Saturday, January 31, 2009

I like when people leave comments... and lately no one has been leaving any. Let me know if my posts are too long... if they are I'll totally shorten them!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

¨Happy Berthday¨ Part 2

Well it was Sunday, and my mom had told me we were going to have family over for "meriendas" to celebrate Silvia's birthday, but she never said when. So I assumed around lunch time. When that didn't happen, I decided to go have some quality time with my books and homework (which actually turned into a nap around 7pm)so my mom came in and woke me up, I quick changed clothes, and braced myself for meeting the whole extended family.

It turns out I was worried for nothing! It was really fun, everyone was really nice, and really patient! It was mainly aunts and uncles and a few cousins and I talked to almost everyone. :) Words can't accurately describe how welcome I felt, part of a family. It was like I was home with my family for a birthday celebration, just speaking a different language. I really enjoyed it 'cause usually I feel like I'm not actually part of the family, just a passer by. My host family talks of the other kids they've hosted and my mom can't even remember the girls names! I don't want that to be me in a couple years! I want to build life long relationships with these people and I'm starting to feel stumped on how to do it!

On Wednesday night I came home at 9:15 pm for dinner... no one was home. I took a nap until 10pm... no one home. No dinner for me that night, so I went out to the bars with my friends for a quick drink and the free "tapas" they serve with the drinks. And this morning, Saturday, I woke up to the sound of my family scrambling around trying to get out the door... I'm not sure where they went, or what time they're coming home... Sad. I think the worst part is I really like them, and I KNOW I would get along really well with my sisters 'cause they're really goofy like me... but it's hard to be the real me with this language barrier! I just don't know how, and I feel like they don't have the time to listen to me try to speak Spanish. I guess maybe I should just get over being scared, or timid... I don't know. If anyone has any tips, please let me know!

That's all for now.

P.S. I'm getting sick... most likely strep. :(

Whirl wind of a weekend. Madrid.

It´s been a long time, hasn´t it? Well, I´ve told a number of you about my crazy weekend, but for those of you that haven´t heard about it yet... take a seat, buckle up, a get ready for some fun! (WOW CHEESY! I hate myself sometimes).

Well the whole school has off on Fridays so we can take class trips. This first school sponsored trip was to Madrid! We arrived around 10:30 am and headed straight to the Palacio Real. With in minutes, while waiting in line to enter the Palace, a girl got her money stolen right out of her purse! For the rest of the day we all looked around suspiciously, guarding our bags with our lives!! Swiper no Swiping! (again... why do I do these things?). Needless to say, the Palace was FREAKING SWEET! All of the original carpets, tapestries, artwork, and furniture was still there! We had a personal tour of about 30 of the 2800 rooms in the palace and got to see the armory, and royal pharmacy! Haha :) We got back on the buses (which some friends and I nearly missed) and had a short bus tour of the city before heading to lunch at el Museo de Jamon (the ham museum... which isn´t actually a museum) where we were served fried chicken and french fries... AUTHENTIC! The day only got better ´cause the rest of the day was free time to explore. The girls and I went to find our hostel, checked in, and Nicole and I went on a wild goose chase to find a Movistar (cell phone company) so I could add more money to my pay-as-you-go phone.This search went on for about 3 hours, but I also think we went into EVERY shoe store that was selling botas (boots) too. Boots are all the rage... you can´t find a woman NOT wearing boots. Even 6 year old children are wearing them! (So of course we got some en rebaja!).

After a successful movistar and boot hunt, we headed back to the hostel to see what everyone was up to for dinner. As we walked in, it turns out the most of the girls had already gone grocery shopping for their dinner and were eating it happily on the floor. So again, Nicole, Jenna, and I headed out to find a supermercado to get some groceries. And what did dinner consist of? Nicole and I split a loaf of french bread, a bag of almonds and a bottle of 89 cent wine. YES, 89 CENTS FOR A BOTTLE OF WINE! ... And it wasn´t even half bad! Over here, wine is cheaper than water. Works for me! After our fancy dinner we all beautified ourselves for a night on the town. Most of the girls wanted to just walk around and find places to go... but Nicole and I decided to sign up for a bar crawl. 10 euros to get free cover for 4 bars and a discoteca, with free shots and sometimes beer, and discounted drinks. We also got to go out with people from a bunch of other hostels! We met people from Australia, Germany, France... it was an awesome night! (This is when I met Amin) :)

So Nicole and I made it back to the hostel around 4 am (which is still really early here in Spain) so when we met an Argentinian on our way up the stairs, we decided to sit and practice our Spanish with him in the lounge for... 3 HOURS! I didn´t know I was capable of talking in Spanish that long ;)... So long story short, went to bed at 7am, and had to check out of the hostel at 10:30 am... meaning 3 hours of sleep to fuel me for the next day of sight seeing!

