Spain

Spain Journal, January to May 2004

Dedicated to my parents, who talked me into yet another semester abroad

Note: This journal contains photos and movie clips.

 



 

Th 1/1 16:04

It’s actually 9:04 here in Minneapolis, but I already have my watch set on Spain time in preparation for my semester in Granada.

Mom and Dad and I are hanging out in the airport lounge. We’ve already checked our baggage and taken our carry-on through the security check, and we have a few hours to wait before we go catch our plane.

We will travel and see the sights for a while, and then they will go home and I will settle in for the semester. I am looking forward to it.

18:23

Now we’re on the plane, waiting for take-off. Wow, this is a small plane. Only three seats wide, with one aisle between the two-seat row on the right and the one-seat row on the left. It’s probably so small because the flight is just from Minneapolis to Newark. We’ll be on a bigger plane from Newark to Madrid.

This will be a long flight, with a long layover in Newark. I’m glad I have so many games on my palmtop (and my laptop too, if I get desperate). Last time I studied abroad, I got bored silly on long rides and on quiet days in my dorm, so this time I downloaded a whole bunch of freeware games: a marble game, a solitaire game, a Scrabble-type game and a tangrams game for my palmtop, and a KAtomic-type game and two solitaire games for my laptop. Usually I can take games or leave them, but this semester I think they may be necessary.

23:00

I slept a lot on the plane. We are in Newark now, and we have three hours to wait for the plane to Madrid.

Fr 1/2 11:46

Wow, this has been an eventful morning. We slept in the plane, then came into Madrid over a landscape of beautiful olive fields and red-roofed buildings. Then, in the Madrid airport, we met my Spanish professor from the class I just finished taking! Apparently she lives in Spain most of the time, and was returning for the spring after spending fall semester teaching in Minnesota.

We talked a lot with her, and then we went to a hotel in the center of Madrid, seeing lots of fascinating things on the way. I’m eager to explore this area some more.

Sa 1/3 19:19

Yesterday we went to the Prado and today we went to the Thyssen– both wonderful art museums. My feet and legs hurt from walking through all the galleries. I got to see many of the paintings I studied in art class last semester.

We saw bizarre outdoor art (like a giant pile of books seeming to fall out of a window), and a row of elaborate brass mailboxes at the biggest post office I have seen in my life.

I can’t believe there is still so much more to see. We’re already planning visits to the Queen Sofia museum and the Parque de Retiro.

Su 1/4 15:37

We went to the Queen Sofia museum today and saw lots more art, including many pieces by Dali and Picasso. “Guernica” is much more impressive in person than in photos, and many of the sketches done in preparation for it are even more powerful than the final product.

On the way home some people tried to pick Mom and Dad’s pockets on the subway. From now on we are walking and taking cabs.

We still can’t get more minutes for the new cellphone Mom & Dad got me. The Amena cellphone service is down or something. I’ll keep trying.

Tu 1/6 17:47

Yesterday we went on a bus tour to Avila and Segovia, and saw:


Mountains


A giant memorial cross


3 nice churches


A castle shaped building


Several very nice ceilings


A great view from a window


A Roman aqueduct (put together with no mortar, and it still works after all these years!)


Farmers’ rock walls (also without mortar)


A lizard


A mountain called Dead Woman


The wall around Avila

It was fascinating & exhausting. Today we went to the Parque del Retiro. Tomorrow we leave for Granada, and then we’ll go to Seville & Barcelona, and then back to Granada. I have nearly all my things packed.

We 1/7 8:39

We are in the train to Granada. It is about a six hour trip. I think I will sleep.

18:45

Wow. 5 star hotel right IN the Alhambra. Courtyard & everything is so beautiful. Can’t wait for tour tomorrow.

Thu 1/8 16:22

Today we saw the Alhambra and surrounding area. Our tour went past the big towers and through the gate, and then through many buildings with beautifully tiled walls and floors, and quite intricate windows and arches.

We saw the famous hall with the lion fountain, and I figured out my camera’s movie function and made two video clips.

Then we saw the Hall of the Two Sisters and another intricate dome with stalactite-like decorations.

At one point we visited what was once a housing system for the troops protecting the Alhambra– it also had steps down to a dungeon and storage places for stone cannonballs.


We saw the palace of Carlos V with its Roman pillars of aggregate stone, the topiary, fountains and fishponds of the Generalife, and a mountain with one of the famous white cities as well as some caves where gitanos (gypsies or Roma people) have lived.


In other news:

There are stray cats here that come up to people & beg for food like pigeons. They have been living wild for centuries, maybe as long as the dingos in Australia.

The hotel we stayed in last night had a fire extinguisher with the brand name Unix.

The hotel we are in tonight has wonderful kitschy decor trying to imitate the Alhambra.

Fr 1/9 11:11

This morning we are doing laundry at a little laundromat near the cathedral. Nothing much else is happening.

Sa 1/10 20:10

Today we found the Modern Language Center where I will be studying soon. Tonight we’ll catch a train to Barcelona. Later we go to Seville and then come back to Granada and stay in Hotel Carmen where lots of the students in the program are staying. Most of my stuff is already being stored there so I won’t have to carry much to Seville and Barcelona.

Su 1/11 11:29

We’ve arrived in Barcelona & gotten a really cheap hotel for once. It seems fairly decent. Mom plans for us to see the Picasso museum today and the aquarium tomorrow.

17:38

We actually ended up seeing both today. The Picasso museum is very hidden, but fascinating, especially the studies of Velazquez’s painting “Las Meninas.”

The aquarium is by the harbor (which is absolutely full of boats). There were many interesting animals, but flash photos weren’t allowed, and a photo without flash would have needed a longer exposure than the animals could stay still for.

So I took movie clips. I now have movies of sharks, horseshoe crabs, penguins, a ray, an octopus, a turtle, and some seahorses either mating or fighting.

Barcelona is a lovely place for a linguist because one gets to study all the similarities and differences between the two main languages, Catalan and Spanish. I’ve already noticed several subtle trends in how they differ.

We are thinking about going to dinner, but we are very tired and it may be a while before we’ll get up and do anything.

Mo 1/12 17:53

Today we saw a lot of Gaudi’s architecture. First we looked at a dragon-like building on “Discord Block,” where other modernist buildings contrasted strangely with it.

We also noticed street lights in Gaudi’s style– even the protective nets around the bulbs set off the mosaic of the bases.

Then, after glancing at another quite interesting church, we went to Gaudi’s Church of the Holy Family.

Gaudi designed the four big steeples and the sculptures on the front, and other architects are contributing their own ideas now, like small steeples with fruits on top.

Downstairs, we saw how the colorful windows cast shadows on the pillars.

We went up to the top of one steeple and looked out at the others, getting a great view of their detailed mosaics.

Later we visited a park Gaudi designed, and it was amazing! There were fountains and tiled buildings and a long, tiled serpentine bench and cave-like enclosures with rows of pillars that all looked different.

And there were palm trees with parrots living in them! Parrots aren’t native to Spain, but some are brought here as pets, and ones that escape can live quite successfully in the wild, like the cats. I couldn’t see them very well up in the trees, but I managed one photo and one movie.

I’m resting now. We’ll eat dinner later.

Tu 1/13 16:01

Today we looked again at the poster in our hotel room that shows the Church of the Holy Family, and we noticed that the scene it showed was completely different from what we had seen. We realized we had only looked at one side of the building!

So we went to see the other side– the side that Gaudi actually supervised while it was being built. It’s even more fascinating than what we saw before. The more you look at it, the more little weird details you notice– like an angel playing a contrabassoon, and two pillars supported by different kinds of turtles.

Mom & Dad wanted to walk up the steeples on this side too, but I thought it would make me too dizzy, so I am waiting at the bottom while they go up.

We left the hotel this morning and stored our bags at the station, so that we can take the train to Seville tonight.

Then we took a tour of the dragonish house on Discord Block, with its colorful chimneys and stone tower and weird iron bird facade.

Another interesting thing: Before we left our hotel, we saw a door that says “exit” but is clearly not an exit– it’s nailed shut. Must be surrealism.

We 1/14 17:17

We arrived in Seville this morning and checked into a beautiful hotel with plants and bright colors everywhere.

Then we went to the huge cathedral, where we walked up the long spiral ramp to the top of the main tower (known as the Giralda). In the top of the tower are many bells, and I could see all sorts of things in the distance, like bridges and towers and a building that resembled a fantasy castle in the mist.

When we got back down, we looked at the rest of the cathedral, which included a courtyard of orange trees watered by channels leading from a central fountain. It was beautiful.

Inside the cathedral I took movies because everything was too big to fit in still pictures. I was especially struck by the organ and gilt altarpiece and the tomb where Columbus is supposed to be buried.

All of it was just overwhelming. The architects reportedly said something like, “Let us build a cathedral that will make future generations consider us lunatics.” I didn’t exactly have that reaction, but I am quite stunned.

Now I am resting in the hotel and Mom & Dad are out walking. We plan to see the national flamenco contest tonight.

Th 1/15 19:19

The flamenco show last night was ok but not great.

Today we took a bus tour to Cadiz and some other places. We saw how they make wine. We saw the Atlantic Ocean. We saw the horses that the Austrian Lippizaners came from. I am so tired I am having to correct errors every few words, so I am going to stop now.

