Tuesday, December 11, 2007

El Ultimo

Originally I meant for this blog to be something I did every few days and told all the cool stories and kept anybody interested generally informed. Now I see that this is exactly post number twelve which would make it a relatively weekly thing. Not quite as good as I had in mind, but better than it could have been.
I guess this time of year is hectic no matter where you are. And, while Spain is definitely laid back, being here is no exception. I gave a presentation this morning and I've got my final exam tomorrow. The fact that I'm writing this should give some indication as to how keen I am on studying. My presentation was over Disneyland and it went very nicely (if I do say so myself). I even busted out my harmonica to play the small world song and give everybody a taste of how horrid it is.
Last week we all got to be a part of something pretty sweet. We all went to a convent and sang Villancicos (Christmas carols) to all the little kids. They seemed to really enjoy it--especially when we gave them each a Christmas present afterward. One little girl got a tea set but abandoned it for her former favorite toy--a plastic sword. I spent the latter half of the evening pretending to die numerous times, and when I was tired of that I held her upside down by her ankles and was rewarded by a good solid bite on the kneecap. We sang for an old-people's home yesterday and they responded much better. I wasn't bit once.
It finally feels like this semester's running out of gas. I don't feel like doing anything anymore--during siesta I sit and play minesweeper on my computer until I can go back to school and do things like this. Back in the day I would have practiced some Spanish or gone to a cafe, but I just find myself thinking of the things I'm going to do at home. Still, it's getting harder and harder to see the people around me out here and know that I've got less than a week before the chances of seeing each other become much slimmer.
Anyway, I had better get to studying finally. If you're actually reading this blog still at this point I suppose I'll see you soon. So thanks for keeping up with me and Feliz Navidad!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Con Dos Semanas Mas...

Things are still just as sweet as always, but I am definately starting to pine for California. Sevilla's being decorated, and seeing all the Christmas stuff is making me feel like I should be at home. But there're a few final hurdles yet. I've got the final test next week and it seems like Salva gives us a new verb tense to learn every day. Not that I'm complaining, I love filling in the gaps, but that's a lot of information for one test. Also, next monday we have our final presentations--I'm doing mine on the history of Disneyland. It doesn't sound like the most serious presentation topic, I know, but who can resist el lugar mas feliz de todo el mundo?
This past weekend we went to Ronda, a town about 2 hours out of Sevilla and the fourth most popular city to visit in Spain after Madrid, Barcelona, and Sevilla itself. It's built up on a big hill with cliffs all around and the view is spectacular. We walked up to one point to see the view and Salva told us it was the "place of gosh." Figuring that his English was sadly lacking in this instance, I asked what he meant. He told me that whenever a tourist saw the drop-off they would say "gosh," hence the name. I looked at him like he was crazy because I doubted his translation and he told me that actually it had a similar name in Spanish but he wouldn't tell me because it was much too strong a word. After some begging from him and the other prof, I got them to give me the word but they still wouldn't translate it for me. So I got out my trusty Spanish cell phone and texted David back in Sevilla (he's the go-to-guy whenever we need to know something the professors can't tell us). He texted back thus: "well, that's a good one and it has several meanings--all of which are bad..." That has certainly been one of the highlights of my Spanish education. The rest of the city was beautiful, especially one long staircase down to the river below. It was a secret staircase back in the day and it had about 300 steps--everybody was panting by the top.
Another interesting adventure happened that night back in Sevilla. We were all hanging out by the river after midnight (which is still a perfectly reasonable hour in Sevilla) when we were accosted by a pair of Canis. Canis are the wannabe gangsters of Sevilla--they go around on their mopeds and dress in stripes and too many piercings and make trouble wherever they can find it, often with foreigners like us. One of the two was about 15 and the other one looked like he was on something, so we weren't too worried and we started a nice conversation with them. They started being unpleasant, so we felt it was safer to pretend we didn't understand them. When they were convinced that we didn't understand their spanish, they began to say some really unpleasant things about some of our mothers and the like. The older one even said some things about pulling out a pistol (which is supremely unlikely in Spain, so don't worry about me) but we still felt it was good to get out of there, so we left without any more trouble--I think they finally realized that we were a group of about 20 and they had 2--Margarita always tells me that the Canis are uneducated.
And speaking of Margarita, I think she's going to take it bad when we leave. Just yesterday we told her that we wanted to take her out for lunch this week (she doesn't eat dinner). We insisted on paying for her and she started to cry--extremely uncomfortable, but really sweet. I'm gonna miss her too, she's been great. Actually, it's all been great and it'll be sad to see it all go.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Lo Siento Todos

