Wednesday, September 29, 2010

THE TEST (one busy week).

I have to be honest and preface this entry with a boring warning. Hah. It has been a busy week, but not a very exciting one.

Last Thursday, some of the students in my program and I went a large police station (kind of downtown) to apply for our residency cards! The station sat just behind this ancient prison, which was surprisingly pretty. The police station itself was an eery reminder of the California DMV, a.k.a. my hell. Thankfully, one of our directors, María Jose met us there to walk us through it. Everyone was super rude and grumpy, as most of the goings-on there were traffic-related, or had to do with citizenship, etc.

The worst part of it? All we needed to bring was our passports, and some simple documents María Jose brought for us. I did not, i repeat, DID NOT need that stupid Apostille of Hague I drove all over Southern California to get! Yes, the Spanish Consulate in the U.S. stamped it and kept a copy, but the big deal was that I would need it IN Spain for residency. Also, I didn't need my Medical Certificate! LIES LIES LIES. Whatever. I'm almost at the point of residency. We all just need to sign something and turn in our fingerprints and we are temporary residents! :)

I brought some of dad's CHP patches, but I didn't end up giving any away as the station was chaotic and annoying. Hah. I'm saving those bad boys for the streets. But I did give one to one of my roommates, Miguel. Is training to be a National Policeman in Spain. He has his motor test this Friday, so I figured he could use some luck. Thanks, Dad for the patches! They will be given to the noblest folk only.

Friday, we all went out to a discotequa we like called Mae West. We're becoming more and more Spanish. Last time we were out until 4:30 a.m., this time we were out until 5:30 a.m. Improvement! But the rest of my weekend was dull.

I studied for the majority of it (took a movie break here and there). And crammed more on Monday for the final exam I had on Tuesday. Stack of vocabulary cards (I added about 75 more after this photo was taken).

I am in the advanced Preparatory Class so I cam automatically enrolled in the advanced CLM (Centro de Lenguas Modernas) classes, but I wanted to improved for my own sake. I just found out I got an 87% B+ on one half the test, but I do not yet know what I got on the other half of the test, or my class grade. I am content thus far.

So now I have a 4 day weekend! There is a National Strike today (called La Huelga General) and the transportation systems have slowed significantly because of it and many forms of transportation are now being over-used tomorrow. So we might not get to travel as far as we'd like. However, we are going to the bus station today or tomorrow to get tickets to go to Portugal for 5 days in October when we have a long weekend. :)

It's about time for some food! I love you all. As they say in Spain:

¡Un Beso!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Camping in Carzola!

Wow. Definitely one of my favorite experiences in Spain thus far!

This past weekend, our CSU IP program had a group excursion to Úbeda to explore/learn about the history and then to Carzola for some serious outdoorsy-ness. I love being outside. I like running. But I'm not too coordinated, as we all know. That being said, I ROCKED this weekend and harnessed my inner Northern Californian for some major hiking, etc.

First of all, Friday night, my landlords threw my roommates and I a mojito party to welcome us to the home. We got to know our roommates (Spaniards, Italians, Americans, etc.). Around 1:30 a.m., our Spanish roommate Miguel took us a to a discotequa called "Mae West" where we enjoyed our free drinks with entry until about 3:45 a.m. After a trip for some late night chawarmas (delish) we headed home and crashed at about 4:30 a.m. We had to get up at SEVEN A.M. Needless to say, it was an ugly, ugly morning.

After a 2 hour bus ride, our group of about 30 study abroad students arrived at Úbeda and beheld its glorious history. (I grasped some of it despite my exhaustion). The town really is gorgeous. This statue is memorial for those fallen in the Spanish Civil War; 1936-1939:

This is a beautiful cathedral called (I believe), "Catedral de la Natividad de Nuestra Señora de Baeza." It took my breath away.

Once we arrived at Carzola in the mountains, we practically had scurvy from the long bus ride. We still had the energy to laugh at our dinky cabin. But we loved it oh so much!

After lunch, we mustered up the strength for "Arbólisimo"! This is Spanish for those obstacle courses up in the trees. It was amazing! As I said, coordination is not my strong point, nor has it ever been. But! I think my long legs really helped me out this time because I flew through this thing. And luckily, unlike the other women in my family, heights don't bother me at all.

Chelsea and I getting strapped in:

Ziplining! Mom will love this. Remember "super chica" in Costa Rica? Hah!

After our tree-ing (as Martín calls it), we went for a short hike in the beautiful Sierra Nevada. The moon was out, but the sun was shining golden light on the mountain tops. Fantastic!

