“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain

Saturday, October 30, 2010



It's been a busy week of class but we managed to find some time for fun! This was the last week of the theater festival so we made an effort to catch a few shows. Thursday night we saw a free show at the patio of the Baluarte Candelaria. The Baluarte was constructed in 1672 by the governor to protect the natural entrance to Cadiz. The cannons used to protect the city were located there. It was restored and is now used as a "Sala de Exposiciones."
Patio of the Baluarte
The show was odd. It was loosely based on Grimm's version of Snow White, but I saw no real connection to the story. On Friday night we bought tickets to see "2036. omenga-g" a production put on by the theatrical group Joglars. AMAZING. The show was full of sarcasm, humor, and political puns. It traced the transformation of Spanish life over the years. Here is a link to a video clip that sums up the show. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QddRpI0piGo

I enjoyed every minute of the performance. Its great that we have mastered the language to a point where we can laugh along with the rest of the audience. Tonight was the last night of the festival and it is tradition that on the last night there is a large, free performance. We joined everyone from Cadiz in the Plaza Catedral to watch the final show. OH MY GOODNESS. I have NEVER in my life seen anything so amazing!!!!!!! The show was put on by Xarxa Teatre - a group from Spain - and was titled "Proserpina." The artists used these amazing structures as costumes to narrate the Greek myth of Persephone.

Notice the people inside the structures. They used metal poles to manipulate the arms and head
The group performed on a large stage with the Cathedral as the backdrop. Rather than using a screen, they projected the artwork directly on the church. My favorite part was the fireworks. YES - fireworks! On either side of the stage there was scaffolding with fireworks on top. During the significant moments in the story, they would shoot out and bounce of the Cathedral. It was one of the most amazing things I had ever seen. I was so impressed by the creativity that went into this production. Not only that, but the strength and talent the artists needed to manipulate the characters. Here is a link to a video of the performance at a different location. Its summarizes the hour-long show perfectly. This is a must see!

Aside from seeing some amazing theatrical productions, I also did some volunteer work this weekend. On Friday Teresa and I participated in another volunteer project sponsored by the University of Cadiz. We were joined by some locals and some other students from the Sevilla program. The project was held at Salinas La Esperanza - one of the many salt marshes here in Cadiz. Over the years, the salt marshes have been neglected and as a result, the precious salt cannot be harvested and a number of bird species are becoming extinct. There is a local man named Joaquin, who, along with his sons, commits every day he can to maintaining the integrity of the salt marshes. It was an honor to be able to work with such amazing people on such an incredible project.
The Salinas in the morning. Beautiful

Over the course of the day we worked on several small projects.
We repaired a dock, built wooden shelters for bird nests, and hauled stones to create a filter for the marsh water.
Shoveling rocks into a wheelbarrow. It took many trips to fill the marsh with enough to make the filter!

Teresa admiring the wooden shelter she made to protect the bird nests.
Working hard on repairing the dock!

One of the best parts of the day was the bird watching. We used telescopes to see the many bird species that are unique to this region. Thanks to Teresa and her parents, I now know exactly what species we saw. We saw: Spoonbills, Black Storks (incredibly beautiful), and Ruddy Turnstones, and a few others.  

We also had the opportunity to rake salt. Which - I will tell you - is VERY difficult work! The salt found in these marshes is known as "flor de sal." It is a form of pure salt. Flor de sal is rare, and therefore, very expensive. (Don't worry, they gave us some to take home!) The salt is best used on foods that are uncooked, or already cooked. For example, my former host mom used to sprinkle it over fresh cut tomatoes. This salt can only be harvested in the summer when it is hot and most of the water has been evaporated from the marshes. We were fortunate to be able to rake some of the salt during our visit, something that typically doesn't happen in late October.
Here I am raking the salt - with the help of Joaquin's son


Flor de sal

The new friend I made!
Over the course of the afternoon a lot of people came and went. The day ended with a traditional Gaditano lunch - FISH! Some of the men built a large fire and Joaquin cooked up a bunch of fish that are native to the salt marshes. I have never had to peel the skin off my fish before eating it before. It was quite the experience. I must admit, that was some of the best fish I have ever eaten.

The fish cooking on the open fire

My delicious lunch!
But the best part was the company of the people we were with. It was great to be surrounded by locals who were so passionate about preserving the marshes. Its days like these that make me fall in love with Spain even more. The people here are just so friendly, social, and passionate about life. I cannot wait to go back to help out again!
Well that is all for now! I've had a busy day today and I cannot wait to get some sleep!


