Monday, August 13, 2012

Going home! Week 6, Friday and Saturday

Our class and teachers after our graduation

Friday: Today we got to sleep in. We went to the school at 12:30 for our little graduation. The teachers told us how nice it was having us there, said their goodbyes, and gave us each a diploma. We then took group pictures and got free t-shirts. We said goodbye to some of the students that we wouldn't see later that night, and went home for lunch.

Lunch: Eggs on rice

After lunch we got everything packed, which didn't take very long. Since there wasn't anything else to do (we didn't want to go out because it was 100 degrees out, hottest day of the whole six weeks) we both tried to take naps but it didn't work. Finally, after pacing around and telling each other how bored we were, we decided to go out and brave the heat. We walked to El Corte Inglés (the big department store, w/ A/C) and browsed around in there until it was time to meet the other students for ice cream.

We met Alex, Emily, Jon, Zou, Clémence, and Breanna at Smöoy to have frozen yogurt and to hang out for the last time. We ate it at Plaza Mayor, then walked around for awhile until we decided it was time to say goodbye and head home for supper.

Supper: tortilla de patatas

When we got home, Mercedes told us we should take the last city bus (10:00) from the nearby Plaza San Pablo to the bus station. Even though the last city bus was over 2 hours before our bus to Madrid would leave, it seemed like a way better idea than walking 75 pounds of luggage 1.6 miles in 100 degree weather. Before we left, we took some pictures with Mercedes and Reyes, and we gave Mercedes a picture of the two of us. She was so excited to get it; it was very cute and she said now she could always see us :) She also gave us some of her old jewelry. She said she does that with all her students. Bailey got a watch and I got some earrings.
Waiting at the bus station

Mercedes and Reyes walked us to the bus stop and we said our goodbyes. We then took the bus (the driver said “Did you bring your whole house?” when she saw my luggage) to the bus station and waited there for two hours.

Saturday: We took the 12:30 AM bus from Valladolid to the Madrid airport. We got there at 3 AM, checked in, and went through security. We waited at the gate for a couple more hours, then took our first flight from Madrid to Paris.

Can you find the Eiffel Tower? (click to enlarge)
All of the announcements were in French, Spanish, and English. When we were just about to land, the plane suddenly lurched back up into the air. They announced that a plane hadn't cleared the runway that we were about to land on and it would be another 6-8 minutes before we could land. Although it was inconvenient and a little unsettling, something cool came out of it: we flew over Paris while we were killing time, which we wouldn't have done otherwise, and I saw the Eiffel tower outside of my window and took a picture (although a not very good one) with my iPod!

We finally landed, and Bailey and I frantically tried to figure out where to go next. The Paris airport is incredibly confusing. We had to ask for help. We went through a passport check, then had to go through security again. We were really concerned about making the flight, but we got there as it was boarding. We also were asked a series of questions about the contents of our luggage before we boarded.

The flight to Minneapolis was a little over eight hours. It seemed to go by pretty fast though because I watched three movies (The Adjustment Bureau, M:I 4, and This Means War). They also handed out customs forms that we had to turn in when we landed. Our meals were salad, pasta, crackers, cheese, a roll, and a cookie when we took off and a panini and ice cream before we landed.

Minneapolis to Omaha (I'm in the back row)

Our Minneapolis layover was three hours, so it was more relaxing because we weren't worried about time. We turned in our customs forms, did a passport check, claimed our luggage, answered a couple questions about it, rechecked our luggage, went through security AGAIN (a receipt in my pocket set off the scanner), found our gate, and waited there for awhile. Finally, we took our last flight (in a tiny plane) to Omaha and we were home!

This was my last blog post. Spain was an amazing experience; I got to see lots of awesome places and I learned so much! I would definitely recommend the program to anyone considering it in the future. To see all my pictures from my trip, go to  and  (there's two albums). Thanks for reading!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Studying and tests: Week 6, Wednesday and Thursday


Today was our last day of regular classes. Tomorrow we just have tests in everything, so today was a big study day.

