Tuesday, March 29, 2011

first frisbee tournament of the year yay!

And it was a women's tournament! Our Madrid's women's team, the Dulcineas went back to Cremas Beach Challenge this year in Barcelona. It was a blast and we played much better as a team this year even though the competition was much harder. I didn't realize how long it had been since I had played in a tournament so it was an amazing weekend! More pictures to come when I get them but our team has its tournament coming up this weekend so I'm busy busy!!

Monday, March 14, 2011

i know why the scottish can drink me under the table

It's that darn weather. It seriously changes all the time. I went to visit my brother Jack and his friend Isaac (who came to visit me in Madrid last year) in Edinburgh last weekend. Jack is spending the semester studying in Edinburgh. In the span of 3 days I saw rain, sun, snow, clouds and lots of cold. It makes sense why people want to go running into a pub just to get out of the cold and sit down to have a pint. Despite the loco weather, Edinburgh is an amazing city and Scotland is a beautiful country. Here are some of the highlights from my visit:
1. Haggis
Although the ingrediants kind of make me want to gag, it is so delicious! The mashed potatoes and turnips were a great accompaniment. After a long cold walk to the restuarant, it was the perfect meal to warm you up.

2. Edinburgh Castle
We went to see the castle on Saturday morning. It had just snowed hahaha so we lined up to check out Edinburgh's main attraction. And what an attraction it is! Not only was it the castle but it was also the home of 3 seperate museums. We spent about 3 hours touring around the different part of the caslte and could have spent more. It was a really impressive castle, especially because it towers over the whole city.

3. The Elephant Teahouse
Firstly this café is absolutely adorable, but more importantly it is the birthplace of Harry Potter!!! Yes, JK Rowling herself sat in at the Elephant Teahouse and inspired by the view of the castle birthed the idea of HP. The views up to the castle are amazing and they have some killer caramel shortbread too.

4. Literary Pub Tour
On Saturday night we went to a literary pub tour around the city. I was really excited about it and it did not disappoint. It was led by 2 professional actores that had a lively and entertaining dialogue. We went visited 4 different pubs and learned about famous authors that were inspired by Edinburgh. I learned about Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson and lots of other authors. I highly recommend it for anyone going to Edinburgh!

5. It was sunny on Sunday!
So I got to enjoy my last day in Edinburgh by going to Calton Hill and Holyrood Park to enjoy some clear views of the city. I got some great photos and it was a fantastic way to end my trip.

6. Seeing my bro
It was so great to see Jack and have him show me around the city. I was really glad to see someone from the family after being away from home for so long!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

let's give him a good tip...say 50 cents

On Monday I met up with some friends for cafe con leche and some breakfast at a French bakery chain that has sprung up in Madrid. The waiters were friendly and got our food out very quickly which was shocking. SInce waiters here do not work for tips service is usually minimal at best. Then at the end of the meal, my mouth was left hanging open. We told the waiter that we needed bill split (usually gets dirty looks) with 2 people paying on debit card, one needing 15 euros of change, and me paying in all small coins (I hate having 5,2, and 1 cent coins). After explaining all of this, I expected the waiter to a. not do it or b. storm off in a huff and complain. Imagine my surprise, when he said ¨Si, sin problemas¨(Yes no problem). I think I just found my new favorite breakfast spot. One of the big differences between going to a restaurant in Spain and one in the US is tipping and the quality of service. In Spain it is not expeceted to tip and waiters are paid normal wages. Growing up accostumed to always being a good tipper, it was hard to get used to leaving a restaurant and just paying the bill. It was even harder for my parents, they always wanted to leave at least a euro if not more and I had to convince them that no really it's not expected. They got better about it towards the end :) I also normally have to deal with waiters who don't really care when you get your food or drinks since they don't rely on tips. It can be frustrating to have terrible service especially when you are starving, but maybe Madrid is making some changes?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

cat got your tongue?

