Sunday, October 24, 2010

I see skies of blue and clouds of white; The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night. And I think to myself what a wonderful world.~Louis Armstrong

Palma de Mallorca. For me, a name synonymous with beauty and relaxation. I mainly went to see the restoration by Gaudi in the cathedral, but ended up falling in love with this place. An island in the Mediterranean, it has been inhabited by the Romans, the Moors, the French, and now the Spanish. The influence of all these different cultures is clearly evident in the architecture, the art, and the life of the people. By the Germans, it is called "A Second Germany" because of how many Germans retire there. It was so weird walking down the streets and hearing German, Castellano, Catalan, and British English. My poor brain...that night I dreamt in 4 languages. It was like my brain didn't know what to do!

It was the first trip I took by myself since being here in Spain. I was extremely nervous, but it was going to be a fast trip. Get there at about 5pm, stay out till its dark, get up for Mass the next morning, and my flight would leave on Sunday at about 2pm. I expected it to be a fast trip, and that's it. I didn't expect to be so enchanted with the island, with the architecture, and with the sea. It was the first time ever I saw the ocean. When I laid eyes on it, it was all over from there. The simple beauty of the sea just stole my heart. Also, the smell! The fresh smell is something that cannot be captured or replicated. The smell that has enticed so many people before me captivated my senses. I missed its presence the minute I left Palma.

Once I checked into my hotel, I quickly booked it down to the harbor and to the cathedral. It was almost sunset, and that is the BEST time to take pictures. That and early morning right after the sun rises are my favorite time to take pictures, because the sunshine is just so strong and beautiful. The whole evening, I was just thoroughly happy. First time I get to see the sea, and it is sunset. It is best to just demonstrate with pictures.

 I made it into the Cathedral in time before it closed to take some pictures and to see the baldechino of Gaudi. It is just simply beautiful.

After an almost sleepless night because of the snorer next door, I made it to church right as one mass was ending. I had an hour to sit, pray and take pictures. It was so beautiful, with the sun coming in through the stained glass right through the baldechino.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns. ~George Eliot

Okay, so enough depressing stuff, right? Now on to other aspects of life. In addition to my first English student, Henar, I now speak English with Irene about once or twice a week, and I have another student that I will start 'teaching' the 19th, Tuesday. She is 9, so that will be interesting. But I love Henar and her parents. They love giving me apples and tomatoes, since they found out that I love organic food. When they found out that my dad is an organic farmer, they just loved that! Her dad gave me the greatest compliment one day. I was talking with Henar and her dad, and he was like, "You must listen well to the way people talk. You have picked up on the accent well." And a friend of Laura's, Suzanna, who met me when I first got here, said my Spanish has improved considerably. I need to hear things like that, because sometimes I feel like I am in a rut, Spanish wise. I just don't feel like I am learning as rapidly as I was before, but I'm sure I am.

Fall is finally starting here. The leaves are turning colors and it makes me happy. Fall is my FAVORITE season in ND. I love the colors, the smells, the weather, and especially the food. They don't really have fall food here like we do there. Squash, pumpkin, apples...I love all the ND produce of fall. Here it is chestnuts, grapes, and figs. I tried fresh figs the other day and they are delicious! Now that it is a little more chilly out, there are women selling freshly roasted chestnuts. The smell is amazing. I tried some yesterday on my way home from my lesson. They are very hearty and the taste is something you have to get used to. But now I can say I have tried freshly roasted chestnuts.

It has also been getting a little more chilly here, but not like in ND. It was a little colder here one day than during the others, and my host mother commented on it. I said, "This is normal for ND. This is perfect fall weather." She looked at me like I had horns growing out of my head. I don't think she would be able to handle our winters.

But it is eternally amusing to me to see everyone bundled up in their 'winter' jackets, with scarves and hats. They must think I'm from the moon, wearing only a cardigan over a blouse and a scarf. Come to think of it, maybe that is why I  have been getting some weird looks on the street.

