Monday, 28 June 2010

BARCELONA photo album up!


Sunday, 27 June 2010


Hola! Back from Barcelona and the night is still young! But actually I am probably going to go to sleep as soon as I can tonight because I am tiiiired!
Barcelona was SO fun, but also SO unsatisfying because there is just SO much to see and we did not have time to see it or do it all. I have decided, (Mother and Father, and anyone else who wants to come) that the next big family vacation should be to Barcelona. It is just such a fun place with some of the coolest things that I have ever seen (Gaudi stuff especially) But a day and a half was not enough... it would be like going to Paris and only having a day and a half... how could you choose what to see??? At least a day and half was better than none!!
SO we left Kaja's house around 2 ish on Friday. It was exactly the time when everyone in Spain goes to get lunch so the metro was PACKED and it was probably the most miserable environment I have ever had to suffer through. It was hot and stuffy, the air was wet and thick, there were people pressed up against us and they smelled. Meanwhile I was carrying my bags and hoping that no one was trying to pick pocket me! Ickkky. Kaja and I were basically crying by the time that we got out of the metro and sweat was pouring down my face... eww.
When we got to Puerta De Atocha (The train station) we first got our train tickets figured out. We both had bought Eurail passes, which is something you buy in America. I got a 6 day pass, which means that for a lump sum I get 6 days of travel on trains. The biggest problem with the Eurail is that you have to physically go to the train station and get your ticket at the station... to reserve costs extra money, but even to reserve you have to go to the station, not online or on the phone. This was nerve wracking because literally we had already booked a hostel but didn't have a guarantee that we would find a spot on a train to Barcelona! Luckily a train leaves for Barcelona about every hour so we had no trouble getting there!!
The train was also SO nice. Really comfy seats and some strange movie playing with Richard Gere and lots of dogs... didn't really follow it. Kaja and I got some lunch on the train that was pretty gross and then fell asleep for the rest of the ride!
The high speed train got us to Barcelona in about 2.5 hours, which is soo fast!
We unfortunately hadn't planned out how to get to the hostel from the train station, (rookie mistake) but after two metro trips and a phone call to the Hostel itself, we got there!
We were staying at the Yellow Nest Hostel and out of the three Hostel's I have stayed in thus far, this one was the best!! It was social and friendly, with a huge kitchen with lots of cooking supplies, a big room with couches, tvs, music, a terrace on the roof and the most comfy beds ever! Kaja and I checked into our room (we were staying in a 10 person all female room, which was really nice but unfortunately the door didnt lock unless you pushed it really hard, so our stuff was basically not protected) and then walked to a supermarket to get food for dinner. I got some tortellini and Kaja got a rice dish, and we got some vegetables to stir fry and, of course, some Don Simon Sangria, our favorite!
Then we went next door to a little fruit shop and got tons of fruit to eat over the weekend as well to put into our Sangria and it was SO cheap! Great buy!
We took our food back to the Hostel and cooked it up and ate on the terrace! The food was yummy and the Sangria was fantastic, with so much fruit cut up and put into it that it was closer to a fruit salad than Sangria. Yummy.
After a bit of eating a guy who worked at the hostel kicked us out of the Terrace because they close it every night so we went down to the big common room to finish up the meal. They had a big library of books to read, so I pulled out a book of Spanish poetry and opened it to a random page and started reading to Kaja and the subject of the poem could not have been more applicable to Kaja and my experience traveling in Spain. I wrote down the line that spoke to us so much:
"Vamos a la calle sin destino; Voy, Vas."
It means, "We go to the street without a destination; I go, you go." It is so perfect! It was also fun reading some Spanish Poetry and actually understanding the poems! I might like it better than english poetry...
Then we went to bed, or more appropriately, went into a COMA for the next ten hours! That bed was so comfortable that I did not even stir until the next morning! I love sleeping like that!
In the morning we ate some breakfast foods that we had bought the previous evening and then set off to see as much of Barcelona as we could!!
By the way, I LOVE getting suggestions of things to do from everyone so far they have all been GREAT!
First we went to La Familia Sagrada. As per recommendation of Gma Frona, we decided to get an Audio Guide, and it was a really good decision! La Familia Sagrada, for those who do not know, is basically Gaudi's final and biggest and best masterpiece, ever. It is so grand, amazing, and epic, that they are still building it, as per his instructions, and it isnt due to be finished for about 30 more years! It is a huge temple, for Jesus obviously, and even if you are not religious it is impossible not to feel some kind of holy presence in that temple. It is so strange, huge, and different form anything I have ever seen... just wow. The inside is huge and there are the most amazing beautiful stained glass windows you have ever seen. Gaudi is a genius. It is a personal goal to return to see it once it is completed, when I am like 50. I think it will be spectacular! I also find it so cool that I witnessed the making of something so huge, who's creation literally took centuries. I've always wondered what it was like to watch something like Notre Dam being created over hundreds of years, and now I know! The Audio guide was especially helpful because I would have never known about so many of the intricate details that Gaudi included. Literally every single thing about that temple was put there for a reason, to symbolize something, to tell some kind of a story, everything from the giant yet unique Jesus on a cross that was in the front to the number pillars in a certain area to the slants of the columns that turn the cathedral into a Forrest! AMAZING!
Next, because we hadn't quite gotten enough Gaudi, we went to the Parc Guell which was also designed by my new favorite artist! This park was, as the temple, incredible! It's hard to describe, but it is just a huge park with really cool paths, plants, and statues. It also has really great musicians playing every hundred meters or so and we even saw a Belly Dancer in one corner of the Park! We must have spent about 2 hours walking through the whole park... I didn't want to miss anything! Just amazing!! In the center there is this huge flat plaza, but if you continue and go under it, it is all supported by row after row of thick beautiful Pillars! it was just amazing to look at!
Next we decided to head to La Rambla, a famous touristy place for shopping and walking down. We got out of the metro a little before La Rambla so we could see two more Gaudi designed buildings. First there was Casa Mila, or La Padrera and then we walked by Casa Batllo. Both of them seemed SO cool, but each one was about 20 Euros to go into!! It was so expensive, but actually looking back, I wish we had gone in... even though we didn't have much time... They seem like they were so cool and I think it would have been worth the money. SO on our family vacation, we have to see the insides, from the pictures, they look UNREAL! That is what I love about Gaudi... everything is just so strange and different from anything you have ever seen. Everything! Even the window frames and the light fixtures are art that is completely unique and cool! ahh! Gaudi obsession!
Annnnyways I tearfully bid the Gaudi buildings goodbye and we went to La Rambla! Here is the thing about La Rambla... it is definitely a must for Barcelona, but it is also really really icky if you are a young female. Kaja and I luckily read up online about how to deal with La Rambla, but we still got accosted a bit. First of all, you must avoid all eye contact with the men, if they even catch your eye for a second they think you are flirting and bother you and call after you until you are out of earshot. Secondly, the pickpocketing is CRAZY so Kaja and I were very very careful about not letting our attention waiver from our bags in our arms for even a minute! Sketchy men aside, it was a cool place! There are so many people dressed in costumes on the sides of the roads who want money, they are really icky but its amusing to see them all. There are also artists, similar to the artisty place we went to in Paris, and vendors on the sides of the roads selling turtles, fish, birds, and more! The most annoying thing were every 10 meters or so there was another man trying to sell these little whistle things that you speak through and you sound like you have a high silly voice. This means that everywhere you walk they were these men yelling in those ear-piercing voices... ugg. We also stopped in La Boqueria, which Gma Frona also recommended, which is a huge huge huge market with all kinds of food. We walked around it for a bit, because it is certainly a site to see, but after passing several shops selling what looked like dead dogs for eating, we decided to leave! AH!
We walked down La Rambla and then across a boardwalk to a big mall in the middle of the Mediterranean called Maremagnum! We ate some delicious Tapas and, of course, Sangria, by the ocean at this little restaurant. It was really fun because there were these two men waiters that were being so friendly and silly with us, pretending they were in love with us, and saying that we were breaking their hearts when we left. They gave us a rose, it was cute.
Then we left and did some shopping!! I got a really cute dress at a great European store, Mango, and I also got some foot cream because my feet are grooooss.
Then we went got some ben and Jerry's ice cream and walked back up La Rambla.
We thought La Rambla was sketchy in the day, but it didn't even COMPARE to the sketch level at night! There were all the creepy people but now they were drunk so they were even more aggressive and icky! And the men who in the day had been selling the tweety whistles were now selling these things that glowed and shot up into the sky, so as you walked there were glow stick things falling all around you... actually a cool sight. There were also all kinds of cool activities going on that we wanted to watch. There were all these artists who make amazing space pictures using spray paint and a break dancing crew dancing in the streets! But when we were watching the break dancers this one guy was getting really close to Kaja and freaking her out so we had to leave, and that kind of thing kept happening! Ah! The absolute worst was when we were getting ready to get onto the metro... Kaja was digging in my bag to pull out her metro map or something and neither of us were very aware of what was happening in our surroundings. Suddenly I felt an arm snake around my waist and seeing Kaja's arms in front of me I freaked out and jumped back. A gross gross guy with a couple beers in his hands was the culprit and he was going to say something but I literally YELLED like they taught us in a self-defense seminar in 5th grade, "WOA! DO NOT TOUCH ME." Kaja thought my reaction was hilarious and started laughing and then we ran into the metro laughing the whole thing off so it was ok! We went back to the hostel and my legs were completely dead from walking ALL day long and Kaja was feeling pretty sick (I half think she got my Mono, uh oh!). We got back just in time to watch the US lose its soccer game... All the Americans at the hostel were really bummed and all the non-American's started cheering when we lost... awkward! Pretty soon after we just went to sleep, which was once again, glorious!
In the morning after some food, we went on the metro to the Gothic quarter of Barcelona. We did some roaming around and shopping as we made our way to the Church Santa Maria del mar. It was on this walk that the absolute grossest thing happened. We were looking into a shop window when I became vaguely aware that there was this old man behind us, a few feet back. He started coming closer and suddenly Kaja was like, "Julia lets go" in a panicky voice. I didn't think anything of it because we always have this reaction when we feel icky about a sketch Euro man, so I followed her but then she started freaking out even more as he started following us and we ducked into a nearby shop. Once inside, I was like, "was that man freaking you out?" Turns out, what I didn't see is that he has his PENIS hanging out of his PANTS!! WHAAT??? WHY??? EWWWW??!! Then Kaja and I had about a 10 minutes of just freaking out about how incredibly icky that was. I mean... really????
Anyways, after we eventually got over the total ickyness of that man, we shopped and I got some pretty earrings! yay! We also walked by the Picasso Museum, but didn't go inside. The Church Santa Maria was really cool, we sat and observed Mass for a few minutes. It was very different from many of the other churches we had seen because this one was much simpler... just a huge open space with columns and stone. It wasn't as crazy decorated as some of the other ones and I liked that it was just about the building and not about how many Jesus's we can fit on the wall and how many Gold things we can cover everything in!
After the church we just did a bit more wandering and went into all kinds of cool shops! It was a really relaxing day. We made our way back to la Rambla and found the Sandwhich shop that Gma Frona suggested, Cafe Viena! It was a great lunch spot, right in our budget (very small) and I got hot baguette with bacon, cheese, and onion (perfect for me!) and Kaja got a strange vegetarian wrap thing that looked strange to me but which she liked! Then it was about time to head to the train station so off we went back to Madrid!
Quick side note: the only bummer about the trip was that at no point did we get to do any beach! We really didn't have time because of all the things we wanted to see, but we didn't even manage to touch the Mediterranean, which KILLS me! Next time!!
I got home pretty early, around 8:30 PM. No one was home which was relaxing, so I got a head start on my Blog post for this weekend!
I miss everyone and thank you so much for all the suggestions and emails! I love them! I also hope everyone is ready for our HUGE family trip to Barcelona! You all have to bring me anyways if you go to Barcelona because my Spanish Skills are really good so I can tell all the creepy Spanish men to go away!
Also as far as next weekend, it is Rafa Sr's Birthday Party weekend, so Kaja and I have to stay and babysit our kids on Saturday night. That means that our plan is to check out the Madrid night scene on Friday night, go to the Mercadillo on Saturday morning, babysit Sat night, go to Segovia Sunday Morning, then watch a BULL FIGHT on Sunday night! Big weekend! Should be fun! Then the tentative plan for the rest of the summer is
-07/09/10 weekend in either Santiago with families or Pamplona for the Running of the bulls
-07/16/10 Grenada
-07/23/10 Lisboa, Portugal
-07/31/10 NEWTON!!!
I am really excited and MY how the time has flown by!!
xoxo Julia

