Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Coming to an end...

Right before coming to Europe in December, I had a plethora of ideas about my soon-to-be life abroad (most, I would soon find out, would be wrong). Sophomore year of high school I "studied abroad" in Cantabria for a month and much as I thought I could connect with my friends who had studied abroad during college, I had no idea.

One thing about Spain that I love more than any country is the culture. This country is so diverse it surprises me how it holds together. In Cantabria (the autonomia labeled in purple to the north of the map) the weather is very similar to that of what I'd imagine being Seattle (but colder during the winter). Everything is very green and the landscape is accompanied by large trees and hills it's also generally cloudy with a drizzle here and there that keeps everything green and, occasionally, people inside. The people speak a Spanish that is very similar to that which I learned in school as the western part of the region was controlled under the kingdom that became the most powerful and thus implemented their way of speech (i.e. modern Spanish is a result from their way of talk).
This semester I was very close to going to Argentina (due to cost and my obsession with their way of speech) however I ended up narrowing it down to Barcelona and Granada, neither of which located in Argentina. I decided Granada because I wanted to continue with my Arabic studies, the standard of life is vastly cheaper than Barcelona and the program offered a trip to Morocco. After being here for almost six months, I am positive that I made the best choice I could have. Granada, and Andalucía more vaguely, is what people think of when they think of "Spain". Andalucía is the most populated autonomia of Spain and the second largest. Much like the Southern United States, Southern Spain is an agricultural powerhouse (but also share some other things in common such as the highest birth-rates in the country, having a forma de habla [way of speaking] that is viewed as "uneducated" and having one of the lower GDP's in the nation). I've very much enjoyed my time here as people in Andalucía are much warmer than those anywhere else in Spain. I've also unfortunately picked up a little unwanted souvenir from my studies here as well: the accent. As much as I tried to resist, it was just impossible. A phrase such as: "Yo estaba estudiando allí pero tenía que ir a escuela al imprimir algo" has now (unfortunately) become "Yo ettaba ettudiando alla pero tenía que ir a eccuela a imprimi argo". Weird.

Regardless, I'm currently sitting in my room after just finishing a final with clothes sprawled throughout my room. I should be packing, yes. I should be working on my other paper, yes. However much that is the case, I cannot stop thinking about this experience. So instead, I'm listening to the most tacky (but SO awesome) club anthems that they play in the clubs here via Youtube. It's so strange having a retrospective on this entire 5 and a half months as it has changed me so much - I'm almost scared to go home for that reason alone. Since January 5th (which seems so long ago while at the same time feeling like just yesterday), I've never been so depressed in my life while at the same time I've never been happier. There are days when everything goes right: waking up to a happy Ana, going to school and following everything the teacher says, ordering a coffee and pastry and while waiting having a conversation with the waiter using subjunctive shortly followed by a pretérito plusquamperfecto. Then there are days in which I couldn't think of the word for something like coffee or something like that, I then get home and find Ana in a grumpy mood and while walking down the street I can't help but think that the 3 year old next to me speaks and will speak better Spanish than I could ever dream of. Another think I've realized about moods is how much weather actually dictates my mood. Fortunately for me, Granada just happens to be close to the Costa del Sol (Coast of the Sun).
There really is going to be so much I am going to miss. I never thought I'd say this, but I really will miss Ana. She's been lovely the past month. Perhaps it's the whole "distance makes the heart grow fonder" as I've been traveling like crazy and have only seen Ana maybe 60% of the past month. There isn't much wrong with our relationship I've come to decide. As one of my friends put it, "Could you really imagine after living by yourself in college for 3 years going to live with your grandmother... who just happens to be a SPANISH grandmother?!" I can tell I will really miss her, even though some of her "ideas" about certain things are abstract, talking with her and at times debating and defending what I believe in has really helped me improve with my Spanish speaking abilities.
I'm also going to miss the Spanish lifestyle a lot... however, at the same time I'm so READY to be back in the United States with our work ethic. A friend of mine here posted a Facebook status that I was thoroughly amused by the morning after we were at the club that overlooked the Alhambra until sunrise... As ridiculous as his status was, it described a lot:
i have mixed feelings about returning to a place where discos close before 8 am... and by mixed feelings i mean sometimes i like staying out until 730 in the morning but then other times i don't like staying out until 730 in the morning and right now those feelings are mixing together and so i have mixed feelings about returning to a place where discos close before 8 am...

