Thursday, August 30, 2007

The First Days and Tibidabo

View through the funicular window on the way up the mountain

I have a serious backlog of catching up to do--be prepared for backtracking aplenty via incomplete sentences galore. My English is regressing and my laziness......

Other than airport chaos, our first contact with Barcelona came as our taxi dumped us and our hefty bags on a random sidewalk. Two words: famished and CLUELESS. Fortunately, an old man popped out across the street, asked if we were from California (was it that obvious? haha), and led us to the Colegio Mayor Sant Jordi, our dorms for the next month. Sierra and I are roommates in a room even nicer than the ones we had in Cadiz, and the best part, aside from having a private porch, is probably the significantly larger shower. With doors. We are spoiled. The end.

On our first full day in Barcelona, we ventured out with a fellow UCSDer to see the sights. Relying on his unashamed willingness to refer to his tour book, we took a stroll through Sarria, came across Gaudi's Casa Bellesguard, and then trekked up the mountain for continued adventures. (And even though it was significantly hot when we arrived in Barca the afternoon before, Sunday brought us grey skies and several chilly downpours!) We rode the funicular, a monorail-type thing, to the top of Tibidabo harboring a magnificent church amusement park. Despite the gloom and doom, the view of Barcelona from the top was beautiful. It's very different from Cadiz, but I'm excited about the next few months and all the potential a major metropolitan city holds.

Bright and early Monday morning, we started classes for our next month-long language program. 1) Culture, History, and Literature of Contemporary Spain; 2) Catalan (Sierra hates it, I love it); 3) Spanish Grammar; 4) Lunch break (when we usually do our homework and I don't mean we work ahead...); 5) Composition and Commentary; 6) Conversation. Days are long as we also have a 40-minute roundtrip metro ride from the dorms to the University of Barcelona and back. With all our appointments and beckoning fans (we are SO popular here...), we often don't get back until 6 or 7 in the evening. Foof. But life is good. We're still settling in and familiarizing ourselves with the city, but almost all is well. (And by 'almost' I mean, ask us how we've been eating here...and you thought croissants & tap water and Cheetos & Fanta were as gourmet as they get. Another entry coming on the nutritious delights of Barcelona...)

Por mientras, aqui les mando algunas fotos:

More to come!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Jeremiah 29:11-13

I love getting emails from people at home. Not only because it makes me feel like I have friends, but also because it is such a blessing to hear about how God is tangibly working in different parts of the world. He has been growing and teaching my friends and family in revolutionary ways and crazy answering prayers all over the place. Bearing witness (in an indirect way, I guess) to such things has in turn given me much confidence in His providence regarding life here in Barcelona. The pressures and insecurities of finding somewhere to live, finding a church, finding good friends, and finding ways to manage money well (aka: learning to live simply and economically) have not plagued me or caused any sort of insomnia. In fact, the stories from home have given me peace and hope in the sovereign goodness of God and His impeccable timing.

That being

Last night, I spent a solid few hours intensely researching Craig's List Barcelona (instead of doing homework, haha) and examining ads for reasonably-priced places to live. I booked marked a trillion notices, wrote down a billion phone numbers, and sent about a million emails. I did more math than I ever want to do for the rest of my life, converting Euro rent prices to the equivalent dollar amounts; adding, subtracting, dividing. I also racked my brain for ways to find non-Americans to live with to no avail. Needless to say, it was slightly overwhelming. Not to mention, I don't know the first thing about un-naively searching for an apartment--that's minus the foreign country, foreign language factor even.

Long story short, Sierra and I received an appointment for this afternoon to look at what was the best possible option I had found. Initially there was a sort of miscommunication and we couldn't find Miguel anywhere, despite frantically calling and texting back and forth. That is until I sent him a message saying: "I am Chinese and I'm wearing a white shirt." He found us within five minutes. If I could talk about being Asian here...but I digress.

We went to look at the apartment and it was practically heaven.

We're going back tomorrow to put down a deposit and sign a contract, and we move in September 14th (I'll save the detailed gushing until then). Simple as that, God plopped the perfect living situation right into our laps. And on only our fifth day in Barcelona! Incredible.

I can assure you we were mentally squealing and heel clicking the entire walk and metro ride back to the dorms.

**It's getting late and we have six hours of class everyday, so I need my sleep. A more comprehensive and detailed update on life in Barcelona to come.
But thank you for all your prayers!

