Monday, April 25, 2011

lunes

5:20 p.m.

Nothing that exciting to report here...I am writing this from Mercado del Este. When I'm here, I'm always waiting for someone to come up to me and ask why I'm stealing their internet. I figure WiFi is advertised on all the entrances, so someone might as well be using it...right?!

Today I walked to school in a torrential downpour. It was raining so hard and was so windy that I arrived to school almost completely soaked (my North Face rain shield and cheetah-print umbrella helped the top half of me stay dry, although I looked rather touristy). My paints were drenched and took several hours to dry, and the entire contents of my backpack were soaked. My pristine notebooks now have wrinkled pages and torn corners from being wet. I guess this weather is what I get for missing home, huh? Thank you Spain, for my taste of Oregon...

Classes today were boring and gave me plenty of homework. This week is sort of like midterms-time at Oregon State. In these next three days I have a presentation (it was supposed to be today, but I don't mind having the extra time to prepare), two tests, and lots of homework. I like being busy, but that's a lot of stuff to be doing at once! Especially in a foreign language.

After class I returned home for a delicious garbanzo bean-chicken noodle-soup. With carrots. Carrots! I was so excited to see a vegetable I didn't even mind that they were all mushy and cooked. I ate, then proceeded to spend the next few hours working on my vocabulary list for my culture class. Now I'm at the market, borrowing internet until I go over to Kyla's to study later.

Even though I don't like not having internet for communication purposes, there's no denying that my lack of it keeps me more productive. I spend my time actually doing homework, and when I don't have anything else to do, rather than waste time, I spend it reading. I'm going through books really quickly here, and welcome any suggestions of new books to download on my handy-dandy Kindle!

Hope all of you had a lovely Monday!

♥ abigail

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Pascua

Sunday, 1:47 p.m.

I’m not going to lie to you guys – I’m a little disappointed. Easter Sunday Mass was nothing like I expected. As a matter of fact, Easter in Spain is nothing I expected.

First of all, it was weird to wake up on Easter Sunday and not hunt for the Easter Basket my dad the Easter Bunny hid somewhere in the garage, dishwasher, or kitchen cabinet. I guess it was nice that nothing stood between me and my Cadbury eggs and chocolate bunny (courtesy of my mom and dad), but I missed the hunt all the same.

I left my room this morning and found Ramón, the three-year-old, sprawled out on the floor watching House of Mouse…that didn’t seem very Easter-y to me either. Wasn’t he supposed to be hyped up on sugar already, strewing the contents of his Easter basket around the house, leaving a foil-wrapper path in his wake?

I ventured further outside to go to Mass (yes Mom and Grandma, I went!), and was met with gray skies, chilly wind, and a light drizzle. Obviously I can’t hold the weather against Santander, but it still isn’t what Easter is supposed to be like in my mind (although if I recall correctly, the past few Easters have been pretty rainy, so maybe it is more like home that I thought).

As I walked to the cathedral, I passed lots of people out for a Sunday stroll. I noted that no one was in their “Easter best,” while I shivered in one of my favorite dresses. Everyone seemed to be treating this as any other Sunday, while I was expecting some huge Spanish fanfare and Easter dresses and bows and hats and suits.

[[Me in the cathedral's courtyard after Mass.]]

Mass itself was also not what I expected. For one thing, the cathedral is enormous. So enormous that you can’t actually see the altar if you’re in the back and are left to watch the Mass on a TV screen that strains your eyes (maybe just mine…I was wishing for my glasses the entire time). The cathedral was absolutely packed. People crammed in like sardines, grabbing chairs and setting up makeshift rows, before the latecomers (a steady stream of them came in for almost half the Mass) filled in all the floor space in between.

All the hubbub of chairs being set up and people standing made the cathedral extremely noisy. My cold I’m fighting has settled into my head, so my clogged ears couldn’t pick up anything being said pretty much the entire time. Luckily I know the stories and know the flow of Mass, so I wasn’t lost.

The Mass didn’t seem particularly Easter-y to me either. No one was baptized, there were no bells accompanying the “Glory to God”, there weren’t any happy, “He is risen” songs…it just seemed like any other day.

I am home now, waiting to eat lunch, which will just be like any other lunch today. Nothing fancy, no extra family or friends, no special treats. I know that isn’t the point of the day, but it all just seems off to me. I suppose I wouldn’t be disappointed if I didn’t have all these expectations in the first place, but back home Easter has always been a huge deal to my family.

It’s a time to celebrate the resurrection of Christ, of course, but it’s also a time to spend with family. Here it seems like any other day, which makes me miss home and all its comforts even more.

On the other hand, Holy Week receives a lot more emphasis here, so maybe that’s all the Spanish need? Or maybe my experience isn’t the typical Spanish Easter experience. Regardless, it has been a very un-Easter feeling day for me. I’m about to work on a presentation I have tomorrow, and later I’ll go to my friend Kyla’s to finish up and post this. (Doesn’t that seem weird too? You don’t just go over to friends’ houses on Easter!)

