Monday, December 17, 2007

The end is near!

I cant believe this Sunday im going to be in Oregon!!!!!! Im going to be in my bed. AHHH i cant believe it. Im starting to get anxious and i hate that feeling. Its hard to sleep and i keep thinking about delays with my flights, given the time of year! I know im going to miss Spain, but i really feel like the end here is very anticlimatic. I feel like ill miss Spain after im home and im used to the American way of life again, and ill wish i was traveling every weekend and not having homework everyday!

I feel like the end is anticlimatic because we had our end of the year party on Dec 4th and i dont leave until the 22nd of Dec. I had all of my finals last week, only one this week, and now i have 3 more days of going to class...which is pretty much pointless because im not being tested on any of it. Its kind of weird how they structurize the end. We have class when we have finals, and our finals are all different days, depending on the level you are in and the classes you are taking. For me, im all done. Now im pretty bored, since i dont have any money, anything to study for...pretty much nothing to do the next few days. I get out and go walking and explore, but Oviedo is my home, its not a new city or new country, ive been living here the last 3 months. Here i can be independent, but at the same time i cant. I dont have a car and even though i live in a home i cant cook or have friends over. I have promised myself i wont start packing until Thursday because i need to have something to do! haha. On friday im going to go on a hike which should be nice...but the time is definately passing slowly. Last night Caitlin, Maria, and I watched Dirty Dancing in Spanish. Quite amusing to say the least! BUT i must say after Sunday when im home i definately wont miss the horrible Spanish dubbing. Its annoying to here the voices changed when you have to watch the normal characters with horrific drab accents! I have been watching a lot of CNN international lately, mostly to find out about the weather, and a little bit to be updated on worldly news! Its the only channel we have in English. I dont mind watching tv in Spanish, its just, like i said, all the shows that i enjoy in america are dubbed in horrible spanish here!

Well im going to head home. The weather is frigid here! so so so cold! i definately need to get home because i didnt prepare for this kind of weather! Maria has the heat on, but not enough! i sleep with two pairs of pjs on and then two tshirts and a sweatshirt! When i go out i wear two pairs of socks, a scarf, and mittens too! I think its probably the same weather as home, but since i walk EVERYWHERE you feel the cold more! Also there is no precipitation, no clouds, so it feels even colder, the clouds hold in some warmth!

Take care! My iternary home is bus to madrid. then 6 hrs in the madrid airport. flight to frankfurt, germany. short layover. then flight to portland!!!!

Portugal Puente

I had a long weekend at the beginning of December just before all the stress of finals. I traveled with Amanda and Amy to Lisboa, Portugal which was absolutely amazing. It was so nice to take advantage of being in Europe where you can travel to other countries in the EU for relatively cheap. Spain and Portugal are neighbors of course, with many simlarties, but so many differences as well. Lisboa is on the coast, in the central/slight south west part of Portugal. The time change was actually 1 hr behind from spain, so it was 8 hours not 9 hours different from the pacific coast at HOME.

We traveled on wednesday early early morning from Oviedo to Madrid, and then Madrid to Lisboa. The rest of the afternoon we spent relaxing in our hostel and buying groceries because we lucked out with our accomadations. We were suppose to stay in a hostel, with 6 bunks, and a bathroom, but for some reason the lady really liked us and she put us in a room, no extra charge, with a kitchen and living. Now if you have traveled and stayed in hostels this is unheard of!!! Most hotels dont even have a kitchen to cook in. We decided the first night to save money and buy groceries for dinner and then make lunches for the next day. We thought we could only stay in the luxurious room one night because the lady said she wasnt able to do any switching around for the next couple nights, but the following morning we came to the reception desk, prepared to move, luggage in hand, and she told us we could stay in the same room! we were thrilled!!

