In the past week, the students have really started to warm up to me, especially the younger ones whom I see more often. As I stroll through the halls during break times, students excitedly call out my name (usually slightly mispronouncing it in their Spanish accent), making me feel like somewhat of a celebrity. When I walk in the classrooms of the four and five year olds, I am showered in hugs and kisses. During my classes with the primary students, they ambush me with questions about my favorite color, food, sport, team, etc. (basically any question they know in English). A few students in primary four, the equivalent of fourth grade, even gave me a bracelet on Thursday. All in all, I have been overwhelmed with sweet gestures and not just from the students.
The teachers have gone above and beyond to make me feel welcomed. My mentor at the school invited me for dinner with him and his family on Wednesday evening. So after tutoring, I hopped on the metro and made my way to a more rural area of Bilbao. His family greeted me with fuzzy house slippers at the door, so my feet weren’t cold on their floor. I showed his six and eight year old daughters where Tennessee is in the States, and they showed me their favorite book, thinking my name matched the famous Junie B Jones. For dinner, Jose and his wife had whipped up an assortment of traditional Spanish/Basque dishes. We began with a Spanish tortilla (similar to a casserole of potatoes, eggs, and onions). They even had jarred red peppers (he jars them himself) and tuna for toppings to flavor it up. There was homemade raisin bread and sheep cheese (their parents live in a nearby village where they make these and send them to the family). Olives were of course on the table to munch on as well. The second course was a popular salt cod (that takes two days to soak and prepare) covered in a sweet crushed tomato sauce. And at the girls’ request, we wrapped up the dinner with vanilla and chocolate ice-cream. It was a wonderful evening; besides leaving with a full belly, I left with a better sense of Bilbao. We discussed politics, eateries, “must see” spots, education, holidays, and much more! I am very thankful for the community of people that have helped me these past few weeks.
Schedule Update: Today is Basque Country’s Constitution Day, so schools and stores were closed. I spent the day catching up on coursework and planning while wandering around the city some more. I have a favorite cafe, el Fogon de Karluka, that will definitely be seeing me at least once a week. I just joined a language exchange, so I am excited to see my Spanish improve while also meeting new people! And tomorrow, I get to share my favorite meal of the day (breakfast) with some new friends who have never experienced a proper brunch (pancakes, bacon, omelets, the works). Don’t even get me started on the syrup situation though. If I thought peanut butter was hard to find, syrup is nonexistent. I hope you have a wonderful weekend readers, and if you get to top your pancakes with syrup, please eat enough for both of us! 🙂 Cheers!