Tag Archives: adventure

next chapter

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So, skipping forward to the end of the book for a sneak peek- I make it back to Scotland in one piece in the middle of a busy week and try to find an opportunity to continue the Italian blog saga and not leave folk hanging (I know there will have been lost sleep over our Italian adventures 😉 ).
Chapter 2:
Giorno! (Greetings!) We had another mission for Sunday morning, to find the church Flora had shortlisted for a first visit. According to our map reading skills, it didn’t seem to be all that far away from the residence, and we were right, proving that females CAN read maps gentlemen. The International Church of Torino (see http://www.torinochurch.com for further investigation) is only a 10min walk along from the residence and we had a lovely morning service with the diverse congregation there. The pastor is from Wales and his wife is from Glasgow- Flora will be well looked after! There are many nationalities represented, including Italian (fancy that! They offer simultaneous translation form English, the language used for the service etc) and a number of Americans. Definitely recommend the church if you happen to visit Torino. (Torino is the Italian for Turin, connected to ‘il toro’ the Italian for ‘bull’, which also, surprisingly enough, happens to be the city’s emblem.)

After church we went to meet up with Greg for some company in our exploration of Turin, and some much required food. We didn’t take any food with us, and because it was so foggy when we arrived we couldn’t look for any shops to buy food. We had to survive on the croissant pastries, fruit juice and Ritz crackers from the vending machine at reception on Saturday night and Sunday morning. Thank goodness I had Euro change with me! To my astonishment, the coffee from the vending machine was also very tasty, unlike UK vending machine coffee!! But then Italy and coffee go together like bread and jam! Café espresso was definitely one of my highlights of the trip! So, we scoffed a scrumptious lasagne with Greg, and I had a ‘real’ orange juice fix-I miss Spanish orange juice so much! Other juice just taste like paint stripper in comparison! It was a bit chilly, clear skies and sun (am I making you Scots jealous yet?!) but as long as you wrapped up, perfect for wandering around Turin’s grand streets and covered walkways. Turin is in the north of Italy, in the shadow of the Alps. It was lovely looking down a street framing snow-capped mountains in the distance. It is also quite a big-name shopping city, with lots of money obviously around. I lost count of how may fur-coat-clad women we walked past that day. We didn’t buy anything fancy though, just yummy doughnuts and big sandwich-thingies for our dinner that night. Greg came back for a visit and a yarn, with interesting tales of cockroaches and his attempts at extermination. I don’t think the roaches quite knew what hit them when a chemist moved into their abode!

So, another day past. I’ll skip to one event of Monday and leave the rest until the next opportune moment. I found out that I could indeed remain in my room at the residence, and that it would cost me 35 euros/night. All’s well that ends well! (and even better with no cockroach encounters for me in the night!)
ciao ciao ciao
xxx

update_out of the ordinary

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I have been rather terrible in ‘blogging’ since september (was that really 4 months ago?!!!) I’ve been busy with the normal routine at Uni, plus extras with wedding organising. I was able to get a nice 3-4 week break at home over Christmas, filled with the usual intentions of getting lots of Uni work done, especcially as I am writing my dissertation this year. The problem is that most of my good intentions remain just that! I’ve been back at classes for a week now and thankfully getting back into routine, except that on Saturday, I all of a sudden found myself in Italy!!!

My friend Flora is on her final Masters year at Aberdeen University studying Chemistry and for this her last semester, she had a placement, which ended up being at a university in Torino (Turin) , Italy, doing something with chemistry and synthetic-bio-materials (thats all I can explain about it!!). As this was going to be her first trip abroad, ever, lasting a min of three months, and nobody else was able to go out with her, I’m accompanying her on her maiden voyage. We flew out on Saturday 15th Jan, and I’ll be heading back on Wednesday,  hopefully leaving a slightly settled Flora. Our travelling was hitch-free. Valentina, a woman who is going to be working with Flora at the University, met us at the airport. We were so thankful for this, especially asTurin was shrouded in the thickest fog I’ve ever seen. It would have been so difficult for us foreingers to negotiate!  Her father drove because of the fog, and it was difficult enough for him and their TomTom!

Things got slightly more interesting when we arrived at Flora’s accomodation. Valentina came to help translate which made things a lot easier for us, even though the staff seem to have varying degrees of English., probably to aid with all the foreing students at the residnece. We are not unique! Flora had booked space at one of the University’s student residences, and had said I should be able to just kip on her Flora. But she never got around to actually e-mailing and asking if that was okay- it isn’t. “Absolutely not” in the words of the guy at reception, for security purposes. Yikes!

Quick texts to see if Greg, a guy from Flora’s class at Aberdeen who is also on placement in Turin, to see if I could kip at his flat. And the residence staff investigating whether they could get a room for me in this ’emergency’. I should explain that the residence offers long and short term accomodation. Thankfully, they managed to find and prepare a room for me, but they would be unable to tell me how much it would cost until Monday, when there office hours opened and higher levels of staff were available. They gave me a estimate of maybe 35 euros a night. More expensive than an average hostel, but cheaper than a hotel thankfully. We’ve also since discovered that Greg has a problem with cockroaches in his flat, so definitely more pleasant than kipping on his floor!!!!

