Cordoba y mi Practica

Man oh man I didn’t realize how hard it was to keep posting!  It usually takes me a while to write a post, so I don’t always feel like doing it haha but I must! I must keep the people informed of my “adventures.”

Anyway, my most exciting adventure recently was my viaje (trip) to Córdoba last friday to visit Madinat al-Zahra and La Mezquita (literally “The Mosque”). What an incredible adventure! Plus, my guide was my Islamic Art and Architecture teacher, which was awesome (drawback being she made us take notes).

We got to Madinat al-Zahra first. Madinat al-Zahra is basically an archaeological ruin now, which used to be a city, right outside of Córdoba. It was established by the Muslim Caliph Abd al-Rahman III. Whenever a new caliph took over, it was customary for him to build a city as a demonstration of his power, so Madinat al-Zahra was his. People were given 400 dirhams, the currency at the time, to move to the new city and establish their homes there. Some even had summer homes, or almunias, there. We got to walk through the ruins of the caliph’s palace, which was really cool. It was divided into two parts, a public part and a private part. As you might guess, the public part was the space for performing daily administrative tasks (just to clarify, a caliph is a Muslim political leader – think of it as something similar to being the “Holy Roman Emperor,” but not). It was amazing (look for my pictures on Facebook). Also, in addition to the cool ruins, there were about a thousand bajillion caterpillars. ¡Que asco! (Gross!)

After Madinat al-Zahra we went into Córdoba and wandered around for about an hour before actually going into La  Mezquita. It was really pretty, a beautiful view, but Granada is still my favorite of course! When we finally went into La Mezquita, I was just blown away by how incredibly beautiful it was. The beautiful arches and images and bright colors. It was just incredibly amazing. It’s no surprise that it took almost 400 years to complete! The other kind of neat thing about La Mezquita is that it’s not every day that you find a Catholic church in the middle of a mosque. Yes, you read that correctly. After the Christians took over Spain, of course the first thing that they did was make cathedrals out of mosques, so there is a ton of Christian imagery throughout La Mezquita, which is also absolutely beautiful.

I thought I’d provide a little bit of an update on my internship too, or my “práctica.” I work for an organization called the Unión Iberoamericana de Municipalistas, or “The Iberoamerican Union of Municipalities.” The work in Latin America and take a subsidiarity approach to fostering democratic development. Specifically I work with their Escuela Superior de Gobierno Local, a graduate program where students from Latin America can get their master’s degrees in things like democratic development, political marketing, development management, and other things of that nature. When I first started, my work was pretty tedious. I did a lot of organizing. I wasn’t entirely surprised, because a) I’m an intern b) I’m new and they need to gain my trust c) Spanish is not my native language so they need to see what my comprehension level is before they give me anything important. I’ve slowly started doing more exciting things. Right now I’m in the process of making dossiers for some of the courses that EGL will be offering in the fall. It’s pretty cool. The people I work with are awesome too. This one man I work with, José, is Peruvian, and he knows I’ve been to Peru, so we became pretty fast friends. He loves talking to me because he knows I share is love for Peru! He’s also kind of the office DJ (I now refer to him as DJ José) and plays lots of great music. There’s also César. He’s pretty quiet most of the time, but he’s very friendly. Marta and Rosalinda are the ones who sort of run my area of the office and they’re both really great, super nice. This morning I went to  breakfast with Marta and some other women from different offices in la UIM. I really love this Spanish schedule. In my seminar we talk about how Spaniards are “policrónicos,” meaning that they have a loose sense of time. We all went out to breakfast probably about an hour and a half after I got there and I’d be willing to bet we were gone for 30 or 40 minutes. But hey! It’s part of the culture! They do this every day! Inma told me that going out to breakfast with my coworkers is really important for getting to know them and really integrating myself. I had a lot of fun just sitting and chatting  with them! Of course I just listened for the most part, really trying to get my listening comprehension down. But it was a nice relaxing break to get me pumped up to finish the rest of my work. I did stay about half an hour later than I was supposed to to make up for it, but I didn’t mind. I didn’t have anything else to do, and I really like where I work!

At first I was nervous that this internship was a mistake because I was afraid that I wasn’t getting any experience that would be relevant to what I want to do. I may not be saving the third world like I hoped, but I’m coming to realize that I’m still getting some very valuable internship experience. First of all, I’m learning how to work with people of a different culture. Obviously, since I want to go into international development, that’s going to be a really important skill. All cultures work differently so it’s important to notice what works and what doesn’t work, what’s okay and what’s not, so that we can work together peacefully and effectively. I’m also learning a new style of work. Up until now my summer jobs have always been retail. Now I’m in a completely different environment. I’m responsible for myself. My boss assigns me a task and trusts that I will complete it and complete it well. She doesn’t check up on me constantly like managers in retail often do. She explains my assignment to me (always providing me with an example first to make sure that I understand exactly what it is I have to do, which is really nice) and sends me on my merry way to complete it. I’ve even been trusted with taking things to the post office! That felt pretty cool. I feel like I’m really becoming a part of the office community now. When I eat lunch with them on Thursdays the all like to tease me about the huge sandwiches that Inma always makes for me (seriously, she pretty much uses an entire loaf of bread to make my sandwich, and also provides me with a juice box, an apple, and something sweet). They chat about cultural differences with me so that I can learn a little more about Granada, and they in turn can learn a little more about the U.S. We even do a little bit of a language exchange sometimes! For example, they taught me the Spanish quote, “Dar cera, pulir cera,” and I taught them its English counterpart: “Wax on, wax off.” I absolutely love working there! Well, my lunch is getting cold, so I’m off! Hasta luego!

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Llevo Un Mes En Granada

What does the title of this post mean? It means that I’ve been in Granada for one month. Crazy, right? It feels like I’ve been here forever and at the same time like I’ve been here since yesterday. It’s insane. But I’m loving every second of being here!

My week was a pretty average school week, nothing particularly out of the ordinary or exciting to report. But, today was a pretty fun day!