Now in that quote you can replace the word "discos" with a lot of things. Along with the love/hate disco relationship, I have a love/hate relationship with: siesta (where everything is closed in this city from 2-4:30 or 5), domingos/Sundays where everything is close (perhaps from going out 'till 7:30 in the morning the night before), etc. I am, however, going to miss just how laisse faire Spain is. In the United States, I would never, EVER do the things I do here. Sitting on a park step drinking a 40 of Granada's provincial beer or other such activies. A friend of mine the other day even jokingly asked me something along the lines of: "Is it sad that when I see police I am more scared of sitting on the grass in the park than smoking a porro in front of them?" I'm also going to miss the "character" of Granada. The fact that this has been my life, walking through the old moorish streets on my way to school while on my way back home I see the towering mountains of the Sierra Nevada that still have snow on them despite the temperature reaching at least 85 degrees for the past 2 weeks. I'm going to miss la Universidad de Granada. It has such a strong student population (88.000 students strong) that really gives Granada its' charm. The nightlife is going to be something I'll miss a lot, too. Granada's "free tapas with a drink" policy is amazing and not to mention a cheap way to get full and tipsy :P
I'm also going to miss my friends here. Finally within the last 2 months I've fallen into the group I get along best with. It's a quirky group that always gets ridiculous and always has great stories the next day (i.e. "He's in the hospital... yes he's fine... no, he just got a bottle broken over his head for making fun of two people having sex on the beach" & "We definitely got kicked out of a shawarma place because she went behind the counter and was stealing the chicken shavings"). Haha, I'm sure I'll do one final post when I'm back in the United States making everyone aware of my culture shock, as having to drive again, be out of clubs by 2 and being able to drink (but having to show my ID each time) will probably take it's toll on me.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I'm not dead... Yet.

To any of you who even read this anymore, I’m sorry for my lack of “ambition,” I guess I’m not really following through the promises of my first post, am I? Since my last post I’ve done probably more than I’ve ever done in my life. I’ve been to North Africa, three islands in the Mediterranean and have gone through a ton of school (not to mention dealt with Ana). I figure what I will do is write about my escapades in the Mediterranean first, as it is still fresh on my mind.

As some of you may know-or not know-I went on break during Semana Santa to that the (not so) great island of Sardinia, Italy’s pride and joy. On this trip I went with travel buddy extraordinaire and recently-voted-illegal-English-teacher-of-the-year, Matt. We chose Sardinia in part because he didn’t want to go to Romania because that was too much of a “funny” trip (as his friends were already taking a “funny” trip to Moscow during Semana Santa) and the flight was relatively cheap. So with a few clicks of some buttons we purchased our tickets via Ryanair and made plans for our first few days in Alghero. Alghero is on the northwest end of the island with some amazing natural sights, one of which being Neptune’s Grotto. Unfortunately for us, Neptune’s Grotto was closed due to those winds (or what I’ve come to find out as Europeans referring to it as a “Hurricane”) that whipped through Barcelona in late January that resulted in some fatalities (and a delayed flight which cost me 65 more Euro for a train I subsequently missed). Unfortunately, Neptune’s Grotto was one of the reasons why we chose to stay in Alghero. So with that plan down the drain we were struggling for entertainment as Alghero is not a place you want to be for constant amusement. To make matters even worse, we had to pay for our hotel, called “Mamajuana,” in full the second day we were there – in cash only. I didn’t think anything of it and continued on my way until I needed to withdraw money from the ATM. Low and behold, it didn’t work (for many of my U.S. readers, you are probably asking yourself: “Why don’t you just use your credit card? I can use it everywhere here.” Well, unfortunately [or fortunately as I haven’t decided] many European restaurants, stores, etc. only accept cash). This, in turn, turned me in to Debbie Downer and Matt into something just shy of a sugar daddy.
Also feeding my disappointment in Sardinia was our previously mentioned hotel, Mamajuana. Matt chose Mamajuana with the best of intentions. Rough Guides did nothing but rant and rave about how great it is for the price and how quaint the café for breakfast is right across the street. The only negative if I can remember correctly was that the bathrooms were small, which they were. The first morning Matt and I wake up to stroll down stairs to get this delicious breakfast from the adjacent café. On our way we run into the Sardinian hotel worker (who was absolutely worthless) and a French tourist. The two are obviously having a slight misunderstanding being as the aforementioned hotel worker only speaks Sard while the poor French tourist who speaks: French, English, Portuguese and some Spanish is trying to create some common ground. Basically Frenchy, Matt and I all had one objective in common: to find breakfast. When it finally gets through the hotel worker’s thick skull that we were hungry, she points to a vending machine and starts pressing buttons. This was breakfast. It was stocked full of all of the Kinder Buenos one could ever want with a robotic coffee maker to boot. This was the cross-street café. As much as I would like to complain about this city, there were some positives. It is a quaint seaside town that has Spanish-style architecture and some great eateries. Two of which that I enjoyed the most were Lu Furat and Angedras. Le Furat is a tiny pizzeria tucked away in the side streets that is a mom and pop (and sons) kinda place. They have a wide variety of pizzas ranging from pepperonia and melone (not pepperoni and melon as Matt thought, but rather peppers and eggplant) to a salmon cream cheese and much more typical Sardinian/Italian fares. The pizzas here were also ridiculously cheap which resulted in us designating this as our food stomping ground. The other restaurant, Angedras, was situated right on the city’s seawall and was a little step up from the mom and pop pizzeria. The menus of the day came complete with a two course meal, bread and drink (Matt got his meat and melon finally followed by the swordfish while I noshed on gnocchi and squid).

