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!

24 February 2010

It's Raining, It's Pouring, and I Just Want to be Snoring

It's been raining non-stop for four days. I don't like leaving the house, and all I want to do is be inside reading and sleeping. We had a few weeks where it rained very little and I got spoiled, so now I'm having trouble adjusting to this monsoon.

Rain aside, things are good in Santiago. I have a test tomorrow (for those of you who ask if I do any work here), and at the end of the week all my Brazilian friends head home. It will be sad, but the next few days will be spent celebrating with them before they leave.

Tomorrow I have an English lesson with a little girl named Blanca. We had our first one last Thursday, and I really enjoyed it. Her mom just wants her to work on conversation, so I'm basically getting paid to hang out with her and play games. It's interesting to be on the other side of things while I'm here surrounded by people who speak very well the language I'm attempting to learn.

Tomorrow there will also be more rain, but I'm trying to forget about that and concentrate on the many reasons I want to go outside anyway.

21 February 2010

My Internal Clock is Confused

By far the biggest adjustment I've had to make living here is the schedule change. I sleep later, eat later, and hang out with friends much later. I would like to think my body would adjust to lunch at 2:30 and dinner at 9 or later, but so far that has not been the case. And on the weekends when we go out, it is a sure bet that not much will be open until 11 and there won't be many people in these places (which is the only way they're fun) until around 1. Planning to meet people at 1 or 2 in the morning is something I'm not sure I'll ever grow accustomed to. For one thing, how do I fill this weird time between dinner and the wee hours of the morning? And when you leave the house at 1 you will of course remain out until very late (or early depending on what you consider the start of the next day). Then there is the question: How do you recover and be alive the next day if you're out until 7?

I've noticed my problems with the schedule have multiplied since I found friends who are actually from here. When I'm with the other international students we tend to get home a little earlier; we all work around the Spanish schedule with meals and things, but often we are home earlier. When I go out with my Spanish friends we meet no earlier than 1, and we never get home before 6. Immersing myself in this culture is wreaking havoc on my sleep schedule!

I predict I will adjust to this around mid-May right before I come back to the states and have to start over. I won't have a clue when to be hungry or tired.

16 February 2010

Santiago Sweet Tooth

Maybe it's a location issue that causes this to stick out to me, but I have noticed there is a high concentration of candy stores in Santiago. The kind of candy stores where everything is in clear plastic bins and you fill a bag full of the delicious, colorful sweets that strike your fancy. I know of at least 3 stores within 100 yards of each other that basically carry the exact same candies, but apparently competition isn't driving anyone out of business. My personal favorite is called Pecados ("sins" in English).

The high volume of candy very close to where I live (and on my way to and from any place I might go) is both wonderful and dangerous. I fear I might develop an addiction that carries over to America where Belmont students have recently opened a new candy store. I may need an intervention when I get home.

Hang It Out to Dry

While day to day chores and things around the house here in Spain are not particularly different than in America, one huge difference is the lack of dryers in this country. When you wash your clothes they go straight from the washing machine to a large drying rack (or outside in some cases). There are pros and cons to this system:

-Nothing shrinks. Ever.
-You can really only do about one load of laundry a day.

-Drying clothes take up space in your house.
-You can really only do about one load of laundry a day.

All in all I don't mind the drying system one bit, but it has been an adjustment. It's just one of the things you don't think about when contemplating what life is like in another country.

15 February 2010

El Lunes, Vamos en Pijamas!

I'm not sure what I'm going to do when Ash Wednesday hits and I have to go back to school and give up staying out all night in costume. Carnaval is still going strong here in Santiago. Tonight my friends and I are going out in pajamas, mainly because the girls I've been with are sick of painting their faces to look like cats, nobody wants to wear heels, and it's entirely too cold to go out in a small, sparkly dress. I have thoroughly enjoyed being out of school but still in Santiago during the week; this was a prime time for travel, but staying here has paid off.

Tomorrow is the big day, the culmination of the Carnaval festivities, including a parade. Lent begins Wednesday, and life will go back to normal.

