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February 20, 2012

Getting into a Groove

¡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:

February 14, 2012

Neex na looooool

Hello world! Long time no post . . . je m'excuse. Life in Dakar got busy last week with homework, weddings, tailors, and such exciting things as that. Today's post, however, is about food. Sitting here with a rumble in my stomach waiting for my poisson et haricots to arrive, it's only fitting that I should describe the wonderful nourriture that I get to experience here. Meals with the family are always served on one big communal platter, often while seated on the floor; the meat (or fish) and vegetables are scattered across a bed of what is usually rice but sometimes couscous, onions, or homemade fries. Some families , like mine, eat with utensils, while some people choose to just use their hands. Culturally it is unacceptable to eat with your left hand. Even very traditional settings, one should not even lean on the left hand while eating with the right because of certain superstitions that I don't know very well. During the actual process of eating, the matriarch is in charge of breaking up the meat and vegetables and spreading them around to everyone, though in my family other people can take on this responsibility as well. In general, there is very little conversation while people eat because traditionally people fear that talking will cause evil spirits to enter the food. And really, everyone's fully concentrated on how delicious the food is anyway :)

After eating the meal, if you want to say that you enjoyed it and that it pleased your senses, you say, "Neex na;" if you really, really enjoyed it, say, "Neex na lol." The longer you hold out the "o" in "lol," the more you enjoyed the meal. Then, if you put down your spoon or make a move to leave the dinner platter, everyone will tell you, "Mange! Lekkal!" both of which are commands to eat, in French and Wolof respectively. And eat you will, if you can't convince them of "Suur na," that you've had enough. As we students came to learn quite quickly, nearly everyone in Senegal is determined to send us home looking like baobab trees.
After dinner, often we fruit or thiakry for dessert. Thiakry is a sweet yogurty dish mixed with millet. It's soooooooooooo good. Occasionally we'll have thiakry with chopped bananas, or mixed with a peanut sauce. If all goes as planned, I will be learning how to make thiakry so I can bring it back to the States. I also have intentions to learn how to make some traditional Senegalese dinners, whether the improvised kind or actual named dishes. This is a list of different ones that have names:

Ceeb u gen = fish and rice
Ceeb u yapp = meat and rice
Ceeb u poule = chicken and rice
Mafe = rice and meat with a peanut sauce
Yassa = fish or chicken with specific spices
Fataya = a meat sandwich with egg, fries, and other toppings

Occasionally we have hamburgers from the local hamburger stand, and let me tell you that these hamburgers are better than any hamburger you have ever had/ will ever have. They have the same fixings that we would normally put on a hamburger, but they also have a fried egg and french fries on top of that, and they're made with real meat. Neex na looooooooool.

After meals, it's tradition to have ataya, which I've probably mentioned in past posts. However, I've got homework to finish so I'll post in great detail about ataya soon! Ba beneen yoon, enchallah.

February 6, 2012

Graffiti in Granada

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.

February 2, 2012

Thoughts and things

Living for an extended period of time in a world so different from my birth culture puts me in a constant state of thought and reflection. There is so much uncertainty and variety in the journey of life, and such infinite beauty in that subdued chaos.Even the simple daily interactions with friends, acquaintances, or strangers show the complexity of human relations, especially with respect to culture and language differences. One thing in particular that I've been thinking about lately is the different ways we respond to "thank you" in the three languages we use every day here. In English, the sense behind "you're welcome," in my understanding, is "you are welcome to it, the thing that you thanked me for." French speakers say "de rien," meaning literally "of/from nothing;" that is, the thing you thanked me for was nothing, was not a big deal. In Wolof (and this is by far my favorite response), we say "noo ko bokk" -- we share it. This so perfectly reflects the mentality of Senegalese people. Everything is shared and communal, even when there is virtually nothing to be shared -- that's Teranga.

It's just so beautiful to me that something as small as "noo ko bokk" can say so much about a particular culture, especially when compared with its equivalents in other cultures. The more Wolof I learn, the more I find that the whole language is just a perfect reflection of its people (or perhaps vice versa). For example, when you say goodbye to someone, you say "ba suba," "ba beneen yoon," or "ba ci kanaam," and each is always followed by "enchallah." None of these literally mean goodbye, but rather are merely parting words that promise a reunion at a later time, God willing (enchallah). I know this is the third time I've used beautiful in this blog post, but it really is such an incredibly beautiful way of parting and I'm certain that I know no other English words that can do it justice. The hope that this parting will not be the last and the faith that the opportunity will arise again, and the recognition that both depend on something greater than ourselves -- that is such a fundamental and natural element of this culture.

Comme d'habitude, there are plenty more thoughts on my mind that I had intended to post about today, but they will have to wait for another post. Ba beneen yoon, enchallah.

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