when in spain..

Travelling, sometimes you can’t help but notice something and think.. hmm, well that wouldn’t fly back home.

In Peru, for example, it seems to still be a ‘thing’ to use pay phones. In the states, we would be like “Girrrrrrl, where yo’ cell phone at?” Ain’t nobody got time to call collect.

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Kidding, we would probably be like, “Ma’am, can you please keep your alpaca off the sidewalk?”

*I am not an idiot, nor completely insensitive to the economic differences between Peru and the United States that are probably why this woman isn’t using a personal mobile device, so if for some reason you’re offended, stop it.

We might also bat an eye or twelve if we saw this back in good old California.

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Just kidding, thats a really cool outfit Dad.

Seriously though, in California this would be met with all kinds of police intervention. (Unless you’re in SF Mission district after a Giants win, in which case they would make an attempt to control it and then probably give up after being hit in the head with a beer bottle. Or they might just decide to ghost ride the police whip <– way better idea)

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Bonfires and fireworks in the streets, not a regulation or fire extinguisher to be found. Just another New Year’s celebration in Quito, Ecuador. This was a residential neighborhood, for the record.

Over the last few months in Spain, I’ve definitely noticed some differences in what is culturally acceptable here versus back in California, and have gathered my well- researched data here for you to peruse. (by well researched I mean not researched and by data I mean I saw it and went, “huh!” and then typed it into the notes section on my phone… I am very scientific)

  • Want to eat breakfast in a bar on a Tuesday morning? Go for it. You will not be considered an alcoholic and shunned by your family (I was going to say peers, but if they’re your peers they might be alcoholics too). Many bars in Spain open for breakfast an serve coffee, pastries, sandwiches and juice without a side of judgment. It is completely normal to suggest breakfast at the same bar you had 12 Estrellas at the night before.
  • Sidewalks are not just for walking, people. They are also great places to park your motorcycle. I distinctly remember a friend of mine in San Francisco either having his moped towed or ticketed because it was found on the sidewalk. In Spain, the sidewalk basically exists as a parking lot for mopeds, scooters and motorcycles. Sure, we have some signposted spaces on the street, but it is SO much more convenient (and fun!) to chase people out of the way in order to park, reminiscent of Schwarzenegger in Eraser, gunning it on a crotchrocket down the middle of a crowded sidewalk.
  • Apartment buildings are pretty misleading. When I moved here, I was technically living on what was called the “3rd floor”… which was actually 5 floors up. Now, I am living in what is called the “altell” apartment, and I literally have no clue what that means. It should be the first floor, but in between me and the actual first floor we have “Principal” (main)  and “Entresuelo” (literally, between floors). I tried to walk up to the roof the other day, under the misconception that my whole building has 5 floors (as indicated by the mailboxes AND the buzzers at the front door)… FALSE MY FRIENDS. Eight floors up, I finally found the door to heaven. It’s populated by a Shit-Tzu that really likes to let you know he’s here to stay and is not shutting up about it.
  • Spanish culture is very much a culture of the night. Dinner is eaten anywhere between 9pm and 11 pm, and if you want a cup of coffee in this city at 7 am, that literally might not be a possibility. Even grocery stores don’t open until 9 am. On weekends, you might head to the clubs at 3 am, and I attended a concert the other night at which the doors didn’t even open until after 1. I shared the Californian bar/club opening hours and alcohol restrictions with someone from Spain the other day and they almost didn’t believe me…. I mean, how are we supposed to be drinking at the bars at 10 pm if thats still right in the middle of dinner time?
  • One of my personal favorite differences between California and Spain is that its very common here to refer to people as “guapo” (boys) or “guapa” (girls), a word that means either pretty or handsome, depending on who it’s directed at. Especially on days when I’m not feeling so hot, it feels really good when the olive lady tells me I’m pretty, even if she probably doesn’t mean it like that. It does get a little confusing though when people that are theoretically within the realms of sexual possibility use it though.. DO YOU ACTUALLY THINK I’M PRETTY OR ARE YOU JUST BEING POLITE? (and this is why girls get crazy).
  • Personal space is also a little less well-defined in Spain. Literally, the first thing you do when you meet a new person is kiss them, and the ‘casual touch’ is actually just a casual touch (sometimes a touch is just a touch guys). This is not a complaint in any way, for the record, but for us expats its a little strange to be sitting on a bench with plenty of space around you and have someone you’ve never seen before come up and literally sit right next to you or walk so close that they actually touch your body. Honestly, though, its actually super weird when someone tries to shake my hand these days.. like, ew, I could get Ebola from touching that. Now kiss me, goddammit!

Now, I am sure that someone might read this and take offense, but I’m totally cool with that. I actually hope someone trolls me. If I am offensive enough to have haters, that must mean I’m doing something right. The fact is, I am not sharing any of these observations because I have any issue with them… although it would be awesome to be able to have a killer night out AND be in bed by 3 am. In the meantime, I’ll just be here basking in the afterglow of my latest interaction with the olive lady… she’s started to use superlatives (today I was guapisima!)