After mishap after mishap (besides a little town called Bosa which was suggested by Rough Guides... I’d recommend going there, but not following their suggestions – get lost in the colorful alleyways while enjoying some gelato)

we escaped from Alghero to try our luck elsewhere on the island. We headed to the provincial capital, Sassari to test our luck there. After all, there was no where to go but up after the past days occurrences. Sassari was larger, more industrial but not as cute as Alghero. The hotel we were to stay at that night was like a five star resort after being in Mamajuana. The Vittorio Emanuele had nice décor, a REAL breakfast and comfy beds complete with a television. Also great about this hotel was the fact it was about two blocks away from where my parents wired me money. I owe them my life. After this day we head back to Alghero, with great caution I might add, to rent a car. Long story short, after a frustrating 4 hours, we finally had a car at our disposal (a Panda none the less) and I’ve never seen Matt be so happy. Our first destination avec car was to some of the islands’ Neolithic remains just north of Alghero which turned out to be neat, but not amazing. We then continued our trip up to Porto Torres (via Sassari which Matt did not like… I’m not sure why because I think driving around medieval streets during rush hour in a manual would be fun…) which we quickly abandoned since the city itself was just a giant naval yard that doubled as a maze.
Upon leaving Porto Torres, we headed to where we made reservations for that night: the Pinna Pensione at Castlesardo. Unfortunately we got there a little too late to enjoy the view right away, but in the morning we really got to see how lucky we were. This place was absolutely great! The most adorable old, Italian woman works there and not to mention our room looked out onto the Mediterranean and also the hill that the castle sits on overlooking the city. That day we got lost in the old city and I found a new friend (this cute little puppy!). After one night and a half-day in Castlesardo we moved on to Santa Teresa on the furthest north of the island. Before arriving to downtown Santa Teresa, we got lost on a tiny peninsula with some absolutely stunning rock formations. Personally I thought it looked like Gaudi’s playground.

A little scary, but we did not choose to make reservations at a hotel until our arrival in Santa Teresa, but it worked out for the best. We stayed at a hotel overlooking the bay and when it was clear Corsica was visible. In this city we did a decent amount of walking, some driving and a lot of drooling over traditional Sardinian cuisine. Matt and I managed to find this tiny bakery next to St. Teresa’s main church with seadas (a baked or fried pastry with ricotta cheese filling covered in honey or sugar) and smaller cookies. The rest of our time in the island really left a positive touch on this entire trip. On our way back to Alghero to drop off the car and catch our plane, we chose to drive a little more along the eastern coast and then drive through inland Sardinia (both of which were stunning) while stopping at a lake tucked between the rolling hills and eroding mountains to eat our picnic that we threw together at the supermarket.

