When I first arrived to Spain in January and everyone began planning out their travels for the semester, everyone just kept saying how as soon as April hits, the rest of the semester will fly by. Well, it’s April. April Fool’s Day really does feel like a joke. April 1st. April. And now I’m two weeks into the month and in two more I’ll be done with the program. In less than a month I’ll be back in the states. I don’t want to let this post be another sappy one so, besides the craziness of this realization, I also have plenty of crazy stories from the past few months so I’ll be focusing this blog of some of my favorite ones that I hope everyone will get a kick out of.
As I have mentioned in past posts, I am living with a family while I’m here. I have a host-mom, host-dad, and two host-brothers who are 22 and 17. Besides those four, my host-dad’s mom also spends quite a bit of time in the house. In fact, as I write this, she is sitting right next to me helping to iron clothes while the rest of the family is out and about, so you can see I get to spend a lot of quality time with Abuela Maria and she has provided me with ample stories.
First of all, she is very difficult to understand because A.) she’s 84 years old and B.) she doesn’t quite understand that I am still learning Spanish so she doesn’t know how to slow down for me. I think she thought I was incompetent the first night she met me because I couldn’t follow anything she was saying so she literally turned to my host-parents and said something along the lines of “She doesn’t understand anything.”
I think she has warmed up to me since then though. There was another evening that she was over and watching Gran Hermano (Big Brother). She absolutely loves the show and will literally yell at the TV. So she wanted me to watch with her. I sat on the couch while she was in the recliner. After a few minutes, she got up and moved to sit directly next to me, even leaning on me a bit to give me play-by-plays on the show. My host-mom walked into the room and thought it was just to most precious thing.
Of course, she still has her scrappy moments. Another night, while her and my host-mom and I had a coffee together after dinner, she turned to me and goes, “you’ve gotten fatter since you’ve been here.” To be fair, she’s not wrong.
The rest of the family is great. My host-mom is such a fun lady—slightly eccentric but passionate about everything she does—a true Latina. She is very busy with her work because she is a professor but she still loves to spend time with me. The other night she even took me out with some of her friends to see a movie and get dinner. It was so much fun and a great way to experience another aspect of the culture.
The dad actually reminds me a lot of my own dad—reserved but has some serious golden moments. For example, ever since Grandma Maria made the fat comment, every time I turn down seconds at a meal, they all laugh and give me crap about how “abuela Maria has scared me.” Well, one day after lunch, the dad pulled out chocolate cake and asked if I wanted some. I responded with a prompt, “ooof, I really shouldn’t but okay,” because I cannot turn down chocolate. And he literally burst out laughing, motioned with his hands around his belly as if it was getting bigger, and says through his laughter, “you really are going to get fat here, we feed you too much. Your boyfriend is going to leave you.” (It sounds bad in writing but he was joking).
The boys are literally so cool. The older one has a Mohawk that he gells up to about a foot tall and plays guitar in a punk-rock band. He is super cool to talk to because he isn’t really afraid to talk about anything, however there are times that he gets so passionate and into what he is talking about that he just kind of rattles it off and I’m left dizzy trying to translate fast enough in my head. He also has a girlfriend that is very nice but, I’ll be blunt, I’ve heard far too much of the two of them from sharing a wall between our bedrooms.
The younger brother is also musical and writes and raps his own songs on YouTube. He is also the one who speaks English so he has also served as my personal translator when things get too confusing in Spanish.
Similar to my own family back home, it is pretty rare that we are all ever together, but the other night I went to a flamenco-themed party with the whole family. I am not a dancer, but I was forced onto the dance floor. The whole party was just one of those scenarios that makes you super uncomfortable in the moment but you look back on as a good experience. It was also nice to be out with the whole family and be able to meet more of the extended family since my host-mom’s whole family was there as well.
I realize I also haven’t touched on my internship at all since I’ve been here. It is definitely another one of those scenarios that is very uncomfortable but I hope I will be able to look back on it as good experience. My internship is in the Office of Tourism where my job is to provide information and recommendations about the city to tourists that are visiting.
I’ll be totally honest, the job was very hard at first. I have to provide very specific customer service about a city that I have only lived in for three months, and it is usually in my second language. At the very beginning I thought it was absolutely absurd that I was expected to give directions in a city that I, myself, still got lost in on almost a daily basis.
The other very difficult aspect of the job is that the majority of tourists to Toledo are from other parts of Spain or South America so they speak Spanish. There are many moments in which I cannot quite decipher what they are asking me, whether it be because they are talking to fast, using more colloquial vocabulary that I just don’t know or whatever it may be. These moments make me feel completely incompetent and unqualified for the job because I know exactly what’s running through their minds: why is this girl working in an information office in Spain if she can’t even speak Spanish? And it’s a perfectly valid question.
One moment in particular stands out to me. A family came in one day and the mom asked me about guided tours of the city. I explained to her in Spanish that our office doesn’t offer tours but I pointed out a table of brochures and explained that there are multiple private companies that they could call to get one. This must not have made sense to her because she looked at the brochures and then to my coworker and says in a rather frustrated tone, “¿hablas español?” (do you speak Spanish?). He responded with a “sí” and she proceeded to ask him the same question that she had initially asked me. He quickly defended me by saying, “just like my coworker said, you need to call one of the private companies to set up a tour.” It was just a very discouraging interaction because I’m sure the fact that I speak with an accent made her assume that I didn’t know what I was talking about.
It’s always a bit of a confidence booster when the roles are reversed and I need to help my coworkers with English-speakers, which has been much more often recently as tourist season is beginning to pick up more.
Although it is still difficult, I have gotten much more comfortable in the internship over the past three months and I do think the experience has taught me a lot that has helped me grow both personally and professionally.
So there you have it: a deeper dive into my life in Spain over the last few months.