Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Excursion to the Castle of Aznalmara

On Monday, November 23, I went on my first excursion of the school year with my fifth grade students. We walked from Ubrique to the ruins of the Castle of Aznalmara, a castle that sits on the top of a mountain (okay, hilltop) overlooking the small nearby town of Tavizna. In order to get to the castle, we had to walk in a single file line for about 2 kilometers along the highway and a service road, and spent the other 4 kilometers gallivanting across the countryside and through various "private" farms. Let's just say I was shocked to be taking my fifth graders on an excursion in which about an hour was spent walking along the shoulder of a highway/main road. That doesn't happen much in the US. In fact, I would be willing to bet it flat out doesn't happen, ever! However, I seemed to be the only one even remotely concerned about it. The other two teachers treated our hike along the highway as completely normal. For me, it was quite the experience :) Once we finished our highway hike, we meandered through the countryside and through several farms full of pigs, goats, and cows! I much preferred this part of the journey. And I swear Spanish pigs are unlike any other pigs in the world...they are MASSIVE! And quite funny! :) I have a new found adoration for pigs and baby goats!

Despite the fact the castle was only 6 kilometers away, which should take the average person somewhere between an hour and an hour and thirty minutes to walk, we took over 2 hours to arrive, and almost three hours on our way back to Ubrique. Fifth graders like to take lots of breaks (as in every 10 minutes) and tend to walk very slowly and lag behind.

After a frustrating two hour walk, we finally arrived to the base of the Castle of Aznalmara. From the base of the mountain/hill, it was about another 20 minutes (steep!) climb up to the castle. However, the views from the top were incredible, and the castle, despite its condition, was very impressive. Here's a bit of background for you: The Castle of Aznalmara was a military construction that dates back to the nazarí time (around the 13th and 14th centuries). Like most things in Spain (and probably the world), it was conquered and destroyed by the Christians in 1410 and 1485. Unfortunately it is pretty much in ruins today, but the foundation and tower of the castle still stand tall and are reminiscent of the original grandeur.

While it made for a very long Monday, it was well worth the headache of corralling my students and protecting them from highway traffic and massive Spanish pigs. I would definitely do it again! It was enchanting to stand inside a structure basically untouched by humans for centuries...and to imagine what was once there only seven centuries ago...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Random Anecdotes

Random, slightly incoherent anecdotes that I just felt like sharing with the world.

(1) **The New Socialite** I’ve officially been converted into a Spaniard. Thursday night out on the town until 8:30 am. Friday night, rest. Saturday night out on the town until 7:30 am. What in the world is going on?! I’m amazed at my new found stamina, and thankful I’m still young enough to bounce back the next day. :) In bed by 8 am, and awake by noon. It’s incredible. Don’t misunderstand me – I am by no means a party animal. Let’s just say that I know when and where to have fun – and I am making up for the times I made the choice to study in college instead of party. There is a time and a place for everything, and in Spain, well, it’s my time to truly live (responsibly, of course).

(2) **Lecture on Adaptability** I guess I am fortunate that I have liked everywhere I have lived in my life for an extensive amount of time (Denver CO, Portland OR, Washington DC, Granada SPAIN, Ubrique SPAIN). Don’t get me wrong, all are beautiful cities/towns (and not hard to like), but to truly adapt and like a place, one really has to have an open mind, be WILLING to adapt, and just jump into things. I’m lucky that I have an open mind, find the positive in most every situation, and don’t mind a little mishap here and there and a little spontaneity every now and again. My self-proclaimed “easy adaptability” could explain why I am so in love with Ubrique. In love, and also quite defensive. Some people don´t like Ubrique, and I respect that. But I don’t really understand it. Haha There are millions of people who would give anything and everything to have the opportunity to live, study, or travel abroad. And I am fortunate to have this opportunity. Yes, Ubrique is a small town. Population 18,000. No movie theater. No mall. No bowling alley. One park. Two plazas. A handful of restaurants. A bit cut off from the rest of the world. …get my drift? But it is full of wonderful people, surrounded by two incredibly beautiful national parks, and has plenty of things to do. The problem is that some people don’t take the time to truly get to know the people or the pueblo. Some people get annoyed when someone comes up and says “I saw you yesterday, I know what you did last night.” Well, yes. Everyone’s business is everyone’s business here. But embrace it. Don’t fight it. If you are a foreigner, of course you stick out. People pay more attention to what we do, than what the typical ubriqueno/a does. Just go with it. And despite appearances, there really are plenty of things to do...(1) Go to the bars. Spaniards live in the street. And yes, even in a small town, you can stay out ALL night until 7 am or later mingling with the local townsfolk and make friends you may potentially have for life. (2) Go for a hike. You can pass hours and hours wandering around the mountains at your doorstep. Or, pass the day at the reservoir. (3) Hop on a bus and hit up another neighboring pueblo. I’ll be the first to admit that catching the 6:00 am bus is not too appealing, but hey, it adds to the adventure. (4…) Study Spanish at a local hang-out. Walk around town. Join a dance class. Join a gym. Join the choir or the band. There are plenty of things to do here – but you have to make the effort to find them. Life lesson: ADAPTABILITY and acceptance will take you far in life…or at least make your journey a lot more enjoyable.

