Friday, May 31, 2013

Hello, London!

Well, we made it to London today! I am doing this on my nook and do not have a lot of time to update, but I thought I would just do a brief hello from the UK :) We went to Madrid last night and shopped and explored the city a little bit, and then spent the night in a hostel. I was not feeling the greatest yesterday though. I think my stomach had disagreed with something I ate. But anyways, it was still super fun in Madrid. Except our airport bus was at 5:10am so we had to get up at 4:30!! Our flight went smoothly, and I mostly just relaxed and dozed. After we got off the plane, we needed to take a bus to downtown London. The driver told us he could mot take us because the bus was full and we only had general tickets, not reserved. It was hard to be mad at him though, because of his cute British accent!! The bus ride to downtown was 90 mins, and then we stopped and ate at Subway. It tasted so amazing. We then walked to our hostel, which was a super long walk, about an hour. But the weather was gorgeous and we stopped in a little park to relax and enjoy the sun. Our hostel has triple-bunk beds which is kinda cool. This evening we got dressed up an went to see Wicked at the Apollo Theater. It was SOOO good. Seriously, I do not even have words to describe it. We were sitting in the second row so it felt like we were inside of it and could really see the emotion of the actors. The costumes were intricate and beautiful, the set gorgeous, the dancing incredible, and the whole show was absolutely amazing. I loved it and am so glad we went. It is so weird to be in another different country. It is so different from Spain and the US, but it is sure nice to hear English everywhere!! Time for bed now. But I will try to update you all tomorrow!

Here's a fun picture from our afternoon/evening in Madrid! Masked ladies :)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

London Brain!

Today has been a busy day! I have so much to do before tomorrow, and a small time frame to fit it into! The weather here is really icky today. Rain, lots of wind, and cold temperatures. Nuria told me this afternoon that they have NEVER had to use the heat in the house in May, never! Until this year, and we've had it on quite a few days since I've been here. She blames it on me. Haha. And it's probably true. The icky weather from Grand Forks just followed me here. Sorry Spain! :)

School went well. Same old, same old. I have a test in my conversation/composition class tomorrow before our break, so I need to study for that tonight! It's kind of hard to focus on school and things here, because my brain and thoughts are totally already in London. Yesterday we bought tickets to see "Wicked" in London! I am super excited. I've never seen it live, but I love the music! And we got tickets in the second row, so it's going to be super cool. For some reason, there were 3 tickets all by their lonesome down there, and they were cheaper than the ones farther up! So we decided it was meant to be and took them :) There are so many things to do/see in London, but we have been looking and comparing and deciding and I think we have a good list. We want to take a double-decker tour of London, ride the London Eye, take pictures by some of the famous buildings/places, see the changing of the guards, and I'm not really sure what else!

I have to finish packing tonight, study for my test, and do a bunch of lit homework! I was super tired and crabby earlier, so I took a siesta this afternoon and feel so much better! I need to get more sleep here I think. Haha. I've layed out all of my outfits and stuff for packing, I just need to pack it! My family gave me a small plastic suitcase to use, but I think I am just going to use my backpack. It'll be easier when I'm walking around places, and I know for sure it'll fit on the plane. The weather in London is going to be allright, like 60s and party cloudy. I wish it would just warm up and be like summer already! The reason I need to finish packing tonight is because we are heading out of Avila tomorrow right after school! I have class until 2pm, and our bus to Madrid leaves at 3:15. My walk home is about 30/35 minutes, so I think I am just going to bring my bag to school and go home with Shanna and Emily and eat lunch there. Otherwise I won't have enough time to go home, eat, and walk back to the bus station. We will go to Madrid tomorrow afternoon, and spend the evening there, since our flight leaves very early in the morning. We fly out of Madrid at 7am and will be in London at 8:30! SO EXCITED :)

I am not going to bring my laptop because it's not really worth the hassle of lugging it around and checking it through security and keeping track of it while we're in London. It's only 3 days. I'm going to bring my nook though, so I can use that with Wi-Fi when we are at the hostel. I won't be able to upload pictures or anything, but I will have a TON to upload when I get back I'm sure! I'll try to update my blog while we're there, but I don't know how easy that will be on my nook. Guess I'll find out! We are in London until Monday morning, and then back to Spain we will come! It's going to be so fun to have a couple days off of school, see a different country and culture, and speak ENGLISH. :)

Time to finish packing, eat dinner, and do homework!

This is my current state of packing frenzy :)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Days Flying By!

I can't believe that at the end of this week I will be halfway through my adventures here! The past few days have gone by so quickly and I just want it to slow down! Now that I have a few minutes, I thought I'd give you a quick update on my last few days.

Sunday was a relaxed day. I got up at 10am, which is actually the earliest I've gotten up on a Sunday since I moved here! Haha. I had a test Monday so I studied for a while, and then Kari came over for lunch with us. We hung out and talked for a bit, and then we went to my host mom's parents' house for coffee/social hour. Every Sunday all of the kids/grandkids get together there and have lunch. They have a very big family so it was fun to meet them all and hang out for a bit. Marta has cousins ranging in ages from babies to age 26, so there was a wide variety of people there. That evening Shanna, Emily, and I went exploring down by the river and enjoyed the beautiful afternoon/evening. We also may or may not have played on a lot of the playground equipment down that way as well. It's kind of irresistible to our inner child side :)

The weather was so gorgeous on Sunday, and the day ended with this beautiful sunset over the mountains. I'm glad I looked outside just in time to catch it, because it only lasted a few minutes!

Monday was a good day as well. It's so cold in the school though, and so sitting in those classrooms for 5 hours is so hard to do. The first hour or two are fine, but then after you've been sitting there for so long you are just freezing and can't warm up. It needs to get a little warmer/sunnier outside so that it warms up inside. I had my first test in my culture class, and I did not know what to expect. It wasn't too bad. It seemed like I either knew the answer exactly, or had no clue. Most of them I knew though, and when I got it back today I had four wrong, so not too shabby. After school Shanna, Emily, Emilio, and I went to the mall to kill some time and pick up a few things we needed to get before our London trip. It was my first time taking the city bus and my first time to the mall, and I survived :) We went to Carrefour, which is the equivalent of a big department store like Wal-Mart here. I hadn't seen a store like that here yet, so that was interesting to see. They sell so many different types/brands of things here. It's just interesting to walk around and see what they have! When my dad came to pick me up from their house (I didn't want to make the 50 minute walk in the dark by myself), I had a minor panic attack because he texted me that he was outside in the calle, but when I went out there he wasn't there. I called him and we were trying to find each other for like 10 minutes, and eventually we did. I was in building #10, and he was outside building #13. The sign looked like a 10 though under the lights because they were glaring. I was impressed with my Spanish ability to communicate and figure out what was going on. It's a lot harder for me to communicate in Spanish over the phone because I can't see their lips/facial expressions or gestures. But we made it!

Today is already Tuesday, WOW! We are leaving for Madrid on Thursday night and London Friday morning! I'm doing laundry right now so that it'll be dry in time for me to pack my bags tomorrow and be ready to go! I feel like I need to do so much before then, so I'm hoping to accomplish some stuff this evening. Today was just a pretty normal day at school. In my conversation/culture class, we are currently studying houses and different living situations and the vocab and terms that go along with those kinds of things. It's fun because the other day we were talking about the houses we grew up in and thinking back on our childhoods. In my culture class we started a new unit today and continued talking about the different happenings in the different provinces. We've also been discussing the bullfighting in the last few days. They are having a bullfight here in Avila in June and I really want to go! Some of my friends don't, because they think it is sad how the bulls are tortured and killed, but I think it'd be interesting and a very cultural experience. In my lit class we are currently studying poetry and poetry analysis. It's difficult for me to understand poems in English, let alone in Spanish! Haha. It's not too bad yet though. And finally, in my dance class, we are continuing with our Sevillana dance. We now know the first two sections, and will start learning the 3rd tomorrow. It's getting a little bit difficult to remember everything in order, but it helps to have a partner to help figure it out. This afternoon we have an activity with the teachers. I think we are playing some Spanish card games. Hopefully that's fun. And then my evening will consist of homework and London packing! The weather is not very nice today. :P

Hope you all have a wonderful Tuesday!! And if someone can figure out how to slow the time down, that would be greatly appreciated. THANKS! :)

Monday, May 27, 2013

Salamanca Saturday!

