Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Students know best...

All July, students had been whispering its name in a hushed voice as they spoke amongst themselves. From their murmurings, it appeared that Salamanca was withholding another one of its gems from me. Jilted that a city I had spent more time in than they could be so elusive, I asked. "Leonardo's, número 9" they responded; their voices full of reverence and awe.

They had discovered one of the greatest fast-food establishments in the Iberian Peninsula. Leonardo's is a chain that specializes in quick, cheap, late-night eats that fill the stomach and satisfy the soul. Even though, at 37 years of age, I am out of my prime in the category of post-bar eating, I had to find a chance to try what had so enticed the students.

My first attempts were thwarted by its late hours: you see, Leonardo's does not open until 8 p.m. (and closes when?). My first excursions were turned away as mid-day jaunts to eat what is reserved for the nocturnal animals who drink and dance until way past 4 a.m. One of the last nights of the program, I found myself on the streets (early by Spain's standards - 10 p.m.) and relatively hungry. Leonardo's? Number 9? I was on a mission.

A friend of mine often says the number 9 is the last original number (the rest being a combination of the first 10 original digits). Was this a portend of greatness, the incredibility of what I was about to taste? Quite simply, yes. Words lack to describe the rush to the head the chicken, pork, cheese, grease, fat and sauce induce. Think of the first time you saw the Diag, realized you were in love or that Kevin Spacey was Keyser Söze in the Usual Suspects. Leonardo's number 9, the last original goodness in an over-saturated market of fast-food delights, delivers, on many different levels.

Unveiling the sandwich from its wrapper revealed a landscape bold, imposing and challenging. Much like Pizarro, surveying the Inca army, 80,000 strong, before the Battle of Cajamarca, I found myself wondering how to handle such an unwieldy opponent. Knife and fork? Lord, man, no! With both hands I dove in and soon realized the error of my ways. The chicken separated itself from the ham like a media rep for Mel Gibson on a three-day bender while the bun and lettuce went south before I could trap them with my pinkies. With a fist full of meat, cheese, lettuce and sauce dripping down between my fingers, I realized I was out-manned on this mission. It was time to call in reinforcements. Much as Bush Senior summoned the National Guard in 1992, I realized my only recourse were the utensils safely guarded in the drawer.

At a slower, and more relaxed pace, I could begin to appreciate what had so attracted my students. The combination of ham, poultry and cheese (think a Cordon Bleu without the deep-frying) accompanied with a cheap mayonnaise (and even cheaper bun) is delicious, filling and (dare I say?) glorious. Thank you, students, for insisting on visiting this hidden treasure of the Salamanca nightlife. I definitely do not fit the demographic profile of its target group, but enjoyed the product, nonetheless.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

I know I am a little late on this blog, but I figured better late than never =) Well I am currently in Italy with my family... still speaking Spanish everywhere I go! It is amazing to look back now on the 6 weeks I spent in Spain and realize how fast the time really did go by. The beginning of the trip, I am not even going to lie, I cried half the flight to Amsterdam. I was overwhelmed with excitement and also nervous to leave the country for the first time by myself. I really did not know what to expect, especially since we did not know much about our families, classes or even Salamanca. After all is said and done though, I can truly say I enjoyed and loved every second of my time in Spain. My family was absolutely amazing and by the time I left I felt like I was leaving my own family all over again. I exchanged emails and phone numbers with my brothers and we promised to keep in touch!

Since I have now experienced the Salamanca study abroad program, I feel like I could give a few words of advice... so here it goes:
-Being nervous is definitely okay and perfectly normal.. but make sure you're excited too!
-Since you will be living with another family of a different cultural background, there definitely can be some conflicts so make sure you communicate with your Señora about every little thing you are unsure about! Most of them are great ladies and want to make you feel at home so just be positive and have a good attitude!
-Do NOT stress about your classes... you're in SPAIN! So live it up because you never know when you'll be back again.
-Salamanca is a small town... so the same scene of the Michigan group hitting Camelot, Gatsby and Irish Rover can get a little old but make some local friends! Not only can you practice your Spanish, but they most likely will tell you a few spots in town you may not know about!
-TRAVEL, TRAVEL, TRAVEL!!! You're only in Spain for 6 weeks... so take advantage of being in Europe and travel every weekend you can. I traveled with 2 other girls every single weekend to a different city and I made some of the best memories. Yea, it definitely gets tiring, but take some vitamin C and do as much as you can!
-Embrace the culture and soak everything in... I never realized how much I learned and how much I accustomed to until I was speaking Spanish to the Italian taxi driver, wanting siestas every day around 4, not being hungry until 10:00 at night, and singing Shakira's Waka Waka all day, every day!

