Monday, February 22, 2010

Peace and Pijos

Where: SAI
Listening to: “Say Hey (I Love You) by Michael Franti and Spearhead
Word of the day: “pijo

Today was my first day volunteering at a local school, Padres Blancos. I had to meet one of our directors, Sam, at 9:15 to walk to the bus stop and then go to the school. This was my first time on a public bus! Oh Spain, so full of new forms of public transit. The school is on the other side of the river, which would be about a 45-minute walk from school or about an hour from my house.

I had a class full of 15- and 16-year-olds. I come to their English class and do whatever the teacher tells me to. Since today was my first day, I told them a little about myself. Then I took them in pairs into another room and they had to describe themselves. I then got to grade them. Naturally, I said they were all good. I was actually surprised by how good some of them were! The girls tended to be more open and inquisitive than the boys. I was definitely the only blonde in the whole school, so I stood out like a sore thumb when it was time to leave. Everyone stared.

Sam told me that the school is really well known in Sevilla. The area that it’s in is where all the pijos are. Pijo means that they are really preppy. It’s kind of like if you took a University of Texas frat boy and gave him shorter dark hair. They wear collared shirts, sweaters, and khakis or nice pants. I actually already knew about pijos because we met some at Plaza del Salvador a couple weeks ago. They just came up to us at a bar and invited us to hang out with them for the night. There I met some other pijos who I think were members of a band or symphony because they were telling me how they played tuba and trombone. We met up with one of the brothers of a boy in the first group who is a matador, a bull-fighter, at the discoteca Boss. That could turn into a really awesome friendship since he could show us a lot about bullfighting.

By the end of the night, I was fluently speaking and thinking in Spanish. It's great, no? That's what our teacher Carlos always says. That is precisely what I want to be doing-meeting Spaniards, going to local places, and improving my Spanish especially when it comes to local terms. It shouldn't be too hard to keep doing this, since they love blondes and talking to us!

I do however think they lied at one point because I thought a guy's name was Paco, but apparently it was really Carlos. Silly gringa (me).

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Carnaval in Cadiz

Where: bottom bunk
Listening to:
Word of the day: "botellon"

On February 13th we took a bus through the travel program We Love Spain to Cadiz for Carnaval! Cadiz is only about an hour and a half away on the Spanish coastline. Every year they have a huge celebration called Carnaval. Cadiz is the oldest city in Spain. It was really fun to see it all. Literally everyone is dressed up in ridiculous costumes. Some of the popular ones were giant babies, chickens, and men dressed as women. I have never seen so many people dressed up in my whole life. The weirdest part about it was seeing these people dressed up in front of a centuries-old cathedral. There were stages with musicians playing typical Spanish music too so that was fun to listen to.

Haley and I as an angel and Cinderella. We bought these costumes at a fabric shop downtown. Haley's was originally a "Virgin Mary" costume. A little girl bought it after we picked it out. These were both made for apparently oversized children ages 5-7. Savio and the Trav were hippies while Tricia and Laura were an interesting mix of overall heinousity.

Overall I'm glad we went for the experience and to say we did it, but it wasn't necessarily the most exciting thing I've done. It was just really cool to see something like that since it would never happen in the States. Hopefully we will go back to Cadiz at some point soon to go to the beach.

For more pictures from Cadiz, check out my photo website!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Oh Happy Day!

Where: SAI
Listening to: my teacher Carlos try to find where "Bibona" (Vivona, a.k.a. Tricia) is
Word of the day: "barrio" (neighborhood)

This week we're having exams, which so far haven't been too hard at all! In fact, I just got my exam for Business and Commerce in the EU back and I got a 94! Great to know that this only transfers back to Mizzou as pass/fail. I have another today and one more tomorrow. I wish MU exams were like this.

My teacher has switched from calling me "Huracan," Spanish for "hurricane," to "Tsunami." I signed my name on my test Tsunami Steffensen.

The Daily Trav: We are choosing countries for presentations in EU class right now. I'm doing Denmark and Poland. Trav wanted to do Switzerland. We just had a huge exam on which countries where in the EU, when they joined, their capitals, etc. Switzerland is not in the EU.

Also, I might have to start a Daily Tricia as well. Currently she overslept for class. Good thing I called her before so she wouldn't sleep through the exam!

We leave for the bus to Madrid tomorrow right after school. I can't wait! There is a large group of us going, but not all together. My friend E-Rod will be there and I can't wait to see him again. Rachel, my best friend who is studying in Madrid, is going to Lisbon. Unfortunately we're missing each other this weekend, but we will see each other in March. I'm not a full person without my other half and I'm so excited to take Europe by storm with her.

