Friday, June 4, 2010

May - A Month of Love

Wow, I have been terribly leniant in not posting these last 2 months. I'm so sorry!! So much has happened!! The month of May simply flew by -- starting with my adventure to Paris for 10 days with my lovely Aunt Linell, then leading into my last orientation with AFS here in Catalunya and then La Cursa Del Corte Ingles, a 11km running race in Barcelona this last weekend. Life is never on hold, there is no pause button! My Aunt and I had talked about going to France to visit family friends ever since I knew I was going to Spain but never officially 'set' plans. It wasen't untill late April we decided to book flights!! So thus our meeting on May 7th was a little illusionary...I couldn't believe I was with my Aunt, blonde hair, blue eyes, williamson smile and all...and to top it off would be in Paris, the city I had always held so dearly to my heart in several hours. We were staying in a apartment of our friends right on Rue de Temple near Hotel de Ville, walking distance to everything we would ever need and so much more! The studio/apartment was just what we needed; a comfortable place to rest in after the many long days of endless walking and exploring, which both came in abundance! I could write about the city forever, on and on about every little detail that enchanted me. The small hardware and flower markets with paint chipped turquoise bird houses. The always present color of navy, horizontal stripes, leggings, pearls, the idea of simplicity means eloquence in the clothing palatte. The obvious grandeur in every type of architectural specimen around you; the moldings, the colors, the sense of being carried away into a fairtale. I look back and can't pinpoint a favorite moment, or favorite activity. I just felt such a connection with the culture, people, the sense of living...I had beyond an amazing time every minute. I know I will be back to the city. Whether that be to study in the future, exploring via backpacks for a summer, or another trip with someone I love...who knows maybe even I will have the honor to call it my home.

So after landing back on Spanish soil :) had to jump right into our very last AFS Catalunya orientation that molded altogether for me...partly jetlag, partly sadness for the thought of how close this chapter is to closing. My birthday was the following week. I turned 17 on a beautiful blue skied, sunshine filled day. I had a great time with family and friends. I was awoken by the singing of my family at 7:45 am!! The day went by normally at school, lots of felicitats and two kisses -- not to mention my 160 facebook notifications. I had thought my birthday away from family and friends would be tough, but it made me realize that I have established a life for myself here surrounded by people that care about me more then I will probably ever know. The weekend after that I went to Barcelona to run in the largest and most famous Barcelona running cursa, it attracted 60,000 people this year. Something that I certainly couldn't imagine. The sight of seeing Plaza Catalunya built up into such a spectacle was incredible. The crazy people warming up in what space we had, the publicity, the MASS START! I started with my good friend Claire and we were about 150m from the actual start line, we walked for a good 5min just to get to it in the beginning, then had to sprint and pass thousands of people like we were in some sort of video game for the next 3km. I took off by myself and wow, such an invigorating feeling to run with that many people. Through the streets I now call my own. The sun beating down...I felt unstoppable. I hadn't trained at all, coming from a girl that ran almost every day. I was a little nervous to go into something so unready but knew it was an experience of a lifetime. I'm so glad I was a part of it now looking back. There was a part that we entered el estadiu olimpic which is the large stadium here, all the runners ran 400m and funelled out together. It was crazy to look around in an empty stadium but see hundreds of people running together. Long story short I finished in an hour and 23 seconds. I surprised myself. I just felt great in general for completing it, enjoying the moment, and then getting a great time. Emil and Mack finished in just under and hour and Claire at about an hour and 20min. I'm so proud of all of us. These are some amazing people that wow, I can't even begin to describe how much I will miss! Afterwards we were treated to the most exclusive and luxurious hotel in Barcelona. Andrew your great. To be right on the beach, have the most gorgeous view of the city and then rooftop bar and pool. It was beyond words, oozing beauty and elegance everywhere. Definitly hard to leave, but I ended up catching the bus home like always 8pm headed directly to Tarrega. Once I got off the bus home I had an excruciating pain in my foot and found it very difficult to walk...went to the doctor the next day and left with a cast. So now about a week into my injury, blisters on my hands from the absolutly horrible Spanish crutches I'm slowly starting to feel better. One week more to go then I'll be free. Life is amazing, I'm very blessed for what is happening to me here and now. With the days starting to wind down I'm preparing myself for the next chapter. I've learned so much from this one, gained so much...we'll see where I end up in the next one. The sky is the limit. Till that final page turns I'm soaking up everything I can. Love Love Love

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Semana Santa, Madrid, Barcelona Beach Weekend

Me in the entrance to the summer Palace

Easter Procession in Segovia in front of the Catedral

When Chloe and I were boating, not exactly my strongest talent!

