Experience of a Lifetime

In May 2008, I had the opportunity to travel with a group of fellow language students on a UAB faculty-led study abroad trip to the city of Jaén in the province of Jaén, Spain.

While there, I had the opportunity to live with a host family and take classes at the Universidad de Jaén.

During our stay, we also had the opportunity to visit Cazorla, Granada, and Madrid. It was a truly enriching experience that has both shaped and enhanced my language skills and understanding of the Spanish culture.

This blog is an account of my experiences in Spain and is in no way affiliated with nor a representation of the experiences, thoughts, or opinions of the UAB Study Away office.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

El Día Final de Clase!!

Oh, the final day of class has come and gone!! How exciting it is! :) I am so excited that I don´t have to catch the bus in the morning to come to the University. On my way this morning, I stopped in the bakery for a final farewell pastry. I shared it with Amanda... and it was amazing! :) I will miss the pastelerías (bakeries) when I come home... but it probably is good that I don´t have one locally because I would frequent it often.

I am ready to shop a little more... I find the stores here fun to walk around to and to look through. I may go this afternoon. Tomorrow we go to the market, which I am very excited about!! I may even shop some more tomorrow afternoon.

As I have a few minutes, I though I would make a list of things I will miss here and other things I won´t...

Things to be Missed:
1. Pastelerías
2. Public Transportation
3. Coke Light
4. Fun tiendas (stores)
5. Time for siesta
6. The keyboards
7. Amazing Ice Cream

Things Not to be Missed:
1. Unstable internet connection
2. Using a phone card/no cell phone
3. Dog poop on the sidewalk
4. Slippery Sidewalks
5. VERY small elevators
6. No printers
7. Shops closing midday and Sundays

For now, I must catch the bus... later, perhaps I will blog some more!!! ¡Chao!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

So Little Time.

It seems that I always have so much to say and so little time in which to write it all down. Time always goes by so much faster than I can chronicle.

Today, we had our final exam today in our culture class. It is finished!! Now, only one more class for our trip and we are done!

After class yesterday, I came home for lunch. We had a dish called Musaca, I think. It contains sliced pan-fried tomatoes, ground beef, some zucchini (or what appeared to be very like it) and cheese. It was extremely good! Afterwards, I went with Amanda to a lovely little park here in Jaén.
We stopped and got some amazing ice cream along the way. A little later on, we met Sarah and after a couple of directional mistakes and bus rides, we found our way back to the Cathedral... and we went shopping! It was such a restful and relaxing afternoon. I bought a very cute bag that will work for my purse on the trip home. I am very excited!

Today, we are going to the castle here in Jaén. I am very excited! I have heard that you are able to see the entire city from the hill that the castle in on and that it is quite an amazing place. I am looking forward to getting some fun pictures.

I am so looking forward to some less stressful, more people-filled rest of the time here. I like to have time that the stores are actually open to be able to go and shop, rather than never having any down time to do relaxing things.

I found out that not only are we leaving at 6:00 am on Friday, but we are leaving here from the University... so that means a 45 minute walk... which means I have to leave just after 5:00 am if I am going to walk... and even though apparently my family has a car that we used when we went to the Mercadillo in a neighboring town on Sunday, they hardly ever drive it. I think Luis (the Dad) may be the only one who has a drivers license. Apparently, it is quite expensive to be able to obtain one... and besides all this, he bakes and thus works until like 7:00 am. So, I may be walking here... totally NOT fun in the dark with a suitcase, backpack, bag, and bag-sized purse... it could be one very un-fun beginning of a day. I guess we´ll have to see.

So, the mercadillo that I mentioned was much like trade day in Collinsville... very interesting. The one here is supposed to be larger, so I am excited to see what it is like when we go on Thursday!

Home is only three days away... and I cannot say that I have ever been more excited to be going home.

3 days, a long walk, and 2 flights totaling 4000 some-odd miles until then...

Sunday, May 25, 2008


Today has been another long day. I woke up this morning to go to the mercadillo in the neighboring town with the family. It was kind of chilly and rain clouds were in the air. We had a nice time. They have a car... we just used it today. Apparently, there are no other reasons for usage than to drive 20 miles. Anyways, the mercadillo reminded me very much of trade day. I didn't buy anything because I didn't find anything that I just couldn't go without.

I have worked on my paper and presentation all afternoon long. It is now after midnight. I am ready for it to be over tomorrow... I have finished everything but my works cited page.

For the week: final in culture class on Tuesday; Cruzcampo on Wednesday; Mercadillo on Thursday; Castle on Friday.

