Friday, May 25, 2012

Last Spanish Day

Friday 5/25:

Today is officially the last day in Granada, Spain!  Our flight leaves tomorrow morning at 7am and I'll be back in NH around 8:30 at night. So it's going to be a long day full of airports, layovers and goodbyes but also a day full of reunions, English, and hamburgers! The positives definitely outweigh the negatives and I am looking forward to it with all my heart!! I'm hoping that my English language skills have not deteriorated past the point of comprehension and that I can keep from screaming every time a stranger walks by and I can understand them without thinking about it. Such an exciting life. :)  We just finished the last lunch our host family will ever give us now all that's left one more dinner, one more shower, and one more restless sleep waiting for our flight to come!  I'm all packed, and it all barely fits, I'm .2 over the weight limit in kilograms so we'll see how that goes at the airport and I might have to take out my sweatshirt or raincoat and just wear it through.  My carry on already weighs a ton so I won't be putting anything else into that either.  At this point I couldn't care less about any of that though because I am just so excited to come back!!!
See you all soon!!!!! :D
España, fue un placer conocerte, hasta hora ;) chao! <3

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

3 days left!!

Wednesday 5/23:

Only three more days until I leave Spain and return back home to good old America!! I can't wait and I've been trying to keep busy as best as possible to make the time fly!  Yesterday we had a little trouble keeping busy and ended up learning some of the dance moves to Thriller.. because yes, we were really that bored.  Today was a little better though and we slept in a bit and then headed to the other side of Granada near the Alhambra where there is a beautiful park called the "Carmen de los Martires".  It is filled with green plants and beautiful flowers especially now that its springtime.  It felt good to leave the city behind for a while and there were even kittens and peacocks in the park! I must admit though the cats were a little skittish and the peacock was rather intimidating because it would make its call (which is really deafening) and then it would run at us a little bit or puff out his feathers.  Beautiful, but intimidating.  After lunch I organized as much of my stuff as I could without actually packing because that is the only plan we have for all of tomorrow. I had a little bit of a headache so I took a short nap before we headed over to our Professor/Coordinator/Friend's, Pepe Ferrer, house for a little going away party.  He had printed out little spanglish songs for us to sing along to and we all learned the words and sang about friendship like you would at summer camp or middle school graduation and it was a grand old time.  His wife made us sandwiches, croquets, banana bread and pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting and everything was so delicious and all homemade!  We taught each other dances from old pop culture like the electric slide and the Spanish version of the chicken dance, which is quite similar to the English version and of course the "macarana" seeing as it is actually a Spanish song.  Then they went through the traditional sad goodbye songs like "closing time" and "american pie" etc etc some people cried, but mostly it was a good time.  For the next couple of days we'll just be wrapping things up here and packing, saying goodbye because Julie (the other student that has been living with us) is leaving on Friday and everyone from the UNH group is leaving on different days as well.  I am so excited to be back home but at the same time its a weird feeling leaving someplace that you've been for so long, I might even feel like a foreigner when I get back. It'll take some adjusting to but I still can't wait to be back home!!! 3 MORE DAYS!!!!! :D

PS. Hola Aunt Sue!!! ;) Thanks for being such an avid reader!!

Aqueduct in the Carmen 

Rose garden in the Carmen

el pavo real

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Adventures Away! Hiking Today! ;)

Saturday 5/19:

Today we got up bright and early to meet Marco, our guide Paco, and  3 other UNH students at the bus stop down town.  While we were walking, Pepe Ferrer, one of our teachers and coordinators, drove by a beeped at us to get in for a ride (really normal, we hang out with him cause hes great haha).  It turned out that Marco had asked him to drive us to the trail head because from where the bus would have taken us it would have been another hour just to get to the trail (considering we were planning on a 9 hour hike to begin with 2 more hours didn't seem to pleasant).  So he drove us about 45 minutes outside of Granada to a place called Güéjar Sierra and dropped us off at the trail head.  It was pretty chilly when we started walking but as the slopes got a little steeper and our hearts were working a little harder to keep us moving it warmed up pretty quickly.  Something that might help you understand the layout of our hike is that there are not a lot trees, so its not like hiking in New England where you pick one mountain and climb through trees blindly.  We hiked through a valley of several mountains until we reached the base of the largest continental mountain in Spain called Mulhacen (at 3478m or 11,411ft), crossed the valley and came back from the other side on a bunch of different mountains.  It was a lot of varied walking from going up to down, slopes to climbing cliff sides, and a few flat stretches in between.  That's the beauty of hiking in Spain, every five minutes of walking changes the climate and the scenery so that you feel like your in a new place, and since its spring there were so many flowers!!

