Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Elusive Photos from Cartagena

The port

Sitting on the feet of the statue commemorating all those who have lost their lives to the terrorist group ETA (Spain is actually the only European country with an active terrorist organization)

Statue of Cristobal Colon (a.k.a. Christopher Columbus)...He was a lot of places in Cartagena which leads me to believe that he was either from there or he left from there since it is a port city

This is an oil Channukiah from the 15th century.  There was an exhibit on the Jews from Lorca (a town in Murcia)

The Roman theatre.  There was also a Roman ampitheatre (for gladiators and such things) but it was under renovation so we didn't get to see it.

We then finished off the day with seafood and sitting by the Mediterranean sea.

I hope you enjoyed the pictures!  I'm sorry I couldn't get them up yesterday

Monday, September 27, 2010

Mi primer semana de clases y Cartagena

Seeing as last week I was so excited about everything I learned at the Plaza de Toros that I didn't tell you all about my first day of classes, I figured I should do that this week.  
This is the Facultad de Letras (Humanities) from the Plaza de la Universidad

There are actually two campuses for the Universidad de Murcia; La Merced and Espinardo.  La Merced is for Humanities and Law, Espinardo is for everything else (except Political Science and Languages which each have their own buildings apart from both campuses).  La Merced is the original campus so its in the middle of city and Espinardo requires a bus trip...yay for the convenience of being a Lit major!  Speaking of which, I'm taking 5 classes this semester (all literature and all taught in Spanish):
1. Linguistic Commentary on Hispanic Texts
2. The Story from its Origins to 1700
3.  20th Century Spanish Literature
4. Spanish Literature in its Relations to Universal Literature
5. Contemporary Spanish Theatre
So far I'm really enjoying all five of them!  Of course I haven't officially matriculated yet so I don't have access to the online portal where the homework is therefore I haven't had any homework all week.  That may be part of why I'm enjoying myself so much...we shall see!

This weekend (9/25) I also went to Cartagena for the day.  The international relations office organized a trip.  We first went to the top of the city so that we could see everything.  Then we went to the Roman Theatre and Parliament.  Following that we got a lot of free time so myself and a group of girlfriends went out to lunch at a tapas place.  We had really good seafood and drinks.  Then we did a bit of shopping and such things.  We finished out the day sitting by the ocean and chatting.  All in all it was a very relaxing and interesting trip.

Hasta la semana que viene!

p.s. sorry for the lack of pictures this week, my computer is being annoying.  I'll try to upload some later in the week, and they are all on facebook.

Monday, September 20, 2010

En la plaza de toros

This week we had the day off on Tuesday because it was the patron saint of Murcia's day.  If you were chipper enough to wake up at 7:00 in the morning (I was not) there was a special mass at La Catedral with local musicians playing and then they town walked the statue of the virgin up the mountain barefoot.  They walk barefoot as a sacrifice to the virign.  The night before there was also a free concert at the mall from 10:oo pm to about 2:00 am.  I did not attend that either. Although I hear both were excellent.  Instead, I went to the Plaza de Toros on the holiday.  Since it was the last day of La Feria, it was the best three matadors.  Each matador got progressively better, thus the last guy was the best.  And yes, I did watch them kill the bull.  As it turns out, in Spain they always kill the bull, its in South America where there are some Plazas that don't.  It was pretty tough to watch, but it wasn't nearly as horrible as I had imagined it to be, and besides, now I can say I've been to a bull fight.
This is the last matador.  (I tried to upload a video but my internet     sucks)
I think that the bull fighting looks like dancing, but perhaps that it just because I am used to seeing Paso Doble which is   the French interpretation of a Spanish bull fight.  As it turns out there are a lot of rules.  If you notice in the ring there are 2 white circles.  A certain percentage of the fight has to be in each section; so outside the circles, in between the two, and in the middle.  The picaderos (the guys on horses that stab the bull, the least pleasant part to watch) have to be outside the circles.  There are also bandilleros who are the guys with the capes, but they have pink ones.  The matador is one of the bandilleros at the beginning and then he changes his cape to a red one and has a sword.  When he gets the bull tired he tries to kill it.  If he kills it with one stroke and the bull falls instantly he is basically the coolest guy ever and for his troubles he receives the tail and both ears of the bull.  If he kills it with one stroke but it staggers for a little he either gets just the tail or both ears.  If he kills it quickly but with two strokes he gets one ear.  And if he sucks, a.k.a. it takes a long time, he gets nothing.  The first guy got nothing, the second one ear, and the third both ears; and this was just their first try.  They all fought two bulls, but we only stayed for one apiece.  Afterwards we went for cocktails and felt much better about the whole thing, they were strong cocktails.

Hasta la semana que viene!

P.S. This week I also went to the beach and classes started today, however that is not nearly as exciting.

Monday, September 13, 2010

La Feria y Baile

This week was a week of experiencing what La Feria had to offer besides fried blood.

La Feria is of course meant to celebrate the heritage of Murcia and its distinctive qualities, however after spending practically every night there this week I have come to find that it is mostly a celebration of a specific heritage, Los Moros (Arabs).  All the light designs have middle eastern influence as does the traditional clothing.  Up in the kiosk/shopping section they sell Aladdin pants (of which I now own 2 pairs), Chamsas and other middle easter charms, incense, Kebabs, and a lot of other unnecessary articles that one would find in a fair.  Beyond having all this stuff at the fair itself, there was a whole parade dedicated to the symbiosis of Los Moros y Los Cristianos on Saturday night (9/11).

