Things I will and will not miss about Spain and things I will be glad to come home to.

It occurred to me today – in 21 days I will get on a plane and go home. Twenty-one days. Three weeks. That sounds like a long time, yeah? Too soon to start thinking about, really. But the group flight leaves Madrid on Thursday December 18, and the group bus goes to Madrid on Wednesday, and I will go with it. And then Kona and I will wander around Asturias (a province in northern Spain) for close to a week, and then I’ll get myself back down here to meet family on the 24th, and then we’ll be in Córdoba for four-five days, and then we’ll go to Granada for a few days, and back to Madrid for an overnight and then we’ll leave. And when I put it that way, it seems like very little time, especially since most of the rest of the people on the program are looking at leaving on the 18th or something like that, and therefore all in just-about-to-leave-Spain mode.

So it seems like an appropriate time to do a post of this sort. This list is in no particular order.

Olive oil – I will somewhat miss the olive oil here. I certainly don’t know when I’ll be in a place where there is so much excellent olive oil in such ready abundance. (And I have yet to get a picture of an olive tree; it was raining last weekend.) But mostly I won’t miss the olive oil. It’s lovely stuff. But when Pepi cooks mushrooms, she cooks them absolutely swimming in oil; my dad would probably use a dollop a little bit bigger than a half-dollar coin. And I don’t need to finish my pasta or my salad or my anything, really, to discover that there is a centimeter of olive oil still in the bottom of the bowl. And while olive oil on oranges is interesting, and it’s possible that I might even do it again sometime, a good orange doesn’t need olive oil, and dumping olive oil on a bad orange isn’t going to do anything besides waste olive oil.

Which leads me to Oranges. The oranges I’ve had here have been almost entirely excellent (I wouldn’t say that they’re better than the ones at home, and a few of the ones when the season was just starting weren’t very good, but since then they’ve all been as good as really nice navel oranges at home. And there are Mandarinas, which are very similar to clementines, and excellent (if they are the same thing as the canned mandarin oranges we get at home, I think it’s a crime. The canned ones are usually gross, but they’re amazing fresh). And, of course, clementines, though I’m not always sure when we have mandarinas and when we have clementines. On the other hand, I rather like the specialness of clementines (or satsumas; I’m not picky) being an only-in-December fruit; it makes me value them all the more.

And Mushrooms. While I’ve occasionally longed for a portobello or a button mushroom, the ones they have here are pretty amazing, too, if you like mushrooms. And if someone feeds you setas, you seem to generally get mixed mushrooms, which is a new experience for me, coming from the states, where it seems to me that everyone is usually too scared of The Poisonous Mushrooms to try new ones. Or maybe we just aren’t adventurous. Although I seem to recall that portobellos weren’t nearly so prevalent when I was a little kid. Not that I paid much attention to mushrooms when I was little.

Since I just took a break from writing this entry to run over to the bookbinding studio and pick up my last book, it seems appropriate to mention Bookbinding. I don’t mean to imply that bookbinding is something that only happens in Spain, or that I won’t continue to do bookbinding now and then when I get home, but I will miss having access to the studio, and having the leisure that I’ve had to spend nearly 12 hours a week learning a new craft.

The Spanish Schedule – I do like the ability to hang out and relax and not be freaking out all the time about the paper I have due tomorrow and the project that needs to be turned in next week and presented upon and a full writeup of the experience two days later – but at the same time I miss the structure of being a Smith student (at Smith. I’m still a Smith student in Spain). When I am at Smith, and taking four demanding classes, and fencing three or four days a week, and in a leadership position for four orgs (which is to say, student organizations) not counting fencing, I am a person who has my stuff together. I have to be. And here in Spain I waste more time on the internet and forget about work that needs to be done, because there aren’t things that need to be done all the time, and I don’t pay attention to my agenda book because there’s never enough stuff in it to be worth the bother – except, of course, for those occasions when there is and I forget about it.
I’m perfectly capable of being organized, but only actually do so when something forces me to, and in Spain I don’t need to be organized.
I also won’t mind going back to a world where I know what’s going to happen this weekend, or tomorrow, or whatever; the Spanish don’t seem to plan ahead for much of anything, and while that’s a lifestyle that I can enjoy for a while, there comes a bit where I want to know if I’m looking forwards to an evening alone at home or if I should expect the whole family to show up for supper.
A lot of my friends say that they will miss the afternoon siesta, but I don’t really think I will. For one thing, I don’t sleep during the day. It just doesn’t happen, unless I’m really sick or fantastically, incredibly tired, and I try to avoid being both. And while the after-lunch pause is nice, you pay for it by taking everything that you would do at one o’clock and starting it at four or five. Or maybe six. And I won’t miss stores not being open after lunch for a couple of hours, and sometimes not reopening for the evening at all.
Bedtime – and the trouble with moving afternoon obligations into the evening is that you don’t eat until you’re done with them, and then if you want to have any kind of an evening, you have to have it after dinner, and if you’re not careful, this can easily have you starting to think about bed at midnight or one in the morning. And the discotecas don’t really get going until about three o’clock in the morning, as a result of which I have not gone to a discoteca, and may not get to one, even if dancing is fun.
And staying up into la madrugada is all very well, but not when you have bookbinding at 8:30 the next morning. So I am quite looking forward to going back to live somewhere where a reasonable bedtime at the same time every night, more or less, is a feasible option. Also one where talking to friends and family doesn’t require staying up into the middle of the night.