Sunday, October 24, 2010

El Cine

Buenos tardes,

Last night I made my first trip to the movie theater here in Spain. What a blast! Teresa was away for the weekend with some of her German friends from class on a climbing adventure - so Natalie and I decided to go out to the movies to see Paranormal Activity 2.

I love everything about this movie theater. First, the tickets are not that expensive. Second, the popcorn is amazing!!! Third, the seats are incredibly comfortable. Natalie and I both agree that American movie theaters should be more like this.

The other unique thing about television and film here in Spain - there are no subtitles. Translation is done using "dublada" or voice-over. In fact, most Spanish people recognize the voices and even have favorites. I prefer this when watching television or movies. Subtitles can be distracting and aren't as useful in helping me practice my Spanish.

Overall, the night was a success. Although, I must say, the movie left me pretty terrified. I'm sure we will be going again!

Hasta luego!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Estrellas del Mar and Ballet Flamenco!


I have so much to write about! Friday was a day filled with exciting adventures!

We got an early start to the day yesterday leaving Cadiz at 8:00 am for the coast. There, we met up with Carmen and Vanessa, two women who are working on their Ph.Ds in marine plant life. Their research is focused on sea grass that grows along the coast in Cadiz. They are fortunate that 3 out of the 4 types of sea grass found in Europe can be found in Cadiz. The women collect samples 4 times a year - one time each season - from the same location. We were fortunate to be able to accompany them yesterday to help them with their fall collection.
Gorgeous sunrise

Dressed in neoprene jumpsuits and rubber boots, we made the trek through the cold, muddy water out to each of the 3 collection zones. The zones are staggered - each a little further from the coast. To collect the sample, you have to place a metal, rectangular box (similar to a cookie cutter) into the ocean floor. Then, you remove everything from inside the box. This includes the sea grass (with roots), shells, clay, and sand. All of the material that is gathered is then placed into a mesh bag. Finally, you have the shake the bag around in the water a bit to clean the sample and remove any unwanted debris. There are 2 samples collected from each zone.

Natalie, Carmen, Teri in jumpsuits!

On our way into the cold water!

Preparing the sample

Collecting sea grass!

Carmen and Vanessa collecting sea grass from Zone 3 - the furthest from the shore!

Although it was freezing out, and the water was cold, there were a few surprises that made this adventure worthwhile. Take a look at what we found in the ocean!

An anenome! We were lucky enough to see a few before they slid back into their homes under the sand

A medusa (jellyfish)! Its uncommon to see one this time of year

A real life starfish! I've never seen one in the wild until now!

We were relieved to take our suits off and join Vanessa and Carmen for a breakfast before heading off to the lab. There are 3 things that I love about Cadiz. Cafe con leche - which is nothing more than espresso and milk. Fresh squeezed orange juice. Toasted bread with olive oil and crushed tomatoes. Do I really have to go home in 2 months?

After a short break, we headed off to the lab! Dressed in lab coats, we learned how to work with our samples. The lab assistant Bea gave us a brief lesson on the structure of the sea grass. We had to go through our samples and make notes of the types of stems, branches, roots, and leaves. It was very interesting!

But our day didn't end there! Later at night we met up with Carmen at Teatro Falla. There is a festival teatro (theater festival) here in Cadiz during the month of October. Some of the productions are held in the theater and others are held in the streets- free for anyone who wants to watch!

Last nights show was a ballet- flamenco "Eva la Yerbabuena." I have never in my life seen anything like it. The dancing was a combination of ballet, flamenco, and interpretive dance. The band was incredible. The male flamenco singers were outstanding. There was so much raw talent on that stage it was unbelievable. Here is a link to the show since I didn't bring my camera with me to the theater!

You know what else I also love about Spain? During the show, people were cheering, yelling "ole," clapping, singing, stomping their feet. There was so much excitement and energy in the room. You could tell that the crowd really appreciated the show and loved every minute of it! I can't wait to see some of the other productions in the street this weekend!

Well, that's all for now!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Hola amigos,

I'm sorry it has been so long since my last post. I have been very busy with school work these past few days. Last weekend was our trip to Granada and I have so much to share!

We left early Friday morning to take the train to Sevilla. It was there that we met up with another API group - apparently the snobby kids who are studying in Sevilla. All of the Bryant kids, of course, were in the other group. It was a shame that they weren't more friendly - it certainly made the 3 hour bus ride to Granada uncomfortable. But, this gives me an opportunity to teach you all a new word! The word is "bija." It is colloquial, Gaditano (from Cadiz) and simply means: snob.

