Sunday, November 8, 2009

Some call it Autumn, others call it God


That poetry test I was studying for last time I blogged: 95.5%. So worth it.

I'm going on a mission! To the Chile Antofagasta mission. I enter the MTC February 10. This is my mission call, before I opened it obviously.


I'm dating a boy named Brian. We are old friends from high school. Newspaper besties, if you will. This is us somewhere at the U, where he attends school.


Life is as insane as ever. And my phone is broken. And my car has been broken all semester. And my computer is afflicted by viruses. Don't try to contact me, you probably won't succeed. Sorry.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I read much of the night, and go south in the winter.


What's madness but nobility of soul at odds with circumstance? -Theodore Roethke.

I am quite honestly going insane right now. I've never tested this before, but I guess that's what three days straight of poetry will do to you. No wonder so many legit poets have committed suicide.

Anyway, autumn is pretty. If only I could go outside to see it a little more, I might not be so restless.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Observations on a Thursday night run

If you like bald and shirtless men with sparring gear that meet in the most suspicious fashion possible, North Park at 9 pm is the place to be.
People who yell out of cars at runners are the lowest life forms imaginable.
Wearing all black to go rollerblading in the dark down 700 East isn't the best choice, but if you scream incessantly, chances that people will notice you are higher, so you'll probably be safe.
I'm a sedentary depressive, and my mental state has to be prime to go on a good run.
Tonight was a good run.
Also, no music helps.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ever seen the Northwestern US? I have.

I'm mostly updating my blog because Jessie made me feel guilty, and this is my first update with pictures! So it's basically a miracle. These are some pictures from the roadtrip, from when I finally started taking pictures. This first photo is from Kerbyville, Oregon, which is one of my favorite places ever! They had a treehouse store and a pick-your-own-flowers field, so we got a bouquet for SUPER cheap. It was great.
Then we went to the Oregon Caves but I didn't get any incredible pictures there, so let's skip to the redwood forests. This picture may be ultra cheesy, but that's how happy I was to be there! We love nature.
Later that day we made it to Crescent City. We were going to watch the sunset, but then it was SUPER foggy so we couldn't see it. But this is the greatest place. I love the ocean and lighthouses and fog. Beautiful.
Then we went to San Francisco, and one night after eating at the delicious House of Nanking, while walking back to our hotel we found this incredible bookstore-- City Lights Books. It was an independent bookstore with all these different rooms and "Poetry Upstairs" and quotes everywhere and I loved it. San Francisco is one of my favorite cities.
THEN I went to Denver for Amy's wedding, which was great. We were staying in Estes Park, where the reception was, and it was another beautiful mountain-forest and Amy looked great and I made a toast and mentioned Hungry Hungry Hippos. It was the end of BANK, but it was a good end.

So, this trip was great. Now I'm back in Provo, I spent all day Monday moving [big thanks to Jessie and Dillon and Mark for helping me, it would have been a nightmare alone] and I started running again and I'm trying to enjoy the last week and a half of summer. But fall is going to be great, I've got a feeling. Maybe I'll upload some more pictures from the summer later. We'll see.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

On the Road Again.

I'm back on the road, and that means I'm back to blogging. My family is currently on a roadtrip, commenced yesterday, lasting through Friday. Our main stops are the Oregon Caves, the redwood forests, and San Francisco. After that, I'm off to Denver for Amy's wedding, while the fam drives back.

We stayed the first night in Winnemucca. Our roadside motel, Town Home Motel, deemed "cool" by my dad, had 4.5 stars from reviewers, and was pretty clean. Another plus was having three rooms-- one for my parents, one for the newlyweds, and one for the single kids. Pretty sure we went to bed earlier than anyone else.

We ate dinner at a Basque restaurant, which, if you've read any of my blog previously, you know comes from a northern region of Spain. Apparently a bunch of Basque sheepherders migrated to Winnemucca a long time ago, and in the spirit of their memory, the town houses three Basque restaurants. We went to one with HUGE portions, and that, along with the actual food, reminded me of every lunch we ate in our Spanish home. Soup, salad and bread was our first course; it was very typical. I ordered Solomo, which I was happy to find was exactly like the pork fillets we commonly had. There were also HUGE side dishes, and we didn't even get close to finishing all the food. Everyone else was pretty apathetic about the food, but I went away thoroughly satisfied.

This morning we left Winnemucca and started the journey to Grant's Pass, where we're staying tonight. After breakfast we left to look for a ghost town that my dad had looked up. It's called Paradise Valley, and it wasn't entirely abandoned, but there were a few abandoned buildings that scared the crap out of me. In the doorway we walked in there was a cat eating a bird, which grossed me out for the whole journey through the house. There were tons of beds covered in plastic, old bicycles, and magazines from July 2008. Hadn't been abandoned for long, apparently. After that Chase and I went to explore the cellar, which had dirt floors and some nice skylights, provided by someone falling through the floor above. There were vultures flying in and out of the building next door, and just a general creepy feeling. The good news is that my family got to experience more fully just what it's like to be the Brady Bunch.

Thanks to a wi-fi connection in the car, I'm blogging from the drive. We just left Denio Junction, which provided us with a bathroom, milkshakes, and a special feeling for my mom, whose mom's maiden name is Denio. The drive is pretty and I'll keep you posted on anymore exciting happenings!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Pilgrimage.

MONDAY: Our History of Spain papers were due via e-mail by some point that night, so after class Emmaleigh and I stayed at school until we finished them so we could e-mail them. My Works Cited page was a little scarce with information, but at least the paper was done. We went to Institute as usual, and then for FHE we all went over to the Browns and as preparation for our stop in Salamanca, watched Vantage Point, which supposedly takes place there, except today at church we heard a rumor that a replica was made in Mexico and actually the whole movie was filmed there. That was a little disappointment, but at the time we didn’t know so we got really pumped up. We also tried to make dirt & worms, but apparently the pudding didn’t work, so we just ate Oreos and gummy bears. Then we went home to pack and get some rest.

TUESDAY: I ended up kind of packing a lot, plus I brought my laptop so I could study during the trip, so when we left our house with plans to walk to the train station I was a little unhappy. We walked down the street, Emmaleigh easily dragging her suitcase with wheels and me attempting to not fall over from the weight of my duffel bag as usual, and as we crossed the street near the roundabout we saw the bus that we were attempting to meet at the train station drive by. I pointed it out to Emmaleigh, and I guess the driver took that as a wave because he motioned for us to go over there. I didn’t recognize him at all, I’m pretty sure he hasn’t ever been with us, but he pulled over to the side of the road, opened the bottom storage for our luggage and the doors for us, and minutes later we pulled up to the train station in our preferred seats, much to the dismay of the students who had been waiting. That was probably the best start to a trip we’d ever had. Our first stop was in Ávila, where the main attraction is the city wall. We hung out for a few hours there, went up on the wall to look at the city, ate chocolate croissants, then left. We arrived at our destination, Salamanca, with enough time to see some sights. Our first stop, after we went to the hotel to drop off our stuff and discover that our toilet didn’t flush, was the Plaza Mayor, where Vantage Point takes place. We got some ice cream, took pictures, and just hung out there. We also saw the cathedral [always, always] that has an astronaut on the outside [a little one]; the university, which is really famous; a Roman bridge; and a convent that for some reason Emmaleigh REALLY wanted to go into. We paid €2 to enter a courtyard that was being jackhammered the whole time we were there. There was also an upstairs that we could look at, but the only thing really to see was this one room that had a really slippery floor. We had fun sliding around for a little while, and when we walked out we noticed about 12 security camera feeds and the man who took our money scowling at us. I didn’t even feel bad. Ben wasn’t feeling well and he had stayed in the hotel to sleep, so we went back to get him at this point and walked around some more. We saw the Plaza Mayor again, went shopping for the boys, and found a Mexican restaurant to eat dinner at. The food was pretty good, but there were bones in the chicken in my burrito and the regular Spanish vegetables cooked in olive oil. I’m excited to eat Café Rio again. After dinner we just went back to the hotel and rested up.

WEDNESDAY: Bus again. Our destination of the day was Santiago de Compostela, which was the point of the whole trip, but our Professor recently stopped deciding exactly what we are going to do each day and instead decided to just stop wherever he wanted. This trip, he wanted to stop in a tiny town in the mountains called something like “O Sombreiro.” There is a supposed Holy Grail there, so we stopped, but it was in another city on exhibition until 4 pm that day, so we left after finding a GIANT dog [not as big as the one in Bilbao]. After leaving this town, Kimball had the brilliant idea of playing Travel Bingo. We made a list of 25 things we might see OUTSIDE the bus, made them into Bingo cards, and distributed them. Some people were really into it and some BORING people refused to play, but overall I’d say it was a success. Sami and Megan won the first Bingo, and Jessie and Mark won the Blackout. We arrived in Santiago, ditched our stuff, and went over to the cathedral. On our way, Kimball and Allyson needed to get money out of the ATM and while I unwisely waited for them, the rest of the group disappeared around a corner. We tried to catch up but couldn’t see them anywhere, so we just started wandering around and asking people where it was. We asked one guy who pointed in a general direction, and since we hadn’t seen anything really cathedral-like I asked him what it looked like, just to make sure it didn’t look different for some reason that would cause us to not be able to find it. He pretty much laughed hysterically. Then we turned around and saw it looming in the distance. We eventually got there and I immediately fell in love. Quick explanation: Santiago is James in Spanish. The apostle James is the patron saint of Spain, and supposedly he crossed the ocean from Jerusalem to Spain on horseback and when he came out of the water he was covered in scallop shells. Santiago de Compostela is one of the top three pilgrimage sites for the Catholic Church, the other two being Rome and Jerusalem. The remains of the apostle James are theoretically in this cathedral, and there is a strong scallop-shell theme. In the cathedral there is a statue of Santiago that you can go up and hug, and every day at noon they have a pilgrim’s mass. The cathedral is really the center of the town and was the only thing we really spent time in. After the first viewing of the cathedral we went into a parador [old building restored into a hotel] nearby where you can stay as a pilgrim and Sierra and Kim dazzled us with their piano skills. We didn’t even get in trouble for touching the really nice piano because they were so good. The rest of the night we just walked around the city and ate dinner. The restaurant was pretty cheap for the amount of food we got, but we had some interesting experiences there. Courtney and Ali ordered calamari and it came out basically just-dead, looking like it was poured directly from the ocean onto the plate. Sierra ordered something that Ben told her was noodles and peas, and it turned out to be something very paella-like. Unfortunately she hates seafood, so I ate it and she ate mine, and Ben felt REALLY bad for inadvertently giving her the wrong information. After dinner Courtney cut my hair and we went to bed.

