February 6, 2014 by Caroline Leland
An Explanation Of The Little People In My Head; Also, That One Time I Went To A Club
If this were a summer internship, it would be half over already. My first month here has happened incredibly fast — a speed I’m not comfortable with, actually. As of today I am a fourth of the way through my time in Spain, and it feels like I won’t be here long enough.
My number one goal in coming to Spain was to develop my Spanish language skills. That’s something I’ve made progress on, but (being the perfectionist that I am), it hasn’t happened as quickly as the time seems to be passing. I’m not sure how much I should expect of myself in this realm, but I know I won’t be satisfied until I can converse and read in Spanish with ease — a point I feel pretty far from right now.
When I sit in class listening to my professors talk in Spanish, there are little people in my head running around frantically, each one carrying a Spanish word and searching for its English match. These earnest little workers find their corresponding English word — some more quickly than others — and nearly trip over themselves to bring the match back to me. They try to line up in the correct order, but some of them get lost in the small stampede of every sentence and usually I end up with a lot of gaps. Sometimes the gaps are too big for the sentence to make much sense; in those cases I’m left with a vague understanding of the main words but not of the connections between them. If the professor speaks slowly enough for the little people in my head to keep up, tada! Comprehension! I’d estimate that I have a 60% success rate with understanding any given sentence a professor says in class.
I only need 5/10 to pass each class. Is 60% comprehension enough for a final score of 5/10? Let’s hope so, because I need all of these credits in order to graduate on time without overloading senior year.
Tuesday night I took a small risk in the spirit of making the most of being in Spain (and in hopes of making more progress in Spanish). Some girls from class approached me, having heard that I was from North Carolina, and I found out that one of them spent all of last year studying at UNC! She was super friendly and invited me to a class dinner that night as well as to the party that was to follow at a nearby club. I didn’t know anyone else who would be there, but I’ve been kind of desperate to spend time with actual Spaniards, so I said yes with only a moment’s hesitation. The dinner turned out to be extremely fun, as I got to know many more of my classmates and practice Spanish for two or three hours.
I went to the club afterwards kind of as a formality, because I normally don’t enjoy that kind of thing. The dinner had started at 10 p.m. and we didn’t walk to the club until after 1 a.m., so it was 4 a.m. by the time I made my way home. Worthwhile, though, if it means that I have Spanish friends now!
|with new friends @ da club|
The next day I slept in embarrassingly late, especially considering that it was one of the rare sunny days in Pamplona. After resolving to get up once the outside temperature hit 50 degrees, I spent most of the afternoon sitting in the town’s central park, followed by a couple more hours in a cafe when the predictable clouds rolled in to obscure the sun once again.
When I got home I FaceTimed my sweet sister Mary McCall, answered some emails and successfully converted my resume from a Word file to a pdf. I made more curry vegetables with Massi for dinner and chatted with him and my flatmate Ana in Spanish for a while after. A lovely day in all.
A Detailed Description of My Authentic Spanish Dinner:
The dinner was held in the back room of a restaurant near my apartment. As soon as the 40-something students sat down, an impressively un-harried waitress took our entree orders. The options were: something like the Argentinian milanesa (which is a thin strip of ham coated in cheese, breaded and fried), roasted chicken, something related to octopus (which no one ordered as far as I could tell), and a sort of fish stew (which I opted for, as I am clinging to my pescatarianism during my time here). The waitress quickly brought out baskets of fresh bread, followed by several drink options: vino tinto (of course), pitchers of beer, bottles of agua con gas (sparkling water), and a locally unique bottled beverage that I can’t remember the name of — something pale-colored and sparkling with a 6% alcohol volume. The girls sitting next to me told me that you have to pour it in a special way. I watched as she removed the cork, cut a small wedge into it, and then replaced it in the bottleneck opening. Using the small hole she had created, she held the bottle high and poured a long, thin stream of the liquid into her cup. I watched with high interest but little understanding.
Next, the waitress brought out two different kinds of salads: one with shredded chicken and one with shredded tuna piled on top of the bed of lettuce, tomato, hardboiled egg, green olives and shredded carrot. After that came platters of eggs scrambled with seta (mushroom) and jamón (ham). Then came the entrees, and then there was dessert: a choice between vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce or a spiked mango smoothie. And then the waitress asked what mixed drink we would like to finish the night with. The Spaniards around me all had been watering down each glass of wine and beer, and now I understood why. Not only were the night long and the drinks unlimited, but the Spanish students seemed to have a much lower alcohol tolerance than the Americans I’m used to hanging out with. No idea why, just an observation.
All in all, I’m more than glad I went — the food was just a bonus to the opportunity to finally hang out with Spaniards. Yayy Spain!