A Good Picture

February 6, 2008



A Spanish Doctor

January 17, 2008

This weekend I went to Santa Amalia for the second time. It’s a small, industrial town with not much to see except for Manuel’s mother. I wasn’t feeling well at the bus station before we left, but nothing horrible. I’d had a cough for a few days, so I figured this was just the cough going away. On the bus I had chills and a fever, so when we got to the bus station in Don Benito Manuel gave me an ibuprofen. His mother and step-father picked us up a few minutes later and instantly started worrying about me.

We got back to their house and ate lunch. Manuel’s mom took my temperature, which was 38C (about 100F) which, apparently, is an unacceptable temperature an hour after taking ibuprofen. Manuel, his mother, and I went down to the health center. We pulled up to the “Urgencias” door and walked right in. There was one woman behind a desk, reading a romance novel. Manuel’s mom started talking about the poor, sick American girl, far from her family, who needs instant medical care. The nurse seemed unimpressed. I signed my name in her little book and a doctor instantly appeared. For some reason, he looked remarkably like my uncle Chris. Manuel’s mom was answering all his unasked questions before we even made it to the exam room. When we got there, he asked me if I have a cough. I said no, but Manuel said yes, and I guess that trumped my answer. He listened to me breath, gave us a prescription, and that was it- probably five minutes total. We picked up the prescription (3 minutes total) and went back. I took the medicine, and then napped on the couch for a while.  When I woke up and took my temperature, it was the same.

After dinner I started coughing, which scared Manuel’s mom so much that she took me right back to the emergency room. The same doctor was there. We didn’t even go in the exam room, she just told him the new symptom and he gave her a new prescription. That night passed uneventfully, unless you count constant chills, sweating, and vomiting as an event.

The next morning I had a temperature of 39C, so I was forced to stay in bed all morning. Manuel’s mom brought me a lot of warm milk with honey (which is actually quite good- I see why the Israelites were in such a hurry) and Manuel did Sudoku puzzles with me. After lunch (chicken soup!) I was permitted to walk around the town a little bit (not as exciting as it sounds, but fresh air was involved, so I was satisfied).

The next morning I woke up with a temperature over 40C (over 104F), so getting out of bed was out of the question. Again, Manuel and his mom took good care of me and kept me entertained, but I would have preferred mobility. A doctor came to the house and looked down my throat, but that didn’t make my temperature go down. I wanted to leave for Cáceres that night, but apparently people with temperatures are not allowed to travel.

Monday morning I decided to fake being well, so that I could go back, but Manuel’s mom took my temperature and ruined my charade. We went back to the health center so I could get a certificate of illness, to show my professors. We walked in and Manuel’s mom walked right into an exam room, demanded a certificate, and then we left. When she was cooking lunch I hid the thermometer, so she couldn’t take my temperature. I told her I was feeling very well, so she let us go. Just before leaving I put the thermometer back on the table. I’m so sneaky.

Despite the weekend being miserable, I was very well taken care of in Santa Amalia. Thank you very much to Manuel’s mom, for taking care of me as if I were her own daughter. Also, special thanks to Manuel for also taking good care of me, such as holding my sweaty, shaking body while I vomited all over the floor (and cleaning it up afterwards). I’m all better now. Manuel has started coughing…

Noche Buena

December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas Eve!!!!   No stones yet, but the night is still young…

Happy Birthday Nick

December 17, 2007

It’s Nick’s birthday.  He is 21.  He’s been 21 for an hour and already he is drunk.  ‘Little Cinnamon Bottom’ is finally a man.



December 15, 2007

Last weekend I went to a pueblo in Malaga called Frigiliana. It’s in the mountains, but you can still see the Mediterranien Sea and Africa from the balconies. My friend and I stayed with his dad and step-mom, who live there. His sister was also visiting that weekend. When she first greeted me in English I thought she was British. She’s a translator and English teacher in Madrid, but she lived in London so long that she no longer has any trace of a Spanish accent.

The pueblo is very beautiful. All the buildings are white with layers and layers of terraces.


This is the view from one terrace.


