Here’s the Thing About Spanish People and Their Butts

“Never half ass two things. Whole ass one thing” –Ron Swanson

The wise and thoughtful Ron Swanson says this to his coworker, Leslie Knope, when she takes on too many responsibilities in the televisions show, “Parks and Recreation.” What Ron means is: commit yourself. Make your actions count for something. Take pride in what you have decided to do with your life, or even just your day. Never have I seen a group of people live by these words more than the Spanish.

The Spanish people have a passion and commitment within their culture enviable by the rest of the world. Every action is done with extreme thought and commitment. One of the most basic examples is their lunch. You cannot sit down at a restaurant in Spain for lunch and expect to be in and out in under an hour. You see, Spaniards take lunch very seriously. They will leave work and head either home or to a restaurant for a leisurely 2-3 hour lunch. Sitting and eating in their break room or worse, at their desk, is unthinkable. Many may see this as lazy, as it cuts time out of the workday, but I think the Spanish people simply refuse to half-ass their lunch. It is an important part of their day, within their culture, thus it deserves a couple of hours of full, thoughtful attention. Additionally, they have three different verbs that mean, “to eat breakfast,” “to eat lunch,” and “to eat dinner.” They have dedicated specific, individual verbs to each of these actions. Verb phrase will not do. This is a commitment to food. (I want to make it very clear right now that I am being very serious. Those that know me may think I am trying to make a joke or something here. I am not.) Lunch is important.

But the list of examples continues. For instance, printing in Spain can be a hassle so there have been a couple of time when I have had to ~handwrite~ my homework in a notebook and hand that in. Honestly the handwriting process was so bizarre, which is in itself, bizarre. But this is beside the point. I was out of practice ripping the paper out of my notebook and fully ripped my homework. I asked my host dad if he had any tape, which he did, and I watched as he very carefully cut the tape with scissors, when the little thingy that will cut the tape for you was conveniently right there on the tape dispenser. He then got extremely close to the paper as to tape the ripped piece perfectly back on. Then, instead of bending the excess tape over to the other side of the paper, he got the scissors and cut the extra tape off. Then he repeated this process three times, making the whole event take around five minutes. Five minutes to tape some paper. Look, I know this may seem silly, but holy crap I was just in awe. He refused to half-ass this tape.

What? I have more examples than tape and lunch?? Awehellzyah. Maybe the most obvious example is fútbol (soccer). Holy balls do

F.C. Sevilla celebrating their Championship win in 2006

Spaniards love fútbol. I am studying in Sevilla and the more popular team here is F.C. Sevilla. I have seen F.C. Sevilla bags, scarves, mugs, cups, hats, bumper stickers, tattoos and so much more. I am living with a host family who fully supports F.C. Sevilla and I am literally not allowed to be anything other than a F.C. Sevilla fan. Lil history lesson for yah here: the Barcelona and Madrid teams have such an intense rivalry now because when the Spanish Dictator Francisco Franco was in power one of the ways to oppose Franco (without severe consequence) was to support the Barcelona team because Franco was a Madrid fan. They put their hearts into these teams. When the team wins, they win and when the team lose, their whole day is ruined. You never really encounter a fair weather fan here. Oh boy do the Spanish full ass their fútbol obsession.

Finally, in the south of Spain, the flamenco dance is extremely popular. It is Spain’s most famous dance as well as a symbol of Spain. I have been to two shows so far and am taking a flamenco class. So essentially, I’m a flamenco dancer. (I am not a flamenco dancer.) When you watch these flamenco shows, live or in a video online, the amount of passion that goes into each step is incredible. They seem fill their bodies with an incredible power, fueled with potential energy, then boom this incredibly fast foot

Flamenco Dancer in Los Cuevas of Granada

work paired with a soulful voice, full of emotion, hits the stage and it is the most enthralling thing to watch. Some of my friends got to sit front row at the Flamenco show we went to in Granada, Spain, and these dancers were so passionate about what they were doing, they rained sweat not only on themselves, but also on my friends sitting in the front row. I mean yucky, but it paints a clear picture on just how much of their heart and soul was getting poured into these dances. Flamenco is so “whole-assed” it’s butt is bigger than Kim K. (Jeeze I’m sorry for that last sentence. No one likes a Kim K culture reference.)

I guess what I am trying to say is passion is important. When the Spanish put all their energy and attention into an action, the result is always filled with more substance. Be it good or bad, the end result is more meaningful. Very often I can find myself committing something haphazardly and without thinking too much about why I am doing it and what the outcome may be. Now obviously not everything you do can be full of vigorous intention, but I think the important stuff should be. Be it your job, your family, your hobby, your food, or the manner in which you apply tape—passion should fuel the most important parts of your life. So let’s all go find a thing we love, and throw our whole self into in, butt first.


