Friday, February 27, 2009

I never want to leave

So I had noticed that the internet would periodically cut out. Most of the time it happened pretty late at night and I didn’t think too much about it. Last night I was sitting on my bed using my computer with the door open. Antonio walked by and said, oh no! I just turned off the internet. Well, that explains something. They just turn it off for the night, but sometimes I’m able to steal the neighbor’s.

There’s a lot to report since my last post! I’ll try and stick to chronological order. Alvaro’s birthday was last Saturday. It was a lot of fun. Antonia made a huge plate of paella and we even used the fancy tablecloth for the occasion! It was me, Alvaro, José Alberto, Antonia, Antonio and Maria (Antonio’s daughter.) They were all joking about how Antonio can’t cook if his life depended on it. Some days for lunch he’ll toss the salad and he always makes me confirm it’s the best salad I’ve ever had. Normally, I just smile, laugh and nod. I wouldn’t want to offend Antonia. While we were talking about this, the topic of our lunch last Friday came up. This was the rice/ketchup/egg deal we had going on. Antonia asked if I knew how to fry an egg and I told her no and that I didn’t want to help the boys because I knew my assistance would only complicate the matter. I made fun of José Alberto for having the towel over his arm to prevent from getting burned. Antonia got a good laugh out of that one. I burned Alvaro some CDs for his birthday. I’m not sure how well they went over. I didn’t have a marker, so it looked like I had given him 3 three blanks CDs. Hopefully, he’ll give them a listen.

My host family! From the left: Antonio, María, Alvaro, Antonia and José Alberto

María, Me, Alvaro and José Alberto. Spaniards do this thing when they don't really smile...

I think Maria, some friends and I are all going to go to the outlet stores this weekend. I’m looking forward to being forced to speak more Spanish. I know she wants to practice her English, so maybe we can spilt it up half and half. I’m supposed to meet with my intercambio (speaking partner) tomorrow for lunch, but she’s being kind of flaky. I hope it will work out. (I’m writing this after the fact. She blew me off again so I emailed intercambio número 4.)

I really didn’t do too much after Alvaro’s birthday lunch. I wanted to make sure I was well rested for the night to come (Carnaval!) The bus picked us up in Sevilla at 9:30pm.

Group shot before we left. (I'm the second from the left)

We got to Cádiz at approximately 11:00 where we were set loose. Boy, was it an adventure. I don’t even know where to begin. Picture Lollapalooza times 100, in costume. I didn’t really get the memo that everyone went all out. I just wore a mask and a boa, and I think I might have been the least festive person there. There were quite a few very clever costumes, unfortunately they’re all escaping me at the moment. The costumes were different from what Americans wear for Halloween. It wasn’t an excuse to wear as little material as possible; I was surprised by how well covered the majority of the women were. Drag was a popular theme for the men.

Greeted by the crowds after getting off the bus

We followed the crowds after being let off the bus. We just wandered for a while. Most of the way was a constant dance party. There would be one car in the middle of the street blasting music, surrounded by hundreds of people. As soon as we got bored with that music, we’d walk another 50 feet to a different car blasting music. I was surprised that I didn’t recognize the city as well as I thought I was going to. That most likely was attributed to the fact that the city was as full as I had ever seen it and there were stages set up in all of the plazas, which changed the atmosphere.

Above is an example of one of the stages set up in a plaza. In case you can't tell, those are men dressed up as disney princesses. I heard they won second place!

This is the plaza outside of the Catedral. There were sooo many people!

When we were walking I all of a sudden I thought I had a clue where we were, so I was directing my friends. My memory served me correctly, and I was able to lead us to my old house family’s house. I obviously didn’t ring the doorbell, because it was probably around 2:00am at this point. Although, there’s no way they could have been sleeping with all of the people and noise. From there we walked to the plaza outside of the cathedral. It was flooded with people. There must have been thousands of people just on the steps of the cathedral. From there we needed some air, so we walked to the water and took a breather. The bus picked us back up at 5am. It was quite the night. I’m comfortable saying that once was enough. I’m glad I went, but I don’t think I’ll feel the need to go again. The no public toilets and the hour and a half ride home wasn’t exactly ideal.