If there's actually anybody out there who's been reading this thing, I'm sorry for not having kept it updated the last few weeks. Time's flying here and I've completely lost track. It seems that every time I mean to do something I suddenly find myself in the next week with nothing accomplished. I'm completely shocked when I hear the buzz around me that there are fewer than three weeks left for this Spain shindig. I've been excited about home for a while now--but there's a lot out here that I'm going to miss.
We did the Thanksgiving thing last week--and actually managed to consume most of the basics. The biggest problem was that Spaniards have no idea how to serve turkey...so we got it right off the bone. But there was mashed potatoes, yams, corn, stuffing, and even an attempt at pumpkin pie, so it wasn't so bad. And being out and dressed up with all the school was a lot of fun. We had spent the whole afternoon playing football, so I was pretty beat that evening, but it was quite the party anyway.
I'm officially in the final class of the semester (actually the halfway test for this part is tomorrow). I'm still loving every minute of the class--even thought we're being completely engorged with new information at the moment. I remember, back at the beginning, when we were completely excited for new verb tenses--now we've gotten five during the last week and a half and they're all on tomorrow's test. Oh well, you do what you can.
I'm thinking that I've got to try and live these last few weeks up, but the whole Spanish lifestyle thing has gotten to me and I find myself just chilling all the time. I did a grand total of nothing this past weekend after Thanksgiving. And now every week that we have left has a long weekend. I don't know what I'm going to do with myself. Actually, if I've added it up right, we've only got something like 7 class days left. Hopefully Salva doesn't go too crazy on us.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

He Volvido a Sevilla

I really wasn´t sure about what to expect from this trip last week, but it turned out to be awesome. Michael came out and we spent a couple days in Madrid and a couple days in Rome and it all ended up being a really sweet time.
I took a bus to Madrid the night before Mike arrived and didn´t sleep at all in the hostel because I was worried about finding him in a foreign airport the next morning. But it worked out and I found him--and we both struggled through the day on not enough sleep. We did pretty well for not having a plan in Madrid--we saw lots of impressive buildings and parks and things. Day two was better after some sleep and we took a day trip to Toledo, definately a whole interest level above Madrid. There was some sort of festival going on, so we strolled around and sipped sangria.
We flew to Rome on Sunday and tried to keep ourselves from seeing the major sights--we wanted to save them for a later day and not run out of things to see. It turns out that it would be pretty difficult to run out of things to see in Rome. Nonetheless, we spent our first full day there (Monday) at the beach instead of touring the sights because we wanted to chill and see the Mediterranean sea (a first time for both of us). We had pizza for lunch and pasta for dinner and I began to develop the opinion that Italian food is better in the States.
Vatican city took the next day--we got hooked up with a great tour in English and had an amazing time. Michael and I both said that we had never appreciated art so much in our lives. The next day took in some more major stuff like the Colloseum and Palatine hill. It ended up raining and we got pretty soaked, but it was still a great day--almost impossible to be bored. Both of those nights we ate in the hostel and had the best meals of our trip, in my opinion. Real fresh Mozarella cheese right out of the liquid with fresh bread, apples, wine, and some goldfish crackers and beef jerky Mom had sent with Michael. It was a blast cutting through the cheese with a tiny pocket knife and drinking wine out of cheap plastic cups. Also, every night in Rome we would go out for gelatto and end up seeing some major sights all lit up. The Trevi Fountain was my favorite place in Rome and we saw it twice while chilling with a bowl of gelatto.
The final day got us miserably lost and soaked by the rain, but we eventually found our way to the Apian way and saw the famous Roman catacombs after splitting a piece of lasagna from the world´s oldest cookbook. We tried eating out again that night and enjoyed it more than the first time, but I´m holding on to my opinion that we just do it better on our side of the Atlantic. Michael gave in to me and we spent our final evening by the Trevi Fountain. I felt it was a pretty ideal way to remember the eternal city.
We flew back to Madrid on Friday and decided that we would finish the trip out by chilling instead of actively seeing the sites--which turned out to be a superb decision. Our last full day there we spent the morning in Madrid´s naval museum and then strolling through the park. We even rented a rowboat and tooled around a little lake there...definately five euros well spent. That night I tried to order one of my favorite Spanish foods for Mike--a serranito (sandwitch with a pork fillet, spanish ham, tomatoes, and a fried green chile. It turns out that that´s a Sevillan food and Madrileñas don´t know how to make one. I thought it was ok, but Michael couldn´t finish his so we went out for a spanish tortilla instead (pretty much a potato omelette). It´s too bad he couldn´t get to Sevilla with me because last night I had the best serranito of my semester (Margarita was too drunk to cook and took us out again).
Anyway, back to the trip, I left Mike at the airport Sunday morning, met up with a friend at the bus station, and was back in Sevilla by dinner. It is definately nice to be back in a place that feels so comfortable. However, it was great to share this trip with my brother. One of my biggest highlights was the fact that we weren´t so interested in the european nightlife (clubs and bars), so we would stay at our hostel. We always ended up laying on his bunk, sharing headphones, and watching Friends on his ipod. We realized about halfway through the week that we hadn´t ever told anybody that we were brothers--and then realized what they were probably thinking about two guys hanging out together in the same hostel bed...oh well. You may have noticed that all the pictures I've posted with this are of Michael--the way things worked out were that he was the official photographer of the trip, so I only have a few in total, and almost all with him. He promised that he'd send me the rest, but as of now I'm still waiting.
Being around Michael definately started me thinking about home. I´m going to miss my friends and Sevilla a lot when I leave, but I´m now looking forward to home very much. I sing Christmas songs to myself and it isn´t even Thanksgiving yet--the comercialized Christmas industry has nothing on me.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Gran Viaje

