Sunday, January 25, 2009

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 :)


  1. Hola Lily! You sure can write! I loved reading about your first 2 dayas and all the fun you're having. We wish we were with you! Cuidate xoxox Carolyn, Chris, Robin and Audrey

  2. ahh lils i feel like im still there with you! trini is amazing and i promise the language gets better without you even realizing it. im assuming you up in the albaicin or sacromonte on that walk.. if no one has taken you go to el mirador de san nicolas its an incredible view of the alhambra, breahttaking at night. and visit la ventana (the little store next to IES) the guy who owns it is named lotfi and i love him! haha miss you soo much!!! <3 catie