Friday, March 19, 2010

March 17th Small Small World.

She's the one squatting on the far right. What a sweetie.

Okay this is a crazy one.

We met early on the 17th to go to mass in the massive Cathedral in Toledo. We walked through the cold dark main corridor that was at the moment closed to the public. The doors opened for those who were attending the mass. We opened the the thick wooden doors that had stained glass above the entrance. This led to another sanctuary where 8 monks were chanting. They handed us little booklets that read on the left hand side the chant in Latin and then on the right hand side it was translated in Spanish. There were about 70 pages and we definitely went through all of them through out the 50 minutes we were there. I absolutely loved it. They sort of sang the chant and their deep voices reverberated off the high ceilings. I wish I had a picture to describe it better, but the altar had red carpet with a table, but the backdrop is what was so interesting. There were around 12 large paintings molded into each other to bring the top to a point with a picture of Jesus on the day of crucifixion. The colors were vibrant with gold paint on every picture. The walls were gaudy as the ceiling had a very detailed design.

After the Latin mass, we went shopping for a little bit. Then this is were you just wont believe it. Let me prep the story a little bit- I hadn't caved to McDonalds or any other American fast food restaurant until this day. Because my birthday wasn't celebrated very much, Gregabus offered to buy me Micky D's. Round one: large fry, 9 chicken nuggets, and a burger with a medium orange soda. Round two: Bacon cheeseburger, large fry, and a small coke all split between Greg and I. Ha- besides the American fix (which later made both of us feel like poo) there was a group of around 6 or 7 girls all around the age of 10 or 11. When they finished up their meal and walked by us I asked their director where they were from because their perfect English was apparent. She said, "why none other than Amarillo, Texas!" Greg and I just laughed and told her that he was from Plainview and that I was from Perryton. While I was talking to the lady about her brother being from Perryton, a little girl was talking to Greg. She told him she had moved from Perryton this last winter break. I turned around and immediately recognized her.  I asked who her mom was and you'll never guess. I was her mom's flower girl in her wedding. The little girl grew up in my church and I can remember when she was born. Wow, do I feel old. But isn't it funny to reaffirm how small this world really is?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Big 2-0

The day before my birthday, on the 15th, my anticipation for my birthday and the trip was too  unbearable to sleep. I didn’t crawl into bed until 1:30am and who knows how long I sat there thinking. I set my alarm for 11:30pm. Okay Okay Okay. This might not make sense, but my alarm is still set to Texas time and because we didn’t “spring forward” this made perfect sense. I was too wake up at 5:30am and be at Hotel Center Sevilla at 6:30am sharp to meet all of the students, family, and friends to go to Madrid.

Little did I know that all my excitement made my body so tired that somehow I managed to turn off my alarm. I woke up on my own at 7:36am. I sat  up and urgently said, “NADIA!!! IT IS 7:36!!!” The lax girl that Nadia, my roommate is, she immediately rolled out of bed and her only response was “alright. Lets catch a bus or train.” We took a little less than an hour calling a few people to let them know where we were and that we’d somehow meet them in Madrid, eating breakfast, finishing packing, checking Facebook (always), and getting ready. At 8:15 we headed out for a good 30-minute walk to Plaza de Armas, the bus station.

We were world-class travelers buying a 19.40-euro bus ticket and an hour later loading a muggy bus full of Spaniards and one Asian.  We picked the very first seat right behind the driver to ensure enough time to run off the bus and make sure no one steals our luggage stowed underneath.  An hour later, the bus decides to make a stop to pick up a short round Spanish woman. She had short jet-black hair with speckles of grey and white strands giving her age away. She looked at Nadia and translated told her that she was sitting in her seat, number 2, and that she needed to move. She said I could stay but she paid for that seat. We laughed not only about how many other seats she could have taken along with her massive amount of peach fuzz accumulating on her jaw line enough to be in the beard category. 

We moved to the middle back of the bus, close to the back door to follow through in our plan. We stopped for 20 minutes at a station to take a little break; otherwise, we were on the bus for a solid 6 and a half hours. Its around 5:30 at this point. We go directly to the information desk and she babbles to us in Spanish that we thought that we understood… wrong. After realizing 15 minutes later what she meant, we went down two stories and boarded the metro for one euro to another bus station. We just happened to see a small sign that said Toledo and asked a man that appeared to be the bus driver where we buy a ticket and he pointed at a machine inside. We each paid 4.45 Euros. As soon as we found a spot on our new bus, it started rolling. 45 minutes later a beautiful hilly Toledo came into sight.

