Sunday, May 19, 2013

Goodbye Spain

Now that I am at the end of my study abroad experience I feel like I should spend a moment reflecting on what I have learned during my time overseas.

In Spain I have learned quite a few things. Practically, I have learned to speak a new language, live in a different culture, and use Google Maps, but I must say that the largest lessons that Spain has taught me have nothing to do with technical skills.

My time in Seville, living in a local home and attending the local university, has shown me that in all of the biggest ways, all people, Spaniards, Americans, and everyone else, are exactly the same. We all love our friends and families, our significant others, and our children. We all worry about money and education. We all work to make our lives better and we are all proud of where we come from.

Having seen these similarities I have grown to understand that the only differences that exists between different cultural communities are in how we express this sameness. In Spain there is futbol and Feria and in the states we have baseball and the 4th of July, but these different holidays and sports are simply varying reflections of the same humanness. 

That being said, my time in Spain has also made me proud to be an American. In the past few months I have come to realize the ways in which I am a complete product of the American culture.  I love our diversity, our openness, our food, and our language.

I am so thankful for my experiences here and at the same time I am sad and excited to go home! I’ll be back Spain, but until then, America here I come!

Food Cravings!

I have never been pregnant, so I’m not really sure what a pregnancy craving is like… However, I bet it feels just like the sensation that you get after not eating a nice, juicy, medium rare, American hamburger for five months.

Don’t get me wrong…I love Spanish food. A good Solomillo al Whiskey or a Manjar Blanco can hit the spot, and American bologna doesn’t stand a chance next to some good’ol Spanish Iberico ham. In fact, there are many Spanish delicacies that I fully intend to bring back with me to the states to integrate into my weekly dining vernacular.

HOWEVER, at this very moment, if I’m being honest, I feel like I should tell you that I would seriously harm, possibly maim, and definitely wound you if you got between me some American food.

I had a dream the other night about steak that made me wake up in tears. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about beef fajitas for two weeks. I would sell my hair (Les Miserables style) for a freakin cheeseburger.

I know what your thinking, “Why does she only crave beef products?” Let me answer that question. I am from the great state of Texas and that is what we eat.

The other day I literally caught myself thinking, “I wonder where I could find a cow”… a whole cow…this obsession has obviously gone too far…this can’t be healthy.

But don’t worry, and Mom, don’t start researching how to mail me whole meals. Soon enough I will be back in the states, and until then I can fill the carnivore void in my heart with some amazing architecture, beautiful culture, and great friends…really I can’t complain!
An American Professor on sabbatical in Spain took mercy on my and invited my over for real steaks!

Yes, those are real tortillas!

A beautiful view for a great meal

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Bubonic Plague

              Ok, I don't have the bubonic plague (though it does make for an interesting blog title) instead I have a measly little old sinus infection. However, from my current vantage point, that is, from my fetal position in bed, it's the gravest sinus infection that has ever in habited a human body. So, in honor of my illness, I thought I would give some insight into what it is like to be sick in a foreign country.

The first interesting thing about being sick in a foreign country is the strange medical advice that you receive from your host family and neighbors. In the past few days I have been advised to drink a liter of sugar water, go for a run, and wear more socks to name a few suggestions.

The second interesting thing about being sick in a foreign country is that your house mother lavishes you with attention. My house mother has been so worried about me I swear she checks on me at least three times a night. Have I already said that she is the best???

The third interesting thing about being sick in Spain is that antibiotics are both cheap and incredibly easy to get ahold of. Apparently, doctors in Spain have a sixth sense for sinus infections because when I walked through one's door he shouted "Amoxocilin" before I even sneezed. I then proceeded to the local pharmacy to fill my prescription where I found that the antibiotics, along with some Mucinex, only set me back 6 euro! Those kinda prices will take the illness right out of ya!

The fourth, and undoubtably the worst thing about being sick in a foreign country is missing out on cool stuff. This week Feria, a week long livestock festival, is being held here in Seville, and over my plague inhabited body was I going to miss out. So, last night I mustered up enough energy, and took enough IB Pro fen to make it to the festivities. It was AMAZING... There were beautiful adorned horses everywhere, women and men dressed in traditional garb, wine, churros, music, dancing. In short, a party for everyone because come on, who doesn't love churros?

I am so in love with Feria I feel like I want to shout it from the roof tops! I'm in love I'm love and I don't care who knows it! Here are some pictures :)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Traveling on the Cheap!

