4 Countries in 4 Weeks?!

Hello from Scotland!  I am currently writing you from a Starbucks on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh as I’m on suitcase watching duty!  I know, my life is so hard right now :D Though I’m not a huge fan of Starbucks coffee, it’s kind of fun to drink an “American coffee” (which means it’s sweeter and bigger to the Europeans).  I’m also trying to listen to Spanish music in order to drown out all the loud Scottish accents!  Too bad they are so cool…  Well, I would encourage you to find a nice, comfy chair and maybe make yourself a hot drink to sip on before you read this.. because it’s going to take you a while!  It will probably take me four hours of writing to get you caught up!

Gains: Stamps on my passport!  However, when you travel within the EU, they don’t give you a stamp.  When we travelled to Rome from Spain, this was the case, and so we ran around the airport asking different people for an Italy stamp.  Sadly, all they had to offer was a stamp that said “visa checked” that didn’t even say Italy on it!  Hannah had them stamp her passport with it and let out a squeal of excitement when the guy did.  Yep, we got the “stupid Americans” look after that one.  She realized after that it didn’t even say Italy on it, so she is going to draw and arrow to the stamp and write Italy in it.  We did get a stamp when we flew out of Spain to Scotland though!  It was Hannah’s first official stamp on her passport :)

Pains: Goodbyes.  I HATE them.  Hayden left this week, which was a wake up call to us all.  Unfortunately, this dream world that we live in is not going to last forever.  Hayden only did a three-month program, and quite honestly, I didn’t think it was going to be as hard to say goodbye as it was!  Hannah and I grabbed shawarma (a pita like sandwich with shaved meat and veggies) with him and his mom, and then later that night went out to out to tapas with some of our friends from the program.  When we had to say goodbye, Hannah, Hayden and I walked out into the alley and said our last goodbyes… and then Hannah and I walked home and both cried a little.  Such girls.  However, chances are our whole group will never all be in the same place again.  EVER.  That is what makes it the hardest.

Strawberry Pie:  I think those two words pretty much explain themselves.  If you haven’t already, you need to try Grandma Betty’s cold strawberry pie.  They don’t have pie in Spain, and we are thinking of starting up pie shops all around Andalucia!  Nuff said.

Trains:  Well, as you may have guessed from the post title, I’ve been doing some traveling!  A few weekends ago, I went to Salobreña, which is the “beach town” of Granada.  Last week, I went to Rome.  Currently I am in Scotland.. and this evening I fly to Dublin.  Any guesses as to which country I am heading to next Friday?

Let’s back up… about a month.  Remember how I told you that Trini broke her hip?  Well, she has been doing so well and is recuperating!  We have had different family members coming in and out of the house for the past month.  My mom’s brother Javier lives with us during the week, so now I have an uncle!  Also, we have had three sets of French girls and one set of Italian girls stay with us in the meantime.  Our house has been busy!

About three weeks ago, Joaquín invited Hannah, Hayden and I to his family’s flat in Salobreña for the weekend.  The whole reason we decided to go was because the three of us were telling Joaquín about pie, and he said he had never eaten it before!  Unbelievable, right?  Since we needed a kitchen to make it in, Joaquín suggested we just go to the beach for the weekend!  Funny thing was it was actually pi day (3/14), and we had no clue until Hayden realized the date! Salobreña is about an hour away from Granada, so it was a quick trip.  When we got there, we went grocery shopping and bought food to make meals that we haven’t gotten to eat since we left the U.S.!  It was a really lazy weekend, and the apartment is literally right on the beach.  It had a huge terrace that we could lounge on and look out at the ocean.  We would just eat, sleep and repeat.  In the evenings, we played Spanish board games (that I had never heard of before) and sipped on the homemade sangria that Joaquín taught us how to make.  Saturday morning, we made pancakes with imitation maple syrup!  Though we weren’t thrilled about the syrup, Joaquín LOVED it.  He had never had maple syrup before either, since they don’t have it in Spain!  He asked if he could keep the leftovers to share it with the world.  Before lunch, we went down to the beach to hang out for a while.  The beach of Granada doesn’t have sand, just rocks.  It was still pretty though (but a little chilly)!  Hannah and I spent our time searching for seashells and sea glass.  For lunch, we made beef to put in our pasta.  BEEF!!!  Ah, I missed beef.  It was so delicious.  Then, of course, the pie.  It was a heavenly experience for us all.  We each ate a slice and agreed to save half of the pie for later. That was a struggle!  Throughout the rest of the day, we all mentioned how badly we wanted to eat it!  As the sun started to set on Saturday evening, we decided to run to the top of this rock and watch it.  So the four of us ran down the street, kicking a soccer ball in between one another and trying to make it in time.  Well, we didn’t make it.  It was still pretty though!  Then, we just stood around on the beach trying to kick a soccer ball in between one another without letting it touch the ground until it got too dark out.  After, we returned back home to make dinner, which basically meant trying to eat all the extra meat that the boys bought at the store!  Never send boys to a supermarket do a woman’s job ;)  However, I still crave the sausage sandwiches we made that evening.  Then, we played another new card game while Joaquín tried to convince us that the winner should be able to eat all the pie (I won by the way.  And I shared.).  After cleaning the following day, we went home to Granada to begin studying for our midterms the upcoming week!

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Speaking of midterms, what a challenge!  Um, what the heck does the word “study” mean?  Not that I don’t study, but I don’t have the mental capacity or concentration to study here like I do in the States!  In the States, I study like it’s my job!  Here, studying is like a cruel form of torture!  Especially when the sun is shining.  I ended up passing all my midterms, though (and getting high grades, for the record), just in case you thought I winged it.

A few of my friends were talking about visiting the Arab baths in Granada because we get a student discount.  I was told that I needed to go once, and I figured it would be nice after my tough week of studying (ha!).  I really didn’t know what to expect, but they were wonderful!  Hannah, her roommates Aileen and Theresa, and I went.  Since we went during lunchtime, we had the whole place to ourselves.  Inside, there are three different sets of baths: a hot tub-like one, a warm one and a cold one.  You enter the baths and have an hour and a half inside, allowing you to switch between the baths as you choose.  The inside is really pretty and relaxing, and they served the best tea I have ever had.  There is also a steam room (which was like sitting inside of a cloud) and for an extra euro, we got a 15-minute massage!  It was well worth the money, and I am glad I did it!  Very relaxing :) I found a few pics online of the baths and am putting them below so you can get an idea!

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Since midterms, life hasn’t really slowed down.  That weekend, my program had a trip planned for Sevilla and Córdoba.  That Friday, we took a bus to Sevilla (pronounced Sev-ee-ya), which is about three hours or so away from Granada.  Actually, before I committed to studying in Granada, I was trying to decide between Sevilla and Granada!  Sevilla was a really fun city.  The day we got there, we had free time to roam around the city until the next morning, which was really nice.  The girls from my intensive month and I did some exploring.  We walked down the river for a while, went to see the government building and ended up in the Plaza de España.  This plaza is REALLY pretty.  Around the edge of it, it has names of many of the major cities of Spain with painted tiles representing the city.  Also, there is an area filled with water (that kind of looks like a moat) running the length of it.  For only 5€, Nancy, Hannah, Alexa and I rented a paddleboat and rowed 35 minutes. The whole time, we were preoccupied with the idea of getting back on time, because for every minute after 35 minutes, we would be charged an extra euro (and as you know, we are poor and couldn’t afford that). Luckily, we made it with time to spare (with some sore rowing arms).  It was really fun!  After, we met up with some other friends from our group and walked through the Maria Luisa Park and another plaza.  Hayden thought it would be a good idea to stick a flower in my bun, and after, we all were on the lookout for different flowers to stick in it!  By the time I got back to the hotel, I had a swarm of bees following me!  At least it looked pretty!

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Unfortunately, ISA doesn’t pay for any of our meals when we go on trips with them (yet we stay at five star hotels…. curious).  Since Hannah and I are cheap, we got a loaf of bread, some aioli, chips and dried fruit.. and called it dinner.  Not to mention that Hayden ate half of our loaf while we were still in the supermarket (and didn’t pay for it.. typical boy..).  When we got to the hotel, we ate our “dinner” on the edge of our bed.  Let me just tell you, this is a recipe for constipation.  I mean, if you were wondering (too much information?)  Yeah, we didn’t feel so hot the next morning!  However, the breakfasts at the hotel were amazing!  All of us cheap students stole bread and meat to make sandwiches to last us through the day and tried to sneak them out of the dining area.  On Saturday, our program took us on tours of the gardens and of the cathedral.  The cathedral in Sevilla is actually the third largest in the world!  Though all the information is really interesting and the tours are nice, they get exhausting.  When they were over for the day, I was pretty happy.  That afternoon, we decided to go find the giant wooden mushrooms.  It is a fairly new attraction in Sevilla, and it is the world’s largest wooden structure that looks like mushrooms from the aerial view (see below).  Even though we won’t pay to eat, we all decided that it would be fun to watch the sunset from the top of the mushrooms, so we paid to ride the elevator up and explore a little (not to mention it came with a free drink in a dirty cup – worth it, right?)!  The elevator ride was pretty great too and made for some great group selfies! After, we all got shawarma for dinner and went to sit at the river to hang out for the night.  The spot on the river was really nice except for the groups of loud drunk people around us and the occasional whiff of pee!  A while later after exploring the other side of the river a little, we turned in for the night and got ready to head to Córdoba the next day.

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Córdoba was a nice city, but there wasn’t a ton to see.  We had a about an hour to roam around the city before our tour, and then we took a tour of the city and the mosque-turned-cathedral.  The city is known for all the flowers that decorate the buildings.  I guess that they have a festival called la Feria de Mayo, during which all the buildings are covered with flowers.  It’s supposed to be really beautiful.  I put a picture of a house below so you can have an idea of what that would look like!  The mosque in Córdoba is pretty incredible.  The inside is very interesting, and pictures don’t really do it justice.  Córdoba was just a short day trip, so that afternoon, we went back to Granada to get ready for the next week!

Alright, this is intermission.  I say this because I am stuck here guarding three sets of luggage and finished drinking my coffee… so you know what that means… Unfortunately, I can’t leave my post (Get it?  That was a play on words there.. Hopefully someone appreciated it.).  I hope my friends come back soon, or else we are going to have problems..  I only have one pair of pants!  (Again, too much information?).