Ramon, Pilar and me in Toledo!

Sabina, Pilar and me at the Palacio Real in Madrid

I had been anxiously awaiting Semana Santa; almost to the point I was simply writing down the days on all my school papers till my family and I were leaving to Madrid! I haven't had the luck this year, or opportunity let's say to travel. My family is rather stable here in Tarrega and with my strict school boundaries I've settled for all the weekends to Barcelona and the surrounding areas, so I was filled with excitment to leave Catalunya and see a little bit of the country! One of the biggest reasons I choose Spain for my year abroad was for it's diversity; through the land, people, languages...and most importantly for the rich Spanish history. We left for our journey Saturday morning after a full house cleaning. We were participating in a home swap with a lovely couple and their two children who lived in Alcorcon, which is a suburb directly outside of Madrid's center. With a fully charged ipod, novel 'Still Life with Woodpecker' in my lap and a sufficient sweatshirt immitating a pillow I was set for the drive ahead. My parents and sister had complained terribly so I had come prepared! Turned out I couldn't keep my eyes off the windows as the drastic change in landscape kept my eyes glued to the constant changing environment. It was incredibly how fast the lush farmland of Catalunya changed as we drove only an hour west into Aragon, which was the driest desert land resembling the lonely, dust roads of south west. In total the drive was only about 6 hours with a stop for lunch, pretty amateur for an Alaskan girl that drives that same amount to go shopping every month if not more! It passed by quickly and soon enough I could see suburbs, apartment buildings and public transport trams leading into the capitol. Our apartment was in all honesty the ugliest building I could have possibly ever seen! However when we reached the 10th floor and penthouse we were all very surprised! They had redone the interior and kitchen. It was spacious, worldly and comfortable which are the main qualities leading to a great stay! The whole week was everything I had hoped and so much more. We explored at the seasonal Spanish Palaces which was completely intriguing. I have always loved world history, but especially Europeon Renaissance. Everything from the ancient tapestries, and rugs, to Baroque styled desks and chinese porcelain rooms! Dripping with elegance and pure decadence I had a fabulous time exploring not only the palace building and grounds, but the little towns surrounding. My favorite was possibly the summer palace close to Segovia, it had a fairytale-like presence between the pastel colors, gorgeous grounds and shrubbery to the grand moldings inside and out. Everything was completely different from life here in Catalunya. The city of Madrid was on a different scale then Barcelona. You have the more art nouveau centered, free spirit, beach city compared to the historical, hipster, grand capital of Madrid. I loved spending a full afternoon wandering through the endless hallways of the Prado museum falling in love with every piece of Velazquez art. Goodness I love simply how when you enter an art musuem you enter into a different world. You're transported through time and I find my focus souly on the art! I had a lovely visit! We went to some amazing monuments in the city, and I met up with some othe AFSer's who lived nearby! Went boating in a little lake with my dear Chloe and ate a nice light dinner with Mariah in Plaza Mayor under the beautiful stars. The days were about full to the maximum and although the whole 'relaxation' part of my vacation may have been lacking I had a phenominal time. It openend my eyes to the amazing range and variety this country holds! It made me wonder if only I could make it even 6 hours further south and hit Sevilla I would really see the diversity! We arrived back home just in time for 3 days of school, which was a nice transition. It would have been very difficult to go right into a monday! We had both monday and tuesday off for 'La Mona' which is actually the name of the typical easter cake here in Spain, but also the holiday itself which revolves around good company of friends or family, roasted meat over a fire pit and the recognition of spring! Although I was exhausted from my week in Madrid I went to a small town outside of Tarrega, Anglesola with my friends to celebrate in some open field. I had no idea what to expect, because no one had explained anything to me! I arrived home, slept and in the morning caught the train to meet everyone. The hot spanish sun was out and it was great to spend some time with my friends after a long week away! Basically it was set up on a small farm plot. There was a large fire pit with a grill, a long picnic table and a friend is a dj, so he had a total set up blaring the good ol' spanish rap. I just had to sit back and soak it up; danced some, played a little soccer, ate some amazing food, laughed and drank some homemade sangria. It was an incredible day, and when I looked in my mirror at home again I was highly sunburnt! The bright red resignating brightly from my shoulders and collarbone! School went by rather fast, just three days and then the following week I knew would be free, as my class would be going to London for 5 days. Last minute I decided to go to Barcelona saturday. Such a great choice that I'm glad I decided on. Now that I'm nearing on my last 2 months it's important to me to seize the moment, enjoy all that I can and have no regrets! That choice was doing exactly that! I had a fabulous time with my friends going to watch the FC Barcelona vs. Madrid futbol match, celebrating in Plaza Catalunya after and then lazing at the beach on Sunday. It was astounding how many people per meter were at the beach on Sunday! The temperature was reaching 25, nearly Kayla's melting point! Just trying to ease into the heat day by day, because I know soon enough the low will be aroun 3o! This week is rather low key we'll see where the Catalunya winds take me! So much love.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