A lot of times I feel it's got mine. Although I appreciate the value of living in Spain and being to practice with native speakers a lot of times it isn't all hunky dory. A lot of times it can be really frustrating. After spending so much time and money on an education to become a well-spoken individual, it can be truly grating to not be able to express myself. When I first started my job I was so terrified to make one mistake while speaking to someone in Spanish or telling them I don't understand for fear of sounding stupid. I hate sounding stupid when I know that I am perfectly capable of speaking eloquently. After being here for a year and a half, I worry much less about the mistakes I make because I know I am learning. I also know I have come a looooooooooong way from when I first set foot in Sevilla in 2007. But that doesn't mean the nerves have gone away. Many times when I am on the metro I imagine entire conversations in my head in Spanish. Sometimes its a normal conversation other times I imagine what I would say if I got mad. In my head it sounds like perfect, witty, intelligent Castillian Spanish. Then when I actually say it to someone, it comes out like word vomit. Like seriously everytime. Lovely right? Attempting to express myself when I get mad is even worse. When I get frustrated everything I say in Spanish just comes off sounding rediculous or the words just won't come out of my mouth. I usually just start cursing in English under my breath. I that know learning a language is a life long process that always seems to be throwing you a curve ball, but sometimes I just want to get there already. Alas I know that won't happen so a por ello!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

knock my continent count up to 3

Because I finally went to Morocco!!! Morocco has been on the top of my list of places to go since I studied abroad in Sevilla. I finally got the opportunity to go to Casablanca and Marrekesh with Alberto. We flew into Casablanca and easily found our hotel where the owner, finding out Alberto was Spanish immediately renamed us "Hola amigo." I would come to find out quickly that would be our permanent name in Morocco. We set out to see the medina or the city center. All of the medinas in Morocco are zig-zag winding streets where the point is just to get lost and find the next cool thing around the corner. And what did I find? Snails! I have never tried snails before so I thought heck I'm in Morocco why not? And they were awesome. And the man cooking them let me take a picture with his hat.
Trip off to a good start. We roamed around the medina for awhile then started a futile search for the ¨Royal Palace¨ of Casablanca. What looked really close on the map actually proved to be a 45 minute walk and 15 minute cab ride away. When we got there it was dark and everyone looked at us like we were crazy for wanting to take pictures of a dark building. Whatever, at least we found it right? When we got back to the hotel, the owner was waiting to give his amigos some Moroccan mint tea. I quickly found out I LOVE this mint tea. I could drink kettles and kettles of it, it is so good.

On Saturday we woke up early to see the enormous mosque in Casablanca. It is relatively new, only 18 years old but can fit over 80,000 worshippers in the mosque itself and the plaza surrounding it. On the guided tour we learned that the minaret is the highest of any mosque and the prayer room was the most spectacular I had ever seen. The mosque is built on water to show that water is the foundation of all life.

Continuing on our journey we caught the train to Marrekech (not before seeing Rick's cafe of Casablanca movie fame). When I arrived in the city and we were winding around the streets and bazillions of little markets I really felt like I was in Morocco. And the guidebooks weren't kidding, the people are very aggressive with tourists and are always looking for a way to make some money. Although Morocco is a very exotic place to me it is also a poor one. There are a lot of tourists and I felt like many people were trying to swindle us out of our money. Although I like to think I could handle it myself ,I was definitely glad to have a male presence with me when the people got especially pushy. Ok back to the good stuff. We found the main plaza of Marrekesh, Djemma el Fna as the sun was setting. The place was alive with energy and lots of fresh squeezed juice stands. The first thing I had to do was get some fresh squeezed orange juice for 40 cents. As you can imagine I drank juice all weekend. Orange juice, grapefruit juice...there is nothing better than fresh squeezed juice. After quenching my thirst we took a walk around the plaza to see the chaos. There were jesters, musicians, berber storytellers, henna artists, games, and people just walking around in costume. I think during dinner we didn't talk because of all the people-watching going on. As you can see in the picture below it was beautiful chaos.
The next day I had a bee in my bonnet to go to the famous souks, or markets of the city. The are well-hidden in the maze of the medina but are well worth seeing. There is a seperate market for the men that work on animal skins, those that dye the skins, the jewelers, the spice makers, the ironsmiths, those who dye yarn, and everything under the sun. We got to see the yarn dyers (what is the english word for that?) who hung the drying yard from clothes lines strung up around the houses. We also got to take this cool photo:
Seeing the animal skins being made was a little more treacherous. A boy in the street led us to where they make them and then we got a tour around the site. It was really cool and the tour was hunky-dory until they asked us for 200 dirham or 20 euro. Uhhhhhh negatory. Well just saying no doesn't exactly work in Morocco. You have to say no, make excuses, and basically run away for about 15 minutes till they leave you alone. After doing our shopping we saw one of the palaces and had some delicious food on a rooftop cafe. I loved just wandering around and finding what would be on the next corner maybe an Arabic-style door or neat shop. That was the romantic side of Morocco. And I was in love.