Well, after we got back from Sevilla, we had three days to recuperate before heading to Rome.  (P.S. I got my intermission – just in case you were concerned.  Now sitting in the airport :)  Joaquín’s birthday was on Wednesday, so on Tuesday, Hannah and I threw him a birthday picnic -American style.  We went to the grocery store the day before to search for peanut butter in order to make sandwiches (he had never tried peanut butter either!).  Then, we all walked to the park, put down blankets and set up camp!  We had a TON of food and made peanut butter & jelly and peanut butter & banana sandwiches.  We surprised him with a strawberry pie, which I made that morning at the crack of dawn (it was only 7:30 am.. but that’s early for me anymore!)  I had to prepare some sort of makeshift crust out of these cookies I found, and I ended up giving myself a huge blister from crumbling the cookies so finely between my fingers!  Joaquín was a happy little camper when he found out we made him pie!  We tried to light candles for him to blow out, but it was too windy.  So after Hannah and I butchered “Happy Birthday,” he fake blew out his candles and pretended to be super excited!  We let him take the leftover pie home to his family so they could try pie as well.

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The day after, on Wednesday, we took a Blablacar to Málaga (which by the way, she was the best driver yet with the nicest car) and caught a flight to Rome! It was the first time I had ever flown using Ryanair, which was quite the experience. You definitely get what you pay for and nothing more. I have never had a flight like it. We didn’t start boarding until the time we were scheduled to take off, and they don’t call you up in an organized fashion to board – it’s a free-for-all. People on the flight talked so loud that I couldn’t even hear the flight attendant explain the safety instructions (How was I supposed to know how to inflate my safety vest if something were to go wrong? Or buckle and un buckle seat belt? Out of all the flights I have been on, this was the one time I felt I needed to know the safety information!) Also, half of the people on the flight were probably in the isle during a good portion of the flight, and the flight attendants did absolutely nothing about it! Unbelievable right? Thank goodness the plane didn’t fall out of the sky! We arranged to stay at another apartment with Airbnb, and the lady we rented from told us that for 5€ a piece, her mother’s husband would pick us up from the airport and drive us to the place. We met him at the airport holding a sign saying Hannah’s name, which she was pretty thrilled about. He could speak very little English or Spanish, and we knew no Italian. When we got in the car, he tossed Kay a dictionary, which he used to look up necessary words like “bathroom,” “garbage” and how to tell a girl she is beautiful (His goal was to find an Italian girlfriend in the three days we were there. He was unsuccessful.). The little apartment was, like I said, little. It was super comfortable, near to the subway and perfect for the four of us!

The first day, we planned to see some of the big sights of Rome but remembered that Obama was in town and half the attractions were shut down! Seriously… he had to shut down the coliseum! This day was really cold and rainy, and we started it by visiting the Trevi Fountain and contributing our 2 cents (one to fall in love, and one to return to Rome). There, we tried our first Italian gelato. So. Good. After, we just wandered around with our map, which had the must-see monuments numbered 1-10 on it. The fact that these monuments were numbered was bad for us.. One would ask, “where are we going next,” and another would answer “to number 8.” You know it’s bad when you refer to the Vatican as “number 4.” We got a pretty good laugh from that! For lunch that day, we were persuaded into eating pizza at a restaurant by its owner. Let’s just say that after everyone built up the anticipation by telling us how great Italian pizza was, we were pretty let down. It wasn’t much different than the States (actually, it was worse)! We continued walking around and happened to see a giant important looking building, which turned out to be St. Peter’s Basilica! It was beautiful! I have seen a lot of churches in the past three months, and that was definitely in the top three. Since we were going to the Vatican the next day, we wandered around after trying to figure out where it was (funny thing is the basilica basically is the Vatican). After, we checked out the Spanish Steps and Popolo Plaza (I think.. it was number 1 on the map). All over Rome, there are TONS of street vendors, and they follow you around. Kay made the mistake of showing interest and asking to try this “super laser” that one of the guys was selling. So, for the next 15 minutes, the guy followed us around trying to convince Kay to buy it! It was a pretty impressive laser. By that time, it was cold and rainy, and we were hungry. Our transportation home consisted of using the metro, which was a stressful experience. We cheated the system a little by buying only one tourist pass and passing it back to one another sneakily. Well, the pass sometimes wouldn’t work right away, so the people on the other side of the gate would have to walk in between the different gates trying the pass at each one, acting as if it was the gates fault the pass wouldn’t work and not our own (which of course didn’t look suspicious). I was really nervous about getting caught by the Italian security guards and getting yelled at in Italian! Luckily, we didn’t get caught the whole time we were there (I’m also not sure if we technically broke the rules or not). Anyways, Thursday evening we cooked pasta in the apartment and ate like kings and queens, and then rested up to go to “number 4” the next day.

We got up early Friday to head the Vatican so we could stand in line for tickets. None of us had wifi or cell phone service, and we didn’t plan well enough to buy our tickets ahead of time. The Vatican was very interesting, but I had no clue it was basically a museum! There is SO much art there. The Sistine Chapel was also breathtaking, but different than I expected! I pictured it much bigger. Before leaving, we took a break to eat peanut butter and banana sandwiches in the garden area (we received a few funny looks). That afternoon, we wandered around a bit more, discovering the Pantheon as well. Rome is so fascinating in the way it is built. You just happen to walk around a corner, or almost every corner, and stumble upon a giant ancient building or ruin! Hannah’s thing to say was “I wonder how old those ruins are!” After the Pantheon, we decided that we should try Italian pizza one more time (just to make sure we got the full experience).   Since we are cheap, we ordered the pizza to “take away” (so we didn’t have to leave a tip) and ate it on a street corner in front of some ruins. Well, eating on the street isn’t really socially acceptable in that part of Europe, and usually only homeless people do it. In fact, we were sitting on top of a cardboard box, which served as someone’s bed from the night before! Yep, we received some pretty funny looks from passersby. Almost everyone who passed us stared! Not to mention that we ate our pizza by picking it up with our hands, folding it in half and talking a large bite (also definitely not socially acceptable). Oh well, call us homeless (we practically are). I don’t know if it was because we were sitting on a street corner or what, but that pizza was SO good! Kay and I shared a sausage and mushroom pizza, and it was to die for. I talked about it for the rest of the trip to the point where my travel buddies were annoyed with me J Of course, to finish off the day, we had to try gelato again. Gelato number two was probably my least favorite. It was too creamy. After, we returned to the apartment to cook and rest-up for our third day.

Day number three (Saturday) we woke up early to stand in line for the coliseum. We stood in line for over an hour, but it was definitely worth it. The coliseum was incredible! It’s amazing that the Romans had the means to build a structure like that way back in the day. After the coliseum, we checked out Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum. Then we walked over to Trastevere, a hipster neighborhood of Rome, for lunch. We found a menu that included a drink, appetizer, main course and dessert for under 15€. This was supposed to be our pasta experience, but honestly I wasn’t overly impressed by it either! I will have to go back and try Italian food in the future. It was food, though, so I can’t complain. We wandered the streets of Trastevere, where many locals had set up stands displaying their homemade jewelry or art that they had for sale. Hannah and Lauren both found Italian leather purses for reasonable prices, which they were pretty thrilled about. We also tried gelato one more time. Okay, that was maybe the best ice cream I have ever had. What’s the trick to finding the best Italian gelato shops you ask? If the shop has a name, it’s not legit. Make sure all it says outside is “gelato.” If they “pretty up” the ice cream that you get to choose from, it means they are trying to hard to catch your attention and are covering up for the lack of flavor in the ice cream. Basically, buy your Italian ice cream from a hole-in-the-wall shop. We are all still talking about that ice cream! We ended up getting lost in Trastevere and having to ask for directions but eventually made it back to the apartment after a bit of walking. Our only regret about our trip to Rome was not spending more time in the neighborhood – it was all of our favorite part!

The next morning we had to catch a flight back to Spain. We didn’t have any problems until this day. That morning, Europe recognized daylight savings and turned their clocks ahead… and we woke up late. We all jumped out of bed and each took a job (some cooking breakfast and others cleaning) in order to get out of the house in time. Since we didn’t have a wifi, we couldn’t look for a recipe for crepes but since we were all craving them we decided to wing it. Yeah, that didn’t work. We ended up having no breakfast. Our Italian driver showed up to take us back to the airport, and we weren’t ready. Somehow, we communicated that we needed more time, so he left for a while. However, when we were ready to leave, we couldn’t find him! He disappeared! We searched the cars out front and the apartment building for him but had no luck. Finally, Hannah found him down the street sipping on a coffee! Thank goodness. He dropped us at the airport, and before we said goodbye, he asked to get a photo with us. What a cute, typical Italian man! Our flight back to Málaga was worse than the flight to Rome! I think it may have been the worst flight I have ever been on in my entire life. Similar to before, every person on the plane was walking down the aisles to talk to other people. However, the landing was the worst. We hit the ground so fast! When everyone started to clap, I thought to myself, “Why are you clapping? We aren’t going to stop!” We had to hit the brakes pretty hard in order to stop. I was SO glad to get off that plane. To complete the dysfunction for the day, we couldn’t find the Blablacar driver to take us back to Granada. It took us a half hour to 45 minutes of trying to communicate with him before we finally found him. Alex, the driver, was an interesting character. He drove incredibly fast (my friends made fun of me because I was so on edge due to this) and smoked in the car. I could have kissed the sidewalk when we finally got dropped off in Granada! Though I was exhausted when I made it home, I had such a great time!

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I should stop writing. Currently, I am flying back to Spain from Ireland on Ryainair. If this post gets submitted online, it means I survived another Ryanair flight. I am also writing this in a Word document that is telling me I have written 10 pages so far. That is ridiculous! I am going to take a little snooze, but I would advise you to read this fast… my goal is to get part two of this post up by Friday! Stay updated for the Ireland and Scotland trip post (unless you were bored reading about my Rome trip :D).

Sevilla later!!

 

<3 Bri

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Calling all prayers!

Please keep my uncle, my friend Nancy’s dad and my great grandma Trini in your prayers. As you already know, Trini is recovering from hip surgery. She is doing great and progressing daily, and I think the medicine makes her speak more rationally and clearly :) The other two have undergone heart surgeries in the past week and are dealing with some issues during their recoveries. Let’s lift them up!

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Oh, Valencia!

Hi all!  Just got back from Valencia, and you can read all about it!

Gains: Not sure exactly what I gained this week.  Probably more knowledge.  Yeah, I gained more knowledge.  And some friends from Valencia and Mexico.

Pains: Traveling is hard!  Don’t get me wrong, it’s so much fund.  However, planning and getting everything together can be stressful.  Also, awkward intercambios.  They are a pain.

Foreign Food:  Recently, I tried calamari, octopus, cheap caviar, rabbit and paella.  Surprisingly, I like them all!

Trains: This week, we traveled to Valencia!  It was a really short weekend trip that was full of mishaps and fun.

I always do this to myself.  I get busy, and then I can’t remember what I did the past two weeks since I wrote in my blog!  Since my trip to Valencia, Spain is fresh in my mind, I will start with it!

