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Week 2 & 3 Zamora

I have been so busy that I forget I need to post every week. My second week in my program we spend  doing a workshop with local people who perform traditional dances. I learned about the culture and what parts of Spain each dance comes from. We learned to play a few of the instruments and some of my classmates even tried on the traditional clothes. The dances were fun to learn and it gave me a taste of how people celebrate certain events with dance.

My classmates and I also took a trip up to Gijon, Spain for the weekend. We went to enjoy the beach and to visit another part of Spain. I fell in love with this area. I was beautiful and had a lot of history. The weather was a nice change too.

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The third week we had two excursions to Pereruela and Toro. In Pereruela we visited a pottery workshop. I got to see from the mixing of the material to making different types of pots, pans, and ovens. I also got a chance to try and make my own dish, which turned to to look more like a donut. In Toro we visited a old convent and a winery.

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My Spanish has been improving. I can now communicate my basic needs and am able to get by. I love that I am force to put my Spanish vocabulary to use. I am great at ordering un café con leche, and whatever needs I need at the store. I still have the feeling that I am not here in Spain. Maybe it will hit me once I return back home. I feel comfortable here and know my surrounding really well. I have made some great friends and they help me feel at home here. My one goal is to hope that I will continue to speak Spanish back in the states.

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Zamora – Intro, Pre-departure, arrival!

I am late on writing about my intro, pre-departure and arrival. I have already been in Spain for a week and a half. I started my program a week ago. I have already been super busy, but enjoying my time.

INTRO

Hello Everyone!! My name is Lidia and I am studying in Zamora, Spain for 6 weeks. Ill be completing my whole second year of Spanish. That is why I chose this program. I need my second year and I have always wanted to go to Spain. I am completing to things at once. It is also a great way to get to know a different culture and a different style of Spanish that people speak here.

Pre-departure

I knew barely anything about Spain and its culture. I only knew that they speak Spanish and leave a different life style then the US does. I was very nervous to leave my home where I am comfortable at and know how to speak the language. I was worried that I would not be able to communicate well with my host family or other is the community. I wondered how it would all work out or if this town would have a good amount of English language people. I also did not like how bad the time difference was going to be. Its a 9 hour difference back home. I knew it would make it hard to every have time to communicate with my family and friends back home.

I did some research on the life style of people in Spain, what the young people like to do in their spare time and what the fashion was here! I did not want to stick out as a tourist, even though I would. I was told this town would be small, so I pictured it having old building, maybe a few places to shop, far from everywhere, and other things like that. I was hoping I would be wrong. This is what I say when I looked it up Zamroa!

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Arrival!

I was nervous to arrival in Spain. My Spanish is not the best and I am somewhere that is foreign to me. Me and another classmate came a few days early before our program to explore Madrid. This was the best decision ever. Not only did I get to see other parts of Spain, but it gave me time to adjust to the time change, language and culture shock before meeting my host family and where I would be staying for 6 weeks.

When I arrived in Zamora I was greeted by my host dad and professor, along with my classmates family. It became real that I was about to depart from my English companion and be on my own. It was hard to communicate with my host family, but my host family is so understand and just awesome that I felt right at home right away. They let me know that I was free to make the house my house and just enjoy my time here.

My first outing to the town was that day I arrived. My host family took me to met their friends and my Spanish had to kick in them. They were all so nice. I did not expect that. I also got to explore the rest of the town with my classmates that evening and found out that there was a night life for people my age. The day I arrived, the town was having a huge festival so many people where there.

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Stateside

I’ve been home for a month now and I’m missing Barcelona more with every passing day. I didn’t think I could miss it more than I did when I first left; but sometimes, absence does make the heart grow fonder. It’s weird being home. It wasnt long before I started feeling like it was all just a dream. On the drive home from the airport I felt like I had never left at all. Nothing has changed, at least nothing of any consequence (besides maybe gas prices). People grow a little, cut their hair, have babies, and get married but the town still looks the same. I still take the same road to get home, all the same stores occupy the same corners; yet, in some ways, I feel like my life has been turned upside down.

I have missed Oregon, I’ve missed my family and friends. I’ve missed all the trees and grass, pizza, sushi, and hamburgers. But now, while I’m not missing pizza, I miss pan con tomate and Spanish tortilla. I miss the city sounds and lights, I miss El Prat (even though it took me quite some time to get on its good side), Sant Pau, the Medeteranian sea, and the metro. I miss Catalunya. I miss Barcelona, and I can’t wait to go back!

