I think that we all have moments in our lives that we know will change us forever; that we are about to do something extraordinary.
For me, one of these moments was when my Swiss Air flight captain bid me goodbye in the Valencian airport.
After a brief layover in Zurich, Switzerland, I landed in Valencia with my bags in tow and realized that after months of preparation and years of Spanish classes, I was finally here: Spain! Immediately, my abilities were put to the test while talking with the cab driver on the way to see my host mom, Dona Inma Medel Garcia (Don/ Dona is the equivalent to a formal salutation in Spanish – polite for a first meeting). If there was one thing that struck me the most, other than the heat, it was the speed at which the locals talk.
Inma is by far one of the fastest I have ever heard.
Needless to say, although I could communicate fairly well right away, I felt my abilities to be completely inadequate. Overall, I would have to say that if you haven’t grown up with the language, no amount of classroom sessions or grammer courses will fully prepare you for speaking with a native. However, just living in an apartment that forces me to speak only Spanish every day has caused me to notice dramatic improvements in less than a week (in both comprehension and speaking ability).
With my inital concerns going away, Valencia is absolutely awesome. The food here is something that I know I’ll miss when I return to the States — everything is fresh and local, with only a few things deliverd from Italy and France. On my first day, mi abuelo (the father of my host mom) took me on a nearly 3 hour walk around the city, it’s gardens (that extend for more than 10 miles) and several of the musuems and markets, explaining everything to me along the way. Since then, I’ve probably walked at least 5 or 6 hours a day around the area and downtown, just trying to soak it all in. It is definitely hot and humid here, averaging about 90 degrees in the day with high humidity – perfect for visiting the hundreds of kilometres of beach less than a 15 minute bus ride away!
To sum it up so far, I would probably have to say that the weather is extremely warm; the food is delicious; the women are gorgeous; the discotecas have a ton of Western influence (Some other Americans and I definitely took over the dance floor when Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believen'” came on); their schedule wreaks havoc on the body to return at 7am on the weekends; the views are incredible; I have never sweat more in a single week; and I know that things are just getting started.
Pat Pederson is studying abroad in Valencia, Spain, with the University of Virginia.