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


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