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


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.

Monday, September 13, 2010

¡Yo quiero bailar!

Hola mis amigos, vecinos, familia, y la familia de Pamela. What a weekend we had! We woke up early on Saturday so that we would make it in time to catch the bus that would take us to Almuñecar and Nerja. This was a school sponsored trip so we were led by a professor of the school who was hilarious, although I don’t think that she intended to be. Teresa and Amalia warned us to be there on time as the woman was insistent upon promptness and we soon learned that they were not kidding. Every other word out of the woman’s mouth was “¡en punto!” which basically means “right on time!” Our first destination was the city of Almuñecar where we visited an ancient castle from the ninth century. Much of the castle has been destroyed, but it was very interesting to stroll amongst the ruins and imagine the lives of the inhabitants and to have my day dream interrupted by “¡EN PUNTO!” I was a little disappointed by our trip to the castle because it was much too quick. I would have liked to explore the ruins a bit longer.

Once we had all boarded the bus again, we made on our way for “Los Cuevas de Nerja” or “The Caves of Nerja.” They were rather spectacular and a lot bigger and a lot closer to the surface than any of the caves that I have visited in the United States. After our tour of the caves, we ate at the buffet at the caves’ restaurant. So. Much. Food. However, it was quite a delicious stuffing session. After we finished our meal, we made on our way to the little town of Nerja. Upon discovering that our hostel was closed until 5:00pm (it was 3:00pm) we made our way down to the beach and I swam in the Mediterranean Sea for the first time in my life, but much to my sadness, it was freezing cold! However, laying on the silt-full sand, listening to the waves crash upon the beach, and allowing the kind Spanish sun rays to soak into my skin I felt more relaxed than I have in a long time. After deciding that it was time to check into our hotel, we made on our way to our humble abode. I was very impressed with our accommodations (we even had a bathroom in our room!) and pleased to discover the little balcony out our window. After a nice long nap, we were ready to go out for dinner. We were surprised to discover that almost everything in Nerja is written in English. Apparently, this little Spanish town is the Cape Cod of Europe; it is where all the older people go to retire!

The next morning I awoke at 10:54am and realized that I had no idea at what time we needed check out of the hotel. So, in my pajamas, I ran down the stairs to the desk and asked the dreaded question. Of course, check out was anytime before noon so I made my way around to our five rooms and woke everyone up and told them the good news. Luckily, we were able to pack up and get ready for the beach in time for checkout and we made our way to a little English sandwich shop for brunch. Afterwards, we walked to the beach again and were delighted to notice that the water was significantly warmer than it had been the day before. I must have spent the entire day floating around the Mediterranean. A little before 5:00pm we grabbed an ice cream and bought our tickets to return to Granada. Bus tickets, by the way, are ridiculously cheap in Spain. Pamela and I made it back to our house just in time to shower and arrive ten minutes early for mass at St. Matthias’ church which is actually closer to our house and a lot smaller than the Cathedral. Also, the priest spoke much slower, and was a lot easier to understand than the one from the Cathedral. Pam and I were so excited! We decided that we have a new favorite “iglesia.”

9:30am, Monday morning saw us at the school ready for class with a different instructor, Inma. Apparently, she is the expert at the University of Granada in the Subjunctive tense (one of the most difficult to understand in the Spanish language). She was rather entertaining and a great professor. After class, Pam and I returned to our house to complete our homework, take a little siesta, and completely misunderstand some directions entirely. Under the impression that we had to meet Amalia at the EuroArabe building at 6:30pm, we set out for the location that we were completely unsure about but had a general idea of the direction. We got miserably lost. However, before you judge us far too harshly I must let you know that this is the first time that we have gotten lost in Granada and that there is no route 6A here. In any case, we arrived at the correct building by 6:45pm only to discover that our meeting had been changed to Thursday. Ho hum. Amalia felt bad for us as she had not clearly explained to us that she had changed our time, so she bought us each a soda. After we finished our beverages, we decided that we should go for a run. After our nice little run (during which I almost died. Pam’s fast.) we showered then ate dinner with the family- tuna and bacon pizza and jam pizza. I have to admit that I am not the biggest fan of these flavors of pizza. I am glad that I am eating meat while I am here, but I look forward to returning to my Pescaterian lifestyle, it makes me feel better.

