Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Thanks for coming along for the journey...

Feliz Navidad. I felt that I needed some sort of closure with this blog. My last post was rather rushed and I feel as though I need to properly thank all of you for coming along on this journey with me. I cannot believe that we were able to experience something so wonderful and enriching and that I got to share it with all of you through this blog.

The day before the day we left our adopted city was a difficult one. I had to return books to the library- a good twenty minute walk from our apartment and a good, long walk across the city. Afterward I went to pick Jaime up from school and it was sad to realize that I would never get to spend time with him like that again. The good news is that I've already received several Facebook messages from Jaime- good to know we can so easily keep in touch!

Our journey back to Boston from Spain was generally uneventful... except for when Iberia made us each leave a carry-on bag in Granada, promised us that we would find them in Madrid, and then completely neglected to send it to Madrid... We still have not received our luggage. I think that it is related to all of the snow storms shutting down many of the airports worldwide, but I still want it back! Grrrrr...

How has the conversion back to United States living gone for me? I have to admit that I miss a few things about Granada, but that I am so glad to be back at home with my family. Christmas with my family was so wonderful and it was so great to be with the whole family and to see some of my extended family too! It has been normal adjusting to that part of life once again and just like falling right back into something so familiar and... well, home! What has been interesting to re-adjust to is the fact that everyone speaks English here. Whenever I go to pay, ask questions, or order at restaurants or stores I find that before I go up to speak with the workers I think about what I am going to say and how it would translate to Spanish, but then I realize... these people speak English! Peculiar. Also, it's been sad not to have Pam around all of the time and will be glad to see her around Stonehill once again.

Once again, I would like to thank all of you for your support, love, and reading eyes during this amazing experience. I hope that all of you had a blessed and holy Christmas and that you have a happy and healthy New Year.

PS I'm going to miss blogging.

PPS Here is my last: I love you.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Last Post from Spain?


Bittersweet. But not the good, chocolate kind. I am talking about the corny and cliché feeling that one hears about from films and books that a character experiences when they are beginning something new. That old feeling of happiness for what is to come, but sadness at what you are leaving behind. It is a little silly and juvenile, but that is exactly how I am feeling right now. I cannot wait to go back to the United States, I miss my friends, my family, my school, my native language, my church- but tonight as I choked back tears while looking into Ana’s eyes and said goodbye for what might be forever- I was sad. Today as I wandered by myself through the streets of Granada I felt as though I was in a daze. There are so many emotions that I am feeling right now that I could not possibly explain them all to you. Granada has become home, but at the same time I know that I am returning home, que extraño.

Hello, by the way! I think that this will be my last blog post from Spain (definitely from Granada), but who knows what will happen while we have our super long layover in Madrid. Seville was amazing last weekend. We saw the castle where they filmed one of the new Star Wars films- so amazing- and the famous Giralda tower of the cathedral. We also learned about this cool saying that they have in Seville which is as numerous in Seville as the Granadas (pomegranates) are here in Granada, “NO8DO.” Wikipedia explains it a lot better than I think that I could:
-The motto is a rebus, combining the Spanish syllables (NO and DO) and a drawing in between–the figure "8". The figure represents a skein of yarn, or in Spanish, a "madeja". When read aloud, "No madeja do" sounds like "No me ha dejado", which means "It [Seville] has not abandoned me."-

It was a beautiful city and I would love to go back to visit it again. Also, there is a Starbucks on every corner. Weird.

This past week, as you saw from my last post, was finals week. I feel like I did ok on all of my exams as I generally new everything that I needed to on the tests. I’m sorry that I cannot really update you anymore, but I’m so tired and I have to get up in three hours. Ew.

PS I will see you all soon, I’m so excited!
PPS I love you!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Study Break

Hello All! I'm sorry, I do not have time to update you right now, but I decided that since I did not give you any Valencia pictures, I would post some now- ¡disfrutad! (enjoy!)




Christmas in Valencia



The City of Arts and Sciences



The gorgeous garden in the middle of the city



I'm slightly obsessed with taking artsy, fartsy self-portraits



One of the coolest trees I have ever seen... and I've seen a lot of trees



Being silly



FOUR DIFFERENT TYPES OF CHOCOLATE



Would you believe this photo was taken in December?


I will do my best to update you again (not with just pictures too!) very soon. Until then, I love you!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Four different types of chocolate.

Buenos dias! Que preciosa es Valencia! Valencia was a really beautiful city with a pleasant mixture of old and new, especially with the architecture. I was most pleased to discover that directly next door to our hostel, the Red Nest, was a gourmet cupcake store- a rather rare thing for Spain. The first day there, I wandered around the city center and hit all of the tourist and historical places including a lovely, giant garden/park equipped with a giant jungle gym Gulliver for the kids (or Lilliputans?) to run all over. By around three in the afternoon, my friends arrived by train from Barcelona. Meeting them at the bus station already fairly familiar with the city, I felt like they were visiting me there and I was their tour guide. After they got settled into the hostel, I showed them the cupcake store (!) and some of the other sites that I had found during the day. The night ended with admiration and appreciation of the city's vibrant Christmas lights and decorations.

The next day we woke up early and set out touring. Our first stop was the Port of Valencia where the last America's Cup race took place. There's not a lot to see of the port anymore, but it was still cool to be at the site where this epic race took place (which the US won). Next we walked to La Ciudad del Arte y las Ciencias (the city of art and science), a giant museum and auditorium complex that is the epitome of modern architecture complete with a building built to look like the giant skeleton of a whale. After we explored the grounds, we visited the nearby Museo de los Falleros where they have pieces of the winning fallas from the beginning of the twentieth century to today. Las fallas are part of a famous Valencian festival in which the people create these giant scenes, usually politically satirical, out of mostly paper. The winning fallas are at least partially salvaged but the rest are given to the flames in a spectacular display that gives the appearance that the entire city of Valencia is on fire. Anais, the host sister of my friends John and Katie, tried to explain some of the pop culture, political, and societal references to me- but some things just do not translate! After the museum we made our way back towards the hostel, but first we stopped at El Mercado de Colon which strongly reminded me of Fanueil Hall. Next we walked to the Valor, a famous Spanish chocolate company, store and restaurant for a snack of chocolate con churros. Oh. My! Thanks to their history of South American imperialism, the Spanish have developed a taste for hot chocolate- literally a cup of melted chocolate that one dips doughnuts or churros into. However, this was no ordinary order of chocolate- this was four different types of chocolate: milk, white, dark, and semi sweet. Dinner that night was a buffet of all Spanish cuisine including the famed Valencian Paella.

Instead of taking a bus or a train back to Granada Liz, Jayson, Katie, John, and I rented a car- surprisingly a lot cheaper than the other options. It was incredible driving across the magnificent landscape and so much fun to be with my friends for so long. For fun, we stopped in Alicante and enjoyed the seventy degree weather by visiting and having lunch at the beach- in early December! All in all, although I am still thoroughly disappointed that I could not visit Italy, I ultimately didn't let the Huelga win!

Yesterday, Ana invited us all to a new exposition at her art gallery. Upon hearing that that meant free wine and food, each our GRIIS friends made appearances. After we went out for tasty tapas, but we did not stay out late for too long as we had to wake up early this morning to catch the bus that I am riding right now to Sevilla. I promise to tell you more about it later!

PS May your chocolate always be rich and your churros soft yet crunchy.

PPS I love you!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Huelga: 1. Lacie: Most Beautiful City in Europe

Buenos Dias! With a freshly washed face; a belly full of warm, herbal tea; and a positive and optimistic outlook for my new plans I impatiently wait for my bus to leave the Granada bus station. The destination of this bus? Valencia, a city that apparently was named the most beautiful city in Europe! Oh, our bus just left!!! Wahoo- only nine hours left to go! Why am I travelling to this far away city besides its famed beauty? My friends will arrive there from Barcelona right around the same time that I do and they have rented a car that we will use to return to Granada. I feel so blessed to have people here to help take care of me and make me feel better when I really need it. Thanks also to all of you who sent me prayers or good thoughts when I needed them. I got news from Pam last night that she and Mark made it ok to Florence and had plans to meet up with friends studying there.

PS May you have a horrible travel experience so that you really appreciate those experiences that go smoothly, but when you do get into trouble- may you have a friend like Teresa to save you!

