Wednesday, November 14, 2012

There's Always A Story- Puente~ing- Cáceres

Lucky for me last weekend brought on another puente since I work in Madrid center and have Mondays off. A sudden change of plans from Valencia to Alicante, and finally the decision was made to trek to Extremadura and spend the weekend in Cáceres.
It hadn't really occured to me before to visit this regions on top of every where else, but it seemed to work out the best and my hermana Nelly was really interested in going to see the land where many of the conquistadors came from, so we bought our tickets, booked the room, and were on our way.
Coming back from a packed weekend in the Basque Country, and heading full swing into a week of work, private classes, rehearsals, and having a semi-social life, by the time Thursday came around I was exhausted and this break was exactly what I needed. All I had to do was make it there and everything would be fine.... apparently for me, this is easier said than done. Thursday night came, and my clothes were still needing to dry on the line, which meant I needed to pack them in the morning before leaving for my 8am bus. So I set my alarm for 6am, this way I could shower and be fresh for the bus ride, and then pack my suitcase (hoping not to forget anything like i had the previous weekend. Well I had woken up naturally at 5:45, so I decided I could indulge in those last 15 minutes (always a big mistake).  The next time I opened my eyes, I had the strange sensation that I was just a bit too comfortable in my bed and looked and it was already 6:50! Desperately needing to shower I raced off and got everything together as quickly as i could, and headed to the bus station still a good 35 minutes away. Much to my dismay when I got to the metro the digital sign lit up and displayed the next train would arrive in 6 minutes!! (Darn you holiday schedule!!) While on the train I texted Nelly panicked thinking that I really wasn't going to make it, and when I got to my transfer my heart fell when i saw the other train would arrive also in 6 minutes. Finally arriving to the bus station, I bolted off the train and ran up the stairs only one flight away from the bus, and I get the text message "We just pulled out :("
Story of my life...
My heart sank, and I slowly headed over to the ticket office trying to see if I could sulkily get the guy working at booth to let me trade my ticket for a later one. When it was no go, I told him fine let me get on the next bus and surprisingly it was at 9am!! Such a relief because I thought the next one was at noon, which would have thrown off everything! So I called Nelly to tell her the plan, and we were only slightly off schedule.

For the first half of the ride I knocked out in my window seat only waking up occasionally to a view just outside of Madrid that seemed a bit mediocre after having come from the lush green of the north the previous weekend. My knees were crushed because the people in front of me decided that they wanted to recline their seats all the way back. I decided not to say anything because of a near fight that broke out for the same reason when my sister came to visit me on our trip to Málaga.
As scheduled we had a 20 minute break at a rest stop in the middle of nowhere, where people go and buy overpriced snacks and head for the bathroom. I got off the bus to stretch my legs, leaving my backpack in my seat since I was just oustide of the bus I could see who was getting in and out of it. When I got back on the bus I noticed the people that the people who were sitting around me before had gotten off and were replaced by a group of elderly people.
When I got to my seat the old lady across from me on the other side of the bus said "That seat is already reserved, head to the back." Being that it was my backpack there, I was confused and still sleepy I guess, and in return from my confused expression she repeats again "You have to go to the back" I tell her it's my bag there and she says no and continues to insist that I need to go the back. Another lady who is sitting in front the older woman came to my defense and said "Well that´s where she was sitting before..." I take my seat and try to pay no mind to the crazy sour faced old woman as she's having a conversation with the first lady insisting I shouldn't be sitting there because "someone's" bag is there. The other woman reminds her that I told her it was my bag, and then the older lady replies "Pues la negrita solo pudo haber dicho que era suyo" (The black girl could have just said that it was hers...)

Umm... wait... what??
All I said in response to her is "estas muy equivocada señora" (you're very wrong ma'am), and then went to replay the incident in my head the rest of the ride. As outraged as I was by the incredibly racist remark the lady made, I didn't have the energy to argue and escalate the scene, and quite frankly I knew it wasn't going to go anywhere. Even though this isn't entirely applicable to everything I think the phrase "You can't teach an old dog new tricks" may come into play here.I knew if I got in her face this woman would probably just reinforce whatever negative she thoughts she has in that closed mind of hers. After talking to my co-workers I also realize part of why I didn't say anything is because really when it's happening you're just in shock that someone could be that way. I mean even the fact that I'm not black is beside the point, she could have said gordita, alta, bruta, it would have all come off as offensive. It was an expensive 40 minutes to sleep in... Oh society, we still have a ways to go...

I didn't let the totally rain on my parade... even though it did rain throughout the weekend (again). I met Nelly and we were shown to our tiny room with an incredibly comfortable bed, and then we ventured off to try to find lunch. We got some recommendations from friends and fellow auxiliares, so we went looking for a good spot recommended by a native of Cáceres. The restaurant was in the medieval city, so we climbed and trekked only to be told that the restaurant was closing. (Oh Spain!). So we went looking elsewhere for food, only to find that EVERYTHING was shut down after lunch... even the kebap place!! I guess in Madrid we're spoiled and don't truly experience siesta. This left Nelly and I only to eat the snacks we had brought for our long bus ride, and hold out until dinner.

For dinner we tried to head to the same place, but we headed in to early and it didn't look like they were ready to serve so we went another route. Saturday we went to the centro commercial "mall" that we had scene on our taxi ride from the bus station, only to find that it was a very sad selection of places to shop...I was looking for a jacket since I only brought a hoodie in the midst of my rushed packing, and luckily roaming the streets I found a great one! (Love retail therapy!)

Most of the rest of the time we spent wandering through the old city, taking pictures with several size doors, taking a look at what the people looked at before they made their voyage to America. We searched for Moctezuma's Palace, only to be extremely disappointed that it looked just the same like everything else, and it was closed.

Definitely a nice weekend!
Ciudad Medieval

Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 12, 2012

There's Always A Story- Puente~ing- País Vasco

Hey Hey Everyone, 

  Sorry for the slight pause in posts, things have been getting slightly hectic, and of course I'm going out and living the Spanish life, not only writing about it. 

I want to take a slight detour before I get into what's been happening. I've come to the realization that... I'm happy. With all of the things I've had to overcome in this last year, that's the very reason for this epiphany. I'm finally at a point in my life where I really enjoy my job and my co-workers (also that I'm blessed that I have a job), I'm healthy, I'm really living the dream here on the other side of the world and trying to take advantage before the sand runs out of the hourglass. Life isn't perfect, but for now I'm really happy. Ironically, after having this realization my sister posted on facebook that she was having a similar revelation which only makes the smile on my face even bigger. 

Now... with all that being said... even though things are good, that doesn't mean I stop being Cathy, because like the title of this blog says there's always a story....

Here in Spain they call long weekends puentes because often times if a holiday falls on a weekday, they'll connect it with the weekend. November 1st was All Saints day, therefore it was a 4-day weekend four most, but 5 days for me since this year I have Mondays off. So I decided to take advantage and go check out the Basque country. Originally I was supposed to be going with a friend but last minute plans changed, and I decided to go on alone... sort of. A few other friends were making the same trip, but because they work on Monday my trip was kind of a day behind theirs so I wasn't alone the whole time...

Photo courtesy of my good friend Matt
I made it to Bilbao after sleeping pretty much the whole 6 hour bus ride, since we had our 1 year roommate anniversary party at my house the night before... and people were still going by the time I headed to the bus station. I was greeted by rain, and taxi-ed over to my hostel. Met up with my friends, and some of their friends and then we were off to see what kind of pinchos Bilbao had to offer, but not before heading to the view point to see the city. 1 euro to take a trap to the top of a hill, at first with the rain and the gloominess it was apparent why they only charged 1 euro but as the sky calmed a bit, it was a beautiful sight.  

