Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Episode 3: Piper NEEDS to make more friends here and type a lot less...

Woo! I have to catch my breath before this one-- things have sped up! GET READY FOR ME BLABBING (maybe read this in intervals? I really am sorry.)!

Saturday my program and I had a scavenger hunt through Sevilla. It was an unpleasant experience due to wind and cold (I take back all of my "oh, I'm from Colorado. I'm so tough-- nothing is cold!" comments...), but we did stumble upon the Plaza de España and much like Sir Charles Wasson told me-- it was pretty darn cool. The producers of Star Wars liked it so much they pretended Princess Leia lived there-- she wishes. Charlie also gave me that information-- I wont try to take credit... but here is a picture of me freezing to death in a bright teal raincoat (unheard of to wear color or raincoats here...didn't get that memo... or care once I got it....) at the Plaza de España:

Hard to see, but there is a moat behind me!

On Sunday, my program and I went to see Alcázar-- the beautiful palace Isabel and Fernando lived in. It was absolutely breath-taking  (cliché, I know, but I have to be a corny European tourist now and then). The palace has an amazing mixture of Italian, Arab, Gothic, and other types of architecture that I can't think of right now. When Spain decided to "discover" America (a thing they know don't seem to like to talk about too much...) Alcázar was where the king made all the big decisions about it. A garden sits outside the palace (but is fenced in) and hosts peacocks (pavos reales en español). Once it gets warm I plan on camping out there to study... peacocks are bound to make that dreaded activity more fun, and students get in for free! Hoorah! Unfortunately, it was pretty chilly outside so we didn't stay in the gardens for long because we all just wanted to go get coffee and sit in a room with central heating, but here are a few pictures from the whole ordeal!:
Part of the garden at Alcázar

Virgin Mary-- she's pretty popular in these parts

A SMALL part of a wall in the palace

So while on the subject of cold I guess I should fill you in on my living situation a little more—if standing, please sit: my stupidity/ the ridiculousness of it all is about to kick in.

So my señora is quite old. To say as minimal as possible: she has a fear of fire, trees, water, people of Sevilla, running after eating, and what could possibly happen if I forgot to turn the modem off every night. What could happen you ask? Well it could start the bookcase on fire, which would then start the entire living room on fire, and then, of course the entire house would be incinerated. I could say more, but for the sake of being a “good” (ha!) person I am going to leave it at that. Well, due to all of this fear, I figured after stepping into the shower one morning and BLASTING it on hot only to receive freezing cold water that left me gasping and with tears in my eyes, that we sadly didn’t have a water heater (I mean if a modem is going to start a fire, a water heater most certainly will!) This cold shower business went down twice, before I finally inquired with a quivering jaw and icicles dangling from my hair—turns out we have a waterheater! More excitement followed: we have a hairdryer! My father will no longer have to inquire via skype if I am indeed “going rasta on” him. Still no central heating or carpet, but today I went for a run (which, those of you who know me well enough, know that always puts me in a better mood), took a warm shower, and blow-dried my hair! Talk about a great day! I was ecstatic all afternoon!

I started class yesterday, and my teacher told me that she didn’t see the point of grammar worksheets in a classroom to learn Spanish when we are IN Spain. She brought a whole new experience to “hands on learning” (don’t worry not like THAT): we left class, went to a church where precious old ladies prayed in front of an intricately sculpted Virgin Mary and Jesus, and then went to a café for café (coffee for those of you who haven’t had yours today ;) ). She is a great teacher and told us all about colloquial language here: she told us that she thought vulgarities in language show what that culture values (Spain values men, not women). Now I will know if anyone says mean stuff to me at a bar here… and how to respond if they do!

Oh! And for all of Cohort G buddies, here is what the children’s section of the library looks like here! (Yes, I have already been to the library, and yes I did take a picture of it, all of you can stop judging me now.):

I have made a few friends in my program who live in the same building as me. We went to a tea place to study the other day, had pizza, and went to Burger King for ice cream. Nothin’ like going overseas to act American!… In our defense every local ice cream store was closed and women need their chocolate when they need their chocolate—obvious rule of life.

Some verrry exciting (and frightening) news: the wonderful Michelle Toteve and I just purchased tickets to go see the lovely Gabrielle Gelinas in Paris this February. Can’t wait to spend some time in a mansion overlooking the Eiffel tower… ah, how homestays vary :).

Well, until next time... take a water break... hope you skimmed that puppy. 

Miss each and every one of you-- I mean that from the bottom of my heart.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

My señora's pup-- Lika! She's my buddy.
"I realized soon that no journey carries one far unless, as it extends into the world around us, it goes an equal distance into the world within."-- Lillian Smith

The adorable plaza right outside my door- Plaza de Pelicano (Pelican Plaza!)

I've had healthier snacks... but if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, right?!   

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Beginning....

