Saturday, October 16, 2010

Tidbits of information that I find Interesting...

 9 more things about Spain??  Oh you know it!

19.  Spaniards can’t pronounce my name.
            I haven’t met every single Spanish person here, but out of the ones that I’ve met none have gotten my name exactly right.  I don’t mind to be honest.  It’s actually kinda cute. :)  And since I have a small obsession with everything Spain and or Spanish, I would actually rather have a Spanish name.  :)  Instead of pronouncing it with the normal 2 syllable pronunciation, Kath-Rin (And no I didn’t spell my name wrong..for those of you who haven’t noticed no one pronounces the E’s in my name.  You can, trust me, but it sounds like an over pronunciation to me…) the Spaniards here like to split it up into 3 syllables and also add a little Spanish flare to the pronunciation as well.  :)  Ka-Ter-Ing …well…it’s close I suppose.  After a few more tries at the correct pronunciation, I simply become Kati.  Not “KATIE” like in the states but more like, “Ka-TEE.”  I like it!  Haha!  Makes ordering food and introducing myself 92.34 times easier. 
20.  Red meat is almost non-existent here.
            Hamburger?  Steak?  Meatloaf?  Tacos?  Forget it.  I’m not really sure if they would know what those foods were if I was to ask where I could find something like that.  I’ve been craving a cow for like 2 weeks.  I don’t know how much longer I can last without some type of protein in my diet.  Yes they have pigs…ham and pork chops, which I guess can be considered red meat, but I hate pork chops..and one can only eat ham for so long.  I never eat ham at home.  Christmas and that’s it…ahh Christmas.. :)  Can’t tell if it’s arriving too fast or taking too long..but there’s another time and place for that blog.  :) 

21.  No one is ever on time.
            FINALLY A SOCIETY LIKE ME!!!  If you know me well at all you know I’m almost never on time.  I like to think I “cut it close”  but no I’m late.  I seem to think everything is only 5-7 minutes away.  I definitely know it’s not I just can’t seem to get out of the house or leave where ever I am until 5 min before I’m supposed to be somewhere else.  But here, this is just the skill you need.  :)  8:30 really means 9:15.  Meet up in 20?  Make that 38 minutes.  It’s fabulous.  I’m always where I need to be at just the right time.  :)  Even professors are late for class and it’s no big deal.  But class always ends on time!!  Definitely not addin those 15 min back on to the end of class! No way are you kidding me?!  I have finally found my place in this time run world.    

22.  Spaniards will talk about anything and everything for an extremely long amount of time.
            Oh goodness…I’m prolly turning into this as well, but no worries!  It’s not a bad thing, it’s just interesting.  One day at dinner we had a conversation about how my roommate eats more than me for literally 40 min.  I swear they found every possible sentence in the world to describe that situation.  And the conversation never strayed away from that subject.  1.  Eating habits can usually be described in about 5 sentences and   2. It’s not that interesting of a subject, but somehow it got turned into the longest topic of my life.  I’ve noticed everything gets repeated here.  It’s probably just because I’m so used to the short direct way people talk in the states.  State your business and get on with it.  I will probably talk for hours when I get home about random things as well.  You’ve been warned.  :)      

23.  Giving directions is literally giving someone directions.
            The directions here never consist of street names.  Either they just don’t exist or there are too many streets that no one really knows the street names anyways.  I vote for the first.  They don’t have street signs here either.  You have to be at either the beginning or end of a street to see the name of it.  Weird right?  Half the time I never know where I am, but I’m getting better.  For example, if you ask someone where the, “Torre de Oro” is they will automatically give you left, right, straight directions.  “Take this street till the small plaza, go left, go right on the third street down, the two more lefts, take another right at the restaurant, and the go all the way down and it’s on your right.  Very simple.  Very simple.”  Simple my ass.  I spend more time asking people for directions than I do actually walking to the place.  Oh Phoenix North/South, East/West streets, how I miss you…     

24.  Best shopping here ever.
            No wonder Europe is so fashion forward!!  They have so much to work with here!  There are so many cultures here that they all influence each other in one way or another.  Every one dresses up here and sometimes I feel like I stick out like a sore thumb.  It’s just sooo different!  No sweat pants and sweatshirt look here!  It’s boots, leggings, skirts, scarves, pea coat, rings, necklace, earrings, and either a beanie or fancy head wear, just to go to class.  Damn.  I’ve been adjusting my wardrobe since I’ve been here.  I LOVE IT.  This style makeover has made me love Europe even more.       

25.  There is no such thing as traffic tickets.
            I’m pretty sure that all these people would get tickets back in the States.  It’s ridiculous.  Not just for speeding but just the manner in which they drive too!  People are always honking at one another and cutting people off, parking ON the sidewalks when there’s no room left, driving in and out of crowds of people and doing it all with such class.  Some of the streets here are so small that when walking, I have to stop in a doorway to let the car go by.  There honestly isn’t enough room for ONE person and a car.  No wonder no one over here is fat!  You’d get run over by a car!  It’d be like a game…10 points if you send that guy flying! 
26.  No restaurant is open past 12.
            Gone are the days of Taco Bell at 4 A.M. or a Wendy’s chocolate frosty as a midnight snack.  Yes the clubs and the bars are definitely open then, but they don’t serve food!  Peanuts maybe, but nothing else!  The McDonalds over here closes at 11:30 P.M.  Lovely.  Don’t get the munchies here, you’ll be screwed.  Good thing I got my care package from home!  It’s been a life saver lately.  They just don’t snack’s another foreign American concept.  lol

27.  Internet is gold.
            If you have internet in your house here, you are probably one out of 50 people.  Internet is just not something they need over here.  I DO.  How do these people survive without the internet??!  Do they know all of the magical things that the internet has to offer??  Free movies, illegal downloads, music, TV shows, FACEBOOK, email!!!!  I was honestly shocked to find out how many people had to go to café’s or bars to get some type of WIFI service!  I’m not saying the younger generation doesn’t have a connection to the internet, but the older ones here certainly do not!!  And guess what kind of house I live in…a very old generation.  Thank god for the USB Modem internet thing I have here!  Without it I would die.  A bit frustrating since I had to BUY my own internet and it’s kinda slow, but this point I’ll take anything.  Plus without the internet none of you would enjoy my lovely Spain experience.  :)

49 days down… 63 more too go.   Eeekk!!  Almost half and half!  Damn..time flies

Jerez de la Fronterra

This little town is quite historic in the history of Spain!  Who knew right?  The original sherry was produced there by the Arabs in the waaayy olden days and it’s the main exporter of “Tio Pepe” wine and “Lepanto” brandy. (The most exclusive brandy in Spain. :) Be jealous.)  It’s kinda like that rule with champagne.  If it’s not from Champagne, France it can’t be called Champagne.  Same goes for Sherry!  Can’t be called Sherry unless it’s from Jerez, Spain!  Never knew that.  Apparently other countries make sherry as well but they have to call it something like, “Sherry from Portugal” can’t just call it “sherry”.  It’s a cute little down that once again makes me feel like I’m stepping back in time. 

After a night of staying out way to late and getting up way too early, a group of us met at the train station in Sevilla and took the hour train ride to Jerez.  Apparently the scenery was lovely, but I slept all the way there.  I didn’t think it was very exciting since I had seen it all before when my mom, Barb, and I went to Cadiz.  (Jerez de la Frontera is in the middle of Sevilla and Cadiz..just an fyi).  After the train ride we met up and headed towards our destination, Gonzalez-Byass winery. 

I’ve never been on a wine tour before, since I’ve never been old enough in the States and I’ve also never liked the smell or taste of wine for that matter.  Until now those two reasons had been enough to keep me away from wine tours, but seeing as how I’m in Spain and actually able to enjoy a wine tour I decided to go.  :)  We learned all about the Tio Pepe wine brand, how it’s made, all its history, and all the different wines they offer.  We also learned about the brandy and sherry they make right there in their little distillery.  Some of the bottles they have there don’t even start selling until they’ve aged for 15 years!!  That’s a hell of a long time to wait for a drink!  I never realized all the work that goes into making something like wine and other alcohol things.  And they STILL don’t smell or taste any better!  Either some things wrong with me or people just pretend to love this stuff.  I think I’m the only sane person who sees the huge scheme here.  1.  Pay way too much for a tiny ass bottle of wine, brandy, or sherry.  2.  Drink it as fast as you can because sipping would take hours.  And lastly  3. Pay for it dearly in the morning. 

