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,