It has been weeks since I last wrote. I tried to come up with an adequate synopsis for today's entry and nearly had an anxiety attack, therefore, I will choose my favorite anecdotes and recite them in no particular order.
Last Friday Damaris, my host parents, and I loaded up the car after class to venture to my host mom's family home in La Rioja. The entire drive there Angeles was reminding us repeatedly that it was definitely NOT a new house and definitely NOT a big house. We kept reassuring her that these were the reasons we were so excited to stay there. We were not disappointed. The house where her mother grew up is in a town with about 10 other houses. It's painted a rosy pink and adorned with grape vines. It has 4 levels and 5 bedrooms, but my favorite room was the basement. Angeles explained to us that it was previously a sleeping room for cows, now it's remodeled as a dining room that has kept its rustic charm. During our weekend we explored 4 towns in La Rioja, there is way too much to tell so I'll give you the basics: we purchased chorizo from the motherland of chorizo, we drank wine from bodegas (wine cellars) that were built into mountain caves, we explored the monastery where the first ever Spanish words were written. Each was an incredible experience that I will carry with me for the rest of my life, but the most amazing things are the people that gave me these life changing moments. Without my host parents and their awe-inspiring generosity and sense of adventure, I would be without every single one of these I-can't-believe-this-is-my-life moments.
Some of the first words ever written in old Spanish
Cooking up our meat in the cow room, talk about being close to your food.
So far this weekend I've gone out with two groups of locals. Do you know how much Spanish practice that amounts to? A lot. Especially when wine is involved, you can't get me to shut up once I've got a little booze pumping in my veins. Score 2 for Jenna! Thanks to them I finally know the area of town where all of the young people go out.
Saturday Damaris and I went to a town on the coast about 45 minutes away that has THE most beautiful rocky bridge built out to an island. The connection was initially constructed in the 1700's in order for the outlying island to function as a sort of look out for Spain. The guards watch the sea to the north for English and French invaders, if they saw a ship coming they'd ring the bell 3 times to warn their people. Now it is customary to climb to the top and ring the bell 3 times for good luck. The hike began in the forest near the coast and ends at the summit of the island. It was the most beautiful and peaceful place I have ever been.
I'll wrap this entry up with a list of differences I've noticed here that may or may not surprise you:
1. The nightlife schedule is quite different: If you leave for the bars before 10 you're kind of a weirdo, and if you come home before 3 you're kind of a prude. I am both of those things most nights.
2. The dogs of Spain are either robots or have superpowers. Everyone has a dog, no one has a leash. Every, single dog (big or small) follows her owner obediently. Have to go in a cafe/store? No problem. Super-dog sits down by the door and waits patiently until you're done. It's the damnedest thing.
3. Cussing isn't a big deal here, in fact, swear words are more often called "ugly words" in Spanish. It is not uncommon for my parents, professors, and children to drop f-bombs. The words simply don't carry such a strong negative connotation here.
4. Baguettes have their own food group. Everyone really is constantly carrying around a fresh loaf of bread during the day. Every tapa, no matter the type, is served on bread. It's a vehicle for virtually every other food. I'm not complaining.