Saturday, February 28, 2009

cor do b(l)a(h)

Yesterday was our IES day trip to Cordoba, a city a little north of Sevilla about a three hour bus ride away from Granada. The fools at predicted mid seventies and sun, what we got was low sixties/high fifties and nubes (clouds) which I'm sure sounds nice if you're in the middle of a snow heap in pennsylvania, but is lame if you're in the middle of Spain without your scarf and with your sun glasses. Cordoba's a decent sized city, no where near as enchanting or quirky as Granada but not everyone gets to live the good life I guess haha. National Geographic actually named it the most important city in the world ... for the year 1000. We basically did a marathon day of sight seeing, and since I'm not in any of the art history courses I got to have my tours with Javier (guy in charge of the IES program, who we all love dearly) who gave us a remixed tour with a little bit of history and a little big of art-facts (and yes, it was in spanish of course no worries!). Run down of the day:

Stop one: mezquita. This huge mosque-turned-Cathedral-turned-tourist-sight is a gorgeous replica of Damascus. The inside was a beautiful combination of the dark and expansive Islamic architectural styles with huge white and red candycane-esque striped arches and stone floors. Mosques are typically long long long and wide wide wide but more intimate and dark, while the cathedrals all have huge towers and magestic looking windows that let in light to make God's presence and majesty known. It was really cool to see the mezquita (spanish for mosque ...) after being in my Islamic Civilizations class for a few weeks because I can put all these facts I'm learning to use, it was exciting actually! So anyways, the mosque had been converted into a Cathedral by the Chrisitans so the initial structure and whatnot was still mosque-y but then you have in the middle this enormous tower and open area with the typical giant organ, marble sculptures, gold, colors, and pews that make a Cathedral complete. It was cool to see the clashing/attempts to merge the two religions in one building. I have about five pictures of it because I didn't charge my camera ... but I'll steal some of Lydia's and put them up! It really was gorgeous. The Cathedral tour was nice, but we were all still groggy from waking up at 6am and then being on a bus for three hours. Plus a tour group of older Spanish men and women was following us everywhere, and they were very Spanish and thus very pushy and impacient about seeing all the different parts of the mezquita. It was hilarious because it was like I was swimming in a sea of Spaniards who were all around five feet tall, good times good times.

Stop Two: Juderia. We paseo-ed around the Jewish area and saw a tiny little sinagoga (synnagouge) ... comically tiny compared to the enormous mosque we had just seen. We walked around the Jewish area and had a tour of a museum of Jewish history (la Casa de la Memoria de Sefarad - three whole rooms! haha Jews are apparently a rarity even in Cordoba). It was sad because it made me realize how I am now numb to Spanish scenary. Cordoba looked just like Sevilla, which I know isn't true but that's how it felt, I'm starting to take all the beauty for granted, scary scary scary!

Stop Three: Taller de Musica Sefardi. Right before lunch the people at the Jewish museum put on a music show for us so we could hear some of their traditional music. It was beautiful, I really enjoyed it (minus my embarassingly loud growling stomach and annoying goose bumps on my arms). The musician explained how improvisation worked with each instrument, and played a violin not by placing it between his chin and shoulder, but by resting it vertically on his knee cap and using the bow like a cello-bow. So cool. I'll hunt down pictures.

Stop Four: Lunch. Lunch was pretty uneventful, ate our picnics from Trini, explored Cordoba on an unsuccessful search for a heladeria (ice cream) with some of the girls. Got lost. Figured out where we were and navigated our way back. Got on the bus and drove off to see some ruins.

Stop Five: Visita de Madinat-al-Zahra. This was cool. The Madinat-al-Zahra used to be where Cordoba's prime minister lived and where the palace and royal city were located way way way back in the day since they didn't fit in the actual city. It was about a half hour drive outside of the main city, so it would've been a pretty decent walk, but I'm sure it was worth it. We got to wander around what was left and the restored parts of where the houses, baths, stables, palace, and streets were, I've never seen anything like it before. Apparently in the '60s most of it was barried under dirt and it is one of the most important archeological sites in all of Europe according to Javier. It was really cool to wander around and imagine what it would have been like bustling with old school Cordobians. After about two hours there we headed on the long long bus ride home.

We got back to Granada around 9:00 and I hustled home to shower since Dio, Joya and I planned to meet up with a friend from Haverford (Ariel, for any Haverfordians reading this) who's studying in Madrid and came down for the weekend. We did the usual tapas-pub-bar-disco. This time Jose took us to Realjo, a Spanish bar a few blocks from my house near Calle Principe where we got one euro sangrias and 3.5 euro mixed drinks while jamming to Spanish music ... and music from Grease (weirdest thing ever, they played a megamix including summer loving, greased lightning, and you're the one that I want ... it was the last thing I would expect to hear over here haha). Afterwards we hiked all the way up to the Albaicin to the disco Camborio for an Erasmus (the European equivilant of IES) party. Camborio was a refreshing change from Granada 10 and had two floors, a porch that overlooks the Alhambra (apparently if you stay long enough you can watch the sun rise and it's gorgeous) and ... hip-hop. The second floor where we stayed all night blasted tunes from Jump Around by House of Pain, Ride with Me by Nelly, and the classic Granadean staples we hear at every club. We got there around three, stayed til close to six, and I came home and crashed since I had been up for close to 24 hours.

Tonight's open mic night and then I guess we'll just see where the wind takes us!
Time to go shower and get moving, hasta luegoo!!!
(The Morocco trip is in a little over two weeks, SO EXCITED!)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ladies Night

I can not believe it's almost the end of Febrero! Time is flying, but at the same time it is so warm and sunny ... and warm and sunny during the day here that it's hard for me to believe it's ONLY febrero (february ... in case you haven't caught on haha). So I'm in the really odd time-warped and weather-challenged state of utter confusion. But I'd rather be a little dazed and confused by warmth and sun than hiding under layers running around Haverford's campus in the cold cold cold. My class schedule is whack so there's never anyone hanging out upstairs in the "student lounge" area of the IES building, so yesterday after class I just went to my park and sunbathed for an hour before lunch ... so incredible. Nothing is more relaxing than lying in the sun on a bench by a lil fountain and people watching. Some guy came up and tried to talk to me, realized I was American, and said oh nevermind and walked away. I had my headphones on so I missed the first half of what he said, which would have been useful, but from what I did hear I'm pretty sure he was trying to sell something to me ... I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say it was just boot leg CDs or something. Right.