One reason I like fall so much is that it inspires me more to write and do creative things. I have no idea why. I can only guess it is because the beauty around me leads me to contemplate. I have a couple ideas of stories, not about fall but about other things. I won't write them on here, but maybe I will have to start another private blog with my poetry and my stories. I mean, only if they are going to be read and enjoyed.

So my favorite class is Medieval Art of Burgos. The material we study is interesting, yes, but the teacher is also awesome. She has told me that she will help me to improve my writing in Spanish. She has also mentioned that if I have any questions, just to ask. I get scared because since I am one of only 2 international students in class that maybe I just don't understand because it is in Spanish. But she tells me to ask, no matter what; even if it is after class or via email. One day, she could tell that I was trying to figure out in my head what the heck she was talking about. So she stopped what she was saying, asked me if I understood, and explained it in simpler terms. It made my day; something so small but made my day.

In my class of Phonetics and Phonology, the professor loves giving examples and using us international students and our accents. The other day, he played certain songs, in both English and Spanish, to show that if you are used to hearing the sounds of one language, you will hear what you are used to in another. For example, in one English song, the Spanish speakers hear something entirely different, even though that is not said. I don't know if that makes sense at all. But then he also used Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail as an example. Totally awesome.

I love my Spanish Grammar: Syntax class. Not only does the teacher explain things well, but I just simply love grammar.

Literature of the Middle Ages. Love the material, but the teacher...well...the teacher is...I want to say 'Hitler in drag', but I feel like that's not nice. She is very...demanding, I guess is the right word. She is the one that told me I can't sleep in class and has not been very understanding to those of us in class who are not native Spanish speakers. But whatever. Can't win them all, right?

Okay, next post. This one will be on my trips to Astorga and Leon. And believe me, there are some good stories in there.

Home is not where you live but where they understand you. ~Christian Morgenstern

When I think about blogging, I come up with all this amazing stuff to write. When I actually sit down to do it, I forget it all. Maybe its the whole white blank box that scares me. So I hope that now, since I have started, it will be easier...

I have developed a routine here in Spain. Wake up, consider just staying in bed for about 15 minutes, and then groan and get out of my warm bed. After I catch the bus and make it to campus, I walk through the doors wondering what I will actually understand today. Somedays are really good; others are just plain horrible. Like this past Wednesday. I had stayed up the night before writing this paper for class, and had been terribly, horribly homesick all week. It took all my strength to even sit down and write in Spanish for a class that I don't really like and a professor that (I believe) doesn't like me. I got up early on Wednesday to get on campus to print my paper off. Class starts at 9 on Wednesdays, so I got on campus about 8:15. Then I find out that the room in which you buy paper to print stuff, as well as the computer room where you print said stuff, don't open till 10. I don't cuss usually, but this time I audibly said, "Shit." I worked so hard on this paper only for this to happen.

Once class starts, the teacher asks us to hand in the papers. I tried to explain to her what happened, but she didn't really seem to understand. Luckily, everyone else in the classroom did and helped explain it. She looked at me, obviously wondering if I was telling the truth, and said, "Bring it to my office after class." During class, since I was so exhausted and had been visited by the Period Fairy while in class, I dozed for like 3 minutes. After class, she asks me why I was sleeping in class. I told her that I wasn't feeling well and hadn't been sleeping, which was half true; the other truth is that her class is boring. But you can't really say that to her. I jet out to the paper room to find that the computer wasn't working and couldn't print stuff off in there. The computer room was packed and couldn't find a computer. After such a morning of frustration, I said to heck with it. I took the bus back to El Centro (my area of town). I went and bought a few books and then came home. There was no way that I was going to face the rest of the day without my computer or a good book. Luckily,  I received a package from my best friend with the new VeggieTales movie in it; it helped me so much!

So yeah. Some days, I am happy to be here, enjoying hearing and speaking Spanish. Other days I am tempted to just pack up and sneak out at night and fly home. It doesn't help that I have been having a hard time making friends. I have been trying, but 90% of them live an entirely different lifestyle than I do. They love to go out and drink and party and get drunk. The look on a French girl's face when I told her that I don't go out was classic.