If any of you kept up with the blog that I wrote from DC last semester, then you know that I am more frugal than Scrooge McDuck. (name that children's television show) Accordingly, when the prospect of traveling through Europe was brought to my attention I had mixed emotions that caused a bit of an existential crisis...yes it was that intense.

My internal dialogue:
Fun me: What a great opportunity! How fun!
Cheap me: Ya...That's gonna cost no.
Fun me: You have been working and saving to do something like this for years! It's what life is about!
Cheap me: Pssssht. Life is about pinching pennies and eating Great Value yogurt (name that Walmart generic brand).

Eventually, my battling alter egos reached a conclusion. I would travel, o yes I would travel, but it would be the cheapest travels taken since ancient humans crossed the land bridge. ( I'm not sure if that was cheap, or how you would even qualify that in this context, but in my mind it was the cheapest trip ever)

I have now completed one such trip and I would like to share some cheap travel tips!

1) This is perhaps the most important tip. NEVER speak the words "this is a once in a lifetime trip"!!!! Believing that you will only go to Paris (for example) once will cause you to panic, desperately want to see and eat everything (because you'll never be back). Undoubtably, in your french panic, you will spend an ungodly amount of money. Instead, have faith in your future salary earning self and think, "You know what? I will be back, so I don't need to spend all of my money eating gold gilded crepes or bungee jumping off of the Eiffel Tower today, I can always save that for Paris round two."

2) Remember, nicknacks are overrated! In fifteen years you probably wont even remember the shot glass or magnet that you bought for 7 euros. Instead, you'll look back at the free pictures, so save yourself the money. One great tip that I learned from an uncle is to hit up a grocery store and pick up a package of cookies (or whatever) that are the local favorite. They are always cheap, and you can share them with friends and family when you return to the states!

3) Travel to places where the exchange rate is in you favor! I recently went to Budapest, Hungary where 237 Hungarian Forints is equal to 1 American dollar... I could feed myself dinner on 80 cents American... That's my kind of country!

4) Don't fear the street food! Street food is sooooo cheap! Plus, the locals like street food so it's usually authentic and always delicious. Plus you get to eat it outside! Plus it's sooooo cheap! Did I say that already???

5) This is also important... Avoid traveling with full grown men who require 5 large meals a day, their insatiable hunger will undoubtably wreck your budget. Yes I'm talking about you Bush Benjamin (name that boyfriend).

Thursday, March 28, 2013


          Last week here in Spain I celebrated my 21st birthday! I woke up and had a delicious lemon cake for breakfast that my house mother made me and then I headed out to class where my classmates and professor surprised me with a beautiful rendition of Felix Cumplianos! During the previous class, my classmates and I had begged our professor to let us have a party in class for my birthday and he eagerly said yes! "We can have a party starting at exactly six o'clock!" he spouted in his lovely Andalusian Spanish...FYI six o'clock is the time our class ends. Obviously, sarcasm has no cultural boundaries.

          After class, I had a picnic lunch of chorizo, fresh baked bread, and strawberries by the Guadalquivir river. I got really lucky because my birthday was the first day of sunshine in 2 weeks of straight rain! Later on, I ended the day with a dinner of Tapas and Tinto Verano with a bunch of great friends.

         Compared to a 21st birthday in the United States, my Spanish celebrations were pretty darn tame. But hey, that's what happens when you're in a country where the drinking age is 18. And plus, I wasn't disappointed, the next day I had to be up early to visit Vienna Austria and Budapest Hungary for my Samana Santa vacation! I'll fill you in on those trips next time!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Steroids and Treadmills

A week after I arrived in Spain my house mother, Isabel, asked me if I would like to join a gym with her. Of course when confronted with this question, I instantly imagined a ripped version of myself running along the beaches of Spain. So obviously, I screamed yes, and the next day we started our gym hunt. Luckily, we were able to find a really cheap, really friendly gym very close to our house called Gym 21.

For approximately 3 days, Isabel and I woke up early and hit the gym! But on day four, our routine ended when Isabel got bored and told me "I can't go to the gym anymore. Something is wrong with their machines...they are uncomfortable." 

At this point, I was forced to venture out on my own, which has been great for several reasons. I became comfortable exploring on my own, I developed a gym vocabulary, and I was able to observe first hand, the similarities and differences between American and Spanish gyms.


