Oops, I’m Doing It Again

Hi all!

I just wanted to let you know that I am doing it again, but this time German style.  If you’re interested in following my adventures again you can at: munchinmunchen.wordpress.com

Hope you all have a great summer!

Sonia

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¡¡¡Me encanta sopa!!!

Welcome to interning – a taste of real life.  And if you’re like me that means bringing a lunch most days.  But what do you pack for a lunch?  Well for the past couple of weeks I have been five years old and bringing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (my mom brought me peanut butter as a gift, thanks mom!), carrots, and yogurt.  All that was missing was my little carton of milk.  Well last night I decided to make soup to bring with me.

Now I never really liked soup.  No, that’s a lie.  I loved thick, creamy soups like broccoli and cheese or baked potato, but brothy soups just never did it for me.  But all of a sudden here in Spain I love them.  I eat them all of the time too and not just when my host family serves them to me, but I order them willingly at restaurants.  And only yesterday I discovered the magic of making soup… you really can’t screw it up!  You through a whole bunch of things in a pot, boil it for a while, and 9 out of 10 times it will taste good.  I love the idea of experimenting in the kitchen, but I’ve never felt comfortable doing so until now.  Soups let me do this and maybe eventually it can lead to experimenting with other food as well.

So I had decided to make this Italian inspired soup with chicken sausages until…

I realized I had never cooked a sausage before in my life and had no idea how to!

This idea was quickly sinking down the toilet so I quickly hoped online and crossed my fingers that Sari (my roommate at Tech) would be on gchat.  She is the master of all things baking and cooking I swear.  In fact check out her baking blog

 

I cut up and threw in spinach and zucchini.

Added chopped up red bell pepper to that.

And finally added a can of diced tomatoes along with some herbs and spices.

After I had mixed up the soup.  You can see the little pieces of chicken sausage in this image.  I know there are a ton of pictures of the soup but it was just so bright, colorful, and happy I couldn’t help myself.

Then I got it on the stove and a boiling.  Before it actually started boiling I was really worried I hadn’t put enough vegetable broth in so I splashed in a little more.   But as you can see the broth to filling ratio actually came out quite nicely I think.  But I like my soup chock-full of stuff.

Mmmm.

And I had it today for lunch with a few slices of a baguette and let me tell you it didn’t turn out so bad if I do say so myself.

And in case you desire to make your own version I’m including the recipe!  Happy cooking!  And Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  Eat a slice of pie for me (if it’s pecan maybe have two).

Italian Inspired Vegetable Chicken Sausage Soup (adapted from a weight watchers recipe)

Ingredients: (all of mine were very rough estimates since they use metric measurements here and I didn’t think it was necessary to pull out the kitchen scale, also you probably won’t have to look up what all of these things are in spanish before you go to the store)

1 small package chicken sausages, cubed
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 small zucchini, cubed
1 small red pepper, chopped
3 cups vegetable broth
14 oz canned diced tomatoes
1 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
1/4 tsp dried oregano
pinch of salt
dash of black pepper
1/8 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/8 cup fresh basil
grated parmesan cheese

Instructions:
Put onion, spinach, zucchini, red pepper, vegetable broth, diced tomatoes, thyme and oregano into a large soup pot; stir to combine.  Cover and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to low, and simmer, partly covered, for about 10 minutes.
Stir in salt, black pepper, parsley and basil.  Sprinkle grated parmesan cheese on top.  Serve.

¡Buen apetito!

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Spanish Tempo

“What then, is time?  If no one asks me, I know.  If I wish to explain it to someone who asks, I know it not.”
- St. Augustine, Confessions, Book II, Sec.14.

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¡Buenas!

So I’m currently reading this book called “A Geography of Time: On Tempo, Culture, and the Pace of Life.”  The material is really very interesting but the social psychologist who wrote it, Robert N. Levine, really needed an actual writer to help him turn it into a book.  The ideas are great but a lot of the material just isn’t presented quite to the extent I would like for it to be.  He jumps quite quickly from subject to subject, referencing studies but not going into the detail I desire.  I was hoping for something written more in the style of Freakonomics.  But this has inspired me to tell you guys a bit about the pace of life here in Spain and I’m going to reference some of his hypotheses in the book and whether in my opinion they apply to Spain or not.

