I went on a walk with two girls from my program.
One of the girls is a yearlong student meaning she has been in Spain since August and will be here through May. She takes us through the many plazas and points out all of the best restaurants most of which are closed or are closing due to siesta hour. Yes, siestas actually exist in Spain and during them there is nothing to do but wonder around aimlessly.
I am still not used to the time differences for eating so I am hungry when I shouldn’t be. We stop for some food and I get churros y chocolate and the other girls get paella (a famous seafood and rice dish in Spain). I dip a churro into my little mug of liquidy chocolate and the corners of my lips curve up into a smile. The churro itself tastes different from the ones in Mexican restaurants in the U.S. The difference comes from the fact that they aren’t served with sugar on them so they have more of a salty flavor. Thankfully, this can be solved by pouring packets (plural) of sugar on the churros and resuming the dipping process. I also learned that if you sit inside of a restaurant instead of outside you are charged more, and tipping is not necessary. The tipping situation is hard for me, because in America it is custom to always tip even if you didn’t really like your meal and/or your waiter. When we leave the restaurant I find myself sneaking coins on to the table. It just feels wrong to leave nothing. The girls and I make our way over to the La Caleta, which is a beach in the old town area of Cadiz.
It is my first time seeing the Atlantic Ocean. Soft waves sweep over the beach and I stare at the endless at the swells dancing before me. I have never seen such a wide stretch of water with no end to it before. No buildings, land, or trees off in the distance. Just bright blue shining with sun as far as the eye can see.
I crave just throwing off my shoes and running into the water. Jumping in the waves and saying, “I am actually here! I am living in Spain!” Expecting a splash of the sea to hit me in the face and wake me up. I keep reminding myself that this is actually real. When I open my eyes in the morning I will still be in Spain trying to master a language that is not my own, living with people I barely know, and navigating a city that is comically maze-like to me right now.
But everything is an adventure. Everything is new. My Spanish words stumble over each other like they are learning how to walk. I am saying a sentence in English in my head at the same time I am speaking it aloud in Spanish. My host mother sighs heavily before slowlyyyyyy repeating herself for the fourth time. The streets blend together in a mess of cobblestones, boutiques, and plazas. My friends and I speak one language to each other even though we came half way across the world to be surrounded by another. The sun smiles down on my paled, Seattle skin. It is all opposing, yet it makes sense.
I get lost constantly. I find myself daily. And estoy contenta con eso (I am happy with this).
Published on University of Washington’s study abroad blog. This post can be viewed on their blog here.