18 April 2010

I've been slacking a little bit on the updates, but again this can be attributed to the majority of my time being spent outside the house. The last few weeks can be summed up by saying I've spent a great deal of time in the park, gone to class as usual, and continued enjoying every second of being in Santiago.

The one out of the ordinary thing that went on recently was my trip to Finisterre last weekend. The weather was beautiful, so my friend Brandon and I left Friday afternoon and took a bus to Finisterre. One of our teachers has a house there that she only uses a few weeks out of the year, and she offered to let us stay there. So we spent two nights in Finisterre on a mini-vacation. I watched the sunrise from the patio both mornings we were there. After that we ate breakfast, headed to the beach, ate lunch in a restaurant, spent the afternoon on the beautiful patio, went for a walk, cooked dinner, and went to bed. That was the general schedule of the weekend, and it made it very hard to leave.

Before I have to leave Santiago (less than two months left), I'm attempting to learn a little of the language of Galicia--the province of Spain where Santiago is located--Gallego. I've started studying it along with two friends, and our teachers (who all speak Gallego as well as Spanish) have offered to help in any way they can. It's very similar to Spanish (which means I can more or less understand it even though I speak very little), but I had forgotten what it felt like to start learning a language because it's been years since I started studying Spanish. It's like going back to square one, and this is the feeling with a language similar to one I already speak! It should be interesting to see how much Gallego I can learn before I leave. It won't be an immensely useful language to know because they only speak it here in Galicia, but it's an interesting thing to study.

The end of this experience gets closer every day, so I will be out of the house soaking up Santiago as much as possible over the next few weeks.

01 April 2010

Semana Santa

Ah, it's Semana Santa (Holy Week), which means I don't have class and Santiago is filled with tourists. My travel plans fell through, so I've been in Santiago all week, but it has been a wonderful experience. The only other people not traveling are my friend from Switzerland and my newest friends from Saudi Arabia. I have spent the majority of my week with the 8 guys from Saudi Arabia, who are constantly making me laugh. The one drawback is that when it's just me and them they speak a lot of Arabic. That's not all bad though because I'm learning a little (and by a little I mean very little, but it's a start), and I can always ask whoever is sitting beside me to translate and tell me what's going on. Maybe after Spanish I'll tackle Arabic.

I've enjoyed watching the city celebrate this week with lots of processions and special events for Semana Santa, and I've also gotten to know a different part of the city by spending some time alone here. The weather has been fairly awful, but the sun finally came out today and I'm getting to be outside a little more.

I also made a new friend. I was reading in a cafe and heard a girl ordering in English. It was obvious that she spoke zero Spanish and was not a native English-speaker, so I asked her where she was from. We ended up talking for a couple hours and she spent the rest of the day with my friend Natascia and I. She is from Germany and just finished the Camino de Santiago, starting from Portugal and walking for 12 days. She's here in Santiago until Saturday, so yesterday she went with my friends and I to A Coruña, and she's planning to go out with us tonight. I'm still amazed how much I'm learning about the rest of the world by being in Spain.

It's so hard to believe I have less than 2 months left of my Spanish adventure!

27 March 2010

Saturday Morning at the Market

I went to the market this morning with Antonieta. I had been told Saturday morning was the time to go, but so far I've only seen it during the week, and it's true that everybody goes on Saturday. Basically the market is a lot like the Nashville farmers' market on steroids and with medieval structures to house it. It's set up in several long buildings open on both ends with vendors set up all around. You can buy meat, seafood, fruits and vegetables, and anything else that you might want fresh from Galicia.

We bought some shellfish that were probably still living their lives in the ocean less than 24 hours ago, fruit, and bread (from one of the oldest Panaderías in Santiago). It's amazing how fresh the food is here and the way Antonieta does the shopping for our meals. Rather than buying everything she will need to cook for a week or some other set time, she goes shopping several times throughout the week and picks up the main part of the meals. Everything we eat is fresh.

I provide you with an example of just how fresh: The vendor who sold us our shellfish was set up inside of one of the buildings with all kinds of fish laid out on ice. People choose a fish and the women working take a knife to it and prepare it to be taken home and cooked today. It's amazing.

The other thing I like about the market is that it's such an alive place. It seems like all of Santiago has a chance to interact and live their separate lives more together. I will have to make it a point to go to the market more often just to people watch.

15 March 2010

Springing Forward and Watching Soccer

I haven't written in a while, and I can attribute that to the incredible weather we've had here in Santiago. Spring is in the air!

Yesterday I went to the park after breakfast to read. I came home for lunch and immediately went back to the park to do homework with friends. Not only is the weather incredible, but Santiago has incredible parks. There are multiple places to go, all with a different take on green space.

One of the things I love about living here is that we're never in the house. I spend the majority of my day outside, walking around and getting to know the city, coming home to eat and sleep. And watching the seasons change is proving this place only keeps getting better!

