Sunday, June 6, 2010

And so it ends...

I am home! I have been back for 5 days so far. I figured I should end this blog with a post. It's great being back of course. It's weird too because it feels like no time ever passed. Like the 5 months didn't really happen. Driving feels normal. Talking feels normal. San Francisco feels normal (except for the inconvenient construction on Portola.) But every now and then, spurts of Spain flood back. For example, when I am approaching people to buy a drink, go into a bar, etc, I assume they are going to talk in Spanish, and it takes me a second to remember. Also, I can now hear other people's conversations. Before, it was all just white noise, only heard if I really try to listen. But now I hear everything. Little things like that.

So thanks everyone for reading and it has truly been an amazing experience. I will always remember it. So for one last time, Adios and dos besos!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

"To learn something new, take the path that you took yesterday." John Burroughs

I decided to stay in Madrid this last week instead of travel to the North. At first I was worried that I would regret staying when I haven't seen the area of Galicia yet, but then I told myself that there is so much I probably still haven't seen in Madrid. So many people try to fit as much as they can see in a short amount of time, just to say "Oh, I've been there." Every time I traveled for a weekend, I was wishing I could have stayed longer. Obviously, if you are a busy person (or restricted by stupid school attendance rules) I think you should go even for a couple days rather than not go at all. But when you can, I feel that really getting to know a place is something special, and rare. I want to come back from Madrid and truely feel like it was my second home. I've been taking this time to really research what I haven't seen yet....with great success!

Here are some of my findings:

Mercado San Miguel
Very similar to the Ferry Building's indoor Market. I bought some bread, cheese, and fresh watermelon slices for lunch. It was really cool. They have a bunch of different tapa plate options at the different booths, plus sweets, fruits, wines, cheeses, and a variety of other delicious foods to buy for later or eat then. I wish I knew about this before when people were visiting! It's a great place to go for tapas and wine, and traditional Spanish desserts.

Fish heads...ugh.

Calle Alcalá
I already knew about this street, it's right off Sol, but today they had posters for an exhibit called "VivaAfrica," I believe. The images were really colorful and I had been going to different photography exhibits all day, so it fit in perfectly with my day!

I have gotten pretty good at this whole "not being able to see the screen" thing!

Azotea del Círculo de Bellas Artes
This roof has always had access to it because of it's great views of Madrid. I only heard about it because they were having a photo exhibit ontop of it. So I went for the exhibit and the view. The exhibit wasn't my type of photography so much, but the view was great!

The famous Gran Via Metropolis building.
One of the few pictures I really liked; view of Madrid infront of a view of Madrid :)
This is a picture of Callao at night
The exhibit

The Caixa Forum
This regularly holds exhibits, I just never knew. I found out about it because they were hosting an exhibit of the winning photography collections from the FotoPres 2009 competition. It is all pictures of photojournalism, and right up my alley. It was absolutely amazing and shocking all at the same time. Some collections were incredibly sad, but others were less gruesome. In an small room, they have the photographers talking about each of their collections. I remember one of them saying something about how it is unfortunate, because, in his opinion, we can not really do too much to save the world. My favorite, and most touching, was the collection of the 1st place winner, Emilio Morenatti, titled "Gender Violence in Pakistan." The pictures were incredibly sad, but the background stories that accompanied them made them all the more touching. All of the pictures were portraits of women attacked by acid for some awful reason, such as they didn't want to marry someone, they divorced someone, they are getting an education, or their family is in a fued with other family members. Many of these women are blind, and some even are completely without faces for absolutely no reason. Many of these women have brought charges against their attackers, but to no avail.

These pictures aren't pretty, I warn you.

I can't remember every single story, but I believe this women was burnt because she didn't want to marry someone.
These first two are probably the least gruesome of the exhibit, some weren't fortunate enough to have a single operation in order to restore some kind of normalcy.
The most touching photograph to me was the girl in the red, behind him. She is completely without a face and looks like a skeleton. Her father threw acid on her when she was 5 years old because he didn't want another woman in the family. Then the father fled, the mother remarried and abandoned the girl to live with her aunt. She is completely blind and has never left her house since she was burned.
(p.s. these aren't my photographs, I had to get them offline because you can't take photos inside the exhibit.)

So these have been my adventures so far. There is a Tapas Fair this weekend and one of my friends is still here she just nannies during the week so finally we can hang out this weekend. Hope you enjoyed the photos!

