February 25, 2024

Enjoying Breaking Expectations While Living Abroad

Author Natalie Bourque. Courtesy of Natalie Bourque.

By Natalie Bourque ’19

Whenever people ask me how I am enjoying my time abroad in Spain, I tell them that everything follows the same basic pattern:

I make plans, I establish expectations, I become very confused, I panic for a brief moment, and then am pleasantly surprised, if not astounded, at the result of the situation.

Then, when they inevitably respond by looking at me with a bit of concern and shock, I tell them the following anecdote:

Every day for about a week I would pass a restaurant in Seville and turn to my friend to say, “We should eat there sometime.” Finally, one night our class was cancelled and that ‘sometime’ came.

We walked in, chose our table, and started looking through the menu. All of a sudden, this over-eager waiter came over and rapid-fire gave us his recommendation of what we should get. I didn’t know the kind of dish that he said, but he gestured to the center of the table in a broad sweeping motion that made it look like a giant plate of food, and he said it’s good for two people to share. I was still very much focused on trying to figure out what food he had said, but instead of asking clarifying questions I just smiled and nodded.

When he left, my friend looked at me with eyes of panic and asked what we just ordered; I just threw up my hands in defeat. We tried looking through the menu to see if we could recognize the word he said, and I looked at her and said, “man, I really hope it’s anything but this giant meat platter.”

No sooner did the words leave my mouth, he brought us the exact giant meat platter I had pointed out. Refusing to swallow our pride and send it back, we divvied up the bread it came with and swallowed an entire plate of meat instead.

And guess what. It was good!

When the platter first arrived, it looked like it was just your everyday pepperoni spread for snack after school. But oh, everyday pepperoni it was not. It was Iberian ham. And it was delicious. Now every time I go out for tapas I order it, because outside of Spain this $3 ham is a fortune, and every time I eat it I am reminded of this truly priceless experience.

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