In other news, Tricia finally came to class. We assigned her Iceland and Slovenia as a joke. She was totally okay with that. Once again, Iceland is a country not in the EU.
Sigh....oh Sister Pat.

I JUST GOT MY PACKAGE!!!!! Thank you Mom and Dad! I shared the mini Oreo's with the whole class. My teacher Carlos was very amused that you sent toilet paper. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!! I LOVE YOU GUYS!
P.S. My friends were impressed with how much you packed, Dad.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Las Cosas Dejadas Detrás

So I know this blog is supposed to be about my travels and trials in Spain, but one of those trials is leaving things I love behind.One of the things I'm missing most about being back in college at Mizzou is the magic of skit and performing.

After spending the majority of my life either singing, acting, speaking, or dancing, I figured my performance career would be over come college. However, Mizzou Greek Life provides multiple opportunities to get involved. Rockin' Against Multiple Sclerosis (RAMS) hosts a lip-synching competition every year (see below links) which raises thousands of dollars for MS research.

The annual skit (here's one that I found on youtube from the 1990's) is performed for either Homecoming or Greek Week.
Homecoming skits are usually about Mizzou and pretty cheesy. We've received first place during my time participating in skit. My favorite are the Greek Week skits. It's a little bit more on the college level and the theme changes every year. For example, last year was villains (we were Hopper from A Bug's Life) and each fraternity/sorority pairing performs a skit without an ending. The skits that make the finals night gets to put an ending on their skit. Last year when we were with Pi Kappa Alpha, we won best script, vocals, costumes (Dad helped!), a couple other things and FIRST PLACE! I got to play the queen and we had the first ever death on stage. I did a fabulous job of dying. That experience was definitely one of my favorite parts of college so far. The moment the curtain dropped was one of the happiest moments of my college career.

Seeing fraternity boys that were too cool for plays in high school dancing in spandex in front of 1,000 people is really a special thing. The hard work that everyone puts into skit paired with the total college-ness of this is something I never want to end. In fact, it's killing me to not be there for it this year, going each night and weighing the competition. The excitement of announcements is worth every ounce of effort that goes into these productions. Thousands of dollars are spent as well as countless hours painting, sewing, building, designing, writing, and practicing.

I've been fortunate to travel the globe to perform singing for everyone from a centaur at a Renaissance Festival to my current friends while they were in high school in St. Louis during my choir tour in 2006 to Pope John Paul 2. The people I've met doing skit in college have become my sisters, boyfriend, brothers, and best friends. It truly makes me know that there is nothing like music and creativity that can bring different people together to have life-changing experiences.

On that note, I plan on buying a guitar here pretty soon.

I'm so sad to be missing skit that I could make this face again.

AEPi/Farmhouse/Chi O Homecoming 2008 This skit was about famous MU alumni. We had Mort Walker, the creator of the Beetle Bailey comic strip. I played Ms. Buxley. We received second place to Phi Kap's "musical" of Mike Shannon. We did a dance with flash lights that was soooo cool.

Our RAMS 2009 performance when I got to be Britney Spears during "Piece of Me" (I definitely got the loudest cheers and managed to dance decently enough).
For more click here!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ham On Dude

Where: SAI
Listening to: "Rude Boy" Rihanna (this song will be big)
Word of the day: "maravillas"

Side note: if you click on any of the posted pictures, they expand into another window for easier viewing.

This past weekend we decided to stay in Sevilla. Mainly because we still hadn't figured out any trips. On Friday, February 5th, our school offered a trip to Aracena, a small town on the northwest side of Spain. It was only about an hour away, so Tricia, Melanie, and I decided to venture out into this Spanish world of ours.

The number is listed on this picture so you too can learn the secrets of jamon.
It's more than you could have ever hoped for.

First when we got there we went to the jam museum. Yes, there is a museum about ham here.
We were very excited to go (right). Not. It was a good thing Laura didn't go because she would have freaked out. The museum wasn't too interesting, but it did talk some about how the ham legs were made (I think). It also provided some great photo opportunities. Almost every restaurant you step into here has giant ham legs hanging from the ceilings or the walls--sometimes both! Try eating dinner thinking about the dried legs hanging over your head. It's a vegetarian's worst nightmare.
Even a carnivore's worst nightmare. When we first arrived to our house in Spain, there was a leg, a paleta de jamon, sitting on the kitchen counter, hoof and all. It has since disappeared. We try not to think about what Senora Vicki has put on our sandwiches.

