Sunday, August 8, 2010

Well, I have am officially locking the doors on this España blog, since I am now sitting on my own couch, in my own house, in my own country. Its been a month and a half since I was last in Spain, but it seems like so much longer. I am so grateful for the entire year--every piece of ham, every kiss on the cheek, every Spanish word learned, every person I met who showed me that the world is so very big and not at all the way I thought it was.

So, closing up, winding down. Now rather than looking at old Spanish cathedrals, I'm looking at colleges. But only those that offer quality semester study abroad programs. I'm addicted to the world. I think anyone who goes out and sees the world can't help but crave more, its a one taste and you're hooked kind of deal.

So, with all of this said, I'll have to do my thankyous now:
Thank you facebook, for allowing me to keep in touch. Thank you Janine, Eliza and Liza for being my America in Spain. Thank you Madrid transportation system, for making me hate New York City's confusing metro/bus mess. Thank you camera for letting me store my memories and share them. Thank you family for letting me go sooner than anticipated and making me feel loved, even from 3000 miles away.

And thank you Spain... for expanding my world, for giving me this addiction to explore new cultures, and for being the setting for my most ridiculous, most beautiful and most surprising year yet.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The city of the two lovers: Teruel

We went to the city of lovers (no, not paris nor rome), actually Teruel, a little town in Aragón which is famous for its two historical lovers: Isabela Segura and Juan Marcilla. Here's a little summary of the Spanish version of our of romeo and juliet:

The Lovers of Teruel is a romance story that is alleged to have taken place in 1217 in the city of Teruel, Aragón.

In the city there were two important and wealthy families, Marcilla and Segura. Juan Martinez was a Marcilla and Isabel a Segura. The two were in love as childhood playmates but when they were both at an eligible age to wed, Juan's family had fallen on hard times. Isabel's father, being the most wealthy in all of Teruel, forbade the marriage. Juan, however, was able to make an agreement with the father in which he would leave Teruel for five years to try to build his fortune. If Juan was able to gain wealth within those five years he would be able to marry his love, Isabel.

During those five years her father pestered her to marry someone. She replied to him by saying that God wished her to remain a virgin until she turned twenty, saying that women should learn how to manage the household before getting married. Because her father loved her dearly and wished for her happiness he agreed, and for five years they waited for Juan's return.

Diego was not heard from in those five years and so on the day of the five years' close Isabel's father married her to another man. Right after the wedding ceremony there was a commotion at the gate. The watchmen informed the village that Juan Marcilla had returned with great riches and with the intent of marrying Isabel.

That night, Juan snuck into the bedroom of Isabel and her husband and gently awoke her. He pleaded to her, 'Kiss me for I am dying' and she refused, saying 'God would not wish me to deceive my husband; I beg you to find another, and forget about me.'

He begged her one last time, saying that he was dying and wished for a final kiss. But still she refused. Upon hearing this Juan could not bear the separation between himself and his love, and with a sigh he died on the feet of his beloved Isabel.

The next day, during the funeral for Juan Marcilla, Isabel showed up dressed in her wedding dress. She proceeded to walk to the front of the church and place a kiss on the man whom she had refused but in doing so Isabel died, falling prostrate on the body of the man whom she loved.

So we saw the lovers' tombs, and the old structures of Teruel and visited Cuenca, another old city famous for its hanging houses that appear to be falling over the cliff.

In other news, San Isidro festivals and the 100 year anniversary of Madrid's beloved main avenue (Gran Via) were a great success this past weekend.

The weather is getting beautiful (now we just have to wait for the pollen to disappear) and I await the arrival of my maternal grandparents, who will arrive within the next few hours to enjoy a nice madrileño weekend of tour busses, tapas, and pastries (:

Monday, April 26, 2010

Moros y Cristianos: Alcoy:

