Monday, September 29, 2008

My Address!

Hi everyone! I have been asked for my address here in Spain, so thought I would just post it forall! It's quite different that American addresses, so don't be worried - it will get to me!

Urban House
Atención - Amanda Gonser
Alameda del Boulevard, 26 - 1* Izda
20003 Donostia-San Sebastian
Guipuzcoa, España

Since I am living in a hostel building, they receive all the mail and then dole it out to us. So, if you're sending me something, let me know it's on the way so I can check for it!

Enjoy the week!


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bouncing around Bilbao!

Hi everyone! Hope the weekend is going well. Mine is going quite well! Yesterday (saturday) I met up with a friend in Bilbao, the biggest city in the Basque Country. It is where I originally flew in, but with my huge suitcases, didn't venture into the actually city. Bilbao is only about 70minutes by bus from San Sebastian, so it wasn't bad when my friend who lives on the other side of Bilbao suggested we meet in the middle and check out Bilbao!

Bilbao is an old industrial city and is not as beautiful and picturesque as San Sebastian, but is much bigger. It was nice to visit another place that was so close, since I have been spending most of my time poking around here. There are still a bunch of things I know I want to do in San Sebastian, but it's always nice to explore - especially with someone who knows the city and the good spots to go!

I arrived after a quick but horrible bus ride. I had a window seat, which I normally love, however it was in the sun, so I was baking the entire time! Glad to have made it, my friend and I went to the Parte Vieja (Old Part) of Bilbao. Because Bilbao was founded in 1300 and grew from there, the old part of town is pretty historic! I live in the Parte Vieja of San Sebastian but it is much smaller than Bilbao. Here is a picture of me in a Plaza that is in the center of Parte Vieja there! After walking around and checking out the gorgeous churches and stores, we popped into a few bars for pintxos (pronounced pinch-os). This is the Basque version of tapas - small little appetizers that you can pick up from a huge selection at the bar and pay after. It is a huge thing over here in Basque Country and almost every bar I have seen has them! I was daring and tried some new stuff - some sort of fish and some other food that my friend didn't know how to translate...yikes! Overall it was quite delicious!

After the Parte Vieja, we made our way to the Guggenheim Museum, which was the main reason we were meeting in Bilbao! The musem is very cool looking - they say there are no straight lines in entire museum, except for the floor! There are 4 of these musems in the world (NY, Bilbao, Berlin and Venice). I did not go to the one in NY, but definitley had it on my to-do list before I left. Eventually I will manage to see it! The art was great at the musem - a lot of sculpture. Thankfully, they give you the audio tour guide thing is any language you chose...I chose English! The main exhibit was from Juan Munoz. Since you are not allowed to take pictures in the museum, you can check out his work here: Juan Munoz. While we couldn't take pictures inside, there is a sculpture garden outside that was awesome. Here is my favorite - it is called Tulips! It is a large sculpture made out of chrome stainless steel. I liked it because I love flowers (flores), but also because the reflection of the museum shines in the reflection of the sculpture. It was fun to take pictures of yourself in different color tulip reflections - that occupied me for a good 15 minutes ha! I think my favorite was yellow (amarillo). If you look at the picture closely you can see my silly audio guide hanging around my neck...such a tourist. Something that I found pointless but somewhat silly was the exit sign in the musem. It is basically just a sign that says exit in a bunch of different languages. There were Salida (Spanish), Ireeta or something like that (Euskera - Basque language) and the same thing in French. For English, instead of it saying Exit, which would make sense, it said 'Way Out.' I just thought that was funny for this world-class museum - ha! Overall, a good visit - check it off the Spain To-Do list!

A little more walking around the city was in order after. Because my friend doesn't speak much English, most of our day was spent speaking in Spanish - which is great practice for me, but mentally tiring! I held a decent conversation throughout the day - from talking about history and food in Parte Vieja to art in Guggenheim! I still need to brush on my grammar, but was happy I could actually converse in Spanish for an entire day!

