31.01.2013 - 22.02.2013 12 °C
In the past couple weeks I have been to London, gone on a hike to a small town where we were surrounded by a herd of sheep, visited the Alhambra, seen the Capilla Real and the Catedral, been to Cádiz for Carnival, and purchased two trips: one to Barcelona and one to Bilbao. I truly am still in shock that this is my life right now, and I feel so fortunate to be able to say so. I just do not know when everything will sink in. Even though I am in a new country and speaking a new language and living in a place that I never have before, I feel normal and comfortable. I think this is a good thing... I hope it means that I am able to adapt to new environments. This time is flying by as I have been told by countless people, so I have been trying to take every opportunity and absorb all that I can. I am going out of my comfort zone and taking a salsa class, my first one was last night! It was actually really enjoyable, even though I couldn't understand everything the instructor was saying in spanish nor do I know how to dance. I think that is important to challenge yourself, and that all too often we get stuck in a routine and never question it or change it. I hope that I can bring this mentality back with me to the United States when I return, and I hope to try and maintain this balance between enjoying every minute but also studying enough to be successful.
First of all, my trip to London:
Definitely a great experience of learning how to use public transportation. I had so much fun visiting Kayla, drinking Guinness (with a Shamrock on top as beer foam art instead of latte art), and exploring a HUGE and international city. It was strange hearing English all the time just walking around, which I think is a good sign that I have become comfortable being surrounded by Spanish. It was also really cool to hear so many other languages too, some which I could not even identify. Since London is such a metropolitan and enormous city it is definitely more of a cultural melting pot. On my last night we went on something called a "London Walk" which was in a cute neighborhood of London called Hamstead (think I'm spelling that right) and we had a somewhat uptight but quirky old man for our tour guide. He was a little snappy at first but soon warmed up as he explained the richness of the neighborhood. Kayla and I talked to these two older ladies at our first pub that we stopped at who were from the states and were just traveling together for the week. It was heartwarming that they were still that close and definitely made me want to continue this habit of traveling throughout my life. We did the touristy things that are necessary of course, fish and chips while watching a rugby game, Big Ben, the London Eye, and who could forget... Platform 9 3/4. Had such a lovely weekend and I cannot wait until Kayla comes to visit in Granada in April and I can show her an equally good time!
So like the Mezquita in Córdoba, I am sorry but my words fail to describe the beauty and technique. It is the most visited building in all of Spain, and it does not disappoint. There is SO much technique and work put into every inch and every corner of this building. The whole thing is a giant book of poetry, now only if I could read it. It is a perfect example of Arte Musulman with ceramic tiles, wood, writing etched into the yeso (cast material) and is constructed out of ladrillos (bricks). I would describe is as being ornate and luxurious. I can absolutely imagine royalty living there. Another magical element about the Alhambra is the view. It sits atop a hill overlooking Granada, and has an aqueduct that is the highest point of flowing water in the city. I stood on the top of the tower overlooking the various neighborhoods such as the Albaycin and Sacromonte with traditional and classic white buildings. I could see the enormous Catedral jutting from the maze of houses, and I for the first time I found the Plaza del Toros and could see exactly how far it is that I walk every day Pretty amazing to put everything in perspective. I have never really been big on history until I came to Spain, and it has been such a wonderful experience learning about everything that has happened and realizing how old every building is and what rich stories there are.
Capilla Real y La Catedral:
Exquisit! The Capilla Real was so detailed. El Gran Retablo Mayor looks like a giant mural almost, I know that is not exactly right, but it is covered with religious scenes colorfully painted or in all gold. It made me painfully aware of my ignorance about religion when some of the students in my program were talking about which story from the Bible each scene represented. Nevertheless, it was impressive. Another part of the Capilla Real was a museum, and it was incredible to be able to see the crown that was worn by Isabel de Castilla and the sword that belonged to Fernando de Aragón. The Catedral was enormous, similar to the cathedral in Córdoba where I just felt incredibly small. I want to return one day for mass because I feel like it would be a very unique experience. We also unfortunately had to leave early in order to make our bus to Cádiz.
An adventure for sure. We did not realize how much people dress up for this event. All everyone was wearing in our group were masks with slightly color coordinated clothing to match. However, the Spaniards went ALL OUT! It seems like their version of Halloween maybe, except better than in the United States because no one was dressed sexually (aka lingerie with animal ears as Mean Girls would say), everyone seemed to be trying to have the funniest and most creative costume - quite the breath of fresh air. Usually people were coordinated with the rest of their group as well, in order to find each other easily throughout the night. We saw the Simpsons, the Spice Girls, the Smurfs, the ghosts from pac man, people dressed as the game twister, a bunch of llamas, and so many more. One of my favorite things were the lights, it reminded me of when Lauren and I first got to Madrid and it was still Christmas time. There was an incredible amount of people there. I am glad that I went for the experience, but the amount of trash that that many people produce is pretty repulsive. When we were leaving in the morning we saw huge trash machines coming around to clean everything as well as a whole troop of workers in reflective gear carrying brooms. There are different versions of Carnival around Spain as well as other European countries, but something that is unique to Cádiz is the performers. Cádiz is a very political city historically, and therefore they have singers and comedians performing in all corners of the city who will jokingly criticize aspects of the government. Definitely added a unique element to our time there.
Well caught up a little bit at least. Next week we are going to Madrid with our program and I cannot wait! Keep enjoying every day, and remember to keep your life interesting.