Tuesday, June 30, 2009

From Barcelona To Granada And The Year Never Again

June 30th,

My last few days here in Granada have been full of mixed emotions. Beautiful and sad, saying goodbye has been difficult. I hope to see everyone again, but I know that with many people I won't be able to.

I met my dad and brother on June 26th in Barcelona. We spent the weekend touring the city, visiting all of Guadí's works and touring the Gothic Quarter and Montjüic.

Back in Granada, my last 4 days here, we've seen the Alhambra, explored the Albacín and enjoyed my adopted city. Last night I organized a final tapas night and we went from one tapas bar to another with twenty five of my American and International friends.

In the end, I have to admit that this year is over. I'll return to Granada but I'll never be able to return to the Granada that I knew at twenty years old.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Start Of What Will Be The Best Summer Yet

June 25th,

Unfortunately, my goal of having my blog updated has fallen through as now with June almost over and next week beginning more than a month of traveling, I will not be able to have my blog updated until August in its normal format. Since April, life has been anything but ordinary as Spring and the start of Summer here in Spain have shown me life at its very best.

I finished my academic year June 16th after having 3 finals in two days. My finals went well although they were all difficult. I do not have all of my grades back, but I did do very well in my history class, Historia Social Política Contemporánea, receiving the highest grade of the foreign students and one of the highest in the class.

Tomorrow my dad and brother come to Spain to begin a 15 day tour of the country. I will be meeting them in Barcelona where we will spend this coming weekend. Returning to Granada on June 29th we'll spend four days in my adopted city and then head back north to Girona to visit Alex and Vanessa. We'll probably rent a car and go to the "Running of the Bulls" in Pamplona for the festival of San Fermín. We'll then do a road trip around the North of Spain before heading back to Barcelona so they can fly home on July 12th.

The same day that my brother and dad head back to California, I'll catch a flight to Paris to meet up with Melissa. The next day we'll be flying to Athens where we'll be meeting up with the rest of our friends in our travel group. July 13th through 31st I'll be traveling throughout Greece and Turkey. We hope to be in Turkey on the 22nd.

Although I feel like I'm saying goodbye to Spain earlier than I would like, I think it will be easier to come straight back from Turkey rather than go to Spain and then double back to Germany where I'll be flying Munich to LA on Lufthansa. If all goes as planned with the flight schedules, I'll be home in California on July 31st.

And like that the year to remember is almost over. Its been the best year of my life and I'm looking forward to enjoying what should be an unforgettable summer. I'll be back home for three in weeks in August before moving back down to San Diego to begin Residential Advisor training for Sixth College on August 26th.

I'll write travel updates in the blog and save the daily posts until I return home in August.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Productivity Arrives And Not A Moment Too Soon

April 21st,

I woke up at 8:30 feeling good and ready for the day.  I did some exercises, ate breakfast, showered and went straight to the facultad to talk with Inma.  I hadn't been to the UC office in a while and after telling Inma about my classes we finalized my study list.  I was the first to know about the Good Bye dinner that would be held at the end of May.  I didn't sign up on the list as I wasn't sure if I would be on a trip.  I said goodbye to Inma and went to the library to study and read more of my book for Teoría del Estado.  

At 1:00, I left the library and headed to Mercado Central where I went to butcher's shop and deli to pick up chicken and cheese. 

Before my 5:30 class, I went to the tea house down my street to study while using the free wifi.  I was the only one there for most of the time.  I ordered a great lemonade with mint and sat in the corner of the second floor, the ceilings low, the windows covered with ivy.  I really liked this small café with its perfect mix of trendy cool and authentic feel.  I did research for my history paper and tried skyping my mom but the internet was a little laggy.

I went back home to put on my salsa clothes and head to class.  In class we had a presentation by one of the students on Nietzsche.  Throughout this year in the Spanish university system, I've really enjoyed the Teoría del Estado class.  Will the smallest teacher student ratio I've ever had, the afternoons on Tuesday and Thursday have been filled with challenging debates and interesting perspectives about elevated and erudite topics.

After class I went downstairs to read in the library.  I then went to salsa, walking down the long tree-lined pathway of the Fuente Nueva Campus.  The class was good and we did a lot of new moves.  I had a lot of fun.  Back home, I made a quick dinner of chicken, rice and vegetables.

