Friday, January 29, 2010

Snow y El Retiro

It snowed the other day (wednesday)! Soft, fluffy snowflakes that didn't "stick" said the people who weren't taking 20 pictures because they see it all the time. It was cool! But today was super sunny and I have to admit that I do love the sun more!

Snowflakes outside dance class!

We finally went to Parque del Retiro since the sun was out, which is what we were waiting for. It's absolutely gooooorgeous. My new favorite place. I'm going to do homework there with amigos, go on runs, walk around, etc. It's huge! I knew I was close to it from looking at the map, but I had no idea how close! One of the entrances into the park is two blocks from me! Short blocks too! I'm so excited about that. Also, I explored my neighborhood a little bit today. There is a yummy pasteleria that we got some empinadas and croissants at.

Here are some pictures of it:

Beautiful! Where the royals used to play

We took a rowboat out on this lake!
But now I must go meet up with my friends for tapas and dancing! Miss you all! Love you much!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

El Rastro y Ronaldo

We don't have school today! It is a holiday, but only for the students at my college. Saint something. I don't remember but no one else has it off.

On Sunday, I went to El Rastro which is one of the biggest flea markets in Europe. It was really cool. El Rastro translates into "the stain." It's named after the blood stains that would be on the streets from venders dragging animal carcasses. Lovely. I want to buy some art there. But you have to be careful about knock-offs and pick pockets. But on these paintings you can feel the brush strokes, so that's all I want! They are by a local artist called Yutze. They also sell soccer jerseys for a lot cheaper. It was Shae's birthday last night, so Jessica and I bought her a Real Madrid jersey as a gift for her to wear to the game because she didn't have one.
It can get packed on some streets
Antiques area

Then that night was the game! We knew we had great seats, but we didn't know we were front row! It was so cool. They were so close to us! I tried to get a picture of Raul, but he didn't even play until the second half and therefore was on the opposite side! But Ronaldo and Kaka were really close so I got pictures of them! Everyone went crazy over Ronaldo's red card. And it was all over the paper the next day. Málaga isn't even big competition, but the stadium was packed and the game was frontpage. It's crazy! I can't wait to go again. We are also planning on going to an Atletico game (even though they're rivals) because they cost like 20euro for cheap seats.

pure joy during halftime
Ronaldo's red

It was Gutz Mal's last game, so we were informed.
Our view! Packed stadium
Shae and I in our jerseys!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Museo de Arte Reina Sofia y shenanigans

We spent the day at the Queen Sofia Art Museum. And by day I mean 4pm-6pm because we all woke up at 2pm. I was worried because it is a modern art museum (i.e. purple square on white piece of paper kind of art), but was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked it. Granted we glanced over many pieces, but I was excited to see Picasso and some other artists. His work is really intricate, therefore, more interesting. The museum also has a bunch of authentic photographs, newspaper clippings, books, etc. from the Spanish Civil War era. Very interesting. I wish I could take a class on the time during Franco's dictatorship, but unfortunately the only one offered was in Spanish. I guess internet and asking people will have to suffice. It's crazy to think how Spain has only been dictator-free for 30 years or so and still is changing so much because of it.

Anyways. Here are my entertaining pictures of the day:
Pretty garden Refreshing! (don't worry, just a camera trick)
We call this "Pokemon" SOYYYYYYY MILK

"Midget Tiger" every day at Plaza de Sol Spanish Civil War propaganda room
This is me taking a picture of a statue and not 'Guernica', Picasso's famous painting that isn't allowed to be photographed in the background. Notice the tiny woman glaring at me. Wa ha ha.
Contemplating the meaning of life Picasso

No, those aren't bookshelves. They're art. Duh. Someone's a little angry at the Church, eh?

Little Me, Big World
Pretty, I can't remember anything about it now....

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Mi Universidad, Real Madrid, Travels

The sun came out today for a little! It was sunny in the morning, then got cloudy/foggy midday, but right now I can see blue skies! I managed to take a couple pictures of my campus for you guys. It's a really nice campus. The neighborhood it is in, Vicalvaro, is just nothing special.

After class, a couple of us went to buy our Real Madrid v. Málaga tickets at the Santiago Bernabéu stadium (home stadium), but they weren't selling them today! We could have sworn they were, but we ended up buying them online (hence the debit card charge, mom. don't worry they are paying me back tomorrow :) )

We are really, really close! I CAN'T WAIT! Hopefully it doesn't rain, but it's ok if it does because I will just bring my heavy raincoat! Nothing will stop us :) I think we are wearing face paint for added enthusiasm.

In Feb. 19-28 we don't have school because that week is when the Field Study group goes to Barcelona. Shae and I have been planning a trip that week because it's 10 days of no school! This is our itinerary:

Feb. 19-21: Granada, Spain.
21-24: Seville, Spain.
24-28: Lisbon, Portugal.

All those places are supposed to be BEAUTIFUL! The tickets to travel are so cheap. Each bus between those places is only like 16-20E. Better start doing my research (as always!).

