Sunday, April 27, 2008

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Political pictures

Let's Play 20 Questions...

So, Dr. Baldridge sent me an email containing questions that her class came up with, at least 20 of them, so I'm dedicating this post to answering them, as best as possible. I'm not putting in the questions because I answered some of them together, so this is a lot of general information about my family here and life in general. Sorry if it jumps around a lot, I tried to put sections hoping that might help. Also, this is incredibly long. Sorry about that too. Anyway, here goes:

Casa y Familia

I live in an apartment with a family in the middle of the 'old' part of the city. We live on the third floor of a building surrounded by stores and shops. Something quite different about Spain, perhaps Europe, versus the States is that there are really random apartments everywhere, instead of big complexes of them like you see at home.

The apartment is small, but the space is very well distributed. There's 4 bedrooms, a living room/dining room that we never use to eat in, and two bathrooms and a kitchen. We don´t really spend a lot of time in the living room, actually we´re usually either in the kitchen or the bedroom studying. Or gone.

The family consists of the parents and their two grown kids, who are 22 (daughter) and 26 (son). It´s quite typical to live at home here until you're close to 30, so it's not abnormal at all for them to be living at home. Both of them work, a lot, the daughter at a hair salon/spa type place (and she goes to the University) and the son is some sort of photographer. Their father owns a men's clothing store, and his wife, our señora, works out of the home, doing a lot of sewing for the store and also some other on the side stuff. The grandparents don't live anywhere close to us, the only thing I know for sure about them is that the abuela paternal, or the señor´s mom, is in the hospital for something that seems terminal, and has been the whole time we've been here, and that they visit her a lot. Oh, also, although not extremely close to us I think a lot of our senora's family lives here in the city. I know one sister lives just outside of town, another somewhere here in the city, and at least one more lives here, because she too is hosting students from our group. The only visitors that are ever in the house seems to be one close friend of our senoras, who is here at least once a week, and sometimes one of the sisters, and then the boyfriend of our hermana, and occasionally the girlfriend of our hermano, though the boyfriend is here almost every night. Both our brother and sister have been dating their significant other for at least four years, quite interesting, with no talks of marriage in sight.

Financially, I think they are fairly well off. The apartment is located on what has to be an expensive street, only a few minutes from the Plaza and the Cathedral, so I know they pay/paid a lot for it (I'm not certain if they rent or own). They own other property, another apartment located a bit closer to the plaza that they rent out, I think, and at least two different vacation places, so this sorta makes us think that they are quite well off.


As for churches, well, as far as I know there are no Protestant organizations of any sort in Segovia. I wouldn't want to say for sure, because there might be some small groups, but definitely no churches that I have seen. My roommate here was talking about how much she missed church, so I asked a CN student that is from Madrid about any sort of Protestant churches in Madrid, because I figured there had to be. What she told me makes sense, that there are definitely far fewer non-Catholic churches than Catholic, and that the ones that exist don't necessarily look like what we would think a church would look like, that often they are just part of a building, like an office or something. So, I have not been to a service here that was not a Catholic mass, but my friend did go to the church in Madrid and loved it.

Our family, like much of Spain, appears largely disillusioned with the Church, as our hermana put it "nunca vamos a la misa". This is largely just speaking from personal theory, but I feel like the history of the Catholic church in Spain, and how they were so supportive of the Franco regime, has some influence on the current day religious situation here. Some of the families that are hosting students do attend services, but there aren't many of them that do. When we first got here, I went to a mass at the Cathedral, mainly to experience the service (and to see inside the Cathedral for free...) and it shocked me at how few people there actually were there. To be such an impressive Cathedral, the turnout was really small.

La Vida Normal

I'm quite lazy, so I get up at the earliest around 8:30. My class schedule works well with my sleeping habits, as my earliest class is at 10:00. The school schedules are definitely different here. I think high schools and such start around 8, then stop around 1 or 2, then go back around 4, and go until like 8 at night. Our center, which isn't affiliated in any way with a school here, goes from 9:30 until 2:00, then from 5:00 until 8:40. There are only 7 classes being offered on our program, and we are all in 4 classes each. Mine are:

1)a class in English that surveys how body and gender are represented in literature and other mediums created in/around the time of the Spanish Civil War. It is the only class in the program in English.

2)an advanced conversation and composition class that focuses mainly on colloquial sayings that are used only in Spain, but that has been very helpful in being able to speak the language here. It seems like every time we learn a new phrase, I hear it being used on the street, or more commonly, in our household.

3)a literature class that is covering mostly poetry, though a bit of other areas too, from the Generation of 1898 through literature post-Franco.

4)a survey of art and architecture in Spain from the Paleolithic times all the way into the 20th century. It is interesting, but quite hard. (and failing is not out of the picture at this point)

So, we have class regularly Monday through Thursday, another difference from the States is that there are no Friday classes. We only have Friday classes during times when we might miss a class, like this week, because next week we start Spring Break on Thursday. The lack of Friday classes applies, I'm pretty sure, to the University and the secondary schools as well.