We left the museum (sadly enough the time actually did come) and realized that there were no free sample of ham given out afterwards, much to Savio's disappointment. We had some free time to eat lunch and drink our juice boxes. I feel like every day we regress a little bit more into either camp or kindergarten. We went on a train ride (above) to the top of this mountain where there is a church. The ride up to the mountain felt like a rollercoaster in the sense that you did not feel very strapped in and might have possibly fallen off the ride at any point as we rode in the ricky train. Tricia grabbed on to my arm multiple times, though it definitely did not help. Luckily she was sitting on the outside, so she would have died first if we fell. Maybe broken my fall. Doubtful. I made sure to pretend push her multiple times. Needless to say, Sensitive Susan (Tricia) was not amused. To the right is an example of how high up the hill the church was.

We were able to hang out here for a bit and take some fabulous pictures of the view, the church, and of course, ourselves. Definitely got some great shots.

We rode the train back down to town and took a tour of La Gruta de Maravillas, the Cave of Wonders. It was so cool. There were tons of rooms in the cave with crystal clear pools of water. Every room was dripping in stalagmites and other geological formations that my dad would love to explain. You weren't allowed to take pictures in the cave, so naturally The Trav took several.

After our visit to the cave, it was time to go home where we slept for most of the ride. After we groggily got off the bus in Sevilla, we went back to our house to freshen up to go out. That night we went to Calle Betis, a popular street across the river in Triana. Calle Betis has a lot of bars and discos. We ended up doing our own bar crawl! We went to Big Ben, Demo Club, Rio Latino, and another bar. We spent most of the night at Demo, which ended up being so fun. The rest of our group came and joined in! We knew we would definitely be going back there. Which we did to watch the Superbowl on Sunday night.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

La Leccion de la Dia

I made the mistake the first week we were here to try to get as many native Spanish friends as possible in order to increase the overall experience. That might be alright with the girls, probably not the case with the boys. I've been getting phone calls and texts from Juan since the first week, but have yet to respond to any of them. Ever. I hope he would have gotten the hint by now. However, Spanish men are persistent and forward. Or apparently just Juan is.

Today I received this text message:
"Katrina not you answer that you have no balance on the phone, tonight im in sevilla, we saw the kitten, why do not you come with friends, a kiss, you will not find"

Looks like he finally understood since a kiss I will not find. But what is this business about a kitten? Does that even translate to anything?

Let this be a lesson to boys everywhere: do not try to pick up girls in another language. You will just end up looking like you are really excited about cats.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Les Ama Granada

Where: My bottom bunk
Listening to:
Word of the day: "abulia"

This past weekend we went to Granada, a smaller city east of Sevilla. It's surrounded by the Sierra Nevada mountain range, a popular area for skiing. Granada was once ruled by the Moors (the Arabics, who also once ruled Sevilla) and has a Moorish influence much like Sevilla. Granada was the last Muslim city to return back to Spain in 1492 thanks to Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand. It is most well known for the Moorish castle, the Alhambra.

We left Sevilla around 9 a.m from Plaza de Espana. The ride there wasn't bad (for some). We all tried to sleep, but ended up watching Zoolander instead. Hence, some "blue steel" themed pictures from the trip. We traveled with a program called DiscoverSevilla. Their directors are a couple years older than us, but were so much fun to hang out with.
We stayed at Hotel Juan Miguel, which to our surprise, turned out to be really nice.It was in the middle of the city and within walking distance to all major sites. We even got three meals included! That was definitely the most we've had to eat in Europe so far. Tricia, Haley, Laura, and I were in a room on the fourth floor with a great view of the city.

We were right next door to Nick, Nick, and Travis. Our room was huge, with big, clean beds and fresh fluffy towels. We had enough room to spread out, with roomy closets to hang our clothes. We didn't have to worry about dirty floors that hadn't been cleaned or about the length of our shower. The hot water didn't run out! There was toilet paper! We were in heaven! It's hard to believe something as small as this could have felt so nice. We are definitely getting used to the European way of life. We even took one of the rolls of toilet paper home with us, since Vicki treats TP as if it was made of gold.

