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15th – Now I shall go over what to expect in the first week of Alicante should you have chosen this wonderful institution. Also known as ‘induction week’, this is your get yourself there, get to know the place and people, try out the beach and bars week. Now I must confess I have been blessed with a flat that looks out to the sea (five minute walk from it) and therefore sampled its sandy delights first thing. I flew into Alicante after lunch and had a few hours to kill before Hollie (a Bath student also living with me) arrived, so I went to meet my friend Nicky, another Bath student who had been here for two weeks already. She took me to the gorgeous beachfront and we sat at a little beach-bar sipping Tinto Verano (Red wine and lemonade) in the sun. During my period of imbibing alcohol I was introduced, by Nicky, to Jah, a youthful student Rasta. He is simply magnificent. He spends every day at the beach, smoking (he is a Rasta) and dancing all the while at the beach bar. He has spent the last month here as a ‘philosopher’ on the beach. I don’t know exactly what this entails, bar smoking and sunbathing, but Nicky recounted a previous night when he proclaimed one of his pearls of wisdom. Apparently he spent twenty minutes thinking this up; I quote in a thick Jamaican accent, ‘Philosophers…don’t live in a population’. Utter poppycock but nonetheless wonderful. Apparently he is a student in Milan, I hope I see him again. Anyway, on with the story. There is also, Nicky showed me, a Russian bar/shop (run by Russians no less) that sells Russian books, DVDs, drinks, guns (not really, but I’m sure behind the counter wink wink, nudge nudge and all that) and it is as surreal as it sounds, but useful for me. I shall no doubt try it all out and tell you about it. Hollie arrived and I telephoned my landlady Alicia (my first telephone call in Spain, in Spanish, to a Spaniard – it was easy so don’t worry about it, although if you’re adamant about not doing it, delegate the task to someone you don’t like) and we met at the flat. We have two other housemates; Misaki, a charming little Japanese girl who speaks okay Spanish and Rodrigo, a Spanish student, an absolute hero and very generous – a ‘mi casa es su casa’ kind of guy.

16th – Morning, we (Hollie and I) bought food for the day, paid landlady for this half-month and next month, and went to beach with Rodrigo. The beach, as I have said, is lovely and has a stunning array of topless woman, many of which are old enough to warrant mother or grandmother status…I have a strong stomach. The water was nice and warm and the sun was extremely potent, I managed to get myself burnt to smithereens. Seriously, it looks like Delia Smith has been violently bludgeoning my legs with a rolling pin for hours. Add the lobster redness to the searing burning pain and you have an afternoon and night of fun fun fun.

17th – We took the air-conditioned number 24 bus (remember that!) to the University and registered at the ‘Torre de Control’ (the control tower at the centre of the campus). You will want to do this as soon as possible, it’s not much hassle (bar ‘queuing’) but it’s nice to get it out of the way. We bought stock for our fridge and cupboards at the ‘Mercadona’ – a big supermarket. Whilst wandering around the meat section our gaze was snagged by a remarkable looking piece of meat, which seemed to be the penis of some animal. Now I like to cook, a lot, I mean seriously geeky style, but I wouldn’t know how to cook a penis. However, I will endeavour to buy that phallus and cook it. Nothing is out of bounds for my monthly reports, so stay tuned. [NOTE: Heart broken: animal phallus turns out to be a tail, result of a terrible vocab error.]

18th – Went with Rodrigo to ‘El Corte Ingles’ (a massive Spanish version of John Lewis) and purchased a Wifi dongle finally. This is another important point; not all of the Spanish houses have internet connections, so a) make sure your laptop either has wireless capabilities or b) make sure you buy a wireless dongle (they are cheaper in the UK). Also think about sorting yourself out with Skype as it makes life much cheaper if you want to phone home etc. We went to the beach again to sun ourselves, but also have the excuse to lather our pasty bodies in copious layers of factor-20 sun cream to induce bronzing. Met Jah again, however now, my once sterling view of him has been nearly shattered. Now I am a liberal, forgiving person and a staunch atheist, so I found his following proclamations to be quite grating. I try and quote, “Lesbians and Gays are disgusting and are wasting their lives”, “God gave us this life, they are wasting it, they are against God”, “My friend Daniel slapped a Lesbian in a club in Germany and the Police arrested him, I agreed with Daniel” and “f**king Germans are rude and nasty people” – all vehemently proclaimed in a thick Jamaican accent and in broken English. Two things irritated me during this forty-minute tirade: 1. I wanted to relax quietly on the beach, maybe even read a book, but now I was having the terrible views of an irate Rasta, who is apparently all about “peace and unity”, forced upon me whilst I agree intensely with none of them. 2. I could now not tell him that I was a deeply atheistic, heavily lesbian German.

