30 October 2008

Sintra is for Lovers

The next day, we woke up bright and early (I did, at least; my roommates woke up about 15 minutes before we had to be at breakfast). Let me tell you, the Hotel Marques de Pombal serves a mean breakfast. They had scrambled eggs (some with parsley, some without), mushrooms, sausage, bacon, ham, etc, and then there was a variety of yogurt, and a lot of bread and pastries (these were free, fortunately), some cereals, juices, cheeses, all that good stuff. I personally love scrambled eggs with mushrooms and croissants so I went a little crazy. Oh and also I went crazy with the almond pastries with apple jam. Delish.

The plan for the day was to day trip to Sintra, a neighboring village and municipality. It's a pretty quaint area. I guess they could totally have city status if they wanted, but they keep refusing so that they can keep township status and be more appealling to tourists or whatever. We got there in our tour bus, but after that we had to wait for a local bus to take us up to the first castle, Palacio da Pena. While we were waiting for that bus, I took a few pics of some hydrangeas that were behind us.

The bus took us up steep hills, through a very mystical-looking forest, to the front gate of the castley area, and from there we had to walk up through some more mystical-looking forests to the actual castle. Pena isn't very old, as castles go, but it does have a rich history. I guess the legend goes that a super long time ago, the Virgin Mary appeared on the same hill, and eventually there was a monastery built on the site. Like everything else in the area, the monastery was ruined by an earthquake in the 18th century, and the area was untouched for a while. Then one day the king came riding through and was like, "This would be a sweet spot for a castle." So he built one, employing all sorts of random architectural styles, and today it is Palacio de Pena.

What were some of the sweet things we saw there. . . oh yeah, a 360 view of everything, a big huge monster carved over a doorway, lots of tiles, a forest that looked a lot like Narnia, that kind of thing. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside the palace unfortunately. (Not that that stopped half the people in our group from totally ignoring our tour guide and trying.)

After that we trekked back through Narnia down to the village, and we got a little break to do lunch and explore before our next tour. My group got lunch at a little restaurant run by a guy who called us his "American babies" and insisted that we try the almond tart (it was very, very good). Then we hit up the souvenir shops- I bought a little pin that says "Sintra is for Lovers" which I thought was just about the best thing ever, plus a gift for a certain sister's boyfriend.

Then we regrouped to vis the Palacio Nacional de Sintra, which is quite a bit older than Pena, but less pretty. There were a lot of beautiful tiles inside of it, though. One of the rooms, the Magpie Room, is so called because the queen caught the king kissing one of her ladies-in-waiting, and to stop all the rumors, the king had the ceiling and walls of this entire room painted with magpies, one for each woman at court, and in their beaks they carry the motto "Por bem," or "for honor." I'm not really sure why the magpies though. . . did they have Heckle and Jeckle back in the 16th century?

Then we got back on the bus and headed back to Lisbon. . . or so we thought. We drove out to the coast, to a place called Cabo da Roca, or something like that. It's the westernmost point of mainland Europe, and it's 140 meters above the sea. We all hopped the fence and sat on the edge of the cliff to try and be the most western of all. It was amazing. To the north we could see some of the coastline, and one of the girls asked me if it was the United States.

We could only stay twenty minutes, and then it was back to Lisbon. Everyone separated to go out to dinner and such, and I met up with this awesome pirate.

Pirates are really big in Lisbon, turns out. There was a pirate exhibit at the pirate museum in Sintra, we passed a pirate holding a menu for a restaurant in Sintra (standing next to a scuba diver and a shark), we saw the Pirate Bar on one of the main streets in Lisbon, and then there was this pirate in front of a convenience store. There should be that many pirates everywhere.

