Friday, September 25, 2009

Back in the land of cows, classes and Chi Omega

After 10 months away from Davis (having the time of my life in Spain and summering in my hometown) , I have finally made my return! The last couple weeks have been a whirlwind. Mom and I drove up with all of my stuff shoved into my tiny, speedy little red car and spent a few days together before The Madness of Recruitment began. I have loved being back with my Chi O gals and my other Davis chums. Most of the time I have been here in our lovely little Chi Omega house working on learning my new positions as Personnel Chair and preparation for recruitment. So far we have survived an insanely fun week of pre-recruitment, Greek Life Fair, Open House, Philanthropy, and the first day of school (no class for me though). Today is Friday and tonight is Preference; the potential new members are down to 2 houses and will make their decision tonight. The house looks phenomenal - the smell of our chocolaty and fruity desserts, chapter room decorations, and the backyard is aglow with twinkly lights. It is going to be a great night!

More on that later. Yesterday something very exciting happened... I went to the head of the Spanish department to see if I could possibly turn my humble little minor into a full-fledged major. And I can! I am officially getting 2 degrees at UC Davis. Wow...that seems so surreal. Wasn't I just in high school, dreaming of this crazy college life? And now it is my senior year and so much has happened. I keep joking that I never want to leave here, that I want to be in college forever. Hey, a girl can dream. So the basis of this double major thing is that I have 2 quarters left after this one and only 5 classes to take (2 for History, 3 for Spanish) and then I will be awarded with a degree and kicked out of Davis and onto my arse. Who knows what the future holds? I sure don't but will keep you updated.

Lunchtime!




Our backyard during Preference night 2 years ago.... a beautiful picture, but this year it looks 10 times more awesome :)

Friday, July 10, 2009

Entitled

Today I thought I would explain the new title of my blog, Estefanie que fue Espana. It happened when I was walking and talking with my friend Suria on our lunchbreak from school. Her and I were off the same time on Mondays and Tuesdays at our university in Getafe and would often eat and study together. Suria is honestly one of the most fascinating people that I know. I loved spending time with her in Spain because I never knew (nor did anyone else) what she would say or do next. She isn't wildly energetic or scattered, she is simply a unique being.

So there we were, walking under the spring blossoms of the Carlos III campus, when she told me about the titles.

"Everyone in the mexican community has a title. Like, you know, they always call me Suria la estudiante"

Suria la estudiante lives in a mexican neighborhood in Riverside and goes to UCR. Being a first generation US citizen and one of the few college students, this title is apparently stuck to her like glue. Everyone else in the community also has a nickname. All who are fat are tagged with "el gordo", single moms are "la soltera" and so on. Everyone is labeled and has a role, as if they were putting on a play.

"But I hate it. I absolutely hate it," she tells me. I asked her why, and found out some change was in store for her. "Because when I go back, I will no longer be Suria la estudiante. I will be Suria que fue Espana. And sometimes, you know, I just want to be Suria"

I smiled at that. After all, we all understand the need for individuality. But I was fascinated by this labeling phenomenon. Being very well-read, I knew that many cultures stick tags onto people's names but I had somehow missed that this was extremely common for Mexicans. I wondered what my name would be. So far, I am in the same boat as Suria. Suria, who would listen to her iPod with the ten songs on it even at her favorite bar, Chapandaz. Suria who bought all the women in her family rosaries in Vatican City. Suria who is so many things and doesn't want to be summed up in a few words. But I can't really hide my delight. All of us, the Getafe crew and the rest of the brats, are all somebody que fue Espana.

Which, by the way, means "went to Spain". I am happy, estoy contenta, to let that define me. And now, Estefanie que fue Espana va a dormir un poquito porque tengo que preparar para mis vacaciones de acampar en Mammoth :)

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Happy Birthdayness

I want to wish a happy birthday to my beautiful cousin Allison, aka Alli the Dink! Click here to read her spunky fun shabby-chic blog:

http://www.alittleshabbyalwayschic.blogspot.com/

:)

Monday, July 06, 2009

The Zahir, and other fine subjects

Last week I finished reading Paulo Coelho's The Zahir, which I bought at Casa del Libro on Gran Via before I left Madrid. I have discovered that I like to linger over Mr. Coelho's books, because they are truly works of art. He has a beautiful mind and a way with words that spins stories of suspense, depth and insight. The Zahir intrigued me for many reasons. It is about a famous author whose wife suddenly disappears, and the long journey that brings him back to her. Curiously, this distracted and worldly man writes about spirituality, which is precisely what his wife saw that he lacked. While he wrote about love and a deeper connection with a central energy/idea of God, his marriage didn't measure up. I think this is a very interesting take on novel writing, to pen a man's journey back to the woman he loves. To discover why he loves her in the first place, and what it will take to unite them geographically and emotionally. The ending also got me thinking. Information revealed on the final page should leave the reader feeling sad for this man, and yet I put down the book feeling inspired. It took me a while, but I figured out why. The novel had begun with emptiness and confusion, and ended with love. Simply, purely love. So it doesn't matter that the ending wasn't ideal for our fine gentleman. What matters is that the surprise revealed on the final page is one of Love. The more I thought about it, the more appropriate it became. Paulo Coelho frequently writes about the importance of Love. Singular, all-encompassing, and unconditional. The pages of The Zahir are filled with our main character trying to funnel and simplify his life into what he has discovered is most important to him: his ability to love another with his entire self. Well everyone, it's on my shelf if you would like to borrow it!

Although my free time lately has been a little tight, I have of course begun a new book. The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver. My AP Literature teacher in high school, the famous Connie Cutler, told us quite a few times that this was one of her most favorite novels. I trust her taste in books (even though she doesn't love Jude the Obscure as much as I do), so I hope it's a good one. Kingsolver is still setting the scene, I'm only on page 50 or so, but it's promising to be a great read. I frequently crack it open on my breaks at work. On that subject, lately I feel as if I should pick out some bedding at Target and set up camp behind my register. My life is eat sleep Target, repeat! I am thankful for the hours and enjoy my job so much... but man oh man, my feet hurt and sometimes I want to raise an evil eyebrow when I hear, "what do you mean my card was declined?!" Most of the time, and by that I mean 99% of the time, it's all fun. I see people I know, I talk to people and learn about all kinds of different things. Retail is what you make of it!

An exciting moment I had today was when one of my supervisors, Erlyn, frantically called at me to come to a different register. When I arrived, she was waiting for me to translate for a customer! Yay, I got to use my Spanish. The woman had 2 products and wanted to know if they were the same or what the differences were between them. It was an electronics product, so I had fun figuring out that one in my head! She made no big deal about my bilingual abilities- but my supervisors did! I thought Erlyn was going to break out into song about me being able to speak Spanish. I remember the day I told her, just a simple "by the way" comment so she would know if she ever needed help with a customer. So excited she was! And it truly is exciting and wonderful, and a gift to be able to speak another language. I can literally communicate with millions more people than someone who speaks only English. I think about all of the people I spoke with in Spain, and now beginning here and it makes me realize what a huge impact this knowledge has on my life. Es un regalito que ha majorado mi vida para siempre, no? ;)

Tomorrow is day 7 of my 9 days of working, and sleep is needed. Time to round up the puppies and pile us all into my bed - goodnight, blogland readers.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Home 1 month

Has it really been a whole month? It's all gone by in a flash. So many things, so many thoughts. Here are some of the brief highlights:

- I scored a job at Target as a cashier, which is really fun. I really love interacting with people, which makes being at the front a great position for me. And since it is Target, I get to see people I know all the time. Let's see, I'm in my third week, let's see if I can remember everyone I have run into... Mom, Grandma, Joni Sanchez, Nancy Benson, that nice lady from church and her granddaughter, Lauren & Jourdan Wardlaw, Ashley, Michelle, Lauren & Tannis, a couple random people from high school, CarolAnn & her boyfriend.

- On the same day that Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson died last week, Sean and I went to a Third Eye Blind concert in Hollywood. Turns out MJ had a huge impact on the career of the lead singer, so they did a cool tribute to him at the end with "Give me one more chance"

- Sean and I celebrated our 10 month-aversary that night! We've been "together" in terms of location for about 2 of those months. Well, love knows no boundaries does it?

- MY GRANDPARENTS BOUGHT ME A CAR! Yes, I wrote this in my last post. But it's still amazing and I'm still excited. Sean brought me a cute stuffed hootie for my back window, and I put some mardi gras beads on my rearview mirror. Pimpage: complete.

- Read another amazing book by Paulo Coelho: The Zahir

- Culture Shock!!!


It's been wonderful and strange to be back home. There have definitely been a few moments where I have thought, "but in Spain..." The first time I really felt it was a week after I had gotten home. The fam, Sean, Tyler and I went to the Balloon and Wine festival and I felt very awkward around the people at the event. Here I was, fresh from beautiful Spain where people always look their best and wear scarves and such, and.... pot bellies and SKIN hoodies? Tramp stamps and platform flip flops? Boobs served up on a waterbra platter? The hamburgers and hanging out at the Herrick's trailer were the best, it was just the people... where do they come from?? Somewhere along the way I became a judgemental Spaniard. Currently in the process of reversing that, while holding onto my own higher expectations of myself. Like all the trendy self-help books will say: Balance.