After dinner, we ate our dessert of cookies in a bowl of milk and played with the kids a little bit. Pam gave Jaime a piggy back ride all over the house and we joked that it was a parade for King Jaime. Oh! I forgot to mention that he went back to school for the first time on Friday while Anita and Carlos go back on Wednesday. Next, we went across the street to Hannigans’ for our weekly Pub Quiz. We were surprised to find a lot more people there this week, but we had a great time losing miserably.

PS I forgot to tell you, we went out Friday night and we found this little dance club called, the Copacabana. This was probably a dream come true for me, and although there was no girl with yellow ribbons in her hair and her dress cut down to there, it was amazing. It was still a little early for people to be dancing (in Spain, it’s considered early at 12:30pm) so the floor was empty. Frustrated, I yelled out to my friends, “¡Yo quiero bailar!” From out of nowhere Rico (probably not his real name, and according to Pam, “a gorgeous, athletic, foreign model) sailed across the bar, grabbed my hands and swept me around the dance floor. He was a fantastic dancer and it was so much fun! I guess you shouldn’t be afraid to say what you want.

PPS Hope all is well with you. With salt of the Mediterranean Sea still tickling my skin, I wish you all health, happiness, and love!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Too shy to sing…

¡Hola a todos! Yesterday was a fun day but not terribly exciting I suppose, shall we see what you think? We had class at 9:30am once again, but Amalia released us to Teresa at 11:30am for some real world Spanish practice. Each with a different task in hand, we set out to the streets with the idea in mind that we had to return to Teresa at 1:00am. Pam’s and my task was to go to the Tourism Office and inquire about information about the Poniente Granadino (the Wester part of Granada). There were several things that we needed to inquire about and a lot of information that we were to get. Teresa told us that we had to be actors and not lot them realize that we were doing something for a class- which kind of made it fun!

After we had finished our task and learned a lot of good information about all of the fun things that we can do in Granada, we returned home for lunch and to work on a paper that Amalia had assigned us. It was on our experience and what we had learned about the Cathedral, and it completely kicked my butt. It was particularly annoying because I really had learned a lot about the Cathedral and probably could have written several pages in English, but writing in Spanish is a completely different story. I finished that by 8:00pm and then skyped with mom and dad a little bit, and mom got to meet my host mother, Ana! It was pretty cool. After I finished talking to mom, Pamela came back home from her meeting with her “Intercambio,” Melén. She is a 21 year-old granadiña who Pam will be meeting with just about once every week so that Pam can practice Spanish and so that Melén can practice English. Hopefully, Teresa will set me up with an Intercambio soon too!

Next we ate dinner with the family- tuna and tomato empandillas and potato chips. Oh yum. Haha, they’re really into potato chips over here. Actually they’re really into potatoes. They eat at least one type of potato at least once a day (sounds like heaven, doesn’t it Crowley girls?). Then we went to Hanigans for Karaoke night! I haven’t seen so many Americans in one place at one time in a long time, but it was still fun. Anyone who knows us, however, knows that Pam and I were too shy to sing…

This morning, I awoke early so that I could go for a little run through the streets. After breakfast, we made on our way to the opposite end of the city where we were to meet Amalia at 10:30am. On the way there I discovered that if he wants to, Uncle Kevin Hawes can come visit. They have a Dunkin Coffee here. After the whole group had met up, we walked to the Museo CajaGranada Memoria de Andalucía. In Spain they have two different types of banks: a “banco” which is just like what we would think about as a bank in the United States, and a “caja.” A “caja” functions in exactly the same way that a bank does, but it has a special initiative to do something good for the community. CajaGranada runs a museum in honor and to share knowledge of the province of Andalucía. It is the coolest museum that I have ever been in! Everything was hands on and they had these cool video things where you would stand in front of the screen on a little circle that would recognize that you were there and then you would point your arm at the screen to select which video you wanted to watch. It was almost like a Wii without the Wiimote! Awesome.

