Friday, October 25, 2013

Discovering Asutrias: Gijón and Covadonga/ Discubriendo Asturias: Gijón y Covadonga

The province and autonomy of Asturias has so much to offer other than the beautiful city of Oviedo, where I live. I have been fortunate to be able to visit two distinct but beautiful places in Asturias: Gijón and Covadonga.

Gijón is a coastal city in Asturias. It's one of the biggest cities in the province and borders the Cantabrian Sea, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean. This city, being on the coast, was very important during the Roman empire and after. Remains of Roman baths and other fortresses are accessible to see and experience some of the history. The market in the center of the city, full of artisan cheeses and breads, complimented the lively colorful buildings and the roar of the sea. After visiting the beach, I headed over to the Museo del Pueblo Asturias with a friend. The main building held artifacts dating from the 1800s to the years under the dictatorship of Franco. The entire museum was composed of various buildings dedicated to various aspects of Asutrian culture, like the music, the animals, and the famous sidra (cider). There are also various typical Asturian infrastructures such as hórreos and chozos. These huts and houses high off the ground were used to store grain and other harvests. Also, they served as shelters for the workers of the field.
After a long day of walking all around Gijón, we took the half an hour trip by bus home. It was an incredible trip that I'm looking forward to doing again.

Another day trip I took with friends was to the village of Covadonga. This small town has a legendary reputation of being the last town to hold out against the invading Muslims, ultimately defeating them. Legend has it that the Virgin Mary appeared to the soldiers and helped with the conquest. Because of this, a shrine sits to her in a cave overlooking the village. In fact, the entire village is a shrine to the Virgin. An incredible cathedral also looks over the village and part of the Picos de Europa. We later took a ride up into the peaks to see the majestic Lagos de Covadonga. These two lakes are side by side, only separated by a hill that is home to sheep, goats, and horses. The tall mountains stretch out in the distance covered in fog. An old mine also calls the lakes home and we were able to go into part of the mine and see it. The whole trip just reminded us of the beauty of Spain and really what a wonderful world we live in.

I love living in the province of Asturias and I'm very grateful to have the opportunity to study in what I think is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Asturias: natural paradise. 
In Gijón/En Gijón

Sitting on the steps of a hórreo/Sentada en las escaleras de un hórreo

The Cathedral of Covadonga/La catedral de Covadonga

La Santa Cueva

Lagos de Covadonga

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Spanish Classroom and myth #1/ La clase española y mito #1

Here in Oviedo, I attend La Universidad de Oviedo (surprise, surprise). The department where I take my classes is called La Casa de Las Lenguas (The House of Languages) and the program I am a part of is called Lengua y Cultura para Extranjeros (Language and Culture for International Students). Before choosing my classes, all the students (around 150 students from all over the world) going through this program had to take a written and oral test to place them in one of the five levels. I was put in the highest level - Advanced II - with around 15 other students. I was able to choose what classes I wanted to take and I chose Translation, Oral Expressions, Written Expressions, History of Spain, and Latin America: History through Literature. I have class everyday of the week, though I don't have every class, every day.

I really enjoy my professors! They are very eager to teach us and challenge us advanced students to learn as much as we can. Here, the norm is to call your professor by his or her first name. Almost no one addresses the professor with Dr. or "Profesor." This happens sometimes in the U.S but it's not usual. I like the personable vibe that comes from the professors. And speaking of professors comes myth #1 -



Before coming to Spain, I heard that Spanish people do not like it when Spanish from Latin America is used. So far, I have not come across anyone who has gotten annoyed with hearing Mexican Spanish. In fact, I've had the opposite reaction. I've been complimented many times on my Spanish (of course, being a native speaker does help) and it has surprised me. I never have felt confident in my conversational Spanish but I can hear myself getting better. Also, in school, professors realize that we come from a different linguistic background. In fact, my oral expressions professor encourages us to bring Mexican words in our class conversations as long as they are in the dictionary of the Real Academia Espanol. Sometimes we are encouraged to use Spanish forms of speaking - most notably the 'theta,' used for the 'z' sound and sometimes the 'c' sound. It's been a bit hard getting used to doing that but I'm trying! I think it's a very useful linguistic attribute to the Spanish language.

I'm excited to learn more about the Spanish language and improve my conversational  and writing skills!

