Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Daytrips in Andalucía

These past couple weeks I hadn't really had anything planned so I ended up going on a couple of daytrips in Andalucía so they were close and pretty cheap. First, myself and three other friends went to Cadíz for Carnaval, the pre-Lent festival that pretty much goes on all around the world. Cadíz is definitely the best city in Spain for the festival and it goes on for about 2 weeks. We took a bus there that afternoon and came back very early in the morning and it was amazing. Definitely an experience I won't forget soon.
Here are some pictures from Cadíz:

 (entrance to the city)

 (big plaza in front of the cathedral)

(a chirigota) 
(our makeshift costumes haha)

The Carnaval in Cadíz is known for being the most sarcastic and the wittiest of the carnavals around the world. I didn't really know what that meant before I went but I think I have a slightly better idea now. Everyone there is dressed up in costumes whether it be a mask or face paint or something more elaborate, usually making something in current events. The most iconic part of Cadíz are the chirigotas which are small groups that write and sing songs in the streets throughout the festival. Their songs are apparently famous for being witty and for making fun of politics and such. Carnaval definitely was a crazy experience with the sheer amount of people crammed into this city and it was a lot of fun. I'm glad I had the chance to go. 
The weekend after that we had a more mellow day trip as we decided to take a train to Ronda, a small Spanish town that has some fame because Hemingway spent time there and wrote about it.
Here are some pics:

Ronda is situated on top of some cliffs and the older and newer neighborhoods are separated by a river. It is famous for its beautiful bridges that cross the river. It was a really fun day. It was nice to get out of Granada for a day and explore a random Spanish town that we really knew nothing about. We ended up just walking around all day, grabbing coffee, stopping in a restaurant and then heading back to Granada as nighttime fell.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Dinner the other night

The other night Bret and I made some fish tacos and I think we were pretty proud of them. They came out really good and it was just nice to have actual mexican food for the first time in a very long time. Also, it's just nice to have something that tastes like home every now and then. Especially amidst all the Spanish food and tapas.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

New Year

I know I've been kind of AWOL from the blogging world for the past month and I apologize to all of my fans out there who have been waiting anxiously for more posts (hey Mom). The winter break was a lot of fun. My family came and visited me in Granada and it was awesome to show them around town and give them a taste of what my life is like on this side of the Atlantic. After that Kelsey came after her program in London ended before heading back to the States and I really enjoyed having her here and doing all the touristy things I had done. By that point I knew my monuments of Granada pretty well and I think I made a pretty good tour guide for the time she was here. Anyways, now that I'm back from my brief respite from this blog which I've been so adamant about updating, I'm realizing that the New Year has given me some perspective about my time abroad thus far:

1. Learning a language is hard. You can go months at it and feel like you haven't really improved very much when all of a sudden you realize that you have learned more than you thought... which is both good and frustrating at times. But i guess that's life.

2. Based off that last statement, I will never take for granted how much easier everything is when you are fluent in a language, whether it be going to the movies, asking for directions, making small talk in an elevator, trying to talk in a loud bar, etc. Luckily by now I am feeling comfortable with doing all of these and simply living in a country where I am not fluent. Partly because my Spanish has improved and partly because I have grown more comfortable with being uncomfortable.

3. Which brings me to my next point, being comfortable with the uncomfortable is a very good thing. There is nothing quite as uncomfortable as living in a country where the people speak gibberish (luckily I've moved past this phase but nonetheless my point remains). But after a while of forcing myself to enjoy that feeling of discomfort I can truly say that there is a part of me that likes that nervousness and feeling of discomfort now and I'm proud of that. I think it's something that a lot of people don't necessarily have.

4. Living in Spain feels far more independent than going to college ever did. When I first went to college in the States I felt incredibly independent moving away from home but a big part of me still felt tied to home (which was really nice). It's not that I don't feel tied to home now, but that I just feel more independent on a larger scale. I'm planning trips to other countries, living with semi-random Spaniards in a city my family and friends had never seen until this last month. It's definitely a strange sensation.

5. Which brings me to my last point. Living abroad is more independent but also more difficult. I have absolutely loved my experience here in Spain and there have been so many truly incredible aspects to it so far. Nonetheless, living in a foreign country is also very difficult. While I love experiencing and learning this new culture I think it's easier to get more homesick over time because you're missing out on the things that make you comfortable, whether that be your home and family and friends or something less important like an American cheeseburger. Either way, I have no regrets about being here so far but I'm realizing also how important my home is to me as well in a lot of ways.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Londres, part two

After Scotland, we took a short ride down to London and stayed with Kels for a few days before heading back to Granada.

