Not Completely “All Play and No Work”

Journal Entry: March 20, 2012

So, I know I’ve been talking about the trips I’ve been on and the friends I’ve made, but I can’t forget that I’m doing something else while I’m here, too— school.  Yeah, sadly, I’m still a student and can’t just go off gallivanting through Spain whenever I feel like it.  Sometimes I forget that school exists, though, because we never have any homework.  But then I get an assignment like THIS one, and it’s a rude awakening.

In one of my classes (Social Psychology Applied to Advertising — it’s not as interesting as I originally thought, mainly because the profesora isn’t very good), we had a group project where we had to create some advertising and promo items for a conference. No sweat, right? If I could survive ADV4800, I can handle anything.

But what happened was that we decided to do the whole thing in one sitting. Everything done, all at once, Sunday night. Even though it was due on Wednesday.

So, to make a very long, miserable story short: I left my house at 6 PM, thinking I’d be back in time for dinner at 10 PM.  I came back at 8 AM the next day.

That was my first school-related all-nighter in Spain! (remember Barcelona? Those were like 2 or 3 all-nighters in a row)

Good news: We finished!

Bad news: After getting back home I had the most massive, unhealthy (death by carbohydrates) breakfast imaginable, then slept through my first class that day.

Hopefully that won’t be happening ever again.

Oh, and fun little anecdote: We went to do the project at my friend Ana’s house, where she lives with her parents.  Her mom is a little firecracker, and she got a kick out of the fact that I’m an American. While we took a brief dinner break, she ended up grilling me about all sorts of fun topics like American politics, Obama, and abortion. SO. MUCH. FUN.

(NOT!)

Breakfast à la Americano!

The same weekend as our trip to Córdoba, my friend Robbie and I got together at his Spanish friend’s apartment to make some bona-fide American meals!  The most important (and famous) is breakfast, of course, so we made scrambled eggs with bacon and toast, then pancakes with strawberries and whipped cream on top!  For lunch we made the Spaniards some BLT sandwiches.  Robbie entertained our Spanish host and her friends by playing his harmonica for them.  We had plans to make grilled cheese sandwiches, but everyone was way too full by then!  It was a lot of fun to make those meals to share a bit of our culinary culture, and at the same time Robbie and I got to enjoy some comfort food from back home.  It was a win-win!
Making the pancakes!And Robbie plays the harmonica, too!You know you want some.More and more kept arriving!

Mama, Papa, I’m sorry. I’ve become a thief.

Journal Entry: March 4, 2012

I know you’ve raised me better than this, but my circumstances have made me this way! I’m not alone, either. All of the American girls have become thieves.

You see, the problem is this: There is no toilet paper in Sevilla. Let me rephrase that. There is hardly ever any toilet paper in any of the restrooms in Sevilla. With the exception of your bathroom at home, you won’t find it. I can’t believe I haven’t written about this before, cuz it’s a pretty big deal.

As a result, the American girls have resorted to thievery. Yes, thievery. Although it shames me… I steal the cheap paper napkins from the little metal napkin dispensers at restaurants and store them in my purse for later use as toilet paper. THERE! I admit it! I’m sorry! I just don’t know what else to do! The boys don’t know how easy they have it. But you know what the worst part of it is? The napkins aren’t even soft like toilet paper. They feel more like wax paper; they make crinkly noises.

Also, it’s crazy how we’ve adapted to our environment. Before we figured out the napkin trick (it took us about a week and a half), a lot of the girls would stop drinking water prior to heading out so that they wouldn’t have to use the bathroom.

Just the other day, one of my friends was stepping out of a café’s bathroom when I felt “the urge.” These were the words that came out of my mouth regarding the bathroom: “Is it clean? Scratch that. Is there toilet paper?” To which she responded with an elated, “YES! It actually has toilet paper!”

I’ll never take toilet paper for granted again.

WIG PARTY

The Thursday after my trip to Barcelona, I got invited to the birthday party of one of the Spaniards in my class.  It was all girls, and it was themed: WIG PARTY!!! (Fiesta de la Peluca)  Well, silly me, I didn’t bring any of my pelucas to Spain, so I had to borrow one from my Spanish friend, Maria.  The wig was long and red, and I had a blue/green dress, so I decided to go as the Little Mermaid!

Hear my beautiful siren's voice?You know we're sexy.

The food was “Mexican” — so basically tacos and guacamole.  But it was so good!  One of the girls was going as Nikki Minaj, so she got creative and stuffed a pillow down the back of her leggings to give her a more “voluptuous” figure.  After much picture-taking, we hit the streets of Sevilla and attracted lots of strange looks and playful cat calls. 😉

Friends!Walking the streets of Sevilla. Yup.

