Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Stories of the Half-Week

I suppose I haven't had anything truly fascinating happen thus far this week, but there were a few things of interest:

After waking up on 4:30 on Saturday, I went to FITUR, the Madrid tourism fair. We had been told that it was part of our curriculum for the seminar to go, that it would be very interesting, and that we were lucky the program was paying because the entrance was 8 euros. Since I woke up late, I arrived with only an hour to see the fair, so I was worried I would run out of time. I was wrong. Imagine a car show, except instead of the hottest cars, there were exhibits for each country, and rather than having the opportunity to sit behind the wheel, you could sign up for an all-inclusive package vacation with a friendly travel agent. If they were going all out, you could wait on a long line to enjoy a small cup of local coffee or alcohol - sometimes they just gave out Spanish beer. At first, I couldn't really figure out what to do, but realizing that I had paid the train ticket to get there, I eventually started picking up posters and pamphlets of places to which I may travel, knowing all along that I was just wasting paper. Honestly, I can't seem to figure out why we went. I assumed they were hoping we would investigate the section on Spanish regions, but the next time we met with the coordinator, she said it was because tourism from foreigners was important the Spanish economy...which is why we had to go to a fair for Spainiards to tour elsewhere.

I did learn a few things, though:
  • Spanish people love pre-packaged vacations. Pilar keeps on telling me to take them, but I thought it was just her. They're everywhere.
  • Despite being regarded as a really gross region (like the New Jersey of Spain), Murcia spared no effort on its exhibit, which actually taught me nothing, unless it actually is filled with giant tent-like structures with videos playing inside.
  • Apparently everyone in Egypt is white, or so they let me to believe.
  • For whatever reason, a lot of people in Spain want to go on "cultural excursions" to Myanmar. I guess they must be private tours, because I think the junta forbids more than 7 people from being in the same place at once.
I took a picture of what I thought was the worst attempt to bring authentic local flair to an exhibit:
This was perhaps less frustrating a day than Sunday, when it took me a half hour to find head and shoulders and another 10 minutes for soap. I spent a while searching the Corte Inglés pharmacy, but after seeing only one anti-dandruff shampoo for 18 euros, I gave up and went to the supermarket section, where it turns out the keep the cheap bathing supplies. After procuring the shampoo (called "h&s"), I tried to find a bar of bath soap, but it turns out that doesn't exist here, leaving me with bath get. However, I had no idea which ones were intended for men and which for women, if there was a difference. After a while, I decided to just wait until a man came by and bought bath gel and bought the same one. It was a very effective plan, but a little creepy.

Yesterday, it snowed. This is a big deal in Madrid, where it rarely even rains. Even more surprising, it has snowed three times this year and it's flurrying right now. Pilar's in a huff because the radio didn't predict it. She says she's staying home from work tomorrow, for fear that it might flurry by surprise again (the horror!). I feel bad that I come off so stoically about it, but it's not my fault they're all weak. Even the trains were running slower because of the half an inch of snow. I took some pictures, since everyone seemed so excited.
The roof of the Atocha train station, the place where I catch the train to school

Scenes on the way to school. We end up going into some serious countryside. It's really awfully pretty.

Yesterday, we went to explore the university campus and learn about the exchange program. Long story short, it's really complicated. I have to be in contact with four or five separate offices to change my classes. The more frustrating part was that the campus was designed to be riot-proof. The main building was built with as many stairs as possible and it is impossible without signs to know both which section you are in and which floor you're on. It took us 15 minutes to find the cafeteria, where I got these ketchup flavored fried. It turns out that Spaniards love ketchup. One kid's host mother asked what type of tomato he wanted on his sandwich, the options being real or ketchup. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) the fries didn't taste much like ketchup.
Ugly, no?

Today I went to see the Congress of Deputies. It was actually fairly dull and extremely small. Not really that exciting...

1 comment:

  1. Who's the guy in front of the exhibit??
    Wouldn't have made more sense to have someone take you picture in front of it??
    But then again, maybe not. You can never have too many photos of people you don't know.