Fr 1/16 16:45

This morning we had a lovely breakfast: a cake with peach filling between the layers and a coating of pine nuts on the outside.

Then we spent the day at the Alcazar, the royal palace. Its outer wall and gate are nice enough, but inside it is quite lavishly filled with well-preserved tiles, moldings and beautiful arches in Arabian style.

It was done around the same time as the Alhambra, but the Muslim artisans for the Alcazar were commissioned by a Christian: King Peter (known as “Peter the Just” or “Peter the Cruel” depending on point of view).

Our audio-guide machine told us something interesting.

Above one doorway, Peter ordered a Latin inscription naming him as the conqueror of the area and “king by the grace of God.” In the blue and white tiles between the lines of Latin, however, the artisans put a message that’s disguised but supposedly readable if you know Arabic: “Only Allah is conqueror.”

The best part was the garden. It went on and on in every direction, and was full of so many beautiful and interesting things that I gave up taking photos.

There were lots of fountains, ponds, topiary bushes, flowers, statues, tiled benches, walls, ducks, cats, lizards, fish, doves, hawks and so on. (The cats were especially charming.)

Sa 1/17 16:53

We’ve gotten to the hotel in Granada where the group is meeting. Haven’t met any others from the program yet. Mom & Dad & I have a room until noon tomorrow. Orientation starts then. Must find out where.

Su 1/18 8:54

We seem to be meeting in the lobby– at least none of the students I’ve met so far has heard any more than I have, and in the absence of other information, the lobby is the obvious place.

I have all my things packed to move in with a family today after the orientation. I’m waiting downstairs to see if I can meet any more people… none yet. Mom & Dad are getting their stuff together up in the room.

Tu 1/20 18:13

Wow, cool!

I’ve been with my host family for a few days now, and things are going pretty much great. I live in an apartment with a lady named Serafina and her husband and another student named Areli. I have my own room with a beautiful view– I can even see the Alhambra if I look out at a certain angle.

It’s certainly a safe place to live: the door has a whole bunch of locks on it, and nobody breaks into windows on the sixth floor.

It’s taking a while to get completely comfortable with everyone– I can’t always think of things to say, and I spend a lot of time alone in my room– but at least I make some conversation when we’re eating or on a walk.

Today I had my placement test for the language course and got into the highest level! I’m about to find out what other classes I’m going to be in.

Th 1/20 9:24

There have been some complications about what classes I’ll be in, because the directors say I’m too advanced for the curriculum I had signed up for before I came. It looks as if I’ll still be able to get the courses I need, though.

The group has been going on excursions to learn about Granada. Yesterday we went to Albaizin, a maze-like neighborhood on the edge of town. The wealthy classes live there in white houses and beautiful walled gardens, but in the streets there is a great deal of crime at night.

We toured an old bathhouse, going through a garden-like entryway into a set of brick-walled rooms where people used to bathe. Later we went up a hill and got a great view of the Alhambra and the rest of the city.

Sa 1/24 14:43

Today we went on a tour of the Alhambra. I’d already seen it, but it was still fun. We had lunch and now I’m sitting on a bench in the sun with Areli and we’re both writing in our journals.

Veronica, the director of the program, wanted to talk about my classes. I hope I can do that soon. She’s probably not in the office today, though… I may have to wait until Monday.

I wonder what she wanted to say. I hope the classes I need are available.

Sa 1/31 21:25

Success! I am now signed up for the classes! They are Advanced Spanish Grammar, English-Spanish Translation, Islamic Culture in Spain, and Spanish Civilization & Culture. They will complete my Spanish major so that I can graduate. I’m happy.

Today our group went up Sacromonte, the mountain with the white buildings and caves. Prickly pears grow there, and so do some things that look like almond trees, all in bloom.

Su 2/1, 18:00

Today is another lazy Sunday. Tomorrow and Tuesday we have our usual orientation classes and meetings, and then on Thursday, Friday and Saturday we have a group trip to Madrid. (I hope I get to see some things I didn’t see the first time I went there.)

After that, we have a week to travel on our own, and then on February 16 the real classes start. I don’t know what rooms of the Language Center mine are in, but I know the times:

Monday/Wednesday


8:30-10:00 English-Spanish Translation


10:00-11:30 Spanish Civilization & Culture

Tuesday/Thursday


10:00-11:30 Spanish Grammar


11:30-1:00 Islamic Culture in Spain

Yeah, it sucks that I have to start class at 8:30 on Monday and Wednesday, and that I don’t get a break between classes on any day. I really prefer signing up for classes myself, knowing the times. But it’s cool that there’s no class on Friday, and that all my classes are before lunch, so I don’t have to go all the way back there after I go home to eat.

Tu 2/3 10:08

Last night we went to a flamenco show. It was fun. I took a movie clip.

This evening is the last of the orientation classes, and we have tomorrow free and then 3 days in Madrid. I should pack.

Th 2/5 11:26

We are halfway to Madrid. Our bus has stopped for a bathroom break. I am done in the bathroom and am back in the bus, about to eat my lunch.

There, I’ve eaten. I hope we get to Madrid soon. And I hope I see some stuff I didn’t see before, and that I get along well sharing a hotel room, and that my valuables don’t get lost or stolen. I’m really more apprehensive than excited, this time.

Fr 2/6 20:20

I am actually having a pretty good time! Yesterday we went to the Prado, and today we went to Segovia– places I’d already been with Mom & Dad, but it’s a totally different experience seeing them with other students. And I did see some new things. The Prado, of course, is so big you could visit it dozens of times and always see something new.

And today we also saw El Escorial, which I hadn’t seen.

I’ve had several pleasant conversations with members of the group, and I believe I am starting to make some friends. It’ll be a while before I can remember many names, though.

Sunday 2/8 1:56

We are back in Granada now.

We saw the royal palace and some other stuff. I am too tired to think. Must sleep.

Tuesday 2/10 20:28

Wow, has this really been only one day? It seems so long since I got up this morning.

Areli and Lynn and I had decided to go to Malaga this week, so we reserved a hotel for 2 nights yesterday and caught a bus at 9 am today. We have been here since about 11 and it is an amazing place!

There are plazas with fountains and gardens and palm trees, a cathedral with beautiful ceilings, and an Alcazaba with endless paths and arches and towers climbed by flowering vines. We could see the ocean from up there, and we want to go walk on the beach later.

Thursday 2/12 16:45

Yesterday we finally found the beach, and it was beautiful! We sat in the sun for a long time, and I collected shells.

We also walked in a lovely park with gardens and ponds and ducks and geese and swans. Now we are on our way back to Granada in the bus.

Sunday 2/15 16:16

Today Areli and I went to mass at the cathedral to see what it was like. It was a lot like mass at the church I went to at home when I was a kid, except lots of the words that were sung at home are just spoken here.

I made a costume in case I go to any Carneval parties. I’m a sort of butterfly– at least I have wings (fabric scraps sewn onto rims of twisted newspaper) and antennae (chopsticks) and six limbs (the extra pair is stuffed pantyhose with gloves tied to the ends).

It’s not really a great costume. The wings turned out so small you can only see them from behind.

And I wear it with a black dress– it would look better with a black bodysuit, or black leggings and long-sleeved top, but I didn’t have any, and I wanted to make the costume out of things I already had, so I wouldn’t spend any money on it. I might work more on it later.

Tuesday 2/17 20:21

Classes have started! They seem like good classes so far. Not much to say about them. In the translation course we started doing class activities right away; in the others it was mostly lecture. (There was one interesting discussion in the civilization and culture course, though.)

I also turned out to be signed up for a tutorial session every Wednesday from 4 to 5 pm, and a session of Spanish Conversation and Composition from 3:30 to 5 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. So on those days I will have to go back to the Modern Language Center after lunch.

Conversation and Composition is interesting. I have the same prof I had for the orientation class, and she started us on class activities right away, too. It looks as if it’s going to be a fun class.

Thursday 2/19 19:01

It’s strange… I have felt much less connected to the rest of the world during this semester than in Mexico or Vienna. The internet is available for no charge at the Modern Language Center, but there’s always a long line to use it, and it is only internet– no other programs or working disk drives, so I can’t save my emails to a disk to read on my laptop in my room, and I can’t upload pictures to my website. I have to do that kind of stuff in internet cafes, which cost money, and I am always low on money here, because I have developed a loathsome habit of shopping too much, and I can’t seem to keep in mind that a euro is almost a buck and a half.

I am starting to crave non-Spanish food, too. The meals at our house have so little variety. There are many things I like, which surprised me at first because of what a picky eater I am– but now I am just getting tired of it.

We did have something today that I wasn’t tired of– penne pasta in tomato sauce, and slices of fried cheese. It must’ve had something in it that my system was running low on, because when I saw it, I knew it was exactly what I wanted, and I ate it so fast I got stomach cramps.

Mostly, though, we have various combinations of fish, eggs, potatoes, beans, and noodle soup (sometimes with seafood). Areli and I are supposed to make our own breakfasts, for which the kitchen is stocked with white bread, two or three kinds of crackers, juice, butter, jam, and chocolate spread. I usually have crackers with chocolate, 3 or 4 pieces of bread (some with chocolate and some with jam) and whatever juice isn’t apple juice (Areli only likes apple, so I save it for her).

