Pond Jumpers: Spain

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A “Normal” Day in my Life

Posted on May 6, 2009 at 11:50pm Madrid / 5:50pm Cincinnati by Kelly Larbes

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My emotions here often make me feel like I am on a roller coaster: happy, content, frustrated, tired, determined, confused, alienated, peaceful, enthusiastic, annoyed, curious, elated, hopeful, amused, etc. Yesterday it was mostly amusement. Here is a quick diary of my day. Hopefully you are amused too.

  • When I told my colleague, Maja, that young women in the United States don’t wear pantyhose that often, she told me that I might as well told her that we don’t wear bras. It was that shocking to her. I learned that pantyhose are a must-have for Croatian women, especially in the winter. There are stores here that sell just pantyhose and socks. Pantyhose purchases are based on the color, pattern, and denier (yes, that is an English word, which indicates the thickness and usually ranges from 5 to 140).
  • No one I work with has ever made a single online purchase (and these are smart contemporary people). When I asked why, the answers varied from, “Oh, I don’t know,” to “I don’t want someone to steal my bank account information,” to “I want to know who the seller is so I can go gripe at them if something goes wrong.”
  • Jay tried to order a computer printer and router online from a popular electronics’ stores in Croatia. The site was, of course, all in Croatian, so he decided to call to figure out what he needed to do. The salesperson who answered the phone said they didn’t have the items Jay wanted in stock, so she did some research on what she could get and got back to him later.

    She said that Jay could not pay for the purchases with a credit card.

    So, I waited in line for a half hour to pay the invoice at the post office, which is where most people go to pay their bills here. I was charged an extra 2% transaction fee (not amusing) and an extra 4¢ (and this had to be a separate transaction – amusing) for the official piece of paper to fill out the receiver’s information.

  • I am working on designing vehicle graphics for a client, so they emailed photos of the actual vehicles that would be painted. One of them was not like the others; one of the trucks had another company’s logo and look on it. At first I thought it was a mistake, but Tony told me that company owed our client money and didn’t have it, so they gave them a truck.
  • I went to the grocery store with my prepared list, including a few proper translations for things like ground beef and 50 decagrams. I carefully scanned the deli area to find the ground beef so I could just point if the butcher didn’t understand me. I couldn’t find it. I panicked for a second, thinking, “They just have to have ground beef here.” So, I sucked it up and asked. The butcher pointed to a giant slab of red bloody meat that made my stomach curl. I thought she didn’t understand me, so I showed her my list. She shook her head yes, slammed her giant knife down a few times cutting pieces of beef, threw the slabs into a machine in front of me, and out came ground beef. The spaghetti I made was delicious.

Payment SlipMeat

  • On my way home an Italian tourist looking for a hostel mistook me for a Croatian; woo hoo (at first). He was very talkative. He eventually asked me if I want to come have coffee and meet his girlfriend. I was enjoying the conversation, but intuition told me I did not want to continue it, so I said I was on my way to meet my husband. He said he was happy I had a husband and wanted to know if we would be interested in playing “erotic games” with him and his girlfriend on a beach, or in a hotel room if I thought that was better, because they were here looking for other swingers. “Sweengers, yes, you know sweengers?,” he repeated in a thick Italian accent. He was serious. I left quickly.

It’s hard to capture the essence of these moments in words, but hopefully this gives a small look into what my “normal” day here is like. We are definitely learning how to navigate all of the weird intricacies of life in a new country (new to us and relatively new in the world). One thing is for sure, every day is a new day full of new lessons.

3 Reader Comments to “A “Normal” Day in my Life”

  1. carole vater on May 7, 2009 at 2:22pm Split / 8:22am Cincinnati

    oh, but kelly… what a great way to spend a normal day!

  2. Betty Bone on May 7, 2009 at 3:47pm Split / 9:47am Cincinnati

    Love this. Okay, so my normal day is absolutely boring in comparison. I love the ground beef. It does make you wonder if it was local meat? Sweengers! Love it. What about you said, “ask her she looks like fun.” ? Crazy. I’m glad you seem to be dealing with the chaos of a different culture with such well observation!

  3. CKron on May 28, 2009 at 4:57pm Split / 10:57am Cincinnati

    That is a wacky normal day! Fun!