East student blogs about experiences in Spain: Post #5

Juliet Brooks ('13)/ Eastside News/Features Editor and Juliet Brooks ('13)/ Eastside News/Features Editor

I can’t believe it’s all over now. I’m sitting in my own living room in America. If I go out to a restaurant, the waiters will speak to me in English.
The day I left my host family, I got on a bus for 14 hours and we drove from Granada to the Pyrenees mountains with the other two five-week EIL groups. We stayed by this “town” called Nuria. It was really just a ski resort. In Catalonia, which is near Nuria and Barcelona, people speak Catalan. Catalan is a different dialect from the “Spanish” we learn in school. It was incredibly disconcerting hearing people speaking Catalan; it was like the first weeks in Spain again, where I only half-understood everything.

We stayed for three nights and two days in Nuria, and went for hikes both days. The mountains were beautiful, but the hostel was not. I can’t say I was sorry when we moved on to the next place and I was no longer sleeping in the same room as 17 other girls.
After Nuria, we went to Barcelona. The three groups separated again, but we met up for activities. We went to the Museo de Picasso, the Sagrada Familia, and Gaudi’s apartment complex.

Gaudi was a famous architect in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His works were far ahead of his time; he designed the Sagrada Familia, which is a cathedral that looks like a sand castle. Most of the cathedrals I’ve seen are dark inside, but the Sagrada Familia has nearly floor to ceiling windows. It has huge columns throughout that look like pillars of sand, and the whole outside is decorated in block figures depicting Jesus’s life.

The other building we went to, also designed by Gaudi, was an apartment complex. The rooms all flow into each other, and his sculptures on top are beautiful mosaics in shapes like soft-serve ice cream. Gaudi was very much about flowing structures, rather than lines and boxes. I don’t think one of the rooms in the apartment complex is actually a square.

Our last night in Spain, my group went to this thing called a blind dinner. Everyone goes into a pitch-black room, and you’re served dinner by blind waiters. The waiters know the layout of the room and so they are more able to function in the dark than the guests. We didn’t know what we were eating until afterwards.

I can now say that I have inadvertently consumed lamb brain…

My group leader said that the dinner was a metaphor for how we jumped into this other culture blindly.

I’ve noticed that being in Spain made me more able to just go with the flow; because I couldn’t understand what my host family said in the beginning, I just followed along and made the best of whatever situation I was in.

As a group, we were also really independent during the entire stay. While in Madrid, Guadix and Barcelona, we wandered around pretty much unchecked. Knowing that we had to rely on ourselves to get back to the hotel made me, at least, much more conscious of my own surroundings.

I think the most important lesson I learned this trip was that my experience was unique. I don’t know how every Spanish family acts. I only know how my host family acted. I don’t know if Spanish store owners are always nice to Americans, or if it was only because I spoke Spanish to them. But I won’t try to generalize Spaniards or Spanish culture, because there is no way to do so.  In fact, I don’t think there’s any way to generalize people in any culture. When people say that Americans are fat and lazy, that’s a lie. There might be people in America who are fat and lazy, but Americans as a whole are not.

Being in another country made me aware of the stereotypes around the world and how false they really are.

I’m really going to miss Spain.