Sunday, January 25, 2009
So our bathroom is cleaned/maintained by our host family, we aren’t supposed to do anything except clean up the water after we shower [the shower here has the same problem as our shower at home] but twice now we’ve run out of toilet paper and it hasn’t been restocked when we need it. Last time we just held out and went to the bathroom at other places, like school or the train station or whatever, but on Sunday there was a dire need. I had to go to the bathroom REALLY badly and I checked and there was none so I went back into my room to wait it out but when I heard someone in the hall I thought it would be a good opportunity to ask so I opened the door, looked to the right to see if the toilet paper had been restocked, but it had not, so I looked to the left to see who it was and it was Javi, their 31-year-old son who still lives at home, shirtless, with his pants unbuttoned. He just started backing into his room and said, “Oh, perdon…” and I just spun around and shut the door to my room and started laughing HYSTERICALLY. I couldn’t even tell Emmaleigh what had happened because I was concentrating on not peeing my pants. And then I obviously didn’t come out of my room again for at least fifteen minutes. So. Awkward.
Eventually I went downstairs but there was actually a shortage of TP down there as well. We went to the Browns for our weekly internet time and I used the bathroom there but when we came back and were at dinner something had to be done, lest we had to use the bathroom again before someone noticed. I tried to convince Emmaleigh to do it but she was being a huge wimp so I just manned up and started the conversation with Paco. At the Browns house I had looked up the word for toilet paper, which is papel higiénico, so I felt pretty prepared for this conversation. I started it. “Paco… en el baño, no hay papel higiénico… El baño necesita más…” He doesn’t understand me. I attempt again. He still doesn’t understand me. I say everything I can possibly think of that would describe what I’m trying to say, and he doesn’t understand. He changes the subject to yogurt. Emmaleigh starts laughing, I start laughing, and Paco starts guessing. “Más… agua?” Through laughter and tears I shake my head no. “Más… jábon?” Again no. I finally settle on just saying papel, since he knows I’m talking about the bathroom, and he says, “Ah, papel higiénico.” Yes, duh, the word I’ve been trying to say for ten minutes! It was thoroughly embarrassing but we got what we wanted and it was a sort of bonding moment I guess.
MONDAY: I no longer have time/energy/memory to recount everything we do each day so I’ll just tell stories that are worth telling. First of all, I have made a huge important change in my life since being here: I am the least picky eater ever. We basically just have to eat everything they give us or risk being really offensive AND going hungry, so I’ve been very tolerant and I’ve actually started to like things that I never thought I’d like! For Monday lunch we had the HUGEST bowl of vegetables I’ve ever seen. And I ate the whole thing! That was such a far cry from refusing to eat vegetable soup for years, right? I am so happy about it.
After our institute class on Monday we had FHE for a little while in the church and then we decided to go to a pasteleria after so we left the church to wait for the number 8 bus. We didn’t really know when it was supposed to come so we just decided to walk out and wait until it did but as we were crossing a street on our way there we saw it coming on the street we were crossing. We were still about a block from the bus stop and we DID NOT want to miss this bus so we forced the one car that was in front of the bus to stop in the road so we could illegally cross the street and we started SPRINTING to the bus stop so the bus wouldn’t leave without us. The bus driver thought it was hilarious that there were ten girls running for our lives to catch the bus and luckily the first girl made it on time and he waited for all of us. Pretty much every time we try to catch the bus it’s ridiculous.
When we arrived at the pasteleria I ate a chocolate croissant and I must say it tasted pretty much exactly the same as the FGDB ones—delicious.
TUESDAY: Inauguration Day. Our host family loves to talk to us about Obama because we always watch the news during dinner and he’s on it a lot. We decided that we wanted to try to see the inauguration and our choices consisted of ordering pizza at the Browns house or going to some international hotel in Madrid where they were having a free party. We had to buy train tickets for this weekend anyway so we opted for Madrid. Unfortunately, it took way longer than we expected so we left too late and arrived during the ending prayer. There was such a large group of Americans all in one spot, it was incredible. Luckily we stopped at the Browns after so I read the speech online but it wasn’t the same as seeing it. At least we made the party though, right?
