Thursday, October 29, 2009

Michael Jackson and David Bisbal (and some other fun stuff)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Well, tomorrow we leave for Nerja. I did some research and I think we have a few places we want to go. There are a couple short bus rides we could take to different towns as well, so that might be fun! The one thing I really want to do is go on one of these Jeep tours in the mountains. Well, actually it can either be a jeep tour or a walking tour, or a mixture. However, they’re kinda expensive (60 Euros for a full-day, and 35 for a half-day). I dunno, I think it might be worth it! They also offer rock climbing (Will’s pretty excited about that) and boat excursions. I guess we’ll just have to go check out their office once we get there and see what they have within our price range: cheap.

Today Victor and Florian helped Will and I with our Canary Island project. Well, Victor wrote everything down while Florian yelled about how his island was better than Victor’s and that we shouldn’t even listen to him, haha. “No! There is only one capital! Tenerife!” One funny thing I forgot to mention in the last post is that Victor reminds me a lot of my dad. His face, his mannerisms…it’s actually really weird. PLUS he’s studying chemistry and engineering at UGR. Anyway, we eventually got our questions answered from the quarreling boys. Tonight I think we’re going to see the movie Michael Jackson’s This Is It. It just came out yesterday and is a documentary about the last little bit of Michael Jackson’s life while he prepared for his final concerts that he never got to do…could be rather interesting!

OH! Speaking of concerts! I saw the other day that David Bisbal will be in Granada on December 13th. DAVID BISBAL. Here are 3 of my favorites: (you’ll see why), (used 2 May shows ago), and (we used this one for juggling at the Chinese festival at Highland Park Sr. High, haha). Once we get back from Nerja, I think I may purchase these tickets. Yay!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

2 months and counting

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

That’s right. I’ve been gone 2 months! Miss me yet? Haha. And, WHEW, I'm finally caught up with my blogging. I wonder how long this will last...

I keep forgetting to write about all the different people I keep meeting here. Tooooo many other things going on! Well, for starters there are all of the kids in my classes. Obviously most of them speak English as their first language, but there is this one kid from Japan who has also played soccer with some of the guys. He’s in my Culture and Civilization class, and today the teacher asked him what the most famous dish in his city was and he started the sentence, “En mi ciudad, Osaka…” Osaka?! If I’m not mistaken, that’s one of the small towns we visited in 2003! Oh, and speaking of Japan, there’s another guy, Estreno, in the residence who just moved in to the Jardines apartments for a year who had been living in Japan. He’s 31 and got his masters there in Japan and everything, but is now studying Physics at the University of Granada. He’s originally from Brazil (are you following this?), so I figured out that he speaks 4 languages fluently—Portuguese, Spanish, Japanese and English. We had a nice conversation about my eating of McDonalds while I was in Japan. He thought that was hilarious. It was really funny when Estreno was talking to Florian, trying to explain something. They both were speaking English, but trying to explain a Spanish concept. I had no idea why they didn’t just speak Spanish, but it was funny to watch! BUT, my new favorite Spaniard here is this guy named Victor. He is super easy to talk to, and if you can’t figure out how to explain something in Spanish, he’s always up for trying out his English. Basically, life here at Jardines is one big intercambio (which is good, considering I don’t have much time to GO plan one!). Some of the Spaniards ignore us Americans, but others jump at the opportunity to sit with us at dinner, or help us with projects and papers. Right now, Will and I are getting help on a project about the Canary Islands from Florian and Victor. Victor gave us photos to use and also offered to answer questions that we have! Also, last night I guess one of the girls here, Marta, went over to Mirella and Breana’s room at around midnight and asked them to correct some English papers they had. One was a book review and the other was just some random ACT essay question. It’s nice that we can all help each other out!

Today we had our first intramural soccer game. I hadn’t been feeling very good (still…) but I didn’t want to take my medicine because I didn’t want to take it on an open stomach. Unfortunately I have almost gone through all of the food Mom sent me in my care package…time for another one! J On top of that, I was nervous because I really haven’t played soccer or even RUN for quite a long time. I was sure I would just trip over my feet and not be able to get any shots of with any sort of “umph” behind them. Regardless, I went along just to see how I felt. We were playing this “Iowa” team, but they had 2 foreign kids that I’m pretty sure weren’t from Iowa. One guy was this huge German who was actually kinda gross, haha. We were winning only by one (3-2) when Armand made me sub in for Will. Surprisingly, I was able to move. I ended up scoring with an outside-of-the-foot shot (props to Daniel for inspiring that), and then had another left shot that I sorta impressed myself with. Yeah, yeah, go ahead and think I’m bragging, haha—but I honestly am just happy to know that at least some of my soccer skills survived! We ended up winning 5-2 and moving onto the next round. The other AIFS team has already lost, so they’re out—it’s all up to us, says Paula! Next Wednesday is our next game. All I am worried about is getting my soccer shorts back from the laundry before then!

Well, we head out for Nerja on Friday (“we” as in Merete, Chryssi, Will and I…and maybe Breana, Mirella and Daryl). I’m super pumped to go to the donkey sanctuary and the cooking school! Come find me when I get home and I‘ll cook you a tortilla Espanola! Or a jamon y queso bocadillo.

I’m off to do more homework so I don’t have as much this weekend…stressing about homework is the LAST thing I want to do on the beach (or while walking a donkey).

Wine tasting and rambling in Spanish

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

So, I get to class a bit early to prepare. Mariangeles comes in and asks me how I’m doing. I fake a smile. Everyone piles into our tiny room and then it’s time for me to go. Mariangeles takes my seat and turns on her RECORDING DEVICE! Yikes! I didn’t know I was going to be on tape with this! I hoped that once she heard it, she wouldn’t have to hear it again! Anyway, I wrote the title on the board and began. As soon as I started, I resorted to basically reading off of my paper. I have a feeling that if I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have said more than half of the things I wanted. Oh well, the recording device will only replay what I said, haha. Overall I think it went okay…not as well as I would have wished, but oh well. I get nervous and there’s nothing I can do about that! The other people in the class seemed to enjoy the topic as well—we ended up talking about different traditions of Halloween here versus in the United States for the whole first part of class (about 45 minutes). I’m just glad that’s over with. However, it didn’t help that I then found out it was worth 25% of my grade. I’m hoping Mariangeles will cut me some slack because I was the first person to go in our class!

After lunch we rested up for a bit, did some homework, and then headed off to wine tasting! It was at this tiny, tiny little shop owned by a husband and wife (and their little daughter) lined with bottles of wine. We stood along this long table with our glasses and white placemats. None of the AIFS staff was there with us, so we were on our own to translate what the owner, Juan Antonio, told us. He first explained the 3 different steps to making wine, and then went on to talk about how to decipher the different flavors through taste and smell. He told us about how each wine usually has both flower and fruit included in it, which is what you can taste and smell. He had us hold up each glass to the light to see how clear or not clear it was (this told us how old they were…apparently “old” is only 4 years. I didn’t know that!). Then we leaned it over our white placemats to see the reflection against the paper. He pointed out that the red and rosa wine got lighter along the sides, showing clarity. The first wine we tried was a white wine from Navarra in the northern part of Spain. Like most white wines, it was to be drunk with fish (pescado) or seafood (mariscos). It was made from apple (manzana), banana (platano) and peach (melocoton). The flower in this one was Jasmine. I couldn’t taste that…but then again, I can’t remember ever eating jasmine before. With the first bottle he tried to open, he broke the cork in half. He kept trying to get the other half out, but couldn’t, and then explained that if that ever happens at a restaurant, to send it back because it means the wine is no longer good. He went and got us a different bottle (from the cooler that said 175.00 Euros…I wonder if that sticker was for OUR wine!). The second wine was a “rosa” wine, in between the red and white. This one was also from Navarra and is supposed to be drunk alongside fish. The flavors in this one were strawberries, raspberries and cranberries with an obvious flower scent of rose. Hence the name. The third wine we tried was a red wine…a REALLY dark red wine. This one was fun to look at through the light because of its scarlet color. This one is to be drunk with meat (carne). The flower in this one was the violet…so pretty! The last wine we tried was put into a smaller glass that we had. This one is from Rioja and was a white wine. It was pretty sweet, and is to be had with desserts and fruits. The flavors in this one were pineapple, banana, coconut and almonds. (“ALMONDS?! How do you make a wine with almonds?!”—Nora “Well, the same way you make beer out of chunky stuff.”) We asked the reason for the smaller glass, and Juan Antonio just replied “well, it’s a bit stronger than the rest.” I guess that made sense. After we were done, we all took a picture together—so keep your eyes out for that! I really enjoyed this, but not even for the wine. It was fun to hear about all the different parts to wine, and there were some pretty funny things that happen during a wine tasting. For example, there was this bucket with a weird strainer in the middle of it, and after we had all taken a sip of the first wine, Juan Antonio just spit his into the bucket! He said that we just get the taste in our mouth at first, and then if we want, we can drink more after we figure out the tastes. After each wine, if you hadn’t drunk all of it, you were supposed to pour it into the bucket. I felt very wasteful! Some people finished all of theirs…haha. It was funny just seeing everyone spitting out mouthfuls of wine and then going back for seconds. At the end of the tasting, Juan Antonio picks up the strainer and looks at all the wine/spit in the bucket. He raises an eyebrow and goes (in Spanish) “Well, you guys are better than the last group I had.” We didn’t understand what he meant, so he explained. Apparently the last group of AIFS kids barely had anything in the bucket…meaning they had all drunk basically everything. He said that a good wine tasting has a full bucket, and I guess we were in between, haha. Más o menos.

