Coffee, cat calls and more in Spain

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Story by Wynne Tidwell, Co-editor in chief

This summer I was fortunate enough to spend three sun-filled weeks in Spain, studying global economics through a college program. Upon my return to the states, college essays, the Texas heat and tennis workouts loomed over me. There was definitely a lot to miss.My trip was splendid, so splendid in fact, that I want the general public (that’s you), to share in the glories of Espana. However, I understand this information is easy to come by and can simply be typed in the Google search bar, resulting in blogs and articles about cathedrals, alcazars and bull-riding–all without end. So the following are the “not so conventional” and “slightly quirky” attractions of Spain.

Coffee Vending Machines-The process is simple and the outcome is always good. You put one euro into the machine, choose from a wide selection of coffee-based drinks, your coffee’s sugar level and voila–superb tasting coffee is born. The machine even gives you your own plastic stirrer. Always fantastic to have.Siestas-A designated time of the day where everyone takes a nap. Why America doesn’t have one of these is perhaps the greatest question of our day.

“Vale” (vah-ley)–  Quite possibly the most fun Spanish word to say. It’s translated to “cool” or “all right” in English, and Spaniards say it all the time. It doesn’t just roll off the tongue easy, either. “Vale”  can be a lifesaver for those whose Spanish vocabulary is lacking. For example:
Spaniard: Que quizás llueva esta noche. Si se puede, comprar un poncho.
Clueless American: …Vale?
Spaniard: Ah, bien.
See, now you don’t look like the clueless American that you are.

Spain isn’t perfect and, in the words of Poison, “Every rose has its thorn.”  Other than a high rate of unemployment, pickpockets, and the Euro Crisis, here are a couple gauches I came across.

Smoking- So either Spaniards have a really good resilience against lung cancer, or they just don’t care. Smoking is everywhere. Prepubescent boys on bikes have cigarettes tucked carelessly over their ear. Tour guides smoke religiously, regardless of the grumbles and cough from the tourists. Non-smoking establishments are close to non-existent. The “non-smoking” hotel room you booked? Get used to the lingering smell of tobacco on your sheets. On the bright side, it’s a great way to make friends. Carry a lighter with you, and whenever someone ask for a lighter, believe me they will, you will not only have assisted them on their journey to lung cancer, but you will have made a new friend.

Cat calling- Females beware. Latin men are lusty. And shameless. The most dangerous combination for the unsuspecting female traveler. Especially an American traveler. Blondes are the most susceptible. “Guapa,” that’s what they will call you. It doesn’t matter the age or who they are with. They will find you and they will stare at your backside. There is no escape. Future female expeditionist be prepared. Be prepared for the blatant stares. The dramatic serenade on the street corner. The blitz of air kisses. The constant assurance that his vespa really is the newest make. Of course, the seat is real leather. And he can take you anywhere your heart desires, just as long as your desires include him. Not even a Christmas turtle neck and inch thick glasses will save you from Spanish badgering. However, like anything, there is refuge– hermanos, or brothers. In Spain there is a dogma that never fails: if a girl is with her brother, respect must be given. The good thing about this is that the Spaniards can’t be sure that any dude on your right side isn’t your brother, so just walk with a protective looking guy friend and you’re in the clear.

Yes, I know, patriarchal cultures are the pits.
Overall, Spain was great, even with the catcalls and smoking; it made Spain, Spain. Vale.