Phrase of the day: estar fresca como una lechuga = (literally) to be fresh as lettuce, (actually) to be perfectly comfortable, not too hot or cold or tired or sad or anything, but just right. (I really want to start using that in English)
I’ve always had a special admiration for transfer students because they were brave enough to essentially redo their freshman year of college, an overwhelming and sometimes intimidating time. Don’t get me wrong, freshman year was fantastic, but it’s also quite nice once you can navigate most places on your own, you know all the tips and tricks to make life just a little easier, and you have friends all over campus so you almost never feel lonely. So every time the topic of transfer students came up I’ve always thought “wow, I would never. I could never.” And yet here I am. The realization that I’m essentially just transferring schools temporarily didn’t even occur to me until I was on the plane.
Imagine freshman year with all its newness, confusion, and getting lost. Then add some jet lag, weird daily schedules (I never though I would hear someone say “6 in the afternoon”), new cultural customs and sayings (I’m not allowed to say “ok”, it comes across as snobby), new dress codes (it’s frowned upon to wear shorts to class but it’s totally acceptable for women to be topless at the beach???), I’m completely on my own for finding housing (for after my two weeks with my host family), aaaaaaaand let’s go the language setting and change it to Spanish. No subtitles. Just for funsies.
It’s been a long, crazy week, but in a good way.
For starters, my host mom was thoroughly shocked when I could speak to her in Spanish from the moment I arrived. She was so excited that she sat me down and asked me a million questions about where I was from, why I’m here, and what I’ll be doing. Apparently all of the girls she’s hosted in the past have spoken very little to no Spanish. The thought of traveling by myself to a place where I don’t understand a single word is absolutely terrifying.
I’ve found that my comprehension of Spanish really just depends on the day, or the hour really. It can go from asking for directions in the street and understanding absolutely everything (while repeatedly assuring that I do in fact understand) to someone talking at me really fast and my brain just freaks out and refuses process anything. However, the most irritating part of the language barrier is actually when people realize that I’m not a native Spanish speaker and then start speaking to me in English because they assume I would prefer it. Although I appreciate the gesture, I cannot even begin to explain how frustrating this is. Even worse is when the person doesn’t actually know much english and ends up speaking in very broken sentences with a really thick accent. At that point it’s infinitely easier to understand them if they simply speak Spanish, but I’m too afraid it would be rude to ask them to stop.
I started my intensive two week Spanish class (more detail on that later) and the hours are long but sometimes it’s really enjoyable. We’ve discussed everything from global politics to swear words to Spanish culture to alcohol to who’s got a girlfriend right now. It’s been quite interesting…
Anyway, now I have a phone, ID card, bank account, and (almost) an apartment so I feel more like a real person and less of a tourist (although I must admit I did get a bit sunburned yesterday). I absolutely love it here.
I’m going to try to post once a week (granted this is already three days late) so keep an eye out!