Monday, June 27, 2011

Alicante June 17-22nd

June 17, 2011

We were exhausted today! In Spain, when they go out they literally stay out until dawn! We turned in around 4am, that was "early" to many of our new friends! ha ha However, we had an amazing time just getting to socialize and dance! We surprisingly made it through class today and then enjoyed a small siesta! After my nap, I enjoyed some relaxing time by the pool. The pool here at the Villa is really nice and long enough to swim laps! So I not only enjoyed getting some sun, but also getting to get some exercise in by swimming some laps. After swimming, I went back up to my room and enjoyed watching some spanish soap operas with my roommate Anna. You may laugh, but even though they are very dramatic they really helped us to practice our Spanish! Then we decided that we needed to do some laundry. We thought this would be an easy task, but we were very wrong! The instructions were all in Spanish, so we had to translate them and then figure out the exact order to do everything in. My loads ended up working just right; however, Anna didn't have as much luck as I did. The machines she was trying to use were broken, but we didn't know that since there wasn't a sign. So after 30 minutes our friend Jessica showed up and took Anna down to the lobby to get her money back. She then returned and assisted Anna with the machines. After she left, a Colombian lawyer came in to get his clothes and move them to the dryer. He was so nice and Anna and I ended up talking with him for the longest. He didn't speak any english and we only spoke a little Spanish, so we ended up learning a lot! Now each time we see him around the Villa we get to wave at him and he will quiz us on our Spanish! After laundry, we enjoyed a nice dinner with everyone from the group then went to bed to get our rest for the class trip to Tabarca the next day!

June 18, 2011

Tabarca!!!!! We were able to sleep in a little bit today, but I couldn't really sleep because I was so excited about our trip today! We all packed our lunch and beach gear and met up with the class at 10:15 to head to the island! On the bus, we enjoyed chatting with out new friends and applying loads of sunscreen!!!! They warned us that it is really hot on the island and not a lot of shade, so we lathered up so we wouldn't get burned! The bus then took us down to the harbor where we loaded a boat to take us to the island! We were lucky because we were some of the first ones on and got the front row seats on the boat. Before the boat took off we enjoyed some snacks including: Ruffles chips that were jamon (ham) flavored (they eat so much ham here that the company makes them especially for Spain) and muffins!!!! One of my friends Natasha brought the muffins to class one day for a snack and offered me one. It was soooooo good! Therefore, I gave her some money and she brought me a whole bag of them!!! I was so excited! ha ha

Finally the boat took off. I do not think I have ever been on a boat and seen such a gorgeous view. The sky was clear, the water was so clear you could see all the fish and sea life, there were amazing sailboats everywhere in view and it was the perfect weather for a nice breeze!!! The boat ride was so much fun since we got to chat with our friends and take lots of pictures!! At last, we saw the island in site and it was tiny!!!!! They were not kidding when they told us how small it was. Once we arrived on the island, our director split us up into teams for a treasure hunt! The winning group won a massage at a nice resort in Alicante! This really motivated my team to win!!! We ran around the island for the next hour trying to find the clues and the right locations. We didn't end up winning, but we were so ready for the water by the time the hunt was over with! We put down our bags and immediately jumped into the water! It was so cool and relaxing. However, there were a lot of rocks with coral and seaweed all over the place!!!! So you had to be careful where you were stepping/ swimming and wear shoes! A couple of us swam out to a huge rock to take some pictures. The water was so clear and cool, it was amazing! After swimming on that side of the island for a while we went to the other side to sit down and eat lunch. We all laid out our towels and began to get out our food. Anna and I had purchased individual sandwiches from the local market and brought some fruit and nuts. However, the Spanish students had made pasta, bought chips, crackers and cookies!! They were shocked when we ate our fruit before our sandwich because in Europe fruit is often eaten as a dessert. Also, the students were so willing to share all of their food for the entire trip! They let us taste everything they had brought for the trip! They are so hospitable and willing to share anything they have!

After lunch, we all got our money together and rented a paddle boat for an hour. After the struggle of pushing the boat out to water, we were finally pedaling around the Mediterranean Ocean. We had such a fun time looking at all the gorgeous views and trying to avoid running into some of the sailboats! ha ha After a while, we stop the boats and jumped in the ocean to cool off. It was a lot of fun but scary at the same time because there are loads of jellyfish that you have to look out for! However, I can now proudly say that I have swam in the Mediterranean Ocean. After the hour was up, we went to a small cafe on the island and purchased some water and popsicles to cool off! They sell the biggest bottles of water here and the cutest popsicles! The popsicles I purchased came in a bag filled with mini popsicles that tasted like starbursts on a stick! They were soooooooo good! Since our boat back to Alicante was leaving soon, we just sat at the cafe and played Spanish card games with some of the students and our professors. It was so much fun! We then sadly had to get on the boat back, but we were lucky and got front row seats once again!! The ride back was so relaxing after a full day in the sun. My friend Andrea and I were sitting there relaxing when all of a sudden, we hit a huge wave and we got soaked! The whole group burst into laughter and we just had to laugh along with them! Once the boat was in sight of the harbor, we had some amazing views of the harbor and the castle of Alicante. We shortly arrived back at the boardwalk and headed back to the Villa exhausted. The trip to Tabarca has to be one of my top 5 days so far here in Europe, here are some pictures from the trip!