I hope you all have a lovely Easter!

♥ abigail

[[Update: 3:27 p.m.]]

Lunch was a little later today (it usually is on Sundays), and there are more people here. Conchi is gone on her excursion, but her daughter Beatriz (she’s been “babysitting” me this weekend) and Bea’s (Bay-uh) husband Roberto were here, along with Christina, Luís, and Ramón, and another one of her niece’s and her niece’s boyfriends. Introductions are few and far between around here, so I don’t know their names.

We had a pretty elaborate feast of paella (pretty good, but a lot fishier than I would like – the dish included shrimp that were still staring at me with their dead little beady eyes, crab, and clams) with bread, followed by a pastry that tasted like burnt graham crackers with a creamy filling (it was tasty). It was a good meal, but I am really missing fruits and veggies right about now!

Semana Santa

Friday, 7:51 p.m.

This post is going to be pretty photo-heavy, and light on the words – I’m feeling a little under the weather (I’ve been fighting a low-grade temperature since this morning), and sleep is more appealing than anything else right now. Also, the pictures I have really speak for themselves.

Semana Santa (Holy Week) is a big to-do in Spain. Kids are out of school, stores are closed a lot of the time, and the whole town – Catholics and non-Catholics – is extremely invested in what this week represents.

There have been processions all week, usually taking place in the evenings. Churches each have their own “float” that they take through the city, accompanied by drums and incense and huge flocks of people.

I’ve caught the small ones here and there throughout the week. Thursday’s procession was enormous. It consisted of all the churches that have participated thus far, plus additional drums and instruments, to make a huge procession. Each group started from their own church and met up in a spot on the Paseo to start the procession.

The sidewalks were packed full of people eager to see this intense form of art and reverence all rolled into one. Last night’s statues weren’t the intense ones processing tonight (my not feeling well and it being a little rainy outside are keeping me from seeing it), but they were beautiful, as you can see:




The procession took around an hour-and-a-half from where I watched it, but it was such an incredible sight to see.

This morning (Saturday) a group of us who stayed in town this weekend went to the nearby town of Castro Urbiales. Every year since 1985 the town has put on an reenactment of the Passion.

We arrived at 8:30 a.m. and made our way to the cathedral, the first spot of the reenactment. The reenactment started at 10:00, and by then the place was packed. Since our group was so early, we managed to snag some really good spots right up front.

Watching the reenactment was amazing. Around 600 people in the town were in it, playing roles from Jesus and his disciples to Pontius Pilate to prostitutes to townspeople to lepers. Dramatic music played the entire time, and the cloudy weather and circling seagulls overhead really added to the somber atmosphere.

The reenactment went through the town, so I didn’t get good spots for all of the scenes. Here are a random assortment of pictures, ranging from Castro Urdiales itself to the crucifixion:










There were some incredibly intense moments – like Judas hanging himself (pretty convincingly) to Jesus being lashed 40 times (not as convincing, but he was being hit with whips dipped in paint, which adorned his back like real blood). It was all done so incredibly well and I was very impressed.

Even though I didn’t always understand exactly what was being said, I found that I was able to pick up on the general idea of things thanks slightly to my Spanish ability, but more significantly due to my growing up in the Catholic church. Not to mention my family’s Easter tradition of listening to Jesus Christ Superstar – I was singing the songs in my head as the reenactment was taking place, so I could refresh my memory about the story.

We took the bus home and now I’m waiting on dinner, then am promptly going to bed. This fever needs to be gone by tomorrow because I have a presentation on Monday that needs my attention!

♥ abigail

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Comillas y Santillana del Mar

Tuesday, 9:31 p.m.

I am writing this with my eyes half-mast – I know it’s early, but I am so incredibly tired right now! Today we went on an excursion after school to the nearby towns of Comillas and Santillana del Mar.

It should be noted that all of the following pictures are from my iPhone – I forgot my camera at home.

In Comillas we went to the Palacio y Capilla de Sobrellano. I think. I get confused sometimes – I usually just stick to figuring out the general idea of what is being said, and names seem to escape me.

This particular palace was another royal vacation home. Can you imagine?! I mean seriously, look at this place! It’s absolutely insane.


We had a tour of parts of several of the rooms (we weren’t allowed to take pictures in most parts of it). Here is the entryway – please note the arches. Or whatever it is I was supposed to be paying attention to for my culture class. See? Things just escape me.


Our guide basically told us she wouldn’t be looking at that if we wanted to take photos we wouldn’t get caught…so I snagged a photo of the library – obviously I loved this room.


After the palace we went next door and saw this cathedral (a “small” one by Spanish standards), but only from the outside.


Then we saw this building, El Capricho de Gaudí. Check out how crazy it is! Those are ceramic sunflowers adorning it. The architect, Antonio Gaudí, was a bit eccentric.

Then we headed back to the bus (I have named him Barney since he is large and purple) before heading to Santillana del Mar.

