Friday, March 18, 2011

Morocco, Granada, Sevilla... oh my!

Woo! I’m here and alive, I promise. Midterms made me fall off the map for a little bit there, but I’m back to being a regular study abroad student now… which means the studying part has returned to it’s special place called “the back burner”. Well where do I start? I guess with Morocco….

I spent March 4, 5, and 6th in the third continent I have ever stepped foot on—Africa! I guess the nicest way to put it is: There have most certainly been things that have shown me how lucky I am to have grown up in the United States, and this was one of them. The main problem stemmed from not knowing what was in store for my group and me during the weekend. We didn’t know that we would spend everyday with fifteen-year-old students who didn’t speak Spanish and only some choppy English, so we unfortunately didn’t get to practice a lot of Spanish. Another obstacle from the trip that I hadn’t weighed enough before departure was how different women are viewed in Morocco. The first day in town I realized we were the only girls walking around outside, so when two girls with head scarves eventually passed, I got excited—OTHER GIRLS! Our guide quickly made mention that they were prostitutes… my excitement declined. A teacher we talked to later actually said “Women should do jobs lime teaching and nurses whereas harder jobs like engineering should be reserved for men”. I have never considered myself a huge feminist, but in this moment I could practically feel steam coming out of my ears.

The biggest surprise that Morocco held, however, was the discovery of my new career path (obviously not engineering, those dreams are crushed). MAKE WAY, CU WILL HAVE A NEW PLAYER LEADING THEM TO THEIR BIG BREAK NEXT YEAR! That’s right, despite the fact that all I have ever done successfully with a basketball was bounce it off the floor to a partner in gym class one time in fifth grade (yes, I did throw in the word “one” to signify “once”….), I am now a professional basketball player. Or at least the people in Morocco think so, and I’m sorry to admit that I really did not leave them with a very good impression of American basketball… blame the genes that made me 5’ 3” and lacking in the hand-eye-coordination department. Let me start from the top. The kids in my program and I were told we would play basketball one day before lunch while in Morocco. Most of us dressed as we would any other day-- long sleeves and jeans. I decided to throw on the gym shoes, thinking, “Sure, I can shoot a couple hoops, play HORSE, call it a day”. Well, when we walked into a giant stadium with ROWS of bleachers that were quickly filling up, led to a locker room by our new “Team Manager Mohammed”, and given GIANT men’s uniforms for the game, we realized something wasn’t exactly right. Then our “manager” asked us how our season was going. We all just looked at each other, unsure as to what to say. We finally broke the news to him that none of us had played basketball in quite some time. He went a little white in the face and said in broken English “Oh… well dat not so good. We playing real team. They be quite goooood.” He raised his eyebrows as he pronounced the “o”s in “good”. We all just smiled at him, shrugged our shoulders, and laughed as we followed him into the stadium that was now filled with fans. Cheering for Morocco, that is. I don’t know if it was the jeans (the uniforms were NOT going to stay up alone), the lack of ability to shoot a lay-up, or the defense mechanisms that involved grabbing the arms of the other team that gave it away, but the referee (yes, we had a referee) soon realized how bad we were and quickly stopped blowing the whistle when we made mistakes. We scored a grand total of two points, losing by a long shot (pun intended, sorry). It was overall a good laugh, though.

Our epic team
After the game each of us went with a group of our new Moroccan school friends for lunch—the family I joined was especially lucky since I smelled like a pansy after basketball. We ate cous cous, which was much better than what we got at dinner. Eve and I, not realizing what “the little bowl of white things with GARLIC AND HERBS! (flavor is unheard of around here)” ate a bunch of “fish that never grow up”—the identity our friend Sarah alerted us to after the meal. I had wondered why the Moroccan girls weren’t diving in—I guess fish eyeballs are not part of their basketball team’s special diet. Maybe that is what we Americans need to change; garlic and herbs and tadpole things need to be dismissed if we want to win any championships. Or games for that matter.
My lunch group
The trip ended with a lot of dirty clothes, a lot of puking on the bus (which curved around corners at a speed that had me praying for survival in the backseat) and boat (which endured some bad waves due to a coming storm), a lot of sleeping, and let’s just say I considered changing my address to read “The Bathroom” so that the postman would be aware of my new residences… sorry, but it was not pleasant. Overall, we were all happy to be back in Sevilla.