Wow, I've been crazy busy the last couple of days and haven't had time to update on our trip to Salamanca! On Saturday our group went on a trip to Salamanca, another large city in our region of Castille y Leon. The school we study at here in Avila is a branch of the University of Salamanca, so we obviously went to see the University as well. Rico, our chaperone, went along with us and so did one of the profesoras, Laura. She was kind of our "tour guide" for the day and showed us around and explained things. We left at 9am and did not get back until 9pm so it was a very long day!! The weather was gorgeous though, and we all got pretty sunburnt. The UV index every day here is at 9 (Very High), I think because we are at such a high altitude (3700 ft) and on a different point of the earth. The sun is very strong and it doesn't take long to burn! I need to invest in some sunscreen.

We walked around the city for a little bit, and the first big site we checked out was the Cathedral. The cathedrals and churches here are seriously incredible, and this was just another example of it. The architecture and the intricate designs on the inside are so interesting. Not to mention their huge size! It's amazing to think that something that big and complex can stand.

After the cathedral, we headed to a beautiful garden area. There were so many wonderful green plants and trees and cute little things. There was a well with tons of locks locked around it, where people put on a lock to "lock up their love" and then throw the key down the well. There were a lot of inscriptions and painted names and love poems on the edges and the walls of the garden as well. When we reached the edge, we had a gorgeous view overlooking the city. Here's a picture of the love lock well.

Then we stopped at a cafe where a lot of the University students like to eat/hang out so we could get some coffee and see some of the student culture of Salamanca. With the University, Salamanca is a very big college town and the students make up a large population of the city. Shanna, Emily, and I got chocolate con churros! It is a very common treat here in Spain, but none of us had actually tried it yet. It was SO delicious, but the chocolate is very rich!

We explored the University for a while, which was kind of interesting to see. It's set up very different from the Universities in the US and many of the buildings are old and historic. We got to go inside a few and see what the classrooms look like here and how things are set up. We stopped and ate our bag lunches in a nearby park, and it was so nice to be outside and enjoy the sunshine! After lunch we did some more touring and got to go inside a very large church in Salamanca. We were all getting pretty tired at this point, from the heat and all the walking. The church was really neat to see though. It's starting to get to the point where all the churches/cathedrals we go inside look the same, but they each have their own special things about them.

Here's one of my many pictures from inside the church.

Finally we headed to the Plaza Mayor. It was HUGE! Way bigger than I imagined and there were people everywhere. It was so cool to see everyone sitting outside enjoying the beautiful weather. The group split up there, and then we had free time to roam around the city, shop, etc. We got some ice cream, and then headed to some various stores around town. Salamanca is known for its great shopping, and they have TONS of neat stores. It would be fun to come back one day and explore more, because we only had 2 hours and didn't get to see very many of them and everything they had to offer.

Here's the Plaza Mayor. It was a great day to be outside.

I got back home at around 9:45 after walking from the school, and then I ate dinner with my family. We talked for a little while and then I went out with my friends for the evening which was really fun. My host mom was so sweet on Saturday! She had laid out my whole bag lunch to take with me in the morning since I was leaving pretty early. When we were on the bus and almost there, my cellphone was ringing and she was calling me. I thought she needed to ask me a question or something, but she was just calling to say hello, since I hadn't seen them since dinner the night before and she was so sweet and just wanted to tell me to have a great day! And while I was gone she swept/mopped my room and changed my sheets and cleaned my bathroom.

Overall, Salamanca was a great experience and a beautiful city in Spain! I loved it and would definitely consider going back one day if I had the chance. It's only an hour down the road :)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Mi Familia!

I finally took a few pictures with my family last night, so now you can all see who I've been living with for the past 2 weeks. Marta had to bring a bunch of pictures to school for something, I think it was probably for like a "Student of The Week" type thing where the student gets to make a board and put on pictures of them and their family, etc. and be featured in the classroom, like in the US. She really wanted a picture with me for school, so we took one and then took a few more with Nuria and Jesus. We didn't get a full family picture though, because we had no one else here to take one! One day we'll have to :)

This is my little sister, Marta! She is 8 years old, and is turning 9 in June. I'll be here for her birthday, so that'll be really fun. She's kind of shy/timid around new people, but now that she knows me pretty well she's spunky and bubbly and so much fun! She loves to play games, as well as watch TV and play on her Nintendo DS. She plays the violin and really likes that. Her schooling here is pretty intense, because she studies/does homework a LOT. She has 5 tests this week. FIVE. Poor kiddo! She goes to colegio from 9am-2pm, and then 2 days a week she has English at another academia place. She has the sweetest little voice and says the cutest things :)

This is Marta and me with my host dad, Jesús! He is a really nice guy and is really funny sometimes. He studied Art History at the University of Salamanca, but is unable to find a job in that field so he currently works as security for the City of Avila. The economy here is terrible. The unemployment rate is at about 27% I think, and gas and some other products are super expensive. He usually works nights, so he's home during the day. He makes lunch every day and is a very good cook! He loves history and things like that so he enjoys helping me out with my culture homework, looking at my pictures I take from Spain, and walking around the city explaining things. When I came he really didn't know any English, but he knows quite a few words and phrases now. Partially from me teaching him things, and partially from helping Marta with her English homework. He thinks English is interesting and enjoys learning it. He also really likes to run, so I'm hoping to go for a run with him one day here soon. Maybe one day he'll even take me to hike up one of the mountains!

Now say hello to the ladies of the house! This is my host mom, Nuria. She is very sweet and kind and will always go out of her way to help me out or give me a ride somewhere and make sure I'm happy. She works as a secretary at the school I attend here, which is really nice because she gives me rides to school in the morning. It's also kind of fun to see her once in a while throughout the day, or if we need to communicate about something I can just go to her office instead of needing to call. She's very smart and picks up on things about me like things I do/don't like to eat before I even say it, or if I actually understand what she's saying or not. She always lays out my coffee and breakfast for me in the morning before I get up and always seems to have a smile on her face. She also enjoys that I am a "good eater." Haha!

My family takes great care of me and I love living here with them. I'm glad I was placed with them, and I think they are glad they have me too! We get along really well and enjoy spending time together. The other day when I had some friends over, Nuria was asking my friends about their siblings and how many they have, etc., and then said that Marta doesn't/won't have any siblings, but that's okay. And then Marta chimed in with her sweet little voice and said, "But I do! I have Michelle as my sister!" It was SO cute and precious :)

Today we went to Nuria's parents' house for a while. Every Sunday she hosts all the family for dinner. Nuria said there's usually around 23 people there! Today quite a few were missing though because of various things. It's crazy, like a Thanksgiving every week. It was fun to meet all of them though and spend time with more of their family. They are all so sweet.

Friday, May 24, 2013


Wow, I can't believe another week has already come and gone. But I'm so glad it's Friday! I need to get to bed, so I only have time for a quick little blurb, but I just wanted to update you because I won't be here at all tomorrow :)

Today was a great day. The weather was awesome. Classes went well, and I got a 98 on my literature exam yesterday! That's a good way to start out. My culture exam that was supposed to be today was moved to Monday, thank goodness! That is going to be such a hard test for me. After school, I went home and had lunch with my family, and then my mom took me to a Chino store to get a skirt I need for our dance. I picked out a bright pink one, go figure. Haha. Love me some neon! She dropped me off at Shanna and Emily's house, and then we went to get pizza! We were going to meet up with a bunch of the other students at one pizzeria, but it was closed and when we got there the other girls were nowhere to be found. We had no way to get in contact with them, so we headed to another one and had a pizza date just the three of us. It was so amazingly delicious. Pepperoni, cheese, and grease has never tasted so good! And it was really cheap too :)

After our pizza date we walked around the walls for a little while, and then Emily and I went to the Congress Palace to see a ballet! The World Famous Moscow Ballet RFB was performing, and we really wanted to see it. Quite a few of the students from our group went. It was so so good! The costumes and set were amazing and so artistic, and the dancing/ballet was fabulous!! Those dancers have AMAZING muscles and talent. That lasted until about 12:00am and then I walked home.