My (tentative and highly subject to change) future

Officially count this in the books as my first emigrated post. I am now a resident of the UK, with the bank account to prove it. Never mind that the bank account is currently completely empty, just the fact that I have it is a point of pride.

After leaving New York shrouded in clouds and heavy rain (apparently summer in NY is just like summer in the UK.. sometimes there’s a chance of rain all the time), Cole (the brother) and I made our way slowly across the Atlantic to the place of heritage- jolly old Liverpool. Now, Liverpool often gets a bad rap- it’s an industrial port city that up until recently (last 10 years or so) didn’t offer much by way of culture. In the last few years, however, things have really turned around. Great museums (all free!), beautiful parks, and a completely refurbished downtown area have turned Liverpool into a highly regarded tourist destination, although in a duel of wits, charm and overall good looks, London would (of course) win hands down. In a rap battle, London would still own it, especially on style and delivery, but to be fair no one would have any idea what Liverpool was saying in the first place.

So far it’s been a combination of solid family time (dotted with a few screaming matches here and there, but really thats just the way families are meant to communicate, right?), exploring, and reconnecting with old friends. Although I am having a great time, I did have a moment or two over the last week of  “what the hell am I doing?,” but I think that is to be expected, considering I have no idea of the next time I’ll see a lot of the places and people that have become precious to me over the last 27 years. However, I’m pretty damn excited to strengthen some bonds I already have on this side of the world as well as create a whole bunch of new ones!

So what’s on the agenda for the next few months?

I am generally pretty averse to doing a lot of planning, as I strongly believe that you never know whats around the next corner. Case in point- Buying a 1 month long round trip ticket to/from Colombia last December. Honestly, did I really think a month was going to be enough for me to get in all of the things I wanted to do, not to mention a ton of stuff I had no idea was even possible? 

That said, here’s whats on the horizon so far:

(The rest of) JUNE:

-Heading back to Liverpool to help my cousin Lindsey (Kosher Roast) and her friend Amy with what I have dubbed ‘an orthodox bachelor party.’ Which from what I understand is basically a luncheon. Either way, its been a while since I’ve worked a catered event, and I’m pretty excited to make some money, see how the event plays out, and eat some delicious food.

Africa Oye! music festival in Liverpool- I’m learning that, like San Francisco, a lot of events during the summer are weather dependent. If its sunny, it’ll be a fantastic weekend. If not, I should probably buy myself a pair of wellies and a good umbrella. Maybe a poncho?

good look for me huh?

good look for me huh? 

-Another week- ish (potentially) in London. Hopefully, I’ll get some more good weather (its been mid 70s every day so far!).

 

JULY:

-As of right now, I am planning on spending all of July in Spain. First off, landing in Madrid to spend some time with Patricia, my host sister from the year I lived in Spain in 2002-2003. Its been almost 12 years since I’ve seen her and her family, and I am so excited to catch up with them! Patricia is finishing up a law degree in Madrid, and the plan is to head out to see the whole family by car in early July. They still live in O Rosal, the teeny town I spent my sophomore year of high school in! I imagine I will hang out with them until maybe mid July, then thats where it starts to get interesting. I might head to Barcelona for a Workaway position in a cafe doing some waitressing/kitchen work, or I might rent a car and explore some more of Spain, I could go to Benicassim festival near Barcelona, or who knows, maybe from Galicia I’ll head to Portugal and see what happens from there. Any recommendations?!?!

AUGUST:

-This is where it starts to get even more nebulous. I’ll lay out what I am considering so far. (Obviously subject to drastic or minor change.)

  • spend a week in Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival 
  • stay in Spain and work in Barcelona
  • Find a place to stay in London for a month or two and find some sort of income source
  • Rent a car in the UK and drive up to Wales to visit some family friends, continue exploring UK by car.

Past that, I’ve got about a million ideas and zero desire to commit to anything. The idea of England in winter doesn’t sound that appealing, so chasing summer might become my fall/winter agenda.

I’ll leave you with this:

 

so far so good.. heres what I’ve picked up along the way

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Manhattan as seen from Brooklyn

I’m a big fan of learning stuff. For me, learning implies forward motion- collected energy coupled with information to help propel you into the future. And I’m not just talking about book-learnin’- the type of learning I’m interested in is all about experience, observation, and feedback. Well, in the last few weeks, my life has been an onslaught of ‘new’- and I don’t plan on stopping that anytime soon.

Here’s some tidbits from what I’ve picked up so far:

Lets start in Brooklyn.

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Like many big cities, New York has a fabulous array of galleries, museums and exhibitions to attend- I did check out the MoMA (tip: Friday afternoons- after 4:15- are FREE to the public. Yes, it is crowded as hell, totally worth it to save the $25 entrance fee)- but I found the best art on the streets.