Life is good… life is great! I am blessed beyond belief to have had this experience and to come home to many more adventures. As much as I miss Barcelona, it doesn’t do well to dwell on the past and forget to enjoy today, and make the most of tomorrow! To all the adventures yet to come, may each be as wonderful as the last… in their own special way.

Cambio y fuera,

Elani

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Goodbye beautiful Barcelona.

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Barça and Porto

October 20-26:

This week I bought the most expensive shirt of my life to date! I had the privilege of attending a Barça game at Camp Nou on Tuesday and I had to be properly dressed for the occasion. Though this wasn’t my first professional sports game, and it certainly won’t be my last, it was definitely one that will stick with me forever! We got our tickets from a vendor on La Rambla and with that came a ride to the stadium from one of their local sports stores. They told us that a bus would come for us in five minutes, but as five minutes passed the group of anxious fútbol fans grew, and no bus showed up. By the time a bus finally did show up to take us to the game 20-30 minutes later, the crowd was too large to fit in one bus. Our coordinator assured the impatient tourists, because let’s face it, natives avoid La Rambla at all costs – even for fútbol tickets, that another bus would come in just five minutes. We finally catch a bus and are on our way, you can feel a buzz in the air, WE’RE GOING TO CAMP NOU! I tell you all of this because I want you to know that at this point we are in a bus full of extremely excited and impatient fútbol fans, so when we are turned around at the entrance and our bus driver, who is forced to take a different route, heads away from the stadium, things get rowdy. After a minute or two of unanswered questions being hurdled forward from around the bus, people begin to rush towards the doors and demand to be let out in the middle of the street. By the time the bus driver is able to pull over we’re pretty far from where we want to be and walk/run towards the stadium with the rest of the baffled and angry fans. We make it to the stadium a few minutes before the toss and after grabbing a hotdog, yes they have hotdogs in Spain too, we head to our seats in the nosebleed section. It was an amazing game and not even our cheap seats could detract from that. I think I would have had a blast even if we hadn’t won 3-1 against Ajax! I think my favorite part was watching a man several rows below us, who was listening to a commentary on a little portable radio, stand up and scream Spanish protests and complaints at the refs every couple of minutes!

On Friday a group of students and I went to Porto for the weekend. This was my first weekend trip outside of Spain, and what a way to start! First off, our hostel was the best I’ve ever been to! I wouldn’t say I’m an expert on the matter, but this was my fifth hostel and it greatly surpassed all the others in every category. The staff was the best, the rooms were amazing, the showers were fifty times better than my shower in Spain and ten times nicer than either of my showers in the US. We even ate dinner at the hostel two nights and the food was fantastic! Needless to say, if you’re ever in Lisbon or Porto definitely get a room at one of the YES! Hostels. We ate lunch at a place the hostel recommended and had a Francesinha, famous Portuguese sandwich, which I thought would be the death of me… meat, meat, and more meat between slices of bread covered in cheese and a “spicy” sauce. The Portuguese must eat as much spicy food as the spaniards, ninguno! The city was so beautiful, right by the river and the ocean, and the weather sure didn’t give us anything to complain about! We did a pub crawl (my first “official” pub crawl!), and a wine tasting. I love Port wine! I never have been a big fan of alcoholic drinks, my favorites being the ones that are full of sugar and fruit, but Port wine I do like, probably because it’s super sweet! Yay sugar! I went on two walking tours of the city and learned that J.K. Rowling lived in Porto for a couple of years and it is there that she started the first draft of Harry Potter! (Big PotterHead here :)) There are things all over the city that they claim are the inspiration for book elements, like a little house squashed between two churches that may have been the inspiration for Number 12 Grimmauld Place. Pretty silly story as to how the house got there, but you’ll have to go there to find out (or just Google it). Livraria Lello is now one of my favorite bookstores in the world, second only to Powells. Google it (I don’t have time to describe everything in detail for you. Sorry, I’m not sorry) if you want to see how pretty it is, normally I don’t follow the “no photo” signs but this time there was a camera nazi walking around the whole time. That’s his job. What a way to make a living. Anyway, Porto was beautiful and I can’t wait to come back someday, and fill my suit case full of Port wine ��

Big city life (or rather European life in general- I’m talking to you Spain and France): I have seen more PDA these past 3 months than in my entire 21 years of life in the states combined! I don’t know if this is something that happens in big cities in the states or rather more likely is simply a result of past oppression and a renowned sense of freedom of expression, but it sure happens a lot here. It’s not just that people make out on the streets, though I see plenty of that, it’s the fact that it is followed by booty grabbing and other kinds of touching that I don’t appreciate seeing. Today, while waiting to cross the street, I saw a man reach down his girl’s pants and squeeze her butt… under her pants… his hand was between her jeans and her butt, in plain sight of the five or six of us waiting at the crosswalk. A few weeks ago in line at the airport I saw a man unzip his lady friend’s jacket and “honk” her boob… several times, while we waited to board the plane. I understand you’re stoked that you can now hold hands and kiss in public but do you need to do more than that outside the comfort of your homes? Seriously, take it inside. Let me clarify, when I say inside, I mean YOUR OWN HOME! Inside does not mean a crowded airport full of people. I’m sorry if this was too graphic for you but they don’t seem to think it’s too graphic for the streets so I will write it here for the twelve of you that read this blog.

Cambio y fuera,

Elani

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Si no has visto Granada, no has visto nada!

Hola, I’m back! Still soaking in the sights, reading, napping, eating, and doing a little studying on the side. Still in love with Barcelona, still missing home. I can’t believe its been over a month, time sure does fly when you’re having fun… it would seem I have a lot of catching up to do! Needless to say, a lot has happened since I last wrote. I think I’ll just try and take it one weekend at a time…

October 13-19 : There is a saying in Spain, “Si no has visto Granada, no has visto nada;” which means, if you have not seen Granada, you have not seen anything. I went with my program to Granada (17-19) and from the moment I stepped off the plane, I knew it was the truth. Back in October it was still quite hot and humid in Barcelona, Granada’s cool crisp morning air was a nice change of pace and reminded me of fall back home. I’m a mountain girl; I don’t snowboard or ski, but I sure can appreciate a good view and I’ve missed the snow capped mountains in Oregon. Granada’s view of the Sierra Nevada Mountains (the original ones- no, Granada is not in California) did not disappoint! When the sun came up, it was a nice heat, one that warmed your skin without the sticky, sweaty heat you get in Barcelona. Granada is beautiful, I could spend hours telling you all about each and everything that makes it special; the unique street lamps, wide side walks, narrow alleys, fountains, parks, green grass (quite possibly my favorite thing about Granada!), old buildings, beautiful architecture, and the Alhambra – just to name a few. Not to mention the food was fantastic! I love that in Granada you can get a Menú del día for under 10 euros, I have grown accustomed to having a starter, main dish, dessert and coffee for lunch. While in Granada we took a tour of the Alhambra, several neighborhoods, and the cathedral, we saw a flamenco show, took a dip in the arabic baths, enjoyed a tapas dinner and had the most amazing arabic tea; and of course we did some shopping, you can’t leave Granada without getting a pair of harem pants!

I’m so glad that I got the chance to travel to the south of Spain, the culture is so different from that of Barcelona. The Arabic/Muslim influence is prominent in Granada, making it feel almost like an entirely different country! Also, in Andalucía (the southernmost autonomous community/region in Spain), when you order a drink at the bar you get free tapas! I wish I had more time to travel to every region in Spain, they’re all so different, each so unique. Though I absolutely loved Granada, I was glad to be back home in Barcelona on Sunday!

Big City Life: I’m going to take this moment to come back to the present because big city life is something new to me and funny things happen almost everyday – if I don’t share now I will probably forget later! My commute to school in the morning consists of walking, and taking the metro. Tuesdays and Thursdays I just take the metro two stops, get off and walk to school. However, Mondays and Wednesdays I have class at the Sant Pau campus and I need to change lines. Last week I forgot it was Monday and almost didn’t get off in time (I only transfer after one stop!). Today I remembered it was Monday when I got on the train but somehow forgot that I needed to transfer at Diagonal and completely missed it. Yes, I have been taking this same route to school for over two months now! This has happened before but last time I had a partner in crime and we had a good laugh, so did the ladies sitting across from us. Anyway, already running a little late because of this I finally make it to my final train and by the time I get on it’s so packed there is no room for me and the doors start to shut, but I made it! Close shave. One guy gave me a knowing smile because stuff like this happens all the time, crowded metros are nothing new. However, when I tried to turn around and face the doors, I realized that my hood and hair were trapped in the door! I don’t know if anyone else noticed, but I had a good laugh to myself and waited patiently for the doors to open at the next stop so I could be released.