The staff were very helpful, but I guess they’d rather make some money out of me than see me go elsewhere! My room is pleasant enough, en-suite shower, a bed (!!) furniture for a student’s room, and a common room/kitchen for the floor. But Flora’s is a palace! The residence was originally part of the Torino Winter Paraolymipcs in 2006, so they’re recently new (although I’m not sure they’ll last more than another decade by the looks of things!) and tend to have a disabled aspect tp it. Flora has an ‘apartment’ all to herself (she’s special as she’s staying for a  long time and they want to keep her happy to get her money 😉 ) She has a big bedroom, living room/kitchen, and bathroom with shower. Its a proper disabled bathroom- I’ve never sat on such an awkward, mountain-like toilet! I’ll appreciate the average variety at home so much more from now on!!!

So, I’ve bombarded you all with enough info for now, and I need to get off Flora’s computer so she can do some officail stuff. Flora’s internet at her apartment should be working soon, so I’ll share the next chapter in a bit. We’re settling in and safe and well and getting by even with our lack of Italian. I keep speaking Spanish in my attempts to communicate!!!

So, two days to go, ciao for now

xxx

February and March

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Things have been rather busy since my last attempt at blogging, when I tried to write about my visit to a town called Montblanc. Technology decided that it wasn’t good enough to share with you however and sucked it into a black hole somewhere! Well, one Tuesday, in the typical you-never-know-what-a-day-will-bring routine of my say here in Spain, I was given the opportunity to visit Montblanc. Montblanc is the main town of the La Conca de Barberà region, about half an hour away from Reus. Montblanc used to be a Medieval stronghold an its old walls remain around the old part of the town. It was a very cold day, but I enjoyed my hour or so of roaming around a wee bit. I would like to go back sometime and explore in less of a hurry. The old part is a maze of really narrow streets, at one point I actually had to breathe in to avoid a car wing mirror as it slowly tried to squeeze past some pedestrians! At every turn you came across something exciting, be it an old church, a stately building, quaint pebbled paving or an enticing cake shop! I have a  Montblanc photo set on flickr that will give you a better idea than my words can.

It seems like an age away already, but my 21st birthday will always be one to remember. I was surprised by some gifts from the teachers I world with and a lovely dinner in the evening with them both and two other teachers who we often eat lunch with. And then on the Friday, Colin, Seoras, Mairianne and my friend Alison came to spend the weekend with me in Barcelona. We stayed in a really nice hostel (the beds were amazingly comfy-so much better than mine in Reus!) and spent a busy five days marching about Barcelona, Reus, Montserrat etc and eating and laughing an awful lot! They also transported some of my presents from friends and family back home. Thank you very much to you all! And thank you to my visitors-don’t be shy in coming back, you’ve only seen a tiny bit of the wonders of Barcelona and Catalunya. And feel free to join me in visiting the rest of Spain too!

Yes, I have begun to venture outside of Catalonia. It has suddenly dawned on me how little time is left, and although I feel I would quite gladly pack up and go home right now, I’m going to force myself to make the most of it. The weekend after my ‘birthday weekend’ I went to the city of Valencia with two girls who are in my University class and working as Language Assistants in Barcelona. We spent Friday and Saturday there, it only takes a couple of hours by train. Valencia is a beautiful city, and very unique. There is dry river bed through the city which has been adapted into a park with numerous walkways, playing fields etc. There is so much to see, with old buildings, churches, the Towers that are all that remain of the old walls, the beach, the modern buildings of the Science centre and Aquarium. There really is something for everybody, and its not quite so huge as Barcelona so easier to visit. Sadly our plans were thrown out the window when Saturday dawned with grey skies and lots of rain! But we had a nice time nonetheless, and I will definitely be going back, sometime!  We are planning a trip to Madrid after Easter for a long weekend, to visit another friend from University, so that should be good.

The Thursday after Valencia saw me boarding another flight to Glasgow. This visit was a surprise for Colin for his 30th Birthday. Mairianne came down from Lewis as well, and he had NO idea! He was absolutely shocked and speechless when we turned up at his flat that evening! And not too impressed with the announcement that this was just the beginning of a weekend of surprises craftily organised by our friend Nma and Seoras! We left with the sunrise on Friday morning for a day trip to the Lake District! We spent a lovely day by Lake Windermere, England’s largest lake, with the ducks and geese, and the snow on the mountains around us. Colin made good use of his birthday present, a new camera he’d been drooling for, and we all made good use of our fresh air appetites in a restaurant called ‘Lucy’s on a plate’, amazing food. And to top the day, we had a supper of fried duff when we got back to Glasgow! Mairianne brought half a duff down with her from home for a birthday cake for Colin and I! This is a sad story- they had brought me a slice when they came to Barcelona, but as it wasn’t ‘fresh’ I was going to fry it. So I left it in the flat in Reus when we went to visit. As I sat on the train after seeing my visitors off, the thought of fried duff cheered me up, but what hey, my duff was all mouldy. I told you, very sad! So I made the most of it in Glasgow! Thanks mum!

