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San Jose to Badajoz
I've been in Badajoz for a day and half now but honestly, it still hasn't sunk in. The journey here from San Jose was undoubtedly long, but oddly relaxing. I guess the most scary part for me was traveling alone; traveling alone for the first time was a different experience, certainly more smooth than predicted.
I left San Jose at 12pm on Tuesday and landed in Madrid at 11:30am on Wednesday. At the airport, I was greeted by the lovely program transport coordinator Miri who accompanied me in a taxi to the bus station. I remember the first thing Miri said to me was "¿hablas español?" and when I told her I would be more comfortable starting in English, she happily switched. Her english was much better than I had expected it to be - I know given her job it's not hard to believe she's a good English speaker but the accounts of several other high school exchange students in Spain told me that most people here do not speak much English. Ironically, Miri had been an exchange student in her junior year in California! Miri quickly realized I was starving and took me to a nice cafeteria in the auto-bus station where she bought me a bocadillo (a bocadillo is a type of sandwich).
Miri dropped me off at the bus station. She gave me my first "Spanish" kiss as we hugged goodbye and told me to text her if I needed anything at all :)
We had a nice Spanish lunch. Miri ordered the classic orange juice as a side to her sandwich and my bocadillo had cheese, olives, and olive oil.
I hopped on the bus to find my seat being the very last seat in the back of the bus. I sat down, excited to be by myself, when another older woman joined me. La señora, as I addressed her, quickly became my friend and explained much of the route to me. As she sat down, she assumed I spoke Spanish and proceeded to talk to me in Spanish. I listened to her and responded with "Lo siento, es que no hablo español. Soy de los estados unidos." She proceeded to tell me that the fact that I could say just as much with no corrections was good enough for her and she was confident I would be able to understand everything she said. She told me her sons studied abroad in America and how life-changing it was for them. She could not speak any English however, and told me how the only phrase she ever learnt was "hot milk" because she was always served cold milk with her tea and coffee in London every time she visited with her husband (which she obviously did not like!). Much of the trip, la señora explained the surroundings to me; at one point, we drove through a town called Trujillo, which she explained was the birthplace of Francisco Pizarro, the conquistador of Peru.
The Spanish countryside was beautiful to watch as we drove on the highway, La señora explained to me that these trees are "las encinas" which translates to oaks in English. There were many farms along the way, several that notably contained horses and bulls grazing.
The bus ride was long and tiring but I remember the excitement I felt when we drove into the central town space of Badajoz. The most notably beautiful landmark I saw at night (we drove into Badajoz around 8pm) was the long and beautiful Roman bridge that stretched over the Guadiana river. It wasn't long after my first sight of the bridge that we pulled into the bus station.
I grabbed my luggage and ventured out into the bus station. Barely two seconds passed when I heard a little voice yell "bIsmAjAH" (the accent on my name is very different here, of course). My little sister Catalina ran up to me with flowers in her hand and gave me a hug. Carmen, my youngest sister, followed soon after. I was so pleasantly surprised by their lack of shyness - all my younger cousins have been hesitant to strike up a conversation, give me a hug, or even say hello at first when they see me. Roberto (my host dad) and Laura (my host mom) came to greet me as well, both with a spanish kiss. They took me to the car and we headed home.
This is the exact moment I met my host family. Laura remembered that we needed to take a picture to send my parents so this was taken no later than 2 minutes after meeting them all.
The beautiful flowers Catalina and Carmen picked out for me and brought to the bus station :)
I am so excited to call Badajoz my home for the next few months. It's been a day and Roberto has already taken me to explore some of the city (a beautiful park by the river near the Roman bridge). I plan to record as many of my adventures and stories as I can. For now, my journey has just begun.