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!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

On the Streets of Toledo...

This week was a little bit boring until we went to Toledo for the weekend. Monday we walked home from school, and then did the usual Institute/FHE activities. Tuesday we went to the Archaeological Museum and the National Library in Madrid, but apparently the library isn’t “visitable” so we just went to the library museum. It was actually a sweet museum but we didn’t know exactly what was going on and lots of the lights were off with spotlights on random things and we couldn’t really understand everything. Wednesday a bunch of people went into Madrid but I had my EFY interview over Skype at 6:20 so we couldn’t go, and that day was SO boring. Before and after the interview we were basically just hanging out in our room and it was super lame. Pretty much, we’re never not going into Madrid again haha.
THURSDAY: Some girls set up a trip to the temple to do baptisms so a bunch of us went and it was really cool. There were so many of us that we had to bring our own priesthood to baptize us so the guys came and did it and it was a really cool experience. The temple president came down and gave us a little thought and he was American so he spoke English but then all the ordinances were done in Spanish and it was just really peaceful and really enjoyable. A bunch of the girls left while Emmaleigh and I were still getting dressed but it was okay because smaller groups are more manageable anyway. All the guys plus Emmaleigh, Tristan, Jenna and I got churros from a street vendor and then rode back together and it was fun to just talk and kind of get to know them more. When we got home we showered and were packing and everything for Toledo and Nacho [the 18-month-old son of our family’s daughter Ana—they’re all currently staying here because they’re renovating their house] decided that we were more interesting than anything going on downstairs so as I opened the door to our bedroom he just walked right in and proceeded to play with us for half an hour. He just got his first toothbrush I think and he was SO excited about it and I had mine out because I was going to brush my teeth so he was really happy about that and he wanted to touch EVERYTHING in our room and he is just so adorable. Then Raquel, the other sister, came and got him but he somehow found his way into our room again. He wanted to go downstairs so Emmaleigh was going to take him while I was reading Don Quixote but he wanted me to come too so he took my book away and made us both hold one of his hands while we slowly walked down the stairs. When we got to the bottom he sat down on the stairs and wanted Emmaleigh and I to sit down too, so we did, and then he wanted Irene, our host mom/his grandma to sit on the stairs so she did but the stairs were really crowded so we eventually exited. But basically we love him.
FRIDAY: We stopped at a palace in Aranjuez on our way to Toledo. Apparently the monarchy at one point just had palaces built all over so they didn’t have to stay in one place all the time so this was one of them. It was really cool but we took a tour which was kind of drawn out. Also, we couldn’t take pictures but some of the rooms were amazing. The detail that goes into those things is incredible! We walked around the gardens a little and then proceeded to Toledo. We checked into our hotel [three girls in our room!] and then went to see a cathedral and then we were on our own for the night. We went to one pretty boring museum [my tolerance for historical sites was getting pretty low] and then found a famous bridge and took some pictures, ate at an Italian restaurant for dinner, and went back to the hotel to call it a night. But actually, Courtney [roommate #1] and I and eventually Lauren [roommate #2] stayed up ridiculously late talking even though we were SO exhausted.
SATURDAY: Breakfast at 8:30 = a horrible idea. Courtney woke me up at 7:45 and I had NO idea where I was or why she was talking to me but luckily I got up and showered anyway. We went to a church to see a famous El Greco, The Burial of Count Orgaz, and then we had free reign until 3:30. Courtney and Ali and I went to La Iglesia de San Juan de los Reyes, which is the church Ferdinand and Isabel built to be buried in before they conquered Granada and decided to be buried there. That was super impressive, really huge and there was a cool courtyard with SCARY gargoyles and cute orange trees. Then we saw one of the three remaining synagogues in Spain, it was really small but filled with art? It was all about bringing Judaism and Catholicism together, which was pretty interesting. It was called La Sinagoga Santa Maria La Blanca, which is pretty indicative I guess of that union. After that our tolerance for important sites was pretty much shot so we spent the rest of the day just wandering around. We found this SUPER cool view by a random museum that we didn’t enter; we could see the river and then just a bunch of green hills towering above it. It reminded me of Ireland kind of, at least what I’ve seen in movies and stuff. It was really cool. We found some tire swings and swung on those, then just wandered around and realized how perfect life in Toledo would be. We ate lunch, got our luggage, boarded the bus, and went home. I was entirely exhausted but didn’t feel like I could sleep so I went out running for almost an hour while Emmaleigh relaxed, and after I showered we went shopping. Our logic is this: there are amazing sales going on right now [rebajas!] and they are only going to last through February, plus people are buying up all the good stuff, so basically we have to take advantage of whatever awesome, really cheap shopping we can. I bought a dress and a scarf, Emmaleigh bought a dress and shirt, and we were entirely satisfied.
SUNDAY: We got monthly passes for unlimited use of the busses, trains, and metros, but unfortunately Alcalingua messed up and didn’t give us our passes for February on Thursday when we asked for them, so we’re not getting them until tomorrow. We have to take two separate busses to church, and then the same two on the way home, and each ride is €1. We figured it would be worth it to save €4 each to just walk to church. Wrong. It was raining and really windy and FREEZING. We made it to church in about 35 minutes but I was miserable. Church was good, we learned about Virtue in Relief Society because they just added that to the Young Women values, and then Sunday School was about Martin Harris losing the 116 pages and I felt like I could have answered every question he asked if only I was fluent! The testimonies in Sacrament Meeting were good, one interesting thing I noticed is that it was almost all men bearing their testimonies, which is kind of the opposite of most wards I’ve been in. It was interesting though. After church we decided that we could sacrifice a Euro and ride at least one bus home because by that point it was raining pretty hard plus I was really grumpy about it. As we were walking to the bus stop it got SO windy and freezing and I threw a little bit of a yelling fit but luckily only Emmaleigh heard me and the bus came very soon after that. We walked the rest of the way home and I survived. We decided to start our fasts after lunch on Saturday because we thought it just might be unbearable to wait until 9 pm on Sunday to eat, and we told this to our family and were expecting lunch when we got home, because she said we would eat around 2. Wrong again. There seemed to be almost no signs of lunch by the time we got home at 2:30 and we were a little bit unhappy. Luckily only ten minutes later she came up and stated, “You guys are really hungry. The others aren’t eating until 3 but you can eat now.” Thank goodness! Over lunch we had a pretty interesting conversation with Ana about Mormon families, including the number of children and when couples get married. She was completely shocked, but I think we did a decent job of defending ourselves. We also talked a little about missionaries. I always think it’s funny when they’re completely shocked by something because I always wonder how it’s possible that they’ve never heard about it before. I’m just glad I’m learning so much about other cultures.
The week was good overall. This next week we’re going to southern Spain for five days, that should definitely be fun. The next week we have midterms, which will be less fun I imagine, especially considering the amount of studying we actually do [practically none]. I will update next week on the glories of southwestern Europe :)