Category: Spanish host family

Personas, playas, y Portugal

Whew!! What a week!! It actually hasn’t even been a week since I’ve written, but it feels like it’s been ages. A ton has happened, but I will try to fill you in on as much as I can remember.

Thursday night we had a party with our “intercambios” – native Spaniards whom we are paired with when we get here who are learning English. We’re supposed to hang out and help each other with our respective languages. So most of the Americans went, and many of the Spaniards, as well. Mine did not go, but I went anyway, because I really want to meet some Spaniards. I met 2, called Javi and Manuel, that were really cool. I’m really hoping to make some good Spaniard friends while I’m here. I haven’t really clicked with most of the students (although I have with a few of them), and anyway, no offense to the Americans here, but if I’m spending a third of a year of my life in Spain, I want to hang out with Spaniards, darn it!! 🙂

Friday I got lost (semi-intentionally). I just started walking, looking for a good place for lunch. I finally found one, and had a “tapa” (a Spanish appetizer) of meatballs in some sort of sauce while I watched people rush by. I honestly had no idea where I was, but I had my handy-dandy map of Seville, so I wasn’t worried. That map has pretty much all of the streets in the city on it, and I’m good at reading maps, so I haven’t gotten lost yet, much to the surprise of my host parents. They were very worried about me getting lost when I first got here. They actually sat me down and drew the exact route to the school that I should take my first day here. Now they seem to understand that I’m probably going to be fine :). Speaking of my host parents, though….have I mentioned that they’re AWESOME??!!?? I had an assignment on Friday for class on Monday in which I had to rewrite a fairy tale in a modern-day context, set in Seville – all in Spanish, of course. I mentioned that assignment to them at lunch on Friday, and they spent the rest of the meal brainstorming what sorts of stories I could do, and how I could change the story to fit the assignment. I finally settled on Cinderella – her evil stepmother is now a business partner of her father’s, her fairy godmother is a random woman she meets in church, she wants to go to the parties of “Semana Santa” (Holy Week), and her handsome prince is now a store clerk. Oh, and then today, after I got home from dance class, my mom asked me how it went, and I told her that we had learned an entire section of the dance…and she started flamenco dancing right there in the kitchen!!! I love them, they’re super awesome 🙂 🙂 🙂

I went shopping on Friday with Sarah and Silvia. I got some “Spanish” sandals. My plastic Old Navy flip flops were killing me, and I also stood out like a sore thumb, lol. So now I look like a legit Spaniard… 😀 That night a student who lives across the street from me, Zack, asked me if I wanted to go out for a walk, cuz he was bored. It was already like 10:30, but I told him I’m go for a little bit. We ended up running into some other students, Agustine and Matt, and went out for a drink. I tried some alcohol, but didn’t like it (which didn’t surprise me – I’ve never liked the taste of any alcohol I’ve ever tried), and then I just sat and talked with them for a while. Finally I had to leave, cuz I was super super tired. On the way back, though, I was able to get a picture of the city from the top of a building…it was beautiful. I’ve now officially completed my first week’s assignment from Jon :).

Saturday I went…..to Portugal!!!! It’s so bizarre to me to think that I can just hop on a bus and be in another country within a few hours’ time – without even having to pass customs. So anyway, we went the first day to a big beach in Algarve. It was actually an island that we went to – we had to take a boat to get to the beach. That was pretty sweet. That was just a normal day at the beach. I went swimming some (the current was crazy strong! It was a red flag day, which basically means you can swim, only if you accept that the lifeguards are not responsible for your death), walked around a lot, played some volleyball and soccer on the beach (have you ever tried running and kicking a soccer ball in sand?? It’s way hard), and read and talked with friends. The majority of the students here drink and party a lot. As that is definitely not my scene, I have not really found very many people with whom I want to spend a lot of time with. But this weekend I found several other students who would prefer to do some similar things as I, as opposed to drinking. So that was encouraging.

