Voices from Abroad
A Spanish Dream Come True
— April 3, 2012 by Aminah West
MBA student Aminah West blogs about her semester exchange at the Instituto de Empresa (IE) in Madrid, Spain.
“Born to Eat”Amidst this term’s interesting course load, which ranges from global renewable energy business strategies, to emerging applications of digital marketing and social media, I finally got around to finishing Born to Run. This non-fictional tale, based on the Tarahumara Indians of northern Mexico, provides a case study for author Christopher McDougal’s compelling premise that we as humans are born to run. As I sat, gripped by the unfolding action and suspense of the last chapters, I was overcome by a feeling of déjà vu. McDougal was telling the story of an experience I’d unconsciously lived, yet not quite acknowledged until seeing it in words. He writes: “The reason we race isn't so much to beat each other,...but to be with each other.” This insight moved me deeply.
What, you may ask, does that have to do with my Spanish experience? Well on reading McDougall’s humbling anthropological (if idealistic) conjecture, my mind was drawn instantly to the Spanish culinary culture. It struck me that Spaniards eat, not simply for nourishment, but to be together. This could not be more evident than in my daily walk home from afternoon and evening classes, where restaurants and “cervecerias”, having been gated closed and barren of life off peak, buzz with life and activity. The locals, young and old, crowd about these well lit tapas bars twice per day, sharing modest portions of food and generous servings of beer or wine, engaging earnestly and intimately with one another. Walking by, I myself feel buoyed by the genuine merriment and togetherness, which often spills out into the sidewalk, making palpable the humanity within. During my time living and working in southern Africa, I’d come to know and experience a very similar feeling of the shared human experience – a phenomenon, which southern African’s term “ubuntu” – or “I am because we are.”
Some of my own most treasured moments during my time here in Spain have been spent breaking bread and barriers as I build common ground and friendship with the people that I am meeting along the way. My senses will be a long time forgetting the flavors of patatas bravas, croquetas, tortas, and the myriad assortment of other local delights, served along heaping servings of treasured people and experiences. Surely, Spaniards, and indeed all of us, were born to eat together!