How does one study the tempo of life in different places?  Well Levine and his group measured three different variables:  walking speed, time taken to make a transaction, and the inaccuracy of clocks.  When it came to walking speed they tried to remove as many variables as possibly by only timing people walking alone in a city, not window shopping, in a flat relatively uncrowded area so they could walk as quickly as they desired during business hours.  The transaction was buying stamps at a post office with what would be the equivalent of a $5 bill and for the clocks they looked at public clocks around the city and compared them to the official time online.

Now through all of these measurers they were able to rank, all of the countries they tested in, from the quickest tempo of life to the slowest.  A ranking they never give the reader and for me was extremely frustrating.  But after looking at this list and seeing what else these countries had in common and differed on they came up with a list of 5 variables that effect tempo.

Hypotheses:

  1. Economic well-being – the healthier a place’s economy, the faster it’s tempo
  2. Degree of industrialization – the more developed the country, the less free time per day
  3. Population size – bigger cities faster tempos
  4. Climate – hotter places are slower
  5. Cultural values – individualistic cultures move faster than those that emphasize collectivism

I’m going to compare Spain and the US on each of these hypotheses and see if they seem to hold true.  But first I would like to give you a better idea of the general speed of life in Spain.  It can be summed up quite simply, slower.  Here people do typically walk slower.  Every day around 11 I go take a small snack break with some people in my department and every day a few people, sometimes including myself, want coffee from the coffee vending machine upstairs (and I’m sorry but the coffee from the vending machine tastes better than any coffee in the US).  So we all make the journey up the two flights of stairs to the vending machine and then back down.  Every time we do this I feel myself having to hold back in the most painful way as we walk the stairs.  At home I’m one of those people who typically kind of jogs up and down stairs but here even walking I’m always a few steps ahead of everyone awkwardly turning my body backwards as I walk to try to hear the conversation and being the very uncoordinated person that I am putting myself in terrible danger of falling on my face.  As far as it comes to transactions I don’t know and I wouldn’t say that they’re public clocks are inaccurate but more there is just a general lack of them (I think also telling.  Perhaps they should have also studied the number of public clocks in cities).  Punctuality is also very interesting here.  I don’t know if you remember, but on my second day I was supposed to have a meeting with my boss at 8 but I missed the Tecnatom bus to work (it was my first day attempting to take it) and was about half an hour late.  I felt awful and I saw sure that my boss was going to be unhappy.  When I finally got there he was standing there with the head of our department and they just laughed and said so we heard you missed the bus and don’t worry about it at all, we’ll just talk about it tomorrow.  I asked my host mom about this and she agreed.  She said typically it doesn’t matter if you show up 15 minutes or a half hour late as long as you show up.

1. Economic Well-Being
While the US is facing hard economic times at this moment they really aren’t able to rival what is happening in Spain.  If Ireland and Portugal are headed in the direction of Greece then Spain is right behind them.  But I think it isn’t fair to look at this moment specifically, but the economies in general and here to the US still does have a stronger economy than Spain.

2. Degree of Industrialization
I would have to say this is about equal.

3. Population Size
This one when it comes to Spain I actually disagree though world wide it may actually be more typically true.  The word suburbio, yes does technically mean the same thing as he word suburb, but here it comes with a connotation that is unpleasant and poor.  Spain is a country where people would rather have an apartment in the city that a house right outside of it and this leads to larger cities.

4. Climate
If you compare Spain to the US the climate is very much like that of the south, but compared to the US in general it definitely has a warmer climate.

5. Cultural Values
Again I would have to say about equal.

So we have two equals, one slower, and one quicker. I guess if you average these out we do get a slightly slower society and their hypotheses stand in this case.

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Familia en España!

¡Hola chicos!

