Thursday, April 10, 2014

Ya llegaron las vacaciones

Monday, April 7th

Sooo, next Monday I will be in both Morocco and Granada, Spain. So there's that.. Crazy. I can't believe Easter break is already almost here and by the time this blog is posted, I will be on my way to Morocco. That is unheard of. Ha. Anyway, on Monday I relaxed a lot, but also got a lot done. I wrote a blog, watched a lot of old Glee episodes, cleaned my room, started packing for break, did my Spanish homework, edited and posted some pictures, skyped my boyfriend, called my mom, bought and ate some delicious strawberries, hmmm what else? I think that's about it. Then, when the early evening rolled around, I went to Spanish class with Karin and stupid me forgot my transport pass so I had to pay for the trip there and back, but that's okay. Class was good. We planned how we would break into a museum. Ha, no really, we did. We were given a floor plan of a museum and where the cameras were and we had to tell how we would break in and steal the diamond. It was an exercise to practice storytelling and Karin and I's plan was pretty epic. It involved bats and the playing of Mission Impossible and We are the Champions. Let's just say our plan was not discreet at all. We were entering and exiting the museum in a pretty loud way. Ha. It was fun though. After class, we went on a shopping spree (not really), but we did go into a bunch of stores looking for lightweight pants to bring and wear in Morocco. It is not really custom or comfortable (for women) to wear shorts even in the hot weather of Morocco, so we were looking for pants, but didn't find any. We did see some at the Rastro on Sunday, but we didn't buy them. When I go to the Rastro again, I will have already been to Morocco, but I still might buy the pants because they are cute. :) And that was my Monday. It was a successful and yet unsuccessful when it comes to pants. :P

Tuesday, April 8th

Tuesday was a good day, too. At school, the students are now learning toys, kind of. There vocabulary list consists of doll, kite, ball, plane, dinosaur, but also computer and piano, which I wouldn't really consider toys, but whatever. They reviewed the vocabulary and watched the videos that come with their books. This units video is about a magician who pulls toys out of a hat for kids. And all of the names rhyme with the object. Jane wants a plane, Paul wants a ball, and since they couldn't think of a name that rhymed with dinosaur (or because it makes for a better story and more vocabulary), Lou wants glue to fix his broken dinosaur. Tehe. :) Then, in Science class, we did a matching activity with the words and pictures of the places in town and then they reviewed the different landscapes: mountainous landscape, coastal landscape, countryside, etc. During lunch, Esther and I had an abridged version of our language exchange because I cancelled on her so I could come home and get stuff done. Then, in the last class of the day (kindergarten), I played and practiced colors and numbers with the students. After school, I came home and got right to work for the things I wanted to do. I have a lot of silly things on my list that have to get down before I leave, like finishing these blogs, posting pictures and saving them to my hard drive so my SD card is empty, sewing a button on my coat, cleaning the kitchen, putting away laundry and packing, etc. A lot of small things that have to get done. I got some of them done, but not all of them. But I am still happy with my decision to come home early because I think I would have been super stressed without it, especially since my Wednesdays are so long. Well, I hope your Tuesday was as great or better than mine. :)

Wednesday, April 9th

Wednesday was a good, but stressful day. At school, the students are wound up for break, which is understandable. I'm feeling it too! For sure. The day started okay. When I went to bed on Tuesday, the hot water wasn't working, so I was already expecting it when I woke up and just decided not to shower..I know, gross. Oh well. Except I did get annoyed halfway through the day when my contact decided it did NOT want to be in my eye. So, I resorted to taking it out and throwing it in my water bottle. Ha. I was half blind for the rest of the day, which led to a slight headache, but I'd like to thank one of the moms at my lessons that gave me an ibuprofen and cut the lesson a half hour short so that I could get home earlier. The lessons all went well and once home, I made dinner and relaxed for a little bit because I needed it. We still didn't have hot water and I had a lot of stuff on my list to do, including packing for Morocco and figuring out all of the ridiculous details of the trip.
Tulips in Léganes..I love them!