I came into my room, surprised to see it was already 11:00pm.  I worked on my paper a little more before going to bed.

Class and Cooking

April 20th,

I did not want to wake up as I slept through my alarm 3 times.  Finally at 8:30, I got up, organized my stuff and went to class.  In Relaciones Internacionales we talked about the role of NATO.  Interesting to hear the Spanish perspective on the international organization.  The práctica we will have for this class will be huge and time consuming.  In Historia Política Social Contemporánea we had a presentation about the Soviet Union.  I'm glad that I had finished with my presentation two months ago.  In my two hour break before Master Tutoría, I went grocery shopping, dropping everything off at home.  In Master Tutoría, we reviewed some of the more nuanced aspects of the Spanish language and reviewed our newly graded essays.  I used the internet in the library to send my dad a happy birthday email before heading back home.

Back home, we tried again to fix the internet.  We ended up buying a new cable but it still didn't work.  All of us were feeling a little frustrated, so we had a group therapy dinner cooking session.  We shared all of the ingredients and each of us made an excellent meal.  

Our apartment is situated between two rentable, vacation apartments.  There is a constant change of people and tonight the guests were a group of Spanish students from Cáceres.  They invited us over as they had seen us cooking in the kitchen.  Enjoying the hospitality, we went over to the apartment and hung out for a little bit.  I came back home around midnight. 

All Broke To Fix

April 19th,

We all woke up at 10:00am and went into the kitchen to face the explosion.  It was so dirty, the floor black, the dishes piled on top of each other.  Dividing up the rooms of the house and delegating tasks, we spent the next two hours cleaning everything up from the BBQ the day before.  

Our house was falling apart as the internet had been completely out for the entire weekend (one of the many reasons that this blog fell so far behind).  After trying for an hour or so to fix it, we gave up and went to the café down the street that has free wifi.  The internet there too was sketchy at best and it kept going out when I was trying to skype my dad.  Frustrated, I went to the convenience store next to my house that has an internet hub.  The first three computers I tried to use didn't work.  Finally I was able to get through to my dad and brother.

I went back home to study for a few hours.  At 8:00, I walked over to Blake's house in Plaza de Toros and met up with some other friends to go to a tetería.  They were all going to go to the Sunday night jazz jam session at Boogaclub, but I instead went to go pay Melissa the money I owed her for our flight from Paris to Greece for our trip this summer.  I hung out with Melissa, Jenny and Vero for a little while until I headed home around 1:00am.

Monday, June 8, 2009


April 18th,

I woke up at 10:30 from the night before, ready and excited for the day.  I was so excited to show off our ridiculous outfits that we had bought yesterday.  Hot pink shorts and trendy screen print tees.  After showering and eating a quick breakfast, I put on my "BBQ costume," and then went into the kitchen to begin marinating the steak.  I did put on my normal shorts to go to the convenience store next door to buy some more supplies.  The day was beautiful despite being a little cloudy.  I was hoping that the rain would hold off.  Back inside, I found Antonio and Heiko also in their ridiculous outfits and preparing everything we would need for the BBQ.

The weather was nice so we decided to move everything upstairs.  Up on the terraza we removed the clotheslines and set up the tables.  We took up Albertito's speakers, stretching an extension chord down two floors from the roof to his open window.  Heiko's fake plant topped off the decorations.

No one came until almost 2:oopm.  Corinne was the first and Kevin came next.  Enrico, our Italian friend came and we began the party.  We continued making the terraza better by putting our huge plank of plywood up on the coffee table to make it three times as big.  A lot of people started to come and pretty soon the BBQ was in full swing.  Antonio's Spanish friends, Chupi and Carlos came bringing with them lots of drinks and food from their green house in Almería.  Chupi gave me a San Fermín running of the bulls red sash.  It went well with my ridiculous outfit.  I loved socializing and catching up with everyone as the majority of the people from my program came.

In charge of the grill, I began to cook all of the food that everyone had generously brought to share.  The heat was weird, so things cooked at different rates.  We cursed at the clouds to stay away and continued with the fantastic afternoon, enjoying the good food and better company.

