Although it was only for a month, I feel like my time spent in Spain was a dream…On my return home I kept thinking, Was I really in Spain?!?! I was experiencing overwhelming waves of appreciation because I had been to a place (lived there for a month) that most people only get to hear about in history lessons. To go beyond that, I lived 10 minutes away from the Cathedral, a HUGE landmark on the Pilgrimage of Santiago that people from all over the world come to see. Despite having a fantastic time, I was happy to come home because my younger brother would be heading off to spend his junior year of high school in Germany as a foreign exchange student a week after I got back and I wanted to spend as much time with him. Needless to say, like my arrival in Spain, my arrival in Portland was a welcomed one but I was also instantly busy both times (the similarity was that I had dinner at midnight in Portland too). Everything was a rushed experience but that made it all the more exciting. It did take me a while to adjust the everyday life here because my mind was still wandering the streets of Oviedo and it was strange to realize that I wouldn’t be enjoying the social event of drinking sidra in the evenings. However I got plenty of chances to relive my Spain experience through sharing the stories with my family because shortly after my brother left, I traveled to the midwest to spend the rest of my summer with my extended family over there. Also, telling the stories was a good process of reflection for me as I thought about things that happened from a different perspective or my family would ask questions that added to my view of everything that happened. The adventures never end and like I said before, I plan to visit my home in Oviedo again.
I had my reservations about traveling to Spain because of how I visualized the culture to be… that being said, I’m pretty sure that the culture of Oviedo was distinct and I can’t say that all of Spain has the same characteristics that Oviedo does. I noticed a lot of similarities in culture between Oviedo and when I live in the USA but there were definitely differences as well. Drinking the local fermented apple alcoholic drink (sidra) most nights as a social custom was of course an adaptation I had to learn to love. I was in awe at how they treat their children in Oviedo. I imagine that it’s not just in Oviedo, but they seemed to specialize in anything baby related so that those kids would want for nothing. The children themselves are beautiful cherubs and always had the nicest clothing….like the way we dress our kids for Easter…but this was an everyday thing for them. I could have spent hours people watching just because of this and looking at all of the cool gadgets they have. Beyond that, kudos to the mothers because they generally seemed flawless as well. Also, I appreciated the fathers’ unrestricted display of love towards their families that I unfortunately don’t see so obviously in the U.S.. These were some of my favorite differences of culture that I observed. There was also a little different twist on fashion in Spain but it obviously meant a lot to everyone….Especially the shoes. It’s very impressive that age doesn’t matter with regards to what highly fashionable shoe a woman (and sometimes man) chooses to wear. Fashion never retires in Spain. However, for me the most surprising cultural difference was perhaps the dogs. People usually didn’t have large dogs but the tiny dogs that they did have went everywhere with them. It surprises me that the dogs have a different personality in general because they were almost all extremely well behaved or trained and they wanted absolutely nothing to do with a stranger. American dogs will wander over to greet someone they don’t know, or at least bark at them…but the Spanish dogs could care less and will not acknowledge your existence unless they see that their human family accepts you into their family. Only then are they the sweet little companions that love unconditionally.
Overall, I believe that I did well in my host culture. It’s a little difficult for me to get a real taste of the culture in just a month and to fully adapt so that was the main challenge for me I think. I felt caught in between because just as I was starting to get the hang of Spanish living, it was time for me to return to the U.S.. I wish I could have stayed longer in Spain, especially to explore more parts of Spain and to experience the cultural differences just in Spain alone. I am really happy that I did get to stay in Oviedo though because from what I heard, Madrid is a very bustling city and I enjoyed the quaint everyday happenings in Oviedo. It was the perfect environment. I absolutely want to come back one day to my home in Spain and explore the rest of it.
Last Thursday, September 11, was the National Day of Catalonia. The day long festival pays tribute to the defeat of Catalonia during the war of Spanish Succession. Three hundred years ago, Catalan lost its independence to king Philip V of Spain. This year they gathered in the shape of a V up two main intersecting streets, they want the right to vote in November for their separation from Spain. I had the pleasure of joining in the festivities, it was amazing to see so many people from all over Catalonia gather in Barcelona to show their support. It is inspiring to see so many people standing up for themselves and their freedom as a nation. Ara és l’Hora, Now is the Time!
If you want to read more about the day and their fight for freedom click here.
The view from where we ended the day, where the two roads met forming the bottom of the V.
I must say I did feel like an impostor most of the day, wearing my red and yellow flag cape along with the rest of the natives. I suppose as long as I kept my mouth shut nobody had to know I didn’t really belong.
Que vagi bé,
Never think that just because you are confident in your abilities as a walker and traveler that you can get around a new city without help, especially one as big as Edinburgh. I decided that I’d walk to campus from my dorm via the union canal path. Google maps informed me that it would be a 38 minute walk. I was confident but I was unprepared for what I found out. Google maps has no idea what they are talking about. I wandered in the canal for three hours into a seedy part of town and through several parks. I finally met a nice Bulgarian family who offered to take me a mile out of their way to the school. I am so grateful to them! The woman was very friendly. She explained that she too had once been foreign here and that she saw a bit of herself in me.
The day wasn’t all bad though. I got home and went over to the CIS-Abroad welcome dinner. I met a lot of people from the states and we instantly became friends. I even met one German fellow who seems nice. After the dinner a few of us stayed behind to chat and eventually made our way back over to the dorms to a school-run rock show. They were playing quite a few American songs. I had a pretty good time. I even danced (awkwardly). We’re all going on a walking tour today of the city with CIS-Abroad. So, I’ll make sure to post pictures of that as well.
