Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Okay, some positivity.

(even though I still have one more exam...)

Okay. Now that I'm in a better mood, let's discuss some of my accomplishments here in Spain. 

1. I've already mentioned that I'm no where near where I hoped to be language-wise, but I did improve. While improving my language was a goal, it wasn't the most important thing I came here to do. I gave it some effort, not as much as I could have, but as much as I was willing to give, and I have improved a lot. No regrets. I might try to find a few Spanish speaking friends to chat with on occasion, but I will -never- take another Spanish class. I wouldn't have believed how much I could miss science.

2. Speaking of missing science, I have learned that I am definitely on the right path. Sometimes, I would wonder if I was a science major/minor just because I could be. I can handle something like the sciences, so that's what I should do, right? It was worrisome, on occasion. The last thing you want is a midlife crisis when you've gone in debt $35,000 a year for four years. But I -love- the sciences. I gave a presentation yesterday about a new study concerning prehistoric man and how scientists have examined a bunch of skulls of the first 'homo sapiens' that appeared in Africa and have found that they were even more diverse than the humans of the world today, and we have some pretty diverse skulls, as I'm sure you've noticed. Fascinating! I went on and on (it was translation class, so we were allowed to speak in english). It was great. Language is not for me. I could do it (not very well), like I have, but I don't want to. I miss science. I cannot wait to go back to studying it.

3. I have gained my independence (mostly). Okay, right now, there is nothing I want more than to curl up on the couch with Tom or go shopping for domestics with my mother, but I've gone nearly four months without these things and I have survived. I found out that I handle life much better surrounded by my parents, my boyfriend, and my beautiful perros (they had better remember who I am when I get home!). Of course, as far as being independent of my family and boyfriend, I cheated a lot. I spent a lot of time on Skype and emailed them nearly everyday, so I did have their love and support with me via crappy Spanish internet (though, they are dependent on me too, you know, so it wasn't all just me clinging to them). And I kept a very positive attitude until the end at least... kind of had a bit of a breakdown about exams and being here this past weekend, but that was the only time, which is pretty fantastic. I have some independence and I know I can handle anything.

4. Speaking of, I have really gained some confidence. Not with Spanish, but with speaking to people, in general, with just giving up when it needs to be done, with making new friends. I'm sure I still won't be comfortable being stuck somewhere with a huge group of people I don't know, but I at least won't be on the edge, poised like a rabbit, ready to leap out the window at any second. I think I've learned to relax (not when it comes to my grades, obviously, but in every day life situations).

5. I have made some friends. Will I keep them? Tough to say. They are all really nice people, but, really, they're language majors and minors. How much do we really have in common outside of a barroom? Not that you necessarily need more in common than that when you're a college student, but... Maybe I'll try. It may end up being more of a hassle than an enjoyable friendship, as it often does, but maybe not. We'll see... The point is that I did make friends. Most people seemed to like me. There were a few that I didn't really talk with, who didn't really talk to me, but that's typical of life. I felt very different from everyone else here (for many reasons...), but I didn't feel ostracized. Just being liked in general is a very fulfilling accomplishment.

6. Umm... Five is more than enough... 

Well, I have come to Spain. I have overcome the difficulty. I have grown into a more independent, more confident, more outgoing person (I think, anyway). I have had a fantastic time (mostly...) during the last semester of my undergrad. I have encountered part of the person I am striving to be: myself, only better.

Bring on the rest of life!

(And I promise I'll update about Valencia, spring break, Segovia, and the rest of my adventures when I get home!)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

AYA Spain: What I've Encountered...

Some last comments about Spain (while I'm still here) for those of you thinking about studying abroad through AYA Spain.

Will I be able to communicate with my limited Spanish?

Well, that depends, really. I came here with the lowest level of Spanish that you can be allowed to come here with, I just got out of 202 in the fall, and I would have to say that the program should not allow students to come without at least completing either 351 or 352 first. I would -highly- recommend, for those of you looking to come and who have only just completed 202, take either 351 or 352 first. I was completely lost pretty much the entire time I've been here. I can understand  a lot of what my teachers say to me, as they often use worksheets or other visual aids to help you follow along, but anyone else... less than 3/4 of what they are saying. That's enough to get the gist, but not enough to hold a conversation. And I've been here four months...

