Monday, May 9, 2011

2 weeks of school

Well these past two weeks have been amazing! Not having to go to school and being able to travel around with my sister :) but today we have to start back at school and the following week is final exam week... so let the stress begin!
Another positive: I'm finally completely well again -- so I get to start back at the gym! and the weather has been amazing so there is definitely going to be some beach time coming up!

Write soon! xo

Monday, April 11, 2011

4th post... updated 2 weeks worth in all!

Hey! After you read all of this... I'll only be a month and a half behind in my postings... hahaha -- at least I've caught up this far!

02/14 Monday

Today is Valentine's day and the school celebrated it!! Every coffee machine on campus was giving out free coffee -- just push the kind you wanted and it popped out a cup, the coffee, the sugar and a stir all FREE! Our track teacher, Eva, laughed when one of the guys walked in after break double-fisting coffees in both hands: "Just like Americans... taking as much as they can when things are free." In a way she's right... but in a way I was offended because I wasn't sitting there with two and three cups of free coffee -- ignorantly, I had actually paid for my one little cup that day. Funny to hear what the rest of the world thinks about Americans, though, and how they stereotype us all being alike.
At break, I went over to the Torre (USAC office location) to check for mail and I got a card from Lauren Berkey, my aunt Cyndi and a huge box of Nutrisystem along with my mom and dad's card... haha. I hit the gym up to do cardio in between classes, grabbed a little bit of lunch and finished out my classes. The box of Nutrisystem was so big that Sylvain (picture to the right) -- the employee -- had to drive me home from school because I couldn't carry it by myself. He was hilarious in the car! He was cussing at all of the other drivers on the road -- but he was using Italian curse words. Then he'd start singing and dancing and making weird faces... goof.

Today was my cleaning day -- I decided to clean the kitchen up a bit: mopping, counters, reorganizing, etc. and I also did a bit of laundry. I like for things to be clean :) and hopefully, the roommates appreciate it as much as I do! Alec came by later with a vase of flowers... 5 pretty red flowers: one for each roommate and then one for Emma McNeil because she was at the apartment at the moment... haha :) It was really cute because since none of us had received flowers for Valentine's day we now had something to decorate the table with!

02/15 Tuesday

BANANA MUSH! Yes -- today I spread the love of the mushed banana sandwiches... now for those of you who don't know what Banana Mush is, it's a spread for sandwiches consisting of:
  • bananas
  • peanut butter
  • mayonnaise
  • sugar
and it's DELICIOUS!! So yesterday, I went to the grocery store to get all of the ingredients and today, I brought it in to share with my conversation class... and yes -- everyone loved it! Even the people who swore they were going to hate it because they don't like mayonnaise loved it. This is the second study abroad that I've shared the Banana Mush love and both classes have had complete success!! (in Spanish success = éxito).
ALSO met with my other intercambio today: her name is Marie Carmen and I met with her in the cafeteria after classes ... she didn't show up till 4PM so I had to sit there for three hours doing homework while waiting on her to come. She was pretty cool even though conversation got quiet at times! Interested to see where this will lead!! (p.s. an intercambio is someone I meet with once a week or so to speak with so I can practice my Spanish and they can practice their English... right now I have two!) She read me a story that they were reading in class and I corrected the English words that she pronounced incorrectly... then I had to leave and rush home because today is Tuesday and you know what that means... COOKING CLASS (and the picture to the left is a picture of Alicante from where cooking class is located)!!
Tonight was mmmmm oober delicious! We made: Ensaladilla Rusa (Potato Salad), Brochetas de Magro con Verdura (Loin of pork and vegetables brochette), and Arroz con Leche (Rice with Milk) for dessert. **remember -- I have all of these recipes if you'd like any of them! Just leave a message on here or something** I remember back in high school my friend Jennifer Palma brought in arroz con leche for our Spanish class and it was one of my favorite deserts that I'd ever tried -- so I was really excited about tonight's class because I was getting the opportunity to learn how to make that (that I hadn't had since that one day in class). It turned out that Jennifer's mom's arroz con leche was way better than the one I cooked up, but she's had more years to practice ;). The other food was great, though! It was just like grilled kebabs on a stick that we make back in the U.S... the meat was very juicy and the vegetables, too. Chelsea and I had great appetites this night.

02/16 Wednesday

Alright... I'm tired of starting off each day with "Today was... " So, let's think of a different beginning. What can I say about this Wednesday?