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Bruce Lee, immortalized in Williamsburg

 

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Hypnotized by Biggie in Fort Green

I picked up some super helpful underground tips- not, like, how to find random password protected parties scented by Parliaments and old PBR, but literally underground. I’ve concluded that pretty much anything goes on the subway. Breakdancing? Hell yeah. Diaper changing? Yup, saw that one too.

Brooklyn also taught me a lot about how to be inconspicuous. If you really want to fit in, the key is iced coffee and awkwardly placed portrait tattoos. If I had a dollar for every kid in jorts with an iced latte and a thigh tattoo of some obscure musician’s face from the 60 I would have a lot of dollars (but not so many pounds! Damn you exchange rate.)

In Fort Greene, I learned that religion is just as subjective as you want it to be. Who needs church when you can go straight to the gods themselves?

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(*Bey and Jay are not MY gods, as I have not yet decided which member of pop culture royalty deserves my utmost devotion. Michelle, on the other hand, has spirituality on lock. Get it girl.)

I also learned a little about predicting the weather. Think San Francisco is difficult to dress for? Put every season into one day and you’ve got New York summer. Which is great if you love to cool off your sunburn with a rainstorm.

Moving on to Washington DC, where I learned that you can do ALL THE ACTIVITIES and still have time for naps in less than 36 hours. *(Thanks Jessie!)

I also found out where the preppiest people in the world live, and exactly what type of man I am not interested in. Since I never took the obligatory DC trip in elementary school, it took me 27 years to learn that he White House is, in fact, white. And quite the popular tourist destination. Luckily, the bars on the gate are spaced just right for a little arm to fit through to take this ‘no one at the White House but me’ photo.

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in real life, it is slightly larger than the tree in the foreground, I promise.

My last days in the US reminded me of the fun of exploring a new city, the comfort of seeing an old friend, and the excitement of not being altogether too sure of tomorrow. Though my confidence is often a little shaky, I honestly believe that wherever I go and whoever I meet, I’ll learn something. And as long as I have that, I’ll keep moving forward.

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blame it on genetics

I am so not trendy enough for New York. Especially now that everything I own fits into a suitcase, a carry on rollie bag, a travel backpack and a regular backpack. I mean, unless you consider dressing exactly like my little brother trendy, in which case I’m killing it. Apparently even though we live thousands of miles apart, genetics really plays a part in how well you can cuff a pair of jeans and sport a pair of sneakers.

 

thats it thats all my friends

thats it thats all my friends

Genetics are a funny thing- the idiosyncrasies we are often blind to in ourselves we see as faults in our siblings and parents.  Traits that seem adorable as a child lose their luster as we get older, and habits we learn from our parents benefit us in the long run, even if they seem like hindrances during our childhood.

I wonder sometimes, if I had been raised by an entirely different family what biological traits would still show up in my personality? Obviously, I would still be borderline child-size with terrible eye sight, but who would I be as a person? Would I still let my mind wander off and forget to pay attention the world around me? Would my daydreams be filled with white picket fences and kids instead of unknown oceans and desert adventures? Who knows, maybe with a different upbringing I would have ended up as a middle school teacher in the midwest, faithfully attending church every weekend with my seven kids.

My dad asked me yesterday if I thought that I got the travel bug from him. The funny thing is, when I was younger, all I wanted was to have a normal family that went on normal vacations and a summer that consisted of soccer and camping instead of flying 18 hours to dress in traditional temple gear to attend a wedding in Bali. The year I spent in Spain in high school was kicked off with me begging a family friend to pick me up from the airport in LA so I didn’t have to go.

(if you’re reading this and going, “WTF IS WRONG WITH THIS SPOILED BRAT” I really don’t hold it against you but honestly, as a kid you really just want to fit in. With the version of nature and nurture that I had, no such luck).

buncha weirdos at a graduation. how sweet is that tie-dye t shirt??

buncha weirdos at a graduation. how sweet is that tie-dye t shirt??

Now, at 27, all of the resistance is hilarious to me. The most exciting thing I can think of is the fact that I honestly can tell you what country I’ll be in a few months from now, or which method of transportation I might be using to reach my next destination. Who knows, maybe I’ll end up settling down in the city of my heritage.. good old Liverpool.

Is the travel bug something that was a non-negotiable genetic dictation from the start or is it something I developed somewhere on a sleeper train from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok? My parents didn’t grow up traipsing all over the world, and my grandparents, although fairly well travelled, definitely didn’t have the adventurous spirit that I see in my dad and myself. Maybe its not an adventurous spirit at all- its that my dad and I are  both stubborn as hell, and the more something seems difficult, unknown or a little scary, the more pigheadedly we charge in that direction.

Ultimately, the people we share genes with will always be some of the ones we both admire the most and judge the most harshly . Recognizing myself in my family  is both a source of stress and comfort- and a driving force that keeps me moving towards the person I want to become. So, Dad, even with all of the trouble I give you, thanks for the travel bug, my curious mind, and my annoying habit of saying “what?” even though we all know I heard you the first time.

******Any NYC spots I can’t miss? I’ll be here til June 3!*****