A Travellerspoint blog

Los Ultimos Dias

the last days :(

sunny 12 °C

Sadly, as I sit here typing this blog I am at my kitchen table in New Jersey. Next to/around me are Sun Chips, a phone charger plugged directly into the wall, and a bathroom whose toilet doesn't flush with the button on the top. It's all so familiar, but now so weird! It does feel so good to be comfortable and rested at home though, and around people that love me!!
This last week in Spain has been another great one, although shortened! Sunday started out in Barcelona and ended in Granada, as you know, so I'll start my week description with Monday. Monday we headed to school as we would any other day, but in my language class all we did was review for the exam that was scheduled for Tuesday. We took our time reviewing and having conversations, since it would be the last day we were doing much together, and I was actually talking with my profesora in actual sentences! This past week I really think I got over the next level of speaking; with my host family I was having actual conversations, using new vocab that I've learned this month and using the different grammatical tenses. It feels so good to be at my highest skill level of speaking of my life, and only after a month of getting back into it! Even when I was taking Spanish in school (12 consecutive years), I wasn't as good as I am now. Goes to show how much influence living in another country can have on helping one learn the language so quickly!! Anyway, after the first class we were done because we only had the second class to complete an evaluation, which I did at home. From there we headed home for lunch, but after that I met up with a few of the girls for coffe, tea, and/or obviously some dessert. I've wanted to get some kind of coffe beverage since I feel like people envision Europe to have the most quaint little cafe's with the best coffe products, so I went ahead and ordered this chocolate coffe concoction since I really am not a fan of coffe itself!
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it. was. FABULOUS.
We hung out there for a bit and then I headed home to be back in time for dinner! The rest of the night was mostly just hanging out. I studied for my language exam on and off the whole afternoon/night and by 11 pm I finished up and was in bed by midnight.
Tuesday was the exam, it went pretty well I thought. After that we were done for the day because we didn't have our history/culture class again. A few of us had collected money from everyone to buy the program director and her helper (Inma) and the Teacher's Assistant presents. We printed out group pictures for the 2 women and signed the border surrounding the picture, and for the 3 of them we got them flowers. After we had those gifts worked out, a few of us got churros y chocolate. Can you tell I tried to squeeze in as many wonderful Spanish goodies as I could in the last few days?? No regrets!!! After churros I headed back home for the lunch that I tried to eat, but just (obviously) wasn't too hungry for! From there we hung out for a little while, and then by 6:45 we were headed out the door with 2 of our host moms for the "last supper" dinner/flamenco show event!
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here are the 3 sisters that served as our host moms. From left to right: Rosario, Isabel, and Ana. Rosario didn't come because we could only invite 1 person per student, and the 2 more main sisters I guess decided that they would go because they really do a lot more than Rosario does. I still felt really bad though that she had to miss out on the fun!!
From there we caught a cab to head up to the mountain area, Albyzin, to start the night!
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Doria and Inma
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making of paella!
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yummy!
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overall it was a really great night, full of good spirits and flamenco fun!!
After that, most of us went out to a couple of tapas bars just to celebrate our last night in Granada.
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On Wednesday, we went over the test in our language class. I got a 91 on the test and a 97% for the class! In my history/culture class we talked about our trip for a little while, discussed our plans for leaving the next day, and then had our 2nd/last quiz. That night I got an email from Doris that said I have an A in the class. That means 7 credits of A's, hellloooo GPA booster!!
