Thursday, August 25, 2011

"The fastest route in Spain is always a circle."

I have just finished receiving blank stares for the entirety of my 50 minutes teaching today and now feel compelled to write something that may actually register in someone's mind (thank you freshman). Firstly, I love teaching this intro course, but seriously ASU? These kids are 18 years old and have been through years of schooling already. Most of them are honors students who have worked their asses off the past couple years of high school and if they needed a refresher on goal setting, they probably wouldn't have graduated in the first place. In fact, I think I can safely say that if one has not figured out goal setting by the college level, that person is in a select percentage of the university population that probably will drop out after the first semester or two, even at ASU. But I digress...

What I really wanted to discuss here are the significant changes my life has gone through since returning from Spain 1.5 weeks ago. There have been a few very meaningful changes that I feel worth mentioning, starting with breakfast.

This is what breakfast looks like, Spain. Note the eggs, sausages, potatoes, pancakes, and syrup (maybe a little bit of fruit on occasion). Eggs are a real thing that people eat for meals other than dinner. In fact, they come in many variations including scrambled, over easy, and fried. They taste delicious with a bit of salt and pepper, and some people even put ketchup or tabasco on them! If you all thought tortilla española was good, you should try egg and potatoes separately, and with spices, it's remarkable. And this is not to say that I do not enjoy coffee, bread, and crackers as a full breakfast, but there ARE delicious nutritionist sanctioned alternatives.

This may sound mundane to U.S. citizens, but I have been incredibly appreciative of consistency since returning. The thought of receiving similar drinks, meals, etc. in different restaurants/bars/etc. is beautiful.

The drink you see in the upper right corner of this image is a caña. While I could not tell you whether caña was a size or thing (as I received different descriptions), I can tell you that it is always a delicious draft beer. In fact, that Estrella Galicia was brought to you after ordering a caña was probably the only thing that remained consistent over the month I was in Boiro. One of the greatest things about ordering a caña was that it came in a wide variety of sizes. On days when I was thinking that a small bit of beer would be delicious, it would come in a giant glass. On days when I had hoed my feelings away in the trenches and was in desperate need of anything to regain sanity, it would come in a glass much like the one seen in the above picture. Likewise, tapas seemed to be distributed randomly, or upon the whim of the server. I greatly enjoyed the small cafes figuring prominently into Spanish culture, but I am quite excited to be back to chain restaurants and standardization (Thank you Oreganos for your 7 convenient valley locations and 1 menu).

Lastly, I have decided that there is a reason that the Spanish language is spoken so quickly. It is obviously to fit in all the repetition of sentences that are required in every conversation. While working at the site, I was often asked to translate what the American teachers were saying to the Spanish students and what the Spanish archaeologists were saying to the Americans. This was not generally a problem, but I almost always found myself being spoken to for 2-3 minutes, at which point I would turn and condense what I was told into 5-10 words. I initially thought this was due to my poor translation ability, but quickly realized that it was the norm. A quote from our site director went, "The fastest route in Spain is always a circle." Meaning if there is a quick way of getting somewhere, Spanish (Galician, at least) people will always opt for another more scenic route. Evidence:

This is Néixon, where I worked in Galicia this summer. In blue is the route taken by the American students each day to zone 4 (X) of the site. We walked straight to zone 4 in the mornings, and back along the same route when returning. In red is the route taken by the Spanish students to zone 4. Any variation to and fro along the east and west could be used any day, as could the route in blue. The anthropologist in me is telling me that some sort of cultural difference may be to blame, though I will not pretend to understand it.

I think it's safe to say that there are some things about being in the U.S. that are hard to find elsewhere. While breakfast is not one of those things, I find that Americans often place consistency and efficiency as important pillars of every day life. I would tend to agree that both of those concepts are to be valued. However, they it does not make American society objectively better than any other. I really had to write this to remind myself why I should be happy to be back in the U.S. Though I had my complaints while being there, it was simply an amazing experience to live and work in Spain for a month of my summer. Apparently there are more important things than a full, hearty breakfast.


  1. If you think that map is bad, check the route you have to take to get to Vigo by train or bus.