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"I fly because it releases my mind from the tyranny of petty things." --Antoine de St-Exupery

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Reembolso Por Favor!

I have just accomplished quite the feat: accidently booking a seat on a bus to Granada for tonight (we're going next week) and having to trek over to the bus station and get my £25 refund. But, I'll start where I left off.

School is really really time consuming. We've had so much work to do over the past few days that I haven't done much else. Our exam yesterday was worth 30% of our grade, but it was also exactly what he showed us as an "example" on Thursday. The only part that I found pretty difficult was the part where we read an article about the economy in Spain and comment on it. I can hardly speak the business language in English let alone in Spanish, so we'll see what comes of that grade.

I've also realized how different this semester will be in terms of school days. I guess I forgot what it was like to live in a home with a family. You go to school, come home, eat, do homework, and hang out with family. Very different from Madison. And apparently it's also very American to go to cafes with friends to study, something that will also be hard to get used to. Today, however, Emily and I went to a cafe called Coffee Corner to plan out some trips, and it was a really good spot, one we think we will be able to do work and not look like total tourists.

My mom will be happy to know that I have tried every food that has been put in front of me. We had a type of artichoke soup one night, some spinach thing with garbanzo beans in it last night, and today had two types of fish, both which looked very strange but ended up being pretty good...not to say I want to have that every single night. They're also easing me into it a little, I think, by making mini hot dogs to go with some fried eggs. We had homemade pizza last night that had ham, peperoni, and, believe it or not, mushrooms. Again, not to say I now want mushrooms on my pizza if I were to have the choice, but I can handle it. And bizcocho. Ohh bizcocho, you will be the death of me. It is basically like a sponge cake, but better. 

So, as I said, Emily and I met up today to plan our first trip and look at our calendars in general. We've decided to go to Granada next Friday-Sunday! Using my guidebook, we now have a hostel that is close to the Alhambra, probably the main attraction of Granada. After comparing prices of transportation, we've booked a round trip bus ticket for pretty cheap.

Then came the mistake. I was plugging in more dates to try and get to a page where I could click on the "See Map" tab to see where we would be dropped in Granada, and somehow I ended up booking a seat for tonight. Major stress factor since that seat was the equivalent of $41 and had already showed up on my online bank account. In my very broken, flustered, Spanish, I called the number provided and they told me I had to go to the bus station I was to be leaving out of. That was a good 40 minute walk away. So, I googled it, wrote down some directions, and headed out (unfortunately having to ditch out on my run). I got there with minor issues, walked up to the window and somehow managed to obtain my reembolso (refund). I didn't say much, mostly just I made a mistake, I don't want this trip, etc, and although I could tell the lady was semi annoyed, I did it. I walked out of there probably the happiest I've been since arriving here.

On the walk home, I was able to actually enjoy the scenery and the start of the sunset. It was gorgeous. In my agitated state, I had forgot to grab my camera, but now I will never forget it again. It was one of those sunsets that has some clouds (fluffy ones), but not enough to obstruct it. And when I was walking through the park, the buildings that it was reflecting off of were amazing. There will obviously be more sunsets, but this one was pretty perfect and came at the right time. (And I made it home before dark, no worries).

Today was one of the nicest days we've had weather wise. It's been in the 40s for a while, which I know is nothing compared to the 3 degrees it's been in Madison, but keep in mind that I packed for warmer weather. Today it got up to 58, I believe, and with one of my new coats (I only bought two), I was perfect. All in all, today was quite the day. I know I can get things done when I need to, but I've also realized how little Spanish I actually know. Just another tourist in a gorgeous city. Hopefully, soon, that will start to change.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Navigation Station

So far the best purchase I have made this trip was a £3 detailed map. The best. I now know how to get to both buildings where I will have class as well as made my way to a few other places without any problems.

We went to the Alcazar this past weekend, which was amazing. It's the oldest palace still in use and the architecture is so intricate. You can see the differences between what the Moros constructed while they were in power versus the Christians. Definitely took me back to Spanish 223 (history class)! Below is a picture of my friend Emily and I there. I then came back home and ate lunch with my family (and the grandma who had a dog..animal time!) and took a nice siesta. After that, we found an American bar (Texas Lonestar) to watch the Packers!! It was super fun because of the win and because there were so many people from both places which made it exciting. And we had big American burgers. I know it's only been a week, but it was still nice to have. We had to pay £15 in order to reserve our seat for the big game, but I figure it's worth it to know we have a reliable place to go. Plus that comes with a couple of beers and wings.