Today I got up and went to this place called Mercadona with a friend of mine. It’s basically just a supermarket but I had heard so many legendary stories of this place, mostly because it’s the only place anyone has been able to find that sells peanut butter, even though it’s €3 ($4) for a little baby tub. We walked around there for a while and I got some pretty good stuff, including a giant box of corn flakes that I am so excited to dig into. After Mercadona, we just wandered around different little shops along the street, and I bought myself two pairs of sunglasses and a bottle of nail polish (in addition to the three bottles I bought myself yesterday…oops…hey I like to paint my nails and I don’t have any polish! I need some variety! Sheesh!). I got it all for less than €10 too, so it was a pretty good deal.

Now, where did we go after browsing through the shops? That’s right, you guessed it, to see 101 Dalmations (or, in Spanish, 101 Dálmatas) at a nearby theater! It was so much fun! The whole movie was dubbed over in Spanish, but I was so proud of it because I understood pretty much all of it! We may have been the oldest people in there who didn’t come with children, but who cares? It’s a classic film. I had fun.

Later in the day, I met up with a friend of mine (a fellow anthropologist) to do an observation in my neighborhood for a research project we have to do. Man oh man did we pick a good time to go! It turned out that there were people rehearsing for Semana Santa processions  right when we went out to observe! It was so cool! There were a ton of men all wearing these things on their heads that kind of reminded us of what the Hebrew slaves in “The Ten Commandments” wore. We weren’t quite sure what they were or why they were wearing those specifically, but we’re going to research it and find out! They were practicing carrying this giant platform which I’m guessing will be carrying something during the procession. Watching them carry it was like watching a choreographed dance. They all took the exact same sized steps, all at the same pace, even on the same foot! Watching them pick it up was cool too – they just kind of all jumped up together and tada! There it was! I really wish I had brought my camera with me. Oh well, I’m sure they’ll be out again. After we watched them for a while we walked around and looked at all the graffiti in my neighborhood. Don’t get the wrong impression, this isn’t like gang graffiti and tagging and all that stuff, this is pure art. Not that gang graffiti isn’t almost an art in its own right, but this was made for the purpose of art. It’s all so beautiful and unique, again I wish I had brought my camera so I could share it with you! I’ll take pictures another day. It’s not like it’s going anywhere!

After taking our own little graffiti tour, we walked back to where the tapas bars are to do some final observations, but we ran into our friends with the platform again! We ran down to watch them process around a square, all the while carrying this platform. We watched for about ten more minutes before they finally left and we went back the other way. As we were leaving, we happened to notice a video store, so we thought we’d pop in and see what kind of movies they sold, which could be interesting culturally. It was awesome! We found so many movies that we recognized and loved! It was interesting too to see which titles they didn’t translate, which they did, and how they translated the ones they did. For instance, they translated the title of “National Treasure” as “La Busqueda” (“The Search”). It was really cool. I even found the “Hey Arnold!” move in Spanish (“¡Oye Arnold!”)! I’m definitely going back there.

After a day filled with such excitement, I’m back hanging out at the ol’ homestead, and I’ll probably be a nerd and go to bed soon. I have to be rested and ready to begin my next month in Granada! Hasta luego!

Wait! Before you go! Make sure that you keep checking out the new tab I put up, “Things I Want When I Get Home.” It’s a list of things I want when I get home (no, really?) that I’ll keep updating throughout the semester. Make sure you keep tabs on it! I expect to be presented with all of these things when I get back!

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La Semana Pasada

Man oh man it’s getting hard to keep up with blogging!

As I get farther and farther into the semester, I’m getting busier and busier! I suppose that being busy is better than being bored, but I’m finding it hard to find time to blog or talk to my family and friends back home! Maybe once I get even a little bit farther in, I’ll be able to better handle the different schedule that exists here in Spain and manage the time difference better. Here’s hoping!

Last week was just another week of classes, nothing particularly exciting to deal with there. I did however start my internship last week, which is pretty exciting. I’m working with the Unión Iberoamericana de Municipalistas, or the Ibero-American Union of Municipalities. Specifically I’m working with the Escuela Superior de Gobierno Local, a graduate school sponsored by the UIM where students from Latin America can obtain Master’s degrees in things like local government development. So far my work has been mostly clerical/administrative. I do a lot of uploading and filing and organizing and all that noise. The people at my office are really nice, though. Hopefully once I get a little more experience and prove myself a little more I’ll get to do more exciting things.

And then…there was my weekend. This past weekend was Carnaval in Cádiz, a city on the southern coast of Spain. Tons of people from southern Spain flock there for Carnaval every year. It’s also traditional to don a crazy costume for Carnaval. People here don’t really dress up for Halloween, so I think of this as kind of their Halloween. I ended up wearing a bright pink wig, a bright pink boa, some false eyelashes, and a crazy mask. I took the mask off eventually though because it got just a wee bit uncomfortable. People asked me what I was, and I told them that I had absolutely no idea. Something inexpensive that I found at a costume store. Eventually a couple of Spanish guys came up to me and said, “Oh! You’re Katy Perry!” to which I responded, “…yes, yes I am.” From then on, my costume, or disfraz, was Katy Perry. Solid.

Carnaval was an interesting experience, but it wasn’t quite what I expected it to be. First of all, I was in Cádiz for twelve hours, no sleep. My bus left Granada at 1:30, we got there at 6:00, and I didn’t leave until 6:00 the next morning. For twelve hours I was walking around Carnaval (in brand new shoes – needless to say the backs of my feet ain’t pretty) trying to entertain myself. For a while it really wasn’t that bad, but by the time 4:00 am rolled around, I was ready to be home. Also, I expected it to be lots of dancing and parades and that kind of thing, but basically it was just a lot of drinking. I didn’t really drink that much, just a couple cups of tinto de verano (a mix of red wine and lemon-flavored Fanta). I wanted to keep my wits about me since I was in a crowd of 1000 strangers. I’m glad that I went, because now I can say that I’ve experienced that part of Spanish culture, but I don’t know if I’m exactly dying to go back again.

