It's been about a month since I've posted anything so I am going to try and sum up everything I've done since then. I honestly don't know what has happened to my time here in Spain! Las Fallas was a week long festival that happened in Valencia from March 14-19. Caroline's birthday was the Sunday right before it started, so we started celebrating that weekend before. The weekend before you could already tell that something big in Valencia was about to happen. There were a ton of people in the streets and an air of excitement about the town. We went out on that Saturday, and went to some of our favorite places. We ended up finding a party that was happening right in the middle of a little street hidden away behind some backstreets. They were playing really good music and everybody was just dancing and talking amongst themselves. The next day was pretty much the same thing. At night, we saw people putting up lights and the statues in the plazas, getting ready to reveal them throughout the week. Monday came soon enough and the festival began, although it had already started prior to that day. We walked around during the day and went to all the biggest plazas and saw all the biggest ninots. The ninots are giant paper mache statues with tons of color and glitter and decoration. They usually represent social, political, or other situations that had happened throughout the year. There are tons of people in the streets with medieval markets, kioks, and other types of vendors. During Las Fallas, they sell typical foods in the streets called buñuelos, churros and chocolate. They are basically just fried desert bread sprinkled in sugar and dipped in melted chocolate. They are very common to Valencia and everybody loves them. Personally, I don't really get it. It's just fried bread and white sugar to me, which I don't find too appealing, but everybody in the world has to eat them when they come to Valencia. The week passed and each night and day there were events and crazy things to see. At night, we went to the fireworks show every night. You had to go early because there were always a ton of people there beforehand. The fireworks were a spectacle. They are so much different here because they have all these different kinds and they all have crazy colors that I have never seen before in a firework. Every night there were dance parties in the streets and concerts right in the middle of plazas. Every bar and pub around Valencia were spilling out with people and the streets were hardly walkable. In the day we went around and looked at these giant structures and wondered how the heck the built these things. I knew that there were a ton of people out and a lot of petty crime would happen, but I thought Valencia was a relatively safe city. However, one night when I was at a concert in a plaza near our dorms, I checked my purse for the 100th time that night to make sure I still had everything. Every other time I did, except for this last time. I unzipped my purse and noticed that my camera was gone. I was really upset and confused because I had my hand on my purse the entire time and it was zipped up the whole night. We went back to the dorms to recollect and I went into my purse to look for my phone, but that was gone too. Then I studied my purse and noticed that there was a cut in the side of it. It was a relatively small purse that my mom gave me right before coming here. It was one from Casabella and it had a really pretty fabric on it. I was bummed about my camera and purse, but thankful that I didn't have anything else of importance on me. The rest of the week passed in a blur and we went out every night because there was no way we could sleep anyways with all the noise in the streets. There were always bands and girls called Falleras that were dressed in traditional dresses with their hair in buns that looked like Princess Laya. Falleros were men dressed in their traditional dress, which consisted of these shorts and socks up to the knee and bandanas on their heads like pirates. The last night of Las Fallas was the best because on that friday, they burn all the ninots in the middle of the plazas. We went to Plaza de Ayuntamiento, which is the biggest plaza in Valencia with the biggest ninot burn down to the ground. You would think that it would be dangerous, but they build the structures so that when they are on fire, they collapse inward. There are also a lot of firefighters with hoses waiting if something goes awry. Then the people scream to get water and the firefighters spray the crowds. We watched one burn in the plaza near our dorms and were really close to it because we got there early. It was really hot when we watched it burn down but it was awesome to be so close. Then, the people were yelling for the firefighters to spray the crowd, so they did in all directions. We started running back so we wouldn't get wet, and then we would approach the plaza again just so they would yell again and send us running. Our friends who work in a cafe invited us inside so we got to see everything going on without getting wet. Las Fallas was a really crazy time and I would suggest it to anyone to check it out on the off chance that they are in Spain during that time. It didn't get any pictures because my camera was stolen but these are some pictures that Caroline took from her camera.
