Wednesday, 29 September 2010

The rains (girls) in Spain stay mainly on the plains (in house, cleaning)

5th day Tuesday

Yesterday school began, at least officially. I, Anca and Oana managed to attend only one lecture, Artificial Intelligence. The second lecture *would have* been Multimedia Systems, if it weren't for us running like crazy people around the campus, searching for the classroom. The timetable changed, and we didn't know. Go figure.

First of all, Artificial Intelligence was fairly well understood - about 50% which is more than i can ask right now - and the teacher seemed very nice and open to dialogue with the students. There were few girls, but as it goes in computer science, each "asignatura" or subject is frequented by a trendy crowd that consists of 85% boys and 15% girls.

At the final of the lecture, we asked the teacher (in Spanglish) whether we could hand in the projects in English. He said (in Spanglish) that we should be able to learn Spanish until the Convocatorias (final exams). That oughta make it clear for us.

Afterwards we went to AI (Artificial Intelligence) laboratory but the room was empty. Only today did we find out that in the first week there are no laboratories because the plataforma no es lista (the faculty's working platform is not configured yet).

In the afternoon we went to apartment-hunt, to see if we could find something cheaper and newer - we didn't so we decided to make Calle Artemisa our permanent (squeeky clean) home for the next 4.7 months.

6th day Wednesday

We had to call Mr. Julio (he always seems to have the same shirt when coming round) to fix stuff in the apartment. Because Dan left today (he returned home in Valencia), we received a strict 101 regarding the gas recipients (the Spanish call them "bombones"), how to change a lightbulb - how many Erasmus student girls do you need to change a lightbulb ? (ha, ha.) - and if we have any question/problem at all, we can call the old man night and day. Hm, that didn't sound right.

School-wise: after I went to User Interface Design, and Oana and Anca went to New Programming Technologies (successfully managed to obtain msn and mail from Spanish girl in class) - and Dan left - what did you think we did (three 21-aged girls, alone in an apartment)?

We cleaned the hell out of it. Again.

At the end of the day (two hours ago) Oana and I went jogging and mine-field testing - we returned safely therefore we hope that jogging will be a habit. We drank a tea, we blogged a bit...good night.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Alhambra and Arab culture

3rd day

Today is Sunday (I'm having problems blogging because on the TV, three very enthusiastic persons sing time and again a stupid song "Spaghetti y tortilla! Tortilla voy a hacer!"). One however could make right guesses whether it is a weekday or a weekend judging by: how late people get up (window shutters open, el barrio fills with all sorts of food fragrances), how many empty beer cans are on the streets (our area is quite quiet though) and how people gather around the churches starting with 13 o'clock (there are services earlier, but few people go).

Dan, Anca, Oana and I went to a nearby Catholic church (I wanted to find one so that I could maintain the habit) and we stayed the entire service. It lasted less than back at home - only 45 minutes. Their choir (adolescents) had about 6 guitars (many guitars, many schools of flamenco, flamenco dresses and shows..., guitar courses and Andalucia especially) and were very huggy-huggy and kissy-kissy. After the service ended, we decided to go to the Banos Arabes de Albaicin and Alfar Romano de Cartuja - Arab Baths. We searched a lot, but the GPS (such a nice lady "Gira a la izquierda. Entonces, gira a la derecha.") - took us to the Emergency Hospital and to the Granada prison. Very nice. We gave up on the whole idea and we came home and ate a bit before going out again, by foot, in Granada.

That was a very helpful experience, since we have to manage alone. We walked, we saw the main avenues, the tiendas - stores - the streets were teeming with baby buggies, moms, young people and old people, foreigners. By 9 o'clock, we barely had space to move throughout the crowds!

We were lucky, we dropped into a fiesta - some sort of march of the town officials - much like "Sfanta Paraschiva" in Iasi. The crowds and the lights made it seem like an Ibiza look-alike. After all, Granada has *many* foreigners. The area of Andalucia in general has a tourism-oriented economy and it offers the necessary "panem et circum".

4th day

Getting up at 7 o'clock is nearly impossible when everyone around you gets up at at least 9. We had to go to the Extranjeria (Bureau of Immigration and Foreign Affaires) to make a residence card.

You need a residence card (for limited or permanent stay) to be able to make an account at a bank in Spain, to rent something and to be given the so-called N.I.E - an id given to foreigners (existence is greatly improved and you're able to move more freely). We went an hour earlier but it still wasn't enough - the queue was endless. It advanced fast. We were given numbers of order to be called in(they should implement this system in Romania...) and when the panel in the waiting room displayed it, we went there only to be annouced that the "lines" didn't work. The phone or something. The nice lady gave us a special number of order for tomorrow so that we could get immediately in and solve our issue. I hope it'll be okay.

Afterwards, from 14 to 20 we went to Alhambra. We explored every nook and cranny. Almost. But we saw everything that we couldn't two days ago, now that we had a pass everywhere.

Arab culture in  all its splendour - the gardens, the ingenious irigation systems that made a sky-high tuya grow out of infertile terra rossa, 400m high, in the palace premises...the intricate etchings in the walls and the secret passages.
We were programmed to visit "El Palacio de Nazaries" (the main location) at 19:00 (if you are late, you can't go in, and you are llowed to stay and visit only an hour). Therefore, from 14 until 19, we visited the Generalife area with its gardens and its towers.

