Thursday, September 06, 2007

She's back....

I know, I've been MIA, but in my defense, I was with my mom for six weeks and she has...dial-up! The horror! (Yes, I've been off dial-up for a month now, but let's not get technical).

I've uploaded my Greece pictures and will post on that adventure next time.

As for me, I've had a change in plans. I seem to like that. :) I decided, after careful thought and consideration, that I shouldn't study in Puerto Rico. My Spanish was not at a level where I could take normal classes, in a normal university, in a new dialect, and not fail horrifically. So I changed my ticket and am going for 10 days in December with my dad to meet the family and see where he was born, where he went to school, etc. Bonus: I should miss all the hurricanes.

So I'm back in Corvallis and at OSU. Now I get to stretch out the remaining credits I need to graduate in three terms instead of two, so I have quite the senior schedule lined up, as it should be.

Other than that, not much going on. Graduation is in the future and kind of scares me...I've had this professional student thing working out pretty well, it'll be weird to not be one. Then I might actually have to be an adult! Ugh. What fun is that?


(Whose adventures will probably be fairly boring from here on out, but hey, at least I'm cute.) :)

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Well my bags are packed, I'm ready to go...

I leave Santander tonight, heading on the night train to Madrid to catch my flight to Athens tomorrow. It's hard to believe. Jackie, the first in the group to be taking off, is leaving on the 7pm train (her flight leaves for the US at 6am tomorrow). I am going to help her take her suitcases down to the taxi stop in about ten minutes, and it is pretty bizarre.

It's going to be weird to leave here. I've been here two and a half months, and I am really used to it. A guy asked me for directions yesterday, and I knew where he was going and could give them to him. (Although it ended up being in English. I started in Spanish but was trying to explain a turn-around, since I don't know the word for it, and he said I could speak to him in English. At least he didn't ask me in English to begin with, so maybe my neon "American" sign is dimmer now after all.)

I miss home. I miss the US, I miss English, and I really miss the food. But a lot of things about here have become normal now, like eating lunch (disgusting as it may be) at 2:30pm, or walking everywhere.

I don't know, but I'm still really excited to be leaving, and going to Greece. I am going to walk on the island that is the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis. And I lived in a foreign country with a foreign language for almost three months. It's pretty crazy.

Signing off for the last time in Europe (this time around at least),

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Picos de Europa

We went on our last excursion this past Friday. We went to Santo Toribio de Liébana, Picos de Europa, and Santa María de Lebeña.

Santo Toribio de Liébana is a church that has the biggest remnant of what is supposed to be Jesus' cross. The church was in it's holy year, which is when their saint's day falls on a Sunday. We walked through a door that is supposed to give us time off in purgatory, due to it being a holy year and all. Then we got to touch a little piece that is open for people to touch, and it was really smooth. Then we left.

Then we went to the Picos de Europa, of the Peaks of Europe. We rode a cable car up to the top and got to wonder and eat our sack lunches. It was pretty nice, a good view, and pretty spiffy. I'm glad we waited for the trip, since originally it was a few weekends earlier but the cable car was going to be shut down.

Then we headed back down the mountain and to Santa María de Lebeña, which is a tiny little church. It is an example of mozárabe, or Christians living in a Muslim area, which is rare for this far north. Muslims generally had good hold over the south and the Christians had good hold over the north, although they kept going back and forth over who's area was who's.

So that's pretty much it. Not a lot of learning or sightseeing on this trip, but pretty nice just the same.


Saturday, June 02, 2007

Well the time has passed so quickly...

I have less than a week left in Spain, and it is hard to believe that this is my last weekend here. It all went by pretty fast.

