TRAVEL

ITALY

VIOLET P ('19)

For the past eight months, I have been studying abroad in Viterbo, Italy. It has been the most rewarding and amazing experience I have ever been a part of, and I cannot believe my adventure is coming to a close in less than 20 days! I have had the privilege of traveling all over Europe all while learning a new language. I have met so many amazing people and have created so many special bonds with people from all over the world. While Charlotte will always be my home, Italy will always have a special place in my heart. Below are some of my photos from this year! Enjoy xxx

CULTURE SHOCK

MARGARET B ('19)

237 days since I arrived to my new home in the grand ole’ Zaragoza, Aragón, Spain. However, now, with 23 days left and 5 official science classes to go, I find my heart once again being split in two different ways. I, for one, miss my dryer, my bed, my shower, American food (and salads!), my family, and my friends. However, being here for so long, I have been forced into a ‘new family’ - cheesy, I know. Despite my love for Spain and the incredible experience I have had, the challenges and cultural difference have been fun and terrifying.

To start, as you would guess, the language was incredibly difficult during my first month. I found myself sleeping the majority of the day. Due to the excess and immediate introduction to all Spanish, my brain was fried. Trust me, I had never experienced a frying like this, and I am a victim of studying for a Mr. Coddington’s World History Test the night before.

The second biggest culture shock would be the food. However, I think my host-family would be considered the most American out of many of my friends. For instance, I eat most meals with a tray while watching movies or TV (in Spanish of course). Nevertheless, they do things a little bit differently than our beloved America and it's majorly based in their obsession with olive-oil.

Their salads are not like ours. The Americans, in my personal opinion, have almost mastered the perfect lettuce to dressing ratio. Meanwhile, in Spain the salads have a ratio similar to 3 cups olive-oil to 1 piece of lettuce.

Furthermore, their breakfasts are (almost) non-existent. I, being what you would call not a morning person, am not unfamiliar with the minimal breakfast food or slow movements. Yet, in Spain the pantry has lost its snack-ability the more the year has dragged on. On a little tangent, my host family made the famous “tortilla de patata” (a personal favorite) which includes potato, eggs, and (of course) olive oil. I was pleased to eat it for dinner and breakfast in the upcoming days. However to my surprise, my host sister called me crazy for wanting to eat eggs for breakfast….. I’ll let that sink in.

The other weekend I made pancakes for my host family, excited to introduce the American food and also the use of breakfast food for a meal other than breakfast. My dream was altered to Spanish style food and was put as our ‘afternoon desert’.... At least I tried. In conclusion, if anyone figures out the Spanish breakfast, I am open for advice.

Eating times in Spain:

Breakfast: non-existent

Snack: (10:30 am) Café con leche and a croissant

Lunch: biggest meal of the day (2:30-4pm)

Snacking: (6 pm) - if I am lucky

Dinner: (9:30-10:30 pm)

Spanish holidays are also drastically different. For one, they typically surround a historically religious event and can be seen dressed in traditional clothing. For example, the festival of Pilares, my host family had no idea of the origin. However, it can be dated back to the Journey of Saint James and the creation of the Basilica Pilar. The festival, special to Zaragoza, is spread throughout two weeks. The festival activities range from traditionally dressed citizens dancing and bringing flowers to the Basilica to free, heavy-metal Spanish bands playing in almost the same place.

However, most recently and my favorite holiday story, we had a random Monday off of school. We asked, as always, our teachers to what new Spanish holiday we owe our thanks. Our science teacher proceeded to explain that Aragón chose the day off. To better explain, Spain is split up into ‘comunidades autónomas’ similar to our states. Aragón is the ‘comunidad autónoma’ in which the city Zaragoza resides. Every year, every ‘comunidad autónoma’ gets to choose a day when people do not go to work or school. To which, I ask our great country of America to consider taking a page out of Spain’s book and adding it to our rules.  

Recipe for my favorite dish from a chef in Spain:

TORTILLA DE PATATA (5 personas)

5 patatas

8 huevos

1 cebolla

Aceite de oliva

Sal

PREPARACIÓN

  1. Se corta la cebolla y la patata en rodajas finas, se echan en una sartén grande con abundante aceite a fuego lento y se tapan.

  2. Se baten los huevos.

  3. Cuando la cebolla esté transparente y las patatas hechas y blandas se pasan a los huevos batidos escurriendo bien el aceite, se le añade la sal.