Thursday, April 10th

Woke up this morning again with no hot water..ugh. I wouldn't really call what I took today a shower. I'm pretty sure there is still conditioner in my hair. The water is freezing! I know that that's the least of my worries though and I know there are plenty of people in this world that take freezing cold showers every day, so I'm done complaining. And really, who cares if I smell at the start of my trip. I'm going to smell anyway because I am going to Morocco where the temperature is going to be in the 90s, maybe even in the 100s. But yea, I got up this morning, kind of showered, finished packing, and headed off to school. The classes were actually okay today despite it being the last day before break. I had three English classes in the morning and they were all working on the same thing (reviewing the body parts) so they did a coloring page and had to label some body parts. In the afternoon, we had the last day of workshops and those also went well, but I am glad they are over. :) Now, I am at home, we have hot water so I am feeling great and refreshed and I am about a half hour away from leaving for the airport to start my Spring break trip to Morocco, Granada, and Málaga! The weather is beautiful and you are too! :D Have a great week and I will talk to you soon!

1-0, 75%, 25%, 40.50€, 3:1

What in the heck do all those numbers mean in the title? Well, don't worry, I will get to them as I tell you about my weekend this past week. Starting with Saturday.

Saturday, April 5th

I honestly don't remember what I did in the morning. I know I relaxed. I may have blogged some. I think I just enjoyed sleeping in and being home for a weekend, since it has been awhile. I also talked to my sister on the phone and then got ready to go meet Karin and her friend, Drew, so that we could go to a football match aka a soccer game. We went and saw Atlético Madrid play against Villarreal. Villarreal is a town that is a little north of Valencia on the eastern coast. Obviously, we rooted for "Atleti" because they are the Madrid team and because we live close to the stadium (not that that really is anything special). But really, we were rooting for the better team because as of right now, Atleti is first in the league (La Liga BBVA), even above Spain's more popular teams, Barcelona and Real Madrid. Speaking of..tonight I could hear the roars of the crowds and people in their apartments yelling at the T.V. because Atleti played Barcelona tonight. They won 1-0, just like they did against Villarreal (the game I went to). Anyway, here are some pictures from the game on Saturday. :) There is also a video where you can here the fans yelling "Atleti, Atleti, Atleti!" and you can hear them singing the Atleti song.

Getting ready for the game in the streets


After the game, I went home real quick and changed and then left to go to the center to meet up with some teachers at my school and with Julia, the other assistant at my school. We went out to dinner and then went to see a comedian, Dani de la Cámara. He was pretty funny, from what I could understand and by the laughing crowd, but I only understood about 75% of what he said and 25% of the jokes. I don't know if you know this, but comedians speak SUPER DUPER fast! I understood all of the topics that he talked about though, which is good and kind of helped me follow the rest of it. He talked about the economic crisis in Spain, Spaniards learning English, school food, his generation vs. the generation now (you know the whole "I walked to school uphill both ways" thing). It really was fun and I would probably go again, but I do wish that I could keep up more. I still have a lot of learning to do. I guess I should start watching Spanish comedians on YouTube. After the show, I went home and went to bed.
Julia, Dani de la Cámara, and I

Sunday, April 6th

Street art that we saw when walking to the Rastro
 On Sunday, I went to the Rastro with Karin, Drew, and Stephanie and I would say that it was a successful trip. I went specifically for souvenirs that I have been wanting to buy and I finally got them. I still have quite a few gifts to buy for people, but I was happy with my buys on Sunday. I spent 40.50 euros, which is quite a lot for the Rastro, but like I said, I'm pretty happy with all of the things I bought and I think that the people who will be receiving these gifts will like them (I hope so anyway).

