Wednesday, March 28, 2012

6th Day

Good day today!
This morning we remembered that breakfast came with our room, so we both woke up at about 5:30 because we were so excited to get breakfast for the first time since we got here. So we waited and played draw something (some of you know this already =D) for a while and talked until it was time to go down for breakfast which is 7:30 to 9:00. We felt like we were going to get in trouble so we snuck down stairs like little kids on Christmas morning. As the little lids do when they see all the presents on Christmas day, we made it to the bottom of the stairs and were so excited to see the food on the table. We still felt like we needed to sneak around, so we walked with no noise, talked in whispers and tried to be as quiet as possible; we looked around the corner to see if anyone was coming every few minutes. There was no logical reason for any of this, but it was just what we did.
Breakfast included croissants with Marmalade de fresas and something that looked like oatmeal with dried fruit in it. We couldn’t figure out what it was, so I decided it was probably oatmeal and proceeded to pour hot water into it with a splash of milk. I let it sit a minute and tried it… not oatmeal… (Hannah, you probably know what it is already). Jenna asked me how it was and I replied pretty much the same, saying that it was definitely not oatmeal. As we were eating, the owner came out of her room and said her good mornings, asking us how we slept and how the breakfast was. As we talked, we found out that the “not oatmeal” was called muesli and was actually supposed to be eaten like granola in either milk or yogurt. I tried mixing mine with a little more milk, but it didn’t really work.
As we were talking, we heard some rustling and finally a guy game walking down the stairs. We both immediately thought to say good morning and did. He says god morning back, but in English. Both Jenna and I are quite surprised and we both look at each other in surprise. So we got to talking (what else were we going to do with a guy who speaks English here?) We found out that he was born in Germany and lived there for most of his life, but moved to the UK about 8 years ago. He had the most amazing accent; it was a mix of German and British (obviously). He told us a lot about what he thought of America, we had asked him what he thought of the different areas, and what he had heard was pretty much right. He told us that the east coast, specifically the north part, was a “live to work” where the south was a “work to live”. He said he didn’t know much about the west coast, but that California everyone had really big houses and a lot of money. Obviously we corrected him on that one. We tried to convince him that he should go to Oregon. I don’t know if it worked, but it was fun. So he ended up going back to his room to pack up because he had to leave, and we ended up going to our rooms and exchanging Facebook info (you can see him on my profile, his name is Rayk) and went our separate ways.
After that, we got ready to go down to Plaza Catalonia to pick up one of our exchange-mates. We mapped out the journey and it said it should only take a half hour. We just need to take a right here and a left there and go straight for a bit, easy. So we cross our 6th or 7th street and start worrying. I asked a random lady walking along the same street if we were going the right way and she said the street we were looking for was just the next street ahead. So we found our street and started walking down the street with hopes that we would find the plaza soon. As we started walking, we went to cross the next street and so we were standing next to the street. We heard a *BEEP BEEP BEEP* coming from the right and looked over there in time to see a guy on a scooter who yells” OYE, Gordita!!” and Jenna starts cracking up. I wasn’t sure what had just happened, but she told me later. I thought he was yelling at me to get off the street haha.
 About 20 min later, and the same worries, we start walking past something that looks like it could be right, but Jenna said that it was not it. So we walk about another street past it and I found a sigh that said Pl. Calya pointing to the direction that we came from. So after “I told you so” came out, we went back and proceeded to wait for Tonja, our exchange-mate. After about 30 min, and many look alike people, we found her and started walking back. We had to stop by Tonjas old hostel to cancel her reservation. We ended up doing that, then seeing a Chinese restaurant. We were all so crazy hungry so we stopped in for a bite. We ended up trying to talk to him for about 15 min trying to figure out what was on the menu. We ended up (somehow) ordering a Chinese pizza and a bowl of something that looked like soup with noodles, spinach, and a meat in it. We didn’t know how we ordered it, but we did. It was actually really good, along with the pizza. So after we finished eating, apparently we ordered waters that cost a euro each, we ended up with a 9E bill. Not bad for 3 people eating! So we make our way home and I have now been sitting here for about 3 hours while Jenna decided that my toes were too disgusting and needed a pedicure. No massage by the way, lame. So I now have trimmed cuticles and a black line on each toe, with a Yin-Yang on the big one. Haha.
So we are deciding what to make for dinner now and im going to turn in for now!
Adios, un abrazo y dos besos!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