Colin’s weekend continued with surprise lunches and get-togethers with friends. I also caught up with friends on the Saturday and Sunday. My friend Flora who studies in Aberdeen was wonderful (the only word to explain her!) and came down on the bus Saturday morning until Sunday afternoon. We had a lovely spontaneous and relaxed catch-up day on Saturday with no major plans, just going with the wind! I really miss friends when in Spain. Its strange seeing Glasgow life carry on as ‘normal’ without you in it. And I really enjoyed a ‘normal’ Sunday, with church in Dowanvale and lunch at my auntie Flora’s. So good to see everybody. But I had to leave on Monday afternoon. Thankfully I had a rare glitch-free Ryanair return trip.

So, things have been quite busy! And for the next couple of weeks they’ll be busy with visitors. Looking forward to my parents coming on Thursday, and then the following weekend I have two friends from home, and a friend from University who is also in Spain. I’ll try to keep up a bit better with the blog, keep you up to date with excitement in Spain! I seem to have really busy spells and then spells that are so quiet I don’t know what to do with myself. But I’m looking forward to see what the Spring will bring (yes, it has definitely arrived in all its glory!) and to visitors, and hopefully keeping my renewed resolve for learning more Spanish.

Bolivian Experience

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The past couple of months have been of the typical whirlwind nearing Christmas and the end of the year type. So much has happened, events become a muddle. But I’ll try to pick out some of the most interesting!

Here’s one for starters. About two weeks before I left Spain for my Christmas holidays at home, I was invited by friends at church to join them for some lunch that Sunday. I accepted the invitation, tentatively, not sure of what I was letting myself in for! Of course, in Scotland, we have a great Sunday lunch tradition, and  I knew better than to expect a similar experience. I was in for a treat! We, about seven of us from church, walked for a bout five minutes to a flat, and gradually I pieced together an understanding of the situation. We were at the home of a Christian family who Erika, the friend who had invited me, knew well. They are from Bolivia, as is Erika, and as the father is having trouble finding work at the moment, he and his wife cook typical Bolivian meals to serve to friends who pay them a small amount of money in exchange. They were of course very friendly, everyone I come across here is very friendly. We all sat down at a large table together and were served our three courses. I was given some honour in being served first, and was determined to try whatever was put in front of me.

The first dish held some Scottish similarities in that it was a bowl of soup. It had an unusual taste, not horrible, and I managed most of it. The whole meal was spent in them trying to explain to me what I was eating! And between their explanations and my visits to the dictionary afterwards, I can tell you about most of what I ate! The soup was peanut soup, I would never have guessed the flavour! It was interesting, and could even grow on you I’m sure. The second course had two meat options, red meat (not sure if it was lamb or beef or something else, they only said ‘carne’ which means meat) or chicken. I opted for chicken and was not disappointed! It was a slowly roasted leg of chicken, absolutely delicious, especially as I don’t have an oven in my flat and can’t roast anything. It was accompanied with rice. They said that a Bolivian wouldn’t consider a meal a meal unless it included some rice! And a sweetcorn, potato, apple and mayonnaise salad. It was so good!

They didn’t think I would enjoy the pudding at all, especially once I figured out what it was! It came in plastic cups and was white with the consistency of robust jelly. It didn’t wobbly a lot, but had the same look and feel of jelly. They wanted me to try it before explaining what it was, and even then it took a while for me to figure out what it was. It had a great flavour, comforting. And they were surprised I continued to eat what I knew to be made with animal joint cartilages. They boil the cartilages in milk with some cinnamon and then the liquid sets once cooled due to the gelatin. It didn’t horrify me as they expected, one who’s grown up with marags and haggis! It is very popular in Bolivia and very nourishing. They give it to their children as breakfast to eat on the way to school, or have it as a snack. It is quite rich though and after such a lunch, I couldn’t quite finish it all. With the meal we had had a special drink called ‘Chicha’ which I thought tasted like Christmas. It was quite nice as well, but strong when not used to it.

So that was my experience of Bolivian food. It didn’t turn out to be as surprising as I thought it might, and I enjoyed it. Below is a menu written by Erika of what was served.

Plato Boliviano – Bolivian Meal

Primera Plato – First course
Sopa de mani/cacahuete – Peanut Soup (Peanut is ‘mani’ to some folk & ‘cacahuete’ to others)

Plato Principal – Second course

Polo al hornoRoast chicken
Arroz tostadoBrown rice
Enslada de manzana con maiz dulce y mahonesaApple, sweetcorn & mayonnaise salad(I think there was some potato in there too)

Postre – Pudding/sweet/dessert (whichever you prefer to use!)
Gelatina de colapi con leche y canelaGelatin from animal cartilages, with milk and cinnamon

Refresca– Refreshment/Drink
ChichaPlunge toasted flour into cold water.
-Put into a pan of boiling water
with nutmeg and ground coconut and boil for 30 minutes.