Monday, October 22, 2012

Orientation and No School!

Tuesday I went to school as I normally would and there were six people including me there. That is when I found out that that day was one of the three days where no one goes to school. My friend, Manu, explained what was happening and that there were student strikes in Ponferrada this week and he was leaving after 1st period. We planned our escape during Economy and left immediately after. Leaving class or school is so easy to do here, you literally walk out the door. There is no secrecy or "escaping." Then I went home, watched a movie, and slept. My parents wanted me to go to school on Wednesday because I am only allowed to miss a certain amount of hours of class. I ended up leaving after 4th period because I only had gym and Lengua and my teacher wasn´t there. Thursday I took the bus to Ponfe to go to a strike with Derin and kids in his class, but because it was raining and there had already been a strike the day before, there weren´t that many people. We ended up walking around the city and hanging out. It was a very fun day!

This past weekend, I had my AFS orientation. It was a ton of fun! It was so nice to see my friends from the US that are living in different cities! The best part was meeting tons of new friends from other countries! I made so many new amazing friends, and I can´t wait for the Mid-Year Orientation. I can honestly say I made friends that I will have for a lifetime. At the orientation, we played lots of games, talked about our "emotional rollercoaster," talked about culture shock, other actividies, and this was the time for students to talk about any troubles they are having.

Overall good week! Below are some of my favorite pictures from the orientation!

The student strike

Megg and Milena

My amazing friends <3

All the students!! 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Daily Life

I don´t really have too much to update everyone on, so I decided to make this post about my daily life in Spain (on weekdays). The big difference between this routine and my routine in Sacramento is I am 100x less busy here and have too much free time (something I am not used to). I miss all the school activities that American schools provide!! Speaking of which, Homecoming Week started today at St. Francis!!! Gooo Juniors!!! <3Mike&Sully<3 (my class´s mascot).
Friday was a national holiday in Spain, so no school!! Thursday was a day of protest at a lot of schools around the country, and I'm pretty sure there are more this week. I think Bembibre doesn't really care enough, so we didn't have a protest. But I learned today that apparently we have our own form of protest at my school. Every class decides on a day they want to miss this week and they don't come to school. Basically a free day off!! Welcome to Bembibre, where we would rather have a day to catch up on sleep then hold a protest...this pueblo cracks me up. I agree with that logic, although I did want to go to a protest to see what it was like.

Okay, finally, here it is:

-wake up at 7:30 and get ready for school
-leave at 8:15 and class starts at 8:30. Also, I walk to school and I really like that!
-school ends at 2:30
-We eat a big lunch, the most important meal here at about 2:50
-around 3:30 I take my siesta and depending on how much I have to do that day, I wake up at either 5 or 6
-after siesta, I have "merendar" with my parents. This is like having a small snack (most of the time, some kind of baked good) with a small cup of coffee. During this time, I have conversations with my parents about random things. It is a really good and fun way for me to practice and learn Spanish and the culture.
-work on homework, use the computer, study or maybe go on a walk. It´s kinda free time, I guess.
-At 9 or 9:30, we have a dinner, which is pretty small (by Spain´s standards).
-I watch some TV, which is another way I practice Spanish. My favorite part is when I understand what just took place...
-by 11, I start to get ready for bed.

So I know it doesn´t sound too exciting, but it is relaxing.

Also, on Mondays and Wednesdays I go to the pool for an hour or so with Raquel´s best friend, Andrea, to swim some laps while Raquel and Sergio are at their english lesson. By the way, when I say swim I actually mean swim 8 laps then talk for awhile until we feel like doing another 8 much as this being my form of exercise :) I figure the talking helps me with my Spanish, so I don´t mind! haha