When we got back on Sunday, it was about 12:30, and I had barely slept on the bus. I also was under the impression that they were going to be providing us with breakfast on my bus, but all they did was raffle off a potato salad by having everyone guess a number between 1 and 305. Turns out that they were providing us with breakfast the day before, but we got there too late. Finally we made it back to Granada, grabbed the first taxi we saw, and came right home. Inma made us a delicious lunch, and I then proceeded to pass out for about five hours. I got up to eat and Skype with my parents and my boyfriend, and then I headed right back to bed.

Nothing else particularly exciting has happened in the past couple of days. Today is Ash Wednesday, and I think that I’ve come up with a pretty interesting Lenten sacrifice. I’ve decided I’m going to give up speaking English. Yes, I’m in Spain, but I still speak a lot of English with the other American students here. For Lent I am only going to speak in Spanish, that way I’ll be better able to achieve fluency. Why am I writing in English then? Well, if I had written this in Spanish, would you be able to understand a word (obviously, Kristen, that statement does not apply to you)? I’ll obviously speak English when it’s necessary, like when I’m talking to someone who doesn’t speak Spanish or if I need to make sure that something is understood very clearly, but other than that it’s all Spanish all the time for the next forty days!

Well, that’s it for now. I just heard Inma come in so hopefully that means that we’ll be eating lunch soon. I’m starving! Hasta luego!

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No Te Preocupes, No He Muerto

This title means, “Don’t Worry, I’m Not Dead.”

Holy mackerel it’s been a long time since I’ve posted! I have been all kinds of busy this past week, so get ready for a very long (or very short…depends upon how much I can remember) summary of what I’ve been doing!

Sunday was a really fun day. It was the Feast of San Cecilio, the patron saint of Granada, so there was a huge festival going on in this part of town called Sacromonte. It was so much fun. There was free food, a ton of friends were there, and they had flamenco dancers too! They were incredible! I can’t upload videos here, but I’ll see if I can put them up on Facebook soon. It was a long day, but it was really fun.

Monday was the first day of classes. I started off with Spanish class in the morning. I really like my class and my professor. We actually started off by playing a board game, just to do a review of some vocabulary and grammar. It was strange. I consider myself to be good at Spanish, but I realized that I didn’t know how to play a board game in Spanish. I didn’t know how to say game piece, or dice, or “I rolled a three,” or “It’s your turn,” or anything like that. But now I do! I also have to keep a “personal dictionary” for the class. Basically it’s a very small notebook that I have to use to write down any new words I encounter, that way I won’t forget them. I hear new words all the time, but if I don’t make note of them or practice them right away, I forget them. This way I won’t forget!

After my Spanish class, I had an interview for an internship with the Unión Iberoamericana de Municipalistas, a Spanish non-profit that takes a ground-up approach to fostering democratic development and government cooperation in South America. It’s a really cool organization. I met with a woman named Marta, who was really nice. It was interesting, I went to the interview with a black sweater dress, tights, boots, and a nice necklace. When I walked in, almost everyone was wearing jeans. I almost felt a little overdressed! But everyone was so nice and welcoming. My interview went really well and I start tomorrow! I’ll be working the Escuela Superior de Gobierno Local, a place where South American students can come and take classes so that they can develop the tools and skills necessary to foster and aid development in their own countries. I’m not sure what my job description will be beyond that, but I’m sure I’ll find out more tomorrow.

After I got back from my interview, I went up to the common area at IES to hang out before my Flamenco class. I ended up finding some other people who were in the class, so we all went down together. The class was really interesting. The class I have Monday afternoons is a history and theory class, so we learn about the history of Flamenco as well as some of the rhythms, or at least that’s what we learned on Monday. My teacher is super cute and super nice. She also switches off between English and Spanish, which is kind of nice, although I’d probably learn more if she just spoke in Spanish. Oh well!

That night I had my first actual Flamenco class. We learned how to do the arms and then did a review of the rhythms that we had learned in class. We also practiced Flamenco walking. Flamenco is really fun, but kind of strange for me. My upper body is like I’m doing ballet, by feet are more like tap, and my hips are like jazz. My body doesn’t know what to do with itself! But I’m catching on pretty quickly. Putting those almost nineteen years of dance to good use. I also have some really awesome Flamenco shoes. Now I just can’t wait to get the dress!

Tuesday was another day of class. In my Spanish class we got some kind of cool homework. We were given big worksheets with a bunch of gestures on them, and we had to take them home to our hosts and ask them what each of the gestures meant. Some of them were the same as in the U.S., like crossing your fingers for good luck or putting your hands on your hips when you’re angry, but some of them I had never seen before, like tapping your face with your hand to say that someone has quite a nerve, or kissing your thumb to assure someone that you’re telling the truth. Very cool stuff!

After that class I went to my anthropology class, “The Spanish Experience of the Other.” For the first class, it basically felt like I was back in Anthro 101. The professor did a lot of explaining in terms of what is anthropology, what is culture, etc. etc. I suppose it was good since a lot of people in the class may never have taken anthro before, but as a major it felt a little repetitive. Oh well, I think it’s going to be a fun class. We have to do field work which is going to be really exciting. I don’t know much about it yet because we aren’t going to be doing it until a little bit later, but it should be interesting.

My next class was my Islamic Art and Architecture class. To start with, our professor talked a lot mostly about Muslim theology. It’s funny, because I know a decent amount about Islam, I just don’t know how to say it in Spanish! Especially since most of the words that I learned about Muslim religion and theology are in Arabic, like Hajj or Shahadah. Oh well. It was still a really interesting class!

After class I went home to have lunch and relax for a little while before my last class. At this point, Inma doesn’t even ask me if I want more food anymore. She just motions for me to give her my plate and loads on more food. Oh well, at least it’s delicious! Finally, I had my last class, which is an Internship Seminar. Basically each week we’re going to talk about our internships, what it’s like in a Spanish workplace, differences we notice between the U.S. and Spain, and how we interpret what happens to us at work. I’m really excited for the class to pick up once we’ve all started our internships.

