2009-10 Outbound to Spain
Vero Beach, Florida
Vero Beach HS
Treasure Coast Rotary Club, District 6930, Florida
Madrid Serrano Rotary Club, District 2201, Spain
September 9 Journal - "My window has no
screen so I am able to stick my head out and feel the city air brush my
face. Every morning, I wake up and cannot wait to start walking the
streets of Madrid."
November 1 Journal - "My life tends to
be quite normal. I go to school and have homework. I hang out with
friends or family. Even though it all sounds the same as in America, it
is truly all the more different."
January 24 Journal - "I thought I had
a strong grip on the world and life, but I am discovering that it was
only a finger skimming the surface of something much bigger than I
May 20 Journal - "I know that when
itíll be time to go Iíll be ready, but this place leaves a mark on you
thatíll never go away. I will always have that little bit of Spanish in
ďWe are all inventors, each sailing out on a voyage of discovery,
guided each by a private chart, of which there is no duplicate. The world is all
gates, all opportunities.Ē - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Moving around as a child, I have had my own map created.
Each move creates a new opportunity, with a new opportunity comes a new
experience. I have learned who I am, what I like. Each door I open, I am
ready to walk through. I cannot wait to go into the black abyss of the
unknown. Find my door, open wide, and let the sun shine on what I know will
be my next voyage.
I am Kati. Currently, I am a Junior at Vero Beach High
School in Vero Beach, Florida. My only other sibling is my brother Mark. We
are only 17 months apart in age. He is my best friend and at the same time
my worst enemy. My parents are my guiding light. Since I was a child, they
always gave me what I needed not wanted. If advice was on the menu, they
served it. Coming from divorced parents, I learned how to solve problems
without bitterness as they always do. Without my pillars, I would fall (okay
I was born in Palmdale, California 50 miles north of Los
Angeles. Basically, it was a desert community with Joshua trees galore.
Since then, ironically, I am now living in seaside Vero Beach, Florida with
Volleyball is my passion. I could play that game for hours
and always have enough spunk for another set. I am not the best but that
should never stop you from doing what you truly love. Playing cribbage with
my dad, running in the park, talking, and reading romance stories are
enjoyable to me. I am down-to-earth. What you see is what you get, as they
say. I do not like to make something more complicated than it should be. I
live day by day making it the best it can be without any regrets.
That is me: simple, individualistic,
walk-in-the-rain, name without an 'e', Kati.
September 9 Journal
I cannot believe that I have finally made it to SPAIN! After
almost a year of preparation and anxiety for the trip, I finally arrived little
more than a week ago. I remember getting off the plane and the first thought I
had was 'what is that smell?' After looking around for the source, I finally saw
a booth that was labeled for fumar or smoking. Now, I started to look for my
family, and quickly remembered that I was in the terminal and they would be
somewhere else like maybe on the other side of the airport after baggage? I
followed the flow of people and made it to baggage. Once there I grabbed a cart
and waited for 20 minutes for the tram thingy to turn on. Now, I was on my way
to meet my family. The nerves hit me so hard I was not sure if I could actually
make it there. I mean I had been flying for 12 hours, had not showered, and was
abnormally tired. But I pushed through. Walking out of baggage claim, I see my
family waving at me like crazy. I did not know what they looked like but I was
sure it was them. My host dad Eduardo, his daughter Maria, and her best friend
Maria all greeted me at the airport.
After all the besos and abrazos, we headed toward their
car. Now before I left, my dad and I were talking about what car they may
have. Maybe a Mercedes-Benz or a BMW or better yet a Porsche.....but no they
had this really cute blue car made by CitroŽn. Once we loaded the car with
my bags, we were going to my new home. On the way to the house and in the
airport, they all spoke Spanish to me. I was really unprepared for this. I
was exhausted and not too good at Spanish. Thank goodness my family does
speak English so I could at least get some bearings. Twenty minutes later we
arrived at their apartamento. I did not know what to expect. I was
actually really surprised when I saw the place. It was not large, but it was
not small. it had a Goldilocks and 3 bears thing going on. I felt
immediately at home.
After the tour of the house, we had some lunch. It was
chicken and rice with of course bread. All the reading in the world could
not prepare anybody for the sensation you have in your mouth when you eat
real authentic Spanish food. Soon after lunch I was offered to take a shower
and then participate in a Spanish tradition, la siesta. La siesta is a mid
afternoon nap right after lunch or maybe before. I awoke 2 hours later and
was back on my feet. My host sister Maria took me on a tour of the
neighborhood and candy store. I bought some caramels and she bought
Twizzlers. We then head to the berlin park. It was amazing to see how many
people were there. Coming from a town of 17,000 to a city of millions was a
huge change. There is a lot of green here, more than you would expect in a
Since my first day here it has been go-go-go! I have
walked the streets of Madrid only to become really lost, but no good
exchange would go anywhere without an area map, right? Well, of course, I
had my map and used to navigate my way back home two hours later. I have
ridden on the public transportation. I really enjoy the buses and subway.