Well I could go on for days about my memories in Spain because I really just had the time of my life! It definitely makes me sad to think back and realize it is already over. As I read over other peoples posts I laugh at the memories we made and cry because I wish we were still there. Not only was Spain the best thing to improve my Spanish studies, but it was also the beginning of many new friendships and memories I can share for a lifetime!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Spanish Cuisine - a Jewel of Spain

When I first arrived in Spain, I honestly had no idea what I would be eating for the next 6 weeks. I was quickly surprised, however, by how amazing the food really was. I immediately fell in love with things like Paella, Spanish Tortilla, Ensalada Rusa, croquetas, and, of course, tapas. I am planning to cook some of these foods for my family here in the States, like paella, tortilla, and ensalada rusa. Hopefully, they will be as good as I remember!

I also feel lucky to have taken the Spanish Cooking Course offered by the Universidad de Salamanca. We learned how to cook many traditional Spanish foods, like tortilla, sangria, gazpacho, torrijas, pisto manchego, and more. Those cooking classes were definitely a highlight of my time in Spain.
When choosing what to present on for my final project, I thought of many things that I had learned about Spanish food and some of the main differences between eating in Spain and in the United States. I considered the types of foods eaten, when people eat, how tapas works, and other things. I eventually decided to focus my research on Spanish Paella, which is, for many people, the "national dish" of Spain (even though it is actually a Valenciana dish). I learned about where Paella came from, how to eat it in the traditional manner, and about the different types, like seafood, mixed, and black paella. Overall, learning about paella was a great learning experience, especially because it's not a dish that can be easily found in the United States.

Overall, I'm really glad I signed up for the food Practicum because I learned a lot, whether it be about the production of Spanish cheese and wine, how meats are cured, or simply new Spanish words for things like the kitchen and ingredients. I hope to continue learning more and someday return to Spain to explore foods from other regions of Spain, not just Castilla y Leon!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Spanish Culture

As I sit in my hotel in Málaga, I honestly cannot believe that 6 weeks has already gone by and my time in Salamanca is complete. I remember being so nervous about the trip, and now that I look back, it was definitely an experience of a lifetime. I enjoyed getting to know everyone on the trip, getting used to living with two very old women, and learning about the culture of Spain. There were a lot of things about Spanish culture that took some getting used to. However, after getting over the shock of being in a new country, and really not knowing anyone, I have come to thoroughly appreciate and enjoy the culture of Spain.
One aspect of Spanish culture that excited me the most was the idea of Rebajas. I definitely love shopping, and to be in Spain during a time where almost every store has sales was so much fun. Rebajas happens two times a year. We were so lucky to be in Spain during one of these times. I definitely enjoyed discovering new stores, and also noticing the differences and similarities between stores in the United States and stores in Spain.
Another aspect of Spanish culture that I enjoyed was the extent of outdoor seating at restaurants. My family is very big on going out to eat. We also love to be outside and enjoy the weather, especially in the summer. In Michigan, it's definitely important to take advantage of good weather. Many times, we will pick a restaurant specifically because it has outdoor seating, since a lot of restaurants do not. I really enjoyed the fact that almost all restaurants in Spain have outdoor seating. I enjoyed being able to go to a bar, share some tapas with a friend and socialize.
The third aspect of Spanish culture that impressed me was how active the older generation is. During any given time of the day, there would be an older couple sitting on a bench or walking around on the streets. It could be midnight and there would still be numerous older people out and about. It seems to me that older people in the United States do not leave the house as often as they do in Spain. I definitely think that it benefits society to have an active older generation.
Overall, I will never forget my trip to Spain. Although it was not always easy, I learned to enjoy the culture and differences between Spain and the United States. I learned a lot about adjusting to difficult and different circumstances. I will carry this knowledge with me for the rest of my life and use the strategies I have developed to enjoy diversity. I will definitely miss Spain, and hope that I can someday return.


I can't believe this trip is actually over! Coming into Salamanca that first week was so nerve-wracking but leaving the city and my host family actually made me cry!!! I had such an amazing experience throughout my time in Spain and I would not trade any part of it for anything. Everything from the culture, the food, the WORLD CUP (campeones!!!) and the other students on the trip made my time here in Spain so memorable.
Through the food practicum, my spanish cooking class, and my señoras cooking, I was able to learn so much about the food here in Spain! The first week practicum trips presented an interesting and unique experience that I don't think I would have sought out on my own. I was able to go to a cheese factory and not only see how cheese was made, but also hang out with the bulls and sheep that produced this cheese and then FEAST afterwards. Also, the wine and cheese tasting at the vineyard definitely didn't suck either... (LOVED IT). My cooking class was quite an experience as well. Although we didn't actually cook- watching a pseudo-live cooking show in Spanish was pretty cool and the food also tasted great!
Being in Spain during the World Cup (and world cup VICTORY) was also an amazing and once in a lifetime experience. Every game was like a Michigan football Saturday but 100 times more exciting. Before every game a group of us went out for Tapas to watch the first half then watched the remainder of the game with about 500 other people in a plaza by Corte Ingles. And after a victory- it was time to celebrate and we all of course went to the bars with the rest of the city! The whole country was in celebration practically our entire time in Spain and it is something that I will never forget.