El Quinto día

Good (insert correct time of day)!!
Pretty uneventful day today, I stayed up all night with Miss Jenna in order to find a place to stay after our rental ended at the Hostal Ribagorza. We ended up finding one that was about 2km away (still too far to walk with Jenna’s 70 lb. bag and my 3 bags). Before we left, we made sure to give our keys back and unfortunately our favorite person wasn’t working there. I noticed before we were leaving that Jenna had a few more bites and so I gave her some Campho (itch reliever) for them. So we decided to take a taxi (after much deliberation) to our new hostel. We waved a taxi down and he got out and helped us put our bags in the car. Jenna was laughing when he tried to grab her bag first. He grunted and almost couldn’t lift it; I had to help him get it in the car. He finished getting the rest of the bags in the car and we all go in.
As we all get in, he asks where to, and Jenna gives him the address. Jenna got the feeling that he might try to drive the bill up a little bit before he got us to our hostel  so she started off with “That right about 2 km away right?” because we knew exactly where it was. He grudgingly said yes it was. So at that point is the awkward moment where you can either ignore the driver for the extent of the ride, or you can try to engage in conversation. We decided to go with the latter. So we started talking to him, asking him his name (remember I didn’t specify what language ; ] ) and started talking about what he was doing here, where he was from (Pakistan), and how long he had been here. The basics. It was really cool to talk to a person who judged you from the start and to watch the disbelief well up in his eyes as we started talking to him in Spanish. We both understood (well I did at least) most of what he was saying and I was actually able to reply! This means… wait no… yes… yes! I have been progressing! How awesome! It’s working! WOO! That means I am learning Spanish even before school is started! Immersion really does work, folks.
Anyway, we finally made it to our destination and then we were faced with one of those boards with the names and a button on the outside of the door that was supposed to be our new hostel. We were looking at the different names next to the buttons and they were all just labeled with a or b and the floor number. Jenna first tried the first floor and the person sounded really angry and just hung up. Obviously not it. Then she told me I needed to try, I asked her what that little piece of paper was next to the ‘P’ and it said “Barcelona Rooms”. Instantly I remembered that was the name of our hostel was just that. I pushed the button and the door buzzes with the sound that it needed to be opened. So we make our way inside and the person was obviously not from Spain; we couldn’t place it though. She asked us for our reservation and we told her that we didn’t have one. She didn’t seem to get it, so she asked us for a piece of paper that says what we reserved. We told her again that we didn’t have one, this time in English, and she finally got it. She asked us with a smile if we were just going places to test our luck. We agreed with that and she went into the room to mark that we are here to rent the rooms. When she came back, we explained our situation and paid 240 for 4 days. Then we went up to our new room and unpacked after seeing our awesome balcony with a great view! The pictures can’t quite capture the experience of the situation but I will put them in here anyway.

After we set up our space, I checked my email to see that Reisa wanted to meet up with us! She is one of the students who came over to the US for the exchange; we set it up for 6:30.After that, we fell asleep for a while, remember we both had been up all night. At about 6:25, I woke up by accident and remembered that we were supposed to meet them. I got dressed quickly, woke Jenna up and ran down stairs. I waited outside for probably 30 min with Jenna still not out and the Cata’s still not here. After about another few minutes Riesa and Edith both came around the corner. It was so good to see a familiar face, you don’t really quite understand until you are alone in a city for a week. So we went over to a little café to get some drinks and we ended up talking until about 8:15 when Edith had to go catch her bus home. We made our way home and turned in for the night.
That’s all I have for today! Not terribly interesting, but fun to hear about I imagine =]
Hasta Luego!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Breakfast Update

