Thursday, September 30, 2004

Hush, Lois, The Men Are Talking


Since I haven't realy discussed any of what I've been doing here other than the anecdotal stuff, I figure it might be a good idea to post a sample schedule so you can get look at what life is like (Mother, note mealtimes and plan accordingly). You'll notice I have way too much free time for my own good.

6am: Wake up. Not that big a deal, since it was too hot to sleep in the room anyway. Allison needs a fan for the warmish nights.

6:15-6:45am: Go running.

6:15-6:45am: Go running (sorry, but I couldn't believe it the first time. I went running. In the morning. Ho-lee crap).

7-7:45am: Shower, eat breakfast (on the early days, of which this is one, breakfast equals horrible horrible Nescafe and a buttery sugary roll thing. You can dunk the roll thing in the Nescafe to make it taste better. On later mornings, it is a mug of cornflakes). Do a little scattered reading for school or pleasure. Chill out.

8-9am: History of Art in the Modern Age I - class with REAL SPANIARDS. They are nice, but so far many of them are not showing up for class on a regular basis. I can't really blame them. It's 8am, after all.

9-10am: NAP. (Soon, NAP will be replaced by 9:30-10:30am: teach little kids English at a local school. Is it a good idea for Early Morning Allison to be exposed to children? Probably not. We shall see. Anyway, I can call it a highfalutin Teaching Internship and then maybe after I graduate it'll help me get an ESL job somewhere, when I'm poor and not doing what I want to do.)

10am-2pm: Free time! Mostly consists of compytime (though the timing in the US couldn't be worse) and studytime. I'm actually STUDYING. WHOOOOA. My main goal here is to keep from dashing to a pastry shop and eating everything in sight, because I am usually starving and the pastries look super-yummy. Extending naptime helps somewhat (though I was definitely woken up today by an extended tummygrumble). Eventually, dance classes will take place during this time.

2pm: Lunch. Usually multiple courses: a vegetable dish or soup with green salad, bread, followed by a meat dish of some kind (sauteed chicken is turning out to be the norm, followed closely by fish. I think she's figured out that I don't like breading. Yay!). Dessert is a piece of fruit or an occasional trangression like ice cream.

2-3:15pm: Post-meal walk. This is the only way to keep from feeling heavy and lethargic after eating so much freakin food.

3:30-5pm: Class again. This particular day it will be Contemporary Spanish Painting, in which I don't know that we've seen a single painting yet. I am tiring quickly of that trend. Theory and history are important and all, but you do actually have to see the ART in an Art History class.

5-9pm: More free time. Can entail anything from a walk to see how far across the city I can get to coffee with friends to errand time to computer time to a MOVIE, which is what we're doing today. Studying has not been included here so far. I like to keep moving during this time. Sometimes (like yesterday) I buy a chocolate croissant and eat it. Mmm. Other sometimeses I have choir rehearsal.

9pm: Dinner. Same deal as lunch, really, but with slightly less food. Last night dinner was noodle soup, salad, and scrambled eggs with tomato and onion. I was still full from the croissant.

9:30-10:30ishpm: Post-meal walk. It's fun to see how many little kids and old people are wandering around in the dark.

10:30pm-12am: Chill out. Sometimes I watch TV with my señora and try to understand what's going on. I'm getting noticeably better. Sometimes I read. This would be studytime, were the library not closed (Spain is crazy. The library's only open from 8am-9pm and NOT AT ALL ON SUNDAYS and you're not to buy the books, so you are required to use the library, but how can I get any work done that way? No good at all).

12am: Bed.

You see? Too much free time, no matter how you divide it. It's good, because I get to walk around the city and see stuff, but I will eventually run out of city. I suppose I'll have to study more. Bah. That's what I should be doing now, too. Double bah. I suppose I will go to the library...sigh.

You Two, Fight to the Death

So maybe I failed.

Maybe I was wandering around trying to find the hall where I'd have chorus a couple of hours later, and maybe I found it and decided to go for a walk in the park.

I may possibly have seen a large green banner that said "Una pasión por el café" next to an oh-so-familiar logo.

The thought might have passed through my head that I wasn't going to make it through an hour-long choir rehearsal (which was actually two hours) and the 20 minute walk home without some sort of sustenance, it being 7pm (especially since lunch is at 2).

Maybe I then went in and paid 3.10€ (after ordering in...German?) for an espresso shot and the
most hockey-puckish muffin in the history of the universe -

- but it was DEFINITELY the best muffin I have ever had.

