Posted by klotito on December 12, 2016 in honors, Uncategorized
Coffee could be a meal, right? I’m sitting in an empty lecture hall, calculating the nutritional benefits of my study drug of choice.
I added almond milk, so there’s some protein. Carbs for energy from the sugar- crap, I used stevia. I don’t think that has any nutritional value.
I know I’m going to throw off my feeble attempt at a proper daily schedule if I don’t eat dinner soon, but the caffeine is still suppressing my appetite by some physiological mechanism that I should probably understand, but don’t.
UB is being conservative with the heating and it’s starting to hamper my attempt to learn the benefits and barriers of telerehabilitation. The polar vortex creeps in, wrapping around my fingers and freezing my muscles until I can’t feel my hands. I decide that I am far too incapacitated to scribble out another flashcard, so I procrastinate a bit longer and try to warm up.
I bound up and down the steps of the lecture hall a few times, but by lap 5, I am distinctly reminded that I have not run nor gone to the gym in at least a month.
Panting, I sit back down and wonder, for the hundred-thousandth time, how I am ever supposed to help rehabilitate and teach people how to live healthier, happier lives, when I feel like a barely-functional human myself.
I’ll eat some vegetables when I go back to the apartment, I promise myself. Whenever that is.
I abandon my pity-party with a reminder that at least I’m more prepared and motivated than I was before Thanksgiving break. Maybe I won’t destroy my GPA! Maybe I won’t cry every day this week! Maybe I’ll get 8 hours of sleep once or twice!
I scoff to myself at that last thought. Okay, your dreams are getting a little lofty here, I think, as I skim through another study guide.
With one final out of the way, I have just five more tests in seven more days. After that, I’ll have nearly six weeks to be a real person who reads and exercises and pays attention to world events.
Just finish strong, insists a vestige of high school track in my head. The runner mantra has clearly outlasted any muscle or cardiovascular endurance I had.
My break has been more than sufficient, so I take a deep breath and put my earbuds in. Cheery flamenco instrumentals play and I flip through flashcards again, subconsciously wishing I was in Granada instead of Buffalo’s arctic tundra.
Yeah, but you fell asleep studying and got a 20% on one of your finals in Spain, I remind myself.
With a steady supply of coffee, I can at least do better than that.
Aesthetically pleasing finals survival kit.
Posted by klotito on October 27, 2016 in Uncategorized
Halloween is fast approaching, and creative costumes that don’t involve cultural appropriation or internet memes seem few and far between. With midterms muddling my brain with nonsense like information pertinent to my future career, I’ve hardly thought about how I’m going to celebrate. Throwing together an outfit last minute seems blasphemous for such a sacred and revered holiday, so I scoured the recesses of my imagination to come up with some ideas that really stand out from the crowd of articles with titles like “27 Insanely Simple and Relatable Halloween Costumes for Millennials.” If you’ve exhausted your creative capacities and still come up short, these may be just the inspiration you need! Don’t wind up standing in a ravaged costume aisle at your local party store, staring listlessly at a lone, synthetic “sexy bumblebee” costume. Render yourself unrecognizable with these novel ideas!
1. Are the study snacks getting to you? Have you microwaved one too many Easy Mac cups? Slip on a muscle suit, pretend you’re not panting after one flight of stairs and you’ll be an Instagram fitness model faster than anyone can ask what the macros are for a pumpkin spice latte! Dress as a Physically Fit Student this year to explore your wildest fantasies of good health.
2. If you haven’t slept for more than 4 hours a night any time in the last 3 months/years, then this is the costume for you! Buy out your local drugstore’s under-eye concealer, consume copious amounts of espresso and hit the town as a Well-Rested Student!
3. Not satisfied with your latest diet of peanut butter and jelly smeared on the only remaining bits of bread untouched by green mold for lack of grocery funds? Disguise yourself as an Affluent Wegmans Shopper! Carry red and orange bell peppers all evening to ensure that your peers know you don’t care that they’re two dollars more per pound than green peppers. Don’t bat an eyelash at purchasing avocados at full price. Tell everyone you can’t wait to try kombucha even though you don’t have a clue what it is, and finish it all off by peeling out of the party in a car manufactured in this decade.
4. If you often find yourself learning new material at 7:58 on the day of an 8:00 am exam and wondering when you last washed your hair, explore a new lifestyle for a night in a Prepared for the Exam costume! Wear neat clothing pulled out of your closet rather than off your floor, be pleasant and optimistic when classmates ask how you feel about the exam, and refrain from making muffled distress sounds into your hands in public.
Looking for something more frightening than clowns this Halloween? This next one’s for you!
5. The perfect group costume can be difficult to find, but you’ll be sure to scare the wits out of all your commuter friends as UB Parking Signs! Start with several posterboards and paint “Lot Full” on both sides. Wear them with a few friends for maximum effect, and watch people’s eyes flash, hands shake, and faces distort, as they screech “THERE ARE SO MANY OPEN FACULTY SPOOOOOOOOOOTS” into the void.
Despair, A Study.
6. Some students uninterested in terrorizing fellow classmates may instead seek a costume that showcases their dedication to academia. Have you spent too much time studying in the Health Sciences Library? Has your brain gone haywire and begun replacing your lecture notes with absurdly specific neuroscience jokes? If this sounds like you, then ladies, get into Reticular Formation!
