Alcalá de Henares

Alcalá de Henares

Sunday, January 31, 2010

El Kapital

Last night my friends and I headed into Madrid for the night to go to a club, El Kapital.  Disclaimer: When students go into Madrid to go to the "discotecas" it usually is an all night deal and don't return until the next morning.  True story.  My host mom was saying that this club is famous and many "estudiantes americanos" like to go to this club.  Go figure.  It's a 7 story club with multiple dance floors and bars everywhere.  I have never seen anything like it, but that's probably because I don't normally go to clubs or bars.

When we got to Madrid we wondered around and waited for the club to get a little busier.  We went to McDonald's mainly because it was open, and four of us split an Oreo McFlurry.  In the words of my friend Nina, "Doesn't this place just smell like home?"  Yes, indeed it did.

I was extremely nervous because I was told that they had a pretty strict dress code to get in.  Seeing as my wardrobe consists of plain t-shirts and cardigans, I was struggling to come up with something club appropriate.  I asked my host sister probably 8 times about an outfit, and I could tell she was not pleased with my selection of clothes.  I guess J. Crew isn't her thing?  But once we finally got into the club, I noticed that I was a bit underdressed in my flats, dark skinnies, and tank top.  Shoot.  Next time I'll know.

But for the first hour, we just explored the club because it seemed to never end!  I spent most of the night dancing with my group of friends, and we protected each other from the creepy Spanish men that would come our way.  We danced to Lady GaGa (yes she is big in Spain too) and some Spanish music too and it was a really fun night.  I had a card for a free drink, and I ordered a Coca-Cola and felt semi-lame but that's what I really wanted.  Around 4:00 A.M., I had to switch into "mom" mode (that's what my friends call me), and I had to gather up some of the not so sober people and make sure that they had all their purses, shoes, and coat check tickets.  I felt like a mom.

We finally left the club at 6:00 A.M. and got pastries at the café across the street.  They were delicious.  Then we got back on the train and headed home.  I got to my house at around 8:30, and the strange thing was I wasn't really that tired.  However, I have learned another important lesson that should be common sense: Never wear new shoes to an all night dance party, even if they match your outfit perfectly.

Friday, January 29, 2010


Yesterday was an interesting day to say the least.  I didn't have time to write a blog so here's a blurp:  I woke up thinking it was Wednesday and ended up skipping my first class, it was my grammar class so oh well?  Finished out my day and took a really long test for some women's graduate studies program.  The test was a little awkward talking into a microphone because she's researching linguistics and its connection to studying abroad?  I don't really know, but I got extra credit to take the test so it's all good.

The test started an hour after my last class, so in between I walked around downtown with my friend from Albion and we got gelato and gummies (at separate times of course).  I had a strawberry flavored gelato, and I think the ice cream is my favorite thing that I have had so far.  As for the gummies, we went to two different stores and I bought the cheaper ones.  Well there's a saying that I firmly believe in, "You get what you pay for," and that definitely applied.  The gummies were very hard, and I'll probably spend the extra .10, so I don't break a tooth next time!

For night time festivities, I went out to a couple of bars for the night: Sapey, Pepe Pasión, and Can Can.  Not the cleaniest places in town, but it was fun just to be out.  No worries, I only had one drink the whole night and I took a taxi home so no walking around by myself.  My friends call me mom because I act like their mother when we go out.  Someone has to watch over them and make sure they make good decisions, so I guess I was nominated?  I don't mind at all though.  I think I got home around 3:00 A.M. because my taxi driver got lost, and I had to explain to him in Spanish how to get to my house.  Haha.

Today I slept in late and hung around the house.  A bunch of people from my program went to Segovia but I think we're going next Saturday.  It's always weird walking around in a big group, so a small group of my friends want to go next weekend instead.  I went to Alcalá Magna with two of my friends today and I did purchase a couple things clothing related.  I just couldn't resist any longer.  Tomorrow we might be going to Madrid for the night, but that's up in the air right now.  But for now, just enjoying not having classes on Friday and enjoying being in Spain! 

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Meetings, Meetings, Meetings

Today was a really looong day of classes and meetings.  I had class from 9 until 12 and then class from 12:30 to 2:00.  At 2:00, I had a meeting about culture shock and was so so tempted to leave due to its ridiculous nature.  We had to first create a list of all the things that we liked about Spain and then a list of what was bad about the U.S.  Well my Spain list went something like this: Siesta, Tinto de Verano, Ropa (Naps, Alcoholic Beverage, and Clothes).  What an awesome list.  My list for negatives about the U.S.  Nothing.  Guess I missed the point of this activity.  I'm sure I could have come up with better positives, but I really wasn't liking this exercise.  Then we watched a film about a French student studying abroad in Barcelona and all the things that went wrong for him because he wasn't "adapting" well and how CIEE is so much better because it helps students adapt.  Ok CIEE, pat yourself on the back for being so so awesome.  Ha.  But after the 2 hour meeting, I had a meeting about a book club I was thinking about joining for extra credit in my grammar class (trust me, I'm going to need it).  However, I've decided not to do the book club because we are required to read an entire book in one week.  I don't have time for that!  After the one hour book club came another meeting, this time with another CIEE person to have a half an hour of conversation time.  Awkward.  He tried to get me to tell him what I don't like about my host family, but I had been warned to not disclose any information to him unless you want to make things tense and awkward at home. So needless to say my responses consisted of "I love my family.  They are perfect.  The food is stupendous."  Needless to say it was a long half an hour.  So I missed the main meal of the day and my siesta.  I'm a little crabby today.

