Month: October 2010

I live for the weekends

I absolutely love the weekends here in Seville. Everyone keeps chastising me, saying I should travel more, but I really like staying in Seville and exploring the city and getting to know the people. Maybe that makes me strange….but then, we already knew that I was strange, did we not? 🙂

I had quite an eventful few days this past weekend. As my weekends do not start on Friday, I shall begin my story on Thursday. I woke up early and went to the churros stand on Café Arfe, where Jon had sent me. The churros were good, but I’m not sure I would say they were fit for a king…I must say I was rather disappointed. But, as Jon said, even a king wants macaroni and cheese every now and then, right? 🙂 I went that afternoon with my friend Virginia to see the Museum of Arts and Traditional Customs. It was quite interesting, and Virginia’s a lot of fun. Afterwards we went to feed the pigeons at the Plaza de America (well, I fed them; she took pictures), and I even have the scars to prove it! It was an interesting experience, I’m glad I did it, but man, those pigeons were vicious!! Thursday night I had Bible study. It was good, although I was a little out of it. I have a lot on my plate right now, and it’s even harder to deal with that because I’ve been sick ever since I got back from Barcelona. It’s hard to deal with tough circumstances and emotions regardless, and even harder when you’re sick, ya know? So I was having a bit of a pity party on Thursday, which was unfortunate. Luckily, I snapped out of it by dinner time – I didn’t want to have to explain to my host mother why I was so depressed. Makes for rather awkward dinner conversation, lol.

So after dinner, I went out to meet my friend Pauline, from Holland. She had told me that she was taking salsa classes, and so I went along to see how they were. The lessons were pretty basic (I think I’m going to try the more advanced class next week), but I stayed after the lessons for the open dancing. I have finally found the pocket of Seville that dances!!! And oh my gosh, dance they do. It was soooo much fun. Pauline wasn’t able to stay after the lesson, so I was there alone…I finally left around 1:00. On my way back to my house, I saw three friends from the Center sitting outside a bar, having a glass of wine. So I went over to talk to them for a while. They actually thought that I was planning to go to that bar – apparently Justo was inside, and they thought I was coming to meet him. Apparently they don’t know me that well – I don’t meet ANYONE at 1:00 in the morning, lol. It was sheer luck that Justo, I, and they all happened to be at the same place at the same time. But we went inside and talked to Justo and his friend for a while, and then went on our separate ways. It wasn’t anything special, but I really enjoyed it. Of course, it may have been simply that I was still on a euphoric high from actually getting to dance for real for the first time in over 2 months. It wasn’t West Coast Swing, but hey, Salsa is definitely better than nothing! 🙂

I spent most of Friday morning holed up in the public library, working on my first of two research papers I have to write for class. Not exactly a ball of fun, but it has to get done, and I would rather get it done now while I have time, and then not have to worry about it later. My late night caught up with me by lunchtime, though, so I had to take a nap in the afternoon. It probably also doesn’t help that I’m still trying to fight this sickness I’ve had for 2 weeks – it’s really started to sap my energy. Friday evening I participated in the “Día del estudiante extranjero” – it’s an event hosted by the city of Seville, celebrating all of the foreign students there are in the city. This was the first year they had done it, but it was a lot of fun. The night started with a scavenger hunt that sent us all around the city, looking for quirky and historical facts about Sevilla. Afterwards we got to go into the Alcazar at night. I told you guys about the first time I went there, but that was during the day. Normally the palace is closed at night, but they opened it up especially for us that night. It was sooo cool – like a totally different world. There was even a hedge maze that I went into and scared unsuspecting students. It was great :D. I wish I could show you pictures, but none of them came out – it was too dark. I guess some things you really just have to be there to experience :). There was also an awards ceremony for those students who had submitted the best pictures and phrases describing Sevilla. I ran into Olivier, a friend of Pauline’s that I had met at the dance the night before. So we talked for a while…I love how Seville’s such a vibrant city, but it’s still small enough that change encounters like that with people that you just met are normal. It makes for a very interesting daily life :).