For dying fabric

With high hopes we took off for Granada the next weekend—ready for a little less culture shock. We lucked out. We saw the church, La Capilla Real, which holds the tombs of Isabel (actually spelled Ysabel back in the day) and Fernando. It was really neat, but, unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photos there. We also went to La Alhambra, the palaces and garden that the Spanish kings used to use for their weekend vacas. This was absolutely gorgeous—filled with Muslim architecture, which is so detailed and beautiful. Fun fact about La Alhambra—it is the second most visited touristy spot in the world. Do you want to guess what #1 is?! I can be all crafty and wait until the next blog entry to tell you?!  You can spend a lot of time researching and wait for my next entry like this is the real deal?! Like I’m that girl that tried to copy Julia Childs?! Okay, I figured. It’s the Taj Mahal. But both La Alhambra and La Capilla Real were very beautiful and I’m really glad I saw them. We went out at night, which was fun, but we failed to find the bars that give you a free tapa (an appetizer, not a “top” like one of my friends thought it was before she visited…. cough cough Michelle) when you order a drink (what Granada is supposed to be kind of known for). I suppose our mistake was going to an Asian-owned bar instead of a Spanish-owned one, but they still gave us a piece of bread so we pretended that we had accomplished our goal of finding tapas. It rained on the three-hour bus ride home which gave us all sometime to relax before gearing up to study for midterms when we got back.

La Alhambra

Eve and I being raptors/ worms

Rick! We could run a business in Granada! These were in a store window.

A weird store on the ride home-- this is a furniture store, but that doesn't look like furniture to me....
This week was a busy one. I start TEACHING (not just observing!) my Spanish 4th and 5th grade classes NEXT week, which is pretty exciting, but I am a tiny bit nervous! I have had some trouble with communication between my Education class here and the actual school classes. To sum it up in the most kind way via the worldwide web: After seeing how teachers show up 30 minutes late to a 45 minute class, yell at students in front of everyone when they have not done a workbook activity, how professors seem to believe that once they are a professor they know all and do not need to listen to anything their students have to say and can interrupt them at any point and ignore their questions (sorry the kindness monitor fell off there) and how when teachers receive promotions to administrative positions they think they know all and can yell at their co-workers, I have realized how thankful I am to have gone to school in the United States and plan on teaching in the United States. I know some of these things happen in the USA, too, but let me tell you; it’s to a new level over here.

My homestay gets better everyday, but my stomach is still not sure how to handle all of this fried food. I’m not sure what exactly the problem is, or what to do about it, for that matter, but I’m hoping it just goes away… I sound a little too much like my grandpa (he also wasn’t a huge doctor fan) when I say that, but I just can’t imagine going to the doctor here and trying to explain “After I eat sometimes, well, only on days after I workout (which I no longer do) my back hurts, and then when I don’t work out, (which I now never do) my stomach hurts on the left-hand side right under my ribs, but it feels like I am being tickled, but only off-and-on, but the back part was just a terrible pressure”. No gracias-- I’ll take my chances. Oh, also, for all of you who were around for when I couldn’t hear out of my left ear for a solid two weeks last year during midterms—it’s back! (read in that creepy sing-song voice people sometimes use with children) Luckily, I still have some prednisone from the last time it happened and have been taking those, but I just ran out so we shall see. It has worked to my advantage in the morning, though. When Manola turns on the TV every morning at exactly 8:30 am and I do not feel like waking, I just roll over so that my bad ear is not on the pillow and then everything is just muffled and I can sleep in! We’ll see how this goes for my history class at 9 a.m…. hopefully the alarm doesn’t get muffled, too.
The pizza at our new favorite place in Sevilla!

Manola & her grandson Manuel

A typical lunch. 4 plates. FOR JUST ME.
I come home in exactly two months from today, and I am excited. I realize I am going to really miss speaking Spanish whenever I want to (something that generally gets odd looks when I do it in the States), traveling, the people I’ve met here, and sitting at little cafes in the Sevillan streets in 70 degree weather. But I will be so happy to watch baseball, take long showers, sleep in, look people in the eye on the street without being considered… well… easy, listen to the radio, hear the Pledge of Allegiance, see men who are NOT wearing scarves ALL OF THE TIME, go for runs without being looked at as if I have grown a tail (I wouldn’t be surprised if I had after all of these body issues), and a whole lot of other stuff. The number one thing I’m excited for is up in the air—either to see all of my family and friends or to eat Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and salsa. But that one is a tough call.

Thanks for enduring this. I’ll be home in exactly two months. Odd, I know, but I figured I’d give you a heads-up since the party in Colorado will soon be ending due to the return of the wicked witch of the north (me). And for all of you españoles who have been reading (which means all of the white kids in my program from Chicago), the party will be ending shortly because you will no longer get to hear about my bodily functions due to eating weird fish. Pity, I know.

