I just received my first Spanish tongue-lashing from a train conductor. I’m on my way to Lisbon to meet my family for the week, and I got on the train going in the wrong direction. Barely awake, running on about three hours of sleep, I confused the destination and origin of the train. It took five minutes of assurances to convince the conductor that I wasn’t a freeloader trying to enjoy as much time on the train as possible. As much as I love trains, turning a 30 minute journey into two and a half hours of sitting helplessly, hoping that the train turns around fast enough for me to make my flight isn’t how I would choose to spend my morning. We live and we learn.
This seems a fitting culmination of the two weeks since I’ve last written. I arrived back in Santiago from Jonah and my jaunt around southern Spain to find that my debit card had stopped working. I had seven euros to survive for the two days before I could have cash wired to me. While far from dire, it was a stressful enough situation to suck most of the fun out of that week.
I have my complaints, but the majority of my life here is still full of good things. I’m only so low on sleep because of an overnight basketball tournament I played on Friday. I’ve still yet to crack the key to living on a Spanish sleep schedule, even after almost three months. Spaniards may as well be living in the same time zone as Maine.
It’s only possible to find the real spirit of this city when operating on their time. I went out for drinks and tapas with my Italian roommates the other night after classes. As I was about to go home to collapse into my bed, around 11:30 p.m., (I feel like an old geezer just writing that), we found a tiny Galician pub in the basement of one of the old palaces. The pub was hosting a band of traditional Galician musicians, consisting of an accordion player, a bagpiper, a pair of violinists, a saxophonist and a percussionist. The patrons were putting on shows of Celtic step-dancing to the Gaelic music. It’s important to note that this was a Thursday night and the band didn’t start playing until close to midnight.
I’ve also spent a large chunk of the week picking classes for the fall semester, coming to terms with the end of my time here and getting dragged back to the reality of a normal college life. Last week’s update ended with me questioning my decision to study in Galicia instead of a region with more favorable weather, but I recently realized that I passed the halfway mark of this trip a week ago and I feel confident that I made no mistake. As stressful as things can get here, with the challenges of learning two new languages and verbal altercations with train conductors, this isn’t an experience I’ll likely have again.