“I Have a Problem with the Blood of a Woman…”

women's restroom
Barcelona, Spain. 1995

Stationing myself next to Ba-Ba-Reeba’s restroom, I stopped every woman who entered and asked, “Perdon, tiene usted un tampon? TamPONE? Tampax? Playtex? Kotex?”

Just moments earlier while enjoying a beer and tapas at the Barcelona bar with some Americans I had met on a train from Madrid, I discovered the added company of my period.  Yikes — my supplies were a few miles away back at a pension off Las Ramblas. I asked my new friend Allie if she had a tampon. Nope.

Back in the bathroom, there was no dispenser in sight, and no one who came in seemed to have any spare tampons or pads. Didn’t anyone carry backups?  It was time to act since I didn’t want my only pair of jeans to be ruined. Leaving Ba-Ba-Reeba, I searched the streets near Plaça de Catalunya. Surely, Wal-Mart had invaded Catalunya.

It was siesta time, and the nearby shops and stores were closed while shopkeepers observed the afternoon break. It seemed inevitable. I would have to approach the intimidating women of Iberia on the streets.

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The Travel Ahh….Seeing Soccer in a Fútbol Nation

© Stephanie Glaser

Seeing a soccer game in Spain in 1995 was definitely the most cultural event I think I’ve experienced. And this was no ordinary game — it was Real Madrid vs. Barcelona (at Nou Camp Stadium in Barcelona.) We’re talking a MASSIVE game.

I’m the one who definitely scored. Maria, a Spanish friend of mine from college, hooked me up with a ticket to this game. It just so happens her father was the head cardiac surgeon at one of the main hospitals in Barcelona. He had just recently performed surgery on a big time soccer official. I guess a soccer ticket for an American fan was a small favor.

My special ticket

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Avoid the Oops — Not Trying the Language

Katerina, my new Greek friend who taught me the proper Greek alphabet
© Stephanie Glaser

During a layover from Athens to Amsterdam, I took advantage of a free minibus tour of Budapest, arranged by the airline company on which I flew. Because the tour was conducted completely in Greek, I didn’t learn much about Budapest, but I befriended the seven other travelers on the van who were all from Greece.

The only Greek word that I knew was “Efharisto,” (thank you) so whenever I could use it, I did.

Katerina, a seven-year-old girl who was part of the minivan crew, giggled and said something to Gabriella, one of the two English speakers in the group. Gabriella told me that Katerina found it funny that the only thing I could say in Greek was “thank you.”

Through Gabriella, I told Katerina I actually knew the Greek alphabet. I spared relaying the details of how I had learned her language’s alphabet, along with such skills as playing quarters and other drinking games, while in a sorority at college. Then in a moment of silliness, I sang her the version I had learned courtesy of Delta Gamma.

For a minute, as everyone sat in silence, I thought I had offended them. Then all the Greeks broke out into uproarious laughter. Clearly they got a big kick out of the Alpha Beta Gamma ditty, and they had a hard time composing themselves again.

Although slightly embarrassed, I never felt like they thought I was an idiot. Entertaining, yes, but stupid, no. In fact, Katerina and her grandfather offered to give me a proper lesson in the alphabet. They patiently waited for me to repeat each letter after them.

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In Spain: Asking for Directions in Dutchlish

Sevilla and its winding streets.
© Stephanie Glaser

Asking for directions in a large city in a foreign country is stressful. Usually, you are lost in the first place, and if the country’s citizens, understandably, don’t speak English, much effort is involved in the inquiry. Additionally, the streets of many older cities in the world were not developed with the grid system in mind.

This is the case, certainly, in Sevilla, Spain. The streets wind around and often, it seems, their names change randomly.

My mom, Judy, and I visited Sevilla during Semana Santa, Holy Week — the biggest religious celebration of the year. It was challenging to navigate since the city was so crowded. Also, impressive religious processions with large wooden floats, containing religious relics, would flood many of the streets. Consequently, you’d have to go down another street, which may have another procession coming through.

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