Last Minute Fun Part 1- El Camborio and Cabo de Gata

It’s definitely approaching, the end of a wonderful semester abroad. We’ve gone out quite a bit the past few days to cram in some fun in the midst of packing, final exam prep, and facing the very real reassimilation crisis (for some, at least) upon our return. My favorite dance club, El Camborio, is located in the Albayzin district of Granada. It’s in a cave. There are lights, american and latino music. There’s a patio that overlooks the scenic landscape and the Alhambra (which keeps its lights on until 2 am…I’ve seen them turn off!) I was a bit tired, but pumped to spend one last night fist pumping and hair whipping before having to return to a more responsible way of life. Through a mutual friend, I met a Spainard who is studying to be an Occupational Therapist, JUST LIKE ME! We spent a good fifteen to twenty minutes talking on the patio about future career plans and scrolling through pictures of cadavers’ brains and organs taken from his laboratory course. It was really, REALLY great considering that half the reason I am studying abroad is to become fluent in Spanish so that I can help more people one day as an OT. After marveling at the beauty of the Alhambra and dancing a bit more, I went home happy to have gone out that evening.

The next day, we took a group trip to Cabo de Gata to go to the beach.  The water was clear, warm and the sand was soft but scorching hot so we’d start to scream if we stood in it for too long. It was a beautiful day and me and a few of my friends used our umbrellas (los paraguas, literally “for water”) to create shade. The Spanish sunbathers to our right proceeded to giggle because we were using los paraguas for the SUN. Later on they realized we spoke Spanish too. Along the way we stopped in a small town to view some homes built into sides of caves. We also drove by a place called “Little Hollywood” a movie set of an old western  town that was used in movies starring Clint Eastwood, and learned that our beach was used as a movie set multiple times as well. All in all it was a great day, without sunburn!

More to come tomorrow! I’ll try and talk more about past events!

Scented Roses…Who Knew?!

SO, I have not kept up with the blog. Sorry to all the folks back home who were really counting on this. Our culture class led us on many trips during the second half of the semester, so I was out absorbing the sunlit Spainish countrysides and slickin’ my way through cities. I’ll start here and try to make up for some lost time.

WOW. And now, with just over a week left, I feel that I have accomplished a lot. Of course, we all discuss amongst ourselves what we should have done, the FOMO (Fear of Missing Out, I’m nominating it as a 6th sense because you just rely on it to guide your decisions as much as sight and smell)  we could have done without, and everything in between. But one thing is for sure, this has been the trip of a lifetime. I can speak Spanish really well, but I’m still not perfect…I need to read more books and watch more Spanish television to maintain and increase my comprehension. I miss my life back home, but I love my life here too. It’s been a blast, a whirlwind of cultural experiences…new faces, friends, and memories that make smiles and stories for years to come. It’s a wonderful life, an aptly titled movie that I need to see at some point, but also the way I can best summarize this semester. Look up. Breathe in. Smile. The joys of life are all around, blooming all the time even before the flowers of spring and summer. Yes, there is always a reason for gratitude, not attitude, but it helps if you set aside some time for it. And I did exactly that. Thanks, Ma, for encouraging me to take this opportunity, I finally understand what you meant. Life has many roses and they smell beautiful.

I’ll be posting some blogs before I fly back to the good ol’ U.S., but not tonight, as we are celebrating the end of our trip with a visit to the coolest dance club in the city. Gotta go get my freak on, I’ll update tomorrow to start preserving these memories!

Ciao!

 

El Albaycin, San Cecilio, y El Realejo

“¡Vengan, chicos!” Our resident director continually urged us to keep up with our Professor, leader of the tour of El Albaycin, the Moorish district of Granada. Many of us, however, couldn’t stand to part with the picturesque scenery without capturing it from every angle. The RD would wait patiently, usually with a smile as big as the city itself, as we all swapped cameras to put ourselves against the amazing backdrops.

Since this trip, I’m pretty my camera has been glued to my eye. And I have 98 photos to prove it.

I’ve never seen anything like it. Really, there is nothing so ancient in America that is not protected behind thick sheets of bulletproof glass and grouchy curators. I asked my RD, who did the tour last semester as well, if this trek ever seems boring. “You find something new every time” was the most delightful response I have ever heard. I sure can’t wait to visit again before the end of the semester.

It was a bit of a walk, up steep hills and narrow winding streets. Uneven cobblestone threatened to uproot your footing, as we saw with one civilian who twisted her ankle on her way down the hill. (We put her on the next bus that came by to take her to the hospital) But those stones are so smooth and add such an old world feel to the rest of the city; it’s a shame they are so treacherous!!

