Things that would never happen in the US

Part One: Siesta

– siesta / nap
– cafe con leche / coffee with milk
– fruteria / fruit store
– tener ganas / to have the desire to do something
– paseo / walk
– croquetas / fried wonderfulness
– cuenta / bill at a restaurant

In order to fully appreciate the major differences of the timing of a day in the life in Spain, allow me to share a typical American-in-Spain scenario. Please note that this does not take into account a weekend, which usually constitutes a 9 pm departure and a 7 am return. This is a work or school day, based on personal experience.

You wake up in the morning with a scratchy throat and your hair still smells like cigarette smoke from last night’s events. You’re starving and you need to get to class. If you’re hoping for a shower, don’t forget to light the water heater or you’re in for a surprise. If you’re running late, put your hair back, throw on a sweater, slap some Nutella on a day old piece of baguette and roll out. Let’s say it’s 8 am. You walk or bike to school and take a cafe con leche with your friends upon arrival at your destination. Once you are fully caffeinated and your day is in motion, you realize you’re starving and it’s about 10 am. But don’t snack in class or you’ll stick out like a sore thumb! Hold tight for the next break and sprint to the cafe for a croissant or unpack your crackers and juice that you miraculously remembered to put in your bag last night.

If you’re lucky enough to be living with a host family, you head for home and the biggest meal of the day at 2 pm around the table with the entire family. You remember you wanted to pick up a bottle of water and an apple for your bus ride later but the fruteria is already closed for the day. You could use a new pair of shoes, some stamps for the postcards you wrote four days ago, and you need to go to Vodafone and recharge your phone. But it’s 3 pm, and the majority of the places you actually need to go to will not open again until 5 pm or so. You do the only thing you can do, and take a nap.

Two hours later you wake up with that horrific long nap hangover and without the ganas to do the errands you wanted to do earlier. You pop into a cafe and log online for a spell to skype with friends who are just starting their days back in the US. You want a coffee but everyone else at the cafes has moved on to beer and you settle for an ice cream cone. The internet sucks two hours of your life away with its slow connection and suddenly it’s 7pm and now you have no chance of getting the shoes or the stamps. Your roommate calls and you meet up for a drink, forgetting that Vodafone closes at 9 pm, so you cant text that cute Spaniard you met at school.

You meander over to a pub and dodge the older folks out for a paseo and the young families with their posh strollers. Your stomach has no idea if you’re hungry or not, but the tapas are being served so you place an order for croquetas and a glass of wine because its cheaper than the water you would prefer. Although you have been hailing the waiter for approximately 30 minutes, its 11 pm by the time you are able to pay the cuenta and announce your intentions to go home. You make your way back home winding through side streets with eyes on the sidewalk to avoid dog poop.

Meanwhile your residential complex is still popping off – a random assortment of old men are debating god knows what outside in the yard and the inner courtyard rings with the sound of dishes clanking in the sink. Children are still awake and practicing their recorders, and by the time your neighbor’s grandfather clock signals the witching hour, you are wondering why you aren’t in bed yet. You get ready for bed, taking your slippers off at the last minute in order to avoid contact with the cold marble floors and sink into your pillow. The old man in the next apartment starts to snore, and you plug into your ipod, trying to ignore the digital clock that proclaims it is already tomorrow. You are serenaded to sleep by Jack Johnson and the sound of Spanish, earbuds snug in your ears and a tired smile on your face.

As my dear friend Nancy would say .. We’ll do this again tomorrow.


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