After the Rastro, I went home for a little bit and tried getting a few things done and then in the late afternoon I met back up with the gang and we went to La CaixaForum. La CaixaForum is not only a cool building (complete with old and new architecture and a wall garden), but it is a hall where they have different exhibitions. The exhibit that we were interested in seeing was one about PIXAR. It was celebrating 25 years of animation.
La CaixaForum building
The exhibit started with, of course, the lamp and the ball and with a quote from John Lasseter, the Chief Creative Officer of PIXAR. I don't have a picture of the quote and I can't find it online, but it had to do with the fact that three things are important for every PIXAR movie (or any movie for that matter): the characters, the world, and the story. So the whole exhibit was broken down by these three categories in each movie and it went in chronological order starting with Toy Story. It was so cool to see original sketches of the characters, world, and original footage of storyboarding, etc. For example, one of the models of an earlier version of Buzz Lightyear was kind of wimpy looking. He did not look like the cool new toy that Andy fell in love with in the movie. Also, there was this cool spinning thing (I forget the name of it) but it had characters all around it and when it spun really fast with a strobe light on it, the characters were in motion. Also, they had these sweet digital paintings and I really wanted one! They had posters like them in the gift shop, but only of the incredibles. If they had one of all of the PIXAR movies, I so would have gotten it. It was so cool to see how my childhood movies were created right before my eyes. Also, it reminded me of the time I went to DisneyQuest in Chicago with my family, which is a good memory. I loved drawing movie characters and when we were at DisneyQuest, I think I remember drawing some on a cool interactive computer they had. But yea, it reminded me that I used to want to work with movies. When I think about it, I still know I would like that. I love movies, they create such magic, and just seeing the process of movie making at the PIXAR exhibit reminded me of that. It was a good feeling. Too bad it's too late to become an animator. :) At the end of the exhibit they also had a section on the PIXAR short films, which are just brillant and we got to watch four of them. So, I have decided to put one here. :) See below.

So much happiness and sadness in this picture
Original sketches of Sulley and Boo from Monsters, Inc.
Anyway, the people had to kick us out because we were there when they closed. I completely breezed through the other exhibit they had at La CaixaForum, which was all black and white photography that made you think about how your actions effect nature: deforestation, pollution, etc. Like I said, I was in and out in less than five minutes so I really can't elaborate on it. On Sunday night, I relaxed and probably blogged, I don't remember. Ha, but I had a great weekend overall and the weather was fantastic both days. I hope you are all doing well and I hope you enjoyed the blog. :)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


Friday, March 28th

On Friday afternoon, I took a 5-hour bus ride to Córdoba. Córdoba is in the south of Spain and was the capital of the Muslim Spain (al-Andalus) between 711 and 1492, when the Moors ruled the majority of the Iberian Peninsula. The historic center of Córdoba is also an UNESCO World Heritage Site. When I got into Córdoba, Karin and her friend, Drew, who was visiting from the U.S. picked me up at the bus station and we walked to the hostel. Then, we went out for kebabs and a drink and headed to bed. It was a pretty uneventful night.

Saturday, March 29th
Patio of the mosque

Our first stop on Saturday after breakfast was the mosque. The Mezquita de Córdoba was the only thing that I knew about Córdoba and it was the only must-see thing on my list. So, that is where we went. :) The mosque is actually a cathedral now. Here's a short history lesson. The moors ruled Spain from 711 to 1492. In 1469, Isabel and Ferdinand got married and united Spain and became known as Los Reyes Católicos (The Catholic Kings). In 1492, they ordered the expulsion of all non-Catholics (Muslims and Jews), so the non-Catholics had to leave or hide or convert or go to jail or be killed, you choose. But, actually the mosque was converted into a Catholic church in 1236, when a different Ferdinand (Ferdinand III of Castile) conquered it during the Reconquista (reconquest--a 781 year period of Christian conquest on the Iberian Peninsula). Anyway, long story short. A lot of people think that it was pretty mean (to put it lightly) of the Christians to take over the mosque, but actually before it was a mosque, in the 6th century it was the Visigothic Church of San Vicente. So other people say that the Christians were simply taking back what was rightfully theirs, rather than those that say the Christians violated the mosque by changing it into a Catholic church. All I have to say about it is, that if you walk into it, it is ALL mosque. Well obviously not ALL, if you look at the pictures below, but it might as well be. The whole thing is 600 feet by 400 feet, that's about 5.5 acres, if you're a farmer. It is HUGE. There are more than 800 columns and when it was a mosque, approximately 20,000 people could and would pray in there at one time.