Sevilla, Córdoba y mi primera presentación

Saturday, October 24, 2009

We got up bright and early for our tour of Sevilla. We left about 10 kids at the hotel because they didn’t make it to the bus on time. I have a feeling they weren’t even trying to make it, since I heard some people come in around 6am. I got up at 7:30. We did a little driving tour with our two tour guides (I forget the one guy’s name, but the other was Izzy!). We first stopped at the Plaza de Espana that was part of the 1929 international fair. We took some time here to take fun pictures before it became more and more crowded. Also, there were horse drawn carriages all over the place! We got back on the bus and headed to the Alcazar. First we walked through the gardens, which Izzy told us had many, many types of citrus fruit trees (oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes, etc.). In fact, this garden had many different kinds of just about everything! Izzy pointed out a flower from India, a tree from Brazil and another plant from Argentina just off the top of his head. Apparently there were many more too! Once in the Alcazar palace, Izzy gave us a wonderful tour of all the different rooms. We saw where King Pedro the Cruel lived, and where Christopher Columbus first went to ask to be funded for his voyage. Then we walked over through the Barrio Santa Cruz, which was the old Jewish quarter. We made our way through the tiny streets to the Cathedral and Giralda bell tower. The Cathedral had a plaque from the Guinness Book of World Records stating that it’s the largest Gothic church. It is also the second largest in volume after St. Peter’s. It was pretty impressive. I’ve been to St. Peter’s, and obviously that one kicked this one’s butt, but it was still amazing to see the kind of architecture they were capable of. One of my favorite things in there was this giant mirror they had placed on a short platform that you could look down at, and then see the high ceiling and the giant organ. The main altar was HUGE, and consisted of 44 different scenes of Jesus’ carved out of wood. The crucifix on the top was over 8 and a half feet tall, but looked like it was only 3 feet tall. That’s how big the altar was. Also in the Cathedral was Christopher Columbus’ tomb, which was pretty neat to see! His giant tomb is carried by 4 big men, who apparently were 4 different kings from different Spanish regions. Before we left we went to the Giralda tower to go up and see the view from over 330 feet up! It was made up of all ramps, so there were some people pushing strollers! On every side there was a window, so we stopped to take some pictures at those, and then finally made it to the top. It was pretty impressive looking out at everything, but what I liked was all of the bells. Paula said that sometimes kids have gotten stuck up there when the bells started ringing. We heard them ringing earlier that day…from the Alcazar gardens…and it was still loud. I can’t even imagine being up there if they were going. There were about 20 of them all together.

We were then set free and left to find our way back to the hotel. Before our guides left us, they told us that there was a Sevilla soccer game that evening. That sparked some interest, so Will, Daryl and I decided to go check out the stadium—which happened to be right around the corner from our hotel. I don’t know how we missed that on our walk the night before. We got there and were bombarded with scalpers trying to sell us VIP tickets for ridiculously cheap prices (cheap meaning 70 Euros). We finally got past them and got to the ticket window and bought our ACTUALLY cheap tickets…up in the nosebleeds. I didn’t care, I just thought it would be fun. I have been to a pro game before, but that was when we went to Germany in 2003, so I felt like it was time to see another one! We stopped by the team store on our way back to the hotel and found out they were having a HUGE blowout sale. I decided to get a giant flag (2 Euros!) for the game that evening. If I didn’t get the chance to wave it around, at least it would act as a nice blanket. Will got some other things, and so did Daryl! Instead of making it back to the hotel, we stopped at the mall that was right next to the stadium. They had already set up pre-game festivities (it was about 3:00…and the game didn’t start until 10pm), but it was mostly for younger kids. They had those little bungee things where the kids get strapped into the bungees and then jump on the trampoline. I just about went over and did it—I miss bungee trapeze! Haha. Anyway, we shopped around for a bit and then ate at Dominoes. It was PACKED with school kids who had just gotten out of school. Once we got back to the hotel, it was just about time to go to dinner and then to the game. Paula said that people didn’t really do anything before the game, but we saw otherwise on our way back to the hotel earlier. People had already started drinking and there were vendors set up outside selling all sorts of things. Apparently they can bring whatever they want into the stadium, they don’t check your bags for illegal snacks! We got into the game with about 20 minutes until it started. It was kinda funny because the whole pack of Espanyol fans (the other team) ended up setting up right in front of us. It was entertaining, but I felt a bit awkward with my giant Sevilla flag, haha. One of my favorite parts of the game was the Sevilla song, which I managed to get a short video clip of. It was so epic and sounded like it should have been in some sort of action movie. The game was really exciting even though no one scored. The Espanyol fans had cheer battles across the entire stadium with the rowdy Sevilla fans. They all had huge flags (theirs were on sticks though) and waved them the ENTIRE game. They must have huge forearms. A lot of AIFS kids were at the game, so that was fun to see everyone there. Only a few people got tickets better than our cheap ones. I don’t even know where they were seated, but I didn’t mind at all where we were. We actually weren’t that far away, and we could see the whole game perfectly. Will got some amazing photos with his really nice camera, and I got some cool videos with my not so nice camera. Overall, it was really fun and I would definitely go again!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

We left pretty early in the morning for Córdoba, but not before we stocked up on churros and chocolate from the hotel breakfast (they claimed to have the best in Sevilla…I concur). We hopped on the bus for the 2 hour trip. I fell asleep, but heard that some of the scenery along the way was pretty nice. Once we arrived we walked across the Puente Romano (Roman bridge). We wandered with our tour guide, Juan Carlos Córdoba (yes, Juan Carlos as in the King, and Córdoba as in the city). I thought he was really good—prepared with photos and such to back up what he was saying about each thing. He took us through the Jewish quarter and through the Calle de las Flores (Blossom Lane). Then we toured the tiny Sinagoga that dates back to 1315! The last stop on our tour was the Mezquita, or La Catedral de Córdoba. This is an old Islamic Mosque that has a Cathedral built in the middle of it. The Cathedral ceiling was created with the Sistine Chapel in mind, and I could tell why (jugglers—“wow, you COULD do quads!”). There were really cool carvings (not paintings, that was one difference) that I tried to get some pictures of, sadly with not much success. The mosque part was really interesting as well. Each section had been built at a different time, but for the most part it looked pretty similar. There were hundreds of columns of different stones that had the signatures of the stone-worker’s name engraved in it. The arches that were made between the columns were filled with alternating red and white stone. The overall look was really spectacular—and my favorite was the section they lit via fake candles hanging from chandeliers. It had a very…Adam’s Family vibe. I guess my mind must really be thinking about Halloween 24/7 these days. After we said goodbye to Juan Carlos, we had some time to eat before we hopped back on the bus to go back to Granada. I passed out again on the bus…I guess I had an exhausting weekend even without staying out until 5am every night like some people! Coming back to Jardines felt like we were coming back home. It was a really odd, yet comfortable feeling. I guess Granada is becoming my home…finally, after almost 2 months.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Ugh. Classes bright and early again. After class I mailed some more post cards, and then headed back to Jardines to eat and do some homework. I had been assigned to do a presentation on an article in my POE class on Tuesday, so I spent quite a long time on that. I didn’t really know what sort of article to write about, so I went onto which is the biggest newspaper over here. I ended up finding a few articles I thought would be interesting to the class, but decided on the Halloween-related one instead of the Facebooklite one. See, my mind is on Halloween, even though I’ll be on the beach on the 31st. I had to answer a bunch of questions and then ask some of my own that I was to present to the class. Let me put this in perspective: I can’t even talk in English in front of a group of people. Sure, give me some juggling clubs or a trapeze and I’ll perform in front of however many people you can find, but ask me to say one word and I get extremely nervous. And they want me to talk for 10 minutes in SPANISH?! AHH! Needless to say, I spent the rest of the night practicing my presentation. I took a break a little before dinner just to walk around and try to make myself less nervous. I think it helped, but then as soon as I got back to my room I could feel my heart start to pound again. I actually found my article quite interesting—it was an article on how the Catholic Church here in Spain doesn’t want Spanish kids to celebrate Halloween because it has an Oculist background that harbors anti-Christian ideas. Whew. Let’s hope I can remember what I wanted to say!