And I spotted some deer! Grandma will love this. :]

And the BEST part of the entire adventure was definitely the canyoneering! There is a beautiful river called Guadalquivir running through the mountains in Carzola. We had the opportunity to hike through it. This "hike" entailed walking through it, climbing up and through its rocks, swimming in the very deep areas, repelling down waterfalls and steep rock structures, as well as leaping off 15+ feet cliffs and waterfalls and plunging into the water below. This was, by far, my favorite outdoor experience of my life. I can't explain how excited we all were. I had the guts to volunteer to go first on many. The feeling of being in the air was spectacular!

So first, we had to don our gear. Wetsuits all around, running/hiking shoes (mine are still drying), and a helmet. In Spanish, a helmet is called a "casco." Now, let me tell you how difficult it is for the students in Granada to understand the stunted Spanish that Andalucian Spaniards speak. Remember how I told you they cut off the last syllable of words as well as the "s" sound? Well, they told us to put on our "cahcohs." We all looked like idiots asking each other, "What the heck is a 'cahcoh'?" Finally, Martín said, "casssscos!" and we knew right away we were in trouble. Imagine doing all the crazy stuff we were about to do and having all the safety rules, and where to put your hands in feet, explained to you in THIS kind of Spanish. Obviously we did alright since no one died. Hah.

Having some issue with my wetsuit:

Thank God for Daniel's waterproof camera! Unfortunately, there are no pictures of my jumping off the cliffs as I always went at the beginning and the go-to man for pictures was behind me. Natasha, Cheetoh (my "plane" buddy) and I:

A group shot of us after a huge jump:

And amazing experience, indeed! :]

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Classes, Mail, and Rain.

I think I got all the classes I wanted! I had to argue a bit with the director. (Side story that will not be posted here. Ugh.) But my Granada director María said that I was the first CSU IP student to complete the registration process and she is going to the Secretaría later this coming week and will email me if there are any problems (but there shouldn't be). Woo-hoo! I have class Monday-Thursday, and each class is 2 hours long, twice a week. Here are the courses I am taking this semester:

-Literatura de España; Renacimiento y Barroco (Spanish Literature: Renaissance and Barroque)
-La imagen de la mujer en la literatura española (The Image of the Woman in Spanish Literature)
-Civilización y Cultura Españoles (Spanish Civilization and Culture)
-Introducción a la lingüística (Introduction to Spanish Linguistics)
-Producción Oral y Escrita (Spanish Oral and Writing Skills II--a required course for the Estudios Hispanicos, which is the advanced level I am in.)

It's going to be 15 units of immersion, but I think I can do it. :]

Also! I got a package from my mom today. Man, she rocks! She sent me the Spanish Verb book and dictionary I lamely forgot, the HOLY Apple World Adapter Kit (which I also should have bought before leaving), a cocktail dress and skirt I wanted (to save money on clothes here for a bit anyway), and she surprised me with peanut butter (expensive/difficult to find here), DOUBLE STUFFED Oreos, spices, and tea! She WOULD sneak something cooking related in there, but I am so happy she did! I love you, Mom. :]

I made the mistake of opening the package in class (since things are sent to my school for safety) and when I got the spices, my teacher said, "¡¿Tu mamá te envió drogas?¡" Which means, "Your mom sent you drugs!?" And she started laughing. I said, "¡No! Pues... Son drogas a mi mamá porque ella es una cocinera!" Meaning, "No! Well... They're drugs to my mom because she's a chef!" And my teacher went off on how cool it was that my mom cooked. It is true. It's pretty rad. Again, you rock mom. Despite that you're trafficking marijuana now.

Also, when I left school today, it was raining and it was so beautiful. It wasn't raining hard but it smells wonderful out! My first Spanish rain. And for the record, the rain in Spain does NOT stay mainly in the plains. Hardy har har.

Finally, when I came home, my landlord Tony was playing a song from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack and it made me so happy. 'Tis a good day.

I love you all!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Rock Show and Park Day

Last night, there was a free rock festival in Granada called "Zaidín Rock 10." The headliner was a band called Barricada. Chelsea figures they're the Spanish Aerosmith; a bunch of old dudes just jammin' away and everyone-young and old (some very old)-knew the lyrics. It was pretty huge. I'd say it was a grungy Coachella, but not as dirty as a metal festival. Haha. There were carnival rides and fried food stands just like any good festival. I approved.

