Monday, November 29, 2010

Gobble, Gobble...Is that what turkey's say in Spain?

Happy Thanksgiving!
Yes, I know that I am not in the USA, however I did remember that it was Thanksgiving and I did celebrate with all my American friends (plus a bunch of Italians, 2 Poles, 1 guy from England, 1 French girl, and 1 Murcian).  It was a lot of fun.  We did it potluck style and somehow one of my friends did manage to find a turkey.  My contribution was a caramel apple pie.  The recipe is actually really easy! Combine 1/2 a cup brown sugar, 1/2 a cup white sugar, 6 tbsp unsalted butter, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 cup of water, and a pinch of salt in a pot until boiling.  Then you turn it off at let cool for a few minutes.  Then you pour it over the pie, making sure the lattice is completely covered.  Bake at 425 for 15 minutes and then 350 for 30-40 minutes, or until the pie is done.  I kept the skins on the apples too, making it even easier!  Besides apple pie and turkey we also had other kinds of pie, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, veggies, stuffing, and the English guy brought Yorkshire pudding.  It was a great night!
Unfortunately the weekend festivities ended there because it rained all day Friday and Saturday and I had no desire to get all dressed up just to be wet and cold.  So I stayed in and watched movies.

On Sunday it was finally a really pretty day so Cristina, Caleb and I met up with some of their friends (1 from Italy and 2 from Spain) to go to the Santuario de la Fuensanta (where they keep the patron saint of the city when she's not down here in September for la Feria).   We wandered around the Santuario and then we went hiking, also known as trail blazing because there weren't actually any hiking trails.  It was a lot of fun and it was nice to be outside the city and playing in the sun (especially since its been raining all day today too...not cool.  I distinctly remember being told that it doesn't rain very much in Murica)

Caleb, me, Pablo, Giulia (in back) and Rsoa and Cristina (in front)

I promise this was a cameo....
And that was basically my weekend.  Also, you could see the cathedral from the Santuario and so because my camera can do this...
And in case you can't get enough of my witty blog banter I was published on a travel blog for women so feel free to read that too! Spanish Men Shout Machismo 

¡Hasta la semana que viene! (but not until Wednesday because I will be traveling next you don't get to know where to, that would ruin next week's blog entry)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sailing, sailing over the bounding main!

First of all, I had no idea that those were the actual words to that song...I'm not sure what I thought the words were, but it wasn't that.  Secondly, thanks for all the internet hugs this past week! It really meant a lot to me and I'm internet hugging you all back!
So this week was better than last in terms of emotions, school-work however...yucky.  I have an exam later tonight in literature.  Who takes a literature exam?! I know I haven't taken one since sophomore year of high school and those were kind of a joke (sorry if any of my high school teachers read this...).  This presented quite an issue in terms of studying, which I'm still not sure I did right, but with 2 hours until the exam  I guess I probably shouldn't think about that.  I also have a voluntary paper due before Christmas break (which I'm doing so that I have more to grade than just my final exam in June).  So I've been a hermit this week, reading and studying and writing...basically just being a lit major. The one thing that I did do, which is also super exciting is I got adopted! Not literally...sorry Daddy you do still have to pay my tuition, but adopted nonetheless.  I answered an email from the father of the family, Javier, who works at the school and wanted an American student to come help his girls (Elena 9, Piti 8, Carla 6) with their English (they go to a bilingual elementary school).  I went over there on Friday (the 19th) and hung out with the girls, and stayed for dinner.  Their Mom, Piti, is a fantastic cook and said she would teach me how to make Spanish food and I'm going to teach her how to make American food.  Her dad is also from Andalucia so she knows how to dance Sevillano (which is like Flamenco but softer) and she said she would teach me that too!  Then they invited me to go sailing with them on Saturday.  We went to their house in Santiago de la Ribera and had the most amazing churros ever! Then we went sailing.
Me with the girls and their dad...apparently I suck at driving a boat

Me with the was quite cold and windy actually

Me with the girls and their Mom.
We had a lot of fun.  After sailing we went for a walk up the beach and then we went out for lunch.  We ate, in true Spanish fashion, a HUGE lunch.  We had fried calamari, bocarrones (which are a small white-fish that were pretty good...although that might be because they were fried), octopus, paella, cheesecake, tinto de verano, coffee, and a digestive shot.  Throughout the whole day we alternated speaking English and Spanish so everyone got to practice.  It was soo much fun! I can't wait to spend more time with them.

