Monday, May 30, 2011

First Day of School

Went to bed at 12am, and as able to sleep pretty well. Woke up at 7am. I don't think I'm jet lagged at all anymore. Breakfast was corn flakes and sterilized milk. The milk is heated to around 150 C for a few seconds, it tastes different then the milk I'm used to but still pretty good. Breakfast is basically non-existent in Spain, I think our house mom serves it to us as more of a courtesy. I ate as much as possible because I knew I wouldn't be eating again until around 2pm.

The metro is about a 5 minute walk from our apartment. We take the number six to the number seven in order to get to school, pretty basic stuff and we haven't screwed it up yet. From there you can take a short cut to Nebrija or you can take the long way. I think you need to have lived in Spain for about 10 years before you are comfortable enough with the streets to take the short cut. I took the long way.

I now understand what people mean when they talk about being physically tired of listening to Spanish. Orientation was almost entirely in Spanish, they talked very fast, and I had to concentrate extremely hard to catch everything. Sometimes I would catch myself drifting off and have to force myself to pay attention. Its not like not paying attention in english where you can zone in and out as you please, always being able to tell whats going on. If you zone out in spanish you have to wait a little bit before you can tell whats going on. I'm hoping in another week it won't matter and I can just listen passively like I would in english.

We took a break half way through orientation for "cafe" (coffee) in the cafeteria. As far as I can tell its french press, they essentially give you a shot, with milk if you want. I drank it in about 4 sips and immediately felt jittery. By far the strongest coffee I've ever had.

We ate lunch at the cafeteria in the university. It was some kind of salmon sandwich, spanish tortillas, a meat I didn't recognize and sangria. It is extremely common for them to drink alcohol with meals, and doesn't bother me one bit. All the food was very good as well.

On the metro ride home this lady walked in our car and started giving a speech. Initially I didn't have any idea what she was talking about so naturally I paid attention. A few seconds into her speech I noticed everyone else was avoiding eye contact. As I listened more it became clear that she was a homeless person asking for money. I didn't give her any money but I assume she makes more on the metro then she would in the US on a street corner. People come in and out of the metro every stop and if the police see her she can just stop talking. She just has to pay one euro to get on the metro and she can stay there all day asking for money if she wants.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

First Day

Some interesting, non spanish related things first:

Got off the plane in Charlotte and met up with Jake (another guy in the program). He mentioned there was a Barcelona soccer game on soon, and that it should be playing at the airport bar. We head over to the "Fox Sports Skybox Bar" where everything is Fox Sports Net (tm) themed. After ordering our food we ask the waitress if she can put on the game, she says no, to which we tell her its on Fox Sports, to which she replies "Oh, we don't get Fox Sports here". Something to do with the satellite I guess.

Eventually I went to a news stand and picked up a "Dream Water". It comes in a small bottle like 5 hr energy, but is supposed to help you relax and fall asleep. I had my doubts but it worked like a charm. Slept probably seven of the eight hours on the flight.

Got off the plane in Madrid, picked up my luggage (with no problems thankfully) and headed outside baggage claim. There Teresa (our host family) was waiting for us. We took the bus back to her place. Along the way, in very broken Spanish, we started talking to her. Although I can usually grasp the important ideas of what she is saying I only understand about half of what comes out of her mouth. Its a combination of vocabulary I've never heard and verb tenses I don't remember. Extremely nice lady though, very funny.

Her apartment is on the 9th floor of a building right next door to a large park in Madrid called "Retiro". The apartment is large in terms of actual space but small in terms of the layout. Everything is compact from her dish washer to her kitchen table. Everything is only as big as it needs to be to function. It doesn't feel cramped though. There are five rooms, I share a double with a guy named Jack. We arguably have the best room in the house as we have the only other balcony besides her, over looking the city (see pic below).

She cooks us three meals a day, and does our laundry. The food is awesome and I hate doing laundry.

After lunch we decided to explore the park (Parque Ritero). "Park" is a bad name for it, really its a giant collection of everything spanning a few square miles. There are gypsies trying to sell you "healing herbs" and people selling fake DVDs/Glasses/Bags that all scatter when the police come by.

There is a building called the "Palacio de Cristal" (Crystal Palace) which is pretty interesting. Its basically a big glass building resembling a green house with a steep slide in it. I'm sure there is some historical significance (the building, not the slide) but all we saw was little kids going down the slide. Speaking of which, its incredibly weird to hear little kids speak spanish, I don't know why.

Dinner is served at 9pm here, which is hard since I usually eat dinner at 4:30pm haha. Then my first day of school tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Hello World

I'm heading to Spain on Saturday for six weeks. I'll hopefully post about stuff I do there on this blog.