Friday, 30 July 2010

It's the end!

Wow, how time flies!
These last few days have been pretty regular, but some great things have happened. On Thursday all the cousins came to the Abuela's for a picnic and swim fun time. There were 8 of us in total, and It was really fun. The two older girl cousins were the ones I was closest with and I gave them each a card and one I also gave a friendship ancklet and the other I gave 1 US dollar. Then to be fair I also gave their little brother a US Dollar and it was SO cute how he treasured that bill. He even said, in english, "It's my first dollar!" to the Abuela! The whole day all the cousins were speaking in little bits of English here and there. I thought it was so sweet, because I remember when I first got here, all the parents would be like, "practice your english with Julia! Speak English!" But all the cousins would completely refuse. But now, they all happily chirp out things like, "I want more meat!" and stuff! I have positively impacted so many Spanish people! Woo! Then the oldest girl, Sofia, handed me a present. It was so cute... A card that all the cousins signed and in a long box was a big beautiful yellow Spanish fan with flowers painted on it. It was so perfect because everywhere in Spain they sell fans, but I would never get one for myself. But this one was so special because I knew the Abuela picked it out for me to match this one dress I have, and it is just perfectly simple and classic... It reminds me so much of the abuela, and what a great trinket to bring home to remind me of Spain!! I just was so touched!
I was further touched when the Abuela pulled me aside later that day because she wanted to show me lots of things around the house. She showed me certificates of achievement of various family members, trinkets they had collected from various vacations, and tons and tons of photographs of family members ranging from great great grandparents to baby pictures of all the people who I knew! It was so cool to see some of the family's background and also I felt very loved by the Abuela that she wanted to let me into her life like that!
Today as we were leaving the abuela's for the last time, she told me to keep in touch, send her photos, and more, and I definitely plan on doing that!! Then my family and Kaja's went to meet up at Escorial, a monastery palace thing near Madrid. On the way I gave Carmen and Rafa their gifts... A puzzle, a box of candies, each a hand drawn card that was SO cute with a US dollar and one of each coin taped inside, and a little hair clip for Carmen and a toy airplane for rafa! They loved their gifts, except Carmen was jealous of Rafa's plane for a while haha. Then Maica and Rafa surprised me with a present of some really really pretty earrings that I LOVE! It was a lovely gift exchange!
It turned out that Escorial closed before we got there, so we could only see the outside, but it was still cool. The area was also a really nice place. We all got drinks and then walked around for a bit before having a really traditional Spanish Tapas meal at a restaurant. Boy, is it easier to try things when you aren't the one paying! We had tons of spanish dishes, chorizo, fried spanish hot peppers, muscles, fried shrimp rolls, calamari, patatas bravas, and more. A lot of the food was things I would not normally eat, but I tried everything, including an octopus dish that was TERRIBLE, and it was really interesting. Maica even bragged to Kaja's Au-Pairents that I always try everything, because Kaja the vegetarian doesnt, obviously! I was proud to have become more adventurous! Doesn't mean I'm eating vegetables at home mom!
Anyways, then I had to say bye to Kaja and her family, which was sad even if im seeing Kaja again really soon. On the ride home Rafa fell asleep on me, which was cute.
Now I'm packing up to to to the CONUS babyyyy!
Also today after hanging out at the Abuela's for the

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

The beginning of the saddest and most happy week ever.

(don't forget to read the portugal weekend post before this one! I'm just separating out the two posts, even though they are being written on the same day)This week is certainly very emotional. I feel so happy to be almost home after being away from my family for the LONGEST TIME EVER IN MY LIFE but I also feel like I am about to leave two of my cousins without knowing when I will ever see them again! It is a little heartbreaking. I have also been like a leaky faucet... getting teary at every left and right!!
Monday was the best day ever...
Carmen and Rafa and I had so much fun... They are super annoying sometimes but I just love them like crazy and even when they start fighting and practically biting each other I think it is so cute. We played about a million games of dominoes, my new favorite game, and then started lining them up to knock them down. Rafita is a huge clutz and kept knocking it all down before we had finished. At first I was frustrated because I actually wanted to finish it, but then I realized that if I was patient he actually might be able to work on his clumsiness. About a million attempts later, he finally was able to stack them all up and he was totally stoked for when we got to "officially" knock them down again!
The other really fun activity we did was making paper boxes. I would have Carmen and Rafa color on blank paper and then I would fold them up into little boxes! It was so much fun and by the end Rafita could even almost fold them up himself! Now they each have about a thousand little paper boxes. Carmen *treasures* the boxes and keeps all her little keepsakes in them! So cute!!
Lastly I decided to make a really pretty one for the housekeeper, Laura, who has helped me so much with the kids and has treated me like a granddaughter. Inside I tucked a note thanking her for her help! I gave it to her and she loved it! It was really pretty if I do say so myself... decorated with colored pencils and stuff!
In the pool we also had a ton of fun, gosh I love those two.
Then in the afternoon Kaja and I went to Madrid, in the Gay quarter. There we went into tons of cool shops before deciding to look for dinner. We ended up walking for like 2 hours trying to find a place we wanted to eat... all around Madrid!!
Then home, where I was so tired (It was like 1 AM) that I didn't have time to write the blog post!