Bem-vindo a Lisboa

So. Last weekend we had an optional excursion to Lisbon, Portugal, and I went.
And it was awesome.
The adventure began Friday morning when we hopped on the Metro and took it up to Barajas. My roommates like to tease me for trying to be punctual; I can't help it if I don't want to incur the wrath of Ángel and María Jose. Somehow they left before me and I still got to the airport 15 minutes before they did.
We were flying TAP, and they treated us pretty well. I got a window seat, which was great, because I love window seats. Even better was the fact that I had three Portuguese boys in the seats to my right. Miguel, João, and Guy with Eyebrows kept me entertained the whole hour-long flight, and they even taught me a little Portuguese (it's similar to Spanish, but closer to Galician- basically it sounds like Spanish hidden under a Russian accent). Any time you see that tilde over a letter, like over the a in João, your voice goes all nasally. Try pinching your nose. Also, there are a lot of j and z sounds- that's the part that reminds me of Russian. So any time you see a j, just say it like you would in English.
In Spanish, the tilde is only used on the letter ñ, like in cumpleaños. In Portuguese, on the other hand, the tilde goes over vowels, but they still have an enye sound, indicated by the letters nh, as in the name of Brazilian soccer great Ronaldinho (pronounced ro-nal-DI-nyo).
But enough about the language; let's get back to me.
So we arrived in Lisboa and got on a bus and went to our hotel, the Hotel Marques de Pombal (I know there are some random accents in there somewhere but I am too lazy to try and figure out what they are). It was a really nice hotel in a really nice area, with a metro stop maybe 20 yards from the front door. We got up to our rooms, my roommates and I proceeded to have an epic fight, and then it was off to explore the city.
For some silly reason, our guides thought it was necessary that we take the metro for two stops before walking a half hour up a big hill. This was silly because a) the distance that we travelled by metro takes approximately 6 or 7 minutes to walk, and b) it took probably about a half hour for everyone to buy these single-use metro tickets and figure out how to scan them. Anyway, we ended up seeing some really cool squares, then some sweet alley ways, then a few drug dealers, then an ancient Roman amphitheatre mid-excavation, and finally we got up to São Jorge Castle.
This place was also amazing. It was built way up on a hill, so we had a great view of the city, and you could go up on all the ramparts and, needless to say, we took a bunch of pictures (well, I took a bunch of pictures).
There were a lot of cats around Lisboa. Maybe they have a rat problem or something. It just seemed like everywhere I looked, there were fat cats sleeping or lazing about. They were pretty much oblivious to us- some of the cats were just sleeping out in the open, which I thought was a little unusual.
Then it was back to the hotel to do our own thing. I went out with some friends in the direction of Bairro Alto, which had been highly recommended to me by the boys on the plane. I think we had a destination in mind, but after an hour or so of searching we just gave up and went into the cheapest restaurant on the street we were on.
In Spain, they like to give you bread with your food. It's a nice gesture, like, "Here. Have some bread." Not so in Portugal. If there's bread on the plate in front of you, and you want a taste, you better be willing to shell out some coinage.
We learned this when our ticket came. Every piece of bread, every accompanying single-serve container of butter, or cheese, or sardine paste, was marked along with our entrees, salads, and sangria. It was still pretty reasonable, you know, just not what we'd expected. So moral of the story: don't touch the bread in Portugal. Unless you are planning on paying for it.
Then we wandered a bit. Bairro Alto is famous for its nightlife, but it doesn't have a big city club scene feel- it was more like a neighborhood. People were socializing in the streets. We did have some dealers trying to sell us some stuff, but for the most part it felt pretty safe. Highlight of the night: running into some Australians, one of whom did a mean pterodactyl impression (or so he seemed to think). He tried to trade me shirts but I think he might have been just a little too broad in the shoulders to fit mine. We went with the Aussies (who were probably about 30, btw) to a club just down the street, where we danced until a few of the girls got super tired, then we retired to the hotel.

20 October 2008

Ain't no party like a Complu party. . .

