Wednesday, January 28, 2009

spain rain

Yesterday was the first day it didn't rain! I really think I brought Pittsburgh with me, it's supposed to rain in Sevilla this weekend too, gross gross gross! The local newspaper says that the city council's worried about the water rising too much haha, it hasn't rained very hard it just spits enough to be annoying, these people wouldn't be able to deal with life in the burgh ;)

Last night we went out to La Catina, a mexican restaurant Trini recommended, and it was delicioouuusss! Trini made us a big bowl of lentil soup for cena, and she now knows I have a sweet tooth, so I get like three deserts now hah, so I was pretty full and just split a quesadilla con pollo with Amanda. The margaritta con fresa (strawberry margs) were delicious, even though they were expensive. Amanda, Joya, Sunny, Dio and I ate there from 930-11 just chillin around and talking. Afterwards we hit up our usual spots, La Mancha con Pepe, and Paddys Pub just in time for the 12-1 happy hour. There was a beer pong party at some local bar that we were gonna go to, but Joya Amanda and I got distracted by a gorgeous bartender at Paddys, so we never made it over there!

I'm still getting used to all the new customs, etc in Spain. For example, people will look at you like you're running around naked if you are walking and eating your food outside. It's a much laid back world, which I love, but am definitly not accustomed to at all! Our coffee breaks during these marathon spanish classes are supposed to be from 1130-1145, but the service is so relaxed and slow we always get back closer to 12. But the pastries are always worth it. Plus, I would not make it until cena if we didn't have this break, I'm still not used to going from 830-230 without eating.

The Granada lifestyle still catches me by surprise sometimes. When you're standing in a bar eating tapas at night (there usually aren't any seats, you just stand around eating good food and having good conversations) vendors/gypsies just walk in with bootleg videos/music, flowers, and more and try to sell them to you while you're in the bar. Also, at the discoteca people were smoking on the dancefloors like it was no big deal at all, and not just cigarettes either. Everything feels so much more down to earth in a lot of respects, and it is awesome!

After this week of exploring I really feel like I know my neighborhood pretty well and am ready to branch out, project for next weekend since this one we'll be in Sevillaaa (with MORE rain, woot).

I've also been talking to a lot of kids who are gonna come watch the superbowl, the Steeler nation is goin global baby :) We get back from Sevilla Sunday afternoon, which gives me time for a powernap before we hit paddys around 11 ish. Here we gooo. It's weird being over here during the superbowl, I feel so disconnected from everything, especially since last time we went was senior year and were fully immersed in black and gold territory. It's like this surreal thing I can't quite grasp, but when we bring home number six I guess it'll all sink in!

Tonight is our first of two language exams that will determine our placement in the spanish grammer classes. Tonight's the written part, tomorrow's the oral, they're from 630-830, fun fun fun. Afterwards a bunch of us are gonna go to a hookah bar by my house, which will be cool since I haven't had that since this summer.

Oh also, I have my IES classes picked out. I'm going to have my language class, and history of Spain since 1492, and then the mediterrean woman in film, which meets at night for movies and once during the week. I wanted to take the art history class because it takes you to all the cool monuments and places, but Haverford is stupid and I can only take two IES classes, but Javier said they can reserve a few spaces for kids not in the class to go too, so I think I'll take advantage of that. The other two slots will be university classes, so hopefully it'll work out so that I'm not constantly in transit to classes since the university is like 30 min away from IES. We'll see!

Joya and I were trying to figure out Semana Santa, and we decided that a week in Barca and Ibiza will prob be the best. Im starting to understand what my dad was talking about, I have all my life to see Europe, but this is the only time I'm really going to be immersed in a culture like this. So I def wanna travel around Spain, but I thikn I'm going to spend most of my time here, Granada is such a unique place, I really want to get to know it, and the only way to do that is to explore and stay here! Which is fine with me, because this place is beautiful :)

Okay, all for now, I have a Shasha Chen to attend to :)

Monday, January 26, 2009


Trini's grandson and her daughter came to visit today, he's three months old, and possibly the cutest baby on the planet. His name is Diego, but his nick name is "gordito" (chubby). He is adorable and so sweet, and Trini just comes to life around him and starts jumping around and babytalking at the speed of light in Spanish, it was wonderful! I've decided that the sooner I can pick up some baby phrases the better, he's going to visit a lot which is exciting :)

Amanda and I had a good talk with Trini at lunch today, still speaking a LOT of spanglish, but she appreciates the effort and we're making progress! For lunch we had paella which made me think of Molls and DM, and WT, seems like forever ago now. It's still hard to get used to having HUGE lunches, but I'm gettin there.

