Archive for November, 2011

Thanksgiving – Hong Kong style

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Lingnan University presented us with a Thanksgiving feast for HK20…about USD$2.60.  We Americans were quite excited for the spread, so arrived super early to see about 50 school-aged children in teeny tuxes.  So adorable…until we found out the night was going to be a mini-recital for them to show off their harp and piano skills.  That’s okay, though, it was cute seeing the little children playing instruments.  We also had a guy rap for us.  There was then an extended presentation about the origin of Thanksgiving blah blah blah…then it was time for food!  Each table received it’s own turkey and the sides were served from a buffet table.

The spread was definitely different….the usual turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry (canned), broccoli and cauliflower, and rolls, and the unusual: pasta, fried rice, seaweed crackers, and coconut-covered jello.  It was decent, definitely school food, but we got a huge portion of food for so cheap, how can we complain?

On Thanksgiving back home, I usually go to Kiawa in South Carolina with my best friend’s family.  On Thanksgiving day, we “run” a 5k, go home for delicious corn chowder, then participate in a sand castle competition.  To keep the tradition alive, I went to Gold Coast beach to have my own sand castle competition.  I had many observers while building my Buddha (complete with a Santa hat and holding a turkey).

That night, being a Thursday, we went out to LKF.  Our bellies were quite full with food, so it wasn’t as great of an experience as one would think…

Our course there were Thanksgiving leftovers, so my dear friend Billy (France) and Yesim (Turkey) planned a lunch to cook up our leftovers.  To be honest, that lunch was much better than the actual Thanksgiving meal (but aren’t the leftovers usually the best part??)

We did have a taste of family with a dinner out with our friend’s parents who were here in Hong Kong visiting.  We went to hot pot, where you have a pot of boiling liquid and you cook all your own food in it.  A Hong Kong delicacy. (I just realized, we were all Americans).  Once again, preparations for Christmas are early here.

No-Shave November

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

 

No shave November is celebrated by men all over the world I found out.  The month of November was filled mainly with nights in Lan Kwai Fong.  Otherwise, nothing too exciting happened.  One week, Ari and I went 3 nights in a row…yeah, intense.  It took us about a week to recoop…maybe that’s why I can’t think of anything exciting (the month was filled with sleep!).  We saw LKF the fullest…

…and the emptiest we have ever seen it…

There has been some drama due to the crazy nights at LKF, but hopefully it is all water under the bridge now :-/   I must admit, I will miss this place, these crazy nights out, and all the wonderful people I spend them with.

The above picture is a really good one to see how LKF is set up…it is two streets of bars and clubs.  You can see the never-ending taxi line to take people home…I’ve never not seen a long line of taxis.  The club we go to all the time, China Bar, is on the left street two clubs in from the corner.  This photo was taken on the 30th floor club, Ozone.

These two photos were taken on the busiest night, Carnival.  It was CRAZY.  The crowd was literally at a stand still in the street.  Ari and I headed to our favorite club, China Bar, and the bouncer said, “Tonight it’s a 100 dollar entry fee.”  We looked shocked and Ari said, “For us?! It’s 100 for us??”  The bouncer stepped aside and replied, “Okay okay, not for you two.”  We have been to this club so often the bouncers know us…which comes in handy when there is a cover charge to get it.  Ari and I were SOOOO proud of our stamps that we received for FREE. 

 

As in America, it’s never too early for Christmas.  This elaborate set-up was available to enjoy in early November.  Ridiculous.

Lee Myeong Bak’s Energy Saving Policy

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

“SEOUL, Nov. 28 (Yonhap) — President Lee Myung-bak called on South Koreans Monday to turn off unnecessary lighting, wear warmer underwear and take other voluntary power-saving steps, saying the country could face a shortage of electricity due to soaring demand…

‘Cooperation of all citizens is essential,’ he said.

‘I, for one, have recently lowered the thermostat in the place I work. Naturally, I had to wear warmer underwear which was uncomfortable initially. But after a while, I got used to it, and now I am very warm and comfortable wearing it,’ he said.

‘We can save energy beyond our expectations if we lower the temperature in houses and offices a little, turn off unnecessary lights during the night and use high-efficiency electric appliances,’ he said. ‘I urge businesses, civic organizations and the general public to participate in this campaign voluntarily.’”