Pam and I ran home so that we wouldn’t be late for lunch and made it just in time for this delicious dish that consisted of watered down pasta sauce, tiny macaroni, and various shellfish and other seafood. After lunch Pam and I retired to our room for our siesta and here I am now! Tomorrow we leave early in the morning on a bus heading for Spain’s Southern coast. We will be visiting the castles and the beaches of Almuñecar and Nerjá. On that note, the next post might not come until Monday. Don’t miss me too much.

PS Love you!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Título interesante.

¡Bienvenidos a mi blog! Not that I do not enjoy our intensive class, but today when Amalia changed things up a little bit, I was quite pleased. We were expected at the university at 9:30am for more lessons on grammar and speech, but today’s classroom lesson only lasted 11:00am. After that, Amalia brought the whole class to the Capilla Real y La Catedral de Granada. I have wanted to visit the Cathedral since we arrived in Granada. Allow me to rephrase: I have wanted to tour and learn about the Cathedral ever since we arrived in Granada (pushes up glasses while snorting). It was very interesting to compare the architecture with that of the cathedrals of France. I can never remember the names for various types of architecture, but whatever style the cathedral of Granada was built in it is not as overpoweringly ornate as some of the cathedrals in France, like Notre Dame, can be. Also, although it does not have as many windows as many of the cathedrals in France, it is a very bright cathedral because the walls are completely white on the inside. Speaking of different styles of architecture, it was fascinating to note the different styles of the various devotional areas around the cathedral. It took over two-hundred years to complete the sanctuary; therefore, each devotional area was built, sculpted, or painted in a different decade.

We also toured the Capilla Real which is where Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand (the ones who kicked the Muslims out of Spain and paid for Columbus to go West to India) along with their two grandchildren (and their grandchild) have been laid to rest. I was rather engrossed with the art of the tomb as there is quite an interesting mix of political and religious symbols.

After our tours of these historic places, we were released for our siesta. As we did not have a cultural activity in the afternoon, we planned to meet Liz to go shopping after we had completed our homework. So, at 5:30pm we met Liz and went shopping! We finished the outing with Tapas at an open-air restaurant close to our house. When we returned home, I watched T.V. with the kids, and now, ¡estoy aquí! Sorry that the blog wasn’t as long today- or are you breathing a sigh of relief? In any case, until we return to this unilateral conversation, ¡hasta luego!

PS Love you!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Dreams of the Alhambra

¿Qué pasa? I’m sorry that I didn’t get to write yesterday! We began our classes for the intensive Spanish course and the homework load has been a little heavier. So, to all of you who think that I’m just running around the city to different discotechas and spas all the time- you’re only half right. Yesterday, we had class at 9:30am at the Centro de Lenguas Modnernas (Center for Modern Languages). It was very intense. Quite obviously, a course named “Curso Intensivo” is going to be intense, but it kind of took me by surprise just how intense it was. Let’s use the word “intense” one more time, shall we? However, I am pleased to find just how intense this course is, because I think that it will be an appropriate preparation for my other classes which are all in Spanish and begin in October.

After class, we all went to the same little store (that I think I spoke about previously) that literally has everything you could ever want- including those little golden, waving cats that are at every Chinese buffet. Afterwards, Pam and I returned to our house for lunch and then we began our many homework assignments. After many grueling hours of work (and breaks for Facebook) we completed our homework just in time for our daily cultural meeting with Teresa. Our activity for the afternoon was to visit a Tetería in a neighborhood close to Albaicín.

