Shannon Waisath

Reverse Culture Shock

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Weird things happen when you come back from a year abroad…

1. Leaving tips *sigh*

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I’ve been out to eat a few times since being back and leaving a tip is. the. worst. Why can’t we just pay our waitresses more?! I guess nothing will compare to the 10 euro, 3-course meal I grew accustomed to in Spain.

2. Understanding an entire menu with ease!

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While we’re on the topic of eating out, I cannot begin to explain the true bliss that is understanding everything that’s on a restaurant menu without having to consult the interwebs.

3. So much space

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When I first got back I spent a few days in my hometown (suburbia) before moving back to Chicago. I just couldn’t get over how much open space there is. Front yards, back yards, parks (with grass!), it was a nice sight to see. I guess I should mention parks in Spain are often filled with gravel, not grass… Even in Chicago, the streets and sidewalks are wider so you can actually walk next to your friends *gasp.*

4. Accurate commercial breaks

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This is a weird one, and I don’t know if it’s because Spain plays mainly dubbed American shows, or what, but they would often cut to a commercial break in the middle of a scene.

5. Healthy/Low-cal options

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Based on this blog I’m sure most of you can assume I’ve come back a couple pounds heavier (I wasn’t about to deny myself all of the delish food abroad). In Spain they just don’t have a lot of low calorie/low fat/low sugar options for food. Probably because their country isn’t facing an obesity epidemic…

I still can’t believe my year abroad is over, and that I’m typing this from the good ol’ city of Chicago!

Adventure Time: Prague, Czech Republic

SelfiePrague in pictures!

Alright folks, I’m writing this from my apartment in Madrid (It’s our last day here), and it’s currently 100 degrees (literally), so let’s keep this one short and sweet.

CollageBridge* These two pictures are from the famous Charles Bridge, it’s pretty cool and no cars can go on it

* This was where we saw a momma dog and her 12 very little puppies (cue Shannon meltdown)

* It’s also lined with these really weird statues that I think are derived from Catholicism CollageCastle*So I was really excited because Prague has a “castle,” but it turns out the castle is just a lot of houses built around a beautiful cathedral #woeismeCollagedessert

* Prague has this traditional sweet that’s like a hollow churro, we opted for a chocolate-filled one

* Funny story: we ordered a chocolate-filled one which turned out to be a regular one and a packet of nutella we had to spread on ourselvesCollageFood

*Prague food is all alarmingly similar (and delicious)

*Most dishes are some type of meat with sauce, potato dumplings, and that’s allCollageMarket

*We stumbled across a market where there were lots of pretty trinkets

* How cool is Czech money?!

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*Prague has a super dope Old Town Square

* All of the buildings are pastel colored with pointy tips (I’m sure there’s a technical term for this architecture, but I’m feelin too lazy to look it up)

* This is an astronomical clock that not only tells the time, but also the date, and the position of the moon LOverlook SOverlooks

And ya esta! Our next adventure is homeward *TOMORROW!*

Adventure Time: Dublin, Ireland

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As many of you can imagine, Logan and I kind of have this traveling thing down to a “T”. We’ve realized we are kind of lazy people when we travel, I mean it’s still our weekend so we want some time to chill, and explore a new city. So throughout the year we have somehow perfected the way to see most of any city in 48 hours (give or take) while still leaving the house at 11, taking a nap, and down-right chillin’.

Since Dublin doesn’t have tons of sights to see, we stuck to our three main pillars of travel: food, booze, and wandering.

1. Food

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I don’t actually have any pictures of the food we ate, I guess we were so hungry we just kinda gobbled it all up #sorrynotsorry. The food is what you would expect. Excellent meat, burgers, pies, and lots of potatoes. Oh, and I can’t forget my favorite Irish delicacy: CADBURY CHOCOLATE PRODUCTS!

2. Booze

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Dublin knows their way around the alcohol department. I give this city an A+ on that front. We went on a tour of the Jameson Whiskey HQ where we were taught the whiskey making process, given free samps, and able to admire the various Jameson DIY bottle decor they have throughout the place. We also had our fair share of Irish beer (yummm), and went to plenty of Irish pubs.