Before now I was not exposed to the city life or European. I have visited my
school numerous times and still have no idea what I am doing. We have gone
out to dinner once. It was an American restaurant, Tony Roma's. I think
maybe they thought it would comfort me, but I was already content and wanted
to start my Spanish life. I have a pass to the pool which I visit
religiously. Their pool complex is like the YMCA in America.
I love living here. My window opens right onto the street.
I can hear all the sounds from cars, people, and animals. Surprisingly there
are no bugs or flies and best of all no mosquitoes! My window has no screen
so I am able to stick my head out and feel the city air brush my face. Every
morning, I wake up and cannot wait to start walking the streets of Madrid.
November 1 Journal
I have been here for exactly 2 months starting today. I
understand mostly what people are saying to me, and I can respond to their
questions. I find that every now and then I forget some English words and can
only talk about them in Spanish. I find that now I am always the one telling the
stories, asking the questions, and chatting on the phone with my friends.
I love the school here. I have a total of 8 classes of
which I have six each day. There is a selection of majors you can choose
from including: Arts, Humanities, International, and Science. I am enrolled
in Humanities. My classes include Art History, Spanish History, Philosophy,
Literature, Language, English, Geography, and Psychology. I find it amazing
that I donít have a math class because in the States you have to have a
certain class every year like math and English, but here you choose a major
and take only those courses. Here, you donít change classes, the teachers
do. I am not sure if I like it yet or not. The little walks in between were
a nice chance to stretch your legs and have a break, but now I just sit at a
desk and wait for the next class to begin. Another interesting difference is
that they donít have substitute teachers. So when a teacher is not there,
you either wait for the next class or if it is the last class of the day you
go home. The school gives the students here a lot more freedom than in the
States. They have a smoking section hereÖyeah itís different.
My family owns a house up in Asturias which is in the
northern part of Spain. It is located in this pueblo called Puerto de Vega.
Our house overlooks the water. Asturias is so pretty with the mountains and
the seaside. While we were there we visited numerous beaches and towns.
About two weekends ago, I went on a Rotary Excursion. All
the kids from Madrid and the surrounding pueblos all met at Cercedilla, a
little train station, to begin our hike. From Cerdedilla, we took another
train to the base of the mountain. While on the train I met up with Tatiana,
Laura, and Ray. Once to the base, we began our climb up the mountain. It was
so beautiful. The rocks had this green hue and every once in a while these
big clouds would swallow us up. It was really windy and a little cold. We
had lunch at the peak of the mountain where there was a little bit of snow.
We hiked 10 miles of which took us 6 hours.
Yesterday was Halloween, and to my surprise they celebrate
it here. It is not as big as in the states, but the kids still celebrate it
Ö well Ö really it is only the teenagers and maybe some kids. There is no
trick-or-treating so the fun is limited. I was invited to a party at a
friendís house from school. It was really fun. We played games and danced
and just hung out. It felt like I was back in the States hanging with
My life tends to be quite normal. I got to school every
day and have homework. I hang out with friends or family on the weekends.
Even though it all sounds the same as in America, it is truly all the more
I love it in here. Spain is my new home. I love my family,
friends, and my new life. I am enjoying every day and hoping that time will
Halloween - I was
Penalara - the mountain
Really old church
January 24 Journal
Every day, I wake up and see the same thing. I have breakfast
with my family and then prepare myself for school. This is my new normal. The
things I do now are not different. Theyíre me.
Although, I am not super fluent in my language, I find
that I am having more and more conversations in Spanish. I use the words
like como, vale, y, pero normally without even thinking about it. I surprise
myself when I make whole sentences and donít even have to think about it.
When I read, I donít have to translate into English. I can read straight
through and understand it. I am beginning to only know words in Spanish and
have the trouble translating it into English.
But over the last four months, I have begun to treasure
who I am and where I come from. For one of the first times in my life, I am
proud to be an American. I enjoy saying my president is Obama. I love coming
from a country of every culture in the world. The feelings that are growing
for my country are strong and indescribable. Yes, I really enjoy Spain and
it culture, but mine is just so much more unique and I have never seen it
from that view before.
Now, that I have done my philosophical view on the world,
Iíll go on to what Iíve been doing. Well Christmas or Navidades was good. I
enjoyed the meals most of all because we had some very interesting new
things. It was the first time I had foie (duck liver) and prawns. The foie
is so rich and smooth and the prawns were these cute little guys that you
got to play autopsy on and remover their heads. Well, then again that does
not sound like autopsy as much as does murder, but murder just doesnít seem
Christmas-y. Then we had New Yearís and more prawns. The last holiday we
celebrated which was new to me was Los Reyes. This is on the 6th of January
to celebrate the 3 kings that came to bear gifts to Jesus. Each gift comes
from one of the Reyes and has a little saying or dicho with it. This year
mine came from Gaspar. Another thing which I really enjoyed was the 3 weeks
off of school. Spain knows how to do Los Navidades.