On thursday we went to Sintra which is a town about 30 mins from Lisboa. It was an experience getting there because we learned that there are seriously 6 different types of transportation in Lisboa and Lisboa is definately not a walking town! Its much like San Fransico where everything is hilly and super steep. In addition, the streets are hazardous cobblestone and i felt that i was always looking down to make sure i wasnt stepping in dog poop!

Anyways, after taking the metro and then two different trains to Sintra (not very expensive, but a little bit time consuming), we explored the little town with so much character and beauty. We visited two different palaces (Palicio de Sintra and Palicio de Pena) We thought Palicio de Sintra was the main, big one, because it had the name of the town in it, so we went to it first, but it turns out Palicio de Pena is enormous and you could spend an entire day in itself exploring the palace and its many attractions (gardens, courtyards, etc). We were able to see the palace, but it was getting dark and didnt have time to see anything else. We ate dinner in Sintra at a French restruant and treated ourselves to an expensive meal....of course it was expensive, it was french! We split two main dishes for three people, a bottle of wine, bread, cheese, olives, the works.

Next we headed back to Lisboa and got rest for another fully day of exploration in Lisboa. The following day we went to see St. George´s Castle in Lisboa. We went to this famous Pasteleria that has small creme brulle type pasteries that are to die for. You add powdered sugar and cinnamon on top too! Thats what the place is known for and apparently they arent just famous in Portugal, they are famous everywhere. The place is called the Pastleria de Belem. We met these girls from our hostel the day before and they recommended us going, they even told us they were going twice. We thought to ourselves we will go once, but obviously we wouldnt go to the same place twice....We sure were wrong. This place was so amazing, the following day before we left to catch our flight, we went back in the morning and ate there again! Plus we got a box of 6 to go for our friends that we were meeting in Madrid!

On Saturday afternoon we caught a flight back to Madrid but it was delayed almost 2 hours!!! UGG. By the time we took a bus and the metro to our hostel in Madrid we were ready for dinner. We met up with our friends staying in Madrid and found a chinese restruant to eat in. Our friends had been in the Madrid the last couple days and they told us about their crazy adventure the night before. I nearly died when i heard what they did. Everyone reading this probably wont appreciate or understand where im coming from but trust me, when i found out i was a day from doing what they did i was so jealous! They were exploring the city streets of Madrid when they saw a poster for Common (this famous music artist/rapper in the US). They found the ticket office and turns out the concert was that night and the tickets were still available, only 27 euros!!! Anyways, it was general admission, surprisingly, since Common is super famous. If you know who Kanye West is, that might give you an idea of who Common is because they have done songs together before. So my two friends, Nikki and Ashely, not only went to the concert but randomly were pulled back stage after and hung out with Common and his whole crew. They were practically front row at the concert, even were pulled up on stage dancing on the speakers! And this concert wasnt small! It was huge! I was so happy for them, but i couldnt believe i missed it! Now thats a great story, especially since it happened in Spain!!!

Anyways, saturday night i went to bed early because my flight back to Oviedo was at 7am. We had to take a cab to the airport because the metro stopped running at 130 am and didnt start again until 6am. I thought that was really strange, since Madrid is an enormous city, and lots of people go to work earlier then 6am! I flew back with Nikki and Ashley because Amanda and Amy were spending an extra day in Madrid and getting home on Monday. I didnt want to spend the extra money and i had 4 finals and a paper coming up that week so i knew i needed most of Sunday to study!

Portugal was a great experience. I will post the site for the pictures below. I wish i was able to take more photos but my battery died on my camera and they are super expensive here so i will try to get more photos from my friends and post those as well!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Escuela, Galicia, Escuela!

