Monday, February 22, 2010

Weeks 2 into 3

Well, it seems a bout of laziness has struck me over the last week or so. This is mostly because I've been busy sorting out my class schedule at the University. In any case, alot of things have happened besides and fortunately, the past week and a half is best explained in photos.

I'll start off with a few from Carnaval:
In Spain, Carnaval--or Mardi Gras--is a week-long event. For days in a row, there are events in the streets of Burgos and little children parade the town dressed up as fairies, pirates, superheros and everything in between. They are absolutely adorable. On Sunday, Valentine's Day, I went to see some of the family-oriented events, which included an anamatronic dragon and a parade of medeival pipers. A jester on stilts led the crowd of families down the river and around town.

It was, however, very cold, so my comrades and I ducked into a cafe to warm up. I have now discovered that the best way to warm up is with an Irlandes--coffee and whiskey. Or, more accurately, whiskey with some coffee.
Apparently, one of the waiters thought the sight of me guzzling my drink as if I were Hagrid's long-lost cousin was very attractive, because he slipped me his phone number when I paid my bill. I texted him, trying to figure out which waiter he was and he wouldn't stop calling me for three days!

The following week was pretty non-descript, but this past Saturday we went on a school trip to La Rioja, also known as WINE COUNTRY!! Yes, that is correct. Boston University is paying us to drink. Over the course of the trip we visitted a traditional bodega, a wine museum, and a modern bodega, as well as a hotel designed by Frank Gehry.

a traditional Bodega

the Village of Briones

a modern Bodega

some of these bottles have been chilling since WWI

the ride home was stunning

More soon, hopefully. The Eind!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Post II of the Day

Not that I want to spam your blog page, but Spanish wifi wouldn't let me upload the last post for three days. And so here follow a few overdue images of Burgos: Sima in front of a store sign

the Center of Town

Near the Cathedral

Fountain in the park, and El Cid below
Burgos below, as seen from the Castle

Sima and I, below, at a mirrored hall in the Cathedral

The tomb of El Cid, below, quite flat
A chapel in the Cathedral

Since Tuesday, Sima, Doris and I have returned to the cathedral where we drank for an educational tour. The Cathedral is beautiful. It looks like Notre Dame, but houses royals, medieval art and the tomb of El Cid, Spain's equivalent of Bravheart. El Cid is one of Burgos' icons; in the 11th century he was famous for fighting the Moors.

Besides field trips, the three of us have been grappling with Spanish culture. Our program is an immersion program, which basically means Spanish 24/7. We don't know any Americans yet, mostly we have Spaniard friends. While language comprehension gets easier by the day, the concepts of dating, friendship, and swearing are more interesting.
Swearing is fairly feasible, considering that Spaniards curse (literally) every other sentence. I'm personally fond of the phrase "puta madre", or literally, "prostitute mother". You can say "puta madre!" if you're upset, or if someone is "de puta madre" it means "they're the shit!" There's also "joder", "jolin", and "hostia". Also to say that one is the cat's pijamas you say "es la leche", which means "they're the milk".
Making friends is easy and hard at the same time, though. Platonic friendships between the sexes are not rare, but less common than in the States. Which makes it hard to read people's intentions sometimes. Not that the boys on our floor make it very difficult for us. Considering that so far I have only one female acquaintance...yeah. The boys here are stereotypically good-looking and extremely welcoming, but this comes at the cost of their collective maturity level.
Some of them have the common sense to ask for a girl's phone number, while others have resorted to more creative antics.
How to explain...
I keep my door shut in the evenings so I can do my homework. During that time, the following things happen. For one, any given time I'll hear a series of rapid, hard knocks followed by the sound of feet scampering away and lots of giggles down the hall. Of course, I don't answer, because there is no one at the door.
Last night I heard the following song chanted in the hallway: "Veronica Electronica, your boyfriend's here." This would refer to one of the boys I've hung out alot with. He is generally laconic and helps me with my homework oftentimes, but his quietness is made up for by his friends.
And today, I was innocently standing at the front desk, signing the attendance sheet for dining hall meals when Sima said, "Hey Veronica, someone wrote a note next to your signature." At first I thought the receptionist had made a note that maintenance needed to fix my shower or something, but then I read it. Next to my name there was a word, but I couldn't read it, because someone scratched it out and wrote something else. It said, "Veronica G <-- MAN. YEAH!"
Words fail me. In any case, as it's Thursday, I better go to dinner to fill up on something to absorb whatever is to be imbibed tonight.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Week 1

I've been in Spain since the 4th.

On the fourth I arrived at Madrid airport where my program director, Amalia, picked me and my classmates--Doris and Sima--up. Our program is very small, just the three of us. We went from the airport to the bus station to get to Burgos. The adventure started there, when someone dropped a suitcase on an escalator and one by one us three fell down the escalator like dominoes. It was an omen, but perhaps a good one.

