Saturday, January 30, 2010

Rebajas y castillos

Hello everyone! Whew! What a great few days I've had! So great that I've rarely been home long enough to blog about them :)

Thursday was a University holiday, so no class for me. Instead, I went with some friends to an open air market that is held every Thursday. Markets are always great places to find great deals and fresh produce, and this market did not disappoint. I bought a sweater dress (it's a little colder here than I thought it would be...), a clutch, sheets for my bed, and some vegetables. I made a vow that day to never buy veggies and fruit in the grocery store when I could buy it fresh at the market for a cheaper price.

I hung out at my apartment the rest of the day and took a siesta and caught up on some e-mails and such. I went over to my friends' apartment later that night to watch a movie with Katelyn and Megan. I brought the snacks - chips and salsa and Nutella with cookies - and we watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding in Spanish with Spanish subtitles. Have I told you that I got a library card from the public library? Megan, Katelyn, and I went together, and you can check out movies for 15 days and books for 45. I got a cookbook and a book called Primera Memoria - they're both in Spanish, and I figured it would help me. Anyway, we wrote down and looked up words we didn't know, as well as proceeded to eat the entire jar of Nutella and the whole bag of chips among the three of us. Walked home loving life :)

Friday we went as a group to get our NIE numbers so that our coordinator can open bank accounts for us here. After that, Sam and I went shopping because right now we are part of a national sale called "rebajas" where almost every store has pretty huge discounts. It's a pretty grand thing, I must say.

The next day we went to Lorca, which is about an hour and a half west of Murcia by bus. There was a huge group of us, and we went to see the Forteleza del Sol, a castle that has been under the control of both the Muslims and the Christians throughout the years. The walk up to the castle was beautiful, and the town of Murcia was absolutely amazing as well. There was an old cathedral under construction, but just breathtaking. One of the girls on our trip said that it's neat to see such an act of worship in the architecture of a church, and I'd never really thought of it like that before.

The castle was amazingly beautiful, and it was neat because it wasn't just ruins. It was well kept, kind of like a museum. The city of Lorca itself is very beautiful also, with narrow, winding streets and beautiful houses and buildings everywhere. We ate lunch in a plaza right by a fountain - beautiful, and a perfect one day trip.

This is getting pretty long, but just a few more updates! I went to church again (this time by myself because all of my other friends were on adventures elsewhere) and ate lunch with the missionaries. They had another family over for lunch also, and two of the boys are my age. After lunch we played Uno (they have some very different rules...) and Beto asked if we could get together so that I could help him with an English paper about an American city. We spent much of the day Monday together, and also Wednesday. I went over to his house and his mom cooked a traditional Bolivian dish (they're originally from Bolivia). Wow! Talk about great food! He speaks little English, and I'm still working on my Spanish, but even though we sometimes may have some comprehension problems, we can communicate well for the most part. It's good practice for sure!

Tomorrow I'm heading off to Milan until Wednesday! I'm excited to see some of the museums (including Da Vinci's The Last Supper), churches, and of course in the fashion capital of the world, shopping! We're planning a short day trip to Verona, which is supposed to be beautiful and is where Romeo and Juliet was filmed. It will be my first European country other than Spain. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Rain in Spain Falls Gently on the Plain

Hello everyone! Yes, it has indeed been raining and a little bit colder, but it's not so bad. Today after it stopped raining it seemed to get a little bit warmer this afternoon and evening. Plus, I asked my landlord if I could get a space heater for my room, and one appeared inside my door today. It's so amazing I can't even tell you. I can sit on my bed and type this without being under all the covers or with my jacket and scarf on. Something that's very neat about the Spanish but also a little different than home is that people here are very big on conserving energy. I think it's great, but it's very different to walk up a staircase in my apartment or a friend's apartment because it isn't constantly lit. Instead, when you walk up the stairs you have to turn lights on. In mine, just one light for the whole staircase. In Angie's apartment, a light for every level. Also, whenever you leave a room you turn off the light. It's a little less homey, but it also saves money when it's time to pay the electric bill!

I haven't really talked much about every day life here in Spain very much, and for those of you who don't know, it's a little different than in the U.S. Here we eat breakfast in the morning, but lunch isn't until 1, 2, or 3. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day (for a lot of people), and then there is a siesta. Most of the stores close from 2 to 5, except the pharmacies and most restuarants and cafes. For the most part, everything else is closed. They open up again at 5 and stay open generally until 8 or 8:30. Therefore, dinner isn't until late - usually 9 or 10. When people go out dancing or to bars, then, they don't usually go out until 12, and it's not unusual to stay out until 5 in the morning. Today when we told our Spanish teacher that bars in the U.S. close around 2, it was a very different idea for her.