Some Downsides…

Leaving for abroad, you hear about a lot of things that may happen to you. Administrators warn you about things such as homesickness, theft, and culture shock. Being the ignorant kid that I am, I thought none of this would possible happen to me. I thought DU and my study abroad program were only telling me these things out of obligation. However, after only a month and a half abroad, all three of these things have happened to me. So, if you’re ready, let’s jump on into some of the unforeseen (although definitely should have been) misfortunes of Kerry Nelson’s life abroad.

The first thing I thought would be less of an issue is homesickness. I am 20 years old and I am an out of state student. I have been a full day of traveling away from my parents and home for two full years now. Actually the plane ride home from Spain is only three hours longer now than it would be in Colorado. But what I forgot is I have a home at DU now too. So not only do I occasionally miss my parents and siblings, I also miss my friends at school, the mountains, the campus, and of course, Illegal Pete’s. This is not to say I’m counting down the days till home, but I just really thought homesickness would not be a problem for me. Love being completely wrong.

The next misfortune that has befallen me is a pick-pocket incident in Rome. I’m studying in Spain but during my travels, I found myself in a crowded subway near the edge of the doors. This woman then approaches the door and starts yelling in Italian asking if the subway stops at some stop name that I forget. I, perhaps stupidly, react and say, in Spanish, i don’t know. Then she gets in my face and asks if I speak French (in French). I tell her “no.” I look away for a hot second and then she’s gone. While on the subway back to the hostel my friend and I thought it was so weird what had just happened and we are not too worried. Leaving the
girl-pick-pocket1 subway I decide to check my purse just in case and my wallet is gone. Dope. Shock turns to annoyance turns to a small moment of panic when I can’t pay to get to the airport to meet up with my program, which turns to complete inconvenience in numerous ways once arrived in Sevilla. Like, I can’t buy roller-blades online and a gal just wants to blade. (I also can’t buy plane tickets and bike passes online but this should very soon be rectified. Worry not.) All I’m saying is theft esses a dee in many ways and a lot of times there is nothing that can be done. But one thing would be don’t engage with crazy, yelling people on packed subways. ~the more you know~

The last thing which has happened here is I have learned the definition of culture shock. Culture shock doesn’t have to be completely debilitating or entirely obvious. Culture shock can be going into a café and genuinely not knowing how to order a coffee, like an infant. It can be getting served a full fish, eyes and all, at your home-stay and not knowing how to say in Spanish that’s the sight of this dish, no matter how delicious tasting it may be, makes you want to find the nearest bathroom and hurl. It’s being confused and not knowing how to function as a human person within the culture. The little things become difficult and thus life becomes a whole lot less comfortable. I didn’t quite fully understand the concept of culture shock until recently when people where taking pictures of my friends and I at a café for apparently doing something against the norm and I honestly still have no idea what it was.

Homesickness, theft, and culture shock are three not ideal concept that exist abroad. But do you know what is ideal? Spain. Spain is ideal. When I start to get down about one of these things that haven’t gone exactly my way, I just remember where I am and how lucky I am to get to this experience. Homesickness can be solved with a phone call or a funny conversation with my friends. Theft is not the end of the world by any means. And culture shock just means I am learning by trial and error and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m not abroad to have the same experiences I would in the states. I’m so happy to be here and am ready for the next misfortune to come my way.

A Pleasant Memory of Cow Poop

Hello Internet? I don’t know, introductions are tricky. My name is Kerry and I’m a junior studying English and Spanish. The past month I was studying Spanish and Iberian Culture with a DU program in Santander, Spain. The program is now over and I am spending a little time traveling until September 1st. From then until December, I am participating in the ISA Hispanic Studies and Electives program in Sevilla, Spain. I chose to study abroad in Spain because I want to learn Spanish and experience a little European future and oh boy has Spain delivered. After only one month I can feel my Spanish improving emensily. The post below was written two weeks into my Santander program, so let’s all hop in our time machines and get to work.

