sábado, 16 de febrero de 2013

Day 31 and it's murcianico style

Hello all!

Welcome to blog post number two. Things are going well here in Murcia! It's starting to warm up a little, and the city is truly beautiful.

La Catedral

View from the campus in Espinardo

I've been having lots of adventures with my international friends, and I've also made a few Spanish friends as well! We visited the Espinardo campus, which is about fifteen minutes away in the Tranvia (tram-esque thing). The campus there is huge and beautiful. It's covered in orange trees and palm trees and really nice architecture. Apparently Murcia (which is also the region of Spain we are in, not just the name of my city) is widely known as "The Orchard of Europe". There are a lot of parks and trees and whatnot.

Even the plants have plants!

Amy and Arisvet on the swings in la Plaza Circular

Classes have technically been in session for about two weeks, but the registration date just passed this Friday. As international students, we have the opportunity to shop a little bit by attending various classes and choosing the ones that work best for us. It's been kind of a crazy process. The Spanish academic system is pretty different from what I'm used to, and also, although the course schedule is posted online, many changes are made in the times and locations of classes. It's a very relaxed atmosphere, however, and being late or missing entire classes are not things that are heavily frowned upon.

The library at the Merced campus

There are definitely a few things that I'm missing about America, however. Aside from missing all of your beautiful faces, I'm strongly affected by the absence of The Nectar of the Gods, also known as Dr. Pepper. *Insert existential sigh* On one particular night, my search for the aforementioned delicious beverage led to an exceptionally surreal instance of awesomeness. I was with my roommate Megan chasing a rumor of a store called "American Sweets" when we ran into another couple of international students, Alfredo and Sam.

Don't tell them I posted this picture...they don't actually wear cardigans that way. Well, Sam might.

Well they were looking for something called "The Veronica Space" or something like that, and we wandered around with them for a while. It was in one of the older parts of the city, and there were even some ruins from the original city walls. We finally found whatever Sam and Alfredo were looking for, and it just looked like another old building from the outside. So we opened the giant wooden doors and stepped into another world.... it was a small foyer which seemed kind of space-agey, with shiny chrome and sleek simplicity... then suddenly the sliding frosted glass doors opened and we were at the beach. There was a boardwalk, and sand everywhere, and beach toys, and a Foosball table, and A GIANT GIRAFFE BOUNCY CASTLE.

This is what it looks like when Rachel's mind explodes from the sheer awesomeness of her surroundings.

Ever seen a minimalist icon for Giant Giraffe Bouncy Castle? Because I have.

Giraffe + cupola  = ????

I didn't think it was real life. Apparently it's some sort of exhibition space for photography and video (there were some projectors in some sections showing some stop motion in public spaces stuff) and the theme for that week was the beach. It was magical.

As far as other magical adventures go, I went with a group of 100 or so international students to Carnaval in Aguilas, a nearby town. Basically, everybody just dresses up in whatever costume and there are carnival rides and street vendors and parades and lots of dancing in the streets. The whole town turns into a party. We stayed for about ten hours total, and we were definitely exhausted by the end of it.

Here are a few of us...I'm the pirate one

There have been many other fun adventures, and I'm still exploring the city and learning every day. My Spanish has improved a whole lot, especially through these language-exchange meetings I've been going to, where we just meet up at a bar to chat with some Spaniards who want to learn English. It's probably one of my most favorite things I've ever done. They correct our Spanish so that we sound more natural, and we ask them about words and phrases that have confused us. Then we speak English for a while and do the same thing for them! Hurray for culture!

There are many more things I could tell you about, but that's all for now, friends! Stay classy!

miércoles, 16 de enero de 2013

Day One and You Have to Jiggle the Key

Bienvenidos, todos!

My name's Rachel, and I'm studying abroad in Murcia, Spain this semester. I'll be living here from January to June (inclusive) and attending la Universidad de Murcia. This blog will chronicle my experience, and I'll do my best to keep you entertained with my frequent misadventures, adventures, mishaps, and... haps.
First things first: On this nascent day of the blog you're now reading, we are celebrating the anniversary of another birth, that of my little sister. Good job at existing for eighteen years, Alainna. Keep up the good work.