Work has been a really great way for me to "get back into the swing of things," the swing of things being returning once again to Temecula. I absolutely love to work and have a job (my parents might find this amazing since I don't always enjoy doing "work" around the house like cleaning my room. Well, if I knew how to explain that one I could probably just write my book and make my millions already). So, work is great. My supervisors are really spunky and sweet which makes life dandy. After I had been there only a week, one supervisor asked me if I had ever considered moving up in the company. Shock! They must like me ;) Well, I can't say I have ever thought about a career in retail. No honest work is beneath me, but I had this dream when I was in high school. That I would go to a great school like UC Davis and have options to be brilliant. I could be a brilliant retailer, but... eh, not my thing. I enjoy bagging groceries, but when my time comes, I'll leave Target and some other punk student can take my place, a'la circle of life.

Speaking of work, I have stories. Oh, what a comical job it can be if you just SEE the comedy! The other day, a little old lady came to my register. I rug up paper towels...boring...cat food....that cat will EAT you when you die.... and KY JELLY! It was difficult not to giggle or say anything. But you know, us Chi Omegas are composed and professional when the situation asks. It's funny, I told this story on Facebook and a friend of mine thought it was so great, she told the other ladies in her office. The older ones thought it was great, but the younger ones were grossed out. I say, you go granny! We should all hope to be so spunky in our ancient days ahead ;)

How about some everyday stuff? Tomorrow when I wake up I am going to take Darcy and Ava (the puppies) on a long walk then go to work. Afterwards, I get to see my great friend Lyn-Marie who recently got a job with Rock & Republic and moved to Brea. Watch out world, this girl is a *firecracker*

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Home at last

I'm back in California, and so happy to be here! Back with everyone I love, sharing my adventures, relaxing, trying to get a job. Yesterday, merely a day after getting back, I got a big surprise... my grandparents bought me a car!! I am so thankful to them for being so thoughtful and to my grandfather, "grumps" who picked the perfect color red and took my by surprise when he handed me the keys. Still in shock, and very happy :)

Yay home! Can't wait to see you all

Love, Steph :)

Friday, May 29, 2009

You know you've lived in Spain when....

- the earliest you eat dinner is 10pm
- you don't go out to clubs until 1am because it's deserted before then
- you start thinking it's a good idea to add lemon Fanta or coca cola to red wine
- ham, potatoes and tuna make up a significant part of your diet
- every vegetarian dish you order has tuna on it
- you feel naked without your scarf
- the metro is your mode of transportation, and you know it like the back of your hand
- people think it's weird how much fruit you eat
- you get dressed up to go to school
- Saturday and Sunday mornings do not exist, because you've slept through them all
- paella becomes a normal thing to eat
- you see little old couples and people with their babies out tapas hopping... in the middle of the night
- beer is cheaper than Coke Light
- your professors say Fijous so much that you stop hearing it
- you say "buenos dias" until 6pm, then transition to "buenas tardes..."
- somehow you master the art of saying "hasta luego" like a real madrilena
- you know what the bujo is, and have taken it home
- random men tell you that you're "guapa" and as for a kiss. In the middle of the day
- you stop making eye contact with anyone in a discoteca because to the guys here, that means you want to dance/make out/go home with them.
- old men sipping whiskey in a discoteca is a normal occurence.
- tortilla espanola is a staple of your diet, and you start calling it "tortilla" for short
- Mexican food is expensive, and this alarms you
- you forget words in English more often than in Spanish
- the past tense in English confuses you a little, whereas before you didn't even think about it
- drinking on a Monday night is completely normal, and expected
- you start to recognize the beggars and entertainers from the metro
- you know Madrid based on metro stops
- you have eaten at: Cien Montaditos, Donor Kebap, Museo del Jamon, El Tigre
- the tourists come and you start talking about how annoying Americans are...
- Retiro is the best place to be, especially with a picnic and wine
- you can recite: "Atencion, estacion en curva. Al salir, tengan cuidado para no introducir el pie entre coche y anden"
- you know more about Spanish celebrities than American
- watching the news is an expected daily ritual
- you talk about the newscasters when watching the news
- it crosses your mind that you will have to start saying "thank you" 100 times a day when you go back home.
- it becomes instinct to respond "a ti" after "Gracias"
- certain things are hard to translate back to English... like ganas
- to emphasize something, you add "super" before it. I.E. supermagnifico
- instead of "a lot" you say "un monton"
- you become politically incorrect like the rest of them and call the corner shops "chinos"
- you realize that when someone says "chino" they could be talking about anyone in asia, the middle east, etc.
- you have favorite kiosks at the Rastro
- at a club, you order rum & coke or vodka limon. And are prepared to pay 10 euro for it.
- you have participated in a botellon!!
- just like the Spaniards, you start commenting on everyone's appearance
- people start coming up to you on the street or in the metro and asking you for directions in Spanish. Because you are that cool
- sometimes, you can't remember if the conversation you just had was in English or Spanish
- you ask for directions to somewhere 10 minutes away, and you are advised to take the metro there.
- you have eaten churros con chocolate at 5am after dancing at Joy.
- Irish pubs are a favorite hangout
- you are surrounded by mullets. The 80s/90s have JUST hit Spain
- it is normal to hear a remix of Grease in a discobar
- you know the words to all the popular Spanish songs they play at clubs
- you know what Eurovision is and have watched it
- it becomes appparent that although Ryaniar is cheap, it's not worth it. At all.
- you consider flying to Austria for 2 days like it's nothing
- leche de pantera is a good idea
- you can order beer in a fishbowl - yes, that big.
- you get annoyed when waiters try to speak to you in English
- Cafe con Leche is a staple and you frantically wonder how to get it at home
- it's obvious that McDonalds is 100 times better here than at home
- you wonder, for a brief moment, if being barefoot can actually make you sick
- you have shopped at: Zara, Blanco, Springfield, Stradivarius.
- you fall in love with the country, and wish you could drag California out right next to it.

Muchos besos a ti, Espana! Te amo siempre. And now, I'm off to enjoy Friday and Saturday in Madrid before I come home Sunday. I am so excited to come home, I miss you all :)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

3 days left...

How did that happen?? I come home on Sunday night and I am so happy. Yes, I am a bit behind on the blog... I still have to write about Portugal and about all the shenanigans here in Madrid. Will get to it! I've a long journey on Sunday and will have plenty of time to document this crazy Spanish life. For now, there is a new picture on the right, taken after Rena, Daniel and I went to Jardin Secreto (the secret garden) for fancy cocktails and dessert (I got a George Clooney & Tira Misu, quite yum).

Upcoming plans: museums, monasteries & churches tomorrow, Salamanca on Friday, out clubbing and dancing Friday night/Saturday morning, last minute fun and stuff on Saturday. Sunday morning I head to Barajas to fly to Canada :)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Favorite Photos

I finally found a way to upload all of my pictures! You will all see more in the future, but for now here are some of my favorites. Enjoy :-)


Amongst french tulips, carefree as a carefree thing


A beautiful gothic church in Barcelona


The lights of Las Fallas in Valencia


Studying for finals week in my room @ the Mohino's


Barcelona's own Arc de Triomf! My favorite arc so far :)


Daniel and I at our hostel in Barsa


Paris Opera House! (i.e. the phantom of the opera is there, in your mind)


Le Notre Dame! Paris


The Alhambra interior... Granada, Spain


My Portuguese friend Margarida made us amazing Arroz con Leche at Rena's piso in Februrary :) We go to visit her tomorrow in Lisbon


An almost candid shot of friends in Rioja - Hannah & Lisa

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Barcelona

What a beautiful city! I am in love with Catalunya and definitely want to go back again someday. We had a great time... I'll lay it out day by day, but first a picture: the 4 of us sailing on the Mediterranean :)


Me, Daniel, Julia, Andrew


Day 1: Met up with Andrew and Daniel at the Avenida de America station, and we took a 7 hour bus to Barcelona. We sort of slept off and on, they had the radio on and kept stopping. It was definitely nice to get off of the bus. We stopped somewhere to have Cafe con Leche and croissants, then walked down the street to the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi's yet unfinished marvel. It is amazing to look at; the front is clearly Gaudi, drippy and colorful and like nothing you have ever seen. The back is modern and strange. The whole thing was covered in nets and plastic, surrounded by cranes. Someday when it's finished, I'd love to see it again. After that, we dropped our stuff off at the hostel in the Gothic neighborhood and went to walk around. We were right by Ramblas, the main drag in Barcelona, so we walked down the street and saw the sights. Daniel had already been to Barcelona so he was pointing things out to us, and had his bearings on the city. We went to the famous open-air fish market, which was so cool! My dad would have loved it, endless stalls of fish, fruit, chocolates, crazy things to eat. After a few hours we rested at the hostel for a bit, then met up with Joanna (another one of the "getafe crew") and her mom, plus her host family's relatives. We walked along the boardwalk together, which was nice. The guys and I split off to grab some food, and never did see them again - but we had our own fun. We bought a bottle of red wine and that night, sat on the beach (populated by other clumps of students and travelers) and had our wine. We wrote our spanish names in the sand (for me, Estefanie).

