I don’t think I was prepared for Spain to be so different from the United States. Maybe I hadn’t really formed an actual image of what I thought it would be; I’m not sure. It’s odd walking down the street and only hearing people speaking Spanish. It’s weird going to a restaurant and not actually knowing a single item on the menu. I know a lot of Spanish, but culinary descriptions don’t exactly translate directly.
Ensalada (“salad”) does not imply a bed of leafy greens with toppings here. I unintentionally ordered a pile of tomatoes with mozzarella and walnuts at a restaurant. It was labeled ensalada de tomates y mozzarella. Unfortunately for me, I don’t particularly like tomatoes. But all was well because the whole table decided to share our food with each other.
Another thing is that the food schedule here is difficult to get used to. We eat a light breakfast (no eggs, pancakes, bacon, waffles, none of that), then we eat the main meal of the day (la comida) at 2 or 3 p.m., then we have a very late and light dinner somewhere from 8 to 10 p.m. I think my body is still not used to having a lot of food that early in the day. However, the best part is eating una merienda at around 5 p.m. The sweets and coffee in Spain are irresistible. I highly recommend chocolate mousse or churros dipped in chocolate for all the chocolate lovers out there.
I don’t think I can say enough good things about my host family. I am staying alone with a widow, and she is the sweetest woman to ever exist, I think. She makes delicious food, is always super kind, and she helps me with my speaking (of course). She doesn’t speak much English at all, and it’s fun to occasionally teach her English words that honestly sound so weird compared to Spanish when I think about it. We talked about the word “drawer” once. It’s cajón in Spanish. It was interesting how impossible “drawer” really is in Spanish, but it’s also just weird in English I think. Anyway, I’m reminded why I chose to study languages in college, because I am simply fascinated by how humans communicate and how different languages are. But as I was saying, I’ve had such a great time with Carmen and it will be really difficult to say goodbye to her.
On another note, this past weekend, three friends and I took a train to Madrid and stayed in a hostel there for the weekend. It was a fantastic experience. Madrid has 3.2 million people, so it’s enormous. I think our Madrid trip was my favorite touristy part about Spain. I absolutely loved seeing Parque de El Retiro, a huge park with a crystal palace (Palacio de Cristal), a beautiful blue lake, and more ducks and turtles than you could count. We also went to el Museo Nacional del Prado and el Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. It was crazy to be able to see so many famous works from Goya, Picasso, Velázquez and more. It was a surreal moment when it dawned on me that we were in a WORLD CLASS museum. El Museo del Prado in particular was huge and we were very tired when it was over, but we simply couldn’t rest and waste our short time in Madrid.
However, one of the best parts about Madrid was Marta, a native of Madrid who was a foreign exchange student at the high school of one of the girls in our group. It was the best having our very own Madrileña to help us get around and communicate. (We probably could have managed, but she definitely helped!) Madrid was a fantastic way to spend our last full weekend in Spain.
I have enjoyed Spain so much and I have learned and experienced more things than I will ever be able to count. I feel incredibly lucky to be here, especially since things are so crazy in the world right now. I do have to admit that I miss my home country and my pets, though.