My Sweet Bed

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I got to Bilbao yesterday – except it’s not really Bilbao, it’s a town called Getxo (pronounce it like ‘getcho’); I’ll be studying mostly in a town called Leioa. Both of these places are near Bilbao, so I can expect to be there fairly often. My host parents are Maria and Jose: I know more about Maria because Jose so far has the famous Basque ‘stone face,’ but I like them both. I love to see how they live together, because they are so accustomed to each other their relationship has ebb and flow that’s great to watch. Maria is an incredible cook and is very good about me being a vegetarian (apparently she’s had a vegetarian stay in her house before), as well as a great housekeeper, as far as I can tell. All of the rooms are beautifully decorated (it’s color schemes – there’s the bathroom upstairs which is orange-yellow, their bedroom which is purple, the living room which is red, and so on), including mine. It’s small, but it’s all the space I need, as well as….. MY SWEET BED. Nice, right? I know. My reasoning is: Ferdinand can’t be the only one with a great and luxurious place to sleep (note: it is as soft and comfortable as it looks).

Boy, do they love to eat here! Or should I say, they love to FEED people here! I do enjoy it myself, but this is awesome. Each meal has a main dish and a salad that would blow your mind – it’s the balsamic vinegar and the olives that they use. I have discovered a great love of olives since coming here. I think that once I head out of here I will go on olive withdrawal….but only the nice olives. None of that canned stuff. (No offense, Dad!) Maria has made me a potato pancake (eggs+milk+salt+potatoes=YUM), some sort of delicious battered/fried eggplant rounds (who knew eggplant would be this good?), peppers that look like jalapenos but aren’t (they are fried in a little oil and served warm and delicious), amongst many other things. I’m just glad that she’s big on fruit because on the tour I took I couldn’t find fruit anywhere except in the nasty synthetic jelly I ate on my croissants every morning.

Tomorrow morning I’m jonesing for a yellow plum, something I’d never seen before this. Perhaps the only thing I am missing is chocolate – but I am so full that the mere mention of food has my stomach protesting, “No more room in the inn! NO MORE ROOM!” So it’s all good. They also have something called ‘arroz con leche,’ which literally means rice with milk, but is this great rice pudding with cinnamon. The rice is soft and just sweet enough – and the kicker is that I was able to get it in the school cafeteria today after today’s orientation in Leioa and the Spanish aptitude test.

And speaking of that test – GOSH. It was 75 multiple choice questions, and I feel like I didn’t do as well as I’d like, though I do know that I did really well on the oral exam. Tonight I’m praying that I get placed into the right level (there’s four levels, or tracks, and I want to be in the third one).

Tomorrow is the second and final day of orientation; we’ll be going to Bilbao for that, as the business school is there. I’m excited because after orientation (which includes finding the metro when today I couldn’t even figure out what my apartment building looks like), we’ll be going to a beach (there’s loads around here) and eating pizza (provided by the very people encouraging us to sample the local cuisine). I feel myself getting better and better with my Spanish – I feel like the Spanish-speaking girls that came to camp and had to adjust bigtime to speaking English. And they did so well! Now I understand how hard that is for them, experiencing it myself. And we do have our moments: Maria will use a word I have no clue about and we’ll eventually figure it out, but it’s a process, for sure. We spent a few minutes this morning with Maria trying to impress upon me the meaning of the word in Spanish for ‘stuff’ – it’s been interesting, and I’m glad I can laugh about it.

Speaking about being able to laugh about things – and I know I’m rambling a bit, but hang on with me (it’s been a big day) – there was a bit of an incident today that bears a bit of light. After orientation today we were left to fend for ourselves, so a group of us went to a part of Gexto where a couple of us live, because someone wanted to drop off something…or something. I can’t really remember what, but we ended up being guided around by a host-family-daughter. We ended up meeting a friend of hers – I’m not sure if he was her boyfriend, but it’s still mortifying nonetheless – and we did the whole two-pecks-on-the-cheek-hello-thing…only, I miscalculated which side he’d be pecking first and ALMOST FULL-ON KISSED HIM…almost. So, this is a precautionary tale to anyone who goes abroad: research is great, research is fine, but make sure you know EXACTLY what order that they are going to try and kiss you in, because otherwise you could end up ALMOST swapping spit with an 16-year-old. Just saying.

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