Monday, November 30, 2009

Córdoba: a voice thief

The bus Saturday morning was scheduled to leave at 8am. This has been drilled into our heads. The final e-mail we received the day before the trip had three reminders, the first of which read:

Be punctual, we will leave at 8:00. Unlike in the army, soldiers will be left behind.

Hah. Izzy and I unexpectedly got to the Córdobus (haha?) at 7:35, to find that Michael and our program director, Juan, were earlybirds as well. Needless to say, not everyone was there by 8. And of course we did not leave them behind. I don't remember what time we actually left..8:15? 8:30? I was tired and trying to sleep while we sat there waiting.

Had one pit-stop halfway there, and arrived in Córdoba around 1pm. This is where we got dropped off:

After checking in to the hostel and dropping our stuff off, we had about an hour and a half to go find lunch before our first item on the agenda began. Being thrifty and smart, myself and four others walked to Eroski, a grocery store, to buy lunch. Baguette, 2 apples, a few slices of ham, and a bar of chocolate: around 3 euro. We had a picnic outside - it was a gorgeous day.

Our tour began with the famous Mezquita de Córdoba, which has an interesting history. Briefly, it began as a Christian Visigothic church, was rebuilt into a mosque, more reforms, more naves, was at one point the second largest mosque in the world, then Córdoba was recaptured by King Ferdinand III and the mosque was changed into a Christian church with the addition of two chapels as well as more naves.

So it's huge. Pictures really don't do it justice, but here are a few:

Then we walked around more of the town. Charming, little walkways; cobblestone streets - often impossible for cars to fit.

We had dinner at the hostel's restaurant that night, which was included with the trip. Yummy. First plate: Tortilla de patatas. Second plate: vegetable paella with salad. And some ice cream for desert, which I couldn't help but to have a bit...

Here's an after dinner pic from later that night:

While we were out later that night, my voice started to get a bit rocky. Woke up the next morning without much of one. It was raining hard when we woke up, not any of that sissy rain we'd had in Madrid. I reeeally wanted to stay in bed and catch up on sleep. But alas, there was breakfast to be eaten and a bus to catch! After breakfast we climbed on the bus with our tour guide and went to the arqueological site of Madinat al-Zahra.

So it's raining out. We're all soaked from the initial walk to the bus from our hostel. And I really didn't listen to much of our tour guide on the bus ride to Madinat al-Zahra. She kept mentioning some movie... we were going to watch a movie about this place. Then we arrive. And here's where I made the worst decision of the day: grabbed my purse instead of my umbrella. I only have lack of sleep and clear thoughts to blame for this one.

We left our bus only to get on another, a city bus, that took us to the actual site. So while I'm expecting some museum type thing or a movie, we then spend over an hour walking aroun through the actual site. Outside. In the cold rain. Did I mention I left my umbrella on the first bus in the parking lot, and instead was lugging around my purse, which had things I didn't want to be wet? Anyway... so that part was all a blur. Was just focusing on not stepping in the huge puddles, as my shoes/socks were soaked enough. It was foggy, grey, and you couldn't see much. A shame, because I'm sure I would have been 20x more interested on a sunny day after a full night of sleep.

Then the city bus took us back to the first parking lot. And we head in to a lil museum. And finally watch that movie I had heard so much about earlier. It was a lil 15 minute film. Then we bus back to Córdoba. We were scheduled to have 2-3 more hours of free time in Córdoba, and then head back to Madrid. However, since Juan is the coolest prof ever, he told us on the ride back to Córdoba: "I realize the itinerary says we're here until 3:30... but I think we've all seen enough of Córdoba. We're cold and wet... so if nobody strongly opposes, I think we'll have an hour in Córdoba to find something to eat, and then head home at 2." Everyone was happy with this.

Aaaaand that was our whirlwind visit to Córdoba.

thanksgiving dinner: take 2

Since our Thanksgiving dinner Thursday night wasn't quite what we're used to eating on Thanksgiving, Izzy and I (but mostly Iz) made stuffing, mashed potatoes, and apple crisp for dinner Friday night, and ate with her roommates.

