A Travellerspoint blog

Goodbye Salamanca, for now....

Adiós Salamanca, por ahora....

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I have a lot of mixed feelings about leaving Salamanca and Spain in general. For the last month, Salamanca has felt like a second home. I've gone on many mini-trips since I've been in Spain and it always feels like "coming home" when I arrive back to Salamanca. I love the Spanish culture in so many ways (except the eating dinner at 10 p.m. thing :-) The people are so open, friendly and loving. At first I was a little weirded-out by the double cheek kiss greeting and goodbye. Coming from the American culture of verbal hellos and handshakes, I'm used to much more distance. On the other hand, Americans do hug a lot more! I think the Spaniards get weirded-out a little by a goodbye hug. I tend to find a kiss on the cheek more personal than a quick hug, but the Spaniards disagree. It is so interesting learning about other cultures! I truly adore the people that I have met here. I spent 10 weeks with my classmates and professors learning a TON of Spanish. It was sad to say goodbye today.
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Grammar class with our profesora, Milagros. What a precious human being she is and an excellent teacher. My friend Sarah and I commented several times that whomever marries her son and becomes her daughter-in-law will be one lucky woman. She would be a great mother-in-law. So sweet! Grammar was a 2 hour class and we covered SO much material it literally made my head spin. Spanish grammar is ridiculously difficult in my opinion, however I may just be a slow learner when it comes to languages. :-) There are a million rules and exceptions to the rules that you have to memorize and keep straight. Sarah and I are highly motivated students in that we both were driven to learn Spanish to better ourselves in our jobs and in general. Wow, even being completely motivated and working hard, we truly weren't sure we'd pass. I got my results today and thank goodness I passed. Phew, that could have been embarrassing!
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Alix & Holly (lft) Kaori & Yuki (ctr) Me & Alex (rt)

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For the last grammar class today, we went to a cafe for the second hour.

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This is my oral language practice class with our profesora, Sonia (white sweater in front). I loved this class! The goal of the class was to practice speaking, speaking, speaking.. We played games, had debates, had interesting discussions, did presentation dialogues and laughed a ton! Sonia was super funny and kept the class lively. I think I will miss this class the most. As you can tell from the picture, I was one of 4 people in the class who wasn't either Chinese or Japanese. Along with improving my Spanish oral language, I learned a lot about China and Japan in this class. Super fun and interesting!

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This is Mercedes, my amiga española. I met her through a conversation exchange website. Here they call them intercambios. There are many Salamantinos who want to improve their English skills and there are many foreigners here that want to improve their Spanish skills. You get together and spend time speaking in both languages. It's free and a great way to connect with people in the culture where you are living. Mercedes was great! I got a ton of Spanish practice, mostly because she was afraid to speak English. She understands a lot of English, but is timid about speaking. I tried hard to get her to try speaking some English and she finally started to attempt a little this past week. Unfortunately I'm leaving now, but there's always skype! She took me around to several different tapa bars and we watched a fútbol game together at a bar. Wow, are Spaniards crazy about their football (soccer)! The Eurocopa is going on right now and the whole city goes crazy for the games. All the restaurants and bars have big screen tvs playing, even outside in the plaza mayor. It's a bigger craze than football in the US!
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In Plaza Mayor after a Spain win (Mercedes in the middle)
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Watching the game in the Plaza

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Sarah and I

I connected with Sarah early on in the semester. We happened to be in the same grammar class. She is one of the only other people remotely close to my age AND she is from the US. We traveled to Morocco together and met up in Barcelona for a bit. It was nice to have a fellow American to talk to when we were feeling a little homesick.

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2nd to last night dinner at a Chinese buffet. I also connected with Alex (his Spanish name). He is from China and will be living here in Salamanca with his girlfriend for the next 4 years. They are both going to attend the University. He is taking classes now to increase his Spanish level high to enter the university. He is such a sweet soul! I enjoyed chatting with him in Spanish everyday. Spanish was our common language, because his English isn't too hot. This Chinese buffet was amazing too! I wish I had known it was there a long time ago. It figures I find out about it my 2nd to last night in Salamanca. :-(

Tomorrow I leave Salamanca for Madrid. Then Sunday I'm off to France (Aix en Provence & Nice) to meet up with some friends for a few days. After that it's back to the US of A. I'm so sad to be leaving, but I'm looking forward to many things back home. Transitions are tough! I hope I can come back to Spain soon. My Spanish needs more time!

Posted by Kristinh 10:51 Comments (4)

A Spanish Love Affair

Una historia de Amor español

Did I get your attention with my title? For all of you who told me you were sure I'd meet a handsome Spaniard and fall in love, well.... that hasn't happened yet unfortunately, but I did have a one day love affair with BARCELONA!! I have limited weekends left in Spain so I decided to book a quick trip to Barcelona. I really only had one full day there which was not enough! I truly loved what I saw of this beautiful city. I took a bike tour so I could see the highlights in a speedy manner. A British guy named Steve was our guide. He was full of great information!
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Steve

First stop, La Sagrada Familia (What Gaudi was working on at the time of his death in 1926)
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This was the "Gothic" side of the church & my favorite side. I found it very intriguing. It has sort of a melting castle appearance. To the left you can see a newer part of the building.