Then came today, which was actually THE BEST DAY EVER!!!
It started out with any other day, except I was legit crying in the car ride to the abuela's house thinking about how much I was going to miss my lil Spanish family. But I hid it well under my sunglasses. Then at the house we just chilled, having fun, making boxes, watching spanish tv. I helped Rafita with some of his summer english work, which was fun because I caught several errors that the teachers made in the workbook, which the abuela got a kick out of. After the pool I lay down in the sun and Carmen lay on top of me for a nap, then started lining up all her toy horses on my stomach as I lay down. Then I would fake sneeze and they would all fall down and she thought it was hilarious.
While the Abuela was out grocery shopping, Rafita helped me with spelling and grammar as I made a card thanking the abuelos. On the front it said, "Muchas Gracias" and was decorated with flowers and designs and colored pencils and stuff. Then on the inside I wrote a note, in spanish, translated as, "My Spanish Grandparents, Thank you so much for your help and for teaching me a lot of Spanish. I will miss you both so much! Rafa helped me write this, Much love, Julia" Then I drew a cartoony Torro (A bull) with a Spanish flag in one hand and an American flag in the other. The Abuela loved it so much, every time that she looked at the cartoon Bull she started laughing. But then she got to business showing me all the grammatical errors I made!! Hahahaha. She is such a warm and wonderful Spanish Grandma, I will misssss her!!! The abuelo liked it too!
While the abuelo was driving me to the bus stop, I was telling him about how sad I was to be leaving, how I would miss Carmen and Rafita, and how I wanted them to come to Boston some day. He surprised me by saying, as If I was stupid for not knowing, that I *must* come back some time, next summer or another time. I felt so warm and happy inside, because it just felt good that they wanted me to come back! I basically started crying again then haha! No one had ever said anything to me about if I was doing a good job or whatever, so it felt good.
I went to Kaja's for a bit but then decided I wanted to get home and squeeze in some more time with my little Spanish ninos and went home early. I immediately went to the neighborhood pool where they were swimming. I hopped in and then for the next hour Carmen, Rafita, and one of their friends just climbed all over me in the pool non-stop while Maica and Rafa watched, nervous that I was minutes away from drowning due to the weight of the children dragging me down. Somehow I made it through, and it was just one of the most fun afternoons ever with them!!
We all ate dinner together. Maica was explaining to the kids that I was leaving on Saturday. Carmen and Rafa looked at her wide-eyed, asking why I had to leave... It broke. my. heart! I can't believe I only have three more days with them.
After dinner Rafita and I played some wii tennis and then I retired to write up about the best two days ever!!
I am soooo emotional, I don't know how I can say goodbye without becoming dehydrated from the huge amount of water that will be leaving my eyes. I was making a list today of all the things I would miss about Spain and it went on for several pages in my little notebook!!
But I am really excited to get home! I also am excited because on Friday afternoon Kaja's family and my family are all going to a cool castle/ monastery place together and then to dinner! Should be really fun!!
Hope these next few days are as good as the last two!!!
xoxo Julia

Portugal Post!

Weekend trip in Lisboa, Portugal= best weekend trip eeeever. The place was SO beautiful, amazing, different, and just plain FUN!
The trip started out poorly, with the flight being delayed 2 hours! But once we got on, it was pretty smooth sailing! I slept on the plane ride which was really good because I was TIRED!
Oh- almost forgot... there was one other hicup. Kaja's bank card wouldn't work in Portugal! It was very frustrating for her, because even though I was happy to lend her as much as she needed, she didn't want to depend on me.
Anyways, we got in at about 9:30 and took an airport shuttle into the middle of town, then walked to our hostel.
This weekend we stayed at the Black and White hostel, a really funky artsy hostel with SUPER nice staff and cool rooms! The beds were comfy, the location was prime, and in the morning they served a breakfast with eggs and sausages! WOW best hostel!!
After we got in, we changed into some smashing outfits and went out for dinner! We ended up eating at a little cheap but delicious Indian food place!
We rushed through dinner though because we wanted to make the "pub crawl" that started at 11:15. We ended up not even being able to find the meeting spot for the bar tour though, so instead we decided to walk around Bairro Alto, which is like, the coolest bar scene ever. It is a huge hill/ mountain on one side of Lisboa that is just packed with all kinds of bars, restaurants, clubs, and people drinking and socializing! The streets are like a huge bar scene, if you just walk down them you will meet tons of people! We walked around for a long time, taking in the scene and also stopping at some cool outdoor clubs that were playing techno music. Then we headed home pretty early so as to get rested up for the next day.
Saturday was BEACH DAY!!! I was STOKED because we had not been to any beaches yet in the whole trip and I LOVE the beach! Let me assure everyone, Portugal did not disappoint beach-wise. We took the metro down to the coast first, then a train all the way to Cascais (pronounced Kish-Cay-ish). The area felt just like a Portugese P-town, with little tourist shops and boutiques along with tons and tons of restaurants! Behind the shops were lots of little beaches that were all packed!! It was SO hot, but SO nice!! We picked a spot near the water so that we could swim while still keeping an eye on our bags. We tanned for like 20 minutes then went in the water, repeating until we were ready for lunch. The water was FREEZING!!! You would have expected it to be warm because of how sweltering it was, but instead it felt colder than even Cape Cod water because of the shock of changing temperatures. I still loooooved it though. I was especially fond of the smells of Cascais, salty mixed with the smell of the restaurants food! Amazing.
After we had enough sun and water, we went to a little hamburger place for lunch. We sat by an open window high up overlooking an amazing spread of ocean, beach, and cool rocks that people jumped off. It was fun!
Next Kaja and I decided to do some shopping! First we went to a atm to try Kaja's card again, and it WORKED! It was very exciting!! Her parents I guess had called Bank of America and worked it all out! We went around and found some seriously cool shops. I got Kaja and I matching wooden elephant Keychains and then we both got matching necklaces from an artist flea- market thing that was in the area.
After lots of shopping we got dessert. I got a cup of vanilla ice cream and a diet coke to compose a Diet-Coke-float which is. The. Best. Dessert. Ever. when you are vacationing on the beach in hot humid Portugal.
Finally it was time to head home. We were running a little on the late side for what we had planned for the rest of the evening, but then I remembered that I had forgotten to re-set my watch back an hour, so in fact we had plenty of time! (This happened over and over again throughout the weekend!!)
While waiting for the train I was eating some skittles. Then these three Brazilian guys near us came over and started joking around and asking for some skittles. They were really nice and so I shared my fruity snacks with them and they hung out with Kaja and I on the train back home. They wanted us to go to Bairro Alto with them then, but Kaja and I wanted to get back to the hostel and clean up so we declined!
Back at the hostel we got all pretty and then walked to Bairro Alto for dinner. We ate at a little restaurant in Bairro Alto, shared a pizza and each got some Tapas. I love Tapas because it's like getting one little appetizer for yourself... instead of ordering a huge plate of something for the whole table. I also got a Martini, to try, and I am a huge Martini fan! Shaken, not stirred, of course. Just kidding. (Side note... it is going to SUCK coming back to not being able to drink in bars and restaurants in the USA... The drinking age is so stupid. :( )
We then went to the meeting spot for the pub crawl (This time we knew where it was!) and then went touring the pubs!!
It was a really fun night! We made friends with the people on the tour, who were pretty cool. The best part is that while we were walking between two bars, we ran into one of the Brazilian guys from the train, Regis! He was the one who spoke the best English, and was the nicest too! We then met up with him at a really sweet bar/ dance club that played great music and was filled with locals. Regis danced with Kaja and I and tried to teach us how to dance Portuguese style but the twists and turns were definitely a challenge! Kaja and I want to take Salsa dance classes back at UMass... if they have them!
We got home around 4:30 AM and sleeeeept after all that dancing!!
In the morning we hung around with the girls in our room. They were two 23ish girls from London who were SO funny and nice to us! We ate breakfast with them and they showed Kaja how to make delicious instant coffee! They also had great stories about how they survived traveling without money for food!
Then we checked out of the hostel and did some sightseeing... we saw the Castelo de sao jorge, the monasterio los jeronimos, and got DELICIOUS Portugese pastries that were like little flakey cupcakes filled with creamy kugel sauce and covered in cinnamon and sugar!
Finally it was time to go. We headed to the airport and ate some delicious airport food for dinner. This time the flight was only delayed by 30 minutes!
After the wonderful weekend, I was ready for a wonderful last week in Madrid. And so far, it has been just that (Spoiler!!) I'm going to write another post now about this week, the saddest and most happy week ever.
xoxo Julia