I’m not sure if you know this, but I am an avid tea drinker. The idea that there are many Teterías in this city where you can enter, find a type of tea that you have never even dreamed of and order a crepe to go with it is very exciting for me. These eateries are very much within the Arabic tradition from the décor to the hookah pipes that are available for indulgence (I might sit that part of the cultural experience out). I ordered a honey crepe and a tea called, “Dreams of the Alhambra.” It was very good, but I would like to return to taste different teas and to find one that I prefer. While we were sipping our tea and nibbling on our snacks, Teresa informed us that one of the Irish Pubs (that’s right, there are multiple Irish pups in Spain) would be having a “Pub Quiz” tonight. We all decided that it might be a fun experience to go and would probably be a bit refreshing as they speak English there.

With an hour and fifteen minutes to spare until we had to arrive at Hannigan’s II, Pam and I raced home so that I could shower and so that we could both scarf down a quick dinner. As we had to fend for ourselves, dinner was cereal. By 9:00pm we were ready to go so we ran across the street to the Bar to meet our friends. I would like to pause the story for just a moment to explain that the bar is across the street from the school and that both are literally about two minutes from our house, door to door. Greeted at the pub by the Englishman who would be the host for the quiz, we began organizing our teams. About eight of us from the program showed up to play the game and we had to split into two groups. I was in a group with Amy, Paul, and Jayson. We lost miserably. However, it was quite fun and it is so good to get to know the students just a little better. Pam, John, Molly, and Mark were also a team and they actually ended up winning the game. When you are the losing team and you have lost miserably to your friends, it is difficult to live down.

Today, we had class at 9:30am once again and we had- once again- a very intense class. After class ended around 12:30pm, we returned to our house to do homework. Lunch at 3:00pm gave us a nice break from homework and- as usual- was delicious. We ate Paella, which is a popular Spanish dish that literally has just about every piece of seafood in it. After lunch we completed our homework just in time for our outing with Teresa. It was quite obvious that everyone was very tired and not very interested in what we were doing. However, Teresa showed us where the campus for the University of Granada is and here is a public park right outside of it where the individual can exercise or play sports. Pam, Liz (one of the other students) and I took the time, after we were finished with our lesson from Teresa, to go on a run in the park. It was good to exercise again, and I am glad that I have other people to do it with. By the way, if you know Pam you must know that she is a beast at running (this is a good thing). After our run, we returned to our house and here I am. ¡Buenas noches amigos!

PS Love you mum, dad, PJ, all my beautiful aunties, Ashley, Pam’s family, and whoever else may be reading this! May your days be bright and shiny, and may you find Irish Pubs wherever you may go.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

¡Me siento vivo!

Hola a todos. I don’t think that I am going to have a problem with anyone telling me that it looks like I’ve gained weight, because I am exercising like I have never exercised before. Last night, Teresa took us on a walking tour of Albaicín, the oldest and most historical Arabic neighborhood in Granada. I am completely aware of the fact of how ridiculous the next phrase is, but I have to admit that I was expecting Aladdin to pop out of nowhere. The neighborhood is up in one of the mountains and most of the walk was uphill (hence the exercise), and when we finally reached the mountaintop the view was breathtaking. You could see all of the Alhambra and a good portion of the city. I think that Teresa has realized that if anyone will do any of the crazy things that she asks us to do… I will. While we were looking out over a via point on top of the mountain, she had me stand on top of a pole to take a picture of the group and of the Alhambra. Love you Peter!

The streets in Granada are like those in Boston in the respect that they have not necessarily been constructed with any plan in mind- they just added more when and where they needed them. There are streets that cars and mopeds (which are literally everywhere and will run over anything or anyone) cannot fit down and are only for walking. Also, there are streets that one would think are not made for cars and mopeds, but they go down them anyway! It’s almost humorous watching these people try to maneuver cars down roads that are difficult to even walk down.

