Monday, February 21, 2011

Flamenco, favorite foods, and a baby!

I would like to start this post by saying Congratulations to one of my close friends from ISU, Nina, and her husband, Shaun, on their new baby boy! I'm so excited for you both and I can't wait to meet baby Ezra this fall! :)

On Friday, a few of us went to a Flamenco show at the Gran Teatro here in Caceres. When we were let inside to the lobby, we hung out for about 15-20 minutes before they started seating us. Let's just say those 15-20 minutes were some of the most awkward minutes of my life. I've never been to a Flamenco show before so I don't know if this is typical... or if it was because this particular show was very dark and sad, but my friends and I were starting to get a little creeped out. There were about 3 women all dressed in black with lots of dark eye makeup and they would slowly walk around everyone in the lobby while we were waiting for them to seat us, and they would come up close to your face in the middle of your conversation, hide behind pillars and stare at you, or hug the pillars and smile? It was weird. We never understood why they acted like that, either.

The cast of the Flamenco show
I also thought it was weird that the audience sat on the stage where the show was. We all sat in a huge circle around the performance. I was a little confused by this because the theater reminded me of the Orpheum in Sioux City, or Cy Stephens in Ames, so there was plenty of seating, and it was a really nice theater. Instead, we all sat in folding chairs on the stage. The performance was really awesome, though. It lasted about an hour and half and there was only talking/singing for about 15 minutes of that time. Even though there wasn't much talking, we were all still a little confused by the storyline. There was one man and five women, and we were confused by the parts that all the women played.

My new all time favorite candy bar!
I also thought I would use this post for talking about my new love for all of the amazing foods here. I'm not even sure where to start. Oh wait, yes I do. KINDER BUENO. My new favorite candy bar of all time. I'm seriously bringing five boxes of these with me when I go back home. It's just a chocolate bar and inside of it is a wafer and the rest is filled with hazelnut cream. I know it doesn't sound like much, but it is. Trust me. Speaking of candy, there are these candy stores called Sanchez Cortes that are literally on EVERY block. It's so tempting to go in one every time I pass by one. I'm actually temped to stop writing and walk down the street and go to one right now. But I won't. Like I told Claire the other day, I need to work on my self-control! That was the night when I almost ate a whole loaf of bread. Seriously. The bread here is SO good. Lola buys a big, fresh baguette for every meal... and those of you who know me, know I love carbs. This whole 'bread with every meal' thing is not good. All of the seafood here is unbelievably delicious, too. Mostly because it's so fresh, and it has so much flavor since they never take out the bones. We probably have fish about four times a week. When I first got here, we had it the first night and I didn't even want to touch it because it did not look very appetizing. Now, it's one of my favorite things to eat here!

Lately, a lot of people in our group have been talking about foods they're craving from the U.S. For example, Subway, mashed potatoes, or hamburgers. I haven't really been craving any of those things (okay, maybe mashed potatoes.) But I have been craving PIZZA. I haven't had pizza in forever it feels like. Thank goodness they have a Pizza Hut here. Even though it's a good 25-30 minute walk, some of us are going there for dinner sometime this week.

This past weekend was a nice, relaxing one here in Caceres. However, it will probably be my last. I think I have travel plans for every single weekend up until the end of the semester when my dad comes to visit! This weekend is our second group excursion. We're heading south to Cordoba and Granada. I'm excited to see the Mediterranean for the first time!

Hasta luego!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Bad day, but good weekend.