Volunteering was a thing that was different about this Wednesday than the others I've had so far in Alicante, Spain.


On Wednesday, February 16, 2011, I went to the English as a second language school in San Vicente to volunteer my time to help teach adults learn English! But seriously, after school I waited around till 5PM when Luis took Jasmine (another girl from my program who decided to volunteer as well) and I to the English school about 15 minutes away from the University. I honestly didn't know what to expect because when I had originally signed up, I thought I was signing up to teach kids -- I get more nervous in front of adults! We got to the school and I felt a little better once I met the director there -- a cute little brunette with big glasses that reminded me so much of my friend Karissa O'Keefe I had to smile and feel okay. She had an Irish accent but was Spanish... she said she studied in Ireland, England and then taught English in North Carolina for a few years -- this blew me away because she doesn't look like she could be more than 25 or 26. Oh well.. she calmed my nerves and took us into her classroom where we sat and watched a few students give book presentations... then she beckoned us to get up and talk a bit to the class. You should have seen their faces! It was as if they had never heard an American talk before! Half of the class couldn't understand Jasmine at all because she has a Chicago accent and talked really fast whereas I talked a bit slower and more clearly. It was funny to them to hear the two different American accents rather than just the British / Irish accent they were used to with their professor. Oh and Jasmine and I learned a bit about ourselves: we are TERRIBLE at drawing!! hahahaha. Whatever they needed explained, we would try to draw on the board, but I think that just confused them even more!

After the class was over, Jasmine and I were bombarded by about 8 people wanting to get our emails, numbers, etc. so that they could practice with us after class. We agreed to four girls whose timetables matched ours a little better than the others... so now I have six intercambios to meet during the week. This should be great for my Spanish, don't cha think?! Our volunteer time lasted from 6-8/8:30 and then we took the long bus ride on bus 24 back to Alicante. I can assure you now that Wednesday's are not going to be my most favorite day of the week even though I really enjoyed the volunteer school. I didn't even get home till 9:15!! That's more than a 12 hour day... whoa!

02/17 Thursday

Seeing that I didn't get home until 9:15 last night to even begin homework, I didn't get much sleep before having to wake for school this morning. bleh... I hate waking up feeling like that! Then the day just feels like it drags on and on and on!! Oh well -- today was a good day! I had school, like usual, but it was followed with lunch at Matt Small's host-mom's house and a dinner date with my original intercambio: Alba! I did a quick workout at the gym after school because Matt said to arrive at the apartment by 2:30... so I got there at 2:45 and sat there til 3:30 with Lola (Matt's host-mom), his host-brother and the host-brother's son. I actually really enjoyed the time I got to just sit and talk to them! His host brother lives on a boat in the port and sails everywhere... he had some pretty interesting stories to tell. The son was ADORABLE and loved messing with the big fluffy cat! Then Matt, MaryAnn and Krista came in at 3:30 and we all had a lunch I will never eat again: soup with Conejo... what is that, might you ask? RABBIT. bleh. I don't know why my stomach reacted the way it did, but after a few bites I started quietly gagging -- and could have kept it a secret and just passed my soup off to Matt -- had Krista not asked why I was gagging... So I politely told Lola that it was probably just the egg in the soup since I instinctively gag around eggs, and then did just as I had planned: passed the rest of my soup to Matt. ALMOST got away... I hate people feeling like I'm insulting their food when I don't like it, but I could not eat that. It was a bit like chicken but with a weird spicy / gross taste to it... and the feeling was a bit different as well. The rest of them loved it but there was something that I couldn't handle. The dessert was amazing though! Strawberries and creme... mmmmm!! And the salad -- as usual -- was great as well! So I didn't leave hungry! Lola always makes sure of that...

After homework and a bit of rest, I left to go meet Alba for the first time. I had to take a bus (bus number 23) up to another part of town called "Gran Via". Alba met me at the bus stop and we walked to a little coffee shop where we sat and talked for two hours. I learned that she is 23 and she teaches at an elementary school in that area and she is as picky as I am about her apartment being clean! She studied in England for a few months and she has never been to America... She continues to think I'm from California even though I've told her several times "South Carolina".. and she is from Valencia and she goes home every single weekend to spend it with her family (hmm... reminds me of ME when I'm in Clemson)! Haha... I really liked her and I can't wait to keep meeting up with her! The time we sat and talked flew by as if no time had passed at all...