My arrival home was much warmer than that of my arrival in London. My parents greeted me with hugs, kisses, and a cup of Oregon ice water! Compared to London, my flight home was not late nor were we scrambling to get from the airport to point b. Sadly, I feel that I was more excited about my return home than arriving in London. Upon landing in London, I was full of uncertainty because we were late landing, there were problems at the boarder patrol, and it seemed like no one had planed on any of the groups arriving late whereas going home, I knew that no matter how late I got in, there would be someone waiting for me at the airport to take me home. Furthermore, the US boarder patrol was a walk in the park compared to London’s.
It’s good to be home!
I have made it back home safe and sound! The layover was brutal and long, but at least I was in the same time zone as my family and friends! It was so nice being reunited with my parents and being able to share everything that I had done while I was abroad to my family and friends. I will miss London but this was such an amazing opportunity and experience!
London was not what I expected, but at the same time it was also so much more. The history is mind blowing and it’s people are interesting. And the landscape is simply breathtaking. I expected there to be a mixing of different cultures, but I was not expecting so much of an Indian influence. Everywhere I turned was curry or a worker with a Indian-British accent, which is very hard to understand. I knew that there was going to be a bit of a backlash at us being American, but I never expected so much. It’s very frustrating knowing that people are judging you for your accent. I eventually began telling people that I was Canadian. I also didn’t expect to feel so safe in London and I only had two scary experiences on the bus and was completely comfortable with the tube.
I’m looking forward to going home and seeing my family. This is the first time I’ve been away for home by myself for so long. It was truly a growing experience, I don’t know how, but it was.
I haven’t been able to keep up with my blogging over this trip due to technical issues with my internet connectivity and ability to download photos, plus I’ve been having a fantastic time in London and the rest of the UK. I’ll post the rest of my weekly adventures when I return to the US and have fully functional internet access so that you all can see what I’ve been up to on my adventure!
This trip to the UK has been one of the most life changing experiences of my life. Over the course of this trip, I was implanted in a foreign metropolis and expected to be able to navigate the streets of London without looking like a helpless tourist. While I was not able to meet expectations the first few days (with my nine hour trek back to campus), I ended up mastering the art of navigating London without looking like a helpless foreigner. In my time here, I have been able to go to several London landmarks, from the Globe theatre to the British Museum and the British Library (my favorite place in the world, which you’ll hear about in my week 4 post), and have also had many opportunities to travel throughout the country and see the countryside and more picturesque areas of Britain. I’ve been to Scotland, Wales, York, and Stratford-upon-Avon during my stay in London, and have enjoyed nearly every place I’ve traveled. While I’m excited to get back home and start real life again, I’m going to miss my time as a fly on the wall in London. I plan on coming back here someday, and I hope I’m able to do so. While I’ve been to a great many places here, there are still things that I wanted to do but wasn’t able to (The London Eye, Canterbury, Bath, Dover). While it saddens me that I was not able to get to these places, it gives me more motivation to come back, as there is still plenty of stuff available at my disposal. London is a city of endless opportunity, and it’s impossible to see everything you want to see in any allotted amount of time. Here’s to hoping I’ll be coming back to London in the near future, and here’s to hoping you all enjoy my further posts going into more detail about my experiences here!
It’s Sunday of my final week and I fly back home tomorrow morning. I’m sad to see London go, but I can’t wait to be home. Of course this past week has been my best week in London. Last Friday I went down to Cardiff to see the Doctor Who Experience and what an experience it was! I loved every minute of it and cried the first 25 minutes because I was so happy to be surrounded by fellow Whovians and experiencing something so beautiful together. And Cardiff was lovely; the weather reminded me of Newport, Oregon and that was wonderful. On Saturday I went to see the Crucible staring Richard Armitage. That was amazing! I had read the play back in high school, but before I learned about The Red Scare, but this time I found a greater appreciation for the play and it’s historical and political significance. Also, it was interesting listening to the Brits in the audience talk about the play and totally missing the point. Following the play I went to the stage door hoping to meet Richard, but sadly he left right after the show to catch a plane. I later went back on Wednesday and got a photo with him!! Furthermore, on Friday, some of us went to the stage door or Richard III and I got aMartin Freeman’s autograph!! It’s been a star-packed week.
Class also ended this week and finals were on Friday. In Shakespeare, we visited a couple museums before heading to the Globe to be groundlings for a performance of Antony and Cleopatra. The play was amazing and well acted, but it’s mighty painful being a groundling. After dinner, we saw the new play Shakespeare in Love. It was wonderful. Many of the students in my class didn’t like it, but I loved it and it was really funny. In my WWII class, we didn’t do much, but we did visit The Tower of London to view the poppies that are being installed in memory of WWI.
I really enjoyed my classes and my time spent in London, but I’m really glad to be going home.
When I arrived in Portland I was so excited to be home because I had missed my first plane. I had gone through customs in Texas and been so frustrated that we had missed our plane and when I arrived back in Portland I was so relieved. I was kind of overwhelmed when I got there and like I felt when I got to Mexico City I was excited and the airport felt huge. I was happy that I was home and all I could think about was seeing my family after almost six weeks of being away from home. I couldn’t believe that I was back in a country where I was again in the majority it felt so surreal. I also could not believe that all the languages spoken were English and I kept reverting to my non native language because I was so used to speaking Spanish. Like Mexico City the airport was bustling but it was quieter because it was late at night. In the end when I saw my parents I was so relieved and overwhelmed with emotions. I almost kissed the carpet but all in all I was also sad that I was home too because I missed my host family and my host country. I look forward to talking to them soon.