Two weeks ago i was in Oviedo for a whole weekend! It was the first time in a month! It was nice to relax and sleep in my bed for more then a week at one time! School is school. A lot of times its hard to get through 5-6 hrs of class everyday, all in spanish, especially since it is very different from the US. Sometimes I feel like im still in elementary school, and then i realize the level that i am at in Spanish is the level of a elementary schooler. Which is quite confusing at times because I am expected to write 5 page thesis papers in spanish yet my skills in spanish especially in communication are far less advanced! For example, we listen to songs and fill in blanks to questions that the song will say, or conjugate verbs from songs that we listen to. Also we play games that teach us grammar, phonetics, vocabulary. Dont get me wrong! I am learning a lot, but when i think about the structure of school and how i am expected to learn so much from games and songs and then have only 1-2 tests in 12 weeks its quite astonishing and confusing at times! The only class that resembles the way I would take a class in the US is my literature class. The problem is it goes SOOOOOO fast! We analyze 3-4 poems every class, and poetry is not even my forte in english, thus in spanish i struggle even more when i have to recognize metaphors and personification and much more! Anyways, i know i am learning a lot, but i am definately looking forward to returing to my comfort zone where i know what to expect in all of my classes each term. I have the library that i can retreat to anytime i want and i know when midterm weeks are and finals week!

Thanksgiving was really hard for me. I want to be home and with family. I wanted to cuddle up on the couch and watch football with my Dad and brother. Obviously i got through it, but i definately was emotional when it was midnight in spain and 3pm in the US and i knew that dinner would be ready in a few hrs yet I was thousands of miles away at a bar and no one in spain even cares or knows its Thanksgiving! My host mom thought i was just homesick, but i told her it wasnt even about being away for another month, it was about the fact that Thanksgiving is a time where we come together and share memories and its important in my family because usually im with my grandparents, aunts, cousin, uncle, etc. Anyways, my mom said she is going to do a thanksgiving redo and Hannukkah redo for me! So im excited for that! I think Thanksgiving just made me miss familiarity! I miss the little things and the comfort it brings me. I feel like i live in spain, but it still doesnt feel like home. Being in Spain has definately taught me so much about what i want and need in life though. And on Thanksgiving i felt more thankful for what i have been given in this life, more then ever. I told my mom a lot about this, but i dont think i have truly expressed it to anyone else yet. Its hard to articulate in words, but i can feel that Spain has brought on a positive change in me. We talk a lot about the experiences and openness studying abroad brings, in my intercultural prospectives class. Anyways, I learned in my class that I have 75% more then what the rest of the world has! Its astonishing! Just having the opprotunity to go on exchange and study in a foreign country is something only 5% of students experience (im not sure if thats students in the world or students in the US, but either way im lucky!)

On a lighter note....Last weekend my group went on their last program excursion. We went to Galicia which is the principality east and bit south of Austurias. I have to say I live Austurias much more! A lot of that might have to do with the days we went and the amount of time we spent at each locaton! For me, I have seen enough cathedrals! The first place we went to was this fortress defense area from 100 AC. Basically it was a bunch of old rock circles which were trenches and they were used for different types of protection and living areas. It wasnt very interesting. I could have looked at it for 5 mins and been ready to go especially since the wind chill was killing me and it started raining, but we had a tour for over 30 minutes of the area! After that we drove to La Coruna which is where we stayed for two nights. We went to see Hercules Tower which is right on the ocean. It had an amazing view! We went to the top of the tower and i enjoyed that, but the wind was so strong that i could only manage to stay up there for 10 minutes! The rest of the day we were free to do what we wanted...most of us went to dinner and retreated to hang out in our hostal rooms! Good thing i decided to relax and not check out the night life because the girls that went out had trouble getting in anywhere. Here you only have to be 18 to drink and a lot of people drink even younger, but for some reason the places people tried to go to they were carded and told they had to be 21. We dont ever bring our ID's out because you dont need them here, so no one had ID on them and they were all rejected. I dont know if you actually have to be 21 in a lot of the places in Coruna or maybe it was just because they are american! Who knows! The night life is definately not as good or the same as Oviedo, because its not a college city.