Once perched high up, Albaicin - the neighbourhood that was at the feet of the Alhambra palace - appeared as a set of inordinate, irregular white and deep-green dots (houses and trees). Alhambra palace is a town by itself by the way.

So much patience, so much endurance and quiet beauty. My feet hurt, but the day is unforgettable.

School starts tomorrow.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Granada, ready set go.

On the bearings of a skull-threshing headache, I am keeping now my promise that I would blog every two days about my life in Granada as an Erasmus student.

The journey from Iasi to Granada:

Two days ago, on the 23rd of September, I, Anca and Oana have said our goodbies to our parents, boyfriends, colleagues, work colleagues, grandmoms, pets (well, you got the idea) and left for Bucharest. We traveled by car, with Anca's very kind and really-speedy-driving brother and by 7, we arrived at the Bucuresti Baneasa Airport. We checked in our luggage, waited for a good chunk of 3 hours' time because Blueair had serious problems: "The flight will be delayed a lot because there are operational problems." It took 4.5 hours to get us in Malaga. No surprise there.

1st day

Again, due to Anca's kinsmen - namely her cousin, Dan - we had a ride from Malaga airport to Granada, and straight to our apartment there (he also helped us find it and pay the rent a month in advance). He also is a terrific guide - we (the 3 happy girls - no pun intended - we all have "Happy movil" phone cards and we have each other's number under the name of Irina Happy, Anca Happy and Oana Happy) are wondering how we'll manage when he goes back to Valencia.

Already the 24th, really tired, we went directly to the Faculty of Computer Science (as it was already morning when we got settled in) to fix issues regarding documents. We also noticed that in Romania, the streets teem with activity at 7-8 o'clock whereas here people start the day at 9 o'clock.

We talked to the professor that was in charge of the Erasmus students at the Computer Science faculty and he told us to go and submit the documents to the Bureau of International Affaires. The conversation went like this: "The documents you must send´s such a shame you could not make it in time to the Erasmus meeting - the address is...if only you could have attended the Erasmus meeting. The classes start...but you didn´t go to the Erasmus meeting" (you get the drift).

We went there, did our job (we'll receive an Erasmus card in a week or ten days with which we'll be able to matriculate in the faculty and have a lot of rights and freebies) and visited a bit the downtown of Granada (we live in the Aynadamar campus which is 4,5 km far from the dowtown). (excessive use of parantheses, right?)

Our sleep need went naturally out the window and we went shopping. Seeing as the apartment in which we live now - 3 simple rooms plus the big room in the middle where we eat, watch tv etc. - was as dirty as it can be, we had to buy all sorts of solutions to disinfect first, and then clean literally everything. As a Romanian saying goes, we don't want to catch brontosaurs or some awful disease.

We bought cleaning and bath related products, 3 sorts of cereals and food. Everything added up to the trifle sum of 60 euros. And we worried that we were buying too much.

Sleep was so deep.

2nd day

Today is Saturday and we (3 happy girls plus Anca's cousin) slept till late of course (curiously enough I didn't). Actually when I opened my eyes and saw the surroundings, I panicked and wondered where the hell I was. I must have had a dream about being back at home.

We had a general cleaning today. We're thinking of changing the apartment because the plumming, appliances and furniture are noticeably ancient and all sorts of mishaps happen.But we still cannot live in dirt, no matter how small the timespan is. Medical gloves and chloride came in really handy, just as a sidenote.

We rewarded ourselves with breakfast (I usually didn't eat breakfast but I'll try here to change my bad habits) and went to visit Alhambra and the sea.

We didn't manage to enter the castle of Alhambra but we went around it and visited the grounds and the gardens. Everything transpired Arab sageness and motifs. A thing that made me a bit thoughtful was the fact that Alhambra, although build by Arabs before the 1600s, was superficially decorated with ill-fitting Christian signs. I'm a devout Catholic but crosses etched and embossed everywhere on Alhambra seemed like a crusade in speed-mode.

I saw (I have to get used to the sight anyway) daphne, orange, banana, fig, date and olive trees - all real life. The vegetation in Granada is Mediterranean by all accounts. The earth is red in many places, the renouned terra-rossa I learned about at Geography classes. We couldn't get in the castle but we made today a reservation for Monday at 2pm.

We went afterwards to the seaside, driving with a splendid view of snow-capped Sierra Nevada on the left side (1h distance). The Mediterranean sea is blue, cobalt blue and angry. I don't think it needs other epithets. Beautiful and breathtaking seem somehow redundant... The rocks and the cliffs that milestoned the beach made it even more imposing, if that were possible.

I played in the sea for a while not having the courage to change in a swimsuit - it is September after all - and challenged the waves to shatter nearer and nearer to my legs. And waist ocasionally. As it was the second time I ever saw the sea - I saw it first time last year, in England, the Sea of North namely - I took advantage of the occasion to marvel that the sea is salty. I tasted it, of course.

Back home, I put all my clothes and belongings in the wardrobe and drawers. There, that ought to make it more permanent. It's 3AM and my skull-threshing headache tell me that I have to sleep if I want to go to the church tomorrow and find a pool and swim. Down in T-3, T-2, T-1...