I made it through the rest of Saturday seeing many things (see Facebook photo album for details) and headed home to Toledo. I was really surprised how at home I felt when I first saw the walls of the city where I now live. I felt calm, and relieved to be back home.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

"Happy Berthday"

My Wednesday started at 12 am with my sisters singing Happy Birthday to my youngest sister Silvia (who turned 18 yesterday!). At first nothing seemed out of the ordinary until I realized "wait, they're singing in english, to OUR happy birthday tune. Something's not right!" But so it was. None of the birthday celebrations turned out to be "authentic" or what I expected to be an "authentic" celebration for birthdays. My busy family met at the mall food court to share a special birthday lunch! Silvia, her friend and I decided to get Telepizza, Barbacoa for her friend, Pepperoni for Silvia and 4 cheese for me. Safe choice... or so I thought. 4 cheese turns out out to have goat cheese on it... which not only my mind but also my body rejected as "non edible" food. Ohhhhh jeez was the rest of the day a long day... and dry heaving and gagging all the way through my nightly run with Nicole. GREAT, THANKS GOAT CHEESE. At least my favorite class had been fun. And my day could have been a lot worse.

I haven't been sleeping really well for all of this week... and my first Thursday class was at 8:40 meaning I should get up around 7:10 to get to class on time. This morning I woke in a pitch black room and in a panic. Though I immediately told myself not to worry, and that if I was late it would be light in my room already. I thrashed around for my alarm clock, pushed the button to illuminate it and nearly had a heart attack... 9:30 am. My class would end in 25 minutes and had no way to get there that quickly, even for a little bit. Panic stricken, I ran to the bathroom to throw up... which I still blame on the goat cheese. I choked down some coffee (the only thing I thought I could keep down) and dashed to the bus stop, only to see the bus pulling away a block away from me at the bus stop. GREAT. My next class wasn't until 11:30, but I didn't want my teacher to feel that I had skipped class!
I waited the 10 minutes at the deserted bus stop for the next bus and calmed myself by belting out tunes I was listening to on my iPod. I was horrified to find out that my friend Jeff Far (say his name fast and tell me what you think of jaja) had also been at the bus stop the entire time and had heard me singing and rocking out to 80's ballads.

Besides missing my first class of the day, the rest of my 4 classes passed pretty uneventfully, I semi-planned my semester travels during lunch, and bought two pairs of shoes at the mall for 7.20 euros. However, when my mom got home I was scolded for not calling to say I wasn't coming home for lunch! I had totally forgotten 'cause I added a new class today that is during the usual time for lunch! JODER! Just my day. But all is well, tomorrow we're going on a trip to Madrid where the majority of us are staying overnight to check out their night-life, and check out a Real Madrid game. Disfrutense el fin de semana!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

First couple days of classes...

"Back to school, back to school, to prove to dad I'm not a fool. Lunch packed up, boots tied tight, I hope I don't get in a fight... Ohhhhh back to school..."
(For those of you that know I like to quote movies... try to figure that one out!)

Anyways, The first day of school came like any other. Woke up to my travel size alarm clock whose batteries are dying... so really the alarm sounded more like an whine than a beep. However, today the sound of my alarm didn't reflect my attitude toward classes... for once! I got to school early, ready for my first class... Linguistics! I have been wanting to take a linguistics class since I graduated high school and just never had time to fit it into my schedule with all of my Carlson Requirements. Sol (my professor) is one of the nicest and most animated ladies I have ever met! She is so excited for us to learn but reminded us that most importantly (even more than classes) is getting out into the culture, experiencing Spain for what it is, and meeting local people. How often do you hear that from teachers?! (Something more important than THEIR class... NEVER! ;) ).

Today was HARD! I didn't sleep very well last night, and went to bed too late... so making it through 4 straight classes (each an hour and 15 minutes) with only a short break for lunch was super hard. I caught myself dozing off a couple of times (the teachers were only going through the syllabuses after all) but tried to keep myself awake so as not to be rude! I wasn't very successful. After my last class of the day (Political Science in Latin America) I decided to go for a walk before making it back to school to watch the inauguration with everyone. It was a beautiful, crisp, almost spring day, and I saw parts of the city I had never seen before. I made it back just in time for the inauguration, and a local news team asked if they could come in and video tape our reactions and interview a few of us. I guess I made it on TV here and I've still never been on TV in my own country. Que guay! (which is synonymous to "chevere" here or "cool" for all of you English speakers).