PPS I love you.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Update

Teresa was right. When I made it to the airport, there were huge lines of irritated people waiting to hear what the airlines were going to do for them and those horrible electric signs telling me what I did not want to read: CANCELLED. After I realised that I could not get a flight to go Italy until Monday (and even then I would have to go to Rome), I broke into tears- quite embarrassing when you're in a full airport. Anyway, I was able to get my money back on the flight, but as my friend bought the return flight- I think that I lost out on my money for that one. Then, trying to get back to the train station was its own adventure, but I eventually got here and am now waiting for the AMAZING Teresa to come pick me up to bring me to Granada (there are no more trains or buses to Granada today and she insisted). Needless to say, I'm exhuasted, depressed, and my face is slightly salted from tears (I cry very easily). Here's hoping that you had a better day!

PS Please do not worry about me in any way whatsoever- I'm fine, just emotionally drained!

PPS I love you!

I swear, if one more huelga tries to mess with my travel plans!

Heyoh! Ok, honestly I've just about had enough with these stupid Huelgas! I used to be really impressed with the cheap transportation services of Europe, but this honeymoon fascination has worn off. I am supposed to fly out today from Seville (which I will be taking a train from Granada to get to), but while walking to the train station, I got a call from Teresa saying that there was- yet again!- another huelga. I just checked the Ryanair website and as of now the flight from Seville to Pisa is still on, but Teresa claims that the news is saying that all RyanAir flights are cancelled. Let's hope that she's wrong. I'm not keeping my hopes up or letting them get me down. I'm going to Sevilla, more updates to come from there!

PS Somebody say a prayer for me!/make sure my mother doesn't have heart palpitations.

PPS I love you!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Ruminations as the End Approaches

¡Hola guapos! I feel as though my entire time here has been one long and continued conversation about language, occasionally directly concerning the topic but most of the time only carefully sprinkled throughout the discourse. Of course, I have learned Spanish in my Grammar and Written and Spoken Spanish classes, but I learned so much just by eavesdropping on other people conversations and by actually speaking with people myself. I would be willing to bet that I acquired at least a word each day for my list of Spanish vocabulary words by only bothering my family every few minutes with questions like, “How do you say this is Spanish?” Their ever patient answers do these numerous intrigues were really such a blessing and I am not sure how I may even begin to thank them. This dialogue, however, was not concerning the theme, “How do you say…?” but also included countless conversations about origins of words, verb conjugations, the differences between Spanish Spanish and Latin American Spanish, explanations of seemingly strange and metaphorical phrases, and the irregular explanations of English words to those learning my native language.



So, how far has this brought me? Where do I stand with my proficiency level of Spanish? Much to my disappointment, I am nowhere near the status of bilingual, but I have arrived at the point that if the individual with whom I am speaking speaks slowly enough- I can understand and respond. I speak the language better with people my own age, or when I am explaining topics that I am very passionate about. Also, I am pleased to say that I can almost understand everything when I watch television in Spanish- something that I was initially only slightly skilled at.

At this point, I only have about sixteen days left here in Granada. Many of you warned me, “We’re glad that you are enjoying yourself, but don’t like it too much that you don’t want to come home!” Where do I stand with this? I am ready to come home. My time here has been a dream, truly amazing, but I miss my parents, my brother, my aunties and their families, my neighbors, my friends, my school, and my life as I knew it before. Enriched and ready to share and use what I have learned here, I am excited to come back and force my parents to look at all of my photographs and to sit through all of my explanations of the adventures of this little lamb. However, at the same time I cannot help looking around at this place that I have called, “home” for so long and wonder how one can just leave after such a period of time that has flown right by, but has also felt so long. Also, it seems that I have been making more and more friends recently who I may never receive the chance to get to know better before I have to jet off to my own country. Like most amazing experiences like this where one is brought out of one’s usual environment, I have adapted to this world and it will be quite strange to go back to life in Massachusetts. I suppose the lucky thing is that I do not have to abandon all that I have encountered here; it is now a part of me and I will always hold Granada in my heart.

PS Pam left for Brussels today with Mark... I miss her!

PPS May your conversations about language be sprinkled with interesting themes, may your Spanish host family be patient, and may you always look forward to what is to come but fondly remember what has passed. After all, you're the only one who can.

PPPS I love you... so much!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Mr. Rooster Beard

Hola a todos! I am terribly sorry (especially to Aunty Kathy who has made formal complaints to my mother!) that I have been so negligent with my blog posts. I promise that this blog post will be rather epic and will take WAY too long to read. I guess there are no happy mediums in the blogging world. I hope that you are all well and enjoyed your feast de la accion de gracias (Thanksgiving). I was super stoked (that phrase is neither correct English nor Spanish) about the meal because everyone in our program shared it together at Amalia's house and I made and brought mashed potatoes. Luckily, we have not had any reported deaths from people eating my food so I guess I did pretty well! As I had to cook enough mashed potatoes for twenty-four people, it took me a long time to make them- almost four hours! However, I was pleased to see that they were almost gone and there was only about one portion left over (which Amalia, grinning, explained to me that she was keeping it for herself) when I left Amalia’s house.



The week after we came from Ireland felt short as Pam and I missed school on Monday, but it became rather stressful as we attempted to catch up on all of the work that we missed (hence the lack of blog writing). However, we had a huge event to look forward to- the opening of Harry Potter! We were so excited to see the film that we bought our tickets days in advance and arrived at the movie theatre quite early. However, we were surprised to find that the movie theatre was not even open and we were the only ones there! Apparently, the Spanish are not as intense with their movie premieres are we are in the United States. I suppose that if I was to see any movie in Spanish, Harry Potter is definitely the best choice as I have read the book multiple times and know the story quite well. Situated in the Neptuno mall, the movie theatre is quite close to Mae West (pronounced “my-west” by the Spanish), one of our favorite discotecas and when the movie ends they force you to walk out the back of the building- right near Mae West. We decided it would be quite hilarious to go to the discoteca so early so, at 8:00 pm at night we walked into Mae West (it’s free before 11:00 pm) and broke it down. It was one of the best experiences I have had there!



The next day our group took a day trip to Córdoba, Spain. On the way there our bus stopped at a restaurant where we had a traditional Spanish breakfast: toast with crushed tomatoes, a dash of salt, and olive oil and of course a side of Cola Cao (a very popular Spanish hot chocolate). I have wanted to go to Córdoba the entire time that I have been here, a feeling that was increased when I learned about la mezquita (the mosque) in my art history of Spain class that I am taking here. Our tour of the beautiful city began in the Jewish neighborhood where we went into a museum dedicated to the Jewish heritage in Spain. Then we toured around some of the other buildings in the area, including an ancient synagogue that had been converted into a mosque and then to a church. Later on we visited La Alcazaba, which is an Alhambra-esque city/castle. Last we visited la mezquita. It was AMAZING to see a building that I had learned and heard so much about. Like most of the ancient Arabic buildings in Spain, it was converted into a cathedral which is awkwardly built into the middle of the mosque. When you stand in the cathedral part, you instantly forget that you are also in an even older mosque- mind blowing.



Thanksgiving week, the following week, was another very busy week for me. Wednesday we went to Maristas (the high school where we volunteer in the English classes) and we gave a presentation on Thanksgiving as it is not a holiday that the Spanish celebrate. Of course, I wanted to make my activity extremely interesting so Paul (my project partner) and I decided to have the students read out loud a script (in English) that explains the first Thanksgiving… while simultaneously wearing Native American and Pilgrim paper hats that I made. Can you believe that I convinced seventeen and eighteen year-old high school students to wear these infantile costumes? They enjoyed it too, I was shocked. That night, Pam and I went to the Granada bus station to meet our friend from Stonehill, Jennie Denuccio, who is studying in London this semester. On our way there, Pam and I were not paying very close attention, so when the bus driver suddenly said, “Este es la ultima parade,” (this is the last stop) we got off the bus without questioning, assuming that it was the bus station (the last stop on the route). Oops. For reasons that we are unsure, the bus driver forced us off of the bus a ten minute walk from where we were actually supposed to get off from. However, we luckily got some help from other confused passengers and eventually found our way to Jennie. The next day Pam and I took turns showing Jennie around the city and then we all went out for Falafel for lunch (mmmm!). That night, of course, was our lovely Thanksgiving meal- so delicious!



