Monday, March 25, 2013

A very late follow up post. Better late than never.

Wow! It's been a year since Spain.  I can't believe it.  Although a lot has changes since then, a lot has also remained the same.  The thought of writing a "Back in the U.S." post has crossed my mind on several occasions,  but obviously I never followed through with it.  For anyone who gets my blog posts sent to their e-mail account, you are probably thinking "This blog still exists?"  Yes, yes it does.

Adjusting back to life in the U.S. really wasn't as difficult as I thought it might be.  There was the fact that my family rolled their eyes at me when I insisted that we ate dinner at 7:00 and not 6:00, like they liked to do.  I was used to eating a later dinner (around 8:30) in Spain and I just didn't have an appetite much earlier than that.  I missed seeing the beautiful Granada landscape everyday and hearing Spanish being spoken all around me.  After five months away from home though, I was more than happy to be back in America with my family and friends.  

Long story short, there is an oral proficiency exam that all Spanish Education majors must take.   Ask any Illinois State University Spanish Education major and they will tell you that the OPI=death.  You need to achieve an Advanced Low rating to continue on with the Spanish Education Major.  Did I mention that the 30 minute phone exam costs over $100 to take and that you have to wait 90 days in between attempts?  Needless to say I did not achieve this level, and as an incoming senior I didn't have time to keep trying.  I switched to a double major in Spanish and English Education.  I will still be qualified to teacher either English or Spanish and since I was already an English minor, this switch wasn't detrimental.  However, I have a lot of English classes to take still, and therefore am going a fifth year at ISU.  My theory is though, what is the rush to get out there in the real world?! 

My 22 birthday is this weekend and my parents are going to come visit me and take me out to dinner.  Although my 21st birthday was very different than the typical American 21st birthday celebration, it was everything that I could have hoped that it would be.  I look back at celebrating my 21st birthday in Spain with my mom and I can't help but smile.  I think about opening my birthday presents on the balcony of the Carols V Hotel,  having our picnic lunch at Frederico Garic Lorca park and going on a Tapa adventure for dinner that night.  Sometimes I forget that Spain really happened.  I am so thankful that I have so many pictures, so many memories, and this blog to remind me that I spent five months in that beautiful and unforgettable European city.  

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Heading Back to the U.S. Tomorrow

I'm all finished up with finals, my suitcases are packed up, and I just had my final meal and shower at my home stay.  I can't believe that I'm heading home tomorrow!  
First of all, here's a follow up of all of my concerns from my last blog post:
1. Finals.  My finals went really, really well.  I'm so relived about that.  I deserve it though because I studied really hard for all of them.  Somehow I had a slight mix up with the dates of my finals and just assumed that they were all on Monday and Tuesday.  However I actually had two Monday, one Tuesday, one Wednesday, and one Thursday.  I thought that I was going to have Wednesday and Thursday to relax, pack, and enjoy my last few days in Granada but instead I had to wait around, study, and procrastinate all day until 5PM on both Wednesday and Thursday to take my final teo finals.  Today was my Lituratura Espanola final and I totally nailed it.   I pretty much was able to quote my notes and information from our packed because that's how much I had studied for it.  My Flamenco final yesterday was...interesting.  I knew a lot of the stuff on it but I wasn't really sure what exactly he was looking for.  I wrote a ton of random stuff hoping that something eventually hit the point.
2. the OPI.  Still something that's on my mind.  Especially because someone just posted on the Granada Facebook page that they got an e-mail confirmation about their date to take it but I didn't get an e-mail.  
3. My online summer class.  I finally got everything figured out with that which is good. 
4. A summer job.  Apparently Augustino's Rock and Roll Deli is hiring! That would be a great place to work so I definitely have to apply there ASAP when I get home.  
5. Packing up my stuff.  I always let myself get way too stressed out when I pack.  It also always takes me way too long but I did it!  