Tomorrow we have a 9am-9pm day trip to Salamanca, so I need to get to bed and get some rest!! Look forward to a fun post with lots of pictures from Salamanca! :)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Lots of Laughs

Today was a day filled with so much laughter! From beginning to end I feel like so many fun/funny things happened today, and it was such a wonderful day. Except my stomach seriously hurts from laughing so hard earlier :)

The funnies started this morning in my first class of the day. We were discussing different bad things that can happen to you while you are traveling, and what you can do/say to resolve them. For example, losing your luggage. Or getting seasick on a cruise. Or getting diarrhea from the food. These discussions turned into a short impromptu vocab lesson about bodily functions. And I have to say, no matter how old or mature you think you are, discussing bodily functions is still funny. Especially in a room of 10 college girls and a very young teacher. We did a lot of laughing for a while, but I actually learned some words that may come in handy if I need them! I laughed a lot during dance class today as well, because we were learning a brand new series of steps, and along with new steps comes many mistakes. Dance class is really fun though, but let me tell you... it is quite the challenge to hold a straight face when you're looking right into a person's eyes and you're dancing with them. I had my first exam today (which is not funny), but I think it went pretty well! It was a short Spanish story and we had to answer questions about it after reading it and do some literary analysis of it. I understood it and answered the questions, I just don't know how much detail he'll be looking for! We'll see tomorrow I suppose.

After school, my mom and I had to stop at the vet to pick up her sister's dog. It was being groomed today and she said we were going to pick it up quickly and then drop it off at her sister's house. She runs in to grab the dog and comes out with this teeny tiny little Yorkshire terrier. She was all tucked into Nuria's arm and had a little ponytail sticking up on her head. I could not help but laugh! She was such a funny little dog, and the best part was, her name is Kitty! I explained that in English, kitty is actually another name for a cat and so we laughed about that for a while. When we picked up Marta from her school she really wanted to take Kitty home for a little bit to play with her, so we did. I cracked up every time I would say, "Here, kitty kitty!" and the little dog would come prancing over. Priceless. Here's a picture of the little princess!

My little sister had a violin recital this evening, but we had a group activity at the school so I had to go to that instead. It was really fun actually and we played some different games to get to know each other, and played a traditional Spanish game as well. I really like our group here and it's fun to spend time with them outside of just our classes. After the activity, Shanna, Emily, Abbey, and I decided we wanted to go to one of the many ice cream shops in Avila. The sun was shining and we were outside for our activity so we were warm and ready for some ice cream. Oh my gosh, the ice cream shop was amazing. It had so many flavors to choose from and they were all so good! We each got 2 different flavors in our bowls and then tried each others' flavors as well. YUM YUM YUM.

It probably looks like all that I do here is eat sweets, but I actually eat pretty healthy! The sweets and fun shops are just the best things to take pictures of, that's all. They have very good fresh fruit markets here as well. YUM.

We took our ice cream out to a cute little park in the middle of the plaza area. While we were sitting there, we took a few pictures and decided we wanted to take one funny picture. We took one, and it was hilarious and we could not stop laughing. This turned into quite the photoshoot to see who could make the ugliest faces. Everyone else in the park probably thought we were crazy, but we were having a great time! We laughed SO hard and I seriously had a stomachache. I also thought I might pee my pants, for real. I never have been in that situation but I really had to go and was laughing my guts out! Thank goodness I didn't though, and didn't need to use any of my newly-learned Spanish words for that kind of stuff. Haha! I uploaded most of them on to Facebook (I have no idea why, but I did.), so if you want to check more of them out, or need a good laugh, go for it. They're probably not as funny to you as they are to us, but they're still a pretty good laugh!! Us four girls are our group going to London, so after having such a fun afternoon today, I am so excited for that! Just one week away. Crazy how fast time flies here :)

I hope I was able to fill your day with a few laughs as well! Life is always better with a smile on your face :)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Here Comes the Sun :)

Today was a great day! The weather is finally starting to turn toward the better, which automatically just put me in a better mood to start the day. When I woke up to the sun coming in my window, I knew it was going to be a good day. It was still freezing inside the school though, and I wore my jacket the whole day. The sun just needs to shine a little bit brighter! Classes were fine, normal again. In my conversation/composition class we were trying to play a game and it involved commands and many of them involved different body parts like "Make a fist" or "Blink your eyelids very quickly." None of us knew any of those more unique body parts, and so we ended up having an impromptu vocabulary lesson on the body. Which was actually very useful! I learned a lot of new words today that I never knew about, including words for shin, calves, blink, eyelashes, gums, uvula, all the names of the various fingers, dimple, and yawn. I wrote them down and hopefully will be able to retain them! Our teacher couldn't believe we didn't know the words, but now we've got them all figured out. In dance class we were dancing all together and switching partners and it is getting more complex, but very fun. I need to go buy a skirt this weekend. After classes, I walked home, ate lunch, and then turned around and walked back to school for OIP practice. I don't need to take the OIP test, but it is very good practice for me and I benefited from it last time so I went again. Oh, and while Allison and I were walking together to OIP, I almost got pooped on by a bird. I have never come that close to being pooped on before and it was so freaky! We were just walking and talking and all of a sudden bird poop dropped right in front of my face and landed right next to my foot. We were both so surprised, and I am so thankful I didn't lean forward right at that second or I would have had some cute hair gel going on. SO GROSS. The birds here are just so rude. I came back from OIP and my mom asked me if I wanted a little something to eat. She made me a mini-pizza! I have no words to describe how good that pizza tasted. Seriously, I don't realize how much I missed American foods like that until I eat them here. SO DELICIOUS. Or the other night we had hotdogs. Something so simple but really a taste of home. I really enjoy the food here and like trying all the new things, but sometimes there's food I wish I could have. And the pizza was just something I haven't tasted anything similar to in so long! We also had some potato chips the other day and I could not get enough of them! They don't have much salt on anything here so I think my body was craving some.. Haha.

I am finally figuring out my daily schedule here and making things work better. I've been up so late most nights doing my homework, because I usually don't start it until after supper. But when you don't eat supper until 9:30ish at night, doing all your homework afterwards makes for a late night! Today when I came back from OIP I sat down and cranked out homework for about 2 hours which was really good, and now I'm just finishing up a few more assignments. Obviously it's not fun to spend my free afternoon/evening time doing homework, but I need to do it sometime and I'd rather do it then than at 12:30am. I have been much more productive on my homework the last two days as well because I have been working on it at my desk instead of while laying in my bed or downstairs in the living room. My desk is right by the window so it was freezing over here and I didn't like sitting here, but I sucked it up and took the blanket off my bed and use it over here now. Because when I study in my bed, all I accomplish is feeling tired and wanting to nap. Haha. So the desk it now is!  I'm also hoping to go for a run tomorrow afternoon after lunch, and then add that into my daily schedule. I haven't ran since I got here, and I really really want to. The weather is finally getting nicer so I'll be able to run in a t-shirt and shorts like I planned. In other news, my friend Ceceli and I figured out that we are on the same flight back home from Madrid, so today we switched our plane seats so that we are sitting next to each other. That will be so nice, especially on the long overseas flight because we can curl up and sleep and not worry about invading our neighbor's space. It will also be really nice to have someone to take the bus from here to the airport with, and be with when we have to go through customs and switch planes twice back in the US. Also, the band One Direction is currently on tour and are in Spain right now! I KNOW, CRAZY! They are in Barcelona tonight and Madrid on Friday!! I wish we could go see them in Madrid, but we have a day-trip on Saturday morning and wouldn't be able to get back to Avila in time to catch our bus. I guess seeing them on the news everywhere will have to suffice.

