I know I should write something about my trip, and I will, I’m just super busy with classes right now trying to make up for the week I missed, but maybe on Tuesday I’ll have time to put something together. But yeah I promise I’ll write something soon…I know you all are on the edge of your seats waiting for blurry photos of cool places you haven’t been so just hold on a little longer!!
I’ve had a really good day in Seville, although I did so much walking I wore myself out by like 6 and had to come back and take a siesta…but the rest has been wonderful, I got to go to the Alcazar (look it up very rad) and walk through all the little streets, and the festival for Corpus Christi was today so there were lots of processions and music and crowds and I’m staying in this incredibly nice hostel where everything’s clean and functioning and the staff and the other guests are super friendly. So everything’s going well but I am just too exhausted to write any more or post pictures. Maybe tomorrow.
I went to Madrid this past week from Tuesday to Friday, making it my longest trip there yet! It was a pretty good visit, the purpose of it was to go look at colleges and dorms for Ana, which was unbelievably boring (they have to interview to get into dorms here so it was just like sitting in waiting rooms until the interview was over) but luckily I only had to go to two, and the other times I got to check out Madrid by myself. It was so unbelievably hot I can’t even describe it, making being outside not super pleasant, but I got to go to the Museo del Prado (wow really really cool and I know next to nothing about art) and Retiro Park and the Gran Via and some cool little shopping neighborhoods. So all the parts that I was by myself were good, it was just when I was with my host family that was no fun…they seemed intent on pushing all my buttons and it was just very exhausting. BUT Madrid man it is a cool city I highly recommend it there’s tons to see and do, a nice change from Don Benito.
I took no photos cause like what’s the point but just google-image Madrid I went to most of the touristy places and there’s good photos so do that.
On Tuesday Brianna (another American exchange student) and I went up to a city called Cáceres for the day. It’s about 2 hours away by bus, and fairly big for Extremaduran standards. The town itself isn’t that exciting, pretty typical really, but the big attraction is the Old Part of town. (Well, they call it “Monumental City” but Brianna and I just ended up calling it “the Old Part” the whole time.) So it’s this giant area in the middle of the town, enclosed within some ancient wall, and inside are all medieval buildings and nothing else. It’s not really a town insomuch as it doesn’t have things like “taverns” and “blacksmiths” or whatever you think of when you think medieval towns, it’s mostly just big sandstone buildings (they call them palaces but they’re not really palaces) and towers and churches and sweet little cobblestone alleys. It’s really cool how much has been preserved, though, and it’s completely untouched by the outside, so there’s not much aggressive touristic stuff, either. I think maybe two restaurants. So Brianna and I spent the majority of the day there, but we also managed to go to the the Cáceres mall, too, since we scheduled a bit too much time for sightseeing. The malls here are kind of pathetic, and I’m not much of a fan of malls in America, but there’s something really comforting about them now. Weird. Anyways, I’m going to post a general update of how things are going here soon, but first! Photos!
I recently found out that Extremadura (the region I’m in if you didn’t know) is home to a ridiculous amount of conquistadors. Seriously, ridiculous. Balboa, Cortes, Cabeza de Vaca (my favorite), Hernando de Soto, and Pizarro are all from here, as well as a host of other lesser known ones. In fact, Cortes is from Medellín, a little pueblo less than 15 minutes away from Don Benito, where I had lunch on my birthday. I can see the castle from my terrace. BUT anyways, apparently the reason that so many conquistadors are from here is because Extremadura was (and continues to be) the poorest region of Spain, and conditions here were so tough that these guys just up and sailed off to another continent. It’s pretty cool to think that I’m living in the place that made them tough enough to conquer other civilizations. And really when you get out into the country you can tell exactly why they left—it’s pretty wild and rough out there, even now.
So today there’s some giant strike protesting things like “the government” and “jobs” (strikes me as a little Occupy-ish) BUT the great thing is that apparently all the teachers at our school are participating! Which means Semana Santa (spring break) officially starts today!!! We don’t have much planned for this week, but next Wednesday we’re going to the beach until Sunday. The beach we’re going to is called El Puerto de Santa María, near Cadiz, which we’ll be taking a day trip to. We’re also going to spend a day in Sevilla while we’re there, which I’m beyond excited about because I’ve heard it’s one of (if not the) prettiest cities in Spain. But until then, we’re having a very laid-back spring break. This weekend there’s a fashion show that my host mom’s store is participating in, so I guess we’ll go to that. OH and also stay tuned for a BULLFIGHT on Sunday it should be interesting.