THURSDAY: Our plan was for the bus to pick us up and take us a little way out of the city so we could walk on the pilgrim’s road and get there in time for mass, but the bus couldn’t get near the hotel so we ended up just walking via the normal streets. We walked around the city until mass, which was a really cool experience. It’s been years since I’ve been to a Catholic mass, and it was interesting to me how much the prayers sounded like our prayers, just memorized. There was a really cool part where they listed where all the pilgrims that were attending were from. We met one girl named Jess who was from Vermont and just decided two weeks ago to pick up and come to Spain to do the pilgrimage. She started in our Holy Grail city and walked for nine days. She was the bomb. I want to do a pilgrimage. If I wasn’t Mormon, I think I would be Catholic… After the mass Courtney and I got some food at a grocery store and just hung out in a really pretty park with some wild roosters. I eventually made my way back to the hotel and tried to study but ended up instead going back out to try to make the pilgrimage. Ali, Kimball and I walked near the cathedral and followed the pilgrim’s road backwards for a while, until we turned around and made the pilgrimage for real. It was actually SO exciting when we got there; we had a really friendly woman take a picture of us. We ate dinner at this really good Asian place and went back to the cathedral for a free orchestra/choir concert. It was INCREDIBLE, some woman sitting next to us told us that the concert was written by a Spanish man who lived in France for twenty years and wrote it as a mass for the dead. It was very beautiful and I felt very peaceful instead of really busy, like I normally feel on trips. On our way out we met a Spanish man carrying a Brazil bag [Kimball has a weakness for people who have something to do with Brazil] who wouldn’t stop talking to us and then KISSED MY FACE when we were leaving. We also saw an Irish guy playing the guitar who was VERY happy and played us a Beatles song until his string broke. Overall, Santiago de Compostela was one of my favorite places we’ve been. Also, I forgot to mention how beautiful Galicia is. Very.

FRIDAY: We got up even earlier and started the trek to Léon. We stopped at the Holy Grail town again, but this time it was there. I don’t buy it. We arrived in Léon about lunchtime and were supposed to go to the cathedral at four. Ben’s younger brother is serving in the Bilbao mission and got transferred from Bilbao to Léon right before we went to Bilbao. We weren’t planning on staying the night in Léon, but on Monday in class Professor Brown told us, and by the time Ben found out it was too late to e-mail his brother and tell him. Thus, we were all on the lookout for him. After lunch Emmaleigh, Mark and I started walking around instead of going straight to the cathedral, and we hung out by this map of the city for a while, where we encountered Tim, Jessie, Kiley and Lauren. We were about to walk over to the cathedral when we saw this bank that was originally designed by Gaudí, our favorite architect from Barcelona. Tim and Emmaleigh went to look at it for an amount of time that seemed undesirable to the rest of us, but while we were waiting, we saw some missionaries walking by. I FREAKED OUT and went up to them and when I saw one had a nametag that said Elder Ashby I got SO excited I could hardly express myself. Someone eventually communicated that his brother, Ben, was part of our group, and at that point I vowed to not rest until Ben and his brother had been united. Ben was planning on taking a nap instead of coming right to the cathedral with us, but we went in anyway to check out if he was there. He wasn’t, so I tried calling him, but his phone was off, so someone whipped out a map from the hotel and I called the hotel and asked for his room. He answered grumpily and I demanded to know what he was doing. He said he and Kimball were “busy” and I said “not too busy for this!” and handed the phone to his brother. From what I could hear they had a pretty excited conversation and Ben said he would get over to the cathedral ASAP. They had an adorable reunion and made a plan to meet a little later so Ben could go teach a lesson with them. We went up onto some scaffolding in the cathedral to look at the stained glass windows in detail, listened to a seriously boring 35 minute lecture in Spanish about how to restore the windows, and then just walked around the city. It was Courtney’s birthday, so we went out to dinner at some bar with a REALLY rude waiter, and then tried to go to Valor for chocolate and churros but it was closed, so we went to another bar with a [probably] REALLY drunk waitress. We went back to the hotel to hang out, and then Kimball and I decided to give Léon one more chance to impress us. We went out at about one in search of discotecas, but there were none. All we could find were tango clubs or bars full of people in their 40s and 50s. One of them was FULL and people were dancing, so we thought it might be a good bet, but the most exciting thing we saw was the DJ dancing to “Man, I Feel Like a Woman,” so we got out of there pretty fast. At least we could say in good conscience that Léon was the lamest place we’ve been in Spain. Also, I accept that we just had to go there so Ben could see his brother.

SATURDAY: We didn’t leave until eleven, I guess so we could have more time in the morning to see stuff, but I was so over that city and just slept in instead. Our one remaining stop was Coca so we could see some castle, but we got there at just about two and it was CLOSED for siesta. Also, it was freezing and the bus driver needed a 45-minute break. We packed into some gas station to wait and use the bathroom, which ran out of toilet paper pretty quickly. We all gave two thumbs down on Coca. We made one more stop before getting home, which was about an hour from Alcalá, and when we got out of the bus IT WAS SNOWING. SO not okay. Luckily it wasn’t snowing when we got to Alcalá, but it was definitely colder. We went over to the Browns so I could book hostels, and went home to do homework and go to bed.

SUNDAY: Daylight Savings Time, finally. We got to church on time without waiting for TOO long, which is a miracle for us lately, and had some good lessons. In Sacrament Meeting Mark and I finished the Spanish hymnbook and felt really accomplished, and we came home and had a delicious lunch. It is really cold so we’re not spending any time outside, but I don’t mind—it’s been good to have some rest.

Summary: Galicia is beautiful and I can’t believe we’re leaving Spain THIS week. The end.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

My lip is on Falla!

Okay, the big story of this week is Thursday, which we spent in Valencia for the festival of Las Fallas. I’ll try to write about the rest of the week after, but it’s essential that I get this out there.

So the Spanish festival is a very unique thing. Spaniards love to party probably as much as they love the Catholic Church, which, if you consider the number of cathedrals in this country, is an exorbitant amount. They will stay out all night and all day and all night again, listening to music and gathering in giant groups and drinking endlessly. Money is not a consideration, and neither is sleep. Also, no one works unless it’s something to do with the festival. Examples of this are the Tomatino, a huge tomato fight; Semana Santa, the week before Easter; the week after Semana Santa, which is just partying, no worries about the church; and Las Fallas, which has been described as a combination of Disneyworld, the Fourth of July, and the end of the world. The festival started last weekend and ended on Thursday night, and since our program has money left over, we rented a bus and took off for the 24-hour-trip of a lifetime. We met at the train station at 7 am, drove the four hours to Valencia, and were dropped off in an arbitrary location. We heard there would be bullfights and they would be good, and since we’ve all wanted to see one since we got to Spain but the ones in Madrid are only on Sundays and not very good, our first stop was the bullring. The cheapest tickets were €38, and when I heard that I automatically crossed it off the list, at least for that day, but one by one people decided to go anyway, and it ended up as a group of 18 students, going to a bullfight in Valencia, Spain, for Las Fallas. Oh also, as we were walking there I saw a ton of people wearing these blue and white bandanas around their necks, and I decided that as soon as I saw them for sale I was purchasing one. Right by the bullring there were stands selling them, so with my bullfight ticket in my pocket and a Las Fallas bandana around my neck, I felt fully immersed in the festival spirit and could not have been happier. We attempted to go to the Plaza de Ayuntamiento, which is basically in the middle of the city, where they were having a firecracker show at 2 pm. There was already a HUGE crowd pretty far back, so we just pushed up as much as we could and waited. We were actually in a really good location, because we could see the show but we weren’t TOO TOO crowded and it wasn’t SUPER loud, like I’m sure it was right in the plaza, plus there was tons of smoke but none of it reached us. After the show we decided to push in the opposite direction of the entire crowd to go see the Fallas that were in the plaza. Oh, by the way, let me explain the purpose of the festival: Las Fallas are these HUGE sculptures [of people, animals, scenes, etc.] made of wood and papier-mâché that people spend ALL year building, and for the week of Las Fallas they are displayed around the city, and the last night they set them all on fire except the best one, which they put in a museum for the year. So anyway, we wanted to look at the ones that were in the main plaza, because we figured they’d be really good ones. We finally got over there, met up with the other people we were with earlier, and proceeded to stick together in a group of 18 for the rest of the day, which is no small feat. We walked around and looked at as many Fallas as we could find [it wasn’t very many] until we went to THE BULLFIGHT.

Okay, this was the most epic thing I’ve done in Spain so far. The three things I REALLY wanted to do while I was in Spain were see the windmills, see a bullfight, and see Morocco. I had already accomplished the first and given up on the last, but there was no way I was giving in on the bullfight front. Our seats were in the sombra [shade], which were the only ones left and means they were more expensive, because in the dead of summer the shade is more desirable, but since it was only March and la corrida started at five, it was actually freezing. But it was still an absolutely incredible experience. I can’t possibly describe what it was like—I would recommend a Hemingway book, either The Sun Also Rises for a novel or Death in the Afternoon for an explanation. But I was SO happy to be there and I felt SO Spanish. The first bull was killed very badly—he took a long time to die and was just staggering around while various weapons were thrust into him. We were all horrified and didn’t know if we could stay for the whole thing if that’s what they were all going to be like. Luckily, the next bull died instantly after two swords, and the rest of them were killed well. One of the matadors got two ears, which means he killed him VERY well, and then he paraded around the ring accepting greetings from people close to the barrera and throwing their hats back. At the end of the fight he was carried out on the shoulders of the people, which was so, so exciting to see. Also, for the first few bulls we noticed everyone staring at someone sitting a few rows behind us, taking tons of pictures and talking about him, and then people started asking for autographs and shaking hands, and we figured out it was Jose Tomas, a really famous matador. Courtney went up and shook his hand, which was hilarious. I took a lame picture like everyone else, and he left after the really good matador received the ears. We all got pretty into the fight, I must say. When a matador makes a bunch of really good passes with the muleta [the red cape], the crowd starts saying “olé!” and we all got really into it. Basically, it was the most Spanish thing we could have possibly done, especially during a festival.

