On Tuesday, I'll have been here for twenty days! Sometimes it feels like I've been here for a lot longer than that, and some days it feels like I've only been here for a couple days! But no matter how I'm feeling at a certain time, the fact that I love it here and am already dreading saying goodbye to this amazing place stays the same. There is so much to say and to tell you, but not enough time in the entire world to give you all the details. So I'll just give you the highlights (:
I'll start with the flight here. I went most of the way, (besides to NY) with my friend Nicole, who is living in a town close to mine in Spain. I don't know what I would have done without her that day, because, as my family knows very well, I am terrible with directions. Add lack of sleep, hunger, anticipation, soreness, headaches, grumpiness, and unbrushed hair to the mix and you have two very lost teenage girls. But we managed! By the time I arrived in Alicante, met my host family, and drove down to Denia, I had been awake and traveling for over thirty hours. But that didn't matter! I was so pumped when we arrived I wasn't tired at all! I stayed up for four more hours meeting all the family and walking through Denia. That night, I slept nineteen hours.
My host family is more than I could have ever expected. They're so nice, and they help me so much- not just with learning Spanish, but they helped me with finding some really good friends, organize my classes in school, help me try to learn my way around town, and much, much more. I have a sister here, and two parents. Alicia, the eleven year old daughter, seems really shy, but she's warming up to me little by little. Then there’s Vicente, my host dad, and Maria Angeles, my host mom (who I call Angie for short). I love them and could not ask for anyone better! I can see the ocean from the apartment, its awesome. I have my own room, and I'm treated like I'm really part of the family. I feel so lucky.
I have done a countless number of cool things so far. I'll start from the beginning. The third day that I was here, we went to a wedding! Really different, but awesome. Before it started, everyone in the family got two hotel rooms, because the women didn't want to wear their dresses in the car. It was probably the nicest hotel I've ever been in! Two five star hotel rooms for just thirty minutes to change into dresses you ask? Yeah I don't know. But it was glamourous (: We threw rice at the couple! For food at the wedding, or "la boda", it was...different. I had no idea what I was eating the entire time. The food just kept coming and coming! It lasted hours. The wedding began at nine in the morning, and we got home at one... a.m.
A few days later, on September 7th, I met my first real friend! I've spent most of my time here since then with her and other new friends, other than being with my family. That night, we went a see the "torros"! So many people before then, told me that if I'm going to live in Spain, I HAVE to see the bulls. When my friend asked me if I wanted to go see the bulls, I didn't understand at all. When people asked me, "Quieres ir a los torros?" Every time, I understood "todos" instead of "torros". So I kept saying "Yes. YESS!! Quiero ver a todos!!" Because I really did want to see everything, I just didn't know why people kept asking me. But, once we got there I realized my mistake. There, I think I experienced my first time of utter shock. The poor bulls. The people would hit at it, and taze it, just to get it angry so it would run at them. My first thoughts were: Oh my gosh I'm living with barbarians. But then I caught myself, remembering that this is a different culture, and that this is just how it is.
A lot of the days, I just spend my free time walking around the main street, window-shopping and people watching. Where I live is just a few steps away from it! It's called Calle de Campos, and it has restaurants, clothing stores, a Mercadona, McDonalds (of course), and so much more. The street is marble! it gets blocked off after six so people can relax about cars and "motos" and whatnot. I started school two days ago. The first day, Angie drove me there, thank God, because there is not way I could walk there without getting extremely lost. School was good. It was not a whole lot different from school at home! Besides it being ninety degrees inside the classrooms. I had to walk back! It should be about a twenty or thirty minute walk, but I managed to make it into three hours. Phrase of the day? Estoy perdido. Ayudame? I probably said that over twenty times! Eventually, when I still couldn't get home, I started simply asking where the ocean was. I can only imagine how stupid people thought I was, but I don't care!!!!! I knew, that if I got to the ocean, I could find Calle de Campos and then find my way home. I had never felt and probably will never feel again the success and pride that I felt when I caught the first glimpse of that apartment building. I went from not being able to get to the grocery store in Tampa after living there for four years, to finding my own way home from school in a brand new city with people that don't speak my language. I smile just thinking about it (:
There are still so many things I have to learn, not only the Spanish language, but about the culture here, and why things are the way they are. Right now, there is a very veryyy long list of things I do not understand.
1. Why soccer is played on cement
2. Why, that when you're sick, you go to the dentist
3. Why the dentist writes prescriptions on sticky notes
4. Why there are rooms with no windows, but with curtains and blinds
5. Why maids come every day to clean the house... How can a house get dirty in a day?
6. Why there are air conditioners in the schools but they are never used
7. Why people would want pictures with a dead turtle
8. Why we go grocery shopping daily
9. Why I have to wear slippers at all times in the house
10. Why there are no pancakes
…and much more.
Hasta luego !!!
