Monday, January 25, 2010


Yesterday we spent the entire day in Madrid. The weather held out for us and it turned out to be a beautiful day! We took the train in and met Maria Jose at 11 AM. We walked around for a few hours and enjoyed the beautiful architecture and attractions.

The original post office of Madrid.

The Cathedral of Madrid.

Afterwards, we found a cute Spanish restaurante with a "menu del dia" with 3 courses for only 15 euros! The first course was paella, which was amazing. It's basically just rice and saffron with all kinds of meat and seafood thrown in. The one we got had meat, chicken, clams, crawfish, fish, and some vegetables. I ate everything but the crawfish! We couldn't figure out how to open it... The next course was pescado, fish. I was fully prepared for it to come out whole but it was still a little unnerving to have your food stare at you while you eat it.

After lunch, we walked around a while and managed to successfully navigate the metro. It is so much easier than I expected and it's super clean too. We got to Estadio Santiago Bernabeu a few hours between the Real Madrid v. Malaga game which gave us the chance to see the stadium and explore the area around it before the game.

The game was a lot of fun and Real Madrid won 2-0! At one point, the fans went nuts because of a call made by the referee. It was so loud that I couldn't even hear my friends right next to me! All-in-all, it was a great day and I'm loving Spain more and more every day!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Cuchillos, ladrones, y chupitos

Well last night was very dramatic... Since the majority of our group lives in the dorms, they were all in the boys' room getting ready to go into town last night. Most of this is heresay so I don't know the whole story, but apparently some spaniards knocked on the door looking for ice and they invited them in to hang out for a little. After a while, they left to catch the bus into town and when they were on their way, people started to realize they were missing things so they went back to the room. The spaniards were still there and when the guys confronted them, one pulled out a knife. They called the police and the cops came. Apparently, they arrested 6 of the guys but then let them go... During this process, one of the girls' swipes was taken so everyone living in that room decided to sleep in another apartment for the night. While all of this was going on, me and a few others were already in town and they decided to go back and make sure everyone was okay. Since I don't live in the residencias, I just went home. Thank God everyone was fine! A little shaken up, but no one was hurt. This has definitely taught us all to be more cautious around people we don't know, especially as foreigners in another country even though most of the people we've met have been nice.

In other news, Eleu's family came over for Saturday lunch and there was a lot of them this time! I believe she has 3 daughters and 1 son, plus their spouses and kids. It was nice to be around everyone even though I can't understand them very well. They tend to talk very fast, as I know we do as well in English. In some ways, they remind me of my family - one of the women even looks like Aunt Michele! I think Eleu told me the other night at dinner that there's going to be a japonese student coming in February and staying with us for the month, so that should be interesting! Hopefully she speaks a little Spanish or English so we can communicate.

Tomorrow Maria Jose is taking us into Madrid for the day for a tour like we were supposed to do the first weekend but couldn't because of the snow. She's going to take us to a lot of the tourist attractions as well as show us how to use the metro and buses which will definitely come in handy. Afterwards, a bunch of us bought tickets for a Real Madrid game against Malaga! They weren't too expensive and Loyola should reimburse us for a portion of the price. It should be a lot of fun to see a futbol game live!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Vale, vale, vale

Our trip into Madrid was very exciting! We got on the train in Alcala and arrived in Madrid about 30-45 minutes later. Coming out of the train station in Madrid was like arriving in any new city, like Philadelphia or New York, for the first time. It is much more modern than Alcala. It is easy to forget you're in Spain besides the architecture! We walked through a lot of the city on our way to Teatros de Canal where the flamenco show was held. We saw some familiar places, such as Starbucks, which was funny! The show we saw was a modern flamenco entitled "Fedra," which is actually based on a Greek tragedy play. It was really exciting and not too difficult to follow because of the acting and dancing. Afterwards, the group had to split up for dinner so Grace, Audrey, Greg, John, Kelly, and I found a little Irish pub that was showing the Barcelona v. Sevilla futbol (soccer) game. I've always enjoyed watching futbol so we ordered some croquets and beer and just enjoyed the game. Barcelona's team is really good this year so that's exciting to watch. After a while, we figured we should head back to Alcala and since the trains stop running at 11:45, we had to take the bus. With the help of some Spaniards, and taxis, we managed to get to the bus station just in time to make the bus. It was very exciting to be in Madrid and we're definitely planning on going again soon! Especially now that we understand the transportation system.

