Mattie, Mandy, Roberto, Holly
Mandy, Mattie Roberto and I spent our week of independent travel in Germany and the Czech Republic. Although collectively our German and Czech skills were zero, we learned a lot of life skills. For example, nefe in German means yeast (not butter), “classic” water is carbonated and the Czech Koruna is 18 koruna to 1 US dollar. We spent the majority of our time in an apartment we rented in Dresden, Germany where Becca Martin, an EMU student who is studying near Frankfurt, Germany this semester, met up with us to explore the city, and also to take us to Berlin. We also spent one night at the end of our trip in Prague. Highlights of the trip include colorful leaves at the peak of fall in Germany, (there was little of that in Spain) the picturesque beauty of Dresden, a museum on the history of the Nazis’ rise to power and secret police force (right beside the Berlin wall) a semi-spontaneous trip to Saxony Switzerland National Park, an excellent free tour of Prague that was based on tips, and seeing the turn of the hour on the clock in old town Prague. We had a great time eating German and Czech cuisine while trying to take in the reality of very intense stories of the past that took place where we walked. All in all it was a very rewarding trip, and a nice change of pace before heading to Morocco.
Lucas and Matt
Our trip started out with overnight flying to Beaouvois, followed by a morning bus ride to Paris. Upon arriving in a rainy Paris, we looked for food and a place to stay then spent some time walking around and resting. The next two days involved a lot of walking around the city to see landmarks such as the Louvre, Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, a lit up Eiffel Tower at night and a short trip to Versailles to see the famous Chateau. Friday night we boarded an overnight bus (not our greatest idea in retrospect) and arrived in Strasbourg at 4:30 a.m., walked to the train station, and waited for the next train to Soultz Sous Foret, a small village situated in northeast France close to the German border. We were welcomed by a Mennonite family that Lucas’ mom had lived with 30 years ago. The weekend consisted of some hiking, rock climbing, castle ruins, great food, hospitality, rest and relaxation, learning some French and even a Sunday service at the local Mennonite church. This was by far our favorite part of a very eventful trip. On Monday morning we took a bus to Munich, where we would spend the next few days. While in Munich, we were able to see some beautiful buildings, the site of Octoberfest being taken down, the wonderfully preserved park from the 1980(?) summer Olympics, and even the picturesque Austrian city of Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart. After a lot of time spent flying, waiting and on buses throughout Thursday, we arrived back in Granada, ready for a short break before leaving for another new country.
Kara and Phil
Yo soy un Pelegrino. We, Kara and I, walked over 220 kilometers (about 150 miles) in eight days on the Camino de Santiago from Ponferrada to Santiago de Compostela in the Spanish province of Galicia. So why be a pilgrim and walk the Camino de Santiago? To think, ask questions, to discover friendship, to experience nature, to feel pain, suffer and keep going, to listen, to share, to laugh and maybe to rekindle faith in humanity. Our pilgrimage was nothing short of incredible–how could I ever put it into words? Our first overnight stay in a pilgrim hostel (called an albergue) we met Fred and Roy, two pretty cool dudes. Fred, retired and still going strong, and Roy our tall friendly Dutchman, journeyed with us and became like family. Sometimes we walked together, sometimes solo, but now we are forever kindred spirits. Fred had a saying he would say each morning–rain or shine– as soon as we stumbled sleepily onto the path, “it’s another fine Camino morning.” Now we’ve been thrown into the next chapter of our adventure (into the wonderful world of Morocco) but I know that the lessons we learned–about ourselves, others and the world around us, will stay with us for the rest of our journey.
Alex, Angelina, Josh, Amanda, James and Sarah
For free travel some of us wanted a more laid back break from studies. It worked out that there were three couples in the group who all had this idea, and we found a cheap beach front apartment in a very nice town called Port de Pollensa, on Mallorca which is a Spanish Island in the Mediterranean.
On the Island we found exactly what we were looking for–a laid back week at the beach. Our typical day consisted of sleeping in, a late breakfast and then going to the beach at about 12 or 1 for a couple of hours. We would normally have lunch at about three or four, which we prepared ourselves, and then relax or go shopping until dinner. We only ate out one time for dinner. We did breakfast and lunch as a couple and then took turns cooking dinner for the group.
