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,