After the bullfight, I was so pumped up I couldn’t contain it and we just started running through the streets, looking for dinner and fun. We ate Doner Kebabs [we would, again] even though Ali and I had heard rumors of people selling paella in the street, which we REALLY wanted. Then we started scouring the streets, looking for more Fallas. We were heading toward one plaza when they put up a barrier right in front of us in order to prepare to set a Falla on fire [by the way, I’m trying to develop the perfect pun for that combination of words and have not yet succeeded], so we decided to wait and see it. They set them on fire by lighting a string of firecrackers that eventually lands on the wooden sculpture and sets it off, and apparently the firecrackers were TOO close to where we were standing, because as soon as they lit it a flame shot off and INTO MY MOUTH. I tried to get it out and succeeded in getting it onto my sweater, and eventually I got it onto the ground and stamped it out, but it was absolutely terrifying. Also, I did not stop, drop & roll. Apparently I learned nothing about fire safety after all those years of coaching. After that we wandered around some more, tried to find more on fire, but they burn pretty quickly so we saw the remains of a lot of them. Eventually we decided to go wait it out in the plaza where the firecracker show was, because there was a really big one there that we knew would burn well, and we heard that it was going to start at 1 am, so we’d have time before meeting back at the bus at 2. Our group went and scouted out a good spot, with enough room to sit down, which was lucky because we had to wait for two hours. We had some interesting companions in this waiting period. There was a group of 18-year-old English boys who thought they were SO cool to be a little bit drunk and out late in Spain, and they attached themselves to us pretty quickly. They thought Kimball and Courtney were drunk, and when they found out we all don’t drink they were pretty surprised but still intrigued. They had a series of interesting conversations with pretty much every person in our group that only ended when the fireworks show started at 1. The fireworks are where the Fourth of July comes in, but these fireworks blew away anything I’ve ever seen with regards to US Independence Day. They would surely be illegal in the States, and with good reason. At one point a giant fireball went plunging into the crowd, but luckily not on our side. It was incredible, and after a good finale they lit the string of firecrackers to set the Falla alight, and then shot up more fireworks as it started burning. Obviously I’m doing a really bad job of describing what was so incredible about it, but it was the greatest display of entertainment I’ve ever seen and SO worth waiting the time that we did. As soon as it was over we started making our way back to the bus, which was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be, because even though we had plenty of room where we were standing, the streets and sidewalks and all areas not blocked off were PACKED with people. We made a ridiculous preschool line of 18 people holding onto each other and forced our way out. We got back to the bus on time and started the trek back home to Alcalá and arrived close to 7 am. I crashed in my bed, still wearing my Fallas bandana and still high on the festival spirit.

Compared to that, the rest of the week was a little blah, but I still have some things worth telling. We have a five-page paper due on Monday for History of Spain, which basically kicked my butt all week, so I spent a fair amount of time working on that Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons. Monday we went to Institute as usual, then the Browns for FHE and played that STUPID flour-castle game. Luckily I didn’t lose, but a girl who is allergic to gluten did, so that kind of sucked for her. Tuesday was St. Patrick’s Day, and we also had a surprise bridal shower for the girl here who is engaged. All the girls went over to the Browns house while the four guys plus Professor Brown had a guy’s night out. It was really fun, there was really good food and we played games and gave her the typical presents, of course. Wednesday I went into Madrid to have the best Bocadillo de Calamares in Madrid, and then we went to Goya’s tomb, where his body doesn’t actually reside, by the way. Thursday we obviously spent in Valencia, and Friday I slept until 11:30 and just stayed in my pajamas writing in my journal and talking to Emmaleigh and our madre about the bullfight until 2. I worked on my paper pretty much all day while Emmaleigh went to Madrid, and we went over to Calle Mayor for a little bit at night, but that day was thoroughly uneventful.

Saturday I went for a pretty long run by Alcalingua and saw half the people I know here, including my madre by the store they own. After my run I finished my paper, and Emmaleigh and I went over to the train station to meet Courtney and her dad who was visiting to go into Madrid, but they didn’t come for half an hour while we were waiting and in the meantime we saw Jessie, Tim and Mark going over to the Browns to work on their papers, but Mark isn’t in that class, so he decided to go into Madrid with us. We started in the Plaza Mayor, which is a pretty central location in Madrid, but I had only gone once before, so we went over just to see what was up. We took some ridiculous pictures of things happening there, then walked over to a park by the Palacio Real. Next we went to the Plaza de España, and then went in search of ice cream. We didn’t really have a purpose except to be in Madrid, but it was a fun day. On the way home we decided to go over to the Browns to try to check our e-mail, but they weren’t home and Mark only has a key to the garage, so we hung out in there for a while. There is internet down there, but we didn’t have our laptops, so we had to wait for Tim, who was there ‘working on his paper,’ to finish talking to his sister on Skype. In the meantime I looked at a map of Europe, jumproped, and played “I’m having a concert” with Mark. While I was doing said things, Kimball called and wanted to make plans for the evening. We decided on a night hike up a mountain that some people had discovered another time, and to meet at the Plaza de Cervantes [close to our school] at ten. By the time we made all the plans and informed everyone, it was about 9:10 and we still needed to walk home and eat dinner. On the way home I remembered that I hadn’t washed my hair that day, so I REALLY needed to shower, because we wouldn’t get another chance before church. We rushed home, I jumped in the shower and Emmaleigh got called down to dinner, so I threw on clothes, ran downstairs and shoved my dinner down as fast as possible [by the way, I don’t think eating quickly is a concept here, our madre was SO confused about what I was doing] and tried to get dressed in appropriate night-hike clothes. I didn’t want to wear my coat, because I knew I would be too hot, but I definitely wanted a long-sleeved shirt and a sweatshirt, but my only long-sleeved shirt besides a sweater was a blue-striped turtleneck, so I put that on with my Turket Trot sweater, which was a hideous combination. I then put on jeans, my only pants option, and because the soles of all my other shoes have worn completely down, I put on my running shoes. We got to the Plaza as fast as we could, where everyone made fun of my outfit as much as they could. Also, I was elected to wear a headlamp while hiking, because my outfit was so ugly nothing could have made it worse. The hike up the top was pretty good, and when we got up there we decided to try to watch Nacho Libre, but all we had was a little Macbook and ten people, so it was hard to hear and SO cold. We probably got a little more than halfway through before deciding to finish it another time. We hiked down, waited twenty minutes for the bus before realizing it wasn’t coming, and made it to another stop for another line just in time to catch the 2 am bus. We then went home and crashed once again.

Sunday has been pretty uneventful so far, except Courtney’s dad was at church, which was cool, and Mark and I only have 20 hymns left! We had some challenging ones today, including one that’s only in the Spanish hymnbook. After church we came home and had MASHED POTATOES for lunch, and spent the rest of the time just hanging out as usual.

This coming week is our last trip, and then FINALS week, and then we’re leaving! It’s so weird that this experience is ending, but I really feel like I’ve gotten so much out of it and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else in the world. Until next week.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

It's Against the Law to Hug and Against the Law to Kiss

I would like to first of all say that this is the tenth blog post I’ve made since being in Spain and I can’t get over how weird that is, and also that we only have three weeks left.

MONDAY: I put all [two] of my jeans in the laundry on Sunday night, but luckily the weather has been really good lately, so I wore a skirt to school. Everyone kept telling me I looked cute/wondering why I was dressed up, so when I went into class I just made a public announcement that I sent my jeans to the laundry and that I WASN’T just trying to be the prettiest girl in the group, haha. After school Emmaleigh and I went to a park close to our house that I always run through and read in the sun until Institute. It was Megan’s birthday so after our Institute lesson we all went to get gelato as a celebration. It was a warm enough night to just hang out in the Plaza de Cervantes after, which I was SO excited about, because that’s basically what I’ve been waiting for since we arrived in Spain.

TUESDAY: I wore shorts! Also, I had to change after school because I was afraid of being too cold. But it was still an exciting day. After school I went to the Bellas Artes museum in Madrid, which I had seen before, but I didn’t ever write my paper on it for our class and I couldn’t remember a thing about it, so I went back and took some notes. After that we walked around Madrid a little but I had homework to do and didn’t want to get too tired, so I went back on the train alone [and once again fell in love with a cute Spaniard] but about three minutes before we got to Alcalá I saw Courtney and Ali, who had gone to a different museum and just happened to be on the same train. As we left the train station we encountered Ben, and I hung out and talked to him until I saw Emmaleigh leaving the train station, so we walked home together.

WEDNESDAY: Lately, running in the morning for me has been really bad, I feel too tired to really try, so I decided to just get up and go to school early and study so I could run after school and then shower before we left early on Thursday for our trip. I got some sources for a nasty research paper we have to write for History of Spain, and caught up on some e-mails, etc. After school I set out for a good afternoon run. Unfortunately, it was BOILING hot and I kept thinking I was about to fall over dead, so my plan wasn’t nearly as successful as I hoped. I went as far as I could, showered, and hoped for better luck next time. Perhaps I’ll go back to the morning. I met Courtney, Kimball and Ben at the train station and we went in search of a place that rents bicycles for free. Ben and Courtney were pretty sure we had to have our passports, but we just went anyway, and it was lucky we did because somehow Ben and Kimball charmed the woman into letting us take the bikes even though we didn’t have our passports like we were supposed to and we didn’t have a photograph of ourselves to make into a pass. We went to Courtney’s house and met her mom and brother, then went to a park with old people workout stuff and talked to a CRAZY old man, and then found some random plains that I had no idea existed and rode around for a while. It was really fun and the weather was SO nice. After that I just packed for our trip and tried to do homework, somewhat unsuccessfully.

THURSDAY: We met TOO early [eight] at the train station and embarked on our journey. After much consideration about this trip, I came to the conclusion that it was solely for the purpose of going on a trip instead of staying in Alcalá, and it was SO cool. The first place we stopped, Burgos, was the ONLY place that we all went to something together. Burgos is basically the home of El Cid, who is basically my Spanish History hero, and we saw his tomb and a document written by him and his chest [cofre, not pecho] in a cathedral and then an awesome statue. After that we went to Pamplona, which is the location of the festival of San Fermin, and the most famous running of the bulls, and the setting of most of The Sun Also Rises. We checked into the hotel [joint beds, no lock on the bathroom door as usual] and set out to see the path of the Encierro, the actual bullring, a statue of Hemingway’s head, and a statue of bulls and men running from them. We also found a bakery with a HUGE line that we brilliantly decided to get into. The chocolate croissants were the BEST ever ever. We got tapas at a bar [so Spanish] and then just hung out at the hotel.