Well until next time. Oh! Start looking forward to: Barcelona, VENICE!, Prague, Amsterdam, and a visit from Rick, Gretchen, and Junior Chubs (aka my family). It should be good.

¡Ha’ta luego! ¡Adio’! and in the words of Manola: ¡TEN CUIDADO! ( (BE CAREFUL) don’t worry Mom, she tells me it everytime I leave the house, just like you tell me to “be aware of my surroundings”… I can’t escape!)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Way up North where the air's STILL WARM...!

Everyone warned us that A Coruña, a small city on the Northern coast of Spain, was going to be cold but that didn’t stop Eve, Lauren, and me from taking the risk! However, upon arrival Friday morning, the foggy, cold air left us all a little skeptical upon exiting the A Coruña airport. LUCKILY, after putting our bags down at the hostel (which smelled funny but had wonderful mattresses) it warmed up significantly, and we were able to sit in the sun, drink coffee, eat croissants, and play cards. That sentence pretty much defined our time in A Coruña… we drank a lot of coffee, ate a lot of pastries, and managed to get up to 2,000 points on the Gin Rummy scorecard. When we weren’t doing these things, though…

The first day, after our tummies felt satisfied, we explored a little bit. We realized A Coruña is much smaller than Seville when we managed to get from one end of the map to the other in less than a half hour. In that time, we stumbled upon a cool looking building that we decided to go into—why not? After passing a few rooms with chalkboards, we realized it was a school. We REALLY realized this when a short man in a sweater started yelling at us. We were about to scurry out of there, when he told us to stop and wait. Uh oh. He went into a little office and came back out with a key, which he used to open the door of --- the torture chamber. Not really, (I’m reading too much of The Princess Bride, sorry) it opened an auditorium with a huge ornately decorated ceiling and some statues of fancy people. Another teacher with glasses, a sweater vest, and no hair on the top of his head came into the room and asked what was going on. After an explanation from the first short-sweatered guy, he asked to see our map. We handed it over and he proceeded to mark which clubs and bars we should go to. His little bald head bobbled over the map, telling us to “start here around 8:30 and then go here and then around 2 this club will be great!” Did I mention he was about 50 years old and teaches microeconomics? Only in Spain. We giggled the whole way home.

When I say “home”, I mean the grocery store. We spent the majority of our visit there. We stocked up on bread, cheese, apples, carrots, peanuts, yogurt, and three boxes of Special K (which we ate in total due to the Authentic Chocolate that is unheard of in the US). The last morning when we could no longer stay in the hostel, we took our yogurts and Special K outside to a street corner to eat breakfast. We looked a little bit like homeless people who had splurged on the cereal brand, but we managed to have at least 10 people tell us “buen proveche” which means “Bon Apetit!” Even a passing policeman, who we feared was going to tell us to not loiter on a corner, wished us a good breakfast!

Special K is going to be calling for new models real soon
A Coruña isn’t a huge tourist city, which gave it a friendly, peaceful feeling. Also, I think we were the only non-Spaniards we saw (one lady asked if we were French--score!) which was pretty cool. Everyone was really helpful and smiled when eye-contact was made (unheard of in Andalucia!), and it was interesting to hear how much slower the people of Northern Spain speak than those in Andalucia. We did manage to do a little cite-seeing—we walked along the beach, found some cool-looking buildings (that I still can’t tell you the names of… I guess that’s not my strong point on this whole world-traveler thing….), saw the oldest working lighthouse in Europe (El torre de Hercules), saw an old prison, ATE MEXICAN FOOD (still haven’t had salsa… Chad, you know how that’s torturing me!), and went to the cemetery. And I think I’ve mentioned the cards, coffee, and pastries, but if I hadn’t, just know that those were definitely thrown in there on more than one occasion….
Lauren and I pretending to be tourists haha

"Piper, you look so happy..."--Holly Lowrey, my mother...what can I say, I have a sweet tooth?!

A sweet tooth for wine, too? And style.

Brr! More power to them.

Well, I think that's enough conversation about my predicted weight-gain. Next weekend I’m headed in the opposite direction of the world to step foot on my 3rd continent— I’m off to Morocco! I have a feeling this will involve even more sun, and hopefully, for my heart’s sake, less pastries, but until then… “que todo pase bien!”

P.S. Lots of photo credit to Eve Kaiser. This blog is becoming her's slowly but surely....