March Flowers Brings April Showers

I can hardly believe that March has rolled around. The trees are sprouting buds, the sun is shining brighter, and with the changing of seasons brings bad health. I'm taking the day off because I can barely talk, and la garganta me duele muchisimo. It's giving me some time to catch up on some important things like writing letters, reading the prophet, and getting back to my blog which I have been neglecting so terribly! My month of February was literally just booked. Weekend after weekend of plans, exciting, adventurous, epic Catalunya plans. So I guess I'll just start at the beginning. The 6th was a very dear friend's 16th surprise birthday party I helped put on with another friend. I've never seen a surprise party go by so smoothly, in fact it was the best feeling to see complete shock on Patrick's face when he walked through the doors. I took the train after school which has become basically a past-time. I know all the ticket collectors by shifts and have found ways to bypass paying full fare just because there is a break in the track so we have to switch to a bus, and then back to a train if you're going to full distance to Barcelona. When I tell my friends that I always take the train and not the bus they think I'm crazy, but I love the adventure, I love the scenary, and I love saving those extra 7 euros :) So that was a night filled with fajitas, sing star, and late night movies. The next weekend was our mid-year 3 day AFS orientation in the mountains. We were staying in a simply gorgeous city Olot. It has a history of being the winter vacation hotspot for the rich of Barcelona who want to get out of the city to ski or relax. It was pretty evident from all the amazing homes that dusted the streets. It almost felt like I was in the Beverly Hills of Catalunya, but I'm sure this was just a taste of something much bigger. We had a good three days to explore and spend time together which was really nice. I was just so stoked to get out, taste the fresh air and soak up the amazing landscape. Saturday was pretty much dedicated to hiking to these volcanos that surround the city so that was a great opportunity to do just that! Everything was the most vibrant shade of green, there were tall trees and country farm homes. Winding streets, rock walls, and the sound of birds singing in the air. It was almost serile. It was like a piece of home had finally come back to me. You really have no idea how long it had been since I had spent time in a real 'wilderness' or secluded, natural environment so I really wanted to soak it up. Claire and I decided to go ahead and just wander the trails by ourselves. A more independant and personal experience you could say? Well we had no map, pumping energy and the desire to do as much as we could in the day. Our intense hiking turned into trail running, our navigation skills were aided by a very kind French gentleman, and we ended up seeing some beautiful things I never thought possible. We found a slightly random organic dairy farm, a very mysterious wishing well where we threw in some euro cents because come on, we all know they really aren't worth anything here, found a wonderful small stone hedge monastery and laid in the sunshine for 30 minutes. We were in such zen zones and then all of sudden were talking about what happened to the other afs kids. What do you know? We spot this orange jacket and a very tall guy - Mack and Andrew, hahaha. So looks like they did catch up to us...after an hour or so! We decided to take off again, ready to see what else was in store for us, but this time added Miss. Christina Betty to our list of BAMF's. Which we later named our small, but stealthy and freaking strong group of wilderness ladies. With more short running/jogging around the crater of a very unimpressive volcano we headed down hill where we met up with the AFS group again, apparently they had found a shorter way then us. Betty stayed with them and what do you know, Claire and I were off again. This time there was a bet invovled to whom could make it to the hostal first and we were determined to win this one. So with our really cool bright marmot rain jackets, spandex running pants and 50 cent blaring via ipod earbuds we were tearing up the trail. Is it a sin to listen to intense pump up rap when your running through farmland and passing shepards and monasterys? Well after running, weaving through several unmarked trails we made it back to Olot in about 2 hours and very surprisingly managed to get there before everyone else! It was an awesome weekend filled with Sarah Palin look alikes, teatro, and late night dancing. I love our AFS group. Gonna miss everyone quite a bit. Good thing to look forward too is I now how the outlets to plan a circle the globe trip too see all my amazing friends.

