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