I’ve begun to realize that even if I posted a entry every day, I still wouldn’t come close to capturing my experiences here. So much happens so quickly!! However, pictures help, and I have quite a few from various tours of the city!
Before I share a gratuitous amount of photos, I’d like to recount a few updates and adventures I’ve had in my first week.
Classes have begun, and four out of five are in Spanish. Thankfully, my comprehension is growing by the day, so I haven’t had too much trouble yet. I’m taking General Translation, Sociolinguistics, Introduction to Hispanic Literature, Spanish Composition, and Spanish Conversation. They are all enjoyable, and the teachers are very nice. Most weeks we won’t have class on Fridays, and classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays start late in the afternoon. Altogether, I am going to have plenty of time to explore! (Which is purposeful––the program director encourages us to get out and see stuff!)
My bag arrived three days after my flight. The third day, since it didn’t arrive in the morning like the airline had said it would, my host family urged me to go shopping, as the airline will likely reimburse me for necessary purchases in the time before receiving my bag. After lunch, Lucas (18) and I went to the famous Calle de Colón, which is a huge shopping destination in Valencia. I ended up buying a jacket and a pair of shoes, both at significant discounts, since the time for rebajas is upon us. (Side note: The department stores are HUGE here! One store might have more than six floors!) It was a super fun experience. Afterwards, Lucas and I stopped at a cafe for some coffee and pastries. It was a good time, but then Lucas had to go to work, and I had to make my way to class. I had no idea how to get to where I needed to be in thirty minutes. Lucas gave me a few landmarks to follow, so I set out. Walking through the narrow streets of Valencia, I realized that even though I was very unsure, I wasn’t uncomfortable. Talk about progress! (I think it’s the laid-back attitude rubbing off on me.) I came to a Y in the streets, and after a moment of assessment, went left. Thankfully, that was the correct way, and after a brief consultation with Google maps, I found my school. (I was a little bit late for class though…) It’s amazing how such a simple task can bring such a strong sense of accomplishment! I felt vary capable 😀
Of course, I also make a lot of silly mistakes. For example, just today I forgot to bring my phone with me on a tour of the ancient city of Sagunto. Not only that, but I managed to poke myself in the eye with the phone I was handed to ask if I had left it in the car (well, with the phone case flap thingy, but still. I’m as klutzy as ever. :P). It’s a really good thing I’ve gotten good at laughing with people at my goofiness. 😀
My language abilities are slowly improving, but although my mistakes don’t bother me much, being unable to articulate everything I want to is frustrating. Not to mention, sometimes people give up on trying to make me understand and just say the word or phrase in English. This can be helpful, but I really want to get better at Spanish, and I won’t do that by speaking and hearing English (duh).
The lifestyle here is different than what I am accustomed to. Meals are served about 2-3 hours after when we would eat in the States. The food itself is yummy though, so I can’t complain too much––I just need to adjust to the timing. One challenge I’ve found is the nightlife culture. Going out at night is very common, whether for drinks or parties or just meeting up with friends. Even in the States, that is not my preference for nighttime activities. (I’d rather stay at home with cozy blankets and books/Netflix :P) I’m trying to be very judicious in what activities I participate in, and so far I don’t feel comfortable accepting invitations to go out for a beer. It might be different if I had drank before, but if I’m honest, probably not. I know too much about the dangers of alcohol to be eager to participate. I think I will likely accept an invitation at some point, to experience that aspect of the culture, but it won’t be a common occurrence, that’s for sure.
Overall, I haven’t been too homesick. There are moments when I feel lonely and like I’ll never fit in, but I have those even in the States, so it’s nothing new. My host family is very kind and caring, and I appreciate my host brothers’ inclusiveness. (We went to the beach today, which felt like going home––as I dipped my feet in the admittedly chilly water, I was inundated with memories of different, more tropical beaches. Staring out at the gentle waves, feeling the sand between my toes, I thought to myself… it’s been far too long, but I’m back where I belong.)
I do miss America, and it’s hard to be an American abroad. I’ve been asked my opinion of various political goings on in the U.S., which is a bit uncomfortable. After all, President Trump is an offensive joke to the rest of the world. People are angry with what is going on––several times I was asked a question, only to be cut off when I started to give my view as the person began passionately sharing their own opinions (usually negative ones…).
That being said, I am so awed that this is my life now. A beautiful city with an ancient history, relaxed and interesting classes, and countless opportunities to learn and grow. As I walk to and from school, taking in the orange trees and the sheer exoticness of everything around me, I realize how blessed I am to have this chance to experience Spain. Not that it is easy, but it is so worth it.
Anyway, enough blabbering: here are some sights!
Classic (old) Valencia
The above is of an exhibit of some ancient Roman ruins, under the floor of the city. Water covered glass forms the roof. Pretty neat, right?
With everything going on between Spain and Catalonia, people have decided to show where their loyalty lies by hanging flags from their windows and balconies. Here in Valencia I have only seen Spanish flags, but in other parts of Spain there are mixes.
We were walking through the city, and then all of a sudden there was half a castle in front of us! The juxtaposition contained within this city fascinates me 😀
A moat in the middle of an intersection, because why not?
These buildings were designed by the same architect (I believe). It’s amusing, because although they are pretty to look at, almost all of his buildings have had something go wrong! The clam-like structure on the left is a tennis court. It’s only been used a few times, and the locals refer to it as a kind of joke.
Museum of Arts and Sciences on the left, Opera House on the right.
The park used to be a river, but after some flooding problems, they tried to move it to another location. It didn’t work, so now there are two dry riverbeds. This one has been converted into a very popular park, so is it really a loss?
How bout those sleek European tables and chairs?
Valencia is famous for a several things, including oranges and tiles. These tiles were made into a mosaic from the broken tiles off the building designed by the architect I mentioned earlier. When he designed the building, he didn’t take into account the warping that would occur in summer, so all the tiles fell off! However, they were turned into mosaics like this one.
I’m alive: see for yourself.
The dome on the left is an Imax theater. See the arch thingy on the other building? It only touches the ground at one end. The rest is just suspended in air!
I’m only laughing because I’m blind. I wanted to get a nice photo for you guys, but the wind and sun conspired against me. (Case in point, the next pic)
That building with the teal windows is a popular department store, El Corte Inglés.
Wind and sun again. We tried.
My daily commute view: note the oranges. You might be thinking, like I did, that they are a free snack. Nope! These oranges aren’t sweet. (I learned this before trying one, luckily!)
When I get the pictures from Sagunto, I’ll post them in their own entry. Wondering what Sagunto has to offer? Well, let’s just say I can now check off “being in a castle” from my bucket list. 😀