Eventually the weather won the battle of wills and we were forced to move everything inside.  The festivities didn't stop though as we turned on the dance music and soon everyone was up and turning our living room into a discoteca.  By 9:00pm most people had left.  A core group still remained and we left the house and went for tapas.  We must have sold our souls to ensure good weather for the majority of the BBQ because as we left the apartment we were ambushed by a heavy rain.  We went to Poë and Omkalsum for tapas and came back to my apartment.  After hanging out with Albertito and Heiko, I said goodnight and fell asleep by 2:00am.

From The Necessary To The Needless

April 17th,

Today should have been, was intended to be, needed to be dedicated to work.  Instead it turned out to be the complete opposite.  

I got up at 9:30 and went for an hour run up the river.  I saw Elliot and we ran back to the center together.  I told him about Egypt and he told me about his trip to Berlin, Vienna, Prague and Budapest.  Back home I ate a breakfast of toast and jam on Heiko's Balcony.  

We both needed to work today but we decided to take our time.  We stopped in a  lot of stores to window shop.  Heiko bought a new polo from the outlet next door.  We went to Mercado Central to buy ingredients for the BBQ we were planning on having tomorrow.  I bought 3 steaks and some salchicón.

Back home, we decided to clean the house.  This became a long but necessary task as our house had become quite disgusting.  I cleaned the bathroom and we must of taken out 10 or so big bags of trash.

Somehow it was already 7:00pm.  Antonio and I walked in the direction  of Plaza de Toros to talk about planning the summer trip to Greece and Turkey.  At Jenny and Vero's, I met Leslie another girl from UCSD who was studying abroad in Bologna, Italy.  We spent the next three hours planning our trip.  I went with them and their Spanish friends for a tapa a nuestro bar.  I wanted to go home to work and sleep early.

Nice try.  After walking back home, listening to my iPod, I came up the stairs to find Antonio and Heiko ready to go out.  I knew I shouldn't go, but I realized that in the last two months of this year I wouldn't have much more time to go out with my roommates.  I too put on my jacket and went out to begin the night.  We met Antonio's friends at Puerta Real, stopping at a convenience store to pick up drink for the party.  It was starting to sprinkle as we walked to a house in the Realejo.  We botellóned at the house of one of Antonio's friends and had some great conversation with an eclectic and international crowd.  From his friend's house we went to the Metro discoteca, next door to our piso and spent the rest of the night, until 5 in the morning dancing and socializing.  It was a good Spanish night.

Of Monasteries and Butterflies

April 16th,

I woke up at 9:00, showered and had just finished getting dressed when Corinne rang the door phone saying she was here.  Today we were meeting up for breakfast before Corinne's doctors appointment on this side of the city.  We wanted to go to the tea house down the street for "American Breakfast."  It was closed.  After a moment of indecision, we decided to do churros and chocolate at the famous Café-fútbol.  Finding a table for two on the second level, we had the best churros I've had in Granada.  We exchanged stories from our trips, Corrine telling me about her time to Portugal.  We had a good time and I came home to sit with Heiko on his balcony.

We window shopped on the way to the facultad.  Today I wanted to visit the Cartuja Monastery that despite living next to it during the summer for one month, I still hadn't visited.  I caught the bus at Fuente Nueva and took it to the ancient monastery on the hill.  It was truly incredible and exquisite.  The interior complex and orange grove was nice.  Wandering the hallways, I saw terribly violent and warped paintings describing the martyrdom of the monks.  At the end of the hallway, I came into the Chapel and was really impressed.  Minutely detailed, vibrantly colored marble pillars held up the incredible altarpiece of the chapel.  I spent a long time marveling at its design.

Leaving the Cartuja, I kept climbing the hill to the Facultad de Filosofía y Letras where I looked for a book for my history project.  I wanted to write about either the Spanish Civil War or Spain's role in World War II.  I checked out two.  

Back home I made a bocadillo and began an essay for Master Tutoría.  I then met another friend from my program, Kendra, who I hadn't seen for a while for an afternoon coffee.  We ended up going to the Loft restaurant next door to my apartment as everything else was somehow closed.  We had a good time catching up.  I went back up to my room to finish writing and get ready for class.