Ok, so I have to make a special post just to comment on the food I just ate. As you probably already read about what I did yesterday, you then know I went to the fresh food market. I forgot to mention yesterday that I also got some strawberries and a plum. For breakfast this morning, I ate about four (of maybe 12) strawberries. They are the perfect dark red, the juice is fantastic when you bite into it, the smell is to die for and there are no pesticides used!
As I was eating these delectable frecas, I suddenly remembered something amazing. I brought Nutella. I run to my bag and shoot my hand inside my backpack to grab the Nutella and then went back to my bed with it. I cracked the seal on the Nutella and grabbed my knife. I started salivating as I combined the flavors of hazelnut chocolate and fresh from the farm, dark-red strawberries. I was not disappointed. This was one of the best combinations that I have had in a long time. The smooth chocolate mixing with the juices of the strawberries, or frecas, is indescribable.
As this was all going on, Jenna was watching me. When I pulled the Nutella out, her eyes got wide and she pulled her hands up to look like a dog begging on its hind legs. I wish I got a picture. I ended up giving her a few knife-fulls of Nutella on her banana that she was eating. Eventually I gave her a strawberry with some Nutella on it. She may as well had been that scene from a movie where the girl falls back in the pad of grass or hay and the camera spins out while she smiles, haha.
I don’t think I need to say that the food here is amazing so far, and I haven’t even had the whole experience yet. 
By the way, thank you to my amazing sister Hannah Garrison for giving me the necklace so I can keep some sense of normalcy without my usual necklace on. Its a silver link chain with my grandpas wedding ring on it, probably shouldn't bring something that valuable and sentimental to Europe. So thank you again to my amazing sister, Hannah! Also thank you to my fantastic mom, Rebecca Hill, for the bracelet that was made for me a while ago then fixed for this trip! They will both be in many pictures =]
Well theres my quick update this morning, and here is a picture spree of me enjoying the nutella strawberry! Please excuse my mess of hair. =]
Habla Luego!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Tercer Día

Hola todos!
Not a whole lot to report today, I think that I need to find some people to get me out of the house to do something. I was finally able to talk to one of the people who work in the hostel who speaks like 3 or maybe 4 languages: Spanish, Catalan, Russian, and I think another one. Anyway, we talked with her; in Spanish might I add, for a good 20 min about the apartment, the town, the room and such. So then we go out for a bit to see what we could find in the way of food. Yesterday we went out to go for a walk when we found a store whose name was Verduras y Frutas. We were so happy! Those of you who don’t know Spanish, this is a fruit and veggie shop. This shop has the best fruits and veggies! I bought a pink lady that, surprise, has no wax on it. Also, I bought a few carrots that are THE BOMB. They are so tasty, so fresh, and so local! (Cue mom, who for those of you that don’t know, my mom is going back to school to get a degree in sustainability and is/was working on a project about green businesses and locally obtained foods). So anyway, we went back there today to get some goods, and decided to walk around a bit. Wow, you can really see the tourists if you stop looking at all the buildings yourself. They are the ones with the cameras out and only looking at the screens of their phones or cameras to try to the perfect picture. I do admit I would like to get a good picture, but at the cost of looking like a tourist, I wait.
We came back to the apartment (which is actually just a room, but in here I seem to want to call it that, so don’t get it confused, I will let you know when I actually get a place =]) to put the veggies down in the room and as we were going to leave, the lady we were talking to earlier opened the door and let a person in. As she came in, she explained that this was her daughter. So we all got to talking and Jenna asked her about her daughter (she is 24). Some more talk happened and I asked her where we could find some good food. Her mom piped in and said that she speaks English. Oh, this was too much for Jenna to handle; she said “well, now I have to test your English”! (Keep in mind, any time I don’t specifically say what language we are using, it’s Spanish =]. ) She goes on to say that there are really good dishes in the Plaza Catalunya in the bars. I asked her how much and she said about 10 euros, maybe 20 or 30 for a regular appetizer, and if you wanted meat it was going to be even more. By Merlin’s beard! So we finished talking and I asked her how to say post card in Spanish. Her mom proceeded to talk to the daughter in Russian. Of course Jenna piped up again with this and started in with some Russian too. It was cool to hear them talking in their native language (we could tell they were not Spanish. 
So we decided to not go to P. Catalunya and walk around for a bit. We found some very very cool buildings and tried not to look like tourists, but look at the same time: amazing stuff so far. As we were walking home, we found a grocery store, a supermarket kind of store, and got some breads and meats for the makings of tapas again =] As we were walking around the store Jenna decided that she wanted something to make her stomach feel better, she went over to the soda isle and found a 6-pack of 7-up for .35 euros! Yes, you read that right, 6-pack for .35 euros. They are regular cans too, not small ones. We also found a, funky looking, 2 liter bottle for 1 euro, crazy cheap. So Jenna buys that and some other things, and I check out. As we are walking home, we keep telling each other not to smile, and to stop being so friendly. Again, for those of you who are unaware, Europeans are not as friendly on the streets as we are. That’s the main thing that sticks you out as a North American. It’s really hard, especially for us. Also, the speed at which we walk is another thing that makes you stick out. They walk with a destination in mind, but they don’t rush there like we do.
So other than that, not a whole lot happening yet, just laying here in my single bed listening to the sound of a jackhammer in the bed next to me, and the loud North Americans in the room next door. I can see why the think we are loud now, because the only people they have to base their stereotypes off of are the drunks and the teens that come here on spring break. I can see why they don’t like “us”.
That’s all for tonight!
Habla luego