Lunch: Chicken and rice

I studied in the afternoon, then we went to the school movie, then I Skyped my brother and sister-in-law for awhile.

Supper: Fish (can't remember what kind she said it was), it was fried, but we still had to pull the meat off the spine and rib bones.

Later in the evening, we met José, Brandyn, Blanca, Nathaniel, Alex, and Clémence at the beach to play sand volleyball for awhile. Then I stayed up pretty late studying.

Before I post all this on the blog, I write it in a journal every night. I have now written 100 pages in it.
With our host mom, Mercedes!


Today we had our final tests. For conversation we just had to talk for five minutes straight about our experience in Valladolid. It was pretty easy. After that I had my had my history and literature tests and now I'm done with classes!

In the afternoon we slept awhile and were actually pretty bored because we didn't have any homework to do. We went over to the school and used the internet for awhile.

After supper (I can't remember what we ate, I'm writing this a little late) we met all the other students at La Negra Flor (a bar) and hung out for awhile. We didn't stay out very long though because we were all tired from staying up the night before studying.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Cortés y Franco: Week 6, Monday and Tuesday


For our history class today, we had to ask our host families their opinions of Franco, the dictator that ruled in Spain from 1939-1975. Our host mom was pretty neutral about him. She said her family never had any problems, but she knew that people who opposed him were arrested or killed. She also said he helped the poor and large families, improved infrastructure, and there was less crime back then because everyone was too afraid to do anything. She said they couldn't talk about politics outside of their houses. In class, Alex, whose host mom is older like ours, said that Franco should return to get Spain out of its financial crisis! Conversely, Clémence's host parents, who are younger, only had bad things to say about him. Sergio said that this is typical of Spaniards. Younger generations, who have only learned about him and didn't experience it, only view him as negative for all the terrible things he did. On the other hand, older people that lived during Franco's regime are more neutral, or even supported him. Although repressed and censored, as long as nothing negative happened to their families, they had a sense of security and believed in his propaganda. There's even an expression, I can't remember the exact words, but it involves saying that if Franco were here, he would solve the problem. It's quite surprising to learn what he got away with during his reign, especially in regards to the suppression of women.

By the way, I don't think I've mentioned it yet, but Mercedes is 63. Last week, she wanted us to guess how old she was. I refused to say a word. Bailey politely guessed somewhere in the 50s. She bragged that people in her shop think her and her daughter are sisters :)

Lunch: Empanadillas de atún (tuna), pasta, watermelon

I had to finish my history paper, a biography of Cortés, today, so I worked almost nonstop (except for supper) from 4-12. Now it's done though and actually a page longer than it had to be.

Supper: pasta, sunny side up eggs, sweet croissant type bread that was filled with ham and cheese, watermelon

It's the last week already! I feel like six weeks is the perfect length of time. It was long enough to have sufficient classes and see what we wanted to see, but I'm also definitely ready to go home this weekend.

Tuesday: This morning on my class break I turned in my history paper. Since I don't have any more Spanish classes after this program, that was the last college paper I'll ever have to write in Spanish! After school we returned our books at the library.

Lunch: Beef stew with potatoes, peaches

This afternoon I finished a literature assignment and posted my Barcelona pictures and blog.

Supper: Tortilla de patatas, salad, peaches

We shot hoops at the beach for awhile after supper.

Tomorrow is studying, Thursday is our tests then going out that night, Friday we have a little graduation, and then we go home!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Barcelona! Week 5: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday


Casa Batlló
After school today Bailey and I went to Plaza Poniente to get on the Linecar bus to go to the airport and then to Barcelona! Two other girls from our school were going too and had the same flights as us, but were meeting other people there. Our flight was an hour long and with Ryan Air. Emily, one of the other girls flying there, said people on Ryan Air flights always scream on the flight, then clap at the end. Sure enough, whenever we hit some turbulence or dropped a little, the people in the back screamed as if we were on a roller coaster and then when we landed everybody clapped. Also, the entire time, the flight attendants were trying to sell food, drinks, newspapers, lottery tickets, sunglasses, perfume, etc.

