Saturday, February 26, 2011

Semana Cuatro: The Ice Cream Thief

18 February ~ 24 February 2011

It’s hard to believe that I have been here for a month now. Life is great. Every morning I walk out the front door with my iPod jamming and enter the sun’s dancing light, I have a smile on my face. It doesn’t last too long as five steps later I have to maneuver around smashed dog crap, avoid getting hit by a car or, more irritating, veer into the street to bypass the elderly. They do deserve some credit though. Our elderly sit their lazy asses in Hoverounds or use walkers. They are spoiled rotten. So, the next time you see an elderly gentleman using his walker, take it. If he argues, you tell him, “If the Spaniards can do it, so can you.” Don’t worry. I’m sure he won’t whip out his cell phone and call the police on you. I’m also fairly certain he won’t run after you and beat the hell out of you either. The other daily danger is the pigeons, or as Andrea calls them, “the rats of the air.” They are everywhere. They also have no sense of personal space—none. On the way to class one day I nearly took two to the face because they don’t fly away until you are six inches from them, and with their wingspan added, it’s a close call each time. I think I may have even been hit by a wing, but it could very well have been my flailing hand—not sure.
                                                                Walking down my street

Classes are going great. I enjoy all of my classes except the grammar class, mainly because it’s kind of boring, repetitive, and I’m somewhat scared of the professor, Ana. I feel like she could snap at any minute. More importantly, I’m getting the chance to meet so many awesome people from all over the U.S.; people that align with my interests and personality. Tuesday I went for paella with a group of awesome New Mexicans. They are from New Mexico. I’ve never met anyone from New Mexico before, let alone five. Their town must be decimated without them. I wanted to ask if any of them have a pet coyote or are sheltering illegal immigrants, much like a modern day Underground Railroad, but I found this a bit much for a first lunch date. Next time. 
                                                           Restaurant where we had paella

After lunch, we went to an heladería (ice cream shop). We were all enjoying our ice cream (mine was coffee-flavored) when a homeless man/hippie/entrepreneur approached us. He took his time formulating, presumably, the only English phrase he knew: “Would you like to buy some marijuana?” While I admired this savvy business tactic, I was confused by his sense of judgment. Why the five well-dressed, happy-go-lucky students eating ice cream were in the market for some weed was beyond me. I later learned these types of filthy nomads are called pies negros (black feet) or perros flautas. I’m sure they’re nice people.
                                                                              Ice Cream!

In Plaza Real on the way home from lunch, I encountered a fully-grown man who fulfilled his life’s aspirations of working the corner in a Winnie the Pooh costume. Costumed figures are pretty sketchy to begin with, but this costume appeared to be the product of some local PTA mother for their abnormally large child in some riveting elementary school production. That costume was now in the hands of a child molester handing out balloon animals with invitations to the Neverland ranch inside most likely. I wanted to take a picture of him, not with him, or her, or if it really was Pooh, but I couldn’t figure out how to accomplish this discretely. The last thing I wanted to do was piss off Pooh and be chased through the streets of Spain by a raging Pooh. Those people have to be somewhat insane anyway to be costumed figures so, I’m sure their fuse is pretty short.

Speaking of Plaza Real, Andrea and I went shopping last weekend. It’s great being out in Granada on weekend nights; there is a palpable electric vibe that lights the city on fire. I can now spend a month undetected in caves and forests as everything I buy nowadays is black, grey, brown, or green. For the most part, the clothing over here is very different than back home so, it’s nice to have a whole new style available to you; however, some things just don’t make sense. I was in the probador (fitting room) at Pull & Bear trying on a pair of white, linen-like pants for summer. They were pretty nice, until I actually put them on. For some god-awful reason, each pant leg ended in a scrunchy elastic band. The person in the fitting room next definitely heard an audible “WTF?” Why? Why would I want my pants suction-cupped to my ankles? I ditched the pants. I have also learned I have a ridiculous obsession with jackets and hoodies. Due to this, I think it will be necessary for me to live in a cold climate in the future.