Ah, that reminds me…one of my friends really needed to go to the bathroom. Due to the lack of public washrooms, we found a semi-quiet side street. She ducked behind a motorcycle and another friend and I stood guard. All of a sudden a girl started yelling from her window across the street. I couldn’t understand what she was saying so I kept telling her to repeat it. She was yelling that it was her brother’s motorcycle that my friend was peeing on. All of a sudden she disappeared and I was afraid that she was going to come downstairs, but instead she got her mom who joined in and began yelling at my friend. It was one of the funniest things of the night! We were all so happy when the bus picked us up. I had been yearning for my bed for hours. We finally got back to Sevilla at around 7:15am. I made it home by 7:30 and went straight to bed. I woke up at 3pm for lunch, and then proceeded to take a nap afterward.

Later that evening, we went to Antonia’s parent’s and sister’s houses. I really enjoyed meeting the family. Her mom is a riot. I couldn’t fully understand what she was saying, but she seemed like a very funny lady. There weren’t too many people at the grandparents’ house, just me, Antonia, José Alberto, Alvaro, Grandma, Grandpa, Antonia’s brother and his two sons. From there we walked across the street to Antonia’s sister’s house. I couldn’t keep track of all of the people. There were probably about 10 more relatives there. I just sat around the couches with everyone and zoned out to the basketball game on TV. After such a late night I really wasn’t in the mood to try and focus on what they were saying. Sometimes after a certain hour my brain can only process English. Let’s just say it came early that day.

Tuesday was a friend’s birthday so we all went out at night to celebrate. Two friends baked her a cake. I was in charge of the champagne. It was great, we sat in the plaza next to the Cathedral, ate cake and drank champagne. It was my first botellón. Botellón-ing is very common in España. It’s typically how kids start their night off. You buy alcohol and drink it in a plaza. We’re still not exactly sure what the legal status is. I feel like there are certain spots where it’s permitted, but we’re not exactly sure where those spots are…After botellón-ing we headed to a restaurant called Duplex for tapas. It was the birthday girl’s choice. She had gone there during orientation with her group. It was pretty American, but good nonetheless.


When I was walking home I was absolutely ecstatic that a group asked me for directions. Primarily because they must have thought I was Spanish and also because I actually knew the answer! Another Spanish woman asked me for directions today. Maybe I’m getting the whole Spanish look down. Yesterday at lunch I told Antonia and Antonio that I was going to go shopping to try and look more Spanish. Antonia said that I already looked Spanish because of my hair. I think still my complexion is a little lighter than most Spaniards. Antonia didn’t refute the fact that I could work on my clothing.

Last night we went to a flamenco show at this discoteca called Boss. It was a group called Raíces (races), and it was comprised of a black guy, a jewish guy and a gypsy. I never know what to expect for flamenco shows. This was kind of a mix of traditional flamenco, rock, rap, etc. I’d really like to see a traditional flamenco dance. Most of the shows I’ve been to have only had music.

Prior to leaving the house for the flamenco show, I had to make a pizza for myself, well, I just needed to heat it up. My señora had it all ready for me in the fridge. She showed me how to use the microwave/oven earlier in the afternoon. I made the mistake of not writing down which settings to use, there are about 6. I knew I was supposed to use one for 10 minutes and then air for 2 minutes. I think I might have used the wrong one. My pizza came out burnt, stuck to the plate and then I made a mess of the microwave. They haven’t mentioned anything yet, so I think I’m going to say anything about it.

Supposedly the thing to do in Spain is stay out really late and then eat churros in the morning. That’s our goal for tonight. Well see if we’re able to stay out that late. My host brother said he didn’t get home until 8am last weekend—and that’s just a normal night for him! I’m curious to see when we’re all going to hit the wall.

Yesterday at lunch we were talking about the differences between Spanish and American food. My host mom was asking how you say the different types of vegetables that we had in the salad in English. Somehow we got to the phrase cream of the crop. She tried saying it, but it sounded more like cream of the crap. I told her she needed to watch out with that one. She laughed and said her pronunciation was worse than mine when I try to say hygienic in Spanish. Everyday I practice and then at meals I try and say it, and everyday they continue to correct me. Maybe it will come soon. I’m not as focused on my pronunciation, more just getting the words out.

