Sitting at the small table in my kitchen and reflecting into a bowl of Coco Puffs, a few thoughts just occurred to me: If I were back home, Ed would be making eggs and Kerry would be making blueberry pancakes and Cailin would be laughing at something she just watched (Dev come here you have to watch this!) and Rhianna would be eating oatmeal covered in exotic fruit I’ve never even heard of and then wonder out loud where the dog is and Mischa would be outside, running laps of the yard, barking at anything and everything. Sunday mornings have always been my favorite time back home, both the food and the company being nothing my lonely bowl of cereal could ever hope to compete with. Then, prompted by and immediately following that wave of nostalgia, came the very sudden realization that as of today, I have been in this crazy, amazing country for an entire 3 weeks.
It’s a passage of time that seems to me both impossibly long and unbelievably short. As each day passes, I find myself diving a little bit deeper into the culture here, experiencing and adjusting to the flow of life in the city. Each day I become a little more comfortable, a little more accustomed to the thick Andalusian accent and the long, hot hours the Sevillians keep. I can navigate myself around a good portion of the city without getting lost. I can work the bus system. I’ve been to Madrid, Toledo, and Malaga, countless museums, a castle, an active archaeological site, a Flamenco show. My university is so beautiful that I feel as though I’m taking classes in the middle of an art exhibit. I’m keeping up with a full course load as well, all taught in (heavily accented) spanish. I’ve made quite a few amazing friends, my host mom and I get along great, and I’ve even learned to prepare a mean gazpacho.
I really am incredibly lucky to be staying with such a fantastic family for the second time in my life, and to be getting along so perfectly with my host mom, Marisa. She’s a spunky and kind-hearted woman, smart and sassy and loud in a thoroughly Sevillian way. Political activist, lawyer, artist, and fantastic cook to boot, she’s constantly running around completing tasks in a way that would put even my most productive days to shame– be it cleaning, cooking, painting, or entertaining clients and friends (and, once, some people I’m partially convinced she just randomly ushered in off the street) in our living room, it’s not uncommon for me to come home after 2 or 3 or 4 am and find her still puttering around with some last minute to-do’s, or passed out exhaustedly on the couch beneath her own reproduction of a Monet and small poster of Che Guevera. Her affectionate and outgoing personality made it very easy to feel at home from the start, and in a small matter of days we crossed over from the tenant-and-landlord relationship to the familial kind. There was one incident during my first week here that perhaps sped along this easy transition, and that was the day I found a cockroach in the kitchen.
I was filling up my water bottle when I saw it crawling along the side of the counter, and while the sight wasn’t particularly disturbing to me after my brief stint in Costa Rica this past summer, it was still not welcome. Hesitantly, I called my host mom from the other room: “Uh, Marisa? Hay un insecto feo…” Hoping that this was a situation she had dealt with before, and thus one that she would have no problem reconciling, I heard her gasp and mutter something that sounded vaguely profane before hearing her footsteps march quickly down the hall. Taking my eyes of the intrusive bug for just a second, I saw my host mom Marisa round the corner of the kitchen wielding an aerosol can of some foul-chemical concoction in front of her like a gun. “¿¿Adonde??” She asked me, and when I pointed to the counter she whipped around and took aim. As eager as I had been to have someone else take care of the extermination, I was even more eager to avoid eating food prepared on a surface touched by whatever substance Marisa was about to douse it with (seriously, this can didn’t even have labels) and so I stopped her by jumping in front of the counter, waving a roll of paper towels towards her face. When she realized that I was volunteering, the look of relief that washed over her face was palpable, and my feisty host mom sheepishly gave me the Spanish-equivalent excuse of “I’m not scared, they just gross me out…”
Since that moment, it would appear as though I have been delegated the task of live-in bug killer. Similar incidents have had me sprinting into the bedroom to kill a spider and skidding into the living room in my towel to re-locate a grasshopper. It’s not the job I would have chosen, and it’s certainly not one of the first skills that come to mind when people talk about what they took away from their abroad experience, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing to learn to be able to squash your own cockroaches. And especially on quiet and lazy Sundays like today, it’s absolutely a small price to pay for how welcome and comfortable I feel in my Spanish home.