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Living and learning in Alicante: March update

Filed in Blog, Spain by on March 24, 2014

I can’t believe it’s the middle of March… time doesn’t feel real here. I’m going to try to summarize what my daily life has been like recently in Alicante.

I’ve been teaching English to an 8-year-old Spanish boy three times a week for a month now, and it’s going pretty well. He’s pretty hilarious, but doesn’t have much interest in learning the language. I’ve never been a teacher before, and I’ve never been the most entertaining babysitter either, but if there’s one thing I do know in this foreign country, it’s how to speak English! So I do what I can. I write sentences for him to correct, we play word games on the computer and we have discussions, which get pretty funny with a little Spanish kid. His answers have prompted a “stuff Noam says” page in my notebook. For instance, I asked him what age he would want to stay for the rest of his life and he said “Eighteen, because you have the most girlfriends.” And his immediate response to if he’d rather be an artist, race car driver or be in a band: “Play guitar in a band. That’s how you get girlfriends.” The kid’s got his head on track. Other questions are even more ridiculous. I asked him what he thinks the world will be like in 100 years, and he grabs my laptop and types in Google Images “El fin del mundo” (end of the world) and starts showing me pictures of the zombie apocalypse. What are kids watching these days?

Teaching Noam is quite the learning experience, and I love it. First of all, I can relate to him. When he’s trying to describe something and can’t come up with the word in English, it’s like me with my host parents. It’s frustrating and challenging, and I get it. Noam’s lucky because even if he’s not too thrilled about it, I’m passionate about the importance of learning new languages. I’m not messing around — I want to have a positive impact on him and for him to improve by May. I’m jealous of him too; the kid knows Spanish, Catalonian, French and English. It’s amazing how capable your brain is when you start out young. Bottom line, my future little kids are definitely watching “Dora the Explorer.” He also lent me his Spanish version of the first Harry Potter book, which I’m pretty psyched about.

So that’s where I’m at Monday–Wednesday evenings. Other than that, you can find me at the university during the day, or on the beach. The weather’s been warming up a bit and beach volleyball is becoming almost a daily thing. Everyone comes together and meets at the same spot, meeting new people and hearing three different languages in one game. Although we shout “Tengo!” and “Tuyo!” instead of “I got it!” or “Yours!” it’s just like any friendly competition in the States.

I’ve also been running as often as possible, which isn’t too difficult when your route includes views of palm trees, sailboats and great looking Europeans. Yesterday I realized I left my planner at the university and didn’t feel like using a trip on my bus pass, so I decided to run there. It’s usually at least 30 minutes away by bus, so going by foot and seeing the outskirts of Alicante up close was quite the adventure. I’ve also been using the roller blades that I bought at a pawn shop here. Yup… I’m taking advantage of the fact that it’s not weird here and am almost definitely going to be using them to get to class back in the States. I’ve got to work off all of this amazing food somehow!

Then at night, we head to El Barrio (translation: the neighborhood, actually: the fun area where all the bars are). The bartenders at Austin’s are the same people we play volleyball with. You’d think we would feel like least bit uncomfortable in Spain. Instead, we’re the ones running into people we know (of all nationalities), giving kisses on the cheeks of our bartenders, changing the music, offering to clean up at the end of the night… it’s comical. On the weekends of course we head to the discotecas (clubs) and dance the night away, losing track of time and each other until about 7 in the morning. And instead of taking those salsa lessons I was planning on, I’ve had Spanish guys teach me how to salsa to electronic music at night clubs. I’ll take what I can get.

But with all of that aside, my daily life really can’t be summed up without my host parents, Asuncion and Pedro. I’m with them for every meal and more. We always have long talks before bed unless I go out, and they help me with anything and everything I need… or don’t need! It’s amazing how quickly these two have become like my own parents. There are days when I’m not in the best mood or I forget to do something they asked or don’t tell them when I won’t be home for a meal… and we talk and we work through it. It’s a learning experience. Let’s see how many times I can say that in blog posts, ha. But it’s true, especially when all of it’s in Spanish.

I’m really starting to see how challenging this semester is. Not “challenging” in any sense of the word that I’ve known before. It’s definitely not an overload of work, not cramming for exams or juggling deadlines. It’s forcing myself into a foreign environment and to interact with people I have no idea what their lives are like or what language they speak. My classes here, although taught in English, are filled with countless nationalities of people: German, French, Irish, Finnish, Swedish, Italian, etc. In my retail marketing class, I remember one of the Americans about to give an example about successful advertising, and asked the teacher, “Are you familiar with or have you heard of Geico?” She hadn’t, and it just kind of made me laugh for second. At Mizzou, we can raise our hand and start talking about the St. Louis Cardinals or the Lake of the Ozarks without a doubt in our mind that everyone would know what we were talking about. I’ve just never thought about how easy things are when you know that every person you approach speaks your language and has about the same manners and general knowledge. The class thing is just a tiny example. What’s cool about being here is adjusting. And there are no assumptions allowed.

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This is me playing guitar while my friends play volleyball on the Alicante beach.

What’s the other half of the challenge? Being on the other side of the world from everything I’m used to. Yes, there’s a beach here. Yes, I have friends and great host parents and it’s amazing. But that does not mean that I don’t have days where I feel like I’m alone on another planet. Anything I would usually do or anyone I would turn to when I’m having a bad day, I don’t have here. I think what’s gotten to me most is when I don’t have Wi-Fi and just want to talk to someone — in English! It’s probably further proving my serious addiction to my cell phone, but it is kind of a trapping feeling when you can’t call your mom or best friend. It’s all part of that fun thing I keep talking about — the learning experience. Yes, I miss everyone back home, but I’m so incredibly glad I’m here and wouldn’t want to cut it short by a minute. When it comes down to it, the thought of leaving this place scares me more than anything. Being here has made me realize that I will never be done traveling and I absolutely must come back. Getting to know the world is a lifelong process, and this semester has me off to a good start.

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