Meal times are either the best or most awkward part of the day. Some days, I can follow the conversation really well and have stuff to contribute. Other days, I sit there awkwardly, nervously chewing on bread and desperately trying to think of something interesting to say. It’s a strange mixture of being a stranger and a family member at the same time.
However, meal times are great times to practice my Spanish. My host father normally tells me all the ingredients in the dish and how he made it. For this reason, I’d consider myself an expert on Spanish food vocabulary (but that’s about it).
One strange thing I’ve noticed in Spain is the different way people interact with each other. The only word I can use to describe it is intense. Voices are louder, and to the outsider it would seem like they’re arguing. They yell and talk over one another, yet neither party seems to be terribly affected by the seemingly harsh words. After growing up in a very soft-spoken family, it’s hard to adjust myself to the fact that such loud voices are simply common in Spain.
The best days are when the members of my host family talk about their history with me, or tell me things about themselves. I had a really great conversation about my host mom’s online business, Nizhou, where she sells healthy coffees, teas and supplements. Other times we’ve had discussions about their family, the Spanish culture or their dreams to visit the United States and, in particular, New York City. As a resident of New York, I often tell my host mom of all the best sites to see and food to eat. I’ve explained the difference between New York and Chicago pizza (I will forever advocate for New York pizza), the plethora of international food in the US (boba tea being one example) and the various customs and ways of life. It’s conversations like these that make me grateful for having the opportunity to be a part of this wonderful family, if only for a short time, and to learn a new way of life.