There, we looked at another cathedral:

And then we had time to explore the village before calling it a day. This is what Spain looked like in my head before I got here:


I bought presents for my sisters in this cute little town, then got back on the bus and headed home. After a nice dinner of tortilla con patatas (a cross between an omelet and quiche, but a little more potato-y) I took a shower and sat down here to write this before I forgot anything. Which clearly didn’t work, considering I forgot about half of what I learned today.

But I tried.

Right now I am hearing another procession somewhere in the city – it sounds pretty close! I’m beginning to really enjoy the sound of the drums.

Tomorrow is my last day of school this week. It’s a short day too, we only have two of our three normal classes and are finished for the day by 1:00 – a great way to start my weekend!

♥ abigail

Monday, April 18, 2011

el 18 de abril

Monday, 6:52 p.m. Nothing new to report here...today I had class in the morning, as usual. We got tests back in two of them, and I'm pretty pleased with how I did - A's on both!

I went home for a hearty lunch (I see a lot of bean soup in Spain) before heading to Playa de Bikinis, which is a beach right in front of Palacio de Magdalena. That beach is supposed to be the best one to go to on windy days because it's well-protected from the wind.

Sara and I were there with some other people from our group until one gigantic cloud rolled in, driving us home. Now we're at the Paraninfo, the university's downtown computer lab. I have 22 minutes left of internet (only started out with eight) and a keyboard with a sometimes-functioning letter 'p'. But hey, at least it's internet!

Tomorrow the group goes on an excursion right after school - we're headed to Comillas and Santillana del Mar at 2:45 before returning home at 8:00. I know nothing of these cities except that our advisor referred to them as 'must-see' cities in her e-mail, but the weather looks nice so it can't be too bad!

♥abigail

Sunday, April 17, 2011

fin de semana

Sunday, 7:05 p.m.

Kyla and I have been writing papers on the statue of Pedro Velarde for the past three hours. It shouldn't have taken that long...we're easily distracted.

Here's a brief weekend recap...

On Friday morning I took off on a run and saw this:

Lovely.

On Saturday I didn't do much of anything...but I was able to see the first of the Semana Santa (Holy Week) processions.

It was kind of creepy at first. There was an intense drum accompaniment that made me feel as if the city was about to be taken over by bad guys. Add in the fact that people in the procession were wearing black hoods that reminded me of the KKK (okay so the hoods weren't pointed or white. But still) and it was a pretty interesting vibe.


There was also incense - and I am happy to report that the incense in the U.S. is the exact same. I was pretty excited by this realization.

This was the actual statue being carried through the streets:


There are about 20 of these that going to be processed through the streets this week. I went through a plaza and saw them all, and they're pretty intense. They have a lot of the stations from the Stations of the Cross in it, as well as a few others. I'm going try to see as many of the processions as I can this week.

After I saw the procession and wandered for a while, I headed home for the evening. It was another quiet evening for me - I read and fell asleep by 10:30. I'm really not cut out for Spain's night life, but that's okay with me.

So that was Saturday.

This morning I got up with every intention of going to church - I even went into the cathedral for mass. But then my fight-or-flight instinct kicked in...normal people wouldn't be freaked out in a huge cathedral, but I was. I kept worrying about what would happen when the doors were shut - how would I get out if I needed to? My claustrophobia drove me outside where I got to see the end of the Palm Sunday procession (this statue was of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey) and the beginning of mass. The palms given to the general public are actually branches from this:


I read in a plaza for a bit before returning home for lunch. I ate a four-course meal featuring shrimp (still in their shells - gross), potato-olive salad, fish in tomato sauce, and a gigantic bowl of strawberries that I topped with a dollop of whipped cream (something my host family thought was crazy as they put several scoops of whipped cream on theirs).

Now I'm finishing up a paper at Kyla's and gearing up for another week at school. Only three days this week, due to Semana Santa! Hope you all had a lovely weekend!

♥ abigail

Friday, April 15, 2011

Lack of Internet on a Friday afternoon

Friday, 4:14 p.m.

Well, I’m still without internet…it’s really frustrating. What do you all know about the so-called “internet sticks” and how they work and last? If I don’t have consistent internet I’m going to go crazy. I know that as far as having contact with people back home, I have it made compared to years past. But I was just getting used to my routine – wake up in the morning and Skype Jonny, come home from school and send e-mails and post on my blog before Skyping my mom, Skyping Jonny to say hi before he left for school, then one last time before I went to bed.

Not having internet definitely puts a damper on all those things – I try to find internet on the street corner (sad, I know) before I leave for school. I frantically search for it during break time at school, sometimes going to use the computer lab if it’s open instead of eating my mid-morning snack. I search for it again once I get home, then give up hope and compose e-mails to send later. I search for it while I’m wandering the city, and again before I go to bed. There are places I know I can find it, but I’m constricted by their hours of operation, as well as my discomfort with walking alone at night.

Right now I am posting this from Kyla’s once again, but I don’t want to have to bug her every single time I’d like to get online. Clearly, I am not coping well with or embracing the lack of internet in my life.