Well, I have a literature analysis exam tomorrow, and a Spanish culture exam on Friday so I need to get back to my studying! Hasta luego!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Little Bit of Sunshine!

The sun came out today for about 10 minutes this morning, and again for a little shot this afternoon!! It was still only about 50 degrees, but gives me hope for warmth and summer! Haha. Today was another routine day of classes. Lectures, note-taking, and a few activities. I am finally getting settled into the schedule here and knowing what comes next/where. I also no longer am starving at about 11:30am. My stomach has finally adjusted to eating lunch at 2:30 or 3pm and dinner at 9pm. Yesterday in dance class we finished learning the first section of our sevillana dance. I thought it was going really well and had it down and Shanna and I were doing great!! Until today... when we added arms and hands. It's amazing how much more difficult something can get when your brain is being stretched in 3 different directions. Let's just say we're going to need a LOT more practice now. Haha. Coordination is key. After classes I walked home and had lunch with Nuria and Marta. We watched TV and chatted for a little bit, and then I was very ready for a siesta. I was up really late last night and so I definitely needed a little nap. I had the house to myself because my family was off running to various places and different errands. I slept for about an hour and then got up and Skyped with Erin for a long while. It's SO wonderful to talk face-to-face with people from back home :) Then we ate dinner and sat downstairs and chatted for a while. Now it is total-house study time once more! Marta is practicing her violin and doing her English homework and I need to read for my literature class and do a couple of other assignments. AHH. Homework time. Just thought I'd leave you all a little note about my day :) Adios!

Muchos Deberes!

Yesterday (Monday) was a pretty regular day at school. Nothing much interesting happened in any of our classes. We just had lots of homework! I guess I should expect that, when I'm taking full courses in a span of 6 weeks instead of a full semester, but it's still hard to enjoy doing homework in the summer. The weather was very chilly again, go figure. Haha. In the late afternoon, Rico was hosting a practice session for the OIP test. The OIP test is a Spanish proficiency test that the Michigan students have to take in order to get a Spanish education degree. I don't need to take it obviously, but the practice speaking and conjugating is still good practice. It started downpouring right when I was going to leave (of course), but then my mom gave me a ride since she was bringing my little sister to academia at the same time. After the OIP thing, a few of us went to the computer lab to finalize our plans for the long travel weekend we have here. We have decided to go to LONDON. I am going with Shanna and Emily from UND, and our new friend Abbey from EMU. I am super excited because I have always wanted to go to London, and why not go since we are already so close?! We have a flight there/back and a hostel. We just need to figure out what we are going to do during our days there. Booking was kind of stressful because the sites track when you look at flights/hostels and tend to raise the prices, but we eventually got it to work out and are happy with our arrangements. That's one great thing about Europe: so many great places are oh so close. It'll be fun to visit another country for a few days, and be able to speak English for a bit! Then Shanna and Emily and I decided to all go back to my house for the evening. Shanna and I had a lot of literature homework to do, and it's easier to do with Wi-Fi because we can look up words/phrases with Google Translate if we get stuck. We had great intentions of eating dinner and quickly finishing our homework, but it turned into quite the long evening. We ended up Skyping and Facetiming with various people for a while, talking to my family, and eventually we did get our books open and finish our homework. Let's just say it was a long late night.

The webcam was a nice distraction for a little while. We are definitely the most beautiful chicas in all of Spain! Especially at 1:00am :)

Even though we had a few distractions, thank goodness we did our homework together! Because it took us about an hour and a half! Seperately, it definitely would have taken me at least 2 hours if not more. 

I can't wait to spend more time with you two crazy, beautiful girls this summer and get to know you better!! 5 more weeks of paradise in Spain! (if the sun ever comes out!) Love you!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Lazy Sunday

Today was a very lazy Sunday. I was going to get up at 9:00, but I ended up sleeping in until 11! I felt really bad, but when I went downstairs my family was all in their pajamas and just starting breakfast. Turns out the whole house slept in. It was rainy and cold again today (I don't think it got much higher than 40 degrees), so we just stayed inside. I didn't feel like going out and spending another day walking around in the cold. After breakfast Marta and I watched TV for a while, and then I tried doing some homework. Keyword: tried. Motivation is hard to find at the moment, but I need to finish a ton of stuff before tomorrow so hopefully that motivation comes soon! I did laundry today for the first time!! They have washers here, but no dryers. And it's kind of weird because the washers are in the kitchen in what looks like a cupboard. Sort of like how a dishwasher is. They're little and cute. I'll have to take a picture one day. Since they don't have dryers, we would usually hang the clothes outside. Since it's raining and 40 degrees, we had to hang up my clothes inside. Good thing I didn't wait until the very last minute I needed to do laundry, because they are going to take a while to dry hanging inside. I should be good for a day or two though.

Then we had lunch and just hung out for a little bit. Last night, Marta had her friend Noelia over and I was playing with them and hanging out. Noelia is very good at English for her age, and can also play the piano. Last night she wanted me to teach her some simple songs so I did, and I taught Marta as well. Marta must have been practicing a lot this morning because this afternoon she showed me that she remembers how to play them and can play them much better! I taught her the top part to Heart and Soul, Happy Birthday, and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. She's so cute and keeps practicing and playing around and wants me to play songs or help her out. She takes violin lessons and is very musically talented. She learned very quickly and I haven't written out the notes or finger numbers for her at all. She just watches me play and I explain once in a while, and she picks it up. It's harder to explain than I expected, because I don't really know the names of the fingers here, like pinky or index finger. So this afternoon we played piano for a bit some more and we were able to play together on Heart and Soul. I played the bottom part and she played the top. I was really impressed that she was able to play it with me on her first try! She didn't get overwhelmed or confused by me playing a different part. Then Vanessa (a cousin) came over for a bit and we had hot cocoa and cookies. Some more family came over later too and we just hung out and talked. Then we declared a total house study hour. I needed to do homework, Marta and Jesús needed to study for her tests this week, and I think Nuria was working on her online class. I actually did get a little bit done during that hour, but I've still got plenty to do tonight. We ate dinner and then Mamma Mia was on TV! Mamma Mia is one of my favorite movies ever and I was SO excited when I saw a preview on the tv that it was coming up next. So after dinner Marta and I watched it. It was a classic winter moment, except it's the middle of May! Curled up on the couch, with hot cocoa, next to the fireplace. (Jesús actually put wood in and started the fireplace this morning because it is so cold in the house!)

*Proof that we did have the fireplace running today.*

I really enjoyed watching Mamma Mia. The speaking was in Spanish (voiced-over) but the songs were still in English (which are my favorite part!) The 4 of us have literally been in our pajamas all day. Haha. It's been a fun day to just chill and hang out though. Now it's time for me to hit the books so I'm not up too super late tonight!!

Week 1

Wow, it's hard for me to believe that I have been in Spain for a week now! It actually feels like I've been here for quite a while. I feel very at home in my home and at the school and I now know my way around the city very well. I feel like I have grown so much in the last week and learned so much as well. My Spanish vocabulary and conversation skills have increased tremendously and I have learned a lot about Spanish culture. I have learned all about international travel and airports and how that all works. I feel a lot more grown up and independent. I have made so many new friends already, and cannot wait to become closer with them as the summer moves along. I knew a few girls from UND before we all came here, but I'm much closer with them now than I was before and feel like I know them so much better. It's fun to learn new things everyday about the people you're with. It's weird how when you're thrown into an immersion program like this, you quickly make friendships with people you've never met before. It is kind of like we are all that each other has here. The only people who understand what you feel like and are experiencing here. I remember on the first day of school when we were all finally back together again we just talked and talked about what was going on in our lives and compared and gave suggestions. I feel like I've known some of these people forever already and I hope that we'll keep in touch when we all go back to our own lives in the USA.