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Barrrrrcelona tomorrow!

Ok, today has some good and some bad. Only one bad thing, but... well, you'll see.
1) Today at Kaja's I hung out with Kaja and her (some may call bratty) kid Sara who is now done with school. It was fun even though Sara was around, but I definitely felt bad for Kaja because sometimes I think having me around made Sara more disagreeable... although Kaja assures me that she is like that normally! Ah!
2) At school we picked up Rafa, Carmen, and one of Rafa's friends, Sergio. We went to Abuelo's house and immediately went swimming! I love swimming with the kids, we do all the fun things like race, handstands, the classic horsey, swimming through my legs, and of course, me throwing the kids into the pool like there's no tomorrow. Its a good time for everyone!
3) Once we left the pool, it was a little annoying because Rafa and Carmen both always want a minimum of three towels each so they can build a little poolside bed, complete with blanket, mattress, and pillow, but there are not enough towels for them to do it and for everyone else to get one! So I say no and they SCREAM! I don't care though, I want a towel!!
4) The bad thing was that Rafita peed his pants again whilst in the moment and playing games. I told the Abuela, mostly because I didn't want to deal with a pee-soaked 7 year old and she promptly went to him and started yelling at him and HITTING him! Then she took him into the bathroom and smacked him around some more! I could hear the slapping sounds and him SCREAMING through the door!! I was just shocked! I still dont really know what I should do in that situation... it's not like she damaged his internal organs or anything, but I come from an upbringing where it isn't cool to hit kids (THANKS MUM AND DAD) so I just couldn't comprehend that it was OK. But I am in a different culture and I didn't think it would be appropriate to intervene. I could tell Maica, but it was her mother that was doing the smacking so I don't know...
5) Abuse aside, I am really starting to like the grandparents! (Forgive the poor timing of that sentence...) They are so nice to me and I like that they don't step on my toes when I am hanging with the kids, but are always there to enforce my rulings! (Maica also said she would talk with Carmen and Rafa and let them know that they HAD to listen to what I said because we had been having some trouble with that). The abuela also always keeps me updated on all the USA athletes and athletic teams when they are playing on TV. It's really funny because half the time I dont even know who she is talking about, but since they are my country, she feels like she should let me know. (Speaking of USA sports, how bout that 12 hour tennis game?? And yes, I only know about it because of Abuela)
6) After the grandparents Rafa sr picked me and Carmen up and took us home... Carmen fell asleep in the car and didn't wake up again that night. We had dinner and that was it!

Additional things:
a. Right now there is an EPIC thunder/lightning/rain storm going on outside. Other than that the weather has been nearly perfect, super hot, sunny, and NIiiice.
b. My plan so far is to make a kahlua crumb apple pie for my family for the 4th of July... I am a little sad that I won't be in America for that one :(
c. My whole family and Kaja's whole family might take a joint four day weekend trip to Santiago on the weekend of July 10 because there is like some "Camino de Santiago" thing that is religious, where zillions of people from everywhere walk a path to Santiago. We would drive though! Anyways, its not definite but if it did happen, it would be SICK (as in awesome).
d. Tomorrow to Barcelonaaa! I am SO excited!!!
e. Monday starts the work morning and play evenings schedule! I hope it is fun and that the kids listen to me!

xoxoxoxo Julia
p.s. I already miss ELISE so much, she is going to camp on Sunday and this will be the longest time in my life that I have not seen her! We skyped tonight and I LOVE HER.
p.p.s. I think this will be the longest time i've gone without seeing my real parents too... true?

5 minute post!

I'm at Kaja's house and leaving for the Bus in 5 minutes, but I thought I'd just write a quick post... There isn't much going on different each day so the blogging has definitely slowed down...
Some fun things I've done:
- On Tuesday after the abuelo's, we went to Maica's friend Sara's house and played with water guns with Carmen, Rafa, and Sara's three ADORABLE boys and their Au pair, annie, who is also from boston. It was fun!
- Yesterday we swam for a long time in the pool and I had a really fun time with Carmen!
-Yesterday night I played a game with Carmen and Rafa where I try to get their feet while they are on their bed and when I grab their feet I then tickle them! They LAUGHED so hard and it was really fun!!

Maybe I'll write a bit more tonight if I have time.
Also on Friday Kaja and I are going to BARCELONA!!! There were no granada train spots available so we are saving that for later in the summer!
xoxo Julia

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Toledo at last! And the days after.