Next weekend was Carnaval here in Tarrega! Something I had been looking forward too ever since I knew I was going to be spending my year abroad here in Spain. It's probably one of the greatest and grandest festivals celebrated and I was just super excited to be able to be a part of it. My friends had ordered our costumes at least a month in advance and I had never tried my little red riding hood costume on untill the day of. The one size adult/child was rather short I will say, but it was great to see all of us dressed up with unique little changes. Some girls had braids, baskets with fruit, I decided to put a red rose in my hair :) The tarrega parade was pretty fun. The people got quite into the idea of group costumes, there was everything from utensils and food, to lady gaga's, flapper dancers and ballerinas. Not very traditional but a good time none the less. We all went out to dinner which is the Friday and Saturday night past-time there was even a Barca game on the tele so the restaurant was pretty packed and filled with loud, shouting voices. After dinner, some playing on the jungle gym and climbing a giant tea-cup we all headed to the Plaza de Nacions where there was a dj set up in the Mercat de Municipal. Every young person and even some adults were there singing, drinking, socializing. It was fun too see everyone so happy and free. What I truly believe is the Spanish spirit. I went into the Mercat at about 1am and stayed till about 4am when I walked home. My heels in hand and a smile on my face it was a great night. That Sunday was filled with lots of sleep, good yogi chai tea and a religion essay. Low key to say the least.

Sometime during December my friend Arthur who has the same indie/blissful/free music spirit as myself found out that Vampire Weekend was coming to Barcelona and they had found a venue. After a quick skype sesh we bought our tickets online and began counting down the days till Feb 27th. So that just passed by Saturday and it was epic. Can I really desribe the feelings that were rushing through my mind? Not really. Words won't do it justic but I will try. So we were running a little late due to buying a new camera at El Corte Ingles to document this adventure and running through the Ramblas with our backpacks to our hostal to change, but finally we threw ourselves into a subway and made it to Plaza Espanyol. Next challenge find Poble Espanyol and then find the club. Our map didn't have any streets marked, neither did the club's myspace, website or facebook so we were pretty much running on a map I had written on lined paper in technology class. We climbed the stairs to Montjuic and asked some people along the way who told us to go up this hill and through the trees where we should find it. Oh okay, sure. We actually found some cool students from Pittsburg who studying in London who came to Barca for spring break looking for the same venue. Chatted with them for awhile and then there we were, standing in front of a castle with a long line and some pretty scary bouncers and a red carpet leading into a dimly lighted cobble stone street. We were here. And to top things off we had bought tickets online which had made us Heinekein Espana VIP ticket holders so we even got our own line, and a one way pass into Poble Espanyol free of identification checks or other problem arisers. With lanterns lit and some people walking through the streets we followed the music and after turning some corners, passing through some arches and midevil stairs we came to La Sala Penelope. An ancient facade with all this amazing molding and a gorgeous fountain led into some neon lights and glowing stairs to an amazing stage set up. There were two floors and the bottom was beyond packed so Arthur and I headed up to the top floor. We found an awesome spot next to one of the bars and just started to groove it out. Here we were in an amazing exclusive club in Barcelona, Spain listening to Vampire Weekend. Can you live in the moment any more? The music was even more entrancing in person and it was just an awesome feeling to be in such a great place with some really interesting people. It was a good feeling to look around and be able to communicate with anyone you wanted to weather that be through dancing, or our new language skills. It was just a moment that I will remember forever. We had a hostal for the evening so headed back there where I hit the bed hard. I was so tired. Walking in the moonlight, vespa posing, metro taking, beach running. Sunday breakfast was destiny. As I looked out our balcony window there was a gelato shop. Bingo. So we walked down and met a lovely Indian man who we talked with for about 20min, ended up getting an extra free scoop. Score. The day was pretty quite. The streets were filled with endless German and English tourists. The catch phrase of the day was, 'Oh no they're not English'. Caught the bus home and this week has been filled with stuyding for finals. Next week is the big week, and then after that is down hill till Semana Santa where I'll be heading down South too Madrid with my family for 10days. I'm really excited to travel through Spain a little bit and get out of Catalunya. We'll see where the winds will take me in these next 4 months. I can't believe that it's already that time. I just know I want to soak up as much as I can, but you can only do so much.

