Si no has visto Granada, no has visto nada!

Hola, I’m back! Still soaking in the sights, reading, napping, eating, and doing a little studying on the side. Still in love with Barcelona, still missing home. I can’t believe its been over a month, time sure does fly when you’re having fun… it would seem I have a lot of catching up to do! Needless to say, a lot has happened since I last wrote. I think I’ll just try and take it one weekend at a time…

October 13-19 : There is a saying in Spain, “Si no has visto Granada, no has visto nada;” which means, if you have not seen Granada, you have not seen anything. I went with my program to Granada (17-19) and from the moment I stepped off the plane, I knew it was the truth. Back in October it was still quite hot and humid in Barcelona, Granada’s cool crisp morning air was a nice change of pace and reminded me of fall back home. I’m a mountain girl; I don’t snowboard or ski, but I sure can appreciate a good view and I’ve missed the snow capped mountains in Oregon. Granada’s view of the Sierra Nevada Mountains (the original ones- no, Granada is not in California) did not disappoint! When the sun came up, it was a nice heat, one that warmed your skin without the sticky, sweaty heat you get in Barcelona. Granada is beautiful, I could spend hours telling you all about each and everything that makes it special; the unique street lamps, wide side walks, narrow alleys, fountains, parks, green grass (quite possibly my favorite thing about Granada!), old buildings, beautiful architecture, and the Alhambra – just to name a few. Not to mention the food was fantastic! I love that in Granada you can get a Menú del día for under 10 euros, I have grown accustomed to having a starter, main dish, dessert and coffee for lunch. While in Granada we took a tour of the Alhambra, several neighborhoods, and the cathedral, we saw a flamenco show, took a dip in the arabic baths, enjoyed a tapas dinner and had the most amazing arabic tea; and of course we did some shopping, you can’t leave Granada without getting a pair of harem pants!

I’m so glad that I got the chance to travel to the south of Spain, the culture is so different from that of Barcelona. The Arabic/Muslim influence is prominent in Granada, making it feel almost like an entirely different country! Also, in Andalucía (the southernmost autonomous community/region in Spain), when you order a drink at the bar you get free tapas! I wish I had more time to travel to every region in Spain, they’re all so different, each so unique. Though I absolutely loved Granada, I was glad to be back home in Barcelona on Sunday!

Big City Life: I’m going to take this moment to come back to the present because big city life is something new to me and funny things happen almost everyday – if I don’t share now I will probably forget later! My commute to school in the morning consists of walking, and taking the metro. Tuesdays and Thursdays I just take the metro two stops, get off and walk to school. However, Mondays and Wednesdays I have class at the Sant Pau campus and I need to change lines. Last week I forgot it was Monday and almost didn’t get off in time (I only transfer after one stop!). Today I remembered it was Monday when I got on the train but somehow forgot that I needed to transfer at Diagonal and completely missed it. Yes, I have been taking this same route to school for over two months now! This has happened before but last time I had a partner in crime and we had a good laugh, so did the ladies sitting across from us. Anyway, already running a little late because of this I finally make it to my final train and by the time I get on it’s so packed there is no room for me and the doors start to shut, but I made it! Close shave. One guy gave me a knowing smile because stuff like this happens all the time, crowded metros are nothing new. However, when I tried to turn around and face the doors, I realized that my hood and hair were trapped in the door! I don’t know if anyone else noticed, but I had a good laugh to myself and waited patiently for the doors to open at the next stop so I could be released.

Cambio y fuera,

Elani

Week Six

How is it possible that I have been in Barclona for six weeks already, and in Europe for over eight?!

This week, among other things, I visited the Santa Caterina Market (fish photo) with a group from my program. Having already seen Mercat de Sant Josep (La Boqueria), one of the most touristic places in all of Barcelona, it was fun to see a market where locals actually shop. We tried cured meat, olives, and cheese. It’s places like these were I truly feel like I’m in Spain. When I’m surround by locals talking about their day, what they’re making for dinner, and this strangely warm fall weather. You can buy almost any food item you need here, all as fresh as they come.

This last week I also visited Park Güell, Cementiri de Montjuïc and went to the top of Cúpula las Arenas. Park Güell, the photo of the mosaic salamander, is a park that was designed by Eusebi Güell and architect Antoni Gaudí as a sort of community. However unsuccessful as a housing development, it is now one of Barcelona’s many famous historic architectural sites and brings in many tourists year round. Cementiri de Montjuïc, photo of the grave, is a large cemetery in the south of Barcelona. It is the resting place of over one million people, most of which are in plots nestled in the rocky hills of Montjuïc. It opened over 130 years ago, and many graves are showing their age. It was amazing to see all of the large statues and monuments that represent the families buried there, or sometimes just a single person. Cúpula las Arenas, is an old bull fighting arena that was converted into a shopping mall since the outlaw of bull fighting in Catalonia. From the top you have a 360 view of most of Barcelona. Directly below you can see Plaça España and beyond that Font Màgica, and the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya.