In addition to being filled with beautiful weather, the past two days have been filled with delicious comida as well! Basically I am in heaven haha. Yesterday Trini made a refreshing salad with lettuce, carrots, bananas, and apples drizzled in the usual olive oil vinagrette dressing she makes. Then we had PASTA with some meat crumbled in it with some crispy cheese baked on the top. I've missed pasta. For desert we had some left over homemade dulces Trini had made for some family members who came over the night before. I forget the names, but one was made from apples and was kind of like an apple pie kind of deal, and the other had chocolate and spongey cake in it, both were awesome. And then today we had a soup with noodles, shrimp, mussels, squid, artichoke heart, beans, and fish. Que rico, no?

During lunch today Trini let Diego suck some of the juice out of a slice of mandarin, which wasn't ripe yet so it packed a tart punch. Diego made The Funniest faces. He's have a little juice, then he would scrunch his entire face up, and then go back in for round two with the same result ... except the scrunching got worse and worse each time! Ah, Gorditoo. :)

Last night was Ladies' Night at Granada 10 (discoteca of ridiculous musica). Which meants girls got in for free, had access to an open chapaigne bar until 12, had two male gogo dancers preforming off and on all night, and on top of all that another free drink. All for free. I spent absolutely no money last night. I'm still in shock. We walked to Granada 10 right after Anthro of Ethnicity at UGR so we got there around 1015, and it was empty. It was hilarious. We got there comically early, even for the States, because we wanted to take advantage of the bebidas gratiz (free dranks). Joya and I opted to go for a round of Tapas, but still ended up inside of Diez around 1100. But it was still a blast, I hung out and danced with all the IES girls. All in all I had a blast, and even though I dealt with the repercussions of getting home at 5am on a Wednesday this entire morning, I don't regret a thing. The only let down were the promised GoGo Dancers, although they did bring us more free drinks after the open bar closed so you can't hold too much against them. They were 1.) not tan or oiled up, which is the image America's instilled in my mind as one of the defining features of a GoGo dancer, 2.) were wearing cargo pants ... in Spain, dancing for girls, really?, and 3.) would not stand a chance against me in a dance off, I was expecting some epic moves. But they were still entertaining, poor guys they did not look too happy up there haha. It was fun to get to know some of the girls I don't have classes with and therefore never see too, all in all great Wednesday.

Today after classes Lydia and I went to get helado from the heladoria (ice cream!!). The cones here are a lot taller and narrower than in the States, which is interesting. But the ice cream display is incredible, I promise to post the pictures on here as soon as I can, but there were so many different flavors, and each on had an elaborate set up: the banana had half-peeled banana surrounded by perfect banana slices artfully scattered over hills of delicious ice cream ... the chocolate orange was chocolate ice cream laced with orange drizzle, with cocolate covered orange slices oh-so-delicately placed on top. I could go on, but I'll let the pictures do the talking once I put them up. I ended up getting mint-chocolate chip, and Lydia got the Kinder flavor (euro-chocolate, aka deadly) with Limon too.

After ice cream I went with Amanda and Joya to Cafe Futbol, a cafe close to Trini's that is known for having delicious churros. Happy with my ice cream, I just got a Cafe Sola (Spain's version of black coffee, soo good) and Joya and Amanda split an order of churros with hot chocolate dip. I tried a bit of Amanda's churros, totally lived up to the hype. Moo and Dids, we're going there when you visit :) Tonight we're all just going to go to a Trettateria (I'm not sure if I'm spelling this right, sorry! ... hookah place) near the Residencia of the Universidad and have a relaxed night since we have to catch the bus for our day trip to Cordoba tomorrow at 730 am. That will be interesting, NOT looking forwards to getting up that early. At all.

I think I'm too tired to write a good entry today, lo siento!! I'll make up for it with the next one, promise :) Hasta Luegoo

Monday, February 23, 2009

Pokemon and Tellitubbies ...

Instead of going to Cadiz dressed as "ice" and the mask and sparkles which that costume entails, I spent the weekend in bed with the stomach flu. For someone who never gets sick, and has never had the stomach flu before, this was miserable and I have decided to black out this weekend from my memory, so sorry, not exciting post detailing the play by plays of my near death experience :)

However, I did learn a lot. I learned that when you're on the verge of passing out from dehydration, Spanish skills are the first thing to go. After waking up from a dream in which my moo was bringing me a big glass of gatoriade, and realizing I was in Spain with access to only water and boxed milk, that I am going to learn a lot more about taking care of myself over here. And, I learned that if I ever fail in this department, I have Joya here to act as my quasi-mom (she brought us 7Up, chips, and chocolate while we were on the rebound back to health ... and the next day came down with the flu! Ugh.).

Trini's daughter just had this, so I'm assuming we got it through Diego somehow, but now that I have actually had the stomach flu, I now know throwing up is not going to kill me, even though my brain would like me to believe otherwise.

Judging by the stories I've accumulated so far from Carnaval, it was a mess. A lot of people had fun, a lot of people regret going. Most kids passed out around three am (the idea is to be awake and in the streets all night until 7am when the bus comes back to pick you up) on a beach, throwing up from too much alchohol, and freezing their butts off. While I know how to pace myself and most likely would not have been in that situation, I still would have delt with the gross aftermath on the five hour busride home ... so all in all I guess I didn't miss out on too much.