It was a good weekend. Finally skyped my fam, which pretty much made my life, and was long overdue. (I realize there are plenty of people out there who did not understand that last sentence at all- well skype is a way to communicate with your family. It connects webcams so that you can see each other on the computer screen and hear each other too- that is, if your connection is good. So what I said was "I finally got to see the shining faces of my family on my computer screen, live, and they were doing the same with my face.")
Saturday night I went to a churchy sort of thing with an amiga. I liked it; the message for the week was about figuring out who Jesus was, which was nice because I would like to know more about Jesus. It was very intellectual; I think most of the message was taken from the Case for Christ which my friend told me is about an atheist who converts when he comes upon evidence for Jesus that he can't deny. At least I think that's what she said it was about. Anyway, it was interesting, and made even better by the fact that the man who was speaking was from somewhere in England. (The north? Maybe?)
On Sunday, those of us who had gone on the Salamanca trip were invited to a barbeque thrown by the boys we went with (their entire dorm, actually, but we didn't realize that). It was a huge party! They put glasses of sangria in our hands about as soon as we arrived and the cups were never empty but a few minutes before a first-year student was ordered to refill them. The whole thing reminded me a little of a frat party- the whole dorm sticks together, and they have their first year students do the sorts of things that pledges would do (pretty tame things generally, like get more sangria whenever asked and play drums and stuff like that).
The atmosphere was a lot friendlier than at most American college parties I've been to. Although there were tubs and tubs full of sangria, and case after case of beer, I didn't see a single drinking game, and there was no one puking in the bushes when we left. It didn't seem like they were drinking to get drunk- everyone was genuinely enjoying each other's company, and the great afternoon weather. We danced, we laughed, we took a lot of silly pictures. I maybe had a little too much sangria, but my balance is horrible all the time, so really, who's to say? And you can't blame me, because this was really, really, really good sangria.
Usually in sangria you find red wine and some soda, like 7-Up or Fanta, at a rough ratio of 1 part wine to 2 parts soda (this according to the cooking class we took last week. You can also add sugar to taste, and then of course there are chunks of fruits.
Well, this sangria was a little different. They had both red wine and white wine, plus Fanta, plus a LOT of juice, and fruit pieces. I've asked one of the boys for the ingredients so I can dazzle you all when I get home (and after my birthday, naturally). I promise you'll love it.
We were the only four Americans at this party, and there were hundreds of people there, so it was a great opportunity to meet people and practice our Spanish. Apparently sangria improves my accent exponentially- one of the boys stopped me mid-sentence and exclaimed, "Your Spanish is better than mine!" That was maybe an exaggeration, but I really am starting to pick up the different sounds, and I'm trying to remember which words they use here instead of the South and Central American words I've been learning for years. My ra told me she's noticed a big improvement too.
The party had to end sometime (around 9, because it had started at 3) and it was back to midterm studying. (I know I only have the one test this week, but it's the Prado class, and that teacher can be brutal, as I've mentioned.) Our boys have promised to alert us as soon as they plan another party, and I'm definitely looking forward to seeing them around campus (although with 100,000 students at the Complu, that may never happen). What a weekend!

18 October 2008

While I'm waiting for my family to figure out skype. . .

It's been a pretty good week- how is it already Saturday?
Classes went well this week; this next week is midterm week, but because I'm so artsy and am taking artsy classes, which are run by artsy people, who are notoriously non-conformist, I will only actually have one mid-term at the appointed time. All the rest have been put off, some indefinitely. I'm pretty sure Ceramics has no mid-term. Niiiiiice.
Took a cooking class on Monday. Am now expert at cooking tortilla, among other things. Hope you're all ready to be dazzled by newly-acquired skills over the holidays. You have 2 months to prepare.
Dropped music workshop. Mom was right, I'm not creative enough for that class.
Speaking of encouraging things my mum has said, allow me to present this conversation my mom and I had over AIM the other day:
Me: Yeah, so it looks like I will sending my jeans home soon, like I told you.
Mom: What, you are already tired of wearing them?
Me: No, I told you, they don't fit anymore. I am losing weight. I told you that.
Mom: You told me the scale there was broken.
Me: No, I told you what I weighed now, and you didn't believe me. You said the scale must be broken.
Mom: [no response]
So supportive! I still can't wait to talk to her though. Hope they figure out skype soon. . .

