Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Obviously, I’m not much of a blogger…

So I started to write another blog right before I left for my fall break… but didn’t finish it.  Had I actually written it, it would say -> I think almost 3 weeks have gone by since my last blog.. Whoopsies.  (Obviously more that this has now passed..ha!) I guess that living here everything seems like no big deal and I don’t have much to report, but really it may actually sound exciting and there actually is something to be said.  I have gone to 3 different places over the past 3 weekends before break: Madrid, La Granja, and Toledo.


I wish I had more positive things to say about Madrid, but it honestly wasn't the best experience I and our group have had.  It is HUGE and there are A LOT of people- it was very difficult to walk around at times and we had to be on our guard for pick pocketers... No wonder people get away with it all the time.  I had been a little bit sick a couple days before this, but the day that we went (Saturday, Sept. 18), it put me over the edge.  My throat hurt so bad and by that night I had completely lost my voice.  Whatever it was that I had, I haven’t really gotten over till about now (a month and a half later) and I’m STILL not 100%.  This immune stuff is very frustrating. 
While in Madrid, which was only for a weekend (Saturday morning until Sunday night), we went to the Prado Museum (one of the best museums in the world) where we got to see a bunch of famous paintings by Goya, Velazquez, and El Greco. I got to see the “las meninas” painting in person, which was pretty cool- and huge!  We were there for about 2 hours, which for me was plenty of time, since I’m not too much of an art fanatic.  We also went to el Parque del Retiro, which was a huge park with a central man-made pond thing where people were in little boats just passing time and soaking up the sun.  There were a ton of performers and people pretending to be statues for money.. kinda creepy but interesting.  They were all over Madrid!  This park was basically the New York Central Park of Madrid.  There were a bunch of cool fountains and grassy spots to sit and ponds and whatnot.  People came there to jog or just to pass time, and we went there to eat lunch and of course, ended up buying some ice cream J  We also walked around the old part of Madrid and saw one of the Royal buildings (but not the palace) and a cathedral-which was actually only built like 15 years ago.  But the time we had our free time, we were all pretty exhausted.  We attempted to go shopping on the street that was nothing but places to shop, which was cool, but full of people and we were all too tired to try on clothes, let alone buy anything.  We ended up heading back to the hotel (in which we got completely lost and couldn’t find… so we stopped into McDonalds quick to get a American food recharge before we wandered around some more) and resting a little bit for what was originally suppose to be a big night.  Our friend Katie was turning 21 on Saturday, so we all planned on going out to eat and then go out afterwards because we heard there were some great places to go out in Madrid, because, like New York, the city never sleeps.  Since our hotel was so far from everything, we had a lot of trouble figuring out where to go or what to do.  We ended up going to an Italian restaurant (which you had to walk through a convenience store to get through..?) which was really good!  I split a margherita pizza and a really good pasta dish with chorizo and cheese and tomato sauce and whatnot with Heidi and it was worth every penny I think.  After we finished, we tried to find somewhere to go out.. but the only problem was that everything was really far, the metro closed at 2, and everyone was pretty tired.  After wandering around for an hour, I decided to head back to the hotel with Amanda and Heidi, which was a good choice in the end.  We went and bought Kit Kat ice cream (yum!) and then we watched some tv.. I believe it was Ms. Doubtfire in Spanish! Surprisingly, that was one of the few channels in Spanish.. everything else was in German..?! Everyone else came back pretty early because they couldn’t find anything.
The next day, we woke up and had a really good breakfast!  There were all sorts of cheeses and meats and some pastry-type things.  They also had peach juice and orange juice which were both good, and then a bunch of different fruits and cereals!  It made me realize how much I missed breakfast.  After we packed up, we went to La Reina Sofia- a much smaller museum- which had the Guernica painting!  I was super excited about this. I’ve learned about it quite a few times and its pretty famous, so it was awesome to get to see that.  It was huge! It basically had its own room and was the only feature item in the museum.  When we were finished here, we went to a little pizzeria called Pizzeria Pinnochio where I got an alfredo pasta, some really good bread, these potato things with a bunch of different dips and sauces, and then had a chocolate mousse for dessert.  Yum! It seems like all we ate was McDonalds (twice) and Italian food while in Madrid, which I like both, so it all worked out :P  After lunch, we had some more free time, so we decided to go to el Centro Commercial where there is a bunch of shops/a mall connected to the metro/train station.  I think everyone was a little more in to shopping that day because they had a little more energy, but me with my voice gone and being extremely tired, I just browsed a little bit and waited for everyone, which was fine.  I suppose I saved some money! After everyone shopped till they literally dropped, we got our things and headed back to Segovia!  It felt like such a relief getting back home… Im pretty sure I went straight to bed!
