Spain Trumps America

One thing I realized while in Spain is that nobody is in any rush to go anywhere. That song “Despacito” might be about getting it on, but that word is the way they live. Slowly.

Here in the States, we all work constantly and don’t stop until… well, until never. But over there, yes they work hard and want to live a good life, but those ambitions that drive Americans to the point of workaholism don’t stop the Spanish from living life beyond the scope of working. And I freaking love it. Students hosting kids from another country? Homework waived for the week. Lunch is at 3PM with the family? Finish the work day by 2:30PM. The funny thing is that they think their lives are already strenuous as stated by my host dad. But then again he also said that “if [he] were to live in America, [he thinks he’d] die.”

“Latina Time” was the slang dubbed by my teacher to describe this style of living. It’s pretty much defined as their lack of urgency and lengthy grace periods. While on the trip, there was not a single instant we left or began on time. Meet up at 7AM? Be there at 7:30. Or later. It got to be so bad that once we returned to the States, nuestra profesora had to clearly state that 7AM meant 7AM. We weren’t in Spain anymore.

There is one thing, though, that is rushed and urgent over there: showers. Take too long and you’ll use up all of the family’s hot water for the day.

Paz y Amor,

Caroline Cheng

P.S. the original “Despacito” without Justin Bieber is the way to go

 

Spanish Crash Course:

“Estado Unidenses” – American (“United Statesian”)

“Nuestra profesora” – Our teacher

“Paz y Amor” – Peace and Love

Spitters Aren’t Quitters?

(okay just a warning- this post is a little inapropro. I swear it opens up into an actual life lesson but there’s a lot of dirty talk so if that’s not what your’re into you may want to skip this post my b.)

 

 

“I swear to god Meghan, you made me spit out my drink” Quim roared with laughter. I can’t remember what I had said to make him laugh so hard, but at two in the morning, just about anything is funny.

I winked at him, and lowering my voice to a conspiratorial whisper joked, “You know Quim, spitters are quitters.”

The other American, Mike, and I immediately launched into another fit of laughter while Quim and our other Spanish friend, Ines, just stared bewilderedly. After the laughter had subsided, Ines turned to me.

“Spitters are quitters?”, she asked, seeking clarification on this unknown phrase in her non-native tongue.

Mike and I shot each other the same look shared between two adults when a child asks where babies come from. He chuckled nervously, and shook his head, indicating that this one was on me to explain.

“Okay” I began, “so like, you know when someone gives a blow job and the man like, ejeculates? Well people say that as a joke in the US because you’re supposed to swallow it”

Ines’s eyes were wide with shock and a grimace of pure disgust sat upon her normally cheerful face. “Wait, you swallow it?” She challenged, hoping, by some miracle, that there was something lost in the language barrier.

“Well, I mean, I haven’t, because I haven’t ever…” I didn’t need to finish the sentence. After living together for an inseparable two weeks at camp and another one now in their home town of Girona, Ines and Quim knew pretty much everything about me.

“And you have to?”

“Well….you don’t have to. A lot of people don’t. But they say it makes it better.”

With this, we all turned to Mike. He was usually one to share his opinions- especially those about America, or women, or sex.

“Mike,” Quim began, “When a girl does you a blowjob, do you like it when she swallows your man milk?” Like usual, the inflection of his voice made it sound like he was constantly winking at the world.

Mike’s face turned redder than the Pa amb Tomaquet we had been eating with almost every meal. “Well,” he nervously chuckled, “I mean it’s not like something the girl has to do but it’s nice, yeah. For the most part I would say it’s the way to go.”

The look of pure repulsion that Quim and Ines shared in that moment allowed me to stand    in a set of shoes I had never been in before. I live in America with vaguely European heritage. My family follows a mainstream religions, and not much of what we do deviates from western norms. Because of this, I’ve never realized what it’s like for something I view as normal to be ridiculed or judged. I realize that the choice of whether or not to swallow isn’t something that people strongly identify with, but that even furthers my point.