Monday, October 26, 2009


Friday, October 23, 2009

We left from Neptuno mall around 9:00am. Luckily no one was late because Paula was insistent on leaving right at 9…and not waiting for the stragglers like we did last time! We had about a 2 hour drive to Gibraltar, during which I read New Moon (to refresh my memory before the movie comes out November 20th!) and the People Magazine: Country Edition that Mom sent me (she knows me so well). The bus dropped us off outside of customs at the Gibraltar border…for those of you who don’t know, Gibraltar is part of Great Britain, much to the dislike of Spaniards. Almost everyone remembered their passports, only one kid forgot. Chris had to stay in La Linea, the small town right next to Gibraltar…he asked what there was to do and Paula responded, “Well, you can either sit in the McDonalds or the Pizza Hut…for 6 hours. Oh, and there’s a beach.” Unfortunately, Yuri was also stopped at customs and not let through because of his Russian passport. I guess it was a good and bad thing, because then Chris had someone to hang out with! The rest of us breezed through customs by merely showing the security guards that we had passports. Easiest customs ever! I guess visitors need passports, but Spain citizens only need to show an ID. There were many people who just seemed to have been shopping on one side or the other of the border and were passing through like it was not a big deal at all that they were passing over a country border…which really, I guess it wasn’t.

We walked all the way to this big plaza area in the center of the city, and along the way, there were some great views of “The Rock”. Once we got to the plaza, Paula explained that we were on Main Street and that there were tons of shops to go look around in. We had about 2 and a half hours to explore before our actual tour was to begin. A large group of the AIFS kids wandered into the Burger King, hoping to find something more…homey than the normal bocadillo for lunch. And that’s exactly what they found—plus most of the workers spoke English! It was a very weird situation wandering around Girbraltar. There were SO many different languages being spoken. At one point I was just sitting on a bench and was listening to the different people walk past and realized I was sitting in the middle of a giant…language stew. I heard German, French, Spanish, English (both American English and England English!), Portuguese, Berber (recognized from Mostapha speaking it at circus to Anwar!), a dialect from India, something that sounded like Dutch, and quite a few others! It was ridiculous.

Anyway, during the 2 and a half hours we had to explore, we walked up and down Main Street and made our way to Little Ireland (like China town, except Irish). We made our way into some of the arts and crafts shops where they had some wonderful watercolor paintings of The Rock and other nearby landscapes. With all of his artistic creativity, I thought that Will’s dad really would have enjoyed those! Then some of us went and saw a glass blowing demonstration where Will thought the statues outside were real. He had to poke on just to convince himself once I told him otherwise, haha. The blown glass was beautiful, and reminded me a lot of being in Italy. It was difficult to get a good photo, but once I get them up on Flickr (hopefully soon…) maybe something will be visible! I considered getting a small vase, but realized we still had the whole tour to go through and didn’t want to risk it breaking while carrying it with me! I guess some other people didn’t think that far ahead, because there were numerous people with shopping bags full of stuff that they had to carry along with them…whoops.

We had to wait quite a bit for our two mini tour buses to show up. Apparently they were moving the NATO helicopters and that required closing the road the mini tour buses use through the airport. Paula decided that was why Yuri wasn’t let in that day…they thought he was there to sabotage the NATO-copters, haha. Jusssssst kidding. We finally got our bus, and our driver, Paul, was hilarious. His first words once he got off the bus were “alright, only the good looking ladies on my bus”. Throughout the tour up through the many switchbacks and TINY tunnels of The Rock, he was making joke after joke (“I just got my license half an hour ago, and during practice I just close my eyes at this turn and my instructor tells me when it’s over”). We made our way to a beautiful lookout point where we could see other coasts of Spain as well as the Northern tip of Africa! It was a very, very clear day, but it was extremely windy, so in all of the pictures we’re all trying to hold our hair out of our faces to no success. Then we went to go see the stalactites inside part of The Rock. It was a huge cave, and they had made it into an auditorium. It was difficult to take photos inside the cave because with and without flash didn’t work very well! On our way back to our mini tour bus, Paul called us over to take photos with this monkey that was hanging out on a railing. There were tons of monkeys that live on the rock, but the ones up by the caves were the ones who were the most powerful out of the pack. It’s very illegal to feed the monkeys (and not a good idea to look them in the eyes) but Paul had some snacks in the pocket of his shirt that all of the monkeys seemed to know existed. He knew each of them by name and explained about their different lives, etc. I got my picture taken with the monkey (and Paul)! After visiting with that monkey, we hopped back on the bus and headed over to a more heavily populated monkey area. There were some mother monkeys with their babies which were super cute. I got some good pictures of these guys! My favorite photo is of Paul and another mini tour bus driver leaning against the cement fence that overlooked Gibraltar. Next to them is a big monkey, and they all have the same daydreaming look. It was pretty funny. We made our way back down the winding streets in our mini tour bus with Paul telling us more jokes and stories (“Here’s where John Lennon and Sean Connery got married. But not to each other.”). After being dropped off near the airport, we walked back to our bus to meet Yuri and Chris…who had spent the whole day on the beach in jeans and t-shirts. We hopped back on our BIG bus and headed toward Sevilla.

Once at the hotel, we got to eat in the hotel restaurant. I gave up on my band diet, because I honestly hadn’t eaten anything that day. It was pork chops, sautéed vegetables and fries. I wasn’t about to pass that up! After dinner Will and I wandered around a bit, trying to find where some things were that we could do the next day after our tour of Sevilla. Surprisingly a lot of things were closed at 10pm, and it was very dark (not many street lights) so it was difficult to see things. Regardless, it was fun wandering the streets of the city!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Blah, blah, dieta blanda

Tuesday, October 20, 2009, Wednesday, October 21, 2009, and Thursday, October 22, 2009

I still haven’t been feeling too well the past few days, even though my medicine has been helping a lot. Today was the only day it really didn’t help much. I went into the AIFS office and Paula asked me how I was doing. I said I was doing pretty well considering my stomach still hurt a little, so she asked what I had eaten. It was early afternoon so I had only had a little bread. She goes: “No! You can’t have bread! Only toast!” What? Is it just me or is there not really any difference? I thanked her for letting me know, though I’m still not sure how different they could be.

For the past 3 days I’ve been on my “dieta blanda”. Florian keeps making fun of me because all I get are potatoes and fish. YUM. I like some of the fish they give me, but it’s just really…BLAND. The soup I get for lunch has rice in it but it still tastes like fish. The worst was when everyone else got turkey and mashed potatoes, or the day they got French fries and pork, and I was stuck with my baked potato chunks and fish. Hopefully I’m doing this for a reason!

Classes have been going pretty well. My Culture and Civilization class always has a lot of homework, but it’s just a bunch of reading and answering questions about Spanish customs and festivals, etc. Pretty interesting, just very time consuming. On Tuesday I did homework from 3-9, straight through. I mean, Will suggested going out for churros con chocolate, but as soon as we got out the door I remembered that churros are both fried and sugary. No good for Maria. I really like my POE and Literature teacher (they’re the same teacher). She is super nice and is always on top of things. I have my first presentation of the year coming up on Tuesday…and I’m pretty nervous about it because I’m the first person to go in our class! The girl who was supposed to go today switched classes, so I have nothing to base mine off of. Granted it’s only a review of an article, it’s still super intimidating. I’m glad it’s in that class though, because Maria Angeles said she’d be nice to me about it. Yay! In Literature we had to write a poem…in Spanish, obviously. I was really proud of myself when I was actually able to come up with something that was coherent and rhymed! Maybe I’ll post it later…maybe not. It was supposed to be based off of Gustavo Adolfo Becquer’s poem: Volveran las oscuras golondrinas, so it doesn’t quite make sense out of context. Maria Angeles said that Becquer’s poem was the equivalent of a “roses are red, violets are blue…” sort of poem. Apparently Spanish middle school girls write lines from it all over their notebooks. Or at least Maria Angeles did! Haha.

