Sunday, January 25, 2009

O Valencia!

There were some really awkward/hilarious things that happened on Sunday that I didn’t write about because they happened after I already wrote everything but I think they’re worth making it into this week’s blog. It might not be as funny written down as it was in real life but don’t worry, my life is definitely still as funny as it’s always been.
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

A week of Spanish Beauty

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 Spain and it’s going to be really interesting I think. The first class was all about writing down your personal history and it was really cool, he showed us tons of journals he filled up and told us that not keeping a journal is saying “No soy importante.” I was really glad that I’ve been keeping a pretty good journal ever since I got here. After that we had FHE and our group went to the Browns house, where we had a short lesson, played Murder in the Dark, and ate pastries. We went home and went to bed.

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 Madrid but decided against it because of the snow so we just did some homework and went to the mall that is like four inches from our house. I bought shoes for €5! That was all. And I’m really excited that I just found that Euro symbol. We downloaded some of our homework from Blackboard at the Browns and went to bed.

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 college of Philosophy so we did some of our homework there. We came home and had a super fast lunch so we could catch the train to Madrid! We were planning on looking for the temple just to walk around and see it and then go to a museum that is free on Wednesdays, the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando. We did both of those things, with a lot of metro-riding in between. And we only ended up having half an hour at the museum so I didn’t see everything I wanted to but we also found out that it’s always free for students so I’m definitely going back sometime. Then we went to a chocolate shop and had “chocolate y churros” which is apparently pretty common here. It was delicious. When we got home we had probably the most delicious dinner I’ve had so far. We had tortilla española and then just the normal bread and orange, but for some reason it was super satisfying, perhaps because we did A LOT of walking. That was a fun day and I had a really good time with the girls we were out with.

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 Madrid to an Institute activity. When we found the temple on Wednesday we also found some CES missionaries [a senior couple] who told us they have activities at 8:30 every Friday night so we decided to check it out. It turned out to be kind of awkward since the activity was a drawing class and everyone already knew each other and the people I was sitting near didn’t seem very interested in getting to know us. We might go to other activities in the future, but we’ll see.

SATURDAY: The day we went to Cuenca! Cuenca is an absolutely lovely fairly small town that is about 2.5 hours away from Madrid by train. We got up SUPER early [which I was not happy about] and rode the train from Alcalá to Madrid and then from Madrid to Cuenca. I really wanted to see a windmill on the way, since we were traveling through La Mancha, but I unfortunately did not. It was totally okay though because the town was awesome anyway. There are these hanging houses [“casas colgadas”] that are built on the edge of cliffs and part of it hangs off the side and they are so cool. We walked up and up and up to get to the houses and on the way we encountered this guy selling braided bracelets and necklaces with animal teeth in them and there was this stupidhot guy hanging out with them who aided us in our purchases because he spoke English. He was my first Spanish love and it broke my heart to leave him but I don’t doubt I’ll find a new one another day. When we got to something that seemed like the top we found an abstract art museum that was in one of the hanging houses and it was SO COOL. My favorite pieces of art were by Eusepio Sempere, they were supposed to be landscapes but they were just different colored lines on black paper and they looked so cool. There was also this exhibit in the basement that we almost missed that was a combination of poetry by Octavio Paz and art by Robert Motherwell, apparently they were friends with Motherwell illustrated parts of Paz’s poems and it was so awesome. Some people didn’t like the poetry… I loved it. The house was the perfect venue for the art and it was super pleasant. After that we ate lunch and wandered more uphill because the stupidhot Cuencan man told us that we could find the best views by just walking up whenever possible so we eventually encountered this awesome cliff where we went out and just took tons of pictures. After that we tried some fried lamb intestines, zaraja, because it’s a Cuencan specialty so we had to. It wasn’t terrible but I probably wouldn’t eat it again. We spent some more time wandering around the old town, which was the part that was above everything else, and when we had a couple hours before our train left we went down to the new town, where the train station was, and just wandered around there. We were pretty tired but it was a really satisfying day. The train ride home was pretty bumpy and we all wanted to get home but I definitely slept well that night.

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 US. Whenever we try to explain they just brush it off like we’re crazy. But they eat cookies for breakfast and eggs for dinner! It’s not that I’m saying our way is better, just that it to us it seems like we’re being really accepting of their culture and they aren’t accepting ours at all. But it’s fine. They’ve never been to the US and I can’t imagine them ever coming, so they can keep their fish and bread and peeled fruit. And I will gladly accept their paella and Spanish tortillas :)

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

The First Week

I have at long last arrived in Spain!

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 Atlanta and got to the international terminal. At that gate we also saw Sami, another girl from the program. The overnight flight was ridiculous of course, but I survived and slept most of the time. I sat next to a super nice Spanish woman who got me all pumped up. When we got off the plane I located Sami and we waited for Tristan but didn’t find her so after we got our bags we just went out to look for the other people and the bus that was to take us to our houses.

