Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tarragona and Twins!

So, the last couple of days were pretty busy. I went to Tarragona, met twins, and met Jaume (the dad)! Also, as a side note, I evidently suck at pictures on blogger, so I'm just putting them all at the top, because I don't want to re-upload them and I can't move them.

In Tarragona, I saw a lot of things, but still not everything. I first went to the Circ Roma. The Circ Roma was really cool, and was sort of like a walkthrough of some old Roman and Medieval ruins and also a museum. The tower that you see in the picture is medieval, while the other walls are newer. I've included some pictures of the ruins, one of myself inside the medieval tower, and also a picture of someone important's (though I can't remember the name at the moment) sarcophagus that they recovered from the sea. The outside of the sarcophagus shows the legend of Hipolytus (sp?).

Next, I went off to the Roman amphitheatre, where I met a man whose name starts with an A (although I don't remember the rest of it) and his dog, Catarina. She's featured in the picture of me with the amphitheatre in the background. My talk with the man was the first real language exchange I'd had so far, and he was very difficult to understand because he had a thick Catalunian accent.

Oh! I almost forgot. As part of the museum in the Circ Roma, there was this little tower with a spiral staircase that just seemed to go up and up forever, and you never knew when it was going to end, and then finally, you see a bit of daylight, and you step out of the tower and BAM! The first thing you see is this incredible view of the city and it's main cathedral.

Anyway, after I sat in the amphitheatre for a little while, I headed off to do the tour of the castle walls, where I found some cannons! I also included a picture of the cathedral, which I unfortunately couldn't go into because it was after two, and during the winter it closes at two.

I ran into this guy named Lamin who refused to speak Spanish to me, which was super annoying. He wanted me to go to his house which I refused, of course, and so he gave me his number and told me to call him. Which I would think about doing if I could get a bunch of friends to come with me, but I am not going by myself.

Then I had lunch at an Italian restaurant, and when I walked in, I completely forgot all of the Spanish I knew, and so I was like "Necesito comer?" (That's "I need to eat?") lol. And then of course, as I was sitting at my table, I was like "Oh yeah, I SHOULD have said "una mesa, por favor?" (a table, please). Good times.

I also went to the Casa de la Fiesta (House of the Party), which is where they have all of the characters that march in the Santa Tecla Parade. They are called Cabezudos, because their heads are REALLY big in porportion to their bodies. I was told I should go there by the man who took my photo earlier, and it was a good experience, overall.

And that concluded my day in Tarragona.

SO! Next on the agenda is the twins. Mapi ran into one of her friends by chance while we were waiting to get Anna from French in Altafulla, and her friend (Rafi) was telling her all about how she had two boys who just really didn't want to study English, and their accents were horrible, and on and on. So, as it turns out, her boys are twins and are the same age as me. So Mapi was like "Jessica could help them with English and they could help her with Spanish!" It starts...

The twins are named Santi (short for Santiago) and Isma (short for Ismael), and they both look a lot older and taller than me, lol.

When I met them they took me to these old bunkers about five or ten minutes walking from my house, where they used to play when they were younger. Up near the bunkers there is a bunch of graffiti, of which I included one of the pictures that I took. The square building thing is a picture of sort of a defensive post that was used in the time of Francisco Franco, the Spanish dictator, which was a pretty cool bit of history, if you ask me.

They also introduced me to patatas bravas, which is a typical Tapa (snack or appetizer) in Spain. They are basically diced potatoes that have been deep-fried with mayonnaise and tobasco sauce on top. They are pretty good, but I wish they didn't have mayonnaise or tobasco sauce.

Yesterday I went to play ping pong with them and made quite the fool of myself, which you will be able to see for yourself in the lovely video Santi took. The twin in the green that I am playing in the video is Isma, and the one in the red in the picture is Santi. Quite apart from being good ping pong players, they also sing Flamenco well and play the drums.

I also met the rest of their family yesterday (besides their mom, whom I'd already met), and we all had lunch together. The twins have an older brother named José who is 22 and an older sister whose name I can´t remember but who is married to David, whom I also met. I don´t think anyone ever told me the name of their dad. Before lunch, their mom took me on a tour of the house, and told me she hoped that I would make myself at home there.

But anyway, lunch was a lot of fun with everyone talking in Spanish at once, and whenever anyone talked to me in Spanish, they´d slow down a lot. The dad and José were having this argument about ham and jam. The dad kept saying that jam was jamón (which of course is actually ham). But I set the record straight, so that was fun. And they had this conversation about white hairs (because all of the guys get premature white hairs), and Isma was like "No, if you have white hairs, it means you're wise in China," which of course made me laugh, and everyone was so excited that I was understanding. Buuuuuuuuut, I think they think I understand more than I do. Or maybe I do understand a lot. I dunno, lol. The twins gave me a little cell phone holder saying "España" which is really cool, and then they took me back to my house.