People are different, and what we see as normal are different. In one part of the world  a daily occurrence could be blasphemy in another. So just chill a little, okay? Especially when it comes to sex and relationships, there are so many different traditions and customs within one country that to shame others for how they live their lives is just a waste of time. And for all my American readers here who think we aren’t weird- we are. Men basically bribe women into marrying them with expensive rings. We have an app that people play like a game to find people to hook up with. Oh, and we shame women for not swallowing “man milk”.

 

I Suck More Than Meghan (yikes)

Before I start I’d just like to say sorry I suck even more than Meghan at running this blog. Life hits you sometimes and when it rains, it pours. I’ve barely had time to scramble through school work but I’m back and have some new stories under my belt.

Like Meghan said in our last post, I went to Spain over Spring Break and lived the hell out of that week. We went through Sevilla and then settled down in Guadix to live with students our age over there. They then hopped over the Atlantic to good old Chicago and when they left, I cried real, vulnerable tears. I’ll put out some more specific posts about the entire experience soon, but for now let me just say this:

If you have the chance to go live abroad with locals (Meghan can attest to this as well as she was living in Spain over Winter Break), do it. Book a cheap flight and find yourself a nice family to stay with, easier said than done, I know; but you’ll not only make your travel expenses lower since room and board are pretty much free, but you’ll leave wherever you are with a new family. Living with locals also gives you something being just a hotel tourist can’t: a taste of real life. You are forced to immerse yourself because you are sleeping, eating, showering, and shitting in a space with people whose lives are probably starkly different than yours, and that forced encounter makes you not only appreciate the place, but the people and their values. I’ll stop myself now because I can feel a rant coming on, but please take this advice.

It will change your life.

Peace and Love,

Caroline Cheng

I SUCK! (Sorry) 

First, allow me to apologize for being really crappy at this. It’s been hella long since my last post. My b. I’ll try to be better for my dedicated fans (that’s for you, Grammy!).
I promise an actual blog post will be coming asap, but for the time being I’d love to give you some updates into the lives of Caroline and I.

Caroline spent her spring break in Spain, participating in a foreign exchange program our school co-hosts each year. She spent a week living it up in España, seeing the sites, making new friends, and making me thoroughly jealous. Ugh, I miss my Spanish friends.
On top of making me google “cheap flights to Barcelona” at 2 am, she’s generally just a badass. I have recently appointed myself as dictator of her fan club. It was originally president, but then I realized that presidents can be impeached. Ha. She wishes she could get rid of me that easily.

As for me, I don’t think I’ve stopped moving for more than 10 minutes at a time recently. My seasonal job has opened back up because of the warm weather (thanks global warming!) so I’ve been there most days after school. If I’m not at that job, I’m at my other regular babysitting job. If I’m not there, I’m doing homework.

Ha.

Who am I kidding? I’m sitting in my bed binge watching Netflix with my backpack open next to me.
My spring break was equal parts business and pleasure. I traveled out to Colorado to look at some colleges and peer pressure my father into smoking weed. (I’m mostly kidding about that one) While there, however, I somehow stumbled my way into Rocky Mountain National Park. I’ve been trying to think of something to write about that for quite a while, but in all honesty, words (even beautifully crafted ones like mine) don’t do it justice.
Well I don’t have much more to say for now, other than that I swear these will be more regular. What have you been up to while we’ve been our hiatus? Let me know.

Until next time,

Meghan

Reading is a Waste

If, like me, you spend hours looking up quotes and artsy pictures to go with your travel aesthetic, you’ve probably seen the quote: “The world is a book, and those who do not travel only read one page” by Saint Augustine. It’s one of the more inspiring wanderlust (or fernweh) quotes out there and has reached the point of being cliche. I’m not trying to shame anyone here, don’t worry. I’ve got it saved to my pinterest board about a million times too.

I will gladly agree that those who do not travel are missing out on life. There are so many things to see and do out there. To be blunt, staying in one place and experiencing nothing new is hella lame. And because this is a travel blog, I’m just going to assume you agree with me on this one.

 

But is simply reading life enough?

 

Think about travel like a great work of literature. Yes, you can read it, and enjoy it, and be done with it. But if you want to get a deeper understanding of it, you’ve got to put in work. The Great Gatsby is fine on its own, but without the assistance of a reader’s guide, or a teacher, or Sparknotes, it’s just a nice book. Simply reading does not allow one to fully comprehend symbolism or deep themes. Without in-depth analysis, you’re just wasting your time.