This was the view from the bus! these "mountains" divide N& S Spain
I finally made it! Lauren and I took the bus the other morning (I can’t remember how many days right now because my head is all confused), but we were about to navigate the Metro in Madrid, get on the bus, and make a Spanish friend who walked us to our hotel! Lauren stayed in a hostel due to a lot of confusion, and I started orientation my Teaching Development Program. Everyone in the program is really nice. There are 15 of us: 14 girls and one boy… oooh education classes. At first I was worried that no one was going to speak in Spanish, but at breakfast the next day everyone really picked it up and we’re been hablando ever since. We walked around town yesterday, saw Flamenco, and ate tapas. Today I got my host madre and I am SO happy with her. She a 4 foot tall bundle of joy who is afraid that 2 bananas, 2 oranges, 1 loaf of bread, 5 pieces of cheese, a dish of pasta, a salad, pudding, and 2 glasses of Coca Cola is NOT enough food for me. I had to decline on about, well, ¾ of this, not the pudding or pasta, of course.

I was really missing home at first there, but after walking around the beauuutiful city and meeting Manuela (my senora), I am starting to see how people can get attached.

My mom is going to say "spoiled brat!" when she sees this photo :)

WEIRDEST STORY: While waiting for our friend by the Metro, I commented to Lauren how cute this little old man in a green tie was. He proceeded to walk over to a silver box on the wall, pull out a Coca Cola, drink from it, and put it back. Lauren and I looked at each other a little confused, hoping that what we thought had just happened hadn’t happened when, much to our disappointment, another man walked over and deposited a dirty napkin in the box. Our friend, Liz, who lives in Madrid explained that the city doesn’t have water fountains and no one uses water bottles (I won’t be able to assimilate in this way since my Camelbak might as well be attached to my hand…) so some people use this method…. I guess the little man wasn’t as cute as I had thought.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The view from our plane & hostel

Getting to Madrid

Let me start by saying I do not know if this will turn out anywhere close to as cool as the lovely Hannah Jane McKnight’s did, but she inspired me, and we all know that not being able to text and chat everyone’s ear off at the Rec, driving to Brighton, and late at night is about to give me a panic attack, so here comes Piper venting via the world wide web I guess!

When people said this was going to be an adventure they weren’t joking around—the craziness has already began. First of all, when I got out of the car and loaded my bags all over my body, I realized it all wasn’t that awkward to carry, going so far as to declare to my mom, “Well wow, I’m pretty pulled together!” Of course, as soon as that came out of my mouth I managed to land on my butt slipping on ice—guess I shouldn’t get too cocky too fast.

Lauren, Michelle, and I went through security together and no one got pat down—success!  Michelle went on her merry way to the polar ice caps, and Lauren and I went to our gate. Our flight to New York went just swimmingly, and we thought our transition to the flight to Madrid would go just as well (besides the $15 sandwiches…) because we thought our gate, B22, was right where we were—at gate 22. Well, turns out 22 and B22 are not the same thing (Kelly, I should have asked for an airport run-down before I left Boulder!) and if we would have gotten on the plane at 22 we would have been flying in the opposite direction to Los Angeles and not leaving the country at all (by the way, Lauren figured all of this out, not me, so thank goodness she agreed to do this thing together!!). Unfortunately, we didn’t figure this out until 5 minutes before we boarded so we had to jet (no pun intended…ha!) down the airport, onto some shuttle that I’m pretty sure circled the entire JFK airport just to see if they could give Lauren and me a heart attack as we giggled nervously. LUCKILY our gate was right where the shuttle door opened, and we made it in time—missing our plane really wouldn’t have been the best way to start this whole thing off.

Of course, once we got on the plane we didn’t leave for another hour than we were supposed due to some electrical problem—such a shame when you develop a small ulcer in vain.

Oh, movie review from the airplane—Eat, Pray, Love (which Brad Pitt produced?!) was lame--  come on Julia Roberts, Katherine Heigel (or whatever that girl from Grey’s Anatomy is named), did a better job in that pathetic movie where two people raise their friend’s baby better than you did. Please note: I did not have the sound on for either of these and I could still make this review with success. Don’t waste your money.

Our bags were lost in Madrid, but we found them, made it through customs, and met up with Liz who saved our lives! After trekking around on the metro we finally made it to the hostel and the lady who runs it said she was going to have chocolate milk for us in the morning—things are looking up!

I swear I’ll shut up now.

Hasta luego! –PDL

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

"There are four obstacles. First: we are told from childhood onward that everything we want to do is impossible.... If we have the courage to disinter dream, we are then faced by the second obstacle: love. We know what we want to do, but are afraid of hurting those around us by abandoning everything in order to pursue our dream.... We do not realize that those who genuinely wish us well want us to be happy and are prepared to accompany us on that journey. Once we have accepted that love is a stimulus, we come up against the third obstacle: fear of the defeats we will meet on the path... we cannot fall back on the old excuse: 'Oh, well, I didn't really want it anyway.' We do want it and know that we have staked everything on it.... So why suffer? Because, once we have overcome the defeats we are filled by a greater sense of euphoria and CONFIDENCE. Then comes the fourth obstacle: the fear of realizing the dream for which we fought all our lives.... This is the most dangerous of the obstacles because it has a kind of saintly aura about it: renouncing joy and conquest."-- Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist