Host family… Make it or break it. 

I would like to compare host families. It may seem weird, but this was my second trip to Spain both times in different locations and very different circumstances.

2009 – Background: I was a 20 something year old female finishing my bachelor’s degree in Spanish. My host family was very strict, and could not understand my situation. They did not understand why I did not want to stay out partying or why I spent my time focusing on school work. They did not even realize that on top of the homework assigned to us from the University of Valladolid, we were assigned homework from the Univeristy of Akron. Nearly criticizing everything that I did. Showering too long, not cleaning the shower properly, not staying out late, and other things. I remember they got mad enough at me once that I ended up going out with a group and crying. When the rest of the group saw this they tried to get me removed from that location. We only had a week remaining at that point so they couldn’t do anything.

Fast forward to 2016… Background: I’m a 30 year old pharmacy school student. My mother passed away the Tuesday before I left. I missed the first week because she was in bad shape and I was not going to leave. I arrived in Spain. My host mom was very supportive, and she understood what I went through. She understood that I had to do the make up work from the previous week, and helped me to push through the work. Supporting me every step of the way. We went to the gym together 5 days a week, and I had a very supportive roommate. Lucia made some of my favorite meals because she knew I liked them, and I got to return the favor by cooking something new for her a couple of times. I would not have enjoyed the trip as much if it weren’t for the support system.

Overall, support systems…including classmates, teachers, and host families can change the perspective of the trip. Needless to say I was the last student the other host family took in. I hope that Lucia takes them in all the time because she is a great support and great host.

Time is moving slowly…

My health behavior change was made about two weeks ago for me, but I feel like it’s been so much longer. When I’m at home, I turn to Diet Dr Pepper to wake me up. Especially since I am not a coffee drinker, and it has become increasingly difficult to come up with a drink that can wake me up. My host mom has begun to sneak coffee into my morning smoothie, and it tastes great because she mixes it with other things. It does not work. I have even started drinking hot tea, in this hot humid weather. That does not work either. I’ve been fully reliant on getting up and going to the gym, and then the walk to school to wake me up.
Fruits and vegetable stands are everywhere. I love it. It makes it so simple, when I can just stop and grab some on the way home. Lucia knows that this is my change, and she has made sure to keep the fridge stocked. It’s truly inspiring. I get to enjoy one of my favorite things everyday and it’s so affordable here. We have tried all kinds of new fruits and vegetables here. They’ve got a such a variety. Drinking water has not been a problem here cause it’s normally super cheap, or it’s free. I can stop at one of the fruit stands, and grab a water with whatever I need and spend a euro or less. It’s awesome. I will make it, but I just have to ‘keep swimming’.
I think I am truly looking forward to figuring this out when I get back home. It is going to be a fight because my husband does not enjoy vegetables as much as I do, but the fruit aspect I think will be simple. I’m going to have to figure out ways to sneak them in…Shhhh he does not need to know. I might even try to make some of the recipes that Lucia has made, and that would be a great way to sneak them in!

The Oceanográphic

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On Wednesday, a couple of my classmates and I went to the Oceanográphic in Valencia. I hadn’t been to an aquarium in a very long time so I was excited to go. I don’t like to set my expectations too high because that tends to ruin things for me, but the Oceanográphic did not disappoint! There was so much to see. We saw a variety of fish, jellyfish, seahorses, spider crabs, sharks, walruses, whales and so much more! We also got to see a dolphin show while we were there, which was very good. One thing that is unique about this aquarium is that kids can have sleepovers in the aquarium. The coolest part is that they get to sleep with the sharks! The sharks actually looked pretty scary to me, but I think having a sleepover at an aquarium would have been pretty awesome as a kid.

One thing I love about sea creatures is that they are all so unique and diverse! Everything God created is unique, but I think you can see the most diversity and uniqueness in sea creatures. To think that God created each and every one of them is so amazing to me! Once again, I was in awe of God’s wonderful creation, and I’m so glad I got to visit the Oceanográphic here in Valencia!