Get your girl gang together and dress your cell bodies in tan if you’re a stained section type of gal, or a subtle gray if you prefer to go au naturale. You’ll be sure to catch everyone’s eye as you strut your stuff as an important neural system involved in consciousness, motor function and arousal (wink, wink).
7. For the most adventurous, we close with the Babe-inski! Be a sexy infant foot reflex that should integrate between 12-24 months!!!
It’s 3:17 am, my ideas are significantly deteriorating in quality, and I want to throw up for even thinking of that. I apologize. This one just doesn’t have a foot to stand on.
Happy Halloween, folks.
Posted by klotito on October 19, 2016 in honors, Uncategorized
It came without ribbons. It came without tags.
It came with a panicked classmate shouting, “IT’S IN KIMBALL THE EXAM IS IN KIMBALL” as I stepped off the bus Monday morning.
My midterm week arrived in full force with this revelation, and threw in another punch when it turned out that our exam room had been double-booked with another class.
Well, if we’d just had the exam in our usual room… I thought as I handed my half-completed test to a TA and waited for our harried professor to find another free space. Apparently the original room change had been announced during the lecture that half of the class had skipped last week. Getting breakfast with your visiting parents counts as an excused absence, right?
I ran through my to-do list as the crowd of confused students milled about the hallway, waiting for the “administrative error” to be sorted out. In 9 days, from Monday through next Tuesday, I will have completed 4 exams, 1 lab practical, 5 assignments, and 2 quizzes. That is, if I survive.
My professors as they scheduled this week, probably.
On the flip side, after my exam about moment arms and muscle excursion, I spent 2 hours in my lab class decorating a pumpkin. As one might guess, carrying a glittery Franken-pumpkin across campus garnered more than a few looks.
“I swear this a real major and sometimes it’s hard and actually crafting can have a lot of therapeutic value in developing fine motor skills and engaging in patients’ interests in order to attain treatment goals and I also know some neuroscience and physics,” I wanted to blurt out at everyone that walked by.
Occupational therapy is weird.
Despite having seen the value and benefits OT can bring, I nonetheless struggle justifying some of its methods to people outside the field. I’m getting better at explaining what occupational therapy is, at least. I no longer feel the urge to pull up the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook webpage in response to the casual query. I no longer mumble a jargon-filled definition followed by, “It’s literally just helping people do everything better, I don’t know.” According to my professor, “Occupational therapy helps people who may or may not have a disability, injury, or illness live independently and do the things they want to do” is a sufficient response to earn full credit on my lab practical. But explaining why I’m gluing pipe cleaners and felt onto a gourd gets a little tricky.
Though I swear I retain only about 2% of anything I read in the required texts for my classes, one of them cited a quote from a speech by Mary Reilly in 1962 that stuck. She was a therapist that contributed a lot to the field of occupational therapy, and described the struggle far more eloquently than I ever could: “The wide and gaping chasm which exists between the complexity of illness and the commonplaceness of our treatment tools is, and always will be, both the pride and anguish of our profession.”
Maybe as I’m studying 7 weeks of material over the next 7 days I’ll discover the key to sounding like I know what I’m talking about. If not, I suppose I have about two and a half years left to work on it.
So anyway, I’ll be spending the next week chugging coffee, stress-eating all of my roommate’s candy corn, and studying until I inevitably get overwhelmed and instead choose to waste time by doing things like Googling what an umlaut actually is or pinning and unpinning the Spotify app in my taskbar in the vain hope that this will somehow affect its inability to finish installing. Perhaps next week I’ll be able to throw together a post about something more interesting than my melodramatic complaints. Til then, here’s my lab group’s showstopper:
Posted by klotito on October 4, 2016 in Uncategorized
Struggling to articulate his plans to lead the country as the President of the United States, Republican nominee Donald Trump seemed perplexed by Hillary Clinton’s apparent preparedness for the first presidential debate last Monday evening. While it was easy to miss between various plugs to promote her website, the Democratic nominee is credited with answering a record number of seven out of twelve questions directed to her by moderator Lester Holt.
“It was honestly super weird,” notes audience member Clark Webster, 32. “Like, I didn’t expect a veteran politician to actually address any parts of the determined topic, but Hil really outdid herself by mentioning at least one or two points that were relevant and logical, you know? I think ol’ Donny froze up ‘cause he thought he’d be able to get away with just insulting her pantsuit the whole time.”
Other spectators, similarly mesmerized by this new approach to politics, completely abandoned debate etiquette by applauding and laughing multiple times in response to both candidates.
After Hillary stunned viewers with evidence-based crime statistics and knowledge of U.S. law, Trump attempted to regain ground by touting his ability to name several geographic locations in which he owns property and/or has declared bankruptcy. This proving ineffective, the billionaire later returned to the traditional debate method of circumvention when asked to respond to a previous comment he made regarding Secretary Clinton’s appearance. Trump took this opportunity to not only alter time and space by changing his prior word choice from “look” to “stamina,” but also to delightedly point out his merit in restraint.
