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3 posts from January 2011

01/28/2011

I’m not lost, I just took the long way

Abby Eras Name: Abby
CIEE Barcelona Program: Architecture & Design
Semester: Spring 2011
Home School: Arizona State University

I have been in Barcelona 3 weeks and I am happily living in the city with a really great family. My host mother Elena and host father Jose Luis are always cooking delicious tortilla, helping me practice my Spanish and overall making sure I enjoy my time in the city. There is always something happening at our house probably because Jose Luis and Elena have four children Carlota 19, Bertha 11, Gonzalo 8, and Luis 5 who always keep things interesting. Whether it’s Luis jumping on the couch and acting out a particularly intense dinosaur battle, or Carlota’s friends asking me who I think is more attractive from the Twilight books, Jacob or Edward (Jacob Guapisimo!), I am never bored! 

My Host Brothers

My host family lives north of the city near Universitat Internacional de Catalyuna where The Tres Torres Stop I am taking I am taking an architecture class. Living up north outside of the city center I am exposed to an area filled with a lot of families and a close-knit community feeling that one doesn’t encounter in the heart of Barcelona. I really enjoy going to get coffee at places filled with locals and being the only American in my building.

However, my house is a little bit far from the CIEE Study Center where I take my other classes. So definitely one of the biggest adjustments I’ve had to make in Barcelona is learning how to navigate the Metro and the Ferrocarrils. Ferrocarrils are trains like the metro but they travel further north of the city center. Anyways, I’d like to add I go to school in Phoenix where the light rail has only one line so for me to take the metro to school has been quite an adjustment.

On the first day of class I was so proud of myself for finding the Tres Torres Ferrocarril stop near my house thanks to a map Elena drew me. I had my ticket and was so focused on getting on the train that I didn’t hear the announcement that the next train was an express train and would not be stopping at this station. Had I heard this announcement I might not have wildly chased down the Ferrocarril trying to get on. It makes so much more sense now, I kept wondering why everyone else in the station was not upset they didn’t make the train and were instead choosing to stare at me. Oh well.

Intimidating Metro System

Although, now I think I’ve got the hang of the metro so, bring on the busses!

01/24/2011

families come in all shapes and sizes

Amy Name: Amy
CIEE Barcelona Program: Architecture & Design
Semester: Spring 2011
Home School: Whitman College

Before arriving in Barcelona, I was more than a little apprehensive about meeting my host family. Friends who spent the fall semester abroad with other programs told horror stories about cramped conditions and cranky grandmothers. To make matters worse, I wasn't entirely sure if I would be living with a family or in a residencia. I shouldn't have worried. As usual, the folks at La Casa worked a little magic and I can happily say that my homestay is quickly becoming a highlight of my semester in Barcelona.

I met my family the second day I was in the city. The CIEE staff gathered us together and distributed info sheets that included a single name and an address. At first I thought everybody would be living with a single host, but it turns out our families come in all shapes and sizes. While I live with an older woman, another friend lives in a swanky apartment owned by a family with young children. A second buddy lives in Gracia with a groovy bachelor type who runs a food Amy2co-op.

  I met my hostess, Margarita, moments after receiving her name and address. We swapped besos and hopped in her son-in-law's van to schlep my luggage back to her beautiful apartment on Via Agusta. On the way there, I found out that my hostess is a painter who lives with a chihuahua named Frida. Over the next few days, I learned that Margrita has six adult children, ten grandchildren and strong opinions about everything from art to healthcare. Each night over dinner, which is always delicious, I tell Margarita about my day which usually leads to a lively discussion of a related topic, drawing of maps, and spelling of words, both English and Spanish. So far we've covered public education, immigration, fashion, and most recently her globetrotting days as a young woman.

