I have been in Granada for more than a month now and am worried about how quickly my study abroad experience is flying by. In this time I have already met many wonderful Spaniards, improved my Spanish, hiked in the Sierra Nevada, travelled to Ronda and Sevilla, and petted many of the cats that sit contentedly in doorways. Part of the reason that this blog has taken me so long to begin is that I keep thinking that tomorrow I’ll figure out what I want to write about. However every day that I am here, I find some new story to share. So I think I’ll just post a few quick stories and pictures.
Monday 14:45-My Homestay
My home stay is one of the best parts about my study abroad experience. I live with Gloria, a sassy, vibrant and hilarious grandmother in her apartment in Zaidín, a neighborhood in the southern part of the city. At 2:45pm, Mark, my roommate, Gloria and I sit down at a small table in her kitchen to eat lunch. Gloria has prepared a feast of salad, bread, fruit and lentils with ham. As we eat, we discuss all sorts of things, all in Spanish, as Gloria doesn’t speak English.
As with many of the Spanish people I have talked, Gloria is fed up with the corruption that plagues the government and is also concerned about the distinct lack of government as no political party in Spain won a majority in the last elections. She tells us that she is worried about the future of Spain, not for her own sake but for the sake of her three young granddaughters. While we are on the topic of politics, the conversation shifts to the United States and Donald Trump (who she often calls Truman on accident). The Spanish, while very concerned about their own political situation, also are very interested in/concerned about Donald Trump’s success so far in the primaries.
At this point in the meal, Gloria asks us if we would like more lentils, which is actually a command to give her our plates so she can load them up with another small mountain of lentils. As far as I know, in the 30 years Gloria has hosted students, no student has died from being overfed, though I’m sure some have come close. With the countless students Gloria has hosted have come many weird stories, many of which she loves to tell us, from the girl who bought a pet turtle and put it on the kitchen table when she ate, to the guy who never talked or left the apartment. As we finish off the remaining lentils, Gloria ritualistically drops a chocolate bar on the floor in order to break it into pieces and we each enjoy a piece, the conclusion to our meal. Lunch is a time when the conversation is as good as the food (and the food is really good!).
Thursday 22:30-Babel World Fusion Tapa Bar
As I sat in Babel with some friends, I was struck by the unique cultural differences between Spain and the U.S. First off, not only was I enjoying my beer, I was also eating my free small falafel tapa. Tapas are one of the greatest parts about Granada life. When you order a drink whether it’s a beer, wine or soda, the restaurant gives you small plates of food to share amongst the people at your table. It might be curried chicken, fried fish, a sandwich or a host of other small plates. Thus, with a few rounds of drinks, one can easily eat a dinners’ worth of food for 4-6 Euro. Getting tapas is a relaxed and social, so you never know how long you will be at the bar, or if you will cross the street to another tapa bar to try something new.
When I noticed that we were just ordering tapas at 10:30, I was surprised to feel that eating at this hour was becoming natural. Part of this is because in my home stay, I don’t eat lunch till 2:45pm, and it is typically a huge lunch so I have little desire to eat until late at night. Everything in Spain tends to be later in comparison to the U.S. For instance, dinnertime in Granada is usually no earlier than nine and if I go to a club, it’s typically all foreigners who are there at one o’clock. However around two, the Spaniards start to show up and even when I leave at four in the morning, the line to get in is as big as ever.
Another thing that I noticed as I looked around was that the bar was full of a mix of people, both in age and type. For example, a family with young children was sitting next to a group of twenty something year olds and in front of an older couple. Tapas are something that all Granadinos can enjoy. The part that really evidenced a cultural difference was the long and very revealing sex scene in movie they were playing on the TV. (I won’t go into too much detail because surveys suggest that my blog will be most popular with the ages 1-5 year old demographic). While this isn’t seem to be common in Tapas bars, the fact that nobody seemed to care in the relaxed tapas environment forced me to make comparisons to the U.S. and how Americans react to nudity. All in all, this tapas outing just highlights some unique cultural differences that I am starting to get used to.
Friday 23:00-Calle Pedro Antonio
Found this picture of a girl in a puddle a few Friday nights ago while walking in the rain. I don’t know who she is or where she is from but I’m convinced finding her photo in such crazy weather is destiny and therefore she must be the love of my life. So if you see her walking around the city, give me a call.
Saturday I tossed on my running shoes and headed to the Generalife, a mountainous area that overlooks the whole city, including the Alhambra, a Moorish palace that began as a fort in the 9th century.
With miles, whoops I mean kilometers, of running and biking trails, I instantly fell in love. When I am in the city, I clearly know that I am not in Seattle or Walla Walla, Washington. However, once I head up into the hills things feel familiar, with the stretches of green and the exhilarating feeling of running and not having a destination, only a mindset. (and also being to pee behind any bush I run past). While the Spanish government may have many cases of corruption, one thing they definitely are good at is installing exercise equipment in public parks. It was amazing to be on top of a small mountain, look at the entire city spread in front of me and struggle through some pull-ups. Grass is not a priority for the government however and is scarce in the city. Luckily for me, I found some mossy grass at the top of the mountain, compounding the success of my run.
It turns out that some of my friends also had the urge to head up into the hills so later in the day we walked up to Sacromonte, (the hippy part of town), climbed a hill and watched the sun set while eating bread, cheese and chocolate and sipping wine. While Granada may often look different (Islamic and Spanish architecture, small fruterías), smell different (fresh baked bread, also there is a crap ton of dog poop and pee in Granada pardon my pun), and sound different (people speaking Spanish, sounds of vespas) from my hometown, there is a feeling of familiarity with the friendliness of the people, the grey and chilly weather, and the same activities that I liked to do back home.
This chance to study abroad in Granada is a tremendous privilege. It’s one thing to take Spanish classes in the U.S. but it is another thing completely to talk with Spaniards, chat during meals, take classes and explore a city, all in Spanish. Not everyone gets to have this experience and I feel very lucky to be here. Also, thanks to Whitman Off-Campus Studies for giving me the chance to blog for them and a space to share my abroad experience.
I am having a great time in Granada but I also really miss all my friends and family back home. Hope you are well and thanks for reading. Also, Grandma Bee, I will try to find a time to call you soon 🙂