  4. Retirar el aceite sobrante de la sartén y echar toda la mezcla (huevos, cebolla y patatas), friendo a fuego medio.

  5. Se deja unos 5 minutos hasta que empieza a cuajar, luego con una tapadera se vuelve la tortilla y se fríe la tortilla durante cinco minutos aproximadamente, y ya está lista la tortilla.

Top Spanish Songs (chosen by Spaniards):

  • Kung Fu by Dasoul y Nacho

  • No Puedo Vivir Sin Ti - Aitana y Cepeda (Operación Triunfo 2017)

  • Lo Malo - Aitana y Ana Guerra

HOPES OF SEPARATION

MARGARET B ('19)

Catalonia, a region of Spain, captured the attention of the world when its elected parliament took action in the Fall of 2017 to formally separate from Spain. The idea of creating an independent country seems radical and crazy and, most-of-all, unobtainable. However, due to the election of politicians favoring separation, there has been a dramatic increase in elected Catalonian officials publicly expressing their desire to make Catalonia an independent country. Catalonia is one of the larger of Spain’s 17 autonomous communities, and it contains the well-known city of Barcelona (a economically vibrant city that is also a popular tourist destination). For US citizens, a reference to an “autonomous community” of Spain is analogous to a reference to one of our 50 states, with distractive geographical borders and separate local governments. Some citizens of Spain more closely identify themselves with, and feel a greater patriotism towards, their autonomous region than to their country, Spain. In Catalonia, the primary reasons for regional patriotism are economic, cultural, and linguistic differences. For example, in addition to speaking Castilian Spanish (which is the Spanish that we know), residents of Catalonia also speak their own language, called “Catalan.”

Catalonia first experienced rejection starting as far back as the War of Spanish Succession in 1714. In 1714, Catalonia’s laws and government was abolish and was instead imposed into the centralism in Spain. Although this was bad for the “identity” of Catalonia, the economy experienced success under this new rule. Catalonia experienced even more recently a drastic suppression under Francisco Franco, the dictator who reigned from 1939 until his death in 1975. Similar to other dictators of this time period, like Hitler and Mussolini, Franco established strict rules surrounding political opponents, censorship of the media, and persecution of specific people and regions. In Catalonia, Franco suppressed Catalonian unique culture, including its Catalan language. Following Franco’s death in 1975, Catalonia began to reestablish and reemphasize its unique culture, including the reinstatement of Catalan as the region’s official language.

Within the last year, the separatist movement has become more visibly active. In 2005-2006, the Catalan Parliament wrote a new Statute of Autonomy (the Constitution of Catalonia), which was approved in a referendum by the Catalans. Following, the next step was to seek approval from the Spanish parliament. However, the parliament did not approve and instead modified the Constitution. Finally, the Constitutional Court additionally declared some articles of the Statute unconstitutional. As a result, many Catalan politicians and a portion of the public thought that their will, that had been expressed through the referendum, was not respected within the Catalan parliament. On October 1, 2017, an illegal referendum was held in Catalonia to determine if the people of Catalonia wanted to pursue independence Spain. 90% of the participating voters supported independence. So, it appears that many voters who did not support independence (called “loyalists”) elected not to vote as only 43% of registered voters went to the polls. Encouraged by the pro-independence voters, Catalonia’s president, Carles Puigdemont, declared Catalonia an independent state in the form of a republic (but only for a matter of seconds). The Spanish government, similar to the president and parliament of Catalonia acted illegally, applied Article 155 of the Constitution and took control of the Government of Catalonia (not the parliament). However, the parliament and government of Catalonia is still functioning (with an majority of independence support). In addition, they proceeded to incarcerate many of Catalonia’s politicians who acted illegally according to the constitution. Puigdemont fled to Belgium, and remains in exile today in Germany.

 I have seen the effects of the strong separatist movement on the country’s citizens. While living with a family, the topic of Catalonia has not always ended in a friendly way and sometimes with the slamming of fists or the slamming of doors. Around the vote of October 1, 2017, Zaragoza was filled with many marching against Catalonia with some even holding the flag of the republic. Historically, the flags were not used for Spain because of the negative view surrounding Franco and his usage of it to unify Spain. For example, while discussing the topic with a local Zaragoza teenager she was frustrated by the usage of flags claiming that it was not being used for patriotism, but instead as a form of counteracting the Catalonian supports and therefore a negative idea.

