I just arrived in Madrid. My dig camera is out of juice (the battery sure doesn’t last long), so I’m catching up on blogging while charging the cam and airing out the room (which smells of wet dog). Unfortunately, I was slow on the draw when reserving my hostal in Madrid, so I ended up having to resort to an alternative travel site, Venere.com for reviews (Usually, I go with my travel guides + Tripadvisor). Needless to say, the location is very good (super close to Puerta del Sol) and who can resist free wifi, but well, its a tad dingy and I won’t even say what was on the bedspread. Cringe.
Last night, I didn’t get a good night’s rest in Salamanca. I dunno, my mind has just been so restless lately thinking about continuing my Spanish, traveling more, earning more, just doing more. I look back at my resolutions for 2009, and I think I’ve done fairly well considering in my mind, I assign the items different weights, but still, in the simplest evaluation, I’ve done maybe only 6/10 or so. I dunno, I’m just manic or something. On one hand, I’m super happy with this immersion program. I think I learned maybe 500 or so Spanish words, and my evaluation came out mostly positive. On the other hand, I met so many people who speak like 3-4 languages, and it makes me wonder what I’ve been doing with all my time? Where did it go? What new skills did I learn? Ugh.
Oh well, in the very least, I think this trip was a good self test. Honestly, I am amazed how much Shanghai taught me in terms of traveling and figuring out new systems. Like the other day, I was in Carrefour in Salamanca, and when I bought fruit, I knew that I had to remember the produce number, put the items on the scale, and print out a price ticket. Seriously, what consumer in the US has to do that much work? You just bag the produce and the cashier weighs/prices it out. And now I know all about skirting ATM withdrawal fees and international credit card fees… And I know about purchasing a prepaid local SIM card. And I can figure out taking public transportation… I’m not bragging, I’m just saying that past experience makes traveling so much easier now. Like I don’t have to be a full-blown tourist taking taxis everywhere and needing to be handheld, you know?
That said, I have committed some interesting faux pas in the last three weeks:
1. Even before I arrived in Spain, I had trouble keeping “want” and “have” straight in Spanish. In Spain, they charge extra at the supermarkets for plastic bags. Since I took my backpack with me everywhere, I never needed a bag. Well, early on in Salamanca, I went to the market and I kept telling the cashier, “No tengo una bolsa.” I had meant to say, “I don’t want/need a bag,” but I was saying the opposite: “I don’t have a bag.” She kept trying to offer me a bag, and I just kept firmly repeating my line. It wasn’t until I left that I just laughed. So retarded.
2. After that horseback riding escapade with my friend Inke, I thought I had a great story to tell my host family. So I said Inke’s horse kept misbehaving. After several attempts to throw her off, Inke got very scared. The word for fear is miedo. But I thought it was mierdo (with the r) and a verb instead of a noun, so I conjugated it for 3rd person singular. The result? “Inke shits.” Mierda is the word for shit. I should have used “Inke has (tiene) fear.” And of course, I only know present tense, so please bear with me… Anyway, I didn’t make any sense, but through my hand gestures, I suppose they got the picture.
3. On paper, I’m pretty good with verb conjugations. In regular conversation though, it takes a few more seconds and I sometimes still think “yo” means “you” instead of “I.” So the other day, the lady told me to ask her hubby if he wanted soup with dinner. Simple enough. So I go into the living room and say, “Quiero soupa?” He says no. I got back to the kitchen and realized I just asked him, “Do I want soup?” Fucking A, right? So then I go back and ask him properly, explaining that my earlier question was incorrect. Same answer, but god I felt dumb. Ah the joys of speaking a new language on the fly.
4. There was this Japanese dude at the school, who lived with the same family as one of my classmates. Ok, so both students are Japanese, and Yusuke only speaks Spanish and Japanese. Nevertheless, every time I ran into him at school or at the internet cafe, I started speaking to him in Chinese and then for some bizarro reason, I kept saying goodbye to him in English. And not just “bye” but like, “catch you later” and shit. Yeah, exactly. Muy confusa, I tell you.
Btw, did you hear? It’s supposed to SNOW on Sunday in Salamanca. Holy shit. I need to get out of this cold weather. And in Madrid, the forecast is calling for rain and temps in the 40s!! Eek. I hate the cold. I’m gonna have to pull out my second set of thermals and double up!
Ok, so what’s on tap my first night in Madrid? It’s only 2pm right now, but I’ll probably head out shortly to walk around and then tonight is the flamenco show. Hope it’s not too crazy.