Thursday, 22 July 2010


I'm sooo excited to go to Portugal tomorrow, especially because it marks the final weekend trip in Europe this summer and I think it will be FANTASTIC! I am also really really really excited to come home, but really going to miss it here. It hasn't really hit me that I might not ever see these places again... this has been a once in a lifetime experience and it's not like I can just casually go back to Spain again, and if I did I would probably go to different places, SOooooo when I say goodbye, it's goodbye for good and that is scary. Hopefully I will get to see Carmen and Rafa again in the future, but who knows! Carmen might not even remember me!!
Anyways, some little things...
- I love love love playing with Carmen and Rafa in the swimming pool. Sometimes we play shark and I make a shark fin and say "Dun DUn DUn Dun dun DUN DUN DUN" as I close in on them and tickle them while making munching sounds. They laugh and it's always really fun until Rafa starts biting me for real (he actually does) and I have to change up the game. Carmen also now loves playing that I am her "surf board" where I lie down and she stands on my back while I swim. I like that one too except that sometimes I need to come up for air and she gets frustrated that my need for Oxygen gets in the way with her playing. But unfortunately I think this chlorine is kiiiilling my hair... I'll definitely have to do some hair therapy when I get home from Spain. Pool time is just such a must because of how hot it is!
- I'm going to try to get a book in Spanish, I think I am proficient enough in spanish to get through it! Only problem is it must be short so I can finish it because it is tiring reading in Spanish! Also I'd like something interesting. I might ask one of the cousins to let me borrow something.

That's all for now! I have to go take out my laundry and paaaack for LISBOA PORTUGAL!
Hasta Luego

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Lil bit o pamplona photos

I stuck up some pictures!!/album.php?aid=2039112&id=1244040696
Also when I was in the Abuela's house I found this gem:

Carmen and Rafa a few years ago!! I didn't stop laughing for like 15 minutes when I saw it... it is so utterly cute and also ridiculous... wow.

Pamplona, Reina Sophia, and treading water... Abridged version

Hey all! So I resisted destroying my computer for not posting my long weekend post, but now I am feeling lazy and also dreading re-writing the whole long saga. SO I am going to give a "best of" telling, if you will, and that just means that I can tell you all more details about the trip when I talk to you in person!
- It wasnt the best time to go to Pamplona because it was about two days after the San Fermin festival (A two week fiesta of drinking and running with the bulls) so the whole town was totally drained and pretty empty because people like to go on vacations. Basically a handful of stores were closed and there were barely any other tourists. It was a blessing and a curse... less to do and lots of attractions closed, but also much more relaxing and pretty!
- Saw plaza de torros, a bunch of cool parks including the Ciudadela, the Japanese Garden Parks, and the half moon park. Also went to a big park that had a depression in the middle filled with goats, peacocks, deers, and other animals! So strange and cool.
- Hostel was really really nice, small and intimate, private rooms with flat screen tv's, towels included, candys on the pillows! On Saturday night Kaja and I grouped up with a bunch of people in the hostel and went out to bars and stuff.
- One of the guys we became friends with, Sam, was a 19 year old from Manchester who planned on being a poet when he got older. He was a really nice and goofy guy with a big afro of jewish hair, cool guy. Kaja and I walked home from the bars with him around 3 AM, him still holding on to a drink from the last bar. When he finished his drink he chucked the glass into the air, an action typical of Manchester I guess. He didn't notice that there was a police car right behind us! The policeman pulled up next to him and ARRESTED HIM! luckily Sam was very cooperative, the next morning he was back at the hostel. He said all they made him do was pay them 75 Euros! Still... it was so scary and I feel bad for him! When it happened Kaja and I just stood there dumbfounded, Spanish police are definitely very aggressive and scarrrry!
- Finding vegetarian food for Kaja in Pamplona was VERY difficult. For lunch one day we must have gone and looked at about 20 menus before we found food she could eat!!

ONNNN Monday
Kaja and I went to the Reina Sophia art museum! It was soooo cool, lots of Picasso and Dali, two very celebrated Spanish Artists. I wish I brought a pedometer to Spain though because I think we walked about 7 miles in that museum. Not to mention I have been quite curious as to how much we actually walk on our weekend trips... I think it is a LOT.

