Two Months in Spain!

Hola Todos!

There are some days when I get really homesick for no particular reason, but in general life in Granada has been very fun. I have made some very good friends. I have been hanging out with my roommate Rissy and her friends quite a bit. They often invite me out with them and we usually have a pretty good time. I also still hang out with my friend Oli. We usually watch sports together (soccer and rugby mostly). School is going very well. I like all of my teachers, and most of the time classes are very interesting and I learn a lot. I find that my Spanish is most fluent right after school, because I’ve just been listening and speaking it for 4-6 hours. It is kind of strange that I feel totally confident with my Spanish at those times, but there are other times when I just feel totally lost. All in all though, I feel like my Spanish skills have improved hugely, and they get better and better each week. It’s a nice feeling. I think I might get put in place very soon though, because we have midterms in most of my classes this next week and up until this point we haven’t really had any graded assignments or anything. So, it looks like I’ll be hitting the books this weekend. I still haven’t adapted to the Spanish daily routine – and I don’t think I ever will. I can’t get used to the meal times, siesta time, bar and club times, etc. Most dance clubs don’t open until 3 in the morning! Needless to say, I haven’t been to many dance clubs since I’ve been here. I was very disappointed to discover that Halloween is not widely celebrated in Spain. However, some of my American friends from school had their own Halloween party so I threw together a last minute costume and went with some friends to their house. I guess it was better than nothing.

On Saturday, Oct. 20 (day after my 22nd b-day), Oli and I left for a little two day trip to the Costa del Sol (Coast of the Sun), which is the southern coast of Spain. We took a bus from Granada to a town called Nerja. Apparently most of the little towns on the southern coast of Spain have been invaded by old British people looking for sun after retirement. So Nerja was a nice, cutesy little town, but I think I saw more Brits than Spaniards there. We ate lunch there and just stayed for a couple of hours. Then we took another bus all the way along the coast, which was beautiful until we got to Tarifa. Tarifa is the southernmost city in all of Europe, and from Tarifa you can take a35 minute ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar to Morocco! We didn’t do it, but I know several groups of people who traveled to Morocco last weekend and had a really good time. It was a surreal feeling for some reason to be standing in Europe and looking at Africa. Tarifa was a very nice little town. We arrived in the evening, checked into a hostel, ate a nice Spanish dinner, and then watched the Rugby World Cup Final (England vs. South Africa) in a Moroccan Teteria. One interesting thing about Tarifa is that if you go to the east side of town you can swim in the Mediterranean, and if you go to the west side of town you can swim in the Atlantic. It is also apparently the 3rd best beach in the world for windsurfing. So on the next day we went to the beach. It was a very nice wide open sandy beach, but very windy (hence the windsurfing). We swam a bit in the Atlantic and watched some windsurfers and kite-surfers. Then we packed our things and got on the bus toward Gibraltar!

Apparently Gibraltar is the last standing British Colony. So we had to take the bus to a town called La Linea (just outside Gibraltar) and walk in from there. It was a very strange, unique, and interesting place. Oli and I had a good laugh because when we got there, it was beautiful and sunny in Spain, but over the rock (in Great Britain) was a huge gray cloud. The weather knew that Gibraltar is part of the UK. We walked across the border, through passport control and we were Rock of Gibraltarofficially in Great Britain. Then we had to walk across a live airport runway to get into the city, because they have an airport, but there’s no where to put it so they put it right across the only road into town. Oli’s statement about Gibraltar was that ‘it is everything tacky about the UK…on the Mediterranean.’ They use the Gibraltar pound, which is the same value as the British pound but it is only used in Gibraltar and nowhere else in the world. Everything is very expensive there, but the fish ‘n chips were delicious! We only had a few hours in Gibraltar before we had to catch our bus back to Granada, so we made sure to see the best thing that Gibraltar has to offer. We took a gondola ride up to the top of the rock. It was amazing up there, the views were fantastic and we were up very high. When we were at the top we had a chance to meet the residents of the rock…Monkeys! Gibraltar monkeys (Barbary Apes)! They came to the rock a long time ago from Africa, and there are something like over 200 of them living on the rock now. They are not shy at all with people and apparently they like to steal bags and cameras. It was amazing how close we were able to get to them. I even had one sitting in front of me, so I stuck my foot towards him, and he inspected my shoe with his hands and tried to bite it, but it didn’t taste good so he lost interest. I took a video of that, but I think it’s too big to send in an email. Anyways, for me the Gibraltar monkeys were the highlight of the whole trip! After quite some time with the monkeys we made our way back down the rock and out of town to the bus station and back to Granada. And as we left the clouds cleared away and the sun came out over the rock. It was a grea ttrip!