A university classroom
Una aula de clase de la universidad

A written form of "Oviedo" from the 1500s
Una escritura de "Oviedo" de los 1500s

My university card
Mi tarjeta universitaria

Aquí en Oviedo, soy estudiante de la Universidad de Oviedo (sorpresa). La facultad donde tomo mis clases se llama La Casa de Las Lenguas y el programa en la cual estoy inscrita se llama Lengua y Cultura para Extranjeros. Antes de escojer nuestras clases, todos los estudiantes internacionales quienes están en el programa tuvimos que tomar una examen escrita y oral para situarnos en uno de los 5 niveles. Me pusieron en el nivel mas alto - Avanzado II - con otros 15 estudiantes. Pude escojer mis clases y escojí Traducción, Expresión Oral, Expresión Escrita, Historia de Espana, e Historia de Hispanoamerica através de la literatura. Tengo clases todos los días, aunque no tengo cada clase cada día. 

¡Me encanta los profesores! Son muy dispuestos a ensenarnos y darnos desafíos para que podemos sobresalir en nuestros estudios. Tambien son muy dispuestos a contestar cualquier pregunta que tenemos. Aqui, lo normal es refirir a un profesor o profesora por su primer nombre. Casi no se dice "Dr." o "Profesor/a." Algunas veces es asi en EE.UU. pero no es lo normal. Me gusta que es un sentimiento más personal. Hablando de los profesores, aquí esta mito #1 - 



Antes de venir a España, escuchaba que a la gente de España no les gusta el español de Latino America. Hasta ahora, no he conocido a una persona que se ha enojado por escuchar un español latinoamericano. Ha sido el opuesto - me han dicho que es un espanol muy claro y bueno (tengo ventaja de ser una hablante nativa) y me ha soprendido. Nunca tuve confianza con mi conversacion en espanol pero puedo siento que estoy mejorando poco a poco. También, los profesores entienden que venimos de un fondo distincta linguística. Aún mi profesora de expresión oral nos anima a traer palabras hispanoamericanas a la clase, mientras que están en el diccionario del Real Academia Española, para que nuestro vocabulario y la suya puede crecer. Algunas veces, nos animan a usar características espanolas cuando hablamos, como la "theta" que se usa para el sonido de la "z" y "c." Es difícil pero intento. Creo que es una característica lingüística muy buena. 

Bueno, ¡estoy bien emocionada para seguir aprendiendo espanol y aumentar mis habilidades de conversación y de escritura!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Daily Spanish Routine / La Rutina Diaria de los Españoles

After being in Spain for almost two weeks, I am just starting to get used to the daily routine of the Spanish people. It has been a different experience as I begin to not only get used to the time difference (Spain is 9 hours ahead of Arizona), but also the activity hours and the different measurement system.

The day begins early for me - I get up around 7 am to leave for school at 8:30. During my twenty minute walk to school, I see many people walking as well. I assume that the normal Spanish day begins early. Most stores and banks open between 9 and 9:30. I'm usually at school between 9 and 3pm. At 3pm, or 15:00, the stores throughout the city close for la comida - lunchtime. Lunch is usually a large meal that almost always has bread or rice included. After la comida comes one of my favorite parts of the day - la siesta! This is usually a short nap that lasts between 1 - 2 hours. In the time between la siesta and la cena, dinner, people take walks around Oviedo, go to cafes, or go shopping. This is also a good time to study. Most stores open again and people go back to work. Dinner usually is late, around 10:00, sometimes even 11:00. After that, it's usually bedtime. Some adventurous people (I have done this a few times), go out late to a bar to hang out with friends. Most places are open late every day of the week.

It's really incredible to see the way people live here. For one, physical activity is definitely a common occurrence. You might not see tons of people in the street jogging but most people walk everywhere. I have only ridden the bus once since being in the city. What amazes me the most is seeing older people walking around everyday. Not a day goes by that I don't see an 80 year-old man walking with his buddy somewhere around Oviedo. Another thing I find great is the style of the Spanish people, at least the Asturians. If they are going somewhere, they will dress nice. I have yet to see someone dressed in just a t-shirt and shorts. In fact, when I ventured out in my t-shirt and shorts, I felt like everyone was looking at me strangely. Women usually have on dress pants or dresses or nice jean combinations. And many, I mean MANY, wear heels all the time.