FRIDAY: We decided it was probably necessary to get more chocolate croissants for the road, so we were waiting outside the bakery five minutes before it opened to ensure we didn’t get stuck at the end of a huge line and miss out. We made it back in time to get on the bus and go to a tiny village in the mountains where apparently the battle of Roncevalles/the song of Roland took place. We saw many pilgrims, and enjoyed nature/some leftover snow. We were about 20 km from France and we tried SO hard to convince Professor Brown to let us go, but we did not make it over the border. We did, however, look upon it as we were driving through the Pyrenees. Our next stop was at San Sebastian, where we wisely decided to spend the largest chunk of our day. We got off the bus and Professor Brown told us to meet back at the bus at six and not go into any cathedrals or museums. We heartily agreed. We went down to the beach, where the boys actually swam [no bathing suits for the girls] and we just hung out and got really sandy. There was a plethora of strange looking people [that’s Europe], including a woman who kept not laying far enough away from the tide and got soaked when it kept moving in. We all got on the bus tanner and happier. We drove to Bilbao via some very hilly streets, checked into the hotel, and went out once again. We walked past the river [the most polluted in Spain, but remarkably pretty] and ate dinner at a Chinese restaurant near an Irish man with a French wife who loved that we were American and wanted to talk to us all about the Guggenheim until he found out we were Mormons. After dinner we walked over to the Guggenheim and witnessed some fountains, some bridges, a giant dog, and amazing architecture, all lit up for our viewing pleasure, then went back to the hotel, talked a little, and went to bed.

SATURDAY: One of the most important things of the whole trip happened this day: my entire outfit matched with Jessie. We have the same purple sweater from Gap and the same gray jeans from Old Navy and we both wore white undershirts and looked SO good. We ate the most delicious breakfast so far in Spain, and still had some time to check out Bilbao, since we arrived so late the previous day. We went back to the Guggenheim with the potential of going inside, but instead discovered an insane playground that held our attention [along with the stick game] for the rest of our allotted time. We got back on that unprintable [For Whom the Bell Tolls reference, I’m obsessed with Hemingway lately] bus and went to Guernica/Gernika [Basque language], the city that was completely destroyed by German bombs with Franco’s approval in 1937. The only thing remaining from the pre-bombing days is a tree stump that we faithfully saw and took pictures of. A few more truck stops later, we arrived in Alcalá. We got back to our house, laden down with luggage, and discovered that our keys didn’t work in the outside gate. They had changed them once before and given us the new keys, but did not do so this time. We tried buzzing into our house but no one answered, so we sat outside for about twenty minutes, at which point I decided to try jumping the fence. Unfortunately, my pants could not handle the strain of my legs stretching so much and RIPPED. Directly after that, in a rage, I tried buzzing our house again and this time Paco answered. He let us in and I was semi-furious that I wasted a pants-ripping on a gate that could have been opened for us! Anyway, pretty much directly after we got into our house I wanted to just go out and enjoy the nice weather, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to get back in, so we just read and looked at our Basque country pictures and pouted [me]. At dinner we got new keys, at least.

SUNDAY: We made it to church without any incidents except for waiting for a really long time for the bus, luckily. Also, I have a cold or allergies or something, but my nose is really running and my head is kind of clouded and unfortunately when that happens the first thing to go is my ability to speak or understand or pronounce Spanish, so church was a little rough today. After church we caught the earlier bus, which is always a blessing, and went home to paella for lunch! All in all, I would say it was a good day.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Con rázon o sin ella

Let me just say that this week was probably the greatest of my time here and Barcelona is the COOLEST city that exists, ever. Also, I’m going to breeze through Monday and Tuesday because they were normal Spanish days, whereas the rest of the week was extremely incredible. We spent Monday and Tuesday just doing homework and catching up on things so we could leave early Wednesday morning. It’s funny that at the beginning of the week we were all still so jazzed about our trips the weekend before, but now that seems like so long ago. Monday night at Institute we learned about a FOLK BAND that existed in the Spain mission at the beginning called Los Salt Lake City. Apparently the mission president thought it would be a good way to communicate the message of the gospel to a wide audience, so they started playing songs and eventually some guy wanted to produce a record, so they did. Elder Lopez was teaching us all about them and then he had a CD of their music so we listened to it! While “A Horse with No Name” [is that even the name of the song??] was playing he did a little slideshow of pictures of them on the overhead projector. It was the cutest thing ever and the funniest Institute lesson. Apparently the Spain mission was the place to be back in the day.
On Tuesday a bunch of us went to the temple, possibly for the last time here, which was sad. Quick thing: it’s SO weird that this is actually coming to an end. It’s the end of the ninth week and we only have four more. I guess in some ways four weeks is a lot, but this past week FLEW by and the next three weeks we have trips and then FINALS and then we’re all going our separate ways. Anyway, we went to the temple, packed everything up and tried to do all our homework [didn’t work, too much—not that I did ANY the rest of the week] and also tried to go to bed early because we had to be at the train station at the unfortunate hour of 8 am.
WEDNESDAY: We all get there on time, sit in our regular seats [for the most part] and begin the trek to Barcelona. We stopped in Zaragoza, which has some cathedral with a pillar that the apostle Santiago [also known as James] appeared in to some virgin… that’s why there are lots of Spanish women named Pilar. That was cool but pretty normal, as cathedrals go, and then we had almost two more hours and it was raining and we were all a little bit grumpy about being in a random city that we didn’t much care about. Luckily, Professor Brown recommended some museum with a bunch of Goya’s work so we found that and it turned out to be SUPER cool. The exhibit was “Goya and the Modern World” and there were a bunch of paintings by random famous artists like Picasso, van Gogh, Rodin, Manet, and even Victor Hugo [he painted?]. It was way tight and used up the rest of our time and we were happy. We made it to Barcelona and checked into our hotel. There’s a “hotel room committee” that’s in charge of assigning roommates for the hotels on trips and usually we’re paired with random people that we don’t normally hang out so we can get to know them better. For this trip, they just decided to have us room with our best friends, since it was three nights and we all know each other pretty well, so it was fun. I roomed with Courtney, and I wouldn’t have minded rooming with anyone else, because I like everyone and it would have been fun to be roommates with anyone, but it was just easier dealing with the keys and sleeping situations and stuff. We were a little giddy when we finally arrived and started jumping on the beds until someone else got in trouble for us and told us to shut up. We had microwaves and fridges in our rooms, so we went to a grocery store and stocked up on some food, then went out exploring. We went to dinner at a kebab place [by the way, our favorite thing to eat here practically—do they have them in Utah yet?] and then just started wandering around outside. Our hotel was fairly far from the downtown area, but when we were walking back after dinner we found a random escalator outside, in the middle of the sidewalk, and then a million stairs, so we obviously decided to go up them. When we got to the top we had the COOLEST view of the city, so we just sat there for a while and then went back to our room and had a dance party. Also, Courtney and I stayed up until 4:30 talking, which I vowed to NOT do on this trip. I failed.
THURSDAY: We woke up at 8:30, which was the time we were supposed to eat breakfast, so we rushed to eat and get ready. The bus took us to Las Ramblas, which is just a street that has lots of vendors and cool stuff, and it ends at the ocean/port with a huge monument to Columbus. We wandered around there, then went to the Picasso Museum, which was close by, and the greatest thing I’ve seen in Spain, probably. It went through all the periods of his work and just explained some things about each of them, like reasons for the Blue Period, etc., and I just felt the art so deeply there. It was really, really cool and it was one of the most expensive museums I’ve gone to, but it was COMPLETELY worth it. After that museum we went to the Boqueria, which is a huge market right off the main Rambla, and got some dried fruit etc. I love the markets here—there are just SO many stands and SO many people and I love fresh fruit and it’s really exciting. The worst part is the fish section, but Emmaleigh likes it for some reason, so we were walking by and we saw all these shrimps and crabs and lobsters ON ICE, STILL MOVING. I wanted to vomit. I did not. We ate lunch and then headed to the chocolate museum, where our ticket was a [super dark] chocolate bar, I learned that Sweden eats the most chocolate per capita, America the tenth most, and that Catalonia actually considers themselves a different country from Spain [Spain is #11, Catalonia #12]. We also saw some very authentic Spanish scenes made out of chocolate, such as bullfighting and Don Quixote + the windmills. After that museum I was completely exhausted, so we found some park and rested in a roundabout until we gathered some energy to figure out how to take the metro back. We spent a good amount of time resting at the hotel, then Ali found in her book a restaurant that was supposed to have the best chocolate cake in the world. We set out to find it, but unfortunately failed. We think we found the restaurant, but only the bar was open by the time we got there, so we just had some tapas and whatever desserts they had, which were good, but it would be a stretch to call any of it the best chocolate cake in the world, especially since there wasn’t really chocolate cake. Emmaleigh has a friend studying in Barcelona and when he came to Madrid we met up with him for an evening, and he said something that to me sounded like the metros didn’t stop running in Barcelona. At about 11:35 we had wrapped up our meal and were just talking, and we asked our waiter what time the metros closed. He said midnight, and then he said, “You should really hurry. What line?” We said we had to go on two and he said, “You should REALLY hurry.” We paid and ran out, caught the first metro, and then hurried to the next one. It wasn’t there, and there appeared to be no evidence that it was even coming. There were other people waiting though, so we figured it must be coming eventually, but we had to wait a fair amount of time, and the longer we waited the sketchier the people around us got. We finally got on and stood right next to three teenage boys who were TOTALLY stoned and making really gross comments. Thank goodness we had guys with us or it could have been super dangerous. We finally got safely back to the hotel.
FRIDAY: Luckily we slept enough Thursday night to rejuvenate ourselves from our SUPER late night on Wednesday, so Friday was a good day. After breakfast the bus took us to the most famous unfinished architectural masterpiece in Barcelona—La Sagrada Familia. Gaudí, a very innovative architect who designed a bunch of way cool stuff in Barcelona, was working on a HUGE “temple” when he was tragically killed by a streetcar, leaving his work undone. There have been several attempts to finish it, and they are still going on today, but he didn’t leave plans on paper for how it was to be done, it was mostly in his mind, so no one knows exactly how to do it, and there isn’t really enough money to finish it. Luckily [for them], they charge €15 a person to go in and see it, so they should have enough money soon. Anyway, it’s constantly being worked on, apparently a “living” building, and it’s filled with construction areas and surrounded by cranes. It’s not really tourist season in Spain right now, so basically everything we see is being renovated and it’s kind of a pain to always have cranes in the way of the beauty. As we pulled up to La Sagrada Familia on the bus, someone said, “There WOULD be a crane on this when we came to see it.” We all laughed and were like, “Yup, there WOULD. There always is.” It. Was. Stunning. Gaudí had such interesting ideas and techniques and everything was just so incredible. Once again, I felt so filled with emotions, it was weird and great. I’ve never felt as much from a city as I did from Barcelona. After we left that we went to see some houses that he also designed, and after that we were just standing on the street waiting for something and all of a sudden I see a guy that I recognize talking on the phone—it was Jordan, Emmaleigh’s friend, who I had met one time when he came to Madrid. Emmaleigh had her back to the street, so I just reached out and grabbed his arm, and probably scared the heck out of him. We chatted for a second while they made plans to meet later, and then we went to Park Güell, another of Gaudí’s masterpieces. I suggest you look up pictures, because there’s no way to describe how they look, but it was all SO cool. The park was great, especially because the weather had warmed up compared to the day before, and we spent a bit of time there just relaxing and looking. The bus met us at the park at three, and the Browns said we could meet there but we didn’t have to, so we weren’t going to wait for whoever wasn’t there. At three o’clock, however, everyone was at the bus except Ben, and someone said he had just gone to get a drink, so we waited for a little bit. He didn’t come, so everyone got on the bus and Ali and I went out to wait for him. Ali went a little bit into the park to look, and eventually Kimball, Mark and Tim came out and said they had ten minutes to find him. I waited near the bus, in case he came back, while they ran out and scaled the whole park looking. We never found him, and when we got back on the bus apparently someone had called him and he said he was on the metro. Ridiculous. Everyone else went back to Las Ramblas and we went back to the Boqueria for lunch. By the time we were finished it was almost five, and there was a lot of things we could do, but we were so tired that Courtney just bought some pants at H&M and we went back to the hotel to rest. Emmaleigh had gone to meet her friend Jordan, so we agreed to meet at the fountains near our hotel [they are the biggest in the world apparently and put on shows like the fountains at the Bellagio except much bigger on Friday and Saturday nights] at eight. We kind of all split up, but I encountered everyone at the hotel and tried to force them all to leave with enough time to get to the fountains by eight. We left the hotel and everyone started walking there, but Courtney and I thought it would be faster to go another way, so we went down to the main street and started jogging. All of a sudden, I hear someone call my name. I whip around, and it’s Emmaleigh and Jordan, walking back to meet us. Emmaleigh said Jordan had spotted me, which was funny, because I spotted him earlier! Also, it was lucky that we went on the main street instead of the back way. We got to the fountains, enjoyed a few shows, and then went to eat dinner. All along our plan had been to go to a discoteca in Barcelona, so after dinner we went back to the hotel to rest and gear ourselves up for it, but pretty much as always we turned out too tired to actually go out. We just watched The Office and talked and eventually went to bed.
SATURDAY: We woke up late again, the result of a too-late conversation, and rushed to eat breakfast and get ready. We left at nine and the bus climbed very high up a mountain to go to Montserrat, which is a cool monastery. We looked around a little bit and then took this strange train thing even further up the mountain and went on a very short, very small hike around, which pretty much just let us see everything in the surrounding area. We were planning to go to some ancient Roman ruins after that on the way home, but we didn’t end up having time, so we just bussed home the rest of the day. Everyone was tired and the bus is pretty uncomfortable, but we eventually made it home in not-too-bad spirits. We unpacked, ate dinner, read a little, and at long last went to sleep in our own beds.
SUNDAY: We got up and started getting ready for church as normal, until at about 9 Emmaleigh knocked on the bathroom door and said “I think it’s Daylight Savings Time…” Our group had had a conversation about whether Spain did that, and we agreed that they did, so we rushed to get ready and leave to catch the bus and not be TOO late to church. We got on a bus, then got to the stop where we change, and waited there for at least 30 minutes. Finally the bus came and we realized it wasn’t Daylight Savings Time and we were going to be twenty minutes early to church rather than forty minutes late. It was fine, but some other people had been tricked as well and they weren’t very happy about it. Church was good, the lessons were good as always and Mark and I reached the halfway point of the Spanish hymnbook, so we felt accomplished. We took the bus partway home and walked the rest of the way, because the weather was so nice, and just enjoyed a nice afternoon of delicious lunch and the sun.
This week so really good and the trip was good for solidifying friendships and stuff. It’s funny how well we are getting to know each other and how comfortable we feel with each other. It’s also weird how soon we’re leaving—it feels too soon! Thank goodness I came here for a whole semester rather than just a term, I would not have wanted to leave at all. Anyway, I hope all is well at home and once again, I send my love from afar.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