13 October 2008


I think that title sums it up pretty well.
Eight a.m. Saturday morning, we (and by we I mean some of my friends from IES) met at one of the all-boys dorms on the UCM campus, in a common area where some of the students were waiting for the cafeteria to open after staying up all night. They were trying to tell us about American shows that they like, like Heroes (they kept repeating, "Save the cheerleader, save the world") and Lost.
Whoever was supposed to organize us was late, and we ended up waiting for a half hour. During this time I realized that there were only 7 IES students going, all girls, and almost 15 UCM boys. It looked like it was going to be an interesting day.
The bus ride to Salamanca was two and a half hours, and it was drizzling when we arrived. That was unfortunate, because Salamanca is known as the Golden City- its sandstone buildings seem to glow in the sunlight.
First we visited the Old and New Cathedrals. They were so incredible, and the tour that we took gave us access to some pretty amazing areas- the rooftop and the upper ambulatory, for instance. I took so many pictures, and have added just a few of my favorites.
Then we checked out a little of the U of S campus, and saw a big library, and la Casa de las Conchas (rumor has it that there is a treasure hidden within one of the shells that decorates the house). By then it was around 1 or 1:30. The leader of the group took us to the Plaza Mayor, where we would commence our one activity for the rest of the day- a 'tour' of Salamanca's finest bars. (At this point I was like, "Um. . . I don't remember this being on the itinerary. . .")
The boys turned out to be really nice and really funny. By the time 8'o'clock rolled around, though, we were all ready to go. We loaded back onto the bus, but had to wait a while, because some of the guys had gone straight to the bars when we'd arrived and hadn't made their way back yet. When they did eventually find us, the guy who was maybe supposed to be one of the leaders took the bus microphone and made a speech in Spanish. At the end, he started talking in English: "American ladies. . . we hope you have good time today, even though the dwarf, and the rain. . ." (one of the Complutense boys was shorter than me, but he totally owned it).
We didn't get back to Madrid until 11, but the bus driver was nice enough to drop us IES chicas off at the bus/Metro stop nearest the UCM so that we wouldn't have to walk through the park.
Here is where my night began. One of my girls here had an invite from a Spanish boy she knows here (let's call him Spanish Boy) to a private party at a really popular club. He would be there with all his friends, and encouraged her to bring hers. That would be me. We were supposed to meet up with them at one, so we rushed home to get ready.
I know I've been over this before, but time is just different here. There were elderly women, women older than either of my grandmothers, passing me as I walked from the bus stop to my home, and it was after 11 at night. Some parties don't even start til after midnight.
We were late meeting up with each other, of course. There were four of us, all riding the Metro together. When we got to the station, we were dismayed to find that it was pouring. Thankfully, Madrid is big on awnings, so we were able to dash to the sides of the buildings and walk along relatively unbothered by the rain.
So we were late to the club, but this guy was even later. He told us he would be at the club at 2 instead, but ended up getting there at a time when we had left to hang out somewhere warmer, and then when we went back to try and get in, the bouncer would have none of it, even when the guy came out to try and persuade him. We would have to wait.
Two of the girls left- it was just my friend and me, huddling under an umbrella next to a bunch of trashy madrileñas. I wrapped my wet scarf around my shoulders in a vain attempt to keep warm.
Finally the bouncer let us in, grumbling about our passport copies, and we found Spanish Boy. We all danced for a while, and I met so many people that I started to get sick of air kisses. One guy started talking to me about US politics. He was Irish and Spanish and had donated 50 euros to Hillary Clinton's campaign and he was very drunk.
The club closed earlier than we'd expected- 4:30. The Metro wouldn't be open til 6, so Spanish Boy told us we could wait at his apartment nearby. That seemed totally reasonable, because it was both my friend and myself and Spanish Boy has been really nice. As we were walking there, I discovered that my cheap scarf had bled blue dye in pale streaks on my arms and shoulders and totally stained my hands. First order of business upon arriving at the apartment was to scrub that off.
This is the part where things got weird. Spanish Boy's roommate had arrived home and, long story short, started 'helping' me wash my hands and pretty much ambushed me. Let's call this guy Would-Be Latin Lover.
This led to some very awkward moments while we waited for 6 to roll around. It got more awkward when the boys told us that their Metro station is very small and doesn't open til 7. Mentirosos. Finally we made it out of there, and I slept until the afternoon.
I've got to say, nothing improves your Spanish vocabulary like social and awkward settings. People were complimenting my accent all day.