This past weekend, my friends Hannah and Nancy, and I, decided to go to Valencia.  As of this time last week (last Tuesday), we decided to go.  Yes, we only had two days to plan and get things in order.. A little stressful!  We also decided to try out a different method of transportation called BlaBlaCar that is becoming very popular in Europe.  This is basically organized hitchhiking.  If someone is traveling to a certain destination and has room in their car, they advertise it on this site.  Then, you can contact them and set up a place and time to meet them, and agree how much you will pay for a ride.  We were VERY nervous to do this.  We arranged to meet the driver, Fran, at a gas station near our houses and prayed he wouldn’t take us into the woods and kill us.  Luckily, he wasn’t a creep!  Him and his girlfriend, who was from Chile, both were traveling to Valencia because she is a singer and had a gig.  I put a link below if you want to see her sing (she is the main girl singer)!  They were extremely nice and very helpful.  The ride was about 5 hours (in a bus it is 8 hours) and 60€ roundtrip (90€ in a bus).  As you can see, this mode of transportation seemed much more efficient!

When we got there, Fran dropped us off at the apartment we rented through airbnb.  This was also the first time I had used this site for accommodations!  The room we rented was a room that a girl, Laura, rents out to travelers.  She is a student in Valencia and gave us access to the whole apartment, including the kitchen and some of their food.  We were under the impression that she lived there with her two girl roommates, but they turned out to be guys!  One was from Austria and the other from Mexico.  The kid from Mexico, Rodrigo, was studying to be a chef.  We were teasing him about paying him to cook for us, and he actually did!  He made us chicken parmesan (an American meal – he knew we would like it!) and crepes with nutella!  It was so delicious, and better than anything we could have cooked.  It was much better than the chicken pasta we made two nights before, which we also ate for breakfast the next two days.  Rodrigo is planning on coming to Granada to visit, so we hope that he will contact us to show him around!

We got to Valencia around 6pm on Thursday night, and by the time we had settled in and cooked dinner, it was pretty late.  That night, we ended up just walking around downtown and getting a little lost (which started the theme of the weekend – being lost).  The next day, we woke up, cooked breakfast (scrambled eggs – we were craving them because no one makes them here), clogged the kitchen sink doing doing dishes and headed out to rent bikes.  All around Valencia, there are these bike stations.  To rent them, you buy a week long pass, and then you can check one out and return it as you please.  There is no one at the kiosk – you simply enter your code and pin and check out the bike.  These bikes turned out to be so much fun!  They were our only means of transportation while we were there.

Our first stop on the bikes was to el mercado central (the central market).  This was basically like a GIANT farmer’s market.  Everything looked so delicious.  We bought fresh squeezed fruit drinks (I had mango :) and a bucket of strawberries to take with us to the beach.  On our way to the beach, we stumbled across la lonja, an old building where the silk exchange of Valencia was held, and explored it for a few minutes.  Then, we passed los torres de serranos in order to get to the dried out riverbed, which was converted into a beautiful park!  At the end of the park is la cuidad de las artes y las ciencias (the city of arts and sciences), which are five very impressive buildings that hold a science museum, an IMAX theater and the largest aquarium in Europe.  Due to the price, we didn’t go inside the museums.

After passing these buildings, we tried to get to the beach.. and got lost.  We were all a little frustrated with each other at this point, especially since it was 3pm and we hadn’t eaten since breakfast.  We went the opposite direction to get to the beach, and after 2 and a half hours of riding the bikes, we FINALLY made it.. not long before the sun went down.  However, we had to find a place to drop off the bikes.  This proved even more difficult, because all the drop slots were full!  We rode around for another 45 minutes trying to find a bike station!  We finally did and got to enjoy the beach and our smushed strawberries for a little while.  Food on the beach was really expensive, and even though we were starving, we didn’t want to pay for it.  We found a place for cheap hamburgers (they were really chicken burgers) which weren’t the tastiest, but they did the trick.  At this point it was dark, and we had to figure out how in the world to get back to the apartment.  We also realized at this point that we had been charged extra for the bikes.  Unfortunately, we missed the memo that if you ride the bikes for more than a half hour before returning them, you get charged more.  Yeah.. we rode the bikes for close to 3 hours.  Needless to say, we were all pretty frustrated and trying to figure out how to use the metro or the bus to get home.  We couldn’t figure out either option.  So we decided to walk, which we figured would take us two hours.  Oh, I forgot to mention that Rodrigo was also planning on making us dinner, and we had no way to contact him to tell him we weren’t going to make it back.  After we walked for a while, we saw a bike station, and decided to get back on them and ride home.  Now, it was raining, and we were riding like maniacs because every half hour we had to find a bike station – oh, and we were lost!  It was pretty funny!

Finally we made it back and collapsed into bed.  The next morning, we grabbed the bikes again and went to el hemisferic, the building in the park that had the IMAX theater.  We watched a documentary about las fallas, the festival that was beginning in Valencia the days we were there, in 3D.  It’s fascinating!  You need to look it up and read about it.  Every year, they build these extravagant, beautiful structures that they put on display around town.  Every day leading up to the final days of the festival, they have “una mascletá” somewhere in the town, which is basically a fireworks show in the middle of the day that is just for the noise and the rise in blood pressure.  Then, on the final day, they burn the structures to the ground.  Every year.  It’s really interesting because the whole town anticipates these two weeks every year, and the festival is unique to Valencia.  Below is a short trailer about them!

Municipal_2013   fallas_valencia_festivities4a3d2-218  2420288627_e092180e43

After the movie, we decided to head back into town to find a place to eat paella.  Paella is a rice dish that is very typical to Spain, and I believe it originated in Valencia.  After wandering around searching for a place to eat good paella for about an hour, we received a text from Fran (our driver) telling us to go to the mascletá.  We originally weren’t going to go, but when he sent us the text we decided to.  We were so glad we did!  It was very interesting to hear!  Definitely a blood pressure raiser.  Also, I have NEVER seen so many people out in the streets before in my life.  So cool.  I put a video below :)  It’s not the actual one we were at (which there are videos on youtube of), but this one is easier to see, and it’s easier to see how many people are around it!

After, we ended up wandering down an alley and finding a restaurant that had the BEST paella (I actually don’t know if that’s true.. I had never tried it prior to this experience).  The meat was pollo (chicken) and conejo (rabbit)  Paella with conejo is the most typical type in Valencia.  We also had the best chocolate ice cream I possibly have ever eaten for dessert.  After, we climbed a bell tower of the cathedral that claims to have the actually holy grail to get a view of the entire city, and then returned the apartment to sleep.  This pretty much ended our trip, as we were very tired and then only hung out with our hosts for the rest of it.  Sunday morning, Fran and Claudia picked us up, and we were home, sweet home by the time the sun set!

To just finish the story of the weekend, I have to add what happened when I got home.  I walked in the door and into the living room and said “hola!” to a lady who I thought was my mamá.  Then I looked at the lady again, and said “hola?”  It definitely was not my mom.  The three people got up off the couch and kissed me to greet me, but didn’t tell me their names, what they were doing or where my family was.  I was so overwhelmed and confused that I couldn’t even speak Spanish.  I just looked at them and said “cómo se llaman?” which is “what are your names?” I should have said “WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE??”  They told me their names and nothing more.  So I just stared at them confused until they explained what was going on.  I understand Spanish – I’m not an idiot.  They sure thought that if they started talking I wouldn’t understand!  Anyways, they eventually told me that Trini had fallen and broken her hip.  She had to have surgery and was in the hospital.  Also, they were my mamá’s brother, sister-in-law and niece.  I originally got a bad vibe from them, and the vibe got worse when my real family actually got home.  There was so much tension in the house!  My family doesn’t care much for Rosa, the sister-in-law!  I may not speak fluent Spanish, but I definitely knew why.  I was relieved when they left.  For the rest of the week, I have come home to new strangers in the house.  I really enjoy the family that is currently staying with us!  They remind me of my own.  It is my mamá’s other brother, Pepe (grande-big), his wife, Theresa, and their son Pepe (chico-little).  My sister, Laura’s, birthday was on Thursday, so we all threw her a surprise party!  We had a great time.  They really make me feel like I am a part of their family, and make fun of me when I say stupid things.  For instance, they were asking me about my experience with Rosa (the disliked sister-in-law) while we were eating.  What I didn’t realize was that my mamá, who was sitting next to me at the dinner table talking on the phone, was actually talking to Rosa!  They thought it was the funniest thing!  I was pretty red.  This family is leaving tomorrow, which I am kind of disappointed about, but Theresa wants me to come to Calpe (a beach town) and stay with them!

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS (of the past three weeks):

  • This past Thursday, I actually got to go skiing!  Hayden, his roommate Loren and I went with our friend Fernando, who I met at an intercambio.  It worked out nicely because we didn’t have to catch that crazy bus!  When we first started skiing, the snow was HORRIBLE.  I honestly have never skied on sheets of ice, nor have I ever been so terrified skiing!  You literally could not stop.  We would be going down a run, hit a sheet and fall.  You probably could have gone iceskating on some parts.  I took a pretty good spill and have a nice bruise on my backside.  It’s my souvenir :)  However, after lunch, the snow turned into slush, and it was 10 times better!  We hiked up in our ski boots to the top of the mountain, where you can see the ocean!  Also, on a really good day, you can see Africa.  We weren’t able to see it though.  It turned out to be a really fun day.
  • There is a Bohemian Jazz cafe in town that we discovered, which is just about the coolest thing.  It reminds me of the General Mercantile in Helena.  They have tons of old pictures and books, and it is a neat atmosphere.  The milkshakes there aren’t to shabby either :)
  • Joaquin took Hannah and I to a tapas bar to try some new food!  We tried pulpo (octopus), calamare (calamari) and gazpacho (a cold vegetable drink with tomato, garlic, vinegar and probably olive oil).  I really liked everything except for the gazpacho… not a fan of vegetable drinks.  If I could have warmed it up and eaten it with a spoon it would have been better.  He also took us up behind the Alhambra to explore some trails, and to our surprise he made us sandwiches.  We refer to him as our Spanish older brother.  One of the sandwiches was smoked salmon and cheap caviar.  He told us it was his favorite, so I choked it down… not my favorite!  The caviar wasn’t bad though!  Another fun fact: Joaquin has a beach house.  Yup, you read that right.  And we have been invited to go.  Woo hoo for Spanish friends!
  • I signed up to be contacted for intercambios through my school.  I was contacted by two people, and decided to meet with the first.  It was NOT fun.  His English was pretty bad, which wasn’t the problem.  The problem was how critical he was of my Spanish!  Usually in intercambios, you both realize that each is learning and is going to make mistakes.  Anyways, after this interaction, I decided not to email the other guy who sent a request to me back.  Well, my friend Hayden ended up having an intercambio and told me how great his was!  The guy loves to go climbing and spelunking, and he is going to take Hayden.  I was so jealous and asked if I could maybe come.  Well, Hayden ended up going climbing and had a great time.  He also told me that his intercambio partner emailed two people for an intercambio, him and another girl.  The girl never emailed him back.  I then asked Hayden, “is your intercambio’s name Carlos?”  Yep, it was Carlos.  They guy I decided not to email back.  That’s what I get.  I emailed him explaining what had happened, and hopefully I will get to hang out with both of them and do something outdoorsy next week!
  • My family made pasta one day!  My mamá got a pasta maker, so everyone came over to help cook!  It was so much fun and really delicious.  We had noodles hanging off of broomsticks!  After we all ate, my brother Javi goes “anyone up for crepes?”  I was like “claro!”  (Translation: Um, yeah!)  So we made crepes.  Seriously, it was the longest lunch of my life, coming in at about four hours.