3. Wandering

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Dublin was cold. Like really, really cold (60 degrees). I think Spain has made me a softy to any weather that’s less than sunny with a high of 95. Dublin felt like winter to us, but we still wandered throughout the entire city. Logan and I made some stops at the Dublin Castle, Trinity College, and the Temple Bar.

Well we have one more adventure time to tell you about, and then we are homeward bound!

5 Reasons Spain is the Best European Country

So what’s the deal with everyone referencing, almost exclusively, Paris and Rome when they talk about taking a European vacation? I don’t get it. Where’s the love for my beloved country of Spain?! By this time I’ve been to my fair share of European countries (Portugal, France, Italy, Germany, UK, Netherlands, Switzerland) and literally none of them hold a candle to Spain. So I’m going to declare it, loud and proud: Spain is undoubtedly the best European country, and here’s why:

1.The Food PicMonkey Collage

THE FOOOD! Where do I even begin?! Paella, tortilla, tapas, cured meats and cheese; the list is a long one. Spanish food is amazingly delicious and wonderfully cheap. There’s no other european country where you are basically guaranteed a free snack with every drink you order.

2. The People peopleeee

Working as an Auxiliar and living with Spanish students means I get the best of both worlds. I’ve witnessed the kindness, warmness, and overall welcoming disposition of pretty much everyone I’ve met here, both at work and at home. The warmth and kindness of the Spanish personality is deeply ingrained in their culture: e.g. double cheek kissing STRANGERS when you first meet! If that doesn’t tell you about what kind of people they are, then I don’t know what will.

3. The Architecture architecturee I live in the center of Madrid which means I have the pleasure of being surrounded by the most beautiful buildings. Whether it’s the colored apartments, the never-ending sea of terraces, or the ornate details on the older structures – pretty much every building here is a work of art.

4. The History aqueducts viewSHANNY

Spain is old. This has made me realize that, in comparison to Europe, nothing is very old in the U.S. There’s stuff here from the Roman Empire! Isn’t that crazy? It seems like every Spanish city is rich with history: Granda with the Alhambra, Segovia with the Aqueducts, not to mention all the castles and walls and other miscellaneous historical things scattered throughout the country.

5. It’s Affordable clarasss

Hotels, food, transportation, attractions: everything is so affordable here. To give you a hint: Logan and I usually spend 20 euros on two nights out (lots of eating and drinking), and a weekend lunch. Beers are rarely more than 1.50, and menu items are hardly ever priced over 10 euros. Needless to say we’ve been living a bit of an indulgent life here.

So have I convinced you that Spain is the greatest country in Europe? I hope so.

Adventure Time: Barcelona, Spain

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The third and final stop of our Semana Santa vacation was Barcelona. We were only in Barcelona for a day, but since we’ve actually been to Barcelona once before in February with my mom we had already seen all the big sights Barcelona has to offer (Park Güell, Sagrada Familia, and Gaudi Architecture). So we devoted our day to seeing the part of the city we hadn’t seen before.

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We found a fantastic AirBNB right in the center of the gothic part of Barcelona, so it was super easy for us to spend the whole day exploring. Logan and I started our day with a rooftop breakfast at our airbnb (he made us tiramisu). With our bellies full of dessert for breakfast (what’s better than that), we set out for Parc de Ciutadella.

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One of my favorite places in Madrid is Retiro Park because it’s big and beautiful and has a little pond with rowboats in the center but, goddammit, Barcelona’s park wins this one. Parc de Ciutadella has a giant fountain plastered with gold, a man-made pond with little rowboats you can rent, and palm trees!

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On our way out of the park we saw the Arco de Triunfo, we’ve seen a lot of arches (seems like every major city has one), but Barcelona’s looks a bit different because it’s made of red brickwork which I had never seen before. The rest of the afternoon was devoted to wandering the streets of Barcelona, and wander we did.

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We made our way to the beach, where people were delightfully playing in the sand while only wearing bikinis (it was a whopping 68 degrees outside). We had some tasty coffee at a hipster cafe, then we made our way to the market. This market, La Boqueria, is the coolest market I’ve ever been to. It’s littered with fresh fruit stands, treats, and Spanish meats and cheeses. But, hands down, the best product at this market is the freshly made juice blends that they sell for a bargain of 1 euro. Logan had a strawberry banana, and I tried the blackberry coconut. LIFE CHANGING I tell you.

