Monday, September 27, 2010

I'm Alava that!

Thursday is a big day.

What happens on Thursday: I move into my apartment. I go back to Laudio (hence the fabulous pun in the title) and meet more people at my school and get my weekly schedule, which is hopefully something like tuesday-wednesday-thursday because that would be PERFECT for travel. And I'll probably buy my ticket for the Sevilla vacation shortly after that!!

Not much else to tell, Bilbao is still delightful and we lost horribly to Barcelona, which everyone expected.

One thing I had forgotten about and have yet to readjust to in Spain is how socially acceptable public displays of affection are. People just sit down and make out in public like it ain't no thing! It's pretty awkward so far.

I'll put up pictures once I'm reunited with my camera cord and the rest of my belongings that have already moved into my piso ahead of me.

Aaand reintroducing Euskera of the day:

Iraila September. This is the only month I know so far, so I'm set until Wednesday night.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


First, I went and visited with my soon to be roommates the night before last, and they are wonderful. One is obsessed with the US and watches The Hills, The City and Keeping up with the Kardashians. All are super fashionable and make me feel like a lumberjack, so obviously I will need to step my game up. October 1st cannot come soon enough.

second, Casco Viejo (the old neighborhood where I'm staying in the meanwhile) is beautiful and has delicious pintxos and lots of other good things but it is flipping LOUD at night. And tonight Athletic Bilbao plays FC Barcelona so it's not really a question as to whether there will be celebratory screaming outside my window all night, just whether it will be in Spanish or Catalan. I saw some of the Catalanes earlier and one of them sounded just like the Godfather. Hot dang, now that I look around the square it is all Barça fans, maybe I will go put on my new Athletic jersey just to represent a little. Come on Bilbao, get your game on.

third, there is a shop in the Plaza Nueva here which I just noticed sells all these Basque gourmet things, plus Moravian cookies from Winston Salem, NC!

ooooh it's starting to rain, I'm out.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

hello, I work at the basquest school ever

Sooo last night I met up with two of the other people from my program, Elizabeth and Matt, who had just gotten in and we explored for a while then had a picnic! We met up again this morning and walked around, got lunch (side note: when selecting lunch meat at Carrefour, do not choose by which is the cheapest. You will get the ickiest ham substitute ever made.) and then I took a train to Laudio (Llodio if you want to google it, the Spanish name is better known) to go see my school!

First, let me tell you about my school. It is about 20 minutes from Bilbao, or 30 minutes including train ride/transit from my apartment door. It's pretty giant and includes junior high through high school students. I met up with Esteban, my program mentor, and he showed me around and gave me a million papers with things like school maps and schedules and I learned and promptly forgot about 20 Basque words. I go back on Oct. 1 for basically the same thing, but meeting more people and getting my weekly schedule. I'm so excited!! Also, my school has several small breaks for local festivals and THREE spring break weeks (one in March, two in April). Heck yes.

The town, from what I saw of it, was really little and nice. When I was in Madrid I mentioned to Antonio, my friends' landlord, that I was going to be teaching in Laudio and he is like "oh, there are lots of ETA terrorists there." I do not think I saw a single terrorist but on the other hand, they had "bring the Basque prisoners home" posters (which is normal) but they were around the official town hall (which I've never seen before). Also, I counted six (6!) Guardia Civil trucks. So I think pretty separatist is just how Laudio rolls.

Now I'm off to give Ismene (one of my soon-to-be roommates) my deposit for the room! Things are settling into place nicely now.

Monday, September 20, 2010


Six hours changes everything.

After my freakout this morning, I met a dude from Leeds and we explored around the city for a while, then watched clips of Mock The Week and Futurama. This was encouraging.