Friday morning I went to the Alhambra with Amalia and a couple of other students where we saw the Matisse exhibit that is being shown right now in el Palacio de Carlos V (Carlos V’s Palace). Amalia knows so much about art, and she had so much to tell us, it was so interesting! I decided that I like Matisse’s style a little bit better than that of Picasso (both were very good friends). After our visit we met up with Pam and Jennie for churros at a local café. I do not think that I have yet explained that Spanish churros are different from those that we know in the United States. They are more like fried dough and are usually eaten with a fondue-like glass of melted chocolate in which they are dipped in. Need I explain just how amazing they are? I did not think so. After our wonderful snack Pam and Jennie took off for the bus station where they caught a bus to Malaga where they caught a plane (along with Pam’s high school friend Chrstina) to London. In London, they toured around, hung out with Jennie’s friends, visited our friend Ashley Trebasacci at Oxford (where she is studying for the year), and saw Harry Potter 7 in English. I imagine that this was a wonderful trip! Saturday I went to an amazing Flamenco show in Sacramonte. The stage where the artists performed was directly in front of a giant picture window that started with the blinds closed, and when the show began the blinds were pulled aside to reveal a breath-taking view of the city with the Alhambra illuminated in the middle. The show itself was spectacular, and I now understand why they label Flamenco as one of the “great global wonders.” Sunday I went to mass with the family and had a much needed relaxing day (because, of course, my life is so hard).

I forgot to mention- and I honestly cannot remember any more which week it occurred in- that Professor Antonio Barbagallo (a last name which basically translates to Rooster Beard, quite the respectable name), the head of the foreign languages department at Stonehill, came to visit and assess our program here. First, he came and lectured to all of us involved in the program- a very interesting lecture on anglocismos in the Spanish language (he is Italian, but speaks Italian, Spanish, French, and English!). Afterwards, Pam and I were invited to have lunch with him, the director of the CLM, her second in command, Amalia, and one of our other professors from the CLM. It was such an interesting lunch and I felt so honored to be in the company of such influential people. Here in Spain, we would call this particular situation, “super guay” (wicked cool).

Today in Flamenco class, Ana dressed us up, did our hair, put makeup on us, and took pictures! I felt like a peculiar mixture between a doll and a model, but it was so much fun to see Ana so excited and to have so much fun. Tomorrow, Pam leaves for Brussels with our friend Mark where they will visit her extended family members that live there. On Saturday I leave Granada to meet them both in Florence, Italy where we will spend a couple days and visit my friends Jenna and Faith as well as some of Pam’s friends. I’m so excited! Ok, I hope that this post quenched your blog thirst at least a little, and I’m sorry- once again, for my negligence! ¡Hasta luego!





PS I come home in about seventeen days!
PPS I’m so glad that we got to Skype yesterday, PJ!
PPPS I love you.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Irish eyes really do smile!

Top o' the morning to ya! Ok, so I do not think that I heard that once from an actual Irish person this weekend, but it was certainly an adventure. So as I wrote in my last little post, we were met at the airport by another huelga, this time against RyanAir- the plane company the we were taking. After that awkward situation, everything else with our plane went well (besides the fact the RyanAir is less than cozy) and we soon touched down in the beautiful emerald isle. There are constantly droughts in Spain so the earth is very dry and therefore very brown. Ireland, being quite the opposite on the rain scale, was a gorgeous dark green (occasionally draped in a white frost).

From the airport we jumped on the shuttle bus that goes to the bus station and soon saw the faces of our friends, Jennie and Casey. The next form of transportation, and thankfully the last for the night, was a trans-country bus leaving from Dublin and ending in Galway. It only takes about three hours to get from one end of the county to the other, and I hear that it is roughly the size of Maine.

When we finally reached Galway, we were concerned to discover that the directions to the hostel that I had printed out really were not much help because if there is a rare street sign, the street name can be different on the other side of the street or further down the street. However, after a few different and partially wrong directions from several different people, we were able to. Find Sleepzone, our hostel for the weekend. This is the first hostel that I have stayed in where I had to share a room with other random people whom I did not know. It ended up being fine though! Everyone just seemed to be interested in having a good time and being safe- just like us. The only thing that I less than enjoyed, however, were the showers. Each shower had a button that you pressed to turn on this upsettingly and obliteratingly cold water for about thirty seconds and then it would turn off again, upon which you would push that button and lose your breath once more.

The next morning we inquired about the Galway market that we had heard about and (finally having received decent directions) we spent a good part of the morning shopping there and in the surrounding stores. It was kind of funny to see all of the Irish jewelry and to think- what are they doing with all of Aunty Kathy's stuff? We then met up with my friend from Stonehill, Nate, who is studying there this semester. We all ate at a pub together, I had seafood chowder and soda bread (mmmmmm!), and then he gave us a little tour of the little city. We saw the Spanish Arch, the river, the Galway swans, the cathedral, the university, and Nate's apartment. Homemade grilled cheese, salsa, and spinach sandwiches made a delicious dinner and then we were off again! Nate took us to one of his favorite pubs, "Hole in the Wall" and we all had a blast dancing around (it wasn't a club, but they had a large dance floor in the back!). I had my first (and only!) Guinness in Ireland, and it really was better than Spanish Guinness. After we exhausted ourselves there, we headed for a club where one of Nate's favorite bands was playing- again, a blast!

The next morning, Pam and I decided to take the bus with Jennie and Casey back to Dublin so that we could explore the capital a little bit. We immediately found a church with a mass to start in fifteen minutes so we grabbed a pew, removed all our packs and enjoyed our first mass in English in about three months. It was so great to be able to be fully present in the service and to participate, and I even knew a few of the songs! Recharged and ready to face the day, Pam and I started walking towards Trinity College where the book of Kells is. I have always read about this book and heard of its influence, and I was excited to be in the place where it was held. Next we found and walked around the outside and the chapel of Dublin castle. On our march onward from there, we discovered a free walking tour that we had heard good things about so we joined them for the last hour and-a-half of the terrifically informative tour. After the tour, the guide invited us all to join him at this pub where people from the tour could get a discount on a mountain of food. Intrigued by this, Pam and went and stayed the next few hours chatting with our new friends. There were two Irish tour guides and two Australian boys (backpackers) with whom we chatted about everything from sports to politics. It was great!

After we realized that we had probably over stayed our welcome at the pub, Pam and I began walking towards the bus station again. We saw a movie theatre and decided that it was probably better to waste time at the movies than at the airport so we each bought a ticket for Mammoth and sat down to relax. I do not know if I have ever seen a more horrible movie. I realize that if I had probably taken the time to analyze it then I could have appreciated it more, but I was so tired and it was so depressing and heavy that it simply made me angry! After the horrible movie, we took the double decker bus to the airport, found comfortable seats and tried to sleep. I think anyone who knows me knows how cranky I can get when I am so tired- so just use your imaginations on this one! Needless to say, we survived and our bus is now pulling into Granada, let's hope our city bus ride and short walk home go well too! Night night (at 4:30 in the afternoon)!

PS I love you!

Friday, November 12, 2010

PS

We have survived our second Huelga of the day! There was a strike against RyanAir- real fun when you're trying to check in and people are loudly chanting and waving flags
around you.

Huelga: Round 2

Buenos dias! Today is the big day, the trip that I am probably most excited about out of all of them: we're on our way to Ireland! As most of my plans go, however, it's not even 11:00am and we've already faced some serious obstacles... Our bus to Malaga (where our plane leaves from) was scheduled to leave at 10:00 so we decided we should try to leave our house by about 9:00 as we already had our tickets and only needed to board. Does anyone really leave when they say that they are going to? In any case, as about 9:10 we were standing in front of a police road block on Gran Via, the street where we usually take the bus from, so that a huelga parade could take place. Uh oh. Thinking fast, Pam suggested we walk to the next closest bus stop (maybe five minutes away), but once there we had trouble figuring out where to go with all of the route changes. After about ten panicked minutes, Pam turned to me and said,"Let's just take a taxi." I agreed, but then our next question arose, how? All of a sudden a taxi came driving towards us and, almost instinctively, I raised my arm and hailed a cab for the first time in my life- and he stopped! The way there was through crazy back roads that we could have never done and we arrived at the bus station at 9:56- not a minute to spare! Thankfully, everyone in Spain is generally always late so our bus had not even arrived yet. Next a girl came up to ask me if it was the right bus, and we just began talking. I soon realized that her accent was clearly not Spanish, and she explained that she was from Mexico (neighbors!). It was interesting to talk to her and her friends and to hear Mexican Spanish again. It's not a good trip if there is not at least a little bit if excitement.

