Thursday, December 13, 2007

Fancy shmancy

1. I bought a dress for the good-bye cocktail party (tomorrow night) yesterday. I bought it in an eccentric little shop with a sort of hippie aesthetic, and the owner had just gotten a tiny, tiny puppy. He was black and white and fat and smelled like a puppy and had razor-sharp teeth. I wanted to buy him, too, but I didn't. But I did play with him for a while. Today I cut out the underskirt of the dress to make straps...and it actually doesn't look bad.

2. I went to the pay-to-get-in part of the Alhambra for the first time today, after three and a half months of being in this city. I went alone, because everyone else had finals today, and it was not as exciting as I had hoped. It was sure pretty, but I could only remain engaged by making up stories in my head about the people who lived there a thousand years ago. It probably would have been more interesting with a guide. Also, my camera ran out of batteries the instant I got there, so I have no pictures. Fortunately, a million other people have taken way better pictures than I could. I'll try to put some of those up on my Picasa site soon.

3. I can't believe that tomorrow is my last full day in Granada. It's been a surprisingly comfortable experience, as well as new and exciting. I don't think I'll miss it too terribly, but I hope I come back some day.


Monday, December 10, 2007

I told a lot of lies today

I haven't really had any adventures recently, but I thought I'd write anyway (I'm procrastinating). I had my Arabic final this morning, which I think went reasonably well, but I told a lot of lies. Since our vocabulary is so limited, I had to describe the activities of me and my family in terribly, terribly inaccurate words. So my fictional dad works in a bank, and my mom is a first grade teacher. Sorry Jesse, you became Jessica because I didn't know how to pluralize the word "brother". Haha. Perhaps even more ridiculously, my fictional self studies African political science (???).

I was just reading in the NY Times a little bit about Barack Obama, and I got all optimistic and excited, which is probably a little silly. But he actually said our American "exceptionalism" shouldn't be based on military might or economic dominance! He said it! Maybe I haven't really been paying attention at all, but hey, that's just refreshing.

Right. I really have to go write this paper now. I now have less than a week in Spain. :(


Friday, December 7, 2007

Raptors are cool

Hey! I got a new charger in the mail today! I wanted to write about last weekend but I didn't have time. On Friday Callie and I went to the science center, which is directly adjacent to our house. There was a terrifyingly realistic moving raptor (dinosaur), a whole bunch of little activities to demonstrate physical phenomena, a butterfly house and, best of all, a raptor (bird) show! The men doing the bird show told us to stay still and had a hawk fly among us, to show how this particular species was agile in the forest. It was so cool to have it right in front of your face--Callie even got smacked by a wing! I'd like to go back there; we didn't even see the main exhibit, which is about poisonous reptiles, amphibians and insects (pretty sweet, right?).

On Saturday we took a bus out to the Alpujarras (mountain region near the sea) and stayed overnight at a sustainable farm. This Swiss-German family moved to this farm about six years ago. They grow olives for sale and a bunch of vegetables and fruits for their own consumption. They have never been on the electric grid and get all their power from sun and wind. They are tapped into a irrigation network that is more than a thousand years old (left over from the time of the Moors), and they produce one trash bag every month. Everything else is recycled. They are these nice hippie-types with these blond, blond children (two girls and a boy) who are so self-sufficient and responsible. It blew my mind, honestly. I have rarely felt so at peace in a place. There was no hum of power lines, no distant roar of cars, no light pollution, and it was warm as September in the Northwest. Their neighbor came over and taught us how to weave this native grass into baskets (legit baskets!), we collected acorns and shelled them and ground them and made them into pancakes, and I was totally uplifted by the evident possibility of living simply. They do it so happily, and I was happy there, too.

I've now had my last class, and finals start on Monday. I leave Spain in nine days. So soon!


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I'll charge YOUR battery

So I had the misfortune of accidentally breaking my laptop charger the other day. Or rather, it stopped working all on its own, and I received the misfortune. I didn't realize how much time I spend on the computer when I'm at home! I took the opportunity to watch a bunch of vhs movies my host mom has in the house (all dubbed in Spanish, unfortunately): Al Sur de Granada, Dirty Dancing, some weird Egyptian parody, and Interview with a Vampire. I spent way too much time in the house but it was nice to relax.

Our program took us all out to dinner on Thursday for Thanksgiving, and it was really nice. The turkey was some sort of weird loaf with prunes in it, but everything else was delicious. There was a copious amount of wine served, and it was fun to hang out with the language teachers and the support staff in such a festive atmosphere. If you ever have the opportunity to try pumpkin flan, do it. It is amazing. I was sad to be missing Thanksgiving with the Vermont Willards and Jesse and Alix, but I had a good time anyway.

Last night a bunch of us went out to a Chinese/Japanese restaurant and I had the most amazing experience smelling my sushi...I know that sounds weird, but it was wonderful. I had tuna sashimi and cucumber rolls and everyone's leftovers and it was joyous. I'm getting all hungry again just thinking about it.

