To start my way to España, I met up with two fellow study abroad classmates that shared my flight. Before that, I was ¨randomly¨ searched by two security guards. (Later I discovered they also checked my checked bags). The plane ride to Spain was very interesting. It was an uncomfortable trip to say the least, but I am grateful to have had a safe trip. I took a 6:35 pm flight from Philadelphia International to Paris, France. On that flight, I met an odd woman who was an art professor and lived in France. She said the oddest thing to me as I took my seat next to her: ¨You are a big guy.¨ This is something I know already, so I am not very sure why she said that. I thought it was an odd first thing to ever say to someone, and an even more bizarre thing to say to someone she didn’t know. Whatever the reason, I laughed and took no offense to it. Little did I know, my large size would cause me discomfort. Hence, her comment was almost an allusion to things to come.
The spaces between the seats from front to back were extremely congested and small. There was little to no room for me to maneuver and exercise my legs. My coat that I was wearing didn’t help. I eventually took it off, but it remained in the seat since I had no room to put it above in the overhead compartments. The coat became a problem for me and my seat mates. It was just too big to be in the same seat my knees, which I already have problems with, were in a high level of irritating pain. It was almost unbearable. I had to sit there for hours at a time writhing in pain. From time to time, I would get up and arbitrarily go to the bathroom to just exercise my bruised legs.
It was a useless attempt to rid myself of the pain and stiffness I was feeling. Every time I got up to exercise, 20 minutes later, I had to sit down. It was almost unbelievable. But I survived it. I got to France at about 9:35 am. On Air France, I experienced something that I had not encountered in while–complete oblivion. I don’t know an ounce of French. It was almost stressful not knowing what was going on. Of course, the flight attendants and the captain of the plane spoke some English, but there are always things left unexpressed in translation. This was another uncomfortable moment. I almost did not have a moment of pleasure while on the plane. However, as I began to sit down there was this French man in the seat beside me who said something in French that I couldn’t quite understand.
I was sort of frustrated but managed to make out what he was saying. I believe he was asking me if the seat I was pointing to belonged to me or not. So I sat down and had the usual airplane food, which on this flight was cake and coffee. And after I ate, I encountered a sort of revelation. I discovered and said my first French word as I handed my trash to the man next to me: “Merci” As I said this to him, as he kindly gave my trash to the attendant, he smiled and laughed a little. Although I wasn´t sure whether he was laughing at my stupidity or because of my courage to try French, whatever the intention, it still eased my tension and nervousness that seemed to come from some form of culture shock.
I finally reached Madrid, Spain at 11:40 pm and I actually felt a sense of home there. I am not sure if it was the French experience on the plane or the fact that I was in Madrid before. Whatever it was, it felt good and satisfying. I felt a sense of accomplishment and euphoria. Even after almost a week of being in Spain, this feeling lingers on.
While in Spain, we have visited Avilla, Segovia, and Toledo, in that order. This was my second visit to these cities. They all are known for something special. Avila is known for its huge wall. Segovia is known for its amazing Roman Aqueduct. Toledo is famous for its influence on Spain’s religious sentiment. The beauty in all these cities is equal to none. As the first week has passed, I have done more with my time than ever before in the States.
Furthermore, the food in Spain has been another surprise. When I was last here during the summer, the food was not that special to say the least. However, I think that it’s fair to say that I was a little misled. I still don’t think that Spain has the best food, but now I am aware that there are some things that taste good. Before, I believed everything was bad. In a later post, I’ll add pictures of those.
Now, as of today I have been living with a host family in Oviedo for 3 days. We have begun class and so far everything is good. My host mom, Ana and my host pop, Samuel are hilarious. Samuel always talks about soccer and how he hates Real Madrid. The way he expresses his hate is very comical–that’s all I’m going to say. Ana is an amazing cook! Earlier this week she cooked me a tortilla which was delicious. I couldn’t get enough of it, and I wasn’t even hungry! It’s not like an American or Mexican tortilla; it’s made of patatas, cebolla, as well as a few other things. Their son, Diego is pleasant as well. He´s about 18 years old and plays soccer. Two days ago, during my first days here, I went to his soccer game. We drove to this town called Avila, where his team played another team for hours. It was amazing. I got a firsthand experience of the vulgarity, and serious competition of European soccer. Diego is the captain of his team and to say that he is good would be an understatement–this kid is great. Even though they lost, Diego still managed to score a goal and he plays defense. When a defensive player scores, that is impressive. He has been showing me around a lot and has been very helpful.
Almost every meal is accompanied with a political conversation. Their idea of what it means to be a nation is so different from what I am accustomed to. Even before my conversations with my host family, I believed that Spain didn’t have complete solidarity. As Diego said: ¨No tenemos estados, tenemos comunidades.¨ or “we don’t have states, we have communities.” It’s amazing to be living in another culture and speaking its language. There is nothing like it. The experience is exciting and breathtaking. It’s not only leaving your country, but it’s like leaving your world and joining another. ¨The limits of your language are the limits of your world.¨