There were a few small information signs along the way as little educational markers about old abandoned houses or mines. We stumbled across one of the pyrite (fools gold) mines and right at the opening of the old rocky tunnel was an entire skeleton.  There were a few shocked screams and yells until that shock faded at the new shock of our guide waltzing into the cave.  As obedient and curious Spanish students, we followed Paco into the depths of the drab darkness of the rock and hoped for the best.  I had of course packed my little flashlight which meant that I was rightly prepared but also that I had to go first...  I asked all of the appropriate questions such as: Isn't this unsafe since mines are known for collapsing? --no, this ones too old.  (Obviously, that made sense?)  and why are there so many skeletons, did something bring them here to eat them? --its a possibility.  How do you know something doesn't live in here? --I don't.  Yep, that's Paco, such a charmer. So needless to say we were all a little on edge and wary of what might be hiding around the corner, or really in front of our faces since the pitch blackness made it difficult to see even your own feet.   There were 4 or 5 more almost complete skeletons scattered throughout the puddles in the darkness and we tried our best to avoid them.  We think that they were goats or cows, or things like that but still have no idea of why there were so concentrated in the tunnel.  The last section of the mine was a giant rock that had not been axed away and it was like lemon squeeze all over again with backpacks and wet rock until we hit a dead end.  After a few minutes of talking and claustrophobia we turned around and raced our way out of the emptiness that surrounded us.  It was quite the adventure and I'm glad we did it, mostly because it was a good story and to top it all off, there were poisonous plants all around the outside of the entrance that a few unlucky people rubbed up against.  They suffered a mild burning for the next hour or so where they had been   in contact so it wasn't anything too serious.

So we continued to hike along until we reached a part where the river widened and we crossed the bridge and stopped for lunch.  Ironically there was another weird animal bone just sitting on the river's edge, but they seemed to populate the ground randomly so we stopped being surprised by them.  Lunch was a wonderfully packed sandwich by our family of cheese and butter, wonderful... we packed our own snacks though and enjoyed the scenery around us.  We climbed on up and down until we reached our half way point at the base of the Mulhacen mountain covered in snow, where two of the mountainous rivers met and merged into one. The plan was to make it here and cross the bridge over to the other side, scale the mountain, find the trail, and walk back on that side of the valley.  Easy enough right?  Well, turns out the bridge was broken or just non existent so we tried our best to find a way to cross the two rivers with no luck.  When we all convened in the same place again, Paco was taking off his hiking shoes and rolling up his pants.  We all let loose a few curses and nervous laughs, knowing that yes, he was completely serious and we were going to have to cross the river without a bridge.  So we packed up our shoes and put anything valuable in whatever plastic bags we had (luckily I brought ziplocks) and prepared to step into the inclement waters.  The curses that escaped us before were nothing compared to the yells and cries that we let out when the water closed in around our legs.  It was about mid-thigh level and we made our way painfully across slippery rocks with sporadic gasps and pleas to make it to the other side without falling.  There were no casualties except for the feeling in our legs which came back after a 15 minute period of jumping up and down and stomping on the ground endlessly.  A small crowd of people had gathered on the other side from where we had crossed, staring at us curiously and wondering how we made it across.  A little later when we were climbing up the mountain side (literally climbing, it was so steep) we stopped to look back and saw others trying to cross the same way we did.  Every time we needed a breather we would stop and watch to see if the river was going to pull anyone down, but as far as we could tell, the river couldn't claim a victory that day.