Weeks in Spain: 4
Allison's American Transgressions: 3 (Dunkin Donut, Happy Meal, Star Buck)

I promised you a rant about a professor. I have to renege - I'm sorry. The first day in her class, I had my doubts, but she has since laid them to rest by being professional, enthusiastic, organized, and really really really interesting. Especially because she's getting all up into the Ancient Roman stuff and explaining the engineering behind it all and how it works. I am in awe. I want to be a cool professor like that when I grow up, with the Powerpoint proficiency and the fervor and the awesomeness.

Also, I must take a short break to discuss how much I hate my money situation. H-A-T-E I-T. It really wouldn't be so bad, even without the ATM card, since I can buy people things on credit and then they pay me back. The problem arises when travel websites *cough**cough*viajar.comsucksdiediediedie*cough* do not accept my credit card, but then gleefully tell me "it's no problem! You can pay us in CASH."

I'll show them. I'm not paying them in cash or any other way, and I found another ticket that's 3€ cheaper.

Now that I've said that, it'll get rejected.

I blame you.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

You, Bring Me The Wall Street Journal.

Random things:

Can I TELL you how much I crave a copy of the Times? Even the Sunday version, with all the pretentious fashion stuff and the Tiffany ads on the inside cover and the features on Met exhibits I won't be able to see. :( Where has all my New York gone?

When I breathe, I sound like a running air conditioner. I wonder how long I should wait before doing something about that. (I can see the headlines now: "Stupid American Girl, Thinking Cold Was Gone, Develops Fatal Case of Pneumonia")(I'd translate it but I don't know the word for pneumonia.)

I MISSED PANS & COMPANY SOOOOOO MUCH. Mom, when you get here your very first meal is going to be a Pechuga from Pans. Count it.

I have spent approx. 10 hours this weekend randomly wandering around Madrid (planning the Mommy Walk of Fame(ous Things)). My feet hurt.

Spanish musicals have only slightly more talent and resources than your average H&H show, but are MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE (Singin in the Rain, first balcony, €33 plus the money I have to pay my podiatrist after trying to walk in those ridiculous tying-up shoes).

If you see a really good looking ice cream store, never say "I'll just come back later", because you are not going to be able to find it again. Guaranteed.

Sometimes, if you go to the right places and squint (and close your ears), Madrid looks like Paris.

Sometimes, if you go to the right places and are dressed up, Madrid looks (and sounds, and tries to grab your butt) like Sodom and Gomorrah.

So back to PANS & Co. Do you think that the people there will notice if I go in and try a different sandwich every day until I run out? Do you think I could swing it? Would they start to think of me as the Weird Culturally Stunted American Chick? Am I a Weird Culturally Stunted American Chick?

I am going to kill one of my Art History profs. I will have to save this explanation for when I have more than 15 minutes until the lab closes.

As predicted beforehand, I am homesick for New York in the fall. The city is filled with chestnuts, which are good, but chestnut leaves don't turn, and they don't have apple cider, and the food isn't the same fall-y home-y food and I can't make zucchini muffins or go run around in the woods and I really really crave chicken and stuffing or that Waldorf turkey breast thing with the cinnamon raisin bread and the apple juice. I want a muffin and a mommy. :( (I don't know why I only get homesick in the fall. Never any other time. Just the fall.)

Now I'm out of time. I want apple cider.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

I Told Her She Was Fat. *whack*

I'm definitely not the world's biggest Michael Moore fan, but this is just too funny.

It also contains the obligatory potty joke.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Last Night, Lois Was The Man!

Next chapter: Allison kills ALL the people concerned with the San Sebastian Film Festival for taking EVERY HOTEL AND HOSTEL ROOM IN THE ENTIRE BASQUE COUNTRY THIS WEEKEND.

You think I'm exaggerating.



*beats things, cries because of Basque deprivation, vows to go in October...and explores Madrid for the weekend*

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

It Doesn't Have to Make Sense, I'm Beautiful!

Today (new and improved!)

I went to buy a plum at the fruit store, but the man gave it to me for free.
I ate it on the way home, and all the old ladies stopped in the street to stare at the American barbarian who eats her fruit with her hands.
I went shopping for a skirt but didn't buy one.
I saw a woman with too much plastic surgery.
I ate a Fudgesicle, but I could have had two.
I haven't had caffeine, except for the Fudgesicle.
I went a different way down the street.
I saw the sun hit the sad city trees.
I bought a gift.
I got an absentee ballot.
I went to a weird class.

I decided to go to the Basque Country for the weekend.
Dad told me not to get blown up.

A good day.