After lunch Amanda and I went on a phone hunt, but the Apelcom store didn't have any phones, so tomorrow is officially the day I get my cell phone. Almost a week late, pero no importa. Amanda and I ventured on and explored downtown, did some grocery shopping and boot hunting (unsuccessfully). The main supermercado here is actually a part of a department store, the food is on the ground floor and then you head upstair and its like you're in Macys or Nordstrom, it makes me laugh.

Okay, short post for today, I need to stop hogging my rooomie's computer!
hasta luego

Sunday, January 25, 2009

donde esta el vogueee??

Saturday was exciting for many reasons, mainly because my suitcase arrived!! It came in the afternoon, so I wasn't able to go on the moutain hike with the IES crew, which apparently had gorgeous views of Granada and little mountain towns, but I figure that I'll be here for five months so I'll have plenty of time to take in the sights.

Instead Amanada and I slept in and met up with Joya and Sunny for some shopping. I got some leggings from Mango but mainly we just wandered around downtown and took in the sights . We ate the picnic lunches our host moms packed us at sunny's apt, chorizo and cheese on big hunks of italitan bread with pinapple juice and clementines, very spanish apparently. Afterwards we bummed around and got some hot chocolate and cafe con leche (we wanted churros, but it was during siesta time to they weren't available). After a little bit we decided it was time for our own siestas and headed back home and slept until seven. We all met up for some tapas and cerveza and began our evening around 9, which is officially way way way too early for the Spanish.

We went to seis pequenos or something like that for tapas, with one drink (1.5 euros) you get three kinds of tapas, and the bartenders liked us a lot and give us free seconds on the tapas and a free shot before we headed out, que bueno , no? Dio and I decided we needed to search out a venue for the superbowl next weekend, and ended up at Paddy's Pub, an Irish pub right by my apartment with really great music, crowds, and futbol on the tvs. Happy hour started at midnight and went til 1, so we could get two cocktail for 5 euro, which is a sweet deal. We hung out there for a couple hours, befriended Paddy who told us he would definitly be showin the superbowl and invited us back for some birthday party Thursday, vale vale vale!

Amanda and Sunny split off after Paddys, we left around 145, and Dio Joya and I met up with an IES kid from State College named Joe and moved on to the tapas bars near La Mancha (Pepe's tapas bar, the bartender Dio is determined to befriend). There were a bunch of American kids in that area so we decided to hit one last tapas bar and then hunt down one of the discotecas recommended to us. Finding the discoteca, Vogue, was muy muy muy dificil and took us until about 2:45! We finally got there and it was basically dead, because apparently the main floor (the one that plays house music) didn't open until 3:00! The boys were worried that it was a gay club, there were def a lot of well dressed men standing very close to one another, but the verdict is still out on that, I think our boys just need to get more in touch with their sexuality ;) We danced until 4:30 and when we were leaving a line was forming outside the club, the Spanish go all out! Got home around 5:00 and today slept til 2:00 pm in time for a big cena (lunch) or pork, mashed potatos, and flan. mmmm.

Its really cold and rainy out today, I guess you really can't ever get out of Pittsburgh ;) I was going to meet up with Dio and hunt down a track and get some excersize now that my gym gear is here, but the weather just isnt right haa. Trini told me about some pretty river trails and that a lot of people run up by El Alhambra, so I think i'm going to check into that, and then hunt down a gym. All this drinking of beer and eating fried food is going to catch up with me real fast haha.

Sunday is apparently a big night here, so we're going to try to look into a jazz/improv club tonight that Jose (IES director of student life) recommended. And then back to orientation tomorrow. I'm ready to get my schedule set up and figure out where the university of granada is though, I'm sick of orientation! And I need to get a phone, very badly. Goal for tomorrow is: phone.

The Spanish way of life is so much more enjoyable than the American one. People here only work because they need time to relax, it's no where near as stressed out here as America. People love to have fun, the culture is based around going out at night and relaxing, siestas are going to become a deadly habit! I'll post more about that later, just wanted to give you an idea of what daily life is like right now!