As we continued our assault on Granada, I had a revelation: César Milan is nothing special. An odd revelation to have, but it is not without cause. The fact is, all Spaniards are dog whisperers. On multiple occasions, upon entering a shop, I would see a dog sitting at the entrance of a store, waiting, as its owner shopped. The dogs here also walk along their owners without leashes, yet they don’t take off running to freedom like our stupid American dogs.

We capped our night off with an ultra-indulging dessert at Haagen Dazs café, something we desperately need in the U.S., albeit, a bit expensive, but it’s well worth it. I had a waffle with a scoop of chocolate midnight cookie and coffee ice cream with melted chocolate drizzled on top. Andrea has a crêpe with dulce de leche ice cream, bananas, and caramel drizzle. These are 9 euro desserts. We continued to gab until the place was closing for the night and the lady worker needed to clean our table. We left. The next morning as I met up with Andrea again to continue our store assault, it dawned on me that we never paid, or at least not that I could remember. I presented this question to her, and by the look on her face, I knew we had not. To our defense, the waiter never came back and gave us the bill since it is a sit-down café. Nevertheless, I’ll wait it out a bit longer before I return. A nice tip is in store.

By Monday, another grocery store trip was much needed. I thought by going at 8pm on a Monday night, an hour before they closed, would be a great time to go shopping in peace. I could not have been further from reality. I wasn’t aware it was Black Friday on a Monday, or what seemed to be so. I hate grocery shopping to begin with, let alone when I can’t think and constantly have to move out of people’s way. They are ruthless these Monday-night shoppers. The worst part about the grocery outings is the walk back with your extremely heavy plastic bags that cut into your hands and cut off circulation to your fingers. When I got home and regained composure, José decided he was going to show me how to use the lavadora (washing machine). I kind of understood what he was telling me, but washing instructions aren’t something you want to “kind of” understand. I knew for sure when I started my load that I was going to walk out to a flooded and soapy kitchen floor (they keep their washers in the kitchen here). Somehow, I managed to not flood the apartment. How embarrassing that would have been. 
                                                         Black Friday at the grocery store

There is one thing though that just takes the cake for the most inconvenient situation, the absence of a dryer. Apparently, these people like living in the stone age of dryer-free homes because nearly everyone does not own a dryer—like I want to work to dry my clothes—ugh. There is the option of line-drying your clothes out of the hallway window that connects to my window, but of course it was raining. Instead, I had to use a tenedor (drying-rack-type thing). It took forever. Never again.

Sitting at Dunkin Donuts last weekend writing last week’s blog, I realized how extremely social the Spaniards are. I was sitting at a table of four working as a lot of the Spanish youth were filing in and beginning their weekend with coffee, dessert, and a game of cards. After it had filled up a good bit, a group of three came over and asked if they could join my table and I told them of course. That would never happen in the U.S.—hell, we still have to have a one-seat margin when we go to the movies. And as I mentioned before, they were just starting their night. The Spaniards are machinesnot like Transformer machines, but partying machines. They stay up incredibly late ever single night yet are never late for work. Now, all of this is aided by the afternoon siesta, which actually does happen, from about 2 to 5. Shops and businesses close in these hours and then reopen and remain open until 9. Even more irritating, the entire effing country shuts down on Sundays—everyone!--even El Corte Inglés, the Spanish Wal-Mart. It’s amazingly boring.

Sometimes I go to the bathroom around 4am and I can still hear people up and about in the streets. Granada isn’t that big, the population is around 240,000, equivalent to Jersey City, New Jersey or Birmingham, Alabama. I’m sure no one wants to be walking around those cities at 4am, unless you want mugged, raped, or shot. The typical way is to ir de tapas (to go out for tapas) around 9 or 10. Once food service is stopped, they ir de cañas (go for a beer/drink) elsewhere. Once your equilibrium is shot, around 2am, the discotecas (clubs) open and close around 7am. How I learned all of this you ask? In class. In an academic environment. Our teacher in my produción oral y escrita class (oral & writing class) has taught us the correct way to get stupid in Spain. Awesome. I should also mention our grand, semester-long project for that class is to sample the bars in a certain section of town and then relate our findings to our peers. Happy drinking!

