Current Anxiety Rating: 2 (It's a lazy Sunday so there's not much to get too nervous about)
When I set out to write this post I kept running into a problem. Because of my lack of wifi from last Sunday until last Friday, I have a backlog of adventures to describe here. That puts me in a bit of a pickle as far as brevity is concerned so rather than give you a play by play of every minute of every day, I am going to give you the highlights! Weee!
On Monday morning, we not only took our placement exam and had an academic meeting but we also braved a tour of the city in 90+ degree weather, and ended the evening by watching a flamenco performance. So, yes, a pretty darn busy first day. I was surprised at how relaxed I was on Monday morning before test because usually just before a test is a prime time for flares of anxiety (as evidence by every AP test and ACT I have ever taken), but for whatever reason, they didn't appear, at least for a while. The placement test was composed of three parts: writing, multiple choice, and an interview. The first two weren't bad, but I started to feel some rumblings of anxiety as we inched toward the end of the multiple choice section. After that section, we all had to wait in the hallway to be called in, one at a time, for our interview with our prospective professors.
My previous luck didn't hold, and I ended up being called third to last out of the 30 or so people in our class. Doesn't sound that bad, right? But each interview took anywhere from 2 to 6 minutes, and the order in which we were called was completely random, so every time one of the interviewers would polk their head out of the room to call another name, my stomach clutch with nerves. Also hunger, because by that point it was about 11:30 or 12 and I hadn't eaten anything since my two pieces of toast at breakfast which was at 8:15. Generally hunger and anxiety are a very bad combo for me, so I wasn't feeling too hot. Even though I had a snack in my bag, I kept telling myself I would just wait until after my name was called and I interviewed to eat because the last thing I wanted was to take a huge bite of my apple only to have them call my name and for me to respond "Hhowa sowh Alisohn" through a mouth of food.
I finally made my way in, and it wasn't even all that bad. (That's the way these things usually go) They just asked me a few questions about myself and where I was from, why I wanted to be there, etc. in Spanish. After that, I made my way with the rest of the students to study abroad academic meeting, I would describe it to you but it was utterly unexciting.
After that, my roommate and I walked home for lunch and managed to get lost. Almost impressive considering the vast majority of our walk was a straight shot. But all of the stores were similar and as I realized later, the lay of the land at night and in the morning is completely different from that during Siesta time when we headed back. Many of the stories were closed and had metal grates pulled down over their displays so we couldn't even use those for landmarks. After walking for about fifteen minutes and a bit of panicking on my part, Jenni and I decided that we were completely going in the wrong direction and we decided to turn back. It turned out the main road forks off in two and we were supposed to stick with the other fork. We managed to make our way back in time for lunch a bit after another 30+ minutes of walking.
As you can imagine, our siesta after lunch was thoroughly enjoyable after that morning. At 6 pm, we headed out again to tour the city on foot with the rest of our group. It was incredibly beautiful but incredibly hot. I think it was still around 90 degrees when we started walking around and didn't start cooling off until after 9pm.
After our two hour tour, we all briefly had a picnic dinner before heading in the direction of a flamenco club/studio/dinner-place/resturant/cave? near the Alhambra. As I mentioned briefly just now, the whole flamenco place was carved into the hill, and it had air conditioning, so we were all enthused. The performance was amazing. There was a singer, a guitarist, two female dancers, and one male dancer. The only blip that I must mention is that for some reason, the male performer's face while he danced sent me into fits of (concealed) laughter whenever I looked at him. His eyes were wide and crazy and his mouth was all scrunched up like he had to really go to the bathroom, and he kept gripping his jacket away from himself like he was going to rip it off. If I had to describe his performance overall, it reminded me of a temper tantrum because, although I know he was obviously talented and there is a lot of artistry in what he did, to me it just looked like he was angrily flailing around. It was the face that did it. To avoid being the obnoxious, culturally-unaware American, I made a concentrated effort to stare stalwartly at his feet. That was for the most part successful and I made it through the whole thing without making a fool of myself.
After the performance, we went to a famous heladería in Granada called "Los Italianos." Evidently it is one of the oldest in the area and Michelle Obama even when there for some ice cream when she was in Spain. Naturally, I had to suppress the urge to say "I have what Michelle's had." In the end, I just ended up getting chocolate in a cone. It was delicious! After that we parted ways with the rest of our group, and Jenni and I headed home.
Tuesday was the first day of school, so I was a bit terrified. I had found out the previous day I had tested into the level I wanted and would most likely be able to get into the program I wanted (Hispanic Studies) come the time actual classes start in October. To clarify, the class I am taking is an intensive language month class, not normal university classes. We have class for four hours a day from Monday through Friday until October, when we switch over to normal university classes at the University of Granada, Centro de Lenguas Modernas. During the intensive language month, we spend three hours with one professor who teaches vocabulary and grammar, and the last hour with another professor who teaches just grammar. I have class until 1 and then the rest of my day is free!
The only down side to this is that four hours in a foreign language can be a bit overwhelming and if we aren't doing something, all of us students have a tendency to get a severe case of the yawns, no matter how hard we try not to. Also, although Jenni and I placed into the same level, we were in different classes, so I didn't really know if I would know anyone. I was a little bit nervous but my first professor put me at ease. She definitely reminded me of my professors back at home and we spent most of the class just getting to know everyone else.
