Saturday, May 29, 2010


I have learned many things while being on exchange, from small things like your wedding ring finger is on your right hand instead of left hand in Spain, to big things like knowing and trusting that God will pull you through every situation.

Exchange is a process of making mistakes, laughing through the embarrassing situations, learning from them, and slowly feeling at home in your exchange country. There has not been a day where I haven't made a mistake or learned something. Sometimes it's as small as learning how to open a window, to discovering something about myself and the world around me.

I love learning. I love knowing all these interesting facts, how to do things, and then being able to use them in 'the real world'. I think I was worried that this year I wouldn't learn anything. I think I felt that the word 'learn' only applied to school subjects, homework and exams. I came to Spain to be surprised. I have learned more about myself, the world, and God in these short three months than ever before.

I often find myself in situations wanting to and making mistakes, 'embarrassing' myself, inorder to learn something new, the correct way to do things. I wonder what life would be like if I took this yearning and need to learn into everyday life (life outside of exchange) - how much would I learn? How far would I come if I put myself out there, willing and wanting to make the same mistakes I make here, unafraid of people's thoughts or perceptions of me? Would I learn more? Experience a different sort of life? I want to throw myself into this life I've been given and live it out, glorifying God in any way I can.

This week Adjowa, the exchange student taught me something invaluable. Our class had an English exam, so we were sitting in the courtyard of the school, relaxing in the sun, listening to music, talking about coming on exchange; about being placed in different and new places, not knowing anyone. She told me, "You need to place yourself out there - you need to talk, cevome interested in other people's lives. People always say, 'Yeah but I'm shy.' Shy isn't a personality trait, it's a state of mind. Everyone has it in them to be bubbling with confidence. Talk. Be interested in them, and they'll be interested in you."

It opened up doorways, opened my mind and challenged me. Here I was nodding in agreement, while realising that I had been telling myself that I had been shy. Shy to truly engage in people's lives, too shy to get to know them all properly. I needed to get out of this state of mind. It's not easy to tell yourself to completely change the way you have been thinking. I told myself to snap out of it, take Adjowa's advice. But the easy way of doing things, the familiar ways are always so tempting. I think exchange will always bring struggles and challenges, especially for me, speaking Spanish. I feel extremely challenged in being able to speak Spanish, and because of my lack of confidence in my language skills, I 'feel shy'... But, I know that making my language mistakes, I will learn, and become confident in speaking.

These past couple of weeks have signaled the change from cold to warm. The mornings are now 18 degrees, the days warming up to 28, 30 degrees, and I am loving putting on my dresses and walking through the old cobble stoned streets. I don't understand the Spanish. It's thirty degrees, but they still wear jeans. It's hard to try and assimilate to their culture, without dieing of the heat. Ideas? There is something about summer that just yells creativity. I have been reading a book called 'Capture Thirty Days of Inspiration' by Amanda Powell. It is a thirty day journey of creativity, finding the simple things in life, being inspired to create, and marvelling in God's creation. I have loved reading it and seeing all the wonderful things around me. Something that I have loved doing, something that I have found a love for in Spain, has been baking. Every weekend for the past month, I have baked something - mostly Anzac biscuits, but also cakes, brownies, lasagne... Seeing the bare ingredients and seeing what they've been turned into makes me excited. I don't like sweet things like cake, so I don't really enjoy eating the end result, but I enjoy seeing my creations being enjoyed by everyone else! It has been something that brings me great joy, and I am loving that my family really enjoys the things I make.

brownies I made :)

Anzac biscuits

walnuts we cracked for the brownies.