After día del estudiante ended, a bunch of us went to Rayas, supposedly the best ice cream place in the city. Rodrigo, a new guy at school who is replacing the woman who left on maternity leave last week, came with us. He’s really cool, I had a lot of fun with the group who went. We all migrated to the Festival de las Naciones after ice cream. This is the last week it will be around. That’s so strange to me to think, considering that it’s been here ever since I’ve gotten here. Saturday I had planned to go to the Seville city cemetery in the morning. That did not exactly happen. I was in bed nearly the entire day with a fever, trying to sleep through a incredibly loud anti-abortion rally that was happening right outside my window. I got very sick once during last Spring semester, so bad that my mom actually drove up to Berry to take care of me for the weekend. It’s amazing how much more miserable a sickness is when you know for certain that your mommy cannot come take care of you :(. But anyway, I was feeling better-ish in the afternoon, so I went out with Justo at night. He took me to a tapas place on the other side of town. I love having an older intercambio – he’s lived in Seville all his life, and knows the city very well. He takes me to all sorts of cool places that I would have never found by myself. After tapas, we walked around for a bit in the center of town. There was an outside concert that we listen to for a while, and then we went to another, very hip, modern restaurant right next to the cathedral – he just wanted to get a drink. We went all the way to the top floor, which was on the roof. So we got a bird’s eye view of the city and the Cathedral at night – it was sooooo cool.

Sunday morning I was feeling yucky again. I dragged myself out of bed to go to church, but was right back in bed as soon as I got back. But again, like Saturday and Friday, I felt a lot better in the afternoon. I met Rodrigo and Sarah in the evening – we had dinner, and then went to see The Social Network, a movie about Facebook. It was actually quite interesting – I enjoyed it a lot more than I was expecting to. Although I must say, I would not suggest watching it in a language that is not your first language. It’s hard enough to understand the technical slang if you speak the language fluently…forget it if you’re still learning it :).

Hey, also, check this link out. Apparently I’m doing pretty well in the whole Spanish deal! 🙂 As the picture on the website changes every week, I suppose I should tell you what was supposed to be on the link, just in case it’s not the same by the time you get to reading this. My school has us sign a contract at the beginning of the semester, saying that we would only speak Spanish while at school or at school events. Every week they spotlight a different student on their website who has actually been doing that. I made the spotlight this week! I was rather happy about that :).

So anyway, apart from the illness, last weekend was a very good weekend. As much as I love Seville, however, I think I will be ready to go home in December. Spain just hasn’t clicked with me like Costa Rica did. It probably doesn’t help that I don’t like one of my teachers – who happens to be the one with whom I have 3 classes. I have to listen to him over 10 hours a week. He’s really quite brilliant, actually, and one class would not be at all bad…but 3 classes just gets tiresome. I find myself checking my watch every 5 minutes when I’m in class. I think that’s a big factor for me, as well. At Berry, I have been enormously blessed that the vast majority of my teachers have been very good at what they do. They are knowledgeable and interesting, and make me really want to go to class. I don’t want to go to class here, which makes the mornings drag much more than they should. But, nevertheless, I recognize what an incredible blessing I’ve been granted to be here, and I’m doing my best to take advantage of every second. School isn’t the only part of a study abroad experience :). I haven’t taken many pictures lately, but if you want to make sure you’ve seen all the most recent one you can get to my album here.

Me lo pasó la bomba :)

Wow, what a weekend. Although it was a short one, I would say that this was definitely my favorite weekend so far. There is a phrase in Spanish that basically means to have a stupendous, wonderful time…I have put it as the title of this blog :). Ahhh, where do I start?? Ok, well, I suppose I will start with Friday, since that is the beginning of the weekend.

Normally we don’t have class on Friday, but this week we did because we didn’t have class on Monday, so we had the same schedule as a normal Monday. I remembered that in the morning, and made it to all my classes. But I have a long break in the afternoon, when I go home and eat lunch. Normally I tutor right after lunch, and then go straight to dance class. But today I didn’t have tutoring, so I Skyped with my family instead. Well, that messed my whole internal clock up, apparently. After talking with them, I went back home and started setting up to study in the living room. My señora asked me if I was going to class. I told her no, I was gonna stay here and study. I quickly realized my error and rushed off, getting to class just in time. Thank goodness that she knows my schedule better than I do :).

My whole week seemed to be like that – always rushing, rushing, rushing. I was very glad when my last class ended on Friday. I was going to go to a museum with a Spanish friend, but he canceled on me. I’m rather glad he did. I spent the night doing necessary things, like fixing clothes and making my bed, and then watched a Spanish movie and went to bed. It was a much-needed chill time from the craziness of the past week.