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 Spain, and no one seemed to be working. We waited for hours with all of our luggage, keeping a close eye on it because one girl had already had a bag with her laptop, wallet and passport stolen. Bienvenida a España! We waited for about six hours, which was actually a great start because a bunch of us got to know each other a little instead of being separated right away. When the bus arrived it took us all to the train station in Alcalá and we caught a taxi from there to our house where Paco, our host father, met us outside with kisses and complaints of how heavy my bags were [“Pesa! Pesa!]. We also met Irene, our host mother, who showed us to our room [THE smallest room with two beds I’ve ever seen. Let’s put it this way—the two beds are a trundle and when the bottom bed is out, there IS no floor space. It is miraculously space-efficient] and then called us down to have paella for dinner. We unpacked, noted the list of rules posted, and went to bed.

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 University of Alcalá. It was SO cold it was hard to enjoy it but there is lots of cool history [especially Cervantes, duh] and some really cool-looking things. After the tour we attempted to make it home for lunch but failed miserably. We walked at least a mile and a half trying to figure out how to walk home, and then gave up and walked another mile looking for the bus stop. We found the bus but then didn’t know where to get off so we took it almost to the end and eventually had to ask the driver to inform us when it was our stop. Kind of embarrassing, but effective. After lunch we went exploring around Alcalá, locating the Browns house, a pharmacy where I bought ridiculously expensive shampoo, and a supermarket where Emmaleigh bought a graph paper notebook. We also went to a mall [one of multiple in Alcalá, which I think is weird] that was really easy to find but not so easy to return from. We took the bus to the end where the driver made us get off so we started walking around and looking for the stop on the other side of the street and all of a sudden, map in hand, Emmaleigh said “Mira.” It was our street, Avenida de los Jesuitas! We joyfully walked home, ate dinner, and went to bed.

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 Madrid! That was our first day in the city and it is so cool. It reminds me of a lot of New York City, but with older buildings that are so beautiful. There were so many times in each of the days that we’ve gone to Madrid so far that I’ll just be looking around and unexpectedly see something breathtaking. I have taken basically zero pictures though except mental ones. Get over it. Our group split up and we mostly just ended up going into stores and looking around. We also met a man from Gambia who started to follow us and it was kind of creepy. Luckily we lost him by entering the metro station and getting held back when one girl [not a girl from BYU] tried to hop over the turnstile and was detained by the security. What a way to lose a stalker, right? I got home, Emmaleigh got home a little later, we ate dinner and went to bed [that’s the story of every night basically].

FRIDAY: The day our whole group met to go into Madrid. We woke up to a couple inches of snow on the ground, which was SO shocking for the Spaniards. A lot of busses were late and everyone was taking pictures. We got on the train and it had to stop [suspended on a bridge] for probably twenty minutes, probably because no one knew what to do about the snow. We walked to the Plaza Mayor, which is way cool and probably a more enjoyable thing without the cold/snow, but it did make it extremely picturesque [not sublime]. We also took a tour of the Palacio Real, which was SO beautiful. Love the wallpaper, of course. Then we all had to eat our bocadillos walking around because there is no place to eat in the city when it’s snowing. Also, Madrid is the slushiest place on earth! My Uggs were completely soaked through and no, it wasn’t cold water by the time it penetrated the fur, but the soggy feet thing was less than desirable. We went home after that and rested a bit, with plans to watch a movie later. Emmaleigh started feeling sick so she stayed home while I sojourned to the Browns through the snow again [it snowed ALL DAY! When does that ever happen without a break?] and did a little bit of interneting and watched SNL—Best of Will Ferrell. I went home for dinner, where we had hot soup [perfect]. Emmaleigh and I went to our room [which is our “place to be” by the way, per the rules] and talked about the histories of our lives until kind of late.

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 Vermont and I’ve been missing it] and some delicious gelato. We made it home for lunch and then left again for Madrid. Unfortunately, after we passed through the turnstile we realized that there were no plans for a train to Madrid. We waited and waited and finally asked the lady at the ticket counter, who said she didn’t know when one was coming. What? Annoying. Luckily about fifteen minutes after that one finally arrived and we went to El Museo de Reina Sofia [I think the name is longer but that is the important part]. The second floor contained Guernica and a lot of other works by Picasso and Miró and a bunch of cool artists and we were really content when we finished and went to the third floor, which had lots of photographs, some of naked people. We then attempted the fourth floor, which we thought was small but turned out to be many, many more works by famous artists so we gave up and decided to go back another day. It was awesome because we got in for free! Free museums are the coolest thing. Usually there are certain days or hours that are free so as long as we work our schedules around that [which currently is really easy] we’re golden. We took the train home, ate dinner, and went to bed [duh].

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 Spain that we’re going to take, getting to know people in the group and people in the ward, and seeing more way cool stuff in Madrid. There are of course things that I miss about my life before, like certain foods [I got a craving for Cheez-its the other day. Random!] and living in my own apartment etc., but Spain is so cool and I feel an affinity with it already. I’m excited for whatever adventures are ahead.