Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"Look, stairs"

Oh air conditioning, how I've missed you! I went to Morocco this weekend, and I was very excited to come back to my little dorm room and sit underneath the AC. Morocco is very warm. Amen.

Despite the Death Valley-esque heat, it was a good weekend. We arrived in Marrakesh on Friday afternoon, and someone from the hostal was waiting to pick us up and take us to the hostal. I quickly realized wearing jeans was a very bad idea, as I was sweating to death. Kimmie and I had brought conservative clothes (and by conservative I mean pants and t-shirts) because Morocco is a conservative country, but the jeans were like a very sweaty death. One of our friends let us borrow some linen pants and a long skirt she had, so I swapped my jeans for the skirt as soon as we got to the hostal. That made it a little bit better.

Vinnie had a friend who happened to be in Morocco at the same time as us, so we met up with him and his friend and headed to the Souks (the markets in Marrakesh). It was quite the adventure. We didn't really stop and shop at all, just looked around. The market is like a maze with shops everywhere. Spices are a big deal there, so there were a lot of spice shops. They also have a lot of leather products and fabrics. Lanterns are also kind of a big deal in Morocco, and they were everywhere. Their lanterns are really cool though, very colorful.That's the lantern in the lounge area at our hostal. They're really cool. Anyway, I bought a dress there because I was really not wanting to wear pants and we only brought one skirt. My first ever haggling experience! I thought I did pretty well. I probably could've gotten it for a cheaper price, but I did all right.

Anyway, the shops were kind of the big thing in Marrakesh. There is the Djamma El Fna square (I think that's how it is spelled). That's kind of where the souks begin. At night, everyone comes out because it isn't quite so hot. The square is really cool then. People come out and play music, and there are a million and two people trying to sell you shit. The key is to not make eye contact. If you make eye contact, they will chase you down the street trying to get you to come into their shop.

The food in Marrakesh was amazing! It was mostly halal food, kebabs and the like. They did have this one dish called a pastilla. It was so ridiculously tasty. It was like a meat pie with a sweet crust and powdered sugar on top. Oh my gosh. It was amazing. I must learn how to cook that when I get home. They also have the best orange juice I've ever had in my life. They literally squeeze the oranges in front of you and then hand you a glass of the juice. It's delicious.

The streets of Marrakesh are dangerous! Seriously, scooters of death everywhere. They don't really have roads, per se. But Moroccans think they have roads. The "roads" are really narrow, and they have shops and people packed into them. Still, people on bikes, bikes with motors attached to them, scooters, motorcycles, cars, even donkey-pulled carts think they can make their way through. We all got very adept at listening for motors or hooves so we would know to get the hell out of the way. We had a few close calls.

On Sunday, Kimmie, Vinnie, and I took a bus out to Essaouira. It's a beach town about three hours from Marrakesh. The bus ride was interesting.Yes, those are goats in a tree. No, it's not photoshopped. When the bus pulled off the road, and I looked out the window I did a total double take. "What the hell" was literally the first thing out of my mouth. The goats eat the fruit of the Argan trees, and then the locals pick up the seeds which are apparently found in the droppings of said goats. The seeds are ground into oils which are used for a variety of purposes one of which is Moroccan peanut butter. Which is amazing, by the way.

I had to google it when I got home: the goats actually climb up into the trees. Apparently food is scarce in the region (who knew?) so the goats, I don't know, evolved into tree-climbers or something. So they climb the Argan trees and chill up there. Weirdest thing I've ever seen, and that's saying something.

Anyway, Essaouira was cool. It wasn't quite so hot because of the breeze from the ocean. We had some Moroccan pizza, which was delicious. Honestly, I'm not sure I've had anything on this trip I didn't think was delicious.... Hm. Yeah, nothing's coming to mind. Anyway, we sort of just wondered around the town for a couple of hours. We went up to some cool fort they had and paid 10 dirhams to get in (that's like 2 dollars). It was cool; it had a great view of the city and a cool little place set up for pictures.While we were up there, I needed to use the bathroom. This is what I found.I decided to wait.

