Thursday, December 15, 2011

Germany was FANTASTIC!

Where do I even begin to explain my wonderful adventure in Germany? Well after Norway, I returned to Barcelona for one day of class. The next morning I was on a flight to Berlin. After a long day of travelling, I was exhausted. But I hopped on the metro (or underground, whatever they call it). And it got checked…and I had the wrong ticket. So I got fined 40 Euros. And then he taught me how to buy the correct one. And from there I had to ride an additional stop, and then buy another ticket to come back to the stop for my hostel. After spending at least half an hour looking for the hostel, I finally found it and crashed (after a very strange hot dog however). The next morning I woke up early and went and visited the Jewish Holocaust Museum. It was a very interesting building. And it was particularly cool to see it without a lot of people since I was one of the first people in. I can then honestly say that is all I saw of Berlin. I then took a train for about six hours down to Siegen (pronounced Zeegan). Here I was met by Ute. A little bit of quick background. Peter and Ute, along with their children Silvia and Niklas have lived in the U.S. multiple times, most recently in Boulder. But I consider them to be a part of the family, so of course I had to go visit them. Anyways, I had a fantastic visit. From visiting this old German bakery to playing games to visiting an old castle, it was fantastic. I also saw the house where my uncle and his family lived when they were in Germany! Finally I had to leave and took a train down to Frankfurt. The next morning, when getting internet access again, I received some fantastic news—two of my best friends—Erica and Johnny—were engaged!!!!! Unfortunately I then had to get to the airport (where the metro was running later and later, so I just took a cab). After making it through security, I called Erica to congratulate them! And finally I flew to Palma Mallorca (which I want to visit, because it looked like old buildings and the prettiest colored fields!) Since then I have just been back in Barcelona where I took a final Monday, wrote a 6 page paper, have a presentation today, and my last studio final due Monday. I would now like to take the time to commemorate my last studio class…ever. Anti-climatic. But nice to have it done! And on that note, I am going to go get some work done before I have my last internship day (I think)!

The view from Peter and Ute's house.

 The crown on top of the church, the "sign of Siegen" as Silvia says.

My view when I found out Erica and Johnny were engaged!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Blondes and Knitting

Norway! I am finally in Norway! I remember doing so many school projects on this country when I was little…and drawing the flag so perfectly. And now I’m here. Me—Teka Israel—who is only ¼ Norwegian is visiting my “homeland”. And… it’s cold. Not unbearably cold, although everyone says it should be. Just a constant cold. I think it’s 0 degrees Celsius aka 32 degrees Fahrenheit. AND there’s just a dusting of snow. Which means no skiing. Really just lots of ice! And I do mean a lot of ice. Everything up here by the hostel is just a sheet of ice. And it’s on a hill… you do the math.

Speaking of math, let’s do a little history lesson…Trondheim is north of Oslo on the west coast of Norway. It WAS the country’s capital until 900 or so. But it has the claim of Norway’s northernmost “city”. The more I walk around, the less it feels like a city. Haha. Everything is all decorated for Christmas. It even kind of makes me wish I hadn’t finished most of my shopping. I do enjoy the Scandinavian designs here…the classic knits and zig zags. I guess with the very little light (only like 10-4) there isn’t much to do besides knit.

The biggest difference is that there are a lot of blondes here. Seriously. And not tan California blondes…pale Norwegian ones. They are super cute! The mountains are fantastic! Reminds me of Colorado…but I don’t want to think about that because then I start to miss home. Oh, wait, I miss home. A lot. Luckily (or unluckily) I go back to the US on the 23rd which leaves me a little over two weeks left. I still have to go to Germany (where I am seeing Peter and Ute!) and London and Chicago before finally landing in Denver!! I’m SOOO excited! I can’t wait to see ALL of you!!!

I’m still hoping to catch a glimpse of those Northern lights!!!