My most recent Mediterranean vacation however consisted of spending time on the tiny archipelago of Malta. We chose to go here because I made it a point to go either there or Tunisia while I was here, it just so happened that Ryanair had 10Euro flights to Malta from Barcelona-Gerona and the cheapest flight I’ve seen to Tunisia has been in the mid to upper 200’s. Malta is a tiny set of three islands (only 316 square miles when all the land area is put together) but it has BIG personality. These islands, which have been at the center of a tug of war since prehistory, are a mix of almost every culture you can think of. Once a Phoenician settlement, then Roman, then Arabic, then Italian, then British, it is now an independent country (as of 1964) that houses people and buildings are not-quite-European, sort-of-Arabic but definitely-not-British. This island is home to a lot of interesting historical mysteries and “modern marvels”. The worlds oldest free standing building is on Gozo (~5000 BC) while the same island houses the third largest church in all of Europe (which was completely visible from the entire island of Gozo and easily 20 minutes inland on Malta). Gozo is also thought to be the island where Calypso, from Homer’s Odyssey, lived. Malta’s main island, Malta is not to be outdone by its sister island, though. The island and its cities (or rather every city was just a suburb of it’s capital, Valletta) all house beautiful and colossal churches and a sea of ochre buildings. The island also houses a number of Neolithic ruins like one we went to see called the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum. This ruin was a lot different than what I expected. It is completely underground and carved out of rock. I wish I could insert pictures but cameras were forbidden as to not chance a quickening of the decay of the ruins. Tickets fill up about 2 weeks in advance, which we did not know until our arrival… so Matt, being the champion of traveling and history that he his got up on his OWN at 6:30 to go sit in line for the tickets for the following day at the noon “last minute tour” that has a price of about 20 euro instead of the normal 4.50 euro for students. It was definitely worth the 20 Euro though, I’ve never seen anything like it – and it is a world heritage site. After we left Hal Saflieni, we headed to the outdoor ruins of Tarxien. Note to any reader who is considering doing these two temples in a day: Do Tarxien Temples BEFORE hal Saflieni… it was quite a let down, but neat none the less.
-Another great thing I found out first hand is just how cheap this country really is. Their food is great; a mix of so many cultures, but definitely has its own Maltese flair. Pastries of ricotta cheese or peas called pastizzi or the sweet called imqaret (a nepolitana-type pastry that was a filling of dates, cinnamon and lemon) were around 0.25Euro to about 0.50Euro depending on the location. Not to mention most of the attractions comparable to those that would burn holes in my wallet back in Spain and mainland Europe accepted my ISIC card (which is rare anywhere I’ve been so far) which sometimes knocked down the prices of tickets about 50%. Another cheap “find” in Malta are its buses. This fleet of buses is a hodgepodge of buses ranging anywhere from 1960’s buses to ones built in the past 5 years. Cost for the majority of the bus routes which traveled to every corner of the island: 0.47-0.58Euro.

The first day we arrived at the airport early, about 9:30 in the morning from Gerona airport and were excited to start our day. We managed to do a lot, mainly thanks to our militant schedule and underlined/checked/circled guidebooks which included seeing all of Valletta (practically), taking a bus over to Rabat and Mdina to see the older settlements that could look out over the entire island as they were on a hill. Mdina and Rabat are practically sister cities – or rather Mdina is the old fortified part while Rabat is the more “modern” extension outside of the old city walls. There, we saw St. Paul’s catacombs, ate some great traditional pastries and walked into a pretty impressive church in Mdina. When we got back we kinda lazed for a while to make up for the fact that we got up around 5:30 for our flight out of Gerona. After napping, we realized yet again how luck was working with us: the delay by a day of the Malta International Fireworks Festival. It was supposed to realizarse the 30th of April to the 1st of May, which was sad as we were arriving on the 2nd. Somehow, due to a stroke of ENORMOUS LUCK, one of the barges wasn’t working at the time thus forcing them to push it back a day. Matt and I with eager eyes watched on as the Poland team shot fireworks off to the soundtrack of starwars (so great) while Australia shot off fireworks to the Moulin Rouge soundtrack.

The next few days were pretty neat, we took a day trip to the sister island of Gozo by means of a 20-25 minute boat ride. Unfortunately it was a Sunday and the buses had awkward schedules which restricted us from doing what we actually wanted to do. We did however get to visit Gozo’s largest city, Rabat. Here we managed to see the large church I mentioned previously along with a nice old fortified city and locust, too!

In all, I was extremely impressed with Malta. It was something that I would have never been able to imagine or classify if I hadn’t gone. The language was beautiful. I left wanted to learn it but then realizing that the only upside to all the frustration of learning Maltese would only open up a job at the American Embassy in Valletta… which isn’t the most bustling city. Thinking about this past weeks adventures have left me starving some Maltese desserts.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Spring's Sprung! (Kinda)

First of all, I'd like to apologize for being neglectful spice. I've been on some whirlwind adventures the past few weekends which I shall account for in this post to my trusting and loyal readers.

Second of all, I hope I didn't jinx the good weather that we've been having with my title - last time I said that we left the cold weather behind a cold front moved on through leaving Granada freezing and soaking wet for a good week.