After the tour of the winery we went to the tasting.  Needless to say I didn’t like the wine.  (Surprise surprise) and wasn’t able to finish either of my glasses.  It’s a shame really because I really wanted to like Spanish wine!  I think I romanticized the idea of the wine being SOOO great just like the Spanish culture, but unfortunately my taste buds refuse to change.  I took about 2 sips from each glass and declared myself done for the day.  I don’t know if I’ll ever appreciate the taste of wine, but it’s definitely not something high on the top of my “to-do” list.  After the tasting was over we ate a very late lunch and then headed back to Sevilla.
Regardless of my upsetting dismissal of Spanish wine, I had a great time.  :)  I loved walking around the city, touring the winery, and spending a day with my friends.  Can’t wait to go on another adventure in this amazing country.  Man, I don’t know if I’ll ever come back.  I could keep living this travel life style for the rest of my life.  :)  

Thursday, October 7, 2010

My life. In Fragments.

For this blog I’ve decided to do small stories from my daily experiences in Spain.  Almost like a chapter book if you will.  These random occurrences have no real stories behind them, but they are experiences none the less that I will not forget.  Too short for a blog all by themselves, a combo blog of my life will be compiled here.  :)    

So our host mom makes us breakfast, lunch, and dinner every single day of every single week.  Nice right?  She’s a pretty good cook and I always eat everything on my plate, usually.  Lettuce and other greens sometimes get pushed to the side, but who eats their veggies anyways?  Wednesday my afternoon class got canceled so I was able to go home for lunch instead of eating my bocadillo (sandwich) at school.  I get called to come to the table for food and sit down to a rice plate with some dark meat mixed within.  I ask what it is and my host mom says that it’s chicken.  Huh..I’ve always been a personal fan of the white meat chicken, but I wasn’t sure if maybe this was some kind of dark meat.  I’ll tell you right now it didn’t LOOK like chicken, but then again I trusted her word.  I place a piece of the “chicken” on my spoon accommodated by a large helping of rice just in case.  It doesn’t really have much of a taste, but its texture is something different.  It was super soft and pretty much melted in my mouth.  Confused by the way chicken usually tastes and feels in my mouth I decided to ask again…the conversation is as follows…

            Me: “Amparo, you said this was chicken right?”
                        Amparo: “Yes, it’s chicken.”
            Me: “Huh.”
                        Amparo: “Why do you not like it?”
            Me: “Not really.”
                        Amparo: “Well it’s chicken heart and liver meat in there.”
Me:    …………..…………………(Up-chuck) (Swallow quickly) (Chug glass of water)

Needless to say, I didn’t eat the “chicken” on my plate.  My rice would serve me well enough.  Amparo wasn’t upset at my dislike of heart and liver, but she was very surprised that I didn’t like it.  She continued to tell me that the people here love it.  Especially the kids.  And that it’s very healthy for you.  Healthy as it may be, I’m not eating a thump thump.  There’s blood that runs through those organs when the boc boc is alive.  I know it’s prolly the same as the muscle of the chicken that we eat, but no…no it’s different.  I don’t care what people say. 

*Note to self…if it doesn’t look like chicken, it’s not chicken.* 

You know you’ve been in Europe too long when…
As we all know the longer you do something, the more you hear a sound, or the more you see an object the more accustomed to that “something” you become.  The sound of a city, the sound of an air conditioner turning on at night, the bright sun of AZ, all these daily activities sometimes go unnoticed the more we live in a place.  They become part of our surroundings and we don’t even acknowledge them anymore. 
Here in Sevilla, a much bigger city than that of Phoenix and Tempe combined, it took me a while to get used to the lay of the land, all the cars, all the people, animals, and movement of this city.  Now a days, however, I feel very accustomed to all those things.  Too accustomed sometimes.    
As Jesse and I were walking to one of our classes one day, we came to one of the many usual intersections where we must cross to get to the university.  Although the light for pedestrians was green, at least I think…I don’t even one pays attention to those things out here.  Anyways, I began to cross the street talking away as Jess and I usually do on our way to school.  I cross the street only to realize some feet later that Jess is not with me.  She’s close, but a bit behind. 

