Las aventuras continúan
Ahhh, too many days to catch up on, and I’ve been failing at updating!
Friday morning, I got up, ate breakfast in the hotel restaurant (No Nutella or Nocilla! What?! But I did eat Smacks, which I ate almost every morning last time I was here, so that was a fun little piece of nostalgia), and then met with Allie and Liza (the girls from EAP who I had explored Madrid with the night before) to take a taxi to our colegio mayor (dorm). The guy working the front desk was super helpful and hailed a cab for us, and then the taxi driver was also super nice because he had to go around the block to avoid construction and he turned off his meter and only charged us what he would have without construction.
As we were arriving, a bunch of other EAP people were arriving as well, so we all checked in together and were given room assignments. I had to lug my luggage up three flights of stairs (I’m on the second floor, which really equals the third floor since I’m in Europe) and then ended up helping other people with theirs, so that was pretty exhausting, but I eventually got settled in and unpacked a bit until my roommate arrived. Her name is Connie, and she’s super nice and is a very chill roommate, so I’m excited I’ll be living with her this month.
We went to lunch in the colegio mayor cafeteria, and, let me tell you, the food there is…interesting. It wasn’t awful the first day, but everyone is already very tired of it. It’s just, I don’t know, stereotypical dining hall food. Lots of grease and unidentifiable, fatty meats. It’s not awful, and I’m grateful the program provides meals, but we all enjoy criticizing it. Also, the ladies who serve the food are kind of mean, but oh well.
After lunch, a big group of about twenty of us went out to explore Madrid. We took the metro for the first time (well, my first time this trip, since I’d been on it in 2006), and, guys, I think I’m a bit in love with the Madrid Metro. It’s relatively clean, and it’s easy to navigate, it goes everywhere, you only have to walk, like, ten minutes to find a station, and it’s not horribly expensive (€1 for an individual ride, but you can get a 10 pass ticket for €7,40 — the comma is not a mistake, it’s how they do it here — and I think there’s some kind of monthly pass with unlimited rides that I’ll get soon).
Anyway, our group ended up splitting into three factions, and I spent the day with Connie, Amy, Chris, and Toshia (I realize these names mean nothing to you, but that’s okay). We got off at the Sol station, saw Plaza del Sol, Plaza Mayor, the Palacio Real (royal palace), and mostly just wandered around. We also hit up the Corte Inglés, which is this fabulous department store that pretty much has everything you can ever imagine. Like, name a store, and El Corte Inglés probably has an equivalent section. Anyway, walking around was crazy hot, unsurprisingly, but it was really fun just exploring the city aimlessly, and we ended the day with sangría at a little café before heading back to the colegio mayor for dinner.
Saturday, we had orientation at noon, where our program directors didn’t really provide much new information, and it was a million degrees in that room (oh, I haven’t mentioned that it’s been in the high 90s, and we have no air conditioning in the colegio mayor, which, of course, is lovely), so it wasn’t tons of fun, but I guess it was good to go to. Other than that, Saturday was kind of a lazy day, where we just hung out with people here at the colegio mayor, siesta-ed, talked to people on Skype/AIM, etc.
Sunday was a free day, so we slept in a bit (by slept in, I mean until about 10, which definitely does not count as sleeping in when I’m at home), and then I went to El Rastro with Connie, Daisy, Jennifer, Diana, Ariel, and Rances. El Rastro is a giant flea market they have in Madrid every Sunday. It was really cute, and a lot of the stuff they sell there reminds me of the Arab shops in Granada. We got sandwiches from a store along one of the streets El Rastro is on (a bocadillo de tortilla + soda for only €2,50!) and then did some more wandering around Madrid. We went to less touristy areas, like Acacias and Lavapies, and I’m kind of proud of the fact that we’re already being not super touristy and have been venturing out into other interesting areas.
We came back to relax for a bit and then I went back out for dinner and churros con chocolate with Connie, Amy, Diana, Jennifer, Rances, and Daisy. We had dinner at a place called Cervecería 100 Montaditos, where you get little sandwiches (montaditos) for €1 or €1,20 each and choose them from a super long list of sandwiches. I got a jamón serrano and brie one, a chorizo and cream cheese one, and a mozarella, tomato, and olive oil one, and they were delicious. Definitely my new favorite restaurant in Madrid. Dinner was followed by a chocolatería, where we had churros con chocolate (here in Spain, churros aren’t like the typical kind you find at Disneyland/Costco where they’re coated in sugar and cinnamon, but they’re plain fried dough that you dip in chocolate sauce), which were delightful. We stayed there for a long time like typical Spaniards, chilling and chatting and slowly enjoying our food.
Today, a bus took us to the university’s Somosaguas campus (where they have political science and sociology classes) to have us take placement tests for our classes that start tomorrow. We started with a grammar/writing test, then did a listening comprehension one (where the professor spoke for a while and we then wrote a summary of the lecture), and finally we had an oral test, in which we had to speak to a professor for a few minutes.
I felt like I did terribly on all of them except for the comprehension test, and I was really nervous and awkward in my conversation with the professor (and I haven’t really spoken much Spanish in ages!), but I guess it worked out, because upon arriving back at the colegio mayor, I saw I had been placed in class 3, the most advanced class. I was surprised, frankly, but I’m also happy, because, even though my Spanish sucks a lot right now, it was pretty good back in high school (how could it not be with the teachers I had?), and it’s good to know I haven’t lost it as much as I thought I had. I’m a little intimidated, because I’m in a class with native speakers and others who are amazing at the language, but hopefully it will work out well. We have our first day of classes tomorrow.
We’re probably going out this afternoon for more exploring and possibly a trip to the Spanish equivalent of Wal-Mart that everyone’s been raving about (thank goodness I won’t have to rely on El Corte Inglés, because that place is crazy expensive). I’m very, very happy right now because it seems to be cooling down (we have a fantastic breeze rolling through our window today, it’s and the weather report says it will be down to a high of 82 tomorrow, which sounds positively divine compared to the weather we’ve been having). I’m also really tired because when you’re living in a country where you don’t eat dinner until 10, it’s hard to get to bed very early, but who cares?! I’m in Spain! And it’s been amazing so far!
It’s so weird to me that this is only my fifth day here, because I feel like I’ve been here forever. I’ve met a ton of people in the group and get along with them really well, and I’ve already learned a ton about Madrid’s geography and can get around pretty well. The whole Spanish thing is still coming along (I’ve had very few chances to speak to Spanish people for more than a few seconds), but we’ll get there eventually.
Also, I’ve been continuously updating my Spain Facebook album, so here is the link again if you want to check it out.