Day 2: Julia arrives- she met us at the hostel as we were eating breakfast. The 4 of us then walked to the harbour to see if we could sign up for a sailing trip - when meeting Joanna at the Christopher Columbus monument the day before, I had seen an ad for sailing and Andres and I had gone to check it out - only 15 euros! We signed up for the 3:30 sailing trip then went walking around again. Unfortunately, nothing much was open on this particular Sunday, but we had fun strolling and ate some lunch. The sailing trip was the best! We sat on the netted part in front and sunned ourselves for an hour and a half while looking out at the marvelous view and enjoying the sea air (it had been too long!). We felt so relaxed afterwards, it was nice after an intense finals week. Everyone agreed that was the epitome of our trip. Afterwards, we bought some snacks, Cava (spanish champagne) and orange juice and went to Parque Guell. Gaudi's park is so neat! Everything is colorful and wavy and unexpected, and the park is really something. Tons of people were there, milling about and lounging on funky benches and lawns. After taking pictures, we sat down on the lawn and made our mimosas. At first we were a little hesitant because nobody else seemed to be drinking, but then we realized they were all smoking weed. In comparison, who's to condemn afternoon mimosas? We eventually strolled back to Barrio Gotico and took a nap at the hostel - we didn't realize how much sunbathing and a glass of champagne would make us so tired! We had planned go to out dancing that night, but ended up napping until 11... so, new plan: tapas hopping and then spending time at an Irish pub we came across near Ramblas. All in all, a successful day!

Day 3: Monday, and after we wake up we have 5ish hours until our bus. We had slept in and missed breakfast, so we went to a pasteleria and got Cafe con Leche and pastries. I got a wonderful strudel with apples, walnuts and raisins that was delicious. We wanted to walk around somewhere different, so we took the metro to the Arc de Triomf. I have seen quite a few arcs in my time here in Europe, but this one took the cake. It was entirely made of brick, not severe grey stone, and decorated beautifully. The arc began a long, palm tree lined avenue that had lawns on the side, so we laid in the grass and took pictures for a while. Daniel and I wanted to continue down to the giant park near the ocean, so we left our friends (as it turned out, for good since we went to the train station soon after - the 2 of them flew to Berlin that night) and went to the park. We had been excited to see a castle Gaudi had built there, but it was under construction. The park was beautiful though :) I cannot wait to upload all of my pictures! After that, Daniel and I got gelato (I had the best pistacio cone, it made me think of my dad) and then some goodies back at the open-air market before getting back on the bus. Many, many, many hours later (why didn't I bring a book?) we got back to Rena's apartment in Madrid.


Today has thus far been a recover and eat day. Currently munching raisins and pistachios and trying to plan my upcoming adventures! Thursday Rena and I fly to Portugal :)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Saying Goodbye

This post will be half happy, half sad..

I have just said goodbye to the Mohinos, who drove me and all my luggage to Rena's apartment. I think even Blackie knew I was leaving, because her ears were back and she kept giving me little kisses. To tell you the truth, I started bawling as I rolled my suitcases away. Might still be bawling... they are such a wonderful family, I was lucky to live with such great people and be protected and loved by a family all the way on the other side of the world. It didn't really hit me until we were on the sidewalk that it was time to say goodbye. I didn't and don't feel ready. Saying goodbye.. well, it's the pits.

Someday, we will meet again.

Here is the happy part. I have wonderful parents at home who have given me the opportunity to travel and experience more of Spain for two weeks. Today, I leave for Barcelona with some good friends to tour, soak up the sun, and experience Barcelona. Later, I travel to Portugal with Rena to visit our friend Margarida. Who knows what will come in the week that follows. And then, home. I come home to a crazy mix of wonderful people who I have carried with me all the way to Spain. Soon I will be able to hug all of my loved ones close! For all of this, I am very happy. Estoy contenta ;)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Wait... I have to LEAVE?!

I just finished packing up all of my suitcases, because I will be moving out of Casa de Mohino tomorrow... it's so sad, I want to take them back with me. Luis, Concha, Diana, Sandra and Blackie have been the best host family I could ask for and the thought of leaving them has really got me down...must stop thinking about it. Luckily, thanks to my amazing parents (i.e. the real fam back home) I have some great stuff to look forward to in the coming weeks :)

1. Barcelona!! w/Daniel, Andres & Julia
2. Portugal!! w/Reens ... we're going to visit Margarida :)
3. Frolicking about Madrid doing whatever I please
4. Cantabria? Sevilla? Salamanca? Hope to do 'em all
5. ... back to California <3

Traveling is going to be so much fun, especially since I have such great travel buddies in Rena, Daniel, Lisa and everyone else who may join us on our adventures. And then, the thought of going home is absolutely wonderful. I have loved my time in Spain, I have been LUCKY to live in this home... but it will soon be time to travel back to my own, and I can't wait to give a huge hug to all of you that I know and love and relate all of my adventures. Er, and then flop for the summer. Pool time <3

Oh but yes, I forgot, I still have one test left... my Spanish Art class. I hiked over to school today with my laptop and cranked out an awesome 6 page essay in no time flat, in Spanish I might add. Taking the class pass/no pass, so the final tomorrow shouldn't be too stressful. She says its short too, noooo biggie. Afterwards, Daniel and I meet up with Ania and Lea to get the keys to the piso and then... we boogie! Bus to Barsa leaves at midnight ;)

Happy Thursday to all--

.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Halfway Point

Completed: 1 essay, 3 final exams

Pending: 2 essays, 1 brief presentation, 1 final exam

Vital stats: still hopped up on strong Spanish coffee, still have a giant zit

Plan: be a vegetable tonight, be Productive Machine Woman again tomorrow.

Thought: I have "Hey Jude" stuck in my head.


.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Itch

It's always in moments like these, when I am so close to the end, that I feel like running away. Dropping everything, my notes and scribbles and essays and obligations, and taking off for worlds unknown. It started to hit me in high school, when I was desperate to get out into the world. And in the wonderful world of my college life, it began again to creep up on me. Every quarter during finals week, sitting in a study lounge in my inside-out sweats, hair in hysterics, skin broken out and splotchy, I suddenly feel the urge to RUN. And now, here in my cozy little attic room surrounded by notes written in spanglish, bright-colored pens (courtesey of Kristin), notebooks and collections of articles, accompanied by my computer... I am once again on the verge of a nervy b. But there is nowhere to run, really. I mean, I'm already in Spain.

Once upon a time, I sat in the backyard at home, tanning and reading a gossip magazine. In this magazine there was an interview with Brad Pitt, in which it was revealed that he left his university 2 weeks before graduation, eschewing his chances of earning a degree. It's not like he needs one, but I understood when he told the interviewer he regretted it. But! Today as I sit here in my nappies, a zit the size of Canada on my cheek (as if all the stresses of this week have culminated into a tiny mountain...on my face), I understand why he did it. He did what everybody else dreams of doing, what I dream of doing now. Running away just before the moment of completion, like Toto in Cinema Paradiso; after hearing a legend, he sits under the window of a girl for many nights, waiting, but suddenly stops going when he feels she might actually come out.

However, I am not Brad Pitt and my life is not an Italian movie. And no matter how much I hate exams or how much they tie me into knots, I know that I will do what I have to to get through this week, and soon I will be done and another quarter closer to being a successful and responsible adult (eek, frightening). BACK TO WORK!

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Adieu, adieu, to you and you and you

All of us rad Californians had a goodbye dinner on Wednesday night, which was really fun. It was also for the UC punks at Complutense, so Rena and Sarah B were there too! There were about 100 of us in all from both schools. It was still hot out, so for the first time I got out my cotton sundress to take on the night. I think I need to buy some sunscreen, because I look pretty red in a lot of the pictures...oops.