We scaled the mountain for a while longer until it started to slope a little less and we could walk along more comfortably and enjoy the views of the Sierra Nevadas and the valley in front of us.  We stopped for another snack at one of the refuge houses called "la cucaracha" which as many of you know means cockroach, luckily it has that name because of the shape of the shack, not because it inhabits the vile little creatures :) it did have a giant fluffy dog inside though who was very happy to sit and play with us for a while until we continued on the last leg of our journey.  The downhill part was dreadful.  Paco refused to take the normal path which zig zagged downwards in a less than comfortable slope and instead made paths in the dust that went straight down.  My feet and my knees were screaming at me to stop but we kept going until there was no possible way to go straight.  The rest of the down hill was not so bad because they were harshly cut paths out of rock with no way to make crude painful shortcuts.  However, we did hit a little dilemma on this track too.  We were just walking along and then we smelled something that was not so pleasant.  As we were talking about what that oh so familiar smell could be it got worse as we walked onward. Caitlin and I were babbling on about the possibilities when Casey shrieked ten feet in front of us and we all halted immediately.  It was a giant rotting pig.  Just laying in the middle of the narrow path.  We hid our faces in our shirts, held our breath, and climbed around the revolting mess that was sprawled in front of us.  The good news it that the smell went away almost immediately after we turned the corner.   The rest of the hike was pretty relaxing, only a few steep spots that really made your legs burn and the rest was pretty flat or slightly downhill until we hit the parking lot.

We sat down at a restaurant to relax for a little while and we played with the cats while the guys talked.  After sitting for more than 10 minutes though we all began to stiffen and the soreness had already set in.  We were exhausted and because we only had one car to take us all back in, Casey sat in back and the rest of us piled into the little seat.  We were all so tired that the closeness was almost comforting and we all started to fall asleep.  Once home we made our own dinner pretty early and went to bed before it was even dark out.
Today (Sunday) I am incredibly sore, walking seems impossible, I don't even want to talk about what it takes to get out of my top bunk, but it was all very worth it!!

The beginning of our journey

miner's cave, skeleton and all

The freezing river we walked through

Sierras <3

These flowers were all over the place

don't pretend you didn't see this one coming...

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Hola Pizza Metro

Tuesday 5/15:
Our UNH professor Marco planned a dinner for all of the students and parents to meet up for the last time (even though we had only ever met up once before), give out the last checks, socialize and all that jazz.  We met at a restaurant called Hola Pizza Metro, which was rather far from our side of town but we took the car so it wasn't so bad.  It was just Casey, Pepe, Filo and I, not the extended family, and we were the first to arrive.  Next was the ever so famous Luis and Fernanda, who were the elderly host parents of two of the other girls in our group.  No one really knows much about most of the other host families except for people that they're very close with, except for Luis and Fernanda.  I had never actually met them before, but tonight Luis decided to sit right next to me.  He was a hysterical old man, who smelled terribly of body odor and tended to play with his one crooked tooth.  Hes quite the joker kind of like our host dad Pepe and the two of them got along wonderfully, singing and laughing at their own jokes, which weren't really all that funny.  For dinner they brought us out several appetizers of salads, bread sticks, salmon, avocado, etc but because we were sitting at the head of the table most of the food was placed in the middle.  Luis and Pepe made it a point of to be sure we had food at the end of the table, and cleared a large space for when the pizza came out.  When it finally did come out, it was an entire meter long (which is why its called pizza metro) and divided into four different types of pizza, all of which except for the plain cheese, were covered in ham.  They brought out several more for the other parts of the table so that everyone was drowning in pizza.  They brought out more and more and we refused the best we could but in total they brought out 6 pizzas.  To put that into perspective for you that is 6 meters of pizza, or  more than 18 feet!! (and mind you that is only one dimension, not including the width as well.)  For desert they brought out shared plates of tiramisu and and little cream puffs covered in fudge and whipped cream.  The tiramisu was so rich that even though we were stuffed full with pizza we couldn't help but keep eating.  We left early (around 11pm) because Casey had a headache and I was suffocating from Luis's ghastly body odor and before I could do anything to prevent it Luis was up and kissing me goodbye.  Nice big wet kisses on each cheek and a grip that you would have expected from a professional arm wrestler.  It took me a good minute or two but I managed to wriggle my way free and escape for the door.

