So lately, I have been feeling kind of down and still feel pretty drained from the Italy trip. I was away for 6 days, roaming through airports, train stations, metros (subways), hostels, and cities. Pisa, Florence,
Venice, Rome, and back to Pisa. That in itself was exhausting… but when you’re traveling with a group… a group of girls, it gets a little more complex. Especially when these people, whom I call friends, have only one person in mind, which is sadly, THEMSELVES. [And, I’m just going to end my Italy trip here.]
Anyway, so after Italy, I feel like I’m physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and whateverelse-lly drained. I just want to stay in Córdoba this weekend and relaxxxx…
So anyway, my Spanish mother just randomly came in my room and said she really appreciates me and loves my character. Sigh. :) Makes me feel a lot better.
So, some of you may know, I haven’t spoken to my mom, my real mom, for quite some time. To count, this is actually the second time we got into an argument and haven’t spoken since. And coincidentally, they both happened right before I left for somewhere. For instance, the first time was right before I left for college, and in fact, I ended up leaving for college without my mom’s recognition and without saying bye. And this time, it was this past summer when I came home for about a week or so before I left for Europe. And once again, I left without my mom’s recognition and without saying bye.
So, sadly to say, having another “mother” in an unfamiliar city, COUNTRY, to feed you and take care of you, and to talk to, is pretty comforting.
On another note: I have a “sister”, another student from my program whom I share a family with. She is a 3rd year at UC Irvine, so essentially, I have a younger sister. I’ve never had a younger sibling and have always been the youngest in my family. Although times have changed, and I’ve become pretty independent and have lived away from home and my family during my undergraduate career (and still going), I just wanted to acknowledge my two older sisters. Now, I sort of have an idea how annoying it was to have a younger sister… granted, they have dealt with me (as I have dealt with them in some cases) for 21 years….and I have only dealt with my “sister” for a little more than a month…
It’s hard. It’s hard to stay patient. Sometimes it’s hard to deal with her “witty” remarks. I’m not saying that I’m perfect in everything that I do… but it’s definitely a challenge living with someone who has lived at home their WHOLE life (still counting, minus the time abroad), having their parents pick up after them.
So THANK YOU SISTERS! And thank you Jesus for my great family in Spain and in America! (And I can’t forget about my amazing friends! )
Granted, I’ve flown on a plane many times, enough to lose count. But this was my first trip oversees, traveling alone. Luckily, I have a friend who lives in England, who has gratefully picked me up from the London, Heathrow Airport and I had a place to crash for a few weeks. Thanks to my friend, Arelly, I had the convenience of having a familiar person to guide me in an unfamiliar place, easing my nerves.
Spain, however, was a different, yet another experience. I came here not knowing what to expect. Not knowing whether I would get totally lost trying to get here. From Stansted Airport (England) to Seville Airport (Spain), Seville Airport to the Seville train station, Seville train station to Cordoba train station (simply buying the ticket and catching the right train), Cordoba train station to Hotel Selu. Not knowing who I would meet along the way, or even scarier, what was waiting for me in a place that can easily be considered a completely different world than the one I have been living in. My Spanish language skills? Pretty minimal at best. My knowledge of Spain or their culture? Nonexistent. Absolutely clueless. My stress level? Unbelievable. THROUGH THE ROOF.
The first few days mirrored that of move-in day freshmen year, except eight times more insane. Meeting about 60 new people, more or less, at the same time is unthinkable in itself. When you add thoughts like: Which of these people will actually be my friends? What will school be like? Where am I going to travel and who am I going to travel with? Do I have enough money? I still need to find an adaptor for my computer, a gym, a place with internet (Will I be the lucky few to have wifi at home?), and what seems like a billion other things, where the hell do I go? And when you’re in a place that is totally new and unfamiliar to you, where the only familiar face that exists is on a facebook page, and where everyone around you speaks a completely different Spanish than the one you have heard and learned for years, these thoughts start getting really scary. And to add that it is over a hundred degrees outside + humidity.
Things start to ease a little when I meet my “Madre”, the woman whose house I will be living in and the woman who I will be eating all of my meals with for the next three and a half months. I got lucky in that I got placed with another student from my program, Amrita, my “hermana”. We each have our own rooms, and live with Nicole, an incredibly sweet, loud, joke-cracking psychologist, Elodie, my host sister who just started her first year in college and Celine, my other host sister who goes to college in Madrid, and two gatas, Kiwi and Freaky. (And I can’t forget Lauren, another student from my program, who lives literally 5 steps away and her host family. Essentially, I have TWO host families). Nicole has been hosting international students for over 5 years, so she knows exactly what to expect in that she already knows how late students stay out, what they like to eat, the best clubs, and most importantly to speak the slowest Spanish possible for us so we can understand. P.S. We are one of the few houses who have wifi in the house! Woohoo!