So, I don’t think I’m allergic to the cat. I’m still not feeling 100% and I have no clue what has taken over my body. Olíve (pronounced, Oh-lea-vey) has become rather attached to me. He/she/it jumps up on my bed whenever I’m home. The other day I was lying on my stomach on my bed using the computer and Olíve made himself comfortable by laying down on my back. My señora got a laugh out of that one.

Earlier this morning I bought my plane tickets for my first spring break! First we’re going to Paris and then to London. We’re going to be in London for quite a few days, so I’m hoping to do some day trips, potentially Stonehenge and Bath. We’ll just have to see.

Well, that's all I have to report for the moment. I'm headed to Cordoba on Sunday for a day trip through the program.

Hasta luego,

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I can't believe it's been a month!

Four months in Spain is simply not going to be enough. I am going to need to figure out a way to get myself back here. This past weekend was my first excursion with friends. As mentioned in another post, we went to Madrid. We took the Ave there—it was great! The train station is conveniently located very close to my house (I seem to live close to everything!) I mean really close, not Flossmoor close. The Ave was a breeze. The train was super nice. Traveling by train is so much easier than by plane. The train stations are typically in the middle of cities, which makes it less of a hassle to get there and then easy when you arrive in your destination city as well.

Once we arrived in Madrid we went straight to our oh so lovely hostal. We had a few guidebooks, which thankfully had maps. Right when we got out of the train station, we were a little turned around so one of my friends wanted to ask for help. In España the blind run the lottery system, called ONCE (eleven in Spanish). My brilliant friend walked up to a ONCE booth to ask for directions. I could not stop laughing at the fact that she asked a blind woman for directions. We asked her what her response was and my friend said the woman just said that she wasn’t very good at directions. This is kind of the overlying gist of the trip. That and 24 bathroom stops (truthfully.)

We stayed at Hostal Fabiola. It was pretty nice as hostals go, however the Web site neglected to mention the 5-floor walkup. Nonetheless, it worked out nicely. The two guys working there were very nice. The older gentleman said he was from Sevilla. We couldn’t figure out where the other guy was from—yet alone his nationality. When we arrived he started to speak to us in French. We spoke back in Spanish and then he switched to English. Over the course of the weekend we got many guesses on our nationality. It ranged from French to German to British and best yet (and most offensive) Texas. We would have settled for American, but Texas? Was that really necessary? The girl who guessed that looked like she could have been Amy Winehouse’s twin...along with all of her problems. So, we just brushed it off.

After settling in the hostal, we walked to the Prado, where we ate our picnic lunches in the park before entering. The Prado has quite a few famous paintings, which I’ve studied in various classes. They have a load of Goya’s and Velazquez’s work. I was very happy to see Velaquez’s “Las Meninas.” I’m sure that’s a painting you would all recognize.

Me and my buddy Velazquez outside of the Prado

After the Prado we headed to La Plaza Mayor. From there we went to get pastries (another theme of the trip.) Luckily, we walked everywhere, so hopefully we left somewhat the same from when we arrived. My friend Briana, who I traveled with to Madrid, has a good friend spending the semester there. We met up with her and she showed us around a little. We went to a Picasso and Max Enrst exhibit. I am seriously museum-ed out for awhile! From the exhibit we headed to El Parque Del Buen Retiro and to La Iglesia Real, the church where King Fernando y Queen Isabela were crowned.

This is Plaza Mayor

The Official Bank of España!

From left to right: Julie, Me, Briana and Allison in El Parque del Buen Retiro

El Parque del Buen Retiro

A homeless woman put together this cool toilet paper thing in Plaza Mayor. I think she just wanted money, but we took pictures anyway.

Breakfast one morning, churros not pictured. Warning: jealously is a normal reaction. Grandma, Mom, Dad and Liza, this photo is for you. Only a true Elman would like chocolate this much.

The next morning we headed to El Palacio Real. This is one of the coolest places I’ve ever been to. It’s the old royal palace for Spanish Royalty. My trusty guidebook tells me that it was constructed in the 1700s. Spain’s Treaty of Accession to the European Union was signed there in 1985 and it’s also where the Middle East peace talks were held in 1992. The place is truly decorated for a king. Unfortunately, they don’t allow pictures inside, so you’re going to have to visit for yourself.