Well, happy Tuesday.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Beware the old ladies

Hi all,

I got back this morning from Barcelona. It was a good trip, but I'm glad I chose to study in Granada. We became very familiar with the metro, as our hostel was about as far out as Haverford is from Philadelphia (15-20 minutes on the train). I like riding the metro, but one of the girls got her wallet picked right out of her bag while riding during rush hour. I was almost picked too; I felt something and looked down and the zipper of my bag was open, so I felt around and everything was there. I zipped it back up and kept my hand on it, and stared suspiciously at the old woman who was standing on that side of me with this big shawl over her arm so I couldn't see her hands. She got off at the next stop and two minutes later Alex realized her wallet was missing. I wish she would have gotten mine too, because then I would have confronted her and maybe gotten both back.

We were on our feet in the city all day Friday and Saturday, which got to be a pain. But we saw some cool stuff: the Goudi park, his museum, some houses he designed, the Sagrada Familia (which he also designed), the Gothic quarter and the waterfront, as well as a whole bunch of shops and booths.

Sagrada Familia (which is a cathedral) was really cool. It's still under construction. The style breaks so obviously with traditional architecture that it's really fun to see; instead of gargoyles there are these weird fruits, and the columns branch like trees. We rode the elevator to the top of a spire and walked down another with a spiral staircase that was truly dizzying. I counted 350 steps. Most of all, I like the tile that he does. It's all very colorful and imaginative.

Aside from the pickpocket paranoia (there were signs EVERYwhere advising us to take care), the people were cool. We ate at an Indian restaurant which was more exciting than I ever would have imagined. I miss Asian food! I had these vegetable "meatballs" that were mostly chickpeas I think, in this tomato sauce and there was paneer and I "mmm"ed all through lunch.

Our flight out was at 5:30am, and the bus to the airport had peculiar hours, so we slept at the airport. We got there at about 11pm and bought some wine and kiwis and goofed around. At about 1am we put on all the clothes we had and lay down on the floor with our heads on our bags and went to sleep. It was so cold it was sort of horrendous, but there were people sleeping all over the airport (apparently that's how it works around there). I also slept on the flight and on the bus ride from the airport, and when I got home. And now I'm in Granada again, and there are only four weeks left! I've got to start buying souvenirs.

With love,

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Over barns and whatnot

By the way, I've learned to fly. This was taken at that national park last weekend. LOVE it.

Monday, November 12, 2007

What the dang?

All of the sudden I have WAY too much work to do, and it sucks. Arabic is getting a lot harder because it entails so much rote memorization (one of my weakest skills), and I have a surprising number of papers. Blech.

I spent the weekend on an IES trip to Jerez and Cádiz, which was fun. The weather was truly surreal: clear skies, seventies and eighties like early September in Washington. No chill in the air. We saw an equestrian show and went to a wine-tasting (Jerez is the Spanish name for Sherry, which is disgusting) and rode around in huge jeep buses in a national park. I'll get the pictures up eventually...There was a wild boar involved, and lots of sand.

Sorry, I'm feeling lazy about recounting my adventures right now. I'm having a good time, apart from the homework, but I'm getting super-psyched to be home for the holidays. What do I miss most? Americans. I hope I never take them for granted again. We are flawed in our own way, but I love us. Having been brought up in the same culture as the people around you is some sort of bizarre luxury. I'm looking forward to not feeling like an outsider when I'm walking down the street.

But, instead, I'm going to Barcelona this weekend, where it will be painfully obvious that I am a tourist. Goody. But no, it will be great. OK! It's my bedtime. Sweet dreams,


Tuesday, November 6, 2007


As promised, here is the account of my weekend trip to Galicia:

We traveled overnight on Wednesday and arrived in Santiago de Compostela at 6am on Thursday, wandered through the empty streets, and arrived at the cathedral rather by accident. This cathedral is the destination of the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage route since the middle ages. We met some pilgrims in front of the cathedral that had been walking for a month. I'm not really a fan of the whole cathedral aesthetic, but this one is pretty nice. The remains of James the apostle are supposedly interred there.

We registered and dropped our stuff off at the hostel (which was adorable) and spent the day wandering around the old city (which is very small) and visiting the cultural history museum situated in this monastery. It had this really awesome triple spiral staircase, but we spend altogether too much time there. That evening we watched the sunset over a very New England landscape from the top of a hill, and it was lovely.

The next morning we got up early and rented a car (a minivan, actually) with some people we met at the hostel (I know, it sounds terrible) and drove to the western coast, the Costa de Muerte (that's right: death. It's called that because it is treacherous for ships). We stopped in a town along the way, walked up a hill to an adorable old church, and hung around while tons of old people got out of mass. Inside there was a young guy practicing church music on an electric keyboard, which I thought was sort of funny. It was on the "organ" setting, of course. We bought some fruit and vegetables at the outdoor market and drove on.

