Wednesday, May 20, 2009

awkward feelings of olive-smelling emptiness

Upon checking my email today I found this gem from Javier, it outlined grade procedures and technical stuff like that which I won't bore you with. But while reading the final paragraphs I found myself laughing out loud while at the same time trying not to cry:

"If you are inclined to drinking heavily on Friday [*we have a special IES end of the program dinner*], please do so after the reception.
And not heavily.

LOOKING AHEAD: Make sure you stay in touch with your IES friends when you are back
in the States. Only they will understand those awkward feelings of olive-smelling
emptiness that will haunt you for years. And please stay in touch with us too. I
will love to hear what you are up to, and I will be delighted to support you in your
future academic and professional endeavours, so feel free to ask me for letters of
recommendation, or simply for advice. I may also be able to catch up with some of
you on my travels to the States.

Use the next few weeks to reflect on your experience—how you have grown by
simultaneously riding on a wave of euphoria and coping with adversity; feeling proud
of your accomplishments and feeling like an idiot the next day; wishing you were a
true Spaniard, and not quite finding the American you used to be. And even though a
good no pasa nada may not be too efficient in your stressful American lives,
uttering such granadino words sparingly will be a powerful, intimate comfort tool.

I must end by saying that I have thoroughly enjoyed sharing these months with each
one of you. May you all have wonderful lives as committed world citizens, and do
never forget the days of wine and jasmine under the Alhambra hill.

All the very best,
Javier"

None of us know what emptiness smells like but apparently in Spain it smells like olives, and it's awkward? Oh, Javier. It's going to be hard to leave, as I've said many times before...

Today it's about 93 degrees thanks to some Saharan winds' decision to visit Granada for the day. I forgot what this kind of heat feels like, dios mio. The upside is that there is no humidity here, so the temperature is surprisingly bearable and borderline enjoyable, especially in the shade. Trini's apartment is cool too thanks to the shade that I was so bitter about in January.

I had my first IES exam today which I think went pretty smoothly, I was only really unsure of one question, which is a nice reversal from the midterm (oops?). After the exam Joya and I had lunch at Dio's homestay in the Albaicin (he invited us over). We brought his hostmom, Mar, a bottle of vino, which we all drank during lunch.

Dio's Mar is borderline hippie (she was wearing overalls and a nose piercing when we got there) and her house is really quirky and awesome. There are all sorts of Arab-influenced rugs and pillows around the house, and she has a garden in the back yard (a yard!!) where she grows aloe, tomatoes, and lots of other plants they use all the time in their food.

Mar has a guy named Hector staying with her indefinitely (platonic friend) who speaks perfect English and was fun to talk to also (in spanish, obvio). Hector made us some apple/orange/carrot/ginger homemade juice while we waited for lunch that was really refreshing on a day like today. Their dog, Senda, is possibly one of the ugliest one's I've ever seen, and should be the spokesperson/dog for the "omg it's so ugly it's cute" association. It was fun to be able to play with a dog who LISTENS and UNDERSTANDS commands though (cough cough unlike Beau and Sidney).

The back yard is my favorite part of the house because you can't tell you're in the heart of a city! There are huge leafy plants everywhere, and the neighbors have an enormous palm tree covered in ivy towering over everything, and also frames a piece of leftover wall back from the Albaicin's days as an ancient city (medina). We ate lunch in the shade on the back porch and just talked and relaxed. Mar made some fish, organic tofu rice/plants from the garden patties (in a cold wrap like some thai spring rolls, so yummy) and soy sauce, and a salad of homegrown sprouts, tomatoes, and cucumbers with spices and oils. With a few glasses of wine each. This is probably the reason why I am in no mood to do the last of my work I have for the day.

Wednesday is hump day, halfway through the week. I have two more IES exams, Cine tomorrow and my Grammar on Friday. It's really strange. Amanda is starting to pack up as I type this, which is awful for the reason that it means I have to leave soon and everything, but also awful because it means I'm never going to pack (I'm relying on a packing party to motivate me to pack, all those who have been around me during packing situations know it is 1. my least favorite activity in the world and 2. something I epically fail at doing). I am also realizing that I should have packed Space Bags to make this hellish task more plausible ... gah.

Tonight I think we're all (the resi-IES kids and a few others and some Spanish kids) going to go out to dinner in Biv-Rambla and eat outside. Afterwards we want to get ice cream, and either go out or go back to work (my choice is going to rest on how much I get done today ... which isn't looking good. gross.).

Vamos a ver, hasta luego mis amoressss

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

como?

My IES classes ended last week, and I decided that meant my UGR ones would too, so I am officially done with my classes and have moved on to finals week (all this Spanish has brought back my awful passive-voice habits from high school that Dr. N and Mrs. A made me fix ... great.). After a semi-chaotic error in miscommunication I took my sexologia final on Friday, it ended up being an oral exam that we all took together, thankfully. Basically the exam (long story short) was our Prof, Jesus Florida, looking through Jackie's notes and asking us each a random question about them. And of course he managed to ask each of us questions from a class we hadn't been to -- I managed to mess up one of the easiest questions on this planet and somehow, despite all my Winchester and Haverford sharing and caring upbringing, forgot the word "transexual". At the end he looked at us and said (in Spanish) "Well that went badly, actually it couldn't have gone any worse. But the important thing is you came to class and took notes, so I'm giving you all 8/10s, which is a very good grade for Spanish students." Honestly I have never been so unprepared (as in didn't study at all) for an exam in my life, and pulled a low A on that final ... which is extremely helpful in motivating me to study or work for other classes. This Spanish education system is going to take its toll on my during the thesis process next year. Ugh.

Last weekend I went out with a bunch of the residencia kids to tapas, the Hipercore (huge outdoor area behind a shopping center that is one of the government designated outdoor drinking areas post-declaration that you can't drink in public) which was insane, and then Granada 10 for old times sake. Saturday we explored the tapas area near my homestay and got delicious tapas and amazing mojitos. Sunday Dio, Joya, Amanda and I took one last beach trip to beautiful Nerja. The weather was perfect, the water was freezing, and the sun was strong, so I've officially got a legitimate tan now :). I've been maximizing time spent outside and tapas-ing in Granada, which is taking a toll on the bank account, but its well worth it (sorry dids).

It's so gorgeous here right now, of course. My finals aren't lookin like they're going to be too rough so I'm spending as much time as I possibly can breathing in every possible last inch of Granada. It really is like an alternate reality here where the sky is bluer, the food tastes better, and life is just incredible. I woke up early this morning to go for a run and started to feel really sad that in a weeks time I would never be running on this beautiful trail, heading towards the Sierra Nevada's still slightly snow-capped peaks framed by palm trees, surrounded by Spaniards for a very long time. It's unfair how people and places can come in and out of your life so quickly, no matter how much of an impact they have on you it's still impossible to hold on to it/them forever, but it's really hard for me to let Granada go. I know I'm coming back here, but the thought of leaving seems unreal.

Tomorrow Joya and I are having lunch at Dio's homestay right after I have my first IES exam (CivLam, the bane of my existence). Thursday I have my Cine Exam and Amanda and I are going to try to get to the General Life gardens of the Alhambra and then the Parque de Garca Lorca, both are supposed to be breath takingly beautiful right now so I'm really excited. Friday's my Grammar Exam and then that night is the Goodbye Dinner/official end of the program. Monday I leave with Lauren for Madrid. Since when is it May 19? I'll be home in ten days ...

I'm beyond excited to see everyone i love back home, and to see my city and eat the food I miss, but I am not excited to pack up and leave such a beautiful place. My earlier post about my "being in a really good place" about leaving, you can completely ignore. I AM excited to be done with these tedious exams though, this studying is getting in the way of my making the most of my final week here. It's kind of fun getting to be a tourist again and take pictures of everything I've been taking for granted this whole time, in some odd way. Vamos a ver, see you all soon!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

dientes!!

Gordito's first baby tooth came in today!! Pobrecito Diego has been crying a lot lately since he's teething. I can't believe he's already growing teeth! We were talking with Trini at lunch the other day about what a little terror he's going to be when he can walk, which was hilarious until I realized I'm not going to be here to see him walk. It's so odd how you can come in and out of people's lives so quickly, I really am not happy with how little time I have left here.