**my internet connetion is ridiculously slow so I'll upload pictures to go along with my antics soon-ish.

Where to begin? So much has happened. So I made my return visit to Sevilla with the AIFS program which was really great. Our hotel was a bit out of the way... but we happened to be right across the street from this amazing club called "Abril". I would highly, highly recommend it. Free entrance and a huge dance floor with really really good club music. The only thing I would advise against is getting drunk before you get there (I believe drinks there were 7-8 euro). Other than that we were basically a 30 minute walk from the downtown center (as opposed to when I stayed with the CofC program being a matter of minutes). It was nice though, I got to see the Alcazar as well which I wasn't able to visit my first time around and we had an amazing tour guide.
Sevilla, however, was not the first stop on our weekend in Andalucia Occidental. We trekked down to Gibraltar first! One word: Monkeys. Granted, the monkeys weren't the only awesome thing in Gibraltar (fish and chips, wind, the amazing view, signs in ENGLISH, etc. etc.) but they were definitely worth the visit. I had my hand held by one and then I was promptly slapped in the face a few seconds later as it wanted to get on the top of the van and saw my head as the perfect stepping stool. We arrived in an awkward fashion: we were dropped off on the "linea" separating Spain from Gibraltar from which we went through customs and then walked across the runway. We were then left to run around Gibraltar for about an hour to eat/do touristy things. During this time I found some amazing(ly tacky) post cards. Some with dolphins terribly photoshopped into the water and then another one with a scientific book sketch of a monkey superimposed on a drawing of the Rock (of Gibraltar). Needless to say I bought one and then got a real post card. We then got on these old old buses (similar to those I will be riding in Malta, it seems) to do a tour of the peninsula (but seemed much more like an island after what Franco put it though). Our first stop was Europa point with the Trinity lighthouse, the mosque and the amazing view of the Rock, the Atlantic ocean, the Mediterranean, Africa and Tarifa. It was really unbelievable. After that we then rode up to St. Micheal's Cave. This was extremely impressive, I wish I had some good fotos of it that I took, but they all came out blurry. Try to google it though. It was really fantastic. This cave, unfortuantely, was then followed by what our program director in her bad English accent calls "zeh maahnkees". Upon seeing these creatures I completely forgot about the cave until I got back on the bus for Sevilla. They were really great and some girl on our program even got attacked by one!! Dinner AND a show! Unfortunately we only spent a very, very short time in Gibraltar and then headed to Sevilla [see above].
After Sevilla we went to Cordoba which I was extremely underwhelmed with. It was all way too touristy and very, very small. Much smaller than Granada. Not to mention I saw not one. Not two. But three gypsy's breast feeding their children in practically the middle of the street. The ones who weren't had stains on their shirts.... gross. I know it's natural but. I don't know. For what it is worth, the Mezquita was very very pretty and I enjoyed my time in there. In all it was an awesome weekend.

Other things that've been going on have included:
-Not doing anything in the majority of my classes. I didn't know studying abroad would be this easy! The only class that I'm having major issues with is Arabic. But I think that may warrant it's own post when midterms come up. I've really lucked out on everything else though... most of my friends are having to write 3 page papers like every week. Know how many papers I've had to write? 1. Count it!

-The weather has been absolutely amazing. The sun isn't strong yet and I've actually gotten a good base tan for Spring Break! (Note: Said tan may or may not be in the form of a farmers tan). There has hardly been a cloud in the sky and the temperature has been hovering around 28 degrees C.

-I've signed up for my classes for next semester upon my return to Charleston. I finally have to face calculus even though I've avoided it for these past 3 years. This is going to be damn hard. BUT I'm also finishing my biology major with a semester to spare. I'm taking Cell Bio lab, Parasitology, Intro. to Environmental Studies and then some tacky philosophy class that counts towards my envt. studies minor. It's only 15 hours. I don't know what I'm going to do with myself.

-I'm going to Morocco and Western Sahara this weekend! I'm so so so so so excited I can't even begin to tell you. I leave at 4:30 in the morning on Thursday and then get back Monday during the evening. I'll make sure to take a lot of photos. If you want to preview where I'm off to: Tangier, Meknes, Fez and Laayoune. I'm also excited to try and practice my Arabic, which will be extremely difficult because of the drastic differences of dialect. Meh. After that I'll have midterm week and then I'll be off to Sardinia with my (practically) tour guide, Matt! All in all I'm very excited with what is to come, not to mention we're below a month now for the countdown for my 21st. Sure it may not be important here, but yall back in the states feel free to make an excuse to drink heavily.