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So this past weekend mí madre y mí abuela came to visit me!  After this summer my mom decided that she is never going 3 months without seeing me again so here she was.  I went to go pick them up at the airport at around 10 or so and I had left myself the perfect amount of time to get there with the metro.  But what I hadn’t counted on was everyone having to get off the train just a stop past where I got on and having to stand on the platform for half an hour.  Why did this happen?  I have no idea – my Spanish isn’t good enough…  So now I was running a half hour late to meet my family and I got a little worried.  I had planned on getting there a half hour after their plane landed since they had to go through costumes and pick up their bags before I could even see them.  But luckily they walked out of baggage claim about 10 minutes after I got there.  After much hugging we all got in a cab to drop their stuff off at their hotel.

At this point we really had no plan for the 10 days that they were here so we walked around Puerta del Sol, their hotel was right off of it – great location!, down Calle Mayor and around the cathedral and palace.  My mom had already been to Madrid in January (when my whole family came for a week) and seen these things, but my grandmother had never been before.  On the way through Plaza Mayor we stopped in the Mercado San Miguel just to show my grandmother how amazing it is and she found a stand I had never seen before – caviar!  Now my grandmother and I both love caviar so we each had a little tapas.  We then wandered down to a little restaurant just behind Plaza Mayor and had tortilla española, one of my favorite Spanish foods.  It’s basically a potato omelet (usually the English spelling on menus here is potato homelet).  They both loved it, my mom especially and we ended up eating this many times over the week they were here.  My mom is actually very picky and typically likes on the more bland of foods so I was a little worried about feeding her but she was actually way better than normal and tried all kinds of things and actually liked most of them.

On our way back over to the hotel we stopped at my mom’s and my favorite bakery right in Puerta del Sol and got the cookies that we love!  This stop was actually made quite a few times over the time they were here.  The cookies are these little butter cookies with a kind of chocolate butter crème between them and one end is dipped in chocolate.  Even just thinking about them makes me want to leap up and go get a little box of them, ok maybe a really big one.  I then left them for a little bit because I needed to throw some laundry in and pack an overnight bag so that I could crash with them that night.  While I was away my grandmother took a little nap and my mom got a book on Madrid.

When I came back we went to starbucks so we could call my sister and my dad using skype and to plan what we were going to do with our time!  After that we wandered around looking for a place to eat.  At this point it was only eight o’clock – extremely early for dinner here, especially on a Saturday night when the dinner rush would really hit around 10 or so.  I mentioned that I had been seriously craving pizza and they were really nice and humored me.  The waiter even taught us a fun Spanish toast:  Arriba, Abajo, Al centro, Para entro! (Up, down, center, inside).  This is perhaps the one phrase in Spanish my mom mastered while she was here because we practiced every night at dinner.

The next morning we got up early we headed to El Rastro, a Sunday market.  On the way there we passed through Plaza Mayor were there were a whole bunch of old men who collected stamps trading and admiring each others collections.  Now, El Rastro is gigantic!  I thought it was going to be just one street but it kept branching into all of these different side allies and onto other streets and into plazas.  And in all of these little nooks and crannies it was packed.  There was everything from flea market like stalls to antiques to art to scarves.

After this I got to show them where I lived and introduce them to my host family, well at least Monica and Natalia.  The whole group of us then went out to this great paella place that Monica knew.  And can you believe it – I forgot my camera!  We had a little bit of tapas before the paella and this is when my mom fell in love with croquettes.  I think she had croquettes and tortilla española for or at least with most meals while she was here.

After lunch we attempted to go the Reina Sofia modern art museum but apparently on Sundays it closes at 2:30 so instead we wandered down the street to the Caixa forum and they got a chance to look at the exhibits there (I talk about this museum in Fresas!). Lunch had been so filling that we still weren’t hungry that evening so after the museum we headed back up towards the Reina Sofia and sat in the nice courtyard there and had a glass of wine, some patatas fritas (potato chips), y aceitunas.   We just had a nice time talking and laughing.  Eventually I jumped back on the metro to head home knowing that I was going to have to get up early for work the next day when I was going to sleep well after my bed time.