So Saturday morning, I went on an adventure with Justo, a Spanish friend of mine (why is it that I never seem to be able to make female friends?? Gahhhh…). Justo is way into running and biking and basically all things sporty (but not dancing, much to my disappointment, lol). So he invited me to go mountain biking with him yesterday. We left early in the morning and took a train to a little city in the mountains to the north of Seville, in between Cazalla and Constantina. The ride was like an hour and a half…it was very cool (my first time ever taking a train! Well, for any distance, at least). One we got there, we rented a bike for me, and hit the trails! Halfway through the afternoon, we stopped for a picnic lunch…he brought a TON of food, lol. After we ate lunch, I introduced him to cloud-gazing. You know, when you were little, you would lie on your back and find shapes in the clouds? Well, he never did that as a kid. So I found things like a mother and child, a bike, Spain, a lizard…he found nothing, and just laughed at this crazy American girl. He has apparently decided that I have a very overactive imagination. But it was a lot of fun…he is very easygoing, and we get along very well. You can check out a picture of us here.

Going back was much harder than coming – I was already tired, and so the hills seemed to be much larger than before, lol. I asked Justo later how much we had biked, and he told me close to 30 miles – he told me in kilometers, of course, and I had to make the translation. (Curse the American obsession to be different! Why can’t we at least have the same measuring system as the rest of the world?? I am constantly making conversions in between inches and centimeters, meters and feet, kilometers and miles, Euros and dollars. I can’t do the conversion from Celsius to Fahrenheit to save my life – I honestly have no idea what the temperature has been like since I’ve gotten here. The only I know is that it’s cooler now than it was when I arrived :]). But anyway, for someone who doesn’t bike often, especially on mountainous terrain, I think I did pretty well :). On the train ride back, there was group of drunk people who were dancing flamenco. Justo knows I’m learning it, and so he tried to get me to dance with him. I’m not quite that adventurous, but I did finally agree to practice with him sometime before I left – apparently he DOES dance flamenco, just not other styles. Soooo…thus ended my Saturday, in the blink of an eye. As we were walking back to my house from the train station, it felt to me that we had just left it 30 minutes ago. Apparently Justo agreed, because he made a comment exactly to that effect.

Sunday morning I went to church, as usual (I love being able to say that I have found a church that I enjoy going to regularly here in Spain :]). Today they did something really cool. They had all of the young people come up to the front, and they prayed over us. I love the close-knit, caring community that exists in my church (I wrote “my” without thinking about it…and then decided to leave it. Although I’ve only been going there like a month, it truly does feel like “my” church.). They’re always praying for someone, or giving personal testimonies, or praises of things that God has done in their lives. They present every first-timer by name to the congregation, so that people can (and do) seek out the new people to make them feel welcome. They sing happy birthday every week to everyone who has a birthday in the upcoming week. It’s just a very welcoming and loving community.

After church this week a bunch of the young people stayed after for a picnic lunch. You can see a picture of all of us here. That was fun…we spent half the time telling cross-language jokes, and half the time laughing at each other’s language mistakes :). (I’m finding it very hard to stay in an English mindset for this blog. I keep switching to Spanish and then having to erase half the sentence and start over. It’s very annoying, lol…). Here’s a joke that I liked; but only for my friends who speak Spanish. This one doesn’t really translate :(. Un hombre preguntó a una mujer, “Do you speak English?” “Como?” dijo ella. “Do you speak English?” la preguntó otro vez. “No te entiendo”, dice ella. “Hablas ingles?”, dice el. “Oh si, si, perfectamente!!”

I found it rather funny, but as the majority of my loyal fans will not understand it, here’s one in English (it was actually told to me in Spanish, but I’ll do the translation for you :]). A little boy said to his father, “Daddy, I want to marry grandma.” “You want to marry my mother??” the father asked in surprise. “Yes, I do. Why, what’s wrong with that? YOU married MY mom and I didn’t say anything about it!” Anyway, it´s quite likely that my jokes were lost in translation, but I found them amusing… 😀

After lunch a group of us went to the park (check out the picture here). One girl had Phase10 with her, so we played that for a while. There was not a common language between the 7 of us, but I knew the most of both languages together, so I served as interpreter. Do you have any idea how hard it is to explain the rules of a card game in a language that is not your own?? How do you say “shuffle” or “discard” or “a run or set of cards”?? I muddled through it, but when we got home I looked up all of those words and memorized them, so that I would know them next time. Actually, I was rather pleased with how well I did. I have also started to formulate much more complicated sentences than before and tell my host family much more details of the things I’ve done, which makes me quite happy.