There are six of us in 351. The one girl had lived in Madrid for a year already and knows Spanish perfectly, but BG wouldn't let her test out of 351 and 352, so she was way ahead of us and doesn't count. Another girl seemed to do pretty well. She had a couple of really close friends (that she was basically attached to the entire time) in the program who are at a higher level than her, so she practices with them and has them to help her out if she's struggling at all. But the other four of us... probably not the best idea for us to be here. One word: struggling. There is a guy who knew a few Spaniards from Madrid and he hangs out with them. He has more trouble in class than just talking to Spanish people, but the grades are one of the biggest things your taking away from the experience.

I'm not saying that it's impossible, but I am saying it makes it much harder than they claim. You will not find the classes easier and you will have to work harder to maintain the grades you get at BG. Maybe I'm being dramatic and they will all give me all A's at the end for effort or something, but looking at the syllabus and what they are claiming to expect, much more effort has gone into these classes than I think I would have had to put into 351 or 352 at BG.

Outside of difficulty, how is school, in general?

School is a 30+ minute walk away. And thank God because you need to get some exercise to counter how much food they give you here (well not all the host families, but mine at least... I'll speak more on that later). You won't want to pay for the bus everyday and you'll get used to the walk. No big deal. The school resembles a middle school more than a university. It's a satellite campus and is located far away from most of the Spaniard students. We have a few Spaniards that take classes in the school, not with us, of course, but in general. They will want nothing to do with you and view you mostly as an unavoidable annoyance. I was totally okay with this. I've found the Spanish youth to be far more immature than, well, the American students that study abroad. Just don't be surprised. If you want to find Spanish friends, you'll need to look in the bars, become a regular at a food or coffee spot, or set up an intercambio, which involves randomly emailing people from a list and asking to hang out with them. Most people found one or two intercambios that they really could spend time talking to. I didn't bother. I just wasn't comfortable with the whole thing. If the school had set something up for us, that would have been different. I don't particularly trust the Spanish, you see.

Classes were all held in the same room in hour and half blocks. If you manage to set up your schedule like mine, you can sit in the same seat for 4 1/2 hours straight. It's not as bad as it sounds. The syllabus for a class was typically midterm, final, big presentation, a few written works, giant final project. Not too bad. Except right now when I have two huge projects and finals looming before me. I'm taking four classes, each with 100% possible grade (of course), so 400% possible total. 105% of the 400% is going to be concentrated into tomorrow and Wednesday of this week. And I need to prepare to go home on Friday. If that's not stress, I couldn't tell you what is.

How did your Spanish improve?

My Spanish improved a lot. I picked up all kinds of new vocabulary. I have much less trouble conjugating verbs, still lots, but much less. I can understand far more than I could last semester. Am I nearly fluent? Not even close. In fact, if fluency is your goal, you need to come for the year because it takes about five months being here before you even begin to think, "Hey, I'm getting the hang of this," according to the year students I've spoken with. You spend at least the first three months walking around in a fog and a state of confusion, or trying earnestly and failing most of the time. I was told three weeks and you'd be fine. I still am not fine. I didn't try as hard as I could have. I didn't get an intercambio, I didn't strike up conversations with strangers on the street, our entire group almost outright refused to speak to one another in Spanish, and I barely spoke with my host family. People get frustrated with you quick. Once they've taken nearly two minutes to help you understand a phrase that takes takes less than 15 seconds to say, they tend to say less and less and less the next time. And the accent is nearly impossible. I had to relearn every word I've ever known. I'm not an audio-learner, you see, which is why I'm not a Spanish major or minor. I couldn't even learn a new word unless I tried to keep the basic sound of it in my head and then looked it up to see how it was actually spelled and to clarify the meaning. My Spanish improved a lot, but I could never walk up to a spanish-speaking person on the street and have a decent conversation. It would be filled with me asking them to repeat themselves and them asking me to repeat myself. Too frustrating to think about.

How was your host family?

