Monday, September 24, 2012

School, the weekend, and lots of Photos!

I would like to start this post off by talking about school (get the boring stuff out of the way). After my first day, I still had 4 more classes to be introduced to since I take 10 classes but only have 6 per day. All of them are going pretty well, some way harder than others, but I just need to focus on the courses I will need to transfer back to St. Francis (Econ, Lengua/Spanish, Science, Math). History, Oh History, I think we might have a problem... I'm pretty sure my teacher has this twisted idea that I read, write, speak, and understand Spanish and that I am simply a bad student. Let me tell you, it is quite the contrary. Carmen, my teacher, always calls on me and the response "no lo sé" (I don't know) does not cut it. She also always calls on me to read aloud my homework answer (which are like paragraphs). Although, deep down, I know she is only trying to help me. I don't think I have ever felt so embarrassed in my entire life. The first time I read aloud, I heard giggling behind me (since she forces me to sit front row, 2 feet from her) and I wanted to sink in my chair and die of embarrassment. Let me give you this analogy for reference. I read Spanish aloud like a kindergardener is reading a book for the first time; however, the other students read Spanish aloud so fast (not exaggerating) that my eyes can't follow along on the page fast enough. Luckily, I can understand her lectures (the majority), and it also helps that I have already learned this information (thank you AP World History). With philosophy and economy, it is quite the opposite. I have no background in either of the subjects, so there I am out in wild, unknown territory trying to survive. My English teacher is great! I have heard some horror stories from students about their English teachers such as: not allowing them to help during class, having to do all the work, having to do all the work but in Spanish, and many more. My teacher encourages me to correct her if she makes a mistake or pronounces something incorrectly, I don´t have to do any of the work (class or homework), I can work on other subjects during the class, and I have only have to take the tests to check my grammar (understandable).
After one week of school I can say I have made 5 friends (progress from the initial 0)!! I don't understand my lack of companions because do they not realize I am willing to sell myself for English help in exchange for friendship?? Another reason I think no one wants to talk to me (except my fav 5) is because they literally don't know any English. My 5 friends have all told me that everyone here has practically taken English their whole life, but they don't know anything on the spot and they definitely can't speak it.

If I recall, in my last post I made a joke about me being famous here. Well, as I have recently found out, said joke is actually extremely true. I am the first exchange student Bembibre has ever had, and California is a fantasy dreamland fort them, but to me it is where I humbly reside. Sergio told me everyone at school asks about me. Raquel told me everyone at her school talks about me. My parents told me they have people asking them about me all the time. I even have these little 12 year old boys (who I have never been introduced to) stop me in the hallway at school to say "hello" in their best British accents (remember, they learn English from England here).Word does really get around in a small town. Sergio told me I had an American face (I didn´t even know Americans had a certain "face"). Aparently, my "american face" provokes a lot staring, like a lot, like more than one person can handle. Note to every person reading this, don´t stare at people because it is very uncomfortable for the staree.

On Saturday I went to Ponferrada with my host sister and her best friend, Andrea, to hang out with Megg, Lani, and Maria. We went shopping then went to dinner where our other two friends Emils and Derin met us. It was a really fun night and I'm so happy I was able to hang out with my friends!! Very fun night!!

On Sunday, toda la familia went on an 12 kilometer hike up a mountain. The route is called "Ruta de Las Fuentes Medicinales". It was beautiful, very hot, then extremely cold, amazing, tiring, but spectacular. It was uphill for two hours then downhill for two hours. The downhill part would seem like a relief but it was just as difficult as uphill. There wasn't a single part that was flat land. Despite all that, it was so much fun!! And Sergio took some beautiful pictures (some of which are posted here).

Cool Kids on the Block

Sulphur paint

Lani, Me, Megg

Raquel, Me, Andrea

The girls!

Megg, Emils, Maria, Lani, Me, Derin, Raquel, Andrea

Monday, September 17, 2012

Bembibre, My new Home

Yes, you read that correctly, Bembibre is now my new home. I had to move here from Ponferrada, but no worries because the two cities are only 15 minutes apart. I went from a city with 400,000 (Sacramento) to a city with 70,000 (Ponferrada) to now a city with only 10,000. It is a big change but I actually don´t mind how little it is. This move happended very fast. I got home from my first day of school, took my siesta, and then learned that AFS had found a new family for me because Luis is not getting any better and being with that family would not work out. It was very sad to change especially since I absolutely love Ponferrada, but I understand that this must happen. But I am very happy with my new family!
 In short, I learned about this change on Thursday, met the family on Thursday, moved to their house on Friday, went to the city´s fiesta on Friday and Saturday, and started school today (Monday). I love my host family! I have a sister, Raquel (15), a brother, Sergio (18), mom (Maria), and dad (Jose). Sergio and I go to the same school, but Raquel goes to a different one. Sergio reminds me a lot of my brother Patrick, and he actually looks like a mix of Patrick and one of my cousins...which is odd.
I had my first day of school today! I was so nervous but it wasn´t even that bad! Since I only signed up this morning, my name wasn´t on any of the teacher´s roster, but of course, the other students had to tell the teachers that I am ¡Una Chica de California! (no United States, they go straight for California) Soy famosa en Bembibre...(just kidding). Except math though, the other students didn´t say anything to that teacher and I definitely wasn´t going to say anything either. My econ teacher naturally talks extrememly slow (so that is good for me), my philosophy teacher made fun of me for taking too long to respond and he talks at a semi-normal pace, and my math teacher talks extremely fast and her handwriting is atrocious (to the point where I do not know what she is writing). Luckily, math is universal or else I would die. The rest of my teachers are fine and I actually understood more than I orignally thought. A big issue for me is zoning out based on the fact I don´t understand what they are saying, but I will not learn anything that way so I need to change that...
My class is small (only 15-20 people) and the teachers move classrooms, not the students. I haven´t really made friends yet (it´s only the first day, though) but it´s okay because during break Sergio picks me up from my class and I hang out with his friends. They are all so nice and funny! Lorena (naturally, I think) speaks slowly and Claudia is our walking dictionary; they have been very helpful.
Today I had my first real, normal talking pace, only English conversation in 2 weeks. It was very weird because I felt this strong need to throw in some Spanish (I guess that is a good sign, though). It was with Raquel and Sergio´s English teacher outside of school. This was a shock for me to hear that, but it is extremely common and normal to have extra English lessons outside of school with a tutor. You don´t really hear about that kind of thing (with other languages) in America. It was really nice to talk to her and she is from Atlanta! She and her husband moved here about 10 months ago to get away from the American lifestyle, which led us to talking about the crazy differences between Spain and the US that would NEVER happen in America such as blaring loud outside concerts at 3 in the morning and little kids hanging out in the street at 3 in the morning (to name a few).

