Month: January 2014

One Week

As of 9:00pm tonight (my time) I will have been in Granada for exactly one Anniversary” Emily reminded me of this today by wishing me a “happy week-anniversary” on our walk back from the science museum. You too, roomie!

Emily and I in the Albacin in front of the Alhambra.

Emily and I in the Albaicin in front of the Alhambra.

I feel like I’ve already accomplished so much in my short time here, but at the same time I haven’t done ANYTHING. I know that I’ve done a lot and many of you (family) have been asking so here’s a brief list of what I’ve done in Granada:

  • City Tour of the plazas and streets of the city
  • Explored the city (shops, side streets, located my school buildings)
Exploring the city, finding amazing fountains in EVERY plaza

Exploring the city, finding amazing fountains in EVERY plaza

  • Took a placement test-placed higher than I expected
  • Got my courses- my schedule is horrible but as they say: que sera, sera
  • Familiarized myself with my school building- the CLM
CLM- Centro de Lenguas Modernas (Center of Modern Languages)

CLM- Centro de Lenguas Modernas (Center of Modern Languages)

  • Visited the Alhambra
Door Frame inside the Alhambra

Door Frame inside the Alhambra

  • Walked through the Albaicin (oldest neighborhood in Spain)
  • Viewed the Sacramonte (mountain/cave homes)
The Streets of the Albaicin

The Streets of the Albaicin

  • Made lists of all the places I want to visit while I’m here in the city- most important being the Arab Baths ❤
  • Visited El Parque de las Ciencas
  • Went to a tapas bar- D’Cuadros
  • Visited beautiful Churches with my roommate
Church in the City Center

Church in the City Center

  • Had Churros con Chocolate
  • Ate a typical Spanish breakfast at a restaurant
  • Had countless conversations in Spanish with my host mom and her boyfriend
  • Had API meetings every day
  • Went on a scavenger hunt through the city and only located like 2 places (maps are not easy, people).
Statue in the City Center on the way to the CLM

Statue in the City Center on the way to the CLM

Basically, it’s been one of the best weeks of my life, and I can’t believe I have so many more to come! I’m absolutely loving Granada, but I’m already starting to plan some trips away from here. I’m struggling between wanting to travel all through Europe and wanting to soak up Spain, so Emily and I are planning a trip to Seville, I’m planning to go to Malaga or Cordoba, and I’d also love to go outside the country for Spring break (Germany??). I’m having so much fun and know that there is so much more to come (for instance, I am on my way out the door to another museum!)

Here, life doesn’t revolve around the sun

Obviously science doesn’t change just because I’ve moved countries, but I swear that life doesn’t revolve around the sun here.

Weather
Although the weather has been really nice since being here (and I mean really nice, like 40-60 degrees..much warmer than at home. Sorry everyone), even on the days when it’s really chilly or raining, it doesn’t reallly stop people from going out and walking around the city, doing what they have to do outside. Today it’s raining and even though I feel like I live in a part of the city that isn’t nearly as popular as the center of Granada, there are still many people out walking around already (it’s 9:30 and people don’t really get the ball rolling here until around 10. I know what you’re thinking–why doesn’t everyone just move to Spain? it sounds perfect!).

Food
I personally feel like in America, a lot of (at least my family’s) holidays revolve around food. You tell guests to arrive 2-3 hours before the main meal, you all gather to have  hors durves (I can’t spell that and spell check has no idea what I’m trying to say, but you all get it), then you all share a meal, chat while having coffee, and then those of you who can squeeze in dessert.  Well I feel like–at least for now (maybe it’s because I’ve only passed a few days here so far) every day revolves around food. Our host mom leaves us a really cute breakfast (see below) We have to make sure our afternoon matches up with lunch at 2ish. Dinnner is either at home or out at a tapas bar. I suppose it’s not really that different from home, because I usually eat 3 meals there too, I just feel like at home if I have to skip lunch because I’m too busy- it’s totally fine. But if I were to skip a meal here, it would feel impossible and almost like I’m breaking some kind of rule.