Cambio y fuera,

Elani

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Week Six

How is it possible that I have been in Barclona for six weeks already, and in Europe for over eight?!

This week, among other things, I visited the Santa Caterina Market (fish photo) with a group from my program. Having already seen Mercat de Sant Josep (La Boqueria), one of the most touristic places in all of Barcelona, it was fun to see a market where locals actually shop. We tried cured meat, olives, and cheese. It’s places like these were I truly feel like I’m in Spain. When I’m surround by locals talking about their day, what they’re making for dinner, and this strangely warm fall weather. You can buy almost any food item you need here, all as fresh as they come.

This last week I also visited Park Güell, Cementiri de Montjuïc and went to the top of Cúpula las Arenas. Park Güell, the photo of the mosaic salamander, is a park that was designed by Eusebi Güell and architect Antoni Gaudí as a sort of community. However unsuccessful as a housing development, it is now one of Barcelona’s many famous historic architectural sites and brings in many tourists year round. Cementiri de Montjuïc, photo of the grave, is a large cemetery in the south of Barcelona. It is the resting place of over one million people, most of which are in plots nestled in the rocky hills of Montjuïc. It opened over 130 years ago, and many graves are showing their age. It was amazing to see all of the large statues and monuments that represent the families buried there, or sometimes just a single person. Cúpula las Arenas, is an old bull fighting arena that was converted into a shopping mall since the outlaw of bull fighting in Catalonia. From the top you have a 360 view of most of Barcelona. Directly below you can see Plaça España and beyond that Font Màgica, and the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya.

Elani

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Oktoberfest

While may students traveled to Germany over the last couple of weeks for Oktoberfest, I stayed in Barcelona and discovered our very own beer festival in town. Some friends and I joined in the festivities last weekend. I’ve never been to Oktoberfest in Germany but I imagine it would be somewhat the same, only much much bigger. I even saw many people dressed up in the traditional Dirndl dress or Lederhosen. We rode rides, drank beer, and I saw my fair share of completely hammered people, old and young. We even practiced our spanish a little with a group of kids from Barcelona, Argentina, and Ukraine. Our conversation was broken up frequently by the many spontaneous outbursts of song or by shattering glass as one of the many mug towers, being stacked by people too wasted to walk straight, crashed to the floor. Inside the beer garden tent, tables are filled with people drinking, dancing, and singing… and some pretzel eating. I had a great time, it was fun to see a German festival being celebrated by people from all over the world gathered in Spain!

Elani

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la Mercè, Sitges, and Zaragoza

Wednesday was the last day of Festes de la Mercè, a festival held annually in Barcelona. Activities for all ages can be found in the streets, parks, and plazas throughout the city. I saw Castells and one of the many Parade of Giants that went on this week. It baffles me to think just where all these people come from! The entire population of Barcelona, along with the many tourists, gather in these plazas. I felt like a duck heading into the metro, waddling and taking baby steps to avoid stepping on the toes and heals of the people inches in every direction.

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Wednesday night I went to the firework show and projection at Plaça de Espanya where even more people crowded in to see a, mostly political- as everything in Catalonia is, musical video depicting Barcelona’s history. I think I sometimes forget that I’m living in a big city. I’m living in a city that has one million more inhabitants than Oregon’s biggest city! Just walking down the street on any regular day in Barcelona I don’t feel like it’s that big. Sure it has it’s moments, usually when I walk past the Gaudi museum, or wander into Plaça Catalunya, and see all the tourists bustling about with their shopping bags, backpacks, and cameras. It is going to be so weird to come home and drive ten minutes to get to town, a town that is one thirty second the size of Barcelona. I’m grateful for game days, festivals, and crowded tourist attractions, they remind me where I am. When I get onto an exceptionally crowded metro car I remember that I am living in Europe. This is my home for the next twelve weeks.

Okay, enough about festivals! That’s not all we do in Spain, though it sure does seem like it :) This week I went to Sitges, a city on the sea twenty miles south of Barcelona. It was beautiful! The sand was smooth, just like it is back home, but the day we went, the water was about like it is back home too; needless to say, our sun bathing was unsuccessful!