I toast my bread, but I have to be careful, because the toaster is just a heating surface with clips on it. I clip the bread to the heating surface, leave it there until one side is toasted, turn it over to toast the other side, and then unplug the thing to turn it off. If I don’t unplug it soon enough, the toast starts turning black and giving off smoke, so I have gotten almost obsessively careful about it.

Our shower is the kind where the showerhead’s on the end of a hose, and there’s no place to hang it on the wall, so I have to hold the showerhead in one hand and wash myself with the other– very inconvenient. I took a shower a few hours ago and my hair’s still wet, and I am freezing. It is always colder in the house than outside, but lately it’s seemed even colder than usual. Well, at least it’s not anywhere near as cold as Minnesota.

Sunday 2/22 12:03

Last night Areli and I went to a Carnaval show at the Palacio de Congresos, a really neat big building covered with green stone. It started at 18:30 and went until about 23:00, but we left at 20:30 because we didn’t want to wait that long for dinner.

The show was made up of several little shows, each of which involved people in costumes singing funny songs. At least I assume they were funny, because people laughed, but I understood very little. It’s surprising the difference that singing can make. I can’t understand the words of songs even in English.

Anyway, the first show was a bunch of people dressed up as priests and nuns, with a church background. The second was a bunch of guys in kilts, in front of a mountain scene. Then came a group of ladies dressed up as bullfighters, and then Saint Peter and some angels.

My photos didn’t turn out very well, because I didn’t want to use flash, and the actors weren’t standing still enough for the long exposures that I needed without flash. (I tried one photo with flash, and I must’ve picked the wrong setting on my camera, because it took one of those pictures where it flashes about eight times, really bright, and the person in front of me turned around and gave me a nasty look. And it all surprised me so much that I moved the camera while it was taking the picture, so it didn’t turn out; it showed more of the seat in front of me than the stage.)

I have to write an essay about a friend or relative at home, for my Tutorial class on Wednesday, but I am so uninspired. It’s an interesting class, though– we are reading Manolito Gafotas, a very silly book in colloquial Spanish. I have so much fun imagining how I would try to translate it into English. In fact, I’ve read the whole book already, and I am probably going to be pretty bored for the rest of the course. Maybe I should try to translate it into English, just so I have something to do.

Monday 2/23 18:02

I am feeling sort of depressed today. After class I tried to go arrange an interview at the place where I’ve signed up to do community service, and I couldn’t find the place. I found the corner where it’s supposed to be, but I couldn’t tell which building it was. One of them had a sign that looked promising, but it was closed, and it wasn’t number 19 (the address said the place was supposed to be number 19). Number 19 was an apartment building, and none of the names listed by the door seemed to have anything to do with what I was looking for.

I got out my cellphone and called the phone number I’d been given, and a guy answered, but when I told him what I wanted, he said absolutely nothing for about 45 seconds and then the line went dead. At least that’s what I think happened. We might have had a bad connection, and maybe he said stuff and I couldn’t hear him. But it didn’t make me any more comfortable, at any rate. So I went home.

Then, just a while ago, when I was getting ready to take a shower, I heard Serafina and her husband in the other room talking about me and Areli, and I couldn’t tell what they were saying, but Serafina sounded angry. Now I am all insecure and wondering what she might be angry at me about. I don’t even know if she’s angry at me– I couldn’t hear all the words, after all, and she has a loud voice and sometimes sounds angry when she isn’t– but it doesn’t make me feel any better to be unsure.

And I still haven’t done that essay for Tutorial and I’m not even certain what I’m supposed to do for the other classes. This is not a good day.

Wednesday 2/25 12:30

Today is a better day. I arranged not to do community service this semester, which I think is for the better, since I had been very doubtful whether I could handle it. It would have involved translation, and I like translation, but it would probably have been translation into Spanish, and it’s best to translate into one’s own language.

I doubt they would have accepted me, anyway, because if I had gone to an interview I would have been very nervous, and when I’m nervous my Spanish breaks into a thousand pieces that come out of my mouth in no particular order, and I sound as if I have no experience at all with the language. That was how I felt when I tried to explain to the guy on the phone that I wanted a community service interview, and his reaction (or lack thereof) freaked me out. If I had introduced myself at an interview and they had sat there saying nothing for 45 seconds, I would have died.

I did my homework for today: the tutorial essay and some stuff for translation class. I like the translation class, but it’s all translation into Spanish, and very challenging. I don’t mind translating into Spanish when it’s just a class and my mistakes won’t cause real problems for anyone. But I’m a bit overwhelmed by how many things I get wrong, how many turns of phrase I don’t know. I think I’m going to learn a lot in that class.

Tutorial is today at four, but they’re going to change the time– from next week on, it will be Monday instead of Wednesday. I like that class too: it’s a small-group language workshop, where four or five students and one teacher talk about colloquial Spanish. We’re learning some very interesting things.

Saturday 2/28 6:46

When I was traveling with Mom and Dad before coming to Granada, we had Eurail passes, which let us choose five days in January and February, and use the trains as much as we wanted on those days. By the time the program started, there was one day left on mine, and Mom told me to use it sometime in February.

Yesterday I realized that if I wanted to use up my last Eurail pass day, I had to go on a day trip this weekend. So I took the bus to the station and found out that I could go to Ronda and back in one day, which was something we’d wanted to do when we were in Malaga but couldn’t.

The train was going to leave at 7 am, and Serafina told me the buses don’t run that early, so I’d have to walk, but she pointed at my map and showed me a shortcut through the university. I was puzzled because her shortcut didn’t seem to go to the same place the bus had gone, but I know I’m bad with directions, so I didn’t question her.

I had set my alarm clock for 6, but something told me I might need an extra half hour, so I changed it to 5:30.

I woke up on time, went to the fridge, got the sandwiches Serafina had made for me, and left. But when I got to the end of the path she’d shown me on the map, I couldn’t see the station. It turned out I was near the tracks, but on the opposite side of them from where I would have to get on the train. I had to get back on the main street and go the way the bus had gone. Either Serafina was wrong, or I misunderstood her directions.

Moral: If you want to get to the station from Calle Gonzalo Gallas, you take Camino de Ronda across the tracks, turn right on Avenida de Andalucia, and turn right again on Avenida Andaluces. And if something tells you to give yourself an extra half hour, trust your intuition. If I’d left at 6:30, I wouldn’t be on the train right now.

14:10

Ronda was beautiful! I came out of the train station onto a street of pretty houses and palm trees, and found my way to a park with fountains and gardens and a church and a bullfighting ring.

There was a festival going on, and rides for children were set up all over the plaza.

Nearby was the edge of a cliff, with a fence through which I could see miles into the distance (and, looking to the side, I could see part of the cliff itself, which was quite impressive). At another point there was a bridge across a deep gorge with waterfalls and a stream at the bottom. A path descended down into the gorge, with several little lookout points.

Crossing the bridge, I got to another park, which was surrounded by a historic building, a Church of the Holy Spirit, and a Church of Saint Mary. of it. I sat down to eat my sandwich, and a dog came up and offered to be my very best friend. I gave her some bits of sandwich and some scratches behind the ears, and she was quite happy to pose for a photo.

I would have stayed longer and gone home on the 17:45 train, but I’d really seen pretty much everything by 13:30, so I went back to the station and now I’m on my way home on the 14:05 train. I’m glad I decided to go on this little trip. It was fun.

Friday 3/5 16:00

I’m on another trip now, this time with the rest of the group. We’re in Cordoba. First we toured an olive oil factory and taste-tested two kinds of olive oil, then we got settled in at our hotel. We’re going to Medina Azahara now, and tomorrow we’ll see the famous mosque.

I’ve been having fun so far, except that the distance from Granada to the olive place was a bit long to go without a bathroom stop, and also I didn’t much like the burning feeling you get in the back of your throat when you taste olive oil. But the girl I’m sharing a hotel room with is very nice, and we all have some fun conversations in the bus, and even when we’re quiet, it’s relaxing to ride in the bus looking out the window.

17:54

We toured Medina Azahara, the ruins of an ancient Arab city with palaces and a mosque. There were arches with intricately carved pillars, and arches with stripes of red and white (one set of these formed the city gate). Lots of reconstruction was being done, and thousands of pieces of carved stone decoration were laid out in the garden, waiting to be pieced together on the wall next to an arch or a marble fountain.

It looked like the kind of place there would be lots of lizards, but I didn’t see any, although I did see an interesting tree with a dandelion and a stalk of wheat growing out of the place where the trunk branched apart.

Saturday 3/6 16:52

We went to the mosque today, entering through the courtyard of orange trees where we could see the main dome and the minaret.

Inside, there were red-and-white arches everywhere, both horseshoe-shaped and ruffly-edged, just like the pictures in my art history book.

When the mosque started being used as a Catholic church, some arches had been painted with Biblical scenes, Christian figures had been added in among the Arabic decorations, and elaborate Baroque domes had been built on.

But the mihrab, the sacred niche facing Mecca, was still intact, with its intricate mosaic-covered arch and dome.

Afterwards, I talked with Dan (another student in the program) and he and I walked around the city seeing all sorts of things. We visited an Alcazar that had beautiful ponds with fountains and fish.