La Granja:
This was one of our one day excursions, Saturday during the day.  La Granja is one of the pueblos that was literally like a 15 minute bus ride away from Segovia.  We went to a really cool glass blowing factory (La fabrica de los cristales) where we had a tour and heard about the history of the glass makers that use to live in this factory and make glass for almost everything.  This is where a lot of cathedral glass was made and anything glass related for royalty.  We also got to watch two guys working together and making glass bowls and blowing glass right in from of us! It was cool to see the process.  After the factory, we went and found a park and ate our bag lunches.  I remember it being cold, yet sunny that day.  We then went inside La Granja, which was a huge palace that I think was used by one of the Royal families as a summer home.  But of course, it was gigantic.  We got to see these large works of art (basically) that were made of thread which was actually gold and other precious and expensive material Im sure.  They had scenes on them of all sorts of different things, I think most religious.  There was also a room that was completely covered in sea shells.. it was interesting.  Behind the palace was these gorgeous gardens and parks where a lot of people like to go and just sit.  There were a lot of (interesting) statues and some cool flowers and trees and whatnot- of course all perfectly manicured.  And that’s about it for La Granja.. it was a pretty quick half day trip!
I was super excited to go to Toledo! It’s one of the oldest and historic cities in Spain and is mentioned in a lot of stories, like Lazarillo de Tormes that we had to read for our Classic Literature class.  At some point in time, Christians, Jews, AND Muslims all have lived in Toledo so there is a lot of influence from all three cultures.. which is unheard of since there was a lot of religious persecution in Spain and Jews and Muslims were both banned from Spain later in time.  I was later informed by Ruben (being a military member and feeling the need to tell me, of course) that it has a lot of military history and some of the best soldiers come from Toledo, especially considering all the history the city has, and because of it’s central location.  Overall, Toledo reminded me of a larger version of Segovia but with less tourist attractions and way more hills!  The streets are all very narrow and there were not very many cars throughout the city.  We took a drive around the city to see it from the outside and take pictures and it is basically built on a hill with a river at the bottom, so the castle that was there could be very well protected.  We did not go to the castle.. it was not very typical looking and not very big.  But we did go inside a really huge cathedral with a lot of fancy decorations.. one of the biggest and most impressive I had seen so far.  About every 4 minutes some voice of god came on over the loud speaker saying in 5 different languages that we were not allowed to take pictures.. so you know the stuff is good when you can’t take pictures! Haha. We also went inside of a synagogue which was a pretty quick stop because it wasn’t that large, and we also went to la Iglesia de Santo Tome where all we saw was a famous painting called Entierro del Conde de Orgaz painted by El Greco- one of his most important works that showed both earth and heaven which was opening up above to take the body of the deceased.. it was unique because it was not something that had ever been painted before and there were a lot of different aspect to it that made it special.   After all this touring, we had free time where we wandered the streets and shopped around a little bit.  I was hoping to find souvenirs, but everything was fairly expensive since it is a really touristy city.  We also has free time during siesta.. and so a lot of shops were closing up.  Overall I really enjoyed Toledo.. but I still think I prefer Segovia :P

Friday, September 17, 2010

Time goes by so fast.. Yet so slow.

