Saturday, November 27, 2010

Spanish/American Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  We always go to my grandmas house in Arkansas for the week with the entire family.  Its is a lot of fun, and this was the fist year, in my memory, that I was not in Arkansas.  I had to do something to celebrate so I decided that I would make a Thanksgiving meal for my host family.  Quickly after making that decision I realized that I had no idea how to make any of the food...let alone in a kitchen where I don't know where anything is, or the name of it in Spanish.  I also knew that I could not make a Turkey, the whole idea of touching it is enough to make me gag...gross.

So I talked with my host mom about it and she thought it was a great idea and said that she would make a chicken, because apparently they don't eat turkey here...  So I began looking for the food that I wanted to cook, and started at an American grocery store in Madrid.  I went to the "store" with Marzia, but I don't think you can call that a store.  It was more a pantry, with American food brands.  (Soooooo tiny!)  I did get some pumpkin for the pumpkin pie, but they were out of pie crusts, and stuffing mix.  (But I got oatmeal and some crunchy peanut butter!!!)  Normally, making stuffing or pie crust from scratch is not a big deal, but when the ingredients are all different, and you have class all day on Thanksgiving, it makes it a little harder.  In the end, I decided that chicken, vegetables, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie would be the Thanksgiving menu for this year.  5 grocery stores later, I finally had all the stuff I needed to make dinner! :)

I had to go to classes all morning, which was very strange to be in class on Thanksgiving and in a country where they don't celebrate it.  (no one was in a particularly good mood, which was weird because I kept forgetting they don't celebrate, therefore it is just a normal Thursday for them...lame)

Anyways, when I got home from classes, my host mom and I began cooking and had a great time together in the kitchen watching TV and translating recipes and converting units.  All the food turned out great, and I was excited for everyone to have their first Thanksgiving meal! 
They were all quite skeptical about the pumpkin pie, because pumpkin here is only used as a vegetable.  (It would be like making a broccoli pie, I see where the skepticism comes from)

But they all tried everything, and liked it all, (even Raúl who apparently has the taste buds of a 4 year old, because he doesn't like anything)

After dinner I skyped with everyone in Arkansas and my host family which was really fun.  It was difficult to translate everything quickly, because there is always at least 7 people talking at once but it was fun.  Overall it was a good Thanksgiving, nothing like being in Arkansas, which I look forward to next year, but a it was fun to bring some American culture to Spain. :)

Last night I went to Madrid with some friends to look at Christmas lights around the city, they finally turned them on!  The city was so festive and beautiful, but freezing.  I am sure it is still warmer here than at home, but damn!  I am not used to cold anymore!

Some of the Christmas lights near Sol - hopefully more picture to come!

Tonight we have tickets to the theater in Madrid, not sure what show, something in Spanish I assume. :)  And tomorrow consists of homework, 2 presentations on Monday, yikes!  (Its like I am a real college student again...)

love xoxo

Monday, November 15, 2010

A free leg of ham!!!

Hi all!
These past two weekends have been awesome.  I traveled with friends to different parts of Spain by train, which is great because its very cheap and I get to see many different parts of the Country.

Two weekends ago Marzia and I went to Ávila, a small city about 2 hours away by train.  Its famous for its walls, and they very nice walls.  We didn't really have a plan about what we were going to do, we didn't even know where to go when we left the train station!  But we figured out how to get to the old part of the city and walked around all day.  It was a beautiful fall day, and we had a great time.  We had lunch at a little restaurant right outside the walls, and finished the day with more walking around and a little shopping.  Ávila is very touristy, but because it is not tourist season, there were not any crowds which was good, but a lot of stores closed early.  We decided to go back to the train station early to see if we could change our tickets to an earlier train and luckily there was a train leaving in 20 minutes that we were able to change out tickets to - for free!

That was on Saturday, on Sunday Marzia and I had made plans to meet up with a friend, Isabelle, in Madrid for lunch.  After lunch we decided to go to the FREE Katy Perry concert.  The MTV European awards were here so Linkin Park and Katy Perry both held free concerts in the city.  The concert was great fun but I was really missing my American sized personal space bubble.  I also figured out that I am claustrophobic.  Not fun to figure out when you are in the middle of thousands of people all pushing you to get closer to the stage.  But once I got over that, it was great.  After Katy Perry we left the concert to go to a bar to watch Real Madrid play.  The game was against Athlético Madrid which is great because both teams are from Madrid!

The rest of this week was not very eventful.  Classes are getting a lot harder, and I now actually have homework and exams to study for...but I am also getting a lot better at Spanish.  I have even made some more friends, now I just don't even know how to balance my time! :)  I have also been trying to get my iphone to work since I got here.  I kept going into the local cell phone store trying to figure out how to get it to work here, but because they don't speak any English, and I didn't know how to ask all the questions I needed to know about the prices it was very difficult.  I finally had the genius idea to take the SIM card from the cell phone I have and put it into my iphone.  (I know, it took me 2 months to even come up with that idea...but that is not the point)  The next task was the take the SIM card out of my iphone - not as easy as it sounds.  After bending a bobby pin, breaking my tweezers, and watching every video on youtube about "how easy it is to remove the SIM card from the iphone" I finally got it out.  Then, after about 45 minutes of trying to get the SIM card unlocked in my iphone, I figured out that it just won't work here.  (I bet if I had an iphone 4 it would work...)  The next best thing that happened to me during the week, happened while I was eating breakfast and watching TV.  Spanish TV is...strange, they watch a lot of trashy talk shows and reality TV.  The commercials are just as bad.  However, one did catch my eye.  As I was eating my corn flakes, as I do EVERY morning, I saw an infomercial for an HP computer.  They always have free gifts and Spain is no exception.  In fact here it comes with 2 free gifts!  The first is a stylish laptop carrying case.  The second is a leg of ham.  Yes, an entire freaking LEG of ham!!!  I will order one just so I get the ham.