We crossed the Guadalquivir river and toured the Torre de la Calahorra all the way to the roof.

We went to the botanical garden, which had greenhouses with weird spiny trees and snakelike plants. Now we are finally back in the bus, waiting for the last few students to show up so that we can go back to Granada.

Sunday 3/7 21:41

Today Areli and I went and saw a parade that came from the cathedral down to a plaza near our street. It took forever for the parade to arrive because the police had to direct traffic at every intersection. They didn’t close off the street for the parade, they just had policemen standing there letting cars by, while the parade had to wait.

Finally the front end of the procession appeared, carrying embroidered religious flags and gold staffs. They didn’t seem very serious about it, though. They stood there and laughed, and some smiled at me when they passed as I was taking a movie clip.

Most of the people acted as if they were just taking a walk for fun, except that they happened to be carrying candles and Bibles and stuff. They seemed to be enjoying themselves; it looked very informal. The second half of the procession was more serious, though, with an elaborate red float and a marching band.

Thursday 3/11 17:15

There was a bombing in Madrid today, the biggest there’s ever been in Spain. I emailed everyone at home to say I was ok. It is very scary, though.

I don’t have anything to do now, because the play that was going to be tonight was canceled. It’s moved to the 21st.

There is also a bullfight that the group is going to this month, but I am not going. I saw a bullfight on TV a few weeks ago and that was way more than I wanted to see. Ugh. I’m sure there must be a lot of skill involved in making the bull chase the red cape in just the right way and stabbing it in just the right place and making it bleed just right, but it’s still a bull getting stabbed and bleeding all over the place, and I cannot understand the attraction of watching a bull get stabbed and bleed all over the place. Especially at dinnertime, which is when the most gory things always seem to be on. I do not see why my host family must watch TV during meals.

Saturday 3/13 10:40

Yesterday Serafina was out and Areli and I ate lunch by ourselves, and when Serafina got back she scolded us about forgetting to turn off the heater and not washing the dishes after we ate. We felt really bad that night, because we should have remembered the heater, and we hadn’t known she wanted us to wash the dishes– she had never complained about that before. I started crying at the table afterwards while I was waiting for dinner, and I had to go to my room until I could stop crying, because I didn’t want to cry in front of everyone– it all made me feel stupid because it really wasn’t worth crying about.

Then I spent the night having horrible dreams and waking up every few hours sweating like crazy. It was the worst night I can remember having since I was maybe ten years old. I don’t know if it was because of being scolded or because of the bombings in Madrid or because I haven’t been feeling well the past few days.

Now I’m obsessing– dozens of things are running through my head that I’m afraid Serafina might get mad at me about, from the way I charge my computer battery to the way I smell, and I’m sure that the next time she gets mad it’ll be about something that didn’t even occur to me, and I’m scared. Why do all these things have to happen at once?

Monday 3/15 15:50

OK, I had a general malaise and a sore neck, and then Madrid was bombed, and then Serafina yelled at me, and then I spent Friday night having nigjpgares and waking up sweating, and then I spent last night getting up to go to the bathroom even more than usual, because something has been seriously disagreeing with my intestines. Anyway, you’d think that’s enough stuff to happen in a week, right?

Well, then this morning I got stung by a wasp. You couldn’t really blame the wasp– I had reached out and grabbed the poor critter, and it must’ve thought I wanted to kill it. But you couldn’t really blame me either, because I didn’t know it was a wasp when I grabbed it– my glasses were off and the room was sort of dark and the thing was on my bed and I thought it was a crumpled-up hair binder or something. It was an innocent misunderstanding. The only one who wasn’t innocent was Serafina because she’s the one who always leaves my window open for bugs to fly in. Some day it is going to rain on my computer, too.

Wednesday 3/17 10:25

Will this week from hell never end?

Yesterday the group was going to a concert at the Palacio de Congresos at 21:00, and I didn’t remember how to get there, so I agreed with Adriana to meet at McDonald’s at 19:30, eat, and go to the concert together. But when I got to McDonald’s, she wasn’t there. I figured she had left already because I was five minutes late.

So I got out my map and tried to find my way to the Palacio, but I couldn’t find any of the streets I saw on the map, so I couldn’t figure out where I was, and I started crying and a stranger came up and helped me figure it out. Humiliated, I thanked her and managed to get there… only to look more closely at my watch and realize that it wasn’t anywhere near 21:00, it was only 18:00, and I hadn’t been late to McDonalds, I’d been more than three hours early.

I called Adriana and told her I wasn’t going to meet her after all. I didn’t want to walk all the way back, and I was hungry but I didn’t really feel like buying something to eat because I had an egg sandwich that Serafina had made me. The trouble was that I had had so many egg sandwiches in the past 2 months that I gagged when I even thought of them.

I spent a while trying to decide which was the least of three evils– spend unnecessary money on food, make myself sick with an egg sandwich, or starve to death. Finally I went to a few cafes and ate a few pastries, and felt a little better. But I still had to wait an obscene amount of time before the concert started.

It was a good concert, and the girl who sat next to me ate the egg sandwich for me, and the worst thing that happened after that was that my contacts irritated my eyes all evening.

This is what comes of trying to live by an analog watch when I have always used a digital one. I had gotten this pretty little watch because my multifunction calculator watch was leaving a big white band on my wrist from suntan, and was starting to smell bad, and didn’t go with my nice dresses. But now I wonder if it was worth it.

17:45

I AM JINXED.

Remember when I said in my Vienna journal that I’ve written a book about my life with an autism spectrum disorder, and that it’s getting published? Today I tried to open the latest draft of my book that the publisher had sent me in an email attachment. It was the last draft before the final one and I was supposed to look it over very carefully. I had saved it to a floppy and brought it home to my laptop. But it wouldn’t open with Acrobat or Preview or anything.

I figured it might work if I went back on the internet and downloaded the attachment to my floppy disk again, so I went to the internet cafe and signed up for a computer, and it told me my floppy had to be formatted, and when it tried to format the disk it crashed.

When it was restarted, it didn’t have a problem with the disk, so I saved the thing on both that disk and the other one I’d brought. That was a smart idea, because when I got back to my dorm, my laptop said the first disk was “unusable” and totally rejected it.

The other one worked, though. Looks like the universe hasn’t decided to drive me utterly insane, just to keep me teetering indefinitely on the edge.

Saturday 3/20 10:15

I spoke too soon. I am now going insane. The latest editing job from the publisher pushed me over the edge.

One of the tough things about having a book published is having to trust that the publishers and editors know what makes a successful book, even when their ideas of good writing don’t always coincide with yours. My book is in the final stages of formatting, and in the last few drafts the editors took out a lot of commas and paragraph breaks that I felt made it read more clearly and sound more intelligent. But when they sent it to me, they said I could only change things that were actual errors.

I have been going into spontaneous rages the past few days, being suddenly overwhelmed by the feeling that my book has been ruined, that critics are going to say things like, “It’s not easy to read, but pretty good for an autistic writer– if she works hard at it, someday she’ll learn to put the commas and paragraph breaks in the right places.” On Friday I started banging my head against the wall during a group meeting. On Thursday I flew into a sudden panic while sitting on a bench in the Modern Language Center courtyard, and ran outside and down an unfamiliar street, wanting to get lost, wanting to get away from everything that I felt was ruining my life.

I have never felt so out of control, not in Mexico, not in Vienna. The whole world seems disgusting right now. All the people I know seem either shallow and stupid or cruel and manipulative. The urge to break something or attack somebody is nearly unbearable at times. I haven’t yet, but I feel on the verge of doing something unprecedentedly irresponsible.

16:23

I go into periodic lulls– right now I am not in a rage, but one might start at any second. Or it might not… I might be near recovering from whatever insanity I was going through… I really don’t know. Most of today has been okay. There is a spring festival tonight; I might go to it. I just don’t want to do anything too stressful. I feel a little better than before, but I do not feel stable at all.

Monday 3/22 13:45

Things are better now. I went out with a friend Saturday night, and that was fun except that I wore high heels and my feet started hurting a lot. I don’t know when I will learn to quit letting myself be talked into dressing up like a non-nerd. It hardly ever has any positive effects.

But I had some fun, and last night the group went to a play that was so bizarre it couldn’t help cheering me up, and today I bought a necklace and earrings I liked, which improved my mood… you see, things are getting better. Not perfect– perfect would be if I could improve my mood without buying jewelry– but definitely better.

Wed, Mar 24, 14:15

Well, I think I’m closer to perfect now. I was in another bad mood lately, because I had a crazy dream and sweated so much that Serafina put a plastic sheet on my bed (I’m not sure she believed me that it was sweat). But I resolved that bad mood by watching a Star Trek DVD.

I’m looking forward to going to Vienna for spring break. Mom & Dad are trying to order me a flight. There was some confusion about the dates but I think it will be ok.

Thursday 3/25 13:50

Rats. It’s not ok at all. There are no flights available during my break, and I’m not about to spend 40 hours in trains, so I guess I’ll have to stay in Spain and maybe go to the mountains or the coast.

I probably won’t spend all of my break traveling because I don’t have enough money in my account. Heck, I don’t have enough for two days of travel in the account I get cash out of; I’ll have to use my credit card or ask my parents to put more in my cash account.

