an hour and a half break. Considering it takes a half an hour to walk home, I prefer to just stay at school. Lish has the same break, though, so we keep each other company. I have my third class at one, and then I go home until I have to leave again for my last class, which is 6:30-8. Mondays and Wednesdays are great; I only have one class from 5-6:30.

My least favorite is probably the night class Tuesdays and Thursdays. It's not the class-Latin American literature- that I don't enjoy. It's the time. For one thing, by 6:30 PM I am not in an academic mode, which makes it really hard to focus. It'll probably become easier once we start having discussions and I have to pay attention, but so far we've just gone over the syllabus and watched a movie.

Secondly, the walk home at night kind of creeps me out. There's no reason it should, because my route is in a very public, crowded area, but there's something about the streets at night combined with my overactive imagination that makes me a little uncomfortable. Oh, and it doesn't help that I encountered someone who was probably certifiably insane each night. On Tuesday night, only about a block from campus, this scruffy homeless-looking guy started yelling at me as I was crossing the street and randomly pointing around the area, like he was trying to teach a lesson. On Thursday night, as I was crossing a different street, this weirdo in a lime green windbreaker started laughing and wagging his finger at me. I just sped up my pace, but I could hear him doing the same thing to other people on the street, laughing and saying "Si, si, si! No, no, no!" I really hope this isn't a sign about the type of men I attract...

Anyway, I haven't had much of a chance to take advantage of my new long weekends. We were going to go out last night but ended up being too tired/lazy. We were going to go to R.S. tonight for salsa dancing, but it's been pouring all day. It's finally stopped, but we had already gotten comfy and have no desire to get dressed up now. Tomorrow's Kristen's birthday, though, so we will definitely be going out then, although we're not sure where yet.

Travelling plans, at least within Spain, are starting to come together. My cousin is going to be in Madrid in a couple weeks, so I'm going to go there the last weekend in February so I can see her. In March a friend from Winona is visiting, and she has a cousin studying in Sevilla so we're going to go there closer to the end of her trip. I'm so excited to see more of Spain, and even more excited to see some familiar faces.

I feel like such an old lady. It's not even eleven o' clock and I'm tired. Oh, well. Being in a cozy, warm room seems more appealing that getting soaked trekking to a bar a half an hour walk away. I'll celebrate surviving my first week tomorrow. For now, buenas noches!

Monday, February 8, 2010


The day we left did not start out well. First, my camera refused to work. It still kept saying that it couldn't read the card, and when I tried putting the card in my computer the screen froze up. Luckily, Alisha's camera worked perfectly well, and she took tons of pictures which I plan on stealing and sharing with all of you as soon as I can. Anyway, the day just got even more fun when I decided to check my e-mail before I left, just in case there were any last minute changes in my flight. There weren't, but there was a message from my mom. Apparently after I bought my bus ticket to Madrid visa called my house reporting card fraud. I called the company before I left, letting them know exactly where I would be and how long I'd be gone. I've also used the card three or four times to take money out. If someone HAD stolen my card, I would have been really pissed at Visa for being so slow at catching it. I tried to call the international visa number Mom gave me once I got to the bus station, but I was having some cell phone difficulty and couldn't get through. I tried again in Germany, but, of course, my Spanish cell didn't work there. Fortunately I had enough cash on me for any emergencies, but I did not like knowing that I probably wouldn't be able to use my card until I returned to Spain.

Anyway, after a five hour bus ride, an overpriced taxi, and a packed three hour plane ride, we arrived in Berlin where we met Olga and her dad. They live in Bad Oyenhausen, which is three hours away. We had planned on just taking a bus there, but they refused. Olga lived with Alisha's family from September to the beginning of February while she was studying in Minnesota, and her parents wanted to repay them. They were so incredibly hospitable. Besides going well out of their way to pick us up and letting us stay with them, they bought tons of food and paid for our bus fare whenever we went anywhere.