After the beach, we went to the hotel and cleaned up. Then we hopped back in the bus and went to the end of the world!! Did you know such a place existed? It does!! It’s a series of enormous cliffs that Europeans believed was the end of the world before Columbus discovered the Americas. And it truly looks like the end of the world. The cliffs drop hundreds of feet into the water below, and there is nothing beyond them except ocean for as far as the eye can see. It was sooo cool.

After we got back from the cliffs, everyone went out. Most people went bar hopping, but myself and five others – Sarah, Alice, Allyx, Virginia, and Greg – went to an Italian restaurant, instead. It started out as just Sarah and I, and then our group grew as word spread on the bus that we were forming an alternative group that wasn’t planning on getting plastered. So we walked around, saw some really cool outdoor bands playing, and then ate yummy Italian food (I was craving pizza :]). I struck up a conversation with our waiter – he spoke 7 languages!!! I was thoroughly impressed. We got back by 1:30 (which, I found out later, was a good 4 hours before the rest of the group returned), I showed Sarah a few of my favorite dance videos (cuz I’m a nerd :D), and then we went to sleep. It was a lovely evening.

The next day me pasó la bomba! (which basically means it was a blast.) After breakfast, we checked out and headed to another beach that was literally in the hotel’s backyard. I got there a little later than the rest of the group, though – I found a ping-pong table in the hotel, and challenged Agustine to a match. I beat him all 4 games, but I still think he was going easy on me…regardless, it was fun. I hadn’t played in ages; I missed it :). The beach was surrounded by gigantic caves and rock formations. You can check out pictures of them here. When Agustine and I got to the beach, Virgina told us about this awesome cave we could explore. You had to climb over a rather precarious wall of rock to get to it, but we managed just fine. So Agu and I went in there to explore, too. It…was…incredible. I feel like I’m running out of positive adjectives that fully express the amount of emotion I’m trying to convey :). (oh, by the way, apparently I’m “obsessed with the smileys in a drug-addict sort of way”. Someone told me that today…it made me giggle :]). There is normally boats that can take you on tours through the caves, but the waves were too strong this time. But it’s ok, cuz I still got to explore them on my own.

So after our tiempo de exploración, we went back and played volleyball and swam and just chilled until it was time to go. I was very grateful that night for being a good student. Everyone else was moaning about how tired they were, and how much homework they still had to do for the next day, but I had already done all of mine on Friday. I was the only one with any energy in class on Monday, lol…

So anyway, Portugal was awesome. I almost didn’t go, cuz it was expensive, but I’m really glad I did. Oh, and speaking of foreign countries, today I bought a ticket to Paris in November. It’s official, I’m going to France!!!! I also convinced 2 other friends, Allyx and Silvia, to go with me. It’s gonna be a blast. I also signed up for a 4-day trip to Moroccos in December, right before we leave. That’s gonna be insane…. So I have 1 more 4 day weekend to fill up…where should I go???? 🙂

Pensamientos de Sevilla

The title of this blog is “Thoughts on Seville”, for all of my non-Spanish friends who don’t care to learn la lengua más bella del mundo (the prettiest language in the world). This is just a random list of things that I have noticed during the 6 days that I’ve been here.

First of all, time passes sooo slowly!! Just now, when I wrote that I’ve been here for 6 days, I could hardly believe it!! It feels like I’ve been here for weeks. I keep chiding myself that I need to update my blog, because it’s been way too long since I’ve written….but I guess in reality it’s only been a few days at most. I know I probably shouldn’t do this, but I keep comparing this experience to Costa Rica. I remember that there, too, time passed slowly, but it was because I was counting the minutes until I could go to bed. Seriously, the first few weeks in Costa Rica were miserable (don’t feel bad for me…I grew to love it in the end :] ). But here in Seville, I go to bed and wonder how in the world the day can be over, when it seems like it has just started!! So I guess that means time also passes super quickly….hmmm, this is a quandrary that I’m going to have to ponder for a while 🙂