The next day was Sunday, thus everything is closed! Thats why it was frustrating because after we went to see Santiago de Camino and the cathedral we had the rest of the day to do whatever we wanted. Yet we couldnt really do anything because everything is closed!! The highlight of my weekend was the amazing amazing italian dinner i had sunday night! ohmygosh to die for! Maybe its because i really needed change from spanish food everyday, but the pesto pasta i had hit the spot! we found this amazing rosado wine and a bunch of girls enjoyed an evening at the restruant!

Monday we departed from La Coruna and on our way home we stopped in Lugo. Completely pointless to me and the rest of the group! We were all ready to get home. We checked out the cathedral and the huge wall that wrapped around the cathedral and part of the city, then we had 2 hrs to spare, and 1 of them was during siesta time, so there was no where to go! No shops, no cafes, nothing was open. Ohwell! Such is life!

The weekend was fine, it just definately wasnt my favorite place i have traveled in spain!

This week I had class, class, and class! Oh and our guest professor from Western Oregon University is taking all of us out in small groups for tapas and vino (small apetizers accustom to spain and wine). I signed up to go this week and it was a blast! Its all on AHA, so we didnt have to pay either! I really like Claudio, the guest professor, im taking his class, and you can just tell how passionate he is! He actually wants us to understand the literature we are reading! Thats the big difference between his literature class and the one that i never understand anything in. He doesnt go so fast that you cant even take notes. We read passages over and over and talk about the meaning and we read things that are more interesting. He doesnt race through the vocab that we dont know like my other teacher does! I am doing really well in his class! I have gotten 2 solid A's on both of the tests so far!

I am enjoying my second to last weekend in Oviedo by writing a paper, doing homework, hanging out with friends, and going to the Gijon open market on sunday!

On Tuesday we are having an end of the term party at a cafe with all of the families, students, and any professors that can attend. Caitlin asked my host mom the other night if she was coming. We werent sure because her daughter and granddaughter arrived last night from Valencia (which is on the opposite coast, in the east). Maria told Caitlin she doesnt want everyone to think she is depressed so she doesnt usually go. I dont know why people would think that unless she outgoingly said she was depressed. I think she just means that she is antisocial and doesnt like talking to people, because thats the truth! i know it sounds mean, but it is! She said she didnt go to the party last year because she was tired and the year before she had to work or something. Caitlin said its okay i understand if you dont want to go because your daughter is in town and Maria said no thats not the reason at all. So whatever, i wanted everyone to meet my host mom, mostly so they could see whats she like (even though i dont think she would show her true crazy colors in public because she wouldnt have the opprotunity to clean or something !). Ohwell there is not much I can do, maybe she will change her mind!

I have to pack monday for Portugal because i have the party tuesday night after class and then my flight leaves at 9ish from the Austurias airport. I have to take a bus to the airport, which takes 30-45 minutes, with my two girlfriends. I am excited to experience a new country!

Well thats all for now! Take care. Just a little more then 3 weeks and ill be back to reamericanize myself and tell everyone about my life changing experience in much more detail!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Barcelona Continued!

Day 2!

We went to see another one of Gaudi's sites. It was very close to our hostel so we walked there. Its called Casa Batllo (accent over the o)...Gaudi was seriously crazy! All the detail and the little features he added to this apartment building were amazing. I loved how he used the roof to create a haven of abstract forms and he had a reason for it all! Check out the pics for sure! It is impossible to explain his buildings without looking at them for yourself! The pictures dont even do justice!

Next we went to explored Las Ramblas which is this long long street that leads to the ocean, but basically its the Rodeo Drive of Barcelona. It has all the designer and fashion stores, an open market in the center, and lots of resturants and cafes! We also checked out this big statue/monument of Christopher Columbus. They are crazy about him (obviously since he was spainsh)!!

We planned to go to this big fountain show at night. It was suppose to start at 830 so we waited until 915 and nothing had started. We figured it was just the usual spanish schedule where everything runs late, but a few of us went to the bathroom and asked the custodian guy. He said that in the month of november it does not run because they clean the fountains! LAME! The one month we visit Barcelona, the fountain show is not running. Our guide books never said that!

