Sunday, July 22, 2012


You'll have to pardon the tardiness of this post.  Laurel and I flew to Spain today, which came with an early start.  Although we slept on the plane from Warsaw to Madrid, it was still an early call.  Also, the hotel internet connection was bad last night and has improved vastly this morning, so while this post was written on 7/21, it was not feasible to actually post it at that time.

After landing in Madrid, Laurel and I proceeded to get to the hotel via airport shuttle.  Although tricky to find, we were able to do so largely because we can communicate with the people around us.

It is difficult to describe this feeling.  I've spent the past three weeks unsure of what to say and what was being said around me.  Almost every conversation outside of work begins with "Do you speak English?" in Polish.  I can't read much; I get words here and there, but mostly I'm just gaining a new appreciation for illiteracy.  As you've read the past few weeks, I'm still having fun and getting along, but it's difficult to know what's going on.

Today, all of that changed.  I used to be fluent in Spanish, and I'm not that rusty.  While I can't recall all the words as fast as I used to, I can read, I can ask questions, and I can comprehend about 90% of what's said to me in Spanish.  Laurel isn't quite as strong in Spanish as I am, but she also had something like 6-7 years of study and has a minor in it.  Speaking is just a little harder for her.

Madrid natives appear to be very bad at giving directions.  They seem to like giving directions in terms of "arriba" and "abajo", or up and down.  Laurel and I couldn't figure this out, so we spent about 10x as long as necessary to find a metro stop.  What should have been a short walk turned into a 30-45 minute quest, asking three sets of people along the way (see previous paragraph - we can communicate!).  At the end of it, we were tired and hungry.  We decided to be American tourists and eat at an all-you-can-eat buffet, not only because we were really hungry, but also because it's a really quick way to sample a lot of traditional foods.  I got to try gazpacho and paella at once, for example.

Madrid feels like a large city, like we went to New York or something.  We saw some of the sights, but only the outsides because we started the journey at about 6PM.  We also saw a protest against austerity measures.  It's kind of cool to see world news right in front of you.  Laurel also got to see her first European palace, the Palacio Real.  It was fun to watch her jaw drop as she walked by statues of kings from the 700s, then to look at the vast expanse of building in front of us.  I'm sure she'll have more to say about that when she posts next.

Speaking of starting out late, Spain is on the same time zone as Poland.  Nota bene, Spain is 1400 miles west of Poland.  This is like Indianapolis being on the same time zone as Salt Lake City.  It was light until 10:15 PM tonight, and we're a month off the solstice.  No wonder the Spaniards stay up so late!

Tomorrow Laurel and I journey to Barcelona, where we'll have more time to explore.  Part of this is bad planning on our part, and part is the desire to see Barcelona.  Our plans after that are still being defined, but neither of us are very impressed with Madrid at the moment.


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