            Me: “What happened?  Why didn’t you cross with me?”
Jess: “You didn’t see that huge horse coming towards us in the middle of the road?!”
            Me: “……………….There was a horse?”
Jess: “Ay, Chica! Yes! And a carriage! It was like right in front of us!”
            Me: “Oh…ya I definitely didn’t see that.”

And I honestly did not see any horse what so ever!  Even after she told me I tried to look for the horse in the street, but couldn’t find it.  She probably made it up…Either way I’ve come to the conclusion that when you start to ignore giant animals in your immediate pathway, you know you’ve been living in Europe for too long. 

Rain!!! Ish…
We had the first real rain day today here in Sevilla!!!  For like 5 minutes.  Yes, it appears that Sevilla and Phoenix have more in common than I thought.  They both have amazing weather, hot all the time, never many clouds, lots of tan people, lots of cars, college kids, and the same concept of rain. 

Today it’s been pretty overcast and cloudy, only like 77 today..buuurr!  But since it hasn’t rained here yet since I’ve been here, I wasn’t gonna let a cloudy day ruin my plans.  I was walking around the city finding new little shops and new ice cream places (yum) and saving their locations in my handy dandy GPS.  No more paper and pencil for me!  I’m all about the new technology. :)  Just as I was about to cross one of the bridges over the river into the city of Sevilla tiny rain drops started to fall.  A slight sprinkle at first, so I decided to keep walking.  10 seconds later, a bit faster…10 more seconds brought bigger drops, and then within that 30 second time period it was raining really hard!  Of course I would happen to be in the middle of the street heading towards the bridge with no building next to me and no tree either.  Perfect.  I along with 20 other people in the street begin to run towards any building or form of shelter that we can find.  I manage to find a doorway no one has claimed yet and decide to stay there til it stops.  It stops.  Really?  40 seconds?  That’s all you got?  Fine by me.  The rain ceases people return to the streets and life resumes as normal. 

Since a little rain will not stop my plans, I continue like all the others with my walking…in sandals with almost no grip left to them.  I was just asking for a death wish right there.  The sidewalks here aren’t just concrete or asphalt, they are very lovely, decorated, SMOOTH tiles.  Awwweeeeesommmee…I saw my life flash before my eyes at least 10 times.  Too big of a step would send me flying, so I had to take tiny baby steps to keep from falling.  I must have looked like someone who hasn’t walked in a while or a very very drunk person.  And as my luck would have it I am out walking around 4:30.  Right after lunch so all the outside cafés are filled with people.  Cool.  And as we all know people in Europe LOOOOVE to people watch.  Well they definitely got a show out of me…walk, walk, walk, walk, sliiiiip, walk, walk, walk, stumble, walk, walk, walk, walk, walk, sliiiide, walk, walk, walk, walk, walk, trip on uneven part, walk, walk, walk..Repeat. 

I didn’t fall though!!  Some pretty close calls, but I held my own. :)  Luckily it hasn’t rained since.  The sun is brightly shining now and the weather is perfect.  Sevilla could definitely work for me as my new AZ.

What the heck was that?  
Since I have been here in Spain I can honestly and truly say that I have been speaking more Spanish than ever.  More Spanish than English perhaps.  Every now and then when a situation gets too hard to explain or we don’t want our host parents to hear what we say, Jess and I will slip back into our English.  But only for a moment.  :)  This switching of the languages can sometimes mess with one’s mind without warning. 

I was talking to Jesse about some poetry book I was supposed to read and how I hate poetry in general.  It’s not that I can’t understand the words, vocab is not my issue, my issue is the meaning of all the words.  (How they hell is a bird supposed to represent the child this poet never had?  What if he just wanted to write about a bird?  Anyone ever think of that possibility?  Maybe we are making this guy out to be something way more than he really was.  But according to my teacher, my theory is incorrect.  I don’t know about that.  Maybe we should ask the poet himself.  Oh he’s not alive anymore?  Well that’s just peachy.)

Anyways…this one poet uses some French words as well as Spanish ones.  And worst of all, he combines them, kinda like Spanglish but more like Frenish.  Well that’s not cool because I don’t have a French dictionary lyin around!  Annoying.  But again this story occurs within a conversation so I must place the conversation in this story.  Mind you the convo was in Spanish and therefore makes it even funnier, and you should try and read it.  Trust me you’ll find the weird part, but I’ll put the English version below it so everyone can understand. :)

Me: “No me gusta la poesía.  No es que no entiendo las palabras pero algunas son palabras franceses.  ¡Y claro no entiendo estas palabras!  ¡No hablo francés!  Necesito un diccionario de español y francés…o esshomting like dat.”  
                        I don’t like poetry.  It’s not that I don’t get the words, but some of them are French words!  And duh I don’t understand those ones!  I don’t speak French!  I need a French-Spanish dictionary…(very poorly pronounced English words) or something like that.” 