Summer makes everything smell fresh. Some of my favourite times of my days are in the morning, walking to school. My house is covered in Jasmine, my favourite flower, and I love walking out of my gate, inhaling deeply, immersed in my favourite smell, on a perfect crisp, summer's morning. I often feel creativity spilling out of me, wanting to stop and just look at the awesome world God has created. The other day, María and I went on a walk around Tudela. It was just beautiful. It was a lovely 28 degrees, and we walked along the river, toward the Jesus statue at one end of Tudela. We got lost, and didn't actually get to go to the Jesus, but found beautiful blossoming flowers, mulberries (I told my family about the mulberry pie I made - they are looking foward to eating it, when the mulberries are ripe!), and the longest trail of ants I have ever seen. Sharing these walks with my host sisters has been really fun, getting to know them better, learning how to be a sister, experiencing this once in a lifetime opportunity.

on our walk.

Saying all of this, exchange, particularly over this past week or two, has been extremely difficult for me. I have often felt challenged, left out, I have felt my Spanish hasn't been improving. Exchange is so much more difficult than I thought it would be. I thought it would be an easy breeze - that because I had already learnt Spanish, that I have good people skills, that I would be fluent in a week and have all the friends in the world. On friday, one of my classmates told me that I didn't know a word of Spanish.

"On Friday I had a terrible day... He said I didn't know a word of Spanish, which really hurt me. It make me feel like I wasn't respected, like I couldn't do anything, like I was a failure, like I wasn't trying. I wanted to say to him, 'Do you know how hard it is, being on exchange? I dare you to go to a country that you've never been to for a whole year, live with a family you don't know, go to a school half way through their school year, try and make friends, and learn their language... I dare you to move around the world and have everything you know taken away from you and be challenged about everything. To be away from all of your family and friends for a whole year, not being able to hug them, or run to them for comfort when you're upset. I dare you to take a year and try your best to speak a language you don't know, to experience it to the full, to take everything in stride. I dare you to try and assimilate into their culture, when your body and mind is assimilated to a different type of lifestyle. I dare you to do what I am doing, and maybe you'll see that you should respect me, that I am not a failure, that I am trying.' Of course, I didn't know enough Spanish to say that... So, I walked home crying. Ah, the life of an exchanger!"

I felt terrible on Friday, that I didn't know anything, that I wasn't learning. God works in amazing ways.

On Sunday, I went to my first Spanish church! The walk there was so wonderful, listening to Hillsong, just worshiping God for the life he has given me, no matter what challenges stand in our way. I got extremely lost finding the church, but still somehow made it to the service just before it started. I was the only person under thirty, above the age of 10, the only blonde-ish haired person, so the whole service I had people just openly staring at me. It was great though. So lovely to be sitting there with other people, other believers, learning about God, in Spanish. It was extremely traditional, (like the church in Darwin Mum and Dad) but great nonetheless. It was quite funny, as no one introduced themselves to me afterwards, but I didn't mind, because I just felt home. I was in the home of God, and to sit and just reflect on that was great.

On Sunday afternoon, I went to the park with Javier and watched him for an hour while he played with his friends. I sat, listening to the conversations around me, eating my pippas, when I had a breakthrough.

"I thought to myself, I am in Spain. I was sitting there, in the Spanish sun, feeling completely content, listening in on other peoples conversations, understanding them, eating pippas! I remember when I first saw pippas and thought that they were the weirdest things imaginable. I am here. I am in Spain. I am assimilating, slowly but surely. I am becoming my own unique Laura/Lowwwrrra and Australian living in Spain. God has got my back. That's all I need to know."

This week we are having an English exchange student, Marcus, who is 15 years old. He is in Spain for a week, and it has been great to have him in this house, because it has been such an eye opener to just how much my Spanish has improved. I translate for him and María Antonia, I see how much I have improved, and makes me realise that I am learning. That I have improved immensely. I may not be where I thought I'd be, but God has a plan, and slowly I am realising that this plan is going to be amazing, and amazing journey filled with blessings and joy, and challenges and growth. I have grown and learnt so much in my first four months (four months!!) of exchange, and am so excited for what God has in store for the remaining eight (only eight months left!!) months of my exchange.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Growing Up Part 2

Being on exchange is an incredibly rewarding experience, if only for learning how to grow up! In the past three months that I've spent here in Spain, I have been stretched, challenged and have grown up an incredible amount. I looked through my diary and saw just how much I have written the words "growing up", "challenged" (because challenges comes with growing up!" and "mature"...