“We‘re just so proud of Donald for not saying those inappropriate and not nice things about Hillary and her family,” Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway gushed, when asked for her opinion on the incident. “It truly shows how much he’s been maturing lately. Really, what more can you ask of the potential President and Commander-in-Chief for the next four years?” Sources close to the Republican nominee say that he was thrilled to receive a gold star sticker for a job well done at the end of the evening. It is currently under investigation whether or not the sticker was obtained in relation to former attempts to also rob the Gold Star Khan family of their dignity as mourning parents of a military hero.
As a recent poll suggests, Monday’s rousing debate surely will prove to have little to no effect on changing the minds of American voters. Gallup reports that 78% of respondents affirmed that they will “continue blissfully refusing to partake in any fact-checking or retain any truths rudely shoved down their throats by any vile, non-partisan entities of reason.” Though political tactics may be ever-changing, one thing remains clear: tensions and uncompromising Bernie supporters are high this election season.
Posted by klotito on June 23, 2016 in honors, Uncategorized
I studied more in the first four weeks of my summer class than I did during the entire four months I spent “studying” abroad. That being said, returning to my life in the U.S. hasn’t been any kind of tough adjustment for me. Everything feels very normal. It feels familiar. It feels like I never left.
I don’t think I’ve changed drastically as a person, either. I’ve learned a lot and I see the world a little bit differently, but I don’t think most people perceive a difference in my personality.
Vacationing in my own little European-study-abroad world did leave me with a few habits that may be hard to kick, however. Some presenting symptoms of Post-Study Abroad Syndrome may include incessant references to cool things I did in Europe/Africa, confusion about how things work here in the States, and an absurd amount of Spanglishing. My roommate for the summer has already had to deal with some of these things, but so far, she’s taking it like a champ. I’m doing my best to keep the symptoms under control, but as a fair warning, here’s a list I made during my first week back in the U.S. of what can be expected from me.
To my friends and family at home, I’m sorry in advance:
- For the terrible Spanglish I’m going to be speaking, probably for the rest of forever. Including, but not limited to:
- Spanish greetings. I was finally becoming accustomed to greeting people with “Hola” and “¿Qué tal?” when I was rudely extracted from Spain, so it might take a while to revert back to English salutations.
- Spanish swearing. It’s less offensive if it’s another language, right???
- HOLA GUAPAAA. You will be guapa or guapo. That is your new term of endearment and you will LOVE IT.
- For being confused about how much I have to pay for something because I forget that sales tax isn’t included
- For almost forgetting that I actually have to tip at restaurants
- For being surprised when it’s too far to walk somewhere
- For subjecting you to my Spanish club and flamenco music
- For trying to teach you the 8 tango steps that I barely learned
- For every time I start a sentence with “When I was in Paris…” because Eileen and I decided that it’s unforgivably pretentious
- For telling the same stories 3+ times
- For saying “euros” instead of “dollars”
- For complaining about how American money is ugly in comparison to euro bills and coins
- For forcing you to try my mediocre recreations of Spanish foods
- For requiring bread with olive oil and salt at every meal
- For forgetting that I can’t go to a bar for several more months
- For trying to explain to you that GOOD paella has to have the right ratio of water to rice or it won’t be the right consistency and seriously, that’s just such a disappointment, you know?
- For complaining about the lack of well-dressed, bearded European men
- For referencing a WhatsApp instead of a text
- For telling you about my friends from my semester abroad
- For gushing about palmeras and how they are the greatest pastry there is, was and ever shall be
- For being disappointed in the quality of hiking areas less than an hour’s drive away
- For wondering where all the orange trees are?
- For finding ways to work facts about the Alhambra or Nasrid dynasty into conversation
- For detailing my plans to you about how I’m going to open up a tapas bar because I’m sure it would catch on!!!
- For telling you how much nicer Spanish sounds and how English just doesn’t have the same rhythm
- For obsessing about watching the sunset
- For quietly sobbing in the wine aisle because there are no liter bottles for 2 euros
- For using 24 hour time
- For wondering why we’re eating dinner so early??? It’s only 7:30???
To my study abroad friends, lo siento por adelantado:
- For reminding you que os quiero y os echo de menos demasiado veces (aunque es la verdad siempre)
- For continuing to tag you in throwback photos for probably another year at least
- For randomly messaging you to reminisce about something awesome that occurred in Spain to reassure myself it wasn’t all a dream
- For continuing to stalk you on social media
- For occasionally checking in and demanding you tell me about your life in hopes of maintaining cross-country/ocean friendships because SERIOUSLY Y’ALL ARE GENIAL
- For potentially talking about you in future blogs (don’t worry, hardly anyone really reads these)
I’m not sure what the recovery time is post-study abroad, but if I get too obnoxious, just keep in mind that I could be worse. I could be like Kath & Dave.
Is that a rioja?
Check it out:
Portlandia- Kath & Dave Come Back from Spain
Posted by klotito on June 10, 2016 in honors, Uncategorized
It’s hard to believe that it’s been three weeks today since I said goodbye to my Spanish host mom and almost got crushed by the building’s elevator doors one last time.
Besides the unreliable door sensor, living in my home-stay placement was kind of like living in a five-star hotel with a gourmet chef. The main difference is that the gourmet chef was also the hotel manager and she sometimes physically adjusted my posture or yelled at me to go put on zapatillas.
