7/23

Today I went running along the Ruta de Don Quijote. It rained for the first time ever in Spain and it felt very nice. It was not really rain, just a very light sprinkle. Then I went over to Mari Carmen´s house to practice English/Spanish and have lunch. Her mom made paella and it was delicious! she is going to give me the recipe for it, along with huevos rellenos (stuffed eggs) which are also delicious.

Now I am at the Fund waiting for my last class. I will take my final and in about 2 hours I will be done with school in Spain. Then it will be packing, shopping, and fiesta-ing for the next few days and then off to Rome. It has been a very fun time and I want to go back some day to finish seeing the rest of Spain.  

7/22

Yesterday I ate a whole fish for the first time. It is normal to cook fish and serve them whole here. My host mom asked me if I wanted her to cut the head off before she served it to me, but I declined, I did it myself. It was really really good, although there were lots of bones. I will definitely be eating more fish when I go back to the US. I have it almost every day here.

I went to the Mercadillo yesterday with my intercambio, Mari Carmen. We walked around for a while and I bought gypsy pants for myself and Megan K. I can´t wait to see what she thinks of them. Then we walked around Toledo for another hour or so and visited her mom at work. Tomorrow I will be going to her house for lunch and her mom is making Paella. I am excited because I have been in Spain for over 5 weeks now and have yet to eat paella. Mari Carmen is probably going to come to MN next summer. She will stay with me part of the time and Abbie part of the time. I´m very excited to show her all around Minnesota and possibly take a trip down to Chicago.

Today is my last day of work (yay!) and tomorrow is my last day of class. This trip has gone by so fast! In five days I will be in Rome, and in a little over a week I will be back in the US. I´m excited and sad to be done. I need to start organizing my luggage and figure out how I´m going to bring everything back!

This weekend has been very relaxing. On Friday night I went to Merche´s house for dinner. Merche is Carmen´s sister. Lolo, Eva, and their one-year-old daughter Elsa also came along. we had spaghetti and it was really good. My "tio" Alfonso showed up in a brand new convertible so he took us for a drive around Toledo which was very fun. Afterwards we went out for a drink and then back home. Saturday I made tacos for Carmen, Javi, and Merche. I also made guacamole which was really yummy. They really liked everything, and it was the first time Carmen had ever had a taco. Later that day I went to Madrid with some friends to see Harry Potter. It was so good! I can´t wait for the last one to come out. I think I am going to reread all the books...again.

Sunday I slept in and did some homework. In the afternoon I went to the local pool. The water was the perfect temperature. Very refreshing in the 90 degree weather. Then I went to my first mass. It was interesting. I couldn´t really catch much of what the priest was saying because their sound system echoed a lot. Afterwards I went over to Rosario´s for dinner (Rachel adn Alyssa´s host mom). Her friend Pilar was there with her son Juan who has Julian´s Syndrome. He was cool, but he was sitting right next to me and kept scooting his chair closer to me and touching my hands and bracelets. Everyone thought it was hilarious and kept telling me he was flirting with me and I was like yeah I noticed. I felt bad but it was just super uncomfortable. Oh well, it was an experience.

Today I am at work. It is my second to last day and I don´t have a whole lot to do. I guess I will see if I can find a couple more articles to translate. I have exactly two weeks left in Europe. One week in Spain and one traveling. I am very excited to go to Rome, Paris, and London and then back home!

7/15

So it´s getting towards the end of the program, just over one week of class left. I give my final presentation tomorrow for my internship class. It will be nice to get that over with. And then next thursday I have my final exam for my Spanish history class. I think it will go pretty well, the class is very interesting. I have a lot of work to do for it though today. I have to read an article, write a paper, and correct two previous papers. That is how I will be spending my afternoon today. My grammar is at a pretty good level in my papers, but I seem to have a problem with prepositions. I never know when to use con, a, de, hacia, etc. I mix them up. Unfortunately my professor does not teach grammar, so she said she couldn´t really explain the reasoning behind the different uses. I will either have to ask one of the other professors here or wait till I get back to the states and ask my professor there.

The past couple days have been pretty laid back, just doing homework and hanging out with Alyssa and Rachel. Tonight is the talent show, so I will eat dinner in the Fund and then go to that. I didn´t sign up to do anything, but my friend Ivory is singing and I can´t wait to here what she picked. She is the understudy for Cinderella at the Children´s Theatre this Christmas. I will definitely try to go see her when she performs.