Monday, September 20, 2004

An Idea So Good My Head Would Explode If I Even Began to Know What I Was Talking About

For once, a coherent explanation of
Why I Hate Photography (Excluding The Professional Kind, Which Is Pretty Sweet)
In Three Parts
1. It’s obnoxious. I, Allison Clarke, as of September 20th 2004 and for a great percentage of my life, am and have been a tourist. I do not like being a tourist. As a matter of fact, I can think of few things I dislike more than showing up somewhere and obviously not belonging - still worse if people can tell from whence I’ve came (the next time some well-intentioned waiter starts taking my order in English I will cry). However, despite my status as the global equivalent of ants at everyone else’s picnic, I am a good tourist. I learn the language of the places I’m going and even if I’m not proficient in it, I try. This means I resist at all costs speaking English to non-English speakers. Duh. However, more important to me still than not being an arrogant American (or trying not to be one) is contrasting myself with the bad tourists by not standing in the middle of the street (or the park, or the plaza, or the whathaveyou) with a crappy Nikon and an idiotic grin. The idea that everyone around you should have to stop walking and look out for you while you make a fool of yourself makes me cringe. Still more cringe-worthy (and Clarkeian to boot) is the thought of everyone looking at you, period. Don’t look at me, I won’t bother you, I’ll spend my money and finis, ok? No pictures (and especially no pictures of places of worship).

2. It’s expensive. This isn’t so bad, really, but I’m cheap and...and...yeah, we’ll just leave it at that. If I’m going to take pictures, they’re going to be good pictures - arty pictures - and I’m not going to use the crappiest digital on the market to do it. I might even buy myself a real film camera and develop my own pictures, but until that is a financial possibility, I’ll abstain.

3. And most importantly - most importantly of all, this one - it’s inadequate.
Here’s the thing. I can take a picture of a mountain or a tree or maybe even a sunrise, if I get up that early. But -
The quiet whisper of the breeze through forests of fern and eucalyptus -
The scraping feel of barnacles underfoot in the search for tide pools -
The taste of a grape I picked off a vine hidden on a dirt path -
The cool of a morning whose principal theme is mist rolling over the valley below -
The smell of a mountain road lined with apple trees so overladen the fruit rolls, unpicked, onto the pavement -
The mysterious, adventurish feeling of hiking 45 minutes through fog so thick you can’t see the road -
The novelty of eating lunch on a rock at the end of the world afterward-
The unassumingness of a village in which every house has, by requisite, at least a grape arbor and a goat -
The everpresent and underwhelming grumble of a rocky sea far below -

A picture can’t express that to you.
And neither can my writing.

And that is why I cannot blog to you about Galicia.

When You Lick a Frog, You're Licking Every Frog That Frog's Ever Been With

Good news: I have a lot to tell you.
Bad news: My ability to do so is seriously curtailed by internet access and time restraints. I'll work on it, but...*sob* I miss my computer.

Good news: Class starts tomorrow!
Bad news: It would figure that I have to pick the one major (Art History) with the most non-specific requirements on earth, meaning that of the three classes I'm taking in the department I betcha beans I'll get credit for one, but only after frantically emailing every professor I've ever had in a futile effort to figure out what is going on.

Good news: I can afford to spend money...
Bad news: ...because the great fantastic October plan fell through. Maldita credit card. Luckily, it saved me from myself (Allison's conscience says "$300 on plane tickets? What were you THINKING?". Allison's credit card says "Don't worry, I am the surrogate when the conscience is ignored". And it is).

Good news: ...
Bad news: When we got back from the field trip last night, everyone had letters waiting but me.

Actually, that's not bad news. That's Clarke news. I've been expecting it.

Speaking of Clarke news, Mom, make the reservations for the week we were talking about and I'll work around it.

Good news: I found a dojo!
Bad news: I can't seem to show up there when it's open and there are no hours posted. Odd.

More later. It might even come tonight, but probably not. Class starts tomorrow! I am so excited!

Tuesday, September 14, 2004



I did not take them, but I allowed myself to be in them...that's the best you're going to get. Also, I assume that you will be clicking on the galleries that have blatantly Spanish names on them and not getting all up in my friend's bidness.


I need addresses for, um...ChrisnBecky, Bill, Shorty, Jeannie...Deirdre and...and. Can you tell I don't have the cards directly in front of me? Send me your address, just to be safe (by which I mean all of you).

I may have supersweet awesome October plans, but I will not tell you now because I may actually have messed it up, so I'll let you know later. HOW DO YOU MESS UP WHAT I MESSED UP?

Can you tell I have spent many frustrating hours on the computer today?

Off to spend a couple more...before we go to Galicia tomorrow, for which I have to get up at 5:40am. I will kill. Die die death die kill. Hopefully it will be cool and not. You know. Suck.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Well, Lois, One of Us Is In the Mile-High Club


It is going to be a freaking miracle if I remember any of what went on...

