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.

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