This is a post I’m writing to appease my mother, that will also answer the question ‘Where the heck have you been all this time?’ So what will follow will be a side-by-side approach to my daily life, in Bilbao and here in Cork.
In Bilbao, I reluctantly woke up at 6:30 in the morning, Monday through Friday, dragged my sorry butt out of bed, groaning, crying to myself, writing sonnets to my pillow and the inside of my eyelids; I eventually got to the bus stop at 7:35 to catch the stupid bus. Notes on the previous: never wake me up before 7:00 in the morning – yes, that half hour does really count – and the bus is stupid because of the schedule that made it so that we had to wait an hour after we got to school, draped over tables and trying to transpose our reality back to our beds, or at the very least into a more comfortable chair.
Classes began at 9, and lasted until about noon. Every morning I had my track class – track three, which combined Spanish 301, 305, and 410 and moved at a breakneck pace – which was then followed by either History of Art on Mondays and Wednesdays or Conversation on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Friday was screwy, as we had that in Bilbao. Wait a minute! Bilbao? Weren’t all my classes in Bilbao? Well, actually, no. Most of my classes – Monday to Thursday – were in Leioa, where the main part of the university is. On Fridays we went to the business school in the heart of Bilbao (Elcano), which was fine by me, as we used the metro to get there, which bought me an extra 15 minutes of sleep, sometimes a whole half hour. Decadence.
I didn’t have any classes with Spanish people, because I wasn’t at a level where I could be learning about my subject material (environmental sciences) in Spanish; this meant that my classes were entirely through my program. I did learn a lot, though.
The weekends you’ve all heard about if you’ve been keeping up with me, so I’m going to skip that and heap unnecessary condemnation on those that missed it the first time around. For shame, et cetera.
Here in Cork, my classes are all 15 minutes away or less; I have classes earlier in the morning Tuesday through Friday, and on Monday, my one and only class is at 12, so that means I wake up at 7:30 or 8:30…or 10, if I’m skipping class…(you didn’t hear that!). I rush off to class (I am always five minutes late, to my perpetual consternation), making it just in time because of the Irish schedule at the university. Classes are scheduled on the hour – 10:00-11:00, for example – but really go from five minutes past the hour to five minutes before the next hour, so from 10:05-10:55 for this one. This is a wonderful idea, as I can (almost) always make it to class before they start teaching.
This time restraint is completely unofficial; it’s meant to give students time to go from one class to the other, but in reality I believe it is another sign of Irish Student Disease. What is Irish Student Disease, pray tell? It involves being late all the time (“I was having a coffee with the lads, and woops! I was a bit late…”), or if not being late, simply not coming to class (“…I realized that I pissed away a whole class again”). I suspect another part of this new regional disease will crop up in April, when there is a month break: unwashed bodies, bent over desks with a lone lamp on, hair standing on end. This is the time when Irish students realize that they’re up the river without a paddle, so they spend those heady days of spring frantically searching for it, when it’s already gone downstream. Go to class, kids. Seriously.
But I hear someone in the peanut gallery shouting “Pictures! Where are the pictures?”
Here’s what home looked like in Bilbao:
Satisfied, Mom? I wasn’t living in a crack den. Where I am living now isn’t a crack den, either; my apartment is clean, spacious enough, and well located. Though there are some interesting fumes from the meth lab downstairs…
Okay, stop freaking out. It’s not a meth lab. It’s a flea circus. You have to see it under a magnifying glass, but it’s fantastic: they jump through fiery hoops and everything.
My bedroom window is the one two windows to the left of the second floor balcony, which is where the living room is.
Highlights of the surroundings:
Commuting in Bilbao was absolutely no fun if you went by bus (so you don’t need to see photos of that), but the streets and the metro were both an absolute delight.
Here in Cork I take one of two routes to class – most of my classes are really close, because they are in a different part of the campus, so that doesn’t really count. When I’m running late, I go by the city way, but on those occasions when miracles happen and I’m on time (also when pigs fly), or when I don’t give a toss about being late (more likely), I go by the river, on a path that runs to the university.
There are a lot of flowers along the path – it’s February and there are blossoms littered liberally along the side. There aren’t just crocuses like this, there is actually a medley of plants: daffodils, other colors of crocuses, and flowers I’m going to call snowdrops because that’s what I imagine what they would look like.
So I’m just going to ruin it for you and say that the university in Bilbao did not impress me with aesthetics.
One thing I really liked about this university is that basically all of the buildings on our side of the street were connected by balconies, so you didn’t have to go downstairs if you weren’t leaving that part of campus. Crazy, right? The part I especially love here is that you can see the beds of lavender that were planted at the foot of the staircase. Sometimes I’d pick one and hold it to my nose the entire way home.
On Mondays I had two classes I helped teach and two different Catholic private schools: the first school was Pureza de Maria (Purity of Mary), where I helped with the five and six year old class. I don’t think I did much to help them, as they didn’t know more than colors, food, and the members of the family. They were really cute, though: they remembered my name the second time I came around, which really surprised me. All I remember about being five does not involve a long attention span – or for that matter, a long memory. I must conclude that these children were geniuses.
After an hour, I left to go to my next school, nursing a slight headache but looking forward to my next group.
Those were the fifteen year olds at Nuestra Senora del Carmen (Our Lady of the Carmen), all pretty socially awkward, but I think we had a really good dynamic. I told them all about Maine, taught them to sing a couple of my favorite songs (one of them was Running Bear, which people from camp know…), played one of my favorite parlor games, and made them do the jellyfish when they skipped doing their homework. The jellyfish is another camp tradition and I hereby promise that if you want to see this, you can ask me – ONCE – and I will do it regardless of the situation. I will be stared at and will turn as red as the reddest raspberry. Let’s just say that the homework assignment that I gave following this activity was a pretty good effort.
The University College Cork is much, much prettier. The college was placed on the spot that is actually responsible for the existence of Cork City: in the sixth century, a guy called Saint Finbarr came in and founded a monastery, where educational as well as spiritual pursuits were carried out.
Here’s the building they put on postcards:
This is the oldest building on campus – as well as the prettiest, though it’s surrounded by tasteful modern architecture. The grass quad in front of it has a bit of lore (probably spread by the groundskeepers) that anyone that walked across the grass would fail their exams. I have not seen a single person so much as put their toe on so much as a single blade of grass while at the university. There’s also an archway there under the tower, on whose floor is the crest of the university (which I don’t have a picture of, sorry), which is supposed to make women pregnant if they step on it. I’ve stomped on it three times out of spite, gleefully, and in a manner that draws stares from passerby.
Other great hits of the university:
In the center of the circular plaza here, the spoken word is echoed in a way that people outside the center of the space can’t hear – it’s pretty awesome.
I really like this school because it’s always active with some sort of student group organizing something. I think that UMaine would be like this, if not for the ratty old winter.
So there it is. I haven’t been squatting under a bridge (much) or on police watchlists (unless you count…). I’ve been walking a lot every day, basking in the warm weather (and alternatively wondering why nature is conspiring against me so I can’t wear my nice coat), and delaying doing my homework for as long as possible.