On Friday Kaja and I went to Toledo! We took a high speed train that left at about 12:30 and were in Toledo by 1! When we got out of the train station, we could see Toledo ahead. Toledo is on a big hill, which meant very tired legs at the end of the weekend. We got free maps at a tourist info center place and then began our walk over the river and up the hill to the hostel! The initial walk was really fun, up windy roads and through a pretty park. In the park we stopped for a snack because the hostel didn't open until after 2. There was a homeless man near us and when we left the park Kaja left an orange on a bench for him, still don't know if he ever took it!
The hostel was SO nice! It was a little more expensive than the other one, but we had a private room with two beds, a big window with curtains, a bathroom with a shower that didn't flood the whole room, a closet, and a tv! We decided we liked the private room a lot, but at the same time missed the community feel of the joint room hostel, where you eat breakfast and make friends every morning.
After we had settled in our room we went out to explore Toledo! We decided to leave Kaja's map and just take mine because I was the map reader! Outside of our hostel was the Puerta Del Sol, a giant stone archway, very cool. We sat outside of it on a wall and looked at where we wanted to go. Just then, a gust of wind blew my map off the wall and onto the roof of the house below! So we decided to just get lost in Toledo and then try to find our way back later!
First thing we did was walk to the Plaza de Zocodover, which was a pretty happening place. There were people in costumes, paella restaurants, and lots and lots of Marzipan.
Toledo is famous for it's Marzipan and lots and lots of swords for some reason. I wanted to get a small box of Marzipan at some point, but wanted to wait till the second day and I had no interest in trying to get a sword through Logan Airport.
ANYways from the Plaza de Zocodover we walked up a street to the Alcazar of Toledo, which was unfortunately under renovations so we couldn't go inside. We did wander around it a bit though. Then we walked across the city looking for the big Cathedral of Toledo. After a bit of wandering we found it! It was cool, but after just seeing Notre Dam in Paris and the HUGE cathedral in Seville, I wasn't as in awe of this one. It was still really impressive though. Then Kaja and I just wandered the streets some more! The wandering was really fun because of all the narrow streets and endless sword shops! We suddenly came upon this little children's park with an AMAZING view of some cool round building that we didn't know what it was. The sun was just starting to go down and we were tired so we sat in the park, Kaja working on her friendship bracelet, and just chilled out for a good hour. Then a bunch of really dark clouds ominously rolled in and after taking some pictures of the clouds, we decided it was best to move on!
We walked down the hill towards the mysterious pretty building. Just as we got there, a wedding was getting out and a bunch of fireworks went off! Very cool. We people watched for a while and then I found a map on the ground near the building and decided it was time to go home. Using my crazy good sense of direction, we walked around the base of the hill towards our Hostel. It was about 7 at this point, still too early for dinner in spain, but we were HUNGRY! We were also SO tired so we thought we would head to the hostel and plan out what to do for dinner. JUST as we entered the hostel, those giant ominous clouds opened up and it started pouring! We were glad that we had just avoided the rain, but now we were trapped in the hostel with no food and very hungry! We looked Kaja's map and found an Italian restaurant not too far away that looked pretty good. After about and Hour the rain seemed to lighten up a bit, so we quickly left the hostel and braved through the drips to our food! We made it there alright, but our last map was soaked!
The restaurant was really good and when we left it was about 11 and we were ready for bed! On our way home we stopped by a little convenience store and got a carton of Don Simon sangria (The best one Euro can buy) and some cookies! At our hostel we made some friendship bracelets and watched a soccer game on the mini tv with our sangria until we fell asleep!
In the morning, we had to check out of the Hostel by noon, but we certainly took our time getting out. We got to the front desk at about 11:45, but luckily they said they would hold on to our bags at the front desk so we didn't have to lug them around all day!
This time we had Kaja's weather worn map to guide us! We sat down and circled all the places we wanted to go. First thing, we wanted to revisit Alcazar, now that we had the map. It was still closed, but the library attached was open so we went in. There was a line for the elevators so we decided to take the stairs. A million flights later, we came out into the library. It had a nice view, but other than that it was pretty un-interesting. We took the elevator down and in the elevator was this middle aged British couple that we talked to a bit.
We left and went out into the gardens behind Alcazar. They had an AMAZING view of the river that runs around the hill. We took some pictures!
We then walked back to the Plaza of Zocodover (today there was a man dressed up as Jack Sparrow the pirate...?) and down Calle Commercial which is like a big shopping street. We did some clothing shopping, but didn't buy anything except some postcards, stamps, and some souvenirs. Then we intended to find some other museums but got crazy lost because most of the streets aren't marked! I was really hungry, so we decided to try to find a lunch place, but we happened to be in a totally dead neighborhood. Just then we passed a little church monastery place, Santo Domingo, and Kaja said she remembered reading that this little inconspicuous Monestary in the middle of nowhere happened to sell the best marzipan in all of Toledo! We went inside and came to a door that was locked and in a dark hallway. We made out a sign that said "light," we pressed the button and the light turned on. Then there was another sign that we saw that said to ring the bell. We did. Nothing happened. We almost left but then we heard a voice from behind a small door on the wall. She was saying, "Open the door" in spanish. We opened the small door and there was a wooden spool turntable thing in the middle so you couldnt see through. The woman's voice on the other side asked us what we wanted. I asked for a box of marzipan and after a bit of shuffling, the wheel turned and out came a box of marzipan! The woman then said, "4.50 Euros" and I put down the money and re-turned the wheel. She then returned the wheel with my change, and I guess pulled on a chain to shut the wheel door! This Marzipan experience was the absolute strangest food purchasing experience of my life! We never saw who was on the other side of the door selling the marzipan in this dead empty monastery! The Marzipan was good though, although I decided I am not the biggest Marzipan fan.
Then we found where we were on the map and went towards the Cathedral again to try to find somewhere for lunch. On the way we passed the "Ancient instruments of Medieval Torture" museum... I decided we should go in... Dun DUN DUNNN.
The museum was really really disturbing. They had SO many torture devices there with really gory descriptions, but what I found most icky was the fact that they all had really been used at one time or another, on many people! Halfway through the exhibit I started feeling really lightheaded and had to sit down. I think it was a combo of the hungry, thirst, and horrifying exhibit, but I thought I was going to faint! Kaja was worried too, my face started sweating profusely and got all washed out. She fed me crackers and poured water into my mouth until I felt well enough to get back up. Then I insisted that we finish the exhibit before we left, because I wanted to get our money's worth, but we sped- finished it so as to get out as fast as we could!
Finally, after nearly losing it, we left and found a place for lunch. We sat down and then realized that the couple at the table next to us was the British couple from the elevator at the library!! We talked a bit, then they left. Kaja and I both got some Paella, after all we are in Spain! It was SO delicious, mine was Chicken, hers was vegetable (Kaja is a vegetarian) but my mouth was seriously burned after it!
After we were stuffed to pieces, we decided to find some of the museums that we originally set out for that day. We found the Casa del Greco, which holds many of El Greco's paintings as well as is his original home, but it was closed for renovations!
Then we went into the Iglesia de Santo Tome, which is a big church that has one of the most famous El Greco paintings. Then we went to a Synagogue! This was called Maria Blanca and was a gorgeous building that is now used as a gallery of many paintings depicting Jewish suffering and stuff.
By then Kaja and I were getting pretty tired of spending 3 Euros at every place we wanted to get into. We kept walking though and found the last place we had wanted to see, a big Monastery. It turned out to be the building that we had seen the previous day while sitting in the park! ANOTHER wedding was getting out so we sat down and people watched for a long time, because we loved looking at all the dresses and the bride! Then we walked back up the streets, got some ice cream, and walked back to the Plaza Zocodover. We sat down on a wall and rested, then looked to our right and guess who was sitting there?
THE BRITISH COUPLE! This was seriously strange, to run into the same couple at three different places! But, around then it was time to head back to the train station so we went down the hill, got our bags from the hostel, and walked to the train station! Then it was speedy train, metro, and by the time we were out of the Metro and walking to Kaja's it was almost 11 PM. We got to her house and after a little email checking and such, went to bed.
In the morning we uploaded the Facebook album of photos, available now on Kaja's facebook! Then after some breakfast we decided to go to Madrid for the day!
We took the metro to the Retiro Park again, because we loved that park! We sunbathed and worked on friendship bracelets for a few hours. Then we got up and went to the Prado Museum, which holds tons of fine art masterpieces. It was Sunday so we got in for free! We roamed around for a few hours before we got tired and went to go find some dinner.
We always have trouble finding dinner because Kaja wants good vegetarian food and I want good meaty food and neither of us want to spend a ton of money but also we don't want to starve! Normally we look for a supermarket to get some food, but then we found a vegetarian falafel place directly across from my favorite, McDonalds! Kaja got a big old falafel and I got a cheeseburger, but I must say, next time I am going for the falafel, it sure looked good!
Then we took the metro home, talked to Kaja's Au-parents for a while, and went to bed after watching last week's episode of True Blood!
The next day was Monday! I love sleeping over at Kaja's because then I can sleep in! After sleeping until 11 or so, Kaja and I biked to the nearby town of Bodilla del Monte to try, once again, to purchase our Abono passes for the metro/bus. We found a tabac, conveniently located with a photo taking place on one side and a photocopy place on the other! We got our pictures taken at the photo place, got our passports photocopied at the photocopy place, and filled out the form to get our Abonos! Now all that is left is for them to arrive in the mail in two weeks!! Finger's crossed that it works!
We then biked halfway back to Kaja's, stopped for a picnic lunch that we brought, and went the rest of the way home. It was then basically time for us to get our kids so I went to my bus stop.
There was a different bus driver than normal and I was a little disappointed that I didn't get a ride all the way down the street with the new guy! :(
Then we picked up the kids, they were really cute as they always are when I first see them after a weekend! At the Abuelo's house though it was a little tricky. They simply DO NOT listen to me when I tell them not to do things, I don't understand why! I do the same things that the abuelos and padres do, counting to three and getting very stern, but they just do not respect my authority! So when they both started climbing up this skinny tree bush thing and I told them to get down, it was a problem. They WOULD NOT come down, even when I physically tried to lift Carmen out of the tree she wouldn't get out, and started screamin! OY!
I then got the abuelo and he came out and promptly counted to three and they came right down, of course. He then told them they had to listen to what I said and the look on their face clearly said, "This is news to me!" Carmen and Rafa were like, "WHY???" Oh gosh.
Then Maica came and stayed for a bit while Carmen, Rafa, and I went swimming in the Abuelo's pool. After a wee dip we went back home. Maica said she was leaving for a half hour before the Spanish World cup game started, but I thought Rafa Sr was still there so I went into Carmen's room and didn't know where Rafita was. I helped Carmen with this tell-time game she has and tried to teach her how to tell time. Then we played with a little cash register she had. Then Rafita yelled something to us and we went into the living room. Turns out that Rafa Sr wasn't at home and the whole time that I had been with Carmen, Rafita had been watching TV and DOWNING a whole can of Pringles... oops. Actually I still don't know if Rafa Sr had been home, or gone that whole time, because minutes later he came in so he could have just stepped out for a bit. But I felt really guilty for not watching Rafita! Still, no one seemed to care that he went through the Pringles like that, so maybe its no problem!
Then we ate dinner and watched the World Cup, Spain won so everyone was happy!
Then I was done for the day, showered, skyped with mum and pop, and went to bed!!!
P.s. plan for this coming weekend is to go to Grenada! Also the kid's school gets out on Friday so starting next week is the different schedule! I'm excited to see how that works out!

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Weekend post coming! Happy Father's day!

SO Weekend is coming to a close and what a fantastic weekend it was! Friday and Saturday were spent in Toledo and today Kaja and I chilled out in Madrid!! I have so so much to write about but no time to write it so look forward to a massive post manana!
For Toledo pictures, visit Kaja's facebook:

