Wylie Mednis is just about half way through his Spanish Rotary Exchange trip. He reports periodically from his home stay in Alcala, Spain. The following are his activities and experiences in January.
On New Year’s Day everybody woke up around noon. We were all very tired after having stayed up most of the night. So it was a slow start to the morning but once everybody had a shower and a cup of coffee everything was back to normal. My host mom made a special lunch for the whole family. It started off with mussels then some typical Spanish snacks and finished off with a roasted suckling baby pig. It was all fabulous and it was a great meal to start the year off.
After lunch Niko (my host brother) and I were invited by one of the aunties and her boyfriend to their place in Madrid for the night. That night we went to the cinema and watched The Kings Speech.
On Jan. 9 my dream of seeing a Real Madrid soccer game came true. Real Madrid the second place team in the Spanish league played Villarreal, the third placed team. The game was at Real Madrid’s stadium (Estadio Santiago Bernebeu) which is a huge stadium that can hold up to 80,000 people.
The game started at 7 p.m. and I wanted to get there early so I left at noon and gave myself lots of time. I arrived at the stadium two and a half hours early and had plenty of time to explore the area outside the stadium.
An hour and a half to game time all the fans began to arrive. I joined the many people lining up on the street waiting for the players’ bus to arrive. I waited for about 20 minutes and making sure I had my camera ready. I took it out for a practice test and turned it on. It made a funny noise and the lens only went half way out and then the back screen just died. I took out the batteries and put new ones in and tried again but nothing. My camera was dead!
Ten minutes later I heard a siren and two police bikes passed us followed by the Real Madrid bus. I recognized two players Xabi Alonso and Cristiano Ronaldo. Our seats were about half way up and right in the middle of the field and we had a great view of the pitch. About 15 minutes later Iker Casillas, Real’s main keeper and two back up goalies came out on to the pitch to warm up. A little later both teams came out of the tunnel below the stands onto the field. All the fans started to go crazy. The warm up was super intense on both sides. Finally the match started and the crowd applauded.
Villarreal had possession first and they ended up scoring within the first 10 minutes. Everybody in the stadium was very quiet except for one section with the Villarreal fans. Moments later Real Madrid started to pick it up and Benzema did a nice through ball to Ozil who passed it across the goal area to Ronaldo who easily tapped it in.
The next 10 minutes Villarreal got another goal but it was clearly offside and the linesman was clearly blind so a lot of commotion in the stands and lots of people were doing the loud annoying whistle. Before the end of the first half Real Madrid got a free kick on the outside of the box near the touch line. Xabi Alonso took the free kick and did a beautiful cross to Ronaldo who headed it in to make it 2-2.
In the second half it was all Madrid. They controlled the ball and Villarreal could hardly get a touch on the ball. In the last 20 minutes of the game, Real Madrid was desperate for a goal so they took off a defender for Kaka who had just recovered from a knee injury. Ronaldo had many chances but finally he got a lucky goal to make it 3-2 and then Real Madrid was in command. Villarreal had no choice but to attack so Real Madrid counter attacked and Ronaldo did a nice pass to Kaka who slotted it home nicely and it was his first goal this season. So 4-2 for Real Madrid.
We stayed until the very end whistle and then leaving the stadium was tricky and slow. Imagine 80,000 fans trying to leave all at the same time. The whole day was an amazing dream come true for me. Once again I thought about how lucky I am to be here as a Rotary exchange student in Spain.
January has been a very busy month for sports. I am continuing with my paddle lessons twice a week. I am also playing soccer and high school basketball season has finally started up here. Our original coach quit and we had been trying to run our own practices. I did my part and tried to teach my teammates some drills that we did in Canada.
The school found a new coach for our team just before our first game. Since our coach hadn’t seen us play he didn’t know who to start so he just picked the four tallest guys on the team including me and a short guy for the point guard. It was sloppy basketball at the start, turn over after turn over. Our team finally got possession of the ball and I managed to score. That seemed to be the turning point in the game. From then on our team dominated the game. In the end we won 51-15, and I got 28 points. Everybody on my team was so pumped by the victory. The next day at school a bunch of kids were shocked that I scored that many points and they said the last time that happened was four years ago. So a nice way to start off the season.
In the community that I am living in they have built a new outdoor Astro-turf soccer field a little bit smaller than the one in Quesnel. It has lights so we can play in the evening but it costs a little more. Every week I have been playing about two soccer games with my host brother and his buddies. It’s a create your own seven-member team and its lots of fun. It costs about two Euros to play for an hour and a little bit, so it’s not too expensive and usually the kids have an extra Euro or two to bet players on the other team who’s going to win.
The Spanish are very serious about their soccer. My host brother’s friends are no different. There are no referees for the games so there is lots of commotion when somebody dives or tackles someone. At the end of the game the losing team is usually very angry and there is lots of cursing and one time a kid on the other team got so mad that he walked up to one of our players and gave him a head- butt to the face. So I’m pretty happy that I’m 6’ 2” and no short Spanish kids want to mess with me.
Also this month I had to go get a renewal on my Spanish visa but had no luck. I have been there three times now and every time there’s something wrong. The first time I went, I went with my host mom and we had to drive across Madrid to the embassy. We got there and had to wait in line for a long time. When it was our turn we went up to the lady’s desk and she looked through all my papers. She said something then left to go talk to another guy. He then came over and told us they couldn’t give me my visa because I didn’t have a form from the Spanish embassy in Canada or a notary document signed by my parents to say that I’m living with my host family. So we had to leave and drive all the way back to Alcala unhappy.
When we got home, I had a look through all my papers and eventually found the missing document so I was very happy, but my host mom was a little bit cross with me for not saying to her that I had it. She asked me if I could go the next day by myself to the embassy because she had to take her mother to a doctor’s appointment. I agreed and the next day I got to miss school and go on a day adventure across Madrid. I got a little lost along the way but with a little help I eventually found the place. When I got there I had to do the same thing as before and when it was my turn I went to the desk and the guy checked all my papers and said that everything was perfect but then he looked a little closer and saw that I was a minor. He then asked where my host mom was. I told him she was busy and couldn’t come. He talked to a lady in the back and she asked me if I had my host moms passport or DNI with me. I didn’t, so I had to go back again to Alcala with no darn visa. So the third time I went back there I went with my host mom’s passport and all my papers and waited in line for 10 minutes. Finally it was my turn and went up the same guy’s desk and showed him the passport and all my papers. Again he asked me where my host mom was and I told him the other lady said that I could bring her passport and he told me no I need my host mom to come because I’m a minor yada yada yada. So the third time, disappointment again. Hoping for fourth time lucky.
Well that was January. So a pretty great month with lots of new experiences a couple downs, but lots of ups.
I am about halfway through my amazing Spanish adventure. Heads up to junior high school kids who have a wish to travel and study in a different country come September 2012.
Talk to your guidance counsellor today. Ask about extra courses you can take to prepare. The Rotary Club takes applications September 2011 for travel September 2012. Where have you dreamed of living? Act now Live your dream!