That's about all I have patience for. I got back from the clubs last night at 7. Err.. I guess that would make it in the morning. Regardless. I then woke up at 10. But at least I got some tostada out of it. I am such a tostada feind.

Stay tuned for fotos. I cannot spell. I'll need English lessons upon my return.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Because I'm entitled to.

Thing 1 and Thing 2.
...I'm not talking about these guys.

Thing 1. I know I complain about my senyora enough and I do really love her company. But enough is enough! Today I got home from class around 1:30 to Apartment 3e smelling like delicious paella. Needless to say, I was pumped. I greet my senyora and say how great it smells and then walk to my room to put my stuff down while replying to her, "Ran (the closest she can get to my name), Quieres comer?!" I quickly put all my things away and hung my jacket to dry and go to sit down. Soon after sitting down I realize that she had made a ridiculously large amount of paella and salad. I knew this was bad news for me as Ana, being Ana, doesn't eat. So I get a serving of paella for myself which I finish and grab about three more spoon fulls, which barely puts a dent in the paella from hell. After she realizes that I've moved on from the paella to the ensalada she takes a look at the paella bowl and gasps. I knew I was in for it. This then releases the drama-filled flood gates that is Ana Manzano. She goes on how she never makes paella for just two people because it seems like such a waste, but she loves me so much and likes that I enjoy it. Continuing on about how it's so extremely time consuming and that it costs so much money for her to make. I'm furious right now and am trying to rebut to the best of my ability but am inevitably losing the battle. I've told her on numerous occasions that I do not need to eat what "other boys" in the house have eaten. I've told her that I, unfortunately, last semester lived off a sole box of bran flakes for 5 days. I've told her that she doesn't need to spend money on food of the "highest quality" for me. Unfortunately, my senyora is turning out more and more to being the equivalent of a Sith Lord. She refuses to listen to me, while still wasting so much money on food (apparently) and making a ridiculous amount. I feel like I'm twisting all my sentences now in a bad-English induced rant. I'll move on to Thing 2 now and leave this alone.

Thing 2. I'm planning an awfully ballsy escape while in Morocco. I'll leave it at that just so that my plans remain confidential and that the AIFS program and the Algerian secret service have no solid evidence of my super-secret plans (whoops, I let it slip!!).

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Impulsive Rhythm Nation

I would always like to think of myself as someone of a rather exciting nature. Oftentimes, however, that is just not the case. I’m rather not as spontaneous as I would enjoy being and I do like sticking to a plan (even if said plan is just time marked out for “wandering around” time). Incognizant, I seem to have been working on this lack of excitement that I’ve always desired to have. I have, with in the last three weeks made a few “last minute” decisions that I would otherwise never find myself doing. One: Cadiz. The other: Sevilla.

Now as I last left off, I was toying with the idea of going to Cadiz for Carnaval. This trip was composed of a 20 Euro round-trip-over-night-bonanza that was bound to be anything but uneventful. I later realized I would never, ever be more correct in my life. Between not wanting to be a stick in the mud, almost choosing Cadiz to study in and the wise words once spoken to me by a former professor wise beyond her years which went a little something like, “Go to Cadiz... it'll be more blogging material than you'll know what to do with. That is a big PRO,” I chose to march my way over to the travel agent and demand my ticket to Carnaval. To my dismay, they were sold out. I then convinced the man, who, smoked at least 6 cigarettes during our conversation and picked up the phone at least two times, to take my name and number and let me know if any “plazas” opened up. Fortunately enough for me, one did! So, easy as that I was off on my way to Carnaval in Cadiz. Dressed as an Indian (Native American), no less!
I also recall from my last post of predicting a number of terrible things. Going back reading it now, there was no fallout between friends, no one missed the bus, and no one (to my knowledge) got in a fit about there not being enough to do (because there was entirely TOO much to do). Some people did however: got mugged/pick pocketed and had to go to the hospital (not me, phew!). Lists of injuries included falling/walking on broken glass and a 40oz. Cruzcampo bottle to the face. Noice. Unscathed, I am able to have a rather positive outlook on carnival despite a few hours that are still not entirely clear to me. I managed to lose my costume (?) and get myself a couple of sweet bruises the size of Texas on my hip and shoulder. In all, everyone had a great time and thankfully everyone made it back.