I’d stay in Granada and watch all the Holy Week parades, but I get a strong feeling that my host family doesn’t want me to stay, and I couldn’t be comfortable staying if they didn’t want me. That sucks, because the money my parents paid for the program includes my room and board here during Holy Week, so if I don’t stay here during that time, I’m wasting money.

But on the other hand, I’ve had it up to my kiester with Granada for the moment, and I do want to go someplace different and have some time to myself.

Friday 3/26 18:45

Yay! I’m going to the Sierra Nevada for break! It’s cold, and snowy, and there was only one hotel available, and I had to pay way too much for it, and it might be a ski resort for all I know, and I don’t ski, and I have to go there in a bus that leaves at 8 am from a bus station about an hour’s walk from our apartment, and the bus station sells tickets from Granada to Sierra Nevada but it doesn’t sell tickets back from Sierra Nevada to Granada unless it’s on the same day, and I’m just going to have to have blind faith in the bus station lady’s assurance that I’ll be able to get a ticket to Granada once I’m in the Sierra Nevada– but I don’t care, all that matters is that I’ve found someplace to go for break!

Seriously, I’m happy. I’m going to get some time to myself, in a place that might remind me a little of home. And whatever kind of hotel it is, there are likely to be some opportunities for hiking and taking in the mountain scenery. I can’t wait until the upcoming week of midterms is over and I get to leave.

Sunday 3/28 14:25

Yesterday I was trying to print an essay when all of a sudden my printer broke. Not just quit working– broke. There are pieces of cracked plastic falling out of its insides. I can see where the problem is but I cannot reach it. I think there is a vague possibility that I could… well, not really fix it, but patch things up to make it last a bit longer– if I could open up the back of the printer and move some stuff around. But I can’t because I would need a hex key, or rather something like a hex key but shaped like a six-pointed star instead of a hexagon, about two and a half millimeters in diameter. And I don’t have that, or anything that could substitute in any way– I’ve tried both the small screwdrivers I have and they don’t work. I might try to find something at a hardware store, or I might just give up and print my essays at internet cafes from now on.

Today I went on a walk, and, after much difficulty, I figured out how I am going to get to the bus station on the day I take the bus to Sierra Nevada.

First I’ll go through the alley onto Camino de Ronda, turn right, and continue across the tracks and past the turn I’d take to get to the train station. Camino de Ronda stops when it intersects with Avenida de Andalucia, but I can keep going straight on Calle Pintor Francisco Pradilla, and then on Avenida de Luis Amador (when Francisco Pradilla branches into two, Luis Amador is the branch on the right).

Once I’m on Luis Amador, I can take Calle de Curro Cuchares, which is the second street to my right. I’ll continue on it until it doesn’t go any further, at which point I’ll be at a small roundabout with a couple small streets going left from it and a sign saying San Fernando. I’ll go left, which will bring me past a bigger roundabout, past a playground, and finally to the turn I have to take to get to the bus station. I think I can recognize this turn by the bakery I will see there. In any case, if I pass a second playground, I will know I missed the turn, and I can go back and find it.

At the bakery, I will turn left and keep going until I pass a yellow building on my right, and the bus station is just past that building.

I think there is a quicker way involving Carretera de Jaen, but I will not take it for granted until I check it out some time this coming week. It’s also possible I might just take a city bus to the station when I go there, in which case I won’t need to worry about anything. But it’s always nice to have a backup plan.

Tuesday 3/30 13:55

Latest news, in the briefest form possible: I have taken midterms in translation and Islamic culture and am not sure how I did. The publisher sent me the final draft of my manuscript and I found only one mistake to correct; the book should come out in April. And I found a solution to the printer problem. That’s all for now.

Sat 4/3 14:45

Actually, my book will become available in May– about 4 weeks from now, according to the publisher. It will take a bit more time to get into bookstores. But I think it can be ordered from the publisher’s website in the beginning of May. I’ve notified all my friends.

I’m packing for the Sierra Nevada. I hope I don’t get snowed in, and my bus doesn’t slip off the road and turn upside down like the ones in the news. They say there’s a lot of snow & ice this year.

Sun 4/4 21:50

This evening abunch of us went and saw the first parade of Holy Week. It was very fancy and elaborate and there were floats with statues of religious figures on them, and people in weird KKK-type hoods carrying candles, and people in uniforms playing horns, and lots of palm fronds, some of which had been woven into very intricate and fascinating shapes.

I left early, which turned out not to be worth it because I couldn’t get home. The parade blocked off all the streets I could have used to get back to our apartment. By the time I’d pushed through the crowds and broken a few traffic regulations and finally gotten onto a street that would take me in the right direction, my companions were done watching the parade, and they met up with me and we ended up walking part of the way home together.

Now I’m lying on my bed, kind of sick to my stomach from all the water and soda I drank today. Trouble with a climate like this– your mouth dries out before the rest of you does, so you drink and drink and your mouth is still dry so you feel like drinking more, even when your belly is full to bursting.

Tomorrow I have to get up early in the morning and get to the bus station to take a bus to the Sierra Nevada. They say there’s lots of snow there this week, but also lots of sun– so much that I might need sunscreen. I’ll have to pack some.

Appropriate, considering the name of my hotel: Sol y Nieve (Sun and Snow). I guess that kind of weather must be pretty common there.

Mo 4/5 9:25

I took a city bus to the station, and found the bus I had a ticket for and took it to the Sierra Nevada, and now I’m here waiting for my room to be available.

This whole town does seem to be heavily ski-oriented. Almost everyone I see has skiing gear, and there are dozens of stores selling more of it. I don’t see any obvious hiking opportunities… I’ll have to look around. Maybe there’s info at the hotel.

11:05

I’m frustrated. I’d been hoping to get my ticket to Granada today, to make sure I could get a seat, but the bus people say that I have to buy it on the day I go back. I sure hope there’s one available that day.

And what’s more, the trail map says that hiking isn’t allowed, and non-skiers can use toboggans, snowmobiles, dogsleds or snow bikes. The only one of those options that interests me is dogsledding, and it wouldn’t be very interesting to go dogsledding every single day for the whole time I’m here.

Dogsledding does sound fun, though, and when I’ve gotten my stuff settled in, I’ll ask about that.

16:15

Room finally available, stuff moved in, have found a trail that I can walk on, have called the dogsled place & left a message (apparently their hours were over for today, but they had an answering machine).

If things go ok, I will spend one day hiking and one day dogsledding, and find something else to do the third day. Tonight I think I will sit around in the swimming pool downstairs.

Tu 4/6 10:00

This morning I walked down to the beginning of the hiking trail, past a park with ponds and caged birds and, curiously enough, a helicopter landing place. Now here I am on the mountain, far away from the town, completely alone and feeling more free than I have in all the time I’ve been in Spain. The only sounds are birdcalls, the wind, and the rushing of a little brook… and occasionally a few small rocks skittering down the mountainside, ever-so-tiny avalanches that make me a bit nervous with the threat of something bigger.

But I am happy. All alone, I can smile and laugh at silly thoughts without people looking at me funny. I can gaze out at all manner of beautiful views for as long as I like.

I can find iced-over puddles and crack them as if I were a little kid– or just sit and admire them, if they’re really neat-looking– and I can watch birds and lizards (there are lizards here, amazing as it seems).

I wonder how long this trail is, and how much of the day I can spend hiking it. I have a feeling I would like to do this for a long time.

11:30

Well, I went on for a while, and I think the trail is called “Cir. P. Redondo,” because that’s what the sign said whenever I got to a fork in the road. I wandered through high mountains and low hills, and had a great time.

But somewhere, just past a place where a brook crossed the path, I started to get weak and short of breath, and I remembered I’d forgotten to bring a lunch, so I went back, and now I’m at the hotel wondering what to do now. The dogsled place didn’t reply to my message, and the times I called them this morning there was no answer… maybe it’d be a good idea to try again now.

14:15

Is it really only 14:15? Why is everything over so fast? I’d kind of like some of my activities to last longer and take up more of the day. Now I don’t have anything to do.

Anyway, here’s what happened. I managed to get a hold of the dogsled people on the phone, and they said sure, take a cablecar up the mountain and you can go on a dogsled ride. So I went to the cablecar place and said I wanted a ticket to go up to where they have the dogsleds, and they said there were no dogsleds running today.

I was puzzled, and I left the ticket place wondering how I was going to spend my time if there were no dogsleds. Thinking it over awhile, I became more and more convinced that the people I talked to on the phone were more likely to be right than the ticket salespeople, and even if it were true that the dogsleds weren’t running, there’d probably be other activities up there.

So I went back, got a ticket, went into the cablecar place, got in a cablecar, and rode it up, getting a nice view of the mountains and the people skiing way down there.

And what do you know, the dogsleds were running just fine. It took me a while to find them, but there they were, two archaic-looking wooden sleds with long rows of huskies sleeping in front of them. When I arrived, the dogs got up and started to bark, excited that they were about to go running. And wow, did they run fast!

We got all the way to the other side of the mountain in no time, and stopped to look at the scenery.

The sled guy told me that the view includes the city of Granada and parts of Malaga, Cordoba and Jaen.