"This week has been good, but I've felt a little lost... I feel like I'm crossing the bridge between being a child and an adult, and I can't decide which one I want to be! So many times I have been challenged to do the 'grown up' thing, but a lot of the time I just want to be the child, to be cared and nurtured for and not have to worry about things like money, kids running across the road, how my Spanish is improving. Sometimes I wish it was a little easier... but if it were easier, it wouldn't be exchange, and I wouldn't be on the bridge between childhood and adulthood..."

"I told myself I had a choice. That I could either be controlled by my anger and hurt, or I ould let myself enjoy and embrace the day. So I decided to enjoy the day. And I did."

"I'm looking out of the window at the clouds, marvelling in their unique shapes, and the way the light adds depth, and totally just makes them peices of art. I feel a little bit like Jasmine from Alladin. God is taking me on a magic carpet ride to see the beautiful and different culture, landscape and life of Spain. I'm seeing a 'whole new world'. And on this ride, I am learning from my creator just what it is to be human. I'm sitting in the car, feeling like I'm the only person in the world, away from my family and friends... I feel like I've been stripped bare, the only thing familiar to me being God. It's not been and easy journey, and I've had to look at myself and tell myself to learn and grow and strengthen in a way that I wouldn't be able to if I was still at home with Mum and Dad."

"I've felt extremely challenged and inspired this week. I've felt challenged as to how I want to raise my children, as to how I want to live my life, what values I want to have a priorities in my life. I feel like I am so old - since when do I start think about raising kids and things like that? I must be getting older..."

[On an article I read on influential women in the world - Michelle Obama, Mrs Gates and Queen Rania of Jordan.] "One of their common factors they all held was for their passion for human rights, equality, and using their passion for these subjects, their positions and influences in society to make an impact. Ah, I felt as if the artivles were written just for me. I felt like jumping out of my seat there and then and joining arms with them to bring justice to people and their situations. being here in Spain, when I've ever told people what I'm studying next year, they;be all been extremely surprised. And everytime I tell them that that's what I'm studying, they tell me that you can't study that at university, and that Development Studies and Culture Change is not an option for a career. But they always tell me that they wished that they could/could have studied something like that. It makes me so happy to have been brought up in Australia, and in the generation that I'm in. "You don't know what you've got till it's gone" saying rings incredibly true to me in so many circumstances - I'm so glad that I've been raised by the family I'm part of, having ahd the values and faith I have instilled in me from a young age. I feel so incredibly blessed to come here to Spain, if only for that reason, to see how blessed I am in Australia."

"I think before I left for this year of exchange, I thought, 'Well, I'm 18, I've finished school, I can drive, I've had a steady job for almost four years, I'm grown up. This year I'll definitely grow and learn more about myself, grow in my faith, in Spanish, but I'm already an adult.' But coming here, I've realised that in only three months, I've grown up A LOT. When I left home, I still relied on my parents, my friends, church, my support system for everything. They filled my every need, and I was comfortbale. So, of course, I felt all grown up. But, here in Spain, there have been so many things I've had to grow up about, and 'parent' myself with."

These past couple of weeks have been particularly eye opening and challenging, as I have been frustrated with lots of things, constantly feeling down, stretched, tired, and wanting to have my Mum and Dad with me to tell me it'll be alright. Dad sent me this email of a devotional he received, just after I had talked to them about how stressed I had been:

“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” Hebrews 10: 35-36

Do you sometimes get discouraged? You’ve worked and prayed for so long and nothing much seems to be happening. Frankly, you’re fed up with waiting. I know the feeling. One day as I was looking at a promise highlighted in my Bible, I grumbled, “Lord Jesus, you gave me that promise years ago and nothing has happened yet.”

Then a cheerful thought came to me, you’re that much closer to the answer then.

