Hello everyone! 

Time for an update...


I can't believe it has only been 7 days. I feel like I have been in Spain for a month! I have done so much in this past week.

Shortly after I arrived, my house moms gave me a tour of the apartment and offered me coffee. We sat down and talked... or tried too... I explained that I only knew a little Spanish and she said she only knew a little English. I understood most of what she was saying and tried to converse back, which ended up in a game of charades between the two of us until we decided to bust out the Spanish-English dictionary. She was so sweet and patient with me and told me I would get better. She also offered to sit and talk with me at nights to improve my spanish if I wanted.

I was relieved when my roommate arrived because she is in the class above me and speaks much more spanish than I do. I was a little worried that I was in over my head because most people chose to live in the apartments. Only 5 out of 27 did the home stay.. Eeekkk. But a week into living here, I am very happy I did. From talking to the other homestays, it sounds like we got the best family :)


My Family:

I live with a woman named Concha and her sister Luisa. I can tell they have hosted a lot of international student because there are pictures are all over the living room. I don't think they ever got married or had kids so they love to have people here and care for someone. They are required to feed us breakfast and dinner but for the past week they have offered us lunch or made it for us to take to school. We're spoiled :D They call us guapa (beautiful) and when both Rachel and I got sick, they told us "Don't worry, we're your moms here in Spain, we will take care of you." We live in an apartment 1 metro stop and a couple blocks from school. My roommate Rachel and I share a spacious room. Concha and Luisa each have their own room and there is a 4th bedroom where a girl from USC is staying.  There is also a small kitchen and living room with a balcony. Their apartments are pretty small but very homey.

In front of my house

Me and my roommates room

The view from our balcony

more city streets

The City:

Balconies 

On the second day, we walked around the city a bit before our orientation for school. The city reminds me a little of San Francisco except the architecture which is very European. The buildings are beautiful and often have intricate designs. The side streets are narrow with trees and tall apartment buildings with iron balconies all the way to the top. 












Mmmmm Bocadillo




They have individualized stores or only a few "supermarkets" which are small/minimal for our standards. Instead, for medicine there are pharmacies on every other block, bakeries, meat stores, lots of cafes and restaurants and the occasional burger king or Starbucks. We got hungry on our walk and stopped in to a place called museo de jamon (which translates to museum of ham) Boooyyy do they love their ham! lol We got a bocadillo (sandwich) for 1.5 euros. It was thinly sliced ham (like prosciutto) and cheese on a croissant - I fell in love! looks like bocadillos may be my main food source here. 









Cathedral

Later during our orientation, we went down to the city center to get a tour of Madrid. We took the metro to the Opera house where we met our Spanish tour guide. She took us to the royal palace and told us some history about the royal families of Spain and how Madrid became the capitol.  Now the palace is much too large (400 rooms for the family and all who worked for them) to live in and the royal family lives somewhere else. But they still use the palace for certain events. Next door we saw an old cathedral built with beautiful marble carvings. She then showed us some of the oldest buildings in madrid, the first city hall, a market and then plaza mayor. The plaza is a rectangular shape with residential apartments whose balconies all face inward. It used to be the site of soccer games, bullfights and even where criminals who were condemned to death were executed. Now it is lined with cafes and shops. There were magicians, street performers and even a mickey mouse in the plaza entertaining those visiting. Our final stop was the Puerta de Sol. This other plaza is where everyone gathers in Apain for new years eve. Even those who don't go, watch the clock in the plaza count down from their TVs. When it strikes twelve, Spaniards eat a grape for every ring. A grape at every stoke of the clock symbolizes 12 months of good luck... and a mouth full of grapes.  

The Royal Palace

Me at Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor

I get around everywhere by the Metro. It is so easy to use. The lines go all over the city, its prompt and super clean! It puts BART to shame.

On the metro



The Food:

One of the best parts about the homestay is home cooked meals. The first day, Concha made fried chicken and home made papas fritas (french fries). I told her I like a lot of vegetables so she makes salad with every dinner. We've also had pizza, stir fry and rice, potato leek soup, and more traditional Spanish meals like beans and potatoe tortillas. Breakfast is the same everyday. The make us fresh squeezed orange juice, coffee, toast with jam and little chocolate wafer cookies. For lunch, they often make us bocadillos and fruit to take with us to class. The food is a lot heavier in olive oil, but so far I haven't had any problem adjusting. Concha and Luisa always check what we like a don't like. Sometimes I feel they are secretly trying to fatten us up. Our dinners are four courses - salad, two entrees and dessert. We always roll ourselves back into our rooms and quickly pass out (also since dinner is usually around 10). I'm definitely going to need to start running in the parks once it warms up. Speaking of...

Typical Breakfast


Weather:

The weather here has been crazy. Its freezing cold. Its been a high of 55 and gets down to 36 in the evenings. It rains on and off almost every day. The program directors told us this has been the longest coldest winter they've seen in a long time. Next week its supposed to warm up to 60s. I hope it gets nicer soon since most of the things I packed were for warmer weather. 


The People:

Everyone here dresses very nicely. The women are fabulous with their long trench coats, purses and heels and the men in their nice jeans, button up shirts and sport coats. And that's everyday, walking around attire. Sweatpants, sweatshirts, shorts and flip flops are all associated with Americans, but I see a sweater or two every once in a while. It's very popular to have a shirt with writing on it in English which is kind of funny to see. 

There are two big things that are talked about with living in Spain. First are the pick pocketers. Apparently it is very common and these pick pocketers have it down to an art. They can spot tourists or foreigners quickly and you become an easy target for them. I brought a purse that zips and then folds and clips so it is difficult to get into. On top of that, they tell us to have our hands on our bags at all time and not to put anything in our pockets. I haven't had any experiences with pickpocketers. Other people in the program have been followed or had had things handed to them to read- while they are reading them, someone else in the team pickpockets. I have been keeping my head on a constant swivel. 

The other thing people often talk about in Spain is the staring. In the US, it's impolite to stare but here, it's socially acceptable. In fact, there isn't a word in spanish that means 'to stare.' Its not seen as a deliberate action or something out of the ordinary. I will see people staring at me, especially on the metro. I guess the more you blend in the less they stare but it still happens out of boredom. To be honest I don't mind at all because it lets me stare back!  I get to check out what people are wearing, listen into their conversations, and just see how they are different than Americans without looking like a creep. So as far as that cultural difference.. I'm down for it haha


Classes

After our orientation, we started classes the next day. I am in the intensive language program and it's no joke! We have class from 9am-1:30pm every day. Then we have another culture class from 5:30pm-7:00pm Monday and Wednesday. In addition, I signed up to do an internship and will be a TA in an English class at a school around the block. I'm not sure what age I will be with yet but the class is from 2:45-5 Monday and Tuesday. The classes are going to move very quickly. We already have a midterm on tuesday! The language class is 3 classes in 1. For each class you have two midterms and a final. So multiply that by 3 classes, thats 9 tests. We have 10 weeks of class so after the first week that is a test every week. Its pretty crazy!

Accent center and International Institute

The International Institute where I take class



These are just some of my first impressions so far. It has been non-stop trying to get settled and used to everything. Also, I have been very sick the past couple of days and am just starting to feel better. The flu bugs here in Spain are something serious! So, I apologize if everything was a little discombobulated.   These hot spells and chills have me a little loopy.

I'll write more again soon.


Ciao!

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Tags: Abroad, Aggies, Davis, Madrid, Spain, Study, UC, UCD

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