Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Day 3: Bus? What bus? Wait, this is in Spanish? Eff.

Thankfully, we didn’t have to get up quite as early today. Now old hands (ha!) at finding breakfast, we saved a lot of time there, too. We walked over to the conference just in time to see Checkers Dude – his talk was, predictably, in English. Unfortunately, it was the only one. Aaaaaaall day. After the first round of completely confusing Spanish presentations with powerpoints in Spanish, too, we returned to the hotel for a nap. A pre-lunch a siesta seems like a great idea, right? Totally.

Except when you turn off your alarm and fail to get out of bed. Whoops. Conveniently, India’s mom butt-dialed her (perhaps the most expensive butt-dial in history – thanks, Mom!) just in time to run down to the luncheon which was once again, in our hotel. We sprinted down to the lobby, meal tickets flying, because we were half an hour late. When we arrive at the restaurant, we stop dead – the restaurant is completely empty. Lunch was supposed to start half an hour ago! Are we in the wrong place? Enter convenient conference (aka Red Lanyarded) person, who informs that indeed, lunch is here. People just late. Very late. Manana late. Oh well. Now we’re early! We look great. Or just really hungry.

We grabbed a table and hunkered down for yet another seriously awkward meal with people that we have little in common with. Today, there was cool Israeli Dude and Chatty Spanish Woman. The Spanish woman was great because she actually participated in small talk, at least until a pair of Spaniards sat down. And then it was just us and seriously awkward Israeli Dude. But! The food was delicious; still, though we’re wondering how big tuna is in this area, since we’ve seen it at nearly every meal. We are definite converts of pineapple and peach juice. Though not together. Well, maybe together. Also, let it be known, that this entire country drinks their coffee with more milk and sugar than coffee. Take that, Mom.

We even remembered to ask a Red Lanyard if there would be a bus taking everyone back to their hotels after our fieldtrip later that night. They confidently said yes, there would be. This will become important later. Oh, God.

After lunch, we wandered back to the conference to see a talk about parsing parts of speech and paraphrasing and stuff. Since this is super relevant to ChatCoder, we were pretty excited. Except that this talk was also in Spanish. Curses. The Powerpoint was in English, but since Powerpoints are meant to be elaborated upon, it made no sense. We were pissed. Also, the wireless just would. Not. Work. As a member of Tech Support and a Fearless Wireless Warrior in the face of any and all network problems, this made India a little bit furious. We did meet Stirling Cambria, a dude from Stirling, who has the dubious honor of being non-awkward contact number two, if we count Spanish Woman. Which is debatable. Let it be known, Stirling Cambria is not this man’s name – Stirling is his location and Cambria is his last name. We can remember everything on his name tag except the useful part – his first name. Damn.

With more conference-related fail, we stood in the lobby and talked to Stirling Cambria for a while, who was also confused that all of the talks were in Spanish. Thank goodness, it’s not just us. We also didn’t know that the conference was so well known or well ranked, which is pretty cool. Yay for us! With an hour or so before our fieldtrip, we stopped back at our room to fight with the map. This battle is ongoing.

Even though India forgot her Blue Lanyard, yet again, we managed to get on the tour bus in time. This is also when we realized that we are about an hour’s walk from center city, where all the cool touristy stuff is. This explains our confusion over why everything has such weird hours where we are – something no one else we spoke to had experienced.

We got to the Alcazar (not Alcatraz), the royal palace in Seville, and were immediately pointed to the English tour. Sweet. A million, billion pictures forthcoming. We were then taken to some plaza for cocktails and a flamenco demonstration. It was pretty awesome. We wish we had rhythm so we could learn to flamenco. Also, the male dancer looked just like Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing, which we now absolutely need to watch and can’t. Oh, well.

We also bumped into a couple from Philadelphia at the cocktail party. Tiny, tiny world! They were really nice, and though they said they were from the conference, we’re pretty sure they were just scoring some free drinks. Can’t blame them – we totally would have, too. Just like during every coffee break at the conference, some students casually wander in, converse about the possibility of stealing food, and then go and do so. Just like Ursinus. College student = unrivaled sixth sense for free food detection.

Stirling Cambria found us again, significantly drunker, and chatted our ear off about hostels vs. hotels and how it was that two confused undergraduates even got to this conference in the first place. We were like, uh, our mentors are awesome and a little bit crazy?

We noticed, however, that a lot of people had left. Concerned about catching the bus back in time, we found a Red Lanyard and asked him where it was. He said, “What bus? You just go back to your hotel on your own.”

Cue meltdown.

He must have seen the imminent meltdown on both of our faces as we sputtered and tried not to gut Red Lanyard Lady Who Lied about the Bus. By the grace of God, or perhaps his red lanyard, he spoke fluent English, and very kindly walked us to the nearest bus station with detailed instructions on how to get back to our hotel. And then he left.

Cue meltdown number two, complete with debate about giving up and hailing a cab.

But we stuck it out, and got on the bus, and despite our firm belief that we would die, we made it kinda back to our hotel. Which is to say, India made us get off at the first stop we recognized, which was way far away from the hotel. But we knew where we were, so it was okay. Abroad trial by fire? Passed! Silver star. We lost points for getting off so early. And the meltdowns.

The bar probably played David Bowie. India would have been happy.

- Jendia

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