Host Family Tales by Jessica Neidhart

The first impression that I had of my host mama was her running across from the group of host parents and yelling in an excited, raspy voice that she was looking for “dos rubias!” which means two blonde girls. I figured that she was talking about Allie (my roommate) and I but I wasn’t sure because my hair isn’t blonde anymore. When she found out that Allie and I were hers, she came running and grabbed our smaller carry-on bags and started towards her house, which she said was very close. Now, I have grown to love my host mama but when she said very close, she wasn’t being entirely accurate.

She walked very quickly (as quickly as she could carrying our luggage) and spoke at what seemed like a mile-a-minute, asking us what kind of food we liked and what our families are like back home. She told us about her dog that had died and about how she lives with her mother.

All while dragging our luggage through a deserted, muddy field.

We got back and she made us some lunch which was like a tuna and egg salad. Allie and I thought it was okay and we told her that it wasn’t our favorite. Then she sent us off to bed where I went to my room with a giant duplicate of El Greco’s “Sagrada Familia” above my head… only, it is just the face on the Virgin Mary, no one else. With all of the pictures of the saints all over the place, I felt like I had stepped back in time and gone back to my great-grandmother’s house. It doesn’t help that she lived in Toledo, Ohio. Concidence? I think not.

The mother of my host mother is 95 years old (!) and sits at the dinner table and reads her prayer cards out loud while Allie and I are eating and occasionally comments on how horrible things on the news are. I can hardly understand a word she says but I got the basics from her rant about how the world is dangerous. From about 15 minutes of her talking, I could pick out that there was a bomb and thieves and what a shame! I can also understand “Good Morning” and “See you later.”

The other quirky thing about my family is their obsession with the family cat. Tita is adored. She sleeps at the dinner table and they call her “Tita Guapa” which means like “beautiful Tita.” One time, she couldn’t be found for a few hours and when they did find her, Maria Jesus hugged her so tight that I thought her eyes were going to pop out. Poor Tita.

Then we woke up and ate a pizza with cheese and ham and went back to bed. I was so exhausted. No caffeine, different food and very little sleep just kinda kicked my butt.

The next day, our host mama took us to class and we had an orientation. Now let me tell you something about Toledo, Espana… Everything looks awesome and old and beautiful. And the same. All the streets look the same, all the stores look like different versions of the same tourist shops and marzipan shops and little bars and such. It took my roommate and I three days to be able to get to school without getting lost.

So thus far, I have conquered the fear of flying over here, getting lost, and almost getting hit by a car. I have already used the wrong bathroom twice and had to steal toilet paper once. I have not yet lost my passport or gotten kidnapped or been forced to the point of uncontrollable tears yet. I have found “cafe con leche” which is a perfect substitute for my 3 cups of coffee a day and even though Coca-Cola Light is nothing like Diet Coke in my eyes, I have learned to live pretty much without it. All and all, my fears have subsided and I am doing better than I ever thought I would. Then again it is only the first weekend and I still have yet to figure out how to wash and dry my clothes. 😛

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