Two pretty awesome firsts this week: met my intercambio and watched my first futbol game.
The intercambio program that CEGRI offers allows us to meet up with local Granadians (some students, some not) to practice Spanish, while also helping them with English. My intercambio is with Manuela, a mid-thirty year old woman training to become a flight attendent. Although it was kind of awkward at first, I think she'll be very helpful in bettering my Spanish skills. We sat out in the sun (because it's beautiful here, sorry to all my Chicago/Wisconsin friends), drank some cervezas and got to know each other better. It is a great opportunity to meet someone from Granada, outside of the university atmosphere. Hopefully she'll help me become better at harnessing my inner Spaniard, although right now that seems unlikely. I also was able to watch my first futbol game (soccer for all you silly Americans). It was definitely something I would do again (and hopefully see at a stadium) because the fans here are about as excited and enthusiastic as American football fans. My goal is to learn all the lingo so I can fit in, like a real futbol fan. Not just awkwardly sit in the corner with a group of my friends and pretend we know when to cheer and what the different calls mean. I am also a Barcelona fan, in case anyone was wondering. Why, you ask? Because that's what my host family is. I know. I am quite the individual. I know no players' names on the team, but I do know their colors. Basically the superfan right here.
I'm learning quite a bit about how Americans are viewed around the world. Many people I've met (sometimes on the street or in the grocery store), upon learning about my homeland, like to proceed to tell me everything they've ever learned or thought about the US, including (but not limited to) the fact that Obama is from Chicago, that New York is quite close to Chicago, or that everyone lives in California. This is very generalized of course and pretty understandable because many of the people that I have met gain their knowledge from the movies, which portray American life in a very different way than reality. However, something I've been asked about multiple times is the tradition of Thanksgiving. For me the holiday is a great time to get together with family, celebrate old traditions and create new ones. Apparently, it is a really common holiday portrayed in the movies and the Spaniards are very interested in its meaning. They have asked me what it was about, why we celebrate, what's with all the food....It was really hard for me to think of a good answer. I mean I know the basic history behind it, but for me Thanksgiving is more about getting together with the family. I guess I never really considered it a very "American" holiday. However, my intercambio expressed her jealousy of our patriotism in America, of the importance of our this unity and love for our country. It is something that exists in other countries, for sure, but is especially stressed because of the far-reach of America's culture throughout the world, especially in the media, television, and movies. It has been very beneficial for me to realize the importance of the opportunity I have to learn about a new culture, but also recognize the influence my own culture has on me, my point of view and perspective on life, how it has limited and benefitted me, how I have applied it to my daily life and relationships. It is something I will continue to learn about, I'm sure, as I continue my studies here and when I return to the US, also.
Tomorrow, I head off to Morocco. I'm sure I'll have some great stories for y'all.