Some of the other activities we did included a hike to another nearby beach, (Mallorca has beautiful mountains) renting bikes for a day and a two hour snorkeling trip. We also had movie nights and game nights as a group. Overall Port de Pollensa made for a very fun and relaxing independent travel and although we didn’t leave Spain, we were able to see a very different part of the country from Granada.
Mckenzie, Michelle, Melinda and Becka
Mckenzie, Michelle, Melinda and I spent a week in the sleepy town of Reggio Emilia, Italy for independent travel. We spent one night in Malaga prior to leaving Spain which consisted of a makeshift lunch of chocolate, nuts, crackers and sliced cheese (because we were too cheap and hungry to go buy lunch), downtime by the pool with a beautiful view of the beach, and colorful conversation with an Irish man we befriended during our stay. After a taxi, plane, bus and train (every form of transportation except a boat) we arrived in Reggio around ten, starving and ready for some motherly love from Michelle’s aunt Sharon who we were staying with!
Some highlights of our trip include an exclusive tour of the pamagiano reggiano cheese factory (with free samples) a gondola ride in Venice, quality time with Sharon’s crazy cat, Maurice, and FOOD! We had the most amazing pasta including ravioli filled with squash which was specific to Reggio and we learned how to make gnocchi. But that’s not all, the pizza and gelato were out of this world! Best food ever! Also while in a town called Parma, we ran into a couple from Baltimore who saw my EMU shirt and immediately thought Harrisonburg! Such a small world. Overall, it was a relaxing week spent with some great friends, and I have many memories that will last a lifetime.
Annika and Taylor
Our independent travel was all about relaxation so we headed to a small town in Portugal called Albufeira which is located along the Atlantic Ocean. We rented a small studio apartment just big enough to be comfortable. The first three days were warm and sunny, so we gladly lounged around the pool to soak in the sun. We also wandered around our little town finding groceries, touristy shops and restaurants.
The beach was just a five minute walk away from our place, so while it was a bit too chilly to go swimming, we enjoyed the sand and shells. A highlight of our time in Portugal was our day trip to Lagos. We explored the city finding the location of an old slave market, a fortress and a museum of Lagos history. We returned to Granada and the rest of the group rejuvenated and ready for the next chapter of our cross-cultural in Morocco.
These past two weeks in Spain seemed to have gone quickly. Our group just completed another two weeks of intensive Spanish. Our culture and civilization class also ended with a busy week of papers, presentations, and an exam. Many students have enjoyed the remainder of our time here through hikes, a trip to the beach, Spanish cuisine, and even los Baños Arabes (Arab baths). The following is the recipe for Spanish tortilla, and a reflection on a personal highlight of this experience.
Una Tortilla Española
Patatas, uno para cada persona
Pimientos Verde y Rojo, sobre 2-3 de cada
Cebollas, 2 pequeños
Aceite de oliva virgen extra
Huevos, sobre 4-5
Direcciones: Se lava, se pela, y se corta las patatas. Se lava y se corta los pimientos y las cebollas. Se pone el aceite en la sartén y se calentalo. Cuando el aceite es caliente, se pone las cebollas en el aceite y se cocina hasta las son marron. Despues se pone las patatas, los pimientos, y el sal con el aceite y las cebollas y se cocina por sobre media hora. Se mezcla sobre cada diez minutos. Se pone la mezcla en un tazón. Se mezcla los huevos junto y se echa en el tazón. Otra vez, se pone aceite en una sartén y se calentalo. Cuando el aceite es caliente, se pone la mezcla en la sartén. Se permite los huevos cocinar. Cuando puedes, se da un capirotazo a la sartén en un plato. Se vuelve la tortilla a la sartén. Se repite hasta los huevos estan todo cocido y la tortilla esta doren. Se disfruta!
Disclaimer: I am not in a very high level of Spanish, and I apologize for any mistakes that are made in the recipe.