I can't believe it's already FRIDAY!!!  This week went by really fast.  I didn't get to go to the amusement park (Warner i think) in Madrid... :(  But Ruben promised me twice that we would find another time to go! So hopefully we can all find another time to go.  He just started work again on Wednesday and is living in Madrid, so we aren't going to be seeing as much of him... sad day.  On Wednesday the whole group went out to an American restaurant (along the lines of a Hollywood title of some sort) on la Calle Real for Amanda's birthday, and it was AMAZING!!!  She turned 21, which was sort of a bummer for her that it wasn't a big deal here, so we made it a fun night for her.  She doesn't like the food here, so she chose the American restaurant, and we basically all got some sort of burger, (mine being a bacon cheeseburger :P) and it was soooooo good!  I was laughing inside tho at the fact that I wanted a bacon cheesesburger because of an inside joke I have with my Circle K Board... It made me think of them.  It was a lot of food tho.. I could barely handle it.  I haven't been that full in a long time. Then we went out to a couple bars on la Calle de los Bares.  There was actually quite a few people for it being a Wednesday night, but I guess now that its getting later in September I guess people start going out more often.  We discovered another bar/discoteca on the same street, right next to Toys where we usually go, and it was actually a pretty cool place.  There werent quite as many creepers and we werent bothered too much which was nice.
Classes are going pretty good I suppose.  There's not much to report.  I dont have homework for any classes except for Classic Literature where we just get something to read for the next class and we have to answer questions, so it's pretty simple.  My Spanish is getting better because I decided to change my facebook and cell phone to Spanish this week and Im trying my hardest to avoid speaking English.  My friend Dominik pointed out that I need to improve and that I speak English alot... and he can't understand anything I say haha.  So I have been doing pretty good this week.  I like speaking Spanish, I just really need practice.  I also got an "intercambio" group set up where once a week me and another girl in the group, Katie, get together with a couple Spaniards for an hour or so and we speak in spanish for half the time and english for the other half.  They are trying to improve their english and we are trying to improve our spanish, so its a nice deal.  There are 3 guys, one of which is a Spanish professor (32- also went to school in Arizona) who lives in Segovia/Valladolid and the other two are friends (19 and 21) who live in Segovia and go to school in Madrid.  Im not sure how often the professor is going to be there, but apparently we are going to be hanging out with the two guys and having less formal exchanges, so that will be kind of cool to have even more people showing us around Segovia and helping us with our Spanish.
Today we went to the Acueduct for my Art and Civilization class, but it started POURING! We were sitting under one of the acueduct arches for about 20 minutes... and then we decided to run to a bar or restaurant to find more cover... but by the time we got there we were all soaked to the bone.. So me and a couple of the girls decided to go back to the center because we were already wet anyways.  We ended up running up the Calle Real which was an upward incline, and there was basically a small river forming down the middle of it.  By the time we got back, I was cold, out of breath, absolutely soaked, and im pretty sure I pulled something.  We waited in the Center till it stopped raining, and then I only got to be home for about 10 nminutes and then my host mom brought me on one of the night tour things and it was FREEZING! There were little scene/skit things throughout one part of town and we had little tours between them.  It was cool and there was good acting.. but I was still freezing cold.  My host mom was really cold too, and we were laughing about it and then bundled up as soon as we got back.
Tomorrow I am going to heading to Madrid (finally!) and 7:30 AM!  That will be rough.. but Im excited to go.  Ive heard some really good things and we have free time to "ir de compras"/ go shopping :) There are so many things I want to buy!  Im really going to have to budget my money..  Then we are going to find somewhere to go out Saturday night and celebrate more birthdays!  Katie is turning 21 on saturday and there are a couple other people's birthdays that we are celebrating that are around this time.. so where better to celebrate than Madrid?!  It should be fun... Im just excited to see the city.  Thats where the airport is, but you dont get to see much of a city if the only place you see is an airport.  Im curious to see if there are any schools I am interested in there if I decide to continue my studies in Spain!
I'll be sure to give Madrid updates as soon as I can!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Weekends in Spain

The days sort of blend together and with my classes being so easy, it sort of just always feels like the weekend. Although, when weekends roll around, you can definitely tell.  People are all over the streets everywhere, young and old.  Families will be out with their children and old people are walking the streets still at 1 in the morning.  All the bars are packed and La Calle de los Bares (a street with nothing but bars) has people all over the streets.  Its like one huge fiesta! That would never fly in the US...