So we arrived in Sevilla late Tuesday night, having made only a peripheral-on-the-way stop in Córdoba, which I resent highly. And when I say resent, I mean RESENT. However, the good thing about Sevilla was that we got to stay in a four-star hotel. We're talking marble tubs, here, and candies on the bedside tables. We're also talking 185€/night for a double. HOLY CRAP. It was great, though, even though we had three people in a double.
After getting to Sevilla, the group got together to go to dinner. We went to this restaurant called El Rey Moro. When we showed up, there was bread and this olive spread on the table. "Oh, how nice," we all said. "Aperitifs." After a minute, they came out with plates full of tuna and romaine lettuce. "Wow! They really treat you well here!"
Then came the cheese plate...
and the toast with the tomato-garlic spread and the Iberian ham...
and the pieces of what I at first thought were calamari but ended up being fried pickled dogfish with lemon (stop recoiling, it was good)...
and THEN came our entrees...
and then the raspberry cheesecake (it was pretty nasty, but they tried).


The next day, we were scheduled to visit the Cathedral and the Real Alcázar. We didn't have a tour until 1, so Jessica and I decided to go wander around the city for a while. Let me tell you - ALL we were trying to do was go the five blocks from the cathedral to the hotel. Are you surprised that we got lost for an hour? On our travels, we encountered some charming construction workers. Let me tell you how that went.
Allison: Jess, I think if we walk right up this road we'll get to the cathedral.
Jessica: *dubious* Ok. But those are...
Allison: workers. It'll be ok, I think. Yes. Please let it be ok.
*Allison and Jessica walk down the street, heads down and hips twitching as little as possible*
Construction Worker: Pre-tty. Pre-tty wo-man. Pre-tty wo-man.
Allison: *whispering* He sounds like a parrot.
Jessica: Who cares, just walk!
Approximately 20 minutes later, we realized that we had somehow ended up back at the hotel. We turned around and went back...and found ourselves at the same intersection again.

We decided it was worth the risk of getting lost to find a new route.

Let me tell you that that is the tamest catcall I have gotten so far.

Later, we toured the cathedral. I have seldom been so bored in my entire life. It is possible that someone took pictures of the building, but we may all have been asleep on our feet. I would actually not be surprised about that. It's really sad, because it was this cool old Gothic building and the tour guide was so bad that he made me become less interested as time wore on. Christopher Columbus might be buried there, but they're not sure. They're carbon-dating the bones that are labeled as his to see. I think that's pretty cool.

After the cathedral we went to the Real Alcázar. This was when I went into a restaurant to use the bathroom and the group picked up and left without me. I WAS SO PISSED. I take less time in the bathroom than any girl I know! I wasn't gone more than a minute...they could have waited...bah. At least I got to go back to the hotel (and not get lost) and rest my feet. I watched a cooking show and understood it all except for the part when they were talking about berries I don't know the names of.

According to Jessica, after that we went to the Plaza de España of Sevilla. I remember that vaguely. Big building, pretty fountain, Allison was very tired. I think I had an ice cream. The problem with gigantic tours is that all the days blend together.

The next morning I am fairly sure we went shopping for a while before heading to


What did we do in Granada?

I don't remember...

OH! We went to la Capilla Real, which was super-cool because it's where Ferdinand and Isabella (of Christopher Columbus fame) are buried, as is their daughter and her husband (Juana la Loca y Felipe el Hermoso). It was this awesome church because it was built in Gothic style after the Gothic period had actually ended, so you can see all the Renaissance notes added into it. After la Capilla Real wasssss...

La Alhambra

which merits its own section because it was incredibly, unbelieveably, mindbogglingly cool.

La Alhambra is this fort/castle at the top of a hill overlooking Granada that was built by the Moors when they controlled the city. It was the seat of the Sultanate of the Nasrid Dynasty, which ruled all Muslim holdings in Spain. It was a self-sufficient colony, including the summer and official palaces of the sultan as well as a town whose inhabitants grew fruit, herded goats, and generally provided resources for the sultan. It has a pretty constant supply of water, since it's on the edge of a mountain range and gets springs from melted snow (can you tell how excited I am about this place?) It is the best-preserved Muslim palace in Spain, or some such statistic. What I can tell you is that


So you go in and the first thing they have you walk through are the gardens, which were planted in the early 20th century to make it pretty-like. There's a hedge maze! My very first hedge-maze, and I had a tour guide walking me through it. From the gardens, you emerge into the Generalife, which was the summer palace of the sultan because it's up higher and gets a better breeze. Inside the Generalife, they have a garden (in a courtyard)(Uncle Chris, pay attention, you'll like this) where they have excavated the pollen and carbon-dated it in order to exactly reproduce what the gardens looked like in the mid-14th century.