Thursday, 17 June 2010

My Sock is Broken

Today was good!
Instead of driving with Maica and hiking to Kaja's house, Kaja and I decided to just meet in Madrid this morning. That meant I could sleep in until about 9 AM, which was NICE. Then I navigated the bus and metro and met Kaja in madrid! Amazingly we found each other once outside the metro without even pulling out and wasting our oh-so-precious pre-paid cellphone minutes! We had several goals for our morning in Madrid:
1) Purchase an Abono (a monthly bus/metro pass)
2) Buy some clothing
3) Eat at this vegetarian restaurant that Kaja had heard about
4) Visit this library place Kaja wanted to see.
5) Kaja also wanted to look into taking Spanish classes at this school and sign up or something.
We did not complete any of our goals!
We walked towards the Library place, but then I decided that we didn't have time to go inside if we wanted to hit up our other goals, so we turned around before actually getting there. Then we went to look for the Abono pass. The first Tabaca that we went to said they didn't sell them and directed us to a different Tabaca. In the second Tabaca we asked a man behind the counter for an Abono... he asked us if we had a photo of ourselves to put in the Abono, we didn't so we said no, he started to explain that we needed a photo and while he talked his mouth started drooling and foaming!! I am not even kidding! He had something seriously strange and wrong with his mouth going on, so Kaja and I basically booked it as fast as we could because it was SO unexpected. SO, Abono-fail until we can get a picture of us! We went to the Vegetarian restaurant, it was closed! We did a little shopping but found NOTHING! Finally, turns out the school Kaja wanted to look at didn't offer any Spanish classes!
Goals aside, we ended up eating at this nice Pizza place with outdoor seating. I actually got a pizza with ham on it, because I am oh-so-spanish! It was YUMMMMy. Also another funny thing, I got asked directions by people multiple times throughout the day! I have no clue why!
We took the Metro back, then it was about time for me to catch my bus so I went to my bus stop. AGAIN the bus driver was the creepy one. This time was especially awkward too because after a few stops, everyone had left except me and him... so he was like my personal driver... strange. But he was actually really nice because instead of dropping me off at the last stop, where i normally get off, he continued to drive me even farther so I didn't have to walk! Maybe we can become friends... ?
At the Abuelo's house I had fun with Rafa playing our same "Get the ball, throw the ball, come on" game, but Carmen was a bit more tricky... She wanted to ride on this little scooter thing she has, but she refused to put on her shoes. So I held on to it and wouldnt let her have it. She kept pulling on it, like she hadn't yet figured out that I am, in fact, a whole lot stronger than she is. She cried to abuela, but abuela agreed that she needed shoes. SO carmen put on shoes, I gave her the scooter, she scooted aproximately 1 meter away, and she kicked off her shoes. I took the scooter back! She put her shoes back on, but I wouldn't give her the scooter back because I had caught on to her strategy by then. She promptly went and told on me to abuela. Abuela came out to see what was wrong with the big bad au pair who wouldnt give the girl the scooter, but I explained with my spanish skills what really went down... I won in the end! HA HA! It was fine anyways because Carmen completely forgot her anger with me in about two seconds!
Maica took us home and then left me alone with the kids for the first time EVER! I like that the most because I don't feel like anyone is watching me, plus the kids actually listen to me because there is no one to run to and tell on me if they don't like what I am doing! We had fun, we went to the pool in the center of the little neighborhood. The water was FREEZING because it just opened and it wasn't that hot today. They waded in for about 3 minutes before they decided it was too cold, which was perfect because then I didn't have to fight an epic battle to get them Actually it was pretty funny... Carmen came out and was like, "PEE! PEE! PEE!" She had to pee... And we couldnt find the bathroom so she just squatted and peed in the grass in front of everyone else at the pool! ... I was speechless... this was definitely the first time I had encountered a situation like this. I didn't want to punish her, but I certainly didn't think it was an appropriate action! In the end I just ignored it because, hey, she had to pee and she is about the only person I have ever met that would opt to remove herself from the pool before letting it out.
We went back to the house and then they did some puzzles and played with my photobooth again. Rafa at one point was taking a video with it and I realized that he was saying, "puta" over and over again, which I was taught was a really bad Spanish word that means "Whore." Its things like this that are very difficult for an American Au Pair, because I just have no idea when he is saying a bad word and I don't feel comfortable assuming that he is being bad and chastising him! Later I asked Maica about it... I was right that he should not use that word, but there's not really much I can do. But he stupidly left video evidence of it on my computer, so if I ever need to blackmail him...
During dinner Maica and I talked for a long time in Spanish, about snow, boston, the differences between spanish and english, and more. It was a really good talk and I think my spanish has definitely improved! Then she told me that she thinks the Kids are learning a lot of english too! She said that Rafa is more shy when it comes to english, but Carmen is really picking it up! Last night apparently Carmen came up to her and said, "My sock is broken" and when Maica looked, there was a hole in Carmen's sock!! SO CUTE!! Then I made myself a bowl of chocolate ice cream with banana slices in it, delllicious.
Now I need to go take a shower and get myself packed up and ready for Toledo tomorrow! SO EXCITED!
Hasta Luego!

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Where is the SUNNN?

It has been totally gloomy weather for almost the whole time I've been here!!? It better get warm soon! I stupidly didn't bring any jeans because I expected that I would NEVER wear them, but today I even wore my fleece! I actually feel like I have a cold too because my nose is all stuffed up :(
Today as usual I went to Kaja's. We ate breakfast, then decided to plan out some of our weekend trips. We couldn't find any reasonably priced tickets to Morocco so we decided that this weekend we would spend around the area... Friday and Saturday in Toledo and then maybe Madrid on Sunday! If we can find a good time and good price we might go to Morocco later in the summer though. I'm excited to see Toledo!!
She and I somehow avoided falling asleep but just relaxed a bit. I am almost done with the anklet I am making Carmen and she LOVES it!
Every day I take the 4:15 bus and now the Bus driver recognizes me, but he is kinda sketchy and really creeps me out. Yesterday he called me "Chiquita" and I was like, woa, I am not your Chiquita. So today I purposely sat right behind him, behind the plexi glass buffer and out of the view of his rear view mirror, so he couldn't see me! I felt so successful!
At the abuelo's house today I played this game with Rafita where he would jump on the trampoline and throw a basketball out, then I would make him say, "Get the ball please" then "Throw the ball please!" then instead of "Venga" I would make him say, "Come on!" He really liked it and it was a fun way to combine learning English and playing a trampoline- basketball throwing game! Carmen then wanted to play her favorite game, which is when I stand against a wall and say, "Goodbye Carmen!" as she scooters away, then I pretend to hum and look away while she scooters as fast as she can right towards me. When she gets close enough I "notice" her and scream "AHHHH" and put out my hands just soon enough to stop her from smashing me into the wall. Of course, this was on the other side of the house so I would do one turn with Carmen, then run to the trampoline and throw the ball to rafa, then back again! They thought it was really funny that I was running back and forth. :)
In the car back home Carmen said to Maica, "I forget Spanish now! Only English!" of course, she actually said that in Spanish, but I thought it was cute that she was acting like she could speak English now. They really are picking up a lot though.
Tonight I bathed Carmen and we kept talking about the water being "too cold" or "too hot" and then at dinner Carmen tasted her soup and said, "too hot!" so I was surprised that it stuck! Very cool to watch.
Then we watched some TV all 5 of us... Spain was super sad today because they lost the soccer game to Switzerland in the World Cup and they had been expecting to win them all! We watched some replays of the game and also some other news. At one point there was a clip of Obama talking about the oil leak in the gulf coast and I was joking at how I now understood Spanish TV perfectly, I'm so funny. Then it was bedtime! Hopefully my runny nose will stop because I would love to breath again...

Tuesday, 15 June 2010


Sooo Today I woke up and literally somehow fell out of bed onto the floor in an effort to shut off my blaring alarm clock that so rudely ended my 4 hours of sleep... ug.
During the morning drive Rafita asked me how to say Pedo in English, which of course, is Fart. For the rest of the drive he sang in his little high pitched voice "FART! FART! FART! FART!" Quite a good song, by the way, I think he could make it big some day with that one.
Got to Kaja's house, ate some breakfast, then she and I both promptly fell asleep for almost FOUR hours! Both of us had been up super late from writing our Honor's college application essays and we NEEDED that sleep! When we woke up it was almost time to go to our respective children, but we ate lunch first. I am really starting to embrace the Ham culture here! Ham can be really good on so many things! I had a sandwich with scrambled eggs and ham, it did not disappoint.
As I was walking to the bus stop it started POURING rain, which was unfortunate because I was in shorts and a T-shirt... But I didn't get too wet because the bus stop was close. I was lucky I got there when I did because moments later it started raining EVEN harder... I couldn't believe it!
The bus pulled up, I got on, got off, waited for the Abuelo to pick me up, luckily it had stopped raining by then! Then we got the kids and went, as per usual, to the abuelo's house! I just played around with Rafa and Carmen, basketball with Rafa first, then a game with Carmen where she would tie my hands with her sweater and "take me to jail" and then I would escape and run away. Good times! Then some other boy cousins showed up at the house and while Rafa was playing soccer with them, he actually peed his pants! Soooo funny and also sad.
Maica drove us home and Rafa gave a little encore performance of his Fart song. :)
Once home the kids and I took some more photobooth pictures on my computer, then it was time for dinner and bed time! I also did a load of laundry, which was interesting because they don't have a dryer, but I didn't want to hang my underwear and stuff all over their laundry lines, so I basically draped my clothing over every surface and knob in my little room! Alright, now it is time for ME to go to sleep... SOOoooo tired!
xoxo Julia