Elani

Oktoberfest

While may students traveled to Germany over the last couple of weeks for Oktoberfest, I stayed in Barcelona and discovered our very own beer festival in town. Some friends and I joined in the festivities last weekend. I’ve never been to Oktoberfest in Germany but I imagine it would be somewhat the same, only much much bigger. I even saw many people dressed up in the traditional Dirndl dress or Lederhosen. We rode rides, drank beer, and I saw my fair share of completely hammered people, old and young. We even practiced our spanish a little with a group of kids from Barcelona, Argentina, and Ukraine. Our conversation was broken up frequently by the many spontaneous outbursts of song or by shattering glass as one of the many mug towers, being stacked by people too wasted to walk straight, crashed to the floor. Inside the beer garden tent, tables are filled with people drinking, dancing, and singing… and some pretzel eating. I had a great time, it was fun to see a German festival being celebrated by people from all over the world gathered in Spain!

Elani

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la Mercè, Sitges, and Zaragoza

Wednesday was the last day of Festes de la Mercè, a festival held annually in Barcelona. Activities for all ages can be found in the streets, parks, and plazas throughout the city. I saw Castells and one of the many Parade of Giants that went on this week. It baffles me to think just where all these people come from! The entire population of Barcelona, along with the many tourists, gather in these plazas. I felt like a duck heading into the metro, waddling and taking baby steps to avoid stepping on the toes and heals of the people inches in every direction.

Photo Sep 24, 12 56 30 PM Photo Sep 24, 10 27 36 PM

Wednesday night I went to the firework show and projection at Plaça de Espanya where even more people crowded in to see a, mostly political- as everything in Catalonia is, musical video depicting Barcelona’s history. I think I sometimes forget that I’m living in a big city. I’m living in a city that has one million more inhabitants than Oregon’s biggest city! Just walking down the street on any regular day in Barcelona I don’t feel like it’s that big. Sure it has it’s moments, usually when I walk past the Gaudi museum, or wander into Plaça Catalunya, and see all the tourists bustling about with their shopping bags, backpacks, and cameras. It is going to be so weird to come home and drive ten minutes to get to town, a town that is one thirty second the size of Barcelona. I’m grateful for game days, festivals, and crowded tourist attractions, they remind me where I am. When I get onto an exceptionally crowded metro car I remember that I am living in Europe. This is my home for the next twelve weeks.

Okay, enough about festivals! That’s not all we do in Spain, though it sure does seem like it :) This week I went to Sitges, a city on the sea twenty miles south of Barcelona. It was beautiful! The sand was smooth, just like it is back home, but the day we went, the water was about like it is back home too; needless to say, our sun bathing was unsuccessful!

Photo Sep 25, 3 21 47 PM  Photo Sep 26, 4 29 58 PM

 

Friday morning I went, with some of my study abroad group, to Zaragoza. Zaragoza is a city almost two hundred miles west of Barcelona in the Aragon community. On our overnight trip we took several tours of the city and its Roman ruins. I ate too much, made new friends, and saw the worlds third largest fresh water aquarium. I love big cities. I love the easy public transportation, good food, culture, and entertainment. However, there is something about smaller towns that makes them special. I don’t know what it is, if you have any ideas let me know ;). Not that Zaragoza is small…. it still has sixty seven thousand more people than Portland! It just has that smaller city feel compared to Barcelona. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Zaragoza and I can’t wait to see more cities in Spain! I never have been good at conclusions… so, the end. El Fin, Elani

More festivals!

This weekend/week is La Mercè festival in Barcelona. The big day will be this Wednesday, most people get the day off and there are concerts, performances, traditional dance, and more castells! These events have been going on since Friday. It is such a different feel to be out on the streets this week. Normally the metro closes at midnight and all but a few of the restaurants and shops are closed by then, but this week the metro is open all night and there are people everywhere! It’s not hard to find food at 3am and the streets are filled with music. Every night they do a firework show by the water, I haven’t had the chance to see it yet but I’m sure I will tomorrow. I know every night when the show starts because my neighbors dog is not a fan!