After a three hour bus ride, we were picked up in Burgos by our co-director Amanda. Amanda is American, 23, and tiny. In heels she barely reaches my shoulder but she has one of the loudest booming laughs I've ever heard. She took us to our dorm (residencia) at Camino de Santiago and we signed into our rooms. Doris and I dorm together and Sima has a single next door until another International student moves in with her.

The first night I was a little bit homesick. Due to the time difference it was difficult to get in touch with any of my loved ones via Skype and I had no phone. However, for some ungodly reason, Sima, Doris and I live on a boys' floor. Well, a wing separated by two sets of doors. The boys in our hall came to our rooms and introduced themselves. Having spoken little Spanish outside of perfunctory requests such as taxi-hailing, the culture shock began here. Not only did I have to decypher the Spanish accent, but Spanish youth speak super fast and litter their speech with slang. However, we made friends with Carlos, the apparent alpha male, who happens to look like a character on my favourite Polish soap opera.
After the first night though, things got much better. Amalia and Amanda are amazing. They showed us around Burgos on Friday and took us out for dinner. They're really nice and the best part is that Boston U pays for everything school-related. This includes museum trips, field trips and dinners out. Amanda took us out for drinks later that night, along with two of her Spanish friends, another Carlos and Alberto.

Another cultural lesson to be learned: Spanish nightlife is nothing like that in the States. Spaniards leave home eleven at the earliest and come home at six. There are no cover charges for bars or clubs, bars have no places to sit, one is allowed to smoke everywhere. Therefore, Spaniards barhop alot. One starts the night off in one place and over the course of the night hops around to a whole handful of other venues.
Yet another lesson? THERE ARE NO LAWS IN THIS COUNTRY. This is amazing. Friday, one of our male companions smoked two fat joints in the middle of a club. Using a cigarette holder, which will amuse me til the day I die. And nobody noticed or cared (about the pot, not the cigarette holder). Saturday night, Sima, Doris and I discovered the true depths of Spain's lawlessness when the boys from our floor took us out. Gracious hosts that these Spaniards were, about ten to fifteen of these gentlemen hosted us three ladies. We began the night by pregaming at the bus stop.

Yes, the bus stop.

We took the bus to the Center of Town and went to the Cathedral. To pray, you ask? Because it was on the way to the club? No. To drink more. We shared in gin, wine, and god knows what on the steps of the third largest church in Spain. Here follow a few photos, because after all, a picture is worth a thousand words:
Sima, myself, and Doris with our new amigos.

I daresay the weekend was successful. Starting Monday, we began Spanish classes of Review, which are to continue throughout the week. For homework we are assigned ludicrously tedious essay. Thankfully, we get a little help from some of the boys. Apart from that, we're getting on really well and have formed a lovely friendship quickly. We are among the loudest people in the cafeteria and we laugh about the stuipdest things and sing the Natalie Portman Rap in the hallways. When we're not bored in class, Sima, Doris and I walk around town, take pictures, and take coffees.

In Burgos it's commonplace to take a turn, or "dar una vuelta". This means the people dress up really nice to see and be seen, which means to walk around the Old City and chat and people watch. This is what we saw on our vueltas:

Tuesday was Sima's birthday, so we went out with Amanda to an oyster bar. Pictures of seafood and the rest of Burgos follow.

So far, it's been pretty eventful. I miss my parents a little bit because the internet here is very weak, but honestly, I don't miss the states at all. I happen to like standing while I eat dinner in bars, drinking in public, oogling Spaniards, and sleeping very little. I could get used to this. Then again, I think I already am.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


It's one a.m. and I'm not sleeping because I'm making my little sister a "goodbye playlist" and frantically jotting down some Spanish curse words. At 8 tonight I will be on a plane bound for Madrid to begin a semester in Burgos, Spain. I am not yet sure whether I am more excited or terrified. I'm excited about the loads of travelling I will do, and let's not kid ourselves, Spanish men. Yet I'm also scared that taking classes in a foreign language will be impossible and the kids won't let me sit at their lunch tables and I'll end up eating in the bathroom, just like in Mean Girls.
Mostly, I can't believe the day has finally come. It took four very painful visits to the Spanish Consulate in Boston and four very painful dealings with a moustchaio-ed clerk (who resembled "Cookoo Face" from the Madeline movies and books) to arrange my visa.

I have lived with my parents for the past six weeks. I repeat, I have lived with my parents for the past six weeks.

I have gone to the mall more times than I would prefer, trying to find weather-appropriate attire that would also lure aforementioned Spanish men.

And I have read the fourth Harry Potter book (as well as the entire Oxford Spanish-English Dictionary) in preparation, and I can now discuss wands and house elves with everyone at the University of Burgos.

I have no idea what to expect. I've done little more than the basic research about Burgos to feed my imagination. I have no idea what I want either, except one thing. There's one book I bring with me whenever I leave home, The Beach by Alex Garland. It's about travellers, appropriately enough. Anyway, I think the narrator sums it up pretty well when he says, "What else do you need to know? Stuff about my family, or where I'm from? None of that matters. Not once you cross and ocean and cut yourself loose, looking for something more beautiful, more exciting and, yes I admit, more dangerous."

I'll take that.
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