Our first full day there Olga showed us around her town. It's not a big tourist area but it's a cute place, with little stores and pretty parks and a couple really cool looking theatres. After exploring, we went back to her house. Olga's birthday was a week earlier, when she was still in Minnesota, so she was having a belated birthday party with her friends back in Germany. Alisha and I were a little nervous at first, since we don't know any German past a few words (I took one semester my freshmen year but very little stuck), but everyone there had been studying English since fifth grade and knew it really well. Only a couple of them, Pia and Johanna, talked to us the whole time, and they were really nice and loved having the chance to practice their English. We spent most of the evening talking to them, eating really good food, and playing this karaoke game on PS2. Overall it was a really fun night!

The next day we took the train to Hannover and went to the Sprengel Art Museum. It was fun, and some of the pieces were really cool, but others I just didn't get. Seriously, if all it takes to get your work in a museum is to make a giant hole in the middle of a canvas I could have been famous back in elementary school. Once we got back to Bad Oyenhausen we just chilled in Olga's room, played a little more Singstar, and went to bed early because we had to get up early to go to Berlin the next day. Our flight didn't leave until 4:15 on Sunday, but we wanted to do some sightseeing before leaving.

We got up at five the next morning to go to Berlin, and somehow I managed to sleep most of the way there. We met Olga's mom's cousin, who was a tour guide and took us on a personal driving tour of Berlin in his tour van. We saw SO much- buildings for royalty and government, world war two memorials, parks, and, of course, the Berlin wall. We also stopped at Checkpoint Charlie and had our picture taken with a guy dressed as a soldier in front of it. He got really excited when we told him we were from the U.S. and started speaking in broken English: "Bush is an...arsloch, yes?" It took me a minute to remember what arsloch was before I started cracking up; let's just say it's not a word I learned in class. After driving around a little more he dropped the three of us off at the Jewish Museum (yes, that's what it's called, but in German). It had a Holocaust section, which was, of course, heartbreaking. It also had a lot on Jewish culture and religion and history, which was really interesting. After that we drove around a little more, then they dropped us off at the airport after our goodbyes and thank yous. We got back to Granada a little before three this morning.

We start classes tomorrow, and I'm pretty excited. I have a couple classes with some of the people from my Winona group, so that'll be nice. I have one class Mondays and Wednesdays, four Tuesdays and Thursdays, and none on Fridays (YES!!Long weekends!!!). I'll write more at the end of the week about how everything goes.

Oh, and for those of you who don't have facebook: I got a flickr account so you can see the pictures of Granada I have so far (the ones I loaded on my computer before my memory card died). I'll add the Germany pictures once I get them from Lish.


Monday, February 1, 2010

Aventuras en La Alhambra

Because we don't have class this week and we don't leave for Germany until Thursday, Alisha and I have a few days to really explore Granada. We decided that today we would finally go to the Alhambra, this big military fortress/royalty residence built in the thirteenth century and the biggest tourist attraction in the city. We left the house around noon, with bagged lunches Mamache had packed for us (my sandwich was longer than my forearm...) and went to the bus station. However, it was not the right bus station...which we realized after a half an hour of waiting. We wandered around a little longer, trying to decipher the maps and bus routes we were able to find, until we found a police man who was able to tell us that the bus actually left from Plaza Isabel Catolica, not Plaza Nueva (which is what the website said...weird...). Anyway, we decided to have lunch before catching the bus, and Alisha took out her camera to take a picture of my beastly sandwich, only to discover that the batteries in her camera were dead. No problem, I thought. I had mine. However, my memory card decided it didn't want to cooperate with me today, because the camera kept saying it couldn't read it, even though it worked perfectly well two days ago.

So we were unable to take pictures on our first sightseeing excursion, which sucked, because the Alhambra may be the most beautiful place I have ever been. The palace is like something out of a fairy tale, it has a gorgeous view of the city, and it's surrounded by lush green trees. We plan on going back in the spring so we can see the gardens, which are supposed to be absolutely gorgeous, and I definitely plan on checking that my camera works BEFORE leaving the house.

