My birthday always falls during finals week. Usually by the time the day comes, some friends have gone home and some have locked themselves away in a library, fighting off Facebook and other temptations. However here I face a different set of obstacles. Everyone is still in Madrid, but it’s the beginning of our last week, finals are just beginning, and I’m turning 21 abroad.
However, this day can be filed under ‘why homestays are the best.’ I woke up early and received messages from caffeinated friends in the U.S., still awake and studying in Gelman library. Shortly after breakfast my host mom woke up and greeted me with a little gift. “¡Feliz cumple!” It was simple silver and leather wrap bracelet and was such a lovely surprise.
For lunch, my host mom cooked her famous paella, accompanied by morcilla, toast with tomatoes, and delicious sangria for two of my friends and me. The night before I went to dinner with a group which encompassed a magnitude of mojitos and tapas and dim lighting. Despite being so far away, my birthday this year was probably the coziest I’ve had in years. Later in the afternoon I went on a walk, despite the cold and drizzly weather, with a cappuccino in one hand, and an umbrella in the other. After drifting in and out of a couple stores, most notably a Real Madrid store, I bartered with a family of florists to buy a bouquet of flowers to bring back to my host mom.
Even though the directors forgot about my birthday, this weekend highlights the benefits of a homestay and the kindness of the family you have abroad. Whenever my friends and I spend time together, we always chat about our host families and their antics. I know all about the architect dad and his rambunctious sons, the mom and her cool CD and teapot collections, the host brother and his nameless band, and the housekeeper with her teething toddler. At the end of the day, we all go back home to our families, chatting away in Spanish, about our friends and our city adventures. I’ve learned Spanish words for clumsy, cheesy, and such, all because of my friends and their host families and I wouldn’t have it, or my birthday, any other way.