Thursday, September 20, 2012

3 Attitudes I Don’t Want This Blog to Have, and 3 I Do

Before I embark on the next phase of my life (i.e., blogging the next phase of my life), I’d like to clarify certain angles that I’m trying to avoid as I write for you, my dear reader. I’ve pored over my fair share of expat/language assistant blog posts in preparation for the North American Language and Culture Assistant program in Spain this fall, so I’ve seen the best—and the worst—of Americans abroad online. Below are three attitudes that I will try to refrain from indulging in on this blog, as well as three I’d like to cultivate.

Jaen / Spain by Mait Jüriado on Flickr

1) The magical travel blog

.~*mY fAbUlOuS aDvEnTuRe*~.
In a magical travel blog, EVERYTHING about life in Spain is “amazing.” Living in the U.S. is just so unhealthy, and the Spanish lifestyle is so lively and exciting. Writers in this category emphasize all the good aspects of life and brush over the hard parts. Their blogs tend to lack many day-in-the-life-of posts and are full of accounts detailing weekend getaways to Italy, Egypt, Belgium, or Ireland. Their lives are so glamorous since, after all, they’re living abroad in Europe. They whole-heartedly embrace the Spanish custom of partying ‘til the sun comes up and the (perhaps outdated?) notion of siesta. They may also literally embrace Spaniards by dating or being married to one, and will tote their significant other around as a token of how wonderful the country is.

2) The whiny travel blog

My life is just such...a struggle *sigh*
These bloggers regret ever making the decision to apply for the program. After the disaster of month one, they have already bought one-way plane tickets to come home over Christmas break. They will blog about their two-week-long cold, having to wait for hours on bureaucracy, and suffering in freezing apartments that have no central heating. One post may explain how they are always hungry, since they try to eat lunch and dinner at noon and 6pm, rather than at Spanish time (2 and 9pm). Another post will detail getting lost trying to find the bus station out of town and having to cancel a trip to Barcelona. A whiny travel blog is basically the opposite of a magical one.

3) The know-it-all travel blog

You HAVE to see the local dance and you MUST eat at this restaurant that isn’t even in the Lonely Planet!
Having studied abroad in Spain for a semester back in college, and having spent two years in the program, a know-it-all travel blogger will tell you exactly what you should expect the moment you step off the plane. Their experiences are universal, because, obviously, they are experts on life abroad. After all, they’ve spent almost three years here! Their blogs will be no-nonsense and often quite useful despite the tone. Posts on such blogs are full of specific details and will give you the low-down on, say, how to stay warm in your Andalucian apartment, or fun things to do in your middle-of-nowhere town. Weekend trip posts will try to present an inside-scoop look into, for example, Brussels or the Louvre: what’s a MUST-SEE SPOT and places that aren’t even worth your hard-earned euros.

Alright, alright, I need to admit that these are all very broad generalizations and stereotypes (and are full of sarcasm and general tackiness). I’m sure I will end up writing numerous posts that fall into these three categories in the future, don’t worry!

But what I really want to do in this post is make clear the attitudes I aspire to as I write this year:

1) To understand that, while living in a foreign country can be an exciting change from the ho-hum of home (*ahem*), no country is without its faults, and I should expect to encounter them quickly.

2) To realize that my life abroad will not suck; I’ll be living in Europe and speaking Spanish 24/7 for crying out loud!

3) To accept that I know very little about Spain and even after one year in the program (hopefully two!) I will have yet to fully comprehend the country. I majored in history and Spanish in college, but I still have a lot to learn.

Now, a challenge to you, my reader: keep me down to earth, and if you ever hear me romanticizing or bellyaching about Spain, call me out! And I hope we can both learn a little about this fascinating country.
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