The Program

As I mentioned in the last post, I met a couple of girls when I first arrived at the meeting place and we went to a local empanada place to pass the time.  When we got back, a bus full of other conversation assistants arrived and everything began to feel more real. There were people from all over the place: England, Scotland, Canada, the US, & even Singapore. After everyone got settled in their rooms the program set up some group activities to help us get to know each other and also tell us a little more about the program.  During lunch, the girl I was rooming with heard a distressed meowing and we found an adorable baby kitten who hadn’t yet opened its eyes.  We were so focused on this little kitty that we could not focus on the activities (although honestly they were pretty boring)! I guess cats are internationally adorable.

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Everyone was eager to get to know the other people but the sad truth was that we were all going to be split up the next day.  Some people were placed in a school as far as 3 hours away from Barcelona city, and the girl I connected with most was going to be about an hour and a half away.  A couple of the schools and cities had been assigned 2 or 3 conversation assistants, but unfortunately that was not the case for me.  We were all scrambling to find people who would be near to us and try to get contact information, despite the awful wifi connection.  As the hours passed, it became more and more real.  For awhile there it did not even feel like I was in Europe, perhaps just a summer camp and I would be home in a few days.

Orientation. And people taking pictures of people taking pictures.

Orientation. And people taking pictures of people taking pictures.

The next morning we were woken up early and had to pack everything up.  We went through a couple of hours of orientation, discussing our responsibilities and how to get along with the host family.  Then we were all led to this outdoor seating area to await our host family’s arrival.  We all watched nervously as families began to show up, wondering if each group could potentially be our new family for the next 3 months.  We all tried to maintain conversation with each other and feign interest, but it was very difficult because it felt like our fate was hanging in the balance.

Exploring the hostel we were staying at in Barcelona during coffee breaks.

Exploring the hostel we were staying at in Barcelona during coffee breaks.

Slowly people’s names were called as their families arrived.  Within 15 minutes one of the CAPS coordinators called my name and I felt my heart stop briefly.  However, my family had not yet arrived; instead, they were asking me to answer a few questions for then on video.  I found this very strange; why had they asked for me by name and not anyone else out of the other 150 or so conversation assistants? I probably looked like a fool, I was so nervous I was probably visibly shaking.  I decided to take their decision in choosing me as a compliment.

In the end, I was one of the last people to be picked up by their host families. The mother, Maria, picked me up along with her daughter, Francesca.  The father, Paco, was away in Valencia with his other children. We lugged all of my luggage down the street to their car and quickly picked up conversation about our lives and how excited we were.  Francesca was very shy in the beginning, but Maria was amazingly fluent in English and made it extremely easy to hold a conversation.  We soon arrived in Badalona to their flat, a very lovely and modern place with two large terraces with excellent views.

Maria is a very healthy cook, which I was happy to find out.  Perhaps I will not gain weight this trip, but lose! For dinner we had grilled salmon, a salad, and a zucchini and carrot soup that was surprisingly delicious.  I am so thankful that this family has opened up their home to me, and I really look forward to this amazing experience. I was also introduced to Maria’s mother, niece, and nephew.  Later in the day, we met my tutor from the school and had a coffee as we discussed some of the basics of the school.  It was so interesting to walk down the streets of Badalona… although it is a big city, Maria seemed to bump into at least 5 families she knew. Big city, small town vibe.

I am very happy to have been placed into such a welcoming family and to be in such a convenient location 🙂 I can’t wait to see what this adventure holds next!

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