I have been in Granada for exactly 77 hours now, which is absolute madness since it feels like at least a week already, in the best way possible. Granada is just as beautiful as people said it would be, enchanting in its European/Middle Eastern mystique and yet very welcoming and accessible at the same time.
I have no idea where to begin. Me and the other study abroad students from my university have already had so many adventures, both geographically and interpersonally. One thing I will say is that I am incredibly thankful that I made friends with fellow Granada Abroaders before we left, and that we traveled together and have each other here now as we settle in and get used to how life works and moves here.
For lack of a better way of portraying the vast amount of mental, common sensical, linguistic, olfactory and sensory information I have been receiving and processing each day, I’m going to go for a random numbered list of things I’ve noticed that I think you might find interesting:
- Financially, this is a good time for Americans to go to Brazil. While this may seem strange and completely off-topic, I learned while checking in my two suitcases back in the States that Brazil is one of the only countries to which you can check two free bags up to 70 lbs. each. What with that allowance and the Brazilian Real being nearly 4 to the dollar, even us lowly students from NM could make it for at least a few months in Brazil… I almost feel like I’m in the wrong place, but I know for damn sure that’s not true!
- Madrid, and indeed Granada, share an incredible amount of physical characteristics with Albuquerque. We were sitting in the Madrid airport, looking out at low, sandy hills covered in dry brush, with low mountains in the background that were brownish-pink against a clear blue sky streaked with feathery clouds — we had to stop and make sure we were actually in Spain because it looked so much like home. Granada, while also cut from the same cloth, is almost totally surrounded by mountains, which means that our ABQ compasses are all thrown off because Mountains no longer equal East.
- Yes, the Spanish men and women are beautiful. They come in different shapes, sizes and colors just like most other places in the world, but generally there’s lots of caramel skin, long dark hair, deep-set eyes, and well-groomed-yet-manly beards. And everyone takes way more care getting dressed than in the States, but we already knew that! The cool thing about Granada, as my lovely flatmate was explaining to me, is that it’s a small city but because people come from all over to study and visit, the fashion senses are quite varied. We’re talking everything from dreads with a tie-dye shirt and black boots to a navy blue blouse-dress with gold heels and a designer handbag. It’s all good. But if you consistently wear athletic clothing and you’re not jogging, you will be judged.
- Unless you’re trying to get them to take your order at a restaurant, the Spanish are also very helpful. I have already asked literally more than 25 people for directions/help, and no matter their age or gender, they do their best to get me what I need or get me to where I need to go. I’ve even gotten the laughing “you look adorable and very lost with your map there, girl, qué buscas?” treatment from an aforementioned well-groomed-but-beardedly-manly Spaniard, which was hilarious. And yes, I may have asked him if I was in fact already on Calle Alhamar because of the beard. However, the equally dashingly handsome waiter from the first night actually ignored us, straight-up on purpose, for 20 minutes because we did not immediately know what we were ordering the second we sat down at the table.
- Universidad de Granada may possibly be more unorganized than University of New Mexico. I didn’t think it was possible, and yet, I didn’t know until September 8th that I needed to be in Granada on September 13th instead of the 14th. Thanks a bundle. Also, didn’t know until the 15th that classes start September 22nd! Minor detail, right? At least now I know I gotta get my booty to classes a full week earlier than expected. If there’s room in them. If I can ever find the class schedule on the website. Scholastically, I feel wildly out of control, which is not a feeling I’ve ever truly enjoyed…
- Acclimation to European time is possible. I had doubts, after my fairly disastrous British Isles trip over the winter, that I would ever be able to overcome the 8-hour difference. But I followed the solid advice of several Euro veterans (thank you, Barbara and David!), which is DO NOT NAP YOUR FIRST DAY. Don’t do it. Take a walk, eat, talk with people, get lost, but do not succumb to the sweet slumber of the absurdly jet-lagged. Force yourself to stay awake until at least 8:00 pm, and your body will adjust much more easily after that. Although the other Americans and I are still feeling fatigued during the day (and some of them are coming down with colds, poor things) I feel like I’ll be back at peak physical condition quite soon. My glee at finally being here is probably aiding my outlook.
While that is very much only the tip of the iceberg, I’m happy to say that I’m incredibly happy. There was a brief moment — the very first night here, after walking for hours and being told off by the waiter, on just 6 hours of the sleep — when the fear that I had made a grave mistake snuck into my mind. However, I told myself to shut up, since I knew I was just crazy with sleep deprivation.
So, I am quite happy, and proud of myself for putting myself out there from Day 1. I jumped right into speaking Spanish with my flatmate and her awesome friends, and after not even a full 24 hours in Granada I was already taking the bus and meeting people here and there. My life-making skills have certainly improved since being a young and naïve little 20-year-old in Brasília, thank goodness for that. We all have to start somewhere, but I’m so, so happy to have passed into a much more controlled and knowledgeable way of adapting to new places.
Stay posted for an upcoming list of things I’ve learned to do and not do in Granada! And check out my Instagram on the right for a couple photos of the beauty to be found in the city. –>