Tomorrow morning our AIFS group leaves for Gibraltar. (Remember your passport, Maria!) After that we head to Sevilla to stay there. The next day we have a tour of Sevilla and stay there another night. On Sunday we leave Sevilla and stop in Cordoba for the day. Then we head back here! I’m excited for this trip, especially since it’s supposed to be nicer in Sevilla than it is here in Granada! Hopefully all goes well and we don’t get stopped by the police again!

I’ve had time to write some more postcards, so being sick hasn’t been that bad I guess. Keep your eyes out for the mail man, one might be coming to you! Or, if you have yet to get one, send me your address and I’ll get one in the mail so it arrives before I get home in December. The post office is HORRIBLE here…for example: they didn’t have stamps today when I went to get some. NO STAMPS. What next? The gelato stores aren’t gonna have gelato? Oh, the horror! Actually, I heard (sadly) that the gelato stores DO close for the winter…but I don’t know when that is. I guess they don’t know who they’re dealing with. I go to Dairy Queen in the dead of winter. It must be a Minnesota thing.

Maria goes to the doctor

Saturday, October 17, 2009, Sunday, October 18, 2009 and Monday, October 19


The past few days have not been too fun. I ended up not going to Florians on Friday night (which turned out to be a good thing because Julia busted it…) and stayed home because I wasn’t feeling too well. I ended up staying in bed almost all of Saturday and Sunday because I had such bad stomach pains it hurt to uncurl from the fetal position. I figured it was just something I ate and that it would pass, but it didn’t. I got up for class early this morning (Monday) and felt well enough to get ready. I made it almost all the way to the CLM before the cramps started up. I sat through the first 45 minutes of class, and then gave up. Luckily Will was in that class, so he brought me my homework (all 8 worksheets of it) and brought home my notebook and pen I had just left in class. Paula went to the doctor’s clinic with me that morning. It was a Monday…so it was pretty full. Even Paula said it was more full than she had seen it in a while. The doctor was late too! It was really interesting how it worked. There was only one doctor and it was basically the honor system when trying to figure out what order people got there. We were “behind the woman in red”. Haha. We ended up waiting about an hour before it was my turn. The doctor didn’t speak any English at all, so Paula really did have to translate everything. They decided it was probably just some sort of gastro thing…yay…even though I didn’t have many of the symptoms. Odd. I got som medicine which has helped a lot, so that’s good! I ended up missing the rest of my classes, which was really a bummer because it was supposed to be my first day in my new Grammar class (no more Susana!). Paula said she could make a copy of the doctor’s note, so I could take that in if I really wanted.

The most interesting part of the doctor’s visit was when the doctor found out I was lactose intolerant. She had asked me what I had for dinner the night before, and I had responded “pizza”. She goes: “but that has milk in it”. I explained (through translator, Paula) that I had Lactaid pills…this shocked her. Apparently here in Spain they treat lactose intolerance as untreatable and she had never heard of Lactaid-type pills. She kept asking: “so if you eat the pill before, you can eat anything with milk in it?”...completely shocked. Paula leaned over and said, “they have very different ideas of what is curable and what isn’t…” It’s just too bad, because I’d like to help the lactose intolerant Spaniards be able to eat gelato!

Anyway, I spent the rest of the day back at Jardines and started my “dieta blanda”. Ugh. I watched some episodes of Monk and Psych, so that was fun!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Zombies and Sororities...Spanish style

Sunday, October 11, 2009 and Monday, October 12, 2009

Over these two days I did some homework, rested up a bit, went back to the festival. Overall it was a good weekend. I may not have gone anywhere exotic like a lot of the AIFS kids, but it was nice and relaxing! There wasn’t school on Monday because it was a holiday…another saint of some sort. No creepy processions this time though!

I made a trip to Hipercor later in the day to get some more school supplies, birthday cards for Liz, Shannon and Sarah, etc. And then I also went by the Mac store here to see if they had any cheap laptops…haha. They didn’t. It’s crazy expensive here because they have IVA, which is a tax of 16% (!). It’s included usually in all restaurant bills and everything else, but apparently not on computers. This makes them look a lot cheaper than they actually end up being!

On our way to Hipercor, we saw hundreds of high school-aged kids walking around dressed like zombies…or some sort of dead things. Lots of the guys had on shredded turquoise hospital scrubs with fake blood and dirt on them. They all had white faces with dark eye shadow and were ALL buying alcohol. It was really creepy (so I guess this makes up for the lack of creepy processions), but more so because I had no idea why they were dressed like that. Initially I thought it might be another weird thing they do to celebrate the saints, since it was a holiday, but I guess not. We asked Florian at dinner that night and he said that it was in celebration of the release of Rec 2…a scary movie that just came out here. So I guess it’s the equivalent of me dressing up like Hermione for the Harry Potter movie. Just a tad more creepy.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Classes again…boo. I still was stuck in Susana’s Grammar class so I had to get up at 7:20 again to make sure I had enough time to get down to breakfast and then make the trek to the CLM. I’m lucky that all of my classes are in the CLM. NONE IN THE KENIA BUILDING! That saves me about 15 minutes every day, so that’s nice. However, I can feel the flab returning in my thighs from the lack of walking. On the way home from class today we were stopped in the street by this group of girls. They were all in pajamas and were chanting together, sorta like the last time we heard the group of girls go by Jardines at night. This time, they were all standing in a big clump under the windows of the apartments in the street. People were out on their balconies with buckets and buckets of water and were throwing them down on the girls. We figured this was some sort of sorority-type hazing because there were other, older, well dressed girls who were following them around, making sure they were getting soaked. We asked Paula about this and she said that it WAS hazing, and that this time of year we’ll probably see some weird things like that. She said we could probably find them sometime this week in the fountains by the AIFS office too, haha.

The rest of the day was less exciting than that. We mainly did homework and wandered around. I missed having the Renaissance festival right there to run over to…that always had such quality people-watching!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I found out in the afternoon that I FINALLY got out of Susana’s Grammar class. Which was too bad, because I still had to go to it Wednesday. They had changed the room number on me without me knowing somehow, so I spent the first 10 minutes running from each room on the 2nd floor asking kids if it was Susana’s Grammar class. One girl goes “no, sorry…but really…I’m sorry. Susana’s crazy.” Haha…I’m not alone! I finally saw Susana actually walking out of the teacher’s room, so I ran to catch up to her. I hadn’t planned what I was going to say, so I kinda just blurted out, “Tiene clase ahorra?”(Do you have class now?) Basically the most basic thing ever. She just looks at me and goes “Yo? Si…tengo.” (Me? Yes, I do.) And then I was trying to say I didn’t know where the class was since it had moved, but that seemed too difficult to put together. After an awkward pause I decided on “donde?” (Where?) Creative. I know. But she scares me! She put it together that I was lost, so she brought me with her. We managed to have a decent conversation on our way, so that made me feel a little better. BUT I still hated the class, so I’m glad I got switched! Plus a lot of AIFS kids are in the class I got switched into! All of my other classes were wonderful, even though the 6 hours of class right in a row were a little rough. I now have 2 classes on Monday/Wednesday and 2 classes on Tuesday/Thursday...a good balance. No classes on Fridays!!! It was really funny because there was a new guy in my Literatura class who looked really familiar. I was sitting there trying to figure out who he was when all of a sudden it hit me. HE’S THE GUY FROM THE KEBAB PLACE! He was the one who was helping translate for the guy who couldn’t really speak English! I’m assuming he’s Moroccan because he sorta looks like it…and sounds a bit like Mostapha! Will is in that class, and I mentioned it to him. He thought that was pretty funny…and kinda weird since he speaks pretty fluent Spanish! The guy definitely recognized us. Maybe we can have study sessions at the Kebab King!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DARYL! Daryl turned 19! We had class as normal today, but then we kicked it into high gear once we got out. After lunch we rested for a bit and then went out for tapas around 6:30 for Daryl’s birthday. Whoa. Early. But they were super good! We went to this Chinese place right at Plaza Nueva. Most of us got lo mein noodles as our tapas, but Will got chicken wings (mistake!) and Matt got these tiny spring rolls. I’d definitely go back there! At dinner, Will and Florian got everyone to sing her “Cumpleanos Feliz”. Speaking of dinner, because of some miracle, we ended up with chicken nuggets for dinner. Daryl was pretty pumped about that. Will and Florian had an eating contest. It started out as them eating 19 in honor of Daryl, but then Florian made it up to 20, so Will of COURSE had to show him up and make it to 21. Elena didn’t mind, she just thought it was hilarious that she had to bring out 4 trays of them just for our table.

