School started creeping up on me again. I was slipping into the “less studying, more abroad” mindset, when what I needed more than anything was the “more studying, less abroad” mindset. The week began with a sharp jolt of reality—two weeks until final exams. That also meant that two oral presentations, a phonetic transcription, and two final papers were also quickly approaching. Time to hunker down into study mode.
My first priority was my next phonetic transcription. We had already had two throughout the semester and our third and final transcription was to take place on Thursday. Transcriptions are pretty straightforward: we are given a sentence in Spanish, and we have to write the phonetic transcription of it (how it is pronounced). For example:
As I have mentioned in previous posts, I love phonetics. The reason why I love it so much? I am finally learning why Spanish is the way it is. It’s just so logical! For years of Spanish, I have learned how words are pronounced, which words have accents and which ones don’t, and why words are spelled a certain way. But now I actually know how to tell if a word needs an accent, instead of just memorizing which ones do and which ones don’t. Crazy stuff!
On Wednesday, we had a special visitor in Alcalá! Angela McNutt, the Spain advisor from IAP at UW-Madison, came to visit and check out our program. My three fellow badgers and I had the pleasure of eating lunch with her while she was here. She even helped us teach our program director how to do the W!
After a busy week of libraries, textbooks, and the occasional cup of coffee, I found myself in need of relaxing weekend. And where better to relax than the beach? Back in February, we booked a weekend beach getaway to Lagos, Portugal and it was finally here!
Our weekend was directed by a company called Discover Excursions, a group that organizes trips for study abroad students. All we had to do was sign up on the website and they took care of everything else: the hotel, the buses, the itinerary. It was great to have someone else plan our weekend for us. It all sounds pretty good, right? There was only one catch. The program is based out of Sevilla, so the buses to Lagos left from Sevilla, not Madrid. When you have to be in Sevilla at 9:30 A.M. on Friday morning, you really only have two options: take the 6:30 train, pray that you arrive at exactly 9:22, and then run to the pick-up spot, OR take the 1 A.M. bus, like Valerie and I had done the weekend before. Close calls aren’t really my jam, so we opted for the overnight bus again. I must be a professional now, because this time I slept like a rock. I literally closed my eyes in Madrid and didn’t wake up until Sevilla. It was beautiful.
We made it to the bus pick-up point with no problems and settled in for three more hours to Lagos. Upon arriving in Lagos, we claimed our luggage and checked into our hotel. Notice I said hotel, not hostel. This place was nice. Less than a two minute walk from the beach (Praia Dona Ana), it smelled good, and it provided towels! We were living the good life!
After spending the whole day soaking up the sun, we were sun-tired and starving. We made our way downtown for dinner and ended up at a local hot spot called Nah Nah Bah, voted one of the top 50 burger places in the world. On this side of the world, a decent hamburger is very hard to come by. When we play the game “If you could have any American food right now, what would it be?”, hamburgers are usually near the top of my list. So, a top 50 burger? How could we pass that up?
I’m pretty sure that Lagos doesn’t have bad weather. Ever. Saturday was another gorgeous day. After eating breakfast at the hotel and coating ourselves with sunscreen, we took off for Meia Praia, a beach where an enormous sailboat was waiting for us. Part of our weekend activities included a sailboat cruise and a grotto tour—a two hour boat ride along the Southern coast of Portugal. When we reached the grotto, we switched to smaller boat that allowed us to weave in and out of all the caves.
After our boat tour, we hit the Meia Praia Beach for a few hours then headed back to our hotel to shower and change before our next adventure. Cabo San Vicente, affectionately referred to as “the end of the world”, was our destination for the evening. Cabo San Vicente is the Southwestern tip of Portugal (and all of Europe), which many people believed to be the end of the world prior to exploration of the Americas. Pretty cool, right?
By the way, we were there at sunset. We watched the sun set at the end of the world. How crazy is that?!
On Sunday, we visited our third and final beach of the weekend, Praia do Amado. This beach was about a 90-minute bus ride from the hotel, all the way over on the west coast of Portugal. This beach was just incredible. Completely secluded, there was hardly anybody else there. The water was, of course, freezing cold, but the sun was shining and the scenery was beautiful, so I had absolutely no complaints.
Again, cons of traveling with a company based out of Sevilla: you return to Sevilla at 10 PM on Sunday night. Which is great because then you have three full days in Portugal, but that also means we still had a six-hour bus ride to Madrid ahead of us. GOOD TIMES. We took an 11:00 bus, arriving in Madrid at about 5:30 AM, which allowed us to catch the first train to Alcalá at 6:00. I walked through my front door at 7:00 on Monday morning. Plenty of time to unpack, shower, eat breakfast, and register for fall semester classes before Gramática starts at 9:00. LIKE. A. BOSS.
Thoughts for the day: 1. Portuguese is hard. I have developed a whole new level of respect for Monica Murphy and fellow speakers of Portuguese. Sure, it’s similar to Spanish, but that is sort of like saying basketball is similar to football. You have to get the ball from one end to the other to score, but they are definitely not the same sport. Same goes with Portuguese and Spanish. Structurally similar, but still very different. (Unfortunately my Spanish immersion didn’t come with a side of Portuguese for the road.) Thankfully, almost everyone in Portugal speaks English so it was pretty easy to communicate and get directions. 2. Our weekend in Portugal reminded me of the importance of taking time to relax. So often, especially during a semester abroad, we are so concerned with packing things in to every minute of the day. We don’t take nearly enough time to relax and just enjoy what surrounds us. Lagos gave us a perfect opportunity to sit back and take in another beautiful aspect of the earth. 3. After taking three in a course of seven days and twisting my body into painful sleeping positions of attempted comfort, I have only one thought. Overnight bus? NEVER AGAIN.