Wednesday night, Pam could not go to our Flamenco class as she had a lot of work to do so it was just me and my friend Liz. However, when Ana discovered this she decided that it was not worth it to start learning a new part of the dance... So we all went shopping together. Only in Spain!

Yesterday was a very busy day for me. It began with an exam in my 8:30 class, and got fun from there on. For my art history class, we went on a field trip (yes, field trip!) to la catedral (the Tuesday before we went to la capilla real). It was interesting to see it from a completely different perspective than when we visited with Amalia. Next, I ran to my volunteering at the high school where I work with Mark. It is always so much fun and the kids are just great. After I made the trek home for lunch (lentil puree with croutons and boquerones on the side- mmmmm). After lunch I finished packing my bag for Ireland, a stuffed L.L. Bean backpack, yet still RyanAir approved, and by 5:00 I was off again. I have been trying to contact my assigned intercombio for a while now, but to no avail so I finally acquired a new one, Juan Miguel. We decided to meet and talk at a teteria near Plaza Nueva, and I'm so glad to have met him! He's very nice and quite patient with my Spanish but he was also thrilled to practice his English with me. I think that might be the first time that I've heard a Spaniard say, "It's so good to hear English again!" At 7:00 I ran off for the last two hours of my acting class, which- per usual- was wonderful and hilarious. After I met up with some girls in my POE class for Tapas near la Plaza Trinidad. We have a project for which we must get Tapas from several different restaurants and give a presentation on them- only in Spain!

I think we're in Malaga now, so I must leave you but I will try to write again soon.

PS May you always be loco con tu tigre!

PPS Happy the other day was your birthday, daddy!

PPPS We're so glad you made it home safe Katie!

PPPPS I love you.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Parental Advisory: You will enjoy this city!

Holy blog post, Batman! Scouts honor, I will try harder to keep up with my blog posts from now on. That being said, the end of October was quite a busy and exciting month as November has been thus far as well. Allow me to begin with perhaps the most exciting event that happened in the time that I have been away from the blog: my parent’s visit! I can still remember the first day that they arrived so vividly. I was so excited I could barely sit through my Art History and Grammar classes (although the coffee didn’t help much with this) and when I was finally released from school, I flew off to meet them at the airport shuttle’s bus stop at the city’s Cathedral. Arriving much earlier than was necessary, I walked to a little fruit vendor, purchased a deliciously juicy green apple, and then made my way back to the bus stop. As I munched on my apple and nervously wondered if I had gotten the time and place wrong, the shuttle bus suddenly pulled up in front of me. I eagerly scanned the windows for two adorable yet frightened Americans when I saw my mother’s worried face in the back of the bus, she immediately started smiling, waving, and trying to point me out to my confused and tired father. My throat got tight, my eyes got puffy, and I immediately felt relaxed- I was so happy to see them! Next we made the trek to the Hotel Dauro II, their new home for the next two weeks, with slightly more class and fewer struggles than Pam’s and my arrival to the city two months before.

That night Mom and Dad had no interest in wasting any time whatsoever with worrying about jetlag and insisted that we go out for Tapas. I took them to “La Antigua,” my favorite Tapas bar in Plaza Nueva where the drinks are cheap and the free food is bountiful. After this delicious introduction to the culture of Granada, I brought them back to their hotel and told them where to meet me the next morning at 10:00 am. Now before you accuse me of instituting cruel and unusual punishment on my poor padres, I must inform you that they were quite willing- more Mum than Dad, but he was a good sport too- to wake up early for the city’s mercadillo. The mercadillo is a kind of outdoor flea market but with high quality items (mostly clothes) and extremely low prices. Teresa acted as our guide there, stopping on the way to buy us native Spanish fruit including the delicious- yet ridiculously messy- Chirimoya (no worries about the mess, mom was all over that with wet wipes and hand sanitizer for everyone). We all enjoyed the mercadillo and stayed for quite some time. Mum and Dad got to meet my friends Jayson and Mark too as they also went on the excursion with us.
The next day, Pam and I took Mom and Dad to San Mattias, the closest church to our house, for a Spanish mass- rather interesting! I have to admit, I’m not exactly sure when we did what, but I can at least say that I now know a lot more Tapas bars in the city than I did before. By recommendation of my host mother Ana, I brought my parents up el mirador de San Nicolas, a great lookout spot in El Albaicin to see La Alhambra. After we had feasted our eyes on the awesome view of the Alhambra at night, we ate at a restaurant up there, and then began our descent down the mountain. Deciding that we didn’t need to take the bus down as we had to go up to El Albaicin, we roamed the streets on foot and did our best to find our way back to Plaza Nueva. An excellent choice- the different Alhambra views and breathtaking small side streets made it all so worth it!

By themselves, Mom and Dad took an olive tour one day during which they got to see how olive oil is made, the history of olive oil production, and they got to taste different types of olive oil too (yes there are apparently many different types). They raved about the tour and seemed to learn quite a lot on it. They took excellent tours of the Alhambra and the Cathedral and were in complete awe of the amazing architecture and history of both ancient edifices. Mom and Dad also got to meet my Flamenco teacher, Ana, when we went out for Tapas on her birthday and when they came to my Flamenco class. Of course, we also visited the relaxing Baños Arabes. Need I even explain how lovely it was? Earlier that day, Ana had them over our house to meet the kids and to have coffee with desserts. It was so fun to translate for everyone!

Pam’s mom arrived safely in Granada on the 28th and we were so glad to spend a little bit of time with her and Pam before we all made our separate ways to Malaga, Spain. Mom, Dad, and I stayed outside of the city in Benaldamena in a gorgeous all inclusive resort that we got really lucky to get so cheap in the off season. The next day we took the train into Malaga and spent the day on a very informative open-air tour bus, we had lunch in a great fish restaurant, and then we went to the Picasso museum. It was amazing to see the work of such a legend in the city that he was born in and lived in until he was nineteen. After the museum we sniffed out an ice cream store and then found Pam and her mother, they stayed in a hostel close to the Picasso museum. We all walked to La Alcazaba, a similar ancient, Arabic city-castle like La Alhambra, but right in the middle of the city. The contrast of the old red stone next to the new, modern buildings was rather striking. As it was too late to enter, we climbed quite high outside of it and explored what we could while we enjoyed the amazing view of the Mediterranean city. The next day Momma, Poppa, and I spent lazily enjoying our hotel- a much appreciated and needed rest- and we went to the next town over, Puerta Marina, to window shop (me and Mom), look at all of the boats (Dad), and to enjoy our Spanish/Italian dinner (Italian food is quite different in Spain from how we know it in the US).

The next week was full of Tapas, calamari, Kebab, Falafel, and walks all over the beautiful city. Their last night here we walked up to el mirador again to show Pam’s mom the gorgeous view and then to walk down and hit as many tapas bars as we could. Mom and Dad did very well assimilating to the culture, especially when it came to siesta time. I feel so blessed to have had so much time with them and to have showed them my adopted city.

This past weekend, my friends Katie, Jayson, John, and I went to Guadix, a small town about forty-five minutes outside of Granada and well known for the cave homes that the people there live in. We rented a cave for a night and did nothing but have a sleepover. It was so cool! The cave was HUGE and rather cozy as well. Alright, I better leave you now so that I can at least sleep a little before my classes tomorrow.

PS May your tapas be cheap, your falafel delicious, and your cave roomy. I love you.
PPS Miss you already Mommy and Daddy

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Message from my Mobile.

Buenos dias! At this very moment, I am riding a huge bus that is heading back to Granada. From where am I traveling? La Alpujarra, a gorgeous chain of mountain towns that makes one feel as though she has traveled back in time. We left Granada this morning and began our treacherous journey climbing the winding and ridiculously small roads. When we finally reached the first town, we went into a little restaurant where we all got tapas as we needed the energy for our hike. It was only an hour long hike, but it was literally all uphill! I've learned that when Teresa says to where sports clothes and sneakers- you do! It was a challenging hike, but it helped me to realize even more just how much I enjoy hiking. When we finally made it to the next town, we visited a little house that has been made into a museum. It was built in the IV century! After we boarded the bus and made our way to the next town where Teresa gave us two hours to explore, shop, and eat lunch. The little town was so precious and cute!