And you know, the tour guide was amazing and was explaining all this stuff about the architecture and the math and the fountains (which are all powered completely by gravity, don't waste water, and are everywhere and totally beautiful) - there was so much that I couldn't possibly reproduce it all here. But let me assure you, were I to take you to the Alhambra right now you would come away as educated as you would have been with a real tour guide.

Actually - funny story - I'd studied the place before, of course, because I'm an Art History major and that's what I do. So that led to me asking the tour guide many many questions and generally making a nuisance of myself. However - I think he appreciated it - because while we were on break he took me (just me!) to see the original portal that you don't enter by anymore, and at the end he gave me the receipt of our entrances as a souvenir.

I sucked up and it worked! And I didn't even mean to suck up, I was just excited! I am still excited! I like exclamation points!!!!!!!!!11!!!!!1

After the Alhambra, I got sick and went home because we'd had some sketchy pizza for lunch. I skipped dinner and the optional walk to see the Alhambra all lit up at night. I was sad. Then the next morning we went to the Cathedral of Granada, which was such a hodgepodge of architectural styles that it gave me a pounding headache. Then we went home. Hurray! We were tired. Luckily, the majority of the group had elected to stay the weekend, so there were fewer than ten of us on the bus and we got to stretch out over the seats. And play cards, which are naipes in Spanish.

Spades. And I'm learning Texas HoldEm.



The courtyard of the Sevilla Cathedral, view from the Giralda (ex-minaret):

The Generalife, the summer palace located within the Alhambra where they excavated the gardens:

Nuria and Eva (our charming program directors) on the Patio de Arrayanes in the Alhambra:

The Alhambra from without:

Our group at the Alhambra:

That crazy plasterwork I kept going on about:

Saturday, September 11, 2004

That's It, Mr. Giraffe, All The Marmelade

Back! But first -


Hi Mommy!

She is coming to Spain to take advantage of my location. If she can do it, you can also do it. Not kidding. I highly encourage anyone who wants to use me for personal gain in this regard.

So anyway,


Duke In Madrid: Hits and Misses

Deciding that Córdoba, Sevilla, and Granada were the places to visit: HIT
Deciding that it was appropriate to visit all these places in four days: MISS
Bringing us on guided tours with knowledgeable Art History professors: HIT
Bringing us on guided tours and yelling at us for not blending in: MISS
Touring the Real Alcázar: HIT
Leaving me in the bathroom while they toured the Real Alcázar: THAT WOULD BE A SWING AND A MISS, FOLKS.

The Bus Ride and Córdoba
Let me preface this by saying that Spain is a beautiful country. It really is. I would have preferred not to see most of it through the windows of several 6-hour bus rides, but it's very nice. However, looking out the window onto low scrub, white soil, and endless rows of olive trees is about as comforting to me as seeing a moonscape. That's pretty much what we did. For six hours. My butt hurt by the end.
So when we arrived in Córdoba, I was very grateful to be away from recirculated air and 40 fratboys and sorority girls. Can you blame me? I didn't think you could. We got off the bus and the very first thing they had us do was go to the Cathedral/Mosque in the city. Technically, it's a cathedral, but it started out as a mosque and it looks like a mosque and it quacks like a mosque, so it's a mosque. And - dead serious - I stepped inside and it literally took my breath away. It was the most amazing thing I've ever seen in my life.
If you expect anything of me or would like to be proud of me in any way, stop reading here.
Ok, guys, now that it's only the gamers left (I think...), remember Diablo II? Remember the castle in Act II, with the harems in the basement? Remember the red and white striped arches? That was modeled after the mosque in Córdoba.
Grownups, you can come back now.
It was so awesome to see. Each arch is supported by a column, but the columns and capitals were mostly salvaged from Roman ruins, so they all have different decorations and shapes and sizes and stuff. They had to cut holes in the floor of some of them to equalize the height. They showed us all the work on the walls (it's all plaster-cast engraving work, some of it's original and it's really neat). There is a lot more I could describe, but I don't really remember. It's been a long week.
Then we went out for a walk around the center of the city in typical tourist-sheep fashion and ended up in the old synagogue, which was one room about the size of my bedroom. It had more neato wall decorations (I will steal people's pictures and then this description will be much less lameo). All in all, actually, this trip was an orgy of neato wall decorations. Córdoba also has these tiny little streets, almost like alleyways, so small that two people can't pass each other shoulder to shoulder. All the buildings were whitewashed and the walls decorated with was basically a gigantic postcard. Nutty stuff. I'm tired and trying to search for trip tickets and disinclined to write. But that means that later, you get:



Other Fun Stuff that Happens Between Now and Then

Come Visit

especially the last one.