All God’s heroes experienced long waiting periods. Abraham went through thirteen years of silence before the fulfillment of a promise from God. His son Isaac waited twenty years for Rebecca to have children. Moses’ vision of delivering his people from Egyptian bondage lay buried forty years in the desert. And I could go on. Those years of silence were a time of discipline, not of displeasure. Wait periods give us an opportunity to grow our faith.

Faith knows of a certainty that God has His moment and in that precise given time everything yields to his will.

If faith comes to a closed gate, she is not disheartened; faith waits without until God touches the lock and it flies open.

Faith knows some Jerichos need to be compassed about seven times before the victory comes. Kathryn Kuhlman

The race is not always to the swift but to those who keep running. They are the ones who receive the prize.

It was exactly what I needed to hear, and made me so grateful, that although my parents may not be with me physically, God is with me always.

That's not to say that because I'm in Spain, my parents don't support me in any way, because they do - they are incredibly supportive, and without their emails, skype talks, love packages in the mail, I don't think I'd survive! But, being in Spain, being separated physically by them, has challenged me incredibly to look at myself and ask myself, 'Who am I going to be today?' I've had to grow up and tell myself that I am going to experience this journey 100%. I'm going to make sure I leave not looking back wishing I'd done more.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

¡Feliz Cumpleaños!

A week ago I celebrated my nineteenth birthday. I had a countdown for the month leading up to my birthday and I was incredibly torn between emotions. I felt torn between excitement for having a birthday in another country, yet sadness and nervousness about experiencing it without my family. I was torn between wanting to hurry up and be nineteen, to feel a little bit more like an adult, and wanting to be turning 17, to be a closer age to my classmates. Everything about my birthday had a double side to it, and I desperately wanted to feel whole, and choose what I was going to feel, and how I was going to act. But, in the last couple of weeks leading up to my birthday, I realised that it was alright, better than that, it was good, to feel a huge range of emotions - to feel both excited and scared, both looking forward to and dreading my birthday. Celebrating a birthday away from family, if you've never done it before, to me, was a big step in independence, and I wanted to take that step, but also wanted to continue to be the child at home. But, I'm growing up, and with that comes the independence, the living away from home, the different joys and challenges... I woke up on Wednesday, the 12/5, excited and delighted to be in a different country, while sighing in relief that the wonderful invention of Skype was readily available.

In my home, in Australia, we have a tradition of opening presents in bed, with the family. We get up early, open up our presents from the family, have a shower, eat breakfast and go to school/uni/work. It is a tradition that I've known my whole life, and I wanted to still do that in Spain. So, I awoke at six thirty in the morning to a buzzing under my arm - my mobile was ringing. I answered it to hear, "Happy Birthday Laura!" from my Dad. Ahhh the loveliness of familiar voices on special days. I got onto skype and chatted with Dad for a little bit, eager to open my presents, and continue our tradition of opening presents in bed, just over two countries, and a skype conversation. Dad was flying to Melbourne that day for work, and Mum was in Wollongong for her uni/work. So for my birthday, my Dad and Mum were in two different states, and I was in a different country! Dad had to leave for the airport, and get some work things together, so I said goodbye to him, and got to talk to Mum. I hadn't thought that I would have been able to talk to her until the afternoon, but she had been able to get some internet where she was and talk to me. There is nothing like talking to your loved ones on your special day! As I was talking to Mum on skype, she called Dad on her phone, so I got to speak to them both briefly as I opened their presents. It was so lovely to have a birthday card and something to open on my day, and I felt so special and loved. I love giving gifts and receiving them, so it was especially nice to have something physical there. My host parents were in the Caribbean on holidays the week before, and were hoping to get back for my birthday, but we were unsure, because of the volcano clouds... So, after I talked to my grandparents (I got your birthday card yesterday! So lovely, and loved getting the poem too :P), I went upstairs and had breakfast and then got ready for school.

The laptop, my presents and my bed, Wednesday morning.