Besos,
Sonia

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The Myth of the Heavy Spanish Lunch

So last week was slightly frustrating at work, I’m not going to lie to you.  I started the actual work on my project.  I really felt enabled to read the database but when I got the actual txt file I couldn’t make heads or tails of it.  Everything was organized into points, which there are seven different types of and I couldn’t figure out how they corresponded to the control sheet and some of the components of the control sheet seemed to have points in the database and others didn’t.  And of course the people who could actually help me weren’t in the office the days I was so bewildered.  Finally on Friday I found out that I couldn’t find all of the components, because I didn’t have a complete version of the database and only a piece of it.  It made me feel so much better!  It wasn’t entirely my fault and that I was stupid and couldn’t figure it out but I didn’t have all of the info.  But the bad side to this was they weren’t sure if they would be able to get a full back up of the database.  This was seriously bad news for my project and might mean the death of it.  So they said they would look that day and let me know on Monday.

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But after I talked with Maria and Nati about my issues with the database on Friday they invited me to grab a coffee with them.  Now this always makes me feel slightly uncomfortable, because they are going to pay for me – they always do.  Half the time I politely say no I’m fine, which I’m not sure if that’s still rude here, it may be, but on Friday I said yes that would be great.  And I am so glad I did.  It ended up being me, a large group of the women who work in that office (5 or so) and one younger guy.  It was a lot of fun.  Some of them were trying out their English on me and they were being nice and speaking Spanish very slowly so I could try and follow along.  People everywhere are very similar to some extent.  Some of the women were talking about how they were on diets and not doing very well (I hear that one sister) and also some of the women in the office were going on a girls trip that weekend and they were debating where to go.  But mostly it was just a lot of pleasant chatting and joking and more than anything laughing.  It was just great.

Let’s see here… as far as after work went…  It was actually a very tame week.  I had my language class on Tuesday and Thursday where we learned some random objects and familial relations.  Honestly I kind of just relaxed after work.  But this actually gives me the opportunity to talk about one of the things on my list of “talk about these things when you don’t write ridiculously long blogs.”  So here goes nothing.

Today’s topic: Food (I feel like this really shouldn’t surprise you at all)

But more specifically:  The Myth of the Heavy Spanish Lunch

Now what I had always been told and read was that the Spanish had a very heavy lunch around 1:30 or so and then a very light late dinner.  Now this isn’t exactly true.  You know how typically you just have dinner but every now and then, for special occasions generally, you have a really big heavy dinner?  Well this is the situation with Spanish lunches.

The Spanish Day in Food:
Wake-Up – Breakfast.  During the week this can range from a piece of toast with butter and jam to yogurt (the Spanish really love yogurt) to a muffin or something to cereal
11:00 – We have a nice little snack break.  I go out of the office into the hallway outside to talk and eat a little snack for about 15 minutes or so.  I typically have an apple.  Some of the people bring fruit; every now and then someone brings a little bocadillo.  People usually drink coffee.  People grab a coffee here with the other people in the building all of the time.
1:00 – 1 is just when I eat lunch at work; I believe starting between 1:30 and 2:30 is more common.  But lunch could be some pasta or a salad or a bocadillo or paella or anything!  It’s much more like our dinner but don’t think of it as having to be heavy – some people just bring a salad.  And soup.  People eat much more soup here.
5-6 – Around 5 or 6 people grab a snack.  But this isn’t a small snack typically I don’t believe.  More like a sandwich.  But I believe this can also be substituted for a beer and some chips.
9:00 – dinner.  Yes it really is that late.  We typically sit down for dinner at 9, but that’s just during the week.  On the weekends it’s typically later.

Now I know I have a couple of Spanish people who read this so if I’ve said anything incorrect, or if I ever say something you see differently, please share!

I’ve been told before that 5 small meals is healthier than 3 big ones and they really do that here.

And your musical selection for today -Yo soy como Portugal by BLA, which I means I am Like Portugal.  Enjoy!  Besos!

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Fresas!

Sonia’s Spanish Phrase of the Day – ¿Cómo fue tu fin de semana? How was your weekend?