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Jasmine- Dr. Wiseman’s daughter- AKA our honorary tour guide 🙂

 

 

Water Under the Bridge

It is hard to believe that I started this journey 21 days ago. Honestly, it has been a truly amazing journey. If you were to tell me a month ago that I would have reduced my sugary beverage intake and increased the amount of water I consumed, I would have thought you were crazy. At first, it seemed like I was climbing a mountain that never ended. Each obstacle was filled with desires to drink iced tea or lemonade. But every step along the way was a reminder of how far I had come. With each passing day, I came closer to achieving my goal.

This past week came with a lot of reflection. 21 days ago this health behavior change was more about winning a challenge than improving my health. I admit I had good intentions but they became clouded with the desire to prove myself wrong. I can see now that my previous attitude cannot sustain life long change because as the weeks progressed, the need to win quickly faded and all I was left with was a glass of water and no idea how to change my habit. That is when I started making small daily goals for myself to boost motivation. Anytime I craved a sweet drink, I made myself go outside for a walk and list the reasons why drinking more water and reducing my sugar intake was important. I remind myself of all the benefits I have gained so far in this journey such as clearer skin and less headaches. After my walks, I would drink a glass of water and it always hit the spot. My desire to drink other beverages quickly dissipated and I started to feel better mentally because my thoughts were not consumed with drinking lemonade and iced tea. This last week I did not drink a single sugary beverage. I only drank water! Now, this may not seem like a big accomplishment but for me this shows that perseverance and the right attitude leads to success.

This experience has taught me a lot about myself. It has also given me the motivation to change other areas of my life like cutting back on sugary foods altogether and making better diet options. This one small step has opened many doors to improve my overall health. Soon you might be reading a blog about my first half-marathon. Haha! We still have a long way to go before you see Belinda running any marathons but I know with the right mindset and proper goals, I can achieve any health change!

Come Get Your Tapas!

This past week was our last full week of adhering to our health behavior changes! Adhering to change has definitely been a challenge, especially being in Spain where there are so many pastries, tapas, gelato, and churro places just minutes away! Tapas in Spain are like small “snacks” that can be eaten as a snack or as a meal. These snacks are like mini sandwiches, pizzas, hotdogs, etc. I went to my first tapas restaurant called Cien Montaditos for lunch last Wednesday. I did not consider whether eating the tapas for lunch was considered a healthy snack choice or not, but I failed to adhere to my health behavior change by eating the potato chips that came with them.

I am not proud of my choice to break my health behavior change last Wednesday, but I am proud of the snack choice I made last Sunday when we went to our excursion to Ghandia beach. We had free time after visiting an amazing palace, and so a group of us walked around the city. A friend and I wanted some water and snacks so we went into a nearby fruit store. Although there are tons of tempting snack places all around Valencia, there are tons of fruit stores along the streets as well. I was very proud of my snack choice that day for getting water and an orange!

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Reflecting back on my adherence to my health behavior change, I realize that stress and social surroundings impact my snacking choices. Although I must admit, I also just really like unhealthy snacks like chips and cookies. I guess I am just not used to eating healthy snacks. I feel like eating unhealthy snacks once in a while is fine, but I would like to change my snacking habits to incorporate more healthy snacks and less unhealthy ones into my diet. Working on a health behavior change for the past 3 weeks now has helped me realize what many patients may go through when they are told they need to make a health behavior change. Making a change is definitely a challenge, but I realized that as a future health care professional, I can make a lasting impact on my patients by just being encouraging and supportive of them every step of the way.

 

Dew Evaporating on the Mountain

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Well, almost 4 weeks have passed since I began this journey of change. Though difficulties popped up almost daily, I’m glad I chose to quit drinking soda. The change has been hard but good.

I had a good laugh this week when it occurred to me that I’ve been using my Mountain Dew chapstick from time to time while I’ve been here, I’ll let you decide if that’s considered cheating or not. (HAHA!)

