Friday, December 11, 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The end of classes!

Classes have ended here in Granada. I'm super excited to get home but i also am trying to savor every moment in Granada. I was hoping to get more done this weekend but it doesn't look like that is going to happen. I have too many tests to study for. Today I'm taking a break from my spanish paper to blog a bit in English.   

Today the CLM gave out the awards for the sports teams. AIFS was the winner in Balóncesto and Fútbol. We came in second in Volleyball, but still a hell of an effort by the AIFS kids! It brought back memories of High school soccer tournaments, I never thought I'd be able to add one more to my list!

I hear St. Paul is getting snow, I'm jealous. There's no snow here in Granada but the Sierra Nevada mountains look really amazing from down here in the foothills. Hopefully I will be able to get some good photos of them before I come back. You can kind of see them in the "Granadino" album on Flickr. I have a list of things to get done this week, taking pictures around here is just one of them, I really hope I have time to do so. Classes are tougher than I thought. Most kids only have to pass the class to get credit at there schools back home, I've got my GPA to protect.

Well that's all for now. I'll leave you with some new phrases!

Echar de menos : to miss someone

Mola Mucho: to love something (tastes good,etc)

hace fresquillo : it's a bit nippy outside


Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Inma's video of the trip... coming soon my own video collection and a finished Morocco blog

Tuesday, November 24, 2009



The last 4 days have been an absolute blast, it feels like somewhat of a dream but at least a good dream. Thursday night I was busy packing and getting ready for the trip and at the same time working on a project that was due today. We were scheduled to leave around 5 am on Friday, I believe I went to bed around 2:00 or that same morning. So after only 2 hours I was waking up and showering. I was so tired! Everyone looked like zombies (pretty much our look for the weekend because of all the traveling and time spent on the bus). Our bus left at 5am or so (we had to pick up some people who almost missed the bus!) and made a 5 hour trip to Tarifa stopping only twice for some food. Everyone was munching down on there bocadillos or just staring off in space, we had no idea how much of the trip we still had left! We boarded our ferry, the Tangier Jet, at 11:00am. I was worried about getting seasick so I took several dramanine and took my seat on the ferry. The ferry was organized like an actual jet, with seating and beverages, etc. It was only a 35 min ferry ride over to Tangier and I slept most of the way. I was excited to step foot in Africa for the first time.

Our bus came with us on the ferry, it was our transportation in Morocco. Our fist order of business was to meet our tour guide and exchange currency from Euros to the local Dirham (about 11 dirham equal 1 Euro or 7 Dirham to the dollar). Our tour guide was named Jonas, he also had a companion whom we just called GPS because he was there solely for the purpose of helping our bus driver (from Spain) navigate in Morocco. Jonas began the trip by explaining several of the sites near Tangier, palaces and some of the general customs in Morocco. We made our way up to a faro or light house and we're able to get a clear panoramic of the straight of Gibraltar. From there we made our way down to the hercules caves (where it was said Hercules rested before doing his greek mythology)... from there we made an hour or so drive to have a typical Lunch on a town near the Atlantic Ocean. We were all in for a surprise, though most of us had prepared ourselves for strange foods.... The meal consisted of fresh fish from the Atlantic, literally placed in a fryer whole and then straight to our plates. Along with Octopus and calamari rings, YUM! One girl on our trip was laughing so hard at the food that she started to cry, then she actually started to cry. I couldn't really stomach much of the food but I tried. I was hoping that this wasn't going to be every meal. After lunch we jumped back on the dreadful bus and drove for another 5 hours to our stay over in Meknes. I slept for most of the way but every time I woke up on the bus I saw new and exciting views and some shocking ones as well. A lot of what I saw was farms and small towns where donkeys were the trucks the cars and basically essential to life. Once the sun set I was kept up by the drivers constant yelling and honking. Several times on the narrow, pitch black, windy roads we almost hit other cars or visa versa. We arrived at the hotel tired and cramped but compliments to AIFS for finding us a great hotel in Meknes. This hotel was decorated in traditional arabic tiling and served us an amazing dinner!! The rooms were comfortable and roomy and the shower felt great. I was in Africa but all I could think about was getting some sleep! I fell asleep at 11:30, and dreamed of what the next day would bring when the sun rose in Mekenes.