Kaja FINALLY came to Maica's house. It has been difficult for her to come here because every time we want to hang out, it is easier for me to go to her house on my way home or for us to meet in Madrid. Plus Kaja doesn't have an Abono so it costs her 8 Euros to get to Maica's and back. But since she hadn't ever seen the crib I was staying in, I convinced her to come at least once. It was fun! We went swimming in the neighborhood pool.
Kaja and I are very, very competitive, and it was BAD news when we started treading water and I commented that I could go all day and then Kaja challenged me to see who could last for longer. We started a timer on my watched and then just treaded water! I am very, very, very, confident in my swimming ability and literally think that I could tread water All day, so it was just about outlasting Kaja. The most difficult part was just that it was boring, not that it was strenuous. About 30 minutes in, Rafa sr, Maica, and Rafa and Carmen bounded into the swimming pool area. I felt bad because Carmen and Rafa wanted to play with me, but I was not going to lose haha! I explained that Kaja and I were competing to Maica and Rafa sr.
Finally, after 1 hour of treading water non-stop, Kaja got fed up and got out of the pool. I was sooo glad that it was finally over because I was totally bored, but I was pleasantly surprised that I didn't have any trouble treading that long. I am just really stubborn. I wonder if I will feel it tomorrow! Also I'd like to make note that although I am a stronger swimmer than Kaja, if we competed in running, there is no chance I would even compare to her endurance. Hence, why we will never compete in running!!!
After swimming I walked Kaja to her bus stop (for once!!) and then had dinner with the fam! The end!!
Less than two weeks till I am HOME!!!
This weekend PORTUGAL!!!!!!
SOooo stoked, soooo tired, going to sleeeeep.
xoxox Julia

Monday, 19 July 2010


HEY I JUST FINISHED WRITING A LONG POST ABOUT THIS WEEKEND AND TODAY AND THEN IT DIDN'T SUCCESSFULLY POST AND ALL GOT DELETED!!! And I REALLY need to go to sleep and I am really frustrated that all my work disappeared. I'll try to write it again tomorrow, I am SO sorry :(. Ug I can't believe that just happened I am restraining myself from chucking my computer out the window right now.
Julia >:(

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Strange Dancers and Swimmmmming

Past two days have been very fun! Everything with Carmen and Rafita has been pretty regular, I really have so much fun with those two. They are happy for me to just tickle them for hours or give them little "treasure hunt" back massages. Yesterday Rafita started calling me "Julita" and today Carmen without blinking an eye said in perfect english, "Where is the ball Julia?" I felt so accomplished!! Rafita got mad at me for swimming during their tennis lesson and I was confused until I realized that he wanted me to stay during the lesson and watch him play! Awww. I'm still swimming anyways though haha! Now whenever he argues with me I ask him, Hey Rafa, who's the Boss? And the answer is ME! Mwahaha.
Alsooo Kaja and I love swimming and sunbathing at the big pool near her house, it is really amazing when it's hot out!
Today Kaja and I went into Madrid to reserve our tickets for the coming weekend. We were planing on going to San Sebastian, a small un-touristy hot spot that has beautiful beaches, trendy stores, and what we have heard is the best food, ever. However, the train was all booked up! Instead we are going to Pamplona! It's after the bulls festival, so it won't be as totally crazy and crowded, but still it's a great city and I am really excited!
It is so strange that I only have like two weeks of Madrid time left... it seems like just a few days ago Kaja and I were trying to think of things to occupy our time with... now we are worried we won't be able to see everything we want to! This place really feels familiar to me now... I recognize streets and know my way around the city better than I know my way around Boston! Similarly, I could tell you a bunch of the Spanish soccer players (Puyol, Iniesta, Villa, Torres) but I don't know ANY USA players! Ah! I also need to get a Spain shirt/ soccer jersey before I leave!!
Anyways, after Kaja and I got our Pamplona tickets, we decided to try to go to the Reina Sophia museum (the last time we were going to go it was closed) so we went there but instead of going in there were a bunch of dancers practicing routines on the plaza outside, so we sat and started watching. We ended up sitting there watching these dancers for like 2 hours! After they were practicing they did a legit show with music and stuff and it was so cool!! To top off the evening, we stopped and got Maoz falafel on our way back home. Delicious.
Anyways, I gotta get to sleeeep!
Miss everyone!
xoxo Julita. (by the way, it is pronounced Jew-leet-ah)

Monday, 12 July 2010


Hey all!
Just got the email... I got accepted into the Commonwealth Honor's program at UMass! YAYyy! I feel so accomplished!
Dr. Julia, P.H.D. Champion of Life, Hausman


