Casey has been studying abroad in Spain and shares her journal entries from the past few months of her program.
The sun was setting as we dropped past a mountainous horizon on our way to meet our host families. Nervous was a understatement. I don’t think I had done something this hard ever in my life, but the adventure motivated me to keep going. Finally, we arrived and I stepped off the bus to meet my host family. My new house was located in the small town of Villanueva de la Serena. My family consisted of four people total, two boys and my parents. It was weird to me not having a sister in the family but I was sure that I would make girlfriends soon enough. I greeted my new family and I choked to get even the simplest words in Spanish out to make a sentence. Within minutes I was comfortable enough to begin speaking. Luckily, my family spoke a good amount of English so I wasn’t completely lost with my small vocabulary.
Later, we arrived at their house. Beautiful was an understatement. The land was beautiful and their backyard was covered with flowers and games. I felt relieved to see a few familiar things in the house like a soccer net and xbox. In the kitchen, I guess it’s part of their culture, but they have the leg of some animal I didn’t get the name of. My appetite for meat fell every time I peaked at that part of the kitchen. They surprise me with a baby kitten, “Kitty” who was named after “Hello Kitty”, and a little dog, “Luna”. I was more than happy to have pets in the house because it reminded me of the two I had left behind. As the night went on, they helped me improve my Spanish as much as they could. Although it was still difficult to speak, I learned a plethora a words throughout the small moments we conversed.
These first few days have been an adventure to say the least. At times, things would become really hard and I wouldn’t understand a word anyone said. This was probably the hardest thing to overcome. When the room around me laughed at a joke I completely didn’t understand, it was hard to stay positive. I remembered that we learned about “Culture Shock” and was hopeful in time I would later be comfortable here.
In the past couple of days I have gone to a wedding, helped cook a Spanish soup “Gazpacho,” and hung out with a few of my host brother’s friends. The hardest of the three was hanging out with his friends. Although some friends spoke a small amount of English to me, I had no idea what they were saying most of the time. The day after, I had helped prepare lunch with my Host Mother, Rosa. The lunch included marinated turkey, grilled peppers, and a famous Spanish soup, “Gazpacho”. It was fun actually being able to help for once around the house and I was excited to learn the home recipes. Later that night I went to a family member’s wedding in Don Benito. This was the best part of my few days here. I arrived to see many elaborate hairstyles and dresses reminding me of the part in ‘The Hunger Games’ where they portray the future of the world. The families cousin told me that sometimes the women go more than five hours before the wedding to get their hair styled. The room was filled with people and family members I knew I would later meet. After the church, we went to a party similar to the American wedding reception. We started eating small amounts of appetizers the waiters would bring out. Without knowing, I tried duck and croquettes filled with ink from some animal in the ocean. It was an adventure. Later we went inside to begin our five course dinner. The courses included a salad with a spanish ham, shrimp and snow crab, a lemon drink, the meat from the throat of a pig, sliced potatoes, ice cream, and a chocolate dessert. Again, another adventure. I ended the night by talking to a few locals for about three hours in Spanish and English. We attempted to help each other and later exchanged Skype usernames. It was refreshing to know my English wasn’t useless to people here in Extremedura. It was fun helping them and improving my own mistakes. We didn’t return home until after 6 in the morning, typical for Spanish weddings.
Things have been getting harder lately and I’ve decided to let things take their course. My friend from the United States, who also lives in Villanueva, reminded me to “just ride the wave” and that’s exactly what I’m doing. I’ve decided being homesick takes up too much of my short time here in Spain and it’s better to have fun. I started my first day of school yesterday, oh boy. Can you just imagine going to a school in another language with complete strangers? No? Well I couldn’t either until yesterday. As one of very few natural blondes in the whole school, you can imagine the looks I was getting in the hallway. There wasn’t a teacher that could pronounce my name and it didn’t matter. By the end of the day, my classmates and I had got used to correcting the teacher from “c-a-s-i” to “casey”. Things had gotten easier as I grew closer to my classmates. Although I didn’t have much to say in their language, I made the most out of what I had known. And even better, “Mis amigas” have been teaching me both good and bad words for future references. Most of my teachers were willing to help as much as they could and they were all understanding about my small vocabulary. At this point, I’ve decided to play soccer. I need something to do everyday after the ‘siesta’ and I’ve come to the conclusion that nothing is more Spanish then soccer.