After a not so great week, it was definitely made better when the weekend rolled around.  A bunch of us went out on Friday night which was a lot of fun! I had to leave at 3 AM to make it to a Circle K Board meeting online... but with my bad luck, my internet wasn't working when I actually needed it to.  I tried to get it to hook up for a while, but then I just gave up.  I even tried on my friend Ruben's phone... no luck.  Everyone was still out when I was at my house trying to get it to work.. so I met up with everyone again later that night.  Many people dont leave their houses until about 4 AM, so when I went back it was even more packed then when I left it.  We went to a discoteca called All The People (i think) and it was a blast! It was nice being somewhere where they didnt play solid American or Spanish music.  It was a good mix.  The place we usually go to, Toys,  ALWAYS plays American music and it drives me nuts!  Its like we walk in, they can tell we are American, and they play English music.  As soon as we leave, it switches back. Thats one of the disadvantages of going in a large group... its obvious we are American and it drives people crazy.  They won't leave us alone... I have hunch that they are not all that interested in what we have to say, more just the fact that we are American and the stereotypes that come with them.  I feel alot better when I tell people we are here studying, because then they know we will be around for a while and they become less creepy knowing we are not just there for a night.
On Saturday morning (after only getting 2 hours of sleep) we toured La Escorial.  It was really cool! I think it was built after Spain gained their independence and there was something about a San Lorenzo I think.  He apparently was burned to death on a grill (very common that all the saints died in some form of tragedy or torture) and so the layout of the building was in the shape of a grill.  Inside, there was a huge basilika church with beautiful fresco paintings on all the ceilings.  It was said that the man who painted it used both of his hands and it only took him 2 years to complete ecerything- unbelievable.  There was also a statue of a Jesus on the cross that was made from white marble and it was one of the most beautiful Jesus statues every made.  It was so smooth and detailed, as if it was carved from soap, its hard to believe someone made that.  There were also various paintings and whatnot that we did not have time to see, but we did go down in to the basement where we got to see where all the Spanish royalty are entombed.  There was a large room for all the Kings and Queens, and then other smaller rooms for other royalty.  One of them was a room for all the royal children that died before they were seven, and it was layed out as if it were a birthday cake (sad).  One part that that sort of creeped me out tho was the fact that we walked past the "rotting room" where they store the dead to rot for 25-50 years until the smell is gone, and then they take out all the bones and whatnot and put them in a box to be put inside the tomb (sick!).  Lovely image.  There were a lot of courtyards and gardens tho that were very beautiful on the bright side!
When we got back i took like a 5 hour nap and then had dinner and went out again.  The streets were crazy as usual.  There were a couple different bachelor parties going on where the men were dressed up as super man and another where there was some sort of bug theme (?).  It was interesting.  People singing and drinking in the streets- que locura!  But i loved watching how happy everyone was.  We called it in early that night and went home around 2, so it wasn't that crazy of a night for us at least.
On Sunday, my host mom brought me to a piscina (swimming pool) at a club and it was really nice- She's so simpatica!  I tanned for about 5 hours and Im happy to report that I only got burned in 2 small places where i must have just missed with y sunscreen.  I thought I would be burnt to a crisp!  But I only have a little sun kissed glow and not much else.. I may go back again today and keep working on it since I basically was reflecting light with how white I am- especially compared to all the tanned Spanish skin. I also got to try Paella- a rice and seafood/meat type mixture.  Its like the Spanish version of house fried rice.  It was good!  But also interesting... there was some sort of seafood where you had to pop the head off and take off the shell.. Not sure if I really want to know.
Me and my friend Amanda decided to meet up with Ruben and Dominik last night for a little while, but it ended up being longer than we expected (shocker).  On friday they invited us to go to an amusement park with them on Monday (today) in Madrid but im basically the only one who didnt have class.  So we were getting together to figure out the plans for that and are trying to convince them to go on Tuesday because that just sounds like a blast! It hard to communicate with people (like Spanish friends) around here because nobody has facebook and its really expensive to text or call with our pay-as-you-go phones, so we just always have to make plans to meet in person.  Its probably better that way ayways.  Im learning more than I do in a classroom with those guys and its a great way to practice my spanish (which almost feels like its gotten worse since I got here with all the english everyone speaks to eachother).  Last night sort of ended in a stupid brawl- which is apparently really rare here- so we left and went for a walk down to the Alcazar. It was a nice time I suppose, but Im really tired today, so Im about to take a nap.  Hopefully next time I write it will be me talking about going to the amusement park :)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Mixed feelings..

