Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Day 5: I Got Lost...And Very Little Else Happened

Hola! Today we slept in until about 10:40 which I must say was lovely, and made me feel like I was on vacation.  We went to mass at noon, and some how the priest figured out that we were English and got so thrilled by this fact that he had us come up in front of the whole church and recite the "Our Father" prayer in English. A very little, oblivious, and ancient old lady came up and just stood with us. I hope to goodness that I am that cute and provide that much entertainment when I am also 106 and senile. After mass went back to one of the houses for lunch and pool time. My day probably would have killed me with boredom except for I got lost and therefore I was saved. I decided to leave lunch early with my friends Emily and Anju  to go back to the house that we were staying in so that we could be "ahead of schedule" and get to the computer before everyone else did. Supposedly the house was just right down the street and so we took the only house key and started to head back. I have come to the conclusion that Spain is somewhat like Hogwarts. Within Hogwarts there are staircases that shift and change directions all the time. So you can never be sure that you are going to end up in the location that you want to get too. The streets in Spain seem to be under this spell as well. I swear we were on the right street, but for half an hour we were lost on it. For half an hour, we wandered with no food, no money, no purses, barely any Spanish under our belt and at this point broken, hysterical English that no one would be able to understand. We got directions that sent us a different way each time. Eventually we made it out to the main road still very far from where we were supposed to be. Just as I was getting kind of excited about being a street urchin for the rest of my life, we found the apartment. So much for being ahead of schedule. We then made a mini walking pilgrimage over to Zuburan, an Opus Dei center. We were given the chance for to go to confession and benediction. It was a lovely way to spend our evening. When I got back to our apartment there was a little surprise waiting for me; my cousin, Therese! She came last minute and surprised us all, much to our great delight. So my day wasn't as low-key as it was promised to be. All sorts of surprises seem to await me at every turn of this trip and I don't know whether or not to be scared or excited for whatever is coming next!

Note: This picture has no significance nor is related to this post at all. I just didn't take any pictures on this day and I needed a picture in this post. However, I did take this picture in Spain.

PAELLA!....The Recipe...Nom Nom Nom

How to Make: PAELLA
serves 10-12

There are two parts to this recipe. The first part is the broth and the second is the rice with veggies and meat. For this recipe you need a paella pan and lots of time!

Broth Ingredients
13 cups of water
3 T. olive oil
1 whole chicken- cut up
2 whole carrots-peeled
2 celery stalks
1/2 large onion 
salt and pepper to taste

Other Ingredients
4 cups of pearl rice
4T olive oil
4 cloves of garlic-crushed, or finely diced
1/2 large onion-diced
2 medium tomatoes-diced
1 yellow/orange pepper-cut into thin strips
1 1/2-2 cups of peas
Italian green beans-found in frozen sections of grocery stores
2 pinches of saffron
salt to taste

1. In a large pot, brown chicken pices in 3T of olive oil. Add salt and pepper. Once it is browned on both sides, add the carrots, celery and onion (all whole). Cover with the 13 cups of water. Bring to a gentle boil, and then turn the stove down to low and cover for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally. 

2. Remove the cooked chicken pieces and set them aside in a covered dish. Remove the carrots, celery and onion and discard. 

3. In a large paella pan (18 " diameter), heat 4T of olive oil. Add the diced onion and garlic. Cook for 4 minutes. Add the remaining vegetables. Cook and stir for 3-4 minutes Add the rice and saffron. Stir for 3-4 minutes. Add the broth in, one cup at a time. The broth should be mostly absorbed into the rice mixture before adding the next cup. 

4. Once all the liquid is added, arrange all the chicken pieces on top. Allow the paella to cook on low (or medium-low) for another 20 minutes.

*If rice is still a bit crunchy on top, place a clean, hot and wet dish towel over the paella pan for 5-10 minutes.*

**Optional: garnish with lemon slices and chopped flat-leave parsley**

***This recipe is good with shrimp and sausage in addition to the chicken***

Day 4: Toledo!

Today was a very busy and exciting day! After mass, we went to catch a train to Toledo (prounced Toe-Lay-Dough).