The outside of El Palacio Real

Me with El Palacio Real en el fondo (in the background)

After El Palacio Real we went to El Escorial, which was about an hour train ride out of Madrid. To tell you the truth, I’m still not really sure what El Escorial is. It’s a giant building, but none of us were really impressed. They had an architecture exhibit as well as a lot of medieval art. Part of our disappointment could have stemmed from the fact that we went to El Palacio in the morning—it’s hard to beat that.

The very underwhelming El Escorial

The courtyard of El Escorial with some pretty mountains. The mountains and the gardens (which we couldn't find the entrance to) were probably the best parts of this particular excursion.

Look what we found in Madrid by the train station! If you can't tell by my face, I was very excited.

They have a very similar exhibit to the Cows on Parade that were on display in Chicago a few years back.

We ran into a bit of trouble leaving the train station in Madrid. Turns out you need to keep your ticket stub to pass through the turnstiles. We had no idea this was the case considering we didn't need the ticket stubs for our trip to Madrid, nor the trip to El Escorial. Three of us had saved ours, but my one friend Julie couldn't find hers. Briana and I had walked through the turnstiles and turned around to see Julie digging through her purse. We suggested that Allison and Julie just walk through together. At the time we thought that was a brilliant plan. So after Julie and Allison made it through Briana and I didn't hesitate to get on the escalator. All of a sudden we looked back to see 2 security guards questioning Julie and Allison. Of course our first reaction was to laugh. After waiting at the top of the escalator for 5 minutes with the two of them still being questioned we started to get a little concerned. Our next brilliant move was to run up and give Julie my ticket. Briana ran up and said that she must have had both her ticket and Julie's ticket. Unfortunately, technology was one step in front of us. The turnstiles stamp the time on your ticket when you go through, so my ticket had already been time-stamped. At first the girls didn't want to give up that there really was a fourth, but then gave in. Meanwhile, I was hiding upstairs because I didn't want them to get in trouble. After some more ridiculous questions, the security guards let them go. When we all got settled on the Ave for our trip back to Sevilla we pulled out notebooks to write down various highlights from the trip. Guess what Julie found. Her Ave ticket. Since we were in the same train station, we all joked and said she should run back and tell the security guards. We obviously got a good belly laugh out of that one.

A random pillow fight we ran into in La Plaza Mayor

For dinner we went to this great restaurant that was recommend to us by Briana’s friend. It’s associated with a culinary school so the food is gourmet, but still cheap. We shared an appetizer, a bottle of wine, each ordered our own entrees and desserts, which we all shared and it was 14 euros (cheaper than dinner the night before and 5 times better!)

After dinner we headed to Kapital—a SEVEN-story discoteca. The cover charge was steep, very steep…so we said that once was enough, but we all enjoyed it. Every floor has different themed music. We spend most of our time on greatest hits floor, which was mostly current popular Spanish songs and then the hip-hop floor, which was current popular American hits. As the clock approached 5am we realized the night was coming to an end, especially after a girl projectile vomited on my friends’ feet (this by the way was the second person we saw puking that night….oh and I can’t forget to include the third person we heard puking when we returned to the hostal.) By that time, we had all had enough. The discoteca was still packed when we left. It was amazing how many people were out when we walked back to the hostal. It was as if it was dinner-time on a Friday night.

Sunday morning we went to Dunkin Doughnuts, which is actually called Dunkin Coffee. I was so excited to get a bagel and we got there to find out they don't even sell them. All I want is a bagel! Is that too much to ask for? Apparently so in Spain. After our glorious breakfast we went to La Reina Sofia. We saw Guernica by Picasso and some other famous works. On Sundays it closes at 2:30, so we had to leave and frankly, I had no problem with that. When the museum closed we walked to an outdoor market and then bought bread and cheese for lunch.

After lunch we walked around for awhile, went to another cathedral and then headed to the Museo del Jamón (Museum of Ham...yes, it really exists in case you were wondering...) After dinner we made another quick stop for chocolate con churros (we just couldn't resist it) and then it was time to head back to the train station.