This morning I woke far too early for my liking – after drifting off to sleep around 2:00 a.m., 7:15 a.m. with a noisy three-year-old seemed like some sort of nightmare. Luckily he left and I fell back into a peaceful sleep until 10:00. I had breakfast, cleaned my room, and got ready to go meet my conversation partner, Javier.

I dragged Sara with me, because I am dreadfully shy around those I don’t know (Sara isn’t) and because I am consistently tongue-tied around Spanish people (Sara isn’t). Javier speaks incredibly quickly, with a slight mumble, and the customary Spanish lisp (say it with me: Barthhhelona)…all of this makes him incredibly difficult to understand and renders me pretty much mute. I let Sara do most of the talking, and Javier commented on how quiet I am. I informed him that in English I can’t shut up.

I don’t know why I shut down when I need to speak Spanish outside of class, but I do. A lot of what is being said goes over my head, and at that point I feel lost and my mind gets stuck on certain words and then I’m a goner. It’s frustrating to say the least. Luckily I have a friend like Sara who understands what’s being said and can answer on behalf of us both, but at the same time I wish I was able to hold my own in a conversation. A great deal of learning throughout this experience is supposed to come from our interaction with our host family and other native speakers. I’m failing in that regard. Don’t get me wrong, I’m trying! It’s just not coming to me very easily.

We wandered for what seemed to me to be an excruciatingly long time, then parted ways. After a quick lunch (pasta with bacon and some sort of sauce, plus an orange) I let myself take an hour-and-a-half siesta. The group is trying to be a little more like the locals tonight, not meeting to go out until almost midnight, so I’m going to be grateful I got some rest!

♥ abigail

English Night

Friday, 1:02 a.m.

I know what you all are thinking – how in the world was Abbie up so late? In Spain terms, however, I called it a night tonight rather early. The streets were just starting to get loud and the night was just beginning for most. I, on the other hand, was extremely tired and knew I’d only become more of a party pooper as the night wore on, so I decided to call it an evening.

I’m sitting here without internet once again, so this post will have to wait until I can get to Mercado del Este later. I really despise not having internet. I used my phone over here to make a one minute, 17 second phone call to Jonny, just so I could have some contact with him…but that probably cost me at least a euro…which is like a dollar fifty. I’m not complaining though! It was worth every euro cent, but it just bums me out that getting in touch with people back home is so difficult without the internet.

Tonight a big group of us (almost our entire group) met up to go to Café Retro, a bar that features an “English Night” every few weeks.

I treated myself to the most delicious mojito in the world:

Then I got down to business! The bar has a trivia game for all of us English-speakers to play, so we formed some teams and set out to answer random questions. Not going to lie – these were difficult. They involved kilometers and random facts about things I had not a clue about.

I did pretty well in the facial recognition part of the game (thank you, Perez Hilton!), as well as in the music recognition (obviously everyone would get “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynard Skynard, but how many would get “House of the Rising Sun” by the Animals? Or know the title and artist of “Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers? I owe my vast expanse of music knowledge to my dad and uncle).

The response I felt most proud of was one that only my group answered correctly – all thanks to my love of words. The question was something along the lines of “What commonly consumed food’s name literally translates to ‘cooked twice’?” I sat there saying ‘bi…bi…bi…bi…’ to myself for the next few questions. We moved on with the game and when the questions were repeated at the end I declared the answer to be “biscuit” and called it good.

I was so excited when the scores had been tallied and it was announced that only one group got the correct answer – biscuit. I literally shrieked in celebration – a lot of these questions were really difficult and only answered correctly by European English-speakers, so being the only one in the entire bar with the right answer kind of went straight to fluffing my ego.

I felt like we had won after that…it didn’t matter that we pretty much failed the game overall. That one question made it all worth it!

After the game was over, we wandered to another section of town. By that time I was dragging and exhausted, so I called it a night and now I’m getting ready to hit the hay.

Tomorrow (today) is Saturday and should be a pretty good day in Santander. Sara and I are going to meet with my conversation partner in the afternoon, then I hope to get a run, some studying, and a nap in before the evening’s festivities. I’m not really into the whole “going out” experience, but it sure beats sitting home alone on a Friday night! That’s considered lame even in U.S. standards, so in Spain it just wouldn’t fly.

I love and miss you all and hope to talk to you soon! Keep crossing those fingers (and maybe toes) that I find internet again soon!

♥ abigail

Thursday, April 14, 2011

el catorce de abril

Thursday, 4:27 p.m.

This post is brought to you by my friend Kyla...I am currently at her apartment, sitting on the terrace with her while we "work on our project". Basically, we're hanging out and I'm borrowing her internet. It's nice.

Today was a quick day at school (only two classes). We took a quiz in grammar - I didn't find it too difficult, but that doesn't really mean anything. After a break (in which I sent a few e-mails because I still don't have internet at my apartment) I went to my conversation class. Today we had an oral quiz - we had to talk to our teacher individually for 10 minutes about a topic of our choosing. Naturally I chose books (Samantha, Kendall, Marissa...you can stop laughing anytime. Please and thank you). That conversation went well and I was good to go by 1:20 - later than I'm supposed to get out on Thursdays, but that's what I get for having a last name at the bottom of the list! Next time I get to go near the beginning.

