Saturday, May 26, 2012

Fun times in Barcelona =]

I’m eating a Chirimoya as I write this (it’s an exotic fruit, well, exotic to the US, has a taste similar to yogurt with a gritty and slimy texture. Its good, though it doesn’t sound like it.) So yesterday (4/31) we woke up at about 12 and we met at Café Zuric in Plaza Catalunya to be on our way down Las Ramblas for the girls and Francesca. As Francesca and I got there, we were on the other side of the plaza so we had to walk around to the other side. We made it on time and managed to find them after about 10 minutes and started on our way. First they dragged me along to a shop that Christina had to exchange a jacket that was slightly too big. After that, we walked shop to shop to shop and looked at all kinds of girly things. Yay. But we were walking around in El Gotic which is the gothic quarter of Barcelona, so it was really cool! All the architecture there is so very old and amazing looking. One point of interest I want to say before I move out of the Gothic center is that we stopped at a store (I had stopped going inside at that point haha) that had a pad for girls that you insert in the back of your pants that gives you more butt, for those of you who lack it. It was the funniest thing hanging there in the window! It literally looked like a butt xD Here’s a picture! 

We wandered the streets for a while, taking pictures of awesome garage art, painters and people doing random street performances. As we continued on in our path, we wondered through a cathedral that I can’t seem to remember the name of at the moment, but I probably will later. Anyway, this cathedral was just like the other one I described, amazing stained glass, fantastic craftsmanship, and lots of holy people. I brought Fra through the church with Ele and they were in awe. As this was not my first one, I was not in such awe, but it was still amazing work. After we were finished with that, we went back out and walked around some more, went in some more stores and ended up splitting off with the group and Fra and I went to La Bocaria so she could see it in all its glory: and it was pretty awesome still. As we walked by the first station, I saw the tempting dragon fruits and needed to pick one up. So we did just that and also bought a chirimoya (the one I am eating at the moment) and a coconut! Let’s see if I can crack this thing and get to the goods inside haha. Anyway, we got some good pictures and here are a few of them:
After going to La Bocaria (which is like the Saturday market, for those of you who don’t know what that is either: it’s a like an open air warehouse that houses sellers with all kinds of goods but this one is mostly food) we went back home and got ready for our next adventure: paella. We made our way over to the stop Drassanus (dr-as-uh-nus) and waited there while the others traveled there. As we were waiting, I watched the Packies trying to sell their things to the passers-by and with no avail, they kept playing with their toys and tried to sell it to the next person. Their toys at night are these (really cool actually) things that they launch up in the air with a rubber band and they light up as they helicopter back down to the ground.
So they finally arrived and we went over to the restaurant and waited in line for our turn. I took a couple pictures of the lights and markets that were open on the street because it was just too good of an opportunity to pass up. We (Ele and I) went back to the line because our friends got a table and we ordered. Paella is only available for two people or more, but at 8 bucks, it’s really not that bad of a price, especially for paella in a fancy, sit-down restaurant. We all order the paella and it arrives about 20 minutes later. It was the most interesting looking dish I can say I have eaten before. I thought it was awesome looking though:
Yes that “shrimp” in the middle is gigantic. It’s probably about 8 inches long! The shrimp here are not prepared in any for eating (other than cooking of course). You have to de-shell, de-head, de-leg, and finally de-poop the things! That’s a lot of work for someone who just wants to pop it and eat it. Oh well, the huge one too much longer to do too. Overall though, I thought that paella was very good tasting! Also, I was able to try a dish that I had not expected to be trying that night: squid ink. It was interesting; they had me mix it with a spicy garlic butter which pretty-well masked the flavor of the ink. It was tasty enough though. After we all get about done, all of the sudden we hear Sara (sitting closest to the wall) scream and the whole line of people gets smashed towards each other. Everyone looks to what she is screaming about and there is a huge cockroach on the wall! All the rest of the girls scream and yell for me to come kill it. I laughed and watched them squirm for a bit while it crawled around on the wall. We waved a waitress over because she was closest; she took one look and did a 180 heel-turn and ran to get a waiter. He sauntered over and took one look and turned and high-tailed it outta there. They all kept telling me to “Get it, Get it!” so finally I got on the floor and started crawling after it! I took with me a napkin and my agent and my fist as a weapon. I first blinded it by throwing the napkin on it (a nice cloth napkin) and tried to smash it with a fist, but to no avail because it out smarted me and ran out from the napkin. I saw this and re-tried my tactic of blind-and-smash. This time it was a success because I managed to get the back-end of it and it was still crawling around. At that point all the girls were freaking out and moving away from the table as I walked around to the other side to get my prize. I bent down to get it and it was still trying to crawl away! Oh my goodness, the resilience of the cockroach. I decided it had had enough for a night and just picked it up in the napkin and gave it to the 4th waiter who came by to take it for the next day’s “Menu del Día”. After I hand over my prey to the chef, I get a round of applause from the whole restaurant, to my surprise. We finished eating and they didn’t offer us any sort of consolation (to everyone’s surprise) and we walked out with over a €100 bill.
