Indiana University Overseas Study

Pokito a Poko

Change.  That’s what I think everyone’s biggest fear is.  Whether it’s some small change at home or changing countries, cultures, and languages for a semester.  And to be honest, it’s a valuable fear.  However, after being here for almost two weeks, the change doesn’t seem too bad.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been trying to orient myself to all the changes that occur with studying abroad.  There’s the obvious time change and language barrier.  For me, Spain is a 6 hours ahead of Indiana.  It took some time to get used to and over the jet lag, but I feel like that’s the easiest.  However, there’s so much more that comes with the time change.

For most people, the first thing that comes to mind probably with Spanish-speaking countries is the siesta.  So, the siesta is partially what it translates to, nap.  But it’s also so much more.  It normally starts around 2pm or so and can end around 6 or 7pm.  During this 4 to 5 hour break, everything closes, and I mean everything.  There might be a McDonald’s somewhere open or the touristy gift shops, but everything else shuts down.  The reason for that is that lunch is the biggest meal in Spain, so the family goes home to eat together.  Now,  some people (myself included), use this time to catch up on sleep.  Others just chat and hang out with family. The next thing with the time is that dinner is served no earlier than 10pm.  This is just something in general that’s hard to get over.  I’m used to eating at noon and 6pm.

Another cultural aspect is that everything is closed on Sunday.  Similar to “siesta time,” the Spaniards take the Dia de Descanso, day of rest, seriously.  Unfortunately, my pre-paid phone (which is like from the 2000s) ran out of money and minutes and I was unable to do anything until Monday.  This is something that would be interesting to see in the States be done, but I guess there’s a movement here in Spain trying to demolish the unwritten rule of being closed on Sunday.

Then, there’s the next obvious thing: language barrier.  Once I got on the plane in Atlanta, I could tell the difference.  Every announcement was echoed in Spanish.   Other than that, my first experience with Spanish was trying to find my lost luggage and was that an adventure.  I knew right away that my luggage was going to be lost because I decided to be “complicated” and get off at Madrid, after telling every flight personnel possible, to visit there for a bit.  However, the airlines neglected to get that memo.  So, after what seemed to be an excruciating 30 minutes or more of hand gestures and broken Spanish (since I didn’t practice at all over the summer), I finally was told to open a claim.  So, all week I sat there struggling to explain what’s going on in Spanish to airline personnel.  Finally, my luggage “magically” showed up in Madrid in the hangers.  That’s always a fun way to start with your language.

I’m in a homestay with a man and his dog.  About 99% of the time if it’s just the two of us talking, he slows down enough that I understand. However, when his mom comes over and/or when he’s watching futbol (soccer for us Americans), I’m lost about 50% of the time.  The dialect is interesting; Andalucians like to drop random letters to help them speak more fluently and mumble.

Finally, the Eco-friendliness and the weather were a big change. Spain conserves any and everything. They limit water waste, use electricity as little as possible, don’t use air conditioning, and recycle everything. It’s pretty impressive. Equally as impressive is the weather. The weather so far has been approximately 90 degrees or higher every day. I’m not sure because I’m struggling with this Celsius thing (which the US needs to switch to as well). Secondly, there’s not a cloud in the sky. They say it might rain once or twice in November but that’s it. It’s absolutely perfect weather.

But, as the title and song goes, Pokito a Poko, entendiendo.

Little by little, I’m understanding.

Hasta luego,

Greg

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