Thursday, September 13, 2012

First Day of School

Okay so for those of you who know me (which I'm going to assume is most of you if you're reading this), you must know that the combination of my brain and my mouth produces an infinite supply of words and conversation and that there has not been a single period of time of over 10 minutes of my life where I have been quiet. Brace yourself for what you're about to read, I think you'll be shocked. My school day today was from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and I would estimate that the total number of words that came out of my mouth was around... twenty? How is that even possible? I'll tell you how... go to school in Barcelona when the extent of your knowledge of the Spanish language are simple phrases like "where is the bathroom" and "I would like a sandwich, please."

Even though my host sister and I are the same age, she is in the grade above me so we separated at the very beginning of the day. I felt pretty comfortable though because I had met a few girls at the previous day's orientation and they welcomed me right away. I sat in the classroom and waited for something to happen. The energy level of the kids in the classroom was pretty similar to what it would have been in the states on the first day. The teacher, Mercedes, walked in at around 8:05. The first thing that shocked me was how we address teachers by their first name. That's considered to be extremely disrespectful back in the states and I would never dream of calling a teacher by their first name...well, to their face anyway. So the teacher tried to get the attention of the students and nobody listened. Kids were still running around, laughing, yelling, hugging and doing the typical teenage conversational thing. After like, 3 minutes (I'm not even exaggerating, and 3 minutes doesn't seem like a big deal but it really is), the kids finally took their seats. I'm assuming she told the class about me because at one point she asked me to introduce myself. So I stood up and said these exact words. "Um... hello. My name is Alexandra. I live in the United States and... well, I don't speak Catalan. Or Spanish." And then I sat down. Everyone laughed at me so that's a good sign. Mercedes preceded to speak in Catalan for the next hour... I only understood one word. She kept repeating "vale" at the end of her sentences, which is the equivalence of "okay" in English. I think. I hope, because if not then I understood no words and that's pretty pathetic. My next class was math. I really expected a Mean Girls moment here where "math is the same in every language" but apparently not in Catalan!! The teacher explained some things to the class and I didn't understand any of that either. (Notice the pattern here of me not understanding anything?) From 10:00 to 10:30 there is a break (called "pati" ...YAY I'M LEARNING) and everyone goes outside and talks and hangs out. So basically recess. I got to associate with a lot of the girls and kind of wormed my way into a little friend circle. Luckily, most of them are pretty good with English so I was able to kiiiiind of make friends. The bad part is that I only remember 2 of their names... (Actually this is the case for everyone. People would tell me their names and I would ask "que" (what?) about 3 or 4 times and they would repeat themselves just as fast so then I would give up and just say sí. Oh and several of them have already added me on FaceBook so we are officially friends.) The next classes were chemistry (I got a worksheet but pretended to do it), Latin, and Spanish and I won't go into more detail about how I didn't understand because it's basically the same story. I have to say, Spanish and Catalan will definitely be the most difficult classes. They're learning intense grammar things and I don't even know how to say pencil. (Just kidding it's llapis, I just looked it up.) We ate lunch from 1:30 to 3:00 and I was really glad because I was super hungry at this point. But just kidding again, the girls like to hang around and talk outside before lunch and we have to wait for the little kids to finish eating. So we sat outside and at this point of the day I was already completely exhausted and overly frustrated with myself. I watched the little toddlers play on the playground and I honestly just wanted to go play with them. I didn't understand their language, but they didn't even understand their own language. The only language they understand is see-saw and crayons. I was so tired of having people repeat things and having people explain things to me. There comes a point when people are helping you too much and you just feel so utterly helpless that you'd rather them stop. That's exactly what I felt. This is kind of strange but I noticed a tiny little Asian girl sitting by herself just people-watching and smiling at everything but not talking to anyone at all. I realized that's probably what I look like, minus the being alone part. Also she was adorable and I'm also pretty adorable. I ate lunch (chicken, salad, potatoes and beans, bread, a pear, and water- not horrible but not great, exactly my expectation from cafeteria food) and went inside earlier to meet with Mercedes. (I know I'm writing so many little side notes but this one is funny... I got lost on the way back inside the building so it took me an extra 10 minutes to find the courage, and remember the vocabulary, to ask someone to help me.) She went into the teachers lounge and told me to wait outside. I took out my sim card-less iPhone to check the time and one of the teachers started to talk angrily at me. I nodded my head for a little and then said "uhhh no hablo español o catalan..." He nodded knowingly since I'm the only American in the building and told me about how mobile phones were only allowed outside. I thanked him (I seriously thanked him because I was too shaken to remember how to say sorry) and went into the bathroom. At this point I was so overwhelmed and I guess that little incident was my breaking point. I ALMOST CRIED. I haven't cried at all since I got to Spain so this is a big deal. I finally collected myself and went back to meet with Mercedes. She was so nice and understanding, I could tell she was really trying to help me and explain things. She's also my English teacher and lived in Britain for 4 years so her English is near perfect. She kept apologizing for how bored I must be and for how sorry she is that there's nothing else she can do to help me. I realized that I'd been stubborn all day and way to much of an over-achiever. I should have expected that I wouldn't understand anything and that the day would go like this. When we finished speaking I thanked her and sat in the classroom alone for about 10 minutes. It was probably the most refreshing 10 minutes of my life. My next class was English with Mercedes and since they're only allowed to speak English I participated a lot and it was nice to understand something. My last class was history which I obviously didn't understand any of... then I got to go home. I'm keeping a positive attitude. I can't say the day was wonderful but I will keep learning and soon I'll be blabbin' away in three languages!

This is a picture of me after the long day of school.


  1. i love you so much, hang in there though alli, you will learn everything so quickly!

  2. Don't be afraid to cry!! Everyone needs more crying in their life. Love you lottsss