Bilbao was very fun and it's nice it's so close! I had a great time learning about a new place and practicing Spanish! It was an action-packed day and made me pretty tired. I think that today (sunday) I will dedicate to just laying at the beach all day! Sounds like a pretty good plan to me!


Friday, September 26, 2008

A quick update!

Hi everyone! This week has flown by, and while I didn't do anything very cultural or touristy, I did manage to fit in a few things in between work!

I stopped by the church across from my house - La Iglesia de San Vicente, which is gorgeous. I went inside and was in awe (see pics). I think that they offer tours, but I have yet to figure out how to get on one of those and if there is even on in English, so I decided to check it out for myself. I was thinking I might stop by the Mass on Sunday to check it out. Hopefully, I will understand some of it, since I assume it will all be in either Basque or Spanish. There are so many huge cathedrals here that I plan to check out over time, but this one is just so close!

Something silly...I spent about 2 hours walking around town looking for...Q-tips! Who would have thought they would have been so hard to find! There isn't really a mall here, so there are just a bunch of shops around town. For example, if you want to buy make-up you have to go to a store that sells make-up and perfume and hair stuff. If you want to buy cough drops you have to go to the farmacia. If you want to buy food you have to go to the market. There isn't really a place where you can get all of those things together like a Target or something. So, I walked all around the city checking a bunch of different stores looking for Q-tips...funny. I finally found some, but I was getting tempted to add them to my birthday list ha!

While checking every store for Q-tips I managed to enjoy myself quite a bit - sightseeing the area and such. I found this gorgeous fountain in a plaza near my apartment. I wanted a picture in front of it but couldn't find anyone to take one! Finally a nice man came along and I asked him to take a picture, to which he obliged. When I said thank you he said you're welcome in English. Obviously my Spanish accent isn't fooling anyone yet! He happened to be on vacation from Canada! Yay English.

Today (Friday) I met up with some of the friends that my friend who got me this job had last year. It is a couple named Derek and Mandy who live here and work doing a cultural exchange between the States and the Basque Country. They were amazing and helped so much this morning. In two hours, I got a bus pass that gets my half price bus rides to work, I set up a bank account, I figured out where the cheaper shopping stores are, I got a form to fill out to get a library card, I got a map that shows me where I can take Spanish classes and I experience San Sebastian's form of Starbucks - Panchito's! Overall it was a great morning and they were so nice!

Well, that was my week so far. Nothing too crazy, just getting along and learning about the area. I am sure I will do much more exploring this weekend. I hope everyone had a great week :)


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Mi Fin de Semana

Hi everyone! Even though we are into another week of work, I wanted to share my weekend with yo! While I only work a max of 18 hours a week, I still definitley appreciate the weekend and this one was no exception.

Friday consisted of the International Film Festival that is in San Sebastian for about 10 days. This film festival is on par with Cannes and Tribeca film festivals, so it's a pretty big deal in this little city! Supposedly Antonio Banderas, Melanie Griffith, Woody Allen, Jon Malkovich, Ben Stiller and Meryl Streep are all here! I have not seen Antonio yet...broken heart. However, I DID manage to check out one of the movies. During the festivals, they take all the cinemas in the entire city and oly feature filmes that are in the festival. I met up with a Spanish friend (who barely speaks English) and headed to see a Japanese film called Karakkaze Yaro, which I guess in English means Afraid to Live. It was a very random Japanese gang movie...very weird, but thankfully had subtitles in both Spanish and English. After, my friend and I dicussed new words we learned in each other's languages! Overall a fun night but a weird movie pick! I think I might try and see another one this week before the festival ends, maybe a Spanish one. Here is a snap of me in front of the main center that shows the most popular movies - called the Kursall. Maybe if I could get in there, I could see Antonio....