This last weekend, i was in Alcoy, Alicante where the triumph of the Christians over the Muslims in the fifteenth century was celebrated. after 7 centuries of Muslim occupation, the Muslims were thrown out of Spain, and this little snippet of history is represented every 21- 24 of April in the little pueblo of Alcoy. Almost the entire town participates, dressing up in either muslim or christian outfits, each in a particular group. The most important characters are the muslim and christian captains, who fight on the castle on the last day of the festivities. After that, the second in comand and the "favorites" of the captains- the captain's wife, daughter, sister or friends. And these townspeople don't just dress up for the parade and then return to normal life - no, they stay in character all day, everyday, through the night and send their costumes out for some serious dry cleaning on the fifth day. The music never stopped and the fireworks went off basically all day. What impressed me the most was the mezcleta, where hundreds of fireworks go off simultaneously and you feel like your eardrums will burst. I had never, never imagined such noise was possible. The combination of the feeling of fiesta, great food and moors and christians dancing in the streets all day and all night, just made it... so Spanish.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Well, on Monday I return to real life. Not that being a vacationing-tourist was easy, oh no- eating currywust in Berlin, taking in the sun in Retiro Park in Madrid, and kayaking in the Duratón river-- they tire you out, let me tell you. All vacations must come to an end, and life always begins on Monday- with a language test on a book that you don't even know the title of...

So spring break:
Destination: Berlin, Germany.
Company: co-rotary-exchanger Janine Docimo
Host: Toni Kroeger and Co
Dates: March 26 - April 2
Day 1: Arrival in Berlin after a stop over in Dusseldorf. We eat our very first currywurst ever (see link below). Then to track practice with Toni and realization that its not just a stereotype that most Germans really are quite tall, blond, and attractive.
Day 2: Breakfast of "quark" and delicious jams, honeys and tiny-rolls at Toni's dad's house. Later, a tour of Madrid by car- a visit to ole Bismark's monument and several key areas. The Jewish museum and interesting encounters with Toni's varied friends-- cheap Italian dinner included
Day 3: FLEA MARKET! Bought old black&white German photographs for cheap and some banana honey and of course indulged ourselves in the wide variety of fantastically meaty German street food.
Day 4: The Berlin wall walking tour, which includes checkpoint charlie and the topography of terror (center of Nazi masterminding during the war), and a lot of apple eating. The day completed with an evening of Berlin-style shopping and nice dinner of Sushi and eis (ice cream)
Day 5: We went to school with Toni and shared our (slightly biased) opinion of American society, since Toni's honors English class is discussing suburban culture as an introduction to the well known film "American Beauty." Then we explored tiny neighborhoods busting with character, not to mention currywurst and eis (Do you notice a recurring theme?). Later on, we enjoyed dressing up in leopard print, hot pink, and floral tights to attend a "bad taste party." Needless to say, we looked ridiculous in a super fashionable European city (with a straw hat-- yes, a straw hat)
Day 6: Another tour of Berlin and a view of the city from above in the famous TV tower (The Fernsehturm), and then Doner Kebab for dinner.
Day 7: Riverboat with Toni in the canal, followed by market shopping, and Germany's next top Model (who knows what they were saying, but man did they work it)
Day 8: Final lunch with the family and return to Madrid.

Berlin was followed by lots of rest, recuperation, and of course day-trips to Madrid. School "started" but not for me-- some students from Southern Spain came up to Madrid for their week of exchange so all of us who went to Andalusia in November got to prolong our vacation and enjoy kayaking, bowling, cathedral-visiting, yogurt-factory-touring and neighborhood-exploring with the southern Spaniards. So, all of this to say- vacation has been great, but the higher the build up, the greater the fall- so Monday's science presentation and language test might hurt a bit; a lot. But this spring break was fabulous, and i have more photos and memories (and extra pounds) to last me a good while...

Sunday, March 14, 2010

So, as of 5 hours ago, I have a new house, a new family, and along with that, a pet schnauzer-like dog, a parrot (who never fails to greet you upon your entrance, with a friendly ‘buenos dias’), a bat, a turtle and a weekend beach chalet on the Mediterranean sea.

6 hours ago, I left my mother (the biological one :) at the Madrid Airport.

20 hours ago we were walking on the 11th century wall in Avila, Spain.

25 hours before that, I was taking an economics exam.

What is this ever-changing world we live in?

Everything has changed so fast, I couldn’t tell you how I got here, but here I am, and I will be spending my last three months in this adorable house on dolores street. I would say that things should be slowing down soon, but that’s just not how things decided to sort out. This week, with a madrileño concert, a St. Patricks day party, the town dance, and packing for spring break in Germany— there’s really no time to sit and reflect on all of these changes.

