A Different Side of Spain

My experience in Spain has been like no other; unlike the rest of the students here on this Spain trip, I’m taking an alternative course. Instead of taking classes, I’ve gotten the opportunity to work at the local food pantry. Over the past two weeks I have been able to use the Spanish I’ve learned and help the people of Spain with something that plagues the whole world.
Not only have I been able to learn the history, cultural parts and language of Spain but I’ve been able to see the behind the scenes that most tourist don’t. While Spain is a wonderful country and I recommend everyone to visit, it still has its problems like any place in the world. You see they’re challenged with a high unemployment rate. This means there are many people who can’t afford a house, running water, or even a decent meal. People can often be found sleeping on the streets, going up to strangers with cups or hats and asking for money, or with signs that explain their situation. Thankfully there are some organizations set up to provide people with food. For me it meant that there was a way for me to give back to this beautiful city and learn the language in a different way.
Every day at the food pantry is a busy day for us. Some Days we’re cooking chicken with rice and vegetables, other days we’re handing out nonperishable foods. However, on most days we provide two types of sandwiches along with a liter of milk along with bread. The bread is donated from local bakeries that we pick up that night before or the morning of. It is a nice show of compassion that these local bakeries donate their bread instead of just selling it at a lower price until it is finally too stale to be edible. It shows that there is a strong sense of responsibility in the community to help those less fortunate than themselves. This is something that back in the United States that gets glossed over unless there are organizations that reach out to the public for support, but even then it can often go unnoticed or unheard. All it takes is one group of people to start standing up, and to never back down and make a difference in the lives of those struggling.
When at the pantry, and whenever someone finds themselves working with food, preparation is key. On days where we’re giving out nonperishable food we have to first pull all that we need from storage. The way the food pantry is set up however is scattered across 5 different buildings along the street. The main building is where we do most of the cooking, assembling, and distribution of food. The other 4 buildings are mostly for storage of clothes and various foods such as canned beans, crackers, rice, potatoes, onions etc. This means that to prepare for the days when we distribute food, we have to go to 4 different building to gather all the food we need. Thankfully they have a shopping cart which makes preparation go by a lot faster.
When it comes to actually cooking, a gentleman by the name of Jose takes care of most of it. Most of the people don’t speak English so understanding them was a challenge for me at times. It usually takes them a few times of repeating themselves to understand them. However, everyone has been extremely understanding and supportive of the fact that I was completely new to the language and many even would take time out of their day to try and teach me a word or phrase or two. It was incredibly inspiring to see how compassionate and selfless these people were.
Everyone at the food pantry has a role to play and everyone one plays it very well. Along with that they’ve taken many dull moments and turned them into teaching experiences and everlasting memories.

A Dream I Never Want to Wake From

Ever have a dream that you could do anything? A dream where you could go anywhere in the world and see all the differences to that of the life you’re living now? Any place that speaks a different language, eats different food and goes about their day-to-day?

That’s what Spain is like. A whole beautiful mess of culture, language, food and opportunity all new to me . Though things are still all new and my heart is beating a mile per minute due to the excitement of it all, I still can’t get over how amazing this place truly is. There is a term we hear a lot before we embark on our journeys abroad and that is ‘culture shock’ and honestly I didn’t truly understand the meaning behind the word until I arrived here. Home, is so foreign in nature to the home that is Spain and I wouldn’t have it any other way because it is a wonderful type of different. From the start, there was no delay in the flow of information from the families, teachers, community, people and other students. Although, I do not have a lot of personal experience with speaking spanish, and I was slightly nervous to go to a country where I didn’t know the primary language, I have found that there are many people who will jump at the opportunity to assist me in understanding and learning the language.

My experience here is a little less than typical, because instead of taking a traditional class I am taking an internship and working at a local food pantry. It is a truly eye-opening experience. I get to see a different side of Spain then most students, but I consider myself lucky to be exposed to the whole Spain rather than just the glamorous parts. There is no hiding the fact that there are troubles everywhere in the world, and I feel personally inspired to get to see the hardships that many face in the place that they call home and how they choose to manage those hardships.

Beyond that, there are many parts about Spain that are absolutely beautiful. The architecture is so antique and historic, and the city just breaths history. From the old Naval Fort to the Cathedral and the historic statues around the city like that of Lucio Junio Moderato Columela– Principe de los escritores de agricultural. There is something to learn about at every corner and never a dull moment with music running well into the night, artists and players on the street performing for the masses, and plenty of shops full of food, clothing, etc. to explore.

The food too is something completely different than from back home, even normal things are made differently here. Hotdogs are normally much smaller here and a couple go into a bun. There are chocolate dipped donuts that are frozen to harden the chocolate, instead of glazed with chocolate. Rice, beans, and fish are extremely popular and are found in many dishes or mixed with many other foods. However, the weirdest for me so far has been the change in etiquette with eating, such as eating fries cooked in oil with a fork instead of just using your hands; which honestly is a great idea instead of getting your hands dirty. There are still foods that are in both Spain and back home, such as Oreos and Chips-A-Hoy cookies, Pepsi and Coca-cola drinks, and surprisingly Tic-Tacs and 5 Gum; so it is nice to have a taste of home every now and again while being immersed in all the new.

Of course, there is also always the beaches; something that Spain is extremely well known for. The beaches are nothing like that of those back home, the water is warm and brighter blue compared to the cold and dark waters of Hampton Beach back in Massachusetts. The sand is also much softer beneath my feet than that of the beaches I have traveled to back home. I cannot deny that it is a wonderful thing to be no more than a five minute walk from the beach, and to have so much time to go and enjoy it.

Though i thought coming to Spain would be more troublesome than good, and that there would be little purpose for me to learn another language. I am now more than happy that I came than I ever thought I’d be. From the people I’ve meet to the places I’ve seen, Traveling to Spain has been one of the best decisions in my life, and it’s only my second day.