CLASSES

It’s been about four weeks since my regular classes started, so I have a pretty good feel for them now!  I do enjoy them, but I don’t really like starting at 8:30 am and ending at 8:00 pm.  I haven’t decided whether it is worth the two day school week or not. I wake up every Monday and Wednesday and have to say to myself “you can do it!”  Oh, update on the bed situation.  I am not buying a pillow.  They must stuff them with feathers from a bird made of gold, because it is expensive for a good pillow!  About 40€ (more or less $55).  I am just sucking it up.  Back on track.  Here is a quick synopsis of my classes and teachers (I may explain more about the teachers – they are the most interesting part):

  • Literature:  Good class, but not what I expected.  I am a very black and white thinker, so I am not a huge fan of analyzing literature.  The teacher is very sweet and understanding, however, which definitely helps!  This is also the class I have the most homework in.
  • Islamic Culture in Spain:  I was really excited for this class, but it, too, was not what I expected.  The teacher lectures all through the class period and is all over the place.  It is more of a history class and less of a theology class, which I am bummed about.  I really wanted to learn about Islam.  Also, this teacher smells SO bad.  He has a nasty combover, smokes between every class and doesn’t really shower.  I sit in the front of the class, so on a good day, I get a little bit of a shower (if you know what I mean..).  He also likes to emphasize his “s” sounds for every word that ends with an “s,” so he sounds like a snake.  All in all, he is a very interesting character.
  • Spanish Culture and Civilization:  This class is very interesting!  We are learning all about Spain and cultural norms of the country!  I really enjoy learning the material in this class, but by the time it rolls around, I have been sitting in class for three hours without a break, so I am sleepy.  The best way I can describe the teacher is the photo below.  For some reason he just looks like Bert – I think it’s his head shape.  He also is very openly gay and married, which is interesting because I have never had a teacher talk about this so openly.bert
  • POE:  This is my language class, where we practice the speaking and writing parts of Spanish.  I really enjoy this class!  The teacher is an interesting lady, but I really like her!  She is a hippy.  Also, her favorite thing to teach us is how to use bad words (tacos) and slang in Spanish.  It’s a very relaxed atmosphere, so I feel a lot more comfortable talking in class.
  • Grammar: By the time this class rolls around at 6:30 pm, I am dragging.  When the class first began, I thought the teacher was going to be super strict.  He is the biggest nut of a teacher I have ever had.  I wish I could take a video of him, because trying to describe him doesn’t do it justice.  When we make mistakes or say something funny in Spanish, he stops and laughs with himself for a few minutes.  He doesn’t laugh at us though – we definitely join in.  It’s hilarious!  He also always uses the names “Eva” and “Luis” as example names.  Finally this week, we finally asked him why he uses those names.  He goes “it’s my ex-girlfriend” and laughs.  So we thought he was joking.  Nope, he was serious.  Luis is the name of her new boyfriend.  He tells us all this while he is laughing, which is a little strange, saying she broker his heart.  He is a strange, sad little man, but a very entertaining teacher!  This is how we all describe him (mannerisms, stature and teeth):

Well, that pretty much sums it up!  Again, I apologize for my lack of editing..  Have a good week!

<3 Brianna

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Hey Stranger

I know what your thinking: “Well finally!!”  Yes, I am updating my blog por fin.  As our friend Joaquin would say about me not being on top of things: “What a pity” (We taught him that “what a shame” is less awkward).

Gains:  A new Spanish friend named Joaquin, more weight and a possible volunteer opportunity!

Pains: Americans.  They NEVER want to speak Spanish together.  It’s the most frustrating thing.  Sometimes I just sit at home by myself and fume over it (that’s an exaggeration :) Also, my bed is getting to be unbearable.  I was trying to be tough and take it as a learning experience, but apparently I’m weak because I no longer sleep through the night anymore.

Missed Connections: There are certain things you just have to laugh about.  I will share the story later in my blog, but I tried to go skiing last week.  Missed some connections along the way.  Oh well.

Trains: This past weekend we traveled to Ronda!  What a beautiful city.  I expect Ireland to look like it.  See my pictures and decide for yourself!  Also, I BOUGHT A TICKET TO ROME!!!! AHHH!!! It’s terrifying to put money down.  We are going March 26-30.  Ireland is currently in the works.  My sister Laura wants to come with us which I am super excited about!

Wow.  A lot has happened in two weeks.  Where should I begin?

I think I left off by mentioning that my friend Hannah and I made a friend at the intercambio.  Hannah is from NJ, and we are the most like minded, which is pretty refreshing!  I really enjoy spending time with her.  Anyways, we have been desperate to make Spanish friends since we have been speaking so much English with our group!  Hannah chatted with Joaquin at the intercambio, and I chatted with this other somewhat touchy guy.  When I got the opportunity, I left that conversation and started one up with Hannah and Joaquin.

Let’s stop for a second so I can preface this story.  *Please, read this story until the end.  Don’t think I’m crazy after you read it! It’s going to sound very risky and somewhat stupid for a while!*

Anyways, Joaquin was telling us how he was going to go to this “strange, sophisticated” party on Friday.  That’s how he described it with his broad, yet also limited, set of English adjectives.  I was not interested in going to the party but was interested in making a friend.  Hannah, however, was interested in going to the party.  She expressed her interest to him, and he brushed it off.  Later, before we left, she expressed her interest about going to the party to him again, and he told her to let him know if she wanted to.  At this point, I butted in and said “how is she supposed to let you know?”  In turn, he gave us his number to contact him.  Trying to exchange phone numbers without straight out asking him was like pulling teeth.

Anyways, as the weekend rolled around we decided to contact him.  We made plans to meet him at one of the main plazas in town.  He said he was going to invite some friends, and Hannah and I invited 3 other friends (including Kay, our mother hen guard dog).  Keep in mind that before we met at the corner, Hannah and I estimated Joaquin’s age to be about 23-25.  Well, when we showed up at the corner that night, Joaquin was with a group of older guys (in their 30s).  I had a little freak out and said to Hannah, “what did we get ourselves into?”  We went to tapas with them, which was fine, and then we headed over to the party.  When we entered the apartment building, we had to go up in an elevator to get to the flat.  I was pretty nervous at this point.  Hannah leaned over and said that she was only getting in the elevator with Kay, Joaquin and I.  We let the other girls go in the elevator with the other guys first (I know, we are bad friends.  This was life or death though).  In my mind, I was playing out what would happen once we got to the top and walked out of the elevator: someone was going to put bags over our heads and sell us into the sex trade.  I was sure this would happen.  As we got into the elevator, I had one hand stuffed in my purse gripping my pepper spray.  Once that elevator door opened, I was going to Mace everyone.

Luckily, I didn’t have to.  The party was just a meet-and-greet type of a party.  It wasn’t some crazy college party.  What I learned from (and the skiing situation) is to never to have a guy describe anything if you want to know what something will really be like!  The age group was about 28-45, and people just walked around talking to each other.  It was really interesting, and I enjoyed meeting different people and hearing their stories!  A lot of the people were unemployed and were couch surfers.  We also met two guys from England.  One of them asked what state I was from, and when I told him Montana, he goes “oh, like Hannah Montana! Do you guys all ride wrecking balls there?”  What a pity.  In turn, I explained to him that instead of having swing sets growing up, we all just had a wrecking ball in the backyard.  Sarcasm will probably be the death of me.  All in all, I ended up being glad I took the risk and went to the party.  I would have never had the opportunity to meet half of those people and hear their stories.  When I think back on my study abroad experience someday, this will probably be one of the stories/events that come to mind first!

Recounting the stories from the past weeks is hard!  I think I will explain the main stories first, then talk more about personal experiences. The week after the party, Hannah, Hayden and I decided to go exploring up the river.  We just walked up it for about an hour until we reached a town called Piños Genil.  There, we walked up into town and stopped for a Coca Cola.  It was fun and refreshing!  We also saw a donkey on the way there, which Hannah just couldn’t believe.  Apparently they don’t see much for farm animals in NJ.

Last Monday, we went to Paddy’s again for intercambios.  No Spaniards really showed up, so we just sat and spoke English.  I was bummed.  However, on Wednesday, Joaquin invited Hannah and I to tapas.  After classes, he took us to his favorite tapas bar.  Hannah and I were still a little nervous to hang out with him, especially since it was just us three this time.  I told her that if he is really a creep, we would surely know after this experience!  Anyways, the tapas we got were SO good!  Some of the best I have had here yet.  He also introduced us to this non-alcoholic drink that is super popular in Andalusia, but I can’t remember the name.  It was something like “salacere..something.” I tried to remember because I has pieces of the Spanish words for “to leave” and “brain” in it, which is exactly what the word was doing in my brain.  The drink tasted like drinking a caramel apple sucker!  We ended up sitting at tapas for three hours with him, talking for half of it in Spanish and the other half in English.  It was so great.  He is definitely not a creep – we feel very safe.  And my creep radar is usually pretty strong and accurate.  This week, we are going to go hiking with him on Thursday.  We have somewhat of a bet going on for his age.  We honestly have no clue, but are hoping no older than 31.  I probably will end up embracing my bluntness and ask.

