Sunday, May 18, 2008

Is This Goodbye?

This may possibly be the last post I write while I'm here in Spain and it's quite sad to be saying that. I love it here and I don't think it's really hit my brain that I'll be leaving this place and may potentially never come back. I sure hope I come back because I love this town. I still feel like there's so much that I haven't done while I've been here.

Morocco was quite an experience to say the least. We spent many hours on a bus and I learned that Moroccan time is worse than Spanish time. When the tour guides told us that we'd stop at a rest area for 15 minutes, they wouldn't get back on the bus for 30 -45 minutes.

The first day we took the ferry from Spain to Tanger, Morroco. We traveled for 2 hours, stopped for lunch for over an hour (originally was supposed to be 45 minutes), and then traveled like another 2-3 hours to Casablanca. Each city/town paints their buildings a certain color. Casablanca is white, Marrakech is red. We had dinner that night in the hotel and woke up at like 5 the next morning to start the day....

We got back on the bus and traveled for like 3 more hours until Marrakech. That was my favorite city. We went on a tour of some water resevoir, a palace, saw the main mezquita, and walkked through their rose garden (Garcia Lorca's garden was way better though). It was hot that day. We went to our AMAZING 5-star hotel. Absolutely amazing. It had two giant outdoor pools and their buffet had so much food. I could never have tried everything. After lunch we had a surprise horse and carriage ride to the market, where we went into a Moroccan Pharmacy, spent time in some warehouse type thing, then spent 45 minutes in the main market center.

We went back to the hotel and I went to a dinner spectacular that was cool. We had dinner in a tent and they brought out so much good food. They put on a show afterward which was alright. Not the greatest, but whatever. It was nice being there with everyone. We got back late and I was exhausted so I went to bed for a few hours before waking up bright and early again.

After our delicious buffet breakfast we got in the buses again and headed back up to Casablanca. We went into this BEAUTIFUL mosque. Probably one of the most amazing things I've seen in my life. It was right on the edge of the ocean and it's one of the few mosques in Morocco that actually lets in visitors.

We headed to Rabat next. We went on a tour and saw the outside of the king's palace and then saw a few other important builidings. We went to our hotel and was definitely nothing like the one we had just left. I went from the best hotel of my life to the worst. But that's alright, we made it out. The next morning we started headed back to Tanger where we took a bus tour of the city and went walking through some shops. However, it was this day that people started to get sick, including myself. There must have been something in one of the hotels to make almost our entire program sick. And 2 weeks later I can finally say that I'm like 99% recovered from Morocco.

We got back on the ferry, but had an interesting time with that. The ferry left without some of our AIFS members, including Pilar, one of the staff. Everything worked out though and some people stayed behind once in Spain so that one bus could go back to Granada and one could stay and wait for the rest of the group to arrive.

So yes, that was two weekends ago. Last weekend we went to Almeria with our program. That was a good little weekend. It was a nice beach and it was sunny the whole time, but it was way too windy to lay out on the beach. We spent more time at the hotel pool instead.

This week I had exams and finished my last one on Thursday. I think they went well, but we'll see. I met up with Kathlyn and her family for some tapas on Thursday night, and went out for tapas at the bull ring later that night with peeps. Friday night AIFS took us to a departure dinner in the caves where they gave us tapas and then performed a flamenco show. I absolutely loved it but it was so sad to think that that was my last time with everyone.

My brain started to comprehend a little that I was going to be leaving Spain. Yesterday a bunch of us went up to a park near the Alhambra where there are peacocks. That park was so beautiful, and it sort of reminded me of a fairy tale. I went out for tapas again last night and then went up with some other people to the San Nicolas Mirador at 11 to see the Alhambra lit up at night. This morning I had chocolate and churros at Cafe futbol and here I am!

I've had an amazing time here and cannot believe that 5 months have already gone by. I remember panicking one morning in the beginning when I thought of how many days I would have to be away from home, but now I just don't want to leave. It'll be great to see everyone again but I know that I'm going to have reverse culture shock when I get home.