Wednesday was a regular class day, but I got to go on a field trip! Every Wednesday my Islamic Art and Architecture class has a field trip to some place in Granada. This week we went to a place called Plaza Bib-Rambla, which used to be a huge center when the Muslims were in charge of Spain. We learned some neat facts about what went on in the square and how society operated under the Muslim rulers. Now, it’s lots of shops and restaurants.

Thursday was a nice relaxing day. At this point I had a cold and had pretty much lost my voice, so after I finished class at 12:30 I just went right home to relax and take it easy so that I could get better for our trip to Ronda and Seville. Alas, I relaxed, but my cold didn’t improve that much. Oh well. What was really fun on Thursday though was that I got to see this contemporary dance company perform at a nearby theater. There is a theater class at IES which I would love to take, but I already have a full course load. Anyway, they had extra tickets to the show, so I snagged one up! It was a really cool show, like I’ve never seen before. Also interesting, the company was all male. At first I was hoping that eventually there would be some female dancers to add some variety, but by the end I loved it just the way that they did it. Very cool.

Friday, I had to be on a bus at 7:45 to head off to Ronda. Being on the bus that early wasn’t very exciting, but the trip was really fun! We stopped in Ronda at about 11:00. We split into small groups to take walks around the city. I ended up going in a group where my Islamic Art and Architecture professor was the guide, so that was great because she knew a lot about everything. However, this woman was on a mission! We were all trying to stop and take pictures, but man oh man she had places to be! She was constantly telling us to keep up! But we did get to see some cool stuff. We went into an old Arab bath house which was beautiful and really interesting. We watched a movie about how the baths worked which was really neat (and of course, we watched it in Spanish!). After a few hours, we boarded the bus and were off to Seville!

When we got to Seville, we went to the hotel and unpacked our things and then some of us went off for a walk around Seville. We went down to the river first and hung around there, and it was absolutely beautiful, especially since it was later and the sun was beginning to set. From there we went to a park where Spain had hosted the World’s Fair a while back. It had a beautiful park, some statues and fountains, even a little river which ran under the huge, beautiful building where you could rent paddle boats to ride around under the building! We went inside the building too to take pictures of the city from the top. It was such an incredible view.

When we left, we all started telling Javier that we were hungry and asked if he had any restaurant recommendations. It was about 7:30 at this point. He told us that everyone was going to know that we were American, because no one in Spain eats that early. He said that we were acting very American because first of all, we were hungry very early, and second of all, when an American is hungry, they have to eat right then! When Spaniards get hungry, they think, oh I can wait, but an American has to eat immediately! He found the whole thing very funny. A few of us went to a restaurant and got tapas (although in Seville they make you pay for the tapas, you don’t get them for free like in Granada), which was a total rip-off because it was a little pricey and they even made us pay for the bread (which they just placed on our table), so we went to Burger King. So satisfying.

After our dinner, we went to  see a Flamenco show, which was again incredible. It really reminds me a lot of tap dancing, because a great part of it is the sounds and tricks that you do with your feet. The dancers were incredibly skilled. I hope that after my four months in Flamenco class I’ll be as good as them! I’m sure that’s exactly how it will work out.

The next day I got up and had what we now all refer to as an “American Shower.” I’ve told you how my Spanish showers are essentially Navy showers. But, since we were in a hotel, I could stand in the shower under nice hot water for as long as I wanted. Man oh man did I bask in that shower. It was incredible. That’s one of the best parts of our field trips. Also a good part? Huge buffet breakfasts provided by the hotel. I had bread, eggs, bacon, ham, cheese, an apple, and fresh orange juice. Such a delicious breakfast.

We got back into our groups from Ronda to go explore Seville some more. First we went to Real Alcazar, which used to be a Muslim palace but was then Christianized after the Christians took over Spain. It was beautiful, and enormous. I could have easily gotten lost, especially since they even had a hedge maze! The maze has been there ever since the palace has, and it used to be used as a form of entertainment. We wanted to play in it, but of course my guide was on a mission! Our next stop was a tour of the Cathedral in Seville. Again, just beautiful. We hiked all the way up to the top of the bell tower, which if I am remembering correctly was 33 flights. But the view from the top was definitely worth it. Such a great view of the whole city of Seville. Also, the highlight of my day happened up in that bell tower. I was going up into a window to take a picture, and a woman asked me if I could speak English. I was so excited. Why? That means that I could pass for someone whose first language was not English! I felt so European! She asked me if I could take a picture for her and I said that I would be glad to. She then asked me where I was from, and I told her the U.S. Her response to that was, “Well, yeah, I figured that, your accent was a dead giveaway. I meant what part of the U.S. are you from?” Well, there goes the European illusion. It was fun while it lasted.

After a long day of sightseeing, we finally boarded the bus back to Granada. I was able to sleep for a decent amount of it, though I also read for a while too. I was so excited when we got back to Granada. Oddly enough, I was getting kind of homesick for it! It was nice to be back in my beloved Granada, where  the tapas are free and the churros con chocolate are the best you’ve ever had.

Today, I am having a lazy Sunday. Just  hanging out in my room, snacking on little things, basically waiting for lunch. I’m considering going out for a run later, but I feel really cozy here. Oops. Hey, I did a lot of walking this weekend. I think I can have a lazy day where I just sit around and eat! So, I think I shall continue with that. Hasta luego!

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Los Tres Dias Pasados

Holy moly! This is quite unlike me not to write for a while. So many details so little time!