(3) **Mind Blowing** The other day I was waiting outside the grocery store for my friend to pick me up. As I was sitting there, a sweet little ole lady wandered in front of where I was sitting. She looked right at me, so I said “hello, good afternoon.” She continued walking. She stopped. Reversed. And said, “You aren’t from here are you?” I said, “No” (haha, what was your first clue?! The blonde hair? Blue eyes? Accent? Apparel?) Anyway, she said “Well, where are you from?” I responded, “Colorado/USA.” She asked/proclaimed “Is it normal that young people greet and speak with the elderly there? Because here, the youth just ignore us. They run around like they own the streets. I’m quite pleasantly surprised you spoke to me as I passed. It truly is a rarity.” I looked at her and didn’t really know what to say. It’s true, I talk to most everyone. And I see it as perfectly normal. What a quiet world it would be if we all just ignored each other and never greeted or smiled as we passed one another. But do the youth in America ignore the elderly as well? I guess I would tend to say yes. However, I was happy to know that my friendliness (what I tend to view as pure politeness) made a little ole Ubriquena smile. Not to mention, I may have chalked up a few points for Americans… :)

(4) **Challenges** Just wanted to add that applying to Law School is no easy task. Nor is it cheap. And applying to law school while living in another country half way around the world is an extra added challenge. Yes, my fault, I know. Hey, I I qualify as an "international student?" Haha.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

La Linea: Party on Thursday, Recover on Friday

Since I do not have to work on Fridays this year, I've started taking advantage of my three day weekends. I usually run errands, go to a Spanish language class (voluntarily), or rest up on Fridays so that I can enjoy the rest of the weekend. This weekend, however, I did something a little differnt.

Two of my friends currently work and live in La Linea de La Concepcion. One of them (Manuel) has a boat, so they invited me down to go fishing on Friday. On Wednesday, I received a text saying: "I'll pick you up tomorrow (Thursday) at 3, ok?" So I responded..."Ok. What do I need to bring?" And Sergio (my other friend and my ride to La Linea) responded "Clothes to go out in, and something comfortable for fishing." Hmmm...I thought to myself. I hadn't planned on "going out," but what the heck, it couldn't hurt to have a little fun, right? So I packed up some clothes, pjs, and was ready to go on Thursday.

After a lovely hours drive, we entered La Linea. We met up with Manuel, and headed another 30 minutes south-east to Tarifa. We bummed around a bit, had a coffee, and admired the crystal clear views of Marrocco, the Mediterranean, and the Atlantic. Around 9:00 pm, we headed back to La Linea. We made some pizza for dinner, bummed around a bit longer, had a few more people over, started drinking, and the night flew from there. At about 1:45 am, we left the apartment and headed out...ready for a night of fun. We entered our frist bar, which closed at 3:00 am. From there, we went to the discoteca, and when that closed at 6:00 am, we went to another bar...a more "chill" bar to wind down the evening (or in my opinion...the MORNING). Finally around 7:30 am, we started heading back to the apartment, and stopped for breakfast. Around 8:45 am, we finally made it home.

I attempted like crazy to sleep, but the fact that the sun was shining straight into my room didn't make it an easy task. I rested (emphasis on RESTED vs. slept) for a couple hours. At 12 noon, we were all up and about. Some in a better state than others. :) I was doing pretty good considering I didn't sleep a wink. At 2:00 pm, we left for Tarifa to head out fishing. I wondered how that would go, since a few of us were hungover and/or sleep-deprived. Two of the girls decided not to go out on the boat, and instead went up to the bar to have some appetizers and a drink or two. Manuel, Sergio, and I took the risk and headed out. Unfortunately, no fishing. The water was a bit too rough to sit their idly. So we sped around the peninsula a bit, enjoyed the sunshine, then met our friends at the bar.

We eventually made it back to La Linea...and another hour and a half later, back to Ubrique. It was probably the craziest Thursday night I have had in the past 22 years, but I wouldn't change a thing. I've never spent so much time laughing in my life. I've never been so tired. And I've never stayed out so late...or early? Haha. Once again, I'm convinced the Spaniards know best how to live, laugh, and have fun.