I love my baby brother! Our day today was completely full of exercise as well. We met the group at 8:15am and began our hike up a different mountain. When I say hike, I mean hike. It wasn’t long before my heart was beating incredibly fast. There is a sort of nature sanctuary on top of this particular mountain and there are not many people that live there. In another example of Teresa volunteering me to do things, we walked past a fig bush and Teresa explained a little about the fruit and then said, “Here Lacie, try it!” So I did. I’ve never had wild figs before; in fact, I think that I’ve only ever eaten fig in Fig Newtons. The hike was long, difficult, but completely worth it. At one point we had to walk down this trail that had a very steep incline and was quite treacherous, but all that I could say when I had finished was, “¡Me siento vivo!” which roughly means, “I feel alive!” Not only was the view spectacular and the feeling that I had accomplished something very satisfying, but we went to Los Baños Arabes (The Arabic Baths) afterwards.

The Arabic Baths are a reconstruction of the ancient spas that the Arabic Granadiños would go to to relax. When you enter the building, the woman at the desk offers you a smile, a number, and a towel. Next you are directed into a changing room where you are to put on a bathing suit and take a quick rinsing shower. Then, you proceed into the next room where there is hot, mint tea to drink. Upon finishing your beverage, you move on to the next room which is quite damp, smells of mint, has dimmed lights, and has a small pool of very cold water. Pam joked that she felt like she was at home swimming in the water of New Hampshire. Quickly deciding that the water is not quite warm enough, the individual moves on to the next room where there is another pool that is very hot. It feels fantastically like a hot tub. Once you realize that the hot water is making your blood pressure rise a little too much, you move onto the next room where there is a pool of a nice, comfortable medium temperature. If you so desire, you may also enter into the sauna that is in the same room. They pump this nice minty smell into the sauna room too, so it really makes your lungs feel fantastic. Eventually, the masseuse calls your number and you proceed into a back room where they give you back and leg massage. Oh man. I was so relaxed afterwards; it was difficult to walk home.

During our walk home, we saw Ana walking ahead of us so we called out to her. She was on her way to the recycling bin (there are recycling bins set up all over the city) and then to pick up a rotisserie chicken and French fries at a local restaurant for lunch. Walking with her as she went about her activities was very nice because we got to talk to her one on one without three happy, screaming children. After lunch, Pam and I worked on our homework and then we went to mass at 8:00 pm in the small sanctuary of the cathedral with Anita and her friend Maria. I don’t know if you, oh devoted reader of mine (mom), have ever been to mass in a cathedral, but I think that it is difficult to understand what the priest is saying in English. In Spanish, it was impossible. Hopefully, after this semester, I will get used to it!
Dinner was purchased by Anita and Maria with money given to her by her mother. Barely any restaurants are open in Granada on a Sunday night, so we went to Burger King. That’s right. Burger King. However, Ana still put the food on nice plates and managed to make it look pretty. After dinner, we had a dance party with the kids and I discovered that I can moonwalk (it’s probably because I was wearing shoes that I bought here). Love ya bro!

We also discussed the word that Pam and I learned at the airport in Madrid. Remember the “paja” or “straw” story? Apparently, the Spanish don’t use the word “paja” for straw, but “pajita” (so don’t believe everything your Spanish-English dictionary tells you!). The word “paja” is used to describe something to do with horses- I’m not completely sure what- which means that when Pam thought that she was asking for a straw, she wasn’t. Oops.

PS Love you mommy, daddy, and PJ! And you, yes you in your pajamas, and you in your business suit, and even you- in your birthday suit!

PPS Mom- You don't have to send me an eyeliner sharpener- I found mine!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Waca, waca, hey, hey!

Hola amigos, ¿que tál? I’m sorry that I couldn’t write yesterday, but it ended up being a very long day! Arriving at the university at 10:00, we were a little nervous to take our first exam. It was only a placement exam, but whenever you hear the word, “exam” it’s guaranteed to start those butterflies in your stomach. After we finished the exam, Amalia and Teresa each spoke with us separately about the program itself and what was expected of us. By 1:30, it was time to go home for our siesta (I love how they break up the day it Spain, it makes it a lot more easier).