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On Friday after work (finally!  what a long day!) I had a video conference call with a professor in the Chem E department at Tech.  After I finish up my bachelor’s I’m hoping to do a master’s in Chemical Engineering, but this jump between fields is turning out to be much more difficult than I anticipated but the call was great and I got a lot of new insight.  Arturo padre came in right at the end of that when I was obviously stressed and exhausted.  Arturo has a blog about music and films and such and we’ve been saying for a while that we’re going to do a music switch so he dragged me off of the table and into his computer room, where he sat me down and played me Spanish music for the next few hours and we just talked about music.  So no worries I’ll have Spanish music suggestions for you as well soon!  Then Monica came in and started talking about watching a movie about medieval times that night because Natalia was studying this time period in school.  I suggested Robin Hood Men in Tights and the loved the idea.  They hadn’t seen it but Monica loves Princess Bride (who doesn’t!).  I was planning on going swing dancing after dinner but I was having such a great time just being part of the family that I decided to just stay and chill and watch the movie with the family – I didn’t even make it half way through the movie.  At 3 or so I woke up asleep on the couch with everyone gone and the TV off.

Saturday I slept in and had lunch with mi famila españa – lentil soup.  I don’t think I had ever actually eaten a lentil before, but it was actually quite nice.  After this I went over to the Caixa forum, a FREE (yes, I’m a college student) art museum.  At the Caixa forum there are no permanent exhibits but while I was there they had an exhibit of photography by Isabel Muñoz entitled Infancia.  It was different photos of children from around the world in their home environment.  It was incredible.  I have a couple of the photos in the slide show above.  You weren’t allowed to take photos inside the exhibits but outside underneath the main building in the plaza they had erected some of the images and that’s where my photos are from.  There was also an exhibit on Fellini, an Italian filmmaker from the 50´s – 70´s.  He made films outside of that time period but that was probably his height.  If you’ve never seen any of his films I highly recommend it.  The summer after my freshman year I did the Italian Film Studies program and we talked about Fellini a bit.  I think he could probably be the most famous Italian filmmaker.  The third exhibit was on Dalí and Lorca when they were at school together – their friendship and influence on each other.

Then I came back to the piso and straightened my hair and had dinner with the family.  I was supposed to meet Anna and Fanny at about 10 in Puerta del Sol by a statue of a tree or something so about 9:30 I hopped on the metro.  In Plaza de Castilla I jumped on the 1 line to head to Sol.  I looked down the train from me and who was standing there but Anna and Fanny.  It was great!  They were on the train with another Swedish girl that lives up by them and we were meeting two more Swedish girls and a girl from Germany.  We went out to a bar from Dubliner’s and just kind of hung out and talked.  It was great.  The girls were really funny and we all got along swimmingly.  It turned out the German girl was from Berlin and I even got to practice a little German with her, so maybe I won’t completely forget everything!  Every now and then the Swedish girls would all break out in Swedish, which I didn’t understand a word of (when Anna speaks Danish I can understand a fair amount because it is so similar to German), but it sounded so pretty – like they were all singing.  From there we headed over to Joy, one of the big discos in Madrid also right off Puerta del Sol.  Now honestly I’m more of a bar person than a club person.  I like sitting around talking with people and just generally relaxing and while on occasion (and I did have a great time) clubs can be fun to go out dancing with your girl friends but for me you just don’t get enough human interaction, not saying that there aren’t plenty of people.  All of a sudden in the middle of the club a curtain was pulled up and there was a stage with dancers and they performed for about 5 minutes or so and then the curtain went back down and everything resumed as it had been.  It was really funny to me.  Maybe this isn’t that strange but I had never seen anything like it.  I decided to go home around 2:30 or so (I had to get up early for the Tren de la Fresa the next day) and as I went to get my coat, which now reeks of smoke thanks, people were starting to pour in to the club in true force.  The Spanish are known for being night people, which so far has proved itself true, but their metro closes at 1:30 on the weekends.  This is stupid!  So I grabbed a cab home.  But it really is incredibly safe here.  Sometimes it still amazes me.