WEDNESDAY: We mostly did homework all day. I caught up on a lot of Don Quixote and discovered a list of qualities that a male lover should have that I think is of note: Amiable, Bountiful, Courteous, Devoted, Enamored, Faithful, Gallant, Honorable, Illustrious, Loyal, Manly, Noble, Open, Princely, Qualified, Rich, Trusty, Understanding, Veracious, X does not suit him, being too harsh a letter, and Zealous. You may notice the alphabet in there and also some letters missing that aren’t important in Spanish, including K and W. Also, there are apparently qualities for S and Y that are somewhere in there that I can’t find. I’m really enjoying reading Don Quixote while being here because I can find applications to the book EVERYWHERE. It’s clear that Cervantes influenced Spain a lot with that book and it’s way cool. Emmaleigh and I took a stroll around Alcalá close to our school and found a park and also a little archaeological museum that we weren’t really interested in.
THURSDAY: Another quiet day of doing homework. We tried to catch up on all our homework before Valencia so a) we didn’t have to do it while we were on vacation and b) we didn’t have to carry it. Emmaleigh took a siesta but I did not! I just read and wrote some e-mails and went to the Browns to send them and try to help some other girls figure out their plans for getting to Valencia and staying there. We planned our trip with just six girls to make it easy but then everyone except four people who went to Alicante and two girls who stayed home went to Valencia as well. Oh, also, I ran this morning and every previous morning this week! I really like running here, even when it’s raining, because I get to see things in the town I’ve never seen before and it’s so refreshing. I think next week I’ll start going farther.
FRIDAY: We got up really early in the morning to go to Valencia! The train ride there was a million years long [okay, six hours] and we passed a lot of cool orange groves on the way but no windmills still. We walked to our hostel by way of the city center and it was super pretty, Valencia is really cool. It’s the third largest city in Spain, after Madrid and Barcelona of course, but it really didn’t seem that big. There were a lot of old buildings though and orange trees everywhere that made it so picturesque. We checked in at the hostel which was very brightly colored and appeared clean. The rooms we booked had three beds so Emmaleigh, Kim and I were together but some of the other girls were in an eight bed dorm and there were three girls in a four bed room with a girl from Czech Republic. She smelled bad and some of the girls in the eight bed room were up really late but overall I think our first hostel was a success. We spent the evening walking around the city and taking pictures. We saw a famous cathedral and a REALLY sweet museum that’s probably the most interesting piece of architecture in the world. We thought it would be cool to see at night because all the pictures showed it lit up but it wasn’t very lit up… It was cool anyway. Google pictures because I didn’t get any astonishing ones, it’s like the art and science museum in Valencia. It shouldn’t be hard to find. We tried to eat paella for dinner because that’s what Valencia is famous for but the restaurant our hostel referred us to was closed so we just went to a little café and got sandwiches and gelato and then ran into four other kids from our program who had come in the previous evening! Kim, Emmaleigh and I walked around with them for a bit while the other girls went back to the hostel and then we all retired for the night.
SATURDAY: We went to the biggest farmer’s market in the world or something for breakfast. It was indoors and every day apparently all 300-something stalls are filled with people selling fruit and vegetables and LOTS of fish. Emmaleigh and I bought a bunch of fruit to share that was absolutely delicious. We went to a little plaza with benches and ate and fed the birds and spoke with assorted Valencians. Also, they speak another language there that was pretty hard to understand but almost everything was also in Spanish. Some of us went to the bellas artes [fine arts] museum because it was free and some people went to a ceramics factory because it’s world famous? The wind was OUT OF CONTROL and practically blew us all over one thousand times. Also, I realized something really unfortunate on Friday morning just about when we reached the train station in Alcalá: I didn’t bring my contact case or solution and my eyes were REALLY hurting. I bore it as long as it could but Saturday morning the combination of old contacts and the wind was just impossible to deal with. As we were walking to the museum it felt like there were 7 spears jabbing my left eye so just as we reached the bridge I stopped, ripped my contact out of my eye, scratching my cheek in the process, and hurled it over the edge of the bridge. Maybe that was a little dramatic… but it really hurt. I spent the rest of the day with one contact in and one out. The museum could have been a little more pleasant. We also walked around some royal gardens and went to a natural science museum before going to paella [!] for lunch. That was semi-disastrous because we wanted two kinds but we didn’t have enough people and then Emmaleigh came after they had already started making it but in the end we had our paella and though it was a little hard to eat it was definitely good. After lunch we decided to go to the beach to stick our feet in the Mediterranean Ocean and it was supposed to get less windy in the afternoon but I think it got windier instead? The sand was whipping us so hardcore but it was BEAUTIFUL. My camera has been accidentally blue-enhanced basically since being here so the pictures look exaggerated but it was definitely beautiful and SO blue. Post-beach we got our stuff, walked to the train station and went home. We thought we had missed the ten-o’-clock deadline to shower and also that we were going to bed without eating dinner but as soon as we got home Irene knocked on the door and told us to come down to eat and then asked if we were going to shower then. We obviously said yes. That was a miracle!