Sunday I ventured out of the den of disease that our room here converted into for the weekend to meet up with Joya catch some fresh air. Later we met up with Billy, got some gelato (mine was banana and fruiti tutti yogurt ... oh spain haha), and sat in a plaza to people watch. And oh, was it worth it. Everyone had their kids with them, so we watched some six year olds play better futbol than I'll ever be able to. A mom parade her kids by us: two little girls in matching bo-peep esque dresses, tan tights, and red shoes and a little boy in a white polo, bright red shorts and ... tan tights and tan shoes haha. We saw a woman dressed up like a Tellitubbi (the red one) trying to con little kids into asking their parents to buy them a balloon from her (she was terrifying, if I was younger I would have run the other way, I don't know why she though dressing like a giant tellitubbi would bolster her balloon sales ...). And during all this there was a bird, or machine that made bird noises because that's how surreal they sounded... Billy said he felt like we were in the Amazon or something, it sounded at sometimes like a crow, the like a macaw, and then like a hawk, then back again to the crow ... weirdest thing I've ever heard. And it was loud, the whole plaza echoed bird noises, and EVERYONE stopped to stare at some point which was hilarious to watch since we grew used to it.

After finishing our ice cream we headed out to Reyes de Catolicos (one of the main streets) to help Billy find the theatre of the play he was going to see for his theater class. On this street we saw a man with a sketchy mustache dressed like the Pokemon Pikachu ... honestly Sunday is THE day to go people watching. Pikachu was also offering a wide selection of colorful balloons for children to get their parents to buy, but failed with every attempt. I personally hate the sound balloons make so the fact that Pikachu was not supplying all the little hands with balloons to squeeze was perfectly fine with me. Later when I got home Amanda and I walked down the block to our local Paneria/Pasteleria and bought some fresh baked pastries filled with chocolate. So delicious. I'm going to be surprised if I don't leave here with some form of diabeties. But we'll see!

It's another gorgeous day here, I just spent over an hour with a big cup of coffee on a bench in my park reading some of my tarea. It's slowly becoming my "Lily-time" spot of preference. It's so nice to feel 100% again! I have my late class today so I need to do some homework now before hittin Gym Do It! so that's all for today.

Hasta Luegooo

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

como se llama? obama! My ode to los chicos espanoles

Spanish men are an enigma to me sometimes. The other day in the gym I caught the guy next me lifting up his shirt and flexing his abs in the mirror shamelessly. He turned to the side, gave himself the once over, and then once he was satisfied with his washboard belly pulled his shirt down and strutted away. I mean, really? Is that necessary? Another literally just lounged around by the free weights with his hip popped and a hand on his waist, like he was waiting for someone to take a snap shot. Or my favorites are the groups of two or three guys who hog up on of the ab machines and just stand around gossiping ... it's like being in a gym full of american teenage girls! The guys in the gym wear everything from soccer jerseys of their fav teams, to tight muscle shirts, to a belly bearin cropped hoody-type thing. They really are in a league of their own.

Friday night all the Spanish college kids were done with exams, and therefore joyously ... and drunkenly flooding the streets. on our way to meet Csenka, Amanda and I passed a group of about 10 giddy guys, and immediatly the "hola guapaaa"s and "mi vidaaa, mi amooor, andaaa"s started filling the air. Only this time, I suddenly was watching Amanda power on towards Europa while I seemed to be walking in place. One of these friendly bros had me by the arm, and suddenly I was engulphed in a group hug. Don't worry moo, these guys were completely harmless, I got a huge kick out of them actually. But once they discovered I was American I was asked the question that I think I've heard more than any other here thus far, "Obama o Bush??" I usually just got a huge smile and high-five when I reply Obama, but this time I got a song "Como se llama? Obama" over and over again haha. They followed us to the tapas place, but once they discovered they were not going to get kisses on the lips they powered off to Paddys. But the difference between Spanish and American guys is one thing: respect. As soon as they discovered we didn't want to cover them in kisses, they moved on. Whereas in America, you'd most likely be stuck with that group the entire night.

Same deal in the discos. It helps that no one here grinds, so creepy men don't feel they have the right to just pull you into them, but there's also something else. At least in the few weeks I've experianced so far, so this could be just because the kids my age weren't really out and about. But generally Spanish men are very forward in approaching you and cat calling at you, but if you look at them and say no, they move on. Which is very refreshing.

Also, because of the lack of grinding, Spanish men have no qualms about dancing with themselves. It's hard for me to retune my gaydar here, because straight guys dance with eachother the way only gay guys do in the states. It's so entertaining, one of my favorite things about going out to the discos is watching the guys dance around!

There will always be gross, creepy guys on every continent and in every culture, but right now the Spanish guys are pretty endearing to me, despite the vanity and gobs of gel in their euro hair (I have seen more euro-mullets -- the europeans have very different styles than in the US and right now mullets are big for girls and guys, but not yinzer mullets, stylish ones ... if that's possible? -- than I know what to do with).

Update on the UGR class situation tomorrow! And this weekend is Carnaval in Cadiz, which is a huge city-wide costume party in the streets. Our bus leaves Granada at 12pm, we have kareoke and free sangria on the bus which gets there around 5pm, and we're in Cadiz until 8 am the next morning .... more on costumes and what Carnaval is and why you shouldn't be worried about me later too :)

vale, hasta luego

Sunday, February 15, 2009

csenka en granada!

New pictures are online!!

Sunday I set out on a post-comida (and therefore, stupid) mission to find an open phone house or mercado to restock los minutos de me mobil (buy more cell phone minutes, cause i'm all oout). I knew the chancs of anything being open were ... well there wasn't really any chance at all, but it looked gorgeous outside so I decided a walk would be a good idea. I wandered around "looking" for any tienda abierta (open store) that could revive my phone ... and was unsuccessful. But, I didn't care because it is about 60 degrees and sunny outside and everyone in Granada was out. Accordian players, guitar players, families, couples (lots and lots of post-valentine's day hand holding, so cute), and everyone in between were out at cafes, restaurants, or taking a walk around our city. I decded it would be a waste to just go back home and chill in the apartment, so I grabbed a cafe con leche para llegar (coffee to go) ... which is not normal here, people do not eat in the streets here, I've seen maybe three people this entire time walking in the street with food or drink (with the exception of the time block between 2 and 7 am, then everything's fair game. I took my confused-stare-worthy cafe to the park by Trini's and plopped down on a bench next to the big fountan/pond-like thing in the middle of it and just sipped my cafe and people watched. Sundays in Spain are slowly becoming one of my favorite things, everything is completely relaxed and cheerful (unlike in the states, when I HATE sundays because it means I will be sitting in magill all day exhausted and unproductive).