After we left the Alhambra, we went to this little restaurant called Cafe Futbol; a friend of ours who was here last year reccomended it to us, and I can now understand why. You know the weight I've been losing since I arrived here? I found it there, in the form of a variety of chocolately, sugary, sinfully amazing pastries. I ended up just getting a drink-this chocolate cream coffee drink, and Alisha got a caramel one- but we are definitely going back to try the churros at some point. Spain is very, very bad for my sweet tooth.

Anyway, I'm coming down from my caffeine high so I think I'll crash soon. Later!

Friday, January 29, 2010

I'm officially done with my language course. I'm kind of going to miss it. I learned a lot in a few weeks, and I really liked my professors and classmates. One girl got a class picture, so once she posts it on facebook I'll post it here so you can see Alberto clothed, haha. Oh, apparently the "my friends made me sign up" story he told us was a lie. If you google image him there are TONS of photos, so I guess he's a professional model. I'm not sure if I'm annoyed that he lied or if I find it sweet that he tried to downplay the whole thing. Either way, it's fun to say I was student taught by a gorgeous Spanish model.

Anyway, we got our tests back today. I got an 8.8, which I suppose is pretty good. I guess it's good on their grading scale (like low A/high B) but I wish I'd done better. Oh, well. It's over, and it's only part of the overall grade, which Antxon said would be higher than our test grade. I get a clean slate with the classes I start in a week. The rest of class we played scategories and pictionary (which I rocked at, surprisingly), then went down to the cafeteria for coffee/tea/chatting, which was nice.

We ended a little early, so I started walking home, thinking Alisha and Kristen were either still in class or had already left, but I ran into Kristen a couple blocks away from school talking to an old man. He had asked her for some help with English, and I joined her. It was fun at first, because he was helping us with our Spanish too, but then it became a little uncomfortable when he asked us for our phone numbers (we said we didn't have phones), e-mail addresses (we said we didn't have computers), and that he would drive us to the Alhambra this weekend (we had to study for a test on Monday). I understand that people here are very extroverted and social, but I still think there's a limit...that limit being a seventy-ish year old man asking two American (well...we told him we were Canadian) girls over a third his age he just met twenty minutes before to drive somewhere with him. We finally managed to excuse ourselves and continue on our way home, and needless to say, we were pretty creeped out. That's really the worst thing that's happened here, though, and nothing horrible resulted from it, so I'm happy about that.

Anyway, I think we're having lunch soon. Hasta luego!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

done with intensive language month

I just finished my test a couple hours ago. I think it went pretty well. We're correcting them in class tomorrow, so I guess I'll find out then. Kristen and I finished our tests around the same time, and since we were done early we stopped at a pasteleria on our way home, bought a couple of amazing, chocolately pasteries, and sat on a bench near the fountain and people watched. One girl was there walking her ferret. Actually, she wasn't walking it. It didn't have a leash. She just let it scamper around and would pick it up if it tried to leave the area. It was highly entertaining.

My mood improved even more when I got home, walked into my room, and found a box on my bed. My mom sent me a bunch of clothes I'd forgotten to pack, as well as a calender with family pictures she'd made me for Christmas. It completely made my day.

The sun is shining. I have a week free of classes. I'm leaving for Germany soon. Life is good. :)

Monday, January 25, 2010

My T.A. is Officially one of the Top Four Hottest Men in Spain

That's right. Be jealous that I have gotten to see this five days a week this month (well, not exactly this. He wears more than a speedo to class). Anyway, he was Mister Granada '09 and ended up being in the top four in Mister Spain (which I did not know existed until today). Antxon randomly decided to show it to us during class today. Poor Alberto looked embarrassed; apparently his friends entered him as a joke and it just snowballed from there. It's a good thing he showed it to us now rather than at the beginning of the month, because if he had showed it to us then I would have had SO much trouble focusing in class. :-D

Besides being student taught by a certifiable hunk, things are going okay. I've got a bit of a cold, but I'm trying not to let it debilitate me too much. I really feel okay, it's just a little inconvenient (and embarrassing) having a runny nose and random coughing jags during class. Oh, well. Lish and I are going to the pharmacy today so once I have some cough drops I'll be better.