Classes this past week were easy to get through as they are so short and- as I have made clear- fun! Wednesday we had our Flamenco class and I have to say that we are actually getting it! Ok, so I should clarify that we know the steps and can do them quickly, but we are constantly messing up the hands (for some reason the hardest part) and we march through the steps rather than gracefully slide! As we had to miss class the week before, Ana decided that we needed to have class the following day as well. I really love her. She makes the class so much fun and it's an excellent stress reliever. Liz asked her if she knew any good stores and she almost went crazy telling us about one of her favorite subjects, and we were delighted when she just exclaimed, "We must go shopping together!" If it sounds like a dream come true- that's what it is.

I forgot to mention: before Flamenco I did my volunteering at the high school (Pam went on Tuesday, I think) with Marc and I had a great time. I should be taking notes on all of the interesting gender norms here as situations like volunteering help me see them so clearly. We first spoke with the girls in the class and then separately with the boys (all between fifteen and sixteen years-old). The girls were very timid and shy to use their language skills and were careful to speak one at a time, but the boys were confident and basically all spoke at the same time. Interesting.

Flash forward to after Flamenco that day. I did not have a lot of time to get to my acting class after so I literally ran/hopped/skipped all the way down a very busy street- quite hilarious, I'm sure. The class was a blast once again, but there were not as many people as the first time and I was sad to see that some of my friends from before where not there.

Right after the class, I ran off back towards my house in a fashion that I am sure was just as goofy as before. There is a museum right next to our house (to be honest, I have no idea what is there or why!) and they were having a free Flamenco guitar concert. On my way to the concert, I grabbed a falafel sandwich for dinner which I ate as I walked. I really hope that you can visualize and appreciate just how silly I looked. The concert was fantastic and super intense- you only have to listen to Spanish guitar once to know what I mean. After the concert we celebrated our friend Amy's birthday by getting Tapas. Mmmmm!

Yesterday I had class in the morning but in the afternoon Pam and I met up with one of her best friends from high school, Christina (she is studying in Cordoba but came to Granada for the weekend with her group) and her friend Emily. We shopped our way across Granada, went home to change, and then met up again to go out for Tapas and then to meet up with our other friends.

I find that I'm struggling to stay spiritually stimulated while I'm here. Perhaps it is because I have not been to mass in English in a long time or maybe because I am distracted by so many other things, but I do miss my strong relationship that I am able to work on a Stonehill.

PS May your journey be long, difficult, and uphill because the view at the end will always be better.

PPS I wrote this on my Blackberry, don't judge.

PPPS I love you.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Now they're throwing knives at us?

¡Hola! I absolutely love long weekends! I wrote you last on Sunday, but that was like our Friday as we had both Monday and Tuesday off as today is a national holiday! It was spectacular. I accomplished very little, but I had a lot of fun doing it. Pam took a bus by herself to Cordoba on Sunday so that she could visit her friend from high school, Christina while I stayed home and missed her terribly. I went to mass on the other side of the city with my friends Jayson and Paul, but- once again- the church was so big and "echo-friendly" that I could understand very little of what was happening. Sunday night while I was mourning Pam, I went with our other friends and we attempted to find a place that advertised a cheap Flamenco show. However, after about 20 minutes of walking we realized that we were either going the wrong way or were lost. Oops. Thankfully, we were all in relatively good spirits with half-full glasses and we continued our miniature journey in a part of the city that we had never been in before. Honestly, I particularly enjoy the company of the other students in my group and even getting partially lost with them was fun and a great way to end my day.

It's getting colder in Granada, but it is the kind of weather that constantly keeps you guessing. In the mornings it is very cold and jacket (maybe even Northface)appropriate weather, but as soon as you have walked for about twenty minutes you are regretting your decision to bring that jacket. Still later on, you feel the heat of that sunshine bearing down on you in what I'm sure is meant to be a friendly way, but is almost unbearable in your long sleeves and boots. At night time it cools down a little bit, but usually you are moving or walking around so much that it does not matter or affect you. Needless to say, Granada really knows how to keep you guessing.

Monday I woke up early (for a sleepy college student who does not enjoy waking up early when she does not need to) and went with John, Molly, and Amy to the Medieval Fair in town. Yes, there are Medieval Fairs in Spain! I have never been to a Medieval Fair before, but it was not as grand as I have always expected it to be. I'm assuming that this was a traveling fair and therefore not as intense as something like King Richard's Fair. It was mostly just vendors selling homemade crafts and food with a limited number of minstrels and jesters. The best part was when this crazy looking man with knives (yes, knives) walked up to me and asked (in Spanish of course) if my John was very brave. I answered, "eh," so of course they took that as John volunteering himself and they placed him into position to be part of their spectacle. After they explained their show, they started throwing knives on either side of John as he stood still with a slightly horrified look on his face. Spanish people can sometimes be slightly crazy, but they are usually always fun.

Today there was another procession right in front of our house, but this time is ended with the loudest display of fireworks that I have ever heard. I'm not sure why, but a popular thing in Spain is to light fireworks off during the day or twilight when it really isn't dark enough outside. These fireworks were so loud that I had to make extra sure that they were only fireworks as they were so loud I thought (at first) that we were under attack.

Forgive me if I already wrote this, but it's blowing my mind: Ana told Pam and I the other day that her home was built in the 16th century, and it has belonged to her family almost that long too. THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY! I can barely count to sixteen.

PS You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are gray, you'll never know dear how much I love you, please don't take my sunshine away!

PPS I love you.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Today is my mommy's birthday!

¡FELIZ CUMPLEAÑOS MAMA! Espero que disfrutes el día, te amo.

¿Como estaís? In the United States, South American Spanish is taught in the Spanish classes, and this is slightly different than the Spanish that is spoken here. One of the biggest differences is that in Spain the “vosotros” form (a plural form of “you,” which essentially translates to, “Y’all”) is used all the time, but in South America the “ustedes” form (a slightly more formal version of the same thing) is used but “vosotros” is not used. Therefore, when one learns Spanish in high school and college they usually do not teach the “vosotros” form so I really did not have any idea how to use it, and I was a bit surprised when I arrived here and everyone and their mother uses the word. I have since made it my mission to learn it and become comfortable using it and I am pleased to say that although I still struggle with some of the tenses, it has become a staple in my vocabulary!

Last week was our first week of classes and I am pleased to report that I am thoroughly enjoying my classes. I am taking a Spanish speaking and writing class (POE) and a grammar class with the same professor, Susanna. She has a good teaching style, speaks slowly enough that she is easy to understand, and we play a lot of games in the class so I like it. All ten of us in the GRIIS program have to take a Spanish culture and language class with Amalia and I am grateful that I at least get to spend a little bit of class time with my friends as it is sad not to see them everyday anymore. My last class is probably my favorite. Art history is one of those subjects that I have always wanted to take and I was so excited when I saw that I could take it here, but I was thrilled when I met my professor. Salvador is hilarious, a great aficionado of opera music, begins each class by making us sing the “Granada,” song with him, he speaks slowly and clearly enough that I can understand him, and is quite passionate about his fascinating subject. Lovely.

Last Thursday I went to my first acting class. As sort of an extracurricular club, the CLM offers this acting class for the students and for any Granadinas that wish to take it as well. For me, this is a formula for perfection. There were just enough Americans there to make me feel comfortable, one or two students from Bulgaria to keep it interesting, some Spaniards from outside of Granada who are studying in the city, and a good number of actual Granadinans! There are so many different accents in this room it really is laughable. As it was the first day, we played a lot of fun and classic “get-to-know-ya” and acting games. Once again, my name proved to be difficult for everyone and it didn’t get much better when I also introduced the fact that I’m from Mashpee. I’m so happy that I’m finally starting to make Spanish friends. It’s been great hanging out with my American friends, but I’ve definitely been lacking a little bit in the cultural department with Spanish friends my own age.

Thankfully this joyous train of Spanish friends kept on chuggin’ the next night. GRIIS has this program where they set up an American trying to learn Spanish with a Spaniard trying to learn English so that each can practice the language that she or he wishes to become proficient in, your partner is called your “Intercambio.” My friend Molly has an Intercambio, Alba, who is our age and wants to meet and make friends with Americans and she has a lot of friends who want the same thing. We got to meet up with them on Friday night for Tapas. They are all so nice and speak really slowly and carefully so that we can understand them. Also, for some reason it is really easy for me to talk with them. It was so much fun exchanging cultural experiences with them and fielding questions like, “Do you like McDonalds?”

Before we went out on Friday, Pam, Jayson, Molly and I went with Teresa to El Museo del Sacramonte which is near El Albaicin. Almost all of the homes in El Sacramonte have been built into caves and people actually live in them today. The museum was a tribute to these dwellings and explained how people lived in the past and live in them today. It was super interesting.