Monday, March 8, 2010
This weekend, I traveled to Dusseldorf and Cologne Germnay. We left on Thursday, took the metro to the airport and got on a plane headed to Weeze. From Weeze, we waited for a bus to get to the train station. Once we were at the train station, we had to wait until the next train to arrive. It was freezing, and there was no inside waiting area at the station, so we had to occupy our time and minds to not think about how cold it was. When the train finally came, it was really warm and cozy, so I listened to my music and fell asleep until we arrived in Dusseldorf. We finally arrived, and had to take a taxi to our hostel. We saw a line of taxis outside the train station and went over to talk to them. We didnt know any German, so it was a bit of a problem. We had ten people and there were four seats in each cab, so we wanted to know if we could squeeze people in, but there was a definite language barrier. The taxi driver was saying something to me and pointing, and I thought he was pointed to the van taxi and assumed he meant that it would be better for us. The he opened my door, and again I assumed that meant get out so I got out and then went to get my stuff out of the back. Then he was really frustrated and started to get really mad at me, but I had no idea what was going on. This was the only time that I have felt really frustrated about a situation thus far on my trip. When I am in Spain, if I cant completely understand what they are saying, I at least have an idea. But here, it was total frustration. So we got back in the cab, and pointed to where we needed to go. I was really glad to get out of that taxi and the driver was too because he was really rude. We checked into our hostel. Some Italians came up to us and we talked for them a bit while we waited for our keys. After we settled in, we were really hungry and wanted to grab a drink. By this time, it was about one in the morning. We asked the guy at recpetion, which was also a bar, where we could go. He explained to us a good area, so we went off walking. It was really really cold because Dusseldorf is in northern Germany. We walked and walked and could not find a single place that was open. After walking for a long time without having found anything, we decided to head back feeling pretty discourged. We saw a bar that was open next door to the hostel, so we grabbed a drink. Me and Caroline decided that we were too tired, cold, and hungry to stay any longer so we went back to the hostel. We bought some nuts in the hostel and decided that we would just have to wait until morning to eat. The next day, we got up and went to the breakfast that the hostel served. It wasn´t anything fancy at all, but considering the fact that we couldnt find anything to eat the night before, we gladly ate everything we could find. After we finished, we headed out to explore Dusseldorf. We walked around the city and went through a park that was located in the middle of the city. Then we checked out the Goethe Museum. There were a lot of portraits and sculptures. After that, we walked through the park some more. By this time, the sun was coming out, and the day was warming up. It made the trees look really beautiful. Then we walked to the old town (Allstadt) and looked out over the Rhine River. It was massive and the water moved really rapidly. Then we grabbed a drink at a really German bar, and the bartender kept refilling your glass without you even asking. We stayed there until we decided that we should probably find a place for lunch. So, we met up with the others that did not go to the musuem earlier. We walked around Allstadt. It was made up of cobble stone roads and old buildings that had ivy growing off the sides. Everyone wanted to eat some typical German food, which consists mainly of meat. Laura and I are the only vegetarians, so we were not able to eat any of the German food, so we went off on our own to find some food that we could eat. We came to a little corner that was serving some pasta and shrimp and fish and chips. It was one of the best meals that I have had in Europe thus far. The pasta was in a red sauce sauteed with shrimp, green olives, green onions, leeks, and some spice. It was so delicious and it was worth the 10 euros that we paid for it. After we finsihed our amazing meal, we met up with the others and ordered one of those big beers that come in a mug that you see big burly Germans drinking. Caroline and I split one because I was still really full from lunch. We sat outside and watched everyone walked about the city. After we finished, we went to this large modern looking tower and took an elevator to the top. There was a cafe and we grabbed some coffee and looked out over Dusseldorf. It wasnt the prettiest city that i have seen thus far, but it was still really interesting to see from that high up. 90% of Dusseldorf was destroyed in WWII, so the city is mostly made up of industry. From the top of the tower, we located our hostel and figured out how to get back . Some of us left and walked around the city some more. We went to an open air market that had tons of fresh flowers, herbs, fruits, vegetables, cheese, meats, chocolate, soaps, pastries, and a lot more. We wakled around and took some pictures. One man that was working asked me where I was from and I told him the United States, and he said ´´yes i know, but where in the US?