On Thursday Nov. 1st we didn’t have any school because it was a Spanish holiday (Todos los Santos). So I left that day to visit my friend who lives in Berlin! I think traveling by yourself is always a learning experience, and I learned a few things that day.
1) Buy your bus ticket to Madrid at least the day before. My flight left from Madrid at 7:30PM. It’s a 5 hour bus ride from Granada to Madrid. I got to the bus station to try to catch the 10:00 bus to Madrid. Turns out, since it was a holiday, everyone was traveling and the earliest bus I could get was 1:30PM. I got to Madrid at 7:30 and missed my flight.
2) When you’re going to be stuck on a public bus for several hours, don’t drink a liter of water! I almost peed my pants.
3) Don’t drop and break your cell phone.
4) Make sure you know how to properly use a pay phone.
5) When sleeping at the airport, don’t fall asleep underneath what turns out to be an air conditioning vent. After missing my flight, the next earliest flight for Berlin was at 6:30AM Friday morning, so I had to spend the night in the Madrid airport.
6) When everything goes wrong, try not to cry because it will all turn out okay in the end.

Needless to say, Thursday was a miserable day that I would love to forget. Nevertheless, I arrived in Berlin Friday morning at about9:30. I stayed with Lilly who was one of the girls I met when I first moved into my apartment in Granada. She’s from Berlin and she invited me to come visit her. One nice thing about Berlin was that when I stepped off the plane it felt like I was back home in Seattle. It was cold, wet, and very green. There is no grass in Granada, but there was in Berlin. The climate in Berlin was very similar to Seattle, which was very nice! Lilly was very generous and hospitable. She let me sleep in her room, while she slept in her roommate’s room. She cooked me breakfast and showed me many things in the city. The first day, she had to work for a few hours, so she showed me how to use the Metro system, which was very easy and convenient. And she told me which places to go see. So I did the tourist sight-seeing thing on my own for a few hours. I discovered that I knew very little about the history of Berlin, which there is a lot of. Berlin Christmas MarketBut as the weekend went on I learned a lot more. It was very convenient to have a local friend as a guide. Lilly showed me nearly everything in the city – about as much as one can see in two days. I was exhausted by the end of it all. I saw the Brandenburg Gate, the TV Tower, The Reichstag, The Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, two Christmas markets, a new age art gallery, Potsdamer Platz (large shopping mall), several non-touristy neighborhoods, many metro stations, classic Berlin style architecture, and a bit of the Berlin nightlife, among other things.

It was a fantastic trip, Berlin is a beautiful city and it is huge. The history is amazing. It is also very hip, young, and artistic. It was very easy to get around when Lilly was not with me, because most people that met spoke English. And Lilly taught me a little bit of German as well. The whole time I was there the weather was very gray, wet, and cold. Lilly kept on apologizing for the weather, but I was trying to explain to her that it was actually very comforting, because we have the same weather in Seattle. However, on Sunday afternoon as I was catching the train back to the airport, (just like in Gibraltar) the clouds began to disappear and the sun came out just in time to say goodbye to me. I can’t complain though because it’s been almost nothing but sun the whole time in Granada. I didn’t miss my flight back to Madrid, and as not to relive the experiences of the Thursday from Hell, I paid for a plane ticket from Madrid to Granada. One interesting thing about my trip, was that when I came back to Granada I felt like I was home for some reason. Things were familiar to me, and I really realized how much Spanish I actually know, since I was able to at least understand and speak the language. It was quite a relief.

Well I think that pretty much brings us to today. I have been having an extraordinary time. I still miss home and think about the comforts of home everyday, but I am trying to live it up as much as I can over here and I think I’m doing a pretty good job. Now you all are up to date!

Hasta Luego