Today marks the one-week anniversary of my arrival to Spain, hence the clever title of this post.
Yesterday, I Skyped with my boyfriend, Taylor, for the first time since I’ve been here. Well, we tried to Skype on two other occasions earlier this week but were cut short for various reasons. It’s difficult to find a good time to talk with a six-hour time difference!
I’m not kidding when I say I talked for 45 minutes straight to begin the one-hour Skype call. So much has been going on, and it all just came tumbling out in an excited mess of words. As much as I love practicing my Spanish, I was elated to finally be able to express myself in a language I’m competent in.
Like my conversation with Taylor, I have so much I want to tell all of you–the readers of Backpacking Brunette! In the weeks leading up to my departure and the week since my arrival, I could have written multiple posts a day with everything going on in my life. However, as I recently told one of my friends, I don’t want to burn out early on in the life of this blog. I really enjoy creating content for the Backpacking Brunette. It’s the perfect creative outlet for me, and I’d like to keep the words flowing and my passion alive as long as possible.
With that being said, my plan is for today’s celebratory post to be kind of a catchall for my first week in Spain. Before any more time passes, I’d like the opportunity to share my initial thoughts on this country and my life as an au pair.
Without further ado, here are five observations from my first week in Spain:
1. Life is slower in Spain (but I’m digging it). In the USA, it seems like everyone in every city is in a rush at all times. Even in a little place like my hometown in Michigan, people, especially people with kids, are always hurrying to get one place or another. In the States, a busy schedule is totally the norm. In Spain or at least in the village I’m living in (but I got similar vibes in big cities like Madrid and Barcelona), it’s the total opposite. In the week I’ve been here, I haven’t noted anyone in a hurry. I haven’t even seen anyone walking fast! In my family, no one wakes up until 8 a.m., and the boys don’t start school until 9 a.m. After parents drop their kids off, many stop for a coffee at a cafe or barra (as they’re called here). No one gets coffee to-go. I don’t even think that’s an option. When you want coffee, it’s a “sit-down-and-stay-awhile” type deal.
Oh, and don’t even get me started on la siesta! Businesses shut down for about two hours in the late afternoon in observance of this longstanding Spanish tradition which allows time for people to take a midday nap. Can you imagine something like that in the USA?!
2. Kids are way cuter here. Of course, I think Carlos and Pablo are cute, and because I’ll admit to being biased toward the boys in my family, I will discount them for the sake of this point. When I take the boys to school and when I pick them up, I’ve been actively looking for ugly kids. I haven’t been able to find one single weird looking kid. In fact, there aren’t even any average looking children here. Yep, I’m surrounded by gorgeous children.
3. Homesickness is the worst at night. I’ve been so busy that I haven’t really had time to be homesick, but the other day when I first tried to Skype Taylor, he asked if I had talked to my parents, and before I realized what was happening, I was crying. Sometimes it just hits you, ya know? When I’m alone in my room at night and waiting to fall asleep, I can’t help but think about my loved ones at home. So far, this has been such an amazing experience, and there are a few people out there in this great big world that I wish I could share it with. At the end of the day though, I know this is something I have to do for myself and on my own. Reminding myself of that helped to dissipate the homesickness enough for me to go to sleep.
4. The Spaniards are a passionate people. Aside from the late mealtimes, the hardest thing for me to get used to has been the emotional range of this entire country. Okay, perhaps I should clarify… my perceived emotional range of this entire country, specifically the children. The first time we ate dinner as a family, Pablo was telling us a story. Without warning, he scrunched up his eyes like he was going to cry and started yelling. I was like, “Oh, shit. Here comes the first meltdown.” I even scooted my chair back from the dinner table a bit (like I’ve mentioned before, I’m not really a “kid person”). But before the bomb dropped, his face and tone returned to normal, and he kept going with the story.
Now, I know you’re probably saying, “Alex, that’s just kids.” Well, Veronica, my host mother, has the same tendencies. I’ve witnessed her raising her voice at her kids, at her husband and even her friends. When I asked her if she’s upset, she just laughed and explained, “No no no. That’s just the Latin fire in me!” Something as simple as “you need to put your socks away” can sound (to an outsider) like the speaker wants to tear the receiver’s head off, but in the blink of an eye, his or her (most likely her) voice returns to normal and life resumes.
5. I know more Spanish than I realized. Every other day, I wake up, take the kids to school and then go for a bike ride with Juan Luis, my host dad. While Veronica speaks English extremely well, Juan Luis knows very little and prefers not to even try, so he only speaks to me in Spanish. This week he instructed me at length on when to shift gears and other cycling aspects totally in Spanish, and guess what? I understood!
That’s not all we talk about. After our bike rides, we usually stop for a refreshment at a cafe. As is customary, we sit and chat while enjoying our drinks. We’ve had conversations about tons of different topics. Sure, sometimes I have to ask him to repeat or reword something, and we’ve used a translator app two or three times, but overall, I’m comprehending most of what he’s saying. I know enough Spanish to articulate basic responses, which may not sound like much to you, but I’m sure as hell impressed with myself. I haven’t seriously studied Spanish in over four years, and even when I was taking regular classes in high school, I wasn’t as dedicated as I should have been. It’s amazing how much has come back to me though and how much I’m learning every day. Immersion is the way to go, man.
So, there you have it. Those are a few things I’ve been wanting to share with you. What else would you like to know about my life in Spain? Do you have any questions about my current experience or travel in general? I want to make sure I’m writing posts that interest you, so you will keep coming back! Leave me a comment, send me an email or hit me up on Twitter.