I still have a hard time understanding when people talk to me, more so than I think anyone else in my group. Part of the problem is with my host mom - I see her, at most, a half hour a day, which really doesn't make me as submersed in the language as I was expecting. I'm a little nervous about Puerto Rico, but hopefully it will all click early on. I have found out that I am a whiz at grammar though, making only two mistakes total on my last grammar test (and one wasn't grammar related, but vocab. I used the wrong verb in a sentence - to die instead of to kill. Oops.) I can tell when my friends are talking and they use the wrong grammar, and I think I talk fairly well...I just can't understand people half the time. Oh well. :)

I have had a change in plans that I keep forgetting to tell you guys about. (Although, that's assuming anyone actually reads this...) ;) So first, the good news: my mom is getting better! There is a really good chance that this round of chemo is the last round and she will be in remission in July! The doctors, of course, of dumbfounded, but we seem to like doing that as a family. :)

In other things, I discovered two things from my trip to London: 1) I don't like traveling as much as I thought I did (at least not running from one place to another really fast to see as much as you can in a limited amount of time) and 2) It's a lot more expensive than I thought. So, after my London trip, and with my mom getting better, I thought about it and decided to change my plans for Europe. Rather than run around for 25 days, not getting to see everything I want because of time and money constraints (I swear everything has an entrance fee), plus then arriving back in the US without a dime to my name (which would be a problem with Puerto Rico), and possibly not even enjoying it that much, I am coming home sooner.

I leave Santander on Thursday night on the midnight train to Madrid, and then fly from Madrid to Greece. Then I'm hopping on a ferry and going to Mykonos, one of the islands, where I will be for a couple of days in my own little beach cabin (surprisingly the cheapest accommodations). I'll get to see Delos, a nearby island which is the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis, and just relax and enjoy. Then I return to Athens by ferry, spend a few days there seeing those sights. (I'm staying at Hostel Zeus...hee hee...) Then I will be returning to Las Vegas on June 15th.

I'm happy - I was able to buy some souvenirs for others (and myself) today that I wouldn't have been able to buy otherwise, and now I can choose to maybe do something I wouldn't have before because of worrying about being able to afford sleeping and eating. I also get to spend six weeks with my mom instead of three, which right now is more important to me than seeing Europe anyway. I figure I can always come back later in life with more money, and even if I don't, I wanted to see Greece more than anything else anyway, and if that's all I ever get to see, I'm fine with that too.



Sunday, May 20, 2007

Long Weekend

Whew. So we had a long weekend trip to Segovia, Toledo, and Burgos, and it is kind of funny how sitting on your butt on a bus for a lot of hours really wears you out.

We started off leaving at 8:30 Friday morning from Santander, heading down to Segovia, which is about 4-5 hours away. We dropped our stuff off at the hotel, ate lunch, and then went on our guided tour of Segovia. They have Roman aqueducts, which are pretty amazing. Not only did the Romans think of a way to move the water uphill to where it was needed, but the entire thing was built back in the first century AD without any cement or anything. Then we went and saw a variety of things in the city, ending with the castle. It had a dried up moat, and what can I say...I'm a sucker for castles. Anyway, after that we had some free time to look around before dinner, and then that was the end of the day.

The next day we had breakfast at 8 and left the hotel at 8:45 on our way to Toledo, which is about 2 hours from Segovia. We had a tour guide this time (the other times it was our art/culture teacher), named Carrrrrlos. (Which is how he said it when he talked to us.) He was pretty funny, although the group asked him to talk to us in Spanish but he talked like we were 8 year olds and kept going back to English for most of it anyway. It was kind of nice because he was talking his Spanish so slow and Spanglishing it so much that I think I actually understood everything he said. We saw a lovely panoramic view, one of the churches, the cathedral, and El Entierro del Señor de Orgaz by Greco, which is a really famous painting from the Spanish Renaissance. The Cathedral is the tenth largest in the world and the second largest in Spain, so that was spiffy as well. Then we had lunch and free time, and then it was back to Segovia and the hotel.

Sunday, we again left at 8:45 to head home and go to Burgos. The weather, which was warm (really hot by Oregon definitions - wimps can't take 85 degrees!) :) and sunny for Friday and Saturday, decided to drop to the 60s (freezing by my little Vegas standards) and rain Sunday. We got to wake up to a nice thunder storm though, which I've missed while living in Oregon. We did a big tour of the Cathedral in Burgos, which started off really cool and impressive...but was really big and I've noticed the spiffy architecture stops being spiffy after you've been looking at it for two hours. Then we had lunch and took off for home, getting home at about 5:30. Originally I think we were supposed to spend more time in Burgos and see something else, since we were supposed to get back at 9, but with the weather I think they decided against it, which by that point I was happy with.