We stopped for lunch in our destination town: Cabo Finisterre (Land's End Cape). It is the westernmost point in continental Europe outside of Portugal, and it's really gorgeous. We took a hike up to the top of the hill/mountain looking for these fertility rocks that the guidebook mentions, but I'm still not sure whether we found them. There was a breathtaking view of the skinny part of the cape with the town and should look at the pictures. We watched the sunset from the lighthouse.

On Saturday we traveled by train to La Coruna, a city on the northern coast of the province. We didn't get to see much of it, but the area of the old city that we walked through was charming and there were people with very long poles fishing off the seaside path of stone. We walked along the coast to the Tower of Hercules, the oldest continuously functioning lighthouse in the world. Legend has it that it was built by Hercules himself.

Traveling that far on the ground I do not recommend. It is exhausting. Also, at least three out of the five of us got food poisoning. Immediately after getting back to Granada, we got pretty violently ill. The culprit? Probably bacon sandwiches. Horrible consequence for tastiness.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Happy Halloween! It is an invisible holiday here, but I had a totally creepy (and vague) dream last night to commemorate the event.

The good news is that Inez, my dearest room mate, is staying at Haverford next semester instead of going abroad! I am very excited to live with her again. I have a lot less anxiety about going back now.

So I'm getting on a bus in an hour or so that will take me far, far away with some girls from my program. It's my first real trip without IES planning everything, and I hope everything goes OK. We are going to Galicia, the land of rain and Gaelic tradition, and I think it's going to be gorgeous. I can't wait for real vegetation! I'll let you know how it went on Sunday or Monday.

Wish me luck! (Good luck!)


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Morocco is Lovely

I got back yesterday from my five-day trip to Morocco, and am so glad that I went! It changed my perspective on the Arab World, on Spain and on the United States. I'm going to tell it chronologically:

On Friday morning a group of about thirty of us took a bus to Gibraltar, the port city owned by Great Britain. We took a little tour of the city and the huge rock that towers over the ocean. There are apes running wild in Gibraltar (the only place in Europe), and you'll see some pictures of them if you look on my Picasa web album. The weather was very temperamental but but I was thrilled to be in an English-speaking place again (it had been a long time!). There were a lot of sailors. We spent the night in the adjacent city on the Spanish side of the border:

On Saturday we drove to Algeciras, met the guide for our 15-person group (Ben, from Connecticut), and rode the ferry over the Strait to Tangier. The first place we went was this open-air market full of meat. Lots of animal carcasses, fish, chickens (dead). Also olives, which contributed to the somewhat nauseating smell. I was a little freaked out. We ate couscous for lunch at a women's center called DARNA, which teaches women in bad circumstances the skills they need to make a living (computing skills, textile manufacturing, basic schooling). We talked to a few of the women who worked there. They were only in their twenties, and were very friendly. In the afternoon we got on the bus again and drove to Rabat, the capital.

On the way, we pulled over to the side of the road and got short camel-rides on the beach. It was fun, but silly. They smelled bad, but had pretty eyelashes and didn't try to spit on us. We stopped at a coastal city called Asilah, and were shown around by a friend of Ben's who skipped out of his job at a restaurant while his boss was at prayer. On the highway we passed by more than one serious accident, with fatalities. It was scary.

When we got to Rabat, we met our host families (three students to a family). The best English-speaker in our house was Jaula, and she was 21; she lives with her parents, her brother, her sister, and a New Mexican exchange student. This girl, Michelle, is one brave cookie. There are only four people in her program. The first night we had the most delicious meatballs in sauce. They were slightly spicy and they were in this big communal dish we ate from with bread in hand. Mmmm... The layout of the house was so different from apartments here or in the U.S.: the middle is a large square space with a railing that looks down into the courtyard of the family that lives downstairs. There are basically four rooms: parents' bedroom, guest room/prayer room, children's room, and living/dining room. The kitchen and bathroom are squeezed in the corners, and the other rooms are one to a side of the square. The walls in the guest room are lined with a continuous couch, where we made our beds. There is lots of pretty tile and elaborately embroidered cushions. We watched part of a video of a wedding that took place in that house, of a cousin to a British guy who converted to Islam in order to marry. There were lots of wedding dresses involved, and apparently the weddings go from about midnight to 8am.

On Sunday we had pancake-like things and buns with sesame for breakfast and went to a discussion with a professor of the university about Islam and perceptions between the West and Islamic worlds. I was bored almost to tears, I'm sad to say, because the entirety of the discussion consisted of Professor Zaki citing and justifying verses from the Qur'an. After that we went to these Roman ruins at a site called Chellah (see pictures). There is an old woman sitting by a pool there who sells hardboiled eggs to peel and thrown to the eels as a fertility ritual. No one in our group particularly wanted to get pregnant, so we didn't do that, but the ruins were pretty. On the way back to Rabat proper we stopped at the Mausoleum of King Mohammad V and Hasan II, which smelled unmistakably of kittens.

