My day and a half in Madrid

The start of my day and a half in Madrid was a 6-7 hour bus journey, from Torrevieja to Madrid. I had bought a bus ticket which left from Alicante, as I somehow missed the fact that there was actually a few buses which went directly from Torrevieja to Madrid.  Not that it made much difference, the cost and travel time was almost the same, but it would have been a bit quicker and more convenient. Anyway, starting the day early, I got the bus into Torrevieja bus station, changed bus to Alicante, and then changed again in Alicante for the bus to Madrid. The whole thing went very smooth, although it was slightly scary to not understand anything and most people not speaking much, if any, English. This was my first time traveling  completely alone in a country where I didn’t speak the language, and it was easier than I had expected. I actually managed to get on all the right buses and not get lost.

The royal palace…looks pretty cool

My friend Marina met me at the bus stop in Madrid, and after a quick trip to drop off my bag and get some food at her place, we were off to Madrid. For the next 5 hours we wandered around in Madrid, seeing the royal palace, a cathedral, a number of statues, a park or two and a number of streets with really nice buildings. The night was of course finished in a tapas bar so I could try Spanish food. Which turned out to be ok, some parts I liked, but others not so much. Spanish food is apparently not my favourite kind of food, but it was interesting to try it. This evening was during the Euro 2012 football championship, the night Spain won 4-0 against the Netherlands, and while football isn’t something I care much about, it was still pretty cool to see bars crowded by people in football outfits and being able to count the goals from the loud cheers. The atmosphere, the city, the people and the food…it was a great introduction to Madrid.

Some of them were brave enough to eat from my hand

We got back and slept in pretty late, but eventually got up and out for more sightseeing in Madrid around noon. Only problem was that my shoes had started falling apart the day before, and given me several blisters in the process. Great starting point for a day of walking. At least there was a pharmacy nearby where I could buy some horribly expensive, but very,  very effective plasters. I also ended up buying two new pair of shoes that day, the first because I was getting desperate, and the second because it was more comfortable and prettier. Unfortunately the shoe hunt took time away from doing more interesting things. We still saw a lot though, such as a lot more cool statues and buildings, a huge park where we had lunch and fed some really cute sparrows and even an Egyptian temple. Finally getting back to her place at 9 or so, we didn’t have much time to get ready to go out and meet some of her friends. But we managed to eat, shower and get dressed quickly enough to get there (almost) on time.

I’m fabulou..I mean, look at that pretty palace and cathedral from this angle

We then went to get several free drinks, which apparently is easy in Madrid if you’re a girl and you’re out early enough, as promoters for clubs and bars will often offer a free drink if you come to that club/bar. Which they’ll usually offer more often to pretty girls, which again makes it easy to take advantage of it when you are such a young, pretty girl . Later we joined up with Marina’s boyfriend and another friend, sat and talked for a while before going to dance. We danced for hours, and my legs were so, so painful afterwards, but it was so much fun! The club music in Spain is more varied than here and in Britain, it wasn’t just the same songs they play everywhere, but also Spanish music, which was a lot more fun to dance to than the usual  crap music. We eventually got to bed at 6, completely exhausted, and having to get up at 10 for me to catch my bus back.

View from the road…want some salt?

On the positive side I managed to sleep parts of the journey. The rest of the time I watched Alice in Wonderland, without sound and with Spanish subtitles, which is a strange experience when you don’t understand anything, you don’t know the story that well and you’re really tired and slightly hungover. And such ended my day and a half in Madrid. It was completely worth it though, even with the long travel time, and I only wish I had more time to see the city. I’m definitely coming back when I get the chance.

Have you ever been to Madrid? What did you think ?

Norwegian national day celebration..in Scotland

The 17th of May is the Norwegian national day. It’s the date where we got our own constitution, in 1814, when we finally became free of Denmark, after being part of them for almost 400 years. Of course, we were then in a union with Sweden until 1905, but at least we were more free than we used to be.  We celebrate it every year, with children in primary and high school going in parades and singing national songs. Everyone dresses up, many in bunad, the national costume, and many watches the parade of the children. Afterwards there are usually games for children in most schools, and people generally eat good food, spend time with friends and family and celebrate. Of course, not everyone cares that much, or bother to join every year, particularly if you don’t have children or are in the stage between being a child and having children, but most people celebrates in some way.

Apparently there is a relatively big community of Norwegians in Scotland, or at least there were some sort of celebration in Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh. The largest one was in Edinburgh, where I went and met up with two other Norwegian friends, one who studies in Newcastle and one in Surrey. It was the first time I saw either of them in a while, so it was really nice to meet up again, and to actually speak Norwegian!

Typical of Scotland it was pretty awful weather however, with heavy and constant rain, as well as maybe 7-8 °C, which is not a very nice combination. We still went to the parade though, and so did quite a few other people, surprisingly many wearing their bunad. Made me wish I had mine here, so I could have worn it. It was a tiny band  in front, playing typical 17th of May marches and songs, and a lot of Norwegian flags. I wonder what the Scots and tourists thought, when they saw a bunch of people marching, everyone dressed up, with flags, singing songs and lots of umbrellas. Must have looked kinda strange.

Quite a few people..and umbrellas.

It wasn’t a very long parade, which I’m quite ok with, as it was so. much. rain. We followed it to the end, in the Princes Street Gardens by the Norwegian stone, where there were some speech and everyone singing the national song. That was pretty cool, standing in Scotland, in heavy rain, not being used to speaking Norwegian at all, and then hearing so many people singing this song together..I really enjoyed it and it made me feel all happy and, well, Norwegian again.

The Norwegian stone in the Princes Street Gardens, the women wearing bunad. And part of my umbrella. 

After that there were a short sermon and some more things happening afterwards, but as none of us are particularly Christian and we were pretty soaked by this point, we decided to retreat to a nice pub, where we spent the next 3-4 hours eating a good dinner and talking a lot. Great way to end the day!

How is your national day celebrated? Do you care much about it?

Two weeks until departure – the end of an adventure

Today it’s exactly two weeks until I board the plane home to Norway (although I won’t actually be home until the day after, thanks to the cheapest ticket leaving me stranded at the airport in Oslo overnight because it arrives so late). The end of a bit more than 9 months living in Scotland. Sure, I was home over Christmas, for a whole month actually, but that was ok, because I knew I would come back to Scotland afterwards. When I go home in two weeks, I will probably not be back here for a long time. Which will be very strange, as I’ve been traveling regularly to Scotland the past year and a half before I moved here, thanks to my now-ex boyfriend. No more funny Scottish accents for me.

Ok, so I will be going home to do things like this, so it’s not like it will be that bad

There are negative sides to Scotland, as everywhere, and there has certainly been things I haven’t liked while being here. Such as some things I’m not entirely happy about at my university here. Or the ridiculous obsession with ID here. Or the huge focus on alcohol and getting wasted all the time. Or the way all most a lot more girls than I’m used to seems to think they have to wear a ton of make-up, 15-20 cm high heels and really, really, really short dresses every time they go out. It’s kinda sad to see them (unsuccessfully) try to walk , especially late at night when they’re often pretty drunk wasted as well.  Or, of course, the weather. Although that isn’t as bad where I live as it’s rumored to be. It completely lives up to its reputation other places though.

Despite all that I’ve come to like Scotland and living here quite a lot. Ok, it’s partly because so many things is cheap for me, or at least cheaper than I’m used to. The scenery is pretty awesome as well, and I quite like Stirling, as it’s about the right size, not super close to any big place, but not that far away either, and how it’s surrounded with nature. Sort of anyway, like when I walked to the top of Dumyat. The real reason is the people though, both my wonderful flat mates and fantastic friends and the people here in general. Scottish people can seem sorta scary at times, not to mention hard to understand if you aren’t used to the accent, but they’re generally really nice. Some of it is probably the British politeness (which I think is a bit over the top sometimes, like saying sorry when someone bumps into you), which I’ve grown to like a lot more than I did originally. Of course, people most places are as nice, it’s just sometimes less visible. Like in Norway, were we can often seem rather cold, impolite and unfriendly for people who are not used to us. Or so I hear anyway.

My wonderful flatmates… Ok, not really, but I’ll miss seeing these guys as well.

What I will miss the most is my friends, in particular my amazing flat mates, who I’ve grown rather close to in the past 9 months. How can you not, when you live together for that long in a foreign country? I know I’m leaving soon, and the first of my flat mates is leaving in just two days, but I haven’t really realized it yet. Not on the emotional level, it’s just empty when I think of it. It’s like I assume she will only be gone for a few days before coming back. Of course I will be seeing them again, the first one in July when I go to Hawaii for 3 weeks, where she lives, but it will never be the same of us living together and studying in a foreign country. I’ll also miss the other friends I’ve made here, particularly the ones living in neighbouring flats, as some of them has become as close friends as my flat mates. I hope it won’t be too long until I see them again.

This past year (a year sounds cooler than 9 months) has been one of the best of my life

I’ll miss Scotland

Losing my native language

It’s a strange feeling when you start having problems speaking in your native language, or when you fail to use the right word order, or even the right words. It almost feels like you don’t have a native language anymore, as your second (or third, fourth, whichever) language is not perfect, even if it is as perfect as a non-native speaker can get,  and you also have problems speaking your first language. I have that problem.

