Monday, December 13, 2010

Monday blues.

So it's Monday. Not my favorite day of the week. I woke up feeling sick and had my temperature taken with the slowest thermometer in the history of the world. I spent literally ten minutes waiting for it to beep. No fever, but I stayed home from class anyway and now I feel completely fine. I was supposed to hand in a paper today, so María went to the university at the beginning of my class and handed it in for me. She is so cool.

This weekend Irene and Eva went on an overnight trip with a group they are part of, and the house was so quiet. Diego isn't very noisy, especially when he's alone. Irene and Eva left Saturday morning before I woke up, and when I walked out of my room I found their easel chalkboard parked in front of my door. It said something to the effect of "Good night Elise, for tonight and the rest of the nights this weekend. From your flat mates Irene and Eva." Beside her name, Eva wrote "Writing this was my idea".

They make me laugh. On one hand, they are so obnoxious sometimes, because they're kids, but they can also be so sweet. It is obvious that they love having me around, and it makes my life much happier. Diego finally stopped being shy a few weeks ago. Irene spends a lot of time avoiding her homework by talking to me, and Eva is just Eva. Kind of rambunctious and extremely quick to fly off the handle, but when she's done she calms down quickly. All three of the kids think I am hilarious, but mostly when I'm not trying to be funny. They think I make funny faces and the gestures I make when I talk send them into fits of laughter. Like I said, they're kind of obnoxious ;) I can understand why they find it amusing, so I tend to forgive them. Besides, how can I not when they do cute things like write me notes before they leave for overnights?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Gambas y gulas

Tonight we had gambas and gulas for supper.  Gambas are prawns.  Prawns are basically a larger version of shrimp.  In Spain, or at least at my house, they are cooked whole and then you remove the meat from the thorax (kind of like eating lobster I think).  I’ve never been much of a fan of seafood, so I was quite wary of the little prawns and their beady black eyes and antennae. 

Then there were the gulas.  They are quite weird-looking.  Refer to the picture below for proof.  As I found out from a Wikipedia search, gulas are imitation baby eels.  In Spain, baby eels are a delicacy, and are cooked in olive oil with garlic and some kind of spicy red pepper.  Unfortunately for the majority of the population, it is difficult to fish for baby eels, so they are extremely expensive.  Thus, we were eating imitation baby eels.  I think they creep me out much less than the real thing would—at least the fake ones don’t have eyes!

The verdict?  The shrimp were disgusting, but the fake eels were pretty good.  We had a really funny moment when I asked how I was supposed to eat the shrimp and I didn’t know the Spanish word so María told me in English.  She said I should lick them, and I couldn’t help it--I burst out laughing. I had this mental image of me licking this dead shrimp with its eyes and antennae and it was equally disgusting and hilarious.  When I demonstrated what licking was, they all burst out laughing.  Then we figured out that what María meant was “suck.”  So I peeled off the hard shell and sucked out the fleshy part, and immediately wanted to spit it out.  It tasted so gross, at least to me.  I was also mentally transported back to dissecting crayfish in high school.  Gross.  Normally I am not a picky eater—I’ve tried quite a few things here, and have liked almost all of them.  I have eaten a lot of fish, even though it’s not my favorite thing.  I just think seafood tastes disgusting.  So I swallowed the shrimp as quickly as I could and declared that I was not eating any more.  Antonio is convinced that the shrimp was undercooked and insists that if I try them when we have them at Christmas I will change my mind.  I think he’s wrong but I am game to try them one more time.

The fake eels were really good.  In reality, it is probably because they don’t taste like anything, except olive oil and garlic.  It almost feels like cheating, but I am glad we can’t buy the real thing.  I don’t think I would like real baby eels.

Today was the first day of a six day weekend for me!  Monday is the Day of the Constitution, when Spain signed its constitution, and Wednesday is the Immaculate Conception, so we have Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday off.  I will have class on Thursday, and another three days without class.  I am glad to have a break and also a chance to catch up on homework a little. 

Tomorrow I am going to bake chocolate chip cookies with the kids.  Eva and Diego have are going to run a race in the morning and Irene is going to meet with her friends but in the afternoon they will all be home to bake cookies.  They are excited, and so am I.  We’re going to have to improvise a little since María couldn’t find chocolate chips.  Instead we’re just going to cut chocolate bars into pieces.  We also don’t have brown sugar and will be using raw cane sugar instead.  I’m hoping it turns out because I love chocolate chip cookies.

