This past week was very relaxing and eye-opening for me, starting with my tandem with my host mom’s niece, Noelia, on Monday. We spent over two hours talking, half of the time in Spanish and the rest in English. She knows less English than I thought, so there was a lot of “Spanglish” going on as we were conversing. As we were talking, it hit me that what we were doing is so similar to what I plan on doing in my future career as a speech pathologist! Because there are phonemic differences between Spanish and English, it was very difficult for her to correctly pronounce certain words. I was able to put forth my best effort and help her (almost) successfully pronounce these words! I left that session feeling so accomplished and genuinely happy with how it went! Because I am learning the language, it will be easier for me in my future career to communicate with Spanish-speakers, like Noelia, and treat them. I just can’t wait!!
The end of last week was filled with time spent with my host family. My host parents have a routine of taking Laura to the park every night, weather permitting, so I decided to join them one night. I met all of Laura’s friends’ parents, and it was interesting to see how they interact here with their kids. Here, they seem very involved and genuinely happy to just watch their children play, sometimes even joining them. There are certainly people like this in the U.S, but because of the laid-back lifestyle and slightly different work routines in Spain, it just seems like they have more time to dedicate to their children. As Mariluz and I were walking home from the park, Laura in Mariluz’s arms, an older woman just walked up to Laura and started pinching her cheeks, exclaiming how precious Laura was. In the U.S., this is the type of attention a stranger would give to another person’s dog. It usually isn’t acceptable to come up to another person’s child and touch them. But here, it is seemingly more common to do these types of things. In fact, if you were to pet another person’s dog, you might get some strange looks from the owner.
For Valentine’s Day otherwise known as “Día de San Valentín,” I brought home some chocolates for my host parents, and a stuffed bear for Laura. Proving how generous this culture is, they insisted on taking me out to merienda (a light meal eaten in between major meals, usually between lunch and dinner) in return. So, the next day we went out for chocolate and churros, a typical snack here. Valentine’s Day does not seem to be as big of a deal here as it is in the U.S. I only saw some signs in a few stores around town, and there was a lady handing out red heart-shaped balloons to children on the street. This same day, my friend Nora and I were at a café, and as we were watching the people walk by, there was a grandfather pushing his granddaughter in a stroller. He suddenly stops, pulls out an apple and starts peeling it right in the middle of the sidewalk! At first, I was surprised and started laughing at what had just happened, but this really shouldn’t have been such a shock to me. What we might think is something out of the norm, such as this, is something routine to the people of Spain.
Over the weekend, we got extremely lucky and had two sunny, warm and beautiful days! So, we decided to walk the trail of Naranco, which is only a five minute walk behind my house. The views of Oviedo were incredible, and we didn’t even hike too far
up! In the middle of our hike, we hit an area that looked like a playground, only it was filled with exercise equipment. As we were trying out the equipment, a woman walked up to us and asked us where we were from because she heard us speaking English. We told her we were from study abroad students from Philadelphia, and her face lit up! This woman was a former study abroad student who studied at La Casa de Las Lenguas 25 years ago! She told us she was here for a visit with her son, who is also trying to learn Spanish. Still in touch with her host parents, she spends her days hanging out with them, and her nights with her son in their home in Oviedo. This made me hopeful and happy for two reasons. For one, she still has a wonderful relationship with her host parents. Second, she used to be a Spanish teacher in the States! It was really nice and inspirational hearing her story.