During our time in Spain I have had the pleasure of enjoying many dishes that are typical of this area, but one of my favorites has been the Spanish tortilla. Luckily, it is also a dish that my host mom loves to make, and makes often. After an evening of talking with my host mom and sister for three hours about many topics including fruit, differences in universities, and what a Mennonite is, I finally asked the question I have wanted to ask this entire time: Can you teach me how to cook a Spanish dish? Naturally my host mom loved this idea. She was thrilled that I wanted to learn and have her as my teacher. We decided that Saturday would be perfect since the group excursions were finished.
I was excited to actually be able to help and get hands-on experience, but rather she had me sit and watch everything she was doing. So I sat and watched, listened to everything she was saying, tried to write it down as best as I could, and took pictures of the time spent together. Even though I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to help, simply sharing this time with her is easily one of the special moments I will take from our time in Spain.
It is not the experience of learning to make a Spanish tortilla that is so special. I could find a recipe somewhere I’m sure. But a cookbook lacks the human connection that was made stronger that afternoon. I had crossed over the language barrier, not without mistakes, and was making connections with people of a different culture. My host mom and I have had very different lives. We come from different cultures and each grew up in very different times. Nevertheless, we have things in common, as all human beings do. One of those things happens to be the enjoyment of cooking.
Connections are made, and strengthened through common experiences despite the differences that exist between the people. Spending time with my host mom learning more about something we both love was an excellent way to strengthen such a human connection. It crossed the barriers of culture and language that are so often difficult to break through. It strengthened the relationship that was built during our short stay in Spain. And it is something that I will never forget.
Such a wonderful experience is going to make leaving even more difficult. As I am writing this our group is enjoying our last day in Spain, getting ready to leave on free travel. Groups of students are preparing to leave throughout this evening and tomorrow, heading out on different paths. Destinations for free travel include Germany, France, Italy, Portugal, Switzerland, Holland, and even the Island of Mallorca off the east coast of Spain. Prayers for safe travels and a rejuvenating time before we gather and travel to Morocco are welcomed and appreciated.
The last week here in Granada has been a rollercoaster. Our group has had its highs and lows. But what’s important is that we are all growing; academically and spiritually.
This past Saturday we were blessed with a day trip to the beautiful city of Seville. Unfortunately, Carol, our fearless leader, and Amanda were not able to go on the trip with us, as Amanda was hospitalized for appendicitis. Carol has been with her every moment at the hospital and helping to translate the completely Spanish speaking environment. The other 19 students on the trip have been visiting her in waves to help her through this difficult time. Hopefully the laughter and smiles will help her recover faster. Doctors are working on getting Mandy up on her feet and project her return possibly tomorrow! We all wish that she would make it through her recovery swiftly and painlessly. All of us are glad that she is doing alright, and we ask for prayers from those back home who wish Amanda a smooth recovery.
Our visit to Seville went without a hitch. We got to see many fascinating places, such as the largest Gothic cathedral in the world, the royal palace, the gardens, and the Plaza España. Many pictures were taken and the rain cleared up just in time for the start of our trip. It turned out to be quite a beautiful day.
We are wrapping up our month-long intensive Spanish class here at the University of Granada. We all seemed to have made it through our final exams and are awaiting scores. Wednesday we start our second round of Spanish classes but only for two weeks. We will also be working on our Spanish Culture and Civilization class presentations this week.
We hope life back in the States is as exciting as it is here, and we look forward to the next two weeks here in Spain. Morocco is coming fast, and the adventures have just begun.
-Joshua Sauder & Amanda Vega
Sept. 21, 2013
We have been very busy since our last blog post from Spain. Since Barcelona we have spent the last two weeks settling into our new host families and school routines in Granada. Before lunch every weekday we spend 4 hours in intensive Spanish language classes and 1 hour in a Spanish Civilation and Culture class. Hungry and mentally fried we head home around 2:30 for lunch. After a rejuvenating “siesta” we spend our evenings doing homework in one of the many parks or plazas, taking advantage of the shopping, or getting together for an excursion to one of the many culturally significant sites in Granada. Weekends are filled with more sight-seeing throughout Andalucia (a province in southern Spain) and experiencing some of Granada’s vibrant night life. So far excursions have included the historic Albaicin district of Granada, the Alhambra, the Alpujarras region, and La Mezquita in Cordoba.
