Sunday, September 30, 2012

It's the Little Things

First of all, i would briefly life to follow up with my last update.  Although there was no damage directly to my city, in nearly all of the surrounding areas, the torrential down pours created floods that caused a lot of problems.  Imagine the Duluth floods times TEN!  Houses destroyed, cars picked up and carried down the river like they're made of plastic.  I feel very fortunate that nothing made happened to us here in the city of Almería, but it just makes me realize while we are not prone to tsunamis, typhoons, tornados, earthquakes or hurricanes in this area, flooding is a very real scenario.

Okay, so I am five days into Spain and everything is still going great!  I've realized that the biggest adjustments I have had to make are to the little things that make up the cultural differences between Spain and the US.
-For example, I always thought it was strange (last time that I was in Spain) that my host mom went to the grocery store 4-5 times a week.  I thought that seemed like such a waste, why didn't she just do one big trip a week?  Now, I realize it is because when you are walking everywhere, you can't weigh yourself down with multiple bags. So, this is something I'm already getting used to; going to the grocery store on regular basis.
-Another thing I have to get used to is buying my water.  The water is dirty here, but it is very hard and is the best for drinking.  I've calculated that I drink about a liter a day, which is less than I normally would in the U.S., but I have less access to it so it's just how it is for now.
-It's weird to me that one of my roommates (Ana) gets home at 2 everyday even though she is a full time teacher.  The work day here is much shorter 8-2 or so for most people.  My other roommate (Carmen Maria) works 7:30-4, but its because she works at a private school, so they determine their work hours.
-Somethings in the U.S. we have become so used to that we think it is normal, but to others, it is completely foreign.  For example, this last week I found out that my roommates have never heard of peanut butter, a bagel or a gingerbread house.  My roommates have been introducing me to things that are a part of their normal diets like gaspacho (cold soup) and salmorejo (a mixture of pulverized bread, egg, ham and milk).  Luckily, I liked both (and that wasn't my first experience with gaspacho).
-Finally you know how we eat our cereal cold in the US? Like, dry cereal with cold milk?  NOT HERE. Nope, they thought I was weird for during that.  My roommates put their cornflakes in a bowl with milk and then continue to HEAT IT UP!  Seems so strange to me, but once again, just a slight cultural difference!

Ana on the left, Carmen Maria on the right with glasses of gaspacho and a bowl of salmorejo
I'm looking forward to starting work tomorrow and to continue to meet more people and experience new things!  I'll be sure to keep you all updated.  Besos de España!

Friday, September 28, 2012

When It Rains, It POURS (literally)

So since I start working on Monday, I thought it would be a good idea to practice taking the bus to the town where I am working.  This requires a twenty minute walk to the bus station, thirty minute bus ride, and another ten minute walk to the school.  Because EVERYTHING here is unfamiliar to me, it seemed like a good idea to do a test run.  The keys to today's success were three things: intuition, courage and patience.  I found the bus station pretty easily, however it was pretty confusing once I got there.  I discovered that for some buses you buy tickets at the booth at the station and others you just buy right on the bus.  Eventually, I figured out that mine was the latter. So I hopped on the bus a quickly realized that only knowing the name of my stop was not going to help me, so I had to rely on the city names on signs to know when to get off.  Luckily, I got off at the correct stop.  Then, I realized that I have no idea where the school is, I forgot to write down directions.  I did have an idea of what direction it was from the bus stop because I had looked it up on google maps the night before, so after a bit of wandering and working up the courage to ask for directions, I found the school.  I found my way back to the bus stop and patiently waited for 45 minutes for the next bus to come. I was excited to be heading home again and everything was going smoothly until it started raining on my walk home... and not just raining... POURING.  I have never seen a heavier rain.  Within minutes, there were 3 inches of standing water on each side of the road.  Even though I had remembered my umbrella, it did not protect my bottom half of my body.

In conclusion the lesson I learned today is not to be afraid to get a little lost, trust intuition, and ALWAYS carry an umbrella.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Almería- The Cali of Spain!

Dining/Living Room
My Room
I landed in Almería almost exactly this time yesterday and I have to say that the first 24 hours have gone really well! I got to the airport in Almería and couldn't believe what I saw getting off the plane (and it was a small airport so when we got off they plane, we were immediately outside).  To my right was a bright blue beautiful ocean and a long strip of coastline.  To my left big bold brown mountains.  It was only 10am and the temperature was already in the high 70s.  All of these things put together reminded me of the California landscape and climate, but that's where the similarities end.  Almería is definitely a european city.  Although I hear it is much more touristy and luxurious towards the coastline part of town, the rest of the city is full of corner markets and pharmacies and little bars and restaurants line every street. Although Almería's population size is comparable to Madison, its much more compact (nearly everyone lives in an apartment), which gives it the hustle and bustle of a big city.

I took a taxi to my new apartment where my roommate's boyfriend met me at the flat (my roommates were at work).  The apartment is small but its so cute, I love it! The best part about my apartment though, is the terraza (deck).  It is huge!  Later that day, I met my roommates who are so friendly and nice!  They could not have been more welcoming.  They took me to the grocery store so I could stock up on food, and then later, they took me out for drinks and tapas!  Tapas (for those of you who don't know) are like little appetizers. Here, in the state of Andalucia, they come free when you order a drink.  I couldn't believe it!  I was able to have dinner (two drinks, a pork and brie sandwich and an egg dish with toast and jalapeño sauce), for just the price of the two drinks, which ended up being about 4 euro.  After that, I was ready for bed.  I only got about 2 hours of sleep on the plane. 

La Terraza
The goals for the rest of the week are to get a new sim card for my iphone so that I can use the google maps app to get around town.  That will give me a lot more independence to explore for the city on my own, so I can't wait for that!  The next goal is to master the bus system by friday, as I start work at the elementary school on Monday.  

P.S. I have to blog about the plane food... IT WAS INCREDIBLE.  I attached a picture of my dinner which included a shrimp salad, beef and rice, vanilla cake, brie cheese and a white roll, and white wine (by the way, the wine was FREE).  I also had a delicious breakfast but I gotta say, Spain knows how to do their plane food pretty well.  The U.S. should take notes

Monday, September 24, 2012

Off to ALMERIA! (my new home)

Well, it is 1:51AM and I am leaving almost exactly 12 hours from now.  Needless to say, I definitely should be sleeping but the nerves are keeping me wide awake.  Even though this is my third time going abroad for an extended period of time (2009 summer- five weeks in Spain, 2010 fall- semester in Chile), this is definitely the most anxious/emotional/anxious I have ever been.  I am not sure if it has to with the fact that this is going to be the longest I have ever been away from home (9 months) or the fact that I am going alone.  Even though I am a little scared, I always tell myself that the more scared you are going into an experience, the more you'll get out of it.  I know that this will be my greatest adventure yet, so I am as prepared as ever!  I just spent an amazing weekend with friends and family and so now I know it is time for me to go.  I've just packed my next 9 months into three suitcases, so what the heck!  HERE GOES NOTHING!