Overall my time here in Spain was not only extremely rewarding but throughout the trip I created so many new friendships and memories that I will hold on to forever. I am so thankful that I had this opportunity to study abroad and I would love to spend even more time in Spain if I had the chance! VIVA ESPAÑA!!!
-Liz <3

Friday, August 6, 2010

¡Te amo España!

I don’t even know where to begin. This trip has been so eventful, I can’t believe it’s coming to an end. It was the first time I was really away from home and on my own and although the idea of living in Spain was exciting, it was so nerve-wracking to think that I was traveling across the world to come live with a stranger for 6 weeks! I knew study abroad programs are “life-changing” and a “must-do”, but in what way would it be “life-changing”? Would I end up having a terrible time in Spain? And if that were the case, then what? On top of that, I heard that meat is basically all they eat here (which is true) and since I’m a picky eater, I had to ready myself for a rough half of a semester. Finally, once I met my señora at the train station and was settled in, I stopped scaring myself. I immediately felt comfortable here and in an unexpected way, felt at “home.”
I’ve loved my time here in Salamanca and all the new things I’ve discovered and experienced. I’m glad I was in the food group for our practicum because we were able to visit a variety of factories such as cheese, wine, and ham. The processes of making each of these foods were incredibly interesting and one of a kind. It was perfect to learn about the making of these foods in a country that relishes them. I’m also very happy I took advantage of the weekends we had here and traveled, which I absolutely love doing. During the short time we had in Spain, I was able to go to San Sebastian, Valencia, Toledo, Ibiza, and Madrid (thanks to la tarjeta de mis padres!). Each place had something unique to offer and I was able to learn something different. Traveling definitely made time fly by but it made my stay more and more memorable. It was the best excuse to continue trying more Spanish foods that are authentic to each region such as la paella in Valencia (TWO THUMBS UP!).
The food here definitely was not as bad as I was expecting it to be. My señora made the best meals and was sweet enough to cook only what I liked. I didn’t know what I was eating half of the time, but that allowed me to try dishes that I probably never would have eaten elsewhere. Although it was a struggle to eat the amount of food my señora gave me, I still managed to try something new every time I went out. My favorite here has to be the churros con chocolate in Valor and el café frío in el reloj…not sure how I’ll satisfy my cravings back home.
It’s actually strange to say I’ve been studying in Spain these past few weeks because it still really hasn’t hit me. Although the culture, language, and surroundings were completely different, I felt as though Spain was not far from home. I loved wandering around and exploring places—new shops, restaurants, parks, and cafes. I’ve learned so much about the lifestyle, customs, and people here. I certainly plan to return to Spain in the future but until then…¡Hasta la vista España!


Thursday, August 5, 2010


I have had an amazing time this summer in Salamanca. I didn't really make it south of the city, but I don't think I would have enjoyed that blazing heat anyways. I did get a chance to check out the biggest party in the world, los san fermines, and some incredible beaches up north, San Sebastian, Santander, and Barca.
Over the last six weeks, I have somehow become quite knowledgeable in regards to the local spanish drinks. They have some many combinations of drinks here, that we would never think to create back in the states. Since spain has some incredible wines, especially those coming out of the Rioja, many of these drinks involve vino as the base. These include the botellon specialty, kalimoxo which combines wine and coca-cola, tinto de verano which combines wine with soda water (casera here in spain), and also sangria. Sangria combines wine, fruit, sweetener such as sugar, brandy, triple sec, other spirits and ice. Most places uses red wine for sangria, but Segovia has the reputation to add white wine creating a unique flavor. All of these wine beverages are best served cold and help the spanish people bear the intense summer heat. Another refreshing drink here is clara de limón. It is a combination of beer and lemon soda. It is also served cold and has a very sweet taste, with the lemon taking away any bite from the beer. Other spanish specialties include cidra, a fermented type of juice, and la bota. La bota is an apparatus used to carry wine. It keeps the wine chilled in a small satchel like container. It is typically used by farmers and workers would cannot be inconvenienced by glass bottles while working and is also very common in Pamplona during san fermines.
More fun spanish drinks include, mojitos (a minty combinations of alcohols, mint, sugar, and lime) and agua de valencia (a large amount of cheap vodka, ice and orange pop for cheap). And if you are looking for a really fun drinking game, try out a porrón. It is a glass drinking apparatus that could be called the equivalent of a spanish beer bong. It has two arms extending out from a vase like basin; the first for filling it up and the other for pouring it out directly into your mouth. It is very difficult to do this without getting most of the beverage all over your shirt. I would highly recommend this, and since it is local to the north of spain it is hard to find a place to do this in Salamanca. The only place I encountered is Bar Su Casa just off of Calle Van Dick. What really surprised me about the porrón is that in the north, they have champions at this event. I do not quite know what this title entails, but I would love to see the competition that must precede it.
Thanks for everything Andy!