Last time I wrote, I was planning my first bus excursion. And indeed it was. It was my first weekend and I wanted to get out of the house so I went to Madrid on Saturday afternoon, my host mom dropped me off. There I met with my good friend Camila Pinzón's sister Maria who lives and works in Madrid. Even though I was a little nervous, it all went stupendidly (until the return, but I'll get to that). She met me at the random place I was dropped off at (still couldn't tell you where it was) and took me on my first metro trip to get to her apartment which is right in the center. We met up with a friend of hers at a little restaurant for some drinks and conversation and after 2 tintos de verano went to the next place. I am absolutely obsessed with this drink. It's red wine mixed with club soda and it's soo good. Summers are incredibly hot here and so this drink is really refreshing and probably going to become the best friend I will make during the next month and a half. We went from place to place, I got to see a good view of a different part of the city called Lavapies which is known for being where a lot of immigrants live (and we all know how much I enjoy my foreigners!) and then eventually her boyfriend met us after he finished work. The best place was a bar/restaurant that was on top of a University library. It was such a cool looking building with lots of character because it used to be a monastery and they kept all the old stone bricks in the new architecture. However, I can't imagine much studying, or productive studying, would get done knowing there's a relaxing bar right above you. I wonder if Student Senate would go for a new proposal for McIntyre...
Long story skinny, I had a really nice time with them and am really appreciative that they let me stay with them without knowing me beforehand. Got lots of practice on my Spanish and got out of suburbia. Sunday was the French open finals and we watched the match where, CLARO, Nadal won.
Then it was the true test of my ability to return to Wisteria Lane now that I had left. The metro was super easy. Then it came to the buses. I had conflicting information because I remembered my host mom telling me that I should take either bus number 653 or 4 and Maria and her boyfriend had suggested 651 or 2. All four buses go to Majadahonda which is a little town near my house and from there I have to take another bus to Boadilla which is the part I live in. I chose the 2...but once on I started to realize all the bus stops are the same and since I don't know where to get off, I can't push the little button that lets the driver know to stop. So a woman sat down next to me and I asked her "Which stop do I get off at to take bus number 567?" (That is my connecting bus number) She stared at me like I had just spoken Mandarin and in my head I rolled my eyes and thought 'Seriously..it's not that hard to understand someone who speaks WITHOUT a lisp..' so I rephrased and repeated myself to which she told me the next stop was the one. I got off, took a look at the bus schedule that is on each bus stop seating area and as I saw that 567 would be coming any second, and turned to see it approaching. Then I realized I didn't know if there was a secret signal you should give to have the bus stop. A hand wave? A hip thrust? I wasn't sure. So I opted with no signal and thought making "eye contact" with the bus itself would solicit a stop. Wrong. Since it was a Sunday, the buses come less frequently, of that I was sure. So I took my lended cell and called my host mom. When she asked me where I was it was a long pause before I said "Uhhhh...Majadahonda?" "But where? What is near you?" "Uhhhhhh....a white building that says De Diego and a round-a-bout." These are not very distinctive landmarks since there are as many round-a-bouts as there are people. She frantically said she would try to find out where I was and hung up. I wasn't worried since I knew I was in the right general area... I just didn't know how far I was from the right destination. After a second phone call when I had found a person nearby to tell me what street I was on, which was Avenida España but I didn't understand that when they told me so I mumbled to my host mom 'Abenahialaa *trail off* España', my host dad pulled up and I was on my way to safety. It should be noted that now, 2 weeks later, I have completely conquered the bus system as well as most of my way through Madrid. My directional ability has either improved with age or maps got easier to read.
The week that followed was uneventful, quite boring actually. My host dad and brother and I went on a really fast trip to an old monastery called El Monasterio del Escolar. I took just a few pictures because my host dad had a dentist appointment and was in a hurry.
Last Monday, I was on babysitting duty and of course managed to get us locked out of the house. Luckily the neighbors now have their tutor who is a guy from New York and he was able to find a ladder at his house and climb into one of the open windows. I also attempted a tour/visit of Patricia's school on Tuesday, but it didn't go so well as the "boss of studies" of the English department was confused as to why I was there despite the fact that my host mom had spoken with the secretary the day before to OK everything. She apparently had cleared it with a different "boss of studies" so the English woman (who was actually English and appeared offended when I insisted to speak Spanish to her not recognizing her accent right away) was less than helpful to show me around or take me to an English class.
The English teaching has proved not difficult but not easy. I'm finding it hard to explain why things are the way they are because...well I just don't know. Being one of the rare grammar-nuts there are in this world, it comes easy to me and I've never needed to why things are they way they are so now I don't how to tell anyone else. The mom and I have been having fun talks. She is very interested in the US education system because she does not like the way Patricia's school works. For example, she is just finishing this week her last week of school. She is 13, in the 7th grade, and has to study for cumulative finals in all of her classes. I don't know how many 13 year olds are able to memorize that much material for one test, but that's exactly what she does: sits with her book, reads it in her head trying to memorize the words on the pages rather than actually ever learning anything. This is a trying task for most college students. I can see Oli's frustrations.
Overall observations: one of the strangest things is the milk. It was something I also noticed in Costa Rica, but they do not refrigerate unopened milk. It's also sold in packages in stores and on shelves instead of in refrigerators. Out of an entire isle, there was just one small section with a fridge of fresh milk. Milk is already pretty gross to me, but milk that sits in a cupboard until you open it??? What is that!? I was also expecting to eat more fresh meals/less processed food than I do at home but so far it has been about the same. Most of what we eat is processed. However, my mom isn't the greatest cook so that may be a factor. She really likes to make a lot of things into a "puree" which I thought was just something mashed but in her technique it becomes a texture comparable to baby food. Some days it's orange, and I'm only guessing from taste that it was something with carrots, and other days it's white/cream colored, something like potatoes. I find it's better not to ask. They also keep insisting I try this disgusting vegetable juice.
As for the biking. Up until Thursday I had managed to dodge all offers for bike rides, mostly from my host brother. I think he is more relieved than I am when I reject his offers with something like "Ohh I was just going to take a shower!" or "Ohh, noo all of my shorts are in the laundry! (not)" since my skills on hills aren't up to par. But when the dad offers I have a harder time saying no and it's good to have some kind of force making me go and do something. Luckily, the chain broke and so I only had to suffer through 45 minutes of discomfort. It must have something to do with the amount of years it's been since I habitually rode bike (in other words, the amount of pounds gained in said years), but I do not remember it being so damn uncomfortable in the buttox region before. I did a little happy dance in my mind when after several mishaps throughout the ride, my host dad noticed it was broken and I got to walk the rest of the way.
I have gone on a couple runs which is actually a lot better. But I think at this point anything I do will be better than riding a bike. However, I need to go on a lot more of them because my host mom is more obsessed with ice cream than I am, which I had no idea was possible. I actually fear I might die of Haagen-Dazs poisoning before the summer ends.
That's the skinny, sorry it's kind of still a fat one anyway. Maybe more frequent updates will make for less of a task for my dear readers, if I still have any by this point of the blog.