I would like to compare host families. It may seem weird, but this was my second trip to Spain both times in different locations and very different circumstances.
2009 – Background: I was a 20 something year old female finishing my bachelor’s degree in Spanish. My host family was very strict, and could not understand my situation. They did not understand why I did not want to stay out partying or why I spent my time focusing on school work. They did not even realize that on top of the homework assigned to us from the University of Valladolid, we were assigned homework from the Univeristy of Akron. Nearly criticizing everything that I did. Showering too long, not cleaning the shower properly, not staying out late, and other things. I remember they got mad enough at me once that I ended up going out with a group and crying. When the rest of the group saw this they tried to get me removed from that location. We only had a week remaining at that point so they couldn’t do anything.
Fast forward to 2016… Background: I’m a 30 year old pharmacy school student. My mother passed away the Tuesday before I left. I missed the first week because she was in bad shape and I was not going to leave. I arrived in Spain. My host mom was very supportive, and she understood what I went through. She understood that I had to do the make up work from the previous week, and helped me to push through the work. Supporting me every step of the way. We went to the gym together 5 days a week, and I had a very supportive roommate. Lucia made some of my favorite meals because she knew I liked them, and I got to return the favor by cooking something new for her a couple of times. I would not have enjoyed the trip as much if it weren’t for the support system.
Overall, support systems…including classmates, teachers, and host families can change the perspective of the trip. Needless to say I was the last student the other host family took in. I hope that Lucia takes them in all the time because she is a great support and great host.
My health behavior change was made about two weeks ago for me, but I feel like it’s been so much longer. When I’m at home, I turn to Diet Dr Pepper to wake me up. Especially since I am not a coffee drinker, and it has become increasingly difficult to come up with a drink that can wake me up. My host mom has begun to sneak coffee into my morning smoothie, and it tastes great because she mixes it with other things. It does not work. I have even started drinking hot tea, in this hot humid weather. That does not work either. I’ve been fully reliant on getting up and going to the gym, and then the walk to school to wake me up.
Fruits and vegetable stands are everywhere. I love it. It makes it so simple, when I can just stop and grab some on the way home. Lucia knows that this is my change, and she has made sure to keep the fridge stocked. It’s truly inspiring. I get to enjoy one of my favorite things everyday and it’s so affordable here. We have tried all kinds of new fruits and vegetables here. They’ve got a such a variety. Drinking water has not been a problem here cause it’s normally super cheap, or it’s free. I can stop at one of the fruit stands, and grab a water with whatever I need and spend a euro or less. It’s awesome. I will make it, but I just have to ‘keep swimming’.
I think I am truly looking forward to figuring this out when I get back home. It is going to be a fight because my husband does not enjoy vegetables as much as I do, but the fruit aspect I think will be simple. I’m going to have to figure out ways to sneak them in…Shhhh he does not need to know. I might even try to make some of the recipes that Lucia has made, and that would be a great way to sneak them in!
The health behavior change has been simple as I had hoped. I have been craving Diet Dr. Pepper something fierce; however, they do not have it here. I am not a fan of Coke, so I can just walk by those. I have come across Fanta Orange and Fanta Lemon, which those are a little harder to walk by. I almost gave into temptation, but I was with Ruth and was able to overcome the temptation.
The fruits and vegetables portion has been awesome. Lucia normally cooks with fresh fruits and veggies, and if she doesn’t we have been able to stop at a local fruit stand and grab one. I even made Lucia fried green tomatoes on Tuesday. I was thrilled with the results and she truly enjoyed them, and even shared them with her neighbor. I cannot tell any difference in my energy levels as I had hoped, but I will continue to push forward.
For this weekend’s excursion we visited Gandía. On our way to Gandia we made a quick stop at Albufera. This is a freshwater lagoon with an abundance of fish surround by rice fields. It was a beautiful morning when we pulled up, and we got to walk through a cute little town. We saw little Palace, then we walked inside. It was not so little anymore. Simply put it was gorgeous and there was a lot of history there. Colors and paints on the ceilings were vibrant, and I couldn’t help myself but take photos.
It was something you can only dream of seeing, and I got to see it with my own eyes. Inside they had a miniature of what the palace used to be. I took photos of that too. Over the years it had been reduced by battles, and other things. They even saved some of the tiles, and placed them on the walls for everyone to see.
From there, we got back on the bus. They drove a few minutes, and every piled out. We were at the infamous Gandía beach. Gorgeous. Sand, sun, and the Mediterranean…what more could we need? I know! Ice cold drinks, thank goodness they had a little resturant / shop on the beach. We stayed on the beach for a few hours, I got the chance to try some pretty amazing ice cream. I had strawberry cheesecake flavored ice cream. Then we loaded the bus and came back to Valencia…to say I was tired was an understatement. I know I fell asleep on the bus…
For my health behavior modification, I would like to have one fruit and one vegetable per day, as well as I want to avoid pop the remainder of the trip. I will be drinking water instead. I believe that this will help give me some energy and motivation to continue this behavioral change once I return home. I think this will be very simple because there are sufficient fruit and vegetable stands all around Valencia, and there are a lot of new fruits and vegetables that I might not have ever tried before.
The fruit and vegetable additions have been fairly simple because not only do I have an amazing host mom, but I have the opportunity of walking past several fruit stands on the way to and from school. Lucia has cooked every single meal since my arrival, and it has all been delicious. If there is not enough fruits and vegetables in her food I will be surprised because she has included several in every single meal. The super challenging portion of this will be to not drink pop. I love some diet Dr Pepper; however, they do not have that here. I think it’s a good thing they do not have it because I could have it every day and not even think a second thought about it. I do not like coke either so that is another positive thing about this challenge. Water is always refreshing, and it is available everywhere. I hope I am able to continue this trend for the remainder of the trip.