In the human brain, neurons communicate with each other by sending electrical signals from one neuron to another across a small space called a synapse. Chemicals work in the synapses to transmit the electrical pulses between neurons. Neurons communicate with each other in a predictable pattern that repeats itself from neuron to neuron. In essence, brain development is largely a wiring process, where connections between neurons are made and refined. Now consider for a moment, the connections that are made when you learn a new language. For example, because English is my first language and I learned Spanish by making connections to English, I can switch between the two languages with relative ease. Seeing as how I learned German in the same way (by making connections to my preexisting English vocabulary), I switch between my first and third languages with little to no difficulty as well. The problem is, I spent the last week and a half with three Germans… in Spain. So, when I had to translate something, it was between Spanish and German. No English involved. Now for those of you who don’t know, sometimes I have trouble with words. And walking. And pretty much all basic motor functions. But I digress. The point is, every time I had to switch between my second and third languages or translate from one to the other, I think I lost a brain cell – and I’m not sure I had all that many to begin with. Bc by the time the last day of the trip came around I was resorting to hand signals and overexaggerated sighs as my primary forms of communication. My brain hurts, y’all.
Potential brain damage aside, it was a pretty fantastic trip. I headed to Trier the day before our flight out to meet up with Max, who I met while traveling in Singapore this past year – I know, it’s insane how you can serendipitously meet someone in a foreign country and end up booking a trip with them to a different foreign country just a few months later. After a fabulously cooked dinner by his parents of grilled duck and salad with plum dressing (it was amazing), and my own personal tour of Trier – which, fun fact, is the oldest city in Germany - lead by Max and his friends, we were ready to take on our flight the next morning. Max drove us to the airport, which meant we had to park the car somewhere, but as most of you know, it’s not cheap to park your car at the airport for any length of time, let alone 10 days. So rather than utilize the airport parking option, Max did what any normal person would do and parked INCREDIBLY FAR AWAY from the airport in an area where signs with “tow warnings” were EVERYWHERE, and we hoped for the best.
I spent the plane ride over listening to my favorite Spanish music and almost visibly buzzing with excitement. I’d switched seats with Max bc it looked like I had lucked out and been given an exit seat (he’s got almost a foot on me so he could use the space) but instead he ended up in the row right in front of the exit row next to a very large couple with no sense of personal space. I thought it was pretty funny. Max didn’t seem to enjoy it so much… What can you do. Our plan was originally to grab our rental car and then head over to pick up one of Max’s old coworkers who’d planned to come with us from a neighboring airport, but she’d cancelled that morning on account of a pretty rough flu situation. So instead, we headed to my all-time favorite grocery store found only in Spain (Mercadona) to grab food for the next few days. Honestly, I would have been happy just to have gone to Mercadona and flown back to Germany. Shopping there brought back so many memories of living in Spain during my college exchange semester and I’m fairly certain I didn’t stop smiling the entire time we were in there. We grabbed enough food for a few meals (and tried to ignore how hungry we were while shopping bc we all know how dangerous that can be) and headed to our flat for dinner, a walk through town, and some seriously competitive card games which I won. Not that it matters… but I did.
Oh, before I forget to mention it, and before you all go wondering where the hell a Masters fellow got the money for a casual trip to Spain… our plane tickets cost $45 round trip and Max’s family owns the flat (which is a 10 minute walk from the beach and has massive floor to ceiling windows with an incredible view of the harbor bc of course it does), so we stayed for free. I know… I hate me too.
The next morning, we walked to the local bakery to pick up some bread for breakfast (the Germans pretty much exclusively eat fresh bread with cheese and meat for breakfast, no exceptions) and decided that the weather was too beautiful for it not to be a beach day. So what did we do? We biked to the beach. Why did we do that? I do not know, bc the town of Roses is particularly hilly and I am a particularly unskilled cyclist. And it’s not that I’d rather take a car! No, no. I would rather walk. 10/10 times, I would rather walk. Max essentially biked circles around me while I tried to pretend I wasn’t actively dying and having what could be considered by most medical professionals to be an asthma attack (even though I don’t actually have asthma). After my close run in with self-imposed death due to lack of fitness, the next few days were spent at the beach (to which we walked and did not bike), making fun of Max for his inability to properly cut avocados and his desire to make the perfect guacamole, incredibly serious card game battles which resulted in appropriately emotional wins and losses, a long walk to a castle above the sea that after several dozen steps I found out I could have DRIVEN TO (like come on I get that old school defense strategies call for castles built on top of hills but new school non-gym-membership-having me calls for less stairs and more escalators), making fun of Max even more bc I read an entire book in the time it took him to read like 60 pages, and a high stakes game of mini golf which I am not proud to say I lost by 7 points. I would like to point out, however, that maybe I wouldn’t have lost if Max hadn’t been watching so intently making sure I didn’t cheat (which he also did during card games, bc he is a true German stickler).
