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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Hello from Cáceres!


I MADE IT!!!!

The aircraft was a little late coming to JFK so we didn't get to board the plane on time.. and then the weather started up again... it started sleeting. So we had to wait in line to get deiced which took about an hour and a half since there were three planes in front of us. So we took off about 2 hours late but at least we took off this time! I got to Madrid and my host mom, Lola, sent a friend of hers that lives in Madrid to pick me up. His name was Jose Antonio and he didn't speak a word on English so that was... interesting... to say the least. He was very, VERY helpful though. I wouldn't have been able to do it without him. He rode the train with me to the bus station, bought me lunch, and made sure I got on the bus safely. I had the most delicious tuna sandwich for lunch by the way... it had little raisin things in it and nuts I think? It was weird pero muy delicioso! After my 4 hour trip to Caceres by bus, Lola, Claire, and Elizabeth (another girl living with Lola who is studying abroad through a different program with her college in Michican) picked me up at the bus station.


Cafe con leche
We went to Lola's "pisa" (flat apartment) which has four bedrooms so it's pretty big. I took a shower and then we ate dinner. We had fish and some sort of vegetable medley. The fish looked pretty gross - it was as if Lola had gone fishing and cooked them right after she got them - you could even see where their eyes were! The vegetable medley had squash and beans and it was wonderful. We also have bread with every meal, and fruit after every meal.

Even though I was exhausted, I decided to go out after dinner with Claire to meet our group. I got to meet 15 of the 19 students and I'm glad that I decided to go out because our group is so much fun! We went out for coffee beforehand, and I had my first "cafe con leche" in Spain. Then we went to the concert which was more of a one man band in a small bar, but it was still fun! Today I slept until 2:30. I probably would have slept even late but they woke me up for lunch which was a good thing. We had "paella" which was rice with seafood - shrimp, clams, and muscles. I love shrimp, but this shrimp was like the fish from last night. We had to rip off the head and juice came out... disgusting. Then we had to peel off the legs - and my mom knows how much I don't like peeling off the legs in the United States... so you can only imagine how I felt ripping off the head. Today was the first time that I had both clams and muscles; I enjoyed the clams, but NOT the muscles.

Postre chocolate
After lunch, I got to Skype a little bit with my dad, took a shower, and then Claire and I met three other girls and we explored the city together for a couple of hours. We went to "la ciudad antigua" which is the old city and it was amazing! We had so much fun together, too. We stopped at a cafe to have a little dessert - not sure what they were called but it was some pastry filled with chocolate... yum!

Tonight we are having "Spanish hamburger" for dinner. (Made with chicken instead of beef). Tomorrow we are meeting the group at 10 and taking the bus to Universidad de Extremadura! After classes, we plan on doing a little shopping... maybe buy some cute boots. ;) 

Hasta luego!



Friday, January 28, 2011

I dislike Delta.


If my flight doesn't go out tonight, I might have to give up on going to Spain. I'm currently sitting in the JFK airport, where I have been living for the past two days, trying to kill time until my flight leaves in 8 hours. I was supposed to be in Spain two days ago and if I don't leave tonight, I don't know if I'll ever get there because there is supposed to be another snowstorm coming tomorrow.

I’m going to try to sum this up as best I can. On Wednesday, I flew from Sioux Falls to Minneapolis (which was a nice 35 minute trip.) Then my plane that was supposed to leave Minneapolis was late coming in and something was wrong with it so we had to wait 3 hours for the “glue to dry.” Comforting, huh? Then my flight from JFK to Madrid was canceled due to the weather conditions. However, they were able to book me for the last flight out of the airport that night at 11:30 to Paris and then I would go from Paris to Madrid. Well, we all boarded the plane, I watched all of “Dinner for Schmucks” and part of “The Town” when they said they closed the runway for the night. So we sat on that plane for THREE HOURS and it didn’t even take off. Then we get off the plane and everyone is SO crabby because it’s 2 am so they call hotels around the area and they said that they would get everyone hotel rooms. Well, the van I got into (an hour later) went to a hotel in Manhattan. It took almost two hours to get there because of the road conditions and the fact that it was nowhere near the airport. And the driver was swerving everywhere and we had to turn around a couple times because he got lost. Oh, and he also hit another car while making his u-turn because he missed the hotel drive-up. I thought I was going to die. By the time we got to the hotel, it was 5 am. The bright side of that whole situation – the room was the nicest hotel room I’ve ever stayed in and we got a free restaurant breakfast buffet. :) 

I got up the next day thinking there would be another shuttle to come pick everyone up. Well, the bus wasn’t coming until 2 pm and my flight was at 4. So I had to find a way to the airport without having to pay 50 bucks for a taxi. So the very nice gentleman at the hotel desk printed directions for me to the train station and which stop I needed to get off at and transfer to the AirTran to take me to the airport. I got off at the wrong stop and I must have looked out of place because the lady who was working the train yelled out the window, “are you going to the airport, miss?” and opened the doors back up for me. (Thank goodness! I probably wouldn’t have lasted two seconds in that neighborhood.) I think a total of 4 different people had to help me just on my trip from the hotel to JFK. 3 of the 4 gave me looks that said “how do you not know that?”
 