Teoría del Estado was interesting.  I read in the library for an hour afterwords before going to Salsa.  In salsa class we learned some more advanced moves that involved stepping over the girl and lifting her up from behind.  

The social calendar would continue as tonight I had been invited over to Melissa's house for a large dinner that she was doing for everyone in the program.  I stopped by the grocery store and picked up a bottle of wine to bring over.  Everyone came over and it was great to catch up on all of the Spring break adventures.  Corinne had brought her friend Finn from Ireland.  He was a really cool guy who is currently biking across Europe, from Portugal to the Hungary.  We had some great Mexican food for dinner.  Most people had already left when Peter, our Erasmus friend from England who we had met last quarter and who is now studying in Bologna, Italy, came over to say hi as he was visiting Granada for the weekend.  We stayed at Melissa's until 3:30am talking.

Peter and I walked back from Plaza de Toros to the Facultad.  It was raining and a bit cold.  Saying goodbye and telling him to stay in touch I walked back home.

School, Skype, Social

April 15th,

I woke up at 8:00am and groggily did some exercises on my floor before eating breakfast, taking a fast shower and heading off to class.  In Relaciones Internacionales, Professor Sánchez spent the whole period discussing our upcoming huge project--a 4 week long práctica that will require us to do lots of outside reading and research.  Historia Política Social Contemporánea was interesting as we talked about the Soviet Union.  I walked back home after class in the light rain.  

For lunch I made my favorite mix of rice, beans, chicken, peppers and hot sauce.  I wasted some time on the computer before heading back to the college for Master Tutoría.  I had missed two tests between my Mom's trip and Egypt.  He said that I wouldn't have to make them up as he thought I was a good student and would rather grade me on my work ethic until the end of the semester.  After class I went to the library to spend two hours doing some much needed reading.

I came home at 6:00 to get ready for my Loft Interview at 7:00.  Putting on a dress shirt just in case we would be doing a video chat, I had some minor difficulties with skype before being able to talk to the Loft director Liz Bradshaw and another student.  The interview went well although I found it difficult to articulate exactly what I wanted to say.  My level of English has decreased.  I'll found out if I received the job in a few weeks.

After the interview I finished a dinner of leftovers and then talked with Antonio and Heiko.  We decided to book our tickets to Portugal.  I'd be missing one more day of school, which I was not happy about, but I was so excited to be traveling with my roommates to Lisbon for four solid days.  We were also staying at one of the world's top hostels, so that would be amazing in and of itself.  We each bought part of the trip: Antonio found the flights from from Lisbon to Madrid, Heiko the bus to Madrid from Granada and I reserved the hostel.  Excited to have planned the trip, I went into my room to upload all of the flamenco music Antonio had given me.

I received a call from the Morocco Exchange girls and around 11:30 I went to Pedro Antonio for Lara's birthday.  I love being a part of different groups and I was glad to keep in touch with the girls from the trip.  I left about an hour later to go to bed.

8 Months In Spain!

April 14th,

I woke up at 9:30 and went for a run along the river, around the Parque de Ciencías and back up my street.  For not having run in a while, I felt pretty good.  Back home, I stretched on the roof and took a shower. 

The rest of the morning I spent working on my essays for Master Tutoría.  I have a ton of work in the next few weeks and knew I should get a head start on everything now while I had the time.  I went to go shopping at Mercado Central before it closed at 2:00pm.  Having now made a routine route through the market, I stopped at the local butcher for filleted chicken breast and then went to the cheese man where I have been trying all of the different Spanish cheeses.  I bought some more manchego, cured sheep cheese and some really good salami.  I came back home to start lunch and continue working. 

Such is Granada.  As I was putting away my groceries, I received a call from Jenny saying she was with her Spanish friend Elena and wanted to know if I wanted to come to tapas with them.  I instead invited them up for an impromptu lunch.  I've certainly improved as a host as I made some great bocadillos.  We talked about school and relationships until 4:00pm when I told them I needed to study but that we would hang out soon.  I cleaned up the kitchen and went into my room to continue working.