Anyway, there was actually a music festival going on there that weekend, but the concert didn't start until six and we left at five. Bad timing I guess. Oh well.

We didn't ever get to ride camels, which made me kind of sad. We just ran out of time. I WILL ride a camel some day though. I may have to go back to Morocco someday, which I would totally do, by the way. I loved it. It was an adventure for sure. Only, next time I go, I think I might shell out a few extra bucks for a hotel with AC.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Nothing to worry about. Obviously when they build a bridge like this they take into account that elephants will be crossing here.

Ah Monday, why must you always ruin a perfectly good weekend? Time marches on, I guess. At any rate, I did have an excellent weekend. Most of my friends went to Portugal this weekend. I thought about meeting up with them in Lagos for Saturday and Sunday but ultimately decided to stay and chill in Seville. After seeing their photos, I kind of wish I had gone with them to Portugal... but alas, I did not. And honestly, it was a great weekend. I got to discover Seville a bit and see the major tourist destinations here, so it was good.

Thursday night I went to the Archeological museum with Dean Mirrow and some of the other kids in class. It was pretty cool. They have the second largest collection of Roman law in the world, like actual bronze tablets from the Roman era. I'm such a nerd, but I thought that was pretty damn cool. Stephanie, Jeff, and I wondered around town for a bit after that. We had some amazing pizza, and then almost got run over by some bulls. This Thursday is the Corpus Christi holiday in Spain. The Spaniards take their religious holidays very seriously, and they've already begun processions, apparently. I don't know, maybe it was like a practice run. But they're building some big thing in the middle of town for Corpus Christi.I'm not really sure what it's going to be. I guess I'll find out on Thursday. Anyway, last Thursday, Stephanie, Jeff, and I saw a procession going down the street. Well, it wasn't so much a procession as a really fancy cart. At any rate, here's a picture.Yes, those are bulls pulling the cart. Bulls are kind of a big deal in Spain. There's a bull fighting ring in Seville, but I'm not sure I could watch that, so I haven't gone. I saw the outside of the ring; I think that may be close enough for me. And I got to see these bulls pull a fancy cart across the street, so I'm good I think.

Anyway, Friday I slept through breakfast, so I went to a Cafe by the Cathedral that a friend had suggested had the best chocolate croissants. She may have been right. That was the best damn chocolate croissant I've ever had.Doesn't that look amazing? It was!

My goal for this weekend was to hit El Catedral, El Real Alcazar, and El Torre del Oro. So Friday, after I ate my delicious chocolate croissant, I headed out to the Cathedral. As expected, I got distracted. There's this guy that plays the blues across the street from the Cathedral. He's there almost every day, so when we walk home from school we always pass him. I've wanted to go sit and listen for a while; when I saw that he was out there on Friday, I headed over to enjoy the music. I chilled there for a while. It was wonderful. He's actually quite good, so it was extraordinarily enjoyable. I took a video, but for some reason my blog won't post videos. I'll put it on facebook if you care to look it up.

Anyway, I did a bit of shopping on Friday too. I finally went to the souvenir shops in town. Of course they had all kinds of collectibles, so I finally got me a Spain spoon. Anyway, eventually I meandered my way over to the Cathedral. They actually give student discounts, but I forgot to bring my ID, so I had to pay the full price which made my little heart (and my little pocketbook) sad, but all was made well again when I walked into the building. The outside of the Cathedral is amazing, but the inside is . . . I don't even know. Incredible. Apparently it's the 3rd largest church in the world. It was definitely humongous. And the artwork, the architecture, everything. It was just extraordinary. I took a bunch of pictures (and by "a bunch" I mean like 160. Seriously.). They're all on facebook if you care to view them, but here are a few so you can get a general feel for what it looked like.This is the entrance, or the tourist entrance, anyway. The entrance I went in on Sunday was a different door (I went to mass. More on that lil adventure later.)Apparently that is Christopher Columbus' tomb.That's the main alter. Anyway, isn't it incredible? That's just a few shots of the Cathedral. It was huge. I needed 160 pictures just to get everything. Well, almost everything.

