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First Few Weeks of the Experience

September 2

OK,  I also take a siesta every day to supplement my evenings slight lack of sleep time...similar to my summer schedule, but dissimilar in that the lack of sleep time has not been from an excess of fun, but rather because I have been placed in the most intensive Spanish group out of the three that make up our program! Mucha tarea. This intensive course lasts one more week before regular classes start, and my espanol has been improving rapidly. Another reason for this is that I live with a sixty five year old widow and her thirty seven year old daughter. Both are great; include me and provide me with lots of food. We eat dinner late! 10pm is normal.

I brought one of those surchargers (I forget what they’re called but it’s so you can plug in multiple devices from a single outlet and is the one I use in Colorado)…and when I plugged it in, it nearly blew my hand off. Well ok, it was just a huge boom with a slight shock that turned off all of the lights and appliances in the near vicinity of the house.

Entonces…the first time I tried to go shopping (con Miguelito on Monday with a list of about 6 things to get which reminds me that I didn’t pack quite correctly for spending the semester at the Hampton Beach of Europe; I didn’t bring sandals or sunglasses and my best swim trunks are covered in pine tar…) included us struggling to communicate, realizing my debit card was frozen, getting slightly flustered, and proceeding to buy slippers (zapatillas to wear around my casa) for $42 euro when I thought they were $27 (what was I thinking with either of those prices?). Shopping ayer (yesterday) was great and I now own an international phone with $25 euros on it. In total it cost less than my slippers.

OK, I’m off to study up hard for the examen manana. Pictures to come!


September 4

I’ve been living in Spain for more than a week now. Poco a poco he aprendido la idioma (edit* el idioma).

Yesterday after the exam, a 20 minute tram ride north brought us to a part of the endless beach around San Juan. Blue sky, soft white sand, volleyball, not crowded, waves, ability to walk 50+yards into the ocean.

Below are a couple of photos from today’s group trip to Guadalest, a mountain estate from hundreds (didn’t pay enough attention) of years ago, in the countryside outside of the city. The landscape reminds me of southern Colorado/New Mexico. We also visited the small provincial village of Altea (where the church was) and went to a new beach. Things are going swimmingly!





September 5

This evening at 6:30, a multitude of study abroad students chose to attend una corrida de toros (bull fight). By 8:30, around half of them were in some other part of the city as the sixth and final bull collapsed (over/under was 6 departures, and the under never had a chance). It was a decently shocking experience. They really kill the bulls. They don’t die quickly.

On the micro outlook: we were watching the final ‘exam’ of ‘La Escuela Taurina,’ bullfighting school, and there were three circa 18 year old matadors competing for the title of top matador at the school. They were matched up against tenacious (maybe not quite full sized?) bulls. These young matadors have BALLS. After matador #1 finished a near flawless round, matador #2 came out and immediately went for the ‘behind the back cape hold.’ He got absolutely NAILED. #2 then proceeded to grind out the rest of the fight with what looked to be a broken hand and a mauled femur. All three had some sort of wildly dangerous contact with a bull at some point during the corrida.

On the macro outlook: I don’t think I’m particularly against corridas. For me, it might not even be as bad as supporting the United States’ large-scale CAFO-based meat industry (though it’s certainly a much more personal experience of support than eating a double cheeseburger at McDonalds).


 September 9

The inside of my head is fuzzy from all of the Spanish I have been studying this past week. Four hours a day! + Heaps of studying…and more to come this evening for the final exam manana. I digress. I’m actually mildly psyched on the amount of learning I’m trying to fill my brain with. Also psyched on chasin' that tan; not really too elusive in Alicante, Spain as it turns out.

Things should immediately chill out for me after tomorrow. I will be taking two business classes (need them as credits to graduate Spring 2012) at the international business school at the Universidad de Alicante along with regular CIEE Spanish class… and as it turns out the UA classes don’t start for another week and end in late November!


September 11

Yesterday, to celebrate the culmination of two weeks of intensive Spanish, the group took an afternoon trip to the Bodega de Santa Margarita, a winery about an hour’s drive out of the city. As it turned out, there wasn’t the slightest pressure to spit out our wine after tasting…and the good people at Santa Margarita happily brought out more bottles.L  ooking back, it was really a shrewd business move on their part; I’m judging that they sold 50+ bottles as we were leaving.

Additionally, with the wine, they served salchichon(sausage) that was from pigs raised right there at the winery. There was also cheese with our wine! And heaps of other delicious snacks! And excess quantities! I had a slight headache by the time we got on the bus.

