Gina in Granada

Conquering Europe One Step at a Time

Archive for the month “January, 2012”

You Can Tune a Piano, But You Can’t Tuna Pizza

At least that’s what the ancient Hawaiins used to say. Just kidding! They never said that and neither did I. Though I probably should have, because when my friends and I ordered French-bread pizza on Sunday, we never thought to ask what else might be hidden under the cheese.

Taking the first bite into a pizza covered in tuna is as horrible as you can imagine. I tried to pawn it off on a local… that didn’t work. I tried pawning it off on several dogs…that didn’t work. I tried pawning it off on a homeless man… couldn’t find one. (But even the homeless know better than to accept a tuna pizza). That was the night I said goodbye to the last two euros in my pocket, and my faith in Spanish cuisine.

I realize this post is going backwards, but it’s my blog and I’ll do what I please.

So on Friday I took my Spanish final. I know, I know, that was fast. But remember to take into account the fact that I just crammed a semester’s worth of Spanish into three weeks. I’m actually quite impressed with the knowledge I’ve gained in such a short amount of time. I can ask to use the bathroom, figure out the price of the shirt I want to buy, and order dinner at a restaurant. That’s basically all I need to survive anyway. Seriously though-I’m literate now and can form useful sentences. Well, before you spontaneously combust with curiosity, I will tell you that I passed the test and the class with flying colors and shall be moving onto level dos next week in conjunction with legitimate classes. I also was chosen to assist in an English classroom at a local school every Monday. WARNING: DO NOT BE IMPRESSED; everyone who applied got the job. I don’t usually sell myself short like this, but sacrifices must be made for this blog. I just wish I had known that was the case before I slaved over making a résumé  that fancy-fied (shh, let it happen) all my amateur work experience over the years. I found a plus side though! The next person to read my résumé will get to read about this volunteer experience and (hopefully) be impressed, unknowing that I was accepted by default.

Post exam celebrations were held at “that Mexican restaurant that’s kinda near the Kenia building next to the Chino dollar store type thing” with my teacher and fellow classmates. It was really good, and really exciting because when I was informed that there would not be any Taco Bell items in Spain, I reconsidered my study abroad location. But Alas! I had a burrito and all was right in the world.

On Wednesday, in attempts to find a moderately crowded tapas bar that was showing the soccer game, we stumbled into perhaps the greatest place in the city- Totes y Amigos. No, I cannot translate the name, but I can tell you that it would have been the perfect setting for an episode of “The Twilight Zone.” All we wanted was a place to sit and speak to each other in English, but the manager, a proud owner of six too many teeth, insisted otherwise. He continuously advised us to pull up chairs to a table with other foreigners speaking Spanish. Things got awkward after seven minutes of explaining that we were not interested in an intercambio session and reiterating the fact that just because we are from America does not mean we know Emily from Chicago who ate there last week. We eventually left and settled for a place not too far away. This was the second best place in Granada where we enjoyed two pitchers of sangria and two tapas each for three euros. Jealous?!

As for Monday and Tuesday, nothing really stands out in my mind except my first taste of an orange straight from a tree, and my last orange straight from a tree. *Hint* They were the same encounter. I took a few walks, discovered some new shortcuts, argued with salespeople trying to rip me off and bruised my leg on the tub when I fell getting in the shower. Mom, I know you’re reading this and yes I know exactly what our conversation about this situation would have entailed: “Hi mom, yes, yes I’m fine. No the door wasn’t locked. No I wasn’t unconscious. No, I don’t think tub-grip,ultra waterproof shower shoes exist but I’ll keep an eye out.”

Well, everyone, the next week I’m on vacation! I’ll be sure to fill you all in about my excursions to Madrid and Barcelona ASAP, but for now I must sleep. Buenos Noches, y’all.


Uphill Downhill

After another grueling week of intensive Spanish, I was ready for the weekend. Or so I thought…

Friday night was low key, and I was not complaining. Knowing we had to be up early for another tour was a great incentive to take a break from the clubs and bars for an evening. A few of the girls and I went back to our newfound obsession-Shawarma King, an amazing tea house about a ten minute walk away. One of the waiters is an large arab man who loves taunting Americans. He knows minimal English (just like the rest of the population here) and loves mocking us by repeatedly saying “oh my G-d” or saying Spanish greetings in an American accent. The locals get a kick out of this and laugh at us, not with us. I suppose he’s funny, but I can only imagine how fast I’d be arrested and charged with harassment if I mocked a person who spoke Spanish in America. Do I ever say “hola, como estas?!” or “ay dios mio”? Didn’t think so. Nonetheless I ordered my Pakistani tea and relaxed as we chatted away until almost 2 A.M.

