This summer, I was given an amazing opportunity to spend 3 weeks in Spain. What made this experience even better was the fact that my soon to be host brother would be staying with me 3 weeks before I would leave to Spain. This young man’s name is Pablo Garrido Martin, and he is almost exactly my age. His family consisted of his mother and father and his younger sister Claudia. These wonderful people helped me learn about the Spanish culture, history, language, and cuisine. Going to Spain helped me learn more about the world around me as well as making a lifelong friend.
When I first met Pablo in America, I knew I was going to like him. He spoke very good English, liked basketball, hated cauliflower, and was only 2 days older than me. The first 3 weeks went by fast, but not as fast as the second 3. When I arrived in Madrid, Pablo and I were looking for his parents. We finally found his mom, whose name is Anna and she was holding 2 signs; 1 with a Spanish flag and another with an American one. On the back of the each flag was a picture of Pablo and “me” which we soon figured out was Pablo and my brother:). It was 8 a.m. when we arrived in Spain and I realized that they thought of this hour as much too early to be awake. The way many Spaniards go about their day is they get up around 10, eat breakfast, eat lunch around 2-3, relax or take a siesta, eat dinner around 10 and go to bed around mid-night. It was every teenagers dream!! Staying up late and getting up late...the perfect combination. The first 2 weeks of my trip was spent in Burgos, which is in the north of Spain between the north coast and Madrid. The temperatures were much cooler than I expected; hovering around 60’s and 70’s with an occasional jump to the 80’s. The legal age for literally everything is 18, drinking, driving, getting drafted, etc. For this reason, we walked or rode bikes a great deal. During the day, we either visited a few of the many monuments, went to the gym, played basketball, played video games, or just walked around town. We saw Spanish castles, fortresses, palaces, Cathedrals, and natural landmarks. I had no idea how much history our country DID NOT have. I have an interest in architectural engineering so I was in heaven touring all of the 9th-12th century structures.
The rest of Pablo’s family was amazing. His father’s name is Paulino and his sister’s name is Claudia. Everyone in the house spoke a little bit of English, which was good, because I know muy poco Española (very little Spanish). Claudia, who is 10, enjoyed watching TV, so I got to see a great deal of Spanish Disney Channel. As I said before, Pablo enjoyed playing basketball, so we did that occasionally. All of the recreational facilities are public in Burgos so most sports are played outside. Some of the other places we visited were Segovia, Comillas(which is on the North Coast), and Madrid. I think I traveled more in these 3 weeks than I have in my entire life.
Aside from the culture, the food is surprisingly different. The general stereotype is that Americans are fat...this is true. But I would have guessed it would be because we eat more fast food and don't exercise as much. In fact, we exercise 20 times more than them; we just don't eat as healthy. I only ate fast food 1 time the entire trip, and that was because I saw a KFC in Madrid and I had to see if it was the same. All of their food is literally all natural. They eat a lot of meat, cheese, fish, and a crazy amount of carbs. They’re super markets are filled with uncut ham and unbutchered fish, not Dr. Pepper and Doritos. Speaking of chips and soda, their selection is depressing. They have 3 kinds of soda, Coca-Cola, Sprite, and Fanta, and 3 kinds of chips, BBQ, cheese, and potato. Now, aside from me having mental breakdowns every time I saw what their food looked like, I found I enjoyed eating more natural foods. It was kind of like a cleanse. You just feel better. Some of the dishes that I tried in Spain were, blood pudding, pig face, squid, cow tail, pig ear, chorizo, tortilla española, marmitako, pella, and jamon. The nice thing was, I ate 3 times as much as I do in America but I didn't gain a pound. Learning about the Spanish food really complemented their culture and helped me learn about Spain on a whole different level.
While I loved every waking and sleeping, moment of my entire trip, I did have some highlights. Some of these include visiting the Royal Palace in Madrid, going to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel’s palace, who funded Christopher Columbus’s trip to the America’s, going to the beach, and hanging out late at night with Pablo. Going to the Prado Museum of Art in Madrid was a real treat also because I have never seen such a wonderful collection of famous masterpieces in my life. Although I went to many places and saw many things, nothing could replace the time Pablo and I spent together in America as well as in Spain. He is a really cool guy and I am sure our families will stay in touch. Traveling with AILI has made me more aware of the world around me and helped me make lifelong memories and friends. Thanks to everyone who helped make this happen, I will never forget this wonderful experience.