Monday, November 30, 2009

Cádiz Escapades

So this weekend, I changed familes from Madrid to Cádiz. There were fiscal problems with my exchange family in Madrid, and moving was the best option.

So here are the changes in Cádiz, Europe oldest currently inhabited city:

The Religous Influence: The churches here are absolutely gorgeous, filled with icons and relics and all the jazz. There are altars in the streets with images of Jesus, and whenever people pass them, they bless themselves. There are streets named after disciples and even Jesus doorknobs.

The Architecture: Because the city is so old, it's not designed for car traffic (but the people still try. Oh yes they stubbornly do) The streets are really thin and the sun can't reach them due to the buildings on each side. There's a streeted named 'Ancha' (wide street) because it's really wide: aka, a width that can support two lane traffic. Wow, uhm, really...ancha.

The Climate: It's a lot warmer, and I'm as close to the beach as I was in the United States. But this beach is actually nice to look at. Better put, it's gorgeous. But I'm reminded even more to wear warm clothing. I'm not allowed to leave the house without pants, a scarf, and a wool coat.

The Accent: Another language is hard enough, but in an area where people don't say the S's at the ends of their words...
-¿Cuánto gato hay, cree tú?
-Pue, hay sei, má o meno.

The Family: I'm living with an old woman (the acts likes she's 25) and a French exchange student. She cooks fantastically. I should also mention the eight or so neighbors that pass through our apartment every day for meals, chatting, watching the news...they're bassically family too.

And no, I'm not changing the name of my blog, despite the change of my residency.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


So today was easily one of my most stressful days in school.

Before I continue, it's important to note that an exchange program in general is extremely stressful, so small things become exagerated. I'm fully interspective of this phenomenon, but I still get stressed regardless.

As I was saying...

Today in school, Carmen, one of my English teachers, didn't come. No subsitutes here, so normally for that class, the 5th period of the day, we would have gone outside and relaxed.
But noooooo. Some of my classmates had the great idea to hunt for out History teacher, who teaches the 6th period, and the Science teacher, who teaches the 4th period, and persuade them into a new scheduale for the day. It took ten minutes of searching and persuading, but they succeeded. So today 4th period was history and 5th period was science.
The purpose of this was to have a free 6th period so that we could leave early. During those ten minutes, there was so much horseing around, yelling, jumping on eachother and general insanity that I thought they were zoo animals foreshadowing a natural disaster.
Though the age range in my class is 16 to 18, I felt like I was in Kidnergarten.

I don't know if it's my culture or just my personality, but I love structure, order, systems, and predictabilty. Knowing what is going to happen calmes me, because I can properly prepare myself and execute that event to the best of my ability. In my opinion, order keeps the world together.
This sudden shift left me freaking out. I was already anxiously waiting for the results to my test in Castellano (it was promised to be given to me Wednesday. Today is Thursday. I still haven't gotten it) because I knew a lot of people had failed. By the time I got home I had to say a decade of the Rosary to calm myself down. (It works. Don't judge me.)

This is just one incident. Every class there's too much noise from talking students and noise from yelling teachers at the talking students for talking in the yelling teacher's class. The irony escapes these people.

Personally, I like to go into a classroom, know that my teacher and fellow classmates will be there, know what I'm going to learn, and then learn it. That's too much to ask for in Spain.

Instead, I walk into my classroom exactly on time, half my class arrives five minutes later, then the teacher arrives five minutes after that, then the teacher takes his sweet ol' time getting ready (all they have with them is a folder. I have no idea how they're 'getting ready' exactly. Maybe a few breathing exercises and yoga, I really don't know) then actually starts the class, then the other half of my class comes in, but 3 of them aren't allowed in for being tardy (THE IRONY ESCAPES YOU PEOPLE!) which iniciates fights between the teacher and said students, and rampant discussions between the other students, and then a yelling teacher asking them to be quiet.
Then the bell rings.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


So I've learned that here I have to be careful when I talk to people and analyze emotions.

As I've found out, Americans express themselves much less. It's normal to have an entire conversation in a fairly stoic facial and vocal expression. Here, no vale.

In America, if someone asks you 'Why?' it might have a slight tilt of the head and eyes squinted a bit, or both together if the person is really inquisitive.

But here, when my mother for example asks me 'Why?' her entire face scrunches into something unrecognizable. I mistake it for anger every time and begin apoligizing.

My Economy teacher is what I would call fairly normal. He's teaching economy. Nothing especially emotionally gripping about that, therefore, no need to throw your arms into the air and recite Shakespeare. But all his students always remark on how emotionless he is.

I think Americans are more sensitive to faces and voices than the's normal for an American to hold in all his feelings and never express them, and so the slightest indicator of a feeling is noticed. It's fairly commonplace for my American friends to think there's something wrong with me when I'm just tired. My emotions have yet to be exaggerated in Spain.

On the contrary, I'm often called unexpressive. Personally, I think expression of emotion has its time and place, and many times and places it's inappropriate, or even hinderous. The Spanish don't seem to understand this.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Damn them Reds!

So this certainly isn't true about all Americans, but in general, after living here for a while, I've found that we definetely have a certain mentality about life.
That is to say, we tend to have one life plan in mind and if someone doesn't follow it, well then you suck. Hard.

I would never call myself a traditional person, and I don't know anyone else that would either, but I've gotten that comment a lot here.

When I met my friend's brother, Pablo, who is 20, lives at home with his parents, and doesn't go to school, my first thought was: those poor parents. They must be so ashamed.
When my friend told me about her brother who just had a baby, Jona, with his girlfriend, and isn't planning on getting married, my first thought was: that poor baby. It's going to have a terrible life.
When I found out that my Spanish parents here aren't married, I honestly felt physically ill.

But why is that?
On the contrary, Pablo's parents love having him in the house. Jona's parents will be together and love eachother all the same as if they were married. And my Spanish parents don't take care of their children any less because they're not married.

A comment I've gotten about Americans here often, is that they all have it stuck in their heads that their way is the best, and that other lifestyles are less valuable. No one here understands why I think it's funny when people dress in goth, nor do they understand my contempt for people without a college education.

Better put, I'M the one who doesn't understand. Because they understand better that everyone has his one life, and therefore own decisions, and in one way do these decisions need to follow any sort of social norm.
I know many American people that would say a society like that can't function, but then, it does.

It's certainly true though that we've been programmed. I'd be hard-pressed to find 5 students in my school that haven't been taught the magic formula: High School, College, Good Job, Spouse, House, Kids, rinse and repeat.

We're living in a shampoo commercial.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


So today I got my first math test back, and I got a six. BOOYAH! It doesn't sound so great because in America, a 6 (or 60 as the equivilant) is almost failing. But here it's like así:
1-4: Mal (Bad)
5: Suficiente (Pass)
6: Bien (Good)
7-8: Notable (I think you can do that one yourself, even if you did take French in High School, you baquette eating war losing smelly Frenchman)
9-10: Fenomenal (Phenomenal)

So for an exchange student on his first test, a 6 is really good.

But then in history...sigh. I got a 3.
BUT considering the fact that only 3 people out of 30 passed, I'd say it's not too bad.

And this brings up two things:
1: America suffers from grade inflation. A C used to be considered a realistic goal and something overall desired. B's and A's were only achieved by those that worked really really REALLY hard.
And now, not so much. Anything less thsn straight A's is failure. A B is a family shame. No wonder American kids commit suicide, sheesh.

2: Everyone here cheats on tests. Like, EVERYONE. I've never cheated before in my life, so to see people so blatantly cheating in front of me is crazy.
It's actually funny, though. You'd think more people would have passed that history test.