My family here is so wonderful as well. I am very happy I was put with this family and I enjoy spending time with them and getting to know them. They are so sweet to me and treat me as if I were part of their family. My mom is starting to know what I like/dislike as far as foods, and she always makes me coffee in the morning and sets it out with some toast with marmalade/nutella, and cereal. She always asks me what I want to do or what I want to watch on TV or what I want to eat. She's very caring and always has my best interest at heart. Having such a wonderful family here has made this transition process much easier for me. We are able to joke around and have fun and communicate better each and every day. My little sister is so adorable and sweet and she's really taken to me now that we're getting to know each other better. She likes to sit by me at our meals now and is always asking me for help with her English, teach her songs on the piano, or to play games with her. She never fails to make me smile. My dad is very interested in America and how we do things back in the states. He'll ask me if we have the same things there, or how the weather is there, or have me teach him some random English since he doesn't really know any. He is actually a very good cook as well! He makes lunch for us every day. He likes to run so one of these days I will have to go for a run with him. I'll try to get a picture with my family one day soon here so you can see them :)

I've also become very accustomed to the food/meals here in a week and grown to love them! For example they have bread with every meal and it's a very different bread from anything I've had in the United States. I LOVE that bread now and always look forward to having it. There have only been a few foods I've had here that I haven't liked. Most of them I've liked and quite a few of them I love! I'm excited to keep trying new foods and eventually I want to help my mom/dad cook one day so I can see how some of these things are made!

Having to go to school in the summer and have homework is really a pain, but then I realize that wow, I've already been here for a week. Only 5 more weeks and then I'll be done and be able to enjoy my summer with freedom, sunshine, and fun. Learning Spanish in Spain where the teachers do not speak English is very different than in the US where we focus a lot on the translation or if you're confused the teacher just explains the word/assigment in English. If you are trying to say something and can't think of the word, you can't just ask. You have to try to describe it in Spanish or figure out a similar word. Same with when our teacher explains something. If we're confused about it, she re-explains it in Spanish again. For example, each day she'll have a phrase of the day type thing we talk about. One day it was the Spanish equivalent of two heads are better than one. She asked us what it signified and meant. Which is a lot harder to describe than I would have thought. It's a very good way to learn Spanish though, because then you don't learn it as a translation. You learn it as it is, just like how we learned to speak English growing up. A word is a word for something and you don't know anything else for it.

It's hard to believe I have only been here for a week since it feels like more, but it's also hard to believe how quickly this week has flown by! My time here is going to be gone before I know it, but I am so excited to learn more and get to experience more places and cities on the weekends. I absolutely love it here in Spain and cannot wait to see what these next 5 weeks bring :)

Saturday in Segovia!

Yesterday our group took a day-trip by bus to Segovia, Spain. I was super excited to spend the day with our group and get to be a little bit touristy again and get away from the books. The weather was not ideal for an outdoor tour, but we made it work. I was wearing a t-shirt with a cardigan over it, a zip-up sweatshirt, my jacket, and a scarf and I was still chilly! I'm so glad I brought that jacket because I was not going to. I have worn it almost every day so far! We left the school at 10 and got to Segovia at around 11:30 I think. We went into the tourist center to get maps. One weird thing about the tourist center is that you had to pay to use the bathroom. It was 20 cents and there was a guy standing in front of the entrance to the bathroom and one of those spinners to let you through. Needless to say, I held it and just went later on the trip. There was a really long line for the bathroom though! I don't know why people would be willing to pay when you could just walk around a little bit and find a place where it's free. We then went to some cafés to get coffee/breakfast and wake up a little bit. I've always heard about how great the crepes are here, but I have never had one. I decided to get one and it was so absolutely delicious! They are kind of like pancakes, but a little more doughy and sweet. Seriously, check them out!

After the café we proceeded on to our next stop--the cathedral. Cathedrals are a  big thing in Spain, and this one was the biggest Cathedral I have ever been inside! Rico said the purpose of the big size is to make people feel small in the face of God and realize that they are just one little part of our big world. Another interesting thing about the cathedral is that there are people buried underneath the floor! Shanna enlightened me about that, and said that that is where the saying "stinking rich" or "filthy rich" comes from. People who are buried under cathedral floors obviously were rich and had to pay a LOT of money. Every time they buried another person they had to open up the floor again and the smell was just wretched. So that's where "filthy, stinking rich" comes from :) There was also a wedding going on in the cathedral while we were there so we got to see a little bit of it. It would have been cool to see more of the ceremony and what their traditions are here.

Here is just one of the many grave markers in the cathedral.

The huge cathedral! It is a gothic style cathedral and is very very old.

After the cathedral, we all wanted to use the bathroom and the guard at the cathedral said there was one right outside if you go down a staircase. We found the staircase and went down there, and it was seriously the most disgusting thing ever!! It smelled wretched and there were just two toilets. There was no toilet paper by either of the toilets and the floor was wet and nasty and the toilet seats were super gross. There was a sink, but no soap or paper towels either. I still shudder just thinking about it. It really makes you appreciate having nice public bathrooms in America. We then proceeded on to the castle. I was really excited for that part because I have never been inside a castle before. It was so cool! There were a bunch of knight suits inside and it was set up with a bedroom and throne room and dining room and a lot of cool, ancient things. The people back then must have been very small because some of the knight suits were so little! We took tons of pictures in there and had a lot of fun exploring throughout the castle. It was huge and had so much neat stuff inside to look at. There was a little museum inside and a gift shop as well. 

We all met up again at the end and headed up to the tower together. I was super excited to be up high and be able to look over the whole city and all the scenery. When we got to the entrance, there was a sign saying that there are 152 steps up to the top. 152. It was insane. It was this tiny little spiral staircase that just kept going up and up and up and up! The steps were narrow and we could only go up single file, but they were tall steps and short Emily and I were pretty much crawling up the staircase. It was super claustrophobic but once we finally made it to the top it was SO worth it. The view was absolutely breathtaking. The wind was like a hurricane though. We took a bunch of fun pictures up there. When we left and got outside, it started to rain. Actually no, it started to pour. The rain was coming down so hard and so we ran into a building near the castle. It had a little cafeteria area inside, but we couldn't eat there because our families had packed us lunched and you're not allowed to eat outside food in restaurants in Spain. So we ran across the park and went back to the castle and ate in a side room in the castle. Which wasn't really legal either, but the guard didn't find us until we were done eating. Hahaha.  It was still pouring outside, but it wasn't going to get any better so we started our walk around Segovia. It was our free time and we wanted to do a little shopping so we walked around with our umbrellas and explored. I've never actually used an umbrella with good purpose, but it was so nice to have it! I stayed mostly dry. We walked around for about 2 hours and then returned to the town center and the bus. In the town center they had a beautiful carousel with the most interesting animals/things to ride on! It had a squid, a pterodactyl skeleton, a rocket ship, a grasshopper, a helicopter, a hot air balloon, and more! It was so cute and the little kids were so excited to ride on it.

We left Segovia at 5:30 and got back to Avila at about 7. It was a really fun day and I took a million pictures. I uploaded many more pictures into my Facebook album, so check those out if you'd like to see more! I was super tired by the time we walked home. I am excited for our other weekend excursions as well. It's fun to spend time with our group and get to know the people better and experience Spain with them. Except we hardly ever use our Spanish when we're all together. Haha WHOOPS.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

More Jota!