While we were in the park, I discovered that one guy in the group, Maykol, the worship leader from Cuba, loves to dance!! There was an outside concert in the park (there’s ALWAYS music here!!) and we danced salsa together. He’s reallyyyyy good. It was excellent. I’m going to make him take me salsa dancing before I leave :). So, thus ended my Sunday, in half of a blink of an eye. I cannot believe how fast this weekend went. I’m rather sad that tomorrow is Monday. Not so much because I have to go to classes, but more because I really don’t want this weekend to end. Oh well, all good things much end sometime…but I console myself that this good thing has not yet ended, as I still have 2 months left in Seville. I’m sure there will be many more such days as those of this weekend. They seem to be happening with more and more frequency as I get more acquainted with the city and the language. God is good, that’s all I have left to say :).

Barcelona!

So, I already know that this is going to be a super long blog, so I apologize in advance. I have 4 days of exploring Barcelona to tell you about! Feel free to read it in sections – don´t be obliged to read it all at once, lol…

Anyway, this past weekend (Friday – Tuesday) was our fall break. I flew with 2 friends, Silvia and Nick, to Barcelona for the weekend. Our flight left pretty early in the morning, so I walked to Silvia´s the night before and spent the night with her so we could all leave together. We flew on RyanAir; any of you guys who have ever looked into traveling in Europe know that RyanAir is known for it´s dirt cheap flights to countries within Europe. But cheapness has a price. It was a rather sketchy flight. There were not even assigned seats…we just had to grab a seat wherever there was an open one. But the seats weren´t too uncomfortable, and the flight was short, so I survived. Once we got to Barcelona, we had to take a train to the center of the city, where our hostel was. It was cool…I like riding pulic transportation in different cities. There was a man onboard who started playing an accordion as soon as the train started. It added a romantic, exciting tinge to the whole experience…I loved it :).

Sooo, we finally got to the hostel Friday afternoon. After we checked in, we all kinda sat on our beds and looked at each other in shock. Hostels are cheap, I have found out, for a very good reason. Our room had 14 (bunk) beds in it, tiny lockers for every bed, and little else – including space. I was on the top bunk, and my ladder was hidden by lockers, so I had to do some interesting acrobatics the entire weekend whenever I wanted to get into my bed, lol. The cleanliness of the hostel was less than satisfactory, as well. But it´s right in the middle of everything, and it´s a new experience…I rather like it. For a few days only, mind you – I was very grateful for my bed back in Seville on Tuesday :).

We spent most of Friday afternoon walking. We live right off of a super famous street called La Rambla, so we just walked around that and got lost in the little side streets all day. La Rambla has dozens of human statues who set up all day, hoping to earn money from the tourists who pass by. They´re made up in fantastic costumes, and most stand motionless until someone drops money into their hat; then they dance, or pose for a photo, or whatever. I was fascinated by them…check out a picture of one of my favorites here.

We saw a sign for a free Dalí memorial exhibition, so we popped in and had a look. There were some very strange pictures in there…here is an example of what I´m talking about. We found a cheap pizza place for dinner. There was an attic-type second floor, so we sat up there and watched the people below as they came in and out. I love people watching :).

Friday night, I spoke to my dad online for a little bit. This is not really pertinent to my Barcelona story, but I just wanted to brag on my parents for a little bit. For those of you who don´t know, they are going to Israel soon to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. What I did not know, which dad told me Friday night, is that they will also be renewing their wedding vows on a boat on the Sea of Galilee. I just wanted to point out publicly what incredible role models they are, and to thank them for the impact that they have had on my life. I am sooo proud of them 🙂

Anyway, back to Barcelona. Saturday morning I got up early, before most of the rest of the hostel. I got dressed, had breakfast, did my Bible study…(my Bible was too heavy to take, so I downloaded a Bible application on my Blackberry :D). I also met a really cool guy from England named Richard. He´s nearing 50, and has been roaming the world all his life. He picked up Japanese by going to Japan with zero prior knowledge of Japanese, and a dictionary. Talk about gutsy!! I also met 2 Americans from Maine, Kristin and Tom, who have taken a semester off from college to travel the world. Kristin worked 7 jobs last summer to pay for it!!!

