For those of you who know me...you will know that although I am a huge fan of making plans. In preparation for moving to Spain however, I am starting to realize that I dropped the ball on a few of those things that should have been accounted for in my 'plan' for moving. For instance, who in the world knew that driving a stick shift two or three times on flat Iowan roads would be different than driving a manual car all of the time, up a great multitude of giant hills, in a foreign country? Apparantly, I overlooked that minor detail and did not put 'practicing how to drive a car like the one I will have to drive all of the time so that I do not look like an idiot when I get there' very high on the priority list. Therefore, I am learning now.
Tuesday night I arrived in Barcelona and was greeted by the family I'm staying with at the airport. They are very sweet and have made me feel right at home! David and Montse both have busy lives and Elaina (11), Olivia (7) and Oscar (almost 2) are all energetic children involved in all sorts of activities as well. I didn't have much jet lag (thanks to sleeping pills and coffee) and have already become fairly accustomed to what my life here will be like. Wednesday, day two, was my first attempt at driving. I drove around the house and only stalled when going up an extremely large hill; I must say I was quite impressed with myself! Thursday again proved to be an ok driving day and I made it out of town for the first time with the car and felt pretty confident in it all. Yesterday however, was a very different story.
The Easter celebration in Tarragona is a very important part of their culture. There is a huge march of the Roman soilders, presenting of the 'mysteries' (a dozen or so parade floats that are kept by each church in town during the year that depict different parts of the Easter story), and at night: a long procession of these floats, church choirs, bands and people marching with candles. I decided that this would be a wonderful time to drive to town myself, try and make friends and figure out my way around the city. After all, it was my third day here...I was sure I knew my way around! ;)
Driving into town...sucked. I stalled on every single hill I was on, provoked much honking and anger from other drivers, almost cried by the last hill and was reminded by the 7 year old in the car that all I had to do was 'push the gas pedal'. As I was sliding backwards down the hill towards the other cars...I was not a big fan of the 'help'. Finally, I made it to the parking garage where I again got stuck trying to put the car into reverse, was helped by a funny little old man who kept trying to explain to me how to do it (I just nodded my head, not understanding a thing he said) and finally reassured by David (the father of the family) that everything was ok and that I would get better with practice.
We walked around for a bit and saw part of the Good Friday celebration and then the family left me with a parking ticket (that I didn't know what to do with), the car keys (nevermind that I had no idea where I was parked), a map (not that I had any idea where I was) and my cell phone (thank you Jesus for cell phones). I walked around for a bit, prayed that I would meet someone that spoke English and strategically placed myself next to some people that looked close to my age.
How do you make friends in a foreign country when you don't speak the language? Well, let me tell you!
Step 1: place yourself near people that look like they may speak English and/or be close to your age that don't look too scary
Step 2: hope that they notice you and decide that they should be your friend
Step 3: when that doesn't actually work, pull out your very large map and look confused (inevitably, they will then feel obligated to say something)
Step 4: when spoken to in words you don't understand, keep a blank look on your face and say 'English'?
Step 5: thank God that they do understand English, maintain broken spanish/english conversation for four hours and exchange numbers
So now, I have friends! We can't understand each other much but they are going to help me learn Spanish and I am going to help them learn English. They also helped my find the parking lot that my car was in (which I would have never found) and figure out what to do with the parking ticket (which I also would have never figured out). To top off the night, I couldn't figure out how to release the parking break (again, you would think this would be common sense) so ended up calling David at 2 AM to come get me. He got in the car, released the break with no problem and I drove it home (no killing it that time!!). Perfect way to top off the night, haha.
All in all, I am learning and loving every bit of it so far. By the end of this, maual cars will be no problem at all and I will understand Spanish much better! I am loving the time that I have to do homework and spend good quiet times with God and adore being just a few steps away from the beach. I also am a big fan of the espresso machine in the kitchen that supplies my with the daily 3+ cups of coffee I require eah day. :) I'm looking forward to next week when my schedule becomes more consistant and I have had a little more practice with the car!
Hope you all enjoyed my first adventure...will write more soon!