Oh, Granada

My favorite view of the city

What can I say about you? You’re beautiful, charming, seductive, romantic. You inspire art, creativity, music. No wonder many famous writers and artists throughout history have come to spend some time with you.

Granada is beautiful by day, but absolutely captivating by night. After the Flamenco performance by the Spanish Gypsies we all made a trek back down the mountain. But we went down a different way than the path we’d used to climb, and our group leader took us to a small plaza that had this spectacular view of the Alhambra and Granada. When I first caught a glimpse of the sight, my breath caught in my throat. I walked to the low wall surrounding the plaza, as did my companions, and we all just sat there, quietly gazing at the scene that had been presented to us. I immediately whipped out my iPhone and started snapping pictures, trying to capture the moment, but they don’t do it justice.

The air was cold. My breaths were visible as little cloud puffs. The Alhambra was glowing, and the city was a blanket of twinkling lights much like the stars high above. The night was very clear, and I was able to see Orion and other constellations. It was serene and beautiful, and as my friend described it, “romantic in every sense of the word.”

I then claimed that if a hobo were to propose to me at that very moment I would have no choice but to say, “YES!” Laughs were shared. We eventually, reluctantly, had to leave, but those few minutes when we sat on a wall drinking in the beauty of Granada has been embedded into my memory as one of the greatest moments of my time in Spain so far.

Granada’s Gypsy Flamenco

Too. Cool.
First of all, the location was already incredible. We made a long trek up a mountain to get to the caves where the Gitanos live, and on the hike up there we had stunning views of the Alhambra and the city of Granada below. When we finally arrived, there were groups of Gypsies lounging outside of the cave dwellings, strumming their guitars and smoking their cigarrillos, no doubt preparing for their performances. They all had tan skin with long, dark hair, just as I had imagined. The “caves” actually have smooth, white walls, but they are called caves because these rooms have been carved into the side of the mountain. We all crammed into this long, skinny room, and the excitement in the air was palpable.

Pomegranate! Err, I mean, GRANADA!!!

Beautiful cathedralThe pomegranate is the symbol of Granada

*Journal Entry: Feb. 19, 2012*


I went on a trip with my program this past Friday & Saturday to Granada! It was about a 3-hour bus ride there, and the scenery and landscapes that I saw as we drove were beautiful. Forget strawberries! Olive fields forever. As we neared Granada there were more and more mountains, and then we started catching glimpses of snow-capped ones as well. Granada started out as a fortress, so that’s why it was built at a high altitude (like Toledo and Gibraltar).

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*Journal Entry: Feb. 16, 2012*

I’m never going to talk about politics again (while I’m in Europe)!

Arguing is already hard enough for me to do in English; it’s INFINITELY more difficult in Spanish. But, I don’t like to shy away from giving/defending my opinions; so I put mine out there as well as I can. Unfortunately, “as well as I can” means shrugging my shoulders and saying, “yo no se” a lot. It’s not because I don’t know, it’s because I just can’t find the proper words to explain.

Additionally, there are big cultural differences a foreigner can’t understand. Imagine arguing about politics with a friend of yours in the U.S. OK, now imagine doing it in another language with someone who has never even visited your country. There’s a lot of extra explaining you have to do. Their perceptions of the USA, its culture and its politics come only from what they see on TV and in movies.

Then, you get grilled with questions like, why don’t Americans care about the human rights violations that the U.S. commits? Or why don’t we care about how we occupy other countries just because of monetary gain or natural resources? And those are just really, REALLY difficult questions to answer when they are phrased in such an accusatory manner, so I just say I don’t know enough to talk about it. But a lot of people think that way about the U.S.

For my host-mom, the most important thing for her is the human rights of poor people to have the basic things they need in order to live. But that’s not exactly my greatest priority. I worry more about education and the state of the economy. Well, how can you say that basic human rights aren’t the most important thing on your agenda without looking like a jerk? Answer: YOU CAN’T.

Among other things, she thinks that the people who make the most money are the people who should pay the most taxes. I was basically saying that it might not be a great idea to tax the heck out of rich people because they are the ones who create businesses and jobs in the first place, and that’s something our country needs more of (maybe a good idea would be to tax the heck out of people who send the jobs overseas and give a tax break to business owners who keep the jobs in the U.S.? Meh, I have no clue, I’m not an economist). She also kept asking me about the poorest of the poor and how to help them. I don’t have the answer. I just don’t think handouts are the solution. “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” The only thing we agreed on was that the U.S. public education system needs some serious reform. It’s shameful, really. One of the worst. How embarrassing.