Mid-morning, Nick and I went on a guided walking tour of the Gothic district of Barcelona. Silvia went off and did her own thing. The tour was free – the man worked for tips – which meant that he was very motivated to give a very, very good tour. It was excellent. I had a wonderful time. Make sure you check out all my pictures from this weekend to see some of the photos from the tour! OK, mini-history lesson time! The tour started in an old plaza around the back of the Travel Bar, a place for all things tourist and travel. Much of the Gothic Quarter was destroyed by Hilter during WWII; we saw the buildings in the quarter that were restored after the war, the contrast between the old stones and the large amount of new stones starkly evident. We also saw the church in front of which rebels in the Spanish Civil War were executed – the front of the building is still riddled with bullet holes, and there is a plaque honoring those who died there. There´s a drawing that Picasso drew on the outside of the school of Architecture (which, ironically, is probably the ugliest building in the city), across from the Cathedral of Barcelona. Apparently, Picasso wrote it while drunk, and he was making fun of his surrealist painter friends; it looks like a child´s drawing. Quite an amusing story :D). We heard about one of the first Cataluñan kings, King Wilfred, who, although rather valiant, was known as Wilfred the Hairy – for obvious reasons. We saw the first ever public exhibition of Gaudí, in the Plaza Real – a lamppost :). We also went to Plaza George Orwell, which was named after the famous writer, in memory of him and his service to the Spanish people during the Spanish Civil War. They hired an artist to make a commemorative statue for his plaza; instead of making some inspirational bust of the famous man himself, he created….a massive statue of the tuberculosis bacteria, the disese Orwell is said to have died from. The artist must have been high on something when he designed that :). Apparently, other people think that, as well…the plaza is rarely called Plaza George Orwell, but rather by it´s more common name – Plaza Trippy, and it is a favorite spot for drug addicts and alcoholics. I saw a ceramic depiction of the old space invaders game on one of the walls in the Gothic Barrier…apparently, there´s a French guy who´s completely obsessed with them, and puts them up all over the world. In fact, if you mark on a map all of the cities where space invaders have been found, it makes a giant….space invader. Cool, huh? :). So ya, the tour was 2 hours of fascinating information like that. Definitely worth it :).

For lunch, we met up with Silvia in a tiny, dinky little shop that was recommended by our tour guide, Colin. It was wonderful, and very cheap, regardless of the nearly 30 minute wait for food. After lunch we explored the Maremagnum, a huge shopping district built on the water of the Mediterranean. I´m not a huge shopping fan, but it was cool, nonetheless. There were outside artists and vendors, and a boardwalk where you could sit and watch the boats pass by. Nick and Silvia took a nap for a while while I sat and enjoyed the view – they didn´t want everyone to sleep, for fear of someone taking our stuff :).

That evening we went out with Richard, the 2 Americans from Maine, and 2 Canadians. We went to a pub called the 4 Cats. It was recommended to me by my professor at school; it also happens to be quite famous, as it was the pub that Picasso frequented when we lived in Barcelona. They all took shots; I took pictures. But it was fun, anyway. After shots, we made our way back to have dinner at the Travel Bar. There were coupons in our hostel for a free meal there…so of course, we went. It was just pasta, nothing special, but quite yummie and of course, free :).

I had had numerous people recommend to me that I go see the magic fountain, a huge light a water spectacle on the west side of the city. So me, Nick, Silvia, and Richard made our way there by metro to see the light show. That is the only thing that I disliked about our tour guide, Colin – he told me it started at the wrong time :(. So we missed the light show. But we did get to see a spectacular VIEW of the city at night, and also the Museum of Art.

Sunday morning dawned cold and rainy. I was going to go to the Parque Guell, Gaudí´s famous park, but parks generally aren´t very fun in the rain. So instead, I walked around some with Richard and an Italian friend, Roberto. Halfway through the day, we found a museum of contemporary art, and Richard deserted us to go visit it. So Roberto and I walked…and walked…and walked. We walked wayyy up north, almost to Gaudí´s Sagrada Familia. We walked wayyy east, to the man-made beaches on the coast side of the city. We walked wayyy west, past La Rambla, the huge street that runs through the center of town. And then, we decided we hadn´t walked enough, so we walked around the center of the city for a while, looking for the Museum of Picasso. We found it, but the line was interminable, so we decided not to go in. Along the way, we found Barcelona´s Arc de Triumph…ate the best paella I´ve ever had in my life (not that I´m an expert in paella, lol), watched surfers strut their stuff, and listened to a live band in a gorgeous park that I happened to stumble upon. I also found out that Roberto is a professional ballroom dancer…so we danced in the muddy park with the rain pouring down on us, accompanied by a 30-piece band playing the soundtrack to Pirates of the Caribbean in the background. It was excellent :). Oh, and I forgot to mention, that all of this was done without a common language. Roberto speaks broken Spanish and very, very little English, and I speak no Italian. So we muddled along, me speaking Spanish and him trying to, but with liberal amounts of Italian thrown in there. It was really hard, but fun. Plus, I got to learn some Italian, which was cool :).