This post is mostly going to be me complaining about my day so beware. I'm using this blog to vent (even though my day wasn't THAT bad) but if you'd rather not read about it you can skip to the next paragraph. :) First of all, this morning I was putting in my contacts and somehow lost one. (I never found it either). When that happens, I know it's going to be a bad day. Anyways. Lately, I've been walking to school with two other ISU students in my group - Emily and Rob. Recently, the weather here has been somewhat cold and rainy so in the mornings, the three of us will get online (since it's free, as opposed to using a text) and decide whether or not we're going to walk. Yesterday we didn't because of the weather, but today Rob decided that we should walk... it was a little chilly out but he said that there was only a 30% chance of rain today. So I walk outside and I could tell it had been raining but it was barely sprinkling when I left so I agreed it would be fine. The three of us starting walking towards campus (which takes an hour) and it started to rain a little harder... but still nothing terrible. After ten more minutes, it really started coming down... along with gusts of wind. Needless to say, by the time we got to the University, we were soaked. Everything in my backpack was soaked as well. All of my notebooks, papers in my folder, textbooks... I also forgot that my phone and iTouch were in there. Luckily, they both still work. Oh, and my umbrella broke due to all the wind. So I had to sit in class for the next 4 hours, shivering in my drenched clothes. Not a fun day to say the least. On a happier note, I have decided to stay inside for the rest of the day; eat an amazing lunch, take a nice, long siesta with the brasero, and maybe I'll even get to watch last night's episode of "Glee"!

The amphitheater in Merida, Spain
Puente Romano bridge: Me, Emily, Keely
Okay. Now some positive things. This past weekend was a good one. On Friday, the group went to Merida, Spain. We toured the city for a few hours, had a couple hours on our own, and then ended the day by visiting a museum. Merida is full of Roman architecture, and it was really neat seeing the amphitheater and the bridge. The Puente Romano bridge is actually the longest of all existing Roman bridges. During our free time, 4 other students and I decided to walk across the Puente Romano bridge and back.

On Saturday, most of the group decided to climb "La Montana" in Caceres. It was quite an adventure - crossing streams, climbing rocks, eating our sack lunches at the top, and taking a siesta. We met for churros in the morning at the Churreria near where Claire and I live, and then we spent all afternoon on "La Montana."

On Sunday, 5 other girls in the group and I went to church for the first time since being in Spain. The church we went to is a nondenominational Christian church, and the pastor is actually from Story City, Iowa! The service started at 11:30 and didn't get over until almost 1:30 so it was a little long compared to what I'm used to. I understood almost all of the hymns, prayers, and announcements... but hardly any of the sermon. After the service, the pastor invited us all to his house for lunch. We got to meet his beautiful family, eat some American food (lasagna), and talk about our Spanish/American lives. The pastor and his wife are missionaries who have lived in Spain for about ten years now, and they have 3 children who are all bilingual. They told us if we are ever feeling homesick, we can come over anytime and have some American food, watch movies, or just hang out. It was just so incredible that this family didn't know us at all and they were so welcoming by making so much food for us all, sharing their life story with us, and offering us their home when we're feeling homesick. Sunday was definitely on the top of my list as one of my favorite days in Spain thus far.

No travel plans for this weekend... just going to spend a nice, relaxing weekend in Caceres!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

First day trip to Trujillo!

The castle in Trujillo, Spain
Well, whoever said Trujillo was "muy precioso" was right. I never would have thought that such a small town outside of Caceres would be so unbelievable! We arrived around 11am, climbed up to the castle, stopped at the wine and cheese museum on the way down, and ate lunch. For lunch, our group split into two groups: the group whose mothers packed their lunches for them, and the group whose mothers did not. Lola didn't pack our lunch because she told us there was this amazing restaurant we needed to try while we were there... so we did! La Troya was the name of the restaurant, and it was such a fun time! There were about 8 of us who ate there and right away they gave us tortilla espanola, salad, bread, and wine. Then the waiter came and listed off the options for the first course. We all ordered paella and pasta. Then the waiter came back and said "segundo" and starts listing more things off. So we all ordered plates of beef and chicken. The waiter came back again and asks if we wanted MORE and we all said no right away, so he says "postres!" and lists off all of the desserts. Of course, we all wanted dessert; I had flan. Since there were no menus, this whole time we had no idea how much any of this was going to cost so we were all getting a little nervous. It ended up being about 15 euros per person... which is pretty pricey, but it was worth it! There was also a stork that traveled from table to table at the restaurant - we were all pretty excited when it came to visit us.