One last thing that has really been bothersome—the classroom seats. They are jammed side-by-side and the opening to squeeze your ass in is at most six inches. You have to maneuver your body in the shape of an “L” and then plop and hope you don’t knock your neighbor’s coffee over in the process. It’s the most awkward thing ever.

Un saludo,


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Semana Tres: Rude, Rude, and Rude!

11 February ~ 17 February 2011

Not much happened this week—pretty routine. But I’m glad to have my routine. I like routines. I’m a creature of habit. Anyone else always sit in the same seat in class? You walk in the first day, select a seat, and it’s yours for the semester. And when someone tries to sit in your seat? “Oh, hell nah!” You throw your little tantrum inside your brain because you can’t actually act out on such petty grounds. You don’t want to be known as the loser that had a meltdown when you took his seat. So, you throw your death glare at the seat snatcher, deservedly so, and plop yourself down in another seat emphatically while making as many “ughs” and sighs you can. Normally, this happens to be the seat that is a lefty desk which adds to your now miserable day. Or, this chair produces this hair-raising squeak every time you shift your body around in the seat. Now you’re mad, have to write across your body, and afraid to move. At this point, you have nothing left to do but to start shaking in anger and consequently becoming incredibly saturated in your own nervous/angry sweat. Let’s just throw in the hot shot who has to answer every question before the professor finishes their question, or the throat-clearer. It’s astonishing how different your class experience is with just one slight altercation. This day cannot get any worse.

It rained. I know you’re probably thinking the same thing I was: “Why?” There is no other possible explanation other than nature is an asshole. Quite simple. I mean, I didn’t even have an umbrella—how rude! Three-quarters of the way home, I spotted sombrillas (umbrellas) in a wonderful little shop called “Ghetto.” This should be good. I searched far and wide to find a little Baby Phat sombrilla, but to no avail. Well at least this letdown could be remedied with the discovery of a black umbrella with my name written in a golden, cursive font with matching earrings, necklace, bracelet, and toe ring—not that I need these things, but I like some bang for my buck. Unfortunately, there weren’t any. I had to settle for a dark blue and burgundy plaid umbrella. What kind of establishment is this? They obviously don’t know ghetto. There weren’t even any extra-long white tees or Tupac memorabilia. Not even a used umbrella patched up with duct tape. This was disappointing.

I mentioned that I finally settled into a routine. Part of this routine is heading to my favorite little café after my morning class on Mondays and Wednesdays. I have a three-hour gap until the following class so, I head to this place, which offers free wi-fi, and settle in with a café con leche and a napolitana chocolate (chocolate-filled pastry). I created a little pact with myself at some point over winter break which would see that I would follow my own personal path of enlightenment. This quest to supplement my college knowledge, which seems to always escape once classes end, involves reading the classics, teaching myself subjects that I feel I haven’t covered holistically like political theory, world history, and economics, and more. It is this time at the café that I designate for accomplishing this lavish goal. The only problem is, this café is by my school which is a twenty-minute walk so, not desirable for a studious outing when I’m home. I did find a Dunkin Donuts, which here is called Dunkin Coffee, near my house with a nice little lounge and café atmosphere, but no wi-fi. Still, this was a huge discovery as I much prefer Dunkin Donuts coffee to what is served everywhere. I thought my American peers here would be very excited to hear this news, I hoped. This reminded me of the time I, after just getting my new, snazzy iPhone, excitedly presented it to my friend Raina. “What is that?” she said. “You know I’m not good with these things.” Never mind.