Brief roomie descriptions:
  • 30 years old
  • seems younger
  • sweetheart; very nice
  • has bf of 7 years, but he lives outside of Madrid so they don't see each other often
  • or "Italian man", as named by Izzy
  • socially awkward
  • loves Italy; from Italy
  • loves to talk, and loudly
  • nearly nonexistent
  • did not eat dinner with us
  • have only seen him twice
  • nearly nonexistent
Now back to dinner. Highlights:
  • Italian man informed us that there are only two types of Americans: ones who exercise all the time, are very in-shape, and calorie count; and ones who are lazy, fat, fast-food eating slobs. Just two types. And he is certain of this because he had a job once (I think in an airport) where he saw lots of people walk by every day.
  • The mashed potatoes were delicious. And the apple crisp. I haven't eaten stuffing for many years... only liked it when I was younger, but that was yummy too. Izzy is a fabulous chef.
  • Five minutes into dessert, a little before midnight, Paola got a call from some restaurant she had applied to work at, asking if she could come to work now for six hours or so. Her first shift. No training. Apparently someone had called in at the last minute and they were short a body. They offered pay double for the shift, and to pay for her cab. So Paola runs into her bedroom, changes into a different outfit, and was drinking a cup of coffee when I left to go home. Crazy.
I left a bit after 12:30, once we had washed all the dishes. Knowing I'd have to wake up by 6 to leave my apartment at 7 the next morning to catch our 8am bus to Córdoba, this bedtime was a bit later than I'd normally have chosen... but that's just how dinners are here. And I quite enjoy them.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

hoy, no pavo para mi

I suppose I should explain the previous post. On Tuesday while doing some studying in the WIP office, our Program Director, Juan, walked in and told me that he saw me on the news the night before. I was really confused when he said this...because he told me that I was in Sol, and that I smiled right at the camera. But I hadn't been there at all last weekend, nor the week before... and have no recollection of seeing any sort of camera.

Then Amy, the Student Coordinator, found it online, and we watched it in the office. The clip was from three Wednesdays ago, when I met up with my intercambio, Eva. Hah, I think it's funny, and quite lucky that Juan saw it...otherwise I'd never have known.

Y para hoy,
Feliz día de acción de gracias a todos!

I'm on my way out to meet up with Iz and Michael, then later we'll head out to our group dinner tonight at some restaurant (with everyone in WIP).

Monday, November 23, 2009

2 seconds of fame!

Still working on a post from last week, but in the mean time...

Apparently I was on the news last night here in Madrid: check it out HERE!

After the 15 sec commercial at the beginning, skip ahead to 31:30 and prepare to be amazed!


In all of my past Spanish classes (middle, hs, and college), a unit is always spent on usage of the preterit and imperfect tenses. Briefly, the main difference between these two past tenses is that the preterit is for a specific action completed in the past (On Monday I called Luke), while the imperfect is used more for habitual or description type things (Every Monday last summer I called Luke).

Today in my syntax class, when somehow talk of the preterit came up, our professor told us that we've all been taught wrong. Pretérito simply means "past", and there are 5 preterit tenses:
  1. Pretérito Imperfecto: estaba
  2. Pretérito Indefinido: estuvo
  3. Pretérito Perfecto Compuesto: ha estado
  4. Pretérito Pluscuamperfecto: había estado
  5. Pretérito Anterior: hube estado
So.. #1 is what I'm used to just calling 'the imperfect', and #2 is what we're all used to calling "the preterit". #3 I'd been associating with present, since haber is conjugataed in the present indicative to form that tense. But it makes sense that it's grouped with the past, because if you have done something, that's past, no? "Pluscuamperfecto" is familiar to me, while #5's "anterior" is a name I have never heard. So I guess I'll try to familiarize myself with these tense names in the next few weeks...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Hola amigos,
You're looking at the Complutense's newest member of the Unión Cultural Arqueológica!

Alright, alright, so maybe all I had to do was pay 12 euro in the club's office after filling out an info sheet. But hopefully this means I'll be able to go to some workshops or a trip with the group, or at the very least meet some new people. Vamos a ver.

Won't update again until after exams. Lit is Thursday, Phonetics is Friday, and Syntax is next Tuesday. But I won't have much of a Tuesday night nor any of Wednesday night this week to study, as I'll be teaching my english classes. Which means I'm off to study now. So I'll catch you all up on the past week's events later.

Expect a delay with e-mails, too. Sorry!

ps - Weijia, where's my e-mail?!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pablo, pumpkins, and pirates

The other week I got a new student to teach for an hour on Tuesday nights. However, last week he was sick, so today was our first session.