During break, I had gone to Santander which is a city in
the north of Spain in the community of Cantabria. It is the Capital city and
is right on the water with a harbor. The beaches are so beautiful because
they are so wide and flat and have the background of the European Peaks
which at this time were covered in snow. It was so magical and enchanting.
Whenever I see the mountain here I just want to sit on a hill with an easel
and paint brush and go crazy on canvas.
School started on the 11th and it was back to work. I have
been keeping busy with school work and heading to the gym. Here normally you
donít go out on weekdays to hang with friends, which Iíll admit was very
tough at first because I was use to doing that to keep busy. This past
weekend I went to a concert of the band Billy Talent. Then afterwards I had
a party at a friendís house where we stayed up all night dancing and doing
karaoke. I had to sing all the Spanish and songs while my friends did the
English. Letís just say when one sings in Spanish they are going at like 100
Now another week is starting. I only have 3 days because
we have a four day weekend starting Thursday. Other than that, life is
normal and well I am beginning to grow in way I never knew a person could. I
thought I had a strong grip on the world and life, but I am discovering that
it was only a finger skimming the surface of something much bigger than I
May 20 Journal
Today. Home. Again sick.
It was about two weeks ago that I was extremely sick with
this nasty throat infection called Amigdalitis now what is that,
tonsillitis. Yes, I have the horrible tonsillitis. Dry throat, throbbing
pain, and on top of that I have to speak Spanish. When you are an exchange
student, your work is never done.
Now letís catch up on a couple of things:
Last weekend: Leůn
My host sister studies veterinary up there and it so
happened to be her birthday so what better time to travel! It was so
beautiful and surprising modern. I was expecting a city drenched in history
but what I came to find was that all was redone and made of modern
construction. Yes, the old cathedral was still there and the old wall that
used to surround the city, but that was only in the center. Once you stepped
20 feet away it was like ďmodernolandiaĒ. All the buildings were recently
constructed and all the streets repaved with asphalt not the normal
uncomfortable blister giving stone. But still, the city was without doubt
one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.
2 weeks ago: Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy
This little island in the middle of the Mediterranean is
something special. I went there to visit a friend and saw one of the coolest
places ever. First of all it is kind of like the Lost island where it is all
flat and then you have these huge sky polluting mountains. Then, they have
this awesome fascination with cork. You could basically buy anything made
out of cork. I happened to be there during a festival for Jesus so there was
a huge parade in the street with the different regions of Sardinia
represented through their dress, crop, and food specialty. This was also my
first time on/in the Mediterranean. We went to this beautiful beach where
you could walk out about mile without a drop off and with beautiful clear
blue water. Later on during my 9 day trip, we went to see some caves in the
mountains, eat at a restaurant that makes things with nutella, and see an
ancient Roman city that had been destroyed by the tide.
5 weeks ago: Started at a new school
I changed families back in April. Now, the new family
didnít live in Madrid so that meant that I was going to have to leave the
city to go out to a smaller town called Colmenar Viejo (old Apiary). It is
about a 40 minute train ride from Madrid and I wasnít really feeling taking
that every morning to go to school at 8:30 so they decided to put me in a
new school. Which in the end I am so very glad they did. I have un montůn
de amigos and they are always so interested in learning about where I
come from. This transition was a lot easier since I knew a lot more Spanish
than when I started at my first school so I was able to participate more in
class and actually have real conversations with the people.
7 weeks ago: Semana Santa (Saintsí week or Holy week)
This is basically spring break here where for about 2
weeks you celebrate and party. Here in Spain they have the carrying of the
floats (pasos) by the people (costaleros) through the streets for the
procession and then there are the people who where the pointed hats (capriotes).
There are a million of these in about every city and each one is different
as in different traditions. Well, I didnít go and see any of these instead I
went with my new host family to their small village. They call it the
pantano which means swamp. It is this cute little village that is right next
to a huge dam. There was only one bar and everyone knew each other. It is
one of those places you can get to visit once in a lifetime. But before I
arrived there I had to take the train for 6 hours to go to the city of
CŠceres. This is a place filled to the brim with history. It was one of the
towns most beaten up during all the wars of Spain, it was where the soldiers
from Napoleonís army walked through on the way to conquer Portugal, and
where I had one of the best pastries EVER! Then after the 5 days in el
pantano we went to Trujillo. This is a lovely little town still living back
in the 18th century. It has a beautiful castle and small streets filled with
venders and old bath houses. Here there is the annual festival called Chivri
where all you do is listen to music (singing optional) and drink and eat
typical food. There they have a special sandwich which is like the first
hotdog. It is bread that someone stuck a thing of chorizo in. Also, the
woman dress up as Shepherdsí wives.
Life here in Spain is different every day. I learn
something new or different. I meet people from all over the world
everyday and I enjoy all that I can. I know that when itíll be time
to go Iíll be ready, but this place leaves a mark on you thatíll
never go away. I will always have that little bit of Spanish in me.
Leůn with host family
Float in the Jesus
parade in Italy
Host sister and I in
Trujillo typical dress