This is one of the King/Queen floats, there were quite a few.

There were also belly dancers, fire jugglers, horses, bands, and large groups of men with scimitars just walking down the street.  I suppose because this is Southern Spain I already knew that there would be a large Arab influence in the history of the region and city, but I never expected that it would still be so prominent today.  It will be particularly interesting to see how much of the influence stays around after the fair ends tomorrow.  
Another huge part of the fair is the international element, and celebrating all different peoples.  Friday night (9/10), to celebrate Rosh Hashana, my friend and I went to the Festival de Folklore Internacional (which is folkloric dance, not storytelling.  However storytelling would be pretty good too).  We saw 5 different cultures perform; traditional Murcian flamenco, Russian polka, African dance from Kenya, Israeli dance, and Austrian dance/bell-ringing.  We got hungry and left before the last two countries which were Panama and Cuba.  It was really cool to have all these cultures sharing a stage.
The week ended with a spectacular rooftop potluck with about 50 international students (I made paella, although I made up the recipe so I'm not sure how authentic it was...it tasted good though!) and then another trip to La Feria for free cake and fireworks!

L'Shana Tovah and Hasta la semana que viene (Look at me with my two language sing-off)

P.S. The sky is so smoky in the fireworks picture because they were shooting them off about 10 yards from where we were sitting.  Safe? I think not

Monday, September 6, 2010

¡A La Playa!

So my first weekend has come and gone, and very successfully I might add.  I spent Friday at orientation and then met up with some friends later in the day to have tapas for dinner and experience the night life of Spain.  We went met up for dinner around 10, found a place around 11 and then hit the clubs at midnight or so.  O Spanish time...

This was duplicated the following night after waking up at 11 am to my fuse being blown.  As it turns out plugging in three adapters is not a good idea, lesson learned.  After frantically discussing how to get electricity back in my apartment with my landlord Antonia, who is amazing by the way, I spent the day in my pajamas recuperating from the night before.  On Saturday night not only did we go out, but we went to La Feria with the landlord's (of a friend's apartment) daughter and her boyfriend.  They took us to the food section and ordered traditional Murcian food for the whole group (about 13 people).  We had a scrambled egg with olive oil, zuchinni, and potatoes, a pork blood thing that was good until we knew what it was, and sausages.  To drink we had Tinto de Verano which is red wine and lemon fanta, I know it sounds gross, but it was delicious!! Finally for dessert, my favorite part of the meal, we had lemon leaves coated with a batter then fried and covered with cinnamon sugar.  The Murcian think it's hysterical that people not from the region don't know that you aren't supposed to eat the leaves, luckily we were told beforehand otherwise we would have been the butt of everyone in the restaurant's joke for a week.   

The Blood Thingys

The next day we went to the playa for our last day of summer, classes began today.  We went to a little town called Alcazáres, about an hour outside of Murcia by bus.  It was really beautiful beach with warm water and it was about 90 degress outside, so it felt good to be the in the water.  There were about 12 of us who went so it was fun and crowded.  

The beach was on Mar Menor which is almost a lake spouting off of the Mediterranean.  Because of the bus schedule on Sunday's we spent over 6 hours there, so we are all much tanner and little bit sunburnt.  Personally, the sunburn is killing me, not because it hurts, but rather it is adding extra heat to my body and its already amazingly hot here.  One of the locals we were talking to said that it doesn't start cooling off until almost December.  Guess I'll be wearing a lot of sundresses and skirts for the time being. 
So lessons learned from the weekend:
1. don't plug in 3 adapters, its not good
2. don't ask what you're eating, just eat it
3. wine + soda = magic
4. don't eat lemon leaves unless you what to be laughed at instead of the one laughing
5. bring lots of sunscreen to the beach, especially when you don't want to add extra body heat

Today not only marked the end of my weekend in Spain, but it was also the first day of classes for our 2 week Spanish Intensive.  It was a fun class.  Today my profe said that she was making it super easy for us so that she could gauge where the class should really be.  We talked about the city and that kind of thing, but while we did so she told us where all the good restaurants and markets were, so that was all good information to have.  To round off the day I cooked my first meal in my new apartment without burning anything down and I ate one of the best eclair's I've ever had from the confiteria (pastry shop) below my apartment!  

Buenas noches a todos.  ¡Hasta la semana que viene!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

My First Day

I reached Murcia at about 2:30 pm after dragging around luggage that literally weighs the same as I do.  I was let into my apartment.
This is the sala (living room)
I paid my rent and went off to unpack and do my own thing in the blistering heat.  At 4 I realized the stores were probably going to close soon and I didn't have any food, so I went on my first adventure.  I found food and I bought my first bottle of Spanish wine (it was really good white and/or Im just too tired to tell the difference)...it took me an hour and a half to find my apartment again.  However, I did meet a nice policeman and a few store owners who helped me find my way back.  Here is what my street looks like:

 to the left of my apartment

 to the right of my apartment.  The first building is the bus stop which is super convenient.

When I did finally get home I finished my unpacking, although my room isn't completely finished yet

If I weren't so tired I would go to the Festival at the Plaza de Toros, but maybe I'll save that for tomorrow night.