It’s been a pretty busy week between classes and work. I’ve had little time for emailing people or posting any blogs, etc. I’ve been taking the bus to and from school most of the week because of the STUPID RAIN. Ugh, I know I’ve been spoiled living in LA for the past 6 years where it hardly ever rains . . . but seriously, is this a welcome-to-San-Sebastian “hazing”?? It’s rained almost every day since I’ve been here except maybe 2 days. I just found out that it DOES often rain in San Sebastian because of it’s proximity to the ocean and the land layout, but right now the excessive rain IS a bit abnormal. I wouldn’t mind the rain as much if I didn’t have so many errands I want to run, or if I didn’t have to walk it in every day to and from school (the bus only takes me part-way, I still have to walk about 8-10 blocks in addition to the bus ride), especially when I cross this certain bridge the wind is SO STRONG and the rain blows at you from both sides and your umbrella blows inside out. haha!! It actually HAILED on Tuesday,, the hail was bouncing off my umbrella, thank God I had an umbrella!! I have’t seen hail since my college days probabaly. Needless to say, it’s been an adventure and each day is a new and interesting surprise.
My schedule has mainly consisted of waking up at 7:30/8:00am, then class from 9:30am to 1:00pm, maybe stroll by the shops and go into the one out of 20 that are actually open during siesta, come home and take Sonny out, eat some lunch at 2/3pm, maybe take a siesta or work on some personal things (or lately I’ve had to do many errands to get set up in this city: went to el estacion de policia –the police station — to deal with my Visa, or go to the bank to set up a cuenta de banco — bank account, or go to FIVE different pet stores all over the city in search for Sonny’s dog food which NOBODY has around here!!) which have all been adventures in themselves. Then it’s time to do some work on the computer for my company in the US . . . I’ve been working about 6:00pm until midnight or so my time (which is 9am to 3pm Pacific time), but usually I putz around and don’t end up turning the computer off until 1, 2am, and then I have to spend an hour or so doing my spanish homework before passing out at 3am. Obviously, I’ve quickly gone back to my late-night habits I have always subscribed by.
I have yet to find a single person in this city who knows english fluently, but that’s OK because it has forced me to speak as much spanish as I can to the people . . . and even though it can be frustrating at times, it has been a lot of fun learning and struggling to get them to understand.
The main thing I have really enjoyed is how sincere, nice, and helpful people have been in this city, despite my limited ability to speak Spanish. This is why I’m really pleased with my choice to move to a small town (el pueblo pequeño ) in Spain, rather then a huge city (la ciudad grande) like Madrid or Barcelona. One pet store owner tried for like 10 minutes to figure out what other pet store I could go to find Eukanuba–Sonny’s dog food–and I left the store with a ton of free dog food samples and treats, etc. The people definitely have the “small town genuine niceness” here, which is SOOO refreshing when you come from a city where you are used to everybody being rude, out-for-themselves, incompetant, and ignorant.
Since I really don’t know anybody yet, and my roommates never go out and they leave San Sebastian every weekend (they leave every weekend to go back to their family’s homes), I haven’t gotten a chance to go out to the bars at all. I started getting stir-crazy earlier this week, and it only got worse as the weekend approached. I was fine staying in on Friday night, and it was nice on Saturday afternoon to meet up with one of my classmates and we strolled the streets and got some beer and tapas for lunch . . . but as the night approached I couldn’t stand it anymore! I didn’t care, I was going out to the bars alone.
I wasn’t really sure what bars/pubs were cool, but I knew the area where many bars are located, which was a beautiful 30-minute walk for me along the beach. When I got to the bar-area, I walked up and down the crooked and cobblestone roads looking for the “perfect” place . . . a pub that wasn’t too loud where I could maybe overhear people to see if anybody was speaking English.