The day after tapas (Thursday), I had plans to go skiing with some friends.  We were supposed to meet at 7am to catch the bus to the bus station.  Well… I woke up at 7:23.  Yep.  My friends already caught the bus to the station, and the bus to the mountain was going to leave at 8am.  I jumped out of bed, got my things together, and ran to try to find the bus stop.  However, Hayden gave me horrible directions to the bus stop.  He told me to go a few blocks to the left, but didn’t mention that I needed to cross the river.  I called him asking for better directions, and he told me I needed to catch bus 10 at the stop across the river.  He said to make sure it didn’t pass me as I headed to the stop.  As he said that, guess what happened.  Bus 10 drives past.  I sprinted!  ..and missed it.  At this point, I didn’t really know what to do, so I jumped in a taxi.  I asked the taxi driver if he thought I would make it in time, and he said he wasn’t sure.  We got to the bus station at 8am, and the taxi driver pointed to where the bus would have been and told me I missed it.  I jumped out of the taxi and ran into the bus station.  Well, turns out the bus hadn’t left.  However, since I ran into the bus station and not to where the bus actually was, I ended up missing it.  My friends saw me as the bus drove away.  As I am writing this, I think my blood pressure is rising again!  Well, there was another bus to the mountain at 10am, so I sat at the station for 2 hours deciding if it was worth it to go.  The whole time I was asking Hayden what it was like, and hoping he would honestly advise me whether it was worth it to come or not.  Yeah, I am never asking a boy for a description of anything again!  He told me he would probably would get on the bus and come if it was him.  So I bought the ticket and took the bus up.  Side note: Europeans smell!  They have a stench!  I have never smelt a bus that stunk so bad of people!  Carrying on.  What Hayden failed to tell me is that it was POURING down rain on the mountain.  Pouring.  I got off the bus and decided buying the lift ticket wasn’t worth it.  Luckily, the bus was only 10€ roundtrip.  However, the bus didn’t return until 4pm, so I hung out at Sierra Nevada all day.  About two hours after I had arrived(and while I was trying to read and translate a menu I found in order to keep myself occupied), my friend Loren decided he didn’t want to ski anymore and hung out with me for the rest of the day.  I taught him how to play Rummy.  All in all, I was initially disappointed that the day didn’t go as planned, but life’s an experience. I can just chalk this up to one of them!

This past weekend, my program went to Ronda.  It is about an 2 hours south of Granada by bus.  The city was beautiful!  It was pretty cold though.  Our program hired a guide to take us around for the day, which is good and bad.  It gets boring after a while, and I wish that I would have had more time to explore the city on my own.  I think I am definitely a traveler who likes to explore on her own!  The giant bridge in town is incredible, and the vistas are preciosas.  I learned in Ronda that I really don’t like Spanish ham.  It grosses me out, especially because it is so fatty.  It’s too bad that they have so much pride in it, and it’s basically all they eat for meat besides chicken.  I don’t even like ham in the States!  On the way back from Ronda, I made a friend on the bus….. he slept on my shoulder.  Awkward.

A lot of what I talk about probably makes this experience sound like there is nothing bad about it.  However, I have found myself more frustrated in the past two weeks.  It is incredibly hard to constantly speak Spanish, especially if you don’t have many Spanish friends.  Many of the kids from my program don’t really care how much their Spanish improves, as I have mentioned before.  I am realizing that if I don’t become more proactive, my Spanish isn’t going to improve much.  This situation is very hard to navigate.  If I isolate myself from English speakers, I have very few friends and little to do. Also, my few Spanish friends probably don’t want to spend every waking moment with me.  This is my biggest dilemma right now, and I am still not quite sure how to resolve it correctly at the moment.

Also, there are things that I really miss.  I miss beef.  So much.  I also miss having more of a variety in what I eat.  The food is good here, but it is pretty bland.  Sometimes I crave different flavors.  Another thing I miss is my bed.  Even my dorm room bed was more comfortable than the one I have now.  I think I am going to give in and buy a pillow and see if that helps.  The pillow I have now is very thin, flat and stuffed full of feathers so there is no give.  I just can’t handle my neck hurting anymore.  Every night, it falls behind my bed, and when I realize it in the middle of the night, I sit up to grab it and smack my head on the headboard.  Every. Single. Night.  I also miss my car.  I don’t have as much freedom to do things here without having a vehicle, which gets annoying at times.  There are other things I miss, like long hot showers or normal deodorant, but I try not to dwell on them.  Alright, venting session is over.

Well, I am going to give my classes one more week before I tell you about them.  I feel that three weeks is fair to give me a good feel for them and not judge them prematurely.  However, I did have a 30 MINUTE PRESENTATION IN SPANISH yesterday.  It was assigned the Wednesday before, so we had to rush!  It was a group project, and many of the group members were traveling over the weekend.  Luckily, we actually did a pretty good job!

This concludes my post for the week!  I can’t do this every two weeks… they posts get too long and there are too many stories to tell!  Hopefully, you will see the next one on Sunday or next Tuesday!

<3 Bri

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My Apologies!

Don’t worry, I haven’t abandoned my blog!  These last two week have just been busy and difficult, as I have been adjusting to a different schedule.  I plan to update you about everything on Tuesday!  

~Bri

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I know, I know. I’m 2 days behind.

My apologies… I am a two days late posting my latest entry.  I needed two more days to make my life sound more interesting!  Actually, it’s just been a really busy transition week.

Gains:

1. I passed my exam this week!  After I took it, I was pretty sure I failed.  It was extremely difficult for me.

2.  Watched “La Ladrona de Los Libros” at a movie theater here with my sis.  I understood about 85%, and there weren’t even subtitles!

3.  Went to an intercambio (language exchange) last night and made some Spanish friends!  I was pleasantly surprised with how well I could communicate with them (for the most part).  However, I was very, VERY tired after classes.

Pains: Right now, I’m having a painfully hard time trying to be creative with this post.  I had a brilliant idea for it, but I couldn’t carry out my plan with it being rainy outside.  

Classes:  My class schedule:  Mondays and Wednesdays (8:30 am – 8:00 pm).  I’ve only been to one day of classes at this point, and I already know that I am going to feel like death by the time 8:00 pm rolls around on these days.  However, I think it’s worth not having class on Tuesdays and getting a four day weekend every week.  Now I just have to find someone with the same schedule to travel with….

Trains: Still no concrete plants yet!  Actually, under pains I should put “trying to plan travels.”  It’s SO difficult.  We are having a travel meeting over sangria tonight.

 

Here we go again!  It scares me how fast weeks go by here..  I get excited to tell you about my adventures, but then I also have a minor crisis because I realize I am running out of time (and I still have 4-5 months)!  

This was an interesting week.  I spent Monday and Tuesday preparing for my exam on Wednesday.  The exam was difficult, let me tell you.  Everyone in my class walked out ready to cry.  One of the most frustrating parts for me was the oral exam.  For this, you had to talk with one of the professors about a “theme” you were told on the spot for 5-10 minutes.  As the three weeks went on, I got a little frustrated with my professors.  Africa cared about teaching us the material, but as soon as you opened your mouth to talk, she made you feel like an idiot and that you were inconveniencing here.  Luckily, she did it to everyone and not just a select few.  The other professor, Carmen, was much more patient when we spoke, but she didn’t stick to the curriculum.  In turn, when we took her part of the exam, we were very ill prepared.  Back to what I was saying about the oral portion of the test, I had to do it with Africa.  When I sat down, she slip the two topics to me and said I had 5 min. to read them and decided what I wanted to say.  One was about organizations you can volunteer with, and you had to talk about your opinion of them.  The other was about education systems and what you would propose to improve them.  These are not things I can think about and explain in Spanish after 5 minutes!!  However, I have heard a lot about the education system in the U.S. from Ali and from my Spanish classes at Carroll, and felt confident enough to rant about them a little.  The whole time, Africa either looked past my face and out the window or made the “your inconveniencing me face” accompanied by the eye roll.  It was so intimidating!  When I got home from the test, I couldn’t talk in English or Spanish.  I was exhausted, frustrated, defeated and brain dead.  

That night, we had a family outing to a sporting goods store because my sis wanted me to get a little day pack to do hikes.  Let’s just say I was very quiet.  One thing about language acquisition is you have good days and bad days.  I can’t remember if I have already digressed about this, but if I have, I’m going to reinforce my point.  Some days I really feel like I am going to learn and be fluent eventually in Spanish.  Then, about two days a week (at least) I get very discouraged.  During these days, I just want to speak English.  Usually, it’s worse if I’m tired.  The best way I can describe the feeling by imaging that you are deaf.  I think it is probably very similar to not understanding a language and being completely surrounded by people that speak a different language than you.  For example, when my mamá, sis, Javier and abuela are all at the table for lunch, the talk very fast between each other.  Then, one will tell a joke and everyone will laugh.  If I don’t understand, I will do one of two things.  First, I will pretend I get it and laugh along.  They always know that I really don’t understand, so I usually look like an idiot when they ask me afterwards if I understood. Embarrassed, I say no.  Secondly, I will just pretend like I wasn’t really listening and either find something interesting in the room to stare at with a glazed over look, or I  pretend like I am super intrigued with what I am eating.  Back to the reason I began explaining this (gosh I like tangents).  The “defeated days” are the worst.  

Of course, I have to share a little about Trini.  One night early last week, Laura and I stayed home with Trini while my mamá went out with some friends.  That night, we skyped my mom so Laura could meet her.  It was pretty cute because she got to practice her English!  After, the three of us were sitting at the table eating dinner, and I think Trini must have eaten something funky because she was on a spitfire!  First, Laura asked me if my real mom would have been mad if she told her how young she looks.  Trini felt that she knew the answer to this better than I would, so she went off about how my mom couldn’t possibly be mad!  Neither Laura nor I understood what she was saying, so Laura looks at her and says “do you speak English?”  Her reply: “Oui, oui, oui.”  French.  She thought she was speaking English!  Then, she went straight into a joke about a japanese guy who jumped out of an airplane but his parachute didn’t work.  I didn’t get it, but she thought it was funny.  When I talked, I pause to think/conjugate verbs in my head a lot.  That night, when I would pause, Trini would try to guess what I wanted to say.  It was like she thought we were playing charades or Taboo or something!  Finally, Laura just slapped her hand right over Trini’s mouth so I could get a word in!  Trini made this face of defeat and kind of slumped down in her chair, and I got the giggles.  Then, so did she.  To end the night, I was going to tell both of them goodnight and ask Laura what time were were going to go to the movie the next night.  When I asked, Trini replied that mornings aren’t good for her and so we should do a different time.  She doesn’t even leave the house!  After, I just sat down on the bed with her and asked her time works best for her and which movie she wanted to see.  Laura laughed in the background.  Last thing about Trini.  If I leave my contact case on the bathroom sink that we share at night and she either goes to after me or wakes up before me, she will dump the liquid out of my contact case.  I have no clue why… Now I have to hide it from her!

