Holy crap there are so many things I want to tell you guys. I wore heels on a cobblestone street Saturday night. (Heeled booties, as my cousin/personal shopper Kristina would insist I specify, because they’re kind of like heels with training wheels. The heels are thick and “easy to walk in.” Hundreds of years ago someone bought a pair of black boots, chopped them off at the ankle, and glued a 3-inch block to the heel. That’s how heeled booties were born, probably. I still don’t totally understand mine. But my cousin/personal shopper says they’re badass, and I kind of agree, so I’ll keep wearing them and maybe one day I won’t feel like a newborn deer in the middle of a Spanish city.)
Phew. Didn’t realize I had so much to say about heeled booties.
But back to Granada. There’s a palace a ten-minute walk from my house that was built in the ninth century. I just drank a mug full of what I’m pretty sure was straight-up melted chocolate. This place is strange and wonderful and full of bread.
The Heater Thing (La Califación)
Imagine an elegant, neutral-colored couch in a living room with marble floors and big windows. Then imagine a table in front of the couch with a tapestry tablecloth that really feels more like a blanket when you touch it. Now imagine a heater under the table. Sit, in your imagination, on that couch in the middle of winter. The heater is on. You pull the tapestry/tablecloth/blanket up and over your legs. There is warmth. So much warmth.
I just described my host family’s living room. As in the one I get to live in. All the time.
The Food (La Comida)
My host sister turned fifteen on Thursday. To celebrate, we ate the following things:
- Fresh bread & olive oil
- Salad: lettuce, tomatoes, avocados, and strawberries, drizzled in olive oil
- Carne: chicken cooked in salsa sauce
- Mushrooms sautéed in something delicious, although I’d guess olive oil
- “Frescas y leche,” basically a strawberry smoothie in a bowl
- Two different types of cake with chocolate candies on top
We ate these things at 3pm, and we ate them while sitting in front of the heater thing. That was a special occasion, but I’d call pretty much every meal here a religious experience.
The People (La Gente)
They dress very elegantly and they can spot that I’m an American from several miles away. My host family absolutely rocks. I have a host mom and dad, Beatriz and Javier, and two sisters named Beatriz and Ana. They’ve told me almost every day since I arrived, “estás en tu casa.” You are in your house. Make yourself at home. Yesterday I took a nap in front of the heater thing. Definitely getting there.
The Culture Shock (El Choque Cultural)
Halfway through last week, I went to cut my nails and realized that I couldn’t find my nail-clippers. I considered going out and buying a new pair. I then realized that in order to do that, I would first have to look up the Spanish word for “nail-clippers.” Then I would have to find a shop nearby that sells nail-clippers, because I had no idea where that would be. Then I would have to actually go to the shop, complete the nail-clipper transaction in Spanish, pay with unfamiliar coin money, and find my way back to my new Spanish house to clip my nails.
I almost had an anxiety attack on the spot.
All that just for a pair of nail-clippers? What about all the other things I’m going to need to find/buy/talk about? What if I get lost somewhere? Or lose all my money? Or am accidentally rude to a cute old Spanish lady? Or get sick and can’t explain to my host family what’s wrong? HOW AM I GOING TO DO THIS FOR FOUR ENTIRE MONTHS?
I want you to know that I knew how irrational all of that was. I did. But as awesome as things are here, all of the unknowns can get overwhelming sometimes. It’s a lot of new all at once. So I had a good, irrational cry, took a few deep breaths, and then re-entered the land of the sane. (I found my nail-clippers a few minutes later.)
Jules and I are both away from our families, our friends, and all things familiar. This whole semester is one giant leap out of our comfort zone. (I’m pretty sure our moms would say it’s a leap out of their comfort zones too.) But we didn’t do this to be comfortable. We did this because it’s new and scary and awesome. Everything here is an adventure—from finding a bathroom to eating lunch to trying to buy a pair of nail clippers. We’re explorers now. (And even explorers get irrationally anxious about insulting old Spanish ladies from time to time.)
So yeah. The study abroad life is more than good. It’s surreal and uncomfortable and delicious and scary and exciting. And this is only the beginning. #hannahandjulieabroad