¡Hasta la semana que viene!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Mom left this week, so sorry in advance...

This week has definitely been my hardest one so far, emotionally I mean.  Throughout the week I had a lot of fun showing my mom the city and my daily life.  She even came to class with me!  Wednesday night we went out with my roommates for drinks (at this really cool bar called El Bosque, they make the best mojitos) and dinner.    
On Thursday I took her to the open-air market (it's not a farmer's market I've's just a regular market, but outside.  I was corrected by a friend of mine).  Then I cooked dinner, unfortunately I also started feeling quite ill while I was cooking so I didn't actually get to enjoy any of it.  Basically it was a really relaxing week of getting to show my mom the city and the fun places to eat and what I do with my life.  Mom left early Friday morning, we said goodbye Thursday night.  I spent all day in bed being sick and sad.  Saturday I didn't do a whole lot outside of catching up on the homework I was supposed to do on Friday and then I went to an "American-style party" hosted at a friend's house.
The theme was "Back to the Jungle" or something along those lines.  We went out dancing and I got home at 6:45 am on Sunday.  Woke up at 2:45, did more homework and then went back to sleep.
Fairly uneventful weekend.  The fun really started this morning though.  I woke up not feeling well again, and I hurt my heel somehow or other so that sucked, but I went to class anyhow because I missed all my Monday classes last week.  I had to go to the Secretaría (Registrar) because on SUMA (the online university portal thing) I don't have access to one of my classes.  It is a first year course so there are 2 groups, according to my last name I am in the 2nd group, but I was told that didn't matter for international students, so my class is actually in the 1st group.  On SUMA I had access to the right materials up until this weekend.  So I went in to ask them to change it and they were less than helpful and basically told me that there was absolutely nothing I could do.  I then went over to the international affairs office to fix it and immediately burst into tears as I was telling the secretary what happened.  Not a pretty sight, and not a good morning.  It's probably just because this time most years I'm getting ready to go home for Thanksgiving, but this year I don't get to go home until July.  It's not a particularly heart-warming thought.  I know I shouldn't be complaining, I'm living in Europe for crying out loud! But still...You gotta go home every now and then.  Definitely had that moment of severe homesickness when Mom was leaving of "why can't I go too?"  Anyhow, I'm sorry to make you all read about my depressing morning, but that's really all I got for this week.

¡Hasta la semana que viene!  Hopefully it will be a happier one

Monday, November 8, 2010

When the family comes to town...