Well, as I said before on Sunday I met up with a friend who I haven’t seen in a couple of years. She studied in Granada last semester so she already knows the city pretty well, so she was able to show me around a lot. We went to get some tapas for lunch which was delicious, and then we went somewhere called Cafe Futbol to get coffee. I ordered something called a mokachoc, but the waiter said that I should get a different drink which he thought was better (I forget what it was called), so I did. It was the strangest thing. About a pound of whipped cream on top, very thick hot chocolate (somewhere between a cola-cao and chocolate caliente), and it had little pieces of cake or something in it. Not quite what I had been intending to consume, but oh well, it still tasted pretty good. Then we just walked all over the city. It was a great way to start getting acquainted with how things are connected so I could start getting around on my own. I even found a Dunkin Donuts! Here it’s called Dunkin Coffee, but still, they have it! Dunkin Donuts was my last meal in America because I thought they wouldn’t have it over here, but lo and behold they do! So exciting!

After my day I went home and we had hake for dinner.  It’s a kind of white fish that I have never tried before, but it tasted very similar to every other white fish. Then we had some vegetables in some sort of sauce but I forget what it was. I forget what I did for the rest of the night, but it was probably relaxing.

Monday in Spanish we talked about clothes and vocabulary you might use in a clothing store. Then, we had a really fun activity. We were each given a piece of paper with the name of a store on it, and we had to go out into the city and ask for directions to the store. Once we got there, we had so ask the people who worked there how many of that store there were in Granada, if you can return clothes, if the clothes can be returned for money or merchandise credit, and how long you had to return clothes. It was a lot of fun and I got to scope out a few places to go shopping for all kinds of fun clothes! I also went back to Cafe Futbol and tried churros con chocolate, a traditional Spanish breakfast, for the first time, and it was ALL KINDS OF DELICIOUS. There was a ton of food and it was incredibly greasy but totally worth it. After class was over, we went back home and had more hake, this time in soup. Inma told us again that she didn’t think that we ate very much. I told her I thought I was eating more than the first day I got here, but apparently she thought I should be eating even more! My body just isn’t used to eating my big meal so early in the day, but I’m quite sure I’ll adjust. Later we had the first part of our language exams, the written part. We had a few short answer questions and then sixty multiple choice. It wasn’t super difficult, but some of the multiple choice was tricky, because a lot of it was grammar that no one has gone over with me since high school, so I’ve forgotten some of the rules. Oh well. No pasa nada. I have my oral exam tonight, so hopefully that goes well.

Yesterday we talked about food in Spanish, and we had an activity to go out into a nearby market called Mercado de San Augustin. There were fruit and vegetable stands, meat stands, fish stands, chocolate shops, all kinds of places to go. We were each randomly given a recipe, and we had to go out and ask someone how to make that particular recipe, and then come back and tell the class how to make it. I got gazpacho, which is really easy to make. Basically, take tomato, cucumber, a little bit of garlic, if you want to you can add zucchini, carrots, whatever you want, and beat it. Tadaaaaa now you have gazpacho, a traditional Spanish cold tomato soup. It’s very popular in the summer, because you’re more thirsty than you are hungry, so it quenches your thirst as well as satisfies your hunger. Very clever, Spaniards.

When we got home we had soup (which Inma actually considered more of a stew) which a whole bunch of stuff in it, but I forget all the ingredients. I can tell you there was red pepper and that’s about it. Yesterday I ate a little bit more. And by a little bit I mean a lot. I had three bowls of the soup, some bread, and I don’t know what else. I thought I was going to explode, but I was hoping Inma would be pleased with me eating more of her delicious food, and indeed she was. I didn’t need to eat anything for the rest of the day, which was good because I went out with my friend who is in Granada for a couple of days with her architecture program at about 10:00. We went to a bar called La Bella y La Bestia which I had heard made really good mojitos, and so naturally I ordered one. It ended up being enormous so we shared it, since she had only ordered water. We hung out until about midnight or 12:30, then I walked her back to her hotel and made my way home (via taxi).

This morning we talked about the differences between American universities and Spanish universities, and there really are quite a few. For one  thing, it only costs one or two thousand euro to attend a university in Spain. Most of the universities are public, which is why it’s so cheap. But even for me, if I were to attend an in-state public university, I could certainly still expect to pay at the very least ten thousand dollars a year. Also, they don’t really have the concept of a “major” here. For example, if I was studying anthropology here, that’s literally all I would study. I would only take anthropology classes, nothing else. That’s why there’s no such thing as a major, minor, electives, distribution or general education requirements, nothing like that. So if someone asked me what I studied, I would just tell them that I study anthropology, Spanish, and education studies. If I told them that those were my major and minors they would have no idea what I was talking about. Later we went on a tour of some of the buildings of the University of Granada, which were beautiful. I’m not taking any classes at the actual university, because it would have been hard for me to get credit for them, rather I’m taking classes where University professors come to the center and teach. It works for me!

Now, I’m sitting back at home relaxing. We just had lentil soup with chorizo for lunch, and a little bit of manchego too. Again, I ate a ton, but apparently not enough. Inma put a laurel leaf in the soup, and she said that if the leaf lands in your bowl, it’s good luck. We never ate enough to have the laurel land in either of our bowls, and I certainly could use the extra luck for my oral exam today. I guess I’ll just have to use pure skill. Hopefully it all works out well! I’ll have to write about it sometime later. Hasta luego!

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Mi Fin de Semana

This title means “My Weekend” (it’s not just a blog, it’s an online Spanish class!). This is going to be super long because I never posted about Friday night or about Saturday, and I have a whole morning to talk about too! Let’s get started then, shall we?

Friday afternoon Inma gave  us what was basically a vegetarian lasagna for lunch, except no pasta. It was zucchini, eggplant, and cheese. It was very good, but there was a lot of it and the eggplant was hard to cut. She made an entire 13×9 or so  pan of it, and I think she actually expected Danielle and I to eat it all. There was a lot of food there! We couldn’t finish! I felt terrible but I just couldn’t put anything else in my stomach. We then got to talking about food a little bit more and we learned that in Spain, it’s actually rude to ask to take your leftovers home with you from a restaurant. Inma said she thought that it was silly because they’re just going to throw the food out, it’s not like they can re-serve it, but that’s how it is. It was interesting.