Echa mano a la ligera; soltar a la ligera. Este es un de los grandes secretos de la felicidad en el amor... - Spanish Proverb

Take hold lightly; let go lightly. This is one of the biggest secrets of happiness in love - Spanish Proverb

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Scatter Joy

Tarrega life has again settled into a rhythmn. I've been back in school for the last 3 weeks and it really has just flown by. I make small goals for myself each week, focusing on my philsophy exam Monday and then my economy exam Friday. Once I get through the long days of school I have the free and blissful weekends to look towards. They're the times I cherish most, filled with late and lazy mornings (example: today I made the wonderous discovery of Spanish oatmeal - avena - and I made a very lovely, large pot adding some walnuts and blueberries, then proceeded to read the paper in the sunshine, simply amazing) Spanish cinema, which I am becoming quite fond of, vueltas around my town with friends and on occassions going to Big Ben discoteca...all I can say is everytime is just crazy. Discoteca's are such a huge part of young life here in Spain and you may think 'Oh just hundreds of teenagers clubbing, smoking, drinking and getting into trouble' but in all honesty, they truly are responsible partiers. The music is great and Big Ben is quite famous, consequently bringing in artists and dj's like Inna, Basshunter :) David Guetta...always lots of high energy and fun times. I have definitly been extremely lucky in seeing some pretty great music set ups and famous artists these past 5 months, it looks like it'll keep going even brighter too because about 3 weeks from now I will be going to see Vampire Weekend and then Florence and the Machine about 3 weeks after that! Both are very talented muscians who have singles that are on my top playlist on my ipod! This has been pretty exciting for me here.

I was starting to get Barcelona withdrawls last week, not going for about 4 weekends in a row so I caught the train and spent the night back in the city with some AFS friends Mack and Emillll. It was a weekend of delicious international cuisine! Saturday night we ate at La Rosa Negra...a funky little Mexican bar and restaurant in the beach and ramblas district. It was so great to have some neon colored walls, bustling waitors and a young ambiance...the first tacos and quesadillas I've touched in 5 months were amazing, I'm not going to lie. The next morning we crawled out of bed and had the idea of crepes for breakfast, so at 1pm with our impecable navigation skills we tracked down the most parisian chic creperie. BEST BARCELONA DISCOVERY. From the absolutly enchanting french music, to the slogan 'crepes and cocktails'...from the 2 page long menu listings, and crystal chandeliers; Barcelona Crepes was amazing. Leaving with full tummies, smiles on our faces, several business cards and a lot lighter purses and wallets we found a really cool art gallery/collection. It was mainly composed of pop and modern art, which I have grown to appreciate more and more here in Catalunya. Of course Barcelona is a city known for the unparalled art of Gaudi and the unique Art Nouveau, which I adore...apartment buildings embellished in wrought iron work and beautiful colored sketches! Gorgeous! Each time I go back to the city I simply loose myself in the architecture, street culture, people. It's a place that is always filled with surprises and for me never gets dull - it's all about how you perseve situations and deal with them. I missed my train Sunday afternoon after running 4 blocks to catch the metro to Plaza Catalunya (the biggest square in Barcelona) where I ran through hundreds of people, only to still miss it by about 3 minutes. I could have stressed and called my host mom to help me, but I'm so much more confident and comfortable with myself now. After 5 months living here you come to realize life throws you surprises and you just have to run with them. I got to play a very ridiculously worthless game of Spanish Trivial Pursuit, bought an organic smoothie in the Barrio's Gothico and got to hang out with Mack and Emil more. A rather quiet and low-key weekend, but great fun all the same.
This was my last week of Cross running :( My scheduale has just become way to booked with 2 classes of Castellano, and 2 classes of teaching English a week plus the rigerous homework...don't worry! I couldn't imagine living life without running! I just plan on making my own training plan and hopefully joining a local gym...who know's maybe I'll even join the F.C Tarrega Futbol team? Anyway, my last day was Wednesday and we share the gym with a group of preschoolers and primary students who have like an 'active' class. I always play around with them after stretching and have become quite close to some of the little ones! After I changed clothes I was waiting in the lobby where Antonio and Albert showed up! The energetic dynamic duo of brothers! With their matching parkas, wide eyes and heart melting smiles we talked for a little while. It actually made me feel good that I could more or less have a conversation in Catalan with two 4 year olds, haha. The two were pretty entranced with my hair and both were pulling at it, also pointing to my eyes and asking about my 'home' :) so adorable. I'm going to miss fact as time keeps going on I'm realizing I'm probably going to miss a lot of things from here. Right now I'm just living, taking for granted some of the daily experiences that come my way just because it's life here. I often wonder what I'll feel like come July. All I know is that it's so important to stay happy and positive no matter what might happen...remembering to scatter the joys that life brings to us. Amorr

