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!!


Monday, October 12, 2009

Madrid and San Jose!!

Where to begin.... So much has happened since the last time I blogged it's hard to remember what I wanted to put down.

About a week ago we (the AIFS troop) took a trip to Madrid. Once again we were taking a bus, which wasn't my favorite means of travel but it was cheaper than flying everyone out there. We loaded the bus at 9 am and left for Madrid. Well actually we were heading for Toledo, a kind of detour to split up the very long drive. After about two hours or so of driving we arrived in Toledo. We took a small bathroom break at a nearby park and then two tour guides from the city jumped on our bus and showed us the city. These two guides were wonderfully comedic. We encircled the city looking at the city from the outside, it was completely surrounded by mountains and a river making it an ideal place in the past to set up a fortified city. After the brief scenic tour we entered the city on foot with our guides. We saw the cathedral on of the top three in Spain (or Europe for that matter). I'm including several links at the end of this blog so that you can read more information about the different places we visited. It would take to long to go through all of the information that we acquired from our guides on the trip. After the cathedral we went to a small Church where an original Greco art masterpiece was painted. Our guides were very knowledgeable and excited the sites and history. After the tour of the city we went to a near by sword factory where they still make swords (not for actual use I presume). Check out my flickr site to see all of the wonderful variations of swords that were made there.

After a long day of driving I didn't really feel up to another hour and a half to Madrid. I just wanted to sleep. We made it into Madrid without hitting too much traffic but I heard it can be a nightmare sometimes (kinda like driving home from a twins game on 94). We arrived at our hotel a little past 8pm and checked into our rooms. I was rooming with John and Adam. It was refreshing to have a new place to sleep and to have water pressure!! Everyone was excited to get out and experience Madrid. I however just wanted some food! A group of us made our way to a nearby mall and ate at a restaurant called VIPS. A Philly Cheese Steak hit the spot (lol). I turned in early that night because I knew the next day was going to be just as busy.

We woke up early (yet again) and got back on the bus for a tour around Madrid with some new guides. We saw the train station and a statue that commemorated all those who died in the Madrid bombings. We ended up at the Prado where we took a tour through the art galleries. We only had about an hour in there but it was amazing to see the history and famous art pieces.

Afterwards a group of us made our way to the Madrid Zoo where we spent the remaining daylight observing a array of interesting animals. The next day we boarded the bus yet again and headed off to Segovia and El Escorial. The day was pretty much a blur of historical information, by the end I felt like I had travelled back in time and was an official member of that age. It was nice being a tourist for a bit. I feel like I have been flying under the radar while living in Granada. But in Madrid I didn't really care, it was out in the open, I was a tourist, I was doing touristy things and I loved it. Segovia and Escorial were amazing towns, there were towns out of a storybook. In fact the castle we visited in Segovia was the inspiration for the castle in Snow White. Those of us who wanted to climb to the top of the castle did so but were in for a surprise when we began the never ending spiral staircase, only big enough for one person (even though there were people descending the stairs as well). The sight from the top was memorable, and I'm glad I had the chance to visit such a place. After a break and some dark chocolate (Peru chocolate, yum!) we jumped back on the bus and headed back to Madrid for our last night there. That night we had a Chinese buffet! Yeah a bit american of us but I didn't care, I was happily full.

The next day most people headed off to other European countries and a few of us (Maria and myself included) returned home to Granada on the bus. It was a very scenic return ride but after 4 hours on the bus that day I was getting a little fed up with busses, I had spent almost 20 some hours on a bus in the past few days. Maria and I had planned on a less expensive trip to the ocean, Cabo De Gata. So after repacking we ran off to catch another bus to the coast. Turns out we were going to miss our bus to the bus station so we grabbed a cab and told him we needed to get there to catch our 5:30 bus. He was an older man in his 60s, his name was Antonio (taxi number 75). He sped us to the Estacion de Autobus, and it was quite fun to hear him talk on the way. We made it in time for our bus to Almeria and two hours later arrived at the coast at dusk. We frantically tried to find the bus to San Jose Cabo De Gata which was where our hotel was. NO LUCK!! We missed the last bus and had to take a 25 min taxi ride out to this little remote town. But form the moment we arrived in San Jose I was in love with it. It is a small fishing town (now a little more touristy) situated in the middle of the Cabo de Gata national park. Surrounded by mountains, dessert, ocean and music. I've never felt a more relaxed atmosphere. Our hotel was a quant little place called Posada de Paco. That night Maria and I treated ourselves to some italian food and I had a little vino de verano. The next morning we grabbed our cameras and sneakers and headed out for a walk along the beach. It was an exciting trail, through cactus, aloe plants, beach, mountain, and most of it was walking on the sides of cliffs by the ocean. It was hot but windy which made it a comfortable walk. Looking back on that trip I wish I had stayed there longer.