Second, Spanish really is quite a lovely language. I love its rhythm, its cadence, its energy, its accentuation…I had forgotten how much I truly love being immersed in a Spanish-speaking country. I would like it better if I understood everything, but I’m working on that, little by little, poco a poco. I learned a super awesome word today: tiquismiquis. Look it up, it’s a real word. Now say it 5 times in a row….is that not soooo much fun to say 🙂 ??? It means “picky”. The different verb tenses, however, are really messing me up. In Spanish, there are 2 forms of “you”: tu, and usted. In Costa Rica they use usted everywhere, with everyone, all the time. So I got used to using usted. Well here, they almost never use usted; they say tu, or some other strange conjugation of the verb. So it´s been a bit of a challenge to change my way of speaking. My Señora chided me the other day. She said, “Lorena, here in Spain we only use usted with strangers or old people. You and I aren´t strangers, and I´m not old, so you need to use tu with me.” She understood why I don´t use tu after I told her I had lived in Costa Rica, but I am trying super hard to change my habits. Apparently, however, the desire to not be called old is worldwide, regardless of culture :).

Third, the streets are really weird. For one, there are no street signs. If you’re lucky, the name will be somewhere high on a building, and hopefully you’ll be able to figure out which particular street the words on the building are supposed to be pointing to. It seems that the entire city simply relies on an internal map they have of the city, rather than rely on the street signs. The streets are also beautiful, though. They are narrow and windy and made of old cobblestone, which would be a nightmare if I had to drive; but since I don’t, it makes the entire city rather enchanting and romantic.

Fourth, the walking signs chirp. You know the little signs that cities have on the other side of the street to tell pedestrians if they can cross the street or not? Yeah, they chirp in Seville. The first few times I went walking, I thought it was just a bunch of weird car alarms. Oh well, I thought, all of the car brands here look weird (except Volkswagon, lol), so why shouldn’t their car alarms sound weird? I finally figured out that the signs make loud beeping noises when you can cross the street. I still haven’t figured out exactly WHY they do that…still working on that. Oh, and also, the signs have little lighted people instead of ‘stop’ and ‘go’ lights, and when you only have a few seconds left to cross the little man starts running. I don’t know why, but for some reason I really like that :).

Fifth, speaking of walking, I’m going to have freaking legs of steel when I get back!! My house is about a mile from the school…I walk to school and back every day, sometimes twice. Today I walked for about 3 hours, and then biked around the city for an hour. Biking isn’t as hard on your legs as walking, but when you have to navigate twisty streets and cobblestone roads, it’s still quite a challenge.

Sixth, I’m miss my mother’s cooking. I was super excited about the food in Spain before coming here. And granted, I’ve had some wonderful meals. But my Señora really likes tomatoes and soup, neither of which I’m a huge fan of. I believe I’ve had tomatoes in some form or fashion every meal I’ve eaten here. I’ve had gazpacho (cold tomato soup) 4 times already. I hate gazpacho. I’ve also had several other types of soup. Granted, it’s super healthy – I’m going to lose lots of weight – but it’s not exactly the type of food I would eat if I had a choice. Oh well, I’m sure I will get accustomed to it soon… 🙂

Last, but most certainly not least, is this: I am so incredibly blessed. Even now, just writing about it, I’m tearing up a little bit. Who am I that I should be living for an entire 4 months in Seville?? Who am I to be blessed with such a wonderfully loving host family? Who am I to have already found friends here who enjoy similar things as I, and whose company I enjoy immensely? Who am I to have such wonderful friends and family back in the States, who dedicate their time and attention to this random, oftentimes wandering blog to keep up with what I’m doing? I suppose I already knew that I was blessed….but it’s amazing, is it not, how the important things in our lives can crystallize and the irrelevant dissolve when we are living in a foreign environment? A friend from back home, Sarah, gave me the following quote before I left: “People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home.” I think that’s true of introspection, as well; it is for me, at least. Sometimes – oftentimes, in fact – it takes a dramatic change (such as moving to Seville) for me to realize again just how blessed I am. I tend to forget and ignore it in my normal, day to day life. But, speaking of introspection, that’s enough of that for now. It’s off to bed for me :).

Make the most of every opportunity :)

It’s been rather anticlimactic being here so far. Here I am in probably the most beautiful city I’ve ever been to in my entire life, doing something I’ve wanted to do for my entire life…but there’s something missing. Maybe it’s because I’ve been hanging out with American students all the time so far. Today (Saturday) we went to an old monastery dedicated to Christopher Columbus, and then a museum of sorts, with replicas of the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria, as well as a small replica of what a typical village that he conquered might have looked like. Check back here tomorrow and I’ll have a link for pictures. Afterwards we went to the beach for a few hours. That was fun, although I’m not a huge fan of beaches. But I was very careful and put sunscreen on not once, but twice! Mom and Lindsey and Rachel and all of the other people who work so hard to make me take care of myself would have been proud :). I also had a very interesting conversation with one of the students, Augustine. He’s an ex-catholic who is now an avowed atheist. We had quite a stimulating conversation about God, religion, evolution, science, and quite a few other things.

So anyway, like I said, today was fun, but something was missing. I think I’m missing the challenge of talking in Spanish. As much as I dreaded it, I also rather looked forward to it. That is, after all, one of the major reasons why I’m here in the first place. Classes start on Monday. We’ll get the results of our placement test back, finally get our finalized schedule, and also sign a Spanish-only contract. This contract says that students will only speak Spanish when on any CC-CS event, including classes and optional leisure activities, with both professors and students alike. I’m looking forward to that. So far, Spain has just felt like a vacation with a bunch of people I don’t know. A very lovely vacation with lots of wonderful sights and foods, but simply a vacation nonetheless.

Yep, it’s definitely the Spanish that I’m missing. My host mom, Sarah, just got back. She and her husband, Pedro, had gone to Ikea because they were bored. Anyway, we had a nice conversation in Spanish about our respective trips. It was lovely. It’s taking me a lot less time to get used to living with a Spanish family than it did in Costa Rica. Of course that could be because my parents are freaking AWESOME. They’re really, really nice, muy simpaticos (I’ll probably start throwing in Spanish words every now and then, so y’all will have to be on your toes :]).

Anyway, that’s enough for now. Since you can’t read these as I type them one at a time, I don’t want to overload you with too much Seville all at once. Besides, it’s almost dinnertime (it’s 9:30…they eat so late here!!!), and then I’m off to bed. A bunch of the students are going out at 11, but I’m an old fart and would rather sleep, lol. Tomorrow I’m going to do some exploring. I need to find an internet café, and I want to visit Jon’s park, plus I think I may also find a lead on a good place to get a panoramic view of the city :). I’m also going to try to go to mass (everyone’s Catholic here), and start planning my Eurpor-jetting adventures! We have several 4-day weekends, and I want to make sure I don’t let them slip by me! I think I’m going to Morocco on one of them, but I really also want to make it to Paris and Venice. Some of the students and I were talking today about renting a car and driving around Spain and Southern France or Northern Italy on some of our 3-day weekends. With 4 or 5 of us splitting the bill, it’d be really cheap; plus, I’m one of the only students who can drive stick-shift, so that pretty much automatically guarantees me a spot :). Regardless of all of the tears, thank you, Dad, for teaching me how to drive a manual! I appreciate it bastante!! 😀 OK, me voy, hasta pronto! Sending my love to all,

~Lauren

Day 1 :)