Hasta luego

bienvenido a granadaa

After many hours of plane riding and unsuccessfully trying to sleep, I finally made it to Malaga. I was convinced I was never going to make it over here after the British Airways ticket-er gave me my tickets in an envelope that basically was “how to get to your flight in Heathrow Airport without dying” and said that I should have at least an hour cushioning between flights, which I barely had. Getting into Heathrow was ridiculous; we had to get off our plane using a staircase and take a bus to the right terminal. I was freaked out because of the whole driving on the left side of the road thing, After a long long looonnnngg wait to get through security, I barely caught my flight to Malaga. But the second I got on, I realized I was sitting with about ten other IES Granada kids, which was such a relief. Turns out one girl and I had been on the same flight since Pittsburgh and didn’t even realize it. Only rough patch of the whole trip was British Airlines losing ONE of my suitcases, the one with my jeans, contacts, makeup, tennis shoes, leggings, tights, slippers, prescriptions, you know EVERYTHING in it.

Getting a taxi here is so different from the US, you have to go up to them while they’re all chilling around by all their parked taxis and get one of them to drive you. The drive to the hotel was a little overwhelming just because I was soo tired and thrown off, and suddenly surrounded by Spanish everywhere! Malaga is on the coast so flying in there were a lot of Florida-esque high rises, which I hadn’t really been expecting. Our hotel was pretty sweet and classy, nice work IES. Joya and I roomed together that night, we watched Obama become president in a hotel room with some other girls (out of 82 kids in the IES Granada program, 19 are guys aha) and then had orientation the entire next day on what to expect, culture shock, etc. Then we boarded the buses to head out to our homestays.

I had been planning to sleep the entire bus ride to Granda (it’s about an hour, hour and half) but that was impossible. The scenery was overwhelming. There were these huge snow crested mountains and tiny little villages scattered all over them, all the buildings were white or stone and clearly had stood there for a very long time. I’ve never seen anything like it before! Driving into Granada was so cool, I could see the Sierra Nevada snow peaked mountains surrounded the city, while driving by palm trees. When we reached Granada it was dark outside and Amanda (my roommate) and I met our host mom Trini who was so sweet and excited to see us. We put our luggage in the car and walked over to our new home for the semester. I still can’t comprehend the fact that I get to call a place this gorgeous home until summer, it’s unbelievable.

Earlier that day during orientation when I asked Natalia (one of the IES coordinators) about Trini’s apartment and its location, etc. she told me that if she could fill the apartment with a type of music, it would be jazz. After seeing the apartment I could definitely see what she meant. Trini loves jazz and she lots of cool decorations up in the living room that give it a kind of chill/jazzy but homey atmosphere. Trini showed us around the apartment, Amanda and I have our own bathroom and our own room with two beds, two dressers, two desks, and a cool view of the streets around ours. Dinner is a really small meal eaten late in Spain, so we had homemade chicken soup with vegetables in it with bread for dinner. It was really delicious and perfect since my stomach was still on US time. Conversation at dinner was really overwhelming, we were so tired and overwhelmed that Spanish was the last thing on our minds. But we pulled out the dictionary and things went a little smoother. After giving Trini the presents we brought her from our cities, I realized I had no idea how to talk about steel mills or the many other myths/stories about Pittsburgh I like to clarify to people who don’t know much about it. But she worked with us and eventually she understood a lot of what we were talking about, although a lot of sentences ended with someone saying “we’ll talk about this in two weeks” when hopefully Amanda and will be capable of holding a Spanish conversation at above a kindergarten level!

The next morning Trini walked Amanda and me to our first day of orientation at the center (which goes from 9:00 – 2:00) so we could learn the route. I’m going to take pictures of it and post them up here because we walk by the most eclectic array of things, it’s incredible! The graffiti on the walls are so cool because they aren’t just tags, they all have their own messages and intricacies that a lot lack in the US. The streets and sidewalks are stone so and look old and worn in, but they’re also really well maintained. The streets here are so narrow it is amazing that cars can fit down them. Some roads are so narrow I doubt my mom’s CRV could fit down them. The walk is only about ten or fifteen minutes and we walk by a lot of cafes, some Irish pubs, Indian shops with gorgeous scarves for .99 euros (!!), more cafes, bars, and fountains. The IES center is in La Plaza Nueva which is surrounded by Kebab places, more little Cafes, a pharmacy or two and some more little shops with scarves and trinkets for sale. The center has a really cool view of La Alhambra (can’t wait to go see it, it looks incredible!) and is located cerca de (close too, just so you can keep practicing mom ahha) to one of the main streets with lots of ATMs and tapas bars on its side streets.

