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Bienvenidos a Cádiz

by George H. July 12-14, 2014 We’ve been to the beach Had coffees, churros, and more– Within just three days.

This haiku perfectly describes the epic whirlwind that this trip has been since I left my home in San Francisco early Wednesday morning. Let me quickly introduce myself: I’m George Hulsey, first time AR’er, rising high school senior, and amateur haiku writer. I’ve taken over four years of Spanish at my school and I am psyched to have an experience to really use that classroom experience here in Cádiz. But, as I’ve learned in less than three days, this trip is going to to be as much about the culture as it will be about the language. I can’t hope to be able to abridge a summary of all that we’ve done so, in the interest of your sanity, I’ll give you a recap of my favorite moments. Starting with meeting our homestay mother. When I say “our”, I’m referring to Andy, my homestay partner/roommate/bro.
We arrived to meet Sra. Salcedo in the Plaza de España and were immediately whisked away to eat lunch at her house. Andy and I are living in a room that looks across to a massive cathedral–that our apartment predates. We settle down, and, before I’ve taken my shoes off, Sra. Salcedo calls us in for lunch. There began what I know now as the “gauntlet of generosity”. Sra. Salcedo made us chicken, potatoes, salad, bread–and made sure that we ate our fill. For every meal we have with I have to insist that I’m full–she always wants to fill me up with another nectarina or some more papas fritas. So Andy and I slept well that night despite our jet lag.
The next day was beach day. All 10 of us headed to La Caleta, the local beach. We settled down in the shade and were promptly reminded we were in Europe. I have never seen more speedos (or lack thereof) in my life–and I was on a swim team. The beach was teeming with all sorts of locals: families out playing with titheir kids, men with very short shorts applying each other’s sunscreen, people bathing themselves in the ocean, kids playing soccer, and, the European beach trademark, a handful of topless women. Despite the somewhat alien atmosphere, we settled down to swim, play some frisbee, and just laze about in wonderfully heat-induced languor. The girls decided to cook themselves in the solar oven that is the bare sand under the Cádiz sun, but after a good while of “tanning” and swimming, most of us moved into the shade fully, just to relax and talk about stuff.
We got on the topic of untranslatable words, citing examples like “schadenfreude”, from German: the feeling of joy you find from seeing other people get hurt (i.e. most Youtube videos). One of the staff, Alejandra, gave us two others in languages we were a little more familiar with. Apparently “creepy” has no real Spanish translation. But my personal favorite was the Spanish word “sobremesa” (it may be two words, I only write is as I heard it). Sobremesa refers to the time after a meal that you spend around the table talking and socializing. As we sat at a corner cafe discussing the meaning of life a few hours later, someone cited sobremesa as being exactly what we were doing. It was true–the men of the group peeled off and enjoyed churros and drinks at a cafe for near on three hours.
We sat, ordered churros con chocolate, had some refrescos, and talked through the meaning of life–in brief, of course.
I won’t attempt to describe what we went through there, but I can say we moved from the Tao Te Ching to George Lucas to general relativity to who knows what else–all in our first real sobremesa. American culture lacks such a time–we rush in and out and never sit to just ponder. That night, after dinner, I grabbed my ukulele and we headed out to La Caleta at around 11:30 to relax and have a little jam sesh on the beach. We covered all the classics (though to my dismay Toto’s masterpiece “Africa” seems to have lost its grip on this younger generation) and sat together to plan for the rest of the trip.
Someone made a list with things we wanted to do, including some stuff such as “Say Hola to a random stranger” or “Get out of your comfort zone” and some less probable ideas such as “Go to Africa”. So I’ve learned two things so far: firstly, that the way things happen is really pretty sweet here in Cádiz: from the siestas to the sobremesas to the beaches to the cafes.
Maybe we need some more Spanish back at home. Secondly, I already don’t want this trip to end. Sorry for dragging you through such a long entry. My muse is especially active this morning. I’m sure these posts will look less and less like a manifesto as time goes on and my jetlag doesn’t wake me up so early. But, as I began, I’ll leave you all with a manifesto. It’s almost 10 here I just watched the Sopranos Tony’s in trouble Nah, just kidding. Here’s one more relevant to today: Two group things today Don’t know what we’re doing, but I know I’ll have fun.