So that was it. Lots of cool stuff, lots of time on a bus, lots of not wanting to go to school today...I just need a day off. :) But it was fun to see the stuff.



Monday, May 14, 2007

The people are crazy, crazy, crazy!

And no, I don't mean the Spaniards, although I'm starting to think that the food could have been used for medieval torture, but that seems to just be my host mom's lack of ability to cook. All my other friends are complaining about how good the food is and how they are getting fat...I swear, I might hurt someone if I hear another tiny girl complain about being fat again. I actually heard the sentence "But I'm up to 127 pounds!" -Gasp!- :)

So I have figured out the reason that people hate Americans, and why there are riots in France over the new president saying that he wants to have a good relationship with the US. There is a valid reason why most of the world hates us and thinks so poorly of us - because of the people who study abroad.

Now, in my group there are about 28 people or so. Of these, I am the poor cousin in the family, and quite a bit. My friend was talking to her parent's about how she didn't quite have enough money for London, and they deposited $1,000 in her bank account the next day. Almost everyone is rolling in it, which would make sense since this is pretty expensive (thanks to good 'ol Uncle Sam for giving me loans that I will be paying off until I am 85). In that alone they are leading a great example, telling the one guy from China in our classes that families have a car for every person in their family in the US, which is their economic circles.

At least half of the people here are in a frat or sorority, and are acting in the stereotypical way that makes me crack jokes about frat and sorority people. There are these two 18 year old freshman girls that are loving the fact they can get drunk every night...and think their story about going swimming at midnight, in the ocean, naked, alone, and drunk, on a school night no less, is hilarious. Almost everyone in my group is a walking American stereotype that makes me hate us too.

Do you know how bad it is? My closest friend here, who I spend time with everyday, is a reformed christian republican who actually likes Bush. And I like her better than anyone here! (And that may sound mean, but she thought it was hilarious and finds it just as funny that she is spending all this time with a tree-hugging liberal lesbian, so we're even).

Aggghhh. I may lose it in the next month, I really may.


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Hmmm...Remember me?

Now the dirty secret is out...I'm horrible at keeping things like journals. I still have a diary I bought when I was in 7th grade that I still kind of write in...and it's only half filled, if that. Oh well. :)

So, obviously, I made it back from London, although the trip was...interesting.

To start things off, my camera broke somewhere from the day before and going through the security at the airport, which made for an excellent start of the trip. Thankfully, both of my friends had digital cameras and I bought a disposable while I was there, but I'm kind of bummed - it's only a few months old. Now I get to try a repair shop in Spanish! Eek.

So, Friday we went to the Tower of London, which was pretty cool. It's kind of weird being in a place where someone was kept until they were executed, or being in a room where people where tortured for various things in that exact location. We paid for the audio guides, which were well worth it, and thankfully I was with other nerdy types so we all ended up listening to the extra information on each site. They even had people reading writings that people made there, including this one guy who was tortured by being hung by his wrists in metal manacles. He said that when the pain got so bad that he passed out they would lift him up until he woke up and then let him hang again, and that they did this about 9 times. They wanted him to renounce the Protestant belief or something to that effect, and he told them it was crazy talk and he wouldn't give up his soul to save his life. I definitely liked the whole torture stuff. :)

We ended up spending a lot more time there than I wanted to, since I had a time limit they didn't have and didn't really care about the armory that we ended up being in for over an hour. (And it was crawling with a school group of 8 or 9 year olds, of which my friends told me they lost me in the crowd..ha ha. I was only shorter than about half of them, so there!). Then we went to the British Museum, which I had wanted to see more, but I only had about an hour and a half. I decided to call it a wash instead of getting really pissed off, so I saw the Rosetta Stone and went to the ramen place I read about in my guidebook for dinner. (Yes, it's an addiction, but it could be much worse!)

Then I went to see the Lion King! Which is why I had a time limit my friends didn't. It was the coolest thing I have ever seen in my entire life! I could go on and on about it, but I'll be nice and won't. If you can get a chance to see it somewhere, do, and pay for the better seats. When they did the opening of Circle of Life the different animals came down the aisles, as well as at some other parts. They did a really good job of turning a cartoon with animals in it into people-animals in person. It's amazing.

