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?