Getting into a Groove

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¡Buenos días!
I'm starting the third week of my full on semester classes, and they are going increasingly well. I think that Morris ought to offer non-language courses in foreign languages, because let me tell you- I have yet to doze off because I'm constantly on my toes being lectured at in Spanish. Even my film class demands constant attention! Needless to say, I am loving school. My schedule's a lot different than any I've ever had in Morris. I've got plenty of free time to wander the city, chat with my senile Spanish Granny or play with the puppy my host sister bought with Scholarships money. What the life! My classes are really interesting, and it really helps that I can talk to my host family about the material covered in class to get other opinions about it and for further clarification. For instance, I'm learning about the beginning of the Guerra Civil of the 1930's here, which was the end of the Segunda Republica and the beginning of the Franco Era. I heard some stories about the war from Maria Luisa (Granny) who was 12 when the war broke out. She lived with her older sister at the time, who was married and I guess lived in a safer house. Granny's blind and even though it's not the most Christmas-y of stories, blind old ladies telling stories that involve finger guns are awesome. *pew pew pew* Marieta, my host mom is a good source for stories about growing up in the later part of the dictatorship. She studied in France for some time as a young woman, but couldn't get her own passport without her dad essentially co-signing for her. She is an adamant socialist now, and I'm looking forward to the political discussions we'll be having. My professor in this class specifically said she would be assigning minimal homework so that we could get ourselves out into the Spanish culture to learn for ourselves what it means to be Spanish. It is really fascinating, as I learn new things everyday, that this country not so long ago was ruled by a dictator. I think the reason that people don't talk much about this bloody dictatorship is because many Spaniards are also not talking about it. It's as if the country's taken an oath of silence. People are still wildly divided on the issue as well, there are many people who will defend Franco, and just as many who want to see his memorial tomb destroyed. I highly recommend reading the book 'Ghosts of Spain' by British journalist Giles Tremlett for a more in depth history, it's a great read. My history geek is having a total hay day here because all of my classes, except one are historical in one way or another. I'm by osmosis learning a bit about the royalty of the Enlightenment era through the paintings of Goya in Art History, learning about the much more ancient history of the Iberian peninsula and Arabic culture from my Islamic culture class, and in my film class we're watching movies about the second republic and the history of Flamenco. WOOOHOOOOO Can anyone say Liberal Arts student? Someone should pay me for this.
Now that school has started, as this entry's title suggests, I am indeed finding my groove. I had a few ups and downs of adjustment and culture shock over the past month, but I think now I'm finally feeling at home. I go running every morning, whether in Parque Federico Garcia Lorca or alongside the river that runs through town or towards the gardens near Alhambra or in the middle of all the streets where the ladies in heels and fur look at me like I'm the devil... It's pretty fun. I have discovered a few really great bands from Spain and put their music on my iPod so even my running soundtrack is Spanish! Which is good, because it's like pulling teeth to get my American friends to speak Spanish and I can't find Grey's Anatomy online in Spanish. (if anyone can... please tell me!)
The food situation leaves something to be desired for me... my host mum's not a real culinary genius (Mama Jo- I am CRAVING your enchiladas right now.) and the portions are about what I would expect for weight watchers or geriatrics (on the bright side, now I'm not so worried about gaining weight) I get a lot of weird bean mixtures and bony meat... but the Paella is wonderful (I eat shrimp now I guess). I have an intercambio (a Spaniard who I hang out with to practice my Spanish and they practice their English) named Sara who has promised to teach me how to make Tortilla Española and some other staple foods. She was my friend's roommate and is SO helpful to talk to! We get along pretty well so I think we're going to be good friends by the time I leave. Back to food, because I'm waiting for dinner and starving, I haven't had anything remotely spicy since I got here. The Spanish are not real hip on that I guess. I even broke down and ordered off the spicy menu of the Mexican restaurant. Tasted like Aunt Marge's Tacos, spicy to Norwegians and laughable to Mexicans. I was thoroughly saddened. A friend of mine found a corner store that sold Siracha hot sauce, probably going to get myself some. There are bountiful amounts of chocolaterías, pastelerías and cafeterías with the most delicious pastries and desserts I've had the pleasure of eating. They're cheap too. That is dangerous. But I walk everywhere and have a good running schedule so who gives a rip! My favorite thing in the whole world is a chocolate Neopolitino- think chocolate filled croisant but even better. Heaven you can buy for 50 centimos if you know where to go.

