Showing posts from April, 2014

4 Things America Can Learn From Spain

It’s been almost two years that I’ve been living and working in Spain, and in this time I’ve been lucky to have such a unique opportunity to learn, first-hand, the real, everyday culture that surrounds the Spanish language. I’ve had to come to terms with the culture of Spain and the way Spaniards do things; most things aren’t wrong, they’re just…different.

While I’ve learned a lot about this country since moving here in September 2012, one thing in particular I’ve gained is a new perspective on America; sometimes you need a fresh pair of eyes to see both your homeland’s faults as well as what places, foods, and times of the year are really special.

Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to take what I’ve learned in my experience living here in Spain and talk about what I think American culture and society could stand to learn from Spain (this post)…and vice versa.

Now, before the haters come out of the woodwork, let me just say that living in Spain has made me love America more than …

How to Get Around Galicia by Train

Last year when I lived down south in Úbeda I mostly took the bus around from village to village or even on long-haul trips to bigger cities. It helped that Úbeda was a sort of regional bus hub, and while the nearby Linares-Baeza train station had decent connections with the rest of the country, it was always a hassle to catch an infrequent bus just to get to the station.

But this year, I’ve taken full advantage of the fact that Santiago de Compostela has a full-fledged, bustling train station, and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had to take the bus. Because of this, I’ve gotten to know the Galician rail network fairly well.

The region of Galicia in northwestern Spain sometimes seems a world unto its own—a different language, abundant seafood and baked goods, a foggy, mystery-laden landscape—but you can go from one major population center to another via train just as easily as anywhere else in the country. The Spanish national rail company Renfe operates short-distance…

Sounds I Miss From Texas

I miss the sounds of…

Crickets as they keep vigil through the night, their whistly sopranos petering out and being replaced by the next in turn

The Doppler effect of the lawnmower as it passes by my bedroom window, and also the calm relief that returns after it shuffles off

Squirrels thumpety-thumpety-thumping across the roof

The bright, bouncy cry of the cardinal

The whooshing of the trees as they all clap their hands to welcome in an imminent thunderstorm, or the lazy flicker of leaves rustling together on a balmy, breezy day

Thunder in all its forms: the uhhh-I-don’t-wanna-get-out-of-bed-Mom grumbles, far off in the distance—the basketball that bumps from one carpeted stair step to another—the large fart denied a way out of the bowels—the kind that shifts between rumble and boom that makes you wonder if it’s gonna be A Big One—the bedroom door slammed by an angsty teenager that makes the bookshelf fall over and spill all the books and knick-knacks onto the floor—and the actual Big On…

Gathered Thoughts From a Trip to Portugal

It only took me half a year to get there, but last week I finally made my way down south to Galicia’s long-lost cousin, Portugal. For Semana Santa or Holy Week celebrations I got a week off of school so I had the opportunity to do the country justice rather than a brief, whirlwind weekend trip. Early Thursday morning I caught the regional train down to Vigo in southwest Galicia, where I made a transfer to the direct “La Celta” service between Vigo, Spain, and Porto, Portugal. Two nights in Porto led to four nights in Lisbon the capital, where I made daytrips to the monumental neighborhood of Belém and Romantic-era retreat of Sintra.

As per usual, there will be the expected travelogue-style posts about my time in Portugal to come, but for now, I’m stickingwithtradition and doing a little write-up on some musing and reflections I had while in Spain’s neighbor to the southwest.

* As odd as it sounds, I spoke the Galician language for the first time while in Portugal. Galician and Portuga…

Confession: Why I’m Renewing for Another Year in Galicia

It’s that stressful time of the year again: the Spanish Ministry of Education has now begun assigning native English speakers from North America to work in public elementary and high schools across the country. First-timers anxiously (and impatiently) wait to hear back from the government to see where they will be spending the next eight months of their lives, and veteran language assistants have their fingers crossed, hoping to get placed in their preferred region.

Placements are already rolling out this early in the spring, which inevitably means fellow teachers, expat friends, and family are asking, are you going to renew?

Even before I first came to Spain two years ago, I knew I wanted to stay here for two years: one in the south and one in the north—mainly to make it easier to travel around each half of the country but also so I could experience both the lively, extroverted Andalusian culture and the cozy, introverted Galician one. Maybe I would make a “victory lap” and spend a t…

How to Recycle in Spain

Like any responsible society should, Spain has a well-developed system of recycling used materials like paper, plastic, or soda cans. You can find recycling bins, receptacles, and containers all over the country, from the biggest metropolises to the tiniest villages. However, these bins usually come in multicolored troops of four, and unless you know the specific vocabulary surrounding, uh, waste, it can be a little confusing the first couple times you have to throw stuff away.

Green: trash (residuos) Okay, I know this isn’t really recycling, but you always find green-colored bins for all your trash alongside the other recycling containers. Throw your trash bags in here. Often they’re labeled with residuos orgánicos (organic waste) but it means the same thing as basura (trash).

Blue: paper (papel) Throw your loose paper, cardboard (cartón), newspapers, and magazines in here. Although this might seem like the most logical place to throw your cardboard milk boxes into, they’re actually su…

Photo Post: The Street Art of Zaragoza, Spain

When I was gallivanting around the region of Aragón in east-central Spain a month ago, my first stop was the huge capital city of Zaragoza. I’ve got a proper “travelogue” post in the works, but today I want to highlight an attractive draw to the city’s old town: the street art. Having been tipped off to Zaragoza’s strong street art “scene” by Lauren Aloise’s blog post, I was on the look out while in town and managed to come across some beautiful and intriguing pieces throughout the historic core and the neighborhood to the west, El Gancho. The next time you’re passing through Zaragoza, keep your eyes out for some surprising graffitied walls!