A Travellerspoint blog

September 2014

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:

DSCN1241

DSCN1241

DSCN1239

DSCN1239

DSCN1238

DSCN1238

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:
DSCN1265

DSCN1265

Trailey Trail:
DSCN1269

DSCN1269

DSCN1296

DSCN1296

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.

...

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)

About that time I went to Salobreña...

And realized that oceans are, you know, dangerous. Current Anxiety Rating: 2

sunny 88 °F

On Saturday morning, for better or worse, we woke up at around 8, so we could get ready and eat breakfast before we caught our city bus that would take us to the bus station. I hadn't gotten to sleep until almost 2 the night before, so 8 am felt a wee bit early. But I shook it off and got my butt in gear.

The bus stop was easy enough to find, just a few streets down from my homestay. It was just a matter of getting on the right bus. We asked around for some advice and managed to get ourselves on the right one. It took about 20 minutes to get to the bus station and then we met up with our two other friends who were coming to Salobreña as well.

...

As I said before, there is a lot to be said for busy-ness as a solution to anxiety, at least for me. While we were getting up, making breakfast, trying to catch our first bus, etc. that morning I didn't feel anxious at all because I was on the move from one thing to the next. I just didn't have time to think about the fact that I used to get really nervous, and sometimes still do, when I was in enclosed spaces with a lot of people or "stuck" somewhere for many hours at a time without my own means of transportation. It's all sort of a claustrophobia thing. I don't like being stuck places without a way to get out if I need to. It used to be a lot more of an issue, and I was worried it would flare up while in Spain when I went on trips like this. but so far I have been quite lucky and nothing has been as bad as that first day.

....

The bus ride to the beach from the bus station went by super fast, though I had my doubts at first. As soon as we pulled away from the bus station, with every seat filled, a man behind us (who was possibly still drunk from the night before) started singing in a warbly high voice. After about a minute, an older gentlemen started trying to coerce the singing fellow to go to sleep, or at least I think that was what it was. I can't be sure because I think he was speaking Catalan, a dialect from a different region of Spain. Anyway, it must have worked or the guy just passed out of his own accord because after about ten minutes the singing, thankfully, stopped.

After we were dropped off at the bus stop, we managed to find the beach without any issue, again we just asked when we went into a store to make sure we were heading that way. By that time there was also a steady trickle of people in beach attire walking in one direction, so we just followed the general herd. The walk only took about 15 minutes and it was a straight shot. We just kept going on the same street until we ran into water.

Which looked a little something like this!
DSCN1107.jpg

DSCN1110.jpg

DSCN1153.jpg

At the beach we decided to rent two chairs. There were 4 of us and it only cost us about 10 euro for two chairs and umbrella. We got situated and sun screened and then Jenni and I headed down to the surf. There was a decent breeze, so it was relatively comfortable, but that also meant that the waves were sizable. We took a few obligatory pictures of ourselves basking in the sun with the waves around our ankles before we actually really jumped in and when we did, damn was I in for a surprise.

When Jenni and I went back, we wadded in slowly, trying not to lose too much ground to the waves, and failing miserably. We braved one big wave well as well as a few small ones. I briefly turned around to say something to Jenni and when I looked back an enormous wave was bearing down on us.

Before I could do anything, it walloped both of us and I went down so fast I barely knew what was happening. Everything felt like it was everywhere and I felt myself smack into the rocks on my bottom with my face. (They were small rocks, but still, not the most comfortable moment of my life) I got to the top just in time to get walloped by another wave. For the first two, I was pretty relaxed, like "Okay, my bad ocean, I misjudge you; you are scary. Respect." And just kind of waited to fight my way to the top, but by the third or forth one, you could say I was a little panicked.

Jenni and I just sort of scrambled up the beach getting knocked back down every time we tried to wabble into a standing position. I am sure we looked like a mess. My hair was everywhere and my swimsuit was 10 kinds of in the wrong place but 1) it is europe so I am pretty sure no one really bats an eye at that sort of thing and 2) I was more worried about the whole drowning thing.

Luckily for us, we were unscathed and you know, alive. But we decided to give it a rest for a bit before we went anywhere near the water again. In the meantime, we all decided to eat lunch and we sat around for a bit talking. Jenni and I finally went back out but we decided to just sit where the waves came in rather than go all the way in again. That was lovely, and there was no real chance of drowning, though it did seem as though the waves made an honest effort at certain points.

We spent around 6 hours in total at the beach before we started walking back to make sure we could find the bus in time. We were successful, and Jenni and I even managed to get back to our home stay in a timely manner to our house, despite the fact that our bus was a half hour late getting back to the station and the fact that Jenni and I managed to take the city bus two stops too far. But overall, it was a fantastic day! And I managed to only get severely sunburned on one side of my left leg! If that is not a success, I don't know what is!

