Spain – Farewell Salamanca

Things I heard before I came to Salamanca:

  • 3 months is not enough time to study abroad, yet anything after 6 months gets difficult.
  • Anyone who has heard of Salamanca—only 5 or so people–before told me it was the most amazing city they have ever been to.
  • College town
  • Beautiful plaza
  • Delicious food
  • Do not say no to anything, given that the question or invitation was rational and safe.
  • Make local friends and immerse yourself in the culture
  • You’ll miss home, but take solace in the fact that home misses you more.
  • There’s something magical about people around age 20, you’ll see that everyone you meet abroad that’s travelling will have more or less the same attitude as you.
  • Go enjoy yourself, party, meet new people, explore the world, oh and learn something too while you’re at it.
  • 99% of the book that my dad wrote me before I left.

Before I came here most of these words of wisdom, did not make any sense. I politely smiled and nodded along as people gave me their spiel above what to expect or how to behave.  However, it did not take long at all before I realized that although my experience is unique, as is everyone else’s, there are all encompassing recommendations that can apply to everyone much like the ones that have resonated with my that I expressed above. Here is what I have learned and what I advise after going on this trip. This is an addition to the quotes above, not instead of:

  • If you are even slightly considering studying abroad, do it.
  • Do what you want to do not what you think other people want you to do
  • Keep in touch with everyone from home, but do not let it interfere with events abroad. The people who matter will not raise an eyebrow if you do not talk to them for a couple of days.
  • Get off Facebook
  • Never pass on an opportunity because you are too tired or lazy, it’s a horrible excuse that you will regret
  • You always regret what you could have done but did not.
  • Travel light, its okay to wear a shirt 3-4 times before you wash it, and yes this is Osmo talking 🙂
  • Do not rush from place to place just to be able to say you’ve been there, it is MUCH more enjoyable to experience one place to the fullest.
  • Do not take taxis, you will miss out on the aesthetics.
  • Write a blog, or a journal, its easy to blur events together and forget the importance of each individual one.
  • Take pictures, but not 2394893 of them, its more powerful to just stand and take in the scenery rather than watch it through a lens.
  • Pictures will rarely do justice to the scene itself, they are a mere reminder of where you were in order to evoke the emotion you felt at the time of the picture.
  • Nothing should be difficult, just have fun.

I’m not saying goodbye yet and I’m leaving this blog open ended just in case I remember any more words of advice. I’m not saying bye mostly because I am not ready but also because I still have a month and a half of travelling to do. This is only goodbye to the academic requirement blogs but say hello to the free will blogs.

P.S. my brother just left and as much as I am excited to see England, Scotland, Italy, Paris, and Israel, I cannot help but also be excited to go home. This is not to say that I am not enjoying myself, this is just a hint of homesickness kicking in.

Spain Eighth Week – Morocco

For this weeks blog I want to share with you guys my trip to Morocco. Upon arrival I received an email from my dad who strongly recommended, in fact seemingly demanded for my own benefit, that I write down everything that happened in a little notebook and type it up when I get back. I took this incredible advice and every time we got back to our room in the Riad I jotted down anything memorable that I occurred. In bold is exactly what I wrote down and everything else is an elaboration of the descriptions:


As my dad advised, I took some notes:

Day 1

-Culture Shock, redefined term. – The culture in Morocco, or in the old city of Marrakesh I should say as that is the only place we observed, is like nothing I have ever seen before. In the main square where we spent most of our time, everybody is there trying to sell something or make money off you for any seemingly ordinary move you make. For example, if you take a picture, you will instantly be swarmed by several people telling you that you must pay them for taking a picture of them. I do not mean this in any sort of derogatory way, in fact the people that should be looked down upon are the people that actually pay when harassed for taking a picture or looking in the general direction of a snake charmer. We took it all lightly, and had several laughs, and its hard to talk about the culture without ruining the next bullet points, so hopefully you get a feel for the culture in reading the rest of the blog.

-4 durhim orange juice – In the square there were roughly 30 orange juice stands within an area of about 100 square meters. This orange juice was by far the best orange juice I have ever had. Once you choose which stand to get your beverage from—they are all identical so we just went to the one that was not abrasively yelling at us to get our business—they squeeze fresh oranges right into your glass on the spot. We always went to the same stand in order to avoid uncomfortable tension between the juice tenders, and eventually the man who owned the stand gave us free refills to show his gratitude. Its safe to say that we had at least 30 orange juices each in a matter of 3 days.