Then he took a picture of me on the sled, and a video clip that didn’t turn out; I think he had it in the wrong mode. But the whole thing was really fun. I just wish it’d lasted longer.

16:55

I’m not exaggerating– I’m probably even understating– when I say that a good 75 percent of the stores here are ski equipment stores. All the souvenir shops sell skiing gear. Even “Ciberider”– the only internet place in town– has more ski stuff than net access.

I have not found a single bookstore or library anywhere. This whole town is just a big ski resort. No one lives here, unless you count the people in the apartments on the mountainside above the town, and I think those apartments are mostly just an alternative to staying in hotels. (I remember, at the travel agency, when they were having trouble finding me a hotel, they suggested that renting an apartment might be cheaper… but when they checked it out, all the apartments were taken.)

I feel out of place. Everyone else here skis. No one else here is struggling to find something to do. And everyone else seems comfortable in heavy jackets and snowpants, while I barely feel cool in a tank top. Minnesota is nothing like this. The sun is not so blindingly bright at home, and there are trees for shade. Here there is no tree much taller than ten feet, and I get sunburned in no time. I have to wear sunglasses, which I hate, or squint in the glaring light. The mountain is a beautiful place, but it is all rock, dirt, snow and tiny little bushes– no shade at all. I would much rather hike in a forest.

I wish I had looked more deeply into the opportunities for travel in this area before I came. There must be places in these mountains that are more suited to my tastes than this town is. When I went to the bus station to get my ticket here, I was about to say something like, “I want a ticket to the Sierra Nevada, someplace with a lot of ponds and creeks and big shady pine trees, where I can hike and commune with nature and stuff,” but I’d gotten as far as “I want a ticket to the Sierra Nevada” and the lady gave me a little slip of paper and said “These are the times when buses go to the Sierra Nevada” and that was that. So I guess if you want to take a bus to some other place in this mountain range, you have to call it some other name.

Oh well. I’m sure I can manage to enjoy this week anyway. The mountain hike was fun, even if a bit too sunny, and I could do it again. There’s also an ice skating rink somewhere; I might check that out.

We 4/7 20:45

Today I did a little hiking; I went up the mountain trail and sat behind an outcropping of rock for a while, writing a story. The story didn’t end up being as good as I hoped, but I got to see several lizards after sitting still for so long. I even saw a few that were interacting with each other– fighting or mating, it’s hard to tell with lizards.

I hung out in my room most of the rest of the day. There’s something about this climate– the dry air, or the altitude, or both– that makes my nose feel funny, and makes me prefer to be inside sometimes. I don’t get real nosebleeds, not with blood actually pouring out, but when I blow my nose all the stuff that comes out is red. And my nostrils itch all the time.

It’s relaxing to be alone for a while, though. I can think about stuff, write journal entries, and just be lazy.

Th 4/8 9:30

I think I will sit around in my room until lunchtime, and then have some bread with jam from the supply I bought when I first arrived here, and then go out and ask about ice skating. This is my last full day here; I leave tomorrow.

13:20

I went and skated for almost an hour, although I would have quit earlier if I hadn’t paid for a full hour in advance. It wasn’t much fun.

It may have been that the skates were too big, or that I had to wear slippery plastic socks inside them, over my regular socks, or that the ice was melting into slush puddles, or just that I’m a lousy skater… but in any case, it made my feet hurt and I felt as if I were going to fall if I kept skating much longer.

So I quit a bit early and now I’m sitting on the mountainside again. This is the activity I’ve liked most on this trip– relaxing up in the quiet cool air of the mountain trail. The first time was the best, because I got there before anyone else, but it’s a pleasant experience even with a few other hikers around.

Fr 4/9 9:30

I’m on the early bus to Granada. When I got on the bus it was snowing, a heavy wet snow that melted as soon as it landed. I’d only waited minutes for the bus and I was soaked. But now it is actually raining, and in places it’s so foggy that the bus has to slow way down so it won’t drive off the mountain road.

Su 4/11 10:35

Is it Easter today? I’m not even sure. I certainly don’t notice a difference. It’s just like any other Sunday here at Serafina’s place: I’m lying on my bed playing solitaire on my palmtop and losing. “Sorry, you didn’t make it to the best scores list.” “Sorry.” “Sorry.” “Sorry.” Liar. I refuse to believe this machine is actually sorry every single time I lose. That’d be a heck of a lot of sympathy for a soulless computer program to possess.

I have to give a group presentation this week in Civilization & Culture, and none of us are the least bit prepared, and we don’t even know what day it’s for. We would’ve worked on it during Holy Week if I’d been there. We would’ve worked on it the week before, if that hadn’t been midterms week. We would’ve worked on it before that, if it’d been assigned earlier. I guess we’ll just have to do what we can with the tiny bit of stuff we were able to research the few times we got the chance.

Fr 4/16 20:03

Have gotten more caught up on homework. Prepared as much stuff as I could for the Civilization & Culture project, given the meager data I’d been able to find online, and did my latest projects for Translation, Tutorial, and Conversation & Composition. I should work on my Granada Seminar project at some point, too, although it’s not due until the end of the semester… I’d rather finish it early than at the last minute during finals week.

Sa 4/17 15:15

Excellent! I wrote the Granada Seminar paper last night, and now I am truly caught up– all the homework I know about is done. I might have missed something, but I doubt it.

Since I will be graduating after this semester and will not have my school email address from then on, I have signed up for a free email account with mail.com. I spent this morning in an internet cafe putting addresses in my mail.com address book. It may not be what I end up sticking with permanently, but it’s a solution for now.

We 4/21 7:45

Not much going on. Have found a couple other students I could go to Madrid with to fly home at the end of the semester. Have found another student I could go on a day trip with this weekend. Have done another assignment for translation, and am working on revisions.

I was all ready to give the presentation in Civilization & Culture today, but we ran out of time and my group has to give it on Friday. We don’t usually have class on Friday but we have Civ&Cult on Friday this week to make up for a day when the prof wasn’t there. In Spain, apparently, if a class is cancelled one day, they always have to make it up later.

Fr 4/23 15:45

Well, we had Civ&Cult today and my group once more didn’t get to give the presentation,for the same reason as last time: the prof talked about each presentation for about half an hour after it was given, so in the whole time only 2 presentations got to be given, same as on Wednesday. There are about 10 or 15 groups giving presentations and we’re already behind schedule and only 4 have been given. Drives me crazy when things get dragged out like that.

In Conversation & Composition we’re doing a “talk show” and I have already written and memorized my piece for it. Still have to practice every once in a while to make sure the lines stay in my head, but I think I’ll do fine. I’m a butterfly trapped in a human body, and I speak out in favor of species change surgery. (I needed an excuse to wear my butterfly costume. I didn’t get a chance to wear it for Carnaval.)

21:30

Two more important updates: I am going on a day trip with Dan tomorrow, and I have gotten a plane ticket to go to Madrid with Adriana on May 29. She is looking into hotel possibilities, because she and Tonika and I are planning to stay in a hotel in Madrid the night of May 29 before we fly to the US the next day. They don’t have the same flight I do, but it’s at the same time, so we can get ready together and find our gates together and help each other with our luggage and stuff.

Sa 4/24 22:15

Today Dan and I went on a very enjoyable day trip to Guadix, where almost half the people live in modified caves.

We saw the cathedral, the Alcazaba, and a market that seemed to go on forever. We also toured a few cave museums, which displayed the various furniture, clothing and tools used by Guadix cave-dwellers in earlier times.

My favorite part was sitting on the Mirador, a sort of white plaza that makes an excellent lookout point for all of Guadix. You can see the cathedral and Alcazaba, the caves, the Sierra Nevada, all the buildings of the city, and the typical Guadix rock formations that remind me so strongly of the Badlands.

We relaxed and did a lot of walking and had a lot of nice long conversations. It was really great. I should go on more day trips.

Mo 4/26 21:10

Today I got a dramatic lesson on why I should always wear my little green purse under my shirt.

This afternoon as I was getting into the elevator to go up to our apartment, a guy got into the elevator after me and asked what floor I was going to. There wasn’t anything strange about that– in my apartment building, when two people are in the elevator together, each has to know what floor the other is going to, so that the person who wants to get off first can push the button first. The floor whose button gets pushed first is the first floor the elevator will stop at; that’s how our elevator works.

But when I told the guy I was going to the sixth floor, he grabbed my purse and ran out the door with it. I ran out after him, yelling “Police! He stole my purse!” And I was incredibly lucky: two guys heard me and ran after the thief and got my purse back, and there actually were police officers nearby, so he got caught soon afterwards, and apparently confessed right away.

But the police made me come to the commissary to answer questions, and I had to go there on the back of one policeman’s motorcycle, and that policeman was under the mistaken impression that I was extremely nervous about going to the commissary, and the much more mistaken impression that he could make me less nervous by hugging me, holding my hand, and shamelessly flirting with me. I was pretty fed up by the end of it, although I was grateful that everyone had been so helpful.

Tomorrow the police are going to call me on my cell phone and tell me when I have to go answer more questions at another building. I hope it goes quickly. I’d had no idea the victim of a robbery had to get so deeply involved in the legal proceedings, even when the stolen items have been recovered and the robber has been caught and admits to being the robber. Oh well. It’s a learning experience, I guess.