 

To just go somewhere else isn’t traveling. If you fly halfway across the world to stay in a resort and eat hamburgers the whole time, you’re doing nothing but wasting your money. To fully comprehend the world, you need to get yourself out of your comfort zone. Take a risk for goodness sake! Eat at a place where you aren’t even sure what you’re eating. Interact with the locals. Try to understand local religious customs with more effort than just taking a picture of a temple. Learn the historical significance of where you visit. Avoid big restaurants with menus in English. Flirt with a stranger. And please, for the love of God or whatever else you believe in, don’t fly halfway around the world just to end up in a Starbucks.

How To Be Adventurous

adventure |adˈvenCHər, əd-|

noun

an unusual and exciting experience or activity

 

“Adventure” is a highly subjective word. For one person, going out for ice cream with a good friend is all they need to feel the buzz of excitement. For others, that feeling may not come unless they’re cliff diving in Indonesia alongside people they just met yesterday.

With no concrete definition of adventure, how could any of us know if our lives are an “adventure?” How can we know whether or not we’re “living our life to the fullest?” Or “making the most of our time?” Isn’t there always an itch in the back of our minds of: what if there’s more?

Here is what I have to say about that: forget trying to fulfill the guidelines of what social media and our own illusions deem “adventurous.” Instead, we should just take what is in front of us and embrace every single damn feeling we have in that moment, because whether or not there’s “more,” we will never know. This is where we are right now, and this is what we get right now, and that is good enough to live a fulfilling life. If the way things are going doesn’t make you happy or fulfill you, change something; even if that something is as dumb as drinking an extra glass of water every morning.

Each of our everyday lives should be the adventure we all crave. For all of us, the journey will be different. Sometimes it’s international exploration, but other times, it’s listening to the story of someone breaking down at 2AM, bingeing chocolate and peanut butter, and then passing out to the sound of crap television. Each of us just has to remember that every single moment we experience is an adventure in and of itself, it only needs to be recognized.

Stay Adventurous. Stay Stoked.

Peace and Love,

Caroline Cheng

Tiny Catalonian Changes

There are little things that travel books and guides won’t tell you. Not because of some big conspiracy, or that they’re trying to hide something from you, but because they’re just too insignificant to mention. Don’t worry, I’ve got you.

 

There are no locks inside of houses.

This one I learned very quickly after my arrival. There aren’t locks to doors inside of a home, which makes bathrooms and bedrooms a lot less private. If privacy is a big issue for you, I suggest leaving a backpack or bag against the door. Either that, or master the sit-on-the-toilet-but-also-have-one-hand-braced-on-the-door-move, like I did.

 

Touching is a much more casual thing.

I hadn’t noticed how little Americans touch each other until I arrived in Catalonia. When we do touch, it’s usually a specific gesture, such as a hug or shaking a hand. That, or it’s a sexual thing. We don’t often simply touch our friends with no motive. In Catalonia, this is different. Friends and strangers are much more generous with plutonic touches and physical displays of friendship.

 

 Sidewalks are Chaos

Remember in elementary school when we were still learning how to be normal humans and we would all walk from classroom to classroom in one big line? Remember how that line was always on the right side of the hallway? I had almost completely forgotten this small step in my societal conditioning until I arrived in Barcelona and there were no rules. In America, people take great care to walk on the right side of a sidewalk and to maintain a personal bubble of space at all times. This is not a thing in Catalonia. People walk all over. They bump into you. Perfect your angry, “I’m-not-gonna-move-stranger-so-you-better-move-around-me” stare now.

 

Meals are Structured a Bit Differently.

In America, we usually get a big ol’ chunk of meat with a couple of small portions of maybe vegetables or starches sprinkled around the edges of the plate. In Catalonia, you get a bite of this, a bite of that, and you top it all off with fruit. It’s amazing.

 

Got any more tips? Let me know.