Laura, Julian and I also went to “La Ladrona de Los Libros” last week.  Anyone know what movie that is in English?  I really liked it, and like I said above, I understood a lot more than I thought I would.  This weekend we had four days off of school, and it was very uneventful.  Many of my friends traveled, but I decided to stay back and plan my travels a little more.  I think it was a wise choice.  I ended up catching a cold this weekend, so on Saturday I hung around the house and my mamá began teaching me how to crochet.  Sunday, my sis took me to an Arab tea shop that has such a pretty view of Granada.  We got coffee and crepes, even though it was a tea shop, because we both needed the caffeine.  I want to hang out there more!

After tea, I attended a different church.  After the first hour, I was loving the church and was very sure that it would be the church I would commit to.  After the second hour, I was wondering how long the service was going to last and getting tired of straining to understand what the pastor was saying. After the third hour, I was tired, hungry and frustrated with everything about Spanish and myself and the pastor and life in general.  I don’t think I have ever walked out of church so frustrated before!  The service went from 6:30-9:30 (at least).  I left a little before 9:30 because I had to make it home for dinner.  Honestly, I don’t think it’s the best for me to attend that church, and I am going to keep looking.  However, they sang a song that I really liked and that is also in English.  I loved this phrase in the song: 

Que tu Espíritu me guíe sin fronteras
Más allá de las barreras
A donde tú me llames
Tú me llevas más alla de lo soñado
Donde puedo estar confiado
Al estar en tu presencia

In English: 

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

I think in the place I am in right now, I really identified with what this part of the song was saying and see it more as a prayer/desire for myself during this period of time in my life.  Also, I just have to share this scripture with you.  It honestly made me giggle:

For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vinesand fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills. (Deuteronomy 8:7-9)

You are probably wondering why I think this is funny.  Ok, Granada has brooks, streams, valleys and hills.  They also have have lots of wheat and fig trees.  Furthermore, Granada is famous for having pomegranates (in fact, it’s their official symbol), and if they could drink olive oil like water, they probably would.  Also, trust me, in this land the bread is not scarce.  Jobs may be scarce but bread is definitely not.  So, what I got out of this is that the Lord has brought me into good land… Granada :)  Who knew that he was really talking about Granada here!

Wooo, this is getting long.  Well, a little about my classes.  Like I said, I start classes at 8:30 am, and I am taking 5 classes (each 1.5 hours long).  It makes for a very long day.  I am talking Modern Literature of Spain, Islamic Culture in Spain, Culture and Civilization in Spain, Grammar and Speech and Oral Production.  All of these courses are entirely in Spanish, and so far they seem like they will be very interesting.  Since it takes me so long to walk home, I have to find places to hang out nearby the school during my breaks.  

Lastly, I will tell you a little more about intercambios.  These are held at select bars in Granada, and English and Spanish speakers come to improve their speaking.  I was hesitant to go last night, but I’m really glad I did.  I got to talk to three Spaniards (a girl and two guys) and learned a lot besides the fact that I was exhausted.  I like meeting Spaniards more this way than at discotecas.  The reason that most people come is because they have to learn English because their job depends on it.  For this reason, I feel much safer.  Also, the bar, called Patty’s, is owned by Patty the Irishman who speaks both English and Spanish.  He was very friendly to us and organized the intercambio well, placing us each with someone to talk to.  He also assured us that if there were any shenanigans, he would take care of it.  However, Patty charges a lot for a Sprite!  My friend Hannah and I talked with a guy named Joaquín.  He was very polite and invited us to hang out on Friday, so we may get to know him and his friends!  I will update you on this next week probably!  

Well, that concludes my post for the week!  I apologize again because I am rushing and don’t have time to read over this – ignore all my mistakes!  Also, I have done a terrible job at writing down my food this week.  So sorry.  I will be better next time.

<3 Bri

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Quick Story

I just had to add a quick story. So we just finished eating lunch, and I had one of my biggest accomplishments yet! I UNDERSTOOD TRINI!!!! I completely comprehended everything she said. Let me set the scene for you. Laura, Esperanza, Trinidad and I are all sitting at the table, when all of a sudden we look over and Trini is chewing on her teeth! Laura freaked out, and Esperanza and I laughed until I cried! Trini was pretty amused with herself and proceeded to tell us about a time when this little 3 or 4 year-old girl wouldn’t leave her house. She kept telling her to go home and the girl wouldn’t, so Trini popped her teeth out to scare her into going home! If this doesn’t give you a good idea about her personality, I don’t know what will. Anyways, today was the first day I could understand full sentences she said instead of just words here and there. Good way to start the week :)

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Hi. I’m Brianna. And I’m addicted to Nepolitanas.

Gains:  Spending today speaking only Spanish and going for a hike!  Seriously, it has been my best day so far!  Another thing I have gained is weight from the amount of bread I eat and my addiction to nepolitanas.

Pains: Articles and pronouns in Spanish.  Spanish speakers use them with everything, and they are one of the hardest things for me to understand.  They also have to match the subject you are talking about.  For example, if I am talking about a tree (un árbol), I use “lo” to refer to it after I primarily define it in a previous statement:  Lo he visto = I have seen it (the tree).  On the contrary, if I am talking about the girls (las chicas), I use “las.”  If it was one girl, I would use “la.”  For example, Las he visto = I have seen them (the girls).  I know, it’s confusing.  My other pain is my right foot… I think I am going to have to have bunion surgery or something when I get home!  Mom, we should go through this experience together :)

Nepolitanas:  I thought this was an appropriate blog title for this week, especially since I spent a majority of my budget for this week on them (exaggeration).  I will spare you and not confess my love for them.

Trains:  I think the title “Gains, Pains, ____ and Buses” would probably be a more appropriate name for my blog.  However, “trains” sounds better :)  As of now, we really don’t know what we are going to do during our break next week at the moment.  We were going to go to London because a round trip flight was only 55€, but prices went up overnight.

Hmmmm…… what stories should I share with you?  I suppose I should start with classes, since I am here to learn, right?  (Mom and Dad, there was no sarcasm intended in the previous sentence…)  In reality, I really am learning a ton.  I would say that I am learning the least in my classes, as strange as that may sound.  This is because many people in my class are not that interested in learning the language.  Quite honestly, many are here spending “daddy’s money” and treating this time as a vacation from life.  I guess if you have the ability to do that and don’t really want to return home somewhat bilingual, more power to ya!  I, however, REALLY want to be bilingual.  In fact, I created a goal for myself this week.  My goal: to be fluent in Spanish by the time I have kids.  This way, I can teach my children when they are younger so they don’t have to struggle like I am right now!  Also, this goal has a secret back door: there is a chance I may never have children, and therefore I will never have to be fluent!   Good plan, right?!  Anyways, I learn the most by interacting with people who speak Spanish fluently.  When I communicate with Spaniards, I am able to listen to the usage of different words and phrases, and in turn I can implement them into my own conversations.  One of the most frustrating things for me is trying to speak Spanish with other English speakers.  Neither party knows how to use the language correctly!  This is why it’s hard to learn in my classes.  My classmates are all from the U.S., except for one guy who is from Brazil (He is hilarious by the way.  He speaks Portuguese and English and understands more that the professor says than the rest of us usually do, so he mimes and mouths words to all of us when we can’t figure out what’s going on.  His facial expressions are the best, and trying to explain them doesn’t do them justice).  My intensive month ends on Tuesday, and on Wednesday I have an exam over all I have learned.  Hopefully it goes well!

Beyond Spanish, I am learning a lot about myself.  First of all, I am realizing just how much I love to have a routine.  Well guess what?  “Routines” don’t exist for students who study abroad.  Due to this, I have begun pulling out my hair (just kidding).  Actually, I am getting better at putting aside all the things I want accomplish for the day so that I don’t miss out on opportunities and adventures here!  I don’t exactly know what word to use for this quality I am acquiring…. I think I would call it “Aragonism” with a side of FOMO (fear of missing out).  Yep, that’s it.  For those who don’t know the Aragon family, they like to drop everything for an adventure and never really have set plans.  Another thing I am learning about myself is that I don’t have the ability to abandon my values just because I am in another country and living life differently than usual.  I don’t have the desire to go out every weekend and get drunk, and it is definitely a personal choice because many of my friends here do.  Also, many students make very impulsive decisions while abroad.  For example, this past week one girl got a tattoo, one chopped her hair off and a few others got some surface piercings.  They all just say, “When in Spain!”  Boy, that’s a lot of commitment!  I have nothing against these things, just the manner in which they decided to do them!  There are so many different personalities that I am surrounded by, and through it all I am learning how to love people who are incredibly different from me.  Though I am learning many other things about myself, the last I will tell you for now is how much I value an intelligent/deep conversation.  When I get to have one here (usually they are with mi mamá or mi hermana Laura), it is like a breath of fresh air.

You probably are curious about what I did this week, right?  Well, Tuesday my program took a tour of Capilla Real and the Cathedral of Granada.  My goodness, are they pretty!  Capilla Real is the royal chapel where King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella are buried.  As a refresher, these were the royals who gave money to Christopher Columbus so he could do some exploring!  Above where they are buried there is a giant mural/sculpture on the wall depicting the life of Jesus in various scenes.  It’s incredible.  I probably could have stared at it for hours.  After, we went over to the cathedral.  Wow, the interior was breathtaking!  I can’t even begin to describe it.  In the center are murals and stained class, and around the outside are other murals.  They are all really neat, but I didn’t like one of them.  This painting was of a Spanish soldier crushing a Moore.  I thought it was really sacrilegious!  If I understand the heart of God correctly, I don’t think he would want anyone he created crushed by a horse.  After, my friend Nancy took me to meet her friend Javier.  We went to a movie with him at a place very close to my apartment that has free movies on Tuesdays.  Then, we went to tapas after.  Oh, I need to take this moment to clarify something.  The definition of a bar here (which is the same as a tapas bar) is basically a restaurant.  Tapas bars are just small restaurants with very comfortable atmospheres.  Pubs here are more similar to bars in the U.S.  However, from what I have seen of the pubs here, they are much nicer than U.S. bars.  Furthermore, a chupiteria is NOT a place that sells churros.  For some reason, it sounded to me like they should have churros there!  When some friends asked it if I wanted to go to a chupiteria, I said, “No thanks, I am not really in the mood for churros.”  Yep, they laughed at me.  This is actually a shots bar – I’m so naive!