One interesting experience-yesterday on the bus there was a mom and her son obviously visiting, but I assumed they were Spanish. However, she started talking to me in Portuguese asking me if lived here or was visiting. I told her I was from the US visiting. We talked for a while. She talked in Spanish/Portuguese and I spoke in Spanish. We understood each other for the most part, which was very interesting to experience. 

That´s all for now. I´m just working and finishing up classes. Then I´m off to Rome!

Los San Fermines

This weekend was probably the craziest so far. On Thursday night we all went out, although we knew we had to get up at 7am to go to el Escorial. So we stayed out in Toledo till about 3 and then headed back home to sleep. At 8:30 the bus arrived to take us to el Escorial. El escorial is a huge monastary/palace and Spain´s "8th wonder of the world." I didn´t think it was that great. It was all made of granite, so interesting decorations/carvings were pretty much impossible. However, the royal crypt was very cool. The kings and queens are kept in a circular room made completely of green and blueish marble. The last king and queen are waiting right now in a different room to be taken to the royal burial room. All the kings and queens have to wait 50 years before their bones can be moved to the marble room. However, the crypt will be full after the previous king and queen, so the current king and queen will have to be buried elsewhere.

After el Escorial, we went out to eat and then headed to Madrid. We would take a train from Madrid to Pamplona at 1am, so we had about 7 hours to kill. in Madrid. We walked around for a while, bought some white clothes for Pamplona, and decided to see a movie. We saw the Proposal in Spanish. It was good and I understood most of it, but I think I will have to watch it in English when I get back so I can understand all the little humor and hear Sandra Bullocks real voice. I´m not a huge fan of dubbed movies, it just looks and sounds weird. Afterwards we got on the metro and headed to our bus station. We went out to eat close to the station and bought snacks for the bus ride. The bus station was full of people dressed in white and red, all ready for San Fermines. The bus ride took about 5 1/2 hours and I was FREEZING. I was wearing a white dress and the air conditioning was blowing right on me the entire time. Needless to say I did not sleep much, I was just attempting to stay warm.

We arrived in Pamplona at 6am and were greeted by a swarm of wine stained drunk people and garbage. It was the craziest thing I´ve ever seen. The entire city was covered in garbage, it smelled like pee, and we actually saw human poop and the street. Everyone there was either drunk or making there way towards being drunk, and everyone was dressed in white and red. The actual running started at 8am. We fought our way towards the front and stood there squished between a million people waiting for the bulls to run. We couldn´t really see very well cuase of all the people but it was a fun experience. There were people climbing up on the overhangs over stores to see better, and when the police tried to make them get down the crowd started throwing water bottles at the police. It was hilarious.

After the running, we went and got something to eat and decided to join the dirty San Fermin culture. We found a couple benches in the sun and took a nap in the streets. I felt like a homeless person, but I was so tired I didn´t care. By the afternoon we were all dirty and tired like everyone else in Pamplona. Later we went to a park and watched these weird games. Like who can throw the hay bale the highest. It was interesting. We talked to a group of Spanish guys who tried to make us miss our train back. Some of them were nice, one of them was a typical Spanish guy-arrogant, needy, and very forward. We told them that although having a drink with them would be fun, we really needed to get back to Toledo.

At the bus station Farrah and I shared a Pizza Hut pizza and it was like heaven. Then we got on our bus and prepared for another 5 hour bus ride. We sat by a couple guys from London and Ireland, so we talked to them for a while and attempted to sleep. When we arrived in Madrid we had about 40 minutes to make it to our train to Toledo. We hustled to the metro and waited anxiously to get to our stop. We made it to the platform at 9:45pm and the train left at 9:50, we made it just in time. At 10:20 three very tired, dirty (haven´t showered since Friday morning) girls arrived in Toledo.

We quickly got cleaned up and were picked up by Alfonso to go to his birthday party. It was very fun, but by 4am we were all very cranky and ready for bed. Alfonso took Farrah and Katie back to the Fund, and Rachel, Alyssa, and I crashed in a couple beds in the cigarral.

It was a crazy, sleep-deprived weekend, but it was very fun. We spent Sunday eating and sleeping. Hopefully we will be recovered enough for Monday classes.

