Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday Surprises

To put things in perspective as to how full this day was, I'm writing this post at 3 am Spain time, and there is still music blaring at least three or four blocks away which I can hear as clear as water with a Turbidity of 0.0 NTU (Waterlab plug) with my window closed.  With that sort of introduction, you might be thinking to yourself, "shoot, this is going to be a rant about what a tiresome, stressful day it was for him. Logging off . . ." So to you I say, "WAAAIIITTT!! I'll make it worth your while. Keep reading please." Anyway, today started off kind of slow in that I sought to open a bank account with the school, which is necessary so the university can put money in my account for food and such.  It seems like it will be a simple process; I just need to return this Tuesday to finalize it.  I decided to make what I thought would be a quick stop to the Oficinia de Relaciones de Exteriores, but I quickly became distracted on my way there due to a large bicycle race known as "La vuelta."  Apparently, this is a regular event in Spain, but it hadn't been in Santiago since 1981.  Needless to say, the plaza in front of la catedral de Santiago was PACKED, more than I ever thought possible.  I guess the American equivalent would be a NASCAR event, especially since I did see a group of peregrinos (pilgrims) popping open a bottle of what looked like champagne.  Picture a Spanish Ricky Bobby (Talledega Nights) wearing a backpack and hiking shoes, and you'll get the idea.  Despite the historical tradition of el Camino, I guess the peregrinos have a lot of different reasons for doing it nowadays.

I really had no idea what I was going to do in the evening, so after practicing my saxophone in the most echoe-filled room in Monte da Condesa, I went to the lobby and read over some newspapers.  Then, as if it was (and it probably was) a God-send, I started talking with some Brazilian students, two of whom I had encountered very briefly two days before.  They invited me to join them for some night-time activities around the city organized by a group called "Sharing Galicia," dedicated to showing international students the sites of the town and country.  Before I continue, I should mention that there are a plethora of "Cafe-Bars" in Santiago de Compostela, perhaps one on every street.  We started at one, then went to another, one more, and then a very small discoteca (which also had a bar).  Now, I bet you might be thinking at this point, and it's okay to do so, "Ethan Alano, doing a bar crawl in a foreign city? Has the world gone MAD?" Well, to alleviate fears, and still justify this as a God-send, I can definitively say that no one went with the purpose of getting drunk, and everyone was perfectly safe (and that's MY definition of safe, which has very high standards).  When I think of an American bar crawl, the literal crawl from bar to bar due to sickness pops into my head.  Instead, the intention was to get to know others, which I did a lot of over the course of the evening.  At first, I was kinda fumbling over speaking in Spanish since this was my first time doing it in Spain for fun conversation.  Additionally, with everyone talking fast and loud at each location, it was often difficult to hear and understand.  However, I felt pretty good by the end of the night and realize this is the first step toward true fluency: speaking in social settings, being okay with making mistakes and correcting them, and learning from others.  Here are some more tidbits before I hit the hay:

1. The one drink I did take part in was native to Galicia.  I honestly didn't like it very much, as it tasted like glorified cough syrup, but the presentation was pretty sweet (no pun intended).  I don't remember the name in Spanish but they called it a witch's brew since they lit it on fire and said some repetitious words.  Before we drank it, I got the honor of putting out the fire by dropping a pan on top of the cauldron.  I dropped it a little harder than I thought I would, which surprised many at first but subsequently resulted in thunderous applause.

2. I'm glad I have a base group of friends now, or at least people I can get to know better, before classes begin.  I think it's the first step in establishing myself here.

3. Smoking is endemic in Spain.  All of the signs that say "No fumar" are definitely necessary, because I think people would smoke in a home with a gas leak if they could.  Unfortunately in my opinion, I think I'm starting to develop a tolerance for the smell, meaning I don't notice it on my clothes nor purposefully avoid a smoke cloud.  However, I don't plan on taking up smoking while I'm here (you can relax now, Mom :).

4. Some Spanish and Brazilian people actually know where Oregon is!  It's a very small percentage, but at least they don't immediately assume I'm from Los Angeles, Chicago, or New York when I say I'm from the states.

Thanks again for reading and commenting! Happy September :D  


  1. I'm sitting here with Mom and Dad reading your post. We can just imagine you sitting in front of your laptop speaking outloud as you narrate this witty soliloquy. Glad to hear you're practicing your saxophone. Lastly, Mom says, "Never get used to the smell of smoke!" Love you bud! ~Madre, Padre, y Hermana favorita :)

  2. Great blog ethan! Loved the water lab plug and really glad you're enjoying yourself and meeting friends! let's Skype again soon :))

  3. Sounds like you are getting along well and I'm glad to hear it. Next time you're trying to attract a fun crowd, try Baker Street by Gerry Rafferty on the sax. Also, I watched a Psych episode from season 2 last night related to dinosaurs and I was cracking up.