Monday, March 22, 2010

Vacaciones are approaching!

I never know when I am going to be writing my blogs. I assumed at first that I would do them every Friday, but most Fridays I hang out with the family and then talk on Skype, and then I'm too tired to do anything. Saturday and Sunday are when I hang out with family, see the sites and do different things, making the weekend not a very ideal time to be writing a blog. Then school comes, and I get caught up in that and the after school activities... I always feel like, "Oh, I have to write my blog today." I blame it all on procrastination. Procrastination makes you (well, at least me) believe that everything I do, such as writing in this blog, is something that I don't enjoy. But I love writing in this blog... it just takes me a while to get around to doing it!

This week has been good, and has made me appreciate who I am and who I've been raised to be. It has been a week of discovering a little more about the Spanish lifestyle, and enjoying all that life has to bring.

I am normally a friendly person. I am normally that person that welcomes the new kid, or goes and says hello to someone that I don't know. I am normally a person that says "Hello!" really enthusiastically. I am normally a passionate person, and that is shown through my personality. Since I have been in Spain, I have found it extremely difficult to be that person. I have been shy. I have said, "Hola." instead of "Hola!" I thought I would come on exchange being the same enthusiastic person I am in Australia, and instead all I can think of is making a nice impression on people. It is hard to communicate who you are to a different culture, in a different language. I have really struggled with this, and this week have really let go of the shyness. I was talking to Adjowa, this week, about this subject, and how we have both felt so frustrated about letting the thoughts of others dictate how we act and react. We are who we are. I am proud of who I am, and where I've come from. Dad sent me an email also about this, and particularly about a change of character in general, and it came just at the right moment.

"You haven't left you behind... You will always be the same "me" (you) but different. Different because you are happy to learn and learning brings understanding. Understanding brings confidence. Confidence brings wisdom. Wisdom brings compassion. Compassion brings life. Life brings more life...You already are the person you want to be but haven't yet embraced all that you want to do, that God has prepared for you or the challenges that lie ahead... But you will always be you. That never gets left behind and the you that you are is somebody I love dearly and will always love to the depths of my heart, and to Pluto and back!!
So as you continue, that same you continues on your incredible journey be grateful for all that you have, the opportunities that come to you, the people you get to meet and the incredible lovely you, you are."

I have felt myself embracing what Dad's email says; that I am me, but I will learn and grow, and from that, grow into the person that God has set before me. And with this mindset, I have been letting go of what people think and allowing myself to be who I am. I know that my class has noticed this, and we have started chatting more, and I've started to get to know them more. It's not easy, but I keep putting myself out there by starting conversations. This week has been a great week, where I've opened up more to my class, joked around with them, they've joked back with me. Yesterday I did the 'I broke my nose!' (covering your nose with your hands and using your nail against your tooth to make a cracking sound) and they all fell for it and for ages were like OH MY GOODNESS! And then today, they did one right back at me. I felt like the biggest idiot at how gullible I was, but laughed along with them. I am enjoying my class more and more, and am starting to feel like I am part of the class. Part of being in a class is participating in the class, which is what I did last Thursday. Thursday was a joke of a day. Spanish schooling is extremely different to Australian school, and it has made me appreciate the schooling, and the education I've had. Spain is yet to understand the concept of substitute teachers. I am the newest and biggest fan of substitute teachers. Without substitute teachers, Australian education would be like Spanish education, where, if there is no teacher, there is no class. This is trivial and fun for any new exchanger in a new, exciting, different school (and country). You go to the library, smiling to yourself, because there is no class. I have been in Spain over six weeks, and I now have compassion for the Spanish students. Those days without their teachers, are days wasted not learning. Our history teacher has been away for a whole week, so we've missed out on a whole weeks worth of lessons. I cannot believe the stress the Spanish education system puts on these kids, as they have to learn what they should learn in class, without a teacher, by themselves. Thursday, I only had two classes, P.E. and Lengua, as the teachers were away for every other class, except for Latín, where the class didn't turn up...? I didn't really understand why, but it meant no class. Sitting silently in a library, (which has about 100 books... literally... for 1300 students) is only fun or slightly stimulating for a short period of time; not four hours. We had Lengua last period, and we were meant to watch una pelicula (movie) but, the projector broke. This meant that they had no lesson, so everyone was chatting with the teacher about Abortion. I didn't know this at the time, as I couldn't understand what they were all saying, so I tuned out, only to tune back in when Adjowa said to the class, "Laura has something to say about Abortion." Adjowa and I had discussed the issue of abortion just the day before, and we shared our views on it and it was a really good discusion. Adjowa quickly filled me in saying that the whole class was all for abortion, and wouldn't think twice about getting one. I, on the other hand, have different views on abortion, so she wanted me to share this with the class. I didn't even know how to say abortion in Spanish, let alone explain my views on it, so translated through Raquel, a girl in my class.