English and Spanish at DU. I have been studying abroad in Spain for about a month (!!!!!!) already and I am head over heals in love. The past month I did a program with DU Spanish professors and students in Santander, Spain taking two classes in one month. Then, starting September 1st, I am participating in and ISA Hispanic Studies and Electives program in Sevilla, Spain. I wanted to study abroad in Spain to learn Spanish and to experience a bit of European culture and oh boy has Spain delivered. I can hear myself speaking Spanish with more confidence and fluidity. The blog post below was actually written when I was about 2 weeks into my program with Santander. So let’s hop in our time machines go back to the future¡¡¡¡

I have always been really bad at anticipating my emotions. Before a big event or a change in my life, I am incapable of really anticipate how that change will make me feel. For instance, when leaving school for the summer or for our long December break, I never really completely comprehend how much I am going to miss my friends. I see my friends crying and hugging each other so tightly it must hurt. I do hug my friends tight and say goodbye, but I never cry, or really feel much of anything. But then I leave and I find myself thinking about them at the most nonsensical times and my stomach twists and only then, I feel like crying. For instance right now, I am thinking of my excellent friend Tiffany. She is ridiculous in the most marvelous and fabulous of ways, and she was the one who encouraged me to tryout to be a DU blogger. I wouldn’t be “here” without her. And.. I’m crying. Send help Tiff.

Point is, I have never been good at foreseeing my emotions.

I’ve been in Spain now for a full week and, perhaps inevitably, I feel nothing like I thought I might. Honestly, I thought it would be weirder. I thought I would miss home and DU more. I thought it would be odd to live with a stranger in a home stay program and I thought I would be in a constant state of fear. I thought all of this on the way to the airport. I felt nothing but small waves of excitement the months of June and July and then, on the way to the airport, all my nerves hit me at once. My poor parents where trying to talk to me, the last in-person conversation for five months, and I shut down. Sorry Mom and Dad, I didn’t mean to.

But holy-guacamole I am having so much fun. (also like, guacamole. amirite?) The program I am a part of in Santander is a very work-intensive program. Last week, we had one day to explore the city, 7-8 hours of one class in 2 days and then a full day excursion. woof. These next 2 and ½ weeks are only going to get harder, and I even have a mid-term on Wednesday. Obviously, I am learning a lot. Outside of the many hours inside studying, my time here is invaluable (My time studying is also very important, the other stuff is just more fun).

One of the first notable experiences happened on Friday: the whole class went to this replica of a Celtic village. The Celtic people are a group of people indigenous to the Iberian Peninsula, and then the Roman’s came and conquered as Roman’s do (did). If you’ve seen the movie “Gladiator,” it’s more or less that. (Learned that shit in class last week). Before the excursion, we were told to dress “comfortably.” To us, that meant walking shoes, jeans or shorts, and some sort of shirt—casual, comfy, cute. Upon arrival, we were presented with a sizable hill. It was not that long of a walk up, however the plethora of cow mierda (google it) made the walk a little less enjoyable to say the least. Then, we met Raúl: straight up the smelliest man alive. He showed us how to build a house out of mud like the Celtics did—with water, dirt, and sticks

Celtic Village in Northern Spain
Celtic Village in Northern Spain

Then, he told us we were to help repair some damages the snow had caused in one of the houses. He said this is very fast Spanish, so there was a moment when we were all just looking at each other. “He didn’t just say.. no I must have heard wrong.. We’re doing what?” Nobody had any idea that we were going to have to basically roll around in the mud and build a house, and were thusly not dressed appropriately. We immediately bonded over the shared distaste for manual labor, in nice(ish) clothes, in the rain (it was raining). One hombre in my group was wearing new white vans–they were pink at the end of the day; he was so salty about it, but we all just laughed and laughed (parents: salty=angry, mad, bitter). Throughout the day and on the walk back in nice, wet cow mierda, I laughed harder than I had all summer. I realized then, the phenomenal group of people I had been thrown together with would make any walk through cow poop fun. (Mierda is Spanish for shit if you hadn’t caught on or googled that yet.)

Not to get too broad and preachy, but I think that that is a big part of being abroad. You can’t always know what you are going to do or how it is going to make you feel. When you are in a new circumstance, knowing how you will feel coming out of it is nearly impossible. You don’t know that you are only going to learn the Spanish word for shit by walking through it for ½ hour. You don’t know a smelly Spanish man named Raúl is going to, without warning, smear a bunch of mud all over your face for no reason. You don’t know not to wear your favorite, fancy pants to a Celtic village where all of your effort will be put into not ruining them. And you also cannot explain or control your reaction. But, sometimes with the right group of people, you can have a fond memory of cow poop. Study abroad you sneaky bastard you—thank you.

-Kerry Nelson

DU Sophomore

Me in my favorite fancy pants showing the celtic people, and the people of the world, what Fashion really is.