Sorry to everybody who reads this, I´ve been slacking lately. But I have a good excuse--Michael is definately coming out and I have been making plans for the two of us. We´re going to Madrid and to Rome, so hopefully I´ll have some sweet pictures for you after this coming week. That´s why I haven´t written, all my spare time has been spent with airlines and hostels.
There´s really nothing big to report on. Last Friday night we had our second "Noche de Chicos" which was a ton of fun again. We went out to play pool, had some tapas out on the sidewalk, got ice cream, and headed over to David´s apartment to watch some movies and hang out. There´re definately some really cool guys on this trip and I´m going to be sorry when the semester´s over.
On Saturday I went with mi amigo Eric to this fair they´ve got set up in the park. They call it the "feria de las naciones" and they´ve got different stands with food from all over the world. We both had a gyro from Greece and a Mojito from Cuba (and guacamole from Mexico)--food like that is always a highlight. I´m hoping it´s still going after my trip because I´d like to make a stop at Germany...there´s a bratwurst calling my name.
School´s been fine again--I´m going to take this opportunity to say once again that I adore my class. Salva´s a fantastic teacher and I´m never bored during our three hour classes. His birthday was tuesday, so we surprised him with some cake and soda (a good way to avoid more class time). And after the party he didn´t feel like class either, so we all learned a song in Spanish by a group called Maná. Now I´m a big Maná fan and Eric and I have been learning the guitar parts to sing along with the song.
On a lesser note, we´ve been seeing all the California fires on the news out here and just yesterday I found out that my aunt and uncle have been evacuated from their house. When I got the email their house was still ok, but I haven´t heard anything since. I figure I´ve got a nice captive audience here, so I´d like to ask you all for some prayers for them.
That´s all I can think of for now--just be prepared for a much longer one after my trip. I´m definately getting excited...although I´m sure I´ll be ready for my bed at Margarita´s house after some of the reviews I´ve read on these hostels. Oh well, life´s an experience. Say a prayer for me too. Thanks everybody.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Demasiado Viaje