I'm out for the night!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Melancholoy Saturday.

Well, I guess I would have to say that the countdown has begun. I have less than one week left here. Technically, I only have five days left to spend here... the 6th one will be completely filled with travelling.

Today is Saturday, and I REALLY need to work on my presentation today. Apparently, there is not the same urgency here as there is at home to get something accomplished. I really need to get it done, but no one seems to understand.... I need to use the computer! Oh, how I wish I had my laptop... It would be so much easier then.

Sometimes, I feel so much like a guest... but then, I really am. I think I feel most inconveniencing when I ask to take a shower. I am trying very hard to understand and be patient. I just feel a little bit frustrated at times... but I know I was placed here for a reason.

This day has seemingly lasted forever... Here we are at nearly 7:00pm. The sun coming in my window is warm... but my desire for some form of normalcy is about to overcome me. My time is certainly not my own here. I live by the schedules of others. Everyone pretty much does their own thing: siestas in the afternoon and staying in their respective rooms for the evening.

Maybe I will find some fun things at the Mercadillo tomorrow! I look forward to my day off!

Friday, May 23, 2008

A Free Friday.

Well, today is my second and last Friday here in the town of Jaén. It is hard to believe that in merely a week, I will be home again... It is even harder to believe that the time has flown by so very quickly.

This morning I woke up around 8:00 am, and Mari made me some breakfast. Luis was home from baking, so we talked for a little while as I ate my toast and drank my orange juice. Around 9:30 am I left with Raquel to go to her pre-school to visit her class. It was a very fun little place. The lady that was in charge was extremely nice and the other helpers were no less so. I got to spend about 4 or 5 hours with 3 and 4 year old children... how fun it was!! Each child has a cute little red and white gingham smock with their name on it that they put on over their clothes when they come in to the preschool. We spent the better part of the first hour trying to calm the kids down and get them to sit in their seats. Raquel introduced me as a new ¨seña¨ for the day... she tried to explain to me what it meant, but I am not exactly sure... I am pretty sure it is a term of endearment. The first little boy I met was named Fran... he was a very fun little boy, but strong willed as any child I have ever met. The second little boy who was cute as a button was named Ruben. He was the only one who would tell me his name. One little girl who followed me around all morning and sat in my lap while she ate her banana was named Marina.

I got to sing songs in English with the kids. Raquel is studying to be and English teacher, and all the little preschoolers learn English songs... so we sang ¨Row Your Boat¨and the ¨Itsy Bitsy Spider¨. They all loved it!!!

As soon as snacks were over, we went out to the playground... and boy, oh boy, were they excited!! I played with the kids... I swung them around, picked them up, held their hands while they went down the slide, and all sorts of things. Three main events stand out: First, three little girls found a ladybug on the wall, and proceeded to shriek with delight and shout ¨Mariquita, mariquita!!!¨ (which means ladybug) over and over again. :) It was so very fun!! It flew away and then they found another one on the wall and proceeded with all the same excitement again. After they had played with the second one for quite some time, Marina kept coming and telling me that the ladybug was broken... I would take it from her and give it back, to which she promptly began pulling its wings apart and squishing it... no wonder it was broken. :) The second event that made me smile was when one of the little boys did something to one of the younger smaller girls named Paola. She was so little with blonde hair and blue eyes... she began to cry, and one of the little girls with curly blonde hair promptly marched up to the little boy with her hands on her hips and demanded, ¨What have you done to Paola?¨ It made me laugh because it just reminds me how much I love kids and how incredibly alike they are in all places of the world. The third event: Ruben threw up all over Raquel after having his lunch. Oh, yuck... not fun. It looked like honey mustard... not fun at all. He just stood there and cried until they took him to clean him up. His mom soon came to get him because he had a fever.So, my morning and early afternoon were very fun!! I had lunch which consisted of rice and tuna that were covered in a homemade, stove-top hot salsa... It reminded me somewhat of a fruit salsa. It was absolutely amazing!! I would have to say that it has been one of my favorite dishes of the trip. I took a siesta for about an hour and a half, and now I am up... I have been working on a presentation that I have to do in class on Monday.

I have no scheduled events until next week other than going to the mercadillo (open air market) on Sunday with Raquel and some other people. I don´t know if her mom (Mari) is going or not. I guess we´ll see... but now I know that I have rambled on for long enough. I will surely post again when I have fun things to tell!!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Jaén in veintiún días...

