Bremerton exchange student: Life of a Spaniard is one I was meant to live | Column
November 28, 2008 · 8:44 AM
Editor’s Note: Grant Clarridge and fellow Bremerton Rotary exchange student Adriana Alexander each appear in the Bremerton Patriot every other month.
After spending two-and-a-half months in Spain, I have come to really enjoy this new way of life. I feel I have found a culture that actually fits my personality better than the culture I grew up around. From the wonderful idea of the siesta (a daily nap after lunch) to the Marcha (what we might call nightlife), it feels as though the Spanish way of life was created for me.
After living here in Melilla, I have come to notice some downsides to American society that I had not noticed before, but I have come to appreciate some aspects as well. In general, the people here are much more open and friendly to each other, though there is definitely a lack of diversity here. Essentially, everyone is either Spanish or Moroccan. The typical way of life for a Spaniard is quite relaxed. Normally they only work about six hours a day and often are able to come home for lunch at 3 p.m. and take a siesta.
Another interesting difference is that I have yet to see a Spaniard who is drunk, even though they have access to alcohol at a younger age than in the United States. They seem to be more responsible with it and view it as a way to socialize, rather than to simply become drunk. There is even quite a large number of Spaniards who do not drink at all.
Another not-so-shocking difference is the rate of overweight people is much lower here. An average person here eats much less than an average American and almost never eats fast food.
The education system in Spain is definitely not good, being the worst in Europe, according to my host father, with a 30 percent high school dropout rate. The reason, they do not use substitute teachers here as in the United States. When a teacher does not come to school, we simply do not have that class that day. Although I cannot say I complain too loudly when this occurs, I do think the system could be improved. Also, instead of having students change classrooms for each class as in the U.S., here the teachers change classrooms. I imagine this must be much harder for the teachers, as they are unable to have all the materials on hand in the classroom they might need for each class. One positive aspect of the school system here is the mandatory Science for the Modern World class, where we learn about climate change and things we need to do in order to reduce pollution and slow the effects of global warming.
On the brighter side, I have reached the point where I can communicate in Spanish without too much difficulty as long as I am not speaking with more than two people at once. One of the main reasons I wanted to come to Spain, other than learning and living in a new culture, was to improve my Spanish. Now that I am showing noticeable progress, I couldn’t be happier.
Although I am living in Spanish North Africa, I fortunately have had the chance to see a bit of mainland Spain. Aside from the initial Rotary exchange student get-together in Madrid when I first arrived, I have gone back to mainland Spain with my family on a three-day visit. It was quite fascinating and I was able to see Spanish culture at its finest. After our stay in Madrid, we went to the ancient and beautiful city of Cordoba where I got a tour of the famous La Mezquita (Spanish for mosque). The architecture and the art within were breathtaking. Also, to my good fortune, my host family is taking me to Malaga for a week in December.
This has been an amazing experience for me. Already I am sure I will miss it desperately when I return to the U.S. My life and all aspects of it have changed into that of a Spaniard’s, and let me just say, I’m loving it. They say when you go to a new country with a different culture you have to adapt, which is often difficult, but this was not the case for me. It seems to me there could be two reasons for this: Either the Spanish people have figured out a near-perfect way of life or, maybe at heart, soy Español (I am Spanish).
Grant Clarridge’s next column will appear in the Bremerton Patriot the last Saturday of the month in January.