Shenanigans at the Brouhaha: Our Adventure to Whore Island

First order of business: Ned Quincy is back from the spa!!! (translation: I got my computer back!!!) Just in time for my first weekend travel post.

Last Friday I hopped on an autobús to Granada with 6 other people: Conner, Britta, Kevin, Stephanie, Matt, and Katharine.

We started off the trip with seriously intense games of 20 Questions. By intense I mean 15 minute discussions about which question to ask next and what we can infer from the previously gained knowledge. Yeah. You wish you were this cool. We also started the multiple-day-long discussion about the roles we would each play if we were in a slasher film. You’ll be proud to note that I was identified as someone who would make it to the end, figure out who the killer was, and be murdered soon thereafter. Success… kind of.

We arrived in Granada 5 hours later to a city that seemed completely under construction. After aimlessly wandering for a bit and jumping on a passing bus, we made it to our hostel. We set down our things and looked around at each other for a second until someone said, “So are you guys ready to go out?” We threw on some nicer clothes and hit the town, which here means walking down streets until we found a bar, stopping in for a glass or two, then heading out again.
The next day we trekked to La Alhambra, a Moorish castle that was taken over by Ferdinand and Isabelle. It was so gorgeous! During the day we took a tour of the gardens, then stopped for a paella lunch and a quick nap. After recuperating from the exhausting day we walked around the city center and, shortly after disappearing up one tiny alley, we came across what was essentially Agrabah (Aladdin’s hometown. Keep up). It was this random little Arabian area with hookah bars on every corner. We stopped into one for some hookah and milkshakes. We then returned to Alhambra for the night tour of the palace. It was so awesome seeing the buildings all lit up. Afterwards we got dinner at Döner Kebaps. They make the most amazing food, something like a cross between a pita sandwich and Greek gyros. Needless to say, my life was changed.

The next morning our group hopped on yet one more bus to head to the coast. We spent the day swimming in the Mediterranean, soaking up the sun (yeah right, not with this Irish skin), and playing cards on the beach. But, most importantly, we started to discuss what would happen if we were all trapped on an island. This required more thought than the slasher movie scenario, as each of us had a job, warrior name, and weapon of choice. In the end it was clear that we had to name our newfound home “Whore Island.” We left the beach and 2 buses later arrived back in Madrid. Overall it was an awesome first weekend trip. I’m so ready for more.

While You Were Sleeping

Blogging is tough without a computer.

I’d have posted more frequently, but let’s be honest, nobody can be witty and interesting when typing out a post on their iPod touch. So for now I’m resorting to using my roommate Alex’s computer while she’s asleep. Hi, Alex. Here’s a summary of my life so far, in alphabetical order by subject.

Classes – So far my classes seem a little more intense than I had anticipated. I’m taking an English class (Falling in Love in the Renaissance), Business Ethics, Art History (20th Century Art), and History 112 (Origins of the Modern World: 1500-Present). I’m obsessed with all of my teachers except for the Ethics professor. He refuses to make eye contact with any living thing, has the most ridiculous monotone voice, and smiles creepily at the floor as he says something that may or may not be a question for the class, but we have no idea because we’re all sleeping.

Host Fam – My host mom is the love of my life. She teaches me Spanish, cleans my room, washes my laundry and hangs it on a line to dry, makes amazing dinners, and always calls us “cariño.” The other night she made a huge celebratory dinner for Alex’s 21st birthday. That night I happened to mention in passing that I love zucchini with garlic… guess what we had for dinner tonight. We 3 host children are convinced that she can read minds, as she has managed to successfully answer our silent wishes for extra pillows, among other things. We only speak Spanish together, and even in the week or so that I’ve been here I know I’ve been improving a lot.

Travel – I’ve gone on three day trips with school: Monasterio de Piedra, Toledo, and Salamanca. The Monasterio was amazingly beautiful. We went on a tour of the buildings and then had a 2 hour free period to hike around the surrounding waterfalls.  The next day we went to Toledo. It was so cool to see the mixture of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim influence. Definitely a fun day with some gorgeous sights, but it felt like we had too much free time. By the end of it we were so tired that we just sat down and chatted while waiting for the bus. Yes, Tesi cousins, I know this is a waste of potential sight-seeing time, but dang it I was tired!