WHAT A GREAT WEEKEND!!!!! One of the most amazing trips of my life in addition to witnessing the great triumph of Spain in the World Cup... It was an amazing time!!
First, Granada.
We took the train, four hours, to Granada. We arrived at about 10 or something, and then got confused as to how to get to our Hostel. It was late and I was worried about the Hostel's front desk closing before we got there, so we took a cab. The cab ride was pretty short, but totally cool to see the city at night. It turned off the main road and went down the skinniest road possible, not even slowing down as it squeezed past people walking! I can't believe that no one got hit!!
The hostel, White Nest, was really really pretty, but unfortunately a little dull... not much socializing going on. Kaja and I checked in and put down our stuff before heading out to try to get dinner. We settled on a really nice restaurant with tables outside on a quiet street. I got a jamon y queso y tomate bocadilla and Kaja got a rice and vegetable dish. We also got some really yummy mojitos (Getting a little bored of the Sangria). We learned that in Grenada, you get a free tapa with any drink you order! It's just the way of the area! Cool stuff.
After dinner we decided to go to sleep because it was pretty late and we wanted to be nice and energized for the next day!
The next day, we woke up at 8:30. We had a reservation to go visit the Alhambra at 1:30 (unfortunately one of the hottest moments of the day) but before that Kaja said we had something to do at 10. AND she wouldn't tell me what it was!! She said we had a 10 o' clock appointment and try as I might to get her to reveal what the surprise was, she wouldn't say. She did however tell me the address so that I could get us there with my expert map skills.
Where we ended up was just about the most amazing place, ever. I just can't even begin to explain the excitement and extatic-ness that I was feeling. Imagine that you have just begun the day and already it is over 100 degrees, you are sweating, tired, and sticky. Then you arrive here.
Where Kaja took me was an ancient Arab bath house. She has made reservations for us to spend 2 hours in the bath house, with a 30 minute massage each!!!! AMAZING!!!
The bath house immediately smelled all spicey... like cinnamon and orange and lavender. It was decorated beautifully, with candles and sheets hanging everywhere. We entered the changing room first and Kaja also surprised me by pulling my bathing suit out of her bag (She had secretly stowed it so that I would have one!! She thought of everything!!). We got changed and then entered the bath area. It was so so amazing, I wish we had been allowed to take pictures. It was all dark with candles and low ceilings with star shaped lights in the ceiling. The smell was incredible. There were also only two other people in there with us, meaning it was extremely relaxing and quiet. There were three baths. The first one was the cold one. It was about the size of a hot tub, and the nice cool water felt AMAZING on our hot bodies. The second bath was the hot one. It was long and shallow, only about 1.5 feet deep. The ceiling was also highest in there. Lying down in the hot water was just incredible... relaxing, soothing, and cozy. Last there was the medium temperature one. This one was the deepest, about 4 feet deep, with columns running from the ceiling down through the pool. There was also tea that you could drink, really sweet and tasty tea that wasn't too hot. Lastly there was a big room with a huge hot stone in it that you could lie down on, with a ray of sunshine flowing in and illuminating the stone. INCREDIBLE!!
About halfway through the time in the baths we got called to our massages. They were, as expected, absolutely awesome. Then they had nice warm dark showers with soap and shampoo that we could go into to to clean off the oil. When we left we were refreshed and smelled all spicy! Just absolutely one of the coolest and most relaxing, fun, awesome times of my life!!
After the baths we rushed back to the hostel to drop off our wet suits and then rushed to the Alhmabra!! The Alhambra was up a HUGE hill. The walk was really pretty, but SWELTERING! We also kept getting lost... there were very few signs telling you where to go to pick up your tickets and stuff. We finally got our tickets and JUST made it to the palace tour for our time slot. However, we didn't have enough time to get the audio guides, which we had been planning on getting! We were pretty disappointed that we didn't get the chance to buy them, but even without them, the Alhambra speaks for itself in terms of beauty and awesomeness. The palace was full of amazing walls and arches. There were also lots of fountains and little aqueducts of water running through the gardens and palace. People constantly were dipping their hands, feet, and even heads into the fountains, trying to escape the heat! It was funny. After our tour of the palace we left the Alhambra to get lunch and then went back to see more! We saw the gardens, the alcazar, and another really cool building that I didn't know quite what it was (audio guide would have been helpful there!)
What I love the most about visiting these places is that I just know I will remember them for the rest of my life! The Alhambra is one of those places!
After the Alhmabra we were totally beat as well as HOT and hungry. We went walking to find some ice cream and do some shopping! We got ice cream at some place and went into at least a million tourist shops. The tourist shops in Grenada were pretty different from those in the other cities we visited because there was tons of Moroccan and arab influence. There were lots of hookahs and arab cloths for sale, as well as cool boxes and pottery! When we got back to the hostel it was getting to be dinner time, but we didn't feel like spending the money at a restaurant so instead we walked to a grocery store and got pasta, tomato sauce, Parmesan cheese, green beans, and garlic, for flavor. All together it was a little under 4 Euros!! Bargain mea1!! At the hostel we cooked it all up and it was absolutely delicious! Then we showered and got all dressed up to go out.
Only problem was, we were both completely tired. We almost decided to go to sleep right then and there... our legs were so soar and we were on our way to pass out! Then we decided to just go out for a little bit of a walk before bed. We walked past a hookah bar, where inside there were a bunch of people who looked about our age. They waved to us to come in, and after a bit of thinking, we decided to join them!
The hookah bar was SO much fun! The people were all ages 18-25, and everyone was so nice and funny! There were two other girls from Canada, Jack from England, Brett from New Jersey, some other dude from New York, and a middle eastern guy (everyone called him Shank) who currently lives in LA. We all hung out in the hookah bar, joking, laughing, smoking hookah and drinking tea! The man who owned the bar kept coming over and bringing us arab costumes to put on! It was so funny!
Then everyone decided to go to some bars and Kaja and I decided to join them!!
We did a lot of walking trying to find a bar that we liked, popped in a few for little bits, before we ended up at this one bar. There was flamenco music playing, a pool table, and lots of fun people!
It was really fun making friends and having a night out with people that you knew you would never ever see again! As the bar was closing, some Englishmen asked Kaja and I if we wanted to go to an after party with them at the Villa they had rented. It was a big intriguing... the idea of going to a villa in Spain, but there was NO way that we would go to some people's home that we didn't even know, this late at night! Instead we walked home, saying goodbye to all our hookah bar friends. The two girls actually decided to go to the villa with the English guys... I hope they ended up alright!
We got home at around 4:30 AM and fell right asleep!
In the morning I woke up at about 10:30, we had to leave the hostel by 11! We got some juice at a smoothie place and I got some toast for breakfast. Then we went to the caves!
There are a bunch of people, some gypsies, that live in these caves in the mountains near Granada! Kaja and I walked around the cave area a little and looked at the caves. It was fascinating to think that there are people that live in caves! However, it was really really hot so we didn't stay for long.
We walked around a lot on Sunday, most things were closed, so we just took our time exploring. We did see a cool church and the cathedral though.
For lunch I got a ham omelet and for desert Kaja and I went to this natural yogurt place that was INCREDIBLE! The frozen yogurt was the sour kind and you could put any toppings on it that you wanted, I got this hazelnut chocolate sauce with crunchys in mine and it was awesome.
We left early to walk to our train. As we were walking I decided to look quickly and see what time exactly the train was leaving, and it was a good thing I did because it was leaving an HOUR before we thought! We rushed and made it with my expert map reading skills with 15 minutes to spare!!
On the train ride home all we could think about was how nervous we were for the final soccer game. Unfortunately, we had booked our tickets before we knew that Spain's final would be at the EXACT same time!
As the train neared Madrid, we looked out the window. Everything was quiet, but it was almost 11, so we assumed the game would be over already! We both were sure that Spain had lost and that was why there was no commotion at all.
When we got to the station, we started walking and then saw a huge crowd around a tv in the station. We then realized that the game was still going on!! We RAN to the crowd and watched as Iniesta scored that AMAZING goal and everyone went nuts! There were people crying and screaming, security guards who were supposed to be working were crying and jumping and hugging, everyone was so excited and happy!!!
Yay Espana! It was their first victory and I think they really deserve it... they didn't play dirty like Holland and they have so much heart and spirit!! Rafita and Carmen are so happy and it is soooo cute!
Today was also really fun because we got to sleep in and stay at the house alone instead of going to the abuelas! We swam at the pool, ate lunch, and had a really chill day in the heat together! Love those kids!
Also, photos coming now to facebook!
Miss everyone, only 3 weeks left!