The first day I arrived at my host mom’s apartment in Spain, I was greeted with a flurry of Spanish instructions about how to get into the building, a hug, and dos besos, none of which I was prepared for. She then gave me a brief tour of her two-floor apartment, after which I realized I’d be living like a reina. While many of my friends lived in small apartments and shared bathrooms with their host families, my roommate Eileen and I each had our own bedroom and bathroom on the first floor.
My bathroom and bedroom with not one, but two beds. PLUS Looney Tunes pillows which were a nice touch/moderately creepy.
To top that off, our host mom also had a rooftop terrace. Not just any old rooftop terrace, of course, but one with a view of the Alhambra and the Sierra Nevada. Our apartment was conveniently located in the city center and was only a five minute walk from school—making it the envy of most of my friends, some of whom had to walk 30 minutes to class every day.
Not a bad view to welcome me to Granada.
I think it’s safe to say that the marble-floored, art-filled apartment was nicer than any place I will be living in over the next ten years of my life…or ever. I also had the fewest household responsibilities than I ever have, and certainly the fewest I ever will. Eileen and I had to hang our laundry up to dry and take out the trash, but either Inma or the housekeeper did everything else. Our rooms and bedrooms were cleaned weekly, and we didn’t have to do the dishes, set the table, or cook.
Dining room & kitchen feat. Eileen
The homemade meals were probably my favorite part of living with my host mom. She’s an incredible cook and made it clear to me why Spanish culture is so food-centric. Inma’s version of Spanish food didn’t include much meat (partly because my roommate was vegetarian), but included SO many more fried things than I anticipated. She occasionally fried carrots as a side dish. Inma also, however, has enlightened me and Eileen in the world of liquid meals, all of I would have previously classified as soup. However, she made sure to teach us the distinct differences between potaje, puré, sopa, cocida and probably a few others that I’ve already forgotten. The most anticipated meals were my host mom’s paella, homemade spinach croquetas, and tortilla. Paella is a dish made with rice, vegetables and some magical spices that make it delicious. Croquetas are a variety of slightly mysterious breaded and fried food rolls that consist of a mixture of cheese and spinach, ham or mushrooms. The tortilla is essentially a thick omelette of potato, egg and onion which, despite its simplicity, is wonderful and among my favorite Spanish foods.
Tortilla AND croquetas for dinner??? Does life get any better than this?!
Though I rarely knew exactly what I was eating or how it was prepared, there was only one meal Eileen and I couldn’t stomach. Inma had left us dinner and went out, so Eileen and I wandered upstairs when we were hungry and found a dark-brownish liquid in a bowl on our placemats. It smelled strongly of body odor and in one sip, tasted about as terrible as we feared. After a brief debate, we determined that the only option was to flush it down the toilet and hope Inma wouldn’t see it on the video cameras later.
Yes, video cameras. If it sounds like I may have been reading too much Orwell and developed a severe paranoia that I’m constantly being watched, fear not. I really was.
Just replace Big Brother with an older Spanish woman.
Okay, I probably wasn’t. However, our host mom did tell Eileen and me that she once had a student that stole from her, so she had security cameras installed in the common areas of the apartment. She said that she wouldn’t watch the tapes unless there was an issue, but it made us a little uncomfortable nonetheless. What if she saw us eating the Nutella from the jar with a spoon??? If she did, she never said anything, so I guess we’re in the clear.
The video camera situation was one reason why Eileen and I were a little intimidated by Inma and had a more formal relationship with her than some of our friends had with their host mothers. Inma was certainly kind, generous and welcoming, but the apartment was divided up distinctly into “our” area and “her” area. We had to announce ourselves when we came upstairs to eat in the kitchen, because that was her floor. We also couldn’t freely use whatever we wanted in the house- we had to ask to do laundry, if we could use a mug, or for more toilet paper.
No one wants to have to ask for more toilet paper.
I didn’t talk with my host mom frequently enough to feel close to her either. Since we lived on separate floors, there were few instances where we were in casual contact, so we only had conversations of any significance during meals. Whenever we strayed from familiar topics like our classes or weekend plans, it quickly became difficult to understand Inma’s rapid speech. Too often, Eileen and I resorted to a slight laugh, nod or “no sé”… which aren’t exactly great additions to conversation. It’s not easy for me to articulate my opinions on the limits of religious freedom in English; in Spanish, I was nearly useless.
Inma did occasionally enforce a motherly nag. One of the first questions she asked me on my first day in Spain was whether or not I’d brought zapatillas, which is the Spanish word for slippers. I hadn’t, since I foolishly thought that southern Spain would be sunny and a balmy 27° C (81° F) every single day, at least by mid-March. Though I quickly realized 5-10° C (40-50° F) would be the norm for late winter in Granada, I was confident that I could survive without slippers until it warmed up. This assumption was a grave mistake. The following three days were filled with stern lectures from Inma, in which she warned me how “the marble floors are cold” and “it’s different than the United States” and “you need slippers so your feet don’t get cold so you don’t get sick” enough times to cause my surrender. I bought a pair of the stupid slippers and thought the case would be closed. Unfortunately, this was also a mistake. Every time I forgot to wear my slippers, I’d get directed back downstairs, accompanied by a Spanish flurry of pseudoscience about cold floors and illness. It shouldn’t have bothered me as much as it did, except that she insisted that when I caught a cold it was because I didn’t wear slippers. Not, perhaps, because of a weakened immune system due to a lack of sleep, overabundance of wine or literally anything else scientifically proven to make one more susceptible to feeling ill…no. Cold feet. It’s not just my host mom that believes this either! I stayed with a Spanish friend in Madrid one weekend, and when her grandmother expressed concern over my bare feet, she replied something along the lines of “Yeah, it’s because she’s American.”
