Yesterday . . .


5 September 2008
Palacio de Castellanos
I just had an interesting time trying to find an outlet that I could plug my computer into. There are outlets along the pillars in towards the center of the courtyard/square/lobby, but the lights that are plugged into them turn on and off on their own, and I had a suspicion that the outlets themselves don’t have power during the day. The fact that my computer wasn’t charging when it was plugged into them confirmed my suspicion. The outlets along the wall do work, but aren’t nearly so convenient. So I’m in a not-quite-so comfortable chair in a corner, rather than on one of the couches.
Perhaps I’m not quite so over jet lag after all. I slept through breakfast today, an impressive feat since it lasts until 11:30. This is a shame, because it is not only a gorgeous spread, but has also already been paid for (unlike today’s dinner and lunch, which I pay for (out of the money they gave us at the beginning of the trip (which I suspect isn’t anything like enough for all of the meals that we pay for on the trip, unless you’re really good at finding cheap eats – Lunch today was €2,60, but yesterday cost me €8,00 (commas and periods are reversed when counting in Spanish, so 1,045.63 would be 1.045,63), and those are the cheap places; food can be very expensive here))). The thing is, it wasn’t even that I slept through it, because I was aware of my roommate Katie getting up, and she was in time for breakfast – I simply didn’t realize how late it was (there are shutters in our room, so that even the full morning sun looks like only a dim streetlight shining through a sheer curtain). Luckily today is a free day (although if it hadn’t been, I would have set an alarm). This afternoon we wandered around, looked at the frog on the entrance to the old university, arrived too late to see the Miguel de Unamuno museum, had bocadillos (which are sandwiches, only they’re supposed to be different from un sandwich, which is supposed to be like “a sandwich that we’re used to.” I have yet to have un sandwich, so I couldn’t tell you what’s different, but if they mean that los sandwiches are made with store bread, I’ll stick with los bocadillos and the yummy rolls. I’m really enjoying the bread here in Spain, particularly after a summer of Smith bread (which, for those of you who’ve never had it, is entirely edible but usually unexciting). I haven’t seen any whole wheat yet, though, and I don’t know if I’m not looking in the right places or if it’s not a Spanish thing), discovered that the Cathedral had already closed, and then walked down to the river, where I flew my kite. Which reminds me that I need to write Rio Tormes, Salamanca, ES on it. One moment. . . . It didn’t fly terribly well; it kept going in circles. Since the tail is 20 feet long, I don’t think that this is the kite’s fault (it was really windy, which is what made me think of bringing the kite (this made for an interesting lunch – I didn’t braid my hair this morning, only clipped it, and I had to keep pulling my hair out of my mouth as I ate)). But I did get Rodrigo to take some pictures of me flying it, so pictures might be forthcoming (though I haven’t looked at any of today’s pictures yet). We crossed a bridge, where I tried flying the kite again, and it worked a bit better (though I still didn’t really have enough space to give it free rein). There was a little play area with the bouncy spring-toys, and we played with them a bit and then tried to take a timed picture under the bridge, which sort-of worked (we had to put the camera really far away, and the camera we were using only has a 10-second timer, so Katie-not-my-roommate is in the picture and nearly where she was heading for, but didn’t manage to turn around in time), and then it started raining, so we headed back. The rain let up again, so we stopped by in El Huerto de Callisto y Melibea (a garden, and yes, that Callisto and Melibea) and took more pictures, but then it started raining again. On the way back, we stopped by a little alcove with a stairway that was, if I read the sign correctly, a reproduction of a crypt found somewhere (I might not have read the sign correctly; it was out in the rain and I didn’t spend much time with it. The place didn’t look all that much like a crypt, but perhaps they didn’t reproduce all of it – maybe they left out the back wall, or something). The group started back, but a few of us noticed that people were going in a doorway of a building a little further back, so we wandered over to look at it. (That’s the thing about Salamanca (Spain?): lots of places have open doors, and you can wander in and look around. I don’t know if it’s because it’s Old, or because it’s a university town, or if it’s because this is the part where the tourists hand out.) It seemed to be some sort of ruin with a new staircase added, and you could climb up and look over the city (and get rained on, because there was a two to four foot gap between the roof and the wall, so the roof wasn’t doing much about the rain, especially since it was really windy). There was one bit where you could leave the tower and go off to a side platform, and that got us to a concrete area with a hole in the wall that showed dirt and rocks, and the label, “corte estratographica con ruinas Pre-Romana, Romana, y Medieval,” (or something to that effect), which I took to mean that it was a slice in which you could see different layers of building (though I didn’t know enough to be able to tell the difference; there was one bit where I could guess that this bit of rocks were Roman, and the bits above and below were medieval and pre-roman, but all the rest looked like really old dirt and rocks to me.)

Let’s see, what did I do yesterday? I went to the 11:30 meeting, which proved to be a) about the program and b) about the Spanish educational system. I’m so glad that I’m not a Spanish student; in Spain, at 18 you choose which test to take, and that determines what schools you can go to and what career paths you can take. And if you change your mind, you have to start all over again with the test. I only barely managed to scrape together declaring a major, much less decide what I wanted to study for the next three to five years and what job I want to have when I graduate. On the other hand, I learned that education is much cheaper here; most students pay 800 euros a semester, and many live at home.
After the talk, I went to the internet café with Wende, and then to the Plaza Mayor and lunch. I then wandered around and got semi-lost (We knew how to get back to the Plaza Mayor, and thought we knew what general direction the hotel was in, but all of the streets that we could find that went that way were narrow and sketchy and seemed not to actually go through. We did eventually find a bit of construction that looked familiar, and got back to roads we knew, arriving in time for the 4:00 tour of the city, which was a lot of fun. I saw the old and new Cathedrals (lots of Gothic architecture; I took a whole bunch of pictures, most of which didn’t turn out well because the light was so stark and I didn’t have the flash on, but a few of which I liked), and we toured the Old University building, and failed to find the little frog on the carved entryway (it’s supposed to give you good luck in your studies if you find it, but it had to be pointed out to us; in our defense it was really little).
Then dinner last night had a frog theme (not the menu, thankfully). I suppose that it was about as formal as the night before, but the large blowup frogs on the tables somehow spoiled the appearance of solemnity. The meal started with something like a spinach quiche minus crust with bacon on top (I liked it; it seems most everyone else didn’t) and then there was a sort of stuffed fish (I practiced the fork-in-the-left-hand business again. I think that I have figured it out, at least for easy foods.), and desert was a slice of rich chocolate stuff with whipped cream on top. I tried a small sip of the red wine, and found it to be worse than the white. (What do people see in it? There aren’t that many foods/beverages that I really don’t like, but I believe that I have confirmed a suspicion that wine is one of them.) Then I hung out for a while, and went to the Plaza Mayor about midnight (yes, me leaving at midnight; I would have gone earlier, but nobody else wanted to leave until then) because I had been told that it was beautiful after dark, and there was supposed to be tunas there. It was quite nice, but there was some sort of tent erected in front of the most impressive part of it (there’s some big festival going on all next week), and while we saw people dressed in the tunas outfits, they didn’t seem to have any inclination to play or sing. So Vanessa and I sat on a bench for a while and then headed back. Not getting to bed until nearly 1:00 last night may have contributed to the not-getting-up-until-12 today. I have determined that I’m getting to bed at a more reasonable hour tonight and setting my alarm; we leave PROMPTLY at ten tomorrow, and I would like to get some breakfast before we go.

It’s getting late, but I may also do a quick post on what I’ve been up to today.

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