Now back to that whole chronicling business! The trip here consisted of many interesting types of transportation, including three planes, a bus, a taxi, a train inside the airport, and those super fun moving sidewalks. And also a lot of walking. I got a window seat on all three plane rides, which was incredibly lucky especially when we were coming in for a landing in Alicante. There, the city is nestled in between the mountains and the beaches, making for a truly beautiful scene from above. The layovers in Chicago and Madrid were about three hours each, which was nice in Chicago because I got to listen to a man playing piano very well, and was nice in Madrid because I got to watch the sunrise through the giant windows. The scenery was also great on the bus from Alicante to Murcia, but the inside of my eyelids kept catching my attention instead.

I was a bit worried that I would have a lot of trouble understanding the locals, because my ability to understand people in Spanish varies widely depending on accents and speech patterns. I've been doing just fine, though, which is a huge relief. Here is a transcription of my first ever conversation with a Spaniard in Spain, which he started:
"Do you know if there is wifi here?"
"I don't know, sorry. I couldn't get it to connect."
"Oh so you have to have a password. Thanks!"
"No problem."

Impressive, right? Two entire sentences! (Read with a tone of voice implying self-depreciating humor)

But anyway, I managed to get to my apartment, where my landlady's employee Mariano was waiting for me to give me the keys and show me in. To get into the front door, you have to jiggle the key a lot until it opens. Then we went up five flights of stairs, which left Mariano (who kindly carried my luggage) and I pretty winded. The door to the apartment has a different key, which you also have to jiggle. It's pretty cute, but very very cold because the windows aren't really insulated/shutable, so it's the temperature of outside. Outside, that's fine, but inside when you're just sitting or sleeping or have just taken a shower in sort of warmish water, it's kind of terrible. I'm going to buy another blanket tomorrow.

There are other janky things about my apartment, but it's already growing on me regardless. There are three rooms and I'm sharing the largest one with Megan, another exchange student who I've just met. We rearranged the room, and it feels a lot better now. Before, everything felt very....well, it felt foreign.

I explored a couple of streets in the city and also the university this morning, and again this afternoon after Megan got here. It is beautiful and charming, with lots of green space and loads of local independent shops and restaurants which have lots of character. Street by street, I’ll explore the city and make it my home. There are book shops and paper shops and a lot of printing places and little clothes shops and tons of barber shops, one of which has a mural of Johnny Depp as Sweeny Todd painted on the side.

Here are some other pictures I took in the city:

The first is a park I found when I went down the wrong street to get to campus, and the second is the courtyard in one of the academic buildings. I will also add some pictures of the buildings in the city once I feel comfortable looking silly holding up a camera to take pictures of random shops, so check back in a couple of days.

There is a fair amount of graffiti around, not too much though, and it adds character to the place. The name of this blog actually comes from some graffiti I found while walking around the west side of the university.

 It says "your life is your life." I decided I liked that statement very much, because 1) it appears simple, and may have been intended as such, but it actually hits deep when you think about taking responsibility for your own existence, 2) often the simplest concepts are the ones we need to be reminded of the most, especially when we have moved our lives across the ocean, and 3) I really needed a title for this blog. I feel like it captures the character of my new city and the frame of mind for my study abroad experience.

Well I hope you've all enjoyed this post, and Grandma Judy, feel free to email the link or post it on people's walls. Hendrix College, I hope it is reflective enough in nature that it works for Odyssey credit. As for the rest of you people, I'll do my best to post often so that you can stay informed on my adventures. Feel free to leave comments or questions, or also scathing reviews if you happen to be the critical (or snarky (or both)) type. I will come back to add more pictures soon, and I'm sure there's another post on the way. But for now, I am going to sleep so that I'm fully rested for orientation tomorrow!

Buenas noches, amiguitos.