Meghan

 

Choosing A Temporary Spouse

At this point in my life, I have not been on a trip where I was able to choose person for person who I was with, where we were going, and what we were doing. But, I have insane aspirations to go on trips and adventures of my choice with friends (prime example being Meghan DeJong) and my sister (just the two of us). Picking someone to travel with is a big deal. You’re going to be spending a lot of time, energy, and money with this person, so it’s best to have some criteria.

 

Criteria One:

Be able to come to a consensus as to where you want to go.

For example, with my sister, we both want to fly from Chicago to Iceland, stay there for a few days, and then go to Europe to just hang out and see what there is. With Meghan on the other hand, we’ve decided that Southeast Asia is more our vibe.

Criteria Two:

Be able to get along with that person. No matter what.

If you find yourself getting on edge near that person, don’t travel with them. If they make you stressed, don’t travel with them. If you can’t see yourself spending nearly every waking moment with that person for at least a couple weeks, don’t travel with them. It’s like picking a short-term spouse, except without the wedding.

 

That’s it. Those are my two criteria as to who I would travel with. It’s short, yes. But it gets to where is matters. These two rules will mean your buddy is passionate and excited about your travels, as well as being someone that looks forward to experiencing everything life has to offer with you by their side.

Choose well.

Peace and Love,

Caroline Cheng

The World isn’t So Scary

I grew up (and I guess still am growing up) in a suburb close enough to Chicago that the Sears Tower was visible from my house on a clear day. Much to the annoyance of my friends who actually live in the Windy City however, whenever I travel, I tell people that I live in the city. It’s just simpler that way. Nevertheless, when I’m far from Chicago and tell people it’s my home, I’m immediately met with faces of horror. “Is it dangerous?” (Not usually). “Have you ever been shot at?” (Yes, but not in Chicago.) “Is it as bad as people say it is?” (Absolutely not).

Chuck Todd once said, “No place is ever as bad as they tell you it’s going to be” and he was absolutely correct. Yes, there are dangerous things about every place on the globe. It would be foolish of me to ignore that. However, it’s wise to take every horror story with a grain of salt. Before I visited Spain, I was warned by friends and family to be wary of pickpockets. I was told that if I made it through my vacation without being stolen from, it would be a miracle. When I arrived in Spain and asked my Spanish friends about pickpocketing, they laughed. They informed me that in all their years of living in Spain, they had never been stolen from. Unless I wore a sign around my neck proclaiming that I was an American tourist, I would be fine. Well, that and not to let anyone bump into me in Barcelona.
So yes, places can be more dangerous than home. But they probably aren’t as bad as people lead you to believe. I live near Chicago and I’m alive. My friends live near Barcelona and they’ve never been pickpocketed. The world isn’t as scary as people lead you to believe.   

Until next time,

Meghan

Bilinguals are Badass

“Wait, Quim”, I grasped my friend’s arm as the waitress approached, “I want to order for myself. I think I can do it.”

His kind face broke into a wide smile I had realized was reserved almost exclusively for his amigos americanos. The corners of his pursed lips crept up in a vaguely paternal way. With his smile, he shook his head at me gently. From any other person, this look could be considered patronizing. From Quim, however, it was just another expression of his love.

“Yes honey, you can order,” he laughed.

“Para yo…” I hesitated, “un te verde? Y un…pues…..ummm…” I frantically turned again to Quim. As if reading my mind, he turned to the waitress with Catalonian charm and finished my order. After he finished, he turned back to me and continued on with the conversation we were having in English, as his mastery of multiple languages was nothing.

I was dumbstruck. I still am. I’ve been taking spanish for 7 years and I am just able to carry on a simplistic conversation with a very patient person. Yet here was someone of my same age who had not only mastered another language, but two others.

Yes, I am aware that there are polyglots all over the world who can speak innumerable languages with ease. Yes, I am aware that a large portion of the world knows at least a little English. But until this moment, I had never really wondered at the marvel of it. Humans, these complex little creatures have evolved a series of noised we can make to communicate thoughts, ideas, and knowledge. Different types of people have different noises and some people- some beautiful, intelligent people, have pushed themselves out of what is easy or comfortable to be able to speak with those who are not like them.

I realize I may be romanticizing language past the point of tolerance for many people, but I’m still beginning to comprehend its beauty. And polyglots have known it all along.

Until next time,

Meghan