Monday, May 24, 2010

¡Qué posh!: Week in London

Just returned to Madrid from a week in London. It was so surreal being in an English speaking country. The first since I've left for Madrid in January. We kept wanting to use Spanish but it was much easier to acclimatize there since we actually know English instead of having to improvise, like in France or Austria.

We arrived on Tuesday later in the afternoon and took the underground to Robert and Janet's house (friends of Jessica's parents). The underground is not as luggage-friendly/handicap accessible as Madrid metro is, so we schlepped the suitcases up and down lots of stairs. I felt bad for Jess because she had ALL her luggage since she was leaving from London to the USA. We were working up a sweat especially because London was so hot all week! It was wonderful once we could put our suitcases down. Apparently we had just missed bad weather! *Side note: I grabbed my camera to discover that my laptop, which was also in my purse, had smashed into it and broke the screen. Luckily I could still take pictures, I just couldn't see a single thing I was taking a picture of! So most of these pictures are off, but some turned out surprisingly well.*

Robert and Janet's house was so cute. Very British looking, and in a great area! They made us dinner the first night and we sat and chatted for over 4 hours! We had so much fun getting to know them. They were really great! Robert loves to cook so he also made us breakfast the next morning. It was AWESOME.
They have 'look right' and 'look left' on every corner...actually VERY helpful.
Our underground station aka the home of Sherlock Holmes!

On Wednesday we saw so much! In no particular order: Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, London Tower, London Eye, Westminster Abbey, King's Cross (aka Harry Potter 9 3/4 platform), and Big Ben/Parliament. We didn't go inside anywhere because it was all so expensive and it's always more pretty to look at usually. That night we went ate fish and chips with Robert and Janet at this famous restaurant. It was so good!
Big Ben and the famous telephone booths
Buckingham Palace...due to my camera I didn't get very good shots
London Bridge
London Tower
Trafalgar Square
Bridge across the water...not too shabby for not being able to see!
Street performer and London Eye
My proudest 'blind' photo. Big Ben

Thursday we went to the Burough Market, similar to the SF Farmer's Market. It was so great. I love Farmer's Markets so it was definately my 'cup of tea.' We bought some delicious goat cheese, paired it with a baguette and some fresh pesto sauce, and had a feast. The guy who sold us cheese knew I was from San Francisco because of my accent. It was so bizarre! I've never had that happen before. I looked around to see if I was wearing anything with SF on it, but nope, he just knew! Crazy. We had some of the food leftover so we brought it back to the house and Robert complimented us on our selections. He would know better than us!

Burough Market
Our lunch
Always good to know.

Then we walked down the street to Madame Tussaids Wax Museum. We were very excited, until we finally got in and saw how ridiculously crowded it was. The whole reason you go to a wax museum is to take pictures with the sculptures, but it was so crowded I felt like I was in a herd. It was also impossible to get to certain figures because of the crowd. We weren't very big on the crowds, so we just kind of went through and left.

We grabbed a quick dinner and headed to Victoria Station because we had bought tickets to see Wicked. It was such a great performance. I can never look at Wizard of Oz the same again! Definately, definately recommended.

So good!

We wanted to get drink some wine after the show, but all the bars close down from 11-12...we were shocked to say the least. We knew it would be earlier than Madrid, but that seemed ridiculous. Not to mention that is usually the time we leave our houses in Madrid. So crazy!

Friday was our "shopping day." We went to Oxford Street and the streets surrounding it, and bought some really cute NECESSARY ;) things. After shopping we went to Portobello Road and Knotting Hill, where all the elite live. There were little children running around in their school uniforms, which required hats like in Mary Poppins. It was hilarious. Portobello Road was really cute, and we ate at a really delicious restaurant. I got the veggie burger (first one in months!) and it was so good even Jess wish she had ordered it.

Portobello Road
Knotting Hill

Saturday we went to buy tickets to the Les Miserables matinee performance, but it was sold out. So we opted for Lion King instead because we heard that was good as well. I really enjoyed it. I thought Wicked was better, but Lion King was still really fun to watch. Now I want to go to some shows during the summer because I forgot how much I enjoy watching plays/musicals!
In the Cirrrrrcle...the Cirrrcle of Liiiiiiife

Sunday we had an appointment for "Pop up on the Roof Tea" through a popular tea house in London. Their regular high-tea was sold out, so they told us about this and we just said sure, but didn't really know what it was. We arrived to the place they told us, completely confused because we saw nothing. So we headed for the stairs, since it was suppose to be on some roof, somewhere, and when we got to the top we saw about 7 tables cutely decorated with teapots and plates. It was straight out of Alice in Wonderland or something! It was so cute. We got champagne, our choice for a pot of tea, 3 tiers of assorted sandwiches and sweets, one plate with a scone with butter and jelly, a delicious merange, and a 'pims' drink at the end. They boxed up all the leftovers to take with us too. It was so much fun.