In the afternoon we went to the beach, where there was a conspicuous absence of women, and then met up with some Moroccan university students who showed us around the market and talked with us. I really enjoyed meeting the two Moroccan men who walked with Callie, Tanya and I: Yasid and Bashir. They are English literature majors and nice guys. There were some subtle sexist overtones, but in their context they were cool people. That evening my temporary room-mates (Tanya and Jess) and I went to the bath house, which was completely different from the supposedly Arab bath house in Granada. In this place there were just tons of topless women with buckets, scrubbing themselves with exfoliating mittens and pouring water on their heads. No pools involved. We had no idea what was going on, but some nice ladies sort of adopted us and showed us what to do while laughing at us.

On Monday morning we said goodbye to our host families and rode the little bus through the countryside and up into the Rif Mountains to visit this tiny village and be introduced to the agricultural side of Morocco. We ate lunch (couscous with vegetables again) in the house of a farming family (26-year-old husband, wife, and two young children). We brought an interpreter and talked about what their life is like and what impressions they have of the U.S. The most interesting thing about the life of the poor in Morocco to me is that, though they are very poor, everyone has a satellite dish. Everyone. They watch all sorts of things that make it over the Atlantic: TV movies that flopped in the U.S., Jackie Chan movies, and popular shows like Prison Break. We walked through the village and up the hill strewn with trash and were rewarded with an incredible view of the surrounding mountains. The children were curious and cute, and as we were walking back to the bus this old woman started laughing hysterically at us.

We then made our way to Chefchaoen and dropped our stuff off in a really nice hostel and went shopping (people in Chefchaoen speak Spanish, for which I was absurdly grateful). The bottom section of all outside walls is painted blue, and it is the most charming city to walk through. It has definitely felt the effects of tourism, but not in too tragic a way. We had tea at a cafe and dinner at a restaurant. For dessert I had oranges with cinnamon. After dinner we had a closing discussion with our group and told jokes, and it felt really cohesive and comfortable. In the morning we walked up the hill above the city and got a great view of the valley as the sun was rising. We got on the bus soon after and drove straight through to Ceuta (Spanish city in Morocco), got on the ferry and drove back to Granada. On the ferry and on the boat I talked for a long time with the program director Javier (nicest guy in the world) about Morocco and about the Northwest (he used to live in Ellensburg), Leavenworth and Vancouver B.C. It made me miss the natural landscapes of my home, which I hope I will no longer take for granted.

If you managed to read that whole thing, congratulations. If not, it's cool. I'm not going to wax philosophical about my journey, but write me if you want to know more. It was an eye-opener.


Friday, October 19, 2007

Path of Homo Ergaster?

This is not a real post. I just wanted to leave a message for you all that I am leaving for Morocco today and will be back on Tuesday, when you shall hear all about it.

In my prehistory class we are learning about the possible paths of early man to Europe from Africa, and the Strait of Gibraltar is the second most plausible. Pretty sweet.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

You very beautiful

I like dancing a lot. I can do it for many hours, and if I'm in the right mood, it doesn't matter what the music is. The thing about dance clubs in Granada is that they don't really open until about 2am, so you end up staying out very late if you want to get a couple of hours in.

I am sorry to say that reports of sleaziness of the type of Spanish men that frequent these clubs are not exaggerated. If you go dancing with your girlfriends, as I tend to do, you need to be prepared. As far as I can make out, there are three types of creeps:
1) Doesn't try to talk to you or even dance with you; would rather leer from afar and/or cop a feel as you walk by.
2) Spontaneously decides to dance very intimately with you without saying anything or even making eye contact.
3) Repeatedly tells you how beautiful you are, follows you around the dance floor, will not shut up about "Where are you from? Do you like Spain? What is your name? How do you like Spanish guys? Do you think I'm attractive?". Keeps trying to strike up conversation even when you tell him in intelligible Spanish to go away.

There were some seriously persistent guys of the third persuasion last night (and they were young! Like high school!), and we got so worked up that we had to leave or pretend the music was metal so we could start moshing (i.e. "accidentally" throw a couple elbows to the face). We left. Though the experience of being pursued in that way is unpleasant, it gives me a peculiar pleasure to feel that belligerent.


Tuesday, October 9, 2007


I thought I'd talk a little bit about my plans so that when I recount my travels it's not totally out of left field (baseball aside: Yankees suck. Good work, Indians).

Not this coming weekend but the weekend after that, I will be in Morocco for five days with my program! Super cool. We got to choose people to be in our group (each group has about twenty students), so I'm with my closest friends here, which is going to be great. I'm a little nervous because despite Arabic classes I know less than fifty words, all of which are nouns. I won't be able to communicate in Arabic at all, so I hope people speak Spanish.

