1. Correfoc. This topic really deserves its own blog but I'm feeling lazy. Correfoc is a giant parade of sparks, devils, and hell. People, wearing flame retardant suits, carry sticks that spray sparks out in a frenzy into a panicking crowd. When the procession started I dropped to the ground filled with sheer excitement and terror that I would get burned. Hannah ran over and patted sparks out of my hair. The idea is that when the devils aka people carrying the fire come through you run under the sparks grabs the devil by the shoulders and dance with him. I don't know...but the pictures were amazing. Here are a few:
2. I think I am beginning to look more Spanish! An old man asked me for directions today and earlier someone asked me to sign a protest that only registered Spanish voters can sign...
3. Pilar is just as into fruit as I am. And now I share a passion for her favorite fruit, figs! The other day we went to the fruit store together and bought 6 bananas, 23 figs, 25 manadrin oranges, 15 apples, 4 pears, 2 kilos of grapes, and 15 peaches. We have already gone through a lot of it.
4. Speaking of food the other week I saw a cake in the fridge. Excited I asked Pilar about it. She said we were eating it tomorrow. It resembled a log cake with thick white frosting on top. I asked her if the white stuff was some kind of cream and she looked at me funny and said, "No. Es Mayonesa." What I then discovered was that in essence it was a log of tuna fish, potatoes, and mayonnaise....uh oh. I was dreading lunch the next day. When I finally got served a chunk I discreetly as possible scraped the mayo off but Pilar noticed. She asked if I didn't like Mayo...and I said uhhh not this much. I took a bite and was VERY surprised to find I liked it!
5. I have a tryout for a soccer team tomorrow. Por fin! I am so excited to finally play on a real field with real players! I've been dragging my butt over to the gravel/sand patch that has now officially been dubbed the litterbox to juggle and dribble. It's wearing through my kleats faster than I thought physically possible and I come home looking like i've been mugged and thrown in dirt.
6. I think all in all I'm finally adjusting and falling into a good rhythm. I feel a lot better about life in general that I did a week ago. I finally have my classes figured out after changing them one last time today. I have been going to the gym regularly, hanging out with friends that I like, and generally enjoying my classes.
7. Next up on the to do list: Buy a cell phone! I have gone a month without one and after originally thinking I could do the impossible and go ...gasp 9 months...without a phone I have succumb to the inevitable. It is impossible to be a teenager in the 21st century and have a social life without a cell phone.
8. Speaking of the impossible, I have also come to the conclusion that NO Spaniard can say my name. Not even close...I get all sorts of weak attempts. Pilar went two and a half weeks without calling me anything. Now every so often I get a feeble Queetleen or Cateen but mostly she just calls me Guapa or Nena. oh well!
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
We entered the Plaza of Jaume two hours early to see the Castelleres. Sergio told me if you didn’t get there early the crowd would be too great to enter the plaza.
The giants we had seen the night before were back and were doing dances with one another in the center of the plaza. We watched an hour and a half of giant dancing before the really good stuff happened.
We made our way to the perimeter of the plaza where we noticed that someone had placed a bunch of metal gates to separate crowds against the wall. They had formed somewhat of a ledge that you could climb up onto the gates and so up we went. It wasn’t really very stable but with a view like that we were willing to take a risk. And we had the perfect view because, now, we were about five feet taller than the other thousands of people below us.
The celebration started first with towers of four people. A man surrounded by a large group stabilized him at the bottom. Then another man climbed up to stand on his shoulders, then a girl around my age, and last a small child wearing a helmet. Once the child was up the foundation paraded forward through the throng of people, the small child on top holding on tightly.
The Castellers got significantly more elaborate and bigger as the celebration went on. Pretty soon we were seeing large groups hoist twenty or thirty people vertically. I have to say it was one of the coolest things I have witnessed in my life. The massive throng of people, the atmosphere of excitement, and the sheer craziness of this tradition made quite an impression on me.
For more awesome pictures (in bigger sizes too) check out my photos here!