I slept like a log that night and the next day I felt a little more refreshed, I opened my window and took my first look at Meknes (it had been dark when we had arrived). It looked like a giant forest had grown around a city. It was dry and fairly gray with green splotches scattered about the landscape. Every once and a while the level horizon was broken by a tall tower, the minarets of the mosques. I was in Africa. Break fast that morning was interesting. It was mostly bread, bread made in about 6 different forms but all still bread. I had fresh squeezed orange juice (which made my day) and flat type of bread that was kind of flakey but tasted pretty good with some butter and jam. After filling up on carbs and starch I ran off to shower and pack. The tour of the city that day took up most of the morning. We got some great views of the city and its different sections from afar and then we proceeded to traverse the inner sections. We visited one of the few mosques that non-islamic people could actually enter since it had been turned into more of a monument (there were also several tombs of past monarchs there and from what I understood it is forbidden to practice in such a mosque). We were able to enter, still removing our shoes out of respect and get a look inside. The architecture was absolutely astonishing!! We were able to also walk through a market that day and get a look at what goes on there. I wish I could have gotten a picture  of before and after. Let me try to paint it for you. Before: Everyone was smiling and pointing... After: Every one was still laughing but their hand had now moved to their noses. The market in general wasn't that bad, fruit and all sort of food. There were A LOT of bees in there swarming to all of the dulces and it was a tad bit smelly but I think what really got people was when we walked into the meat section of the market. Cow heads and vendors skining the animals right next to the meat they were selling that was just sitting out in the open. It was fresh that was for sure, you could see the blood droplets still on the meat. It smelled awful, and I've had my fair share of smells. In Northern Minnesota deer hunting wasn't much better. I've had to gut and butcher deer and I can tell you that it is not a pretty site to see or to smell. Here though it was different, there were dozens of stores packed into this market with narrow winding paths. The smell was just so strong in there!!

I'll admit that I had to cover my nose, but as Jonas explained it wasn't a bad thing. They had super markets there but why go to a supermarket when you could just get fresh, literally fresh, meat. It was just something that made sense to the people there. We toured Meknes for about 5 hours that day, ate lunch, returned to the hotel for bathrooms and then got on the bus for a ride to Fez. The us ride only took an hour or so and during the trip I was able to get Jonas to write my name in Arabic for me. He also explained some facts about daily life in Morocco. For example, in the schools they taught language at a young age. They taught French (mandatory) and then you had the choice of what you wanted to learn after that. Most of the population spoke Berber, French and at lest two others. German, Spanish were common and I forgot to mention that English was also mandatory. Kids would walk up to us on the street and speak to us in French, Berber, English, Spanish, or sometimes Arabic (depending on where we were). That day in Fez I remember our Fez guide, Habibi, telling us that in the market places you could find vendors that could communicate in almost every major language there was. Habibi was an interesting and fantastic guide. He knew so much about the city it astonished me. He took us through the market and every person that he met he knew. Not only did he know them he knew everything about them. In that market alone there were 4,000 streets all winding and moving throughout the mini city/medina. He knew everyone there by their voice and made frequent stops to talk to them. He was greeted at every corner and had an amazing talent to make every one we walked past laugh. His favorite joke was to walk up behind a car or bike and pretend to pull the air cap off of the tire, while doing so he made a hsssing sound making it appear as if he was letting the air out of the tire. This usually caused the owner of the bike, car or wagon to turn around suddenly. Once they saw it was Habibi though they broke out into laughter!! That night we just made our way into the massive market to a see a Jalaba (traditional dress) shop and to shop for clothes for that nights traditional dinner. Most of the girls and guys in the group, including me, purchased one. We had to barter for the cloaks because well that was just the way it was done there. They say a price and you say something that is 40% off of that then you barter and meet halfway. Some people didn't get the concept and others got it too well. I didn't want to rip the vendors off but I didn't want to get overcharged either. They were hand made and took sometimes several months to make. Most of the jalabas were going for 40-30 euros. I mean the sellers were asking 60-80 euros for them but that was like 100 some dollars. I was able to get mine for only 25 euros. I was lucky. I had forgotten to bring more than 25 euros with me. The seller and I bartered for a long long time. And finally he said 30 was his last offer. I only had 25 and he agreed that that was okay. What a deal. He seemed okay with it. That night they had just hit the jackpot on tourists. I don't think they were complaining. Later on in the trip my bartering skills improved and I found some really good deals. As for that night though I was just excited to dress up in the Jalaba (which looked a lot like the star wars cloaks) and go to dinner.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Long time no blog....