So now that I've perhaps got you a little hungry for a snack, I bid you farewell.
Hasta Luego!

ps: more Music to share!
pretty great if you ask me!
the book I mentioned:

Graffiti in Granada

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Hola, que tal?
For this entry, I'm just going to tell people a little about the street art I've been running into over here in Granada. The most predominant is the Graffiti on the walls of buildings or whatever other kinds of walls there are in cities. First, there's the typical stupid graffiti that ruins it for all the other graffiti. The tags that are poorly done or the expressions of youthful love that will never die, we all know how that turns out. There's a whole wall of these in the Frederico García Lorca park, amongst the artistic expressions is a shout out to arguably the world's best bands. Linkin Park. Don't ask... it is seriously just the name of the band sprayed on the wall, no shading or texture or anything fancy. I crack up every time I see it.
A very specific type of graffiti is the art, it is true art, done by the artist known as 'El niño de las pinturas' his works are often social commentaries, very colorful and detailed. He uses human figures the most along with phrases of inspiration or criticism and cogged wheels to symbolize a dream. They're really fantastic, I would include a pic if I weren't so tech unsavvy. Maybe google it if you want to see, or wait til I'm back next year.
The last 'genre' of graffiti that I want to talk about is the angry rips on the government done by the anarchists of the city. The economic state of Spain is in shambles, not quite Greece status, but certainly worse than the states. The unemployment and underemployed figures are staggering. With that bit of info in your pockets, I was walking past an official building of the bank of spain and someone had painted LADRONES on the side, which means thieves. There are other things all over the city that I've stumbled upon on my walking, for instance a pair of 'Spain is pain' and 'Spain is not Spain'. Another calls for free abortion and adoption, one more says the Albaicín's doing things right- calling for a better sense of community. I want to find some friendly anarchists and be friends with them.
In other news- I just got back to Spain after spending a week in Slovakia with one of my best friends. I got to go to a sauna spa (so great) re-learned how to ski and many other fun activities. Skiing is way hard this time around, I'm worse than Bridget Jones in the second movie. Good times, my entire body is covered in bruises... and it's been four or five days. Slow healing I guess. Tonight, my 'real' classes start! I'm pretty excited, I'll be taking them in Spanish so hopefully I'll be getting WAY better at listening, and I can meet all sorts of new friends. I'm taking Cultura islámica en España/Islamic Culture in Spain, a Spanish grammar/writing class, La imagen de la mujer en la literatura española/Portrayal of Women in Spanish Lit, Historia de España (desde Franco hasta la actualidad)/History of Spain (Franco to now), and Historia del cine español/History of Spanish Film. Pretty cool schedule, I don't have class until 6:30 on Monday's and Wednesday's, but I'm in class ALL DAY on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but nothing Fridays! Welcome to the 3 day weekend :) and a better running schedule.

Until next time! Hasta Luego.

Bienvenidos a España

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¡Hola a todos!
At the point that I'm writing this, I have been in Spain a mere 2 weeks to the day. WOW. So far I've been in Granada and in classes even less. Spain is amazing. In true Minnesotan fashion, I have to comment on the weather. The weather is mostly great (better than Morris!!) so I've been wearing light jackets and bumping up against frozen Spaniards in full on FUR COATS. Not kidding folks. To the locals, it's a brutal 5 degrees Celsius, meaning a balmy 41 degrees F. The program directors and my host mom keep telling me to bundle up, I can't help but chuckle.
Granada is a fantastic place, describing it in words only does an injustice, but I've got to try it any way. From the terrace of my host family's piso (apartment) I can see the Alhambra in front of me and the snow capped Sierra Nevada mountains to my right. Everything is tall, cobblestoned, old, colorful, loud, exciting, simple, complicated all at the same time. I'm not at a point where I can really tell you what I'm doing with my life, any future plans or such, but I can tell you that I'll report back the most exciting news.

For now, the most important things for you to know are thus:
1) You only lithp the c's and z's in the middle and ends of spanish words. not the s's.
2) Is it a horizontal surface? It's a road. Motos and cars and delivery trucks. You don't think that ice truck with fit in this alley along with all the pedestrians?
3) Buy a €2 beer, get free food. They're called tapas; don't die without eating some.
4) Spanish women are my idols. Not only are they often working wives and mothers of adorable children but they always look damn good and they get everywhere (from kid schlepping to grocery shopping) on foot . Not just on foot, anybody can do that, but in heels and on cobblestone. You're not human if you're not impressed.
5) Churros con chocolate y café con leche.
6) Granada Fútbol is not a joke. Even though their color is Pepto-Bismol Pink. These fans are crazier than Real Madrid's.
7) The hipsters in Granada are so cool. For hair styles they all have any possible combination of: shaved head, total or partial, dreadlocks, rat-tails, mohawks. Usually the two later are made of dreadlocks that reach to their midsection. Almost all are musicians.
8) Teterías- all are cozy and wonderful, some have free hookah if you buy enough delicious and cheap tea.
9) The cheek kisses are not actual kisses, but 'cheek brushes'. Don't caress the person's face if it's your first time meeting, or ever probably. I may or may not know from personal experience.
10) Olive oil and oranges. I woke up one Saturday morning to a bowl of olive oil with some beans in it. Not the best meal I've had. At least the orange was great!

Now that you've learned 10 new brilliant things, I'll leave you with an awesome song. You don't need to know Spanish to love it. It's called Todos los días sale el sol, by Bongo Botrako. follow the link! If you're a good enough detective you can download this and other albums for free.

More to come later! Once I've gathered my thoughts and such, more organization...

¡Hasta Luego!

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