When the sun left us yesterday, I experienced a little more Spanish culture (or the culture of the rest of the world, minus America) and went to a bar to watch a soccer game with some friends. It was fun to watch everyone in the place getting excited at the same time. I'm still not completely clear on all the rules, but I enjoy watching the games and the fans. I'm planning to incorporate more soccer into my Spanish life. If I don't, I'm resisting immersion.

06 March 2010

Un Dia Redondo

Today was un dia redondo, which translates literally to a round day but means a day where everything went well. I spent the day in A Coruña with friends doing basically nothing but having the time of my life. We walked a lot, visited the Tower of Hercules again, and ate lunch at a great little place with a house menu that was cheap.

It feels more like home when you can spend a day doing things that aren't particularly touristy with people you consider friends. We're getting to the point where we go back to the same places because we know we like them. We're finding our niches!

Of course, there is still much more to see! We aren't so comfortable that we're content to spend the next three months in Santiago. I'm working on a trip to Dublin during holy week, and it looks like I'm headed to Madrid before that. There's so much to see here, but it feels more like home every day.

Whether we're residents or tourists, we'll always take pictures. You can find them here.

01 March 2010

Toblerone McFlurry?!

While going to McDonald's in Spain would seem to be reverting back to my American ways, I'm glad I walked in today. They have the basic chicken nuggets and hamburgers, and the french fries were absolutely equal to (and as delicious as) the ones in America. But in Spain there are a few different things on the menu. My friend Brandon got a happy meal, and with it came a banana sundae--a creamy banana substance (probably just mashed up bananas, but I can't verify that) topped with ice cream. It was pretty good, but what I got was better: a McFlurry made with Toblerone! I don't know why we do not have this in the states, but I'm considering heading up the campaign to share this delicious dulce with America, or bringing in my own crushed up Toblerone and asking them to make my McFlurry with it. It can't hurt to try.

Galician food is definitely good enough that I don't want or need McDonalds, but even going there is a different experience than I would get at home. Plus, the trash cans say GRACIAS instead of THANK YOU.

27 February 2010

Escuchaaaarrrrrrr!!!!!!! The Songs Constantly Stuck in My Head

If you've got some time on your hands and would like a little more Spanish culture than what I can write about, I offer you the songs of Spain.

We hear a lot of songs when we go out on the weekend and often listen to music in our culture class, and several of these have a tendency to get stuck in your head. It's a trilingual experience because some are in Spanish, some in English, and some in Portuguese.

This one is in Portuguese, and it's called Rap Das Armas. When that Parapapapapa . . . part comes on everybody in the room starts to sing. It's peppy and fun, but my Brazilian friends let me know that it's about guns in the slums of Brazil and that fun sound in the chorus is mimicking gunshots. It was a happier song before this piece of information was shared with me. However, without the English subtitle version I find it enjoyable, in a stuck-in-your-head-all-day kind of way.

And songs that get stuck in your head makes me think of this gem I heard a lot during Carnaval: Humahuaqueño Carnavalito. I haven't heard it since (and I'm not complaining), but it sticks with you. Or at least one word sticks with you: Bailaaaarrrrrrrrr!!!!!!!! The great thing is that there are many Spanish verbs that end in -ar like bailar (which means "to dance" for those of you who don't speak Spanish), so we can yell these verbs and roll the r for a long time like King Africa. It shouldn't be as fun as it has turned out to be.

I have a friend who is a little obsessed with this next one. It's also in Portuguese, but my Brazilian friends tell me it's Portuguese from Angola and they can't even understand a lot of it. It's called Kalemba and it's by a group called Buraka Som Sistema.

These first three are things you hear when you go out, but every now and then in class we get stuck on a Youtube search and end up with new things to laugh at. Exhibit A: El Mamut Chiquitito (The Little Mammoth). It sounds like a kids song, but it is not. It is both horrible and wonderful at the same time. To summarize, the little mammoth wanted to do things that are bad for him, such as fly, smoke, and drink. He is at first unsuccessful in each attempt, but then some friend (a different animal every time) helps him get what he wants and it turns out bad for him in a different way every time (he overdoses, gets AIDS, and eventually dies). It sounds ridiculous, because it is, but if you listen to it you'll be singing it all day (even if you don't have a clue what you're saying). Also, even if you don't understand the Spanish I think the animations will give you a fairly good idea of the storyline.

And finally, I apologize for the animations on this last one because they are inappropriate, but the song is hilarious. One of our teachers encountered this one when she searched for El Mamut Chiquitito. This guy is talking about his girlfriend, and he says lots of horrible things about her, such as she's so ugly that when she emailed her picture it was detected by the antivirus software. But he continually throws in the line "Pero te quiero," (but I love you). The best line of the song is toward the end when he just says, "Fea," (ugly). This same guy has a song about giving a girlfriend breast implants as a gift and her leaving him shortly after.

These songs should not be taken as a representation of Spanish music or culture overall, but it should give you an idea of some of the things that are entertaining me here. Enjoy!