3 months without writing. What an amazing three months they've been. I have been incredibly busy, loving and embracing life, that my blog really became one of the last things on my mind. But, real life has once again started, and with that, my mind has been mentally writing this, eagerly awaiting to put my hands on this keyboard and recreate what I've been up to. I really have enjoyed writing this blog. It has made me realise how much I really do enjoy writing, they joy it brings me, and I'm glad I'll have this little memoir to look back on. I have about five blogs half written about my three-month holiday, and decided that I'd get stuck into this past week, before it finishes and I never get around to writing it! So, be prepared for more blogs, but for now, just know that these summer holidays have been amazing. I had the great opportunity to see much of Europe (France, England, Barcelona, Valencia, Madrid, Santander, Sweden, Latvia), and that I feel like my time away has enhanced and made me realise how great my life in Spain really is.
So, this past week... the start of the all familiar routine, the start of school, the end of summer...
I arrived home from Sweden on the Monday night at 11:30pm, after having woken up at 4:50am that morning, to originally catch a plane from Stockholm to Copenhagen, Copenhagen to Madrid. Because of different circumstances that I'll tell you about in later blogs, I ended up flying from Stockholm to Copenhagen, Copenhagen to Frankfurt, and then Frankfurt to Madrid. Four countries in eight small hours. I had so much fun! But I arrived dead tired, sick with tonsillitis, and the last thing I felt like doing was going to school the next day. (Especially because my luggage had decided not to turn up at the airport and had no clothes!) So I slept in, and woke up nice and rested. It was so lovely to see my host family again, and be finally re-immersed into the lovely Spanish language. What a lovely language it is! At around 12pm, I went to school to get myself enrolled, but when I turned up they bluntly told me that there were no spaces for me. María Antonia was a bit stumped, and told me that I'd have to come back the next day, and if there were problems, to call JYC (Exchange organisation). When I arrived at school the next day, I heard that all-too-familiar foreign voice speaking Spanish. I glanced around and saw two blonde haired, blue eyed teenagers standing at the front office, speaking in Spanish. Every exchange student immediately loves other exchange students, as only other exchange students can really relate to what we go through. After chatting with them, I found out that they (Charlie, 18 and Aubrey, 16) were from America, and were here for a year. It was great that they were there, because the staff actually took care of us, and their host parents made sure I was given a place at the school. I left very content, looking forward to my first day at school!
I rocked up at school at about 8:50am the next day, a little nervous, not knowing if I'd still have friends, if they'd even remember me... (I had spent the past three months away from Tudela, either travelling with my host family, or travelling on my own, so hadn't had the chance to reconnect with anyone back in Tudela.) We got registered, and were given our timetables (Charlie and I ended up being in the same classes) and we headed off to our first class, maths. The head of studies knocked on the door, and with my stomach full of knots, we entered and he introduced me, while I smiled slightly and quickly surveyed the room, to find, to my surprise that there were about 5 students from my old class! I quickly sat down next to a girl in the front row, and was amazed by how much I understood. I had been really nervous that I wouldn't understand anything (like last year) and not be able to follow anything. I was completely shocked to be able to understand more or less everything he was saying (and this was in maths!). What a feeling it is, to see the language that is so foreign to so many people, click. To be able to understand a language with such ease. I'm pretty sure I had a huge grin all throughout maths, even though in Australia I hated maths, and didn't study it for the HSC. After the class ended, I got up and walked over to my old classmates, who seemed excited to see me, and we chatted about the summer. I could communicate with them with such ease, which was completely different from before the summer. Before the summer, I could communicate with them, but found it a huge struggle, and because of my lack of confidence in my language skills, I was quite shy. The next class started, and I could hear my classmates talking about how well I could speak, and how much I had improved. Oh what a joy it is to hear that. Thursday and Friday went swiftly, with me really enjoying the classes and the people and finally comprehending that I can understand another language.
