A Travellerspoint blog

Friend Dates & How I Know I Can Never Be a Private Detective

Current Anxiety Rating: 2

sunny 83 °F

Hey there everybody,

It is Sunday, and you know what time it is? Blogpost Time!

Another week of school has come and gone in a flash. Despite the fact that the trip to the Arab bath house that my friends and I had planned for this weekend fell though, I ended up having a really good weekend. Our host mom was out to town, visiting friends in Madrid, so Jenni and I had the house to ourselves. And we got pretty rebellious. We sat on the couches *Gasp!* We watched tv *Good Heavens!* And we even ate dinner while watching tv *Faints* It was stupendous! And if I was full, I could stop eating. *The Luxury!* (Side Note: And none of this is to say that our host mom is crazy or overbearing. She is awesome and is an amazing cook! It was just nice to have a little more freedom and not feel like you have someone over your shoulder all the time.)

Basically, we just loafed around on Friday. On Saturday, though, we had a mission! One of our friends from the program was going on a date with someone from here that she had been talking for awhile, and she wanted some backup just in case anything went wrong. Essentially, in case he turned out to be an axe murder or misogynist. You know, normal stuff. Now, originally, there was a big group of us that were going to subtly (read: not subtly), follow them around from a distance. Unfortunately, the cold that was going around at the school had other ideas. By the time Saturday evening rolled around, there were only two of us healthy and reporting for duty. It turns out that the only other person who could come was someone I had really never actually talked to and now I was expected to kill four hours with. Cue Alison being socially awkward. Luckily, I had heard she was super nice and we were united by a common purpose...who promptly disappeared into the crowd and didn't tell us were she was. Yay!

So much for keeping us updated. We picked a direction the general direction we had seen her walking and followed vague directions she had sent us, saying she was "headed toward the fountain by the gelato place." Now if you haven't been to Granada, let me explain something. There is practically a gelato place on every corner and fountains are about as common as you would expect in Europe. So the two of us just wound or way through the throngs of people as best we could in the direction she had indicated. We decided to keep walking toward the end of the road and made some small talk joking about how bad it was that we had already lost the person we were trying to keep from getting kidnapped. When the road ended there was nothing that we could really do but wait. After loitering around for about 15 minutes, we finally got word that she was alive and well still and more than that, wanted to abort the plan and just meet up after her date.

That was fine with me. Well, after I ascertained that it was not the wile kidnapper trying to throw us off his trail. I was starved. So my fellow failed-detective and I wandered around trying to find somewhere to eat. We finally did and plopped down and we ended up talking for hours! No problems. It was great to get out of my normal bubble and talk to someone new. Also, she was just super enthusiastic about being in Granada.

It just nice to talk to someone who is so in love with the city. It gave me sort of a nudge and reminded me to be in the moment. I find that sometimes, probably too often, I am counting down the days until I'm home, planning for the future when I should in the present. It is easy to forget at 8AM when you are walking to class what a wonderful place you are in and what a privilege it is to be here. So I am going to give myself a kick in the pants and really try to make these last 8 or so weeks of here count! I am hoping to organize a time for me to volunteer every week and get myself an intercambio buddy (a native speaker who helps you with your Spanish in exchange for help with their English).

Wish me luck! And I will keep you posted on my progress!

Afectuosamente,

Alison

As always, thank you to the Helen Barr Rudin Grant for making this blog and my adventures abroad possible*

Posted by TrixiStella 13:43 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Settling In, Part Deux or Dos or Zwei if You Prefer

Anxiety Rating: 2

sunny 74 °F

Why hello there,

Although this isn't another flashy and exciting blog entry about sleeping on airport chairs, this week I thought I would mix it up and delve into the "study" half of study abroad to give you a little sneak peek into life as a student in Spain. As the title suggests, I am finally setting in to the new groove here in Granada. That may sound surprising considering that I have been here for a month and a half (What more could there be to settle into!?) but about two weeks ago, my language intensive month ended, meaning the training wheels are off and we are now being thrust into the exciting and slightly intimidating world of college courses.

I passed my final exam for the language month therefore I was eligible to take the Hispanic Studies courses. Way back in May or June, I selected my classes for each possible level I could test into, each with different requirements and electives; for Hispanic Studies, I got to choose four electives and I was assigned one mandatory course. I don't remember if I ever filled you all in on what classes I selected, but I am taking "Teaching Spanish in Bilingual Schools," "Contemporary Spanish Literature," "History of Spanish Music," "Image of Women in Spanish Literature," and a required writing/speaking intensive class. All taught in Spanish, of course. I will be taking these five classes from now through the end of December. (Which is weird because that means we only have ten weeks left! What?!)