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this is the usual view I have of where I sit in the class, just to give a good visual!
After we had class, I headed back home. Most of the kids in the program, including my roommate, are in the other language class, and they waited around until 1:00 to get their grades in their class, so that's why I headed back by myself. I was also really starting to not feel well, so I wanted to get back home as soon as I could to rest a lot. by 2:00 it was time for our last lunch, which was more bitter than sweet. We actually had full conversations which was great, and the fish part of the lunch was deliiicious as usual! I'm definitely going to miss that! After lunch I packed up pretty much everything, then me and my roommate siesta'd (napped) for 3 hours! And I was still tired after that :/ From there I took a shower and got ready for the long night/day ahead of me, and then packed away the rest of my clothes/toiletries/etc. By that time it was dinner, and wouldn't you know it, we had HAM PIZZA as our very last meal in Spain. HAM PIZZA. we just couldn't escape it!! I was cracking up the entire time though; it just had to happen!
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here's what a normal meal of ham pizza would look like. btw - those broccoli (as well as most green vegetable) were prepared in a significant amount of vinegar, which is something very unusual to me and Julia. I've been so desperate for vegetables this trip that I've gotten used to it enough to eat them when available, but Julia always leaves hers.
From there, we set out to start our day. Yes, our DAY. The plan was to meet up on Thursday morning at 3 am to drive the 5-6 hours to Madrid for our 12:15 flight. Because it was sooo early in the morning, we all agreed to just not go to sleep that night. So after dinner at about 9 pm, we headed to our first destination, which was a tapas bar.
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Me and Meghan and our final glasses of wonderful Spanish wine. Don't know why I was smiling - I certainly wasn't happy about it!
After hanging around for about an hour, we headed to Cafe Futbol to get our last chocolatey desserts. We all ordered some combination of chocolate ice creams, and a few of us split a plate of churros y chocolate. At one point, I regarded, "Go big or go home!" about our excessive dessert consumption. From there my friend joked, "Or just go home big!". That phrase summed up the trip all too well!!! (Although on that note, upon coming home yesterday I saw that I had somehow only gained 2 pounds the whole month in Spain! I guess those efforts to eat healthy when I could paid off!) We spent time there until about 1:30, when we were all done eating. We all went back to our homes to hang out until it was time to leave; me and Julia just killed time on the internet until 2:30, which was departure time! Our 2 main host moms "saw us off" and from there me and Julia QUITE painstakingly shoved/pulled/dragged our luggage down the street to the meeting point where the bus picked us up.
We spent the next 5 hours trying to sleep in our cramped little seats, completely exhausted from the day/night. I slept maybe an hour total. Once we got to the airport, we did the whole suitcase checking and customs processes, then hung out around the restaurants and shops until it was time to head to our gate.
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I specifically wore my I <3 New York socks to get me excited to go home :)
Eventually, it was time to get on the plane. It worked out so well - there was barely anyone on the plane so we were all able to spread out and sit where ever we wanted! I sat with Katie and Meghan in a 4 person row, and a lot of people took their own 2 seat rows.
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The flight was very longgg and I tried to sleep, but managed maybe an hour or 2 the entire flight. After getting the luggage and going through customs, my dad was peeking his head out from the fence where all the parents were lined up to get their kids.. it was a great moment to have my first glimpse of home!!!
Last night I hung out for a little while, but was in bed and asleep before 9 pm! I figured out that since waking up for school at 7 am on wednesday and being awake until 3 am Spain time on "Thursday," I had been awake for 44 hours straight, with only a few small naps!! So needless to say last night's sleep was welcomed and refreshing! This weekend I'm taking it easy at home and then it's off to UD Sunday afternoon to start my Spring semester!! My how the time just flies!!!