Then, I went to see the one piso where someone had responded to my calls/messages. And. This piso. Was. Amazing. It was right off of Plaza Moyua (read: really nice/pretty/convenient to metro neighborhood), a beautiful apartment inside, and the girls who live there were AWESOME. All really friendly, chill girls in their mid-20s, and I felt like we got along really well. Also, although a leetle bit more expensive than I had as an ideal, totally affordable. So I told them I would definitely love to live in their piso if they decided they wanted me, they said they'd get back to me in a couple days, we said our goodbyes and I left. As I walked to the bus I was just praying - hopefully not out loud on the street like a crazy person but I'm not 100% sure - God, if You have something else for me, I trust You. But I do love this one.


I get on the bus to meet Casey (who I'm staying with) and my phone rings. It was Maite, one of the girls from the piso, and she was just like "yeah we really like you and we want you to move in Oct 1!!!!"

aaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh i. have. a. piso.

It was the only one I went to see and it was awesome and now I am so excited because in 10 days not only am I not a nomad, I have a fixed place where I will live with awesome girls. Things are looking up so much I can't even see straight, I want to cry I'm so relieved!!!

can't think of one

So I've just sent out about a million emails to prospective roommates here in Bilbao. Hoping to hear back soon... it is really stressful not having a place to live. I'm starting to understand the people who prearranged their piso situations before getting here! BUT I've been couchsurfing (last night and tonight) and it has been delightful to hang out a little and have actual conversation!! The couple I'm staying with showed me around Bilbao some last night, then we went back to their house just outside the city (in the mountains!! it's cool!), had dinner, and they helped me start looking for apartments. All in all they have been super helpful and welcoming. Thumbs up for couchsurfing.

And, best news, I finally found a pension (like a B&B) that is nice and cheap and well-located to stay after tonight. It was getting a little tense because I kept calling places and everywhere with a reasonable price was filled up! And I have my cell phone set up now, so I can communicate when I'm out, which is always good.

But... I am still struggling really hard with homesickness. I don't know what I was thinking getting here this early, if I had waited to go when the other auxiliares got here I would have had some instant friends, but now I'm in Bilbao and I feel like I don't have any friends. I know this is the hardest part, that it only gets better, etc, etc, but somehow that doesn't help as much as it should. When I'm logical about it I remember how much I loved the last two times I lived abroad and how much I love Basque Country so it makes sense that once I settle in I'm going to love it love it here, but I'm struggling right now not to wish I could go home. I have to remind myself that it's not irreversible, that in the unlikely eventuality that I settle in here and still can't adjust, I can always go home. I mean, I probably won't, but it's good to know it's there. Also, apparently lots of people get "expat flu" where they get sick right when they first move abroad, so maybe I have that and it's not just nerves that have been messing with my stomach.

And every piece of homesickness advice suggests I list the reasons I moved here, the things I like about my new home. So here goes:

Getting better at Spanish.
Walks along the river.
Trips around Spain & around Europe.
Delicious Basque food.
The laid-back, genuine vibe here in Bilbao.
Visiting Arzak.
Tamborrada in January.
Futbol, in bars and at the stadium.
Teaching English.
Spanish fashion.

Let's end on a high note. Yesterday as I was riding in the car with Casey and Asier, they put on a Basque language lesson CD and we were all repeating after the CD and it was great fun and then came probably the most useless thing ever:

"Sevilakoa naiz, baina Madriden bizi naiz." That means: "I am from Sevilla, but I live in Madrid."

ahahahaha how many people in that situation could possibly be learning Basque?? haha, awesome.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bilbao, Bilbao, Bilbao, cada dia te veo mas guapo

So as you've probably guessed, I'm here! I took the fancy bus, and let me tell you, it was fancy and worth every one of the extra 20 euros. And it had WiFi! So here I am on the fancy bus right before falling asleep during their onboard (onbus?) movie of "Twilight":

My arrival went pretty smoothly, as we were pulling in to the Termibus station I started to have the, "oh man, what am I doing?" feeling again, but I got in a taxi and started talking to the driver, and he was awesome. I told him about what I was doing over here and he was like "9 months, wow, by the end of that I bet you'll be an Athletic fan" and so then we talked about futbol for the rest of the drive. For the record, yes, I AM already "del Athletic", and yes, I do still have a tender spot for the train wreck that is Real Betis too.