At home, we played more games with our hermanitos, Go Fish which translates to “Pesca.” Lunch consisted of salmon, vegetables (including potatoes, yay!), and a salad. After we ate, it was time to play again (what else is new?)! We played a board game called “Hotel,” which is very similar to “Monopoly.” I lost very quickly. For me, it is very difficult to understand how to play any games- even in English; therefore, I have a very difficult time understanding the directions to all of the games that we play with the kids until we are almost done, but by that point I have already lost!

At 6:00, we had to meet up with Teresa and the rest of the group. Teresa showed us yet another section of the city where there is a lot of good shopping. Mom, you would LOVE Granada! She also took us to a little open air restaurant where they sell Churros con Chocolate. Mmmmmmm! The churros are not the same as those at home as there do have cinnamon or sugar on them, but they do give you a hot cup of melted chocolate that you dip the churro into. Is it really necessary for me to explain just how delicious this is?

We returned to our house around 9:00, ate dinner with the family around 9:30 (turkey burgers!), and at 10:30 we began to get ready to go out for the night. Granada is a city with a lot of night life, but it is not only restricted to the night time. Many people stay out until 8:00am! It was good to hang out with the other students in our program and get to know them all a little better. We went to la discotecha, and all I have to say about it is that my legs hurt today from all of the dancing!

I really am enjoying this city. My family is great, I feel safe when I walk down the streets, the food is terrific, the other students in my program are great, and I think that I’m actually learning something!

Miss you all, please write me!

PS Mum and Dad, love ya!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Tell someone they look like they’ve gained weight.

<<¿Quieres jugar?>> I think that this is Jaime’s favorite phrase. He literally uses it 300 times a day, give or take a few (it means, “You want to play?”). Sadly, we didn’t get to play with him this morning, but we did get to meet the other students in the program (there are about 10 of us). They were all very nice and it was good to see that most of us are basically on the same level with our Spanish comprehension. We also met Teresa for the first time. She is a hilarious little ball of fire! She is about my height, blonde, tiny, and one of the funniest people that I have ever met.

After everyone arrived at the fountain that we were meeting at, we walked to the university where our classes will be held (it is closer to Pam and my home than the fountain is). We introduced ourselves and Teresa and Amalia explained a little about the program. By 1:15pm, we were finished for the morning so Pam, John, Amy (two of the other students), and I walked to an electronics store and a “dollar store” that Ana had showed Pam and I earlier. If you are careful, you can buy things very cheaply in Granada.

Slight side note: I find myself starting to think- or sometimes even write!- in Spanish. I literally wrote the first couple of sentences in Spanish before I realized what I was doing. Perhaps this is a good thing?

When we returned to our house, Jaime was ready to play once again (¡por supuesto!) so we played video games again. About a half an hour later, we joined the rest of the family in the dining/living room for lunch. We ate chicken (yes, I AM eating meat), vegetables, a salad each, and afterwards we had a dessert of melon and bananas. I hope I don’t offend anyone by saying this but for me, Spanish food does not look like it’s going to taste good, but when you eat it- it’s fantastic! After lunch we played more games, and then by 7:30pm we had to return to the fountain to meet our group again.

Amalia and Teresa took us for a little walking tour of the main part of Granada, pointing out both practical and historical things. Granada is such a diverse city meaning that in ten minutes time, you can walk from a historically Spanish part of the city to a very modern area to a very historically Arabic part of the city! I got to see the Alhambra for the first time today. It is very impressive from a distance, but I really want to see it up close because I feel as though its greatest treasures are hidden within! I suppose we shall see…

After our tour was finished and Amalia had gone home, Teresa brought us to a bar where we tried Tinto Verano. This is a Spanish drink that is a mix of red wine and fanta (Mom, could you revive dad and tell him that I’m sorry?). In Granada, most bars are “Tapas bars.” This means that when you buy a drink (usually for only about 2 or 3 euros) you get a ton of food for free with it! While we were enjoying our drinks and the food, Teresa gave us a pop-quiz about Spanish culture. She gave us a series of questions that we needed to say whether it is appropriate to do these things or not. I was very surprised to learn many of the things that are not accepted in Spanish culture and those that are. For example, it is completely normal to tell someone that they look like they’ve gained weight. In fact it is almost encouraged!