In conclusion, due to my lack of eloquence and ability to portray my ideas correctly, I’m done talking politics while I’m in Europe.

I’m curious though, how would you reply to the questions I wasn’t prepared to answer, like, “Why don’t Americans care about the human rights violations that the U.S. commits?” and “Why don’t Americans care about how you occupy other countries just for monetary gain or natural resources?”

Día de San Valentín

St. Valentine’s Day in Spain. Not a big deal. Or, rather, not as commercialized as it is back in the good ‘ole U.S. of A.  I think I might have seen only two or three pink and red window displays in the weeks leading up to it. No little Cupids hanging in stores or on windows, no random hearts, I didn’t even see people selling flowers on the streets. People didn’t dress special on Valentine’s Day. I didn’t see any more red shirts than usual. I don’t know if there were commercials on TV advertising for it, because we don’t have a TV in this apartment.

That’s right. The last time I watched TV was when I was in the U.S in January.

People acknowledged St. Valentine’s Day, at least. I saw couples holding hands and making out (but that’s not strange, Public Displays of Affection are EXTREMELY COMMON in Spain, and nobody bats an eyelash when they pass by two people trying their darnedest to eat each other’s face right in the middle of the street).

And some guy I had met the week prior texted me “Happy Love & Friendship Day” in Spanish.

But that was about it as far as February 14th in Spain went. If you were expecting throngs of dashing young men playing Spanish guitars and singing love ballads outside the windows of their beloveds with bouquets of roses all over the place (like Hollywood would have you believe), you were very, very wrong.

guess HOPE Spaniards save their romantic stuff for some other time!

Wear Your Shoes

Biqui: “Margarita, is there something I should know about that people do here in Spain that we might not do in the United States?”

Margarita: “Hmmm. No, not really. Oh! Well, I don’t know about the United States, but here people wear shoes when they go outside. It’s looked down upon if people don’t wear shoes.”

B: *confused and bewildered* “Wear shoes outside?”

M: “Yes.”

B: “We… do that… too.”

M: “Oh, good. I wasn’t sure. Well, that’s about it then.”

One of the first conversations I had with my host “mom” Margarita (in Spanish, of course)

The One of Shame

The One of Shame (La de la Vergüenza)

As promised [*coughJANNAcough*], here’s my post about the Spanish etiquette that had to do with the last bite of food (I love this).

In Spain, when you’re in a group setting and all are sharing from communal plates (think tapas-style), you must never ever EVER take the last piece. Not unless you’ve harassed everyone else around you (ask each person like five times) to take it instead.  It’s not that it’s considered rude or improper if you do eat it, it just gives the impression that you’re greedy and inconsiderate of others if you take it for yourself without asking everyone else first.

This dining practice and phenomenon is so common and widespread that it has earned a name for itself: La de la Vergüenza (English translation: the One of Shame). “The One of Shame” refers to that last piece of bread, or the last fruit, or last olive, or whatever, that nobody dares to take because they don’t want to be THAT GUY.

“Oh yeah, remember that guy who took the last chorrizo without even asking if I wanted it? What a jerk.” <— What caused the creation of La de la Vergüenza.

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I Can’t Feel My Fingers.

*Journal Entry: Feb. 13, 2012*

Ever since I arrived in Spain I’ve been in a constant state of near-hypothermia (I might be slightly exaggerating [only slightly]). In any case, you get it. IT. IS. COLD.

Well, at least for my poor Floridian hide, it’s freezing. The kids from Massachusetts and the Great Lakes region walk around like it’s no big deal, but I’ve been living in Florida since I was 13. The Sunshine State! On Christmas Day I went outside wearing flip-flops and a t-shirt! I have no tolerance built up to handle this sort of temperature.  But then again, those kids from up North see a palm tree and they freak out. I just politely nod and smile at their enthusiasm.

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I love how when Spaniards answer their phones, a lot of them just say a simple, “Dime.” (pronounced: DEE-meh) Literally, the translation is, “Tell me.”  They’re a very honest (sometimes brutally so, might I add) and straightforward people who don’t particularly care for being politically correct, and it’s reflected in lots of little details in their diction and body language.  It’s quite refreshing! Just one more thing to add to the list of things I love about Spanish culture.

I got meself a Spanish phone and phone number to keep in touch with my new friends! It’s almost exactly like my first cell phone from way back when in 2004. Very tiny & simple, but it gets the job done. A far cry from my iPhone, that’s for sure!