Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Beauty of Granada

This series of photos have been taken over the weeks I have been here. My roomie and I take walks after lunch sometimes and we run into some of the most beautiful sceneries.

The main form of transportation

The fountains at The Alhambra

Quaint streets

Iglesia de Las Angustias

Beautiful graffiti

This street was featured in the news one night. A significant other wrote I Love You in several different languages along a street to celebrate a one year anniversary.

Stunning buildings

Posters for the Huelga General Sept. 29th, 2010
Fountain along the street

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Gatitos, Gitanos, y Guiris

As I have started to become more accustomed to the environment here I have noticed a few things that are kinda funny to me.

1. Gatitos

If you do not speak spanish, gatitos or gatos are cats. There are cats frickin everywhere here! Most of them are annoying, but others are really cute. On our way to a friends birthday party we were walking along the river and you could hear the mews from the cats everywhere. They live in the shadows here...creepy.

2. Gitanos

With the current French controversy and my new found interest in gypsies I thought that this would be a fitting post. Similarly to the cats in this city...the gypsies are EVERYWHERE! I've been trying to sneak a few pictures...but they ask for money if you get a real good one. It has become somewhat of a joke that the perfect gypsy is the one that has a patterned scarf around their head and gypsy looking garb. I am still on the hunt for my perfect gypsy. However, I must admit that it is sad to see a group of people so marginalized in most European countries. What France is doing is only going to stir ethnic issues and cause more problems in the long run.

Ok...this gypsy is pretty close to being perfect.

3. Guiri

Americans are not called gringos here! But...dang...they should be! Guiri is a name for all of the foreigners here. I must admit it is hard to spot an American here...but there are so many popular hang-outs the Americans have adopted that it is not hard to find one. The first few weekends it was easy to pick out the guiri's because - like freshman college students - they hung out in large packs and roamed the city with their perfectly coiffed hair and slacks. Some of the more popular locations for this foreign group are the Chupiteria (they like their cheap shots), the Botellon (good place to socialize and meet other guiri's), and Granada10 (American music galore). Guiri's know that they are being photographed so I only was able to take two from some of the more common stomping grounds.

At a local bar called Hannigan's...its Irish, go figure.

At Granada10

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Death Breath & Chatty Cathy & Bizcas, Scooters, Graffiti, Colón, and My Señora

As I am starting to acclimate to my new home I have come across a few interesting people/places/things AKA "nouns" so far. Each one is unique and interesting all at the same time. For sake of organization I will make a list of each of these "nouns" I have in the title.

1. Death Breath & Chatty Cathy & Bizcas

These three things are the people that are in my intensive Spanish class.

Death Breath is so friendly and helpful, but as her new nickname explains...she has breath of death. Because we sit on the side of the classroom, her direct air movement is in my direction. Barf...

Chatty Cathy is also very nice, but everything that is written up on the board she whispers "quietly" to herself. It is a small frickin classroom and me, sitting 2 seats over, can hear all of her "internal" conversation. I honestly wonder if she can't hear herself.

Bizcas have become entertainment for me over the past few days. These girls obviously have a huge stick up their bums and its called entitled spanish learning slooots. Whenever anyone, mostly me, makes a mistake in class their eyes roll around in their heads as though they are not even connected. I feel like going up to them and letting them know that if they keep doing that they are gonna go cross-eyed - hence the name, bizcas.

The building where my Spanish class is held

2. Scooters

With a population of about 230,000 people, there must be about double that amount driving around. I would have thought that the advancement of technology would also translate to the scooter world, but I think I was wrong. These things emit toxic gasoline smells, they sound like a billion flies, and they cause their drivers to drive absolutely horrible.

I have only been in this city for one week and I can't even count the times I have looked both ways on the street and then found my self jumping back because some dummkopf came out of no where.

This is a photo of a dumb scooter that hit the back of a car. I think I captured the emotion of the driver quite well LOL.

