The changes that one has to go through to get accustomed to another culture can be very hard, but over the time that you spend living with that culture you become more accustomed to living situations.
As soon as I arrived in Toledo, Spain, about three weeks ago, I was told in my orientation that Toledanos try to use as little electricity and water as possible. It is necessary to turn things off when not in use because electricity is very expensive. Additionally, water is very highly prized due to the natural dryness and heat of Toledo.
So far in my 3 weeks here I have come in contact with the saving of these natural elements. As soon as I arrived to my home stay I turned on the light in my bedroom because I am accustomed to doing so in the United States. Having arrived in the daytime there was enough light to light up the room but I am so used to turning it on naturally that before I even knew it my host mom was in my room telling me that I have to have the light off during the day because the sun is light enough. At night it is okay to turn it on. I have been following these rules: during the day no light at all and at nighttime I can either turn on a reading light with my computer or no computer and turn the overhead light on. It was hard to get used to these customs, especially being in the darkness, but I can tell that I am getting more and more used to living like this. I am still not a fan of walking around in a dark house or watching TV without an extra light on but with time I am sure I will deal.
Another natural element that can never go to waste in Toledo is water. For most of the year Toledo has a very dry and hot climate very similar to a desert. Because of this water can be very scarce. We were also told in orientation to conserve water by taking short showers. If possible we were told to turn the water off after each step of showering. Also, in Toledo and probably all of Spain there are no public drinking fountains, at least none that I have come into contact with. Because of this I have to buy bottled water whenever not in contact with a water source or continuously fill up old bottles.
I would have to say that of these two customs in Toledo that the turning off of lights has been the hardest to adapt to. Not having a public drinking fountain is hard, but there are always stores to buy water in or bathrooms to fill up a bottle. As soon as I return to the United States I plan on sticking to these environmental friendly actions and help preserve resources of mother earth!
Laura Gordon is studying abroad in Toledo, Spain, at the Fundación de Ortega y Gasset with the University of Minnesota.