Sunday, January 25, 2009


Wow! So...Madrid, feels like it was a while ago, sorry bout that - I was feeling sick yesterday so I missed classes and starting my job. I am starting to feel better this evening and getting back on track.

Going to Madrid was really fun! The trip was one of our two big overnight trips for the 8 of us arch and design students with the CIEE program. Our resident director for the architecture and design program, Magda, led this trip accompanied by another CIEE staffer, Laura. Magda is extremely nice and helpful and teaches a few of the courses at CIEE. I'm sad I don't get to take any with her! After her tours I was really amazed at how knowleadgeable she is about everything!

If you go to my pictures link there is a new album for Madrid - so check that out for more about the places I'll talk about.

On Friday after we checked into the hotel we went over to the Caixa Forum of Madrid. La Caixa is the second larges bank in Spain, they have Forums all over which serve as exhibit spaces/community center type things - or at least that's what I understood from the Spanish movie! There's one here in BCN that I haven't visited yet, I think we're going there with one of my classes actually. Anyhow, the C. Forum in Madrid had an exhibit on Japanese contemporary art I think, I was really paying more attention to the building. It was done by Herzog & deMeuron so it was pretty jazzy. I really liked the big green wall by the plaza outside, I should find the name of the landscape architect that designed it...

Next was the Matadero Madrid Cultural Center - an old slaughterhouse that's been turned into another exhibition/cultural center space. We came at a great time, they had an exhibit on all diferent kinds of design, really out there architectural ideas, fashion design, graphic design, books, industrial design, furniture design, film installations, etc. All very interesting, we definitely didn't have enough time to do the exhibit justice and were all rather exhausted by then anyway. They did a nice job revamping the building, they tried to keep all of the materials used in some sort of raw state, so lots of exposed joints and unfinished surfaces while still showing the older building in a state of disrepair. Below is a funky little felt purse in one of the exhibits.

Friday evening some of us went to a tapas bar called "El Tigre" where they give you free tapas with your drinks. It was all very tasty and cheap, though pretty crowded. Kaitlin pushed through the crowd and found a nice table at the back so we were able to chill for a couple of hours. After that we tried to get to a discoteca but were rejected because of our shoe choice. A man in a very white suit had to come out to discuss with the bouncers and Richie (a guy we met at El Tigre who worked there) our shoe choice, but we decided to go back to the hotel and get some sleep instead.

Saturday morning was time to go experience chocolate con churros! They were pretty tasty, though I can't believe that is actually considered breakfast. It's way too greasy and the chocolate too much to ever really eat. Fun though!

Saturday afternoon was a guided tour of Old Madrid, walking down the streets of the old walls from the Moors and then the Christians. It was interesting hearing about all of the different people that had been there over time, crazy to think that there could be so much history in one spot! Kind of sad also that so little was left of anything medieval. I liked all of the pretty tiled street signs.

After a wonderful lunch at a Mexican place (I miss spicy food so much!) we went to the Reina Sofia Museum. It's an old hospital that was turned into a museum. We got to see Guernica by Picasso, I hadn't really heard much about the painting. Getting to see it actually in Spain and hear about all of the crazy and terrible stuff going on around it was pretty amazing, Magda did a very good job of explaining it. Also, some of the Dali stuff was really interesting to see, especially with Magda's explanation about his life and the significance of different things in the painting. This weekend we're going on a day trip to Figueras to see the Dali museum that he designed, seeing more of his stuff will be interesting! He was such a weirdo.

Sunday morning we went to the Prado Museum, got to see some cool stuff by El Greco, Velazquez, and Goya. Our guide had some interesting info about all of the royal portraits they were doing and how that relates to Spanish history, etc. so that plus the fact that these were the kinds of things you see in art history books made it pretty sweet. It's odd walking into a room and recognizing something that you remember learning about in some class and thinking it should have some significance. Then you have to listen to the guide and you figure it out and then get to be awed again, this time actually at what made the painting famous in the first place! So now that I've thoroughly exposed my lack of knowledge about art... I think Goya was my favorite, his dark stuff is so insanely full of emotion, it's really pretty disturbing.

After that, it was back to the airport and home to Barcelona! It was good to be back on familiar ground, learning a new metro system and not having the sea and mountains to orient yourself was a pain. The people were nicer and more friendly in general though. We picked a good weekend to go away. Barcelona was very windy while we were gone, thankfully we avoided the accidents that happened here. Time for bed now! Updates on classes, internship and more pending.

Last week's highlights

So I did pretty well on my list for last week, 5 of 7 were completed? Decent, I think. Flamenco was very cool! I can't believe how fast the dancer moved his feet! I didn't get any pictures, it was only a half an hour show. A guy played some Spanish guitar first, then the whole band came out and performed a number, and finally a guy danced some flamenco for us. It was overall a kind of bizarre experience, I wasn't expecting only a male dancer - he seemed like a rather odd guy in general too. It was still a very interesting experience and worth the walk.

