Saturday, January 29

Flamenco and Xátiva

Last night a group of us went out to Café de Duende, a flamenco bar. It was located in the Carmen neighborhood, which is where most of the artsy-alternative things go down. This place was nestled in a quiet end of the street and we were all excited about going through the beautiful red doors. The crowd in the bar was a lot different then the crowd we usually are surrounded with. It was a bunch of older-hippy-electic people in this small café. The music and dancing didn’t start until about 11.30 or 12am and the place was packed. The lights were dimmed and then the music started playing. I don’t know if you have ever heard flamenco guitar, but if you haven’t, you need to. Its a mix of laid back chord changes and bass notes but the finger picking is mind blowing. At first, just the guitarist and the singer were on stage (which was basically a wooden step in the middle of the room) then the percussionist and floutist came out. They jammed for a little bit before the main attraction arrived, the dancer. She was absolutely gorgeous. Long black hair tied in a bun, long legs and arms, dancing fingers, a black dress with ruffles that would spin out when she moved. She danced while telling a story and used her feet as an intrument all at the same time. Some of the rhythms that her feet were playing where extremely complicated and difficult. They did 2 sets that lasted about 2 hours in total. I was completly in awe of the music and the dancing.

I realized las night that my favorite cultural aspect of the Spanish is how passionate they are. When they cook, they cook. When they teach, they teach. When they party, they party. When they dance, they dance. When they love, they love. Its such an amazing thing because you can just see it in their eyes. It is an aggressivness that I wish I could take on because I feel like it would be a very rewarding aspect to adopt. It was funny, the other day Kara and I went shopping. Wow, they were so pushy! They don’t browse through clothes, they hunt for clothes. Long story short, we were extremely unsuccessful in our shopping endevours.

Today, we went to Xátiva, a city about 30km outside of Valencia. The main attraction is a castle that sits above the whole city. The hike up to the top was a little exhausting but the views were SO very worth the trip. We got to explore the grounds for about 2 hours. Little Xátiva history for ya, it was founded during the Romano period and blossomed under the rule of the Arabs who made it a paper manufacturing city. During the War of Succession, Philip V of Spain ordered that the city be burned. In memory of Philip V, his portrait hangs upside down in the Xátiva museum.   

All in all, beautiful city and a great day with the group! Now, I just need to decided if I want to go out tonight or not. Oh the decisions…

Wednesday, January 26

First days of Classes

The first first few days of classes have gone pretty well so far. I am taking 4....Texts and Interpretations, Phonetics, Translation and History of Spanish Art. I am also doing a teaching internship. I don't know too much about it now, just that I will be working with students in their English class about 2 to 3 hours a week. All my professors are really great so far. They like to be called by their first names, which I think is really cool. It makes it easier to create a friendship with them to ask questions and just soak up all the information they have to offer. I am meeting some really cool people in the program as well. The guys are cute, and the Spanish guys are hot (Sorry Dad!). Valencia is rainy today, which is pretty rare apparently.

I have to admit it, I am a bit homesick. I miss my friends back home and just knowing everything (i.e. language, restaurants, streets, people, etc). Even though my Spanish is already exponentially times better, there is still a language block that is exhausting to jump over every day. I'm trying to not let it get to me because hey, I have only been here 1 week.

This weekend, the program is going to Xátiva, a city right outside of Valencia. I am very excited to learn more history of Spain! I am such a nerd and have been reading all about Spain from the B.C.s to now. Very interesting and intriguing country...Oh, and the paella is fabulous. Supermegaguay.

Sunday, January 23

Mi vida en Valencia

 First few days in Spain=Fabulous success! We have walked all around the city many times and are just starting to settle in. Let's see, on Friday, we explored the Turia River and walked down to the the Center of Arts and Sciences. These are the buildings that you always see in the brochures. There is an aquarium, an imax/planetarium, music hall and science museum.

The Turia River is a dried river bed that they have converted into green space. Apparently there was a great flood in 1957 and they decided to drain and reroute the water so that the city wasn't at risk anymore. The River has become our favorite area too because it is a huge park that runs right in the middle of the city. Almost like Central Park in NYC.

Then we went on a walking tour of historic Valencia with the staff members of the program. We got to see the city's main cathedral and many other older buildings around the city. My favorite was seeing the bullfight arena. Then we came back to the house and ate dinner (pizza with bacon) and then went out to a fiesta with the program at Corona 15. Kara and I have become great navigators, well rather I have. She just says, "toda mi fe está en ti," all my faith is in you. Valencia is annoying to get around because it wasn't built with a grid system. There are roundabouts and small alleyway-roads everywhere. Anyway, the night scene in Spain is very different. The bars get crowded around 12:30 or 1 and then around 3:30 everyone goes to a discoteco. We have yet to venture to one of those yet, so don't worry. And I promise we are being careful- always staying in groups.