This wouldn’t have been a point of contention if I wasn’t so stubborn about how illogical and inconvenient the whole idea was, but alas, I was. Of course, considering that the worst issue I had with my host mom was having occasional, brief arguments about how “ESO NO ES COMO EL CUERPO FUNCIONA,” I was pretty blessed.
Besides her stance on slippers, Inma was relaxed on most other household rules. Eileen and I could come and go as we pleased, as long as we were home for meal times or gave advance notice if we wouldn’t be there. It did feel a little bit like high school though, together with the general study abroad rule that you couldn’t have friends over to the house—and the fact that I had grammar homework sheets typed in Comic Sans.
I think it might have been fun to have a big host family with siblings and extended family, as some of my friends did. I would have learned more about how Spanish families function and I think I would have gained a deeper understanding of the Spanish culture and way of life. I did, however, appreciate having my own space and few family obligations, and learned a lot from what I did experience. Calle Colcha became home for some of the best 5 months of my life, and if I ever get the chance to return, Inma said I’m more than welcome to come visit. Maybe if I remember my slippers, she’ll even make me a tortilla.
Posted by klotito on April 7, 2016 in honors, Uncategorized
Hello from the other side
I can’t speak Spanish but I tried
To tell you lo siento
Because they’re the only
Two things I can say
Though my career in Adele parodies seems promising, in reality, my language skills are no longer that terrible. I’m certainly not fluent, but I’m taking (and passing) five classes entirely in Spanish and I can usually get my point across in conversation.
My ability to understand Andalusian and other various Spanish dialects and accents is different matter entirely. Sometimes I’m convinced my host mom is speaking a language she made up herself, which is predictably inconvenient when trying to learn how to use the alarm system in our apartment. That, however, is a story for another post!
The language barrier is only one of the things I’ve been adjusting to in Spain, but here are some other differences I’ve noticed after living here for about two months:
1. Siesta. Yes, the famed siesta is real. Most people don’t actually take a nap every afternoon, but it is common to rest for a couple of hours sometime between 3:00 and 6:00 PM, after lunch.
2. Daily schedule. Speaking of lunch, I was convinced I’d die of starvation while waiting for almuerzo during the first few weeks I was here. After a typical breakfast of only toast and coffee, Spaniards typically eat lunch around 3:00 in the afternoon. To the impatient American that I am, 6 or 7 hours felt like approximately 1,000 years, give or take a century. Fortunately for me, lunch is usually the largest meal of the day, so survival until dinner around 9:00 PM is easier. Many stores in Spain have a morning and afternoon schedule, closing for a few hours between 2:00 and 6:00 PM. This is important to remember in case you think you’re going to go shopping instead of taking a siesta, because you might just end up eating churros with chocolate since restaurants are still open and you have no self-control. It’s acceptable to go out for tapas anytime between lunch and about 11:30 PM, but most bars close at 12:00 or 1:00 AM. Discotecas (clubs) however, will be pretty empty until 2:00 AM and some places will still be packed at 5:00 AM. I have no idea when such places close, because it is long after I’ve cocooned myself in bed.
I meant to go buy shampoo, but hey, churros don’t care whether or not you have clean hair.
3. Tiny coffee. I also don’t know how people stay out so late at Spanish clubs and still function the next day, necessary if you order a café in a Spanish restaurant, you only receive a tiny shot of espresso. A café Americano might deliver a little more caffeine to your bloodstream, but even this is usually pretty small. Basically, if you’re looking to make it through a 16 hour day on 4 hours of sleep, you may want to head to a coffee chain.
Still frame from the upcoming European film Honey I Shrunk the Coffee… Again (2017)
4. Punctuality. On the bright side, if you’re groggily running late to class for lack of sufficient caffeine, you likely have some temporal leeway. Spaniards are more relaxed about punctuality and life in general, so most of my classes start about 5-10 minutes after they are scheduled to. I wish I could say that this means that I’m never late to class anymore, but it turns out that my chronic lateness is too severe even for Spain.
5. Traffic laws. My perception of this may have more to do with the fact that I’m living in the middle of a city for the first time in my life, but it seems like traffic laws in Spain are really just suggestions. Motorcycles weave in and out of traffic and zip around stopped taxis or buses without hesitation. I think it’s also important to note here that just because you think you’re on a sidewalk, does not mean that you are in fact on a sidewalk. You might actually be on a tiny, one-way cobblestone street and this will be brought to your immediate attention when a taxi bumper rolls up three feet behind you.