The worst part was I didn’t even realize I had switched into English for that last part of my sentence.  My language changed, but not my pronunciation!  I straight up sounded like some of our study abroad directors.

The same thing happened a few days later with another convo I was having in Spanish when my brain decided to switch to English without the pronunciation piece.  Unfortunately I don’t remember the conversation well enough to write it down like the other one, but I will say I was talking with Jess again and the word I wanted to say was “whatever.”  “Lo que sea” in Spanish yet I said something close to this.. “o whaaeverrrr.”  Yep.  That’s definitely not Spanish or English for that matter.

Looks like I’m destined to have a Spanish accent for the rest of my life.  FREAKIN AWESOME!

And so ends these chapter stories.  I know many more have happened and many more will come.  I just have to write them down after they happen so I can elaborate on them later.  :)  Oh October, it’s only the 7th and already you’ve given me some awesome stories/unforgettable memories.                 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Ronda y Málaga

So I know this is a few days late since my excursion to Ronda and Málaga, but better late than never right?  Lately my “to-do” list has been getting ever longer and with my newly found Spanish attitude of “just do it later,” things just pile up without me noticing it.  Jess and I have a list for all the things we hope to accomplish on Monday.  11 things to be exact.  I predict 5 will get done.  Aside from that random fact of life and my excuse for not having this blog up earlier, Ronda and Málaga were two amazing places.

Friday morning we left with our ISA group from Sevilla to Ronda.  It was only like an hour and a half bus ride, but the scenery and vibe of the town is completely different.  Ronda is built within series of cliffs that drop forever.  I’m not kidding, you could take a wrong step off one of those cliffs and be falling for 5 minutes before you’d hit the ground!  But despite that constant danger, Ronda is an amazing city.  Its views are amazing and seeing birds fly BELOW you is an absolutely amazing feeling.  It really is a city in the sky. 

One of the most important sites in Ronda is “El Puente Nuevo” or “New Bridge” in English.  New bridge?  Well what happened to the old one?  Weellll…it collapsed.  I guess Roman infrastructure back then wasn’t meant to last forever.  So they rebuilt the bridge in the 18th century and it’s been there ever since.  I’m still constantly amazed at the fact that people were able to build such elaborate and elegant structures without the help of modern day technology.  Can’t imagine how many lives were lost in that process, but maybe that’s what makes this bridge such an amazing thing.  The amount of effort that it took to make something like this will never be matched in today’s society. 

After a quick tour of the city a group of us decided to hike down the ravine to get a better look at the city from below…Now any of you who know me know that I HATE hiking. HAAAAAATE hiking..with a passion.  But, then I thought to myself, “When am I ever gonna have a chance to hike down the city of Ronda again?”  So needless to say, I sucked it up like a big girl and went waay down.  AND I didn’t even complain!!  (I know, MIRACLE) But I suppose I didn’t want people to hate me on the way back up in case I needed some help.  Although I dislike hiking and would have preferred to take a lift up and down the ravine, the view was really cool.  We even found a little waterfall place which ended up being perfect for pictures. :)  The way back up was harder than the way back down, but I considered it my exercise for the day.  With only a short while left in Ronda the group wondered around and went window shopping. 

It was a short trip in Ronda, but from there Jesse and I split from the group and went to take a bus to Málaga.  We went to the window to by our bus ticket at the bus station, but seeing as how it was 3:15 PM the office was closed for the siesta.  *Sigh* Fortunately, the bus we wanted didn’t leave till 4 so we figured we had some time.  Around 3:40 or so a lady comes to the bus window, we buy our tickets for the “Los Amarillos” bus, and head out of the office to find our ride.  This last step, however, is easier said than done. 

