La Costa Blanca en un Cuadernito Rojo

The White Coast in a Little Red Notebook.

Over the past two weeks I have crossed state lines and oceans and peninsulas, and while the landscape has rearranged itself around me I have tried to keep myself oriented in a little red moleskine: addresses, directions, maps, metro stops, hostel phone numbers, apartments, appointments, calculations, and the beginning pages of an ongoing list of phrases and words in Spanish that I want to remember or investigate.

Perhaps I can share with you a few words that have been very central to my life recently.

Majo/Maja – Nice, friendly, pleasant.

I have traveled, and I have traveled alone, but this is the first time I have taken such an extensive trip on my own. I left everyone I knew behind in Chicago, and when I got off the plane there was no one waiting for me. However, this has not been a lonely trip. My first night in Madrid I ventured out to meet up with other Fulbright ETA’s for some (elusive) churros & chocolate, and throughout our orientation I got to meet a wide variety of people (some fellow Michiganders, many people teaching all over Spain, some researchers with grants to study everything from flamenco music to Antartica!) I had picnics in my dorm room, went shopping, and split more than one pitcher of sangria. By the time I left Madrid to take the train out to Alicante, I already felt sad to be leaving good friends behind. However, Alicante has been full of gente maja: Another Fulbright ETA placed in Alicante, a former Fulbrighter who visited and showed us around, my two Italian flatmates, and countless other kind strangers.

Piso – Flat, Apartment.

When I got to Alicante on Friday afternoon, I had three nights booked at a hostel. Bobbi (the other Alicante ETA) and I spent all of Saturday looking at apartments, and moved in on Sunday. I am living in an old fashioned piso in the city center, two blocks from the sea. It has decorative tile, balconies in every room, and all the character and quirks of an old building that both enchant me and confound me (while trying not to scald myself because the cold water won’t work, or while struggling to escape my own front door because the key is stuck.)

Cafe con Leche – Coffee with milk.
Bocadillo de Tortilla Española – Spanish Tortilla Sandwich

So far, I have tried to eat very Spanish meals at Spanish mealtimes – partially because I want to integrate myself into the culture, but also because I love Spanish food. When I first got to Madrid, I decided to satisfy my hunger before my exhaustion, and went up the street to a bar for a cafe con leche and a bocadillo de tortilla. The Spanish Tortilla is like a cross between an omelette and a quiche. It’s amazing on its own, but also delicious as a sandwich. Biting into it was what made me realize that I had arrived.

Castillo – Castle.
Palacio – Palace. 

Since I’ve arrived, I’ve lived in or near some scenery that makes me feel as though I’ve been planted in the middle of a postcard. My hostel in Madrid was in a 17th century palacio, and now in Alicante the Castillo de Santa Barbara looms over the city center. I’m still not used to the way Europe is a beautiful jumble of old and new.

El Mar – The Sea

The first think I did when I got to Alicante was to find my way to the beach. My feet were sore and blistered after days of walking, but the water was cool and clear. Once I had found an apartment, I went to the beach and put more than my feet in. It was my first time swimming in salt water – I think I saw the ocean once long ago, when I was ten, but other than that I have only known the fresh water in Michigan.

Madrugar – To wake up early.

Tomorrow is my first day at my school. I’m looking forward to an inside look at the Spanish educational system – and for meeting the students and teachers who I will be working with over the coming year!

There’s so much to say, but it will have to wait. Necesito madrugar.

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