I was partnered with a graduate student, who is completely fluent in Spanish and very intimidating. I refuse to speak my crappy broken Spanish in front of her, which makes practicing at home almost impossible. My host mom was fantastic. Sweetest Spanish lady ever. A little odd, but she's Spanish... so what can you expect? She didn't clean as much as everyone else's family seemed to. And she only did my laundry every once in awhile. I would -strongly- recommend bringing two weeks worth of underwear as I did. Most students said that their host moms did their laundry every other day. Sometimes I would wait around for awhile. It bothered me on the level that I couldn't control when my laundry was done - I do my own in the US, but it wasn't that big of a deal. I wasn't happy when I put two pairs of jeans in the basket and didn't see either of them for 4 and 1/2 weeks. I was nearly ready to complain when I got them back. Not sure what happened there. The food is terrible, but it's Spanish food. Bland bland bland and full of disgusting things like beans and ham and sausage. I will never eat beans or tuna again in my life. Three + times a week is far too many for such foods. One girl had a family that had a member who was a trained chef, I believe, and she said her food was amazing. Most people claimed it was hit and miss. But don't think that because you don't like the food you are able to not eat it. You can tell them you don't like it, but that's much harder than you would imagine. And you have no control over your portion size, at least not in my house. She gives you a gigantic plate of food and if you don't finish all of it... you must be ill, or upset, or not like her cooking, or maybe you need to go to the doctor... I've gained so much weight because I'm eating well over 3X what I would normally eat in the US.

Some people lost weight. The girl with the chef in the family, one of the guys whose host mom didn't feed him properly (it's looking like she will no longer be given any students, so no worries there) and a few other people that just learned what exercise was in having to walk everywhere. But the vast majority put on a few pounds at least. And then a few of us, me and my roommate included, put on 10+ pounds and are going to have to go home looking far heavier than we did before we came. Embarrassing... I have recently lost the ability to fit into my jeans. I cannot wait to get home and start eating normal portions at decent times. Explain to me why any culture would think it was a good idea to eat a gigantic meal at nearly 10pm, right before you go to bed. It's madness. 

That's enough for now, I think. 

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Here we go...

I've tried three separate times to write something. I was unhappy with every result. Just know that I'm very busy and am working on getting everything written down. I promise to post when I get a chance... which may be after May 1st.

I'm just not in the mood.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Layout of My Life Until May First

Well, I feel like I've neglected March a bit, so here's another quick update. I would write all about my Valencia trip, but I don't really have the time right now. I am planning on getting up fairly early and trying to go to the Rastro for a bit. Let's hope anyway.

The weather here has suddenly turned to crap. I'm not sure what's going on, but it's definitely not a day where you would want to be outside. I was planning on going to Salamanca today, but after coming down with a bit of a cold and realizing I'd probably be miserable the entire time, I postponed the trip. 

Instead of traveling, I spent the day planning for Spring Break. While I have no day-by-day plans as far as what I'm going to see, I at least have places to stay, transportation (almost), and a good idea of what needs to be done before I leave on Wednesday night. I'm not planning on taking my laptop with me because 1) I am staying in hostels, so it could get stolen; 2) I am going to be traveling a lot, so it could get broken; 3) I think at least London has a different plug type for the outlet, so charging it might be a pain; 4) I'm not checking a bag with any of my flights, so a heavy laptop might cause problems when I'm trying to make weight for a carry-on; 5) etc. It just seems like a better idea to not take it. Most of the hostels that I'll be staying in have computers that you can pay to use, so I can keep up with my email at least. This means no more updates after Wednesday until April 15. Sorry!

I also planned out the rest of my stay, day-by-day. It is as follows (forgive this jumble, but it might come in handy later if you're wondering what I'm up to):

3/29: Rastro, Carrefour shopping, Homework

3/30: School

3/31: Homework

4/1: School, Packing, Leave for Spring Break

4/2-4/3: Rome

4/4: Venice

4/5: Rome (Palm Sunday Mass at the Vatican!)

4/6: Rome, Paris, London - intense!

4/7-4/10: London with a trip to Stonehenge and Bath

4/11-4/13: Paris

4/14: Paris, Madrid

4/15: School

4/16-4/17: Salamanca

4/18: Segovia

4/19: Rastro, Valley of the Fallen Monument, Madrid

4/20-4/26: Nonstop studying for finals

4/27-4/29: Nonstop studying and finals

4/30: Packing, Pictures, Partying - Last day in Spain!!

5/1: 18 straight hours of plane rides, connections and layovers, hooray! Also, it seems likely that I will miss my connection back to Detroit, so better add another 4 or 5 hours until the next one leaves (God, I hope not... please pray for me!)

Okay. So that's the rest of my trip in a nutshell. I hoping it goes by quickly, which it really seems like it should from that jam-packed schedule I've set myself. I really really want to see Salamanca and Segovia, so let's hope that leaving them until the last possible minute doesn't come back to bite me.