We even met up with some of my American friends on Calle Alfalfa! I had a great time with the girls that night, and they enjoyed practicing their English and also teaching us all sorts of words and phrases popular among the young Spanish crowd these days.  A great night!

We met up w/ my friends! LOL @ KatherineThat's a good look for you, Robbie!
Bearded Katherine ^^^ & Robbie was such a good sport with that white wig! ^^^

It’s MAGIC.

I came down with the flu (see post: “Blaaaarrrggghhhh”) on Monday morning and didn’t leave my bed unless it was to use the bathroom for two entire days. My host-mom, Margarita, made a jarabe for me that she makes for her daughter when she’s sick, and gave it to me on Tuesday night. It’s made of onions, garlic, honey, and something else. It was actually pretty good! All you had to do was dip a spoon into it, fill it with the liquid concoction, and sip it.  By Wednesday I was feeling better but still made sure I got enough rest and water because I did not want to ruin my trip to Barcelona by being sick. I lost 6 lbs in two days, so that’s not healthy. I focused on recuperating my strength on Wednesday. By Thursday (travel day) I was all better!!

The magical concoction that restored my health!

Blaaarrgggghhh

Journal Entry: March 6, 2012

That’s probably the most accurate description for how I feel right now.

Honestly, I’m a little surprised it took me so long to get sick in Spain. Anyone who knew me through college can attest to the fact that I catch everything. It seemed like I was on antibiotics at least once or twice every semester. So, it was only a matter of time before I caught some sort of illness here in Spain.

So what do I have? I have gripe, as it’s called here. Back home we call it the flu. Cough? Check. Fever? Check. Massive headache? Check. Entire body in pain? Check. It hit me yesterday when I woke up, and I’ve been bed-ridden since. I’m feeling a lot better today though. It’s miraculous what sleep and Motrin can do! But hopefully it’ll clear up within the next day or so, because I’m flying to Barcelona this Thursday! I’ll be really mad if some stupid flu ruins my weekend in fabulous Barcelona.

And trust me, you won’t like me when I’m mad. I get angry when I’m mad!

Leap Year 2012

Well, the night started out well enough.  We all decided to meet at Plaza de España near the Parque Maria Luisa.  Except, nobody knew that the park closed at 10:00 PM.  Robbie (remember the nice guy who walked me home after my first night clubbing in Sevilla? He ended up becoming one of my best friends!) had arrived early and as a result had still been inside when the park was locked up for the night.  When we got there, we came to the realization that Robbie was locked inside the Parque Maria Luisa!  We searched for a place where he might safely be able to climb out without skewering himself on the sharp tips of the gate surrounding the park, and after an impressive feat of acrobatics, he managed to get out and we were able to start our festivities!

We crossed over a bridge and into Triana, where we went to a pub called Phoenix and had a grand old time watching fútbol highlights and chatting.  Next we walked along the party street, Calle Bétis, situated right on the Guadalquivir River.  This night we discovered what was to become our favorite bar: Alambique. On Mondays and Wednesdays you get either a beer or sangria plus a shot of tequila for only 1.50 Euro, and on Tuesdays tequila shots are only 50 centimos. Needless to say, we made a habit of frequenting Alambique on weekdays. We stayed there until about 3 AM (early for a Spaniard’s standards), but not without making art first. Enjoy our glass, salt, and lemon sculpture. Even the bartender joined in!

Robbie walked me home, as usual, and I had a wonderful and memorable Leap Year!

Note: The legal drinking age in Spain is 18.

Robbie's escape attempt.A masterpiece.Katherine, Kevin, me, StevaughnI laughed so hard at Robbie's face!

18 Things I Missed….

…that Make Me Sound like a Spoiled Rotten American Brat:

**I hope there are no misunderstandings– I absolutely LOVED my time in Spain; there are many things I liked about it that I felt were much better than what we have in the United States, and I have plans to move back there in the future.  I did, however, experience culture shock while I was there, and wanted to share parts of my experience with you.  These are the things that I missed from my life in the U.S., and how I felt about it at the time.**

1. Dryers: I missed the feeling of warm clothes right out of the dryer. And closely related to that…

2. Fabric Softener: Need I say more?

3. To-Go Boxes: If I paid for it, why can’t I take it home with me to finish eating later? *pouts*

4. Customer Service: I received great customer service at many restaurants, but in my experience, poor service occurred far more often than what we (the U.S. American students) were used to. Sometimes, our waiters were obviously in a sour mood, or you could tell they were treating us differently for being foreigners (I know it wasn’t because we were acting obnoxious or anything like that; my group of friends was really respectful and we always tried our darnedest to integrate).  We just chalked it up to the fact that the waiters in Spain don’t work for tips, so we figured they might not care as much about making a good impression on the study abroad students.  Whatever the case, when ever we had a negative experience in a restaurant, we’d miss the customer service we had grown up with.

On the flip side, I’d like to mention that I really enjoyed how the waiters in Spain don’t hover around your table nagging you with the endless cycle of, “Is everything alright?” and “How is everything here?” or “Can I get this plate out of your way?”  I worked at a restaurant in the U.S. before coming to Spain, and we were taught to constantly check on the customers, so I know what it’s like both from the customer’s perspective and the waiter’s.   Before leaving for Spain I’d never noticed it, but since my return to the U.S. it has taken me a while to get used to again.

5. Cleaning Up After Your Dog: FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS GOOD AND HYGIENIC!  Many in Sevilla cleaned up after their dogs, but many didn’t.  There was doggie poo all over the place! Not just on the grass; 50% of it was right in the middle of the sidewalk. I had way too many close calls!

6. Tissues: If I had a runny nose, toilet paper was my only option. Where the Kleenex at? (Towards the end of my stay in Sevilla, I found tissues at a Mercadona, so I just figured that my host-mom wasn’t in the habit of buying them.)

7. Chocolate: The selection in Sevilla was very limited, and very expensive. *sigh* What’s a girl to do?

8. Free refills: Especially for water. One tiny glass of water with my meal wasn’t enough, and I was often dehydrated.  I got accustomed to carrying a bottle of water around with me and refilling it whenever the opportunity presented itself.

9. Peanut Butter: Peanut Butter. Peanut Butter. PEANUT BUTTER.

10. 24-Hour Convenience Stores: What if I felt sick all of a sudden and wanted to make a midnight run to the local 24-hour pharmacy to get some Tylenol? Or, more importantly, if I got the 4 AM munchies after partying with friends???  I finally found a 24-hour store near the Alameda de Hercules in May, but by then I only had 2 weeks left in Sevilla!

11. Central Heating: It could get REALLY cold in our apartment at night during February. Brrr!

12. Big Breakfasts: Toast drizzled with olive oil was nice, but on Saturday mornings I missed pancakes with maple syrup and whipped cream and blueberries.  Or a bagel with some cream cheese spread on it.  Or muffins. Mmmmm….

13. Blueberries: I never once saw a single blueberry in Spain, and they’re one of my favorite fruits. Sad face.

14. Limes: I only saw lemons in Spain.  Once on the Balearic Island of Mallorca I saw limes, and I went NUTS.  I took a picture of them and started excitedly gesturing for my Mallorcan friend to come over and see the limes I had found.  He looked at me like I might need to take a trip to the loony bin.  But I was so excited!  In accordance with my Latin American heritage, I enjoy putting lime juice and salt on a variety of foods.

15. My Car: I missed you, baby! The bus was fine (public transportation in Spain is actually pretty awesome), but it couldn’t compare to the freedom that a car gives you.  However, I did enjoy that a car wasn’t necessary like it often is in the U.S. — I really enjoyed strolling around the city to admire the beautiful buildings and parks (while avoiding stepping in dog poop).

16. Free Public Restrooms: More often than not I’d have to duck into a café or a McDonald’s and buy the cheapest thing so I could officially be a “customer” who was allowed to use their restrooms.  This was also a problem at beaches.  There weren’t public restrooms close to the beach, so in February and March when the water was WAY too cold to wade in past your knees, we’d have to make a long trek away from the beach to find any bathrooms.

17. Free Public Swimming Pools: Right around when May came along, I was really missing being able to take a dip in a nice, refreshing pool, but it was not a good deal for me to pay for the membership costs because I would be leaving Sevilla very soon.

And last but most certainly not least:

18. My Family: I LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Question for the Readers:  What, if anything, have you missed from your home country while you were abroad?

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Sometime in the near future I’ll start posting about this odd creature called Reverse Culture Shock, and the things I miss from Spain now that I’m stateside. Quick preview: almost everything!

Lovin’ me some Spanish architecture

El Puente de la Barqueta

I crossed this bridge every day to go to class! It’s overshadowed by its more famous sibling, el Puente del Alamillo, but el Puente de la Barqueta was my Chosen One. This made me appreciate the Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava. He is also designing the new World Trade Center transportation hub in New York City.