After that we headed back to the hostel and ventured out for dinner. We ended up walking around for a while a night, and didnt have the energy to go out to clubs or discotecas.

Day 3!!

The next morning we woke up early because we had to check out of the hostel and fit in a couple more sites before our train left at 10pm that night! We went to see La Pedera which was another one of Gaudis apartment buildings! I learned a lot about all of his work at this location because it had models and pictures of all of his buildings and examples of different types things that he used has inspiration for his textures and styles in the buildings. For example he used bee hives texture and style and different skulls, the shell of a turtle, and more! In addition, when you see all the pictures you will see that Gaudi had unique angels and forms in his buildings. He used chains to creates arches which offered more support and stronger structure! In La Pedera there were models of the style of apartments in his building. He made it so the occupants could take out certain walls and move them around to change the lay out of their home! He thought of everything. The whole apartment allowed a lot of light into each room except for the maids quarters!

Next we went to Parquel! It was this huge park that is up above the city that Gaudi designed! The day was beautiful so we hung out there for awhile, admired the view, checked out the interesting sculptures and arquitectural figures Gaudi designed and then found a cafe to eat lunch in.

We spent the rest of the day exploring little shops and resting until our train left! Once we were on the train back we even discovered that we had better seats! We werent in the ghetto uncomfortable seats like last time. Our train must have been nicer we had individual little rooms with 8 people in each, and all the lights turned off plus the seats reclined!!! I got a lot more sleep on the way back, even if it wasnt as comfortable as being in a bed!

All in all the weekend was great! And i think that Barcelona might be my favorite place i have visited thus far

Oh i totally forgot to include this! I had sushi twice in Barcelona and it was AMAZING! we asked where a chinese food place was because we were sick of spanish food for the time being. A lady suggest a buffet with chinese and japanese food. We were a little skeptical but we figured we would just find somewhere else if we didnt like it. The place ended up being amazing! It was like the sushi places where the food comes around on the boats, only it had tempura and other yakisoba stuff in addition to the sushi. The buffet was all you can eat and it was only 13euro which is not bad for all you can eat especially when the sushi was so fresh and delicious! We watched the chefs make it right in front of us. I figured the sushi wouldnt be too bad because Barcelona is right on the water! We loved it so much we ended up going back the next day for lunch because a good meal with enough food is hard to come by here without spending 20-30euro since Spain is so expensive and Barcelona is such a big city.

Also i am going to Portugal for the puente (my long weekend in the beginning of december!) I am so excited to go to a different country! I will be staying in Lisboa for3 days and then spend 3/4 of a day in Madrid, Spain.

Next weekend im going to Galicia on my last excursion with my whole program!!

Cant believe its only 34 days til im home!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Barcelona So many Sights so Little Time!

Well i just got back today from Barcelona! My first real experience in a HUGE city. I know i have been to Los Angeles, but im always with family and we dont really act like tourists when I visit. We stay in the valley and at the very most we go to Disney Land. Anyways, I had my first experience on a train. Going home i enjoyed it a lot more then going there, but i will explain that later! I also had my first experience taking the metro or subway. I liked it! There were several lines in Barcelona and it was the best and quickest way to get places when it was too far to walk!

The train ride was 14 hrs! However, we only took the train for 12 hrs and then we were bused from a train station outside of Barcelona to Barcelona. Apparently i dont watch the news enough here because I didnt know about this huge collapse of the tracks that lead into Barcelona. I learned from someone on the train though that they are reconsctruction a newer set of tracks in that area or maybe altogether im not sure, but they are afraid to complete it because it has to go around or under La Sagrada Familia which is the amazing building that Gaudi constructed but didnt finish (more on that later) Anyways, the construction people are afraid that another collapse or mishap will occur, so for now the tracks END and you must be bused into Oviedo. I think its just if you are coming from the North or maybe even the exact direction I came from, because going back to Oviedo we took the train the whole way because the tracks are not derailed! Sorry if that is complicated, it actually doesnt make perfect sense to me either, but everything worked out for the best.