Tea time! My favorite time :)

My favorite was the scone with the butter and jelly...the butter has a special name, like clotted cream or something. I can't remember.

After getting Dad's Man U Jersey :), we went back to the house because Robert and Janet were making a big dinner since we were leaving in the morning and their friend who was in town only for the day was also leaving in the morning. It was delicious and then Jess and I spent the rest of the night packing and watching movies on my computer. It was a great trip and I really enjoyed London. It felt a little bit like home because of the coffee shops, English, and cutesy shops everywhere.

Elephants on Parade! These elephants were all over the city, painted on by different artists, like the San Francisco Hearts.

I'm here for my last week in Spain. I plan on going to the North for a couple days, but I haven't decided anything in detail yet. I love you all and will see you soon!

Monday, May 17, 2010

San Isidro 2010 + Last weekend with USAC

This weekend was the "official" end of USAC. While some people still linger, many have left for other adventures or to return to the states. It was not as much of a tear fest as we all predicted. I think it's easier when people trickle out instead of all rushing out at once. Yet, it's been sad nonetheless. Luckily, it was the annual San Isidro celebration this weekend in Madrid! Lots of festivities to keep us busy and eternally remember our time here. Here are some pictures of this weekend along with some people I won't forget!

The madrileños were staring...who says you have to grow up?
USAC office girls: Gabriela and Susan. They did so much for us all!
Gran Via stage...celebrating 100 years!Fireworks show...amazing!Finale...beautiful among the old buildingsWe hadn't gone in months but it was our bar for the first two months. Last time at El Tigre!El Oso y El Madroño...the symbol of Madrid

Jessica and I are heading to London tomorrow...hopefully. The volcano is being naughty again so we're waiting to see what happens. Fingers crossed. We're staying with Jessica's parents' friends. Perfect! London is supposedly expensive enough as it is. I'll stop talking about London though because this volcano is making me nervous!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

La Semana Última con USAC

My birthday weekend was so much fun! I would say about 3/4 of our program came and we all had a great time all the way up until the metro opened at 6am! It was a great way to see everyone off because some peope are leaving right after finals on Friday. Some are leaving Saturday, and the majority will be gone by Sunday, either back to the USA or to some other destination in Europe. I'm one of the few returning after my week in London. Then maybe to the North of Spain? I haven't quite decided yet. One trip at a time for now. Hopefully everything goes well though because the stupid volcán is acting up again, and now British Airways is going on intermitten strikes from the 18th until the first week of June. Grrrrrreat.

Foster's Hollywood dinner with everyone, blowing out my cake!

But for now I've just been studying for finals (I only have two) and finishing up papers and what not. It's so surreal that it is coming to a close and in a couple of days I will have very few people to call when I am here. I loved that our program has people from all over the country, yet it makes it that much harder to stay in touch! Tomorrow we are getting "yearbooks" made by the USAC staff and some students that recount the past semester. I'm excited to see it! We're also giving our Spanish teacher, Sara, a picture frame signed by all of us with a picture of our class taken a couple weeks ago. Tomorrow is our last day of Spanish class. The best Spanish class I've ever had by far! It's going to be sad...

But for now I'm just focusing on my time left :) Love you all!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Feliz Cumpleaños & Dia de la Madre

It's a lot of people's last weekend in Madrid since some leave right after finals next Friday. It's also my birthday weekend! :) It's also a guy in our programs birthday today! So it's a big weekend for everyone to get their last hoorahs in.

For Saturday, I made reservations at a restaurant called Foster's Hollywood. It's an "American" food restaurant and I figured it's perfect because it can fit the most people and since I'm turning 21, I'll celebrate it American-style. Carmen actually made the call for me because it's hard to understand people on the phone and I didn't want to mess up. Then we're going out from dinner because it's close to a popular neighborhood.

Also, this Sunday is Mother's Day (Dia de la Madre). Last Sunday was Dia de la Madre in Spain. Therefore, Feliz Dia de la Madre, mamá! and Happy Mother's Day to all the other mothers I know/am related to as well! Love you all!

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