Monday, September 06, 2004

For Every Sprinkle I Find, I Shall Kill You

Tomorrow begins the 4-day trip to Andalucia. In the spirit of travel, I am looking for tickets to go visit Jorge in Munich. It seems to be impossible to find anything for less than €138, even though I've gone to both RyanAir and EasyJet. Any suggestions? Deirdre? Because €138...that's more than $170, and I am a poor unemployed American student without an ATM card. I can get to London for friggin €1. Less, maybe. Half a pound or so. But I don't have anyone to go with - maybe I'll trade in my potential Italian trip with everyone for a solo London or Dublin trip in October. Would that be sketchy? That would be sketchy. Would anyone like to come to London and hang out with me from October 8th-12th? You could come back to Madrid with me later, if you wanted. I could skip school to extend the trip and make it more worth your while.

I'm dead serious, you know.

I have a message for all you silly Clarkes out there:

I appreciate the "don't be shy" messages, I really do - but you can stop now. It's been almost a week, and I've made friends. AND - I am speaking to you in particular, Mummy - you are all HYPOCRITES. I mean that in the kindest way possible, but come on. The definition of being a Clarke is social dysfunction; as I don't believe any of you can engage in the social dance more gracefully than I, your advice is thereby invalidated. That came out sounding mean, didn't it? It was meant to be funny, but it's true, guys. Dead serious. We all suck.

Now to the land of flamenco, torreadors, temperatures in the mid-30s C and THE ALHAMBRA OMG I'VE BEEN WAITING FOREVER FOR THIS.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

I have so much to say that I'm considering not even saying it at all. It would take too long.

I'll fragment somewhat:

So the bar with the vodka and the Red Bull? That one? Would it surprise you at all if I told you I went there last night? We split a pitcher of sangria. It tasted like the juice at the bottom of the fruit cocktail can. I don't know why we went to an Irish pub and got sangria, but we did.

Mom, there were 7 of us on one pitcher. I had half a glass. Chill out.

Friday night ended with us arriving at our destination just as the Metro closed, then wandering around the city (same 7 people) until 4:30. Us three girls caught a cab back, got dropped off in a central location...and then I got lost for a very short time trying to find the apartment. Apartment found, I couldn't get the key to turn. Rargh. Yay for 5am in strange cities.

Saturday we went to the Corte Ingles to buy copies of the Spanish Constitution and ended up wandering around it for two hours. The Corte Ingles is like what would happen if Macy's and SuperWalmart had some sort of unholy union. There are like 8 of them in Madrid, and each takes up a city block or some ridiculous amount of space. They sell cars. And homeowner's insurance. And sewing supplies and tobacco and stamps and food and electronics and cell phones and *insert bizarre thing here*. It took us a while to stop going "holy freaking crap" every time we found a new section. Then that night we had tapas (which I've seen described as "Spain's only significant contribution to world cuisine - ouch! - they're like appetizers, sort of, and you buy a bunch and split them). I got garlicky mushrooms, and there was tortilla (potato omelette) and bruschetta and something I don't remember the name of that tasted vaguely like falafel. It was much fun. Then we went to the pub, where we were surrounded by other English-speaking retrospect, maybe not the culturally immersed night we were planning.

There are many other things:

I am trying so, so, soso hard to adjust to the food. I really am. I think I'm doing well so far, except for breakfast. I have cornflakes - that's fine - but the milk is whole, so I'm pulling an Uncle Chris and adding water. And the orange juice is not orange juice. It's like Sunny D.


Otherwise, the food is making me happy. It's healthy without trying to be. Yay, Mediterranean diet! There's tunafish in everything, which is ok by me. Mmm, tuna.

The schedule here is ridiculous. It is considered shameful if you are home before 3am. Lots of people wait to go home until the Metro reopens at 6 - but everything's open Saturday mornings only, and not at all on Sundays (except for this lovely amazing Internet Cafe). When do they SLEEP? I don't understand! I slept in till 2pm today and yesterday and I'm STILL exhausted. I tried to get up at 10 today to go with people to the Prado and I just couldn't do it. I felt like I'd been hit by a bus. I am confused. I am in a nation of never-sleepers. This does not bode well.

So I'm gonna go, because I have to look up hostels for our trip to Galicia and then try to figure out how on earth I'm going to get to Munich. But I will talk to you all later...bye!

