Thursday, March 3, 2016

mishaps in madrid

Being in another country, one is prone to making mistakes - being me, alongside cultural misunderstandings and navigation difficulties, I also just do generally stupid things and sometimes bad things happen to me. Here are some of them:


Pool of errors
1. Went to swim in the university pool. Accustomed to NZ pool where people wear just about anything (from streetwear to bikinis etc), I thought I was reasonably prepared taking my pair of speedo togs with me. I got into the water, swam a lap before one of the ladies monitoring the pool came up to me and said I had to get out because I wasn't wearing a swimming cap. What?!?! Just to add to the embarrassment, I also didn't have jandals with me (which are also compulsory) or goggles (optional, but silly of me not to have them).
1.2 Part two, when I shamefully got out of the pool, I went to shower and change after just one lap. I already felt like everyone was judging me for not having jandals. I got to the showers and realised it was one big room full of naked ladies. I know it's a European thing, but I was not prepared at all. So I was the only one there who showered in my bathing suit. Then a lady walked in and thought I was showering before getting into the pool (which you have to do as well, but outside by the pool) and told me off, although I had shampoo and soap right next to me.

My name
2. Gracias a mis padres, my first name is Anita. Unfortunately, it's a hard name for Spanish people to grasp, because 'Anita' is the diminutive form of Ana (like a cute nickname). For Spanish people to call me that, it's like asking a stranger or a teacher straight off the cuff to call you, for example, if your name is Andrew, to call you 'sweetheart', or asking a teacher to call me Neetypops (not like going from Matthew to Matt - that's semi-ok). So my teachers call me Ana, my friends call me Ana, everyone thinks I'm weird when I say my name is actually Anita.

3. Rent is paid monthly, and what could be more simple than going to the bank and making a deposit into my landlord's account when it's due. Wrong. The first time, I waited 45 minutes in a line, missed a class, only to get to the front of the line and be told that I couldn't do it at that particular branch. So I went to my class, after that, went to another branch, only to be told that I could do it there, just not at this time because they have a timetable for cash deposits. What. It's a bank. Luckily I played the dumb gringo card and genuinely got a bit worried about not being able to pay my rent on time, so she let me do it.

4. At some supermarkets, it's like Pak'n'save, where you have to weight and price your veges before going to the checkout. I still haven't figured out which ones. Once I went to the checkout and held everyone up in line while the operator got another staff member to get a price for the one mandarin I was buying. Oops.
5. If you're getting fruit or veges, you have to wear plastic gloves! So weird. They provide them though. 


Finding my flat
1. I moved into my apartment on a Monday, my new flatmate and I taking turns to lug my suitcase with broken handles on the 10 minute walk (felt like an hour) from the train station to the apartment. I left again to get my adaptor from the hostel, forgot where I lived when I came back, because every street is the same.

2. In Portugal, we were using my phone with the app to navigate (which is an excellent app, works offline too). However it gets a bit slow to keep up with, especially when you're going 120km down a highway. So we kept missing the turnoffs, and I kept bluffing that we were going the right way to save the exasperation.

Getting the bus
3. If I go out at night and miss the last train at 23.50, there is always a bus that I can catch every hour. The only catch is, it's about a 20 minute walk from the city centre. I've caught it several times however, and it's fine, and the walk is fine too. Except when you think you're closer to the bus than you actually are; it's pouring with rain, so you don't rely too heavily on your phone, and you walk right past the bus stop. Made even worse when the friend you're with trips up and cracks the screen of her phone, which could have been avoided if you'd used the map better.

Not getting off the train
4. In Portugal, we got to the train stop we were supposed to be one, but two of us were too slow to get off the train. The doors shut, and we pressed our faces to the glass watching our friends get smaller and smaller in the distance. The whole train was also laughing. Easy resolution though - just get off at the next stop, cross the platform, and get on the train heading back in the same direction.

Getting on the wrong train
5. Going to the airport to get to Edinburgh a few weeks ago, I was waiting at the platform and got on the wrong train. Could have been avoided if the man I'd asked on the train had in fact said at first that it was the wrong train. Easy resolution though - just got off the train and waited for the airport train at the same platform.

'I'll be fine, I'll catch the bus'
6. Arriving in Edinburgh and having a screenshot of the bus timetable and the app ready to navigate me to the bus stop to get the bus to my friends' flat, I followed the map and got to the bus stop... but didn't realise the street I was supposed to turn left into was above me, and I had no way of getting up there. So I caught a taxi.

Generally silliness

1. The cheapest way for me to get cash is to transfer money from my bank account to one of my 'currency wallets' on my travel card, then withdraw cash from an ATM. Going to Edinburgh, instead of doing that, I changed Euros to Pounds at the airport (the most expensive of all places) instead of just getting pounds out from an ATM. So basically I paid two fees for conversion plus a hefty airport exchange rate.

Showing people my passport photo
2. Everyone laughs at me

Enrolling under the wrong name
3. I thought something was seriously wrong with my enrolment when I went to get my arrival certificate from the university (everything in alphabetical order, and hundreds of other exchange students doing the same thing) and it wasn't there! Later I discovered I had enrolled somehow with my surname as 'Sidney' (one of my middle names) not 'Jones', so on all the rolls here (yes, they take the roll) I am Anita Sidney. (That's also my insta name, anitasidney, so give me a cheeky follow).

More to come...

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