Friday, November 5, 2010
First month (and two weeks) in Spain!
Hello and welcome,
Here we are again and I have to start with wow. Just wow. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been in Spain for over a month. As you might have noticed, this post finds me at a little over a month and two weeks in foreign lands. This entry is so late because I honestly did not realize how long it has been. I began thinking about my time here after my last post and I was so surprised I had to count the days twice. Forty-six! And again, forty-six! What can I say about a country after forty-six days? Well here it is:
Spain is fantastic. I know it’s surprising, but I love it here. Spain is without doubt different from the States, and the difference is in the details. These sorts of distinctions are difficult to describe, but I’ll do my best. In a word, life in Spain is concentrated. Everything here feels more vivid, intense, and real then what I knew in the States. Life in the States is not bad. The difference is akin to drinking one glass of orange juice from a carton then drinking a second glass that was squeezed right in front of you. You are still drinking orange juice, but the second glass is different. It’s real, fresh, unpreserved, and tamper-free. Life in Spain is the second glass.
To start with, the food here is the easiest difference to notice. I’m a food person, so trying the local fare has always been a huge part of any travel experience. Food here is easy to define but difficult to explain. Simply put, it is raw. The most important thing in Spanish cuisine is the ingredients. They prefer to make dishes that focus on the natural flavors of the components with less emphasis on spices. Farmer’s markets, as we would call them, are rampant here. Virtually every town has some sort of place where you can buy local goods. Coming from a place with limited access to open markets, I find this amazing. The market in La Línea is open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. I buy almost all of my food from the market and it is probably my favorite thing about Spain. Needless to say, the produce I used to get from Walmart and Kroger (and even from Whole Foods) doesn’t compare. The opportunity to meet the people who grow your food and develop relationships with them is priceless. Even outside of the market, it’s easy to notice the differences. Canned goods and such in the supermarkets all contain fewer ingredients and fewer preservatives than similar foods in the States. Processed foods not only barely exist, but are more expensive than their raw counterparts.
As far as culture, society, and politics are concerned; the situation here is mercurial. On one hand Spaniards take a to-each-his-own approach and on the other hand they are louder and more given to passions then Americans. Americans hold to a puritanesque type of social interaction. We live privately; stepping lightly in conversation and politics as not to offend anyone, and have a hard time accepting people who stray from our social norms. In contrast, Spaniards live and talk very publicly. They are loud and open with their opinions, but at the same time allow people to live their own life. People here aren’t concerned about hurting your feelings because you shouldn’t take it personal. As a Spaniard told us in orientation, the most popular sport here is conversation. You are expected to voice your opinion, defend it, but not take any opposition to heart.
Away from America, I feel liberated. In the States everyone is so touchy and sensitive and worried about being politically correct. We are so worried about offending each of the thousands of social groups that no one can do anything. We are confined by our overly-mutated sensibilities. I feel that in Spain I can just be. I can be alive, I can be open-minded, I can live in the moment, I can do whatever I want within my own home, and no one cares. It’s fantastic.
This first month (and two weeks) has been enlightening and I have high hopes for the rest of my stay here.
Until next time,