Our train ride to Barcelona made me wish i was on a bus. And i dont even like the buses here that much, but atleast the seats reclined. Yes there was a cafe area to eat and stretch and what not, but when i was in my seat it was horrid! My seat didnt lean back and i had less room then on the bus. Thats because we were in the lowest car because its the cheapest. We made a bunch of friends in the cafe area. All of them claimed they knew little english when they knew a lot! So it was embaressing at first because they had understood all of our lame girly conversations because we knew they could understand us.

Thats one thing about this past weekend! I got frustrated a lot because I couldnt use my spanish for anything! Since barcelona is such a big city, no everyone speaks english. Spanish isnt even the language in Barcelona. Its Cattalan which has a lot of similar words but its a different language. Nonetheless, just like a big city in America where there is a lot of diversity and tourism, its the same in Spain. If someone thinks you are American they wont even give u the chance to try to speak spanish, immediately they interrupt you and use english. Thats why im happy im studying in a smaller city because no one knows english, or the percentage is a lot less, and I can practice spanish a lot more. The people we met on the train were all friendly and we spoke spanglish, english and spanish here and there. They gave us a lot of good advice about the places we were going to see and we chatted about Spain and other sorts. One of our new friends suggested that we go sleep in one of the empty sleeper cars where there were nicer seats that reclined completely to make a flat bed futon type thing. We went in there, got situated, got super excited that we were so comfortable and could possibly get five hours of good sleep, and then 10 mins later one of the train men came by and asked to see our tickets. Luckily he was really nice and didnt get mad, but we had to go back to our horrific seats! I was cranky after that. I tried to sleep until we had to get on the bus at 730am but it was so uncomfortable. Finally we got on the bus, took that for 1.5 hrs and then we arrived in Barcelona!

Literally we dropped off our stuff at our hostel and were off site seeing. We planned to see the most exciting things the first day because even if we were tired we would be extra excited and could plow through the exhaustion. Our first stop was La Sagrada Familia. It is a church that Guadi constructed but never finished because he died. Construction is still going on, but who knows when or if it will ever be finished because Gaudi was so crazy and amazing that no one can really determine what his true vision was. The building is incredible, with so much detail and he had a reason for little dimension. You will have to check out the pictures, even though they dont do it any justice.

Our next stop was The Picasso Museum. It had paintings from all of his times including the blue era, pink era, Menina, and more, but Picasso lived in Barcelona during part of his teenage years so the exhibit focused on pieces from that time in his life. There are pieces dating back to when he was 12 yrs old. I learned so much about Picasso at the museum and found myself thoroughly enthralled!

That was day 1.

The hostel was nice and cheap, but there were strings attached. You got a sheet to cover the matress and a sheet to cover the pillow for free. THATS IT! i paid 2 euro for a towel which is strandard but if you wanted a blanket you had to pay 2 euro too! WHAT A RIP! i stole another set that had a sheet and pillow cover and used that as my blanket with extra clothes the first night! Somehow a few of my friends found/stole a few blankets. For the next night i stole another set of sheets so i had 2 sheets to keep me warm plus my jacket, luckily there are 10 people in a room so i think all that body heat was enough to keep me warm the second night, the first night was a different story, i was frozen!

Ok i need to go have dinner. ill write more soon! hopefully tonight!


my mom said that the link to the gijon pics does not work! here it is again! let me know if you have any problems seeing any of the other pics! I just got back from Barcelona! ill try to update you all on everything ASAP!
Gijon and San Sebastian Pics!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Photo Update!!

Here are some photos of Sevilla, Burgos, and If you look at the ending of the night life album there are pictures of Halloween!



Night Life: