Tag Archives: Cuisine

Goodbye and Hello

I’ve been stateside now, back in Idaho, for one week. It’s really great to be back at home with my family and friends. But there’s also a feeling of sadness or emptiness too, as I’ve left my other home and family.

Goodbye is such a trite expression. But when we actually have to say it, and really mean it, it’s profound. It hurts. Saying goodbye to Barcelona, my host-family, and the new friends, it’s a feeling I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. But that’s the bittersweet moment of study abroad I suppose. To know that you’ve done something incredible.

So onto the topic at hand, reverse-culture shock.

As I stepped off the plane, the first thing I see are the rolling barren hills of the surrounding horizon. Not more than a hundred yards from my town’s tiny airport is the familiar site of rundown trailer parks and uninspiring housing. There is no architecture. There is no art. There really is no culture to speak of in that regard. Because where I’m from is a simple place. Its history is brief compared to that of Barcelona. So it’s not really fair to even compare the two. But I would be lying if I said if I wasn’t just a tad shocked to remember that I was just in one of the most bustling and beautiful cities on the planet and now here I am in something so mundane and simple.

I was also surprised to see enormous vehicles again, and not a moto-scooter in sight. I suppose what adds to the emptiness of my home is that there are no people just walking about or casually sitting at street-side food and bar establishments. The culture here in the States, even in our largest cities, is for everyone to own a vehicle and drive it. So despite my city of 35,000 being literally 1/20th the size of Barcelona, the traffic felt just as bad.

The day after I got back, I went to the grocery store with my girlfriend. It wasn’t my usual street-front fresh produce stand, but instead a big box store, another icon of American culture. As we perused the isles, I was awe-struck for just a moment that I could understand every single conversation happening around me. No longer was I bombarded with Catalan, Spanish, Chinese, German, etc.. just English. I haven’t decided if I like that or not — but at least now I can be certain I’m not being teased in a language I don’t understand! 🙂

My girlfriend and I are hosting a little dinner with Spanish and Catalan style cuisine at our house, in an effort to maybe bring some of what I experienced abroad, home with us. That’s all we or anyone can do really. By bringing some of it back with you, using it in your life, you can hold on to some of those memories.

In the coming weeks I am applying for graduate school. I definitely believe this study abroad experience will benefit my application and make me standout from others. This truly is a unique and life-changing experience. I look forward to encouraging others as I go on in my studies and career to study abroad — take advantage of opportunities like the Gilman or the Fulbright and a host of others.

A sincere thanks comes from my heart to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Gilman Scholarship Program, and to my family and friends (wherever they are in the world).

Be excellent to each other.

¡Salud!

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Filed under Dustin in Spain, Western Europe

An Unexpected Friendship

When talking about what we wanted to do while in Spain, my friends and I decided that we didn’t just want to stay in Zaragoza; we wanted to see other parts of Spain as well. When my friends Angela and Kate, along with myself, arrived in Spain my friend Michael had already been studying here since August, so he was able to show us around and introduce us to a few friends that he had made, two of which were also American. We ended up becoming very good friends with the two Americans, named Preston and Jason, going to bars, playing cards, watching movies, and practicing Spanish together. However, in March, Preston and Jason had to leave Zaragoza; Preston had an internship in Pamplona, and Jason had an internship in Ibiza. When they found out, they talked to us, and we all decided that we wanted to take one last trip together. We took a weekend, and booked a train to Valencia.

It was the perfect weekend to go. The weather was great, the sun was shining, and we all enjoyed going to the local beach, and seeing some of the monuments, such as castles and cathedrals, in Valencia. However, it wasn’t just our little group hanging out together. When we got to Valencia, we checked in at a hostel, and had to share a room with a girl from Germany, who we later found out to be named Anja. She was fluent in German, English, and Spanish, and we chatted with her a bit on Friday night. On Saturday, she told us that she’d come here alone, and she politely asked us if she could tag along with us. We accepted and were really excited to have a new addition to our “study abroad family.”

My study abroad family!

My study abroad family!

We saw several tourist sights together, and got to know Anja really well. On Saturday night, we weren’t sure where to go eat for dinner, so Anja recommended a place for us that she’d been to before. It was a great restaurant, and we all got to try Paella Valenciana, which was fantastic (and a cultural must, since Valencia is where paella originated). Then, on Sunday we all went to a science museum and just hung out for a while. After that, it was time to say our good-byes, as my friends and I were going back to Zaragoza that day, and Anja would be going back to Germany on Monday. We all added Anja on Facebook, and she insisted that if we’re ever in Germany, to send her a message so she could see us again, and we told her the same thing, should she ever visit the United States, Meeting Anja made our trip to Valencia even more memorable, and I do hope to see her again someday.

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Filed under Tyler in Spain, Western Europe

Seeing Peru Through Peruvian Eyes

For my first few weeks, finding friends was a struggle.  I have become accustomed to making friends in the university setting, but that avenue was unavailable to me here.  My luck has improved since.  I now have two groups of friends here in Peru.  The first group consists of other internationals; we naturally bond together when no one else speaks our first language or shares our skin color.  However, I also have a group of Peruvian friends whom I enjoy immensely.  It is with this group that I learn about the true daily life in Peru instead of the typical flashy tourist attractions.  As great as the stunning Incan ruins and colonial architecture have been, the raw Peruvian experiences have proved formational to my understanding of this country.

The first group of friends I will describe for you here are medical students from the clinic.  Their names are Andy and Wilson, and they have helped me tremendously with learning Spanish and Peruvian culture along with navigating the clinical setting.  I now work in obstetrics and neonatal, so they described both processes to me entirely.  They took the time to teach me every component of the physical exam of newborns so that I am not entirely confused throughout the visits to each patient.  I can now read patient charts as well, which gives me a deeper understanding of each examination.  What before seemed like nothing but chaos and  disorder has now been made clear.  Yes, this clinic does look and function a lot differently than what I am accustomed to in the US.  However, because of these friends, it is becoming obvious to me that the people making up the system are very knowledgeable and there are reasons behind everything I see.

Some other great learning experiences have been with my friend Kevin, who I met through a local church.  I expressed interest in Peruvian cuisine, so he invited me to his father’s restaurant to learn some traditional dishes.  I have eaten in plenty of restaurants here, but entering one as a friend instead of a client gave me a better grip on what the lives of restaurant owners is like.  In the United States my mother owns a restaurant as well, so I was able to compare the two experiences.  In Peru many restaurants are family businesses, as was the case for Kevin.  His dad and cousin were the only two other employees in this place meaning that it was basically their home.  I have put in my fair share of hours in Vibrant Grains, my mom’s award winning restaurant in west Michigan, but I do not play a vital role in the same way as Kevin.  My mom’s restaurant requires other cooks, bakers and servers that have no relationship to our family other than business.  I am learning more and more every day how Peruvian values manifest themselves in the culture and systems of Peru.

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Filed under Michael in Peru, south america