El Museo del Jamón...yes, that's all ham.

I was really proud of all of us with how we handled this trip. We had it planned to the T, and whether it was out of luck or good planning, everything worked out seamlessly. I had to laugh because I feel like I know the city very well now. I was able to guide us without even using a map. My friends didn't want to believe me since I have so much trouble getting around Sevilla. I just kept saying, I promise, I'm actually really good with directions, just trust me. And wouldn't you know, I never steered us wrong. There's just something about Sevilla that I can't seem to get down. Perhaps it's the fact that the streets are just wide enough for a car and twist and turn every 20 feet. Hopefully I'll have a better sense of the city by the time I leave!

Not too much has happened since we got back. Just another week of classes. There were a few funny/cool things that happened today, though. This morning I went to the radio station for my Communications Interest Group. Our group leader works at the station. There are 3 different stations that broadcast from where we visited. Canal Fiesta (party channel, which plays mostly music), Canal Sur Radio (southern station) and then I forget the name of the third. We got to go into the booths where they were broadcasting. First we went into Canal Fiesta. While the music was playing the radio host, Esperanza, was able to talk with us. I asked her to explain all of the screens in front of her and she said that some of them displayed the music that was playing among other things. We were all standing in the room when she said something on the air, I thought that was pretty cool. Oh yeah, the other screens showed the advertisements that were playing. The station goes to all of Southern Spain and the ads vary by area.

After that we went into another room where the producers were for the station I can't remember. There was a window looking into the room where the broadcasters/radio hosts were talking. Our leader gave them a list with our names and one of the hosts read them all aloud...although, regrettably, I didn't hear my name! I must have just missed it. There were several names on the list that sounded Spanish so the host invited them in to talk on the air! The first girl, Antonia, is Cuban and Mexican and speaks Spanish pretty well considering it's her first language. The other girl, Marisol, is from Texas and has no hispanic roots and frankly, doesn't speak Spanish all that well. When the host called her into the room my heart dropped. I have a class with her and know that her Spanish isn't very good. Well, now all of Andalusia knows as well!

After my trek home (this wasn't so close. More like Flossmoor close) I tried to take a nap. I'm sick again and this really isn't normal for me. I think I might be allergic to the cat and that's causing my cold like symptoms. I'm going to try and go to the pharmacy tomorrow for some over-the-counter meds. Tomorrow is a big day. It's CARNAVAL! I'm looking really forward to it and hoping I feel better. Tomorrow is also Alvaro's birthday. I bought some blank CDs to burn for him.

My señora has needed to stay at work late this week because the bank she works at is merging with another bank and they've been having some problems. At least, that is what I thought she said. Since that's the case, the boys have been making lunch. Today, I thought they were going to burn the house down trying to fry some eggs. I'm not exactly sure what we ate for lunch today. It looked like rice with some sort of red/ketchupy sauce, hot dogs on top and a fried egg. Welcome to my life. The boys were having a ton of trouble with the eggs. I think Alvaro put too much oil in to begin with and they it started to pop up and they burned themselves so José Alberto put a towel over his entire arm and stood back as far as he could to flip the darn things. I thought it would be smart if I didn't enter the kitchen considering my past cooking disasters. Overall, the meal was edible.

This evening a friend and I went to services--believe it or not! It must have been the first time in years. Our program handbook had the address for the synagogue and it said that services start at approximately 6pm. Soooo, Julie and I met at CIEE at 5:30 to walk over together. We got to the address listed in the book and decided it could not possibly be a synagogue because it was an apartment building. I tried calling the number listed in our program handbook and no one answered. We kept walking and stopped at a hair salon and they pointed us back in the direction we came from.

Luckily, we ran into these 2 men who were also looking for it. They said that someone told them it actually was in the apartment building. I couldn't really follow the story this man was trying to tell us, mind you it was in English. Sometime it's easier to understand Spanish than English. Scratch that, most of the time unless they're a native english speaker. Neither of the men were jewish, but they were trying to convince the world that everyone is jewish considering the 5 books of the torah are all in the new testament...something like that. Oh yes, I forgot to mention that no one came to the door after we figured out it was indeed the temple. We figured that since we were there, and all dressed up, that we would wait around for awhile. At about 7:10 two men walked up to the door and looked at us sitting down across the street. They asked what we were looking for and one of the men told me I had a jewish face. I really had to thank him for that one. One of the guys told us it was a Mezquita (Mosque) and my friend got all confused. I had a feeling he was kidding and he obviously was.