January 17, 2012
Life is good. I have been having the absolute time of my life here on Spain. I’ve been here for about four and a half months now, and I’m not really looking forward to the day I have to say goodbye to this beautiful country. I have made friends here that I know I will never forget. I have seen things that will be engraved in my memory forever, and I’ve experienced things that I know will never leave my mind. I’m already a changed person, and this year isn’t even half way over. I notice myself making decisions that I would never be able to make before when I lived in Florida. I thought I knew who I was back in Florida, who I wanted to be. But my total view on myself, others, and the world has changed. I cannot even put in words how thankful I am to Rotary that they gave me this opportunity.
Where to start?! So much has happened! The holiday season passed. I was expecting it to be super difficult, but honestly I wasn’t homesick. Yes, of course I missed my family. But it wasn’t to the point where it affected my mood. Maybe it was because it didn’t seem like the holidays for me. At home, during the holidays, I’m with my family. So since I wasn’t with my family, I guess it seemed to my brain that it wasn’t the holidays. I don’t know if that makes any sense!
I had a few other things to worry about during the holidays anyway other than missing home. I was having some problems with my host family. Here in Spain, especially in this tiny little town, people gossip. And with me being pretty much the only blonde in this town, people would notice me when I go out, or when I went out to run an errand, or just anything simple like that. Eventually, something like, “I saw the American girl walking to the supermarket,” would turn into something like, “ I saw the American girl walking to the supermarket holding hands with a boy.” The rumors got pretty bad, way worse than that. By the time it would get to my host parents, it would be some ridiculous thing that I couldn’t believe anyone with a brain could believe. But, unfortunately, my host parents believed every word they heard, which obviously would cause some problems. They began talking about me in front of big crowds of people, including me, saying all these “horrible things” I had done. It eventually got to be too much for me to handle, and I sat down and had a very long heart to heart with my host mother. And that fixed everything! I don’t know if you all could understand this, but the amount of courage that it took to do that was immeasurable. That is probably my proudest moment of being here! I think that that moment was the defining moment of my time here in Spain. I don’t know why I hadn’ t done it earlier. I went through four months of being miserable without knowing that one conversation could fix it all. Very happy moment for me (:
After that, everything has been going very smoothly. I catch myself thinking in Spanish sometimes, and sometimes when I’m speaking English I’ll find myself start speaking Spanish without realizing it. I’ve dreamt in Spanish! I guess you could say that my language skills here are getting really good! Of course, I have sooo much room to improve. I am definitely not fluent yet. I’m working on it though. I’m starting to make some really good friends. I can honestly say I love it here. I’m scared time is going by too quickly. I switch families on Saturday. It’s scary, but relieving. I’m exciting to be able to start over with this family. I’ve learned from my mistakes that I’ve made, and I think my time with my new family will be very rewarding and memorable. The only worry I have now, which may seem a little funny, is that I have no idea how I’m going to get everything back into my suitcase to move. Number one, when I came here, I had all of my things in vacuumed packed bags. Number two, I’ve bought a lot of stuff here… I figure I’m going to have to make two or three trips!
Ok, quick advice to future exchangers: SAVE YOUR MONEY. I have no idea why before I came here I didn’t even think about saving. I guess I figured the seventy Euros a month would be sufficient. But, its not. Most of that money every month for me goes to things like toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, soap- things like that. Trust me! Especially if you’re going to a place where the climate is different than where you’re living now. Like me, I have a million summer clothes, but zero clothes for winter. Winters get pretty cold here in Spain! I’ve had to buy quite a bit of winter clothes since being here. You may be thinking, well, I can just wear my hoodies and jeans and sweatpants. Unless you feel like getting stared at, I would recommend planning ahead for things like that. They dress up here like they’re going to a party every single day. Just to go to the grocery store, they put on high heels and makeup and an outfit that would take me an entire day to plan out. But, keep in mind that all of this is coming from a girl who before, lived and relied on ponytails, t-shirts and running shorts. If you’re a “fashionista” already, you’re lucky, and I’m jealous.
School is great. I don’t have that many friends in my class, (we stay in the same class all day), but everyone is nice and helps me out when I need it. The teachers are okay. Let’s just say that going to school here has made me really appreciative of the Florida schooling. I am so thankful that my grades don’t count here, because I’m pretty sure I’m failing all my classes. Besides English. They don’t really teach the kids here, they just give them a textbook and say, “Read.”
I’m lucky, because my mom is a flight attendant. She flies to Spain a lot, and because of that, I get a lot of care packages. It saves me a lot of money. I’m thankful! I’ve baked my family a lot of things. They love it! I’ve made chocolate chip cookies (they don’t have those here), I’ve made pancakes (those either), brownies, and a lot more different kinds of goodies! All of those things came from packages my mom sent me! Things like that don’t exist here. I don’t think they understand that all I have to do is add water and eggs, because they would praise me for what seemed like forever and say that I’m the best cook, ask if all Americans can bake like me, and then ask me for the recipe. In reality, I can’t cook to save my life. But there’s no way I would tell them that, compliments always feel good (; !
Well, until next time (: Bye!