10 October 2008

Friday again. . .

Another lazy Friday. Nothing to do but sit around the apartment- that's not an exaggeration this time; I put all my clothes in the wash and didn't think about what I would wear the rest of the day, so it looks like PJs.
The school week went well, I suppose. In Ceramics, we glazed the pieces we'd made last week, and I'm pretty excited to see how a couple of the things I glazed turned out. Prado class was brutal, because of all the standing and walking around, and also because our teacher doesn't seem to know what time we are actually supposed to get out of there. But we are seeing a lot of cool things in that extra time.
I guess my Creative Writing teacher really liked the stuff I wrote for our writing exercises last week. I just feel much less inhibited when I write in Spanish. Now he has high expectations though, so I have to keep working in there. I need to get started on my mini-novela actually.
My Spanish music class was tough this week because the instructor thought it would be a good idea for us to have a jam session, and I had previously told him that my only prior music experience was on the piano (trumpet was not an option). How the heck do you jam on the piano?! That took me so far outside my comfort zone, and I have no idea why I thought it would be a good idea to take that class. We'll see what happens.
Yesterday I headed over to the U.S. Embassy to try and mail the completed absentee ballot request form that I had been given when Johnny Mo came to visit. After walking 20 minutes down Calle Serrano, being searched and having my bag confiscated, and waiting 30 minutes for my number to be called, I was told that my form was no longer being used.
At this point, I had already stayed longer than I needed to. I had rehearsal at 1:30 back at IES, and it was already about 1:10. When the woman behind the glass saw my face, she said, "Oh no, I can get you another form! Don't worry!" and then she took way too long getting me that form. "Now just finish that, and step back up here when you're done, and we can mail it for you."
"Can I just mail it myself?" I asked.
"But- but we can mail it for you!" she exclaimed, like why would I consider any other alternative when that was clearly the best option that had ever been created.
"I really have to go," I told her, and she gave me this glare that said, "Whatever," and shrugged her shoulders.
So I ran back out, grabbed my bag from the guards (I know that sounds like I just stold it and made a break for it, but I gave them my ticket and they returned it to me with no problems), and dashed to the street. It was 1:18. There was no way I was going to make it back on time taking the Metro- the walk from the station to IES is ten minutes by itself. So I did what any street-wise, big city living gal would do: I hailed a cab.
There's one thing I do love about cabbies and bus drivers in this town: for the most part, they seem to be on your side. The bus drivers especially- some mornings we will get on the bus and traffic will be brutal, and you think you're going to be late, but whenever the way is clear, the drivers will just floor it. Like I didn't know buses could hit the speeds that these guys achieve.
It was the same with this cabbie- I'm pretty sure he got me there in about 10 minutes. I ran to the theater and slipped through the open door. . . only to see that the only other people there were our instructor and one other student.

Eventually another girl showed up, but we had to just cancel rehearsal because two of the five of us were gone. I can't believe I took a cab across town for that, but I feel like our teacher's spirit would really have been crushed if only one of us had arrived on time.
What else is new. . . oh, I think I witnessed the self-destruction of a string quintet at Sol the other night. One of the violinists was out of tune or something and they just stopped right in the middle of the song, and he argued with the other violinist (I think) and then put his instrument away, and then they all kept arguing. The next night, they were only a string quartet.