I’m pretty sure we took the hardest way to get out of the bus station up a hill on a teeny sidewalk full of potholes when I’m sure we could have found an escalator.  Once we hiked the hill, I was determined that we could find our hotel ourselves, Hotel Carols V, (google pictures it was awesome!) When we realized that Toledo is completely made of winding uphill cobble stone roads, it only took us a second thought to start looking around to call on a taxi. A taxi took us comfortably to our hotel the very quickest way. I saw quickest because a car was crawling up the road going a normal speed and our driver swerved around the car to pass it. There was another car coming and I don’t even think a piece of paper could have fit between us and the car we were trying to pass. We barely missed the oncoming car, but survived. This instance definitely reminded me of India. Not cool.

When we arrived, the group hadn’t arrived yet. We had around 30 minutes to kill so we went out for a delicious pizza. Nadia was so sweet and she bought the entire meal. She said I’m not allowed to pay for my birthday meal. When we got back to the hotel there was a pandemonium of Texans and a plethora of suitcases. Everyone was glad to see that we made it and in such good timing. (They stopped a few time to see a few sites that we missed, but apparently we didn’t miss anything)  The rest of the day was completely lax. We walked around Toledo and just enjoyed the scenery change. That night for dinner I split a dish called paella, which is what my house mom feeds me at least once a week. It’s rice with vegetables, calamari, chicken and saffron.

I was kind of disappointed that no one wanted to play a card game, spoons, or anything else involving my birthday, but I completely understand. Traveling is exhausted. No one sang happy birthday to me until Josh called me through skype, and his wonderful family sang me the beautiful melody that lit up my entire day. I definitely felt loved in that moment with something as simple as a song!  Then opening an email and message from both Mom and Dad gave me smiles and tears. I love them so much, and it definitely reminded me that there is so much love waiting for me when I come back home in a month and a half.

Hasta nunca teenage years.
See ya never teenage years.

Loved every second of having a 1 in front of 6, 7, 8, and 9, but now that the last half of my teens are over, I’m ready to move on to the glorious twenties. 

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Cádiz



           Greg and I decided to just hop on the train one Saturday after noon, the 20th of Feb. to be exact. I was really surprised at the weather because it had been raining for 2 weeks straight with chilly wisps of wind here and there. But, thankfully when we got there, it was sunny for once. The streets were cleaned because of the Carnival that took place the weekend before and also going to take place that night. [Carnival is the 2nd biggest party in the world next to Rio de Ginero, and Mardi Gras in New Orleans comes in at a close 3rd. So you can imagine how disgusting the streets get with no bathrooms and alcohol galore with millions of people overly intoxicated and dressed up in a costume. I'm not at all sad to say that I didn't take part in any of that.]  We decided just to walk around when we got there. Several food stands were waiting for the party-goers to arrive but until then there were no lines and plenty of fresh junk food. Greg got a chocolate filled churro for a morning snack! yum. We walked through the plaza where later that night a band would be jamming to a fast paced Spanish song, around a cathedral, along the shore. We found this enormous food market and spent a good 45 minutes just glancing at every station set up selling different types of meat, fruits, bread, etc.. Greg bought some strawberries, some of the best I've ever had.

           We found this street where little stands were set up selling sea food but they were set up right outside the door of the restaurants. We picked one where I bought crab legs, well I think they were all crab claws and Greg bought two different kind of smaller shelled creatures. We went inside the restaurant and ordered a drink. This is where is gets comical. Its only about 12:30 in the afternoon, and if you didn't know in Spain it is custom to wait about 2:30 or 3 to eat lunch. So you can imagine we are the only people eating here. Along with the fact that we were the only Americans... you can always tell American regardless of their color. Its a bit embarrassing! Its because we are loud. No one can deny it. We laugh harder than anyone else on the planet and we talk over each other. Its what we do. Like in America, I asked for butter (which I thought was given that it needed to be melted and hot) and lemon. The owner brought out an enormous lemon sliced in half and I little square of butter wrapped in gold aluminum. No reason to complain right? Next dilemma- no nut cracker! I asked in Spanish for some type of tool to open the legs with but he said he didn't have anything. Then 2 minutes later he brought out this wooden fish about 7 inches long with metal where the mouth would have been that acted as a bottle opener. I thanked him and confusedly tried to pry open a section of the shell. No such luck.