Something that wasn't on my list: I finally made it down to the beach! Several of the girls in my program have been itching to see "Bride Wars"... there are posters all over town for "Guerra de Novias" movie. The only place in town that they found with it in English was in the old Olympic Village part of town down by the beach (or so we thought). After class we tried to walk over there, though the shortcut through the park was thwarted by some government building blocking the way. Apparently the movie wasn't playing at this branch of the theater, so we just wandered around a bit in that area, checked out the Gehry sculpture and found some cool stuff to play on at the beach. This guy had a fire built in his sandcastle and smoke coming out of the top!

I didn't make it to the Juan Miro museum yet, had some bank stuff to take care of when the others went and also didn't accomplish the sketching. However, the Bible study Wednesday turned out to be a book study on prayer, I'm excited for it, hopefully my Spanish will continue to improve so I can actively participate. The Spanish test went fairly well, and meeting the firm was awesome! I'll write more about them once I start work Tuesday. Madrid gets a separate post as well :)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Weekend activites

This weekend I went to Delta de l'ebre with 5 of the other girls in the program. We took the train down the coast and stayed in Tortosa, a little town on the river that goes out to the delta. Friday night we explored Tortosa a bit, toured a nifty cathedral where you could see part of the old Roman wall and then where it was used as a mosque for a while and finally the basilica style church added on by the Catholics. We also walked up around an old castle for a bit, but it got dark too fast to do any real exploring up there so we came back down into town and found a nice little bar to have tapas and wine. Overall, it was an enjoyable way to spend a Friday!

On Saturday we took the bus over to Deltebre, the town in the middle of the delta. The ride was really nice on the bus, driving through a bunch of rice paddies and pretty neat countryside. After getting a little lost and figuring out how to eat a kiwi with a little plastic spoon (it actually works really well!) we found a little eco-museum place and got to talk to a couple who were taking some sort of eco-tour of all of Catalunya while we waited for the museum to open. The area attracts alot of birdwatchers and people studying ecosystems and biology type stuff because of the rapid changes in where the land is because of how the river and sea have changed, etc. It was really interesting. So after rushing through a tour of the museum and little aquarium there, we found a boat tour place. While we were waiting for the owner to start up the boat and get it ready (not many people want a boat tour in the middle of January) there was this huge sweet great dane running around chasing a cat. I want a great dane! The boat tour was nice, though it got pretty cold once we were going at full speed. Once we got back, our paella was ready so we had a fun time trying to figure out what to eat of the different seafood included. They grow the rice for the paella on the delta and had just caught the seafood that week, so everything was very yummy and I suppose somewhat authentic even. After paella we took the bus back to Tortosa and Alyssa and I went back to Barcelona, while the others spent another night in Tarragona and saw the Roman ruins there. I hope to take the train back there some other day :)

Sunday evening I was able to go to a church here in Barcelona. It's a fairly small church plant of a reformed church that is outside the city. Everyone is very nice and tells me my Spanish is great. I'm excited to get to know people there and was happy that I could understand most of the sermon (the Catalan songs weren't so easy). I'm hoping to be able to go Wednesday to their Bible study/prayer meeting and get involved with that.

This afternoon after Spanish class, Raedun and I went up to Park Guell and had a picnic. It was a lovely afternoon of sketching and basking in the sun, and we were able to meet up with the others and study for our Spanish exam also too, so overall a very good day. (It got more sunny as the afternoon went on from the photo below)

On the agenda for this week:
Meet the people at my new firm
Go see flamenco
Madrid trip this weekend
more sketching!
Spanish exam - end of intensive Spanish class
Bible study Wednesday
Joan Miro museum Thursday

Hope you all back in the US are enjoying your day off!

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Check out the links section, I'm moving to Picasa for photos, and I added a nifty little map. Hoorah for copying Katie!! More later on recent events.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

classes etc.

Since our three day orientation session I've really only had Spanish class in the morning. I'm in an intermediate class with about 12 others, 4 of the architecture kids and the rest are in the business and culture program. Our teacher has an uncanny resemblance to Anne Hathaway. She's pretty patient with our blank stares and fairly good at explaining things, so I've been enjoying it.

I'm looking forward to other classes starting on the 26th. The Spanish class will then go to being only MWF in the morning. I'll have my studio class in the afternoons tuesday and thursday, and another core course - the City in Visual Culture class on mondays and wednesdays, and internship will start then, including an internship seminar class every wednesay. I need to set up a meeting sometime in the next week to meet with the firm, Canal Grande. I'm excited for the chance to branch out and actually meet more Spanish people, we've been a little stuck in our little group of "archies." Some of the students are taking classes now with Spanish students here at ELISAVA school of design, but I wasn't able to do it because of the internship.