I also saw an elderly couple dancing a tango played by this group. They're very interesting; they play at varying hours, and they play all kinds of music, from tango to swing to 'When the Saints Go Marching In.' The other day I even heard them skat. Not something I expected to hear in Madrid. I think it's really cool that the guy who plays primarily clarinet for them is probably about my age, and sometimes he switches it up and trades instruments with the saxophonist. Makes me wish I'd stuck with band in middle school.
What else. . . oh, I saw for the first time in this town someone who looks like they could actually be a competitive swimmer. It was a girl wearing a Roxy shirt (as I so frequently do). She had the broadest shoulders I've seen thus far in Madrid (before that, mine were the broadest).
That's not very exciting, but that's really about it. Plans for this weekend: watch the ALCS and listen to the Mules game! Plus IES trip to Salamanca!

08 October 2008

Short little update

I'm sorry I don't post as frequently, but it just seems like life here is becoming more mundane, and less like a vacation. I think that's a good thing- it indicates that I'm feeling more like a local maybe? I've really noticed that in the past few days I've become much more comfortable around people in particular- starting conversations, feeling a little more sure of myself. I've come to terms in that last few months that I'm shy (I know Aunt Becky will have something to say about that, but when I'm not with family or close friends it's true), so even being more outgoing around my classmates is a big deal for me.
I really do love to wander. Sometimes I take long ways home. It makes me happy to have streets and routes memorized, and to think that, should I come back in 20 years or so, I might be able to find my way around as if I'd never left. Sol in particular is becoming more familiar to me, and I'm frequently asked how to get around the area by tourists.
There's a part of me that really wants to sing on a street corner for money one of these days. Oh, I know I'm a horrible singer, don't worry, but I feel like it would make my European adventure just a little more authentic. I'll let you know if anything comes of that whim.
I'm sorry, but I'm just too tired to write any more (I was up at 6:30 this morning to go running). I'm sure I'll have more to say tomorrow.

03 October 2008


I'm really becoming a little scatterbrained with my posts. Every day I have things in my head that I intend to tell you, but only about half of those things make it on here. Sometimes that's okay, because what I wanted to write wasn't all that important. But other times things stick in my head until I type them.
This for instance. Evidence for how awesome the new Creative Writing teacher is. That first day when he came into class, he told us how he'd looked through the syllabus and was a little surprised by some of the things he'd seen. Our teacher had wanted to take us to an ancient bathhouse, from back when Spain was Muslim, and get massages so we could get inspired.
Enrique reenacted his reaction upon reading that, and then told us that maybe it wouldn't be so inspiring to see our teacher in swim trunks or a speedo or whatever it is that they wear here. "What's going to happen?" he asked. "Are we just going to start spouting poetry?" and then he began to recite in English, "Let us go then, you and I. . ." and I had to put my hand over my mouth because he said the first several lines of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, by T.S. Eliot. I would never have expected to hear that here. A few days later he abruptly switched from Spanish to English to deliver the opening of Romeo and Juliet in a far deeper voice than the one he usually uses: "Two households, both alike in dignity. . ." It's just so strange to hear!
See, that wasn't anything epic. But this next bit is.
Okay so this afternoon I was feeling a little lazy, having sat around the apartment all day watching archived Red Sox games on mlb.tv and facebooking. I was a little sore from running last night and I thought a walk would be a good way to work that out. I hopped on a bus down to Sol to take pictures and check the pubs' schedules for Red Sox games.
Just before we pulled in to the final bus stop at the edge of Sol, I saw a couple of newlyweds and their wedding photographer. I thought it would make for an interesting picture, two tiny figures in black and white in front of the gargantuan buildings around Banco de España, so when the bus finally stopped, I walked back to try and catch them. I didn't take many pictures of them because the whole setup wasn't as picturesque as I'd hoped, so then I walked down to the Prado, which is nearby. Along the way, I got the finger from a homeless man (or was it a woman?) brushing his (or her?) teeth in a fountain.
Eventually I headed back to Sol, which is really the center of this town at night. It wasn't night yet, but the light was poor enough that I wasn't going to get any good candid pictures, so I put the camera away and just walked. No baseball tonight at Dubliners or O'Connell St, I found. To pass the time I walked through the plaza, listening to the street musicians.
To my surprise (and delight), I heard bagpipes! Of course I followed the sound, ending up in front of a guy in a kilt. I'm not sure the Spanish really appreciate bagpipe music, but I like to think I do. I stood there, listening to him, for probably a half hour. I saw a drunk man come up next to him and start clapping and stomping the beats to the songs, and then, horrifyingly, he began to sing. That was about when the piper decided to call it a night.
As he was putting away his pipes, I went to give him some money and asked him how often he plays in Sol. I expected to hear a Scottish or Irish accent, but he was Kiwi! You can find the most random people in Madrid, seriously.
Also, I stayed up too late the other night (this was before the Red Sox game, actually) and took the Jeopardy online test for the college tournament, and, despite my certainty that I'd absolutely crashed and burned, I got an e-mail today saying that I passed and have an appointment for the next round of tryouts on Sunday, November 2 at 11:30 am in Chicago. Now I just have to find a way to get there.