I gotta get going but I'll see you all soon!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Manana Voy a Marruecos

For those not speaking Spanish, that means that tomorrow I leave for Morocco. I'm so excited to go! We're going to be in Casablanca a Marrakesh, and doing a lot of traveling on busses.

This weekend was pretty good. On Saturday I walked around a lot, going to "mini Morocco" where they have all of these shops for the tourists, as well as spent the afternoon in the Albaicin. I tried Indian food for the first time when I went out to dinner with my friends and the family of one of them. I liked it.

On Sunday I got in an hour and a half run since I won't be running much in Morocco. I'm doing the half marathon in the Vermont City Marathon so I've been trying to run 5-6 days a week. We'll see how it goes. This week my legs have been really tired but I bet it was from the run on Sunday. After running I went with two friends to the market they have every Sunday near the bus station. We got there a little late and they were starting to pack up (it was during siesta). They had so many cheap clothes and shoes, as well as fruit. It just seemed like an endless row of tents to go through. I didn't buy anything but it was nice to go and check it out.

Yesterday was Free Cone Day at Ben & Jerry's so guess who had to hit it up? I DID!! I'm so happy that the store was only like 10 minutes - tops - from where I live. The line wasn't bad at all. I ended up going 3 times cause the scoops they gave us were extremely tiny! I tried One Cheesecake Brownie and that wasn't very good, so the next two times I had Phish Food. MMmmm

Yep, so that's really all I've been up to. I'm kind of nervous for exams only because I have four of them within 3 days. So this weekend when I'm on the bus I'll be doing a lot of studying.

I'll definitely have a post of Morocco when I get back next week. Adios!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Less Than a Month

I can't believe that there's already less than a month left until I go home. Time really has flown by. I've done so much here yet I feel like I barely know the city. I'm a little excited to go home, but I'm really sad that I won't be living in Granada anymore.

This weekend was another bad weekend for weather. It rained for most of it. On Friday I went with about 13 other AIFS students to Sacramonte, which is a Monastery in Granada. It was raining before we started so we all took taxis up there. The sun came out once we were at the top of the hill, but it was so windy! We only had an hour tour. The cool part about it was the cave section. We went outside and into these caves that had rooms for the people to go through. It was very neat.

Other than that, I really didn't do much this weekend. Sarah and I went out to Tapas with one of the Spanish kids from the residencia, Jose. He took us to a great tapas place that was cheap and gave you a lot of food. We even got free flan as a dessert! MMmmm.

Next week is our trip to Morocco and I'm so excited. I've wanted to go there since I was little. That's the whole reason I'm in Granada and with AIFS, cause they offered this trip. We leave on Thursday at 6am in order to catch our Ferry at 11. I feel like once I get back from Morocco time is going to fly by. I'll only have exams after that and then we go home. I just learned that our bus for the airport on the day I go home will leave at 3:15 am. AHH So early! I think I'm going to have well over 30 hours of traveling in my the time I reach Milton, VT

Well, time for Islamic class to begin. If interesting things happen, I'll update before Morocco. If not - then there'll be a post after May 5th

Monday, April 14, 2008

Ronda and a Bull Fight

Well it's been quite a long time since I've come on here. Part of that was 1) I haven't been doing much and 2) our internet doesn't work very well here in the residencia. I never know when it'll go out and most of the time I can't connect.

The weekends have been pretty low-key for me since I was running pretty low on money for a while. I figured it was good that I was broke so that way I would be forced to spend wisely - to only buy things that I absolutely needed. Because of this I spent a lot of time walking around Granada at night and on weekends. A few weeks ago it was so warm here! It got up into the 80's. I spent much of that weekend in el Parque Garcia Lorca working on a tan. Who needs the beach when you've got the park!

Last week was a little colder and it rained a few days. Friday was freezing and was my ultimate day of boredom so far here in Granada. It was just too cold and wet for me to want to do anything. I stayed inside all day - without internet - and almost lost my mind.

Good thing Saturday came along. AIFS took us on a trip to Ronda. For the longest time I had no idea what was there. Good thing we have Google though. I googled Ronda and found out that Spain's oldest bullring is there and there's a big ravine caused by an earthquake that splits the city into a new section and an old section.

