Sunday, February 22, 2009

All Americans are fat and live unhealthy lifestyles, right?

This has been bothering me for a while, and I just never posted about it. I've discussed it at great length with my fellow Americans here, but no one has actually written about it... well here goes nothing.

The majority of the world has this perception of Americans as fat, lazy, fast-food eaters that live unhealthy life-styles. I guess that makes sense, considering we are the fattest country in the world and we founded McDonald's, but I disagree. My friends and family back home live a MUCH healthier and active lifestyle than my family and friends here in Spain. Every time I go for a run my family looks at me like I am crazy, and questioned why I would ever run a half marathon for fun! The only active one in my host family is my youngest sister who is a swimmer, and the other 4 ppl in my family do nothing! I feel like comparatively they eat a lot more than we do back home (lunch is huge, I stuff myself at lunch and they still eat way more than I ever could!), and they drink way more soda and eat way more junk food than I ever do at home. People are constantly buying chips and snacks, chocolate, and drinking Coke... whereas back home my one guilty snack is chips (hint of lime) and salsa (or cheese). The people you see out running or riding bikes are in the minority, and are usually fanatics. The majority of the people here are sedentary, though, I guess they do walk more ('cause everything is closer) and drive less. Did you know that McDonald's sales are higher in Europe than they are in the US? That means they eat MORE McDonald's than we do! and Americans still get the bad reputation.

Overall though, I feel like I am leading an unhealthier life here in Spain than back home. I am eating until I am uncomfortably full (and still getting scolded for not eating enough), I drink soda (and not just for mixed drinks), and I eat crappy snacks like chocolate and chips (not together). I try to run 5 days a week for at least 40 minutes, but that's just not enough to make-up for the damage I am doing to my body with food and drink. I am frustrated, and ticked off that we still get a bad rep. while there are others that live unhealthier!

Side-note: There are extremes on both sides (skinny, and fat) and Americans usually tend to have more of the extremes while Spaniards are in general all around the same size...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

You never really know how good you've got it...

This post is going to be short, and to the point. (kinda like the last couple posts). You never really know how good you've got it until you've walked a day in someone else's shoes. If you think you're having a bad day, or you're tired, or you feel like you've been mistreated, just know that you're not alone. Someone else has already experienced what you're going through, and if not, then they've experienced something worse. So just be thankful, no matter what, and be joyful for that you do have, EVERYDAY! because you are Blessed!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Texting while driving.

Is anyone guilty of ever having texted while driving? I know I'm guilty, and most ppl are. It's a skill that you acquire after months of practice... but nonetheless dangerous. There's even some places (New York) where it's illegal to even talk on your phone while driving. And this is just for normal, every-day people. For public transportation drivers, that's 100% un-heard of!! Have you ever gotten on a public bus and the driver was talking on their cell phone? NO!

Well let me tell you a story. One day I got on the bus to head to class. For some reason this driver was driving verrrry jerkily. Was he just trying to be an ass-hole? Nope. I glanced up at him and saw he had his bright-red cell phone held in his right hand, texting, while he was steering with his left, making quick jerky steps on the brake every time he glanced up briefly and saw a car. GREAT! Was I even going to make it to class today??

Another day of firsts... this one I don't want to repeat.

Sometimes you just want to be taken care of...

No one likes being sick, but getting sick in another country is the worst! You can never find the medicine you're used to taking, and you just want to be in a familiar, comfortable environment. Mom, where are you?! Chicken noodle soup, hugs and kisses,tucking me in and a heating pad please!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Where is Captain Planet when you need him?

A couple of days ago (let's say Tuesday) was a day of firsts. I felt like I was punched in the stomach, slapped up-side the head, and glowing crimson with embarrassment... I was scolded again by my mom. This time, however, it was not for forgetting to call and let her know I wouldn't be home for lunch, but it was about taking a long shower...