After the meetings, I had to put more money on my cell phone.  I only had 72 cents left!  But now I should be set for awhile.  When I got home, it was a long night of doing homework, over 600 vocab words to copy and complete.  But at least I'm learning more Spanish and hopefully I'll be using these words in my everyday conversations, so I guess that's a positive.  But like I said, I missed my nap so it's an early night for me.  But only 3 more classes until the weekend!  This week has been really long and I can't wait to just relax for a bit!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

3 classes a day means the siesta can stay!

This morning when I woke up there was snow on the ground!  The Spaniards were not happy.  This was the fourth time that it has snowed here this year, and one of the other times was the day that I arrived and they shut down the airport.  They maybe got 2 inches of snow.  I'll post a picture of the snow on what I call "the mountains," but my host mom says that they are not mountains, but they look like mountains to me!  When I walked home from school, there were no traces of snow to be found anywhere.   I am not complaining about this.  Bring on the 50s and 60s again and no more snow!

My mind is trying to get back into this "going to school all day" thing.  I feel like I'm back in high school because I'm at school practically all day.  At least in High School I had a few minute break in between classes!  But I guess I get a half an hour "descanso," which gives me enough time to eat my bocadillo and talk with friends (in Spanish of course!)

I've been thinking about it and I think that I am "abusing" the siesta.  My host mom asked me today if I would be resting, and I said that I was going to take my siesta.  I'm not sure, but I think she thinks my 2 and half to 3 hour siestas are a little excessive?  She's probably right and I might have to start setting an alarm, so I don't sleep for so long!  My bed is just so comfy and it's a nice little break in my day.  But the siesta will definitely still be a part of my day.

Today I found out that I am going to Toledo on Feb. 5 for a day trip.  My Civilization and Spanish Culture class is going there for a field trip, and the best part is that it is entirely free!  Yes!  So the traveling begins, kind of.  I'm not exactly sure what is going on the rest of the week, but I have a bunch of random meetings tomorrow for school and I have to go convert the military time into regular hours, so I can be there on time.  Adios!

Monday, January 25, 2010

My books only cost $13 Euro for the semester?!

This morning I had a pleasant, and not so pleasant experience at the bookstore.  Well actually, it's not a bookstore, it's a place where they photocopy all the articles that the professors want, hardly a bookstore but you get my point.  I went in at 9:50, expecting it to take no time at all since I have a class at 10:30.  Man was I wrong.  Another lesson about Spanish culture.  They do things on their own sweet time.  Example: The woman behind the counter sipped her café con leche and talked with her co-workers for 10 minutes before even asking what I needed help with.  Then the book took forever to print.  But when it was done printing did she bind it right away?  Oh no, she continued with her conversation and sipped her coffee some more.  And then I needed another book printed, so we repeated the cycle.  Boo.  So needless to say, I was 10 minutes late to class, which I hate to admit.  But on the positive side, my books for the semester cost me around $23 U.S. dollars.  Not bad.

I've come to the conclusion that I should only go to one of my classes on Mondays and Wednesdays.  Kidding but no really.  Like I mentioned before, I have the same professor for both classes and he teaches the same material.  At least if I don't get it the first time, there's always a second chance in the next class!

After I got home I ate lunch and took a siesta.  Quick note about food: I forgot to mention yesterday that I ate my first fried egg yesterday?  You know the kind with the yellow gooeyness that spills out when you cut it.  I tried and it wasn't bad but I did tell my mom that I didn't really like it.  I don't think she'll make it for me again.  Phew.  I also had fish tonight, which was surprisingly good.  I saw Mr. Fish sitting out on the counter today, and I though "I sure hope you don't end up on my plate," but sure enough, he did and he was actually quite good.  But I don't know what I'm going to do when a siesta is not scheduled into my days.  I might have to keep that tradition.  After the siesta, I went to the mall with my friend Claire with all intentions of putting money on my phone since I'm less than 2 Euros until I'm out.  But I needed the little card that came in the box, which was conveniently located in my room at my house.  I'll just deal with it tomorrow I guess.  If my phone shuts off oh well, it's not like I get a lot of phone calls anyway.

But my friends and I are finally starting to make some travel arrangements and it sounds like a trip to Portugal is in order for some weekend in March.  Flights are about $50 roundtrip and the hostel that we are going to stay in is about $20 a night, and I think we'll be there for only 2 nights?  So just a little mini-vacation.  There's also talk of going to Italy for Spring Break or for a long weekend, and I'm all for that.  But it's 12:28 A.M. here, and I should probably go to bed because I have my wonderful Spanish grammar class at 9:00 A.M.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Feliz Cumpleaños!!!

Today my host family invited me to my grandpa's 89th birthday party!  I'm used to a large family, so I figured that I would be able to handle myself minus the whole language barrier.  My family walked to the restaurant, about 25 minutes away, got a little lost, but the weather was wonderful so I didn't mind.  Sunny and warm.  It's starting to feel like Spring here and I love it!

When we got there, we had to go around and give everyone besos.  It was a little awkward kissing people on the cheek whom I have never met before, but when in Spain, do as the Spaniards do?  So besos for everyone.  We sat at a large people and I did a head count and there were 18 people there.  I sat between my two host sisters and had them explain some of the menu to me.  I had some type of puree soup, which was good until I found something crunchy in it, mixed salad with olive oil and vinegar, and steak.  The meal was good but very very filling.  And of course there was bread to go around!  For dessert, we had a traditional Spanish cake and gelato!  What a day!