I never thought it would happen but I have finally settled in here. You would not believe how many Zoolander moments of “who am I?” Emotional up and down moments I have had in the first few weeks, and ‘till this day, I still wonder, sometimes. I have finally not only gotten used to but really truly started to appreciate the way of life here. Although once in a blue moon, I get some Spaniard quietly calling me “China”. Although it may sound offensive, they just don’t know. (There are quite a lot of Chinese people here, who have stores that sell random stuff or have dubbed down Chinese restaurants.)
I go to school from 9:30-1:00, Monday – Thursday, and 17:15-19:15, Monday and Tuesdays (with exceptions), at the special wind of the school called the “Enfermeria”. School is fun. Good teachers, small classes, and a homework load that probably equals to what I had in elementary school. I’m taking Spanish Language (thankfully placed into Spanish 3), History (of Spain), and International Relations-Political Science class (European Studies). This program definitely pushes us (or tries) to really spend time immersing ourself in the culture and in the city.
The life of the people here follows such a nice pattern, it flows, and since I am so new to it, it seems like it is almost musical, a breath of fresh air. Why? Here are my reasons:
Primarily, I think it is because family is so important here. When kids are done with school, and adults are done with work (around 3) they go home and spend time with their family. Everyone eats lunch together, talks, and after, takes their daily “siesta”, a planned nap and Spanish custom (If not all, most stores close from like 3-7:30), together. People enjoy spending time together here. There is no such thing as a “to-go” coffee or meal. You sit down outside with someone, and talk and enjoy what you’re eating. From about 9 PM-12 you can find all of the plazas here packed with people and families just sitting and talking.
I have not met one stranger here. Everyone you make an effort to talk to or make friends with makes that effort right back. The Spanish friends I have made here have been a result of completely coincidental events, like the bartender, (#1) or the cashier at the store (#2), or the intercambio program, and church. You start trying to talk to a group of Spaniards in Spanish? They talk back in Spanglish, happy to meet an American to practice language with. (That’s how I made Spanish friend # 3, 4, and 5). They have names don’t worry.
To add to this, these people have some of the best fashion sense I have ever seen. I don’t even remember what flip flops (“changlas”), saggy dude pants, and shorts that make your butt fall out look like. Talk about culture shock when I get back to the U.S. Both girls AND GUYS put in the effort to look nice. I have seen some old ladies that are better dressed than I have been on many occasions. My Spanish teacher does not once hesitate to apply her super fly makeup and wear her heels every day to her job. Looking nice is part of the lifestyle, it’s not considered to be petty or silly or a pain.
To sum it all up? what an adventure, and quite the experience so far.
Today was my second day of school! Woohoo!
I was SO tired today… no joke. Some people went to go get some Tapas at a bar, but I went home instead and took advantage of the siesta.
I’ve adapted well to the spanish culture in terms of the schedule.
Light breakfast, lunch at 3, siesta (nap), and dinner at 9:30ish. :)
Class was good. Thank God, I had a lot more patience than I had yesterday. I’m learning… it’s good.
Hm, this is the first day, I eat dinner by myself…
My sister, Amrita, and neighbor, Lauren, went to an Internet cafe to plan our day tomorrow and I didn’t want to go… and my mom is drinking beer and talking with Lauren’s “mom” outside on the patio.
So… I’m watching a telenovela, a Spanish show. Haha!
“We don’t chose who we love, it just happens.”
It has been exactly 1 week since I’ve arrived in Spain. For 3 nights and 4 days, I stayed at a hotel called Hotel Selu. It was a very small but cute place located in a very small alley. On Monday, September 6, my fellow students and I sat in the hotel conference room as we all eagerly waiting for our host parents to pick us up. We didn’t know what to expect and we were really nervous. Thankfully, my host mom named Nicole is great! I have a roommate/sister from the program named Amrita and she goes to UC Irvine. I also have a host sister named Elodie who is 18 years old. Before the program started, one of the requirements to apply for this program was to fill out a housing questionnaire form where we write what kind of hosts we want - single parent, family, etc, food we eat, food we don’t eat, etc. I requested a family with young and older kids, pets, and my food restrictions. Not all of these are guaranteed to be granted. However, I am really blessed to have the family that I have. Although my “sisters” aren’t super young as I hoped, Elodie is such an awesome sister and person. I also have 2 cats named Kiwi and Friki (pronounced “Freaky”, haha!).