We all hung out on the patio having appetizers and drinks, then went in for a wonderful meal of bread, veggies, enormous steaks, potatoes, and red wine. Then the many many pictures! We were in taking pictures until the waiters told us that really, the restaurant was actually closing this time (they turned off the lights to get our attention). I wasn't in the mood to go out with the already-drunk folks from my program (and I had the ganas to get some sleep before my art class on Friday), so Reens and I decided to walk the hot, muggy streets of Madrid (at midnight, mind you, it was still hot but thankfully dark) before hopping on our respective metros. What a beautiful night it was, the full moon shining, lovers holding hands, the click-clack sound of high heels and trails of laughter on the wind. I am going to miss this city, always so alive and full of adventure. Rena and I had fun just walking and talking, as we always do. I am happy that though I must leave Spain, I will always have my Reens <3

Here is a picture of the "Getafe Crew," the only 6 people from the entire program who don't live in Madrid. And we love it! Well.. at least I do :)



Joanna, Suria, Daniel, Eddy, Melanie, and ME :)

And now back to my hermit-ish existence that consists of studying, writing essays, looking up words in my dictionary, eating, sleeping, breathing, getting ready for finals week! I am looking forward to being done next Friday, when I begin my 2 weeks of traveling and frolicking around Madrid. Daniel and I are "moving in" to Rena's place in the city and are very excited. My plans so far are: Barcelona, Lisbon (Portugal), Cantabria, Sevilla, Salamanca. Adieu until my next instance of procrastination!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

A story of a time, a story of a place, a story of a WINE

La Rioja is one of the most beautiful places in the world, as I mentioned below when I posted some of the pictures. I actually took quite a few pictures myself, but as many of you know, my camera cord somehow did not make it to Spain, so for now hundreds of spectacular photos are trapped in the depths of my camera. Pictures of Madrid, Cordoba, Granada, Valencia, Escorial, Segovia, Paris, and Rioja. Oof! I can't wait to print 'em all up and start on that scrapbook that Schmidtty gave me :)

So, the weekend of wine begins. I take a wild maze of trains and metros to get to the north end of town (I live south of Madrid in Getafe) and freak out because I am 15 minutes late, but its turns out there was nothing to worry about. Should have known an Erasmus trip wouldn't leave on time ;) I was on the bus with Hannah, who told me her Spanish boyfriend Kike would be taking a later bus. Lisa got there just in the nick of time, but sadly Daniel overslept. In one slick series of phone calls, Hannah arranges for Daniel to take the later bus with Kike. The whole gang had gone to Chapandaz (home of the famous Leche de Pantera) the night before, and Daniel's night had apparently turned into his morning. Turned out to be a good thing though, because in traveling with Kike he got to practice his Spanish. Kike, a nickname for Carlos Enrique (clever, eh?) is a pretty cool guy. He's a pretty happy camper and was down for anything all weekend. And he was patient with our horrible California slang, which Hannah constantly had to explain to him ("Stephanie...need your help, tell Kike what shady means").

The view out the bus window was glorious. Beautiful Spanish countryside as far as the eye could see, snow capped mountain ranges in the distance. It had been raining a lot so everything was green and fresh. Lucky for us it only rained at night during the trip, and we saw mostly sunny skies! We were on the bus for hours and hours, in which I admired the view and did some Literature homework (to the great amazement of everyone else on the bus). We were a good group, only about 20 total. There were the Erasmus coordinators Leyre (pronounced like "lady", as she told us), Alvaro (he wore stripes all weekend), and a couple of others. Leyre's boyfriend was also with us, and lucky for us was from Logrono, the capital of the Rioja region. The others were other foreign students from all over, and then our little group of Californias + Kike. We definitely got to spread out on the huge charter bus, driven by the magnificent Juan Carlos.

We stopped at the first winery, who's claim to fame is doing everything the old fashioned way. And they mean everything! There are no steel tanks, no machines, no nothing. The place was beautiful. Our guide (who none of us could understand) took us to the room where they make the barrels (wood imported from Tennessee), and then down into the dark, dank underground. The walls were covered with moss and the whole place was cool and swampy. We saw hundreds of barrels, fermenting mountains of delicious Spanish wine. We also saw the rooms where they kept bottles of wine to age - what a thing! Dusty glass bottles stacked to the high heavens, covered in dust and moss and shielded from the light of day. He showed us some really old parts of the winery (bodega) where they used tracks to transport the grapes, which is one thing they of course do not use anymore. Lisa decided she wanted to ride in one of the carts down the track, drinking white wine. Well, that continues to be her dream! The wine we tasted at this bodega was very good. A red with a spicy kick at the end, that smelled musty and ancient as the winery, and a dry sweet white that carried a faint odor of green apples. I don't think anyone bought anything, but it was very good!

After another bus ride through beautiful Rioja, we stopped at a market to get some food to hold us over (and balance out the wine). In Eroski, Lisa and Hannah and I decided to get camembert cheese and some bread, but there is literally no bauguettes. This doesn't exactly happen in Spain... ever... and it was the talk of the bus for quite a few minutes. But anyway! Back to my story. I ran out to the other store to buy a bauguette, some water, and choccy digestives (yum). Apparently when I was gone, Lisa was between the 2 exit doors when she realized she left the cheese at the register. She tried to go through the exit but it wouldn't let her and it started beeping. Flustered, she went out and was in the first of the 2 entrance doors when she saw Hannah coming OUT with her cheese. So she tried to go out the entrance and again it beeped and her and she was stuck. Pretty much everyone in our group was in hysterics at this point. She had to go back in and all the way around to the exit to get out. I wish I had seen it! Lisa is quite a quirky person, things like that always seem to happen to her... those of you who know my Uncle Scott would call this one "a potty story."

We got to some tiny little village in Rioja to stay the night, and met up with Daniel and Kike. This town was really neat, with low stone buildings, red roofs, cobblestone streets and little markets and pastelerias. My parents would have gone crazy, I hope they get to come to Spain someday! We walked around a little bit, then all went to have a big dinner. For only 10 euros, about 15 dollars, we ate like kings! Bottles of red table wine, platters of cured ham, cheese, salad, bread. Steak dinners with potatoes and vegetables. Chocolate mousse to top it off! We all kind of rolled out after that, having eaten to our heart's content. Daniel, Lisa and I decided to head back to the hostel and get some sleep after that while everyone else went to a little hole-in-the-wall discobar. The hostel was very quaint and comfortable, very unlike the one I stayed in in Paris (oh my, I still have to document that one...). The next morning they fed us breakfast of croissants, jam, big cups of milky coffee. And off we went once more.

We saw a beautiful monastery en route to the next and final winery. The tour was nice, and we got to see the magnificent little chapel and architecture. The land around the monastery was amazing. You could see green mountains, big bushy trees and the snow covered mountains in the distance. The first picture in the post below is outside of el monasterio. There were a lot of little old ladies on our tour who were very funny and asked lots of questions. They were all bundled up against the cold in their scarves, quilted jackets and pea coats, practical tan or black leather shoes. I think they were part of a tour organization for los viejos, it was very cute.

At the winery, we encountered an amazing wine that everyone loved, a 2004 reserve. I bought 2 bottles, one to take home to my parents and another to drink here with friends. The winery appeared rustic in appearance, but was very large and modern. Steels tanks and the whole nine yards. The cellars were very beautiful, lit with soft yellow light and full of aging bottles like the other place (pictures to come). There was one strange swedish boy on our trip who spoke no Spanish and, at this winery, kept wandering off and taking things out of the trash. The room where we sampled the wine was at the top of a tower, with a view of the vineyard and rolling hills. We tried 3 reds and a white, but the '04 took the cake. It was spicy, smooth and aromatic. I think my parents will love it - I hope so!

That evening we were in Logrono, where we went tapas hopping with Leyre's boyfriend. He knew all the best places to go for each thing; patatas bravas, bocatas de mariscos, shish-kebap, pimientos rellenos. It was all so good! Everyone else wandered off but the 5 of us followed him around and he was happy to introduce us to the wonders of riojan tapas. Everyone was out that night, tapas hopping. People with their babies, old couples, students, etc. It's a family affair in Spain, so different from home where the nightlife belongs to the young. We went to a cool bar for a while to hang out, then to a funky discoteca. Logrono is a pretty cool town, more modern than the rest of Rioja as the capital, but still with that old european vibe. The cathedral there was very beautiful too - I'm a sucker for cathedrals (the art, the architecture, the way music sounds inside).

As a surprise the next morning, we were dropped off at the side of the road only minutes after leaving Logrono and went on a 2 hour walk through fields of green and tiny little villages. The sun was shining and the air was crisp, a good day for a walk. The land really is something. Can I say enough how green it was? I only hope the pictures do it justice. After our walk and some lunch in the little village we ended up in, we got back on the bus to return to Madrid. I picked up my homework to get some more done, but my eyes kept lifting to the windows to see the magical countryside. Someday, I'll go back.

***

It is officially May and I come home this month. I am so excited! It will be a bittersweet goodbye because I want to take the Mohinos home with me, but I will be overjoyed to be home. Home! What a thing. I've been gone over three months and California seems so far away. The homesickness isn't so bad now. It's almost a relief that I am coming home soon, because it means I can really let go and enjoy myself without thinking about what an eternity away home is.

Happy May, everyone

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

La Rioja

I will write more about this trip later (and soon, I will write about Paris! I am so behind...), but for now here are a few of my favorite pictures from the weekend. I went on a trip to Rioja, the famous wine region of northeastern Spain (near Basque Country) with Erasmus (euro study abroad group) and a few friends from my program. We Californians had a great time tasting wine and having fun in Rioja, which I can say in all honesty is one of the most beautiful places in the entire world. And I have been to Lake Como... just sayin' ;)




The hills are alive, with the sound of music



At the first winery with Lisa and Hannah!



