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,




  2. I love reading your stuff. I was cracking up the entire time. Love you and miss you Bryce! Michele

  3. Best blog ever and so funny!!! <3 it

  4. Oh my Bryce you should so make this experience into a book! This is a great idea! Love you and miss you so very much! MOM