As usual the blur of noise, that is otherwise known as people speaking fluent Spanish, surrounded me. I looked around at my family trying to capture the few words that I knew as they flew out of their mouths and across the table rapidly. Once again I decided that there was no hope for this night and my understanding of their complex foreign conversation, so I turned my head back down to my tortilla and ketchup. Ketchup, I thought to myself. Last night we had tortilla and tomato sauce, so this is a nice change. I drifted into deep thoughts on ketchup vs tomato sauce, and, just as my mind was beginning to make a complete exit, I noticed the noise around me had stopped. Uh oh. Somebody had just asked me a question and I didn't know what it was, and now they are all waiting for an answer. I was sure of it. It is a regular occurrence.
Posing after watching another Real Madrid win in La Liga!
I lifted my head up, expecting to see all eyes on me, eager for a terribly incoherent Spanish sentence in response to their question. But thankfully, all eyes were instead looking up and slightly to the left, fixated on the radio mounted on the shelf above the kitchen table. I am in the clear. However, it appears something important is happening. I speculate the tension is about Catalonia and its wishes to separate from the country of Spain; that’s what all of the tension has been about lately. I refocus my attention on the family’s conversation. I now have to stay tuned to make sure I've read the situation correctly. Within a couple of minutes, the jumble of Spanish words returns to the table. A look of disappointment, or even stress, has swept the table, masking everybody's faces. The conversation still appears to be untranslatable, however the one word I've been looking for makes a recurring appearance, "Catalonia."
Zina with her host family: Carmen, Eduardo, Fabio and Mauro.
I've done it, I have discovered the topic of discussion. Unfortunately I am still only half way there. At this point I am aware that the only way to get them to speak at my level is to ask a question. I was previously informed by Ryan that my host family, along with a large percentage of Segovia's population, were more conservative about the topic, against the separation of Catalonia, and for the unity of Spain. In general, the topic of politics tends to lead to tricky discussions. Especially tricky when the discussion is with people you don't want to get on the bad side of or you don't want to offend. And even trickier when the opinion that you have formed for yourself on whatever given topic had been formed approximately two days prior, based on minimal information, whereas my company had been forming opinions on this specific topic for years now.
Caitlyn with her host family: Roberto, Conchi, Alejandro, and Rubén.
Diving into this conversation was going to be risky. Meticulous word choice would be mandatory, a difficult task when my Spanish word bank consists of roughly 2% of the Spanish dictionary. A challenge was inevitable. Fortunately, I love a good challenge, so, of course, I had to ask the question to the best of my ability. I reached across the table for the bright yellow Brita Filter used to filter any and all water placed on the table, including bottled water, and topped off my glass. In doing so I was making my presence known as this was the first movement I had made all dinner. I made eye contact with my host father to make sure I had his attention and that he knew I was going to attempt to say something. I slowly but surely said something that roughly translated to, ”You think Catalonia is good with Spain or is not good with Spain?" They knew what I meant. I could immediately tell that a strong opinion was present and ready to be promptly shared with the new ears. To no surprise at all, Google Translate made numerous appearances, and the conversation lasted long past the end of dinner, moving its way into the living room where it stayed until I insisted that I retreat to my room in order to be able to finish my homework before the sun came up again the following morning.
~ Caitlyn Reid
Matt with his host family: David, Ana, and José Luis.
As I walk in this new doorway I am instantly hit with the most amazing smell. The jingle of the wind chime above the door signals to the seemingly delicate old women that I have a arrived. I follow the smell into the other room with my mouth watering with excitement. The floorboards creak as I walk down the hallway, passing the many photos of family and friends hung on her wall. She pops her head out of the doorway with a wide grin on her face, so excited to see me back home. “¿Qué tal hija?”, she says eagerly to me, as she always does when I first get home. She is so excited I am home and hungry. Her day has consisted of grocery shopping cleaning, and cooking which surely enough are her favorite things to do. As I sit down at the table, bread is cut and water is poured instantly in my glass.
The faint sound of the TV is on in the other room with the news on, projecting angry voices of people shouting about our world and what is happening in it. Blocking it out, the woman starts to talk to me in a language I am not too familiar with, but I am learning and trying my best to understand. She asks me, slowly, making sure I understand her, how my day went and what I did. She makes me feel right at home when I am away in a foreign land. She serves the food, bringing its sweet smell right under my nose and causing my stomach to make a rumbling noise that sounds like a volcano that is about to erupt.
Our Proctor en Segovia family!
The dishes and meals she makes for me are pieces of art. I dive my silver fork into the delicious meal of chicken, potatoes and salad. In my first bite, I can taste all her hard work and effort put into to the meal to make sure I enjoy it. She cares about me so much, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to stay with her in Segovia. In my second bite, I taste the love she has for each one of the Proctor students that she has been a second mother to. Her job is to make her host kids happy and content in her home and she definitely accomplishes that plus more. My favorite part of every day the meals I have with her. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner means talking to her in a new language, trying new foods, and asking about each other's days. These meals help us bond and get to know everything about each other in the short three months we are sharing together. When I go back home to the United States, I want to be able to tell my real family all about her in such detail so that they feel like they know her personally. I believe that everyone needs someone like Juana in their lives. I am forever grateful for all she has done for me, and I know she is grateful for me too and the many other Proctor students she has cared for.
~ Chloe Knowles