Here's another video clip from the jota dancing last night! This one was the men and women, and they were using castanets to enhance their dancing. (The kids sitting on the right side are my little sister Marta and her cousin Daniel)

Friday Friday

Yesterday was a pretty regular day at school, classes weren't super exciting and we took notes and things like that. We have so much homework for our literature class. It's super annoying and takes forever, so that's not much fun. Dance class is kind of a nice break in the day though! We learned more steps for the primero section of our dance. It is getting more difficult, but it's fun. I was super tired after school and had to walk home in the rain which is no fun. But then after lunch I decided to take advantage of siesta time. I have not actually napped during that time yet, but yesterday I decided it was finally time to try it out. BEST. THING. EVER. No wonder they all do it! Even most of the businesses close from 2-5pm for lunch/siesta time. I felt so refreshed afterwards and was much more alert in the evening. Definitely going to be taking more siestas from now on :)

After my siesta, Kari and Ceceli and I decided to meet up and just go out for a while and see what we found to do. We were planning on going to one of the bars and getting drinks/tapas, walking around a bit, and then going to a festival they were having in town. Most of the bars didn't start serving dinner/drinks until 8pm though, so we ended up finding Chuchi, a wonderful pasteleria that is owned by the family of one of our profesoras here! SOOO good. We tried Yemas, which are a traditional sweet of Avila. They are made with egg yolks that are somehow sweetened. I really liked them, and thought they kind of tasted like lemonheads. But squishy :)

Then we walked around and did some touristy picture taking, but we were getting really cold so we decided to go to my house for about 45 minutes before the festival to warm up. When we got to my house my mom brought us some drinks, which eventually turned into a multi-course feast of sandwiches, chips, meat, fruit, pudding, and cake. Haha. My little sister was playing her violin for us and we were playing the piano and it was so much fun to just hang out. We decided it was too cold to go to the festival, but my mom's sister-in-law was at our house and she was heading to her dance practice! She is in a dance group in Avila and they dance the jota, which is very native to this area of Spain and the Castille y Leon region. We decided to go watch and it was so fun and interesting! There were men and women and they did multiple different dances. It was a very good cultural experience and we enjoyed it a lot! Here's a little video clip of one of the dances the men did. They are just at practice so they are not in their costumes. 

After that, we headed home and I went to bed. Today we had a day trip to Segovia! I'll have to update on that later when I get all my tons of pictures uploaded. :)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Just a day, just an ordinary day :)

Nothing really exciting has happened today, so I'll just give you a short run-through of my day. In my conversation/comp class, we did some more grammar work with sentences/conjugations that is getting a little more complex each day. Then we did a little activity using different tenses where we had to write sentences like, "If I were an animal, I would be a _____ because ____" with many different categories like food, weather, objects, natural resource, vehicle, etc. We also played a game in teams, kind of like jeopardy with different questions. Tomorrow she is teaching us a song, so that should be fun! In my culture class, we learned about the northern coast of Spain. (I think.. Haha.) The activity we did was a little confusing, but I was starting to figure it out towards the end. Many of the words are new words I am not familiar with so it takes a lot of thinking. We did have our first day of dance class today though! I guess that's something a little bit exciting :) We were learning the feet and a little bit of arms for a dance, but I can't remember what it is called. Not flamenco this time though. We practiced a few steps and then had to do it with a partner and do cross-overs/changes of position. Shanna and I were partners and we actually did pretty well! Not at holding a serious face though. We just kept laughing. We nailed the steps though, and deemed ourselves "profesionales." I hope you're reading this, Shanna. Haha! We're gonna be legit dancers after six weeks, I just know it :) Then Shanna and I had literature class with Rico. Took some more notes and talked a bit. We have reading homework for tonight, so I guess I'll see how well I learned!

After school I came home and had lunch with my family, and then a few of us girls walked around town looking at the shops/stores and just exploring a little bit. It's really cold here again. It was 38 degrees when I woke up this morning, and I don't think it's been above 50 all day. BRRRR. We explored a lot of stores, and  got some treats at a little bakery place. SO yummy. They make good sweets here, that's for sure! Another fun interesting thing about Spain here is that there is no sales tax on items. If the tag on something says 1.20 euros, it costs 1.20 euros. It's nice because you can calculte how many euros you need easily on your own, and it's really nice to not pay tax when you are so used to it! We walked around for about 2.5 hours, so that was some good exercise. Living up in the mountain makes walking very good exercise. I should have some toned glutes and calves when I return! I came back home and logged onto my computer, and my friend Laura called me on Skype! It was SOO nice to talk to her for a while and we chatted and caught up on life. Let me know if any of you ever want to Skype! It's so weird to talk with someone so far away! But it's super nice as well :)

*Fun fact of the day: I had my first Spanish dream last night!! Before I came here, I wondered if that would ever happen, and sure enough it did! Much sooner than I had expected. I woke up shortly after and realized and it was so weird to think about! My brain was speaking Spanish inside of me!

We are about to eat dinner and I have quite a bit of homework to do tonight, so I'm going to keep this short and sweet! I need to plug in my camera and upload some more of my pictures from the last few days to share with you. Hasta luego!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Game Night!

This afternoon/evening, I just stayed home with my family because the weather was icky and cold today and Marta has been sick. She's feeling much better though. The three of them took a siesta this afternoon and I did my homework. One interesting thing about school here is that the profesoras require us to use pen. When we had our placement exams and were all sitting there with pencils out, they told us to get out pens to use because "pencils are for kids." Haha. It's fine except that I make quite a few mistakes when I'm trying to write things in Spanish, so I end up needing to scribble, which I don't like. It's making me get better at thinking before I write though. Then Marta came downstairs and wanted me to help her with her English homework. I love doing that. It's fun to see what she is learning and hear her try to say the words and read. She's pretty good at reading. It's also good for me, because explaining an English word in Spanish can be quite difficult. After that, Marta really wanted to teach me how to play a traditional Spanish game she has been talking about. It's called Tres en Raya, and is very similar to Tic-Tac-Toe, except it is a little more complex. You only have 3 pieces per person, and you set them all down on the board. Then you keep shifting/moving them around one at a time in an attempt to get three in a row of your own, and stop your opponent from doing it. It involves some good thinking and was really fun. I actually won the first time I did it! I was proud of that because trying to understand her directions was a little bit confusing at first. Here's a picture of what the game board looks like. I was going to attach a link to a site about the game, but the site was in Spanish so I did not think it would do you any good to read about it like that. :P

We played a few rounds of that, and then she got out another game called Tic Tac Baum. Her mom played with us too, because that game can have many players. It was just us girls because Jesús was at work. It's a Spanish board/card game type thing. You roll a die and it tells you what card to draw. There are 5 or 6 different cards, with different word-related tasks to do. Some have a category, like "Things you could buy at a kiosk" and then you have to think of a word that fits it. Others have 2 or 3 letters and you have to think of a word that starts/ends with it. Others have letters scrambled up and you have to make a word, etc. Then there is a little bomb-type thing that beeps when you are playing and you pass it around. Whoever has it when it explodes loses that round, and you keep track of how many times you get exploded. It's a pretty simple game, but in another language I wasn't sure how it would go. I actually did pretty well, and my host mom was very impressed at how quickly I could read the cards and then think of a word in response. I need to thank Alissa Zink for that I think. She is a wonderful person and we played the word game Ruzzle on our phones in Spanish while we were at UND this spring! It was crazy and super hard at first, but eventually we got better at seeing Spanish words in bunches of letters instead of naturally seeing English words. So thanks, girl! :)

Both games were really fun and we enjoyed playing them and spending time together. I learned a lot during the second game too, and my vocabulary here increases every day. It's also fun to be able to start joking back and forth with them and using a bit of sarcasm. It just makes the environment more relaxed, and it feels more like home when we aren't just speaking to each other by asking necessary questions or weird concrete questions just to make conversation. Being able to converse over what is on TV or what we are doing is so much better. I'm really glad I have a family who likes to do stuff with me and engage me in their activities. They are so nice and wonderful and I'm excited to spend more time with them and get to know more cultural things. Marta said she has more fun stuff she wants to play, so we'll see where that leads! That was enough brain stimulation for the night, so I'm off to bed! Hopefully it's nicer tomorrow, but I don't think it will be, because Jesús asked me tonight if I brought a jacket for winter. Ha!

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

Of course the icky weather from Grand Forks decides to follow me to Spain. Go figure. It's 44 degrees right now in the middle of the afternoon. (Fahrenheit. I gave up on learning Celsius and just put the Avila weather app on my desktop of my computer in Fahrenheit, so when I get up in the morning I can plan for my day. Watching the news at night and having them say it'll be 10 degrees doesn't help me much.) Because it's so chilly outside, it's pretty chilly inside the houses and the school. It has been raining on/off all day too. Luckily I got a ride with my mom to school so I didn't need to walk in it, and on my walk home, it was just misting so I didn't need to use my umbrella. Today was my first day walking home by myself from school and I did it without getting lost or turned around at all!