Ok, enough of that tangent.  Usually, I walk around the town with my friends in the evenings on weekdays.  We get very cooped up in our apartments, and right now we have very little homework.  One day this week, I let my friend Hayden try my nepolitana.  By Friday, he was begging me to show him where I buy them.  Trust me people, they are NOT hard to find!  There are panaderías on every street corner.  I think they should be outlawed because they are detrimental to my bank account.  Otherwise, every town should only be allowed to have one that is located on the outskirts.  Anyways, he and I stopped to get one on the way to Casa D Porras.  Earlier in the week, my program failed to tell us that we can take artsy classes there, and we want to take a photography class there.  We walked up to see if they would still let us sign up, but we won’t know until Monday.  After, we walked up to the Albaicín, a poorer neighborhood in Granada, to meet up with some friends and watch the sunset.  When we met up with them, we decided the vista we were at wasn’t good enough.  Then, Hayden spotted an old church and a Moorish wall up on the side of the hill, and we hightailed it up a bunch of stairs to make it in time!  We only had about 40 minutes before the sun was supposed to set.  Luckily, we made it there in time!  Again, sitting on the hill wasn’t good enough.  We had to climb the wall.  Kay, Hayden and I scaled the Moorish wall (keep in mind that I’m wearing fashionable army boots which are not optimal for wall scaling).  It was so worth it!  See my pictures to decide for yourself :)

Before today, I was frustrated because it was seemingly impossible to make friends with Spaniards.  Until now, there have been two methods of interacting with Spaniards that my friends have used:

1. Sign-up for a pen-pal who is from Granada on a shady website.  Then, meet them in person and hope they are not actually a 50-year-old man with different intentions for the relationship than you have (luckily, this hasn’t been the case yet).

2. Exchange saliva (and hopefully telephone numbers) at a discoteca.  This is not my method of choice :)

Today, I think I found my method.  It has probably been my favorite day in Granada so far.  I honestly couldn’t be more blessed by my host family.  In reality, having my host sister be Laura probably was one of the best things that could have happened to me.  Many of my U.S. friends in my program do not spend time with their families.  Laura, however, may become one of my best friends.  This week, I was dying to go for a hike.  Seriously, I think I was literally dying!  Okay, it wasn’t that bad, but I did not express this desire to my host family at all.  One day during lunch this week, Laura began telling me about how her boyfriend Julian’s dad loves to hike.  In the meantime, I thought she was telling me about how they were all going to go this weekend, but she was really asking me if I wanted to come with!  I could have kissed her!  She had no clue I wanted to go so badly (coincidence, I think not!).  This morning, we met Julian, his Dad Jose (who they actually call Pepe I think) and his uncle to head up to the mountains.  What’s funny is that on Friday, I stood on top of the Moorish wall, and while looking at the place we ended up going today, I said “I really want to explore that area!”  Well, I didn’t have to wait long to fulfill that goal! We went exactly to the area I pointed to. At the beginning of the trip, Julian’s dad and uncle barely talked to me.  I felt really bad because I don’t understand Granadino very well.  However, I did understand when Pepe told me that this hike was a test to see if I was tough enough to join them on other more difficult excursions.  Wow, send the fear of God right through me!  Of course, I had to prove I was in shape so I could do more exploring in the future!  First, we hiked up to a bunker used during the Spanish Civil War in 1936-1939.  Then, we hiked up to Cueva del Gato (Cave of the Cat).  Lastly, we hiked up to a cross.  Only Pepe and I hiked up to the cross, which we had to do a little rock climbing for.  On the top, we had such a beautiful view of the Sierra Nevadas!  At this point, Pepe began talking to me more, and I think he decided I was strong enough :)  He is very knowledgeable about the outdoors and was telling me the names of plants, trees and  mountain peaks!  Will I remember all of them, probably not.  I don’t even know plant and tree names in English!  However, I really enjoyed learning.  As I spent more time with them, I began to understand them better and also began to think in Spanish.  If I could spend all my time with them, I probably would.  At the end of the time, I told them if they ever had space in their car, I would love to join them.  Gosh, what a blessing they all are!  If it wasn’t for them, I would never get to explore any of the beautiful terrain around the city.

To sum all this up, I’m just loving life right now :)

Differences:

  • They make different sounds here than in the U.S.  For example, instead of “um,” they make a sound like “ay” or “ey.”  They also don’t make the “oh!” sound to express surprise, to exclaim or to express that you understand something.
  • The phrase “I’m sorry” is not used as loosely here as in the U.S.  You say it if someone has told you a family member has died or they failed a test, but not if someone tells you they are sick or had a bad day.

New Food:

  • Cocido: a stew with ham, potatoes, noodles (like in Lipton soup) and some veggies.  I wasn’t a huge fan of this one because the ham has bones in it that you don’t discover until you begin chewing.
  • Bread with a nice slab of pig fat.  Mi abuela (Trini) loves this!  I think it’s gross.
  • Donuts.  They are much more “doughy” than “airy” here.
  • Pasta with chicken sausage and tomato sauce.  I really like this!
  • Soup of blended zucchini, potatoes and onions eaten with croutons in it.  I like this dish too.
  • Pollo con Bechamel: This is chicken with a sauce called Bechamel, accompanied with potatoes and green beans.  I loved this one!

Just to let you know, I put more pictures on here than I do on Facebook, so be sure to look at them!  I will have to start deleting some of the first ones in order to continue adding new ones.  Also, I really hope you enjoy reading this!  I am trying to do my best to write it in a way that will make you feel more like I am actually telling it to you in person!  Formality is no fun for these types of things in my opinion!

<3 Bri

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The Rain in Spain Does Not Just Fall on the Plain…

It’s that day again!  Time for a new post :)  To start out:

Gains: My Spanish is improving!  Also, I am becoming friends with my host sister and her boyfriend, and they introduced me to a super cheap tapas bar!

Pains: Speaking Spanish in public.  People speak so fast here, and also Spaniards from southern Spain have their own type of slang.  For example, instead of “todo” they say “to.”  Also, public restrooms.. very few exist.  Oh, and my back after sleeping in my bed.

Rains: It has rained almost every day this week.  It has been fairly cold.  A different type of cold than Montana cold.

Trains: No traveling yet!  Trying to plan a trip for the first weekend of February.

This week of classes went by pretty slowly.  Four hours straight in the same classroom is exhausting!  I am still enjoying the classes, but we have moved onto things that are more difficult for me, like listening to conversations and reading comprehension.  I think the most difficult thing for me is speaking in front of the class.  I don’t even like to speak in my English classes!  Personally, I feel that each of us U.S. students have large egos, and we judge each other based on how our speaking skills measure up to one another.  I prefer to talk only with Spaniards because they are a lot more understanding than English speakers! As for teachers, my first teacher is kind of intense… Friday, she told us all to jump out the window, one after another!  After awhile, she said she decided she would just jump out the window herself!  However, things got less tense after she taught us this alien game (it’s difficult to explain but similar to the game “signs” in a way).  We got some good laughs out of that, and if you messed up the game, you had to give her something that belonged to you.  In order to get it back, she made you sing, dance, etc. in front of the class.  One guy had to shout “I need a woman” in Spanish from the window!  It was funny.  My other teacher is more laid back, which is refreshing after the first two hours.  One thing that shocked me was last Tuesday, we got on the topic of whether or not we believe in God.  She went around the classroom and asked each of us if we believed in God.  Interestingly, at least half of my class does not. If that happened in the U.S., I would have had a different teacher on Wednesday!  It is so interesting here how people do not have to be politically correct.  They say a lot of things very bluntly, and it isn’t taken as offensively.

When class is over for the day, I make my 25 minute walk home just in time for lunch (PS: I have cut my walking time in half! Gotta love shortcuts :).  I never know who will be over when I get home!  One day, my mamá’s son Javier was over with his girlfriend Ixchel (I have NO clue how to spell her name – it’s Mayan).  Another day, my mamá’s brother Javier came over, and then a different day her sister Sole and her husband Rafa came!  A lot of the family lives in smaller towns near Granada and come often to see Trinidad (my grandma).  Sole and Rafa were super friendly, but both are “compulsive smokers” as my mamá calls them.  I used “but” there because due to this, they smoked in our apartment.  It was SO bad… and took the rest of the day to air out.  I locked myself in my room this day and had to keep my window open even though it was cold outside.

As you will see in the pics I added, we did some exploring last Sunday!  We went up by the Alhambra to explore the grounds and the gardens.  It was SO pretty!  We explored for 3.5 hours and probably only saw 1/4 or so of the area.  That means we have a lot more exploring to do!  We ended the fun day of exploration by watching the sunset.  We couldn’t find a good place to watch it and almost decided to head home, but my friend Hannah was determined to find a spot!  We found a perfect spot just in time!  It was brilliant!  Then, we ended the day with a Nepolitana :)

This weekend I was able to avoid the discotecas.  Friday night, we went out for tapas at this tapas bar my host sister loves.  For only 2€ (about $3), we got “pre-tapas” (which consisted of french fries and salad) and a drink, then our actual tapas (seen in photos – I had Carne con Salsa), and then, since my sister’s boyfriend knows the waiter (he goes there a lot), we got free dessert (cream puffs in pics).  Seriously, so much food!  The next day, everyone in our program found out about it and was asking where it was!  Sometimes, being in the program reminds me of the track team days…enough said.  Saturday, I went shopping with my friend Nancy.  It was fun!  We went to these bazaars on a street in town that sell a lot of Indian souvenirs and beautiful leather bags.  Also, here is where the gypsies hang out.  It’s kind of scary!  The streets are super narrow (like the size of the hallway in your house), and the gypsies try to hand you rosemary.  If you take the rosemary, they will read your palm and make you pay them.   They are super persistent in trying to get you to take the rosemary and sometimes follow you.  One gypsy had a crazy eye, which really creeped me out!  This is also the day when I found out that very few stores have bathrooms.  If they do, you have to pay to use them.  I was in a situation where I was in dire need to use the facilities, so I sneakily followed some girls into the Burger King bathroom.  I will spare you the details and leave the rest up to your imagination, but it was my WORST idea ever!  Last night, my host sister, Laura, made a delicious pizza with ham, green peppers, onion, tomatoes and cheese, and her boyfriend (Julian), Trinidad and I watched “Criadas & Señoras.”  Ten points to whoever can guess the English title!  It’s “The Help.” Well, Julian, Laura and I watched it.  Trinidad listened to it when she was awake.  (Funny story:  the other day we were eating lunch, and if I understood her right, she told Sole that in Montana people can’t work because it’s the land of snow and ice, like a refrigerator.  I was in the middle of telling a story when she said this, and both of us just cracked up).   This morning, my friend Nancy and I tried out a church named Iglesia Evangélico de San Pablo.  It was a very long service, and of course it was all in Spanish.  The congregation was very small and mostly made up of people in their later years. I think I at least am going to keep church shopping.

Ok, for those of you who will understand this inside joke (sorry to most of you who don’t), when I found out my mamá’s son’s name was Javier, I freaked out a little.  He is 39 just so you know.  I couldn’t help but think of Uno, Dos, Tres, Mario, Luigi and Donkey Kong.  Yeah, no.  I am meeting another Javier Tuesday.  Why did you choose the name Javier?  Everybody and their mother is named Javier!

