Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Alano Identity

¡Saludos de Santiago de Compostela!
Before I proceed in spinning this great yarn, I must first give credit to my dear friend Zach Johnston, who cleverly came up with the title of this blog, "Vivalano," as we discussed catchy phrases over some Shari's Pie Shakes.  Obviously, this one took the cake (or pie?).  Anyway, though I've been planning this adventure for several months now in conjunction with the support of family, friends, and ISEP, the fact I was actually leaving did not hit me until the 26th, the day before my departure.  Additionally, as I started to unpack and move into my dorm room here, the reality of staying an academic year started to set in.  However, I'm getting ahead of myself; wind the clocks back two days.  My mom and dad, along with my sisters on Skype, presented me with a photo scrapbook highlighting particularly joyous moments in my life, at least from the last six years or so.  As I perused these photos like a psychic detective desperately searching for clues and 80s references, I grew somewhat sentimental, knowing that these specific events would not occur again.  Yet, it made me call to mind the great Dr. Seuss quote, "Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened." Not to mention, I now have the opportunity to make a new scrapbook to add to the collection!
I didn't think I would have much to write about my actual travel experience, but there are some nuggets of comedy I thought I could mention.  On the second leg of the trip, from Dallas to Madrid (at least a 9 hr journey), I already felt like I was being immersed into Spanish culture, probably because three quarters of the passengers were Spanish tourists returning home after an American vacation.   Oddly enough, even though I wasn't talking much on the plane, I began to think more in Spanish due to the side conversations around me.  For this part of the trip, at least two of the American Airlines flight attendants spoke fluent Spanish to the tourists while passing out refreshments, which serves as a good segway into a story.  During a round of refreshments, one of the flight attendants looked at me and simply said, "English?" It surprised me at first since she directed me to my seat IN English at the beginning of the flight.  Perhaps traveling for so long had made me look like an authentic Spaniard? Or she just didn't know what box to put me in from the outset.  Even though she spoke to me in my native tongue, I just sat there dumbfounded for a few seconds, too preoccupied by my increasingly sore rump.  I finally blurted out something like, "Yes, I English . . ." Not one of my prouder moments, but at least we can all laugh together now.
I took a taxi from the Santiago airport to Monte da Condesa, my residence hall.  I realized this was my first taxi ride ever and was slightly disappointed the driver wasn't the host of Cash Cab (If you haven't seen it, look it up; I was born ready for that).  Yet the driver and I began talking in Spanish, and he actually complemented me on my competency in the language.  Then Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" began playing on the radio, so I quickly lost focus for obvious reasons.  I thought I had temporarily escaped its catchy beats and memorable refrain, but apparently the Spanish aren't even immune.
I was feeling pretty good about my Spanish skills, considering it was the first day, until I began speaking with the receptionist at my residence hall.  Even after I told her I'm an international student, she continued speaking so fast as if Usain Bolt was running inside her mouth.  She spent an awful long time explaining what I needed to do with the towels and sheets she was giving me, so I hope I didn't lose a direction.  The icing on the cake was how often she used the word "Vale," which many Spaniards use to indicate "Okay." I often felt like I was agreeing to something multiple times, unless she would change one word, just to see if I would notice.
Well, it's been an enormously long day (or days I guess), so I will close this, the first of many posts, with some goals, in no particular order, I hope to accomplish whilst here.
1. Become fluent in Spanish, both in conversation and writing.
2. Learn some gallego (the language of Galicia), at least to be conversationally adequate.
3. Make some good friends, both Spanish and other international students.
4. Participate in the rich and ancient traditions of Spanish Catholicism and Christianity in general.
5. Fix the Spanish economy. Step 1: Fix. Step 2: It. Fix It!
6. Introduce the TV show "Psych" to Spain. This one is actually two birds with one stone. Its addition to the Spanish television networks would undoubtedly fix the economy.
7. Be persistent in writing this blog!
8. Finally, maintaining and building friendships and familial relationships back home.
If you can, please leave a comment. I'd love to hear from you, and knowing that people are actually reading this will keep me motivated to write!


  1. Wow Ethan! Such a thorough and descriptive first post! I forgot that you are such a great writer! James and I laughed when we read that "Call Me Maybe" was on the radio. Perhaps Spain also needs a Howl at the Moon there :) Glad to hear that you had a safe trip out there, and we're excited to learn about all of your Spanish adventures! We love you! ~Claire & James

  2. It's great to read about your trip Ethan! I'm looking forward to more posts :)

  3. Love it Bud! Very entertaining post. Glad to hear that your trip went well and can't wait for an opportunity to Skype with you! Love you (you know that's right).

  4. Ethan,
    I am glad to know you made it safe to Santiago. You certainly have very good writing skills, so I look forward to reading many amusing tales of your experience in my home country. I particularly loved the humour in your goal about fixing the spanish economy. Enjoy the galician octopus (pulpo) and other local cuisine delicacies and beware of the seemingly similar galician language. A tip of advice here from a spaniard: becoming very fluent in mainstream spanish will actually give you the ability to make out the meaning of almost all written galician and will give you an edge in trying to understand a conversation. Then again, no galician will take offence at a young american student from Oregon who does not speak his language..and remember all of them speak or at least will understand you when you talk to them in spanish.

    Take care for now, and enjoy every minute of your stay. Keep us posted. God bless you and your sense of humour!

  5. Querido Ethan,

    Estoy segura que hablaras con fluidez muy pronto. Estoy orando que todo esta bien contigo. Disfrute la cultura y comida fenomenal. Estoy esperando oir mas de su experiencia buena en Espana.

    con carino,

  6. Hey ethan, I am trying again.......hope I can get on your list.