The host family is very different. The thing is, they are super pushy and touchy without even meaning it. I never thought Americans were prudent or distant or incredibly polite, but in comparison we totally are. I think I've memorized every pore on Mercedes' face by now. As for the abuela, she yells at me every day for something or another, and it's always the same dialogue! For example, when I come home after midnight, even though I've reported in advance that I'm coming home late and won't be there for dinner, the next day at lunch she asks me why I didn't wake her up so I could eat and how could I go all night and all day without eating anything, yadayadayada...I've told her many times before that I wish she would stop worrying about me because (surprisingly) I know how to order food when I'm out, I know where to find bread, and I do know I'm allowed to open the refrigerator door...not to mention I would never dream of tossing an old lady out of bed at 1 a.m. so she could make me some pork chops and french fries or something...And she just yells at me, insisting that I should not to be afraid to ask her for anything...it's a vicious circle of graciousness and crabbiness, really it's unbelievable! Then other times I'll be getting ready for a daytrip and already be in the kitchen, then she'll come in there trying to force the whole container of 10 croissants in my bag when I already have two packed along with a sandwich and yogurt and fruit and nuts and chips...Then every single day after lunch (no exaggeration...every single day) she tells me I should take a nap and then wake up and come downstairs to eat a snack...I try to tell her that I'm busy, that I have things to write, but she seems to think I should spend my whole day resting and eating. Maybe this wouldn't bother a normal kid, but I love my work and it's just draining to go through the same time-wasting, trying-to-be-nice yelling match with the abuela every day.
On top of that, they think I have a special diet or that I'm a picky eater or watching my weight or something ever since I explained to them that my favorite cuisine is fresh fruits and raw vegetables and herbal tea. Plus, when they cook a plate of something new and I'm playing with it and examining it (I'm a curious person, you know, and so much food here is different, so I like to check it out before I gulp it down - all these shrimp and little fried fish with their skin and tails and heads and spines and everything!) they think I'm rejecting it or scared to eat it...then they try to tell me that it doesn't have fat or gluten or sugar or whatever! Not to mention, the abuela tries to give me triple servings for every meal and then still tells me I didn't eat enough and gets up to hand me more bread or another banana or something. It's even worse when I go out for tapas or eat a snack a couple hours before dinner, because my stomach can't handle all three full courses as usual and they think there's something wrong with me. Ha!
I'm not very happy in this house, to be honest. They're not awful to me or anything; I just hate being treated like a child day in and day out. The good thing is, I don't spend a lot of time at home because I'm always doing something!
The food is local as far as I can tell. I know for sure the meat is because there's a butcher shop on every corner. They probably ship some fruits and veggies in from the countryside, but it's such a small nation that that's not as big of a deal in our country as it is here. And there's a bakery on every street, too. Pan (bread) is the most important element to every meal...you can't sit down at a Spanish table without a fresh loaf of bread! Also, they eat dessert with every meal. Usually it's a piece of fruit but if your sweet-tooth is acting up they always have flan, pudding and yogurt.
I honestly don't know how they all stay skinny here, either, for a few main reasons: 1. They eat huge portions! Whoever says Europeans eat smaller plates than Americans was lying, or didn't visit Spain. 2. They hardly every eat veggies; mostly they eat a ton of protein (seafood, pork and beef of all kinds, eggs) and some carbs (bread mentioned before, but also a lot of potatoes). 3. Leftovers do not exist in this country. At home when I can't bring myself to finish my epic portion, I try to sneak into the kitchen first so I can wrap it in aluminum foil and hide it in the fridge. Because if I let the abuela take my plate, she'll just throw all the perfectly wholesome food out. And then, when you go to a restaurant, they usually serve three courses. Each single plate is more than enough to fill you up, but then it's such a shame to let any go to waste. So you're probably thinking: it's okay, just ask for a to-go box right?...Of course, but in this country there is no such thing as "to-go"! They'd look at you like you had three heads if you asked for a box. They'd probably think you were planning on buying wine from them or something. You just have to eat a bit or scrape a few bites onto your dinner partner's plate so you don't look rude. Somehow most Spaniards are slim though!
My classmates in my Spanish classes are all from America: Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, California and Florida are the main states represented. My classes with actual Spanish students (but in English) start tomorrow...I'll let you know what that's like, and how the fashion and everything is, when I go. Wish me luck!