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.

1 comment:

  1. Other things you miss: your Mom, your Dad, your brothers

    Sounds very exciting!

    ReplyDelete