(the girls: MaryAnn, Caitlin, Krista, Me, Emma, Alexa [in back])

When I got home, the girls and Matt and I along with a few other people from the program went out to go to a black-light party, but ended up just going to the Goa -- the bar that MaryAnn got a job at. Matt and I stayed about 45 minutes at the max before we both decided we'd like to sleep more than to stay out and socialize.
Good night world.

(the boys: ___, Ryan, Alec, Matt)

And that last sentence is true to me now too (on April 11, 2011)... GOOD NIGHT WORLD!!

No time to do homework

Sunday, April 10, 2011

You can pick your friends; you can pick your nose; but you can't pick your friends' noses!

... But in Spain you probably could! The people here have no recognition of personal space!! That's one thing that I have noticed... and there is no such thing as "PDA" ... meaning, they have never heard that term and been told not to use it. People are all over each other in the streets, stores, concerts, beach... everywhere!
There's my cultural awareness for today -- as for following up on the blog: LET'S CONTINUE!!

02/12 Saturday

Remember, I was in Elda -- the quaint, little town of shoes! -- visiting my friends Francisco and Aida. Well I woke up feeling like I was in heaven because I wasn't in a tiny bed that felt like springs were poking me in the back everywhere! I got up, got dressed and met Aida in the kitchen to have some breakfast. I noticed that her fridge was VERY full of magnets... not sure if I got a picture of it or not but they literally covered every single side of the fridge from top to the floor. I don't know if you could fit even one more on it! She said her family has been collecting them for YEARS. We ate and then left to go exploring the Saturday market (where I found some REALLY cute little pink shoes) and to just walk around a little bit till I had to leave at 1PM. Aida had a lunch date planned with her aunt, so we had to cut the day short, unfortunately. But! we did get to go to the Museo del Calzado (Footwear Museum) which was INSANE! There were four floors of just rooms of shoes and shoes and more shoes dating from 3200 B.C. to now! There were rooms of machines that were used to make shoes and all different kinds of models to show how they were made... each step. There were books of the bookkeeping for the main shoemaker that lived in Elda in the 1800s and all sorts of odds 'n ends in that museum. The Guinness Book of World Record's largest and smallest shoes (picture below) were there along with some of the craziest shoes ever made for art contests and the tiniest shoes I've ever seen... I took LOADS of pictures! I even found out that Aida's grandpa was a huge contribution to the shoe history of Elda and he had a picture hanging of himself in the museum.
I left Aida (sadly) to go back to Alicante for the remainder of the weekend. I got back and ate pasta with chicken, then watched a movie for my cinema class homework, and then caught up on picture editing.

02/13 Sunday

AHH finally... the day of rest! Today was my catch up on my FCA podcast day! I love how Clemson has a podcast for the FCA speakers because it's something I can understand and listen to with my Christian background in the message. I worked on homework and made a few Valentine's day cards, cleaned my room and unpacked from Aida's house. Later in the afternoon Emma McNeil and I went on a walk down to the Explanada... decided to try out the parfaits at McDonalds -- so we split one small one. mmmm :) good treat! Oh, I also cooked some vegetables that I bought at the mercado central recently! What is a good way to cook these types of beans? Because mine came out soggy and a little gross after letting them boil in water. (picture above on the right)

Well there are two more catch-up days... but I have some studying I have to go do! So I'll have to write more later...

Missing America

What to do after such an EVENTUFL weekend?

02/07 Monday

What a weekend to follow up on!! The girls and I, after the late night of ruckus the night before (MaryAnn and I actually shared a bed the remainder of the night because we were both still a little freaked out), decided we could still make it to school, so we got up and got going. Luis, the director of our program who was the one who came to talk to us last night, came in his car and picked us up for school. We left after track class to go on a field trip with our cinema professor to La Ciudad de la Luz which is a film school / film studios area a bit down from Alicante. We toured the entire school and then got to see a presentation on a director who had died just the year before: Luis García Berlanga. His wife was there and everything for the ceremony :) the reception afterwards was full of cocktails and other strange foods... as well as beer for those who like that and orange juice in wine glasses for those of us who don't! The school was definitely impressionable and they had a great amount of equipment for learning and producing films. I couldn't help bu think of all of the little movies that my brother and Ken Etheridge used to put on back in the day... and how they would have loved this place.
Krista and MaryAnn got to go home after this, but Caitlin and I still had our afternoon classes, so we had to go back to the school and sit through another class. Finally at 4:30 I got home and did a bit of homework. I called mom and dad on skype, talked for a bit and then napped from 7PM - 9PM. Got up, ate dinner, joked around with the roommates, and then went back to bed for good. We decided to take a humorous picture of us all sleeping together in one bed, scared for our lives. We got the bed part down... but we're laughing too much to look scared.


Today was the first day that I used the school gym... and MAN I have never seen a gym that was more smelly, or in worse condition that this gym is. At least the weight room... none of the equipment is up to date, its all scattered everywhere and it smells like molding sweat is wiped on everything. bleh. Oh well -- it's a gym and it'll have to do for now. The plus side of this is that I get to shower at the gym and they have HOT showers and the water pressure is amazing!! Way way way better than showering in my apartment.
Today I also signed up to be a volunteer English teacher at an English school close to the University. I wasn't sure when I signed up if it'd be adults or elementary kids, but it looks like it's going to be adults. Not sure at the moment what to think!!
On the bus home I saw the cutest baby in little red boots and a tan pea coat. :) ahhhh !! makes me miss my cousins back home.
Tonight is my second cooking class -- can't wait! The walk up that hill isn't very delightful though. :( AND today I had a thought: I need to start hanging out with more Spaniards! I'm speaking entirely too much English! I need to turn on the T.V. and listen to only Spanish music... try to learn as much as possible. No time like the present to start, eh?

(hmm let's apply that to now?! hahaha considering I never turned on the T.V. BUT I did start hanging out with more Spaniards, and I started listening to Spanish music).

At cooking class we made Potatos a la Riojana (a type of soup), Merluza en Salsa Verde (another type of soup - Hake in Green Sauce) and for dessert: CHURROS!! with chocolate of course mmmmmm!!!

Churros Ingredients
  • Flour
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Oil
1. place water in a pot and add salt and oil. Bring to a boil. The moment it begins to boil, add flour and mix with a wooden spoon and remove from heat.
2. Place batter in a "churrera" or pastry bag and squeeze into approximately 6
cm long pieces. Deep fry in olive oil and turn and brown completely. Drain once fried. Top with granulated sugar and serve.

Potatos a la Riojana Ingredients
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Paprika
  • Chorizo (for cooking)
  • Red bell pepper
  • Green bell pepper
  • Potatoes
  • Tomato (crushed)
  • water / stock

Merluza en Salsa Verde Ingredients
  • Hake
  • Olive oil
  • Flour
  • White broth
  • Garlic
  • Parsley; diced
  • Green asparagus
  • white wine
  • clams

My two favorites were the Potatos a la Riojana and the churros... I didn't really like the Merluza because I don't like fish. If you want any of the recipes for these, I have them :)

After school it was the usual.. skype, homework, walk around Alicante to see what else I could find that I hadn't seen yet until the girls and I went to Cafe del Sal! It was a pub that one of our friends was opening and so we figured we'd support him on the opening night! I didn't stay long at all.. I think I was home by 11:30 and not sure when the rest of them came in. It's a cute little pub, though, and I'm sure it'll have great success in the future. There are couches all around, a fussball table, and it's two stories tall (well -- there's a basement and the normal floor).

02/09 Wednesday

So... yesterday and today were my two big send out postcards days!! In order to get valentine's day things out on time, they had to be sent by today! "Me haces tilín-tolón!" I finished an online assignment for my mom, some driving course, after school and then went shopping with Caitlin to get pens and envelopes. We found two cute little shops right down our road... one called Folders and the other called -- well I'm not sure what it's called but I like it.

02/10 Thursday

After a long day of classes, I went to the gym today with Matt and Gerald!! (two guys in my program). I did legs and such and they did other stuff. After the gym we had a USAC basketball game! It was loads fun and my team ended up winning the majority of the game. Sylvain -- one of the program's employees, popped his arm out of socket (GROSS)! I got to have another hot shower in the gym and then after searing for MaryAnn and Krista to ride the bus home with, left to go home a little afterwards with no luck of finding them. I went into a few shops after school just because I could... I found baby boots... SO ADORABLE!! I want to be able to come back here when I'm a mom and go shopping for my babies. I picked up a little valentine's present for the "hombre" and then I went to dialprix to go grocery shopping with Alec and Chantelle -- got my vitamin C with my bag of oranges, a few bottle of milk and called it a day!