Next on our list of things we did was to head over to a place called El gato negro which is a sports bar that happened to be PACKED. So packed, in fact, it was hard to get to the bathroom. We hung out there for a while and I tried a drink that was from Italy that was a lemon flavor. It was pretty tasty. After that we made our way to a different bar that was definitely a “native” bar. This one you had to ring the big city apartment style bell to get in, and go up to the 3rd floor to get in. Once you got in, it was such an experience! They had low lighting, and all over the walls they had pipes from different ages. They had the whole history of the pipe on their walls, pipes included! The whole place was such an experience to talk about. It was just a whole different feel than that of the regular bar.
When we finished there, we went to Apollo (now about 1 or 2 am) and stood in line for a good ten minutes before getting in. The guys who check the bags at the door pulled my water bottle out of Francessa’s bag and asked what this was. She said it was just water, and he threw the water out anyway. I thought it was funny. So we get inside and dance around for the whole rest of the night, until about 5:45 and take off. (That’s when the metros open up again).
Well I think I will sign off for this one, I hope this experience was an interesting one! Haha I sure thought it was. It’s such a different life that I am living here. I think it is definitely an experience to remember! OK, until next time!

Hasta Luego!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Classes, Glasses, and Masses

Hello again!
I have a lot to catch up on, as of right now I’m about a month behind, but that’s what happens when you are going out almost every night!  It’s hard to find time to just stop and write, but I know how much you all appreciate it. I have been doing a better job of keeping track of what I have been doing recently (it’s now may as I am talking about the end of April and beginning of May) So basically what I am going to do here is put a couple of the good highlights in of April, and then next I’ll move on to May. Honestly, I don’t remember a lot of what happened in April, so I will be doing a lot of referring to my pictures and Facebook to remind myself haha!
                To start off with where I left off, I had just found a place to live and was very happy about it. I love the location, I’m about a 30 min walk from the beach, or a 20 min metro,  5 minute walk from my school, I have a huge shopping center 5 minute walk from my house, and the metro is a 3 min walk from my house. Yea, I’m pretty well connected. Anyway class was starting on that coming Wednesday and we also had orientation on that Tuesday. As I was waiting for orientation day to arrive, I decided I wanted to go to the beach. None of my friends who came from Portland, Tawnya, Karina, Jenna, or Tonja, wanted to go so I decided I would just go by myself. So I did, and it was a lot of fun! I walked to the beach by myself, because I can, and took some good pictures of some work by Gaudi (who you all have looked up by now, yes? =D) along the way, and a few things I saw while I was there. Over all, it was a good trip, even though I was alone.
A few days later, I decided to go back to the beach by myself again. While I was there this time, I didn’t bring my camera or anything, I wish I had, but there was a lot of wind that day. The area of the beach that I was at is right next to a public harbor where they launch their private boats. So I mention the wind again because these boats are sail boats in Barcelona. They also have a very… inopportune set of rocks near the area where the boats leave the harbor. Some of you can see where this is going. This mid-sized boat comes floating out of the harbor and starts to put its sail up. As it does so, it immediately gets blown towards the direction of the rocks. They see this and promptly put it away, but the damage was already done. Their boat was moving, although slowly, towards the rocks. A lot of the people on the beach saw what was about to happen and stood up to watch. The people in the boat did everything they could to get their course off that of the rocks, but in the end, the water brought it right where it wanted it to go. It stayed there getting pulled away, and smashed back on the rocks for a good 10 minutes before shore safety came out in their rubber rafts to try to pull it off the rocks. They did their best, but at times it still wasn’t good enough as they were using only ropes. The wind pulled the main boat back to the rocks quickly at times and other times slowly. But about 20 minutes later, and about 20 crashes back onto the rocks, the safety crew finally got the boat off the rocks and pulled it limping into the harbor. Someone’s day was ruined. So after that I wanted to have a little fun. I looked around behind me and I found a bunch of guys who were playing volleyball and I walked over and asked if I could play, they said of course and I ended up playing volleyball with them for about 2 hours, then soccer for another hour before they had to go. I made some good friends who I need to go back to the beach with that day! We got the fb info and I went home.