Monday, 14 June 2010


At last! The long awaited and eagerly anticipated SEVILLE BLOG POST!
This weekend Kaja and I took our first of hopefully several weekend trips away, and this time we went to Sevilla, or Seville. Friday started out as usual, except that I had to pack for the weekend trip and carry it all with me through my forrest walk to Kaja's. I got there, we packed up some sandwiches and snacks, and walked to the Metro. We were a little pressed for time, but actually got to the bus station basically at the perfect time! We also felt very successful because the Bus tickets were so cheap but the bus was spacious, comfy, and even played some spanish soap opera during the 6 hour trip!
Kaja and I had a great bus ride. We loved looking out the windows, because even though it was mostly farm lands interspersed with little pueblos, it was all so different and beautiful! There were also lots of solar panels and wind turbines that we passed Dad! Be proud of Spain! There were beautiful mountains, rock outcrops, canyons, fields full of sunflowers for as far as the eye could see, trees, and my favorite: Bulls (Toros)! Kaja and I plan to actually go see a bull fight at some point, although we are terrified of what it might be like and that we will vomit.
There was also this lady in front of Kaja that was just the classic example of an annoying bus traveler... Her phone would ring loudly and she would answer and practically yell as she spoke to the other person for like an hour at a time! Then when she would sleep she would drape her arm into our area... just pretty icky. She also sometimes made strange noises in her sleep, which was funny.
At some point we passed some cute town, which we decided was called, "Tembleque" because we saw that on some signs, but actually don't really know. We spent some time napping and listening to our ipods, then did some friendship bracelet making!
Finally we arrived in Seville! Kaja had written out the directions to the hostel that they gave us online, but they turned out to be so unhelpful because they told you streets to go to, but not which direction to turn once you reached them, so we would walk in one direction for a while and then turn around and walk the other direction if it didn't look promising. Eventually we saw a bus stop so we looked at the map inside and were able to orient ourselves and figure out the way to go! It did take us quite a while to get to the hostel though... a twenty minute walk took a little over a hour.
Kaja and I both got pretty frustrated when we got to the Hostel and they informed us that we had double booked ourselves, and therefore had paid twice! They let us cancel one of the nights of our second booking, but it still sucked. We were annoyed because they had sent Kaja an email that said that the credit card we payed with didn't go through, hence we paid again... only to have the credit card we payed with the first time TO go through! Overall, even though we felt suckered into paying for more than we were staying, we didn't let it bring us down and let the money go.
The hostel was pretty nice, we were staying in an 8 person room with beds much comfier than in OOPS and they also provided Lockers in the room, which made me feel much safer. In the last post I gave a trivia question, and the answer is, of course, A BIDET!! You can imagine I basically freaked out when I went into the bathroom and saw a Bidet. Made my day.
We left the hostel to grab dinner in Santa Cruz, the Jewish quarter. We went to a cute little tapas place! I got this yummy toast with tomato and fried goat cheese, Kaja got some eggplant egg dish, and we both had some delicious fruity Sangria! I must say, I just love that in Europe we can order drinks with dinner, it is really fun! Of course, we made the rookie tourist mistake of eating the plastic wrapped bread they put on our table, because we got charged for it in the end.
The restaurant was a short walk from our next destination, Casa De Memoria, where we saw a flamenco show! It was really authentic flamenco, with spanish guitar, people clapping and stomping, and really really intense flamenco dancing. Although it was really cool to see, both Kaja and I agreed that we almost laughed at it... the singer guy made the funniest faces as he sang, it was really goofy. Overall, it was impressive and they all were very talented, but it was a kinda boring show with only a little of the dancing that we wanted to see, too much spanish guitar that we didn't really want to hear, and none of the pretty colorful dresses that we craved. Both of us do want to see another show though, maybe less authentic and more touristy frankly...
We then walked back to the hostel, at around 11:30 PM, and both felt pretty icked out by all the European guys that if you even make eye contact with (or sometimes even if you don't) make comments to you (Hola guapa!) and make you feel super objectified. Also we both got a kick out of the fact that several people came up to us and started talking in spanish asking for directions places, we kept saying, "Somos toristas!" (we are tourists) but gave ourselves thumbs up for blending in.
We went to sleep at the Hostel early, around midnight, and it would have been great except there were some bugs in my room that literally chewed up my left side that was exposed! It was so icky!!! I woke in the middle of the night, freaked out about my swollen itchy left side, and immediately pulled my sheet up to around my neck and somehow went back to sleep. Then I woke up a short while later with three bites on my face!!! So so gross, I will have nightmares about that night. At least the bed was comfortable.
The next day we woke up and ate breakfast at the Hostel. The breakfast spread was actually quite decent- baguettes, hot chocolate, coffee, cereal, juice. We then left and had the BEST day exploring Seville!
Seville was so great because the city is small enough that you can walk everywhere, yet big enough that it looks different and contains SO many things to see!
First we went to Casa de Pilatas. It is an old Palace in Seville, and was AMAZING! It had such intricate tiles and every single surface was either carved beautifully or painted with scenes. The gardens in the courtyards were colorful and breathtaking with flowery vines and bright trees with an abundance of fresh oranges hanging from every branch. I loved this place, and it was a great place to start the day!
Then we decided to walk to the Cathedral. On the way we passed a store selling flamenco dresses. One of our goals from the beginning was to try on some flamenco dresses, so we promptly went in and picked some out. (you can see the result in Kaja's photo album on facebook) I tried out a green dress with dark pink flowers and big bright ruffles at the bottom and Kaja tried on a bright green dress with a colorfully patterned bottom. Kaja was embarrassed to take photos in the store if we weren't going to buy anything, but I insisted that we did because It was worth getting yelled at if I could have the pictures to show everyone! We didn't even get yelled at! Trying on the dresses was so much fun too! Then we passed a hat shop and of course had to go try on some hats! What we noticed throughout the day is that ladies in Spain actually wear big floofy hats with feathers and lace and stuff coming out of them, on special occasions like weddings. It is a legitimate and, in fact, necessary accessory!
We then made it to the Cathedral, the 3rd largest in the world! It was AMAZING! I don't think it was as beautiful and amazing in architecture as Notre Dam, but it was HUGE and really really beautiful. We walked around inside, saw the tomb of Christopher Columbus, and of course walked up the super tall tower to see the view of Seville! Awesome!
Then we decided to go to Alcazar, another old palace, (I kept accidentally calling it Alcatraz and Azkaban and Kaja made fun of me) but for once I totally messed up on navigating with the map! Instead we ended up at a cool old tobacco factory that now is the building for the University of Seville. We looked around inside for a minute and then left to try to find Alcazar. We walked for a while and when we got to where Alcazar was located on the map we looked around and realized that it was literally RIGHT NEXT to the Cathedral, so that whole walk was completely foolish, but fun anyways!
Alcazar was probably my favorite place I have ever been, ever. The palace was huge and amazingly decorated. Pretty tiles were everywhere, the ceilings were amazing! (Also as a bonus Kaja and I got in for free with our dinky student cards that until then had proved quite useless) We then went out to the Alcazar gardens which, I must admit, give Versailles a run for it's money! They are a tiny fraction of the size of Versailles, but are still huge and are like walking through the movie Avatar but in real life! There were paths and trees of all shapes and sizes, fountains and man made pools. We saw a bunch of ducks in a pool followed by 10 or so fluffy tiny ducklings! We continued to explore and saw a female Peacock on a wall. While taking pictures of her we heard a squawking and turned around to see a big beautifully colored male Peacock! (later we learned that the word for Peacock in spanish is Pavo Real, aka Royal Turkey) We literally followed it around for about 45 minutes, and at one point when we were in this secluded area with no other tourists he opened up his big beautiful tail for a good 20 minutes just for us! We took about a million pictures, but they just never seemed like enough to capture the amazing amazing sight of that peacock! I swear, everyone must see a bird like that one time in their life... it is incredible.
From Alcazar we went to the Plaza de Espana. Normally it is a really happening place, a big beautiful semi-circle building with a channel on the inside of the cemi circle that goes under pretty bridges that you can rent boats to row in, but it unfortunately was under construction so the channel was all dried up, the bridges closed off, and a lot of the pretty mosaic art lining the plaza was covered up! Even so it was a great sight... I wasn't too disappointed. Also there were two dudes dressed up in full our Native American garb, playing Titanic and Mama Mia songs on flute pipes... haha.
We left while walking though this cool park nearby, then decided it was time to go home. We had literally be sight seeing since 9 that morning, and were thoroughly tired (it was about 7 at that point). We walked home, stopping at a grocery store to get food for that night and the next day. We ate at the hostel, I had a tuna sandwich and Kaja had some lentil thing, and the Hostel sells pitchers of Sangria so we got one of those. We ate in the common room next to these three Canadian guys who we started talking with and made friends with. Somehow they convinced us to go on the "night tour" (up until then our plan had been to go get ice cream after dinner then call it a night and go to sleep early because our legs were killing us and we were so tired) which is a 10 Euro tour that brings people from several hostels to three bars and one club.
WARNING: the next part is about Julia and Kaja going to clubs and bars in Spain. It includes drinking and clubbing, obviously. If you think that you are a disapproving parent or other person, then skip ahead. If you think you can handle reading about two college girls having fun experiencing Spanish night life, read ahead, keeping in mind that we were both very careful and responsible throughout the whole night, while still having a good time!
The fee includes your entrance fee as well as 5 shots per person, and kaja and I did NOT need 5 shots per person, me having Mono and her not WANTING 5, so we convinced the tour guy to let us go for a combo fee of 15 Euros! We got into some nicer clothing and off we went! There were about 30 of us in the group and it was actually really fun because I felt safer being in a large group with a guide who knew where to go! The first bar was a really retro club, dark with neon lights and funky club music. The first shot of the evening was Tequila (it turns out that no one kept count of how many shots anyone took, but don't worry everyone, we didn't drink a lot and the night was actually very long, you'll see, so the drinks were very spread out!!!) After a while in that club, we literally went next door, to a more sports bar kind of joint. Kaja and I and the Canadian guys played darts for a while, and the shot at that bar was like a cherry cough syrup nasty concoction that no one liked. The last bar of the tour was outside under a bridge right next to the guadalquiver river that runs through Seville. It had cool laser and strobe lights going everywhere. That bar's drink was a Pina Coolada. By the way, in all of the bars and clubs there were people smoking like crazy IN DOORS! I couldn't believe it haha, I am such an american. Anyways, after the third bar it was time for the club. At this point I believe it was about TWO IN THE MORNING! Kaja and I were SO tired, but we figure we were only in Seville once and we wanted to go to a dance club before we left, so we decided to stick it out for a bit more. It turned out that the club they took us to was a gay club, which I was SO happy about because that meant that we didn't have to deal with the crazy European creepy men and we could legitimately have fun just dancing. Although I must say, it was totally crazy. The club was outdoors on the side of the river, I have never seen so many gay men in my life. It was intense. Kaja and I just had fun dancing to the music. At about 4:00 AM we decided we had to head home, we were falling asleep, although the night was clearly far from over from everyone else at the club! We walked home together, the club wasn't far from our Hostel and I knew right where we were so we didn't have any trouble getting in! Shortly after we got back, the Canadian boys got back too and convinced us to go up to the roof of the hostel to watch the sun rise. Of course we went and it was fun, although I kinda just wanted to go to sleep at that point. I think it was about 6:30 when we finally went to bed!!! Spain is CRAZY!