I decided to go to the Facultad early and look for a book that I would need for Teoría del Estado.  Class was interesting although I will have a lot of work to do.  After class, I read in the library from my new book "El Futuro de la Política."

At salsa, I had a good time dancing with all of the Spanish girls.  I was improving a lot.  It was starting to rain as I hurried home to pay the month's rent.

I took my large amount of money and binder with past months receipts into the kitchen to talk with my land lord.  This month we were paying an exorbitant amount in utilities and I was sure that there was some kind of error.  In the end everything was correct, we had just spent a ton of money on gas, water and electricity.  I now saw just how expensive it is to live in the world and how important it is to have a good job.  

I made dinner before hanging out with Antonio, checking my email and going to bed. 

The End of Spring Break

April 13th,

I woke up tired at 8:00, put on my coat and wrote out brief notes to my parents and brother to put in my packages from Egypt.  I went to the post office which opened at 8:30 and mailed off my gifts from Egypt. 

At home, I ate a quick breakfast and packed a day bag as I would be joining Heiko and Caro in their trip to Salobreña.  We took the the city bus to the regional bus station and caught the 10:00 beach bus.  An hour later we arrived in the small, quaint beach town of Salobreña.

From the bust station we walked to the beach.  It was a beautiful day with only a slightly cool breeze.  On the beach with little pebbles, we set up camp.  I rested, relaxed and wrote in the warm sun.  I went to find the rest rooms and met up with Jan, Vanessa and their other other German friends who had come to join us.  Heiko, Jan, Vanessa and I played volleyball and soccer.  We jumped into the water, which was quite cold.  Escaping the waves, I looked past the palm trees to see the Sierra Nevada still covered in snow.

We had a picnic lunch. It was a nice way to end my spring break.  From Egypt to Southern Spain!  We all took an after lunch siesta, waking up to play a little more volleyball.  I tried to learn a little bit of German.  Heiko, Caro and I said goodbye to everyone and we walked back to the bus stop with Jan to catch our 5:30 bus.  The bus ride back was pleasant.  

Back in Granada and before going home, I did some last minute grocery shopping and then came back home to shower and change.  At 9:00 we met up with our Erasmus friends and went to a great Middle-Eastern tapas bar.  Back home before midnight, I organized everything for the next day at school and fell quickly to sleep.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Looking Forward To Future Trips

April 12th,

I woke up around 10am and after a quick breakfast and shower, I organized my desk and wrote out the tasks I will have to do in the last month and a half of school.  I needed to make a more disciplined regimen, especially as my year long classes will make or break me in the end.  I then looked a lot at future trips.  I bought my ticket to Paris for July 12th.  I'll be meeting up with Melissa in Paris before heading to Greece and Turkey to start our summer travel plans.  I debated on buying a ticket to Berlin, but decided to wait.  I wanted to go for a long weekend and although I could have just purchased it by myself, I decided to wait and see if anyone else wanted to go.  I wasted some time on facebook before going into the kitchen to make lunch.

After lunch I did some studying for my classes and then took a siesta.  I had certainly been lazy this Semana Santa.  For dinner, I made some pasta with cured manchego cheese.  I've been eating a lot more of the different sheep and goat cheeses available here in Spain and love their strong flavors. 

Since a lot of my friends were out of Granada, traveling, I wasn't sure who was home. I  received a call from Yessie and I went out with her and her cousin.  We went to Aliatar cafe and then to an Irish pub.  I hung out with them until about 2:00am before coming back home.

Rain On the Parade And The Perfecting Of An Image

April 11th,

Waking up, I immediately turned on my computer and began updating my blog.  I would dedicate another whole day to updating it.  I had finally completed my trip with my mom and was beginning to write about Egypt.

It was just Antonio and me in the piso today as Heiko and Karo had gone to Sevilla to see the biggest Semana Santa festival in Andalucía.  We went grocery shopping and came back to make a shared lunch.  The day was cold and threatening to rain.  I received a call from Jenny inviting me to see the biggest day of Semana Santa.  Today there would be a procession that only happened every 100 years.   I said I would meet her at the flag pole by Triunfo.