I was home before 2:00 and got to eat right away - a random yet delicious mix of rice, chicken, and a fried egg. I read in my room for a while before heading over to Kyla's. We're listening to country music on her terrace that overlooks the quiet city (it's lunch time, so no one is out about about right now).

I don't have anything planned for this weekend, except for a few projects and papers I have due next week. Other than that, I'm hoping to get some serious beach time and relaxing in.

This week has been nice - I settle into this city a little more every day. My friends here have been a great help, as has everyone back home. I was spoiled with mail this week - a letter and a card from my sweet boyfriend, Jonny, plus the packages from my grandma and parents. Not to mention the e-mails I get all the time from everyone back home. Everyone's love and encouragement really means a lot! It makes my time here a lot easier.

Continue to hope and pray that internet returns to my house soon!

♥ abigail

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

From disgruntled to delighted

I was disgruntled today because I wasn't able to get on the Internet before I left for school. I know it's a silly thing to be upset about, but when you're a million miles away from your family and friends, being able to send an e-mail or two in the morning is a comforting thing.

I was further disgruntled on my way home from school - I wasn't able to get on the school's internet, plus I came home with a lot of homework and studying to do.

My grumpy mood melted away when I walked into my room and saw this:


My sweet host mother washed my clothes the other day and they were dry this morning...and then she proceeded to iron everything and fold it all neatly. She even separated everything by category (dresses, tank tops, underwear, etc.). I don't remember the last time I ironed - I usually stick things back in the dryer if they're wrinkled, and I reserve ironing for special occasions only. Needless to say, it was a nice thing to come home to.

Also nice to come home to was this:


My lovely family sent me a package! I was even more excited when I opened it and saw the Sunday comics...

The pictures I took of the things inside somehow disappeared off my phone...but believe me when I tell you, they are fantastic! I now have enough Easter candy to last me for the rest of my time here (but if I'm being honest, that probably won't happen), plenty of granola bars, Goldfish crackers, toiletries I left behind, and family photos, among other things (like the complete second season of One Tree Hill).

[[Side note: I'm in Mercado del Este right now, and someone's phone just rang - it was a ringtone of R2D2 sounds. Love it!]]

I've been spoiled by the number of packages and letters I've been receiving lately. Thank you to everyone who's helped make my time here a little easier!

I need to finish this up because I am stealing internet right now (I still don't have any at my house) and I have to head home and study some more.

Hopefully my internet will return...keep your fingers crossed!

♥ abigail

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Showering in Spain

I know I've only been in Spain for a few weeks, but I already know what is going to be my favorite purchase of the trip.

Meet Bob. Pronounced in Spanish ("Bohb"). As in Bob Esponja (yes, he's even more annoying in Spanish than in English, thanks for asking).


I bought Bob at Lupa today for 0.59 euros (85¢). I've been having sub-par shower experiences while in Spain. Until now.

The sub-par experiences come from the fact that the shower is teeny-tiny. I have to stand at an angle in order to avoid bumping my elbows while washing my hair. I also have to bring my shower items in every time because there aren't any shelves or places to put bottles. It's not that big of a deal. Until your leg is covered in shaving cream (which doesn't last long if I don't stand exactly right to block the water from rinsing it off prematurely)...and then you realize that your razor is down the hall in your room.

But I digress.

The real source of my sub-par showering experience is that I didn't bring a loofah with me. I only use body wash (not bar soap), and it really requires some sort of loofah in order to create a lather that actually cleans me.

I've been missing the lather.

But today I found Bob. I brought him home and used him right away.

I love Bob. He's covered in some sort of soft fabric that creates a gentle exfoliating experience that is just lovely.

Seriously. Best purchase ever. I might buy some more Bobs (he comes in a variety of colors) to bring home.

He's that good.

♥ abigail

A grandmother's intuition

Tuesday, 3:14 p.m.

You know how moms all seem to have that intuition about them? They know when you're up to something you shouldn't be, how to best fix problems, and how to know what you plan on doing to your sibling before you do it. Among other things.

Well, grandmas have that same intuition - but my grandma also apparently has the intuition that tells her when I'm going to be hungry.

Today I walked home from school feeling especially ravenous (my stomach growled - loudly - several times in my last class today. We're talking people a few seats over turned to see if it really was little ol' me making that big ol' noise). I was mentally making a shopping list on the walk - I'm reaching the end of my granola bar stash and planned on going to the store today to replenish my supply.

I got home and found this on my desk:


I recognized my grandma's handwriting and opened the box with great excitement, and was further excited to find this:


My sweet grandma sent me a new supply of granola bars (my favorite kind even! I tell ya, grandmas just know), instant oatmeal, trail mix, travel toilet paper (such a convenient thing to have here! I immediately put a roll in my backpack and another in my purse), and Easter candy.

Needless to say, this is a well-appreciated package. Thanks, Grandma!

