Ni Gure Tximeleta Txikia Naiz

The beauty of learning languages from the ground up, grammatically, as I am doing with Basque, is that you make sudden leaps forward. For the first two weeks, when people asked me what I had learned, I couldn’t do much more than smile sheepishly and explain that I’d only been to a few classes. The first week we’d only learned case endings, with a single word – mutil, boy – to fill out the paradigm. The second week, we learned some vocabulary, mostly animals and basic adjectives, and I could at least put a few words together. Nothing useful, but I could say “two big goats”, or ‘the young girl’, but I didn’t know a single verb, so I still couldn’t put a sentence together. This initial frustration is why, I think, popular modern teaching methods try to jump right into useful phrases and silly songs, but I think the best thing to do is to be patient, and push through, because afterward things start moving really quickly.

Apple Butterfly, from a Basque Blog. http://iratioihane.blogspot.com

Last week, we learned family terms, and, more crucially, our first verbs. To be, in present tense, and reflexive verbs, in past tense. It’s only a start, but it lets us make sentences. A surprising number of them. I can say, for example, that “two big goats have washed themselves” – “ahuntz handi bi garbitu dira”, or “the young girl is my sister” – “neska gaztea nire ahizpa da.” I can even say that “the sons and daughters of my aunts and uncles are my cousins” – “nire osaba-izeben semea-alabak nire lehengusua-lehengusinak dira”, or, as I realized quite happily, sing the DDR song “I-I-I, I’m you’re little butterfly!” – “Ni Ni Ni, Ni gure tximeleta txikia naiz!”

Basque has different words for a brother, depending on whether it’s the brother of a girl, or of a boy. Same thing for sister. My sister is my ahizpa, but my cousin Trevor’s sister is his arreba. Whereas Spanish will just double the masculine noun to make a collective noun encompassing both males and females (padres for padre – father and madre – mother), Basque smashes them both together, creating semea-alabak for children, and the unwieldy lehengusua-lehengusinak for cousins. Sometimes, simply out of a finite number of linguistic possibilites, Basque grammar winds up closer to English than Spanish – nouns in genitive, for example, appear before the word they modify, like English and unlike Spanish, so our teacher keeps explaining that you have to swap them to understand that amaren aita means mother’s father, when to me it’s quite clear!

Published in: on September 29, 2010 at 20:13  Leave a Comment  
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Surfing Biarritz

Jaime and I were just about the first people to sign up for the International Office led trip to Biarritz. It was quite a deal at 30 euros for the bus there and back, the surfing lesson, and the wetsuit rental. For a full week we teased each other about it, saying “Oh, I learned to surf in France, no big deal.” Glamorous, we thought.

Well, the big day arrived. Our group arrived in Biarritz half an hour late, which cut into the already relatively short lesson. And the weather was terrible – windy, rainy, and cold. As we all ran into the shack to change, we caught a sight of the angry looking ocean crashing against the shore. We were already freezing, and we were fully clothed and dry. Surfing seemed to be just about the least desirable activity in the world, especially with less than cozy memories of canyoning still recent enough to send a chill down my back. Some people actually did chicken out – including all but one of the guys!

Those of us who decided to charge ahead shivered into their wetsuits, took boards off the wall, and headed down to the beach. The sand was rough and cold against our bare feet, but once we entered the water things actually took a turn for the better. The wetsuits were more effective when, well, wet… and after the icy mountain streams in the canyons the week before, the ocean water seemed like a bath…. A rather violent bath.

For the first few waves, we lay on the boards on our stomachs. This was supposed to be just for practice, but I’m almost tempted to buy a board in Florida, just to do this. It was surprising how well we glided over the water, carried along with the wave – much better than on an inflatable raft or an inner-tube.

But the serene, gliding fun didn’t last long. After all, the point of surfing is, for some strange reason, to actually stand on the board. We were all pretty terrible, and I definitely wasn’t a natural. With so many of us in the water, and so little time, not to mention the language barrier, the instructor really only gave us generic pointers, and we were on our own to wipe out again and again. This was worse than wiping out on the wakeboard at the lake, because the water was shallow and more often than not I got my face smashed into the swirling sand on the bottom. Another hazard was the cord that kept the surfboard attached to my ankle – I kept tripping on it and getting it stuck painfully between my toes. As if trying to take care of yourself wasn’t enough fun, none of us could steer very well, so we kept crashing into each other. This could really, really hurt, especially when I took a hit directly in the stomach.