It honestly didn't really hit my that I'm leaving until today.  When I went on my final run on the streets of Granada this morning, I started getting all sentimental, reflecting on all of the times that I've had here.  The other day Eva gave me a going away present.  She gave me a nice card, a necklace, bracelet with a K on it, earrings, and this adorable little magnet with a bull on it.  Then today she gave me these little dog clip on earrings.  She said that it was a way that I could remember both her and her dog Scooby.  It was really sweet! A few days ago I gave Eva the gift that I had made for her.  I wrote her a nice letter and put a picture of us at the bottom.  Then I brought a frame and framed the letter with the picture for her.  She loved it.  She said that  it was such a great way to remember me by and so much more personal then just a store-brought gift.
Today after my last final I blasted "Home" by Edward Sharp on my iPod and then headed over to look for a University of Granada t-shirt to buy  for a final souvenir before I left.  Although I need another t-shirt like a need a hole in the head, for only 8 euro I figured that it would be a nice memorial to have.  Once again, I took a little stroll down memory lane, getting a bit sentimental as I walked through the Arab markets near the Cathedral thinking about the first time that I had walked there with Eva a night or two after I had arrived in Granada.  

Tomorrow I am going to take the airport bus at 7:10AM to the Granada airport and then my flight from Granada to Madrid is at 10:05.  I have a layover in England and then I get to O'Hare at 5:55PM.  Luckily there is an airport bus bus stop really close to my house.  I figured that I would ask Eva if she could help me carry one of my huge suitcases to the bus stop in the morning, even though I'm sure that I can manage by myself.  Before I end this blog post with a "bang" I just want to mention that Eva has been somewhat sick this past week.  Her stomach has been really bothering her and she went to the doctor twice.  Anyways, I asked her about carrying one of my suitcases and she told me that she was really sorry but she couldn't help me because she isn't allowed to carry heavy things.  This is a new restriction as of today because she went to the doctor today and found out that she is....PREGNANT.  I had absolutely no idea and she really didn't either.  She said she thought that he was just sickly, tired, and sore all the time because of the heat and the change in seasons.  wow, wow, wow is all I can say.  

I want to finish up my final blog post with a little reflection on all of the times that I've had in Granada.  Here's a few pictures from my most memorable times these past 5 months:
January:  Orientation Day 1 and 2 where we took a walking tour of the city and saw the school building for the first time. 
The parade for the "Dia de los Reyes Magos" (Day of the three kings) where they pelted the crowd with a ridiculous amount of hard candies.
 Visiting the Alhambra and the Albayzin for the first time.
Paris, France during the week long break in between the intensive language course and the actual classes at the University. 
February:  Getting to know and love the city more and more.  These four girls were definitely four of my closest friends here in Granada and luckily three of them go to ISU too!  
Trip to Ronda
March: Weekend trip to Madrid with Amy, Rachel, Sarah, Marlee, and Katie
Mom visits during her Spring Break!
 and we take a trip to Malaga
April: Cordoba 
 and Sevilla with CEA
Nerja with Amy, Amy, and Ashley
Semana Santa
April/May: Watching a bull fight at the Plaza de Toros 
Dia de la Cruz
Lagos, Portugal 
And then just some other great pictures from the semester: Flamenco shows, the Albayzin and Sacromonte, art, food ect...

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Final Stretch! Ahhh

Wow, less then a week left in Spain!  Unfortunately I'm really, really stressed at the moment.  Also, I have absolutely no motivation to study for my five finals.  This is a big problem because I have three on Monday and two on Tuesday.  I didn't have class yesterday so I devoted the day to studying for my Historia de Espana final.  I procrastinated A LOT though and I have a feeling that today is going to be the same.  It's 12:40PM and although I've been up since 8AM, I have yet to start studying today.  Here are the things that are really stressing me out right now:
1. Finals (obviously).  I don't know why I  let myself get so nervous and freaked out about them.
2. The OPI (Oral Proficiency Exam).  This is an online phone interview exam that I am taking when I get back to the U.S.  In order to get certified to teach Spanish and also to take one of the classes that I am signed up for next semester I have to score an advanced low.  I've talked to a few people that have taken it already and none of them passed it the first time.  One girl had to take it four times and it's a $134 test! (at least for the first time you take it, then I think it's less when you have to retake it).
3. My online summer class starts on Monday too.  I can't figure out how to purchase the online book and material for it.  I also don't know when I'm going to have time to work on that.
4. I'm probably not going to have a job for the Summer which means I will be bored and not have spending money.
5. When am I going to have time to pack up all of my stuff?!