On Saturday, Marzia, Isabelle and I went to Cuenca.  It is another small city about 3 hours from Madrid.  Cuenca is famous for its hanging houses, which are very old houses, literally built into the side of a cliff...  It was a beautiful small city and we had a great time walking around and soaking up some sun.

It was a really fun day, and I know that it was because I came out of it with a poop story.  Some of you may think that is really gross, and yes it was disgusting, but think about it -  whenever you have a poop story, its always funny!  If you do not like laughing, then just skip to the next paragraph.  On our way home we all had to pee, but we were very close to the train station in Madrid so decided to wait and go in the station.  When we asked where the bathrooms were they said that there were none, but that all the trains have them.  We had to wait about 10 minutes for the next train to arrive and when it did we got on by the bathrooms.  Our nostrils were immediately filled with the most horrible stench ever.  I decided that I didn't have to pee bad enough to go into the bathroom but Marzia did.  She went in and as I am standing there holding her bag, gagging, I look around and everyone on the train has their scarves pulled up around their noses in disgust.  I go and sit down with Isabelle and we are laughing at everyone and gagging at the same time.  Marzia can't figure out how to close the bathroom door, and normally I would help her but I couldn't get any closer to the source of the smell.  Eventually she gave up and came out of the bathroom to sit with us.  We decided that we had to move to another part of the train to get away from the smell, but had to walk by the bathroom to get there.  We all prepared to make the journey past the stench and made our way to the front of the train.  At this point I am hysterical from the whole situation, with everyone on the train gagging, and Marzia not being able to shut the door, that I am almost peeing my pants (not good for someone who has had to pee for the past 45 minutes).  So we find three seat together towards the front of the train and as we are about to sit a man yells and tells us not to sit there.  We look around and there is a pile of puke on the floor.  So we move to another set of seats only to discover there is what appears to be a huge pile of poop on the floor.  At this point I can hardly contain my laughter, just trying not to die from disgust, and laughing at everyone else who is freaking out.  It was a once in a lifetime experience, and I am glad that it was only a 10 minute train ride.

That is all I have for now, hopefully I will have some other good stories for you all from this week! :)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Guadalajara/2 month mark!

Hi all!
Tomorrow marks two months in Spain for me!  yay!  I am still having a great time and learning new things all the time.  Everything is still quite challenging, the language, missing things from home; family, friends, food that doesn't come with eyes... but it gets better everyday.  I finally feel like my Spanish has taken a big jump forward.  I can watch TV and understand a lot, have conversations with people around me, and survive a weekend trip to visit the grandparents. ;)

The grandparents live in a small town near Guadalajara.  Its about a 2 hour drive from Villa.  My host mom told me that we were going to visit them for the weekend and I was under the impression that everyone was going...this is where the whole language barrier things still exists.  Anyways, turns out that it was just me and my host parents going.  That was ok because its easier for me to talk when there are less people around, the whole confidence thing, so I just figured that I would get a lot of Spanish practice in.  We arrived at the grandparents house and my host mom's 2 brothers and wives were also there.  They are all very nice, but don't speak any English, good for practice but very frustrating at times.  None of the other grandchildren came so I was there bringing down the average age a bit. :)  It was actually really fun, and eating dinner with everyone was a blast!  It reminded me a lot of Thanksgiving with my family, everyone talking at once, very loud, just like David. 

Now Spanish people are very concerned with how much you eat.  Apparently they think that I don't know how to put food on my plate, or know how to tell when I am full, because they are constantly making me eat more.  And its even worse when they are old!  And they are quite old.  My host grandpa was absolutely hilarious.  He is probably at most 4' 10" and is very round, with high pants, held up even higher with suspenders.  He can't hear and doesn't like to wear his hearing aid, or admit that he can't hear you.  Watching the interaction between everyone was very entertaining because they would all be talking and then he would jut in to say something completely off topic and then everyone would yell at him, and then talk in normal voices about him.  This continued for the entire weekend and was very amusing. 
Here are a few pictures from my weekend. :)

This is where my host parents got married, such a beautiful church in a very small town.

Not sure what that is, but I found it in my room...

A beautiful look-out over a lake in the mountains near Guadalajara

The calendar for this week is pretty empty still, but hopefully that will change!  Tuesday is a holiday in Madrid (imagine that...another holiday!) so I don't have any classes.  I am trying to plan a weekend trip or a day trip somewhere but am having difficulties with the internet.  (This is one of those moments that I wish I could speak Spanish fluently because I want to call and complain and order the tickets online but that conversation is a little above my abilities still...grrrr)  Anyways, miss you all and would love to hear updates of your lives!