I was sitting alone, confused, and feeling lost. I could not understand anything that the announcer was saying in Spanish…and I hadn’t even left JFK yet. Well these next four months will be interesting, I thought. Fortunately, everything went smoothly travel wise. I even got to eat two not completely terrible airplane meals for free! Talk about nostalgia to not paying for nuts and water days! Once I got to Madrid I almost missed my connecting flight because I was helping an elderly woman find her gate. She insisted on asking the only person not fluent in Spanish for help. Once I got to Sevilla on a short hour and a half flight, the CIEE folks were there to gather up all of the American students. They quickly sent us off in taxis and we were on our way to our host families!
I pulled up to my complex on calle Alhambra and my host mom and dad were waiting at the gate to meet me. “Hola Jaclyn (chacleen) qué guapa! Estás cansada? Tienes hambre? Te ayudamos!” Ay! Luckily I had already learned that the magic word in Spain is “vale” which means okay. Here in Spain, if you don’t know what’s going on, everything is vale. Vale, Vale, Vale. I must say, I felt pretty bad watching my host dad carry my very overweight bag up the stairs in the 105 degree heat. The house is so cute. It is a townhome in a nice complex with a bunch of families and a fútbol field. The rest of the day was a blur considering I hadn’t slept in 30 hours. I got to know my rock hard bed really well that day and I couldn’t have slept better. My host family is AMAZING. I cannot say enough good things about them. My host mom is such a sweetheart and constantly is helping me with my Spanish, as no one in the family speaks English. She is also an amazing cook and has her own business. My host dad is an economist and also is a great cook and total family man. The kids are adorable and the little girl is absolutely obsessed with One Direction. I made the mistake of lying and telling her the first day that I like them too. I should probably download one of their songs since she asks me about them constantly. The entire family is super active and was telling me that they had just returned from a mountain climbing trip. They are very modern and I was surprised to learn how liberal they are and that they are atheists since I just assumed they would be Catholic. The parents are very intelligent, levelheaded people and are great conversationalists even with my juvenile Spanish. Some of my favorite memories thus far are my dinner conversations with the family or my nights at home watching TV with them. The entire family dynamic is so different than in the states. It is really sweet and special. They eat every lunch and every dinner together. The kids are always laughing, hugging, and kissing their parents on the cheeks and thanking them for their meals. I cannot imagine any 13-year-old boy in the states doing this! I recently told my host mom that my favorite movie is “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and today she told me that they bought a copy in Spanish for me to watch with the family. Qué guay! I am so lucky to have such a great living situation and cannot wait to get to know them all better.
Sevilla is incredible. It is my first time in Europe so I have really never seen anything like it. It is so different from the states. For one, everything is always closed during the day. I really don’t know how businesses make any money here! During siesta, which goes roughly from 1-3:30, is the most dangerous time to be walking around since no one is on the streets and everything is closed. I’m not complaining about my 3-hour siesta everyday though, that’s one thing I can definitely get used to for the next 4 months. Breakfast is very light and frankly a little sketchy in my mind. I’m not sure how I feel yet about non-refrigerated milk that doesn’t expire until next year and the same goes for the eggs that sit out in the 100-degree heat. However, the amazing lunches make up for that for sure. Lunch is their biggest meal of the day and is always something different. Dispacho, which is a cold tomato soup is common, Tortilla, which is like an omelette con carne, potatoes, y queso, lasagna, paella, fish, and much more. We eat lunch around 3pm and then vamos a descansar. After siesta I go for a run through the park and down the river and back. Take a nice cold shower to not feel like I am burning up for about 10 minutes and then hang out around the city with my friends or chat with my family. Dinner is around 10pm every night and is a little lighter than lunch followed with either yogurt or fruit for postre. As for the city in general, it is absolutely beautiful. Besides all the dog crap on the streets and the graffiti, I can’t say anything bad about it. The people are so friendly and are always willing to help with my Spanish. There is an enormous Cathedral in the middle of the city that I was able to tour the other day. You can see the entire city of Sevilla from the top of the tower! It is also very easy to get lost in the city since every street corner is either a farmacía or a cruzcampo sign, which is their main beer here. Plus I have no sense of direction to start. There are so many people that stay in Sevilla for their entire lives and I completely understand why. Four months here just does not seem long enough.
The nightlife here is insane. Two years in college, Greek life, and my half Irish side has not prepared me enough for it. We start off the night at the local bar. The Americans have kind of taken over the one that is near our housing and you can always tell us apart from the Spaniards. I never realized how loud we are. As our Spanish hosts like to say, Americans always need to yell and talk over each other. Traveling as a big pact in general is going to attract stares, but I figure once we learn where we are going we will branch out more. After we meet at the first bar we head over to Calle Alfafa, which is just a street of more bars. Around 1 or 2 am we go to Calle Betis across the river, which is a mix between larger bars or smaller clubs. If the night is feeling really aggressive, we then head out to las discotecas. Belindo is a popular one and you dance the night away until about 6am. When I came back one night my host mom told me if I would’ve stayed out one more hour I could’ve bought churros! Good to know, Señora. The culture is so different here. No one cares how old you are. I swear I saw a 14 year old girl with a cervesa out last night. I’m not going to lie, I did get ID’d once at some super high-class bar, which is unheard of in Spain. When we finally convinced him I was indeed 21 and not 17, I realized it was an old persons club and made myself feel a little better. The bouncer has to keep those cougars happy. Either way, it made for a good laugh for my group that I’m jailbait. Again, thank god for las siestas. There is no way I would be able to make it through the next 4 months without them!
My classes don’t start until September 11th so I have time to settle in. For this past week and the following week all CIEE students need to take an intensive Spanish course and then a placement test at the Universidad de Pablo Olvides aka UPO for our classes. The class is very interactive and we even went on a day trip to Carmona the other day to view the town and see some unique tomb sites. Unfortunately, all of the travel, partying, new food, and time change have caught up to me and I have been sick all day. My host family was very happy that I stayed home with them and watched tv though. Tonight we ate dinner together (plain chicken and bread for me) and then watched the final 3 episodes of “Pulseras Rojas.” A Catalonian tv show dubbed in Spanish about a children’s hospital. It was actually really good and was just bought by Spielberg to remake in the states! I’m definitely going to look out for it. That’s all for now. I will try to keep up with this blog more than just once every few weeks in the future. Perhaps cut that siesta time 30 minutes short to write…such a sacrifice. Hasta Luego!