We have a long weekend the first days of November, and at the moment I am planning on traveling by bus and train to Galicia, in the north westernmost part of Spain (above Portugal, on the Atlantic) with a couple friends. I am really excited about that trip because I get to ride a train through the countryside, and because everyone agrees that Galicia is totally gorgeous. With any luck there will be forests and castles on cliffs involved. I admit I have an unrealistically romantic notion of the region.

The final trip I have planned is to Barcelona, during the third weekend of November. I sort of doubt it will be that great. But whatever. Maybe I'll meet a famous futbolista.

OK! Those are the plans that I have, and they please me. I am missing a bit of class, but am I really here to learn about Mao Zedong's philosophy? No, no I'm not. :D


Sunday, October 7, 2007


I uploaded the pictures from Córdoba, and you can see them at

The first site we visited (after 2 hours on the bus) was the ruins of Madinat al-Zahra, which were rediscovered near Córdoba less than a hundred years ago. The city was built in the tenth century under the direction of the new independent Umayyad Caliphate in the west. The Caliph ordered the construction of this, the largest city built from scratch in Western Europe, to demonstrate his power and wealth. Unfortunately for successor, he forgot to demonstrate his piety, and made some enemies that ended up razing his city less than a hundred years after its construction. It was deserted, picked apart by people in search of building materials, and eventually covered by earth for some thousand years.

We got back on the bus and headed to Córdoba. We walked through the streets a bit and took a look into one two synagogues remaining from ancient times in all of Spain. It was an awesome enough accomplishment, but the structure itself was entirely underwhelming (that's probably how it managed to survive). I didn't take any pictures. It was just a square room.

Then we went to the cathedral, which my guide claims is far more architecturally and historically important than the Alhambra in Granada, though it is less famous. If you haven't already, you should really look at the pictures; they show more than words can how obvious it is that the structure was originally intended as a mosque. There are only parts that have been changed to reflect the Catholic aesthetic of the time (i.e. high ceilings, gold-gilded virgin Mary's, etc.). It's really quite beautiful, much more attractive to me than the cathedral in Sevilla. They still hold Mass.

We stopped for a time at the royal palace (no longer in use). One nifty thing I learned is that the Caliph had a special subterranean tunnel to travel between the palace and the mosque, because he thought himself to holy to be seen by commoners. I went there with an eye for the gardens, but just ended up taking like eighty pictures of cats. It's funny that I can see cats anywhere in the world, but I still find them more interesting than architecture. What can you do? They were cute.

So for my birthday last night nine of us went out to this Mexican place that turned out to be freakin' delicious. I was so happy to be eating a burrito it was not even funny. I ate myself sick and drank tasty strawberry margarita. I did not go out afterward, because I went out until 5am on Thursday and once every two weeks is about as much as I can take. It was a good birthday.


Saturday, October 6, 2007


My, that last post was a little mopey, wasn't it?

Today I went to Córdoba with pretty much all of my program and saw some cool stuff: an excavated lost city from the tenth century and the famous mosque-cathedral. I'll put pictures up soon. More importantly, it's my birthday! I am going out with some friends in a minute for Mexican food, which is what want to eat most (I would go for Thai food, but there is none here). My host mom got me a birthday present: a doll. A doll? A doll. She means well, but she's a little nuts. Gotta go, will write more later.


Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Imminent Darkness

Sounds morbid, eh? Well, my chances of getting depressed just went up a good 40%*. Tonight my host mother told us that we are not to turn on the lights anymore. She has provided desk lamps. Apparently the cost of electricity in the area has just risen. What this means for me is that unless I spend all the daytime hours outside, my moods are going to darken quickly. I don't mean to sound inconsiderate of her money-saving efforts, but I'm worried about it. Moral of the story: light in eyes = sound mental health.


*this percentage is not based on any statistics


Hey, it's been a while, sorry. Last weekend two girls that I hang out with had birthdays, so we went out to dinner at this cute Italian place with about 15 people, and then around town a bit. I had a good time but made it an early night (before 2am) because my shoes were trying to skin my feet.

On Monday MariRuth Petzing was in town, so we had a drink in the afternoon and chatted a bit. It was surprisingly normal to see a former Junior Friend in another part of the world. She's working as a teaching assistant and taking classes in Córdoba. I'll be traveling over to her turf on Saturday (my birthday!) on an IES field trip.

Also on Monday was my first university class. I had some trouble finding the classroom, and freaked out a little bit, but I ended up walking in right in front of the professors. At first they were hard to understand, but I just needed some time with their accents. This class on the history and philosophy of Mao Zedong looks like it will be interesting, and manageable. The other class, which I had yesterday, is going to kick my butt. There are only about ten people in it, they are fourth-year art history majors, and the accent of the teacher is thick as hell. It is really going to develop my linguistic intuition (i.e. when she only pronounces a quarter of the word, I will still know what she means). The subject is prehistory, and the evaluation is a test. Good news: it doesn't affect my GPA at Haverford if I fail, and I don't need the credit. So I have nothing to lose!