I enjoy what I’ve been eating, though- I hope you don’t misunderstand me..

Breakfast
Breakfast is always a nice, small start to the morning. I usually have a small roll with some jam or honey on it, some water, and cafe con leche (coffee and milk). It’s nothing that makes you incredibly full, but it holds you over until lunch- the biggest meal of the day. Emily, my roommate, and I went out to breakfast at our host mom’s restaraunt a few days ago and she said that it is common for people to have toast with tomato and olive oil on it when they go out for breakfast so that’s what we decided on-and of course cafe con leche. It may not seem like much, but it was definitely enough to hold me over and only cost 2.20 Euro (around 3 US dollars- which I think is a good deal for fresh tomato and the most amazing olive oil on the planet).

My Breakfast Each Morning

My Breakfast Each Morning

Lunch 
Lunch is definitely the biggest, most important and filling meal of the day. I am usually pretty hungry by this time because lunch is served between 2 and 3. We’ve had things like Spanish tortilla (baked egg, onion and potato), lentil soup, or salads with a bunch of fruiit and veggies. She usually tries to put egg in at least one meal a day so that Emily and I (both vegetarians) get our protein. These meals I can’t photograph because I feel funny whipping out my ipad during the most important meal of the day.  But! I have attached a photo below of what tortilla looks like!

Spanish Tortilla- egg, potato, and onion. Sometimes made with spinach and tomato. We usually have a slice with a salad or soup.

Spanish Tortilla- egg, potato, and onion. Sometimes made with spinach and tomato. We usually have a slice with a salad or soup.

Dinner 
Dinner is smaller than lunch, usually consisting of a small sandwich and some soup, or a salad and soup. The salads always have fruit and veggies (recently tried a dried date–it was pretty good!) and the soups have a light broth with a veggie or two mixed in.

Tapas 
Tapas are small (or sometimes rather large) plates that are usually given free with a drink when you go out at night. Last night Emily and I knew that we would be going out for drinks and tapas so we told our mom that we wouldn’t be around for dinner (dinner plus tapas is wayyy too mucch food unless you plan to go out at 2-3AM because then your dinner was 6 hours ago, but we’re not that crazy). Last night we enjoyed veggie tortelini, vegetable crepes, and eggplant with roasted honey. We shared these three plates because we really wanted to try multiple things.

berenjena con miel - eggplant with honey

berenjena con miel – eggplant with honey

Here, people don’t mind the weather, they enjoy their food (and their siestas), and they know that life is now. Obviously I’m generalizing based on the Spaniards I’ve encountered. But as far as I’m concerned, the way of life here makes way more sense to me.

Toledo

One of the prettiest things I’ve seen so far is this view from the top of Toledo. The old city is so beautiful that I don’t think this photo does it even a little bit of justice. In each direction we looked there were old yellow and orange buildings, birds circling below us, rivers and bridges, and the sound of the air moving the trees. During my time here, I would love to go back to Toledo.

Photo (L to R): Rachel, Tessa, me, Elisha, Alexa, Emily, Emily

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Observations

When you travel to another country, you’re basically traveling to an entire new world. Everything is different and new and you just have to forget everything you’re used to and adapt to the changes quickly. That said, I believe in my heart that making comparisons is how you learn to make this adaption. I’m not saying you should compare everything to your home country, but being able to locate differences may make it easier for you to adapt if you recognize the difference, and then accept it and adjust to it. I’ve made a few comparisons (more like simply taking note of a difference in the back of my brain), and I wanted to share a few because I would find them interesting if I had never come here:

  • Asking for a glass of water in a restaraunt will cost you 2.50 Euro because the standard is bottled water. If you want tap water, you have to specify that you want “agua del grifo” (water from the tap).
  • In the hotel we stayed in, in order to turn on any lights, one must put the room key into a slot in the main part of the room to activate any other electricity in the room. I’m unsure if it is like this in other hotels, but it makes sense to do this for two reasons. One–it saves electricity because people need their key when they leave so there is no chance of a light being left on and two–it helped us remember to take our key.Also, the plugs are really different looking here because of the voltage difference.
  • Everything is smaller in Spain (and I’m assuming most of Europe) except for the alcoholic beverages. Plates of food are smaller, doorways are smaller, people are smaller, cups are smaller. Cars are usually two seaters or four seaters with little space, they’re close to the ground and just generally smaller. To go along with this theme comes my next point:
  • THE ROADS ARE SO SMALL HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE?! When we were driving on the bus, I have no idea how we did not run over the cars next to us but each lane is incredibly narrow, enough for one car to go exactly straight and that is it. Most roads look to be one-way streets but cars go both directions on them. I also have a hard time understanding which part of the street cars are allowed to drive on, and which are reserved for pedestrians. All the streets and roads are beautiful, so I cant imagine them being for cars OR pedestrians.
    Narrow road in Toledo
  • Traffic circles are very prominent here.

Basically, these are my comparisons/observations from the past 5 days. If you have any questions, please ask them! 🙂

 

Life through a lens

One of my biggest disappointments is that so many places that we visit don’t allow photographs. There are so many things that I wish I could capture so I could save the image forever. I wanted so badly to photograph the Royal Palace, the  armory, El Prado (and all the masterpieces I saw there), El Escorial, the GIANT library in the monastery. But I couldn’t. Everywhere I turned there was a sign saying “No foto’, a security guard yelling “No foto”,  Curra or Lydia (the API directors) telling us “no foto”. But yesterday, when I was exploring the royal palace, I realized I had forgot my camera and I was so disappointed. Although I knew I couldn’t take photos inside, I could have captured the amazing stonework and sculptures outside. After the day ended, I realized that I didn’t need the camera to remember the moments I had that day. I wrote down in my travel journal all the details I could remember (almost 4 pages) and can still visualize it fresh in my mind. This is because instead of looking at the magnificent views through a lens, I was looking with my eyes. I was truly taking in the breath-taking scenes of Madrid with my own two built-in lenses and because of that, I will remember it even more. From now on, the artificial lens will be used only once I know that I can remember a scene or a building or an image without the documentation because I’ve truly LOOKED at it with my eyes.

Trial and Error
Living in Madrid, even for just a few days, has made me realize that sometimes you don’t know what’s going to happen, you can’t always plan, and sometimes you just need to learn through trial and error. I was mad the first day I was here because I spent 11 Euro on lunch (the cheapest we could find with our limited time for lunch–which happens at like 3 o’clock here), especially when one of my friends told me she bought fresh bread and cheese at the market for only 3. So then I learned that there are cheaper options for lunch (thank goodness). I was also a little shocked when my dinner arrived last night and it was portioned to feel 1/4 of a person. After talking with the waiter and my friends, I learned that my plate was called a “Ración” which is meant to be ordered with a few other raciones to be shared with a group. We made up for our meager dinner by going to a tapas bar late last night called “El Tigre”. We were always taught that tapas were small plates. Maybe they are/will be elsewhere but here the tapas were a whole plate of food enough to give me two meals. And with the purchase of a tapa, came a drink of our choice. I chose my first Spanish sangria and it was delicious. For  only 6 Euro, I think that was the best deal anyone can ask for. I learned that personal space is non-existant here and that when you back away from a Spanish person who is speaking to you, it’s really rude. And that not everyone on my trip has the same goals, desires, reasons for coming that I do. Learning to live in another country where the culture is so different (time of day people eat, portions of different foods, personal space [or lack of it]) takes a lot of trial and error.