Posted by Smarks17 12:28 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Barcelona day 2!!

all seasons in one day 11 °C

What a great thing to be able to say that I woke up on a Saturday morning in Barcelona, Spain. Although the weather was rainy (and stayed that way on and off the entire day), I couldn't have been more excited to start the day! I took a shower, had a clementine, and hung around while everyone woke up and got ready for the day. When all were ready (I spent time with 6 of the 8 of us that stayed in our room - the others had their own rooms and quite stayed with themselves the whole weekend. the other two in my room are 2 friends, one that's part of our trip and one that lives in Norway who was coming to visit for the weekend! They met in high school when the Norway girl came to study abroad for a year, so it was really cute to see bicontinental friends be reunited like that!), we headed "downtown" to get some lunch. We went down a side street of the main "strip" (for lack of a better word) of Calle de Ramblas, because I knew that it wouldn't be as expensive as eating on the main street that caters to tourists. We found this great restaurant that had this deal that for 12.65 euro, you get a first course, a second course, a drink and dessert!! there were so many yummy options, and I chose grilled vegetables for my first plate and then cod fish in a tomato and white bean sauce for my second. SO GOOD. and I could tell my body was so happy with me for giving it a huge bundle of healthy and nutrient-dense food!! I felt so good :)
From there we went shopping a bit. In Spain, the entire month of January has rebajas, or Sales. It's for the 3 Kings Day celebration. How nice is that, to love the clothes you see in the fashion capital of Spain and to actually be able to afford them!! We spent about an hour going in and out of shops, but it was raining at that time so it was a bit of a struggle to hassle with our umbrellas!
From there, and this is going to be a part of my trip that will probably have the most amount of pictures, we went to this place called Parc de Guell. This was built by the same guy that built the Cathedral from the day before! It was sprinkling as we ascended up the huuuge hill to to the top where the park was, but pretty much by the time we got to the entrance, the sky was clearing up! And here come the pictures!!!
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These last two pictures are actually really cool - There is a show called America's Next Top Model, in which girls compete to show that they deserve to be the model that is chosen to get a modeling contract and other prizes. This here is the site of one of a America's Next Top Model's final fashion shows!! we didn't even plan on finding it, and no one remembered that so long ago there was a season that sent them to Barcelona, and then we realized where we were! We did indeed pretend to be fashion models walking down the runway; it was a lot of fun to make that kind of discovery!

This is the YouTube video of the episode the Fashion Show was on!

So as you can see, THAT experience was definitely a very very interesting and fun one! So much of this city really gets my creative juices flowing!! After this, we went back on the Metro to start our night again. We had dinner at this place by the Hostel at this little bar/cafe thing that didn't seem to really want us there very much. Seemed more like a family place, and the Barcelona game was on as we were there so I think they were mad that we took some of their seats! oh well! I got this veggie omelet (I expected a Spanish omelet type thing with potato, but it was this normal flat egg omelet) that took up the entire plate (!!!) and a glass of wine that only cost me 1 euro!
After dinner we hung out for a while and then got ready for the awesome night we had planned. Can you say, ==ICE BAR?!== yep, we went to ICE BARcelona, which is the first ice bar in the world! It's cool too, it's really right right on the beach, so I can't imagine how fun it would be to go there in the summer after a day on the beach! Here are the pictures!
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How cool is this place?!?! Really an awesome place to say I've been to. The only thing I would change is the fact that I wore flats there, instead of any kind of boot to keep my feet warmer. Oh well! We only stayed in there for about 20 minutes because everyone was ready to be warmed up! After the bar we headed to a club right next to it and spent the rest of the night there!

Sunday, we pretty much just got lunch on the main street and then headed to the airport and walked and shopped around until it was time to go to the gate. After the flight, we took a bus back and me and Julia were back in the apartment by 11 pm. Our host mom so nicely made us chicken and pasta alfredo (what happened to a nice bag of mixed vegetables?), then we were in bed by about 1 am. Then started our last few days in Granada! Updates to come soon :)