Natasha, Anna, Alicia, Me & Elena on the boat headed to Tabarca!

Natasha & Elena

They eat so much ham or Jamon here that the chips are that flavor! ha ha So good!

Anna looked like Mother Theresa hiding from the sun!

Elena, Natasha & Alicia

Andrea and I




The water was soooooo clear!!! It was beautiful!

These muffins are amazing! I loved them so much we bought a whole bag! ha ha 

Out at one of the huge rocks with Elena & Pascual

Attempting to get the paddle boat out to sea!

Pascual and I navigating the paddle boat!

Alicia, Andrea, Anna & Veronica

Natasha & Elena

Swimming in the Mediterranean 

Water and amazing popsicles 

Alicante Harbor

Natasha, me & Alicia after a long day at Tabarca!
June 19, 2011

Since we were so exhausted from being out in the sun all day Sunday, we slept in and then Anna and I decided to venture to downtown to shop! We took the bus downtown and it wasn't very crowded; however, the city of Alicante rerouted the buses for the festival starting on Sunday. Therefore, we were so confused on which stop to get off at! We eventually just hopped off the bus and followed the streets down to the beach. As we were walking around we got to see all of the different neighborhoods setting up their tents and statues for the festival! It was a lot of fun just walking around and seeing all the people work so hard on their tent areas for the week.

After we walked around for a little bit, we made it to the boardwalk and sat down for lunch at a little cafe. We ordered a cheese tasting for an appetizer and some paella (it takes 20 minutes to prepare). When the cheese came out we were surprised because it was covered in maple syrup, but it was really good! the syrup gave it just the right amount of sweetness to balance out the sharp taste of the cheese. Then came out the paella which was delicious! We had a mixed paella with shellfish and chicken. After a great lunch, we went out onto the boardwalk to look at all the little shops that were set up. These shops are set up all along the boardwalk and run by "hippies" as Natasha put it! However, they have great bracelets, earrings, necklaces, skirts and scarfs! They even have a lot of coconut rings and earrings! We spent a lot of time just looking at all the shops and also purchasing some things for ourselves and friends!

After shopping, we started back up the street to the center of town on a mission for ice cream! We ended up finding this little shop that it a lot like Yolos, but we ended up getting gelato. It was delicious! While we were ordering we met a women from Columbia that spoke English. We then sat down with her and talked for hours about her travels around the world our trip and she helped us with some spanish! After talking for a while, we said goodbye and headed for the bus stop. After looking for some time, we couldn't find the stop for the bus back to the Villa so we gave up and took a cab back! Once we were back we enjoyed a dinner with the group and then headed to the room to rest for class the next day!

Beautiful square downtown

Gorgeous trees 

Wonderful Sangria

Cheese tasting


June 20, 2011

Another week of class!!! We had to wake up early and get back into the routine of class after an amazing weekend. However, I really enjoy class here at the University of Alicante so it is easier to get up here than it usually is for school! ha ha I am enjoying all of my classes, but I am especially enjoying Dr. Hall's class on Teaching English as a Second Language. It is so interesting learning how to help students learn another language and all the different techniques you can use! We even talk about simple things in his class (for example: birthdays, universities and food) to show the simple differences in culture and how you would assist your students to understand these. For example, in Spain you do not tip! If you do you only leave a few cents. Their waiters are paid on a salary so you do not have to tip them for their service. Also, you have to ask for the check. In Spain, they want to make sure you enjoy your meal and time with your friends so they don't bring you the bill until you ask! We also discussed the difference in tuitions between Spain and the USA. In Spain, for an entire year of school they pay 800 euros which equals out to probably a little over $1,000 US dollars. That is for an entire year of courses!!!!!! They were shocked at what we pay! ha ha So many of my new friends want to come to America, but have to save up for a long time because it is so expensive and now I understand why! Overall my classes are going very well though! I love learning spanish and I am hoping to take some spanish courses when I get back so that I don't lose what I have learned and so that I can continue to build on what I have learned.

June 21, 2011

MY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!! My parents have spoiled me from a very young age when it comes to birthdays. They always did so much for us on our special day that I have come to the conclusion that June 21st is my day. ha ha So, I wasn't sure how that was going to work for me in Spain since I would be in class and not with my family and friends. However, I was soooooo wrong. My 22nd birthday in Spain has to be one of my absolute favorites so far!

