Sunday, February 21, 2010

Music and Wine

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

Science Museums & Concerts & Aquariums

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

la semana pròxima

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.