Upon my return, the family wasn’t in sight so I immediately took a siesta for two hours. Waking up to some banging sounds and some loud talking. Walking into the living room, my second person plural greeting of ‘como estais’ was responded to by a ‘third person plural pointing to’ of the cast on my madre’s right leg and her informing me that she broke it ‘en la calle’ (on the street). She had broken a couple ‘fingers’ as my sister called them in her broken English (dedo means both finger and toe over here). Ileana (65 years old) was practicing walking around on arm-extension crutches and was giving reasons to believe she might break more bones before she went to sleep that night. Thankfully a far more stable walker was procured from her storage locker at a warehouse.

Elena (sister) was pretty stressed out, periodically hitting the back porch to have a cigarette…contrastingly, Ileana was the opposite of stressed and was practically making a point of trying to help me improve my Spanish. We had an enthusiastic conversation before I went out about the subtle differences between ‘fate’ and ‘destiny’. Fairly outrageous scenario.

On a different note: I returned from the beach today at about 6 and went straight to a café/bar with my friend Derek...we watched the Hercules CF vs. Barcelona game with lots of locals. We won! 2-0, a real miracle, with a couple of goals by Valdez.   Home game next weekend vs. Valencia. I hope to be there.


Some Ramblings-September 17

The refrigerator in my apartment is impressively unorganized. Containers of olives/olive oil all over the place and random food everywhere. My dad’s influence in me came out last night as I was trying to put away the salad bowl. There is now one small section of the fridge that is well put together.

This morning I made instant coffee with regular coffee grinds and micro-waved water. A small miscommunication with mi madre.

It rained hard (it's only drizzled once or twice before) for the first time today while a few of us were at the beach. Which brings up the point that I’m abandoning my goal of not talking to people about the weather (arbitrarily that is). My Spanish skills will need to become more creative before I can avoid ‘hace mucho calor’ in any normal conversation about my day.

I am debating the merits of having the next book I read be a Spanish one. As in, written in Español. Rate of chapters finished and nuances comprehended may decrease, but on the macro scale it should increase those rates (my life in figurative terms).(edit* this never happened)

Two of my buddies here are taking a class entirely on the ‘Camino de Santiago,’ a sacred Catholic Pilgrimage on which to take part you only need to step out of your front door and walk to the holy city of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. I really enjoy the idea of such a trek and all of the history behind it.Thus, I’m getting daily secondhand lessons on the subject.  The class is actually going to be doing a mini-Camino de Santiago during fall break and it doesn’t sound too tame (120km in 5 days =24kms a day).

OK, hasta pronto amigos, Nick

September 21

I attended my first Hercules CF football game this Sunday con Miguelito.  The stadium is a short 15 minute walk from my apartment.  It was a derby game against Valencia (our close neighbor to the north), plenty of fun. I even learned a bit of colloquial soccer vocabulary which is kind of useful. ‘puta madre' in various contexts is used regularly for yelling at Valencia's team and fans, and also for any sort of unfortunate play, and also for complimenting our players...a bit confusing.   Hercules lost 2-1, but the crowd and players didn’t give up in any way. Not even when Valencia scored two early goals that were a class above what Hercules had to offer. El Estadio Jose Rico Perez was at 80%+ capacity(which is 30,000 or so). I live a 15-20 minute westerly walk to the stadium and Miguelito is even closer.

My other classes have been starting up this week. Human Resources Management, while it won’t teach me everything I might find interesting about Spain…is taught by a Spanish professor and it has an international feel to it that standard CIEE classes don’t have.There are fellow students from Norway, Finland (four blonde babybabes), Australia, Germany, England, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Greece, Gibraltar, Ghana, Netherlands, and Switzerland in addition to a handful of fellow Americanos. Quick trivia question; which one of the above mentioned is not a country? Why? Prize is the opportunity to spend 3 months with me working here,, in late summer/fall of 2012. I'm mildly serious.

I believe that the website was brought to my attention early this year by my buddy Liam who was studying in Florence, Italy, but for whatever reason I never gave it a good look-over until yesterday. Such an awesome deal…you agree to volunteer 25 hours+ of your time each week and in return receive free room and board from ‘workaway’ hosts that are all over the world. Achieving my dream of working on a ranch in Mongolia never seemed so near. Who doesn't want to learn to drink vodka the traditional Mongolian way?




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