After we landed, we took a train and the metro to get to our hostel. Between switching from the train to the metro, we saw Casa Batlló, some apartments designed by the famous Antoni Gaudí. They were so strangely designed that no one wanted to live in them and now it's a museum and restaurant.

La Boquería market
Our hostel wasn't quite as nice as our hostel in Madrid, but it was still fine. There were ten beds (5 bunk beds) to a room and the whole floor shared a bathroom. After checking in, we got some maps and then walked to La Rambla, an incredibly busy street that's lined with stores and restaurants. Barcelona is in Cataluña, which is one of the autonomous communities of Spain, meaning it's a section kind of like a state that has its own government, has immense pride in its own history, and, in the case of many people, wants independence from the rest of Spain. They speak Catalán, which is very similar to French. Most of the signs were in Catalán, Spanish, and English. It's such a major tourist city that everyone seemed to speak English as well. Other Spaniards that aren't from Cataluña can't understand Catalán, and when someone from Cataluña is speaking on the news, they have Spanish subtitles.

On La Rambla, there's a market called La Boquería. We went inside, and there were stalls selling fresh fruit, candy, raw fish (that were still whole and looking at me), other meat (baby pigs, legs), cheese, and cooked foods as well. Bailey and I bought calzones there to eat for supper. At the end of La Rambla is a really tall Christopher Columbus (Cristobol Colón, in Spanish) statue, and beyond that is the Mediterranean Sea.
At fountain show at Montjuïc

From there we went to the Font Mágica (magic fountain) de Montjuïc, where there's a cool music and light show at the fountain. A lot of people were there to watch it. In that area, near that fountain were the Olympic buildings and stadium where they held the '92 summer Olympics, but we didn't see them.

After the fountain show, we started walking back to the hostel. Now in Cataluña bullfighting is illegal, because of animal cruelty and other political reasons. Barcelona had three plazas de toros (bullrings). One is being torn down, one is now a museum, and the other (which we walked by tonight) has been turned into a shopping mall. They also raised up the entire structure and put another floor underneath it and a restaurant on top with an elevator going up the outside.

Las arenas, mall that was once a bullring
We got back to our hostel and went to bed. I calculated that we walked 6.8 miles today.


The population of Barcelona is 1.6 million and right now the highs are in the 80s and the lows are in the 70s. Our hostel didn't provide breakfast but there was a little grocery store just across the street so we got some cheap donuts and water there. We walked back down La Rambla, went back to La Boquería and got fruit, and walked to the beach.

The beach was really nice, but crowded. It was really fun to feel the waves and swim in the sea. It wasn't like the beach in Valladolid. We may have gotten a little sunburned...

Palau de la Música Catalana

La Sagrada Familia
Next we went to Plaza Jaume for a bike tour. It was called Fat Tire Bike Tours (it's also in Paris, Berlin, and London); we were provided bikes, and a guide led us around the city. Our guide was Australian (the tour was in English) and he said he came to Barcelona for the world cup and decided to stay and live there. There were fourteen people in our biking group, from the U.S., Australia, Scotland, Canada, and Puerto Rico. Barcelona is a really biker friendly city. There's bike lanes everywhere and lots of bikes in every plaza available to rent. Still, we all almost got hit by taxis a couple times, but it was still fun :) We would stop at different places to take pictures and for the guide to talk about each one. We stopped at the cathedral, Palau de la Música Catalana (a theater also designed by Gaudí), the Arc de Triomf, a fountain in the Parc de la Ciutadella, the bullring that's now a museum, and Sagrada Familia. Sagrada Familia is a church designed by Gaudí that was unfinished when he died in 1926, and is still unfinished. It is under construction, and although Gaudí's original designs were destroyed in a fire, they are trying to build it according to what they think his plans for it were. When it is finished, which is projected to be in 2026 (the hundredth anniversary of his death), it will be twice as tall as it is now.
My paella!

