“Homestay” is just a fancy term CIEE uses to refer to the option of living with a host family (as opposed to the university dorms or an apartment with other students).
This was the part of this whole study abroad thing that worried me the most, more so than even the language and cultural difficulties. Figuring out how to live with someone completely new is hard enough in your own culture with no language barriers.
I did not receive any information about my host family until last Monday. Even then, I knew only that I was placed with a single woman of unknown age, with no pets or family living with her, who lived across the river from the university.
Not much to go on amiright?
So I was definitely really anxious prior to leaving my hotel for my homestay this morning.
But you guys.
1. I have the cutest bedroom to myself (which was a requirement of CIEE so I knew I would) but the greatest of great bonuses is that I have my own bathroom. It’s ridiculously tiny but it’s mine and I don’t have to share and that is super cool. Really it’s almost like having my own apartment on campus back again. I have my own keys to the apartment so I can pretty much come and go as I please (within reason of course).
(Photos of the rest of the apartment coming at a later date).
2. I ADORE my host mom.
She’s the sweetest woman in the world. She’s older, a widow with four adult children who have their own families (possibly grandchildren, but that part got a little lost in translation among all the pieces of information she threw at me so I’ll check back with those details at a later time).
She’s been referring to me as “mi hija” or “mi corazón” (my child and my heart) just randomly while she’s talking to me and it is WONDERFUL.
She is incredibly well-read and well-informed. Over lunch we discussed #JeSuisCharlie (she specifically asked me what I thought about Obama skipping out on the meeting of dignitaries in Paris and I really did not have the vocabulary in Spanish to say everything I wanted to) She also gave me a rundown on the current state of Spanish politics. It’s an election year, with primaries in May (much like the United States) and that coupled with the arrival of a new political party is prompting much discussion and argument according to her.
Let me just say though that talking about politics in another language is waaaaay more difficult than discussing, say, my brother’s beard (yes, we talked about that too) or my friends. My host mom’s favourite show is this political humour show (a la Colbert Report) so I’ll get used to it I’m sure.
(Anecdote: Her extensive knowledge does not go as far as American pop culture. When she was showing me how to use the TV, “American Family” was the show that came on. She pointed at it, looked at me, and said “Ohhh, te gustan los Simpsons?” (“Ohhhh do you like the Simpsons?”) Rather than trying to explain the difference I just smiled and said no. It was the truth for both shows so I was ok with that.
After I returned from my first meet-up with other CIEE participants later in the evening, we had dinner and we discussed my lack of a boyfriend. She said she was glad and that I should “go crazy but not too crazy” while I’m here because I’m young that that’s what you’re supposed to do when you’re young, rather than date. Love. Her.
Speaking of food, if today was any indication, all the walking/biking I’m doing may not be enough to keep off the pounds. The food was to die for. She made pasta with pork in some sort of red sauce, with homemade bread and salad (with pomegranates in it! Did you know that they’re called “granadas” in Spanish and that Granada, the city, is named for them? I do now). Tonight consisted of a thick vegetable soup, more homemade bread, and little fried things that I do not remember the name of but were really good.
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Also The Table.
Let me tell you about The Table.
The Table is used for most meals (special occasions and family require use of the larger “official” table).
The Table is magical.
You see, that curtain-like table cloth is really heavy (like brocade or velvet but not either).
It also hides a space heater underneath.
You use The Table by putting the cloth over your lap so that the heater can keep you warm while you eat/watch TV etc.
Magical, I tell you, simply magical.
I severely underestimated how chilly the house would be (no central heating, just space heaters, and all laminate flooring are contributors). It’s significantly colder inside than outside, at least during the day when the sun is out to warm up the outdoors.
So while I have cardigans and fuzzy slippers and the like to wear around the apartment, it’s still pretty cold out in the living room by the windows.
The Table is my new best friend and I already miss it way in advance of leaving.
Spaniards really understand the finer things in life.
* * *
Anyway. My host mom is truly a blessing. She is not at all what I thought I wanted in a homestay (I originally requested a “proper” family with young kids that was very active and outgoing), but I think she’s what I needed. I believe I’m going to be so much less homesick because she’s so very motherly and just a generally warm human being. It’s been less than 24 hours and I would really prefer it if she could just come to the U.S. with me at the end of the summer to give me life advice and call me “mi hija” all the time.