This is looking the other direction.  See the ocean?

I’m getting very excited to see my mothers!!!   I’m all packed and everything.  Friday morning I catch the bus to Madrid at 6am, and from there I go to Nice.   I’m still finishing up my Christmas shopping, and I’m still pretending I’ll be able to finish up my essay… we’ll see how it goes.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Sevilla and Salamanca

December 4, 2007

The last two weekends we’ve had excursions with our program. The first one was to Sevilla. We saw all the important stuff, and I’d prove it, but my blog isn’t too picture- friendly right now. It’s a nice city, but I wouldn’t want to live there. It has the big- city disadvantages (such as crime, traffic, pollution, and high prices) without having nearly as much culture or big- city attractions as Madrid. My favorite city is still Cordoba.

This last weekend we went to Salamanca. Salamanca is home to a ridiculously old university, so there are thousand of foreigners there studying abroad. We only had two days there, so we hardly saw anything. The program had two long tours organized for us, and they both went to the exact same places. It’s not that the places were uninteresting or anything, but in a city as important and unique as Salamanca I would have preferred either a tour of something different or more free time to explore on my own.

The workload is FINALLY starting to get heavy. I have a massive essay to write on La Casa de Bernarda Alba and another on Islam in Spain before Christmas break, and I also have to translate many pages of text from Arabic to Spanish, complete many many hours’ worth of grammar homework, slaughter myself with history homework, and start another Literature essay (and before anyone asks me again, yes, all of my classes are taught completely in Spanish, and all of my homework and essays are in Spanish, except for my Arabic class [which is in Arabic]).

I got my first mail in Spain!!! Prinny sent me a wonderful package full of wonderful things. Many thanks to Prinny.

This next weekend is a “puente, so I’ll be traveling again. My poor Bernarda Alba essay will just have to wait…

Too tired to write

November 19, 2007


The Medieval Market last weekend, or at least a small part of it. Very cool, lots of fun.


My friends playing at the Irish Fleadh. They were the only group at the festival not from Ireland.


The monestary at Cuacos de Yuste, where my friend and I went this weekend. It’s gorgeous, and it’s also where Emperor Carlos V lived and died.

I did a lot more stuff that I should write about. I was in an anti- fascist protest, my best friend here had his birthday, I finally got permission to play a piano at the university, etc. etc., but if you’re really interested in any of that you’re going to have to ask me.

Dead Phone, Live Music

November 8, 2007

I hate Vodafone.
Ok, that’s not fair, what happened was actually my fault. While in Cordoba, my cell phone was accidentally dropped in water, making it permanently unusable. The set- up we all have here concerning our phones is a prepaid card system, in which our phone number and personal information, such as contact lists, is all kept on a SIM card which is put into the phone. We give money to Vodafone, which they put on our cards, giving us the ability to call people and send messages. Before leaving for Cordoba I put 20 euro on my card, bringing my total to 35 euro. When we got back I immediately ran to the Vodafone store, because without my phone I have no way to communicate with anyone in Spain. They were closed. Finally, on Monday, I was able to go in. The woman working in the store confirmed that my phone was impossible to repair, and that I would have to buy a new one. She pulled out my SIM card, which was still usable. While she was extracting it from my old phone she scratched it. Not so usable anymore. She told me I had two options: 1) I could pay 30 euro (the price of a new phone) to make a duplicate of my old SIM card, which would not carry over the 35 euro I already had on my card (that 35 euro was lost forever at that point) and would also no carry over my contact lists, just my old phone number. The card would have no money on it and would not be usable for a week. 2) I could use the SIM card that came with the new phone, which had 7 euro on it, and get a new number. I went with option 2. However, this meant that I had no contact information, nor did any of my friends have my new number. Fortunately, Nick’s host family got wireless this weekend, so he emailed me a list of numbers. I then spent 2.5 of my 7 euro letting people know about my new number. The store had run out of the style of phone I had before, which I liked a lot. The only other cheap phone they had is the same as Nick’s. I don’t like it, but I can’t complain. I have a phone again.
This weekend should be awesome. There are two major festivals happening in Cáceres this weekend, and people from all over the world are here to attend. First of all, this weekend is the Medieval Market. It’s very similar to Renaissance Festival, only it actually occurs in a genuine Medieval city. There are vendors everywhere selling swords and jewelry and other Medieval things, and people walking all over the old part of the city in costume. Also, this weekend is the Fleadh. The Fleadh is an Irish music festival- the biggest one in Spain. All of the world’s most renowned Irish musicians are here, and all of the hard- core Irish music fanatics also come. I have never heard so much English spoken in Spain. There are lessons in playing, singing, and dancing, talks on Irish music, and concerts. Some of my musician friends from the Tavern are playing (they’re the only all- Spanish group who made the cut) and two of my friends are teaching lessons. The majority of the lessons are taught by Irish musicians, so I’m interested to see how well these Irish musicians can teach in Spanish. I’m planning to take a lot of pictures, so hopefully my next post will be more colorful.