Laying on the beach after a long days walk and some italian pizza (like Punch in St. Paul) will do wonders for your health!! We explored San Jose some more that night and the next day before jumping on a bus for another 3 hours back to Granada.

All in all it was a fun week, expensive but hopefully the experiences will outweigh the costs when looking back on my time in Spain. I realized that part of studying Spanish is experiencing the language and using it. Cooped up in a classroom in Granada for 4 hours a day does wonders for the grammar but its worth nothing unless you have the opportunity to use it outside the classroom.

I am a week behind on my blogs but I'll catch up with this past week (first classes, exams, festivals, and much more) tomorrow!!

Adios (for now)!




Sunday, October 11, 2009

New Photos Just uploaded check out the Map!

Click on a pic and on the right side see where it was taken! Click on Map to search pics by location!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Viva su vida como si cada día fuera el último....

Sunday was a pretty eventful day. Churros con chocolate and then an afternoon of studying. Despues Maria and I took a walk through Garcia Lorca Park. There was a festival this weekend (San Maria?)Yesterday we saw a parade, marching bands, soldiers and more. There were thousands of people in the streets with candles making their way to the catedral. It was quite a sight to behold. After dinner at a mexican restaurant I headed back to play some poker with Lewis, Florian and Adam. I was able to clear the table but Adam is really good at poker so we just split the pot. I think we have decided to make it a weekly occurrence (sundays).

It'll be nice to get out of Granada for a few days. We leave for Madrid on Thursday and Cabo de Gata on Monday. My Spanish has improved a lot in one month, I almost feel like I should blog in Spanish instead.

Well its Siesta time so I should get some sleep before a long night of studying, manana tendrámos el examen final.

Hasta Luego

I'll let you know how the test went tomorrow (hopefully good news)

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Hike, originally uploaded by starkey555.

Small clip from the hike.... check out the pics as well

Hacer caca, escalar y pena

Today was our intense hike up in the mountains behind the Alhambra. Well I guess they would be considered foothills. We started our hike in Plaza Nueva and moved up along the walk way to the cemetery. It was interesting to see all of the kids that had been out at the discoteca and never got a wink of sleep. We began our trek at 10 am in the morning and made our way up the mountain. We lost some people early on, apparently they decided to follow another group that "looked a lot like ours". After we reached the cemetery we turned and hiked up another set of hills. The hills were filled with olive trees and on the path we encountered many runners and insane bikers that were taking some insane routes down the sides of the mountain. When we arrived at the top everyone broke out there lovely meals that the senoras made them, us residence kids pulled our bocadillos out and realized that they were frozen solid. Maria, Chryssi, Darly and I made our way over to some playground equipment and situated ourselves on slides, swings and totter things. Then we proceeded to thaw our sandwiches by breathing on them, or hugging them so that they would warm up. I don't know why Scarlet (the cook) froze them.

So there we were, sitting on top of a mountain on play equipment thawing our sandwiches when this girl Emmy came over to a building near us looking for a bathroom. Once she realized that it wasn't a bathroom she started to freak out. Apparently she had to crap and didn't know what she was supposed to do. So one of the other girls came over with a plastic bag and demonstrated how to tuck the bag under herself to catch the caca. Well this had everyone in a riot of laughter. Inma thought it was hilarious and I even saw Raul (Inma's man) crack up. So there went Emmy off to the edge of the mountain to crap in a bag ( I don't see why she didn't just poop in a hole or something). Needless to say, our meal wasn't the best one. I made it through most of the bocadillo de jamon y queso  and punted the rest over the ridge and into the valley.

Our way back down was more exciting, twists and turns and everything was on little paths on the side of the mountain. I've always been one for exciting hikes. I wish I could have brought my mountain bike with me. After 4 hours of walking we arrived back at Jardines. I went out for some food and came back and slept off the pain in my legs. Now its time for an exciting night!!

