I knew that my life in Salamanca would be different than New York City, and have discovered that these differences are mostly in Salamanca’s favor. If only I could return to New York with my extended midday meals and late night churros and conversation in the Plaza Mayor.
A harder adjustment for me was living in a country where pretty much everyone shared a religious identity. Although I never felt uncomfortable being Jewish in Salamanca, it was sometimes strange to be Jewish in a country where most people assume you are also Christian. In New York, it’s pretty hard to assume anything about anyone, so when I say I’m Jewish this usually doesn’t come as a surprise. However, in Salamanca, the subject of my religion never came up with my homestay family, and I never mentioned it. For four weeks, I slept with a picture of the Virgin Mary clasping her hands in prayer over my bed. Although this never bothered me, I did think about whether I should tell my homestay family that I was Jewish. It became a little awkward when my Spanish madre served jamon for lunch and was disappointed that I didn’t want any. “All the chicas like it,” she assured me, but I never felt it was the right time to explain that I had never eaten ham, and even more, why that was. Luckily, we found so much common ground in our love of vegetables and fruits, I felt quite at home with my Salamanca family, even with the Virgin Mary praying over me each night.
In the few moments I needed something to remind me of home, I would go to Gimnasio Kronos, my Spanish gym. When the manager of Kronos told me that I could buy a month long membership for 32 Euros, I grabbed my wallet and never looked back (aka the best decision I made while in Salamanca). Not only did Kronos solve my fitness concerns, it also provided a remedy to the lukewarm showers at my homestay. I assure you, there is bottomless hot water at Kronos.
For those of you looking for a gym far away from home, here are a few things to expect at Gimnasio Kronos:
- Every class starts 10 minutes late (at the earliest)
- There is no air conditioning, but if you’re feeling hot, stand in front of the one fan in the back of the gym
- Classes are cancelled when España is playing in the World Cup (without notice)
For a taste of home, stick to the following classes:
- Similar to spinning classes in the United States, you will move through three positions on the stationary bike. The class takes place in the dark, but don’t worry, there is a disco ball with strobe lights to help you see. Expect to sweat like crazy to the beat of the teacher’s fire playlist, or the sound of him screaming “vamos vamos”. Expect to hear at least one of your favorite Disney musical songs in Spanish. For my first class, I was treated to Mulan’s, “I’ll Make a Man out of You”, but I had to wait until my last class to hear my favorite song from the Lion King, “I Just Can’t Wait to be King”.
- I thought being a regular at my Brooklyn YMCA class (shout out to my instructor Michael) would prepare me for Zumba anywhere, but I kid you not, the instructor in Salamanca, and pretty much everyone else in her class, danced like PROFFESSIONALS. Each song featured what must have been 10 different dance combinations that would change with each verse! I spent my the first class looking like a fool, but don’t you worry, there is a happy ending. By my third class, I became a professional too (at least in my mind).
- G.A.P. (Glutas, Abdomen, Piernas)
- Like CrossFit on steroids: Cardio, strength training, body weight matrix, and flexibility all in one class. We moved through different routines featuring exercises that target specific regions of the body all to the beat of a pounding electric playlist. Don’t expect to be able to walk FOR DAYS after this class.
My Judaism aside, the gym at Salamanca took me right back home and occasionally beyond!