That evening to celebrate Daryl’s birthday we went out to Café Piaf again for triva. Of course we lost again, but it was still fuuuuuun! I can definitely tell that my Spanish is getting better! At least my ability to understand the questions! Then we headed out to the chupeteria. We hit a few other bars to dance at before we headed home to get some sleep for the AIFS hike the next morning!

Friday, October 16, 2009

This morning some AIFS people went on a small hike into the Sacromonte area up to the old Abbey that’s at the top of the hill. When Merete and I got to the front of the AIFS office, we were surprised to see only a few other people there! We thought we were going to be late for meeting everyone else, but nope! I guess a lot of people are traveling (Mirella’s in Dublin, Jilian’s in Morocco, other people are in Portugal, etc.) and some people were still…recovering from the night before. However, one girl’s parents are in town, so she brought them along. That was fun to have some new people there, even though they were pretty quiet! They did take a nice group picture of all of us who went! The hike was a lot of fun because we got to spend a lot of time talking to Paula about really random things. She told us all about the Spanish education system, told us she too knows who Florian is (apparently everyone does these days), suggested places to buy pumpkins for Halloween, and pointed out where our wine tour is going to be held (and why she’s no longer allowed to go with us, haha just kidding)! The hike was a little steep, but it was still fun and a good way to get some morning exercise! On that healthy note, I have to mention the wonderful gelato we got on the way back to Jardines. The lady at the gelato place literally knows me now. She grabbed the small cone and reached toward the hazelnut without me asking today. It was awesome, yet horrible.

I went along to the soccer fields again today. Florian and Adam had organized a giant game…but I felt weird being the only girl, so I opted out. There was such a random group of people there: CLM kids from some of my classes, AIFS kids, people from Florian’s UGR classes and some random Granadians. At one point people were talking about how no one was really ‘talking’ much on the field…er…cement. We decided it was because no one really knew what language to speak since there was Dutch, Japanese, Spanish, English and French being thrown around. I almost threw in some Chinese just for the heck of it. Anyway, it was fun to see everyone together. Florian made sure to invite everyone to his apartment (yeah, apparently Jardines has apartments a few streets over) for a botellon later. Crazy kid…but it should be an interesting night with another large group of an interesting mix of people! I hope it’s as fun as he promised!

Festivals, Florian and the first days of classes

Wednesday October 7, 2009

Ohhh what an early morning again. I had class at 8:30am (half an hour earlier than my intensive class) so I got down to breakfast before it even opened. Luckily Julia was quite quick with the pan tostada. My first class was Civilizacion y Culture de Espana. There were about 5 AIFS kids in that one! The teacher, Pilar, seems really nice but I can tell it will be pretty difficult as well. I had two hours off, and then I went to my second class of the day, Geografia de Espana. The teacher, Miguel Angel, walked in and I thought he was a student. He is actually probably about 30 or so, but since there are some older students at the CLM he definitely could fit in. We did a practice test and such, which was pretty entertaining. I seemed like one of the smartest kids in the class because we had just talked about some general things about Spain in my Civilization y Cultura class. For example, yes, there IS a place in Spain that is like a desert…I just happened to be there the day before…San Jose. And, the distance between the tip of Spain and the top of Morocco is about 14km. Obviously. That class seemed pretty fun, but I knew I was probably going to drop it since I don’t get any significant credit for it from UST. I’d rather spend my time studying for my other classes that WILL count toward my minor. Plus, I don’t think I could spend another day in that class with all the girls swooning over Miguel. Sure, he can’t speak much English, but he could still understand what they were saying about him…talk about being awkward. All of my classes are completely in Spanish. When I was signing up for the classes back at UST during the registration process that I thought I was going to take, I initially had my grammar class in Spanish, and then the rest in English. After being here, Paula and others suggested that we just take them in Spanish, so I thought I’d try. I’m pretty good at understanding things, but I’m just worried about writing and speaking. The teachers only speak a little bit more slowly than they normally would…at least that’s what they all say. However, Miguel Angel was talking pretttttttty fast.

After classes I had to rush back to Jardines because I was already half an hour later to lunch. Since there are so many kids living here now, we actually have to eat in 2 shifts, so it works out that some of us have classes that go into lunch time. I spent the time after lunch trying to fix my computer…but with no success. My own personal tech-assist, Will, ran some tests on it, and it ended up that my hard drive had some error. Ugh, I really hope I can get all my photos off of it at some point! Now it’s just sitting in my room mocking me as I use Will’s old computer that overheats within 2 minutes.

That evening, I didn’t feel like eating at Jardines, so Will decided to take me out to a movie (well, he HAD to pay because that was the only way he was going to get me to go see this semi-scary movie). Will ate at a Dunkin Donuts on our way to Neptuno Cine to see Distrito 9 (District 9). How American of us. The movie was actually not that scary, just a little gory at points. It wasn’t actually that difficult to understand, because the aliens in the movie had Spanish subtitles, so we could just read those. After the movie, we made our way back toward Jardines. We stopped by the Cathedral to sit and people-watch. While we were sitting there, about 6 big white vans pulled up and people in suits and ties got out and started talking very loudly with each other. I was a bit confused, but figured they were probably planning something for in front of the Cathedral…since there always seems to be things going on out there. Turns out I was right! (See Friday…)

Thursday October 8, 2009

I had another 8:30am class…no fun. This time it was even worse because it was my grammar class. This was one of the worst experiences yet here in Spain. The room was TINY and I was literally sitting…on the sidelines of the classroom. Everyone else was set up like a normal classroom, but since there were so many people, the few of us on the side were pushed up against the corner, and basically looking at the teacher’s back. THEN, as always, I was first on the attendance list. The teacher, Susana, talked SO fast, and the window was open (and of course there was a lot of road construction going on) so I couldn’t hear anything. She just kept yelling and yelling but I couldn’t figure out what she was saying. It was super awkward and embarrassing and I didn’t know what to do. She got mad at me for asking the kid next to me what she was saying…but he had no idea either. After that, I had already decided that I wanted to switch out of her class. The rest of class didn’t get much better. The rest of the kids after me at least knew what she was asking (what group are you with, where are you from, how many years have you studied Spanish, etc.) so they all looked like they had no problem understanding her. HOWEVER, the 2 other kids she decided to ask different questions to got caught in my same situation and looked as silly as I’m sure I did. Ugh. Still, I wanted to get out of there. Then we did this practice exercise, and when anyone said something wrong, she’d just go “NO. SIGUENTE.” (No. Next.) I knew I wouldn’t be able to learn in that sort of environment because I was so nervous I’d get it wrong. Anyway, I had a class right after that one (this was a class I didn’t sign up for but that is required by AIFS…and will count for my 301 course at UST). This was my POE class (oral and written class) that had been scheduled oh so nicely into my schedule…I had planned I that I would have 2 hours in between classes again on Tuesdays/Thursdays, but since AIFS scheduled me in this one I had 6 hours straight of classes. Of Spanish. I didn’t mind much because I really liked this teacher, Maria (I like her name too). She was super nice and understanding…much in contrast of my time with Susana. There were only 10 kids in that class (2 from AIFS) so we just talked a bunch and went over this article she wanted us to talk about. It was really relaxed and I’m sure I’ll be able to learn a lot in that class! She doesn’t make people feel bad when they mess up. I mean, I know I conjugated things incorrectly, and she would answer anyways, and then would go on to explain how to say it in a better way (aka…the right way). Luckily, my class right after that, Literatura was with Maria as well! Even though I have to survive through 4 hours of her talking (she talks relatively fast as well…) I don’t mind! The literature class seems pretty hard, but I need it for my minor so I’ll have to do my best! A lot of kids in that class are really good at speaking. Normally, even in my classes in English back home, I get nervous talking in class. However, I think that since I have Maria for my POE class I am more likely to talk since she understands where I’m coming from and I know her a little better. I talked on the first day! Yay for participation points! The homework from this class was suuuuuper hard because it was a reading and I only knew about 2/3 of the words! Eek!