6. Smoking. In the event that I am actually on a real sidewalk, I often find myself stuck in a cloud of smoke following a group of strolling Spaniards. There appears to be little negative stigma attached to smoking tobacco in Spain, and a majority of adults do so. I’m not close with anyone that smokes cigarettes often in the U.S., so this seemed like a strange phenomenon to me. Curiously enough, Spaniards must be doing a lot of other things right in regards to health because according to WHO, Spain ranks second in the world for longest life expectancy
7. Eco-friendliness. Although occasionally I get into a little cigarette-smoke pollution, Spaniards are generally very environmentally-friendly. There are huge recycling receptacles near many public squares and major roads for glass, old clothing, used cooking oil, paper, and plastic. At the Mercadona, which is a major supermarket chain in Granada, most people bring reusable bags. If you want a plastic bag, you must pay for it. Many houses in the south of Spain don’t have heating systems, and if they do, they are used sparingly. Water and electricity usage are very tightly monitored as well because both are expensive in Spain. My host mom is vigilant about making sure we shut off the lights in a room when we leave, and leaving the water running while showering is blasphemy. Luckily my dad’s prepared me well with the occasional enforcement of 5-minute, minimal water usage “combat showers,” so BRING IT ON, SPAIN.
8. Dogs. There seem to be dogs everywhere in Spain, which is reason number 98756 why this place is heavenly. It was odd to me, however, to notice that dogs often walk freely alongside their humans without leashes. At first I thought that Spain simply didn’t have leash laws at all, but after some brief Googling, this doesn’t appear to be the case. Spain requires dogs to be on leashes except in designated areas, but typical of the Spanish “no pasa nada” attitude, these laws generally aren’t enforced unless there’s an issue.
Tito el perrito (with a casual view of Granada in the background)
9. Contact culture. This is a topic that’s been discussed a lot in my Spanish culture and civilization class, and the “contact culture” of Spain entails more than simply the prevalence of physical contact. Kissing on the cheek as a greeting and standing close to one another when speaking are two examples of the physical contact culture, but Spanish people are also more blunt and straightforward; this is encompassed by the idea of contact culture as well. In my experience, it’s not uncommon to hear a Spaniard refer to someone as “ugly” or “fat” when giving a casual description. Though this always strikes me as a bit harsh, it’s not usually considered offensive, just honest. Cat-calling is also generally not considered to be rude or offensive, and Spanish men appear to have no qualms about staring either. At meal times, salad or other foods are shared and eaten off of the same plate, and rather than getting separate checks at a restaurant, it’s common practice to pay for a friend’s food or drink with the expectation that they’ll do the same for you another time.
10. Babies in Spain dress better than I do. So does everyone else in Spain. Women almost always have perfectly-done hair and makeup, and there’s practically a uniform for how to dress if you’re between 12-30 years old and female. If you’re not wearing white sneakers, dark skinny jeans, a black leather or olive-colored jacket and a blanket scarf, you are probably not Spanish and everyone will know it. Spanish men always look put together as well, and the children just wear smaller versions of the same classy outfits. Most people don’t wear athletic clothing unless they are actually going to be doing athletic things, so wearing yoga pants/joggers/leggings in public will probably earn you some Spanish side-eye.
Overall, I haven’t experienced much culture shock in Spain and I think I’ve only committed a few minor faux-pas. Then again, I’ve been spending a significant amount of time in the American bubble, so my perception is a bit skewed. That’s a subject for another post, however. Until then, you can find me petting strangers’ dogs, drinking small coffees and maybe even trying to have authentic Spanish experiences. ¡Adiós!
Posted by klotito on March 27, 2016 in honors, Uncategorized
I’m not going to pretend that I don’t take photos of food all the time, so I might as well post them on my blog, right? Here’s a collection of platos, tapas, postres, and bebidas large and small, of both the authentic-Spanish and 5-AM-desperation varieties. ¡Que aproveche!
4.3.2016 – Granada
Some friends of one of my professors have incredible cave homes in the mountains near Granada, and we had the chance to go visit them. They made us this beautiful paella, which we then ate outside in the sun while listening to live flamenco music and LOVING LIFE.
4.3.2016 – Granada
This is ensaladilla ruso, which actually means Russian salad, but it’s fairly popular in Spain. It’s made with tuna, mayo, olives, carrots, some other things I can’t remember, and I ate way too much of it. Also pictured is a pitcher of sangria, which kept getting refilled. No complaints.
3.3.2016 – Granada
All pizza is beautiful at 5 AM on a Thursday.
28.2.2016 – Assilah
It’s become a misson for my friend Tulsi & I to buy pastries everywhere we travel, so in Morocco we hit the jackpot when we found a bakery selling 8 pastries for 300 dirham (which is about €3). Most of them included almonds or dates, typical of Moroccan desserts and ALL of them came in clutch at a rest stop on the way home at 1:00 AM.
21.2.2016 – Pampaneira
Typical dish of the Alpujarra region (so we were told). As with most Spanish meals I’ve eaten, there’s a lot of meat, potatoes and eggs.
21.2.2016 – Pampaneira
Went on a trip to the Alpujarra region of Spain which has awesome mountains, but more importantly, also has this chocolate factory. There are 32 different kinds of chocolate samples here and I tried more than I am willing to admit. Wouldn’t recommend the cheese-flavored chocolate but hey, +10 for creativity, Pampaneira.
14.2.2016 – Granada
I forgot the name of this Spanish dessert also, but it was sugary and fluffy and chocolatey and perfect for my Valentine’s date with mi amiga Tulsi. I’ve found romance in Spanish food and that is enough for me.