Anyways, this weekend was soo much fun. Not only was it Valentine's Day weekend, which I love because honestly you can say what you want about commercialism and whatnot but I think a holiday is what YOU make of it and I think taking a day to appreciate all the love surrounding you in your life that you generally take for granted is a pretty great idea. Add in some chocolate and I'm sold. Vday is not as awful as people make it out to be, but that's just me.

Back on track: Csenka visited this weekend! I never get to see her at home because Canadians are whack and U of Toronto's calender/breaks never coincide with most of mine, I saw Csenka for one night over Christmas break and one day this summer literally right before she left to go back up north. So getting a weekend with her in Granada was extra exciting! She got in around 7pm and Amanda and I met up with her post-shopping (I bought two very cute shirts, I'm super excited about them) and walked her to her hostel which is a quarter of the way up the hill to the alhambra and right across the street from plaza nueva ... aka prime real estate for visiting me. We gave her some time to take a shower and de-airplaneify herself and then met up with a bunch of IES kids for tapas at cafe europa. the tapas are always good there, but the bartender DOES NOT like me at all. She glared at me every time I ordered and and gave us the bad tapas instead of the normally delicious ones. When Dio went up to order our last round she gave him PIZZA. Seriously, don't bartend if you're gonna play favorites. After that we went to Paddy's for the obligatory 12-1 happy hour, there was a live band playing with a guitarist, keyboardist, and a guy playing an instrument resembling a sitar ... not sure what it was. I just chilled out and split a sex on the beach with csenks and enjoyed the ambience of Paddys haha. The boys split off to call it a night and a lot of the other kids planned to go up to the Sierra Nevada all day Saturday so they headed back early too. Amanda, Csenka, Joya and I ventured up to Calle Principe to check out a small and very very spanish club we had heard of. It was really fun just because there were probably a total of ten americans in the entire building, all the music was spanish (I'm slowly starting to recognize the more popular spanish songs featured in all the clubs thus far). We only stayed til 4 ish because csenks and I had a huge day of sight seeing planned for the next day.

Saturday I got up bright and early and met csenka for tostada y cafe con leche at 1045. Afterwards we explored the cathedral, a small church, and the chapel where King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella's tombs are. These were all, needless to say, gorgeous. If being Catholic ment I could be in a building like the cathedral for a few hours each week I'd be tempted to convert. The tombs of Isabella and Ferdinand were probably my favorite sight of the morning, above the actual coffins were these huge marble shrine-like statues of the king and queen lying ontop of their coffins. The decorations were so cool and intricate, but apparently Napoleon and his troops rainsacked the tomb at one point and vandelized these statues, so fingers were missing along with horse heads and various other bits and pieces. Way to go Napoleon, ruin it for everyone. (we weren't allowed to take pictures, so I've got nothin sadly) The room next to the tombs held what was left of Isabella's personal art collection (again, nice job Napoleon), her huge and colorful prayerbook, the King's saber and crown, and one of Isabella's and one of Ferdinand's heavy robes. It was amazing to be in the same room as these pieces of art, it's insane to think that they are over 500 years old!

Afterwards we made our way to the Alhambra. It was a gorgeous day, probably around mid sixies ... warm enough that we had to take our coats off ... and not a cloud in the sky :). On the way up we passed by my new favorite type of street performer, guys who paint their entire face and arms metallic silver, wear all silver, and pretend to be robot-statues. They stay perfectly still and then suddenly start making Wall-e noises and moving around mechanically. I tried to take a video of one, but since I didn't give him euros, he didn't give me a show. Lame. But they were all over the place, I had seen them walking around earlier in the week but I just thought they were crazy drugged out hippies because they had on normal clothing, but silver faces ... now I know the reason behind the craziness haha.

Anyways, Csenks and I finally made it to the Alhambra (after hiking up the wrong side of the hill and discovering that we could see the Alhambra, but it was on the exact opposite side of the mountain). It's completely uphill for about 20 min to get there, and when we finally arrived the box office man (not so) kindly told us we were idiots and had tickets for 830/930 in the morning, not 130 in the afternoon. To enter the palaces of the Alhambra you buy a ticket for a time and then have from that time until 30 min later to enter the palaces, for crowd control I'm guessing, but that's your window of opportunity and if you miss it then you miss out. We had to buy new tickets for 430 and just visited the Generallife Jardins (gardens) since we were already up there. The gardens were pretty, the pictures I took should speak for themselves.

Starving, we hiked down the huge hill and met up with Amanda for lunch at Seis Pequneas. I ordered the menu of the day, so we had tapas (chips and a few slices of chorizo), free shots of some liqour to cleanse our palates, then a mixed salad (beats, iceburg lettuce, carrots, a lil tuna, tomatoes, cucumbers, viniger dressing), paella valencean (rice, beans, mussels, shrimp, chicken leg), followed by lomo de cerdo (porkchop with potatoes and cooked/buttered carrots and green beans) and then for dessert a pear cooked in red wine with whipped cream and chocolate. Plus the Spanish love their bread, so we each had our own loaf of Italian bread. Amanda ordered the same meal I did (for 8.25 euro). And Csenks got the Tortilla de Verduras (vegetarean Spanish omellete) that had every kind of vegetable imagineable in it, and was enormous. Stuffed Csenks and I split off from Amanda and headed back to the Alhambra. I grabbed a coffee on the way to avoid an inevitable siesta-while-standing before the hike up.

Buying the new tickets for the Alhambra: completely worth it. The Alhambra is breath takingly gorgeous, fascinating, and unlike anything I've seen before. I feel like I'm constantly saying that previous phrase, but I guess I'm just being exposed to a lot. We took a few hours to go through it, and I took a lot of pictures because I honestly can't put into words how incredible it is. The Islamic and Muslim art and architecture is so complex and detailed, every ceiling is carved symmetrically and perfectly. The main colors used throughout the Alhambra are blue for heaven, red for blood, and yellow for gold. And many of the walls have the phrase "Only Allah is Victorious" carved in Arabic Calligraphy over and over and over again (it's the only phrase carved throughout the Alhambra). Csenka and I brought Rick Steve's guide to Espana with us so we had our own self-guided tour, it was great because we actually knew what we were looking at whereas the other Americans around us (students) had none whatsoever. Moo and Dids when you guys come I wanna go back with you, I feel like the Alhambra is a place you have to keep going back to in order to get the most out of it, especially since this time I was just dumbstruck by how gorgeous it is.