After the Cathedral I went home and took a siesta. Wonderful Spanish tradition that I think Americans should adopt. A lot of the shops in Seville close from about 2:30 - 4:00 for siesta. Everything's closed, might as well take a nap, right? Anyway, after my glorious little siesta, I wondered around Seville for a bit, checked out some of the local boutiques. It was good. I really enjoy wondering around big cities. It's so much fun to see all the different people. Apparently tourist season has started in Seville; there were so many people here this weekend. It was insane, and it was weird to suddenly here English everywhere I went.

Anyway, on Saturday I went to the Alcazar which is the palace here in Seville. It was pretty cool. The best part about it was the gardens where, of course, my camera batteries died. Aarg! I'm going to steal copies of my friends pictures though. The garden was incredible. For one thing, it was huge. We spent at least an hour and a half wondering around the garden and we didn't see the whole thing. For another thing, it was absolutely beautiful. There were so many different kinds of flowers and so many different colors. There were little fountains everywhere (and a few big ones). There were some random peacocks hanging out. We also saw a parakeet and two turtle doves. The garden made the entire thing worth it. I think there is going to be an outside concert there at the end of this month. I want to go; I bet it's beautiful at night with the garden all lit up and everything.

Saturday night I had great ambitions of actually getting some homework done, so I stayed in. Of course, I didn't get any homework done. Oh well. I discovered these ridiculously delicious cookies... I'm pretty sure when I get back to the States I'm going to be 30 pounds heavier. So no one say anything, ok! Anyway, it'll be totally worth it. The gelato is amazing; I eat this delicious toast with marmalade for breakfast everyday. I have a ridiculous amount of carbs everyday (in my defense, that's just how the Spanish eat. Lots of bread, pasta, potatoes, that sort of thing.) And now I have discovered these cookies. I'm definitely bringing this shit home with me. So good! If no one tells me how fat I got in Spain, I might share them with you.

Anyway, Sunday I again slept through breakfast. Big surprise. There's this little donut shop down the street. It looks like a Dunkin Donuts, but it's called Duffin Dagels. I have no idea what a dagel is or what it means for a dagel to be duffin, but anyway. They have these donuts that are like kit kat or cookie hybrid. That's what I decided to have for breakfast. I had a kit kat donut and a cookie donut.So good! It was an awful idea, but they tasted pretty damn good. Anyway, after my sugary-death-guaranteed breakfast, I went on the hunt for camera batteries. I swear I checked every freaking store in this town. When I finally found some, I was so happy I could've kissed the clerk. I didn't though. Anyway, as luck would have it, the shop with the batteries was right across the street from my favorite Spanish blues player. So I went and chilled there for a while again.

I decided to head back to the apt, but when I passed the Cathedral, I noticed the doors were open. In all of my genius I thought "Maybe it's free on Sundays." Anyway, I was all for going in again, so I went through the doors and wandered. I realized quickly though, that the doors were open because it's Sunday, and they still use the Cathedral for worship and they were having mass. I've never been to Mass before, so I thought, why not? They had it roped off and there was a lady there making sure tourists didn't interrupt the service. I asked her if I could go in for Mass and she said of course. So she let me in, and I went to Mass. It was all in Spanish, so I really have no idea what was going on, but it was cool. I missed the beginning of the services, but I was there for the Sacrament. The sacramental prayer was really long, but after the Priest or Father or whatever prays, the priest or father or whatever and some deacons or whatever come down from the main alter to where the pews are. If you want to partake of the sacrament, you go up there. It was interesting. I rather enjoyed it. Not like I feel the need to go again, but I'm glad I went. There was something wonderfully peculiar about worshipping God in a Cathedral that large and that old. I felt a certain solidarity with the other worshippers. You know, even though we don't believe the same things, we were all there to worship the same God. I don't know. I enjoyed it, and I'm glad I went.