Anyway, yesterday we started our language intensive class. My profesora's name is Elena, and she is great. She speaks at a good pace and without the famous Murcian accent, which drops the 's' sounds on the ends of words and changes the 's' sounds within words to 'th.' Therefore, the word for thanks (gracias) is pronounced 'grathia.' It takes some adjusting, but I'm getting better at understanding people. She told us today that people in Murcia don't really speak other languages besides Spanish, so when we don't know how to say a word in Spanish, we have to describe it rather than say the word in English and hope that someone will understand it. The class goes from 10 to 1:30 with a half hour break in the middle, and then we're free for the rest of the day. Yesterday I went to the Mercadona, which is kind of like our version of Kroger so that I could buy groceries. That was fun! I'm having to buy parts of meals and the basic staples rather than the snack food that I'm used to buying. I've been experimenting with my cooking, though, and so far it's been going really well. The past three nights I've gone over to friends' apartments or they've come over to mine and we've eaten dinner together. My roommates generally make dinner and eat in their rooms, and I really like to eat with people, so it's been a lot of fun. Whoever goes to the other person's apartment brings something too and we switch, so it's even and also a ton of fun.

Today after class a group of us went to lunch at a little place called Cafe y Te. I had a sandwich that was great, but the most interesting part was the chocolate that I had. Here, hot chocolate is super duper thick, kind of like melted chocolate. It's very common to eat it with churros, which is what I did, and it was delicious! After that, we went to an art museum in Murcia that has free admission. Manuel and Lara walked around with me and we talked about all of the different works of art. I really enjoyed seeing how art differed from century to century depending on what movements were happening around Europe, as well as what was happening politically and with the Church in Spain. It made me excited to take some sort of art history or history of Spain class this semester.

Each day I love Spain more and more, and it's becoming more comfortable for me. I'm getting to know my friends on a deeper level too, which is awesome. Tomorrow one of my goals is to buy or rent a book written in Spanish that is just for pleasure reading. I'll let you know how that goes!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Relaxing Sunday

Today is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it! Today has been great so far! This morning I met Katelyn and Megan, two girls that I met Friday and then spent the day with yesterday, for church. It was a beautiful morning for a walk, which was definitely fortunate, because they had only been there once and we didn't quite find it so well. We got there eventually, though, and it is a very tiny church called Assemblia Cristiana. I understood part of the message, so that was good :) There were some other girls there from the same program as Katelyn and Megan, and after church all of us were invited over to Mary's house for lunch. Mary and her husband are missionaries that plant churches, and this was actually a church that they had planted. We had huge meatballs, scalloped potatoes, peas, salad, and then a baked peach dessert with coffee and ice cream that was delicious. I was so glad to be in a house and eat a home-cooked meal, and she and her daughters were so great. On our way home, we realized that Angie and I actually live in the same neighborhood, so we walked home together and got to see each other's apartments. She acutally lives only the next block over, so we'll get to walk places together, which doesn't sound like a great thing, but this means if we're out together on the weekend or even if we're not and we want to walk home we can go together. There's another girl in her program who lives near us too. It's also great because we can have dinner together. My roommates are great, but except for the first night, everyone pretty much makes their own meals and then eats in their room. That's a little tough for me because I love food and fellowship, and I like to eat with other people. I'm going over to her house in about an hour to eat, and then I'll spend the rest of the night relaxing and catch an early night (maybe watch part of the Colts game online) :)

Speaking of my apartment, I took a few pictures of it that I thought I would post so that you can see where I live!

This is the bathroom that I mainly use...I bought a shower curtain because there wasn't one there before...

No dryers, so this is where we hang our clothes out to dry

This is my bedroom!

Our cute little kitchen! It has a gas stove, so we have to light it with a match. Also, the oven doesn't really have a temperature...that will be interesting...

Our living room

My room still needs some more decorating, but I'm working on it :) Oh! I forgot! This morning as we were coming back from church we saw a procession through the streets, and Mary told us that every neighborhood has a patron saint, and today was the final day of celebration for San Anton, so there was a parade. Here are a few pictures from that:

Saturday, January 23, 2010

I saw Jesus!

Hola todos! seems like I've been here a week already, but really only two full days! I feel like I've already gotten to experience Spain in an amazing way, and I'm starting to make friends too! Yay! :) Did I already mention that my roommates are from Latvia? Angelica and I speak mostly in Spanish, and it's really nice to speak to someone that I can actually understand. People here speak so fast, and I'm not really used to it, so I usually look at the person next to me with confused eyes when I need a translation. I guess that means it can only go up from here?