Would I try surfing again? Most likely. The sensation of moving along with the waves, even just on my stomach, was something unforgettable. Even the rain and the wind and the salt of the crashing surf all started to blend together after a while, and made me feel totally immersed in the nature all around me. On the other hand, I’d prefer to have more time, an instructor who spoke English, and fewer fellow idiots around to figure out what I was doing. The whole experience also might have suffered by following Multiaventura pretty closely – as I said to Ria, “We spend way too much of our time together in wetsuits.”

Published in: on September 27, 2010 at 17:12  Leave a Comment  
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Día del Deporte


Can you imagine this at a school-sponsored event in the States?

Campus life is sort of a US thing – for better or for worse, universities abroad just don’t tend to organize as many social events for their students. This makes UNAV’s Día del Deporte somewhat unusual, so I felt like I had to show up to see what all the fuss was about (and get a plate of the free paella!).

There were a surprising number of activities set up, with a rock climbing wall, ultimate frisbee, and even a foosball tournament, and the students even appeared to be enjoying it all. As for myself, I’d signed up for paintball with some Eramus friends.

Of course, as American as the hoopla felt now and again, we were still in Spain, meaning that things were a bit… let’s say, relaxed.  Paintball was supposed to start at 10:00 sharp, so we’d all rolled out of bed in varying conditions for that… but when we finally managed to assemble around 10:10, we were totally alone. Not until 10:30 did a few other students show up and look stupid along with us, and finally someone started asking around. Apparently, the organizers still weren’t sure whether or not paintball was even going to happen this year. Um… okay?


Best. Paintball/Lasertag Team. Ever.

We finally played at 11 o’clock, although what they were calling Paintball was actually laser-tag. Still, it was fun, and my team was awesome!  They told us to come back for round 2 in a few hours, but with San Fermin Txikito happening downtown and absolutely no guarantee on when they would pull a second round together, we regretfully withdrew from the tournament.


Giant Paella for the crowds!!

Despite some frustrating organization, or lack thereof, Día del Deporte was a good effort on UNAV’s part – worth attending, and best of all, free!

Published in: on September 25, 2010 at 17:13  Leave a Comment  

San Fermin Txikito

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San Fermines is the huge summer festival, of which the Running of the Bulls is the most famous component, that makes Pamplona famous worldwide. San Fermin Txikito is a smaller version of this festival, (no running of the bulls, alas, at least not for grown-ups), which takes place in late September. Tons of people show up in traditional Basque clothing, there are musicians everywhere, and you can’t miss the Parade of the Gigantes, or Giants – there are eight in all – the King and Queen, and a pair each for Asia, Africa, and the Americas.

Published in: on September 25, 2010 at 17:11  Leave a Comment  
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Open for Construction

On our trip to Vitoria, Lea, Cynthia, Rita and I saw an old cathedral and decided to ask about a tour. We were a bit puzzled when we had to preregister for a planned tour several hours later, instead of just walking in, but the reason became clear upon our return – and it was worth the wait.

Hard Hats

The Cathedral of Santa Maria, or La Catedral Vieja as it’s called within Vitoria, is the site of a long-term excavation and restoration process. They’re doing most of it by the book, carefully and slowly with expert attention, but instead of simply hiding the building away for years while they do so, as is standard practice, they’ve continued to conduct tours! About once a day, they take a small group of tourists and take them into the cathedral from below, up through the nave on the scaffolding, and even into the tight space between ceiling and roof. You even get a special Cathedral of Santa Maria hard hat to wear during the tour!

Right now is a good time to visit, as they’ve recently wrapped up the excavations and archaeology, having hit the solid rock beneath the foundation, and are now starting to close things up and reconstruct – leaving half finished floors that look like they’ve been taken right out of a cut-away illustration in a childrens book. Other sections are mostly completed, giving you an idea of what the rest of it will look like when it’s finished. Unfortunately, pictures are not permitted within most of the cathedral, but no picture could capture the feeling of standing on the scaffolding and looking all around you, above and below, intro the transepts – a place in the cathedral where humans were never meant to stand – and, after another year of work – may never stand again.

Workers put the finishing touches on an almost restored section.

Published in: on September 24, 2010 at 18:59  Leave a Comment  
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Barranquismo – Canyoning

Looking Awesome!