Oh, and for the record, Pilar assures me this is not dangerous. She claims no one gets hurt and no one has ever died. I did watch a small boy fall 25 feet into a crowd of people...I don't know you can be the judge.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
One city, two patrons. One BIG fiesta.
"The patron saint of Barcelona was originally Santa Eulàlia, whose remains rest in the crypt of Barcelona Cathedral. However when, in 1687, the city fell victim of a terrible plague, the people of Barcelona placed themselves in the hands of the Virgin of la Mercè who, according to tradition, managed to abate the outbreak. Ever since then, la Mercè and Santa Eulàlia have shared the patronage of Barcelona, and although each of them have their own popular festival days, it is the September festival that is celebrated most."
Last night I ate a quick dinner at 9 and ran out in my new jean dress which marked my first fashion purchase in Barcelona. It was a big night, the first night of the fiesta of Merce!
I met up with Hannah and Michael on the Metro and we left together to see the parade of giants. There was a huge parade of giant people figures. Groups of people got together and over the past few months constructed these giant figures that ran anywhere from 15 to 20 feet tall. Then a man climbed underneath the giant and carries it in the parade through the streets. The other people in the group dress up to match their figure and paraded down the street with flutes and giant bags of confetti.
Hannah and I stood clapping and cheering and dancing with everyone else and got consistently doused with confetti throughout the whole parade. I woke up this morning to find I still had confetti in my hair, in my bed, on the floor, and in the bathroom.
After the parade we headed across the street to the concert we were seeing that night. It was a big open air pavilion and the night was full of people, excitement, dancing, and street beer! Men, with plastic grocery bags full of six packs, wandered around asking you if you wanted to buy cold beer. We decided to make a game out of who could get the cheapest beer and haggle the best. Well, I won. I bought two beers for $1.30. We decided it was a success.
The concert was fabulous and we danced until it was over right in front with the woman with huge dreads and unshaved armpits. I didn't get back till two, which is still early by Barcelona standards.
When I woke up this morning to my alarm clock I was exhausted but there was no time to sleep! It is fiesta week. I quickly got dressed, wolfed down cereal, and took the metro to meet Hannah at Plaza Catalunya. It was the famous stacking of the people, Castelleres!
Monday, September 21, 2009
Last night I had an authentic Paella experience, and it was so yummy that I would hate for anyone in the States to miss out simply because they didn´t have a recipe. So here you are. I dilligently followed Pilar around our small white kitchen taking pictures and scribbling down notes.
Step One: Clean and cut the squid into small pieces. You have to make sure you wash out all the ´tinta´ or ink.
Step Two: You break out your mini axe and cut up the lobster. Now, This is where things get tricky and I don´t want to be accused of poisoning anyone, but hey, I´m still alive. Hannah informed me this morning that it´s ´MUY MAL´ to eat a lobster that has died before you cooked it. We bought the lobster the day before and it ended up dying in the fridge that night...so I´m not really sure what that means. Also I was informed that you are only supposed to eat the tail and the claws and Pilar hacked that baby to pieces and threw it all in the pot. Once again I´m still alive...but it makes me rather nervous to know this all now because guess who got leftovers for lunch? yup, me.
Step Three: Fry the lobster and four whole gloves of garlic in olive oil.
Step Four: Add half a diced onion, two bay leaves, and a diced bell pepper (ideally red and green because Pilar explained has two flavors).
Step Five: Let that all cook up. The lobster will turn red and once the veggies start to brown add a cereals bowl worth of rice. Fry the rice a bit in the oil so it absords the flavor.
Step Six: Add boiling seafood broth to the skillet and the most important ingridient, Saffron. Let cook and simmer for 20 minutes. The water will evaporate and you´ll be left with Paella!
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Barcelona has an amazing music scene. Starting this week is ‘La Fiesta de Barcelona’ called ‘Merce’ starts! It’s the week of Barcelona’s patron saint so starting this Wednesday the city is going to break out into a giant celebration. The metros will be running 24 hours a day and there are 60 different amazing (and free) concerts ranging from electronic, punk, indie, folk, rock, to hip hop. Not only have I been listening to snippets of the bands I think I want to go see, I’ve been mentally preparing myself to dance until I drop. I’ve already made some great discoveries of new artists!
