God Bless America

I think there comes a point in every study abroad student’s experience in which he or she sits down and says, “What’s wrong with me? I’m in ____(insert incredible foreign country)_____, so why am I thinking about home?” I called my mom up the other day and rattled off first thing that I’ve been dreaming of nothing but Fourth of July picnics and pulled pork lately. I requested that she be waiting for me at the airport in May with a peanut butter and honey sandwich in hand (my go-to since I was 7 – old habits die hard), and then I ended with a big ol’ GOD BLESS AMERICA, and hung up. She thought it was funny; I, completely serious, thought otherwise.CultureCurve1

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ADVENTURE IS OUT THERE! Mandy upon arrival in Spain

Once in a while (frequently) I think with the, as my mom calls it, “woe is me” mentality – “Why am I the ONLY one in the entire UNIVERSE plagued by this (ridiculously common and/or petty) problem? Why am I the only student feeling this way abroad every now and then, when I have not been the slightest bit homesick since my arrival in January?” Lo and behold, as shown by the nifty graph above (thank you, Google images), there is a natural progression to culture shock. When I first came here, I wanted to do everything, see everything, touch everything, eat everything. I was curious and inspired by all things Spanish (explicit and tacit – see below), and unknowingly in a competition with myself to see just how quickly I could deplete my bank account – the results were shocking.

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As I spend more and more time here and feel like less a tourist than granaíno, I can’t help but notice that certain days are, relatively speaking of course, not quite as dreamy and magical as others. On that note, I’ve compiled a list of some top things I think about most nostalgically from home.

Peanut Butter. The staple of my diet for 21 years, I’m going through major, major withdrawal. I guess I could buy it here, but I feel like it would be a sin to in Spain. This is supposed to be complete immersion, right? Still, I often find myself dreaming fondly of the days in which it was possible to just curl up in bed with nothing but a tub of Ards’ and a spoon, and watch The Bachelor. Which leads me to my next minor gripe.

TV Websites (ABC, NBC, Hulu, Netflix). In all honesty, I don’t watch a lot of TV. But when a former convenience is off limits, you appreciate it that much more.

A central, free location to hang out with friends. We all absolutely love the homestay experience. I can’t say enough good things about it, and I think you can gather that from my past entries. Nevertheless, there are pros and cons to everything, and this is no exception. For example, we are not allowed to have friends over. Sometimes it would be wonderful to have a central place to snuggle up and watch a movie. If we want to hang out with friends, we have to go out of the house to a cafe, which means we need to buy coffee, froyo, croissants, churros con chocolate, all of the above, etc. This place is just terrible.

Lunch at noon, dinner at 6. My stomach starts growling around noon everyday and I have to wait until 3 for lunch. On certain days I’ll gloat, “Oh this schedule makes SO much more sense! Gosh, look at me SO euro now!” On others, my mind wanders back to the good ol’ days at Bucknell, where every person on campus finds it necessary to eat at 12 p.m. sharp, but somehow the quinoa line in the Bison still moves quickly.

Not spending money. When you live in rural Lewisburg, PA and your meal plan, as well as sorority dues, are already pre-paid at beginning of the semester, you really miss out on that exhilarating perpetual feeling of hemorrhaging money that you get abroad. It’s really a wonderful sensation. So wonderful, in fact, that I’m having family come to visit in TWO DAYS!!!, as it would be unfair for me to hog all of the ATM swipes to myself.

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A kitchen to cook and bake in. My mom is unreal. I’d consider her binder of recipes a Bible of sorts (see left).

Football. Not fútbol. Not even fútbol americano. Anyone who knows me well is aware that I am the world’s most fair-weather fan. When the Phillies won the World Series in ’09 (or was it ’08?), I didn’t watch the game (didn’t know there even was one) but still skipped school the next day to go into the city for the parade. Still, this gets at something much bigger than a silly game. It’s not about the football/fútbol. It’s about what the game represents: cultural fluency. I miss having a common national identity, language, sense of humor, cultural references, etc.

Country music. There isn’t even a Spanish word for it here – it’s just música country. The lack of appreciation for this genre cuts me deep, and I find myself listening to it whenever I get the slightest bit homesick. Talk about pouring salt on a wound.

Warmth, electricity, and water. Because water and energy have been privatized, the costs are exceptionally high in Granada. I just want to take a shower that stays warm for longer than four minutes, leave my laptop plugged in to charge adapter/converter-free when I leave the house, and walk barefoot at home on carpet instead of freezing marble. Our apartment is oftentimes colder than the temperature outside. Because of this, we eat every meal on a mesa camilla. This is a table typical of southern Spain that has a radiator underneath and blankets as the tablecloth, which we pull over our laps to stay warm.

Driving. Roadtripping solo is one of my favorite things to do. I crank up music and belt shamelessly at the top of my lungs. It’ll be interesting to see if I remember how to (poorly) drive when I get back.

Endearing, not nauseating, public displays of affection. One of my professors mentioned that Spain is very much a “contact culture.” I’ll leave it at that.

One Response to “God Bless America”

  1. Kasha says:

    I MISS YOU!!!!!!!!!!!! what a great blog!!!!!

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