In other news, I going to the bank today to pick up my Real Madrid tickets for this Sunday! They're playing Malaga and we'll already be in Madrid for the day so we figured this would be a good time to go. The group wasn't able to get tickets all together but hopefully we'll be close! Loyola actuall subsidizes a portion of the ticket price, which is also great.

Now that we've been here for over a week, the planning of other places to travel has begun. Since Jen, Caitlin, Eleanora, and I have the same schedule, we've been planning everything together. Most of the places we're scheduling at the same time as other people in our group, too. We officially booked flights to Portugal (Lisbon) Feb. 20-22 and Italy (Rome, Florence, Venice, and Milan) March 25-31. It's hard to believe this is actually happening! There's a lot of other places I really want to see but it's surprisingly hard to find time for everything! And I kind of forgot to account for schoolwork when planning all of this, which is a teensy bit of a problem...

Yesterday was one of the best days here yet! I'm not even sure why, because it just consisted of class and dinner with some friends but it was great. I think it had everything to do with the fact that the weather was absolutely beautiful. Low 50s and Sunny! Perfect. I even had the greatest playlist on my iPod which made it even better (John Mayer's Battle Studies album). Eleanora, Jen, Caitlin, Tara, and I went out for tapas around 9 and hung out for a few hours just talking. We found a great little candy shop in the plaza which was amazing too. All-in-all, just a geat day.

Also, "vale" means "okay" in Spanish. So it's my response to just about everything Eleu says to me :)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Un poco dificil...

After one full week in Alcala it simultaneously feels like we just left and have been here for months! I'm really getting to the know the city better, and I'm starting to feel at home here. Someone even asked me for directions! I couldn't help him, but at least I looked enough like I belong here that they thought they could ask! There's still a lot to get used to though. Eleanora and I went on a mission to find the cheapest gym in the area... unsucessfully. Apparently mid-afternoon Saturday is when all gyms are closed? Questionable. But at least we found the locations of a few so we can go back another day. With all this food I'm being fed, finding a gym is very necessary, haha. Speaking of food, I'm beginning to get used to it now. I've come to accept that I will always find bones in my fish, and if they tell me it's chicken, I will eat it despite being a bit skeptical. I still often don't know what I'm eating, but as long as it tastes good, I'm probably better off not asking.

I've finally got my classes figured out as well. Everyone in my program was having difficulty figuring out how the classes we chose at Loyola relate to the ones we're supposed to be taking in Spain. Luckily, Andre Colombat, the director of International Programs is here now and he was able to work out our schedules for us. I have my spanish classes every afternoon from about 2 to 6:30, which is really a long day when I have my english classes in the morning on thursday and friday! It will all be worth it though when the spanish classes end in mid-march.

Tonight the group is going into Madrid to see a flamenco opera which should be a lot of fun! Because of the snow, this is our first outing to Madrid so we'll probably want to stay in the city after the show and explore a little bit. We're also going back next weekend for Maria Jose's (our director here) walking tour of Madrid.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Necesitamos ir a clase?!

If you couldn't tell by the title, or can't read spanish, we realized that as great as just hanging out all day and drinking sangria is, we actually need to go to class at some point. That point was today. We have our spanish classes everyday, beginning today through mid-march. After lots (LOTS!) of confusion about what classes we were supposed to take, we all ended up where we were supposed to be. (We think...) I didn't do very well on the placement test and got placed in very low spanish classes. After a lot of stress and confusion, I was put in the correct class - culture of cinema, art, history, and literature. The first 2 weeks we'll spend learning about spanish movies and it looks exciting! I really like the teacher and it looks like it will be a good class. Next, we had grammar class and afterwards, conversation. We didn't know which ones we were supposed to take so all of us left after the grammar class. We're meeting the our director, Maria Jose, tomorrow and the head of international programs at Loyola who is in Spain for a few days so hopefully we'll be able to get everything straightened out.