Then the next day I went to York, which I can't show you any pretty pictures because I was all by myself and it's on a disposable. It was good, I got to walk along the original city wall that was built by the Romans and then rebuilt later on, and then I think a little more later on, so my feet and the Roman parts were far removed, but it was still pretty cool. I discovered, not surprisingly, that I wouldn't be able to shoot arrows through the arrow slits, since I could barley see out of the bottom of it. (To which Karli, at Tower of London on a similar wall, made a lovely reference to Lord of the Rings and asking if I would need a box to stand on or if she should just describe everything to me. Let's just say I feel the dwarf's pain, I really do.)

There was some major stumbles in the trips and some changes and all that resulted from it, but I'll save that for another day since this is a little bit long already.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A Quick Note

Didn't want you guys to think I fell off the side of the earth or anything. (I come from a long line of worriers. You know who you are).

So, just a quick note to say that there won't be anything from me until Monday. We had a field trip today to look at some old buildings we learned about in art/culture class, which I'll probably will write about later and will get pictures up of later as well.

And...I'm going to London. :) We have a five day weekend because Tuesday is an international holiday (Labor Day) and we don't have school and Friday anyway. So I'm leaving for London after class tomorrow and I'll be back Sunday night. (It was a $200 or so difference to come back on Monday or Tuesday because of the holiday, not including the extra for the food and lodging).

So that's where I'll be and I'll write about it when I come back.

Have a bloody good week, ;)

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Las Cuevas (The Caves)

So Friday we had a field trip to look at two different caves - Cueva del Castillo and the Museo de Altamira.

First was the Cueva del Castillo (or Castillo Cave for you non-Spanish types). It was pretty cool, although alas, we weren't allowed to take any pictures inside so I can't show you. They didn't have a gift shop either, so I can't even show you other people's photos, although one of the girls took some anyway and she's supposed to send them to me. We'll see if they came out or not.

Anyway, Cueva del Castillo was this really big cave that had these paintings in them that were roughly 18,000 years old. We learned about them in our art/culture class, so it was cool to get to physically see what was talked about. There were three types of Paleolithic drawings: animals, normally ones that they ate (bison and dear), hands in positive and negative, and abstract designs, which could have been a source of communication but we really have no idea what they mean. This cave had 50 hands, all in negative (where the paint is around the hand; positive is where they dip their hand in paint and put it on the wall), and 45 of them are left hands, they think because the people were probably mostly right handed. There were also some cool bison and horses, most of which I wouldn't have been able to see without her point out where the heads and everything were, but they are pretty good.

Then we went to Museo de Altamira (Altamira Museum). Altamira was discovered in 1879 and is one of the big Spanish discoveries. Unfortunately, the cave was closed to the public in the 1970s because the increased temperatures and changes in humidity from so many people being in the cave was damaging the paintings, and then it was reopened in 1982 to a limited number of people. They built a replica in 2001 and that's what we went to. I don't know if the real cave is still open or not. Anyway, so we got to go on the tour of the replica, which was disappointing. One, we weren't allowed to take pictures, even without a flash, which made no sense. I understand the other cave since it could damage things, but this was a replica. I think they just wanted you to have to pay money to buy pictures at the gift shop. The "cave" looked nothing like a real cave - the replica was only on the ceiling on we were on a sidewalk. One part had a hologram of the "ancient people," which seemed really out of place. I was disappointed, especially after the last cave with was cool in just being a really big, cool looking cave, and then even more spiffy with really old paintings. This one felt completely different.

The museum part was pretty cool though, and that's where the pictures I do have came from. The really great part of Altamira was we participated in a workshop where they showed us, somewhat, how they made their spears. The guy broke off flint from a piece of rock and showed us how sharp it was by cutting my friend's hair. He also showed us how to make the rope out of tendon, which was really strong and would have taken forever to do. Then we got to throw replica spears with replica atlatls! I don't remember what he called the atlatl in Spanish, but we got to use them to throw our spears at a deer target. (Atlatls are small wooden things that you hold and hook into the end of the spear and it lets you throw it with a lot more velocity. It's the thing in my hand in the picture). It was a lot of fun - I missed the deer completely, but I was getting it the distance, I just can't aim.

