Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ham It Up

Hello from Spain! I hope this finds all of you well. I thought I would share with you some funny/interesting (or maybe neither) observations I have made...

HAM. Jamón ibérico. It's a big deal here. Apparently, Spain produces the priciest of hams, the crème de la crème. When I was with my host family, we ate ham with almost every meal. You cannot walk down the street without passing a carnicería (butcher's shop) and seeing huge legs of ham hanging in the window. Personally, it isn't the most appetizing image, but, I will take a picture soon to share with you. My dad sent me an article explaining that the holiday season did not see great sales, and there is an abundance of ham and, thus, lower prices. This is why, when my profesora asked us if we like ham and someone said yes, she responded: No! Because if you don't like it, the prices will stay low!

Pedestrians rule the city. Coming from a city where people simply do not walk places, I am very nervous crossing the street-but here people cross and expect cars to stop! I was told by a friend that I have "much respect for cars." Well, it isn't so much that I respect cars, as I do my life! But really I have no reason to be so cautious: drivers really will stop in the middle of a street to let someone cross. Once, an older lady was standing on the sidewalk, waiting to cross, and a car, driving quickly, simply stopped, and allowed her to cross, and then he continued on his way.

I do not want this to sound rude, but there is a degree of racism here. We discussed this in my course on Spanish culture, and my teacher acknowledged it as a fact. She asked us each about our family's heritage; we had people from all over the world. This is the crux of the issue; if you surveyed a group of Spaniards, they would all be (more or less) Spanish. As a whole, there is not much diversity, as there is in the United States.
I particularly notice a sense of condescension towards the Asian people. I witnessed a sad scene: I was walking near campus and noticed two young men sitting on the sidewalk. (I had already marked one as a bit gross when he spit on the ground...) But then I passed two girls from Asia chatting, and heard the young man mimic their accent, and spit, again, in their direction. I turned around, and the girls paused, seemed confused, and kept walking. My hope is that they didn't understand the insult.

In spite of what I just described, the Spanish are a friendly people. I think I described the waiting room at the hospital, and how everyone greeted the other patients. When I walk into my dorm building it is customary to say hello to the person at the desk; or if I pass someone in the hall I usually here some version of hello. Or when people leave a restaurant, they always acknowledge the server or bartender and say goodbye. Twice in one day I was standing, confused, looking at my map and someone stopped and asked if he/she could help me. Now, I haven't met many friendly in the cafeteria when I'm eating by myself, but...that will improve, I'm sure! Hehe. All in time...

Today, the feast day of Saint Thomas Aquinas, is the official holiday of the, no school!

The old buildings on campus are just amazing. The Philology department is in an ancient building, and you walk through a huge door and are standing in a courtyard. It is surrounded by offices and classrooms, but the middle is open! So neat and different than what I am used to!

But then again, just about everything here is different than I am used to!


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