Along the same music theme there is a music store that I pass by on my walk to school. It's hip, trendy, and brimming with Indie music. There are turn tables on the counters and with-it fashionable Spaniards always seem to be wandering in and out. Hannah and I have gone in there a few times now and every time they have some awesome Indie band playing. This week it was, Au Revoir Simone’s, new cd “Still Night, Still Light”. (Definitely worth a listen). I like to go through the cds and look for covers that look especially fun and then I scribble down the names on a scrap of paper and look them up when I get home. There has been one band called, ‘The Go Team!’ that I have been trying to get a hold of for a week now with no luck. But guess what? They are playing at the festival Merce! What luck! And it gets better. My current favorite song (besides Passion Pit’s ‘Sleepyhead’) is “Summercat” by Billie The Vision & The Dancers, who will ALSO be playing at Merce! Yippe!
God, I love music! So get excited for a low down of the new most awesome bands to hit Spain because you can be sure I’ll be there groovin and dancing with the rest of em!
Saturday, September 19, 2009
I was originally going to blog about how great today was going, BUT I was interrupted when Sergio called me into the kitchen. What did I find in there? To my great surprise I found a lobster crawling (or attempting to crawl) around on the kitchen counter. Next to it was a slimy cousin of a squid and two whole dead fish. Once I got over my initial surprise I immediately thought of my mom and how sorry she would feel for this lobster. We aren’t making the Paella till tomorrow…so I asked her what we were going to do with it now. She looked at me with a bemused expression that I took to mean, “Oh I hadn’t quite thought about it.” So we found a big Tupperware and put it in it. Then we were debating putting it in the fridge or the counter. We decided on the counter because we still want it to be alive tomorrow. (Yes, I’m sorry mom). So then I asked, "Are we going to just keep it here all night?" Pilar replied, "What else would we do with it? Do you want me to tuck it into bed with you?" So it was settled.
I then thought of Julia Child. I am so excited to learn the recipe for authentic Paella!
And now for the original blog:
There are a lot of things that have me smiling this morning.
1. It rained yesterday but today is a beautiful, fresh, sunny day.
2. Hannah and I walked from the University to my apartment yesterday. It took one hour and forty minutes. (We only had to bust out our map three times and only got lost once)
3. Sergio is here! My host brother who is 38 is great! He talks with me explains important things and is extremely helpful.
4. I emailed a soccer club yesterday asking if I could try out! (Sergio helped me with the email).
5. I joined a gym! It’s the most beautiful, high tech, glorious gym I’ve ever seen. They have five different rooms for exercise classes including a giant spin class room. The group exercise rooms are at least four times the size of the 24 fitness I go to at home. I’ve never been so excited to go on a treadmill!
6. I’m meeting Hannah to go to Park Guell today. We are going to walk around and take pictures.
7. Barcelona is playing tonight! After Park Guell we are going to find a bar to eat tapas and watch the game! GOOOO BARCAAA!
8. Pilar brought home a lobster! And we are having Paella tomorrow! Yipeeee
Friday, September 18, 2009
Step One: Find a soccer field.
Step Two: Buy a soccer ball.
Step Three: Play.
As you already know yesterday I completed Step Two. I got up early this morning to fufill the final step only to find I needed to repeat Step One all over again. The beautiful artificial field I had found two weeks prior was locked up tight. I saw a man approach the gate with a key eagerly I went up to him and asked him if the field was open. He said, “No.” I asked if he knew where there was another soccer field. He said, “This is a soccer field.” I responded, “But I can’t play here can I?” and he said, “No.” Talk about frustrating. Jerk! I didn’t drag my cleats and ball all the way over here for nothing. Near the field was a large sandy lot. I juggled there and practiced moves and dribbled. I chuckled to myself thinking about all the crappy fields I had complained about in my life and here I was happily playing in a dirt lot which I found out about 30 minutes later was utilized as a dog park. Baby steps…I’ll get this eventually.