Here are some reflections on the difficult but rewarding task of getting to know our new Spanish families and the coinciding experiences of culture shock. Bruselas 38 is a humble apartment complex not found on Google Maps and not directly accessible by car. On the sixth floor lives a classy yet fiery elderly woman named Purificacion or “Puri for short. Amanda Vega and I have been blessed to call her “host mom” during our stay in Granada. Our first night in Granada she made certain to introduce us to the entire immediate family, including three adult daughters, their husbands, and three grandsons. She showed us her favorite Tapas restaurant and the best cafes and produce shops. She even had key chains made with our initials on them! She wasted no time in being completely accommodating and welcoming to us.
Every morning Puri makes my coffee and watches us safely walk to the elevator as we leave for school. Lunch always awaits our return and she makes sure our bellies are full to the brim until she sits and eats her own lunch. She never fusses at our pickiness or complete unawareness of social norms, such as wearing shoes 24/7 in the house. With level 1 and 2 Spanish speakers to socialize with, she has the most patience I could have ever hoped for as a beginner. We bond over the most unexpected things, such as American television with Spanish voice-overs, and our social lives between friends and family. Puri is a very hospitable and spunky woman. I know I’m going to love it here in Granada thanks to her!
Melinda’s and my host mom is a social butterfly and night owl. She is probably my grandmother’s age but moves around like a college student. When we get home after an afternoon of shopping or homework, she is either entertaining someone or on the phone. When she is off the phone she is talking to us. She tells us all of her stories and we try to keep up with her. She doesn’t go to bed until after us most nights which could be 1 a.m. some nights. She is very fun and easy to be with! I love my host mom.
The way I learn the rules is by breaking them, unintentionally of course. I have now learned to eat facing the table, to not eat French fries with my hands, and to not enter a part of the house if the door is closed. I would never have considered myself to be someone without manners, as I always say please and thank you and try to be as polite as possible. But I think my host mom would describe me differently.
Within the first week my mom had corrected how I sit at the table. Our mom sits at the head of the table and I am on the right side so I turn in my seat so that I can face her and show that I am interested (I mostly do this because it is more comfortable). I guess by the third night she had had it and so she gave me a long explanation as to why I need to sit facing the table and I should never turn in a restaurant. That was the first lesson I learned and I haven’t done it since.
The next night I helped myself to some French fries. I used my hands to get them and my host mom immediately jumped on correcting me and showed me how to properly take French fries with a fork. When that happened I just had to laugh because in America French fries are eaten with our hands, now I know to always use a fork for even the simplest foods. Over the weekend, Annika and I came home and no one else was home. I wanted to do my homework out on the porch because I like natural light. To get out to the porch you have to walk through the family room. This particular day the door to the family room was closed. I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal so I let myself in and went to the balcony while Annika stayed in the room to study. When our mom came home she went off on Annika saying that this was her apartment, and if the door is closed we don’t go there. Our mom never came to me to tell me, so I found out through Annika that I had upset her. I felt awful about it and was a little angry as well, because I don’t like being restricted to just one room. But during dinner I decided to just break the awkwardness and apologize for the mistake (in very bad Spanish). She immediately said it was okay because she hadn’t told us that before and recognized that we didn’t know. We agreed that we just needed to communicate on what is allowed. We are supposed to tell her when we don’t like the food or something. After that I felt much better and I think she did too.
It’s kind of funny for me now. Every day I wonder what new lesson I will learn. I am thankful for the little things she is teaching me and am glad that she cares enough that she wants me to act properly. She has been very generous with her home and all my needs have been met. It looks like I will be coming home with more polite mannerisms.
