The Place, the Food and the Family.

After spending my first full month abroad, I can say that I’ve gotten to know many quirks about Spain and the Spanish way of Life. I was actually surprised by the way things are done here.

First, Ill begin with my schedule. When I get up in the morning, just before seven, its still dark. When I’m walking to the bus stop to go to school, I can see the stars peering through the tops of the buildings. At this time, the sun hasn’t even started to change the lighting, it looks like midnight. By the time I get to the school though, the sun has just started to rise, and the air is cool. I think Iv’e adjusted the time schedule here as being about 2 hours behind an American day (even though its 6 hours ahead) 10 AM looks like 8 AM to me. I attend all my classes and when I leave the University, the sun is High up, and shining bright. There are mountains littering the Costa Blanca of Spain, and are always visible on the horizon. When I get back to my homestay, we eat lunch and spend the afternoon in the house. If I choose to go out, the City is filled with lights, and every store is open, even at 8-9 PM.  It really is just a later system.

The architecture is vastly different than that of the States. Even in the cities, buildings are very non-conformist. They don’t ever match. In the states, I have found that many houses, buildings and apartments, while having minor differences, are generally squared off, windows flush with the walls, and door up front. Here, especially within the city of Alicante, the buildings are all sorts of shapes with several balconies on every floor. Some bough out in wave patterns, others like sharp corners. The windows all have shields on them that look like they are to protect against hurricanes, they can be rolled up. I usually use mine to darken my room at night. Here the palm trees line the streets, with monuments at every rotary, and the rotaries are replacing intersections. The city has parking garages everywhere on the side streets that descend into the ground. And on top of them lies a menagerie of shops or hotels. and apartments on top of those. This particular city, is a wonder of architecture, and I do’t anticipate that the rest of Spain would be that much different.

The food here is centered around three main ingredients: Tomatoes, Potatoes and Rice. Every dish I have eaten has been some part of the aforementioned ingredients with a meat, such as fish, chicken or pork. My daily meals go as such: breakfast is small. Most people enjoy a fresh croissant and a coffee (fair warning Americans, its all espresso, and served in teacups). And mid day between 8 AM-3 PM, I will have a “bocadillo” pronounced “Bo-Ca-D-Yo”. Bocadillos are a deli sandwich. served on a piece of hearty bread, usually with a slice of specialty ham and cheese. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day, which my host family eats dutifully at 3PM. Lunch varies, much like dinners back in the States. Lunch begins with a soup, or small appetizer; for me, this is normally gazpacho. This is followed by an entree. One of my favorite entrees is a rice dish, topped with fried tomato sauce, beneath two sunny-side up eggs. Mixed together, it’s a really good meal. Lunch is always finished with fresh fruit. Generally after lunch, you take a siesta. From what I understand, you get up early to go to work/school, and come back to eat lunch, and sleep so you can stay up late. Lastly, dinner is also small, usually a bocadillo or a slice of pizza.

And now for the Spanish Families. I live with a woman and her son, Inma (Short for Inmaculada) and Pablo. The people here are very old-world. Inma loves to fill the Victorian housewife role, and she refuses to let me help her with some daily chores. She insists, so I just oblige. Pablo stays to his own business, but we talk when hes at the apartment. He like most Europeans, loves American music, movies and general culture. He shares a lot of views politically about the world as many Americans do. They are really encouraging. It means the world to them that I experience as much as I can while I’m here. And they are very accommodating when it comes to helping me pick up words and phrases and helping me to navigate the city. They even ask me how to say things in English sometimes! Our apartment is small. A living room, 3 small bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom the size of a half bath all linked by a narrow hallway. This is normal city living from what I understand. It continues to be a challenge to perfectly say what I want to say. Even coming into this having spoken a good deal of Spanish, I still find myself asking how to say things. One word of advice to Spanish speakers coming to Spain, they are quite vulgar. Though i say “vulgar” the words are not connotatively the same. So hearing it from an an American background makes it seem more inappropriate than it actually is.

Before October is over, I will be halfway done with this adventure of mine. Not a day goes by when I don’t think of home. But I know that being here is all part of the journey back home. And the Journey is the best part. I attended a seminar lead by a British professor here, and he was there to talk about pragmatism in American writing. And a few sentences he spoke to us really spoke to me. First, he told us that “Human Experience is an art form.”, and that all travel is Mental travel. You are seeing the world from different views. You see different truths. And through this, we are made the better. In the end, his lecture was that life is not about final destinations.

As Harry Chapin once sang: “It’s got to be the going not the getting there that’s good.”

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