As for my latest stint into trying to make myself content with my level of excitement had come hand-in-hand with a visit of the College of Charleston study abroad group and a few teachers I thoroughly enjoy (no, I don't mind stroking y'all's ego since you both happen to be avid, or so I hope, readers). The group was in the middle of their Tour de Andalucia when it landed them in Granada. So of course I am not going to pass up the opportunity to hang out with some awesome people and show them some of the things to do around town. Their last night in Granada, I was invited to Sevilla with the group. Now, this was after three glasses of wine and a few beers, so I of course said, "Sure, why not?!" I soon left the group so that they could get their beauty rest and I could make it to the club "Mae West" for a few moments for my friends birthday. The next, quite groggy morning I realized what I had agreed to and was shocked. Not only had I not followed my programs rules by letting them know the exact whereabouts at every given second of the moment I step foot out of downtown Granada, but I had also agreed to a not-so-small weekend vacation. Regardless, I had the time of my life. Everyone in the group from CofC is so unique and brings their own "flair" to the group. Not to mention both of the professors keep everyone ridiculously grounded. So awesome and definitely mad props you two.

As for everything else that is coming up in the near future, I'm having Sevilla: Round II this coming weekend. I've been designated "Tour Guide" as I am one at school and am now, apparently, an aficionado of Sevilla (who knew?!). We're also going to Cordoba during one of the days, Gibraltar and then finally Tarifa. I'm very, very excited. And things should be rather calm. Hopefully. Then I get a weekend off and then I'll be off to Morocco! I'm extremely excited about this trip and really thrilled to put my Arabic to use. Then following that I'll be off to Sardinia for a fun-filled European Vacay with my host family (practically) in Barcelona, Matt.
I'm also looking for one more trip to take, I'm trying desperately to make it to Prague to visit my friends Emily and Jenna, but it's looking more and more impossible. Damn being in Granada (just kidding I love you)!

OH! Before I forget. My first Junta de Andalucia bus ride was today. It definitely merits some sort of discussion. First and foremost, I wish I was lying about this entire experience. So CofC and friends leave the Hotel Catalunya Giralda at about 12:20ish in the afternoon which allows me to get lost in Sevilla and discover a few nooks that I otherwise would not have found since my bus left at 2:30. I go to the bus station and buy my ticket with the 20 Euro I have left to my name until I returned back to Granada. So this left me with .20 Euro for food (and we all know how much I LOVE food) so that kinda stunk. So I end up sketching in my sketch book and reading Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse (which I am not too impressed with) to keep me busy and keep my mind off the fact that I have no money in the rare, but likely case something were to happen which required money. When I get on the bus, the seats aren't numbered even though there are assigned seats on our tickets. Everyone on the bus realized this and let it affect them to a minor extent. Two people, however, were extremely distraught by this "shake up". This old man and his wife are some of the last to get on the bus (not to mention the lady right next to me smelled like she had not showered in years) and they cannot come to terms with the fact that the bus has no numbers even though they were assigned numbers. The old man then stops to a 20-something year old man right behind me and demands that he move because these seats must be his. The boy gets into an argument which then sends the older man (I'm guessing 70's). Up to the bus driver to protest. The bus driver then tells the older man that there, in fact, are no numbers on this bus and that he just has to do the best finding a seat close to his wife if they want to sit together. Long story short, he makes a person move so that the old couple may sit together. Strange occurrence number two: a seemingly homeless man had somehow made it on the bus and had thrown a jacket over his head in an attempt, I'm assuming, to appear asleep and that the conductor wouldn't mind him. The girl right next to the man with the jacket over his head goes up to the front complaining about how the man next to her smells and is wearing no shoes. The bus driver then gets up again and removes the man from the bus. Fortunately, the 2 hour bus rude went by so smoothly UNTIL we get to Granada. Our bus driver (who must have been a last minute replacement) drives by the exit for Granada. He pulls off the carretera and then heads back to the exit that he just missed.... and ends up missing it again. I wish I was joking. Finally, after the entire bus yelling directions we made it to the Estacion de Autobuses in Granada in one piece (and unfortunately it's about an hour and a half walk away from my house here). Regardless I ran across some absolutely gorgeous parks and buildings that I did not know existed before my forced march back to Calle Rey Abu Said.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What do you get when you...

...cross a Southerner who hasn't much seen snow over half an inch in his life with a bad Madrid snow storm??


Everyone was on the bus still for the most part being grumpy about the snow ruining our days activities and ranting how "Ugh, I see too much snow all the time."
Well you know what. Grant - 1, Northerners - 0. Time flew by real fast, too (all 7 hours of being stuck on the interstate) :).

Nom nom nom.