I remember riding bikes across the island

This was one heck of a week. Normally I write part of my entry midweek so it’s not such a daunting task to write it all on Sunday but this week was TOO busy to work on it at all so here I am, Sunday afternoon, trying to recall all the moments worth retelling.
MONDAY: We had another midterm on Tuesday, Spanish History, so Monday was spent mostly studying. We went to school and Institute and then after a brief FHE lesson about giving gifts we went to the Browns for another study session. That day in class we had gotten our World History tests back and I didn’t do as well as I thought I should have, from studying so much, so I was stressed about the next test and just not happy. But I studied as much as I could and felt I knew the material fairly well.
TUESDAY: I woke up early, tried to cram even more into my brain [which didn’t really feel possible, considering how much I already had in there] and went to take the test. I think it went well; I guess I’ll find out on Tuesday. As a reward for completing midterms, Emmaleigh and I went to Carrefour after school and she bought treats for a package. She had a Spanish test the next day but I was DONE so I spent the afternoon reading [for World History and The Sun Also Rises], writing [a letter to Kevin and beginning a paper for History] and running [it was an absolutely beautiful afternoon]. After I came back from my run and showered Emmaleigh and I got our clothes that were drying outside and I felt so quaint, taking them off the line where they were hanging with clothespins. At this point in the week I could finally relax and just enjoy being in Spain once again.
WEDNESDAY: We went to class, I finished The Sun Also Rises [best book—so glad I’m in Spain right now], and I went on another warm afternoon run. Then I showered and we got ready to see Carmen. Emmaleigh bought a really cute dress at a store here and wanted to wear it, and we knew some of the other girls were wearing dresses too, so we got all dressed up and went to meet everyone at the train station at seven. When we were about halfway there I checked the pocket of my coat that I had put my ticket in and it wasn’t in there. I searched my coat frantically but it was gone. We spun around and started retracing our steps as quickly as possible, searching the ground desperately for my ticket. When we got to the roundabout closest to our house we saw it on the sidewalk and Emmaleigh picked it up and put it in her purse with her ticket, and I thanked heaven that it didn’t blow away, and that someone didn’t pick it up and go into the city with it, and that I checked my pocket before we were actually at the theater. We met everyone and got on the train. While we were on the train, I was standing next to Ali, Courtney, Jessie and Lara, who were sitting in a four-seat section of the train, and all of a sudden this woman who was behind me, sitting relatively far away, tapped my shoulder and started speaking in very rapid Spanish and looking at the bar near the ceiling. Apparently she said she wanted me to hold on so I wouldn’t fall on her and her groceries and her crossword puzzle. I was SO confused but understood that she was looking at the bar so I held on, even though I was in NO danger of falling over. After she got off the train I let go, mostly just to spite her and prove to myself that I wasn’t going to fall over. I didn’t. We got to the city and went to the theater that was probably about 85 degrees inside and watched Carmen, flamenco style, with Sara Baras, who is the best flamenco dancer in all of Spain I guess. It was INCREDIBLE. It followed the story pretty loosely, but it didn’t really matter because it was clearly just about the dancing. She was amazing, and so were the two main men. She could move her feet SO fast, it’s impossible to explain and impossible to understand. We were all thoroughly satisfied, but we had to leave during the encores because we were afraid of missing the last train home. On our way back, while we were walking to the Metro station, some old man came near Courtney and tried to scare her by yelling a bunch of crazy things. She literally started SPRINTING away from him and he left her alone. It was slightly scary, but also hilarious, and I started laughing so hard I couldn’t walk any farther for about a minute. We got on the Metro and made it to the train station, but as we were walking toward the train Emmaleigh saw that the train to Alcalá was ARRIVING, so we all started SPRINTING through the station, down an escalator, through the ticket machine, and down another escalator. I’m pretty sure I almost cut off an old man as we were all hurrying. When I got to the bottom of the escalator and was almost to the train I accidentally kicked off my shoe and it went sliding across the platform, until it stopped at the very edge. A piece of it was hanging off the edge, but THANK GOODNESS it stopped and I grabbed it before getting on the train. Everyone got on and we all settled down for the ride to Alcalá. Eventually our train stopped and we get off and see Sierra talking to a boy that wasn’t one of the four boys we know here. He’s saying something like “I’m so glad I saw you, we should definitely do that.” I am very curious. We get off the train and are on the platform and he’s like, “Okay, well can I have a hug?” She gives him a hug and then once again starts SPRINTING through the train station to the outside. She catches up to her roommate and they take off together, and Courtney and Ali join them. Emmaleigh and I take off after them, yelling for them to wait, which they do not do. Once again, all of us are tearing through the train station, trying to catch Sierra, but we fail, and she’s gone. We concede to hearing the story in the morning, and go home to sleep five hours before we wake up.
THURSDAY: We meet at the train station at seven again, for the second time in twelve hours. We get to the airport and with a little bit of hassle [some of the girls forgot they weren’t members of the EU and had to pay for airport check-in] we got on the plane to Mallorca. I slept through the flight, which was short, and soon we were on an ISLAND in the MEDITERRANEAN SEA. We said that a lot, by the way. We took a bus to the city center, on which we almost died, by the way [someone cut off the driver while we were getting on the freeway and he had to slam on his brakes] and spent most of the day wandering around Palma de Mallorca. It’s a super pretty city and the weather was good, so we ate lunch in a park, looked at ONE cathedral from the outside [luckily we didn’t go in—that was my goal for the trip, no cathedrals] and then just spent a lot of time looking at the ocean and hanging out in the sun. We eventually got on the bus to Port de Pollenca, which was a little port in the north of the island where we were staying both nights. The town was adorable, RIGHT on the beach, and it was almost completely abandoned, which was really cool. We spent the first night just getting settled into our hostel, eating dinner, checking out the beach by night, and dyeing Lara’s hair. We were all so tired from the excessive activities of the last few days that we reached a crazy level of hilarity pretty early and went to bed soon after. Unfortunately, the rooms were FREEZING and it was a little hard to sleep. Emmaleigh and I were sleeping the same bed, plus we had an extra blanket and a little heater [don’t be fooled, it practically did nothing], so we weren’t quite as cold as everyone else, but it was still a little rough.
FRIDAY: We slept in, ate the “full English breakfast” that was provided, since the hostel was owned by a cute British couple, and then went down to the beach. The weather was nice and the town was SO beachy and adorable. Eventually we found a little shop that rented bikes, so we each got one with a basket, mine with a bell, and took off riding down the coast. We stopped a lot to take pictures: on a jetty, by some flowers, at random beautiful beach spots, etc. We made it to a town on the other side of the little cove our town was in, and bought lunch at a supermarket, then biked a little bit back to the beach and ate. It was really sunny and I got a little burned, but it was entirely pleasant. We made it back to our town and rested a little in the sun, and then went the other way. We could see a lighthouse on the coast a little further down and our plan was to find it, but it was 18 km away and it was a lot uphill, so we ditched that plan and watched the sunset, then took our bikes back. We found some delicious Kit-Kats [did you know they are better in Europe? I promise, the chocolate is SO much smoother and more flavorful] and dyed Lara’s hair again before going to bed while listening to “the best band on the north of the island” playing downstairs.
SATURDAY: I wanted to wake everyone up to watch the sunrise, but there were a couple blocks of buildings between our hostel window and the beach, where the sun was going to rise, so it was a little hard to tell, but I knocked at everyone’s doors at seven and we dressed to go out. The sky was getting lighter and lighter as we waited, so we began running toward the beach, once again sprinting through Spain. We got there and the sky was lovely but the sun hadn’t started rising, which was lucky. I LOVE the ocean and I LOVE the beach and I LOVE the sun and the sky and it was absolutely incredible. We went back to the hostel to pack up, eat our English breakfast, and say goodbye to our lovely little port. As we were walking toward the bus to go back to Palma I saw a very cute boy waiting by it. He had a very large instrument case and appeared to be looking for someone, so he didn’t get on the bus ahead of us. I was the last one on and as I was about to step up he said, in an adorable British accent, “Pardon me, how much Spanish do you know?” I turned around, probably started smiling idiotically, and said, “Umm, kind of a lot.” He checked his watch and said, “This bus isn’t due to leave for another five minutes and I’m waiting for a friend, do you mind asking the bus driver if he’ll wait?” I said I would and stuttered my way through a conversation with the bus driver, then turned back around and said it would be fine. His friend eventually showed up and they got on the bus, sitting across from Lara and me, and the friend asked how he bought the time. He gestured toward me and said, “We got some help from our American friends who know some Spanish.” I was pretty much in love but couldn’t think of a way to strike up conversation for the rest of the bus ride so I didn’t end up talking to them. But they certainly were adorable. The bus let us off in a cloudy, slightly cold Palma, where we remained the rest of the day. We were planning to go to some caves on the east side of the island but it was a lot more expensive than we thought and the times of the busses just didn’t work out, so we just hung out in the city and looked for things to do. We went in stores, drank hot chocolate, and located a free contemporary art museum that we spent quite a bit of time in… There were benches, and we were tired. Eventually we bought lunch from another supermarket, went back to the delicious gelato place that we found on Thursday, and wiled away our time by a fountain near the beach. It got a little colder, so we decided to go to the airport to wait for our flight. At long last we made it home with a little more color, and a little disappointed to no longer be on an ISLAND in the MEDITERRANEAN SEA.
SUNDAY: The busses on Sundays come less often and are less reliable than the weekdays, but I thought we had it figured out after seven Sundays and suggested we take a bus that would let us sleep a little bit later but still get us to church on time. Unfortunately the second bus we were supposed to get on came a lot later than it was supposed to and we ended up being late for church, but only by about three minutes, so it wasn’t a huge loss. Those dang busses certainly frustrate me, though. Our first meeting was a combined lesson about the threefold mission of the church, which was interesting in Spanish. After that meeting everyone wanted to talk about our trips, but we made it to Sunday School luckily, which was about the Restoration of the Priesthood. We talked a bit more after Sunday School, before Sacrament Meeting, but we were all in our seats before it started. Mark and I made it through 45 more hymns [he probably did better than I did today] and we heard some really good testimonies. We got on the bus, talked more about our trips, and arrived home with a little bit of time before eating delicious fish/soup for lunch and telling the family about our trip to Mallorca.
Overall it was an intensely satisfying week, and currently I have no desire for this semester to end. It’s really weird that we only have a month left, but it should certainly be a good month. “Love to all the chaps.”

