First day of classes

•September 5, 2011 • Leave a Comment

You get TWO entries today, how about that lol? Really I didn’t want to talk about yesterday and today in the same entry since yesterday was so long. I’ll try to keep this quick.

Quick note about my room that I just noticed: The view from my window is a view of the window of my flatmate. So, if I want to have some natural light/air come in, and she does as well, we have to look at each other somewhat. Nothing against her, it’s just awkward since we’re both home right now. I also haven’t officially introduced myself to her.

Anyway, class started today. I mentioned that I felt like the class might be a little below me, and…well, let’s just say your girl was probably the most advanced student there. Definitely the fastest talker/most articulate overall, as I mentioned in a comment. Everyone else has to kind of think about what they say and I just talk talk talk without many reservations. One of my teachers called me “the interpreter” because I break down what he says when students don’t understand, or try to provide a word when they don’t know it. I hope I’m not too much because of it.

Almost everyone, if not everyone, is American in this class it seems. There actually is another student of color in this class, although I’m not quite sure what ethnicity he is.

About the difficulty of the class, I will say that I legitimately learned something new today. We discussed the subjunctive, and a new thing I learned was that it’s used with negative and “hay poco…” statements. So now I know.

You call that a kitchen?

•September 5, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I got home from class a little while ago, can’t get a hold of my parents, so I’m taking this opportunity to update.

Yesterday, save for the 3.5 hours of sleep I got, went very well with the exception of one thing (which is addressed in the title of this entry and I’ll discuss later).

First of all, I feel like my comprehension of Spanish has improved overnight. Literally. I can understand the Spaniards much better, even before my classes started. I kind of feel like God was trying to encourage me because I was worried that my Spanish won’t be at the level I want by the time I leave in January. Granted, I’m still trying to figure out a way to afford 4 more weeks of classes, room, living expenses and bills, but I do feel more encouraged (I do want to see if I can work as a English tutor, or part-time doing something, I don’t know).

Yesterday my family and I went to church. Honestly, I didn’t feel like going, especially as sleep deprived as I was, but let’s be honest, church is one of those things where if you don’t make an effort to go at the beginning, you’re not going to feel like going at all later. But yeah, I enjoyed the music and could understand like 97% of the sermon. The announcements were hard for me to understand, but my dad did mention that he was missing some teeth.

Afterwards we went to my sister’s house where her host wanted to cook lunch for us. In Spain, lunch is the biggest meal. During the lunch, I had to rush to move in my things, since my host insisted that I couldn’t come later than 5, but we were only gone about 45 minutes.

Anyway, my sister’s host, Nieves, is the sweetest person (I’m only saying her name because initially I had written “my sister’s host” like 6 times). She gave my sister the room with 2 beds in it in case I want to crash there from time to time instead of walking back to Triana every night. She lives in the center of town, like maybe 5 minutes away from my school.

Nieves’ husband is from Illinois. He was an astronaut with NASA. The king of Spain even gave him a gold medal and a plaque of some sort (and the host herself got a plaque that said “Lady of Honor.”). Nieves herself is an English teacher, which probably made the meal a little more enjoyable for my parents, Dad especially.

The lunch was very good. We had tapas, one which had expensive organic ham (but Nieves said it was for “el cumple de mi hija” (my sister’s birthday was yesterday)). She made seafood paella for us, bought us bread and a birthday cake, and made mint tea with fresh herbs. We had some wine and champagne as well.

After lunch (2 hours after lunch ended, at 10pm. The Spanish are big on lunch), my family and I went to see Carmen, the play.


It was completely in Spanish, and although I understood like 99%, I’d be a bit hard pressed to tell you details of how the plot unfolded now. It was fun.

Anyway, leading to the negative part of yesterday, I got home around midnight, started to get ready for bed, went to the bathroom and passed the kitchen (I live right across from it), and saw that…

There is neither a stove nor oven in this kitchen. Just a microwave, sink, refrigerator, and hot plate. My dorm kitchen freshman year of college was better equipped. I was halfway tickled because Nieves told me that the kitchen is not important in Spanish homes. OBVIOUSLY lolol. How the host thinks I’m supposed to make meals for myself for the next 5 months without the essentials is beyond me. I’m going to head to El Corte Inglés to see if they have a large enough toaster oven. If the hot plates are cheap enough, I’d like to buy one so I could have two to cook with at once. Even something like beans and rice would take forever to cook with just one hot plate.

No me puedo dormir

•September 4, 2011 • Leave a Comment

It’s almost 4am here. I haven’t gotten a good night’s sleep since we left Chicago.

I imagine it’s a factor of:
-My days having more activity than usual. I’ve been busy all day everyday since coming here.
-My days having more activity *at night*. At home, the vast majority of the time I was back at home by 9pm or so at the latest. I had a *bare minimum* of 3 – 4 hours to unwind before hitting the sheets. Here’s the earliest is like 11pm. Restaurants don’t even open at night until 8 – 8:30pm
-Adjusting to the time zone change.