As of this weekend, I have officially survived my first full week of school! EEP! The first week was immediately followed by a four day weekend, so I don't have a whole lot to be stressed about. Overall, I am definitely enjoying my classes. They work a little differently here than they do at home as one would imagine. First, there are the basics: At Lawrence, I take three classes for an hour each if they are on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, or for two hours each if they are on Tuesday and Thursday. Here though, I am taking five classes that are two hours each, but I only take each class twice a week. We also have most Fridays off. One major change as a result of this new schedule is my commute. Since I started my five classes, it has doubled from about 40 minutes (walking) to and from class to closer to 80. Every day. Very foreign for someone who was used to griping about walking the five minutes across campus to the cafeteria. (Though, to be fair, when I complain, it is usually below zero outside) And what's more, I like it! The insanity! I think the "Europe" is getting to me!

The two hour classes, though, have taken some adjustment, mostly just to train my ears to listen for that long in a completely different language. It can be overwhelming at times! Especially when most of the class seems to have caught the joke your professor muttered offhandedly in Spanish and I totally didn't, leaving me to frantically mutter to the person next to me, "What did she say about socks?" Fortunately, this hasn't been too much of a problem, I think, in part because I have been in Spain for long enough now that my proficiency has improved somewhat. Also, classes are currently in the exposition stage, getting us all grounded in the various histories, theories, and terminology that we will need as a base before we are off to the races, so that can be a bit boring and make the two hours drag more than usual. I shouldn't complain, though, because it is infinitely more interesting than sitting in one class for four hours, five days a week learning about grammar like we did in the intensive month.

Another bonus is that I have significantly less homework and major projects for my five classes than I usually have for my three at Lawrence. Two of my five professors don't even give finals, and in all of my classes, I only have one major project or paper each for the whole term. Very different from what I am used to!

  • **

I am going to truncate this post here, mostly because I can't think of what else to write about regarding school, but also because I gave you that mammoth of a post last week. If you guys have any questions about study abroad classes that I didn't answer, feel free to ask me in the comments! Thanks for reading and happy Monday!

Afectuosamente,

Alison

Thank you to the Helen Barr Rudin Grant for making this blog and my adventures abroad possible*

Posted by TrixiStella 01:58 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Planes, Delays, and Automobiles

Current Anxiety Rating: 2 ... Trip Anxiety Average: 4.5

sunny 75 °F

Hello Everybody,

First off, sorry for the long hiatus! I am still alive and well. Don't worry! As for the reason for my long absence: I went on a trip last weekend to Bilbao and Barcelona and didn't get back until midnight the night before my first day of school. Thus, lacking sleep and sanity, I judged it best to wait until this weekend to regale you all with the tales of my trip. While I was gone, I kept travel journal which I present for you now as semi-coherent account of my trip! I hope you enjoy it! (Also it is sort of long, so bear with me!)

...

11:30PM--September 26th: Malaga

I am currently in the Malaga airport, waiting to go through security...which we can't do until 4 am. Yes. Four and a half hours from now. Don't worry though. I slept for 20 minutes on the bus ride here, so obviously I am going to be fine. Upon arrival, we were informed, to our surprise, that we wouldn't be let though security until three hours prior to our flight. So here we sit. We have taken refuge at Starbucks, the only restaurant in the airport that doesn't close, an American embassy of sorts. Even so, I am under no illusions that I will get a good nights sleep. This is probably not the best news in the world since the day before I left, I was walloped by the beginnings of a cold, which is definitely still alive and well. Sinus pressure, stuffy noise, headache, sore throat. This is what we in the business call "The whole nine yards." (What is the business to which I am referring you ask? I don't know. I got about five good hours of sleep last night and my brain is pulsating like a Spanish discoteca, so I am kind of just blathering what ever pops into it)

3:30AM--September 27th: Malaga

Woooo...So I have gotten a total of about an hour and a half worth of sleep on five Starbucks chairs (See below) that comprised by bed. More comfortable than the floor, but I don't think the Holiday Inn will be adopting it anytime soon. I am hoping that I will be able to sleep a bit more when we get through security. In other news, it is raining in doors. The skylights in the airport are currently functioning as an impromptu water feature and the airport staff seems less perturbed than one would imagine, but that could be because it is almost 4AM and they are all half asleep. Also, the kindly gentleman at the Starbucks gave me some free hot water, so I am now in the process of making some tea to soothe my throat. Hopefully it will cool in time for me to drink some before we go through security!