Hei again (Hi) from Trondheim. Today was a crazy day. I met up with Bernt, his son and and his dad and we visited a couple nearby towns. This includes the town of Hell. I am not kidding. I have a picture to prove it! I saw where my grandfather’s grandfather, Erick, grew up before he immigrated to the US. It was slightly mind blowing. My grandparents visited a few years ago, but it was kind of strange nonetheless. We went up to the old farm where Arne, and his wife and daughter still live. In just few short hours I learned so much! Their family line is from one of 9 siblings of my relation. It’s super complicated. Anyways, Arne had a copy of the family tree that I was able to update for him (adding in my dad, brother and I). It is beyond strange to think that this was where 4 generations back a guy decided to go to America for work/ better his life. And now I am able to study abroad and on a slight whim go to visit where I “came from”. Super strange! The mountains and snow were great! Reminded me of Colorado and made me less homesick. I miss home though. Only 19 days! Back to the land of sour gummy worms, waffles and as many books as I can possibly read! (aka in English!) Back to faces I recognize and being able to understand 100% of everything. So fun facts of the day:
-- Norwegians have a traditional style of dress that varies in color/style/embroidery based on region/town. These are worn for special occasions such as Communion, Weddings, and National Day (May 17, I believe)
-- This is the warmest November on record (thank god!) while last November was the coldest.
-- Norwegians (or at least my family) used to make their own mattresses/furniture etc. They had about twin sized frames that pulled apart to become bigger beds! Super cool!
-- The Northern Lights are sporadic. They are only seen a couple of times a year, and are dependent on the sun. So it varies dramatically. The colors change depending on how far north you go.
-- Norway’s terrain varies a lot. Here it is low mountains, lakes/the sea, and small hills with farmland. VERY similar to Colorado, though.
-- Lefsa appears to be a tortilla. BUT it is actually a flour tortilla filled with butter, sugar and cream. Aka AMAZING! (I ate like 3!)
-- Goodbyes are a hug combined with going cheek to cheek.
-- Hei=Hi, Nein=No, Uffda=use for literally anything, Tak=Thank you, Sno=Snow God Jul=Merry Christmas (pronounced Go-Yule) A lot of Norwegian words are very similar to those in English. They are many dialects of Norwegian,
-- A majority of Norwegians know English and it is now regularly taught in school for every grade.
-- Teka is still an entirely unique name. Even here. Darn it!
-- Trondheim is small, you can walk around the entire “city” center.
-- Cars are about 3 times as expensive as the states and taxed a lot.
-- Many Viking kings came from around here (but there were many Vikings)
-- The younger kids especially celebrate St. Lucia day. If you haven’t read American Girls like I did…here’s a bit of background. St. Lucia day is celebrated December 13 every year. I learned that the oldest girl in the family dresses in a white robe with a garland with lit candles on her head and brings breakfast or something to her parents in bed. But I was told that now the younger children dress up and go sing Christmas Carols in nursing homes, etc.

Other than this, it is honestly a lot like Colorado. The people, their pace of life, outlook, professions, clothing, etc are all pretty similar. Strange. I have to say, the cliché “the more things are different the more they stay the same” is super true! Humans are inherently the same. Enough said.

My last day Tone and I ate lunch at the top of the tower. The restaurant rotates so that in an hour you get a full view of Trondheim. After some more sightseeing, the daylight expired. I did enjoy my time in Norway. Today I flew home via Copenhagen. One day of class and then I am headed to Germany to visit Peter and Ute (our German part of the Fredendall Family!)

 This is the house where my grandpa's grandpa lived and Tone is now renovating.

 The fort in Trondheim. Due to Norway's coast, it was often attacked.

 The largest gothic cathedral in northern Norway.

 A view of where the old farmhouse used to be. This is where my family lived before they immigrated to America.

Trondheim was/is a fishing harbor. Many of these have been renovated now, but they are preeeety!

Another view of the harbor (side note: this is where I finally found a bridge!)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving & Paris

I had more of a Thanksgiving celebration than I had anticipated. All of CIEE held a Thanksgiving toast. It was quite the posh place, really. So the 40 of us that showed up got to mingle and drink with our teachers (which is pretty culturally acceptable, I believe). It was fun, and a chance to talk with students from other programs. Kyle and I were the only ones there from our program. Then our Guardian Angel Cristina showed up and we all walked to T.C.’s house from there. (Guardian Angels are locals who guide us through Barcelona. Now they are just fun to hang out with!)

T.C.’s family from the US had gotten a place and cooked a fantastic Thanksgiving meal for us! *See pictures!* Amazing herb-filled turkey, pumpkin bread, mashed potatoes…I was super content! It was a lot of fun to hang out with a family again. They made me miss mine a lot too! I miss annoying my brother! (I can’t pick on my host brother—he’s only 22 months old.) Who knew I would ever miss that? It was fantastic though and I ended up getting home so late that I only got two hours of sleep. Haha. Definitely worth it though.

Mashed potatoes, Kyle, Cristina and Sam at our Thanksgiving dinner with T.C.'s family.