Random sprinkle of information: I have found a new obsession in the food department: Falaffel. There are probably as many “Kebab King” restaurants in Granada as there heladerias and I am perfectly fine with this.

Last random ray of sunshine: Yesterday was Jaime’s birthday (he’s 10 now!) so Pam and I bought him a Spy kit at El Corte Ingles as a gift. It is equipped with a magic pen (it has invisible ink) and a watch that has a microphone and a recording device. I think it was a fairly successful gift, but I’m sure that Carlos and Anita will not appreciate it when Jaime uses it to spy on them- which he probably will.

PS Os amo!

PPS Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Mommy, happy birthday to you!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Anything off the trolley dears?

***ATTENTION*** The following was written last Friday morning: ***ATTENTION***

Cheerio Mates! This message comes to you from London, England, United Kingdom! Pam and I spent the entire day traveling yesterday and I thought we were going to have to sleep in the train station, but everything ended up working out just fine! Hooray for having friends in random European locations!
So: I would like to first address Pam's very special birthday as I haven't talked about it yet! Most of the day was normal until night time when we met our friends at Hannigans (honestly, where else?). It was open mic night so I got to sing a little while our friend Courtney played the guitar, it was so cool! I think Pam enjoyed herself and was happy to just relax with good friends for her birthday.

Fun festivities of a birthday party aside, it was not a fun time waking up the next morning. Our bus to Madrid left at 8:00am which meant that we had to be there by 7:40 (at the latest), which means that we had to catch a bus to the bus station by 7:15, which means we had to leave our house by 7:10, which means that we woke up at 6:45. We're college students. However, I am pleased to report that this leg of our journey went swimmingly and we made it onto the bus without a hitch. About five hours- and a great nap- later we pulled into the Madrid bus station. Armed with directions on how to get to the airport, we took to the street and we were immediately confused. Nothing looked right and we could not find the street that we were supposed to be on anywhere! However, all was not lost! Upon looking at our bus tickets once more, we realized that when we had changed them (to avoid the huelga) the woman had also changed the bus station. Once this was realized, however, this was not a problem as the bus station we were ACTUALLY at had a metro stop part of it that went straight and directly to the airport (it doesn't get much easier than that). When we finally reached the airport we signed in and went into the boarding area. For some reason, in Madrid they don't tell you your terminal number, you have to sit and wait until about a half-hour/hour before your flight when it scrolls across the screen and then you run like crazy to get there on time. This also went well and after a few more quick naps in the airport, we found our plane and boarded.

I have heard absolute horror stories about Ryan Air so I was expecting the absolute worst, but I was pleasantly proven wrong. Thankfully I'm not terribly obese or did not have to use the bathroom because then I would have been charged, and thankfully I was not tempted to buy any of the things that they try to sell you while on the flight (including "Smokeless Cigarettes"). We got to London right on time and without any problems, but the next task was to find out where our train was. I realize that everything was in English, but it was like a foreign language- so hard to understand! Thankfully we asked a lovely British woman and she helped us find our way without a problem.

***ATTENTION*** The following was written today: ***ATTENTION***

I don’t know why, I just really wanted to write “ATTENTION” in capital and important looking letters. In any case, let us return to my London Adventure!
When we arrived at King’s Cross Station, yes the same one from Harry Potter, we immediately began our search for Platform 9 ¾, and we found it! They have a sign with the name and half of a trolley that is literally glued to the wall so that when you hold it it looks like you are “going through the wall” to the Hogwart’s Express! This, my dear friends, was like a dream come true for both Pam and I. After many photographs and exuberant giggles in response to a British man’s “It’s not real girls!” Pam and I began our search for my friend James who is interning in London this semester. Fifteen (if not more) futile minutes and the realization that our lovely cell phones do not work outside of Spain later; we began the search for an internet café (Pam’s AWESOME idea). Right when I was on the verge of tears, we found what we were looking for, I signed into Skype, and James was online! Soon after, we were embracing in King’s Cross station- I’ve never been so happy to see anyone before in my life!

The next day, James and Pam’s friend Casey had to work at their internships so we were given a lovely little tour by Pam’s friend Jennie who is studying at King’s College. We first made a quick visit to the British Museum then met up with Jennie’s cousin Patrick (he is studying at Oxford for the year). Our spectacular lunch was at a Portuguese restaurant (yes, in London!) near Jennie’s dorm. Next we found ourselves at the supermarket in search for peanut butter. No one eats the delicious spread in Spain so it is very expensive; however, the English LOVE their peanut butter (at least in London they do- it’s a very international city) so it is very cheap. I bought a jar. Happy and fed we went to Jennie’s residence hall and then she gave us our tour of Hampstead. Luckily, school had just ended so we got to see dozens of adorable little British children running about, and we finished our tour with a visit to a little café. Pam drank a latté and I had a dark hot chocolate (literally warm milk with a block of dark chocolate on a stick to be dipped in the liquid- divine). By the way, we rode on the tube and double decker busses! Also, in true London fashion it rained the entire day.

That night we returned to the other side of London to meet up with James, Jayson (another friend of mine from Stonehill who is interning in London), and one of their house mates and we were joined by one of Jennie’s friends, Nicola (she’s from Trinidad). We went to the “Friend at Hand,” a pub very close to James and Jayson’s flat, and I was determined to try an extremely British food so I ate a “Chip Butty” which was literally French fries between two pieces of white bread with a small salad on the side! However, as they say, (the following is to be read in a very thick British accent) do not knock it until you have tried it! It was simply smashing. Later that we went to a dance club called O’Neills. It had three floors, the first dedicated to a bar, the second to a smaller bar and small dancing areas, and the third to a mosh pit that stood in front of a stage that housed a live rock band. It was so much fun! We definitely boogied down.

The next day James gave me a speed tour of London. We visited Buckingham Palace, looked up at Big Ben, took a peek at the River Thames, gazed at the London Eye, saw a London Duck Boat, and visited Kingston Palace (I think that’s what it’s called- sorry James!) where James is doing his internship. It was a very quick tour, but it was still amazing and hilarious to see that many people thought that James was a local- he was asked for directions about 5 times! James also insisted that I try a Pasty and as they eat them in Harry Potter, I indulged. It was quite delicious and I highly recommend it to anyone. Pam spent her day with her friend Casey. They had a lovely brunch in a French café, visited the British Museum once again where they have the Rosetta Stone, visited Casey’s university in downtown London where there was an activities fair, went to a second-hand clothing store that also triples as a vintage bowling alley and restaurant, shopped for tourist gifts, met up with Jennie and her friends, and ended with some classic silly pictures (again in the museum) until the fire alarm went off and they were forced to evacuate. Our days intersected at King’s Cross where we bid farewell to our friends and jumped on a train to another train to a plane to a very long night in Madrid. I would not advise anyone to buy plane tickets that arrive in Madrid at 12:20 am and bus tickets that arrive in Madrid at 8:00 am. Let’s just say it’s not as fun as it sounds.

Thankfully, we eventually made it back to Granada (after a sleepless night of riding the night buses of Madrid) and we started classes on Monday. We have since been trying to keep up with Amalia’s homework and make sure that we make it to our classes on time. Right now, I better run as we have Flamenco classes soon. I will fill you in on more of what’s going on in our lives soon!

PS Love you so much!

PPS I guess people have been having trouble commenting on the blog- sorry, I don’t know how to fix it! Any ideas?

PPPS MY PARENTS ARE COMING TO VISIT ME IN GRANADA!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Huelga won’t get us down!

¡Queridos amigos! I’m terribly sorry that I have not been able to write to you in quite a few days, but I have to admit that I was enjoying myself. Thursday we had class as usual and then went to Karaoke at Hannigans’ at night, but we did not stay very long as the real fun was to begin very early the next morning. At 7:00 am we were scheduled to meet Teresa, Amalia, and the other students at the Plaza Real where we would board a bus set for the destination of Madrid, Spain. Quite excited, yet less than thrilled to be waking so early, we prepared all of our necessities the night before so that our journey could commence quite easily. However, I cannot even remember how, but Pam and I ended up running late! Living in a city, we have become particularly skilled at speed walking and we made it there with four minutes to spare, but once there it took quite a few minutes for us to catch our breath. Five hours, and a viciously uncomfortable nap later (it was like I was doing bus yoga) we arrived in Madrid.