Posted by Smarks17 12:08 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Barcelona!!! (day 1)

overcast 16 °C

So for starters, once again, lo siento muchhoooo about being so delayed about getting this entry in, in a tolerable amount of time, but come on, would you rather me sit on my bed at home and write about my weekend, or live up my last week in Spain and write this stuff when I'm hanging out before dinner?? Thought so :)
So this weekend, from Friday morning to Sunday night, I was in Barcelona! BARCELONA. How cool?! Just for reference, here's where it's located on the map, in relation to Granada:
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So at 4 am me and Julia woke up, ate breakfast (I really can't wait to eat anything else for breakfast besides toast... haven't had cereal in a month!!!), and had our stuff ready to leave by 4:45. At 4:55, we met up with the other girls that we were flying with that morning. I get along with all of these girls great, but my better friends were already in Barcelona by this point because they wanted to take a Thursday night flight. So although I was totally fine with being with my Friday morning group, I was excited to meet up with the others too! Anyway, so we took the bus the airport and ended up getting there earlier than expected - at 5:45 am for a 9:10 flight!!! We were so early, the check-in counters weren't even open yet. So we really just sat around and some of us tried to sleep on the germy airport chairs, and by I think 7 am we were able to check in and proceed with the normal airport stuff.
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The flight was okay, my ears weren't doing well with the popping and pressure of flying, and the landing was pretty rough, but that's okay because we landed in Barcelona!! From there we took a bus to the center of the city, Calle de Ramblas, and from there we headed down into the subway to buy a unlimited weekend pass, and then used it to get to our Hostel! We stayed at the Garden House Hostel, and it was actually so much better than I had imagined it being! Clean, bright, friendly - what a good surprise!
Here is the site if you'd like to see some pictures of it!
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here's one I took! I'm on the bottom bunk closest to the front
From there, we put down our stuff and proceeded to start our day. By that time, it was about 12:30 pm and we were ready to begin! Our first stop was the Segrada Familia (look at us, making the effort to tour landmarks even without it being for school!), which is this really modern style Cathedral designed by Gaudi. It was started in 1882, and he died in the 1920s. He didn't want anything more to be done to it after his death, so a lot of the inside was very visibly incomplete. We spent about an hour in there, walking around mesmerized by all of the interesting and new detail, and all of the great stained glass! okay, I know, enough talking, bring on the pictures!
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(here you can really see how it's unfinished!)
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From there we headed to the Picasso museum. To be in Spain and see his work in 2 different places throughout the trip this month has really been such a great experience! We couldn't take any pictures inside, but I'm sure you can believe me that it was really amazing! It was very very interesting to see the progression of his work - at the beginning, when he was 15, he painted a lot of landscapes in a messier style with oil paints. They looked great and you could tell he had a lot of potential. Through the influence of his father, he began to take classes and there's a big section of the museum that has a lot of realism work. He was very talented with these - portraits, landscapes.. it was amazing to see how much talent he really actually had with more "generic" art. The only things we really ever see are his really abstract pieces, and I had no idea how great he was with the type of art more people are familiar with seeing. As we progressed through the museum, so too did his work. At one point in his earlier-ish life, he was introduced to ideas of depression and loneliness by an artist he had met. That's what started his Blue Period - the time in which most of his paintings were pretty much monochromatic in shades of blue. That is, as I noticed, what started his progression into abstract work. The paintings were broken up into sections that were different blues, and because it didn't flow like a "normal" piece would, the subjects of the piece started to become more and more morphed. During the time after his blue period, he had pieces that were back to his earlier stuff, but by I think the 1950s it was, he was fully engulfed in his abstract styles. From there we were able to see a lot of his work that looked more like the familiar Picasso. Seeing the progression was just truly amazing. I've always been interested in Picasso, even as a child (I think I liked him so much because I figured, I can draw like that so I can be as good as an artist as that guy!), so it was such an honor to have had the opportunity to learn about his life first-hand.
Here is the link to the website so you can see his works!!!

After that, we headed through the streets of Barcelona
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(weee!!)
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and went back to the Hostel to shower and get ready for the night. That night for dinner we just got some tapas: toasted baguette with a tomato spread on it (my favorite food this month!) and these really yummy baked potato things with this tomato-y spicy sauce. And I got a bag of probably 12 clementines for 79 cents so that was part of our dinner afterwards too! That night we headed to this club called Razzmatazz. It was big and crowded and pretty fun! After we were done there we just took a cab back and went to bed.
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So that was our first day! I'm breaking up the days since this day has a lot of writing and tomorrow has a lot of pictures so I didn't want the entry to take up the entire page!