So I get to the airport… and I was told to go and wait for my baggage (from the Paris flight the night before that didn’t go out.) The guy said the baggage would come around 1:00. It was 3:00 and the baggage still wasn’t there. Then I heard a lady say that this flight will most likely be delayed… and I was NOT going to deal with anymore flight delays. I only had an hour to catch my flight from Paris to Madrid and I didn’t want to get into Madrid any later than I already was so I went and changed my flight to the direct flight to Madrid which didn’t leave until 8pm. Well then our luggage came, and mine didn’t show up because of all my schedule changes. So it took another half hour to track my luggage. Then I had to go to a completely different terminal to check into a different airline! Aggghhhh.

Then last night, we were on the 8:05 plane, and only one runway was open because of the past weather conditions, so we were waiting our turn in line to leave. We were second in line, when the pilot noticed something was wrong with the valve. So we turned around and headed back to the gate. They decided that they needed to replace a part and the only way we would be able to leave would be to find a different aircraft, or order the part from La Guardia because JFK didn't have it in stock. They made us get off the plane, and we waited about 3 hours and they said we could board again. In the meantime, I went to go find a phone charger because my phone died right before we tried taking off the first time. I went and bought a $30 charger that didn't even work. Then I paid $7.50 for wireless because I needed to get a hold of my mom and the directors of the program. So we boarded the plane and got out to the runway again. THIS time, we actually started to take off... we accelerated and everything. Then the pilot had to stop because there were "electric buses" in the way. So we went in a big circle and tried it again. Same problem happened. Went back to the gate and the pilot said we all needed to get off and they would pay for our hotels. Once again. They never even said what was wrong with the plane!

So through all of this, I have received 2 free nights hotels, 5 meal vouchers, SOME free transportation, a $100 credit to Delta airlines, and a free long distance phone call to my mom.

I JUST WANT TO BE IN SPAIN!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Counting down the days...

I can't believe that next week at this time I will be on my way to Spain for the semester! I am getting very excited (and nervous) about the whole trip. I have created this blog for family and friends to read while I am in Spain and other parts of Europe until I come home on June 8th. My goal is to write in it about once or twice a week and to also post a few pictures. I obviously can't post all of my pictures on this website so most of my pictures will be on my Facebook account, or I might make a Flickr account later on.


Next Wednesday, I will drive up to Sioux Falls with my family and from there I will fly to Minneapolis to New York to Madrid; arriving in Madrid Thursday morning their time. There are a total of 19 students going on this trip from Iowa State. We will meet at the Madrid airport in the afternoon which is where we will meet our director. We will travel with her by bus from Madrid to Cáceres (which is where I will be staying for the remainder of the semester.)


Last night, I received my host family stay information! My host mom's name is María Dolores Correyero Tello. I will also be staying with another student from Iowa State. (I feel like a freshman all over again!) Her name is Claire. Hopefully I be as lucky with the whole random roommate thing as I was freshman year!


For those of you who don't know, I will be staying in Cáceres until the end of the semester which is May 5th. At the end of the semester, my dad will be flying out to visit me for about a week and a half. After my dad flies back, I will have about two weeks on my own. Around Memorial Day weekend, my mom, Paige, and Kaicer will be coming to visit for about a week and then we will all fly back together.

Most frequently asked questions:

*Where exactly is Cáceres? It's about 3-4 hours west of Madrid and about an hour east of Portugal.
*Do you plan on visiting Portugal since you'll be so close? Yes, I do!
*Will you be visiting other countries in Europe? I plan on visiting France, England, and Portugal for sure.
*Will you visit other cities within Spain? There are 4 mini trips included with this program; Cordoba,  Granada, Salamanca, and Merida. (I also want to visit Seville and Barcelona.)
*What is the name of the university where you will be studying? Universidad de Extremadura.
*What classes will you be taking? Spanish Grammar and Composition, Spanish Conversation, Civilization and Culture of Spain, and Spain Today

Also, I won't be able to use my phone while I'm in Spain. I have to shut it off the whole time, so I won't receive any texts or voice mails until June 8th. If you need to get in contact with me, Facebook, email (smcgrath20@gmail.com or smcgrath@iastate.edu), and Skype (shea_mcgrath) are the best three ways to get in touch with me.

Feel free to ask any more questions! Otherwise, happy reading!

Shea