Okay, LMB, I may not agree with everything you say but I agree that we need to conserve energy. Talking about your underwear though? See, this is why people make fun of you. Read the rest of the article here.

Writing in paradise

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

I’m currently sitting on our porch, facing the beach and the pool… and writing. I’m actually making good progress, and I’m not too stressed about the paper—I realized that I routinely write almost this much in a week at school, when I have other things to do, and I already know what my argument is going to be, so it’s just a matter of putting it into words. At any rate, Mananjary is perfect. It’s a super sleepy little town (surprisingly so… I thought that yesterday the streets were empty just because it was Sunday, but it turns out every day is like that), but with a pretty beach, and our hotel is gorgeous. The room is nice, and there’s a flushing toilet and a real shower and even- what luxury- a fan! And the restaurant is really nice as well, although perhaps a bit pricey for Madagascar. But I am just so happy here, relaxing and writing and hanging out with Cara. It’s sort of strange to be completely like all the other vazaha for the first time—I went out to the market this afternoon, and realized I haven’t spoken Malagasy in days! There’s a whole tour group of Scandinavians at our hotel, and they don’t speak French, but excellent English, so it’s really bizarre to be greeted in English… I think I’m definitely going to be in shock when I return to the US. Not sure what else to say… it’s kind of surreal at the moment—both like we’ve been here forever and for no time at all, and like I can’t wait to go home and won’t know what to do there, and this is both vacation and work, and I’m just all mixed up, but in a good way. Weird to think that it’s thanksgiving back in the US—I literally am on the beach on a tropical island, and fall and Americana all seem so far away. But having said that, Cara and I have been talking about the US a lot, especially planning out all the things we’re excited to do…

forgotten post #1– from Nov. 16th

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

A real post
Sorry about the disjointed post earlier… I was in the cybercafé, killing time, and realized I should probably post because I had some cool things to tell everyone about. But as I started writing, I realized that I was on a French keyboard, and though I’m getting much better at using one, it’s just too difficult to write anything of length. For one thing, you have to press shift to type a period, but not for an exclamation mark. What is that??? And the a and the q are switched, which makes my name when I type it quickly lqurq. But enough ranting…

So, what have I been up to, you ask? Well, mostly my project. I’ve been doing a lot of fieldwork—this week, rather than interviews with experts on vintana, I’ve been hanging out with an ombiasy, trying to watch consultations with clients, to understand how people interact with vintana in their lives. But there haven’t been many clients coming to him while I’ve been there, so I’ve mostly been chilling. On Monday, I didn’t have a translator, so I spent all day getting things demonstrated and explained to me in Malagasy, and strangely enough, I could follow most of the time. Ombiasys are really cool—they’re sort of fortune-tellers and traditional doctors, so when you come to them, they first consult the sikidy, laying out seeds at random and reading their layout to find the problem and your future, and then they prepare a medicine. And here in the southeast, a big part of that is sorabe—it means big writing, and it’s the original Malagasy script—essentially Malagasy written in Arabic script. Which is cool, because I can actually read some of it (which has really freaked a couple people out). But they believe that the writing itself has magic powers, so they write incantations in ink on banana leaves, for example, and then put it in water so it dissolves, and drink that water (often mixed with shavings of several different types of woods) as medicine. So that’s what we did, as well as a bunch of other things—like putting chalk markings on different parts of our bodies. And when he made a medicine for my unhappy marriage (essentially, the first time he read my vintana, he said that I would have a troublesome marriage because I’m strong like a man, so I asked him to make me a medicine for that), part of it involved scraping my eyebrow, tongue, bellybutton, ankles, arms, neck, and palms with a swiss army and then putting honey on them… that’s participant observation. The funny part is, when I got home, my host mom was not happy that he had given me medicine, and told me to throw it out immediately, for fear of gri-gri (essentially dark magic—either can kill you, make you sick, or make you fall in love with someone). She was very insistent on this point, so maybe it’s not good that I took it…
Unfortunately, my project sort of hit a snag. I had been planning on observing consultations with Malagasy clients, to try to understand how vintana is practiced in daily life, but this morning, my ombiasy said I can’t, because his clients are afraid of me knowing their problems. So that’s sort of a bust… luckily, I think I have enough field data to write the paper, so I think it will all be fine. I’m starting to chomp at the bit to start writing it, because I’m excited to do some real analysis for the first time in a long time and to actually write.
I’m also starting to get excited about going home—the stress of just living here is starting to wear on me. I only ever talk to one other native English speaker, and even though I have no complaints with her, I’m just ready to fit in—to be the same as everyone around me. I definitely don’t want to be famous—it’s exhausting having everyone look at you all the time, and it’s even more so when you don’t speak the same language. I’m getting much better at dealing with it—laughing and responding to the catcalls, which make them much more fun for me and the guys, and saying hello to the women or kids staring at me—but that doesn’t mean it’s not tiring. It’s actually really nice here in Manakara, though, because we’re becoming locals—we see the same people on our walk every day, and now people say hello to us in Malagasy the first time, because they know we speak a little. I’ll hear a group of people walking towards me telling someone that I’m the vazaha that can already speak Malagasy (in Malagasy, of course, but I can understand that much), which is just such a fabulous feeling. And my ombiasy gave me the sweetest compliment—he said I was a vazaha gasy, which kind of means that I’m a Malagasy vazaha (I guess I had just asked a good question!). Although if I see you back in the states, you’ll probably have to remind me that I can’t talk about people in front of their faces—I haven’t met a single Malagasy person who speaks enough English to understand two native speakers talking to each other, so we’ve sort of fallen into the habit of feeling comfortable commenting on the people around us (and before you think it’s really rude of me, remember that they’re definitely talking about me, and I can understand them better than they can me).