Back home in the states, showers are my prized luxuries. I look forward to at least a 15 minute scalding hot shower ever day (especially after all of the cold ones I took this summer) if not longer when my muscles are sore. Here in Spain, that is a luxury that no one can afford to have. Simply, there just isn't enough water. You'd think that being surrounded by water on three sides, and being famous for beach destinations this country would have plenty of viable water. The fact is, they don't. The majority of this country is almost desert like. Most if the land isn't fertile enough for crops, and the land that is owes its vitality to irrigation from the only river big enough to spare water, the Tajo. Most of the rivers aren't big enough, or deep enough to act as waterways, or even irrigation systems. Quite frankly, my mom said the water table is low this week and we have to watch what we use, maybe shower only every-other day, and take 5-10 minute showers and not wait for the water to warm up. Never before in my life have I had to worry about such a thing. Coming from a state right next to Lake Michigan, and going to school in the "Land of 10,000 Lakes" water just has never been an issue (unless you count the sprinkling ban in New Berlin... who cares if your lawn isn't the greenest?).

Anyways, long story short: Start paying attention to how much water you use, because others don't have the same luxuries. Also, be thankful for what you do have, because it's not always greener on the other side.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Wow... time flies!

It's been over a week already and I have so much to share! I'm not sure really where to start...

I guess I can start with last week Monday. Hamid came to visit in Toledo, again. And I've finally decided to just GO with it. Seriously, how many great love stories do you hear about people that played it safe? And that's not just love, that's just life in general. It's the people that take chances, go for what they want that seem to have a story to tell. For example: Doing Southwestern. I could have simply gone home to New Berlin last summer, worked three jobs, and made a couple thousand. However, instead I took a huge chance (despite some advice from friends and family) to move to a new state and sell books door-to-door. It turns out to have been one of the best decisions I've made yet. My next big decision: studying abroad. People always talk about it, but how many people actually act on it? My next big decision: just go with it.

Alright, well moving on. The rest of the week was pretty chill, and typical. I did get to watch my mom make paella, pretty cool! She put the crabs in while they were still alive (wasn't expecting that!) and she kinda played with them before hand :)
Thursday evening Nicole, Ben, Taylor and I headed to Madrid to catch a a midnight bus to Barcelona. Nicole and I had a couple glasses of wine to help us sleep on the bus (which worked for me, I slept off and on for 3 hours, and 3.5 hours straight!). We got into Barcelona around 7:00 am, a little sore, but pumped to start the day. It was still dawn when we got off the bus, and we got off the bus at the wrong stop! So we took the metro into downtown, meandered around the Mediterranean coast, and headed off to check in to the hostel. When we got there we found out we couldn't move our stuff in until 2pm, but we could keep our bags locked up, so we took off to see the city with free spirits and free backs! We headed out in search of the Olympic stadium (Taylor's one goal for the day) and ended up seeing a ton of really neat places along the way. Various parks, museums, a fortress, and finally the Olympic stadium. After that, we were pretty tired, sore, and hungry so we headed back to town and our hostel. We got all settled in, Ben and Nicole napped, and I hung out in the common room. We then went and bought food from a grocery store, ate, and got ready to go out. I guess we were looking for night-life in the wrong places 'cause we only ended up staying out until 2:30 am... SAD, considering we were in Barcelona!

Saturday dawned bright at 11:30 for us! Showered, fed and ready to go, we went in search of the Guadi Park or "Parc Guell." After many directions from a nice old lady, we finally found it... or so we thought! We were in the "nature" part of the park and we wanted to be in the "architecture" part. So what did we do? We jumped a fence and went in search of it. Normally, this would have totally worked, however, a couple weeks ago a wind storm knocked down some really big trees and damaged some of the buildings, and hence were closed off. NOW we understood why it was closed off... but how did we get to the other side?! After about 30 min. and following other confused groups of tourists, we finally found it! I won't spend a lot of time describing Guadi's works 'cause I think my pictures describe it better (see facebook). I will say however, that I am in love with a dead man. Guadi got all of his inspiration from nature and incorporated it all in EVERYTHING! One of his masterpieces (la Sagrada Familia) is actually still under construction and is on schedule to be completed in the 2020's. We also got to see a guy playing a "Hang" (a musical instrument from Switzerland that probably has the most calming sound I've ever heard). Again, see facebook for the video. That night was really uneventful because we wanted to go to bed by 10pm so we could get up early for the half-marathon the next morning. The one success of the night was finding a pair of brown shoes (Mom, I finally found some cheap ones!) for only 15 euro.