1 meter of pizza

me and Luis

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Thursday 5/10:
Our plane flew out from the Malaga airport which is two hours from Granada and it was schedule to leave at 2:30pm.  However, once on the flight we did not leave for almost an hour, and although the flight was only a duration of a little less than 3 hours or so, it was very simply the worst flight I have ever been on.  It was a classic scene of being surrounded by screaming children and idiotic people that did not know how to follow instructions. Once in the air the children (yes plural) did not cease to screech and cry and crawled all over the aisles and the seats around us.  One of the older kids even started yelling/singing Justin Bieber songs half way through the flight.  Dreadful.  But three or so hours later we arrived in Dublin to happy Irish faces and gray skies over the ever so green grounds.  We walked until we found our hostel, with a little help, two different strangers literally stopped working and asked us if we needed help.  One of them even insisted on calling his friends and asking them for directions for us.  Although the directions were a little off, we managed to find our way and settled in for the night.  It had only just started to rain a little bit and we headed to the nearest pub two minutes away called "The Bloody Horse" that was recommended by some random bystanders.  It was great pub with Guinness taps in the center of most of the tables and very friendly waitstaff.  We ordered one of the daily specials which was some kind of mince meat pie with the usual potatoes and vegetables that come standard with all Irish food.

Friday 5/11:
The sun comes up incredible early in Ireland, or I suppose at a normal time, whereas the sun in Spain does not rise until almost 8am.  We were up and ready fairly early with no where in particular to be until 11am so we did groceries (pbj sandwiches per usual) and bought some scones as a snack for our tour later.  We wandered around getting a feel for the streets and good pubs to go do and places to see later on and stayed at  a little cafe called The Queen of Tarts for some juice or coffee until it was time for our tour.  Our free walking tour was a 3 hour tour guided by a very enthusiastic Dubliner, who had just recently finished her Master's in history. She was very fun and knowledgeable and led us around to all of the important places in Dublin (ie: Trinity College, Christchurch Cathedral, Parliament, City Hall, Old towers and Castles, St. Stephen's Green, etc.)  It was a great tour and the weather had been holding out so nicely, sun shining only a few sprinkling showers every once and a while until the end of our tour when it started hailing.  The hail quickly turned into rain and we walked out in it until it slowed to a stop and we made our way to the Guinness Storehouse.  It is said to be the most visited building in Dublin, which tells you a little something about the culture, or what the tourists think of the culture anyways.  I personally hate beer, because I think it tastes awful, but as our tour guide says "when in Dublin".  It was actually pretty interesting to see how they made the Guinness and how it started out and the tour came with a free pint that you could receive in any of the various bars in the storehouse.  We chose the "learn how to pour the perfect pint" route and were given an instructor, a glass and a Guinness tap. Our instructor was very friendly and explained all 6 steps of pouring the perfect Guinness, it takes exactly 119.5 seconds to create your Guinness. I even got a certificate of the Academy of Guinness saying that I passed!  I felt a little shameful leaving almost an entire pint full on the table when we left, but hey I tried it and that's all they can ask of me.  For dinner we went to the oldest pub in Dublin called "The Brazen Head" and I ordered stuffed chicken breast wrapped in bacon with the usual vegetable delights! Early night for us again because we would be leaving very early the next morning.