Time to run to my last sexologia class!! Luegoo

oh mi cabo de gata!

I'm almost up to date on all my posts, no way!

Last weekend we went on our last IES scheduled field trip of the semester (what!?) to Cabo de Gata, a national park of mountains, desert, and some of Spain's most gorgeous beaches. It's only about two hours from Granada, so we left around 8:30 and go there at 12:00 after we stopped for one last chance to use bathrooms and buy food. The weather was a little overcast and breezy, which was very lucky considering we had an 8 hour hike ahead of us. We split into three groups, the hard hike, medium hike, and easy hike. Most of us were unaware of these divisions, I ended up in the medium hike which was fine with me!

Our tour guide knew no English and led us all over the place. The park was absolutely gorgeous, we walked up huge hills, and eventually scaled mountains while beach hopping in between. When I say scaled mountains, I'm not exaggerating. We all went into "monkey mode," there were multiple points where I had two hands on different rocks, almost on all fours, to keep my balance and hoist my LL Bean-backpack laden self up the rocks. The views were unlike anything I have ever seen, crystal blue Mediterranean water encased by rocky mountains and volcanic rock, with diverse arrays of flowers scattered all over the place. There were no cars anywhere, the beaches had no trace of modern technology anywhere, it was amazing. Nothing feels better than jumping into the Mediterranean after successfully climbing up and down super steep, terrifying mountains. I can't even imagine what that would have been like in the extreme heat! Even two of our three program directors who came with us were getting grouchy by the end, but after 9 miles of hiking we finally made it to San Jose where we were staying overnight.

We went straight to a little pizzeria in all our dirty and mountain-y glory and enjoyed pizza, pasta, bruchetta (nothing like Rome, but what can ya do?)and lots of sangria, cerveza, y shots of this lemon liqour that is supposed to cleanse your pallet, that our director of student activities, Jose, decided my table needed multiple rounds of. We were all pretty dehydrated, so all got pretty tipsy rather quickly, including the directors. All in all dinner was delicious and a lot of fun, minus the 45 min bathroom line since we're about 60 girls and 10 guys (I don't understand how girls take so long in the bathroom, I really don't).

me, jessie and jackie on our lunch break, and then pictures of the mountains and beaches!!






After dinner we picked up the rest of our stuff from the buses and made our way over to our hostel (normally IES stays in a nice hotel, but after a skinny dipping incident a few semesters ago we haven't been welcome back there ...) which was a couple blocks away from a pretty beach and lots of restaurants. I stayed in a six person room with Jessie, Jackie, Lydia, Stephanie, and Joya. We had so much fun, all of IES went out to a little pub and we all hung out, at some point the entire program used Lydia and my arms as a limbo stick which turned into a congo line, and by the end of the night I ended up on the beach with some friends along with Jose and Javier. It was a gorgeous night so we just sat around and talked til three-ish and then headed back to the hostel since breakfast was around 10am.

Saturday sadly was cloudy and a little chilly, it was actually raining when we first got up, but we trooped out to the beach anyways where I slept, read, and played some futbol. We headed back to Granada around 630 and I didn't end up going out that night due to exhaustion from so much traveling!

Sunday was beautiful here so Amanda and I laid out in the park all morning (I got rid of my pesky shorts tan, which now thanks to this gorgeous weather, and my affinity to running outdoors during peak sun time, is making a strong come back) and worked during the afternoon.

I have a TON of work to do this week. Not just by studying abroad standards, like legitimatly a lot of work. 10 page Islamic Civ paper (in Spanish obvio) on Iraq's Sunni and Shia relations due tomorrow (yikes), presentation for my grammer class on Thursday (part of the final exam, we've been "working" on it all semester) and then my first final on Friday in Sexologia, which is accompanied by the due date of my final paper for that class too. I also need to turn in a few papers that I consider busy work but do effect my grade in my Cine class as well. And of course the weather from here on out is going to be beautiful, mid 80s and sunny all the time!! Oh well, I'll get through it, plus one of the baristas in the cafe I work in has decided he likes me and gave me free coffee last night. could be worse ;)

Monday, May 11, 2009

mamma mia

The first weekend of May I spent with two of my favorite Haverfordians, Rosie (who's studying in Athens) and Andrew (Copenhagen). It took a lot of leg work to get to Greece from Granada: 730am bus from Granada to Malaga, 1100 am flight from Malaga to London Gatwick, then 500pm flight from London to Athens, then an hour or so bus ride into Athens city center, and then about one block to the arms of Rosie and Andrew!

Athens is enormous. A lot of people told me that the city itself is just miles upon miles of urban sprawl, but I had NO idea how true that was. Athens as a city definitely holds the least character/uniqueness out of all the places I have been, but then again I know nothing about archeology and ancient Greece, so I'm sure for some people it must be breath taking. The Acropolis was pretty awesome to see, but it really means nothing to me. I think I loved Rome so much because I knew what I was looking at and what significance it holds for the world and history, whereas in Athens I'd see some site with a bunch of old rocks scattered in it from God only knows how long ago, and it would mean nothing to me. I can respect the fact that a lot of these things are super old which is pretty awesome, but nothing really took my breath away the way the Alhambra does or the way the Colosseum did.

Rosie lives in a lil apartment right next to one of the huge Olympic stadiums (no one is really sure what it was for, some sort of track and field event possibly) and lives with four other girls. Rosie's friends who I met were all really sweet and interesting girls, it was nice to see that she's in good hands over there in that huge huge city. My first night in we all went out to a karaoke bar and sang Mariah Carrey amongst many other things, terrifying most of the locals. But it was really fun to meet all of Rosie's friends and get to sing (something I don't do much in Granada for fear of killing Trini's eardrums).

My first real day in Athens Rosie, Andrew and I walked around all day and enjoyed the gorgeous weather. Rosie showed me all main sites in Athens, we walked through some cool markets, and had lunch at a cute little cafe. Because it was May 1, most things were closed for May Day -- the Greeks love any excuse to not work just like the Italians and Spanish, this Mediterranean lifestyle is getting contagious which is not good for my work ethic! At the end of the day we met up with Victoria, one of Rosie's friends who's from Alabama and goes to Notre Dame, who we were going to one of the islands with for the weekend. There had been a scheduled strike for the ferry workers that day (so appropriate) so our ferry didn't end up leaving until midnight, and we couldn't board until 11pm, so we all went out to a long dinner at a gyro place near the port. Although I'm still partial to shawarma more than gyros, they were pretty delicious.

The ferry we took to our island was HUGE. Apparently a lot of them have night clubs in them because they're so big, but we didn't hunt that out/hear anything about it. The ferry ride was about 3.5 hours, so we snuck into the nicer area (our tickets were mad cheap, and therefore for the deck, as in outside, in the wind, which we refused to adhere to) and passed out until we reached Paros: the home of the Frappe, and our residence for the weekend.

Rosie and Victoria had figured out the logistics of the trip all on their own, and found a cool little camp ground called Camping Koulah. Through a series of emails, Rosie and Vic got us a cabin that fit "2-3" people on the beach for 12 euro a night, aka for four people 3 euro each. You can't beat that. When we arrived at 3:30 am one of the owners picked us up from the port which was nice) and saw our "cabin" we cracked up. It was tiny. Basically a glorified tent. The cabin was in the shape of a triangle/verging on tepee, and inside had just enough room for the three mattresses lying sheetless on the ground. But really, what more do you need? She tried to offer us another cabin, but we said no and all squeezed in (luckily we brought blankets). The night was pretty chilly but we were all so tired we just layered up and passed out.

victoria in front of our cabin


andrew inside. it was .... cozy

The next day we got up early, rented ATVs and rode around the gorgeous island beach hopping all day. Paros is gorgeous and everything you'd want an island to be. Mountains, white washed buildings, blue skies, soft sandy beaches, and lots of little cafes to drink Frapes. I took so many pictures from the ATV (Andrew drove ours) and they really just don't do the island any justice. We had a huge taverna dinner that night of all sorts of traditional greek foods, and then went out and walked around during the night and stopped at a bar or two (nothing was really open since it is just the start of the season). I had so much fun and it was so nice to just enjoy some of my favorite people in a gorgeous new place. I really liked Paros.