´´ so I told him i was from Atlanta. He told us that we looked like we weren´t used to the cold and he could tell by our clothes that we werent from around there. He told us that we needed to bundle up more, but unfortunately, we didnt have anything else. Then he gave us all a delicious truffle. Then we walked along one of the main streets that had a ton of people. It had all the nice and upscale stores, but we didnt have any money to spare, so we just window shopped. Then we returned to the hostel to rest before going out again. We all took an hour nap and decided that we had to get up because the eating hours in Germany were not as late as those in Spain. We walked around, looking for a place. By this time, it was really really cold, the wind was blowing hard, and it was raining. We took a taxi to the Allstadt and reunited there. Some people went to a German restaurant, but I knew I couldn´t eat anything there, so the other half went to a Thai restaurant. It was so good and cheap, definitely a good choice. After we ate dinner, we went to some bars. Later we went dancing until we decided we want to leave. We grabbed a taxi, and it was snowing a lot outside. The next day we got up and headed to Cologne. We packed all our stuff and took it with us. We walked to the train station, and hopped on a train to Cologne. We didnt know it, but we had gotten on the express train, so we arrived there really quickly. We were able to put our bags in these machines that you pay for. It keeps your luggage somewhere until you put your card in it to get it back. It was so cool because you could drop it off and pick it up at any of the kioks. When we wakled outside the train station, the cathedral was right there in your face. This cathedral is the tallest in Europe, the oldest in Germany, and has survived 14 bombings from WWII. It was really a sight to see. We went inside and looked around. The ceilings were so massive and tall and eveything was so old and beautiful. I have never seen anything like it in my life. It had huge stained glass windows and the sun shone through and it casted a rainbow shadow on the columns of the cathedral. We decided to pay 1 euro to climb to the top, all 533 steps. It was a bit strange because the same staircase was used for going up and coming down. it was a spiral staircase and pretty narrow. I got a little disoriented and it was very claustorphobic in there. We reached a platform outside and had to take more stairs to get to the very top. Until that point, I was fine with how high it was because we climbed the steps indoors, but the last strech of steps were metal, so you could see down, and it was very cold and the wind was blowing very hard. My legs were like jelly and I didn´t know if i could make it to the top, but i decided not to think about it because it was well worth the climb. Once at the top, you could see out over all of Colgne. It was extremely high in the air, and I have a pretty serious fear of heights, so I stayed away from the edge. I looked out over enough and snapped some pictures. You could see the other sides of the cathedral and a lot of it was black from the bombings, but it was also covered it snow, so it was an amazing contrast. The climb down was almost worse than the ascent because you could see out. After it seemed like a just walked a million steps, i was finally at the bottom, but i still had jelly legs. We decided to take a tour bus around the city, that you paid 15 euros to hop on and off. We took a stop at the chocolate factory, located right on the Rhine River. It smelt so amazing in the building. We read about the history of the coco plant and watched the production of how it was made. After we finsihed walking through the musuem, we sat at the cafe. We all order a hot chocolate with baileys. It was so thick and decadent, but it was so worth it. After that, we hopped on the bus again and just sat on it until it was finished because it was too cold to walk around. When it ended we still need to pass time before our train, so we posted up at a pub. We watched a soccer game and had a drink. There was this German man and he was dressed in a blond wig and a dress. He said that he was getting married and it was his bachelor´s party. He asked us to donate a 50 cent euro and you get a piece of paper to see if you won. Scott won, so he and this German man chugged a mini bottle together. He was speaking to us in