The funniest part of my experience was the Grandma.  She kept asking me what I thought of the family, and my host sister would reply for me and say that I thought the family was wonderful and stupendous, which I did think that.  But I had to tell the Grandma at least 3 more times how beautiful and stupendous her family was.  Overall, it was a very noisy and fun celebration.  

When we were leaving, I learned another important lesson that may not necessarily apply to me but important nonetheless.  In Spain, they park wherever they want and hitting another car backing out is no big deal.  For example, an older gentleman was backing out and hit another car, denting it a good deal.  He then drove off.  Then my host dad's brother also hit the same car and I guess this is normal here?  But today was really fun and I'm glad that they invited me because it's always interesting to see how families interact other than your own, especially when they are speaking an entirely different language.  Well that's all for now.  Besos for everyone back home while I'm at it!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sunny Saturday

Today was a perfectly sunny day.  The weather was stupendous.  I can't believe it's only January!  I decided to go shopping with friends in downtown Alcalá, and I went outside in my winter coat but had to come back to change into my spring coat because it was that warm.  No complaints here.

It was a fun afternoon of walking around downtown on La Calle Mayor.  The street is cobblestone and there were a lot of Spaniards out checking out all the "rebajas."  Before I went home, we stopped at a small café and I purchased my first gelato.  It was amazing and I will be getting more in the future.

When I got home we had lunch and talked about different traditions in Spain.  I guess on New Year's Eve they have a tradition that involves eating twelve grapes at midnight, one each time the bell tolls.  Yesterday I went to Madrid to the Plaza del Sol, which I guess is the equivalent to Times Square in NYC.  It's interesting to hear about the traditions that they have and also sharing with them some of our traditions.

Tonight I went out to Indola, the tapas bar, again for Tinto de Verano.  It was a fun night chatting with friends and making some new ones too.  We met some of the girls that spent last semester in Alcalá and they gave us some really helpful information and shared some funny stories.  I didn't stay out too late because I'm going to a birthday party with my family tomorrow because my host dad's dad is turning 89, so they are throwing a birthday party for him.  Should be interesting to say the least.  All my love to everyone back home.  Besos!

Friday, January 22, 2010

No Classes on Friday = Madrid for the Day!

Not having classes on Friday is one of the best ideas ever.  Last night my friends and I discussed going to Madrid today to do some sightseeing and go shopping.  Well we did the latter.  The Prado will have to wait.

We got on the train in Alcalá around 1:30 P.M. and headed off to Madrid (some people didn't get back until 5:00 A.M., so our 11:00 departure time got pushed back).  We weren't exactly sure where we were going, thus we missed our train stop.  But it didn't really matter.  We got off at the next stop and came out on a pretty busy street, so at least we weren't in the middle of nowhere.  But we saw some really cool buildings on our detour, and its fun to get a little lost every once in awhile.  We wanted to get to Plaza del Sol to do some shopping, and we managed to find a bunch of stores on the way.  Spanish fashion sure is interesting over here, and I'm trying to decide how I feel about it.  Some of it's just plain weird.  But we did eventually find Plaza del Sol and it was super busy. We ate at a little restaurant and I had a cheese sandwich.  I thought it might be like a grilled cheese, but it was 5 slices of Manchego cheese on two huge pieces of bread.  Interesting.  But after going into many many shops and deciding that all over the purses and shoes weren't exactly what I wanted, I left empty-handed.  Again.  I'm starting to sense that my picky fashion is paying off here (haha) because I haven't found that item that I just have to have.  Right now, I'm looking for ankle boots and a small black purse.  The search continues.  I guess there's always tomorrow!

After I got home, I decided that I didn't want to go back out and watched Grand Torino with my host sister Christina and her friend Pepé.  It was in English with Spanish subtitles, so I tried to tune out the English and just read the subtitles, which proved to be a rather difficult task.  Overall I enjoyed the movie and it was nice to relax for a bit and my feet are pretty grateful.

But since I stayed out last night, spent the entire afternoon and most of the evening in Madrid, this girl is going to bed.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Note to Self: Learn Bus System

I'm discovering that even though I've been here for almost 2 weeks, I still have a lot to learn about Spain.  Sure, I can walk by myself to and from school and not get lost, but I'm still struggling to understand what is being said to me and what everything means.  I know that it will come with time, but I just want to be able to understand NOW!

Today I had three classes and I could get used to only having classes four days a week.  Makes for a short week.  But after classes I came home and ate lunch, and rested for awhile.  Siestas I totally understand.  I talked with my friends and they mentioned they wanted to go out tonight around 1:00 A.M., but I convinced them that 12:00 was a good time to meet as well, so we planned on meeting at La Plaza de Cervantes at 12:00 A.M.

So at 11:45 P.M., I headed to the bus stop wearing my black Steve Madden heels.  I mean I wasn't going to be walking too much, so why not?  Well I waited for the bus for about 10 minutes and finally saw it coming.  And then it passed me?  Ok, so I waited another 10 minutes and finalIy another bus showed up to pick me up.  I got downtown and met up with my group and they decided they wanted to go to a bar.  I was wrong about the not walking far because this bar was nowhere to be found!  Our group got lost trying to find "The Can-Can," which I'm not entirely sure I understand what it was.  Then we ended up at a sketchy discoteca and I think my coat will forever smell like smoke.  Shoot.  I decided to take a break from the discoteca and the smoke and my friend Nina and I walked another girl home because she lived relatively close.  We returned to the discoteca to find even more smoke than before, so I decided to call it a night at 1:30 A.M. and headed back towards the bus stop because I was informed that the bus would only be coming at 12:00, 1:00, 2:00, and 3:00, and 4:00.  I wanted to get there a little early so that the bus wouldn't leave without me because I was not going to sit in the cold and wait another hour for the bus!  So I waited...and waited...2:00 comes around and no sign of the bus.  I wait until 2:15 and came to the conclusion that there will be no bus tonight, which means a 35 minute walk, probably longer since I'm wearing heels, home.  Alone.  Shoot.