So! To contact me while I'm over here...Email is always good and I am able to check it at least daily: That's also the email linked w/my skype account, although I normally use MSN messenger which is Or facebook works too!

I can receive letters at my host family here or packages can be sent to the CIEE office and they'll give them to me. Let me know if you want those addresses.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Mas fotos

Ok, a bit more about life here and another link to more pictures!

A week ago, Monday night, I met my host family for the first time! My senora's name is Antonia and I'm living here with her, her daughter Maria, and George(Antonia's boyfriend from Quebec). It was crazy getting here the first night since it was El Dia de los Reyes and there was a huge parade right in front of the apartment. When I got here the whole family was gathered, including Antonia's son and family and her ex-husband. They all opened presents and we had a big meal with lots of odd seafood and other yummy stuff.

It's an interesting mix of languages here - George knows French, some English, and some Spanish. Antonia knows Spanish, Catalan, some French, and some English. Maria knows Spanish, Catalan, French, and English(she actually studied in Portland, OR for a while). All I know is English and some Spanish!! We do alright communicating, I'm trying to stay away from the English, but it's really tempting since they know it so well.

They've been taking good care of me, I've got a nice room, two big closets to myself, fast internet access, hot(ish) water and they definitely feed me well! My favorite so far has been the Spanish tortillas with potatoes and eggs and zuchinni.

Anyhow, time for some sleep! More on classes and new friends later!

New photos from my afternoon at Park Guell and other stuff:

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Settling in

Howdy! It's been a while since I've updated. New classes, friends, exploring, etc has been keeping me busy!

This Saturday I got to go to a "calcotada" - a traditional Catalan meal. We took a bus(myself and some other architecture students along with a bunch of the language and culture students here) out from the city to a park. It was nice to get out of the city and get some fresh air! I hadn't realized how few parks there actually are in the center of BCN. The drive out was nice - went through a pretty little village with some pretty ornate villas. We arrived an hour before our reservation at the restaurant so went for a little hike in the hills and made it to a small petting zoo where all of my new city dwelling friends were very excited about the emu. It's been raining for the past couple of days so everything was pretty muddy, but still, nice to get out! Below is the view from the zoo at the end of our hike. See, no buildings!

Once we got back to the restaurant they sat us all along these big tables, each seat had a big bib on the chair and plastic gloves and wet wipes ready for the feast. We snacked on some yummy olives and chips til they brought out the calcotes, they're kind of like big green onions. They had cooked them all until they were blackened and you had to hold the calcote in one hand while you took the other and pulled off the outside layer and roots, then you dip the white part of the onion in a special sauce and eat it! It was really fun and interactive. They also served wine in a really funny looking thing. You can kinda see the calcotes in this picture of Laura below. I was too busy eating to take more pictures :)

After the calcotes they brought out tons of other courses - some sort of bean dish and some patatas fritas (french fries), some toasted bread w/ tomatoes and garlic to rub on top, they eat that everywhere here, it's really yummy and I forget what it's called. There was also this whole platter of different kinds of meats. I wasn't feeling too adventurous and was already really full by that point so I just had a little sausage and chicken. We think there was some blood sausage and rabbit meat there too, nobody was really sure. Then there was some delicious flan-type stuff for dessert and more alcohol and coffee. I believe I'm forgetting a salad in there too and some cooked vegetables? It was enough food for the entire day, for sure, and took 3 or 4 hours in all. If anyone comes to visit, we should go check it out again!

I'll update more later about classes and my host family, etc. It's time for dinner now!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

new location

I made it to meet up with the rest of my program! I guess there are only 8 people in the architecture and design program - and all girls! Should be interesting, I've only met people in the business program so far. It's almost time for orientation but I thought I'd share my photos I've uploaded so far.

More coming on the activities of the last few days!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

I made it!

So the trip was actually fairly uneventful! I found my hostel just fine (hooray for free internet here!) Navigating the airport, train, metro, and then finding this place was actually pretty straightforward. The metro system looks really great, hopefully I'll be able to figure it out a little better in the next few days.

It's so crazy to think that I'm actually here! It's pretty humid - at least compared to Colorado and Washington. It's also so wonderfully warm, comparatively at least! Everyone here has their wool coats and boots on, I don't quite understand why, it was too hot wearing a sweatshirt. We'll see how much it cools down tonight.

I don't know why, but I wasn't really expecting palm trees, but they're here, along with reallllly old buildings all jammed together with tiny streets. Hopefully tomorrow I'll get out to explore and be able to take some pictures. My hostel is a block away from the main street "La Rambla" in the old gothic quarter of the city. I had to walk on it a few blocks to get here, there are lots of vendors, shops, trees, street performers, and tons of people! I wasn't really in the mindframe to explore hauling all my luggage around, but I'm looking forward to seeing more of it tomorrow.

I think it's time to take a nap, see if I can recover some sleep and get myself adjusted here then maybe go find myself some food. Thank you for your prayers for safe travel!