English and was extremely nice. Almost all the Germans that we encountered were extremely nice and helpful, and I really enjoyed them all (except for the one taxi driver). They wanted us to party with them, but we told them we had to get back to make our train. When we got to the train station, we were trying to buy tickets. A man came up to us and told us that he had bought a two day pass and it was for 5 people and he didnt need to anymore so we bought it. Then we thought that we had been scammed and everyone started freaking out because we had gave him a good deal of money, and we were all running really low at that point. It turned out to be a legit ticket, so all was well, but it makes you think about making spontaneous decisions like that. You have to be really careful and always have your guard up, especially when dealing with money. But in this case, we trusted this man, and it worked out to be in our advantage because we saved some money. So I guess, you just have to judge every situation for what its worth because sometimes its worth it to trust people even though everyone tells you to trust no one when traveling. We took the train to Dusseldorf and switched to another one that took us back to the original train station. From there, we hopped in a bus to get to the Weeze airport. We arrived at the airport at 12 at night,when our flight wast until 7 in the morning, but the train we took was the last one so we had no other option. We had 7 hours to kill in the airport, which was cold and had absolutely nothing in it. I slept on the ground for a bit, and we just tried to find things to do to occupy ourselves and pass the time by. Being in the airport seemed like a dream because we just had such a long day and now we had to miss a whole night´s sleep. I don´t really know what we did to occupy that time, but it was finally time to board our flight. I passed out on the plane until we arrived in Valencia around 930 in the morning. We had to take the metro to our part of town, and we were all passing out in our seats. We all looked really weary and worn down. We were finally there and when we walked back to our dorm, i was so happy to be in Valencia again. It is so beautiful and i can actually understand the language. The more I travel to other parts, the more I appreciate and love the city of Valencia. It really is one of the greatest cities in the world. We got back to our dorm around 10, starving. I ate some breakfast, took a shower, and passed out for the remainder of the day. I woke up to talk to my parents, eat some dinner, and then I fell asleep again around 1030.This weekend was intense traveling. I dont see how people can do that all the time. If i end up traveling, I will have to stay in one place longer than a day because it is really exhausting having to figure our where to go, what time, etc. A lot of the times, we werent sure where to go, and I am honestly surprised that we got back to Valencia.
Monday, March 1, 2010
This weekend, we took a weekend trip to Barcelona. We took us bus over there, which lasted about 4 or 5 hours. I looked out the window as we drove along the coast and could see a lot of the rural landscapes of Spain. I saw a lot of small farms, as well as big orchards of orange trees. Everything here is so beautiful. It looks different, but there are a lot of hues of forest greens, neutrals, burgandys, and dark oranges. We got to Barcelona in enough time to see the city bustling about on a late friday afternoon. The hotel we were staying at was right in the middle of everything, just a block away from the biggest plaza in the city. Mary Clare had a room to herself so I moved in with her. Our room was on the top floor, with big windows that opened up to an incredible view of the city. We dropped our stuff down and immediately left to explore. We took a couple small streets, saw of vegetarian restaurant that we wanted to eat at sometime, and went into a retro clothing store. We found a restaurant to get a drink, and it seemed very popular because there were a ton of people. We retruend to the hotel shortly after to meet up with the group to go eat dinner. We walked to an italian buffet restaurant, which was a nice change from the cafeteria food at Rector Peset (my dorm). That night we met up with Dave's friend and saw some of the city. The next day we got up and went on a bus tour throughout the city. I wish we could have walked around a bit, but we didnt have enough time to see everything we wanted if we were walking. We went to a park called Parque Gruel, which had a lot of Gaudi influences and structures. Then we were driving along again and all of a sudden, there was La Sagrada Familia. It was absoultely breathtaking. Imagine just driving along and the next block is just this massive church. you can barely even see it when you are standing in front of it because it is so high. The church was designed by