Finally, today we took the struggle bus to Salamanca… and I fell in love. The city is amazing. It’s essentially one giant college town, because thousands and thousands of college students study there every year. Apparently the best part about Salamanca is the night life, but unfortunately we left by 4 pm. If I have time this semester I’d like to go back for a weekend trip, but I guess we’ll just have to see how the planning works out!

Unlucky Things – My mosquito bites are almost gone. I had a cold, but I’m almost better. Now all I need in this world is my computer and I will be set. I was told I should be getting it back by Thursday, so by next weekend I will be updating much more frequently. I’ll also be putting more than just a 20-minute effort into posts. This one was super general (sorry I’m not sorry), but the ones to come will be literary masterpieces.

Casual Observer: Part 1

Since arriving it has been almost painfully clear that Americans are immediately recognizable in a sea of Spaniards. From my walking speed to my American flag credit card, I basically scream “SOY AMERICANA!” Though this is at times debilitating, having such a fresh perspective has helped me pick up on some interesting peculiarities of Spanish culture.

Walk Left, Stand Right I have taken the metro to school almost every day since arriving, and multiple times to meet up with people at night. I’m nearly a pro at this point. But the one thing that I still can’t wrap my mind around is the strict attention to escalator courtesy observed in every metro station. If you plan to stand on the escalator and let the machine do all the work (you lazy bastard), you stand on the right. If you plan on running to the top of each escalator, sweat streaming down your face because it’s 97 degrees when you’re that close to hell, you use the left side. I was quickly made aware of this custom when I received scoffs and evil eyes on my first day of school. Whoops.

Extreme Chivalry, Or None At All In an amazingly long list of bad luck to happen to me since arriving in Spain, my computer hard drive crashed. Yes, it’s awful. No, I don’t know how I’m surviving. Let’s move on. My roommate and I went to the Apple store to see if Ned Quincy the MacBook Pro could be repaired. On our way out a man was holding the door open for his wife, who was meandering around the other side of the room. I attempted to slip by the man, murmuring “Perdon” as I did so, but he was not pleased. His response was a stern “NO” and a refusal to move. I was then forced to wait for his wife to slowly make her way over and accept his chivalry, after which I was permitted to exit the building. May I recommend a chill pill?

The Birds and The Bees (No, not like that.) Birds in America are terrified of the world. When I was a kid I loved chasing them around parks until they flew away. I’m convinced that if a child tried that here, the birds would end up running the kid out of town. They have no qualms about coming right up next to you. Pigeons will move as far away as they need to in order to remain alive, but no further. The other day a little bird ran up to my feet, grabbed a french fry off the ground, and peaced out. No fear. Bees have similar attitudes. I finished a sandwich the other day between classes but still had some crumbs on my plate. One of the ten thousand bees of SLU Madrid promptly landed on my plate, grabbed a sizable piece of bread, and carried it home. He returned a few minutes later for some turkey. I offered some lettuce, but he declined.

Check back for more to come!

Panther’s Milk

I arrived in Madrid on Monday morning to a completely deserted airport. After a 10 mile hike to baggage claim, I made my way to the cab line with four bags in tow. One of my roommates, Alex, randomly found me before the group flight, so we headed off in our cabs to find our home for the next few months. In the shock of entering a new country, my entire body of knowledge compiled by years of Spanish class flew out the window. After giving the address, the only exchange between the cabbie and myself was “Cuanto cuesto?” “€31.20.”  Alex and I met our host mom, Sol, in the midst of our “how do we get our bags upstairs” crisis. She is quite literally the most precious, sassy, hilarious Spaniard in existence.

I spent most of the day unpacking, napping, and bonding with my new family (sorry, Radsliffs), which at this point included my 2nd and final roomie, Allie. Around 2 or 3 hours later, I realized that I left my purse containing my computer, all my euros, my ID, credit and debit cards, and my passport, in the hallway outside of our apartment. Whooooops! Luckily nothing was taken, but that would certainly have made life more interesting.

I was surprised that I actually had no trouble falling asleep Monday night, despite the 9 hour time difference from home. I woke up on Tuesday completely free of jet lag, ready to bond with my fellow displaced Americans at SLU Madrid orientation. We drove about 40 minutes away to a little town called Guadarrama. Orientation and activities lasted from 9 am to 7:45 pm. Let me tell you, that was just about the longest day of my life. I could barely remember my own name, let alone the names of half the people I met.

Hey look! A field! Anyone care to laze around for, oh, I don't know, 11 hours?