Tu 4/27 18:45

Okay, I have learned too much already.

I went to the place they told me to come to, and answered questions and signed forms, and the lady asked me if I wanted to “reclamar,” and I asked what “reclamar” meant, and she said it meant something like “continue being part of the process,” and I said no because I was already starting to be more scared of all the formalities than of having my purse stolen.

I figured that would be the end of it, but when I left, she gave me a sheet of paper with information about a trial on the 7th of May, and said I had to be there as a witness.

Later I asked a teacher what was up with that, and it turns out that I was automatically pressing charges when I went with the policemen who told me to come to the commissary, and once I’ve pressed charges there will be a trial and I have to go to it. Which absolutely sucks. I have never been to a trial, and if I had to choose when to go to one for the first time, I would not choose the middle of a semester in Spain.

Anyone reading this who plans to study abroad: KEEP YOUR PURSE UNDER YOUR SHIRT! I know it looks dorky, and people ask you if something is wrong with your boobs, and if you’ve never had your purse stolen it doesn’t feel as if it could really happen to you– but it CAN, and if it does, you will be SORRY!

Th 4/29 12:05

One of the program directors has agreed to come to the trial with me, and I am not as upset now as I was earlier. They say it will not be very long.

My group finally got to give the presentation in Civ&Cult. On both Monday and Wednesday the prof talked so much that only one presentation was given each of those days, but on Wednesday it was ours, and it went fine.

At the travel agency Adriana and I reserved a hotel room in Madrid for ourselves and Tonika. We managed to get a triple room for 95 euros in a hotel about 3 kilometers from the airport. I paid for it with my credit card and they will pay me back when they get the chance. I think it’s all a pretty good arrangement.

Sa 5/1 20:00

Wow, it’s finally May. It’s finally the month I go home. It’s the very beginning of May now and I go home at the very end, but still, knowing it’s May makes me feel a lot closer to being home.

I got a lot of reading done for Islamic Culture. I’m going to have to skim over it a lot of times before much of it really sticks in my head, but at least today I got a bunch of important parts highlighted and underlined to make that easier.

I hope I read enough to get caught up. I didn’t know how much we had to read, because I didn’t get to go to that class at all last week: on Tuesday I had to go answer police questions and on Thursday the class got cancelled. But I’m sure I can catch up if I need to.

Only four more weeks…

Mo 5/3 17:00

Yesterday was Mothers’ Day in Spain, even though Mothers’ Day is a week from now in the US. (In Spain it’s apparently always on May 2, too– not always on a Sunday.) Areli and I made a card for Serafina.

Today is Dia de la Cruz, a day when there are elaborate displays set up in all the plazas and courtyards. Areli, Lynn, Adriana and I went around the town looking at them.

They vary widely. The central point is always a cross, usually made of red carnations, but we also saw one made of wood and mirrors, and one where the display had been built around a huge stone crucifix statue that was already there. The decorations around the cross can consist of many things, including silk shawls, flowers, ceramic vases, copper pots, and any fountains, walls or painted backdrops the artists see fit to build in.

It is, of course, temporary, but in many cases a great deal of work is put into it.

One funny part is that there is often an apple somewhere in the display, with a pair of scissors stuck in it. The explanation for this, I was told, is that it is meant to make sure everyone likes the display. It’s a play on words: “pero” means “but” and it is also a word used for “apple” in Granada, so the scissors in the apple are to cut out the “but”s (that is, to prevent people from saying “It’s a very pretty display, but…”)

It was fun to see all the different crosses and walk around a little, even though it was raining. But now I have to work on translation.

Fr 5/7 12:05

Wow– that “trial” was really nothing worth getting nervous about.

I walked to the Diputacion this morning (the same building where I answered questions last time) and met Annette, the program director who had agreed to come with me. Things were running late, as usual, and we had to sit for a long time outside the room where the thing was going to happen, but we had plenty of fun conversations while waiting.

At one point we asked a policeman what kind of punishment the thief was going to get, and he said it would probably be six months in prison (and would have been longer if the thief hadn’t been so cooperative once he was caught). We were surprised because it’s usually much less than that.

Asking more questions, we found out that this thief’s life was rather different from what we’d been visualizing: it was his first theft, or at least the first time he’d been caught, and he did it because of drug problems. Apparently he told the police all about his drug problems and asked for help, and it seems he’s going to get rehabilitated. We’re not sure if that’s why his sentence is so long.

Anyway, finally they called me into the room and asked a few questions: things like, “Is your name Erika?” and “Is it true that you had a purse stolen?” and “Do you confirm the truth of the charges in the paper you signed on April 26?” I said yes to all the questions and then they said “No more questions” and told me I could go. It was all in Spanish but none of the questions needed more than a one-word answer. It all took less than a minute. The robber wasn’t even in the room.

I hope he gets successfully rehabilitated and doesn’t steal again. It’s sad that so many people get into a circle of stealing, getting mild punishments and stealing again, without the problem ever being solved. But with this one it looks as if maybe there’s a bit of hope.

Sa 5/8 17:45

Now here I am in a hotel room in Almeria. This is our last group trip, and it’s not a whole week or even three or four days, just today and tomorrow.

We left Granada in our big double-decker group bus this morning at 10 (it was supposed to be 9:30 but there was a delay) and we got to the Mojacar beach some time after noon. Our hotel is right across from the beach, and it’s a really neat hotel.

There is a pool and a bunch of little stores and restaurants, and the rooms are in little whitewashed buildings all over the place like the white neighborhoods in Granada. It’s organized more like a city than a hotel: the rooms have letters like apartments, the buildings have numbers like buildings on a street, and they are arranged along paths that have names like the streets in a town (Areli and I have room E, building 4, Gazarias Street).

Each apartment has a little kitchen and dining room as well as a bedroom, bathroom and living area (and a window with a great view).

It’s amazing.

We spent most of the afternoon at the beach.

There weren’t many shells to find, but there were pretty rocks, and I collected some.

For the first time ever, I swam in the Mediterranean, which was very cold and very salty. I was scared at first. I’d never really gone swimming in anything bigger than a lake before (although I’d waded briefly in the Atlantic on a trip to Florida) and the movement of the water seemed so powerful and dangerous to me– even though other students, more familiar with swimming in seas and oceans, assured me that this was nothing compared to most of them.

I got hot and bored after a while, and wanted to eat the sandwich I’d brought, but couldn’t find Areli, who had the key to our room where the sandwich and all my other stuff was. I had to wait for her to come back to the room, and I got kind of stressed and angry waiting, but it worked out okay because Areli found out that I’d been looking for her and she came and let me in before going off to the pool with some friends.

I’ve had more than enough sun for today, and I think now I will stay inside until dinner at 9. Although, come to think of it, that’s a long time… I might go out again briefly and take some pictures or something.

Su 5/9 10:35

Well, I took some pictures, and then we had dinner, and then a bunch of us played silly games until late at night, and I got really hyperactive, and then finally we went back to our rooms and went to sleep.

I got up a whole bunch of times in the night to go to the bathroom, which must’ve driven Areli crazy, but we survived the night and woke up on time in the morning and I took a shower and we had breakfast and now Areli is on the beach and I am in the hotel room.

Nothing much else to say. This is a pretty fun place, but I’m more excited about the fact that I’ll be going home in three weeks.

Th 5/13 17:15

Only a bit more than two weeks now. We’re back in Granada, and this afternoon I gave my talk show presentation in Conv & Comp– the one with the butterfly costume. It went stunningly. The class laughed like crazy through the whole thing.

I have been sitting around in the building for a couple hours since then, waiting for the farewell dinner my group’s having tonight, and my Conv & Comp professor keeps coming up to me and telling me what a great job I did “both linguistically and creatively.” I don’t know how to answer her anymore; I’ve exhausted my vocabulary of ways to thank someone for a compliment in Spanish.

The power’s gone off two times– now three times, there it goes again. I’m glad I already got my emails written for today; we can’t use the computers now because they keep turning off during the power failures.

It’s raining and storming like crazy. There are still three hours or so until the group dinner starts, and there’s nothing to do. I’m pretty much trapped in the Modern Language Center.

Oh well. I can think of worse places to be trapped.

Fr 5/14 8:15

The dinner last night was ok. I had brought very fancy clothes along to the Language Center in a bag, and I dressed up, just for the heck of it, and we all went to an Italian restaurant. It went pretty well, although I got kind of hyperactive.

I have really not gotten hyper many times this semester, compared to my other semesters abroad. I think it may be a reaction to being in a leisure situation with a lot of people I know well, and I’ve gotten very few chances to do that while in Spain. The group doesn’t get together often and I’m not the type who gets together with friends on my own very often, either.

Today I have Islamic Culture class at 9:30, to make up for the day it was canceled. We’re going to take a tour of the old Arab buildings in the city today. I might as well start getting ready to go.

16:15

Tour was ok, though it lasted longer than any of us expected. I took a shower and have been sitting around relaxing since I got back. I’m kind of tired.

We 5/19 17:50

Finals have started! I had my first one today in Translation. I don’t know how I did. I kind of rushed through it because I really had to go to the bathroom. I don’t think I failed it, but I have no clear estimates of my grade. It might be lousy, or it might be fabulous– I’ve often gotten great grades on tests when I thought I did horribly.

