Today was truly a day of families. After sleeping in to catch up on some sleep, we took the train into Alcalá to have lunch with my host family. I was looking forward to the lunch, but was a little nervous about having a meal between two families that spoke two different languages. Would there be a lot of awkward silences or misunderstandings? On the way to the Plaza de Cervantes, I showed my parents a little bit of Alcalá, introducing them to what has been my home for the last 4 months. We walked along Calle Libreros, enjoying the warm sun on a cold December day. We visited Colegio de San Ildefonso and the Plaza Mayor where we walked around for a bit. Turning back after reaching the end of the plaza, I saw my host family waiting for us at the statue of Cervantes.I was a little nervous about the first encounter, but it went better than I could have hoped. Paqui, Juan and Eva embraced all of us with a warm hug and dos besos. Soon we were talking away with me and Eva as the translators and each of our respective parents trying to make out what they could of the others’ language. My mom did her best to thank Paqui and Juan in Spanish, with Paqui helping her through it as needed. We talked for a bit in the plaza and I even met some of their extended family who were walking through the plaza at the same time. Everyone was extremely kind and it felt like a family reunion more than anything.
After some small talk we left the plaza and headed to the Parador where my parents wanted to treat Paqui, Juan and Eva to lunch for taking care of me over these last few months. I had never been inside the parador, but they are known throughout Spain for being impeccable, elegant hotels. The parador in Alcalá is barely a year old and creates an interesting mix of modern architecture and interior design within the ancient setting of Alcalá’s beautiful university buildings. We found the dining room and decided on the exquisite buffet which provided a first course of salad, cheese, meats, and paella, a second course of our choosing, and a buffet of desserts, as well as drinks. With such a broad array of food at our disposal how could we say no?
The meal passed quite rapidly as we moved from salad to paella and migas to our main dish and eventually onto dessert. While I had been nervous about the conversation during the meal, it ended up being quite fun, with Eva and myself translating back and forth into English and Spanish and each of our parents trying to make out what the others were saying. This resulted in some comical misunderstandings and mispronunciations that just added to the meal and conversation. Time flew by and before we knew it dusk was on its way and our bellies were full.
Juan and Paqui graciously invited us home for merienda, which consists of a post meal drink and snack. It was a bit strange being back in the house after leaving it earlier in the week when I took the bus to the airport with everyone from the program. I knew I’d be likely be going back, but it was strange to see the room without my belongings in it, in the same state is was when I arrived in Alcalá. It wasn’t as if I had never been there, however, as Paqui had put the photograph I’d given the family on the desk in the bedroom. We all sat around the coffee table, with Wall-E and Chiqui (I never found out how to spell her name) running around our feet and jumping on my lap from time to time. We passed the afternoon lightheartedly, making small talk while listening and caring about the topics in a true SPanish manner. It was a fantastic afternoon and was more than I could ask for as a conclusion to my semester studying abroad. My host family and my real family eating and talking together as one. As the evening drew on we said our goodbyes and hasta luegos, exchanging contact information so that we can stay in touch in the future. I feel incredibly lucky to have had such a great host family, one that takes an interest in their students’ lives and wellbeing while also allowing us to explore and discover Spain and its culture on our own. Thank you guys for everything!
As my last day in Alcalá (for the time-being) drew to a close I showed my parents some of my favorite spots in the town, including the Plaza del Palacio Arzobispal and Calle Mayor and Plaza de Cervantes at night. We dined at La Española for tapas in true Alcalá style, then took the bus back to Madrid to view a little of the surrounding city on the ride home. Wonderful to be able to share the city and family that has been home for the last few months with my family!