To try to combat this, I:
-Listened to music (as always)
-Took a sleeping pill.
-Took 2 sleeping pills.
-Drank some liquor.
-Drank a higher amount of liquor.
-Tried to go to bed “early” to try to counteract the fact that it takes me 2 – 3 hours to fall asleep (like I mentioned, the earliest I can handle right now is like 11:30pm because I get home so late)

I haven’t yet tried NyQuil because:
-I only brought 2 bottles with me and didn’t want to have to use so much so quickly.

I imagine I will adjust. Also, right now I have to eat late because I can’t prepare my own food. Once I get to my flat, I’ll be able to cook for myself and not have to eat so late if I don’t want to. I also won’t be with my family so I could eat sooner if I did want to go to a restaurant.

Tomorrow my family wants to go to church, naturally, so I have somewhere to be in the morning. Normally my parents and I don’t really start our day until after 11 – 12pm or so, and even then we have nowhere we need to go. We’ll be leaving in like 6ish hours. Whenever I fall asleep here, I fall asleep hard and don’t get out of bed for a while. Since I have somewhere to be in the morning and can’t just wake up whenever, I might just put the TV on in the background, lay down, and wait it out.

Placement exam

•September 2, 2011 • 4 Comments

Quick update before I head out for the day. I think it’s only like 5am in Chicago now. It’s noon here.

Yesterday I took my placement exam for my classes. I wanted to take it this week, and not Monday when everyone else takes it, so that I wouldn’t have to waste class time testing. The test was a few fill-in-the-blank questions on a few sections on one page plus a section where we were supposed to write a few sentences about our day yesterday. Nothing too complicated, though there were about 3 fill-in-the blanks where I wasn’t sure what the statement was even supposed to be saying (generally because I wouldn’t have chosen to say it like that or I’d add/subtract a “que” or something).

I’m confused as to what level I’m in. There are 8 levels: absolute beginner, A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2(1), C2(2). I thought I had tested into B2, which is upper intermediate and appropriate for me in my opinion, but then I received the book for B1. I don’t know if whoever tested me changed their mind or made a mistake or what. I went to the bookstore to ask about it. The employee there said she’d have no way of knowing which one I’m supposed to have, but offered me the book below it to look at and I was thinking, Dang, is my Spanish that bad? I figure I’ll find out the stuff about my classes one way or the other on Monday.

I actually had a dream about this last night. Everyone was in the B2 class and one of the administrators told me that B1 was best for me. I woke up, a little while later realized it was all a dream, and thought it was hilarious that I’m dreaming about this stuff already.

While in the office talking to someone, I met one of my flatmates. They have her working in the office already (I think that’s an option for EU citizens who attend this school). She already knew my last name so she knew it was me. There are 2 other girls either living in the flat already or going to be living there. This first one seems nice- she wanted to introduce herself to me once she realized it was me. Hopefully the other girls are just as nice.

Technical difficulties

•September 1, 2011 • 2 Comments

Today I bought prepaid cell phone and mobile internet access.

Before coming to Spain, my Spanish teacher told me of a few places to possibly get a cell phone and internet. Out of the 3 companies she listed, the only one I’ve managed to see thus far was Vodafone. There is a small branch of this store near the hotel and a large branch on Plaza Nueva, across the river, so I went to the large store.

After getting to the store, and standing near an employee’s desk for a few minutes, I realized that they were on a number system, which used a type of computer screen to assign numbers. The screen had the English flag and the Spanish flag so I clicked the English one just to make this easier on myself. Stuff like figuring out your cell phone and internet plans is challenging enough in your native language, much less a language you’ve only been utilizing extensively for 2 days, not to mention my classes haven’t even started yet.

I waited in line for at least half an hour. During the first ten or so minutes of my wait, one of the employees spoke English to me so I asked him some questions. His English was fine I guess, but I did not understand the internet packages at all. He made it seem like the package I was looking at only works for 3 weeks or so out of the 3 months you’re supposed to have service and it just didn’t make sense to me. He wrote my name down on a card and brought it to the front.

Eventually it was my turn to be helped. This employee only spoke Spanish, so I told her that I didn’t understand the internet packages, this is difficult enough in English, and then explained what I thought they meant. She got the main brochure of theirs and broke it down for me: the first mobile internet package just contained the USB stick for 19 euros and then you choose a monthly data plan to go with it; the plan I was looking at comes is 39 euros with 1 GB already included and once you run out you can recharge it and choose a monthly plan then. I asked her how many minutes or so does 1 GB last and she said it depends, so I figured I’d just get that plan, see how long 1 GB lasts me, and then figure out a monthly plan.