As we gradually ascended to new heights, the view of the Alhambra across the river became more grandiose. And then we arrived at the top. WHAT. That view got better. HOW?! Beats me. But here it is:

View of the Alhambra and Sierra Nevada
View of the Alhambra and Sierra Nevada
View of Granada...
View of Granada…
And the Alhambra again, just because it is so magnificent.
And the Alhambra again, just because it is so magnificent.

So, it was definitely a good time had by all! First week and we are already soaring to new heights, literally and metaphorically.

That weekend, I went to the festival of San Cecilio with part of our group. Even though I think we missed most of it, because Sacramonte is even farther than Albaycin on foot, it was definitely an experience!

Almost up the hill, we found a very pretty spot.

TAH DAH! Sierra Nevada in the background...
TAH DAH! Sierra Nevada in the background…
Turned around from the pretty view and snapped a pic of this!
Turned around from the pretty view and snapped a pic of this!
This is me, trying to look comfortable, casual and not on the verge of falling. (There was plenty of ledge behind me, no worries!)
This is me, trying to look comfortable, casual and not on the verge of falling. (There was plenty of ledge behind me, no worries!)

It was unseasonably warm that day, so a cableknit sweater left me a little too warm and fuzzy. So just around the corner from this we headed up to the catacombs. From what I understood, this stands to honor the martyrs. It was small inside, cave like walls gave the place an equally enchanting and haunting feel. There were also these 2 large boulders, one black and one white. Superstition has it that if you touch the black stone, you’ll be married within the year. Touching the white stone means you’ll stay single.

I touched both. No shame.

Our next trip as a group was to the Realejo district. Indeed, it was very cool. Undoubtedly, the highlight was not the hike up the steep hills lined with uneven cobblestone stairs. Carmen de los Martires (Garden of the Martyrs), complete with small ponds, waterfalls, palm trees, moorish architecture, and peacocks. When the Moors were fighting for control of Granada, this site is where they held captured Christian soldiers. But evidence of that is pretty scarce. It is incredibly peaceful. The views are breathtaking, which seems to be an ongoing trend here.

Snuck this picture in just as we were rounding the corner...
Snuck this picture in just as we were rounding the corner…
The small body of water that runs through the main part of the garden and faceless members of my group.
The small body of water that runs through the main part of the garden and faceless members of my group.
Fountain next to the entry/exit way.
Fountain next to the entry/exit way.

There is much more to tell! I have done some exciting sightseeing that I wish to blab on about. (and this time, I will actually update the blog at  a more steady pace!) Thanks for reading, as always!

Church Hopping with Class and Churros

¡Hola! So much exploring to be had in this city of wonder. Classes began on Monday, ¡ay! Much fun to be had with Spanish grammar. I say this with both a sincere and sarcastic smile. Just when you think you know “enough to get by”, you realize how far off you actually are!! Many translations are different and there are new words to be learned. Not to worry though, it’s a bit fun stumbling through these things. You want to learn more. It’s hilarious because most of us are incomprehensible and not too compatible with morning classes and light breakfasts. Yesterday, however, class concluded with colloquial slang and bar etiquette. Suddenly everyone went a bit loco in trying to absorb everything. “We’re gonna need this!” Became the catchphrase of the day.

We have a 15 minute break each day to breathe and refuel at the local cafes. My friend and I went exploring around the school to find more shops and beautiful structures. Some friends and I did it again today, finding high points that shrink the city down to postcard size. Yay for adventuring!

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Ever since Sunday’s mass, I’ve been jumping at the chance to explore churches here. I left a little earlier for class to visit another church near the school. (I ALWAYS FORGET ITS NAME!) The silence and serenity left me awestruck from the moment I walked in. The walls slope together to seal off any distractions from the outside world and join to form domes and towers. These decorate the city’s sky and signal a place of peace and spiritual growth no matter where you are in Granada. My host dad said that we can attend mass there instead on Sunday if I wanted to. (Sunday plans, check!) Later today I another Church (Again nameless until I remember how to retain any information)near the city center, only to be stunned by the ornate gold decorations that covered entire walls and displays. There’s also the Cathedral named Isabel Católics or something (woo! almost recalled that one!) Maybe in the coming weeks I’ll attend their masses. And so, this is how my hobby of Church hopping was born!!

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Un named church number 2

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Unnamed church 1/near school.

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These last 2 are from thr
Cathedral!!