The Californians + Kike after drinking some amazing 2004 reserve (I bought 2 bottles)



Lisa and I in Logroño before tapas hopping with the gang

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Introspective

After starting this blog 3 months, ago and flitting about the surface levels of my stay in beautiful Madrid, I think I owe it to myself and to my beloved readers to go a step deeper. Spain is magical, captivating and a place fit for adventure. I am having an experience I wouldn't trade for the world, meeting people and learning things, picking up a language I barely had a hold of upon my arrival. But like all other great things in life, it's not all fun and games. The truth will always find you.

This is probably the first time I have been legitimately homesick. Davis has never had the "far away" feel, since by plane I am only an hour from home. I have spent over 2 years living and studying there, surrounded by wonderful people who I miss very much now. But Temecula is what's calling me. I miss having dinner with my family, my Dad making up funny songs, talking with Mom in the car, being goofy with my bro. Yogurt runs, rumpusing on the floor with the puppies, all the familiar places like the church I grew up in and the beloved "second homes" of friends like Schmidtty and the McCulloughs. It has all never felt so far away. I suppose that this is all a part of Growing Up, becoming an adult and learning to adapt. I have always adapted well to new places, but it's different when you're all alone. There definitely came a point, after I had been here a few weeks, when I thought.. what am I DOING here? I hopped on a plane with a suitcase of belongings and came to live in Spain. Who does that?

Well, I do. I actually did the same thing when I went to Davis, I didn't know a soul but was in love with everything about the city and school. But in the 2 and a 1/2 years since my parents first dropped me off, Davis has become home. I have great friends from J Building, RA life (residents and staff), the Mondavi Center, classes, and of course, Chi Omega (RB). My days in Davis are spent surrounded by amazing people, some of which have become my greatest friends and confidants. Unfazed at the thought of picking up and running off again, away I went to Madrid. Here, making friends has been a challenge. This is new for me. I constantly feel socially awkward and, for the first part of my stay, had decided to just let it go and spend my free time with Rena (my fabulous amiga) and her roommates. Soon though, I realized I didn't really have any friends at school- what a change from Davis and my hundreds of sisters and friends!. Since then, I have made an effort to reach out to people and have met some really great friends. Melanie and I spent a couple of days in Paris together during the break, and I have begun to spend time with the rest of the Getafe crew. If all works out, Daniel and I will be going wine tasting in Rioja next weekend :)

What is spectacular about my coming to Spain is that, although I came alone, only knowing my wonderful friend Rena, I got something I wasn't completely expecting: a family. Living with the Mohino's is truly a gift. The time I spend with them (at home during meals, playing with the family dog Blackie, chatting with Concha, out and about with the girls and their friends) I will remember as perhaps the greatest part of my Spanish adventure. Their patience has allowed me to understand and speak more Castillian, to actually be able to express myself. It's something really incredible, to be on the other side of the world and be able to communicate with everyone around you (with minor complications, of course). Lastly, they treat me as one of their own. They are truly my Spanish family.

Something that has taken my off-guard here is the amount of time I spend alone. I have always been the type that needs alone time, at least an hour or so to be calm and breathe a little. Here in Spain I have a lot more time to contemplate things. There have been some interesting results. Suddenly spending great chunks of time by yourself (in Davis and Temecula something else is always happening or captivating my thoughts) can be scary. I find myself having to fight off thoughts of how much money I have left (not much), how much I miss home, getting a job after college. The last few weeks have been dedicated, in part, to concentrating on channeling this introspection somewhere more positive. Maybe there's something to this "power of positive thinking" theory. I spend a lot time thinking about Sean, which always brings a smile to my face. There are a lot of memories, both of our friendship and the love we now share, that I can (and do) ponder with a girlish smile. It proves difficult at times because without a doubt, I begin to let in the thoughts of how badly I miss him, and at times am overtaken with an acute sadness. How badly I wish I could hold his hand, breathe his scent, simply be near him. I don't quite feel right without him, but I know that me being here is important. I never wanted to be one of those girls who convinced themselves that they couldn't bear to part from their boyfriends. To study in another country has been my dream for a long time, and despite that great difficulty, I survive. I smile and I laugh and I travel, drink wine, dance all night, eat paella, make friends and... I'm happy. My survival instincts, my female instincts, are telling me that I don't need to be at his side to thrive. At the same time (more importantly), I know that I've been different since our last embrace, and that I will not be wholly myself again until I'm back in his arms. Until then, I will continue this great adventure I worked so hard to make a reality. Although I sometimes curse the thought, it makes me a stronger person.

For you who have chosen to read this, thank you for listening. No part of this was meant as a complaint and I neither expect nor want any comments of pity. My intention has been to highlight the many wonderful things about my life in Spain, as well as recognize that nothing is perfect. I believe it is unfair to fill people with an expectation that all great things are perfect. For example, people say college is one of best best times of your life. I would have to agree, but also add that in these 'best years of your life,' you will also cry, fight with your friends, fail a mid-term and learn that you can't stomach tequila. That is why I wrote what I did today, to fairly and squarely give you the whole picture.

I hope everyone is doing well at home :) I miss each and every one of you, my family and friends, and look forward to seeing you all upon my triumphant return to California. Chao-

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Strep Throat

My sincere apologies for having written nothing about Spring Break yet, it will eventually be done. I have somehow gotten ze strep throat, and I have no ganas to do anything, not even write! Home sick today, lying in my bed of pain. Hopefully I'll be up and about soon - there are many Spanish adventures yet to be had!

Notes and funny links sent via FB or e-mail would be greatly appreciated, since I am spending today in bed :) Hasta luego, my wonderful family and friends.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Catching up to do

I got a little behind again, here are some bullet points to catch up, and I will write more in detail tomorrow or Saturday :-)

* A bunch of UC Davis people just arrived to Madrid for their quarter abroad program, including my sorority sister Nikki, my friend from Spanish class Taylor, and my RA buddy Jess! I'm so happy they are all here and can't wait to hang out with them more.

* I just got back from spring break in ... Paris! I spent the first part with my friend Melanie from my program, and the second with Stacey, a friend from home (youth group!) who is studying in England. The whole trip was fantastic and I loved exploring the city. My favorite thing was probably the Sacre Coeur (Sacred Heart/Sagrada Corazon) - and I got to see the Louvre again :)

* Saw the new Pedro Almodovar movie, Abrazos Rotos, and really liked it - it's Almodovar, so of course it is strange. Plenty of food for discussion.

* Tried a unique drink called "Leche de Pantera," which is basically milk, sugar, cinnamon and 5 kinds of alcohol, one of which is green and tasted like licorice. It was strange and delicious and I will definitely be going back. Link to the bar, Chapandaz: http://www.chapandaz.com/combinados.html



Only about 7 weeks left in Spain - time has definitely crept up on me. Time to start writing papers and plan my final Iberian travels. And of course, better my Spanish! But for right now, I'm in recovery from my Parisian adventures. Bon soir!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Las Fallas in Pictures

There is an entry below detailing my wonderful day in Valencia - and now, some pictures for your viewing pleasure! :)














Saturday, March 21, 2009

Valencia Valencia!

We had Thursday and Friday off of school this week, and I went with some other people on my program on a day trip to Valencia for Las Fallas. We met up at the Hard Rock Cafe near the Colon metro, and there were probably 12 or so people from Carlos III. I met (or possibly re-met) two people who also live in Getafe! They were both really cool, I ended up spending the day with them after we split from the larger group. I'm excited to hang out with them and the rest of the Getafe crowd soon :)

So! We got on a bus with a whole gaggle of Americans and other European students and our "guide" (he really just gave us a pamphlet and insurance info) put in a movie. It took over 4 hours to get there, and we ended up watching all of Forgetting Sarah Marshall and the better part of Gladiator. I also spent a lot of time looking out my window and admiring the beauty of the countryside. It was a really lovely day to be spending on a bus, but the view made up for it. Rolling hills, greenery, blue skies and sunshine. Perfect day for Valencia!

Valencia is beautiful. We were in the main part of the city, characterized by wide parisian boulevards, palm trees, orange trees, and charming architecture. I would love to go back for a weekend later in the spring - Daniel and Joanna, my traveling companions and new friends, agreed with me wholeheartedly. The festival of Las Fallas really brought the city alive. Allow me to explain Las Fallas: the celebration is of the patron saint of Valencia, and the fallas themselves are like floats, and are worked on all year long before the festival. In every plaza, there was a huge work of art that rivaled (no, beat) the works of Disney and Pixar. Towering animated figures with themes that ranged from folklore to modern politics and art. One that I saw had all of the major Academy Award winners with their little golden oscars. Many others spoke volumes of the current economic crisis in Spain. The big catch? The fallas are not only to look at... they are 100% flammable and set to burn at midnight!

Here is our chain of events (my 2 amigos and I):

* Started with large group, but after a while the 3 of us drifted away to have our own fun.