Finally, I just decided that I was sick of sitting in my room all the time, feeling sorry for myself. I now have pretty much every weekend planned out till I leave. This coming weekend, October 23-24, I am going to Palma de Mallorca to see this by Gaudi. I am excited since I am going just by myself. The following weekend, the weekend of Halloween, I am going to visit an old friend, Sarah, and her husband in Germany. Sarah and I met in HS in shop class, and have been friends ever since. They are living there because he is in the Air Force (I believe). I am SO excited to see her, and visit Germany! I love Germany so much. The food is awesome and the people are great. Plus, I think it will help just seeing a familiar face. The weekend after that I think they are coming to Spain, and I will meet up with them.

The weekends after that are kinda up in the air. A friend from NDSU who is studying in London may be coming to visit Spain, and we may meet up in Santiago de Compostela. Then I may be going to visit her in London for Thanksgiving. At some point, I am going to visit my friend Tanner in France. He is an old friend who is now an English teacher there. But, the highlight of all of this is that my beloved sister and 3 of my many cousins are coming to visit me and celebrate Christmas and New Years with me. I AM SO HAPPY! I miss my sister so much, and am so excited to share Spain with all of them!

To alleviate my boredom, my beloved boyfriend sent me Civilization IV, a computer game. I am SO grateful for this. I have also been reading a lot, and probably will start taking up writing again. It is good for me to learn to be on my own and not depend on people, but this has also helped me realize how much I love my family and friends. So this whole loneliness thing is good, right?

My next post will be on aspects and events of life here, just so you have more to read! :)

Friday, October 15, 2010

4 Stories: Color

This week's topic for the 4 Stories blog of FreckledNest is color. Yay!

I. R.E.D

Anyone who knows me even as an acquaintance knows that red is definitely my favorite color. Up until I was about 17, I didn't really have a favorite color. I had always been attracted to warm colors though. Once I moved out of my parent's house, red became the color for me. I have a red backpack, red peacoat, red cups, red towels, red socks, red name it, I probably have it. The funny thing is though, when buying sheets and that sort of thing, I picked like a sage green. I guess subconsciously, I was picking a color to complement my color.

II. Color Personality

The funny thing is too, that when I take those color personality tests you can find anywhere, I always get red. Here is the description: "You have incredible will-power and you are capable of overcoming obstacles that would stop others. You enjoy a pleasant and colorful environment. You are capable of bursts of high energy spontaneity, though generally more "laid back". You are energetic and interested in many areas of life. You are capable of accomplishment when consciously focused and persistent."

III. Taking Notes

Ask anyone. I am not an organized person. I often lose things, only to find them tucked away somewhere when I was attempting to be organized. That is why it is so strange that I am so organized in my note-taking. I have to color coordinate my notes. It seems to help me so much more, especially when I am taking tests. If I am stuck on something, usually I just imagine how the color would have been and I can remember it!

IV. Fall

My favorite season is fall. Can you guess why? I LOVE all the colors of fall; the oranges, reds, yellows, just makes me happy every time I go out and see all the beautiful colors that exist in nature! Also, all the earthy smells's just a great season!

4 Stories: Swimming

So I LOVE Angela's blog. She always has something cool to say, and it is a cool way of keeping up with her. She introduced me to FreckledNest, by Leigh-Ann (LA). I love reading her posts, seeing her pictures, and hoping that someday I can try out her craft ideas. On it she started something called 4 Stories. She picks out a theme, and you are invited to write 4 stories on that subject! I decided this would be fun to do, something to break the monotony of being in Spain. I invite you to do it too!

I. Swimming Hole

 Since my dad is a farmer, we spent the first 5 years of my life living on the farm that he grew up on, before we moved into town. I love the farm; it holds so many warm, fond memories of my father and my grandfather. Just thinking about the farm, I can smell the smells. Right as you come down the hill to the farmstead, there is this watering/swimming hole. My cousins, who at the time were troublemakers, tied a rope to the huge old tree right by the pond (Pictured above), and used it to swing and fall into the water. I always wanted to try, but didn't know how to swim. Sadly now, it is all dried up and the rope wore away by the cold harsh ND winters.