                                                              Photo courtesy of: Badgerboy

However, my peers were very excited for my discovery. Next we have to work on getting a Starbucks. I’ll lobby. I know many of you probably think this is lame, and my attempt to further Westernize this beautiful Spanish city absurd, but damnit, I like creamer and flavorings in my coffee, and the atmosphere in general, including the jazz music (except the very intrusive and rude Esperanza Spalding). They are currently playing “The Time (Dirty Bit)” here at Dunkin Donuts. Not exactly studious-like music, not to mention I heard the twangy, blonde, curly-haired 8-year-old princess that is Taylor Swift just before. Not Spain too!  I had such high regards for this country…

I also tangoed with a mosquito. lt wasn’t as elegant as it sounds. For the life of me, I cannot figure out how or why undesirable insects always happen to be occupying the bathroom at the same moment I am. They invoke such fear and heart-attack like symptoms upon first sight, there is no choice but to gasp and pee a little when you see one. It’s worse when you are in the middle of showering and do not have a feasible escape. In Europe, at least in Spain, they shower a little differently than we do. Or maybe this is just at my house—I don’t know. Anyway, the shower head at our house is level with the rim of the bath tub and is attached to a long hose. After turning it on and getting it warm, you wash your hair with it and moisten your washcloth and then turn it off, lather the soap on, and then turn it on again to rinse off. Saves water.

This set-up assisted me in my “conflict” with the mosquito. I noticed it soon after I got in the shower. It was on the ceiling maybe 5 feet from the shower curtain. I didn’t even know they had mosquitos in Granada. Every time I looked up, it was inching closer. I grew weary. I was in the middle of the lather stage when the rude monstrosity decided to go kamikaze on me and dive into the shower. I had to quickly reach for the hose and turn it on. This is not easy to do when you’re spinning 360s and covered in soap. I think I blacked out at one point. Regardless, when I came back to my senses, it was down the drain. Mission accomplished.

Disclaimer: This next section is not for the prim and proper who act is if bowel movements do not exist. If you don’t like discussing no.2s and such, neglect reading this. This may be strange for some of you, but in my family this is just typical dinner table conversation—serious stuff. If you’re skipping, the last paragraph is free of such material warned about.

It’s 9:13pm. I’m starving. I had come out of my room earlier, but found José cooking with the pot I needed so, I went back into my room and waited awhile. When I walked out to go into the kitchen, I heard what very well could have been José giving birth. By the rapid sequence of breaths, I knew his contractions were very close together. I’d better wait in my room some more. After a while longer, I came out to find the coast was clear and could cook in peace. I still have yet to find the baby.

I must also mention the frustrating dynamics of the toilet. For a while, I had a long-lasting case of the rabbit pellet bowel movements. (For any of you who need clarification, this is when the waste formation fragments into many, tinier pieces). Well, the sound that these pellets make reflects the nearly 30-40ft plunge to the toilet water surface. It’s as if you’re dropping a basketball into a full tub of water. It’s a highly stressful situation. To cover for the Slipknot concert going on in the toilet, I have to fake coughs or turn on the water faucet full blast. Side note: I swear Tina goes to the bathroom roughly every 3-4 minutes.

I got an invite for a club-outing next weekend. Apparently there is a really big hill in the vicinity that many a tipsy club-goers have taken a tumble down. I should just get it over with now. Will take video of the way down. God help me.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Semana Dos: Scary Eyes and Wandering Eyes

4 February ~ 10 February 2011

It was a Friday night and I decided to take a stroll through el centro (downtown). When I emerged from the narrow shopping calle (street) that connects the street I live on to the main drag, it was like Times Square, but stretched out the length of the entire street. I walked aimlessly down Calle Recogidas for close to fifteen minutes until my usual hunger pain struck me. I walked back to Plaza Real to eat at a fine Spanish eatery called Burger King. I was curious to see what the menu was like. It was packed. But first let me mention the fact that there were two, presumably armed, guards on either side of the doors as I entered. For the life of me I could not figure out why two guards were being paid too man the Burger King entrance. I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard of anyone trying to make a quick getaway with a Whopper and onion rings, but perhaps such is the case here. After all, this is a place where men wear jean capris in summertime. They are not to be trusted. Exhausted from all the guard pondering, I was ready to order: “Un numero tres sin tomate y una coca por favor.”  As I was about to enjoy my Steakhouse Burger, I noticed some hideous red object peeking out from my sandwich. Damn tomatoes. “Le dije sin tomate!” (I told him no tomato!) It is now a world-wide fact that fast-food joints, regardless of location or language, will screw up your order…Perhaps that’s why the guards were there, to prevent people like me who wanted to strangle the cashier with my tomatoes, if at all possible.