We went to bed really early that night, and were up by 6:45 to get ready, eat, stretch, and make sure we had time for a light warm-up. Our friend Ben was going to hold our stuff while we ran, and we told him to meet us at the start (to take pictures and collect our sweats)... and we never found him. So literally minutes before the start of the race I stashed my sweat pants (favorite pair) and soccer warm-up under a parked car (praying they would still be there when I got back). And off we went! It was the perfect day for a run! Not a cloud in the sky, probably around 50 degrees, and 4,999 other people running around me... can't ask for much else! We started out down the main drag of Barcelona and basically got to see the whole city. I think I've found a new love for traveling and seeing cities... running through them!! I sang along to my iPod for the first 5 miles, then I got down to business. At about the 10km mark I was really wishing I was done... and I threw up at the 13km mark... and felt the on-set of arthritis in my knees at about 17km, but pushed through it and made it the full 21km, and even beat a lady to the finish by sprinting past her as the crowd cheered me on (she put up a good fight). :) It felt soooooooooo amazing to finish that race under the Arc de Triumph (not cliche at all!) ;) and have my friend waiting there for me. Needless to say, the rest of the day Nicole and I were in a world of hurt so we stayed pretty low-key. Shower, food, and visiting the Sagrada familia. Then out to dinner, ice cream (we deserved it) and off to the bus station to catch our midnight bus back to Madrid!

And that sums up my week and weekend in a nutshell. Oh wait! Nicole and I tried to buy milk to put on our cereal, and we were looking for little containers so we didn't waste a lot of milk and ended up buying "Chufas" Tiger Nut milk... What the heck?! I will NOT be buying that ever again.

More thoughts to come later. Love you all. Go for it!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I Wish...

I've been sitting here (and by here I mean in my room) reading an article for a one credit on-line class called "Getting the most of your Abroad experience." The article is all about culture shock (which apparently I should be experiencing right now)... and I wonder if I am really getting the most out of my experience so far? According to this article I should be having huge ups and downs, having a hard time relating to the people here, and I'm concerned because I feel like I'm not even that far from home! Is that just ignorant of me to feel that the differences that do exist are not catastrophic? Am I not examining the culture enough, am I not opening myself up to the differences? Am I being too ethnocentric? I wish I could sit here and say, "Jeepers, everything is so different, I see everything in a different light, how could I have not thought this way before?!", but the truth is I am sitting here thinking, "This family is just like mine, tight, and sometimes slightly dysfunctional, and urban... the only difference is the fact that they speak Spanish, but even that is getting easier."

Am I doing this wrong? I feel that at home I am already really independent so this trip isn't super challenging that way for me. Spanish can be challenging, but not super awe-inspiring. What am I missing? Let me know what you guys think!

Monday, February 2, 2009

A case of the Mondays...

Monday Monday, can't trust that day,
Monday Monday, sometimes it just turns out that way
Oh Monday morning, you gave me no warning of what was to be (don't know why I decided to quote the Mama's and the Papa's instead of the Bangles... But that's just how I'm feeling I guess).

I woke up with an achy neck, and sore throat AGAIN. Now I've pulled enough muscles before to know the difference between "oh, you just slept funny" and "yikes, you're sick"... this is the later. Usually I'll just try the home remedy (warm salt-water garggling, and copious amounts of Vitamin C intake)... which I did try last week, and I don't feel that much better. So off to el medico I go, right after class.

Alright, I'm finally breaking down and I'm just going to write about my man friend on here instead of having a lot of little side conversations about it. I met a guy in Madrid two weeks ago and we hit it off really well. He's part French (dad) and part Moroccan (mom) but is currently living in Madrid studying renewable energies. Last Monday he came to visit me in Toledo and we went and got coffee, and I tried to visit him this weekend, but Friday he had to work, and Sunday it snowed. So he's planning on coming down to Toledo today, and I will see him when I pass through Madrid on my way to Barcelona. No, I still don't have a picture, but maybe today? I'll let you guys know how our little "day date" goes soon.

Well, off to school to sign up to see the doctor. Love you guys. Miss ya.