Bienvenido a Espana, or, Welcome to Spain. Arriving here and making it through my first full weeks was like slamming into a brick wall: Spaniards live at half the pace of Americans, including daily naps, endless chats in the street, long breaks from work during the day and three-hour meals. Needless to say, combined with jetlag and the strange mealtimes (10:00 breakfast, 2:00 lunch, 9:00 dinner), it took me more than a week to adjust to the slower lifestyle and to get over being constantly tired and hungry.
Classes started last Monday, and I am finally settling into a routine. Every night I eat a three-course dinner with my senora (an elderly divorced woman with grown children) and three SMU roommates, a meal consisting of salad or pasta, a meat course, and fruit, all bought fresh at an outdoor market on Sundays. During the week when I’m not in class I spend my time learning my way around the city. Even if you aren’t in a museum or touring some ancient building, there is always something to see, especially while riding public transportation! For example, my new favorite store is El Corte Ingles, a combination of Wal-Mart, Academy, and Nordstrom’s. A two building, five-story maze of everything you could ever need; except, for some reason, caffeinated coffee (I am assuming this is due to the daily naps, another tradition that has taken me no time getting used to).
In the past two weeks, however, I have taken crash-course tours through Toledo, Segovia, and Alicante. Toledo was a gorgeous town of the quintessential narrow cobblestone streets and black iron balconies with red carnations in the flower boxes. In Segovia, we visited a medieval castle that seemed straight out of a movie, complete with suits of armor, thrones, and lookout towers. We also toured a gorgeous palace modeled after Versailles, with endless gardens, fountains, and hedges, and later saw the infamous aqueducts (constructed of rocks without cement or any sort of glue holding them together!). Alicante was a gorgeous beach town and not much else, a perfect place for Spaniards to come to relax (with or without speedos and bikini tops, something unfamiliar outside Miami in the States!).
This weekend I am taking a four-hour train ride to Barcelona and will get to experience some more of the relaxed Spanish lifestyle. It can be frustrating, but I am sure it will be a lot more frustrating to return to the States and give up my naps.