Febrero en España

Hola Todos! I am finally writing to update you about my second tenure in Spain. I have now been back in Granada for three weeks. I arrived here on the morning of February 5th. All of my flights went very smoothly with one exception – my luggage did not meet me in Granada. So I filled out some forms and went to my apartment a little light-handed. Fortunately, my suitcase was delivered to my apartment the next day. I am living in the same apartment that I lived in in the fall, but I have three new roommates this semester: Rob from Boston, Ayoko from Japan, and Petra from Czech Republic. They are all very nice people, and so far they have been good roommates. Ayoko does not speak much English and I don’t speak much Japanese so we must communicate in Spanish, which is actually a good thing because it makes for good practice for both of us. The other two both speak English, so I don’t speak much Spanish with them. Some of my friends from the fall are still here, but most have returned home. I have been hanging with Oli (my friend from Scotland) quite a bit. I have found another group of friends to play soccer with, which has definitely been good. And also, my friend Lilly who I visited in Berlin in November is now studying here for the semester. And I have also made several new friends and met a lot of people from all over the world.

School so far this semester has been great! I am only taking 4 classes this time instead of 5 and each class is only 90 minutes because the semester is longer. So I have three hours per day Monday through Thursday, and the best part of all is NO class at 8:30 in the morning (my earliest start is 10:00 AM)! I am taking a course on the history of Spain in the 20th century, a course on the civilization and culture of hispanoamerica, and two Spanish language courses. My teachers are all good and I’m learning a lot in my classes. My Spanish has improved a lot. I feel like I am very close to becoming fluent in the language, which is exciting for me.

Now to the fun stuff:
midnight-at-the-rock-concert.jpg My first weekend back in town, my friend Oli invited me to come with him to Cadiz. I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into at the time. He told me that there was a Carnaval party in Cadiz and a bunch of buses were leaving from Granada, and we had to find costumes to wear before we went. He also informed me that we would not be sleeping anywhere that night because the buses were leaving Cadiz at 7:00 AM the next morning. I was a bit skeptical, but I went with him to the costume store and found a pretty good cheap wizard costume, complete with white wig and beard. I met Oli and his roommate from France on Saturday morning to get on one of 7 buses full of young people headed toward Cadiz. We left at 11:30 AM from Granada, after a 5 hour bus ride we arrived in Cadiz just before 5:00 PM. When we arrived we changed into our costumes and walked into the city. Cadiz is situated on a tiny peninsula almost totally surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean. It is a very old, quaint and cute Spanish city, and I’m sure on any other day it would be very peaceful and quiet, but this was not any other day. This was Carnaval! I was finally beginning to understand that my previous skepticism was completely unnecessary. Apparently this is the biggest Carnaval celebration in all of Europe. We spent our first few hours just walking along the water around the city (in costume). There were already quite a few people out in the streets: Carnaval-goers, venders, groups of costumed singers, etc. We then found a place to eat dinner, and then we met up with some French friends of Oli’s roommate. Then, as the sun came down, the crazies came out. There were literally thousands of people in the streets singing, talking, laughing, drinking, and dancing. It was the biggest, craziest party I’ve ever seen. There was a parade through the streets and a huge rock concert in one of the plazas. I met and talked with many people that night. I’m pretty sure that the peak of the night in terms of people in the streets was actually at 3:00 in the morning. It seemed like every street and every plaza was packed full of costumed-partiers. I did not think that my costume would really stand out at all, but apparently I was a big hit with the Spaniards. Everyone stared at me, many people pointed and called me “Merlin” as I walked by, and little kids wanted me to stop and do magic for them. I was actually quite pleased with the attention. Everything was fantastic, until the clock struck 5. At 5 o’clock in the morning it seemed like we all just hit a wall. It was cold and we were tired and all we wanted was a nice comfortable bed. Instead of people at this point, the streets were completely filled with garbage. Bottles, cans, bags, confetti, and things that are better left unidentified. For a moment I felt bad for whoever had to clean all that, but then I just felt glad that it wasn’t me. At 6:30 we headed back to the bus (and some people were actually still partying). The bus was warm but it was not a comfortable bed – far from it. The 5 hour bus ride back to Granada was miserable. All I wanted to do was sleep, but I couldn’t because I was too uncomfortable. We arrived home to Granada at noon on Sunday…and then I went to bed. Quite a memory!

The following weekend, Oli had another great idea for a Saturday trip. We decided to go to a town in the Sierra Nevada Mountains (which was just a 40 minute bus ride away) and go for a day hike. Our French-British friend from school, Fabian joined us for this one as well. I learned many things on that day:

  1. Find proper footwear – I think I still have a scar on my heel from the painful blister that I walked with.
  2. Get a very detailed trail map, and a compass is always a good idea too. We had a map that we received from the tourist office, but we couldn’t tell if we were on this squiggly line or that squiggly line (we new we were on the red one).
  3. If you plan on doing a 5 hour hike…Do a FIVE hour hike!
  4. If you have seven hours of daylight, DO NOT walk out 4 hours before turning around.
  5. Try Try Try not to get lost for an hour (if you’re doing the math we’re now at 5 hours before turning around, which leaves 2 hours of daylight…I know you know what’s coming).
  6. If you do happen to get lost for an hour, DO NOT try to blaze your own trail…Especially if blazing your own trail involves climbing straight up the mountainside.
  7. If you must embark on a strenuous 8 hour journey that involves climbing mountains, crossing rivers, and jogging home, try to make sure that you are in good enough physical condition to participate in such activities.

As a result of our stupidity we had to go back to town the way that we came, but we had 2 hours to do what took 4 hours you-would-get-lost-too.jpgearlier. So when we weren’t jogging we were speed-walking and when we weren’t speed-walking we were jogging. After about 2 hours of this, we were exhausted and the sun was gone. We had made good time so we only had about one more hour to walk and much of it now was on a paved road, which was good because there was no risk of getting lost, but bad because it was dark and we were walking on a road. The last two miles were up hill and our bodies were completely physically exhausted. It was literally painful to move at this point. I’ve never experienced that level of physical exhaustion before. We made it into town and sat down in a bar. I thought that sitting would be nice, but my legs were in mountain-village-guejar-sierra.jpgsuch pain that even sitting was painful (not to mention the giant sore of a blister that I had on my heel). At 9:00 we caught the last bus back to Granada and then I hobbled home.

Despite all of our misfortunes, the trip was very fun, nobody died, and we saw some very beautiful mountain sceneries. It was worth it. However, to cap off my stupidity, the next day (instead of nursing my wounds) I received an offer to go play soccer and I couldn’t turn it down. All the rest of that week, my foot was in so much pain that I thought it was broken (fortunately it was not).

This weekend Oli, Fabian, and I will be going on another adventure. We are going to Malaga, and a town called Ronda (which is said to be one of the most beautiful cities in Spain). I think the only thing that I can expect at this point is that things will not go smoothly, but it will be a fun time and hopefully we will live to tell about it.

I hope that you all enjoy hearing about my adventures. ¡Espero que todo está bien con Ustedes, que se divertirán y que todo pasará bien!

¡Viva España!