Navigating through the multitude of people jammed to the max on Mesones and by the Cathedral, I squeezed my way through to San Juan de Dios eventually making it to the flag pole.  The cold weather had allowed me to wear my heavy coat some more before putting it away for good.  I met Jenny and Kevin and we headed back the way I had just came, deciding to wait a the alleyway by the cathedral to try and get the best view of the processions.  We were soon committed to our location whether we wanted to stay or not as thousands of people blocked us in, each one trying to get the position available. 

For the next two hours we watched the once in a 100 years procession, our necks stretching to see above the crowd.  The "floats" with scenes of the Passion were exquisitely decorated with candles, flowers, gold and silver.  We were standing next to a another group of Americans from Lenguas Modernas.  The whole crowd was jealous of the people in the pisos overlooking the plaza with their perfect views of the procession.  The procession kept being delayed as the weather would turn bad.  I guess the rain was not good for the floats as the bearers would run them back to the church despite the heavy weight.  Once all of the floats were back in the church, the sun would come out.  Once the floats came back out, it would start to rain again.  God was playing a cruel joke on this weekend before Easter.  People in the front of the crowd would put up their umbrellas and everyone in the back would yell to close them.  

I stayed until 7:00pm before leading the way to escape the crowd, Jenny behind me.  It took me a while to get back home as I had to go out onto Gran Vía and take a lot of side streets back.  I sat in the living room with Antonio and loaded up the rest of my photos from Egypt onto facebook.  Like that, my trip had officially ended and processed for the world to see.  I worked a little more on my blog before going to bed.

When You Live On Calle San Antón, Granada Comes To You

April 10th,

I woke up at 10:00am with the intentions of writing in my blog.  Almost a month behind, I wrote all about my mom's trip and the adventure in Egypt.  Keeping a daily blog is a challenge but something that I've committed to and don't want to let slip away.

Having spent almost the entire day writing, I needed a break.  At 8:00pm, Heiko, Antonio and I put on our nice clothes and went for a "Calle San Antón," tapas route.  I live right in the center of Granada and I think I will never be able to appreciate how incredible of a  location I lucked out in finding.  Walking a total of 100 meters the entire night, we went to the restaurant next door for some great tapas and then went to the fanciest bar in Granada, Aliatar Café, at the end of our street.  Sitting with Heiko, Antonio and Karo at a private table in the corner of the converted theater I smiled, realizing how privileged and fortunate I was to have a year like this while I was still young.  I enjoyed hanging out with my roommates.  They are great guys.  We stayed until 2am before leaving to walk the 50 meters back to our apartment.

Living The Good Life In Granada

April 9th,

I woke up late, eating breakfast in the kitchen and going out on my balcony to write with my shirt off at my table.  I was feeling a little sick but the warm sun felt nice. 

For lunch, Antonio and I had some of the risotto that Heiko had made.  Antonio made some after lunch coffee and we relaxed in our sunny living room in our white, IKEA chairs.  Living it up in Granada.

We went to a tetería, tea house, for a second tea at a place we'd been meaning to go to the whole year.  A beautiful tea house with ivy covering the walls.  The dark wood interior was inviting.  Quiet corners and low tables.  We sat at one with a beautiful view of the street outside.  We ordered our drinks and a hookah and relaxed as the afternoon came and went.

That night we met up with our Erasmus friends and went for tapas in the center.  I will miss how easily social Granada is next year.  

Walking back home from tapas, we headed down Calle Mesones.  There were lines  of people on both sides of the street, silent.  We walked through the middle before realizing that it was one of the processions.  Had I just come to Granada, I would have been a little scared as hundreds of hooded figures in black KKK robes held long red candles that dripped hot wax on the street.  We watched them, the entire street silent.  A constant drum beat from a solitary drummer reverberated between the buildings.  A surreal scene.  

Tired, we cut back past the cathedral and came home, Puerta Real and Recogidas packed with people.

Semana Santa In Granada

April 8th,

I woke up at 10am having slept for about 9 and a half hours  I dedicated the majority of the day to cleaning, getting organized and settling back into Granada.

Heiko woke up around the same time and we shared stories from our trips.  He had been in Italy visiting our Italian friend Federica.  We went to the store and then Heiko left to go to Malaga to pick up his girlfriend from the airport.

