2013 Fall External Programs Kira Billman Spain

Ensalada mixto (mixed salad)

Social life is a lot more important to Spanish culture. So it’s not surprising that Spaniards tend to care what others think of them more than Americans. Luckily the average Spaniard has more advanced social skills than the average American. The difference is not between the most charming Spaniards and the most charming Americans, but rather between the least charming. I have yet to meet a Spaniard who was not easy to talk to and sociable. It seems España takes the shyness right out of you. I suppose in a country where you kiss people who you’ve just met saying hello seems positively distant. I’m certainly more comfortable approaching random people, although I’m not sure if that’s the culture or desperation to meet Spaniards.

A list of things that are not as I expected.

People are not more formal here. The polite form of “you” (usted) is used exclusively for elderly or snobby people, and using it when talking to someone young is like calling them old. Everyone goes by their first name, unlike in Philadelphia, and professors are almost friends.

People do not dress more conservatively. Daisy Dukes, the short-shorts that let the bottom half of girls butts fall out are popular here. Topless women at the beach is so common and casual I forgot to mention it until now. People do, however, dress more formally. An interesting contrast, that can best be described through analysis of fabric. In the U.S. Cotton and spandex are the typical material for t-shirts, here slightly nicer silk, nylon, lace and rayon are the go-too for flowy tops and tailored bottoms (even if they don’t cover your bottom).

The view of Alicante as we were leaving on the Ferry for Tabarca.
The view of Alicante as we were leaving on the Ferry for Tabarca.

Tabarca is a tiny island a fifty minute ferry ride from Alicante. It doesn’t offer much more than scuba diving and heat, but at these two things it excels.

The island hosts a jagged coast line that provides many inlets and peaceful bays for fish to graze on the sea grass that flourishes there. The water is calm and shallow enough that all you need is a pair of goggles. When you stick your head under the water it is like another world. The churn of the waves disappears and suddenly there are fish everywhere. While the sea surrounding Tabarca is beautiful the island itself is minimalistic at best. Tabarca is literally a large rock in the middle of the Mediterranean. The only things to provide shade are the twelve buildings and light house.

Oh! We also saw flying fish on the ferry. I’ve never seen them before, but they really fly for a good fifteen feet.

I signed up for tutoring but it sounds like I’ll be teaching. USAC offers an opportunity to get into the schools and help kids with their Spanish. I jumped at the chance, expecting an after school program similar to those in the states where you work with one or two kids on subjects they’re already familiar with.

On Tuesday I go in front of a class twenty preteens to talk about myself and the United States for two hours. Hopefully I can also teach them some English. I’m not sure what I have to say about American culture, as an insider everything seems obvious and dull. I’d have a lot more to say about Spain.

My host family’s puppy hanging out on my bed. Her name’s Perla.

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