Well, it’s getting close to dinner time, so I guess that’s enough of an update. Plus, I should probably get back to typing field notes…

Vocabulary

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

What do the following words (or phrases or names) have in common?

Nosedive

Counterfeiter

Fascism

Edgar Hillaire Degas

Philadelphia

Haptics

Intertia

Egoism

Euphemism

Knowledge

Saladin

Galaxy

Eucalyptus

Mosquito

Rhinoceros (rhino)

Pierre Auguste Renoir

Ministry of Employment and Labor

Planner

Euthanasia

Obsession

Mill “On Liberty”

Korean Red Ginseng

Nitrogen

Butcher

Gustav Klimt

Hypothesis

Rawls

Magna Carta

Miracle

and Superstition

They’re all words that my 2.4 class wrote down as a part of Bowl of Nouns (a game similar to taboo, but the students make the words).

I don’t know about you, but I don’t know any of these words in Korean, and I only know some of them in ASL, a language I claim to be fluent in. With some notable exceptions (Ministry of Employment and Labor – taken from a poster on the wall) the students took these words either from their vocabulary lists, their textbooks, or their memories.

Edublog Awards

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Best Teacher Blog/ Best Individual Blog: Mrs. Scribe for

http://scholastic-scribe.blogspot.com/

 

Mrs. Scribe’s blog is an all encompassing account of her life, from school, to home, cooking, family and travels you get a snapshot into the seemingly ordinary life of this high school teacher which is spiced up with her extraordinarily hilarious witticisms and anecdotes. She details her trials and tribulations as a mother, educator, baker and oppressed creative soul under the regime of her evil nemesis- Principal Man. Occasionally she will cameo the critters in her home, or students of years past, always tying it in with something current or timely while keeping it fresh and funny.  She has a talent for creating perfectly descriptive and biting nicknames for the evil doers in her life, and you can be sure that a mention of #nachos will sneak its way in somehow. I nominate Mrs. Scribe for Best Teacher Blog and Best Individual Blog!

 

A place I wish I could be- Mrs. Scribe's classroom

A British Thanksgiving and a Czech Black Friday

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Oh that classic day of turkey, football and food comas. It’s a staple of American families on Thanksgiving! This year of course it’s a bit different for me. We decided to do our own American Thanksgiving here in England! And I had the best job of all….GUTTING and cooking that turkey.

1. Cook an American dinner on Thanksgiving.

 

He's so cute

 

The best thing about Thanksgiving in England? You don’t have to battle it out to find a turkey, stores are still open and it’s a holiday that involves excessive eating. As Americans, we really will use any excuse to overeat, and it’s awesome explaining this holiday to people here.

Making a turkey seemed intimidating—people warned it was a tricky business. Honestly I just think people are uncomfortable with the plan of attack–ripping those organs out and tying up the legs like you’re ready for an autopsy. I rather enjoyed it! Once that’s done, you rinse, lather him up with spices and pop him in the oven! Banggg, done. It turned out pretty nice!

