Woweee, two more weeks down!! I can’t believe it’s the start of week four; the days are still so full!!
With such a variety of activities and places, it is easy to fill your time. I wake up at 7:30 to go to school and I don’t sleep until 12:30 usually! Believe me, there are plenty of ways to spend your time into the night, but I need my sleep! I met some people in class that on several occasions came back to school without having slept the night before, having gone out to the discotecas spending the whole evening!! I have class on Mon/Wed from 8:30am to 11am, and Tues/Thurs from 8:30am to 1pm. I think Civilization and Culture is my favorite class. Everyday we cover different topics within the Spanish culture and view the many facets that it has to offer. Like the US, there are many aspects to another country, and just as many, if not more, to the people who live there. In this blog I will share some of the discussion we had during class, that I have taken in my notes.
As I mentioned, it is difficult to truly describe the feeling of being in another country. There is just as much change as continuity, if not more!! Some brands of food, cars, and fashion are the same, but there are also many unfamiliar ones! For every one thing that you could say is the same, I bet there are three or four differences you’ll find. I will share with you a list of things that me and my classmates have noticed since arriving last month (these are not always true, just a few things we have noticed); light switches are square blocks instead of trigger shapes, people wear shoes inside almost all the time, lunch and dinner are eaten at 3 and 10 respectively, they place and remove a table cloth every time we eat, the unemployment rate is almost 4 times that of the US, they watch the news almost every day during lunch, people air dry their clothes and many people don’t have dryers, water and electricity are way more expensive here. Here, people walk slower in the streets, the day to day life pace is much more relaxed, they don’t split the bills, they tend not to run exactly on schedule, lots of people smoke here, yet their lives seem to be more active. I feel as though going outside is an integral part of a Spanish day. When I walk, I constantly see people out with their dogs or walking their kids… even the elderly people make it a point to get some fresh air!! There are tons of bikers too!!
Spain is a culture of contact, meaning that people walk closely together, share a lot, are very direct, and aren’t afraid of PDA. As I mentioned, the greeting for two people is typically a kiss on each cheek!! The Spanish aren’t afraid to say things directly, and to your face. They don’t smile in the streets but are usually extremely friendly with those whom they are well acquainted with. To be friends with someone in Spain, you should talk about their family and share the good and the bad relatively quickly because they usually share very deep connections and ties to the rest of their relatives. On the same note, we all eat salad out of the same bowl in the middle of the table! I should also say that these differences are neither better nor worse, but simply something for me to accustom to. Many of these habits and customs that I mentioned have perfectly valid and good reasoning as to why they exist. The problem, for me and my friends, is that we have spent our entire lives, almost 22 years, living in the same culture. Because of this, there is a healthy level of culture shock that overtook us. We are slowly starting to overcome the practices that have surrounded us for our lives in order to better appreciate new ones.
As for the last two weeks of my trip, I have done quite a bit! I made it to Seville and Cordoba, two other towns in Andalusia, an autonomous community of Spain. I was able to see some royal castles, exquisite gardens and plazas, the third largest cathedral in the world, a cathedral built within a mosque, and much more. Last night I was able to go mountain biking near the Alhambra with a few friends of mine. Class has been good, nothing too hard yet. People are friendly here, and typically inclusive. It isn’t hard to catch an invite to go get drinks, play a sport, view an event or activity, or go out with a group. I’ve yet to go to a discoteca, but I made it on a hike, and to Granada’s cathedral. I also visited a few local spots, miradors, where I can see the whole city. I secured a guitar to practice with for the semester and am now in contact with several young groups of locals! Tonight I am going to play soccer with a few class friends and some locals! Today in the city there is a large protest against low product prices on behalf of the agricultural sector. Tomorrow I am headed to Barcelona for the weekend to see a soccer game, another huge church, and a famous park among other things!! Once again, it’s even harder this time to fit everything I’ve done in two weeks in a few hundred words!! Spain, you’re doing great.
Once again I’d like to thank my talented friends for allowing me to use their photographs.