Friday, February 26, 2010

Rinse and Repeat.

Three weeks in. Almost a month. 49 weeks left.

I feel like I have been away from home a week rather than three weeks. Everyday I am here, in Tudela, Spain, I feel a little more at home. Everyday I am able to understand just what a year away from home looks like. Everyday I fall a little more in love with Spain. Everyday I discover a new, exciting secret of Spain. I feel like I am on my own treasure hunt, (or geocaching adventure!) and everyday I get a new piece of treasure. But like a real adventure, it's not always smooth sailing, and I am often confronted with obstacles - mainly my frustration at situations and cultural differences. But, like every true hero in these stories, I brandish my sword, fight the villains and live to tell the tale.

With these exciting moments, comes the reality of normal life. I am living a normal life, but in a foreign country, and communicating in a foreign language. I am three weeks into my exchange, and have finally settled into a routine. Everyday is more or less the same, and I feel like I am starting to live a 'normal' life. My week as follows:

Everyday I wake up at 7:30, have a shower, get ready for school. At 8am I go upstairs and either set the table for breakfast, or start eating, as it's already been set. Every meal in Spain is a three course meal, so for breakfast for el primero plato I eat fruit; normally orange, kiwi and apple. (Sometimes pear as well!) For el segundo plato, I eat a bowl of porridge, with Cola Cao, a milo like chocolate powder. The Cola Cao goes into the porridge, essentially making it a warm subsitute for Coco-Pops. Today, my family bought a 25kg bag of the oats, as we eat so much porridge every morning! For el tercero plato I eat a piece of toast, covered in olive oil. I love the bread in Spain so much. I have yet to see a loaf of bread, as we only eat homemade bread, or french-baguette-type bread. Breakfast is usually from 8 until 8:15, (but for Ana, María y Javier it's until about 8:30ish) and then I unload the dishwasher and stack it again, before rushing downstairs to brush my teeth, and head out the door to walk to school at 8:30.

There is nothing like walking to school. It is something that I have always dreamed of being able to do, and now I get to do it everyday. I love walking with the morning air, music setting the pace of my walking, and watching people take their dogs for walks. (Oh Bonnie, how I miss you!) I don't think I will ever get tired of it. School starts at 9am, and I have six classes a day. I have P.E. twice a week, which I love, as it is all prac and no theory. This week we had a volleyball exam, and I went quite terribly. They have been doing volleyball for a while, and it was my second week, after two years of no P.E. ... The P.E. teacher had to stop the exam to try and teach me how to do the shots and serves and things properly. Haha! But I loved it nonetheless. I love not driving, and walking everywhere. P.E. is great, because I am able to connect with the students on a different level, as there isn't much language involved.

School is a mixture between excitement, incredible interest, being overwhelmed, and extreme boredom. I am normally excited when I understand something like exam dates, or dates in general. Understanding something a teacher is saying in Spanish is extremely rewarding, and makes all the crappy aspects of exchange worth it. For words, phrases and expressions to click is like eating chocolate after not eating it for a while. It is like taking the training wheels off a bike, like winning a grand final. It is something so small, yet something so big, and every time I understand something, I feel like I need to jump up, tell everyone, have them pat me on the back, make me a cake and say congratulations.
With this understanding comes incredible interest. I start to pay attention to the teacher more, put every ounce of concentration I can muster in trying to understand what they are saying. If there are worksheets, then I will try and translate them. Something that has me excited, and interested is history. We are currently studying the Russian Revolution in history. I have always wanted to study modern history at school, and when I had the chance to, I had to choose between it and Spanish. Spanish won out. I was so disappointed. But now, because I have studied Spanish, I am in Spain getting the opportunity to learn what I have wanted to learn. Isn't God amazing by giving us opportunities like mine? I am continually amazed by what I am learning... about myself, God and school subjects.
On the other hand, if I don't understand what the teacher is saying (most of the time) I can feel overwhelmed. I feel overwhelmed by how little I understand, by what I am not learning, and with this comes boredom.

I took some photos of what I do in class...These books have been my lifesavers. I look mainly at the grammar, and learn lots, particularly in Latín class.

The class mainly does all of their work in their textbooks. I don't have any textbooks, and I wouldn't buy them, because it would cost me about 300 euros. So, when they do their work (written work), I write letters :).

English is a great class, as I can help people with their English, and they can help me with my Spanish. They do the exercises in English, and I translate them into Spanish. This is a worksheet of English words, and my friend Gonzalo translated the words into Spanish for me.

I try and read the handouts given to me. This one is about the Russian Revolution. As you can see, there are lots of words that I don't understand, and my sheets are full of English words and phrases to help me understand what the sheet actually says. But it is an extremely rewarding experience to be able to understand quotes from Lenin and Trotsky!

There are many times when I get bored. Completely and utterly bored. So I fill pages of my notebooks with scribbles that look like this.
I draw things, and then label them in Spanish. I now know all about the insides and outsides of houses!

I love Smiggle. A) Because the pens smell lovely and B) Because I now have different coloured pens to create colourful squiggly things with.

I normally get a lift home from school with Ana's friend, and at around 3:05 I get home and have lunch. Lunch is another three course meal, starting normally with soup, or rice or potato or something like that. The second dish is normally a piece of fish, ending with fruit or yoghurt. It's really unusual having the dishes seperately, as I'd normally have it on the same plate in Australia. This has been something that's taken a while to get used to!