Getting out of Paros turned into quite an adventure ... after a night of quasi hell: we didn't realize the water was undrinkable so Vic got pretty sick ("it's comin out both ends!"), mosquitoes attacking every piece of our exposed flesh (next morning: "All the cuteness has been sucked out of my face" - rosie), lack of toilet paper in the bathroom, general cold (i slept with ski socks, leggings, PJ pants, long sleeved shirt, tank top, northface, and a scarf while cocooned in my blanket), inability to sleep at all due to all of the above, and our terrifying British neighbor ("these walls are incredibly thin) who 1. basically lived in the cabin next to us, as in all year round, and 2. was not pleased when we burst into laughter about what a ridiculous situation we were in after Andrew asked the question "has anyone else been awake for the past three hours?". So that morning we got up as early as possible and, despite our queezy stomachs, we ATV'd to a few more beaches until we felt more stable. We got some gyros for lunch and went to check out of our "cabin" and then just go relax on a beach until our ferry back to Athens came. Little did we know what was in store for us.

When we went to pay, the owner (not the woman who had been emailing the girls) decided to charge us a discounted rate of 40 euros for two nights. Which was wayy higher than the price we had agreed to and way way way higher than what the cabin merited. This turned into a huge argument, since we were all a pretty scrappy and stubborn crew by this point and not willing to compromise to an obnoxious Greek know it all. The main problem was he had Victoria's passport, so we couldn't just pay what we wanted and leave. And he was refusing to give it back. This extended to two hours, with a lot of tantrums by the greeks in which they'd all pile into trucks or onto motorcycles and leave for 20 min, and then come back to see if we were still there. Straight out of a sitcom. Eventually, the owner said "well go to the police if you like I want my 40 euro." So, we went to the police. She called him, Rosie witnessed the call, and told him he could not hold Victoria's passport hostage. But when we asked him about the call he said "she said you give me money I give you passport." Language barriers are extremely frustrating, especialy when you know NOTHING of the language. At all. Not even hello (in my case, and Rosie takes ancient Greek, which wasn't much help). Long story short, the police ended up having to come down to the Camp and make him give us the passport, explaining that he could press charges if he wanted but would need a lawyer (and no Greek man is going to do that, it would require way too much effort for 15 euro). Then we paid our 24 euro initially agreed upon and exhaustedly walked to the nearest beach, bought some snacks and a bottle of sangria, and tried to process what had just happened. We all just ended up laughing at how ridiculous the past 12 hours had been.

We caught the ferry back to Athens, Andrew left the next day and I hung out with Rosie and her friends. I had a really good time in Greece, but was definitely ready to go home to Granada by the weekends/weeks end.

Favorite part about Athens: Paros, seeing friends, the backlvah (sp?)
Least favorite part: not really a fan of the city itself, can't put toilet paper in the toilet (HOW did they host the olympics???)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

so it's may?

Sorry about the lack of posting, it's growing increasingly harder to post between all the traveling and all this gorgeous weather! It's hard to believe it's already May, time waits for no one, and it's not very fair.

I'm in a really really good place right now with everything in life, today it was impossible for me to contain my happiness, and I don't think I can blame it all on the 82 degrees and sunny weather. I had an amazing run on the nature trail down by the river today, and got no work accomplished at all (go figure). But for some reason, after this last trip to Athens (I will post that up tomorrow, Rome was overwhelming) I've really become at ease with how time's progressing. Leaving here isn't gonna be easy, there is so much I'm going to miss (I am sure I will post about that later as well) but at the same time I know I have to leave, and I'm actually getting really excited about going home. I love it here, don't get me wrong, but I do miss a lot of people (and puppies) and am so excited to get to see them. I'll elaborate on this more later, Andrew, Rosie and I had a good talk about this in Athens that really allowed me to put all my feelings I'm experiencing right now about leaving into coherent words.

Friday we leave for Cabo de Gata which is supposed to be one of the most beautiful beaches in Spain. And obviously I am super excited for it! We're staying there overnight Friday and getting back Saturday evening, I'm roomin with Joya, Jessie, and Jackie who I all love, so the trip will be that much better :) I don't have an itinerary on me but it looks like we'll be doing a lot of nature hikes and beach hoppings, so as long as the weather stays this beautiful it should be amazing.

Posting is getting harder and harder to do, and I'm not sure why. The trip posts are just overwhelming because it's hard to put feelings and adventures from a whole new country and city into one post. One of the most exciting things about Europe that I've discovered is how each city really has it's own unique personality, not even countries, but each city. This makes exploring them so much more fulfilling and exciting, because you never know what to expect. I also am really glad I visited cities where my friends are studying abroad, it's the closest thing to getting a tour by the locals that I can get!

Well I need to go to bed, just some random thoughts that I will probably end up deleting when I reread this tomorrow.
Much love love love

Monday, May 4, 2009

When in Rome

Pretty cliche title, but extremely appropriate.

I met up with Carolyn in Rome on a gorgeous, sunny, Thursday afternoon at the Colosseum after a bus ride, flight, flight,bus ride followed by one more bus ride. On my bus ride between the Ciampino airport and Rome's city center I sat next to an older woman from Girona who, after seeing the terror on my face when she tried to speak to me in Catalan, spoke Spanish with me for the entire half hour bus ride. It was really fun, she told me all about how much she loves Rome, we talked about Girona and Granada, and she said that my Spanish sounded pretty good (even though I think that's obligatory when you speak with someone trying to get a hold on your own language). Ironically, by the end of my weekend in Roma I had used more Spanish than I did throughout my entire week in Barcelona. Oh, Catalonia.

Anyways, while waiting for Christian to finish classes, Carolyn and I explored the area. I experienced my first Italian gelado, which surpassed all my standards on deliciousness I once had before this trip, and then we split a plate of pasta at a little outdoor restaurant. This is also when I had my first experience with Italian men, our waiter confessed his love for me and said we should come back when he got off of work, all the while confusing our laughter about the clear language barrier with flirting and as Christian warned "if you give Italian men an inch, they take the night." Finally after two hours we convinced him that we weren't going to be worth his time and he reluctantly brought us the check. Spanish men will forever seem unflirtatious after this trip to good ol' Italia.

Carolyn and I met up with Christian and his girlfriend Liz (who is such a sweetheart!) and headed the whole block away to Christian's apartment. His apartment is pretty gritty, but at the same time the coolest thing I've ever seen. It's right on the street level so when we sat in the kitchen with the windows open you literally felt like you were right there on the street! It's a small, boy filled (and therefore pretty messy) apartment but it's got a lot of homey quirks that just make you feel perfectly comfortable the moment you sit down, like you've always been sitting in that kitchen. Anyways, Christian and Liz made us a huge dinner of pasta with spinach and sausage, bruchetta (SO GOOD), five bottles of wine for four people, after dinner espresso and hazelnut wafers. Dinner was so much fun, we just sat around and caught up and laughed and ate for over three hours.

Because dinner went so late Carolyn and I ended up sleeping on Liz's pull out couch because we couldn't find alternative lodging (the nuns wanted 50 euro a pop for us to stay with them, which until learning this had been our shelter of choice for our Rome trip). Liz's apartment is on the opposite end of Rome, in a residential area and therefore a lot nicer and cleaner than Christians. In the morning Carolyn and I made our way over to the Vatican City (after getting lost in a park and ending up on a high way for a decent chunk of time, it was hilarious at the time AND in retrospect). We visited St. Peter's which was overwhelmingly huge and the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican Museum, where I have never seen so many museum goers in all of my life, all the halls, corridors, and rooms were filled wall to wall with people! But the Sistine Chapel was gorgeous, and well worth the trek.

After our morning of site seeing Carolyn and I met up with Christian for more gilado(I have no idea how to spell that by the way, sorry!) and some delicious pizza in a local store he loves. And just walked around seeing all the sites all day. The weather was absolutely perfect. Rome has a similar aura to Granada, it must be that Mediterranean sunshine, but the only difference is that Rome as a city makes Granada seem like it runs like butter efficiency wise. The buses are basically free, even if you wanted to pay to ride them by the time you figured out how to actually do so you have arrived at your final destination. Because of this lack of funds, the buses come pretty sporadically, but you can't really complain because you're paying nothing for them! Also, the drivers are insane. And I have never seen so many mo-peds in my entire life. Spanish drivers seem incredibly tame now after Rome, and I have a new found appreciation for all the cars here the stop to let you cross.