Thursday, 8 July 2010


WOooooo SPAIN is in the FINALS for the world cup, for the first time in history!!! As you can imagine, it is a really exciting time to be here!!
SOOooo yesterday was a very volatile day with extreme highs and lows. Only one low, but it was a total total bummer.
The day was fun because I just totally love Carman and Rafa, they make me so happy every day and I think I make them happy too! They are also totally entertaining and funny! It's great because I actually enjoy spending the day with them! I love every time that they say, "Julia Look!" and they want to show me something like a snail or what they have been coloring. Rafita also has taken to calling me "House- man" because he learned that it was my last name and finds it amusing. And it is AMAZING how much of what I say they understand, not to mention the fragmented heavily-accented English phrases they keep surprising me with every once in a while! They are totally learning!
Yesterday at their tennis lesson I swam some laps in the really really nice pool. One of Annie's kids broke his leg the day before, so unfortunately she won't be at the tennis lessons anymore, but on the bright side I can just swim on my own! Then I walked back with Carmen and Rafita and we went swimming again at the Abuelas.
Afterwards I went to Kaja's. We then went swimming AGAIN at her house, but it's been so hot lately that you need to hop in the water a bunch of times a day otherwise you feel sweltering!! At about 5:30 we caught a bus to Madrid to make our train ticket reservations for Grenada and also because we wanted to watch the Semi-finals in some bar there. That's where the bad thing happened.
Some background: I purchased the Youth Abono, a 38 Euro pass that lets you ride the busses and metro as much as you want. A few times the heat had melted it so the machines could no longer read it, but each time I just got someone at the metro to print me a new one. But the night before I had actually lost the little coupon that comes with the abono. I still had the pass, just not the thing that you stick in the machine. I figured they could print me out a new one again. Instead, they told me that if you lose the little stub, you have to buy a completely NEW one!! I was so pissed!! I already payed for this month and I didn't want to pay again! After lots of arguing and even trying to convince a few of the people to print a new one for me, I gave in. The amount I have to use the metros and busses makes it still worth it to get the abono, so I bought another stinkin ticket. It really put me in a foul mood though, because that is a lot of money to just be gone in the blink of an eye.
Luckily the funk didn't last too long. We got our tickets reserved for Grenada and then we walked around Madrid until we found a bar that we liked for watching the game.
We got some pizza for dinner at the bar as well as some Servesas. It was actually really funny... The game was against Germany (I hope some of you watched! If not, I hope some of you watch the final on Sunday and root for ESPANA!!) and Kaja and I didn't think to wear yellow and red the way everyone else was. People were giving us strange and wary looks and then the bartender came over and asked us where we were from. We said Estados Unidos, to which she looked relieved. We then realized that people thought we were German! After that we cheered extra loud for Spain so there would be no confusion/ mob attacks! The title of this blog post is what I can remember of a chant they did in the Bar.
Anyways, Spain scored an amazing goal on a corner kick with a header right swoosh into the net! The bar went CRAZY!! It was really fun to watch.
On the bus ride home too, the streets were filled with excited Spaniards. People kept walking in front of the bus holding the spanish flag up until the bus driver honked the horn in support. It was so fun!
Then today was about the same. It was considerably rainy looking out, but it was a fun day! Rafita was being especially loving and cute, huging me all over the place. Then I went to Kaja's for a momentito before I came home early just to get some rest! I need to get more sleep tonight, and Grenada tomorrow!! I AM SO EXCITED!!

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Another excellant day Woo

Today was pretty average but lotsa fun!
Went to the Abuela's house as per usual. Today was extra fun, there were no fights with Rafita and Carmen and I totally love those two, I feel like they are just like my lil Spanish cousins! Their new favorite activity to do with me is to name animals, then I divide up a piece of paper into boxes and draw a cartoony animal in each one. I want to take a picture of them because they are all totally cute drawings, if I do say so myself! Then they color them in. It's really fun!
Today they also had their tennis lesson so I swam in the pool with Annie. She is so nice! We had a really nice time!!
Then we walked home and before I knew it I was done and waiting for the bus! I met Kaja today in madrid, we were supposed to go to the train station and reserve our Grenada tickets, but of course, something went wrong... this time I forgot to bring my Eurail pass so I couldn't even reserve a ticket! SO we are going back tomorrow.
We left the train station and went walking around. We realized we were pretty near the Reina Sofia, the modern art museum, but once we had walked there we saw that it was closed on Tuesdays (our luck) so instead we went into the Starbucks nearby because it was HOT (40 Celsius!!) and I got a frappuccino. Then we were just so tired from the sun that we just sat in Starbucks for like an hour, chatting and drawing and stuff. Finally we got up the strength to go somewhere, so we walked to the nearby Botanical gardens. They were so much fun! All kinds of pretty flowers, exotic green plants, bonzai trees, and a big greenhouse filled with cactus! Lots of fun!
Kaja and I always just have a great time walking around parks, and this one was no exception. Maybe it was the blaring sunshine, maybe it was the strange plants, but soon into our romp around the garden we for some reason started talking in whiney british accents, and didn't break character once for the entire few hours we were there. It was extremely goofy, but fit the situation perfectly.
Then we walked to Sol and got falafel for dinner, of course. I then got another book to read because i'm almost done with the one I'm currently reading and I don't want to be bookless!! I took a bus home and just got in at 11, pretty late, pretty tired, ready for SLEEEEEEP!