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Friday morning I went, with some of my study abroad group, to Zaragoza. Zaragoza is a city almost two hundred miles west of Barcelona in the Aragon community. On our overnight trip we took several tours of the city and its Roman ruins. I ate too much, made new friends, and saw the worlds third largest fresh water aquarium. I love big cities. I love the easy public transportation, good food, culture, and entertainment. However, there is something about smaller towns that makes them special. I don’t know what it is, if you have any ideas let me know ;). Not that Zaragoza is small…. it still has sixty seven thousand more people than Portland! It just has that smaller city feel compared to Barcelona. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Zaragoza and I can’t wait to see more cities in Spain! I never have been good at conclusions… so, the end. El Fin, Elani

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More festivals!

This weekend/week is La Mercè festival in Barcelona. The big day will be this Wednesday, most people get the day off and there are concerts, performances, traditional dance, and more castells! These events have been going on since Friday. It is such a different feel to be out on the streets this week. Normally the metro closes at midnight and all but a few of the restaurants and shops are closed by then, but this week the metro is open all night and there are people everywhere! It’s not hard to find food at 3am and the streets are filled with music. Every night they do a firework show by the water, I haven’t had the chance to see it yet but I’m sure I will tomorrow. I know every night when the show starts because my neighbors dog is not a fan!

Each week I see more of the city, and I’m beginning to realize how walkable it is. On Sunday I went for a stroll and I found a street with several Mexican restaurants! I cannot tell you how ecstatic I was to finally find a burrito!! They even sold hot sauce there, which is not so easy to come by in Spain. They don’t eat a lot of spicy food or sauce here, so hot sauce is nearly impossible to find! I have really enjoyed trying all of the food here, especially our home cooked meals. Even when I don’t like something I’m glad I had the chance to try it. That being said, it sure was nice to have a little taste of home yesterday!

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Adios,

Elani

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Prior to Coming Home…

I had my reservations about traveling to Spain because of how I visualized the culture to be… that being said, I’m pretty sure that the culture of Oviedo was distinct and I can’t say that all of Spain has the same characteristics that Oviedo does. I noticed a lot of similarities in culture between Oviedo and when I live in the USA but there were definitely differences as well. Drinking the local fermented apple alcoholic drink (sidra) most nights as a social custom was of course an adaptation I had to learn to love. I was in awe at how they treat their children in Oviedo. I imagine that it’s not just in Oviedo, but they seemed to specialize in anything baby related so that those kids would want for nothing. The children themselves are beautiful cherubs and always had the nicest clothing….like the way we dress our kids for Easter…but this was an everyday thing for them. I could have spent hours people watching just because of this and looking at all of the cool gadgets they have. Beyond that, kudos to the mothers because they generally seemed flawless as well. Also, I appreciated the fathers’ unrestricted display of love towards their families that I unfortunately don’t see so obviously in the U.S.. These were some of my favorite differences of culture that I observed. There was also a little different twist on fashion in Spain but it obviously meant a lot to everyone….Especially the shoes. It’s very impressive that age doesn’t matter with regards to what highly fashionable shoe a woman (and sometimes man) chooses to wear. Fashion never retires in Spain. However, for me the most surprising cultural difference was perhaps the dogs. People usually didn’t have large dogs but the tiny dogs that they did have went everywhere with them. It surprises me that the dogs have a different personality in general because they were almost all extremely well behaved or trained and they wanted absolutely nothing to do with a stranger. American dogs will wander over to greet someone they don’t know, or at least bark at them…but the Spanish dogs could care less and will not acknowledge your existence unless they see that their human family accepts you into their family. Only then are they the sweet little companions that love unconditionally.

Overall, I believe that I did well in my host culture. It’s a little difficult for me to get a real taste of the culture in just a month and to fully adapt so that was the main challenge for me I think. I felt caught in between because just as I was starting to get the hang of Spanish living, it was time for me to return to the U.S.. I wish I could have stayed longer in Spain, especially to explore more parts of Spain and to experience the cultural differences just in Spain alone. I am really happy that I did get to stay in Oviedo though because from what I heard, Madrid is a very bustling city and I enjoyed the quaint everyday happenings in Oviedo. It was the perfect environment.  I absolutely want to come back one day to my home in Spain and explore the rest of it.

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