October 25, 2013
Sorry for the long wait, but here’s another looong blog post to make up for the last month, a month full of adventures and new experiences! Here’s a recap from last time: La Merced had just ended (which already seems soooo long ago now). A lot of things have happened since then – maybe there was even a little too much excitement – but boredom has been kept effectively at bay the last 30 days.
Saturday, September 28. The Flemish psychology student (I told you about her last time) and I went to discover the historical center of Barcelona some more. I guess I thought was kind of leading the way, but, in truth, I was lost half the time myself. Anyways, I bumped into one of the most beautiful hidden squares in Barri Gotic again. My mom and I found them 2.5 years ago and even with my mom’s orientation skills it was hard to find. Besides this, I also discovered a whole new part of the Ciutat Vella with even more lovely streets and squares. The point was that I’d take my friend to El Born so she could have her first tapas ever. I got us a table in front of the cathedral. I just find it to be the best spot in the neighborhood. Funny moment: apparently one of my professor’s sister was having her marriage at this particular cathedral. My professor had waved at me, but I had looked right past her. Typical me! She told the whole class about this in detail, so that’s how I found out.
Sunday was supposed to be a rainy, cloudy day in Barcelona, while in Sitges it was going to be sunny and warm. Consequently, I took my required school reading to the beach. In Sitges, the temperature was up to a pleasant 30°C. I was really happy I made the decision to come here. I was even more happy when I found out later it had been raining in Barcelona all day!
From October 7 till 14 my week was crammed full with homework. On Thursday afternoon I took off on a plane towards San Pedro del Pinatar. It was basically a business trip to choose stuff for the house my dad’s building there and make some important decisions. Our next-door neighbor had tagged along as well. She has a great eye for interior design and she was the perfect person to help us out! We had a great time, the three of us. I perked up a lot by having the opportunity to wear my shorts another time. The weather hadn’t exactly been appropriate for that anymore in Barcelona. But, basically, our days consisted of meetings, with great food as a reward and walks in the sun to pass the remaining time. I can definitely say I returned from this trip exhausted, but satisfied.
The day I had to return home – I like referring to Barcelona as “home”! – I had to go to the airport of Alicante in the morning even though my flight was 6 to 7 hours later. I wasn’t going to just sit at the airport, so instead I took a bus that drove to the city center – a much nicer way to spend the time. I walked up and down the boulevard – Alicante has a really nice beach – and went up the mountain to see the Santa Barbara Castle. I finished my visit with lunch on the Esplanada Espanyola. On the bus back to the airport, I met a Flemish woman who’s a pilot for Ryanair, based in Alicante. To avoid any confusion: she didn’t end up being my pilot.
The next Monday everything turned upside down. The UA had decided to refuse two of my classes that I had been following for over a month. Of one course I was happy to get rid of. It’s a little too much like Philosophy if you ask me. I’ve never been particularly good at that and I would have a partial exam of it the next week, more specifically on the same Monday I would be returning from Seville. Oops… The tension of whether or not I was to keep following this course remained up until the Thursday I left to Seville. The other course I had liked a lot: US History and Culture. And what did I have to replace it for? Freaking Russian Formalism and Structuralism (or something like that). WTF?! I went to one of these classes and could just not catch on. It didn’t make any sense to me. Not long after, I realized that I had to keep my Spanish Philosophy-ish course which was on the exact same hours on the same days as my new classes, even the exams were on the same days and hours (both the partials and finals). In the end, I didn’t mind the Philosophy course so much anymore as long as I could change the Structuralism one. Not surprisingly, I mentioned this fact to my Belgian correspondents – I mean, even they know I couldn’t possibly be in two places at the same time, right? – and they gave me three alternatives. I picked Theory of the Critique on Feminist Literature and Gender Studies. A mouth full. The course, however, is super-interesting, apart from the fact that I have to catch up on 1.5 months of subject material (and did remember that they don’t have schoolbooks here?). In short, I had to find a way to deal with this problem. Thank you very much, UA! Thanks a lot! The heaps of work I had been trying to work my way through was now as high as ever…
Tuesday, October 15. Thanks to my time-management skills – kidding… or am I? – I scheduled in some time to go to Tibidabo with Steffen. I had been up the mountain once during a city trip, but that day two people had died in one of the attractions and the only people we’d seen were journalists and cameramen. Seeing as the attraction park had been closed because of it, there was not much to see or do, except enjoying the beautiful view over the city of Barcelona. It was superhot when I went up the mountain last time, but now it was rather chilly. Good thing I came prepared. The reason I went back to Tibidabo – even though I have tons of homework waiting for me – was that Steffen would be moving back to Denmark by the end of the month. It wasn’t exactly a punishment to climb back to the top of this famous mountain. Moreover, it is the 100th birthday of the attraction park, which makes it kind of special.