It's been an interesting past few days.. Yesterday was just not a good day, and now that carried over in to today. Oh joy.  During lunch yesterday, my host family wass fighting as usual.  I think I actually prefer eating alone like I do most meals.  Every time my host mom and her sons are together they just fight about everything.  She is nagging them, and they just rebel.  Not too different than what happens in America, but still just awkward that its happening right in front of me at the table.  This time it was her yelling at Roy telling him he needed to clean up his room and he just retaliated with he knows where everything is and thats all that matters and its his room and whatnot.  Both sides I understand as I have had this argument many times myself... but it was just very uncomfortable.  And then she would make comments about what foods they could and could not eat because some of the things apparently were for me? What?! Way to bring me in to this!  Awkward.
The food isn't saturated in olive oil quite as much as when I got here, so it's not too bad.  It's pretty decent.  The Grandma, Ochon, has started coming over and making meals when Ana is working and she is a great cook. It's actually legit Spanish food, so it's been good trying some new things.  I'm really craving some Taco Bell and some Mac and Cheese tho.. not gonna lie.  Oh and something with Barbeque sauce...  But not all at once of course.  Me and a couple people in the group like to get ice cream often tho (really good) and there is a place where we can get a cone for just a Euro- so its a pretty good deal. 
Everything here is so smokey and dirty at times it seems... I keep neurotically putting hand sanitizer on.  Basically everyone here smokes.  Including my host family who will even smoke at the table as Im trying to choke down my food.  Lovely.  The sidewalks are shared by the streets and all the drivers are crazy.  Everything is made of stones and blocks.. so they are charming, but not very practical at times.  The road construction out my window finally finished, so its not waking me up in the mornings anymore.  I need all the sleep I can get... I dont sleep the best here.  It gets really cold at night and I can feel every spring in my mattress.  My pillow is very firm and thin.. so not too comfotable either.  I am gradually starting to get sick.. So im just trying to siesta whenever I can.  I had a really bad headache and stomach ache today.. it was not fun... I immediately went home and took a nap.  Then Ochon (so nice) made me fresh squeezed orange juice and told me to have some warm milk and a tablespoon of honey before I go to bed tonight.    The milk kind of scares me tho... it doesnt have to be refrigerated here..?! Its in cartons that sit in the pantry until they are opened... I just find that wierd.
Don't have too much to report today I suppose.. I haven't been feeling good and everyone has been kind of unreliable this past week (super annoying).  Hopefully things get better.  I mean c'mon.. I'm in Spain.  I shouldn't be complaining about anything.  It's wonderful here.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I'm in Love!

My first intentions were to write on this blog every day, but obviously I have not.  The internet in my room is very unreliable and I have just been keeping really busy! I absolutely love everything about Segovia.  Any place where a siesta (nap time) is programmed in to everyone's daily routine is my kind of place.  The language is just absolutely beautiful- I think it is probably the best language there is.  Someone can be swearing and I still think it sounds amazing! haha.  Its just so fluid and graceful, not very choppy or rough like other languages, including english.  Im slowly starting to remember my words again although everyone sort of talks english to eachother (whoops) so I haven't had a chance to talk that much yet.  But now every time I do at least I don't sounds like a complete idiot.  I can carry out a conversation pretty well now.  We made friends with two guys from Madrid, Ruben and Dominik (who is actually from Poland..) and I just love talking to them.  Its so much different talking to someone closer to our age than adults.  I'm starting to pick up on a lot more slang so it's kinda cool to learn something new. 
Not as many people go out together at night now either, which I actually really like, so now we aren't that large group of Americans strolling around together trying to find somewhere to go at 11:30 at night.  When I'm in a smaller group I don't get stared at as much.  I think it's because I can pass as more of someone from Holland or Sweden and I blend in more whereas when I'm in a huge group of people who are either speaking English or broken Spanish, it's obvious we are from America.  Occasionally we say we are from England, then we can blame our "stupidity" on the Brits ;)
Outside my window there has been road construction going on for like the past week, and it is super loud and obnoxious.  I live right off of one of the main streets since I live so close to the plaza and so I get to hear a lot of commotion right outside my window.  They are replacing some of the brick on the roads I think.  The roads and paths here are so cool! Everything is made of bricks and stones, giving the whole site a lot of character.  I feel like I always need to look down tho otherwise you can easily trip or step in a hole.  Maybe that's why people walk so slowly here.  I always feel like I am walking as if I'm in a hurry, even though I'm not.  I really need to just slow down and enjoy the moment at times.  It's one of my favorite parts about this place.  It is really hard to feel stressed or depressed when your here.  Everyone just seems to enjoy everything and is always in a pleasant-ish mood.