Gaudi, but is not finsihed yet. He died before it was finished but he didn't write all of it down so they can't do exactly what he had in mind. His ideas are absolutely absurd. There are these three towers that make up part of La Sagrada Familia and he wanted to construct it so that each one made a different musical note when the wind blew into them. A lot of his art and architecture is influenced by the natural world. The inside is supposed to be a forest. The columns are supposed to the trunks and the ceiling makes up the canopy, and there are a ton of little star lights so that when the sun shines in, it makes a pattern on the ground. What is so crazy about this church is that every detail is different and each side has a completely different feel to it. There is some coherency in the overall look, but to me there were just crazier details and structures at every turn. That night we went out to a couple places. First we ate at the vegetarian place we saw the first night. We all got different food and sangria and shared everything. Then we went and met up with some people and went to the biggest bar that I have ever been in. There were a ton of foreigners there, but really just a ton of people in general. Then we got on the metro and headed to a discotech that we heard was supposed to be a must-experience kinda place. We got there and it was surrounded by all the warehouses. The line to get into Razmataz was about 2 city blocks long. We really didnt want to wait that long, but we had come all that way and we wanted to see what the hype was about. I understood completely as soon as I took my first step into the club. It was this huge warehouse with lights, loud music, and dancing bodies everywhere. But that room was not jsut the craziest part. We walked up some stairs, outside on some bridge and into another room equally as big and crazy as the first. Each room had different music, but we as equally packed with peope. There must have been a couple thousand people there. We left around 6 in the morning, which was early compared to everyone else who were still dancing away in there. We got back to our hotel and about 7 people passed out on our bed. Needless to say, I didn't get much sleep because an hour later we woke up to grab breakfast in the hotel. We had to pack up our stuff after we got back, took a little nap, and then went to the bus yet again. We were leaving just as soon as we had got there. This was not nearly enough time to experience Barcelona, one of the craziest cities in the world. I should be seeing myself back there in the future, but I am still happy to be living in Valencia. I think its not as crazy, more manageable, but still very unique. That night me and Caroline were invited to watch the Marselle vs Paris soccer game with Gilles and Jean Manuel. We went over to Gilles apartment, which is a 2 minute walk from our dorm. His place overlooks the Plaza de la Virgen and there were a ton of people in it. This week marks the beginning of Las Fallas, a week long celebration, party, and parade of the coolest looking structures. There are already a ton of people in the city to get ready. There are parades at night and something called Mascelta in the day time, where they shoot off cannons in Plaza del Ayuntamiento, which is one of the biggest plazas in Valenica. Gilles cooked dinner for everyone, which was rice with mussels in this yellow creamy sauce. It was so delicious and a lot better than the food I could get at my dorm. I can't remember the name of the dish but it was a traditional French dish. Marselle won the soccer game 3-0 in Paris, a huge upset for them but a great victory for Marselle, so everyone was in high spirits.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
This week was Carnaval, which is a holiday where people dress up. On Thursday, Caroline, Laura, and I were at our favorite cafe just having some coffee in the late afternoon. Our American friend was there so we decided to stay and talk to him for a while. We were planning on going to these concerts, but we ended up talking and laughing for hours. Before we knew it, it was already 1 in the morning and the place was closing. At this point, we had already had friend with the people who worked there and we were all listening to Bob Dylan and David Bowie while we were getting ready to go. We went and had a few drinks at our other favorite place to go (this one is more of a night place) called El Negrito. The next night Caroline and I met up with Jean Manuel and Gilles. We went to this quaint bar, where we sat on the lofted area and listened to some people playing Flamenco music right next to us. Everybody gets really into the Flamenco and there is this certain rhythm that everybody knows and likes to stomp and clap their hands to the beat. It's really cool to watch something so different from the culture that I am used to in such an intimate setting.