While we were waiting in the train station, I overheard a group of people speaking English.  This made me very excited as we hadn't met anyone who didn't speak Spanish as their first language yet, and it was a group full of young people so I concluded that they must be World Youth Day pilgrims! I grabbed my friend, Margaret, and went off to introduce myself. They were from South Africa, a fact which I find very very exciting. They had the most fabulous accents that I have ever heard, and I swear that this how people will be speaking in heaven. It was like a Jamaican accent had a baby with a British one. I was correct, and they were in fact in Spain for WYD. I talked to them for about 20 minutes about faith, WYD, and Lifeteen!!  Lifeteen is sort of like a universal youth group that many charismatic parish's throughout the world take part in, including mine. It turns out that they were all part of a Lifeteen group in South Africa. I never would have thought of Lifeteen being present in South Africa and it tickled me pink to have been able to have had such a random connection with this group. Once we got to Toledo we met even more groups here for WYD! We met groups from France, Argentina, Chile, Puerto Rico, Australia, and of course, (my personal favorite), South Africa.  Meeting people is such an important part of this trip for me. Having the knowledge that there are  people who share the same faith as me is so uplifting and it helps me to remember that I am not alone in my faith. It is inevitable that someday Christians will be truly persecuted again. However, it isn't something to fear because there are so many like-minded people in the world. A lot of Christians fear solitude and estrangement because of their faith, I have defiantly felt that many times. I realize now how silly that is because there are so many of us out their in the world and we won't be alone. It is like having a giant, loving family who populates every corner of the world and will always back you up.

Back to Toledo. Toledo was an ancient city, set high up inside fortress walls. Think castles, suits of armor, and cobblestone streets.

We began by touring a small museum which held ancient paintings from the 11th to 15th century and it had a whole room dedicated to El Greco artwork. We toured the military museum and we walked around on the winding, narrow streets. It was such a historical treasure, and I appreciated how perfectly preserved this ancient city was. The one downfall was how touristy it was. However, the tourists were mainly World Youth Day pilgrims and it is touristy for a good reason.

After having a full day in lovely Toledo, we re-boarded the train and went back to Madrid to visit with The Chivas, friends of many of the girls in our group because their girls lived in Chicago for a while as exchange students. They are family of ten, which is very rare in Madrid and even more amazing than that is they adopted a baby with down-syndrome. Spain does not have a high birthrate, and so this family is truly walking off the beaten path which is amazing and very honorable. They were so warm and hospitable and they fed all thirty of us a dinner of paella. We got home very late after an adventure on the subway where we had no clue where we got lost and had to walk a half an hour to get home.

COMING SOON!!! Paella Recipe, directly from Spain!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Day 3: Rolling Along

Day number 3 in Madrid. Today was one of the those days where we really had to roll right along with the punches because our plans for this trip shifted quite a bit. The day started with confusion concerning mass times. We then loaded onto the metro and headed over to the WYD offices to do a service project. I have to give a little back story before I begin to talk about mess-up of this day. We have been planning this trip for a year, and a big part of it was that we were going to do a service project of sorts. We had one planned in a hospital and another in a camp but both fell through. And then the opportunity to work in the World Youth Day offices came up. Unfortunately, it looks like we will not be able to serve at all on this trip. The World Youth Day planning committee is very unorganized and they were very overwhelmed by the size our group. They were also very disappointed that not all of us were bilingual.  So therefore we spent the rest of the day shopping. There is no use in hiding how disappointed I am that we can't do the service project, as I have been eagerly awaiting it for a year. However, I know that we will make the most out of the time that was supposed to spent in service. Despite the disappointment, the day was fun! We spent the whole day shopping. We went to a department store which was very Americanized and then headed over to Goya, an expensive shopping district where I of course got stopped by a security guard for shoplifting. Of course I didn't actually shoplift. What happened was, one of our Spanish friends, Marta, brought us into one of the most expensive shops on the street. Imagine $1,000 t-shirts and and other overly priced items. Just as I was fingering some 3 million euro necklace (or somewhere along those lines), with a saleslady closely watching me with mistrusting eyes, our chaperon announced that it was time to leave the store. As I casually started walking out the door the security alarm went off, and the saleslady swooped down on me as did the security guard standing by the door. There I was, an American Deer caught in the headlights, wishing that my mother had anticipated that I would somehow get caught into a situation like this and had taught how to say "I want to see my lawyer" in Spanish. She checked my bag, and of course my overly active imagination sent terrible scenarios running through my head that maybe something had fallen into my bag, and I began to wonder if they would send me to the American Embassy first and if not what were Spanish prisons like? Of course, all was well and my imagination was wrong, but from then on my purse set the alarm off in every single store. Figures. I had to explain in broken Spanish to each security guard that "mi bolso es loco." Anyways, the big, expensive stores were no mi gusta so Marta led us to "Los Hippies de Goya" who sold handmade goods out of booths in the middle of the streets. I got some awesome baggy pants that all the Spanish girls are wearing nowadays. We then hopped on the subway to go home for dinner and now bedtime!!!