12.2.2016 – Granada
Typical dinner made by my host madre. Bread, water, mandarins, and a giant serving of pasta salad with vegetables, mayonaise & tuna. Sounds kind of weird, tastes pretty good.
10.2.2016 – Granada
A Spanish wine called Blood of Bull seemed like the only logical way to celebrate my 20th year of life. It was also only €5 (te amo, España).
10.2.2016 – Granada
The Loft’s house-recipe chocolate cake. Can one celebrate a birthday without chocolate cake? Of course not. This did not disappoint.
9.2.2016 – Granada
Churros & chocolate. They may make your stomach feel like a brick, but your soul will be flyin’ high, trust me.
6.2.2016 – Cádiz
Raspberry cheesecake at a place too fancy to be wearing our Carnaval costumes in. If you’re wondering why I had two desserts in one day, it’s because we were at Carnaval until 5 AM and we just really needed it.
6.2.2016 – Cádiz
I never know the names of Spanish desserts but most things that surprise me with chocolate filling are good, so I’m not too concerned.
5.2.2016 – Granada
Here’s a meal my host madre made- fried calamari and French fries. I didn’t expect to have to eat fried food everyday of my life in Spain, but here we are!! (SOS help everything is fried)
3.2.2016 – Granada
Mango gelato. Didn’t get any less delicious even when we realized we were sitting at another restaurant’s outdoor table and had to move unless we were going to order something.
30.1.2016 – Córdoba
Salmorejo- cold, creamy tomato soup with hard boiled eggs and ham, typical of Córdoba. Decided I’m not really a fan of cold soup.
Posted by klotito on March 2, 2016 in honors, Uncategorized
No one expected me not to reference the airplane food joke, right? This trip was the first time I’ve been on a flight long enough to experience the infamous cuisine. I think this is the material that will finally launch my career as a standup comedian. It’s important.
So, a brief review of said airplane food is in order before I write about my excitement for this semester!
For some reason I had the idea that there would be a menu with a few options to choose from. This was not the case. My menu was a vague inquiry of “Chicken or pasta?” and after requesting chicken, I was handed a tray full of plastic-wrapped food.
A meal fit for an economy-class queen.
I’m not picky, I’m not fancy, and I’m not going to pretend I didn’t eventually eat every processed bit. However, I was mildly amused by labels such as this one for the Swiss cheese:
Is the first ingredient in Swiss cheese usually cheddar cheese? (Hint: No)
I was impressed that there was salad and despite consisting of only about 2 pieces of lettuce and a chunk of tomato, the produce was fresh—which is more than I can say for salad at UB on some days.
My favorite part of the meal was the vino tinto, but that’s probably because it was complimentary and because the only thing I know about wine is that I like it.
Moral of the story: if I ever decide to be serious about eating well consistently, I should bring my own food on airplanes. The complimentary wine remains fair game.
As wonderful as free airline wine is, there are a lot of other things I’m even more excited about. Here’s what I’m looking forward to most about spending this semester abroad:
- Spanish food. Although I’m not picky, I have a strong appreciation for good food. I can’t wait to try paella, real churros, and tortillas (a type of Spanish omelette, not the kind for your burrito). Tapas are another Spanish tradition that I’m eager to experience. These small plates of food are similar to appetizers and when you buy a drink in Granada—the tapas are always free!
- Meeting new people. I can’t wait to get to know my roommate and señora, to become better friends with the people I’ve already met in the program, and to meet other exchange students taking classes at the Centro de Lenguas Modernas! Maybe if I eventually speak Spanish well enough to communicate, I’ll even make some Spanish amigos.
- A new perspective and way of life.I’m so excited to learn about and experience how people live and think outside my bubbles of Syracuse, Buffalo and the United States as a whole. Each country, each city, and even my specific household—each will have a distinct culture, and I hope to experience as many different places as possible! I think spending a semester living, studying and traveling abroad is the ideal way to gain a better understanding of the world and its vast diversity. I I’ve also never lived in the heart of a city before, where almost anything I need is accessible by foot. My apartment is a five minute walk to away from where I have class, and there are restaurants, pharmacies, clothing stores and many other businesses just steps from my front door. Living there will be an interesting change of pace for me. Maybe I’ll love it so much that I’ll never leave! (Just kidding, Mom. I promise I’ll come home. Eventually.)
- Improving my language skills.Being immersed in a language is the best way to learn it, so I’m looking forward to being able to speak Spanish more properly and clearly. Without studying somewhere that primarily speaks Spanish, I don’t think it would be possible for me to fully grasp the language. I want to be able to use my language skills to work with Hispanic populations as an occupational therapist, so I need to truly understand at least the conversational basics of Spanish.
- Independence. I gained a lot of independence simply by going to college and living in dorms, but I never traveled more than a few hours away. This semester I want to travel all around Spain, and hopefully to Portugal, France, Italy, and Morocco. I’ll have to book flights, purchase bus tickets, make reservations and navigate on my own, in Spanish. I think I’ll gain confidence in being able to go places and do things by myself, so I’m up for the challenge!