There are stray dogs everywhere here, I saw a cockerspaniel whose ears were dreaded at the bottom because they are never brushed or taken care of. The Spanish are all SUPER skinny and well dressed, which is a nice change and will definitely keep me from getting frumpy and lazy when going to classes! People smoke EVERYWHERE, during a café break during my language orientation Joya and I went to a café to split a pastry and drink some café con leche, and I smelled like smoke the rest of the day.

My orientation class is really easy, they’re just giving us a crash course on the basics: vocab for household items, how to ask for and give directions, and how to order cerveza aha. There are six groups ranked from the highest level to the lowest levels of Spanish and I’m in the fourth highest group, so right in the middle. Even though this orientation seems really easy, I’m hoping that it will help me prepare for the real placement exam at the end of next week which will determine what language class I’m in for the semester. And prepare me for taking classes at the University of Granada. Most of the kids in my class seem to be on the same level as I am so we’ll see what happens.

After classes/orientation Amanda and I met up to walk back for lunch and a siesta. We didn’t get lost at all and made it back home right on time for a 2:30 lunch. Lunch was una tortilla Espanola, which is almost like a kiche – eggs and meat and potatoes – along with a salad with tuna and apples in it and a yummy dressing, followed by an apple for desert. The tortilla was delicious! Trini is an amazing cook, and conversation during lunch went a little smoother than the previous nights, babysteps. After lunch we took siestas, and I (unsuccessfully) tried to make my hunk of junk computer connect to the internet.

That night around 9:00 Amanda and I met up with Dio (a guy in my class at Haverford who is also here) and Joya to hunt down some tapas for la cena. Dio had a map and list of tapas bars to try friends who’ve already experienced Granada. We walked around and came to La Mancha, where Dio decided to befriend the bartender, Pepe, and we had delicious tapas of tortillas de patatas (eggs and potatos, really similar to our lunch actually haha) because we don’t know what all the other tapas are yet. We had Alhambras, a really strong local beer, and traveled around to one or two other bars and then headed back home. Trini had gone out salsa dancing with friends but she got home before we did so we didn’t see her.

It’s been raining all week, lightly but enough to be a pain, but today it started to let up. Breakfast was toast with butter and jam, milk and Nescafe, and some cookies. Classes went as usual, nothing too exciting but it’s nice that we get to take a café break and go across the street to grab coffee and hang out for a bit, and then everyday we have an “street activity” where we go outside and look for things (today was locating pharmacies, ATMS, restaurants, bars, and bus stops so we know where everything is). Lunch was cooked beans, bread, and the leftovers from last lunch which were all really yummy. Amanda, Trini, and I talked a lot more at lunch today. I think I’m finally getting used to the idea of being surrounded by Spanish all the time, even though its still a transitional phase and I’m speaking a good deal of Spanglish, but we’re making progress in the communication department which is exciting!

My favorite part of today was the walk around Granada my Spanish language class took today. It was mind blowing. It’s hard for me to accept that I am in a city this gorgeous. We climbed up really narrow stone streets in the older sections of Granada and took in views that literally took my breath away. It was so exciting, I’ve never really had a view make my heart race before. There were some points where you were looking out over an extensively graffiti-ed wall and see huge mountains in the distance encased by the clouds, and see layers upon layers of apartments and streets mixed in with a giant castle and modern streets equipped with vespas and buses zooming around, all in one glance. At one point we walked by a hippie playing his guitar for money, and singing “Walking On Sunshine,” which I got a big kick out of. Joya, Lydia (who goes to CMU!), Sunny, and I kept losing our group because we’d take too long to take everything in and get pictures, but I feel like this is the best time to really soak things in and take pictures before I start taking it all for granted. We left around 4:30 and got back to our starting point at 6:00. All the really rocky streets hurt my feet though!

I went back to the apartment and picked up Amanda and then we met Joya and Sunny and a few other girls and we wandered around for a bit. Joya, Sunny, Amanda and I went to a bar and got mojitos while we waited to meet up with Dio. After we found him we went to a few tapas bars where for 2 euro you get a drink and free tapas, which tonight were ham and cheese melts with fries at one bar, and fried bagels with ham and cheese, olives, chips, and pickles at the other. I’ve never eaten such yummy (but bad for you) food before for so cheap! We wandered around a bit and decided to call it a night, tomorrow we’re hoping to find a discoteca and dance all night, we’ll see what happens.

My internet is not working, we’re trying to get a technician to come out here, and as soon as that happens I’ll have better updates :)