Then it was time to get a cell phone plan. The brochure said if you have 10 euros of recargas (when you add money to your phone plan), you’re charged 8 cents per minute or SMS. Without the recargas, it’s 15 cents each. I told her I didn’t understand why you’d add money to the phone, like what that is exactly. In my mind, I was thinking it was something extra, like if you bought 10 euros of some additional service, your rate was 8 cents on top of the 10 euros you already spent. Like I told her, I’d ask these same questions in English. She told me that you add the 10 euros, and as you use the phone money is subtracted from this pool at a rate of 8 cents.

Picking a phone itself wasn’t complicated. I asked for the cheapest ones and I got the best of the cheapest, 16 or so euros.

I’m not sure how long the whole thing took me, but like I mentioned on FB it may have taken me like 2 fewer minutes to do this in America.

______________________________________________________________

Fast forward an hour or so, the internet starts to give me problems. It told me that the mobile internet wasn’t connecting. I knew that the wifi wasn’t connected, and according to my computer the mobile internet wasn’t working, but I was able to surf the web and chat to at least some extent. I tried to turn it off and on and still had the same problem. I figured I should bring the USB stick and my netbook to the store to get it checked. Naturally I was like, Oh. Great. I’ve been in this country 2 days and I have to talk about technological problems in Spanish.

I went to the store near the hotel and talked to the employee there. Long story short, just like in America, you go through the effort of taking your broken crap back to the store and nothing is wrong with it anymore.

And it’s been raining all day.

Curso dandalú (video)

•August 31, 2011 • Leave a Comment

A friend just linked this to me lol.

How to speak Andalusian (all in Spanish):

No os preocupéis, me estoy confundida también lol)

Welcome to Seville

•August 31, 2011 • Leave a Comment

We arrived in Seville yesterday, around 1pm local time.

There will be no substantial updates until I purchase my own internet access. The wi-fi at the hotel hasn’t been working for my sister and me; right now we’re at Starbucks using the wi-fi and we only get 45 minutes.

Quick update:

The flights went relatively well. I was next to a toddler on the flight from Boston to Madrid and the LOUDEST 4-yr-old from Madrid to Seville.

Sevillians talk very quickly. I think the fact that I don’t really struggle when I speak Spanish doesn’t help, as I say, “bla bla bla” with relative ease and they reply with “blablablablablabla.” I refuse to say those shameful words “habla más despacio por favor.” Plus I’ll probably understand a lot more in like a month or so.

My dad has been testing my on-the-fly interpreting skills, as he blurts out a sentence in English to someone and I feel I need to quickly provide a Spanish equivalent lest they get confused.

I have ideas for upcoming posts and have taken some pictures already.

So good so far.

Packing lightly…

•August 27, 2011 • Leave a Comment

…is almost impossible when you’re not only moving to a new country, but need to cook for yourself when there. I’m not worried at all about packing for the flight back to America, as most of the toiletries and food will have been consumed/disposed of, but packing for the flight there is a headache. Save for financing the program and my living expenses, packing is probably the most stressful part of this whole endeavor.

I have 2 gifts for my host, a nice mug with a drawing of Chicago, and a framed picture of the Chicago skyline at night. Initially I had the mug and stuffed it with a shot glass, but I now know she’s in her 50s so I nixed the shot glass idea. If I wasn’t arriving in Seville so early, I would have loved to try to bring some Garrett’s popcorn.

Preparing for this trip has been exhausting, and expensive, and a bit stressful as evidence by my back/shoulder pain flaring up again, but it really is a good kind of stress. Similar to the stress, I imagine, of planning a wedding.

Only 1.5 days left.

A few thoughts

•August 24, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I’ve gotten some feedback on my letter from native speakers. My mistakes tended to be minor, such as saying “objectivo” instead of “objetivo.” When my mistakes are things like that (which is the case more often than not when I write), I’m torn between feeling like, Oh, some minor mistakes, not bad for someone whose formal education in Spanish is so limited, and, THOSE were my mistakes?! SERIOUSLY? lol. But I guess I’d rather have mistakes such as slight orthographical errors than accidentally say, “My Spanish speaking abilities are pretty well” or something like that.

My host just responded (seriously, as I was updating this lol)! I’m happy about that. She commented, “escribes muy bién el castellano y creo que tienes razón……lo hablaras mejor.” Glad to know she has faith in me.

Yesterday I exchanged $450.99 for 300 euros. I died a little inside, especially because we were able to exchange our money without additional fees from my parents’ bank (the internet quoted an exchange rate of $433 for 300 euros). Because of the fees that the bank [here in America] incurs to exchange the money, I wonder if the exchange rate would have been closer to the 1.44 quoted online if I had just went to a Spanish ATM upon arriving in Spain.