02/11 Friday

Woke up today to the girls saying they were leaving to go up the coast to check out some small towns... that would have been fun but hey! since I didn't know about the plan, I got a whole day to myself to catch up on packing for Elda (to go see Aida tonight!!) and editing pictures.
Elda is a small town about 30 minutes away from Alicante. It was once a major shoe manufacturing town before China took over! When I got there I figured out that Elda and Petrer (where my other friend, Francisco live) both make up the same town, basically. You can't tell where one starts and the other finishes.
Aida and Francisco studied at Clemson with me last semester (Francisco = all of last year), so it was really good to finally see them! Up till now, I hadn't been able to meet up with them yet in the month that I've been here.
At the train station, when I finally left to go to Elda, I met some people from Ireland who advised me not to go to Ireland for St. Patrick's Day. They said that unless I was really into drinking I'd better go somewhere else and come to Ireland another time... haha I guess that made up my decision then, eh? They were a really sweet old couple and I really enjoyed talking to them! I boarded my bus (on my second attempt.. because on the first one I almost got on the wrong bus) and met up with Aida at the bus stop about 30 minutes later. AHHHH!! I loved Elda! It was a quaint little town... cleaner and smaller than Alicante and I just loved it. Aida took me back to her family's apartment where I changed and put down all of my things. It was SO GORGEOUS! It was very modern and nicely decorated and they had an upstairs and a wrap around porch because they were the top floor. From the porch you could see the castle (Torre del Homenaje del Castillo -- built in the 12th century) and all of the mountains in the background. It was breathtaking!
Aida and I walked around to one of the big plazas, delivered a cake to her friend's apartment, and then went to this little pub to grab two fantas while waiting on her friend to finish work. Monica, her friend, picked us up in her BMW and we went up to where Monica lives (further up one of the mountains... closer to the castle) so that we could climb up and see the castle and the old church (the church of Santa Ana).
We climbed up to the church and the castle and while we were on our way... Francisco came up from over the other side of the hill! I was so excited to be seeing both of my friends in one night! We finished our walk up to the castle, had a short look around since it was closed, and then went back to Monica's house to order food for the night. Us four hung out at Monica's house (she is OBSESSED with cow's -- haha) and ate, laughed, talked... etc. till we went to one of Francisco's favorite pubs with a few of his friends. Aida and I had really nice cappuccinos and then we left around 1 something or 2 to go back to her place. Her mom had already made a bed for me out of the couch upstairs and it was lovely! The couch bed was more comfortable than the twin I sleep in at my apartment.

Till Next Time!!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Continuing the catching up!

It seems that I am terrible at this whole blogging thing! BUT seeing as I have a weekend at home -- alone -- I guess I can try to get caught up :)

Let's see... two months ago...
02/05 Saturday

Today was a day hard on the feet but amazing to the eyes and camera lens as shown above in the picture of the Parc Güell with all of Barcelona in the background.

Gab and I woke up and went downstairs to have breakfast - and to quickly get away from the smell of death that guy brought in at 4AM. All they had was corn flakes, bread, milk and butter / jam. Gab basically ate an entire loaf of bread, because as she said, "Might as well stock up now so we have to buy less later!" Haha, goof. We ran upstairs, got all of our things and washed ourselves / dressed in the downstairs, public bathroom. We left the hostel finally around 9:30 and walked in the opposite direction of the port -- a part of Barcelona we hadn't seen yesterday. We were going to see Casa Batlló first: which is on Passeig de Grácia. It's part of the "Manzana de la Discordia" which is composed of buildings from different architects, and each one with its own distinguished style. It's a house built in 1877 by Josep Batlló and then restored by Antoni Gaudí around 1904 - 1906. He created it to look like things from under the sea (and other things from nature)-- the flow of the walls and stairways, the colors of the tiles, the shapes of the doors and door handles... the rooftop was shaped like a dragon's back and tail... everything. Gaudí was definitely an interesting man... he was creative and original.
The site I linked to the words "Casa Batlló" a few sentences back gives great history about Gaudí, the Batlló family and of course, the house itself. It describes what Gaudí was imagining / inspired by when he designed each part of the house: the walls, the windows, the colors, the double attics, the backyard, the chimneys.... all!
He did so much work and had so much influence all throughout Barcelona, it was crazy! He designed things in La Sagrada Familia and after becoming close friends with Eusebi Güell, helped him design the famous Parc Güell at the top of the city (with the huge lizard monument). I learned that he died on June 10, 1926 from being hit by a tram on June 7 whilst on his way to work on La Sagrada Familia. Therefore, his work at the Sagrada was never completely finished.
Back to the story at hand -- Gab and I walked around the Casa Batlló with little audio tour guides held to our ears for over 2 hours. The way that EVERYTHING was formed in that house was unbelievable! One of the interesting parts, or so I thought, was the mushroom shaped fireplace with two benches: one larger bench for the daughter of the house and her boyfriend, and one smaller bench for the nanny of the house to sit while the daughter was on her "date". The girls could never be alone without supervision.
It was SO different than anywhere I've ever been before! It's still used as a museum today (obviously) and on every floor (there are 7 floors) there are two apartments that are still rented out. The attic was unbelievable (picture to the right)! It was so long and white and spacious! And in one room on the roof, called the water room, there was a piece of art with a ball rolling in water that made the sounds of water drops echoing... like you were in a cave with water dripping all around or something.
Did you know the furniture in the house was even designed by him as well? I'm telling you... that house was out of this world!

