Sunday, November 21, 2010

Scary Cejas Salon

I had a slightly problematic experience...I went to get my eyebrows done in a salon. I looked up the word for this and it is "depilación de cejas." So, I wandered into a nearby salon and asked if they could do my brows. They said yes and had me sit down in the chair. A minute later comes the lady who is to do my eyebrows. I could already tell that she, like me, was not a native Spanish speaker and had a hard time speaking sooo I was a tad worried about communicating to her that I wanted a very natural look. 

Next she put a towel around my shoulders, which I found strange, but didn't think much of it, I thought maybe the wax would be messy or something. I wasn't paying too much attention and out of nowhere I feel wet goo on my head...she had put shampoo in my dry hair! I asked her what she was doing and she responded with "cejas." I got really worried, maybe cejas was the wrong word. There are a lot of words that differ among Spanish-speaking countries. For example, in Spain a peach is "un melecotón" yet in Mexico a peach is "un durazno." I started pointing at my eyebrows and saying "cejas" and finally she goes "si, cejas y lava." Nowhere did I ever mention lava (wash)!! So I said that I had only asked for cejas. At this point the natural thing to do what have been to bring me over to the shampooing sinks and give me a free shampoo. Instead she wiped off as much shampoo as possible and then dabbed my scalp with water. After this she proceeded to do my eyebrows as if this were no big deal or anything. The good news is she didn't botch my eyebrows, the bad news is I walked out with a gooey mess in my hair! 

I must say the hardest part of this experience was not laughing. It was just a bizarre little happening.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


I have put off writing a Roma post because I do not know how to condense this all. There is so much to tell that I don't even know where to begin! So I guess the beginning would be a good spot...

I, along with 3 friends, spent a long weekend in Rome over Halloween weekend. Here's some Halloween spirit we saw at an outdoor market:

During our first day in Rome we had a wonderful tour of St. Peter's Basilica. We were accompanied by my dad's friend's friend, Father Joe. He is lives in Vatican City and is an archbishop and canon of St. Peter's. He met us at the bus stop and then brought us into St. Peter's through a back entrance. He then showed us several rooms, one of which was a private sacristy for the canons to prepare for services. After this we went down to the part of St. Peter's that is open to the public and he pointed out the highlights. One thing that stuck in my head was the size of it. On the floor there were markers of other huge cathedrals in the world. The markers showed us where each of those cathedrals ended...none of them even came close to the size of St. Peter's! 

Next we went down to the chapels which surround the tomb of St. Peter. In addition we saw tombs of some previous Popes that had passed away. After this Father Joe brought us up to his lovely apartment. He had just come from Kuwait so he also served us some cookies from Kuwait...YUM! We all enjoyed meeting him, he is a very warm person with a great sense of humor (he had us laughing quite a bit). I wish that I had asked more questions but I was so in awe of everything that I did not know what to ask! 

Here is a view from the top of St. Peter's:

Here is a view from the outside of it:

And finally from the inside:

And here is my favorite part, the Swiss Guards...

as well as a funny story to go along with them: At the end of our visit, Father Joe was sure to take us out this particular door because as an archbishop, the guards are required to salute him. He said he did this so that everyone thought they were saluting us ;) Unfortunately I have no photo of this (I took this one after the fact)  but a lot of tourists do...on the other side of this were a ton of tourists taking our pictures! 

 Here is a monument. For some reason the part I remember most about it is the fact that you cannot sit on these steps. If you do a guard will come over and blow a whistle in your ear! We witnessed that quite a few times. 

Palatine ruins

Here is the Colosseum from the inside (apologies but my pix from the outside didn't come out very well). You are looking at the basement of the stadium, this part was originally covered by the gladiator floor, which is where men and animals used to fight one another. The basement held various animals until it was time to fight and they were then brought up onto the floor through a series of pulleys and trap-doors 

Here is the Trevi Fountain...there were too many people to get a better picture.

We also did lots of walking and wandering and came across lots of beautiful scenes, such as the one above.

Wow I have written all this and have yet to even mention the food! As a pasta lover I was in pasta heaven. Everything was so fresh and done to perfection. Not a strand of spaghetti went over-cooked ;) Also the language is gorgeous. I was able to understand a bit because it is similar to French and Spanish but I would like to be able to speak it! As far as communication goes, there were many who spoke English but I found they understood me better when I spoke in Spanish because the languages are more similar.

Okay I did it, I finally made my Rome post...I hope that wasn't too long for you. I tried to keep it as short as possible

Thursday, November 11, 2010

It's been a while!

It has been so long since I have posted! I was busy with exams and then excursions. I have yet to report on my Burro Riding Excursion, ROME, and my celebrity sightings. Tomorrow I leave at 6:30 AM  for southern Spain. We will be visiting Córdoba, Granada, and Sevilla.

As I still have packing to do I will save my Rome post for later, as I want to do it justice. In the mean time you can read about the Burros :)

The trip was hilarious from the beginning. The GW group took a bus ride to Somosierra and the last bit of the trip was done off-roading up a big mountain, eeek! We kept getting lost so here we are driving all around the mountain and stopped several times to ask "¿Dónde están los burros?" Where are the burros. Finally we found the place and were greeted with all 17 burros lined up. My two faves were the ones who were snuggling:

I ended up on the gray one and my friend Sarah on the black...apparently the snuggling didn't stop when we were mounted:
Unfortunately this soon turned into biting and kicking so they had to be separated :/

And we're off!