I started the journey praying to God for safety and a quick journey, and that my feet wouldn't bother me too much.  Mind over matter.  I could feel blisters forming and I was still in the Plaza where I catch the bus!  Needless to say, I was not enthusiastic about walking home.  I know my host mom said something about the buses not running certain times, but I took the bus home last weekend at 2:00 A.M., so I really didn't see what the problem was.  Darn my lack of Spanish abilities right now.  Maybe the bus came right after I left, I don't know.  However, I was only about 10 minutes into the walk, still in a well light area and I saw the most welcoming sight ever!  A whole line of taxis!  What a miracle!  So I casually stroll up to one of them and ask in broken Spanish how much it would cost to get home.  I'm secretly praying that it's not more than $15 Euro since that's all I've got on me.  The driver replied that it would only be around $5 or $6 Euro, and I believe this may have been my best purchase in Spain yet!  Needless to say, I have learned my lesson and will be talking to my host mom first thing in the morning about the bus and will put the taxi company into my cell phone, so I never have to go through that again.  My feet are also grateful.  Like I said, learn something new everyday in Spain even if it's at 2:00 in the morning...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

And so the homework begins...

Yup that's right.  Homework has begun, which means blogging may become a little limited due to the fact that there's only 24 hours in a day.  But I walked to school again today by myself, and I've come to realize what a luxury it is to 1. Own a car and 2. Go to a school with a small campus (Walking to the Science Center always seemed so long but now I can only wish that my school was that close).  But I enjoy watching the sun come up over the old buildings of Alcalá and watching the people hustling around the streets getting ready for the day, so I guess there's trade-offs to the long, long walk.  

I had two classes today, "Civilization and Spanish Culture" and also "Geography and History of Spain."  The classes are taught by the same professor, so I get to see Professor Carlos de la Hoz for three hours a day on Mondays and Wednesdays.  Wonderful.  My Civ. class was first and I was a little confused because he took out a big map of Spain and began explaining geography?  I thought he was teaching the wrong lecture to my Civ. class.  But then when I got to the Geography class he did the exact same lecture!  So what I didn't get the first time, I got the second time.  I wouldn't mind if his classes were like this every time because then I will for sure be able to understand the material by the second time around! 

I was once again reminded today that I'm not in the United States.  I had to go to the "Carefuer?" to buy some school supplies because I heard that this was the place to go.  So off I went, by myself, because my friends decided to take a siesta instead.  It was easy enough to find and I grabbed myself a cart (which actually consists of pulling around a basket), and started looking at the school supplies.  Number one requirement for my notebooks was that they must have horizontal lines, like normal notebooks do.  It seems like all notebooks here are graph paper instead of paper with lines.  So I scavenged through all of the notebooks and finally found four that would suffice.  I saw cuter notebooks made by Papyrus but they cost so much more and were made of graph paper.  I must say I'm kind of a snob when I pick out school supplies and I was not thrilled with my choices.  I got the ugliest notebooks, the cheapest pens because the brand that I use only had blue pens, chunky highlighters (I like the thinner ones), and thumb tacks to hang up pictures on my cork board finally.  Needless to say, I was not thrilled with the purchases but they needed to be made so I settled with the less than pristine supplies.  On my way out I looked at the curling irons and found something that had like 8 different functions, curling iron, straightener, crimper, and more other options that I probably wouldn't use.  But I decided not to spend my precious money on that, and my hair will thank me because it only gets blow dried here because I don't have access to other hair appliances.  Maybe when my hair grows out a little longer I will cave in and get the curling iron...

But in the meantime, I think I'm going back to Madrid for the weekend with friends so I'm excited about that.  My weekend starts Thursdays at 2 because I don't have classes on Friday, a first in my life.  But it's been a long week of figuring out classes and getting adjusted to school again, only this time everything is in Spanish.  But life continues to surprise me over here and I'm loving learning everything I can about Spanish culture.  Well it's time for bed and since I didn't have a siesta today, I should have no problems falling asleep :)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Classes, you slay me...but at least there's chocolate to make it all better!

Haha just kidding. My classes changed again. The Political Relations of the Mediterranean class was cancelled because they need 5 students in the class and there were only 4. Fail. But we still had to finish the class and take notes? Why? But either way, I'm a little relieved because the class looked kind of hard and boring. But on the bright side, I get to take Intro to Latin American lit. (approved by Jon Huisken himself) like I had planned before and I have three good friends in that class. Yay for taking classes con mis amigas!

This morning I was feeling super ambitious and decided to walk to class with my two friends Claire and Nicole that live in my neighborhood. However, Nicole is always late and was about 10 minutes late, so I called her (costing me precious Euros on my cell phone) and told her that we were leaving and she could catch us if she wanted to walk fast because we were probably going to be late for class. So Claire and I started off, Nicole caught up, and we just made it to class. The walk is about a 40 minute walk going at a decent pace, and we made it in about 25 minutes? Needless to say, I showed up to class slightly sweaty, irritated, and tired. But at least I'm getting exercise! But I think from now on I'll just walk by myself or say we are leaving at the specified time and will not wait because I am not running to class again...