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(That's Leah and I sleeping in the Malaga airport. I'm the one on the right)

1:55PM--September 27th: Bilbao

I am currently laying in a bed! You read that right! An actual bed. I am probably minutes from kicking consciousness to the curb for a few hours, but lemme catch you up on what happened between my last entry and now.

We made it though security with only minor delays and immediately made our way to another American sanctuary of peace: Burger King. (Interestingly, Burger King seems to be bigger than McDonalds abroad. Who would've thunk it?) You may laugh but at 4:15ish in the morning, running on an hour and a half of sleep, the empty booths of Burger King were a beautiful sight indeed. All three of us laid out end to end on a long wall booth and I was dead to the world for another hour and fifteen minutes or so. I can only imagine what we all looked like. A half an hour after waking up and one over priced salad later, we finally received our gate information, and twenty or so minutes after that we had all piled into the plane like sardines. I hadn't really felt any jitters of anxiety until we got on the plane and were waiting to take off, but luckily, my sleepiness got the best of me before I could spiral too far. I immediately fell asleep for the duration of the flight, or at least until our captain announced that we were almost to Bilbao. And by almost, he meant twenty or so minutes away but potatoe, pot-A-toe. After the mad rush to disembark, we made our way to the exit and managed to find the correct bus to take us into town. Upon entering the city, the bus breezed right past the Guggenheim which looked all wonderful and mysterious, rising out of the early morning mist. It was a very cool moment, let me tell you.

Shortly after that, we disembarked from the bus and found that locating the hostel from there was a bit more challenging. We meandered around a bit but find it we did. We didn't linger long there, though. Also, as it turned out, in our dorm for 10, we are evidently the only ones booked for the weekend. So you know what that means!? You get a bunk bed! YOU get a bunk bed! EVERYBODY gets a BUNK BED! To think, yesterday, I had no beds and now I have two!

Anywho, after getting our bearings and dropping off our packs, we decided to knock out the Guggenheim. From our hostel, it took about 15 or 20 minutes to walk there but the view was amazing. The architecture of the building is truly jaw-dropping (See pictures below!). When we got there, we were a little disappointed to find out that the second floor was closed off leaving only the first and the third, but we got over that pretty darn quickly. The exhibits were super cool and the ones on the first floor were interactive. By the time we got to the art through ages section, though, I was fading fast (bear in mind we had been there for about two hours and were all running on max 3 hours of sleep). So we boogied out of there to grab some lunch and some sleep back at the hostel. On our way back, we found a grocery store that sold Bocadillos (sandwiches on baguettes) for only one euro! And my heart, stomach, and bank account all rejoiced together. So we headed back to the hostel with our loot, and that brings us back to right around now!

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(Guggenheim from afar)
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(View from the back patio of the Guggenheim)
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(Cool reflective Guggenheim sculpture)

2:56PM--September 28th: Bilbao

Hey there. It is right around 3PM and we just got back from poking around the Casco Viejo section of Bilbao. The Casco Viejo is the oldest section of the city of Bilbao and it is located about half an hour plus walk from our hostel. It has some of the same stone and metal architecture typical of Granada but it is infinitely more colorful. Instead of just the whites and browns, there are vibrant reds and oranges and blues splashed across the buildings! Even though it was sort of an overcast day, it just seemed so bright and alive. (See photos below) There were tons of little shops selling knickknacks and tons more fruterías and panederías than in the new section of the city (fruit and bread stores respectively, so right up my alley). There were also tons of people out and about because it was a Saturday morning. We weaved about taking in the amazing architecture and snapping tons of photos along the way. I really do like Bilbao. It is so lush and green compared to Granada. Don't get me wrong, Granada has the Sierra Nevadas right there, but for me, the dry climate and the city overwhelm it and block out that outdoorsy feel. In Bilbao, there are green spaces everywhere and the mountains are ever-present around the city, like a beautiful verdant backdrop. It reminded me a lot of home and made me fond of Bilbao very quickly. Today is also my one month anniversary of being in Spain, and it is exciting to spend it exploring more of it.