The next day I got up early to go with the group to a winery about an hour outside Valencia. The bus ride there was cool because I got to see the more rural part of Spain. The landscape reminds me a lot of southern California: a desert-like earth, with small shrubs, some cacti, with no huge trees. The colors are very much earth tones like dark reds and oranges and the growth is usually just dark forest green. We got to the smaller town and it was a very quaint feel. We went into the winery and it smelled of pure wine. There were these large metal vats and this assembly looking line. At first I was half expecting to walk into some dark wooden medieval wine making place, but I guess that is just a stereotype. Then, the man giving us the tour opened up a door and it opened up to this huge room full of wooden kegs of wine. It was amazing, and more of what I thought of in my head of what a winery would look like. The smell was fantastic: wine and fresh wood. We walked across this gigantic room into the next where there were hundreds of crates full of bottles. After the winery, we walked around the town. There was this huge market in the middle and there were tons of people all buying random things from shoes to clothes, to paella dishes. Then we came to this street where there were a ton of kids dressed up in all different costumes. There was a band playing out of the back of a truck and there was so much festivity that I didn't even know what to think. We grabbed a coffee and continued to walk around the town. A lot of the buildings were white washed and it reminded me of what I thought that Greece would look like (even though I have never been there). There were a lot of cats walking around too which was random but they were all really friendly. It seems to me that everyone here has a dog or cat, but they do not leash their dogs at all. It is very rare to see someone walking with their dog on a leash. The pets act differently over here and they just follower their owners around, and I haven't seen any problems with it yet. However, I have heard that dog fights are becoming a problem in Spain because people don't leash them and they have no way of restraining them when they get bothered by another dog. So far, I haven't seen any problems with it. We walked around some more and then took a train back, which was cool because we could look at the country side again.
On Saturday night, I went to the concerts that I had been planning to go to on Thursday (but never made it to). We got there just in time to see a band from Valencia called Emma Get Wild. They were so good! It was at this bar on another side of town and it seemed that it was just like an open mic kind of gig. It was really cool because we were standing it a relatively small crowd and the other people in the crowd would be enjoying the music and then they would go play the next round and then continue to listen to the others. The other bands were really good too.
Monday, February 15, 2010
Last week all the students had friday off, so a bunch of people went traveling to Granada and Ireland, but I decided to stay here. Since I don't have class on fridays, it was really no big deal. Monday through Wednesday were relaxing, and I didn't do much because I knew that the weekends are always really busy. On thursday, Laura, Caroline, Mary Claire, Maryella and I wanted to go see this concert. Dent May, some musician from Mississippi was playing at another dorm. But when we got there, we had totally missed it because it started a couple hours earlier than we thought. We were in the area Blasco Ibanez, which is the road that our school is on, and one with that we are not too familiar with. So we decided to grab a drink at a bar and meet up with my friend Jean Manuel. His two close friends were visiting him so we met them, but it was a little difficult to communicate. One of his friends only speaks French and no English, while the other speaks only French and a little English. Needless to say, we didn't have that much to talk about with them because we couldn't exactly communicate. So we went out separate ways and eventually found ourselves on a pub crawl with some English, Australian, and South Africans guys. It was extremely random.
The next day was pretty uneventful during the day since everyone was off traveling. That night we met up with Jean Manuel and his friends again, but thankfully this time we were able to dance (universal language). Saturday was even better. There was a free concert going on in the city of Arts and Sciences sponsored by MTV. It was right in the middle of all the modern buildings and gardens. Imagine the pictures from the last post, with all the buildings glowing purple, blue, orange, and yellow from the amazing light show. The Arctic Monkeys were headlining, which I don't really listen to, but they are apparently the biggest rock band in Europe. There had to be at least 20,000 people there! We were able to get really close to the front, too. Even better, I was able to see the stage perfectly clear because everyone is so short here! It's very odd, and I hadn't noticed the extent of it until I was at the concert, thinking I must be one of the tallest girls here. Walking on the street, I have noticed there are not too many tall people, which probably makes me stick out, but being in a crowd that large and being able to see forever is a weird/cool feeling. The concert was amazing, too. I have been to big concerts before like at Bonnaroo, but that was just ridiculous. I have jumping and dancing the whole time. It's funny because at rock concerts in the US people jump up and down, do fist pumps, and do the stereotypical rock motion with their hand. But what I noticed here is that when the crowd really gets into a certain part of a song, the jump up and down (pretty much in unison) and point their finger up like they are shaking it. It was pretty hilarious to notice everyone around me doing that. It's not a huge cultural difference, but it certainly is entertaining to notice.