The girls on the way to the RAWK show:

Barricada performing:

By the time we got home, it was an early Spanish evening at approximately 3:30 a.m. So as usual, we slept until the afternoon and had a lovely breakfast/lunch at home. Then we caravanned over to a park dedicated to Federico Garcia Lorca. I read a few of his plays in Comp Lit 400 with a professor who became my major adviser so I was pleasantly surprised to see the Lorca name at the entrance. There were these hilarious exercise contraptions that we all leapt on:

There were gorgeous rose gardens (which I definitely felt at home in):

Left to Right: Arisa, Natasha, Chelsea, Alex and Brandon.

We brought a blanket and a bottle of wine and just relaxed in the park for a couple hours:

After a bit, we all agreed on tapas and traveled back to a busy area near our house called Plaza Nueva. We took a side street and tried a place with decently priced tapas in HUGE portions. The bar is called La Bella y La Bestia (Beauty and the Beast). I'll leave you all drooling with these photos. :]

I miss you all!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Mi gente y mi comida.


So I stopped by my director's office today to pick up my Spanish student ID card and man do I look fabulous in my picture! Haha. They had to hand cut the background off the sides of my head and (Ava will love this) my mane looks like that of a ferocious lion. But I have it! As well as my student insurance card/information and a group picture! I don't have access to a scanner, so I took a picture of the photo and will present its poor quality to you here. (And if any of you don't know, you can double click the photos to expand them so you can see details):

The woman standing all the way to left is our director, Maria and her assistant below her, Maria Jose. My friends Natasha and Alex are to my left. I'm center back if you can't spot me. SURPRISE! Tall people in back. Chelsea and Arisa are in front with their legs to their chests. Brandon is being creepy in the back to the left with the sky blue shirt. Kira, from SF State is sitting in the bottom right. And Christina and Jason (also from SF State) in the back to the right in the floral tank top and bright blue shirt.

Also! I went grocery shopping today. I bought four full plastic bags (I need to get green bags!) and yet the most expensive thing I bought was honey at 3,25 euro. Yeah. We definitely found THE place to shop. I paid a total of 29,40 euro for the whole sh-bang and it was beyond worth it:

So I had to get the Frosties for breakfast. My friends and I doing the communal thing for milk which Spaniards DO NOT refrigerate and that is just weird. Hah. I've got some mint tea and honey. Canned red sauce for the pasta and canned garbonzo bean soup for my desperate-non-cooking evenings. Peaches, apples, and baby spinach. Yogurt, eggs, butter and Havarti cheese with sliced turkey. Some frozen pasta dishes (also for times of desperation). Peach juice (amazing). Onion and garlic powder (necessary to my life) and two fresh baguettes which were criminally cheap. They were warm when I bought them. (My mom is dying right now.)

Natasha and I carried our bags a good half a mile and up a hill so it is definitely siesta time. But I had to post this factual/informative little entry first.

I love you all!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Estoy haciendo amigos.

Making them amigos daily.

So last night when got home from dinner, we found that Tony (one of our landlords/handyman) baked us all cookies on little individual plates. :] And we added our landlords on Facebook (or as they say, "faaazeboooook"). One accepted immediately and demanded we begin speaking in Spanish on our walls. Don't worry, I'll translate as best I can. :]

Also, at the break between my brutal four hour daily language class, we go to a bar down the street and get cafe con leche for 1,20 euro and toast for ,70 euro. Sweet deal. But the best part is I saw my barista after class, smoking outside his bar and he said, "¡Hola chica! ¡Hasta luego!" It made me so happy! He knows us now! (He better, we've been there every day thus far supporting said establishment.)

Anyway. I am back to the phone store today to figure out this international calling thing and see if it will cost me a million dollars to receive calls. We'll see!


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Lo que he visto.

(Where I've been!)

So I have started a map to keep track of all the places I have visited. Hopefully, it will only grow the longer I am in Europe!

Here is how it looks thus far:

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Things you probably don't know about Spain.

1.) Pillow cases here have holes on both ends. I do not yet a see a purpose behind this but I will keep you posted if a situation should present itself. Also, pillows are the length of what we call "body pillows" in the U.S. And if you're a two pillow kind of girl, you have to fold yours in half to achieve greater neck support. Economical? Fairly.

2.) Beer is in fact cheaper than water and a better deal. Buy a beer for 2 euro and you get a small meal. Buy water for 2 euro and you get no refills and no food. And it's in a bottle, which I hate because it's environmentally horrible. So I bring the tin bottle Alysha got me for water and order a beer for delicious food!

3.) Doctors are not paid as much as American doctors. The system is socialized here. This makes for doctors who just really LOVE their job, not their paychecks. I like this.

4.) Spain refuses to seed or pit any of their fruit (all grapes have seeds), but they take the time to de-crust their sandwich bread. Why?