Ok, there are good reasons for it I suppose. Such as having a British boyfriend for 2 years, and thus speaking a lot of English with him, especially since it mostly was a long-distance relationship. About half my classes in the last few years in Norway was taught in English, and I’ve lived in Scotland since September. But when I more often think and dream(!) in English than Norwegian? Or when I usually don’t notice which language I’m speaking, which leads to me switching to English mid-sentence  without realizing when I’m speaking Norwegian with someone?

Flames are pretty! And relevant pictures are overrated.

Of course part of it is good, because it means I speak English well enough to not need to think before I speak, but I’d still like to keep my native language intact, and not feel like a foreigner who can’t speak the language properly when I return home. I felt like that about a year ago, when I had just spent a month with my boyfriend in Britain, and it took me  an hour after landing to even understand Norwegian without having to ask people to repeat themselves. I actually spoke English to the bus driver on the way home from the airport, as I couldn’t remember how to buy a ticket in Norwegian. Luckily everyone speaks English in Norway.

I occasionally have skype calls with my family now when I’m Scotland, else I’d probably have even more problems with Norwegian, even if it only happens every two weeks or so. It helps a little, but it’s also the only Norwegian I hear or speak in the course of months of a lot of English, as I don’t have any Norwegian friends nearby. It will be interesting when I move home in May, if I can get home from the airport without having to speak English or not…

Have you experienced language confusion? If so, in your first, second, etc language? 

“Do you have ID?”

Maybe it’s just in Scotland, or maybe it’s the whole of Britain, but they ask for ID all the time. Not just for normal, or at least understandable things like buying alcohol or going into a club. No, here in Scotland they ask for proof of age for the weirdest things, in addition to asking for ID every single time you buy alcohol. Even when I had just turned 18, I was only asked for ID occasionally when I was home in Norway and now, a few years later, it hardly ever happens at home. In Scotland on the other hand, I have no carry my passport with me anytime I think I might, maybe, possibly need it.

Buying alcohol

Ok, this is normal enough, it’s just that they ask every single time, almost no matter how old you are. One of my friends from last semester is 26, and doesn’t look particularly young, but even her they asked all the time.  Sometimes you will even be asked both when you enter a pub, and when you actually buy alcohol there. Overkill I say.

Knives

For big scary knives I can understand why you would want to check if the person buying it is old enough, but when it’sVeeeery scary knife... the type of knife you use to spread butter on your bread? The thing isn’t even sharp, and I doubt you could cut yourself with it even if you tried. Most people have several of them at home anyway, it’s not like it’s hard to get hold of one. Still, if you want to buy a new one, you have to show proof that you’re old enough.

Scissors

These might be sharper than those knives, but still, most people have these in their house when they grow up, or even use them in school. It’s not like it’s hard to get hold of one if you really want to. Why it’s so much more of a bigger deal when you buy one in a store is beyond me. But still, to buy a scissor, you have to show ID.

Glue

Glue is such a horrible thing, of course you can’t buy one unless you are old enough, because it’s sooo dangerous.. It’s ridiculous, sure you can technically sniff glue and slowly kill your brain in the process, but yet again, it’s a common thing to have in many houses.  It’s not hard to get it anyway, and you don’t have to show ID to use it no, just to actually buy it. My friend needed some to fix her shoe, but she had to go home empty handed because she didn’t happen to bring her ID, even though she’s clearly older than 18. Great logic.

Dangerous and hard to obtain item.Teaspoons

Yes, teaspoons, you actually have to show ID to buy teaspoons. Why? Because you could theoretically use them to do drugs. Yeah right, because it’s so very,very difficult to get hold of a spoon if you really need it for that purpose. I’m suuure asking for ID when you buy teaspoons in a store stops so many people from doing drugs…

I also experienced not being allowed to sit in a pub drinking a can of coke in the middle of the day while waiting for a movie to start, because we couldn’t prove that we were over 18. Fun times.

All these things I or my friends here experienced during the past 8 months, some of them happened several times. What is a bit strange is that I’m pretty sure I was able to buy razor blades without showing ID. Razor blades are clearly a lot less dangerous to let young people use, compared to things like teaspoons.

Of course I know that most of these rules are there just to protect the places from being sued if these items are used in bad ways. What’s really sad is that there is actually a chance of a lawsuit like that winning if it wasn’t for these rules.  I sincerely hope it will never like this in Norway, because it’s way past the border of ridiculous and unnecessary.

Do you have any similar stories of being asked for ID at strange places or for strange things, or is it just me?