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(Evidence of aforementioned greenery)

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2:25PM--September 29th:

I am currently sitting outside and enjoying a lovely afternoon in Bilbao, my last in fact (or at least for now). I can't believe the last two days have gone so fast! We left our hostel this morning at around 10 after some breakfast and we grabbed a few more 1 Euro bocadillos for some cheap lunches on the go. We then set out to find our bus stop. It was along the same route we took the previous day to get to the Casco Viejo, so the general area wasn't hard to find, but selecting which of the 4 or so (marked and unmarked) bus stops on the plaza would take us to the airport was a little more difficult. After some general surveying, we ducked into a cafe for a snack. We stopped at Café y Té which is basically the equivalent of a Panera Bread in the United States (or a St. Louis Bread Co., etc, what have you). Not super exciting but cheap and it meant we could use the bathrooms. Weeee! We sat an snacked and talked there for over an hour killing some time before we were finally turned back out onto the plaza to puzzle out which was our stop. It took some doing but we were finally able to find out after asking a bus driver (Imagine!). With that settled an it only being around 1PM, we decided to kill some more time sitting in the plaza. This only lasted so long before we got antsy once more and decided that we would trek back to the grocery store with the cheap bocadillos to buy some more for our lunch in Barcelona. Fast forward about 30 minutes of walking time and 10 or so minutes of buying food time, and here we are. We decided to have our lunch down by the river that runs right through the middle of Bilbao. There were some shady benches (on such we are occupying now) and even a bit of a breeze. Not exactly sure how we are going to kill the next three and a half or so hours until our bus without pain to our feet or wallets but we shall see!

7:32PM--September 29th: Bilbao

Waiting again, surprise surprise! This time to fly to Barcelona. We held out as long as we could before finally deciding that we had had enough walking around with our packs. Around 4PM or so we caught a bus to the airport. We have been putzing for...about three and half hours. About an hour ago one of the planes to Barcelona got delayed. It was an earlier flight than ours though by the same airline, so we are just a little nervous. Our flight isn't supposed to leave until 10:30 and we will arrive at 11:30PM in Barcelona, which is late enough as it is and we aren't real excited at the prospect of trying to find our way to the hostel even later. Two flights to Malaga are also delayed so we are a little apprehensive, crossing our fingers that the same doesn't happen to us too.

9:50PM--September 29th: Bilbao

Well, of course we got delayed.

1:30AM--September 30th: Barcelona

We have finally made it to the hostel and gotten settled in. Our flight was delayed, though only by a half an hour but if you add bus transportation time to that we didn't end up getting here until almost 1AM. Naturally, as soon as I got on the flight, I passed out and slept for the duration. After the plane landed, we all disembarked and were taken by bus to the terminal. We managed to find our way with the rest of the masses to the bus pick up section-y thingy. We ambled on up there ready to be home and the bus driver told us that tickets cost 5.90 Euros. Uff-da! But at that point what could we do? They knew it, we knew it. So we paid the fee and plopped down. We got dropped off at a plaza near our hostel about 20 ish minutes later, at night, in Barcelona, and I was definitely sure I was going to get stabbed, or stolen and sold...Just kidding. Sort of. It might have been the sleepiness talking. Luckily for me, neither of those things ended up happening and the worst thing we had to endure was the cab driver's withering stare when we asked for directions. We made it to the hostel and got paid up and shuffled off to bed.

7:40PM--September 30th: Barcelona

To carry on this century (read: days) old tradition of writing in airports, I shall relay to you the enthralling tale of our adventures in Barcelona as I wait for my flight back to Granada. Despite the fact that we had less than 24 hours to check out Barcelona, Jenni and I had a really awesome time. We started our morning off with some breakfast at the hostel which they gave us free tickets to the night before (I suspect our bedraggled appearance made them feel bad for us or maybe they could sense we just paid almost 6 euro for a bus ride...). Naturally, being the penny pincher that I am, I squirreled away inappropriate amount of fruit from the buffet into my pack. No shame. We then saddled up and began making our way to the Picasso Museum! As we left the hostel, it was drizzling slightly but as we continued to walk it started to rain harder. Not necessarily a downpour though. That would be too obvious. It was more of just an insistently average amount of rain for the entirety of duration of our 40 + minute walk that slowly drives you crazy...So that was fun. And we didn't find the Museum in one go. With our map soaked just enough to be just south of helpful, we kept asking passersby to point us in the right direction. After asking about 4 different people, we finally made it. We had made the smart decision to buy our tickets online so we got to skip the enormous line forming outside the museum and go right in.