Well, I should try to get some sleep if I'm going to get up in the morning. I'm not sure if I'll be able to sleep, but I'm going to try my best. I hope I feel better soon. I'd hate to spend my entire Spring Break feeling like this.

I can't wait to get home. Spain has been nice, but it's not home.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Granada, Finally

Okay. Granada.

Thank goodness that my teachers make me write two separate essays about each of our trips (really?) so that I can actually remember what we did in Granada. Two weeks ago is a long time ago. So much has happened between now and then that I could have easily forgotten it all. Between my essays and my pictures, I think I can still give a pretty good account of what happened.

To begin:

Our trip to Granada was the last school planned trip of the semester, which means it was also the last time I had to get on that bus for a 6 and some hour drive. Even the thought of the smell of that bus gets to me. It didn't help that during every stop, the bus driver would spray the place down with some kind of chemical cleaner that would try to kill you every time you got back on the bus.

Eight in the morning meeting time in the Plaza Cervantes. I decided that I was leaving early in order to get a window seat on the bus no matter what, but no worries. We left at a decent time and so many people skipped this trip (mostly because it was during Bowling Green's spring break and many people had friends coming to visit them) that I got my very own seat. It was amazing. I curled up in a little ball and slept and slept. I was probably awake for a total of 1/2 an hour on a 6 hour bus ride. 

Our first stop was this little town in Castilla-La Mancha that claimed some kind of fame for something about Don Quijote. I caught a glimpse of some old-fashioned windmills up on a hill, but I was too disoriented to hear the history behind the little town. They kicked us out of the bus and into the cold where I stood in the sun until we were allowed to get back on the bus.

Our next stop was at a rest-stop where we all ate our bocadillos (sandwiches). A couple of the guys thought that they would be manly and try to climb the mountain and that was kind of entertaining. I just sat in the sun. It was amazing. Although I realized that I had forgotten my sunglasses just as I was walking away from the bus, jumped back on to grab them and turned around to realize that the doors had shut on me and I was basically locked on the bus. I called to get the drivers attention as he was walking away. When he opened the door for me, I think he may have been cussing me out (because he's Spanish), but I didn't understand him enough to be sure.

We arrived in Granada and headed straight for La Alhambra. Granada is in the south of Spain, about an hour away from the Mediterranean, so it was fantastic weather. La Alhambra was the last stronghold of the Muslims before the re-conquest by Ferdinand and Isabella when they kicked out all the Muslims in 1492. At La Alhambra, there is a Nazarian (the last reign of Muslims in Granada were called the Nararis) palace that was constructed in 14th century. This place was gorgeous. They had a ton of water and fountains and the like because water was apparently the symbol of purity. And this place had amazing views. 

Stairway at La Alhambra with water flowing down the railings. I thought it was a fantastic picture and a very unique "fountain".

View of Granada from La Alhambra. Apparently gypsies live in caves in that mountain. And rebel teenagers hellbent on disappointing their parents.

Pond in La Alhambra with a bit of a view in the background. I loved the reflection of the building. That's moorish architecture with the arches and patterns.

Also at La Alhambra are the Gardens of the Generalife (and I forget what that means right now). There was a summer home for the Muslim leaders here. But the gardens are just beautiful themselves. In Granada, or just outside of it, is the tallest mountain on the peninsula: Mulhacen. The view of the palm trees in the garden with a background of the snow-covered Mulhacen was an amazingly gorgeous scene. Lastly, we visited La Alcazaba. This is a fortress and is pretty much in ruins. It was fun to climb on though, and we got some great views of Granada and the landscape from the top of the tower. 

There it is. A palm tree and a snow-covered mountain. Beautiful.

Part of the Palace. This is the place that you usually see when people bring up pictures of La Alhambra. You can see why. Gorgeous. Cute little fountains too.