We started school yesterday which was kind of a slap back to reality. I think we all kind of forgot that we had to do work along with getting used to a new life and traveling. We have two exams, a 30 minute group presentation, and three activities (each consisting of three interviews with random people and a 600 word write up), and other homework every night. A bit time consuming, but it will count for a 3 credit class! Then last night I had some good family bonding time. We had what is so far my favorite food: tortilla de patatas. I also had tinto verano which I'd had out before but is very good. It's a drink that is half wine half soda. Muy muy muy bien! I showed them pictures of family, friends, Madison, Tosa, El Salvador...basically anything that was on my computer. It was a fun night and made me feel even better about staying here. Then last night I got my first night of 8 hour sleep. I've been pretty jet lagged (and I suppose siestas don't help), so yesterday I let myself be very tired on 4 hours of sleep so I could try and get on track.

Today was another school day and then when I came home I went for a run with a friend in this huge, beautiful park that is three blocks away. Needless to say, I'll be doing that every day and returning to take pictures of the park itself. It's called Parque de Maria Luisa for those interested in searching it. I helped Paula study for an exam that she has tomorrow. She goes to a bilingual school so she was studying the circulatory system in English. Can't say I could help much with the science part of it, but I was able to quiz her.

Tomorrow my plan is to do a little bit of shopping before class to get some necessary items. Then I'll have class again, go for a run, and then join up with a group in my neighborhood to go on a tour of our specific neighborhood to see where CVS type stores are along with where to get the best tapas :)

Here are a few pictures of mi casa!

Entrance, bathroom door directly to left and then kitchen is next, then living room and the others after.

Entrance to the kitchen

This is if you walk into the kitchen and go to the left..the counter to the right is in the previous picture.
Part of the living room. There is a tv/bookshelf across from the table.
Right past the living room. My room is to the left, Pili and Pepe's straight ahead, Maria and Paulas to the right (after that dresser..you can't see their door)
My room :)
Not huge, but it'll work!
And everything I brought fit in that!!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

What Street?

I am now all unpacked and settled in my new casa for the next 16 weeks. My family consists of: a mom, Pilar, a dad, Pepe, a 21 year old sister, Maria, and a 10 year old sister, Paula. Yesterday morning we had some more information sessions, and then Pilar and Maria picked me up from the hotel.

There are, I believe, seven or so different neighborhoods in Sevilla, and I'm in the one called Porvenir. My house is about as 10-15 minute walk from one of the buildings I will have most of my classes in. I'm not sure yet about the other building. My address here is:

c/Gonzalo Diaz, 1-2nd izquierda
41013 Sevilla, Spain

I also got a phone today (finally!). My number is 627 857 618. It's nice because any calls or texts I receive, I don't pay for. So if you have an international phone card (or are willing to pay a lot of money to chat), feel free to call! I believe the country code for Spain is 34...

My family is nice. Pilar talks nice and slow for me as does Maria for the most part. I've only met Paula a couple times since she wasn't here when I came yesterday and since I've had so much to do with the group. I cannot understand Pepe at all. But maybe over time I'll get used to it and be able to pick out a few words from the mumbling.

It's a small apartment, but it works. There's three bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen, and a bathroom. My room is also pretty small, but I'm able to fit what I need to in it. I'll put pictures up soon when I feel more comfortable with my family.

Ironically enough, they had a student here last semester from Madison, but I don't know her (not that I expected to). It'll take some time to get used to what the norms are in the house such as when they eat (which is really really different), work, and etc, but I'm sure it will be fine. Having a schedule again will be nice when school starts. And there is a park three blocks away where I can go to run which will also be nice.

The past two nights we've gone out to different areas of the city. Unfortunately, I never know where I am and follow people who do. The streets are very curvy and very confusing. No map has all the street names on it and there are no street signs; just the occasional name on the sides of buildings. This, again, is something over time that I will get used to when I know what buildings I need to go to. I've gotten lost a few times, but every time I make it back!