Because I have no pictures in this post, I am going to include some Spanish pop music! This song is really popular in Spain right now, and it was played at all the WYD events. :-)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Madrid Day 2: Being a Tourist

Second day in Madrid and my feet already hurt like heck and smell like dead cheese. We had a full walking day, similar to how it is with my family whenever I travel with them. If this is how it is going to be every day of this trip, I will defiantly be prepared for the 12 kilometers that we will be walking to meet the pope. We began our day by taking the metro and going into the heart of Madrid. Our first stop was the Catedral de Almudena, Madrid's main cathedral, which was built after Madrid became the capital of Spain. It is the only church, outside of any in Rome, to have been consecrated by a Pope. We started the tour of this massive structure inside of the crypt, where we walked on top of a lot of dead people. Next we went into the church sanctuary and walked around for a little bit. It was a fascinating work of architecture because it drew from almost every period in history making it very eclectic. The Spaniards think it is really ugly, but I loved it as did the rest of our group.

I kind of wonder how our tour guides could take us seriously. Wide eyed with wonder and enthusiasm, we suck in every word that they say, and then squeal with delight when we see a tour shop and march out with overpriced t-shirts and coffee mugs. Anywho, our tour guides were WYD volunteers who spoke very little English except for when it came to the architecture. They LOVED giving the history of the architecture and now I know more about the difference between Baroque versus Gothic ceilings than I ever cared to have in my brain. They brought us over to the Palacio Real, the Spanish palace, where the queen and king do not live. We then toured the streets of Madrid, going into every church that we passed (there is virtually one on every street corner) for 3 hours. After our tour, we settle down for a nice lunch of tapas. Tapas are a Spanish version of appetizers. Let me go off on a sidetrack for a second and give you a bit of a Spanish culture lesson. Around 2 or 3 in the afternoon, Spaniards stop everything that they are doing and have an afternoon siesta. This is when most shops close and people go home for a big midday meal and nap. Because of the size of this big midday meal, in the evening they only eat a light supper which is oftentimes just tapas. However, Cris really wanted to give us a taste of tapas sooner rather than later, so our group sat down for a meal that seemed to be making fun of us. Imagine a group of 30 hungry girls crowded around a table with a plate of cheese, jamon, and shrimp. It was survival of the fittest. If you didn't arm wrestle you would starve. I am still recovering from the starvation and physical output of this meal and I now know why Spaniards are all so skinny. After being tortured for an hour we went over to Madrid's most famous plaza, Plaza Mayor. We walked around, shopped, and enjoyed the many mimes. I saw a fat spiderman (FAILBLOG!), a headless woman, and a man in a baby carriage...pretending to be a baby.

It takes a very secure man to do that. To conclude our walking, we went to the Prado Museum; one of the world's most famous museums. The museum holds treasures by artists such as El Greco, Fra Angelico, and Velazquez. The high point of the museum for me was seeing "Las Meninas" by Velazquez.

To tour the museum, we split up into smaller, more manageable groups, and unfortunately I was with a group who did not appreciate art at all and so my chaperon rushed us from room to room. I was quite put out. Seriously, one of the most famous art museums in the whole world is not to be rushed through. I almost lost my mind from the inhumanity of these young lassies who barely glanced at Las Meninas. After the museum, I was chosen as one of the lucky few who got to ride home in the car of a friend of one of our chaperon's. The car was incredibly tiny and my knees were up to my chin but we arrived home before everyone else and decided to bide the time by going into a Spanish* grocery store. Travel tip: If you ever travel to Spain bring your own Pringles from the USA because they are very expensive overseas. We ended our day with mass and now it is bedtime!!! Oh, one final note. I spoke lots of Spanish today. I am so excited!

*Note: It may seem silly to put the "Spanish" in front of every location that I went to, and yes I know where I was for 2 weeks. But you must understand how excited I was to go into something that was normal as a supermarket and realize that in fact it was Spanish because it was in Spain, everyone spoke  the Spanish language, and the employees were Spaniards. I am not mocking your intelligence or trying to make mine look nonexistent. I am just an overly enthusiastic tourist. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Madrid Day 1: The Spaniards Must Be Awesome

Well, here I am, finally in Madrid and I am feeling slightly out of it after that ghastly plane ride which not only left me exhausted but with numerous ear problems from the shrieking girls who were sitting in front of me. Cris, the leader of our group didn't waste any time, and immediately after landing and settling into our houses, (I am staying in Cris's mom's house) we set out, starting with mass at a nearby church. After mass, we took our first metro ride over to Parque de Retiro, the Central Park of Spain, except for this park had hundred year old statues, funky trees, exercise equipment for public use, a palace, and nude people. Yes, I did in fact see (entirely against my will I might add) a naked man apparently trying to barbecue his butt in the sun. Despite that unpleasant encounter, the park was stunning. Imagine being able to take your dog out for a walk right by a 100 year old statue.

I wonder if European's realize how lucky they are! However, apparently Spanish girls feel that way about us having Abercrombie and Fitch at every mall in the USA. In the middle of the park, there just so happened to be a building called the Crystal Palace which was a giant, exquisite building made mostly out of glass.