Yesterday, we met up with some friends and walked back to the cathedral to see processions because it was a religious holiday. It was the Día de San Vicente Mártir, the patron saint of the city. The weather was beautiful as always and we saw a little parade with a band. Then we had our first cup of helado, ice cream, which tastes just like Italian ice cream. Yum!

Valencia's soccer team had a big game last night so we all went out to a bar to watch it. They played Málaga and beat them 4-3! Go Valencia! We are trying to figure out how to get tickets for the next game, against Barcelona, who is apparently the best team in Spain right now.

I am getting used to the siesta tradition. It is so easy to take a 2 hour nap after eating a big meal. Also, they don't have heaters in their apartments and only use space heaters so the only way to get warm is to get in bed.  I am starting to miss the little things in the United shower, the coffee, my bed, carrots and other things. But don't get me wrong, I am soaking up all that Spain has to offer and I am loving it! Their culture is very easy to get addicted to.

Classes start tomorrow morning so tonight has just been a relaxing evening. It feels weird going to classes because I feel like I am on a grand vacation. I'm excited about my courses though- Phonetics, Translation, Spanish Art History, Composition, and Texts and Interpretations. I'll let you know how they go!

Thursday, January 20

Everything is in Spanish

Hello to all my followers/blog readers! I am going to go ahead and apologize in advance for any spelling or grammatical errors. I am still half asleep from the 12 hours of flights yesterday and I have lots of questions to answer! Ok, my flights went fine. I didn't have long layovers and I met some other American students studying abroad on my flights. The only slightly interesting event was when we were about to take off from Madrid to Valencia on Iberian airlines. We were pulling out of the gate when the plane suddenly stopped due to electrical problems. So we had to jump on another plane, so no big deal. Then I met Kara at the airport in Valencia! We jumped in a cab and went to the apartment together. 

Ok, the apartment is great! Its about 2 blocks, maybe less, to the university. We share a cute little room and a bathroom. Our casa madre lives alone but has 2 grown children and 2 nietos, grandchildren. Cute love story: one of the girls that she hosted met, fell in love and married her son and they now live in Miami! But anyway, she is feeding us well. I mean, we are eating all the time! So much for not gaining weight. Last night she made us tortillas españolas which is potatoes, onions and eggs all fried together. The coffee here is super strong you pretty much just add a shot of it to a cup of coffee. 

We had orientation all day today where we met some other students and our professors and the staff. I am so excited because everyone is super nice and their philosophy in Spain is "no pasa nada" or don't worry about anything. So I am going to "carpe diem" and try it out! 

10 hours of sleep last night still wasn't enough so a siesta is in order for after lunch. The weather is beautiful in Valencia today so we are going to walk around and do more exploring. So all in all, I am having a great time and I miss everyone at home! Adios!

Wednesday, January 19

Hola from Valencia!

Just letting everyone know that I landed in Valencia. I just ate my first true Spanish meal made by my house madre. We are going to unpack and maybe explore a little tonight. I'll write more later. Adios!

Monday, January 17

Packing Up, Getting Ready to Go

Hello Hello! I am just finishing up packing! My luggage weighs 48 pounds, right under the 50 mark. I am very excited to leave, but also a bit nervous and anxious. I leave Charleston at 3:20pm, fly to Miami, then Madrid and finally to Valencia. I have been emailing my roommate, Kara, and she is awesome so far. We are going to catch a cab together to the apartment to save some euros. Apparently some of her friends have been to Valencia so she has a list of all the good bars, restaurants, discos, etc. My grandparents, Benjamin, and all my sisters are coming down to send me off to the airport. I think the plan is to eat my last USA supper at Boulevard Diner and then fly away! Just wish my Dad was here- miss you Dad!

So today, I think I took about 5 "last-minute" trips to Target/CVS/Barnes and Noble and I really hope I am done and ready to go. I hate packing but the one thing I hate more is unpacking! Ah! I also gave up on the whole "less is more" thing and I have excepted the fact that I am a typical American girl that packs too much. I mean, come one, have you ever tried to pack for 4 months in one suitcase? Its impossible....

Well, I guess this is it until I am in Valencia! My goal is to blog at least once a week. Let's see how well that goes.