I just have to quickly comment on this mosquito I just mashed into the wall. It is still trying to move! I look over, it’s to the right of my head, and see it’s body squished into the wall, but its legs still trying to push itself off the wall. Oh the determination. xD
So a few more days go by and it’s the day before orientation and still we had no word on whether it was Monday or Tuesday, so 3 of us (Tawnya and Jenna and I) meet at the Poble Nou campus (5 min walk from my house) and check with security and they say that this campus is closed because it is a holiday. We talked for a few minutes and went back home and got ready for tomorrow. I believe it started it 9 am, so I got there at about 8:40 to be safe, and it was good that I did. I ended up meeting two awesome people, people I still go places with today, and got a good seat. As it started, I had not heard or seen anything from any of the others so I sat next to my new friend and watched the presentation that I gained nothing from. About 20 minutes in, Tawnya came in, and about a half an hour after that Karina came in. Tonja and Jenna never showed up. I gained a little from the orientation; they got my schedule laid out for me, I met two awesome people, and one more person who is the coordinator for the exchange students from the US. She gave us our UPF ID’s (Universatat Pompeu Fabra) and took us the long trek back to her office in Poble Nou campus (we took the Tram Via) and found the office in which we would go to ask questions regarding our ID or enrollment at the UPF and headed out for the day.
The next day was our first class and it was interesting to say the least. My translation class is run by a tiny man from England who has a very weird accent when speaking Spanish, but the thing is, he doesn’t speak Spanish unless he is talking about the translation. The class is in English. Which was hard for me to understand, but it is a slightly easy class. My culture class was immediately after my translation class and everyone shuffled down there to the classroom. We all sat in there for 45 minutes and no teacher showed up. One of the students finally went to check and see if anyone was coming and he came back and said that nobody was coming. So we all took off and met the rest of our group at the entrance of the school and finally met up with the other person who came from Portland, Jorge. Jenna or Tawnya didn’t show up all day that day either. As we were talking we all decided that we wanted to go to the beach and gathered a few people to do so.  We walked to the beach and a few of the people grabbed some drinks and glasses for the beach along the way, I grabbed a Fanta (which are actually made with like 12% fruit juice here) and we went to the beach. We hung out there for a while, until it started to thunder and rain so we went to a McDonalds and sat under their patio for about an hour talking about nothing really. After that, we walked back to the school and they wanted to go to a bar but I was hungry and wanted to go home. So we walked by my house and I told them all bye and started walking to my house, but that was the moment I realized that this was MY time here, and a short time it is at that.  I turned around and ran back to them and told them that I decided I wanted to go out with them after all. And oh my, what a crazy night it was.
Alexandra Lee

We will return to the short broadcast after this short interruption. Before I start off, I have been writing this for the past few days now, because I can’t seem to find the time anymore. So my short story of today (may 15th) is that we went to class, which Tonja was 30 minutes late to and Karina was 50 minutes late, met some of the students who are going to Portland in the fall and afterword went to the park. We stayed there for about 3 hours just talking and watching people. The sun started going past the trees and stopped giving us the warm feelings, so we decided to go home. I stayed up for a little bit but I can’t sit in my chair anymore because it makes my back hurt so I lie down on my bed and promptly fell asleep. At about 2:30 am, a mosquito buzzed in my ear and woke me up as I swatted it away. I checked my phone and saw I had a message from my awesome Australian and sent her one back thinking she would be away by now. A moment later I got another buzz and it was from her! I have been talking to Alexandra Lee, (see right) for the last 3 hours while writing this post. I met her from a random post on MyYearbook about 2 years ago and have been talking to her off and on since then. Kind of a cool story for me. Anyway, this girl is pretty fantastic, and crazy beautiful and I am hoping to get to see her while I am here in Europe! If not here, I will make her come to see me in the US, or I might go to Australia, I have always wanted to go there. I have started talking to her a lot lately and I have found that we have a lot in common, we like the same things, want to go to the same places, both want to backpack Europe, we have the same ideas about life and we can talk openly about anything. It’s a whole new experience to find a person I can connect so well with! If you are interested, I’ll give you more updates if anything happens. Anyway, enough about me, back to me!