It was a good thing, though, that mass isn't very long. Shortly thereafter my body let me know, in no uncertain terms, that I am too old to have donuts for breakfast. Bleh. It was unpleasant and definitely unpretty, but I survived. I was supposed to be meeting Alejandros friend from Paris and showing her around until they all got back from Portugal, so I was getting a little nervous, but I survived the sugary-death-guarantee and was able to meet up with Clara as arranged.

It was fun to get to meet someone new. Clara is very nice, and we had a good time wandering around the city. We initially were following some googlemaps directions to the Golden Tower, but I quickly realized googlemaps is retarded. So we threw out the directions and headed out on our own. To my great surprise, I actually managed to steer us in the right direction and we found the tower. Then we headed to Plaza de Espana. When we first got there, I was a little confused as to why there were so many bloody people there. I quickly realized though, upon remembering that Sunday was the 19th of June, that this was the starting place of the Toma la Calle protest (Take the street). They've been advertising it for weeks now, and it was finally happening, and I was there! Clara is also into the power to the people and peaceful protests, so we had a good time hanging out with the protesters. We even marched with them for a bit, but we had to get back to meet Alejandro.

Anyway, so we returned and met up with our friends and the weekend came to a close. My friends showed me there pictures from Portugal, and I was a little jealous. I'm glad I stayed here though. I had a blast in Seville and had a few adventures of my own. All things considered, it was a damn fine weekend.

Friday, June 17, 2011

It's a blazer out there. You're lucky you got air conditioning like Mother Nature intended.

Whew! It's been a crazy week. Last weekend we went to Madrid. It was pretty cool; it was fun to be in a new place. We took the train there, and I was really excited about that because I'd never been on a train before. Alejandro hadn't either, so we made sure we got a picture of our first train ride ever!
Honestly, it was kind of anti-climatic, but it was still cool to finally take a train somewhere.

Once we got to Madrid, we all piled onto the subway and were immediately warned by a security guard to watch our stuff very carefully because the pickpocketing was particularly bad that day. Off to a good start... Nevertheless, we all made it to our hostel without incident. I was kind of excited about this too because I've never stayed in a hostel. It was basically like a hotel except it had three beds instead of two. The shower was huge though; I didn't even know what to do with myself. Anyway, our room was pretty nice.

That day we went out and about, sort of just wondered around the city. Our hostel was only a few blocks from Puerta Del Sol which is where the tent city was, so I got a few pictures of that.There were quite a few people there. On Sunday night though, they took a vote and packed up and left the next day. They're coming back on the 19th.

Anyway, that day we went to the Palace in Madrid. It was huge. No big surprises there, but still. I failed to take my camera to that little excursion, so I don't have any pictures of that. I'll steal my friends pictures and post them up later. It was really quite extraordinary. Apparently the royal family still uses that particular palace on occasion for State dinners and that sort of thing.

We went to a club that night. Puerta Del Sol and the surrounding areas are filled with tourists and, therefore, much tourist-y stuff and buildings. The club was pretty cool, but there was a 16 euro cover charge, which is like $24. No thank you. We turned around and were about to leave when a bunch of people from class showed up. One of the kids had some connection, and we all got in free, so that was kind of cool. Anyway, clubs in Madrid are pretty much the same as the clubs in America. Amen.

The next day we wondered around Madrid a bit more and went to the Prado. It's one of the major art museums in Madrid. It was pretty cool. They didn't have any modern art, nothing past the 19th century, I don't think. It was still pretty cool to see.

Monday we did our school field trip stuff. We went to the Constitutional Court in the morning. One of the Laretos (I think that's what he was called; basically the same as a law clerk in America) told us about the Court, so that was kind of cool. The building wasn't what we expected.Later that day we went to the Senate.The Senate building was really cool. I wish they would've let us take pictures inside, but they wouldn't. It was comprised of two buildings: one modern and the other from like 1763 or something like that. We also got to see the Senate library, which was literally breathtaking. It wasn't very big, but it seriously looked like Harry Potter in its design plus the books they had were priceless. They had a first edition Dante. First Edition. They had the first Spanish Grammar book ever written. They even had some book written in a dialect of Chinese that is now extinct. I felt like I was in a temple of books, and they were all very sacred. All that history and knowledge, it was just incredible.