We finally made it back to the hostel, and Nick and Silvia showed up a few minutes later. I figured I hadn´t done enough walking for the day, so we decided to go to La Parque Guell, since it had stopped raining. And ohhhh my goodness, what a masterpiece it is. Gaudí was obsessed with nature – he hated symmetrical lines. So the entire park (and it is massive) is a fantastical display of sweeping, curving, dripping lines. We only had a few hours there, which was a bummer; I could have stayed all day. But I did get to see the sun set from my perch above the city (the park is on a hill overlooking Barcelona), and then I saw a bit of the city at night, so that was cool. Silvia and Nick and I got separated, and their phones were dead, so we had a bit of a hard time finding each other, but we finally did, and made our way to the hostal on the metro. Trying out public transportation systems in different cities and countries has become a bit of an obsession with me…I love it :).

A huge group of hostel-stayers (I think there were 12 of us) went out for tapas and shots after we got back from the park. Well, they had shots…I had orange and pineapple juice. If I hear one more person call me a party pooper or tell me to “live a little” because I don´t drink I´m pretty sure I´m going to scream. I think I´m quite good at living, and I rather enjoy it, actually…no drinks necessary. That doesn´t make me a downer, right?? But anyway, that was fun, but I was super tired from all of the walking I had done that day, so I went back to the hostel “early” – like 1 am. I found out the next day that most of them were out until 5 or 6 in the morning!

Me, I prefer to see the mornings after I´ve slept, not before. I got up the next day (Monday) around 7. It´s quite possible that some of the partiers were still up from the night before, lol. I had a lovely morning doing my own thing, exploring the nooks and crannies of La Rambla one last time. I ate a relaxing breakfast by myself in the hostel, then did my Bible study and went shopping a bit (got a really cool skirt and pair of pants for €5 each). I also went to a huge food market super close to the hostel, and took pictures of the place while munching on a warm crossaint that I bought at the entrance. By the time I came back it was nearly noon. I was trying to wait on Nick and Silvia to get up so we could explore the city together, but they were still dead to the world. So I decided to just go ahead and go. Ted, a recent graduate from New York City, came with me. We walked to the Sagrada Familia, another one of Gaudí´s masterpieces. Pictures simply do not do it justice. Even though it´s still under construction, it was totally worth the €10 entrance fee.

So I figured a good wrap-up to this post would be a summary of things I saw and observed this weekend. In the hostel, it was normal to see people washing their clothes in the sink, and drying them with the hand blowdryer. People – men and women – changed in the middle of the 14-bed room. Five or six different languages were often spoken in the room at the same time. I also met an incredibly diverse amount of people. There was Richard from England, Katrina from Scotland, Rabat from Egypt, Shauna and Lisa from Canada, Tae Koh from Japan, Roberto from Italy, Eliza from Australia, Ted from New York City, Kristin and Tom from Maine…I heard (although I didn´t meet all of them) German, Greek, French, Italian, Spanish (duh!), and Swedish, as well as English dialiects from New York, Maine, Scotland, Ireland, England, Australia, and I´m sure I´m forgetting a few. Speaking of languages, though, it´s kinda crazy being here in Barcelona. It´s a part of Spain, so everyone speaks Spanish…but the dominant language is Cataluña, and all of the signs are in Cataluñan, not Spanish. I wasn´t expecting to need a translator when I stayed within the same country :). I actually don´t really need a translator, but still, it´s the priniciple that counts, right? 😉 It really is kinda crazy, though, how much Barcelona (the whole province of Cataluña, for that matter) can be a part of Spain, and yet so separate from it.

But anyway, I finally made it back, safe and sound. We had a super early flight, so we had to leave at 3:30 in the morning to make it to the airport on time. I spent much of the afternoon sleeping, but I was back in the thick of things by the next day. I enjoyed Barcelona, but it´s great to be back in Sevilla. I missed it – and my señora´s cooking, lol :). So that was my adventure in Barcelona! Hope you enjoyed hearing about it!!