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Nieve! Neu! Snow!

Just as the last weekend of vacation was nearing; those last few days of complete freedom before going back to reality, school...the god's had a surprise in store for me. Snow! I hadn't taken the weather report very seriously when my host dad and I were watching the news Friday morning, although it had warned and advised the residents of Tarrega and surrounding pueblos of the massive storm that was moving north. I spent the day in my regular winter break routine: eat, read some poetry or travel novel, possibly skype or facebook, get out my ipod and go for a walk...I went out with friends for a little circle around town. We ate some churros and drank cafe, but by this time there was definitly a bite to the air and I could tell the temperature was dropping low, looking up into the dark sky I had my fingers crossed for some glorious white flakes to fall. It was about 8 or 9pm when I walked home from Pati and what do you know? It begins to snow. So it had snowed earlier in the month of December, but melted very quickly. I knew right away when I was surrounded by swirling white that it was here to stay. When I got home everyone was super excited and smiling, they couldn't really contain the feeling the snow gives you. It's almost as if you're transformed back to a little kid! Sure enough half and inch turned into one, one turned into two...when I went to bed it seemed like there was probably about 5 inches accumulated. Sabina and I decided to have a little pre bedtime adventure and went to the lower floor on our deck and made the first snow-woman of the year! She stood at about 12inches or so tall, had an authentic carrot nose, black buttons and big, flirty eyes! To top it off she had an Espanol scarf around her neck. Never have I been so proud. We named her La Perica de Nieve. Which is basically the female fan for team Espanol from the snow :) Another late night to hit bed, so I didn't exactly wake up relatively early. My brother and sister jumped on my bed at around 11 yelling "Alaska! Alaska! Como Alaska!" Sure enough, I pulled up my blinds and there was that beautiful, white powder adorning every brick house and palm tree in my sight.
Literally slurping down some yogurt and granola, I threw on some clothes - improvised with lots of layers, haha, borrowed some ski pants from my host mom and went out to meet with some friends!! In total we probably had about 1ft, maybe a little more, which in my reality isn't that much, but I'm living in Tarrega, and Tarrega was chaotic. Cars were slidding around the roads, shops closed down, the train was stopped in front of the station. It was like time had been paused and everyone was watching the wonder. My friends Sonia, Marta and I walked up to Sant Eloi Park which is a little higher in elevation and apparently had some killer sledding hills so I was stoked. When I curiously asked where were the sleds Marta pointed to her clear plastic bag in hand. Of course! This was going to be fun. I think about every child, teen and university student was in Sant Eloi...boys playing soccer? snowball fights, snow angels! Everyone was so happy! We found some killer sledding hills and spent the whole day out playing! It was exactly as if I was home for a day; there's something magical about what snow does to you. Almost as if all your problems can melt away!

