Wow, I can not believe I have already been in Spain a week and I’m almost done with my first week of classes here in Salamanca. I feel like it was just yesterday when I decided that I wanted to go on this trip this summer. And just like that here I am! It really hasn’t set in that Salamanca will be my home for the next four and a half weeks.
In the week I have been in Spain, I feel like I have already seen so much of Spain and learned so much about its history and culture. We spent the first three days in Madrid touring the city and walking and walking and more walking. (One day my iPhone counted 30,000 steps!! EEKKK don’t know how my feet are still attached!!) Madrid was great, but it just felt like any other big European city to me – lots of cars, lots of people, and very industrial.
I was relieved to leave the big city and take a day trip to Toledo. Toledo was a cute, little town southwest of Madrid. I immediately fell in love with the little fortress village next to the Tajo River. I wish we could have spent another day or so walking and exploring the little streets of Toledo. I would go back in a heartbeat.
Now I am in Salamanca taking Spanish Immersion classes to finish my Spanish Minor. Usually my day consists of 4 and a half hours of Spanish language and culture classes in the morning with some type of activity in the afternoon. (These activities have ranged from touring sites of Salamanca to cooking class and Salsa lessons.)
In my short week and a half, I have already learned so many differences between Spain and America. Quickly, became thankful for many things in America. Now I don’t want anyone to read this and think that I am complaining about any of this. I am so thankful to have the opportunity to Study Abroad in Spain for 5 and a half weeks. These are just differences in culture and things I am learning to adjust to as I live with a wonderful host family in Spain.
10 Things I am Thankful For
- Thankful for Normal Eating Hours
After our first day of touring Madrid, our tour guide Mar asked us if we wanted to meet for dinner at 8:30 in the lobby. I would have loved to see our faces from her point of view. She looked at us confused and timidly asked if we would like to meet at 9. Our jaws could not drop any lower. Since this experience, I have learned that snacks are my best friend with lunches consistently at 2 and dinner at 9. After a week and a half, I am still not used to this and snacks are still my saving grace throughout the day.
Even though the long times between meals stinks, I do really appreciate the European dinner culture. Nothing is rushed. People sit around and enjoy the company that they have. In America, it is too common to a whole family at dinner on their cell phones and not talking to each other. I have yet to see this in Europe. People are always relaxed, laughing, and enjoying each others company. Yes, dinners may take 3 and a half hours and sometimes you find yourself leaving a restaurant at 11:30, but these dinners are some of my best memories so far.
2. Thankful for Water Fountains and Free Water
In America, I definitely take advantage of how easy it is to get water. We have water fountains everywhere, and if you can’t find one you can walk into a restaurant and get a free cup of water. I have yet to find one water fountain in Europe. And even when I have attempted to order tap water trying to avoid paying 2 euros for a bottle of water, the waitor looks at me funny and still brings me a bottle of water. (Maybe it is the slightly broken Spanish, oops.)
3. Thankful for Air Conditioning
Thankfully, this has not been too much of a problem yet as it has been a little chilly in Salamanca. However, during the day it gets quiet warm in the apartment I am staying in and I can only imagine that it will continue to get warmer as summer progresses. I definitely take for granted electricity and the privileges of having A/C at home. I can complain so much if it isn’t cool enough in the house even though it is much cooler than that Texas heat outside. And I can be so wasteful of it and forget that there are so many people that get by just find without it in places much hotter than where I am. It will be a good lesson in learning to cope with situations and learn to complain less about trivial things.
4. Thankful for Showers
I have no idea who designed these showers in the apartment I am staying in, but it was a horrible idea. So practically, my shower is about 2 x 3 feet and most of it is sloped so I really can only get in it and stand in one place. Also the shower curtain doesn’t have the shower protector so if the shower head decides to have a mind of its own (which it does often) it sprays the entire bathroom making it nearly impossible not to slip when trying to get out of the shower. Our Spanish mom has also asked that we take short showers because water bills are so expensive in Spain. Wow, just another wasteful thing that I take advantage of each day that I am in the shower. Sometimes I like to try to collect my thoughts in the shower and plan out the next day, but I guess I am going to have to save that for when I am not in shower.
5. Thankful for Technology
Now don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed the break from technology and constantly feeling like I need to check Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat or text someone. However, it is so nice that I have technology that I can use to communicate with my family back home. I don’t know how I would make it through the summer without being able to talk to my family and friends some so I can still be informed about what is going on in their lives. ONe thing I hate most about traveling for long periods of times is not knowing what is going on in the lives of my closest friends. The distance and the time zone difference really challenges me to make time to catch up with friends and be intentional about trying to find a time that is convenient for both of us to catch up. However, all of this just makes the reunion at the end of the summer even sweeter.
6. Thankful for Ice
I did not realize how much ice makes a difference in a glass of water until I arrived in Spain. Room temperature water is just not as satisfying on a warm summer day as a nice cold cup of water. Unless you specifically ask for ice at restaurant, it is very likely you will not be served ice in your drink. And even at the hotel we stayed at in Madrid, the “ice bucket” at the breakfast buffet had just enough ice for a tumbler cup. At restaurants even if you ask for ice, you get about three ice cubes in your cup. For some reason, Europeans just don’t like ice as much as Americans do.
7. Thankful for my Bed
I love beds that I can sink into. Unfortunately my bed for the next five weeks is as stiff as a rock. (Ok, that might be a little bit of an exaggeration. It really isn’t that bad, and I have been able to sleep fine.) My mom and I have a name for these beds – Mexico Beds. Those bed that you can crawl into and you feel like you can’t even make a dent into them. We have encountered countless of these types of beds in Mexico, thus how they got the name. Well, I can say I am thoroughly looking forward to the moment when I get to crawl into my memory foam mattress at the end of summer.
8. Thankful for Meats that aren’t Ham
Ham is literally everywhere! You can’t walk down a street in Spain without seeing pig legs hanging from the ceiling of at least one store. Spanish people love their ham. Ham and cheese sandwiches, ham in their croquettes, ham on pizza, ham in pasta, ham in their salad… You name it they probably eat it that way.The ham has been amazing; however, I am in need of a Texas steak or a nice filet of fish after almost two weeks of just ham.
9. Thankful for English
I can’t even begin to explain how wonderful English can sound after four hours of Spanish classes every day. (Or on days like today when we had to do make-up classes for the classes we will be missing next week when we go to Sevilla, Granada, and Cordoba and had 8 hours of Spanish classes today.) English is such a universal language too. Everyone knows English these days which is really awesome for anyone who speaks English. There are students from Germany, Poland, France, and Ireland currently staying with and thankfully they all know English. We have had so many cool conversations because everyone knows English and have really gotten to know some cool stuff about each of the countries they are from because of English.
10. Thankful for America
Man, in case you were wondering America rocks. You may not be a fan of Obama or not agree with some policies that America has, but you can not disagree that you are not blessed to be living in America. Our economy may not be at its highest, but as a nation we are doing alright. Our health care may not be perfect, but there are so many more places where it is worse off. We maybe always wanting more and seeking more, but most of us really have more than we really need. We have freedom of speech, freedom to elect our officials, freedom of religion, and so much more. I am loving my time in Spain, but as I am here and learn about other countries, I realized how blessed we really are.
Once again, I don’t want you to see this as me complaining about anything. I am truly thankful for this opportunity and for the Spanish family I am staying with to open their house to me and students like me who are studying Spanish. I can’t wait to see what else I learn about myself, Spain, and the people around me as I continue life as a “local” in Spain!