OH. I can't believe I didn't write about this earlier...but I'm going to Germany next week! Alisha's family hosted an exchange student from a town near Hannover, and she and her family are letting us stay with them for a few days. I'm SO excited!

Anyway, I'm going to try to sleep off my cold and then get a little homework done. Hasta luego!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

I only have one more week of my intensive month of Spanish! Time is definitely starting to fly by. I'm a little nervous to start my normal classes. I'll be taking Spanish civilization and culture, twentieth century Spanish literature, and Latin American literature. I wanted to take varieties of Spanish as well, because I need it in order to finish my major, but when I went to hand in my registration form the secretary told me that I needed to test into "superior" level. I was told in Winona that I only needed to place into advanced, so I'm not sure if the study abroad office was wrong or if the secretary here was wrong or if the requirements have just changed since last year. I'll just have to try to place higher once I'm done with the intensive language month, and if I can't I guess I'll have to take the class back in Winona, which I suppose isn't a tragedy.

We went out last night to this little bar called R.S. It was great; small but not cramped, chill but fun, and had relatively cheap drinks. The bartender was from England, and at first I felt a little bad for going somewhere where I wouldn't be forced to practice my Spanish, but I actually ended up speaking more Spanish than I have anywhere else (besides home and school, of course). They had salsa dancing after midnight, and I ended up dancing with this guy named Adrian from the Canary Islands. It was fun at first, but he ended up being a little overly friendly, and when he realized I wasn't the kind of girl he was interested in (easy) he started hitting on another girl. I ended up talking with a couple guys from Granada, Diego and Paolo, who, thankfully, were nothing like Adrian. We talked for most of the night about music, sports, Spain, the U.S., tons of stuff. Diego is at the CLM too, studying German. He already speaks Spanish (obviously), English, and French and wants to learn Swiss, Dutch, and Danish. Paolo doesn't speak any English, which is great because it gave me a chance to practice. Diego said my Spanish was really good, so that definitely gave my confidence a boost. All in all, it was a really fun night!

We're actually getting ready to go out again tonight; the night life is crazy here! I love that I can go out and have a good time AND learn Spanish at the same time. It's so wonderful.

We're leaving soon, so I'll wrap this up. Miss you all!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The other day in class we were talking about words and phrases we've learned in Spain. One girl mentioned "estar hasta las narices," which roughly translates to to be/have had it up to the noses, meaning to be sick of something or someone. Antxon taught us a couple more vulgar versions. Some guys will say "Estoy hasta los huevos," meaning "I've had it up to my balls." Girls say "Estoy hasta los ovarios." I'm sure you know what that one means. I'm happy that Spaniards keep sexism out of their idioms.

We've also been telling Antxon and his (hot) TA Alberto about norms in the U.S., which is fun because everything just shocks Alberto. When he heard that some students wear pajamas to class he was completely appalled. "WHAT?!, they can't do that..." I'm going to miss this class. I hope the professors I have for the rest of the semester are as entertaining as the ones I have this month.

I'm still having trouble with my Spanish. It's getting better in class and with our host parents, but in cafes and stores and places it's tricky, especially because so many people here don't seem to have much patience for Americans. One girl in my class had a really bad experience at an ice cream place where the employees were absolutely horrible to her, saying that Americans were stupid thieves, and made fun of her Spanish when she tried to defend herself. Thank God I haven't dealt with anyone like that.

Mamache says Spaniards speak the same way they write, which does not seem true. They drop their "s's" a lot. "Dos" becomes "Do' " and "tienes" becomes "tiene' " (which is really confusing because it changes the meaning of the verb), stuff like that. I know I'll get used to it in time, but it's a little frustrating right now.

Anyway, I should get some homework done. Kristen and I are sitting out on the porch (again), enjoying the sun, and I just got an e-mail that some classes at WSU were cancelled because of severe weather...hahaha, I so left at the right time....


