Thursday, September 17


Wow. iAy Dios! Whirlwind is an understatement. I feel like it’s been 18 different days in the six I’ve actually been here. I really don’t want this to be a novel, but considering it’s been some of the most eventful six days of my life, I think I’m allowed at least a Cliff’s Notes booklet.

The chaos started when Jenna, the other girl from California placed in Jaen for the next year, found me online in London and told me we would not only be living together over the next 10 months, but we had also been paired up at the hotel for orientation weekend. We decided fate was hard at work and we weren’t gonna fight it. I landed in Sevilla around 9pm on Friday night. By 10pm, I had unloaded my luggage, met my new roommate and proceeded to enjoy a glass of vino with the other program participants who had just arrived. We are definitely an eclectic group, but we all have one very important thing in common, so the rest is just details (and half the fun is finding them out!). A group of us checked out the Sevillian nightlife as we acclimated to the time change.

We were put up at a pretty swanky hotel that specializes in conferences and meetings. Day one began with quite the buffet spread… we all found some familiar favorites and tried other “unique” (that’s for you, Levs) breakfast items, like grilled vegetables and French fries. I learned the Spanish are big fans of the churro (hey Noms!) and eat it like donuts for breakfast, then dunk it in hot chocolate for dessert. Um, yum.

We proceeded to a series of seminars, informing us of everything from how to survive as an Expat in Spain to what to expect inside the classroom… all very helpful and useful info. Plus the leaders were hilarious, so they definitely set the tone well.

CIEE (the name of the program I went through) arranged for a night of Tapas, Sangria and a Flamenco show. There are 50 of us doing the two-week immersion course, so off we all went and had quite the time! Flamenco is incredibly captivating, being both intense and graceful in every move. Me encanta

Ok, so come Sunday, we finished orientation and waited for our host families to pick us up. I waited by my luggage until my name was called to find out where my home would be for the next two weeks and whom I would be living with. Esperanza, or Mami as she said we could call her, is the storybook definition of a Spanish señora. Everyone was hoping to be paired up with someone else from the program, but I was one of the luckiest few. You can only imagine how unnerving it can be to be a guest in the home of someone you’ve never met, in a city you’ve never been. But when Esperanza came to pick me up from the hotel, she asked "¿Dónde está la otra chica?" I about died when I realized someone else was coming with us. Kat is from San Francisco and now she is my "Spanish Sister" :)

Esperanza took us to her apartment near the city center where we met her 15-year-old son, Manuel, who seems very shy, but mostly I think he's just annoyed at having visitors in his house all the time! Like normal kids here in Spain, he is out of the house every day hanging with his friends in whatever Plaza. She's super sweet, calling us hija (daughter) or cariña (sweetheart).  All she wants to do is feed us, which normally, I would welcome, but I instantly remembered the Spaniards' love of canned tuna in EVERYTHING. I didn't want to seem difficult off-hand, so sure enough, a "salad" of tuna, deviled eggs and mayo was half of my first meal. I swallowed a few mouthfuls as I told myself there would be MANY things I would have to learn to let go while I was here. (P.S. It's now day five at my homestay and Esperanza just became aware of my dislike for tuna... I tried.) Anyhow, Kat and I share our own room, have our own set of keys and are welcome to come and go as we please. Esperanza makes us a bocadillo (sandwich) each day for lunch, then we come home for dinner at 9pm (considered early by Spanish standards). Each day we are curious to find what will be on our sandwiches... everything from potatoes to Nutella. Let's just say I've dropped a few pounds so far. She's a great cook, just not what I'm used to. I will wait to bring on the paella et al until after the wedding!

Aaaaaanyways, blah blah blah. Each day I have Spanish classes at the international school for four hours. My class rocks (only nine of us) and our professor, Jose Antonio, is hilarious, patient and very, very good at teaching us. You can't imagine how funny it is to be in class with all adults (we're from all over.... U.S., Sweden, Switzerland, Japan, etc.), yet still be stumbling over our words and acting things out like we are learning how to speak for the first time. So weird, but we laugh all four hours. Esperanza doesn't speak a lick of English and she won't even let Kat and me speak in English to each other. EVERYONE wants us to practice, which is great, but now I'm even second guessing my English as my thoughts bounce from one language to another. Very cool, but very strange. Let's just say if I don't come home beyond bilingual, there's something wrong.

My favorite thing about Spain so far is easily siesta (ok, just one of my faves). We have just been WIPED OUT and people EXPECT you to go to your room and nap in the afternoon after lunch. It’s brilliant.

Ok, I have way too much to say, but I don't want to take advantage of your time or interest, plus I have a futbol (soccer) game to be at in 10 mins, and it's about an average of a 30-min walk anywhere. Plus, the server/bartender, Antonio, keeps asking me when he can show me around. Time to go!

I really love and miss everyone. I cried when I heard my mom's voice. But obvi this is SUCH an incredible adventure and I am really taking each minute in. I will have internet access more regularly once I get to Jaen in about 2 1/2 weeks. Hope everyone is well and make sure you keep me posted on YOU!!!

Much love,