Thanksgiving

I have to admit it was really strange celebrating Thanksgiving away from home (actually I didn’t even realize it was Thanksgiving until about 2:30pm). Not only was I away from my family but I was also in class just like another day here in Barcelona. Since I couldn’t be home I can’t think of a better group of people I would have liked to spend this day with. My AIFS group truly has become a family. Not only did we go out to dinner on Thanksgiving with our program but we also cooked a traditional turkey dinner on Sunday. We spent the whole day together cooking, playing card games and just enjoying each others company just as any family would. It was probably one of my favorite days that I’ve spent so far with everyone! It made me realize how lucky I am to have done everything I’ve been able to do this semester and how lucky I am to have met all these AMAZING people from all over the country that I can not only call my friends but I consider my Spanish family.

My end of the table enjoying our turkey dinner out at the restaurant and all of the girls with Inma (our director) at dinner

Budapest

If sometime told me five months ago that I would be in Budapest November 16th I would have laughed…never in a million years did I imagine that I would go to Hungary, but I did and LOVED it. Well the city that is-not the people so much. I met up with Chris (friend studying abroad in Dublin) and Emily (his friend from Dublin as well). It was perfect timing seeing him because after a week of being sick all I wanted to do was be home so having a little familiarity this weekend definitely made everything better!

I went to Budapest without any expectations because I wasn’t really sure what to expect I guess. We did a hop on hop off tour and saw all of the main attractions Budapest has to offer: Hero’s Square, Szechenyi Bath (went at night and was definitely one of the coolest things I’ve ever done!!), New York Cafe (“most beautiful cafe in the world”), Gellert Hill (highest point in Budapest), Chain Bridge, Buda Castle, Fisherman’s Bastion, and Parliament. We also went ice skating near Hero’s  Square which was really cool and on a night cruise down the Dunube River–which separates Budapest into the two individual cities of Buda (western hilly side) and Pest (eastern flat side).

Overall it was a great trip! Ohhh Budapest also uses a different currency called Hungarian Forints (HUF) which are pretty interesting. About 220 HUF’s are 1 USD–so things got quite confusing. Who ever thought I’d be able to take 30,000 out of the bank and spend 19,000 on dinner!

Hanging out and shooting archery at Buda Castle

General Strike

 

The Spanish took to the streets yet again in another strike last Wednesday, November 14th, in  protest over austerity and the government. Until not strikes have been simply that the metro and transportation systems didn’t run for the day but this strike is different. This was a national strike where people roamed the streets with anger—and lots of it!

http://video.search.yahoo.com/video/play;_ylt=A2KLqIAKwatQYSYAQ037w8QF;_ylu=X3oDMTBrc3VyamVwBHNlYwNzcgRzbGsDdmlkBHZ0aWQD?p=spain+general+strike&vid=a03405083ec86935daadba8370d2421c&l=&turl=http%3A%2F%2Fts4.mm.bing.net%2Fth%3Fid%3DV.5037572216193199%26pid%3D15.1&rurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.cbsnews.com%2Fvideo%2Fwatch%2F%3Fid%3D50135159n&tit=Spain%26%2339%3Bs+workers+and+unemployed+organize+general+strike&c=0&sigr=11gn8k4kg&&tt=b

Classes weren’t formally cancelled since teachers at UAB were not striking but we were advised to not come in order to avoid any chaos. The walk to school the next day was shocking–shops, banks, and many other businesses store front windows were smashed or destroyed by spray paint and many ATM’s were completely spray painted so they were inaccessible to customers.

I must admit that I am impressed with hoe quicklly the city cleaned up the messes. By Friday it was as though nothing had happened. All ATM”s and stores I saw were back to normal.