Some people find it awkward, but I actually really enjoy how people greet eachother- a kiss on each cheek.  It's just so much more personal than awkwardly standing back and doing a lame little wave.  When people enter or leave a house, people also always make a point of saying hello or goodbye to everyone.  It's considered rude if you don't and know people should do that in America and sometimes do.. but it's a way bigger deal here.  I just feel like everyone has a wierd connection somehow- it's like a different energy.  Maybe I'm just crazy, but I think there is. It is sort of funny tho how people look eachother up and down, which would be considered rude or suggestive of a challenge or judging in America, but it is completely normal here.  Or when people say "Hola guapa(o)", it's just a normal thing.  I just love it :) haha.
Today our group got together at Ricardo's house (which is absolutely beautiful) for Brunch and it was so good!  We had scrambled eggs, bacon, pancakes, fruit, toast, orange juice, coffee, little muffin things... the works.  It was definitely an American meal, but it was great.  He has two cute little boys with a lot of energy! I was definitely stuffed by the time I left. 
Ochon (the grandma) has cooked a couple times now since I've been here and her cooking is so good! I love it.. it's actually like legit Spanish food.  So I've enjoyed trying some new things.  I wish she would cook every meal :)
The weather here has been a little sketchy these past few days.  Very cold at night especially, but apparently that's really out of the norm for this time of year.  Espero que it gets warmer in a couple days- which they said it should.  I need to take advantage of all these sales on summer clothes before they end! In some places, sandals are only 6 Euros and a couple sun dresses Ive seen were only 15 Euros... I call that a bargain. 
I finally got a one of my memory cards to read in the card reader, so I put those on a CD and now I can finally start taking some pictures!  I did take a couple pictures already... but my stupid camera erased them so I lost those pictures along with a bunch of old ones that I tried to download to prevent from happening... but the card reader wasn't reading them.  Technology hates me.  So now I have 2 blank memory cards I suppose. So now I can start putting pictures on this blog! :)
I think this is long enough.. And I will try to write in this more regularly so that I don't have to play catch up every time.  There is still so much more I can talk about!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Beggining of blogging!

I have finally set up a blog! It is now my fourth day in Segovia, and I have already experienced so much. My family is interesting.. My host mom is very talkative and speaks very fast.  I can understand pretty much everything, but after a while I cant pay attention because it is just too much to absorb and listen to in one sitting.  At times it seems like people are speaking Italian when Im not totally paying attention.  It's getting easier though now that Im not so tired.  The first day I just wanted nothing more than to go home.  Now that I am starting to remember my Spanish, I can communicate quite well.  Even though I can't remember words at the moment, I have been told by many that when I do talk, I don't have an accent and I speak ver well, even more so than the others they are listening to :)  I have only talked to the oldest brother (Roy- who's 19 and very guapo :P ) once, and he helped me set up the internet.  Otherwise its been nothing more than a quick Hola. He has finals this week and is studying anyways, so I dont want to bother him.  As far as the other one (Jose Luis- 17, also guapo), I have only seen him twice.  Everyone here just kind of does their own thing.  I like getting out of the house as much as possible, not because I don't like being here, but I just feel somewhat awkward and would rather be out in the city anyways.  It is very beautiful here.  We went to the Alcazar castle yesterday and took a tour.  It is very cool, but I feel like we dont get to see enough of the Castle.  We also took a paseo (walk/stroll) through the Alameda two days ago, it is a walking path that goes alongside the river at the bottom of a deep valley that goes around the cliffs of the castle.  It is very pretty there and I feel like I will be spending quite a bit of time down there whenever I can.  We have also seen the aqueduct and the cathedral many times, but have not had an official tour of them yet.  I am about a 2 minute walk from the Plaza Mayor and a 2 minute walk from the school and a 10 minute walk to the acuduct and/or the Alcazar or Alameda, so I am in a pretty prime location.  Its very close to all the good stuff.
I have to head off to my photography class...  But there is more to come for sure!