(Parliament and Big Ben)

(London Eye)

(trafalgar square)

(Christmas tree donated by Norway in trafalgar square)

St. James Park

(Buckingham Palace)

(MI6, where Bond works)

London was really cool as well. It was great to get to explore more of the city and have Kelsey show us around. While we were there we spent one day walking all around the city seeing all the touristy things but it was still a lot of fun to explore.  Also while we were there Kelsey showed us this pub basically dedicated to Winston Churchill with a cool Thai restaurant in the back. We walked through Kensington Gardens on the way there which was fun to see in the fall.  We also went to Borough Market which was a little outside market that sold lots of organic food like cheese and meats; it was fun to walk around and try free samples of different things. I think my favorite thing we did was go to Winter Wonderland. I forgot my camera that night but it was incredible. Hyde Park is filled with a Christmas fair with a market and carnival rides and fried foods, it was great to walk through everything and get in the holiday spirit. I couldn't stop thinking about how much fun it will be to show Kelsey around Granada later this month when she comes to Spain.

Escocia (Scotland)!

November was definitely my hard month for school but as soon as I finished that nonsense I got to start December which is definitely my easiest month for school. We had a break in the very beginning so Bret and I went to Scotland to meet up with Kelsey, we met in Glasgow and spent most of our time in Edinburgh. After that we went to London for a few days before coming back to Granada. It was a good start to a month that should be a lot of fun with my family and Kelsey visiting later on.
Here's some pictures from Glasgow:

(downtown looking all Christmas-y)

(there wasn't much to do there, but this is the world's tallest movie theater that we went to)

Pictures from Edinburgh:

(view of Edinburgh and Arthur's Seat, the mountain in the back that we hikd later on)

(Castle Rock- named because it's a castle on a rock haha)

(view of downtown Edinburgh)

(Bret and Kels in front of the world's largest whiskey collection!)

(view of Arthur's Seat on the hike up)

(view from the top)

Scotland was amazing! I think it was my favorite place I've been so far while I've been in Europe.  Glasgow was a little slow and not super exciting in my opinion but Edinburgh was one of the coolest cities I've seen.  We could walk practically anywhere and there was so much history everywhere you looked. The only downside was how cold it was there, but we sort of got used to that as we were there longer. We did a lot while we were there. We visited the Castle which was really cool, plus we saw the 1 o'clock gun where they fire a cannon at 1 pm every day (it used to be used as a way of telling the sailors what time it was), went on a Scotch Whiskey Experience Tour which was both ridiculous and awesome, got a tour of the underground network of streets that exists intact underneath Edinburgh because it was built over later on, ate some great food including Haggis (sheep's intestine) and neeps (mashed turnips) at some really cool pubs, and went to the Christmas market in town.  My favorite thing we did was definitely hiking Arthur's Seat though. It was a completely ridiculous experience. My shoes had absolutely no traction so as we walked higher up it became snowier and icier til it got to the point where I couldn't move whithout sliding backwards. So for the rest of the hike I wore one of Bret's shoes and completed the hike to a great view of the whole city and the bay. I really loved Edinburgh but I think a huge part of it was hanging out with Kelsey and Bret again.

Friday, November 25, 2011

El Día de Acción de Gracias (Thanksgiving)

Yesterday marked a lot of things, the first time I have ever cooked that much food, a couple days before the three month marker of my time here in Spain and the first time I spent Thanksgiving away from home.  My program has a dinner planned for us tonight, the day after Thanksgiving which I'm really excited for but let's be honest, I couldn't let Thanksgiving pass up without doing something. So Bret and I decided to try our best to make a ton of Thanksgiving food and have two of our better friends from the program over, as well as introducing our two Spanish roomates and one of their girlfriends to this foreign holiday. Bret and I spent a while cooking the food; we made green bean casserole, stuffing, mashed sweet potatoes, and pan fried some turkey because we were too intimidated to cook a whole bird. As well as Bret made an apple pie for dessert the day before and our friends brought some food as well. So we had plenty among the 7 of us.

It was a really fun night all in all. We ate a ton and then hung around. I'm glad I still was able to get that feeling of Thanksgiving thousands of miles away from home. But it was also definitely bittersweet being away from home on a day that everyone associates with family and friends. I definitely have a better appreciation of how lucky I am and how exciting it's going to be to go home.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Spanish University

When I first came to Spain one of the things I was most worried about was the idea of taking classes in a foreign country.  There were so many things that would be different: the language, what type of homework and projects I would be doing, how the professors act and how the other Spanish and international students interact.  So I was definitely nervous.  Luckily, the more time I spend in this institution I realize that it's nothing to sweat too much. It might just be that the University of Granada isn't particularly difficult but it seems generally pretty relaxed. The Spanish students don't really seem to take it as seriously as students in America do. Now this is obviously a huge generalization but I don't intend it to mean that the Spaniards care less about their education, just that there is less intensity and urgency associated with college here.  It's also strange to adjust to the homework. In the US I've always had a lot of consistent homework throughout the week with the occasional project or essay or exam whereas here there seems to be a much larger emphasis on those occasional projects or essays and not so much emphasis on the reading and sidework. It makes it interesting as you go from weeks with hardly any work to do to another week with two huge projects due.  I'm not really sure which system is better. I feel like I definitely learn more in the US but that's hardly fair considering I'm learning it in my native language whereas in Spain the majority of my focus is simply on understanding. But I do enjoy the change and its fun to see how other countries view and approach the idea of education.