I love the Spanish culture… but I don’t think that I am going to tell people that they’re getting fat, and I don’t think that I would respond very nicely if someone said this to me!

¡Tenga las dulces sueños!


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

¡Tengo un A!

¡Hola todos! Pam and I are now in the home of our host family… and I couldn’t be happier! This morning we awoke at 11:45 which was not according to the plan at all. Knowing that we were to meet Amalia (the director of our program) at 1:30, we wanted to get up a little earlier so that we could shower, pack, and make all other preparations for the day. When we did finally get up, I jumped in the shower. When I returned from my shower, Pam met me at the door with a very worried look on her face, “the cleaning woman came to the door and said that we were supposed to be out by 12:00 and that we had to leave right away!” Could two people honestly be kicked out of more places in two days? I’m beginning to think that that’s a no.

Anyway, we packed our things as quickly as we could and made it down the stairs where we handed our bags over to the woman at the desk who put them in a closet for safekeeping. The next task was to find brunch. We found ourselves walking into the supermarket across the street where we each bought a yogurt drink and a peach. It surprised us to discover that they sell fruits and vegetables the same way that they sell meat in the United States, almost like a deli set up.

After our brunch we walked back to the hostel where we met Amalia who called a cab that took us to our family’s home. Meeting us at the door of one of the most fantastically historical homes that I have ever seen, Ana stood with a smile. We finished unpacking just in time for lunch (3:00 pm) before which we gave Ana (the mother), Carlos (14), Anita (12), and Jaime (9) their gifts to show our gratitude. Unsure of whether the kids were big or little and not wanting to offend, I gave each of the kids a large t-shirt. Watching Jaime put on his t-shirt was probably one of the funniest things that I have ever seen. The situation was silly enough, but these kids are even funnier!

Lunch, the largest meal of the day, was eaten while seated around the table and consisted of a salad and what I can only describe as some sort of hamburger helper! I don’t say that to be mean or to imply that it wasn’t tasty because, amigos, ¡estaba deliciosa! Video games with Jaime followed lunch which was then followed by a slight walking and shopping tour with Ana. During this tour, she bought us each un helado. Ice cream two days in a row, my daddy would be proud.

We returned to their home to find the kids ready, once again, for more games. We played with their Wii, and then when 9:30 pm rolled around it was time for dinner. This was eaten while seated around the coffee table, and at first I was fearful that it would take place with the T.V. on (thank goodness, I was wrong!). Dinner was almost the same consistency as a pastry but was made with eggs and potatoes. On the side, we ate random slices of meat and potato chips. Dinner is not a large meal for the Spanish.

After dinner, we quickly moved on to the next game (I’m beginning to think that the games will never end, but I’m alright with that). Anita attempted to teach us a card game while Pam, Jaime, and I ate our dessert: Milk with added sugar and little cookies. I have never had so much fun completely failing at understanding a game! Despite my lack of understanding the game, I am certain that my Spanish is destined to improve. These kids are so patient and willing to help us learn. In fact, my favorite part of the evening was that whenever Pam and I would make an atrocious grammar mistake, Jaime would immediately correct us while making a silly face. It did not take long before we were laughing and having a great time with these kids- I love it! Also, they have a very nice family atmosphere. Although the kids occasionally fight, they really seem to love each other and are always playing together.

I will leave you with a hilarious story: one important part of this seemingly invented card game is for a player to get an Ace or “un A.” During her first turn, Pam yelled out excitedly- yet painfully slowly- “¡Tengo un A!” (“I have an A!”). This was too much for Anita and Jaime. They both burst into one of the most ferocious eruptions of giggles that I have ever heard! This became a joke that we used for the rest of the game, and I’m sure that we will use for the remainder of our stay in Granada. I’m having a ball here, but mom and dad- ¡Les amo mucho!