Mountain retreat

I have to admit up until last weekend I never thought I would enjoy a vacation up in the mountains–but did the Pyrenees prove me wrong. Everything about this weekend was amazing from the small quaint village we stayed in, Vall De la Boi, where we were just about the only ones in town because all locals were on vacation before ski season starts in 2 weeks to the gorgeous lakes and views the mountains had to offer during our hike. We even had to call the owner of the supermarket (more like convenience store to us) to ask her to open up for us so we could buy sandwiches to eat during our hike!! That’s how empty this place was. The joke of the weekend was that we were in The Hills Have Eyes or House of Wax movies. But, overall it was such a relaxing weekend which I think was perfect for everyone and it was definitely a once in a lifetime experience!

Unlike other programs AIFS only has 27 students in the program this semester compared to 227 like API or some of the other ones. Which a group so small we’ve really started to become close and dependent on each other. I’ve loved getting to know everyone in my program, and because we’ve done so I think this trip was so much more fun. Were not clicky were just like one big happy family 🙂

My favorite part of the weekend I’d have to say was either spending more time with the group just relaxing and having a blast in such a gorgeous place! …Or being able to watch TV and sleep in a comfy bed at the hotel haha

The whole crew!! –minus Michael, Mike, Kyle, and Dylan who didn’t come 😦

Port Aventura

The other day a group of us, (Kate, Tory, Mike S, Lilla, Kirsten, and I) went to Port Aventura- an amusement park just south of Barcelona in Tarragona.  I must say we all completely felt like little kids again, and had a blast! Teacher’s told us that compared to amusement park’s in America this place is nothing special and that we wouldn’t be impressed…but boy were they wrong! This was by far on of the best amusement parks any of of us have ever been to. It reminded me of Universal Studios in Orlando. Port Aventura is made up of five different “worlds” China, Far West (which is like America- had Grand Canyon themes), Mexico, Polynesian, and Mediterranean.

The only thing I HATED about this place was that absolutely EVERYONE smokes. We were in tight lines that weaved up and down (you know how they are at amusement parks) and the only thing we could breath was air full of smoke. Someone on every side of us was constantly lighting a cigarette, we even saw a girl who looked about 16 smoking in line with her parents!!! Are you kidding me?? After waiting in line for an hour and a half it gets old and disgusting pretty fast. That was our only complaint of the day (but then again that is Europe for you–people here smoke whenever and where ever all the time). Besides that it was such an awesome day! The trains make it so simple and we were back in time to go out that night!

Parc guell

After being here for two months I FINALLY made it to Parc Güell, the famous architectural park located on top of the hill “El Carmel” designed by Antoni Gaudi. At the top of Güell park is a terraced area where you get a wonderful view of the park and entire city of Barcelona. Here you will find multicolored tiled mosaic seats (like in the picture of Allison and I below). The vibrant colors of the tiles combined with the backdrop of the city are truly breathtaking. Lot’s of times people joking call this the “Doctor Seuss Park” It truly does look like a scene from one of his books.

Güell also has one house on its grounds which just so happened to have housed Gaudi and his father from 1906 to the time of his death in 1926. This house has now been turned into a museum.

DIA DE TODOS LOS SANTOS

Contrary to popular believe, to celebrate Halloween is not a tradition here in Spain or Europe for that matter. In the past few years there are many clubs that will organize Halloween themed parties but this is not a holiday celebrated in the streets, kids do no go trick or treating. We did attend a Halloween themed party last night and will again tonight but again it’s mostly Americans who attend these events. My friend Gwen who lives in Dubai had never dressed up for Halloween before last night when she came out with us. If locals do dress up their costumes are VERY different from how we dress in the US. They are very into the scary aspect of Halloween here- fake blood, intense makeup, wigs etc. Almost 100% opposite from the states.

All Saint’s Day (Today- November, 1st ) is however a holiday here in Spain and throughout Europe.  It’s a national holiday in many Catholic countries, so in honor of the holiday here in Spain we did not have school and many businesses were closed or operated on a Sunday schedule. It’s a day to commemorate all those who have passed away– and the Spanish custom is to go to the cemeteries and bring flowers to your lost love ones.