Alright here is just a few things about this past week...
It was SUPER hot here this entire week.  I felt pretty sick and tired a lot because I don't do well in the heat.  The last week of classes were pretty uneventful.  I wrote a five page paper for Flamenco and finally finished up reading my novels for Literatura Espanola.  Yesterday morning I went on a wonderful last extra long run along the river (9 miles).  I didn't look at my watch one time and just tried to take in the beautiful views of the mountains, river, and town.  In the afternoon I went to a tattoo parlor that is close to the CLM with my three friends because my one friend was getting a sparrow tattoo on her inner ankle.  After that we went to Ranchito Mexican Restaurant.  I had a tinto de verano because I am a cheep skate while they got Margaritas and Pina Coladas.  They bought us a plate of nachos for a tapa and it made me want taco night at my house so bad!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

CEA Farewell Lunch, the Sacromonte, and good ol' Bar Poe

Let me just start off by saying that I will be heading back to the U.S. in a little less then TWO WEEKS! ahh so crazy.  This week we had a Farewell lunch for CEA.  Since the lunch went from 2:15 until after 5 I had to miss my 3:30 class which was the first time that I've missed any class all semester.  Yes, that is what a fabulous student I am.  We went to a pretty random/unknown restaurant called La Hospedería where we were served our meal by two nuns haha.  On the facebook event page you were able to request a vegetarian meal and since I wanted to avoid being served some sort of beef or sausage or something, I opted for that option. To identify the vegetarian meal people from the rest, they gave us pretty flowers. 
They really should have told us that the large platters of Paella that they served us first weren't  the main dish.  Most of us were already full of bread and Paella when the nuns brought out the actual main meal.  The vegetarians were given salad and tortilla de pata and the non vegetarians were given chicken with potatoes and french fries.  There was such a ridiculous amount of food and I felt bad because a lot of it went to waste.  After the main meal there were two HUGE chocolate cakes and coffee and tea.  Our program directors each made a short speech about how much they had enjoyed the semester and such.
Friday morning I had an activity with my Flamenco class.  We met at Plaza Nueva at 11AM and walked to the Sacromonte to sit in on and watch a Flamenco class.  To get to the Sacromonte we had to walk up a ton of super steep side-streets.  Hiking up there in 80+ degrees weather wasn't too enjoyable.  We were able to watch a Flamenco class that was talking place in the "Escuela Internacional de Flamenco."  There were three women, two guys, and an instructor.  The class was held in an auditorium type room with a huge glass window that looked out over the Alhambra! 

 After watching the class we saw some of the "las cuevas" (caves) of the Sacromonte.  We also went to the "Escuela Carmen de las Cuevas."  There we went up to the rooftop and got the most AMAZING view of the city.  
My friend Rachel and I had made plans to go souvenir shopping in the afternoon.  I knew that I wouldn't want to go all the way back home for lunch just to leave again shortly after so I sat down in the park and ate my sandwich and fruit that I had packed.  That afternoon I met up with Rachel because we wanted to buy the final touristy items for our friends and family.  I bought some little things like key chains, postcards, and a sweet Paella magnet! I also found this really cool boomerang thing that is decorated with colorful beads, a pictures of a toro, and says Granada on it.  I am going to hang that in my room at home.  After leaving my house at 10:40AM that morning, I finally came back at 8PM, exhausted, dehydrated, and so ready to relax and call it a night.  