I need to find a real field. And above all else I need to find a team. I stopped by the BCA office this morning and got an address of somewhere I am supposed to go to find a team.
I miss you guys. Good luck JCWS with your next game. It’s about time to FSU! Ok?
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Step One: Find a field.
Step Two: Buy a ball
Step Three: Show them how the girls play in the USA.
Two of the three steps have been completed. I just bought my ball. The man at the counter asked if I was buying the ball for a friend. I smiled and said, "No, it's for me.".
Tomorrow I'm going to get up early and find that field that I found the other day and release some steam before I ace a final on el Gotico, Barroco, Romanico, & Renacimiento. Wish me luck!
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
In all my fuss and stress about this morning I forgot to say anything at all about my art history trip to Northern Spain! And now that I have eaten and calmed down a bit I´ve regained control of my life and am ready to press forward.
The Art History trip started out with a long ten hour bus ride. By the end of the ninth hour they decided that would be a good time to inform us that only breakfast would be provided on the five day trip. I thought there was going to be a revolt! Hannah and I, being the broke but thrifty, college students that we are decided to make the best of the situation. At breakfast we lined her purse with platic bags and walked out of breakfast with sandwiches, croissants, fruit, and yogurt. I think we ate better than most of the other students!
During the days we had class where we walked around these quaint, old, and beautiful towns and learned about the architechure of the old cathedrals. I was surprised to find a lot of the towns we visited were originally military bases during the Roman Empire and expanded into cities much later. Two cities, Burgos and Leon, started off as strategic gold mines.
At night we were left to our own devices. Which meant one night of sangria and tapas, another night of walking through the city streets and eating gelato, and just enjoying the scenery.
One of my favorite buildings was the Palace that Gaudi had built. Hannah and I went through it pretending we lived there. We picked out where to put the breakfast nook, the dance floor, make out corner, the master bed room, and where we would set up guest rooms.
By the end of the trip I got very good at picking out different architechtural styles and found it interesting how the stlyes reflected the mentality of centuries in which they were built. All in all a great trip!
Cities we visited: Leon, Burgos, Asturia, and Asturga.
Pictures are posted to Flickr, but just to wet your taste buds...
Today is my first day of classes, and like any first day it comes with a lot of butterflies and sweaty arm pits. I think any first day of school can be nerve wracking in its own right... Finding classes, making friends, who to sit with at lunch? Compoud the usual issues with being in a foreign country, taking notes in a language I have not fully mastered, and traversing the city on two seperate metro lines to get back and forth between the two campuses I have classes and you have a somewhat stressful first day.
This morning I woke up to realize that I had lost the paper where I had written my classroom numbers. In a panic I left early to school hoping to look them up on the internet at school. I forgot my internet code paper at home...and ended up randomly running into another BCA student in the same class. phew!
After that bullet was dodged I had to hurry to take two metro lines to my next class. On the way my tubberwear opened spilling rice and sauce everywhere. Confused and frazzled I took the wrong metro stop. Completely dissoriented and now late I frantically tried to find the right building. I found the classroom which was intimidatingly full of students and sat right near the door. (That way if things went horribly wrong I could simply flee).
I had finally found my classroom. I wrote, ¨Just Breathe¨at the top of my notebook and waited. The kicker? After all that the prof never showed.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
There has been some speculation as to the validity of the pooping Christmas log blog I posted a little while ago. It seems my mom's friends are willing to suspend disbelief for soggy crotch pants but they just can't seem to make the leap to the pooping tree trunk. Well I swear it's true and here is my proof.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Today after the most painful Art History class Hannah and I had the idea to go the Royal Palace to have lunch. It worked out well because most of my classes are near by and I wanted to try and find the rooms before the big day so I don't get lost, freak out, and bust in late like a crazy flustered American with pit stains and tousled hair. So after a very enjoyable lunch on the grass we wandered over to Facultad de Economia where I am taking "Economia Mundial" and "Marqueting Internacional". Even though I have two classes they are in a total of five rooms because it's in a different room everyday. The last one I wanted to peak into to see how big it was.