7/8

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So yesterday was not a good morning. I did not hear my alarm (or else I heard it and turned it off in my sleep) and I did not hear my host family getting ready, so I didn´t wake up till 12. Therefore I completely missed my first class, and they called Carmen to see where I was! So embarrasing, but oh well it´s just one class. For my evening class I had a group presentation about the Spanish family. I talked about children being more independant now as far as job choosing goes. In the past in was inevitable that a son would continue the profession of his father, but now people go to school and chose what they want to do. Also, we discussed the "Only Child" phenomenon here in Spain. Women here wait till they´re over 30 years old to have kids, and when they do, they only have one. Some psychiatrists think that because of this, Spanish society is loosing the feeling of brotherhood and solidarity. That could be true, but I think that kids are just more spoiled here. They are like little dictators. It´s interesting to see.
I had to translate an article today about wind energy costs from English to Spanish. It was pretty hard because there were a lot of technical terms and phrases that don´t exist in Spanish. For example, "wind farm performance" and "component parts." I finished it though and thought it was pretty good. I have a ton of homework to do today, including coming up with a skit about Spanish families between 1990 adn 2000. That should be interesting. I also have to come up with a lesson plan for teaching English. I am teaching my intercambio student English, and it is harder than it seems, because you don´t think about grammar when you´re speaking your native language, you just speak it. So I have to go online and review a bunch of grammar rules.   

Weekend in Barcelona

On thursday night Alyssa, Rachel, Kayla, Lauren, and I took the last train at 9:30pm to Madrid. I had class till 9pm so I had to rush to the station, but made it just in time. Once we got to Madrid we made our way to the airport. Our flight left at 8:20 Friday morning but we didn´t want to spend money on a hostel so we decided to chill in the airport all night. We got there around 11pm and went to get some food. We talked for a while and walked around, but the airport was pretty dead, so we got very bored. Around 1am we found a spot to camp out and started watching Eternal Sunshine on Lauren´s computer. We all began to fall asleep but it was FREEZING in the airport and the floors were marble, so the floor was ever colder. We all busted out our beach towels and curled up in those, but the only person who could actually sleep was Rachel. She was out for a good 6 hours. The rest of us kept waking up and trying to get back to sleep. Everytime I woke up I put on another article of clothing from my backpack. By the time my alarm rang, the only things left in my bag were swim suits and underwear. I looked ridiculous and was still cold! From now on I will always bring a sweatshirt/jacket no matter how hot the place I´m going to is.

We got up around 6:30 and went to find some breakfast. Then our flight left and we were headed to Barcelona. Upon arriving we had to take a bus into Barcelona and then the metro to our hostel. When we got to our hostel, we found out that they had only reserved us 6 beds even though we reserved 7 online (we had two more people coming later that day). So they put five of us in one room, and two in this storage type of room so they wouldn´t have to be by themselves in rooms with random people. It took a while to figure everything out. Oh well. The hostel was nice and was very close to the beach. During the day, Rachel, Alyssa, and I went to the Picasso museum and Sagrada Familia. Picasso museum was very interesting. His art changed dramatically throughout his lifetime. The Sagrada Familia was amazing. It was Guadi´s final and most beautiful masterpiece. However, he only finished part of it. He left blueprints when he died so that the people of Spain could finish it. Now it´s constructon is funded by entrance tickets and private donations. It has come along way but will probably be another 25 years till it´s finished. Everything is extremely detailed and artistic, and once the middle tower is finished it will be the highest point in Barcelona. There will be 18 spires representing the 12 disciples, the 4 evangelists, Mary, and Jesus, who make up "La Sagrada Familia" (the holy family).

In the evening we went out to eat and had a bunch of diferent tapas, including prawn and squid. The prawn was gross. It still had it´s eyeballs and feet things and everything. The squid was good though. Then we spent the night on the beach, talking to some other people staying at our hostel and going for an evening swim.

It was interesting to be in Barcelona because they speak Catalan, not Spanish. They can all speak Spanish, but they will first talk to you in Catalan until you give them a very confused look and ask "que?"

Saturday Rachel, Alyssa, and I went on a tour of Barcelona on bikes. It was very fun and we got to see all of Barcelona. We spent the rest of the day on the beach taking in the sun. That night we went to eat at a mexican restaurant because we were all craving something more american haha. It was good, but I had the worst Margarita of my life. It was supposed to be mango flavored but just tasted like tequila with some watery juice. After that we went on to a local bar that has been around since 1882. They haven´t really changed anything so it had no air conditioning. You started sweating instantly when you walked in. However it is known for it´s absinthe and we wanted to try it. So we made our way up to the bar and all ordered a glass of absinthe. It tasted like black licorice times ten. Luckily I like black licorice, but the rest of them had a hard time putting it down :) It was interesting but I don´t think I could drink more than one or two in a night. It is very strong.