best tea in the world

I could barely peel myself out of bed on Saturday, but I knew a great day was in store. The whole group headed up to the Albaicin neighborhood, the oldest district in Granada. The Albaicín is perched on a hill that faces the Alhambra. Makes sense, right? The old Moorish village to match the old Moorish place of worship. The narrow, cobblestone streets integrated small apartments, with historic places of worship and newly modernized cafes and markets. Being so secluded from the rest of the city makes every day tasks a bit more daunting. The residents of the the Albaicín don’t really have the luxury of frequent grocery shopping, or heading into the center of the city to grab dinner and a movie. Instead they anticipate the Saturday morning markets and donkeys to transport goods. We ate our packed lunches on the edge of an overlook onto the Alhambra. Even though it was almost siesta time, the weather was too nice to head back home. Eight or so of us ventured back into the tiny uphill village to get another look. We came across a handmade crafts store that had a whole bunch of neat stuff that I would never hang in my house or my ears. I’ve come to terms with the fact that me and the natives of Granada, and primarily the Albaicín, will never have the same taste in jewlery. They did, however, have lots and lots of tea! I was never a tea lover until I found Shawarma King, and this place had packages of the Pakistani flavor I love so much. Granted I have no means of making tea that doesn’t come in a tea bag, but at least it smells nice.

It’s sad to admit, but I think the highlight of my day was after the tour, when we decided to pick up a few things at a grocery store. Brace yourself for this: I got 4 individual bottles of diet coke, 5 bananas, a box of cereal, a box of granola bars, and a ginormous package of cookies for 10 euros. From now on I’ll just do my grocery shopping in Spain. I figure the amount I’ll save on the food will cover my airfare.

there was no hiding my excitement

If you’ve made it this far, you’re in luck. Here’s the part of the post where you get to laugh at my misfortune and say “that would happen to her.” So here goes nothin’. We’re at a club, which mind you I didn’t want to be at to begin with, but we we’re there so I decided to make the most of it. This place was unlike anywhere I had ever been. It was absolutely gigantic and came fully equipped with fire eating men, circus aerialists, half naked dancers, and a man playing a saxophone. Quite the combo. We spent hours dancing like sardines and watching the various performers. At around 3 A.M. I attempted to make my way to the bar which was 15 feet away. It took five minutes, just to give you a visual of how packed it was. Little did I know I was about to encounter the world’s biggest douchebag who refused to let me or my friends get close enough to order. He stood there smirking and shaking his head to let us know we weren’t getting our drinks. This meant war.

After 10 minutes of insisting he move away, the bartender realized we were waiting and managed to get our order. Luckily this drink was part of the cover charge because what happened next would have made me even more livid, had I paid additional money. I had taken maybe 4 sips, when this creature decided to stick his fingers in my glass and lick the remains from his disgusting un-manicured hands. I felt my teeth clench down as I shoved my glass full force into his chest and let him take it from me. He smiled and began drinking MY drink, so I did the only thing I could at that moment-I sucker punched him in the nuts. I yelled things at this guy that G-d might not forgive me for, and made my way back through the crowd. I was in awe for about 20 minutes and just wanted to go home. A little while later I made eye contact with him and mouthed the words “come here and I’ll knock your teeth out” while using hand gestures to signal him over. I then spent the next two hours pouting and hoping that someone would offer to leave with me, which unfortunately didn’t happen.

I think this is the closest I’ve come (and may ever come) to being a Spaniard. The club scene is just not for me. Get me some boxed wine and a game of scrabble, and I’m all set. I’m trying to not let this experience ruin all of the great things I did this week, including watching the Barcelona vs. Madrid soccer game at a local tapas bar, buying new boots, and casually making plans for a trip to Switzerland. I guess what they say is true; You win some, you lose some.

The Almighty Alhambra

It’s as beautiful as you imagined,folks.

This past Saturday I got to tour the Alhambra, the remains of  Moorish palaces from the 14th century. Although the walk uphill to the beginning of the tour required a respirator, it was well worth it. The complex was a Muslim territory until the Reconquista of 1492 led to the building of many Christian establishments. I will try and spare you the rest of the history that could easily be retrieved on wikipedia, but I have to digress a bit into the aesthetics. Each and every step I took, there was something even more beautiful than before. The details in the stucco, the carvings in the wood, the stained glass ceilings and the views were nothing short of breathtaking . Additionally, our tour was extra exciting because it was the first day the fountains had running water in over 10 years! Our tour guide, a Spanish man with an impeccable British accent had never even seen them working! Pretty monumental if you ask me. No pun intended. We were told, if possible, to take another tour in the spring when all the flowers are in bloom because it is supposedly ten times more beautiful.

check out that detail


a view of the Albaicin

After the tour, we walked back into the heart of the city with a few pit stops, of course. Lots of Arab shops tempted us with hand-painted ceramics, sequined change purses, mini hookahs and Alhambra themed t-shirts everything. Most of them were resisted after we realized how soon we would be visiting the Albaicin district, an Arab neighborhood not too far from where we live. Much more authentic knick-knacks await us there. Lastly, we stopped at a tetería (tea house) where I opted to get what they call a milkshake, and I call a roofie-infused smoothie, instead of tea. It was a delicious raspberry concoction that made me so tired I almost fell asleep before the check came.