When I walked outside, I was immediately amidst a sea off “city rats,” not at all unlike our mall rats, minus the DDR machine. I have never seen such creative haircuts and style. They were swarming in the plaza, sitting on planter ledges and staring down everyone who walked by. After escaping the carnies, I decided to go back home and reward myself with another noxious round of Ron and Sammi. The walk home was fine, but I must say that I’m not at all accustomed to being a pedestrian here. I am pretty sure traffic lights and stop signs are non-existent here, not to mention their thrifty idea of combining sidewalks and streets in designated, random areas.  I’m fine playing Frogger in the comfort of my own home, but not on the street with real Smart cars and mopeds. Anyone has the right to be pissed if their life was ended by a Smart car. At least be a Suburban. I’d like to think I didn’t stand a chance.

I was sitting at home not doing much when Andrea messaged me and asked if I wanted to go to an Irish pub, Hannigan’s, to watch the Super Bowl. I didn’t plan on watching it since I hate the Steelers and the Packers, but I figured “What the hell?” Hannigan’s is quite the American hangout and many of the kids in the Spanish Language & Culture course at my school were there. It came down to who I hated more, which happened to be the Steelers, so I spent my night “rooting” for the pathetic cheese heads. We were rudely interrupted during the third quarter when we were told that the place would be closing, and if we wanted to watch the rest of the game, to go to their other location up the street, but to hurry because they were locking their doors at 3am. It was 2:50am. We managed to make it to the other Hannigan’s but this one was ass-to-elbow. At this point it was solely Americans as the few Spaniards who tried to tough it out and act interested, much like when America pretends to love soccer every four years during the World Cup, left to do something they comprehended, sleep.

I got home around 4:30am after the Super Bowl and had to be up at 7:30 for my first day of class. To my delight, I didn’t feel too bad when my alarm went off. I had already programmed class times and rooms to my iPhone calendar so I knew where to go.  I got to my first class fifteen minutes and early and was surprised I was the only one there so far. Now it was five minutes before class and I was still the only one there. “Damn, wrong room.” I walked out of the room as another student was entering the front doors. “I’m lost. Do you speak English?” she asked. Why you would ask someone for directions when they just emerged from a dark room with their book bag still on is beyond me. We figured out we had Political Systems of Spain and the EU together and I showed her to the correct room. Thankfully someone had the correct room number.

The day was was off to a great start; I loved all of my professors, classes, and fellow English-speaking peers. After my first class, I had a ridiculous three-hour break until my next class and I did NOT want to walk the twenty minutes back home. I decided to go on a walk around the area and eventually hiked Mount Everest to get to a pretty cool location:

 By the time I got to my last class, Geography of Spain, the previous night’s outing was beginning to catch up. I was fixed in my chair and spacing out at the wall having twilight zone flashes before I was awoken by some fiery peacock. Her name was Catherine. During my acid trip she must have come in and situated herself next to me because when she spoke it was to ask how to log-in to the online class website. I flinched when I turned and made eye contact. She had pale skin and short, auburn hair, all of which highly contrasted her crazy eyes. These were some of the greenest contacts I had ever seen. She was a gypsy, for sure. As we talked, I found myself staring back as wide as my eyes could go in an effort to match her eye intensity. I was exhausted after this exchange and needed Nutella and a silk eye mask.

When I got home from class, I didn’t even have time to nap as I was to meet Andrea to go grocery shopping, but for real this time. I completely bombed at grocery shopping my first time around. We went to Hipercor/El Corte Ingles. I’m not sure exactly which store we were in. After walking the roughly three-to-four mile expanse of check-out lanes to the entrance of the grocery section, which was also guarded, I needed one of those Hoveround’s with the attached shopping basket. I’m not exactly sure what exactly Andrea and I did, but we managed to be in Hipercor/El Corte Ingles for 2.5 hours. Side note: the Spanish do not refrigerate their milk or eggs, but refrigerate their peanuts and almonds. I also found these little bundles of joy at the grocery store: 

Those would be goat brains. During the arduous ½ mile walk back home with four loaded grocery bags, Andrea invited me over to her place for fajitas. At this point, I definitely didn’t feel up to whipping myself something to eat so I accepted the request.