Our last stop on the tour was a restaurant on the beach. Bailey and I had nachos and we sat there for a little bit and watched people play soccer in the sand. After that, we went back to the bike place and the tour was over. It was four hours long.

We went back to the hostel for a little bit, then went out in search of a restaurant that had paella, a popular Spanish dish. We stopped at the first restaurant that had it (we didn't want to walk any farther). We were the only people in the restaurant and we watched handball in the Olympics on the TV (which actually seems to be a popular sport here). Paella is a rice dish that is yellow (because of saffron) with some kind of meat, depending on what kind you order. We got a mixture, so ours had chicken, spareribs, mussels, prawn, and squid. I had Bailey's squid and she had my mussels, and she had to rip the head off my prawn for me because I was too afraid to (it was good though, it tastes like shrimp). After the paella, we called it an early night because we weren't feeling great: a mixture of sunburn and dehydration, I think.


In Park Güell
 After checking out of the hostel we went to Park Güell, a gigantic park designed by Gaudí that was originally supposed to be a housing development filled with mansions, but once again no one wanted to live in his houses, so it was turned into a park instead. It's filled with strange structures, houses, and mosaics. To see all my pictures from Barcelona, go to: . After the park, we took the metro and the train back to the airport. We were afraid we were going to miss our flight because of several delays, but we got there as it was boarding. We then taxied the runways for forty minutes before taking off and arrived at least twenty minutes late. Ironically, they didn't play their usual message at the end of the flight talking about how 90% of Ryan Air flights are on time. After we got back to Valladolid, I Skyped with my parents, grandma, and sister, but otherwise didn't do much of anything the rest of the night.   

Monday, August 6, 2012

Type type type...Week 5: Wednesday and Thursday


Lunch: Soup with rice, beef, and carrots; pears

We went to school at five to work on homework and had our Wednesday night movie at six. It was Mar Adentro (The Sea Inside), starring Javier Bardem, a true story about a man in Spain who was a quadriplegic and campaigning for legal euthanasia. I followed it pretty well even though I was working on my literature paper at the same time.

Supper: Tortilla de patata, watermelon

Tonight on the Olympics Spain won their first medal of these games when a woman got a silver in one of the swimming events. Evidently, she's only the second woman in history to win a medal for Spain.


6:00 run: 2.31 miles

Last night Mercedes was out really late, later than when we went to bed. We both woke up hearing her come in at 2:00. Evidently one of Mercedes' friends, María, came from out of town, they went out, then she slept over. We met her this morning at breakfast, when we had just got back from our run and were gross and dripping sweat; great first impression, I'm sure. She was really nice and has lived in Barcelona before, and told us places we should see when we go this weekend.

In both history and literature, we've reached the twentieth century. I'm very curious to find out more about Franco's dictatorship because I feel like it's a time in Spain I should know more about, so I'm glad we're getting there.

Lunch: Soup with veal, potatoes, carrots

Worked on our papers at school from 5-8, ugh

Supper: Ham and cheese fillets, french fries, watermelon

We watched a little bit of the Spain-Great Britain basketball game. It looked like Spain was going to win.

Tomorrow we're going to Barcelona!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Birthdays and Basketball, Week 5: Monday and Tuesday


Lunch: Garbanzo beans with potatoes, salad, watermelon

I got nine hours of sleep last night so I skipped my siesta and worked on homework and typing my blog, then we went to school and worked a little more in the lab.

My classmates, some of the party guests
After classes this morning, Blanca (one of our classmates) told us she was having a birthday party tonight for Nathaniel (her son, who she brought to Spain with her) in one of the classrooms at the school. Today was his fifth birthday. She said normally he has parties at home with his friends and we're his friends here. We all said yes and were really excited to go. The party was also partly for José, another one of our classmates, whose birthday was also today. The party was really nice. They had balloons, noisemakers, two cakes, and ice cream. There were eleven of us students there, and a couple teachers made appearances as well. Nathaniel opened presents also. Since the party was on such short notice, we just got Nathaniel candy from the grocery store next door, but he did get some cool toys, and he really seemed to have fun.