Oh, I almost forgot about the churros! (Well, my thighs didn’t) nom nom nom nothing like fried dough and a cup of warm chocolate dipping sauce. Not my favorite dessert choice, but when in Spain (and at a restaurant that’s been open for 100+ years, might as well!) Seriously, Bib-Rambla Gran Cafe makes a mean chocolate sauce nom nom nom.

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Excuse my lack of artistic talent. This is supposed to look super appetizing, not like entrails. We were under a redish heat lamp so I guess it affected the lighting more than I thought hahaha.

That’s all I’ve got for now! Thanks for reading!

Arrival and Exploration!! I

First of all, thank you to everyone who keeps sending love my way!!! You all make me feel really special 🙂

I’ve been here for only a few days, but I already love this city! There is so much exploring to do and language to learn!

My host family is fantastic x10. They make me feel more than welcome and encourage any attempt, no matter how feeble, to understand and absorb Spanish culture. They do speak some English, but not much. It’s been awesome getting to know them. Opportunity is EVERYWHERE! Casual breakfast chatter revelead that my host dad goes to Church every Sunday, and he let me go along!! It was one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen. Sculpted angels and saints cover every inch of the walls. Many of them are lined with gold and everything is painted with great detail. As for mass, well… I didn’t understand most of it. I managed an “Amen” and tried to hum along to the prayers ( MAN, I REALLY SHOULD HAVE CONSIDERED TRANSLATING AT LEAST THE LORD’S PRAYER). I’ll definitely want to go again next Sunday and eventually I want to visit a Synagouge.

At night, a bunch of the group members went exploring in the city. We couldn’t wait to sightsee!!

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I don’t really know the name of these buildings but they sure are fabulous!!

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More to come later!! ¡Hasta pronto!

A semester of firsts

¡Hola de Granada, España! Me llamo Rina y voy a explicar todas mis experiencias aquí. AHA, Gotcha! Half of that last sentence was a lie, I’m probably not going to write this in Spanish. This is for my comic relief, and that of my readers, as well as to save some memories for down the road when I may need a healthy dose of gratitude and appreciation to get me through tougher times. I’m a wee bit weary but anticipating the day that lies (just a few hours?!) ahead… My first day of intensive language classes. 4.5 hours of Spanish class to get those r’s rolling…can I get a HOLLA?! In all seriousness, there are some totally fantastic experiences that I have…experienced already and have failed to document. So that demands attention right now-

Predeparture- My family friend and a friend from school all drive down to the airport together. Yes, it finally happened. After a whirlwind of rummaging through closets and rounds of clothing elimination, I am finally armed with 47ish pounds of checked baggage. Many photos of the stuffed bags and their carriers quickly filled our memory cards with bittersweet goodbyes, good lucks, and again confirmed that the journey of a lifetime was just beginning. CRAZY STUFF.

Airport- Arrived at the airport and passed through security with almost no dilemmas. Really wished I had fewer items to send along that conveyor belt…I felt awful about holding up the line as I struggled to put on shoes, some coats and a backpack at the same time. Found the study abroad group really easily and everyone seems nice and friendly. (Or at least they’re pretending to be…hehe 😉

Plane ride- Cool! Sitting with great people, able to look out the window and watch myself leave the good ol’ USA for the very first time. Food wasn’t terrible, couldn’t sleep because engine was too loud and my t.v. stopped working about halfway through the flight. No worries, I managed to fidget and play with my hair to pass the time while the others got to doze off or watch movies.

The layover period- Cool, with a catch. We’re in Spain, hoorah! Stuck in the airport for 9ish hours? Less cool, but laughably so. We all spead out blankets (most of them obtained from our flight) onto the sleek marble floors and attempted to catch the ever-elusive zzzzz’s. People stared. It was funny. There were around 20 of us so any shame disappeared 6 hours ago while you were smushing your face against some airplane window or seat, trying to sink into the deepest stages of the sleep cycle. I’ve been fortunate enough to have never been without a good home, so I’ve never had to do this before. Let me tell you it is hard to sleep in public. I woke up a couple hours later with my left hip and leg losing heat to the cold floor (LOL). After lunch I sort of curled myself around the immobile armrests on the bench seats to sleep just a little bit longer. I managed to brush my teeth and did some makeup in a public bathroom, which felt great!! Ah, I was exhausted but beyond thrilled. Look at all of these adventures already!!! Tomorrow comes the introduction to the host family and first impressions of the city. I really need to sleep now though; I have to be able to stay awake for at least 7 hours before I can enjoy my siesta!!