I caught a super early plane and landed in Paris the next morning (Friday). I then took a walking tour before meeting up with Valerie. We then sought a bagels place which no longer exists. After a little shopping we crashed for the night. The next morning we got up early and went to the Louvre. We made a beeline for the Mona Lisa. It’s small. Luckily I was warned by literally everyone. It’s still cool. I even lay on the floor to see if she would still be looking at me. (Yes). From there we really only looked at Renaissance paintings. The Louvre is too big to even try to see everything.  After, we walked to the Arc de Triumph. It was very cool, and we got crepes on the way! Yum… After getting lost in a metro station that turned into a mall, I went to Notre Dame. It’s gorgeous, but I have to say that they are all starting to look the same… Then we went to the Eiffel Tower at night. We were one of the last people up to the very top. Slightly disappointing since it was in the middle of a cloud, but oh well. Also it was FREEZING! Actually it was rather cold the whole time in Paris! Then we went to a cool offbeat part of Paris to meet up with the group for dinner. Finally I flew home this morning and now have to do all my homework. Barcelona.

 Me and Notre Dame (on only 2 hours of sleep...3.5 if we count the plane)

The [in]famous pyramid of I.M. Pei. I personally loved it!

 THE Mona Lisa. Very cool! (You can't see the people surrounding her 7 people deep...)

 The Arc de Triumph! Wow...

 The Eiffel Tower!!!!!!!!!

View of Paris from middle viewing platform. Super cute!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Fiesta a mi casa!

Tuesday night most of the students in the program came over to my house for a dinner party. I knew it was successful when T.C. walked in and named every designer of the chairs in our living room. Marina (my Senora) hung out with us for most of the time too. Everyone just seemed to like each other and have a good time! It was a potluck and there was an excellent helping of dishes. I made a fruit salad and still have tons left! Afterwards I couple of us hung out talking and just chilling in the candlelight. It was a wonderful, very soothing, low-key night.
Kind of dark..but left to right: (around table) Sam, Katie, Alec, Lane, Hannah's friend (couch) Marina, Leto, Alex (Leto's boyfriend)

The next day we toured the Republican Pavilion which was in Paris right at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. I learned a ton of history and we even got to see a newspaper from the day Franco died! But it was very cool. Picasso collaborated as well…

The Republican Pavilion, with a reproduction of Picasso's work.

Tonight I am going to T.C.’s to have thanksgiving dinner after a toast with the rest of the program. It really doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving because no one celebrates it. Plus the weather is like early Colorado fall, which is slightly cold but not really. Finally, all of the stores are decorated for Christmas! So I’m very excited about that, but that might also be because it’s my favorite holiday! Tomorrow I leave very early for Paris to meet up with my roomie—Valerie. I’m so excited! Words are insufficient to contain my excitement. No, really! Bon voyage!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Barca! Barca! Barca!

Well that was awesome! I just got back from the Barca game! Epic! I have to go into the architecture first because Camp Nou is the largest stadium in Europe. Now imagine four levels of people doing the wave. Yeah it happened. Half the time I was thinking of circulation and everything that goes into a stadium design. As you can see, the effects are really quite lovely. It’s a little boring from the outside, but of course the soccer game more than makes up for it. Whoops! Did I say soccer, I meant futbol. The game was great! We played Zaragosa Real. I would say in my very unprofessional opinion that we dominated. Oh, the score was 4-0. Messi (the super cute soccer player from the airport the very first day here) scored a goal. He is just phenomenal and I gained some insight into his playing style…such as what he’s looking for and doing. He is really a very good player and lives up to the hype. My favorite goal was an assist that led to a header that made the goal. It was great! It was a lot of fun!

Last night I went out for Lane’s birthday (a friend in the program). We started by drinking in the plaza. [Cut to Teka drinking juice box while the other 50 people have beers]. The cops came since technically it is illegal to drink in the streets. But if you move a block away they didn’t care. Then we wandered up a street looking for a bar that ended up being way too small for our group size. We then ended up at a club with free entry. I enjoyed this because there was dancing. It was nice. I had fun! But since the others had snuck alcohol into the club we got kicked out. From there I went home since we were getting closer to my house and I was getting tired and bored. (Note that I learned after taking a cab across town one night out only to take another cab right back home). Overall I have enjoyed my weekend. But I’m now exhausted, so I’m going to sleep. Wyatt and Jarrett, I hope you actually read this far and didn’t just look at the pictures! =)

Oh, side note! The pancakes were quite the hit! Definitely worth all of the time and effort! 

The fantastic stadium. 

 We won!

 I was all bundled up for the rain/cold!

Messi--you can't tell how cute he is from this (or even who he is really. lol)

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Pancake Quest!

