dimanche 25 juillet 2010

I wonder...

This evening Josh said to me:

"Today I went swimming in my underwear. People looked at me funny, but I think it was because of my hat."

If we were in France, he would have been right. If we were in the US...not so much. But where does Spain stand on the swimming in underwear vs. floppy sunhat opinion spectrum? This is something they have neglected to discuss in my "Spanish Culture" class. But we do have class again tomorrow; maybe I'll bring it up.

Update: I DID ask the culture professor about it. She said a hat was normal for summer, and then burst out laughing when I mentioned that Josh had gone swimming in his calzoncillos. Case closed.

jeudi 22 juillet 2010

La universidad

One thing I am L.O.V.I.N.G. about my summer is how beautiful the buildings are. Salamanca is, to put it simply, the Spanish version of Hogwarts.

The University was founded right around the same time as Oxford (where they filmed a bunch of the Harry Potter scenes), i.e., a really really long time ago. I've had class once a week in the original campus building, which means they take away those red velvet "this is not for you" ropes and let us sit on the historic benches while we fan ourselves madly (there's a reason fans are a classic souvenir from Spain) and try to pay attention to whomever is giving that week's lecture.

As you walk through the university district in town, you'll see what looks like medieval graffiti all over walls, always in shades of red.

This is because, for centuries, when someone sucessfully defends their doctoral thesis, their buddies kill a bull to have a feast, and use its blood to mix up a special kind of paint. Then they paint the newly "doctored" student's name, and sometimes thesis title, up on one of the walls of the school. The tradition is still alive today, although I'm not sure if bull's blood is still involved. Graduated doctoral students' names are painted up next to a symbol for "victory."

I have class in this building, too, every day. Wandering around during breaks, I feel like I've stumbled onto the scene of Romeo and Juliet or, of course, Harry Potter. Sometimes I want to hang out the bathroom window and ask "wherefore art thou, Romeo?"

But the similarity to Harry Potter stops with the buildings. Here are students in the courtyard getting registered for classes: no sorting hat in sight.

Back in our classroom, things aren't quite as romantic either, although we have two walls of gorgeous deep-set windows. I realized where a window seat may have come from: the walls are so thick that to set in a window, you have to carve out an alcove.

Even if things are a bit more modern (i.e., unromantic) in our classroom, I wouldn't want to sit on the benches from the early days of the university.

And looking out the window is always an option. We're right across the plaza from Salamanca's cathedral.

Well...back to work!

mardi 20 juillet 2010

Cuatro gatos

Josh had his first day of Spanish classes today, and now he's sprawled out on my bed quizzing me on the cool phrases he learned in class. One of his favorites: "There are four cats"--there isn't anybody here.
Could describe this street corner my class converged upon yesterday during our "city visit." (The gato número cuatro is a little hard to spot.) My camera's on the fritz--not sure what's up with the dark stripe across the tops of all my shots. Might have to splurge and get a new one--anybody in love with their camera enough to recommend we get the same model? I just want a little point-and-shoot. I think I'm going to go camera-shopping on Saturday.

lundi 19 juillet 2010

La vida aquí

I just took the cross-town bus home from Josh's apartment (I got "free" dorm housing, he found a sublet for the month). And I passed the bilboard with a digital clock/thermometer on it and sighed with relief, because it's only 35 degrees out. It's finally cooled off a bit. How nice. 35 degrees celcius, for anyone who thinks in farenheit, is a whopping 95. About fifteen degrees cooler than it was this afternoon, when we got dragged around to see a bunch of old renaissance palaces. But I'm not complaining.

Really, I'm not. I might hazard a bet that this is one of the most fun summers I've had since I went to essay-writing camp when I was 14. I really don't know what to do with myself when I'm not staring out a window wishing class were over. I currently have 7 hours a day in which I can stare out the window wishing class were over, although this is not generally how I'm spending my time. The classes are pretty interesting (some more so, some less so) and I'm REALLY getting a kick out of being in a room full of other language teachers. Especially when they get into shushing fights, because the people that were being shushed two minutes ago are now annoyed with the shushers, who have given up shushing and started talking to their neighbors (not even bothering to whisper), and then finally someone gets mad enough to yell at someone and say that they can't hear the professor, who is looking mildly bewildered at the fact that a room full of adults can't manage to raise their hands to ask a question. This has only happened a handful of times, though--I'd say less than 20.

Ok, so I'm tired, because it's 11:30 and it's still too hot to go to bed, and so I'm getting cranky. But I'm really enjoying my classes, the best one by far being the class where we're figuring out how to look at a Latin word and explain how two millennia of people mispronouncing it gave us the Spanish word we have today. For example, someone hanging out on the Iberian peninsula around 200 a.d. couldn't say the sound made by "f" and "l" together, and their mispronunciation gave us the "y" sound at the beginning of the word "llama," which the Romans called "flamma." If you know me, you can imagine how much I am enjoying this. It's nothing like the academic glee I feel for 8th/9th century norse invaders (aka vikings) but I'm definitely having a good time. And I really do like my classmates. After two years of having to surmount cultural differences just to be able to chit-chat happily with the person beside me in class, I am SO HAPPY to be in a giant group of Americans. Can I just say how great Americans can be?

It's also just cool to be in Spain again. The first time I ever "lived" abroad was when I studied in Madrid for a semester, and even the things I completely forgot about or never knew about, I still feel like they're a little familiar. Like people pushing you to get past instead of asking you to move, or the juice boxes of wine in the grocery store.

This weekend we had a mandatory field trip to Segovia, a town about 2 hours away.

I had been there before, and remembered the Roman aqueduct:

And the castle:

And was not at all surprised by the random old man trying to pick up any of us he could while we were standing around trying to listen to our professor lecture on the aqueduct's history. Here he is hitting on my friend Erin.

(Check out how cool his belt is. People here are much crazier dressers than in France.)

Hm, it's 11:40 and one thing I had totally forgotten about Spain is how late people go to bed. It's just too hot to do anything between 1 and 7 pm, and the sun doesn't set until 10:30. People are just waking up about now. Sounds like there's a fiesta in the dorm courtyard. Do I try to sleep in spite of the racket or go join the party? Eh, when in Rome. . . besides, it's too hot to close my window, so I don't think sleeping stands a chance.

mardi 6 juillet 2010


Where would you guess we are if I told you the yogurt aisle has diminished in quality and been joined by...

A ham aisle, including such delicacies as meat-laced pork fat?

I bit into an egg roll the other day and instead of cabbage and shrimp it was stuffed with ham and cheese.

For those who prefer "fruits of the sea," this octopus looks like he’d like to end up on your table...at any rate, I think he’s trying to escape from the freezer case.

Still need a hint about where we are? This is what we were doing last Saturday night.

We’re here for this summer so I can start working on my masters at the university here.

First task: find out if masters is written “masters” or “master’s.”

Second task: stop strolling around town and drinking sangria and hit the books!

¡Hasta pronto!