From there we took the metro to the stop nearest Parc Güell. Decided before we hiked up to the top of the park, that we should get a little food because by this time it was already around 1 or 2... we had spend close to 4 hours in the Casa Batlló!! The park was just as equally beautiful and stunning as the house had been. Some of Gaudí's work is in the park (including the really long bench throughout the open area and the tiled dragon at the entrance of the park), but he ultimately did not design the park. The park was originally part of a commercially unsuccessful housing site, the idea of Count Eusebi Güell. They call it "parcC" instead of parK because it is located in the middle of Barcelona where the people speak Catalan -- a different version of Spanish. When Eusebi Güell discovered it, it already included a large country house called Larrard House and was next to a neighborhood of upper class houses called La Salut (The Health). The intention was to exploit the fresh air (well away from smoky factories) and beautiful views from the site, with sixty triangular lots being provided for luxury houses. Count Eusebi Güell added to the prestige of the development by moving in 1906 to live in Larrard House. Ultimately, only two houses were built, neither designed by Gaudí. One was intended to b,e a show house but on being completed in 1904 was put up for sale, and as no buyers came forward, Gaudí, at Güell's suggestion, bought it with his savings and moved in with his family and his father in 1906 (and lived here until 1926). It contains original works by Gaudí and several of his collaborators. It is now the Gaudí Museum (Casa Museu Gaudí) since 1963. In 1969 it was declared a historical artistic monument of national interest. ((ANNNDDD majority of that information was taken from the Internet so that you all could learn a little bit of history :) The pictures are mine, however.))
The picture I have at the beginning of the blog is of the bench that Gaudí built throughout the park. It's made from tiles that he saved from other designs he'd done around the city... so it's just a collaboration of different pieces of tiles.
The walk up to the park was straight up a hill -- we were helped out however by escalators in the middle of the streets :) quite nice. I'm surprised America doesn't have these everywhere... in the midst of escalatoring up the streets as well as walking up a little bit Gab and I looked over and saw the funniest thing hanging from a window banister: a large naked doll with mangled hair. hahahaha whatt? why would that even be out there? So weird. Also on the way up Gab discovered cactus and now it's one of her favorite plants. She thought that it was an aloe plant till I had to break one of the limbs to show her it wasn't. These cactus plants were so large that people had taken to carving their initials in the limbs. When we reached the top of the Park, there was a breathtaking view of all of Barcelona below us.

Gab and I saw people of all sorts: guitar players (picture below to the left), bubble blowers, kids running through the masses, observers, lovers, tourists with fanny packs, artists, families, animals, poor, rich, every kind of person. It was a great place to just sit, hang out and watch people live their lives; therefore, that's what Gab and I did... sat, took pictures, ate, observed for a little over an hour. It was very tranquil and relaxing for the most part. The view of Barcelona below the park and the trees and forests all around it just added to the tranquility. From where we were sitting (in the central terrace on the Gaudí bench), below were the two buildings I've already posted a picture of, the mosaic dragon on the steps, the hall of columns with the tiled mosaics on the ceiling (made of Doric columns which supported the entire central terrace), and the real entrance to the park which Gab and I made our exit. :) We ventured down there and found that the columns in the column hall had columns too big for both of us to even hug! The dragon was insanely crowded and impossible to take a good picture with, but it all looked really cool. We were taking a picture in front of the park entrance (picture below) when we found Karelli Cabral -- one of the girls in our program in Alicante. She and her mom were there touring as well! We decided to hit the tracks of the metro and get to the Temple Sagrada Família since it was already about 4:30 and the Sagrada Família closed at 6PM.