We also booked our Cádiz Carnaval trip (I'm going to dress up as a jester aka more glitter and face paint!). And I believe next Friday is our day excursion with USAC to El Escorial and the Valley of the Fallen. It looks amazing. I've realized that my favorite thing to do traveling is either a) nature, or b) architecture. I am not much of an art/museum person.
El Escorial y Valley of the Fallen

Then for spring break we are planning a French Riviera to Italy trip. Even though I've been to Italy, I didn't feel that I got to appreciate it as much because all the tourists drove me crazy. I couldn't even move at times! But that's still in the works. First we must conquer Spain!
<-- This is the post office...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Museo, Baile, Fútbol, y Carnaval

The weather isn't very sunny out, so my pictures aren't so pretty. We haven't done too much sightseeing because everything will look prettier in the sun so we've been waiting. I went to the Museo Thyssen-Bsomethingsomething the other day. It was pretty cool but I got bored after an hour. I just can't look at art that long! Especially when some of it is modern art (aka stupid).

I just got back from dance class. I've learned Merengue, Salsa, and Sevillanas. It's really fun. Everyone gets really into it, it's awesome! The teacher is really nice and funny, but doesn't speak English. She is always having to correct the boys (because they can't dance), but we all have a lot of fun! I like salsa a lot! I am actually pretty good at it! I just need to get the arm movements down.

This Sunday there is a Real Madrid game against Málaga. Me and a couple people are going and cheering on our team! It should be really fun. Hopefully the weather isn't too bad.

In about two weeks, the festival of Carnaval is here! A bunch of us are traveling to Cadíz in the south of Spain for a weekend long festival! It's going to be really fun and everyone wears costumes and goes all out. Our first festival!

Tomorrow I'm going to the gym after class (only 22E/month and NO enrollment fee b/c we're USAC!!!). Then shopping probably. Then an intercambio session with Jessica and Shae. It should be really fun.

Next Wednesday our flamenco teacher is bringing us to a flamenco club. So excited! Flamenco is craaaazy. She is going to teach us some of the dance too, which I really want to learn! There is also this cool hand tapping thing flamecos do that she is going to try and teach us, but apparently it's really hard to learn. Fun times ahead! Sorry I don't have pictures. I have been bad at taking them because the weather!!

Love you all.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Plaza Mayor on Sundays

Plaza Mayor is a really famous square of Madrid. Many postcards are of the square because of it's beauty. I had heard that Sundays were the day to go, but I had no idea! It was so fun. There are tons of people dressed up and tons more walking the streets around Sol. Sundays seem really fun here. Everyone is out with friends and family enjoying themselves. There were so many people dressed up, it felt like Disneyland!

Floating Jesus
Invisible Man
Mickey Mouse

Shay, Wookie, and Jessica
Some girls and I went to Plaza Mayor for a really late, light lunch since we all woke up at like 1 pm! On the bus ride to meet my friends, a little girl (like 6 yrs old) was with her family and she said something to me, but I had no idea what she said! I know it ended with "...contigo, Señora" which means "...with you ma'am." Her parents just smiled at me and laughed so I did as well. She was so cute though, but I really have no idea. Hopefully it wasn't a question haha.

They were there ALL day. The woman is just a random passerby up for a dance!
He was a crowd favorite
Spiderman let himself go...
I don't know what a gorilla has anything to do with a peacock

After lunch at Plaza Mayor, we went around the corner to a chocolateria for hot chocolate and churros. 3E each for a hot chocolate and huge plate of churros! The hot chocolate is really thick here, but tasted so good! I'm very full now and probably don't need dinner, but I don't want to be rude so I'll eat later, which is fine since it is only 8 pm anyways. We went to this little chocolateria, not realizing until we came out that the famous one we were thinking of was right next door! But it was really crowded so it was probably better anyways.

So delicioso!

Tomorrow is the first day I have all my classes. I'm excited. I have Español, Music and Society: Flamenco, and then dancing in the afternoon! It's going to be so funny/fun, especially with some of the people in it. Well I ran out of international calls so I need to refresh my calling card, but I was having trouble finding a place with them. A lot is closed on Sundays, so I'll buy it tomorrow.

On Thursday, my friend Jessica set up an intercambio session with the student that took her to her apartment. She is bringing me and our other friend along for fun, and to help keep up conversation since it will be one hour in Spanish and one hour in English! I'm so excited because this will be really good to learn Spanish as well as information about Madrid. This is the same student who was going to take us on a tour today, but the weather wasn't very nice so we are going next Sunday!

Miss you all!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Siesta and Classes

Today was the first day of classes. I only had one today though. Español Track 2 at 9:20 a.m. I showed up a little late because the metro ride took longer than I thought, but I wasn't the only one. Obviously my professor didn't care. Her name is Sara and she seems fun. Sometimes she can't understand what we are trying to say because certain phrases in English don't have a Spanish equivalent, such as "I'm bad with time" doesn't make sense to Spaniards. (That wasn't me using that phrase though haha) But we all help each other in explaining the meaning.

After class three of my classmates and I went to buy our books and fix our cellphones. Both successes! We found a really cool shopping area in Bilboa metro stop area. There are so many sales right now it's insane! Everything is really really cheap. According to Gabriela (USAC adviser) this continues until the end of January. I bought a taller bag for school so I could fit my books in. It only cost 15E and it's really cute! It used to be 30E!!!