I pretty much forgot that Andrea lived in a shared apartment like I did and wasn’t expecting to meet her three roommates. Unlike my compañeros (roommates), they greeted me and then left me be, not wanting to brush each other’s hair and swap life stories like mine. I walked back to the kitchen just in time to start bringing out the food. I did glance over and notice Andrea’s monstrous room which has a bed in one corner and a computer desk in the opposite corner and room for a regulation-size tennis court in between.

Dinner was very good and a welcome change to my past week’s eating habits. It’s worse when you’re not in your language element eating a meal with company because you are not sure whether to attribute the silence to the eating (which I’m totally used to) or the awkwardness of it all, but I just sat and observed—and ate. Promptly after eating, the one roommate whipped out his rolling paper and hierbas. I was going to suggest cheesecake and Scrabble, but I guess this was not my crowd. I helped Andrea clear the table and talked to her in the kitchen as we, well, she cleaned up. Soon after, Andrea’s “friend” came over. We hung out in the living room for a while shooting the breeze before we attempted to turn on the television. Three people later, the TV was on and we watched what appeared to be the Discovery Channel in Spanish, followed by a riveting documentary of a Panamanian Jail/Hotel/Market/temp organization.

 The rest of the week was filled with classes, watching movies online illegally, investigating travel opportunities to Morocco, Turkey, and Greece, and marveling at my own stupidity. It was late one night, and I was chatting with my Canadian bff Bisma, when I felt something on my head. Thinking it was my hood on my hoodie, I tried shaking my head side to side. Nope. I tried tilting my head back. Nope. I then resorted to thrusting my head backward. Nope. I then put my hand on my head and felt my beanie….

I also discovered Rosa has a lazy eye while we were having a chat one night. No wonder she could show me how the stove top worked while talking to me about it eye-to-eye. She’s such a sweetheart. I’m starting to feel more comfortable here in the apartment and have finally started utilizing the kitchen. I’ve made myself two meals so far, a Mexican pizza, and a lemon chicken pasta:

Another one of my favorite things is falling asleep to the sounds of my upstairs neighbors peeing and playing what I presume to be shuffleboard.

Un saludo,


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Semana Uno: Discoveries, Barriers, and Nutella

27 January ~ 3 February 2011

It’s been a long and winding road to get myself to this point, situated in an apartment in Spain while attending university. Of late, things, especially those concerning academics, have rarely been turning out in my favor; however, a friend recently told me, “You always manage to land on your feet.” Perhaps this is how I operate best, under pressure—but not just ordinary pressure—I ’m talking about one-straw-away-from-utter-chaos pressure, as in not having an apartment aligned for your arrival in Spain and it’s the day before you are leaving. At least I remembered to go to the Spanish Consulate in Miami and get my student visa. Nothing would create a better study-abroad tale for the ages than how you were detained in a foreign country for living there illegally.

Having just taken Spanish classes for about a year, and not being able to understand Spanish speakers, I thought it was the perfect time to study in a Spanish-speaking country for four months. I had a friend call the owner of the apartment I was interested in the day before I left to tell her that I would be arriving in two days and wanted to see if the room was available until the end of May. All seemed to go well with Rosa, and Monica told me I was good to go and to call a certain number when I landed in Málaga. I did so when I got from the Málaga airport to the bus station downtown and secured a bus ticket to Granada. The thing is, I can read, write, and speak Spanish within the context of what I have been taught, but the listening comprehension part just never developed. So I called Rosa and relayed to her all that she needed to know: I was in Málaga, I was waiting for the bus to Granada which would arrive there at 3 p.m., and that I would have to get a taxi from the bus station to the apartment so to expect me around 3:30 p.m. For some reason, she decided to reply in a fluent stream of Spanish to which I replied, “Sí. Adios” and hung-up the phone. Instead of acting like a dumb person about it, I should have said something more credible to escape having to answer her questions like, “Tengo que irme, hay una guerra.” (I have to go, there is a war).