I think the best way to describe how I’ve been feeling since I’ve been here is like the second mouse who fell in a bucket of cream, totally overwhelmed and struggling to stave off being drowned in dairy, and just now I’m finally beginning to feel the beginnings of the butter underneath my feet and it’s very slippery but very reassuring at the same time.
So yesterday Ana and I took a bus all by ourselves to Madrid! Her mom was here already though so it wasn’t really that cool but still we got here last night and we’re staying with her cousin who goes to school here and generally having a grand ould tyme. We walked for I’d say about 6 hours today and we also went to a contemporary art exhibit called ARCO, which I actually enjoyed, which is strange because for those who don’t know I usually hate modern art and think most of it’s crap, but this stuff was pretty good, or at least entertaining. Totally not worth the 40 EUROS it cost to get in but Ana really wanted to go and it was the only reason we got out of going to school today. But yeah the rest of the day was just walking everywhere, which was great because Madrid is a really cool city to walk in since it’s full of awesome windy cobblestone streets but somehow we never managed to get lost. I actually remembered to take some pictures so those will follow and we’re going to be here for most of tomorrow as well so there should be more then too.
Oh and I have Monday and Tuesday off of school for Carneval, which I guess is Mardi Gras? I’m not really sure, it sounds more like Halloween to me, but it’s great either way.
In an attempt to verbalize and organize my culture shock, I’ve made lists of things I like and dislike about Spain and the culture. And since I never really have too much to blog about, I figured I’d post some of them so it’d be updated more often. So be prepared for that. Oh but first I have to tell you something that’s not really good or bad. At that concert that I wrote about last time I noticed something really weird, and that’s Spanish clapping. After each song everyone would clap for about 35-45 seconds, which is an awkwardly long time and since the singer was American I don’t think he knew about it he just stood there chuckling a little and they just kept going and going. But even weirder is the fact that they clap in rhythm. They synchronize their claps so they’re all together on this beat and it just keeps going and going until it seems really cult-ish and freaky. Like just visualize that, there’s no music, just a room full of people clapping together in rhythm with no sign of stopping.
So yesterday was my first day of school, and everything was ok and it won’t be unbearable, but it’s like typical highschool except I have no friends and I can’t understand what anyone’s saying, and it is so so incredibly cold all the time. Actually, it’s more like middle school because pretty much everyone there is surprisingly immature, even the girls, so I feel pretty isolated while I’m there, but it’s only my second day. Oh so in spanish highschools they have these sort of majors which you have to choose in 9th grade, and what you choose then feeds into what you study in “university”. The subjects are pretty broad, like art, social studies, sciences, etc., but you can’t change it once you start and you can’t switch to another subject in university. So if anyone’s whining (like me) about having to decide what they’re going to be when they’re only 18, try 14. It’s terrifying. Anyways I was in sciences for god only knows what reason, but I switched to Art because that’s what Ana is in and the math they were doing in Sciences was insane. So that’s what I did today, and I like it much better. I have a drawing and design and art history, as well as stuff like language and history. Oh and I had an English test today and I aced it. So anyways that’s kind of the situation with school.
One really irritating thing I didn’t realize was how dumb all the teenagers are here. I mean I knew Spain was sort of a “party country”, but that’s literally all that the kids talk about here. Also 100% of them drink and about 98% smoke, and neither of those numbers are exaggeration at all. And it’s not really considered bad here—you don’t talk about it in front of your parents really, but they know you do it and apparently the police don’t care so everyone just does it as much as they want. The nice thing is that since it’s so common and everyone just thinks it’s good fun, no one thinks you’re weird if you don’t. I’ve talked to some of the other host students and they have all agreed with me that no one really judges us when we say we don’t smoke or drink, but it’s kind of like not having a facebook at home. Everyone’s just like “Really? huh” and that’s it. So I guess that’s better than the alternative.
I mean basically what I’m getting to here is that the entire culture is different here, not surprisingly, with a whole different set of morals and I guess this is just culture shock. People here are nicer in general than Americans, but they’re kind of (for lack of a better word) lazier. I guess that’s a good word for a country that shuts down for 2 hours in the middle of the day to take a nap. Stuff just moves a lot slower here and a lot longer. But yeah it’s really not so bad, I’m already getting used to it. And my family is super awesome and so is my house and maybe one day I’ll actually post some nice pictures or write some interesting facts about spain instead of just spewing my brain onto the keyboard.
Oh yeah one more cool thing! I’m going to Grenada and Cordoba on a school trip the first weekend of March!!! It’s like the prettiest place in Spain and I get to go to the Alhambra! Which I’ve always wanted to go to! So I’m very excited about that!