I am dedicating my Fridays to talking about another life changing event in my life – the six months I spent in Spain as a junior in college. It was a lot like motherhood has been for me, rewarding and frustrating all at the same time. Hope you enjoy!
I spent six months over in Spain the first semester of my junior year in college. I felt like Dorothy when she landed in Oz as soon as I heard the intercom barking instructions in machine gun rapid Spanish from the airport in Madrid. My head ached because I was listening so hard to try to understand. I was physically exhausted from jet lag. My friend and I caught a cab to the train station where we met up with another friend from our college. We were the Three Musketeers for that first month. From there we traveled another four hours by train to the city that we were staying for the next month, León.
When we arrived in León, we discovered that I had nowhere to go. I had spent weeks trying to contact my host family, but no one ever answered the phone. Both the host mothers of my friends Jessica and Sarah were mortified. My host mother had to take care of her mother, and her husband was not willing to host an exchange student from America for a month.
Thankfully for me, María Carmen, Jessica’s host mom, found me a host family. Mari Flor and Fabian had never had an exchange student before, but they took me in out of the kindness and generosity of their own hearts. They had two adorable sons who thought that I was mute. I was trying to understand the conversation, and I couldn’t jump in fast enough. I was the model exchange student. I never said a word for the first few days. I just smiled and nodded. I was clean, and I ate everything they gave me. It took Mari Flor a lot of gentle coaxing and encouragement to get me to open up. Once I lost my self-consciousness, I started talking and did not stop. Our lunches were epic three-hour celebrations of fantastic food and great conversation. My host brothers to this day probably still think I was the mute gringa who stayed with them. Those adorable boys stayed with their grandparents in the country for the entire summer. How awesome is that? Mari Flor and Fabian would leave on Friday nights and return on Sunday nights. Spaniards know how to enjoy life. This gringa could take a lesson from my host mom in learning to relax. “Tranquila, Jenny, tranquila, eh?”