 

Our lovely spread

 

There was stuffing, cranberry sauce, green beans with almonds, turkey of course, rolls, garlic mashed potatoes and for dessert we had amazing apple crumble! The next night our program threw us a fancy Thanksgiving dinner in a private function room–and dinner was cooked by culinary students! The turkey must have been on steroids—it was massive. We got to dress up, drink wine and be classy.

ASE really goes out of its way to make you feel comfortable here! The staff is so friendly and helpful, you can’t help but feel at home. And nothing says home like exorbitant amounts of food on your plate amongst friends :)

 

Last year on Black Friday I was stuck behind a register all day. This year? I was in Prague.

10. Learn snippets of a new language (German and French don’t count)

Me and Natalie in front of the Charles Bridge

It was an impulsive trip (well, we planned it a month ago) to see Prague during Christmastime. And man did we pick the ideal weekend to go! It was freezing but sunny the whole weekend so we got to see the real beauty of the place. Prague Christmas Market was named one of the Best 12 in Europe (Great Britain included, Bath is actually also named one of the best), and we were able to see the official tree-lighting ceremony in Old Town. The tree was trekked from the mountains of the Czech Republic, decked out in gold ornaments and enough lights to rival a KISS concert. Tons of wooden stalls littered the place, selling everything from handmade iron jewelry (you could see the guy in the forge right there) to Obama puppets, combined with the smell of roasting meat and super awesome desserts—trdelnik is my new favorite, which is basically roasted vanilla-coated dough, sprinkled with almonds and rolled in sugar.

Amazing!

 

Carolers were singing church songs in Czech, dancers were demonstrating traditional costumes, and the entire square sparkled with light and life. I haven’t felt this much Christmas spirit since I was probably eight or so! Most vendors spoke English, but my minor exposure to German did help when ordering things! And endless “excuse me’s” and “sorry’s” were obligatory in such a big crowd. There were times when people would just come up to us and ramble on and on in Czech (probably had too much svarak–hot wine), of course you just nod and smile and high-five them. Some things are just universal–including drunk speak. I got some Christmas presents for my family (shh) and ate way too much!

 

Astronomical Clock

Absinthe. For the record it tastes like bitter licorice.

Vltava River

 

The exchange rate definitely helped. We hired a private car to take us from the airport to our hotel for $14 each (550 Kroner total)! It was so fancy, we walked out of the arrivals gate and there was an adorable old Czech man with my name on a sign. However, somehow beer was cheaper than water everywhere we went. We decided to also spring for a hotel and not a hostel which gave us a full breakfast and better security. There’s something actually haunting about the city at night in the quieter parts. Even on a Friday and Saturday night, it’s dead quiet with cold invading your bones. Natalie chalks it up to the Iron Curtain’s lingering presence–I’m inclined to agree. But everyone we met was so friendly and welcoming!

We went on a 4 hour (split up into 2 days) walking tour. For the first part we saw Old Town and the Jewish Quarter, which houses the oldest Jewish cemetery in Europe. It’s also insanely crowded, with 12,000 headstones that takes up less than a city block. People are stacked up like Leggos underneath that thing. The second day we saw Prague Castle and Lesser Town–which is where a lot of movies are filmed.

Cute bridge in Lesser Town

View from Prague Castle

 

After a glorious weekend, it was time to go back home to Bath. Getting there was easy, getting back was a bit trickier. Our flight was delayed because they overbooked the plane (yay for planning, huh airlines? lol), luckily we got on. We also had to take a bus from the gate to the plane which was in the middle of the runway, it felt like another private escort but with all of us jammed in there like sardines. No screaming babies on board, thank GOD! When we landed we took the Flyer to the train station and bought tickets for Bath. But hey guess what, no more trains out to Bath for the rest of the night. Thanks for selling me the ticket though, that was nice of you haha Soooo we call a taxi. Half an hour goes by, and no taxi. We call the company and the guy said he was waiting outside of a bar for us…buttt dude we’re at the train station. No matter, we just hailed another taxi and got home just around midnight.

OH! And we saw a guy playing a didgeridoo on the Charles Bridge. We wanted to rave to it. Just being silly Americans of course lol A couple feet down there was a band playing brass, which made it feel like a time warp. I love Praha!