Despite a seemingly lazy day, the night was a lot of fun.  At 8:30 I met up with Miranda, Leighanne and Alanna, my friends from Morocco Exchange to see the Semana Santa processions.  

This week is Semana Santa in Granada.  Throughout Holy Week, all of Andalucía celebrates the story of Jesus with large processions, huge floats and penitents wearing multi-colored robes that look like Ku Klux Klan hoods.  It is almost unique to southern Spain and something that I shouldn't miss while living here in Granada.

The city was filled with tourists from all over Europe and Spain.  The streets were jam packed.  In the plazas by the town hall and cathedral there was stadium seating bleachers and vendors were all over the place selling food and trinkets. 

Each night there would be 5 or 6 processions passing through designated routes throughout the city.  We actually ended up seeing all of them despite not having a real plan.  The processions are slow and showy.  Huge, extravagant, ornate floats are carried by a dozen men.  The floats, with flowers or gold have a statue of the Virgin or Jesus.  Each church has a fraternity that is in charge of carrying the float.  The floats were followed by penitents in colored uniforms with large pointy hoods.  We had good spots next to the processions by the Cathedral and Puerta Real.  We had some ice cream after watching the last procession.  

Back home by midnight, I talked with Antonio, Heiko and his girlfriend, Karo.  I skyped my friends studying abroad in London and talked to my dad.  He and Hunter will be coming out to visit when I finish finals in June.  I went to bed around 2am.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Lunch In Barcelona. Dinner in Granada

April 7th,

I woke up at 9:00am and took a shower.  For breakfast I had some muffins and juice that Alex and Vanessa had put in the kitchen for my visit.  

I began to write in my journal trying to get got up from the Egypt trip.  Vanessa came over to the apartment to begin her work.  It was cold and rainy in Barcelona, the exact opposite of the hot weather in Egypt.  I called Veronica and Melissa at 10:00 as they had said  yesterday that they would be down to meet up for lunch.  Just waking up they said they would call me when they were ready.  

At 12:20 the girls called me and we agreed to meet up at the Plaza Catalonia and then go to "4 Cats," the restaurant from "Vicky, Christina, Barcelona."  I said goodbye to Vanessa and then went to the taxi stop to hail a cab.  I was glad I had brought a jacket as it was cold.  

I didn't arrive in Plaza de Catalonia until almost 1pm.  I was easy to spot in my fedora and green back pack.  I was happy to see the girls.  They were tired, but had rested a little at their couchsurfer's house.  We walked down form Plaza Catalonia, passing a lot of the retail stores and heading in the direction of the gothic quarter.  We came just before it got really crowded, finding a table for the three of us.

4 Cats had been featured in the scene in Vicky, Christina Barcelona, when Javier Bardem's character asks the girls to come away with him for the weekend.  They had an excellent lunch menu that came with wine, appetizers and a main course.  I had to keep looking at my watch as I  had to be at the airport by 2:30.  We still had a nice lunch, already reminiscing a little over Egypt.  Melissa received a call from Ramon Piñon, the director of the program inviting us over to dinner as our study abroad advisor, Molly Ann McCaren was visiting Granada during Semana Santa.  Melissa couldn't make it due to her Italy trip but I told Ramon that I would there for dinner. 

I left my money on the table, said goodbye to the girls and left the restaurant.  I caught a taxi and I talked with the driver on the way over to the airport.

At the airport, I didn't have to wait very long before boarding my flight.  The flight was easy and we made it safely back to Granada.  On the ground, I met one of my old ILP professors and I told him about my year and my trips.  I was able to catch a micro-bus back to the center and was back home by 6:30pm.  

Back home in my apartment, I talked to Antonio and got settled in.  We put in some of the videos Antonio had taken from the trip which were hilarious.  If I have time I'll edit a movie.  I called Ramon and was told to come over.  I went over to their house around 8:30 arriving as they were making dinner.

I talked with Molly Ann, her son Matthew, the Piñons and their daughter Becca and her college friend from NYU, telling them about my year.  It was a great dinner full of interesting conversation.  It was nice to have been invited.  Outside we could hear the Semana Santa processions.  I said goodnight and thank you and left the piso with Becca who was going to watch the procession.  I went home to prepare for the next day and get some much needed sleep.