Saturday was a gorgeous day and I spent most of it outdoors. I started off at the beach, where there are SO MANY naked and topless sunbathers. I brought two swimsuits to Spain - one brown one and one bright teal one. However, I don't think anyone in the entire city of San Sebastian owns a colored swimsuit - only black! I felt pretty out of place! I guess it doesn't really matter what color swimsuit you have if you take it off right? Haha! Even little 7 year old girls were running around with thier tops off already! Regardless, I had a good time and hopefully got a little tan. Here is a shot of the beach I was at - Zurriola Playa, which is know as th beach for surfers. I am sure if you look closely you can find atleast one person who is's definitley easier than Where's Waldo!

After laying around at the beach, I decided maybe I should be somewhat active and decided to do a little hike. I went back to Monte Urgull, which is the mountain I climbed last week. Instead of flip flops like last time, this trip I decided to wear flats! Some day I will need to invest in tennis shoes! I threw my old crappy ones out when I left NY and have yet to purchase a new pair. The hike was beautiful! I sort of hurried up to the top of the castle just to see the amazing view again! After, I took my time winding around and down the mountain. There are so many paths to choose from, I am sure next time I will take a new route altogether. I included a couple shots of my hike - one of me next to the castle and one of me hiking on a trail around the wall that guards the castle. I know, I know, who wears a skirt hiking? Me!

Sunday was nothing special, except that I finally got to move into my apartment! It's a bit in shambles because my clothes are strewn everywhere but I can actually upack, which makes me elated! Odd but true, the room is magenta. The hostel that this building used to be part of prided itself on looking like the heart of San Sebastian, which I guess includes bright colors! There are bright orange and green rooms in the apartment as well haha! While it's not the most calming color, it's a bedroom and I feel super lucky to have it! I can finally sleep in a room alone and not have to share it with atleast 3 other people - hooray! I spent most of the day unpacking, organizing, etc - nothing too glamorous. I did happen to go to a restaurant with some friends that serves cheeseburgers. Now, we all know I only like meat, cheese and mayo on my burger. Here is how you order that in espanol: "Quiero un hamburguesa solamente con tenura, queso y mahonesa, por favor". Something like that!

Overall, I had a great weekend and hope that you did too! I will update later in the week! Miss you all!


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Guess Who Has an Apartment?!

Hooray! I found an apartment after only one week! Everything about this move has just fallen into place so easily - and that is what happened with my new apartment! Last week in the hostel, I asked the girl who runs the place if she knew anyone who was looking for a flatmate. She said they just happen to be turning one of the hostels into an apartment this year and that there was a room left if I was interested! I came over and checked the place out and accepted! I get to move in on Sunday. It was so easy and just fell into my's like it was meant to be!

I will be living in Parte Viea (the old part of town) which is very popular and is located in between two beaches - lucky me! I will have my own room, which comes with a bed, linens, a desk, dresser and nightstand! Also, the heat/water/electricity and internet is all included! I will be living with 4 other people (we each have our own room) and am so happy that this worked out so nicely and that it was for a good price! More pictures to come of the inside of the apartment once I get settled in!

Here are a few shots of what I see when I look out our living room on our balcony. Right out in front of our apartment is this massive old church - bells on the hour and all! It is always busy and I can't wait to see it on a Sunday. The architecture is gorgeous, as you can see. This other picture is the street that I live on (31 de agosto) and what all the houses look like - it's like straight out of a movie, very picturesque! I feel like I will be completely content with sitting on the balcony just looking out at the city. These are obviously different views than I had from my NYC apartment haha!

Overall, I think that this apartment will be great for my time in San Sebastian. As soon as I move in, I will fill you all in on how it goes, but I wanted to give you a quick snapshot of where I will be living for the next 10 months! Now if only I could figure out how to write my address...