 To start off, we all were in this bar that is very close to my house and we were watching a fútbal game, Barcelona vs Chelsea I believe. Tawny and Karina ordered a pizza to eat while Jorge ordered drinks, whiskey doubles on the rocks for him, and proceeded to talk to the bartender about how short his drink was. She then poured about another double in his glass and then came back to the table.  We sat and talked for a while and Jorge finished his drink and went up and got the same drink for everyone. So I sipped my JB for the rest of the night while he kept getting shots for everyone when they finished their drinks they took our glasses and gave him more. This all went on until about 11 (started at about 8) and I think a total of 4 2-shot drinks for Jorge alone, and about 6 shots of JB plus the 4 2-shot drinks he ordered in the beginning. He probably ordered about ¾ of that bottle! I bet you all want to know what he paid. He actually paid for everything, including the pizza and the other little shots the girls ordered, for a grand total of…. Wait for it… €40. Yep. I don’t know how he did it. It was incredible. Anyway, we didn’t find out how much it was until later. Then we went to another bar where we were supposed to meet a bunch of exchange students, but when we got there, there wasn’t anyone there. 
When we came in the bar, Jorge was… ahem… a little more than buzzed… so he  asked a guy where everyone was and the guy too it the wrong way. The guy started yelling at him and at that point Jorge just came and sat at the table with us. The bartender came over and asked us what the problem was and Jorge tried to explain the situation; we had expected to see a bunch of people here from the exchange, and the guy took it the wrong way.  Jorge stood up, all 5’6” of him, and was trying to just talk to the bartender on a normal level, very calm voice with no anger in it at all. Immediately the bartender tried to make him sit back down and took a step back, as if Jorge was trying to be aggressive. We all were watching in awe is this situation went downhill fast. Jorge never did anything to be aggressive, but they kept thinking he was. After about 5 minutes of explaining, they finally calmed down, ordered a few other drinks and we ended up meeting another exchange student who also thought the meeting was that night. We talked to her for a while and she ended up having a place for rent, and Karina needed one. After we were done with the bar, we walked over to her house to look at the room for rent. As we went into their house, the guy who lived there came to the door and let us all in. As we all came in, the girls all did their hellos and Jorge and I were a bit later, so we missed it. We both walked in (the door was open) and they start talking to us too. Jorge, drunk as he was, makes a drunk joke and says to the guy “Who the F%^K are you?” and the guy does not look impressed. But he did say it with a smile on his face and even laughed afterword. A few minutes go by and the guy starts talking to Jorge like he was angry too and tells everyone that the guys need to leave. I stood there still talking to the girl, and he literally pushes Jorge out of the house and comes over to me and elbows me out of the house. I was so surprised, that I didn’t know what to say or do, so we both just walked downstairs and hung outside talking about the night. I reassured Jorge that he didn’t do anything wrong in either bar, maybe he went a little far in the house, but it wasn’t as bad as that guy reacted to it. Either way, the girls came down and we started walking towards home.
As we were walking, it was about 3 am now, we realized that the metros were closed and Karina, at this point, lived far out of town. Both Jorge and I told them they were more than welcome to come and sleep at our houses and they said that they would come and sleep at mine because it was closer to the school. So we came back to my place, I dressed them up in my clothes and I put them to bed. I, meanwhile, stayed out on the couch. The next morning I was woken up at about 8 A.M. by my roommate asking me why I was sleeping on the couch. I told him my friends and I were out last night and the metro was closed so the girls couldn’t get back to their places so I just let them sleep in my bed. He got angry and said that it was not ok that I did that, he did not want me treating his house like a hostel and next time they can just take a taxi home. Yea right, €50 later they get home.  He told me that I could have people over; they just had to stay in my room. So after a while they both woke up and we went off to school to the 2nd day: lingua Española. My teacher is the BEST. She is from Madrid, she has a british accent when she speaks English, and she teaches sooo well! There were about 20 students in the first class, and as of the last few classes, there are us 4 (Jorge is in the next class up as he is a native speaker) and one other girl. There are 5 in total is everyone comes to class, while there are still 10 on the records. My other classes are packed to the seams, with people standing without a chair.
A couple of more random stories before I end this novel. One day I was talking to my roommate about some Spanish and we were telling each other some slang when he told me something (I still don’t remember what it was exactly) about a hit the road phrase. He said the phrase was Sabe something, which in Spanish means to know, but also to taste (I did not know about the latter). I asked him if you could tell a person “tu sabes mal” and he just about died of laughter. He was laughing so hard he had to run to his room and laugh some more. When he came back to the kitchen, he was laughing still, but explained why he was laughing. He told me that saber means to taste as well and said that I told him he tasted bad as if I licked his arm or something. I said “oh” as if all embarrassed. He laughed some more and told me that I should tell our other roommate “sabes bien” and see what she says. I never ended up telling her because I was quite embarrassed.