See I promised I would be on time this week!  This was a week of waking up early and traveling around the country that I've actually been living i for 2 months.  I actually went to class on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week and then Thursday I went to Granada for the day.  Not something I would normally recommend, but well worth it in this case...I got to see one of my best friend Laura (who I haven't actually seen in person since we were on the same trip to Panama 4 years ago) and meet her fiance Matt (who is studying at the University of Granada)  I took the bus from Murcia to Granda at 8 in the morning, arrived at the Gran Via (there were actually two buses involved in this.  One to Granada and another from the bus station to the Gran Via) at about 12.  We then wandered around the city, did a little shopping, ate some lunch, and did some more shopping.  After that we spent quite a bit of time in the Casablanca tea house (which if you know me at all made me very excited) just chatting and catching up.  Then I left to catch my bus back to Murcia at 6 I ended up spending as much time in Granada as on the bus, but it was definitely worth it!  
Friday I woke up early again, this time to go to the immigration office to pick up my residency card (a.k.a I am officially a resident of Spain until September of next year!).  Then my mom came to visit!!! There was a moment of panic when it was 2 hours after her plane was to arrive and she still hadn't called.  It turns out that her phone doesn't work in Spain, something about there are 4 international bandwiths and her phone doesn't have the one that works here, so she was driving lost through the city.  Finally I called the hotel to find out that she had already checked in, so I just walked over there. 
On Saturday we went to Amería (a town on the way to Granada) for the day.  We saw the fort and wandered around the city, fairly lost since the tourist office wasn't open.  We then made our way back to Murcia and had a nice dinner at the hotel.  Sunday, was our day of adventure though....
We began the day with a drive to Lorca, which was actually rather uneventful.  Then we had to figure out how to get into the city, since there are about 4 exits into the city.  Once we did end up in the right place we found the tourist office, where they gave us a HUGE map (so big Mom didn't need her glasses to read it) and we made our way up to the castle fort.  By "made our way up" I mean we hiked on a small road near a cliff.  Once we arrived at the fort we watched a movie narrated by an animated baby falcon named Ben Sakar (meaning Son of Falcon) who told us about the history of the fort.  We then went in a time machine.  It wasn't quite what I had expected.  I always assumed they would be much faster, alá Dolorian, and much more interesting.  This was not.  However, since we are the only people I know who have been in a time machine I can't complain too much.  After being transported to the 13th century we started walking around the fort with our audio guides (included in the price).  We reached the top of the tower and met a new friend.
After hanging out with Pedro we finished our tour of Lorca and went to the beach at Águilas for a picnic (without wine...very odd occurence for our family).  We then went on a back country road from Águilas to Cartagena where Mom proved that just how good she was with a stick-shift by getting a speeding ticket.  We finally made it back to Murcia where we had an early dinner because the next morning (today) we went to Alicante to see my grandparents who are taking a cruise around Spain and happened to dock in Alicante (about 45 minutes north of Murcia) today.  
We spent the day walking around the old city and had lunch.  My grandparents also met the King of Beach (Ivan, from England) who was building a really intense Mayan temple out of sand and asked me out (and I'm absolutely going out with image of my Spanish boyfriend was indeed a 30something beach bum with dreadlocks from England (if you did not pick up on the sarcasm you suck at life)).  Then my grandparents went back to the boat and we came back to Murcia, and I actually went to class (or at least one of them). 

That's it for this week.
¡Hasta la semana que viene! 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Krakow and Osweiçsm