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By this time we had walked about 156 miles and were ready to catch our train back home to Madrid. Throughout our entire spring break we had ZERO mishaps. While I can’t wait for our next mini vacation, for now we are ready to chill at home for a few weeks until our next adventure!

P.S. I forgot to post this and we are leaving for London on Friday…

3 Spanish Habits I Envy

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1. The double cheek kiss

 This is the most common greeting in Spain. Not only do you do it when you first meet someone, other acceptable times to give besitos are: if you haven’t seen each other for a few days, holidays, birthdays, or simply just because. Something about the intimacy and kindness of this greeting is really touching to me, and I desperately wish this was common in the states *hmph.*

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2. R&R
  Taking things slow, resting, and relaxing are pillars of the Spanish lifestyle. I’m not saying they don’t work hard, I’m saying that they are better at mastering a good work/life balance (at least what I’ve seen from my colleagues and roommates). So let’s all take a chill pill and understand most seemingly stressful situations are actually nbd.
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3. Not drinking to get drunk
  Fellow youths take note. If you set foot in any bar here you’ll immediately notice the striking differences between these bars and the ones in the states. Whether it’s the florescent lighting (but hey, at least I can see your face), lack of club music (I can actually hear you *gasp*), or the tapa that comes with every drink – Spaniards know what’s up. The bar scene is geared more towards catching up with your friends, eating some good food, and ultimately relaxing (refer back to habit #2). P.S. it is still very easy to get drunk solely from red wine and beer.

Adventure Time: Paris, France

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We did it guys, we did one of the most cliche things a couple can do; we went to Paris for Valentine’s Day. That’s right, the city of love was our home for the weekend of love, and it was kind of amazing. Although it did rain for a bit of our stay, we just pretended we were in the painting “Paris Street; Rainy Day,” and still had a bunch of fun. So let’s chat about the places we went, the things we saw, and most importantly the food we ate.

Places we went:

Logan and I are pretty lazy travelers, and by that I mean we don’t leave our apartment/hotel/hostel until like 11:30 in the afternoon. So we got to the Louvre Museum at peak tourism hours: noon. The 2 hour line scared us away, so we left and went to Notre Dame instead.

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Notre Dame was pretty cool, I can’t even count how many cathedrals I’ve visited over the last five months, so I’m sorry if I seem a little underwhelmed. The coolest part of Notre Dame was the little architecture drawings that showed the construction of the cathedral which began in the 11th century. How neat is that? Pretty neat.

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After our first failed attempt at the Louvre earlier that day, we had come across some insider knowledge via google.com that there is actually more than one entrance to the museum. And wouldn’t ya know it, the less known entrance took us roughly ten minutes to get through (compared to the 2 hour snake-of-a-line outside). Once inside, I realized The Louvre is the biggest fucking art museum I’ve ever been in (pardon my french), and since Logan and I didn’t want to spend all day there, we quickly made our way to the Mona Lisa (her eyes do follow you around the room), along with a few other exhibits and then peaced out.

Things we saw:

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Holy shit, Paris has a lot to see. One weekend is definitely not enough time if you’re little heart needs to see every little thing in a city. Logan and I prioritized and settled for the Eifle Tower and Arc de Triomphe. We also ran into a couple other cool buildings and things along the way (i.e. Hotel des Invalides, and the Opera house).

Food we ate:

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Paris cousine did not disappoint. While the coffee was incredibly overpriced, the rest of the food was on point. We ate a menu of the day type meal, which included: wine, bread, entree, and dessert for 10 euros. We also had to treat ourselves to crepes, macaroons, and nutella. But my favorite meal, by far, was our Valentine’s Day dinner. Logan and I went to a super local Parisian restaurant that had cheap drinks and an amazing menu. We had a half liter of wine, a French cheese plate, chicken in a four cheese potato puree, and a leg of lamb – it was AMAZING.

Overall Paris was a good weekend host to us and is definitely a city I feel like I need to go back to some day.

Besitos,

Shannon