Friends and Family – I will miss Pepi and Ana and all the friends I’ve made here, but I will be oh so glad to get back to all of you reading this (Well, all-but-the-one-of-you-who-fits-into-the-first-category. And I suppose those of you who will still live far away. But at least you’ll be in something like the same time zone). Spain has been socially very difficult, and I don’t have a particularly good reason why, though I know of several factors that contributed to it.

Central Heating – I feel like I’m cold almost all the time here. And while I’m unusually pleased with the wristwarmers I made out of cheap blue yarn that weekend in Malaga, I never intended for them to become a permanent fashion statement – which seems to have occurred.

Green Spaces – I’ve always been inclined to feel that having a personal lawn is a rather ridiculous habit that uses too much water and too much energy for upkeep of a space that the majority of people don’t really use very much at all. But living in Córdoba for three months has made me realize that if you don’t have lawns, you lose a lot of green space. Which isn’t to say that Córdoba doesn’t have greenery. There’s a little park outside of Pepi’s apartment, and another that I walk past every day. But the center of the city doesn’t have much in terms of greenery besides plants in pots and plants on balconies. I will say that there is a lot more greenery incorporated into unlikely spaces here. And that’s pretty cool. And there are certainly many more fountains. I thought that Philadelphia was a city that did pretty well on fountains, but Córdoba makes it look bone dry.

Plazas – What there are a lot of are plazas. And I enjoy coming around a little tiny street and finding yourself in a hidden plaza, or coming up on a big plaza and finding it full of happy people living their lives. People spend a lot more time in the plazas here than they do in parks or public green spaces at home, and I really like the liveliness.

Picturesqueness and Beauty of One’s Surroundings – Córdoba is a gorgeous city. And it’s incredibly picturesque. And it has a real feeling of age that I haven’t felt anywhere in America – not even in New Mexico when we hiked down into canyons and looked at ruins, because while that was old, it also felt deserted. Whereas Córdoba goes way back and there are still people living here. I’ll miss seeing the wall (which isn’t actually the Roman wall, despite what people say; that one’s underground by now; the one I see on my walk to school is Medieval Islamic). But there’s a green rolling beauty to Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, too, and I will be glad to see it again.
And while the streets are certainly picturesque, I won’t miss the hordes of tourists or avoiding the Rosemary Ladies, or walking towards a slight bend in the road and having a terrifying moment where the van barreling along the cobbles is headed straight for me and there isn’t anyway I can go to get out of the way, and I just have to trust that they’ll take the curve with enough space to not squish me into the wall. Because streets are narrow here. And sidewalk is optional; even if you have it, it’s often only about five centimeters higher than the regular road, and cars often ride up on it to avoid pedestrians or motorcycles or if they’re just large. In the US, retractable mirrors are handy for not having people sideswipe your mirrors when you parallel park on a narrow road. In Spain they’re so that you can pull them in and not take out passing pedestrians, or to fit through smaller cracks (yesterday I saw a truck on the road to the facultad, which I would have sworn is not wide enough for a truck. It crept out at the narrow end with about an inch on each side, but it made it). I think that mirrors here are kind of like a cat’s whiskers – if the mirrors fit, so will the car – or, on the rare occasions that there are two lanes of traffic on a road, they are kind of like a critter making its fur stand on end so that it looks bigger than it is so that people give it more space.

Speaking of, Furry Creatures. I don’t think that I’m any more animal-deprived than I usually am at school, but I miss the kitties, particularly as their brains grow in and they’re actually willing to say hi to me when I’m home on holidays, rather than just grudgingly conceding me a patch of floor. And I really miss the elder statescat, who will greet me with, Oh, hey, it’s you. What on earth did you think you were doing, staying away for so long? You could make it up to me by petting me, though, so long as you do it carefully. Or chicken. No one has given me any chicken since you left. And he’ll of course be lying through his teeth, and he knows that I know that he is, but we need to go through the steps, anyway.

Cheese – Goat cheese is really common here; Pepi told me last week that it’s cheaper than sheep cheese. And it’s marvelous. There’s one kind that she often gets that’s like solid chavrie; I think it’s wonderful. I’ve missed cheddar, though. The other day she brought home a nice sheep cheese that tasted almost like NY Cheddar (the real kind, not the supermarket kind), though, and it reminded me of how much I miss the good cheese at home.

That’s enough rambling for now, I think, though there may well be another post of this sort before I leave, and I imagine that there will be something of the sort after I get home.


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