Buenas noches de Granada! It seems as though everyone in BeE is settling in pretty wonderfully with their host families. The first few days were such a whirlwind of excitement and new things; I think I can speak for everyone when I say that we are relieved to be getting into somewhat of a routine.
While we might feel a little more comfortable with the city and the Spanish lifestyle, we’re by no means stopping here. My professors have barely assigned any homework so far; their philosophy is that just the act of walking to class is a learning process. We’re not cramming for exams, writing papers, and memorizing tedious bits of information; nevertheless, through living, reading, talking, dancing, etc. we are “learning” just as much. For example, we dedicate at least 30 minutes of my intensive class at the CLM each day to just useful words and phrases (frases hechas) that we’ve picked up anywhere outside of school. The focus of both our formal and informal education here is to make us overall more culturally and globally engaged; in this way, the word “learning” has taken on a different meaning for me.
I may have mentioned this before, but I really think my Spanish can improve leaps and bounds just through watching TV every night. It’s still pretty hard for me to understand because they rattle things off so quickly, but I’ve noticed that I’ve been able to catch more and more everyday. It helps too when they have some subtitles on. Right now, all of the stores have major sales — imagine a month of Black Fridays; that’s what Rebajas are. Anyway, one of the subtitles the other day was “Rebajas sobre rebajas sobre rebajas” — sales on sales on sales. We got some good laughs out of that one.
It’s been really interesting to see the influence that the United States has had here, especially on Spanish pop culture. There’s always a segment in the nightly news where they discuss different celebrities’ shenanigans, and I always laugh when they try to pronounce American names and brands (Brad Peeeet and Angoleena Johleee at “Los globos de oro,” Neh-oh-tro-he-na for a Neutrogena commercial — you get my drift). Emily and I always chuckle to ourselves, but I feel bad laughing. You can hear American music playing everywhere — stores, clubs, bars, everywhere. It’s not just music either. It’s amazing to me that any average Joe here (or average Juan?) would know who President Obama is, but no one in our class of 18 Bucknell students could tell Professor McKinney the name of Spain’s president.
We have a running joke that I have an alter ego over here — Spanish Amaaaahnda. This alter ego of mine has become such an adventurous eater in the last week. I emailed my mom asking what had become of me because she’s been begging me to eat just one bite of shrimp for 20 years now. I go to Spain for one week, and Carmen has me eating (and loving) paella filled with calamari, mussels, fish, shrimp, the whole nine yards. Funny story about the paella — having never eaten any form of seafood before this trip, imagine my surprise when I learned in class the next day that calamari was squid. I’m not sure if I could ever reproduce the shriek that came out of me. This whole squid business has become an ongoing joke with Carmen. She got my cell number so that we could talk on whatsapp and now she sends me little squid emojis as a joke.
Eating is much different here. First, mealtimes are just bizarre. We eat breakfast at about 8:30 before class (usually a mini-muffin and a little café con leche) and then have to wait until lunch at 3. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day. We then have a light dinner at about 10pm. It’s taken a lot of getting used to and I’m still not sure how I feel about it, but I do know that everything I have eaten so far at home has been amazing. Carmen was saying that people in general are a lot healthier here (and probably in Europe in general) because the food is cooked with olive oil rather than butter. They are also a lot more active. I try to go running a few times a week and when I do, I get looks from people as if I had three heads. Rather than work out for an hour and divide the other 23 between sleep and Facebook, people here are constantly walking around and out of the house. I was pretty sore the first few days after just moving so much around the city.
Through all of these sources, I’m thoroughly enjoying the process of constantly adding to my arsenal of words and phrases. I keep a small notebook in my purse so that if I hear something I like or can use later, I can quickly (and excitedly) write it down. I’m still so incredibly grateful to have been given this opportunity of a lifetime and looking forward to writing again soon! I’ll end with a video of my host sister Bea dancing el flamenco.
She told me it was tiring and I said, “I completely understand, I was exhausted just watching the video from the couch.” It’s really amazing though — check it out!