Several days worth of blogs…
Let me preface this by saying that I´ve been keeping a journal since the day I left, I just haven´t had a chance to post anything. So here it is, all at once, for your viewing pleasure, Dear Reader. Enjoy.
I finally have a chance to breathe, now that my bags are checked, I´m on the AVE, and I´m actually going to make it to Sevilla on time! There is a God, and all my many prayers have been answered, at least today. And, my plan to get into Sevilla worked, even if it has been a little on the expensive side. The good news is that my return ticket is good for 60 days, so that will come in handy. I guess I´ll do my best to start at the beginning…
The flight to London was not the most pleasant I´ve ever had– it wasn´t so much the plane itself as the fact that my sinuses were acting up, and I felt fuzzy and disjointed, and sleeping was nearly impossible. I did manage to sleep, finally, in the terminal at Heathrow (yeah, I almost missed my connecting flight to Madrid. Good thing I´m a light sleeper!)
Sorry to leave off with the cliffhanger– I fell asleep again on the train en route to Sevilla, and pretty much didn´t fully awaken until sometime last evening. Obviously, I woke up enough in Heathrow to catch my flight; albeit just in the nic of time. I basically hurled my backpack at the lovely Heathrow security agent before running to my gate in time for final boarding call. Actually, it wasn´t until I was finally winging my way toward Madrid that everything sunk in, and suddenly I was REALLY excited to be here. My plane hadn´t crashed/been hijacked, I think I flew over a portion of the Pyrenees (so pretty), and my plane would be landing in Spain within 30 minutes…oh yeah, I was excited.
Madrid Barajas is a GINORMOUS airport…when I disembarked from the plane I walked up three levels of ramps, and then through a half mile of moving walkways, just to get to passport control. Then I had to get on an elevator, go down five stories, and wait for a tram that would take me the fifteen minute trip to get to the three separate escalators that would take me to baggage claim. Read that three times, then imagine doing it jet-lagged. It was that much fun. The whole process took me about 40 minutes, and then I waited another 20 for my bags to come up.
After that, I caught a taxi to the train station. One thing I can say is that the majority of the cab drivers I´ve had here have been exceedingly nice. This one pointed out all the sights of Madrid to me as we drove to the station– The Prado, the Reina Sofía, the park, the botanical gardens…it was really cool. Then he changed some of my money so that I had coin Euros, and sent me on my way with a ¡Buen suerte! (Good luck). I made it onto the 2:00 pm train by the skin of my teeth– I bought my tickets 15 minutes before departure! When I got onto the train, I practically collapsed into my chair, and slept all the way to Sevilla.
The night in the hotel was fine– everyone in the group is really nice, and still speaking in English (surprise!. I think that everyone´s pretty freaked out…I know I am. Anyway, we had a short orientation that first night, and then dinner, where I started to make some friends finally. I sat with three girls, Heather, Jessie, and Raven. Raven is actually here with a BROKEN FEMUR. Poor thing. Thank God her apartment has an elevator, or she´d be screwed.
Friday was a big day…first thing that morning we did a walking tour of the downtown area, half of which is under HEAVY construction. I was mistaken before when I said that Sevilla already had a metro. They don´t. They´re putting one IN. Unfortunately, the construction area encompasses the entire busline that I should be using, so I´m still working out alternatives for getting back and forth to school. The other thing that sucks is that all the major tourist attractions (The Giralda, La Catédral, and the Real Alcazár) are all in this area too, and covered in scaffolding/junk, so I don´t think I´ll be getting any good pictures until next semester. Oh well!
After the walking tour we went to the Center, which is far more beautiful than any of the photographs on the website gave any indication. The walls are tiled in a very Middle Eastern fashion, there are two courtyards (one with a fountain), there´s the gate that the Center is famous for, and huge vaulted ceilings. Everything is marble and glass, and it´s just gorgeous (look for pictures soon!) The center is only about 5 minutes away from the Downtown area of the city (SHOPPING!), and less than a minutes´s walk from a tiny little convenience store (Estanco), and I darling little café where the girls and I like to sip cold beverages while hiding from the afternoon sun.
Later Friday morning we took a Spanish placement test, which all of us were complaining about, and then…it was time to meet our host families!
We walked back to the hotel from the Center, and took our bags down to the lobby. Three of the professors were outside waving down cabs. After about 30 minutes wait it was finally my turn to go. My cabbie was female (a first), and she chatted with me about how brave I was for coming, and how nice my host mom was sure to be, and how much Spanish I would learn by May (all nice things to hear!). When we arrived at my new "home", I realized two things: One, I wasn´t in New Hampshire anymore. My neighborhood here is a haphazard maze of streets with apartment buildings on all sides, tucked off in a corner of the Barrio known as Triana (which is, according to all the Spaniards I´ve spoken to, a little city all its own). The second thing that I realized was that I had no clue how to get inside the building…but my cabbie came to the rescue. She not only called up to my Host Mom to let her know I arrived, she then helped me carry my bags up the two flights of stairs to the front door. I didn´t know how else to thank her, so I gave her a HUGE tip (which is not part of the cab culture in Spain, so I think she appreciated it).
Then it was just me and my Host Mom, Ángeles Camacho García. She greeted me at the top of the stairs with a "dos beses" (the kiss on both cheeks), and she has hardly stopped talking since we met! Her name is pronounced without the "s"– An-heh-ley– and that´s what I call her. She calls me "niña" or "guapa" (beautiful). She´s very sweet, although she gives me WAY too much food, but I had barely been in her house 15 minutes when she told me that her home was my home now too, and that I should treat it accordingly. I do feel very welcome there, and I think that it will be a good match, as well as a comfortable place for me to live.
Ok, we´re almost up to present time! Yesterday we took our first trip, visiting the monastary of La Rábida in Huelva, where Columbus spent a year and a half planning his trek. Maybe if he´d spent another 6 months studying the map he would´ve actually found India…anyway, I think it says a lot about me that my favorite thing in the museum was the painting depicting Columbus on his death bed. ^_^ (Don´t worry Mom, I took a picture for you!) I´m such a bad girl…
After La Rábida we walked to El Museo de los Tres Caravelas…which houses scale replicas of the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria (are you following the theme here?) I took a few pictures of/on the Santa Maria, but honestly it was less exciting than the Mayflower II, so I went into the air-conditioned gift shop and looked around for a bit before getting back on the bus to go to the beach. OH! I almost forgot to mention the GIANT statue/dolls depicting King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. I took a picture with Isabella…keep an eye out for that one!
The beach in Huelva was AWESOME, and I didn´t even get burnt. Yay! First of all, this was the biggest damn beach I have ever seen…it had it´s own carnival! (I took a picture of the camel). There was also a very nice beach front bar, where I spent about two hours just chilling out with 15 or so other CCCSérs, enjoying refrescoes (sodas) and tinto de verano (red wine with ice and seltzer water) before heading down to the water to swim. The ocean was warm and beautiful, and I spent at least an hour just bobbing around, and then another hour toasting myself on the sand– it was fabulous. I slept most of the way back to Sevilla on the bus, and that pretty much brings us to today, Sunday.
On Sundays, nothing happens. All the shops are closed, it´s hotter than blazes outside )I imagine, because it´s 90 degrees F in the apartment, and I don´t want to go out), and people either stay inside or spend the afternoon lazing about in a café. Later tonight when it cools off, Heather and I are going to go figure out what bus route will take us closest to school…we think it´s 43, but we´ll find out for sure later. Classes begin tomorrow morning at 9…I need to be there between 8:15 and 8:45 to pick up my schedule. Expect more from me later!