Posted by Smarks17 11:29 Archived in Spain Tagged barcelona picasso segrada_familia Comments (0)

Hammam Arabian Bath

sunny 13 °C

Yesterday was just another Wednesday - school, lunch, 2 hour bath/spa session...
That's right, 2 hours of absolute relaxation :) Because we had leftover money in the program for activities that would have otherwise gone back to UD, my program director asked us if we would like gift certificates to this spa she knows of, and we all whole-heartedly agreed! Although, we have to call it a Bath because it indicates a more cultural experience ;) although I've never been to a spa, this definitely seems like it'd be more like a bath anyway, so no worries I guess! We couldn't take pictures for the most part, so I'll just describe it all.
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We get there and give the woman at the desk our information and certificates for the appointment we made, then were given little slippers to put over our shoes to keep the place clean. Then we headed into the woman's changing room and found stalls to put on our bathing suits. Here we could still take pictures, so I took one just to show the detail of it all!
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It has really nice warm lighting that just immediately puts you at ease. When we were ready, we went into the main area, which had a cold bath (aka pool), a hot bath, and then a little further away a warm bath. We spent most of our time in the warm bath - it was the biggest and had the most comfortable ttemperature. Of course we ventured into the hot bath a couple of times to do some real relaxation, but it got real hot pretty quickly. It was cool though, the hot bath could not have been any more than 6 inches deep, so we all looked like little fish trying to be under the water as much as possible! And, sorry to report, we didn't put more than our feet in the cold bath. We wanted to try and get a full experience but it was just too cold! Doesn't do much for the relaxation aspect! So for a good hour and a half we were in the pools, which was fine because it was nice to just mosey and lay around and have zero concept of time. I went on their website ( http://granada.hammamalandalus.com/ if you want to check it out) to try and find pictures, which didn't work, so I got some off Google to give you the best visual I can!
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and it really was as good as the picture is!
So after about the hour and a half, we were called in to get our massages :) Ohhh yeahhh. We all got our own little dimly-lit cubby and I'm pretty sure at one point the lady closed the curtain. Here's another Google image - this isn't exactly what my area looked like, but it is at least the closest representation I could find!
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It was really an incredible sensory experiences - nice music playing and water trickling from fountains, the scents of oils and lotions, ANDDD the stone/marble bed we were laying on was significantly heated, so it made being in a bathing suit after swimming totally comfortable! From there she poured hot water from head to toe a couple of times, and then (get this!) she pumped bubbles on me! When my eyes were closed, I wasn't sure what it was since it was so light; I thought maybe it was some kind of smoke... but then I opened my eyes and saw all this foam! It was really neat and was a feeling I haven't experienced since bubble baths in elementary school! So then she scrubbed and rubbed and squeezed and all of that for a half hour and then one last pour and then I was done! From there, me and the rest of the girls (I went with Julia, Meghan and Katie) showered in our bathing suits and then got changed and slowwwlyyy meandered out of there. Afterwards we were feeling so nice and relaxed we figured, hey why not get a glass of wine to keep us tranquil? So we sat in a tapas bar for about 45 minutes just taking our time in our relaxed state :) With our wet and messy hair!
After that, we just went home and me and Julia just had another normal hang out night.

Today (thursday) wasn't really much of anything. It was our last day of classes though! Well, last day of learning anything. Next week, on Monday and Tuesday I only have my language class (Monday is review, Tuesday is exam) and then Wednesday I only have my culture/history class where we take our 2nd quiz, and then that's it! After class me and Julia just went home and ate lunch and have been hanging out since. We're packing our bags for our Barcelona trip too :) Tomorrow we're meeting up at 5 IN THE MORNING to catch the right bus to be at the airport with plenty of time, so I've already showered and am ready for a solid 10:30 bedtime tonight! I'm not going to bring my laptop this weekend, so on Monday I will update you on all the fun that is to be had in Barcelona! So excited!! :)
Hope you have a good weekend!

