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Una Vida Diferente

By: Ruth Morrongiello

By Ally


“Two staple dishes in aSpanish household. Paella (left), Tortilla & salad (right). Paella is a seafood dinner that typically includes rice, various shellfish, chicken, saffron, and vegetables. Tortilla is a potato, egg, and onion dish. My host family puts lots of time and effort into making our dinners—cooking is considered their down time!”
“A peek into thecoffee shop“Café con Libros.”It’s become my tradition to come here on Saturday mornings and read—today I’m reading a children’s chapter book called El Soñador. It’s a cozy place. And more importantly, they have great breakfast crêpes.”

It’s been five months since I walked across the high school graduation stage-a fifteen step journey that commenced the adventure of this year. I’m now sitting on a multicolored couch in the corner of “Café con Libros:” a slice of coffee shop solitude I’ve found amidst the infinitely busy center of Malaga, Spain. To my left is a heap of Spanish books, and through the partially open window to my right is “La Manquita:” the only partially built cathedral that seduces tourists with its renaissance architecture. Last week marked one month of my stay in Spain, but I still feel like I’m getting settled here. The culture, although western, feels so unfamiliar. Water here costs money. It’s considered strange to leave a tip at restaurants. My Netflix has changed to Spanish. It took me ten minutes to figure out how to properly flush the toilets here. We walk everywhere. Public transportation isn’t as confusing as I once thought! Everything is closed on Sundays, and there’s a Catholic church around every corner. 21 degrees Celsius means 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Bread is a part of every meal. Dinner is at 21:00, which means 9pm. And lunch is at 3pm. We dry our clothes by hanging them outside.

It’s October, and Christmas decorations are already up. The birds are green here. People wear jeans in 80-degree weather. Fruit is eaten as dessert after every meal. There are outdoor, public gyms! No buildings use air conditioning, and the windows in our house are never closed. Spaniards are incredibly friendly, but they also speak incredibly quickly. People dance… a lot. New foods have not disappointed! Dogs are everywhere, and somehow they’re all perfectly behaved. The pigeons are a little too comfortable around people. Showers longer than five minutes are frowned upon. We’re not supposed to walk barefoot inside the house. Nobody uses crosswalks. Kissing your friends hello and goodbye is the norm. Sunsets are incredible here. Shops and restaurants close for “siesta” every afternoon. Parking only comes in one form: parallel. We use tote bags and fanny packs instead of backpacks. There are street musicians and artists galore. Scooters and bikes are everywhere. I don’t leave the house without a deck of cards in my purse. American accents are very distinct in Spanish, apparently.


“The view of Málaga’s outskirts from the top of a popular hike up Mt. San Antón.”

I love it here. It’s so different, and I feel so out of place sometimes, but I’m starting to befriend the unfamiliar. Living with a host family has allowed me to experience an authentic Spanish lifestyle, and I’ve met people from across the world. My roommate is from Japan, and my group of friends span Europe: Germany, France, Netherlands, Norway, and Belgium. These people have taught me so much about their home countries and different cultures, and I learn something new with every conversation. It’s fascinating. Learning a new language comes with its challenges, but I’m able to see improvements in my Spanish every day—I (hopefully) successfully gave someone directions to the bus stop yesterday, and I understood 80% of Crepúsculo (Twilightin Spanish). It’s the little successes that count! It’s been a month of growth and discovery, but I still have so much left to learn here. I can’t wait.