For dinner Carolyn and I went to a little restaurant on a side street where I had the best Gnocchi I've ever had in my life along with more delicious bruchetta. After lots of calls Carolyn and I had decided to use "couch-surfing" for our lodging, where you use a website to find people in whatever city you're visiting who have a free room and enjoy hosting visitors for a night or weekend, they usually cook for you and take you out. Francesco is the name of the guy we looked up and a bunch of Christian's friends had stayed with him and gave him tons of good reviews so we figured he wouldn't be too sketchy, even if he is Italian.

After a lot of chaos (high and low points: brain storming alternative places to sleep at a gay bar with all our luggage, fighting with Italian pay phones, waiting in random metro stations) Francesco ultimatly picked us up and drove us around (he ended up not having room in his house because family was visiting) and ultimatly put us up in a four star hotel for the evening, only after making sure that there was a free buffet breakfast in the morning. He was really hospitable and sweet, and made me see that Italian men have some silver lining in there, you just gotta hunt it down.

The next day was a holiday so it took us awhile to get back into the center city to see Christian. We had consumed enormous amounts of food at breakfast, and arrived at Christian's apartment in time to eat another homemade, gigantic, pasta meal. After wards we hit up the Colosseum and other various ruins. Everything was free that week, so we lucked out big time. The Colosseum was one of my favorites, even though it's hard to pick since everything in Rome is so rich with history. It's incredible to just be walking down the street and look to your left and oh, there's the Colosseum, walk some more and oh, there's old ruins, keep goin and you pass a church that has the steps Jesus walked up when he saw Pilot, no big deal right? Mind blowing.

We walked all around the city because it was yet again another perfect day and eventually went out to the most cliche dinner of my life. We were on a little side street, on a perfectly temperate night, eating a huge Italian dinner of pizza (we each had our own, no joke) and wine under the stars, while a man played the accordion. I kid you not. It was such a nice dinner and way to end our stay. After our huge delicious dinner we wandered around, sat by the fountain ( I always forget its name, its a big deal, and gorgeous, and when you throw a coin in it means you're going to return to Rome) and watched all the tourists and locals, and threw a coin in over our shoulders, assuring a return trip at some point in our futures. Then, even though my stomach was on the verge of exploding thanks to a day of marathon eating, Carolyn and I got one last gelado just because the next time we will be able to get REAL Italian gelado may be years from now! I have never felt so full in my life, I was actually in pain, but in the best way possible :)

We went back to Christians and got our stuff and headed towards our hostal (yes, we actually booked a hostal room! and it was right by the bus stations since we had early flights and therefore early buses to catch). But of course we didn't write the address down completely and we didn't have the hostal's phone number so we ended up wandering around with two sweet italian women desperately trying to help us despite all language barriers. Ultimatly, after learning the police didn't have internet and that the closest thing to it a nearby hotel had was the 1996 yellow pages, we went back to the two italians' flat, used their internet, found said hostal and made it there. In our defense, the hostal was unmarked and in a huge apartment building, and therefore hard to find even after we figured out where we were going.

By the time we made it to our hostal, it was almost five am, and our bus was at six thirty, so we decided to save ourselves twenty euro and walk to the bus station and just hang out. That walk was a whole new adventure of getting a little lost and asking for directions in this standard format: English? Espanol? Duetch? (second part changes language based on reply) how do we get to the bus station?

Finally we made it to the bus station on no sleep, caught our flights ( I had a miserable 8 hr lay over in the Girona airport where there is absolutely NOTHING to do, I'm not bitter at all, I swear) and made it home safe and sound.

Rome was an amazing trip and I loved all of it, the city, and especially being back with some of my Haverford friends. You never realize how much you miss someone until you spend some time with them and realize how much they mean to you!

Next stop: Athens!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Barcelona

So I owe a post about my fantastic spring break in Barca, and promised to make good on filling everyone in, and I finally have time right now to do so before I go take a run around Granada :)

We left Granada's tiny "airport" (that has maybe three gates, tops) for Girona, the ghetto airport Ryan Air flies into (we actually came close to missing out flight because Joya and I were keeping tabs on the flight to BARCELONA instead of to Girona ... Dio saved the day though haha) in the early early morning, and after an hour and half long plane ride followed by an hour long stuff bus ride from Girona, we made it into Barcelona! It was a beautiful sunny day, so even though it took us a good hour to find our hostel from the bus station we didn't mind.


(We ran into the Arc de Triumf on the way to the hostel

We stayed in the Kabul Backpackers hostel in Plaza Real right off of La Rambla. It was an amazing hostel, providing us with free breakfast AND dinner. While the dinner was usually some oddly cooked form of pasta with meat, it was free a good start for an evening out. The main level where you eat had a pool table, tons of computers, a foozball table, chess set, bar, vending machines, a tv, and projector for soccer games. We watched the Barca-Germany game there which was really fun because you're immersed in a really international crowd. For 2 euro we got big cups of Heineken on tap, so there was really nothing to complain about.





I stayed in a mixed dorm for 8 people, but we made up the majority of the beds: joya, dio, arash and daniel (who dio's good friends with back in the states) and me. We had a lot of different roommates come in and out of our lives during the week, but a few stand out as highlights:

Benjamin. Benjamin was Austrian and only there for our first night. He's in his late twenties and resembles some sort of large bird, maybe a stork. He got to sit on the top bunk and just laugh at our large group of American kids playing drinking games before heading out to Razzmatazz (more on that later). Europeans don't play drinking games, and don't really understand WHY we do them. So we're sitting there doing ridiculous things like saying "first horse third horse" or making animal antlers among other idiotic things that the boys insisted we play, and Benjamin is soberly laughing and gawking at/with us. We offered him a spot in the game, but he had an early flight and enjoyed the show from his perch.


(benjamin on the top bunk)

We had a creepy roommate for a few days named Isaac, and by creepy I mean hipster 20 year old blonde skinny guy from California who managed to lose his phone, camera, dignity, and hostel reservation in the course of three days. He tagged along with us for a night, and he was beyond awkward, in an almost endearing way. Keyword on almost. Skinny jeans, ironic t-shirts, and librarian glasses. Yeap, he was that kid.

My favorite roommates were the Dutch ultimate frisbee team we hung out with on Dio's last night with us. They were all hilarious and really down to earth people. We hung out with them all night, got some drinks in the hostel bar (cold and rainy outside = we gave up on the idea of going out out) and just talked and laughed til five in the morning. It's insane how many Europeans know English even though it is not their first language. We had some great conversations, and they had only been taking English since high school. Once of the girls told me that it is because all the American TV shows over there are shown in English and just subtitled in Dutch, so thats how they picked a lot of it up. We had some fun discussions with them from everything about how frisbee isn't popular in Europe like in the States, to Bush, to Obama, to how bad the boxed wine in Spain is. I really liked them a lot, hostels are cool because they expose you to all different kinds of people.

And of course, the two 50 year old French women who were in the all girls room that Joya and I moved into after all the boys departed for Rome or Paris the last couple of days. They were stuck up and rude. But, they WERE middle aged women staying in a youth hostel, so I really have no idea what they were expecting.

Site seeing wise we hit all the majors: Guadi buildings including the Sagrada Familia which is one of the ugliest/coolest things I've ever seen. I don't know what Gaudi was thinking, even though I did some background reading before going, really at all. But it is pretty impressive to see up close, and we went on a pretty overcast and gloomy day, so it looked even more intense and eerie than usual.



Our second day we slept on the beach at Barceloneta for the morning (Joya and I had to forcibly make the boys get out of bed, they were understandably tired being that we got in around 830 and were waking them up at 11...) which was relaxing .. minus all the "me-sah-ays"? "tatoos (marijuana, cocaina, what you like I got what you like??)"s and "sexy beer sexy beer" vendors illegally prowling around. But nada pasa, we just enjoyed our picnic of bread, jamon y queso and soaked up the rays (which we wouldn't have the priviledge of hanging out with again for many days).