19th – Location: Havana bar; Event: International Student Welcome Party. So the bar (situated nicely on the main street to the beach – ‘La Rambla’) opened its vibrant insides to swathes of Erasmus students for an evening of fun, with special deals – ladies night 2-for-1, bucket of beer for €10, Jar of Sangria for €5 – to attract the youth of Europe. There was quite the pantheon of nationalities, Brits, Scots, Germans, French, Italians, Americans and a lot of Irish, who were all trying their best to mingle or find their own. I must admit, as a Brit, I am quite reserved when it comes to meeting new people on my own admission. If I am introduced I cope well, but when the three Bath girls say ‘let’s go mingle!’ and gallivant off into the hordes of men and women, with looks vastly superior to my own, I balked slightly (only being on my first, conservative, Sangria) and decided to go to the loo to waste some time. Can I just say…get stuck in! I didn’t this night and I felt at a bit of loss, so just go for it and as they say…you’ve got nothing to lose. On my return the girls had befriended three, dare I say geeky looking, French guys who turned out to be very decent. Thus we sat outside for the majority of the evening, meeting Italians (mainly men), Irish (wonderful, but mainly men) and a couple of Brits. It is the burden of being lumped into having three girls carrying out the ‘meeting’ process…they tend to veer t’ward the masculine. We walked untroubled back to the flat at about 3 o’clock – early for the Spaniards – having only briefly to deal with a paranoid, drunk Valencian man who wanted to walk with us for protection; he was certain that a chap behind – just casually looking to sea – was following him. The proceedings weren’t helped with drunken comments from Hollie such as ‘we’re walking home if you wanna walk with us…’ um, Hollie? I don’t take kindly to coaxing dipsomaniacs back to where I live. I hope he made it back to his hotel though…amid all that conspiracy.

21st – Bestirring: 7:00! Reason: Meeting at the University. The meeting was to go over when and how we look for and sign up for our courses, along with general information about what activities and clubs there are. Oh, and we also got a free pen! Whilst at the campus, attending our action-packed–thrillfest morning, we also purchased a bus pass, which amounted to 30 trips for €18.50 – €2 for the card itself and €16.50 for the trips. From then on you just top up your card with as many trips as you want…quite nifty really. Nothing else notable really happened on the 21st, apart from the prospect of a night out on the razz, to end our ‘induction week’, being ruined with the violent ‘Gota Fria’ (‘cold drop’) deciding to raise its ugly head in order to put a damper on things…literally. But me being me, I had to get out in it. Bearing in mind that this bad boy of a storm can unleash 300 litres, per square metre, in an hour, my little skimpy waterproof took a right battering. But to revel, alone (I think I was the only person outside in Alicante, I passed and waved to throngs of mystified Spanish people huddled in doorways staring at me agog), under and amid the full majesty of Mother Nature blasting upon the world; rain so heavy and thick that the surface of the Earth itself is a puddle, lighting so vast it lights up the empyrean, is quite a quixotic affair. The roads became rivers, cars were marooned. Bedraggled men comforted their equally bedraggled women under the overpass, a bridge over troubled water. Whilst I was quite happy to hippy-ishly frolic in the chaos, bumbling along through the soggy streets with no shoes on. I shan’t lie, I laughed to myself a bit, and kicked my feet through the splash without a care in the world. All in all a good end to the day, despite my camera’s circuitry struggling under the H2O invading its insides.

22nd – Nothing much happened today, apart from continual rain. Oh, we did see ‘Os declaro marido y marido’ (‘I now pronounce you Chuck and Larry’) at the cinema in the evening for some Spanish practice. We actually did manage to understand the majority of the film, however there were moments when the audience erupted in tumultuous laughter and we sat, silent and dumb in an ‘Um…was that a joke? Totally missed that one’ kind of way. It was all worth it though for only £4.20.

