October 1, 2016 | There’s nothing quite like reuniting with host family.
At around noon on a Saturday, Tim and I hopped on a bus at the Intercambiador de Moncloa (a large metro and bus stop west of the city center) and headed to a little village called Navacerrada. During my summer study abroad trip in 2013, I had heard about this pueblo many times from my Spanish host parents, Regina and Carlos. Although they live in the city of Madrid full-time, it’s very common for Spaniards to have country homes in the villages that make up the periphery of the region of Madrid, and theirs is located about 50 minutes northwest of the city center. Carlos, Regina, and a couple of their daughters would be eating paella in Navacerrada that afternoon, and the two of us were invited to join in on the fun.
It’s difficult to describe my enormous excitement at the prospect of reuniting with my host family. Regina and Carlos – both in their early eighties – have five adult daughters and more grandchildren than I can count on my fingers. They adore hosting young women at their apartment in Madrid during the academic year as well as the summer semester, and their hospitality and kindness is truly second-to-none. Although we had talked via FaceTime a handful of times over the past three years, reuniting in person is, of course, far superior. I wouldn’t truly feel that I had arrived in Madrid until I met up with them face-to-face.
The whole day was magnificent. Hugs and kisses were exchanged in abundance before we were given tours of both the house and the surrounding area. We accompanied daughter María Regina and granddaughter María to a local bakery to buy some dessert items such as mini tortas (cakes) and tejas (almond cookies pictured below), and then returned to headquarters to eat a multi-course Spanish meal prepared by Carlos. Our lunch consisted of hearty bread, hummus, and a fried fish appetizer, followed by a mixed salad and an enormous skillet full of paella. As we talked about our jobs, current events, and the economic crisis in Spain, Regina – as she’s wont to do – overfed us to her heart’s content.
Between the tour, the meal, the conversation, and the coffee, we relaxed with the family and spoke tons of Spanish for about five hours. Quite exhausted by the end of it all, Tim and I headed back to Madrid in María Regina’s car and said hasta luego once we got to the metro station.
My heart and my stomach were both pleasantly full, and I’m looking forward to reuniting with them again in the coming weeks.