5.) Evidently, girls in their twenties here are more than fine with dating 15-19 year old boys. It seems to be culturally normal. So Collette, you're in the clear! Haha. Kidding.

6.) Three o' clock in the morning is either slightly early or just the right time to arrive a club. In America, said clubs close at 2 a.m. In Laura-ville, bedtime was a couple hours ago.

7.) One of the most common drinks here is "Calimocho." Which is half coke, half red wine. Hah! It's actually pretty good.

8.) The handle to the flush the toilet is located at the top of the tank in the center. I certainly hope I never have to get into the tank because you can't just take the lid off with a handle drilled through it. This could be a potentially embarrassing situation if I can't fix my own problems and have to knock on my landlord's door. Aah!

9.) The trash is picked up between 1 and 2 a.m. I see their reasoning (to a degree); the streets are more empty and this is important when most of the streets are one-way alleys. But man, in Natasha's and Brandon's rooms (as well as Alex's and Chelsea's) that stuff is LOUD in the night.

10.) If you say "thank you" in the wrong situation, it can be slightly offensive. Or if you say thank you too much, it can also be offensive. I have not conquered this yet (as I say thank you for EVERYTHING) but I am beginning to understand. In America, we tend to say thank you more to strangers and public servants than to our family--we're close to them and helping each other out is sometimes expected. So if you say it too much here, you're distancing yourself from the person you are speaking to. You are kind of saying, "We're not that close."

Now you know!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Class begins...

I had my first class with the month-long language program about an hour ago. My session is from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. every day.

Like I said, I tested into "Primer Avanzada" (the first advanced class, above intermediate) but it is going really well thus far. I understand both of my teachers surprisingly well. AND my friend Arisa from San Francisco State (who also lives in my building now) is in my class. During our break, we met up with Natasha and Amity and we all bolted out of el Centro (our school) down an alley way for some coffee. Hallelujah we found a place! 1,20 for a cup and it was DELISH. It definitely helped us through the next two hours, but we need to start ordering "una corbata." Regular served coffee here is half milk, half coffee, but una corbata is mostly coffee, a little milk (which is what I like).

My teachers are amazing. Profe Herrero y Profe Martinez. Nice ladies indeed, but Martinez is HILARIOUS. And they smile when they say my name the first time. I honestly think it's because my name is of Latin origin and VERY popular in Spanish speaking countries so it's easy for them to say and it's familiar. One lady read off my name as "Laura Rosa" and it made me happy.

I bought one book after class today for 22 euro. TWENTY-TWO! That book would be $80 in the U.S.! Woo! And I have one on back-order for Monday. Not looking forward to homework but I am looking forward to kicking my Spanish into high gear. I think I already am improving.

For example, it is now habit for me to respond to Spanish-speakers in Spanish (I don't even THINK about how to respond in English, I go straight to translating). Also, I am understanding my landlord a little better. The other landlord is still INTENSE to understand, but we're all working on it! (I mean we bought the place, and signed contracts which we fully understood in SPANISH. Hah.). Man, they are nice guys.

Oh! A cute little thing I forgot to post in my last entry. When I signed the contract in Tony's "office," we were talking one-on-one and he was being super accommodating and telling me all the things I can ask for here and receive for free, etc. At one point I gushed, "Muchas gracias a usted!" In the States, I was taught, "When in doubt, use the formal 'you.'" Meaning, use "usted" when you want to say "you" because that is proper for speaking to the elderly, teachers, bosses, landlords, etc. Use "tu" or the casual "you" with peers, children and family. Tony looked at me grinning and said, "No! No!" A ti, a ti!" Meaning, use the informal/casual "you" with me. Which is a sign of being closer or friendlier with someone. It melted my heart! So "tu" it is! :)

I mean, the man took us to an amazing tapas bar while the contracts were being typed up. It was awesome to drink a beer with your future landlord and having him tell you that you get free toilet paper and where to buy cheap stuff in the city. What more can you ask?

Lunch time soon! Adios mis cariños!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Mi Apartamento!

Hello everyone! I am officially moved into my room and I am SO happy with the set-up.

I have a double bed, a huge armoire and extra storage, lamps, a sidetable, waste bin, surge bar, desk and chair, and other things all included. Beautiful. AND I ironically have a purple wall! Every room has various colors like lime green, red, yellow, sky blue, etc. All rooms have hardwood floors and there is marble tile throughout the house.

And no wonder this place gorgeous, I have very trendy landlords who are a crack-up! "Vale? Si, vale!"

My room:

Pictures of my family and friends and my sidetable:

My desk area:

Patio View:

Bye for now! Love you all!