One of the views in Ronda

It was really pretty there. The view. I couldn't stop taking pictures. When I look at them they're mostly of the same view. We had a funny little old man as our tour guide who had the greatest outfit on. He took us to the Puente Nueva (new bridge), the Old Bridge, a cathedral (?) that was once a mosque, and then a building that had a garden in back with an amazing view. After all of those we hit up the bull ring.

In front (or behind...?) of the New Bridge in Ronda

The oldest bullring in Spain - in Ronda

That night when we got back to Granada I went for tapas with my friends Lauren and Mo. We went to this new place I had heard about called "Los Cuadros". It was very Chic. There were so many kids there, like high schoolers and college kids. The list of tapas never ended though! We got tortellini for our first one and then these breaded balls of chicken. I'm gonna miss tapas a lot!

Last night I went to a bull fight that was held here in Granada as a charity to support Down's Syndrome. It was actually really cool. I wasn't really bothered by the death of the bulls. I was just really interested in how everything happened and the culture of the event.

The first bull - before he's been stabbed with anything. Next a man on a horse will come out and stab him in the back. After, two more men will come out and each will stab two more spears in the back that'll stay in there the rest of the fight. The matador is next, he'll eventually put a sword through the back, and finally another man will stab the bull in the head to...well...make sure he dies.

One thing that I thought was cool was how they gave out the trophy. Once the matador kills the bull people will wave white flags. The president, some bull-fight critique, and his two assistants will then decide how many white flags to give the matador. He can get up to 3, with 3 being a perfect bull fight. 1 Flag means that the matador gets one ear from the bull, 2 flags means both ears, and 3 flags means the 2 ears and the tail. The 4th matador to go out there got all 3 flags and when he got his trophies he threw them out into the audience. Could you imagine being the one to catch the tail?! What would you do with it?! I don't think customs would let it back into the US.

The second matador who was very fun to watch. He was jumping all over the place. At this point he threw his cape and sword behind him, got on his knees and was ready to fight the bull by hand. But the bull didn't move. He got two ears for his trophy.

I was surprised at how the bulls died. I had never seen that part before but at the end the matador aims for the bull's back with his sword, charges, and stabs him. Then a few men will come out and try to tire the bull out. Within like 10 seconds, maybe a few more, he falls to the ground like he's going to go to sleep. That part is a little sad because you know it's the end. Then another man will come up with a knife and stab him in the head to end it. Ehhhh So yeah, I don't know if I should have written that as it bothers some people but I always wondered how it ended.

Not many people in Spain like the bullfights. I only talked to a few kids here in the residencia and none of them like bullfights. I heard that it may be on it's way out - that's it's a dying tradition. So maybe in a few years we won't see it anymore?

Yep, so that's my post. I don't want to bore people with details. Only a little more than a month until I go home, which is really quite sad. Everyday that I go outside I try to take in as much as I can. I absolutely love Granada. I want to bring it all back with me.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Darth Vader?

I went for a walk yesterday to a different part of the city that I hadn't been to. Along the way I ran into something quite unexpected....

What I want to know is what they were doing with that little boy and baby carriage. Who knew that Darth Vader spoke Spanish

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Barcelona - Part III of Spring Break and last post about it

During the last three days of Spring Break I went to Barcelona, Spain. I think it would have been a lot better if I had been with other people that I knew. I arrived there Thursday afternoon and easily found my way to the hostel. This one was HUGE. They were very professional which was one reason I didn't like it as much. They didn't take the time to know you or find out something about you like all of the other hostels did. However, it was very safe. We had some sort of electric key that you had to use to get into the hostel, into your room, and even into your locker. I had to put a 10 Euro deposit down on it in case I lost it. I didn't lose it! So i got my money back!

That afternoon I didn't know what to do. I was hungry though so I went searching for a grocery store. I walked around a little and then turned back to the hostel and found one nearby. Cooked myself some pasta.