The museum was located in a really beautiful old building and set up Picasso's works chronologically, so you could see how his style gradually started to change. Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to take any pictures so I can't show you any of my favorites, but trust me, it was incredible to see in person. After we finished at the museum, we decided to check out a free tour we had heard about at the hostel. Finding the plaza was a bit of a mess once again because we hadn't taken the most straight forward route to the Museum and our map wasn't in the best shape, so we meandered about until we found it. I wasn't so sure about the tour at first because we had been on our feet by that point for about three hours and the tour itself lasted at least 2.75 hours, but with some encouragement, I agreed. I was definitely glad I did. Our tour guide was this bouncy British guy Billie, completely zany and enthusiastic in that way that is infectious and endearing. He was definitely a little bit crazy though. He lead our group of about 20 or so people around the city, regaling with stories of dancing Jesuses, virgins in trees, and decapitation. So there was something for everyone. We really did end up seeing a lot of the city while we were there, and despite the less than stellar begining to the day, I really enjoyed myself, thanks in large part to our tour guide.

After the tour, he pointed us in the direction of the nearest bus stop back to the airport and we headed off to grab a little snack and be on our way. We made it to the bus (which again, required 6 euro as well as the promise of our first born child in the form of payment...or at least it felt like that). And now, here we are! Relaxing in the Barcelona airport! And hoping my plane doesn't get delayed!

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8:10PM--Septembr 30th: Barcelona:

Of course, we got delayed.

Note: This was the only real time that my anxiety kicked in. And it wasn't so much anxiety as in captial-F freakout but more like irritability combined with some mild anxiety because I had class the next morning. My first class of the new term. At 8:30 AM. And my host mom had dinner waiting for us. And we still would have to catch a bus into Granada and walk home. I was also just overstimulated in that way people sometimes get after vacations, after tons of new people, new places, shared spaces, and lack of alone time. In the end, we were supposed to get home around 11PM but didn't end up getting back until practically midnight. I wolfed down dinner and threw myself myself into bed.

...

Phew! So that was my trip in its entirety. Overall, my trip was really amazing and a huge success considering it was the first extended trip I have gone on without the help of our program. Thank you for listening to me blather on about it and I hope you come back to listen to me blather on some more next week!

Afectuosamente,

Alison

Thank you to the Helen Barr Rudin Grant for making this blog and my adventures abroad possible*

Posted by TrixiStella 11:25 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Alison's Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very-Bad Day

Current Anxiety rating: 2....Previous anxiety rating: 6

sunny 78 °F

Thursday was not a happy day.

It certainly started out happy, though. Nothing foreboding or ominous to signal that anything was amiss. It was your typical Thursday. I went through my normal wake-up, go to class, come home for lunch routine. When we got home, Jenni and I were taking a peek at some flights for a possible trip to Northern Spain the following week when our host mom walked in. She asked about where we were thinking about going and asked to see the flights and the prices.

Immediately, when she started looking at them, she got excited and started telling us in rapid-fire Spanish that we had to buy them! And we had to buy them now! They were too good to pass up! To be fair, one of the flights was listed at 10 euro, so her excitement was understandable. I quickly did some quick math and conversions and found out that three flights, one from Malaga to Bilbao, one from Bilbao to Barcelona, and one from Barcelona back to Granada, only would end up costing me a little under 200 dollars. My host mom kept trying to explain how we should organized the trip and what flights would be the best, again all in rapid-fire Spanish. I usually understand her pretty darn well but because I was a little overwhelmed by all this happening so fast, my comprehension was taking a hit. When I did admit that I didn't understand what she had just said and I asked a clarifying question, she crinkled her eyebrows at me, and proceeded to explain everything again (not necessarily slower or more clearly but definitely louder) mostly to my roommate. In addition to feeling a bit overwhelmed, I felt a wee bit stupid as well because I still didn't understand what she was saying. I finally had to just ask my roommate in English to explain, and it turns out I had understood what she had said the first time, and when I asked her to clarify she had took that to mean I didn't understand any of it. So, add my frustration to the mix and stir thoroughly.

She finally left us to buy our tickets, and I realized when I was buying the first one that there would be a 30 euro charge on top of each of my tickets because I was paying with a card online (I am not quite sure how they expect you to do it and suspect it might be just another way to squeeze us for money). I started to get a little freaked out because my two hundred dollar trip was now up to three hundred dollars. After I bought the last of the three tickets, I had a moment of panic. What had I just done!? Earlier in the week, I had paid for a 350 dollar roundtrip ticket to Florence and I hadn't even booked hostels for either of my trips. My hopes of keeping my travel expenses under 600 dollars disappeared in a blip. The type of panic that usually comes when I spend large amounts of money snuck in. And by that, I mean, a raging tension headache commenced and I started to feel like I was going to cry. (On the bright side, these symptoms indicate that any expensive spending tendencies I may have will be minimal).