There are only 20 days left until classes end, and then we have finals.  I am nervous but also excited for the break.  I’ll have three weeks without classes before the next semester starts, and it is going to be amazing.  Until then, I will be studying like a crazy person..

Thursday, October 14, 2010

El Patillas

Happy Thursday!  I don’t have class on Fridays, so tonight I went out with a couple of people.  We went to this bar called “El Patillas.”  It’s called El Patillas because the bartender has some serious sideburns going on.  It turns out that it is the go-to place for people looking to hang out and play music.  We spent a good couple of hours listening to a group of people playing the guitar and singing—not drunken singing, but seriously impressive vocals and musicianship.  At some point, I got hijacked into a conversation in with a Spanish guy who was rocking a mullet and looking to practice his English.  I also found out it’s common for people to roll their own cigarettes here.  Maybe I’m just sheltered, but I’d never seen it done before.  Overall, a good experience.

Classes have been ridiculous thus far.  Not because they’re actually ridiculous, mostly because I don’t know what’s going on.  The Spanish students are pretty good about translating.  I turned in my first paper yesterday!  I hope I don’t get an F.

I went to Astorga and Leon this past weekend with some friends.  They are both really beautiful cities.  We went to Astorga on Saturday and Leon on Monday (we didn’t have class.)  Both days I got up at 5 a.m. to catch the bus—it was exhausting!  My sleeping on the bus skills are definitely improving.

This weekend I am looking forward to relaxing and hopefully getting some homework done.  It takes four times as long, since I have to work so hard to translate the Spanish.

My biggest fear right now:  lice.  Diego said his teacher warned them today that some kids in the school have lice.  I was shocked, but Eva has had them two times.  I guess it’s common here.  Now I am praying that I don’t get them.

I am sooo excited right now, because my mom and brother are coming to visit me at the beginning of November!  I'm waiting impatiently.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Time flies, whether you're having fun or not...

...but don't worry, I'm having fun. The past two weeks have flown, and now I've been here a month. I've been going to class, among other things. Last Monday classes started for the first-year students. I've been going to classes for second-year students, but decided to switch, which means I basically started over on Monday. It felt a little messed up to be going to the first day of class the second time around. So far it's been good. The teachers are, for the most part, nice and helpful. I'd venture to say that I understand about 75% of what goes on in class, on a good day, so I have gotten really frustrated and bored during several 2-hour class periods. I can tell it's getting easier, though, and this week my goal is to bond with some real live Spanish students :p

Last weekend, the 16th, 17th, and 18th of September, I took the bus to Barcelona with a couple of my friends. We left Burgos at 11 p.m. Thursday night and arrived in Barcelona at 7 a.m. on Friday. We spent all day Friday and all day Saturday in Barcelona, and got back to Burgos at 4 a.m. on Sunday morning. Barcelona is a beautiful city, and it's huge. In our two days, we barely even scratched the surface. Dokia, one of the girls I went with, is doing a project about Antonio Gaudí, an amazing Spanish architect, for her major. Since Gaudí's works are primarily in Barcelona, we spent most of our time visiting some of them. We saw La Sagrada Familia (a church), La Casa Batlló, which is a house/apartment that Gaudí was commissioned to redesign, and La Casa Milá, an apartment building. We also spent an hour in Park Guell, which Gaudí designed. All of his work is absolutely amazing and unique. My favorite was the Casa Batlló. We saw a few other things and got acquainted with the metro system. One weird thing about Barcelona--there aren't really skyscrapers. In the U.S. you can always tell where downtown is by the skyscrapers, but the parts of Barcelona that I saw were more or less level.
View from Park Guell. The tall spires are the towers of La Sagrada Familia, and in the distance you can see the ocean.
Yesterday was the first day that has seemed cold to me here. It was probably around 60 degrees, but it seemed pretty chilly to me. Today Diego and Eva had a race for their running club in a nearby town. I was freezing! All I had was a sweatshirt. I'm hoping it gets warmer, but I'm guessing it won't. Oh well.