Next story is about my first experience with the exchange gathering and the night bus. Tuesdays here in Barcelona, they have a get-together at a bar in Passig de Gracia which is a very well-known street here. The bar is quite a sports bar, and they sell drinks for very cheap. So its easy to say why masses of people come to the bar every tuesday night. I met a few very awesome people there, one is from Italy, with whom I still go out with to this day and do things. Valentina is awesome, she is about 5 foot, or less maybe, but full of personality and loves to do things with people. I’ll spare you the list of people who I have met there, but I needed to tell you about Vale because I hang out with her a lot. Anyway, I ended up talking to a lot of people that night, until about 1 am to be exact, before I realized the metro was closed. I ended up talking with Jenna and she was going to take the NitBus which is the night bus (obviously) of Barcelona. They have restricted times but a bus is better than walking sometimes. So we walked over to the buss pickup station and one finally came rolling by and it was heading the wrong way for Jenna so she took another one later, but I got on this one because it was supposed to be heading to Plaza Catalunya which would then give me my other bus to take me to my house. So I got on and whipped out my phone and started playing some games. After about 10 minutes I started getting worried and looked at my map for a road near me. I couldn’t find the road I was on, so I started getting more worried. I pulled my phone out again and started playing games again and looked up every once in a while to see if I knew something of where we were going. About 3o minutes later we got on to the freeway and I knew instantly this was not the bus I needed. It took me a few minutes to gather the courage to ask the driver (in Spanish of course) if this bus was headed towards the plaza. He looked at me like I was crazy and said no, this bus has already left the plaza. He opened the door and told me that I needed to take the same bus but the opposite way which was down this street and to the left. So I do just that and find another bus stop and get picked up. Another 45 minutes later I finally make it to the plaza I needed and ask the different bus drivers which one will take me to my place. I finally got the bus I needed and made it home at about 3:30. About 2.5 hours later than I wanted to. That was my first experience with a bus system in Barcelona.
Most Tuesdays of April were spent in the bar meeting awesome people and usually not drinking, and most Wednesdays were spent in the dance club called Razzmatazz that has masses of people come every Wednesday because it is free for ESN. One night I was on my way to the bar on a Tuesday and in the metro I was walking behind two cute girls who were speaking English, I stopped rushing by and talked to them and they said they were from California and Georgia. I was just talking to them about random things: about their stay here, when they were leaving, how long they had been here, etc. I walked with them all the way to the cars and got on with them without even thinking. We rode to the next stop before they asked me where I was headed and I said Passeig de Gracia, and they said that it was the other way! Crap! I got on the wrong car haha. Whoops. So I got off on the next stop and rode back to the right metro and got to my bar about an hour and a half late. They were all wondering what had happened to me; they all laughed when I told them the story.  
One day a little later I went over to Jenna’s house after I bought a whole chicken for 3 euros and went over to Jenna’s house with it and some veggies and some ranch I had made. We cooked those and made a great lunch/dinner and ate while talking. We studied a bit and then I came back home. The next day was San Jorid, which is their equivalent of Valentine’s Day in the US, where here they buy each other gifts of a rose for the girl, and a book for the guy. I met up with Tawnya and Edith (one of the girls who went to Portland for the Exchange) and we hung out and walked around all day. We walked inside the Barcelona city hall and got a tour of that, then walked to a cathedral called La Sau and toured that too. Everywhere e went there seemed to be masses of people. I have never seen so many people before. We were hungry so we asked Edith (a native) to take us to some Spanish food. So she took us to a friends mom’s restaurant and we ate there. Unfortunately they were out of all the things that were “Spanish” so we had as close to it as we could get which was pasta and ribs. It was still very tasty. Eventually Tawnya had to leave so I walked around the book stores with Edith who was looking for a book. We went inside a crazy store and left about 30 min later because of the crazy mass of people in the store buying things for the day. So we said our adeu’s and parted ways.  As I was on my way home, I was thinking about getting my roommate a rose because I knew her boyfriend wouldn’t be there to get one for her (not trying to snatch her, just being nice) I walked by a lady who was selling roses for a cause of some children and It was only 1,50 so I picked one up and brought it home for her. She was very happy to see it and surprised all the same. I think it made her night.
Alrighty folks, that’s all for this installment of this months journal haha. Let me know if there is anything you would like to see (picture wise) and ill try to make it happen. If not, Look forward, but don’t hold your breath, to the next post!
Hasta Luego!
Fuego (Diego)