Thursday, June 2, 2011

Semana Santa

It's been ages since I've last posted, and I'm attributing this to the stress of classes and trying to get things in order for summer/next semester. So here I am, approaching the end of May, about to write about the high holy week of Easter.
Whereas I am used to spending one day with family and friends enjoying a meal and attending services, the Spanish (especially on the peninsula) have festivals and rituals all week. The university let out that week and many of the students returned to their respective islands/homes to spend the time with their families. Nothing was opened. Nothing was happening.
It is on this week that my lovely friend Christine arrived for a visit. My apologies to Christine...if I had known that literally nothing would be open on any of the holier days, I would have suggested a different time for this visit. We still managed to have a wonderful time and visit the town of Teror which has a beautiful church. Nothing was opened in town when we visited (as per usual) but we still got to peek inside the church for a few seconds and took an amazing walk around the area. The views were fantastic, as was catching up in such a beautiful setting, and we came to appreciate the fact that the ritual significance of the holy days (ash wednesday, maudy thursday, and good friday) is maintained. It was an opportunity to slow down and see friends (and eat out every night when we ran out of food).

For whatever reason the town had some pretty interesting exercise equipment at the outskirts. Why will remain a mystery, but we weren't complaining.

Monday, April 11, 2011


It's been a while since I last posted, and as I have a lot of catching up to do I thought I'd begin with my trip to Tenerife. Tenerife is another capital island here and is the main tourist island of the Canary Islands. So when my aunt sent me an e-mail proposing a trip there, I was absolutely going to say yes.
She and I visited the island by car, starting in Puerto de Santa Cruz, which is a ferry ride from Gran Canaria. We visited the town of Orotava, which is a world heritage site because it's still a remnant of colonial history, and saw the Casa de Balcones and the beautiful cathedral there.
Another stop on our trip was Mount Teide, which is a still-active volcano which formed the island. Hiking in that area was completely amazing-the volcanic formations looked otherwordly, and after an "easy" three-hour hike around one of the craters and a beautiful picnic lunch, we decided that our favorite part of this area was the fresh pine smell from all the Canarian Pine trees. The area is so unblemished, in fact, that there is a major observatory there (a kind of sister project to the observatory in Hawaii). The skies are so clear that it is from this point that a significant portion of the photographs of space are taken.
We also loved walking around the tourist towns around the port. There are some great parks and monuments dedicated to Christopher Columbus, who started his voyage to the americas from the port here. I learn something new every day?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

More Carnival

This is what happens on the last weekend of Carnaval. People dress in white from head to toe and shake talcum powder over each other. In the end everyone appears like a ghost-white faces, white hands. And when it rains on a night when the air is full of talcum powder, you should never wear your favorite leather shoes. Be wiser than that! You should know better!


Las Palmas de Gran Canaria has been the site of a fantastic carnival throughout this past month. Alas, the festivities have come to a close and the Parque Sta. Catalina will be converted from a stadium and the site of costumed dancing back into a quiet park and bus station. I never knew how much I was missing out on in terms of public parties until I came here and saw what can happen when a thousand people cross dress in front of a speaker. I met so many butterflies, princesses with beards, and pirates that I don't know how to feel about it.
The theme of Carnival this year was water and things related to the sea. Initially I wanted to dress as a mollusk, but after finding obtaining the materials for a costume difficult, I decided on the first big night to dress as a hula girl. Several friends and I left for the park, not really knowing what to expect, and were sorely disappointed. Apparently no one who's anyone arrives anywhere before 1 am. We did see some fantastic performances by the Murgas, which are male choirs who sing songs devoted to Carnival, set to drums and kazoos. Really that isn't a joke, every good Murga had about 50 kazoos.
So needless to say it was awkward and a little chilly walking around in a grass skirt and lei, but as the evening wore on the costumed began to emerge in hordes. By this point we were exhausted, however, and had to promise ourselves that we would never make such a mistake again.
The next big weekend of Carnival I had the opportunity to see the Gala de las Reinas, which is a procession of the "Queens of the Carnival", of whom one winner was chosen. The girls were all about mid-twenties and beautiful, and were sponsored by major companies on the island and in Spain who funded elaborate floats which the girls wore. Each girl walked about the stage wearing an enormous sculpture-costume covered in glitter and feathers and the like. It was completely beautiful, although I'll admit it sounded strange to me as well before I saw it for myself.
On this night I chose not to wear a costume, and alas I had steered myself wrong again. Everyone but me was dressed in wigs and colors and feathers etc. I still had a fantastic time, and ate in the park-chorizo and bread cooked on hot bricks. I don't remember it's official name, but I went back for more.
The real big weekend of carnival is the weekend of "Queens" as well, but this time in reference to drag queens. The party here is apparently world famous among the superstars and upper crust of the drag queen world. I watched the program on tv (dressed like lady gaga-finally I did something right) and was completely awe-struck. The city had brought in a famous actress and hostess to lead the ceremonies, and she got the crowd going while the queens did their thing. So much (or should I say so little) leather, eyeshadow, body paint, spray tan, bodysuits? When the camera panned around the crowd, the very young and the EXTREMELY old were all going insane while men with nipple stickers gyrated their hips to electronic music. I was in shock. How great is this?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Obnoxious Tourist Fridays