Friday afternoon my Spanish class met up to go on a walk with our teacher through a part of the city called El Albaicin. It was stunning! The views of the Alhambra, the buildings, it was all just absolutely beautiful. I’ll post my pictures of that later. It takes a long time for me to upload photos here. My teacher is great, so friendly and funny, and she knows a lot about the city. We had a lot of fun walking around and I feel like I know the city a little bit better now than I did before.

Saturday was something else. Our program went on a hike through La Alpujarra, a valley in the Sierra Nevadas. It was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen. For a while I actually kinda felt like I was back in Peru, walking around in the Andes. It has the same kind of feel, small towns, animals walking around everywhere, beautiful mountain view. I took a lot of pictures of that so I’ll upload those too. We started by taking a bus from Granada to a small town called Pampaneira where we received a small orientation on how the hike was going to work, and a little bit of information about the mountain range. Then we got to explore the town a little bit. I made sure to buy a water bottle because I hadn’t had one to bring with me. Then, we got on the bus to go to another town, which I forget the name of, and that’s where we started our hike. There were actually two options for the hike, one a little bit harder and one a little bit easier. Me being my carpe diem self did the harder trail and was so glad I did. It was about three hours long (we took a break in the middle for lunch) and it was incredibly beautiful. It actually wasn’t even super difficult. I never felt like I was in danger of falling down the mountain, but there were some narrow, slippery spots. There was also a lot of water that we had to cross over. Needless to say, I got a little damp once or twice. But it wasn’t bad. The whole hike was just so refreshing, so enlivening, so breathtaking. I didn’t mind getting a little wet and dirty. One of the last places we went on the hike was another small town, although I don’t think that they ever told us the name. But, apparently it was the last place that the Muslims had control of when the Christians were taking over Spain, sort of their last stronghold. Also, I guess after a long time of rule by the Christians, and having the right to practice their religion taken away, they finally rebelled against the Christians and were able to get their rights back. Cool little piece of history.

After we got back, I went back home and Skyped with people for a while. When it was about 9:00, Inma came in and I told her about the problem I was having with my phone, that I couldn’t add more money with an American credit card online. She told me that I could go to this place called El Corte Ingles, and intense Spanish department store, and add money there, but it closed at ten so I really had to book it. We got there, I added more minutes, all was well. Now, just a little bit about El Corte Ingles. When I say intense department store, I’m not kidding. It’s got shoes, purses, jewelry, beauty products, men’s clothing, women’s clothing, electronics, a hair salon, a coffee shop, a grocery store, and tons and tons of other things that I have yet to explore. It’s like an upscale Walmart, but better. We went down to the grocery store just to get a few snack like things, and some frozen dinners for those nights we didn’t feel like going out for tapas. I got Pringles, Cheetos, and frozen pizza. It’s nice to have some foods that you’re kind of familiar with for those times when you’re kinda missing home and the people there.

This morning was my first time going to mass in Spain. I’ll upload pictures of the church later too (man I have a lot of uploading to do!). Again, it was absolutely beautiful. It was very small, but very intimate as well. Everyone there seemed to know each other (except for me of course). I sat next to an older woman who seemed to be a little suspicious of me, but by the end she seemed friendly. When I first entered the church, I panicked a little. Why? No missals. They say that the great thing about the Catholic Church is that no matter where you go, the mass is the same. Well, that may be, but even though the mass itself was the same, the language was completely different.  I understood pretty much everything that the priest said, but I had no idea how to respond. The only prayer I know in Spanish is the Hail Mary, and that’s not a part of the mass. So most of the time I just didn’t say anything, but sometimes I tried to follow along, and sometimes I just prayed in English. I had planned on just following along in the missal, but now that I know that there are none, I’m going to have to work a little harder to learn the Spanish mass. I made sure to donate to the collection because I felt badly for not really being able to participate in the mass. And the woman next to me seemed mad at me for not being able to pray.

It was interesting to see the differences between this mass and the mass that I’m used to. For one thing, there was no music at this mass. There was singing, but no music to accompany it. There wasn’t a procession either. The priests just walked right from the Sacristy onto the altar. They used incense at this mass too, although I think it might have been a special mass. I think there’s a possibility that it was a feast day for San Cecilio, who I think is the saint for that church (my street is called Parra de San Cecilio, so that’s what I’m guessing). They also didn’t stand until the end of the Alleluia, whereas in the US we stand right when it starts. They also knelt differently during the consecration. I wasn’t really sure what to do, so I just watched what most of the people in the church did and followed them. One thing that I really liked was during the sign of peace. The priest actually came down off the altar and shook hands with the whole congregation. It seemed like he had an intimate relationship with each person or family, which was really nice. What I didn’t like though was how communion was done. There was really no rhyme or reason. People just kind of got in line, they didn’t file out row by row like in the US. I felt a little uncomfortable because I didn’t know when to go. I was just going to wait until the woman next to me stood up, but she never did, so I just muscled up some courage from who knows where and got in line all by myself. After mass I walked around and took some pictures of the church, which I knew was okay because I saw tons of other Spaniards doing it. One even got up in the middle of the mass and took a picture of the priest at the altar. It really was beautiful.

Now I’m back home waiting to go out to meet a friend who I haven’t seen in a couple of years. She used to go to my school but then transfered, and now she’s studying in Granada for the whole year! I’m so excited that I get to see her again. We’re going to go out and spend the afternoon in the city. Then I’m going to come home and actually have dinner here. Inma has a baptism to go to so she won’t be home for lunch, so we decided to swap her giving us lunch for dinner today, which was really nice of her. I’ll probably go have a snack though to tide myself over. Well, until later then!

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Todo Que Aprendi en el Instituto es FALSA!!!

The title of this post means, “Everything I Learned in High School is WRONG!” As I keep going back to Spanish class here, I learn that everything I learned in junior high and high school is wrong.