Its been a while since I've blogged, I know. Things have picked up here in November, classes and midterms, soccer, trips and the vida diaria (daily life). But here's an update on what i've been up to.

Nerja Trip over Halloween was wonderful: tikka masala, caves, fog, flamenco dancing and the Balcon of Europa, what more can a person ask for.

Gym: I recently joined the gymnasio just down the road from the residence. Florian convinced me to do so and I'm glad he did. I forgot how much I enjoyed working out. The first day at the gym Florian took on the duty of being my "trainer". I learned all the different parts of the body in spanish and that kilos are different than pounds haha! I told Florian to put 150 on the bench press and he just laughed. 150 kilos is 330lbs!
Its been about three weeks since I started there and I'm really enjoying it. I've met some interesting people there, most of them students traveling through europe and studying.

Music: A while a go I decided to start listening to Spanish music, I figured it's another way to take in the language and common phrases. I've found that if I listen to it at night or on the way to school then in the morning I'm  warmed up (so to speak) for the day! I've already collected over 500 songs!

Trips: Maria and I made another return to the south, this time to Malaga. We were able to get tickets to the "other" circus (lol). It was fun to sit back and just watch a performance. The acts were interesting and lively,  I felt like a kid again. I'm certain that Maria could have walked onto the stage and outperformed the cloud swing girl! The trip was very exciting but a little overwhelming at times... I got a little bit of motion sickness on the bus (thanks for those genes mom). It was warm, sunny and it definitely did not feel like mid-November.

Overall it has been a busy but entertaining few weeks since my last blog. Time flies by so fast, we only have 1 month left. This weekend we are going to Morocco! I can't wait! That should be interesting to blog about. Mid-terms are over with but I have two presentations next week and then a paper the next! Hopefully I will have time to put down some more detailed blogs! Next week I'm planning on documenting my daily life here, with a set of pictures for every day of the week.

Hasta Pronto!


Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Gibraltar, Seville, Cordoba.

Friday October 23
The AIFS troop made our way to Gibraltar on out APYME bus. After several hours of driving we made our way into the city, La Linea, the last town before the UK Gibraltar. The view of the bay and the “Rock” was breathtaking. Hundreds of ships lined the bay and huge oil tankers sat on the deep blue ocean, out in the distance I could see the straight of Gibraltar and the Moroccan coast. We arrived just on the outside of the custom/border crossing and exited the bus. Our plan was to walk arcoss the border so that the bus didn't have to be searched (which would take to long). So the 50 of us made our way across the border. But not everyone made it. Yuri, who had a green card from Russia, was stopped and not allowed to pass. He was still a Russian citizen but had been living in the states for a very long time. I mean he had made it to London and Spain but they wouldn't let him in, so he had to wait for several hours outside...

