Once again - it's been a whirl wind past week! This last week we finished up our orientation program and headed to Seville and Ronda! I think I will end up liking orientation class better than school - we spent the first hour doing work, then had a coffee break for half an hour, then went for walks around the city for the afternoon! On the 28th we went to the Mirador de San Nicolas - the lookout at the top of an old Arab part of town. The views were spectacular of the Alhambra and the whole of the city! It was quite a trek up to the top; however well worth it! We had our written exam that evening and our oral exam the next day. After our tests my friends and I went out for churros con chocolate - VERY delicious and VERY sweet!!
The evenings here have been the hardest part to adjust to. Some nights we will watch movies with our senora and her son and have oranges for dinner. Other nights we will go out for tapas and a drink with some friends - but that doesn't happen until ten at night. So by the time we get back and then have to get up at 7:30am for breakfast and the walk to school it is quite exhausting. You might understand why we opt for movies with the family most nights!
On Thursday night we went to the discoteca Granada 10. It was quite empty when we got there at 2 am; it doesn't get a crowd until about 3 am and doesn't close till 6 or 7 am. The next morning we headed to Sevilla at 9 am. AND we made the bus on time this time!! We drove for about an hour and a half to Ronda (Runda as it's called by the Arabs) where we got to see Arab Baths, the Plaza del Torros and had a pic-nic - all in the much appreciated sunlight!
The Arab baths were incredible. There are three different areas inside this concrete building - one that is a cold room - one that is medium temperature, warmed by underground water heaters, and a third that is a very hot room. Each room has star shaped holes at the top to let the steam out. This particular one we visited is not in use anymore, but the Arab baths are still used around Spain and in Morocco as a cleansing ritual.
The Plaza del Torros was incredible. The architecture of the plaza was beautiful! We got to walk in the middle of the bull ring, where the "corridas del torros" still go on today. In Ronda, the bull fights take place in September, whereas in Granada they take place in the spring and early summer. We also were allowed to walk back to the holding area where the bulls are before they are let out into the ring. The set up of the ring is interesting because around the sides of it are small walls made of wood for the doctors, veterinarians, photographers and other spectators to stand. These walls are close to the ring so that if a bull jumps over the wall, they will have protection from it (and yes, the bull frequently jumps over the wall, sometimes even up into the stands where the people are!) I hope the bull fights go on while I'm here in Granada so I have the chance to go see one.
After a nice lunch in Ronda, we took another hour and a half bus ride to Sevilla. We had a nice cocktail party with our whole IES group and the directors that night and then headed out to a discoteca in Sevilla. The next day we headed to the Reales Alcazares gardens. It was an amazing area filled with orange trees, beautiful buildings and fountains galore! This is where Queen Isabella II stayed for protection during the Granada vs. Sevilla war. There were also some amazing paintings on huge cloth pieces that were hung on the walls. One in particular was a painted map of Africa, Spain, France and Italy; however it was painted upside down so that Africa was on the top of the map! I'll put up a photo of it in the album so you can see! It took us all a while to get what we were looking at! Hehe It was a beautiful day out so we all enjoyed the nice walk around the gardens. We then went to the cathedral and la Giralda - a very famous bell tower next to the cathedral that you can walk up to the top of. The cathedral was breathtaking - tons of stain glass and bronze sculptures. There was also a wedding going on while we were touring the cathedral and we got to see the bride and groom pull up in a horse drawn carriage! Apparently only five families in Spain are allowed to be married in this cathedral, one of which is royalty! Inside the cathedral are some of Christopher Columbus's ashes and his second son's tomb.
On Saturday night, the IES group went to a Flamenco Espectacular put on just for our group! It was very impressive. There was a singer, flamenco guitar player and two dancers. The rate at which they moved their feet was ridiculous! The costumes were brilliant; the beat they all kept while clapping and stomping was stunning and the guitar player was sooooo talented! I was very happy we got to experience that. My friends and I went out to dinner at a great little restaurant and stayed there for at least 3 hours! In Spain, the customer is not always the focus of a restaurant! IF the waiter chooses to take a break after you sit down, you will wait till he or she returns from break to get your food! They won't clear your plates or bring you a check until you ask them to! It is a very different atmosphere than dining out in America; everything is at a leisurely pace. Turnover is not a known concept here! It was one of the best nights I have had here yet, not because of the food, but because we all had such a good time just talking and laughing for hours on end!
Today, Sunday, we got up for breakfast, packed our suitcases up and headed out for a paseo to see some sights. It then started raining; actually it was a TORRENTIAL DOWNPOUR!! I have never been so soaking wet in my entire life. I could have been pushed into a fountain for how wet I was! My jeans were soaked allllll day long, my rain jacket still hasn't dried out, and my planner that was in my 'waterproof' purse is drying out now as I try to read the smudged ink! Despite the rain, it was great seeing more sights in Sevilla. We saw the Plaza de Espana - made for the world fair and now serves as a government building. We also ran across TONS of demonstrators from all around the Andalucía protesting the crisis going on in Spain. "Juventud sin trabajo y sociedad sin futuro" - The young without work and a society without a future. There were loud drums and whistles and people dancing and marching in front of the "white house" (as our guide put it) of the Andalucía.
It was about a three hour bus ride back to Granada, which wouldn't have been bad except for the fact that I was drenching wet. I got home and immediately got into a hot shower and my warm, dry Pjs! It was funny that while in Sevilla, my roommate and I actually missed our host family, especially baby Lucia and her home cooked meals! We were ready to go "home" after a few days away. We bought a nice ceramic, hand painted serving dish for Loli in Sevilla and gave it to her when we got back. I think she appreciated it!
I talked with her tonight about her foster children that she has had. For the last six years she has had about five or six different foster children, some for only 6 months, some for a year and a half. She has had Lucia for six months, but doesn't know when Lucia will leave. I think this shows what kind of person Loli is - offering up her home to children in need, and Camille and I. She is such a giving person and makes me feel very at home and welcome here! It makes the transition to living in a different country away from family and friends much easier!!
I start classes tomorrow at nine am! Its time to finally get back to the real world and start studying! It's been too long; I hope I remember how to do it! Hope everyone is doing well!!! I am sorry I missed your birthday mom, but I will bring you back something wonderful and we will celebrate then!