stayed in the monestary at El Escorial. It was a trip to remember. I had tons of great
experiences and made many new friends. Though I can't include every detail of my trip, I want
to include as much as possible in this little summary of my trip. I enjoyed it all, but if I had to pick
a few favorite aspects of the experience they'd be the culture, language, food, architecture, and
most of all the people.
Leaving the country for the first time was a pretty big culture shock for me. There are so
many differences in the way Spaniards live compared to us in the US. Upon arriving my
American friends and I noticed a few things we found odd, like the kinda crazy driving, the scent
of BO, and the fact that it's normal there to reuse your clothes quite a few times in between
washes. However, there were other differences that were intrresting to discover. Before I left for
Spain, I had some friends who jokingly encouraged me to "kiss a lot of Spanish girls". Little did I
realize that kissing twice on the cheeks is a customary greeting there. Where we would shake
hands or hug, they do two kisses, (unless it's two men, then you just shake hands). So I did in
fact get to kiss some pretty Spanish girls.
One of the biggest reasons I wanted to go on this trip to Spain was to practice my
Spanish. I have been taking it in school for several years now and wanted to try it out. I was very
humbled to arrive there and realize my Spanish has lots and lots of room for improvement. Also,
I was accused many times of using "Mexican Spanish" because of the way I pronounced my C's
and Z's. Part of the camp program involved going to a language class. All 7 of us Americans and
Australians went to Spanish while the Spaniards went to English and French. Class was fun, but
I learned so much more Spanish by interacting with kids and communicating than in class.
Another fun fact, there was a lot of graffiti in different parts of where we were, and they were
either bad words in Spanish, or they were random words in English. For example some of the
words I saw spray painted grafiti style on the streets were "Foxy" or "Bake". The Spaniards think
knowing English makes them cool. There were few people there not wearing t-shirts with
random English text on them, even if they had no idea what they said. One day our fencing
teacher wore a shirt that said "MILKSHAKE HAMBURGER ICE CREAM FRIES", we asked her
what her shirt said and we said it was "comida". She had no idea. We got a kick out of that.
I had to laugh at seeing some restaurants there that claimed to be American restaurants,
but I didn't recognize most of the things on their menus. Just like here, they've got Mcdonalds,
Taco Bell, and even KFC, (though nobody knew what KFC stands for, or where Kentucky is).
We were at summer camp, so the majority of our food was from the cafeteria. We asked some
of the other kids what they thought of the food, they said there's a lot better food elsewhere in
Spain. They had pretty much the same attitude toward it as we do to our school lunch in
America. They would point out certain typical Spanish dishes. They'd ask about American food,
and we couldn't think of much American food, other than burgers fries and pizza. We were a bit
surprised to find that they have milk hot or cold there. And when we asked for cold milk, it was
really just less warm milk. Breakfast always came with toast, with the option of crushed
tomatoes on top. It was interesting. Meal times set a bit off from here. Breakfast was always
around 9:30 AM, lunch 2:00 PM, and dinner 9:00 PM. We also stopped by a little candy shop
near the monestary every few days and bought treats. The candy there was different, the
licorice being distinctly different from ours, and the soda having a lot less sugar. I bought a
Fanta orange soda, and it came with pulp, practically carbonated OJ. My favorite food I tried in
Spain though, was the lemon sorbet.
I got to see tons of beautiful buildings around Madrid. Many were very old. The
monestary itself was a work of art. We were able to take a tour of it, and see all the parts not
open to the public. It was amazing to see what they built before they had the technology we've
got today. The statues and art in the buildings were magnificent. Detailed paintings covered
most of the ceilings and walls. During our last week they took us Americans to go see central
Madrid. Even the hotels and the office buildings had a charming look of age and beauty to them.
We visited little shops and bought souvenirs. We went into some little restaurants. We wandered
some pretty parks. The landscape, architecture, and scenery of Spain is beautiful.
Out of all the wonderful things I experienced in Spain, nothing was sweeter than the
friendships I made with the people I met there. The people there are so much more laid back
and kind. You can talk to anyone. I loved it. It was fun trying to talk in Spanish, though most of
the kids knew English and Spanish. We went swimming, played cards, visited the zoo, the
theme park, etc. These kids made the whole trip a thousand times better. Even the camp
counselors were fun to talk to and hang out with. I was impressed that so many of them were
bilingual. There was this one girl, Ana, who I was especially impressed by. She's only ten years
old, but she is completely fluent in both languages and acts a lot older than her age. I thought
she was American, but she's not. Her dad is American and her mom is Spanish. Their family
only speaks English at home. There was another girl named Natalia. She plays guitar and has
decent English. She saw me playing my Rubik's cube and asked if I'd teach her. It was
really fun to teach her, practicing my Spanish. Now she can solve it pretty quickly.
An interesting part of the trip was attending Catholic mass on Sunday in the monestary.
It was a very different experience for Caleb and I, (Caleb and I are both members of The Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). It was cool to see how people of another faith practice their
religion. On the second Sunday we asked if we could attend our church. We got permission to
go to a Mormon church nearby, accompanied by a counselor. It was awesome to see our
religion in another country and language, and felt a lot like home. Jaime was the one who came
with us. He was an awesome help the entire time we were in Spain. After attending our church
he had a lot of questions for us and we talked a lot about our different religions. I loved it. He
told others about it, and soon everyone at the camp was asking about our weird religion that
none of them had heard of. They thought we were crazy for having 3 hours of church each
week, opposed to 1 hour. It was exciting to get out of Utah where 60% of the population is LDS.
My entire experience in Madrid was an awesome experience getting to know new
people, cultures, foods, and language. These experiences are ones to remember. I've got a lot
of photos and memories to cherish for a lifetime. I also friended most of the kids and counselors
on Facebook or followed them on Instagram. I still chat with them every now and then. It's a
great way to keep up on my Spanish. I'm so grateful for this opportunity. I'd never have had
enough money to do that on my own. This scholarship excursion changed my life for the better
and opened my eyes to this great big world. Thank you so much to those who made it possible
for me to go.