Meeting Rosa and her boyfriend José will forever be one of the most awkward experiences in my life. As much as I wanted to try and talk to them, I had bags to unpack and it was just too much too soon. There were many breaks in conversation, during which I would attempt to signal that I was done talking by toying with the zippers and compartments without actually opening them, but apparently they weren’t finished. I had a feeling there was important information being discussed that I would later on need to know, such as the heating situation in my room, kitchen items’ whereabouts, and general ground rules to the apartment. I just nodded to everything. They could have informed me that at precisely 6 a.m. the next morning they would take me out back and shoot me and throw me in a closet with previous study abroad students and I nodded in agreement. At this point, the only thing I could think about was how I was going to watch Jersey Shore that night online. To add to the already dizzying welcome party, the other roommate, Tina, a German student, came into my room to greet me. As she was trying to squeeze behind Rosa to get to me, I, unsure of exactly what was proper protocol, began to timidly extend my arm out to her. Seeing her rather confused face triggered me to remember the European kiss-kiss exchange and with guile morphed that outstretched arm into one trying to help her over my one bag.

There was one good thing about Tina, and that was, like me, Spanish was her second language, therefore, I could understand her when she spoke. Since both of our native languages hail from the same language family, I could hear the breaks after each word, or lack of flow. This didn’t mean that she spoke abnormally slow, as she is practically fluent, but her Germanic accent aided in my comprehension.

In need of an instant grounding, I contacted a fellow UF student who was also studying in Granada and so happened to live 5 streets down from me. We met about half an hour later and she showed me around the area where we lived before heading to our school so that I could finish my registration. We then went to one of her favorite bars for tapas, my first tapas outing. I ordered a mojito, which at this bar is not to be confused with a pulverized mint bush with a garnish of rum, to accompany our savory bites (mini ham bagel sandwiches, some type of peppered, peanut noodles, and chips with ketchup and a mysterious white substance).

After the first day, I began to acclimate. Rosa and I could challenge the world’s best at charades, but José and I have a long way to go. Rosa can slow down and help reword herself to better appease my second grader ears, whereas José claims to be speaking slower than usual, but in reality says the first two words slowly, and then reverts back to crack speed. It’s all a learning process at this point, and I’m sure after these four months I will be able to understand the language much easier. After these four months, I will also be 200 pounds heavier.

I have been eating like a poor person since I’ve been here. My diet consists of Nutella, bread, and water. To mix things up a bit, I’ll throw in a piece of gum or an apple. The Nutella is the worst of my problems though. If I’m not spreading it on a piece of toast, I’m spreading it on a once healthy apple. I even dip my chocolate chip cookies into the Nutella jar. These are just things I do when I’m not spoon-feeding myself it out of the jar. I swear I’m going to start cooking for myself, just need to Google how to do so first…

Other than catching up on Jersey Shore, The Real Housewives of Atlanta, and Top Chef, I am sleeping, binging on Nutella, or reading My Horizontal Life by Chelsea Handler, which in conjunction with Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea, are my favorite books ever. Screw you Old Pedophile and the Sea.

Really, all of this will change, once classes actually begin, I hope. So far, the only thing I had to do was go to my school to take the placement exam this past Monday. I was somewhat nervous because I was unsure of what to expect. To my greatest fears, the bastard turns out to be the SATs all over again, but in Spanish. The test was three-hours long and was comprised of writing, listening comprehension, reading comprehension, and grammar parts, in addition to the dreaded oral part. Things could have been worse though, at least I was surrounded by fellow English-speaking students, mostly a huge group from UMASS Amherst. It helped ease the tense nature of the exam hearing things like “Is it me or is it 95 degrees in here?” and “25 minutes listening comprehension? F***!” The most striking statement I heard came from a girl not dissimilar from a lion that fell into a puddle of mascara: “I met some Spanish people here. It’s bomb.”  I’m glad you found the Spaniards in Spain, I was afraid I was the only one.

Un saludo,