I wasn't sure how my birthday at school would be, if people would remember, or how Spaniards celebrate birthdays. I have to say, I was a little nervous about going to school, unsure of the cultural customs. I wanted to get it right, for my birthday to be natural and enjoyable, not continually wondering what I should be doing. I got into class and stood awkwardly at the doorway for a second before entering it, looking around and hearing Nora yell out, "Felicidades!" ("Congratulations!" - The equivalent of Happy Birthday in English.) This commenced the kissing fest. In Spain, when congratulating (or saying hello to someone) you kiss the person on each cheek - so dos besos (two kisses). I had the whole class come up to me saying 'Felicidades!' and give me dos besos. It was quite crazy, and a little overwhelming to say the least. I felt so special and it was really lovely to be made a deal out of. Nora came up to me halfway through and told me that my 'cheeks are red', which made me blush even more, making her say that they were even redder! It was lovely nonetheless and cemented the fact that this was my birthday and I was going to enjoy it no matter what.

Me and Adjowa on my birthday.

Adjowa, the other exchange student in my class made a huge deal out my birthday, which was really lovely. All throughout the day she would start singing Happy birthday to me, both in English and in Spanish. This then started everyone else singing it, so I it was sung to me about 10 times! During recreo (break) I had todo el mundo (everyone) come up to me and say 'felicidades!' and give me dos besos. It was so funny, because most of the people I had no idea who they were, but it was really nice nonetheless. During the fifth period, I came into class to see a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY written on the blackboard. The teacher came in, and everything was normal, until Adjowa entered the room with a cake and the whole class gathered round and started singing happy birthday to me, half in Spanish, half in English. Ahhhh I was as red as a beetroot, but I felt so special and cared for, and it was so nice to be made a big deal out of! We cut the cake, (banana - my favourite!) ate it, and had a group photo taken. It was so lovely, and definitely was the highlight of my day. I felt like it made me feel much closer to my classmates. I had been worried about my birthday, struggling with the fact that I might not feel that special or acknowledged, and it was something I definitely spent a lot of time praying about. But God, being the awesome provider he is, gave me a day extremely special. It was so lovely, being at school and I felt so blessed and lucky to be able to be a part of such a wonderful class.

My wonderful class and Me!

I got home, and told my host family about my day, and then took the kids to their afternoon activities. I had to walk María home, but it was raining, so by the time we got home, we were soaked to the bone! But, when we got home, María Antonia, y José Antonio were home. It was so nice to see them, after a week of them being away, and they were very generous, giving me a gift of a silver ring, with a blue stone that can only be found in the Caribbean. I hung out with the rest of the family, got to speak to my brothers and sisters and Mum and Dad again, and got to tell them about my day, which made my day seem complete. I also got presents from my Aunty Cath and Uncle Bruce and family, and both my brothers and sisters. It was so so much fun, and overall was an exciting, culturally full day. I definitely felt like the day had been wonderful, and it showed me that being away from family is not all bad. I feel like this time away from my family has just made my relationships stronger - bonding over emails, my blog, skype conversations. Some of my favourite times, are the 10 minutes in the morning when sometimes Mum and I find ourselves both online on Skype at the same time, so I get to see her eat breakfast, and she gets to see me getting ready for school.

It's days like these, days where you can choose to feel homesick or lavish up the experiences that make me believe that God is the biggest part to my happiness. He alone is the one thing that makes all possible. I was walking to school this morning, with my broken headphones, not being able to listen to music, when I realised just how powerful God is, and how without him, you and I wouldn't be here. I thanked God for the life, and with this life, the opportunities he's given us and me. It makes me want to be a piece of bread, that soaks up the last juices of a meal; I want to live with my camera and diary attached to me, recording all of these amazing memories. I want to live a life devoted to thanking God for the amazing opportunities he has blessed me with, and the family and friends I have in my life. So thank you, God, for allowing me to have had such a wonderful, blessed, joyous birthday, and for enriching my exchange and allowing me to learn and grow, and stretch myself during this year away from everything. I saw someone write that while they are away on exchange, they are stripped bare; stripped bare of all preconceived notions of self, of family, friends, of language. And being bare, they start all over again, building ourselves up again, with new language, friends, a second family... learning to strive through challenges and soak up the blessings. It is my hope and prayer that I don't get stripped of my family and friends in Australia, but that I can somehow allow a little more space in my heart for my new friends, my new family, this new exciting language, and learn to embrace the great times, and learn from the bad.