23rd – There is not much to report today either except for fun with timetables. As lovely as Spain is, and as lovely as the University is, they are wonderfully bad at catering for Erasmus students, especially with timetables. So we had our meeting on the Friday and they handed out various pages with information about who to contact, how to register and how to locate our timetables etc. How it works for Erasmus is that you have two weeks to look at courses, sampling them like a buffet, then after the two weeks you choose which you want and order the full three (or four) course meal. You are then expected, as vastly capable and intelligent European students, to search through the messy timetables to locate that one part of that one course that you are interested in sampling, then just show up to it. I believe I am now going prematurely bald, and subsequently malting, due to the stress of Spanish timetables…I must remember to buy a handheld hoover. Anyway, that’s all for a month. We start University tomorrow, how exciting! Until then eh…


Information about the cold drop (mentioned on the 21st)

clipped from

The Cold Drop is associated with extremely violent downpours and storms, with speeds of 100-200 km (60-120 mi)/hour

The Cold Drop can cause floods over the dry beds of the ancient rivers and torrents. Houses built there can be devastated. If the terrain has no vegetation and there are high slopes and ravines, the water is not absorbed and it can destroy everything in its way. Under some circumstances (like air temperature, winds, humidity, and so on), the Cold Drop can be accelerated.

The Cold Drop appears when a front of very cold polar air, called jet stream, advances slowly over Western Europe, at high altitude (normally 5-9 km or 3-5.5 mi). If a sudden cut off in the stream takes place, caused by various motifs, like the effect of the high pressures, a bag of cold air detaches from the main jet stream, penetrating to the south over the Pyrenees Mountains into the Spain’s warm air.

What’s the Cold Drop?

  blog it

For an expedition of this grandeur (four and a half months studying in the University of Alicante) packing is key. Now I must note from the start that every airline has different weight allowances for your baggage, which is a pain when it comes to choosing who to fly with. BA allows 23kg whereas Easyjet only 20kg, then there is scummy Ryan-Air with their overtly generous offer of 15kg. I know that the prospect of packing months of your life into a bag sounds daunting but it isn’t actually too tricky. For Bath we all had Daddy’s car to take all our stuff up, or a train, but the truth is that most of the stuff you needed/wanted at Bath you won’t on the year abroad. All I took, into my 20kg Easyjet bag, was clothes, toiletries and some bits and bobs. In my hand luggage, which was the maximum size legally allowed (I advise this so try and cram in as much as you can), I had plugs, cables (with corresponding technologies), a laptop, books (even had room for Gordon Ramsey’s miraculous “Fast Food”) and some admin papers. In a nutshell, take the largest bags you can legally, then fill them, but don’t worry too much about not having every vestment you think you may need.

A quick note on visas for those Russian students among thee:

1. Listen intently and follow what Anne and Howard tell you in the meetings before hand. You’ll be tempted to smile and nod and think, ‘yup, I’ll do that at some point’, then crunch time comes along slyly and you are thinking ‘oh pants! This is really quite confusing, what do I do?!’ and it is. There is a lot to do, so make a checklist for things YOU need to do.

2. Check out your local sexual health clinic. Always a fun trip with the mother, sat there surrounded by 14yr old chavs with babies, nervous looking men, bored looking women, just longing to be called to chat about setting up an HIV test. This will be carried out either in the summer holidays (if you are first semester in Russia) or at Christmas or  between the two semesters (if you are second semester in Russia).

3. Most importantly, if you are confused, and you will be confused (Russians, Lord help me I love them to bits but their bureaucracy is nuts), you must contact Anne or Howard. They know Everything and won’t think a second before helping you out. Sod the Ghostbusters! Who you gonna call? The Whites!

Back to Spain. Two things I’d like to point out, which were among the many things I smiled and nodded at during the meetings and that wafted in one ear and out the other, are mobile phones and bank accounts. Boring I know…smile and nod.

a) Mobiles – Think carefully whether you want to get a foreign phone. I advise for Spain just taking your handset and buying a cheap simcard from a phone shop for somewhere around €20 – give or take.

b) Bank accounts – Now I right royally left this to the last minute, two days before leaving for Alicante. Go to Nationwide early in the summer holidays and get yourself a little Flex account. It gives free withdrawals internationally. I, being a prat, have to now wait a week and a bit for my card to be sent to me.

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September 2007
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