Last weekend, I went on a Club de Montaña trip to el Parque Nacional de la Sierra y los Cañones de Guara. After hiking down into the canyon in only our bikinis, we donned wetsuits to go canyoning.

Canyoning? The first time I heard the word was just over a month ago, in Scotland, and at the time I’d only thought, ‘ow!’. Some guy had explained it to me as “basically like kayaking through a canyon… without the kayak.” Fun?

Well, yes, actually, but also very nearly as painful as you might imagine. Our wetsuits provided a lot of extra warmth and a bit of extra padding, but that just brought the whole experience into the realm of possible – you still spend the afternoon shivering and amassing a fine collection of bruises. It’s not cozy, but I guess that’s part of the point!

Sierra de Guara is a lot like Missouri’s Johnson Shut Ins, but on crack – the features are bigger, better, and go on for much longer. The first section was filled with natural slides and little jumps, and entailed a lot of swimming through steep-sided, narrow gorges where the sun couldn’t reach and the water, while deep blue and beautiful, was freezing cold! This part was fun enough, but I’m deeply grateful it came first. We were bruised, battered, and shivering violently by the time we emerged for the last jump of this stretch and saw, just ahead, a very normal stretch of river, surrounded by green trees and sunlight. I felt that I’d come through the valley of danger and death and allowed myself to half hope that it was over, cool as it had been. When the guide said that the day was only HALF over, I despaired a little bit. I wasn’t sure if I could keep going for that long…

Our Group

I needn’t have worried – the second part was better in both senses of the word. Less scary spots, less bruising, less bobbing in freezing water –  more sunlight, more high jumps into large safe landing zones, more stretches of walking in order to thaw out.

One section had three pretty high jumps (7, 9, and 13 meters), that all landed in a nice deep hole. I went on the 9 meter jump and enjoyed it so much I went again, and then Marketa (a new friend) and I saw that some people were tackling the 13 meter, which was harder to get to and causing a lot of people to get nervous at the top. Marketa asked me if I wanted to go, and I answered, “Do you think he’ll let us?” (We only saw big guys up there so far, and the tour guides had been somewhat protective of me, for better or for worse) and, “But hell yeah!”

We swam across the river towards the jump. The group leader looked somewhat doubtfully at the two of us. “It’s really high.” he said, in Spanish. “You can’t hesitate, if you are afraid you can’t do it.”

“Pero yo lo puedo,” said Marketa – But I can do it.

“Tienes miedo?” – Are you afraid?

“Yo lo puedo.” – I can do it. He made a movement to let her pass.

“Yo no tengo miedo!” I shouted. I would be pissed if he let Marketa and not me.

People laughed, but he said, “Pues, adelante, si no tienes miedo que puedo decir yo.” (Well, go on then, if you’re not afraid what can I tell you.”


The thirteen meter jump

We scrambled up to the top. The tricky element of the jump was immediately apparent – they wanted us to jump (from standing) and clear about three feet worth of horizontal rock before we’d reach the canyon. I was doubtful, but the guide was very clear that I should push off only from my left leg. (and that I must enter the water very straight and very strong). I went for it because it seemed like the only option, but once in the air I doubted if I could clear the edge, and the rock was pretty solid beneath me, so I put out one of my feet again for a second step, which connected very solidly and gave me a lot more propulsion. Once in the air it was actually much easier than some of the jumps because I had plenty of time to straighten my legs and fold my arms before entering the water. But still, the impact ripped my too-large gloves right off my hands! It was great.

They helped Marketa to inch down a bit lower than I had jumped from, because apparently the way I had done it wasn’t as safe. As for myself, I certainly felt more uncertain about some of the smaller jumps from the first section, since there were more rocks and faster moving water, that you had to aim for a small zone and position yourself a certain way (legs up, cannonball, etc). So that jump was still my favourite.

From there, there was a long walk to the final jump – most of it through shallow water that just slowed us down. But the final jump was worth it – 11 meters, and off a waterfall. Since Marketa and I were two of only about four girls who had done the 13 meter in the end, the jump looked really really high to the others, and some were getting nervous and backing down. The first two girls who tried to jump, decided to go together, but on the /third/ count of three, one of them went and the other sat back down. The one who went, slipped on the edge and went off pretty clumsily. :S In the end, the great majority of us jumped, but it was harder for some than others. As for myself, I found quite good footing and just went for it – it was a cool sensation to see the waterfall’s running water fall beside you!