Saturday, September 04, 2004


I have never been so excited in my entire life to be hooked up to AIM, even though it's 9am or some ridiculous hour at home and no one's awake. PEOPLE! PEOPLYPEOPLE!

I have a ton to write about, but I'm not sure if I'll have time to write the carefully crafted entry I'd like, so I may be stopping somewhere in the middle. Please forgive.

Yesterday was our first day of "intensive course", which does not seem to be very intensive at all. I'm ok with that. The professor, Ramos, is very cool - partly because he's a dynamic lecturer (despite the fact that I already knew almost all of what background he was giving us) and partly because he swears in English. It's funny to see this man in his mid-50s or so all of a sudden break out with a hearty "God damn!" or "bloody *whatever*". He's started talking to us already about our field trips, which begin next week (5 days in AndaluTHIA, Grandpa!) and are part of the curriculum. I absolutely cannot wait. Along with some other girls (more on that in a bit) I'm staying in Galicia week after next for an extra two days - we think we're going to dip down into Portugal while we're there, just to see. Read that sentence again. Holy crap. DIP DOWN INTO PORTUGAL. Ahahaha.

After class, we all went on a bus tour of Madrid in order to see the city. Originally, that didn't sound bad to me - but it ended up being exactly what I feared we'd develop into, which is a group of American lemmings. It was horrible. We got to see the Palacio Real (Royal Palace, but the king doesn't live there anymore), the Madrid Cathedral (which is this horrendous concrete Neoclassical monstrosity), and the Plaza Mayor. The Plaza Mayor is pretty much THE landmark they put in all guides to Madrid - bright red walls, statue of a king on horseback in the middle, terribly overpriced cafes all along. You should be able to find pictures easily, if you'd like.

Funny story.

We get off the bus and file into the Plaza Mayor for our guided tour spiel, and on the gate on the way in is this Irish Pub. It has a placard outside which catches my eye as we walk past.

A Pint of Vodka
I mull this over while listening to the spiel (how on earth do you drink a pint of vodka at once?) until we file back out of the Plaza to find food during our limited free time.
A Pint of Vodka
and Red Bull
No way. That's not possible, is it? We leave and go to find food, laughing about the absolute ridiculousness of it all on the way. We stop into a Dunkin Donuts/Subway (yes, my first meal out while in Spain was a glazed chocolate donut. But all I had was the change in my purse! And we only had like 10 minutes! And it's not like we were looking for American food, but that's what there was! And...oh, I am so ashamed.) and eat, then walk back to meet the group.
A Pint of Vodka
and Red Bull
Discount with Student ID
Do they know us or WHAT.
Two girls got lost at the Plaza Mayor and didn't meet back up with the group, which meant we had to spend half an hour circling back around to find them (and by got lost I mean are slow and stupid, I think). They ended up cutting the tour short and dropping us at a Metro stop on the other side of the city from us, which of course meant that we had to find our own way home, which also of course meant I didn't get home till 4:30 and was scared Pilar would be mad at me, which I think she was a little. I felt so bad. :( My phone is all messed up and won't work, or I would have called her.
Which leads us to our next topic: What did I do last night, my first night out in Spain?
We (and by we I mean me, Erin, and Jessica) had agreed to go out and wander around the city just to get our bearings and maybe find a place to hang out. We were going to call each other later. I went home, slept till 7...
and by 10 I was freaking out. *They're never going to call you, they stood you up, you´re going to spend your first weekend in Spain at home alone, even Pilar's gone out, this is so embarrassing, aghaghaghagh*. I eventually broke down and called Jessica (and at $.99/min, this was maybe not the best idea). "Oh yeah, we're going to meet at the Metropolitana Metro station in like 15 minutes, didn't they call you? *STUPID PHONE NOT WORKING* Well, come on along and I'll wait for you."
We get on the blue line. "Issa and some guys are going to meet at the Plaza del Sur, so we'll ride out there and maybe go out after."
We ride to Plaza del Sur, to the very south of the Blue Line. We get off. It is dead off deserted.
"Are you sure he said Plaza del Sur and not Plaza del Sol?"
Erin and I are approached by a Metro guide. "Are you lost?"
"Maybe a little. How do you get to Plaza del Sol?"
"Oh, it's at the very opposite end of this line."
Aww, crap. "Fuencarral Station?"
"Yeah, just take that train and you'll get there."
About thirty minutes later, we get off at Fuencarral. It is completely deserted - no one except for a group of three men who come up to us. Keep in mind that by now it is probably about 12:30am.
"Are you lost?"
" do you get to Plaza del Sol?"
"Oh, you're looking for Fuencarral Street, not Fuencarral Station. You have to go back."
Aww, crap.
Skip to 1:30am, after traversing the very sketchiest of the (otherwise quite nice) Madrid metro. We finally get to where we're going.
And I leave the rest for a later date, as I am starting to write crappily. Don't worry, you will get it. I miss you all.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Yay for First Days

Downtime - I can't decide whether I like it or not. I don't have anyone's cell (because most people don't have them yet) so I can't make plans or DO anything (hey. HEY! I know I wouldn’t be doing anything anyway because it’s 50 people I don’t know and I am scared of them. BUT WE’RE BEING POSITIVE HERE. Jump on the happy train). Bah.