II. First Swimming Lesson

Mom and Dad took my younger sister and I to our first swim lesson when I must have been about 6. I hated it. All I remember is the FREEZING cold water and that the teacher didn't seem to be interested in teaching me. I tried my hardest, but the cold water made me freeze up (no pun intended) and I couldn't move. Finally, after the 3rd time, after both my parents tried being in the water with us, they decided it was too cold for us. And thus began my curse regarding swimming lessons. To this day, after about 8 different lessons (both by friends and by teachers) I still can't swim.

III. Hot Tub

When I was about 7, my dad joined my sister, grandparents, and I to visit his siblings in Nebraska. We were at my Uncle Dan's house, and they were all in the hot tub. I crawled in because, being a Daddy's girl, I always had to be around him. I tried to sit down like the adults, and slipped. Since I have always been pretty thin, I sank to the bottom right away. I remember seeing all these hairy legs. I wasn't too panicked at the moment; I was too interested in what this new experience was like. Suddenly, I felt myself being pulled up and a blast of air hit my face. I gasped and I think I started crying because I realized what had almost happened. Every time I get in the water now, my chest kinda contracts and I have to talk myself through it. It's just water. You will be okay. So-and-so is here and will save you if something happens. One of my fears still is drowning.

IV. Swimsuit

I think one of the reasons I haven't learned how to swim yet is the fear I have of wearing a swimsuit. I know its mandatory and important, but I just feel so... aware. I feel more aware of myself in a swimsuit than I do in anything else. Also, my ancestors come from Ukraine, which is one of the races that is known for women having mustaches and that sort of thing. I take care of myself well, but am still extremely self-conscious when I am faced with having to wear a swimsuit. I hope some day I am able to get past this; I would love to be able to swim with my own children.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A different language is a different vision of life. ~Federico Fellini

This will be an ongoing post on the idioms, expressions, and colloquialisms of the Spanish language. These are a few that I have learned during the month and a half I have been here. Enjoy!

hacer los barquitos: (literally: the make little ships) what you say when you use bread to mop of the sauce of a salad or meat.

puente: (bridge) a break, day off. Like when you have 3 days off of school or something.

acueducto: (aqueduct) very colloquial. It is when you have a long break, like Christmas Break.

El mundo es como un pañuelo: (the word is like a tissue) it's a small world.

quedarse frita: very colloquial. It is like when you are crashed while sleeping. Like after a long day.

miga: there is no equivalent in English. It is the white/center part of bread. But not like Wonder-type bread, like French bread.

comer con los ojos: (eat with your eyes) kinda like 'your eyes are bigger than your stomach'

hacerse un lío: to make a mess; to be confused; to be lost; to be in a state of confusion. I think there are many meanings to this phrase, so still learning more!

Freaky (used as a way to refer to self or someone else): unlike in the US, where this word has a negative connotation, this is used like 'geek', 'nerd', or pretty much anything the speaker wants. Like there was this guy playing a computer game on the bus, and his friend called him 'Freaky' to get his attention.

A bocadilla refers to a sandwich made out of french bread or something similar. A sandwich is a sandwich made out of 'sandwich bread' or formed bread, like we have in the States. Interesting...

Nuez (walnut): also the word for the lump on a man's throat. Yes, the apple in English. They loved that.

aguafiesta: (water-party) spoilsport. Like rain on your party.

saltamontes: ('mountain jumper') grasshopper

My favourite thing is to go where I've never been. ~Diane Arbus

For our first 'puente' (break), I decided to use a couple of those free days to visit a few more buildings of Gaudi; the Palacio Episcopal in Astorga, and the Casa Bontines in Leon. Saturday, Elise and I took the 6:35 am bus, bright and early, to Leon, and then from Leon to Astorga. On the bus from Leon to Astorga, we met 4 women pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago who are from Winnipeg! What are the chances of that?! 