13 February 2010

Carnaval: Day 1

So far I am loving Carnaval! Last night everyone in the street was in costume, and everywhere we went the people were dancing and very loud and exciting. It's like Halloween in the sense that everyone goes as whatever they want to be. There were a lot of groups of people who coordinated and dressed the same, including a big bunch of ladybugs, Duff beer girls, and several American football teams.

I went out last night with an American friend and two Spanish girls he knows from work. We had a blast and were out until about 7am. I'm not sure this place sleeps much during Carnaval, but I'm glad the fun lasts a little longer. So far I haven't been out to see the daytime activities, but I can hear some sort of concert happening sitting here in my room.

I probably won't be able to readjust my sleep schedule after this is all over, but I'm looking forward to enjoying every second of Carnaval. And tonight I will be dressed as a flapper!

12 February 2010

Catch Phrase and Carnaval

Learning Spanish is one huge game of Catch Phrase; it's all about circumlocution. If you don't know the word for something, you have to describe it, and this is done with varying degrees of difficulty. This game-like nature of learning is why I love the language exchange we have here on Thursday nights. I get to talk to Spanish people who describe things to me in English when they don't know the word, and then they return the favor and assist me in my descriptions and identification in Spanish. The great thing is this keeps the conversation going because it's like chasing one rabbit after another. It's the same in my classes when someone doesn't understand a concept. Either the teacher will explain it or ask one of us to do so, but every description is a test of vocabulary. When I come home I expect to be the Catch Phrase queen, so be prepared to lose if you aren't on my team.

And on the topic of language exchange, I will soon begin making money to speak English, one of my favorite things to do. I will be working two days a week with a 12-year-old girl, simply speaking English. I met her and her mother yesterday, and in the 30 minutes I spent getting to know the family I could tell it's going to be fun. On top of that, I'm waiting for an email from a lady who wants someone to speak in English with her 3 or 4 year old. It will basically be playing with the little girl and only speaking English. The prospect of income and getting to know kids who actually live here in Santiago and are growing up in this city and school system that are so foreign (literally) to me is exciting.

As for foreign things, I will soon experience my very first Carnaval, the festival leading up to Lent. Since Wednesday night I've seen a few people dressed up here in Santiago, but tomorrow we're planning to go to Ourense where the festival is a little more elaborate. We don't have classes Monday or Tuesday, so I will be trying to participate fully since this isn't something we have in Tennessee and is very different from Mardi Gras. Everyone dresses up, people throw flour (I'm still not clear on why), and there are parades, along with many other things I'm looking forward to experiencing. But more on this once I figure out exactly what Carnaval entails here.

09 February 2010

Saying Adios

One of the things I love most about taking classes here in Santiago is that I meet people from all over the world. Our common language isn't one we know well, but it's amazing how much we can communicate and how much I'm learning about other places and cultures. Coming here helped me to understand a little better how big the world really is, but being here and spending most of my time with people from Brazil, Japan, China, and Switzerland amplifies that realization.

Unfortunately, Spain is only a temporary home for all of us. Our program works on a month-to-month schedule, and at the end of each month we lose a few students and gain a few more. The new people are wonderful, but it's hard to let go of the people you spent the last month with. We're all in a new place where we hardly know anyone, and although we speak the language, it's very different from being in our home countries. We became friends very quickly because we spend so much time together and are all in a similar situation. That made it all the more difficult to lose our three Brazilians this week. Our class seems to be missing a little something. Unfortunately, that is the nature of our program, but we also have three new students who I have already enjoyed getting to know and with whom I am looking forward to spending the next month.

It's going to be difficult to say goodbye to more people over the next four months, and I can imagine that leaving won't be easy for any of us. Although I will hate to see these great friends go, I'm glad I got my one or two months with them.

Plus, if and when I go to Brazil (because these Brazilians make it sound like such a wonderful place), I've got a place to stay and friends who speak Portugese.

08 February 2010

Saturday and Sunday in Santiago

It's been almost a month since I got to Santiago, but this past weekend was the first one I spent in the city. I was excited to see what it was like to be here on a weekend, and of course the city didn't disappoint.