The best part of it was a giant slide smack-dab in the center of the building. I was wearing a skirt which made it hard for me to imagine that going down that slide could end well, so I refrained from doing so. But my friend Asha braved it and took a go!

I now officially love Spaniards. Palaces inside of their parks? With giant slides inside the palaces? I wish I was Spanish. This was all wonderful and amazing, but the real high point of my day was when we reached the edge of the park and found a whole street filled with 800 confessional stalls for the pilgrims of WYD. It was breathtaking and I can't imagine how powerful it will be once all the pilgrims and priests are here.

After seeing this amazing site, my energy faded and I went back to the apartment and slept until dinner time. It is now only 8:30 but I must go to bed because I feel my brain turning into mush! Adios!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

....And I am back! Although No One Knew That I Was Gone: The Beginning of the World Youth Day Adventures

Hullo Dear Readers!

As many of you know, and most of you don't know, I just returned from a two week journey in Madrid, Spain where I joined the Pope and millions of other Catholic youth in the celebration of World Youth Day. World Youth Day is a gathering of Catholic youth from all over the world that takes place every 2-3 years. Started by Blessed Pope John Paul the Second, it is a continuous pilgrimage created to unite and strengthen the Catholic youth in their faith. It was truly a powerful and life-changing experience and I see no point in keeping it all to myself.

For the next week or so, my blog is going to take a brief break from the funnies and turn to the more serious side of things as I share my adventures abroad with you. I promise pictures, recipes,  and headless people along the way. I am going to try and post two of my travel journal entries a day. So without further ado, I present to you Wednesday, August 10, 2011.

After a year of planning and fundraising I am finally on the plane heading to Madrid, Spain! The reality of it hasn't not yet hit me. I set out from O'Hare Airport in Chicago, Illinois at about 5 pm and I will arrive in Spain at 7:25 am. Our plane is overflowing with pilgrims heading to Spain for the WYD.

Most people seem to believe that the plane ride is the most boring part of the trip, but I beg to differ. Last year when I flew overseas I was attacked by an Indian baby with super-strength, and this time, although so far nothing too interesting has happened to me, I have been observing others and creepily eavesdropping. For instance, I watched as a 60 year old, red head woman befriended a group of Mexican teenagers and now has one of the guys sitting next to her. Also, the man next to me has been glaring at the page that I am writing on for the past 10 minutes. I would glare back only he has a mustache and is therefore far superior to me. And the food on this plane could take you too whole new levels of excitement. Airplane food is somewhat similar to a lump of garbage. They gave me tuna on top of a solitary piece of lettuce which resembled cat-food after digestion. I was also able to literally peel off a layer of strawberry jelly from my cheesecake. However, this is Iberia airlines, a European flight, and so therefore the food and service is fantastic compared to how it would be on an American flight. I get a feeling that the flight attendants are a little freaked out by me though. I just happen to be one of those overly enthusiastic tourists and I am possibly way to fascinated that the flight attendants  actually speak Spanish as their first language and therefore my gleeful response that "Yes! I would prefer the carne de res over the pollo!" is probably making it so that the attendants pray that I never fly with them again. I can't help my excitement. I have been learning Spanish since I was five and so it is about time that I actually use it!! Well I should go. I need some sleep because my first day in Spain will be packed and the red-headed old lady keeps looking at me like she wants to talk so I better shut my eyes sooner rather than later so as to avoid being told about the woes of her dentures. Farewell!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Importance of Being a Monocle

Doesn’t the title of this blog just say it all? I don’t even feel like I have to give an intro to this post but because of Law One Bazillion of Writing, Grammar and other such Strumpets, I am basically required to say something and so therefore, you might just be bored to death with my monologue that is here to fill in page space. Monocles are fantastic and would be the best thing since sliced bread, however, according to urban dictionary, I am (the best since sliced bread). Anywho, in this post I am basically pitching to you all the reasons why you should start sporting a monocle.

  •  Adds an air of distinction to the wearer-Add a monocle to you daily routine and you will immediately go from looking like this:

 to this: 

You might also randomly wake up one day and discover that you are a 19th century inventor with a handlebar mustache. Gender is not a factor in this transformation.
  • Provides a unique view of the world-a monocle gives vision through one eye and not the other. Wearing one will dis-balance your vision and make life more interesting as you run into obstacle.
  •  Allows you to get away with spiffy language- you are now allowed to say things like, “I say dear chap, is that a burr from the class of Horatio sticking to your bum?” People will look upon you with awe. But please don’t say that if you don’t have a monocle. It won’t sound good.
  • Automatically comes with a British accent- And everyone knows that British accents are sexy. And make you seem smart. So therefore wearing a monocle will give you brains and beauty. Or at least make everyone assume that you are beautiful and smart.
  • Provides a tiny plate for nachos-‘nuf said.