I’m not sure how much of it reached the news in America, but the entire country of Spain went on strike yesterday against the major cuts happening as a response to the continuing economic crisis here (unemployment is currently at 28%) and also against the new costs for public education. Being completely honest, I don’t completely understand all the reasons behind the strike, I haven’t really studied the economic crisis, only heard a general overview of the cause and the effects it’s having- and seen a lot of the latter with my own eyes. Either way, it was a very interesting experience to see a country wide strike take place in the country you’re living in. Honestly, up to the other day, I couldn’t help but wonder why people in Spain and other European countries went on strike so much. However, one of my professors was talking about the strike this past week and asked us why people in the States don’t go on strike and have protests MORE. She asked, “Well, how do you communicate with your political leaders?” I told her that we have many resources to talk with them- we can send letters, emails, talk to them sometimes in person, etc. She was surprised at this response, and told me that here in Spain, they can’t speak with their political leaders as easily as we can in the States. There isn’t any address to send letters to, or any way of sending an email to your elected leaders. Even more interesting, my host parents told me that when you vote in Spain, you primarily vote for the political party of your choice, then the party picks the candidate. You can’t vote for a candidate that isn’t in your political party if you like them more than your own candidate. I couldn’t help but think that’s a really strange and political system, and my host parents seemed to not like it either and find it honestly unfair. I feel like that, in addition to the lack of communication between the people and their elected leaders, is what leads to the larger presence of strikes here. I’m happy to be informed on the subject now, it was really eye-opening to see the reasons behind it.
Anyway, so starting last weekend, signs suddenly cropped up everywhere simply stating “HUELGA GENERAL 14N” (GENERAL STRIKE 14N). I didn’t really know what to expect on Wednesday, though I was warned by my resident director that public transportation would not be running (or if it was, very sparsely) and we would need to walk to school. That morning, I got up early and walked the 45 minutes to class instead of just grabbing the bus, which I wasn’t a super big fan of haha but on the bright side I was able to see the effect of the strike on the town of Alcalá. A vast majority of businesses were closed on Wednesday, with signs plastered on their windows saying they were closed in support of the strike. Every bank was closed, and there was indeed minimal public transportation, and apparently barely any trains at all between here and Madrid and other places. Most people couldn’t get to work if they wanted to go. Almost every window had signs about the strike stuck on the glass, and all of the bus stops had the name of the strike painted on them in black paint. Around 8:45 in the morning as I was arriving at the Institute, there were already people in the main plaza with whistles and signs, starting the protest. By around 12:00, the plaza was full of people and there was live music and a speaker and everything as the people came together to protest what as going on in their country. It was very neat to see here in Alcalá, but from what I’ve heard the protests got out of hand in major cities like Madrid or Barcelona with fights going back and forth between the population and the police, and lots of trashcans being set on fire. The protest was all that was spoken of on the news Wednesday night, apparently energy consumption in the country was down 13% because of all of the factories and other places being closed for the day. Other strikes happened in Italy, Greece, and other countries similar to the one here in Spain. It was absolutely crazy to be apart of something like that, and to see it all occurring with your own eyes. It was an experience I know I won’t forget, especially when I watch what happens with Spain and their economic crisis in the next couple of years. To step on a soap box for a second, I have to say it absolutely puts things in perspective for me when looking at recent events in the States. I know there are a lot of people unhappy with the reelection of Obama as our president, but I think all of this “petition to succeed from the Union” nonsense is absolutely ridiculous. Listen, folks, the people here in Spain have to go on a nationwide strike just to reach out to their political leaders, and you are still talking about an election that has been decided and done with. Can we please just move on and actually give the president some time in his new term before we critique everything? Can we just support him as our president and stop complaining that he was elected? You are more than welcome to complain with what policies and actions you don’t agree with, but he was elected and that is that. Saying how pissed you are about it won’t change the situation. I’ll step off my soap box now as I’m reaching dangerous territory hah, but experiencing the strike here has been very mind and eye opening for me.
Anyway, I came to the realization the other day that I honestly have never talked about what a normal day here for me is like. I always talk about the trips I’m taking, or whatever extraordinary event has occurred, but I realized that you honestly don’t know what an everyday day is like for me here, so I thought I’d share a day in the life of Jen Harlan in Spain:
“All Day E’ryday” in Spain
6:00 AM- My alarm goes off. Just kidding! I don’t get out of bed, I always set an alarm for 6:00 and then go back to sleep for another hour to reward myself. Don’t ask, it’s a process that keeps me from hitting the snooze button and being late later on, hah.
7:00 AM- My REAL alarm goes on, and I get up and take and shower, then get ready to SEIZE THE DAY ahead.
8:05 AM- I eat breakfast at a little table in the kitchen. Sometimes my host brother is there eating breakfast as well, sometimes he’s not; as well as sometimes my host mom is being preparations for la comida, and sometimes she isn’t. Just depends on the day. What doesn’t change is the fact that I always breakfast on café con leche and yogurt (either natural or greek flavored are my favorite. Oh or coconut, that is absolutely the best yogurt in the world.)