Hmmm… what else.  Oh, my family is SO perfect.  I love them!  It is such an answer to prayer how great they are.  A lot of my friends aren’t in as good of situations, or their families just straight out have no interest in them other than the fact that they are paying to live with them.  On Thursday, I sat down to dinner with my mamá at 9:30p.m. and didn’t leave the table until midnight.  She told me her life story, which was fascinating.  She has gone through things that no person should have to endure.  I really admire her – she is a VERY strong lady.  I also would love to spread some UnitedLuv here :)  Oh, if you could send George Clooney right on over that would be great as well… she loves him.  My sister Laura is a type A perfectionist very much like me.  Need I say more about why I enjoy her?  Then there is Trinidad (Trini), which I’m sure I will just keep telling stories about.  She can crochet well even though she can’t see!  Impressive, no?  As for my room, I love it except for that it is cold (I am writing this while wearing my long underwear and wool socks under my slippers) and my spring bed is SO hard.  I wake up every day with a sore back.  Oh well, I guess it’s better than sleeping on the floor.  I think it gives me bad dreams though… one night this week, I woke up in a panic because in my dream, I had returned home and study abroad was over.  I was so disappointed because I hadn’t even learned Spanish.  I kept telling my real mom that it couldn’t possibly be over because I only had two posts on my blog.  I was relieved to wake up to my hard bed :D

Currently, I am trying not to get sick or get robbed.  All my friends are getting sick (one has tonsillitis) and another lost his wallet with his credit cards in a taxi (he was drunk and took a taxi alone I guess).  I have been starting to feel sick the past few days.  My friends and I are also trying to plan where to travel.  We have a four day weekend in two weeks, and we are going to try to go somewhere in Europe.  We are considering going to Ireland but not sure yet.  If you have any advice, comment please!! I would love to hear where other people have traveled and what to see!

To sum this all up, I will continue my lists.  If you have anything you want to know specifically, leave a comment, and I will elaborate in my next post!  Love you all!

Until Sunday,

<3 Bri

Differences:

15. Hello Kitty is in, and they have a store filled with Hello Kitty stuff.  I think she stopped being cool when I was 5.

16. When you buy a drink in Granada, they bring you free food, and sometimes it’s a surprise!

17.  Stoplights and crosswalks are in the middle of the roads here, not at the corners.  Pedestrians also love to play “chicken.”  I think J-walking must be legal here, because even though there are police are everywhere people just run out in front of cars when they feel like crossing the street!

18. The school day.  Classes are sometimes 2-3 hours long, and college students don’t have breaks between them.

19. They put butter on their sandwiches instead of mayo or mustard.  My mom also likes to put ketchup on her rice.  Weird, I know.

20. People actually use umbrellas when it rains.  They also have “umbrella etiquette” when they walk near each other, where they lift their umbrellas up and down in passing.

21. Most restaurants don’t accept anything except cash.

22. Police cannot arrest you if you are smoking weed even though it’s illegal (I just thought this was interesting).

23. They have their own words for everything and do not use Mexican Spanish.  For example, in Mexico, a computer is a “computadora.”  Here, it is an “ordenador.”  I had no clue what they were talking about when they used this word for the longest time… I thought it had something to do with the oven! Haha

New Food this Week: (this is for you mom)

  • Pan dulce: this is like a cupcake without the frosting and thinner.  They eat them for breakfast, but I take them as a snack to school.
  • Lentil soup with potatoes and carrots, with mini pickles to dip in it.  Trini hates lentils, and she will make sure you know it!
  • Green bean tortilla
  • Pasta Horno:  a pasta dish with tomatoes, Penne pasta, sausage (pig), chicken, herbs and cheese that’s baked in the oven.  One of my favorites!
  • Salad with olive oil and salt.  We have this almost every day.
  • A pork and onion with sauce dish.  Interesting.
  • Preserved sweet peppers (maybe in vinegar).  Not my fav.
  • Bacaloa: this is a type of fish that my mom made in a sauce.  I really don’t care for it because it is almost fishier tasting than cod, but my mamá she said she likes to make it a lot – joy.
  • Spanish cream puffs topped with chocolate pudding and whipped cream!
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Catch-Up Day

Today I finally have a little time to catch-up on everything I didn’t get to do this last week.  So here is the continuation of my last post :)  Bear with me as I figure this whole blogging thing out.  My goal is to have a new post once a week, and I think the best day for me to post will be on Sundays.  

Ok, a little more about Granada.  It is such an interesting city.  People are always out and about, and there are more people out at night than during the day.  Also, the town is like a giant maze.  Honestly, every street besides the main throughways looks the same.  You will be walking down a random street, and then out of no where there is just this giant cathedral with super intricate architecture.  It’s like someone just had a bunch of spare time and cathedral building was their hobby!  Every time I see one, or if I see another statue, I’m like “where did this thing come from?!”  Also, Granada is famous for its free tapas.  For those who don’t know, tapas are basically like appetizers.  If you go to any restaurant and order a drink (about 2 euros), they will give you tapas along with it.  Sometimes, that’s all people do for dinner, and it’s super cheap!  The sidewalks in Granada are also very different.  They remind me of the black and white tiles you would imagine seeing in an old barber shop.  I will take a picture and post it.  Hmmm… what else about the town?  There are tons of shoe stores!  TONS!!  And the shoes are very affordable.  I am realizing that it’s not going to take me much time before I wear out my own shoes.  

Now a little about the discoteca.  Um… I don’t think it fits very well into my definition of fun.  So we met up as a group at midnight to go for tapas.  Then, we took a taxi to the discoteca, and no one was really there (because no one shoes up until 2am!).  My friends saw on FaceBook that ladies got in free, but the bouncer guys at the door told us it was 6 euros, so we ended up having to pay.  It wasn’t too bad before everyone arrived, but as the night progressed it got a lot crazier.  Let me just say, there were a lot of drunk people.  Also, there was a ton of smoking.  Side note:  smoking here is very common and also socially acceptable.  It’s like drinking coffee in the states.  Anyways, people can smoke inside the discotecas, and there is not much ventilation or space if you know what I mean.  I spent a lot of time outside with the fresh air smokers (it was a little easier to breathe).  Also, the Spanish guys there were kinda gross.  Some are funny though.  One group of Spanish guys who could speak little English would say “I am in love with you” every time we passed them, but it sounded more like “I am in juv wish shoo” haha.  Another walked up to my friend and told her that I was so boring.  Another walked up to us and told us we were so arrogant in English.  He didn’t mean arrogant.. he just didn’t know English!  Another asked if we wanted to smoke weed.  Seriously, by the end of the night you just kind of had to step back and laugh.  Anyways, I worried so much about the rest of the group (one girl left with some Spaniards she just met and was drunk) that it was more of a stressful experience for me!  I think I may be more of the “pre-game girl,” as in I will go get tapas with them before they leave for the discoteca and then go home :)  We didn’t get home until 6 am that morning, and I slept until 2:30 pm.  My day was gone! Oh gosh, well it was definitely an experience.  I don’t know how some people do it every night.  

Ok, I wanted to include the differences here that I have noticed and also some little side notes:

1. For one, people dress super classy and in very neutral colors.  No sweats at all (which is killing me).  

2. They don’t use Kleenex!  I haven’t seen any.  Their deodorant here is weird too.  Its like a liquid “rolly” ball thing.  Sorry, that’s a terrible description, I will take a picture.  It’s not like a balm (right word?) like we are used to.  

3. When you order a coffee here, its maybe 12oz.  It’s usually just coffee and milk.  

4. Pastries here are delicious and in many places they are made fresh daily.  There are a ton of “pastelerías” that sell just these!  I am in love with nepolitanas, which are kinda like a croissant stuffed with chocolate and a little honey drizzled on the top.  See the pictures (if I can ever get them posted).

5. They are so eco friendly! When you are not washing soap off your body when you are showering, you turn the water off.  It’s kinda cold, but it makes sense to do it!  Also, if you leave a room at all, you turn off the lights.  Lights DO NOT get left on.  When they dry their clothes, they do it outside.  There is a contraption outside our window for drying clothes, which I will take a pic of.  Also, they have portable heaters that they keep under their tables.  Don’t ask me why.  My mamá recycles, which is cool!  There are receptacles for recycling up and down many of the streets!

6. So much ham.  They eat very little beef (I have not had any).  Their favorite type of ham is prepared through a process of curing it.  It’s not my favorite, but I will have to get used to it!  They eat a lot of chicken as well.  Dessert usually is fruit.  Their fruit is SO sweet.  So much better here than in the states.  Very seldom do they eat vegetables.  We have lettuce with just about every meal, but that’s it.  Also, most people go to the supermarket every day.  They prefer to have fresh food with less preservatives, which is awesome!  They also refrigerate food less, which is a little scary.  I haven’t gotten sick yet!  Every day, a man drops off bread too.  He is the bread mad, very similar to a milk man :)  They LOVE bread, especially my grandma.  She told me it’s her favorite food (I understood her!). Lastly, their food doesn’t have a ton of flavor.  They don’t use a ton of seasoning, but it’s still good!  Just different.

7. Water is safe.  We can drink tap water (Phew!)

8. Light switches are weird here!  

9. The use of the vosotros form.  Spain is the only country that uses this form of referring to people, and basically it means “you guys” and is very informal.  They also drop the last letters of many of their words.  For example, instead of “gracias” they say “gracia.”  It’s harder to understand.

10. I ran into a window yesterday. 

11. I had an omelet for dinner last night.  However, here it’s called a tortilla.  Everything is called a tortilla.  I can’t keep one tortilla straight from another.  

12. I look Spanish!  At the discoteca one guy walked up to my friend and asked if I spoke English. I couldn’t hear what he was saying, so I kept saying “huh.”  So he, very slowly said “Do You Speak English?”  I was like, “yeah you idiot.”  Sorry, kinda blunt, but really.  Also, another guy asked if I was married because of my purity ring I wear (keep in mind these guys are friendly to everyone).  That thing is going to come in handy :)

13.  Shorts and tights.  I do not understand the fashion.

14.  My Spanish Bible is awesome!  It takes me forever to read one chapter, but it really helps me to understand the use and contexts of words!  Also, it’s cool to see differences :)

 

I can’t think of anything else at the moment.  I need to write down the things that strike me as weird before they start becoming normal!  I am not going to read back over this post (sorry), so I apologize for any misspelled, confusing portions with poor grammar!  Well, I am going to eat lunch soon and then we are going to explore!  Heading up towards the Alhambra (castle seen in the main pic on my blog) to explore the gardens and also an old cemetery nearby!  

Until next time!

<3 Bri

 

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