After we bought our tickets, it was time for lunch and I tried to squash down the vaguely sick, cry-ey feeling with the lentil soup my host mom had made us for lunch (For those of you wondering, it is not the best thing to squash down feelings of sickness). After lunch I started to relax a bit finally and decided that you know, what's done is done and I will do my best to be frugal with everything else....

Of course that couldn't be the end of that, now could it?

Just after Jenni had left to go volunteer, I went back to the booking page to write down my confirmation numbers and my flight routings. Everything was fine until I got to my second booking. My heart dropped to the ground floor of the 7 floor apartment building when I realized my first mistake. I had selected the wrong airport to fly into! When you search Bilbao on the bargain flight website, it turns up results for two airports: Bilbao and Santander. I had selected Santander (which is an hour away from the Bilbao airport). But of course, that wasn't my only mistake. In an effort to realize how I had made such a massive mistake I realized that the reason I had been so confused is because I clicked on the last Monday in October rather than the last Monday in September, and the flight was the same price as the one I was supposed to select, so little old me, in a rush and not thinking twice, bought that one. Yep. So not only did I select to fly into the wrong airport, but I selected the completely wrong date at time. Yay.

With my host mom sleeping and my roommate gone, I didn't know what to do. I sent out some frantic emails to the budget airline search we booked through and tried to look up a number to call. The first email I sent, after specifically reading I should send wrong date/ time bookings to that particular email address, returned a result that the mailbox wasn't active. I sent three more emails as I tried to stave off panic before I left. The day before I had arranged to walk around with a few friends who were going shoe shopping. I need a distraction until I could get some answers, so I went.

And before I knew it I was heading home again. When I got home, my host mom was on the phone, so I couldn't ask her what to do. I tried to sort it out with my dad, who told me finally that I should just call. I got through to someone on the budget airline website phone number, but she told me that I needed to call the airline because it was going to have to be a completely new booking. She gave me the number and wished me luck. The next thing I did was try that line, but my phone said that I wasn't allowed to complete the call as dialed. I tried with area code, I tried without, and when that didn't work I cried some more. After that I tried the airline's website, but naturally, in order to request a change you need your flight number which in my crazed state I could not find for the life of me. I tried to blubber out exactly what had happened to my dad on the phone and was in the middle of that when my host mom walked in. Have I mentioned how much I love crying in front of practical strangers?

After she talking briefly to Jenni about how her first day of volunteering went, her eyes landed on me. Me, a mess, red-eyed, hair crazy, tears everywhere. She immediately asked what was wrong and I did my best to explain in a bit of bungled Spanish what had happened. To her credit, she actually understood me even though I'm sure my weird crying voice was less than completely intelligible. I told her the number hadn't worked on my phone, so she offered to call for me which was really nice considering the charges they have on some of those phone lines. She got through and the person she talked to directed her to another line. On the last line, though, they informed her that changes are only accepted two hours after the booking is made (*exasperated sigh*) and I wouldn't be able to get any of my money back.

Weirdly, I was oddly relieved. Not by the fact that I had to spend 40 more euros, but I was relieved to know what I had to do. After she got off the phone, I thanked her profusely and quickly went on to snag another ticket as well as to make sure, for the 100th time since I had realized my first snafu, that all my other tickets were in order. (They were. Thank god.)

After that we went off to have dinner and my host mom tried to cheer me up with a story about a former study abroad student who stayed with her that involved dead siblings and a private jet (Yes, it was a roller coaster all the way though). She also went on to repeatedly assure me that mix-ups like mine happen to everyone. And I finally settled in for the evening, exhausted. And wouldn't you know it, not an hour before I went to bed, I realized the ring that I had bought a week or so prior as my one souvenir was missing. I looked everywhere. The floor of my room, the bathroom floor, the hallway, my laundry bag. No luck. I was beside myself. I was completely convinced that I had washed it down the drain in the bathroom. It was definitely a class-A end to the day. I decided I was giving up on Thursday and went to bed.

It was definitely the worst day that I have had since my first day in Madrid when I had my panic attack, but it wasn't all a wash. I was able to book all my flights and get everything figured out in the end, no matter how messy it was, and the next day, right after I assured myself that I could buy myself something else to commemorate my trip to Spain, I found my ring as I was cleaning out my shelves in the closet. I have my fingers crossed that my host mom was right when she said that I got all my bad travel luck out of the way in one fell swoop. If so, I was really just being efficient I suppose.

.....

And that is the story of my Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very-Bad Day. Thanks for caring enough to keep up with all of my adventures and flubs, and I will hopefully have a less disastrous story to share next week!

