Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Vacation with Home Friends vs. Vacation with Abroad Friends

I've just returned from vacation, and boy am I exhausted.

You'd think a vacation would replenish me, but travelling with friends from your adopted country, as opposed to with friends from your home country, can wear you out. Let's look at the differences:

Vacation with friends from Canada: eating, sleeping, and partying habits are known and predictable; no alien food preferences; communication is easy.

Vacation with friends from Spain: meals are at strange hours - 11 a.m., 3 p.m., and 10 p.m. (or later for dinner); dinners are small; many times your group includes people you've never met before; friends want to eat Spanish food typical of the region; it's difficult to talk 24/7 in another language. 

Following locals can lead to cool places... this isolated beach...
Vacationing with people from your adopted country involves risk, if you've just moved from home. It's intense sharing a flat and a car with other people you don't know well, especially when there's a language barrier. I learned a lot of Spanish, and most of my travel buddies spoke slowly for me, but there were times I was so mentally exhausted that I'd shut down and not say more than one thing per hour.
...and this one, too.
Do I recommend it? Of course! Just be sure to listen to yourself, and take time away from the group should you need it. Also, if there are people who speak your language, utilize that when you're tired.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Alter Native

Just like on my trip to Andorra, I've discovered more things that I miss about my Canadian hometown: live outdoor concerts, and the smell of pot.
Ciento Uno

Still found time for futbol, at a teteria (tea shop)

Place number one?  Málaga. The event?  Ciento Uno. As soon as I entered the stadium where the music festival was, I marvelled at the alternative crowd and realized how much I missed these types of people. Even though it felt like I was the only Asian there, no one stared at me. Málaga is a truly touristy city. And, as we watched Franz Ferdinand and Canadian group Rinôcerôse rock out, the waft of weed perked my senses.

Place number two?  Alcalá la Real, a small town of close to 20,000 that swells every year during EtnoSur, a free three-day international music event.  I only knew one band on the roster but the performances and venues didn't fail to blow me away. Again, I didn't spot a single Asian but because the crowd was a mix of liberal, hippy types and international music lovers, there were no stares. It was a very relaxed weekend of botellónes, botellónes, and more botellónes, and music from Africa, South America, and Spain. 
Alamedadosoulna, from Madrid

Aw come on,man.

Again, we found time for futbol.
During both events I had quite the intensive "classes", trying to decipher very strong Málaga and Jaén accents.  At one point my mind was ready to explode and I said to a friend, who spoke English, that I was hasta la narices (I've just about had it) with Spanish.  But still, I had a great time and look forward to doing it again!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Problem with Facebook Photos

Continuing with the theme of tech problems (although I finally fixed my phone), sometimes the problem isn't technology itself, but rather the users. Like when you take pics with your mobile, and your friend nudges you and says, "Send me the pics." In my case, when I answer "Okay", the word somehow leaves my mouth, magically undergoes a transformation midair, and reaches my friend's ear in the form of "Okay, I'll send them to your phone right this second. Even though I'm enjoying my time with you, I will drop everything and send you the photos right now.

But that's not what my "Okay" means. "Okay" means I'll send it when I'm back home. When I'm near WiFi. When I'm rested. It may take a while, but I'll send it.
Granted, I'm okay with being reminded. It's natural to forget. But when it's within the same afternoon, it angers me. My friend V took a photo by the pool with a friend. A few minutes later, the friend asked why she hadn't sent it yet. Uh, because they were supposed to be relaxing by the pool at that moment.

Before I get high and mighty about Facebook use, let me offer a pre-disclaimer that I am one of the most vain people on this planet. I use Facebook, I have a blog, hell, I was born in the year of the Snake, and guess what one of the personality traits are? Vanity.

However, I don't think it's fair to inconvenience others with your vanity. Think about it. It's not a photo you need for your passport, it's a stupid photo of you posing, with some stupidly gorgeous background, and you want to post it on stupid Facebook so that you can plead with your audience, "Look at me."

When I visited Málaga recently, an acquaintance I didn't know well asked if I would send her my photos I took that night. We were in a loud place, I misunderstood her Spanish, and answered in a way that made her think I'd already done so.

The next morning in V's apartment, as I sleepily stumbled out of bed, V asked me to send her the photos. With her WiFi, I did so. I then turned my data off for the rest of the day, to enjoy my time with V.

Hours later I turned it back on, only to be greeted by a barrage of angry messages by the other girl. "You said last night you'd sent them and you lied!" "Why aren't you answering me?" "You sent them to V and you're ignoring me!" "It was a mistake to be your friend!" I apologized for forgetting to send them that morning, explained I'd been really sleepy, I'd misunderstood her Spanish the night before, etc. It wasn't enough. She was inconsolable. I sent the photos, turned off my data once more, and declared to V that I never wanted to see her friend ever again because she's insane.

A day later the girl sent an apology, but the friendship is ruined. If a person can get worked up like that over photos, what would happen if bigger problems sprung up? I don't want to be around to find out.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Eating in Spain

As accustomed as I've become to Spanish culture, one thing that still evades me is eating on the country's timetable.

Here's the Spanish way:

0800 Coffee, maybe a cookie or two
1100 Coffee and a half-baguette (media tostada) with olive oil, tomato paste and maybe jam
1400 Lunch
1800 Merienda consisting of fruit or a pastry
2100 or later     Dinner consisting of tapas (appetizers) with each beverage

Here's my Canadian way:

0800 Coffee, toast / oatmeal, cheese, fruit
1100 I try to eat like my friends with either una media or fruit, but actually I'm ready to eat an entire leg of jam
1400 About to faint, I make lunch which includes a tapa fit for two, a main course, dessert, and tea
1600 Merienda #1
1800 Merienda #2, now feeling like a lard-ass
2000 Dinner at home consisting of a plate of pasta, because the tapas at the bar aren't enough for me
2100 Tapas, including the ones my friends don't eat. Leaving the last “piece of shame” (el trozo de vergüenza) on the plate, of course.
Typical Canadian brunch

I've been here close to a year and I'm still not used to Spanish people's eating habits. Yesterday while touring Úbeda, I pulled out a bag of pipas (sunflower seeds) and wolfed some down. I ended up having to buy another bag of snacks because I was ready to faint. It produced giggles from my friends, who said if I'm like this now, what about when my work schedule changes to the daytime? I guess I'll be brown-bagging it.