My classes balance out quite well, one at 10-11:40 M & W, one at 5:00-6:40 MW, and one at 7-8:40 T, TH. The only one that is odd is the art class, which meets on Monday from 1 to 2, Tuesday from 11:30 to 12:50, and Thursday from 1 to 2.
I'm really enjoying them all, except perhaps art, and it's neat the way they all overlap so much, in a way that we are really able to learn a lot about certain aspects of Spain, like architecture, culture, history, and the Civil War.

To also answer the question about how much time I spend outside of the house, I am usually out of the house M-T by 9:30, though some days I stay in and study (or sleep)
if I don't have class until late. I stay at school until 2, even on days when I don't have class, and usually use the Internet, etc. Siesta is from 2 until 5, our lunch usually starts between 2:45 and 3:15, and then we study or sleep until closer to 5. Then school again from 5-almost 9, and then we usually come back to the casa for a while after that. Then dinner around 9:30 and at the latest 10:00 (more on that later) and then if we go out, usually on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, we'll leave around 10:30 or 11:00.
During the weekend that really changes, if there are trips then we are gone usually all day Friday, leaving really early in the morning and staying out until 7 or so. If I don't travel, either independently or with a small group, over the weekend I try to go out and do something small during the day, go somewhere public to study, go shopping, go to a cafe for coffee or something, just to be different. A few weekends on Sundays I have went into Madrid to go shopping or to go the Prado or the Reina Sofia.


I had no idea what to expect when I came to Spain as far as food was concerned. What I found when I got here was a mix of European and Mediterranean influences, with a lot of love for seafood (which is interesting as I generally dislike all seafood besides fish), bread, and eggs. In our household, we eat a lot of soups, meat (pork, chicken, chorizo, fish--a really lightly flavored kind, generally), potatoes, salads, and beans like Garbanzo beans and lentils. Our hermano is allergic to a lot of seafoods, so we don't have some of the more common foods, shrimp, calamari, etc, very often, which is quite fine with me. Some of the other students said they thought the food was really different, but I don't really find it as much.

My favorite things so far, in no order, have been 1)churros, which taste like funnel cake 2)tortilla espanola (an omelet with potatoes and sometimes onions in it) 3)this amazing soup that tastes like broccoli & cheese soup, 4) a stew type substance (which our senora called a soja...) with vegetables and several types of meat and garbanzo beans in it, and 5)a breakfast/snack food called galletas, which, yes, means cookie, and is, well, pretty much a cookie, though they aren't considered as much here. They kinda taste like Vanilla Wafers...

Even though this was not asked of me I want to mention the meal structure, which is quite different. Breakfast is usually just coffee and small pastries, like galletas. Lunch takes place during the siesta, and almost always consists of at least 2 or 3 courses. It seems to be more strict in restaurants, but even in our house there is almost always 3 plates of food. Dinner doesn't take place until, like I said before, around 9:30 at night, and in theory it's supposed to be really light, for us usually it's some form of really light fish and some form of fried potato, almost always with a soup of some sort (so even dinner is at least two plates).


Most of the fun experiences I have had have been while traveling, which is something I have enjoyed doing a lot here. There are 35 of us in our group, so it is really difficult for all of us or even the majority of us, to spend time together outside of the school building. We've made a few trips to the movies, which have been fun, and small group shopping trips, but the main way that we spend time in bigger groups is as night.

The nightlife here in Segovia is quite interesting, Spanish people go out starting usually around 11:00 to bars, not always to drink and usually not to get drunk in the slightest, but to spend time talking with one another in social settings. It's also not uncommon to see small kids with their parents in bars at this time of night.
Clubs usually don't get busy until like 1:00 or after, and most stay open until at least 4. A lot of bars close around 1 or 2, so young people go to bars and then to clubs, to dance and listen to music. It's really interesting, the thing here seems to be to go out late and stay out later, like it's a goal to stay out all night...there's a bar that we've seen on our way to the bus station that will have people in it at like 7 in the morning, still partying and dancing! The latest I've stayed out so far is 4 am, which was hard after dancing for 3 hours straight! It's definitely a different experience.

Random questions

¿Cuál es la opinión pública sobre la sexualidad? (What is the public opinion about sexuality..i.e. representation of body in media, etc.) You do see a lot more representations of body, especially the female body, in commercials and magazines and such, and it just isn't viewed as a big deal. I haven't really watched a lot of television here, so I can't really talk too much about that, but I have seen some examples of that, especially with television commercials. One thing I did notice was partial nudity on the beach, and how it wasn't a big deal at all (which I expected). The society here is just a lot more open about the body, like, it's not considered something sexual just to see a female topless...I'm not sure why. We were talking about this earlier today and someone said they felt like it might be because of the religious state of the country, and I'm not sure if I agree with that or not. But it is a good theory that these things are considered more inappropriate in the US than in Europe because of the country's religious/social morals.