On our ticket it said we were to take bus number 1.  Simple enough right?  We walk down the isle of buses to look for number 1 until we realize that none of the buses have numbers on them.  Cool.  We then look up and see that the parking spaces where the buses are DO have numbers on them…ooookay. :)  That makes sense now.  So we walk down to number one and wait for the doors to be open.  At 3:53 we start to worry a little bit since the bus driver hasn’t even opened the doors yet and no one else seems to be waiting with us.  I go and ask the bus driver where the bus to Málaga is and he tells us it should be in spot 5 or 6.  Soooo we walk back down to 5 and 6 only to find out that no, those buses aren’t going to Málaga either.  At this point I am convinced we bought tickets for an imaginary bus going to an imaginary town until finally way out in the distance I see a bus that says, “Los Amarillo.”  This bus isn’t even in the bus parking lot!  It’s just chillin on the side of some street with a line of people coming from it.  We hurry over to that bus and sure enough it’s the one we want.  After about another hour and a half we finally arrive in Málaga.

Málaga is located on the coast of Spain and has amazing beaches.  When we arrived in Málaga our first mission became to find the hostel in which we were staying.  I’ve never stayed in a hostel before and therefore really didn’t know what to expect.  We wandered around for a good while before finally asking someone where it was, but we did find it eventually.  We went out to a nice little Italian restaurant and then went to bed since we were worn out from our long day of travel.  We started the next morning early since we wanted to spend all day going around Málaga. 

First thing on the agenda, Picasso museum.  Picasso was born in Málaga, but left when he was 19 and never returned.  :(  He went to Italy to learn art and decided he liked it better than here, which I found very hard to believe.  This museum was amazing.  I’ve never really looked at any of Picasso’s art work before, but I did know he was one for abstract art of interesting forms.  How he was able to think and paint the way he did I will never know.  The lines and the shapes he used to create his artwork were amazing.  I could never make a triangle do half of the things he did.  He would make portraits of people simply out of triangles.  How he was able to envision all that blows my mind.  Aside from the fact that we know him as a very abstract artist, he also had some works of art there that looked, well, “normal” if you will.  Some paintings had normal looking people like a photograph, yet next to it would be the “typical” Picasso with a nose on the head and the ears where the mouth is supposed to be.  Seeing these two COMLETELY different styles next to each other impressed me even more.  It was like he had a switch or something in his mind that he could turn on and off whenever he wanted.  Wish I had that ability!!  And what’s even better is that he didn’t just paint and draw things he sculpted things too!  Is there anything this guy couldn’t do??  His sculptures were more on the abstract side, but they were so interesting.  He would make pots and bowls and then paint on them random pictures that somehow completed the piece.  He also hand made little figurines of people and animals that showed off his whimsical side.  I really enjoyed this museum and feel I got the chance to see not only some of Picasso’s famous pieces, but also the lesser known ones that are just as impressive.  Thank you Picasso for opening my mind to the impossible.  I will never look at a piece of fruit in the same way again. :) 

Once we finished the Picasso museum we went shopping in Plaza Mayor and I bought some suuuper cute jeans. Lol  Spain has the best clothes I swear.  I’m not gonna be able to shop in America when I come back.  And finally we hit the beach, of course.  :)  We went to Playa de la Misericordia.  It’s a small beach, but also one of the less touristy beaches in Málaga.  Only the locals go there (or so our host mom told us).  Either way I got to forget about the world for 5 hours and just lie there.  The sun on my face, wind on my body, and the sound of ocean waves in my ear made me realize how lucky I am to be where I am.  I feel as though this experience has given me a chance to start over.  New friends, new places, and best of all new experiences.  I could have stayed there forever, if only I didn’t miss my friends, family, and life back in AZ.  Arizona does hold a special place in my heart, but I don’t think it will be the last place I ever live.  Spain just keeps gettin better and better every day. 

Unfortunately, reality has to hit at some point and we had to get up and leave for the train station to catch our train back to Sevilla.  We arrived back in Sevilla around 11 PM and headed for home.  (It’s funny how we refer to Pelay Correa 16 as our home now, but for the next 3 months I suppose it’s the closest thing we have)…

I could get used to traveling around Spain.  It truly is an amazing country.  So many different atmospheres separated by only a few hours.  Can’t wait to experience some more.  :)

Cádiz, Madrid, Toledo, Sevilla, Ronda, Málaga…check.
Barcelona, Valencia, Córdoba, Granada…you’re  next.