¡Hasta Luego!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

I hate coming up with this will be my title

I kinda had a weird day. That last post about my biggest problem is Spain I drafted during Philosphy. When I got home, I was informed that I would be meeting with Yoli (my tutora or liason) today and not Thursday in Ponferrada while Raquel is at dance. Honestly, my whole perspective about my exchange was changed in the 30 min she was able to meet with me. I told her basically everything I said in the last post and it was amazing how many possible and reasonable solutions she could come up with. She just gave me the straight up truth, I am not here to learn history or philosphy or any other subject. My number one priority is learning Spanish and then, embracing a new culture. Once I learn more Spanish, then I can worry about grades. She also told me that some of my teachers were out of place for expecting the same amount of work from me and the other students. I felt like I needed to produce the same quality of work as the other students, and hearing from an adult who is knowledgable about exchange programs that that is ridiculous definitely reassured me. She told my parents they should go to the principal (who is super personable and nice) and explain to him the reasons why I am actually here and have him explain that to my teachers. So now here I am writing a blog post instead of doing my homework. Thanks Yoli! :)
She also gave me different options for meeting new people. I am going to look into doing more activties in Ponferrada or Bembibre. Also, she has a 16 year old daughter and the next time her and her friends hang out, I can come so I can meet more people and be in the city. Within those 30 minutes, I felt so much more reassured and confident. Side note: I was nervous about being able to clearly communicate my concerns to her since she doesn´t speak English, but I was so shocked but proud of myself with how the Spanish just went rolling off my tongue!!

Things are looking up and to top it off, I had a fantastic weekend!!! It was very fútbol filled, actually. During the week I watched Barcelona v. some team in Portugal. On Saturday, I watched Bembibre´s team play and Sunday was El Clásico (Barcelona v. Real Madrid). Watching a fútbol game in Spain is unlike anything else, it is so intense andn I have already decided it is my favorite past time. In a few weeks, I´m going to go to a game in the Ponferrada stadium with my cousin Marcos!! I am so excited!!

Friday night, Megg came to Bembibre and then spent the night. That night is without a doubt in my top 3 favorite nights here in Spain. We went on "un paseo" (just means walking around town) with Raquel and some friends. When Raquel had to go to dance, we met up with Sergio and some friends and went to a bar to"tomar algo" (which is basically the equilivelent of going to a starbucks or a cafe and getting something to drink while talking and hanging out with friends). After, we had a picnic dinner in a park while listening to music and looking at the clear and beautiful night sky. I have never seen so many stars at once. It was so simple but it was really fun. Life in Bembibre is so simple and enjoyable, I really like it.
On Sunday, we drove to this is old tiny pueblo called Cantexeira to see some ancient spanish type things took lot pictures and tomar algo. Quality family bonding time.

Bembibre´s team

Me and Lorena <3

La Familia


Megg and I <3

Always havin´ fun

The Hard Times

I haven´t really talked about anything bad about being in Spain, but this experience would not be the experience that it is if there weren´t hard times included. I´m not homesick, I´m not going through a big culture shock, the thing that is really killing me is school. Back in Sacramento, I love going school, seeing my friends everyday, and I actually love learning. Here, none of that is happening and it has been the hardest thing for me yet. I dread going to school. This probably sounds weird, but it is not a learning friendly enviorment. They don´t make learning fun, it is blantently obvious that the students do not want to be there, and all the teachers do is lecture. Not kidding, in my Lengua class (Spanish language class), the teacher dictates and the students copy down the words. We are then expected to study those notes and every three chapters we have a test. I am also expected to do all the work. I probably should not have assumed that the teachers would give me leeway, because they don´t. Because of this, I spend hours on homework a night and I come home completely exhausted from school. To top off my school expierences, I honestly have no friends of my own. I stay with the same 20 people every day and don´t get many chances to meet other kids. I only have the girls in my class that help me with homework and let me copy their notes. The students in my class are so timid to talk to me. They don´t even want to attempt a have a conversation with me. It´s not that my language abilities are bad, it´s that their mindset is if I am not fluent, then I must know nothing. Not the case. My solution right now is to just start talking to all my classmates and asking them random questions about school or anything (even if I know the answer) just to show I can sufficiently communicate. I know I have Sergio´s class I can always talk to and practice my with Spanish, though. Honestly, I need to meet more people and I really want to find friends by myself.