Well, maybe not totally wrong, but wrong for Spain, anyway. For example, I learned that the word “colegio” can be used to say “high school.” But this morning, my professor told us “No no no no no! A colegio is a school for small children! A primary school! High school is ‘instituto,'” hence why my title says instituto and not colegio. Also, there’s the whole vosotros issue. Vosotros is the Spanish second person plural (“you all”), and in high school, we were told that practically no one uses it, so although we learned to conjugate verbs for vosotros, we rarely practiced using it. Instead, we used “ustedes,” which is used more often in Latin America. The difference between vosotros and ustedes is that ustedes is more formal, something you would use for a group of superiors, whereas vosotros is more informal, used for friends or family. In Latin America, they don’t make that distinction in plural forms, but in Spain that distinction does exist, so now I have to get used to using a whole form that I barely ever practiced! Luckily I’m fairly familiar with it so it isn’t going to be exceptionally difficult.

Now that you’ve had your Spanish lesson for the day, I’ll get into the other stuff that happened. This morning, before going to class, I had my meeting with Javier, the program director, to finalize my registration for classes. My schedule is really good, very open, and I have a lot of free time in the afternoon. I get to take flamenco, which I’m very excited about, a class on Islamic art and architecture, a Spanish class (obviously), a class on the different ethnic groups in Spain, and an internship, but we’ll talk more about that later. After my meeting with Javier I went right to Spanish. I’m really loving my Spanish class, because it’s not really just a Spanish class, but also an anthropology class. We went over things that are culturally acceptable and unacceptable, what is normal and what is strange. I forgot to mention yesterday that the first thing we did in class was learn about greetings in Spain. In Spain the traditional greeting is kisses on both cheeks, starting with the left cheek. Well, at least between women and women and women and men. For men greeting men, it’s hand shaking and a lot of patting on the back. We all had to walk around the class and practice greeting each other. “Me llamo Jess, ¿cómo te llamas?” “Me llamo Bill.” “¡Encantada!” “¡Igualmente!” Commence besos (kisses). It was a bit awkward but still kind of fun. Today we learned how to order things in a restaurant and how to ask for directions. I always knew the words that I could use to do these things, but it’s nice to know what is culturally normal to say when doing these things, so as not to come off as rude.

Then, of course, we took our little coffee break. Today I tried  the café bombón, coffee with condensed milk, and it was delicious. It was small, but packed with caffeine, so it really did the job of waking me up. I also noticed something interesting when I was in there that hadn’t really occurred to me yesterday. I ordered my drink, the woman brought it to me, and then left and started doing other things. In the US, I’m so used to immediately handing over my money as soon as I buy my drink. I was waiting around at the counter for about five minutes before the woman finally came back and asked me if I needed anything, and I told her I needed the bill. She told me how much it cost, but it still took her another couple of minutes to actually bring me the check so I could pay. I think that I was actually supposed to take my drink, drink it, and then go back and pay, as if I were ordering food in a sit-down restaurant or something. It was interesting to notice the difference between Spain and the US. When we went back to class, our professor gave us a list of questions, and we had to go out onto the street, find people, and ask them these questions. We had to ask if they were from Granada, how long they had lived there, if they could recommend any restaurants or tapas bars and where they were, and what they felt made Granada special. My friend Megan and I talked to Herminio, the maintenence man. He is so nice and so sweet! We learned through our little interview that his birthday is actually on Sunday, so he’ll have lived in Granada for 59 years. He told us that all of the restaurants in Granada were great, and that the tapas bars on one side of Plaza Nueva (where the center is) were great, and on the other side they were awful. Luckily the side I live on is the good side. My neighborhood is actually known for its great variety of tapas  bars which is great for me!

After we came back we discussed our experiences for a little while, and then class ended and I went to a meeting for people who were planning on doing internships. I had originally had every intention of doing the internship, but after the meeting I was less sure. They talked about how the unemployment rate in Spain is extremely high, so having an internship is a great privilege and a great responsibility. They then said that if we did an internship, we couldn’t travel on Fridays. That was what really got me. I’m in Europe. I want to travel. I want to experience Europe. If I can’t travel on Fridays, how can I do that? Obviously I’m not going to travel every weekend because, frankly, I can’t afford it, but I wanted to take a couple of weekends and explore. I talked to Natalia, the internship coordinator, after the meeting, and asked her if even if I finish my 8-10 hours Monday through Thursday, can I still not travel on Fridays? She then told me that Friday afternoon is mine, I can do whatever I want, I just can’t leave on a Thursday night and be gone all day Friday. That works a little bit better for me, so I think I still might do the internship. It is a great opportunity. It’s a great resume booster, not only to have an internship, but to have one in another country. I didn’t want to have to give up one opportunity for the other. But, if I can still leave on Friday afternoons, I think I’ll still go through with it.

Now, I’m back at my homestay waiting for almuerzo. It’s a little after 3:00 right now, which is a very normal time to have lunch in Spain. They typically eat a lot later than we do. Inma is running around right now getting everything ready, so I think we’ll eat soon. At about 5:30 I’m going to meet my Spanish class and we’re going to go on a walk to a neighborhood called El Albaicín, which is supposed to be beautiful. I’ll be sure to take my camera and take lots of pictures!

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Fotos de Espana

I meant to include these in the last post, but I forgot/they were still being loaded onto my computer. These are the pictures that I’ve taken so far in Spain:

Most are from Málaga, but the last five are my room in Granada (I know the last one is blurry, but I don’t know how to take it out0.

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Primer Dia en Clase

Well, today was my first day in class (as my title indicates). I woke up this morning at around 7:30 before we had breakfast at 8:15, because I still had to shower. Spain is currently experiencing a serious drought, so I had to take what they call a Navy Shower, where basically I got wet, turned the water off, washed, and then turned the water back on to rinse. In and out in about five minutes. The water was also either scalding or freezing so it was better that way.

We then had a nice breakfast with yogurt and toast. Inma also had a nice warm mug of hot chocolate waiting for me which was delicious. Actually, here in Spain, they refer to what we think of as hot chocolate as cola-cao. When you ask for chocolate caliente, which literally translates to hot chocolate, you get very thick, goopy chocolate which you can’t really drink. What most people do is dip churros in it. Churros are a kind of bland, fritter-like pastry, very common for breakfast.