I can't believe I forgot to write to you all and tell you about Anzac Day in Spain!

For those of you (if there are any) that don't know what Anzac Day is, I'll give you a little bit of history. ANZAC stands for Australian & New Zealand Army Corps. This was the name given to the Australian and New Zealand army, which was formed in Egypt 1915. They fought at Gallipoli, and was the first time Australians really fought as their own army. During the WWI, many died at Gallipoli and Anzac Day is a day where all Australians commemorate the soldiers that fought at Gallipoli during WWI, and now also honours all that have served or died for Australia. It is held on the 25/4 and is an extremely important day for Australia and New Zealand.

Every year, my family have had the tradition of attending the dawn service on Anzac Day. We wake up before dawn, go down the bowling club, and attend the dawn service, afterwards having a big breakfast. I wanted to still do a dawn service here in Spain, and that's exactly what I did!

I asked my host family if they wanted to wake up at dawn, and join in with me, but they said that they prefered sleeping, so it was just me! I decided to go out by the river and hold my own little service there. The night before, I had gone out with friends, only getting back at 3:30, and woke up at 6, so I was pretty tired! I took myself and my laptop out to the river, where it was still quite dark. I hadn't gotten dressed, so I was still in my pyjamas, and while I walked the 40 m to the river, a car drove past and gave me the funniest look. Ah, the life of an exchanger!

Me and the river at Dawn :)

When I was at the river, I read 'For the Fallen' a poem by Laurence Binyon, which an excerpt is read out every Anzac Day.

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

The excerpt that is read out is:

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

We will remember them.
Lest we forget.

It was so great and moving to read these lines out, knowing that they were being read and this day was being celebrated all around the world. I then played the 'Last Post' and then the 'Reveille', followed by a minutes silence. All the while, watching the sun rise in Spain. It was definitely different to a normal Anzac Day; me in my pyjamas by the river with my laptop, no one else there... but definitely special and moving. I felt so very blessed to be able to do this. It definitely made me want to go to Gallipoli for Anzac Day one year, and is now on my to do list.

I went back to bed after the sun had risen, and slept in till 12 pm. Afterwards, Ana, María y yo made Anzac biscuits! We didn't have any coconut, or any golden syrup, instead making them with honey, but they turned out to be a success! I didn't really like them as much as Australian ones, but everyone really loved them, including some friends of Ana, meaning that I have to go to their house to teach them! All in all, it was a great day, and I felt so Australian, and I felt so glad that I had been able to experience this overseas.

Making the Anzac Biscuits.

Anzac Biscuits completed.

Anzac day made me realise how much I love Australia, and how incredibly blessed I feel to have had these brave men and women fight to keep our country free; to keep our country a place where freedom of religion, belief, is allowed. So, to all of you who have fought or have died fighting for Australia, or any country, thank you for your sacrifice.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Growing up.

Ok, so I am the worst person at following through at what I had said I would do! These past couple of weeks have been absolutely crazy, especially this week as María Antonia y José Antonio have been in the Caribbean, and I've been doing a lot of stuff to help out around the house.

I'm not going to dwell on the past few weeks that I've missed, because if I did, we'd be here till Christmas. Instead, I'll tell you this. Going away on holidays for three weeks and then coming back to school was the best thing that could have happened to me. It showed me just how much my language skills could grow and strengthen in just three small weeks. It showed me that everyday I am progressing. Starting school after three weeks, and seeing the giant leap in my understanding of everything was incredibly amazing, and such an encouragement... another reason why I love holidays!!