* Walked around and looked at all the fallas, large and small. Took tons of pictures!

* Bought cream-filled churros dipped in chocolate. Mmmm

* Watched part of the parade (great music and beautiful folkloric dress)

* Ate dinner in a small, authentic cafe: bottle of merlot, salami, bread, and patatas bravas. YUM

* Watched a small falla (kid's falla) burn at 10! Coolest thing ever. The firemen poured alcohol all over the float, then lit fireworks to start the madness. Once it caught, it went down quickly! The kids loved it too :)

* Ducked into a small cerveceria to buy e1,50 Budweiser - cold beer tasted fantastic in the midst of the smoky city

* Daniel and Joanna buy Aqua de Valencia: amazing Valencian orange juice & cava (Spain's own special champagne). I tried some and it was delicious!

* The finale: the burning of the large Fallas! They were seriously as tall as the apartment buildings. The small ones cost 6 thousand euro to build, and the first place large on cost over 1 million euro! It's intense. The fires were really beautiful. We snagged a spot in front of a huge one featuring a viking woman and other characters (one giving the bird, lol) and got munchies to pass the time. Finally, it began: they set off tons of fireworks above the falla to start, and then set off the firecrackers they had tied around the floats which started the fire. The fire was crazy! It smoked a ton and then finally engulfed the whole float. It was incredibly hot and we all moved backward. Good thing too, because as it burned, things like Viking Woman's Arm started to fall off and roll around in their fiery state. It was incredible, I took tons of pictures and video. Daniel has an excellent camera and I can't wait to steal his pictures on Facebook!

* Back to bus for an uncomfortable ride home. Daniel, Joanna and I wearily took the metro then Cercanias Renfe back to Getafe. I am so glad we hung out in Valencia, they are both really friendly and interesting people and the 3 of us had quite the groovy time exploring the city. Valencia bellisima, amistad nueva. Que FANTASTICA!


Viva las Fallas! Viva Valencia! :)

St. Patty's Day

San Patricio! Although the holiday isn't officially celebrated in Spain, there are enough Irish pubs in Madrid for there to be a marked celebration of the Irish saint. I headed out to an Irish pub called O'Neills with Diana, Sandra & Javi, and we met up with a bunch of other people there. The streets were packed with English-speaking lunatics in preposterous green hats, it was fantastic. The pub was so full I am surprised we maneuvered our way through! Somehow we found everyone else - some girls that Diana works with at the Irish study abroad office, their friends and roommates and so on. I tried my first Guinness and absolutely loved it! It is the color of chocolate and has a very unique flavor that I very much like. Definitely won't be my last ;)

Feliz Dia de San Patricio!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Prado, studying, TEST....etc,

On Friday, my art class again went to the Prado. Since we don't have class next Friday, our profesora decided we would spend a whole 4 hours perusing the giant museum. We studied the works of Murillo, Velazquez, and Goya - magnificent! The artwork was beautiful, and once again I got to spend hours inside one of Spain's top-notch museums...... but get this! A fun little twist to our day: we noticed when buying tickets that the place was crawling with policia, young guys with huge guns. When we entered the museum, we began to walk towards a certain salon when we were told to stop. We soon saw why: Prince Felipe and Princess Leticia were there to visit, followed a huge parade of official-looking people. How cool is that! Yes yes, I have seen the royalty. Quite royal, they are! The Mohinos were very excited when I told them. The royal family seems to be very well loved, from what I can tell.

After the Prado, I called Rena and we met for lunch (4 hrs in the Prado = starving). We walked around forever and ended up in a posh shopping district, where there was naturally no food to be found. Must be skeleton-like to wear tip-top fashions, or some shizz like that. But then! Out of nowhere appeared the coolest outdoor market. The vendors were cleaning up for Siesta, but we were in time to get Jamon y Queso on baguettes from a deli in the market. They had everything at this place! Fresh fish, fruits, vegetables, hundreds of cheeses and meats, flowers, you name it. There was a really groovy (and packed!) tapas bar next to it too. So we got our bocadillos wrapped up and went walking. We encountered a sweet old abuela, who cheerfully told us to enjoy our sandwiches. She said she was out walking because she too had just eaten, and her doctor told her to walk so she wouldn't get fat. Gotta love the random conversations. Gotta love the Spaniards ;) (how could you not??)

The rest of the weekend was spent studying for my PoliSci exam and reading for my Lit class. The Pol exam went pretty well, although multiple choice exams get me in a tizzy... I'm easily fooled by the "next best" answer. Who said tests were a great way to measure knowledge?! Some complete fool who should receive a swift kick to the balls, I tell you!

Literature really threw my head for a spin. I slaved away reading San Manuel Bueno, Martyr, which is really a great novella. It's only 30 pages... and accompanied by my handy dictionary, it only took me about a million years to read it. I was frustrated because it was so good and I hated having to stop so often to look up words, yet it was also a fun experience. I thought to myself, here I am in the Spanish sunshine (yes, sunshine!), reading Spanish literature and surviving all on my own here. The language barrier is a-coming down!

Having a low-key evening en casa after today. I hardly slept last night, was drained of all my ganas by the exam, and Mondays are my longest on campus. It's nice to just bum around in your PJs and watch Grey's Anatomy (in English, for my sanity). Until next time! Que tengas un buen dia :)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cuanto tiempo sin verte!

It has been over a week since I last wrote, can't let that happen again! There is much too much going on over here for such forgetful nonsense. Here are some lovely bullet points for us to catch up:

* I am going to Paris for spring break! Or part of it anyway. I am going with a friend from my program, Melanie, and we are meeting up with some of her friends who are studying in Italy. After that, they are all going back to Italy and I.....get this..... I am meeting up with Stacey! It turns out she is coming to Paris for a couple days right the same day Melanie leaves, how perfect is that? I am so excited, and in the process of planning and booking.

* Last week for our Wednesday adventure, Reens and I went shopping :) It was great fun. First we went to Maoz, pretty much the only vegetarian food in Madrid, to get some filafel and such. Then we went to this pasteleria in Plaza del Sol, the most famous pasteleria in Madrid, to get chocolate napolitanas...Mmm! They are so good. They have a flakey, buttery outside like a croissant, and thick, dark chocolate paste inside. All around greatness. After fueling up, we browsed the trendy, chic european shops. I found a really pretty orange blouse and a thin black dress to wear with my black boots, and a lovely cocktail-type ring :) The weather was crazy... the clouds were moving so fast, one minute it would be clear and sunny, the next dark and raining cats 'n dogs. At one point we ducked into a cafeteria to have cafe con leche (yay!). Another fabulous Wednesday!

* After having a sore throat all day last Saturday due to breathing too much cigarette smoke Friday night, I have decided to temporarily retire from the discoteca scene. Only temporarily... for maybe two weeks. We will see if I can make it that long - it's so much fun to dance the night away!

* Today, Rena came to Getafe for the first time for our Wednesday adventure. I hadn't explored Getafe too much, so we ambled about the streets and found some really great parts of the city! But first, I took Rena to the famous sandwich shop. She agrees, of course, that the ladies there are super sweet and that the food is unbelievably good :) Yay for extremadura bocadillas! Afterwards, we found some cool parts of the city. There is a donor kebap right near the school on Calle de Madrid, and we found that if you keep going down the street away from Carlos III, there is a really neat downtown area, with cool little shops and cafeterias, and a huge plaza with a fountain, benches, churro vendors, etc. So many people were out in the early evening! Old couples hobbling along, kids running in circles, students hanging around in groups. The plaza was alive and hopping! We also found a beautiful church that I didn't know about, I shall have to take some pictures of it. At the end of it all, I showed Reens how to use Cercanias Renfe, the commuter train. There is a station close to El Bercial and it only takes 20 mins to get to the middle of Madrid (Atocha) - way better than an hour on the metro on lines 12 and 10!! :)

* St. Patty's Day is soon! Although it's not really celebrated here, I will sure be celebrating :) My host sisters and I have been talking about going to a pub for a bit of fun on the day. I will have to wear something green... even though G'ma Joan is all the way in California, she may find some way to pinch me! ;)


Goodnight all! I send you lots of love from beautiful Spain <3

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Pictures!

Some of my favorites so far:









:)

Monday, March 02, 2009

Bullet Points

My random thought for the day:

* Never again shall I go out Thursday, Friday, AND Saturday night. Makes for a rough Monday morning.

* Tapas may be the most fantastic culinary invention, especially the croquettes :)

* Every time I remember I need to buy stamps, it is between 2-5 when nothing is open.

* Margarida has gone back to Portugal and, although we have only just met, I'm going to miss that girl!

* I must must make travel plans for Spring Break/Semana Santa. Hmm... Cantabria? Paris? Italy?

* Irish pubs are a fun place to be in the middle of the night.

* Looking forward to my Wednesday hangout with Reens!

* Spanish Lit is kicking my arse .... ayyy carrumba


The end. Time to get back on the homework! :)

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Communication, miscommunication, dancing, museums and pubs. Oy vay!

