I can’t believe I’ve only been here for two weeks. It feels like so much longer, but at the same time, when I look ahead I realize how much longer I have to go.
My first few days here, I was dazed, confused, and incredibly happy. The first day was a little stressful, because I almost missed 2 of my 3 flights through a combination of flight delay and not enough layover time. Then I arrived at the airport in Seville only to find out that my suitcases were either in Madrid, New York, or Washington. Unfortunately, that meant that the first Spanish I had to use was arguing with the Customer Service rep at Iberia. As I arrived and started talking to both the Iberia woman and the guías (there are people here around our age that CIEE employs for orientation), I realized just how bad my oral Spanish is. Combined with how tired I was, communication was pretty difficult. After, I went to the house I am living at and met my Señora. She is incredibly nice and full of energy: she is around 75 years old, but she looks much younger. She has no problem with the fact that I’m vegetarian, and she is a very good cook. The first day I had tortilla española (similar to an omelet, made with eggs, potatoes and onions) and vegetables. I quickly realized over the past few days that tortilla española will be a staple in my diet as a vegetarian in Spain. I also made my first eating mistake (the very first day!) with a “salad” typical to Spain made with potatoes, mayonnaise, carrot, and lobster – of course I didn’t see the lobster, and asking if there was meat in it wasn’t helpful because nobody in Spain considers fish as meat. I can’t get mad at myself though, I’m learning and I realize that I will have to take these moments in stride in order to soak in the culture.
The next few days were full of presentations and info sessions, and at night neighborhood tours and tapas. The Americans in my program are nice, and so are the Spanish guides. This led to a very nice first night out in Seville. Obviously, being able to head to the bar without worrying about breaking any laws was a new and amazing experience. And (no surprises here), because the culture is more realistic and open about drinking, it’s not a problem here! Spaniards very rarely get wasted and trashy, preferring instead to have a few drinks over the course of the night and have nice conversations. Another trend I like is that here people grab a drink at the bar and take it outside into the street. Essentially, the street is one big party. Occasionally, someone shouts “policía!” and you have to put your drink down for a minute as they cruise by (so much for not breaking any laws). That night, I actually talked for the first time extensively in Spanish, to Spaniards. Everyone was so nice! They taught me bad words, and we talked for a while about the process of learning languages. That night, I went home elated, mostly because I was so excited to have the confidence and skills to actually communicate with people from another culture.
The past week and this current one have been filled with 3 hours of intense Spanish grammar every day, which isn’t exactly the most exciting thing on the planet. I have also had my highs and lows dealing with the Spanish University system. Here, the majors are much more rigid, so, essentially you pick a major and your schedule gets handed to you. Since I am building my own schedule to fulfill requirements at home, it’s REALLY hard trying to find a combination of classes that fit together.
I’ve also had a few more pessimistic moments when I’ve realized that, although my Spanish is “good” in the sense that I can communicate [sometimes], I still have so much to learn. There are so many random words I either never learned, or learned and forgot – completely random things like “una loncha” (a thin slice of something, usually meat or cheese), apio (celery) and pulsera (bracelet). And that’s not even including the Andalucian accent and slang. Maybe I’m feeling a little bit of culture shock, but this past week I have been determinedly working my way through English books when I really should be reading in Spanish. Oh well. When my classes start, I will definitely be thrown headfirst into Spanish immersion.
These past few weeks have also been centered on being a tourist in my new home. I have done several touristy things in Seville, including visiting the center of the city several times, La Catedral, La Plaza Española, El Real Alcazar, and The Museo de Bellas Artes (fine arts). I need to remind myself to slow down and remember that I have all year to explore Seville!