Monday, March 22, 2010

Graduación, Mi Dedo, Sevilla, y Córdoba

I need to get better at updating more often! The past few weeks have been really crazy for me but I have a little respite now, for at least the next three days which i am greatly looking forward to. This past Wednesday was our "graduation" from Alcalingua, the language school we have been attending since our first week here. These were where we had all of our Spanish language and culture classes. Since they were much more intensive than usual, meaning they were every day for at least an hour, we finished our hour requirements after just two and a half months of class. As a Spanish minor, I was taking three classes at Alcalingua - Culture (art, history, food, literature, and film), Grammar, and Literature. Although I absolutely loved these classes and feel much stronger with my Spanish because of them, I was in class about 3.5 hours every day (not including my other two English classes). Graduation was really sweet and they called everyone up to the stage to receive our diplomas. Along with Loyola students, there's a few other American universities that have abroad programs with Alcalingua, and TONS of Asians, mainly Chinese, that also study with us. My Grammar class was split evenly with seven Americanos and seven Chinos. At first it was awkward, but by the end, we LOVED the chinos in our class! They even went out with us to Media Pinta Tuesday night. Susana, our Grammar teacher, even cried when she was giving us our diplomas! So touching. The graduation was actually held in the historical part of the University of Alcala which is beautiful. It has such a rich history too so it was pretty cool to "graduate" in there. I'm really going to miss those classes even though it'll be great to only have class twice a week. With these classes over, the only ones I have left are Literature and Theology - both in English. Theology is from 3-6 PM on Wednesdays, and Literature is 10:30-1:30 on Thursdays... which leaves five other days to travel, which I am taking full advantage of!

This past weekend we had our first trip with Maria Jose to Córdoba and Sevilla, in the autonomous community of Andalusia in the south of Spain. We left early Friday morning and took the bus first to Córdoba, which was about five hours away. We stopped in La Mancha for a restroom/coffee break, which was the setting of Don Quijote, which was pretty neat. When we got to Córdoba, we grabbed lunch on our own and walked around the old Jewish quarters of the town. The weather was absolutely beautiful and the town was incredible. Tons of little shops and tapas places. After lunch, we met back up to go to the main attraction in Córdoba - the Mosque, or "Mezquita." This is the largest remaining mosque in Europe and was built in the 8th Century when the Moors conquered Spain. Previously there had also been a Roman temple built on that spot. When the Christians reconquered Spain they ordered a Catholic Cathedral to be built where the Mosque is. It's incredible to see because of the mixture of Arab and Christian elements in one place. The inside is stunningly beautiful and the architecture and craftsmanship is so intricate. This picture shows the mix of Muslim architecture style on the right with the semi-circle red and white arches and the Christian on the left.

We got back on the bus and drove the rest of the way to Seville, about another hour and a half. We arrived around 8:30 and checked into our hotel, ABBA Triana. It was SO NICE to stay in a hotel! Eleanora and I had our own room which amazing beds, beautiful bathroom, and a GREAT breakfast buffet every morning. Quite a change from the usual hostels we stay at. We had the rest of the night to ourselves so we grabbed dinner at a little Cafeteria where we had to try a Sevilla specialty - Ox's Tail. I was a little unsure about this but it tasted phenomenal! The sauce was almost like a chili sauce and the ox's tail was really meaty and delicious. Maria Jose was so excited that we actually tried it! We went out to some of the bars along the river, which was fun and then headed back to the hotel.

The next day we got up bright and early to do a mini-bus tour of the city before going to the Alcazar Real and the Cathedral. The Alcazar was the Royal Palace where the King still vacations twice a year, build originally by the Moors so the architecture style is very Arabic. We spent over two hours walking around the rooms and the grounds. It was so beautiful and peaceful and I can see exactly why the Royal family still comes there. We did the audio guide tour which was so helpful and I learned a lot about the alcazar. Next, we went to the Cathedal. The Cathedral in Seville is the third largest in the world - only to St. Peter's in Rome, and St. Paul's in London. We climbed up all 34 flights to see the view from the tower. What was even better than the view at the top, was being able to look down on the cathedral from the top. The architecture was incredible and it was almost too much to appreciate from standing next to it. We were also able to see the tomb of (most of) Christopher Columbus. About 90% of his body was buried there in Sevilla, with the other 10% in La Havana, Cuba.

After the Cathedral, we had a group lunch on the water and had the rest of the afternoon to just hang out. That night, we went to Buddha, a big club that was made to look like an Arabic building, which was a lot of fun. Sunday we got up early again and went to the Plaza de Espana and the gardens there. We rented bike-carts and rode around the gardens which were really beautifully landscaped. Then, we went to the old Jewish quarter of Seville and walked around there for a while before loading back on the bus to go home! After about six/seven hours on the bus, we made it back to Alcala.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Necisito Puntos de Sutura?!

Quite a bit to update. Well, first things first, Thursday night I had a little accident involving a web floor and me being a klutz. I was dancing with one of my friends and I slipped on the wet floor and instinctively put my hand out of catch myself. Unfortunately I was holding a glass bottle in that hand, which smashed on the floor and cut my thumb pretty badly. I tried to wash it out and clean it but it was bleeding pretty badly so I had to go to the hospital. They gave me a few stitches and wrapped it up. The hardest thing is trying to figure out the Spanish health care system. I have health care here but I didn’t have the paper with me so I’m sure what I have to do… I have to go tomorrow to a health center around here and get it cleaned out until Monday when the stitches can come out. Looks like I’ll have a great scar to remember Spain by!

On a happier note, this weekend was so much fun! Some of my friends studying abroad in Rome came to visit! It was so great to see them, especially Laura, who I’m used to seeing and talking to every day at school. There were a lot of visitors here so it was a little crazy but I hope they had a good time. Two of my friends from home, Julie and Anna, are also visiting! They arrived Saturday. Saturday afternoon and evening I gave them a little tour of Alcala, making sure to stop for tapas, sangria, and postres. We were able to go into Cervantes’ House and Museum which was cool to see. I also took them to La Media Pinta so they could see where we hang out, especially on Tuesday nights. Then Saturday night we went out to the Chupiteria and Can-Can. Sunday morning we headed into Madrid to go to El Rastro, the big flea market in Madrid held every Sunday. We got some scarves and earrings and such. Then we went to Restaurante Botin, which is the oldest restaurant in the world according to the Guiness Book of World Records. We got the suckling pig and lamb, which are their specialties. Afterwards, we went to the Prado Museum and got to see paintings by Velazquez, Goya, Ribera, Maino, Raphael, Caravaggio, El Greco, etc. It was incredible! It’s so big that we didn’t have time to do it all though so we’ll have to go back another time.

Today I showed them around Alcala a little more. We were able to go into the historical part of the University and I showed them where I go to class and all. They had to try tortilla at some point so we went to lunch right near the plaza and they got tortilla (Spanish omelet). They’re going to spend the rest of the week in Madrid – with 2 day trips to Salamanca and Toledo so there’s still much more to do!