Those of you who’ve read my “About me” (or have read the comments I’ve left for you/others on this matter), you may know that my eventual goal with my language and living abroad plans is to hopefully be a multilingual translator/interpreter after attending grad school in Spain (I also have a pipe dream of opening a language immersion preschool, but we’ll see how my career/finances are going in 10+ years lol). I’m content with my goal, but the path to get there is uncertain.

Anyway, yesterday I was job searching in a “Maybe I should look up this company when I get back from Spain” way and I googled “[name of non-profit] jobs chicago.” I went to their job page and they have an ongoing need for freelance medical interpreters, and also provide a medical interpreting certificate program for those interested in applying for the position and don’t have a certificate already.

Now, the goal is not to medically interpret forever. Honestly, the goal is not even to get a job at all with this certificate. If I could pass their language assessment once I get back from Spain, get accepted to the program and complete it, I could put the certificate on a resume/CV/grad school application. My main goals for getting the certificate are to: 1) see if my Spanish comprehension has progressed enough to pass the language assessment in the first place, 2) get a taste of how T&I training/education is like, and 3) have some related education (and possibly experience) on my application once I’m ready to apply to grad school. If I can actually get a job doing this to some extent, and essentially save up for for my language programs and T&I grad school by being a legit interpreter, then that’s a bonus.

The letter I sent to my hosts

•August 22, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Here’s the letter I sent to my host and her husband. I hope the bit of humor I included translates well :-p

A complete translation will follow for those who don’t speak Spanish.

EDIT: As pathetic as this sounds, I’m happier with the Spanish than my translation. My English speaking abilities are decreasing already :-p

Queridos [their names]

Espero que este correo os encuentre bien.

Me llamo Revé [last name]. Tengo 26 años y soy una chica afroamericana de [las afueras de] Chicago, Illinois, E.E.U.U.. Voy a estar viviendo con vosotros mientras estudio en [name of school]

Mi objectivo principal para estar en Sevilla es para ser capaz de hablar español con fluidez cuando regrese a los E.E.U.U al fin de enero. Un gran objectivo, de verdad, pero tengo 20 semanas y mis habilidades de hablar español ya son buenas (me atrevería a decir, excelentes para una americana de mi origen y nivel de formación académica en español), por lo tanto espero que sea posible de todos modos. Como mi mamá me dice siempre, “nada derrota un fracaso pero un intento,” por lo tanto estoy intentando.

Mi hermanita también va a estudiar en Sevilla, en un programa diferente (con otros estudiantes de universidad, tiene 19 años). Llegaré en Sevilla el 30 de agosto y pasaré una semana con mi hermanita y nuestros padres. Mis padres visitan Sevilla porque quieren estar seguros que “todo es seguro,” y “vosotras (my hermanita y yo) seréis en muy buenas manos”…yyyyy porque ellos nuncan han viajado a España (ni muchos paises de verdad, solo Canada (tan similar a los E.E.U.U. que no nos parecía extranjera) y Italia), ni van a muchas vacaciones, por lo tanto ellos decidieron que aprovechar la oportunidad para visitar un nuevo país con sus hijas, sus interpretes.

Bueno, este correo es largo (lo cual es un poquito engañoso porque no soy charlarona para nada), así ahora se termina. Cuando tengáis tiempo, decidme cual hora en el 4 de septiembre (domingo) es lo mejor para nosotros para conocernos y para mi para dejar mi equipaje en mi cuarto.

Hasta luego,
Revé

Note: In Spanish, they don’t use quotation marks, but the HTML won’t let me post the particular brackets they use.

Dear [their names].

I hope this email finds you well.

My name is Revé [last name]. I’m 26 and am an African-American girl from [the suburbs of] Chicago, IL, USA. I’m going to be living with you while studying at [name of school].

My main goal for being in Seville is in order to be capable of speaking Spanish fluently when I return to the USA at the end of January. A big goal, really, but I have 20 weeks and my Spanish speaking abilities are already good (dare I say, excellent for an American with my background and level of formal education in Spanish), therefore I hope it’s possible, anyway. As my mom always tells me, “nothing beats a failure but a try,” so I’m trying.

My little sister is also going to be studying in Seville, at a different program (with other college students, she’s 19). I will arrive in Seville on August 30th and will spend a week with my sister and our parents. Our parents are visiting Seville because they want to be sure that “everything is safe,” and, “you (my sister and I) are in good hands,”…aaaaaand because they’ve never traveled to Spain (or many countries really, just Canada (so similar to the USA that it didn’t seem foreign to us) and Italy), and they don’t go on many vacations, so they decided to seize the opportunity and visit a new country with their daughters, their interpreters.

Well, this email is long (which is kind of deceiving because I’m not a chatterbox at all) so it ends now. When you have time, tell me what time on September 4th (Sunday) is best for us to meet and for me to drop off my luggage.

Until later,
Revé