29.06.2015 - 29.06.2015 98 °F
We unload our bus at the airport and settle in for two hours of waiting for all the other travelers to arrive. We wandered, exchanged more cash, and experimented with McDonald's breakfast in Spain. I really just wanted some damned iced coffee, but had to settle for a frappuccino. At least it was cold, right?
Once all 29 of us are there, our leaders, Joan & Heidi, usher us onto a bus somewhat reminiscent of a caterpillar. It has large mirrors that dangle from the front of it, like antennae or weird bug eyes. The bus has AC and USB ports. We each take a window seat and put our bags on the seat next to us. There is some talk as we begin our 2 ½ hour drive to Salamanca, where we will study, but there's also a lot of sleeping and spaced-out staring.
The time difference of nine hours is beginning to catch up with me. Because of my tumultuous sleep schedule the two days traveling to Madrid I adjusted fairly easily, but now being on a bus for several hours, the afternoon feels like the middle of the night- especially given that no one is texting me back now. The time difference has a way of making you feel remarkably unpopular.
The countryside is incredible. It's far greener than I would have expected, and our journey is dotted with mountains, rivers, rolling hills, upscale cities and Porsche dealerships, remnants of shanty-towns, crumbling castles, standing castles, and bulls (torros). The juxtaposition of the upscale condos and luxury of the city alongside the painful shanty-town reminders of the economic revolution, and great migration to the cities, stands out to me. The castles are another favorite- a reminder of the reality of history. The US has nothing nothing nothing like this- you can see, right here, right there- where ancient stories took place. Castles that people lived in. I reveled in these thoughts.
Eventually the landmarks thin out and we're driving through miles and miles of farmland, dotted with tiny pueblos the size of single neighborhoods. And in the middle of nowhere, we spot Salamanca- a grand expanse of housing and ancient architecture on the horizon. Founded alongside the University in 1218, Salamanca is rich in history and the architecture shows that. I ask Joan if we can swim in the river.
"Not unless you want to lose a body part, or find a body," she replies. Okay, no river. But there is an outdoor pool that we can bus to, once we get our ID cards.
The bus comes to life as we roll into the city and begin to take everything in. Eventually we're all rushed off the bus- parking isn't so much a thing in Spain without proper passes- and we walk a few blocks to our residence dorm. Although nice, there's no AC in the rooms and this is regrettable. We set our things down and head to lunch downstairs immediately. It's set up as an all-you-can-eat Spanish buffet. To be perfectly candid, I was dismayed at the lack of labeling on the meat products, and warily sat down with a plate of lettuce, peppers, and yogurt. I can't eat seafood or eggs without getting fairly ill, so I'm beginning to worry about how I'm going to eat here. After lunch we unpack and settle in for a long siesta. I'm sharing a room with a girl named Lauren, who is from Spokane- funnily enough my year-round roommate is also named Lauren, also from Spokane.
Our room is very large in comparison with other doubles, at the cost of being directly above the main entrance to the residence. After our nap we meet downstairs for an hour-long briefing. Afterwards, we wander the cooling town for a few hours, taking in the ancient castles, cathedrals, storefronts, and La Plaza Mayor. After that is another dinner of lettuce and peppers (the yogurt was fairly inedible to be frank) and some undercooked rice. Joan assures us that "the good chef" is due to arrive tomorrow, so I'm hopeful that I won't starve.
That night I take my laptop down to the bottom basement, where there are a few lounges. It's cooler down here and although the couches are fairly decrepit, they are couches, so I love them. I Skyped with Will for about 50 minutes. Skype has always been an awkward hassle for me, but I know for a fact I slept better after seeing his face and hearing his voice.