So today was kind of a sad/bad day. I felt like I had to sign my life away to the Spanish language. Yep, that's right. Today was the day that I "promised" that I would speak only in Spanish from Monday to Friday (my favorite days of the week are now Saturday and Sunday), and will only speak Spanish to my American friends, in class, and at home. And I need to think only in Spanish? Good thing they can't monitor my thoughts. And my host mom said that we must talk for about half an hour every night to improve my Spanish speaking. I appreciate her efforts and hopefully they will pay off!

But in other news, another good food day in Spain. Interesting but good. I had a soup with lentajes (beans) and it was pretty good. The main course was empanadas and they were filled with some type of meat. I ate two and then asked if it was chicken inside. I was wrong, it was tuna! But it didn't taste fishy at all, so I was good with it. For dinner we had costillas (ribs) and they were pretty good but I was served first and it was a little awkward because I didn't know if I should cut them or eat them with my hands (Nate can attest to the fact that I hate eating things with my hands), so I tried the fork and knife first but finally gave up and went with my hands.

But I forgot to mention that yesterday I went to the supermarket and bought some chocolates. A pretty big box for 1.50 Euros (I've decided walking to class justifies this purchase). They are chocolate truffles and taste like they are coated in a hot chocolate mix kind of? Needless to say, for my siesta I laid in bed and ate chocolates and fell asleep. Perfect. I could get used to this Spanish life but for now, it's time for bed. More tomorrow! Love from Spain!

P.S. I learned how to upload pics so check my other posts for the pics.!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Final Decisions about Classes...

So after much deliberation, I've finally figured out what classes I am going to take, and its not what I said before. Seeing as I added a major a little late, I really need to make sure that all of my classes will transfer back to Hope and that I am meeting the requirements for both my International Studies major and Spanish minor. I'm taking the semester off from Communications but I'm ok with that. So classes. One of my classes here was cancelled and I don't really need one of my classes, so I had to entirely rearrange my schedule. So now I am taking two classes on Monday & Wednesdays and they are "Civilization and Spanish Culture" and "Geography and History of Spain." On Tuesday and Thursdays, I have a required Grammar class, "Political Relations of the Mediterranean," and "Comparing the U.S. and Spain in Culture, Politics, and Social Structure." Yes I will know a lot about Spain when I come home. Because Hope is sweet (note sarcasm), the only class that will count for my Spanish minor is my grammar class. And even sweeter, the class is only three credits so either I can take a one credit hour of conversation next fall, or keep some sort of blog because Hope requires 4 credits, not 3. Hmmm. I'm going to go with blog, so that means I need to create another blog in Spanish for my time abroad. I don't feel the need to share this blog since it will most likely be entirely in Spanish. Fail. But my four other classes have been approved by the Registrar himself, so it looks like I'll get my 12 credits of International Studies electives done! Plus, I'm getting my Arts I waived by going to awesome museums and what not, so there goes 4 more credits. So in total, if this was a semester at Hope, I would be taking 25 credits. Crazy! But I only have to pay for the 16 because each class only counts as 3, not 4 credits. It's weird I know and how I managed to figure this all out is beyond me. Many thanks to Professor André, Professor Fernandez, Professor Woolsey, Professor Dandavati, the Registrar, and the Hope College website. I can still graduate on time!

But in other news, today was pretty good. The weather was in the upper 60s/70s I heard and clear blue skies. I walked home from school today because I was so inspired by the stupendous weather. I started with my coat on, then my cardigan, and by the time I got home I was in my t-shirt. I walked by myself and it was a great time to be alone with my thoughts and reflect and I didn't get lost! Doing good. But I did buy another bus pass, so if I'm not feeling as motivated tomorrow, I can take the bus home if I want. I'm still debating about walking to school. Maybe if I can get my friend Claire to go with me :)

I shared with my host dad that I needed to create a blog and he was super excited. I didn't tell him that I already had a blog, and he proceeded to tell me about his blog and how you can create a blog. I nodded my head politely and even let him show me his blog online. Then I had to sign into my e-mail, and I almost died because he almost saw my blog about Spain! Luckily I showed him my friend Kelsey's blog (haha thanks Kelsey Freya Hawkins), and slyly navigated myself away from my page. What a close one. But that's enough for today. I've been missing siestas lately and its starting to catch up with me so I think its time for bed. Good night.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Relaxing Weekend en España

My first weekend in Spain was pretty successful if I do say so myself.

First a food report: The past three meals I've had have been interesting to say the least. I was in the kitchen when my mom began preparing Saturday's lunch and she said she was making lasagna. I was like, "Oh good! I like that!" Then she started pouring in some milk and other things into a pan and I was kind of confused but I figured it was probably something for the first plate. Then when it was time for lunch, she puts my plate down and there is not a tomato in sight. What? I guess in Spain, lasagna is made with milk? It was decent but definitely not like home. Today's lunch consisted of a seafood paella and I was surprised that I liked it so much! I had Paella from San Chez before I left and it was ok, but nothing to write home about. However, this paella is worth mentioning. When I received my plate of food, I looked down and saw some shrimp. I didn't recognize a couple other things on my plate but I figured it might be best not to ask what they were until after I tried it. So I put a little O-shaped noodle like thing onto my fork and tasted it. Not too bad, not a lot of flavor. I turned to my host dad and said, ¿Qué es? (What is this?) He said octopus. My face probably dropped. However, I didn't want to be rude and refuse the food, so I managed to finish my plate and tried not to thing about the octopus and didn't ask what anything else was in fear that the paella might be seen again later, if you catch my drift. Of course after most of the food was gone, my host dad said I shouldn't feel obliged to finish my plate. Ugh. However, the paella was rather good and I just had to wrap my mind around the fact that I just had octopus for the first time. For dinner tonight we had some type of fish and it smelled pretty bad but was actually decent as well. I just have to tell myself to keep an open mind and tell myself not to ask questions until after I've tried something.