After lunch I normally read, watch the Olympics, and study (translate). Most nights, (6-9pm) the kids have activities, so I take them to those - music and painting, and walk around town and have a coffee. Dad, I have found my own little Cafe Cee. It's this cute little cafetería, and the coffees are only 1,20 euros. I have had some really nice (broken) chats with the lady that owns the store. She originally thought I came from France, and that Australians spoke French. But after a bit we understood each other. She sat opposite me, as no one else was in the store, smoking her cigarette, while I drank my coffee and read my book. I thought it was nice. In Spain you can smoke pretty much everywhere. I see kids every morning smoking outside school, people smoking in cafeterías, in bars... you're allowed to smoke pretty much everywhere. My clothes smell of smoke. The attitude towards smoking is completely different here in Spain then at home.

Dinner is normally between 9-10pm, and can take up to 1 hr 30 mins to eat. Eating here is a family event, and we all eat together. Dinner is the same as lunch normally. It's so frustrating. Words just don't match up to the experiences I've had in Spain. There's only so much I can say, and often I can't put what I want to say into substantial words.

Spain is great. I am having the time of my life. But I'm still living a normal life. When I talk to people from back home, everyone wants to know how it is going. Words can't describe all that I'm feeling, all that I'm experiencing... but on a very basic level, I'm living my life normally, just in a different country.

"As usual I have such a large amount of emotions running through me. I didn't know that I had the capacity to be feeling so many conflicting emotions at one time. It's a constant tug-of-war, which emotion will win? Which will be pushed into the corner waiting to come out and attack me when I least expect it? How can I sum up my experiences of exchange into one small diary, into words that cannot compare to the sights, sounds, tastes that I get to experience on a daily basis? How can I explan the warm joy I feel bubbling inside me when I explain something correctly, or understand something in Spanish? How can I show you just how similar people are to my friends and family back home? How can I describe to you, my diary, the smell - that burning, intensely sweet smell of the lolly shop, competing with the familiar delicious aroma of coffee and newly back bread in the plaza that walk past everyday? How can I describe my utter frustration when boys pull other peoples' hair, when I've told them in both Spanish and English to stop? I bought you, this diary as my substitute of my mum, dad, Min, Ape, Tarn, my friends, family, who I share my life with. I bought you so I could come home everyday and share everything with someone, something. But I come and sit and... nothing. I can't seem to express all of these emotions I'm feeling in words. There aren't enough words to describe my life right now.

Spain is like a Kandinsky painting... a blur, a myriad of colours. Different beautiful colours and shapes all mixed together to make a beautiful, wonderful, tasty picture. How can you describe such a painting well enough so that the other person can imagine each line, stroke, colour?
In that same way, how can I effectively describe my experiences in Spain?

My life is a never ending ride. It is exciting, beyond imaginable and at the same time; normal. I go to school, come home, hang out with the family - rinse and repeat. My life is no different... except that it's completely different.

Exchange is confusing.
A ride I will never forget."

I'm sorry if my words do not present an accurate picture of my life over here in Spain. I have so many memories already, that I never want to forget, but when I look at what I have written, I feel like nothing I write could ever compare to the real thing. The real emotions, colours, tastes, sights.

I still haven't found a church. But, then again, I haven't really looked. I feel like, as much as I am growing in my relationship with God, I'm neglecting Him just as much. I miss church. I want fellowship. I want to worship with others. I want to learn. I want to be surrounded by people who believe like I do. People who have a hope and a trust in the God that has promised us an eternal life. The God that cares for me. The God that provides for me. The God that has blessed me with this opportunity of exchange.
I am so often frustrated by things, that I refuse to see God's hand in it. If anything goes wrong, it's him I blame first. I need to look for him in everything that happens, whether it be good or bad. I need to acknowledge God for who he is - the author of my life. I tell myself to be the clay and let God be the sculptor, but I am so stubborn. I often try to mold myself into something that God hasn't desired. I can't live this life on my own. I need God. And I need to surrender my exchange, this year, my life over to him completely. It seems so easy as I write it on this page, but I so often hold back. My hope for this year is that it is a year where I will continually surrender myself over to God and see what he has in store for me. I was listening to a Hillsong song earlier this evening, "I will exalt you" and it struck a chord with me:

"I will exalt you, I will exalt you, You are my God.
My hiding place, my safe refuge, my treasure Lord, you are.
My friend and King, Anointed one, Most Holy.
Because you're with me, I will not fear."


  1. my lovely Laura how I love to read your blog, although it does make me miss you very much. With the Russian Revolution stuff I haven't actually kept my essays or anything but I could copy some of my notes and parts of textbooks for you if you like and send them over to you.


  2. Hello my precious missy mou,
    Oh how my heart is gladdened when I read your blog. I cannot express to you, how thrilled, filled and satisfied I feel with life, the world and God when I read your blogs. You are such a good writer and your blogs help me to pause, take stock of my life and acknowledge God's hand in it, to take joy from each moment...even the hard ones...and to pursue life at all costs.

    With much the moon and back.



  3. Love reading youre writings larry..missing you heaps. have you made friends at school?? Im gonna try sort skype out love love love xxxxx

  4. Hi Laura. I love how you liken your experiences in Spain to a Kadinsky painting. I totally understand!! When I was in New York in 2004, the Gugenheim had an exhibition of Kadinsky paintings. There were hundreds of them all in one exhibition space. Daunting, but exhilarating!! So wonderful to see in real life....just like you in Spain :)
    Love Aunty Lois

  5. Hi my gorgeous girl. You should keep all of your artwork together. I think you said that you called it extreme boredom and doodling. I would call it inspiring and artwork. You should become extremely bored more often. The bubbly kind of doodles reminds me of Aboriginal artwork. I find yours fascinating. Also the little drawings of a house and the translations. On pilots course, and even now, when I really wanted/want to learn something I draw a picture and label it. I can then recall the picture and the labelling instantly in my mind and the concepts I am attempting to learn become burned in my brain. So all of your drawings I find fascinating.
    Love Dad xxxxxoooooo