 

 

 

 

 

The Price is Right… again

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

Like I said a few blog entries ago I’m doing the Price is Right with my students to practice big numbers and prices, and it’s been going surprisingly well.  I thought it’d be too easy for them, but they’ve been getting really into the cultural aspects (I’ve been showing pictures of coins and explaining who each person is, the name of the coin, the value in both dollars and won, explaining the buildings, and also the symbols and America’s motto). It’s also been really nice to see my lowest level kids, who granted are not low level at all, really break out of their comfort zone and shout out the answers to things.

The way that second and third grade students are divided into homerooms is based on whether they’re 이과 (Egwa – science) or 문과 (Mungwa – society). If they’re science track, they take a lot more math and science courses, and if they’re society they study language and social studies more. It’s very strange to see where students fall on either side of that line because some of my best English speakers are science track, including Future Diplomat… However, there are some programs (for example, some of the top university’s medical programs) that will only take students who were science track in high school, no matter how high a society track kid’s math and science suneung scores are. However, I haven’t heard of any liberal arts college program turning away science track kids for this reason… it therefore makes more sense regardless of your actual interests to be science track in high school, especially if you want to keep your options open. As someone who is obviously a liberal arts/social studies/society fiend, this makes me really sad.

One thing I’ve noticed with the second grade society track boys is they all have a strange fondness for using German, at least in English class. Something that distinguishes Changpyeong High School from other high schools (at least, that I know of) is the amount of foreign language offered at school. Sapgyo only had English and Japanese, and hanja (the study of Chinese characters – not the language itself). I’ve had numerous students speak German to me as a joke, and today by the end of class four teams had switched from English numbers to German numbers. “Team 1″ had switched to “Team Eins” so I started calling them Einsteins, which made them giggle. I totally would’ve been that kid in high school. <3 문과

Words don’t do it justice

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

This is now my third attempt at sitting down and trying to write this blog post. Words are evading me. Maybe they can just no longer do Spain justice. Maybe you all should just come and experience life here for yourselves. I’d like that! But your window of opportunity is shrinking… so maybe I should just get on with the writing. I had every intention of posting this blog about 6 days ago, around 1 am on Monday to be exact. I started making notes of what I was going to say in the McDonald’s next to the Granada bus station at 11:30 Sunday night. You see how far that got me since it’s now Sunday night my time, no big deal. And I still have those notes from last Sunday, all slightly out of date now maybe but pure reflections just the same. So jump back with me to how I was feeling Sunday night – tired, cold, anxious for the arrival of my 3 am bus back to Sevilla, contemplating sleeping on the floor (all a story within itself) and here we go…

I spent last weekend in what my host mom (a former resident of this lovely autonomous community) refers to as the heart of Spain, regardless of its non-central location. Any guesses?? Yes? And time’s up: Andalusia – Seville and Granada to be more exact. And while my personal jury is still out on whether I agree with Carmen’s possibly biased perception of these grand cities, I must admit that southern Spain did seem to possess a little extra Spanish magic. Home of Flamenco, tapas, white washed or brightly colored casitas, bull fights, and pretty much every other Spanish stereotype you can think of, upon arriving in Andalusia I felt liked I’d finally found the Spain that everyone talks about, the only part of Spain that has ever received Hollywood’s attention. My response to finally finding this paradise surprised me. I found myself defending (silently of course) Bilbao and its non-traditional Spanish customs. In my head I was having a hypothetical debate with those stereotype setters about how the world needed to get with the times and realize the diversity of Spain and how much the other 16 communities have to offer. And then I quickly hopped off my soap box to settle in to enjoy the weekend.

We arrived in Seville Thursday night and got a bit of a “preview” of its beautiful sights while we crawled along several calles, unfortunately still weighted down by our equipaje, trying to find our hostel – ummm what else is new, you ask? I know, I know, but on the bright side, I think our aimlessly searching time split is improving (patting self on the back : P ). After figuring out hostel cositas we hit the streets for our first tapas experience. Being that it was already 11:45 pm, we were all quite hungry, but the Sevillians didn’t seem to care. While every bar we walked into was more than happy to recite a long list of drink specials they had available, when we requested a food menu, we were given quizzical glances and informed that food was not served after 11pm. Oh. Thankfully the McDonald’s on the corner was more than happy to provide us with an authentic American experience even at the “non-food” hours of the night. Parfait Perfection?