Unfortunately my first class, Islamic Culture, was cancelled today which ruined any hope of me actually wanting to go to my Varieties of Spanish class. See, the thing is, I need the "high" of the Islamic Culture class to carry me through the Varieties class, especially on a day like today when it's cloudy and dreary after it's been so beautiful for a week.
This cancellation (and lack of desire to sit through a class that I had huge hopes for) has unfortunately opened up time for me to read, draw, think and mope. It has also given me time to partake in my senoras power trip (helllllz yes!). There are 3 others staying with us this week, 2 British boys and a French girl. I'm lead to believe they're all 16 or 17. Fortunately, as resident resident at this household, I'm treated with just a slight amount more of respect and given a little more "special treatment" than the others who just come for a week or two. So I get all the gossip and even some power trips that are handed down to me from the head matriarch of the family, Ana Manzano Arellano. 'Cause after all, I am her nino.
To highlight, when I came to the house, there were some advisory notifications posted here and there throughout the house. All in Spanish for obvious reasons. Some of which included, but I'll paraphrase, "Showers need to be quick as there is little hot water for all. Keep the bathroom clean. No showers after 22 hours," "Closet doors need to stay closed when not in use (This one makes me feel like I'm in the house portrayed in the others)," and last but not least, "Leave nothing in your rooms plugged in when not in the house." However, with this new batch of younger students (let me assure you dinners consist of us sitting there looking at each other and feeling ridiculously awkward [Please see Will Ferrals SNL skit where he mentions the Dodge Stratus]. One of the British boys, Oliver, will respond and actually make conversation but the other Brit has no knowledge of Spanish and the French girl has responded in French 80% of the time), I have been given the responsibility to rewrite each sign and then translate it to English and French (I'd love to see my signs end up on some French website of bad translations). I also get to hear about a lot of the gossip. Some of the hot topics between Ana and myself include: one of the British children coming home last night wasted. Ha. So that's been a big deal for her and must therefore be a big deal for me. Also, the French girl being extremely needy and, "even more wasteful than most of the American's I've had here." To which I had to bite my tongue and then use it as an excuse to throw in some awkwardly worded patriotic remark.
So with all my signs written and without further ado, I get to focus on my real draw to Blogger: my grumpy "weather induced" rant/retrospective. First and foremost: Friends. Now, for most of you who're reading this, you had the pleasure of not knowing me as a child. Many of you had the pleasure of meeting me in College (which henceforth will be known as the "Wonder Years"). Many of my social skills, or lack there of, stem from often the most traumatizing years of a child's life: middle school. Without going too far into it, I was awkward. Which isn't too hard to imagine being that I'm a science major (I blame this for the social awkwardness) and had almost chosen to design school if it weren't for my father saying no (I blame this for the slightly autistic self - think the gay brother from wedding crashers). And being how middle school is, fat & awkward = no friends. Thus, leading to my awkward issues today with making friends, I thought I escaped it but it's striking back here in Granada (I thought I had escaped but is obviously still hanging on somewhere). In part my distance away from everyone in my program in Granada, I still feel partially "meh" to everyone here. I know during your study abroad months, people say that you'll make friends faster than you could ever dream, which I don't doubt (the second day in London my best friend here asked me to share her Starbucks, inseparable ever since, awwwe) but at the same time I keep examining the relationships I have here with people. I, by no means, am a "solitary" person. I would much rather be with someone even when not having to communicate (i.e. watching a movie or something). Something about another, familiar body is relatively relaxing. But more often than not, I am choosing to go off by myself, take a run by the sad excuse of a river here in Granada or stroll around looking at the absolutely stunning examples of graffiti here. It's strange, the vast majority of people here are not people who I'd hang out with in Charleston or in Atlanta.. or maybe I'm just keep telling myself that? But as for my effort to become more "involved" I'm planning on doing much more with the group. This weekend a large number of people are going to Cadiz which sounds like a lot of fun, but a lot of trouble. This is why: 1) It's an overnight shitshow 2) There is NO lodging 3) No one has experienced Carnival before.
We basically get on a bus Saturday morning and then get on a bus back Sunday afternoon. This could be bad for a number of reasons. And from what I've seen with the group we have I'm convinced someone/people is/are definitely going to be mugged and/or lost. I'm also positive at least one of the following will occur: a major fight between two bff's, someone will get WAY to drunk and either miss the bus or cause aforementioned fallout, people will get angry because they expect Carnival to have activities at every waking moment and find out that an all-nighter isn't always a good idea. Especially in a city no one is familiar with.
Regardless, the bus ticket there is 20 Euro... and it's basically due by today, so I'm going to do some major pro's and con's. Money is becoming such an issue. Ugh.