This is the title of the newspaper article in which our group is featured in the local Jaén newspaper. It came out the first week we were here, but a lady in our group made copies today to give to us. I was very grateful to be able to have this to save for memories. It talks about our trip here to Jaén and how we are here for three weeks... it even quotes one of the girls here on our trip. I think it is very fun!!

Sad news: yesterday we were not able to go to the olive oil factory... I found this to be slightly disappointing because I had looked forward to it. Many other people had as well. Apparently, harvest of the olives is December-March, and the oil process is completed in the month of April... so they explained to us that nothing is going on right now... oh well, I guess I have had my fill of it, for they use olive oil for EVERYTHING here... cooking, to eat on bread, to put on their salads, and I am sure there are more. We did get to go see some historical places and war trenches related to the Spanish civil war.
It was interesting. We went to a wine storehouse for sampling, but it just smelled so awful, I couldn´t bring myself to do it... the whole place smelled like a piece of moldy fermentation. It was very neat to be able to see all the wine stored in the big wooden barrells! I thought it was very fun!

This morning I had a superb pastry from a bakery... A chocolate frosted donut sliced in half with whipped cream in the middle... and real chocolate... not just icing. :) Yes, it was very good!

I am ready for a summer of reading, studying, and all the things that it is possible to do with what little life free time I have left. I will be home a week from tomorrow!! :)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Sun, Sun, Sun.

Today is the first day I have walked outside to pure sunshine!! It was marvelous! I awoke to blue skies and very bright sunshine when I left to catch the bus this morning... it is warmer today than any day yet. It is most definitely a welcome change!

Today, we will visit a museum and the Iberian Village. I am not sure how far away it is, but we are taking a bus there. Tomorrow, we get to visit an olive oil factory, which should be very interesting as this part of the country is known for their olives and olive oil. I am looking forward to it!

I had no desire to wake up this morning from my warm bed... I hope to take a siesta this afternoon... but for now, I must go catch bus #7 that will take me home for lunch. Until I post again, perhaps with more exciting news,

Monday, May 19, 2008

Day 13

Yeah!! Today is day 13 of the trip, which is very hard to believe! This means that I will be home in a mere 11 days... and I have to say that as the time draws nearer, I am ready for it. I have enjoyed Spain VERY much!! But I do have to say that I miss the food at home, I miss my bed, and I miss things familiar to me. Today´s topic for my post: the smell.

It smells different here everywhere... I haven´t been some place that didn´t have a smell. Some places smell like an entire bottle of perfume; others smell like garbage; others just smell strange. Even my clothes have a different smell. Everything has a different smell... and I wonder how the people here don´t smell it... maybe they do; I don´t know... or maybe their noses are used to it. I don´t think it helps any that dogs are allowed to poop on the sidewalk and no one picks it up... I have to admit that I have been very afraid I will not be looking at just the most inopportune second and I will find myself having stepped in the happy trail of a doggy on a walk... And then I sit here and think how strange the word smell is... oh well, perhaps I should choose a different topic.

Today we had class and no excursions. Tomorrow we have class and an excursion to see Iberian somethings... I can´t for the life of me remember what. No rain today; however, the sky didn´t look so nice as it was getting dark. We´ll see what tomorrow brings.I think it is almost time for supper, so I will go for now. Until next time.......

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Warning: Long post!!

So, I want to give prior warning that this post could be lengthy... I guess we´ll see if it truly is or not. I haven´t posted in a few days, so I thought I would tell about my weekend trip to Madrid. I am very excited that today is a day of rest. No getting ready for class; no getting prepared to go on a tour; nothing. And I must say that I quite enjoyed sleeping in today. Nevertheless, I surely wish I could go to church... I could always attend a Catholic Mass, but to this, I have to say politely, ¨no thanks.¨ Not today...

I had class this past week on Wednesday and Thursday as usual. Friday morning, I awoke early to get ready and walk to meet the bus in the plaza in the center of the city where we always meet the bus. It is about a ten minute walk from this house. We loaded the bus early around 8:00 am and headed out for Madrid. After a stop for coffee, etc. of which I had none, we finally arrived to Madrid a little after 1:00 pm, I think. We unloaded the bus and entered the hotel only to discover after a few minutes that we were in the wrong hotel. Luckily, the correct hotel was adjoining and the lobby was only about 30 steps down the hall. We checked in and found ourselves in a very pleasant hotel. Amanda and I shared a room. It was quite large. There was a big entryway and two very comfy beds and armchairs... plenty of space and plenty of mirrors. The bathroom was a nice size, and we even had two sinks! It was a nice place to rest.

