Sunday, October 18, 2009

vino, jamon y mas vino!

It's obvious that futbol rules above all here in Spain. It can pretty much consume people's lives - presidence over work, family obligations even food and drinks! But alas I decided to join my town's running team, which consists of a lot of younger children and a couple older kids like myself. We meet three times a week here in Tarrega and then on Friday's I go to the atletismo and track in Lleida where I train with another group. The people that I train with in Lleida are extremely talented, kind individuals who I really love to be around. Most of them are older then me..well actually all of them are! One girl is currently ranked number one in Spain in the 400m for her age of 23 and then another girl who is 17 is second in the 200m. In my workouts I run with a group of guys who range in age from 16-23 and they are extremely fit and fast! It's been very challenging but I feel that I'm up for that challenge and I enjoy the workouts so it's good. Keeps me in shape and so far has been keeping off the weight I should be gaining because of all the olive oil, bread and chocolate I've been consuming here!! So today was my first official race in Spain! It was a 7km road race in Mollerussa, which is a town about 20km away from Tarrega. Unlike before most races today I was very calm and really had no worries about how I would do, place or anything. I had stayed out the night before with friends and was looking forward to a nice run the next day! It was a gorgeous, brisk morning! The sky was clear but the sun was shining so brightly...I went through the usual routine: warming up, stretching, granola for breakfast and for some reason wasen't really bothered by the 300people that were running around me! Although more then half were running the half marathon. The gun went off, loud music blaring and 300 runners all in spandex (did I mention all runners here in Spain have an obsession with spandex? I think I was the only runner, for real, in actual shorts) took off. I felt really good, kept a good pace and when the 7km runners peeled away from the half marathoners I felt like I was in a good position, but honestly wasen't really worried at all about the actual race! Just on finishing! I ended up finishing with a time of 35min which I was super excited about and also surprised - even more surprised when Sabina told me I was the 4th woman! I was the youngest woman entrant so I really had no idea what to expect so my morning was blissful. When I ran through the shoot and received my 'goody bag' I also got a bottle of wine which I thought was just so Spanish and fantastic! Then when they had awards I got even more wine! 3 aged bottles from around the country to be more specific! The winner got a haunch of ham and then the others got more wine. What awesome prizes, right? I thought so! To top of an already amazing day my family and I went to another Espanyol futbol game in Barcelona and Espanyol won! My first time to see our team score a goal and boy, the energy in that stadium was just pulsating! I spilt my water when we scored because I even jumped up right away to wave my scarf!! A great Sunday here in Spain..too bad tomorrow I have escuela :(

Sunday, October 4, 2009


Last weekend was my first time officially traveling alone and independantly here in Spain! I managed to finally get the okay to go to Barcelona for the weekend from my parents to celebrate fiesta Merce with my friends! I was pretty much left on my own from the get go - right after school packing my messenger bag, then walking across town to buy my train ticket and (hopefully) catch a bus to Barcelona. The bus station and ride itself was pretty informal. I probably could have just not paid the 15 Euros for my ticket, hopped on, and just hitched a ride into the city; but that would have brought some bad traveling karma for sure, so I'm glad I didn't. Driving into the city at night was probably one of my highlights of the whole weekend. It was magical to just appear downtown with all the lights and colors, watching people whizz by on bikes, roller blades. It was great to see that there was a designated lane for pedestrians. Something I wish we had more in the U.S! Not exactly sure where to get off, but hoping that the bus had a destination stop of Barca Nord (where mi amiga Claire was said to pick me up) I sat nervously by the window, absorbed into the city. Soon enough I looked around and noticed there was probably only 4 people left onboard. In my bad Spanish I asked if the autobus was heading to the station, and received a friendly reply of "Si". I like to think that I'm becoming more and more confident with my speaking skills, it certainly helps when your in situations where you're forced to speak the language. Finally pulling into the station was a relief and then seeing Claire's face even more. It seemed like the bus had been winding down side streets for ages and I was beginning to think that if it indeed wasen't going to Barca Nord I would be in for a big adventure. Claire already had some good plans for the nigh and I was alreay jazzed up to start seeing the city. Right away we went down to the metro. I can't really describe my love for the metro systems of Barcelona. It definitly runs deep. Theres something about the feeling of joining hundreds of other people for a brief minute on your seperate paths and journeys of the day. Sometimes, well most of the time, you can start up a conversation with almost anyone especially if they are younger and it's the weekend. Claire and I met some really nice chicas on our way to the Forum and it was just incredible how happy they were to meet us. Sharing drinks, inviting us to go with them - not caring at all how horrible our Spanish was! So we ended up spending most of the night with them. The forum is a huge outdoor music/art center or something of that sort. It has 2 big stages, one of which was hosting and MTV event that night, and the other was some rock band. Then there was a smaller dj booth with some dancing music. There were literally thousands of young people walking around, dancing, sitting with their friends, just simply enjoying the evening. That was an awesome time - the pulsating MTV beats were running through my head even on the subway back home. The next day we met up with another afs'er who lives outside of Barcelona in the suburb of Terassa. We took the subway to las ramblas where Andrew was going to meet us for some lovely lunch! After some great pastries and cafe we decided to mosy through some amazing small streets of the city. Not having an itinerary for the day was probably the best plan - it let us stumble upon some unknown places and even hit the beach up! That evening was correfocs, so I guess we did have some sort of a plan. It's a huge event celebrating el diablo. Some people dress in red and carry pitch forks that are on fire, and others have tall sparklers and dragons that spit out sparks! The spectators dress up in layers of clothing and then run through the fire! So Claire and I really wanted to participate. My first weekend in Barca and with something like this going on it would be ridiculous to not do! However; we didnt really have the right attire. We were both wearing skirts and tanks, luckily our good friend Ricard who is lucky enough to live in Barcelona lent us some pretty badass jeans and sweatshirts. Muchos gracias Ricard :) So with our new outfits we got to dance under some fire in the barcelona starlight. The next day was definitly a lazy Sunday. Claire and I went on a nice morning walk around her neighborhood. I had my first smoothie in over 4 weeks! A great way to cap of the weekend. The plan for my return back to Tarrega was pretty darn vague from my family. They had really only told me to meet them at the Espanyol futbol stadium at 7pm. It hadn't really occured to me that I needed to find my way to the stadium, alone, with my bags until about 5:30 when I madly thew some of my clothes together and grabbed what was in visible sight, quickly gave Claire two kisses and ran to the subway, map in hand. Again, Ricard saved my butt by giving me some subway directions so I had a vague idea of where I was going but it was looking like I would have to switch lines a couple of times and ultimately I didn't even know the name of my final stop. Thankfully everyone that I asked for directions from was super friendly, and eventually after running through about every station I was on the bigger train heading outside the city in the direction of the stadium. Although I was on the right train, going the right direction, I had no idea which stop was mine and get this, my mobile's battery had died the day before so I really had no way to call my family, Ricard or Claire. I had also asked everyone in my car where the stadium was and no one had a clue. Clearly all were Barca fans and could really care less about team Espanyol. It wasen't untill a lovely older gentleman walked onboard that I finally found out I had gone one stop passed! So I got off, and ended up just running to the stadium instead of waiting the 14min for the next train. I had about that time to get to the stadium. So here I am running again, through the streets asking random people for directions as I'm looking at my ipod every minute to check the time. The suspense was almost to much to handle :) I ended up making it to the stadium only 7 minutes late, completely winded and looking like a wreck, but I met my family and suddenly none of that mattered. I was so proud of myself for my first real, independant adventure in Spain. All I can say is I defintly slept well that night! What a great weekend it was!