I'm sure Friday is a great night to go out, but unfortunately I did not experience this because here Thursday is also a great night to go out and I had to sleep on Friday to recover. However, Saturday during the day was wonderful. I went to about three different parks and did a lot of walking around the city. I found a few great spots to read and a few more to run in. My friend Juliana and I had lunch in a restaurant with typical Galician food, and Saturday night I went out with several of the other international students. Sunday morning I went to the cathedral for Mass. It is absolutely incredible and a beautiful thing to watch. I had lunch with a friend and we came across another park neither of us was familiar with.

Santiago is very alive on the weekends with plenty of people in the streets. It's such a different world because people--young and old--typically don't go out until at least 10, so when you're walking around at 1am there are still plenty of people on the streets. It's very strange to see a group of people who are at least in their 60's walking around so late, but I like the fact that everyone participates in the nightlife here. I was very happy to remain in Santiago for the weekend, and I've got 4 more months and much more to discover about the city itself in the midst of all the traveling I would still like to do while I'm here.

And as for going out late, living here is completely changing my internal clock. I usually go to bed early and get up at the crack of dawn when I'm at home. I was getting up at about 5:30 on average last semester, but here getting up early is a struggle. We go out so late that you have to take advantage of a nap, and getting up early is not only difficult but pointless. The city doesn't wake up until about 9:30 or 10, and it's a slow process. It's a different world in some ways, but I'm adapting and learning to wait until 11 to go out (which is what time I'm meeting my friends tonight). I'm also trying to overcome my American tendency to be on time (or 5 minutes early) to everything.

04 February 2010

Siestas, Saucers, and Fresh-Squeezed Juice

There is so much to love about the way Spaniards do things. While I have come to terms with the fact that living here is temporary, there are a few things I love and want to bring back to America with me.

First, the siesta. It's not so much the sleeping (although it's a definite bonus) that I love about the siesta. What makes me really happy is the fact that people find it more important to have a chunk of their day set aside to rest than to be working and making money. Coming home to a home-cooked meal every day at 2 is a wonderful thing. You have time to rest if you need it, and it doesn't come at the end of the day when you're too worn out to enjoy it. Also, instead of hating the afternoon and its tasks, you're energized by the couple of hours relaxation and ready to tackle whatever it is you have going on later in the day. Some people do not like the fact that most of the stores around here close during the siesta, but I support this. If I need something I can get it later when things open again. As far as I'm concerned this forces people to enjoy some free time, and sleeping is optional.

It's not just the siesta either. I'm convinced that coffee in a cup on a little saucer is superior. I don't know what it is about the plate, but I love it. In some ways it's another device to slow you down. You're not getting your coffee and running to your next task; instead, you sit down and enjoy drinking it, often times while also enjoying the company of others. People take time to eat and drink here rather than eating or drinking just because they have to in order to survive. It doesn't appear to affect getting work done, and if you ask me everyone just seems better off because of it.

The fact that everything closes in the middle of the day and coffee breaks are meant to be long might give you the idea that Spaniards are lazy. This is a false impression, and I offer you orange juice to prove it. I'm sure if I looked for orange juice in a jug/carton/some other container in the store I could find it, but I can say that in the almost 4 weeks I've been here I have ONLY seen fresh-squeezed orange juice. In restaurants and at home, if someone is drinking orange juice, it came from real oranges right before they started drinking. It's a little more work, but there's something about it coming straight from the orange that just makes it better.

This is only my impression, and I don't know how the Spaniards themselves feel about their lives. But what I'm learning here is that it's possible to enjoy life in the midst of work and being busy. It doesn't really make a difference here if they take a break from about 2-4:30. Things still get done. People still work hard and efficiently. I hope when I get back to the states I can start a siesta movement (or at least work my own schedule out that way), and I am sure I will be drinking my coffee with a saucer underneath my cup. I don't drink much orange juice here or anywhere, but I plan to live with a fresh-squeezed mindset. Work is important and unavoidable, but it isn't all there is to life. Spain is showing me you can have your job and your siesta, the equivalent of having your cake and eating it too.