I'm hoping to have a chance to blog again this week sometime. I've been pretty lazy about it so far, but I will try to be more consistent.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The beach, school, running, and a shot of homesickness

Today was my fourteenth day in Spain. It’s only been two weeks, but it feels like so much longer. Here is a little of what I’ve been up to:

Last weekend my host family and I hit up San Sebastián. I saw the ocean for the first time and it was super amazing. We swam in it every day, and I enjoyed it immensely. San Sebastián is beautiful, and I bonded with my host family a lot. Since arriving, I have met a lot of different people—María and Antonio’s siblings, friends, and relatives. When you meet someone for the first time, it is Spanish tradition to kiss them on the cheeks, both left and right. It was weird to me at first but now I am getting used to cheek kisses, and it’s actually a nice way to do things.

Monday classes started, but it has been anything besides simple. Registering for classes here has been one of the most confusing things I’ve done thus far. I am still not completely sure of my schedule. Every other international student I have talked to is having the same issue, and even the Spanish students think it is confusing. I did manage to attend a few classes this week, despite the confusion. I have a little trouble following everything that is going on, but the teachers are helpful and the classes are small. As they say here, I will learn “poco a poco,” a little at a time.

I didn’t have class yesterday, so I slept in. In the afternoon, I went downtown and met up with a few of my friends, and we went shopping. Normally I’m not much of a shopper, but here it is addicting—I can’t seem to get enough of it. Unfortunately, money doesn’t grow on trees, so this shopping habit is ending now :)

Last night was María and Antonio’s 16th wedding anniversary, so we went to a nearby pueblo and ate out. We had deep-fried squid, salad, and some other tapas, which are like appetizers. It was delicious, and overall a very good night. There was a festival going on in the pueblo, so after supper the kids and I rode the bumper cars. We finally arrived home at around 11:30 p.m.

Diego and Eva, the two youngest children, are involved in atletismo, which is kind of like track, but only for running. They had a “track meet” of sorts today, and both of them won their respective races. It was exciting, and I got to meet and cheek kiss a bunch more relatives.

Today I was a little homesick. The countryside where I am is similar to the prairie, with a few more trees. There are cottonwoods here, and some of the grasses are the same, but they don’t make me feel closer to home. Instead, they emphasize the distance. I really miss driving my car, and of course I miss all of my people.

So I’m homesick, but I don’t want to end this blog on a sad note, because homesickness is manageable. It is much easier now to communicate than it was 10 or 20 years ago, and I am thankful for that. It has been a really good two weeks, and I know it can only get better as school gets underway. I was quite shocked to realize tonight that today is September 11. It is strange to me to be in a foreign country, remembering all the things that happened in my own country on this day.

I also think I should mention that I walked four miles today. Personally, I find it quite impressive :D

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The first week in Spain!

I arrived in Spain Saturday, August 28th. I've been here a little over three days, but it seems like a lifetime since I left the States. My host family has been absolutely awesome so far. They helped me figure out all my paperwork stuff for temporary residency and they even bought me a swimsuit for my birthday yesterday. The family is made up of the parents, María and Antonio, and their three kids, Irene (12), Eva (10), and Diego (8). The kids love playing cards, so we have been doing a lot of that, in between swimming and running errands. Eva is super competitive and almost died of excitement when she beat me at Egyptian War, a card game. I taught them it yesterday and they are in love with it. I have my own room on the 4th floor of their house/apartment. It's not very wide but is quite tall. We eat supper at around 10 every night. The food so far has been delicious, except some weird mushroom-like things we had last night.

Tomorrow we are leaving for a family vacation to San Sebastián in the north of Spain. We're also going to hit up France since it is close by. It's weird to be going on a family vacation with a family that isn't mine, but I'm optimistic. This trip will be the first time my first time seeing the ocean. When I told them I had never seen the ocean, all the kids were like, "NEVER?!?!?!" Spain is about the size of ND and SD put together, so they don't get how big the US is. We'll return from San Sebastián Sunday.

I can already tell my Spanish is improving. At first my Spanish was awkward. I've said some stupid things, but they're pretty good about not laughing at me. Classes start Monday, September 6th, but I don't get to register until the 7th.. It will work out I guess. 

Spain has been positive so far. I am looking forward to an awesome year and awesome people. Tonight I'm going out for tapas with another girl who is here from NDSU, to celebrate our first week in Spain and my 21st birthday. ¡Yay for tapas!