Well, I’m here! Classes don’t start until Monday, but I already have homework. Dad gave me a little toy pig named Olivia that I’m supposed to take pictures with as I travel around, to document my time here. So far I’ve gotten a picture of her in my room…that’s it :). Also, Jon gave me some homework in his gift that he gave me at the airport on Wednesday (gosh, that feels like FOREVER ago!!) He gave me one envelope for every week that I’m here, and every letter has a small list of things I’m supposed to do that week. I’m pretty pumped about it. Not only is it a super cool gift that obviously has a lot of time invested into it, but it’s going to help me find a starting point for my adventures (with Olivia, lol). As much as I want to explore the city and travel to other countries, it’s rather overwhelming to actually start :). So this week I have to: 1) find a café with a sitting area outside, order something scrumptious and watch people go about their busy lives while you enjoy a moment of bliss, 2) Go to la Parque de Maria Luisa and smell the flowers, look at the frogs, and admire the angels, and 3) find a building with easy access to a high floor with a panoramic view of the city and go look at the lights at night.

I’ve already found a café, although I have yet to order something scrumptious. It’s not hard to find fun little cafés and other exciting nooks and crannies here – they’re everywhere! La Parque de Maria Luisa is only a few blocks from where I am – I don’t remember if I told Jon where I was going to be living or not, but if I didn’t, great guess, Jon!! 🙂

So anyway, today we had an abbreviated walking tour of the city that lies between our orientation hotel and the Center where I’ll be taking classes (CC-CS) – which is not much of the city at all, but I’ll be exploring the rest of it on my own, so it’s all good. They introduced us to the staff at the Center, and then we had to take a test to assess our Spanish level. After that, we went back to the hotel and checked out. The CC-CS admin that was with us called a bunch of taxis, stuck us in them with an address and a map to our new home, and sent us on our way. I came back to the Center on my own in the evening for an activities fair of sorts. I was offered weed by a woman on the street on my way back to the Center…welcome to Seville! 🙁 They had vendors at the Center from all over the city with different things to do – sports, dance, gyms, etc. I think I might take a ballet class while I´m here.

All of the students are going to the beach tomorrow (what it is with everyone always assuming that Americans like the beach?? When I was in Costa Rica, the planned group activities were almost always at the beach, too). Sunday there are no plans, so I’m thinking it will be a good time to check out the park Jon told me to visit :).

I find it remarkable how not nervous I have been throughout all of the craziness of the past few days. The test was a breeze…I didn’t know everything, but I did my best and didn’t worry about it. I think I did pretty well. I had to explain and pay for some room charges that I had accrued at the hotel to the concierge…no biggie. When they stuck us in the taxis, I hardly blinked. I had a lively conversation with the taxi driver, and even helped him find my apartment – I live on a really small, hard-to-find street. (He warned me not to wear flip-flops, or I’d be instantly recognized as an American….but I don’t care. I’m already dressing nicer than normal to blend in, I’m going to wear my flip-flops, darn it! Plus, it’s all I have for now…I’ll wear nicer shoes once I buy them :].) Meeting my host parents was exciting, not scary. Even throughout all of the insanity with my flights, the only time I was really nervous was when I was waiting for the attendant at the gate in Madrid to let me know if I could get a seat on the plane I was waiting standby for.

I’m more and more thankful with every passing hour for my opportunity to go to Costa Rica. I know that I haven’t been nervous not because of my immense bravery (immense bravery, ha!), but because I’ve already done this once before. I was talking to another girl in the program during our walk to the Center, and she was telling me how nervous she was about everything, and how incredibly difficult it was to understand everyone, let alone say something. I sympathized with her…but not because I feel the same way. I had already been in that boat, in Costa Rica. I cried myself to sleep every night for the first week and a half when I went to Costa Rica. But this time, I know what to expect (more or less). Plus, I already really like my host family, while in Costa Rica it took us both a while to warm up to each other; that helps a lot. They’ve obviously hosted foreign students before, and knew exactly what to do. They let me settle and take a nap, then called me for lunch and offered just the right amount of silence and conversation, and then let me go back to sleep – I still haven’t quite recovered from my rather harrowing trip over. Scary experiences seem to get less scary every time I do them :).