Afterwards we hiked down to Plaza Nueva and met up with Amanda around 700, and hiked back up into the Albacin ( part of Granada right behind IES) and want to the plaza de san nicolas. It overlooks the Alhambra and you can sit there and watch the sunset and the Alhambra lights turn on at the same time, it's pretty neat. The Albacin is home to many hippies, and so we were surrounded by weed smoking, guitar playing Spaniards who were there to take in the sunset. We sat on the ledge of a big stone wall, with a pretty big drop underneath us ... Csenka straddled it instead of sitting all the way on it because of how high up we were haha. While hanging out I chatted with a guy and his girlfriend next to me who were Spanish and visiting Granada for the first time. He had studied English for awhile so if I couldn't think of a word I could say it in english and he could get an idea of what I was saying. We just talked about things to do in Granada, Obama (of course), and speaking Spanish. It was really cool, it made me realize how far my Spanish is coming!

After an hour or so we headed back to Trini's and then met up with Joya for tapas. We went to a Morroccan Tapas Bar (mom, dad, ben ... I'm taking you there when you guys visit) and it was beyond delicious. It was packed with people (first sign it was gonna be awesome). We had chicken shawarma as our first tapas, amazing fallafel (sp?) as our second, and hummus on bread as our third. The best part was you can choose what tapas you want, there's an entire menu, and you can get extra for 1 euro more (we didnt though). So so so good. We finished around 12 and dropped csenka off (she had to leave at 640 the next morning so couldnt come out) and Amanda went home too. Joya and I took a cab further downtown to meet up with the boys and then hit up a discoteca.

Saturday night was soo much fun because we met a lot of the Spanish kids from the residencia (who up until now had exams and didn't go out). Speaking Spanish while drinking and dancing is hard and tiring, but soo exciting at the same time! We went to a few bars (one was the PLAYMOBIL BAR!! It was themed after those expensive little toys I was obsessed with for a couple years cuando era un nina). We tried to get into Mae West, but it was 330 and the club was packed and they weren't letting anyone else in, so we ended up at Kapital until 645 am. I danced with one of the Spanish guys and have learned that I am terrible at the Salsa and need to learn it very quickly, but he was really nice and helped me a lot haha. My goal had been to get back to Gran Via Ave right when Csenks would be catchin her bus, but I missed her. Jose (one of the Spanish guys), Joya, and I all split a cab home. By the time I got home my body was aching from all the hiking around and dancing, so sleeping felt great!

This week has been stressful so far, but more on that in another post tomorrow, promise!
hasta luego

Thursday, February 12, 2009

churros y chocolate

Today after classes joya, amanda and I ate outside at a cafe in Plaza Nueva right by the center. There is literally not a single cloud in the sky today, and the sun hitting my back felt soo soo good. I had a cafe con leche which I got to enjoy while soaking up some uv rays, joya and I split a tostado con pollo (slive of french bread toast with chicken breast on it and gobs of thousand island dressing), and then we all shared an order of churros y chocolate. As I said in my last post, when the sun comes out so do the locals ... so we got to listen to some live music while enjoying our cuisine, I felt like I was in a movie! Granada has such an eclectic vibe to it, on our left was a table of hippie kids with dreads and a too-cool to care aura about them splitting some pizza and cafe, and to our right was an average looking couple enjoying some brewskis (beers) while their little corgy-mix dog (with two dread locks on each ear) waddled around from table to table looking for more shade. It was nice to sit back, be warm, enjoy some yummy comida, and people watch. I am so ready for it to officially be warm outside all the time, spring can't get here fast enough in my opinion.

Right now I'm in the process of booking hostels and Alhambra tickets for Csenka's arrival tomorrow!! And also working out the details for Carnaval next Saturday, which is a huge costume party, more about that later :)


Wednesday, February 11, 2009


also, I'm going to post all my pictures to
and only put my faves/people ones on facebook. Right now I have the first installment of Granada pics up, and Ronda/Sevilla trip pictures! The slideshow at the top of this blog (ayo technology!) is my Granda album, try to imagine it all with crystal blue skies and sun and you'll be seeing what I see now!!

el sol!!

The next ten days, according to mr, are going to be (wait for it ...) sunny!! And in the mid to high 50s!!! No wayyy!!

Walking around Granada in the sun is such a different experience because the city comes to life. The first few weeks it was muggy, rainy, grey ... Pittsburghy, which I'm used to so it by no means hindered my ability to soak up the beauty and marvel at the sites here, Granada knocked me off my feet even when it wasn't at its best. But when it's sunny, people come out and its a whole different world. La Plaza Nueva (where the IES center is located) is a huge public space with lots of little cafes, local vendors with magezines, .70 euro pan (bread) of questionable freshness, a pharmaceria (all the pharmacies here are marked by big, green, neon crosses protruding from the building), and of course a fountain. I guess that's a perk to not having sub-zero temperatures, you get tons and tons of fountains whereever you can squeeze em in. The fountains always catch my eye just because I'm not used to seeing them everywhere, but in the sun they do that whole "look at me I'm glimmering and gorgeous" thing which always makes me smile (yea, I'm a dork, no pasa nada).

Classes. Last week was the first week of classes and on Monday I had my interview for UGR courses. At the center I'm taking the mandatory Spanish grammer class, Imagenes de la Mujer en el Cine Mediterraneo (Women in Mediterranean Film), and Civilizaciones Islamicos desde 1492 (Islamic Civ in Spain since 1492). So far I'm enjoying them all, and have little to NO work, at all, it's mind blowing. Of course it's a welcome break from literally living my life in Magill Library back at the Ford, but it also makes my work here feel like busy work ... and therefore that much harder to make myself do. For example, last night I had to write 10 sentences in Spanish describing any person I wanted to, all I had to do was show change by using the reflexive verbs quedarse, ponerse, llavar a ser, and hacerse. Mind blowingly easy.