That afternoon we met up with some of Arash and David's friends from Columbia who are studying in Copenhagen (one knows Andrew and went to high school with him!?!? SMALL world) and hiked up to Park Guell (sp?) which was a multiple hour affair in which we got lost in the forests, A LOT, but eventually made it over to Gaudi's wonderland of a park and enjoyed the gorgeous views and people watching. On the way over we hiked up to this sweet view point where a bunch of people were all perchin on this huge cross, kind of creepy, but it was an unbeatable view!




Other sights we saw: Picasso museum and the gothic neighborhood, both were awesome (despite the rain and chilliness that seems to love following me around) and incredible to see in person, even if the whole week it seemed like we never actually slept, just took glorified naps. Another cool thing we saw was the Museum of Contempary Art, not just because the exhibits were fascinating (I'm discovering that I really really like modern art and how it challenges you to make sense of it, which Lily cerca 9th grade would hate me for) but because right in front of the museum local skaters set up a make-shift skate park! I don't mean like five kids, there were TONS. You really get a taste for the local culture when you run into places like this, a bunch of kids and adults hanging around skating, smoking, and drinking their sexy beers. (Sexy Beers are the beers random men sell on the street for a euro each, Estrella is the brand I think, I asked one once why he called them "sexy beers" and he said because it's proven to be a successful ad campaign, because who doesn't want a sexy beer?) The whole site was out of this world, this huge modern building situated in the middle of all these old buildings, surrounded by kids skateboarding. Definitely one of my favorite sights of the trip.






Cuisine wise we stuck to the hostel usually for dinner, our second night this kid Craig (the one who guided us up to Park Gueill) took us to Pim Pam where I had the most amazing burger of my life. I'm not sure if it was amazing just because I'm used to Granada's tapas burgers that are made of pork or ham instead of beef, or because it was really just that good. But either way, I was in heaven. Another night a huge group of us trekked through the pouring rain (not exaggerating. At All.) to a chicken and paella place the hostel desk workers recommended to us, huge portions, yummy food, and cheap prices ... we couldn't really beat that! For lunch we spent most of our time in the amazing market off La Ramble and bought baguettes, fruit, and cheese to picnic in a plaza or on la playa. The market was another one of my favorite places we frequented whilst in Barca.



At night we generally had a few drinks in the hostel and then went out in search of adventure. We usually were out until 7 or 8 in the morning and rallied it all together the next day to go sight seeing. Looking back on everything, I'm impressed with how efficient we were at seeing everything we wanted to, and having as much fun as we did! Highlights for nighttime:
Razzmatazz - five level disco with all types of music and people. We had a lot of fun, even though it was our first night and Joya, Dio and I had been up since 5am, we stayed til it closed ;)

Roxy - the disco itself wasn't that special, but we went with our hostel so we got in free and there was a live Brazilian band playing and they were SO much fun. We were in the very front row and the singer interacted with the crowd a lot and got us to do some ridiculous dance movies that bordered on the Macoraina (no idea how to spell that one):



Felinnis - Disco on La Rambla, it played mainly house music but was a good time, especially since it was all of two blocks away from our hostel.

Opium - this was our last night, Joya and I met up with Seth, his little brother Lyle, and his friend who's studying in Barca Graham. We went out for a drink with Seth's parents and then headed to Chupitos (I will explain this ridiculous bar later) and then to Opium. Opium's cool because it's right on the beach -- the club literally opens up to the sandy shore! It was a nice club, lots of white couch type things to relax on and a pretty international crowd since the beach clubs usually attract the tourists. We didn't stay too late and got home around 6 but we hung out with some French guys in the hostel til 730, which Joya and I both regretted when waking up at 1030 to check out.

The rest of the nights we just ended up at random bars or cafe/clubs. Seth, Joya, and I were wandering around one night and were whisked off in a whirlwind by a promoter claiming to be from Chicago, dressed like he was from the 40s. He took us to a cafe where we had amazing mojitos and relaxed while listening to a local hip-hop/soul/funk dj spin tunes. It was packed and a cool atmosphere, even though none of us are still positive how we ended up there. We were all pretty sure our promoter friend was on some sort of drug, he was bouncing EVERYWHERE.

Our bar of choice, which we went to three times, was Chupitos: a shots bar with two euro shots that you go to not for the alcohol, but for the show. There are over 400 shots, and most of them involve setting the glasses or bar top on fire, fruits, and whipped cream. There's the Harry Potter, Bin Laden, Finding Nemo, and all sorts. It was really fun, each person bought a round for the group so we ended up getting a round free too, the bar tenders got a kick out of us.






All in all Barca was an amazing, but exhausting adventure. It's an amazing city, really bursting with life and really gorgeous archetecture. But I couldn't live there, my heart belongs in Granada. Barca was just crawling with tourists ... granted it was Semana Santa. But La Rambla was a really cool place to be, the street performers were out of this world! And I never felt unsafe once, probably because Joya and I were constantly with our guys friends and not really ever vulnerable, but even pick-pocket wise I'm pretty proud of the lack of theft that occured!!

I really don't like doing posts that summarize trips that are more than two or three days, it just seems so daunting, and then I get really behind. So I'm sorry this took so long, I'm headed to Italia on Thursday with Carolyn to see Christian :) I will be much more on the ball with that update!!

Besos

Friday, April 17, 2009

long time no blog :(

I'm on Amanda's computer right now, because mine has gone off the deep end and makes everything I write backwards. I really have no words to describe how ready for a new computer I am except daaadd can i pleeeassee have a maaaacc!!!?? I'm going to update this officially on Sunday :) Until then a mini-update:

- Barcelona was amazing, a blur, but amazing. Full blog post dedicated to it will be here Sunday, as well as the rest of Morocco.

- Carolyn (haverfordian) was here this week, it was amazing to see her. Sometimes you forget how much you miss and love people until you see them again. Car doesn't use skype so I don't hear from her as much as everyone else, and it made my month being able to just spend time with her wandering around my city! She's officially coming to Rome with me next weekend, which I couldn't be happier about :)

- Lea and I are running for Vice Presidents of SC at Haverford. Elections end Saturday so we'll know soon how that goes. We decided to run together mid-way through last semester and I'm glad we actually are doing it even though I'm abroad!! VP has the most people running for it for some reason, but Peter's our campaign manager so I have faith in him ;) Turns out Carolyn and Katie are running too (two of my best friends from the Ford) which isn't fun, but no pasa nada, I'll be happy if either of us win, as long as we beat out the froshies ;)

- The MUMPS are going around IES. 3 girls have had them, 2 right after Semana Santa. My friend Kate's face was HUGE (she's almost better now), she didn't actually come to school but after talking to her and seeing pictures I've decided that mumps will NOT be on my to-do list for this semester. Everyone's been vaccinated, I'm almost positive that the vaccine's required in order to go to college, so it's really disturbing that we may still be at risk! But I've been washing my hands diligently and so far my face is its normal size, no swelling! Dean Mancinni (Haverford Abroad Dean) even emailed Joya, Dio, and me to see if we are all disease free.

- I found out my housing for senior year at Haverford (nooo nooo nooooo, impossible) and I will be living with the kids I always live with and love dearly in Llyod 7 or0s! I've wanted to live in Llyod, (Lyodd, Llyodd? who knows, spelling is not my forte these days) since freshman year. So the fact that we were able to get housing there (Haverford room draw is the most frustrating and soul-killing experience sometimes) makes the idea of senior year at the very least plausible, I wouldn't go so far to say acceptable or comprehensible, but it is now officially a possibility :)

- My next task is to register my schedule for next semester which will hopefully look a little something like:
Senior Thesis Sem (terrifying, we need to know our topic by the second week? Unfair.)
Anthropology of Education
Hindu Philosophy or an Evolution class at Bryn Mawr ... or a religion at Haverford
Spanish Film, I don't remember the exact title off the top of my head, lo sientooo

there weren't too many exciting options this year, which is sad since it's my last, but I'm happy with the ones I've picked!