One part that has been hard to adjust to is the measurement difference. Europe - well, the rest of the world - uses the metric system and degrees Celsius. It has been tough to get used to the difference when I measure the distance I walk. Getting used to the weather has been a bit easier as I can see that at 13 C, it's cold enough to see my breath whereas 20 C, I can wear shorts and a t-shirt and I'm definitely sweating. That's the easiest way for me to understand Celsius.

It's been an interesting process, getting accustomed to the Spanish routine. Yet it seems to allow a more relaxed lifestyle. I have yet to meet a very stressed Spanish person. So excited to learn more!
Older couple on their daily walk 
Una pareja vieja en su caminada diaria

Enjoying a night out with tapas and sangría
Disftutando una noche con tapas y sangría

Despues de estar en España por dos semanas, apenas ando acostumbrando a la rutina diaria de los espanoles. Ha sido una experiencia diferente y no es nomas por la diferencia de hora (España está 9 horas adelantadas a Arizona), pero también las horas de las actividades diarias y el sistema diferente de temperatura y distancia. 

Para mi, el día empieza temprano - amanesco a las 7:00 para alistarme para la caminada de 20 minutos a la universidad. Salgo a las 8:30. Cuando camino a mis clases, veo que mucha gente también anda caminando alrededor de la ciudad. Es facil deducir que el día empieza temprano para los espanoles también. Las tiendas abren sus puertas entre las 9:00 y 9:30. Estoy en clases entre las 9:00 y 15:00. A las 15:00, empieza la comida. Casi todas la tiendas cierran para su comida, que siempre consiste en algo con pan o arroz. Despues de la comida, viene un parte favorito - la siesta! La siesta toma 1 - 2 horas. Durante el tiempo entre la siesta y la cena,  la gente camina por Oviedo, van de compras, o van a uno de los miles de cafes en la ciudad. También es un tiempo bueno para estudiar. Las tiendas abran sus puertas y la gente regresa al trabajo. La cena es un poco tarde, entre las 22:00 y 23:00. Despues, es hora de dormir. Si quieres una adventura (lo he hecho), puedes ir a las cantinas para estar un rato con tus amigos. 

Es muy increíble ver como vive la gente aqui. Para empezar, la actividad física es muy común. Tal vez no vez a gente corriendo por las calles pero si caminan mucha gente para salir. He tomado el camión solo una vez. Lo que me fascina es ver a la gente vieja caminando por las calles. No pasa ni un día en que no veo a un hombre de 80 anos caminando con un amigo. Lo que también me fascina de los españoles, por lo menos los Asturianos, es que se visten muy bien - siempre son como un queso. Casi no veo gente con pantalones cortos ni blusas muy casuales. Yo anduve una vez con una camisa casual y pantalones cortos y me miraron con caras raras. Las senoras siempre andan con vestidos o pantalones de vesitir y siempre andan con tacones. 

Una cosa que ha sido difícil es acostumbrarme a que Europa - y el resto del mundo menos los EE. UU. usan el sistema métrica y los centigrados. Ha sido dificil medir la distancia que camino. Lo que si he aprendido es que cuando son 13 C, puedo ver el vapor saliendo de mi boca y cuando son 20 C, estoy sudando y puedo usar una camisa casual y pantalones cortos. Para mi, es la manera mas fácil de aprender los centigradios.

Ha sido un proceso interesante - acostumbrando a la rutina espanola. Se me hace que es un estilo de vida muy relajada. No he conocido a un español muy estresado. ¡Estoy emocinada para aprender más!

Monday, September 30, 2013

I am here! - ¡Estoy Aquí!

Wow! I have only been here one full day and two half days since getting off the plane in Madrid and taking a 5 hour train ride to Oviedo. During my wait at the train station and on the train, I "people watched." I noticed words that were said and the way people would greet each other. As exhausting as the trip was, these past couple days have been overwhleming and so worth it. When I got to the train station in Oviedo, I met my host mother, Montserrat - or Montse for short. To get the her, from one side of the station to the next, I had to take the small elevator ever up to the top of the station, then take an escalator down to the bottom again. When we met, I was a bit awkward, of course, when I gave the typical Spanish greeting - a kiss on both cheeks. From the train station, we walked two blocks to the apartment building where I live. Everyone lives in an apartment/condo - New York City style. As I unpacked (BTW - packed more than I needed), I got to know my host mother and about my host family. She is an incredibly nice person and very Spanish - straight-forward and direct. Her lisp isn't as intense as other who I've overheard but nonetheless, she has one, along with my host siblings. My host siblings are all in there 30s - Ana, 30; Alejandro, 31; and Luis Javier, 34. Alejandro and Luis Javier have an apartment and Ana lives in Madrid. I met them all - Ana was visiting from Madrid. Everyone has been nice and eager to answer my questions. I still am learning the routine for the home - where to put the dishes, how to leave the bathroom in the way the family likes it, how to unlock the door and lock it (super complicated) - and I am enjoying every minute I learn something new.