My profs are all pretty cool thus far, minus the grammer one. Fabiolla. She's insane/evil. She apparently actually called a student in the other section of my level fat today. And she yelled at me in class for not doing my work because i hadn't written the answers in the text book, when in reality bc we're in the same class Amanda and I share a book and both write the answers in the notebook so I had done the hw, just written the answers in my notebook instead of the textbook. She apologized after class when she realized she was being crazy, but still, NOT a fan of hers.

My history professor is awesome. He looks like a Spanish Robbin Williams, and wears red, thick framed/stylish red glasses, a leather jacket, and is always well dressed. He LOVES this subject, and really wants us to get into it and probably says "no tienes verguenza!!!" over 20 times a class (don't be embarassed, in regards to asking questions/asking him to clarify things). He's really passionate about the Arab world, even though he's Catholic, so I think I'm gonna get a lot out of his class. And we have all levels of Spanish speakers, from native to intermediate, in my class so the pace is easy to follow, which is awesome.

My film class is sweet because I love Spanish movies, even though I have yet to see one that isn't depressing, and our prof is a hardcore feminist and real blunt and not at all warm and fuzzy, but I like her a lot. On Tuesday nights from 7:00-9:00 we watch a movie, and then in class on Thursday we discuss what stereotypes we saw, how the women are portrayed, etc. which I always do in my head anyways so the fact that I'm getting credit for this class is pretty nice.

I had my interview on Monday for my UGR classes and ended up picking Sexologia and Anthropologia de Africa (Sexology and African Anthropology) just because I have never taken a class like them before, and I asked Alvira (the woman from IES who is our link to UGR) to tell me which classes are known to have awesome profs, be interesting, or have had positive reactions from previous IES students. And these were the top two, and I'm really excited about them!! They start next week, so I'll blog about them then!

Last weekend was a blast, on Thursday we went and hung out in the Residencia with some friends. The dorms there are pretty stereotypical university dorms, the girls' room we were in had a fridge and microwave though, and its own bathroom which I'm pretty jealous of (stupid co-ed haverford banos just don't measure up haha). The Residencia is a good twenty/twenty five minute walk from the IES center, uphill, but there was a bunch of us so it went pretty quickly. After hanging out at the residencia until midnight we headed back towards our usual territory to meet up with other IES kiddos. A group of kids were at a bar called Dulce Vida, which isn't a tapas bar or a pub, it was a pretty Americany bar actually, they had American music videos blasting on a flat screen TV featuring gems such as "Big Pimpin'" by Jay-Z (for all adults reading this, its a HUGE hit ... but from the 90s) among other old school rap and hip hop mixed in with some more recent jams. It had been a 5 euro all you can drink night so when we got there everyone was pretty gone, and we got a bunch of free drinks out of it which was awesome. Eventually the night evolved into a danceoff between an IES guy (mom, dad, think Benny's dancing when he was 6 ... thats what this kid broke out for us hah) and a random Spaniard at the bar. Funniest thing I've ever seen. The pictures I took just don't portray it, but I'll post them anyways. We got home relatively early (like 3 ish) and passed out.

I love not having classes on Friday :). Friday, it snowed. It SNOWED. I was so upset. I went to the gym and worked out and then Amanda and I just bummed around since it was frigid out. We tried to go to the Papelerria around the corner to buy notebooks and folders but it was closed since we went at like 2:00 ... siesta/comida time haha. You'd think we'd know better by now. Amanda had a headache so she stayed in that night, I met up with Joya and Dio that night. We went tapas hopping, but in the end ended up staying at the tapas bar Minotauro for a decent chunk of the night. I have decided that I am switching over from beer to sangria since it's only .10 euro more than a beer, and significantly less filling/heavy. Minotauro's tapas are always a little greasier, bagel sanwiches with ham and cheese fried up, lots of olives and potato chips on the side. We met up with a bunch of the boys there and Joya and I stuck with our two drinks while the boys kept going, which is great because with each drink you get a different tapas so we got a preview of what minotauro has to offer ... mini hamberguesas (burgers) and skewered chicken haha. Afterwards we payed a visit to Pepe at La Mancha and had an Alhambra (Granada's local brew, heavy, delicious, and muy fuerte ... strong). And ended up at the discoteca around the corner called Granada 10.

Granada 10. Where to begin. It was a blast, Joya and I were with all the boys and just danced all night. But the music selection was hilarious. Spain must get American Top 40 tracks a few months later, or even years. We heard a lot of Black Eyed Peas songs (Lets Get It Started, Pump It, My Humps .. sorry Mom and Dad and co. I know this means nothing to you hah), Single Ladies, some Daddy Yankee, some House songs, J.Lo, I Kissed a Girl (many of these over two or three times) and then Spanish songs I didn't know. The crowd was fun and pretty high energy so I didn't even notice it was 5:00 until I checked my phone. We decided to call it a night since it was only Friday. I got home and fell right asleep needless to say and didn't wake up until lunch time (2:00) Saturday.

Saturday's lunch still cracks me up. Trini's brother from France is visiting, Antonio, so they had gone out for lunch. Trini had left us lunch on the table that we could heat up in the microwave, so Amanda and I entered the kitchen to find our plates with FIVE hot dogs and an entire bowl full of white rice EACH. Five. Trini really wants us to eat eat eat haha. Since Trini wasn't there we snuck must of the hotdogs into a zip lock bag to save for dinners and one of the rice heaps. Turns out the hot dogs were de "pollo y pato" (chicken and duck) which 1. makes Saturday the first time I've ever had duck and 2. makes me very confused about what the Spanish think a hot dog IS. They were good though, very different tasting.