Gab and I got to the Sagrada, paid to get in, and then were in awe by everything! How big it was from the outside, the structures carved above and around the front two doors, the designs on the inside... everything. The architecture was amazing... big columns leading up to a ceiling that looked to me like a spider web (image below on right). This is actually one of the buildings most linked to the image of Barcelona. It's still under construction, as Gaudí planned for it, following the tradition of the Gothic cathedrals built over various decades. When Gaudí died in 1926, only one quarter of the Sagrada was finished (even though the groundbreaking was in 1882) and it's expected to be finished in 2026!! WHOA!! 100 years after Gaudí passed away. Characteristic of Gaudí's naturalistic style, the sculptures are ornately arranged and decorated with scenes and images from nature, each a symbol in their own manner. For instance, the three porticoes are separated by two large columns, and at the base of each lies a turtle or a tortoise (one to represent the land and the other the sea; each are symbols of time as something set in stone and unchangeable). In contrast to the figures of turtles and their symbolism, two chameleons can be found at either side of the facade, and are symbolic of change. We met some people from America here. I sat down and just started talking to one of the ladies for a while since Gab was reading every piece of information in the church.
I took a really cool picture that I absolutely love: in front of the church there's a statue of Jesus being whipped in the middle of the town strapped to the pole. I took a picture of the front doors which are covered in 3d words of the word "Jesus" with the statue in the background.

We are nearing the end of our day because from here everything started to close and, since it's winter time, it started to get dark as well.
I really wanted to see Palau de la Música Catalana... well this was one of the fails for today. Gab and I found where we thought it was on the map and then headed over. When we got there we realized that we were at the completely wrong place! On the way we did get to see two cool things: a very colorful bullet shaped building -- its purpose? NO IDEA. but it looked really awesome...

side note: just found information on the bullet: it's called the Agbar Tower and it is the ultimate expression of the modern soul of Barcelona. The characteristic bullet-like shape of the building symbolizes the progressive spirit and optimism about the future which permeates the Catalonian capital. It's 38 stories and was opened by the King of Spain in June of 2005 and cost over 130 million euro. WHOA.

and then we saw a group of skaters trying to skate on these colorful blocks located behind the bullet building. Gab got a good picture of the guys in the air... but they ended up being pretty bad at skating.

When we left finally, got back to the hostel, we changed rooms and got put into a room with a bunch of French people (3 guys and 2 girls) who were in Barcelona for a "good-bye" trip for one of their friends who had gotten a job and was moving away. Gab and I were not sure if this room was better than the last or not because as soon as we walked in they offered us hits on the chain smoke they were having at the moment. We put our things in a locker and left to get dinner. The place we ate was probably a really good hole-in-the-wall restaurant if you like seafood, but I'm not a huge fan, so I wasn't as adamant about the seafood paella we got as Gab was... she ate all of my seafood and hers! hahaha.. she's Italian.. what do you expect? What we got, though, sufficed and we went to the candy / cookie shop next door. They always hand out free samples :) Then... home shortly afterwards... both deciding that it had been too long of a day to go back out for the night.