We followed them in and asked what time services started. Their reply was whenever everyone gets here. So finally at maybe 8pm services started. This temple is supposedly the only one in the entire city and the two guy told us that the congregation only has about 100 members. There were less than 20 people at services tonight. Julie and I needed to sit in a different section, although we couldn't decide if this was another joke, or if was a orthodox/conservative shul. Either way, we sat towards the back. We were the only women there, so we had no one to disprove the theory. We agreed that it was fun, but that once was enough. They tried to convince us to come for Purim and Passover. We'll see.

The walk wasn't that far, but my American feet couldn't withstand my heeled boots. As soon as I got home I sat down with my señora in the living room and told her I definitely wasn't Spanish because I couldn't handle the boots. She suggested that I wear thinner socks, but I'm confident that wasn't the problem.

Well, that's all to repot here. Hopefully I've have some good stories after Carnaval!

Hasta Luego!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

First two days of class!

The past 4 days have been very eventful. This past weekend we went on a trip to Granada and then yesterday and today were my first two days of class. So, to keep things in chronological order...we left from the University at 8:30am Saturday morning. The drive is only about 3 hours to Granada, so it wasn't too bad. We stopped midway at a rest stop. When I think about a rest stop I think about a place to stretch your legs and go to the bathroom. That being said, I had to laugh when one of our guides got on the bus microphone saying we had 15 minutes to get a coffee, eat or go to the bathroom. To me, this is another example of how the Spanish mentality differs from the American mentality. All of the Spaniards went in to get coffee and sat down to leisurely enjoy it. The Americans went straight to the bathroom and then maybe got a soda or a pastry. The rest stop was really nice. There was a bar, which many Spaniards were huddled around at 10 in the morning. These people sure love to drink.

When we arrived in Granada we went straight to the hotel. It actually happened to be the same hotel I stayed in when I was here 4 years ago, so I got a kick out of that. Because there were so many kids we divided up and each group had a different schedule. After lunch my group when straight to La Alhambra and Generalife. La Alhambra is an old Muslim palace. It's quite possibly one of my favorite places in the world. I love the architecture and could spend hours there. El Generalife is a garden connected to La Alhambra.

This is a picture of El Generalife

One of the many pretty fountains.

With a nice view of La Alhambra in the background

Some friends and me with Granada in the background

A pretty arch.

Our guide told us that La Alhambra and El Generalife always have water running through its many fountains. If I understood her/remember correctly, the reason for that is because it's surrounded by the Sierra Nevada, which is always covered in snow and then provides the palace with the runoff water.

When we were touring La Alhambra is started to SNOW! I thought I came to Spain to get away from that. Granada is only a little north of Sevilla, but since it's surrounded by mountains it's quite a bit colder. Everyone told me that there is still winter in Spain, but I guess I chose not to listen and I didn't exactly bring clothing for this weather. It should start to get warmer soon though. This week it's supposed to be in the 60s. I can certainly live with that.

One of the reflection pools at La Alhambra

After La Alhambra we went to la tetería--tea shop. It was wonderful. Not only were we able to warm up, but the tea was delicious, too. We also had some pastries, but they weren't very good. Not chocolate=not very good in my book. After tea we had some free time to walk around. There are a ton of little Muslim shops. They had the most amazing lamps/lights. I wanted one so badly, but I wasn't quite sure how I would transport it back to the states. Maybe next time?

After our little shopping excursion we took a bus back to the hotel and had dinner. I stayed in for the night since I really wasn't feel well. On Sunday we went to several great look out spots where you have a great view of La Alhambra and the town. We walked down to La Real Capilla. It's the Cathedral where King Fernando y Queen Isabella are buried. I had already been there, so I had no problem walking through quickly. Then we had some more time to shop. In Granada tapas are free with the purchase of a beverage. We wanted to make sure to took advantage of this, so after shopping we all stopped for some diet coke/beer/wine con tapas.