It's awfully nice to be back in Sevilla again. After just one month this place feels comfortable--it's not like a vacation anymore, so I guess I'm pretty settled. After this last weekend of traveling, being in Sevilla is absolutely fantastic.
That's not to say that Dublin was bad--just that it was an incredibly draining two days. We left around noon on Thursday and returned to Sevilla around noon on Saturday; and while it was short, it was definately an experience. We didn't see the sun once the whole time we were there--but I guess that's a pretty geunuine part of Ireland. We spent Friday afternoon and evening tooling around Dublin--we saw the Temple Bar district and a couple bridges and statues and things...we even stopped in a pub for an authientic Guiness. We spent the night in a hostel, all in one group room with a bunch of other people--not terrible, but certainly not the most comfortable accomodations.
Having decided the night before that we needed more secure plans, day two ended up having some good stuff. We spent the day in a small town called Wicklow which is on the coast a couple miles south of Dublin. It was exactly the picture of the Emerald Isle that I had in my mind. It was full of quaint little houses and rolling green hills. We spent a few hours exploring some castle ruins on the cliffs and feeling like we should sing something Irish (but all I could think of was "Be Thou My Vision"). We also visited an old jail (they spelled it "Gaol") and took a sweet tour. That tour ended up being the highlight for most of us.
Back in Dublin we walked around and found some of the big sights--like St. Patrick's Cathedral. We couldn't go in, bit it was plenty impressive from the outside. That night we went to some sort of amateur stand-up comedy club in a basement pub in Dublin. It was fun, even though the "comedians" weren't that funny. Mostly they made jokes about sex and used a certain word that's better to type thus: f#%*. We then went back to the Temple Bar district to try and spend our night (we were planning on not sleeping). The highlights there were a crowd of drunk Danish kids and a guy who was offering 20 Euro to anybody who could ride his bike over a line--it was rigged to turn the opposite way of the handle bars (which is even funnier when the person trying is already very drunk). We ended up getting kicked out of a club (because we looked like ugly tourists) and finally catching a bus for the airport around 3:30.
We crashed there at the airport around a McDonalds table until we hit our flight. Then one sleepy flight, one quick bus trip, and a short walk later I celebrated my siesta in good Spanish fashion.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Viaje a Lagos

So, the Portugal plans worked out and the weekend was awesome. After some difficulty getting started, we got the cars rented and hit the road for Portugal. The border is a piece of cake, like driving from California to Arizona--the girls were upset that we didn't get to stop and have our passports stamped. We got a sweet deal on an apartment, and after spending the afternoon on the beach we cooked for ourselves and hung out on the roof of our building chatting and drinking wine.
We spent the next morning checking the tourist shops downtown in Lagos and waiting for the second car to show up (they came a day later because of some other thing Friday night). It was a little rough finding them, but we got it figured out after about two hours and a lunch of bread and cheese from a supermarket. We took them to check out the apartment and then the real adventures began.
We tried to find parking near the beach, but parking in Europe is a pipe dream. We saw a sign and turned in only to realize we were in a driveway next to the actual parking lot--so, being the daring driver (only driver), I hopped a curb and parked, then repeated the process in the other car because the other driver hadn't ever driven stick before. As we walked away we realized that we were in a paid parking lot--which is why all the locals on the road were pointing at us and looking angry. This made me rather nervous because I don't think I could deal with a towing service in Spanish, much less Portugese. So we left the girls on the beach and went back to hop the cars out again. There were tons of people watching and not looking happy, but I pulled both cars over the curb and we high-tailed it out of there with my heart banging its way out of my chest. All said, we got away clean and found way better parking about a mile up.
The beach was beautiful--full of cliffs and rocks and nice sandy areas for chilling. A couple of us spent all our time climbing up the cliffs and exploring the rocks and stuff--it was definitely a highlight of the trip.
We had planned to eat out, but everybody opted to cook in the apartment again. It took some patience with 6 girls trying to figure out dinner (I'm still surprised we ate), but it all turned out pretty well. We all stayed up late after that singing songs and dancing on the roof of the apartment--even after it started to rain.
Day three was boring for those of us who had gotten there first--the second group wanted to shop so we just waited for them and walked around aimlessly while getting soaked by the rain. But, all things considered, it really wasn't so miserable and it certainly didn't change the fact that the rest of the weekend was amazing--not everybody gets to take a weekend from studying and hit the Portugese beaches.