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This was the curvilinear side.

I found this building quite interesting. Steve said that it is predicted to be completed by 2026, 100 years from Gaudi's death. From the beginning it was meant to be multidimensional including different styles of architecture and different eras of time. Steve thinks it will collapse before completion because the foundation may not be strong enough to hold when a high speed train line between Perpignon and Barcelona is completed and starts running right beneath it. Hmm, I would assume the engineers are anticipating this and reinforcing the foundation. Just in case, good thing I saw it now!

We also visited The Cascada, an arch and water fountain built in 1888 for the Universal Exhibition. It was loosely based on the Trevi fountain in Rome and Gaudi assisted. He was a student at the time.
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Of course we also visited the beach. A beach is a beach is a beach though.
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The bike tour was a great choice for having such a short time.
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For the rest of the afternoon and evening I walked around some of the different neighborhoods. There were a ton of great food options for dinner which was a welcome break from Salamanca!
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I love you Barcelona! :-)

Posted by Kristinh 08:06 Comments (1)

Tapas, Tortillas and Tuna....Oh My!!

Dedication to Spanish Comida (food)

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I have been bad mouthing Spanish food since I arrived, but the truth is I have found quite a few things that I enjoy eating here. I have my regular cafes that I frequent throughout the week and I've been trying many different tapas, tortillas and even the tuna. I heard a lot about the tuna from Venisha before I came. She hated the food in Spain so I had some preconceived notions before I arrived. Having been here for over 2 months, I have adapted and am glad to say that I am enjoying some of the food. :-))

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Well, I really didn't have a good understanding of tapas before I came to Spain. To be honest, I didn't know much about Spain at all before I arrived here other than the fact that they speak Spanish. Pathetic I know! I have learned so much about this country and there are so many things that I'm going to miss when I leave, one of which is tapas. Tapas are essentially snacks or small dishes. There are many different varieties ranging from a small plate of olives to a small piece of toast with cheese and veggies or anchovies or walnuts on it, to scrambled eggs and ham to a variety of potato salads. There are too many to list! When you order any type of drink whether it be a coke, glass of wine, beer or coffee, you get one free tapa. Below are some of my favorites.
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This one has 3 different tapas: chicken fajita roll, tostada with cheese and walnuts and hornizo (pastry filled with dates)

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I have made a meal of these 2 tapas on a regular basis. Risotto and chicken with vegetables. Yummy and filling for 3 Euro!

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This has potatoes, veggies and tuna. Yes, tuna! I like it a lot.

While I have made meals of tapas on many occasions, it is customary to share them with your amigos!
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TORTILLAS
Spanish tortillas are not like the Hispanic tortillas you may be picturing (as I had when I first arrived). They are essentially egg souffles or quiche without the crust. They consist of eggs and potatoes and can have a variety of other things like vegetables, meat or "normal" which is simply egg and potato. I found another one called tortilla bolognesa. I have eaten this one at least once a week. It's delicious!
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Veggie Tortilla (left) Tortilla Bolognesa (right)

I will say that I don't care for many of the tortillas. The Spaniards sure like their mayonnaise! Many tortillas are literally 'frosted' with mayo. It almost looks like a cake. The first time I ordered one I thought it was sour cream. I was wrong. Blach!

DULCE!!
Any of you who know me well, know that I love me some candy! As usual, I had no problem finding sweets. I learned that Chupa Chups were invented in Spain. You can get them everywhere and I of course love them! Just the other day, I discovered spaghetti fresa (strawberry spaghetti). Can you say yum? When will I ever grow up? When it comes to candy, probably never :-)
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And finally....EL SUPERMERCADO
When all else fails and I can't eat another tapa or tortilla, I head to my local grocery store and stock up on some tried and true ie.. cereal, apples, bananas, pasta, bread and soup. Gracias El árbol y Carrefour!
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Posted by Kristinh 08:56 Comments (1)

Portugal

Lisbon & more

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Another trip! Yes, I got to go on yet another adventure while living in Spain. My goal is to not look back and regret not going somewhere when I had the chance. I decided last minute to sign up for Portugal, organized by the University where I'm taking Spanish classes. The University organizes 2 excursions a month, usually just day trips to small cities near Salamanca. The Portugal trip was a 2 night excursion because it was about a 6 hour drive to Lisbon. Myself and 27 other students went. We drove to Lisboa (Spanish for Lisbon) and walked around to various sights in the city with our guide, Fernando. He is a professor in our language program.
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On the left, Fernando. On the right, historic sites near the bay.

We walked down to the "river", which is the bay that Lisbon sits on off the Atlantic Ocean. After that, we walked up to a cathedral and then to a huge castle that overlooks the entire city. It was beautiful and had incredible views.
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That's me smiling because I can't believe how lucky I am to be visiting all these amazing places! :-))

Myself and a few other people had dinner at a restaurant off the main plaza. I ordered bacalao which I also had for lunch that day. It was yummy! I had never heard of it before coming to Portugal. I have heard of cod which is what bacalao is, but it is served in so many different ways here. Both times I had it, it was shredded up cod with shredded potatoes, onions, shredded carrots and black olives. The bacalao I had for lunch was cooked in a cream sauce. The one for dinner was not. Both were super delicious. I wish they had bacalao in Spain!
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Dinner bacalao (mmmm!)