- I'm going to Rome next weekend, Athens the weekend after that, and then we have an IES trip to Cabo de Gato, so this is my last weekend in Granada until mid may ... I can not believe how fast things are going, and I do not like it at all. I am no where near ready to leave :(

I've gotta run, thats all I've got time for now. But promise promise promise by Sunday everything will be updated :) I'm going to venture out into this 50-some degree gray chilly mess of a day and see if I can find a cute sundress for Roma (moo, dont tell dad).

besos

Thursday, March 19, 2009

monkey business (morocco trip day one: Gibraltar)

I've been putting off these posts for as long as possible because I have so much to say about my trip to Morocco but I'm not sure how to verbally express everything I've experienced, but it's worth a shot so here we go let's see what happens (I'm posting these on the dates they occured, and not all at once, so bear with me!)

Day 1: Gibraltar




We arrived at our hotel right outside of Gibraltar in time for lunch which we ate in our rooms. The hotel we stayed in was pretty classy, IES treated us to free drinks (cafe, tea, cokes, waters) and the beds were beyond comfortable. I've really missed real pillows while I've been in Granada, my thin little excuse of a pillow at Trini's really doesn't do it for me. Amanda and I relaxed in our hotel room, while watching the Simpons in espanol and munching on our picnic lunches of Spanish tortilla bocadillas and fruit from Trini. I still find it pretty amusing that the Spanish are so in love with the Simpsons, I guess everyone likes to make fun of Americans even if it's through watching American self-criticism?

After lunch we walked the twenty minutes from our hotel to Gibraltar. Hilarious because since Gibraltar is technically an extension of England (they all speak English and use the pound, only difference between the two is that in Gib they drive on the right side of the road) the weather followed suit. It was very overcast and gray, which was very noticeable in contrast to the gorgeous Grenadian sun we'd been enjoying! But, it wasn't overcast to the point of obscuring The Rock, which is Gibraltar's main claim to fame. It was cool to walk towards this giant mountain-esque rock, even though I felt like I was living out a giant cliche since the peak literally pierced through the clouds at times, like something out of National Geographic or Planet Earth. It was almost hard to take it seriously because it looked so unreal when our bus first pulled up to the hotel.

We walked across the coast and then literally walked right into Gibraltar. This took awhile for me to wrap my mind around, because in essence I have now straddled the border between Spain and England, which up until now I assumed was impossible. You really notice how privileged you are to be from America when you literally just flash your passport and can WALK right into another country. If my passport had been from a country like Lebanon for example, I doubt this would be the case. But, anyways, we walked into Gibraltar, and thus marked the first time I've been outside of Spain since my arrival back in January. And man, did it hit me that I was no longer in Spain.

The second we walked into Gib, everyone was a little disoriented, suddenly all the signs were in ENGLISH. Instead of choruses of "guapa guapa guapa" followed by fast phrases I have no chance of understanding, there were "hi ladies how are you" or "have a nice day girls" "hello ladies" in chipper British accents. There were SUBWAYS, and McDonalds, and other American/English restaurants and stores that I haven't see in months. Later on in the day, at a pub and while browsing stores, the waitresses and store clerks asked us questions in english. I can't remember the last time that happened. Throughout the entire day everyone had to take a moment to think before asking questions and talking to locals, just to make sure English came out instead of Spanish or some odd Spanglish. I hadn't realized how immersed we all are in Granada until entering Gib, I guess this serves as a tiny sampling of how reverse culture shock's gonna disorient me once I'm back in the burgh. So, after shaking off the initial shock of the absence of our dear friend Espanol, we marched over to a bus station -- I still felt like some sort of illegal immigrant of some sort who had slipped across the border due to the lack of security ... even the Canadian border patrol asks you questions before letting you into their country, all I did was flash my lil navy blue book and BAM I was in, it felt anticlimactic, like an incomplete transaction of some sort -- where we boarded two small buses to get a driving tour of Gibraltar, all 3 miles of it.

Gibraltar as a country/city/whatever it's actual definition is is not that interesting of a place to me. Of course it is entrenched in history and has monkeys, but it all felt so tourist-ed up and fake that it was hard to really appreciate all it had to offer. We had a whirlwind of a tour, we only left the bus three times -- I would have rather walked around to discover the city with a guide so at least I could stop and take everything in from time to time. The tour was fun, but I was expecting a little more. We saw Little Ben (Gib's take on Big Ben), a little of old military bases, and a 1 ton gun (one of only four in the world). One of my favorite parts of the day was when we were actually allowed off the bus (for seven minutes) to take in a gorgeous view half way up the Rock. On a clear day you can see the African coast, the most Southern tip of Spain, and the meeting of the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean all in one breath, while behind you is the top of the Gibraltar rock as a back drop to an old mosque, it was beautiful in all honesty. I would have liked more than seven minutes to take it all in, because it was hard to believe that this was all real, that this was actually MY life and that I was surrounded by all of these incredible scenery.



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We drove farther up the mountain and visited St. Michael's caves, which were unlike anything I've seen before (this becomes a theme for the trip, if you couldn't tell yet!) but, were tourist-ed out to the max. The people in charge actually blasted eerie classical music throughout the caves, I'm assuming in hopes of enhancing your cave-going experience but in reality limiting my ability to get lost inside a new place and forget that I'm in 2009. The caves were all strategically lit up, taking away from the reality of being inside ancient caves. There's also a theater set up in the heart of the caves where people put on concerts, etc. which is cool, but again really takes away any authenticity from the caves, at least for me. But this doesn't make the caves any less beautiful, don't get me wrong they were pretty cool and kind of creepy looking, but this almost got lost in translation.



After the caves our bus driver took us to the "Monkey Den" where we got to get off the bus for our third and final time to play with the monkeys! The Gibraltar monkeys are special because they don't have tails, and are technically apes. The monkeys were hilarious, especially because the second we got off our bus (which has a big sign inside that says no food, no smoking, and no monkey business) we were greeted by this





It was so much fun to be so close to all the monkeys!! Until the guide lured one ONTO MY HEAD with some food, I was terrified it was going to pee on me or soything. But they were all so cute I decided that having a monkey on my head wasn't that bad. We all took pictures with the monkeys, and then after lots of laughs and screams headed back down to the city center.

A bunch of kids hiked up the rock with Javier, but Amanda, Clare, Carly, Lydia, Julia and I decided that we were gonna rest up for the rest of the trip and browsed around to see what the Gibraltar shopping scene had to offer (answer: expensive clothes) and ate dinner at the yummy pub Catie recommended to me, The Clipper. It was Amanda's 21st birthday so we had lots of dessert and food. It was overall an amazing night! We immigrated back into Espana and called it a night!

Crossing back over, straddling the border!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

fuimos a la playa

The perfect way to end a beautiful week: going to the beach. Yesterday we (around 20 IES kids) all got up at the crack of dawn (7:30 .. but still) to catch the bus from Granada to Nerja. Nerja is a cute little city on the Southern Mediterranean coast of Spain, kind of near Malaga. The buses were packed with Americans, of course, since the Spanish consider any time before late May unfit for bathing suits. I actually ran into a girl from Greensburg who played field hockey for Greensburg Central Catholic during high school (who WT consistently obliterated), further proving the smallness and connectedness of this world. It is mind boggling, really, the farther I get from my home the closer I get to realizing you're never too far from it.

Anyways, the Nerja bus station is a glorified newspaper stand, and to our disappointment not across the street from the beach. In all our excitement to hop a bus to la playa, no one thought to find a map of Nerja haha. Our initial instinct was to go towards the water, since water = beach, right? So eight of us (me, joya, amanda, meg - who's from erie, pa!, joe, JD, seth, and ali) started a migration towards the bit of ocean we could see ... which ended up leading us towards the high way and out of the city, so we turned around.


(what we ended up walking towards ahah)

We eventually ended up on track, somehow, and found our first beach! Nerja has at least four or five different beaches, the main one -- or at least the one nosotros estaban buscando por se llama Burriana (the one we were looking for is called Burriana). This first beach reminded me of the beach of Rackety Packety (lake erie) with tons of stones, shells, and sea glass (!!) Determined to find the perfect beach, we kept moving, Meg and I fell a little behind collecting sea glass though :)



We walked along a little path by a mini-beach, but it was full of middle-aged topless women and older men, which wasn't really the scene we wanted to sun bathe in all day :) The cool thing about walking around Nerja was listening to all the different accents. Since very few Spaniards have the desire to brave the beach in the frigid 75 degree sun, the beach crowd fell more on the international side of the spectrum. Actually, when we got to our third cove/beach we ran into an older British couple who saw us and told us to try Burriana. All the Northern Europeans decided to take advantage of our Andalusian Southern Spain weather before high season kicks in I guess, I love that I live here and not up in the cold :) The majority of accents I picked up on were British or Scottish.