Today is Sunday which means I have school tomorrow morning. Bummer. I'm not sure how I feel about that, I guess just like every other highschooler in the world. My winter vacation has been filled with some really great, unforgettable times...with even more to come! The most important thing that happened over break was getting a personal tutor for my Catalan and Castellano. Meeting with her 3 times a week really helped my actual pronunciation, I'm pretty much learning how to gain a lisp. Which is a little strange to think about...Just another thing to add onto my Spanish agenda. It looks like for my second trimester Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I have cross country, Tuesdays I have lessons after school then I have my classes that I teach in the evening. My english classes that is! Good way to make and an extra Euro or two, and meet some really great people. Thursdays I also have lessons after school with Lissa and let's not forget my homework! Whew! It's starting to look a little frightening, but everything that I'm doing is something I feel passionate about, so I'm sure it will all work out fine! Well I've got to help out with some homemade paella tonight :) I've definitly become quite the cocinera espanola since I've been here, if I do say so! Not a bad thing to pick up while on exchange! So tomorrow is back to the daily grind, wish me luck! Sending some winter spirit everyone's way

Saturday, January 2, 2010

La Navidad y El Feliz Ano Nuevo

Now things have finally slowed down a little bit after the holiday season. It almost dosen't feel like it was Christmas and that were into 2010...Buena noche or Christmas Eve isn't very significant here in Catalunya it's more the day of the 25 and then the 26th, so I felt like there wasen't much build up for Christmas day. Everyone in my family slept in, and naturally my inner child had me wake up at 7am which is early by all means in Spain! Kind of meandered around the kitchen, sunbathed in the living room, took a shower...and then at around 10 my parents woke up. I had bought gifts for the day so as a secret Santa Claus hid them under the tree. Our 2ft, artificial tree. Being born and raised in Alaska it was almost a sin, haha, but I understand there aren't exactly Blue Spruce trees in our garden! I guess this was one of the aspects that made this Christmas feel so different, no falling flakes outside my window, snow angels to be made, dark stary sky...I'm living in Spain and this is it. We had a family lunch at 12 in my aunt's house so we had to wake the siblings up to open presents so they could have the time to shower as well. I thought it was a lot of fun to open up presents - although mine were pretty smallish. I can't lie. Spain has hit the bank account hard, haha. All those weekend trips to Barcelona, and window shopping turned into just trying on that sweater, turned into going to the cash register! New years resolution: SPEND LESS. We were running late, as always. The past time of Espana, but we made it to Lleida and had a lovely gourmet lunch. The meal was more of a modern Catalunya dish, the first plate had different things varying from vegetables, rice pilaf, salmon rolls:) lots of flavor, that's basically what's most important. For the second plate I was served a whole fish. It looked like a capper, but honestly I have no idea what it was! It tasted good though! And of course for postres (desserts) we had Turon's, which are like very dense cakes that are very typical of Catalunya. They are intensely sweet and rich, I can only bring myself to have several bites. So after eating my body weight, sipping a nice warm tea and having good conversation at the table, my aunt got out the 'Tio'. El Tio is simply the Catalunya version of Santa Claus with some minor differences...those being: it's a stump of wood with 4 legs and a face, a blanket is tossed over it and the children sing a special song that makes it give, or in the more graphic and real words give presents in the form of going to the bathroom - the verb cagar in Castellano. It was fun to see my cousins who are younger sing the song and tap the magical tio, then quickly run to the back room and wait for their gifts! Coloring books, money, clothing, chocolate, El Tio :) The next day was another filled with incredible amounts of food, but this time in Alcoletge which is the town of my grandparents. This time the comida was more traditional. A soup followed with a typical dish of all sorts of meat imaginable. I still haven't brought myself to eat the blood sausage, don't know if I can pull that one of this exchange! But my brother and I did cap off some bottles of homemade sangria from my grandpa! A second day of el tio, laughing, good cheer and family time. It really showed me how important the true aspects of Christmas are; love and peace. Finding that through which ever way comes to you.