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

La Vida en San Sebastian

Hi everyone! I'm sorry I haven't gotten around to sharing my new San Sebastian life with you. Let me tell you's AMAZING! My first week has been quite a whirlwind! The first few days were all about adjusting to the time change, language change and life change! My boss, Erika, met up with me the day after I got here and helped me get a Spanish cell phone, find correct converters so I could make my computer work and showed me around town a bit. Over the weekend, I took some time to explore my new town. The Concha Beach is gorgeous and is always packed with people! In the background of the beach picture, you can see a big hill - Monte Urgull. I hiked up to the top today, where there is a huge castle and on top of that is a statue of Jesus! It was so beautiful. There were also some videos and information about San Sebastian history. The hill is very close to were I am staying, so I will probably do the hike quite often, since it is only 30 minutes and is a good exercise. Sadly, I have not bought tennis shoes yet so I had to hike up in my flip flops haha! It was definitley worth it and had great views (as you can see in this pic on the left! That is the Concha Beach from the top) The weather has been nice - 70s-80s most days. It's all in celcius so I am not too good with it yet. I am also not very good with the time yet - 24 hour clock! I am impressed that I make it to my bus on time!

I am trying my best to blend in and not look like too much of a tourist. It is such a change from NYC - no one really rushes to walk anywhere, people smoke in every building (eww) and everything shuts down for siesta. While it is a very stark difference, I am really loving it and trying to embrace this new life I have. While I was at the busstop yesterday, people were asking me for directions about the bus schedule - haha! I did the best I can with the Spanish I know.

Work has been pretty challenging so far. I wish I spoke better Spanish! For the first week the school asks that you don't use books, so I have been coming up with activites for the kids to play. Yesterday I played memory, colored a bunch of pictures, played pictionary and sang songs ha! The kids are all adorable. My classes range in age from 5-12 years old and all are impressivley decent at English for how young they are. Once I get the swing of things, I am sure it will be really fun.

It seems like I have been here for awhile when it's really only been a week. I am trying to take one day at a time. I am still in the process of looking for an apartment but should know before the end of the week. Things are really falling into place! I miss everyone and love hearing from you all!


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Aer Lingus has my heart

Hi everyone. This is just a quick one, but I HAD to let everyone know that on my plane ride over here on Aer Lingus, they served my all-time favorite food ever...Tillamook Cheese! Best flight EVER!


Friday, September 12, 2008

Estoy Aqui

hello everyone! I made it to espana! i cannot get my internet to work yet so i am on the hostel computer but i wanted to let everyone know that i made it safe. i will try and set up the internet over the weekend but so far everything is amazing. i am staying a hostel called urban house in san sebastian, and its ALL aussies! no americans! i think i am the only american in this entire city! everyone is very nice and we all get along. i stay in a room with a british guy, a aussie guy and a german girl. i am the only one with SO much luggage haha! i have to preface all my conversations when people see my luggage and explain that i am here for ten two week stuff here haha!

i cant post any pics yet because i cant get them onto the hostel computer, but as soon as i can i will share some.

i miss everyone and just wanted to give a quick update to let everyone know i am safe and sound! i start work on monday with some 5 year olds, so it should be fun! i will go to an internet cafe this weekend and write more.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Welcome to My Adventure!

Well, it is officially here - the departure day. I just checked into my flights and thankfully have window seats! I am still not actually scared, more anxious about what lies ahead. It blows my mind that I would so easily choose to move from the country where everyone I know and love is, to a place where I know no one and probably don't know more than 100 words of the language! I guess I was craving an adventure and an adventure is what I will get!

As I lay in bed on the morning of my last day in New York, I realize I will really miss the city. Over the past few weeks, with my departure looming, I started to really realize what an amazing place I have been living in! While I loved the city, I definitely think I will enjoy San Sebastian. For some reason I act like I might be going to a third-world country and considered packing some Hamburger Helper and such, but think to myself -'amanda, they will have food there.' ha!

Anyways, this blog will let you keep up-to-date on my happenings in Europe for the next 10 months! Opportunities like this don't come up every day and I am excited that I am doing it. I am really happy that I can share this experience with you and can't wait to tell all that I encounter - new foods, people, languages and places! I am happy you are along for the journey!