Tomorrow the only thing we have planned is a trip to the Alcazar which is a historical landmark. After that, I'm hoping to be able to lay out a map (or many) and gather my bearings about where things are and what is what. I'm not sure if that will make me feel better about it or confuse me more, but my family will also help me if needed. I also plan to do some shopping. Already I have lost a button on my new coat and a strap of one of my purses broke (for those of you that know, the new brown one that I was going to use for books). Que triste :( But right now they have Rebajas! This is a period where there are huge sales all over Spain. And it only happens twice a year, so we came at the right time.

We start our two week intensive Spanish course on Monday, so I will be in classes M-F from 12:30-3:30. I'm getting excited for it because I think it's going to help me a lot. Speaking Spainsh here is actually easier than I thought it would be. I find that the words are coming to me quicker and that I can understand most of what people are saying (at least those who talk slow enough). Hopefully I'll be able to say the same next time!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Droopy Eyed Girl Fights Jet Lag

Well, we made it. Not sure if I packed everything due to my room in Tosa being pretty messy now (sorry Mom) and things possibly lost in the shuffle, but I'll make due with what I have. And no luggage lost. All good news.

My mom drove me to General Mitchell at about 10:30am and they told me that my 12:35 flight from Milwaukee to Chicago was being delayed and that the day before, it hadn't left until 4:30pm. Since my connection was due to fly out of Chicago at 4:40pm, they put me on a bus to Chicago just to be safe. Can't have a trip go perfectly I guess! Luckily, I met a girl named Taylor who was supposed to be on that flight as well as my next one, so we ended up traveling to Madrid together. She is studying abroad for over a year (until next February!) in Palma, which is an island sort of near Barcelona. Talking to her made my measly 18 weeks seem much more doable. We also traveled with my friend Courtney from UW who was on all of my flights, so it was nice to have someone to figure everything out with.

The flight was long, especially since 2am Spain time was only 8pm Wisconsin time, so although I tried, I probably didn't fall asleep until 5:30am. Then they turned the lights on at 6am for breakfast. Not a long sleep, but that will just make tonight's even better.

As some of you can probably tell from the title of this post, a companion of mine that tends to join me when I'm traveling to foreign countries has returned. That's right. The "eye thing." At about 3am as I'm fighting so hard to sleep, I begin to feel it in the corner of my eye. Luckily my mom made me take my medicine in my carry on, so it should be gone pretty quick. Pretty typical though. Should have expected it.

Flying from Madrid to Sevilla was pretty quick. The first things I saw when I walked out of the airport were palm trees. Didn't really expect those, but they were pretty. Oh and one of the first songs on the bus we took to our hotel: Rihanna "Only Girl". Felt right at home.

After a nice meal of potatoe rounds, some type of meat, and some cold soup (they make it that way), I made my way back to my room for a nice shower, and here I am. I'm fighting the urge to take a nap, but since we don't start orientation until 6:30 tonight (so about 2.5 hours) I may succumb to the pull. Tonight we find out about our homestays (if it's with a family, senora, or couple) and will go over the schedule for the next couple weeks!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Countdown Begins!

Actually, the countdown began probably 11 weeks ago. But now, it is only a week. A week from today I will be on my way to Spain. I'll leave Milwaukee at 12:35pm to Chicago and then leave Chicago at 4:45pm. That layover will probably be the hardest part, fighting the urge to call my parents to come pick me up. Obviously I would be so mad at myself for ever doing that (so I won't), but I sense that may be how I will feel. I should arrive in Madrid at 7:40am their time (meaning 12:40am Wisco time), and will leave from there to Sevilla at 11:50am. Once I arrive at the airport in Sevilla (about an hour later), the plan is to find someone holding a CIEE sign who will direct me to a bus that takes me to the hotel where we will stay for two nights before being handed over to our host families.

For those of you who do not know, I will be studying in Sevilla, Spain for the semester. It is in the southwestern part of Spain, near Portugal and Morocco. I am going through the Madison School of Business which partners with the Council on International Education Exchange (CIEE). It is a non-profit, non-governmental organization that has many different programs and places where students can travel. One of my roommates has already studied abroad through them which makes me even more secure with this program. My specific program is Sevilla Business and Society. From the United States, there are about 90 students in my program. From UW-Madison, 24.

As of now, I still have a lot of errands to run and a lot of Spanish (grammar especially) to brush up on. My exams went up until the 23rd, then it was Christmas, then the Rose Bowl trip, and then it was two weeks before I left. I've made many lists, but now it's time to actually start the eliminating and packing process. We'll see what makes the cut into the suitcases. Wish me luck!