Each week I see more of the city, and I’m beginning to realize how walkable it is. On Sunday I went for a stroll and I found a street with several Mexican restaurants! I cannot tell you how ecstatic I was to finally find a burrito!! They even sold hot sauce there, which is not so easy to come by in Spain. They don’t eat a lot of spicy food or sauce here, so hot sauce is nearly impossible to find! I have really enjoyed trying all of the food here, especially our home cooked meals. Even when I don’t like something I’m glad I had the chance to try it. That being said, it sure was nice to have a little taste of home yesterday!

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Adios,

Elani

Prior to Coming Home…

I had my reservations about traveling to Spain because of how I visualized the culture to be… that being said, I’m pretty sure that the culture of Oviedo was distinct and I can’t say that all of Spain has the same characteristics that Oviedo does. I noticed a lot of similarities in culture between Oviedo and when I live in the USA but there were definitely differences as well. Drinking the local fermented apple alcoholic drink (sidra) most nights as a social custom was of course an adaptation I had to learn to love. I was in awe at how they treat their children in Oviedo. I imagine that it’s not just in Oviedo, but they seemed to specialize in anything baby related so that those kids would want for nothing. The children themselves are beautiful cherubs and always had the nicest clothing….like the way we dress our kids for Easter…but this was an everyday thing for them. I could have spent hours people watching just because of this and looking at all of the cool gadgets they have. Beyond that, kudos to the mothers because they generally seemed flawless as well. Also, I appreciated the fathers’ unrestricted display of love towards their families that I unfortunately don’t see so obviously in the U.S.. These were some of my favorite differences of culture that I observed. There was also a little different twist on fashion in Spain but it obviously meant a lot to everyone….Especially the shoes. It’s very impressive that age doesn’t matter with regards to what highly fashionable shoe a woman (and sometimes man) chooses to wear. Fashion never retires in Spain. However, for me the most surprising cultural difference was perhaps the dogs. People usually didn’t have large dogs but the tiny dogs that they did have went everywhere with them. It surprises me that the dogs have a different personality in general because they were almost all extremely well behaved or trained and they wanted absolutely nothing to do with a stranger. American dogs will wander over to greet someone they don’t know, or at least bark at them…but the Spanish dogs could care less and will not acknowledge your existence unless they see that their human family accepts you into their family. Only then are they the sweet little companions that love unconditionally.

Overall, I believe that I did well in my host culture. It’s a little difficult for me to get a real taste of the culture in just a month and to fully adapt so that was the main challenge for me I think. I felt caught in between because just as I was starting to get the hang of Spanish living, it was time for me to return to the U.S.. I wish I could have stayed longer in Spain, especially to explore more parts of Spain and to experience the cultural differences just in Spain alone. I am really happy that I did get to stay in Oviedo though because from what I heard, Madrid is a very bustling city and I enjoyed the quaint everyday happenings in Oviedo. It was the perfect environment.  I absolutely want to come back one day to my home in Spain and explore the rest of it.

Ara és l’Hora

Last Thursday, September 11, was the National Day of Catalonia. The day long festival pays tribute to the defeat of Catalonia during the war of Spanish Succession. Three hundred years ago, Catalan lost its independence to king Philip V of Spain. This year they gathered in the shape of a V up two main intersecting streets, they want the right to vote in November for their separation from Spain. I had the pleasure of joining in the festivities, it was amazing to see so many people from all over Catalonia gather in Barcelona to show their support. It is inspiring to see so many people standing up for themselves and their freedom as a nation. Ara és l’Hora, Now is the Time!

If you want to read more about the day and their fight for freedom click here.IMG_8886

The view from where we ended the day, where the two roads met forming the bottom of the V.

I must say I did feel like an impostor most of the day, wearing my red and yellow flag cape along with the rest of the natives. I suppose as long as I kept my mouth shut nobody had to know I didn’t really belong.

Que vagi bé,

Elani

Departed and Arrived!

School starts Monday! I feel like it’s the first day of college all over again. In a new home, in a new town with new roommates… starting at a new school with all new classmates. Which is crazy enough on its own, without the added bonus of being in a country where I don’t speak the language! (Please excuse the excessive use of exclamation marks… I can’t help how I feel :))

I arrived on Monday night with my friend from back home and stayed in a hostel. Tuesday I met my host mom and roommate, Katie from Ohio, at our new home in Barcelona! From the get go I realized I probably should have listed to a few more lessens of spanish before leaving home. Like, maybe all of them! Everyone is so friendly though and willing to communicate using mime and body language. It’s been a crazy week, but so far all is mostly as expected, surprisingly. I guess the one difference is that I wasn’t expecting to be able to understand or communicate so well. Don’t get me wrong, communication is tough; my host mom doesn’t speak english and my spanish dates back to two years in high school. Miming can only get you so far :). However, we get by just fine! She is so sweet and willing to slow down just a bit and chuckle at our poor attempts at conversation. Each day gets easier, and I grow more comfortable speaking the little spanish that I remember.

