Siestas: A New Love Affair

Waking up to a spanish couple speaking on the street 5 floors below and the morning sun shining into an open balcony window can never be a bad thing.  (Even without air conditioning and it being so hot that the sheet-less mattress is almost enough to smother you while you sleep.)  And then of course you know the day is going to be a good one when you wake up to THIS:

(host brother…yeah, I know what you’re thinking, and NO, he doesn’t live with us) while walking around at 6:00am wondering when it’s late enough to start walking around the city.

Of course, when the morning continues with a brisk paseo por las calles with this:

and this:

and a little bit of this:

its difficult to deny that it’s going to be a pretty dang good day.

After a light breakfast of pan con mantequilla y marmelada y leche caliente

(con chocolate por supuesto), Alex and I decided to kill time before we had to reunite with our group for a brief tour of the city before having to reunite with our group to receive a history of Alcalá.

Let me just say, Spanish architecture is amazing.  It’s such an infusion of styles from the Moors, Jews, Germans, Muslims, and many other different denominations of people.  Did you know that Alcalá has a German, Chinese, and Jewish street, all with different styles?  I’m kind of obsessed with all of it, especially the doors and windows. 

Oh, as a side note – For some reason, there are about a MILLION bridal dress shops here and I have to walk by this amazing dress every day and I have decided that when the time comes, I am going to have feathers on my dress because they look amazing.  Obsessed.

Aside from looking at beautiful dresses and fascinating door knobs, I have to say I love graffiti.  It can be beautiful and artistic and adds to the ambience of the city. 

“ESO ES DE VIDA O MUERTE”

During our early morning explorations, Alex and I found un mercado which was probably one of the most exciting moments of the day.  You’ll understand when I explain a little bit about the food we have been eating later in the post.  Our next plan of action:  buy all the fruit we can and stash it in our room.

It’s truly amazing how fast time flies when walking up and down the narrow streets full of apartments, shops, and tapas bars.  Before we knew it, we were with our group learning about the Universidad de Alcalá de Heneres (built in the 1400’s), and about much of the history of the small university town we are living in.  Here’s a little part of it:

So, just a little bit of background for you… The university was first built in brick because the guy in charge wanted to see it finished before he died so he used pretty crummy materials…literally.  When King Ferdinand Católico went to visit the town and saw the poor material used, he was very angry and had a facade rebuilt out of stone so it appeared much more grand.  If you look at the top of the picture, there is a crest of arms on the font of the facade with God right above it, symbolizing that the man who finished the university (I can’t remember who) was so powerful that he was just below God.  This trend seems to come up in a lot of ancient architecture, doesn’t it?  There are 5 windows on each side of the crest, symbolizing the 10 commandments given to Moses, and their shapes are very representative.  You can’t see it in this picture, but all of the doorways had stone cords carved over them with three knots, representing poverty, humility, and obedience, which were some of the values the school wished to instill upon it’s students.  One thing that I found very interesting was that this all-boys school (of course women were forbidden) had a “university jail” on-site, and if any of the students broke rules, such as not speaking entirely in latin every second of the day, or for speaking with or walking with a lady, they were sent to prison for a few days, starved, and tortured.  Talk about discipline right there.

Okay now for a quick rundown about the food.  I now feel for all missionaries and exchange students and have a little bit of a better onderstanding of how mealtimes are for them.  First, getting fed is like the best thing ever because by the time it’s ready (we eat breakfast at 7am, lunch at 2:30pm, and dinner around 9) we are famished (in a good way), but then our stomachs are stuffed to the brim because we have to be polite and eat everything because our host moms (all of them, trust me, we’ve all talked about this) are visibly offended if all of the food isn’t gone.  ALL OF IT.  And when a huge plate is put in front of you filled with freshly-made french fries, pan-fried chicken, a huge roll, and then another platter full of a tomato and onion salad, yeah..it’s definitely something to get used to.  Alex and I have been desperate for vegetables so the entire time, we raved over the salad and said how much we loved fruits and vegetables, and it worked, because the next meal was full of delicious greens in a lime sauce served with a surprisingly flavorful omelet .  It’s all about the strategy!

My new love is named Siesta.  It visits me every afternoon around 3pm and leaves around 5pm. The Spaniards are brilliant, I must say.  To wake up though, I went and hunted down some diet coke.  Like mother like daughter I suppose.

This week is a famous annual celebration in Alcalá.  I’m not exactly sure what they are celebrating, but it seems that they are simply celebrating themselves with food, huge dances, concerts, fair rides, and competitions of all sorts.

They had TONS of tents set up with people dancing inside – our favorite was named “Los Vikingos”.  I’m sure you can imagine why.  It’s just so much fun to say.

One of the most delicious things we tried all night were the “churros de chocolate llena de crema”.  Since there’s so much to try, we made a goal to split a few things with the group each night so we can all still fit into our clothes by the end of the week 🙂

Okay, that’s enough for now.

Today’s Observations:

  1. The Spanish people are extremely friendly when approached and asked for assistance, but rather standoffish and do not smile when minding their own business.
  2. I am probably going to die of second hand smoke, especially because whenever I have to get a stamp or an envelope or a bus ticket I have to go into the tobacco shops because they are the only ones who sell them.
  3. Storks, o “cigueñas” are famous in Alcalá, stay around all year, and make HUGE nests on top of all of the buildings.
  4. It would have been horrible to be a student many years ago.
  5. “La theta” is surprisingly beautiful and I like it much more than I thought.  Although it makes things a lot more difficult to understand, it makes speaking much easier.
  6. According to our host mom, we aren’t babies so we don’t need to be escorted around by her.  She also claims she knows nothing about stores, or pretty much anything outside in the town, although she is quite the spanish pop culture guru.
  7. Getting a PHD from the University of Alcalá was pretty much like going through hell.  I’ll write a short post on it later because it deserves one for itself.
  8. The siestas cause us to sleep almost 11 hours a day.  With all the food (especially olive oil) we are eating and all the sleep we are getting, both Alex and I better return with hair down to our knees and a good 5 inches taller.  Just saying.

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3 thoughts on “Siestas: A New Love Affair

  1. So much fun. I fee like i’m there with ya! I tell my kids as they leave for school each day: love ya, be good, make a friend, smile often and don’t kiss “girls,boys”!!! Keep taking pictures, love seeing the beautiful culture…

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