“The two things Spain has to offer are the literature and the food,” an older man told me in his strong, Spanish accent. I have yet to read enough Spanish literature to comment on its worth, but Spain certainly has much to offer with its food. In Spain, or at least in Catalonia, people highly value bread and olive oil. In working as an Au pair for a family, I have had to prepare the children’s snack every morning. Each day, the host mom tells me to make the same snack for her children: a baguette with olive oil and sausage sandwich meat. Every afternoon, on the way home from school, the mom buys two fresh baguettes on the way home.
Instead of salad dressing, Spaniards eat their salads with olive oil, salt, and on occasion, vinegar. Whereas many Americans eat bread and butter for breakfast, my family does not even buy butter. Instead, my family eats bread with a chocolate spread similar to Nutella for breakfast. And, instead of using butter on bread for little sandwiches, called tapas, my family uses olive oil. A very common tapa which my family eats is a baguette with thinly sliced tomatoes, olive oil, and smoked ham.
My host mom, Maria, owns a restaurant in the neighboring town, Salou. Many days while the children are at school, I accompany her to the restaurant and spend my time either reading at the restaurant, or walking around the town. At lunch, the cooks prepare me a free meal. So far, I have eaten many dishes with rice, pasta, and salad. Recently, however, the cooks treated me to Paella – a well-known Spanish dish which includes rice and a mix of seafood.
So far, my food adventure in Spain has been great, although it has definitely come with a cost. Hopefully all of the bread, oil, and sugar will not add up to too much after my summer stay in Spain.
But, Spain has more to offer than just literature and food. From my first two weeks in Reus, I have discovered the beauty of the Mediterranean Sea, the tranquility in enjoying long meals, and the beauty in older buildings. I can use the bus system to get anywhere I want in town, and I have spent some of my days leisurely walking through the plazas downtown, window shopping and enjoying a tourist’s perspective of the old town. I have become enchanted with the sight of old church steeples in the background of a plaza filled with bakeries and cafes. And, I am not the only one. Many people come to the plaza to drink coffee and eat lunch, enjoying the company of friends during a long break from work. Many of the clothing stores close during the middle of the day, from around 1-5pm, so that the employees can also enjoy a longer lunch.
The only thing which makes it difficult for me to fully enjoy Reus is the discrimination of some people against any outsiders. Right now, Spain is suffering from the illegal immigration of mostly Moroccans and South Americans. Many of these people who enter illegally into Spain do not pay their share in the 30% tax rate, but have the ability to benefit from medical attention during emergencies. For this or other reasons, many Spaniards do not like outsiders. As a tall, blonde, American girl who speaks a highly accented Spanish, I have found it difficult to talk to some people. Some people immediately think I am not smart, or that I cannot understand what they are saying, just because of the way I look or dress. But there have also been people who have shown great kindness to me. My host family, for example, has made me feel as though I am a part of the family, opening me up to extended family and friends. In addition, at the gym, I have found basketball players to train with, and also to hang out with outside of practice. Hopefully by practicing my Spanish even more, I will be able to assimilate more in the culture and have more people open up their stories to me.
Jessica De Gree
Jessica teaches English as a second language in Spain and plays basketball professionally there. She recently received her Bachelor's degree from Hillsdale College, one of the nation's top Liberal Arts schools in MI. At Hillsdale, she played basketball and studied English and Spanish. Some of her hobbies include reading, writing, painting, surfing, and playing the piano.