1) All of the music is the same.
In my spanish gym, american music is played 100% of the time. I find this to be fascinating because 95% of the people who belong to my gym do not speak any english. Instead, they learn the lyrics phonetically and sing along, which can be hilarious if the song is, for example, Rihanna's S&M.

2) Men generally stay in the weights area and women in the cardio area.
Just like in the states, my spanish gym tends to be gender segregated. 

3) After a heavy-eating-holiday the gym is packed!


1) It is not normal for women to wear shorts.
This took me a few weeks to notice. Spanish women only wear pants to exercise! If you wear shorts to the gym (which I do everyday) you will be stared at.

2) Gossiping is a must.
At least in my experience, American gym patrons tend to be serious and pretty focused while working out. I Spain, on the other hand, going to the gym is like going to a party. Everybody giggles and gossips while they crunch and squat. Sometimes, in the weight room at Gym 21 a group of men will actually pull all of the bench press-benches together so that they can sit and chat.

3) Men teach the classes stereotypically thought to be feminine in the U.S.
This is perhaps my favorite thing about my gym in Spain. Men teach the spin and aerobics classes.
The first time I attended a women's only spin class, a huge jacked-up man in very tight pants led the class whilst sitting upon a tiny bicycle from which he would yell "dance!" Along with, in english mind you, "Shake it!"

This is in Lisbon, the subject of my next post!

Market in Granada 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Thank You Mahan

Howdy to all you state-side-folks!!! I hope that all of my CMCers had a wonderful time at the Wedding Party, and that all of my fellow Texans are braving the blizzard within the cuddly-warm safety of your couches.
Here I am in Spain. Make sure to notice the gorgeous brick wall.

Spain has been treating me pretty well over the past few weeks so I thought I would fill you in!

Here I am bull ringing

I started my classes at the University of Seville last week, and they have been really great! College in Spain is very different from college in the United States for approximately 5 reasons. (Well, probably more, but right now I can think of 5)

1) College in Spain is in Spanish

2) Attending class is optional for spanish students, so most of your classmates never come to class.

3) It's like a game finding your classes everyday because the buildings are outrageously tricky! (Example: this is literally the layout of the first floor of a building: Classroom 13, Classroom 14, Classroom 16, Classroom XVII...?)

4) None of the toilets have seats on them! (And no, I'm not confusing toilets with the very European bidet.)

5) The professors love to go off on tangents. Yesterday, our class stopped for 30 minuets so that we could discus the fact that there exists an animal called a mule, which happens to be a cross between a horse and a donkey... For the record, this had absolutely nothing to do with the class "History of the Contemporary World".

Here are some of my American friends! They're cute

In other news, I have discovered that my name is very confusing for people here. In case you didn't know, which would be strange as you're currently reading my blog, my name is Gracie Mahan or Graciela to the hispanic side of my family. When I arrived in Spain, I assumed that I would go by Graciela for the duration of the semester, but I was quickly told (by my program directors) that in Spain, my name is Gracia.

Not thinking twice, I began introducing myself to everyone that I met as Gracia. This is, until I started to recognize a pattern. Someone would approach me and say, "Como te llamas" and I would say, "Gracia" and they would say, "No, como te llamas" and I would smile and say, "Gracia". At this point, I would receive a pitying smile and the response "No pasa nada".

 I literally experienced this strange interaction for 3 weeks before I awoke with a start in the middle of the night with the realization that everyone in Spain must think that I am immensely confused...

In Andalusia, people drop the final "s" off of the word "gracias", which changes it to "Gracia", which means THANK YOU!!!

Let's now revisit that introductory conversation, shall we? (In english for clarity ;)...

Spanish Person: Hi! What's your name?
Me: Thank you
Spanish Person: No, what's your name?
Me: (While smiling) Thank youuu
Spanish Person: (In a much louder, much slower voice. The kind of voice that you would use to speak to Tarzan) Don't worry about it...

I have to admit, it was an enormously embarrassing epiphany! (hope you enjoyed that alliteration) But you know what? I probably made several spaniard's days by giving them a real good chuckle, and hey! I quite like my new name. In fact, when I return to the states, I just might keep it!

ThankYou Mahan

CMC Reunion! My good friend Mackenzie Dallas 

Walking across the bridge into my neighborhood Triana

An amazing bridge in Ronda, Spain