So I must say that Spanish night life is very interesting for me because I don't go out that often in the U.S. Last night my friends and I went to a small bar and a man offered to buy my drinks. Awkward yes. He asked where I was from and I tried to respond in Spanish. And then he said, "I speak English. I lived in Arizona." Ok? So I began to converse with him in English, just small talk while I waited for the bartender to make the drinks. After insisting multiple times that I was fine and I could pay for my own drinks, because I've heard very bad things about accepting drinks from Spanish men, I frantically gave my euros to the bartender before the man could pay and walked away. What an awkward night moment. But after that we went to another bar and I got a hot chocolate which is very different here. It's like a hot pudding and was much better than the Tinto de Verano and no awkward moments came with the Chocolate Clásico.

Today I walked to my school from my house and it took about 35 minutes. My sister Christina explained how to get there and it was rather easy if I do say so myself and I'm not gonna lie, I'm pretty proud that I didn't get lost. I must say that I already miss Libby (my car if you didn't know her name), and will certainly miss her in the coming months. But I figured I have a pair of legs and walking will be good for me. On our way home, we stopped at a pastelería and I had my first Spanish pastry. It was kind of like a long john and was literally a foot long and lasted over half the way home! It was amazing!

But today I was reminded to always say I love you to the ones that you love because you never know if you will have the chance again. Cliché yes but still very important. Two Hope students passed away today in a plane crash and I didn't know David but I did know Emma through a couple different activities. My heart goes out to the Hope Community and I feel pretty helpless over here in Spain. I guess it's another reminder to live each day to the fullest (cliché again I'm sorry). But Emma you will be greatly missed because you touched the lives of everyone you encountered. "There are some who bring a light so great to the world that even after they have gone, the light remains." Once again, all my love to everyone back home. I love you all!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Tinto de Verano? Yes!

I've come to discover that every day here offers some type of new challenge, and I love it! I love waking up and knowing that the day will be filled with new sights, people, food...I think Spain is growing on me and I'm growing on it and it hasn't even been a week!
Yesterday I went with my host sister to the mall again. But I told the two girls in my neighborhood to meet us at the rotunda where we catch the bus so they could come along too. Well, my host sister thought it was another rotunda and we got there and they obviously weren't there. Then we went to a different rotunda and they weren't at that one either. Luckily they found us and all was well in the world again. My sister brought her friend Pepé and I've decided that I too need a male friend to bring to the mall to hold my bag and coat while I shop. How handy!

After dinner last night, I went out with the girls from my program at 11:30 P.M. and we walked around for awhile until we found a little tapas bar. Tapas are kind of like little appetizers. When we walked inside it was almost like a movie. It was extremely crowded and smoky and when we started walking towards the back to be seated it got really quiet and everyone just stared at us. I guess it was pretty obvious that we were Americans. Shoot. I ordered another Tinto de Verano and it was the best drink at the table our group decided. We talked and laughed and it was just a fun night to be out. Towards the end of our drinks, a guy came over and slyly slipped his name and telephone number that he had written on a napkin onto our table. It was really cheesy. Thanks Hector but no one will be calling you anytime soon. I got home at 2:30 in the morning and my host dad was still up and he asked why I was back so early? Early? I thought I was out too late! Crazy.

But this morning I woke up at 11:30 and went to the mall with both my host sisters because they wanted to look for something. I'm pleased to report that in the three times I've been to the mall, nothing other than the Q-tips, Granola bars, and shower gel were purchased. Impressive yes. I wonder how long this will power will last? But I'm going out again tonight to look around Alcalá with some other girls tonight and I'm sure it will be a good time. I need to purchase more bus passes because my last ones will be used tonight. But all is good in Spain and thanks to everyone that has e-mailed, g-chatted, FB chatted, Skyped, or any other type of communication. Besos!

Ahhh Madrid...

So today I got to go to Madrid to see the city and explore a little. We took the train from Alcalá into Madrid and walked around what I felt like was the entire city! Good thing my boots are comfortable and I could walk for hours in them. Good investment. But we saw the Prado, which I will have to go in when I have more time, and a bunch of other important looking buildings. All the buildings here are so beautiful and old, and the streets are cobblestone or some other type of stone and my boots make a fun noise on them when I walk. Our directors explained what some of the buildings were, but I didn't understand much of what they said, but I was still impressed. We visited a botanical garden and I can't wait to go back in the Spring because it will be so so pretty with all the plants and flowers. After what felt like forever, we ate lunch as a group at a restaurant. This morning my host mom insisted that I bring a sandwich, but I politely declined and I know to listen to her advice from now on because I was starving during our walk around the city. It didn't help that we walked past what felt like were hundreds of bread and pastry shops!

After lunch, our directors informed us that we needed to find our own way home. Shoot. I should have known there was a trick. We had to first take the Metro (and we left three of the students behind because the train was so full and they physically couldn't fit in the door in time) to get to the train station, then walk to the bus stop, and then to our houses. Today for the first time since I've been here, I was able to open my front door without assistance. Finally.