¿Es caro vivir en España? (Is it expensive to live in Spain?) I am almost certain that it is more expensive to live in Spain, though living the way that we are it's hard to know that for sure. Electricity and water cost more, a lot more, so the society makes a bigger deal about conservation than the US does. As far as rent, I think it does cost more too, and like in the US, it costs more to live in some places than others. Food seems priced about the same, respectively, to the States, as far as I've experienced.
For us, it is definitely more expensive because the conversion rate between the US dollar and the Euro almost divides your money in half, so we're careful to convert to US dollars before we spend money on things. Clothing is really expensive here, for the most part, and I'm talking about 200 Euro (300 dollar, at least) boots and purses in some places. I suppose it is the same in the States, there's high end of everything...but it definitely shows here with clothing.

¿Usas el transporte público? Descríbelo. (Have you used public transportation? Describe it...)

The main transport in Segovia is feet, but there is a public bus system that goes to other parts of the city, and i have used it a few times.
The AVE train, a high speed train, runs between Segovia and Madrid, and makes the trip in 35 minutes, when by bus it takes more like an hour and a half. It's something that's new, from like last month, and it's pretty neat.
Also, one of the coolest things I've ever done is ride the Metro in Barcelona. The Metro in Madrid scares me a bit, but for some reason the one in Barcelona didn't, at all. Metro's are pretty easy to figure out though, once you spend a few minutes looking at a map, and making changes and such is really easy. The only thing is to be careful about what you have with you, never letting people stand behind you if you're wearing a backpack (or lock it with a luggage lock, etc.)
One group of our girls got robbed on the metro, though all that was taken was a scarf, but still. I haven't had any problems, thus far at least.

¿Es común el divorcio en España? (Is divorce common in Spain?)
I'm not certain that it's as common here as it is in the States, but I know for sure that it is more common, along with things like civil marriages, than it was before, like during the Franco regime for example, when it was illegal. It's something very progressive, very socialist, but I haven't been in a class where we really talked about it. My partial guess/partial answer is ultimately that it is more common than it was before, and probably less common than in the states.

Okay, that's all the questions! Hope that answered them, feel free to ask something different if I wasn't clear or specific enough.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Well, the votes are in...

(Sorry for the delay in this, I was fairly certain I had already posted this blog...Silly internet connection!)

The elections here were on Sunday, and the PSOE, who are currently in control, have kept power in Spain. Even though there are several different parties, somewhat similiar to the US political system, there are only two here that really ever have a chance, the PSOE, which I take as a socialist party, and the Partido Popular, who I take as a conservative party. The election seemed to be so close that I'm fairly certain a lot of people will be unhappy about the results, which is also quite familiar.

I found this CNN article on Monday, and it´s a pretty good one, though it is somewhat short, about the state of things here politically.

This second article is a bit of political history, talking about the commemoration of the 3/11 (2004) metro attacks in Madrid.

Monday, March 3, 2008

YouTube Channel

There's a YouTube channel that our program director has made, and the purpose of it is to connect two classes, the Culture class that is going on here in Segovia (that I am not taking) and the same class that is taking place at Western Kentucky University (where our program director teaches).

Anyway, the point of it is, there are some students in KY making videos about parts of Spain, and everytime we go on any type of group trip, one of us makes a video about it, and they get posted in this YouTube channel.

Basically, the point of sharing it here is to say you can see parts of Spain if you check out these videos. The talking is in Spanish, so again, sorry if you don't speak any Spanish, but the videos are worth looking at, or at least I would think they are.

Here's the address:

Political Party Commerical, Spanish

So, this video, is a commercial for the Partido Popular in Spain, or the Popular Party. I'm not sure if this video is showing on television, but I'm assuming that it is. Where I saw it was in the Barcelona metro system, on their television network. Very interesting, because sometimes, they show it like over and over again.

So, sorry if you don't speak Spanish, you might not get this. But, you can still watch if you want, because the basic idea of the video is all the commentary is talking about how great the economy is, and how much it has improved over the last 4 years, etc., etc.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Spanish Elections, post 1 of tons...

So, Dr. Baldridge told me that I should start seeing some stuff, election flyers, etc, soon, because the elections are coming up. She said here that there's only like 2 weeks before the election where they campaign. And she was quite right.
Here in Segovia it sprung up overnight, flyers plastered all over walls, windows, and public bulletin boards. Not just like one flyer, but several feet of the same exact flyer, like wallpaper or something. This happened Thursday night.
The newspaper said that at midnight Thursday, so Friday, they were allowed to sort of charge the city putting things up. And they did charge the city.

I went to Madrid yesterday, on Sunday, and the street that runs in front of the Prado museum was so full of political stuff. There were flyers plastered all over power poles and lights, and hanging from the lights lining the how at home, at Christmas, there are always snowflakes and other decorations hanging from the lights, here there are political flags. The entire street had flags for the same person/party, the PSOE I think was which one they are, the flags are red. And there were these buses going up and down the street with people screaming out of them, vote for such and such, etc, one right after the other, each a different party. It's so different to what I am used to, and how it came up out of nowhere really surprises me. I've taken some pictures, I'll post them later, of the signs and such. I haven't really heard anyone talking about it yet, our families or anything, so there is still a lot to discover.