“Reverse Culture Shock”

I was told that when I returned to the United States that I would experience “Reverse Culture Shock.” I was even sent a list of things to do to help this so-called shock.

Luckily for me, I flew into Miami from Madrid for 24 hours to visit my sister. It was a nice buffer because Miami feels like its own Hispanic country, not like a state in the US.

Also, it’s been crazy busy for me since I stepped off the plane so I didn’t have time to fight jet lag, stuff my face with all of the food I have missed, or enjoy the incredible humidity I forgot about.

The only culture shock I experienced was when I was on the plane from Miami to St. Louis. I was sitting in my seat in a row of 3 and I was waiting for the other two to sit down. A young man was walking down the aisle and he was looking at me and smiling. I assumed one of the seats next to me was his, so I questioningly pointed to the seat next to me and he laughed. He said, “No, that’s not mine.”

It took me a second to realize that he was just being nice and/or flirting. I have been living in a culture that no one looked at each other while walking. It took me a couple of days to look at people and smile. I wonder how b*#?+y I looked walking around Menards just looking at people he not smiling. I would like to apologize to all of the people not reading this post for not smiling back.

My bad.

To be honest I didn’t experience a culture shock when I was back in the US. The only thing that felt different was seeing my family. I missed them so much and it didn’t seem real sitting with my sister and brother in law in Miami or playing with my nephew back home.

It’s also nice having a home with air conditioning, eating home grown peaches, eating homemade deer sticks, playing with my puppy dogs, seeing my friends and loved ones face to face rather than on FaceTime…the list goes on and on.

I wish I could say I came home to a peaceful place, I slept for days, and slowly got back to normal. In reality, the second I walked off the plane I had things to do and I still have a major to do list two weeks after.

Unfortunately, the GRE won’t take itself, my job won’t do itself, my room won’t clean itself, my books won’t buy themselves, my house won’t remodel itself…and the list goes on and on.

It feels great to be back! I can’t deny that. But it should be proof enough that I’ve been busy since it has taken me 2 weeks to write a small, boring post about the mythical “Reverse Culture Shock.”

I will leave you with this though:
Jet lag is a very, very real thing.

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Once Upon an Airport…

While traveling within Europe, I wonder if there is as much drama in American airports. The airports I travel to within the United States are bigger, but I feel as if there is not as much action that takes place. Even when I was trying to leave St. Louis to get to Madrid and our flight to Chicago was cancelled there was no uproar or need for security to be called.

If you have been reading, then you will remember the incident in the Rome airport. Fortunately, nothing as exciting happened while traveling to Paris – Valencia.

We arrived to the Valencia airport very early in the morning, which was probably the reason for little drama. Everyone was still half asleep. There was one thing that happened…

I am not 200% fluent in Spanish and part of me feels like I never will be. BUT, I’m pretty sure I understood this incident.

There was a man and his 3 sons waiting in front of us. The three boys looked JUST like their dad so there shouldn’t have been any mistake.

WELL, the Ryanair worker asked for their passports to check tickets. The dad had a French passport and the boys had a Spanish passport. This is where my translation may get a little fuzzy…

I know the woman asked if he was their father and where the mother was. The man was a little offended and explained that she wasn’t traveling with them. I’m not exactly sure what happened after that but the woman made the dad go to the police for something. That meant he had to get out of line and leave his boys. He was not happy.

He explains that they have done this trip many times but goes anyway. He runs out of line and comes back later. Then the boys and him run out of line and come running back just in time for the plane to start boarding. I’m not sure what exactly happened…but I’m thinking that the worker was questioning the legitimacy of his relation to the boys. Did that just happen?

On our way out of Paris we ran into more little spurts. The first was an American couple arguing about who knows what in front of their kid who was busying himself with his Nintendo. The lesson I learned from them was: practice traveling with your loved one MANY times before a large trip.

While waiting in line for security there was a British family (a mom, older daughter, and her fiancĂ©/brother? Not sure…). The daughter got out of line and the brother/fiancĂ© was yelling at her that they had to get on the same plane, while the mother was yelling her name from the other side of security. It was only a tad humorous because they had super thick British accents and the mom reminded me of Mrs. Weasley.

We wait and wait and finally go outside to wait again for our plane. While walking up the stairs to our plane a little French girl got her hair stuck in an elderly man’s backpack zipper. I looked up when her Spanish grandmother yelled, “Madre mia!” The little girl kept saying ow! Because the elderly man had no idea what was going on until his wife smacked him in the arm to start walking.

Not going to lie. I was laughing my butt off. It was quite a show. How did she even manage to get her hair stuck in his backpack?

The last thing to happen was the last people to arrive were a couple and their toddler. The plane was pretty full so there weren’t three seats available that were next to each other. So instead of un-blocking seats that were empty in the front of the plane the attendants kept asking people to switch seats…still doesn’t make sense to me.