On another note, yesterday was a great day! Because there was about .25 inches of snow, the university cancelled class. Instead, our professors from CIFF, which is where we take our english/business classes, took us out for tapas and drinks. It was quite an experience to have your professor, who you have to call by first name, take your drink order...They were all so nice and welcoming though and I can tell I'm going to enjoy my classes! Afterwards, we went to La Media Pinta which is an Irish style pub that serves as a bar, cafe, and student hang out anytime of day or night. I talked to the owner for most of the time there and he helped me out with my spanish! He also taught me some valuable information about different spanish customs, such as the double kiss. FYI, shaking hands is VERY formal but the older person has to initiate the double kiss, otherwise it's rude. That will come in handy I'm sure.

Later on, all of us met down at the residencias to celebrate on the guys in our groups' birthday. All 38 of us (I believe) are really getting along well. I'm lucky to be with such a great group of people!

Mom - this is for you. There is a church right in front of my building so a few of us went to Mass Sunday night and got to witness a baptism! This little boy, Felipe, was adorable. The church was very small because there are so many around town but it was nice to have a some-what familiar custom! I even knew 2 of the songs by heart from learning them in high school.

Dancing with a spaniard!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

La segunda dia

I'm about halfway through my second full day here! Today we had a brief orientation to Alcala. The town is absolutely beautiful! We were shown where our classes would be held - they're both near the Plaza de Cervantes, which is the main part of the town. Pictured below!

Cervantes is the author of the book, Don Quixote, and probably the most famous person to come out of Alcala! St. Ignatius also studied at the Unverisdad de Alcala. We were supposed to go to Madrid tomorrow to have orientation there too, but there's a threat of snow so we're not going to. I've learned that snow is a HUGE deal here because it happens so infrequently. It's about 6 PM here (so noon at home) but since we don't eat dinner until much later, I may go down to the dorms and see what they're like since that's where most of my friends are staying. Later on I think we're going to go out to a local bar or something? The nightlife is very different here - they don't go out until about 1 or 2 AM so this should be very interesting... hopefully I'm not too tired tomorrow! Maybe I'll even catch a bit of the playoffs, alhtough that seems pretty unlikely.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Llego a Espana!

Well, I'm here! After a 6.5 hour flight and just about the same amount of time in the airport, I have arrived in Alcala (via Madrid), Spain! I'm currently sitting on my new bed, in my new apartment, with my new host mom and her grandson, Juan (age 7ish). It's 1:30 PM here, so 7:30 at home. And I still haven't slept! Whew. The plane ride wasn't bad - we had personal TVs which definitely helped to pass the time... I watched Love Happens and Fame, along with 2 episodes of the Office and 30 Rock. I was able to close my eyes for about 30 minutes but it's a little difficult to sleep in those seats!

When we arrived, Maria Jose was there to pick us up from the aiport (about an hour late, but hey, it's Europe!) We got dropped off at one of the major plazas...can't remember which one...where the seven of us doing homestay met our families! Eleuteria and I were able to walk to her apartment lugging my 3 suitcases about 6 blocks. She lives right in the center of the city and it's absolutely beautiful! You can see the universidad from the balcony. My host mom doesn't speak any english which has already been tough even after only being here for an hour! I can understand her for the most part, except when she talks real fast...haha. The apartment is layed out so differently from the ones I'm used to but it's relatively big - there's 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms! Which is great, because I get my own bathroom with lots of racks for all my stuff. :)

I've unpacked everything into the wardrobe in my room and I'm getting ready to meet up with the rest of the group for lunch in half an hour. Tomorrow begins 2 full days of orienation in Alcala and Madrid! I should get lots of sleep tonight except, of course, everyone wants to go out on the town so I'll probably do that. I can sleep when I'm dead, right?

Vive Espana! :)