On sunday, my friend Mary Claire's mom and sister came into town. Her mom is a flight attendant so they are able to fly to a lot of exotic places. They took us out to tapas and drinks. We had the best mussels (not like I have tried that many) and it was in this sauce that was literally the ocean, and they tasted very fresh. We drank Agua de Valencia, which is now my new favorite drink. It was orange juice, white wine, and vodka. I normally don't really like orange juice because in the US, most of them are really processed and sugary, but ANYWHERE you go here, they will always have fresh squeezed orange juice. After all, Valencia is known for the oranges, and I must say they have kept up that reputation quite well.
I am constantly learning new things everyday. Mostly they are things in the language and the culture that just don't translate. I met a man in a cafe the other day and I was captivated by the sound of his voice. It was so soothing and strong that I just had to talk to him. He was giving an English lesson to a Spanish woman. My friend Austin and I were sitting next to them and he asked if we were Americans and we chatted for a bit. Turns out, he went to Decatur high school in Atlanta, has been living in Spain for 23 years, and teaches English unofficially at this cafe. I went back there because it is a cafe frequented by my friends and I and we saw him again and again. He gave Caroline and I a free Spanish lesson. We asked him about phrases in English and Spanish that are totally different. I didn't how must you have to immerse yourself in a language to fully understand it. I have been learning spanish for many years now and I can write formally and read perfectly. Speaking is a totally different thing. He said that you will never fully comprehend a different language unless you grew up speaking it, but you can become pretty damn good at it. We learned a lot of common expressions that people say everyday, but that you could never learn in a classroom.
Another thing we asked him is why is it that people (spanish, french, etc) think that American girls are crazy? I had heard this so many times now and I really wanted to know the reason. Every time we ask for a reason, no one can really say, but they know for a fact that American girls are crazy. We came to the conclusion that it is just another one of those cultural differences (what else?). We asked Ken, the american in the cafe, and he gave us a good analogy. He said that in Spain, everyone (everyone) eats lunch at 2 no matter what. Even if you are not hungry, that is just what everyone does. He asked me what time I usually eat lunch in the US and I just said that I eat whenever I am hungry and he said Ah Hah! That makes you crazy (to the spanish people). The United States is still a relatively new country and we are not instilled with so many traditions. In Spain, and elsewhere in Europe, they do things because they have been doing them for as long as they can remember and they are probably not even sure why. We are a country (America) where people pretty much do what they want. I always thought that the whole free speech/free religion/ free everything was a little overrated, but it is very true. We do what we want, when we want. American girls are the same. We are independent, ad we do what we want. Foreigners are not accustomed, and for this we are crazy. My Spanish teacher was talking today about how much she hates Italians. She said that they are machistas, and in general do not hold themselves well. But the most important was that she said they are not like Americans in that we seem knowledgeable, and for the most part are not ignorant people. How true this statement is I'm not exactly sure, but I would like to think that is has some truth in it. We are an interesting country that breeds interesting people. It is really awesome to be able to see our situation in such a different light. I heard people say that I was going to see everything differently, but now I am realizing not only a different perspective (nothing terribly bad, just different) of our country, but of all people in relation to the world. The world is certainly an interesting place.