So, what does the future hold for Catalonia. Many Spaniards, including many loyalists, view Catalonia’s vibrant economy as critical to the future economic success of Spain. Accordingly, it is important that Catalonia remains part of Spain. However, many in Catalonia, especially the separatists, believe that too much tax revenue that is sent to the federal government is used in other regions of Spain with insufficient amounts returning to Catalonia. The recession in Spain following the 2008 global financial crisis brought the tax inequality issue to the forefront. Independence would have dramatic economic impacts on Spain and Catalonia; drawing the question of if a portion of Spain’s federal debt would be allocated to Catalonia if separated. Would Catalonia be admitted as a separate member of the European Union? While it seems doubtful that independence will occur, the separatist movement, and its impact, is not over, and will likely continue to affect not only Spain and Catalonia, but also Europe and the rest of the world.

THE WORD "SHOULD"

ZOE A ('19)

This weekend, I learned more about the English language ironically, even though I am on a Spanish emersion semester. I learned what the word “should” means. "Should" is defined as “must; ought (used to indicate duty, propriety, or expediency)," but this past weekend, I’ve learned that we truly use “should” as an instrument of regret. We tag one simple word onto the majority of our past to serve as an emotional disclaimer to justify our mistakes. Living abroad in Spain has made me realize how much, I myself, am guilty of using ‘should’. “I should have packed more socks. I should have left earlier for the bus, and I definitely shouldn’t have eaten that last croqueta.” The words of proverbs express that “Tension is who you think you are. Relaxation is who you are.” And we often find ourselves under pressure to have the idea of pressure itself on us. We confuse the lack of friction for an easy way out and we fail to recognize flow.

 

For myself, I know that I am what they call a “go-getter.” I could easily plan the rest of my life if I was given a pen and a planner. Time passed without a set plan feels like time wasted to me, and if you know anything about Spaniard “siesta” then you already know where this is going. But for new comers to the Spanish culture, 2-5pm each day is when families come together, stop whatever they are doing, and eat a big lunch and relax. At home in North Carolina, meals are close to chores for me and it’s either quick or I won’t have time for it. So, as you already might have presumed, I began to feel overwhelmed and put pressure on myself to be doing something all the time when I came to Spain. Time alone in my room freaked me out, as I felt like I was wasting away into my chocolate stash and Netflix queue. I became so frustrated by my uptight nature and felt like I was fighting an internal battle of whether to slow down out or tighten up, and both outcomes felt like a loss. But this weekend, I cleared my schedule and bought a train ticket to the Cadiz. I spent the weekend with good company, dining with leisure, soaking in the sun and letting our time flow. The trip made me come to realize that we are all human. We lash out in spite of our emotions, we put pressure on ourselves, we all experience bad days, and we all remain stagnant in uncomfortable environments in fear of change. We can’t change the way we naturally are, whether we are up tight or relaxed, but we can change the way we experience life. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in his novel The Great Gatsby “So we beat on, boats against the current. Borne back ceaselessly into the past." With these words, Fitzgerald gives us an option: we can either let the friction of our lives strengthen us as we battle through them, or we can let them pull us back. Even though it appears nearly impossible to cut out a word from our habitual vocabulary, we can rid our minds of regret. We choose whether we attach regret or understanding to our mistakes.

 

Living in a foreign setting has made me realize to change the big mistakes into funny stories. Taking the wrong bus for an hour, misusing Spanish words, missing trains, and getting lost… a lot: these incidents are just some of the hundreds of moments I felt without control and overwhelmed in a foreign country, in a foreign language. But moments like that are unavoidable friction we must battle against to become stronger. Who would have thought that a legally blonde 16-year-old with no sense of direction would master the Andalusian bus system in two short months? Certainly not me. Living in Spain is turning “should haves” into “Do you remember the times when…”and learning to laugh at yourself. I use the verb ‘Living’ intentionally because you don’t just come to Spain, you must learn to build a life here. You must be willing to make mistakes, wipe off the dirt and keep going. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, so we must pace ourselves with our host families, Spanish, and (most importantly) food. Have fun with the challenges, and relieve yourself of pressure, to make room to grow. You’ll be surprised to find the kind of person you’ll come to be in the big picture of small compiled moments of stepping outside your comfort zone. Tension is who I used to be, but relaxation is now who I am, thanks to a few short months full of new foods, lots of sunshine, unique experiences, much laughter, and great company along the way. 

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