A nice view of the city

We got back pretty early Sunday evening, so I was able to gear up for school on Monday. I had my first class, The Novel and Cinema, two ways to tell a story from 1-2:30pm. It seems like it's going to be a really fun class. It doesn't look like we're doing a ton of ready (Gracias a dios--thank god). We got out a little early so I had awhile to eat my bocadillo (sandwich) before my second class of the day. My second class was from 3-4:30 and it's called Composition and Stylistics. I have the same professor from the intensive session and I really like her, however, I'm not sure how much I'm going to like this class. I guess we will have to see. My third and final class of the day was over at the University from 5-7pm. My teacher is this Argentinean man who seems really nice, however class was all over the place! It was very hard to follow. I'm hoping it might have just been because it was the first day. He said that we don't have homework and that we only have to read one book, Animal Farm. He said he didn't care if we read it in english, so I think I'm going to. We even had a coffee break during class...again, leave it to the Spaniards. They drink coffee and alcohol like water. After class I went with some friends to grab tapas before my interest group meeting.

I signed up for the communications interest group. It sounds like it might be kind of interesting, but honestly, I was more excited about the trip to Portugal. The lady in charge is also a professor at CIEE. She was telling us that due to the "crisis" none of our field trips are set in stone. We were supposed to go to the set of this one TV show, but it looks like it's going to be canceled. We're also going to PR and Advertising agencies. I'm looking very forward to visiting the Ad agency. I can't remember which one told her this, but they told our teacher that they wanted to get beers with us after our tour. I think I can manage that.

Today I had my Tuesday/Thursday class. Originally, I was kind of dreading it. The class is called Women Writers of the 20th Century. I was afraid it was going to be a lot of hardcore feminist stuff and a ton of reading. Nope (Gracias a dios again). The teacher seems awesome. She said that she would prefer to have us read only a few things very closely than read a bunch of different things. She also said it's a humanist class, not a feminist class. We have two tests, which she called Examenitas (small exams) and she gives us 4 different possible questions and we only need to answer one of them. All in all, I hope I'm able to travel and really experience Spanish culture and maybe learn a little, too. Oh yes, we also had a pausita (small break) during our class today. She said it's "illegal", but that we're going to do it anyway. Life in Spain is so relaxed and thus quite enjoyable.

Since it rained all of last week, I wasn't able to wash my clothes. Most spanish homes don't have dryers so they hang everything to dry on the patio. I had given my señora all of my whites to wash while I was gone. I gave her my colors yesterday and woke up to them "drying" on the patio in the rain! This seems to be a common problem. A kid in my intensive session, Scott, told us last Thursday that his clothes had been "drying" on the roof since the previous Monday and that he was running low on clothes. I loved listening to all of his stories.

It's rare that names in Spanish start with an S, most of the time it's an Es. So when Spaniards try to say American names that start with an S they pronounce it with an Es. Our professor would always called him Escotty and everyone always laughed. Escotty told us about his señor, Jesus, who likes to take his students to karaoke. Jesus sounds like a man who likes to party. For one of our assignments we had to go to a bar, cafe, bookstore, etc to observe how Spaniards interact. Escotty told us how Jesus took him and the other kid he's hosting to the bar for lunch. (Our professor couldn't believe they went to a bar for lunch and didn't eat at home. She's kind of old school.) Well, Escotty, said that Jesus had just called him and told him to meet him there since he didn't come home the night before and that he was still quite borracho (drunk) at lunch. Then Jesus insisted that Escotty and his roommate joined him and all of his friends to do chupitos (shots). The next day I asked how many chupitos he had done with Jesus. He said that they did 4 round of shots and that was after 4 beers. Needless to say, Escotty was a little borracho for class.

So, about that pig leg in the kitchen. I was wondering what the shelf-life for those bad boys are and it has definitely passed. It has mold on it. That seems to be pretty common, but the surprising thing is that they still eat it! Note to self: do not eat the pork they serve until there is a new pig leg in the kitchen. The fruit is often really brown, too. So I pretty much avoid it. I tried a new fruit today! In spanish it's called a chirimoyo and in english it's called a custard apple. My señora told me it's a tropical fruit and she thought that might have been why I've never seen it--or heard of it before.

