At the Kitchen Table

We were all at the kitchen table – four of us, once Ana came in, and four laptops. Ana was looking at silly email forward jokes and cracking up at them, occasionally making us read them and pretend to get them too. Gianfranco was playing soundtrack music – Gladiator and Braveheart, and singing along and quoting his favourite lines (in Italian, of course). Jaime and I were trying to figure out our classes. Jaime’s panic was helping my own subside a bit. We were laughing a lot and it was hard to tell how much was from what. Just another evening in our Auberge Espagnole. 🙂

Published in: on August 31, 2010 at 17:37  Leave a Comment  
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Accidente de Salsa de Pescado

I’ve been looking for fish sauce for a while. This incredibly basic ingredient in Asian cooking had so far eluded me in Pamplona, so I continued my search by poking into the little Asian owned shops throughout San Sebastian – and found a big bottle of the stuff just as the cannons of the August 31st parade sounded! All the way home on the bus I kept it between my feet and dreamed of cooking a big Thai curry.

As I opened the exterior door to my building, the bottle hit the glass door, a little too hard for comfort. I thought to myself, I swear I did – ‘what a fine thing it would be to break the bottle now, when I’m so close to home!’. Well. On my way up the dark staircase, I slipped, and couldn’t stop  my hands from going out in front of me. The bag swung and the bottle smacked against the next stair up, hard. There was a crack, then a gushing sound, and the terrible smell of fish sauce filled the entire stairwell.

I wanted to cry for my fish sauce. I wanted to run away from the mess. I wanted to die of embarrassment. Trust me, spilling an enormous bottle of fermented fish sauce in your building’s stairwell is not a good way to make friends with your new neighbors. ;_; And I was already so tired from the day at the beach, and just wanted to eat a quick snack and get a good night’s sleep for the first day of classes tomorrow! Ana was great about helping me, though. It took us three buckets worth of mopping, and afterward we sprayed deodorizer everywhere.

Definitely not my finest moment here to date. 😦

Published in: on August 31, 2010 at 17:27  Leave a Comment  
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Triumphant Arrival and First Observations

This part wasn’t in my years-old study abroad plan. Allan and I cleverly took the overnight bus from Valencia – this saved us a wad of Euros and allowed us to have more time sightseeing with Emily after Tomatina, but also robbed us of a night of sleep and left us in the bus station before five in the morning. Not the proper station, even – that didn’t open until 6:30, so we spent an hour and a half feeling quite homeless on the concrete stairwell that led from our hanger-like, underground platform to the exterior door above.

By the time the main station opened up, I was grateful to be small enough to squeeze under these bars, which try to prevent people from sleeping on the benches. 😛

It was still very dark, and we had nowhere to go until it was a reasonable hour to call my landlady. I’d sent her an email asking how early we could arrive, and she’d said anytime – but somehow I thought this would be a stretch. Anyway, it could have been worse. We didn’t have comfort or bathrooms, but we did have snacks, and security in the form of two guards strolling about the place at intervals.

The town had seemed quite large on the bus ride through, bigger, I admit, than I really expected. Once the proper station opened up, it, too, surprised me with its scale. But I felt super legitimate getting off at the same stop as the old women and the families, instead of continuing to San Sebastian with all the tourists.

We had some time, so I walked around the station a bit. There was a coin operated Mouth of Truth, which cracked me up, and a few more useful things – ATMs which dispensed rolls of coins, and a photo-printing machine. There was an advertisement playing on loop for the region of Navarra. It reminded me of a recent ad for Romania – somewhat over the top music, etc, but still it made me even more excited to be in this region, as did a look at a bulletin board listing day trip offerings to mountains and forests.

The day seems to start slowly here. As seven turned into eight and eight turned into eight thirty, the station was still all but deserted. The few people I have bumped into seem very nice so far. I moved my backpack out of the way of the man who was mopping the floors, and when he turned back around he said to me, “Gracias, eh? Lo he visto.” 🙂 There seem to be an above average number of middle aged and older ladies here, but maybe it’s just that time of the morning.

One more observation: Basque is real. I’ve already heard several people speaking it, and almost everything is written in Basque – not only government run things which may well have to be, but also posters, etc. It’s inspired me. I’m not only in Spain – I’m also in Basque Spain, and I have renewed hope that I may get to take a Basque language or culture course as an elective.

Published in: on August 27, 2010 at 11:48  Leave a Comment  
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