At lunch with the stork
This week flew by! On Monday, we took a small tour with other students who are here studying abroad from all over the world. After the tour, we had tapas and got a chance to talk to each other. We met a few students from Italy, Germany, France, and different parts of the U.S. It was neat to meet students from all over the world and hear so many accents! Monday night, Claire and I did some shopping... I ended up buying two more pairs of shoes. I haven't even been here for two weeks and I've bought three pairs. I think I'm done buying shoes for a while. 

Tuesday was Keely's birthday (a girl in our group). She invited a few of us over to her piso and we had chocolate cake and used Nutella as frosting... YUM. Then we all planned our Semana Santa (Spring Break) travel plans. We booked our flight from Madrid to London, bought chunnel tickets from London to Paris, and booked our flight from Paris back to Madrid. Best Spring Break ever? I think so. :) After we planned our trip, we met the rest of the group for tapas and more dessert to continue celebrating Keely's birthday. 

Tomorrow, we are taking our first group excursion with our director to Merida, Spain. It's just a day trip and only about an hour away, but it's supposed to be an amazing, historical city with many Roman monuments. I can't wait for more amazing sites!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Clases, Fiestas, Comida

This past week in Caceres has been amazing. I absolutely love it here! We had orientation on Monday and started classes on Tuesday. So far, I am enjoying most of my classes. I really like my grammar professor and my communications professor. As for my other two classes... my professor for Spain Today is a little boring and he is a little hard to understand because he mumbles a lot, and we haven't had class yet for my art and history class. I haven't had too much homework but I have a little to do this weekend. I have to watch a game show on tv tonight called "Pasapalabras" and take a few notes on it. I also have a small paragraph to write and I have to give a speech on Tuesday that I need to prepare for.

Tomorrow is my host mom's birthday! We are celebrating tonight by having dinner and going out for "chupitos." Claire and I are a little nervous... I've heard she can be quite the partier! She is inviting about 5 or 6 of her friends over for dinner and then I think we're all going out. It should be a fun time except I'm exhausted from last night! I don't think I'll ever be able to party like the Spaniards do. They go out for "tapas" (which are bars that give you free samples of food with your drinks) around 10 or 11 and then around 1 or 2 they go to discotecas and stay out until 6 in the morning! We went out last night for the first time but Claire and I only lasted until about 2:30.

I'm still adjusting to a few things here. For example, showering! Not only is there barely any water pressure, but I have to limit my showers to about 5 minutes... which I could do if the water temperature would be consistent. I'll get in the shower and it will be just the right temperature for about 10 seconds and then it will start to get a little colder. So I will slightly adjust it so it can get warmer and all it does is turn scalding hot! Also, I've learned that I can't ever shower in the mornings because I get up before Lola has to go to work and apparently we have to light some burner in the kitchen to turn on the hot water and we have no idea how to do that. I sure do miss showering in the U.S.

Another thing I'm still adjusting to is the way people pronounce my name here. I've been so used to Americans pronouncing my name as "shee-uh" or "shay-uh" that it's hard for me to know when people are trying to get my attention here when they call out "shee" or "jeah." (I'm not even sure how that second one goes.)

As far as food... we haven't had too many other weird things. Although today I tried sardines... I remember as a kid, my dad would always eat sardines out of the can and I thought they looked and smelled so disgusting that I swore I'd never eat them. Well, today I tried them (even though they looked like tiny slimy little fish) and they weren't too bad. Not one of my favorites, but it reminded me of tuna - which I love. However, the appearance of some of the food here just weirds me out a little... mostly the seafood. Oh, and Claire and I FINALLY found some good churros! Apparently there's this small little "Churreria" right by where we live. Probably not a good thing.

Tomorrow, most of the group is going to Trujillo, Spain. It's not too far from Caceres, but it is supposed to be "muy precioso." We are taking a 45 minute bus ride there and back... just for the day. I'm not sure what exactly we're going to do there but I think the most famous thing to see is the castle. I'll be sure to post some pictures of the trip when I return!

Hasta manana!