Monday, February 27, 2012

Life seems to fly by these days. I have been in Spain now for almost two months. Everything here is so different then I thought it was going to be but I love it the same. School is easy but great practice for listening and understanding more and my house mom is amazing! Not only because she makes unbelievably healthy and delicious foods but also because she talks to me and corrects me in Spanish. Also I have a new room mate who will be living in our apartment until the end of April from Germany. Her Spanish is very good and she can speak English as well. Right now my room mate Caitlin is in the south of Spain for her spring break. There program has so many more breaks then us. I am really jealous but at the same time I love being in Valencia so I don't mind only traveling on the weekends. Also when my parents come we will be going to Malaga, which is in the south of Spain and absolutely beautiful!

So far I have gone on quite a few trips. We went to Barcelona with our program and it was a lot of fun! Not at all what I expected. Originally I wanted to study abroad in Barcelona and after visiting I am so glad I chose Valencia. Maybe because it was freezing the weekend we were there or just because it is such a big touristy city. Either way it was not for me. I hated being in the city and when ever we tried to speak Spanish people would just respond in English. Since we were there with a group of about 60 Americans I guess I shouldn't have expected much more. One of my new friends here, Nika, has her room mate from home studying abroad in Barcelona. So we got to hang out with some 'local' Americans who were studying abroad there haha. The first night they made us dinner in their apartment which was so fun because we all went to the market and got veggies and what not to make dinner and then after we all went out. The second night we went to a concert at Razzmatazz, which was a much larger version of The Valarium in Knoxville. I am glad that I will be going back to Barcelona for my marathon because we didn't get to go into any of the famous buildings and it was so cold I didn't even want to walk around so hopefully in March it will be warm and it will just be a few of us so we can do a little bit more.

My second trip was to Marrakech, Morocco. So far this was my absolute favorite. The culture there was frighteningly different then anything I have ever experienced. It is exactly what you would expect Morocco to be but at the same time just so ridiculous. Everyone in the streets is yelling and trying to get you to buy everything. You can't even take a picture there without some one trying to get 100 dirhams (about 10 Euros) out of you. I went with three of my new friends Nika, Josie, and Mary Kate. Originally my room mate was supposed to come but long story short she did not make it on the plane. So when we arrived our tour guide joked about leaving one of us behind... not funny. We had a tour of the city, the market, a beautiful palace, and our hostel. Our hostel was the best money I have ever spent! It was so nice and was just everything I would have imagined it to be with a roof top terrace, comfy couches, gardens, and the pool area. Also it was right out side of the main square where everything was going on so it was perfect location to be able to walk into town. We were only there for two full days but at the end of the first day we were walking back to our hostel and saw a man that had sold us scarves earlier and he yelled out oh aren't you the girls that were in my shop yesterday (even he thought we had been there longer). The next day we woke up early and went to Essouri, a beach town a few hours out of Marrakech. We went on an hour long camel ride and had lunch at a nice restaurant on the beach. It was such a great experience and although there were times that I didn't necessarily feel the safest I ever have it was still such an amazing trip.

The weekend after Morocco a big group of us went to Alicante, which is only two hours by train, for Carnival. This is actually the celebration that is huge in Rio, Brazil but lots of cities have smaller Carnival celebrations in southern Spain. Valencia didn't have anything in the main part of town but my intercambo told me he was going to a small town outside of Valencia on the weekend to celebrate. Alicante was absolutely beautiful. When we first arrived we hiked to the top of Castillo de Santa Barbara  and the views were amazing. Then we spent the rest of the day on the beach and exploring the city. We had dinner at Cactus Cantina and Nika and I split a huge veggie burrito and veggie fajitas. The food was soo good and there were these funny guys dressed up like ballerinas (lots of guys dressed up like girls) That night was so much fun. My house mom here let me borrow a hippie costume and two of the boys on my program dressed up in costumes they bought there. We ended up running into a lot of guys that had the same costume on as me.. We obviously missed the memo that everyone does really extravagant group costumes for Carnival. My phone died and I didn't get to take pictures but there were the most creative costumes ever. There was a huge group of chickens with a chicken herder, a group of flinstones with the car and all, sims with the green diamond over their heads, a whole tribe of indians with teepees and a fire, and so much more. We botell√≥ned (botell√≥n is the Spanish version of 'pregaming' but they just do it in the streets) on the main street with everyone in costume and then headed over to the main strip where the streets were blocked off and filled with people and stages with live music all over. There were so many street venders and we had the most delicious chocolate covered churros. The second day we just spent at the beach and it was so beautiful I really loved Alicante.

This past weekend it was in the 70's and most of us stayed in Valencia which was nice. I have been trying to run more and more since my marathon is only four weeks away! This coming weekend I am very excited because Nika and I are going on a trip with the University of Valencia. It will be only students from UV! International and Spanish students and I think we are the only two Americans from our group going. We are taking a bus and a boat and going to Albufera, which is just south of Valencia, and staying the night and hiking in the mountains. It should be really fun and a great chance to be a little more immersed because we will have to speak Spanish since its technically with school and everyone will be international so our common language is Spanish. Plus its nice to get away from the group even though I love everyone sometimes I forget I am even in Spain when I am surrounded by all Americans.

The weekend after this trip a group of around 10 of us are going to Porto, Portugal. I am so excited because it should be warm when we go and it will be so interesting to see if I can understand anything there. The languages are similar but very different so it should be very interesting.

After Portugal, is LAS FALLAS in Valencia. Last night was actually the start of Fallas, we had La Crida, which was fireworks and music and las falleras said a little speach out side of Las Torres Seranos. It was an amazing show (Valencians love their fireworks) Fallas is supposedly absolutely insane and we have class off for the actual week of Fallas but supposedly it last the whole month of March. Everyday at 2pm there is a mascleta where they light off fire crackers or something.. we are going on Friday but I can hear it every day from my room. Really all day you can hear fire works going off and then during the actual week of Fallas the streets are filled, everyone comes out, and its supposed to be impossible to sleep because it is so loud. I am sure I will have some amazing photos, videos, and stories from this event.

So far I have learned that Valencia is famous for Las Fallas, paella, horchata, and agua de Valencia. My time here is going by so quickly and I don't want it to end but I have a lot to look forward to especially my padres coming to visit!

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