I'm beyond understanding the way this blog decides to format itself...

So today was "obnoxious tourist friday". Beverly and I decided to see some of the sights in the city and take altogether too many photos of each other posing with ridiculous inanimate objects (trees, mainly). I was finally able to visit the cathedral, which has been a goal of mine since arriving here, and am thrilled. I plan on going back-the sacred art on display is some of the most unique I've seen in that specific context and I can't wait for a second look. The collection at the cathedral was small but it featured Canarian artists, and some really progressive art from the 16th-18th centuries. The photos above are of the cathedral and one of many statues of dogs which face the cathedral and gaze up at it. This one was offering a pigeon. I think it's Cain in dog form.

While walking around the city buildings like these appear, seemingly out of nowhere. They're fantastic reminders of the city's colonial history, and are often used as government or city offices. How cool would it be to work in a turquoise mansion?

Seeing the mural while walking up the road was fantastic-graffiti is everywhere in the city, but it often seems to be more artistic than destructive. Beverly and I exclaimed over the mural, stopped in the middle of the street, and photographed it for longer than we should have. Long live tourist fridays.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentines Day!

Today, February 14th, happily goes relatively unrecognized by the Canarian people. A few people in my classes wore red, but this could have been purely incidental, and no one was carrying around flowers or teddy bears or other signs of this holiday which was a big deal last year, living in a suite at Stony Brook filled with girls.
I'm writing to catch up on this weekend. I've found a solution to living tragically far away, which is to crash at a friends apartment after going out in the evenings. Hopefully no one felt taken advantage of, because after coming home at 6 am (which is completely normal here...the club was still packed when we do people do that?) I woke up comfortably in an apartment happily knowing that I hadn't spent enormous amounts on a taxi only to have to commute back the next day. Our group went out for breakfast and then immediately to Las Canteras, the beach of preference here. The only way the day could have been better is if I had avoided my now painful sunburn.
And today during class I reminisced about my perfect weekend (sans sunburn) and while being assigned a 15 page paper I reminded myself that I could still manage to keep a day free to lay on the beach with the best of the locals and do absolutely nothing.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Classes began on Monday, and it's been so unpleasant trying to figure out my schedule. It's extremely complicated to use the school's website, and I'm constantly frustrated by the online system here.

Example: in order for me to view the information about a class, I look it up through the department. Which is fine, but I'm taking classes between departments and there is no master list of available classes.
Classes for the entire year, as well as classes which have been phased out by the university, as well as classes which are simply not offered, are all listed on the website. Together. And it's up to me to figure out which are offered during my semester and which I can take.
Once I find a class I need to look up the class number, and make sure that it doesn't conflict with other classes I'm taking as far as my timetable. Then I need to make sure that I'll still be in this country when the exam is offered. But all of this information is found on different webpages, which I have a lot of difficulty sorting through.

I never thought I'd say that Solar is really a blessing????

Thank God for my coordinator who zips between web pages with ease. I guess years of familiarity with the system helps.

Aside from troubles with the internet, things are fantastic. Today I left a great class (translation of specialized texts) and walked around the area. I sat down and ate a great lunch...I was speaking Spanish to the waiter and he couldn't understand me. I'm just counting on the fact that my spanish is probably so fantastic that it's complexity overwhelmed him. Not.

Tomorrow I have to wake up irrationally early to get to class on time (I missed the bus this morning and when the next one arrived, 45 minutes later, it caused me to arrive to a class half an hour late...I was too embarrassed to go inside. So I have to get to school on time!)

Here are some photos from a walk that we took during the first week. It was a "bonding activity" scavenger hunt. Our group got pretty seriously lost, did the whole thing out of order, and just took a ton of pictures and sang bad american pop songs.

below is a picture of the highest point on the island. No one could tell me why there was a giant ball there, but it makes it easy to identify I guess...
p.s. I apologize for the spelling/grammar mistakes in the last post. I obviously should read these over more carefully before I publish them.