The next morning I woke up. They gave us a free breakfast which was great! One more thing I didn't have to pay for. I headed out toward La Rambla - a street where there are a whole bunch of street performers and vendors. It was Good Friday so many of the stores were closed and there weren't many people out on La Rambla. I made my way to a few Gaudi buildings as well as the Cathedral.

La Sagrada Familia

I headed up to La Sagrada Familia, a cathedral designed by Gaudi. It was started in 1882 and is still under construction. I think it has another 30 years until it's finished but I'm unsure about the exact date. I always wondered what it would be like to live in the middle ages when the big cathedrals took hundreds of years to build. I guess now I know.

Another view of the Sagrada Familia

After that I headed up the Parc Guell, another place designed by Gaudi. He has his own distinct style. It was weird to see it everywhere in Barcelona.

Parc Guel - one of the houses at the entrance

I liked the park but there were WAY TOO MANY tourists! I couldn't take 3 steps without walking in someone's picture.

At the entrance of the park. Look at how many people there are!
I headed back to the hostel after that because I was hungry. I walked most of the way that day but hopped on the metro a few times. I didn't do much that night because I really didn't want to go out after it was dark. Not by myself. That would not be safe. So I hung out in the hostel.

The next morning was Saturday and the stores had opened up again! I went out to the market, which was off of La Rambla. What an interesting place. There were fish vendors, meat vendors, fruit, candy vendors, and some restaurants. I loved being there and seeing how they displayed everything. I loved seeing the huge selection of fruit, candy, and dried nuts/fruit.

Look what Hannaford has done to me. The most interesting thing though was the meat stands. They had heads of animals for sale, as well as pig feet and HUGE tongues. Oh man, so different!

I kept walking up La Rambla and headed for some Gaudi houses.

Those were interesting as well but since I really didn't want to spend money, I didn't go in them. I got tired of walking and headed back down to the hostel for lunch.

I hung out there for the afternoon and then headed for the train station for my 11 hour train ride back to Granada.

The train took off at 9:30 and I was sitting next to some crazy man. He had to be in control the whole time and he couldn't sit still. He kept trying to help me do things even though I could clearly do them, and he was shorter than me. I don't know how he thought he could put my luggage up top on the rack. He snored, he'd wake up and start yelling, and he kept making me put my feet up on the chair even though I was fine the way I was. When we were getting off he thought that someone had stolen his luggage, but of course, it was right where he left it.

I walked back to the hostel and got there within a half hour. But oh wait! It was locked because it was only 9:30! So I walked around Granada for like an hour, found a pastery shop where I got a pastery, and then walked around some more. I was freezing!!!! And looked like a dork with my suitcase. I used an internet cafe for an hour to thaw out, then went to the park for 40 minutes. I walked back at 1 and to my great surprise the dorm was OPEN!!! YAYEE!!!

I wish I had been able to come back to Granada earlier because of Semana Santa, or the Holy week. They prepare for months for the processions. I wish I had pictures of what it looked like but it was amazing. I don't really know how to explain it, but I was able to watch two of them go by my dorm from my balcony, and later Sunday night I saw one pass down the main street. I absolutely love listening to the music that they march to. It's so amazing and the trumpet solos give me goosebumps.

But Semana Santa is over and school has started again. I have a midterm on Thursday. I got one back from my lit class and got a 10/10 on it. Yaye! Oh for a random note - today on my way to school I smelled something that reminded me of Home Depot and I missed Home depot....even though I never liked going there before. But this city is full of smells and sometimes I get surprised at what they remind me of.

That's the end of my trip. Like I said on Sunday, I am SO HAPPY to be back in Granada. I love it here and don't want to leave. Except every day I think of Vermont. I feel like I'm torn between the two and don't know where I want to go

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Brugge = Heaven - Part II of Spring Break

On the 18th I took of for Heaven, even though when I left I thought I was going Belgium. Turns out that the chocolate there is as good as they say it is, but even better.

Tuesday morning I boarded a plane bright and early to head to Belgium. I got off and was waiting for the bus for Brugge and what a temperature difference there was. Instead of the 70s like in Granada, it was probably in the 30s. It was windy. And then it started to snow. SNOW!? AHHH!!!!

Some shops in the main square of Brugge. So cute!