Confidence 
Even in just two days I’ve already felt more confident than I did when I first arrived. I feel like I know the center of Madrid really well (from La Plaza Mayor, through La Puerta del Sol, to El Parque de Buen Retiro) and I would feel okay if I was a little lost, because there are a lot of central points  that I can find my way back to and from there find the Hotel Regina. My Spanish has started to come without so much time thinking. When me and Emily’s keys broke today, I marched right up to the front counter and without even thinking about it, I told her that our keys were not working in the door to our room and that we would like some assistance. I also spit out our room number (128) without thinking about that either–numbers always give me a difficult time.  I’m happy that I am at least not so shy with my speaking and that I am beginning to become more confident in myself. I cannot wait until I get to Granada and I can speak with my host family all the time. Always remember to look at life through your own biological lenses before the artificial one.

Hasta mañana 🙂

English “Dichos” Apply Here

Considering I slept less than 2 hours last night and less than 5 the night before, I think it’s fair to use the word exhaustion when describing my present state. I’m so tired that I’m shaking and neither food nor water seem to cure it. As badly as I want to sleep, I know that staying up is the smarter choice because I need to get myself adjusted to this time change as quickly as I possibly can.

I will say that even though I didn’t sleep, last night was pretty cool. I definitely did not expect to be fed as much as I did. We got a dinner and a breakfast on the plane. Although people make fun of airline food, I thought my pesto tortelini was    pretty delicious.

 A Child in a Candy Shop
Basically, I feel like a child in a candy shop today. It’s honestly a little bit scary how much freedom we have here. As soon as API checked us into the hotel, we were free to explore Madrid. We walked out of the automated doors of the Hotel Regina and got lost in the magic of Madrid. My roommate and I ran across streets (after waiting for the light to allow it), photographed everything in sight, and listened to the sounds of the Spanish city. Everywhere I turned there were statues, fountains, sculptures. We explored a GIANT park on the easter part of Madrid called El Parque del Buen Retiro. In it, there is a giant manmade pond for canoeing, large bird baths and lakes, places to eat, places to perform (outdoor stages and seats), we even visited an art gallery with artwork from the 1970s-80s.  I honestly felt like I could do anything today. It was so stunningly beautiful.

A Deer in Headlights
My feeling of invincibility immediately left when my roommate, Emily, and I tried to go to a restaurant for lunch. I feel angry when I realize that all of the Spanish I’ve learned really isn’t applicable in real life. We both struggled to order from the menu, request change (which for you spanish speakers out there–you can laugh at me for not knowing that it’s the same as any other form of the word change [to change sides, a change in weather]). I used to tell people that I could “get by” with the amount of Spanish I know but right now that doesn’t feel true. Maybe I can blame it on the exhaustion, or maybe I just am not used to constant Spanish yet, but I am definitely not telling people that I speak Spanish anymore because right now, I’m barely getting by. But on the bright side, that means I really only can get better from here.

Birds of a Feather Flock Together
I guess it’s true, travelers stay with travelers. I’ve enjoyed spending time with my new roommate, my friends from the plane/airport, and meeting other new people along the way. AND TODAY HAS ONLY JUST BEGUN! (except not for me because today started like 3 days ago for me if we’re going by sleep)..We have an API orientation meeting and then are going back out into the city to tour the Puerta del Sol. I can’t wait for more adventures to come.

Photos will be posted eventually, but right now I have no way to get them from my camera to the ipad so check back on these posts in a week or so!

xo ¡Besos y Abrazos!

36,000 Feet

Although my flight from Boston to New York took only moments, I know that the journey that lies ahead of me will really feel even quicker. I’ve been in the air for over an hour and we have about 5 hours remaining. I realize now that, in the scheme of things (considering I’m flying across the OCEAN), five hours isn’t that long. I’m almost disappointed that the flight isn’t longer than it is. I could use this time for valuable sleep. When I arrive in Madrid, it will be 2:30am in America, meaning my body clock will feel like it’s the middle of the night. However, it will be 8am in Madrid which means I have a full day ahead of me to stay awake!

