Thursday, September 08, 2005

In Toledo

Yesterday in the evening we had our tour of the building and then a sort of orientation for those of us living with host families. They just told us things like be sure to be around for meals or tell them if we won't be, don't leave lights on (electricity is wicked expensive over here), don't make long distance calls without a phone card... mostly stuff that seemed to be obvious, but I guess it had to be said. We were also told that if we didn't like our families we should not hesitate to tell them at the Fundación and they can find a new family for us, and apparently they always lie to the family when explaining why we have to leave.
After this was finished, the woman giving the presentation called a few of our names (mine included) and told us that we had been given new housing arrnagements, which I was not at all put out about, since I was not thrilled about my current mother and sister housing arrangement. We were told that families take different vacation times and such, but I'm not sure how much I should trust that after we were told about the explainations that would be given to our families if we wanted to leave... still, it's not like wé'd even met yet, so I guess I couldn't be too offended.
Anyway, I was given my new housing arrangement, which is with a father, mother, one daughter, Lara, who's 19; one daughter, Rebeca, who's 8; and a set of twins, Susan and Miguel, who are 2 (I discovered that the Spanish word for "twin" does not refer to fraternal twins, only monozygotic). We went downstairs and were introduced to our families one by one, and my host father was there to meet me. He was a little surprised, he told me, because they had told him he was getting a girl. There was a small reception for us all and we talked for a bit before going to collect my luggage and leaving. On the drive home he gave me a tour of Toledo, pointing out all the historical features and describing what the buildings were for and such.
My family lives in a nice house about 10 or 15 minutes from the Fundación (where my classes are). It's a sort of suburban enclosed living complex, and it seems nice. When I arrived the twins were getting a bath, and they seemed very interested in their new house mate. My host mother told me they don't speak very well yet, but I assured her that they probably speak better than I do. I'm not sure I've improved in the past day of intensive Spanish speaking, but it's at least shown me that I can competently communicate. I won't understand people unless they want me to, of course, as they can switch into super-fast native speaker mode that involves about 35 words per second and I'll pick up maybe every fifth or so.
After meeting my host mother and the twins (they were the only ones home when we arrived) I left with Miguel, my host father, to take the bus into town so I could see what I'd have to do to get to class today. The bus stop is about a block away and the ride takes about 15 minutes followed by about a five minute walk, which is definitely the most confusing part. He showed me the way there, pointing out all sorts of things on the way, and then on the way back had me lead him. I decided on a few wrong turns, but he told me right away.
After we got back to the house the other two daughters were there, so I met them too. Those of us who hadn't yet eaten then ate and sat around for a bit before I went up to get my room organized (slightly--at that point it was more just unloading things and cluttering it up, but today I plan to do the organizing). I finally got all my pictures off my camera, which was nice. I didn't actually take many pictures at the very end of traveling, but I'm sure I'll have lots to photograph in the next few days.
This morning I got up a little before 8 to get ready, eat, and be out the door by 8:30 (I showered last night). Lara walks somewhere a little farther than the bus stop at the same time I leave, so she walked with me there before continuing on. I caught the bus on time, using my handy bus pass distributed at the school, and was able to identify my stop once we were in Toledo proper. On the walk there was one place where about 5 little alleyways came together and I had no idea which one to take, so I chose incorrectly the first time but was able to get back on track without difficulty, reaching the Fundación only a minute or two late (I definitely was not the last one there, though).
After I arrived we first had a written test in which we had to pretend we were writing to a pen pal in the US who spoke Spanish and we were given a list of things we had to mention, so it wasn't too hard. After that was the grammar test, which was a 60 question multiple choice fill-in-the-blank thing. It was mostly not bad, but there were a few very bizarre questions. I talked to a girl yesterday who thought she did terribly but got a B, so I'm not too worried. I don't think the exams have too much bearing on which classes they allow you to take anyway, which we have appointments later to set up. This is sort of infuriating, since to complete the program application I had to sweat over which classes I was signing up for, then after being accepted I had to hand in another academic planning form detailing which classes I wanted to take, requiring meeting with an advisor and everything, and now it was all for naught. At least I will finally know which classes I'm in, so it'll be good. Classes don't actually start until Monday, and tomorrow we have a trip to Madrid. Hasta luego!