           After all the workers, the owner, and the other customers got a good laugh, the man behind me stood up and with a hearty chuckle said, "Mira" and picked up the wooden fish, grabbed the crab leg and hit it with a powerful bang! haha I thanked him and tried myself. This is when the crab goes flyin'. Several times I would have to stand up and put my full weight into cracking it and the shell would not only crack but ricocheted off the wall and across the tiled restaurant's floor. There wasn't a pair of eyes that weren't staring the whole time. Thats when you just have to sit there and laugh and continue. By the time I was done, there were shreds of crab all over the table, my lap, chest, face, and floor. It was so messy, but you do what you can do enjoy some decent sea food right?

           Later for dessert I bought fresh cotton candy that brought back my childish craving of flavored sugar. It was delicious! For a second desert we bought Gouda cheese, a couple of fresh baked wheat loafs, and spicy mustard. This little combo made the memories of france and switzerland from last summer flood my mind. This was what we ate the majority of the time.

           The rest of the afternoon was spent on the beach talking, listening to music, reading, watching the shivering surfers own the waves, and we rock climbed a wall that was on the beach. I would say that the trip was an absolute success for a measly 12 euro train pass.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Moguer, La Rabida, Columbus, and the beach

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We went to Moguer for the day the Friday of the 12th. The weather dampened the excursion though, it was cold and rainy. Unfortunately for me, I woke up at 7:50am, ten minutes before the bus left at 8am. Therefore, I definitely threw clothes on my sleepy body forgeting warm clothes or a jacket. Nadia and I ran all the way to the Center Seville Hotel. The trip was focused around the voyages of Christopher Columbus. First, we visited Christopher Columbus´ well. The well is dry and filled with sand now, but this is where Columbus drew his water in order to fill his stash on his journey in 1492.  






We loaded up the buses once again and headed to La Rábida. It is the monastery where Christopher Columbus lived for two years before his voyage. After King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella rejected his request for funding an expedition to the Indies, Columbus sought the help of the Franciscan monks at La Rábida. Fortunately, the prior of La Rábida was also Isabella´s confessor. Through his connections, Columbus gained an audience with the Queen who granted funding for the excursion. As we know, Columbus did not reach the Indies on this voyage; he discovered America instead.... whats up.
At La Rábida, we saw where Columbus planned and discussed his expedition with the monks. We were able to touch an original table where Columbus used to work, a sword that was used to conquer the Americas, and boxes of soil from all over the world. It was cool to see all this actually. The monastery patio is surrounded by these 3Dish paintings. They were crazy looking and completely different from anything I've seen. After the monastery, we went closer to the bay to see the life-size replicas of the three ships in Columbus´ fleet. Too bad it was raining so bad they wouldn't let us on the docks that led up to the ships where you are usually able to crawl all over them. Darney.
Then we loaded the bus to return to Seville, but the bus took a detour to one of the beaches close to Seville called Matalascañas. Though the weather was not ideal for a beach day (not anywhere close), most of us rolled up our jeans and took off our shoes to dip our feet in the Pacific Ocean. A few brave guys decided simply touching their feet in the water would not suffice. Four stripped practically naked and swam in the cold waters. I´m sure it was an experience they will neither forget nor repeat. Even with dreary weather, I really enjoyed the beach. I personally loved walking all the way back to the bus with numb bare feet walking off the sand between my toes. It was a good experience, but the excursion would have been 100% better with sunny weather!

Felíz Valentín

love

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For Valentines Josh sent me a bouquet of a dozen red roses and a card to go with it. The roses were beautiful. Just perfect (: They were of really good quality! I was quite impressed. For our date: we watched my all time favorite movie, Fried Green Tomatoes via skype. You can share screen (;  I really do have a fantastic boyfriend. He sat through about an hour of it with getting every other second of the movie because kind of glitches and he didn't say a word until I asked him. Plus he sent me a box full of Valentines. It had everything from notes, candies to the sweater that he always wore that was my favorite. The only thing that could have made my Valentines better was if I would have actually been with him!

Plus I got a little Valentine from my Madre with a few love/hello notes from the lovely girls she works with! James Avery earrings have never looked so good in Spain.