This is the post I wrote last night (with some edits, maybe, because it is impossible for me to read my own writing without quivering in shame)(on that note, what is this with this Faultline linkage? You mean smart people will be reading this? Does that mean I have to write up to them? Because I can't imagine that I will. Stupid self-image-related standards. Grumble grumble).

Holy crap I am actually here.

However, before we reach Spain/Europe-related topics, I have a riddle for you - a conundrum, if you will:
What's worse than being stuck in a gigantic tube of fuel with 200 people for 6 hours on a redeye with a seat that doesn't recline and recirculated air and Garfield: The Movie and a pinched nerve in your left leg?
All of the above, except with 200 people who've had Mexican Chicken with Beans and Rice for dinner.

I hope I just spoiled all of your appetites.

A story that predates the riddle:

So I'm sitting in JFK reading my book, because in a typical fit of paranoia I left myself 5 hours between my Buffalo-NYC flight and my NYC-Madrid flight. *Sidenote: How much do I love the world for deciding to release Elizabeth George's newest paperback at the same time as this trip? Answer: You can't possibly imagine.* I'm pretty much alone at the gate because I'm so early, but all of a sudden I hear the tiniest little sneeze to my right...which is odd because I'm on the right endseat. So I turn around and look - nothing. Look down and (wait for it)

a pigeon walks out from under my chair.

I don't think it was expecting to see me, either, since it went into hunted-prey mode and just stared at me intently. Needless to say, this is an Only In New York story that I dare you to top.

Seriously: Airport/Animal stories - lay them on me.

In a combination of clairvoyance and common sense, I predicted I'd be flying over with the lovely Erin Conter. And I was! It was good to see her, since it's been a while. Actually, DIM this year is like a little Bassett reunion - between Erin, Mark Dunlap, Alex Clavero, second-floor Will, and myself, we could have a party. I like it. It means THERE ARE PEOPLE HERE I KNOW. Thank god for that.

My host mom/señora/the nice lady who feeds me is named Pilar. She's very cool. I have my own room (insert gigantic sigh of relief here) - another girl apparently lives in the next room over, but it's been two days and I haven't seen her yet. She's bumming around Madrid with her boyfriend for the next two weeks, Pilar says. Pilar also says this girl (named Kate) knows no Spanish. Or about as much Spanish as you can learn from watching The Simpsons. ¡Ay, caramba!

Pilar reminds me the tiniest bit of Grandma Clarke in the most superficial ways possible - namely, there is a ceramic rooster atop the fridge and a pretty crocheted white thing-in-progress in the living room. However, instead of Georgie or the other cockatiel who hated my guts, there is a black cocker spaniel named Nube. Nube and I would get along well enough were it not for two factors:

1. I wear sandals pretty much exclusively.
2. Nube has a toe fetish.

I have become a gigantic and expensive squeaky toy.

I haven't been anywhere in Madrid yet (but I haven't BEEN here for that long!) except for my own neighborhood, around which I've been taking leisurely and circuitous walks. It's a quiet area, and it's easier for me to get to school here than it is to take the East-West bus. I was wandering around one of the larger streets yesterday and managed to find (surprise, surprise) The American Store.

They have Wheat Thins.

I'm resisting the urge, because it would be obscene.

Speaking of obscene, I tried an ATM today just to see if my (expired yesterday) bank card would work. ATM think plastic tasty. Yum, yum. I don't have a bank card anymore. Should I be worried? Because I'm not. That's the obscene part.

For the sake of decency and not frittering my time away on the internet (though I'm not sure what else there is to do besides homework, which consists of three pages of reading), I'm'a go now. Stupid everyone else, who all know each other. Stupid me, for being shy. Stupid free time. Stupid stupid.

I am here!

I hate European keyboards!

I am about to be late for lunch, so I must go temporarily. Don't worry, I've formatted a perfectly wonderful entry and you will get it later.

I can't get on AIM. Blech.

AND, I asked my host mom lady and she said using her address for mail is fine. Packages you still might want to send to the DIM office, whose address I shall post later.

)"·$&/%· Spanish keyboard!