Hasta Luego

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Spainglish Students

There's nothing worse then starting up a conversation in english and having it come out with Spanish grammar structure. I seem to be losing coherent english structures as I study Spanish. Its not just me its everyone, its actually quite comedic, we have a new language. Daryl call is Granadan English. I figure I should introduce everyone here, I know they all read the blog so I'll try to be as accurate as I can.

First up there is Maria (for those of you reading this that don't know her). Maria is from St. Paul, MN she goes to St. Thomas with me and we've known each other for about a year. She is a very bright person and as much as she won't admit she has picked up the language very well, I've been studying it for almost 5 years and she has only had it in college, thats impressive. She's also my girlfriend for over a year now and it has been really nice to share the experience of Granada with her.

Next up is Chryssi. She rooms with Marisa, right below Adam and I.

Marisa her roommate is and kind of reminds me of Maria's cousin.

Adam is my roommate, I lucked out too. He likes soccer which already makes us friends (ha). He's also very good at Spanish, well he has been to Seville for a J-term before so it makes sense but this time over he placed into the superior level (impressive). He also goes to St. Thomas but we've never met up before. We have some of the same friends, small world hey! We're on the AIFS soccer team which should be fun, I'll have brush up on my skills.

Daryl is another one of the students that lives here at the residence with us. Daryldactyl (inside joke)

Breanna is another girl that is on the other side of the residence.

Jillian is Daryl's roomate and lives on the other side of residence. I think she is from the southern states.

Louis is a British student who has just recently arrived. He and Florian seem to get along very well. I could see myself hanging out with those two in the next few months.

Florian, oh boy, where to start. He is from the Canary Islands, Tenerife. He is a very, very outgoing, Spanish jock (but he's actually pretty nice, he's just obsessed with working out and running).
Alejandro is another student that lives across the street. I've talked with him a bit and he seems like a very down to earth guy.

Merella is on the other side of the residence, where most of the girls live. She reminds me a lot of my cousin Meg.

Merete is Maria's roommate. I think the two of them get along well and are probably laughing right now that I am writing about them.

Alan is from New York, actually I believe Cornell. He is studying here on his own, he just lives across the street but comes over to Jardines for meals and hangs out with the group.

Everyone here gets along for the most part and they are great bunch of students. We were even talking about having a reunion a few years down the road on a Cruise ship (or maybe back here in Granada).

There are also a lot of kids that I've met both Spaniards and students from AIFS. It would take a long time to list all of them.

To end I will say that It has ben almost a month since I left the States and I'm already feeling like I could lead a tour around Granada. I think I will start incorporating my Spanish into the blog as well just to practice using verbs and what not. Well its only 1pm here so if something exciting happens today maybe there will be another blog later tonight!

Hasta Luego


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

El Mar

Well last Saturday we left for Roquetas del mar, it was about a two hour bus ride south of Granada. I slept most of the way but early on I just stared out of the window at the mountains and valleys. I envy the Spaniards, they have such a beautiful country. After the two hour drive we unpacked in our rooms. There were two other guys in my room. Adam, my roommate at Jardines and John another kid from the Aifs group (he's from San Diego). The rooms were actually really nice, stove, microwave, sink, TV. The only thing that wasn't so nice was the broken shower. You had to hold the stopper so that the water switched from the bath head to the shower head. Other than that it wasn't bad at all. Everyone was itching to get out to the beach so we hurried over to the nearest beach entrance. The Aifs group was all situated together and we kinda just sat out there and enjoyed the sun and the ocean. I hadn't been in salt water in a very long time and it was nice to get back to the ocean. That night we had an amazing dinner and every stuffed themselves . We spent some more time on the beach later on at night, Jupiter was out and it was really bright.

The next day it was back to the beach. We walked over to a nearby pizzeria and had some AMAZING Hawaiian pizza.

Well to sum it up we ate good had a good time on the beach and even though I stayed another day it wasn't to hard to make it back. I'm starting to feel more like a traveller and less like a tourist. The total trip home took 6 hours but I suppose if we planned it out better next time then we'd have cut it down to 3 hours.

Its back to school, only 5 more days of this class and everything seems to be going okay. In class today I spoke for 5 min in a fairly fluent manner.