It's been a fun few days since I last wrote! I'd better be careful, or I'll get seriously behind... and not only is this blog for my luuurvely family and friends, it's for me to remember my time in Spain! So here we go chicos.

Reens and I didn't end up getting together Wednesday because she and Margarida went to Toledo - fun! I wish I could have gone but I had my history class. I don't like missing class and freakishly go to most of my classes back in Davis.. but here, skipping is hardly an option. They take roll ;) But anyway, it was a history class. You all know how much I love history. And I did get a few things done that I needed to - I successfully communicated with a really nice guy in the computer lab, and got my password changed so that I can actually access my student account (i.e. email). It's funny, sometimes I just go about my daily life here, talking to people and having no problem, becoming more fluent. But sometimes the language barrier kicks my arse. Thursday I was in my Advanced Language class, and we were reviewing commands. For those of you who are students of Spanish, you know that they can be a bit tricky to learn. For me, I understand commands but have trouble forming them. Which verb ending is it again... ahh! My profesora got a tidbit frustrated with me. I got frustrated with myself. Can we just skip the commands?? lol.

Thursday was, overall, a good day though. After I came home with my head spinning from my language class, I went on my first run in Spain :) I looked up a route around El Bercial (my neighborhood, kind of like Redhawk in size) and took off. I got kind of lost but knew that if I kept making right turns I would end up back home... which I did, somehow. Just running along, wondering where I was, and suddenly I am on Calle Irlanda. What good luck! So then, after showering and makeup-ing and such, I headed out to Rena's piso! Margarida is moving back to Portugal this weekend, so they have been living it up the past week. Going out, traveling. In fact on Thursday they spent the day in Aranguez (definitely misspelled that) before we all went out. The night was really fun! We left around 12:15 to go to a club called Cats, which was mostly university students (a relief after some of the other clubs, which are frequented by leering middle-aged men). We had to pay to get in, but then we got free drinks with our tickets! Nothing like a rum and coke to get everyone dancing ;). We stayed for a few hours, dancing to both American pop and European pop & house music. I slept for 4 hours at Rena's piso and then came Friday...

I took the metro to the "Museo Arqueologio Nacional" (National Archaeology Musuem) and met up with my class (got there early this time!) and we went in to look at some famous sculptures from the period we are studying (XI-XIV), then took a walk down Calle de Prado to study the architecture that Carlos III had commissioned during the modernization of Madrid (i.e. statues, fountains, wide parisian avenues). We looked at the Puerta de Alcala, the columns outside of the Prado, etc. It was a nice walk, and the crisp air woke me up! After coming back to the house, I rested for a while and took a nice nap (viva la siesta). Then later, I came downstairs to discover that Luis, Concha, and Diana were taking Blackie to the animal hospital - poor doggie. She ate a huge chunk of lard and had been throwing up all day (she's fine, she got a shot last night and now cannot eat until Sunday).

Later that night, after the vets, I took the metro into Madrid and met Diana at Sol, since she, Sandra, Matteo (their Italian friend who stayed here a couple of days), an Irish girl and her American boyfriend were all at a pub nearby. It was a good time all around, we drank pints of beer and chatted in English (it feels like cheating!), since the American guy hardly knew any Spanish. Apparently he had met this Irish girl when shewe visited Kansas, and now they were getting serious and he had moved to Madrid (literally, the day before) to be with her. Not fair, I want Sean to be here ;)

After coming home, we all crashed. I seriously did not wake up until 1:30 - we will see what tonight brings!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Tapas, por FIN! : )

I finally went out for tapas last night! It was grand. Sandra and I left the house at 7 to meet up with Javier at the metro, then we met Diana and her boyfriend Steven (here for the weekend from Ireland- super nice & funny guy) at Alonso Martinez. Eventually 3 more of their friends were there - "Danny Boy," a really sweet girl from Ohio who has been living here 3 years, and another whose name I didn't catch... my my, I do suck at names.

We all crowded around a table in a pub and ordered tapas - I had a beer with mine :) I wasn't sure what to order for tapas so I left it up to the rest of them. The fantastic results: potato nuggets (one plate with cheese sauce, one plate with spicy red sauce), jamon y queso croquettes, battered & fried sardines, chorizo, tortilla de patatas, and of course baguette bread. It was all delicious! Ok, except maybe the sardines. Diana and Steven had been at the zoo here in Madrid all afternoon, so they were telling us all about it. The chica from Ohio was telling me about her job teaching English here, and about her Turkish boyfriend who dances Flamenco. All of us were speaking a mix of Spanish and English because Steven hardly speaks any Spanish. It's kind of funny though, because sometimes I understand Diana & Sandra speaking Spanish more than Steven speaking English because of his Irish accent. But usually I can understand him! And it's nice being able to speak a little English in the house. It sort of feels like cheating, but hey everyone needs a break now and again before they go completely cross-eyed.

Today I finally went to the famous sandwich shop in Getafe. During my 3 hour break after Politica, I was hanging out with two people from my class, Suria & Andres, and they insisted on going after they heard I had never been. It was so good! No wonder the Mohinos always rave about it. The women working there were super "majas" as they say here (extremely nice), and seemed to know everyone who came in. The sandwich was huge and to die for, and CHEAP! (for 2,50 I got the hugest sandwich known to man and a Coke Light). The break was also really great because I got to practice my Spanish with Suria, who I can understand very well because she is from Mexico originally (it's the accent I am most used to, though I am slowly understanding castellano more and more). After our bocadillos (sandwiches), we headed into an "alimentacion" (chips, cookies, crap) and got ice creams :) And now I am finally home, after a long day away at school. When I got home, Concha made me a tea and we talked about 23-F and other political matters in Spain. She is so sweet - she says it is good for me to practice speaking, and she likes to know what I am learning. It's fun, and she is patient while I figure out how to explain things. And you know.... I am getting a lot better at this Spanish business! I think I may have crossed another threshold of the language barrier :)

Away laughing on a fast camel, will write again after my Wednesday adventure with Rena <3

Friday, February 20, 2009

Missed my train...

This morning I went running off to Madrid to meet my art class at the Palacio Real, but unfortunately it took me a bit longer than I thought. 15 minutes longer! I had planned to be 10 minutes early, but I was 5 minutes late and couldn't find my group anywhere. My profesora had warned us that they would be going in at EXACTLY 10am and that punctuality was key. Luckily for me, everyone working at the palace was really helpful. They even seemed to understand my Spanish! Victory! Long story short, I never did find my class. There is a touring route that goes through the palace in a large circle, and I went through and saw everything twice :) I continually asked the guards, who are forever rotating, if they had seen a Spanish profesora with a group of students speaking horrible Spanish. My efforts were futile, but honestly? I didn't care much. The palace was breathtaking!

We were supposed to be paying special attention to the frescoes, architecture, and blend of styles. The frescoes were beautiful! On nearly every ceiling in the rooms we toured (well, that I toured. Though I did tag along with a few tour groups I encountered, just to pick up extra tidbits of info), there were beautiful images of heaven, Spanish royalty, angels and an explosion of colors, most notably blue. The baroque style was particularly captivating. Baroque, to put it simply, is a rejection of the classical style that reflected ancient Rome and Greece. The classical style is defined by order, clean lines, harmony, equilibrium. Baroque is dynamic, an explosion of detail. However, this style has little to do with color. It is somewhat of an assault on the senses, because it is very demanding on one's eyes. This is because the decorations in these rooms convey MOVEMENT, in two ways. The first is the use, or rather manipulation, of light; much of the detail is "chunky," with a lot of dimension, and also gilded. The use of gold, and the angle of the wall decorations, reflect light in a way that catches your eye and makes it follow the design. The second avenue of movement is the detail, large and small. A lot of this has to do with nature; a consistency in each room was the use of vines and other plants snaking around the walls, beckoning the eyes to follow every curve. This is further accentuated by repetition: the designs on the walls themselves, as units, were not very big, however they were repeated over and over across the walls and ceilings. We might say the style was very "busy" because truly, there is a lot going on in the decoration. Overall, it was an overwhelming style, especially topped off with the intricate frescoes on the ceiling of these massively decorated rooms. But oh, how beautiful everything was. The palace conveys such a rich grandeur, such a love for style and art and an appreciation for fine architecture. It is absolutely stunning. But I could never live there - I'd go cross eyed O_o .. two fantastic hours was enough!

After walking through twice and checking out the bookstore, I headed out and found a little cafeteria where I spent my last (seriously) 1.50e on a Cafe con Leche. Then lo and behold, who should walk in but 3 girls from my class! They were super nice, and told me that in truth I hadn't missed much, since they basically just walked through and our profesora hadn't said too much. Apparently she WAS wondering where I was, though. Seems I am the only one who missed the train... but, who cares. As a history major and museum rat, I was in my element and clearly appreciated & learned from the experience. So ho hum pig's bum!