01 February 2010

El Camino de Santiago

I'm back from the longest walk I've ever been on in my life! We set out Thursday morning from the cathedral in Santiago and started walking to the end of the world, Finisterre. Before we left we stopped in at the cathedral to hug the apostle Santiago (Saint James for the English speakers), as is the tradition when you're in Santiago. Post-hugs we posed for a photo in front of the cathedral and hit the trail with backpacks and little else. There were six of us--three Americans, one girl from Brazil, a guy from Japan, and one from China. The trail is well-marked with conch shells and yellow arrows. It's almost impossible to get lost, so we started walking and fell into a sort of rhythm.

The first day we walked a little over 20 kilometers to a town called Negreira. The weather was perfect, and we made it to Negreira at about 6pm, still excited about the walk at this point. We checked in at the albergue, basically a hostel specifically for pilgrims on the Camino, and headed into town to eat something. Besides our group there were two guys from France, a girl from South Korea, and one guy nobody talked to staying at the albergue. There was plenty of space because not many people do the Camino in the winter.

After a good night's sleep we set out for the next town. It rained a lot on the second day, and we didn't make it near as far as we had hoped. We were aiming for a town called Olveiroa with a public albergue, but we had to stop in a place called Maroñas where there was a private albergue. The public albergues cost 5 euros a night, and you can't sleep in them unless you have the credential for the Camino. Every time you stay somewhere you get a stamp on your credential as a form of proof that you completed that part of the Camino. If you do 100 kilometers, you get something called the Compostela that is like a certificate of completion. The private albergues also have stamps, but the cost varies. This one was still cheap at 10 euros a person, but we didn't have heat. We nearly froze.

Day three we were warm as soon as we started walking because we had been so cold in the albergue. It rained off and on all day, but this was the day we hit some of the prettiest (and most difficult) places on the Camino. The way the towns were spaced we needed to walk about 33 kilometers. We were already really tired, but we needed to make it to a town called Cee so that we could get to Finisterre on Sunday. Day three was mostly climbing large hills and crossing rocky, muddy paths. It was the most difficult day by far, but when we got to Cee we were incredibly comfortable.

The albergue in Cee was closed, but a lady at one of the places we stopped to eat told us about a reasonably priced hotel in Cee. It was called Hotel Larry, and the man who runs the place is arguably the nicest man in the world. We were the only people staying in the hotel, and it had an attached restaurant where we ate a delicious dinner. During and after dinner, there was a group watching a soccer match between Real Madrid and A Coruña, all fans of Coruña. Sadly for them, Madrid won. I heard every swear word I know in Spanish (and several new ones) strung together in one sentence.

Hotel Larry was one of the highlights of the trip, but after two showers, sleep, and breakfast we were back on the Camino for the last 16 kilometers to Finisterre. We got to the town of Finisterre around the middle of the day, but of course the "end of the world" is on the other side. So we walked and walked and walked. We were worn out, but the last leg of the trip runs right by the ocean and has an incredible view. We were so close.

Our ultimate goal was a lighthouse on the point that is considered the end. In case you were wondering, the world ends on top of a very large hill. Within two kilometers of being finished I was regretting ever having started because I was so tired. It was that moment where you question your sanity. We got there at about 5pm and realized we had finally found what we had been walking toward for four days. It was a breathtaking view. We just sat and watched the sunset.

Those four days are kind of a blur in my mind, but it was an incredible trip. The trail goes through tiny towns--some with medieval structures still intact--through the woods, up small mountains, and right by the ocean. We saw a little bit of everything. We had time to think, time to talk and get to know each other a little better, opportunities to meet new people, and as always a chance to practice our Spanish. As great as it was, I'm glad to be back in Santiago, clean, dry, sitting down, and wearing makeup. But I've now been to the end of the world.

You can go on your own version of the Camino through the photos here and here. It's much easier on your feet this way, but the pictures can't quite do the scenery justice.