SUNDAY: There were a couple drops of water that fell on us on the way to church and we considered obtaining umbrellas but we didn’t want to go back so we trudged on. We spent a LONG time waiting for the bus today, both ways, and it was a lot colder than we thought it was. In Relief Society we talked about missionary work, in Sunday School about the coming about of the Book of Mormon, and there were assorted talks in Sacrament Meeting. During Sunday School it started to REALLY rain hard but another miracle occurred and it stopped by the time we left! It was still really cold and we spent even longer waiting for the bus on the way back but we were grateful for the cloudy-but-not-raining skies. The family was already eating when we got home so they ushered us in and we had delicious lasagna and some salad. One of our first days here Emmaleigh said that she didn’t like tomatoes and I did not say the same thing because I normally eat them even though I don’t love them but now they are convinced that I love tomatoes and give them to me all the time. There was mostly just pieces of tomato left in the salad by the time we got home so I ate them all and they made Emmaleigh a different, giant salad. While she was eating her salad I ate my lasagna and then as soon as I was done they brought her the largest piece of lasagna I’ve ever seen in my life. I just ate my banana for dessert and laughed inwardly about how much she was being forced to eat. Hilarious. It’s nice that we have lunch together on Sundays even though we don’t talk very much. It’s just nice to be around a family.
This week was really good and it was fun to do our first traveling. This weekend we’re going to Toledo so this upcoming week will be full of homework and also hopefully some museums for our Madrid Walks class, because it’s weird that our time here is already one-quarter done and the next months will be more full of traveling. In some ways it feels like we just arrived but in some ways I’m really used to being here. Spain is so great.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
This week was full of classes. We’ve gotten more into a routine and it’s been nice to get used to everything, but doing homework is definitely not my favorite thing. Luckily though we don’t get that much and I only have one class a day and no place else I have to be [like a job] so it’s mostly just play time.
MONDAY: We went to class and then did homework for most of the afternoon. Monday nights we have Institute, and our class is taught by Faustino Lopez, who has some church position because they call him Elder Lopez, but we’re not sure what. The class is the history of the LDS church in
TUESDAY: I ran in the morning! I was really happy about it but I didn’t go very far. After I showered my metabolism was still in high gear so I got dressed for the day in not my warmest clothes, thinking it wasn’t that cold outside. Wrong. It started snowing as soon as I left the house but I didn’t have time to go back inside to change. After class we walked around and took some pictures and it was really pretty but I do hate having wet feet. We were considering going into
WEDNESDAY: I woke up feeling a little sick but luckily I didn’t get any worse the rest of the day. I took the 10:30 bus instead of the 10:45 bus that always comes late so I was on time to class. After class we went looking for a library and found one in the
THURSDAY: I went running again, farther than ever, but it caused me to be late to class. This is why: we are only allowed to shower after 10 am. When I go running I definitely have to shower so I wait until 10, but then I can’t catch the 10:30 bus but I can be ready by the 10:45 bus, which would be fine if that bus would ever come on time. But it does not. And when it comes at 10:53 I am definitely late for school. But if Professor Brown ever tries to give me any guff about it I’m just going to tell him that if he’s forcing us to live by the Spanish system of using busses, then I’m going to live by the Spanish system of always being late. Foolproof, yeah? After class we did some homework until we went to the mall again, this time with some other girls, not for ourselves :) Then we went to the Browns to download more homework from Blackboard and also to try to figure out how to get to the Rock of Gibraltar next weekend. We failed on that front and I’m a little disappointed but we might still go if we can figure it out or we might go somewhere else way cool, like Portugal or Valencia or something. When we came home we had these tiny fried fish for dinner and it wasn’t that bad until I realized I was eating the spines and then I got totally grossed out and only ate like five. And they thought I didn’t like it but I just said I wasn’t hungry and really, it was just really hard to pick out the bones, the taste wasn’t that bad. Luckily I had some bread and yogurt and it’s not necessary to eat a big meal at almost 10 pm anyway, so it’s all good. And one meal out of a whole bunch that I haven’t liked is actually pretty good. Homework, bed.