My first long weekend :)

So, like I mentioned in my last blog, this was my first long weekend of the semester. I spent Friday and Saturday on a trip with most of the other students to three little cities, Mérida, Cáceres, and Trujillo. In Mérida, we went to ancient Roman ruins and a museum of Roman antigüedades – I am absolutely in love with all of the mythological influences and mosaic depictions around here. It’s probably one of my favourite parts of all of the visits. In Cáceres we took a tour around the Medieval Barrio of Cáceres – it’s been preserved in its original Medieval condition, castles and all. There was also a statue that is said to bring marriage to anyone who touches his toes…sorry mom, I couldn’t help but touch them :). Check out the statue here. We stayed in a hotel in Cáceres Friday night, and went on to Trujillo the next day, where we visited a huge fortified castle. It was all very cool, and I took lots of pictures for you, my loyal readers, that you can check out here. But I’m kind of getting tired of sightseeing. I feel like that makes me very uncultured and uncivilized, but that’s how I feel, nevertheless. It seems to me that, after you’ve seen dozens of palaces and castles and ancient ruins and gorgeous churches, they all start to look the same after a while. Plus, I’m really really tired of hearing about everyone’s drinking escapades and loose behaviour and foul mouths. There’s a reason that I don’t hang out with the majority of the students here. Two full days with them was pushing my limit – I was glad when we finally pulled back into Seville. My host family was not home on Saturday – they had gone to the beach – so I spent a quite evening catching up on homework and my blog and just revelling in silence and solitude. Every night after dinner, my host parents put on their little aprons and do the dishes while I clean up the table – it’s really quite adorable, seeing these 2 little old people side by side in their aprons, doing the dishes together :). Since they weren’t here tonight, I did the dishes for them, so they wouldn’t come home to a dirty kitchen – but I did it without the apron :D. After dinner I watched Leap Year by myself on my computer. Not exactly the way most students would choose to spend a Saturday evening, but it was much needed for me.

Sunday morning I went to church. It was awesome. The service was wonderful, and I also got to meet people from all over the world. There was Flor, a French student who’s here studying history in the university for the semester. Moni is English, and she’s here doing an internship of sorts at an insurance company. Polina is from Holland, and she just started studying Spanish 2 months ago! Right now she hardly understands anything…but she’s here until February, I’m sure she’ll learn un montón by then! Let’s see, I also met Michael, who is originally from Cuba, but now lives here in Seville and sings in the worship group at church. He’s very good – he was a famous performer in Cuba before he left. He’s also rather attractive…but don’t tell him I said so! 😉

I went out with 2 Spaniards, Miguel and Raquel, and Sarah in the evening. We were going to go to the Plaza del Museo and look at the artwork there (one of my assignments from Jon), but it was closed :(. So we walked for a while and ended up in a different plaza, drinking juice and watching an outside Flamenco performance by the lovely fountains that were there. It was only as we were leaving that I realized that those were the fountains of Alameda de Hercules, another one of my assignments. So I still ended up checking off something on my bucket list, although it wasn’t the one I was planning on doing :). On our way back, I saw an incredible sight, one I had despaired of ever seeing in Spain – rain. It has not rained a drop since I’ve been here. It would decide to rain today, when I was over an hour’s walk from my house. Luckily for me, Miguel lives pretty far away, and so he always drives me into the city. So he gave me a ride back, which was far preferable to walking back in the rain :).

I just realized that I never told you what my homework was for this week! (I’m talking of Jon’s homework, of course; I have 3 classes with the same professor, and he doesn’t believe in giving us homework. So I have lots more free time that most of the students here :]) Anyway, here were my assignments for this week: 1) Visit the Seville City Cemetery. Look out for a subtle, yet interesting story etched forever in stone; 2) Have a King’s breakfast! Go to the churros stand on Calle Arfe. Rumor says that when the King stays in the Alcazar (fortified palace), he sends someone to this stand to pick up his morning churros; 3) Go watch improvised flamenco dancing al Lo Nuestro on Calle Betis; 4) Do cartwheels in your hall in the middle of the night; 5) Set up some pots and pans and let the rocker in you out with a wicked awesome beat.

I was dancing all over the house last night, when my family was gone at the beach. I’m glad they were gone, because I highly doubt I would have done that had they been there :). Also, I think #5 might be difficult to do – I don’t exactly have random pots lying in my room, and I would feel weird banging on my Señora’s kitchenware :). And I refuse to go to Calle Betis – it’s known throughout the city as the place where all the Americans go to get drunk…and they do it everyyyyy nighttttt. I went there once at the beginning of the program, and got my fill of it for the entire semester. But I think that, since I saw a Flamenco dance at the fountains of Hercules today instead, that totally suffices for #3 :). Anyway, enough of my babbling for now. I’m sure you have other things to do than read my blogs all night, and I have to go finish what little homework I have to do.

La Huelga!!