I also recently made an interesting observation while drinking a sugary drink. Since I have refrained from drinking soda for the past few weeks now, my sugar intake has drastically decreased. When I sat down to study in a café a couple days ago I ordered a small frosted coffee beverage (similar to a Frappuccino but better). About halfway through drinking it I realized how sweet it tasted and felt like I had enough. I finished it anyway because of how delicious it tasted, but I realized that my body has started to adjust to the decreased sugar in my diet. I no longer crave sugary drinks quite as much as I used to. Times like these encourage me to stick with my choice in the long run, causing me to strongly consider maintaining this decision even after the time requirement for my class.

However, I know when I go back to work it will be difficult to do so. I often enjoy a Mountain Dew either on my break or with my lunch. In order to help, I plan to bring a water bottle with me to drink everyday I work this summer. My hope is that by drinking more water I will avoid drinking Mountain Dew during the times that I am simply thirsty. I also want to limit my sugary drink consumption to only 1 or 2 times a week. In times when it gets tough I want to remember my time here in Spain when I was successful at beginning this process of change.

So I’ll end with another encouraging lyric found in Jon Foreman’s song “You Don’t Know How Beautiful You Are”:

Where we’re headed
Is a world apart
From where we started
We’ve come so far

I’ve come so far, so why not keep going? Similar to our trip last weekend, though I’m faced with a mountain looking like the left photo, I know there’s something beautiful waiting on the other side.

The Kid Inside

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We all have that moment. That point in time when you are doing something that is so fun (regardless of how uncool you may look) that the little kid in you comes back up again. That’s what working out this week felt like to me!

This week, I continued the trend of exploring and walking around (as per usual), but I built upon it also with a formal exercise in the rio and some good ol’ fashioned volleyball! I must have played for about 2 hours before we went home.

Now I know what you are thinking…Volleyball is fun and all, but it doesn’t seem like that much of a workout. You obviously haven’t seen me play it then. I am diving, chasing, running, jumping hitting, you name it I’m doing it. My host mom here in Spain won’t let me do anything after I get back because I am  literally covered in the sand no matter how hard I try to wash it off.

Then there is the adult playground that I went to in the rio. Let me tell you, this was fantastic. I had been meaning to go to it for the past couple weeks, but when I finally went I was impressed. I experienced the awkward (and exciting) discovery of pieces of equipment and what they are used for. I did some escalating monkey bars, pull-up-ish things, and did several other exercises such as push-ups and ab exercises.

As excited as I am now, this was a hard week to get motivated to exercise. Several of my friends are leaving after this next Wednesday to go back to the  United States, so I wanted to just hang out with them. I missed volleyball one day so I could do the workout in the rio. As hard as it was, I am glad I did it, as it taught me how to persevere and stick to my plan.

This is my last official blog post for this group, thank you for reading cuinspain!

By the way, these pictures below are some that I took from the rio yesterday! The one on the left has several items like a balance beam and a flat wooden surface, as well as pull up spots. The middle one is the escalating monkey bars, where I also did some hanging ab crunches. Finally, the third one was something that I thought looked like a sitting down pull up (?) but I am pretty sure I was doing that one wrong! Nevertheless, I enjoyed it a bunch!

Hospital Intermutual de Levante

As a class, we were privileged to be able to see a public hospital here in Spain in action. We went as a group of pharmacy students (and me, their adopted nursing student) to particularly focus on how the rooms were set up as well as how their pharmacy worked here.

This particular hospital (Hospital Intermutual de Levante) seemed more geared towards rehabilitation for those who have had occupational accidents or orthopedic related operations.

Each room had two beds with an outside patio that connected to make a walkway on the outside of the building on all the floors (as you can see in the picture above). Upon entering, it seemed just like any other hospital room I had seen in the States. However, although each room had two beds, there was only one patient ever put in each room. The other bed was reserved for family members that would stay with the patient about 24/7. I found this cultural note to be fascinating, and insightful on the importance of family for the average Valencian/Spanish household.