Once again I have been remiss and am late in posting what happened this week.  I apologize.  The majority of that is due to the fact that I still do not have working internet, however in addition I was not quite sure how to tackle this post.  This past week I participated in the first Study Abroad Program (by this I mean American students studying abroad in Europe) through the Auschwitz Jewish Center.  Let me begin by saying that this was simultaneously the best and worst thing that I have ever done.  It was an amazing experience I will never forget, and I got to see the city of Krakow which I probably would not have done otherwise and Krakow is an beautiful city.  On the other hand it was very difficult to see and study the camps and the history behind while simultaneously seeing and living in the towns that harbored them.  It definitely solidified the concept that this could have happened in any town had the conditions been right, it is not something specific to central Europe.  Before I begin going into the details of the trip I will tell you that I will not be posting any pictures of the camps nor of the ghettos and the museums; however, if you would like to see them just let me know and I will email them to you.
Thursday: After a very long day of travel, partly because I had to fly across the entirety of the continent and partly because my flight was delayed due to the fact that I flew over France (yes I said over...because of the strike there are only 84 air control towers working in the whole country so all the flights have to be staggered exactly right), I arrived in Krakow.  Luckily in the airport I ran into 3 other girls from the program as well so the four of us shared a taxi to the hotel.  Since we were late, because of the whole France thing, everyone else had already left for dinner so we met up with one of the directors who waited for us and then we joined the rest of our group.  The group was comprised of 13 students, Jews and a few non-Jews, who were interested in the Holocaust for a variety of reasons.  We had a very nice welcome dinner with typical Polish food (cream of mushroom soup and pierogies (Polish dumplings) with coffee and cake for dessert) and then we headed back to the hotel.
Friday: We journeyed around the city, particularly the old Jewish quarter and ghetto.  Before the war there were about 600,000 Jews living in Krakow (the largest population in Poland after Warsaw), today there are 160.  The picture is of one of the old synagogues.  It is the only synagogue in the whole city that is still in use today (thus the cars outside).  The Jewish cemetary is also there with a beautifully artistic memorial to the lives lost in the Holocaust.  The Nazis used the gravestones of Jews as building materials and so when the community re-established itself after the war they used the pieces they could find and built a wall commemorating the lives lost.  We also went to the ghetto.  In the ghetto there were a bunch of metal chairs in the main square, which we initially thought was just convenient.  As it turns out they are a part of a piece of modern art installed there in the mid-90s.  Apparently the artist was inspired by a story told by the one non-Jew allowed to remain in the ghetto, a pharmacist, who said that when the Nazis came to liquidate it they had to burn all the furniture in a warehouse, but they wanted to keep the building.  So what they did was throw all the furniture into the square.  The piece of art is meant to commemorate this man, remember this story, and symbolize the emptiness left behind when the Jews were forced to leave Krakow.  After this we went to Oskar Schindler's factory, Schindler's list, where there is a museum today.  It was perhaps the most well-done museum I have ever been to.  I suppose museum is even the wrong word to describe it, it was an experience.  There were audio recordings, the lights changed depending upon the room, the walls were covered.  It was also set up so that you walked through each room to get to the next, you didn't walk in and out of rooms.  This meant that you couldn't miss a room if it made you feel uncomfortable.  After this, on a happier note, we met with a woman who received the honor "Righteous Among the Nations" (the highest civilian honor a person can receive from the State of Israel) because she, along with her older sister and mother, harbored a Jewish girl throughout the entirety of the war.

These are the two sides of the medal
After that we had a nice dinner and then a group of us went to a pub for awhile to sample Polish beer (not bad by the way) and discuss the day we had.
Saturday: We boarded the vans for the town of Osweiçsm (Auschwitz in German).  We began by going to Auschwitz I.  Auschwitz is actually a really large complex of camps with three main camps and 40 sub-camps.  It was originally for non-Jewish prisoners of war and Polish Partisans.  It was also just a men's camp except for a short time in 1943 and the last few months before liberation.  It is also the camp that has been turned into the museum.  For this reason it was not what I was expecting.  There were a lot of people there, large tour groups, and lines to see exhibits. It felt almost a little bit like Disneyland.  Of course there were moments that took my breath away and made me so upset, but for the majority of the visit I just felt very empty.  Later that day we toured the town (60% of the population of the town before the war was Jewish, now there are no Jews in the town), saw the Auschwitz Jewish Center, and spoke with a non-Jewish survivor of Auschwitz (which I have never done before) who now lives in the town.
Sunday: We went to see Birkenau (Auschwitz II), which is the one that you tend to see pictures of (with the exception of the Arbeit Macht Frei sign which is at Auschwitz I).  It has been conserved exactly as the Nazis left it, meaning that it is not a museum in the slightest.  Driving up to the camp was something out of a nightmare; it was cold, foggy, early in the morning (so we were practically the only people there) and there were no signs saying that it was coming.  It was almost as if we happened upon it.  It would be impossible for me to describe for you how I felt being in the camp.  The best way to say it is that it was a combination of disgust, horror, fear, anger, depression, disbelief, and awe.  The sheer size of the camp is also extraordinarily impressive, it is 500 square acres in size.  Following this visit we had a discussion to wrap everything up and then most of the group went home.  Myself, along with 3 other girls stayed the night in Krakow.  Considering the emotions that were running rampant I think that staying the extra night was really helpful in bringing me back to real life.  I don't think I would have fared very well if I had to go straight home after that experience.

So that was my weekend.  I'm sorry for the overly depressing post, and I promise that next week's will be infinitely happier. 
Hasta la semana que viene.