It’s been several days since my last post, so I have a lot to talk about!
First of all, Friday was my first interview here! I talked to the director of Special Olympics in Spain. I was really nervous at first, but she was very nice and helpful. I didn’t even get lost! Well, I almost didn’t get lost.
A word to the wise: here the bus stops are not labeled and street signs are not obvious. That was my only problem. On my way home I got off at the wrong bus stop and had to walk for about 45 minutes to find the house!
But anyway, in the interview I learned that Special Olympics isn’t nearly as well-known in Spain as it is in the United States. The woman I interviewed said that it was her goal to increase public awareness so that they could increase participation of athletes and volunteers. She told me that the inclusion of people with disabilities has changed for the better in the past few decades in Spain, but they still have room for improvement. My first interview put my mind at ease. It was not nearly as difficult as I expected.
Fast forward to Sunday, the day of the World Cup final. I watched the game with the family and some friends at the house where I’m staying. We had quite the spread of snacks and set out lawn chairs in the back yard to watch the game. It was really entertaining because I could hear the cheers and yells of the whole neighborhood along with those of the people watching with me. I learned the names of all of the players, the rules of soccer (which I have to admit I didn’t know much about before) and some choice Spanish profanities that were yelled when the referee made a bad call. After Spain won, we went back to the same fountain from earlier that week and took lots of pictures and rejoiced with the rest of Tres Cantos.
Monday afternoon we decided to go to downtown Madrid to greet the soccer players as they returned from South Africa. It was crazy downtown! The newspapers today said that there were a million people in the city that day to watch the parade. Everyone living in the city hung flags from their windows and everyone was gathered in the streets to greet the players. The parade started at 7:30 but we waited for about 3 hours before it got to where we were standing. It was a long evening, but finally the bus got to us, everyone went crazy, and we waved as the players and coach passed by. What a great experience! Braving the crowds was worth the memories.
Today, I went to the Biblioteca Nacional Espana to pick up my library card and look for books. I wasn’t expecting what I encountered when I got there. I wasn’t allowed to bring in my purse, I had to go through two lines of security, and I had to have my folder and notebook inspected before I could go in. What an ordeal! I was finally in; I found the desk and picked up my library card and was ready to request some books. Luckily they gave me an information booklet in English so I could understand all of the (many, many) rules and regulations. All of the books I needed, though, were at another location (sort of a warehouse for books, I think) so I had to request them. I’ll be going back on Thursday to get them.
All in all a good weekend. I’m still not used to the schedule that Spaniards keep – up at 10 and to bed after 2 – but hopefully a few more days of it will get my body used to staying up so late. We’ll see! Everything else has been great. The family I’m staying with is amazing and I’ve met some wonderful people so far. I’ve kept the getting lost to a minimum, and navigating the metro and bus hasn’t been as hard as I thought it would be. So far, no complaints!
Also, a couple of quick changes to my last post: The chant actually was “Illa, illa, illa, Villa maravilla” (The world illa evidently doesn’t mean anything, it’s just for the chant – who knew?) and the title should have been “Que Viva Espana”. Sorry about that, any native speakers out there My Spanish is getting better every day!