Monday, August 20, 2007

A Jiggidy Jiggin' Good Time

After dinner at El Arte Serrano

My, how time flies when you're having fun. One month in the Land of the Rabbits down already. No doubt Sierra and I closed out our last few days in Cadiz in style....

Thursday. True to our nature, Sierra and I did very little studying for our finals (Our excuse this time was that we were too busy starving on Wednesday since the cafeteria was closed. In a story that beats the croissant dinner, we had one can of Fanta and a few Cheeto puffs between the two of us all day, because, alas, the last of our cash went to laundry. Times when I wish clean clothes were overrated...) Not to worry though--we finished our grammar final in half an hour. Then during the two-hour break before our next exam, we sat outside at a cafe and reviewed everything we had learned in our culture class with our friend Matt. Another final squashed in a mere 30 minutes. Check.

That night, the cafeteria prepared us a delicious spread of tapas, which we enjoyed while mingling and sipping sangria with melon. We're so classy here in Spain, I know. We were also presented with some intense flamenco dancing performances by some almost-professionals and some fellow Cadiz group members. Very exciting.

Afterwards, a few of us headed to Playa Victoria for beach extravaganzas. One night a year, when Cadiz CF plays their big futbol game, people pack the beaches and BBQ until 7 in the morning. We definitely got in on that action, although we "only" stayed until 3. Whiskey and 7Up, sand and ocean, people watching, new intercambios = good fun.

Friday. We returned to the University of Cadiz one last time to review our exams in our respective grammar and culture classes. Fortunately, things went well for the both of us; our parents' money is not in vain. Heh. Highlight of the day: a question on our culture exam was "Cual parte del toro recibe el matador cuando torea bien?" with the correct answer being "las orejas o la cola." Someone in our class put "el pelo del culo" with the best of intentions. JAJA. I could hardly breathe. Oh my.

Later in the afternoon, Sierra and I climbed the tower of the famous Catedral right across from our Residencia. The bird's eye view of Cadiz was incredible. We had a great time taking a plethora of pictures and doing ridiculous things on the way back down; heel clicking off flights of corroding stone stairs, laying on the ground and tucking ourselves into cracks in the wall, pretending to borrow money from the saints...oh, you know us.

Our very last night in Cadiz brought us to El Arte Serrano, a fancy restaurant on the beach front of Playa Victoria, for a celebratory dinner. The plates of gourmet food never stopped coming, and rest assured that Sierra and I relished every last bite. As you can imagine, we do NOT take food for granted here. And because everything had already been included in the program fees, well, let's just say the wine and champagne were flowing all night long. Hey, when in Spain...

Post dinner/dessert/endless toasts brought our group across the street to some "chiringuitos," little bar huts on the beach. With all the, uh, water Sierra and I drank at dinner, we felt no need to consume any more liquids and contented ourselves with simply sitting on the beach and enjoying good company, trying to get our time in before our group faced its sad fate of splitting to our respective Spanish cities. But it was an exceedingly nice night and a perfect way to end.

Sierra, Chad, Isaac, and I got back to the Residencia at 3 in the morning. I didn't sleep that night. 1) For fear that we wouldn't wake up in time the next morning to check-out and leave (we've obviously had far too many incidences...) 2) Sierra conked out in my bed. (I'm so tempted to put up pictures.)

Saturday. Yeah. Traveling was a beast. We left the Residencia at 6 on Saturday morning, and trekked to the train station, our monsters of luggages in tow (a 15-minute trip that took us a painful forty). What I wouldn't have given to have an empty-handed friend with me that day. Took a two-hour train ride, then rode the bus to the airport in Sevilla, waited in the airport for three hours before finally boarding a plane headed to Barcelona. The hour and a half flight was followed by more ordeals with luggage and then a blessedly uneventful taxi ride to our final destination of Colegio Mayor Sant Jordi.

Our first few moments in Barcelona, picture this: Sierra and I standing on a random sidewalk with two large suitcases, a rolling carry-on, a duffel bag filled with bricks, two backpacks, and a stuffed shoulder bag. We haven't showered in...far too long, all the signs are in Catalan, the taxi has driven away, and suddenly it dawns on us. We have no idea where we are or possess the slightest clue how to get where we need to be.

Dun dun dun.

To be continued....