Amy3 Margarita is a great resource for all things Barcelona. She recommends adventures Amy4 in the city and the surrounding area that I could never find in a guide book. A few days after arriving in Barcelona, she invited me to celebrate dia de los reyes with her family. We ate a special cake, tortell de los reyes in honor of the three magi who hustled over from the Orient for the birth of Jesus. If you find the hidden figure of the king in your slice of tortell, you wear the king's crown for the day and enjoy good luck all year. If you find the bean, like Margarita, you pay for the tortell. I didn't find the figure of the king, but I still consider myself pretty lucky. I look forward to a wonderful semester filled with good food and conversation.

Amy5 Margarita with her grandaughter Berta on Dia de Los Reyes.

*For more updates on Amy's study abroad experience, check out her blog!

01/19/2011

On Top of the World

Aubrey blogName: Audrey
CIEE Barcelona Program: Language & Culture
Semester: Spring 2011
Home School: Vanderbilt University

I was literally on top of the world today! 

Me and three people in my group decided to go to Montserrat, a day/ half-day trip from Barcelona. It’s a seriously bizarre looking mountain. It has the Benedictine monastery which was constructed to commemorate a vision of the Virgin Mary on the mountain. It houses La Moreneta (Black Virgin Mary/Madonna) and people come from allll over to get a chance to look at it. 

In order to get to Montserrat you can take an hour train ride out of Barcelona and then you get the choice between a train that slowly takes you up or cable cars. The choice was easy we did the cable cars and gaahh it was kinda scary since they put up to 35 people in it and you just slowly slide all the way up the mountain. I caught the light right and got this picture of the cable cars while we were riding it:

There are a bunch of hiking trails you can take once you are there, but we decided to take the one that goes all the way to the top to Saint Jeromi! It was supposed to take 2 hours, for the record it took us 1hr 30mins, what can I say we rocked it. 

Literally from the start it was legitimate stair master. Even though it was kind of chilly at first with all the effort and the bright sun that was on us we were sweating and stripping down pretty quick. The first half of it was just steps but then it evened out for some parts to a path that went up and down through a forest that since it was shaded was a lot cooler. We still were climbing around rocks but it was a lot more pleasant than those brutal rocks. The worst part was getting to the last leg of it, since the steps came back and these were small and STEEP. Every time you would get to the top of a set, thinking you had finally made it to the top there would be a turn and MORE steps. BUT FINALLY we made it to the top! 1,236 m high up in altitude and I cant even begin to describe to you the views. UNBELIEVABLY BREATHTAKING. 

Montserrat6

We stopped to have a picnic of bocadillos (sandwiches), fruit, chips, and cookies! Trust me we came prepared, and after all that hiking we were STARVED. We headed back down after taking some more pictures and just standing looking out literally in awe of how beautiful the mountain and the views were. Montserrat5

When we got back we decided to head to the monastery which was also incredible. It was so ornamental inside, but also darker than most churches I’ve been inside of. We got in line to see the Black Virgin Mary and it was so strange to see a black Madonna, holding a black baby jesus especially up close, it is not something you see every day. As you walk out the other side you walk through this area that has places where you can buy candles and then alllll these holders under names of different saints, I guess depending on what you are asking for, so you can leave a candle. It was really cool since the candles were pretty colorful. It was also just super amazing to have been up there.

 We were thoroughly exhausted and the hour train ride back to barcelona was brutal since all we wanted to do was nap but there just weren’t enough seats! But after an hour, and transferring metro lines, we all made it home.

Montserrat2 I have to say the thing that I liked the most about getting to the top of Monserrat was just that it was us that wanted to be there, we weren’t in a big group, there was no complaining… well a little, but seriously those steps were HARD… and it was just so incredibly beautiful that you couldn’t help but keep going. I want to do more things that this even when I’m back in New York. It’s easy to forget about all the different things you have around you, even something like the Kensico dam, and the reservoir it makes is super beautiful. But especially since I’ll be back in the summer I want to look for some nice hiking trails and spend a day on the weekend going up and around. It’s really honestly amazing what the Earth looks like. 

Tomorrow I start classes, well just two weeks of intensive spanish classes… I guess this vacation couldn’t just last forever...

*For more of Audrey's Adventures, visit her blog!