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. 

Monday, October 4, 2010

Flamenco Friday

Last Friday night our program director, Carmela, had some of us over to her house for tapas. For those of you who are unfamiliar with tapas, they are small plates of food that are served in restaurants and bars around 7pm. Spaniards eat dinner very late, so they often go out for tapas to hold them over. Carmela served us some wonderful tapas including: 

Tortilla Española: It is actually nothing like a tortilla, it is more like an egg-and-potato omelette. Here is a picture: 


Meat with a carrot sauce (the vegetarian in me didn't take a pic of that one)

And my favorite...shrimp with the heads on! Okay I was not going to take one because it was just more than I could stomach. Carmela demonstrated how you first rip the head off, then scrape out the "membrane" and then eat it. I was already queasy at this point but she INSISTED I take one, so I did. I ripped the head off and there was something extra hanging off of it. Carmela looks over and goes "Oh Holly, you got a girl shrimp, that extra meat means it is a girl!" I don't feel the need to say more. 

Lucky for me I got to wash this all down with some fresh melon :) 

Later, Carmela surprised us and came out in full flamenco-garb and put on a little show for us. It was quite entertaining. THEN (get ready) she brought out her daughter's old flamenco skirt and scarf and insisted I put them on and dance with her while everyone else was on the couch watching. I really don't know how to flamenco so I followed her moves, it's a lot of arm movement. Lucky for me, Carmela picked one of my friends and got her a flamenco skirt too.

As you can see, I laughed a ton:

And was VERY glad when my friend joined me: 

And finally, the best part of the night...her house tour. She has 4 Salvador Dalí drawings in her house, two of which are made out to her. Apparently her family was friends with him. It was a full cultural experience between the food, dance, and museum-like art :) 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A bit of everything

Barcelona is a complete vacation, you get your touring, your beach, and your shopping...what could be better?? 

Here are some highlights: 

The port

 Park Guell: A park designed by Antonio Gaudí, who is a very famous artist/architect from Barcelona. This park was absolutely gorgeous, as you can see. It also reminded me a lot of Dr. Suess :) 

 La Sagrada Familia: This is a cathedral that was started in 1882 by architect Francisco de Paula del Villar and was taken over a year later by Gaudí. Believe it or not, this cathedral is still not finished! Predictions say it will be done in 2038, but that all depends on funding. It is hard to tell from the picture, but the outside of the cathedral has all sorts of religious scenes sculpted into it. 

Holly leaves outside Sagrada Familia :) 


Candy at the market 

Sagrada Familia from the inside

 Here you can see a part that is still under construction 

Friday, October 1, 2010

Barcelona part 1: Getting there!

Last weekend the entire group went to Barcelona, courtesy of GWU :) We had a 7:30 AM flight which meant we had to be at the airport by 6:30 AM. Ooof!
  • Side-note: My friends and I have noticed that Spaniards use "ooof" all the time! At first it was a running joke to use "ooof" because it sounded so funny to us. However we have now found it to be a convenient little word and incorporate it into our conversation as well. Little by little we are learning to speak like the Spaniards as opposed to the Spanish textbooks. 
Back on topic...6:30 AM at the airport. For those of you who were in Campo de Kiddies, remember the song that tells you to "dar una vuelta" (turn around)? 

Well, I beeped through security so the security guard had to go over my body with a portable metal detector. First they went over the front and then they told me to "dar una vuelta." Good thing I understood because I wouldn't have wanted to seem suspicious or anything. See, we found a practical use for the song :) 

Back on track...I'll have you know that despite my beeping, I was not once asked for any form of ID. Eeek. 

A sleepy hour-and-a-half later we landed in Barcelona!