They came to my seat and asked the couple next to me if they would mind to move. The boyfriend said no because he wants his window seat. The girlfriend sat there and didn’t say anything.

What I learned: if that were my boyfriend he would have been physically abused somehow and I would have dragged him out of his seat.

The flight was only an hour and 45 minutes. At night. Where the only thing you will see out of the window is black.

Unbelievable.

The family was able to sit together after someone else gave up their seats.

What else I learned:
You cannot judge people so quickly. The flight attendants were telling the couple it was their fault they got there late. The Tour de France was happening in Paris that night. Who knows why they were late! Instead of blaming someone, just fix the dang problem.

Pretty minor compared to Rome, but just enough entertainment to keep the trip interesting.

I’ve learned to stay extremely calm while traveling. It’s not the flight attendants fault you don’t have a seat. It’s not the airline workers fault your plane hasn’t/won’t arrive. It’s not the pilot’s fault the weather is bad. It may not be the family’s fault that they were late to the airport on the night the Tour de France was happening, with a small child, with an hour and a half bus ride to the airport, AND there was only 2 security lines going in the whole terminal.

My point is:
Stay calm. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Always have a plan B. Negativity and yelling will not get you anywhere, except maybe on a longer route home in a horrible seat or in the airport’s holding cell.

Keep calm and travel on.

So This is Where I Have Been Living…

Normally when one goes to a foreign country or city he/she puts on the tourist cap, de-lenses the camera and buttons up the fanny pack. It’s a natural thing to do.

When one has to live in a foreign country he/she should try to think like a chameleon and blend in with the people. The person doesn’t give herself hat hair, uses her iPhone very sneakily for pictures, and I will make no comment on wearing a fanny pack.

*side story for fanny pack:
I’ve got nothing against fanny packs. They are a practical way to hold belongings…apparently men in Spain think that way too. I’ve never seen so many fanny packs in my life. Not even when I went to Disney World. Grown men and young men all wear fanny packs here. I cannot take them seriously knowing that they think it’s fashionable and practical. I’ve seen “murses” (man purses) as well. I know I’m in Europe but after a month and a half I still have to look away so they don’t see me giggling at their carrying devices…if I see a bejeweled one or something of the like I will definitely crack.

Dang…I’ve gotten so distracted about fanny packs I honestly can’t remember what the point of this blog post was…

Oh right! Valencia!

I’ve been here for nearly 2 months and I am continuing to find new places of the city. Most importantly, I’m learning new information about this place. Did you know that the city was founded in 138 BC? Neither did I! Until I had to google it for my culture class.

If my father reads this I know he will be shaking his head. My sisters heads are probably shaking too. I have self-diagnosed ADD so I find it difficult to pay attention in a classroom when being taught in a foreign language that is being thrown at me 100 miles per hour. Forgive me for not picking up all of the facts.

We went to a museum that is a building that is on top of the ancient ruins of the original city. You literally walk through the building on a glass catwalk that is over the ruins. Pretty cool huh? I thought so! My class almost had to drag me out of the building.

Below is part of the ruins that is at the entrance of the building. There was a sign that said no pictures…refer to sneaky-iPhone-non-touristy-usage comment above.

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For many years I have been doing volunteer archaeology work with my father during the summers. My favorite thing to dig/find is ceramics. I was drooling over these.

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After we left that building we went to La Llotja de Mercaders Patrimoni Mundial (Commodity Exchange Building World Heritage Monument) aka the Silk Trade Building. I’ve walked past the building multiple times and never knew what it was. It was beautiful! Time for a fact: It began being built in 1483! Apparently it stopped functioning after a drought killed the majority of the population of silk worms.

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The point of this post is to show that you can never stop learning. If you become bored or complacent then you have closed your books of education. Learning is a never ending book.

Every day that I’m here I’m learning something new, whether it’s about the culture, city, language, or a new set of vocabulary words for my GRE study prep. Should I take this time to quote a famous movie? Oh I think I shall.

“Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while…you could miss it.”
-do I even need to tell you where this is from? If I do, re-read the quote and rent yourself Ferris Buehler’s Day Off for goodness sakes.

I have been meeting great people this month and obviously I’m learning a lot. Next week is a 4 day trip to Paris! No, I do not know any French besides the most basic phrases. No, I do not have a lot of money to spend there. And no, I couldn’t tell you most of the history of anything I will be seeing while I’m there.

But you can bet your bottom dollar that I will be lacing up my sneakers, strapping on my camera bag and ironing out my tourist guide. I will learn an incredible amount of information while I’m there so my dad and sisters don’t strangle me for not knowing what I took pictures of.

So I wonder what will happen when a poor, American college student walks into Paris?