That weekend was the fiesta for Juventudes, the Youth Festival. I was invited by some classmates to go, so at 4pm I left the house and met up with Charlie, the American, and went to the plaza de los toros, the bull ring, where the fiesta was starting. The bullring is basically like a circular stadium, with the tiered seating, the bull fighting area, and the inside bit that’s underneath the tiered seating. All around the inside bit, under the tiered seating was a huge long row of tables that ran the full length of the circular inside bit, completing a circle, with 500 people sitting and eating. It was a crazy atmosphere with lots of singing, people being joyous. Nothing had started yet, as they were still eating, so I went with Charlie, his host mum, and host cousin, and we had a coffee. We got talking about her job, and it turns out she worked in Venezuela for a number of years, working within the impoverished communities, building them up. Her life story is an amazing one, and her career so much like what I want to be doing (and what I will be studying at uni next year). I could have talked to her for hours, and felt incredibly blessed to be have given the opportunity to talk to her. I hope to go out for coffee with her soon, and talk to her more about her work in Venezuela. When the festivities had started, we walked into the middle of the bullring, and I really felt like I had stepped into a movie. I stepped onto the bright yellow-orange sand, dust surrounding me. Spaniards, all wearing the traditional white clothing with the red pañuelos, surrounded me. Spanish music was being played, and I looked around and saw a part of Spain that is so typical. That sort of typical, where when you ask someone to describe Spain, they tell you paella, forever summery weather, bullrings, flamenco, passionate, friendly people…
I spent the next couple of hours in that bullring, listening to two horrible comedians, dancing, and meeting new people. I used to dread, fear, hate meeting new people, because I’d get ridiculously nervous and forget how to speak Spanish, and would just swallow my tongue and look like a stunned mullet. Now though, I love meeting new people, talking Spanish, and just enjoying different people’s company. I met a group of younger guys, who were friends of Charlie’s host brother, some uni girls who were all 21 (finally some girls my age!) and some other people. It was really lovely to hang out with them, get to know them a little… although; it was a little difficult to hear anything apart from the music, as it was so loud.
At around 8pm the event ended, so everyone made their way out onto the street, where a marching band was waiting. There were hundreds of kids all walking down to the beat of the music, all singing a song (can’t remember the lyrics), singing, stopping, dropping to the ground, jumping up, all in unison. It was this great big street of joyous celebration, and all I could think about was how much that I loved Spain, and the Spanish culture. It was something that I hadn’t really experienced before, at least, that the new confident Laura had experienced. Charlie and I went to his host brother’s cuarto. A cuarto is a completely foreign concept to most people, so I’ll do my best to describe it accurately. A lot of people have cuartos. Normally you get a group of people together (For example, Ana, my host sister is getting a cuarto and is sharing it with 33 other people.) and rent out a room, an apartment or a small house. These ‘rooms’, or ‘cuartos’ are normally run down, cheap, and not very nice. They are normally filled with old furniture and are basically a place where the people come together to hang out, smoke, drink, and have fun without being in the open or in a home where you have to worry if you break anything. I understand why people have them, but personally would not like to spend all my time in them, because I find most of them disgustingly dirty!
We weren’t at the cuarto for long, because it was about 10 pm and we were all pretty hungry! We went to Telepizza (Telepizza is like Pizza Hut) and ate pizzas for dinner. We still had some time to spare before the next fun bit started, so Charlie and I went to get a coffee at a bar. I had a really nice time just relaxing, chatting, and before we knew it, it was 12:30, so we made our way down to El Tubo. For those of you who don’t know what El Tubo is, it’s a street full of bars where the kids go to drink, socialise, have fun. It was Charlie’s first time down into El Tubo and he was incredibly shocked, as the legal age to drink in the US is 21, and El Tubo is filled of children as young as 13 years old! While we were there, we met some people from our class, hung out with them for a while and had lots of fun making new friends. After about 40 minutes, I turned around to see three of my really good friends that I hung out with last year in the same room. I hadn’t seen them in three months, and was really excited to see them. I hung out with them for the rest of the night, and felt so incredibly happy to have the friends that I have here in Spain. Violeta, one of the girls, is still at school, so I hang out with her in the breaks, and it’s lovely to be with her as she is a genuinely lovely girl, who has a very kind heart. I got home that night at 4:45am and posted on my facebook,
“Currently 4:45am and have just gotten home from literally 12 hours of dancing, socialising, and meeting new people. Loving Tudela so much right now, and the people that are in it! Loving having friends, finally feeling a sense of belonging, understanding Spanish... feel incredibly blessed with the life I've been given!”
I really do feel like I am living a different exchange experience after the summer. I feel like I’m experiencing a different Tudela, a different exchange period. Same people, same town, different experience. And I love it. I spent the past week at school, getting into the work, trying to do as much as I can, and I have to say that I’m really enjoying maths. I don’t understand it all, but I am trying, and I think that’s why I’m enjoying it. When we were in Sweden, Mum told me that I wasn’t bad at maths, and that I shouldn’t say that I’m terrible, as I have told myself these past couple of years. So, now, I am just a person who doesn’t understand everything, but is trying. And that’s ok for me. (Anyone want to tutor me in maths?!) On Monday I finished my antibiotics from when I was sick, and by Thursday I was sick again, so I have spent the majority of this weekend in bed!
I’m looking forward to get back to school, to learn more, speak more Spanish, make more friends and embrace the small time I have left in Spain. I am continually surprised by the how quickly the time has gone! I only have about three months left here in Tudela, before I go off and explore the world for a couple of weeks before heading home. Crazy stuff. Well, I’m off to eat my Spanish food with my Spanish family, speaking Spanish, and then will probably do some more Spanish things… because that’s what exchange students do in Spain!
He only is my Rock and my Salvation; He is my Defense and my Fortress, I shall not be moved. Psalm 62:6 (AMP)