On Saturday afternoon I went to Federico Garcia Lorca Park with Rachel to work on schoolwork and enjoy the beautiful weather.  It's funny because every time I do to that park I end up running into more of my friends there.  We saw Alejandra, Killian, Demetria, and Anastasia at the park so we sat with them.  That night I went out for tapas at bar Poe with some friends.

Sunday was a nice and relaxing day.  In the morning I had a very accomplishing run.  First of all, I was stopped by a Spanish woman and her husband pushing their adorable baby in a stroller. The woman told me (in Spanish) that they were visiting here and asked if I new of a place where they could go to get drinks/breakfast.  I felt very accomplished that I was able to both understand her perfectly and was able to tell her that she was very close to a street that has several cafes.  Then I randomly came across this event that was sponsored by a popular brand of milk called Puelva. There were a bunch of tents set up, music, and a speaker.  The even was to promote healthy breakfasts and just a healthy lifestyle in general.  They were giving out draw string goodie bags filled with a free t-shirt, milk juice box, and water bottle so I got one of those.  The rest of the day I worked on homework and finally finished my flamenco paper.  I have one week of classes, finals week, and then home to the U.S.! 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Lagos, Portugal

This weekend I went to Portugal with everyone from my program, CEA.  We had two coach buses full of people so it was a pretty large group.  While we were in the city of Lagos we went on a sailboat cruise, had a grotto tour, spent a lot of time at the beach and went to the "end of the world."  Just a smidge of history about Lagos before I start: From 1578 to 1756 it was the capital of Portugal and is located in the Algarve region of Southern Portugal.  The fortified city wall and coastal fortresses are left from the Roman Empire, Moorish invasions, and numerous pirate raids that have occurred in the city.  One of the places that we visited during this trip, called Cabo Sao Vicente (AKA "the End of the World") is where they shot one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies! 

Friday morning we left Granada bright and early at 7AM.  After a time change of 1 hour back we arrived in Lagos a little after 1PM.  The first thing that we did was check into our hotel.  We stayed at a really nice hotel called the Marina Club.  
I was really happy that my randomly assigned roommates were three of my friends, Ashley, Sarah, and Kelsey.  The rooms were ginormous.  We had our own kitchen with a fridge, microwave, table, and fully stocked cabinets with plates, silverware, and anything else we could possibly need.  We also had a living room complete with two couches, a coffee table, and a TV.  
After checking into the hotel we went on a sailboat cruise and a tour of the grotto.  We were extremely lucky during this trip because both Friday and Saturday there was an extremely high chance of rain but it barely rained the whole weekend.  The sailboat cruise was a lot of fun!  They played music and a few people even jumped into the freezing cold water.  We took a smaller boat in smaller groups to get a closer view of the grotto.  After the Sailboat tour we had free time before meeting up again for dinner at 7:15PM.  Ashley, Amy, Rachel, Sarah, Marlee, Katie, and I walked down to a beach to hang out before going back to the hotel to take showers before dinner.  