From the moment my host mother Mari (short for Maribel) gave me a love tap on the rump I knew we had a special connection beyond hand to cheek. Off of Camino de Ronda, the main road that winds through the buildings of Granada, Spain; Alex and I share an apartment with our host mother and her two children Paco and María. It has only been one week since our arrival and the apartment already feels like home. It did not take us long to break in the apartment, quite literally. The other day Alex ripped out a window handle from the interior of the house leaving a very large hole in the wall. Unfortunately, the damage was fatal and the only remedy was a new window handle. Alex and I were terrified to deliver the news to our host family. Once we mustered up the courage to unveil our new addition to the home’s décor we guided Mari to the room. Through both fragmented clay and Spanish our host mom calmly interrupted our confession and said “No pasa nada hijos, está bien. Los cosas están hechas para ser rotas. Como es mi trabajo cuidar de vosotros, es el trabajo de otro arreglar este problema. Si las cosas están hechas para ser rotas esa persona no tendría un trabajo.”
It is nothing sons, everything is okay. Things are meant to be broken. As it is my job to take care of you, it is the job of someone else to fix this. If things were not meant to be broken that person would be without a job.
We were surprised and incredibly relieved by her forgiveness. I think this short story perfectly portrays the relationship we share with our host family. Alex and I have felt nothing but patience and acceptance in our new home. We are foreigners acclimating to an exotic culture and despite the fact that we often show our cultural ignorance our family always responds with compassion. Mari frequently tells us that we are “parte de la familia” and even though that typically leads to two hour dinner conversations we feel blessed to be with such an inviting family.
Last Sunday (Sept. 8) we visited a region between the Sierra Nevadas and the Mediterranean called Las Alpujarras. Although quite small, these villages are famous for the terraced farmlands that surround them, a unique mini-ecology due to melting snow from higher up the mountains, great for producing bottled water that is sold throughout the rest of Spain.
Specifically we visited a famous trio of villages in the Poqueria Valley, which retain traditional Berber architecture from the time the Muslims ruled Spain. The villages are clustered quite close together and were easy to visit during a single trip.
The mountain roads were narrow and if one happened to be sitting by the window nearest the cliff, it was quite easy to look out the window and straight down into the steep drop to the valley below. I couldn’t help but think how unlikely it was that the guard rails (which came up to maybe wheel height on the bus) would stop us from tumbling over the side of the cliff if we were to get in an accident.
We only stopped briefly at Pampaniera, but it is an interesting place because the iron content in the water is so high that a “hotel hospital” has sprung up. The hotel hospital advertises itself as a place of natural healing for women who are anemic–all they have to do is come for a few days and drink the water. Of course massages and other spa treatments are available should the women get bored drinking water.
Both Bubion and Capileira are well known for their Berber-style architecture and good quality hiking and biking trails. For a while the villages were struggling because young people were leaving to go to the cities or other countries for better work and travel opportunities, but now foreigners have discovered the beauty of Las Alpujarras and as more expats settle in the villages and bring money and business, tourism has boomed.
In Capileira we sat down all together in a little restaurant for a wonderful meal of bread, homemade gazpacho, eggs, potatoes in lots (lots) of olive oil and some of the best cheese I have ever tasted. The meat eaters also had ham, which I heard was very tasty as well. It’s probably fortunate that we went on a short hike afterwards because I think everyone over ate and needed to either move or take a nap in order to recover.
In the middle of the week, we spent a day at Alhambra, a World UNESCO Heritage site. It started as a fortress in the 1st Century, but it grew into a massive palace complex used first by Spain’s Muslim rulers and then by its Christian ones. It’s a must-visit for anyone in this part of Spain.
This Sunday afternoon (Sept. 15) nine of us went to a soccer game–Granada vs. Espanyol, which was really fun, but very, very hot. In the evening, we all gathered at the Snell-Feikema’s for worship.
Our travels could not have gone more smoothly. Although we were exhausted when we arrived to Barcelona, we had all of our luggage, had made our connecting flight, and were greeted by our guide–Jim of the tour company “Good Barcelona”–who happens to be Australian, not Spanish. Jim was easy to find due to his bright yellow “Good Barcelona” guide shirt, and a mustache that probably rivals Salvador Dali.