Accents aside, the other red flag that the population of Nerja was mostly tourist were the outfits. So many shorts, t-shirts, tank tops, bathing suits, so little boots, jeans, scarves, sweaters. The locals were easy to spot because they were fully clothed and looked on point (in style), where as the rest of us were strolling around looking a little lost, sweating in our tank tops and shorts (I wore jeans, but eventually changed into Meg's pajama shorts because I was so hot), and clomping around in sandals. At one point I made the faux paus (did I spell that anywhere close to correctly?) of walking to get candy in just my sweatshirt and bathing suit (no shoes- I should be ashamed) which garnered numerous "well SHE'S not spanish" looks from the locals. But no pasa nada, toda esta buena en la playa :)

So as I said above, our third cove was a failure as well so we headed back up to the main streets and wound our way through the "city" using the directions from the Brits. Our total commute time from the bus to Burriana was over an hour and a half, but honestly I really enjoyed it. Getting lost really is the best way to get to know a city, and explore it's multiple beaches! Nerja is full of little tiendas vending hats, gafas del sol (sunglasses), sandals, leathers, and many scarves and dresses. Though lacking in Doner Kebabs (the stands that make shawarma/fallafel) there was a plethora of pizzerias fair that catered to a more international crowd. While it's definitely not a resort town, it was apparent that foreigners frequent Nerja consistently. They even offer horse drawn carriage rides haha. Joya and I went up to pet one that was chilling next to playa numero tres, but it was NOT a fan so we backed off. I'm going to blame it on Joya, horses love me ;)






Burriana is gorgeous. There honestly was not a cloud in the sky, not even the hint of one. On one side of me were huge rocky mountains, then hills clustered with white houses stacked one on top of another, and then beach beach beach all around me. We settled in a spot next to some lounge chairs under straw umbrellas, boats with built in water slides on them (but because of the frigid temperatures they probably won't be open for rental until late may, oh spain), and with some pasty British kids camped out next to us. The girls were all so happy to be on a beach we just plopped down without a care in the world, but the boys weren't content to just relax and take in their incredible surroundings, promptly the ran to the water ... only to discover that the Spanish are onto something: in march the water is COLD. Think Canadian water, my heart started racing just from having my feet in it. So after a frigid dunk in the water, both boys and girls were happy to just siesta in the sun.


our campout, which quickly grew haha

As the day progressed more and more IES kids passed through our spot. It was nice to just hang out and relax. For lunch we ate bocadillos (sandwiches) on Nerja's version of a boardwalk. I had chicken, tomato, lettuce, and mayo on buttered up white bread toast. And a nice iced glass of Tinto de Verano con Limon :) [I don't know if I have mentioned this before, but in Spain EVERYTHING is iced). After another siesta we ventured out to find some helado, and I enjoyed a delicious Torte de Chocolate scoop of ice cream on a cone. Spanish heladarias ice excessively tall cones, which at first seemed very wasteful. But if you don't devour your ice cream in five seconds the tall cone becomes your new best friend because it prolongs the life of your ice cream cone! Mine lasted until the very end of my cone, mmm mmm good.


helado :)


Overall, amazing day. We just relaxed in the sun, took billions of photos (all on my picasa, along with cordoba finally, and some from march in granada: picasaweb.google.com/lilymsteiner). Got home, hung out at the residencia with friends until 3am and instead of heading out to a disco i passed out in my bed and then got up and tanned in my park this morning :) I made a friend with one of the local puppies that hang out in the park all the time:



I'm beginning to realize how little time I have left in Granada on the weekends and it's making me really sad. Since it has almost been officially two months since my arrival in Espana I'm pretty much half way ... the remainder of my weekends look like this:

March 20-22: Morocco (!!)
March 27-29: Granada :)
April 3-5: Semana Santa - Barcelona
April 10-12: Semana Santa -Barcelona
April 17-19: Granada :) with Haverfordian visitors !!
April 24-26: Rome
April 30-5: Athens
May 8-9: IES Viaje :Cabo de Gato
May 15-17: Granada
then finals ....

Time needs to s l o w down. And I need to do work. I actually have a decent amount to do before Morocco, for IES standards. Eek. Alright, time to get movin, hecho de menos a todos!!


(taken by my roommate amanda, who is an amazing photographer!)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

con patatas

Whenever Trini baby-talks with Diego, she ultimately ends up singing a little rhyme to him about a tortilla, con pa-ta-tas, y con que-so, y con ja-mOn. It's really cute because she really emphasizes the accents of each word and leans in to surprise him, which results in the biggest grin from our little bug eyed gordito. I guess it's the way the Spaniards do peek-a-boo. Which leads me to further question how there aren't more obese Spaniards haha.

Yesterday I had an hour long orientation for my Morocco trip. It sounds like it is going to be absolutely incredible. Here's our general schedule:
Day 1: Thursday
- Leave Granada at 10am and take a bus to Gibraltar which is on the very southern tip of Spain. We are staying over night in a hotel there (dinner that night is the only meal not included in the whole trip, not bad).

Day 2:Friday
- 9 am ferry ride across the strait over to africa! Javier said that this is one of the most gorgeous ferry rides he has ever been on because at certain points you will be able to see the Spanish coastline and African coastline on either side of you. I'm going to have to be careful not to waste all my pictures just on that boat ride.
- We arrive in Morocco and visit a womens center to learn about gender issues and roles in Moroccan society. We eat lunch there.
- Afterwards we get on small tour buses that seat about 20 each and drive to Assilah, which is on the Atlantic coast. We do some sight seeing there and by night we arrive at the capital, Rabat, which will be our main base for the trip. We break into groups of three or four and meet our host families.

Day 3: Saturday
- IES is opening a study abroad program in Morocco for next semester so we're going to meet with the new program director who is also a professor at the local university. He's going to tell us about the area and whatnot, and afterwards we're going to meet an IES Granada-alum who went to Morocco for the first time with IES two years ago, feel in love, and is now a Fulbright Scholar there doing research. On what I don't know, but I will find out eventually ahha.
- Afterwards we're going to do a few touristy things, Javier didn't really specify what though.
- Lunch
- After lunch we're going to meet Moroccan students from Rabat who will be able to speak either some english or spanish. we're going to have three or four hours to hang out with them and either go to a beach or shop or walk around.
-Afterwards we're going to split into all-girl and all-guy groups to visit the Hamam, or bath house. Apparently it's custom for girls to go naked, but Javier said we can wear a bathing suit if we feel more comfortable in that and everything will be fine. Javier said that random people will come up and try to massage or scrub you if you're just standing around, and if you don't say "baraka" or enough, they'll exfoliate a few layers of your skin off haha.
-After the hamam we'll have time to do more shopping and get Henna tattoos, which I'm excited about as well!