Saturday 5/12:
We met our tour group at 6:40am in downtown to catch our bus and guide to the Cliffs of Moher for the day.  It was a long ride but I brought my book and finished it before we made it back and the countryside itself was a sight for sore eyes so I didn't mind.  We stopped in Limerick to look across the River Shannon (yay!!) and at King John's Castle.  It was a short stop and we continued on until we stopped again briefly at Bunratty Castle for some pictures and a short history.  We kept driving until we finally reached the cliffs and spent almost two hours there walking around and taking in all there was to see.  The cliffs themselves split into two sides one with a lookout tower (O'briens Tower) and the other side being much longer and the more picturesque of the two.  There were sea birds everywhere because it was a protected habitat and cows lazily grazing in the sunshine nearby.  Everything was green, aside from the water which was a frothy blue when the wind and tides willed it to crash into the cliff sides. We also explored a small exhibit that talked about the cliffs and the wildlife and then headed out to a small town called Doolin for lunch.  We stopped at a carvery and were given the assortment of Irish vegetables, potatoes and your choice of meat.  It was delicious and because we didn't know the next time we would be eating again we wolfed down the entire meal as if we had never seen food before.  On our way back we drove into the middle of nowhere where there was nothing but green until we found this little ruined Abbey.  I know the cliff's where breathtaking but there was something so nice about this little broken down stone building that I think it might have been my favorite stop of the day.  It was still sunny and everything was grassy or covered in moss.  It had looked like it had been abandoned and untouched for years except for the neatly set flowers on some of the worn stone graves. Next we stopped at a small fishing town called Kinvara.  I especially liked this town too because it was so quaint that it didn't even have souvenir shops, only a few craft stores and the little pubs and a grocery store.  There were boats beached in the little harbor and the sea bed was covered in seaweed.  We stopped in at a little grocery store and I couldn't help but buy a Snicker's ice cream bar, and let me tell you that was the most delicious bite of home I could have asked for.  From there we made our way back to Dublin and passed the same countless sheep, cows and fields of green, that we had encountered on our way there.  We made it back around 7pm and searched around for a bar called the Stag's Head.  As instructed, we searched for the little mosaic plaque on the ground and we had passed it the day before but we couldn't remember exactly where.  Finally we spotted it peaking out from a pile of trash bags and made our way down the alley into the pub.  We stopped in for a little while and played some cards until we were hungry enough for dinner and headed out to find a new pub.  Apparently things tend to stop serving food rather early in Dublin though so we had a hard time finding a place to eat.  As a last resort we found a restaurant with an empty table called "The Hairy Lemon" which aside from the name was a popular restaurant bustling with people a good smells.  I ordered the seafood chowder because they said they were famous for it and it was actually quite good.  Exhausted and full, we stumbled back to our hostel and fell straight asleep.

Sunday 5/13:
Again we woke up earlier than expected and got ready for the day.  Today we were up late enough for the hostel's free weekend pancakes though, which sounded more exciting that it actually was because they don't have maple trees in Ireland so there was no syrup and the pancakes were a little off.  I think it was the fault of our makeshift chef, who had also been our previous messy roommate who seemed to have moved right into the hostel, but no matter we ate our breakfast without complaints and headed out.  While we were waiting for the first Trinity College tour we wandered through St. Stephen's Green park and enjoyed the grassy areas, flower gardens and pounds full of ducks, seagulls and swans.  The tour started around 10am and our guide was a student who had just finished his exams.  He was a magnificent speaker and enlightened us about the history and interesting facts about the College.  After our tour we went into the library and looked around in there and of course saw the famous Book of Kells, which is actually a manuscript not a book and did not originate in Kells either. It was full of celtic symbols and beautiful calligraphy as were many of the other books in the museum/library.  Next we headed off to O'neils for lunch because we had heard such good things about it.  We were too early for lunch so we stayed for coffee and played some more card games until we could order.  Since I had yet to do so, I ordered fish and chips which came with the ever so famous "mushy peas" it sounds awful I know, but honestly their great.  Then we wandered around Grafton Street which is a pedestrian only street full of shops and bustling with people and street performers.  We stopped to watch a few performers and did a little gift shopping before we headed over the the Museum of History and Archaeology.  It was a giant museum (and free too!) full of old viking remains, Egyptian, Roman and old Irish exhibits.  It took us a while to go through but we walked around until we were too exhausted to go on and went back to our hostel to rest a while.  We went out again for dinner but because it had started to rain and it was incredibly windy we just went back to the Bloody Horse since it was just so welcoming the first time.  I wasn't very hungry so I ordered a Greek salad that came with a tortilla wrap but our waitress got confused and gave us both Caesar salads, that was fine too and we ate and played cards as usual.   We packed up our things and went to bed early again because our flight left at 7:30am the next morning.