As we all know, I love to talk; therefore, in our travels at some point I remember discussing birthdays with Anna and what we typical do for them in my family. I told her that for each birthday my dad gets up early and goes to buy donuts for us to have on the morning of our birthday. He not only gets our favorite kinds, but he also gets a bunch of doughnut holes and forms whatever the number is that we are turning on a platter for us and then puts candles in one of the doughnuts. He is so sweet, but it has been a tradition for years and I told her how I was going to miss that this year. So, on the morning of my birthday I woke up like every other day and got ready for class. However, as soon as I opened our door to our suite entrance I saw a surprise that Anna had set up the night before. She had bought doughnuts and formed the number 22, bought my favorite candy peanut M&Ms, bought some travel toothpaste (I was almost out ha ha), bought me this huge bottle of water that all the americans had been joking with the Spanish students looked like vodka and she had picked out the cutest birthday card in Spanish! It made my day!!! I am so lucky to be traveling with someone as sweet as Anna. She has really been a blessing this whole trip and I am so glad to get to share this experience with her! Here is a picture of her surprise!

After Anna's surprise we went to breakfast where I got many birthday wishes from all of our American classmates. Then we ventured off to class. The day was going so well with many of my new friends coming up and telling me Feliz Cumpleanos!!! Then some of my new friends asked the professor if they could sing to me and he told them of course, so I also got to enjoy the whole class singing Happy Birthday to me in Spanish! It was great! After class, our new friends Natasha and Elena came over to the villa and Anna and I enjoyed the afternoon swimming and laying out at the pool with them! Natasha and Elena even surprised with with a candy cake!!! They are very typical in Spain and are trays of candy in the shape of a cake! After the pool, we went back to the room to get ready for downtown and dinner! Elena and Natasha couldn;t come downtown, so Anna and I went with one of our classmates' son Leior. We had so much fun walking around and looking at all of the statues and booths for the festival! We enjoyed taking a lot of pictures and trying to determine what the statues meant! Then we got to watch the parade of the flowers. This is a parade that starts at 8:30 and goes on until midnight. All the women, men and children dress in the traditional Spanish clothes and carry flowers representing their neighborhood. Then they put all the flowers together to make a large "flower collage" for the festival.

Most of the statues are political, so we thought this might be their perception of Obama. 

With people from the parade in the traditional outfits. 

The entrance to one of the neighborhood booths. 

These festival booths are serious! They look like huge open restaurants, have full functioning bars, can seat anywhere from 20-100 people and have dance areas as well!


We were excited to find a little bit of America in Spain!

These chairs lined the street for the parade. 

Each neighborhood had a different flag. 

Downtown was so much fun! However, we then got on the bus back to campus to meet Natasha and Elena for dinner! We meet them at a restaurant that served very typical Spanish tapas! Tapas are amazing! They are like small appetizers that are very cheap! When you go out to eat in Spain you can just order many inexpensive tapas and share with your friends! For the 5 of us to eat it was only 30 euros with Sangria and beer included! Very great price! Also, here in Spain if you want to invite friends out to dinner for your birthday - you are the one that pays for everyone! They were shocked to hear that in America we invite people to a birthday dinner but then expect them to pay and sometimes give gifts! ha ha So I was proud of my self and in the traditional European way payed for all my friends dinner (since it was so cheap ha ha)! Here are some pictures from the dinner!

The restaurant 


Great birthday dinner with amazing friends! Natasha, Anna, Leior, Elena & Me!

Elena & I 
Then after dinner we walked a little bit down the street to an club that has a comedy show on Tuesday nights. So we had some drinks and enjoyed the show. Even though I couldn't understand what he was saying it was a great show! So overall, I had an amazing birthday with my new friends from Spain!

The comedian

The group!!!
June 22, 2011

Today, after class, we took a flied trip to the town of Orihuela and to the Alicante castle! In Orihuela you could either go visit a palace or the home of the poet Miguel Hernandez, so I chose the palace. The palace ended up being fabulous! It was so gorgeous and had been around for so long! Our tour director only spoke Spanish and not only did she speak Spanish, but quick Spanish. Therefore, one of the assistants for our program, Deborah, tried to translate for me the entire time but even she had trouble keeping up with the woman. But from what I understood the building had served as a church, university, library and now a palace for events. Throughout the tour, even though we couldn't understand the tour guide, we ended up getting some great pictures. Overall, the most impressive part of the palace was the cathedral, but we were not allowed to take pictures in there. The cathedral was so detailed and simply gorgeous. Deborah and I kept discussing that it is so impressive how so long ago with only their hands and a few tools, workers were able to make something so elaborate and beautiful. It made me realize that in today's society we are simply interested in making the largest/ tallest buildings and not appreciating the small, delicate details that truly make a building unique and gorgeous.

Gorgeous mountains in front of the palace

The courtyard in the palace

The ceiling

The entrance
After the palace, we got back on the bus and drove into Alicante to see the castle! It was a gorgeous ride up to the castle, but somewhat stressful. Our bus had to keep backing up and driving forward to make it up the narrow turns of the hill. Once the bus got up to the entrance, we all rushed off the bus to take in the amazing views. The walk up to the castle is very steep, but filled with amazing architecture along the way which were perfect for some great pictures. However, once we finally made it to the top I was speechless. The view is the prettiest I have ever seen. It even beats the eiffel tower for me, because we got to see the city, mountains and the beach! It was incredible!

The castle

After the trip to Orihuela and the castle we were exhausted, so we ventured back to the villa and had dinner and went to sleep to get ready for another amazing day!