Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I have a list of things I'd like to do while I'm here. Some are travel goals, some are deeper ones like spiritual growth, figuring out what to do with my life, etc...

And I want to learn how to drive a manual car. A daunting and scary task? Somewhat!

I had my first driving lesson today with Randy, the dad of my students. It was kind (and brave!) of him to agree to teach me because I know sometimes when I'm stressed out driving my automatic car I freak out a little bit. Like when I'm trying to parallel park and a line of cars is waiting impatiently for me to get out of their way, or trying to park in the cramped parking lots of LA. Panic!

But as I said, he was kind enough to take me in. After some explanation of how to shift and use the clutch and some observation time while he drove, I was ready to get behind the wheel. A brief bout of panic took over when he pulled over to switch but I pushed it aside and powered on! And I have to say, I didn't do so bad! No parking lots for me, we started on roads. (Nearly empty roads around warehouses, but still.) It's a totally different rhythm to get in, using 2 feet to drive, but after about the 8th or 9th time around one block I started to get the hang of it! I only stalled out the car once, maybe twice, but I think all beginners do that. (right??)

Then I was ready to be around other cars. We went up and down one stretch of road outside of town, where I wouldn't have to stop and start so much. Spain also has an abundance of traffic circles, which actually made it easier for me. I only got beeped at once for not pulling out fast enough because I was being extra cautious, but in general people here are fairly considerate drivers. With such narrow streets all over, you really have no choice but to wait for a car to pull out in front of you. All the roundabouts felt weird to me at first, and I don't think I've driven around one since I was last in New Jersey, but I think they've grown on me!

All this to say, I think today was a success. I have another lesson on Thursday, where maybe we'll practice hills and going in reverse. Considering I live on the side of a huge hill with lots of twists and turns to drive up, I think that would be a good skill to practice. The idea of driving up up up these little roads makes me start to panic slightly, but I'm determined to try!

Happy driving :)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Wow, I am a terrible blogger.

And the longer I wait to update it, the more daunting it becomes! I do apologize.
I have had a few fun excursions since my last post, before Christmas. The day after Christmas I took off for Fes, Morocco for a few days and it was amazing! A friend of a friend was up here with us for Christmas and she is currently living in Morocco. I traveled back down with her on the 26th. It was a full day of travel, involving a bus, ferry, taxi, train, and another taxi. (I flew back on a plane, so I pretty much covered all modes of transportation on this trip!)
I had a great time seeing Fes, spending time in the Medina (the old city). It was just incredible to look around at this city that has been there since like 700 or 800 AD. The city was a combination of old and new, traditional and modern. Men and women in traditional dress walking next to youth in jeans, talking on a cell phone. Old structures that have been there for hundreds of years, scattered with satellite dishes. The contrast was fascinating to see!
The Medina is a maze of tiny alleyways, where no cars can go and the main way to transport things is by donkey. Many times I had to flatten myself against a building to let a donkey carrying bags of sand to pass through! We did a tour one day, with a guide who was clearly very proud to be from Fes. He informed us all about how his uncle was a great craftsman, and because he grew up in this city he knew it very well...which very well may be true, but I can't say I learned too much from him. (He was the one who informed us that to be a good woman, you need to be able to make good bread :)
One of my favorite parts of the trip was spending time at the home of the woman who is my friend's Arabic tutor. This woman, Fatima, had such a bubbly personality that it didn't matter that I had no idea what she was saying while we were there! (My friend did translate for me, so that did help.) Fatima had us over 2 nights, once to have tea and snacks and the next night for have dinner. Moroccan tea is a very sweet mint tea...I mean, really sugary! But sooo good! I had it many times while I was there. The next night she made a harira soup, which is like a national dish, according to my friend. It was very tasty...a tomato based soup, with chickpeas, little noodles and vegetables. She brought out spoons for us to use, probably because I was there, but my friend shooed them away so we could drink it traditionally, right out of the bowl. So yummy!
We went back to the market(s) in the Medina the last day so I could so some shopping. There were so many beautiful hand crafted goods, being made right there in front of you. Beautiful scarves, rugs, pottery, leather, just about anything. I was glad to be with someone who was learning to speak the local Arabic dialect, because she did most of the talking in the shops! Well, stalls, really. I think we maybe got a slightly better price because she lives there and knows the language! All in all, it was a great trip. I'll put a few pictures below, but I took a good amount so if you'd like to see more, send me an email and I'll send a link!
My favorite picture of shoes in the market!

A main entrance to go into the Medina (old city) of Fes
A view from above, with the Medina spread out below

The tanneries, where they clean, dye and dry leather

Dressed up in a traditional dress for a formal occasion (We had fun playing dress up!)

I feel so blessed that I was able to go see another corner of the world, one I never thought I'd see. Another stamp in my passport...and, now I've been to Africa! Check one more continent off my list :)
I will update again soon, with pictures from my weekend in Sevilla, I promise. 2/3 of my students are going to be gone for the next 2 weeks, so I will have a bit more free time to upload pictures and whatnot. Thanks for reading!