What have I done this week? I have just been going to class and my internship as normal. The most exciting part was getting my feet soaked in a rain storm. I had no idea that BCN got that volume of rain! My shoes are still drying after three days. Other than that I have been wrapping up the bookings of my trips…My next three weekends are as follows: Paris, France…Trondheim, Norway…and Berlin, Germany. It’s going to be awesome!! And I’m meeting people I know (or are distantly related to) in every trip!!!

Today I trekked around the city on a quest. My senora asked to make pancakes. Sounds like a simple request, right? Well not really. The most impossible to find item was Maple Syrup. I went to three different stores (one turned out to not even exist). Finally on the last store that I was getting my other ingredients at I magically found Maple Syrup. Persistence! I also used a dictionary for most of the shopping since I didn’t know any of the words. After that I couldn’t find baking powder. So I went to one more store! Phew! 4 stores and countless hours later…

*Approximate because I didn't want to have to actually convert!*
Orange Juice                        $3.50
Butter                                     $1.50
Baking Soda                        $2.00
Whole Wheat Flour              $5.00
Bananas                               $3.50
Yogurt                                    $1.50
Milk                                        $2.75
Walnuts                                 $2.00
Maple Syrup                         $25.00

Total                                      $46.75
Pancakes                             PRICELESS

Monday, November 14, 2011

Drinking Horchata

In case you have not had it, horchata is a cold drink that is kind of sweet and tastes vaguely like milk. More importantly it was first created in Valencia, Spain. Friday morning we travelled to the birthplace of horchata. After checking into our hotel, we headed out to check out the old city. [Mom—I never thought that I would say it…but I’m beginning to enjoy both airplanes and hotels…] I have found my knowledge of Catholicism acquired from both my family and good friends to be supremely useful in the visits to cathedrals. For instance, I was able to explain what both the Eucharist and a relic are. The arm of Saint Vincent was in Valencia. Perhaps more shocking, however, is that they claim to have the Holy Grail. Based solely on the lack of tourists/grandeur in the chapel containing it, there is no way. Also, the DaVinci Code says it was last sighted much later than that. But it generated a great conversation.

After that we hit up the ceramics museum which was in an old palace. I must confess that I enjoyed the palace part much more than the ceramics. It was easy to imagine being Cinderella with that split staircase… After resting 5 other people in the program and I went to sample the local fare. We drank horchata (because how can you not?) and ate a great dinner at this little Italian restaurant. Then we walked around a lot while simultaneously trying to scare each other about a potential horror movie. Finally we ended the night at a cider bar. It was a fun atmosphere, despite the vendors that continually tried to sell us giant sunglasses or roses. Lol.

The next morning I woke up early to go for a run because my roommate said that if I set an alarm that early and didn’t get up she would kill me. THAT is good motivation. I felt great after and got to explore the city some before everyone was awake. After getting my once-every-two-weeks-chai-tea we set off to see the waterfront. Apparently the city of Valencia is destroying this quaint fishing village homes to create a direct avenue to the city. The residents are putting up a fuss and I can certainly see why.

The next stop was the “new Valencia”. The regional government paid something in the figure of 1.5 billion euros to have Santiago Calatrava design and build The City of Arts and Sciences. It houses the world’s second largest opera house, a huge auditorium, a science museum and multiple others. We went inside the science museum—which wasn’t as exciting once you’ve been to the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., but decent. Then we had a private tour of the opera house. This made me remember how much I have enjoyed opera and I decided I will try to see one in Barcelona. The interior qualities of Calatrava’s buildings are phenomenal! I liked him before, but he is quite exceptional. Not sure if he’s worth the money, but he just might be.

After a little shopping and rest, a group of 8 headed to a highly recommended Italian restaurant which was also wonderful. Then we hit up some Valencian Water (rum, vodka and something else that is NOT water) and crepes for dessert. Then 5 of us went and played hearts until it was time to go out. But that turned into a bigger hang out with most of us—aka a lot of people—in the room next door. Finally I went to bed. The next morning we hit up a FANTASTIC photography exhibit by Ruth Anderson, an American photographer who spent 7 years in Spain. The quality for this early 20th century photography was phenomenal. The contrasts as well as the compositions just blew me away. She was REALLY GOOD!! Then we hit some art, sort of hit and miss on the exhibits. Finally I passed out for most of the train ride home. A great weekend if I do say so myself!

Left to right: Katie, Rhianna, Kyle, John and Magda (the program director) in front of another church. 

The world's narrowest door wide!

The beach front...ahh palm trees!

Rest break at the port.

Calatrava's Science Museum

 An arching bridge by Calatrava.

 The aquarium by Calatrava

 The world's second largest opera house, second only to Sydney's.

The old town in Valencia, Spain.