Classes were about the same today. In my conversation/composition class, we went over the homework/writings we did last night and read them out loud, and then did some more grammar work. At the moment we're just reviewing some basic grammar concepts, but she said it'll get harder from here. I really like that class and I love the profesora. She is so cute. During one of the breaks, she was asking us if we have been able to talk with our family and friends back home at all. We said yeah, mostly through email or some people have been using Facetime or Skype, but we don't really use our phones. I was trying to explain that I have a blog I use to keep people at home updated, and I was pretty sure the Spanish word for it is also blog. She didn't understand what I was talking about so I was trying to explain it as a diary that I keep on a website to reflect on my days, add photos, etc. The spanish word for diary is "diario," but I accidentally said it with an 'a' sound at the end instead of an 'o'. So it sounded like the Spanish word for diarrhea instead of for diary. She gave me a really strange look and then I realized what I said and was like AHHH NO NO NO and then we laughed and eventually figured out what I was talking about. The Spanish word is blog, like I thought. I just didn't say the 'o' sound in the word right. Whoops! Just one of my awkward language barrier moment. There have definitely been a few.

Then I went to the cultures of Spain class. I'm experimenting with my classes/schedule a little bit, because the two classes I wanted to take here are at the exact same time, so I can't take those two and need to pick one to do and then also do a different one. Confusing, but anyways I'm working that out. So I went to the culture class today and it was kind of intense actually! The teacher was lecturing on all (and I mean ALL) of the provinces and regions of Spain and their capitals. It was a LOT of material in one sitting, especially without having any background knowledge of Spain at all. Just imagine trying to have every single US State, some info about it, and its capital explained to you in one 1-hour sitting. SO much info.

After classes a group of us went to the computer lab and were trying to figure out plane tickets/hostels for our long weekend. We have one four day weekend we are given to travel, and so we are trying to decide where to go, how to get there, and where to stay. We really wanted to go to London, but the plane tickets were jumping in price by the minutes, and so we are still debating where exactly we want to go, but we are getting it figured out. We have a day trip with our group to Segovia this weekend, so that'll be really fun. I came home from school then and ate a really yummy lunch. Marta was home from school today because she still wasn't feeling well, but when I got here she was feeling much better. She sat by me and showed me her sticker books. She loves stickers and has tons and tons of them in books. Many of them are of characters I know, like the Disney princesses, Hello Kitty, Mickey and Friends, Pooh, and Spongebob. It's so cute because they have different names here, and some of them are so literally translated. Like the Disney princesses. Snow White is "blanca nieva" which literally means white snow. Same with Sleeping Beauty. And Eeyore and Tigger from Winnie the Pooh are called "burro" and "tigre" which are the words for donkey and tiger. And SpongeBob is Bob Esponja, probably my favorite translation. It was fun to look at all of her stickers because she has so many. We'd go through and she'd tell me what they are in in Spanish and then ask me what some of them are called in English. I learned some fun new words and she did too. She has a traditional Spanish game she and her mom want to teach me when Marta is feeling a little better. I'm excited to learn how to play. It's still kind of rainy/misty, so I probably won't do anything too exciting the rest of the day. Just hang out with my family and do my homework.

Enjoy your super hot weather back home! Luckies...

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Actual School and Classes

Today was the first day we actually had classes and such. I walked to Allison's house and then we walked together. Both times we walked today we did great and did not get confused or lost at all. We are getting better :) I am in the medium level of classes which I am very happy about. I did not want to be in the high level, because I thought I'd get confused and some of the students in our program can speak SOO well. I also didn't want to be in the low level, because I want to be challenged here and not be learning basic things I already know. There are 8 girls total in my class, so it's small and fun. Our profesora is Rut and she is SO cute and young and fun! We started by playing two games to get us to know each other and be comfortable talking and conversing. In the first game, we had a large star on the board and we each took turns writing 5 words/things on the star (one at each point). Then the class had to ask us yes/no questions about the words to figure out what they mean to us/signify about us and our lives. It was actually really fun and it was fun to get to know the other girls. Then we played a game where we had to draw a word/theme out of a basket and then we had to describe it for one minute. Then the class had to guess what we were describing. Basically verbal charades. Then we had to crack down and do some more academic type stuff, but that really wasn't too bad! Part of our homework for that class is to keep a journal and write in it every night about what we did at school and in the afternoons/evenings. I think that's great actually, and it'll be fun to look back at after the trip. Plus it's good practice for my Spanish writing skills.

My other class is Spanish Literature/Readings. The teacher is Rico, our chaperone for EMU, so that's kind of interesting. There are only two girls in that class though, Shanna and me! Haha. So that'll definitely be interesting. We will both need to do our readings/homework, or it'll be pretty obvious. No hiding in that class. We took some notes about different types of literature in Spanish, and then he assigned us a reading. It probably isn't going to be a super interesting class, but I guess it'll be nice to cram it into 6 weeks instead of spreading it out over a whole semester. Our final class of the day is our dance class. The dance studio was occupied today with students from the school who are taking Spring Final Exams, so we were in a classroom listening to different types of dance music and we learned the arm/hand motions for flamenco dancing. Yes, I said flamenco dancing. This is going to be one of the craziest things I have ever done. Haha. And at the end of the 6 weeks, our host families come to watch us perform a dance. AHH.

After school we walked home, and I was home alone a while waiting for Jesús and Marta to get home. Jesús came home but without Marta. They were taking her to the doctor this morning because she has been having bad allergy problems, and I asked him where she was and he said something about the medico and something about her tests. I knew she had two tests in school today so I figured she was making them up since she missed this morning. After a little more conversing, I figured out that they had taken her to the hospital to do tests because they thought she might have pneumonia. He left again after lunch, and I went out walking around town and the river with my friends Carly and Abbey, both from EMU. That was really nice and relaxing and fun to talk with them for a bit. When I came back, the family was back from the hospital with Marta. Turns out she has bronchitis. Her allergies have been really bad, and so the phlegm/stuff has been building up in her lungs. But she's on antibiotics and it should clear up soon. I'm glad she's not super sick! (And I find it kind of impressive that we were able to communicate all that info and I understood it with no difficulties :) ) Now I'm just relaxing for a bit, but should probably start my homework soon. It's weird, because I'm very accustomed to eating supper and then starting my homework, but when we don't eat until 9 or 10 at night, I should probably do my homework first. I just need to find motivation. My brain is still in summer/tourist mode. Haha.

Check out these sheep we passed by on our walk today! Made me feel kind of back at home. The baby lambs were SOOO cute. Look at the little guy :)

Here's a picture of Abbey and me while we were walking along the river! I love that I live really close to it. :)

Have a wonderful evening, all!

¡Qué extraño!

For those of you who do not speak Spanish, "¡Qué extraño!" is the equivalent of "How strange!" Obviously, while living in a foreign country I have encountered many different things that I find strange. My family has also found a few things about me to be strange. I'll share a few of those first.

-One night I had just gotten out of the shower and was sitting on the couch. I told my parents I was about to go to bed and they exclaimed, "With wet hair?!" When I told them yes, they could not understand how I am able to go to bed with wet hair and not wake up sick in the morning. It was kind of a funny conversation.

-The first day I was here, all my family drank was water. The second day though, at lunch my mom asked me what I wanted to drink. Naturally I just said milk, since I'm used to drinking milk, and they looked at me and said, "Milk with your lunch? That's interesting." Haha. They do not really just drink milk here. And from what other students here have said, if they do drink milk, they drink it warm.

-My family finds it very strange that I do not drink pop. They also found my roll-up Vapur water bottle to be very cool and had never seen anything like it.

-Today I was watching TV with my dad at lunch and there was a chocolate fountain in the background of who they were interviewing. He pointed and said "Look at that! It's like a fountain of chocolate!" I said yeah and explained what it was and he thought it was so cool and could not believe it was real and that we actually have them.

-One difficult experience I had yesterday, was trying to set up my cellphone when everything was in Spanish. It was much more difficult than I thought to navigate through the menu and figure out the settings, but all of a sudden I came across how to change the language and that helped tremendously.

-Another thing I find really strange here is the sidewalks. They are very, very narrow, and in many places they can only fit one-person wide. It makes walking and talking with someone quite difficult, and it's kind of awkward when you encounter someone trying to walk the opposite way.

-Toilets. The toilets here look just a little bit different than in the US, but you flush them by pushing a button on the top. Took me a while to figure it out the first time, but I have the hang of it now. They also have different style toilets for the men in the bathroom.

-Here in Spain, people smoke in public. I always see people walking around and smoking or standing on the corner with cigarettes. I am very not used to that and it's really disgusting actually.

-The people here drive kind of crazy-like. They all have manual cars so there's a lot of jerking and starting/stopping. They don't stop for pedestrians until the last second so I can never quite tell if someone is going to stop or not. They also just kind of park wherever, which is really interesting.

-Another thing I've had to get used to in Spain is the besos, or kisses. When you meet someone for the first time, you do not shake their hand or give them a hug. You do the double kiss thing on both cheeks. It was super weird and awkward at first, but in these first days I've met tons of people and now it's just natural to do. Besos are also used if you see someone on the street you haven't seen for a while, or want to thank someone for a gift, etc. When little kids do it, it's so cute :)

-The light switches here are very different and look like large white toggle squares. The one really nice thing though, is that I have two light switches in my room: one by the door, and one right next to my bed. It's genius, really. I can get all settled into bed while the light is still on, and then just reach over and turn it off. Brilliant.

-All of the rooms, including the kitchen, living room, and stairways have doors. So if you are trying to go from room to room, you have to walk through a few doors. I was pretty clumsy at navigating through them at first, but it has gotten much better now.

Our Group :)

Here's a picture of our whole group! This is from yesterday when we were touring the town center. I stole it from Kaari because we all wanted a group picture, but didn't want to make our profesora take 20 pictures with all our different cameras. We have 24 total students. 8 are from UND, and 16 are from Eastern Michigan. And only 3 boys. I really like our group and am excited to make more new friends as the summer rolls along :)

Monday, May 13, 2013

La Primera Día de mis Clases!

Today was our first day of classes here, but we didn't actually have classes. We had placement exams to figure out our sections for when we start classes. There were 4 tests. The first one was grammar, with sentences with words missing and multiple choice for the word to put in the blank. The second part was also some more grammar but in a different form that involved reading and comprehension. The third part was a listening part. And the last section was a writing part. We had to write about the last movie we saw and describe it and why we liked it, but we could only use 80-90 words. No more than 90, and no less than 80. It was kind of an interesting constraint, but it worked. I thought the tests went well, but we'll see tomorrow when we get our placements! Then we met with our dance teacher and just talked a little bit about the culture of Spain.

This is a really interesting statue Allison and I came across on our walk home from school. It's exactly what it looks like... a zipper. Haha! I have no idea why it is a statue or why it is in the middle of a roundabout, but there it is. 

I came home, had lunch with my family at 3:00pm, and then Allison and I decided to go to a phone store here. Her host dad really wanted her to get a phone today so he'd be able to contact her if he needed, so we went at about 4:30. My family had an extra very basic flip-phone they said I can have/use here, so I just needed to buy a SIM card for it. We went in the first phone store we saw, but they could not give me a card because my phone was a different brand. (Basically, we walked into a Sprint store needing a Verizon SIM card.) The woman working told us that the store for my movistar phone "está en el otro lado," which means, is on the other side. And she pointed to the right. Allison and I walked around for probably 10 minutes up and down the rows of businesses and could not find the store! Turns out, it was directly next door to the first store. DIRECTLY. It was so stupid. Haha. So I got a card for my phone for only 12,40 euros which is really nice and I am able to call/text other phones in Spain. It'll be nice to have that, and also to have it as an alarm clock. I did not have another alarm so this morning I had to have my mom wake me up at 7:30. After the phone adventure, our group had a walking tour of the center of Avila and some of the cathedrals with one of our profesoras. She speaks very quickly so sometimes it was hard to understand, but she explained a lot about the history and culture of the buildings and walls. We got to go inside the famous cathedral of Santa Teresa and it was so beautiful. I haven't put the pictures on my computer yet, but when I do I'll upload a few to here and Facebook! While Allison and I were walking back to our houses, suddenly a huge boom of thunder cracked out and it started to rain. Neither of us had our umbrellas with us so we hurriedly walked to her house, which is closer to the center than mine, and got inside. I waited there for a while and got to meet her family. They are very nice and she has host siblings that are 12 and 16. The rain just kept getting stronger so I used their phone to call my house and had my dad come and get me. Luckily we live pretty close together so it wasn't a big deal. Tomorrow morning when we walk to school it will probably still be raining, so we will need to bring our umbrellas. Not a great moment to live across town from the school, but we're washable :)

Many of you are probably wondering/asking about the culture here and some things that are different. Everything here is much smaller than in the United States. For example, at the supermercado, the packages of food are much smaller, and other things like bottles of shampoo and soap come in much smaller containers. It is weird for me to buy them in such small containers because I feel like it's not practical, but it's the only option! The housing situations are much smaller too. The people here in the city live in apartments or houses. However, an apartment in the United States would be considered a house here. So the apartments here are much smaller than in the US. The rooms are much smaller too, and my shower is super little! It's so weird, but I'm getting used to it. The beds are also small. I don't think mine is even a twin, but I'm not sure. My bed also has fleece sheets on it, which is very interesting. I asked someone else if theirs did too and they said yes. That was one really  nice thing about being back at school with everyone was that we were able to talk about our families and our experiences and see what is the same/different and how everyone is doing. 

The food here is also very different, obviously. Not just different foods, but different foods at different times of day. I've explained how they eat lunch at 3pm and dinner at 9pm, but the food types are different as well. For breakfast, they eat many sweet things, many desserts. Things with chocolate, sugar, cakes, cookies, etc. That is their breakfast. The bad thing about that is you get hungry not long after eating, because it has no sustenance! Lunch is the big meal, with 2 or 3 courses, and then fruit, and then dessert, and then coffee. And then for dinner before bed, they tend to have what we would consider more breakfasty foods like eggs, bread/toast, tortillas, etc. I have liked everything I have eaten here so far and really enjoyed most of it. One interesting thing they do here is warm up milk before drinking it, and eat cereal out of mugs instead of bowls.

The roads are super different as well. Many of them are cobblestone or brick, but are very uneven so when you are driving on them it is SUPER bumpy, and they are not very nice to walk on either. There are roundabouts EVERYWHERE and so it's really difficult to cross the roads sometimes. You can only cross in the crosswalks, which don't go through the roundabouts, so sometimes you have to take a very circuitous route just to cross the street. They also have very small cars. I have not seen one pick-up truck here at all, and when I tried to explain trucks to my family they had no idea what I was talking about. Our explanations and communications are getting much better with each day. Today I explained how in my high school we had school today even though we usually don't on Mondays. I explained a snow day and that we need to make up the day on a Monday and my parents both understood with no problems! I was proud of that. We were watching TV tonight and CSI: Las Vegas was on. It was very interesting to watch in Spanish, and kind of funny because most of their shows here are Spanish voice-overs of American episodes. So the characters had different voices and the speech doesn't match their mouths, but it's fun to watch and I'm starting to understand more and more of it in the TV where they speak very quickly. One last fun interesting thing about here.. the voltage is different in their outlets, and so are the plug-ins. I have adapters to plug in my devices, but I do not need a converter because most electronics are distributed world wide and can handle the higher voltage. However, I have noticed that my devices charge SO much faster here than they do in the US! It's really nice actually. My camera battery only took about an hour to charge yesterday, compared to the many hours it takes at home. 

Wow, this post got super long but I just felt like I had a lot to say I guess!! I should head to bed now, I really need my sleep!! Adios :)