As it approached 7pm my day still wasn't over! Sign-up for extra-curriculars like flamenco lessons, cooking lessons, or sports was right after. Then we headed back to our barrio where a friend and I stopped for a cafe con leche so I could stay awake through dinner. We discussed plans for our weekend in Madrid and current events (we cheated and spoke in English :( sorry). Now that I have eaten dinner (at 10pm) I am about ready to call it a day. With only one class tomorrow I look forward to buying my books, working on homework, and going out for my sister's birthday. I wonder if I should buy her a present?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A little on Spanish Cuisine

Hey guys! I just realized (after an amazing authentic lunch) that I haven't said much about the food here and that's always one of the biggest parts of any culture! So here's a little blip (and I promise to try and make it short!).

First: Cocido madrileÑo. This one is typical near and around Madrid when it's cold out. This is served in three parts: soup (sopa), meat (carne), and legumes (garbanzos). The soup is plain broth with thin and short noodles. The beans are sometimes put in the soup. The beans are usually made with other vegetables and it all varies by the preferences of the person making it. Prado made it with potatoes and carrots. The last part is meat. Prado cooked chicken and ham! Yum! Every meal is served with bread, but the longer french bread kind that is made fresh for every meal.

Second: Gazpacho. This is literally bread and cold tomato soup. Very popular in the hot summer months.

The last one is paella. Which I already mentioned, so I will just add a picture for your viewing pleasure.

First two nights in review

Well, according to my last post, I was suppose to have gone out with friends two nights ago. This plan, however, was never actually carried out.

Well, I decided it would be cooler and more authentic if I went out with my sister Ester, you know, "see how the locals do it" kind of thing. We left the house around 10:40, went to pick up her friend Monica and made it to Toledo a little after 11pm. Our first stop was at a place called Dodici a club/bar and tonight, a concert hall. One of the local bands (pretty well known and well liked I guess) was playing. Also, the lead singer just happened to be the cousin of her best friend/ younger sister's boyfriend David. Yes, you heard that right, my youngest sister Silvia is dating Ester's best friend. Yikes. Anyways, the music was pretty good, couldn't understand most of it (but neither could anyone else jaja). After that was over we went to another bar (can't remember the name) where I met more of her friends. My two favorites were both named Beatriz. They had been to the U.S. last year so we had a little to talk about, and they were really patient with me because they remembered what it was like to be completely clueless. Well long story short, besides a few minutes of small talk with the "Beas" as people called them, I was lost in translation, with no one to talk to, feeling dumb and boring.

However, after a quick pep-talk from Erika, the next day (yesterday) I was ready to make it count. I didn't wake up until 1:30 pm... yes I know that's late in the U.S., but after getting home at 4 or 5 it's really not that bad. So anyways, I walked into the living room where my mom (Prado) was sitting watching a movie and she told me we were having friends over for drinks and lunch. I was thinking at like 2:30 when we usually have lunch, but what do you know, a couple minutes later a family comes over all dressed up and I am still in my pajamas, hair in a pony tail, face not washed (luckily I had brushed my teeth) and I now had to hug and kiss these people I just met (which means close proximity, which means I probably smelled). A quick change and Bam we were sitting down eating Paella!!! It's a rice dish with tons and TONS of seafood! Love it!

After lunch I walked down to the end of the block (where two girls from the U live) and Nicole's mom, Isa, drove us to the mall (where I found some great buys! Everything is en rebaja). When we got home my mom made me some very authentic hotdogs and scrambled eggs for dinner (which I didn't mind). Later, I met up with Nicole and Ben (other kids that live in my neighborhood) and we went to a local neighborhood bar/club called La Luna. There weren't many people there, and those that were, were old. However, the drinks were CHEAP! I guess the bartender thought Nicole and I were pretty because he charged us 3 Euros (pronounced Ey-Oo-Roes) for two drinks and charged Ben 10 Euros for three :) We came home early, around 3, and called it a night. Today Prado has prepared an authentic lunch, later I'm going for a run in old Toledo, and stopping at school to talk to a teacher. And tomorrow... CLASSES START!! Until then, hasta luego!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Mi despertador no sonó!!

Translation: My alarm clock didn't go off!! That's right, day two and I didn't make it to school today. But let me tell you the story first. Last night they told us we should arrive at the school at 10 am for a guided tour of the city. So I went home that night set my alarm for 8:40 so I could catch the 9:15 bus. Well I woke up an hour before my alarm was suppose to go off, but realizing the time I went back to sleep. The next time I woke up it was 10:35 am... what happened?! In a panic I check my alarm and sure enough it was set for 8:40 pm... I'm SUCH AND IDIOT! In a panic I weight my options. Rush over to the school where I know they would be gone already... or take my time, eat lunch, and plan it to get there around the time they should be getting back to the school. Well I decided to do just that. After a leisurely morning I got off the bus and who was right in front of me? A tour group! What luck!