In an hour I am going shopping with my host sister and her male friend and two girls in my program. I need some stuff for my room so I can hang up pictures and what not, and I'm excited to go out again. I think I am going to go downtown Alcalá tonight for drinks and tapas with some of the girls in the program and I'm really excited to start experiencing Spain. I've felt super lame going to bed so early and I realized I haven't been out at night once since being here! Time to see what this night life that everyone rages about is like!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Classes? Really?

So today was a day of more firsts, surprise surprise. I took my first bus ride on Bus #2 with my host mom and another student so we could find the University. I'm feeling pretty confident about the bus since I've taken it three times today, without my host mom, and haven't gotten lost yet! But there's a first time for everything. There's two other girls that live in my "barrio" (neighborhood) and we usually go together. Once it gets nicer we can walk to the University because it's cheaper and the weather will start to get nice in February! It's only 30 minutes so we'll have to cross that bridge when we come to it. But it's really nice to have someone to walk and talk with.

I also went to my first classes today. Well what I thought was my first class. I wanted to change my literature class to Spanish Women lit. because I heard it might be a little easier than Contemporary Spanish lit., which I am currently in. However, I sat in on the Intro to Spanish lit. class on accident (epic fail), and in the end, I've officially decided on Latin America lit. Please hear me out. I want to take the Latin American lit. over Spanish lit. (yes I know I am in Spain) because I love Latin American literature and many of my friends are in that class. So Latin American lit. it is. I know I will be taking a class comparing Spain and the US in social structure, politics, and culture and I'm excited for this class, even though I almost fell asleep today during the lecture. My bad. I also have a grammar class and I need to choose one more class to go with my International Studies major because the class I wanted was cancelled. Never a dull moment in Spain.

This evening we went to the house of Cervantes (author of Don Quixote) and it was pretty cool. We also went to a museum that had a lot of archeological stuff, so that was cool too. The city is so alive and beautiful and I finally started taking pictures, so I will have to add them later.

Tomorrow my class is off to Madrid for the day! My sister Christina informed me that the train station that I am taking has a monument honoring those who died in the terrorist attacks on Madrid because the bombers used the Alcalá train station to go out of. Speaking of my host sister, I'm going with her to "el centro" (mall) tomorrow night! Should be fun and I can't wait! Well time for bed because I have to get up early tomorrow but all my love to everyone back home!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Big Day!!!

So today was the big day to meet my family! I was picked up at the hotel at 10:15 A.M. by my host mom Antonia (Toni) and her brother-in-law who is also hosting another student! Together we drove about 10 minutes to their "chalet" and I began my next big adventure.

When I walked in the front door the first three things I noticed were 1: The granite stairs 2. The beautiful yellow walls. 3. My host sister had some bunny slippers on? The Spaniards love their slippers, so good thing I brought a pair of moccasins. Immediately I was greeted by my host sister Christina and my host dad Santiago. I still haven't met my other sister and have no clue where she is but her name is Laura too. I guess it's a very popular name in Spain? Christina gave me a tour of the house and it's quite large for a Spanish home. It has three floors, the main floor has a large kitchen and living room and small bathroom. The second floor has four bedrooms and another bathroom and the third floor is a large lounging area I guess kind of like a loft? There's also a lower level that attaches to the garage where my unpacked suitcases are now safely stowed.

So my room. It's a pretty green color and I have a huge closet! Not a walk in but kind of like the one I had in Dykstra and all of my stuff fits well. I have a small desk and a cork board that I plan to put pictures on. I have a small twin bed and two bookshelves. The bonus feature to the room: I have my own little deck attached to my room so once it gets warm I can do my homework out there. It's a very nice room with small glow and the dark stars on the ceiling. Presh. Another great feature that I wasn't expecting was my family has wi-fi! That's not very common for Spanish families so I feel so so blessed to be able to have internet in my room, which is better than I do at my house!

I ate two meals with my family today and they were both delicious! Lunch consisted of a salad with a vinegar dressing, soap kind of like Mrs. Grass' only better, and chicken soaked in olive oil because that's just the way Spaniards do their cooking. And of course the bread and vino but I passed on the vino. Dessert consisted of a mandarin orange which was good too. And of course after the meal was the siesta, my new favorite part of this culture. The second meal was at about 9, and I wasn't really expecting it and had to cut off the g-chat conversation with three friends. I had a two pieces of pork and a bunch or brussel sprouts. Norm, I know what you're thinking that I don't eat brussel sprouts when you make them but I decided to be open-minded, since after all they were already on my plate, and they were actually pretty good. For dessert I had an apple. The Spanish sure know who to do meals right! After the meal I was quizzed on my Spanish kitchen vocab? I didn't know much but what's new. I feel like the family doesn't understand me very well because my Spanish is so so poor but with time it will get better. I had a good conversation with my host dad since we were the only ones at dinner and my Spanish improved since lunch, so I guess that's a good sign.