Friday, March 23, 2012

Day 1 1/2

          So it’s now midnight thirty and I am sitting here with Jenna in our room eating tapas. I asked the lady working here where a store was and she explained (or I gathered) that it was just on the street behind us. So we went out to the store and the first thing I see is a cop! They have a stationed police officer in the store! Although… it was 12:00 at night haha. So the 2nd thing I noticed when I went in the store was a rack of magazines… some of you already know where this is going. As I looked over most of the magazines were regular but I noticed one magazine that stood out because it was a little more peach than the others. At first I looked but didn’t notice anything different. Then I did a double take when I thought I saw a naked girl, and as I looked again, there she was on the front of a magazine with nothing hidden at all. Woh! Not what I expected to see at the Spanish equivalent of a 7-11. Anyway, we continue on and start looking for something to eat for dinner. All the sudden we remember our first meal with Maribell (our teacher for Spanish culture in the US) and we look at each other and say “Tapas”! Those of you who don’t know what tapas are, they are (to us) a slice of bread with either shredded tomato or in our case tomato sauce, a slice or two of a thinly sliced cured meat, and a piece of cheese. YUM! So we found everything we needed (Jenna found some Magnum ice cream bars) and checked out. 
          We got back to our apartment and started eating. I got my favorite cheese, cheddar, so I was so very excited to start eating it. As I opened it and pulled a piece off of one of the slices, I instantly knew something was wrong… It felt like those craft cheese slices… I was worried immediately... As I put it in my mouth and chewed, I was so disappointed… it was the craft cheese…  GAH! Oh well, the meat and sauce I got were FANTASTIC so they made up for it. So a few minutes later, Jenna decides to turn on the 19’’ widescreen TV haha. Europe is different than the US. Some of you can see where this is going. It’s now about 12:45 am and she starts flipping through channels. After a few, 5 or so, they start turning to some clothes-less and… private….channels. Yes they have porn on regular TV, and not just one channel. They have, as far as we found, four or five. All different. So after jenna found the Spanish equivalent of big brother, we have been watching that and eating magnum ice cream. Delicioso! So now I am writing this at 1:45 am and having a great time =]
Until Next time!              
Hasta Luego