From there things just got fun. Hannah and I decided to strategically pick the best seat. We chose one in the third row back and a couple seats in. Then Hannah decided she was going to rub her essence on the seat so that I would do well and when I was nervous in class I could think back to when she was here with me, just hanging out. I liked the idea. But what happens if that seat is taken? We realized that this could pose problems so she had to rub her essence on every seat. She left her essence on every seat in the room, except the first row because we both agreed I would NOT be sitting there!
At the Royal Park:
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
I am completely in fascinated with fashion here! Everyone is so much edgier and I feel like it's completely appropriate to throw on funky, bright, and un poco raro clothes and call it style. (Which I'm totally for, It makes getting dressed so much fun). In Spain they were rocking skinny jeans long before they rolled into American Eagle. So ladies would you like to know what the next trend will be???????????
SAGGY CROTCH PANTS.
Basically saggy crotch pants are like genie pants that have a low hanging crotch. They come in all different sizes of saggy crotch too! Some are deceptive and sag so low they look like skirts. Others are made of linen, cotton, and even JEAN. Yes. They all look very comfortable but obviously completely ridiculous. So of course Hannah and I decided we need to buy a pair.
What we didn't know is that saggy crotch pants are much more extensive and complex than we first realized. For example, we saw a saggy crotch pants suit the other day. Who knew? Also its completely kosher to tuck the bottoms of your saggy crotch pants into your strappy sandals. Something we generally consider dorky in the US. (my mom has a tendency to accidentally tuck one of her pant legs into her socks...) Thank God she has Ben and I to help her! But here, who knows, maybe that would be fashionable...actually probably not.
Hannah and I decided this topic needs further investigation. So we quickly snagged the blog domain name saggycrotchpants.blogspot.com. THANK GOD it wasn't already taken! I'll let you know when we are up and running.
There are a lot of differences between Spain and the US. And I am all for celebrating the differences like for instance the bidet in my bathroom....I had to google how to even spell it! And in the process ran across an article on "How to clean your toilet and wash your cat simultaneously". I'll get back to you on that another day...
So in my conversation class we started talking about traditions. Our professor explained that in Catalunya (the 'state' that Barcelona is in) they dont celebrate Christmas with a Christmas tree. They have a hollow pooping log. The parents fill the hollow log with presents and then cover it in a blanket. Then the children gather round and yell CAGA CAGA CAGA CAGA (which literally means shit! shit! shit!) and the dad is in the other room going "that smells baaaaad!" To insinuate that its about to poop something really big...yes. this happens. And then the log poops out the presents. My conversation Prof explained this all to us. Then she went on to say that in Catalunya everyone is kind of obsessed with poop. All their curse words revolve around it. ALSO at Christmas in all the nativity scenes someone is always popping a squat in the background. And you have to find the squatter....like where's Waldo! Except the squatter is always someone famous, like the Pope. Last year Obama was insanely popular! Can you imagine Obama squatting behind Mary? ...I can too! I mean I couldn't even make that up!
Monday, September 7, 2009
I have so much freedom and independence here it´s fantastic. I feel like I am really living in the city. The public transportation is fantastic and I have free reign of the city. Pilar packs a lunch for me in the mornings and I really don´t need to be home until 10 at night when we have dinner. There are more museums, amazing parks, cafes, and interesting streets than I know what to do with! And I plan on exploring all of them. I just need to make some friends so that I don´t have to do all this exploring by myself.
Today was my first day having classes inside the University. We got a tour of the university buildings which took roughly 3 hours and two differnent metro lines. AY! I´m not sure how I am going to find my classes when they span not just a campus and a quad but an entire CITY! It turns out the two campuses are broken up like so because during the reign of Franco he was concerned with the students banding together and to stop it they had the second campus (where I have possibly two classes) built on the very edge of the city. Well it didnt work and the students banded together anyway and managed to stop traffic on the biggest road in Barcelona that runs diagonally through the whole city. How interesting!
