Thursday, September 04, 2008

Home in Madrid

I am safely arrived in Madrid. This is my third day actually. From the air, Spain looks a lot like Texas, on the ground it looks more like Rome. The temperature is a bit more moderate than back home, even cool in the evenings, but there is always a little wind, and it is very dry.

The flight over was long and boring. The flight was pretty bumpy until we got past Greenland, so that alone was uncomfortable. I was in the second to the last row, in the very middle. On my right there was a large American. On my left there was a large Russian. Both of them went to sleep almost as soon as we were in the air. I was stuck in the middle, with no way to sit without touching both of them. The smaller I tried to make myself, the more they expanded to fill the available space, until I would get up, and pretend walk to the WC, thereby forcing one of them completely out of his seat, and allowing me to reclaim my space when I returned. In the row in front of me, there was a toddler, probably about one, so old enough to stand on the seat and yowl, but not old enough to be expected to use words when she was a.)tired, b.)hungry, and c.)having her ears hurt. In fact, given her age, she was very well behaved, and probably could have yelled louder if she had tried. As if that weren't enough, the couple across the aisle had two cats with them, and the kid's crying periodically set the cats to meowing. It was kind of entertaining to watch as the people around me, one at a time, over the course of the entire flight, put up their heads and asked, "Katzen?"*

By the time I finally landed in Frankfurt, I was so tiered that the layover and the flight to Madrid seemed uneventful. I got to the school with no problems, and was soon shuffled off to my host family. Ana and Juan have a large apartment on the 5th** floor of a building on the main street between the Opera house and Puerta del Sol, so it's literally in the middle of everything. There's a lot of street noise, which isn't _too_ bad at night, provided you are asleep before the garbage truck comes by at 1 a.m. Two of my room-mates use ear-plugs, but I'm to afraid that I'd sleep through my alarm clock to try it.

In addition to myself, there are 5 other girls here: 3 from Saint Louis University, two from Sufolk University. Ana and Juan are great people. She works from home, and is full of advice and energy. He is an architect and a real character. Every time he opens his mouth something funny comes out of it. His firm is in charge of the effort to make most of down town a pedestrian zone with lots of restaurants and upscale shopping, while the traffic continues in tunnels underneath the major plazas. This is the construction project currently going on around the neighborhood at all hours of the day and night.

Classes have started; that picture is me on the porch of one of the building with the English Department and the registrar in it. Right now I'm sitting in on a Spanish class which meets four days a week (Monday through Thursday). Yesterday the threat was that Dr. S would shoot us if we didn't speak in Spanish, today she was just charging a Euro***.

I'm also taking a class on linguistics. There was some confusion over where the class would be held, as it is cross listed two or three ways, and each course number was assigned to a different room. Apparently who ever makes the schedule thought that Dr. M could be in two places at once, or would stand in the hall and shout towards both rooms.

Next month I will start a third class, about research methodologies, which is on the graduate schedule instead of the undergraduate.

I've got a job working in the writing lab, except I'm being payed with a tuition discount instead of money, because the student visa is different from a work visa, so they can't legally employ me otherwise. I'm waiting now for the finance office to get me billed correctly; the tuition is different in Madrid than in St. Louis, and I've been given a discount as a scholarship, in addition to what I'll receive from the writing lab. I've been assured that they know that they need to fix things, but since the graduate semester doesn't really start for another month, it probably won't be sorted until then. On the other hand, it's the natural state of affairs to be frustrated with the bursar, so I'm not two worried.


*Trans: "Cats?"
*or 6th, depending on how you want to count
***or a cup of coffee, offender's choice

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