01 October 2008

Ceramics Update!

So I am sitting up, watching the Red Sox-Angels game on mlb.tv (maybe the best thing to ever happen to overseas travel). I kind of feel like I am letting my mom down by not posting more frequently, so here is a little something to tide you all over.

Let's see, I went to the Rastro on Sunday, as planned. I found some really beautiful old photographs. I kind of feel like those are some of the best souvenirs I can take home from here (even though not all of the pictures are from Spanish studios; some are French and Belgian). I also bought the navy blue pashmina I was looking for. Almost all scarves are down to 2 euro right now at the Rastro, because it's hard for the vendors to compete if their prices are any higher. Rastro shoppers are a clever and discerning bunch.

Oh shoot, Mom just got on AIM. I don't want her to see that I'm up this late, but. . . better bite the bullet and talk to her.
So let's see. . . I went to the Rastro, found some treasures. . . pictures posted; what else? Oh right, school. Classes are going well- Creative Writing is really getting interesting. It's so weird, but I say things and write things that I would never write in English, just because they are too poetic or sound silly. And anything you say in that class, Enrique will say, "Oh, muy bien," or "Mmmm. . . perfecto." He's very amusing. He makes other sounds when he hands out papers besides tak-tak; sometimes he says, "Boing boing. . . boing. . ."

Yesterday (well, Tuesday) we all convened in the theater during Grammar class time. No one knew why we were there; some speculated that there had been an emergency or a disaster back home and they were going to inform us. It looked serious- the program director was up on stage, along with a man and a woman in business clothes. Our director spoke to us first, in Spanish. I don't remember exactly what she said, but I think she introduced the man. He came to the front of the stage and looked us all over. We prepared ourselves for the arduous mental task of listening in a foreign language. The man, looking a little like Johnny Mo from Kill Bill Vol. 1 with his shaved head, began to speak.

"Good morning, how y'all doing today?"

For some reason it was such a relief to hear English. Some people in the audience clapped and cheered- I know I let out an audible sigh of relief. It was just nice to not have to work at understanding.

Anyway, they were from the Embassy and just wanted to make sure we'd registered ourselves here and had all the voting info we needed. They also mentioned potential job opportunities and internships- and I am sort of intrigued.

That was also Ceramics day. Ceramics day is nice. We started working with the wheel this week, and it went better than expected. I sort of view the wheel as one of my many archenemies- we jsut don't get along. We've known each other for many years, long enough to know that we're not really compatible. I have to conclude that the pieces I made on Tuesday only came out so well because of extensive help from the instructors. Here are a few pictures- because the Embassy presentation ended early, we made it to Ceramics early, and a few of us decided to have a little photo shoot in our aprons. Do you know how hard it is to look good in a horizontally striped, tea-length potter's apron?