Unfortunately, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is not a big deal here in Spain and I therefore started school today. Fortunately, the three classes that I went to today seem really interesting and not at all overwhelming (...yet). I still have one more class to check out tomorrow. My classes this semester are: Basque Culture and Language (Bilbao is in the Basque Country of Spain and has its own unique culture and history), Hispanic Linguistics, Analysis of Hispanic Literature, and Spanish Theater and Literature. All of the professors seem really good, but the professor that I have for both Analysis of Hispanic Literature and Spanish Theater and Literature seems absolutely amazing and seems to be the type of teacher that I aspire to become.
Child's poster in Balmaseda
Before classes started I went on a few adventures throughout the Basque Country. Last Thursday, the university guided us through a tour of a very small portion of Bilbao and the next day we toured through Balmaseda and Portugalete. We started off the day in the cute town of Balmaseda, which felt like time traveling hundreds of years back in time. The architecture and the cobblestone streets were absolutely breathtaking. The town has a lot of charm as demonstrated by the missing doll poster (shown to the right) that was posted by one of the children of Balmaseda. The doll has been missing since July...I admire the child's dedication to his/her little friend. We finished off the day by riding across the Puente de Vizcaya in Portugalete, a passenger carrier that works like a ferry. Instead of floating, it hangs down off of wires and slides across. Both people and cars travel on it.
Puente de Vizcaya
With friends from my program, I experienced some of the nightlife that Bilbao has to offer. We felt right at home the first night when the bar started playing "Sweet Home Chicago." They play A LOT of American music here, but have absolutely no idea what the lyrics mean. The next night we met up with the entire group of Americans studying in Bilbao this semester and watched what the Spaniards call the "Super Bowl Playoffs." It's probably a good thing that we went on Saturday night instead of Sunday because I would not have been very pleasant to be around during the Packers game and most of the people had never met me before that night. We learned that night that Spanish men truly are very touchy.
One of the beaches in Bilbao
The next day, I planned to go to the beach in Bilbao. After a little metro confusion, I finally met up with my friends Jack and Maggie. The beach is absolutely beautiful and has a lot of activity around it. We saw a lot of families simply spending time together and having a good time. I loved people watching, but it did make me miss my family. My day was brightened though when I was asked for directions on two separate occasions. The first person who asked me seemed surprised when I said I'm not from the area (or the continent actually, but sometimes it's just better not to admit that). I was actually able to give directions to the second set of people who asked, which probably impressed me more than anyone.
I'm starting to feel more and more comfortable here everyday. Last Saturday, I was crossing through the crosswalk when the walk sign came on. A car started flying down the street towards my friend and I despite the fact that we were supposed to walk and the car was rushing towards a red light. The driver started honking like crazy. I was a little freaked out, but that changed immediately when I saw a Spaniard man run towards the car and curse the driver out for driving wildly towards us. It made me feel almost welcome in this country.