Once we all got to the bottom everyone swam around happily – whether because of the sun, adrenaline, hypothermia, or relief, no one was cold anymore. We took a bunch of group pictures, played underneath one of the other waterfalls, and then took off our helmets and used them to great effect in a massive splash fight!

It was a great time. I got some awesome pictures, made some new friends, and wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. But I was so sore for the next two days!

Marketa, Jaime and I after the last jump.

Published in: on September 23, 2010 at 21:50  Comments (1)  

Food Costs and Budgeting

Estimates I’ve found online for grocery budgets seem to vary widely, and that probably has to do with whether meals out are included under food or entertainment, which region of Spain the figure has been calculated for, and, obviously, what you’re eating. My food budget here is approximately 75€ a week, ideally covering all groceries and the majority of meals out. That’s less than some of the estimates I’ve seen, but more than others. Even once I consider that I’m living in Navarra, one of Spain’s more expensive regions, and that when I go over on my entertainment budget, it comes out of my grocery funds, it’s enough to live on. Food is pretty cheap here – not Missouri Walmart cheap, unfortunately, but a nice relief for me after having done groceries in Western and (god forbid) Northern Europe.

How much do things cost, and how can you save money?

Estimates:

As a really rough rule of thumb, most of my standard foods cost about 1€ for a week’s worth. Big cans of tomato sauce or chickpeas, packages of mushrooms, onions, or carrots, bags of frozen peas, corn, or croquettes, eight servings of yoghurt, etc all run about that much, and most of the things that last me a bit longer, like nutella, or spreadable Camembert, cost a proportional amount more. Microwaveable meals like a serving of paella (which is surprisingly good, if a bit greasy) are about 1.50€. An enormous and amazing bar of Milka Trio Chocolate costs about 2.60€, you can easily find smaller bars of tasty chocolate for under a euro.

Grocery Stores:

The main grocery stores here are Eroski, Caprabo, Carrefour, and Corte Ingles. The first two are everywhere, while to my knowledge there is only one Corte Ingles and only one or two Carrefours. Eroski is the closest one to me and is pretty cheap and standard. Caprabo is about the same. I still haven’t been to Carrefour, but apparently it’s bigger, carries a wider range of products (not just food), and is marginally cheaper. Corte Ingles is a big department store with a grocery section in the basement – there’s a nice wide range there including foreign foods and gourmet products, but everything’s also a bit pricier. Another option are the Chinos, or convenience stores – a bit pricier, generally more junk food, but hey, they sometimes have foreign foods, and they’re open at night and on Sundays.

Store Brands:

It sounds obvious, but go for the store brand of foods. It’s fine, trust me. I may not have the world’s most sophisticated palate, but even if there is a slight difference in the taste, it’s certainly not worth the huge price difference. Bags of frozen croquettes and peas both cost roughly 2.50€, if you go for the brand name versions – not unbearably pricey, no, but the Eroski counterparts cost only 0.80€! Eroski brand yoghurts are 8 for a euro – the other brands are often 2 for the same price. These are some of the more dramatic differences, but even for things like canned fruits and vegetables it’s unusual for the Eroski brand to be more than half the price of the brand name. Take advantage of the fact that you are a foreigner and don’t have years of subliminal advertising trying to convince you that the can of tomato sauce with the kindly old woman on the packaging is worth an extra euro! Like I said, this sounds obvious, but I’ve noticed many of my Erasmus friends unconsciously going for the pretty packages. There are exceptions to this tip. I do pay an extra 0.50€ for Don Simon fruit juice, because it has almost 5x the vitamin C content of the Eroski brand.

Meat:

Meat tends to be more expensive here, and its everywhere when you eat out, so as a very general rule I’ve been getting my protein in the restaurants and cooking semi-vegetarian at home. Still, it’s not as bad as you might be led to think. My favourite way to buy chicken are these little neatly trimmed breast fillets – you get eight of them, very thin but a snap to prepare – for about 4€, which would be the equivalent of paying about 2.50$ per big breast back home. Don’t quote me on this, but I also have the feeling that if you shop around, seafood might actually be cheaper here than in Missouri, land-locked as we are. It’s hard to tell, though, through the currency conversions and the differences in how things are packaged (the shrimp are usually sold with heads and tails still on, meaning you sometimes feel like you’re buying a lot more than you end up with once you take those parts off).