Today was our last day of orientation and we took a day trip to Tarragona (photos attached). Spain is so beautiful, I’m so glad that I didn’t let my fears (mostly of the language barrier) get in the way of coming here. There is so much history in all of these cities! I forget, when I’m in the US, that some places have such a long and diverse past. Tarragona is a city that was built on top of Roman ruins. New ruins are still being uncovered as the city buys old empty houses and takes them down to see what is underneath. Back when the houses were built they just reused what was already there, turning old roman walls and floors into part of the new construction.

I’m looking forward to seeing more of the sights in Barcelona and around Spain for the next three and a half months. I just hope that I don’t forget to do the touristic things while I’m here, as I already feel at home.

La playa

New friends and me at the beach in Tarragona. The sand is similar to our Oregonian sand but the water is much warmer :)

Castell

In Catalonia, the region where I am staying in Spain, they build human towers called Castells. This was a statue of a castell in Tarragona, the man in the foreground is playing music while those in the background form the base for a human tower, sometimes reaching nine bodies high. Children climb to the very top and wave to the crowd. I’m hoping I will see one at one of the several festivals that takes place in September here in Catalonia.

¡Hasta la próxima!

Elani

El Cristo

Finally Maggie, Olivia and I hiked up to El Cristo which is a gigantic statue of Jesus, similar to the one in Rio de Janiero but not nearly as huge. It was the longest hike of any of our lives. We took the long way up which consisted of several wrong terms and some 90 degree inclines. It was essentially a stairmaster for about 3 hours! We were exhausted.. plus the humidity just made things awful. Luckily we made it up there and we could not be happier. We took the rough way up which nobody else in the program had the guts to do and we think it made it wayyy more rewarding. We walked by a lot of interesting and beautiful things that made the trip much better than taking a bus 75% of the way there. We felt like true Spaniards hiking up to the top. About half way through the trip we all decided that we deserved to eat something super fatty and delicious after such a huge hike, a 12.3 mile day, and that place was McDonalds. Of course you do not come to spain to eat McDonalds but after over 3 weeks in a foreign country you want something that resemebles home. Even my host mom mentioned how good it was! So we all gave in and had it the next day… it was FANTASTIC! Plus they use 100% real beef and have some of the strictest food policies here in Spain so the food was even better. I had never been so happy to eat fast food before… or have a drink with ice cubes :) Anyway.. back to the hike. Once we got to the top we could over look the whole city and it was gorgeous! You could see just how compact Oviedo is snuggled behind beautiful green landscape. It was one of the best feelings to stand up there after seeing how far away we had hiked from. The Cristo was even better in person than we thought and the fence right infront of him had dozens of “love locks” hooked onto it that were really adorable. We enjoyed our accomplishment and then had to look forward to the next 2 hour hike back down. It was a great evening spent with new friends talking about everything from boyfriends to beauty secrets. These girls have been the best people to hang out with in Spain because we are always on the same page and it is always a funny and interesting time when we are together.

3 hours later

3 hours later

WOW

WOW

Mass in Spain

Today my friend Maggie and I attended a mass service at the giant cathedral here in Oviedo. It was a really fascinating experience and I am so glad we took the time to go. I am not catholic but Maggie is so she cued me on some of the things we were supposed to do even though neither of us really could translate the exact words of the mass. We were able to follow part of what the priest said and that is what counts. It was such a unique experience and I hope we can get the chance to go one more time before we leave. I really enjoyed being in a cathedral with so much history and being apart of a service that is so different from what I was raised in. This was a once, hopefully twice, experience of a lifetime. After that we went to the market and picked up a few random items for our friends and family back home. Including an old 1800’s Spanish book for my collection, S.H.I.E.L.D. comics in spanish for my boyfriend and an old skeleton key to add to my collection. Then Maggie and I had some tapas and enjoyed watching a little bit of spanish VH1 in the restaurant. It was a busy day but at the same time really relaxing. I still cant believe how lucky I am to be here and I know these next two weeks are going to fly by.

Maggie and I getting ready for Mass

Maggie and I getting ready for Mass