Monday, August 24, 2009

I got my visa!

Well the Spanish Embassy did their best to make me nervous, but after about a month of asking my dad or checking the mail myself everyday, my passport was returned to me with my visa affixed inside. Here I am, in all my unfriendly glory.

Yeah, that picture won't get me checked out at every possible security checkpoint, right? Oh well. And by returning my passport in 9 weeks and 2 days after telling me that the waiting period was 6 to 8 weeks, the Spanish government may have actually been early, by their standards. So when I get to Spain I have to take this visa along with my doctor's letter and my certificate of absence from police records to apply for a foreign resident identity card, but I think I already mentioned that in a previous post. Finally, I also got an electronic dictionary, so that should make communicating and comprehending my surroundings somewhat easier. For the next few weeks I will be cleaning my room, getting my stuff together and packing, and visiting Blacksburg a few times. More later if there are any developments.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Host Family Information

So it's been a while since I've updated, but there hasn't been much news until pretty recently so I haven't slacked off too badly. Let me bring everyone (all two or three of you) up to speed. The International Relations people in Oviedo had sent me the address of my host family back in April or May, but they didn't include the street number of the building, which to me seemed pretty necessary. That email also said that they didn't have the email address for my host family yet, but would send it along when they got it. After a month or so of not hearing back from them, I decided to give them a nudge and asked them to verify the address and provide the email address, which I was sure they had by this point. Sure enough, a week later I got a reply with all the necessary contact info for my future family. I'm not including it here because my hosts may not want their address posted in the internet, but anyone who wants to send me stuff (e.g., all of you) can ask my parents how to go about doing that. I did scope the place out thoroughly on Google Maps, and I feel like I already know the area around my apartment pretty well. The campus is a 6 minute walk away, and a big mall with a movie theater and a grocery store is about 10 minutes. I am located north of the city center, about a 15 minute walk from the historic area, which I believe is called the Casco Antiguo.
Anyway, now that I had my host family's email address I had to email them, so I composed a message summarizing who I am, asked a few questions I thought were relevant, and worked on translating that into Spanish. Two weeks after I sent that I got a reply from Eva, the daughter of the woman I will be staying with; it turns out she handles the email for her mother Amparo, who is an X-ray technician at the hospital. My apartment has three bedrooms and two bathrooms, one of which I will be sharing with another student who may be staying there and who will most likely be Spanish. Amparo also has a son, but he's in Germany right now, and I don't know any of these people's ages at this point. Eva asked me when I would be arriving, which I had forgotten to include in my initial email, and told me she will be on vacation for most of the month of August, which is a pretty common thing to do in Spain. I responded with my arrival date and asked if they would be able to pick me up at the airport, and if they spoke any English (just curious, I don't intend to speak much English in Spain unless I get really mad about something). Unfortunately Amparo doesn't drive, and Eva will be at work the Tuesday I arrive, so I will have to take the bus to Oviedo and a taxi to the apartment. Should be an exciting adventure. Amparo also doesn't speak any English, but Eva speaks some, and her August vacation is actually to Edinburgh. Eva mentioned that her mother tends to speak louder, but not necessarily more clearly, when she is not being understood, which seems funny considering the stereotype of Americans doing that to non-English speakers. It also suggests that I am probably going to have a lot of Spanish yelled at me in the coming year, at least at first.
That pretty much wraps up what I know at this point. I have been looking more carefully into Eurail passes after learning that I may not have much access to a person with a car to drive me around to interesting places, and I am interested to find out if the second student will be staying with us or if it will just be me and Amparo in the apartment. I guess I will have to make some friends from my classes if I want people my age to hang out with, but Amparo has hosted other exchange students before so I'm sure she'll be able to help me adjust to how things are done there and help me figure out how to get around to where I need/want to go. Today I have been working on making sure none of the classes I intend to take conflict and it looks promising, as long as I am interpreting the timetable correctly, but I'm pretty sure I've got it right. I'll finish up since my battery is dying and it's getting late. I feel like this has been a rambling entry, probably difficult to read and filled with run-on sentences as is everything I write, so sorry for that. If I think of anything else I can always make another post later.