Pop quiz! What major event happened in Spain on Wednesday, September 29, 2010? If you do not know the answer, you need to either read more news, learn Spanish (the answer is the title of this post), or both :). Mom, James, and Tyler have already passed the test…how did the rest of y’all do?

Anyway, yesterday there was a nation-wide strike in Spain. It was crazyyyyy. I’ve never seen anything like it in my entire life. The entire country simply shut down. In Seville, the vast majority of the shops were closed. There was no fresh fruit or vegetables or meat in the entire city. Thousands of people milled the streets with banners and stickers and signs – they estimated that over 70% of the Spanish labor force did not show up to work yesterday. Picketers blocked universities, refusing to let the teachers and students who wanted to be there enter. Public transportation was operating on a skeletal system, providing only the most basic services. The only talk on everyone’s mouths was that of “la huelga”. Although my school had class, nobody learned anything. Everyone wanted to go outside and watch the protests that were happening all over the city. I recognize that the United States government has its issues; but yesterday made me very grateful to live in such a relatively peaceful society and functioning government as I have grown up in.

Although this week started out almost as bad as the last one, it has ended quite splendiferously. I FINALLY got all of my applications submitted that I had been killing myself to get in on time – those to the Marshall Scholarship, Rhodes Scholarship, and Fulbright Teaching Assistantship. You have NO idea how much of a relief it is to not have to worry about that anymore. Whether I get accepted or not is no longer any of my concern; I’ve done my part, and can now move onto other things. Another source of stress is the fact that my class schedule has also been a mess, and I’ve been trying to work with my professors back home to get that straightened out. It’s not ideal, but it works, so that’s another thing that I don’t have to worry about. I’m just glad to have one less stress.

I had another tutoring session today. It went soooo much better than Monday. In my (super limited) spare time, I had spent the last few days looking for games and pertinent activities that I could play with my kids. I found some (and also made some up) that that made them think, and that also taught them things they needed to know. So I tried out several of those games today…they loved them! They were well-behaved and interested and involved, and I just had a grand time.

After tutoring I went and found an internet café and talked to Rachel for a while. It was great to catch up with her :). We also started discussing plans to go to a West Coast Swing workshop for New Years’ Eve / my birthday! It’s rather expensive, but it’s looking like it might actually happen…I’m excited!! I also got to talk to James for a few minutes on Skype, too. He was at work and my battery was dying, so we couldn’t talk long, but it was good to talk to him for at least a little bit – we haven’t really talked at all since I’ve gotten here.

Well, after all of that it was around 6:30. I was about to head home, but then I remembered that they had said something about a Bible study on Thursday at church on Sunday. I messaged Sarah asking her about it. Luckily she answered – even though she was in class – and told me that they were having it at 7:30. I’m sooo grateful that she answered – if she hadn’t, I would have missed an incredible evening. But anyway, I had no idea where it was, so I went back to school so I could walk with her. When we got there, there were about 10 people there, from incredibly varied backgrounds. Most were study abroad students, but studying all different things and in all different universities. There was one PhD student there doing an internship on the outskirts of the city. One woman has been serving as a missionary in Spain for 3 years. A Nigerian man who has been living in Spain for 5 years also showed up. We did ice-breakers and get-to-know-you activities (this was the first meeting of the semester), and then broke up after into small groups to pray. When I started praying, I was so overcome with emotion that I started crying. It was kinda awkward, crying in front of all these people that I had literally just met…but I was just so overcome by God’s goodness, I couldn’t help it. Me finding that group came about by such a bizarre train of circumstances that never should have happened. I originally never even planned to be here this semester – my original plan was to go the Spring of my junior year. If I had gone then, I would have never met Sarah, who would have never introduced me to this church. Sarah, too, only found out about it through a highly improbably set of circumstances. Also, I was originally in a class that was scheduled at the same time as the Bible study. I really wanted to take that class, and almost stayed in it…but I’m soooo glad I didn’t. This group is such a strong group of Christians. I can not wait until next Thursday. I’m already planning out my weeks to make sure that I’m always free on Thursday nights.

So all in all, I had an excellent day. My back is angry at me, because I spent all day lugging around my computer and massive Spanish-English dictionary around (I brought it with me to tutor; it made things much easier). But other than that, I can’t complain. Also, today (although technically Thursday) is my Friday – thus begins the semester of 3-day weekends! I’m super excited :). Going on a 2-day trip with some students tomorrow, and then I’ll have Sunday to go to church and relax. I’m quite psyched about that.