I felt like we wandered around La Alhambra forever. I eventually got sick of taking pictures. It's a hard balance to enjoy something by actually looking at it while you are there and enjoying something through your camera lens in order to have a picture of it for later. When we finally left La Alhambra, we made our way to the hotel. The bus stopped in the middle of the street and we all had to jump off, grab our stuff and run inside. Unfortunately, in my rush, I cracked my head on the luggage compartment of the bus and had to feel unwell for quite a bit after that. I used my break before dinner to hang out with a few people. It was one of the graduate student's birthday, so I went with her friend to the Corte Ingles to pick out a children's book in Spanish that she will be able to use in her classroom. Then we wandered all over the hotel finding the people in our group to sign it. It was cute. I also used this time to allow a girl who began beauty school to cut my hair. She just took off a few inches, but it's still past my chin. I really contemplated getting it all chopped off, really short boy cut hair, which I've always wanted to do, but have never had the cuts, but I thought about how if it looked terrible, everyone would remember me as that girl that got that really terrible haircut. And then someone else mentioned that I'll be graduating soon and I wouldn't want to chance a horrible haircut before graduation pictures. The haircut turned out nicely and I went to dinner. Some people noticed, but most didn't. Everyone said it looked nice though, like you have to when someone gets a haircut.

Dinner was amazing. It was an all-you-can-eat buffet. I loaded two full plates because free food means that you have to stuff yourself past full. It was pretty fantastic. I can't remember everything I ate right now, but I do recall piling on three forms of potatoes. After dinner, we all went out for the grad student's birthday. I had my customary tequila, but I didn't actually drink very much. Alcohol is expensive and it's difficult to order drinks when your spanish isn't great. 

Hour and a half shower because hot showers at 3 in the morning are amazing, then bed. We had a breakfast buffet, which was not nearly as good as dinner buffet, but tolerable. Then we were off to Salobreña, a costal town on the Mediterranean where the Spaniards go on vacation, but the tourists don't. For some reason, we all decided that it would be a good idea to climb a mountain to reach this moorish castle. The climb about killed me especially because I wasn't feeling so great after very little sleep and an hour in that horrible bus. But the view was amazing. The Spanish have a word that means a view of the sea from a mountain: (fondo) acantilado. Acantilado also means cliff, but if you use it with fondo (background), it means a view of the sea from a mountain, basically. And it was gorgeous. I'm going to go with - it was worth the horrible horrible climb to the top, but only barely. Our climb down wasn't nearly as bad, naturally, and we made our way to the coastline. 

My shorter hair, but it's blowing in the wind so it looks bad. This is me and that's the coast. Simple enough, yet gorgeous in every way...

We then found out that we had around five or six hours to do whatever we wanted. I went to a chinos and bought myself a hat. I think it's a fantastic hat, but I might be the only one to think so. I needed to cover my head from the sun either way. I went with two grad students to find some lunch. We finally settled on this place on the sea, like right on the beach with a dock that hangs over the water. We ate inside out of the sun. I got to try gazpacho (cold tomato soup) for the first time in my life - AMAZING - and I ate some paella, which was only so so. The thing I hate about paella is that it's supposed to be naturally colored yellow due to the saffron (I think it's saffron), but because saffron is expensive, they color it yellow with food dye, and because a lot of it is food you handle, your hands get dyed yellow, which makes me very uncomfortable about my insides being dyed yellow too.

Then I sat on the beach. I love the beach, more than any other region. I basked in the sun and tried my hardest to not get burned, which I managed successfully. In fact, I don't believe that I even tanned. I took a break from the beach (it was too cold to swim, in my opinion) to get some raspberry sherbet.

Back on the bus, blugh!, we went back to the hotel to hang out for a bit until dinner. After dinner, the girl who cut my hair straightened it for me. It looked fantastic. I seriously contemplated buying a straightener, but considering that I wouldn't be able to bring it home with the voltage differences and stuff, I decided against it.

We then packed onto tiny buses to visit Albaicín and Sacromonte, old Muslim districts within Granada. There are Arab and Muslim public baths in the area and many churches that were built on top of the places where there used to be Muslim mezquitas (done after the re-conquest of Granada by the catholics). There is also the view of Saint Nicholas, which provided a fantastic view of La Alhambra lit up at night, a view that my camera just couldn't handle. I couldn't figure out how to set it for night pictures...

La Alhambra, lit up at night from the View of Saint Nicholas. Rough picture, but it was beautiful. I wish I could have gotten the full effect with the camera, but alas...

Then we went to see a Flamenco show. Everyone thought it was absolutely amazing. I thought it was okay. I have very sensitive ears and they were all clapping in this really intense rhythm that hurt my ears. Mostly, I thought the dancing looked angry and very painful. They stomped and stomped and stomped and those women had thighs like a redwood. I had absolutely no desire to learn, though I was one of the only ones. It was interesting and the dresses were beautiful. It wouldn't have looked nearly so angry if they would have flashed a smile or something. Two groups was enough. But it was a fantastic look at a different culture.