I am about to go to Zaragoza for the weekend, so if I end this post incredibly short or in the middle of something, that's why. I just want to get something up, and show you guys a little bit of what I've been up to.

These past two weeks, Spring has come and disappeared. There was about a week, where we were reaching 30 degrees, and I was absolutely loving it. The sun, the smiles people had their faces, the flowers blooming - especially the flowers blooming. I love this time of year, and I was skipping about, smelling the flowers, grinning from ear to ear. A couple of people looked at me strangely, probably thinking about how I was like this when it snowed. I love being able to see how the seasons change - and how we change with it. After about a week of this, the weather suddenly changed. It has been a wintry week, full of rain, dark clouds, and lots of wind. And I have loved it! I love rainy days, and hearing the rain fall on the roof... (not so much here, now that I'm on the bottom floor of a four story house!) I think that I am the type of person that will find something she loves out of everything. So, many people have complained and groaned about the weather, but I am really enjoying it. Can't wait for Spring again, but while this cold, dreary weather is here, I'm going to soak it up!
Me in the windy wind... the umbrella was broken beyond repair!

My town in the rain... How gorgeous!

Another photo of my gorgeous town :)

I have been able to experience so many things here in Spain. I have been continually challenged by typical European stereotypes, and how true they are. There are so many things that I read about Spain that are true, and others that are wrong.

  • They are LOUD.
  • My breakfast is very typical of Spain. A hot cup of milk and chocolate (or coffee) with bollos (like buns, but with sugar or something sweet on top).
  • Night life is crazy. I can be walking around at 2 am in the morning, and it's the equivalent of 8pm on a Friday night in Springwood. Children in prams, people having coffees, people still eating dinner. It's such a shock to see such young kids out so late!
  • They are very forward. I've had people tell me when I'm blushing, if they think I've lost weight, if I am sounding stupid, if I'm doing something wrong, if I look like an idiot, if I look nice, why someone is really away ("Oh, she has really bad period cramps today, so she's not here."). They're not afraid to hurt your feelings, and not afraid to praise you. It's refreshingly lovely.
  • The boys are very forward. Pretty much, any foreign girl is going to have to get used to being yelled at ("GUAPAAAAA!!!!" or if you're blonde, "RUBIAAAA!!!") by men, young and old.
  • The people are warm. So warm and lovely. For me, I am only just starting to see the true depths and colours of my classmates, but it is such a joy. I love watching Savier yelling at the filosofía teacher, or the constant "por faaa's" to go to the toilet, the excited "dame chicle!" when they see you have chewy, the smiles and friendly touches they give each other, the playful banter, the way they interact with each other. Everything just yells Spain, and makes me incredibly happy and excited that this is something I get to experience.
  • Tortillas. Best things ever invented.
  • Wine. With every meal (even breakfast!)
  • Food in general.
  • Siestas. We have them. The shops close from 2:30-5pm. I actually love that it's closed, and that on Sundays, nothing will be open. So different, and so... relaxing!
  • Everyone gets angry very quickly. It's not unusual for me to go through a day with 5 different arguments that all lead to loud yelling. Though, five minutes later they'll be laughing and playing like nothing ever happened.
  • Fiestas. So much fun. So traditionally Spanish.
  • Everyone smokes. Children (yes, children!) gather outside of the school gates before class starts, smoking, and at the end of the day, as soon as they're out the door, out comes the cigarette and the lighter. My clothes permanently smell of smoke. Something I don't like about Spain!
  • LOVE FOR FÚTBOL. I really do love it, when I feel like I can hear the whole town scream "GOOOOOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!" when a goal is scored.
I've also been excited to discover so many things that are different. I thought it was just the French that wore berets and ate baguettes. I thought it was just the Italians that said, "Mamma mia!" (Though, the Spanish say, "Madre mia!). I love discovering this country and I love that so many Spanish stereotypes are so true.