Saturday really took a lot out of us, so Sunday was a nice de-stresser. Aside from going out for food, the majority of the day was spent in bed uploading pictures and snoozing. As for today, Granada saw its first rain fall in quite some time. So as the Americans pouted their way to class, the locals couldn’t help but celebrate the end to a semi-drought.

Siesta Fiesta

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, allow me to sum up its greatness in a few short sentences. Each day at approximately 2pm, Spain take a three hour hiatus from work and school to return home for lunch and relaxation. I haven’t traveled to other Spanish cities yet, but I can tell you that here in Granada it’s like the twilight zone. The children walk home from school, store owners lock up and people walk vigorously home with bags of groceries. I’ve been told that if you’re still roaming the streets past 2 you’re either clinically insane or homeless. In any case, I come straight home from class, head down to the dining room for lunch. I’m going to take this opportunity to give a shout-out to Rosa, our house mom, who makes delicious food and though she doesn’t speak a word of English, we always manage to get what we want (even if it takes a lot of hand gestures and spanglish). Typically once I finish I like to spend the next 2 hours in what I refer to at home as the “nap zone.”  I can already tell that I will have a hard time adjusting back to nap-less afternoons in America. Or I may become narcoleptic.

The best part about my siesta is that class is over for the day. I need to vent for a second and express how much I dislike my Spanish class. Four hours of straight Spanish for a non fluent student is difficult in itself, but that’s the least of my dismay. Although I have an absolutely gorgeous view from my classroom window, the room is a few feet bigger than a standard bathroom and rather uncomfortable. However the worst part is by far the people in my class. Sorry but I just can’t deal with them. You have your 24 year old “just getting back into the swing of college.” Your carefree California hipster that has tattoos on the back on her neck “for herself” yet wears her hair up every day. A girl from Brussels who looks like a less cracked out Steven Tyler and a few others. Then there’s Taylor. She’s from Virginia and feels the constant need to speak to me when it couldn’t be more obvious how uninterested I am in her life. Also she has what I’m going to call a tic. Taylor finds the need to preface every sentence, English or Spanish with “si, si.” Here is a typical conversation between us:

Taylor: Hey how are you? I like your scarf. Where did you get it?

Me: Thanks. It’s from a store near my residencia

Taylor: Si, si. eh I like it.


Example 2:

Taylor: I woke up early to stop and get coffee

Me: Oh, nice. I didnt’ have time.

Taylor: Si, si. It was delicious.

Today she suggested we meet at a cafe` to review our notes. The chances of that are one in a trillion. She also will probably attempt to friend me on Facebook, which in that case, I will have to block her from seeing anything I do because I doubt this will be the last time I express my hatred for her.

Aside from class, everything else has been wonderful. I had my first experience at “Chupiteria 69” a local bar that has 120 different shots that are more like tiny mixed drinks. And they’re only one euro! I love me a bargain. After that we walked about 374 miles (just basing it on what it seemed like at the time) to go to a club called Granadadiez.  A “Typical American night” is what the Spanish students say we had, but I enjoyed it!

so many options

A granada!

A granada!

Fun Tidbit of the Week:

The other day I began a social experiment, if you will. I left a quarter outside by the street on top one of the little structures that line each road in Granada. They’re shaped like pomegranates because that’s what Granada means! (fun fact, right?) This morning, the quarter was missing. Looks like someone just made .33 in euros. I guess the locals are smarter than I thought.

Level Uno

That’s my Spanish class. In fact, I’m currently typing this post at the computer lab in the Universidad De Granada, my nuevo scuela (see, I’m trying), as the rest of my peers continue their test. I was told that I could leave because I was pretty much incompetent. The professor was much more polite than that, but that was the gist.

We woke up this morning to eat a light breakfast in our dining room and then it was off to take our placement test. Everyone kept saying they were really nervous because it had been a few weeks, months, or years since they had last taken Spanish. But I reassured everybody that I have never taken Spanish in my life, and that they had nothing to worry about. When we got to our classroom, a professor explained the next few hours of our day (in Spanish) and we were handed a double-sided paper with short answer questions. The frustrating part is that my background in Italian allowed me to understand a majority of the questions, however, I had such little Spanish knowledge that I could not fomulate any answers. I basically sat still for 40 minutes. As everyone handed in their papers, I conjured up the nerve to say ¨no habla Español.¨ Who knows if that’s even right. One professor understood where I was coming from and told me that as long as they had my  name, that was enough to place me in level one and I was free to go. So, as the rest of my group continued on with multiple choice questions and an oral exam, I wandered up here. Good start to my day, I’d say.

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