After recovering for uhh let's see her, 4 days it was New Year's Eve and my good, close knit group of friends and I had a big dinner planned out for the evening. We all dressed up, girls in dresses and boys in nice shirts and all pitched in a dish of food! It was really impressive how the young population takes traditions and fiestas very seriously and with a great amount of responsibility. We had the house to ourselves and let me say it wasen't exactly in the best state after the final countdown, however everyone helped out and it ended up being pretty clean! The New Year's thing to do in Spain is at the countdown from 11:59am stick a grape in your mouth every that was interesting. Unfortunately I don't have photos because we were a little preoccupied, however just seeing everyones faces will be enough in my memory! I think I held myself pretty well, haha, it was a fun thing to do! After cleaning and dancing, eating and celebrating we walked to the main plaza in Tarrega where a dj had a set up in a huge tent for the public. It was the place to be for the night so I got to see all my friends and basically everyone I know. The music was a hilarious mix of 80's, Grease Soundtrack, meet's Black Eyed Pea's :S but I had a great time. Everyone was dancing and I couldn't believe it when I looked at my phone and it was 6am! Time fly's by here because no one really cares about it. Living in the moment, living it to the fullest. My feet were killing me by now. I made the unwise choice of wearing some hot stiletto's and when I was walking home felt the pain, but then I decided why not just take them off? You're in Spain Kayla. Living, learning, loving...what really matters? So I took off my shoes and had a wonderful walk home, hardly believing it was the new year and I'm here in this amazing country.
So today is the 3rd of January and I'm off on another adventure to Manresa this afternoon via autobus to see my best friends Patrick (USA) and Gunnar (Iceland). Coolest guys ever. Pretty stoked to see them, and spend some time exploring. Monday were off to a surprise party for another friend who's turning the big 18! It's looking like it's gonna be a great couple of days. I start my second trimester of school next Monday which seems to be looming nearer and nearer...but for now taking it each day by day, as I have learned life should. As for the weather things have raised back up to a normal temperature. It's crazy how much it changes here. Tarrega is a basin for the fighting god's of the skies.

Well I'm off to pack! I hope everyone had a great holiday filled with love, peace and happiness. Being here has helped me realize even more to keep those you cherish close to your hearts and remember that they will always be there for you. No matter the distance. No matter the hardships. Warm wishes

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Things have definiltly cooled down on my side of the planet! The most drastic change that's happened since my last post has been the drop in temperature. At about -7 celcius for the mornings and 0 for the day on average? It's proven to keep my rapidly walking every morning to and from school, as well as run extra fast at cross in the afternoons to keep my body temp up. School here is broken into trimestres, so in two days now, tomorrow being monday and then tuesday I will officially be done with my first trimestre in my private catholic spanish school! In turn with the end of a trimestre you have final exams. Whoa. Now that could have quite possibly been the most stressful week of my life for various reasons, but mainly just the hours of studying and translating -- then coming to school to study for 2 more hours in the morning, one 2 hour final after break, then have our lunch and come back to another 2 hour final. All week long. It was honestly a miracle surviving. Most of my finals were in Catalan; however the understanding teachers gave me finals in Castellano. Completely drained I got through in one piece, and enjoyed the two days break we had this week. I know my scores weren't exactly compelling...having that switch of not seeing a good grade on a paper can take some getting used too.

Had a lovely day yesterday in Barcelona with other AFSer's, on an unofficial orientation for a intercultural merienda. Everyone had to bring a typical dish of their native country or state; I decided to make a halibut ceviche, for the reasons a.) being the dish had to be served cold and b.) it was relatively easy to buy the fresh ingrediants. Turns out my point b wasen't exactly very truthful! Using a cookbook from AK all the measurements were in cups and so I had to guesstamate roughly by taste and look. A little bit iffy about my final product because of the unbelievable smell of citrus, I couldn't bare to taste it. Just wait for the surprise and take the hit if it ended up being terrible. So the next day embarked off to Barcelona at 7am and enjoyed a beautiful market - the bustling people, blazing colors, and powerful aroma's. Then a promotional AFS walk including baloons in las ramblas. This involved my dear friend claire and me meeting a wonderful artist named Rafael, successfully sparking interest in exchange while speaking in very broken Catalan, and a good lunch of paella. Man I can never get enough paella. Next we met at a nice flat where we had our merienda, which is the typical snakc time at 6pm. And it turned out everyone loved the ceviche. Score! or as I would now say here !Toma! It's always a great time to see the other exchangers. I love all of them so much :) So now just to get through the next day and half of school, then it's break time for me! I hope you all enjoy the magical wonders of this holiday season...and remember the most important aspects of peace and love! Bon Nadal!