A lot of exciting stuff to come in the next week. Me voy

hasta luego

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


It rained today again. Maria and I were at a restaurant eating our La Merienda (between lunch and dinner) we had just finished some delicious pizza when it started to pour and a river of water came into the outdoor seating area. It was actually quite hilarious to see everyone caught off guard. Everyone was running for cover and everyone that was eating lifted their feet up as water rushed underneath us. I like this weather, it cools everything off.
Two more days of school and then its el fin de semana. I hope the weather changes this weekend though. Either way I'll just be glad to get out of Granada for a bit and see the ocean and soak up some sun. Classes are going well, both profesoras have there strengths and weakness. The first one goes out for smokes a lot but she is helping me learn the grammar. In the last week I've covered an entire semester at St. Thomas (money saver!) My second teacher has us speak a lot which I'm still not that good at. I speak in simple sentences because it takes to long to go through the process of speaking in subjunctive or conditional. So far we have only been talking in the past tense (there are 4 main ones). So ask me anything about the past and I'll be able to go on forever. My plans for extra curricular is Photography, futbol (soccer) and intercambio (speaking with a native) I'll have four classes starting up in October so I think I'll have plenty on my plate. I'm also reading Las Cuentas de Alhambra written by Washington Irving. I figure i'll read it in English and then get the Spanish version later. So looks like I've got the Granada culture, travel, language, and weather to fill up my schedule.
Adios, I'm posting pics tomorrow

No hay nada como la pena de ser ciego en Granada

Everytime I walk outside I am reminded of the vistas bellas (beautiful views) that await. Several storms have come through over the past 4 or 5 days and afterward the mountains are covered in mist. The temperature is cool and refreshing. The Spaniards look at me funny when they see I am out and about wearing shorts and a t-shirt, this is warm for me. My rule is once it snows then I break out the jeans. I guess I'm just the funny American. The other day I went out between rain storms and snapped some pictures of the catedral and the surrounding area. I'll try to post a few of them on the flickr site. Apparently there is a place up in the Albayzin that gives photography classes for 20 euros so maybe I'll take them up on their offer. Next storm that comes through I'll try and run up to the Albayzin and snap some pictures. Its hard to get a good view of the mountains here because the streets are all so close together.

This weekend is the beach which should be fun too. If I have time later I'll blog some more.


Saturday, September 12, 2009


New pics are posted and some video clips as well, hope to have more video up in the future so you can see what the city is like!!

Here's the link again

Friday, September 11, 2009


Wow, time in Spain is going by fast. I can already feel my Spanish improving, my ears are becoming more adept at picking up the accent here. The Andalusian accent makes it hard to understand what the residents here are saying (its hard enough comprehending the language itself) instead of buenos dias its "bueno dia" all the "s" are lost. "Sta luego" instead of hasta luego is a another common shortening. I figure the best way to learn is to listen so every time that I am out I try to eaves drop on conversations and practice comprehending what they are saying (I don't think they ahve anything to worry about, I cant understand much yet). Most of the time I just hear people talking about work or gossiping but every once and a while I'm surprised by what I hear or for that matter see  here.

The other day after some some gelato Maria and I were sitting in Plaza Trinidad and people watching when a man came out of no where and started stalking pigeons that were eating in the plaza. Things just got bizarre from then on out. He started saluting them and acting like he was their general. Then he proceeded to stalk them again, yelling random stuff at them. One older man with a bright button up shirt and a women with a lot of jewelry and a camera walked through the plaza (I can only assume they were tourists). The "pigeon" man walked towards them and I could see the older man swing his backpack around to the front and grasp it firmly. The man circled the tourists and kept yelling gibberish (could have been Spanish) until they couple had left the plaza. Then the man proceeded to talk to the pigeons and began marching around. 

Granada certainly is an interesting and fascinating place but every now and then (as with any city) you are reminded of the poverty and diversity of its inhabitants. After about 12:00am you start seeing more and more borachos (drunks) walking around the streets. Hostel Jardines is located near the older part of the city and in much safer area than other parts of Granada. The eastern part of town (where we are) is close to the Alhambra, the mountains, the Albaicin, and the cathedral. The streets are small and quaint and there are always multitudes of Spaniards out talking and enjoying late night tapas, a very enjoyable environment. Tomorrow we head the the Albaicin (and old barrio located near the mountains (neighborhood)), I'm so excited! I'll take some good pics with my Nikon and upload them next week!!

We are having numerous internet issues here so mom maybe instead of e-mail I'll send a carrier pigeon over there with some postcards!! 