Our first five days flew by, and before we knew it we were on our way back to the airport to pick up Max’s college friend Marc and his girlfriend Lea (my new unofficial twin). As we picked them up in Girona, which is a notably beautiful town in northern Spain, we decided to spend the afternoon wandering the city while Max took a phone interview in the car and almost sweat to death in the heat bc he refused to open the car window for fear of it being too noisy for his interviewers to hear him. Miraculously he did not die of heatstroke, and we all made our way back to Roses for card games and pizza and (obviously) sangria, bc idk if you know this but by law you should drink at least one bottle of sangria per day when in Spain. Per person. Common knowledge. The next day was spent entirely at the beach alternating between sleeping, trying to drown each other, and paddle ball (we made it up to a volley of 90 and I am v v proud of that fact). Max cooked us dinner when we got back so that we could roll out and grab drinks, which is around the time that Lea learned that I can drink almost as much as most grown men and our tolerances were not quite on the same level. We “split” a jar of sangria and by that I mean I drank about ¾ of it bc who needs a liver anyway amirite?
The next day we headed to Barcelona bc the forecast in Roses called for rainstorms and we intended on avoiding them. Luckily all of us had already been to Barca at one point or another, so rather than hitting up the usual tourist spots, we hit up the Boqueria market for snacks and wandered the streets stopping to shop or take a moment in the shade whenever we felt so inclined. Now remember, we went to Barca bc we wanted to avoid the thunderstorms, yeah? So picture this: three Germans and an American sprinting through the streets of Barcelona wearing everything ranging from newly-bought Zara scarves wrapped around their upper bodies’ looking like nuns to an empty Zara bag atop their head looking like a crazy person while shouting expletives and trying not to slip on the cobblestone and attempting to make it from the department store we were stuck in to the pizzeria a few blocks away. Why the outfit modifications, you ask? Ah yes, we got caught in the middle of a massive, surprise storm with no rain jackets in a store that for some reason did not sell umbrellas. Wtf is that about? Mind you, none of our “rain gear” was effective as a repellant against the staggeringly powerful rainstorm beating down on us, but we sure as hell tried our best, and I have no doubt that we were quite a sight to see.
In the next few days we visited a delicious tapas bar and the Salvador Dali museum in Figueras, played countless rounds of a game nicknamed “Asshole”, ate way too many donuts (they are especially delicious in Spain, I swear), spent our afternoons on the beach attempting what might be considered more of a seizure than a “flip” off the jetty into the ocean, laughed as Marc spoke strictly German – with his strong Trier accent, eh – with Spanish employees who had absolutely no idea what he was saying, played another round of mini golf in which Max and I kicked Marc and Lea’s butts (despite Lea’s previous assurances that she was an amazing mini golfer), gave Max crap for his astronomical lack of patience, and cooked some fabulous meals after lugging all our groceries up the massive hill to our flat. There was no shortage of humor and no lack of stimulating conversation, in fact I think there were a few times where Lea and I had each other laughing so hard we couldn’t breathe.
All in all, it was a wonderful trip. Full of ups and downs and beer and sangria and a constant desire to enjoy every moment of being back in one of my favorite places in the whole wide world. So great, in fact, that I’m fairly certain I asked about 8 times in our last 24h if we could just not leave… but I’m back in Germany, so obviously nobody listened to me.
Today has been a bit of a blur bc I picked up a very aggressive cold and right now just about everything hurts, but I don’t have time to be sick bc I leave to visit two of my best friends (Becka and Saskia) in England on Tuesday and I’m not trying to bring this plague-like sickness across the pond. So for now, I think it’s about time I rolled over and passed out bc everything hurts and I’m dying. This, my dear readers, is where I leave you for today.
Until next time folx, XOXOX
Oh! Before I forget, here are today's fun facts:
Fun fact: Spanish seagulls sound like dying dinosaurs as they fly through the sky and it is truly horrifying.
Funner fact: It is incredibly stressful to be the designated navigator when Spain has more roundabouts than it does people and you’re trying to give directions in your third language.
Funnest fact: Max’s car was still there, if you were wondering. Not even a ticket, the lucky bastard.
Potentially less fun fact but still important to remember: Over the course of the trip, Max refused to tell me what direction we needed to walk in through any given part of town with his words, and instead resorted exclusively to not so subtly shoving me in the general direction we should be going. Unfortunately, seeing as he's a liiiiittle bit larger than me, my shoving him back was less effective than I would have liked and did not make him consider changing his methods.
PS. As usual, today's title, "Gönnungsmodus", is a new German word I learned this past week. It is essentially the closest German slang term to "Treat yourself". I figured this word was pretty relevant to my last 10 days considering we were all in a perpetual state of treating ourselves (and it could be argued that I live my entire life that way).
About the Author
Mouth like a sailor, great lacker of empathy, paper cut survivor, avid arguer, harsh critic of people who put clothes on their pets, easily distracte
USA, Mexico, Iceland, Austria, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Morocco, Malta, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Ireland, Denmark, Czech Republic, Hungary, England, Poland, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Scotland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Croatia, Greece
The Baltic countries,
if Covid allows for it (Latvia, Estonia, maybe a stop in Finland)
(in August in the US)