When we got back to the room, the roommates (picture to the left) talked to us a bit and kept offering us this and that... We denied and both laid on our own beds to do facebook / skype... whatever we do on computers and iPods these days. Meanwhile, they kept drinking and smoking until they left -- goodness knows when because Gab and I fell asleep talking and in our clothes around midnight. Funny story: One of the guys offered us some little sweet thing like a Little Debby cake... so we said yes to those even though we'd been denying everything else they had offered that night. haha... when we fell asleep (none of our stuff in lockers or anything... bad move I know, but ended up being okay), I woke up at 3:45 with the entire box on my pillow.. um thanks dude. hahahahaaha
but -- after that waking up, there wasn't really any laughing. It was a night I'll never forget and that freaked both me and Gab out for a while.
Somehow my body wakes up whenever it instinctively knows something abnormal is about to happen... I've been that way my entire life and this time, I didn't know what to do when I woke up. About 5 minutes passed where I was lying in the bed wondering where the people had gone.. the lights were off and everything was silent. I was debating getting up and putting on my pajamas when I heard voices and running coming up the stairs... so I stayed in bed wondering what was going to happen. Then I heard a loud POP like a gun going off in the hallway right outside of the door... all of a sudden smoke started seeping in from the crack below the door and then someone started fondling the door handle and lock. I pulled my covers up to my nose and just watched wondering what in the world was going on. Four guys -- one more than had left the room -- came in and started lighting up something at the sink. They left the door open to the hallway and all of the smoke from whatever they had just blown up started pouring into the room and then I felt it: It felt like pepper spray was all over me; I couldn't keep my eyes open even though I was straining to, I couldn't breathe and I didn't want to move... I wanted to reach for Gab but I didn't want the guys to know I was awake... I didn't know what to do. At that moment I was scared -- I wished I had a knife or something. I couldn't tell you how long it was before they all decided to either leave or get in bed. I think two went back out and two sat near the window in the corner and smoked some more. I was just lying there struggling to breathe normally and trying to fall back asleep. Eventually I did fall asleep and I woke back up at 7:30AM ready to get out of there. The girls hadn't come back at all during the night because they still were gone when Gab and I went downstairs for our final breakfast of corn flakes and bread... but the guys were there: 3 asleep in their beds and 1 still hanging onto the last drag of whatever he was smoking... staring out of the open window.

02/06 Sunday

After such an eventful 2 nights at the Sun and Moon hostel, Gab and I were ready to pack up and get out of that place for good. I think we both decided that mixed rooms were not the best way to go anymore... no matter how much cheaper they are! We went by the sample cookie shop on the way out and I got a few truffles to take home with us on the train. THEY WERE SO GOOD! mmmmm.... The train station wasn't as hard to find this time since we realized that we couldn't really walk to it from where we were :) We took a picture on Las Ramblas and then were off to the metro, to get to the train station and then home. We met up with Abby and Grace in the train station after freaking out thinking that I had a different train time but were actually only reading the ticket incorrectly. hahaha ohh my. Once we were downstairs beside the tracks, we four met this guy named Paulo who was coming to Alicante from Princeton to give a speech about international business or something of the sort. He was pretty nice and it was cool meeting an American in the train station. We all hopped on the train and for once I didn't fall asleep on one of the rides.
We got home and when we got off of the train... and it definitely was the scariest night plus one of the most FAIL nights of this trip / my life / the lives of the girls that live across the hall. In a nut shell, they thought that Paulo had been following us to our apartment and was part of a "kidnapping" scheme and were totally freaked out. When they got back to their apartment they told their roommates, Chelsea and Alina, who in turn freaked out and were extra paranoid. Chelsea, later that night, decided that she heard someone trying to get into the front door and called the police -- when the police came she didn't let them in the front door after they knocked because she was afraid to open her room door in case there was a kidnapper somewhere near... therefore the police scaled the building, came in through her window, she screamed and freaked out her roommates, they all locked themselves in Graces room and no one told us what was happening. From our apartment all of a sudden the phone for the downstairs door starts buzzing like crazy... we hear people yelling, men shouting from outside then all of a sudden feet pounding up the stairs in the apartment building and fists banging on our door. All i can think is, "Taken" -- the movie that came out not too long ago. I was shaking.. my roommates were yelling for me to come to their room but I had already locked my door and felt secure with my parents on skype and my door to my room locked. Caitlin (whose room is at the front of the apartment) came running down the hall yelling that there were 4 men in black suits at the door trying to get in and she wasn't letting them in. She ran into the room with MaryAnn and Krista and then they decided to come running into mine so we could all be together. Mom and Dad were on Skype telling us to call the police --- meanwhile MaryAnn has already called our landlord to tell him what was going on and to ask for the number to the police, and then she rang the police just to find out that it was actually the police that were at our door. WHAT?! So, the four shaking, scared out of our pants roommates walked together to the front door, turned the lock, and opened it to find about 10 police women and men standing in the hallway with four little white faces of the hallmates in their doorway just as shaken as we were. MaryAnn talked with the police because she was the most fluent in spanish and then we found out that they had actually kicked down Grace's door because the girls refused to let them in the bedroom. We called Lúis who sat us all down to talk at 1:30AM for an hour or so... the hallmates left to stay at a hotel because they were still freaked out while we stayed at our apartment for the night still a little shaken from all of the noise but more conscious that it was just a scare and that we had nothing to worry about. Despite it just being a scare, I honestly had never been so scared in my life or more sure that I was about to die.

WOW what a weekend, eh ??

Signing off for now... xo