Posted by Smarks17 07:34 Archived in Spain Comments (1)

Hiking and Flamenco! (Mon/Tues)

sunny 15 °C

What a great few days this has been! Monday was for the most part an ordinary day at school, but in our spanish culture/history class me and my partner presented our group project. we were assigned the topic of Traditional and Religious Holidays in Spain. I'm so glad that we got that one, because all the other groups before us got all these historical topics/boring ones, so learning more about three kings day and running of the bulls (and much more) was very interesting and pretty fun! The presentation went well too so that was a good way to end the day of school! At 3:00, after lunch, I headed back to the school to meet up with 9 other girls and a University person to go on a hike guided by him! there are a lot of different sports/activities that are offered to be taken through the school for a small amount of money. A lot of girls went horseback riding (no thanks!!!) and some of us went hiking, which was only 10 euro! I forget the name of the mountain we climbed, but we got some great views and a pretty good workout!!
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muy fuerte!
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Then at the top top of the mountain there was this sun dial, or Reloj de Sol (which means watch of the sun, so it's like the same thing). It was so cool.. I can imagine that it's not too too old, but it was really neat to be in nature away from all the smells and noises and dirt of the city of Granada, and to be seeing something similar that Spanish inhabitants used years and years ago before Granada was developed at all! It's stuff like that that I expected to see more in Granada, and I'm really glad to have seen it.
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and then we headed back down the mountain!
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We back to the school at 6:30 or so, so it was a pretty long expedition! I don't mind at all though, it felt so good to put my workout shoes back on and feel my heart beating above a normal pulse for more than like 2 minutes!!! And I was a bit sore the next day in my legs, so that made me happy too :) From there I headed back for dinner at 8, and worked on a study guide for next Tuesday's language exam, and that was the end of my night!

Tuesday: not too much happened today, normal class stuff as usual. Afterwards, Julia, Meghan, Jules and I went to this cafe just because why not! I got churros and chocolate and shared them with the girls... MMMM so GOOD! great way to celebrate another day of classes! From there we went home for lunch... this week there are these 3 Norwegian high schoolers staying with us (who speak decent English). They're taking Spanish for the second year now (aka they know nothing) and their teacher assigned the class to go to Spain for a week to study it more in depth. Oh, to live in Europe and have so many amazing and different cultures to experience at my disposal! Such a seriously amazing concept to be able to do that. Anyway, these kids are actually pretty rude and inconsiderate so me and Julia do not enjoy our meals as much when we have to eat with them. But no sense in getting worked up about it! Which you know I could do easily ;) Call me naive, but I just hate how there are rude people like that out there!
Anyway, after lunch came our last Flamenco lesson. It's been fun this whole time, but the more the classes continue the less fun it becomes because it's impossible and the more frustrating it becomes because it's impossible. Hey, I'm my father's daughter - if I'm doing something, I have to get it right! At least I know I can check "Flamenco Dancer" off my list of possible back up careers!
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the teacher, if you couldn't tell, is the 2nd guy to my "left"! Just for a good visual!
At dinner we got to eat with the 3 sister-host moms because the kids were out getting sushi (don't even get me started....), and something practically remarkable happened. The main sister, who does most of the caring for us, spoke ENGLISH!!! You know that scene in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, where Caesar tells James Franco, "Caesar is home," as a frickin ape??? Yeah, that's as blown away I was. It was literally like hearing a dog speak english. It took me back that much! She said "fork", "kni-eefe" (spelling intended for pronunciation purposes), "spoooon" and "cheeckin" (chicken). It was crazy! And that was the biggest highlight of my night for the rest of the day! After that we just did homework and hung out.
Stay tuned for Wednesday's spa (ahem, Bath) session!

Posted by Smarks17 11:41 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

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