Afectuosamente,

Alison

Thank you to the Helen Barr Rudin Grant for making this blog and my adventures abroad possible*

Posted by TrixiStella 03:51 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Alison in Granada-land

Current Anxiety Level: 2

sunny 87 °F

Hello all!

My second week in Granada has officially come to a close, friends, and as it is Sunday morning and I am feeling no motivation to get up currently, I thought I would update the blog! Not only did I turn twenty one this week but I also hiked/ walked more than 10 miles on Friday in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and went to my first Spanish club (briefly) last night!

Turning twenty-one abroad was definitely weird and wonderful for a multitude of reasons. For one thing, the drinking age in Spain, as in most of Europe, is 18, so it takes the thrill out of ordering a glass of wine to celebrate. In the US, I will probably get carded regularly until I am at least 30, but here, the waiters and waitresses couldn't care less. The drinking culture is so different here, especially coming from a place like Wisconsin. The objective isn't to get as drunk as humanly possible so you can tell your friends, "Oh my god! Last night was so crazy! I barely remember anything!" Here, you have a glass of wine or two when out with your friends. You have a few drinks when you go out to a club to dance, but the aim isn't getting drunk so you can dance, you are just drinking a bit while you are dancing. (And this is all spread out over a period of like 6+ hours, because most Spaniards who go out do so from like 10:30pm until like 4:30am if not til later.) So for me, the transition to more relaxed drinking culture of Spain has been easy. (Trying to stay awake long enough to experience the night life? That is another story)

Overall, I had a nice low key birthday. My host mom surprised me with a gift and a card when I got home for lunch, which was incredibly thoughtful of her. Otherwise, it was pretty normal day. Jenni and I went out for tapas and a drink after dinner, and she pick up the tab for me, which is evidently Spanish birthday tradition. And then we were home by 12:30. I know. Very crazy. Watch out world. But it was nice. Not being home, it didn't really feel like my birthday, so I would have felt weird doing anything insanely extravagant.

Ironically, despite all this, I still missed class the next day.

I woke up Friday morning feeling perfectly fine but as the morning progressed I just started to feel awful. I felt achey all over and light headed and tired, and I had no idea why. The previous night I only had one drink and that was at 11pm and I had felt fine the rest of the night. I hadn't gotten to bed until 1 or a little after, but that was pretty typical of my nights in Spain and I hadn't had any issues so far…but for whatever reason, I was not feeling my best. I tried to push through it. I grabbed all my stuff, ate my breakfast, thinking that maybe with some food in my stomach the feeling would pass, and took some tylenol for good measure before Jenni and I started walking to school.

After the first half a mile, I knew there was no point in staying for class, but I kept walking because I wanted to let my professor know why I wasn't coming. Of course, she knew the previous day had been my 21st birthday, and I didn't want her to think that I was one of those people who got insanely drunk on a weeknight and bailed on class the next day. This combined with the fact that I generally hating missing class because I associate it with when I first started to have anxiety. (Side Note: My anxiety and panic disorder became more pronounce in high school when I started having panic attacks in my classes, so I would often need to leave or would end up not going altogether. So I only like to miss class when I have a really, really good reason. Like if my arm falls off, which luckily hasn't happened yet...But I digress)

I found my professor relatively quickly upon arrival and started to explain that I wasn't feeling well and maybe I would stay for the first hour before going home. Before I even got the last bit out, she interrupted saying, "Just go home, it's fine, it's fine." I explained a little further, at a loss to explain why I was feeling so gross, and she just said pragmatically sometimes these thing happen for no reason and I should go home and rest.

With that out of the way, I didn't feel guilty about going home. I got home a little after nine and slept another two and a half hours and just laid around in bed until lunch alternating between putzing on my computer and falling in and out of sleep. But lunch time I started walking around and moving to see if the feeling had passed because Jenni and I and a few other students had planned on going for a hike that afternoon and I didn't want to miss it. I gave it though lunch before deciding that the morning had been a fluke and combination of a bunch of things together like stress, lack of sleep, etc. So I decided to go.

After lunch, Jenni and I met up with our friends at one of the main Plazas so we could all find the bus stop together. The town where the trail is located is about twenty minutes outside of Granada by bus. Of course, what our program director hadn't told us when we asked is that the road to get to the trail is a steep, windy road that goes on for a bit more than a mile. So that was an exciting surprise. By the time we had found the marker that pointed us to the side road that lead us to the trail (another 15 minutes, but in the shade this time and not all up hill) we were all sweating up a storm. And we still had about a three hour hike ahead of us. Also it turns out that the map our director had drawn us was more than a little ambiguous ("Turn right by the restaurant and the farm but if you hit the parking lot you have gone to far"…Ah yes. The *one* restaurant and the *one* farm) so we did a far bit of asking to make sure we were going in the right direction.