Saturday we got a very early start to the night and headed out around 8:30 ish to watch some soccer at Paddys. Afterwards we went to a new tapas bar right next door called Europa with ridiculously delicious tapas, not traditional, but still delicious. With our first round we had baby baked potatoes with sour cream, corn, beats, carrots, and butter on top which reminded me of home for some reason, then we had hamberguesa with round number 2, then we had skewered curry chicken, all for under 6 euro each! Stuffed, we made our way over to Paddy's in time for happy hour, we met up with a bunch of IES kids throughout the course of this journey and we all joked around in Paddy's until 130 or so, when all the guys wanted to go to Granada 10.

We went to Granada 10 and were greeted with the exact same soundtrack from the night before, but it was endearing and I enjoyed it, especially because I've decided not to go back there for a whiiile since we need to investigate more discotecas! We all danced around and saved eachother from Spanish men, etc. Overall great night, your ticket gets you one free drink so we got free cocktails ... recently I've been enjoying zuma de pina y vodka (pineapple juice and vodka) or fanta limon y vodka (lemon fanta and vodka) mmm mmm good! We stayed at Granada 10 until 5:30 or 6:00, got home and slept slept slept.

Sunday was another lazy day, we slept until it was time for la comida, did some homework, and didn't leave the house :)

Last Monday was cute. Because Trini's brother is in town, and basically the rest of her family all live in Granada, Trini had everyone over for a family reunion. When I got back from IES I was greeted by Trini's mom and DIEGO!! Amanda and I sat around and talked with Trini's mom while fawning over Diego. Amanda took some adorable pictures, which Trini was extremely excited about, she is so in love with her little gordito it's so so so cute. We ate lunch with Trini's mom and her brother and Trini of course which was exciting because we got to see all the family dynamics and conversations and etc. Trini's mom is a very slow eater, so naturally we picked on her. And we found out that Trini is the only one of her siblings (three total I think) born IN granada, which she is very proud of. Monday night, after a siesta that lasted longer than planned due to my setting my wake up alarm for 545 AM not PM, I was heading out the door to the gym when i encounted a family reunion! Amanada and I got to meet all of Trini's primos y tios (cousins and aunts/uncles), they were all eating homemade tapas and being boisterous, it was great!

Tuesday's I have class from 9-10 am and then not again until 7pm, so I decided to lift after class. Oh Spain, the looks my guapos gave me once they realized I was there to lift weights. I had to improvise with a lot of the weights since there were 7 Kg but not 10Kg weights, etc. Plus there was no squat machine so I used the Smith Machine, which clearly had only previously been used for arm excersizes, for squats at which point men actually put their wieghts down and stared at me in complete and utter confusion. Whatever, they'll get used to my American weirdness eventually! It felt sooo soo good to lift, it's been over three weeks since I last lifted and so of course today my entire body aches, and it feels amazing :). Now that I have my gym, my bags, MY INTERNET, my phone, and almost all my classes I'm starting to feel like I live here rather than like a tourist.

Last night (Tuesday night) I went straight from my film class to Paddys for the Brazil France soccer game. In my class we watched a movie called Solas about women who want to be independent but don't have a lot of money/opportunities and also about a mother-daughter dynamic that was really fractured sincter her daugher wants a life completely opposite of her oppressed mother's. It was pretty intense, so leaving that and going straight to Paddy's was not an easy transition so I couldn't really adjust to the game until after our half-time Shawarma run (right across the street).

Today I got out of class half an hour early for some reason and went to a little cafe called Coffee Bella (the one owned by the English woman) and got a coffee and did some work by the window. I love people watching, it was really relaxing. Then I took a walk around Granada since I had over an hour to kill before lunch, and just enjoyed the sun and feeling like I could one day be Spanish. We had lunch with Trini's mom and brother again, and tonight we're just taking it easy and trying to conserve some money.

Csenka's flying in Friday from Toronto!!! Just in time for Valentine's day :) I'm going to reserve us tickets to see the Alhambra Saturday which I'm really excited about since I havent been there yet. But I'll write more about that tomorrow since I've already created a mini novel here!!

Oh, and also I found some cereal in a mercado and bought it since it was the closest thing to American cereals that is healthy-ish I could find :) Very very exciting for me !

Hasta Luego, hecho de menossss
(later, miss you)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

muy corto

One of the biggest differences between the US and Spain is the size of the elevators here. No joke. The elevator in our building fits "four people" ... aka 1.5 Americans. Amanda and I are normal sized girls, but when we're in that thing we're almost on top of each other. I guess that's why everyone here is so skinny, they have to fit into the elevators.

So today was my first day as a member of Do It! Gimnasio. Ahaha. I mean for less than 30 euro a month it's not bad, pretty ghetto fab but I can roll that way. The gym's about a ten min walk from the IES center, 15 or 20 from mi casa, and its really easy to get to so I can't really complain. Plus, I discovered that my new gym is the favorite hiding place for beautiful spanish men. Es la verdad. 9/10 of the hombres in Do It! were guapooooo.

Speaking of guapo, baby diego came to visit us this morning, and yesterday too. He is so cute, and such a great baby! He never cries and always gives us this lil smirk, he thinks Amanda and I are nuts I'm pretty sure. Also, Amanda's boyfriend Matt is slowly becoming my hero, he sent us a huge package today and in it there was peanut butter, nutella, and girl scout cookies :)

Amanada and I are gonna go on one of the Art History course's paseos today since neither of us could take the class, so tomorrow I'll have an exciting post :) Today ends the first week of classes, all about those tomorrow as well! Tonight we're goin to go out and probably end up at Mae West (discoteca). Hasta Lueeggoo!

Monday, February 2, 2009


Last night I went to Paddy´s Pub with some IES kids to watch the superbowl, we could only stay til 3am because Paddy told me he legally has to close at 3am or he´ll be fined 3000 euros, but he let us finish up the third quarter and then amanda and I raced home to catch the fourth (her boyfriend matt is my hero and set up his skype so we could watch his tv, which let us actually see some of the commercials too haha). It was so weird, there were only three of us rootin for pittsburgh, but I stood my ground and we were pretty rowdy. There were a bunch of americans there but they all didnt care about either team so were just rootin for the cardinals since they´re the underdogs, which in most situations is understandable, but if barack obama is for the steelers you´d think the europeans would be too just be default. Only lame parts were, 1.) the announcers were british which was entertaining, but just not the same 2.) we didn´t see any of the commercials, which has never been that big a deal to me but budweiser always pulls out a few gems! During the skype quarter we saw the polamalu\joe green coke commercial, which made me smiile. When we won it felt SO good, but Trini was asleep, I was in Granada, Spain, and had no one to go crazy with. It still hasn´t fully hit me that we´ve won because I´m not surrounded by my steeler nation, but I´m still ecstatic, and am going to hunt down Santonio Holmes to marry. It is fate.