Tomorrow I have tests in Islamic Culture and Conv & Comp. I’m pretty well prepared for both, I think. I’ve studied with my homemade flashcards for the Islamic Culture test since last week, and I have no concerns about the Conv & Comp test because the stuff in that course is the kind of stuff that sticks in my mind automatically.

Then after Conv & Comp I’m going out to a cafe with some other students, and then there’s the weekend– on Saturday I’m going to try to go to the group lunch that my Civ & Cult class is planning, but I have to wait until the prof calls me with the details.

Actually, I just realized, I should tell Areli I’m doing that, because this afternoon I agreed to go shopping with her Saturday morning and show her where you can get an Arabian tea set for 7 euros, and it just occurred to me that I might not be able to do that at that time (depending on when I have to leave for the Civ & Cult lunch).

Saturday evening I was planning to go to the Alhambra with Areli and Adriana, but they had bought tickets for 17:00 and when I went to the ticket place they didn’t have any left for that time. I think I’ll go anyway, and if somehow there’s a ticket available there, I’ll buy it, and if not, I’ll hang around in the parts you can get into without a ticket.

On Monday I have my Civ & Cult final, and on Tuesday I have the final for Grammar. That’s all. I can spend the next 3 days packing and buying candy for my friends and family… although buying candy won’t take too long, and I’m mostly packed already. I expect I will be fairly bored for a while.

But then I can go to Madrid, fly home, get my diploma, and start looking for a job and an apartment. I really want to get my own place to live as soon as possible.

I’ve said before that I’m always excited for changes, even though I far prefer stability to change… and that’s how I’m feeling now. As always, I’m looking forward eagerly to the next big change in my life, so I can get settled into what I hope will be the next long period of stability.

Th 5/20 21:50

I did great on the Islamic Culture exam, and reasonably well on the Conv & Comp one. The snack at the cafe with friends was fun, but too short. If I’d only made the effort and gone out with more of the students more often, I might have enjoyed the semester a lot more.

We got our copies of the Libro de Recuerdos today– a sort of little yearbook where each of us had contributed some writing about our experiences. Reading through it, I see that the rest of the group had a lot more fun than I did. It’s full of in-jokes I don’t understand, memories I don’t have, pictures I’m not in. The only mentions of me are jokes about how fast I eat, mostly based on one night when a number of people saw me scarf down french fries. It all made me laugh, but it also made me a bit sad.

Overwhelmingly, I have just hidden out this semester, minded my own business, and miserably failed to become a part of the group. In contrast with my semesters in Mexico and Vienna, when everyone remembered me as clever, eccentric, slightly crazy, hilariously witty, an entertaining conversationalist… I am afraid that this group is leaving with almost no memories of me at all.

Sa 5/22 18:00

I had thought that I was going to go to a restaurant with my Civ & Cult class this morning and to the Alhambra with Areli and Adriana this afternoon, but I ended up spending the morning the same way millions of other people in Spain spent it: watching Prince Felipe get married on TV. Then I spent the afternoon trying to edit my digital photos on my laptop. I guess my plans didn’t work out.

See, what happened is that the Civ & Cult prof had said she would call my cellphone to tell me when the lunch would be, but I never got the call, even though I kept my phone turned on and clipped to my belt all day. And Areli left for the Alhambra without me… I was so absorbed in my digital photos that I can’t remember if she ever told me she was leaving or asked me if I was coming.

I wonder if the lunch was going to be tomorrow instead of today. I didn’t think I could have made that mistake, but I guess, with me, all mistakes are possible. I’ll keep my phone on tomorrow just in case.

Su 5/23 10:20

I got the call last night. The lunch was planned for today, after all, and I am now waiting at Paseo del Salon to meet the professor, even though I have more than an hour before she’s likely to be here.

I was scared I wouldn’t be able to find the place, so I left extra early. But it turned out to be the same place the group’s met every time we’ve gone on a trip, and I didn’t realize it until I followed the directions the prof gave me and things started looking very familiar. You see, I’m terrible with streets.

Only eight more days, including today and the day I fly home. I hope I can wait that long.

19:45

The lunch was great! Five students showed up, and the professor picked us up in her car and drove us to La Zubia, way out in the country.

We went hiking through a lot of fields and mountains, ate at Fuente del Hervidero, and then went to the professor’s house, where she let us take the final test early. We just went into a room with her one at a time, and she asked questions, and we talked, and that was it. I think I did quite well.

Tu 5/25 19:05

My very last final, the grammar one, went well too, and now I have just 6 more days until I go home (including today and the day I go).

Adriana and Areli talked me into going to Seville this Thursday. I guess it’ll be something to do.

The rest of the days I’ll just look for the right candy to bring home to people. I’m sure Mom and Dad will want some of that extra-dark chocolate, and at the candy store by our apartment there are some chewy jelly things that look good and don’t look like something you could find in the US. I’ll look around for other stuff, too, keeping in mind that I don’t plan to spend more than 10 euros on all the candy I buy (for fear of going over the $800 limit on stuff you can bring over the border).

I am so very ready to go back to the US and get a job and a home of my own. I hope I can start taking interviews and looking at apartments as soon as I get back.

Wednesday 5/26 15:00

I bought a whole bunch of chocolate today: three bars of milk chocolate, three bars of medium dark, and three bars of extra dark. I might get some other candy on Friday, but I’m done shopping for today.

I was going to go check my email after lunch, but lunch just ended and it is raining and storming horribly, so I think I will just sit around inside and rest.

I am surprised it has rained so much this semester. There isn’t much rain around here, they say, but it’s a very rainy year and in other cities there have been floods that have destroyed houses. Here it has been dry a lot of the time, but it’s rained more than I expected. It’s also never gotten as hot as people told me it would get. (Maybe it just doesn’t seem hot to me because it’s mostly a dry heat, and I’m used to the awful humid heat of Minnesota summers.)

Fr 5/28 10:00

Finally, here it is, my last full day in Granada. I go to Madrid tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow I go home.

What can I say? Spain was not all I hoped for. I learned a lot, I saw some neat things, I got some nice souvenirs… but mainly I’m just glad to be going back.

And on that note I’ll end this journal.

 


 

Here is a song I wrote about Granada, to the tune of this song.

 



 

Hello mudda

hello fadda

I’m surviving

In Granada

Dry and dusty

Seems the case is

That the rain in Spain stays mainly other places.

This is not the

place to go ta

If you are from

Minnesota

It gets cold here

sometimes, hell yeah

but there aren’t ten thousand lakes here, I can tell ya.

At least mosquitoes

Don’t desire

To live someplace

so much dryer

But I still am

feeling bitchy

‘Cause there’s something here whose bites are just as itchy.

I don’t know, though,

What you call it

If I knew, I

can’t recall it

Darn things must’ve

Sucked my mind out

Well, I’ll call them “Spanish flies” until I find out.

Take… me… home oh mudda fadda

Take… me… home, home from Granada

Don’t leave me here where I will get

Hardly any internet

Take me home, I think if I stay longer here

I might dry up and disappear

I hope that I can sneak

away for just one week…

Hello mudda

Hello fadda

Do you know

Sierra Nevada

Seems in Spain there’s

A location

By that name, and I am there on spring vacation.

It is cooler

That is better

But it isn’t

Any wetter

Seems that if you

don’t like skiing

There’s not much to do but watch your nose keep bleeding.

Take… me… home oh mudda fadda

Take… me… home, home from Granada

Please oh please don’t leave me here

Where bars serve snail meat with their beer

Take me home, at noon here nothing seems alive

All shops are closed from two to five

And dinner’s served at eight

and is not worth the wait!

…Please consider

Sending me food

There is nothing

Here but seafood

(Which is strange ’cause

there’s no water)

Mom and Dad, you’ve got one nauseated daughter.

At our table

there are many

shrimp with legs, eyes

and antennae

Bony fish

much skill require

‘Cept the little ones you’re sposed to eat entire.

Even if the

food were yummy

I doubt it could

reach my tummy

My host family

spends too much time

Watching bullfights on tv when it is lunchtime.

Take… me… home oh mudda fadda

Take… me… home, you really oughta

Come and take me home from here

And feed me lefse for a year

Take me home, and at the family gathering

I’ll eat a plate of everything

I won’t take our grocery store

For granted any more

Mudda Fadda

please send money

Spent so much

it isn’t funny

I need someone

here to holler

“Kid, a euro is a lot more than a dollar!”

Hello Mudda

Hello Fadda

I must go to

“el Juzgado”

or the courtroom

as we call it

To testify against some guy who stole my wallet.

Yeah it sucked to

lose my purse, guys,

but the legal

stuff is worse, guys

Dearest daddy,

darling mommy

Can’t you please make the police stop hitting on me?

Take… me… home, oh mudda fadda

take… me… home to where there’s water

And if there’s a legal case to win

It’s in a language I’m more fluent in…

Take me home, I used to think my Spanish was

great, but now I don’t because

In school they train your brain

For Mexico, not Spain!

Cuernavaca

And Vienna

They were nice

This is Gehenna

Studying a-

broad is fine now

but I think next time I’m doing it online now.

 



 

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