Miles McMullan Visits Spain During Academy Language Immersion Program
Aug. 13, 2008
As is the case with many Air Force cadets, Miles McMullan's summer was marked with a unique adventure. The senior water polo player participated in the Academy's Language Immersion Program for a second-straight year. After spending several weeks in Mexico last summer, this year McMullan visited Nerja, Spain, from May 24-June 21. Here, McMullan, the Cadet in Charge on the trip, reflects on his journey and the lessons learned from the experience:
A MEMORABLE EVENT
COOKING & EATING
During my stay in Nerja, I was privileged to sample the great cuisine of Southern Spain. From my delicious lunches served by my Spanish mom to the wonderful seaside restaurants, Nerja was an eater's paradise. The meal structure in Spain was very different than in America. First of all, they have very small breakfasts, usually consisting of just coffee and toast. This was a vast departure from the traditional eggs and bacon breakfast of the United States. Next, there lunch was the main meal of the day. The meal was usually served in three courses: first salad or soup, then the main course, and lastly the dessert. This meal was always very good, and was a great opportunity to converse with my Spanish family and improve my speaking ability. Another difference between America and Spain was the time that dinner was eaten. It is not uncommon for Spaniards to start eating around 10 o'clock at night. It took awhile for our group to become accustomed to this difference, but the awesome food helped to ease our transition.
The food of Southern Spain has great influence from the nearby sea. One of most traditional (and most delicious) of these seafood dishes is paella. Paella is a mixture of rice, vegetables, and meats. The variety of meat is dependent on the particular region of Spain, ranging from chicken and beef in the inland region, and seafood in the coastal regions. At our school in Spain, our group had the opportunity to make a large paella dish and enjoy our creation. The event turned out to be very fun and rewarding when we ate our delicious meal. Another Spanish custom that I grew partial to was known as "tapas". Tapas are small dishes, like appetizers, served alongside with wine during the evenings. It was great to sample the many different varieties of Spanish cuisine in one sitting.
INTERVIEW WITH MY SPANISH MOTHER
I also asked my Spanish Mom about her favorite aspects of Nerja. She said unequivocally it was the nearby beach and awesome weather year round. She also told me of the annual festival in honor of the city's patron saint, San Juan, which I missed by 2 days! She said during this festival everyone camps out on the beaches for a few days and parties day and night. Another interesting conversation we had was sparked when I wore a Barcelona soccer jersey to the lunch table one day. Apparently this was a huge `no-no' in their family, as they were Real Madrid fans. It was all in good fun though, and I learned a lot about the fanaticism that follows soccer in Europe.
The last topic I discussed with my Spanish Mom concerned a very serious matter: the oil strike that Spain was going through at the time of our visit. Fearful of the rising oil prices and their growing dependence on Middle Eastern oil, Spain went on an oil strike in an effort to hopefully gain back some power in the oil crisis. However, the result proved traumatic for the whole country, as their oil reserves were not enough to sustain their current oil consumption. Within days the problems of the strike were clearly visible in all the supermarkets. Without oil, companies could not ship their merchandise across the country, so goods could not get to the stores. My Spanish Mom expressed her concern as the strike went on for many days, instead of only a few like everyone had anticipated. All in all, these discussions were invaluable for their insight they gave me into the Spanish way of life.
LEARNING IMPACT FROM SPANISH IMMERSION
As I thought of this pride stemming from Spain's many historic sites, I wondered what my country had to compare to it. At first I thought that America was sadly devoid of any truly long-lasting heritage, which spans many centuries and showcases our culture's foundation. But then I realized that we do have a culture, and a very strong one at that. We too have our great cathedrals and palaces that give testament to our country's success. These memorials, however, take the place as giant skyscrapers and business buildings. They showcase the American dream, and represent the enterprise of self-drive in our quest to continually strive for more. And even though these structures are so new compared to the marvels of Spain, they are still important and influential. America in many ways was one of the first cultures to really take hold of this enterprising nature, and it is apparent in our country's success. Through studying Spain's culture and history, I learned much about world culture and even thought about my own. Sometimes the most meaningful discoveries are unexpectedly found. Such was the case here, and I now see the supreme importance of expanding one's breadth of world understanding, for it may even help to better understand one's own culture.