After we settled in and got some delicious helado, we went on a hike to an area called the Albayzin to Plaza de San Nicolas. The Albayzin is the ancient Moorish area of Granada. According to the information we were given, the area used to be home to artists. Nowadays the area is popular for the modern-day gypsies, which in actuality look more like the hobos and hippies of Austin than Esmerelda from The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The natives are very entertaining. They come to Plaza de Nicolas to sell jewelry to tourists, play music, sell beer, and let their dogs run all over the place. Literally every person has a small dog and every hobo has a bigger dog. The Plaza de Nicolas overlooks the whole city and has a perfect view of the Alhambra, which we visited the next day.

As we were getting ready, I stood out on the balcony and said "GOOD MORNING SEVILLA!!!" Haley promptly locked me out on the balcony. That night we went out to a small bar that had some fifteen-year-olds playing foozball in it. I was pretty tired so I headed home early to save up for the next day.

After eating breakfast at the hotel, we went to the Alhambra. The Alhambra was built in the 14th century under the Nazari Dynasty. It consists of two palaces, the Generalife (the summer palace) and the Alhambra itself. They are both places completely opposite of Plaza de Nicolas on top of a mountain in order to protect the royals. The palaces are surrounded by perpetually green gardens with Moorish design and flowing fountains. The whole time I felt as though I should be strolling about in my Renaissance dress. If only... We had a tour guide who took us through the entire castle. It was gorgeous. The Alhambra and Real Alcanzar were especially interesting because of their Moorish origin. You would expect them to be like castles from Cinderella since they are in Europe. However, they has got a touch of Aladdin in them, just enough to make you think twice about where you are at. Just like the blue "jasmine pants" that Tricia decided to buy. Those make me think twice about why I am her friend.

We had the option of going to a 12 euro buffet, but being the typical college girls we are, we chose elsewhere. We got 2.50 euro sandwiches and went shopping (why spend money of food, honestly). Our shopping really just turned into wandering the streets and exploring. Afterwards we went back to our hotel room, took extra long showers, and met up with the group to go out for tapas. Tricia, Laura, Haley, Melanie, Mindy, Hanna, and I went with our tour guide, Benni, to a restaurant that gave out a free tapas with each drink. We stayed at this bar for a while before going to an Irish pub. They are very popular here.

Once the clock struck 1 a.m., it was time to hit the discos. We went to Granada 10 which looked like a scene from a movie. My friend Becca told me to go there so I knew it was going to be a blast. The club was huge. People were dancing every where. It couldn't have been more fun and Euro-fabulous! I've definitely adapted to the Spanish way of clubbing--dancing a lot. Which is more or less me jumping around. This will be interesting when I get back to the states. For some reason, I doubt Will G's Generic will have the same effect like Granada 10 or Buddha.

I definitely haven't adapted to the way Spanish girls wear nude colored tights. Mindy took a picture of Nick Savio with some Spanish girls wearing these tights, giving them the same look as Hooters girls. So Haley commented on the picture saying "Do these girls have prosthetic legs Savio?" Then the same Spanish girls in the picture found it and commented back. SO HILARIOUS. By the way, they in fact do not have prosthetic legs.

The next morning we woke up, feasted, downed two coffees, and went on a small tour of the city. We went to Capilla Real, the cathedral where Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand are buried. You can actually go down into the basement of the church and see their crypt. It's so weird to think that people have been visiting these places for over 200 years. It's easy to think about people in the last 50 years, but imagine how these things looked to people in the 1800's! Ha, and they thought they were so advanced. We ended the trip again with a visit to Plaza de San Nicholas and a shopping stop in the gypsy markets which had tons of Moroccan-made items. Haley bought a wallet and I bought a gold scarf (hello Mizzou games). We then headed back to the buses for home.

Overall, our first adventure could not have been more fun. It was the perfect balance of history and entertainment. I left that day feeling full of happiness and contentment of what is to come. This is literally the semester I have been waiting for. I couldn't be happier that I'm finally here and living it.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Un regalo

Where: SAI
Listening to: The Love on the Inside CD by Sugarland
Phrase of the day: "Es muy sexy no?"

Today we came in to our Business and Commerce of the Europe Union class and our teacher, Carlos, was handing out t-shirts from his other company, a computer store called CiberCenter. The shirts came in small, medium, large, and what he called "sexy." Carlos loves to promote CiberCenter. He always makes sure its logo is on the background of our papers.

If you chose the "sexy" shirt, you got a regular shirt too. Naturally we chose the tank top, only for a joke. At least now we have bathing suit cover ups, since apparently these tanks were made for 8-year-olds.

This class is definitely my favorite.

Afterwards Carlos told us a story about how he gave one of the shirts to a chubby girl. When she walked down the street, he said, it looked as if the kangaroo was jumping on her stomach.