Anyways, I am sitting in the student center at IES after my first day of classes, and still don´t have internet at homeee! This weekend was our IES outting to Ronda y Sevilla, gorgeous cities within a few hours of Granada. I have never travelled with so many people before, and its a huge pain in the ass. But other than that it was pretty incredible. Sad thing is that I´m already getting used to the scenary and lil white villages dotting enormous mountains that we pass by on the highway, its still all gorgeous though, just not as new and exciting.

We drove to Ronda in the morning and went on paseos throughout the city and saw the arab baths and their bull fighting arena. Ronda was beautiful, and best of all sunny and ... WARM! I didnt need my coat, and the blue skies made the landscape surrounding us that much more impressive. We went to a lot of spots that allowed us to see how high up we were, there were tons of overlooks above huge valleys with little rivers, farms, rocks, and at one point a horse arena. The Arab baths were sweet, we learned about how they syphoned hot water underneath these stone rooms to make suanas and spas and all that good stuff. I took a bunch of pictures but until someone mails me my camera cord everything will remain misterioso.

A lot of the building in Ronda are extremely old, which made it really uniquely gorgeous; there were a lot of cool arab and mosque influenced buildings and arches scattered throughout the city, and especially in the older parts of Ronda. Honestly, I can´t do it justice through words, you´re gonna have to wait until I can get these pictures up! After our paseos we had lunch ... basically half a hunk of italian bread with chorizo y queso (que sorpresa!) which is officially Trini´s staple picnic lunch for amanda and me... and went to see the bull fighting arena. We went out and stood in the ring, and looking around you had no way of telling what century you were in (minus all the IES and asian tourists, of course) which was unreal. Mom, you would have hated it because we walked through all the stables where they keep the bulls and were told all about the proper way to kill the bull, etc. Apparently June is when the toro fights start in Granada and there are huge fiestas everywhere. If I´m still around I definitly want to check it out (the fiestas, not the bull fights, I don´t think I could stomach that).

We left Ronda and got to Sevilla that evening. We had free time and then a ¨fancy dinner¨... which was a cocktail party for the IES kids and IES coordinators. Possibly the most awkwardly entertaining event I´ve experianced since Supafun. Waiters brough wine and beer around along with odd snacks involving fish, fried cheese, and ham on breads, not a great dinner but it got the job done. At first everyone was just standing around (it was literally an enormous empty room, with nothing but a bar and chairs lining the permiter, no one knew what to do at first) but eventually after a few drinks class pictures were taken and everyone was laughing. Oh, IES.

The next day we got up early and ventured around Sevilla. It was a beautiful day, a little chilly but sunny and wonderful. We visited the Cathedral where Columbus´s tomb is and the palace (whose name I should remember but dont at the moment, i´ll edit this later). Everything was so gorgeous, all the tiles on the floors, walls, and ceilings were so intricate, colorful and beautiful it was overwhelming! There was a wedding and a baptism going on in the cathedral while were there, I missed the wedding but saw the baby girl carried by on her way to the baptism, so cute. We also climbed all the way up to the top tower of the cathedral which had the perfect views of Sevilla from all angles. Again, the pictures will hopefully help give you a better idea of everything!

That night we saw a flamenco performance, which I still cant decide how I feel about. It was extremely intense, and entertaining to watch. But the flamenco beats are so sporadic and hard to follow, its not easy to listen to. And the singer kind of wailed, it almost sounded like native american music at points, I don´t know .. I´ve never seen flamenco before so I guess I had this preconceived idea of what it should be, and it was nothing like the brightly dressed women dancing with flowers image that I have in my head. Afterwards we went home, grabbed some tapas and went to a few bars. We wanted to go to a discoteca, but we were american and not allowed in, it was really strange. Oh and also, by nightfall, the rain found us again. Sheets of rain. The next morning I originally wanted to go to an art museum (there were a bunch of optional trips) despite getting to bed around 5am, but when we woke up it was literally monsooning so we just hung around the hotel. Everyone who went came back soaked and pissy, and I´m not exagerating, people were ringing out their shirts and making HUGE puddles on the floor of the lobby. It was pretty miserable.

On the way home we stopped at a rest stop. This is one of the things America does better than Spain ever will. First of all we pull up and there are probably at least 8 other huge tour buses there. It had just stopped pouring rain so we didn´t bring our rain gear in, and outside of the restaurant it reeked of weed. Inside, it was a mad house. You could either go to a restuarant, ¨self-servicio¨ deli ish kind of thing, a buffet, or a little store that had like 4 varieties of candy and Country-Clutter worthy trinkets. The stop was dirty, and smelly. After waiting for 20 min in the most confusing ¨line¨i´ve ever seen, waiting for the self-servicio, which no one knew what it served, our IES coordinators took a bunch of us to a buffet, which was 10 euro for the grossest food I´ve ever eaten. An hour later, by the time we are able to escape the rest stop, of course its pouring outside again. Overall miserable day, only salvaged by the steelers bringing home numero seis !!

So today was the first day of classes. I had Spanish Grammer fro 955-1055 (I placed into one of the middle advanced ones, exactly where my orientation group had been, and amanda´s in my class too which is awesome!) Then my Islam Civ class. The grammer class seems like a good fit, so i´m happy about that. The civ class was just an intro to the course and expectations, etc today, which was so boring esp because im exhausted. But the material looks sweet so hopefully today was just a bad day since it was just summarizing what we´re doing. I´m free now and planning to look up a gym, join said gym, grab some coffee, buy some notebooks, and go home for lunch around 230.

It´s supposed to rain all week, this is getting VERY annoying. All for now!

How bout them stillers??