How lucky
On both legs of my flight across the world, I ended up with the middle seat wide open (I’ve sat against the window). It’s been nice to have that extra space. It will continue to be nice if I can ever fall asleep. I’ve sat next to two really nice gentlemen on each leg as well. They were both older and offered advice and helped me lift my suitcase above my head into the overhead compartment. For being afraid of flying, I sure got pretty lucky and that calmed me down a bit.

Being Brave
Although it has taken basically all of my courage to get onto these planes, I think my family has demonstrated even more courage. I genuinely put myself in my mom’s shoes just a moment ago and I can’t even fathom letting my young daughter go travel the world alone. As scary as it is for me, it must be much scarier for my parents. Mom, Dad, Jay–Thank you for your constant support. I know how much you had to be brave and let go and I appreciate you giving me this independence. I promise to make you proud and to come back a more worldly citizen.

Purgatory
I feel like I’m in a weird purgatory between exhaustion and excitement. I’m so wiped out and am dying to get some shut-eye but I’m the most excited I’ve ever been so HOW COULD I POSSIBLY SLEEP RIGHT NOW?! Although my heart is racing with anticipation, I know that I should probably take a nap and get some shut-eye. After my quick nap, I will be starting a brand new day in Madrid, Spain.

¡Saludos!

Preparation II

In exactly 24 hours I will be on an airplane taking off out of Boston Logan Airport heading to Spain.  Even though I’m only 24 hours away, I JUST NOW finished packing.  Something that was really important to me while packing was packing light, but my family insisted that I use two suitcases-one checked and one to carry aboard with me just in case anything happened to my checked bag. So I am taking two suitcases with me. I left plenty of room in my bags for all of the wonderful Spanish gifts I will be bringing home with me! 🙂

To begin packing, I laid out everything I was taking on my bed and I wrote it all down just so that I know exactly what I have with me (for customs and for my own future knowledge). I know it looks like a lot, but it’s for 4 1/2 months with a big season change (temps in the 40s to temps in the 80s–so I have to be prepared).

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I brought with me 5 cardigan sweaters because I always get cold, three blouses, 9 shirts, 4 tank tops, 2 jeans, 2 leggings, 3 dresses, 3 shorts, gifts for my host family, a bathing suit, 2 yoga pants, 2 night shirts, 1 fleece sweatshirt, 4 undershirts, underclothes, toiletries/makeup, 2 pairs of shoes, a journal, an MTEL prep book, a camera, ipad, phone, and of course my passport!

I wanted to make sure that I had leftover space in my suitcases, like I said before, to bring things back with me such as presents for family or anything I buy over there (for example, I will be buying sandals there). I packed my carry-on bag with enough things (clothes, pajamas, under clothes) for my first 4 days there because I will be at orientation in Madrid. Instead of digging through my whole suitcase, I will have 4 days worth of what I need in my carry on bag.

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This is how my carry-on bag looks. I also packed all my shoes (and my slippers) as well as all my under clothes and my raincoat in this bag to fill empty space. I packed a small day purse in here, too.

In my checked bag, I packed everything else including my gifts for my host family (Burt’s Bees lotions because they’re made in Maine, Handmade soaps from Cape Cod, and chocolate covered cranberries because cranberries are grown near where I go to school!) I kept a lot of extra room- about half a suitcase.

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Finally, my journal, MTEL book, electronics, and chargers (along with my purse and walet) are tucked into my backpack.

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I’m finally ready to head to the airport tomorrow! My dad will be picking me up around 10 and we will arrive at Logan around 11. I am giving myself extra time because I have no idea how to navigate an airport. The next time I write I will be in Logan or JFK, and then in Madrid! I will arrive in Madrid at 8:30 their time (2:30 AM in America). Check in with my immediate family or this blog for updates on my arrivals! ¡Saludos!