Questions/Comments?Contact Us

3 posts categorized "Ana Alicia Sontag"

A Lesson in the Formal

I always thought I was fluent in Spanish - that is, until I arrived in Madrid and hopped off of my flight on Iberia. 

Spanish, thickly accented with Castillian lisps, fired rapidly at me, and all I could do was blink in confusion and gawk. 

.......But.... I speak Spanish? I studied the language in college and high school. I am from California. Signs are written both in English and Spanish at home, and in Napa, it is never uncommon to hear Spanglish from the aisles of the grocery mart. But reality blind sided me. There I was, standing in the airport of a foreign country, realizing that I know very little of the language I was surrounded by.


After getting over my culture shock, going through the motions of CIEE Orientation, signing my lease to my new Piso, I felt like I was making progress. I am overcoming my fear of speaking, and actually enjoy learning new words, eaves dropping on conversations in the metro, and absorbing the language to the fullest extent possible. Some days, I understand everything, and feel confident participating in conversations. On others, I fail miserabley, and struggle to make distinctions between the words that slur together from the mouths of locals. A few days, I have had to lock myself in my room and surround myself with English and movies from home. Yet the majority of the time, I put in my  headphones, and jam away to the top Spanish hits on Spotify, willing myself to learn the language fluently through pure auditory osmosis. Every day is a new challenge.

Fastforward to the Sunday Rastro. The Rastro is a flea market that extends for miles, offering wares - clothes, Spanish fans, hookah pipes, just name it. I perused the streets, bombarded with noises, friends greeting each other, merchants shouting out deals, smells of onions and tortillas and seafood filling the air.  After stumbling across a art stand, the artist, a 93 year old woman, made her way over to me.

 "Hola, como estás?" I promptly said, smiling, and feeling brave. 

"Es estáis," she replied frowning. 

"...Oh. Estáis," I repeated back to her. She angrily walked away from my rude American self. 

And so began AND ended my lesson in the formal. I guess I am never finished learning. Next time, I know. 

The Metropolis Building, or edificio Metrópolis on Gran Vía, is one of the most iconic parts of Madrid. Topped with an Angel watching over Madrid, the building is magnificent at all times of the day. Crowned in gold, it is the jewel of Gran Via.


The Unfortunate Part of Living Abroad - Navigating Healthcare

So you know that how there is always that person who always gets sick and ends up on the ER on day 1? Well, yeah, this time it was me. 

Here I am, day one of orientation, and just starting the info session of navigating the hospital system, when I have a allergic reaction, break out in red hives, and feel my throat start to tighten. God only knows why. 

I was rushed to the "Sala de Emergencia" of HM Hospitales, located on the other side of Madrid as far away from the hotel as possible. Because day 1 of moving in a foreign city isn't hard enough, I just had to go and complicate things by needing medical attention. Handling that situation in a language that isn't my mother tongue was prettyyyyyy daunting. 

Luckily, I had all my information ready to go in one spot. This included my passport photocopies, Kaiser primary insurance information, INext Healthcare insurance, and vaccinations.

Honestly, the healthcare process was a breeze. At the hospital, I immediately was welcomed by a fluent translator, who began handing me paperwork to fill out. They printed out my primary insurance care form, which I completed, as well as the hospital's regular forms. They took my vitals, and a nurse ushered me into see the doctor. A translator stood with me the entire time, ready to step in as needed, while I gave as much of an account in Spanish as possible. The doctor examined me, and gave me the meds needed to stop the reaction in its tracks. 

An hour later, I stood, hive free and breathing freely again. I completed the rest of the unfinished paperwork. I walked out with a prescription that I picked up at a local pharmacy, knowing that I am now in the system. 

Needless to  say, I'm pretty proud of myself for going into a foreign hospital and coming out alive and well. I still hate needles though.


Keep Me Updated