After looking at the rooms, we were guided to the basement where the pharmacy was. We saw their storage area where they kept the medications, as well as the clean room where they prepared them for the hospital. There seemed to be slightly different regulations for their clean room  vs. a clean room in the states (lack of an anteroom here, permitted to store cardboard in the room here, etc.) but all in all, it seemed more familiar than foreign.

Afterwards, they described their pharmacy system for within the hospital that we were at. They use a pixis-based system, which is fairly similar to how medications are accessed in hospitals in the US (medical personnel in hospital use a source of identification to receive specific medications for a specific patient based on what has been prescribed for them in an electronic system), with the only observable difference being their operating hours. The pharmacy closes at 8, but all of the pixis deposits (there is one per floor unit) have enough for emergency situations that happen overnight.

This was understandable because, until the past year, there was only one pharmacist who ran the entire pharmacy. It seemed like a pretty ingenious operating system to only need to be run by one head pharmacist. However the pharmacists seemed to have much less clinical responsibility than in the states.  We also learned this week that even large hospitals in the city only have 4-5 pharmacists, most pharmacy graduates in Spain go into retail due to lack of jobs in the hospital. The pharmacist at this hospital was actively involved with the Spanish Hospital Pharmacists Association and she was particularly passionate about the pharmacy’s involvement with what they referred to as “sanitary products” which were what we would call sterile products. This particular hospital dispensed items like pacemakers and other sterile products from the pharmacy.

As a whole, I really enjoyed seeing this hospital, partially because I’m the red-headed stepchild of the group, and partially because I just love seeing how medical systems work in different places. I was impressed by their willingness to meet the cultural values of the people they served (family rooms), as well as their diligence to providing “productos sanitarios” in addition to medications to ensure the health of their patients.

Peñíscola Excursion

On Saturday June 4th we visited a place called Peñíscola (“town by the sea”). It is known for its nice beach and castle, located on the highest part of the coast. This castle/fortress was constructed mostly between the 13th and 16th centuries, and was utilized by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, and Moors. In 1223, King Jaime I gave the castle to the Knights Templar who transformed it similar to how it looks present-day. For Pope Luna (Pope Benedict XIII), Peñíscola was his get-away castle. He retreated here when he realized he was no longer supported as the people favored Roman Popes Urban VI and Boniface VII. Here he established a court, chapel, library, a meeting room for the conclave, and his own chambers. He lived the rest of his life there from 1415 to 1425.

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We walked around the castle for a couple hours taking numerous photos of the gorgeous coastline and city, along with a few selfies. The parts of the castle we visited included a kitchen, chapel area, a few lookout spots near the top and a dungeon at the bottom of a long staircase.

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IMG_1562After this we had freetime to explore. Some made their way down to the beach to enjoy it for about a half-hour before it started raining. Then most of us gathered at a café to enjoy icecream and coffee. Once the rain calmed down to a sprinkle we roamed around the narrow streets of the old city, buying some souvenirs and postcards.

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Finally, most of us ended our stay by enjoying the beautiful botanical garden attached to the castle that opened up an hour before our leave time. It was filled with tall palm trees and flowers that lined edge of the overlook along the coast and a winding path that had numerous tunnels and arches.

 

Though it wasn’t the best day for the beach, the views at Peñíscola did not disappoint!

The Saga continues…

The health behavior change has been simple as I had hoped. I have been craving Diet Dr. Pepper something fierce; however, they do not have it here. I am not a fan of Coke, so I can just walk by those. I have come across Fanta Orange and Fanta Lemon, which those are a little harder to walk by. I almost gave into temptation, but I was with Ruth and was able to overcome the temptation.

The fruits and vegetables portion has been awesome. Lucia normally cooks with fresh fruits and veggies, and if she doesn’t we have been able to stop at a local fruit stand and grab one. I even made Lucia fried green tomatoes on Tuesday. I was thrilled with the results and she truly enjoyed them, and even shared them with her neighbor. I cannot tell any difference in my energy levels as I had hoped, but I will continue to push forward.