I was basically Spanish-ed out by the time I got back to Jardines (late…again) for lunch. THEN I remembered that we didn’t have school on Friday, so that made it a little better. Regardless, I went to the AIFS office and put in my request to change Grammar classes. NO MORE SUSANA, POR FAVOR.

Later that evening I went with all of the Jardines kids and a lot of the Spaniards from here to this bar really close by called Café Piaf. (Not Pilaf…because that’s what I thought the first time.) Florian arranged this because it was trivia night there…in Spanish and in French. I didn’t know what to expect, but it was a lot of fun! I understood a lot of the questions, but luckily we had Lewis on our team to help us understand certain words! We didn’t win, but I’m convinced the group of Germans cheated. Just kidding, it was still fun!

Friday October 9, 2009

I got up rather early again to go on the AIFS organized trip to the Cathedral and Royal Chapel. It was so weird that I had been living so close to the Cathedral but still didn’t know anything about it or hadn’t been in it. It was good to finally go! Daryl and I left a bit early from the residence to get pastries before we met up with the AIFS group on the Cathedral steps. Surprise, surprise—there was a huge festival being set up in front of the Cathedral! I knew it was a long weekend, so that made sense, but something seemed a little off about this festival…with the large, large grills with meat and a tiny pig I literally watch get shoved onto a spit…all of the little shops selling jewelry, etc. Paula confirmed my suspicions that it was a Renaissance festival when she showed up. SCORE. I thought I had missed out on the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, but it came to me here in Granada! I’ll come back to the festival…but first, the tour!

The Cathedral was a LOT bigger than I thought! I should have expected this since it IS the second largest cathedral in Spain! It was hard to take pictures in there because no flash was allowed… We started out in the priests' dressing room, which was sorta funny. Paula laughed when kids started taking pictures in the multiple mirrors…Myspace-style. Inside the Cathedral, there were a few organs which Paula said are only played a couple times a year, once which is in November, so I’ll be sure to go! Paula told us about how this Cathedral (made up of 3 different altars) was different than a lot of other ones because it was made to shuffle through large amounts of people at a time. In the Royal Chapel we saw the tombs of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel and their children. There was also a small room with a lot of artifacts from the king and queen’s reign. For example, we saw King Ferdinand’s sword and all a jeweled box which was said to have been given to Columbus. It was all really interesting, so I might even head back some other time since we’re so close to it!

After the tour some of us decided to wander around the Renaissance festival since it was RIGHT there. It was a ton of fun seeing all the hippies out and about, and all of the workers dressed in their Renaissance clothing. As I said, there were ENORMOUS amounts of meat being cooked…the photos don’t even do it justice. There were tons and tons of vendors spread out around the cathedral and in Plaza Bib Rambla. It was such a fun atmosphere I decided to wander around even more after everyone else went back. I was aiming to get a few small gifts for people back home from some of the vendors that seemed more legit (some stuff looked ACTUALLY hand-made, some not so much). I had seen this one stand that I really thought looked cool earlier (but they hadn’t quite set up yet), so I went back. I was browsing around when the guy behind the stand started talking to me. Apparently he told me that if I wanted to try anything, I could, but since I had my ears pierced I had a difficult time explaining that I couldn’t, haha. Then he goes “Ahh…hables un poco espano, si?” So, my cover was blown…no, I’m not a Spaniard, I only dress and act like one. We talked for a little bit in a mix of bad English and Spanish about the CLM and such and he also told me a little more about the festival. I finally decided on a pair of earrings (that he once again suggested that I should try on). He took quite a while getting the earrings in the tiny bag and then when he finally handed me my change, with it was his name and number on a tiny piece of paper. Gaspar. Isn’t that the name of the guy in Beauty and the Beast or something? Haha, I also realized later that I totally got a discount on the earrings. Sweet! Maybe he could be my intercambio!

That night a few of us went back and just sat on the steps of the Cathedral and people-watched. We were sitting in front of this one place that was serving all sorts of (expensive) meaty empanadas and bocadillos when all of a sudden this huge, hairy guy on bouncy stilts came wandering by. He looked like something out of Narnia! He was like a…faun or whatever they’re called. He said he was Zapatero’s son…which I don’t believe, haha. He had a huge drum and decided to play along with the music that was playing at the little food place in front of us. I got some good videos and photos of him…they’re pretty funny! Then, he went under the canopy of the little food place and started serving people! He had to duck down though because he was too tall on his stilts! He then proceeded to grab a bag pipe that they randomly had there and play it. I got a video of that as well.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

I got to sleep in! Yay! This was the first Saturday since we’ve been here that we haven’t had something planned for us to do by AIFS…then again we had the tour of the Cathedral and Royal Chapel on Friday.

I spent most of the day at the festival again. Lewis and Florian hadn’t been there yet so they went with us. They bought necklaces and we all got these giant gummy candies. YUM. Daryl and mine was watermelon flavor. Will was convinced his was plaster flavored…toooooooo bad.

We ate lunch at Jardines but then went out for tapas for dinner. Tapas turned into olives, so we decided to go back to the festival to get some MEAT. I decided it was too expensive, but people got pina coladas, mojitos, rib tips, brats, etc. I just enjoyed the smells! Sorry Scarlet, but I’d take rib tips over blood sausage any day.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Cabo de Gata: San Jose

Sunday October 4, 2009

Since classes didn’t start until Tuesday the 6th, many people had made plans to travel after our Madrid trip. Some had already left by breakfast time, so MORE FOOD FOR US! The 6 of us who WERE riding back on the AIFS bus to Granada stocked up on the breakfast cookies once again before our 6 hour bus ride home. It was nice being able to sprawl out between two seats (with our seat belts on of course). I decided I am going to make a montage of olive trees, because during this bus ride I got so much footage! It’s crazy how many trees there are, and some of them don’t even seem like the farmers would be able to get to them! Once we got back, Will and I got everything re-packed to head off to the SOUTH, south part of Spain, Cabo de Gata. My professors and numerous travel books had said that this place had some of the best views in Spain. Unfortunately we took too long packing that we had to grab a cab to the bus station. This was actually pretty fun though because we told the cabbie (Antonio…taxi numero 73!) that we had a bus to catch in fifteen minutes. Immediately he stepped on it and we made it there with plenty of time. He talked to us the whole time (while swerving in and out of traffic…I’m pretty sure we went through a few red lights as well) about his American car, a Jeep Cherokee. He was really proud of it. He also told us that we were going to LOVE Cabo de Gata…so I started to get really excited! Once we got to the Almeria bus station, we were trying to find the bus that Paula told us we could catch to San Jose…a tiny town in the eastern side of Spain right in the middle of the Cabo de Gata national park. We looked and looked but all of the places we went to and people we asked said that there weren’t any more that evening. PAULA! There was only one that really went straight to San Jose, and since it was a Sunday, the last one that left was at 8:30…it was already 9:30. Will ran into these two English girls who had the same problem. They were studying in Almeria and had wanted to catch a bus to San Jose for the weekend. They decided just to leave the next morning, but we still had to find a way there! Finally we ended up just taking a taxi after about an hour of trying to find something cheaper. Oh well, at least we got there! After we were settled in, we made our way to the boardwalk to check out the sights. Seeing as it was dark out, all we could really see was that we were surrounded by some sort of LARGE hills. The town was built into these hills, and I could tell that our hike the next day was going to be difficult, yet fun! The place seemed almost deserted. I didn’t know if that was because it was sort of late, or because it was off season for travelling. Then I remembered that many of the travel books said that this town was always pretty tranquillo (relaxed). Just what I needed! Almost EVERYTHING was seafood, but I guess that made sense because it used to be a fishing town. Since neither Will nor I are big fans of mariscos, we decided to opt for something different. We ate at this little Italian place that had REALLY good pizza…it really reminded me of Punch Pizza from back in the states! Will got Spaghetti Carbonera that he really enjoyed. While we were walking along the boardwalk after dinner, we saw this older guy with his mini amp playing and singing. He sounded a LOT like Bob Dylan and played so many different American oldies. I wonder how he ended up in that tiny town…Will and I both agreed that he could easily play professionally!