Anyway, yesterday evening I took it easy, hung out, wandered around the city a little. My hotel is right on the river and you can find everything from the river so it was nice to be able to get around without a map! I'm couchsurfing with a couple tonight and probably tomorrow, which is going to be soooo nice compared to being alone (although my hotel is pretty sweet!).

Finally: I (re) learned yesterday that my favorite animal is "txakur" in Basque. And everyone was walking them last night!! It was so cute, I was eating a doner kebab on a park bench and this little doggy came up and started munching what I dropped and his child owner runs up and is like "come on, Balto!" cuuuuute.

Also (I guess the dog thing wasn't that final after all), the man at the desk informed me that the internet here goes in & out because sometimes anti-terrorism trucks come by and ruin the signal. whaaaaaaaaaat.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Ay, me voy otra vez, ay te dejo Madrid

SO doing a lot better now, I've recovered a lot from the flight and sickness. Still missing the fam, but exploring around the city was really nice. Went to Cien Montaditos (hello mojo picon sauce!!!), got an horchata at Mercado San Miguel:


Bilbao tomorrow!!!! I coughed up the extra 20 euros for a ride on the fancy bus with staff attendant service, catering and plush seats. I'm coming Bilbao!!!!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

he llegado

I got to Madrid this morning after a pretty difficult flight. A combination of nerves and anticipatory homesickness made me pretty sick, especially the first leg of the flight, and now it's all recovery. things are better now that I'm here staying with a friend and have been able to stretch my legs out, although if I'm honest I have been feeling really homesick on and off all day still.

why does no one ever talk about how scary this is? Do not get me wrong, I love travel and I am really looking forward to settling in in Bilbao, but moving away from home to a city on a different continent where I don't really know anyone is flipping scary. On the other hand, nothing truly worthwhile in life ever comes without a fight I don't think.

On the brighter side, I've made some good connections through couchsurfing I think, so if those pan out well I might have some instant friends.

Tomorrow I think we're going to go exploring in Madrid. Tony Bourdain just did a show here so maybe we'll hit up one or two of the places he ate...

that's it for now.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


Apparently it's pretty common for people, right before embarking on a large-scale, semipermanent adventure, to come up against ridiculous and frustrating things at the last minute. I'm not sure anything along those lines has happened to me before, but I'd also never had my luggage lost before this year and then boom, I land in Bilbao this past January sans luggage (it got left in Holland on the return trip too!).

All of this to say I had some suspicious activity on my debit card over the past few days and wound up on the phone with my bank (and my dad- thanks for calming me down Dad!) for the better part of an hour last night. Got the problem solved and now the bad people can't spend my money any more, but wheeeeeew. The fact that I leave the country a week from tomorrow did not make this event any less stressful, let me tell you.

Otherwise, I think I'm fully into that period before departure where everything just flies by in a surreal blur. My emotions keep hurtling me back and forth between terrified and so excited I can't stand it.
I'm reading Hemingway's Death in the Afternoon right now, which is admittedly kind of a poor choice for my being about to move to Basque Country. Maybe it's a forbidden fruit thing, or like an obnoxious "you can't put me in a box, man! I'll read about bullfighting if I want, man!" thing. Aside from that bit of weirdness, my reading has been my Rough Guide to Spain. I can't recommend it enough so far. I feel like it has a really good balance of kind of splurge/grown-up suggestions and frugal/budget options.

Most of my stuff is together now. Visa here; apartment mostly moved out of; last day of work tomorrow. Just need to clean the apartment the rest of the way, pack, turn in tags for my car, straighten up the room at my mom's house so she can have guests here while I'm off talking like an infant in Basque (I can now ask where the bathroom is and what you or y'all want, although I cannot reliably answer the same questions). oh, and figure out where I'm staying in Bilbao...

Thursday, September 2, 2010

toes in the water, toes in the sand

How is it I haven't made swimming in the ocean happen all summer?

remedy: donosti, late september. swimming to santa klara.

has anyone done this? because I've had ganas to for about 2 years.