Thursday, October 17. I packed my backpack and saved some space for my school stuff so I could study on the plane for the Philosophy exam that I would undoubtedly fail. I didn’t have faith in it… After class, I quickly grabbed a bite to eat with the girls, packed my backpack and made my way to the airport. I was running slightly late, but wasn’t stressing… yet – not until the airport bus acted out and, finally, broke down. So, just like that, we were stranded on the side of the road. And I had a plane to catch within 45 minutes! That’s when I started to stress out a little. Nevertheless, I did try to stay calm and went to the front of the bus to ask the driver what was wrong. “We broke down, but in 5 minutes the problem will be solved, so everyone has to stay on the bus.” That was what he said. But I know what 5 minutes means in Spain. So I told him I would rather take a cab then, to which he replied “No, stay in the bus!” I guess he didn’t know who he was talking to. As soon as the dude turned his back to me, I jumped out of that bus and hailed a taxi. I had paid for the bus and a taxi, but at least I arrived at the airport just in time to catch my flight. People were already getting on the plane when I arrived at the gate. In the end, the departure was delayed with 10 minutes, because – typical Ryanair – the overhead compartments were full before everyone had gotten onto the plane and the passengers who weren’t in their seats yet didn’t want to store their carry-on bags away. Long discussions followed. I was like, what the heck, the flight lasts only about an hour! Who cares? Although I am pretty sure I didn’t say that out loud. When I finally got inside the plane I found a seat by a window and enjoyed the view of the Spanish east-coastline, colored by the setting sun. We arrived 15 minutes early at our destination.
It wasn’t until I first set foot in Sevilla that I realized this was my first actual solo-trip. I was alone in a foreign country, in a city I had never been to before. I was completely dependent on myself, I knew nothing and nobody here. I hadn’t prepared anything, because all my time had gone to my loads of schoolwork that had to be done before I left. The only thing I had prepared was the place where I would be staying, a shared apartment I found on AirBnB. It was situated in the small streets of the La Macarena neighborhood. The woman who rented a bedroom to me told me how to reach her place from the airport. It was half past nine when I rang her doorbell. I just took some time to tell my family I had arrived safely before I went to sleep.
Day one in Sevilla. Even though I had come here by myself, I made sure I wouldn’t really be alone. Through the Couchsurfing website I contacted Maikel, who’s 100% Sevillean and knew the city like the inside of his pocket. He showed me the most important sights of the city, like La Catedral, La Giralda and Los Reales Alcazares. Maikel explained to me that he does this tour often with exchange students that come to the university where he also studies. This is also the day I was introduced to my new favorite chain of Spanish food: 100 montaditos, where they not only serve 100 kinds of montaditos (tapas in or on bread) but also serve the best tinto de verano, which is now my favorite drink for the summer! As if this isn’t enough, every montadito costs only €1 and on Mondays only €0.5! Awesome! I love the flavors and I love the concept. The tinto de verano, too, costs only €1. It tastes like sangria, only better.
In the afternoon I studied for my exam and in the evening I attended the Prado de San Sebastian festival with Karen, a girl I found through CS, and her roommates Giulia (Sicily) and Antonia (Germany). The festival was almost over… after a month. It was actually a bunch of stalls, grouped by country and continent. Each stall sold food, drinks or objects typical of their country. On the other side of the entrance was a stage where performances were held all day long. I had a fun time, but I was also really tired. Travelling along – and studying on top of that – had asked a lot of me. At 1.30am I returned to my room and as soon as my head hit the pillow, I fell asleep on my wobbly bed.
Day 2 in Sevilla. In the morning, Maikel showed me around again. It seems like he genuinely likes to show off his home town. Today, he took me to Plaza de Espanya, Toro de Oro, Teatro de la Maestranza and Plaza de Toros, right by the Rio Guadalquivir. Seville, I realized, is tiny. You can do everything on foot here. I got back to the Catedral in time to meet Giulia and Antonia for tapas at Giulia’s favorite bar. They were good, but I was just totally blown away by the 100 montaditos place!
