Published: March 8th 2009March 8th 2009
The park in Oviedo
aka the route to anywhere from my flat
And miraculously, touch wood, the rain has gone away! Sitting here now, the sun is streaming through my window - it is a truly joyous sight after a solid week of rain!
It did mean, however, that we got to see the truly impressive sight of Oviedo's umbrellas. The sky turns grey, and suddenly everyone, and I mean everyone is carrying an umbrella. I don't mean those flimsy, fold-up ones that slot neatly into your bag - I felt like a second-class citizen with mine, and the wind soon beat it. They have proper, sturdy brollies, in as many colours and designs as you could imagine. There is even a whole etiquette that goes along with carrying an umbrella, because the streets are so full of them that you quickly have to learn the unspoken rules of which direction to move it in when there are too many umbrellas in the vicinity, otherwise you risk the taboo behviour of a crash, sending water cascading down the back of some unfortunate person. Of course, coming from Britain, I should be used to the rain, but a) you don't expect it in Spain, even though Oviedo has a reputation for it, and
Jo and me
pulling faces at the party
b) I've never seen weather so persistent. We even had hailstorms, which made a change from the rain. And us foreign rookies would eagerly close our umbrellas and look happily up at the sky as a patch of blue sky blew in and the rain stopped, wondering why all the natives kept their brollies up. We soon worked out why; the wind pushes through rainclouds quickly, but they are just as quickly replaced by more.
I have to say, the low point of the week came when I walked half an hour in the rain to uni, just to find that the lecture had been cancelled, because the lecturer had a meeting. Which had probably been scheduled for days, he'd just omitted to tell us. Things didn't get any better when I decided to squelch my way to the erasmus office in town so that it wouldn't be a totally wasted journey, and get my learning agreements signed. Just signed, you understand, bearing in mind that the departmental co-ordinator had already approved and signed them. But in the event, I stood there, in my sodden shoes, and, at first patiently, tried to explain what I needed. 'No, you need
to fill out this sheet first', the woman said. Which I did. Then ensued an argument about the fact that the modules on my Sheffield form were different from the Oviedo form. 'No, I had to change my sheffield form, if you look on the back you'll find that they're the same'. By this point, there were three women arguing with each other, like they'd never seen a learning agreement form before. Finally, at a complete loss, having run out of Spanish vocabulary to explain in another way that my forms were correct, and having stood there telling myself 'don't you dare cry,' I burst into frustrated tears. And suddenly, everything was alright. I think they were so disconcerted over the sight of someone actually crying over a learning agreement that they faxed the Sheffield copy, filed the Oviedo copy, no questions asked, no more arguments. So while the staff at the erasmus office now probably consider me to be slightly unstable, the lesson is: if all else fails, cry. Just as long as you don't have to show your face again for a while!
Finalising lectures, and actually attending lectures, especially the 2 hour Spanish class every evening, has taken up a lot of time. The Spanish class really messes up the evenings, we have to leave at half six, and we get back at half nine, so we have dinner at ten and then it's 11pm and we more or less fall into bed in order to be up for a nine o' clock lecture the next morning. I'll be pleased when it finishes in two weeks.
I did however manage to secure a summer job from a telephone interview I had this week, which is brilliant, because it means I can afford to go to America at the end of the summer - so maybe there will be an American holiday blog after Spain! It also sounds like a fantastic job for me - an activity leader at a summer school for international students to learn English - I'll definitely be able to relate to them after this year! And hopefully it will further confirm my plans to become a teacher, and as it is working with teenagers, maybe confirm my plans to teach at primary level!
After Carnaval last week, this has been a quieter week. We were, however, inordiately pleased with ourselves for successfully ordering chinese in Spanish - get your head round that if you can! - even though we did end up with five bags of prawn crackers when we thought we had ordered prawn toast! It further supported the evidence we're gathering to show that chinese food is slightly different in every country, with slightly different specialties. French chinese (well, in Perpignan it was more commonly vietnamese) is different to British chinese, and Spanish chinese is different yet again. Spanish menus are particularly imaginative: you can choose between the 'rice of three delights', and the 'rice of a thousand delights' (how much delight can you stand with your rice? although we did wonder why you'd ever go for three delights when you could go for a thousand) and the equally rapturous 'vegetables of eight jewels'. I will have to go to China one day and experience actual Chinese chinese, which I suspect is wildly different from any of its European variations.
We went to a house party on Friday night for someone's 21st, which was good fun, I met a really sweet french guy (the do exist, it would seem, just not actually in France!) who apologised unreservedly for his country's behaviour! It was the perfect kind of house party, people got drunk but it never got out of hand, it was busy but not crowded, and when people were really wasted, they just fell asleep in quiet corners, and it was a good night for gossip! I finally admitted defeat at six am, but the others stayed and some even went on for breakfast - I can't even stomach the thought. The upshot was that while I woke at the not ridiculous time of 12 the next day, Rosy didn't surface until 5pm!
And there I think I'll leave it, except to say that I can tell you with stunning accuracy that it is currently 298 days, 10 hours, 52 minutes and 13/12/11 seconds (those seconds go far too fast!) until 2010. No I didn't decide to randomly devote a large amount of time to working that out, my bedroom window looks out onto a new hotel opposite which has a large electric sign counting down to 2010 - I haven't quite worked out why yet, it seems ready to open so I can't imagine it's going to take 298 days, 10 hours, 48 minutes and 19 seconds. But who knows?