VIVA ESPAÑA!!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

El Estilo Barroco

Rena and I met up in Madrid again yesterday, this time at Principe Pio. First we went to eat one of the loveliest lunches in all of Spain: Ham & Cheese on a baguette and Cafe con Leche - YUM :) Then we took another fantastic walk around the city. We ended up around the Palacio Real again, but this time discovered something new, a beautiful park below the palace. Last week we stumbled upon a small garden to the right of the palace, but this park we found is actually behing & below it. It was huge, and very beautiful with tons of winding walking paths, statues, and the hugest trees you can imagine. Very peaceful, a great place to rest, walk, talk, whatever. Then we got ice cream, walked around (ended up near La Latina, then wound back near Sol), shopped. Reens and I always have a great time!

Today, my art teacher informed us that tomorrow we are to meet at the Palacio Real for class!! Fantastic news. We will be studying the frescoes and architecture inside the palace, and are supposed to focus on the baroque content. SWEET. When I came home, Diana offered me an extra sandwich she had bought, which was delicious - the Mohinos are so kind! Another example, this morning: I was running out the door to class when Concha handed me two chocolate cookies in a bag, and told me to have a wonderful day. They are, as we say in "Ingles" (English), ze bees knees.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Andalusia, etc.

Last weekend, all of us from California went on a road trip through Andalucia. On Friday we all hopped on a huge tour bus and drove to Cordoba; Rocio came with us, and we also had a tour guide (Pablo) with us for the entire weekend, which was nice because he pointed out things on the bus that we could see through the windows. Anyway, Cordoba! What a beautiful city. Whitewashed houses, narrow streets, olive trees and mix of 3 cultures - Jewish, Christian, and Muslim. Our hotel was on the same street as the Catedral Cordoba/Mezquita (it used to be a mosque, but then was taken over by a Christian king), we just opened up our hotel window and there it was! They hired another tour guide for us there, a really sweet guy dressed up in his best suit to show us the Mezquita and the rest of the city, including the Jewish quarter. I roomed the whole weekend with a really nice girl I sat with on the bus, Vianey, and after the tour her and I found a little cafe to eat at - I had a Flamenquin (fish fillet with ham in the middle, all battered and cooked, YUMMM) and some vino tinto :) Later that night we all went to a Flamenco show around the corner, it was spectacular! The dancing is incredibly powerful and sensual, beautiful to watch. A lot of people went out afterwards, but we went back to sleep lol.

Saturday we got up early, had a hotel breakfast (meats, cheeses, croissant, yogurt, coffee) then headed back on our tour bus. Saw more countryside! Tons of low, rolling hills and beautiful scenery. Then it changed to olive trees, literally thousands of them as far as you could see. This region is famous for olive oil (aceite). As we approached Granada, we could see the magnificent Sierra Nevadas of Spain. Pablo told us that it is Europe's southernmost mountain range that receives snow - and it was covered, about 9 feet or so. Coming into the city was really cool - Granada is such a unique place. It is a big city with a small-city feel, full of beautiful architecture, wide plazas, little pastry shops, etc. We couldn't see the Alhambra from where our hotel was, but we did go up there to tour for a few hours... Wow! The islamic architecture and art was so fantastic, so intricate. Of course, the Alhambra was later taken over by the Christians and there is also a chapel there, and the mix of design is astounding. Islamic this, baroque that, gothic that. Crazy! I have tons of pictures and will be posting them soon :) After a few hours there with a really wonderful guide, we went back down the hill with Pablo and walked through the city a bit. Then after a break, we had a buffet dinner at the hotel. Everyone went out after that, to bars and a discoteca that Pablo showed us, but Vianey and I crashed - I hadn't slept too well the last few nights, and I wanted to see Granada through fresh eyes!! I seriously fell asleep at 10, it was fantastic.

The next morning after a yummy hotel brekky, we went on another walking tour through the city and saw the cathedral (forgot the name, but its the largest in Granada) and then went on a brief tour through the adjoining royal chapel. Philip and Juana la Loca (Joan the Mad) are buried there!! I was prancing about (on the inside), the history major in me going absolutely mad. It was a great weekend of historical moments ;) After the tour we had a couple hours to walk around and get food, so Vianey and I walked around the main part of the city, occasionally ducking into pastry shops. At one 'pasteleria' I got an eclair type thing with maple frosting on the top (oooooer). The next one we went into was also a cafe, so we sat down and had some "sangwiches" (I had a beer with mine!), then went to the pastry counter to try more things. I got a pastry traditional to the area, the name of which I couldn't understand when she said it. It was some moist breaddy thing with custard in it, it tasted like cinnamon and burnt marshmallows. I also got an empanadilla (small empanada) filled with sweet gel stuff. Quite yummy, all of it! The ride home I slept quite a bit, occasionally peering out at the lovely countryside. We watched "Monsoon Wedding," a really great film by Mira Nair. A swell way to spend a weekend - but I am also glad to be back!

Yesterday and today I pretty much just went to class. Came back for a few hours yesterday to nap between classes, and went to bed early last night (yayy, I love sleep). Tomorrow I am meeting Rena in the city again, this time at Principe Pio. Should be fabulous, as usual :)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Field Trip!

Tomorrow, all of us California punks are leaving on a field trip with our program coordinators to Andalusia! We are going first to Cordoba and then to Granada. I am very excited, especially to see the Alhambra :D

The last few days have been lots of school. I have decided on this schedule, and am quite happy about it:

*History of Contemporary Spain
*Politics and Society of Modern Spain
*Spanish Art
*Spanish Literature
*Advanced Language

History, Spanish Lit, and Language all count back home - art and politics are for fun! I really like all of my professors, and think its going to be a great semester. And in case you were wondering: I can actually understand all of my professors. They all speak slowly and make sure we know what is going on, without babying us. It's a different story with people our age on campus - I try to eavesdrop a little when walking around, but they talk too fast and mumble... just like WE do at home. Everyone is very helpful though. Today I was panicking because I had to buy a reader for my politics class, and when I finally asked a couple people how and where and all that, they were incredibly nice. I got my reader :)

The language barrier is actually getting much better. I think I must have crossed over the first threshold, because I am understanding a lot more (at school & at home) and don't have AS MUCH trouble speaking. Still going cross-eyed due to the barrier sometimes, but I am improving (tra la la laaaaaaaa).

Yesterday Rena and I met up at the Moncloa station in Madrid to hang out. It was so much fun, we walked the streets of Madrid for over four hours, exploring and discovering things about the city that even she didn't know. We had lunch at one of those donor kebap places (yumm, turkish sandwich and Coke Light) and then began our walkabout. We somehow ended up at the Plaza de Espana, which was really cool! Then we walked down and around, and found ourselves at the Royal Palace, which so far I had only seen at night. What a view! Both the architecture and the countryside beyond are fabulous to look at. Around six or so, we ended up at Sol and split up on the metro. I hope we can make this a tradition! We talked about maybe meeting up every week at a different metro stop, to continue getting to know different parts of the city. YAY - Steph & Reens take Madrid!

Will be writing about my trip south when I get back! Hope the rest of you have a lovely weekend ^_^

Monday, February 09, 2009

"Oh wherrrrrrrre is my hairbrush"

Well, I actually did find my hairbrush. But it was lost for a good week! Here are the other things that I currently cannot find:

* the keys to my jewelry box

* my camera cord to connect to my laptop

* my other chap stick


I tell you, my belongings seem to sprout legs whenever I put them down. At least Reens found my hairbrush at her piso! I wonder if my keys are there too... have been wearing the same jewelry for 2 weeks LOL

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Por fin - I am connected

I finally bought a phone today! Yesterday after much sleeping, and much lazing about, I took another adventure on the metro to Rena's. The dinner party was so much fun! They had everything except dessert and drinks going in the apartment, so as soon as I arrived Reens and I headed to Carrefour so I could pick up my contribution: more sangria (after all, we only had 1.5 boxes at the piso!), hard cider, flan, chocolate, cappuccino dessert cups. It was such a fun night - coming back to Rena's piso, it was like seeing old friends. All the girls were there, plus a friend of theirs, Sandra, from Slovenia (also Erasmus). We had fish with a chunky fruit sauce (mango, pineapple, avocado, sweet onion), an apple & carrot salad, rice, and plenty of wine and "postres" (desserts).

After dinner, around midnight, we headed out to find a club called The Moon, which turned out to be uber-ghetto (who knew?), so we continued our search. We ended up going to three other places; a bar that turned out to have no dancing and was a bit "pijo," then a discoteca called Serrano 41 that we stayed at for a few hours, dancing the night away. After that we went to another discoteca, which was super crowded but fun. At this point it was around 4am and I kind of hit a wall... so Rena and I headed back. But even though I got so tired at the end, it was such a fantabulous night. I didn't sleep very much, only about 4 hours (Reens and I got up to go the The Phone House), I am going to take a long siesta after lunch!

Speaking of food, I finally ran out of Nonna's macaroons yesterday! Nonna - I made them last so long! I savored every last one! They were delicious :) THANK YOU AGAIN.