In other news, last night I made another Spain purchase...these lovely sandals that I'm hoping to live in once the sun returns:



They came from Natura, the cutest little hippie store that looks (and smells) like a slightly more stylish Eugene.

As for school (that's why I'm here, right?), today it was filled with new information. My classes seemed to drag on, partially due to the fact that I was really hungry, and they get to continue to drag on in my apartment now because my teachers assigned a lot of homework.

This means that this afternoon and a chunk of this evening will be spent at my desk, working on my assignments. I really know how to live it up here in Spain!

♥ abigail

Monday, April 11, 2011

El once de abril

Monday, 5:09 p.m.

Today was a cloudy day in Santander...kind of a letdown after all the sun we've been having! I knew it wouldn't last though, I was just choosing to believe that this weather everyone was describing as "not normal" could stick around. I walked to school in the rain and arrived to class soaked - umbrellas only do so much when the wind blows the rain right at you.

My classes were somewhat challenging today. My grammar class was difficult because the professor's teaching method doesn't work very well for me. I was spoiled to have great professors for my entire college Spanish career - I didn't realize how spoiled until now. Isabel is very nice and does her best to explain things, but sometimes it feels like we're being thrown into doing something new without much help. Hopefully it will get better, but until then I'm going to keep peppering her with questions during class until I have a better handle on things.

Today's grammar class was challenging because it was so tedious. I'm a person who absolutely despises conflict, and the class just felt conflicted today. We started off talking about movies, which slowly progressed into talking about censorship in the media in Spain versus the United States. I love that our professor allows the conversation to flow naturally, going where it goes, tying everything together perfectly, but today our class turned to a debate. Sort of. I say that because no one was disagreeing with everyone else, but a lot of people were voicing their opinions as if everyone else opposed them. There were only a few people participating at this point, and they all kept saying the same thing, but in tones that made it seem like they were arguing. This dragged on for a while, leaving me bored and frustrated.

We had an interesting culture class in which we focused on the Roman influence on architecture in Spain. I understand everything my teacher says, but I always leave class concerned that I didn't quite get everything she said. I take notes from her powerpoints, but it isn't like taking a class in English where you understand what's being said while writing at the same time - I have to do one or the other, which leads to more studying in my time away from school.

After class we went to a different university building to receive conversation partners - Spanish students who are willing to converse with us foreigners in order to help us learn the language. Most people in my group were put in pairs and then given one person for the two of them, but a few people (myself included) got their own, personal partner. Sara suggested that it was the chatty people of the group, which I denied profusely because I am not very talkative in Spanish.

My partner seems nice, but I understand only about 1/4 of what he was saying - he speaks very quickly and very quietly. We have to meet with them at least once, and how often we see them after that is up to us. It's a great opportunity to talk to a native speaker, but I'm not exactly comfortable with strangers...I'm taking Sara along with me for reinforcement when I meet with him on Friday.

I came home for a lovely black bean soup for lunch and have been studying for the past few hours. I'm meeting up with Sara, Kyla, and Becca in a bit to wander around town before dinner. I hope you all have a great Monday!

♥ abigail

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sundays and my first official purchase

Sunday, 1:45 p.m.

Today is Sunday. The Spanish really view it as a day of rest. My friends and I wander around window-shopping all the time, but on Sunday you're really confined to windows. All the shops are closed, except for bread shops and candy shops and some tobacco stands, which close around lunch time today.

It's nice to see that they really appreciate Sunday for what it is - a day to relax, go to to church, and be with family, away from the hustle and bustle that is daily life.

People still are out and about on Sundays though, even though everywhere is closed. The city seems more relaxed a lot a quieter, and Sundays have become a day I welcome.

For me, they're a day for sleeping in, for finishing homework, for reading, for relaxing, for wandering the city a little bit before lunch and then calling it a day. I spend the rest of the day in sweats in my room, enjoying the sound of the pigeons on my windowsill and seagulls conversing with each other across the street.

Today, Sunday was also a day to wander to a flea market. Kyla and Becca stumbled upon it last Sunday in their wanderings. A tunnel downtown is barricaded off so cars can't use it, and vendors set up shop. It's kind of like wandering through a really random garage sale - a lot of stuff is crappy and useless, but there are still gems if you look hard enough.

It was there that I made my first official purchase - this lovely scarf:


Excuse the fact that it doesn't go with my shirt - my host mom has been at the hospital with her mom all week, so my laundry hasn't been done for a while. I feel lame saying that though. I'm completely capable of doing my own laundry. At home, anyway. I'm not sure exactly how the washing machine works here, and I know if I tried to hang up my stuff to dry, half of my clothes would end up on the ground instead of on the clothesline...and how in the world would I get to them? I'll leave it to the professionals.

But anyway. I really like this scarf. Yes, it's a boring earth-tone (sorry to disappoint, sisters!) but it goes with so many of my outfits (except for the pink shirt, obviously) and is really cute. It's printed with lots of teeny flowers, and the fringe is actually little crocheted hearts. It was only 5 euros and the perfect first purchase for my trip to Spain.