Later that night, despite the draining day, my friends and roommates and I decided to go out for our first legal drinks in Spain. We first stopped at a very cool little bar called El Chapandaz that looked like a cave. Six of us shared a ridiculous 4 liter drink: the Leche de Pantera (“Panther’s Milk”). Have you ever heard of anything more badass? Probs not. The drink is made with milk (which pours out of a stalactite hanging from the ceiling), cinnamon, gin, rum, and (according to the website), the “final touch that makes it famous.”

Later in the evening we set off to another bar, La Fontana de Oro, which was a great place to meet new people from all over. My friend Britta and I talked to a guy from Belgium, and later we ended up hanging out with some people from London. All in all it was an amazing first night out, and an amazing first few days of my study abroad experience.

Why I’m Writhing in Pain in Chicago, and Other News

Living in California and going to school in St. Louis, I think of myself as a pretty confident traveler. But this time around, perhaps I was a little too confident. I put off packing for Spain until 9 pm the night before my flight out of SFO… Not the best idea. It was a struggle, but I eventually made it to Chicago with two large suitcases, a huge heavy carry-on, and a jam-packed purse. My aunt Liz, cousin Gina, and Gina’s boyfriend Mitch met me at the aeropuerto. Half an hour drive, 2 hour discussion of apartment decorating, and 4 boxes of Thai food later, we called it a night.

I’m not sure how we managed to fit as much as we did into the next day. From my pre-Spain haircut to our shopping trip to meeting Gina at work for lunch, we ran around pretty much non-stop. Then, after a grand total of 18 hours together, Liz dropped me off at the airport to meet up with my fellow future Spaniards, Hannah and Kathleen.

So here I am at Kathleen’s house. We spent a day walking around downtown Chicago with our friend Ellen and have had two delicious dinners with her family, but the part of the trip that has impacted us the most so far has been the mosquito attack of 2011.

Hannah's toothpaste-covered bites

Luckily I was wearing jeans, so my bites are only on my feet. Hannah, however, has no less than 100 mosquito bites covering both of her legs. Attempted remedies so far: cortizone, water and salt, and toothpaste. Successful attempts so far: none. Life is rough.

On the bright side, we leave for Spain tomorrow! Let’s just hope the itching subsides before we have to interact with people.

And So It Begins

Tomorrow I leave for Chicago. I’ll be spending one night with my cousin who lives there and the next few nights with my friends from SLU before we head to Spain. I’m so excited to embark, but I’m pretty nervous at the same time. This is crunch time for packing, reconnecting with friends, finishing summer projects, and saying “Adios” to family members. Far too many things to fit into 24 hours.

Oh, and have I mentioned that I haven’t started packing yet?

Yesterday my dad gave me the most epic “bon voyage” gift of all time: every single Harry Potter audiobook read by Stephen Fry. During my hour-long-each-way commute to work this summer I made my way through the first four audiobooks, but I didn’t have any of the rest. Now I have all of them on a pretty little flash drive with my name on it in the HP lightning bolt font. Looks like I’m all set with an activity for the plane rides to Chi-town and España! Now I just have to pack…

Hilarious Spanish Phrases: A Brief Guide (Part 1)

In preparing for Spain I’ve come across a few key phrases that I find both ridiculous and hilarious. Here are the first five of many. I hope to find some use for them in my travels…

Anda a bañarte – take a hike, go jump in a lake, get lost; literally “go bathe yourself” – ¿No les quieren mis zapatos nuevos? Pues… anda a bañarte. (You guys don’t like my new shoes? Well… go jump in a lake.)

Ni fu ni fa – an expression that communicates indifference – ¿Prefiero Madrid o Barca? Ni fu ni fa. (Do I prefer Madrid or Barcelona? Eh, either one I guess.) (Obviously this is a ridiculous understatement… I can’t wait to go to Spain!!!)

¡Olé! – yippee, alright – ¡Churros con chocolate! ¡Olé! (Churros dipped in chocolate! Yay!)

¡Venga, hombre! – usually said at the end of a sentence to mean the following: “yeah right,” “really I don’t believe you at all,” “you have to be kidding,” or “stop it.” – No tenemos la prueba hoy. Venga, hombre. … ¿Verdad? … Mierda. (The test isn’t today. Come on, man. … It is? … Shit.)

Estoy de mala leche. – I’m pissed off; literally “I have bad milk” – Estoy de mala leche porque tengo solo tres meses en España. (I’m pissed off because I only have 3 months in Spain.)

Stay tuned for more!