Sunday, October 24, 2010

another week gone by

Hi everyone!
Another week has gone by, strange how that keeps happening... :)
Not as eventful as others but still found time to have some fun and do some tourist stuff.

Classes are getting a lot better, I understand more and have made some acquaintances in some of my classes.  (I now have about 6 new facebook friends)  Speaking of facebook, I saw the new Social Network movie, the story of Mark Zuckerberg, founder of facebook.  Didn't have very high expectations for it, was mainly excited for the popcorn - which did live up to my expectations, but the movie was great!  Very witty and its a great story in general, highly recommend it.

Anyways, Marzia and I found some time this past weekend to explore the Retiro Park in Madrid.  Its a beautiful park in the center of the city where we stumbled upon a canoe/kayak race going on in the lake.  We sat in the grass and watched the race, the strange people that the park attracts and enjoyed the sunny day.  (Have I mentioned its ALWAYS sunny here - fantastic!)  We also wanted to explore the Mercado de San Miguel, a covered food market in Madrid.  We made our way there and after a couple laps around the market to check out our options we decided to try different cheeses from all over Spain.  It was delicious!  

The lake in Retiro Park
Thursday night one of my new friends invited me to go out with her and some of her friends.  They were all going to Doblón, a club in Villa.  (its normal to go out on a thursday night here...)  Marzia went with me and we had a great time, although it was not easy getting up for class on Friday....

Saturday during lunch my host dad asked if I wanted to go to the Real Madrid game that evening, not sure why he had to ask, of course I wanted to go!  I went with him and my host brother and it was a lot of fun.  Much better than the first game I went to, probably because they won 6-1 so it was a lot more exciting.  After the game I met up with Marzia, Charlie and Elli in Madrid and went out with them for a while, good end to the weekend.

Next week there is not anything on the calendar, except for that its Halloween, which I guess they do celebrate here!  I don't know exactly how they celebrate it, but its a good excuse to party, not that they need an excuse.  :)

Until next time <3

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Hello everyone!
This past weekend my host family and I went to their beach house in Alicante.  Its about a 4.5 hour drive southeast of Madrid to the Mediterranean coast.  Now a 4.5 hour for me is not that long considering how far most of our road trips are back home.  However, a 4.5 hour drive with my host dad driving is another story.  Spanish people in general drive like they are from Illinois (no offense to the flat-landers out there).  They drive really fast, come right up on the next cars tail, and then slam on the brakes.  I don't think they realize that if you gradually approach the car in front of you, there is no need to slam on the brakes.  (and you would avoid causing everyone else in the car to get car-sick...)  But we made it in one piece and I had a few days to recover before making the trek back.

That first night we drove down to the beach and walked around the city of San Juan.  Their  house is about a 10 min. drive from the beach and about 15 mins. to Alicante.  (San Juan is a smaller city on the coast)
The first full day we had in San Juan we spend the afternoon at the beach.  My host parents took me and it was great.  The weather was perfect and because the tourist season is over it wasn't very crowded.  The water was quite chilly but I went swimming anyways and my host mom and I walked to the end of the beach and back.
my host mom and I at the beach :)
After spending most of the day at the beach we went back to the house to change clothes, pick up Raúl (who for some strange reason didn't want to go to the beach...) and then went to lunch at a paella restaurant.  The paella was HUGE and very good, although I prefer the paella my host mom makes at home.  (I told her that, gained points) 

The next day we went to Valencia, another city on the coast about 2 hours away.  Valencia is the city of art and sciences and is very modern.  We spend the entire day at the aquarium, one of the largest in the world, with the most species of fish in one area.  It was really cool and a fun day with my family.  The aquarium is located in downtown Valencia in a complex that also contains a theater and the science museum.  It is a very famous complex designed by some famous spanish architect.  Here is a picutre of my host family and I in front of the science museum.  (the blue building in the background is part of the aquarium)
My host family (minus Héctor, who had to work)
Overall the vacation was really fun.  It was difficult to spend so much time with no english but I can tell it was worth it because I am understanding a lot more.
I am still having a great time and learning new things everyday.  I am feeling more and more like Madrid is no longer a vacation, but that also means the "honeymoon" stage is over.  The hardest part right now is that I don't have many friends.  Its a lot harder to make friends when you don't speak the same language, and can't tell a funny story or joke around.  But that will get easier with time, and I am currently trying to find a club or something on campus to get involved with and make friends that way.

Love hearing from everyone, thanks for the all the comments!  I like to know that people are acutally reading the blog :)


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

One month later, what I have learned so far...

I can't believe I have been in Spain for one month already!  Sometimes I feel like I have been here for 2 days and other times it feels like I have always lived here.  Its starting to feel a bit like a third home, after Lake Mills and Carroll of course. :) 

Thinking of what the big '1 month mark' blog should contain was quite a task.  Almost all the previous posts have been after something big, but lately things have settled down around here.  One night while riding the bus home from Madrid with Marzia, we were discussing everything that was different.  We started making a list of things we have noticed and had quite a laugh in the process, lets just say people were staring at us on the bus. 

So here it is, things that I have learned about Spaniards after living abroad for one month.

1.  Spaniards are very skinny.  I don't know how, because they fry EVERYTHING and eat loaves, and loaves of bread.
2.  Making out in public is normal, regardless of the time of day or the sobriety of the people.  I don't know what phrase is equivalent to "get a room" but I need to learn it, someone here needs to tell these people that PDA is NOT necessary at all hours of the day.
3. Spaniards are in general short.  Now some of you may be thinking, "yeah sure, coming from the girl that is 5'1" calling others short."  But really, I am average/above average in the height department around here.  Its great. 
4.  Style - Now everyone knows that Europeans are more stylish than Americans, and it is true.  Spanish women wear high heels everywhere.  I don't know how they do it, because they walk just as fast and on cobblestones!  However, there are some major fashion disasters that occur here too.  For example jorts are in style.  Jorts are shorts in the jean material for guys.  They are awful and should be outlawed, along with the euro "rat-tail".
5.  They like to party, a lot.  Anything in Spain can be turned into a reason to party; first day of classes, strikes in Madrid, Thursday nights, you get the picture.  Along with the extreme partying comes lack of sleeping.  I don't understand how people in this country survive because they never sleep.  I do not function well without 8 hours of sleep a night, so I compensate by sleeping until 3pm on the weekends. :)
6.  Work ethic is...different.  I don't know what people do all day at work here but they don't seem to get a lot done...and it takes a lot people to get that small amount of work done.  I think there is a lot of paper shuffling.  Lunch is the biggest meal of the day and everyone goes home from work during lunch.  They close down stores from 2-5 so they can "siesta"...(I guess this is when they catch up on the lack of sleep).  Its really annoying when you are out and about and all the sudden everything is closed.  And Sundays, are horrible.  Don't even bother making any sort of plans because everything is closed on Sundays.

Now Americans have a pretty bad rap around the world, and some of it unfortunately is true, but most is not.  One of the most positive attributes of Americans that I have realized since I have been here is that Americans are humble.  If its "American made" that doesn't necessarily make it the best.  For example Italian leather and Chinese electronics are widely accepted to be the best.  Spanish people are not humble.  If its Spanish, then its the best. 

So there you have it, some of the things I have learned after one month.

This weekend I am going to Alicante with my host family.  Its a city on the Mediterranean coast where they have a vacation home.  Don't worry, I will get enough beach time in for everyone.  :)