The next day, we visited a cathedral in Lisbon which I was kind of bored with, so I left the tour group for a few minutes and meandered down the street. I turned the corner and this is what I saw. Angels sang out in a joyous chorus in my brain as I caught sight of the sign. I have been missing some things from the US lately, one of which is American coffee chains!
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Notice the beautiful cathedral in the background that I blew off for Starbucks? I'm terrible! It was music to my mouth though and it made me feel home if just for a few minutes. :-)
After the cathedral, we walked down to a monument and a castle along the water where the "river" meets the Atlantic. The castle is where they had lookouts for intruders and pirates.
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Later,we drove about an hour out of Lisbon to a beach town called Cascais. It was a cute little tourist town with shops, restaurants and a beach. Unfortunately the weather didn't cooperate too much and it rained part of the time. I was o.k. with that because I'm not one to lay out on a beach. A couple other students and I had a yummy lunch at a Thai restaurant there. It was SO good! Salamanca doesn't have any Thai restaurants so I was really excited to see one here and also happy a couple other people were up for it too.
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Cascais
Another successful trip. I think I'm done with excursions outside of Spain. I only have 3 more weekends left and I may explore a couple small towns near Salamanca. My next blog will be about Spain for sure!

Posted by Kristinh 07:19 Comments (2)

Morocco

Marrakesh, Desert & Camel Ride

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Wow, what a trip to Morocco! I just returned today after a 4 day adventure in which I rode a camel, slept in a tent in the desert and wandered the frenzy of souqs (little shops) in Marrakesh. This ranks up there with one of the most crazy trips I have taken. It was crazy in the sense that this culture is SO different from my own. This was my first time in a Muslim country. I was intrigued to visit since it is so close to Spain. Myself and a fellow student in one of my Spanish classes wanted to go but did not want to travel there solo, so we planned a trip together. We arrived Wednesday evening and wandered around the maze of souqs. This place was literally a maze of shops that essentially all look the same and it took us all of 3 minutes to get completely lost amongst the shops. The Moroccans are fiercely aggressive with sales and you hear them calling to you from every which way to come into their shop and buy their stuff. I got a bit overwhelmed that first night, partly because I was tired from the day of travel and partly because it was just plain crazy! We were asked into a little "pharmacie" (spices, special remedies, herbs, lotions etc) souq by a young Moroccan guy. He made us tea, played drums (the top of a jar of his spices), sang a song and gave us hand massages with some of the lotion he was selling. Usually they expect you to buy something, but I think he was actually just being friendly. He and his Spaniard friend had just finished off a bottle of wine before we meandered by. They were tipsy to say the least. We essentially just got off the plane and then found ourselves drinking tea with a Moroccan guy and a Spaniard in a souq. Crazy!
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Kareem (buzzed Moroccan guy)

By far, my favorite part of the trip was my desert excursion. I left Friday morning and returned Saturday evening. I was with a group of other tourists from all over the world. There were 3 Dutch guys, 3 Swiss guys, 3 Canadian girls, an Italian guy, a Venezuelan and me. Turned out to be a great group of people to share this excursion with. We were driven about 5 hours out of Marrakesh into the desert. We crossed over the Atlas Mountains on the way and stopped several times for pictures.
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If you look closely at the picture on the right, you will see the snake hanging out from under his t-shirt. I was NOT going to do that!

Below are pictures of some local women working with the nuts to create the oils and peanut butter that they sell in a little shop we visited.
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We finally arrived to our desert location at about 6 p.m. We were going to ride camels for an hour and a half to our campsite in the desert. Cool! Below are some pictures of my guy for our trip out to the campsite. He was a good one; quiet and not grumpy. There were a few vocal ones who were a bit cranky. I guess I would be too if I had to carry tourists around the desert everyday. :-)
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On the right, I'm thanking him for bringing me safely to our destination. I asked our guide if anyone has ever been thrown off or fallen off. He says "no", but I guess I wouldn't scare the tourists either if I were him. I'm betting it has happened!
When we arrived to the camp, we got settled into our tents. There were 10 beds in each tent and there were about 5 sleeping tents, one dining room tent and an outhouse tent a little bit away. I shared a tent with 5 other people from my group and other groups arrived and filled up another 3 tents. Below on the left are some of my tent mates. The middle is a guide in front of the dining tent and the right is a view of the outhouse tent.
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They made us tea before dinner. Later we dined on Moroccan soup, Chicken Tajine and watermelon.
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After dinner we had a campfire and listened to our guides sing songs in Arabic and play the bongo drums. Super cool! The next morning, we arose early to have coffee, bread and jam before heading back out of the desert on our camels. They waited patiently while the guides saddled them up and then we were on our way.
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This desert trek was an incredible experience. I completely enjoyed every minute!
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Posted by Kristinh 10:27 Comments (4)

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