We rode through the gorgeous mountains of Somosierra and laughed until we had stomach aches. The burros were pretty hungry and kept veering off-path to eat the grass. Most people had no idea how to get their burros back on path so there was lots of yelling ;) Also, unlike horses, burros have no problem ramming into one another. Because none of the people in the group could steer, they kept ramming into one another and at times we had to stop to clear up the burro crashes ;) Our eventful ride ended with a lunch in the tavern. Everyone had meat cooked over a huge fire--so charming. We all joked that it was burro. Lucky for me I didn't have to worry...I'm a vegetarian so they gave me potatoes and squash. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mistaken for a Spaniard!

Can you believe it? Since my last post of cultural "oopses" I got mistaken for a Spaniard, what are the chances? Here is how it went:

I was standing on a busy sidewalk outside the metro station, waiting for a friend. As I was waiting I heard someone behind me shouting: 

MAN: "Señorita!...[no response from the so-called Señorita was given so the man continued in intervals...] 

MAN, again: Señorita!...Señorita!...Señorita!" 

After the fourth time I turned around to see who was making such a ruckus. After doing so I quickly realized the man was referring to me! He was from a different region of Spain but was visiting Madrid. 

He asked me for directions to Capital:
¿Cómo puedo llegar a Capital?"

 I told him that I was sorry but I had no idea how to get there. Next he asked if I could tell him the general area in which he should head. Again, I hadn't a clue. He was quite persistent in getting directions and asked me how I could live in Madrid and not know where Capital was. I then told him I wasn't from the area either so that's why I didn't know. Of course he then asked where I was from so I said I was American: 
"Yo soy americana." ***

Next, he told me he hadn't realized I was a foreigner because I looked and sounded like a Spaniard. Score! That has been my goal since I've been here (because for the most part, wherever I go I seem to have "American" stamped on my head). 

Anyway, I guess I should go figure out where this so called Capital is, as it is clearly important for a madrileño (someone from Madrid) to know (not that I am of madrileño status but at least I am capable of pretending so ;) 

***Upon coming here I was told to refer to myself as "una estadounidense" (a US citizen)  as opposed to "una americana" because being american could mean you are from South America. However, since I've been here I have been referred to as "la americana" various times in restaurants, stores, and by other Spaniards I have met. So, I now take the liberty of using this term :) 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A post of Oops!!

I thought I should mention some of my "oops" moments because I have had a few funny ones since I have been here...

1) I asked my host family if there was any "sopa," or rather, "soap" for me to use to wash my clothes. They gave me a very funny look and that is when I realized I needed to brush up on my Spanish: "sopa" is a false cognate for "soap"--meaning that the words sound alike but have totally different meanings. "Sopa" actually means soup so I had asked them if I could wash my clothes with soup :) Lucky for me I caught this careless error and fixed it to "jabón" (the real word for soap but reminds me too much of the word "jamón" which means ham which is another food that I would not want to wash my clothes with). 

2) I was having a convo with a group of people and they were saying something about people they don't like and how they wanted to "darles una galleta." I was so confused because this means "to give them a cookie." She then explained to me that it's an expression that is the same as wanting to punch somebody in the face. Makes more sense now, of course :) Maybe it's just me, but I feel like my host family only talks in slang/colloquial phrases.

3) I spit my grape seeds out and got weird looks from the rest of the family. The grapes here have seeds, but not just one seed, they have four. This makes them too pesky to take out with a knife so I usually eat the grape and then discreetly take the seeds out of my mouth. Clearly that is not done here, apparently you're supposed to eat the seeds. Mmm seeds. 

4) Here is a good one: last night my host dad said something to me but I didn't understand him because he talks quickly and quietly (which is hard to the foreign ear).  After three times of asking him to repeat what he said I finally heard it: "Your Spanish has improved a lot since you've been here." Only I'm sure that after his third time of repeating the sentence, he really wanted to take that compliment back!

5) Yesterday I went to the school café and asked for "una manzanilla" which is chamomile tea. I happened to have an apple (una manzana) in my hand and the guy behind the counter smiled and asked me if I would like a smaller apple than the one I'm holding, or a tea. I answered very matter-of-factly "a tea" (wondering why the heck he thought I wanted another apple). That's when I realized "manzanilla" can be interpreted as "little apple" and that he was making a joke. By the time I made the connection it was too late to laugh. Aiii he probably thinks I'm a stiffie. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Día de Hispanidad

Tuesday we had the day off from school in honor of el Día de Hispanidad. My friend and I decided to go see the desfile (parade) near the Real Madrid Soccer stadium. I apologize in advance for the poor quality of pictures, the majority of my pictures were some version of this guy's head or that guy's hands. 


The parade started off with a really cool fly-over, take a look!

Next, we saw a lot of military come through and everyone was cheering for them. 

Next came a series of marching bands but I couldn't snag a picture of them. Then came a slew of horses. First there was a series of chestnut-colored horses, than white horses, then black horses, and finally bay (brown) horses. They were all GORGEOUS! I managed to get a picture of the white horses:

And then the parade ended and everyone started walking away...

Just kidding! This is everyone walking away because they knew that Zapatero (their president) was going to drive by next and they do not like him over here. The only spectators who stayed were the ones who decided to yell at him as he came by. It was an interesting cultural experience for sure. Good news though, my friend and I were able to get a good view and saw the royal family as they drove by. No pix of this as it all happened so quickly.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Parque del Retiro

My friends and I spent a relaxing afternoon in Madrid at El Retiro. This park was originally a recreation area for the royal family, so it has some beautiful statues and buildings. 

We decided to go out on little rowboats and see the park from the water, here is our view:

And here we are. I lucked out...both my friends are on the rowing team at school.  This meant I did not have to deal with the boat only going in "círculos", tipping over, or CRASHING :)

The odd duck out! Can you find him?

There are plenty of other things to do aside from the rowboats. You can take a walk, feed ducks, eat ice cream, play on the playground, go for a run, go for a bike ride, see the different buildings and statues inside the park, or just sit back and relax on a bench.