Thank you for keeping up with my adventures and reading my blog! Keep your eyes peeled for more posts!

Afectuosamente,

Alison

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

Posted by TrixiStella 09:12 Archived in Spain Comments (2)

Things that Makes Spain/ Granada Different From the US

Current Anxiety Rating: 2

sunny 93 °F

Hola readers!

Now that I have been here over a week I feel qualified-ish to come up with a short list of things that definitely set Spain apart from the United States. In case you are interest in that sort of thing. I am obviously using Granada in particular as my frame of reference, but most of these things apply to what I experienced during my short time in Madrid and Toledo as well.

1. Let's start off with something obvious: Practically everything, with the exception of restaurants and larger businesses, closes between about 2 and 6 during the day. Now I am not going to complain because that means I get to take a nap every day after lunch but still, it does mean if you have morning classes until lunch you have to use the window between 6 and dinner (usually 9 pm) to get anything done.

2. Another obvious one: Meals are completely different. Breakfast is more or less at normal time (9am) but lunch usually doesn't start around 2pm when siesta starts. Dinner then often doesn't start until 9 or later. This makes for one hungry Alison. And a hungry Alison is a grumpy Alison. But lucky for me...

3. They sell fruit and bread for practically nothing. Like I can pick up two small rolls for 0.45 euros or like 4 pieces of fruit for 0.70 euros right on my way to school in the morning!

4. Careful, because you may be fed until you actually explode. These Spanish mamas mean business. Just when you think you have everything on the table they come out with another course, and they may be disappointed or displeased of you don't manage to eat it all.

5. Speaking of food related things: Practically everyone is skinny, and when I say everyone, I mean everyone, young people, little kids, middle aged people, and old people. I think this is because...

6. Everyone walks everywhere. Since I have arrived in Spain I have walked anywhere from 2.5 miles (absolute minimum) to 8+ miles a day. This is how they manage to eat so much bread. I understand now.

7. Although otherwise they seem really health conscious, tons of people smoke. People smoke in the street. People smoke in the house. People smoke while walking around with their new babies.

8. Also, driving is completely different. Therefore, being a pedestrian is completely different. I have been standing, waiting to cross the street, and had buses blow by me so close that I could feel them. Cars are no exception. People drive down these tiny little streets that are mostly just sidewalks with road signs and it is a wonder more people aren't run over every year. I definitely need to learn the verb for "to be run over" because it could become useful.

9. Another thing about being a pedestrian: people here have very different notions about pedestrian courtesy. People stop right in the middle of the sidewalk, so suddenly that you want to tell them their break lights are out. People sort of just weave around each other and sometimes they don't even do that. Often they just walk straight at you like it is a game of chicken and the first person to change their course loses (I always lose). People run into you without so much as a "Pardóname." People just have smaller personal bubbles.

10. Additionally, here it is way more common to stare down a passerby as you walk down the street, eat dinner, whatever. And when you make eye contact with people, there is no smiling or nodding politely. Nope, they just keep staring.

11. As I mentioned in a previous post, everyone goes out at night regardless of what day of the week it is. You are likely to see as many people out on a Wednesday as you would in the US on a Friday. And it isn't just young people out until the wee hours of the morning, it's kids and older people, too.

12. Also, all of these people are impeccably dressed and styled regardless of the time of day. No gym shorts here!

13. Also, they accomplish this look with much less shower-time. Because water is expensive in the region I am in, it is common to take 5 minute showers. 10 minutes absolute max. There is no standing under the water and pondering life here unless you can do it incredibly fast and while shampooing. And I don't have that kind of multitasking skill yet.

14. It is normal to see a tons of people wearing long pants or jeans on a 90 degree days. (This confounds me)

15. Despite the heat, many houses don't have air conditioning. Many have fans, but the central air we are used to in the states isn't so popular.

16. Also it is not unusual to see people walking around with bottles of water as long as their forearm. I am now one of those people. It is over 90 degrees so I just accept it.

17. PDA is a thing. I walked through a park the other day and it was just strewn with couples in various stages of making out/ cudding/ etc. It was also 90ish degrees so I was vaguely impressed. And that's just one example.

...

I think that is all for now. Again, these are just a few of the thing I have noticed so far and I am sure there will be more, so I may update this list later!

Again thanks for reading and keep your eye on my blog for more updates!

Afectuosamente,

Alison

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

Posted by TrixiStella 04:28 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Granada: Day 2...And the rest of the week in hyperspeed!

Current Anxiety Rating: 2 (It's a lazy Sunday so there's not much to get too nervous about)

sunny 91 °F

Hi there!

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!

Monday:

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:

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:

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!

Afectuosamente,

Alison

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

Posted by TrixiStella 03:17 Archived in Spain Tagged first week Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 6) Page [1] 2 » Next