So much has happened in the last 2 days, I have a lot to write about!
Yesterday was our last day in Madrid and it rained!!!! We spent the morning touring the Royal Palace - which was absolutely beautiful. Once again we had a fabulous guia - Pamela - who spoke clear Spanish. My favorite part of the tour was the room with the Stradivarius violins. They are so rare and incredibly beautiful we were all in shock that we were standing in a room with 5 of them.
After that we had about 4 hours to kill until our train so we walked to El Corte Ingles which is a large shopping center. This place was AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have never seen so many wonderful things in one place! I was curious about the prices of things here. There are some designers like Longchamp that are much less expensive over here. But UGGS and Loreal makeup were almost 3 times as expensive here. The goal of our trip was to get a bathing suit for Theresa. She is from Alaska and didn't have one! We were in luck! All of the bathing suits were 50% off and we each bought one for about 15 euros.
We then had the LONGEST train ride ever to Cadiz. I didn't mind it much because the trains here are so nice. They are clean and new and very comfortable. But the route to Cadiz passes through nothing but open land and farms (that grow olives). There were some little villages and towns scattered throughout but otherwise it was a boring ride.
When we got to the train station we were greeted by our host families. Theresa is living alone because she is staying here for an entire year!!! Her host mom, Isabel, is a short little woman with curly blond hair and lots of makeup. She is very fashionable and told Theresa she was going to give her a makeover! She is a sweet lady who is very affectionate and talks a lot! Natalie and I are living with a woman named Encarna. She is a big old woman with a loud deep voice. She is incredibly nice and still stays in contact with the other students who have lived with her. Her grandson Hugo is also going to be living with us, but he is in Madrid visiting his boyfriend and won't be back until Sunday night. Encarna told us he is a hair dresser so we can't wait to meet him!!! His 2 friends came to meet us at the train station and they were kind enough to walk our luggage all the way back to Encarna's house. This was HYSTERICAL to see because they were 2 very short skinny boys.
Encarna's house is nice. It is typical of a middle-class residence here. (We were happy that it was on the first floor so we didn't have to carry our heavy luggage up any stairs!) When you walk in there is a small living room to the right and behind it is Encarna's room. Straight ahead is a small patio with no ceiling. This is where the clothesline is. You then walk down a narrow hallway and on the right there are 2 bedrooms - Hugo's and ours. If you keep walking straight there is a kitchen and a newly renovated bathroom. Its modest by American standards but we are very comfortable there. We had a small meal of pasta salad and then unpacked and went to bed. Last night there was a thunderstorm here (which is very rare) and it was very cool to hear it through the open air patio.
This morning we slept in a little and then met up with Carmen and the main center of Cadiz for a little tour. Cadiz is the oldest city in Europe and you can definitely tell when you are walking down the narrow streets. All of the buildings are old and very beautiful. We got to visit our school - which is VERY nice. We walked by the beach and let me tell you, I can't WAIT to go there tomorrow and get some sun! Our last stop was to this place called El Torre de Cadiz. You climb up a bunch of stairs for a panoramic view of the city. Then, you go into this dark room, they turn off all the lights, and open a hole in the ceiling where there is a mirror. The mirror acts as a camera and reflects a view of the city on this giant circle in front of you. The women who operated the "thing" gave us a little tour of the city and pointed out the important sites. It was pretty cool.
By then it was around 2 so we went home for lunch. We had salad, bread, a soup-like meal make with lentil-like beans, chorizo, and potatoes. It wasn't bad. Then we took a nap! I love this custom. Its around 7 pm here now and everyone is outside. We walked to Plaza Mina which is a few minutes away and offers free wi-fi. We won't have internet at home until Hugo comes back and gives us the password. For less than 2 euros we got a small ice cream and now we are just sitting here people watching. The plaza is gorgeous. There is a botanical garden and a fountain with benches everywhere. There are people all over, kids on bikes, dogs roaming and every table at the nearby cafes is full. This is one of the things I love most about this culture - the people are very social. Everyone is friendly and happy.
A few other little things - pigeons are the native bird here in Cadiz, but they are not anywhere near as annoying as those in the United States. Although, one did just poop on Theresa's computer.
The accent here in Andalucia is obnoxious, and I mean that in the nicest was possible. They speak with a heavy, thick accent and often leave many letters out of words, mostly the "s" which for us is the most important. I'm sure after a week of intensive Spanish starting on Monday we will be ok.
The people here are very stylish, every always looks put together.
The only negative at the moment is this little cold I seem to have. It started in Madrid and I had thought it was just allergies or something because of the smog/pollution of the city. But it seems to have followed me here! I'm hoping a day at the beach tomorrow will help some! It would be great if I could get rid of this tickle and stop coughing!!! Encarna gave me a spoonful of honey from a local bee farm (which was delicious) but it didn't help much. Good thing there are farmacias on every corner!!! If it doesn't get better by Monday I will visit a doctor, but I'm hoping it will be gone by then! I hope i'm not allergic to Spain!
The girls in the program are great! Theresa is from Alaska. And I think I have learned more about Alaska in the past week than I have about Spain! She showed me a ton of pictures and it seems like a wonderful place. She is a total nature girl. Her parents are park rangers/biologists and so Theresa knows everything about everything. She is incredibly enthusiastic and tuns of fun. Big smiles and lots of laughs.
I am living with Natalie from Corpus Christi, Texas. She and I are very much alike. We dress the same, talk about the same things, and have the same opinions about everything. She also has a serious boyfriend back home so we have lots to talk about. We are getting along so well and I am glad we are living together. I'm glad its just the 3 of us. Its making things a lot easier and we have a tighter bond.
Well that's all for now! I am going to enjoy the liveliness of the plaza!!! Beach tomorrow!!
Besos y un abrazo!