Now to the second best part of the day. We were allowed to go to the mall for awhile to see what the mall was like, mainly the supermarket. Important note: Wine is so much cheaper than water here. A bottle of wine can cause under $2 dollars here...CRAZY! I bought a couple of exciting things and I will list them in order of importance: Q-tips, granola bars, and shower gel. However, my sister Christina told me that I didn't need to buy the gel because all of that kind of stuff will be taken care of. I lucked out again. But after those great purchases I walked around with some friends and looked at all the cool Spanish stores and discovered a new favorite. The store is called Zara and there's actually one coming to Chicago in October! Wonderful news! It's kind of like J. Crew/Banana but a little more edgy or European? Either way, I had the hardest time not buying a single thing even though there were signs everywhere that said "Rebajas" and if you know me, I do love a good SALE! There was a lilac cardigan there but I resisted and feel a little "not buyer's remorse" but I'll be ok. The second item that I really wanted was a bunny rabbit for $30 Euros at the pet store but I decided my family might not be pleased if I brought him home. But he was so perfect and fluffy! I'll post a pic and it's lame that my first pic in Spain was of a bunny but I feel like such a tourist taking pictures (not that walking around in a huge group of American students doesn't automatically indicate that I'm foreign). But all in all it was good to see a Spanish mall and walk around a bit.

Upon returning home, I discovered that Christina and I will get along quite well. She invited me to go shopping with her on Friday but I'm going to Madrid so I will probably have to pass on this little excursion. But I'm sure we'll go again in the future and I think it would be interesting to see what she likes and then watch her reactions to the things I like. But my family is so much more than I could have asked for and I'm so grateful that they don't have smoke or have small children since those were my main concerns. Well once again, this blog is long so I will end it here and go to bed. Mucho amor de España!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Day 2

Day 2 in Spain was pretty good. I missed breakfast because I was catching up on the sleep that I missed from the previous day. We started out the morning with a meeting with our director Christina that lasted most of the morning. Just basic info and what not and I maybe caught half of it since it was of course, all in Spanish. After that we had lunch and I've discovered that food is a HUGE part of the culture here and I feel like I'm always eating! As I'm writing this blog, I'm eating these roasted almonds that we got from a covent yesterday. They're amazing.

After lunch I took my first "siesta" (nap) because I guess that's what Spaniards do after lunch. I'm all for this lifestyle! After la siesta, we received information about our host families! Finally! I'm living with a family of 4, dad, mom, and two sisters. They live in a "chalet" about 20 minutes walking from my university. They seem really nice and they looked pretty normal in the picture, so I can't wait to meet them tomorrow and start living with them (and unpack all my stuff).

I also had to take a test today to go over my Spanish skills, or maybe lack there of?, but I'm crossing my fingers that I did good. The big purchase of the day was a móvil, cell phone, for 19 Euros which included 12 Euros worth of calling and texting and a set of headphones? Random. It's not the iPhone but it will have to work.

For dinner I had some "Tinto de Verano" a recommendation from a friend back home. It was good but then I was told that we weren't supposed to order alcoholic beverages when we are with our program directors. My bad. That must have been some of the rules that I didn't understand during the meeting. Well it's past midnight and I have to get up early to get my stuff together so I can move in with my family tomorrow. I'm so excited and nervous at the same time, but seeing their picture and getting their information today definitely helped calm some of my fears. But tomorrow is the big day and I can't wait! All my love to you back home!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Hudsonville - Chicago - London - Madrid - Alcalá

I started my adventure off in sunny Chicago. But rewind before that to earlier in the morning when I received a text from a friend saying that our flight had been cancelled. Not good. Omen for the day? Then I couldn't find my European outlet converter. Then I was informed that I couldn't take two carry-ons as I had anticipated. Shoot. Needless to say, I managed to get everything into one carry-on because I'm just that determined. Everything went smoothly at O'hare, both bags were under 23 kg thank goodness, and I even managed to make it through security in under 10 minutes. Little did I know what waited ahead.

The plane ride over wasn't too bad. I wanted to watch Harry Potter, since after all, I was going to the UK. However it wasn't on at the time when I wanted to watch a movie, so I settled for Love Happens. Not a great film, but I did manage to watch a film about penguins for about 2 minutes and it was awesome. After getting off the plane in Heathrow, I discovered that my next flight had a "gate closing" next to it on the big board. What? So my friend and I sprinted through the airport, passing all the Burberry, Gucci, and Duty Free shops, in order to get to the flight. Upon getting to the gate, we were told that the plane wouldn't leave for another 25 minutes. 25 minutes turned into 5 hours later, 2 of which were spent sitting on a plane waiting on the runway. We did manage to get food vouchers for 5 pounds, which I spent on a bagel with cream cheese, an orange, and a water. And I used all 5 pounds. Also, I had to find a way of contacting the program director to let her know that our travel plans had changed, so I had to pay for wifi to e-mail her.

So we did finally manage to make it to Madrid, where surprise surprise no one speaks English. Struggling with all my baggage and trying to find Terminal T1 because that is where our contact would be picking us up, I'm sure I looked pretty dumb. I will laugh about it in a week but my friends and I seriously rode a bus in circles for probably an hour and literally lifted our 50 pound bags in and out of the bus probably 5 times hoping that we would be at T1. Thank God for sending two other girls to have this experience with me! Finally found T1 and no contact lady, so that meant getting a taxi and we tried to fit all of our suitcases into one taxi. Epic fail.

So many Euros later, we finally arrived at our hotel which Gracios a Dios has free wireless. Our director greeted us at the dor and I have never been so happy to hug a stranger! Literally 4 minutes after arriving at the hotel, we were informed that we would be taking a "short" walk around the city of Alcalá. 2 hours later, my toes are frozen but I am so grateful to be alive and here. So all in all a pretty good start to my trip. But on the plus side, I've already made a couple of friends and the first meal wasn't bad. Well I need to get to bed since I've had over 24 hours of travel plus city tour, so I'm pretty beat for one day. Promise that I won't make the blog posts this long in the future. All my love to everyone back home! Besos!