Flamenco dancers. Enough said.

After the Flamenco show, I went out with a few people from the group and our group advisors. Everyone was pretty exhausted (the beach 

will do that do you) and no one stayed out very long, except... me and two other people. It was the last night of the last trip of the semester. We were not going to waste it sleeping! We danced like crazy and then decided to head out. I will never miss smelling like smoke. If Wood county has one thing right, it's the public places smoking ban. Well, still not ready to go home, we wandered around Granada for awhile. We decided to chronicle our night by taking millions of photos. We ran across a couple of chairs that someone had thrown away and we used them as props for our picture-taking. It was a fantastic night.

Around 4:30 in the morning, we decided that we were hungry. Not knowing Granada and not knowing where a good place to eat would be located, we stopped 6 different groups of people who pointed us in various directions until we found a guy that mentioned Donar Kebab. We weren't quite sure of the directions, but finally we found people eating Kebabs and we just followed one person after another all of the way to the door of the shop. It was the first time I had eaten a Donar Kebab and it was fantastic. It was like Taco Bell, open when you need it and very cheap, but it tasted a million times better. 

We then made our way back to the hotel for a good two hours of sleep. Sunday morning, we went to la Capilla Real, a part of the cathedral of Granada. The bodies of Isabel and Ferdinand are located here and we got to see their tomb. The alter was kind of creepy with scenes of John the Baptist getting his head chopped off and the other John being boiled alive. We wandered around Granada for a bit more before we got on the bus for our trip home. 

Rather boring trip back. I slept most of the time again. We stopped and

 ate tortilla bocadillos and I had a Fanta límon. I'm not quite sure why they don't sell Fanta as fountain drinks in the states, but I really think that they should. Really. I love Fanta límon, although it is lacking caffeine, an essential for a college student.

Well, that took for absolutely ever. And uploading these pictures is going to take longer. I'll be sure to try to get my trip to Valencia posted soon, but I do have a million things to do. School is rough right now. 

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Things I will and won't miss about Spain

Last weekend, I went to Granada. Tomorrow, I'm going to Valencia for Las Fallas. I don't have the energy to write about my Granada trip yet (it takes a lot out of you to remember these things and put them in order, etc.) and next week is going to be just as busy (if not more) than this week, so look for a post about Granada on Thursday... cross your fingers anyway.

Right now, a quick post to put off packing. I can't imagine giving up procrastinating. I've found it's really for the best. If I work ahead, I go back and edit and revise and drive myself crazy with whatever it is I'm working on. And then I come to loathe whatever it is I'm working on, for taking up so much of my time, for not ever being exactly the way I want it to be, etc. If I took this working ahead approach in everything I did, it's possible, and possibly even likely, that I would come to loathe everything I do. Now what kind of life would that be? No. I'm a procrastinator for life. Let's hope I can get through medical school with this logic.

Time for: Things I won't miss about Spain.

1. The building where I go to school. It was huge lie that we were going to go to the University of Alcalá. The Americans, from Bowling Green at least, are shoved into this tiny school way out in the middle of nowhere. It's also the school where the English-education majors go, I think, as the hallways are decorated with children's books and posters in English. It looks far more like a middle school than a college. And, in order to print, you have to put whatever it is that you want printed on a flashdrive, give it to the librarian (at this excuse for a library building) who prints whatever you want, and then you have to pay five cents a page. I -really- miss Bowling Green, where I can mosey into any computer lab I want, sit down at a computer, print 300 pages of whatever I wish while checking my email or otherwise wasting time on the internet, and then mosey on out. No money, no hassle.

2. Electricity issues. A lot of Spanish lights are on timers, which is a huge hassle when you are trying to use the restroom and the lights go out on you and you can't quite remember where the switch was, so you try to find it without actually touching the walls, because who wants to touch the walls in a public bathroom? I don't actually have a big problem with this. I think it's a really good idea for public buildings and they probably save a ton in electricity costs. The problem is the lack of outlets. We fight over outlets at school in order to plug in laptops and the like. And it's impossible to find them elsewhere. The first day I arrived, I used the airport restroom and I couldn't quite figure out why there were two girls sitting in the bathroom watching a movie on a laptop until I realized that it was plugged into the outlet that they had unplugged the hand-dryer from. Ridiculous.

Things I will miss about Spain.