What an interesting city Madrid is! First of all, it’s rather large and has over six million inhabitants, but what really got me was the architecture of the city. You cannot escape the history or the vibrant Spanish culture. We stayed right in the center of Madrid in a beautiful hotel called the Hotel Regina. As we arrived around noon, we were free to have an early lunch- one we had brought from home- and to take a quick siesta. After this short break, Amalia brought us on a little walking tour of the city. Apparently, all of the highways in Spain stem out from Madrid so that, on a map, Spain appears to be a big wheel with Madrid at the nation’s center (does that make Madrid the hub?). We walked through the Plaza del Sol, named such as it is shaped like a rising or setting sun. It is here where much of the shopping is, many of the tourists wander, a number of the street performers practice their arts (a debatable term), and many people tend to lose their belongings to others. Our tour continued on to the Plaza Mayor and eventually to the Cathedral of Madrid. By this point in my life, I have visited my fair share of cathedrals. Anyone who has visited more than three cathedrals (and is not an expert on them, or perhaps is more intelligent than I) will tell you that they start to all seem like the same ridiculously ornate building after a while. I have to say that I was not impressed by the Catedral de la Almudena de Madrid, but it was not only due to grandeur exhaustion. The Cathedral was only completed in 1993 and I felt that it lacked serious historical charm and meaning. When you sit in a pew at Notre Dame, you are amazed to realize that Napolean Bonaparte had sat in the same church and had seized his own crown, but the cathedral in Madrid was too shiny, too clean, and was almost a sad attempt to reclaim the glory of a time now passed.

In a more positive light, I was completely delighted with the Royal Palace which we explored next. I was slightly reminded of Versaille, although the décor and glamour were not quite as excessive (but really what is as excessive as Versaille?) and pleased with the waves of information and history that Amalia washed upon us about the building. When we finished this little tour, Almalia released us to Madrid and we did some shopping (what else is new?). Later on, Pam and I went out to dinner with our friends Mark and John (everyone else went for Sushi- not my thing). We went to this busy little sandwich shop and ate fried calamari sandwiches with potatoes brava. Daddy, you would love this dish! The calamari was delicious and the brava sauce is brilliantly spicy yet delectably tasty. After our dinner, we returned to the hotel to meet up with our other friends and to grab an ice cream cone. As Ms. Badylak-Reals would say, the ice cream was “yum-a-lums!” Finally getting in touch with my friend Tessa, who is studying in Madrid this semester, I arranged to meet her outside my hotel. It was so cool! We really did not do anything, but it was so great to see her and to hear about her semester thus far.


The next morning, we arose for a nice complimentary breakfast buffet at the hotel, with hot breakfast foods! Pam and I were in heaven. Every single day we eat cereal for breakfast as it is not considered a very important meal in Spain, but both of us agreed that we’ve desperately missed Stonehill’s brunch, and I explained that I missed my daddy’s omelets (I want a tomato and American as soon as I get home please, thanks). After breakfast, our tour of the city continued on, ending at the Prado museum, the most visited museum in Spain and a Spanish art-lover’s dream! It was so cool to see paintings that I have only ever read about or seen photographs of including Las Meninas, La Maja Vestida/Desnuda, El tres de Mayo de 1808, and El caballero de la mano en el pecho. After our tour of the Prado, we returned to our bus and began our short trip to Toledo.

I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I knew nothing about Toledo. Of course I had heard of it, and could remember that it had some sort of connection to El Greco, but besides that I had no idea what to expect. That is why my jaw dropped to the floor when the bus literally rolled into a medieval castle nestled into a grassy hill. We ate lunch in a little restaurant that overlooked the river and the city itself. The meal began with a delicious assortment of tapas, and then when we felt as though we could not possibly eat any more, we were served a huge plate of fried chicken and french fries which was then followed by a little cup of fruit and ice cream. Needless to say, when we finished, we rolled out of the restaurant and began our tour of the medieval city. We visited the cathedral which hosts more of El Greco’s work and then to a museum that is made of the ruins of an ancient synagogue. So fascinating!


On the bus ride home, Pam and I realized something very interesting. Remember how I said that we bought tickets to go to London this Wednesday? There is also a national huelga on Wednesday, or a national strike. This means that there will be no flying, bus transportation, or even school in the country of Spain because all of the Spaniards will be on strike. As you can imagine, Pam and I immediately panicked. Amalia assured us that we would probably lose all of the money that we had used to pay for the bus tickets and probably for the flight too and that we would have to do some serious arguing to get what we wanted. However, all was not lost! Thankfully, Ryanair (the company through which we bought our plane tickets) recognized that this is slightly inconvenient and offered us a free change of flight time for no charge. I was deeply surprised by this as Ryanair has a terrible reputation for customer service and really everything else (but it’s cheap!). Sunday, Pam and I went to the Granada bus station where we were also allowed to change our tickets free of charge. Huelga won’t get us down! Now, we will be traveling on Thursday instead.

After we figured everything out on Sunday, we attended yet another procession through Granada. This time, however, the whole family went (except Carlos) and we met Ana’s cousin and her daughter there. After the procession Pam and I went with the kids to get frozen yogurt (pronounced “jo-gurt” with a nice glottal hack, it’s really rather humorous) and then we went with Ana and her cousin to get a drink. It was interesting talking to the women and a lot of fun as Ana’s cousin is hilarious!

This morning we took another placement test. It was long, grueling and we did not do anything else all day. Well, I did write this ridiculously long blog post! Hope you enjoyed, now I’m off to eat dinner and then pub quiz at Hannigans. It really is a hard life for the social butterfly.

PS I love you.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Seriously, the only thing missing was the soundtrack

¡Buenos dias amgios! I think it is quite possible that Amalia takes great pleasure in giving us homework because she doles it out quite often and quite generously. Yet, although I would prefer to go play with the kids than spend hours translating and conjugating verbs, I understand that homework does help one improve. Reason thrown away, I just want to go play!

Aimless ranting aside, Saturday was an interesting and fun day. Pam’s plans of visiting her friend Christina in Malaga did not pan out successfully so we both slept in until… well who cares about specific times anyway? By the time that we finally changed our clothes, prepared ourselves for the day, and eaten lunch, it was around 4:00pm so we decided that we wanted to go on a little hike up the mountain at the base of which we live on. We attempted to follow the path that we had previously walked with Teresa, but we soon realized that we did not remember the route. Excited to explore different parts of the city, we continued on anyway. I find it hard to believe that people actually live in the homes that we walked by. It is so steep and so high up the mountain that I imagine you could lose ten pounds just going to buy a gallon of milk! After we had been walking for some time, we came upon an ancient, empty castle and a picturesque view of La Alhambra. It was magnificent. We continued walking up the ridiculously steep and narrow path until we came upon a giant Victorian home with a public garden. We’re not exactly sure what this treasure was- besides amazing- but we think that it either belonged to or is now dedicated to an Andalucían poet. Pam and I both agreed that the garden was like stepping into a Disney movie. Next to the little river running through the garden stood a miniature castle and lookout point. Seriously, the only thing missing was the soundtrack.

After we exhausted our exploration of our magical garden, we decided that it was time to descend the mountain. With no plan and unsure of any type of direction, we started walking downhill. After about fifteen minutes we came upon a beautiful old church so, as usual, we walked inside. Granada is speckled with so many priceless gems that are just begging to be discovered. After our quick prayers we made on our journey again, trying to see if we could recognize any of the street names when all of a sudden- BAM! There was Hannigans’- we were on our street! Pam turned to me and exclaimed- “We couldn’t possibly be better wanderers!” After a two hour hiking tour without a map, we magically found our way home again. Before we returned to the house, however, we caught a peek at a wedding going on at a church nearby. Weddings in Spain are like one big prom celebration in the respect that everyone gets dressed up very fancy. Later that night as we prepared to go out with our friends we heard something peculiar. “Can you hear that music?” Pam asked me, so I opened our window and was immediately washed in sound. “It sounds like a parade!” So we ran down the stairs into the street to see what was happening and, sure enough, there was a religious procession going down the street, full band and all. We were a little disappointed to see that Carlos, Anita, and Jaime were completely unfazed by it and couldn’t understand why we were so excited and why I wanted to watch from the balcony.


