Well this past week has been a hectic mixture of work and play. On Monday, I had my appointment at the police station to apply for my replacement residency card, and of course, nothing there can ever be easy. This time, I was much to blame for the complications though. So first of all, although I had been there before, on this day I was going there from somewhere different, and it didn’t turn out so well. I guess I took the wrong line because I was on the metro for over an hour, and as soon as I arrived at the station I knew I was in the wrong place. The road that the police station is on wasn’t too far away, so I figured I could find it then just follow it until I recognized my surroundings. This idea was easier thought than executed though. After asking about three people I finally found the right street, but then I ended up following it for at least an hour and a half to no avail. It eventually seemed to just sort of end, and I still had no idea where I was. I found a metro station and decided to cut my losses and make another appointment, because by now my time slot had long since passed. As I examined the metro map to find my way home however, I suddenly spotted the stop I knew I needed to get to for the police station. Why I couldn’t have done that in the first place, I don’t know. Anyway, I figured since I was already out, I might as well try it, so I rode for another half hour or so until I reached the familiar stop.
I arrived to the police station about two hours late, but it was pretty empty so they didn’t seem to mind in the slightest. I couldn’t believe my luck! That euphoria soon faded as the clerk went through all of my documents then informed me that I needed a police report. I smiled, politely looked through the documents she had discarded, and showed her the police report I had gotten over break. She read it, frowned, then asked me what it was and where I had done it. The report clearly said Highland, Illinois, but I guess I can’t blame her for not knowing where that is. Anyway, she went on to inform me that I needed a report in Spanish issued by the Spanish government. My spirits fell, but I was happy that I had made it there that day, as there was now going to be another whole step. Fortunately though, it turned out that I could get it done then and there, so she told me to go take care of it upstairs, then to come back down. I got excited that I would be able to complete it that day after all, but the report was an ordeal of its own. I found the office and explained my situation to the man behind the window. He gave me an appointment slip then told me to go across to the waiting room, ask who the last person in line to file a report is, then my time would be after that person. I guess I looked a little a confused, because he asked if I had understood him, but I just nodded and went to the waiting room.
Contrary to his instructions, I just found an empty chair and sat down; I figured I could eventually ascertain who the last person was through process of elimination anyway. The room was packed full of people, some of which had apparently been waiting there for almost two hours! It was clear who they were, because they all spoke to each other as if they had been long time friends. When someone would exit the office, they would let out a triumphant cheer, the people waiting would congratulate them, and then the whole room would chorus hasta luego as the person left. When a new person entered they would immediately ask who the last person in line was, so after a while I kind of felt weird for not doing that, but they all seemed to regard me kindly anyway. My wait did end up taking close to two hours, but I used that time to catch up on some course reading and organize my schedule, so it wasn’t that bad. When it was finally my turn, I was called back into the office, where a quite attractive young officer took my information, printed out the form, and sent me on my way in less than five minutes.
Back downstairs I had to wait in line for a while to get to another clerk and when I finally did, the young man announced that I also needed a photo copy of the police report, which I could do outside. I didn’t mean to because I know it wasn’t his fault, but I reflexively shot him and exasperated glare. When he saw I had made the report at that location though, he was able to pull it up and print it out himself. I made sure to articulate my gratitude as well as I could. Afterwards, he took my fingerprints then sent me on my way! When I had embarked on this adventure at 10:30 that morning, I never imagined that I would have trouble making it to my 5:30 class, but I ended up arriving about 15 minutes late. I spoke to my professor after afterwards though and he seemed to understand all too well how those things go; he said that ultimately the most important thing was that I had gotten everything sorted out.
I took some time to decompress after class, and overall I felt very accomplished. Then after dinner I was reminded that I had agreed to help my roommate, Nische, with one of her assignments. So there’s this bar, Pool & Beer, that’s exactly half a block away from Nola and I, so we end up there a lot. It has a great atmosphere, everyone is really nice, and they serve some really great beers; they even have Franziskaner, my all-time favorite brew! Not to mention if we sit there long enough they usually end up giving us a free shot. Two nights a week they host a language exchange where native Spanish speakers can practice their English with native speakers and vice versa. Ever since we started going there, the bartender noticed us speaking English and had been encouraging us to come. So for her journalism class Nische was supposed to attend such an exchange and interview three people about the process of learning English. Nola and I agreed to accompany here because Nische had never been there and doesn’t speak any Spanish. We ordered a round, and by the time we were had almost finished nothing had gotten accomplished, so I took initiative. I walked up to a boy and girl seated nearby who looked to be about our age, and asked them for an interview. The girl said she knew some English, but would prefer to do it in Spanish so we proceeded as such. Nische would feed me questions, then after listening to the girl’s response I would relay it back to Nische. Of course I didn’t speak perfectly, but I got my point across and understood virtually everything the girl told me! It was super encouraging and I really enjoyed it! Over the course of the night I ended up interviewing two more people and it went so well! I’m a great roommate, I know.
The rest of week was mostly spent trying to stay on top of reading and making travel arrangements! Nola and I booked our flights to Rome and Dublin, and we have currently booked hostels in Lisbon, Dublin, Brussels, Prague, Berlin, and Rome! Now we just need one for Madrid before we leave for spring break and we need to book the trip to Southern Spain, but we definitely accomplished a lot. On Thursday we went out again and of course eventually ended up back at Pool & Beer. Then of course when the night was coming to a close, we had to walk down to our favorite pizza shop. I know I’ve said before that the pizza here isn’t that great, but this one place serves some of the most amazing four cheese pizza I’ve ever had. The best part is that they’re open 24 hours. Anyway, we were feeling quite content as Nola entered her apartment. I was about a block away from mine, but on my way I happened to pass two young men on the side walk. We initiated conversation, and it turned they had also just come from Pool & Beer and they both work at a nearby restaurant we frequent. One of them was from Peru, and I don’t remember where the other one was from but it was somewhere in South America. We talked for a very long time and argued about the similarities and differences between Castilian Spanish and American Spanish. Eventually they asked if I wanted to go to a bar a couple of blocks away and I agreed, but it turned out to be closed anyway. We sat outside talking for even longer, and it was like I was actually hanging out with friends! That might not seem so incredible, but it was entirely in Spanish and I was able to keep and participate effectively.
On Friday night Nola was desperate to try somewhere new, so we finally made it to the Cave Bar. Like it sounds, the whole interior of this place is made to look like a cave and it was actually really cool. We ordered their signature drink, which translates to “panther milk” and is partially served on tap from a stalactite. It was pretty overpriced and super disgusting, but at least we tried it I guess. I’m sure you can discern where we went afterwards, and we eventually ended at Nola’s apartment because her host family apparently goes out of town every weekend. We watched Pride and Prejudice because I had never seen and its one of her favorite movies. It was pretty good so I guess I’ll have to add it to my book bucket list.
Saturday was the festival for Carnival, which is basically the Spanish equivalent to Mardi Gras. It was a little different here than it is in Soulard, but somewhat similar too. Pretty much everyone dresses up in ridiculous costumes and parties in the streets. There was a parade at 6:00 and it was very interesting. I think anyone is free to enter, so there were some diverse groups that were all dressed in elaborate costume and mostly danced or did some other kind of trick. There were a couple floats, but not many. There were also groups from different countries that would wear their traditional clothing and dance to traditional music, so that was really cool. Madrid is not exactly notorious for its Carnival celebration, but it was a good time nonetheless. Anyway, with such an eventful week behind me and so many exciting things to come, I promised myself I would devote today to course work. I haven’t started yet, but the day is still relatively young so, you know, I will…