1. The kids. It's a little depressing when you hear a 5 year old speaking and it's painfully obvious that they can speak Spanish far better than you can, but the kids are adorable. One day, I was walking to school and heard a kid talking. I think he was probably around 7 years old. I wasn't really paying attention to him until I heard him say, "Por ejemplo", which means "for example". At first, I was a little amused to hear a phrase that all of my teachers say and have said for as long as I have been taking Spanish. But then I stopped and thought about it. What kind of kid says "for example"? What kind of 7 year old qualifies his monologue through exemplification? I was a bit blown away, but it's possible that he was just a crazy smart kid. Then, the other day, on the way home from Granada, I was walking through the plaza. It was filled, absolutely filled, with people. They shut down the streets around the plaza on Sundays and everyone goes there (when it's nice out, which it was) to sit and talk. There was a man selling balloons and every available seat was filled. It was nice. Anyway, I was just about to cross the street to leave the plaza when a little girl (I'm going to go with 5 or 6 years old) dashes across the street to reach the plaza, turns around to look at her parents, puts her arms straight up in the air, and yells "LA PLATHA!" (remember that the Spanish lisp, so I spelled it the way it sounded) in the happiest voice. Her father laughed and said, "Sí, la plaza. Yay!" I cracked up. This little girl sounded like she had just arrived at Cedar Point when she was only going to the plaza, which she probably passes everyday on her way to school or something. I mean, yeah, there was a guy selling balloons, but I didn't feel it warranted an arms-in-the-air rejoice. It was adorable.

2. My host mom. She is great. She calls me so many different things that I have trouble keeping up. She usually prefaces it with "AAY!". I believe I mentioned that she calls me "pobrecita" whenever I'm struggling with something (poor little one). She calls me "carino" a lot, which is "loved one" or "darling" or she'll say, "AAY, mi niña!" (my child). Today, I realized that she had been calling me "cielo" for awhile and I only just put together that she was calling me "heaven". But my absolute favorite was the day she called me "brujita" (little witch). I'm not a big fan of the breakfast here. I usually eat cereal, but I'll never really be able to stomach the milk. Usually, on my days off, I'll sleep in pretty late and then stay in my room until it's lunch time. One day, I had to go to the school to meet my partner to work on a project on my day off. I didn't really want to eat any breakfast, so I got ready and packed up and tried to sneak out the door. "AAY, brujita!" She caught me and she wasn't very happy about it. I could only crack up. She forced me to take a roll and a juice box with me when I insisted that I didn't have the time to eat. She's fantastic. 

Well,  I need to pack and then get some sleep. I'm going to be up all night tomorrow night. The city should be one big party. Let's hope because we can't check into our hostel until 9 in the morning.

I'll write next Thursday.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A bit of an update

Today was the 11th of March. It marked the anniversary of the March 11th terrorist bombings of the train here in Spain. If I understand correctly, the train that was bombed was the one that travels through my city, Alcalá de Henares, to Madrid. There is a nice statue by our train station where people lit candles and laid flowers all day. It's been five years and although the whole of Spain didn't feel these attacks quite like the whole of the United States felt September 11th, today is their September 11th.

The weather has been just gorgeous lately. Although it's still a bit cold in the mornings, around 4˚C (39˚F), by the time I head home for lunch, it's around 21˚C (70˚F). Today, the thermometer at the train station said 28˚C (82˚F), which I think may have been a lie because weather sites say that the high today was 71˚F. I've only been wearing my coat in the mornings and it's been fantastic. I'm going to Granada this weekend, and as Granada is in the south, I guess it's supposed to be even nicer (or hotter). Supposedly, our hotel has a pool, so maybe I'll go swimming.

I'm going to get my hair cut this weekend, which I think I may have already said, but I'll be so glad to get rid of it that I'm saying it again. I hate when it gets long and just hangs. Drives me nuts. I've been wearing it up more and more. It'll be nice not to have it hang on my neck as it continues getting hotter.

What else? I have soo much too do. I found out today that my huge essay that's worth a lot of my grade is actually due next week, and not the week after like I originally thought and planned for. So that's going to be fun. At least she pushed it back to Wednesday, when it was originally due Monday, because that just wouldn't have happened. I was going to try to work on not procrastinating anymore, but it's not quite working, so I decided I'll work on it later. I figure that it'll be better to pile everything into one stressful week. Time really flies when you're on a deadline. 

Well, I probably should get something done... Maybe.