From Egypt to Spain With Love

April 6th,

Antonio woke me up at 3:45 from my sleep on the balcony of the hotel.  I had 15 minutes to pack my bag and quickly exit the room.  Everyone from the group was downstairs, groggy from lack of sleep.  We were handed white lunch boxes with some bread and juice and told to put our bags on the bus. Leaving the hotel to the Cairo airport, we were given directions of how to make it thorugh secuirty and get to our flight on time. 

The security at the airport wasn't that strict, just annoying as there were two distinct checkpoints.  I checked in my big green backpack and then went with the group to sit down in the cafe.  Melissa and I spoke with the couple from Peru who were waiting by the gate.

We were supposed to board the plane, but it was delayed a half an hour as there was something wrong with the electronics.  On the flight back to Barcelona, I mostly slept, waking up for a mediocre breakfast.  The landing was a little rocky, but like that we had made it safely back to Barcelona.

We passed through Spanish security and picked up our bags very quickly with the exception of Jennifer.  She had lost her passport somewhere between Egypt and Spain.  I called Alex and Vanessa and coordinated to meet up with them later.  We waited in the airport as Jenny tried to find her passport.  Antonio and Chupi hadn't bought return tickets back to Granada and after looking at the expensive airline tickets during Semana Santa, they decided to take the cheaper but tedious 12 hour bus back.

I went with the group to the train station where we would be parting ways.  It was a tough saying goodbye to everyone especially after such an unbelievable trip.  Veronica and Melissa would be spending the night in Barcelona and heading to Milan the next day to begin a second week long trip through Italy (crazy) and Jenny, Antonio and Chupi would be heading back to Granada on the bus.  I would be spending the evening withe Alex and Vanessa and then trying to find a flight back to Granada tomorrow.  I gave everyone a big hug and left the train station looking for  a taxi.  I was sad to leave such an incredible trip behind, but happy to return to Spain and continue with my year abroad.

The taxi ride took a long route through sunny Barcelona.  It was a culture shock to be in a country that had traffic laws.  The mere fact that this taxi had seat belts was a huge difference from Cairo.  

Arriving  at the guest apartment/office, I was greeted by Alex and Vanessa who were busy at work.  I got settled into my little guest room and ate some food that they had saved for me for lunch.  I was feeling tired and sick.  I talked to Vanessa while checking my email and buying an airline ticket to return home the next day.  I then took a much needed siesta.

At 7:30 Vanessa woke me up to go to martial arts training.  Just recently completed since my last visit to Barcelona the month before, Alex's dojo was incredible.  Decorated with all of his photos and artifacts from Japan, the dojo had a great feel.  Open and spacious, the dojo could be converted to give lectures and classes.  He had had the tatami mats shipped over form Japan.  I borrowed one of Alex's suits and used it for training.  I am always rusty, considering I don't train in Granada, and feeling a little sick didn't help.  Still, I managed to do OK.

Training lasted until 10:00pm.  Alex and Vanessa drove me back to their house for a quick dinner.  They have been so kind to me this whole year.  Alex drove me back to the guest apartment after dinner.  He told me to study hard and get ready for more trips.  I went upstairs to the piso and immediately fell asleep.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Half Way Through May

May 16th,

Spring in Spain (and in Europe for that matter) is truly incredible.  From perfect weather, spring festivals and a last few trips before finals come beginning of June, May has proven to be a great "last real Spanish month."  May has absolutely flown by, and writing this on May 16th, the second half of the month, I realize how little time left I have here in Granada.

Portugal was a fantastic trip.  Heiko, Antonio and I spent 4 days in Lisbon at one of the world's best hostels, Traveler's House, and did day trips to the wonderful cities of Cascais and Sintra.  In Cascais we did an all day bike tour along the national park and in Sintra we toured beautiful palaces and gardens.  I loved traveling with my Spanish and German roommates.  I really look up to both of them and we had some polemic, critical, deep and eye opening conversations throughout the trip.

In the last two weeks before finals, I have been busy with school and end of the year activities.  

One way or the other I'll have this blog updated soon in its normal fashion with daily entries and pictures.