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