Monday, October 1, 2012

1 Month!!

Wow, I can´t believe I have been here for a month already. It seems like a week ago I was packing my things in my huge red suitcase and waiting anxiously to start my adventure!
I have had a pretty uneventful week, just school and lots of homework! Insane amounts actually, I spent 7 hours over the weekend doing homework and I only got about 3/4 done. I don´t even spend that much time on homework in 5 days in the States...
I didn´t do anything super fun over the weekend because I have been really sick for the past 4 days. Thursday morning I went to the police station to get my visa extended and a Spanish ID card that all citizens are supposed to have. Saturday I went on a much needed shopping trip in Ponferrada to get winter clothes. I completely underestimated how cold it gets here and I did not come well prepared. I guess you can take the girl out of California, but you can't take the California out of the girl. :) When I was unpacking all my clothes, the first thing my family said was that with the clothes I brought, I will not get out of the winter alive. After shopping, we went to see mis abuelos (grandparents) because they had gotten a little puppy that day, then we went out for some ice cream. On Sunday, my cold was majorly acting up so I stayed inside all day and relaxed. I taught Raquel and Sergio how to make cookies, though!! They didn´t turn out right and I thought they were bad but everyone else thought they were good! They only probably thought that because they do not know what real and delicious cookies should actually taste like :) I think the reason they tasted a bit grain-y is because their sugar, especially the brown sugar, is different. It isn´t as fine...actually it is as thick as sand. While the three of us were preparing the dough, Sergio started an "ingrediant war," we starting putting flour, sugar, and the dough on eachother´s faces! It was a mess but so much fun! Also, it was the first time I had taken part in any type "food fight."
That was basically the extent of my weekend.

Since the update part of this post is so short, I think this is a good time to give people my List of Observations, or things I have noticed that are different here.

1. In school, the teachers are religious to the textbooks, Everything we do is from the textbook.
2. When people speak in Englsih, they speak with British accents. It makes sense since they learn British English, I just had never thought about it before. My first day of English class I legitimately had to cover my mouth the whole time because I kept laughing!
3. Driving is insane. I can only assume the rule here is if no one dies then it is legal. It is scary. Crosswalks are supposed to be a safe way to cross the street, I thought... Here, they´re not. I don´t think cars have to stop for you, only if you are in the middle of the crosswalk.
4. People go out walking just to walk, like not for exercise, as a pastime. They don´t have a destination in mind or anything, they just go out walking then they always run into people they know so they chat for a little bit, then maybe go get something to drink. It is actally quite fun, and who knew walking around town could be such an adventure!
5. Things here are not that expensive, especially compared to the US. I think things are extremely reasonably priced. In Spain, if it didn´t cost a lot to make/produce then it won´t be expensive to buy. However, in the US, even though it cost little to make/produce, the price will be high because people will still purchase it.
6. Teachers and students are very laid back towards eachother here. They call teachers by their first time and for example, a boy in my class told the teacher to calm down and it was totally normal.
7. I knew coming here that Spaniards are very touchy, but the kids and teenagers like to hit one another, and the head and shoulders are very popular targets. It´s very strange. It´s not violent or anything, always playful but it´s definitely more than just small shove or light pat on the shoulder that we might do in America. It is very odd for me to to watch.
8. The portions are insanely large here. Everyone here is skinny, though, it doesn´t make sense. Also, you have to say "no more food" about 10 times before they realize your stomach is about to explode. It is a trap because if you say "poquito más" (a little more) you will get a another serving size and I´m pretty sure it is considered rude to not finish everything on your plate.
9. They eat all fresh foods here, except the milk, it doesn´t need to be refridgerated until it is opened (aka, not fresh). I was surprised when I was in the grocery store and the milk was on a normal shelf next to soda.
10. The last different thing I care to mention about food is that "un postre" (dessert) can (on just a normal occasion) mean a yogurt or a piece of fruit, but for breakfast they have baked goods that in America we would consider a desert. Basically, it is just switched.

Please feel free to leave comments! It is a great way to contact me! It seems that Mondays are going to be (in general) the day that I update my blog!

Until next week!