Anyway, then we headed back to Seville. I enjoyed Madrid, but I was happy to be back in Seville. It's crazy how little time it takes for a place to start to feel like home, and Seville has definitely become home to me here in Spain. I wish you all could come visit me, only you'd have to get a hotel because I have no futon for you to sleep on here.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Everything isn't like home. If everything were like home, there would be no reason for leaving home.

Well I'm still alive, and that's saying something! I've had quite a few adventures here in Spain thus far. I even had an adventure where I got to go to the hospital! I enjoyed that one a little less. I had a blister on my foot that popped and then got infected... It was mildly unpleasant to look at and hurt like hell, so a friend came with me (she was my translator) and we headed to the emergency room. Spain has universal health care, so it was kind of interesting to experience that. I'm sure everyone could tell we were American b/c we were speaking English and they all tried to help and give directions to the right rooms and stuff, even the other patients in the waiting room. The doctor actually spoke English, which was nice, but none of the other staff that we saw did. Anyway, the doctor told me I wasn't dying and proscribed an antibiotic and a painkiller. When we were leaving, Meredith and I stopped and asked a security guard if we had to pay. He laughed and told us that we had to pay him. He was kidding, of course. I'm sure he thought it was strange that we even asked, but it was strange to us to leave a hospital without paying any money! I felt like I was breaking a rule; I kept looking over my shoulder to see if the cops were coming to arrest me for theft of services....It looks less disgusting w/ a bandage on, but you can see where the infection was starting to spread up my foot.... Glad I got that taken care of. It would've really ruined my weekend if I lost a toe or some shit. Anyway, I'm still alive and all is well. And I have all of my toes.

The pharmacy was also an interesting experience. We went to the one at the hospital first. They have like consultation rooms, so you walk into a waiting area and there are three rooms. You wait for someone to come out, and then you go into the room and give your prescription to the pharmacist. It was kind of strange, but anyway, they informed me they didn't have my drugs. So we went to one close to our apts. This one was pretty much exactly like the ones back home, so it was way less exciting.

Anyway, so that was my adventure with the doctor. Then I had a serious and dangerous battle. I usually have a few ants in my room, no big deal. I came home a few nights ago though to find a giant swarm of them all over my door. I was afraid to open my door, but I did it anyway, and they were swarming in my room too. I can't even explain the anger. I was cursing every living ant and all of their ancestors. However, I knew that in order to win this battle, I was going to need a weapon of mass destruction, so I went to the store and bought some insecticide. Oh, I should also mention that there were now lizards running all over the place b/c their entire supply of food was living on my door. It was like a damn zoo only way less exciting and more violent. Anyway, so I won the battle (and the war I assume, no new ants have moved in). I'm fairly certain I killed like three colonies of ants, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

Friday night I went out with some friends and Brigett's roommates. It was mucho divertido! We went to this place called Alfalfa and meet some Spanish guys and a random Italian guy. Then we went to a club called Buddha and danced the night away! It was good times for sure.

Saturday we went to the art museum by my house. It was pretty cool. It was interesting to see the Spanish art. I didn't get any pictures b/c I forgot my camera, and at any rate you could only take pictures of like one room. Anyway, it was pretty cool. And free for students!

On Sunday we went to Cadiz. It's a coastal town. It was so much fun! We got there pretty early, like nine ish. There weren't a lot of people on the beach which was nice. We went to this amazing cathedral and went up to the top of one of the towers. It was an incredible view.Anyway, that was pretty cool. We also went to this place called Plaza de Constitucion.Then we headed back to the beach for the day. It was nice. I even got in the water! A couple of times actually, and once I went by myself! And I succeeded in not getting eaten by sharks, so it was actually kind of pleasant. :D

Cadiz was a blast, though I did get a wee bit sunburned... I bought some Aloe Vera today, so hopefully I'll feel better soon.

Anyway, those are the adventures I've been having in Spain thus far. I'm thoroughly enjoying myself and seeing all kinds of fun things and trying all kinds of new things. I even tasted squid. It wasn't too bad. :D