So on Sunday I got up early to go on the Tren de la Fresa to Aranjuez.  This was something my host family had suggested to me.  Aranjuez is famous for the strawberries and asparagus that grow there.  This trip is much more popular in the spring and the train doesn’t even run in the winter, in fact I caught the last one of the year.  The train leaves from the train museum and you actually get to ride on a vintage train with women dressed in typical old-fashioned dresses.  On the train they give you a little carton of strawberries and with the price of the ticket you also get admission into the old royal summer palace in Aranjuez as well as half-priced entrance into a multitude of other things in the town.  Well it turned out to be mostly me and families with little kids on the train.  But sitting across from me was the most beautiful little girl. I have a few pictures of the family in the photo album for this entry.

When we got to the actual town I went to go on the free tour of the castle, but of course it was in Spanish so I ditched and just wandered through the castle on my own.  After that I went and sat in the palace gardens and started a new book.  I had been reading a book on Spanish history, because after arriving here I realized I knew almost nothing about it.  The first half of the book had been about medieval Spain and I had just found it exhausting.  I know some people just love this stuff but for me it’s just a million people with the same names and just different numbers to follow all fighting non-stop and squabbling r this and that.  I had finally gotten to the part I was really interested in, Franco was rising to power, but I just couldn’t do it any more.  I’m a fiction lover.  So I’m taking a break from my history and will finish it as soon as I finish reading Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet, which will be soon, because I’m tearing through it.  My host mom, Monica, recommended it.  And when she described it to me I really wasn’t sure about it but I can’t put it down (it actually led me to teach some of the people at work the phrase “a page turner”).  The main idea is building a cathedral and really reading this in the US wouldn’t be quite as great as reading it here while I’m touring and seeing a different cathedral almost every other weekend.

After that I had the greatest lunch at a little terraza, a restaurant with seating outside.  I actually didn’t recognize most of the items at all in the menu del día so I just asked the lady serving me what she suggested and went with that.  Apparently I should do that from now!  This had to be my best meal out yet!  The first course was some kind of vegetables and meat in red sauce with a little bit of cheese on top.  If I had known that was what it was going to be I never would have ordered it but it was incredible!  For the second course I had a piece of fish, which I found out later was a special kind of fish from Spain and extremely hard to cook perfectly, with a couple of mussels, and some slices of potatoes.  The potatoes had the most amazing seasoning but you didn’t lose the actual taste of the potatoes and the fish was perfectly flakey and delicious!  Ugh!  I just couldn’t get over it.  And for the postre (dessert) I had a white cold almost frozen ice cream like thing with passion fruit and some orange fruit in it and a nice coffee to wrap the whole thing up.  I’m sorry I love food.  I could probably write about nothing other than what I eat here and be perfectly content.

After that I wandered over to the prince’s garden and lay in the grass and read for the rest of the afternoon.  It was just a great day.  Completely relaxing.  I read a quarter of the book the first day and it’s no small thing.  And when it was time I got back on the train and headed home.

And before you go a little Spanish music to entertain you. This is called De momento abril by La bien querida.  I believe the title translates to the moment in April.  Enjoy!  Besos!

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Tigres y Erre

Ok so this is out of order but I just couldn’t wait to put it up!

Yesterday on the car ride home Rafael and I did nothing but laugh non-stop.  It was the best car ride ever!  I have no idea why but we started talking about tongue twisters and he taught me a spanish one.  Un tigre, dos tigres, tres tigres, comían trigo en un trigal!  I may a nice little video for you of me trying this one out.

Then we started talking about rolling r’s.  This is something I have always been completely unable to do.  (He had noticed.)  He started telling me how when he was a kid he wasn’t able to roll his r’s either and he thought he was stupid because of this.  He actually had friends of his parents tell him so!  And he told me how it wasn’t about moving your tongue very quickly but about blowing air past your tongue quickly.  He started yelling you’re tongue has to fly free like a bird.  But at first I heard your tongue has to fly free like a bear, which made me laugh even harder.  There were times I couldn’t even attempt to roll my r because I was laughing so hard.  And when I finally got it he cheered and we high fived in celebration!

And now Rafael’s guide to rolling your r’s:

Besos!
Sonia

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