Saturday, November 8, 2008

A Great Meal

Lindsay and I got our FHE group together today to cook American Food for a "Noche de talentos" at our local chapel. We bought a ton of chicken wings from the local meat shop (150 when chopped up) and we were surprised to see how many feathers stick on the Spanish wings. We made some great sauces on top of them. I cooked some Cajun Stuffed Mushrooms (stuffed mushroom caps with brie cheese, bell peppers, garlic, onion, sausage, and cajun spices) and they were a big hit amongst the students and the locals. Others in our group made bumps on a log, Mexican burritos with fresh lime, pumpkin pie, muddy buddies, and other deserts. We enjoyed watching the skit mocking the bus trips, as many of the program members and the profes have quirks that are very recognizable.

I also enjoyed cuddling with my wife after the day and watching WALL-E finally. What a great film! The fact that it was silent most the time and short was fine; it fit the mood and showed the power of tacit-taciturn communication in film. The silent film needs a resurgence! We need Buster Keaton again.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

More Traveling...

After the Northern Spain trip we settled into school a little more seriously. I´ll talk about school in another post.

The Tuesday after the trip, I went to El Parque de Buen Retiro with Minta, Angela, and Serena (that doesn´t mean anything to you, but I want to remember who I went with). We had a picnic and rented a row boat. A cute old man on the sidewalk made gestures to us to come over for a kiss. Minta politely said "no gracias" as we rowed further away. When it started to rain Angela, the girl from Oregon, told us this was normal for her, she would rather use our full 45 minutes of rowing and be wet. But, she also came prepared with sweaters to share.

After the rowing, they walked me to the metro stop where I split from the group to go meet Martin at the airport! After missing over two weeks of school, he had a lot to catch up on.

Before Martin got here, I spent a lot of time with Angela and Serena. They live a block away, so we walked to school together, figured out the bus system, stuff like that, and became friends in the process. After Martin arrived Serena told me they were singing excerpts from a Lion King song "(...) here's the bottom line. Our trio's down to two. (...) with all this romantic atmosphere, disaster's in the air!" I thought it was funny. But sadly, that is kinda what happened. There is a limited amount of time in a day. If more of it goes to Martin (which is what I want), then there is less time for other things. We still hang out, just not as much.

That weekend (Sept 12-13) the group went to Silos and Numancia. There was an awesome church in Silos that was built in and over a cave where a hermit lived. The chapel was painted on all the walls and ceilings, depicting scenes from the bible.

The next weekend, Marty and I spent a day in Toledo. We got a few souvineers, including a hand painted ceramic plate that was discounted 15€ because of chip that is hardly noticible after being painted over. I'm a cheap student. We also got some mazapan (spanish spelling) that is hand made by nuns. I don´t know why that makes it cooler if it tastes the same, but it's cooler. Maybe because I had to go into the abby and ring a bell for the nun to come bring it too me.

This past weekend we went to Avila and Salamanca. Avila has the sites of Santa Teresa de Jesus. I liked learning about her visions and life's work. We also walked the city wall and went inside the cathedral. Salamanca has a few amazing churches and a Roman Bridge. On our way home we went an hour and a half out of the way to see one of the only remaining Visigoth curches. It is from the 7th century. It is a great example of a church shaped like a byzantine cross, rather than the typical Latin cross. Cool as that was, you could see a lot of other things in four hours. But maybe medival history and visigoths are your thing. If so... you can stop by the bar for a fanta. The town is so small, it's the only place to get a snack.

Northern Spain

After weeks of not posting, I am finally making time to write again. One advantage of me not writing frequently is that it isn't possible for me to give a day by day detailed diary.

The trip to northern Spain was great. The cathedral in Leon was awesome. It has the second most stained glass of the European cathedrals. We stayed up till midnight so we could see the windows lit from the inside. They needed to get some brighter lights, but it was still pretty.
While in Leon I tried tapas (spanish appetizers that come with drinks) for the first time. We had a little confusion over the fact that tapas are only for the bar. The waiter told us we had to leave out table unless we were going to get dinner. Oops. We´ll call that a learning experience.

One of the stops on the trip was a small town called Ribadesella. I wish Martin could have visited it. While I was there I think I fell in love... with the city. It is built around a little harbor filled with fishing boats. The fishermen put there lobster traps on the dock ready for the next trip. It also helped that our hotel was on the beach. We walked out our back door for a swim.

Later we went down the street to a pastelería that had dark hot chocolate thick almost like pudding, an amazing assortment of pastries, marzipan fruits, as well as gourmet chocolates. Letizias are a heart shaped chocolate truffle thing that is only made in that region (name after the princess), so I was sure to try one. Later we splurged and got salmon at a sit-down restaurant. We were very proud of ourselves for asking questions about the menu, understanding the answers, and paying for food, all with a waiter that only spoke spanish (this was a week and a half after arriving). I was very enthralled by the town. It managed to be this charming despite being foggy and rainy the whole time I was there, even when we were swimming.