Yesterday, Sunday, after sleeping 10 hours, ventured downtown by myself to explore the city. I was surprised at how easy it was to find my way around. The streets are not straight but curvy and there are hills everywhere. I am enthralled by the beauty of the city and the old fashioned buildings. The people walk with purpose and are usually with someone else or in their family. You can tell that family is really important and so is friendship. I'm excited to see what more the city has offer!
Oviedo from above the train station
Oviedo, desde arriba de la estación del tren 

¡Vale! He estado aquí un día y dos medios desde que baje del avión en Madrid y tomé un viaje de tren a Oviedo. Mientras esperé el tren a Oviedo en la estación, observé a la gente que me pasaron. Note palabras que hablaron y como se saludaron. Aunque el viaje era duro y me cansé, ha valido la pena. Cuando llegé a la estacion del tren en Oviedo, conocí a la mamá con quien viviré por este tiempo - Montserrat, o Montse. Para llegar donde ella estuvo, tuve que subir en el ascensor y luego bajar los escalones otra vez. Cuando nos conocimos, estuve nerviosa, especialmente cuando nos saludamos con el saludo tipico de Espana - un beso en cada lado de la cara. Caminamos dos cuadras de la estación del tren al apartamento donde viviré durante estos meses. Aqui, todos viven en apartamentos. Mientras vacié mis bolsas, conoci my familia espanola. Monste es una mujer increible y muy española - directa y honesta. Su acento no es tan intenso como otros quienes he escuchado pero si tiene uno - como mis hermanos españoles, sus hijos. Mis hermanos estan en la edad de los 30 - Ana, 30, Alejandro, 31, y Luis Javier, 34. Alex y Luis viven en un apartamento en Oviedo mientras Ana vive en Madrid. Conocí a todos - Ana estuvo visitando. Todos han sido muy simpáticos y estan dispuestos a resonder mis preguntas. Todavia estoy aprendiendo la rutina de la casa - donde poner los platos, como cuidar al bano, y como abrir y cerrar con llave la puerta. Disfruto cada momento que aprendo algo nuevo. 

Ayer, domingo, despues de dormir 10 horas, fuí al centro para explorar la cuidad. Estuve soprendida que pude encontrar todo y no perderme. Las calles tienen muchas curvas y hay lomas por toda la cuidad. Estoy encantada con la belleza de Oviedo y los edificios antiguos. La gente camina con propósito y casi siempre estan con otra persona. Puedes notar que la familia y los amigos son importantes. ¡Estoy emocinada por ver que mas ofrece Oviedo!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Welcome to an adventure! / ¡Bienvenidos a la adventura!

In four days, I will be embarking on an incredible opportunity. For three months, I will study abroad in Oviedo, Spain at La Universidad de Oviedo, founded in 1574. Can you believe it's 439 years old?? The program I will attend is called Casa de Lenguas - a popular program that offers Spanish language course for international students. Oviedo is located in the province of the Asturias in Northern Spain. This city is home to 225, 973 people (soon to be 225, 974!) and is the capital of the Asturias. This blog is to keep you updated on my experiences and travels as I explore Spain and the rest of Europe. Also, I'll be looking at myths and stereotypes about Spain and the Spanish people and either busting them or finding them true. Stay tuned for more!

En cuatro días estaré llendo en una oportunidad increíble. Por tres meses, estudiaré en Oviedo, España en La Universidad de Oviedo, circa. 1574. ¿Pueden creer que la universidad tiene 439 años? La programa en la cual estaré se llama Casa de Lenguas - una programa popular que ofrece la idioma español para estudiantes internacionales. Oviedo esta localizado en la povincia Asturias en la norte de España. Esta ciudad tiene 225,973 habitantes (casi 225,274!) y es la capital de las Asturias. Este blog es para informarles sobre mis experiencias y viajes mientras exploro España y Europa. También estaré comprobando los mitos sobre España y su gente o investigando si son mitos falsos.