Que mona

Word of the week:
I learned this one at the dinner table with my host family. One of my host sisters had gotten dressed up for her friend’s bachelorette party, and came down to say bye to the rest of us. Her sister said, “guapa” (pretty) and “que mona”, which I definitely had never heard before. It can mean a lot of things, from cool, to cute, to pretty. You can use it in different situations- to describe a cute kid or puppy, or if you like someone’s outfit. 

This week, we went on our first weekend trip to Valencia with the whole study abroad team, so that was cool. The first thing we learned was that rest stops in Spain are legendary. There was a full-service restaurant and butcher, with full legs of jamón hanging right next to the bathrooms. I had my first Cola-Cao (less-sugary hot chocolate) and a huge plate of huevos fritos con patatas that I scarfed down before getting back on the bus. We dropped our backpacks at the hostel, and headed to the beach. 

The beach was fine (Jersey sets a high standard), but the old city was incredible. Luckily, one of our friends grew up in Valencia, so she could show us around the old castle ruins and take us to some iconic Valencian eats, like paella and horchata, which in Valencia is made from tiger nuts, or chufa, instead of rice. Legend has it that when Valencia was conquered about a thousand years ago, the new king was given a glass to try. He liked it so much that he declared its name to be orxata (horchata in New English) and ensured its continued production until his passing. There are no formal records of this, but it’s fun to think about a medieval king and I having a common fondness for horchata.

Back to work: my supervisor had let me know that on Monday, CEIGRAM would be hosting a large planning meeting, and that I should attend. I didn’t receive any more information than that; she indicated I would learn along the way. Walking into the meeting, one of my coworkers indicated that I should sit to the side and watch. In the first few minutes, I learned that the meeting involved two main parties: policymakers and regional planners from the Valencia region of Spain, where one of our case studies on water basin dynamics is currently being carried out. Given that my coworkers are mostly foreign Spanish speakers, listening to rapid academic conversations between native Spanish speakers wasn’t something I was accustomed to, so for the first part of the meeting, I was completely lost. After half an hour of greeting one another and catching up, they began the primary task of the meeting: creating a concept map. Having a visual aid really helped me to understand more of what was being discussed. I also asked my coworker who was mostly observing as well, to help explain some of the situational details. 

Ultimately, I was able to understand the different sectors being represented by the planners: water, agriculture, energy, and environment, and how the policy-makers organized input from each sector in a color-coded concept map. The conversational, free-flowing style of the meeting made it more difficult to understand the structure of the discussion at first. However, I was able to understand that the policymakers would pose a question relevant to improving the usage of natural resources, and a combination of different sectors would respond, simultaneously considering how a solution in their sector might affect the outcome in another sector. 

For instance, the policymakers posed the question: “How has the recent increase in the commercial tax on water been affecting your sectors? Should we raise or lower the price?” Agriculture weighed in that since the raise was putting a strain on farmers, they felt the need to either lower the tax on water, or assist farmers with utilizing technologies that would allow them to use water more efficiently, thus lowering their overall water usage. The water sector said that this price raise had seen lower levels of water usage, leading to improved conservation efforts, but they mentioned that large industries still seemed to be using similar amounts of water, and the decreased usage was mostly due to smaller businesses and farmers. This is obviously not ideal, so the policymakers noted this inequitable outcome. 

Aside from this anecdote, I haven’t had many situations in which I feel unprepared, or in which the directions are unclear. My coworkers and supervisor are very open to my input, and work to create tasks at my level of ability. If I wasn’t accustomed to advocating for myself, or initiating conversations, this internship, and Spain in general, would likely be out of my comfort zone, and things would feel unclear. Operating on low-context leaves a lot more room for interpretation and imagination. It means I can do things the way I want to. And as an older sister, that´s kind of my thing.

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