So that was the field trip. The last thing we did was go through the fake cave, so it ended on a crappy note, but the rest was fun.

Until next time - same bat time, same bat place! (Hee hee..I know, I need help). :)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Semana Santa (Holy Week)

Alright, so this was the week before Easter, but it takes forever for me to upload pictures because the computers here won't let us download any of the easy upload tools.

Anyway, so Semana Santa is the week before Easter. We had the Thursday and Friday off from school and everything was closed - yeah for 94% of the population being Catholic. They have this precession Wednesday through Sunday night of the different churches. Each one has a float, I believe different stations of the cross, and they wear different colors. The kids take part in it too. The crazy thing though is the adult outfits look like the Ku Klux Klan! (Note: Looks like the KKK, is not the KKK. Probably where the KKK got the idea from!) Our coordinator said they wear the hoods because they are sinners and so they have to have their faces covered (I guess kids haven't sinned enough yet?). Some had hoods pointing up and some were down, but I don't know what the significance was in that. The ones with the hoods down looked like executioners, so I don't which was worse. Then the floats are either carried or on wheels, and they apparently weigh a ton. The ones that had people carrying them had 12 people and they took breaks. They had the floats on display in town the whole week when they weren't in use.

There were some bands with mostly drums, but one had trumpets and trumpet-like instruments that sounded really out of tune, but maybe it's supposed to sound like that. I could hear it from my apartment and was able to go down the street to see the people walking on their way to the precession. I'm glad they warned us about it because while it was pretty cool looking, it would have been pretty disturbing to run into it walking down the street.

There was also a festival at a town nearby that I was going to go to, but that didn't work out. My friend said it was like the live version of Passion of the Christ, and there was a guy who jumped and hung himself from a tree (with a harness, but still.) Crazy stuff.

If you want to see more pictures of the processions you can go here.

Happy belated Easter,

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

La Comida (Food)

So, as you might of guessed, the food in Spain is different. I know, big shocker.

First off, the eating times are different. Breakfast (desayuno) is when you get up, kind of like with us. My host mom is still asleep when I leave for school, so I get to eat what I want, which is usually a thing of yogurt and some bread from the day before. However, most people have just coffee, or coffee and a piece of toast.

Then comes lunch (almuerzo). Lunch is the most important meal of the day here - store close for lunch and people have off from work to allow for them to go home and cook and eat lunch. It's a big deal. The weird thing is that it's 2-3ish. We eat at 2:30 because I have class until 2. My host mom works 10 to 2 and then 4 to 8, which is completely normal, and the stores normally are closed from 2 to 5ish.

Then dinner (cena) is around 9ish. Some people cook something small, but I just eat the leftovers from lunch, or she makes something before she leaves to go with the leftovers. Like one night she made an omelet.

It's weird, but you get used to it. I kind of like coming home from school to a home cooked meal, and I think I might adopt that habit if I can because when I do finally get home at 9 in the States I don't feel like doing anything, much less cooking. Then I end up eating ramen or fast food.

So beyond the times, the food itself is different. Refrigeration isn't so big here - she leaves lunch out on the counter until dinner. It doesn't seem to cause a problem. We have fresh baked bread everyday - there are bread stores all over. It's usually french bread and I am definitely getting used to that. Other than that, the food is okay. Some things are really good, like today we had chicken and rice cooked together in the pressure cooker that was damn tasty. Other days...well, I come home for lunch with a mixture of excitement and dread. We had morcilla one day, which is blood sausage (see pretty picture). Thankfully I didn't have my dictionary at the table to figure that out before I ate it. Luckily it tasted better than it looked, like a weird meatloaf, but that paired with the beans...I dug into my stash of ramen I brought with me for dinner that night.

All in all, that's food in a nutshell. (Ha! Nutshell!) :)

Tastily yours,

Monday, April 16, 2007

Greetings from España!


So, in the grand tradition of those who have studied abroad before me, welcome to my blog. You knew it had to happen sooner or later.

So here's my initial, make sure it works post. I have all my pictures on Flickr so you can look at more if you want to. They're organized into little folders - I recommend looking at the folders, since the main page doesn't let you change the order at all. If you use the detail view you can see my comments and explinations too. :)

That's it,