3. Graffiti

The city is pretty much covered with tags and some rather crappy artistic murals of graffiti. I think it makes the city looked much more run-down than it is, but it also adds character. People tag the funniest things and add the weirdest stuff to advertisements and signs.

My favorite tag was on suggested stretches in the Garcia Federico Lorca Park. All around the park they have signs that have stretches on them...and all of them are tagged. It might just be my immature humor, but they are all really funny. These photos are taken from the street close to my house and the park.

4. Colón

After elementary school I thought it wasn't popular to think Christopher Columbus was cool...apparently Spain did not get the message. The main meeting spot for our AIFS group is at the Plaza Isabela la Catolica (photo below). My professor talks about Colón as though he saved the New World from savages. It always makes me laugh.

5. My Señora

To my luck I was placed in a vegetarian house. My roommate and house mother are strict vegetarians and I...waver...Besides that, I am loving the much broader vegetarian food my Señora makes that I never thought of. As I am getting to know her better I have come to the conclusion she is a hippie. She does everything almost all-natural and her exercise consists of Yoga and Tai Chi. During one dinner conversation we talked about the effectiveness of positive thinking. At another dinner conversation we discussed the techniques of breathing and how it rejuvenates the body.

I haven't been able to sneak any creeper pix of her yet...but hopefully one of these days. She is the cutest thing and comes up to my shoulder.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

My New Home

My initial reaction of Granada was mixed. The city has a gasoline smell, it can get very hot, and it is kinda dirty and smelly at times. I am not used to the lack of foliage and just plain ol' grass. There are apartments everywhere and buzzing scooters whipping around corners. Women are beautiful and tan and all the men look like models. There is no air conditioning in most places and people are frugal with their electricity. People hang out at bars and outdoor restaurants and not their homes. It is a common greeting to kiss on both cheeks. The accent is heavy and people are very direct. To get from one side of the city to the other you have to walk. There is no carpet in the homes and you have to wear flip flops or slippers everywhere. Most people look very european and there are hardly any foreigners.

One thing I do know for sure, I'm not in Minnesota anymore.

Whatever my initial and continuing reaction of the city may be, I am loving the change. I do not feel like a tourist in this city and it is starting to feel like home. Surprisingly, the language switch came very easily for me and I do not feel foolish making mistakes.

My Señora is patient and always eager to correct and help. She makes the most wonderful mix of Italian and Spanish food. Her accent is easy for me to understand because she is from Argentina and has a much more neutral accent. My roommate is awesome and we get along great. The three of us have a great time at our hour-long lunches and dinners.

Walking everywhere has given me a new appreciation for motorized vehicles and my bike. It was only yesterday (Sept. 4) that I developed my first blister.

The life here is amazing. Most people have lunch at 2pm. We eat at 2:30pm because our class schedule. After lunch, because it is so hot outside, people generally take a siesta or just stay indoors. Most of the time I sleep for an hour or three and wake up to go run some errands or go for a walk.

Dinner starts at 9pm - sharp! This is usually a smaller meal, but every time I am full up to my ears!

Life here goes until the sun comes up the next morning. When my roomie and I returned from a night out with friends at 1:30am my Señora seemed worried.

Below are some pictures so far of my life here :) enjoy...

My desk/armoire

My armoire

My bed

Our room

The view from my window

Another view from my window

View of River Genil below my window

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The First Time English Sounded Like a Foreign Language

After the seven, almost eight, hour flight to London I was feeling cramped and nervous. I had yet to see anyone with an AIFS luggage tag and while waiting in the customs line I only saw asian students going to another program.

Once I got through customs/baggage claim it felt like the tunnel of love walking through all of the families waiting outside of the secured zone. I searched the crowd hoping to find a sign or person that was from AIFS and I finally spotted an AIFS representative. I went up to the younger looking man and told him I was with AIFS. He responded, but I honestly thought he was speaking a different language. Umm...bollocks.