NOTE: The PG 13 Part is now over, for those of you who didn't think you could handle the craaazy night part :P
We woke up at about 8:45 the next morning. Yeah... that sucked. We kinda showered, but there wasn't any shampoo or soap really, so we just used some body wash that someone left in the shower (sorry random person) and let our hair be dirty. We packed up all our stuff and took everything with us as we left the Hostel for good.
Now, it is difficult being a tourist. Add to that little more than 2 hours of sleep, plus somewhat heavy backpacks, plus tired bodies from yesterday's tourism and the previous night's dancing, and you get two pooped chicas. We walked around Seville for a little bit, the day was MUCH hotter than the previous day, increasing the laziness I was feeling. Kaja somehow dragged me to Santa Anna, the oldest Church in Seville, really pretty, and then to The big bull fighting arena in Seville. Unfortunately, everything was closed because it was Sunday... we hadn't counted on this, so it kinda ruined our plans for the day, but the day was really fun anyways. After the bull fighting place we walked back towards the cathedral because we just NEEDED some good ice cream on this hot day. So we found a Hagen Daz with outside tables. I got this amazing Belgian chocolate ice cream and chocolate cookie ice cream. We literally sat there for about an hour, just resting our tired bodies. Unfortunately at one point this black guy came up to us and really really started freaking us out... He wanted to talk to us and at one point he touched something on Kaja's bag, immediately sending major warning signals and creeping us out... we started saying GO AWAY. He got defensive, saying "I am human, like you, I want to talk" I was like, "We have been very clear, we want to be ALONE go away!!" And I got the waiter to come over and he finally left!
The ice cream and rest rejuvenated us and we then got up and walked alllll the way across Seville to Parque de Hercules where we sat down and had lunch. Kaja gave me a massage, it was so nice. Then we really had to go to the bathroom, but couldn't find one, so decided to try to find one at our next destination, the Monastery.
Of course, the Monastary was closed! We then walked back across Seville to the Museo de Bella Arte, which was of course closed as well! Finally we went into a shopping plaza place that was open and got to go to the bathroom, after like 3 hours!! Then it was about 4:30, our bus home was at about 6, but we didn't have anything to do, seeing as everything was closed. We were both so tired, we basically just sat and waited for the bus, playing "Would you rather" which is a really fun game where you give the other person two options and they have to chose one, for example, would you rather have really bushy awful eyebrows or stumpy bad eyelashes? It was pretty fun and before we knew it the bus was here to take us home! On the bus ride home we mostly slept and listened to music. I did some reflecting on the trip and decided it was one of my favorite weekends ever. I love that we saw so many great things and although we were tired, we made the most of the little time we had!
The bus arrived back in Madrid at about 12:30 AM. The metro closes at 1:30 AM, so we were a little afraid about getting home before it closed down. We had to take several metro trains to the other metro line to Kaja's house. We JUST made it onto the last metro train to Kaja's house as it turned 1:30! Very lucky! When we got to Kaja's stop, we left the train and walked up the stairs to the exit the way we normally do, only to find that it was sealed shut with big iron gates! This was probably the scariest part of the whole trip. We were SO TIRED, all we wanted to do was go to sleep, and now we were locked into the metro station! There was a big red emergency button, which we ALMOST pushed, but then got frightened at the prospect of a bunch of Spanish police showing up, especially because we thought there MUST be some stupid obvious way out that we didn't see, and HOW embarrassing that would be! Kaja then decided to call her host family, even though it was close to 2 AM. BUT then she realized her phone was dead! I then decided we should go back down and see if there were any other exits. And Hurray! There was an elevator that took us right to the street and to freedom!!! Then there was a twenty minute walk to Kaja's house. If there is one thing I have decided, it is that I don't want to come home so late, ever again... it is creepy and scary!!
We finally got to Kaja's, I showered because I felt so crazy dirty. Then I PASSED OUT and slept!!!!! FINALLY!
In the morning we were able to sleep in until about noon. We then basically just relaxed, put up the photo's Kaja took, ate food, and did nothing! So fun!
I hopped on the bus to Las Lomas, got picked up by the abuelo, picked up the kiddies from school, went to the abuelo's house, played basketball with Rafita, played a memory card game with Carmen, and basically just had a really fun time! Actually also the abuelo showed us his "dead bug collection," he likes to kill bees, cockroaches, and other GROSS insects and keep them in a little cookie tin. gag.
Maica picked us up, I bathed the kids and made Rafita cry when I made him get out (We made a deal that he would get out in 6 minutes... legit I was not in the wrong) but he forgave me all but instantly and was his usual cheerful happy high pitched voice again! Then we all kinda ate dinner together for once, which I liked. Carmen asked me to make her a friendship bracelet so I started one, and it is so cute. She is so adorable too because I guess there is some girl at her school with one who shows it off all the time and Carmen was excited because the one I am making her is WAY better than this other girls! Love her!
Then it was about 10 when I finally went to my room and reality hit me that I only had two hours to write up my mini essays to apply to the honor's college at UMass! I was freaking out, madly writing, realizing that I just COULDN'T make the deadline although I was so close!! Then Kaja pointed out to me that we were 6 hours ahead of the Eastern time zone, so actually we had 6 more hours to finish! Halllllllelujah!! I took my time and finished the application, sent it in, and hooray! Now I just wait! I have a good shot at getting in because my GPA is the exact average that they accept and I think my essays were pretty decent! Time will tell...
Then, of course, instead of going to sleep I stayed up till 3 AM writing this blog post! But I didn't want to wait because everything was so fresh in my mind! I can sleep tomorrow at Kaja's!

A few things:
1) Shout out to Gma Carol, Happy Birthday!
2) THANK you to everyone who is reading my blog! I LOVE getting your comments and emails! I feel so missed and I love that everyone is taking the time out of their day to read my overly long and drawn out posts!! And I REALLY love the comments, everyone is so sweet and they make me happpppy!
3) Next weekend... MARRAKECH MOROCCO HERE WE COME!! SO excited!!

LOVE EVERYONE, misssss everyone.
xoxoxox Julia


CHECK OUT KAJA'S PHOTO ALBUM OF SEVILLA!!/album.php?aid=2043566&id=1232940146

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Back from Seville!

This is a teaser blog post... Got home from Seville at about 2:30 AM, showered because I was unbelievably disgusting and now its 3 AM and I am definitely ready to go to sleep. But, thought I would quickly post that I am home safe from Kaja and my first official weekend trip and it was SO SO much fun.

P.S. :Trivia question to be answered in next blog post:
Q: What did I find in the Bathrooms of the hostel?

xoxo Julia
Detailed and probably very long seville post to be written whenever I get the chance!!! Hopefully tomorrow or the next day.

Thursday, 10 June 2010


Fun day today!
1) Actually today didn't start out great... I woke up sleepy as always and Carmen walked up to me with her arms outstretched. I thought she wanted to give me a hug so I opened my arms, only to have her WHACK me in the stomach. Spanish children are a lot more aggressive in their play, but I really didn't like being hit in the morning...
2) We dropped them off and then dropped me off. Today I walked to kaja's while listening to my ipod which made it more fun, because although it is a beautiful walk, it gets boring the fourth time. At Kaja's we quickly ate breakfast before heading off for the day's adventures! The goal was Madrid and we planned to go via the metro station a few minutes away from Kaja's house. We biked to the metro station, my bike about three feet to small for me and Kaja's with two extremely flat tires and hopped on! We really have become masters of Metros! We had beed planning on purchasing a "youth abono" which is a monthly metro pass... you pay like 30 euros or something and then can use it to ride free on busses, trains, trolleys, maybe even horses i dunno! But we found out that it takes 10 days to arrive, so getting it for this month would not be worth it. So we continued on to Madrid and went shopping!! We went to H&M and tried on half the things in the store. Kaja and I each bought a shirt and skirt and then we got these adorable matching polka dot dresses, hers is yellow with white dots and mine is black with pink dots. We are planning to wear them in Seville together and look soooo cute and adorable!
3) We then went into a few other shops, one really cool European store called "Mango" with really cool clothing (Maica actually told me later today that she has a 40% discount card that she will give to me to use next time I go!!) and some other stops before it was already time to go home to pick up our kids from school!! Kaja and I had so much fun, we couldn't stop laughing on the metros and people were giving us looks of annoyance but we didn't care!
4) I got on an early bus again, but this time it was sunny so when I arrived at the designated pick up point I pulled out my ipod and a friendship bracelet I am currently working on and sat in the grass in the sunshine! The abuelos picked me up at 4:45 and we went to the school. This time the Abuelo let me go get Carmen but he got Rafa. Carmen promptly started whailing on me with her fists again (I so don't get it) and laughing like a maniac and in the car Rafa joined in. I stopped them and said very clearly that I dont like pain, shocker, and the abuela actually helped me in getting them to stop!! They have not abused me since! At the abuela's house first we watched some spanish children's tv shows including Arthur!! It was one I had never seen before and it was about the Odyssey! I love watching spanish children's shows because they are so easy to understand and lots of fun! Then I played dominoes with Carmen until Maica picked us up.
5) No one ever tells me what the plan of the afternoon is, I just get in the car and it's always a surprise where we end up. Today we ended up at Burger King! One of Maica's friends, Sara, was there with her adorable adorable son. it was Sara's birthday and so I guess they wanted to get together. It was actually really fun because a) I got a delicious American cheeseburger b) I successfully got Carmen to eat her dinner without Maica's help, c) Carmen, Rafa Jr, the other boy and I played on the little indoor play structure at Burger King so Maica and Sara could have some chatting time and it was really fun! They were being so sweet and cute and kept saying, "Yulia mira!" (Julia look) d) I really think that I have already helped them learn so much english, now when I say some things I can tell they totally understand! Sometimes they even answer me in english, like "yes" or "dog" or "Thank you" or "goodbye see you later!" I feel so accomplished!
6) The ride home was really fun too because no one fought! The kids favorite song of mine is the bumble bee song and I sang it over an over again. By the end of the ride they were singing along too and doing the hand motions! We got home with everyone happy and full of delicious friend American food.
7) Rafa Sr was leaving that night to go to a work thing over night, which I must say also eased the energy in the house because he can be pretty strict but with only Maica there everyone was relaxed, plus the kids were sleeping in Maica's bed. We hung around the kitchen for a while, then I showed Carmen and Rafa "Photobooth" on my computer. They had so much fun taking funny pictures on my computer, I'll see if I can figure out how to add one to this post!
8) Now I'm all ready to go to bed, but first I need to write five mini essays to apply to Umass's honor's college! I'm not sure that I want to join, because I have heard that a lot of people don't like it, but I figure I might as well apply! The application is due Monday, but since I am going to Seville all weekend, I won't have time time!
9) Tomorrow Kaja and I are going to Seville!! Maica lent me her camera for the weekend so I can take lots of photos! I'll be sure to show everyone. However, this weekend trip means there wont be another juliablah post until either Monday or Sunday!! Sorry everyone :)
P.s. I am getting so good at understanding Spanish!! It's not even that difficult to understand! But speaking is another story haha... I have trouble with my past tense verbs.
p.p.s. KAJA's QUOTE OF THE DAY!!: i am too exhausted from dealing with two scoundrels to think of a quote
p.p.p.s. I Miss everyone!!!!!

First picture is of me, carmen and rafa, second is just me and Carmen!
P.p.p.p.s. They don't really say Hulia or even Julia, they say Yulia... I think it's because they try to pronounce the J and it turns out like a y! (Dad this doesn't mean I'm going to become an incompetent car saleswoman.)