Thursday, September 10, 2009

One place for all my pics

They have the location on them so you can see exactly where I took them !!!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Pan con Chocolate

While walking to class I stumbled upon a store that sells pastries an bread and one of there specialtiesis a pan con chocolate. I've become addicted to this tasty treat and grab it every morning or so since the breakfasts are so small. I enjoy walking everywhere and its a nice change from los estados (plus I don't have to worry about buying gas). I find that with all the walking and the smaller meals I am starting to lose weight. I've started to journey around and find the best tapas bars (I mean after all they are FREE!). Bar Roca and another cafe south of here are so far my favorites. The customs here in Spain were confusing at first but I'm starting to get used to them now. Here are some differences that I have noticed so far:

1. Propinas or tips are seldom given. If you are going to tip it is usually because you really liked the cerveza or the meal and then its only 5% or so.
2. When you (a family or a group) are at dinner and the phone rings it is considered rude to not pick up the phone. Once the person explains they are in the middle of dinner the person on the other side says vale vale (ok) and shortens their conversation.
3. If you are asked to come over for dinner you ALWAYS refuse (not being mean but just say I have homework or something else going on) the first time you are asked. If they insist you refuse the second offer. Only after the third offer or they insist again do you accept. This one confused me but how I understand it is, if you accept the first offer then it is not sincere. If the family insists several times then it is a sincere offer and return.

I'm off to lunch, but I'll blog some more later!!

Hasta luego


Monday, September 7, 2009

Saturday, September 5, 2009

London Pics here

More to come

Alhambra y Granada

I'm so glad that we have the weekends free to wander about the city and really do whatever we want. Today we woke up, ate a small breakfast (pan toastado) and walked over to Plaza Nueva to meet the rest of the AIFS students. We had a special trip planned to the Alhambra which is a Moorish settlement (now turned monument). After a very, very steep hike we met up with two guides and split into groups. I've always been a bit of a history buff and I was very excited to take the tour. Our guide was was very knowledgeable and I got some great pictures (which I hope I will be able to upload...) Once I upload them to flickr I'll write detailed descriptions for each one. The tour was a great way to learn more about the city and its history. In 711 the Muslims invaded Spain from the south and conquered most of the country in only 7 years (a fairly fast take over in those days) all except the upper Basque area which was protected by the Picos de Europa in the north. The Spanish began their reclaim of the area but it took them over 500 years to reclaim the land. So the culture of Granada and most all of Spain is tied into the culture of the Muslims. Spanish language, architecture, etc all have Muslim influences. The Alhambra served as a fortress of sorts housing a small city of 2,000 people. So its rather a complex of buildings/palaces and gardens rather than one palace.

Outside the walls higher on the hill behind the Alhambra is the summer home of the Sultan. The gardens there were absolutely gorgeous. And the palace itself is a work of art. It is designed to move air through the corridors and out the other side, allowing it to be cooler during the day. Look for the pictures coming soon and there will be more information about each section.

Well siesta is almost over and the city is starting to fill up once again. I have errands to do since its still another week without clean clothes, maybe even do some hand washing....

Not much for dinner tonight so I might go up to the cathedral and sit down for dinner at one of the Italian restaurants.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Its been a interesting few days....

Well classes are done with for the week and we have the weekend to look forward to. The Alhambra tomorrow and then Sunday to rest. I find myself thinking in both Spanish and English now. We've only had 8 of the 80 hours so far but that is equivalent to 2 and a half weeks of class at St. Thomas. The class is 4 hours long and split into two 2 hour parts with two different teachers. I'm in the Kenia building which is about a 5 min longer walk past the center for modern languages. Leah is also in that building, and yes Mom I did get in touch with her finally. My class seems suitable enough. Its a lot of Spanish but then again we are in Spain. I try to keep my days  fairly open for going on walks or watching Spanish TV. Around 2pm everything shuts down and everyone heads home for siesta and lunch. I have yet to take a siesta but today i might break that trend. I was able to get a good phone for use over here and it was fairly cheap 20 euros or so.

My favorite thing to do is walk around the city and just explore, I'm starting to get a mental map of the city. I find the more I speak, listen and write in Spanish the more the comfortable the city feels. One thing that is nice about Granada and the province that it is in (Andulucia) is that there are tapas gratis, free appetizers!! Buy a drink, cerveza or sangria and you get tapas.

I haven't been able to get a good internet connection to upload my photos but I am hoping that tomorrow or Sunday I will be able to have over 100 posted!

The meals here are wonderful, fruit, gazpacho, salads, jamon y huevos and much more!! I'm adjusting to the heat and the way the city works around it. Night time is when the city comes alive! Maria and I have walked up to the catedral at night and its a wonderful sight. (i'm stuck in spanish mode so some of my sentences may sound a little weird)

I'll post a link soon with some pics if I can find internet fast enough to upload them.