- Being in Europe. I’m so awestruck just to be able to live and travel in Europe. Travel is relatively cheap and Europe’s widely varying countries and cultures intrigue me. I can’t wait to see architecture and art that is hundreds and sometimes thousands of years old! The history simply can’t be rivaled by the United States. I might be a little caught up in the romantic stereotype of Europe, but can you blame me?
- Taking classes. I’m kind of a humanities girl living in a STEM world, so taking Spanish language and culture classes is a welcome opportunity. I’m hoping to take classes on Spanish art history, Islamic culture in Spain, and Spanish civilization and culture, in addition to two required classes for oral and writing skills and for grammar. I think these classes will significantly improve my language skills as well as help me understand the city and culture I’ll be living in.
- The night life. The Spanish are known for having a great bars and clubs, so no trip to Spain would be complete without verifying this. I just searched Google Maps for bars near the apartment I’m staying in. It turns out that there are 92 bars within a kilometer of my house. That’s 92 bars no farther away than 0.62 miles. NOVENTA Y DOS. That’s not even counting discotecas (nightclubs) or places that are only labeled as restaurants! It’s a little ambitious (and expensive, and unhealthy) to say I’m going to try all of them… but I’ll see what I can do.
I’m excited for almost everything about this trip, but these are the parts that, to me, are the most noteworthy. I’ll write about my first few days or so in Spain soon. Check back to stay updated on how all my hopes and dreams are coming along and, more importantly, to see my progress on what I’m now christening as el Desafíó de Noventa y Dos Bares—the 92 Bar Challenge. ¡Adiós!
Posted by klotito on March 2, 2016 in honors, Uncategorized
Or, for those of you not cram-studying Spanish, welcome! In preparation for my semester studying abroad, I may have focused a little too much on the “abroad” part, and not enough on the “study” part. So, here I am in the Philadelphia airport, spreading Spanish verb packets and worksheets across two seats by my gate in the hopes that I can brush up on 7.5 years of Spanish in 6 hours.
I already checked my suitcase in Syracuse, which I managed to pack with only 47 pounds of stuff… after my mom’s help and several trials with the bathroom scale. Unfortunately, this miracle was at the expense of my carry-on luggage. Without exaggeration, I’m pretty sure my backpack and smaller suitcase weigh 25 pounds each. I broke a sweat while lugging them across the Philadelphia airport, so I’m definitely counting that as my cardio for today.
Adiós, snowy New York!
After all the weeks and months of researching programs, cities, and how long it takes to get a student visa back, I’m finally on my way to Granada! I still can’t believe that I’m actually going to live in Spain and take classes at the Universidad de Granada. I can’t believe I’ll be living in an apartment with my señora and a roommate. I can’t believe that I have to communicate coherently in solely Spanish for the next four months.
I’ve been asked a lot recently about what I’m most worried about in regards to studying abroad, and I think overcoming the language barrier is my greatest concern. Every person I’ve talked to that has studied abroad has assured me that I will be fine and will be “fluent after two weeks!” so I really hope they’re right. I’m banking on it. Here are some of my other worries:
- Not liking my roommate or my living situation. I have one roommate from New York who arrived in Granada a month before me. Unfortunately, this is all I know about her. I normally get along well with people, but it’s intimidating to be going to a foreign country to live with a person you don’t know, with a family you also don’t know. My señora seems nice from our email correspondence, but I don’t know much about her either. I only know that she has two older daughters that don’t live at home anymore. I’m not sure what to expect in terms of what kind of family and household obligations I may have or if I’ll have any kind of curfew. I guess I’ll find out soon!
- The placement exam. I’m taking classes in Granada with the intention of using the credits to finish my Spanish minor. However, if I don’t do well enough on the placement exam, I will have to take the classes in English and they won’t transfer as the 300/400 level classes I need. Wish me luck, ¡por favor!
- The classes. If I do place into the classes I need, that means I will be taking five classes taught completely in Spanish. Concentrating through one 80 minute Spanish class per semester was difficult enough at UB, so I’m a little wary of having a full day of classes taught in Spanish.
- Accidentally ordering brains at a restaurant. I need to make a list of Spanish foods to avoid and memorize their names, because as much as I’m sure I’d appreciate the funny story later… I’m not sure I’m ready for sesos. Or any other kind of mystery organs, for that matter.
- Cultural faux pas. What if I accidentally offend someone with my American naiveté? What if I’m supposed to initiate the double-cheek kiss with everyone I meet and I don’t and they think I’m a terrible person? What if I say I’m embarazada even though I know that it means “pregnant” and that avergonzada actually means “embarrassed?” There are so many ways I could go wrong.
- Being an adult. I have to make travel plans and go places by myself. I have to navigate cities and take taxis and buses by myself. For someone that still feels a little bit proud when I successfully go out to eat or pay my credit card bills without my parents… it’s going to be an adjustment.
- Taken. Yes, I mean the movie. I’m just a tiny bit worried about being abducted. Luckily, my dad is as well and I’m fairly confident that he already has a thorough plan of how to pull a Liam Neeson and rescue me.
Liam Neeson’s protégé and I at the airport
I’m worried, but I’m also pretty optimistic. There are also so many things I’m excited about, so I’ll write about those, my flight, and my first few moments in Europe in my next post! Stay tuned for more long-winded posts about my life. ¡Hasta luego!