Monday October 5, 2009

As we headed out in the morning, we saw that there was a bakery right across the street from where we were staying. It was pretty early, so we managed to get some pretty fresh pastries! I also grabbed a bag of muffins for our long trek through the hills. As we started off, we really weren’t sure where we were going, but got pointed in the general direction of Playa Monsul…a beach which is considered one of the most beautiful in Spain, and was also used in an Indiana Jones movie! We walked through the tiny streets of the town (that really looked like we could have been walking through streets in Greece) until we ran into a gravel road that looked like it was taking us away from the beach. Cars passed us and gave us odd looks, but then we finally found a sign that had a little map of the beaches. It directed us down this dirt path that looked like it would be perfect for mountain biking. There were SO many aloe vera plants as we walked, and very little shade. Once the aloe vera plants started getting to be fewer and fewer, their lack was made up for with the presence of a ton of cactuses. I could totally imagine a movie being filmed there! First we reached Playa de los Genoveses after about 40 minutes of walking. Seeing the beach was really interesting because we were still in the middle of the…desert. Behind us there were HUGE hills and in front us was desert that turned into a giant beach. There were only a few people there (who had driven…) so it was very relaxing. We hadn’t brought our swimming stuff, so we just walked along the beach for a little. Check out the photos…when they get posted! We found what looked to be the continuation of the path we had just been on, so we decided to take that. I’m still not quite sure what path it was that we found…but it definitely wasn’t for any old travelers. Speaking of which, we ended up being followed by this Spanish couple who was in their 50s (ok, they’re not OLD). We went along for a long time, having to hike up very steep parts of the hills to get over one and look onto the other. In between each of the hills was a tiny cove with its own personal beach. I kept expecting to see Playa Monsul, but as we made our way, it seemed like it would never come! When we stopped for some photos, the couple caught up to us. They thought we were Spaniards as well…and then we started talking. Apparently they had no idea what path we were hiking on either, so we all sorta wandered along together trying to get to Playa Monsul. THEN it got really interesting. As Will and I pulled ahead of them we saw that around the bend of one of the hills was this area where we were literally walking on a 60 degree incline of rock. I’m fine, don’t worry…it was crazy though. Will got some footage of it, and it was pretty ridiculous. The couple ended up doing the same thing as us…after I found a do-able path, of course. This lasted for about 40 minutes. We talked with the couple again and they had gotten their map out and saw that Playa Monsul was still quite a ways. The path we were on didn’t look like it was going to get any…safer, so we decided just to stop at that cove for lunch. We hopped down onto the beach and made our way to the shady part under one of the sides of the hill. The couple headed toward the opposite side of the tiny beach. Will and I ate our muffins as we looked out over the Sea. Then, the couple decided to go swimming. Spanish-style. Stripping down to absolutely nothing, they proceeded to go running into the Sea. I couldn’t decide if it made it more or less awkward that we had just talked with them. Regardless, it ruined any chance of me getting photos of this beautiful beach, because I didn’t want to whip out my camera and have them think I was a creeper taking pictures of them. Oh well, there were plenty other photo ops. Right before we were about to leave, we realized that we were sitting right next to a boat that had been completely covered with sand. Only the bow of the boat was sticking up, and it was at quite a sharp angle, so it must have gone at least 20 feet under the sand. Wow! Again, unfortunately I was unable to get a picture of this, or else in the background there would have been the carefree couple, haha. We made out long hike back to San Jose, but not before running into even more couples doing the same thing as the one we had met! Each little cove seemed to just call to these people…however we didn’t see anyone our age doing it, so we decided against it, haha.

Once back in San Jose, we headed to the beach that was right there in our tiny town. Surrounded by fishing boats instead of tourist shops, this beach felt a lot less touristy than Roquetas del Mar. We laid out there for a while, people watching and enjoying the view. After the sun started to set, we headed back to freshen up before we took a sunset walk past where all the boats were tied up. We climbed out onto some rocks that allowed us to watch the sun set against the far end of San Jose’s cove. It was really beautiful. (Again, check out the photos once they’re up!) We made our way back into town for another Italian dinner, this time at a different place. Will and I were so hungry from our 5 hour hike that we each ordered our own pizza…not what all the other people there were doing, but we were HUNGRY. The guy kinda looked at us funny when we ordered, but you should have seen him when he came to get our empty plates at the end, haha. I think he was impressed that I had just eaten equally as much (if not more…because I eat the crust) than Will! Funny, fat Americans. That’s Will and I in a nutshell…at least that night. We sat out along the beach for a while, listening to the Bob Dylan guy again. I decided that if we saw him again before we left the next day that I’d give him a bit of a tip. He seemed to be following us to give us a soundtrack to our weekend.

Tuesday October 6, 2009

We decided to catch one of the only two busses going from San Jose to Almeria. It was to leave at 3:00 and we weren’t about to miss it. We were walking across the street to the bakery when I heard our Bob Dylan friend. He was literally right outside of the bakery…how did he know. After grabbing another yummy breakfast from there, I tipped Mr. Dylan and we headed toward the beach to pass the time. We ended up finding a nice spot in the shade of one of the palm trees. I kept thinking about how happy I was that I wasn’t in the states waking up (in the cold) for class. Mmmm…how relaxing. At 3, we hopped on the Bernardo bus and rode back to Almeria. We caught an earlier bus back to Granada, which was good because I still had a few things I wanted to do before classes started the next day. Overall, I think Cabo de Gata has been one of my favorite trips so far. While the others have been very historically informative, I really enjoyed all of the nature of Cabo de Gata and San Jose. Now, if only pictures could do it justice...

Madrid, El Escorio, Segovia and more!

WHEW! It’s been a while since I’ve blogged! I wrote some notes to myself about the past couple weeks, but I may end up remembering things later as well. I’ll post about those when that happens! This is only the first few days in Toledo and Madrid, and is quite the novel, but I hope you enjoy it!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

This was the last day of our “intensive” Spanish course. Many kids skipped because we obviously weren’t going to do anything in class that would affect our grades, considering we had already taken our finals. I knew I had done poorly on both of my finals, but I went to class anyway. We watched a movie called Empuje del Sur that was a kids cartoon about Washington Irving and his time spent in the Alhambra. It sort of reminded me of Aladdin mixed with Prince of Egypt mixed with Pocahontas. I enjoyed it even though we had just gotten our finals back right before we started it. To make up for this, all of the Jardines crew (including the Spaniards) went to see Enimigos Publicos (Public Enemies…the one with Johnny Depp) that night. I hadn’t seen that movie yet, and I thought it was really good! I understood most of it, because it was pretty visual (as most movies are…) so good thing it wasn’t a comedy or else I would have really been lost! I packed when I got back to Jardines, because early the next morning the AIFS group was set to leave for MADRID!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

I got up rather early to make it to breakfast before running to catch the bus. We met at the Neptuno Mall plaza…where we had gone to see Enemigos Publicos the night before! We left around 9:45 after we had to wait for a few girls who apparently missed their alarms. Paula always says we’re leaving RIGHT on time and that you’ll be left behind if you’re late, but that has yet to happen. I think it’s because she missed the bus once for an excursion when she was studying abroad, so she knows what it feels like to be left behind. So, at least she has some sympathy! However, she ALWAYS says it’s the last time she will wait for someone. Anyway, our bus left and we drove for about 2 hours before we stopped at a little gas station and cafeteria for lunch. The Jardines crew, once again, had to sit back with our frozen bocadillos and watch the other kids munch away at their Subway-esque sandwiches. This time, the cheese had actually frozen to the meat, so I couldn’t even separate the two even after the 2 hour bus ride. I had to make do with nibbling around the edges and eating my apple.