Here are a few pictures of our view from the top of the road:

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Once we made it to the actual trail, it was easy enough, aside from a few confusing places were the trail branched off in two different directions and there was no helpful scarecrow a la Wizard of Oz to point us in the right direction. So we just picked one and that ended up working out surprisingly well for us. The trail wound around next to a river that started off a small offshoot but grew as we progressed. A few of us decided to dunk various items of clothing or hats in to stay cool, and thus I passed the majority of the three hour journey with a wet scarf haphazardly draped around my head/ neck. Very fashionable indeed.

The trail itself was an adventure. At times, there was plenty of space on the path, but other times we were inching around a narrow path next to the river. The drop off was only about 5 or 6 feet, but still it wouldn't have been a fun tumble, so we alternately ducked, crouched, swung, and crawled through different parts of the journey. Different sections of the trail were connected by a series of 4 suspension bridges, which were about as cool as they were wobbly and vaguely terrifying.

Here are some of the bridges and the trail itself where aforementioned ducking and crouching occurred:

Bridgey Bridge:
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Trailey Trail:
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Although it was a long walk, it was beautiful. Because we came in the afternoon, we got to see the sun start to hang lower and lower on the rocks, radiating the most vibrant orange. At the end of the trail, there was a small waterfall where you could do a bit of swimming if you were so inclined. The water was about 40 degrees but I waded in with my shoes off and stayed soaking my feel til they started to feel tingly from the cold. We relaxed for a bit there, eating our snacks and talking before we turned around. The walk back was markedly faster, now that we, you know, knew were we were going.
We didn't get back to our homestay until nearly 9 pm that evening (after leaving at 2:15ish) so suffice to say I was exhausted. Also I really had to pee.

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Saturday started off a bit later, which was nice because it gave us some time to recover from the previous day. Our host mom departed in the morning to spend the weekend with her brother and other members of her family, so we were left to our own devices. No, we did not set the building on fire. We are saving that for another time.

Around 3:30, we set out to meet some friends to go shopping. My roommate was convinced that there was an open air market in the old Arab quarters of the city, so we went on a wild goose chase to find it only to conclude that the open air market that we were looking for was the one we passed on the way up (20 minutes prior). So we retreated to look at the little chotchkies for a few hours. Also, Europe fashion alert: Hammer pants (or as my roommate calls them "Genie Pants") are back in. Or at least, they seem to be because they are sold everywhere in the open air market (I have a sneaking suspicion that they appeal so much to the tourists because they are the only pair of pajama pants you can wear outside your room with being socially exiled in Spain). But hammer pants on hammer pants on hammer pants. Enough to make MC Hammer swoon.

We returned to our homestay around 6 for dinner before we would reconvene for tapas at 10:30. And because our house-mom was out, we didn't have to eat until we were about to explode. It was a strange feeling indeed. We tapas-ed (it is not a verb technically but it is one now) for a few hours with our big group discussing important topics like our favorite spongebob quotes (If you ever need an ice breaker, i highly recommend it in all cases, ever). With our drinks, we got some sort of chicken covered in a sweet marinade on top of a piece of bread with some french fries and it was delightful, as free food generally is! After that, we all started walking to the club which was about 15 minutes away. When we got there we realized we were hideously underdressed. Part of the problem was that there was a wedding party that was going to the club as well so imagine us Americans, me in my shorts and Converse sneakers standing next to these tall willowy women in literal ball gowns and heels tall enough to make me wince. By some miracle, after some big guy asked us if we were on the list (I laughed at him before I realized he was serious), we were let in and us ladies didn't even have to pay. Now it was around 1am by that point and we made our way up to the patio that looked out on the Alhambra which was still lit up on the night sky. You would think 1 am would be a pretty hopping time to go to a club, but no. Typically Spanish party life livens up around 2 or 3 and dies down around 6 am. Yeah...no thanks. We danced a little bit before Jenni and I headed back home for the evening. We weren't out too late and I am sure one of these days we will make a real go at it and maybe manage to stay awake for the full nine yards, but we shall see.

Alrightey, I shall wrap this up! But again, I say it every post but I mean it sincerely, thank you so much for reading and caring enough to take a peek!

Afectuosamente,

Alison

Thank you to the Helen Barr Rudin Grant for making this blog and my adventures abroad possible*

Posted by TrixiStella 12:40 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

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