Let me explain- My mother came for a long weekend to visit her daughter and the historic town of St. Teresa of Avila (which would be, not so surprisingly, Avila). We started out the mini-vacation shopping on Gran Via in Madrid and enjoying my favorite spots throughout the city, among which include a little calzone shop, ‘happy bakery,’ J&Js English booksellers and café, and little Chinese stores that sell cheap juice and chips. The next day I enjoyed showing my mom about my life in Tres Cantos- we lunched with a friend and her family, and enjoyed some ham with some Rotarians for dinner (Spanish ham is not just any ham, mind you. It is THE ham).. The next day we left for Avila after I had finished my 3 mid-term exams (Yes, great timing, all of this). A 3 hour dinner of Castilian soup and St. Teresa soup was enjoyed by all (all two of us), followed by getting lost in the winding avilian streets (yes, avilian streets, I am allowed some poetic licence) at thirty minutes till midnight. We found our hotel and the next day we did all of the tourist activities—walking on the famous wall, going into cathedrals and chapels, seeing Teresa’s ring-finger in a box at her mini-museam.

Frozen by the mountainous chill, we returned to Madrid to eat churros and chocolate and enjoy the numerous street performers that flock to Sol on Saturday nights.

Now she should be in Portugal and on her way home to welcome our new exchange student from Brazil who moves in today. As I unpack all of my belongings in my new house, my new house on dolores street.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sorry to be away for so long, grandma, grandpa, I'm a blog slacker, but I'll try to keep you better updated this month! Here's January, my halfway mark (five down, five to go):

After christmas vacation, I'm just getting back to reading, and writing and arithmetic. But I decided to change the swing of things- I added more activities into my daily schedule as to inch away from facebook and skype. I now regularly enjoy classes of Tai Chi, latin dancing and Spanish language (free tutoring from a classmate), my new gym, volleyball, pool and coming soon: tutoring english to a neighbor (eight euros an hour isn't bad, eh?). So, its all to say that I am keeping busy, and it makes the days fly by.

Otherwise, I am just living and enjoying my free weekends. A few weeks ago, I enjoyed visiting a friend in Alcalá de Henares, which is one of the oldest cities near Madrid- the university was built in 1499, and is still functioning today. The town has old churches, old cobblestone pathways, its dirty and beautifully decrepit and is just a very different Spain from what I am used to (the town I live in is 30 years old....) The next weekend I went to my host dad's military ceremony, where he received an award for 30 years of service (see above). It was super official and patriotic and I enjoyed all of the stiff salutes and anthem singing that went on. This past weekend I attended an Arctic Monkey's concert with the Americans in Madrid and it was wonderful music and the ambient was very concert-y: hundreds of sweaty bodies in a mosh pit, singing and jumping in rythm to a British, alternative rock beat. And then yesterday I got a bit more spanish culture: a concert of "Jotas": typical spanish song and dance from little towns in the province of Soria. Old Spanish dress, pueblo dance. A big contrast from Arctic Monkeys. Wonderful, nonetheless.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

New Years Eve: Taking the grapes. First, we have dinner and dessert, and lots of jokes and all, and THEN... twelve seconds before midnight, the first bell rings in SOL, the center of Madrid, which we hear via the television, channel 6. With the first bell, each person eats their first grape, and on the second ring, the second grape. Sounds easy enough, but its not- one grape every second for 12 seconds equals a high chewing/swallowing velocity combined with extreme levels of hand-eye coordination. Super fun though, and an interesting taste of an old Spanish tradition. After the taking of the grapes, the little kids and adults stay to play board games until the early morn while the youth go to clubs and what not. I just went to the "town dance," which was a replica of a Madison High School dance in the gym. Replica, a spanish replica. Instead of the cotton eye joe, we had the bomba, and instead of Rihanna, we had Canto de Loco. And in the morning, after a night of dancing, we had churros with chocolate.

So after bringing in the New Years, we had 3 Kings day, which is a big thing here. A parade with balloons, candies, floats and then churros, again. And then the kings (the three wise men) come, during the night from the 5th to the 6th, and leave presents for the kids.

AND then.. There's Andorra. Okay, well Andorra isn't a Spanish tradition, but thats what followed for me. 5 days in Andorra, a little country between Spain and France in the Pyrene mountains. I went with my school and another American exchange student who's an avid snowboarder from the Rocky Mountains. So basically, she went for the black diamonds and tree skiing for the mornings in the ski resort of Vallnord, while I stuck to the nice green, winding, lower slopes, and then we reunited for the nights to go shopping, swimming, strolling. Andorra is like a mini Paris, I'd say, with lights and shopping and everything, but surrounded on all sides by huge, colossal mountains, the tops dipped in snow.