P.S. Those of you who are observant will notice that it took me about an hour to type this, it’s because of the crappy internet connection and the eating ; ]
Also, those of you who post on my articles: Thank you! I really appreciate the feedback from you, and to know that you are actually reading my posts. One request though: please let me know who it is who posted! One of the last ones didnt have a name so I dont know who you are =] I still appreciate the post though!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The First Day

I am typing this in my hostel room that is probably 8x8 with two beds in it… haha
Heres my story of today:
I woke up this morning in the US at about 4 am to make my flight; of course there were still a couple things that needed to be finished first. My flight was scheduled to leave at about 6:50 so that means that I needed to be there at around 5. We ended up leaving around 5, so obviously I was slightly late. Anyway, I finally found Jenna (my travel and study partner) and we made it through the crazy baggage checking lines with no problems. As we made it to security, we said our “until we see each other again” ‘s and went our separate ways. Security was no problem, and we made it to our flight just in time for the call for all to board!
The flight from PDX to Newark was very uneventful; I talked with a man and his wife about their adventures, surprisingly in Barcelona also, around the world. They told me all kinds of cool things about Barcelona (none of which I remember now haha) and about his family in New York. As we were coming in the last 50 miles or so, I started looking outside at the clouds. They were amazing! There were cloud plumes that stuck out like mountains, valleys, flat areas, and everything the landscape has. It was a fantastic view. Anyway, when we landed, we made our way through the airport to the gate. Why they had to put us literally on the opposite side of the airport, I don’t know. As we were walking we found a diner and grabbed a sandwich and a slice of cheesecake because “You need to eat some good New York cheesecake” according to Jenna. It was weird to say the least. I don’t think it was a good representation of the cheesecake of NY. It was so rich it was like eating ice cream in the form of butter. Very thick.
Four hours later we board on the flight, 7:05 pm take off NY time, 4 pm west coast time. This flight was about 8 hours. Wow… that was a long flight. I tried sleeping but the seats sucked for that, so I resorted to looking out the window, watching a movie and reading my book, Dark Tower. Another uneventful flight, but the scenery once we got over Spain was very beautiful! As it was still dark, I will have to just guess what city we were over Valladolid, because it’s along the path. It’s very hard to describe, but try to imagine a sea of dark, then all the sudden seeing a ring of lights with lines coming out of it. It was so cool!
When we landed, we walked the long walk to customs and went through without a hitch at all and found our bags. It took us about 30 min to find a place to exchange our money at and talking to many people, but we did it. While Jenna was exchanging her money in the bank, I was watching the bags, and while I was grabbing money from the ATM she watched the bags. When I got back, she said that about 5 guys walked back and forth eyeing my laptop bag… the reality of it is scary that people would consider doing something like that in the middle of an airport. After we get our money, we go down to the aerobus which will take us (we hoped) to plaza catalunya. Oh my goodness these guys drive like maniacs. This bus is a regular good-sized bus and the driver whips it around like I do with my little civic! Mopeds and motorcycles are everywhere, weaving in and out of traffic, cars cutting each other off with maybe 3 feet of room, taxis swerving out if front of busses… gah. I’m glad they are not letting me drive here.
So we finally get off the bus,(keep in mind we are dragging our luggage around the town with us too) and it is pouring down rain. I chuckled when I saw how many people had umbrellas, probably 9/10 people have one. So we wander around for about another 40 min trying to find our hostel, and finally do. We got here and it looks like an apartment in NYC. At first I didn’t think this was the place, but then a French couple came out and were very nice and told us that this was indeed the place. He even helped jenna carry her bag up the stairs (70 lbs) and talked with us for a few min (keep in mind our Spanish is limited at the moment). We get inside and pay for our room. As he is showing it to us, we notice one minor flaw… theres one bed. Minor mistake in the reading skills of my compañera. So we end up paying a little more to get a room that has two beds in it.
As of now, that’s whats happened! I am still sitting on my bed listening to Jenna saw logs… or maybe I should call it jackhammering some concrete while she takes her “snap” (snore nap).
That’s all I have for now, so far its been good!
Until next time!
Hasta Luego