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Hay huesos en mi estomago

Wednesday morning we had our first midterm of the semester, and it was kind of a reality check—we’re still actually in school, not just on a three-month vacation. We had a study guide and more than half the group is in the World Civilization class, so we spent a lot of time studying on Monday and Tuesday. Monday after FHE we had a study group at the Browns house and I would just like to publicly declare that having your professor in your study group is the bomb. Basically all I did for two days was study and we were so relieved when we finally finished the test on Wednesday—except I have another, harder history test for Spanish History on Tuesday. But we had a little bit of a break, at least.
Wednesday Elder Bednar came to speak to the people of Madrid, along with Elder Robert Oaks, who is an Area Authority for Europe. Our Institute teacher, who is an Area 70 in Spain, was translating, and the whole fireside turned out to be one of the coolest experiences ever. Sister Bednar spoke first, just a little talk, and I could tell how nervous both she and Elder Lopez were. Then Elder Bednar came up and announced that instead of giving talks, they would be taking questions. There were some really good questions asked, and it was just so cool to be in such a small gathering with an apostle, to have the words translated from a language I understood into another language I understood, and to have a relationship with the translator. I got so happy for him every time he used a really good word, and so nervous for him when Elder Bednar or someone else used a word that I thought he might not know. It was an incredible experience altogether, and we all left very uplifted.
Thursday after school we bought plane tickets to Mallorca for this weekend, which is our second weekend of free travel, and I decided to go to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. It’s a formerly private art collection that is now housed in Madrid and it was my favorite museum that I’ve seen. There were some older works that were normal [and by that I mean a little boring], but then all of a sudden there was room after room of stunningly beautiful paintings. It was really cool how they had random little Picassos or van Goghs and everything was just so amazing. I left that museum fully satisfied and remembering how much I love art.
Friday we had another day trip, but let’s just say that everyone wasn’t in the best mood for it. The majority of people are getting a little bored of touring, I think, and I wasn’t very excited for the things we were seeing. Plus Mark decided it would be a good idea to wear shorts, until his father informed him that they don’t let you into churches with shorts on, so Mark was wearing Professor Brown’s pants and they were huge and really hilarious-looking. First we went to El Escorial, which is a huge palace built by Philip II, but it’s known for being very austere—which means not very pretty. The size was impressive, and the organization [it’s a giant grid], but there just wasn’t that much to look at that was interesting. We went down to the dungeons, where there were coffins of several monarchs, and that was really cool, and he had an extremely fantastic library which we also saw, but overall it wasn’t my favorite place. Then went to El Valle de Los Caidos, which is a HUGE cross built up on this hill, and a basilica where Franco’s tomb lies. I was mostly bored by the basilica but LOVED being up in a mountainous area, where I could breathe freely, without pollution, and could see super far. Then we went to another castle and NO ONE wanted to get out of the bus but we were forced to, and forced to walk around this castle even though it was supposed to be closed, and the guards weren’t very happy, and Professor Brown wasn’t very happy with the actions of some of the students, and overall my life wouldn’t be very much different if we hadn’t gone to any of those places. But luckily a group of 24 bored students can make for some pretty funny things that happen, so I do have some good memories of this day.
Saturday Emmaleigh and I were tempted by a costume museum and a hiking trip in the morning, but we opted out of both and slept in. Well, Emmaleigh slept in and I read for my directed readings class in my bed. Then I went out for an intentionally long run, but I don’t feel comfortable running anywhere too far from my house in Alcalá because I’m always afraid I won’t know how to get home. I ran on streets I had encountered before, and I ran all the way up one street that I felt confident about, and then I started to recognize things and thought it was near my house, so I kept taking different turns until I found a park I had never seen before. Then I saw a group of four young men in suits, assumed they were missionaries and that they would speak English and know where we were. They were kind of far away and not slowing down, so I sprinted all the way over to them only to discover when I was right behind them that they were smoking and [hopefully] not missionaries. I had to really awkwardly just keep running around them and still have no idea where I was. Eventually I found my way home, showered, and studied until the afternoon. Becca Krahenbuhl was in Madrid for the weekend so we decided to meet at the Reina Sofia museum in the afternoon, when it’s free. Emmaleigh and I met her and three friends outside, talked a little bit, and then entered the museum and started perusing. We had been before, seen Guernica and most of the permanent collection and the temporary collection, so we started on the top floor, while Becca&co started on the Guernica floor and we decided to meet in the middle. Unfortunately, we never met in the middle and though we spent a good chunk of time looking all over the museum for them we never met them again. Our phone was out of money so we couldn’t call them, and we got a text from Becca that said something about the gift shop but we got it late and didn’t find them there either. We made a good effort though, and at least before we parted I told them some things they should make sure to do. When we got home we studied until dinner, during which Nacho entertained us with his antics as always. This, however, was one of his funniest moments. Earlier this week he was playing in our room when his mom found him, and as they were leaving she told him to give Emmaleigh a kiss. She put out her cheek, but he went straight for the lips and in her own words, “it was a little wet.” Saturday at dinner he was playing with some sort of cane thing, and then he came over to our side of the table and hooked my chair, and I, trying to be playful, took it and hooked it on a chair on the other side of the table and tried to get him to go over there. I guess it’s my own fault, then, that he soon lost interest and started grabbing everything, as he normally does, only this time his hand rested on my umm… upper-upper body. At first it wasn’t a big deal, it’s normal for young children to touch body parts, but then he didn’t move it and started… pushing. I shooed his hand away and then started laughing UNCONTROLLABLY. So did Emmaleigh, and then Irene, who hadn’t witnessed it, asked us why we were laughing and it was TOO awkward to explain. Then Nacho kept trying to lift up my shirt, and I kept pushing his hand away but I was laughing too hard to tell him to stop, so he wouldn’t quit it. The whole situation was extremely hilarious and partially embarrassing. When we got back up to our room Emmaleigh said, “I must admit, I would rather by kissed by an eighteen-month-old than felt up by an eighteen-month-old…” Then we laughed hysterically more.
We went to church as usual on Sunday. The lessons were interesting but I was having trouble concentrating, which made it hard to understand what they were saying. Mark and I invented a good game during Sacrament Meeting though—we went through the Spanish hymnbook and raced to see who could figure out what songs they were in English. I usually won because I know more Spanish than Mark, but I also know nothing about music so if I didn’t recognize the words then I had no way of figuring it out, but he could hum the tune and eventually get it. We got to hymn number 23 and plan to do the whole hymnbook in the five remaining Sundays.
Our breakfast this morning was a little small because there weren’t any of our normal breakfast muffins in the drawer so we had a few little cookies each and went off to church. This led to us dreaming about lunch even more than usual on our long sojourn home. Someone brought up lasagna, I mentioned that I had seen ground beef the night before, and we decided it would be SO great if we had lasagna. Miraculously, that’s what we had! The majority of the family was gone so we ate in the kitchen, and it was an all-around good meal.
After my last test on Tuesday this week should be more exciting, so expect a report about the flamenco version of Carmen and the weekend in Mallorca next time. Love!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

