Saturday, January 19, 2013

December 21-January 13: the update

Well I guess I'll just jump right in. To start off, the first afternoon of the break I hung out in Pontevedra with one of my best friends Jonah, another AFSer here from around Chicago,  shopping for Christmas presents and eating frozen yogurt (yes, in December!). That was the first time I caught the bus all by myself! (Pontevedra is the bigger city about 15 minutes away from Marin and I am now officially capable of making the trip solo, so that was fun. )

Neither of us took a good picture that day hahaha but the tree was festive

Christmas eve came around, which here in Spain means dinner with the family and we ate lots of seafood, shrimp and lobster and things in shells, it was tasty but pretty different from home! The stores have been stocked for weeks with Turron (basically Spanish peanut brittle) and various candies just for Navidad.

Yummy. Also the shells are a traditional musical instrument here.

Then Christmas Day- we went to visit my host mom's parents in Ourense. I had never met them before, and it turned out that this was the year I got one single pair of socks as my Christmas present. (hahaha but not really of course because I later opened the wonderful package from home, and anyways here the 24th isn't the day for presents and celebrating.... that will wait until the Epiphany, aka three kings day, aka January 6th, aka my birthday). That day I also met yet another host brother I hadn't known before, and was reminded of the dangers of zoning out during conversations in a foreign language because when I tune back in I can find myself staring at raccoon photos without any idea what is happening... But all in all just a  nice quiet Christmas day.

Next exciting thing that happened was going to Madrid! We were there about 4 days I think, in time for New Years. It was so exciting to be in the capitol of Spain for the New Year and get to see some of the city.
The weather happened to be a little foggy those days, I don't think I saw the sun once the whole time we were there and it gave the streets a slightly claustrophobic feel sometimes, but other than that I loved it!  

colorful markets

not of anything in particular but it's got all four of us
Antia and I in front of the royal palace
The giant Christmas tree in the center of Madrid (but you can't spin under it or anything, I missed the Trail of Lights)

It's an Egyptian Temple that was moved to Spain for safekeeping from flooding on the Nile.

The Palace

We went to see the Cirque du Soleil and also The Lion King broadway version (in Spanish of course) and they were so much fun! It was fascinating see the translation of the Lion King, for example if any of you know the part where Timon dances the hula? In Spain he dances the Flamenco.

pretty streets

Parque Retiro

New Years Eve- First we watched a bit of the San Silvestre, which is the race that takes place all over the country in different cities as the last run of the year. There were a lot of people and it was cool to see! I didn't actually run it, though. Then for the big countdown we went to the Puerta de Sol, which is where the giant clock counts down, like Times Square for Spain, but it was a little rainy and there were TONS of people so we ended up ducking into a restaurant/bar right around the corner for the actual countdown. Here as the clock strikes 12, you have to eat a grape for every ring. 12 seconds, 12 grapes, 12 months of luck. I did it, although it was surprisingly hard! (Another tradition here is to wear red underwear on New Years Eve. Of course as an exchange student I have to try out all the local customs, even when it means stopping in the streets of Madrid to buy red panties with my whole family).

And then we said goodbye to Madrid and started heading home on New Years Day On the way home  we stopped in a ski resort and played in the snow for a while (not actually skiing):

And then we drove a few more hours and stopped for lunch and a little touring in the fantastic Segovia (and I got bored of the usual photos so please excuse the unusual poses):

Mmm cochinillo... roast baby pig. Vegetarians look away.

Can't get enough historically amazing places

And then we got home and had a couple days of rest and so on.  Then came the "real" Christmas day here. The night before, January 5, there is the Cabalgata, a giant parade (or at least pretty big for Marin) in which the Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthasar (the three wise men who visit baby Jesus) arrive! Everyone is very festive and the little kids are so excited, because the Three Kings are their Santa Claus. The Wise Men all arrive to a living Nativity scene and the kids get to meet them. Then you go home and put your shoes out so they will leave presents.  My family got me a new purse, watch, t-shirts, and my lovely koala pijamas in the other post, they were so sweet! Then we had lunch, and then cake for my birthday. It was great to hear from all of you who sent a message or posted, love you all!