After 2 more hours on the bus we made it to Toledo, where we were to spend the next few hours with our tour guides Carlos and Luis (nephew and uncle, respectively)…not to be called “tour guide” or else they would call us “tourist”. Paula mentioned to us multiple times before arrival that Carlos is the best guide she has ever had in all of her years traveling throughout Spain. He did all the talking on the bus part of the tour, and was VERY funny. I thought he sorta sounded like Triumph the Insult dog (both because of his accent and because of how many jokes he told), so I took a video that, if you’re interested, you’ll have to see when I get home. We got off the bus to make our way around to see the Catedral, Iglesia de Sto. Tome and the Sta. Maria la Blanca (an old synagogue). **SIDE NOTE: On the way into town, I saw a sign for Hotel Christina Maria…or was it Maria Christina?? Anyway, I thought that was funny!** I ended up in the group with Luis, who was also a pretty good guide, but for different reasons. He was VERY enthusiastic, yet serious, about his tours, and always made sure that no other tourists were listening in on his speeches (“THIS IS A PRIVATE TOUR…”). He was extremely knowledgeable about everything, and had a specific story for every place we went. He told us that in 1995 he had the honor of giving a tour to Hillary and Chelsea Clinton, so I guess he’s pretty well known in the guide world! I was a bit upset because pictures weren’t allowed in any of the places, but I did manage to get a good picture of him and Daryl sharing an umbrella once it started raining. I’ll make sure to try and get my pictures up…somehow…sometime. In the Catedral we saw works of Goya, Velasquez, El Greco and other famous painters. We also got to see a blacksmith at work in the “fabrica de damasquinado y espadas”. Here was where the best swords of Europe were made for battles back in the day. In the gift shop, everyone had a field day playing with all the different swords…check out flickr. Paula said that some kids in the past had actually bought swords (I mean, I considered it. Who WOULDN’T want a sword?? They were only 50+ Euros!) but had trouble sending them back home. (No, you can’t take them on the plane.)

After we left Toledo, we headed another hour north to Madrid. We got to our hotel, Hotel Principe Pio and had the rest of the evening to explore. Our hotel was very nicely situated in between Plaza Espana and the Palacio Real—and also pretty close to Principe Pio mall. This is where we found our dinner for the evening. Paula had pointed out a few places that we could try and we ended up at VIPS. It had American-type food…I say American-type because it still didn’t quite taste like home. Daryl and I split a chicken cesar salad and a cheese burger. After dinner we just walked around for a bit to see what else was close by. On our way back to the hotel we ended up walking behind this guy and his “bomb squad” dog. How comforting. Apparently a group of them were staying at our hotel, because in the morning, all of the dogs were sitting in the lobby in their kennels. The people who didn’t put 2 and 2 together had a bit of a freak out session as we boarded the bus the next morning…

Friday, October 2, 3009

BREAKFAST! FREE! Oh, it was wonderful. We had churros, hot chocolate, toast, muffins, fruit, juice (except that tasted a bit funky), cereal and more! I made sure to stock up on the small packs of cookies before we got on the bus to go on our tour of the city! We started at the Prado Museo with our tour guide, Paloma. Again, no photos were allowed, but Paloma did well to tell us things about the different pieces of art so that we would remember them. She called these “gossips”, and seemed really excited about each and every one of them. For example, she called one painting “Homage to Cellulite” and went on to tell us about the different people in the painting and how they were all inter-related to the painter. Drama, drama! After the Prado, we went to the Palacio Real (Royal Palace) and wandered through only a small amount of the 2800 (!) rooms. My favorite, like Paloma, was the smoking room. “I don’t know what they used to smoke in this room, but it was not cigars. Just look at the wall paper.” It was all bright colors with realllllllly random cartoonish pictures. It really did not fit in at ALL with the rest of the rooms. Photos weren’t permitted inside the palace, but we all made sure to take photos in the courtyard! After this tour, we were set free. We had heard that there was a fiesta starting right next to the Palacio Real to celebrate the announcing of the 2016 Olympic Games. Madrid was up for the bid along with Tokyo, Rio, and Chicago. On our way over to the stage, we were stopped by this lady with a microphone. She said she was from some local radio station and wanted to get different peoples’ views and thoughts on who would win the bid (…in Spanish). She talked to us for a bit, and convinced Will and Merete to stay until they went on the air. I filmed… Will decided to support Madrid, but Merete, from Chicago, decided to support Chicago! Along with those two, other Spaniards were talked to, and also these two ladies from Brazil! As we were walking through the fiesta, we saw the booth for the radio station that was blasting their channel…Will and Merete must have been on there!

For the rest of the day, Daryl, Chryssi, Merete, Will and I decided to go to the Madrid Zoo Aquarium. Though it was a bit pricy, it was a ton of fun. We saw a sea lion show and a dolphin show! The dolphins there understand Spanish! I took lots of photos, mainly because I was in awe of how little shielding they had between us and the animals. For example, the buffalos only had about a 2 foot high fence. The only animals they really kept locked up were the lions, tigers and bears (oh my!). Later that night when we went back to the hotel, the guy at the door told us that Rio had won the olympic bid. That was sad to hear, because it would have been a lot of fun to be able to say I WAS THERE WHEN THEY WON! Oh well…I WAS THERE WHEN THEY LOST!

Saturday October 3, 2009

We hopped on the bus in the morning and headed East toward Segovia. Unfortunately, some of the kids didn’t make it on to the bus because they had been out too late the night before. This really seemed like quite a shame because I wouldn’t have wanted to miss this day trip! On the way to Segovia, we stopped at El Escorial, built by Felipe II (King of the infamous Spanish Armada, who was later killed there via a large grill). It is a palace, library, royal tomb, monastery, school and basilica. Photos weren’t allowed INSIDE of the building, but we took some photos in the courtyard (starting to sound like a reoccurring theme?). Palace, walking, pictures, palace, walking, pictures…kinda like in Japan: temple, walking, pictures, temple, walking, pictures. Luckily our group was the first through, because we made it down to the chapel JUST in time. The guard outside told us we could go in if we hurried. At first I didn’t know why, but then we saw the people coming in after us. We were awkwardly standing up by the altar when the doors opened for the guests of a wedding to come in. We hurried out the side, but not before snapping pictures of the beautiful dresses and hair pieces/hats that the women were wearing (I want one!). I only got a photo from pretty far away, but it was funny to think of having your wedding at such a place. I asked our tour guide who has the opportunity to get married there, and she said, “Anyone! You could!” So, start saving for a plane ticket (and a hair piece)…I want you all there.

After El Escorial, we hopped back on the bus and made our way to Segovia. We were dropped off by our bus literally RIGHT underneath the Roman Aquaduct. This is one of the main attractions of Segovia. It was very beautiful there, and sort of reminded me of Siena…not sure why. We ate dinner at this restaurant (yeah, all 57 of us…including our bus driver). It was pasta, chicken and French fries…Spanish style of course. This meant it was a huge piece of chicken that you had to peel off the bone, pasta that had some sort of fishy taste, and very, very oily fries! After our lunch we hiked up to the top of the Aquaduct for better photos, then on to the Sleeping Beauty castle, the Alcazar! It’s called the Sleeping beauty castle because it is said to be the castle that inspired the castle in Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty…and I can see why! It was a place for amazing pictures! Facebook profile pic for SURE, haha. However, I wasn’t looking too hot after walking up the HUGE tower, so maybe not. Our tour guide there was amazing, and very informative. It seemed like she had been there…quite a few times, haha (INMA!) Photos were FINALLY allowed, so we all got a bit photo happy…taking pictures of things that really didn’t deserve a photo. Be sure to check out Inma’s favorite room—the pineapple room! We then had a bit of free time once we got back to the main plaza. We wandered around and all managed to find the same bakery…which had wonderful pastries and chocolate. We then headed back to Madrid on our bus. At one of the toll stops, we got pulled over by the police. They had seen into the bus and saw that one kid was sleeping in the aisle, and that almost none of us had our seat belts on. (What? Belts on a bus? Even Paula admitted she didn’t know that one.) Regardless, we had to sit there while our driver got ticket after ticket for different things. Apparently he was being super mean. Inma asked him at one point what the difference between a tourist bus (taking people from place to place) and a destination bus (just going from place to place) was and he just said “the 1000 Euro fine.” SO, needless to say, Paula and Inma were upset, especially since the police then followed us all the way back to Madrid because they didn’t believe we were going where we said we were…or something. It was all confusing. Once we got back, we had the night free, and ended up eating at the Chinese buffet some other AIFS kids had found earlier on the trip. It was good to finally feel full for once!

more coming soon........


Hi everyone...sorry for not being able to post anything! My computer died on me the day before we left for Madrid (2 weeks ago) so I have been stealing internet and computers from other people! However, I have a lot to write about between Madrid, San Jose and the start of classes, SO I didn´t want to spend 5 hours on someone else´s computer!

Now I´m in the AIFS office, using a weird Spanish keyboard that really confuses me...but LOOK AT ALL OF THE COOL THINGS I CAN DO:
ç € ñ ¬ ¿ ¡ á é ó í ú

Haha, I´m just hoping that the computer Dad just bought for me via a Spain Mac store doesn´t have this same confusing keyboard! Well, I´ll hopefully have a loooonnnnnng blog soon about the past two weeks. Thanks for being patient!