Published: July 2nd 2012July 1st 2012
Off to the last week of my journey! I have officially completed June, an entire month out of the U.S. As today begins July I'm sitting on a train heading towards Granada...with my mom!!! I'm so excited that she's here. Here's a catch-up on my past week:Wednesday: last day of classes and the semi-finals for soccer against Portugal. I went out to a bar with some friends to enjoy it with all of the excited Spaniards. Cerveza with lemon Fanta is delicious!Thursday: Final exams and a goodbye snack with CIEE friends: fellow students and the program directors.Friday: My madre drops me off at the airport to get my mom!! After browsing through 3 different terminals (to which you have to take a bus), I found her. Yay!!! We headed out into Madrid to see the museum of modern art, the Reina Sofia. Home to Picasso's Guernica, here you can get a sense of how Franco and Spain's Civil War have impacted the Spanish people. We headed "home" to Alcala, where I introduced my mom to my host family and she finally got a siesta. They had invited us to spend our two nights in Madrid at their house. After the siesta, I took my mom on the bus to see the center of Alcala. When we were leaving Saint Peter's cathedral, a man stopped us and invited us to his parish's fiesta of Saint Peter, in the courtyard of the church. We talked to him for a bit and he seemed thrilled to be practicing English. We got dragged over the food table and people kept offering us different tastes of Spanish food. One of the priests walked around pouring a mixed drink, like a lemon sangria, proudly announcing that he'd made it himself! When we finally figured out how to leave, we shopped a bit and headed home.Andrés was throwing a backyard barbecue for his friends, so we had dinner with them and my Spanish family. They eat soooo much meat! After the parents went to bed I stayed out in the backyard with the other young people... Playing a Spanish drinking game! I bonded with one girl over the popular song, "Somebody I Used to Know," which I only know because my boyfriend was obsessed with it for a week. She liked it even more when she looked up the Spanish lyrics. We all have something in common, which makes the world smaller.Saturday: The Spaniards seem to have an unending amount of energy... We kept going and going and going all day. My Spanish family took my mom and me to the Escorial and the Valley of the Fallen. I think my favorite parts of these were random facts about dead people. The Escorial is a palace built by Phillip II, the king of Spain who sent an "invincible" armada against England. All of the Spanish kings and queens are buried here, but not before they've spent a few decades decomposing in a special room. Right now the current king's (Juan Carlos) parents and grandmother are in the decomposition rooms, which most people walk right by without knowing what's within. The Valley of the Fallen is a cathedral built under a mountain by Franco's prisoners of war. A huge cross stands above the mountain. Inside the cathedral, anonymous dead from both sides of the civil war are buried together behind the walls. Sandwiching the high altar are the graves of Franco and the founder of Spanish fascism, with flowers over their graves. Some Republicans are still upset that their sons are buried with Franco, but it is more important that the country feel united again. Macarena had fun putting donations in the boxes and lighting candles. I reminded her to do the sign of the cross before waking away from them.We went to dinner at La Casa Grande, the family restaurant/hotel. It amazes me that this place was created by an empress of Austria and run by wine-making Jesuits. We got the full tour, with my family personally opening up the closed museum of icons and the gift shop for us. Macarena took us around the gift shop, pointing out the best wares, a fantastic sales lady. We had dinner in the restaurant, where I got my mom to try octopus and black rice (it's black because it's cooked in pig's blood). When we got home and said goodnight and goodbye my Spanish mom and I both cried. With kisses and hugs, we all promised to keep in touch. I'll never forget the people I truly felt were my family and my home for a month.Sunday: As my mom and I embark on our tour of the country, we are heading first to the south, Granada, then to Barcelona in the north, and finally back to Madrid to see the sights of the capital, in central Spain. I've already booked most of the trip and bought all the train tickets. I'm looking forward to giving my mom a relaxing trip where she doesn't have to take care of everyone for once. Tonight will be her first hostel experience. Afterwards we can appreciate hotels even more the rest of the trip.Hasta luego!
P.s: took forever to get internet access here, but am at the hostel safely. So happy Spain won last night! The city went crazy!!!!!! Also, the hostel was a great experience and we met lots of new friends! My mom is so cool she can keep up with all of us young people. There are lively people of all ages here, but I've really enjoyed spending some time with people my age.