If you ever want to motivate yourself to write in English, try writing in Spanish for an hour first. It will make writing in English seem so easy! Joking aside, writing in Spanish is becoming more and more natural to me, and my absence here has not been lack of motivation but lack of time. Two weekends ago, we visited Covadonga and Los Lagos, and it was without a doubt the most beautiful place I have ever been. When we got back, it was the start of San Mateo, which is a ten-day-long festival “venerating Saint Matthew, the patron saint of Oviedo” (read: an excuse to have concerts, parties, and days off). So we had a short three-day-week, and before I could deal with any photos or write something Covadonga or San Mateo, I was off to Galicia (the neighboring province) for a four day weekend. And now nearly another week has gone by!
I have today off (Note: I wrote this on Friday, I am just proofing and uploading it Sunday), and I start at the university on Monday, so thing’s are a’changin’ for me here. My host mother is somewhat appalled that I am not taking advantage of two free days (we have an excursion on Sunday so I have to be here) by traveling somewhere. I know I’m young, and this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and all that, but sometimes a girl just needs two days to explore the beautiful city she lives in and recharge her batteries. I’ve had a little bit of a cold for about a week now, and I just need this weekend to (quite literally) clear my head before university classes start. So, this post is going to be a little bit of a “life update”/culture discussion/reminder that I’m not dead, and I will update with posts about Galicia and Covadonga soon.
I have been in Oviedo for nearly a month now, and it is starting to feel more and more like home. It is a remarkable place for many reasons, but one the most amazing things to me is that it is small enough that you can walk from one side to the other in less than an hour, yet there is always events going on and things to do. It is such a polar opposite of the sprawling, sleepy beach towns I am used to. This morning, for instance, I went to the absolutely gorgeous Campo de San Francisco to do some writing in Spanish. This park is in the center of town, and is about a 15 minute walk from my apartment. The weather has been absolutely perfect the past few days (sunny, 70s, breezy), and I wanted to take advantage of it. Not long after I sat down on the bench, I heard one of the many “buskers” of Oviedo start playing his trumpet from across the street. He is one of favorites of the musicians who I see nearly every day here, although between him, the elderly man with his violin, and the tenor who sings English songs with a heavy accent, it’s hard to pick a favorite. (Side note: It is seriously magical to have live music on every corner. It makes me feel like I’m in a movie!) Anyway, after hearing “What a Wonderful World” and “Ave Maria” from the trumpeter, I heard the unmistakable sounds of traditional Asturian music. Asturian music is drums and gaitas, which are bagpipes. Now, before I got here, I was about as fond of bagpipes as the average American, but Asturias has converted me. You might be surprised that there are bagpipes in Spain, but northern Spain has a lot of Celtic influence, and lot of things here have a very Irish/Scottish feel, just like southern Spain has a lot of Arabic influences. The gaitas are played by large choruses, and their reedy sound is surprisingly pleasant. So, I could hear the Asturian music getting closer, and I could see through the trees that there was a group of people in traditional dress giving a little performance, marching through the streets. As far as I know, it’s not a holiday or anything- just your average Friday morning. There might be places in the US that stuff like this happens, but I sure haven’t been there. And so, as I sat in the park journaling about Spanish culture, I was serenaded by a traditional Asturian band. And no one else in the park blinked an eye! This kind of stuff is super normal here. I think this morning is a good example of what it’s like to live here in general.
And now, I am holed up in a cafe, drinking a café solo and eating a croissant as big as my head. Café solo is espresso, and I am addicted to it. Brewed coffee is not a thing here, so the only coffee you can get is espresso, or café con leche, which is espresso with milk. And since I don’t drink milk, I have had an insane amount of espresso with sugar since I’ve been here. I have found one cafe that has soy milk, and I enjoyed an giant, creamy coffee there last week ( I will be back). Luckily for me, I really enjoy the taste of espresso, so it hasn’t been a problem for me. The cafe is full right now, but not with people getting lunch, even though it’s 12:45. Between 11 and 1 is the time to “tomar un pincho y un café,” which basically means snack time. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day here, but it doesn’t happen until 2-3:30, which means that a snack is almost imperative. Sometimes, I just have a piece of fruit (they are really into fresh fruit here) with my coffee, but other days I have a proper pincho. This is basically a small(ish) sandwich with any type of filling. My favorite pincho is jamón serrano y tomate, which is amazing thinly sliced ham and a little tomato on fresh bread. Yum. But today, I opted for a croissant. The croissants here are huge and dusted with sugar, so it’s hard to say no to them. I haven’t payed the bill yet, but it will probably be about 2.50€. Food here is very cheap, which is nice, since a lot of the culture here revolves around “tomar algo” with your friends. Tomar is a verb which means to eat or to drink, and algo just means “something.” So if you ask your friends if they want to tomar algo, it can mean anything. Do you want to go get a coffee, some ice cream, tapas, sidra, etc. So, it’s nice that snacks and drinks are more or less affordable. That being said, it does add up, which is one of the reasons I actually have a job here!
I’m not sure it’s fair to actually call what I’m doing a job, because it’s not really work. It’s very common for international students to tutor Spanish children in English for about an hour a week. My host mom has lots of friends with little kids, and so I am “tutoring” English to several families. It is super fun. They start learning English when they start school here, but a lot of parents like to make sure their kids have extra practice, because it’s such an important skill to have. The smallest kids I have are 4 and 5, and I play with them in Spanish, while pointing to things and saying the English word for it. They are very sweet. I have a seven-year-old girl who speaks not only excellent English, but great French. She makes me feel inadequate! Then I have some boys who are between 9 and 11, and I’m helping them with their science homework, because apparently it’s common here to take science class in English, while your other classes are in Spanish. And then I have some teenagers whose English is way better than my Spanish, and we just talk about whatever we want for an hour. Like I said, it’s a pretty sweet gig, and it pays for my espresso habit.
This is turning into a bit of a novela, so I better wrap it up. Life here is so different, as I think you can probably tell from the little bit I just shared. I promise to update again soon with pictures of the beautiful places I’ve been recently. If you read this whole thing, I hope you enjoyed it! I am going to try to write about the culture and lifestyle here more often, and hopefully a little more focused, and less rambly than this was. Thanks for reading 🙂