One thing that I worried about before coming to Cádiz was what my family and the people in the city would be like. When I arrived in Cádiz my host “mom” came to pick me up from the train station and I learned about the rest of my host family from her. I found out more information about my host dad and host sister while she drove me to what would be my home for the next three weeks.
Their home, as well as the city of Cádiz, absolutely stunned me with it’s perfection. The homes in Cádiz are beautiful in such a close-knit, beachy way, and I was so excited to see where I was going to live after I got my first look at the city. This is the type of place that could easily be featured in a movie (I learned recently that the beach La Caleta, which is less than 400m from our home, was featured in one of the James Bond movies as the set of Havana). It is the kind of place where it is common to dry your clothing on a clothesline, to open the window ano catch the beach breeze and to talk to your neighbors who are always close by (we can see in the kitchen of one of the homes of a friend from my room), and, honestly, it is the perfect place to do a vacation or a study abroad.
One of my favorite things about Spain is the “siesta“. The siesta is a time period of about three hours in the middle of the day where it is completely normal to sleep or to relax. I practice this important cultural custom every day after my classes. You go to school every Monday through Thursday for approximately four and a half hours, and after the siesta, you have the rest of your day to explore, which is exactly what I have been doing all week.
After the first day of school, I spent my time getting lost “in the right direction” I journeyed with a friend along the coastline (to the right, if you look at a map) through the mix of streets that we thought might be semi-parallel to the water, with the intention of walking until we couldn’t figure out here we were, and having to ask in Spanish how to get back to the house. We ended up being gone for about two hours, and generally we saw the homes, the streets and the shops of the city, but we also got a better idea of our surroundings and what the people of Cádiz are like.
On another day I went to the left via the coastline, got bored with following the path, and ended up trying to find a quicker way around the city to the top of the map (or the North, whichever way you would like to look at it), so I started cutting through streets to get there. I ended up running into a multitude of plazas (Plaza España, Plaza de San Juan de Dios, Plaza de Flores, and others) that held stores, restaurants, and gorgeous churches, as well as well-groomed parks on the way, and made it the entire way there without getting completely lost (just very distracted). On the way back, however, is a different story. All of the plazas on the way back to the house looked the same to me, and everything now looked familiar because I had already seen it on the journey there. I walked in circles for two more hours until I got back, which did not help me understand my location in any way, but was so worth doing.
I took a few more days to get lost in different directions (and to find the Catedral de Cádiz). I headed towards the beach, the park, the plazas, and the bigger parts of the city, which really allowed me to get a feel for the various parts of the city, and to experience the different pieces of the culture of Cádiz. My intention was to better understand my surroundings, and I could gain that knowledge by putting myself in a situation where I knew almost nothing. So, essentially, I managed to dissolve my fears of traveling while at the same time learning more about Cádiz, which I found to be an effective and exciting way to start my journey with my study abroad program in Spain.