Pablo is 6 years old, and his parents want me to just play with him, or do whatever activity I think will be helpful, but only speaking in English. They also don't want us to do any writing, just verbal. Because of this, there's a lot that he doesn't understand when I talk to him, so I mainly stuck to naming things. His bedroom is filled with toys, toys, and more toys. Lots of pirates, star wars, books, plastic animals, kitchen play-set, those sorts of things - which is great for teaching him words.

Today we started with colors. Added numbers. Progressed to "Pablo, can you find three things in your room that are yellow?" And he'd walk around and point to things. He had some Halloween balloons floating around his floor that he had drawn on with marker, so we looked at each one, and learned "bats, ghost, pumpkin, cat, skull, and witch" from his drawings.

Went through his bucket of animals - this kid has lots of elephants. 11 elephants, if my memory serves me well. Later all his pirate figurines got pulled out. Followed by two boxes of Star Wars characters. Then he wanted to play with the kitchen stuff, but at that point our time was up.

It'll be interesting to see what he remembers - if anything - next week. A week is a long time to go without any reinforcement. So, a successful first 'lesson', and now I have grocery money for the week. :)

In other news, midterms in our reunidas courses start next week Thurs/Friday, ending on the following Mon/Tuesday... so I'm trying to start studying this week. Tomorrow morning I'm meeting my second intercambio for the first time. Her name is Eva, and she's an actress/model/dancer. So, expect a summary of our first meeting in the near future.

Also - random bit - learned today during a tangent in my syntax class that the @ is sometimes used in informal Spanish writing to signify both genders, por ejemplo: chic@s = chicos/chicas. So it'll save you from having to use the backslash. It simply had never occurred to me before that the @ had that usage.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


As some of you already know..... I can't roll my r's. 

What?  And you're studying in Spain?


Today after a quick google, I found this wikiHow, and think it'll be the most helpful.  So I'm going to start doing the recommended "exercises" every day, and hopefully will see some progress in a few weeks' time.  If any of you non r-rollers out there would like to join me in this endeavor, feel free.


Monday, November 2, 2009


Welcome, month #3! Let me just point out that yesterday, wearing shorts and flip flops, I spent the afternoon in Retiro Park (yet again). A bit of reading, threw disc, friends. Basically, I'm in love with the weather here.

Let's recount the weekend:
Friday: An hour after my last class, I met my intercambio, Fernando, for the first time. An intercambio is the exchange of two languages, but we've been using the term loosely and labeling people with it. In our case, our intercambios are with Spaniards that want to practice English. The norm is to talk half the time in English, then switch to Spanish. Initially, Fernando was speaking in English, but suggested I answer in Spanish. What resulted was that I spoke in Spanish the whole time, and he'd randomly switch between the two.

Things I learned about Fernando:
  • 28 years old
  • Girlfriend lives in southern Spain
  • Has degree in linguistics
  • Offered to help me with my phonetics class, if I ever have questions (woot woot)
  • Has degree in mathematics (yay!)
  • Offered to sit-in on a math class with me some day in the Complutense, when I told him it was weird to have a semester without one
  • Attending Purdue University next semester to get his PhD. Classes begin January 4.
  • Currently trying to find house there, etc. . . figuring out the move
  • Has a computer program (from his graduate studies, I believe) that records your voice as you say some Spanish words. Then the program will mold your voice into the correct pronunciation, and you can listen to it. Think he's going to bring this next time we meet so I can try it out... I'm excited!
So, the intercambio far surpassed my expectations, starting my weekend out on a good note.

Saturday, Michael, Izzy, Richard, and I walked around Michael's neighborhood, trying to find him a halloween costume. Walking around outside, we saw just a hand full of younger kids in costume, including this one:
Dressing up for Halloween has picked up here during the past 5-10 years. However, that night the madrileños seemed to stick to three main costumes: witches, angel/devil, or white faces with blood. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

We spent the rest of the day exploring the second floor of the Reina Sofía National Museum Art Centre:

^^That one's for you, Tom. It reminded me of you?

Then came dressing up. Here are some pictures of Spaniards in the metro:

Of course, coming from the US, we couldn't just be a witch or dracula-type thing. Izzy was a 'majestic bird', Michael - a fiesta (whose costume we picked out in a chino shop earlier that day), Richard - a tennis player, and I - a hippie (Thursday was 2 euro day at both Humanas!). Our costumes wouldn't have gotten a second glance in Madison, but while Izzy and I metro-ed across the city to meet up with Mike, we received a lot of stares, grins, and laughs.

As usual, more pictures on Shutterfly.