After that we had to get to our bus. It left at 3:15 and our flight left at 6:50. We had a little time chilling in the airport but not enough to sleep. So by the time we finally got back to Toledo none of us had slept in 25 hours. So I went back to my host family and took a four hour nap. It was a great weekend. Barcelona has been my favorite city so far.

7/1

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I am starting to really dislike renewable energy sources. For the past three hours all I have been doing has been reading websites about wind turbines. He wants me to find out how much money you can make off a wind farm, I´m assuming per kilowatt hour. Unfortunately this is different for every company depending on location, size of the turbine, whether or not it´s connected to a grid, which grid it´s connected to, how much they pay their workers etc. so I´m begining to think this project is impossible.
Later on today I will be meeting with my intercambio student again, during siesta time :( oh well I guess there will be no siesta for me today. After that I have to go right to the fundacion to work on a paper and go to class. I will probably go to bed early tonight because tomorrow night we leave for Madrid to fly to Barcelona early Friday morning. We can´t decide if we want to get a hostel or just rome around all night and chill at the airport early in the morning, either way I won´t be getting much sleep. But that´s ok becuase I will be laying on the beach al weekend!
 

6/29

My boss was finally back at work today. He is very smiley and jolly. He has his radio playing all day and he sings and whistles along (to Spanish and English songs) it´s hysterical. My project for the summer is to research information on renewable energy. I´m not sure exactly what he wants, I will ask on Wednesday, but so far I have learned a lot about solar, geothermal, hydraulic, and wind energy. This is not really a topic that interests me that much, but it´s better than sitting on facebook all day. Today has also been my first experience with being sick in a foreign country. I ate mcdonalds yesterday and I think that´s what did it. I haven´t had greasy mcdonalds food in months and it definitely did not sit well in my stomach. Oh well, I am feeling better now.

My history class continues to be interesting. We finished talking about Franco today and have moved on to present day demographics. Basically, Spain is Europe´s Florida. Lots of older people retire and move to Spain´s mediterranean coasts.

I apologize if I spell things wrong or use improper grammar. Sometimes I mix up Spanish and English if I have just been writing or talking in Spanish.  

Weekend in Madrid

So this weekend the students wen ton an excursion to Madrid. We visited the royal palace, took a bus tour of the city, and ate at El Museo de Jamon. Afterwards we had the option of going back to Toledo or staying for the weekend. So, about 15 of us stayed in Madrid at two hostels called Mad hostel and Cats hostel. I was in Mad and I shared a six person room with two other firls from Toledo along with a French guy, a Mexican guy, and a British girl. It was very interesting and fun to meet people traveling from other countries.

On Friday night we decided to go on a pub crawl. It started at 1am at the bar in Cats hostel. From there we went to two other bars/dance clubs that I don't remember the names of and ended at a Salsa club. I didn't stay too long at the salsa club because NO ONE knew how to salsa dance, not even the two Mexican guys who went on the crawl. Oh well. It was really fun. My friend Kayla and I had a good time dedicating our dance moves to MJ when they played Billie Jean.

Saturday I thought we would be in museums all day, but it turned out they weren't free until 6pm, so we spent the day in El Parque de Buen Retirio (park of good rest). It was a beautiful park, but I was not prepared for a day outdoors. I got very badly sun burnt on my back and you can clearly see a hand print and a distinct border of where I put sunscreen and where I didn't. Oh well, it's the first time I've gotten burnt on the trip and it was bound to happen eventually.

At 6pm we went to el Museo del Prado and saw some art by Goya and Rafeal and el Greco, It was pretty interesting, but a lot of it looked the same...depictions of the last supper, cruxificion, Mother Mary etc. Later we went to a vegetarian restaurant and it was the worst food I've ever had. I had this goat cheese roll with caramelized onions and it was a bad choice. There was too much of the cheese; it had a very strong flavor. After that we went to a dance club called Sol y Sombra and danced the night away. They played YMCA so we all got up on this stage and did the dance. It was pretty fun.

On Sunday we went to the open air market in the morning and then headed back to Toledo. Now I am procrastinating and avoiding finishing my first paper :)

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