Well, that is all for now!
¡Hasta Luego!

Sergio, Raquel, Me

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Ponferrada, My New Home

Well hello there blog, haven´t written in a while...
I`m not going to spend a lot of time talking about the traveling here or the orientation because there are bigger and better things I would rather write about, but there are somethings I will say.
The New York orientation was a little boring but I did learn more information about Spain so that was very helpful. The Madrid orientation was actually very fun, we played many games and I loved talking to all the other AFSers from all around the world! I now have a friend from Latvia, who would have thought!?! We mostly just hung out and played games at the orientation and I had a lot of fun. Something different I noticed was that our room assignments in the youth hostel were coed... Never in America. We didn't play normal games and ice breakers that one would normally play at an orientation, we played the let's-get-the-Americans-accustomed-to-physical-contact game (which is the only reason why we played it, I assume). One person in the middle and everyone else was assigned a number or letter if your number/letter was called then you both had to run to the person in the center and try to him or her a kiss on the cheek. Sounds easy? No, the middle person had to try to resist the kiss, so now we had to literally physically attack the person in the middle to give them a kiss in order to win. It was actually very funny.
Saturday afternoon I arrived in Spain by bus with 6 other AFSers who are also living in Ponferrada; Lani, Megg, Derin (from America), Ida (from Denmark), Emils (from Latvia), and Carolin (from Germany). When I got off the bus, I found out that my host father, Luis, had been addmitted into the hospital again with servere back problems. He has been having problems for 2 weeks now, so I only met my host siblings, Emma and Javier, but was not able to meet Luis or my host mom, Lupe. Instead, Susana (the AFS coordinater in Ponferrada) and her family welcomed me into their home until Luis gets better! I cannot thank them enough! Everything here has been more than I could have ever asked for!! On Sunday I met Lupe, then Emma, Javier and Lupe, and gave me a tour of their home. We handled some things for school and we walked around town for a little bit. They are so wonderful! When I arrived, there was a festival going on in Ponferada that ended last night, so there have been many activites happening around the city for me to enjoy before I begin school! Lani lives just a few minutes (walking) from my house so I have been spending a lot of time with her and her sister, Maria. For the past three nights we went to the fair with Megg, her sister Miarian, and her friend Alba. Today Emma and I went to my school, IES Virgen de la Encina in order to sign up for my classes.
*random thought, as I am writing this, I keep thinking "How would I say this in Spanish" but then I remember that I am actually trying to write this in English, not Spanish.
Susana and her family don´t speak very much English, so that first evening was very quiet. Only three days later, we are talking (a lot) to eachother, understanding eachother, and laughing a ton!! (all in Spanish of course)
AFS always says that to handle the language aspect, you need to be able to laugh at yourself when you make a mistake. That brings me to my first embarrasing story of the year.
Lani, Susana, Maria, Noe (Maria and Lani´s mom), and I were walking out of a sports clothing store and I knew that we were going to go to the gym but I did not know when. We start walking and I see "Ronald´s Gym" so I tell Noe "Mi ropa athletica esta en el coche de Susanna (my athletic clothes are in Susanna´s car)" Noe looks at me with an odd look on her face and says "No esta el gimnasio, esta un McDonalds" (I swear I didn´t see a sign saying Mcdonalds). Everyone laughs at my mistake and at how ironic it was! My face goes bright red and of course Noe points it out by saying "Tu cara esta roja jajajaj (your face is red hahaha)"
Quite embarrasing but everyone got a good laugh out of it.
Now to the serious side of my adventure. I think I am learning the language very very fast and my speaking has improved greatly. I can understand people now without them talking at a snail´s pace and when natives are speaking to eachother I am starting to pick up on pieces of the converstaion! It is all very exciting!! I start school on Thurday and I am very excited but also very nervous! I am excited to meet people but nervous about the language aspect since teachers will be talking very fast!
*also, I apologize if my spelling is very bad because it is my worst subject and the computer is in Spanish here so I don´t have spell check anymore.

Picture Time!!! (and to see more pictures of my adventure, feel free to add me on Facebook!)

Susanna and I at the famous castle!

Derin, Megg, Mirian, Alba, Me, Lani, Maria, Emils in the Plaza

Ponferrada is so beautiful!

La Feria

¡Tres Chicas Americanas!