Since we had such a large group of people on this trip, we had two different dinner groups that depended on what bus you had taken on the way there. The first night our group went to a restaurant called Nahnahbah.  This Lounge/Cafe restaurant is known for having one of the world's 50 best hamburgers.  Each table got two appetizers; a huge plate of nachos loaded with all of the toppings and potato skins.  After the appetizers everyone got a massive burger with fries.  Since I don't eat hamburgers or french fries, I opted for the option which was a large and delicious plate of pasta with bread.  After dinner I walked around the city for a bit with some of the girls. 
Saturday morning Ashley and I woke up and ran along the beach before having an amazing buffet style breakfast in the hotel.  I love how Spanish breakfast buffets have vegetables too and conveniently everything that you need to make a sandwich (since lunch wasn't provided for us on this trip). This breakfast buffet had delicious marinated and grilled tomatoes and mushrooms. They were perfect to eat with the scrambled eggs that they had.  There was also slices of pineapple, kiwi, oranges, delicious Spanish melon, mango juice, cereal, etc.  After breakfast we went to a spot with an amazing view to take pictures and such before heading to a beach where we had the option to "cliff dive" off of this large rock.  It wasn't the warmest day ever since it was windy and cloudy, but a lot of people decided to brave the icy cold water and jump off the rock anyways.  
We spent about two hours at the first beach and then went to a beach called Praia Dona Ana that was very close to our hotel.  At 7PM we took a bus excursion to Cabo Sao Vicente aka "the End of the World" to watch the sunset.  After watching the sunset our bus (which we called "the chicken bus" that day to distinguish between the "hamburger bus" that was going to the restaurant that we had eaten at the night before) took the half hour bus ride back to the city and straight to the restaurant.  First they bought us plates of salad, chicken, french fries, and bread to share.  Then for dessert everyone got a piece of flan.  That night we all just hung out in one of the hotel rooms, since they were the size of small apartments pretty much.  

Sunday was our last day in Lagos.  We were pretty much on our own for the whole day until meeting up in the hotel lobby at 1PM to check out and head back to Granada.  After a morning run along the beach and yet another delicious buffet breakfast in the hotel, Amy, Sarah, Alllie and I headed out to do some souvenir shopping.  I brought postcards and a snow globe for my collection.  The problem was that I couldn't find a plastic snow globe so I had to buy a glass one.  Let's hope that I can safely transfer it back to the U.S.! The ride back to Granada felt really long because I was pretty bored and really anxious to just get back.  It was also semi-annoying and unnecessary that we took two 30 minute breaks because by the second break everyone was ready to go within 15 minutes.  Oh well.  It's so crazy to think that this "last hurrah" is over with.  The next trip on the agenda: back to the United States!  But first I have to get through two more weeks of classes and then finals week.  

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Rest of My Long Weekend

Sunday was a perfect day to just relax and do nothing since it was so deary and rainy.  I pretty much stayed in and skyped my mom, napped, blogged, and did other random things.  That night I went to Mayerlings with Kristen and Amy.  I didn't get anything because I was a bit broke after Nerja, but they each got some pretty sweet tapas.

Monday after breakfast I went and picked up my ticket for the bull fight from a travel agency in town.  Then in the afternoon I went on a fun little trip to Carrefour with Amy W, Amy M, and Kristen.  When we all met up at the Palacio de Congressos we realized that our group consisted of Amy, Amy, Kristen, and Kristen haha.  After all buying some random snacks and such at Carrefour we were going to walk home but it was pouring rain.  We decided to wait it out for a while and snack on some of our random cookies and chips while we waited.  I don't no why going to Carrefour always seems like such an adventure, since it's just a large, Walmart Supercenter-like store, but it is.

Tuesday was the day of the Corrida de Toros! I pretty much knew before I went that I wouldn't enjoy the bull fight very much or enjoy watching multiple bulls getting killed in one show.  However, I figured that going to one is something that I should experience while I had the change to since it is such a big part of the culture of Spain.  Amy, Ashley, Killian, Hiliary and I met up and walked the long walk to the Toro Plaza.  We didn't know when we brought our tickets online that they assign you a seat, but a bunch of the girls ended up getting seats together anyways.  Even though my seat wasn't by them, I just sat next to them anyways.  

Our seats were right next to a group of Spanish boys who were about our age.  They came very prepared with lots of "beverages," a huge loaf of bread, cheese, several different kinds of meats, and even a whole ham leg! It was pretty funny.  They were very friendly, offering me some of their drinks and food and inviting me to a party that night hahaha.  There were six different bull fighters throughout the show, which meant that six bulls were killed! It was so sad.  I actually only stayed until the intermission though, so I only saw three bulls killed.  I'm glad that I went and experienced a bull fight in Spain, but I don't have any desire to go to another one.  Seeing one is enough for me.