The kids' grandparents are staying with us this weekend because Mapi and Jaume are in London. But anyway, the grandparents taught me a card game last night called something that starts with a D, which I will call Despedida for convenience. Anyway, its pretty fun, but they don't have Kings in their card decks and instead of dealing and playing to the left, they deal and play to the right, which was so weird.

Anyway, it was cool to get to play with them and get to know them a little better. And now, I'm off to learn how to make a paella!


Thursday, January 15, 2009

The First Pictures!

Anna and I. We were playing this ridiculous game where you have to throw this soft ball at the other person's head and make it stick on their hat. Hence the silly hats.

The castle with a funny face.

Me and part of the castle.

The whole castle.

This was taken in this little old stone building I found, which I have no idea what the building was originally.

The aforementioned little stone structure.

Sunset from the my terrace.

My bathroom.

Living room, complete with futon, deskish thing, and elliptical.

This is the dungeon where we keep the children locked up when they don't behave =p.

Treehouse and swingset.

Swimming pool!

The view from my patio.

My bedroom.

I'll post more pictures and videos later. I'm sick of waiting for Blogger!

Jan. 10-14

Over the next few days a couple of things happened. I met a lot of Mapi's neighbours, who seem very nice. She mostly hangs out with the parents who have kids her age, so I haven't met anyone of my age yet.

Saturday was the first really good day of my stay here. The sun was so warm, the sea was beautiful, and the temperature was somewhere in the fifties. Mapi's mom and her mom's boyfriend came to our house for lunch, which they cooked. They made some lamb with potatoes and boiled green cauliflower. I think I would have liked the cauliflower more if it hadn't been cooked so long that it turned to mush when I touched it with my fork.

On Sunday we went for a walk along the coast and down to one of the many beaches within walking distance of their house. We stayed down at the village square thing (I guess that's what you would call it) for a while talking to some of Mapi's friends (she has met someone she knows EVERY time we go somewhere; it's unreal). The sea was, as always, beautiful, as was the beach. I will be getting to know all of these places intimately in the months that I am here.

On Monday we went to Salou where I found a bank in which I could change money. This was my first successful use of the language outside of introducing myself to people and telling Mapi's mom's boyfriend a little about why I love the sun and even the heat. The guy I was working with didn't immediately start speaking English to me, which was good, until I slipped up and didn't understand (at first) that they needed my passport, rather than wanting to make me one, lol. I noticed that in Spain they sell wine in those little boxes that they also sell shelf milk in, instead of just in bottles, which I thought was interesting.

On Tuesday I had an adventure with Anna. I had to drive her back from Altafulla so that Mapi could pick up her other car, and of course, I had to drive a stick shift. So, it was a little exciting driving back from Altafulla to La Mora, but we made it there safely. Also, Anna got sick today and also bumped her head with her racket :(.

On Wednesday I learned where the kids' Kumon (mental math) building is, and I also went to the supermarket with Mapi. Also, today Mapi and I finally really clicked.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


¡Hola! So, this blog will be for anyone who cares to keep up on my doings in Spain. This will be different for me because I've been writing my journal in Spanish to practice, but in any case, here goes.

My journey in Spain started on January 7, 2009 at the Salt Lake International where I said goodbye to my family (the ones who were there, anyway). I had a flight to Denver, where I added a shot glass to my collection and said goodbye to my country, and then had another flight to Frankfurt, Germany. I would've bought another shot glass but I didn't have enough time between flights. In any case, after Germany came the short flight to Barcelona, Spain, where my host mom, Mapi picked me up and drove me to there home in La Mora, which is just outside of Tarragona.

There house is beautiful - with a basement that's not really a basement, a ground floor, and a second story. The whole back of the house is covered in sliding glass doors so that you can take in the view of the Mediterranean. I live in the basement which is not really a basement, or it doesn't feel like a basement to me. I have a huge amount of space pretty much to myself, with a large bedroom, a living area with a kitchenette, and a bathroom. I'll post pictures later.

The kids are a lot of fun. Ruben just turned six, is really active, and loves soccer. He can be a handful sometimes, because he doesn't have a very long attention span, but when he is listening to you (and not tired or hungry) he is great! Anna (who is eleven) is a mix of really active and outgoing, but also very dedicated to school. She likes to do her homework as soon as she gets home, and freaks out when she has tests. She is really sweet and speaks English really well, as she spent the first five years of her live in the United States.

I haven't meant Jaume (my host dad) yet, because he is in the States on business. Mapi, on the other hand, is very nice and talkative. She is very concerned about nutrition - she has told me that I am drinking too much water (what's wrong with a half gallon a day, I ask you?) and has often forced me into putting a coat on when I know perfectly well that if I have a coat plus a jacket, I will be too hot. But she just wants me to be happy, and I can understand her concern, because she is used to much warmer weather than I am. Overall I like her very much.

I will write more probably tomorrow, because I have a lot more to say! For now, hasta luego!