Wednesday, June 22, 2011

First Day of Classes

I guess the reason the days seem to last so much longer here is because of how focused I have to be on people around me.  During a normal day at home or at school, when someone is telling me something, I can listen without it requiring too much effort.  Here, though, I have to stare at people's mouths and focus very closely on what they're saying in order to understand.  This intense focus is exhausting.  I guess that's why I'm so tired at 7:52 p.m. when I woke up at 9:30 this morning.  We also did a lot of walking today, so that could account for some of it. 

 We started off the day on the public bus.  With very specific instructions from two different sources at the Residencia, we knew what we had to do.  But when we got on, we still somehow made it obvious that we were clueless, and an old woman helped us with the coins.  When we got off the bus, we found our destination and realized we were half an hour early.  With time to kill and relatively empty stomachs (the breakfast provided for us this morning was crackers and what tasted like caramel.  It was good, but very strange and not at all filling.), we stopped at a corner restaurant-- a diner sort of place-- to get some food.  Of course, we had no idea what anything on the menu actually was, so we had to point to these pastries behind the counter and ask what they were.  Turns out they are called medialunas, and they are incredible.  It's a sweet pastry, sort of like a danish, and you can get it with ham or cheese.  We got them con queso, and they were unbelievably delicious.  They were like grilled cheese on a danish.  That sounds odd, but there was this great combination of sweet and salty and it melted in your mouth and boy, was it good. 

After breakfast we went to the International Exchange Office for our orientation.  The group of students is very small; I think there are six of us total.  Two of the girls, also from the U.S., are only here for the Intensive Spanish course.  The other two girls are both from Canada.  One is here for the semester, the other for a full year.  Orientation was simple and straightforward, and when it was over we had a few hours to kill before class started.  We went to the Claro store and picked up some cell phones from a friendly, charming salesman, then headed to the office where our luggage was meant to be sent to ask about its status.  They didn't have it.  Disappointed, we wandered for a bit and admired some architecture before finding our way to el calle Callao for our class.  We got a little lost there, too.

During the thirty-minute break that we had in our four hour class, one of the women from the exchange office told us that our luggage had arrived.  Ecstatic, we rushed back immediately after class to the office we had stopped at earlier.  We rang the bell.  Nothing.  We waited and rang it again.  We stood in disbelief, in denial, agonizing over the dilemma brought on by the fact that our towels and most of our clothing were in those suitcases.  Oh, how we just wanted to take showers!  Finally, the door opened, and behind the security guard we could see our luggage.  Our task then became transporting said luggage back to the Residencia.  Of course we could not take it on the bus or the subway, and we weren't going to walk ten blocks dragging giant suitcases.  What better way to scream, "I am a foreigner who has lost my way!  Rob me, please!" ?  So we had to hail a cab.  Only we don't actually know the address of our residence.  We know where it is, but not the street address.  Luckily I remembered the name of the street, Larrea, and we knew that there was a McDonald's next to the sort of hidden entrance.  The driver didn't recognize that as a landmark, though, so I gave him the number I'd seen on the wall outside the weird, parking garage entrance.  And we made it back, luggage in hand.  Tomorrow we're going on a city tour in the morning and we have class again in the afternoon.  Hopefully I'll have some pictures to post.

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