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Kaja and my new favorite song:
The girl is Scarlett Johansson!
Sooo today was really rainy and I was so tired... so I'm going to try to make this short so I can go to sleep! This morning at Kaja's we walked to the nearby supermarket to get some groceries and stuff. This grocery store was so so different than in America... much less variety, pancake mix sold in boxes labeled "tortillas americanas," and whole pig legs hanging behind the deli counter with their hooves still attached!! With out newly purchased groceries Kaja and I made chocolate chip cookies! Its funny, Kaja's Au Padre stocks up on the strangest foods but doesnt keep the kitchen supplied with basic necessities like butter, eggs, and Sugar! We had to be a bit inventive with our cookies but in the end they turned out delicious!! Because it was so rainy that was about all we did, it was a sleepy morning.
I then took the bus to the school area but I wound up there way too early so I had to wait in the rain for a good 45 minutes. I had an umbrella but it was still pretty miserable. The Abuela came to get me with the Abuelo, but when we got to the school the Abuelo told me he wanted me to stay in the car, he wanted to go get them alone. He explained that when I am there, Carmen yells, "Julia!!!" and he wanted her to yell "Abuelo!!" instead. I let him go alone of course, I was just as happy to sit in the warm car, but inside I was thinking, "Are you kidding me?" He got Carmen (Rafa Jr was staying late at school again today) and when we got to the Abuela's house she and I went into the basement where there are lots of toys. I must admit I just kinda sat there being tired and spacing out while Carmen entertained herself with lots of stuffed animals... not my best Au Pair moment. Then Maica came with Rafa and took us all home. I don't know if it was the rain or everyone was just tired, but Rafa and Carmen started fighting like crazy in the car until everyone was SOBBING and Maica looked like she was thinking about driving off a bridge. Somehow we made it back to the house with everyone in one piece and then things started going uphill.
Carmen had a time out in her room to cool off, while Rafa and I played some board games. When Carmen came back she was much more cheerful and she joined us for Rummy cube! Carmen and I played on a team against Rafa. I am actually really good at Rummy cube and for once didn't go easy (after all, if I win with Carmen it's ok in my book) and both Rafa Sr and Maica came to try to help Rafa Jr out, but I was still creaming him. Of course, as is typical with Rummy Cube and little kids, the game never really ends with a winner because sooner or later someone decides to roll in the pieces! It was good timing though because it was dinner!
Maica made this delicious Spanish rice dish that I loved! Actually Maica's cooking is really funny because she cooks with this machine, the "Thermomix 31" and yes it is just as goofy as the name. This machine cooks, mixes, chops, times, weighs, and even comes with a cookbook full of easy recipes to make in it. Maica says she hates cooking but in the Thermomix it is easy! The food is always really yummy so it's fine with me! I also brought some cookies home for everyone so they were very happy.
That's about all that happened today, hopefully tomorrow I will be more awake!!
xoxoxx Julia

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

RAIN in SPAIN? (stays mainly in the plain)

Hola! Today was some good, some stress, mostly good.
1) Today was another 7:30 AM wake up, not as difficult as I would have thought because I am excited every day to get going. I am definitely feeling more comfortable in the house... little things like feeling confident enough in the kitchen to grab a glass and put oj in it with ice, just the way I like it, instead of timidly waiting for someone to invite me to help myself. Then as usual Maica dropped the kids off at school and then me off at the mouth of the path to Kaja's. (Kaja just informed me that there are 5 types of poisonous snakes in Spain... Soooo that sucks) I don't know if I have just become a master navigator of paths or I walked especially quickly, but I made it to Kaja's house in about a half hour. So quickly in fact, that I arrived while Kaja was still there! Part of Kaja's responsibilities is to bike her kids to their schools. Pablo (or Pablete to differentiate him from Pablo Sr) is 2 and SO hilarious and cute and rides on the back of Kaja's bike, while Sara who is 6 and very cute as well but significantly more difficult to manage rides her own bike. This morning, in typical fashion, Sara wanted to bring her prized toy, handcuffs (i dont know why) to school, but her mom (Patricia) had said no, leaving Kaja to enforce it. Sara does NOT respond well to not getting her way. Sooo although 9:30 is when Sara was supposed to be at school, it ended up being the time they were leaving to go to school. (Shout out to Kaja... I feel your pain).
2) Anyways, having just hiked the vast Sahara Spanish plains, I decided to go in Kaja's house and wait for her to get back. It was a nice relaxing time, I just bummed around on Kaja's computer while sitting in this nice indoor porch kind of place, drinking some juice. Kaja got back and we had some breakfast, then decided to tackle the enormous challenge of planning out our weekends for the rest of the summer.
3) This turned out to be very stressful and time consuming, not to mention extremely aggravating because the internet was a bit dodgy and many of the websites we were trying to use were either a) Not working properly b) not making any sense c) In Spanish or d) all of the above. In addition, we only have 7 weekends but about 20 places we would like to go. The places we are most determined to go to are: Seville, Grenada, Barcelona, Morocco, Portugal, and one weekend around Madrid, Toledo and Segovia, one weekend not yet decided upon.

"trying to buy eurail pass is enough of a hassel, add the confusion of not knowing spanish and it is impossible. i think i would rather ride a horse!"
Yayyy! Actually in real life we were trying to find a way to hit two places in one weekend by riding horses from one to another... then we realized that neither of us are really horse riders nor do we have the time or money for a 9 day horse adventure. Oh well.

4) Eventually we settled on just figuring out this coming weekend in Seville. We found an extremely cheap bus ride (six hours! Ay dios mio) and booked a hostel so it looks like we are good to go! Then we congratulated ourselves with a bowl of popcorn!
5) I left at about 3:15 to catch the bus to Las Lomas, where Carmen and Rafa's school was and where the abuela would pick us up. It all worked out that the abuela and I were about 20 min early to pick them up, which was pretty awkward because we didn't really have anything to talk about (what with the language barrier and all) so we just kinda sat there, her doing a sudoku and me making a list of songs to sing to Carmen and Rafa in my notebook. Then finnnnnally it was time to get the kiddies so we picked them up and drove back to the abuela's house. I played basketball with Rafa and it was very fun, of course I let him beat me (Not saying that I am especially good at Basketball... it's just hard not to sink every shot when the net is as high as my head). It was really fun though! Then Maica drove up to pick us up just as it started to rain! I thought that Kaja must be very happy with the rain because she has been here for a few weeks and said she misses the rain, but for me I was very NOT happy in my shorts and t-shirt. I was pretty cold. It is supposed to rain tomorrow too! Bummer.
6) Maica took us to some other woman's house, I forget her name. Rafa is having a joint birthday party type thing with the other woman's son on Saturday (I wont be there) and the two mothers were planning treasure hunts and such. This family had three sons and an Au Pair too from around Boston! She just graduated college and was really nice. They had lots of toys and games, including a foozeball table. I played with Rafa, who was pretty good... I almost didnt have to try to lose. Haha. Then I played against Carmen who was completely incompetent at foozeball... I like to be nice to kids and let them win, but literally I would not touch the ball and she still could not maneuver the little soccer players to get the ball into my goals. So I had to resort to "accidentally" shooting the ball into my own goal about 7 times so she could win without the game taking an eternity. Oy!
7) We left at around 7:30 PM when it was still raining to go home. Rafa Sr was making dinner, aka microwaving a roasted chicken (haha pretty far from your legit roasted chicken mum). As always, kids dinner was first. I have never seen someone struggle with eating chicken ever before as Rafa Jr did with his dinner tonight. He gagged, he coughed, he cried... I dont know what his problem with chicken was, but that boy did NOT want to eat it and his parents made him finish every single last bite. When I asked Kaja for her quote of the day, she asked me for mine. I said, "The life of a spain traveler is tough, but not as difficult as getting a wee boy of 7 to eat his chicken." Heehee.
8) While Rafa was fighting his epic battle with his small mound of chicken, I helped Carmen into bed, she didn't want to sleep, so I told her I would sing her a song. I sang "Somewhere over the rainbow" and literally when I left her room she was asleep. I rock! Unfortunately, then Rafa joined her and woke her up. (Normally they have separate rooms, but now I am in Rafa's room so they are sharing, consequently neither of them go to sleep very well or stay asleep very well) The Au Pairents and I sat down for dinner, the chicken actually was yummy, much to my relief after seeing Rafa practically go into epileptic shock with every bite. I helped clean up after dinner and talked a bunch with the Au padre about Kaja and my plans for travel. I mentioned how we were trying to go to lots of places because its a rare opportunity to be in Spain for the summer. Rafa Sr has always been pretty quiet around me, I sometimes thought he didnt like me or thought I wasn't worth having around or something, but then he said, "But next summer you can come back!" or something to that effect, which just made me feel really welcomed and assured me that I was liked! Now I am exhausted and ready for bed. Buenas noches!