In the afternoon I studied some more and in the evening Giulia and I attended a free flamenco show that’s very popular with the locals. Not only locals were there, though. It’s like Italians have this radar which tells them when other Italian people are nearby. Anyways, a group of Italian men sniffed Giulia out and we didn’t get rid of them until it was time to go home. By that time, we had watched the whole show with them, walked around town and had dinner with them (even though Giulia and I already ate). They mostly spoke Italian, so I didn’t understand one bit. It did make me feel quite uncomfortable, because I had no control and didn’t know what was going on. I did know that I couldn’t leave Giulia there all by herself, so I stayed until it was “appropriate” for us to leave. Again, when I laid down in my bed, I fell right asleep.
Day 3 in Sevilla. By now, I had seen almost everything in Seville. Only the barrio Triana, on the other side of the river, was still undiscovered terrain for me. Seville is just as much divided by this river as they are socially. Whether you live on one bank or the other, you are not supposed to – and thus do not – like the people from the opposite bank. I wonder if this has something to do with each bank having its own football team… Anyways, Maikel didn’t really like it there, so it was up to me to find my way around. I had hoped to have my lunch there – it’s famous for its tapa bars and restaurants, but I barely saw any of those, especially in my price range. Most of them just looked worthless, really. I guess I like the other side of the river better! It was a blessing in disguise: I got to go to 100 montaditos again!
After that I went back to my room to study. I admit my trip to Seville wasn’t at all what I’d expected, but mostly just because I was feeling guilty when I wasn’t studying for my exam, and when I was studying I saw it as losing the opportunity to discover a place I might never return to. Anyways, that exam was always present at the back of my head. I really didn’t feel like I was going to do well. And then, out of the blue, a hero came to my rescue: his name is Fran, but I call him BatFran. He explained everything to me, answered every single question I had in a way that I could understand. If I didn’t have him, I don’t know what I would’ve done. He had also given me his notes and summaries, because he could empathize and would like someone to do the same for him if he were a foreign student in a foreign country. Since he started tutoring me, I felt a first glimp of hope that I might actually pass this partial exam. Of course, I had been doing a lot of research myself, but he was feeling so sorry for me, he decided to help me, so I could enjoy my time in Seville as well. It wasn’t like it was a burden on him; he actually likes philosophy. Even though I thought I was well enough prepared now to pass the exam, I couldn’t sleep right away. Maybe because I was unconsciously afraid that I’d miss my plane?
I was relieved when everything went according to plan the next day. I woke up on time, didn’t get lost on my way to the Santa Justa train station, but had to run to catch the bus and hurt my ankle in the process. The next day it didn’t trouble me anymore, though, but that day I was limping around everywhere. The plane departed late again, but because there wasn’t enough space for everyone’s carry-on bags again I was asked to sit on the second row in the front, on one condition: that I keep my bag between my legs. That sounded like music to my ears: I always keep my bag on the floor between my legs, but now I’d have more leg space! These seats are, in fact, Ryanair’s equivalent to “business seats”, so I was quite pleased with this turn of events! We arrived perfectly on time. I had time to take a quick shower, to clean out my bag and to head to my exam. I didn’t do much else that evening, because, again, I was super tired.
The next few days I attended my classes, did my homework and tried to catch up on the missed classes of Feminism. There was a strike on Thursday, about which I didn’t complain. I worked productively. Believe it or not, I was already missing my little trips, especially thinking ahead to my weekend filled with nothing but school work. What did I do about it? I booked a flight to Lisbon at the end of November and bought a bus ticket to Andorra for November 8 and 9. Something to look forward to, you know. It is doubtful, however, that I’ll have enough time and money left to go to Valencia as well. But Christmas is still a long time away (and I’ll be going home for a week then). It doesn’t seem all that far off now, though!
If you’ve read this whole thing, congratulations! And thank you! If not, don’t say I didn’t warn you, hehe. I tried to stick to the most important events. You can probably imagine that I got lost several times. I didn’t need to mention that again, right? Nevertheless, I am glad to stay home for once after having been out and about the last three weekends. Even if the main reason is homework! But at least I can sleep in my own bed, watch a movie, work for school on my own pace, sleep late, write a new blog post… Still, I am certainly looking forward to my next trips after the exams are over!
I’ll keep my promise: you won’t miss any of my adventures!