I have set three goals for myself this week: no ice cream (there's a store on every corner, and it's the best ice cream I've ever had), no clothes shopping, and run at least once. I think I can do the no's, at least. Woohoo!


Saturday, September 29, 2007

Health Department?

I had what I believe to be two bad food experiences this weekend already. On Thursday night my roomie and I and two other girls went for sandwiches at this delicious place with really nice cooks. Callie and I both had some sort of pork sandwich and then twenty minutes later started feeling really weird. We hung around hoping it would go away, because we had plans to go out dancing, but it didn't go away, and we took a taxi home. It ended up going away on its own by the time we went to bed, but I thought for sure I had food poisoning and was freaked out.

Last night/this morning I actually did get food poisoning, but it was less scary than the mysterious stomachs of Thursday. I had shawarma at 4:30am after waiting up with Kirsten some other folks all night (they had a flight home in the morning, and didn't want to sleep before leaving). I felt sort of odd when I got home and went to bed at 6:30, but I went to sleep. I woke up feeling really nauseas at 8:30 and threw up the shawarma, felt much better, and went back to bed until 3pm. I feel 100% now, which is sort of strange.

I'm sure you wanted to know all of that. The other news is that I have a lot of homework, to commence immediately.


Monday, September 24, 2007

Water also falls from the sky

Every weekend is a three-day weekend for me. On Friday I didn't leave the house because it was raining like crazy, like every particle of moisture in the atmosphere had a sudden need to be interred. I don't know if I've ever been in a storm so sedentary; the thunder was going all day, not moving around really at all. I watched movies and shows from the internet, read and ate. Exciting.

On Saturday I went hiking! The ground was surprisingly dry and the water in the river we were walking by was very clear. I've uploaded pictures to my Picasa page (see below for address). It was very rocky; jutting out of the hills and broken under our feet were many, many chunks of shale-like sedimentary rock. We didn't get too much elevation, but what we could see of the valleys was pretty gorgeous in that eastern Washington sort of way, with more scrub than trees.

On Sunday I woke up to my host mom and brother having a fight. I don't know what they were fighting about, but they were both yelling and Ramón was crying loudly (he's sixteen and a bit of a loose canon). Let me tell you, it was extremely awkward. Callie (my roomie) and I went to a Spanish film with Rosario (host mom) called "Y tú, quién eres?" which means "And who are you?". It was about an old man with Alzheimer's and his relationship with his granddaughter. It wasn't as sad as it could have been. Then Callie and I met up with some other girls to eat dinner and ended up talking about religion until about 11:30. It was fascinating because in the group there was a Messianic Jew (Jews for Jesus, anyone? It makes a lot more sense to me now), an attender of an Assembly of God (she has her own private prayer language, you know, like speaking in tongues), a Unitarian, a self-described "none" (non-denominational theist), and me. I learned so much and was so intellectually stimulated that I couldn't sleep.

Still thinking about that. So interesting! Ciao


Wednesday, September 19, 2007


I have just eaten the flakiest pastry of my life. I bought it on my walk home because I have seven hours between breakfast and lunch, and I get very hungry. It cost 1.25 Euros. It was rectangular and somewhat puffy with York and cheese inside, sort of warm and very oily and fragile. Delicious. I have grown accustomed to ham. Food is cheap here if you're smart about it. You should be able to eat dinner on 5 Euros or less, including drinks.

In Spanish class today we played an evil, evil game where you roll to see how many spaces you get to go forward, and the space you land on has a topic or question on it. The bad part is that you then have to talk about that topic for a minute straight in Spanish. One question was (translated) "Where do the words Thursday and Friday come from?". Perhaps if you were a linguistics or history professor you could speak intelligently about the origins of those words for a minute, but if you don't know, what are you supposed to say? It was so weird.

Also, Arabic is awesome. We are learning to read like preschoolers, except it's harder because we don't know the meaning of the words; we can only make the sounds. I think I would like to continue learning other languages, because the process is fascinating. Grow, brain, grow!

I'm going to try to do some reading for class now. Hasta luego,


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I like getting things in the mail

Ella Willard-Schmoe
Institute for the International Education of Students
Pisas, 2 - 2º
18010 Granada (Spain)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Water = Life

It seems like so much has happened in just a weekend! On Thursday night I went out with Kirsten and her friend Elena to dance, which was really fun. The downside? I got one hour of sleep (6:30-7:30) before I had to get up and get on the IES bus for the weekend. I pretty much felt like death.

When we got to Ronda and I had to walk around in the city in the burning sunshine feeling like a zombie for some four hours, I wasn't sure I was going to be able to stay conscious. Despite Ronda being a really awesome city perched on a cliff, I was sort of disinterested. We got back on the bus and headed to Sevilla, where we put on our fancy clothes to eat at a nice restaurant. They served croquettes, assorted cheeses, sheep kebab with prunes and apricots (yummy!), and lots of other things I don't remember. It was a good thing IES paid for that meal, because I am willing to bet it was pretty expensive. Almost everyone went out to party that night, but I went back to the hotel and to sleep, finally. It felt fantastic.