Cafes and Bakeries:

If you go to the school cafe and order a piece of Tortilla Española with cheese and ham, you’ll pay just over a euro, and if you get a coffee and a big chocolate pastry, you’ll pay about 1.50€, a small but nice savings over the 2.00 – 2.50€ you’ll pay in an ordinary cafe. Bakeries are great here – you can get a freshly baked load of crusty bread for less than a euro, and quite a bit less than you would pay for a loaf of wonder bread at the grocery store (it’s surprisingly overpriced here, probably because no one wants it when they can get better, cheaper bread across the street.)

Restaurants:

If you want to eat a meal out with friends, you can go to a bar and get tapas for between 1 and 2 euros, although you really need to eat several to get full. It’s quite fun and allows you to try a variety of different foods. Another dinner option is a sit down restaurant, which usually have a Menu del Dia, which allows you to pick a starter, a main course, and a dessert from a few choices. The prices vary tremendously, but along the lower end 12€ is a pretty good estimate, and for that you get a lot of food.

Published in: on September 22, 2010 at 20:50  Leave a Comment  
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Guggenheim Bilbao

'Puppy'

I’m not a big fan of modern art. I like some of it better than others, and yes, I try to distance myself and understand that most of these artists know how to paint perfectly well, that they’re not really just a bunch of guys splashing paint around, fooling the critics with a false sense of profundity, and laughing all the way to the bank, but still, it’s not usually my sort of thing.

It really doesn’t matter what you think of the art, though – when you go to Bilbao, you have to go to the Guggenheim. The city and its museum are almost synonymous with each other. Before I ever dreamed of studying in Spain, the name Bilbao brought to my mind a vague image of Puppy, the dog made of flowers which guards the museum’s doors. So it was never really an option not to go, and it was cheap enough, for students.

I have to say that, just like the rest of Bilbao, I was pleasantly surprised by the museum. There were some rooms in the complex that I walked through quickly, utterly unimpressed. One entire floor was a special exhibit of ‘gluts’, which basically just looked like piles of trash to me, however much I sympathised with the artist’s purported message and tried to look at them through that light.

Some "Gluts" (not my photo)

“It’s a time of glut. Greed is rampant. I’m just exposing it, trying to wake people up. I simply want to present people with their ruins […] I think of the Gluts as souvenirs without nostalgia.” – Robert Rauschenberg

Other rooms were full of paintings that, to me, lacked any sort of feeling, balance, or aesthetic merit. But someone else may see meaning in them, and that’s what ultimately matters.

What did I like? A lot, actually. I’m partial to modern sculptures because there’s something so physical and tactile about it – just the idea of 3D physical materials and space being twisted into the shape in someone’s imagination is something fascinating.

Walking through "The Matter of Time"

The first exhibit that drew me in as I entered was “The Matter of Time”, which may be Bilbao’s most famous exhibit after “Puppy”. It’s comprised of huge masses of iron and other materials, twisted into shapes such as spirals and waves. You can walk in, through, and around the sculptures, which are meant to distort and represent people’s experience of time. My friend Jorge says he feels like it takes longer to walk out of the spirals than it takes to reach their centers. As for myself, I found it oddly relaxing and timeless to walk around inside of them, with the soft and undulating patterns made by the natural corrugation of the metals running alongside me.

"The Matter of Time", seen from above.

I also loved the Anish Kapoor exhibit, which took up an entire floor. Anish Kapoor is an Indian-British sculptor, and experiments with a huge number of materials and techniques in his work. One segment of his exhibit was filled with mirrors – I loved walking around there, although I wasn’t sure I pulled any deeper meaning from it than I would from a similar room at the carnival! Several other rooms were home to his experiments with colour as a physical thing which exists in three dimensions. He approached this from different angles, with one room housing sculptures made purely from powdery pigment, the result vaguely resembling bright cones of spice and incense. In another room, an enormous, slightly concave wall was painted bright yellow, which almost overwhelmed me as I approached it and played tricks with my understanding of the space.

"Shooting into the Corner" (not my picture)

In two of his works, Kapoor played with deep red wax (think, lipstick) – slowly spreading it across the floor in a circle in one room, and, in another, shooting canisters of it out of a cannon and into the corner. I felt as I had in the mirror room – that whether or not I could discern the work’s deeper meaning, it was wonderful to look at. I almost couldn’t take my eyes off the cannon exhibit, with the deep rich colour, the delicious textures, and the pseudo-sexual imagery so obvious even I picked up on it.