Well this was just perfect because I had planned to buy a cell phone with my friends after the tour anyways. So we did just that and I stopped to buy some other much needed toiletries. After that we headed home for lunch and siesta. Lunch was rice, grilled ham, and bread today and prepared by mi hermana Ester (who is 19). It was delicious! I wasn't tired after just having woken up so I checked email and looked up words in Spanish before I headed out for a run with a neighbor, Nicole, around 5pm. It was kinda annoying getting cat-calls every two feet... so we didn't run for very long, that and she didn't bring her running shoes and was running in her brown day shoes. :)

As for the rest of the day I've been home alone. And to fill the time? Skype with my mom and dad (everyone should get it so I can talk to you guys... it's FREE!), and I've updated the blog with pictures, and facebook with even more pictures. Feel free to check out either one. Later dinner will be around 10, I'm going with some girls to meet at school and go out to the bars around 11 and then the clubs around 1. So for right now I have a date with my razor, and after that, a date with my bed! Catch ya on the flip side! Hasta luego!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

All settled into mi casa nueva

For all of you that don't speak Spanish that means "new home." Well I'm here, I've met my family, had dinner with them and spent some time with my new sisters. My mom's name is Prado, my dad's name is Jose Luis and my three sisters are Laura (22) Ester (19) and Silvia (will be 18 next week). My house has four bedrooms, a kitchen, two bathrooms, and a living room. Everything is so much smaller here, but it's enough room for me. During the week dad doesn't sleep at home (I haven't figured out why yet) so Prado and Silvia share a room, and the other two have their own. Tonight we had a very authentic dinner at around 10 pm... take out pizza! HaHa! I loved it, some of the best pizza I've ever had :) I really liked having dinner with them because it was just non-stop talking and laughing. It's almost midnight and everyone is still up even though we all have to get up at around 7:30 tomorrow.

I gave them their little gifts and they seemed to really like them (a Calendar of Milwaukee, and various body butter scents for the girls. We watched the soccer game Real Madrid against Barcelona tonight. It's nice to have some good soccer to watch! So tomorrow the girls are waking me up and I am taking the bus with Silvia into old Toledo (we are in a suburb about a 20 min bus ride from the school) so she can show me the ropes.

As for school tomorrow we have a whole day of placement testing, and signing up for classes. Only until about 1 pm when we will break for lunch and siesta!! (aka Nap time for everyone!) The entire city shuts down as everyone goes home for lunch with their families and a short nap. Everyone usually gets back around 3 and then works again to about 9. I have an orientation at 7:30 and a "Welcome" dinner at 8 at the school with all of the kids. Plenty of time to explore the city before that.

Well that's all for now, I'm hoping into bed and drifting off the sleep to the sound of my new mom and sisters talking from room to room and giggling. :) Buenas Noches.

Worst flight EVER

Well I don´t want to start out this trip as a negative nancy so I´m going to point out all of the good things first. All of my flights were ahead of schedule, and I sat next to a really nice man. However I didn´t sleep a wink the entire time, and now I am in Amsterdam in the middle of the day with zero sleep. Perfect! More to come later!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Contact Info

Well it turns out this blog and e-mail will be the best way of contacting me. I have also downloaded skype onto my computer which allows me to make calls and receive calls from other computers so I can hear all of your lovely voices! Other wise if you want to send a letter the place to send it is:

Shannon Morrison
Estudios Internacionales
Fundación Ortega y Gasset
Callejón de San Justo, s/n
45001 Toledo, SPAIN

I will be buying or renting a cell phone over there but it will only work for National calls in Spain. Even though it will be harder than usual keep in touch and keep me in your prayers!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Packing tips?

With the flight looming just 3 days over my shoulder... and no progress at all in the packing department, panic has set in. What if I forget something? What if I can't find what I need over there? Not only that, but how does a girl pack for six months??! I want to just pack my whole apartment into a duffle bag and call it a day but somehow I think the Airlines would charge me more than $15 a bag if I tried to do that! Everyone I've talked to has suggested packing 10 outfits, and most of it "clubin' clothes"... but what if I want to go skiing one weekend, or hiking another weekend? Won't I need my hiking shoes? My snow pants? Okay, okay. I'll get past all of that superficial stuff... but now what about the language barrier? Will my host family speak a little English? Is 8 years of Spanish classes enough to be considered "fluent", or at least enough to be understood??

**Deep Breath** This is going to be one of the greatest adventures of my life... and I'm scared. Yes, excited... but also very scared. No one likes to leave their comfort zone... and for 6 months... that's just ballz-y. I've already started some homework assignments, and should be reviewing some Spanish... but I feel that no matter what I do, I won't be able to prepare for the culture shock, embarrassing moments and amazing stories to come.

On top of all that, how do I leave the home and relationships I've built in Minnesota for six months? Will it change? Will they forget me? Will I still fit in when I get back?

I guess overall I've learned that nothing great is won or earned without a little sacrifice and taking some big chances... so on the count of three close your eyes, hold your breath and jump: 1... 2... 3...