Mixture of the mosque and Catholic church

The evolution of the Mosque-Cathedral
Anyway, the mixture of the Mosque and Cathedral is pretty cool, but it is kind of unfortunate for both parties involved. Wikipedia tells me that Spanish Muslims have campaigned a lot with the Catholic church and the Vatican to allow them to pray there; however, they have yet to succeed. There was an "incident" in 2010, where two Muslim men began to pray in, what I guess I will call, the cathedral and two security guards asked them to stop. When the men refused there was a "scuffle," and the two security guards were seriously injured and the men were arrested. Again, long story short, it is an awesome building and I would highly suggest going to see it if you are in the area.

After visiting the Mosque-Cathedral, we walked around for a little bit, just looking at other buildings and monuments in Córdoba. There's an old Roman temple that sits next to the modern-looking city hall. We stopped by Plaza del Potro, which is apparently referenced in Don Quixote, which I have never read. Then, we did some souvenir shopping where Karin talked me into buying a flamenco skirt. :) She didn't really have to talk me into it that much. I have been wanting a flamenco dress, but I knew I wouldn't buy one because they aren't very practical and they are expensive. I'm not saying that a skirt is anymore practical, but I can see myself wearing it on the first day of school for the next 60 years. ;)
Anyway, after all that, we went back to the hostel for a little bit and just relaxed. Then, we left again to walk around and have a delicious dinner at a place called Pizzaiolo. As the name indicates, it was an Italian restaurant and it holds the Guinness Record for having the longest menu in the world, even though I would argue that good old Marina Garden in Kenosha, WI has the longest menu. :P Anyway, the food was delicious and I saved some leftovers to eat them the next day for lunch. :) After dinner, we went back to the hostel and hit the sack.

Sunday, March 30th

Me with the Roman Bridge and Mosque-Cathedral
On Sunday, we started our morning off pretty slow, but that's okay because we were in no hurry. The plan was to just walk around. I forgot to mention that the weather on Saturday was not so good. It was cold, rainy, and no one was out on the streets because of it. It was a pretty dreary town to be honest, but luckily we got to see the flip side of things on Sunday. It was what the day implies sunny and a lot more people were out and about. It made me feel better about the city as a whole. Anyway, we started our morning off by walking across the Roman bridge to the Calahorra Tower, which was a fortified gate back in the day, but now serves as the Museo Vivo de al-Andalus, a museum that talks about al-Andalus. Also, fun fact, it sits on the Guadalquivir River, which is another main river in Spain and the river was called Wad al-kabir during Islamic rule. Anyway, the museum was pretty cool, but there were some pretty dry sections, also.

