Time really got away from me in the past six days and I haven't had much time to write. So here's a lot.
03.07.2015 - 08.07.2015 93 °F
Thursday left me feeling a little worried about my first two classes. A good percent of each class is Brazilian students, who natively speak Portuguese. Grammar-wise we're on the same level, but you can hear the difference during conversations and when they speak. Their conversations are much more fluid and their accents are far superior to our own. Friday classes were a welcome relief when we got more into the nitty-gritty, day-to-day portions of the class.
Grammar class is not what I expected- we're covering topics that I've already learned (about 90%) but it's kind of like "Take everything you've learned, remember the conjugations, and forget everything else- you're going to relearn it." It can be difficult because the professor (and most of the class) doesn't speak English, but ultimately that forces a deeper understanding. Conversation class is a lot more structured than I originally imagined, for which I'm quite thankful. We've learned different modes of communication and a lot of colloquialisms and indirect translations, which is what I'm really here for.
The word 'vale' is a very broad affirmative that gets thrown around a lot. I'm learning to incorporate it into all of my interactions and I feel like the more we do this, the more we fit in. Most of the Spanish people here appreciate our efforts, even when they're sad efforts.
Saturday we woke up early to go on our first excursion to Segovia. There were four trip highlights- the first was a Roman aqueduct built over 1800 years ago, which continued to bring water to the city until just 40 years prior. Built without cement or adhesive, it's a true marvel. We toured another Cathedral- not quite as extravagant as the one here in Salamanca, in my opinion, but beautiful nonetheless. Our last stop was a summer palace for the monarchy- it was a beautiful building but presented as a bit of an art-walk in a museum, which left me a little disappointed.
Before that, though, we visited the castle of Ferdinand & Isabella, whose marriage united Spain as a nation. Second only to a castle in Germany, it's the most photographed castle in the world and for good reason. Inside it's gorgeous, and immaculately maintained. We saw all sorts of rooms, including, at the heart of the castle, Ferdinand & Isabella's bedroom. Their original bed- THEIR FREAKING BED- was still there, curtains and mattress and pillows and blankets and all. We saw their meetings rooms, sitting rooms, offices, ball room- it was amazing.
After the castle tour we had the chance to climb 152 steps up to the tower and look out over the city. 152 steps- a little tiring- but not out of reason by any means, I thought. I was very wrong. Each step was a different height, which meant constant attention. The worst part though, was that it was a spiral stone staircase with no handrail and very very little light. It would have been suited for ascension or descent- but not both simultaneously. And there were people trying to go both up and down. We had to press ourselves against the wall to allow others to squeeze by. It was a very claustrophobic experience, especially with nothing to hold onto and no opportunities to stop and look around. At the top, I just resigned myself to a quiet corner for a few minutes to drink water and breathe.
Saturday night I promised myself I wouldn't go out because I was so exhausted, and we were all realizing that we were spending way too much money. Until I returned to our dorm I was set on turning on Netflix and going to bed- but on the other hand, it was the Fourth of July and everyone felt the intrinsic need to celebrate. Most of us decided on "going out for just one drink" but that didn't last. We made our first stop at La Chupiteria- a shots bar- then went to the plaza, then accepted free mojitos (we watched them get made, no worries), then back to La Chupiteria, and then- just to celebrate this one very very American night- to an American club called the Irish Theater, where more chupitos were had. It was a surprisingly fun night there, and people continued to pile into until the dance floor was packed and chants of U!S!A! broke out. What a unifying experience.
Sunday was the opposite of a recovery day. El Profe was taking half the group on two walking excursions in Salamanca, and I was in Sundays group. We visited San Esteban in the morning- a dominican brotherhood- and the Cathedral in the afternoon. I ended up leaving the excursion when we got to the tower-climbing portion because I wasn't feeling very well and my last experience with slim stone staircases wasn't the best.
Monday was a very long day, and probably the best day yet. I had my two normal morning classes, and then met with El Profe and five others for a 1.5 hour lesson on Iberian history. After that we retired to almuerzo (lunch) and siesta. Conversation class was again at 5, and from there the entire group met in La Plaza de Anaya (it's right by the Cathedral and most of our classes) for the casual vino & tapas (appetizers and wine tasting).
They gave us a list of five wines (FIVE) so we were expecting sample size glasses. Nope. They gave us five FULL glasses of wine. I told El Profe of my surprise and he just said it was the Spanish way. I think he really just wanted to see us all get wasted. The night regressed after glass two, and by the fifth we were all, literally, dancing around the restaurant (the restaurant was a 500-year-old converted horse stable- it was beautiful, rounded walls and ceiling made of stone). After the five glasses they began slowly ushering us out, although Los Profes were borracho (drunk) too. I thought we were leaving, but instead we reconvened in the courtyard where at least 150 photos were taken on my phone alone. And then they started bringing out pitchers upon pitchers of sangria. They taught us a few simple drinking games. As soon as a pitcher of sangria emptied, it was promptly replaced.
I don't think I have ever been that drunk in my life, and I was not the only one. Nor do I think I'll ever find myself getting completely wasted with a few professors- at their encouragement- again in my life. Although vague, I have very fond memories of Monday night. I even had a slightly chipped front tooth to carry my memories along in.
Tuesday was a drowsier day- thank goodness. In the evening about 20 of us (29 total) headed down to the park across the Roman Puente (bridge) for a game of ultimate frisbee. A few Spanish students joined us there, and I had a jolly time helping one with his English as he helped me with my Spanish as we tried to play a game of ultimate frisbee.
And that brings me to today, Wednesday. I'm still tired but I'm adjusting. I can't believe we're already a week into class and that I've been gone from home for nearly two weeks- I left on a Thursday. I'm a little homesick- missing the comforts of home, the friends, the family, Will, my pets, the food, the air conditioning. But I'm really looking forward to this weekend- Saturday we're all bussing to an outdoor pool, and Sunday some of us will try out a Catholic mass and then get a traditional Spanish lunch, and do some souvenir shopping. Just two more days of classes to get through first!