My favourite pieces by Kapoor, and maybe in the whole museum, were in a series he did exploring the ideas of darkness, the infinite, and addition by subtraction. One sculpture was a stone he had hollowed out and painted a deep black-blue inside – from most angles it looked as though there was a two dimensional plaque hung on the surface of the stone, instead of rectangular hole leading to the hollowed out center. There were also three huge concave disks, hung on the wall and painted with the same dark blue-black. It was dizzying, beautiful, and frightening to stand close to them and gaze into their centers, as if you were looking very far away, out into the universe, or into an inky pool of infinite nothingness.

On a simpler, more aesthetic level, I also enjoyed all of the outdoor exhibits – the giant spider, the balloon-like, reflective Tulips, the tower of spherical mirrors, and of course, the famous  and adorable “Puppy”!


Tulips, by Jeff Koons

Published in: on September 22, 2010 at 20:02  Leave a Comment  
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Basque through Spanish, Spanish through Basque

They say that whoever doesn’t speak a second language, does not truly know his first language. Can we take this further? Will learning a third language, Euskera, through Spanish help me to better understand my second language?

Don't I look studious?

I’m two classes in now. Tonight we learned a handful of vocabulary words but mostly just charged ahead with cases, learning what happens to them when you throw in adjectives and more. And I was learning almost as much about Spanish as I was about Euskera – that it was more difficult for my classmates to break the sentences into clear semantic ‘chunks’, because word order is more flexible in Spanish, that they feel more comfortable pretending the definite and indefinite articles are embedded in the case ending, rather than just ceasing to exist in Basque. I’d never really thought about the ambiguity of saying ‘un coche’ in Spanish before, until I got a Basque question wrong because I went for what would translate to English as ‘a car’, instead of ‘one car’.

I kind of think that, when I go back to Mizzou, they should just hand me a linguistics minor for getting through this class, no questions asked. 🙂 With every language that I study, I become more amazed at the diversity of humanity’s linguistic landscape, more conscious of what a small part of our potential is used in a specific language, more ready for whatever the next language will have to throw at me. In some ways, Euskera is the holy grail for linguistics geeks – it’s so famous for its difficulty, its strangeness, its isolation. If, at the end of the class, I can read a sign or two, maybe say a sentence or two, it’ll be a bonus, a side effect. But what I’m there to do is experience the language, witness it in all of its unique glory.

Already Only a Month

It’s the last day of the solar summer. September is drawing to a close, and that means I’ve been on this exchange for nearly a month. It doesn’t feel like it. Depending on the time of the day, who I’m talking to, what I’m doing, it seems like I’ve been here forever, or like I’ve only just arrived. Never like I’ve been here for a month. And yet, I’ve now spent more time in Spain than in any other foreign country – longer than in Japan or Scotland. The time spent so far has been less action packed than a month of pure tourism, but not nearly as routine as life back home.

It’s funny now, to remember how I arrived in Spain after spending the night in the Manchester airport, how Allan and I wandered through Barcelona for two days as if in a dream, meeting up with Emily in Valencia for Tomatina and the beach, and then spending another long, sleepless night in route to Pamplona. I was happy to have Allan with me for the first few days here, as I moved into my apartment, walked around Pamplona for the first time, as a stranger, and even impulsively visited Puente la Reina based on a single photo in the train station. And then, Allan left, and suddenly I was totally alone, and far from home.

I took things one step at a time, with some challenges leaving me triumphant and others in a pathetic heap, but I got everything straightened out, in the end. I went through orientation, picked classes, matriculated, found my way around campus and groups for projects. I got a hair cut and learned where I could find this food and that and for what price. I learned how to use WIFI and the copy machine and the library and the bookstore. I’ve adjusted to Sundays and Siestas.

I made friends and we had curry parties and pancake parties and long nights drinking wine on apartment balconies. We travelled to San Sebastian and Vitoria and Bilbao. I met up with a girl from Couchsurfing.com and went to a Basque concert with her and her friends. I started learning Euskera. I went hiking in the Valley of Arpan, explored Alquezar and went canyoning in la Sierra de Guara with Club de Montana.

If I put it this way, yes, I suppose it has been one month. And yet one morning when I didn’t have class until 12, I lay in and when I woke up, it took me several long seconds to remember I was in Spain, because everything felt so normal and natural and safe and clean and good. I’ve found a new normal, made a new home here.

Not bad, for the first month.