Sunday, February 7, 2010
On Friday, Caroline and I went to a concert. We met these two French guys that have been showing us around Valencia, and they asked if we wanted to go to a concert. We didn't know what kind of concert it was, they only said it was rock. We had previously gone to a Flamenco concert with them last week and it was it a quaint venue, so we expected it to be a small show. We got there and we were blown away; it was a huge concert right on the beach, we could literally see the water while we watched the show. The best part was that it was free! The music was really great, and it was cool to see what the music crowd was like in Valencia. It is very similar to Athens, actually, except everyone speaks a different language. The next day we got up to go to the aquarium and a science museum. This part of Valencia is so awesome because there is a huge complex of modern architecture that has an aquarium, art building, science museum, music hall, garden, imax, and water pools. I walked around at night with my French friend and it was absolutely beautiful. It slightly glows deep blue and white at night and a tropical aqua blue during the day. So, I was excited to explore in the day time. First we went to the aquarium. Of course, we walked there because we walk everywhere, and it took about 30 or 45 minutes, but no body cared because it was such a beautiful day. We walked through this park that runs through the middle of the city. It is called El Rio, which means the river, because it used to be a river but the city drained it one time when it over flowed and put a park there instead. The park is really pretty and it has all sorts of grand fountains, trees, playgrounds, skate parks, and everything else. We got to the aquarium and it was so beautiful. It was more types of modern buildings and it had all these beautiful pools of water. At each different building there was a different type of geography like the Carribean and the Mediterranean, etc. You had to go underground to see the actual tanks and then you could see some of the tanks above ground too. We went to a dolphin show and it was amazing! They had music and the people that worked with the dolphins and they danced around the water and did all sorts of tricks. I had never been to something like that before and it was really cool. After the aquarium we headed over to the science and arts building. This was really cool too because it had all these different hands on experiments. One experiment was this voice thing and it is supposed to delay your voice and change the pitch, it was the coolest thing ever. Another was this mirror and two people sit face to face and you are supposed to change the lighting and it fades the other persons face onto yours. It was so creepy but really cool at the same time. There was also a room with all these different animals (as you probably noticed in the pictures above). They are genetically mutated animals. One of them has two pig bodies with one head, another was a cyclopes dog and another was a Siamese pig. That was a really long day and we wanted to just sit down for a while so a couple of us went and got some drinks. We went to this place and the Valencian soccer game was on. We were going to go to that but our day was already too long. A bunch of the other students went to the game and said it was really awesome. There was a bunch of people at this place watching the game so it was an exciting atmosphere. We watched them score two goals and we won! I'm not that big into sports but futebol (soccer) is something that the Spanish (and Europeans in general) take very seriously. We were going home and decided to take a taxi because it was just too far to walk with our tired feet. We had some difficulty trying to get a taxi where we were but finally we got one. We got into the cab and it turns out that the driver was the same guy that had drove our friend Austin the other day. Of all the taxi's in Valencia, this same guy was our driver. It was the strangest coincidence.
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
this week has been just as fun and interesting as last week. my classes i have discovered are not really that challenging as they would be if i were taking classes in athens, but i think that it is more of a holistic experience. yes, i am here to learn, but what i came here to do goes far beyond a classroom. i don´t see myself doing much book studying this semester, but that doesn't mean that i will not learn a lot. i am learning about the people and a culture that is very foreign to me. at the same time, i am integrating their habits into my daily routines. i am getting used to the eating hours here, too. the american are always the first to line up at the door at 8´oclock for dinner and then you can tell which student are latinamerican because they eat earlier too. but the spanish eat very late. eating here has been a small challenge since i dont eat meat. i always ask the lunch ladies for the vegetarian options and they tell me i need to sign up for that, but then when i ask them where i can do that, they cant tell me. so, everytime i am in line for food, its always a little frustrating. other than that, the food is alright. they eat a lot of patatas fritas which literally translates to jut french fries. they have patatas fritas for every meal except breakfast. that takes a little getting used to for me. on sunday we went to the beach. it was only a ten or fifteen minute ride on the metro. the beach is awesome because you can see the horizen of the city on one side and rolling mountains on the other side. this city seriously has everything you could ask for! we ate at this restaurant next to the beach, and it was the first meal that i had that wasnt at the dining hall. when we got in the restaurant the whole family and everyone that worked there was sitting down at the table. they ate different courses, drank wine, and talked a whole lot. after they finished, they got up to clean and go back to work. they work very hard but its nice to see a change of pace at eating time. fast food does not exist here because the take the time to relax and enjoy life for a second before they have to get back to this crazy world.