Supper: “Candied?” apples, roasted chicken, soup

We watched Olympic highlights, swimming, and some news. Hopefully Bailey and I will get up early and run tomorrow.


Birthday boys
We got up at 6:00 this morning and went for a run. It was a lot easier than all my other runs, I think because it was so cool outside and I hadn't just eaten a huge supper. 2.25 miles

Lunch: Beef stew with potatoes and carrots

Today we went to the computer lab from 5-8. I have two papers (history and literature) due on Friday so this week we'll be mostly at school.

Supper: Hard boiled eggs, pickles, potatoes, watermelon

We shot hoops at the beach for a half hour tonight.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Salamanca and Iscar: Week 4: Saturday and Sunday


New cathedral of Salamanca
For our school trip to Salamanca, our bus left at 8:00 A.M. from the bus station, which is a half hour walk away from our place, so I got up at 6 A.M. The bus ride was about an hour and a half. Salamanca is in western Spain, near Portugal. Ruth, my conversation class teacher, was our guide this time.

We saw the Plaza Mayor, lots and lots and lots of souvenir shops, two cathedrals, the university, and a medieval bridge. Normally Spanish cities only have one cathedral, but Salamanca has two. We went in the “new” cathedral, but considering it was built between 1513 and 1733, it feels wrong to call it new. During restorations on the cathedral in the 90s, an astronaut and a devil with an ice cream cone were added to the facade of the building to represent the 20th century (I have pictures). The inside of the cathedral was huge and gorgeous.  The university of Salamanca is the oldest university in Spain. In the facade of the main building, there is a small skull with a frog on its head. Supposedly, if you can find it on the building you will have good luck. Also, because of this strange image on an ancient building, the frog is the symbol of Salamanca. All of the souvenir shops had different kinds of frogs that said Salamanca on them.
The astronaut and the devil on the cathedral

After we finished our tour, we were given free time. All of us ate our packed lunches in Plaza Mayor. I think some of the Spaniards were amused at the large group of Americans (and French) kids sitting on the ground eating sandwiches. Next we all kind of split up and went souvenir shopping.

On our way back to Valladolid I was actually awake and saw that most of the land between Salamanca and Valladolid is fields of sunflowers. They were very pretty and I didn't realize sunflowers were such a big crop here.

We took a nap and then went out for tapas with Alberto, his friend Lucía (practicing her English), Jon, Zou, Clemens, Alex, and Emily. I didn't try anything new (just had croquetas, which are still delicious) but it was fun going out with the group.


Inside the new cathedral
Today Jon, Bailey, and I went to a little town called Iscar because Mercedes said they would have a running of the bulls and “mucha fiesta.” Unfortunately, the only return bus to Valladolid was at 5:00 P.M., but we still went anyway thinking there might be something going on before that. We were very wrong. As seems to be the case in most small towns, siesta is ghost town time. All the places were closed and no one was around. We did hike up to the castle above town and walked around the walls. We also looked at the plaza de toros and played in a park. Apart from that, we spent the next couple hours walking around and looking for a bathroom (which we did eventually find, but it's really difficult when every place is closed). We took the bus back to Valladolid, which was wild and nauseating; Spain has some crazy drivers.

The skull (left one, looking down) with the frog
Mercedes and Reyes had gone out but left us supper. We had large salads and what we thought we some kind of dessert potato until we realized they were pears (except Monday she told us they were apples, oops). They might have been what you'd call “candied” but I'm not really sure; they were good though. Bailey and I watched the Olympics while eating supper. Spain beat China at basketball and we also watched some gymnastics. We were very tired and went to bed at 9:00.

To see a lot more pictures of Salamanca, and some of Iscar, maybe not immediately but a couple hours after this post, go to: