18 days left. But it feels like I just got here….

15 06 2011

Well my exchange is rapidly coming to an end…. I only have 18 days left and they will go by so fast. I have something planned to do almost every day from the 21st until I go. I really want to take advantage of these last few days with my friends. It actually doesn’t feel real that I’m leaving. Its the same feeling as when I left America. I’m guessing it will hit me a few days after I’m home that I’m not going back home, to Gran Canaria. It will be a painful goodbye with a lot of my friends but I know that I will return someday. There’s no way I can just leave this place and never come back. I’m already planning a few more visits.

So here’s some little questions/tid bits to talk about since I’m coming to the end.

What I learned the most
I’m going to say that I learned the most about people. This year was all about me making friends, interacting with people in unfamiliar settings and learning a culture with a completely different language and mentalilty. I learned about these people but it is pretty hard to describe what I learned. It is mostly just a mix of feelings and new knowledge. But I can say that we really arent as different as you think. There is just that language barrier but if you really try thats easy to get over. If we all really tried I bet anyone could get along with anyone else in the world. That makes me want to learn more languages and go to other countries but I dont think I’ll have another oppourtunity like this one.

What I want to leave Spain with
I want to leave Spain with the feeling that I have another home on the other side of the world. Its a completely different home but its still where I partially belong. After all this time I’ve felt like maybe I should have been born Canarian 😛 I already know that I will leave with a knowledge of the culture and language so I wont count that.

What I can share with others back home
When I get home I hope to share a few things with others. One big one is the oppourtunity that being an exchange student offers. Whenever I get the chance I want to tell people about it and let them know how amazing it was. I want to give talks at my school to Freshman and Sophomores about the program so they can start looking into it if they are interested. I also want to share the ways I’ve changed for the better and that it doesnt always take a year in another country to become that. I’ve become more open, accepting, practical, I’m not as afraid to share my ideas, I have a yearning to learn more. I’ve also learned to stop worrying about the small stuff.

Now that I’m practically Spanish how am I going to be different?
Get ready everyone because back home I going to be talking non stop. I really like talking now and sometimes a little too loud, just like a true Spaniard 🙂 Also I will be talking to myself in Spanish at times or to the cats or even to people even if they don’t understand me. My excuse for this is that I have to keep practicing or I will forget it. Also I wont be shy at all. I’ve learned to stop worrying about what people think about me so I’ll be more brave about lots of things.

How do I plan on keeping in touch with my friends in Spain
I love Skype and I’ll be using that a lot, especially to talk to Silvia. But I also have Facebook and Tuenti (Spanish Facebook). I actually gave some people my address to send me letters 🙂 If they remember…

What do I have to have before leaving?
Obviously I have to figure out the scary packing situation… I have no idea how I’m gonna get all my stuff home but its gonna happen somehow. I’ll find some creative ways. I also have to get my schoool transcripts so I can start school in the fall 😛 And I have to say goodbye to everyone. Thats the part I would rather not have to do but I cannot avoid it 😦

What will be the hardest for me once I get home?
Probabaly getting used to the English language again. I already can’t spell anything right in English and I’m forgetting a lot of words. I’m going to have to relearn English this summer if I want to pass my two English classes. Also it will be hard readjusting to the limited freedom. Here its easy to go wherever I want and whenever with the buses and not having to rely on a car thats not even mine. But I guess I can get used to it for a year before I go off to college.

I love Spain and now that I’ve been here for a year I cannot imagine my life without having done this. But I guess at the same time I’ll be happy to come home and get back on track with school. I’m starting to really think about what I want to study and that means applying for colleges and getting all of my required classes done. Senior year is going to be packed with classes but I think I can do it.

This experience has been amazing and I owe all of my thanks to my friends and family for supporting me. Thank you to Rotary Youth Exchange, my school counselor Katie Turner, my brother Tony, my dad, my step mom and siblings, my best friend Silvia and of course my mom. I could never have gotten through any of this without her. Thank you everyone. Its been worth every minute.


Me quedo menos de un mes… No quiero irme…

20 05 2011

Now, what to talk about….school is about the same, my new host family is still awesomly awesome, Silvia is still my best friend/Spanish sister.

Well since I’m getting close to the end of my exchange (40something days left), why don’t I tell you some of the things I learned while here in Spain. Of course it will be just a few things because its impossible to count the number of things that I’ve learned here.

1) I have learned how to be brave and outgoing. Before this I would rarely speak up when I wanted to say something. Now I can barely stop myself from talking. I’m a million times braver and barely hesitate on doing things. I think its one of the best changes that I’ve gone through here.

2) I’ve learned Spanish, duh. After 8 months here I can comfortably have a normal conversation with anyone about pretty much any topic. I understand everything (minus those really obscure words that are never used) and I almost understand all of the grammar. Subjunctive is killing me but I’ve gotten through 8 months without it.

3) I’ve discovered my best friend. She will be my friend for my entire life and I don’t know how I could have survived without her here. She was the first person to really talk to me when I first got here and she included me when no one else would. I’ve met so many awesome people because of her and they all happen to be just like me. I can share anything with her and I trust her with everything. My mom says she’s like my sister and I know shes right. Its gonna be hard to leave because I’ll miss her so much but I know that I’ll come back and she’s coming to visit me in America 🙂 Te quiero Silvia.

4) I’ve learned that to a Spaniard America is New York, Miami, and California. When I say Illinois (pronouncing the s) I just get a blank look until I say Chicago. Then they ask if thats on the west cost or close to New York. Then I have to basically draw a map….

5) I’ve learned that you can put ketchup on basically anything. I don’t know if its just Spanish food but I almost always have it with my meals. Obviously not everything but you get the picture.

6) I’ve learned how to spin my pen around my thumb. I’m still practicing but I’m slowly getting a hang of it. Look. Gracias Dailos. Ahora tengo algo que hacer en las clases aburridas 🙂

Now I’m going to answer two questions that I thought would be interesting for everyone.

First, what’s the biggest difference between American teens and Canarian teens:
-They’re louder. And they never stop talking. Ever… And when they do talk its louder. This is why we never get anything done in class. No one will shut up…. Also I guess that they have more of a social life because its easier to get to places with the bus and there’s always stuff to do. A lot of teens smoke and drink and its perfectly acceptable and tons of people have tattoos and piercings. But thats kinda just the stereotype and theres people that arent like that at all. But I’m gonna stick with the main difference that they’re just louder.

Second, what do I miss most about America and what do I have here in Spain that I wish was in America.
-Im just gonna make some lists.

America– Starbucks, driving, poptarts, Arizona sweet tea, yards with grass, carpet, Walmart, craft stores, southern style chicken sandwich from McDonalds, SCHOOL, Dr.Pepper, free water and some other things that I cant think about.

Spain– Tortilla, chorizo de Terror (kinda like a paste of meat but tastes like heaven), Morcilla (blood sausage), Fanta everywhere, public buses that go everywhere, beaches, no snow, my friends, the increased freedom, dinosaur cookies, napolitanas de la abuela 🙂 (kinda like a croissant but a rectangle and with chocolate inside), Canarian bananas, fresh fish, and the Spanish language.

Well thats about all I can think about right now and its 10:30 and I still havent had dinner so I should get to that… Any comments and questions are welcomed 🙂 Until next time.

Big Changes

23 04 2011

Well this blog will mostly be about the big change I just had but I can also explain Semana Santa a bit.

So the big change is that I changed families. Quite suddenly too. I think I learned about it on a Wednesday and moved that Sunday. And I wasn’t expecting it at all because usually students in Spain only have one host family all year. But let me explain.
You know my old host family had a son in California. So for whatever reason he came home early. I’m still not sure why. So as of Tuesday he’s been back here. So since he was coming back and I was in his room, I had to leave. So my old host family talked to Rotary and luckily they found a family whose daughter is in Canada and I could stay with them. She was in America last year and they had an exchange student then but this year they didnt. So that meant they had room and said they would love for me to stay with them. So here I am.
They live in Las Palmas so getting to school is gonna be a little bit harder. I have to take a bus in the morning and after school but luckily its only one, not two like I thought before. But living in Las Palmas always has its benefits because now I’m a lot closer to everything. The house is in a little section of Las Palmas called Ciudad Jardín and apparently its where the nicest houses are. My house is like 2 1/2 stories high. I say that because on the first floor lives my “host grandma”, the house is on the second floor and up one more flight of stairs is my room and the door to the roof. So I have this awesome room all by myself with my own bathroom too. Its actually pretty convenient.
My host dad is named Enrique and my host mom Blanca. I actually have a brother now too. Hes 16 and his name is Enrique too but we just call him Kike. They have a dog named Blacky which is a Shar Pei and he’s always super energetic. I really happy with the change and kinda sad that I only have 2 months left…
Well, I don’t know if theres anything else to say. I’ve only been here for a week and Kike has been gone almost the entire time. I spent most of the week with my friends but yesterday I actually saw some of the traditional Semana Santa suff.
Semana Santa means Holy Week and in Spain we get an entire week off of school. Thursday and Friday are considered “days of festival” and so everything is closed. On Friday I went with my host family to a restaurant to have a typical Spainish dish (that I cant remember the name of for the life of me) which is a super salted fish served with potatoes, sweet potatoes, gofio, and mojo. It was pretty good but really salty.
After that we went to someone’s house to watch the processions. I was kinda strange because of how serious it was. Its basically a bunch of people dressed in black, priests, and huge floats. The floats are either of the Virgin Mary or the Crucification of Jesus. They’re actually pretty big and apparently they’re carried by a bunch of people underneath it.

And after that we kinda just talked for a little and eventually went home. I’m going to hang out with some of my friends soon so I should finish this up. I’ll be uploading pictures on Facebook as well if you have me as a friend there 🙂

Carnaval, Snow, Parties, and Glee

20 03 2011

Well it sure has been a while since I’ve blogged last. I’ve been super uber busy.

Just two weeks ago was the ever popular festival “Carnaval”. It’s basically Mardi Gras but it lasts a week and everyone on the island parties the whole time. My favorite part was that I got a week off of school 🙂 But let me explain some of the special events. On Saturday was the Cabalgata (parade). This is basically just a bunch of huge floats with people dancing and throwing candy. Everyone watching is dressed up in costumes and dancing in the streets. The parade also goes across Las Palmas about two times because it’s normal for teenagers to get behind the floats and dance while they’re walking behind it. Later I did that with my friends and it was really cool because it was raining but the float had a strobe lights behind it so it made the rain look super awesome. Downside is that I was completely soaked by the time we were done.

The next thing was on Monday, called Los Indianos. It’s something originally from South America and just recently became popular here. Basically it’s people dressed completely in white throwing baby powder down the streets at people. When you’re there everything is white. But, not very surprisingly, it started to rain again. I’ll just say that baby powder and water aren’t the best mix. The gray good covered the ground and made it just about impossible to walk. I don’t even want to know how many people slipped and fell in that stuff. But luckily one of the friends I was with lived in the same street so we went to her house to clean up and get out of the rain.

I know there were more event things but I didn’t go to anymore. One was Tuesday but that’s the day when I went on a trip around the island with my friend Silvia and her family which took literally all day. Then on Friday was the parade of La Sardina which is when they take this giant sardine thing and bring it out to the beach. Then the next day supposedly they set it on fire and push it into the water while fireworks are going off. This is like the “ceremony” of the end of Carnaval. In all, the week was really fun so hopefully I can come back during it sometime.

Then of course we had to go back to school and now it’s almost time for the end of the second trimester. I can’t believe I only have three more months here…. It’s gonna go by so fast.

So, second awesome thing, it actually snowed here. On a tropical island off the coast of Africa. It was only in the mountains though, which are basically in the clouds. I didn’t go but my friends that did say there’s like three or four inches. Everyone thinks this is the coolest thing ever and it’s the first time some people here have ever seen snow. I think I’ll get my fill of snow when I go back to Bloomington so I don’t think I’ll end up going here. Also because it’s a three hour car drive to get up there.

Let’s see… Yesterday I went a birthday party for one of my friends. It was basically just a barbecue thing at this park in pretty much the middle of nowhere. But it was pretty fun. I met a lot of new people, ate a bunch of food, and danced like a crazy person with my friends. But by the time I got home I was exhausted. And then I found out that another friend is having her birthday party at the same place next weekend. I’m sure I’ll get my fill of parties in these last months…

Well, what else…? I’m trying to make a video of all the random videos I’ve taken over the past who knows how many weeks, but the video editing program on the computer here must hate me and never works. So I have to go to the library one day and use the better computers there. So it will happen eventually. Maybe sometime this week.

And on a really random note, I love Glee. I somehow found a way to watch it while I was here and the last episode was the best yet. I’ve watched it like 5 times. But I’m super sad that I have to wait until April 12 for the next one. Especially with the Klaine stuff just starting. But oh well, Ill wait.

Well that’s about it. Leave a comment with any questions, etc. And my return date is July 3rd. Back just in time for 4th of July. I’m pretty sure I’ll be exhausted from 20 hours of traveling but I’ll try to at least sit in my street and watch the celebration of my home country 🙂

Video Blog

5 02 2011

I made a video blog this time. Watch it on YouTube here.

And heres my Tortilla video.

Año Nuevo y Reyes

6 01 2011

The Christmas Season is full of Spanish traditions.
On New Year’s Eve we didn’t have any plans during the day, and I didn’t even put my contacts in until about 5 because I knew they would dry out from staying up so late. So I was supposed to go to a party with the twins but in the end I couldnt because it was only for family and they had to work. So I just stayed with my host family. All of us went to one of my host mom’s friend’s house (where we always go for parties or lunches) for dinner and Las Uvas (which I’ll explain later). So we got there late at about 9:30, which was when we were supposed to start dinner, and figures we were almost the first people there. Typical Spanish…. So we ended up eating at about 10:30. Then after a while we realized that we only had about 10 minutes until midnight so everyone went into the living room and my host mom passed out the typical New Years Eve party stuff. Hats, streamers, noise makers, crazy stuff. But of course the grapes too. The tradition in Spanish speaking countries is to eat a grape at every toll of the bell for midnight. So the means eating 12 grapes in 12 seconds, and yes they had seeds. Its supposed to be good luck or something but I think I might have missed one… I hope that doesnt mean I’m doomed for the year. So after the 12th bell everyone gave everyone the two kisses and said “Feliz Año”. There were a good 50 people there so that sure took a while. After that it was kinda just chill or party or do whatever. All of the kids over 18 left to go to parties. My host sister was going to one but you couldnt go if you were under 18, and of course thats me. So I just stayed at the house and chilled. Not as fun as I would have hoped but it was still okay. We came home at around 4am and I skyped with my mom for a little bit. Then I went to bed and slept until 1 in the afternoon. That was the end of the New Years stuff.