I live in the more modern, newer area of town, which looks really nice…BUT is the farthest from school. It takes me about 15 minutes to walk to the bus stop, so it takes me about 32 minutes to get to school.
I had my first day of class yesterday, Thursday, September 9. I placed into Spanish 3, History, and International Studies. I have class M-Th 9:30-13:00, MTu 17:15-19:15, F 10:00-12:00.
I was SUPER excited for the first day of school! I was so drained after class, I’ve realized, it’s REALLY exhausting listening and speaking in Spanish. I like my classes but my language class is 2 hours long! There is also this girl who has a lot of confidence speaking in Spanish (which is reallly good!), but she isn’t necessarily good at it…The only thing that really bugs me is that she thinks so highly of herself and does not know when to stop talking. She literally talked during the whole 2 hours and at one point, our teacher had to stop her. I really need patience and need to practice patience. This is something I’ve been struggling with for a while now, and it’s been very hard.
On the other hand, I really enjoyed my history class, although I do not like history. The teacher is REALLY nice and really encouraging. Yay for me, I have him two classes! :)
After school, I took a siesta (nap; a Spanish custom to take naps) and at night, once again, we all met at Plaza de Tendillas. A few of us, girls, ordered Tinto Veranos and just chilled. Later, a few of us went to the mercado, and they bought wine and beer and we went to park to hangout and drink. We made up our own spanish game, “Jugamos Zoo, ‘uno, dos, jugamos zoo’”. It was hilarious! There were a lot of young people sitting on these HUGE stairs, hanging out and drinking, so we decided to join them, but sat in our own little spot…when suddenly, one of the kids yelled, “CORRE!!!! POLICIA!!”.. Which means, RUN! So all the kids dispersed and ran… it was HILARIOUS. I couldn’t stop laughing… I’m in Spain, part of a immersion program, and surely, I felt “immerged” into the culture when all the young locals ran.
And this was us.
Make it a great day or not, the choice is yours!
“If we get in trouble, tell them we’re Americans and don’t speak Spanish”
I’m going to start officially blogging starting… NOW! :) Or I’m going to try.
Here is a recap of my new location: Córdoba, Spain.
I took Virgin Atlantic from LAX to Heathrow, UK.
I stayed in England for almost 2 weeks! I got to hangout with Jerry and Arelly and some of their American and British friends. Although some days felt pretty long and bland, I really enjoyed seeing all their faces and the England lifestyle. I’m really grateful for Jerry and Arelly for opening up their home to me for more than a week!
On Friday, September 3, I caught a bus at Mildenhall, England, and rode to Stansted Airport, England. I took a plane from England to Spain on Ryanair. Ryanair isn’t as cheap as they say.
The plane ticket itself might be cheap, but they add on double the ticket amount for taxes and fees, and even for me administration fee, baggage fee, check-in fee, etc. From the Seville, Spain airport, I took a taxi to the train station and took a train to the train station of Cordoba, Spain. From the station I took another taxi to the hotel.
090919 - most pictures!
These pictures are not much, but it is of the things I saw while we were a little lost. Haha.
090910 - more pictures!
090910 is today.
This is getting a little hard to update everyday.. (if you haven’t already noticed..)
Before I update the past few days, I wanted to share a little of Spain’s culture.
This is their schedule: Breakfast in the morning: Toast and coffee, Lunch at 3pm, Siesta (nap time), and then dinner at 9-11pm.
Notice the “Siesta time” inbetween lunch and dinner. I’ve been taking advantage of this time, and have been taking a nap since Monday. It’s great. :)
On 060910, We had our second program orientation in the morning. After the orientation, we waited in the room for our host parents to pick us up. Everybody was so nervous.. (no joke). The mothers, families, kids, all started to come in one by one, picking up their student… The parents were suppose to get to the hotel at 12, some arrived earlier and some arrived wayyyy later. My mom was one of the ones who came a little later.. There were about 10 of us left, and I thought our families forgot about us. Haha.
So, I have a “sister” from the program, host sister, host mom, and two cats. My mom was very nice and very talkative and outgoing. I also have a neighbor from the program, which is pretty cool, she lives right next door. The place is nice… I didn’t take any pictures, but it’s cute.