First bar: WAY overcrowded and disgustingly hot, so I decided to use the bathroom quick and leave. I got bombarded with overly-drunk early-20-something guys who barely let me to get to el baño, just to be faced with a disgusting toilet with no toilet seat, no toilet paper . . . and nope, no soap or paper towels either. Nice. Oh yea, and at first I freaked out for a second becuase I almost fell for the “fake spider in the toilet” joke, which I found to be some goofy sticker. It must be some kind of promotion/advertising for something, though, because I saw it in the toilet in another bar down the street. Hmm.
Second bar: cute, cozy, friendly . . . but everybody was in small groups of close friends and were all very involved in their friends and I didn’t think there was much chance of making eye contact with somebody who would approach me. I found out later that these small groups are common in this city, especially the basque people, because they have the “small town mentality” where they keep to their own cliques/groups. I bought a Franziskaner beer (a pretty good German beer I like, but it tasted funny/gross here) and spent a good time trying to figure out phrases in spanish I could say to a guy, maybe ask where a cool bar was or something, but by the time I could come up with a decently-slapped-together spanish sentence in my head, then the guy I was thinking of talking to would leave.
Third bar: Better lit, cool atmosphere, younger crowd, and more singles. Ended up talking to this 40-year-old guy, Raul, who was very nice, spoke a good amount of english, and called me “his hero” for coming to San Sebastian alone, going out to the bars alone, and he basically was “worshipping me” for being a person who came from Los Angeles. Apparently he’s a Spanish screenwriter and he is in awe of anybody associated with LA. He was EXTREMELY animated, a little crazy, entertaining, and it was almost as if I were a celebrity to him or something. Funny. He spoke decent english, but forced me to speak Spanish to him which proved to be great practice. He also was able to give me a LOT of info and insight into the people and culture in San Sebastian. His female friend, Ava, spoke English too and we talked awhile, but she had a problem with spitting A LOT while she talked. Did she not notice the pieces of saliva flying and hitting my face all the time??? haha!!
Meanwhile, I had briefly talked to another YOUNGER cute guy, Ino, who spoke even less english, but we had a fun time trying to communicate. He introduced me to a popular Spanish/Basque drink, Kalimotxo, which is a drink consisting of half red wine, half coca cola. Interesting . . . and was actually kind of good! I had hoped to keep in contact with him because it would be nice to have some new “friends” to go out with, but he suddenly said, “Well it was nice to meet you,” and wandered off leaving me standing there like, huh? Later, I saw him with a girl who seemed to be his girlfriend or maybe somebody he was dating, so I understood that maybe she had arrived before when he was talking to me, and he needed to go to her. Darn.
Closing time was approaching, and ended up chatting a little with a group of guys, with only one of the five who spoke any english, and he ended up being casada (married), and was worried about talking to me “too” much because he liked me and I was soltera (single) and he was casada. Him and his friends were smoking SO MUCH, ICK, and he was like the 10th person that night that offered me a cigarette. “No fumo,” I say (means I don’t smoke.) I forgot smoking is allowed in the bars in Europe, and EVERYBODY SMOKES, despite those HILARIOUS warning messages on the packages of cigarettes. Look at the picture on the right as examples of some of the messages they put on the packs here!! Funny. I’m really not going to like the fact there is so much smoking in the bars here.
Anyway, by now, it was past 3am and I was muy cansada (very tired) and tired from having to think so much every time I wanted to say anything to anybody.
I started on my 30-minute walk home, and felt really great about just “biting the bullet” and going out by myself that night. I REALLY needed to get out of my apartment, it was nice to talk to other people and find out more about the culture here, and it was good spanish-speaking practice for me.
SIGH. Life is so much easier when you finally get past that “early 20-year old” complex and immature thinking where you are a “loser” if you stay in on a Friday night (and are OK enjoying spending time with yourself), or that you aren’t able to go out to places, bars, etc, alone.
It’s too bad that some or most people actually can NEVER even get past that thinking,,,, because they sure are missing out! 😉