Day 4: Sunday
- We go to visit a village in the mountain, which involves us riding CAMELS at some point. CAMELS!!! This might be the highlight of the trip for me (kidding, but it will be awesome).
-After visiting the village we'll move on to the mountain city of Chefchaouen and stay in a hotel up there

Day 5: Monday
- We take a mountain hike and then go on the bus to Cueta. Javier said Cueta is interesting because it is an extreme borderland and you'll see many Moroccans waiting around trying to immigrate into Spain. I'm really intrigued by this part because my history seminar last semester was about American Borderlands, so I know a lot about how borderland areas work and I'm really excited to witness this in person. Thesis potential? Who knows. Javier also told us that this is one of the marijuana capitals of the world but that we can NOT buy anything unless we want to end up in jail for 20 years. hahaha (don't worry moo)
- we will take the ferry back to Spain and stop somewhere for an early dinner
- Back in Granada around 7:30


I think I'm most excited about the homestays. Javier said that the Moroccan sense of public and private spaces are very extreme. The homes are very feminine and intimate and each room has multiple uses. For example, you may be eating breakfast right next to someones bed. While the public space is more masculine and open. It reminds me a lot of my awful poli-sci class sophomore year about the politics of urban space. I sound like a complete cliche/college catalog, but it really IS awesome to get to see the classroom material come to life. I can't wait! Also, most Moroccan families don't have toilet paper, it's actually on my packing list (which I will type up next). They use a Turkish toilet and may or may not have a shower, the bucket and water system is more popular (most Moroccans go to Hamams to bathe). The left hand is used for hygiene and the right for eating, but I will not be embracing this tradition and using my left hand to wipe ... I will be bringing my toilet paper. Daddy I can HEAR you laughing haha

Our homestays will be for two nights in Medina which is the old part of Rabat, similar to the Albaicin in Granada. The houses are set up similarly to Grenadian ones as well, with a central patio that has rooms off of it. The patio serves as the common space where all the living and eating occurs, as I said before it is a multiple use room. However, Javier emphasized awareness of an invisible barrier between the private and public: since the houses are on top of one another we'll most likely be able to see other IES kids and their host families from our patios, but it is complete taboo to acknowledge them at all. The barrier between the private space of the home and public space is NOT to be broken.

I'm also excited about the food, Javier told us the Moroccans are very welcoming and hospitable people and will most likely keep feeding us until we say NO MORE (baraka!). The weather should be 70s and 80s, a little cooler in the mountains though. And since Morocco is a Muslim country we need to dress more conservatively, I'm thinking about buying some gypsy skirts from the hippie vendors on my walk to school, because there is not way I will be able to survive in jeans in 80 degree sunshine. I sweat too much.

The currency in Morocco is the dirham (MDH), which is roughly 11 MDH to 1 euro. When we first arrive in Morocco we'll be able to use ATMs to take out money since it's the most cost efficient way to get dirham and ensure the right exchange rate.

Javier gave us a "survival guide to being a superb Magribby guest" which lists some key phrases in Arabic like hello, thanks you, delicious, I'm full, etc. I butcher them, this will be interesting haha. Apparently on "kh" you make a throat gurgle noise, I'll do my best!

Our packing list:
- backpack (i WILL pack light, because i have to haha)
-passport
-money
-camerfa
-swimsuit and towel
-clothes
-fleece
-comfy shoes
-sandals, flip flops for the hamam
-toilet paper (or your left hand ... )
-hand sanitizer
-and there's a list of Dramamine, Advil, etc since IES isn't allowed to give us medicine for some legal reason

Also, IES will constantly provide us with bottled water, hopefully the stomach flu won't have it's revenge. Fingers crossed.

Okay, I'm going to walk to my Anthro class today since it's been so gorgeous out (he tomado el sol MUCHO esta manana!!). Just wanted to update you on the Morocco sitch. No ladies night in granada 10 tonight because i have a midterm tomorrow, sad day :(

luego!

Monday, March 9, 2009

tenia tanto que darte

According to Trini there is no spring in Granada. There is winter, and then there is summer. Bienvenido a verano chicos :) (welcome to summer) Yesterday and today have been amazingly beautiful, in fact I'm already working on a lil' tan line after two days of "studying" in mi parque. Yesterday there literally was not a cloud in the sky, put me in the best mood possible.

Sad news from Pittsburgh though, Shusa (my love who's been in my life as long as I can remember) had to be put to sleep this weekend :( It's really hard for me to deal with this over here just because it adds to the overall feeling of disconnectedness that I've been trying to ignore. I absolutely love Granada, and wouldn't trade this experience so far for anything else, but it's always jarring to see Barack on TV, or hear about the economy, or about losing my favorite pet in the world via some form of technology instead of living it. It feels so artificial. I know Shusa's gone, I feel it in the knot in my stomach and when I teared up at the gym today when petting Pepe and thought of her, but I feel so distant from it. Dealing with death is extremely difficult either way, especially for someone like me who has little experience with it -- and ends up bawling over a goldfish's death as a result (I was little, but still you know what I mean). Dio was comforting me and said "remember, all dogs go to heaven" which resulted in Amanda and me watching one of my favorite childhood movies "All Dogs Go to Heaven" with a big mug of hot chocolate and some comfort food of popcorn and nutella. It helped, but I'm still really sad.

Before finding out about my puppy, my weekend was pretty enjoyable. Thursday night we went to Konya, which is quickly becoming my teterria of choice, for hookah. It was supposed to be six of us, but as the night progressed we gained about ten others, it was a quasi-IES convention. Konya's food is delicious as well. I had a Shawarma de pollo completa (Shawarma with chicken, cheese, eggs, special sauce, and the usual beats, lettuce, onions, and tomato) and then Joya and I split a chocolate banana crepe which came with a free tea. Incredible. And our waiter loved us and for no extra charge put mint and orange rind in with the tobacco in addition to icing the water, and gave us extra coals! We were there until close and then made our way to the resi to botellon (pregame) and hit up Camborio where we danced all night. Got back between six and seven, promptly passed out and was up in time for la comida the next day.

Friday night I felt pretty exhausted and lacked the mental energy to go out, even though I wanted to try out Metro, a disco I haven't been to before that was having "Sexy Night" (worth it just to go and say you went to sexy night, right? haha) where las chicas had free entry hasta 3am. But instead I stayed in and skyped with my moo, shasha, and rosie ... and never got around to watching a movie like I wanted to.

Saturday morning I got up around 11 and felt like a whole new person. Amanda and I walked around and shopped for a bit in the morning, came back to a comida of lentil soup and tapas (ham, duck liver purree ... i'm losing all parts of my former picky-eater self over here ... and brie on tostada) which was yummy. We had a good conversation with Trini about picky eaters and the only eating white-processed food syndrome a lot of kids in Spain have (not just a problem in the states, or with Connor apparently ... just kidding Connor haha). And Trini told us she loves us because we like everything and try everything she cooks, which is funny to me since it was only about six years ago that I lived solely on grilled cheese sandwiches and lived by the mantra "if it's from the sea, it's not for me." Boy was I a fool.

Saturday night I met up with a bunch of (6) kids from the residencia for pizza and futbol around 730. On the way there Joya and I ran into a wedding by the swing set we've played on before, it was beautiful. Not a fan of the bride's suit-dress, but the Spanish know a lot more about style than I do apparently so I won't question it! The pizza place, Voy Volanda, has an all you can eat deal that for 6.5 euro you get as much pizza, pasta, and salad as you like. You have to microwave your pasta, but it's pretty delicious especially since it's been months since I've had Italian food. So we sit down and each get our own bowls of salad and of pasta, and the first pizza comes out. Cuatro Queso, mmm mmm mmm. Shortly followed by a Margarita pizza which was equally delicious. We were all feeling pretty satisfied, when out comes pizza numero tres, sausage and meats of some sort. We all giggled a little bit, because clearly three pizzas, a bowl of salad, and a bowl of pasta is more than enough for seven girls and one guy. Little did we know that we'd have three more coming. Five minutes later our server gave us cheese mushroom and ham pizza, followed by a BBQ pizza, and when we finally told him that we could not possibly eat any more, a chocolate pizza for desert. Seven pizza slices full, I left Voy Volando more full than I have ever felt here haha. But for 6.5 euro, not bad at all, no?

We missed the soccer game and just talked and drank at the resi until about 2am when we decided to go to our usual stomping ground, disco Kapital. Danced all night, got back around 7am, the usual aha. I had a lot of fun though, even though I am discovering that Granada has more aggressive hombres than I initially thought. No pasa nada.

Today I officially booked my ticket to go visit Rosie in Athens from April 30 until May 5. I am beyond excited because my flight is waaay less than the 550 euros I originally thought it would be, and now I get to go stay with Rosie in her apt and go see one of the Greek Islands. And potentially visit Christian in Rome the weekend before! I haven't traveled yet because I wanted to get to know my new home, but now I feel we know each other pretty well, and I am ready to probar my surroundings. And Athens and Rome are two cities I have always wanted to visit, dream come true :)

Tomorrow morning I have my orientation for Morocco, so soon I can fill you in on my adventures I will be undertaking in oh .. TEN DAYS!

Time to walk to the universidad for my anthro class,
luegoo