The rest of us made our way across the airport landing strip and into the city. For the next several hours we explored the lower part of the city (the touristy parts). Saw some glass blowing and ate some Burger King (Lol). After some free time we proceeded to board the tour bus with quite an enthusiastic guide (where does AIFS find these guides!) named Paul. We toured the city and made our way up to the light hose at the far corner of the rock. We got a history lesson on the way about the British occupation and the battles that took place there. The point at the end of the rock was probably the most amazed and stunned I've been on this trip. It felt like I had just walked out into a dreamscape. As far as the eye could see there were ships, scattered about, some just white specs on the horizon. The Morrocan coast, just 14km away, was visible through a slight haze.

From there our tour took us to the top of the rock, to las cuevas or the caves. Inside the cave we visited there was an orchestra hall!!! What good acoustics.

After visiting the caves we made our way to the main attraction, The Apes of Gibraltar!
Every now and then we would see one of the monkeys on the way down and the driver would slow down and the monkey would jump into the driver side window and Paul would start talking to him/her. He new everyone we saw by name and the history behind that certain monkey. We stopped and got some pictures with them.

That was pretty much the end of Gibraltar because we needed to get back onto the bus and make our way to Sevilla!

Gibraltar was amazing, but Sevilla was the real beauty of the trip (mind you Gibraltar isn't a Spanish city, its British).

Sevilla Oct 24

After sleeping the night on a cot that was a little too small (John and Adam both got the beds in our hotel room) I wasn't feeling very rested but I was excited to get up and walk around. We started our tour of the City, going into the old part of town... to the Palace and then over to the Alcazar. We walked though the gardens of the Alcazar (the living residence of royalty in the past). We had another very good tour guide who gave us some, in depth, histories of the city and its people. After that we made our way to the catedral. The catedral is actually larger in area than the one in Rome, but not in volume (No Catedral can be built larger than the one in Rome). We toured the inside and saw Cristopher Columbus' actual tomb and toured the muy alta (tall) bell tower, where we got some great views of the city!!
Maria, Daryl and I made our way back to the other side of the city to try and buy tickets for that nights Sevilla FC game versus Espanyol! Oye! I was so excited. We got decent tickets in the high side of on the south goal. I also decided that I needed to get some paraphernalia and went over to the Sevilla equipo store. All I could think about for the rest of the day was the game... It appeared as though I had the same mindset of most of the city. I saw numerous people running around in the jerseys, etc... I spent and hour shopping around and found a store with some eurpoean style clothing ( I think I have been converted!!). After an after noon of rest it was time for the partido! It started at approx 10pm and everyone of the AIFS kids could been seen wearing there (recently purchased) Sevilla clothing. I brought along my Nikon D90 hoping to get some good pics, which I did, but I wish I had the money to get the preferencia sitting down by the field. The game ended up being a 0-0 tie, sin problema, Sevilla controlled the field.

That night was daylight savings so EVERYONE stayed up later to take advantage of the extra hour (oh college kids!!).

October 25

Sunday was another one of those days where we spent a lot of time on the Bus. We boarded the bus after a tasty breakfast at the Hotel. About 2 hours later we arrived in Cordoba. I enjoy being able to have free time to wander the small streets of the old city. The main attraction in the city is the Catedral/Mosque. It was originally a mosque in the first century but later it became Christianized and a Cathedral was built into the Mosque and a bell tower over the Muslim tower. It was an interesting experience, to walk amongst both Christian and Muslim architecture. Our guide was Juan Carlos Cordoba (like the city ;) We were able to walk around the city and see a Jewish synagogue and other buildings that held significance for each religion. Spain is an interesting country, you can literally see history unfold as you walk through the streets of the cities.

After our tour of the Catedral I walked around the city with Maria and we found some unique items in the corner shops (maybe a few of those will make it back to the states :)

All in all it was an exciting trip, now I'm preparing for Nerja!!!

Look for more blogs and some great pics that will be uploaded soon!!