We arrive in Astorga only to find that it was gloomy and cold. I was only wearing a t-shirt, a cardigan and a scarf, and thus was pretty chilly the whole day. But it didn't ruin my day! We went to the Cathedral to find that the museum didn't open till 11 (it was 10:30), as well as the Palacio. So we decided that, since a) we had time, b) I was freezing, and c) we needed to find a ladies room, it would be a good idea to go to a cafe and get some coffee. It was this cute little cafe fashioned in the Modernist style, which I have developed quite a fascination for, thanks to Gaudi. So we relaxed there till the Palacio opened.

It easily is one of my favorite Gaudi buildings. After a fire burned down the old one, the Bishop of Astorga approached Gaudi to design the new one. He designed it to be reminiscent of a medieval fortification, with numerous Gothic details. Since it was to be a bishop's palace and episcopal seat, he also has different details that refer back to the bishop's office in the Catholic Church. Such as right: each angel holds a different object that signifies a bishop's office. The one on the left, the mitre (hat); middle the cross; right the staff. Each of these was supposed to be on top of the spires of the Palacio. However, after the untimely death of the Bishop, Gaudi left the project in the hands of the committee, who blocked every one of his 'strange' designs and who made his life difficult. After this, he said he would never work with a committee again. The house that he so painstakingly designed was never lived in; after a time, it was turned into the Museum of the Pilgrims of the Camino de Santiago.

Throughout the building, you can see how Gaudi took the Gothic style, but made it his own. Once we paid to get in (it was cheap!), I saw a sign that said you can't take pictures. I was like whatever! I am here for a project, so I am going to take pictures. Plus there were other people doing it too. I was the only one who was smart enough not to use flash though. She did catch me later in the chapel, and I just pretended like I didn't know. "Oh! I'm sorry! I had no idea!"

After our time there, during which I did 'accidentally' take a lot of pictures, we hopped over across the street to the Cathedral. It is beautiful, of course. My favorite part though is the front, with the beautiful carvings and details. We went through the cathedral and the museum, and then decided to walk to the other side of town to see some of the Roman ruins. It only took us like 20 min to walk to the other side of town since it is so small. It kinda reminds me of Assisi, Italy, with the simple size and the quaintness of it. We walked through the garden where the Jewish Synagogue once stood, and then along the Roman walls. Astorga used to be a Roman fortress. Hence there are ruins of a Roman house, complete with bath and mosaics; as well as a Roman museum. Get this: the museum was built in commemoration of the 2000 ANNIVERSARY of the Roman occupation. That is a lot of years.

After walking along the wall, we went to find something to eat; also to wait till the Chocolate Museum opened again after the siesta. We ate, then went to the Roman Museum, where we paid a combined entrance for the museum and the chocolate museum. I thought it was a great deal! The museum was pretty cool, and the guy made sure we got out in time to make it to the Chocolate Museum before they closed. The chocolate museum was awesome. It smelled so good! It showed how to make chocolate etc, and had some samples of the chocolate they make in Astorga. It was delicious.

And now for a Dokia story. I decided, since we had time, that I was going to find a book in the city of Astorga (mainly for the Palacio, since they didn't have their own book). So I walked into a little corner magazine/book store. There was this old man working, talking with one of his friends. I found what I was looking for and paid for it. After I put my wallet and my new purchase in my daypack, I went to adjust it again. I ended up hooking my finger on my necklace and the chain broke. The pendant and chain fell to the floor, among a bunch of magazines. That necklace is from my grandmother, and there is no way I am leaving it. So I scrambled around, pulling magazines out right and left, looking for this little pearl pendant. The old men were just watching me, intrigued as to what this foreign girl was doing. Meanwhile, Elise, who was standing outside, started wondering what was going on. She looks inside to see me on the floor, magazines everywhere, and the old men confused. She comes in to find out what was going on, and saw the pendant on the floor by my knee. I apologized profusely to the men, put the magazines away, and, pendant in hand, high-tailed it out of there. Totally a Dokia moment. :P

But the day was just great. I think Elise and I both needed just a nice, relaxing day such as this. We spoke English with each other the whole day, and it was so nice! Also, the weather changed from cold and icky to a nice fall day. Plus, I just love small towns such as this. Ones that only take you like 20 minutes to walk across the whole town. Such a beautiful little village.