This past weekend, I chose not to travel because there was a holiday in Spain and everything was so expensive. After my great weekend in Paris I was a bit bummed to not be traveling again, but it turned out to be a great choice! I spent all day on Friday with my host family, who didn’t have work or school due to the holiday.

My morning started at 8:30 a.m., which is way earlier than I normally get up on the weekend, when my two host sisters (Jimena, 7 and Martina, 4) came running into my room to say good morning. I couldn’t even be annoyed, because they were so happy! We then had breakfast, which consisted of toast with olive oil, coffee, and my favorite – fresh squeezed orange juice.

Next, Sabrina (my host mom) and I fixed their new electric piano because it had arrived broken. My host sisters are taking music lessons, hence the new piano! Once the piano was fixed, I played a few pieces for Sabrina. The girls were too invested in the TV show they were watching to pay attention to me, but Sabrina said that she loved listening to me play. She even took videos of me. After not having played piano for so so so long, it felt GREAT to sit down and play. Sabrina and I talked about how music is the international language, which is so true. Music can create connections no matter what language you speak.

The girls weren’t allowed to watch TV forever, though, so when their time was up they resorted to playing with me. Jimena started drawing different animals, and when I told her “It’s like a zoo!” (after asking how to say zoo in Spanish…) she decided to draw as many animals as she could think of. She wrote the Spanish name of each animal next to their picture, and then I taught her their English names. Check out the final product!

I can’t choose a favorite!

Finally, it was time for lunch – or, at least, time to start the process of lunch. Sabrina had made pasta, and then asked the girls what kind of sauce they wanted. Martina wanted tomato sauce and Jimena wanted tomato sauce and cream, but of course there was no cream… so off to the store we went. Jimena put on her roller blades, even though the only walking we did was from the apartment to the car parked out front and from the car into the store. Half an hour later, we were back at the house with cream, only to discover that there wasn’t enough tomato sauce for everyone. Go figure! Nonetheless, the pasta turned out super yummy and was accompanied, as always, by bread.

After lunch, it was time to get ready for “an excursion”. I had absolutely no idea where we were going, but still got into the car with Sabrina and the girls. We headed into the Spanish countryside and drove for about half an hour, during which time Jimena counted to 20 in English over and over again and forced her mom to count along with her. Eventually we arrived at Barrancas de Burujón, which is a hiking path featuring a natural canyon. My host family and I took a 3 hour hike! The canyon was about halfway along the path, and because I had no idea where we were it was a HUGE surprise to me. I think I looked extra happy, because Sabrina offered to take pictures of me.

Every Spaniard I have talked to calls Barrancas de Burujón the smaller version of the Grand Canyon

During the hike, Sabrina taught me a lot about the different trees and plants along the path. I saw fig trees, olive trees, and asparagus plants, but the best tree was the almond tree!!! Sabrina taught me how to pick almonds from the tree, peel off their soft outer layer, and use two rocks to crack open their hard outer later. Then we literally ate these almonds! They were “muy dulces”, but even sweeter than the almonds was watching the delight on my host sister’s faces as they too cracked open almonds.

Me and my host sisters cracking open almonds

Tired and hungry, we finally made it back to the car and began the drive home. Both girls were asleep by the time we arrived! After a quick dinner, the girls went to bed and I headed into the city to watch a lights show that was put on to celebrate the holiday. On my way home, Sabrina texted me to tell me that she had gone to the hospital with Martina because her ear hurt (it turned out to be just an ear infection, don’t worry!) and that her step-father was at the apartment watching Jimena. So, I arrived home and heard a boisterous “¡Hola!” even though it was 11:30 p.m. and Jimena was fast asleep. I walked into the living room to say hello, and then proceeded to talk with Sabrina’s step-father for an hour. ¡En español! I am pretty (really) proud of this.

Around 12:30 a.m., Sabrina and Martina arrived back home. Martina went back to bed, I talked to Sabrina about how Martina was doing, and then both of us, tired from the long day, showered and went to bed. Phew!

Overall, spending the day with my host family taught me two very important lessons:

  1. I am SO lucky to be living with Sabrina and the girls! Not that I didn’t know this before, but the day with them reminded me of this fact.
  2. My Spanish skills are really improving! I went almost an entire day without speaking English, and it wasn’t that hard. Sure, there were times when I was tongue tied or had to ask someone to repeat what they said. But I could communicate!

Every day with my host family is a new adventure. Sometimes this adventure involves canyons and almonds while other times it involves two crying girls because there are no potatoes to make french fries, but either way, they are making my life in Spain a blast.