Monday, 5 July 2010

Monday Sunnyday

Woke up this morning... very tired... I definitely need to get more sleep! But how can I when I have a blog to write!!?
Abuela's was really fun today... the older cousin (Sofia) was there. I haven't mentioned the cousins much, but Sofia is around quite a bit. She is 16 and a total sweetheart. She is my friend on facebook and even fb chatted me one day (in spanish haha). It's always nice having her around because she plays with the kids with me in addition to telling them do things so I don't have to! :)
We played a ball game as well as some coloring games. I also taught them tic tac toe, because apparently that doesn't exist in Spain. Also they LOVE the "Where's Spot" book I got them, I think I read it maybe 20 times over the course of today!
We also took a field trip during the day to the supermarket which was nice because we got out of the house for a bit!
Then it was time for some swimming (It is HOT here!!) and then I took the bus to Kaja's!
At Kaja's we walked to a nearby big swimming pool where we swam some laps before sun tanning. I also have been reading my book which is a pretty stupid boy meets girl book, but is long so I am entertained without the book ending too quickly! Getting close though... I need to learn to read slower!
After Kaja's I took a bus home and got back at about 9:30, had some Tapas-like dinner with Rafa Sr and Maica of mini toasts, cheese, and ham. It was yummy! We also watched some spanish tv show and I understood a lot of it! Woo! That was today... I've got to take a shower!
xoxo Julia
P.s. Grenada this weekend FINALLY (Kaja and I are buying the tix tomorrow for SURE!)
P.p.s. Grenada this weekend is supposed to be 38 degrees Celsius... that's over 100 F... WOW.
P.p.p.s. I was having trouble uploading my pics on Facebook, but they are up now! Not a lot, but still. :)

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Kaja Appreciation Post/ The day we almost went to Segovia/ Failed weekend Plans/ AMERICA

Sometimes the best weekends are ones where everything goes not as planned!
On Friday, Kaja and I planned on spending the night going to bars and clubs in Madrid, to experience the night life. After hanging with the kids all day, I went to Kaja's and, since Madrid night life doesn't start until very late, we just chilled around. Kaja's housekeeper, Gaby, offered to teach us to make Tortilla de Patatas, which is SO yummy. It's like an omelet with onions and potatoes, cooked up in a huge amount of oil... good times. It also is a really really traditional Spanish food that you will eat in any Spanish household... basically if you are a housekeeper/ maid/ helper it is a requirement that you can make it.
So we helped her make it and it was really fun because we learned some about Gaby, who I find fascinating. She is originally from Albania, I think, and she moved here two years ago, knowing zero spanish. I think her life is pretty sad, from what I've picked up she has a husband that she hates and who doesn't work, meaning Gaby works all day with two jobs and no rest. She gets paid like, nothing, to clean Kaja's house every day, take care of the kids when Kaja is off work, and do anything else that Kaja's parents want, like cook. She comes from a first job, eats food on the bus ride to Kaja's around 1:30, and then doesn't rest or eat again until 8:30ish when she takes another bus home. Wow. She is really really thin (probably from the no eating) and has the worst teeth I think I've ever seen (really huge gums, Kaja think's they are fake teeth) and she looks like she is in her 40's but Kaja says that she is in her 20's!!!
Anyways, we talked to Gaby in Spanish while we learned. Unfortunately, I think that the cooking oil gave me a really bad headache. She also barely cooked the eggs, which I think contributed to the result of the evening.
Kaja and I got all primped up to go to Madrid. We put on nice clothing, did our hair, and put on lots of fun makeup (but not too much haha). We got on the Bus (now that I have the Abono, I really love riding the bus and metro because I never have to pay again!!!). The bus ride was fine, even though I still had my headache, but once we got to the metro things started going downhill...
The metro is on strike so only 50% of the trains are running. This means you have to wait a long time to get on a train and when you do it is PACKED! I started feeling really hot and icky, maybe because of the heat, the claustrophobia, or, most likely, from eating the undercooked eggs. I had a really bad stomach ache and felt like I was going to be sick!
Kaja Appreciation part... Kaja was so amazing! I felt so terrible because I just felt really really sick, but I totally ruined our night! Instead of dancing up a storm we turned around on the metro and then waited for over an hour for the night bus to take us home. Kaja was with me the whole way, comforting me, getting me a bottle of water, distracting me from my nausea so I didn't vom, and making me not feel guilty for messing up the night! When we got home I went right to bed and slept for 11 hours, and in the morning I felt better!!
The plan for Saturday was to go to the Mercedillo, which is like a flea market. But it closes at 2, and since Kaja and I slept in/ didn't move fast in the morning, we kinda missed our opportunity to go there! Instead we decided to do some shopping in madrid! We went to Calle Serrano, which is like the Michigan Avenue of Madrid in terms of shopping. It was so much fun, although we didn't have much time. I got a cute shirt/ dress thing and a book to read. We didn't have much time though because both of us had to babysit for our families that night. Before we left though we grabbed a late lunch/early dinner at Maoz.
Maoz is like, the most delicious thing everrrr. Its vegetarian falafel, which I never would have thought to get, but a while ago I was with Kaja when she got one and it looked so good that this time I had to get one! The falafel is fresh and yummy and there is a huge buffet of things you can put on it! I got mine with this yummy stir-fried onion stuff and some fried cauliflower. It was delicious.
Babysitting for Rafa and Carmen was OK. It was fun to hang out with them, but they really do not listen to what I say so getting them to do anything is always a fight... It was a fight to get them into their pajamas, a fight to get Rafita to stop his video games, a fight to get Carmen to brush her teeth, and worst of all, a huge fight to get them to go to sleep!!! (Although that might just be every night... as I write this I can hear Rafa Sr trying to get them to go to sleep... and it's nearly midnight!!) Finally, after splitting them up and rubbing Carmen's back for about 20 minutes, I got them to bed before 11, which actually is pretty decent haha!
Then I hung out eating popcorn and watching Kill Bill in Spanish, which was pretty rad.
The next day's plan was to go to Segovia for the day! Of course, in true Kaja and Julia fashion, we didn't get to the train station in time to get the tickets to the early train, and we could have taken a later train but we would have only had three hours in Segovia. SO instead we decided to take advantage of a full day in Madrid with zero time limits!! It was actually SO much fun... I am really glad that Segovia didn't work out because we had never really done a whole lot of tourism in Madrid until today!
We hopped back on the metro and first went to the Jardines del Palacio Real. They were kinda cool, pretty, a good amount of Peacocks, but nothing that amazing. Still a nice walk!
Then we walked around the Garden to the Muralla Arabe, which is a cool Arab garden/ wall place. We continued to the Cathedral of Madrid, which was a really cool and more modern Cathedral. Lastly, we went to the Palacio Real which was a very royal and decked out palace. It totally looked the most palace-y of all the palaces that I've seen since being in Europe (Versailles still wins in terms of Palace-y gardens, but the interior of this one was better). The ceilings were high and every surface and nook and cranny was so luxurious and golden and just really really cool. Every room had a different vibe and theme. I really liked this palace!
Next Kaja and I went searching for a lunch place! We found a perfect little place, Gino's, where we got some nice pizza and, of course, Sangria! We toasted to the 4th of July!
I just want to take a moment to say that I really love America. I feel so blessed to be from the USA and I am proud to be an American... I think that being out of the country has increased my patriotism significantly!!
Anyyyyways, after our lunch we went SHOPPING CRAZY!! We went in to so many stores... I can't even recall half of them! I got a shirt, some cool earrings, and some souvenirs. I also got the book, Where's Spot, for Carmen and Rafa because the books that I brought from home for them to read are really too difficult for them. This book has more pictures, bigger words, and I think will be more helpful to them than the more advanced books! Plus they can keep it! Yayyy.
After the tons of shopping, Kaja and I got some Ben and Jerrys then headed home! I got back and ate some food while watching a movie with Rafa Sr. and Maica! That's it for the weekend! And it's late, I should get to bed oy!
xoxoxo and Happy 4th, independence rocks.
P.S. I am putting a bunch of photos on facebook from today's adventures! SO GLAD I FINALLY HAVE A CAMERA!!
p.p.s. A little more Kaja appreciation... I love how even though the weekend didn't go at all how we had planned, (and they rarely do) Kaja and I just rolled with the punches and had so much fun! We just take advantage of everything that happens to us and live spontaneously! Its such a good time and I couldn't ask for a better Spain travel partner!