FRIDAY: This was a most excellent Spanish day. Our whole group met to go to the Prado, which is a really important Spanish museum with tons of famous paintings in it. I really enjoyed the Reina Sofia and thought that I might not like the Prado as much because it’s older stuff, more classic, but there are some AWESOME paintings in there. Goya is one of my new favorite artists. We were in the museum for about three hours and started to experience “museum fatigue” so we left, ate our bocadillos [what our madres call the lunches they give us when we’re not going to be home at lunchtime] and found El Parque del Buen Retiro, which is comparable to Central Park in New York City. It was a really nice weatherwise and the park was beautiful. It was a really fun afternoon just wandering around and taking pictures and being outside in the warmth. I removed my coat for one of the first times since we’ve been here and it was splendid. We found this little pond where you can rent boats to paddle around and probably next month we’re going back with a picnic [probably just our bocadillos, haha] and we’re definitely doing that. We went home, Emmaleigh and I so we could shower, and then a few of us went back into
SATURDAY: The day we went to
SUNDAY: We got up and went to church not having showered since Friday evening, which I wasn’t very happy about but we missed shower time all day Saturday so we had no choice. Church was way better than last week, I understood basically everything and I felt edified. Our Relief Society lesson was about the sealing keys being restored in the Kirtland temple and I had a manual so I could kind of follow along. Sunday School was about the precursors to the Restoration and I was SO happy because I had learned everything already in my church history class so the lesson was really easy to follow. I wanted to answer every question but I didn’t really know the words in Spanish so I just listened contentedly. Sacrament Meeting was also really good, I understood the topic of every talk so then it was easy to pick out words that I knew and string them together. The chapel was packed, which was surprising after last week, but it was really cool. Next week Emmaleigh and I want to talk to more people because that’s a really good opportunity to practice Spanish and it will be cool to get to know people in the ward. When we got home the table in the living room was set for lunch and we all ate together, Irene and Paco, who are the parents, Javier and Raquel, who are the kids who live in the house, and Ana, who is their oldest, plus her husband and son, both named Nacho [hahaha]. I was intimidated that we were all together and afraid they were going to want me to talk a lot but actually they didn’t really talk to us at all so it was fine. It was also our first multiple-course meal. Other students have been talking about how they’ve had three course meals and we were surprised because we haven’t at all, but today we sat down and they had sautéed eggplant and potatoes and I ate some and was satisfied and then they brought out this huge seafood dish and gave me SO much fish & clams in some kind of broth. It was really, really good though. I was kind of surprised because I don’t normally eat fish but I thoroughly enjoyed it and will probably change that habit. Obviously after we ate that they brought out dessert, the bowl of fruit, and so I ate a banana and went upstairs extremely satisfied.