I am currently in the computer lab of the university surrounded by REAL SPANISH STUDENTS! One just asked me if the computer next to me was working...in spanish! I am DETERMINED to make spanish friends...it´s going to happen.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Well I met Pilar, por fin. She is very friendly and nice and wants to cater to anything I need. She has been pushing the food down me…and although its healthy and good I’m going to need to go on portion control.
Today she showed me how to make vegtable paella. I wrote down the steps in a little notebook that I’ve titles “Recetas de Espana”. We went to the market today to buy pasta para los dientes, cuadernos, y cinta. She also picked out things for my lunches. She asked what kind of cheese I wanted and I picked out a wedge of goat cheese…entirely by accident but I’m sure muy rico. Pilar bought chicken for dinner tomorrow night, but we still have the torilla Espanola from last night and the paella from lunch today. I’m all for left overs but I think she is trying to pull out all the stops. We also walked through the metro and bought my month long metro ticket. And stopped in a pescadaria so I could snap a few pictures of the octopus, live crabs, and giant fish. It was pretty neat. Now we are both getting ready to take a nap. Pilar loves naps just as much as I do. In a couple hours we are going to an internet café so I can talk to my mom. Apparently the apartment has wifi (pronounced weefee in Spain) but Pilar doesn’t know the password. We are going to have to wait for Segio, her grown son, to come on Monday to set me up. All in all its been a pretty low key day.
I also set out exploring the neighborhood by myself. I love it. I asked Pilar if there was a park or something near by and although I didn’t quite understand fully her directions I managed to find the soccer field, golf course, pool, and park that she had described to me. I sat on the stone bleachers of the soccer field and watched a game for a little before I wandered off further. It made me want to play so bad!
Friday, September 4, 2009
Today is a very big and important day for me. I meet my host mother. I found out she has a full grown son who is in the Catalunya Police Force and although he visits frequently she lives alone. (Not for long!) Last year was her first year with the exchange program.
So last night is our last night at the hotel and they pulled out all the stops at dinner. We started as usual with oil, vinegar, and bread. That was followed by a salad with sweet corn, peppers, olives, tomatoes, and tuna fish. The main course was a fabulous Paella, a classic Spanish dish of rice, seafood, and deliciousness. They paraded the huge circular platters to each of the four tables beaming at our excited expressions. It was my first time eating Paella. (Not the last). The hostess kept returning to the tables with a smile on her face as we continued to praise how good the food was. ‘Que rico!” we exclaimed. Desert was a natural vanilla ice cream topped with warmed semi sweet chocolate. It was fabu!
I finished the night off with a hot shower to wash off all the sand and salt from my excursions at the beach earlier. The Mediterranean is so salty! It was a lovely day.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Well ladies and gentlemen I am in Barcelona. And I am thrilled. I think I have conquered jet lag...I drank about a gallon of agua yesterday and just woke up from a two hour nap. I had my first two "pre semestre" classes esta manaña and I have to say after my two classes I feel much more confident. My language skillz seem to be better than a lot of the other students. They also seem much more nervioso. I´m just so excited to start this adventure that nerves have not been an issue (thankfully).
Last night after dinner some friends and I walked from the hotel to the beach. It was less than a ten minute walk and the restraunts and little bars were filled with FC Barcelona fans watching the opening game. The beach was beautiful and I touched the Mediterranean Ocean for el primer tiempo! The moon was out and it was a rather surreal end to my 20th birthday.
Today the weather is beautiful, much muggier than I thought, but sunny and lovely. We had our second class today in the garden and ate lunch of bocadillos (sandwiches) outside also. I also signed up for classes. I am taking one class, photography, with the local Spanish students and then Spanish Civil War, European Union, and Political Psycology in the BCA program. My Pre Semester class also counts for three credits so I´ll be taking 15 units this semester.
Honestly I am so happy and excited to be here I can´t wait to meet my family and really fall into the rhythm of things. I´ve also found that I am just itching to speak Spanish as much as possible...