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Julia is BACK!

Hey all!
Sorry I am getting a little Lazy about the blog, it's partially because I am lazy and partially because I really have very little time to write now with the new schedule!
So the new schedule is that at 8:15 Maica drives us all to the Abuela's house where we spend the day until around 3 when I am done for the day and someone drives me to a bus stop and the day is mine! But that means that it's harder to get back home early and since I have to wake up so early the next morning, I have been trying to go to sleep early, aka no blog :(
I like the new schedule! It's fun because I get to swim and play and we don't have a lot to do during the day so it's pretty chill. For this week and next week they have tennis lessons with some other kids which is fun because I get to swim in this really sweet pool during their lessons.
I also was originally unhappy with spending the day at the Abuela's because I thought that I would be alone with them, but it turns out to be handy. She is there to enforce my rules, to help me know what to do with them, to make us meals. And she doesn't hover around or anything so I can speak english to them and they respond well. The only problem is that so many people are always stopping in... cousins, aunts, uncles, the housecleaner Laura... and they all hang around speaking Spanish to Carmen and Rafa. I can't really keep up with their Spanish and its awkward for me to talk in English, so I am really quite useless at those times. It's fine with me, I just don't think that it's going to help Carmen and Rafita's Spanish!
Some stand out moments this week from playing with Rafa and Carmen:
- They found a big hole in the yard with tons of snails and played with them. I was totally grossed out... they kept picking up the snails and putting them on their bodies and by the end they were covered in snail slime!
- Carmen and Rafa are OBSESSED with sunscreen. It's handy because it's easy to get them to put it on, the trouble is getting them to stop! They keep putting out their hands for MORe MORE MORE and when I finally decide they have had enough, they fight and fight and cry and try to grab the sunscreen from me! It is crazy, but a little funny.
- I now have been recruited to make friendship bracelets for a number of the cousins, plus one that is red-yellow-red (the Spanish flag) for Rafita, because he is only allowed to wear a manly bracelet.

Now some of my afternoon activities with Kaja
-Monday we just hung around her house... but it was really frustrating because her mother didn't come back until late, leaving the housekeeper to tend to the kids, but the housekeeper kept coming up and asking Kaja to help her with the kids. Kaja felt bad because, its not the housekeeper's job, so she helped with the kids. But it showed us that if Kaja wants a break, she has to literally get out of the house and hide otherwise she is still going to have to work! Ah!
- Tuesday we just wandered around the nearby village of Bodilla, nothing interesting
- Weds we took a bus into Madrid, but the metro is all on strike so we couldn't go anywhere! We lay down in a grassy park and took a nap! Very nice. Then we walked around and shopped and had some dinner!
- Today I hung out with Kaja for a little bit, but then went home early and showered and relaxed. It was nice! Also then Carmen was watching this little sing-a-long video, and I started dancing with her... basically the cutest thing I have ever seen, I love that girly!

- Kaja and I have to change up our weekend plans AGAIN because EVERY hotel in Pamplona is completely booked because of the running of the bulls festivities. So instead, we are going probably to Portugal next weekend, then Grenada, then maaaybe Valencia! The third place is still being discussed, so we shall see.
- A problem with this month's schedule is that from Kaja's, the only way to get home is to take a bus to madrid and then transfer to another bus that takes me home. In total that trip costs 4 Euros and takes over 1.5 hours! It is sooo annoying buttt.....
- Today my Abono came in the mail! Now all transportation on busses, metro, and trains is already payed for!
Some pictures!!

On the trampoline...

Asleep in the car! CUTIES