Fortunately, Friday started off on a much more successful foot. After breakfasting in the hostel, the girls and I joined the very corny Italian tour guide Felipo in a plaza only a short distance from our hostel for a walking tour of Seville. We were only going to be in this city for one full day and I was determined to see as much as possible in our short time. This tour did the trick. In just under 3 hours we covered Seville’s city center, seeing the cathedral, the old ship yard, el torre del oro (an old storage tower from when Seville was the exchange port with the Americas), San Telmo’s Palace (home of the current President of Seville), several pabellones of Latin American countries left from the 1929 Seville Exhibition, María Luisa park, the Plaza España, Seville’s University – which used to be a tabacco warehouse… interesting progression – and ended in the Murillo gardens, where we were told an interesting rendition of Christopher Columbus’ departure for India. Felipo’s accent may have made it a tad difficult to keep up at times with all the history he shared along the way but that’s all part of the experience, right? No pasa nada.

Post-tour we rested our feet for a bit at the first street-side restaurant that presented us shoved in our faces an appealing and reasonably priced daily menu. When we were thoroughly stuffed, we returned to the Plaza España for a closer look. As Felipo had mentioned, the symbolism there is pretty impressive. There are 4 bridges around the plaza and each one represents one of Spain’s original “kingdoms”: Aragón, Navarra, León, and Castilla. There are also mosaic maps and pictures of each of Spain’s 38 provinces. After a few failed attempts, we finally found País Vasco under one of its several other names - Viscaya – and promptly took pictures with what we now refer to as our home town. We then had one more stop on our Seville wish-list: la Alcázar – an architecturally spectacular Arabic fortress, which turned out to be a lovely preview of what Granada’s Alhambra had in store for us. Upon returning to our hostel that evening, we promptly dropped of the maps and postcards we had acquired throughout the day and prepared for  what I like to think of as a prefect ending to a great day – a roof top paella lesson. Regardless of the fact that all I really got out of the lesson was the spanish terms for the huge paella skillet, the paella seasoning, and the different types of seafood going into it, the paella lesson/dinner turned into a three hour conversation with new friends: 3 girls who are studying at another university in Bilbao, a guy studying abroad in Barcelona, and an Aussie traveling around Europe by himself just for funsies. Although I’m pretty sure I will never run into any of them again, I thoroughly enjoyed swapping stories with a new audience : ) Maybe I could get used to this hostel thing after all. 

Saturday we made it to Granada – none too easily! After waking up at 6:15 am to check out of the hostel and walk the mile and a half to the bus station and arriving at said bus station at 7 am to purchase tickets for the 7:45 am bus, we were met with a closed ticket window that wasn’t opening until 7:30 am. We quickly realized that we’d be cutting it close with our transactions but also knew there was nothing we could do about it now. Happy to see only two people already in line, Maria and I staked out our spots and sleepily watched the seconds tick by. Somehow time moved quickly (maybe I’ve perfected the art of napping while standing ??) and before long we saw a shadow moving behind the screen of the window. Ticket time! Quite unfortunately we also saw a little old lady pushing herself full steam ahead to the front of our line and sticking her face right up to that window. Not eager to practice my spanish fighting words, I was prepared to brush this little setback off and accept the fact that I was now forth in line. However, the woman in front of me did not keep the same calm demeanor. A full fledge argument about the meaning of lines and fairness and yadayadayada quickly ensued and, in my opinion, took up way more time than just letting her go would have but principles principles. At what had to be at least 7:40 we were finally running, tickets in hand, to parking space 18 where our long awaited bus was supposed to be waiting for us. Supposed to be… Did you catch that? Of course the bus in spot 18 would be pitch dark, shades drawn, with no driver in sight. 7:43 we frantically asked the people around us if they are waiting for the bus to Granada. They all assured us that they were. 7:44 we were not convinced so Molly asked a security guard if we were in the right place and he nonchalantly pointed to parking space 28. Since when do you automatically just add 10 to things huh?? 7:45 we squeezed past the bus driver as he tried to get behind the wheel to start the bus and fell into the first seats we could find, a row or two behind the oh so lovely lady we’d met a few minutes early – of course she didn’t almost miss the bus. 7:46 I’d almost passed out from the “excitement” of the morning. Thank goodness it was 3 and a half hour siesta time. Granada bound.

