Madrid to Oviedo
Leaving Madrid meant an end to being a mesmerized tourist and starting the process of acclimating to living like an Ovitense (what the people of Oviedo refer to themselves as.) Today marks my first full week in Oviedo, which has been filled with both excitement and confusion. Without a tour guide chauffeuring our group around the city like we experienced in Madrid, the responsibility now falls on me to figure out…. well, everything. Of course, it is normal to come across ups and down as you try and figure out and navigate through something completely new. Some of those “ups” of my first week include: exploring throughout the historic city of Oviedo, starting new, exciting classes, trying Sidra (Oviedo’s local drink), and visiting Gijon, a local beach town 30 mins away from Oviedo.
Challenges of Week 1 in Oviedo
Now I want to talk about the “downs” (more like challenges) of this first week of being in Oviedo with a host family in a new university. The two biggest challenges I have had, though extremely simple, have made basic conversation with strangers and trying to make plans very difficult: telling the time and temperature. Here in Spain, and what I believe to be the rest of Europe, they use military time and the metric system—two normal, frequently-referenced measurements that I have never used in my life.
The first encounter I had with the trying to discuss the weather is when my host mom asked me about the Philadelphia winter: “Que tal el clima en Fiadelfia ahora?” she asked. I replied, explaining that it was very cold, roughly in the 20s. She looked at me puzzled! And that’s when I realized she thought I meant Celsius, which would mean that “in the 20s” is anywhere from 68 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit…aka not cold at all! I am still working on my degree conversions to convey weather properly to my host family and new Spanish friends.
The same goes for the time! I once asked for the time to a local and he told me, “a las 18.” I thanked him, but had no idea what he was telling me. What is 18 o’clock?! Luckily, however, that is been an easier adjustment. I changed my cell phone to a 24-hour clock, so now I can be up to par and arrive on time. Another challenge not so easy to deal with in relation to the metric system is distance. Trying to ask people how to navigate a foreign city in your second language is already hard as it is, but it is even more difficult when they tell you, for example, that the library is located 25 kilometers from the café. Let’s just say google maps has become my best friend (and if anyone wants to convert feet to kilometers for me, I am all ears!)
Consumption: us Vs. España
Aside from the various barriers that have made communicating basic needs/ideas a challenge, I have also observed a bold cultural difference between the US and Spain. Here in Spain, or at least the people of Asturias, are quite environmentally conscious. In our household, it is the norm to shut every door behind you—as to trap in the heat—and to ensure that all devices (lamps, TVs, extension chords) have been unplugged. I was also amazed by the recycling system we have in our house. There is a bin for glass, a bin for paper, a bin for compost, and a bin for plastic. Interestingly enough, this is not unique to my house because my peers have all said that their host families do the same thing. I am amazed by this culture of ecological preservation, which has brought new meaning to the phrase, “Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.”
I look forward to bringing back with me these environmental ideas, as well as a better sense of the metric system, to the United States to share.
Until next week!