IN THE CLUB

Nothing singularly huge happened this week, but I have a lot to say anyway, making this the hugest post ever. Umm sorry?
MONDAY: Sundays and Mondays are pretty much the only days that are always going to be the same. We always have class, we always have Institute, and we always have FHE. This whole week I was still sick, which can put a damper on the most normal occurrences. Emmaleigh wanted us to walk home from school but I refused, so she walked and I took the bus. Best decision I ever made. We spent some time reading the Spanish Inquisition, which is this HUGE book we were supposed to read in two weeks while we didn’t have class for Spanish History. I finished it on time, which was a miracle. We had Institute and then FHE in the church, where we played Sardines. I told everyone how we’d always play in our house and I even told them about the time when Brett texted Ethan’s phone “We see you” and everyone freaked out and Tagg wanted to hit them with a chair. Haha. After FHE Emmaleigh and I had some less than satisfactory pastries, and then we went home.
TUESDAY: I woke up at 10:20 somehow. The alarm clock I have here snoozes every four minutes and I’ve let it run for quite a while before. Since I’ve been sick and not running, I just wake up at 9 and read until I can shower. But apparently my snooze button stops functioning at some point because I can only remember hitting the snooze a few times and when I woke up, the alarm was still on, but two hours after it first went off. The bus I normally take comes at 10:30, so I jumped up in a hurry, started rushing around and throwing clothes on and brushing my teeth and washing my face and trying to pack my backpack and make my bed, and Irene came in and got mad at me for having the blinds down and the light on [I was getting dressed!], asked me if I had gone running and when I said no laughed, and then told me to take out the trash because she didn’t want it to smell. I don’t take the blame for that, the first few weeks we were here the woman who comes twice a week to clean the house changed it, how were we supposed to know that we were actually supposed to do it and the cleaning woman just hadn’t gotten lazy? Whatever, I eventually did everything she asked me and made it to the bus stop in time to take another bus that got me to school barely on time. After school we were supposed to go to a costume museum in Madrid, but after wandering around in the supposed area for a while we realized it was actually the address of a museum for the blind, which was another museum on our list, so we went. It was SO cool. The majority of it is famous monuments, first in the whole world and then in Spain, and everything is touchable of course, because it’s set up so blind people can actually experience them. I was really enjoying everything, taking my blindfold on and off, when Megan and I discovered this sweet one that had everything carved inside too. She slipped her hand in and started touching everything. There were multiple openings, so I stuck my hand in another one. Bad choice. I knew as soon as I had forced it in that it was going to be a problem to try to get it out. It was. There was somehow something on the back of my hand not letting me slip my hand out. It was stuck in there for a while as we considered our options: butter? No. Breaking the monument open? Probably a bad idea. Waiting there, kneeling by the monument, until I had starved myself sufficiently to make my hand skinnier? I knew the museum would close before that. Finally after lots of laughs and a picture, I forced it out and looked at my battle wounds. They were many.
WEDNESDAY: We decided the next day after school to go into Madrid again to try to go to the costume museum. We ran into another girl on the train who was going to Madrid to buy tickets to Carmen, starring the best flamenco dancer in Spain. We were going to run over and get the tickets with her and then all go to the museum but she was waiting for some other people and it just would have taken too long so they agreed to get tickets for us and we attempted to go to the costume museum again. Unfortunately, we were still unsuccessful. The people at the blind museum had given us the address of the costume museum and told us it was on Calle Juan Herrera, or something along those lines. Apparently there are two in Madrid, and we went to the wrong one first. By the time we got to the address and the museum was not there I was exhausted and realized I probably should have stayed home. But Megan and Emmaleigh assured me they knew for real where the museum was so we were going to go anyway. We had to ride what felt like a million metros and got off near the University of Madrid and started walking. We found another museum on our Madrid walk list, but it was closed. We saw a sweet sunset, and then I couldn’t go one more step so Tristan and I went back to the metro station to wait until Megan and Emmaleigh just found it so we could possibly go again. Another good decision on my part, to not go with them, because they were gone for a while. We went home, fully exhausted, having accomplished nothing.
THURSDAY: I woke up at the normal time and went into the bathroom only to notice that both of my eyes were completely bloodshot. They didn’t hurt at all, so I knew it wasn’t pinkeye [a frequent occurrence in my life], but I didn’t know what to do about it. I decided to walk to school because the weather was pretty nice. Emmaleigh had a Skype interview for a job this summer so we didn’t go to the temple with a bunch of other people in the group but went to the mall for a little bit and then did some homework before going over to the Browns. I just wanted to take a simple shower because we wouldn’t be able to shower before going to Segovia on Friday, but it didn’t really go as I planned. First three seconds in the shower, I got shampoo in my eye, maximizing the already-serious red-eyes problem I was having. Then I tried to shave my legs and took a sizeable chunk out of my left knee, and proceeded to watch the water run red the rest of my shower. I had to wash my face in freezing cold water because our shower is temperamental, and when I tried to put my contacts back in after washing them I dropped one in the sink and almost didn’t recover it. Rough. I tried to find an outfit that was semi-clean [didn’t really succeed], and we went to the Browns. Emmaleigh’s interview went really well, I uploaded a bunch of pictures, and then we had a Valentine’s Day cookie party. Tristan and Lauren requested my vast baking knowledge [haha] but then didn’t really appreciate it. It was fun though, we made a few cards and decorated cookies and made plans for weekends coming up. Then we went home to rest up for Segovia.
FRIDAY: We met at the train station at 9 to make our trek to Segovia. Professor Brown had said it was a really short trip, but it was actually almost two hours. The town is SUPER small, but there’s an old Roman aqueduct, a REALLY pretty cathedral, and the castle that the Disney castle is supposedly based on, so we saw those and then had some free time. Unfortunately our free time was from two to four, coincidentally the exact hours that everything in Spain is closed for siesta, so we didn’t get to go into a cool art museum they have there or really anything. We just hung out by the aqueduct and EVERYONE was on time to the bus. Then we went to a different part of Segovia [? I’m not really sure] to see a different view of the Alcázar, and then went home. The bus ride home was even longer, because we got stuck in traffic, but I just looked at all 700-something pictures Courtney has taken since being here and listened to my iPod. While walking home from the train station I was really hungry but it was still a couple hours until dinner, so I decided to stop in this little fruit shop and get an apple. I’ve done this many times, but this time when I walked in, grabbed an apple and gave it to the guy to weigh it, he started babbling in super fast Spanish something that I couldn’t understand. I thought he meant maybe I couldn’t just buy one apple, so I was going to put it back, but then this woman who was also standing there said to me in English “it’s free.” Then they both smiled, so I knew it was true. It was the bomb. A bunch of people in the group had decided to go to a discoteca that night, but they don’t really open until midnight, so we got some rest, ate dinner, and got ready to go out. I decided to wear my already-dirtiest clothes, because I knew they were going to be gross, and I decided to not bring my coat because I’d have to pay to check it. We met at Kim’s house, because she had gone before and knew where some were, and we started dancing. The first one we went to was pretty crowded and smelled nasty. It also didn’t have the best dancing music, though it did play music I really like, including M.I.A., The Strokes, and MGMT. Also, there were these super nasty older guys wearing weird wigs who tried to accost Lara and me while we were putting our sweaters on a table. Luckily all four boys [haha] were with us so we just yelled and ran back over to them. They were thwarted. After that we went to another one which was less crowded and had younger people, smelled better, and played better dance music. Probably everyone’s favorite moment was when they played Hips Don’t Lie by Shakira. It was even in English. So great. We left to go to another one but we got held up by Tim trying to give directions to someone and by then it was almost 2:30 so we decided to catch the bus home rather than stay out another hour. Good move. We got on the bus with two other people but they got off a few stops before us. Then Girls Just Wanna Have Fun started playing and since I was already in the dancing mood and no one was there to witness except Emmaleigh and the bus driver, I started dancing and falling all over the bus until our stop. We finally made it home and crashed into our beds.
SATURDAY: We woke up at 10:30 and showered, almost passed out from the smell of the clothes we wore to the discoteca, and got dressed for a nice day in Madrid. The weather was SO warm, it was perfect. We met a bunch of people at the train station at noon and went to El Parque del Buen Retiro, which I’ve already mentioned, which is the greatest. We hung out on the grass for a while and ate the bocadillos our madres had given us, and then we decided to check out the old book market near the park. I didn’t buy anything but there were tons of cool books. Too bad they were all in Spanish—if there was something like that in the US it would be probably my favorite thing. We went in search of ice cream but I’m pretty sure we were looking in the wrong place because we were unsuccessful but normally there are heladerías on every corner. Then we went back to the park to row boats on the lake. It’s only €4.55 for a boat that fits 4 people, and you can row for 45 minutes. Sweet deal. There was one creepy instance with the guys that help you into and out of the boats where they said they would take a picture of us and then one of the guys said to me “Can I go out with you?” in English but luckily we just rowed away. That was SO fun and relaxing and honestly the weather was perfect. After the lake we were exhausted so we started the process of going home. Emmaleigh and I wanted to borrow a movie to watch so we went home with Jessie, who lives with the sister of our host mom. We got While You Were Sleeping and as we were about to leave we saw Irene, our mom, at their house. That was funny. We didn’t know exactly how to get home but we knew there should have been a bus stop for the 10 [our bus] nearby so we started walking around. I recognized where we were from a run I had taken a few weeks earlier and it didn’t seem that far, but it turns out a short run can really be a kind of long walk. We stopped at the grocery store and got some Dulce de Leche ice cream, grabbed spoons from the kitchen, and retired to our room with enough sugar to last the rest of the year. Unfortunately, we ate basically everything… It was a good night.
SUNDAY: Today was Stake Conference at the stake center right next to the temple. On the metro on the way there we saw some missionaries so we started talking to them, and one of them mentioned that Elder Caussé, the French 70 who spoke in October’s General Conference, was going to be here. We arrived at the stake center, found some of our friends, and settled in for two hours of not understanding much. It wasn’t actually that bad though. There was a variety of speakers from different parts of the world, with different accents. The mission president, who is American and served his mission in Argentina spoke, and it was SO easy to understand him. He sounded like me speaking Spanish, with better pronunciation. There was one guy from Portugal we think who was nearly IMPOSSIBLE to understand. Everything was z sounds and sh sounds. That was entertaining though. And then, all of a sudden, Elder Caussé came up and started speaking English! The first thing he said was, “I wish I could speak this beautiful language, but I will speak in English and a little French and hope you can feel the Spirit.” He had a translator from the Spaniards, but it was such a nice feeling to completely understand what he was saying. At the end he bore his testimony in French and the translator also translated that into Spanish, which was impressive. After hearing French, we realized that we really do know a lot of Spanish. Also, I remember at General Conference thinking it was hard to understand what he was saying with that French accent, but hearing him today, it wasn’t hard AT ALL to understand his English! The whole conference was really cool and really uplifting. We went back to the metro and encountered the same missionaries again. They started talking to us about where we were from, and going to BYU, and being in Spain, and our classes, and stake conference… they were probably a little too eager to talk to us. When we were leaving the metro and going to the train Kim’s ticket wouldn’t work [which happens all the time], so the missionaries went through and actually considered waiting for us. They decided against it and kept walking, but we knew we’d see them again on the train because they live just two stops away from Alcalá. Luckily we sat away from them and they only waved goodbye. Awkward. The other best thing about today was that we had paella again for lunch. We haven’t had it at the house since our first night here and out of all the ones we’ve sampled, Irene’s paella is still the best. She brought it out in the hugest dish ever, which is how they always make it, and it was heavenly.
Basically it was a good Spanish week. I think this was the first week when I started thinking about how much I’m really going to miss being here when we leave. Luckily we still have just over a month and a half. :)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Terrifying Adventure of the Windmills and Other Adventures in the South of Spain