A 1:40 scale model of the mosque in the museum
I included the above picture because if you look straight back you can see the mihrab. What is a mihrab, you ask? Well, it is "a semicircular niche in the wall of a mosque that indicates the direction of Mecca aka the direction that Muslims should face when praying. I have two interesting things to say about this. One Mecca is east-southeast of the mosque in Córdoba, but the mihrab in the mosque faces directly south. There is a theory that it is like this because "from there you have to go south (via Gibraltar) to get to Mecca. Or maybe it's because this mosque was designed by the Umayyad branch of Islam, whose ancestral home was Damascus-- from where Mecca lies to the south." (Rick Steves) Anyway, the second reason that I am including this picture is because I completely missed the real thing inside of the mosque the day before..I know, I suck. The thing is there was a wall of beautiful calligraphy work and everything and I just completely missed that part of it had a hole in it. I mean I realized that there were a lot of people standing around the area, but it just didn't register. Looking back through my pictures, I only have a partial picture of the mihrab. See below.
In the bottom center is the mihrab..whoops
Roman Bridge, the Mosque, and the white walls of Córdoba
Roman Bridge and Torre Calahorra
After the museum, we walked around for a little bit longer, we saw the outside of the Alcázar, saw the only remaining synagogue in Andalucia (and it's only one of three left in all of Spain) and saw some beautiful patios of Córdoba. Córdoba is pretty proud of its patios aka courtyards. They even have a competition in Córdoba during the first week of May, where judges go around and look at all the courtyards and the winner gets some sort of award for having the best courtyard. Anyway, the particular courtyard that is pictured below was in the Jewish district and it had awesome shops around it. One was a shop with beautiful handmade things that I would have loved to buy, but they were pretty expensive for me, plus I don't really have a house to put the things in yet.
Inside the tiny one-room synagogue
A Cordoban courtyard
..complete with musician
After walking around in the sun, we walked back to the hostel, ate lunch, and headed to the bus station. The bus ride back went well and it was off to bed when I got back to Madrid. The weekend was great and I really was happy with the second day weather that made up for the first day. Also, the mosque-cathedral is gorgeous, so seriously go if you are ever in Córdoba. Hope you enjoyed the blog and pictures. Again, sorry they are so long! One more weekend blog to catch up on. Stay tuned, it's a good one. :)

Monday, April 7, 2014

Aranda de Duero

Okay, so two weekends ago, I went to Aranda de Duero with a few teachers from my school. Here is my blog on that. :) Enjoy

Friday, March 21st
This was like Cod mashed potatoes, tomato, and an olive.
It was okay, but not my favorite.

After school on the 21st, Esther, Javi (teachers from my school), and I left for Aranda. We took a detour to Javi's dad's house because his dad and his dad's girlfriend drove us to Aranda de Duero. Duero is one of the main rivers in Spain and Aranda lies on it, hence the name. The trip took about two hours and once we got there we pretty much dropped off our stuff at Esther's house and went out to eat tapas. We kind of went on the perfect weekend because they were having a tapas tour so a lot of the restaurants and bars in town had a deal on tapas and a drink. We went to four different places on Friday night and tried four different tapas. I have included pictures and what they are.
Lechazo (lamb) burrito. So good!
I don't think I've ever had lamb, but I decided I liked it.
I ate it a lot in this weekend. It is very typical in this area of Spain.
Lechazo stuffed eggplant. Yum. Probably my favorite of the weekend.
Don't really remember. It was a fusion of some sort. There was
ramen in the bowl and couscous in the burrito thing.
And I don't like seafood (see the octopus thing..bleh).
It was okay despite the octopus thing though.
After the tapas tour, we went back to Esther's house and went to sleep. We did take pictures of the whole gang, but none of those pictures are on my camera so I will get them up as soon as I have them. :)

Saturday, March 22nd

The main square of Peñaranda
On Saturday, Esther and I got up and met Javi and his parents for breakfast. Esther's mom works in a bakery, so we of course had to go there for breakfast and it was delicious. I had freshly squeezed orange juice (haven't had that since Peru..yum) and a pastry that is common in Aranda called, Pastel Aranda (literally Aranda pastry.ha). It was so good and if you ever find yourself in Aranda de Duero, you can go and enjoy a pastry at Gregorio Tudanca, too. After breakfast, Esther, Javi, and I went to a nearby town called Peñaranda de Duero. There is apparently an old-fashioned operating pharmacy there, but unfortunately it is closed on Saturdays so we couldn't go to it. However, we did walk around the little town and we went to a castle that was on the hill looking over the town.