Monday 5/14:
Not sure what was going on the night before, but people in the streets were rowdy and I got less than a couple hours of sleep.  Our flight was delayed again and we took off late, but it didn't matter as much because we're only going back to Granada.  Just barely made our bus from Malaga to Granada and arrived back "home" at around 3pm.

Shannon on the River Shannon :)

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

Corcomroe Abbey
Rediscovering Grass <3

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

18 DAYS!!!!

Fun fact: I'll be back home in a little over two weeks!!!!  As you can tell I'm pretty excited about that fact :) Just so give an update of whats been going on here, I stayed here in Granada last weekend and have been working on all of my final papers and projects for school--after all this is "study" abroad.  Last Thursday was a holiday "dia de la cruz" which means day of the cross.  Its celebrated with everyone dressing up in flamenco dresses and suits and displaying crosses made of flowers all over the city.  There was a stage in the municipality plaza where professionals to little girls all danced Sevillana which looks a lot like flamenco but a little less angry and intense looking.  Julie and I went out with everyone in the family including the little girl and we were forced to wear a carnation in our hair because they said if we didn't it meant that men were allowed to kiss us, so we generously obliged to wearing red carnations in our hair for an evening. :) 

On another day this weekend there was a very big soccer game in Granada which I was unaware of until Filo and Pepe brought me out to "experience the atmosphere".  There were people everywhere! Every bar that had a TV was packed with people and even the bars without them everyone was asking about the score every five minutes and talking about the players and the season.  It was Granada vs. Real Madrid, so really we didn't stand a chance, but the opportunity to make a stand against such a famous team was very exciting for every "Granadino".   We walked to the stadium after tapas and stood around the outside with the crowds of people watching from the gates and Filo was the only one with a radio so we made lots of friends.  Sadly within the last minute Granada lost because Madrid scored two goals.  It was to be expected but nevertheless everyone was rather disappointed.

As for things that are going on now, tonight is our coordinators birthday so we are going to a Mexican restaurant for dinner to celebrate (because hes Mexican) him and cinco de mayo which was last weekend as well.   Also it seems to be the season for poplar trees because they are shedding these fluffy white puffs that look like dandelions and it is snowing from the skies.  Its rather odd and very inconvenient, pretty sure I've swallowed a few and so many girls from our group have headache from the allergies.  Luckily I'm not one of them and my allergies or whatever I had seems to be going away.
In upcoming news, Casey and I are leaving for Dublin on Thursday and staying there until Monday morning so that should definitely be a fun adventure.  I am desperately longing to see anything green and I know I won't be disappointed.  Other than that, I still have a lot of work to do for finals and a lot of presentations coming up next week that I need to prepare for.   :)  18 DAYS TIL HOME!!!

Cross in the "town hall" municipal building

traditional gitano (gypsy) dresses

red carnation

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Gibraltar and Marbella

We went to Gibraltar and Marbella this weekend/ week.  To sum it up, it rained a lot, I went to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar, played with some monkeys, went through the oldest military tunnel in the rock (there are 34 miles of tunnels and the whole town including the rock is only 3 miles by 1 mile), saw some caves, went bowling, and hung out in pubs and gardens while it rained and then went to Marbella.  In Marbella it rained even more, so we really didn't do all that much because its just a little beach town.  We went to a bonsai museum (which ironically was outdoors, played a lot of cards in restaurants and in our hostel, walked around in shops, hunted for sea life (crabs, sea anemones, and sea urchins, etc.), and finally on the last day it was sunny and we laid out on the beach.  Nice relaxing vacation.  Heres some monkey pictures, because I know that's all anyone really wants to see ;)