The next day my friends headed to San Sebastian, and I had the day to myself exploring the Guggenheim, and wandering around the city a bit. When I got back to the hostel, the other people there didn't really seem that open, in a kind of un-Cathy way I decided I wasn't going to try to make friends, and it was too cold to go off and venture alone, so I just went to the grocery story, and read for the rest of the evening. 

Saturday Morning I woke up ready to head off to San Sebastian, when i notice that I'm kind of itchy, when I finally make it over to a mirror I see that I was bit by a mosquito ON MY FACE!! A huge red spot right above my eyebrow and on my cheek. I mean, I've been bitten by insects a million and one times in my life but the face is such a sacred place! Luckily my hair was already swooped over to that side, so I could try to be as normal as possible. 

When I arrived at my hostel in San Sebastian, it wasn't the same kind of trendy venue that I'd slept in Bilbao, actually it was some lady's apartment that she'd turned into a hostel, but it was clean, and a place for me to sleep, so it'll have to do. The guy in charge was really interested in talking to me since I could speak Spanish well, and he was tired of being surrounded by all of the English speaking tourists. I cut the awkward conversation short though to go and see where my friends were. 

We had a nice lunch, and then went looking around the city. I found a little store that everything was 3 euros so I bought a necklace and some belts. At that point I was out of cash, one I needed an ATM. My friend couldn't remember where she saw my bank, but at that point, to me I didn't mind the fee of a few bucks compared to wandering the streets all night to find my specific bank. So the first ATM we see I decide to hit it up. I put my card in the machine, I put in my code, and the machine is processing for a while, then comes up with the message "This card is suspect of fraud, please call your bank." SERIOUSLY?! It was Saturday night, so I had no hope of coming the next morning to have them open it and getting my card. So I called the number, and all they said is that they could cancel the card and I'd have to go to my bank to order a new one. At this point I wasn't too stressed out though, because I have two debit cards for my account, I just don't keep them with me because I figure if I'm robbed I'll always have the other one. The trick was just making it through the rest of the weekend. Fortunately my friend came to the rescue and lent me some cash money... CRISIS AVERTED.

My friends left back to Madrid and I still had one day in Pais Vasco. One of my friends from studying abroad in Puerto Rico is from a little village close to San Sebastian, so I was off to go meet her and spend the night in the mountains. As I was headed to the train station from my hostel, I stopped at corner that had a sign that pointed in the direction of various points of interest, just to make sure I was headed the right way. Then I hear "Guapa! Necesitas ayuda?" I turn and I see two guys walking and they're asking me if they can help me find where I'm going, I politely say no, and cross the street in the direction of the train station. I walk down the street and a few minutes later, there the guys are again asking if I'm sure they can't help me find my way, I assure them I'm alright, and I can make my way, then I make a sharp left to get away from them, and as I'm continuing down the street I realize I'm not entirely sure of where I am now, so I sit on a bench to check my map, figure out my bearings and get up to head to the train station. Again I'm greeted this time by only one of the guys asking if he can help me to find where I'm going. Again I say no, but also weary that this fool might go crazy (just like the pizza boy) I put up with him walking and talking with me to the train station. He comments on how I look like such a nice girl, and how we should go for a walk or for a drink, but I insist my friend is waiting for me in the village, so I must go. We get to the train station, and say our goodbyes, and I'm off to the pueblo. 

While on the train i realize that I didn't take that good of a look at what the stops were on the way to Zumaia, and I'm struck with a brief sense of panic as I'm not sure if I got on the right train, and there's no signs anywhere about what the next stop is... luckily I was alright. Then it was wandering around in the rain with a dead phone (my smart self left the charger at home) and asking around where the bar my friend worked at was... luckily I made it, and we had a wonderful time. Her family is beautiful, her 10 year old sister drew me some pictures when I arrived, we got all nostalgic about Puerto Rico, and the mom packed me a lunch for my bus ride back to Madrid. 

An interesting weekend of sorts and a good time.

Thanks for reading,

<3 CathyArely