I hope you all have a lovely, relaxing Sunday!

♥ abigail

Friday, April 8, 2011

Las Cuevas

Saturday, 10:43 a.m.

On Friday we went on our first group excursión. It was so nice to go on a trip completely planned out for us, from how we would get there to what we would be doing while we there.

We left at 8:45 a.m. to go to Las Cuevas del Monte del Castillo. I'm not sure exactly whereabouts we were, but it was really pretty, as you can see.


[[View on our walk up to Las Cuevas del Monte del Castillo.]]

Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to take pictures in the cave - the paintings in them are about 15,000 years old or something like that, and flashes and things like visitors' body heat can mess with the art.

And before I go any further - yes, I, Miss Claustrophobic, went in CAVES. As in dark, cold caverns with no exit in sight. I was a little scared to go in the first one, but for being enclosed it was pretty open, if that makes any sense.

I still thought I was going to get stuck though. And at times I thought I was basically setting myself up to be a victim of a perfect murder. But I tried to brush those thoughts away because what we were seeing was so amazing.

Our guide did a great job of explaining what we were seeing. It was so surreal to imagine people making these paintings, documenting their lives, and there were were so many ages later, looking at them and trying to understand what they were saying.

Some points in the cave were extremely cool. There were areas where the shape of the walls were worked into the painting to show the shape of animals. My favorite was this "sculpture" of a bison that looked like a bison when you looked at it but when you saw its shadow cast on the wall it hit a painting behind it perfectly to appear as a figure that was part-man and part-bison.

After we were finished with that tour, we went to Museo de Altamira. The caves there are extremely well-preserved, which means no one is allowed in them - but the museum features an exact replica. Definitely not as cool what with the easily-walkable ramps and stairs that are well-lit...and the paintings are a lot more vibrant than what the originals would look like by now...and the ceiling to floor height is substantial and we had to imagine where the floor was based on the track lights on the walls (not that I'm complaining there, these caves were short).

We weren't allowed to take pictures in the fake cave though. That was strange to me. If it ruined the paint, couldn't they just paint over it again? I mean that's what they did in the first place...just a thought!

Also at the museum we were able to participate in some hands-on activities. The first involved using that shorter stick there to throw the longer one (which would normally have a point at the end) at targets. We only got a few tries, but I was definitely the closest to hitting the target - all those years of softball must have paid off!

[[Getting ready to throw. You held the end of the smaller stick in your right fist, hooked onto the bigger stick with the "spear" on the end, holding that one in place with your index finger and thumb. You stood sideways (almost as if throwing a javelin), aimed, and threw, hanging onto the small stick in the process.]]


[[Our lovely, unassuming targets.]]

Our next activity was kind of a let-down after throwing things (especially when no one ended up hitting the targets), but we got to play with rocks, so it wasn't completely terrible. Using sticks and hand covers, we were able to chip away at rocks to become spears. Our guide made his sharp enough to cut off a chunk of his hair (which he must do often because his hair was kind of all over the place). I was able to cut off a piece of mine once I sharpened my rock, but I was a little more subtle about where I cut.


[[Our rock and sharpening tool. You put your left thumb through the leather and had your hand protected by the leather. Using the stick, you chipped away at the edges of the rock to make a point. The points would have later been attached to the hunting tools.]]

My internet is being too slow to let me look anything up right now, but if you feel inclined, look up information about the caves I went to. It obviously won't do the real thing justice, but then you'll have a better idea of what I saw.

We returned to the university at 3:30 and immediately Sara and I went home and changed for the beach. Unfortunately the weather wasn't as nice as it has been, but we did find a shorter route to take to Playa Sardinero (25 minutes versus 40), and got some nice time to relax.

Today is looking like another beach day (as long as I get out there soon) and tomorrow is shaping up to be a rainy homework day. I hope you all have a good weekend!

♥ abigail

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Random musings

Nothing new to report here...I am slowly but surely adjusting to life in Spain. Although I'm pretty sure I'm always dehydrated and tired, and I know for a fact that I'm always hungry!

Being here has made me realize that we Americans are such grazers - food is always out and available to snack on. In my house, we only eat at meal times - our tiny little breakfast (which is mostly liquid) at 7:30, a more sizable dish (a main dish with bread and fruit) at 2:30, and a light dinner (appetizer-like food and yogurt) at 9:00.

There isn't any snacking in my house - although I bought some rice cakes and cereal bars to eat during break at school, plus my host mom gives me an apple to take with me.

This is definitely a change from home, where I'm constantly grazing and my only "substantial" meal is dinner, but it's something I'm getting used to.

Something I don't think I'll ever get used to is everyone and their grandma (not an exaggeration) sunbathing topless on the beach. It's just strange. I don't know what it is - do people in Spain have no shame, or do they just want to avoid tan lines that badly? Either way (or whatever the real answer is), it's something that will continually remind me that I'm not home.

Everything else I think I can used to - different foods, different meal times, different customs, different language...but being on a public beach with your top off? Not going to happen!