The next day (Saturday) we took guided tours of the Real Alcázar (ancient residence of the royal family with gorgeous gardens and a hedge maze) and the cathedral. The cathedral in Seville is the third largest in the world, after Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome and Saint Paul's Cathedral in London (so said the guide). I prefer the pretty tile work and open courtyards of the palace to the monstrosity of the cathedral. It used to be the main mosque of the city, and the structure that was the minaret is now the bell tower (that part was cool. You can go all the way to the top and look out over Sevilla. It's very high). Inside it is mostly just ugly. Excessive gold, carvings of angels/virgins. The stained glass is too high to see. There is a sort of tomb/casket that supposedly holds the remains of Christopher Columbus, but there are two other churches that claim to have his remains as well. Haha. Apparently there is a forensic investigation going on right now. That night we went to a Flamenco performance, which sort of blew my mind. There was a section with just music, then a woman dancing to music, then more music, then a woman and a man. The partner dance was the coolest; the two never touched each other, but it was very passionate (almost violent) anyway.

Sunday was a free day until 4pm, so a group of about eight of us decided to walk along the river to Maria Luisa park and the Plaza de España (a huge curved building created for the 1929 Spanish-American Exhibition). The Plaza was used as the (modified) setting for Naboo in Star Wars: Episode II! It is quite magnificent. In the afternoon more than fifty of us started out across the city on foot to go to the soccer game against Huelva (they didn't have a chance of course). The game totally redeemed a mediocre trip. Most of us (including me) had front-row seats. I could practically smell the players when they had throw-ins on my side. It was awesome. A large part of the beginning was a memorial for the Sevilla player Antonio Puerta who died of a heart attack at 22 in August. It was very touching. There were things about how the spectators acted that I didn't understand, but it was fun to listen to them swear at the referee in Spanish. The game was just perfect. Sevilla won 4-1.

The theme of the weekend was definitely water. It was hot. Really hot. I was either severely dehydrated or asking after a bathroom at the most inconvenient times. Fountains were in abundance, but you couldn't drink out of them, of course. It was a lesson in our dependence.

We got back to Granada on the bus after 1am last night, and so I got to sleep for five hours and then go to my first day of IES classes (Spanish and Arabic today). Spanish and Literature tomorrow. I will have no classes on Fridays. I think things are cool. I've decided against physics (I don't know what I was thinking), and instead will take a class about Mao and one about prehistory in Iberia. I'm excited. The counselor says they are not hard, which will leave me plenty of time to drill in Arabic (the class today really illuminated how difficult it will be).

If you want to see what I'm talking about, I'm in the process of putting my pictures on the internet. You'll be able to see them (and some old ones) at soon. Whew! That's all for now.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Sounds formerly confined to surround sound

I have just eaten an enormous portion of Rosario's chicken alfredo, which was incredible. Eating out is fun, but the yummiest stuff can be found at home. I had churros and chocolate today but the chocolate was sort of lame, like a pudding texture rather than chocolate sauce, which was what I wanted. Regardless. I went out for tapas with a bunch of girls last night and it was the most fun I've had yet; we went to a bar/discoteca afterward, but that wasn't nearly as interesting as just sitting and talking.

Before that my class took a tour of the central university library, which houses ancient manuscripts and historical texts from the sixteenth century to the nineteenth. It was mostly boring, but there were two really cool things:
1. There is a sound that I had heard in movies but had never thought about before, but which fascinated me when I heard it yesterday in real life. The library building, which was built to be a hospital/insane asylum/orphanage in the 15th century under Ferdinand and Isabella, has the classic enclosed stone patios of Spain. One of the courtyards is called the patio de los inocentes because the crazy people in the hospital would throw themselves to their deaths from upstairs windows (they were called this innocents because they were crazy, and so couldn't help themselves. No sinful implication of suicide). ANYWAY, the only sound in the courtyard is that of pigeon wings fluttering. It is so cinematic. I love it.
2. The person giving us the tour was a friend of our teacher, and so brought out this exact replica (they call them facsimiles) of a medieval (seriously really old) encyclopedia written by this monk. The cool part was the drawings. The book was an attempt to catalog the plants and animals of the known (and unknown) world, and the illustrations were really cool. There was a whole section of imagined animals that the illustrator drew as known animals like donkeys and lions, except underwater. It was sort of hilarious. It was from this book that the mythology about the mandrake root was born; there is a drawing of a man who has pulled up a mandrake root and is holding his ears as if deafened or crazy. Harry Potter, anyone? Howl's Moving Castle, Pan's Labyrinth? So cool.

