Remember how in my last entry I was saying that the Spanish was coming along pretty well? Apparently I spoke too soon. It wasn't until today that I had spent any time with my host sister (Cova) and her friends. With slang and the rapid speed at which they speak, teenage girls are already hard enough to understand. (Of all people, I should know.) Then add into the mix that they're speaking any language other than English... Needless to say, I was lost. I know these things come with time, but it's frustrating only being able to make basic conversation. I'm hoping that by the time I return home, I'll actually understand what's going on around me no matter whom I'm with or what the circumstances. But in the meantime, I guess I'll be content with just learning as I go. Speaking of learning, in the last few days I have realized that I've been under the wrong impression about some aspects of the Spanish culture. For example, I wrongly assumed that Spaniards eat significantly less than Americans, everyone here is on the cutting edge of fashion, and that they're all very thin. In reality, I have not been hungry once since I arrived; the clothes look, for the most part, similar to those in the US; and there certainly are people of all different body types here: big, small, and everywhere in between. But as with every rule, there must be exceptions. In fact, because of an exception to one of these, my day today was off to a somewhat awkward start. Like I expected I would, I slept in this morning. I figured Cova must have too since she spent a while still in her pajamas while I took my time getting ready. Over an hour after she had woken me up, she asked if I was ready to go (we had plans to go to the mall and meet some of her friends). It was at this point that I realized that she wasn't and had never been wearing pajamas. It turns out that she actually is on the cutting edge of fashion and the pants that appeared to me like pajamas are actually just a trend. Of course I wasn't about to let on that I thought the outfit she had picked out for the day was the outfit she had slept in, so I just played it off as being too tired to function properly. Oops!
Today my day was spent around the city of Oviedo. Cova and I met up with 2 of her friends and we all went to one of the shopping malls in the city. None of us did any shopping (I would have liked to, but unfortunately I have not changed my dollars to euros yet), but we did eat pizza in the food court. I know you're probably thinking like I was: pizza is pizza. But here it's slightly different. The crust is much chewier, the sauce is runnier, and they only use some sort of white cheese (but I'm not sure which). After lunch we went up into the mountains (where I noticed a lot of people biking.. one of which practically ran me over), saw the Statue of Christ and a very old castle (circa 9th century) turned church turned tourist attraction. And to finish off a very long day of exploring, we walked through another mall (but this one being of very interesting architecture), and saw the city up close. I'm starting to realize that I really like it here. It's a big city, but still quaint. At about 8:00 PM we came back home and had fish, baked tomato and pesto, homemade ham and pineapple pizza, and bread for dinner (it was a huge meal!) and fruit for dessert. Yes, it's true, they consider fruit to be dessert here. Seems crazy by American standards doesn't it?
There are so many things that are different here than they are in the United States! I think I'll just keep listing them as the occur to me throughout my stay in Spain.
-Outlets, light switches, street signs - they all look so funny to me!
-9 digit phone numbers
-There seem to be more roundabouts here than there are actual intersections. And with all the mountains in this city, there are a lot of tunnels too.
-Bidets... the whole concept of these just confuses me.
-The females here really don't shave their legs. Or underarms.
-They actually listen to a lot of American music. (But they don't play the radio edits; I was a little alarmed at first to hear the real lyrics to some very popular songs.) (I consider this to be different since our popular music is mostly sung in our official language.)
-Dinner is usually eaten between 9 and 10 PM.
-Anyone who wears flip-flops is just asking to be called a tourist. (Luckily I was warned not to bring any!)
-Rules of the road are different: many cars are parked on the sidewalks, cops direct a lot of the traffic in different areas or during busier hours of the day, and in some parts of the city the speed limit is different depending on what lane you're in.
-Metric system. Meaning kilometers per hour, degrees in Celsius (this got to be confusing when I was asked what the weather was like in Wisconsin), measurements in milliliters, liters, kiloliters, etc.