Yesterday after our ISEP orientation, a few of us went to El Corte Ingles to get phones, so now I can be connected to everyone in Spain and rejoin the technological world. We had a really fun adventure, and then we took the bus to IKEA...another fun adventure. Every time I walk around I see more of the city that is new to me, and it is such a fascinating place! Tons of little shops, old buildings, twisting streets, and tall buildings. I have a few observations so far.
1) I notice pregnant women here more than in the states because every one I've seen so far only has a belly. You couldn't tell they are pregnant from looking at them anywhere else, but they have their baby bulge.
2) PDA is very prevalent and apparently well-accepted here. Enough said :)
3) Cars can drive anywhere. Roads, sidewalks, alleys...really, anywhere. So, watch out for cars.
4) Buses are sweet, but since we still don't have maps of the entire bus system, we do a lot of guessing and walking even extra.

We definitely have done a ton of walking, which I definitely don't mind at all. Although I must say, I wore my gold flats all day yesterday, and by the end of the night I really couldn't walk one more step. My feet were happy that they were able to experience tennis shoes for today's excursion. Last night I went out for tapas with some of Lara's friends. There is a group of ISEP exchange students from the US, and there is also a group of ISEP direct students who don't take classes with us, but they've been here for two weeks already and I've met quite a few of them through friends. Tapas are restaurants where you go with friends and people order a bunch of different dishes and then you talk and share all of the food with the table. It was SO much fun! The Sangria is really good, and I also tried shark for the first time, as well as calamari. They were both really good!

Today a pretty big group of us went to the outskirts of town to see a huge statue of Jesus that overlooks the city. We got to climb up to see it, and it was so amazing! I love to climb anyway, and the view from the top was unbelievable. It was exciting to find a group of people who are up for adventures too. I decided to make it an early night and I bought a delicious chocolate something or another for my way home, and made some dinner. Tomorrow - church with some other students, and then...? Explore, explore, explore!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Woo! I am here! Spain is absolutely BEAUTIFUL from what I've seen so far, and Murcia seems extremely charming, with lots of opportunities for adventure :) I found Chelsea at the airport - the other Butler girl studying in Murcia - and we got to ride the bus to Murcia together and then went our separate ways. I hate to admit that I'm painfully shy today. I Shy? Doesn't seem possible, but I think it's just hitting me all at know, in a new city, I know no one, and my Spanish isn't all that great. My apartment is adorable! I'll post some pics once I get a little bit more settled in. Angelica and Sergio let me into the apartment and showed me around. They are super nice, but unfortunately will be leaving on February 15. They've already been here for about five months already. They're gracious enough to let me go to La Merced campus with them later this afternoon. I should probably find a supermercado at some point so that I have something to eat for the next few days. Otherwise, trail mix it will be! I apologize that this post isn't super exciting...I JUST got my computer out and they told me the password for the Internet, so I thought I would let anyone who is wondering know that I made it safe and sound. Now...for the unpacking...

Monday, January 18, 2010

Test 1-2, Test 1-2?

Wow, so...this is my first time blogging. Kind of exciting, kind of weird. I can write whatever I want here and my friends, family, and random strangers, I suppose, can all read it. I guess I'll start with the countdown - two days!!! I told my mom last night that it doesn't really seem like real life. I mean, I've been preparing for this trip since, well, high school, and now that I'm almost gone I need someone to pinch me to make sure that this is real.

Here's the plan: packing and getting stuff together today and tomorrow. One last dinner with my grandparents tonight before I leave, and some random appointments for the dentist and a haircut mixed in. Wednesday I leave early in the morning so that I can pick up my passport from the Spanish Consulate in Chicago and make it to the airport in time for my 4:45 flight. I fly straight to Madrid, and then connect to Alicante, where I'll take a bus to Murcia, and probably a taxi to my apartment. The catch? I have to fit everything I'm going to need for six months into a checked suitcase that can't weigh more than 50 pounds, a carry-on that's just a few inches smaller than any bag that I have, and a personal item, which I'm planning to stuff to capacity.
Anyone who knows how much I LOVE to pack (catch the sarcasm?) knows how awesome my next few days will be. In the words of Libby Bates, keep calm and carry on. And that's exactly what I plan to do. Nothing can ever really be gained from getting stressed in the end, anyway. So...wish me luck! Until Murcia...