The second professor though...she seems nice enough and had good banter with the students, but if the first professor teaches at 25 mph, our second professor teaches at 90. After some brief introductions, we started talking about grammar, and she immediately threw out some of the things we had spent 5 years learning. I think language is sort of like math that way. Maybe they teach it to you one way so everyone understands initially, but then after a while they finally tell you, "You know that thing we told you before? It was only mostly true because we didn't want to make it too complicated; here is what the rule really is." And our heads all explode. Suffice to say our minds exploded a little by the end of class, and she was only actually teaching grammar for like 30 minutes. So I am a little terrified of her. She also has this way of asking if you know something where she will make a statement really fast and then say "Si o no?" (Yes or no) or "Si o Si?" if she thinks we are being slow. I don't know about everyone else but my brain was not moving as fast as hers, so we all just end up going, "Siiiiiii?" Even after three days of class with her, I am still definitely intimated, but I think with time it won't be so bad.
After our first classes class we just returned home, ate lunch, did our homework, and relaxed for the rest of the day until dinner. After dinner, Jenni and I went out and explored a bit around town.
Basically the rest of the week was sort of rinse and repeat.
Every night we go out and explore one street or another for a ways and then turn around and go home. It seemed a little scary the first few times because I didn't want to get lost, but there are tons of people out at 9 or 10 or 11 walking around, eating, and talking on weeknights. That has been one of my favorite parts. Just picking a road and meandering around, getting my bearings. It's sort of funny because after the walking tour on Monday, I sort of felt like i knew the general location of certain things but after going exploring a bit more, I have come to realize, oh yeah that place is totally not where I thought it was. So I let to think I am acquiring a slight sense of direction for Granada perhaps.
Friday was a bit different because we were out and about more. After our classes, we skyped with our Spanish professor from home who after a flood of emails from all her anxious students about courses and credit transfers decided it would be easier to just talk to us all at once. After that meeting, we went home for a bit but later returned to the study abroad office so we could organize our trip to the beach that we had planned for Saturday. One of the directors there informed us, though, that we wouldn't be able to just by tickets direct online because our credit cards were American and the bus site rejects most of those for whatever reason. She told us we would probably have to book bus seats through a travel agency. So thus began our adventure to find a travel agent. We meandered around looking for a while and then we just started randomly asking people who looked like they wouldn't steal us or injure us gravely. This was quite successful in that we not only found a travel agent but we were also neither stolen nor gravely injured, so ya!
When we got there, we were informed by the travel agent that we couldn't buy a ticket for our friend who wasn't there because we needed her passport number. So we decided to just putz around until she was done with class in hopes she would get our texts and send us her information before the travel agency closed. Lucky for us, it worked out! We got in right under the wire and bought our tickets to Salobreña! It was excited but also vaguely terrifying to buy the tickets because it meant we were officially going. We were gonna have an adventure but we were also going somewhere that was over a hour away and required taking two buses and walking around to find said beach in a completely unfamiliar city. I would be nervous doing all that even if I have lived somewhere for a while, and here we were doing after only having been there a week. So I had some mixed feelings about it. But I squashed that down deep and concentrated on the more pressing anxiety about going out that evening.
Originally, my roommate and I and three other people from the program had planned to go out that evening, have some tapas, and go to a club possibly, but that didn't end up panning out completely. We all met up that evening around 10pm at Plaza de Isabela La Católica and decided to just wander around because Spanish night life doesn't liven up until 1am at the absolute earliest. We walked over to a gelato place for a little after dinner and pre-tapas snack. We sat for a while eating our gelato before we decided to wander around the other side of the street and see what we could see. We ended up Plaza Real which was about 10 minutes away and we hung out there for an hour or so talking about our home universities.
After a while we decided it was finally time for tapas and we went out in search of a good place. We ended up exploring an area I hadn't to been before but it was beautiful in that classic European way. You know, like small street/alleyways with the amazing architecture of the buildings towering over us, beautifully lit. There were restaurants, and people all around talking and laughing and having drinks and dinner. We wandered farther down the street until we finally just picked someplace at random. We all sat down and got drinks and before we knew it they presented us with out tapas: crayfish tapas with everything still attached. I mean, they were still looking at me. Of course in the spirit of being adventurous, I dove and ripped off its little head and arms and legs and skin with a little squeamishness (sorry little crawfish) and had a bite. They were definitely good, really buttery and garlicky but too much work for me to have a ton so I just had a few.
We sat and talked for a bit while we finished our drinks and around 12:30ish we headed down the street toward a club that someone's host sister had told us about. Lucky for me and my sleepiness and my nerves, evidently 12:30 is not a hopping time for Spanish clubs. Once we saw that it looked like practically no one was inside we decided to go home for the night and try another time. I got home, talked on skype for awhile, and was out until the morning!
I am going to truncate this here, but I will talk about my exciting Saturday at the beach in the next post! Weee! Thanks for reading!
Thank you to the Helen Barr Rudin Grant for making this blog and my adventures abroad possible*