Imagine that you were a person who has a lot to say. Imagine that you have strong opinions on just about everything and that you liked to talk…a lot. Now imagine that you open your mouth and the words just won’t come out. You know exactly what you want to say, but you can’t connect the thought with your vocal chords. You freeze, and instead, you sit in silence and let everyone else do the talking. Essentially, in a slightly less dramatic way, this is how I feel on a daily basis.
I know I’ve addressed this probably a dozen times in my blog, but the language here is just not coming easy for me. I think I came in with this expectation that because I studied Spanish in school for about six or eight years, I’d know enough to pick it up at a fairly quick rate. I’m not sure how, but I was somehow given the impression that by the end of these five months here, I would be able to hold a solid conversation. Now, I’m not so convinced. As William Shakespeare said, “Expectation is the root of all heartache.” My expectations are certainly not being met in regard to me learning. After five weeks here, I feel no better about being able to express myself than I did on day one. Often times, I feel redundant and foolish. I know that it’s part of the process of learning, but at times, it can get to be mentally draining. In addition, castellano, or the Spanish language that is spoken in Spain, is dramatically different from the Latin American Spanish that is taught in school in the United States. Therefore, I have to focus so hard on what people are saying, or I usually won’t pick it up. Furthermore, I’ve made English-speaking friends so we usually speak in English because it’s easier. I need to figure out how to overcome this bump and plan the next step. I’m feeling a little down about it now, but hopefully it’ll get better.
I can’t let myself complain too much, though. This trip is everything I’ve imagined and more. I’ve been doing a great deal of traveling and site-seeing, eating new foods and meeting new people. Travel is just as easy and cheap as everyone told me it would be when I got here. I have plans, and I’m going places, whoop!
This past weekend, I went to Segovia with Crystal and some of my other friends from the States, and to say the least, it was a blast. We woke up bright and early to meet up at 8 and catch the bus from Principe Pio at 9:30. My ticket only cost 13 euros, round-trip, and the ride was only about an hour and fifteen minutes. We stopped off at a small cafe before we left called, “Café y Té,” where we had coffee and tortilla, which is a traditional Spanish dish made of egg. When we got there, the weather was ideal and in the 60’s the whole time, the sun shining and everyone walking the streets. Our first stop was the Roman aqueduct that was constructed hundred and hundred of years ago. My host father told me that it was actually built into a mountain and then carved out, but the work was all manual. Can you imagine having to construct something without the use of any modern technology? Talk about challenging. This aqueduct is huge and stretched before me for miles. Slabs of stone are piled on top of each other in the form of arches, and there are two layers of these arches. Water is brought from the mountains and into the town using this aqueduct. Standing below it, a person is only a speck.
After the aqueduct, we ventured to Segovia’s version of La Plaza Mayor, where there were a ton of restaurants, a gazebo, some architecturally-lavish buildings, and what I think was a basilica. We didn’t have a tour guide so I’m not one hundred percent positive on some of the details, but the design of the building was so detailed and incredible. In the corner of the plaza were two bakeries where we went and got a few sweets and snacks to munch on. Our friend Cora loves taking pictures, so every so often, we would stop for a photoshoot, or she would take an action shot of someone eating a pastry. After this, we headed for the castle, which served as a fort during times of turmoil here in Spain. There is a gate that you walk through that leads to a small park area in front of the castle, itself. A fountain ornaments the middle of the park, with various statues dancing on top of it for decoration. We crossed a drawbridge to get in the castle, and a quick glance to either side showed deep motes vacant of water. I love heights, but other people weren’t so fond of it.
Inside the castle, we went up to the watchtower, but to do that we had to climb 150 stairs. It doesn’t sound terrible at first but when you’re doing that many stairs straight up a spiraling tower, you start to question your initial notion. I’d like to think I’m in shape, but after that march, I realized that I probably need to start working out a bit more. By the time we got to the top, we were all out-of-breath. The rooftop area was wide open and from any given point, you could see all of Segovia. Merece la pena, as they say in Spanish (It’s worth the pain). To top off the view, a Spanish flag blew in the wind on top of one of the walls, a tribute to us being in Spain. After the tower, we explored other parts of the castle, including some of the old armor suites that knights used to wear. The castle also boasts some of the most luminous and beautiful stained-glass windows. At the end of our tour, however, we stopped off at the basement for a photoshoot in the cellar. I posed as a prisoner 🙂 From there, we stopped at a restaurant where I had the most delicious chicken, bacon, carrot, and lettuce sandwich ever. I was in heaven.
Those were pretty much the highlights of the trip, and from there we grabbed another coffee and headed back to Madrid where we hung out at our friend’s apartment, walked around a bit, and then got crepes and milkshakes. I think the whole trip was made better by the fact that it was so last-minute. We were talking with our friend on Thursday about how we didn’t have plans for the weekend, and he looked some information up and that was that. I love that I can travel so easily. This weekend, we’re going to Granada and are going to spend the night in a hotel for the first time since we got here. I’m so excited!
As for everyday life here, it’s pretty much fallen into a routine. I wake up, go to class, eat with Conchi, try to motivate myself to run, do some homework and go on Facebook. At night, I usually go into Villviciosa for tapas with friends or go putter around and explore Madrid. I always have to make sure that I’m home for mealtimes, though, because Conchi always cooks something for us. Mealtimes are different here, though. Lunch is usually around 3 and dinner is usually around 10, so I’m starting to get used to eating very late and eating a ton of food at mealtimes. I would usually feel bad about eating so much, but everything my host family eats is healthy, so I feel less guilty. Tomorrow, we’re having a huge dinner with my host family and their son and soon-to-be daughter-in-law because it’s Conchi’s birthday! She’s sincerely the sweetest person ever and while the communication aspect isn’t always easy, she’s a very relaxed and charismatic woman. She talks a lot about Crystal and I coming back to visit her in the future. There’s no doubt in my mind that I will definitely be back here to visit.