I feel like I must mention that by this point in the study abroad experience I should be over forming expectations of places before I actually visit them because my track record is not good – I always build them up in a completely erroneous fashion. I’ve never seen pictures of any part of Granada and actually can’t say that I’ve really ever even heard stories about Granada so I can’t explain to you why, for some strange reason, I was convinced that Granada was some sort of Mecca. And I can’t even tell you what sort of Mecca I was expecting, most likely because I hardly know what the world Mecca means…. shhhh. Up until Saturday I guess it meant Granada. Now, I’m not actually being fair… Granada was pretty but it was tiny. It was unique and definitely had some arabic influences going on but its main streets also looked really normal. I liked it but I didn’t feel like I was in a fairy tale land. And quite honestly none of this was Granada’s fault. What had I been thinking and why had I been thinking it?? Water under the bridge I guess cause it was ’round the white stone road I went until we checked into our hostel, grabbed coffee (have I mentioned I never used to like that stuff??), dropped of our bags, and ran out the door headed in the direction of THE reason to go to Granada – La Alhambra.

The world famous Alhambra is a preserved muslim fortress complete with look-out towers, palaces, Mosque baths, and gardens. It is built at the top of a rather large hill (or possibly small mountain) and, consequently, lends itself nicely for seeing the entirety of the city of Granada splayed out before you with a side of the Sierra Nevada. Yes, the views were absolutely gorgeous. What I regret from my Alhambra experience though is not having splurged for the always classy audio guided tour headset. With the added commentary, I think I probably would have gotten a lot more out of the visit. Buttttt no pasa nada? After about 3 hours of wandering around the fortress, we declared the sight completely visited and went on our way. Cue some wandering through the arabic markets, which were very cool !!, before heading back to the hostel to pick up rain coats, sign up for the 10pm hot springs tour, and get some dining suggestions.

Dinner was pretty unspectacular (I’m kind of over spanish food. All of it. Sorry Spain) but I grinned and bore it. Come 10pm the hot springs were pretty unspectacular as well. Cause we didn’t end up going. Cause it was raining. They didn’t want us to… get wet?? I still don’t really understand what fell through with the planning of that excursion but, regardless, instead of finding myself submersed in mud and hot water in the middle of Granada’s caves, I found myself trekking through its puddle covered streets to get some cheesecake. Winning? Sureeee. Then came Sunday, funny how that always works out, and half of the girls I’d been traveling with caught a bus back to Seville at noon to catch their plane back to Bilbao around 6pm. Being the adventurous and bang-for-your-buck kind of girl that I am, I had convinced Maria to book a return flight with me on Monday instead. Cue day two in Granada. Although there really wasn’t that much more of Granada to see, we found plenty to do with our extra time including a trip up to Sacromonte – the gypsy quarter of Granada where people have built their “houses” literally into the side of the mountain simply by excavating caves and moving in. This area provided a wonderful view of the outside of the Alhambra. We got a kick out of how impressed we were by having the exact opposite view point of what we had just had the day before. Other sources of excitement included dinning at a local cafeteria and being pleasantly surprised that the inside was decorated in a totally Moroccan theme, circling the arabic markets once again and finally deciding I needed some hand made earrings, having my first “chocolate con churros” experience (it’s literally a cup of melted super strong chocolate and some fried dough – maybe not my favorite thing ever), grabbing some tapas and chilling in an Irish bar, and finally heading to the bus station where we would unsuccessful try for 2 and a half hours to get some sleep while waiting for our 3am bus back to Seville. Why were you so cold bus station? WHY??? I’m pretty sure the cafe workers did not appreciate me sprawling out on their floor but I really had no choice, it was the only place with heat, and I’m never going to see any of those gawkers again so I’m no worse for the wear : P

By noon on Monday I was back in Bilbao and back to reality… well, it’s all relative I guess. This past week flew by! Thanksgiving came and went without too much excitement and come Friday I was all too ready to pick back up with what seems to have become my weekend Bilbao routine – Friday run and hang with friends all day, Saturday run and do homework and see friends in the evening, and Sunday climb some mountains before returning to skype with Kelly or another lovely family member. These weekends I like. These weekends I will miss… but shhhh we’re not talking about it yet. Leaving is something that I may be ready to have happen but at the same time have yet to accept. I refuse to count down. I’m here, Bilbao. No worries.