This week was so excellent!
MONDAY: Pretty normal day, we went to school, Institute, and then FHE at the Browns house. We watched the last quarter of the Superbowl because Professor Brown had taped it. The majority of the people were pretty bored but we just talked and ate food [not exactly the normal Superbowl snacks, but we had some good stuff] until we went home to pack.
TUESDAY: We were supposed to meet the bus at 8 to start our adventure to southern Spain. Unfortunately, we had been waiting there about half an hour when Professor Brown discovered our travel agency hadn’t made us a bus reservation so we couldn’t get a bus until about 10. The Browns house is close to the train station, where we were supposed to meet the bus, so we all went over there and watched 2 hour-long episodes of The Office while we waited. It was almost the first TV I’ve watched since arriving here so it was weird. We finally got on the bus and started the trek. Our first stop was Consuegra to see the windmills that I’ve been longing for. Before we arrived I went up to the front of the bus and read the windmill chapter of Don Quixote over the microphone. When we got there it was SO windy it was completely ridiculous, but unfortunately all those windmills were stabilized so none of them were moving, but we took a million awesome pictures and then got back on the bus. We arrived in Granada many hours later, checked into our hotel, and went out to explore the city. It was raining on and off, and that town is super hilly, so we basically did nothing but wander the streets and look for cool views of the city, which we definitely found. We had Pizza Hut for dinner [sometimes you just want American food, believe me] and then just hung out in the hotel talking. On trips we have different roommates so we can get to know everyone, and Lara was my roommate in Granada. We stayed up until 3 AM talking, which was completely ridiculous, and I think we regretted it a little the next day, but it was fun.
WEDNESDAY: We started our day super early in the Alhambra, which is the really famous thing about Granada, a Moorish palace. Again, we didn’t have a reservation, so it was basically a miracle that we all got in only half an hour after we were supposed to. We had to go really early because apparently by late morning it’s just crawling with people and we wanted to enjoy it in relative peace, which we did. It was huge and actually really really cool. It was under construction, as basically everything is right now, to prepare for tourist season, so some of the things weren’t working or whatever, but it was still really awesome. By the time we were done there we had to leave to go to Cordoba so we didn’t get to see the church where Ferdinand and Isabel were actually buried, which was kind of a bummer, but we had to get to Cordoba to see the mosque, which is basically the only important thing about that city. The bus ride was a couple hours and when we were driving in we saw a little bit of blue sky, which we were all really happy about. Unfortunately, as we got off the bus and started to walk about four or five blocks to our hotel, it started sprinkling, then full on raining, then pouring, then there was a hurricane. It was hilarious/a little bit horrible. It was raining bigger drops than I’ve ever seen in my whole life and they were coming down HARD. And we were carrying our luggage down the street. Beautiful. Of course as soon as we got inside it stopped raining so hard and when we met five minutes later to walk to the mosque it wasn’t really raining at all. So. Funny. The mosque was cool I suppose, but somebody [Catholic obviously] built a huge cathedral in the middle of it and it kind of just looked like every other cathedral we’ve seen. There were cool arches though that were painted with red stripes that looked pretty cool. After the cathedral-mosque we were free to roam around until dinner. We found a statue of Maimonides [the spelling may be inaccurate] and rubbed his foot because we were supposed to, and then went to the Alcazar where Christopher Columbus begged Isabel to send him on his voyage. By the way, Alcazar means castle and they are all over. The gardens were pretty and I spent a fair amount of time wandering through them with Chelsea until we discovered a cool statue of Columbus with Ferdinand and Isabel. We got some hot chocolate and then I tried to study until dinner. The hour that I studied then was almost the only studying I did all week, which may have been a bad choice, but come on—I’m in Spain! My grades will be fine. We had a sub-par dinner, talked a bit more, and went to bed.
THURSDAY: The bus ride to Sevilla was a bit of a hike and we arrived with just enough time to see the cathedral before lunch. It’s the biggest in Spain and third biggest in the world and it was pretty impressive. We saw Columbus’s tomb, which was SO cool. There were just lots of pretty things and then we climbed up a basically endless ramp to the top of a tower to look down on the city. That was totally worth it, plus ramp = way better than stairs. We wandered through El Barrio de Santa Cruz, which is where the Browns lived when he taught in Sevilla years ago, and just saw cool stuff. We went in search of lunch and on the way discovered Calle Sierpes—the shopping district. We spent most of the afternoon shopping and just seeing all the beautiful things Sevilla had to offer, and it had stopped raining by that point so that was really nice. After a bit of resting we went out for tapas and got totally overcharged [European restaurants love to sneak little things into the bill to make it way more expensive than you’re planning on], then went to a bar to see some flamenco. We had been advised that Sevilla is the place to see flamenco, and we were going to do it. We had to wait a while [Sevillans, and Spaniards in general] love to stay out SO late so the flamenco didn’t start until after 11, but it was really cool. I was super exhausted and we only stayed for a little bit, but then I ended up talking in my room with Kiley and Jessie until 3 am AGAIN. SUCH a bad choice. Jessie got locked out of her room because Courtney had gone to bed early and left the door open but somebody probably thought that was a mistake and closed it shortly before Jessie attempted to go to her room so she slept on our couch, which obviously prolonged the amount of time spent talking.
FRIDAY: I woke up pretty sick, probably as a result of staying up SO late multiple nights. We went to the Alcazar in Sevilla and it was pretty and the weather was sunny, which were two bonuses. This was probably the best day of this trip so far because I saw two of my FAVORITE things. After the Alcazar we went to the bull ring, which also had a museum, and got a guided tour. It was SO COOL. Bullfighting is such an obsession of mine and it was so cool to see where bullfights actually take place and see all the outfits in the museum and just learn a lot about it. I was absolutely fascinated. After that Lauren, Ali and I went to a seafood restaurant that Ali found in her book and really wanted to try. It was relatively expensive but I found some pretty cheap things and we thought we were thwarting them by not eating the bread on the table. Wrong, they charged us for it anyway. So lame. After lunch we took a fairly long walk through Sevilla to locate the Plaza de España because we had heard it was amazing. It was! The building[s?] surrounding it were really really beautiful and it was sunny and the river ran through the middle and there was a man playing Spanish guitar and singing and a woman next to him clapping flamenco-style. We hung out there for a while and it was really enjoyable. After that Ali, Emmaleigh and I went to the bookstore of the University of Sevilla and I found some really cheap books in Spanish that are way cool. Some people in our group saw a real flamenco show the night before and they couldn’t stop raving about it so basically the rest of the group decided to go Friday night. We bought tickets to that, rested in the hotel, and then went to see it. IT WAS AMAZING [my other favorite thing about Sevilla]! Spanish guitar is beautiful, the dancers were so talented and fast, and just everything about it was so impressive, plus we all fell in love with the stupidhot guy. It was SO cool and now I want to institute Flamenco Friday, a.k.a. I never want to go a Friday in my life again without seeing flamenco. SO awesome. After that Ali and I got some gelato and I really wanted to go to bed early because I still felt sick, but a bunch of people came into my room and we ended up talking again, but not until 3 luckily.
SATURDAY: We ate the hotel breakfast, packed up, and got on the bus. Shortly after leaving Sevilla we stopped in Italica to see some Roman ruins left over from the Roman Empire. They were cool but I was sick and a little bored. We didn’t stay for long and then began our six-hour ride back to Alcalá. That was tough. I tried to sleep but was having trouble breathing because my nose was stuffed and then my throat was dry and I was drinking water but we didn’t stop for a long time so I had to use the bathroom… you know, the usual sick stuff. At long last we got home around 6 and I was really looking forward to lying in my bed and reading and going to bed early but Emmaleigh had a friend who is studying in Barcelona this semester but was in Madrid for the weekend so she dragged me into the city to see him. We went to our favorite chocolate/churro place and just talked for a while, comparing our experiences in Spain. It was fine but I was SO tired and just not really up to going out. The train ride back was miserable, as was the walk home. We ate dinner, though I didn’t really want to eat anything, and then Irene made me drink delicious hot milk with honey in it because she said it would make me feel better. It didn’t really, but it was good. We went to bed before midnight.
SUNDAY: I could not pull myself out of bed to get ready and leave for church at 9:30, so I slept until eleven and eventually got up. I made it to church for sacrament meeting and it was a little hard to sit through it but fine. We came home, had lunch, and just hung out in our room after that.
Basically, Andalucia was awesome, I completely love Spain, and I’m starting to get used to things like the mealtimes, but not the nightlife. And I still love all of you guys!