Sunday, January 17, 2010

We ended up not going to the discoteca after all. We went to Hannigan and Sons, this bar near the school, and decided to stay there. There was a guy singing/playing guitar there who a few of us girls were in love with and talked to after the show. He's Italian and moved here from Bologna and I was super excited that I could say that I'd been there before; I told him it was my favorite part of Italy (which completely wasn't was probably my least favorite....but I was a little intoxicated and he was cute so I figured I would exaggerate a bit). We got home around 4 AM and slept in until about noon.

Now I'm sitting in the glacial little study room Mamache cleared out for us, taking a break from homework. I video chatted with my parents and aunt and uncle for a few minutes; as much as I hate technology, I love that it provides me with the opportunity to see my family even when I'm so far away. We haven't seen Mamache that much. According to a friend who lived with them last year, that's not unusual. She goes shopping a lot, takes painting classes, talks on the phone upstairs for hours, or rests upstairs because she gets headaches a lot. We see Rafael a little more often, mainly because he prepares our meals (he's a GREAT cook). He'll chat with us a bit in the kitchen and help us with our Spanish, which is nice.

Okay, I really should finish up my homework. There's not too much left to say, anyway.

Buenas noches!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

I survived the first week of classes here! Yay! We went out last night to celebrate. The first bar we went to, Barracuda's, was small but fun. They gave us each a free shot, then Karl bought me a beer, which I usually don't like, but Alhambra especial was actually pretty good. Then Joe bought a few of us soco shots, which tasted like cough medicine and rubbing alcohol...I'm making a mental note not to drink that again. After that we left, wandered around for a while until we found another bar near the university. I didn't like it there as much. It was huge, absolutely packed, and I could barely hear myself think. I was definitely ready to get out of there. We got home at about 3 AM, crashed, and woke up near noon.

We're going out again tonight, and hopefully we can stick to the little bars. We're going to a dance club too- they were handing out free passes at school- and we'll see how that goes. Large crowds+loud noise+Laura pretending that she has any rhythm=potential disaster.

Anyway, we're having lunch soon, so I'll wrap this up. I think we're having paella today, and I'm reaaaally excited to try it. The food here just keeps gettting better and better...thank god we walk everywhere. I need the exercise to burn off every meal!

Hasta luego!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Things are slowly getting easier. The walk to school is becoming more familiar (and we found a shorter route). I'm speaking up in class more, even though my face still turns beet red when I have to talk. Antxon is charging us one euro every time we say anything in English, so that's more of an incentive to speak as much Spanish as possible.

I'm hoping that now that school is becoming a little more comfortable, things at home will soon too. I still feel so awkward living here, like it's an intrusion, even though they've been hosting foreign exchange students for years. I feel like I'm being antisocial because we really don't spend much time with our host parents, but they don't seem to want to spend much time with us either-we rarely see Mamache because she's either upstairs (where I don't think we're allowed, or at least, they haven't said we were) or out most of the time, and Rafael either sits in the living room watching TV or messing with the usual household chores.

The only time we definitely see them is during meals, although they don't even eat with us. I'm still having so much trouble eating all the food, and I feel so bad because they always seem annoyed/upset when I don't eat everything, as if I'm telling them I think the food is gross or something, which isn't true (with the exception of the ketchup salad). I've told them multiple times that I can't eat that much food, but this concept and the concept of being full does not seem to translate. I wish I could eloquently say "If I force one more bite of the gallons of delicious soup down my throat, I will probably vomit all over the table" in Spanish.

This weekend I need to buy an electric adapter so I can stop mooching off Alisha's computer charger and a couple long sleeved tees or sweaters, because all of my really warm clothes are being washed and they air dry clothes here so I don't know when I'll have them back. I have about twenty-five euro in cash left and hopefully I can make that stretch, because the ATM fees here are painfully high and I don't want to take out more until I absolutely have to, and I don't want to use my credit card too much either.

Anyway, I have a decent amount of homework to get done, so I'm going to get started on that (or waste more time on facebook...whichever catches my attention first).

Hasta luego!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Today definitely had its ups and downs. The morning didn't start out great because I had my alarm set wrong and slept late, so we were in a hurry to get out the door. The snow is gone (for now) but it was raining, so my shoes were pretty soaked again by the time I got to class. Class went pretty well. There are six other girls in my class, all from the U.S. They seem really nice, and it makes me feel a little better being in class with people who are in the same boat as I am.

The first professor we have from 9-11, Maria, is really nice and smiley and approachable. The professor we have from 11-1, Antxon (pronounced "Anchon") is nice too, and funny, but I'm scared he has the wrong idea of me. When I told him that I'd been studying Spanish for fifteen years (but made it clear that the first nine was just basic vocabulary and less grammar) he was really impressed and excited and asked me the first question of our excersise...which I answered incorrectly. Damn you, present perfect tense. I also had to do a lot of reading out loud, and while I think my pronunciation isn't completely horrible, I get nervous when I have to read aloud in English, so I probably did not sound that great in class today. Oh, well. I have a whole month to impress him.

After class, I checked out my textbook from the library (thank God I didn't have to buy it) and Alisha and Kristen got their student ID's and then we walked home, but which time the rain had stopped and the sun was coming out. The weather here is so unpredictable. Like Mamache says, "In Granada, anything is possible." We had lunch, which was lentil soup (pretty good) and this absolutely horrible salad made with lettuce, chicken, apples, and get this: KETCHUP. Alisha managed to scarf it all down, Kristen scraped it back into the bowl when Mamache left the kitchen, and I ate most of it before I felt like I would actually vomit, then quickly poured the rest off my plate when Mamache left again. Really, I've liked most food here. It's a lot of food, but it's all been really good. But ketchup is not a salad dressing.

Once we were done with lunch, we went to our rooms for a bit to relax (I think we need to establish siesta in the U.S....I love having nap time). Then at five we met Cassy to go shopping. I got minutes for my phone here (which I probably won't use much-it's just for emergencies and letting Mamache know if I'm going to be coming home late from school), and Alisha got a sim card and minutes for her phone. We had a lot of trouble understanding what the employee was trying to explain to us. It's such a scary experience, trying to use Spanish in real life, but at the same time I love that I have the opportunity to do it. Yes, I suck right now, and yes, the employee was probably unbelieveably sick of us by the time we left, but at least we're getting practice. We've only been here five days and I know by the end of the trip our Spanish is going to be soooo much better.

Anyway, after our cell phone excitement, we explored for cheap clothing stores. Because of rebajas (crazy sales between Christmas and February or March) the stores were packed, but I managed to find a coat and boots. The coat makes me look like a human-sized eggplant, but it's warm and cozy, and while I didn't get to take a test walk in the boots- they only let me try on one of them, like I was going to try to make a run for it if I had bothe- they don't have heels and will keep my feet dry.

Well, it's after midnight and I have to get up at 7. Buenas noches!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Esta nevando :(

I did not pack accordingly for this trip. I knew the first part of it would be a little chilly, but I figured sweatshirt weather, no big deal. I'm a Minnesotan. Cold weather usually doesn't bother me, and compared to the frigid nightmare back home, I figured forty/fifty degree weather would seem practically tropical. WRONG. It snowed most of the day and actually stuck, although it's more slush than snow. We took a test walk to school this afternoon and my sneakers are SOAKED, but those are the strongest shoes I have. I need to buy boots tomorrow afternoon.

Classes start tomorrow, and I'm really excited. For one thing, it'll be nice to have something to distract me from my homesickness (which is getting better already), and having an intensive month of langauge will really help me understand my host parents better. I feel bad having to ask them to repeat things and explain things so often. They're really nice, but sometimes they seem a little impatient with my limited Spanish speaking/comprehension abilities.

My appetite is getting better. I've actually been able to finish my last few meals, so hopefully that becomes a constant and I don't have to feel like I'm offending my host family by not being able to eat everything.

Mamache finally gave us our house keys tonight, so now we can go out and not worry about having problems getting back inside the house!

Not much else to report...I should probably rest up for classes tomorrow.

Buenas noches!

Friday, January 8, 2010

quick update

I don't know how long my wireless is going to work- it's really patchy in the house- so here's a quick update for those of you following me. Thank you all SO much for the comments, by the way. I'm feeling a little homesick and hearing from you really helps. :)

-It's SO cold here. It's actually snowing. It's nowhere near as bad as Minnesota, but the house doesn't have much heating. I need to buy a warmer coat tomorrow.

-My host parents are pretty nice, although Mama che is a little hard to understand. If we don't know what she's saying she just repeats it and moves on. Her husband, Rafael, is more helpful. He'll take the time to explain things. We've met two of their kids (both grown), Elena, who we haven't talked with much but seems friendly, and Jesus, who we had lunch with yesterday and is talkative, funny, and GORGEOUS.

-We had our placement testing this morning and I made it into the advanced level, although considering how much trouble I have understanding people here I have no idea how I managed it.

-Lunch here is HUGE. The portions are enormous and I can't finish all of it, especially because my nerves are making my stomach really sensitive. I feel really bad, and I don't want to offend the family. I keep telling them that the food is delicious, but I just can't eat all of it. Hopefully I can talk Mama che into giving me smaller portions.

-We're going shopping/exploring/taking a test run to the school tomorrow. Mama che showed us around after our test but there's no way I'll remember everything by Monday.

-The walk/don't walk lights here are super cool because the "walk" one is a green animated stick figure walking.

-They serve beer in McDonalds and Burger King.

-I'll try to upload some pictures to here or facebook if the internet holds out.

I'll update more after my classes on Monday.

un abrazo desde Granada,

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

primera noche

First of all, for any of you who were on the EHS choir trip to Italy five years ago...I didn't lose my boarding pass this time! SUCCESS! I'm already becoming a better world traveller.

Unfortunately, while my organization skills may have changed since I was sixteen, my hatred for flying has not. The trip from Newark to Madrid was torture. I was nauseous, dizzy, couldn't sleep at all, and had to sit next to an obnoxious, PDA-obsessed couple for eight hours. I was miserable by the time I arrived in Spain, but felt a bit better after napping on the airport floor during our layover (ice cold marble is deceptively comfortable).

The flight from Madrid to Granada actually went really well, mainly because I somehow managed to sleep through it. I was out before the plane even took off, and didn't wake up until the seatbelt light came on as we were landing. I left the plane feeling awake, refreshed, and ready to settle into our hostel, clean up a bit, and explore the city a little. My happy bubble was burst, however, at baggage claim, where my suitcase-filled with my entire wardrobe, bathroom stuff, and half of my cash- failed to show up. I wasn't the only one missing luggage; Kristen, one of my roommates, didn't get hers either, and about half of the other passengers were missing theirs as well. We missed our bus because we had to wait in line at customer service to get things straightened out. We gave the woman at the counter our flight info, descriptions of our luggage, and our host family's address, and she told us that we should get our stuff sometime tomorrow if they get everything worked out. I really hope that suitcase is waiting for me tomorrow....I don't want to have to sleep in jeans and a sweatshirt for two nights in a row.

We finally arrived at our hostel at about a quarter to nine. It's pretty nice. The room is freezing, and the mattresses are kind of stiff, but it's incredibly comfortable compared to cramped airplanes with hard, scratchy seats. After we got settled in we walked around until we found a tapas bar, where we had delicious, cheap drinks and even more delicious food. The waiter thought Kristen was cute so he brought us all free shots, which were unbelievably tasty. Karl, Joe, and Cassy headed to another bar afterwards, but the rest of us decided to get back to the hostel to rest up; we definitely needed it.

I'm already realizing that my Spanish speaking/listening skills suck. They speak SO fast here! And so far, the people I've talked to are not super patient with my limited language abilities. They roll their eyes if I don't understand what they said and get frustrated when they don't understand what I'm trying to say. It's a pain, but it's just an incentive to practice as much as possible and leave here by the end of May able to speak Spanish without annoying native speakers.

We meet our host families tomorrow, so hopefully that goes well. I've heard mixed reactions from students who've stayed with my family in the past, so I'll have to see what they're like for myself.

Buenas noches,