My younger "brother" Alvaro is in Rome with his class this week! I guess he finished exams last week, so now it's time to party. I couldn't believe it when he said he was going to Rome on a class trip. I told him that we would maybe go to Wisconsin or something. Southern Spain definitely knows how to live. I've heard that many northerners don't like southerners because they feel like all they do is party and never work. In April alone the majority of southern Spain takes 2 full weeks to celebrate La Semana Santa and La Fería. Everything closes down and no one goes to work. In Northern Spain they only get something like 2 days off. Needless to say, I'm glad I picked southern Spain!

Hasta Luego,

Friday, February 6, 2009

Done with my first class!

I have officially finished my first class, hopefully with a passing grade. I just got out of my final and it was very challenging. I'm beginning to think I'm at a standstill with my Spanish. I guess practice makes perfect, but I don't know how much I want to practice anymore. I'm still loving the culture and hanging out with my friends, though.

This weekend I'm going to Granada with the program. I'm really looking forward to it. I spent a weekend there when I was here last time and thoroughly enjoyed it. I really like Arabic architecture and Granada is filled with it. If my memory serves me correctly, Granada was the last city to fall to the Christian Empire and that's why it still has such a strong Middle Eastern feel to it. Next weekend I'm headed to Madrid with 3 friends. We purchased our train tickets and booked our hostel--so we're all set to go! The train we're taking is called El Ave (or the bird). It's a bullet train. It's a 6 hour car ride, but the train will only take us about 2 hours. The weekend after I'm headed to Madrid I'm going to Cádiz for Carnaval. It's supposedly the 3rd largest in the world. I'm looking very forward to it and I've already purchased a money belt to lessen the chances of an unpleasant experience.

Speaking of unpleasant experiences...I think lunch today definitely qualifies. A large part of being abroad is being exposed to new experiences. Luckily, I'm on the same boat as everyone in my program. That being said, I've been warned of the strange things that might happen by other kids in the program. My friend Briana had warned me about this one. Today for lunch we had a bowl of stew, which was very good might I add. During the middle of the meal my señora brought out a plate of meat. I wondered what it was for and hoped I wouldn't be asked to try it, unfortunately I wasn't that lucky. After we finished our soup she cut off a piece of several of the meats and put it in my empty soup bowl. She then told me to watch her and she mashed all of her meat together in one large pile. I could barely resist throwing up. The fact that I couldn't even identify several of the different kinds of meat made me sick to my stomach. She then told me that after mashing it you use bread as silverware to eat it. I told her I was ok just using my fork. It was worse than the mysterious meat in the middle school cafeteria. One of the items looked like sausage, but was jet black. I've never seen anything like it before. Needless to say, I tried my best to avoid it. I rarely know what I'm eating, but it looks somewhat familiar. I always tell her I like the food, but today I just couldn't get myself to say it. I told her it was así, así, which means ok. I hope we don't ever have it again.

I don't know if it's just because they don't like her cooking or what, but my spanish "brothers" literally don't eat. I've never seen something like this before. It's certainly not a problem we have in the Elman household, but I've never been around anyone that's forced to eat. Every meal she yells at them, particularly the younger one, to eat. Maybe they're the exception to the rule, but every teenage boy I know can't get enough food. It's quite bizarre.

I couldn't help but laugh about this the other day. I was walking home from school, on one of Sevilla's many tiny streets and there were two workmen fixing a large pothole in the street. I remember thinking to myself, wow, they have the whole street blocked off. There was a row of cars waiting, but it didn't seem like too much. When I got to the large intersection about 100 meters from there I heard a symphony of car horns. The workmen didn't even think to block the street off and there was no where for the cars to go. It made me very thankful for the horse blockades they put up at home.

This is El Ayuntamiento, also known as City Hall. Too bad Chicago's City Hall doesn't look like this!

Garbage-men cleaning up the oranges. The street smelled so nice!

Ok, well I better run. I've got to be at the University by 8:30am and that's going to be difficult.

Hasta Luego,