In an effort to be short here are a few other highlights of my week in Northern Spain.
- Bilbao with the Guggenheim museum and pinchos (a type of tapa)
- Exploring Santillana del Mar, another quaint spanish town
- Learning more about Spanish pre-history than I ever wanted to know, through many museums and archeological sites.
- Getting to know the study abroad group... many hours in the bus and in hotels together.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Some Drawings of Lindsay and I

Some drawings Lindsay and I did one afternoon together:

A wonderful drawing of a willow tree by Lindsay.

A side view drawing of me, Martin.

A Willow Tree I drew.

A wider view of the same tree.

The start of this week.

Tomorrow I head off to northern Spain. I have to say I´m pretty excited. When I write about it I really will try to be more concise.
Today I had my first class session for religion. I really really like the first half hour and even understood most of it. After that I started to think about how uncomfortable my seat was and how to explain a game in Spanish that we were going to play later. I didn´t understand much when I was doing that.
After class was family home evening (since we don´t really have families here we are assigned to groups). Martin volunteered us to be "mom and dad" but since he isn´t here I get to be a single mom. I´m good at deligation though. Planing was as easy as asking the responsible people to plan a lesson and song. I did plan the game, but we didn´t end up playing because the girls wanted to hear the story of how me and Mart met/got engaged. Poor Marty will never know what I said or be able to defend himself.
I´m off to pack. I have to be at the train station at 7:50 am, which is even earlier in Spain.

Sunday, August 31, 2008


I definitely need to work on the brief part.

The First Week of School

Wow! I´ve done so many things in the past week. I guess I will start with Monday and try to give brief highlights before I get bored of writing or run out of time. Monday we took a day trip to Segovia and Granja Palace. In Segovia I went to my first palace and cathedral. It was tempting to buy a beautiful lace table cloth from the vender outside, especially when she was so very willing to drop the price 10€ when she saw we were not interested at the original price. I think sometime I am going to try the bartering for the fun of it. After that, we walked to the Roman Aqueduct. Very cool. It´s amazing what the Romans were able to do. With a little bit of luck I´ll get pictures later on from a friend (my camera does not have a charger till Martin comes over).
After that we went to Granja, a nearby palace, to see the fountains. PhilipV of Spain, grandson of Louis the XIV, built this palace to imitate Versailles. Most of it is baroque style and these are no ordinary fountains. They are huge with statuary and decoration. This was one of two days every year that they turn on all the main fountains. It is quite the big deal, with thousands of people gathering to see it. With all the crowds and water everywhere I managed to loose a sandal. It wasn´t as easy as you might think. It took some bad planning on my part. I´ll tell the little story.
Among the thousands of people there, there was a 100 or more young people dressed in costume. Things ranging from boys in swim trunks with Michael Phelps caps (hand written) to cows to punks to cross dressing ballerinas. It was really entertaining. I don´t know if they do this every year, but the group of young people had the firm intention of ignoring the guards and rushing the fountain for a swim. Not too much of a problem since at this fountain there was only 3 guards, the fountain was bigger than a lap swimming pool and probably 12 feet deep.
It was pretty comical to see the three guards ask people to get out of the pool, then to at least swim on one end, and quickly give up completely and turn their attention to making the sitting spectators keep their feet off the grass.
After watching this a few of my fellow students got closer and were pushed in and even more jumped intentionally. At this point I was thinking some thing about being responsible, respectful, and not wanting to be part of the raucous group if the guard finally did get their act together.
So me and a few friends continued on ooohing and aweing over the statues of Triton and Diana surrounded by fish, horses and urns shooting water 50 feet into the air.
My professor had warned us that we would get wet at this event and we needed to bring a change of clothes. As a friend and I approached the last fountain we were disappointingly dry and very hot. We pushed our way to the front of the crowd and climbed a little hill to get a front row view of the fountain. By this point we were both regretting we had not jumped in the first fountain. When we got up close we could see it was probably three feet down to the water that was probably chest deep. I had my purse, we both had our shoes, and if we jumped in there was no way we would be able to climb out.
As a side note, there is something really great about being young. I have this small amount of irresponsibility that allows me to look at a situation like that and completely ignore logical reasons not to so something.
So we jumped in. It was deeper than I thought. Since couldn't´t hold my purse out of the water the whole time, it still smells a little of pond water. My Teva sandal started to float away, but I caught it and put it back on. We made our way to the BYU students we saw on the other side. I handed my purse to a girl that had not jumped in. I put my flip flops up and I thought I said some thing like "can you take these too?" But I can´t say I really remember. We jumped around with the singing Spaniards, went under the heavy spray of the fountain, and got our picture to actually prove that we were swimming in a baroque historical artifact.
When I got out of the fountain one of my Tevas had disappeared. It was either claimed by the fountain like a penalty for our abuse to her, or just taken by someone that didn´t think jumping in the fountains was joke enough for one day. It was quite the joke. I got quite a few funny looks as I walked back to the bus with only one shoe.