I said that I would never have an abortion, and that I think people shouldn't have them, but said that I thought that they were inevitable in certain situations, like ectopic pregnancies. This immediately started a big debate, as it was a polar opposite to what the entire class thought. They asked me why I thought it was wrong, and I stated my reasons, which then started a debate about what stage of pregnancy a baby is actually alive for. Looking back, it was pretty hilarious, a mixture between Spanish and English, and my class acting out becoming pregnant to try and get their points across. It was pretty crazy, and at first I felt uncomfortable being so obviously apart and different from everyone else, but as I kept talking and we started discussing, I realised that it didn't matter if my views were different from theirs. It was a great wake up moment.

Apart from the fact that I only had two classes on Thursday, and I really didn't enjoy the library times, I absolutely loved the day. It was the last day of school for the week, as it was Fathers Day on the Friday, so we had un puente (long weekend). And spring was in the air.

"The walk home was glorious, A perfect spring day, that made me smile as I walked home in the sun, with a crisp breeze cooling me down. Listening to music when I walk takes me to another place, and I am able to experience my town on a whole new level. I walked around town, listening to my Ipod, with the overwhelming sense to dance. These days are why I chose to go on exchange. They make me feel so alive, like... completely different to anything else I've ever experienced.

I sat on a bench in the park just marveling at teh beauty of Tudela. Even though it has its ugly parts about it, I look at the town with love. I am biased towards it, and I think to myself, 'who could ever not think that Tudela is the most beautiful town in Spain?' And as I say this I realise it is because of the memories I have of that path, where I chatted with Ana about my day, and that shop where I bought that lolly from. As I think about these memories, and 'my Tudela' I realise that Tudela has taken a little piece of my heart, which makes me wonder how broken I'll feel in 10 months time when I have to leave. I sat down on teh park bench and watched the sun slowly set over the cathedral, then over the bridge, finally sinking below the buildings. I sat there in awe.

How blessed to be able to experience this. I make sure I stop everyday to look at the view on the bridge over the train station on the way to school, because I don't want to become complacent. I want everyday to be like today. A day where I thank God from the bottom of my heart for this opportunity he has given me. I don't want to become complacent, because that will mean I will become bored, or unpassioned. I want to live life to the fullest, like Dave Roey, and his 'Princess'. When there are challenges, I want to look at them with a smile and the knowledge that God has my back. 'I want to do anything, I want to try everything... I'll be SHIRLEY THE BRAVE! Instead of saying 'I've only got 10 months left of my exchange,' I'll say, 'Laura, you've got 10 long months to go. Isn't that marvelous!'"