The bus dropped us off a few blocks from our hostel in downtown Barcelona, which meant that we had to pull all of our luggage behind us as we clattered noisily down the street. People stare at us everywhere we go because we are such a big group, but we felt especially conspicuous in the caravan to the hostel.
Our arrival at the hostel itself was disconcerting in its lack of structure but was improved somewhat by the exciting swirl of Spanish and Catalan (the language specific to Barcelona) that was peppering us from the walls, signs, and people. Inside we struggled with a snafu in the reservations for our rooms, which didn’t take away from the anxiety of the environment. After just an hour to get settled, we met Ben, who took us on our walking tour of Barcelona.
Ben is a tall, sarcastic San Franciscan with an extremely dry sense of humor. He was a very interesting and fun tour guide, but by the time we got around to leaving most of us hadn’t eaten anything significant in a solid eight hours. I think we were all pretty overwhelmed by the foreign sights and sounds of the city, and we felt very foreign and unwanted in our 24 person tourist group. Invasive vendors buzzed at us with kazoo-like mouth instruments, and the multiple warnings about pickpockets hovered in the back of our minds as the tide of the city swept past.
The tour went by in a haze of historical facts and beautiful, sun-drenched alleyways. Afterwards we finally got to eat in a Spanish cooking class, where we crammed into a tiny room and learned how to make one of Spain’s national foods, called “tapas”. The lady in the class showed us how to make Barcelona’s spin on this food, as well as paella, a fried rice dish. Spirits picked up noticeably as we got food in our systems. Once we got back to the hostel though, most people went to bed by 9:00 or 9:30, and proceeded to sleep for a good 12 hours.
The hostel provided the typical small Spanish breakfast of toast, coffee, cereal and a muffin, which although good, was not particularly filling, and certainly did not last until our 3:00 lunch. The space, timing and quantity of meals have definitely been something we are all struggling with, although I think we will adjust in a week or two.
After breakfast, our tour guide, Ben, met us in the hostel lobby to take us on a biking tour of Barcelona. The highlight of the day was probably a tour of the Sagrada Familia, a huge beautiful basilica that has been under construction since the turn of the century.
We spent the afternoon at one the beaches on the Mediterranean, and then made our way to a dinner of tapas. After dinner we went to a Flamenco show–a kind of dancing that is typical for southern Spain. There were two dancers, one male and one female. Both exhibited grace, speed and sensuality as they turned and stomped their feet to the music of two voices and an extremely talented guitar player. After dinner we split off into smaller groups and explored the city’s nightlife–although most Barcelonans don’t really go out until 1:00 or 2:00, by which time we were in bed.
On Saturday we loaded into a bus and drove out of the city center to Montserrat, a mountain that has been holy to the Catalane people for almost 1,000 years. Montserrat is an incredibly beautiful place that is home to a monastery that was shut down during the reign of the dictator Franco. The monastery is now preserved as a museum, and serves as a hub for those who come to Montserrat to pray, see the awe-inspiring views of the valley, bike, hike and rock climb. There are many hiking paths leading from the museum farther up the mountain, and Ben led us up one to better see the views. Although the temperature at Montserrat was much cooler than in the city, by the time we climbed up (mostly by stairs), we were all sweating profusely and were ready for lunch. We ate sandwiches overlooking the valley and then hiked back down to our bus waiting below.
Carol arranged for us to meet for an hour or so Saturday evening with one of the only Mennonite churches in Spain. Despite a congregation of just 43, the members who came to meet us were very welcoming and provided snacks and drinks for us after we toured their church. A quintet of us sang a couple hymns for everyone present, and then we all sang “We are Marching in the Light of God” in English, Spanish and finally Catalan before saying our goodbyes and taking the metro back to our hostel.
Now we are on the way to Granada. Our host families will meet us at the airport and take us to our homes for the next six weeks. Tomorrow morning we will go to the University of Granada and take a Spanish placement test before beginning our studies.
Until next time,
-Kara Lofton and Lucas Driediger
Quote of the week: “Is everyone alive? …because I almost got hit by a bus three times yesterday. -Philip Yoder