Time is precious, and it comes and goes. Sometimes we pay attention to it, but often time passes us by and we reflect on how short life really is. I have now lived in another country for 7 weeks. I’m sure more has changed in my life and back home during this trip than I will ever realize. What a blessing and an amazing life experience it was to study in a different country. Here are some of my take-aways from this trip.
From a pharmacy perspective, I learned there’s different ways to practice pharmacy, especially in countries that have socialized healthcare. It is important to keep this in mind when serving patients in the U.S. who are from a different culture than my own. I will have more patience with people who have a hard time understanding how our healthcare system works since it is much more complicated than universal healthcare. Also, after experiencing the difficulties in communicating in a second language, I will have more empathy with the people I serve who are not native English speakers. I desire to increasingly value the differences of other cultures.
One major difference I noticed during my time there is how America wants everything done fast. We rush to get things done quickly, and get upset when services or products are not provided to us as fast as possible. This is not the case in Spain; things are slower paced, especially when eating out in a restaurant. This slower pace allows for more conversation and patience resulting in what feels like a more relaxed culture that is not always stressed out. I enjoyed this style of life and hope to slow down some aspects of my life in the U.S.
During my time there, my diet improved significantly. Part of this was due to my health behavior change of cutting soda out of my diet, but also because of the foods I was eating. They eat many more fruits and vegetables than I am used to here in the U.S. I think this is in part due to the availability of them. I want to try to maintain a better diet here in the U.S. as I’ve found that’s hard to do in pharmacy school.
My time with my host family was fantastic. I was by myself with an older couple, Coronada and Miguel. We enjoyed being together and it stretched my Spanish skills since they did not speak any English. I tried all different kinds of homemade food from Paella to squid to rabbit to snails and everything in between. They made me feel at home and I was sad to leave them at the end of the trip. When I was not in class or out with friends I usually spent my time at the house, making the most of my experience of living with a host family.
Through this trip, I now realize the difficulties in gaining cultural sensitivity and competency. It’s something that is hard to obtain but necessary to strive toward in one way or another. I think of it as similar to our war against sin as Christians. Though we will never be perfect, by the grace of God we are able to continually take small steps toward the end goal, growing little by little during our short time here on this earth.
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.
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.
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.
After 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.
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!
Climbing mountains brings many surprises, some good and some bad. (However, I don’t know that much from personal experience because western Ohio is flat and Wisconsin is only somewhat hilly.) On this mountain of mine, one surprise is how many days I’ve gone without drinking soda for energy, although siesta time has become a good replacement.
But not everyday of climbing was successful this past week. The rain came down on the “mountain”, both literally last Saturday on our excursion to the beach and more figuratively on Sunday when I was feeling very home sick and missing my friends. The amount of projects for class started to become overwhelming and when I attempted to meet up with a friend at a café we got lost and were unable to find each other. I needed to get out of the house, but I didn’t know where to go or what to do. I walked down the “rio”, a big walkway through the city where people walk, run, bike, hangout, party, etc. I still felt stressed out after walking for a while and thought about what else I could do to shake the feeling. That’s when thoughts of resorting to my bad habit began lingering in my head. I eventually made it to the mall where I shopped just a few days earlier. People crowded the main walkways since it was the weekend and the crowds just bothered me even more. I knew the location of the grocery store and I made my way toward it. That’s when it happened – I relapsed.
I wish I could say I was satisfied by drinking that soda, that it was just the thing I needed, but that was not the case. I think it actually made me feel worse. I still felt stressed, and now I didn’t adhere to my goal of going without soda, only contributing to my already down feeling. I should have made another attempt to meet up with people, but I just waited for the feeling to pass, neglecting the work I needed to do. Since then, things improved and my addiction remains unfed.
Sometimes we learn the most from our mistakes, and I think that’s what happened for me this week. I realized that it wasn’t worth drinking that soda, and so now I’m more determined to maintain my health behavior choice. So there’s still hope, there’s still a couple more weeks. And now I’ll be more vigilant in avoiding the patches of dew on the mountain that make it more slippery.
“I’ve decided to face this mountain, to stand up to this mountain tonight,” sings Jon Foreman in his song “The Mountain.” I often find the inspiration to change or gain new perspective in his songs. But change warrants difficulties; change feels like trekking up a mountain, or sometimes many mountains!
A view during one of our excursions in Albarracín
One mountain I recently decided to conquer is an addiction of mine known to anyone who sees me on a daily basis. It began back in sophomore year of high school. I drove to my friend’s house almost daily that year to study for our AP World History class. Although studying usually turned into playing games, long discussions, or watching our favorite TV shows, we still did enough to succeed in class. Since studying can be boring, we decided to make it more enjoyable by consuming our favorite drink, Mountain Dew. As far as I can remember we drank it almost daily, leaving empty 2-liter bottles or numerous cans in the recycling bin at the end of the night. Though our studying paid off as demonstrated by our outstanding test results that granted us college credit, I picked up a bad habit that year. From then on, my studying for any class felt more bearable if I was drinking Mountain Dew.
I thought about cutting back on the amount of soda I drink many times, but then another hard test would present itself or a stressful day at work drove me to crave it. My Health Beliefs & Behaviors class this summer requires students to choose a difficult behavior change to make, and my goal is to refrain from drinking soda while here in Spain. While it may be a change I attempt to continue after that, for now I am focusing on the present difficulties. A few days after I arrived in Barcelona (my first stop before heading to Valencia where I am currently studying) I found Mountain Dew in a nearby mercado. “Nice!” I though to myself, “I won’t have to go without Mountain Dew in Spain after all.” After purchasing a bottle, I proceeded to the beach to enjoy the beautiful day along with my favorite drink. What I anticipated to be a sip of relief and relaxation was actually a repulsive taste of a drink that does not deserve the name Mountain Dew. That drink tasted nothing like the real thing, take it from an addict. This resulted in a high amount of disappointment, as I knew I would be stuck drinking Coca-Cola since that is the most popular soda here. So when it came time to decide what our health behavior change would be, I knew taking this opportunity to reverse my bad habit was a good idea. Almost 2 weeks in to this change I am proud to say I have refrained from drinking any soda. One thing I have noticed is the seemingly endless amount of advertising for Coca-Cola here. It seems like every market place, restaurant, tourist stop, vending machine, etc. offers Coca-Cola. One morning I walked out my door to find a Coca-Cola truck parked on the street! Temptation presents itself everywhere, but so far I have been able to choose water over soda every time I am looking for something to drink. Unfortunately, I am only at the base of this mountain, the peak is not yet in sight. But mountains are only conquered one step (day) at a time, and I’m ready to continue my journey to the peak.