I finally understood his directions and I came to meet him behind the guard rail. I met a few other people from my program, but the majority in our flight arrival group were going on the Salamanca trip. After about 2 hours we finally went outside to meet our fancy Mercedes coach that brought us to the hotel. At this point we still had not received a room because other guests were still checking out. Most of this day is pretty blurry to me. I was exhausted and cold and had no idea how to get anywhere.

After a quick nap my roomie and I explored the area close to our hotel went to the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Natural History Museum. Later on in the day we met up with a few other people in our program and took the tube(subway) to Leicester Square for dinner.

London was starting to become a great experience and I couldn't wait for the next morning for our 3 hour tour of the city.

We started the tour early in the morning and visited all the major places of central London. I took over 400 pictures alone on the 3 hour tour, but I will post a few of my favs.

St. Paul's Cathedral

London Bridge

Buckingham Palace

After the tour we were dropped off in Covent Gardens to explore the rest of the city. My friends and I stayed here for about 2 hours then took the tube to the British Museum. At this point most of us were really tired so we saw the Rosetta Stone and walked over to the Impression Room and sat for almost an hour. Afterwards, we REALLY wanted to ride one of the red buses so we found one and hopped on.

For a while we were riding around the city, then most of us in our group fell asleep. After the jet lag and busy day of walking we were like zombies on the bus. It probably looked odd seeing a bunch of students sleeping with their heads bobbing around on a city bus. We got to the end of the line and took the bus back to a tube station.

It was my goal for the night to find a place that had fish & chips. Didn't matter where or how much, but I needed my frickin' fish & chips. With a slightly larger group we made our way to a place called Waxy O'Connors close to Picadilly Circus. The door of the Pub made it seem like a hole in the wall, but it was an underground pub that went about 2 stories deep. I found my fish & chips and feasted.

After dinner another girl and I broke off from the group and took the tube further east to King's Cross; the station where Platform 9 3/4 is set. When we got there we could not find 9 3/4. There was also a mother and daughter there looking for it. We finally found a train attendant and he directed us to another area where there was a cute little set of the platform.

Our night ended after we got some ice cream in Leicester Square and went back for a few hours sleep before our 6:30am flight to Malaga.

Last night in the great U S of A

I thought it would be best to leave from Chicago in order to save about $100 on my airfare and see René one last time. However, it required that my parents and I once again drive seven hours to the windy city. About 30min into our drive I realized I forgot my tickets...probably the most important thing. My bad.

We rolled into the city around 5pm and met René at his apartment. I must say we had a fun filled night with Papi driving around in circles and farkel-ing while waiting for dinner.

The next morning I finished packing and moving around my luggage in order to keep it under 50lbs (at home it weighed in at 62lbs. with 4lbs. of shampoo and conditioner...oops!) We rode the red to blue line to the O'Hare airport. While waiting to check-in I weighed my bag in an open line and it came in at 49LBS!!!! It was one of the greatest moments in my life. Packing for 5.5 months into 49lbs. and 2 carry-ons felt awesome!

Once we got to check-in I asked if my parents could accompany me through security, but :(. We hung out outside of security for a few hours until it was time to go.

My flight left Chicago at 5:10 and arrived in London about 6:40 (London time) which is 12:40 US time. Jet lag is the weirdest thing in the is disorienting and confusing all at the same time.

The rest of my London adventure will pick up in the next post!

Pack it up Pack it in, let it begin!

Welcome to m blog about my study abroad in Granada, Spain. I wanted to wait until I received my new camera to post on the blog so there would be some photos too.

I am so excited to discover a new country and a new culture. It will be an experience I will never forget. At the same time, I am worried that I won't make friends, or my host family is weird, or my roommate smells funny, or nobody understands my humor, or nobody thinks that being awkward is funny...I guess the normal worries about a new place.

The weirdest part is that this is not a vacation or like freshman year of college...but something completely different.

Stayed tuned for more posts and more pictures!