So after 6 hours of traveling to a place that is no more than 3.5 hours away....we finally arrived at our hotel which was located across the street from the Alhambra. It sounds like the perfect location, but it was slightly inconvenient since it sits on top of a hill - no, no, not a hill - a mountain. We got settled in and then Carmen took Natalie, Teresa, and I for a stroll around Granada. It was great that we were able to break off into our small group because Carmen was able to treat us to churros and tea!
The churros in Granada were much better than the ones in Cadiz!

We stopped for mint tea at a local Moroccan inspired 'teteria." Delicious!

After dinner we all went to a "cueva gitana" - a cave - to see a flamenco show! The particular place we went to, Cueva de la Rocio, is famous because that is where Michelle Obama went over the summer when she took a lovely vacation here in Spain. The Spaniards LOVE the Obamas, so as you can imagine, there was a huge picture of her on display. Anyway, the show was awesome. Teresa had a great seat amongst a crowd of elderly Italian people. There were hysterical! They kept talking to her in Italian as if she understood.
Teri with her Italian friends.

Natalie and I at the show.

Here are a few pictures of the flamenco show. Afterward, we stopped at a local hotspot - La Cueva, a popular tapas place in the downtown area. In Granada, when you buy a drink, you get a 'tapa' or a little snack, free. We met a group of older men from Cordoba who were out celebrating their friend's upcoming wedding - and they were out drinking with their professor from college! They were great and challenged our knowledge of Gaditano (Cadiz) words.

 The next morning we toured the Alhambra, which is hands down one of the most impressive sites in all of Europe. More than 8,000 people visit everyday. It was built in the 14th century as a Moorish palace.There is so much history surrounding the Alhambra, for me to tell it, would take forever! I encourage you to research it online! I will share some of my favorite pictures below - I think they speak for themselves.

 So after the Alhambra and lunch, came the BEST PART of my trip to Spain so far. We went to the Hammam Arab Baths.

 Above is a picture I found online of the Arab baths in Granada. Oh. My. God. What an experience. There are 3 baths: hot, temperate, and cold. You have to start out in the temperate bath for a bit until they call you for your MASSAGE. Yes, you heard correctly. Massage. I was fortunate enough to have the only male masseuse. I'm not sure how, but that man took out 4 years worth of knots in my neck and back in 20 minutes. Best massage of my life. So....after your massage you can basically do whatever you want for the next hour and a half. I spent most of my time soaking in the hot bath and then ended with some lovely mint tea. I have to say that this was hands down the best experience I have had here in Spain.

The next day we decided to go exploring. We had walked past a staircase leading up to some olive trees a few times and it sparked out curiosity. So, on Sunday morning we decided to go on an adventure and we were not disappointed! While the rest of the group was off shopping - we found this!

Teri standing by one of the many olive trees

The view from the "spot" we came upon

Grape vines with 'fall foliage' as Teri calls it

Beautiful building with wines and a trellis
We spent about 2 hours exploring Granada on our own on Sunday. Sometimes now following the crowd and going off the beaten path leads to the best adventures. We discovered things about Granada that most other people don't see on a typical tour.

Overall, the trip was great. The 7 hour trip home was INCREDIBLY long and we were happy to get home.

This week has been very busy trying to get ahead with school work. I am also moving to a new host family tomorrow morning so I will have lots to share about my new family this weekend!


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Linea! Bingo!

Hello everyone,

I just wanted to share a wonderful little story with you all. Last night I went to BINGO! YES! As many of you know, I am a serious Bingo player. Whether it be the real thing or the scratch-off version, I have some luck with this game. Well, that was until I played Spanish Bingo. Allow me to explain. Here is a picture of a typical Bingo card.

Each Bingo card costs 2 euro. Here is how it works. There is a giant light-up board with numbers 1-99. The caller shouts out the numbers. The first person to get "linea" or all of the numbers in the 1st row, wins a small prize. After someone gets a linea, the calling continues until someone gets every number on their card. If you notice, I was VERY CLOSE with both of these cards! 

Bingo here is a lot of fun! We hope to go once a week just to play a few cards and test our luck. We are no competition for the regulars (like our host mom and her friend) our the high-rollers (who sat at the table next to us) but its a fun way to practice our Spanish numbers!!!

Hopefully next time I walk away with some money! 

Hasta luego!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Morocco: Great Culture, Great People, Great Food!