I'm getting excited about real classes (they start Monday). My temporary teacher insists that I will be able to do physics in Spanish, and I am dying to try. I don't want to lose it. I'm going to go to sleep for a while now. Hasta pronto,


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Time makes things smooth


It rained this morning for the first time since May. Our instructor told us to go ahead and take a long shower tonight if we feel like it. It was nice that it was cooler outside, but the wet stones made it a bit hazardous to walk.

I did a bit of scheduling today with the IES academic advisor. It looks like I'll be taking Spanish, Arabic and Spanish literarure (focus on Federico García Lorca) at the IES center, as well as two courses at the University of Granada. I'm thinking history, in the hopes of fulfilling my distributional requirements, and perhaps a class on how to teach math or foreign language to children. It just sounds sort of fun. I'll look around on the website a bit more. We have an interview-style placement test tomorrow! I shouldn't be nervous because I don't want to be placed higher than my skill level, but it's still scary.

I sat around with Kirsten last night and ate goat Gouda on tiny pieces of toast and watched this Spanish game show where the contestant has to guess the career of the mystery people with virtually no clues. It's amazing how well they are able to tell. I wonder if we are shuffled into our careers partially by how we appear to others, or whether we adopt certain facial expressions or haircuts because of our jobs.

Things are grand, glorious, genial. We are traveling to Sevilla this weekend. I get to see a soccer game in the stadium there, which I think will be crazy and fun. I also suspect there will be some Flamenco and tasty food (I have just eaten fried fish as part of lunch, but you have to take the spines out yourself. Good thing fish don't have Mad Cow, because I think I ate some spinal matter). I'm not nearly as picky as I always imagined.

Mmm, siesta time.


Sunday, September 9, 2007

Walking Walking Walking

They are not lying when they tell you that Granada is a walking city. On Friday our class walked up through the Realejo, a district of the city where the Jews used to live, up the hill toward the Alhambra, but we didn't see the fortress. That night we walked up to Sacromonte, the hill where some bones and a probably fabricated religious text were found back when the city was largely Muslim. The Christians were allowed to haul their huge stone crosses up the mountain and do their pilgrimage thing, so there are some cool statues up there. We got a good history lesson from our teacher, Fabiola. Then we walked down the other side past all the caves that used to be gypsy caves but are now hippie caves, wending our way through the Albaicín (the old Arab quarter where there are the most spectacular views of the Alhambra), down to the center of the city. To get home from there was another half hour.

Then yesterday we went to Cabo de Gata, a national park along the coast of Andalucía. It is the most arid region in all of Europe. Only plants that can take the moisture from the air instead of from rain can survive. There is one flower that costs you six months in prison to pick; it grows only on south-facing black volcanic rock in this two square-mile region in the park. Each plant is numbered. We hiked a good ten miles over little mountains of jagged rock, along roads and beaches, with no shade in sight. We stopped twice to swim along the way. The water was clear as glass; you could see your toes when you looked down, and the occasional fish. It was very salty but the perfect temperature.

Anyway, I am exhausted. I had the typical Andalucian breakfast this morning: toast with olive oil and some coffee. Tasty. I am looking forward to a day of rest. Bueno, adiós.


Thursday, September 6, 2007

Even this webpage is in Spanish


I am having a great time. I arrived in Málaga on Tuesday and met those of my fellow students who had already arrived. The people are extraordinarily nice. We went to the beach (my first sight of the Mediterranean) and to the Picasso Museum. Both were quite gorgeous. There is a restaurant named after Antonio Banderas; apparently he was born there.

We traveled (all 72 of us) to Granada yesterday afternoon and met our host families. My roomie's name is Callie. Our host mother is Rosario, a doctor who treats people with drug problems. She is very upfront and talkative, and I like her a lot. Her 16-year-old son Ramón is incredibly surly and has a mullet. Haha. Right now he is watching Futurama in Spanish, which is really weird because the voices are different.

Every once in a while I step back mentally and am astounded at the ability of humans to adjust to a new environment. I feel quite comfortable and adventurous...I suppose the culture shock will come later. I am able to converse with natives without stumbling too terribly much, and it will only get better. :)

The IES program is in some ways just like the beginning of freshman year, meeting new people all the time, asking small-talk questions and forgetting names immediately, but we also have a lot of freedom. Today (our first day of orientation in Granada) the professor of my 7-person class sent us out into the streets to find the post office on our own, and to buy a newspaper. The program directors, aside from requiring us to attend class, seem unconcerned with our activities (in a good way).

I saw Kirsten today! I was walking back from class (it's a good half hour by foot) and she walked right in front of me, crossing my path. I sort of exclaimed her name, ecstatically, and I think I scared her to death. We're going out for tapas tonight.

OK! That was longer than I expected. There's so much. Hasta luego,


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Beginning

Hi All,

Welcome to my blog! I'll try to post regularly about my travels during my semester abroad in Granada, Spain. I figure this is a less intrusive way than mass emails.

I'm in the U.S. until Labor Day. If you want to reach me, email is probably the best way: I'll post my mailing address later.

Rainbows, puppies, etc.