Monday, 7 June 2010

First day on da job

I am so glad today is over with because now I know what to expect for the next month. Basically the month of June is when the kids are still in school so my schedule goes: -free time (aka Kaja's house)
-catch a bus to near the Kid's school
-get picked up by Abuela
-hang with kids
-help feed, bath, and bed kids
-dinner with au-pairents
-blog post.
The month of July is basically the opposite because that's when the kids are on summer vacation. So I am with them doing whatever we want from 8-3 and then after three I am on break.
So! On to today's adventures.
1) I woke up at 7:30AM to go to Kaja's. I could have slept in and taken a long, indirect bus journey to Kaja's but I thought I'd rather get going. So I managed to get dressed and going despite this being the first time I was awake this early since high school. Then I sat with Carmen and Rafa as they ate some breakfast (they were both very pumped that Rafa Nadal, their Spanish tennis hero, won yesterday in France) and then helped Maica stuff them and their school stuff into the car to drive them to school. They have to wear the most adorable school uniforms, him in little grey Bermuda shorts and a white collared shirt and her in a little pleated grey skirt with overall straps and the same white collared shirt, both of them in black knee socks with black shiny shoes. On the way to their school they asked me to sing some more songs, so I sang them "bringing home a baby bumble bee," "The itsy bitsy spider" and, of course, "Colors of the wind" from Pocahontas. We dropped them off and then Maica dropped me off at a rotary on her way to work so I would have to walk the rest of the way to Kaja's house on my own.
2) The walk to Kaja's house is through this huge vast green foresty grassy area with lots of connecting paths for walking. But it is just so amazing because there are hardly any other people and no roads, cars, or houses to be seen so it feels like you are in the middle of africa with the sun shining down on you. I thought it was cool until I realized that I had no idea if I was even heading in the right direction and I almost stepped on a big black snake in the middle of the path... ew. I had a map with me but the map didnt have the paths accurately drawn so it was very unhelpful. Eventually after about 50 minutes of walking I made my way to a street (without encountering any other life threatening animals) and on my map realized I had taken the most round-about route but at least I got there!! When I got to Kaja's house she was out dropping her kids off at school so I waited outside in the shade and rested for about 15 minutes until she got home.
3) First we ate breakfast, I had some cereal that was delicious. Then we decided to watch a kid's movie that we both loved, but dubbed in spanish with spanish sub-titles so we could strengthen our skills. We decided on Tarzan, a great movie... only problem was that about 15 minutes in to the movie, both of us were asleep! We needed a nap, being an au pair is hard work! After we woke up we decided to walk to the nearby town of Bodilla to get some things at a Pharmacia. Conveniently the walk to Bodilla was the path that I should have taken this morning so I got to see what the most efficient path was (turns out it takes about 45 minutes anyways). When we got to Bodilla we realized that we barely had time to look around before we had to head back because it was getting close to when I had to leave to catch my bus. Even so we glanced around the old side of Bodilla, which is pretty empty and run down. Then we walked the 45 minutes back and I just had time to make myself a quick sandwich before I had to run out and catch my bus!
4) I got the bus and somehow explained to the bus driver where I wanted to be dropped off (literally I pointed the spot on the map). He was really nice and took me exactly there... not even a real bus stop! I arrived perfectly on time and Abuela (Maica's mom) was waiting for me in a car. The kid's school is about 10 minutes away from Abuela's house and ends an hour before Maica is done with work so Abuela always picks them up. We then had about an hour before the school was done so Abuela sat me down on the couch and put the tv remote in my hand and left me alone in a dark cool room. It was SO nice. I watch a spanish news show and tried not to fall asleep again.
5) We left at 4:45 to go pick up Carmen (Rafa jr. was stays late for something on Mon and Weds) and it was SO cute because as soon as we entered the school building Carmen RAN over to me and hugged my waist. Definitely made my day! We then went to Abuela's house again because turns out the ENTIRE local family and friends were coming over to swim and also I think to meet me. They weren't coming back for like an hour so Carmen and I just played around outside until they arrived. I couldn't exactly follow the relation of everyone who stopped by, but I know there were two teenage girl cousins, and about two young boy cousins, and I think two aunts. They all were really nice and we swam in the pool for a little while. Around then I realized that my hours of walking in the sun left me with very red shoulders... oh well, the curse of the pale. A little later Maica showed up with Rafa too.
6) The four of us went home at some time I dont know, the car ride consisting of me singing more songs for them and speaking to them in really basic English. We got home and I bathed Carmen and then kept her and Rafa Jr company as they ate dinner at about 9:20 PM. SO Late! Maica did tell me that she wants them in bed by 9, but it almost never happens. But their dinner was really really great for me because I talked with Rafa jr a lot more and made him laugh too, because up until then I hadn't really connected with him, just Carmen. They requested that I sing more, but I would stop every time they stopped eating, therefore encouraging them to finish dinner! They finally were done at about 10 PM and I put them in bed and read to them two more pages of Fin M'Coul before leaving them to sleep and joining the au-pairents for dinner. We ate some pizza and tomatoes with olive oil, with pineapple for dessert. Yum yum. (Side note- another spanish thing is the men stock up like crazy on the most random foods, Kaja's Au-padre bought like 4 Huge tubs of greek yogurt, 30 little individual yogurts, and so many fruits that they had to through tons of it away because it went bad, and my Au-padre stocked up on about 20 frozen pizzas because they were on sale). I helped the au-pairents clean up after dinner and that was it for the day!
7) Kaja and I have decided to leave for Seville on Friday morning! We are staying in a cheap-o hostel and I am SO excited! Also the weather forecast predicts a nice, sunny yet cool, weekend which is perfect because Seville often gets crazy hot. I am having such a good time here! Love you all!

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Day in Madrid!

So! Today was such a fun day. I like writing in lists, by the way. (Warning... this post is sooo long.)
1) First I went with my au-pairents (get it, au pair/ parents) and kids to a local mall area, where they got me a prepaid cell phone! I still haven't figured out how to use it, but still, at least now I am not in the dinosaur age anymore.
2) Side note: My Au-pairents are Maica and Rafa. Maica is the mom and she is so so nice, and Rafa is the dad, short for Rafael I think. Rafa is kinda stand-offish but he is really nice and really puts a lot of effort into helping me figure out things around spain, like the metro, buses, and my wee prepaid cellphone. Rafa is also the name of the son, who is 7. He is so so full of energy, and likes attention, poop, pee, farts, and burps. Aka he is exactly like an american boy. But he is also so so sweet and I really like him. Carmen is the little 4 year old girl. She also likes to be a little naughty and play tricks, but is so sweet and adorable. She smiles and giggles all the time. I really like them both! Neither of the kids speak english, but the parents want me to teach the kids english, so I say everything in english and then in spanish and try to name as many things as I can!
3) That was a long side note, anyways. Then Rafa Sr. drove me to Kaja's house, picked up Kaja, and dropped us off at her local metro stop. Kaja and I somehow maneuvered the ticket machines and got me a ticket before we hopped on a metro and went to Madrid!!
4) We got off at "Plaza del Sol" which is in the very middle of Madrid. We wandered around a bit first, stopping at some interesting clothing shops and the Harbio gummy bear store, before we decided to find our way to El Rastro (more about this later.)
5) Turns out, I am quite decent at reading maps and following them! We walked for around 15 minutes to get to El Rastro. The middle of Madrid is a super tourist place with lots of funny touristy things lining the streets. There are people coating the sidewalks offering to paint you, massage you, and even give you acupuncture right on the street!!! There are also people dressed up all over the place in costumes, like this really fat man we saw wearing a spandex spiderman costume... ew.
6) We got to El Rastro! El Rastro is a huge flea market in Madrid every Sunday in the morning and a HUGE tourist spot. But it is also a prime prime pickpocketing zone. Everyone knows it too- if you stopped and looked around, every single woman was clutching her purse to her chest. Kaja and I didn't buy anything (I was afraid to even take out my wallet) but we walked up and down the many rows of tents looking at all the things for sale. There were lots of amazing fabrics and dresses, classic flamenco outfits, jewelery and some creepy tents with gas masks. I thought the funniest tents were the ones selling bras... who would buy a bra in the middle of the street?? None of the tents were selling bidets...
7) After a while Kaja and I started feeling claustrophobic in the intense heat and crowds so we wandered back to Plaza del Sol for some fresh air and because I was starving.
8) I got some food near Plaza del Sol (not ham nor cheese) and then Kaja and I decided to just walk in a random direction and lose ourselves in Spain. The city was beautiful! So many amazing buildings! Kaja took a lot of pictures of the scenery, hopefully I can get some of them from her to show everyone. We stopped for a quick rest sitting on a wall outside the Museo del Prado (which we decided we would try to come back to and go inside on a later date) and then saw signs pointing to the Parque del Retiro.
9) It was great luck because we had wanted to go there and magically went in the right direction! The park was a huge green area, comparable in size to central park in NY. It was huge, we only went to a tiny corner of it because we were a little pressed for time. We saw a group of Spanish singers strumming on funny instruments and singing Spanish songs, more vendors, and more people dressed in costumes. There was one man dressed as a Native American, which I found a bit ironic (Think that counts as irony Shana?) considering we were in Spain. We passed a big lake with row boats for rent, considered renting a boat but decided against it because of the line, instead opting for a patch of sunny grass to take a siesta in.
10) I told my Au-pairents I would be home at six, so at around 4:45 we went looking for a metro stop to get on to. We found one eventually and hopped on! Then Kaja and I separated ways and it was time for me to find my way home via a metro-bus combo ALL by myself for the first time. Dun dun dunnnn. I got off the metro at the right place, Mongloa but then had trouble finding the right lane for my bus, number 625. But all was not lost! Using my Spanish skills, I asked a man in a uniform, "Estoy buscando al numero 625" (I am looking for number 625) and he immediately started flirting with little american me and instead of giving me directions he escorted me up and down a few escalators and across the street to the exact location of my bus stop. I thought it was funny. Now, the tricky part was the bus, because I had never taken it before and they don't stop unless you press the "stop requested" button, so I had to be very alert of my surroundings so I could press it in time. It worked out though! Then I walked a few blocks to my au-house (au pair/ house... doesn't work as well) and skillfully used my keys to get past the gate, lobby door, and apartment door! I got there around 6:30, so not too bad for a first timer.
11) I showered, which felt AAAAAmaazing in the heat. Next I went outside with Carmen to where Rafa and Rafa were playing soccer. Carmen and I started playing a tag kind of game and although I was exhausted and hot I couldn't stop because she was so adorable when she screamed and laughed and ran away so I would chase her. It must have seemed like a super fun game because Rafa jr. abandoned his dad to join in the fun. Then it was time for dinner so we went in.
12) First it was kid's dinner. Carmen has a little kid's computer toy that has math and alphabet games as well as songs and she was playing some of the songs. I recognized "oh Suzanna" and sang them the english version. It was so funny... they both just stared at me in awe, then re-played the song about 15 times, making me sing it to them over and over again while they ate dinner. I guess they like my songs :).
13) I helped them a bit to brush their teeth and get ready for bed, which was good because I felt like I was contributing. Then I read them a few pages of Fin M'coul, an english book I brought with me.
14) After the kids went to bed, the Au-pairents and I sat down for dinner. Maica had made an eggplant dish similar to eggplant parmesan, with sauteed eggplant pieces, ground beef, tomato sauce, and parmesan cheese I think. I told them about my day as much as I could in Spanish. I helped Maica clean up after dinner and then retired to my room, where I proceeded to write the world's longest blog post about my day... sorry everyone!

P.s. I found a bidet use... When Rafa sr. was bathing Rafa jr., he put the worn clothing that Rafa jr. took off and put it in the bidet temporarily while the bathing was ensuing. So... possible modern Bidet use= laundry holder during a bath? Hmm, the investigation continues.

Until next time,