At precisely 9:00 in the morning, my cell phone blares some digitized jingle while vibrating furiously. The window is open but the shades are drawn—allowing just enough of the cool morning air in while blocking out some of the light and noise from the street below.
The restroom is small (my closet is bigger), and the water never really gets hot. Utilities, I am told, are quite expensive, so I’m sure to turn off the water while lathering myself with soap. A restroom ceiling fan is conspicuously absent.
My breakfast is already on the table—Mery’s nightly routine includes laying out the sliced bread, cereal, and valencianos necessary for my morning appetite. “Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper,” she says (though my dinners never seem to be a particularly low calorie event). This is hardly a general Spanish belief; many of my fellow Americanos are forced to forage for more than the single croissant they receive in the morning.
I eat leisurely and read the Psalm of the day (en español, por supuesto), and then make my way to the bus around 10:00. A twenty minute ride is spent digesting, reading one of several local papers, or wishing that I’d gone to bed earlier.
My class schedule is as follows:
Monday and Wednesday
10:40 AM-12:10 PM—Texts and Interpretation
12:25 PM (it always starts several minutes late)-1:50 PM—Latin-American Literature
Tuesday and Thursday
10:40 AM-12:10 PM—Introduction to Spanish Linguistics
12:20 PM-1:50 PM—Advanced Conversation and Film
On Monday afternoons, I also meet with Dr. Enrique Pellayaz to discuss my progress on an independent study on the art surrounding the Habsburg family. Currently, I’m reading “The Genealogy and Lives of Spanish Queens” to wet my feet into the world of the Spanish and Austrian dynasty. More on this to follow (including a variety of excursions).
Classes here have a different dynamic than dear old Wabash, but are nonetheless interesting, challenging (I have yet to roll my r’s), and thought-provoking. The homework itself is relatively straight-forward, but Valencia’s engaging atmosphere makes concentration nearly impossible.
After classes and chatting with Americans, I ride back to home for lunch at 3:00 with Mery, Diana, Jose (Diana’s husband), and Oscar. Oscar’s daughter, Sara, generally wreaks havoc around the house. So far, these conversations are the best test of my Spanish capabilities—multiple participants with a high degree of familiarity, accents (Valencian and Peruvian), and mouths full of delicious Spanish food. With the exception of Mery, all are fairly fluent in English, and are more than willing to explain various words or cultural quirks. Their thoughts on news, difficulties, and Sara’s antics make for a thoroughly enjoyable meal on a daily basis.
After lunch, I typically sit down to work on homework—so far this has ranged in difficulty from a simple linguistics worksheet to a literary analysis paper. Of course, if I feel like procrastinating (this invariably happens about 15 minutes after beginning to work), the beach, shopping centers, or parks are enjoyable and readily available distractions.
Somewhere around 7:00, I’m starting to tire from the days activities, so I go for a 30-90 minute siesta. I wake up slowly and stumble into the kitchen, where a warm dinner awaits. Perhaps the defining aspect of my homestay has been long after-dinner talks. Spanish nightlife typically starts at 11:00 at the earliest (some clubs don’t open until 2:00), so there’s always some down time.
Mery, my host mother, is from Puerto Rico. The former nurse married a Valenciano, who passed away unexpectedly a number of years ago. She has several remaining siblings in Peru, but concentrates the majority of her time on her children and grandchildren. Slightly a different environment than living in College Hall, to say the least. But Mery is kind, and has a wide variety of experience traveling and working throughout the Americas and Europe, so conversations are always fluid and interesting. There is no better way to absorb Spanish culture than conversing with someone who slowly became a part of it.
After dinner, it’s anyone’s guess… late night walks (I’m told this is an unsafe practice. The weather is worth the risk), out on the town with Americanos, or reading. Tonight, I’m getting on a plane to Barcelona for the weekend… so needless to say, I should probably start packing. More next week on meeting my “intercambio” (exchange student—I teach them English, they teach me Spanish) and my various activities in Barcelona.