8:24 AM- I catch the bus from my neighborhood El Ensanche to where my Institute is right by la plaza de Cervantes. I like listening to music on the bus, especially Mumford, and looking out the window and doing my best to look like a very cool, hip young Spanish lady.
9:00 AM- My first class begins. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I have my advanced grammar class with my resident director and just the nine people in our CIEE program. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have a class about the oral traditions of Spain.
10:30 AM- Tuesdays and Thursdays I have a long break from now until 12:30, during which another girl in my program and I usually walk around Alcalá (if we don’t have work to do) and go get churros con chocolate, or tostada con tomatoe or café con leche or pretty much any combination of that. My favorite is getting tostada con tomatoe and zumo (juice) de melocotón (peach). On Mondays and Wednesdays, I have my class on the work of Cervantes (very fitting, as I live where he was born!)
12:00-12:30 PM- Break between classes. If I haven’t eaten during my long break, I always eat a piece of fruit during this break.
12:30 PM- Mondays and Wednesdays I have a class on Latin American literature, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays I have a class on Spanish literature.
2:00 PM- On Mondays and Wednesdays, I leave at 2:00 and catch the bus to head home for la comida (lunch). La comida is the biggest meal of the day. Usually we have a salad of mixed greens with tomatoes and sometimes artichoke hearts, or boiled eggs, or avocado, or other things just depending, dressed in olive oil and salt. Or meal pretty much always varies, and is always very wholesome and delicious. One of my favorites is this stew of beef, carrots, potatoes, chickpeas, and other veggies. Absolutely delicious. We usually don’t have fish for lunch, we pretty much always have a very hearty meat or pasta dish and we always always have bread. After la comida, we always eat fruit of some form. For the first month or so, we always had this delicious melon that they have here, that is a mix between honeydew and cantalope and is amazing. Now, we have tangerines or apples or pears or whatever is in the fridge. After la comida, if I don’t have too much work to do, I usually take a nap, haha. My host dad eats la comida with me as he comes home from work from then until the end of the siesta period, though my host mom usually eats before us.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I tutor two different families back to back. So, on these days, I eat a picnic from my host mom, then head to tutoring and am not finished and home until around 6:45 or 7:00. I really have enjoyed tutoring the kids in English, and I’ve made some good money, but I decided to tell them my last day is this coming week so I can have my last few weeks here free to come home and eat. Plus, I have tons of work to do in these last couple of weeks, and I need the time to meet with people for presentations and generally get it all done.
~3:15- ~8:30 PM- During the afternoon, when I’m not tutoring, I generally do homework or take a nap or read a book or pretty much whatever I can find to entertain myself. When I’m feeling homesick, this is one of the hardest times, because the afternoon can seem to drag on. A lot of times I’ll walk around with another girl from Arizona who lives in my neighborhood that I’m friends with, and we’ll go to the mall, or the park, or do our homework in a bar somewhere close by. More and more, I don’t have this afternoon period because I’m busy doing whatever I have to do, so now when I do have it it’s kind of a nice break hah. I always keep my door open if I’m not taking a nap and chat with my host parents as they walk by doing whatever they are doing.
8:30 PM- We generally eat dinner at 8:30, though sometimes it can be a little later. We eat very early for Spanish standards, most of the other people I know here eat around at least 9:30 or 10:00, sometimes later like 11. I like the fact that we eat so “early” because I generally am very hungry by then and am also tired, haha. I try to go downstairs if I don’t have homework to do a little before dinner, and I always stay down after dinner and chat with my host parents. We always watch the news during lunch and dinner and talk about what’s going on in the world, and after we finish eating we usually put on Frasier dubbed in Spanish voices haha or Law and Order or CSI. It’s fun to watch American shows with my family haha I always have a good time talking with them about it. Plus, if I stay downstairs after dinner, at some point we usually break out the cookies or some sort of sweet, hah. Oh, for dinner, we eat a smaller meal than for lunchtime. One of my favorites is empanandas or the Spanish tortilla which is this delicious egg and potato quiche kind of thing that I’m obsessed with. I also really like when we have sunny side up eggs with potatoes and chorizo, it’s really yummy. We eat fish a lot for dinner, especially tuna. After dinner, we always eat yogurt, which makes that my second yogurt of the day hah.
10:00 PM- I head up to my room and Skype with people from the States or finish up homework until it’s time for bed. Then, pretty much every night, my bedtime varies. On Thursdays, Fridays, or Saturdays when I’m here in Alcalá, I’ll go out to get tapas with friends or to hang out (which is a very early time to go out here in Spain, haha most of the Spanish leave to go out around 1 AM).
So, yeah, that’s basically an entire normal day of my life, haha. My schedule here is really different from in the States, so it’ll be interesting to see how adjusting back to what I’m used to goes. Just thought I’d share a normal day in my life with everyone, but now it’s after 10 so I guess I better be getting to bed soon . Un besito!