As of today, I’ve been in Spain for one week. It feels like it’s been one month! I arrived in Madrid last Wednesday, spent three days there, one day in Toledo, and then came to Valencia. It was such an excellent opportunity to see other parts of Spain besides the city I’m studying in. Each city has it’s own diversity and wealth of history.
The first week has been a rollercoaster of experiences and sensations. There have been moments where I basically went numb from overexposure to foreign language, smells, sights, behaviors. If I could go back and prepare myself before I left, what would I have said? I’ve been trying to figure out what’s so different about the United States and Spain. Both are Western cultures, with similar levels of technology, similar manners of dressing, modern gender concepts, etc. etc.. The differences are not necessarily the big things, but the many everyday things. For instance, Spain is very conscious of energy and water expenditure. My host mom told me that here, water is like gold. At home, I always pretended to be eco-conscious (I recycle cardboard and don’t litter), but here I realized that it’s much more than that. Now, I turn off the water while shaving my legs, brushing my teeth, turn off the lights when I’m leaving a room even if I’m about to come back to that room. Clothes dryers are rare; everyone hangs their clothes to dry, even if they have a dryer. In addition, even though it’s very warm here, many people don’t have A.C. in their homes, and if they do, they use it for perhaps one hour in the morning and one hour at night. For the most part, open windows function as the HVAC system. Having the mindset of conservation impacts most movements I make in my home here.
Another difference is that people don’t drink very much water here. It’s actually been one of the hardest adjustments to make. As one of the directors of my program joked, nothing is free in Spain. For example, you don’t get a free water with your meal. Actually, a glass of wine with lunch costs the same as a bottle of water! In theory: awesome. However, my body has had a difficult time adjusting to drinking less water.
There are so many spectacular new things that I’m adjusting to as well: living three miles from a stunning beach on the Mediterranean Sea; being able to walk ANYWHERE; the friendliness of the people here; the way people seem comfortable in their skin (as opposed to how much body shaming there is in the U.S., especially for women); the incredible seafood; the weather; the stunning scenery; the relaxed pace of life. I am so lucky to have this experience.