A note about the food: So far I’ve pretty much enjoyed the food I’ve had. I’ve been lucky; a lot of people have complained a lot. It’s a pretty common conversation topic, “what did you guys have for lunch?” Our host mother, Irene, makes pretty varied meals and generally everything tastes good. What’s funny to me, though, is how they refuse to accept that we eat some things differently in the
This week was really great and I’m really enjoying being here. It’s hard at times just because some things are really different than my normal life but I’m really glad I’m challenging myself in this way and I’m having a blast.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
I have at long last arrived in
GETTING THERE: The day I exited the country. The trip over was too long for my liking. On the plane from Salt Lake to Atlanta I sat next to a guy who looked about my age from Mississippi and we talked through the flight, except for when I was sleeping [which was often, let’s be honest], but he was one of those nice, takes-care-of-you types, so he alerted me when they were bringing drinks and everything. Before that flight, in the airport, I saw Tristan, a girl I recognized from our prep class, so we waited before together and then walked off the plane together in
TUESDAY: The Three Kings Day. We didn’t see the bus [we weren’t actually looking, we weren’t expecting it until later] but we did see Sister Brown, our professor’s wife, who informed us that Tristan had been bumped from our flight and wouldn’t arrive until the next day. Being with her kept us all together and more people arrived over the next few hours but our bus did not. Unfortunately that was El Día de los Reyes, which is a huge national holiday in
WEDNESDAY: The day we got lost. Side bar on the weather: Everyone, Spaniards and students alike, have been shocked by the weather this week. It is unnaturally cold and a little bit miserable to be outside. But it’s not like I was just wrong about it—everyone keeps saying [in Spanish of course] that it’s NEVER this cold here.
We had orientation at Alcalingua [the place where we have all our classes] at 9 am and Irene had told us which bus to take and what time to go so at 8:30 we went down to have breakfast. We had Magdalenas, which are muffin-like and have made up our breakfast every day so far. We also had milk, which they don’t refrigerate here. It is apparently ultra-sterilized so it’s okay, but I’m not the biggest fan of lukewarm milk. We got on the bus [easy] and located the school without TOO much hassle. After a preliminary Spanish test we went on a tour of the city and looked at tons of important buildings of the
THURSDAY: The first real day of school. I went running in the morning because I didn’t have class until eleven, and as usual when I saw Paco he said “Hace frio!” That’s his favorite thing to say to us. They always want us to wear more coats and we want to as well but we only have so many. I rode the bus and walked the rest of the way to school without ANY trouble, which was a miracle, and sat through less than an hour of our History of Spain class, where all we actually did was talk about the syllabus and committees for the trip. After that we went to La Casa de Cervantes, the house in which he was born which is now a museum, and then went home for lunch. We rested a bit and then went to
FRIDAY: The day our whole group met to go into
SATURDAY: The day we slept without an alarm. At eleven I was awoken by Emmaleigh going to take a shower. We had received a phone call about an hour earlier about going to the mall and Emmaleigh and I both wanted some warmer, waterproof boots so we agreed to go at noon. We left without breakfast because we’re not supposed to open the fridge and took the bus until the end [we do that a lot, but this time we were supposed to]. I found some boots, a sweet turtleneck [thank goodness, I didn’t bring my awesome red one from
SUNDAY: The Sabbath. Finding the church by way of bus was easy, but it involved A LOT of waiting, especially on the way home. The busses on Sundays don’t run very often, but luckily the weather warmed up to about what we expected for January so being outside wasn’t too unpleasant. Church was pretty difficult to understand. I had trouble in all three meetings understanding the Spanish and it was pretty frustrating, but hopefully it gets easier as time goes on? There were a lot of beards at church also. When we got home lunch [lasagna!] wasn’t quite ready so we talked with Paco and Irene and I felt a little better about my Spanish. Most people are slower when they are talking directly to us, I guess. We napped and I read some Don Quixote.
Other things that I’ve noticed so far: there is lots of English everywhere: on signs, store names, music on the bus, everywhere. I wonder why that is, and I wonder how much people understand it. Our host family speaks NO English, but they are super friendly and really good at feeding us. All of the food so far has been really good, which I’m so happy about because I used to be kind of picky and I’ve heard some weird things about Spanish food. The only thing semi-gross was the octopus in the paella, which tasted like the ocean, but mostly it was just salty so it was fine. All they could talk about on the news on Friday was the snow, apparently it hasn’t snowed in four years. They’re really bad at removing it, also. And when slush freezes, it is just like sand.
I’ve really been enjoying myself so far. It didn’t take long to understand the bus system and know where basically everything is, so I’m satisfied about that. My Spanish is coming along, Emmaleigh and I rarely have trouble communicating with our family or people when we need directions, which is great because a lot of other people in our group have struggled. I’m really looking forward to the trips to other parts of