Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Report Card of Sorts

So tomorrow will be the end of my first full school week here. I've been in San Sebastian since the 2nd. I left the US August 28th and arrived in Spain on the 29th.

At this time, I just wanted to recap what I'm doing well and not so well with right now to have a reference point in the future.

What I'm doing well at:
-the bus system: I can successfully get to and from school, the boulevard, work, and home using buses. I even know when they stop running and their frequency. Yesterday I even managed to successfully transfer buses instead of waiting half an hour for one. As a bonus, the bus is a great place to observe culture and norms. Oh and I explained the bus system to a British family and they thanked me and told me my "California accent is quite lovely." Cool.
-Additionally, I can find my way on foot very well now too. I even know how long it takes me to walk places if I don't want to pay for the bus.
-Successfully navigating the two major traps of conversation being an American abroad
1. "How do you like it here?" I can honestly say I love it, which is what they want to hear anyway. San Sebastian's been treating me very well so far.
2. Politics. It seems to me that at least the Spaniards I have talked to, are perhaps more knowledgeable about US politics than most Americans. I've so far managed to keep conversations civil and fairly unheated. I've also spoken more about the general functions of the US political systems rather than had to defend US foreign policy, thankfully. It's really interesting to me to hear comparisons between the Spanish political economy and the US's.

Things I've gotten better at:
-Not getting lost: I got so lost my first day here, my first day of class and my first day of work. Much better now.
-Understanding more of the Spanish spoken here in Northern Spain. Admittedly I've only scratched the tip of iceberg but I now understand slightly more of what people are saying.
-Also getting better at communication with my host family
-Remembering to not have my window wide open after dark to avoid mosquitoes, because, well that's important.

Things I definitely know I need to work on:
-Figuring out the post office. I bought a stamp but I haven't figured out how to send my mom a postcard yet. I will totally ask someone soon. The fact that it's all in Basque doesn't really help a lot.
-Not getting water all over the floor when I shower. Silly I know but important when you live in someone else's house. I've only done that twice but I'd like to figure out how that happened so I can not do that in the future.
-Getting into elevators with other people. People here are so friendly but I only understand half of what they are telling me and I don't want to be rude. Making small talk in the elevator is probably one of the hardest things I've had to do here. I live on the 9th floor. 10th if you count floors like an American. I have the longest elevator ride in the building. Inevitably I end up sharing an elevator with someone. Sometimes I manage to chat and it's all fine but other times, like coming back today, I end up so confused that the gentlemen trying to kindly converse with me just asked me, "English?" and when I answered in the affirmative, he just kind of smiled regretfully at me. Sorry. I normally can understand Spanish pretty well but whatever is normal to talk about in elevators is usually beyond me. Some day...

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