Since the family is big including several little kids, the final pile of presents got pretty large!

Sometime in that last week of vacations I started to dream in Spanish! This was really exciting to me (even though no, it doesn't mean I'm fluent, just that the other language has gotten to my unconscious brain). I'm actually not entirely sure what it means to dream in another language though- most of the things that happen in my dreams aren't thought in terms of words in a specific language, it just happens. Like if there is a red wall, I'm not looking at it and describing in my head "oh look a red wall" in whichever language, it's just there being a wall and I see it. If that makes any sense... anyways so for me dreaming in Spanish means speaking Spanish during the dream. And that happens when I am having a conversation with someone I always speak Spanish with. So if my host family or friends here are in the dream, it'll be in Spanish. I don't know, weird brain things.

So that was vacations. We started back to school on the 8th. Then, my AFSers in Galicia wanted to get together on Saturday the 12 in Santiago, and I almost didn't go because I had a birthday party for a Spanish friend to go to that afternoon and since I see the AFSers more I would have picked the other girl that day... but luckily, my parents "let" me arrange it so I could get to both, and it turns out the AFSers had planned a birthday surprise for me and Milena (from Switzerland whose birthday is a couple days after mine)! When we got to the restaurant for lunch they brought out a cake and presents, and it was so sweet of them. (Also this makes the second year in a row I have nearly skipped my own surprise party which were both in Italian restaurants.... hahaha).

love y'all!

Iceland, China, USA, Switzerland, Spain, Hungary, Finland = my best friends

the birthday girls!

 And that is how I spent my winter holidays in Spain! Thanks for sticking with me through that long post. You made it to the end. Love y'all!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Cheira Bem, Cheira a Lisboa

Hey everyone! I'm determined to catch up on posting soo...

rewind to the weekend of December 6th- that is a four day weekend in Spain because that Thursday was Constitution Day, a national holiday, (and if Thursday is a holiday so of course Friday too of course).  SO, having some extra days, my host family and I went to Lisbon, Portugal! We left around 8:30 and got there for lunch, I love how close everything is in Europe. It was absolutely beautiful. And it was the first European big city I've really been in, since the arrival in Madrid can't really count because I didn't see any of the city (although I have now visited since then but that's for another post).

It was so much fun. Seeing monuments, being touristy, visiting ancient castles, seeing monuments and paintings and architecture and graffiti, eating, listening to traditional Fados, people watching, eavesdropping on Portuguese, and fighting an overwhelming urge to shout "I SPEAK ENGLISH TOO OMG I LOVE YOU" every time I overheard snippets from British or American tourists. That is what you get when you're isolated too long from your native language, at least in my case. We squeezed in a ton of things in those few days and it was insanely hard choosing just a few photos and not uploading all of them. But here they are. They are also all credited to Antia because my camera died 5 minutes after we got there and these are hers.

One of the first things I saw were the long seemingly-endless streets. Living in a little town these days it was almost a shock.

A main plaza
the adorable classic street trolleys! we rode in one and it was fun.

This is a former hotel that is now the train station. I adored the architecture, up close the details are fantastic

the padres and I in front of the Hieronymites Monastery (so are the next 2 pictures, it was stunnning)

View of the city
The padres and I at the Lisbon Arc de Triomphe
We found a giant map of the world and I stood on my two homes!

The next 2 pictures below are at the Tower of Belen:
(this morning was super foggy but normally there is great water views from here... it felt so isolated not seeing anything at all)

Looking over the city! No, it's not San Fransico, it's definitely Lisbon.

This is the giant Jesus looking over Lisbon from across the water, like the one in Brazil.

Sorria, você está em Lisboa

It was truly a beautiful city and I'm so glad I got the chance to visit.