On Friday I got the opportunity to go skiing, in France again. We were meant to go for the Friday, Saturday and the Sunday, but unfortunately the weather was atrocious. We got the snow at about 11:30 am, a two hour trip from Tudela. I was so surprised, I felt like I had gone to a different place, with all the lack of snow. Unfortunately, I didn't take a photo, as I thought we would be coming back on Saturday and Sunday, and hadn't been bothered to take my camera out of the car. But there was hardly any snow, and the snow that was there was pretty slushy. It wasn't the best skiing conditions, but I was at the snow! In France! I couldn't have been happier. After lunch, we went skiing again, but the weather had taken a turn for the worse. It had started to rain, meaning that we could barely see where we were going when we were skiing, and the wind picked up. The wind was so fierce, that I was scared when I was on the ski lifts. It was painful being on the ski lifts as well, and had to cover my fave with my hands because of it. The skiing was no longer even enjoyable. After a couple of runs, we were on the lifts again, and it stopped for two minutes. Two. whole. minutes. Two minutes is a lifetime when you're swinging crazily in the air, on a ski lift, hanging by the smallest piece of metal, 20 metres above the ground, covering your face because otherwise you'd be in pain. I realised that I felt unsafe, and I wasn't enjoying myself. I told María that I wasn't going to go up after we had this run, and she agreed. By the time we got to the bottom, the lifts had shut anyway.

On Saturday, I went to Zaragoza, a city of 700, 000 people, about 45 minutes away from where I live in Tudela. We went to a family lunch. It was extremely unusual for me, as one side of the family, José Antonio's side consists of 11 people in total, including me and my host family, and María Antonia's side of the family consists of my host family, her parents, and her sister. So family get togethers are small. It was so unusual to hear quietness. I am used to joking, laughing, kids chatting away, music, T.V., singstar etc... It just emphasised the difference between Spain and Australia. But I have to say, it made me miss my extended family, and the wonderful people they all are.

After lunch, we went to the centre of Zaragoza, which was absolutely stunning. Again, I forgot my camera, but I am going there again next week, so I will take some photos then, and post them. Catholicism is the main religion in Spain, and I think about 75% of Spanish people would call themselves Catholic. The Catholicism is a huge part of their culture in Spain, so it is part of their cities, their architecture, their way of life. It is interesting to see the religion placed in all aspects of the Spanish culture, and I enjoyed seeing this being played out in Zaragoza. Zaragoza is home to la Basilica del Pilar, which is the patron saint for all Spanish people around the world. This Basilica is extremely important, and insanely famous and well-known. I went inside, and was blown away. It was like any art students dream come true.

"I saw a Goya. An actual Goya! In Spain! How incredible is that! I have to admit that art stirs something in me. It is something on a completely different level. It's visual; it draws me in, evokes emotions, tells a story in a different way to words. I can't describe the way art makes me feel. I can't define art and teh way I feel connected to it. But to see Goya, in the flesh, to see the paint strokes up close, to see the history, the passion, the intense emotions brought out in the way he painted stirred something deep within me. I felt incredibly privileged that I, Laura Elaine Konemann was able to experience, just for a moment a part of art histroy, a part of history. It was incredible when I stared at it with awe, my breath had been taken away, and Ana looked at me incredulously and just shrugged her shoulders and said, "We see Goya paintings all the time. Nothing new. Nothing special." I didn't know whether to be jealous or sad for her. Jealous that she was mere inches of glass away from breathtaking masterpieces, or sad that she didn't find them to be amazing anymore."

I loved going to Zaragoza. Today is Tuesday. Tomorrow I go to Madrid for four days. Last night I was awake until 3:15 am (well, that's when I last checked the time) just thinking about all of the opportunities that God has placed before me. I cannot wait to experience them all, and see what else is in store for me this year.

"Exchange is an incredible experience where I've been able to learn in immeasurable ways. I am filled with joy when I realise that I've learnt a new word, or when I understand a part of the character of God, or I learn something new about myself. This journey, this exchange, is allowing me to go on a journey of discovery, and I'm so pleased to be on it."


  1. Laura...i love reading about all your experiences and i'm so glad you're having a great time on exchange. I laughed when i read the first part of this though because it's so similar to what i wrote just yesterday....and i'm going to Madrid soon with my class...for five days in about two weeks.So excited!!!

  2. Laura...your life in Spain sounds both hectic & wonderful. I'm enjoying living in Spain vicariously through you!!
    Love Aunty Lois

  3. Hi! I'm thinking of doing a gap year to Spain so your detailed entries are very fun to read! Spain sounds like a lot of fun :] I also like how you incorporate your faith into each post, it's very inspiring.