The bus ride was about 2 hours to get to Brugge but well worth it. I absolutely loved this little city! The people there were VERY friendly! They know like three languages, Dutch (I think), French, and English. And on every street there seemed to be at least one chocolate shop!

Me in one of the many chocolate shops!

That afternoon my friend Jessica and I walked around the city taking pictures. I had once heard that Brugge was Beglium's version of Venice because there's water flowing through the city and some of the buildings are built on top of it. So we paid 6 euros and took a boat ride. The buildings were the neatest things I'd ever seen. Every time we saw a new one I wanted to take a picture of it!

People on a boat tour of Brugge I went on one the first day I was there.

The weather in Brugge was so strange. One minute it was sunny and the next it would be raining. Or sleeting - as it did a few times. We learned that if that happened to just go inside a building for a few minutes to let the rain cloud pass.

That first night we tried some amazing French fries! They had two street vendors right next to each other in the center market who would compete for customers. We tried each of them, one each day, in order to be fair. Yet the men working there were the least friendliest people we encountered on our whole trip.

We went into a cafe and had a Belgium waffle that afternoon! It was so much lighter than the ones we make for breakfast. What is great about Belgium is that when you order hot chocolate they bring you out a little plate on the side with some treats. At this one cafe we were given a chocolate egg (delicious) as well as a chocolate covered coffee bean. At another cafe they gave away cookies with the coffee. So cool!

One of many windmills along the river

That night we hung out in our hostel. I got to meet some really cool people. Two women were back packing around Europe on their own - each separately. I would never be able to do that so it was neat to hear about their adventures!

The next day we woke up and rented bikes!!! We biked around until 10 (because everything was closed until then) and even rode through some horrible rain and sleet.

Renting a bike is the thing to do in Brugge!

We then walked up 300+ stairs to the top of a bell tower. It was scary going up, but not bad going down.

A view of Brugge from the top of the bell tower

We went on a tour of the brewery here. I am 21 now! haha. But I don't like beer so I was just there to say that I was there. We got a free drink at the end but my mind was too concerned with chocolate at that point. I'll always be a chocoholic! We had to warm up in the hostel before going out to a candy shop where we watched them making candy. We rode around some more and returned to head to Brussels.

I'm not sure if you have ever heard of couch surfing but basically there's this online site where you create a page like Facebook and get in touch with people who have couches available for people to sleep on. I don't' know if that made sense. Basically, if you're traveling and want to stay somewhere for the night and not have to pay, you get in contact with someone from that city and ask if you can stay with them. Jessica had gotten in touch with a girl in Brussels who was on couch surfing and the girl invited us to visit her at her chocolate shop. So we went to it and it was so amazing! She gave us free samples and I told her how it was always my dream to work in a chocolate shop. I thought she was the luckiest girl in the world.

We saw the peeing boy and walked around a little. Later that night we saw the peeing girl even!

For such a popular attraction, I couldn't believe how tiny it actually was. And it was in a really random location.

We went back to the shop to get directions from the girl Antoinette around 8ish. However, after everything was said and done, we found out that we would be spending the night at her house! She had a friend who worked at another chocolate shop and we had to wait until 12pm for them to get off of work before we could go to Antoinette's house. She's only 18 and lives with her mom. But guess what her friend, Jeremy, did for me?! He had saved a broken box of chocolate, taped it up, and gave it to me. She had told him how much I loved chocolate! I was in so much shock. I'm pretty sure that was a 30 Euro box of chocolate he was handing me. I just really couldn't believe that had happened!

The chocolate shop that Jeremy worked at

Antoinette, Jeremy, and her mom were so nice. Her mom made us breakfast at 6 am and drove Jeremy, Jessica, and I to the metro station. We were so lucky that Jeremy was with us. He rode the metro to us until we got to the bus station, where he ran around helping us find the bus we needed. Without him we surely would have missed the bus for the airport, and would have missed our plane. I can't believe the luck we had in meeting the three of them, but they were probably some of the most friendiest people I have ever met!

And so that ends the Belgium chapter of my journey. Up next, Barcelona.