November 3, 2007

Although their celebrations of Halloween leave something to be desired, the Spanish never fail to give you a day off of school for an obscure Catholic holiday that is no longer celebrated.   This last Thursday was Dia de Todos Los Santos, or All Saint’s Day.  For this reason it is expected that all good Spanish students return to their hometowns to contemplate the mysteries of life and death.  Where do we foreigners go?   CORDOBA!!!!


Six K students went to Granada, and six to Gallecia.  Nick and I, realizing that it would be completely unacceptable to stay in Caceres, made last- minute plans to go to Cordoba.  Incredible city, very good decision.

After a bit of a hostal mishap (the mishap being that Nick forgot to call the hostal…) we went out on the town to experience the amazing nightlife for which Cordoba is known.  We got lost.  Still, we found a small bar with really friendly people and had an awesome time.  The next day we went to the Mezquita, which is the most impressive building I have ever seen in my life.


Seriously, this building is more beautiful that Notre Dame, the Alhambra, and the Vatican all rolled together.   It’s also ridiculously difficult to do justice with a camera, especially since it’s dimly lit and forbids flash photography.  It will also make you very angry with the Catholic church.


So the Muslims go ahead and build this beautiful mosque, and then the post- inquisition Catholics turn it into a cathedral.  Now, they hold mass there every Sunday morning.  The Muslims of Cordoba asked permission to have religious services there on Saturdays in the south corner, which is very spacious and hardly used.  The church said no.

Anyways, Nick and I had an amazing time in Cordoba.  Very beautiful city, I would post more pictures but I forgot to charge my camera before we left.  It’s charged now… so if you want me to take a picture of my room or something… let me know.


October 25, 2007

Before coming here we were told not to insult the Catholic Church or bull fighting. Since I’ve been here I’ve heard an endless canon of dirty priest jokes, and most Spaniards think that bull fighting is outdated and barbaric. However, there is one thing you can not insult in Spain: ham. I know that sounds like a joke, but I have never seen people get so serious about food before. If you tell a Spanish person you don’t care for ham, you have lost any respect they might have had for you. Not only will they regard you as an ignorant foreigner, they’ll actually argue with you about whether or not you like ham. “Oh, but you must have only had jamon Serrano. You’ll like jamon iberica, trust me.”
We had to write papers for a history class about our first impressions of Spain. The day we turned them in we went around the room and briefly told what we had written. I mentioned that people in Spain are really into ham. This caused the professor to give us a forty- minute lecture on the importance of ham, the best kinds of pigs, the various kinds of ham, what hams are better for different occasions, etc. This is not a joke: we spent a whole class learning about ham. I have never seen this professor so animated before. When Spaniards start to talk about ham, their faces light up, they get a far away look in their eyes, and their bodies shake.
The highest praise you can give someone in Spain: eres la pata negra (literally: you are the black duck- a very highly regarded ham)
The most offensive thing you can say in Spain: me cago en el jamon (literally: I sh*t in the ham [normally this phrase is used with “God”, “Jesus”, “The Virgin”, or “your mother” in place of “the ham”])