Sunday morning came late (as it often does) and soon became a day full of homework. By 8:30 pm, however, we kneeled in a pew (along with our friend Jayson) at St. Matthias church once again. It was a different priest this week (Ana informed me that there are two that switch off), he was older and did not speak at an even pace so it was pretty difficult to understand. It’s terrible, but I find it hard to concentrate during the homily and I am constantly forcing myself to pay attention and pick out the three words that I can understand. Throughout the rest of the mass it is easy to be an active listener because everything is mostly the same as I have always done. However, I feel a serious connection during communion. It’s funny, even though I’m still probably missing a quarter of what the priest is saying, at that I point, I still feel completely present in the mass.

Monday morning was relatively normal except class took place in the Fundación Euroarabe (another building belonging to the University of Granada), something that we didn’t realize until we were sitting at the CLM… and no one else was. Thankfully the two are relatively close and we were not that late for class. After class we- of course- did homework and then went for a run along the river. It seems like every time I turn around there is more to this city that I did not even know about previously. At night, I was only able to go to Pub Quiz for about hour, but I found it funny that when I walked through the door the Irish bartender (he’s the same one that works at that time every week) waved, “hello” to me. Tuesday’s class was also at the Fundación Euroarabe, and I gave my presentation on Federico Garcia Lorca. The class had to comment on your performance, and everyone agreed that it was just that- a performance. Once an actress, always an actress. Afterwards, Teresa brought us to the public library to get cards and to show us around. It’s a really beautiful building and I think that I’ll be spending a lot of time there. That afternoon at 5:00pm we had our first Flamenco class. It was great! Ana is just as fun as I knew that she would be- not to mention she’s a great dancer, and she knows it! I can already tell that this class will be a great stress reliever for me.

Today we had class again at the Fundación Euroarabe and Pam gave her presentation on Lorca, very informative and impressive. After class we couldn’t help ourselves but to walk into a few stores on our way home as a lot of them are still offering some great sales to get rid of all of their summer clothes. Around 5:30pm we met Liz near the river to go for another run and she showed us another route along the river where there is an outdoor gym area. I can’t wait to go back! I decided that I can’t possibly stop exercising while I am here, every night after dinner Ana says (without fail) “¿Quereís un postre?” (You want a dessert?). Of course the answer is always, “¡sí!” That roughly translates to, “I need to run!” ¡Pues, dulces sueños!

PS May the sun shine brightly on your face, may you always find your way home, may you love your dance class, and may the bartender always know your name! Love you.

Monday, September 20, 2010

GACELA DEL AMOR QUE NO SE DEJA VER

Solamente por oír
la campana de la Vela
te puse una corona de verbena.

Granada era una luna
ahogada entre las yedras.

Solamente por oír
la campana de la Vela
desgarré mi jardín de Cartagena.

Granada era una corza
rosa por las veletas.

Solamente por oír
la campana de la Vela
me abrasaba en tu cuerpo
sin saber de quién era.

Federico García Lorca

Saturday, September 18, 2010

¡Oh, corazón perdido!

¿Cómo están mis amigos? So, I officially fail at my blog posts. I'm terribly sorry laziness and exhaustion have overtaken me these past few days and therefore I have been neglecting the blog! In any case, I have much to tell you. Wednesday we went to the Alhambra, probably the most famous thing in Granada (besides the free Tapas, the Sierra Nevada, Federico Garcia Lorca, the Capilla Real, etc) and it was just as beautiful and interesting as I have heard. It is an ancient Arabian city-castle and the decor is unlike anything that I have ever seen. Arabic art focuses on geometric repetition, words, and plant life which are made by an arrangement of brightly colored tiles. It's hard to imagine how a people could build something like that with the limited tools that they had. In addition, the main theme of the whole area is water and there are little man-made rivers and fountains flowing all over. They even had a central heating system with the water from the Alhambra's Arabic baths. Amazing. We also explored a little bit of the Generalife, the main garden of the Alhambra. Extraordinary.


After our adventure at the Alhambra we returned home for lunch and then we studied the rest of the day for the quiz that we had on Thursday. Not. Very. Fun. However, everyone in the class basically got the same grade on the quiz, so Amalia is giving us all a second chance to retake it. After we finished getting our butts kicked by this little prueba, we returned to our house for lunch and homework. By the time 6:30pm rolled around, we made our way back to the school where we met Ana, our new Flamenco teacher. Pam, Liz, and I all decided that we would take the Flamenco class offered through the school so yesterday was the information session about the class. It sounds like it’s going to be so much fun especially because Ana literally NEVER stops talking. At least we'll be able to practice our Spanish! On our walk back to our house, we saw this old church the presence of which we had been previously unaware of so we decided to explore it. Pleasantly surprised to discover that is was simply magnificent inside, we spent a lot of time studying the decoration and impressive architecture. It was the perfect place to take really great artsy photographs. Next we decided that we were all a little hungry so we found a tapas bar and enjoyed. Later that night after dinner, I had to have a talk with Ana. Dinner was literally a plate of about 4 different cold cuts, and this just was not a fun time for my stomach. I swear I tried to eat like they do, but it just wasn’t happening.

Friday was a day for the walking shoes. Our house has the advantage of being ridiculously close to the school and one of the busiest parts of the city, but it is on the opposite end of the city from most of the city’s museums and a lot of our friends. Required to meet Amalia and the other students at 10:30am at El Parque de las Ciencias, a sort of museum of science and the second most popular museum in Spain, we began the twenty-five minute walk following the Río Darro around 10:00am. The museum was very interesting, and there were a lot of things to touch and play with- which, of course, is always fun. Also, they had this really awesome bird show during which they showed the skill of the birds, dive bombing a piece of meat from about fifty feet away. This was particularly funny because they would place the meat next to an audience member or at their feet so that the bird would fly almost right at the person’s head. Quite hilarious when the bird flew right at Pam, she’s still recuperating. A butterfly room captured my attention though. It was so cool to just be walking through a mini man-made forest with hundreds of butterflies flying around everywhere.

Lunch with the family was around 3:00 pm yesterday and we ate fish and a delicious chick pea salad. Later on we had to return to the other side of the city for a school run walking tour of the city that followed all of the important places in Granada that have something to do with Federico Garcia Lorca. Lorca is a famous writer and poet who lived in and often wrote about Granada. It was very interesting, and at least it brought us back to our side of the city! Pam and I then returned home for dinner, quickly changed and then headed out for the opposite side of town- one more time!- to meet our friends for a night at the discotecha. We went to a new place this time called Granada Diez. Now, Pam and I had been contacted by some people we know studying in Seville this semester who are visiting Granada this weekend. However, we really did not expect to see them. Who are the first people that we see as we walk through the door? Stonehill people! It really is a small, small world after all. Ok, I better go do something productive with my life and enjoy this lovely Granadiñan day.

PS May the beat always be strong, the music loud, and your smile wide. Love you!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Reminds me slightly of a Japanese game show.

¡Buenas Noches! Class with Inma began at the usual time today and it was great. I like her a lot because the way that she teaches makes me feel like I really understand. After class, we decided to look up movie times for the Neptuno theatre so that we could experience a Spanish movie. “Salvando Las Distancias” or “Going the Distance” was the movie that we chose to see so we settled upon the time and promised each other that we would be there “en punto.” Next, Pam and I returned to our house and did our homework until it was time for lunch. After lunch, we brought the reading that is due tomorrow with us to the Fuente de las Batallas and parked ourselves on a bench to do it. After we finished reading, we decided that it was time, once again, to go shopping. Luckily, Pam is just as much a bargain hunter as I am so we work well together and we were able to get some good deals. We made it to the movie theater right on time, bought some popcorn, and sat down to enjoy a movie- or at least we tried to. Luckily, we were able to understand the gist of what happened in the movie, but it was very difficult to comprehend- most of the time- the words that they were saying.

Returning to our house just in time for dinner, we ate our delicious empandillas and then watched television with the family. I can’t believe I haven’t talked about the television programs here yet. Pam and I struggle to understand what’s going on because they speak so quickly and with such different accents, but mostly because the programs are just so strange. Tonight we watched this program that reminds me slightly of a Japanese game show. It’s a very popular talk show that hosts famous people and has them play ridiculous games and have crazy conversations. Most of the time, Pam and I are just trying to figure out why they are stuffing bricks into a running washing machine. Most of the time, we are watching Disney channel which is basically the same programs as in the US, but dubbed in Spanish. However, they have some Spanish programs too (apparently most are made in Argentina) and it is some of the worst acting that I have ever seen, but the kids seem to like it. Tomorrow we visit the Alhambra, so I hope that it will be a little more of an interesting blog post!

PS Love you.