As for now thats all!


Monday, August 31, 2009

Culture shock

It's 11:00pm here in Granada, just got back from a great dinner and finally the internet is working but it is very very slow. Hopefully in the next week I will have the time to upload some pics. If there was one word to describe today it would be OVERWHELMING!. After 2 hours of sleep we (the AIFS students) made our way by bus too the Gatwick Airport. There was intense fog and everyone was very very tired (except some girls in the front who kept everyone awake with their renditions of rap and pop songs). After boarding the plane a long while later (8:30) we made our way to Malaga. The plane ride was okay but by the time we were getting ready to leave the plane the jet lag and lack of sleep caught up with me. The 95 DEGREE weather didn't help much.
I slept most of the way on the two hour drive from Malaga to Granada. The landscape is vastly different here, Mountains fill the entire vista. We arrived in Granada around 2:00pm and then (my group) the resident students made their way up to our residence "Hostel Jardines" while the other home stay students went off with their respective families.
The rooms are nice here, and the ten of us AIFS students that live here share the place with 60 Spanish students. Our residence directer showed us around and I felt the culture shock begin. I bought a few meals today and some groceries and managed to get by with simple Spanish but I'm still adjusting and it will be a few days before I get into deep conversations with any of the Spaniards here.

For now thats all, its late and I am very tired. We have tests tomorrow at 8:30 and hopefully my Spanish will somehow find its way out of the cobwebs of my mind. I'll post pics and write some more detailed stories later this week!!!!

Snapshot of London

There is limited internet ability over here in Granada so I had to throw together a quick snapshot of my weekend. Here it is!
London August 29th,
After a 8 hour flight we arrived at Heathrow Airport at about 9 am. From there we made our way out to the bus and to our hotel in South Kinsington (however that is spelled). There are about 11 of us from Minnesota. There are several people who were originally scheduled to study abroad in Argentina but due to a swine flu outbreak there they were moved to the Granada group. Everything in London was interesting. I found myself chatting with a few London natives in the plane and while they were speaking English I found it hard to follow.
                We left the hotel in a large group like tourists which I wasn’t a fan of but it was nice to explore and get some fresh air. I was surprised how tired I was, jet lag really took its toll on me. It felt like I had been awake for days. After wandering aimlessly around for a while we found a pub and stopped to eat. I had a chance to sit down and absorb the British culture.  It was at that point that I realized how stupid we must have looked looking the wrong way at crossings and such. Throughout our entire stay in London I found myself running into small differences in the culture. From the double decker busses to architectural age of the buildings, around every corner was a new experience.
                At the pub most of us got the fish and chips and a becks beer. I was super excited that a football (soccer) game was on! We split up from the group and made our way back to the hotel. We only managed to get lost once on the way back which I thought was really good considering we couldn’t locate any street signs (they’re all on fences or buildings). With some help if a passing resident of South Kensington we were able to locate the hotel again. When we got back we received our room assignments, Yuri was my roommate for our time in London. We talked for a bit and then after a bit of a rest we headed out to explore a nearby park (Hyde Park). I seriously wish there were parks in the States like the ones in London. It was such an amazing place. We even saw where the Peter Pan stories originated in the nearby area (I guess the author used to take walks in there while writing the story). I feel asleep laying next to a pond, the weather was wonderful!!!
                A welcome drink at 6 brought everyone together and we got to see all of the AIFS students going to Granada and Salamanca. That night we grabbed some pub passports and went out in search of some food and drinks. There was a great café next to some nearby pubs where I ate that night.
London August 30th
                An early wake up on Sunday and it was off to the Coach tour! We had a fantastic guide and there are lots of pictures that you can find by clicking on the link above. Big Ben, Museums, a naked man in a square, art galleries, palaces, celeb hotels, and much more! Where to begin everything went by so fast! The bus dropped us off at Covent Gardens near the City of London (capital C means the center). From there everyone split up and went off to explore some more. It was a long, long walk back. On the way back I stopped at the science museum and then back to the hotel for some rest before heading back out to dinner. I went to bed at 12:00 am and woke up at 2:30 am this morning, Yikes. 

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Here is the link to my photos

They will be organized by place

Granada Spain: Coming Soon

I leave Friday August 28th for London and then on to Granada! Look for blogs and posts!