-Cheap food à cous cous, kebabs, sugar cane drinks, ORANGE JUICE, tagine, – I have to say my favorite part of Morocco was the food. We planned all our days around what and when we were going to eat. Our first meal every day was made for us at our Riad by the very kind young man or woman depending on when we woke and whose shift it was—I’ll tell you more about this a few bullet points down. As for lunch and dinner, every day we went in into the main square and found a nice local place to eat a lot of food for very cheap. If you do not go to the big franchise-esque places, and you choose somewhere that looks more like a hole in the wall, you can eat like royalty for anywhere between 4 to 7 euros. Every day for dinner the entire square changes entirely as there are 50 different food stands that come set up and make a series of portable restaurants if you will. Around 5 pm they would put up the stand in order to be ready by the 6:30 rush and around 10 pm they would take it back down. Every one of these stands is identical in how they look and what they serve, so we would always eat at the place that offered the most free food. The first night we settled for 1 free drink each, and the last night we each got free drinks with our meal, free mint tea after the meal, free bread/salad, fries, and soup. So really all we ended up paying for were the kebabs we bought.

-Successful bargaining, pretend you are Spanish rather than American, or Israeli but that goes without saying. – I very quickly found that everyone in Morocco speaks 4 or 5 languages, and they have much more respect for Spanish people than Americans. Every time I approached anyone speaking Spanish I was treated with much more respect and got way better prices on counterfeit goods. It was hilarious because out of my group I was the only one that could pass as Spanish, so Eric’s solution was to say he was from Canada, which ultimately just lead to countless blank/confused looks. But no matter where you say you’re from, the person that you are talking to “has a best friend close by.” Another extremely successful trick I learned to get store owners to leave me alone, was to team up with them and try to sell their good to Eric or Jonathan. I would intervene and say things like, “Come on Eric this is a great price you should totally buy it” at which point they left me alone and bombarded him with different prices and unnecessary objects he could buy.

-Dead snakes – In the square there are dozens of snake charmers and people that play with monkeys, if any of these people happen to make it into the corner of your picture, their friend—whose only job is to look for people taking pictures—will come harass you for money. One very creative technique to get money was to sell pictures with a dead snake. Someone would come up and tie a dead snake around your neck, and refuse to take it off until you paid him. Naturally everyone gets terrified because they think it is alive so they pay the man to get the snake the hell off them. However, as Kara was freaking out that there is a snake tied around her neck, I assured her that it looked dead as doornails, which only disgusted her more unfortunately. We learned after this never to get within 30 feet of a snake charmer.

-Dish washing machines à bucket of water. The way Moroccans “cleaned their dishes” was by dipping them very briefly into a bucket of water that we did not see get changed once. When we were at dinner we asked the man for silverware, so he nonchalantly walked to the bucket, dipped some forks in, and handed them to us with his hand on the part of the fork that you use to eat. An interesting thought would be what percent of Morocco would be FDA approved? Which leads to another interesting thought—seeing as how we all left healthy as a herd of oxen, does everything really have to be FDA approved or regulated at all?

-Riad à incredible Moroccan style bed and breakfast – We stayed at a Riad, which is essentially a self owned set of rooms that are set up around a courtyard. The only thing I can think to compare it to is La Finka Que Ama in Costa Rica but much more cozy. There was a man and a woman that took turns working there around the clock, both of whom were incredible kind—the only people in Morocco that were warm to us—and both seemed at most 25 years old. On our last night the kind young man made us our breakfast at 4:30 in the morning, which consisted of coffee, yogurt, butter, jam, crepes, olives, orange juice, and warm bread.


The next few days are very similar, in fact virtually identical to these, so I’ll just tell you about the unique things that happened.


Day 2/3:

 -Famous Moroccan Singer – When we were eating lunch on our second day, Kara was curious as to where the family behind us got fruit baskets. Once we asked, they continued to give us several fruits so we can try them before we bought any. One question lead to another and the kind man who was talking to us eventually sold his dad out—who was sitting with his back faced to us and the square—by telling us that his dad is a very famous singer in Morocco. We asked to take a picture and as soon as he stood up people from the square recognized him and flooded in making it nearly impossible to take a picture with him. We got an autograph and a picture with him, and an invitation from his son to stay at their house in the capital of Morocco next time we visit.

-Raped by Henna artist – Some lady was trying to convince me to get henna, and she grabbed my hand and made an intricate design in like 12 seconds then tried to get me to pay 20 euro for it. I sent her on her way empty handed after a bit of yelling back and forth J

-Bargain from 1 jacket for 680 to 3 for 450 – We got these Moroccan jackets that originally cost 68 euro for 1 and we ended up paying 45 euro for 3. The guy literally looked at us as if we had just burned his house down, until the next day when we walked by and he greeted us with a s#@$-eating grin.

Spain Seventh Week – Countdown

Countdown until I leave Salamanca

21 – Days until I leave Salamanca

20 – My age during this journey

19 – The amount of minutes it takes me to get to the Plaza Mayor from my apartment, more often than not I make this trip twice a day.

18 – I missed my brother’s 18th birthday being here. I’ll make it up to him when he comes to visit next week.

17 – The amount of hours that stores/shops are closed here during a 24 hour work day.

16 – The total amount of chipotle burritos I would have eaten had I been at home this entire time, this is an underestimation.

15 – The average amount of minutes I spend on homework daily, with the exception of midterm week.

14 – 14th of May is the optional return date home when I part from my travels with friends and head to Israel.

13 – 1 o clock in Europe, takes a few days to adapt.

12 – The amount of games I had to win at beerpong to get first place.

11 – The total number of times I’ve taken a cab since I got here, I’d rather walk.

10 – The amount of shots you get for 5 euro at Gatsby.

9 – The total amount of days that I’ve seen the sun without any clouds. 4 of them were when we were traveling to the south of Spain.

8 – the amount of visitors I will have had when the trip ends. Ima, Bushy, Tal, Dana, Kevin, Lumi, TinTin, and Freddy. In the order of when they came.

7 – The amount of weeks I’ve been away from home, longest time in years.

6 – The cost of the Chinese buffet I eat at for lunch a few times a week, which coined the saying, “When in Spain … Eat like the Chinese.”

5 – The amount of Universities I am waiting to hear back from, and I will hear from them all by the end of the trip.

4 – The number of people that live with me in a petite, cozy apartment, which is clearly not cut out for people over 6’2. It took 4-5 times of hitting my head as I walked through doors before I remembered to duck.

3 – The number of family dinners left.

2 – The amount of homes I now have.

1 – The amount of chances I have to make this experience worthwhile.

Spain Sixth Week – Dos Para Uno

Dos Para Uno
If this week was not the definition of an emotional roller coaster then I do not want to find out what is. It consisted of a clash between Dana leaving and Kevin and Lumi arriving,which all happened in about 47 seconds. Seriously from the time I said bye to Dana to the time I saw Kevin and Lumi was not even enough time for me to take a single deep breath. I was elated to find my best friends waiting for me at the end of what would have been a lonely trip back to meet up with the group. They greeted me with genuine joy and it literally was the moment we have been talking about since this summer, the moment when “we are all in Spain together having the time of our lives.”
It was so weird to think how far I’ve come with these guys, we went from being high school friends thinking we are on top of the world, to laying down in my room in Spain talking about what we want to do with the rest of our lives. I know it has only been roughly 2 years since we graduated high school, but we have grown so much as friends. I will never forget Kevin’s step dad’s words when he told us that our friendship is unlike any he’s ever seen before in his life and as long as we continue to push each other in the right direction we can never give up on it. As much as we’ve changed, I can always take solace in the fact that we are changing together rather than growing apart. I’ll just wrap up the cliche mushy gushy part of this blog by saying that I had the time of my life this week with Kevin and Lumi, friends for life.As for a few new things I’ve done this week, I finally got to see the garden of Salamanca and the famous river. I went to the garden one night last week and it is honestly the most peaceful/beautiful part of Salamanca. From the garden you can see the lit up cathedral both new and old as you enjoy the plethora of flowers/trees. I’ll be sure to take pictures for everyone at home to see my new favorite part of Salamanca.
Also on Thursday when we all finally finished our midterms we got to enjoy the beautiful75 degree weather. I know from California this does not sound like a special occasion, but after being here for over a month and only seeing sun for 3 or 4 days you have to soak up every minute of sun you can. I found it rather humorous how much the weather can actually affect the mood of the group. Being a group that comes from a place that is notorious for its sunny weather almost year round, the nonstop cloudy weather definitely created a seemingly permanent gloominess among us. On Friday we took advantage of the weather and spent most of the day out by the river just relaxing and talking.
A little side note, I am learning to cook, which is something I have always secretly wanted to do so everyone at home be prepared to enjoying or pretending to enjoy the meals I’ll be making
I might be going to Morocco this weekend if everything goes as planned so I look forward to telling you about the trip.