Sunday, September 26, 2010

Time flies, whether you're having fun or not...

...but don't worry, I'm having fun. The past two weeks have flown, and now I've been here a month. I've been going to class, among other things. Last Monday classes started for the first-year students. I've been going to classes for second-year students, but decided to switch, which means I basically started over on Monday. It felt a little messed up to be going to the first day of class the second time around. So far it's been good. The teachers are, for the most part, nice and helpful. I'd venture to say that I understand about 75% of what goes on in class, on a good day, so I have gotten really frustrated and bored during several 2-hour class periods. I can tell it's getting easier, though, and this week my goal is to bond with some real live Spanish students :p

Last weekend, the 16th, 17th, and 18th of September, I took the bus to Barcelona with a couple of my friends. We left Burgos at 11 p.m. Thursday night and arrived in Barcelona at 7 a.m. on Friday. We spent all day Friday and all day Saturday in Barcelona, and got back to Burgos at 4 a.m. on Sunday morning. Barcelona is a beautiful city, and it's huge. In our two days, we barely even scratched the surface. Dokia, one of the girls I went with, is doing a project about Antonio Gaudí, an amazing Spanish architect, for her major. Since Gaudí's works are primarily in Barcelona, we spent most of our time visiting some of them. We saw La Sagrada Familia (a church), La Casa Batlló, which is a house/apartment that Gaudí was commissioned to redesign, and La Casa Milá, an apartment building. We also spent an hour in Park Guell, which Gaudí designed. All of his work is absolutely amazing and unique. My favorite was the Casa Batlló. We saw a few other things and got acquainted with the metro system. One weird thing about Barcelona--there aren't really skyscrapers. In the U.S. you can always tell where downtown is by the skyscrapers, but the parts of Barcelona that I saw were more or less level.
View from Park Guell. The tall spires are the towers of La Sagrada Familia, and in the distance you can see the ocean.
Yesterday was the first day that has seemed cold to me here. It was probably around 60 degrees, but it seemed pretty chilly to me. Today Diego and Eva had a race for their running club in a nearby town. I was freezing! All I had was a sweatshirt. I'm hoping it gets warmer, but I'm guessing it won't. Oh well.

I'm hoping to have a chance to blog again this week sometime. I've been pretty lazy about it so far, but I will try to be more consistent.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The beach, school, running, and a shot of homesickness

Today was my fourteenth day in Spain. It’s only been two weeks, but it feels like so much longer. Here is a little of what I’ve been up to:

Last weekend my host family and I hit up San Sebastián. I saw the ocean for the first time and it was super amazing. We swam in it every day, and I enjoyed it immensely. San Sebastián is beautiful, and I bonded with my host family a lot. Since arriving, I have met a lot of different people—María and Antonio’s siblings, friends, and relatives. When you meet someone for the first time, it is Spanish tradition to kiss them on the cheeks, both left and right. It was weird to me at first but now I am getting used to cheek kisses, and it’s actually a nice way to do things.

Monday classes started, but it has been anything besides simple. Registering for classes here has been one of the most confusing things I’ve done thus far. I am still not completely sure of my schedule. Every other international student I have talked to is having the same issue, and even the Spanish students think it is confusing. I did manage to attend a few classes this week, despite the confusion. I have a little trouble following everything that is going on, but the teachers are helpful and the classes are small. As they say here, I will learn “poco a poco,” a little at a time.

I didn’t have class yesterday, so I slept in. In the afternoon, I went downtown and met up with a few of my friends, and we went shopping. Normally I’m not much of a shopper, but here it is addicting—I can’t seem to get enough of it. Unfortunately, money doesn’t grow on trees, so this shopping habit is ending now :)

Last night was María and Antonio’s 16th wedding anniversary, so we went to a nearby pueblo and ate out. We had deep-fried squid, salad, and some other tapas, which are like appetizers. It was delicious, and overall a very good night. There was a festival going on in the pueblo, so after supper the kids and I rode the bumper cars. We finally arrived home at around 11:30 p.m.

Diego and Eva, the two youngest children, are involved in atletismo, which is kind of like track, but only for running. They had a “track meet” of sorts today, and both of them won their respective races. It was exciting, and I got to meet and cheek kiss a bunch more relatives.

Today I was a little homesick. The countryside where I am is similar to the prairie, with a few more trees. There are cottonwoods here, and some of the grasses are the same, but they don’t make me feel closer to home. Instead, they emphasize the distance. I really miss driving my car, and of course I miss all of my people.

So I’m homesick, but I don’t want to end this blog on a sad note, because homesickness is manageable. It is much easier now to communicate than it was 10 or 20 years ago, and I am thankful for that. It has been a really good two weeks, and I know it can only get better as school gets underway. I was quite shocked to realize tonight that today is September 11. It is strange to me to be in a foreign country, remembering all the things that happened in my own country on this day.

I also think I should mention that I walked four miles today. Personally, I find it quite impressive :D

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The first week in Spain!

I arrived in Spain Saturday, August 28th. I've been here a little over three days, but it seems like a lifetime since I left the States. My host family has been absolutely awesome so far. They helped me figure out all my paperwork stuff for temporary residency and they even bought me a swimsuit for my birthday yesterday. The family is made up of the parents, María and Antonio, and their three kids, Irene (12), Eva (10), and Diego (8). The kids love playing cards, so we have been doing a lot of that, in between swimming and running errands. Eva is super competitive and almost died of excitement when she beat me at Egyptian War, a card game. I taught them it yesterday and they are in love with it. I have my own room on the 4th floor of their house/apartment. It's not very wide but is quite tall. We eat supper at around 10 every night. The food so far has been delicious, except some weird mushroom-like things we had last night.

Tomorrow we are leaving for a family vacation to San Sebastián in the north of Spain. We're also going to hit up France since it is close by. It's weird to be going on a family vacation with a family that isn't mine, but I'm optimistic. This trip will be the first time my first time seeing the ocean. When I told them I had never seen the ocean, all the kids were like, "NEVER?!?!?!" Spain is about the size of ND and SD put together, so they don't get how big the US is. We'll return from San Sebastián Sunday.

I can already tell my Spanish is improving. At first my Spanish was awkward. I've said some stupid things, but they're pretty good about not laughing at me. Classes start Monday, September 6th, but I don't get to register until the 7th.. It will work out I guess. 

Spain has been positive so far. I am looking forward to an awesome year and awesome people. Tonight I'm going out for tapas with another girl who is here from NDSU, to celebrate our first week in Spain and my 21st birthday. ¡Yay for tapas!