We met some of the other girls downstairs soon after checking in to go out for a bite to eat. We got lunch at a little cafe; I had chicken. Then we decided to shop for a little while. We have found there to be a vast array of very brightly colored clothing here... and I like it! Alas, I bought nothing. Amanda and I decided to return to the hotel to shower and dress for dinner. Our group met downstairs and we all headed out walking towards where we would eat. We found ourselves finally in Plaza Mayor, which for those of you who have seen it, is the place (Amanda informed me) that the movie Vantage Point was filmed.

It was a very big place with lots of shops and restaurants all around that was housing a variety of people. We saw quite a few human statues and entertainers.

One was a mud statue... another was man dressed in all black who chained himself to a pole by the ankles, wrist, and neck and leaned forward holding a torch... I just knew he was going to choke himself to death or suffocate while making his money... there were a few gestures and also another man putting on some type of western show type thing while making bird whistling noises... I must say, it was an interesting place. Later after dinner, we returned to the plaza to see a musical performance on a giant stage that had been set up in the plaza. It was very interesting!!

When we decided to leave, we took cabs back to our hotel. Amanda and I rode together; we had a very nice cab driver but also one who happened to have no idea where our hotel was. We told him the street name which was Serrano Jover. So, he managed to take us all the way to Serrano street because he said he thought that they were two streets that intersected... he turned off the meter after the first few minutes because he didn´t know where it was... Amanda told him it was near a Starbuck´s, and so every one we passed, he asked if this was the Starbuck´s our hotel was near... there are probably a few hundred Starbucks in Madrid... Anyways, he asked some other cab drivers at stop lights, etc. and finally found out where it was... I don´t know who this guy was, but apparently he was inept at using his GPS system... so I said whatever... as long as we get back to the hotel, I am fine with it.

Saturday, we were able to visit two of the art museums in Madrid. We went to the Reina Sofia museum and looked at modern art there where we were able to see work by Picasso. Then we went to the Museo del Prado and were able to see famous works by Spanish painters such as Goya, Velázquez, and many others. I found it to be fascinating! I did thoroughly enjoy it! We hung out for the couple of hours afterwards taking pictures and doing whatever until our bus arrived about 6:00 pm. Then, we made our journey back to Jaén. We arrived a little after 10:00 pm and made our way home. Then, I got to sleep!! :)

Today, I am reading for class, doing some homework, and watching a movie. I am looking forward to the week ahead, for it will be significantly less busy than the one past. However, before we leave Spain, we still get to go tour some fun places... such as an olive oil factory, the giant castle on the hill above here in Jaén, and I fail to remember what else at this moment... but until I post again, I thought I would leave you with a few interesting facts about this lovely place...

1. If my life was shortened by one minute for every whiff of perfume I catch here, I probably would have died about 10 years ago.
2. It is impossible to walk down the street without catching a whiff or many breaths of cigarette smoke.
3. The pastries here are delectable!!
4. Supposedly, this area of the country is HOT... well, we must have brought the cold and rain.
5. Going out at midnight is a very common occurrence.
6. People WILL run you over here... they have no patience for those who tarry in the crosswalk.
7. It is very possible to walk into the kitchen and find a bowl of living, crawling snails waiting to be cooked and consumed.
8. The distance between cars when stopping is mere centimeters.
9. The city is closed down on Sundays, so no shopping on my free day.
10. I am not sure hairspray is commonly used... my host sister asked me if I used the stuff they use for weddings to fix my hair.
11. No one smiles on the street.
12. Beware at any moment while you are using a pay phone because an angry little old lady may walk up behind you and shove you in the back.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Free Day.

Finally... we have just finished class and I have stayed behind to use the computers for a few minutes before going home... Tomorrow is Friday and we are going to Madrid! I think it will be a fun trip. We were supposed to have a touring/sight-seeing event this afternoon, but we cancelled it.. there has been so much this week. We don´t stop until at least 11:00 pm every day... it is nice to have a rest momentarily.
Tomorrow at 8:00 am we leave for Madrid. I think it is about a 4 or 4.5ish hour drive there. We don´t have specific plans for tomorrow... we are just going to relax and do whatever we want. Saturday, we are supposed to go to the Reina Sofia museum and also the Museo del Prado. I am very excited!! We will be able to see some marvelous paintings and other things. I am also looking forward to seeing everything and having time to shop, etc. It will be very nice.
I am a little tired today... I am having a wonderful time, but I do long for home on occasion... I think there is not much more to say at the moment... so I might post again later or maybe when I return from Madrid.