Ugh... I´ve used all my time only one day. I´m want to get through this week! I really need to move faster. Tuesday was the first day of school in an actual class room. We just had a terrible placement test.
On Wednesday we had two classes though, and I didn´t understand much of either. It makes it really hard to give commentary on a poem when you only caught the first line. In one class the teacher kept asking me questions (because he found out I was married and that was some how related). The problem was, when he asked me, I was just figuring out what he said three sentences ago. Luckily I had some helpful neighbors.
All this week there has been Fairs and Fiestas in Alcalá (where I live). In the Plaza de Cervantes there is music, dancing, parades, and food. Spread through out the city there are various plays and concerts. I ended up going to the fair three nights this week. The first night, Tuesday, I tried churros bañado (bathed) en chocolate and bought a cheap but cute dress. The second night I spent the whole time talking to one of the boys in the group about what type of school we would open if we could. We just talked and followed the group as they wandered around buying souvenirs and food. The third night I went on my fair ride. I told the group I wanted to go on a ride and I motioned in the general direction of the faris wheel. They all thought that sounded fun. I pointed to the long hanging arm that spins as it swings up past a 90 degree angle to the ground. To my surprise only one person that wanted to go. The others thought it was too intense. When we actually left to get in line we were joined by one more person. It was a good ride.
Friday I don´t have school, so I spent the day in Madrid (visited a bank, Puerta del Sol, and Plaza Mayor). I came back to Acalá in time to see a traditional performance "Tuna de Alcalá," part of the fiestas. A men´s group dressed in renaissance clothes, sang, played lutes, etc... Afterwards we wandered through the streets and window shopped, and I think we headed home early. That means about 11.
Yesterday was pretty cool. I met up with some kids in the group in the Plaza de Cervantes to watch a parade. Afterwards we bought some traditional food. They put these two huge pans in the plaza, probably 5 feet across. Underneath there was a pile of sand so they could burn wood and cook the food. I don´t remember what the food was called. It sounded like the Spanish word for ants. It was good, though. Basically a stuffing with chorizo sausage, garlic, and some unidentified meats.
After that I went home to help my señora a little with food preparation. Saturday she had 14 people for dinner before they all went to a concert. Usually dinner is a light meal in Spain. I don´t know that I would call four types of meet, five salads, potatoes, bread, and various other side dishes and appetizer, light. Earlier this week I asked if some one was helping and she yes. One person was bringing one meat. They other people did also help with dessert.
She spent 7 hours in the kitchen on Friday and several more on Saturday. While she was cooking I pointed out there was going to be one salad for every three people. I think she was going to say that wasn´t right, until she realized that it was. But she said people are sure to eat a lot. She fed a total of 15 people last night, had seven friends over today for "comida" (lunch, the main meal of the day), and there is still enough that she won´t have to cook for several days. Much to my disappointment, the tiramisu and flan are actually gone after being dessert for three meals. The food was really fantastic. Despite how much I liked it, I won´t give a description of all the dishes here.
There were two extra tickets to the concert, so I called a friend and we went with the group. It was in the courtyard of the Universidad Antigua, a building several hundred years old. I am so impressed by the ancient architecture in Europe. There were three levels of pillars and arches. The symmetry of them was set off nicely by two cypress trees on the left of the stage. I don´t think that I have ever been in that type of concert where it was open to the stars.
Now I have a question for my sisters or mother. The "Orquesta de Cámara de Villa de Madrid" wasn´t an orchestra. It was an 11 piece string ensemble. Is there a name for this? I think maybe it was called "orquesta cuerda" in one place. The music was all Spanish composers, except Bizet, which was the only one I had heard of. During every other song they had a women doing traditional Spanish dance with castanets. Wow! That was beautiful.
Some thing different about Spain... Many people take a nap in the middle of the day and they stay up much later. So it wasn´t that strange for a Spanish person that this concert started at 11 pm. Although, the American temple president (a church leader) was one of the guests and he had his doubts about going to an event that ended at 1 in the morning. But, for me it meant that I slept through the first encore.

So there is my week. Almost. I guess I did go to church. I sang in the choir today. I had great leftovers. Not much that makes a good story though. But looking back at my post, I guess that hasn´t stopped me before. What will stop me is the fact that it is close to 1 in the morning and I still haven´t decided what the theme is for this poem in my homework!