In 070910, My sister, Amrita, neighbor Lauren, and I walked to the bus stop and took the bus to school. We had a placement exam: oral and written. It wasn’t so bad. And at 12, we had academic orientation.
At night, a lot of us from the program met up at the plaza de tendias, and like always, split up and hung out. A group of us went to this bar and just sat outside and talked. Then another group joined us… Later that night, we split up again, and a group of us went into this club?/bar and danced a little and left. (haha). Amrita, Lauren, and I got in at about 2am.
On 080910, It was technically a holiday… a day of festivities… so EVERYTHING was closed, except the bars. Amrita, Lauren, and I seriously slept in… it was great. After, we took a taxi to El Barrio de La FuenSanta. There was so many people! It was like this small carnival for the kids and had a bar and food. They were also selling a lot of bells and stuff. I bought a bell. Haha! I guess it’s tradition… or something. There was this ride at the carnival that had a train…and all it did was go around and around.. and the works who were dressed up as clowns or witches, had a broom and would hit the riders… it was weird, but everybody was having fun, old and young people..
During siesta time, we just walked around and got lost a little.. and finally caught a taxi back home.
090910 - today, I had my first day of school. I was really excited. :) In the morning, the three of us took a bus to school and all of us found out which class we were placed into. I got into SPanish 3, and International Relations.
SO my schedule is: M-Th: Language 9:30-11:30, History 12:00-13:00; and M and T: European Studies(IR) 17:15-19:15.
There is this girl in our program who is SOO annoying. Since the first day we all met at the hotel last SUnday, this girl talks so much! She thinks she knows a lot of Spanish so she would talk a lot during our orientations in spanish with the directors…. Unfortunately, she’s in ALLL my classes… Id on’t know what I’m going to do. In my first class, she kept talking and talking and didn’t give a chance to anyone else to talk…. and finally, the professor stopped calling on her. It was ridiculous!
Anyway, after class, I caught the bus and got off a few stops before my regular stop. And I decided to walk through the parks and stuff. It was nice, but it was super hot. I was on my on.. and it looks like I will be on my own on M-Th coming home because Amrita and Lauren have class until 2.
Until next time, tooodles.
EVERYBODY IS ARRIVING TODAY!!! I hope they are all nice.
Last night, I had a really hard time sleeping because I had reallly NASTY cramps. They hurt a lot… and so eventually I made myself my own heating pad. I filled a water bottle with hot water. And I ended up falling asleep around 7am… The front desk called my room and told me I had to check out so I packed all my bags and went to the reception desk downstairs and dropped off my luggage.
I then went to this bar to eat lunch…. by myself.
I met this old man named Pepe. He was really nice and boy, does he like to talk. HAha! It was so fun though. I learned a lot from him and a lot of history of Spain, specifically of Córdoba. We were talking about such random things! At first, it was SO hard to understand him,… I didn’t understand a word he said, but after a while, like about 30 minutes, I was able to understand him. It was great! :) I got to try a lot of different type of Tapas..
I ordered this Tapa that was translated to Spanish Omelette… it was literally this big potato on my plate. It was delicious but after a few bites, it got too salty and I couldn’t finish it. These tapa plates are meant for you to eat with beer or wine so that it can balance the taste.. but I didn’t want to drink alcohol in the morning!?!??! This old man also ordered this fish thing because he wanted me to try it. This fish thing was literally smothered in vinegar. It was gross! I tried it and pretended it was good. Haha! I was also given this tapa plate of rice but it was like mixed with something… it was orange. It was good. And the bartender also gave me bread and oil because they thought we didn’t have that in America, so I totally played it off like it was my first time trying bread and olive oil. HAHA!
Pepe and I ended up talking for about 3 hours… it was INTENSE!! This old man actually paid for my meal.. because he kept insisting. It was nice.
I had my first orientation today. It was really really short.. I met a lot of people today in my program. They’re nice… There are definitely more ladies than gents…. It’s like a 10 to 1 ratio. THis will be interesting! :)
And Hotel Selu provided dinner for us. The first dish was this seafood and carne thing with macaroni noodles.. it was good? And our second dish was fries with this pork roll deep fried…… it was gross. I’m trying to be more open minded with the food out here…. but sometimes it’s just hard.
Although some people are roaming the streets right now, my roommate and I are in our rooms… haha! Talk about being anti-social.