Inma then walked us to the Center so that we could go take our first class, a five hour Spanish class. At first I was nervous because it was five hours long, but the time really flew by. We talked for the first hour or so about differences we’ve noticed in Spain, either culturally or linguistically, which was very interesting. Then, at about 10:15, Javier, the nicest man in the world and our program director, came to take us on a tour of the center. He showed us around to all the offices, introduced us to the maintenance man, and brought us up to the student lounge that they have. It has couches, computers, wireless internet, and a beautiful terrace that we can go out and sit on. Then after about half an hour to forty-five minutes we went back to our aula (classroom) for a couple of minutes to meet with our teacher before our coffee break, something very traditional around 11:00 or so. When we went in, our teacher had written numerous words on the board, all of which were drinks one could order at a coffee shop. She said that we had to go to one of the local coffee shops and ask the people there what each of these drinks were, and then come back and tell her what they were. There were things like cafe bombon, which is coffee with evaporated milk, cafe solo, or black coffee, and several other drinks. Me, I had another cola-cao, which was mighty delicious.

We then went back to class for a little while and started doing a review of vocabulary and grammar. I felt to silly, because I learned all of this stuff back in 7th and 8th grade, but no one has ever gone over it since then, so I had forgotten a lot of basic words and phrases, so it was really useful to have someone go over them again. Finally class ended and we all went downstairs to exchange numbers and go home for almuerzo, lunch.

Here in Spain, lunch is really the big meal of the day, whereas in the US the focus is more on dinner. We came home and it smelled absolutely delicious. Inma made “macaroni boloñesa,” which reminded me a lot of baked ziti. She also served it with salchichas. Salchicha means sweet sausage, but it actually reminded me more of a small hot dog. She kept on serving us more food and I felt like I was going to burst! But, everything was absolutely delicious. So far I’ve loved all of the food that I’ve tried here in Spain, which bodes well for the next few months. We talked a little bit more at lunch about what we should make when we cook our traditional “American” dinner. Inma was talking about what the last students who came here made. She couldn’t remember the word, but after describing it a little bit we figured out that she was talking about french toast. When Danielle was talking about chili, I mentioned sour cream (because I had mentioned that I’m not particularly partial to spicy food), but neither of us new how to say it in Spanish. We tried to describe it to her, but I’m not sure how far we got.

Right now it’s siesta time in Spain, when most people rest, relax, nap, things like that. We also tried to describe the concept of a “power nap” to Inma, which she seemed to grasp much better than sour cream. That’s essentially what people do, take a power nap versus really sleeping. Me, I’m blogging. I’ll probably read some more of my book too. I’ll be bummed when it’s over! We’re going to go out a little bit later to explore, shop, and then get some tapas! In Granada, it’s great because whenever you order a drink, you get a free tapas with it. It makes eating dinner very cheap!

Well, it’s about quarter past four here, so I think I’m going to relax a little, but I know that in the US it’s more like 10:15, so to you I say, buenos dias!

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Bienvenidos a Granada!

I’m finally here! I’m finally in Granada! My semester can finally begin!

Let’s start with last night. In the afternoon at about 2:30 a large group of us went out for a walk around Malaga and we had some authentic Spanish paella which was incredibly delicious! The one problem was that the shrimp still had their heads on, and I wasn’t quite sure how to navigate that. I was having a lot of difficulty peeling it. The kid sitting across from me asked me if I had ever peeled shrimp before and I told him “Yes! I’m from Massachusetts! I swear I know how to peel shrimp! It just doesn’t usually have a head!” After a couple minutes and getting my hands very dirty I finally peeled and enjoyed my shrimp. Then we walked back to the hotel to relax. My roommate for the night and I decided to relax and watch some TV. We ended up finding Saturday Night Live on the TV, which was being broadcast in English but with Spanish subtitles (which we of course paid little to no attention to). Then we found Pimp My Ride, which we didn’t know even still existed! That was dubbed over in Spanish, but it was still nice to see something familiar. I just realized that I never actually ended up having dinner that night. I talked to Mom for a little while on the computer, and then I went and kept reading my book. I didn’t want to go to sleep too early, because I want to adjust myself to the time difference. I forced myself to stay up reading until I could barely see the words on the page, and then I let myself fall asleep.

I woke up at about 7:00, but it was pitch black out so I didn’t actually get out of bed until about 7:30. Then I hopped in for my shower and started getting ready for the day. We started out with a delicious breakfast. I had a fried egg, some bacon, fruit, cheese, orange juice, and a churro. It was delicious. Then we went in to some Orientation sessions for the rest of the day, to learn about safety, cultural differences, homestays, and other things like that. We did some ice breakers too, to get to know the other people. One of them involved picking a rope from a selection of ropes of different lengths, but you couldn’t tell which one you were picking. Then, you had to tell facts about yourself for the length of time that it took you to wrap the rope around your finger (I’m going to have to remember this one for Orientation!). I of course picked the longest one. I tried to get away with wrapping it around my finger really quickly but apparently that was against the rules. Oh well.

We had a big lunch at 3:00 after all the sessions were over and before our journey to Granada. It was also quite delicious! I tried shark for the first time ever. It was good, but tasted very vinegar-y. I also tried kiwi for the first time, which oddly enough I’ve never had before.  Then after lunch we left on buses to go to Granada!

I didn’t get to explore because it’s late here, but from what I can see Granada is beautiful. I have an amazing view out of one of the windows. It is just beautiful. And my hosts, Inma and Miguel, are super super nice. Inma made a delicious dinner of homemade chicken soup, something that was like a cross between fried eggs and scrambled eggs, rice with carrots and peas, and sauteed vegetables. Absolutely delicious. I’m doing well communicating with them too. I’ve known almost all of the words I’ve needed to say, and the ones I didn’t they know enough English to be able to figure out. So I’m doing quite well. But, it’s late here, so I think that I’m going to go to bed. I shall blog more soon! Buenas noches!

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