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!