On top of the hill, Peñaranda below
Castle of Peñaranda--a gothic style castle
that dates back to the 10th century
After hanging out in Peñaranda for a little bit, we drove back to Aranda de Duero and went on a tour to some bodegas (wine cellars). There is a system of wine cellars underneath the town that were built in between the 12th and 17th century, so we went into a few of them and it was cool to see. I think it's awesome that there is like a labyrinth under the town.

After seeing the wine cellars, we went to Esther's house for a delicious lunch that her parents prepared. We had lechazo, morcilla (blood sausage), chorizo, delicious bread, mushrooms, and more Aranda pastries. It was SO good!
Lamb and pastry :)
After lunch, we went back to Peñaranda to check out the palace that was there (we couldn't go in the morning because it was closed). The Palacio de los Condes de Miranda is a renaissance palace from the 16th century and it was built for a count. The coolest part of the palace was the ceilings. They were all wooden and some of them had no nails or anything used. Don't ask me how they did had to do with the wood expanding, but they were so awesome. Unfortunately, I couldn't take pictures of the really cool ones, but it's all good. It was still cool to see them.
Wooden ceilings

Patio of the palace
Palace, main square, and castle on the hill
After visiting the palace, we made our way back to Aranda to go to a balonmano game (handball). Handball is pretty popular in the area and Aranda's team is supposedly pretty good. I've never seen a handball game and really didn't even know how it was played, but it was awesome! It's like a cross between water polo, basketball, and soccer. It's so intense. Also, it was so great just being in that atmosphere. Fans screaming and chanting and yelling at the refs. I spent so much time in the gym growing up so it was so great to be there again. Aranda's team is in the yellow and orange. It was a good game, but unfortunately they lost 27-28. :(
After the game what better to do than to get more tapas. Ha. So, we went out and I tried four more tapas. :)
More lamb..yum.
Red tuna, delicious. This was probably my second favorite tapa.

What I would call mushroom soup
(I accidentally forgot to take a picture before eating)
Seafood sandwiches and some kind of stuff
that also tasted like mushroom soup
Once we got home, it was pretty late, but I left time to skype my boyfriend and his family because they were all together celebrating birthdays, so it was nice to see them and after I got done skyping them, I headed to bed. And that was the end of day two in Aranda.

Sunday, March 23rd
La Laguna Negra
On our last day in Aranda, we actually drove to the province of Soria (a province right next to the province of Burgos, where Aranda is located). We drove there to go hiking at Parque Natural de la Laguna Negra y los Circos Glaciares de Urbión and guess what?! It was snowing! A lot! There was so much snow! It was awesome to be somewhere with real snow, but I'm not gonna lie, I was also happy to get back down the mountain and be somewhere with no snow. Ha. I got the best of both worlds.
La Laguna Negra..we could have hiked to the top, but....
...this happened. This was where our hike ended.
After hiking, we drove back down the mountain to a non-snowy, sunny little town. We walked around and ate lunch. Then, we climbed back in the car and stopped two more places on our way back to Aranda de Duero. We stopped at El Parque Nacional del Cañón del Rio Lobo and another town called Burgo de Osma.
We have better group pictures, but they aren't on my camera.
But here is the group with our lunch (tortilla de patata)
Cañón del Río Lobo
The wall and cathedral of Burgo de Osma
The perfect example of how towns
used old city walls to build other buildings
And that is the end of my weekend. It was awesome and I loved every second of it. The food was delicious and the company was awesome. It was nice meeting Esther's family, boyfriend, and friends and I am so grateful for everything they did for me and gave me while I was visiting! Also, shout out to Javi's parents for driving us there and back! :) Once I was back in Madrid, I pretty much crashed and I was thankful to still have one day to relax. :) I felt guilty that Javi and Esther had to work the next day..whoops. Oh well, I hope you enjoyed this post and sorry for all the pictures. Ha. Keep checking back as I have two more weekends to catch up on. :)