I don't even know where to start! Our trip to Morocco was absolutely fantastic - worth every penny! I just want to start by saying that I am so thankful that I have this opportunity to travel the world and learn about new cultures. I have not taken one second of this experience for granted and I am making the most out of every opportunity that comes my way. Natalie, Teresa, and I had the time of our lives in Morocco and walked away from the trip with a new outlook on life.

We left late Friday afternoon for Algeciras to board the ferry to Ceuta where would spend the night. We were surprised to find that our group was not comprised of only study abroad students. There were several couples and groups of friends from Spain, Holland, and the United States who were also traveling to Morocco with us.

A little bit of background history, Morocco only gained its independence in 1956. It had previously been controlled by Spain and France. For this reason, many of the people are multilingual. I spoke Spanish the entire trip and had no issues communication. It was interesting to see the influence of the European countries in a region that is so connected to the Islamic faith. 

We got to Ceuta late in the evening, had dinner, and went straight to sleep! We woke up the next morning and walked to the beach behind our hotel. I can now say that I have been in the Mediterranean Ocean! Not only that, but I now also have a small collection of sea glass from the Mediterranean coast! Very exciting!

Here I am in the Mediterranean Ocean!
We departed the hotel early and left for Tetuan, which was only about 12 km away. This part of Northern Morocco is breathtaking - even in the rain. The Northern Rif Mountains are incredible. Our tour guide led us through the narrow streets of Tetuan. The streets are lined with vendors selling all types of produce, eggs, clothing, and other goods. There were plenty of people out, despite the torrential downpours!

Typical street in Tetuan

Street vendor with fresh produce
More olives!

Oh, and this is where we stopped to take a break!! At one time, this was someone's home - but it is currently being used as a restaurant.


After the break, our guide took is to a local chemist/pharmacist. Many of the people in Morocco still believe in holistic treatments. The pharmacy walls where lined with shelves with jar after jar of spices, herbs, flowers, etc. The pharmacist was wonderful and spent a considerable amount of time explaining the use of each item and walked around so we could all smell them.

After, we had a traditional Moroccan lunch. What wonderful food!!!!

Following lunch, we boarded the bus for a short drive to Tangier. On the way we stopped to see the location that divides the Atlantic Ocean from the Mediterranean Sea. This yellow light house is said to be the marker.

We also stopped at The Caves of Hercules. I have to be honest, none of us knew anything about these caves and I had to do a Google search to learn more. To this day, nobody knows who carved out the caves, or why or how, but they are said to be the resting place of Hercules after his 12 Labors. For those who don't know the story of Hercules, the legend goes that after he killed his son in a fit of rage, he was required to complete 12 almost impossible tasks as a punishment. The caves are stunning and we got there at the perfect time. When the tide comes in, the water gushes up through the enormous holes. So cool!

Our final stop was on the side of the road. It was here that we got to ride the camels!!!!

Eventually, we got to the heart of Tangiers and our guide gave us about an hour to walk the streets and shop. I didn't see anything in particular that caught my eye, but the other girls got some good deals after bargaining a bit!

The next morning we woke up VERY early to depart for Chechuan, a city in the heart of the Northern Rif Mountain range. We had a wonderful tour guide who was absolutely hysterical and led us through the beautiful streets of the city. You will notice that most of the houses here are painted blue as the color is said to repel mosquitoes. Along the tour we stopped to see a local bread maker and a shop that makes hand woven rugs. I made a few purchases here, the items were too beautiful to pass up. Before lunch we had about 45 minutes or so to shop some more - everything is set up like a flea market.

Lunch was held in a traditional, very rustic, Moroccan restaurant. Once again, we had AMAZING food!!!

After lunch, we headed back to ferry to depart for Spain. Aside from the history, culture, and wonderful food, one of the highlights of the trip was the opportunity to spend time with some wonderful people. We had lunch with a woman from Mallaga who is a teacher and one of her students, Brian, who was born and raised in Senegal. We also met a wonderful couple who are American citizens but are of Iranian decent. They now live in Los Angeles (with pretty impressive jobs!). The woman had pretty much adopted Teresa as her child the whole trip. They were such wonderful people and we had great conversation. We also spent some time with 3 couples from Jerez. They taught us some Spanish "play on words" and practiced their English a bit with us.

We all walked away from this trip completely changed. People are people, no matter where they are from. It really isn't fair to associate someone with their country of origin. We hate it when people here find out we are American and all they want to talk about is Obama. We have been very careful not to judge others solely on their home country. As people, we all want the same basic things in life.

Now that we are back home, we have most of the week off from school and plan on spending our time at the beach, studying. What a life! On Friday we leave for Granada with Carmen for an API sponsored trip!

Hasta luego!!!