Mi bolsa bella! And the map of Madrid that I actually never need to use!

I can't wait for Monday's classes (yes I just said I was excited for class...) because I have Music and Society: Flamenco and then a dance class at the D'Angus Dance studio in the center of Madrid. Apparently we have it with some of our intercambios (language exchange partners) and Spaniards from the school, but I keep hearing different things, so who knows yet.

The Bilboa barrio (neighborhood) where we shopped and bought our books (10% off with USAC!)

Carmen has a cleaning woman come every Thursday, Miranda, so today she made me a quick dinner because Carmen had a long work day. She still feeds me early, like 8:30, but eventually I will be eating at the regular time. I have no problem with that, I could probably start now. For cena (dinner) I had a salad with tuna and olive oil along with a ham pizza. Yummo for the pizza! But the tuna salad was a weird compliment to a ham pizza so I ate around most of the tuna.

Tomorrow I only have one class in the morning again (Español Track 2 is Mon. through Fri.) and then we are exploring more of Madrid. I want a chance to get to know my neighborhood better but I have been so busy during the days that I don't get home until close to dark.

When I look out my window I can see the city lights through the buildings. It reminds me of our view from home. I am also on a hill...that I walk up everyday! Reminiscent of high school! Also like high school, my cell phone is from the stone age and similar to the first phone I ever got. The only problem is I can't find the option to turn the keypad sound off so every time I use it it goes BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEEP as I press buttons. Muy molesto (very annoying) !!!!!!

I took my first siesta today at 7:30. It was very, very nice! I will probably need one per day! And I'm sore from walking and climbing so many stairs, but it feels good!

One more observation that I'm very happy about is that the Spaniards don't try to speak English to us unless we get stuck. Then they will continue in Spanish after they told us the word in English. I'm glad that when we talk to people they don't just switch to English to make the conversation go easier/faster. It helps a lot having to speak Spanish to every single person other than each other! I'm already learning so much!!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

First Day and already moved in!

I made it to Madrid in one piece and with all my luggage! It's so pretty, but sooooo cold, especially today.

Yesterday, (our first day) we were bused to our hotel (which was four stars!) where we met our USAC advisers and got introduced to everyone. Our USAC advisers are really nice and easy to talk to. Dinner at the hotel started with a yummy soup with some cut up ham in it for starters and then these hash brown type things (delicioso) and steak! I actually ate some of the steak which was an improvement for me. Then we got crepes with ice cream for dessert. It was yummers! I roomed with two girls, one named Michaela and one named Katie. I really like everyone in my program so far! It's been fun getting to know everyone. It's pretty evenly split between East Coast and West Coast people. We went out to a tapas bar to celebrate one of the student's birthdays. It was only 10:30 so no one was there, but we wanted it to be a relaxed night anyways because we had to get up at 7:30 today for all the orientations we had.

Which brings me to today! We got the basics on school and living situations, but more will come about school and life in Madrid tomorrow. But we did learn dos besas (the proper way to greet people, aka kiss on each cheek). Then we hung out, explored, bought cell phones and exchanged numbers, etc.

La Plaza Santa Ana with some of the girls. Look, snow!

Eventually 5 pm came around, which meant time for Carmen (homestay) to pick me up! She is very nice and we can communicate fairly well despite her not speaking English. Luckily I can pull out words and get the jist of it! I was already understanding Spanish better as the day went on! Now I just need to speak it without fumbling my pronunciation. I live in a great area near the Retiro Park. Everyone lives pretty close to each other. Just a metro stop here or there. One girl, who is year-round and I have yet to meet, lives around the corner from me. She's from Japan apparently. My room is very tiny, but has a huge armoire and a big shelf to put everything on!

I just had dinner (8:30) because Carmen knew that I had been up all day and I'm still not used to dinner being later. I had chicken with green bell peppers in this really yummy sauce and broth soup and bread to start. I ate most of the meal, but my appetite isn't huge because of the adjustments to everything. She sat with me while I ate dinner and we talked about random things. Her niece is named Alejandra, so she calls me Alejandra instead of Alex like everyone else does. I told her about my Spanish background and she was wondering why no one spoke Spanish haha.

But now I'm going to bed soon because I'm tired and we have to get up and meet at the school's metro stop by 9. I think some people are going out, but my SIM card takes 24 hours to activate so they can't call me anyways. Totally fine, considering I wasn't going to go out anyways! So that was my first two days!

Te amo!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Leaving On A Jet Plane...

Finally the time has come! This year went by so fast, and now I'm packed and waiting: 2 bag, 1 carry-on, and a large backpack. Not too bad...I can't compromise my style after all ;)

First stop in London, then to Madrid. The first night all the USAC students stay in a hotel together and then we have a day or two of orientation. I don't know exactly when I'll move into my homestay. Then classes start on the 13th or 14th, and the rest will be history!

Now I just need to sleep, eat a delicioso breakfast with Mom and Dad at Cafe for All Seasons, and I'm on my way to the airport at 1:00 pm! Love you all!

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