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Spanish adventure begins

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

It's hard to believe I have been in Spain for a month already! Just sitting here, it feels like a week, but when I think about my first day, it feels like much more.

My head is spinning from all these changes, and my body is still adjusting to them. I never got as homesick as everyone thought I would, but there was definitely that yearning to be back in the comfort of my own home at times. I miss my family and my friends, but I'm glad I came. I wouldn't trade places with anybody right now!

This is not going to be my typical article, but I have had multiple people ask me relatively the same questions. Hopefully, this can answer some of your questions about my life here thus far.

What is your family like?

My new family is very different from my real one, which probably has something to do with the different habits in Spain. The father, Javier, is really helpful. He speaks many languages, including English. He is very cultured and has traveled a lot, too. Montse, the mother, is very nice, although I know she gets aggravated with my messiness! (I'm working on that.) She is a biologist, and Javier is a doctor. Claudia, the daughter, is about to turn 15. We have a lot in common and she has introduced to me quite a few people here. I really hope we will get closer as time passes and will always keep in touch; that goes for the whole family as well. They treat me like their daughter (sister in Claudia's case) and are very open towards me. They have helped me adjust faster than I expected to! Unfortunately, I do not know their son Manuel, who is 16, because he is the United States, also doing what I am doing. Hopefully, he will be back in Spain before I leave.

Do they spend much time together as a family?

Javier and Montse both work from about 8:30 to 5 or 5:30 and Claudia and I go to school from 8:30 to 2:20. Usually, dinner is at 9:30, and we talk and eat anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. Then, we usually watch television or watch a movie. On the weekends, we all typically eat breakfast, lunch and dinner together, unless I go eat with friends one night.

Are you making many friends?

Yes! Claudia introduced me to her brother's friends, who introduced me to others, and so on. I have also made quite a few friends from school and such.

What is the house like?

It's a two-story townhouse. It has a basement and an attic/office type thing, too.

What is the food like?

The food is VERY good! I like that they don't have as many fast-food restaurants, so I'm not as tempted to spend my money! Montse is a very good cook! I love the food she makes. Javier is a good cook, too, even though he claims he is not. The names for all the different types of food are confusing. But I've learned it's better to sometimes eat the food before asking what it is!

Are the meal times any different?

They are, actually. We eat breakfast when we wake up. Lunch is typically at 2:30 or 3, and dinner around 9:30 or 10.

Do they eat out much?

Not really, unless we go to Madrid or somewhere away from home. This surprised me, I'm used to going out to eat a few times a week.

What is your favorite new food you have tried?

Sea urchin! It sounds gross, but the way it was prepared was delicious.

Anything you don't like?

I am not a big fan of chorizo, which is a very popular food here.

What is a typical day for you?

On the weekdays, I wake up, take a shower, and get ready for school. After I eat breakfast, I walk to school with two of my friends; it's about an eight-minute walk or so from my house to the school. When school gets out, I go to the cafeteria to eat lunch, which is usually delicious! Alonso, who's in charge of the lunches, is an AMAZING cook. When I get done eating, I walk home and relax. On Mondays and Wednesday, I go to Spanish tutoring and on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have aerobics. Around 9 o'clock, Claudia, one of her friends, and I walk the dogs together for 30 minutes. Then, we all have dinner and watch television or a movie. I usually go to bed around midnight. On the weekends, it varies.

How is school going?

It's difficult for me, especially because I don't understand the teachers. However, they have been understanding of my situation and don't expect too much from me right now. Some are even allowing me to take my first exam in English! The curriculum is also very different and I think it is more difficult. I am taking English, history of music, contemporary world history, and sciences for the contemporary world, language and literature, philosophy and citizenship, physical education, Latin and Greek! After the first three classes, we have a 30-minute break, then three more classes.

How's your Spanish coming?

I am FAR from fluent, but it's getting better and better every day!

What do you think of Spain so far?

I like it a lot. Spain seems to be more scenic, but that may be because it's different than the United States. The houses in the older parts are beautiful.

What places have you traveled to so far?

First off, the capital of Spain is Madrid. Madrid is a province, but Madrid is also the capital city of the province. I am in a suburb called Tres Cantos, which is about a 15- or 20-minute drive to the capital city. I have been to Madrid twice since I have been here. The first time we walked around Retiro Park, which was ridiculously pretty, Puerto del Sol and Plaza Mayor. The second time was to have a birthday lunch for Javier's mother. There wasn't much sightseeing done that day. The second place I have traveled to was Asteasu in the Basque Country. It is only a few kilometers from the borderline of France and in the Pyrenees Mountains! It was absolutely breathtaking. We also went to the port city of Pasajes de San Pedro. I would go visit again in a heartbeat. We stayed with two of Javier and Montse's friends.

Can you drive or drink there?

No, because both the legal ages to drink and to consume alcohol are 18. To get around, we walk, take the bus or train, or get a ride from someone who has a car.

As you can tell, I am doing really well! I am enjoying myself a lot. Everything is still new to me so I am trying to take it all in. If you would like to see some photos from my travels, visit http://www.flickr.com/photos/darbycalhoun. I will do my best to upload more pictures soon after they are taken. Adios!

Darby Calhoun, 16, is the daughter of Bill and Laura Calhoun of Albany. During her year of study in Spain, she will contribute a monthly column to The Albany Herald on her experiences. You can also keep up with Darby's columns at www.albanyherald.com.