Making my way to Madrid…

…from where I will fly back to Texas on Thursday. I fly into Corpus and will spend the week housesitting for my parents, by the way. I have very mixed feelings, as you an imagine. I am very excited to see everyone in Central Texas but also sad to leave Europe. And as for what´s next, well, I´m as curious as anyone. Regardless, I am so glad I took this trip.

The rest of the cruise in Greece was really awesome, both the archaeological sites and the companionship. It was so nice to have my schedule planned out and to have a little posse to spend my time with. Of course, we toured sites most days, so between running around ruins and socializing, I did precious little relaxation!

I returned to Barcelona for a few days of r&r and museums, then met my friend Peter (the geologist) for an amazing weekend in the country. We drove to Huelva province where they raise the prized black pig (the BEST jamon…which we call prosciutto) and hiked around a rural landscape filled with castles and tiny villages. I am talking “don´t hit the old man herding his sheep across the only road through town” tiny. It was perfect and a great glimpse into another side of Spain. And wow was I ready for some cool mountain air!

I´ve just arrived in Cordoba, where I´ll see the Great Mosque. Tomorrow I return to Madrid and then Thursday I fly home.

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving.

¡Hola de Madrid!

I made it to Madrid without incident. The flight went by much more quickly than I expected and after a 2 hour siesta, I feel like I will at least make it until midnight tonight. Sadly, this will not come close to matching the rest of Madrid, where one of my dormmates tells me they really do party until the sun comes up.So far, the biggest challenge has been language, which is no surprise. I´ve hauled my overstuffed bag, got ripped off on my first currency conversion (thankfully only $100), took the 3 required metro stops to my hostel, and have bought a few random things without much trouble. But my ¨listening¨skills are not nearly as good as my speaking skills, so I can already tell the language difference will be an issue. One problem with knowing enough to ask standard questions with a semi-legit accent is that the answers come flying back at warp speed! Anyway, I am aggressively seeking out a more comprehensive english-spanish dictionary that is still travel sized (the one I brought isn´t comprehensive enough) so I can look up all the new words I can´t extrapolate the meaning of. So fingers crossed the immersion will help my vocabulary improve quickly. It´s been frustrating to see words I knew when I visited Argentina but can´t quite put my finger on the meaning. I had to give myself a pep talk after the shopping excursion, reminding myself that I won´t learn new words if I don´t use them. I need to get over my fear of looking like a tourist (which I soooo obviously am) and bust out my dictionary anytime I see or need a new word.

I was able to successfully help an older couple who live near Madrid while in the Newark airport! They didn´t speak much English and were trying to use a pay phone. Well, I couldn´t help them figure out the pay phone (it´s been so long…:-) but I was able to communicate easily with them and ultimately loaned them my phone. They gave me their number in case I get into trouble, which I gratefully accepted.

At any rate, I decided that for today I´ll just ease in, as I am still quite brain tired and I´ll be back through Madrid on the way home. So I reorganized everything for living (versus transport), shopped for a few things and ate. Tomorrow I´ll do the Prado (famous art museum), walk the tourist circuit and hopefully find someone to eat tapas with. I´m ashamed to admit that today I ate primarily jamon y queso (ham and cheese). I suppose I am craving simple comfort food. Then again, perhaps I shouldn´t be ashamed as hams and cheeses are both huge here. There is even a chain restaurant called Museo de Jamon (museum of ham)! I bought a snack from an artisan shop with ham shanks hanging everywhere and about 15 types of ham tostadas (thin sandwiches with the crust cut off…kid style). Oh and I just had a huge helado (ice cream). The helado here seems to be similar to Argentina – more creamy like gelato. Tomorrow I´ll feel more adventurous, I´m sure. But probably not adventurous enough to try baby squid in it´s own ink…

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