Then all of Spain focused only on Reyes. This is the celebration on the 6th of January. Its really like the Epiphany which is when the Three Wise Men came to Jesus. So when the Three Kings come they bring gifts. Days before the 6th is just like a shopping rush. The malls are insane. The crazy rush continues up until the 5th. But at night its time for more partying and the Three Kings parade. At about 8:30 I went to Las Palmas and got a spot to watch the parade. Luckily I got a spot in the front so I got to take tons of pictures, all of which are on my Facebook. But there was a downside to being in the front. The kids were litterally going crazy for the candy they were throwing and I was constantly getting pelted by little hard candies and attacked when I didnt get it. I came out with two pieces only because I found them on me later. My poncho was a good candy catcher. So the parade is hard to explain so its best to look at the pictures. The most important thing of the entire parade is of course the Three Kings coming down the street on their camels. Once it was done we went to Triana (the street for only people with tons of shops and resturants) and had a drink and some food. But getting to the place was a nightmare because it seems like half the freaking island was in Triana. It took us a good half an hour to get through the crowd. Then around ten I figured out the twins were there and went to go say hi for a little (even though I just went to their house the day before). Then about an hour later I had to go home to get ready for the Three Kings. Some of the traditions are the same but a lot are really different. Well obviously not everyone has a chimney on a tropical island so the Kings just come in the door. But every family member has to put out a shoe so the Kings know how many people to bring presents for. We also put out drinks and treats for them. Kinda like Santa but more Spanishified because we put out dried figs instead of cookies, water for the camels instead of carrots or whatever for the reindeer, and a little bit of an alcoholic beverage for each King instead of milk. Totally Spanish… So after all that I went to bed.
At about 9:30 in the morning my host mom yelled through the house “Han llegado los Reyes!!!” The Kings have arrived! So we got up and went into the living room to see all the gifts. I dont know about other families but we didnt put the gifts under the Christmas tree, just on the chairs in the living room. So we unwrapped them starting with the kids first and ending with Angeles, so I was first. And each person unwrapped all of their gifts at first before going to the next person, which was easy because they were all in the same place. So heres some of the stuff I got… Barcelona Football Team stuff (hat and scarf set, mug, and one of those topper things for my key), my favorite dinosaur cookies, a better spanish dictionary, Stephen King movies, some new shirts and PJs, socks (i love socks), a day by day calender, and the best of all a trip to Tenerife to Loro Parque next weekend 🙂 Its like the best zoo in all of Spain and everyone should know how much I love zoos. So I get to miss school on Friday and take the boat back again. But I’m really excited. After presents we still werent done with Reyes. Then it was breakfast time. And breakfast on Reyes is the Roscon de Reyes. This is that cake in the shape of a circle with fruit stuff on top. Usually theres cream or another filling in the middle. So everyone gets a piece but theres a chance there could be something in your piece. You can either get the figure or the bean. If you get the figure of one of the Kings then you are crowned and essentially win, if its possible to win at eating a cake. But if you get the bean you have to pay the price of the cake. It was kinda funny because my host dad got the figure with the first piece and later on with lunch he got the bean too. So we just laughed. So after that I would say that Reyes is done. Now its just time to chill out for the rest of the day because everything in closed. I’m taking that time to blog and write my monthly report which is now 6 days late… Oops.

Well until next time. Dont forget to check out the pictures on my Facebook. I hope you all had a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Navidad Navidad

30 12 2010

Well Christmas sure is different here in Spain. I spent mine on the island of Tenerife which is about 70 miles away across the Atlantic Ocean.
To get there we took a ferry from Las Palmas to Santa Cruz. We left at about 6:30 in the morning to get on the 8 o´clock ferry. The cool thing was that we got to take our car. So we drove onto the ferry a little after 7 and found some seats. I was dead tired so I took out my contacts and tried to sleep a little. But of course they had to be playing Harry Potter as the movie. So I fought myself to not watch and try to get some sleep. Eventually I won and slept for about an hour and a half. When I woke up I popped my contacts back in and caught the last half of the movie. (It was the 5th and I think that one’s the saddest because Sirius dies. My favorite characters always die) But I was super happy because there were subtitles in Spanish (along with audio in Spanish of course) so I understood a lot more. Sometimes the attempted British accent in Spanish is a little hard to understand.
We got to Santa Cruz around 11 and went to my host grandma’s house. She has an appartment in the middle of Santa Cruz with only two beds so of course Carolina and I had to sleep on the floor. I’ll explain how that was later.
Almost right after we got there my host dad and grandma had to go to the bank so I decided to tag along. We walked there and I just sat and waited while they talked to some lady.
But then my awesome Canadian exchange student friends that are living in Tenerife called me! After some trouble with the pay phone they were using we agreed on meeting at El Corte Inglés. My host dad was busy with the stuff at the bank so I decided to just take a taxi since I didnt understand the buses there. I barely even understand the buses on my own island… So the taxi costed 4,05€ to go across town. Taxis in Spain are pretty cheap I think. But I never take them because the bus is cheaper and honestly I’m kinda scared to go in them alone. Minus this one time. It was urgent.
So I got there without getting lost somehow (I get lost a lot…) and I found Dana and Catherine. Catherine lives really close to Santa Cruz so she knew where everything was. But Dana lives in the south which is about an hour drive. So we relied on Catherine to guide us around the city.
First we went to go eat lunch because it was 2 o’clock and lunch time in Spain. So we went to a mall and had Greek “kebab” sandwiches. The drinks were ridiculously expensive so we walked around the mall searching for the huge supermarket while our sandwiches got cold. But we got our sodas for 0,81€ so it was worth it. Then we walked all the way back and sat and ate. I didnt even realize it but we were sitting there for like 2 hours just talking. We left before the guy at the Donner Kebab got mad at us and started walking. I swear we walked across the city three times. But I got some awesome pictures so it was okay. Also at a park we stopped at there was a lady cleaning. Then we noticed she was sweeping the sidewalk with a palm frond… Catherine and I thought this was the funniest thing ever so I took a picture of her.
Towards the end we got tired of walking and decided to go see a movie. We saw Megamind because it was probably the only movie the three of us could understand. Then eventually I made my way back home.
Of course I get back to the apartment and they tell me to get ready because we’re going out for dinner. I think my feet cried a little. So we walked to another part of the city and had dinner with some of my host family’s friends.
My host family used to live in Tenerife so they know just about every other person on this island.
We got home around 1 and I went to bed right away because I was exhausted. Tomorrow was Christmas Eve and I pretty much had forgotten all about it.
In the morning I went walking around a little bit and the begining of the day was kinda boring.Then we had our 5 hour long “lunch”…
First we went to one bar but it was packed so we decided not to eat there. My host family found some more friends so we invited them to come with us to eat. We went on to another bar and ate little “picoteo” things like cheese, ham, bread, tortilla, etc. I thought that was it so I ate what I thought would be my lunch. Then when we finished they told me we were going to another bar. I was like wait… Didnt we already eat? Apparently Christmas in Spain is mostly about eating.
So we went to the next bar and met with some moreee friends. One of them was the President of Rotary in Santa Cruz and she was super nice. They ordered a ton more food but I only had a water and a little ham because I was full from our first lunch.
Then towards the end came the “cantadores”. These groups of people walk around the streets during Christmas and play instruments and sing Spanish Christmas songs. They don’t ask for money or anything, they just play. So they sang two songs for us. I have one video on my Facebook if anyone wants to see it.
Later we went to my host mom’s sister’s house. I guess she would be like my “host aunt”? Well we went there for dinner. And little did I know Papa Noel was coming! In Spain they only celebrate on the 24th and thats when Santa comes and brings gifts. I was upstairs with Carolina and her cousin when my host mom runs upstairs saying that Papa Noel came. So we go downstairs and she has presents on the table. I got a poncho from H&M that I my eye on and was actually going to buy that day but decided against it for some reason. Good thing I did though because otherwise I would have two of the same poncho.
We left the house at about 1 but no, the night wasnt over yet. I went with Carolina and one of her friends to what was supposed to be a party but to me it just looked like a couple thousand people standing in a street drinking. So we were there ntil like 3 and then it got boring and left. Apparently that was really early because we were planning on staying out until 6. So we went home and I slept until noon on Christmas. We went out to lunch again with some more friends and went home. For the rest of Christmas I just sat at the house and read. I did finish The Stand for the second time though. The next day we got on the ferry to go home and were back at our house by 7. I skyped with my mom for Christmas and thus ended my Christmasy feelings. Even though I did get my Christmas presents from my mom the next day which was amazing 🙂
Now tomorrow is New Years Eve and of course Im getting sick. But I have gone too long without getting sick so its almost expected.
I guess I could say I felt a little homesick around Christmas but thats normal I guess. Now I’m fine and happy. But I really dont want to go back to school….

Now some random things about Christmas in Spain…
-On the 6th of January its Reyes (Epiphany or Three Kings). This is more like the traditional Christmas. The Three Kings will bring everyone gifts and you open them in the morning of the 6th. I really dont know what else happens but I’ll post about it after. I almost have all of my gifts for my host family ready.
-Theres this big lottery in Spain every Christmas where a school in Madrid is picked and the kids sing the numbers on TV. I find it slightly strange but lots of people watch it.
-During Christmas its all about “turrón”. Its like the traditional Christmas sweet. Its mostly like chocolate with almonds in it but theres also some thats like marzipan.
-There are Christmas lights everywhere here but for me it feels weird because theres no snow. Also, almost every palm tree in Las Palmas is wrapped in Christmas lights. For me palm trees and Christmas dont mix so its weird.

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