Today was another lovely day in Santander, although the beach was a tad bit windy (I know, such a rough life) for my liking. Sara and I ventured out on a nice run along the Paseo, went our separate ways for dinner, and now I'm settling in for the night with a good book.

Tomorrow our group goes on our first excursión - we're going to see some caves. Or replicas of caves. Somewhere in Spain. I'm not really clear on the details - I just show up when they tell me to. I'll fill you in tomorrow and I'll try to remember to take lots of pictures!

♥ abigail

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

El seis de abril

I need to take a moment and tell you all how tired I am. SO tired. Falling asleep during class (turn the lights off and I'm gone!), falling asleep at the beach, falling asleep while taking a test this evening...not that I'm complaining! I actually enjoy being tired - it makes falling asleep somewhere that isn't home much easier, plus it means that my day wasn't a complete waste.

Today I had my usual classes, then raced home to scarf down lunch before heading to the beach with most of the group. The beach we went to (Playa de Sardinero) is about a 40 minute walk from my house, so it's a bit of a schlep, but it's such a pretty walk!

For instance, this is what I saw on my way:


It was definitely another beautiful day in Santander - it was 27˚ C, which means it was 80˚ F...pretty nice for the start of April!

Everyone keeps telling us that this weather is out of the ordinary for this time of year in Spain, but I'm just going with it. I've decided that it's a reward for all the rainy days during spring term last year.

We stayed at the beach for around at hour-and-a-half (with sunscreen this time, so no sunburn for me!) before going to take a test to determine our language aptitude. Or something. We'll take it again at the end of our time here, obviously improving by leaps and bounds. I think.

The test was more annoying than anything else - it didn't specify how long we needed to write for, and the spoken portion was a pain in the butt! We had to wear headsets and speak into a microphone, which is really odd to do in a silent classroom. We all sat around looking at each other for a while before the first brave person finally started talking and we all followed suit.

I came home and ate dinner (early tonight - it was 8:30) and have been studying for my quizzes tomorrow for the past hour. Tomorrow brings a shorter day of classes and some more lovely weather - beach time once again!

♥ abigail

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Another interesting meal...

3:12 p.m.

This afternoon I managed to choke down another interesting meal. I am afraid to ask what it is, lest I really despise it and proceed to gag, so I ate as much as I could stomach.

It was the same thing I had right when I got here - some sort of pea-looking vegetable with a few potatoes doused in some sort of tomato sauce...I helped myself to plenty of "bread" (it's the shape of a very tiny piece of bread with a crouton-like consistency) to help force it down. Tomato sauce really isn't my thing, and mixed with the texture of the peas (?)...blech!

Yesterday I spent my afternoon doing homework - it was pretty challenging. Then Sara and I went to Lupa and got snacks to take to school, plus dental floss (my teeth are so happy now!), then wandered down the Paseo for a while.

This morning I had my usual classes - grammar, conversation, and culture. I fell asleep in the culture class again...it's a struggle to get through! It's from 1:00 to 2:00, so at that point "breakfast" is a distant memory and my hunger makes it hard to focus. Add in a dark classroom and just being tired in general, and you have a sleepy girl who nods off for at least 10 minutes per class.

I hope I didn't miss anything important.

Sara and I decided we need to run at least three times a week, so that will be happening at some point this afternoon. I have no homework today, so after the run I'll probably wander around with my friends until dinner time, after which I will (somewhat) promptly fall into bed. My classes start at 9:00 instead of 9:15 tomorrow, but those extra few minutes of sleep are crucial to me (they are the difference between being awake for the entire culture class or not).

I'll try to find something interesting to take pictures of today so my next post will be more interesting...it's looking like a beach day, so it might be something in that area :)

♥ abigail

Monday, April 4, 2011

An interesting meal...

3:06 p.m.

Picture the following food:

- White rice
- Canned tuna
- Some sort of white cheese
- Deli ham

By themselves they're all decently passable food (I say passable because I don't really like white rice and I prefer turkey to ham).

Are you picturing all those foods?

Now picture them cold.

And now - here's the kicker - picture them all mixed together.

That was lunch today. Rice with chunks of tuna, cheese, and ham, all swimming happily together in the tuna water.

I feel as if it is an acquired taste...one that I don't expect to acquire any time soon.

I chased it down with four cups of water (my host mom's cousin commented that I seemed very thirsty today) and an orange.

I am one of the pickiest eaters in the world, but while I'm here if I'm picky, I won't eat. I've learned that I'd rather eat gross food than no food, but today's eating was really forced.

In other news, I have a lot of homework today. It's strange.

And in
other other news, today is my lovely Aunt Gwen's birthday. Happy birthday Gwen!

[[Gwen and I at the Library of Congress in June 2008.]]

Now I am off to brush my teeth and gargle with mouthwash until I can no longer taste lunch. And then I will be doing homework until Sara and I go to Lupa (the grocery store near us) to procure nail polish remover, dental floss, and candy. The lack of sugar in my life is becoming a problem. Hope you all have a good day!

♥ abigail