Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Oh, the Places We Go! Shopgirl Hannah in Spain: Part 1

Last Summer our Janis Joplin lovin,' Soul dancing Shopgirl Hannah left Iowa City for a grand adventure in Spain (Click here for her Shopgirl Profile).  See below for what this gal has been up to!  


 It’s been 8 months since this Shopgirl’s set foot in her beloved Revival Clothing Store and since then so much has happened! I won’t bore you with too many details but I’d love to give you a run down on what I’ve been up to, what I’ve learned and what I miss about being a Shopgirl.

Santander, Spanish Style, and Shopgirl Challenges

In September I moved to Santander, which is a small city on the northern coast of Spain (about 180,000 inhabitants). The city jets out into the Atlantic (Cantabrian Sea) and looking out towards the southeast across the bay you see mountains and a harbor packed with small fishing boats. To the Northeast, in my neighborhood, you can bask in the glory of the morning sun rising over the Magdalena palace.

Other random details…
I practically live in a beach house. I’m always sweeping up sand off the hardwood floors (I hope this is a complaint I have for the rest of my life). I work at an elementary school outside of town with hundreds of little kids, some of whom love to scream my name across the playground each morning when I show up to work (I look forward to this every time I get off the train). I’m still playing Frisbee, just not on solid ground (at the beach in the photos above). It rains here. A LOT. There’s snow, but only on the mountains. When it’s sunny I hang out at the beach and think about how I never want to live a 2 days’ drive from the ocean ever again (sorry Iowa). Unfortunately, Spain still has a distinct ‘machismo’ vibe to it and if you walk in to a tiny tapas bar you’re likely to get stared down- partly because you’re young, partly because you’re foreign, and partly because you’re a woman. When old Spanish men aren’t shootin’ the shit at the neighborhood bar they love to congregate on the beach in speedos and heckle people.

I look like a foreigner but my Spanish is getting really good. EVERYONE lives in an apartment and people still use cigarette machines. All of the stores close from 2-5 for lunch and a siesta then reopen. Most people do their shopping in the evening and children are usually the best dressed people on the streets (I’m talking cable knit stockings, cardigans, button downs and wing tipped shoes all under the age of 7). Old women have purple hair and long fur coats. Always.

My Favorites…

The northern cliffs, plazas, chorizo, wine, corner shops, the ocean, people on the streets, public transportation, and overall relaxed demeanor of Spaniards.  
This is my favorite part of the city.

My Not-So-Favorites…

My #1 complaint: shopping. Unfortunately for this Shopgirl, second hand shops are practically nonexistent in Santander. In the larger cities you can find more markets and vintage or second hand shops, but thrift shopping overall is not a big part of the culture here like it is in the US. The closest things they have in Santander are gypsy piles by the dumpsters; if you get there soon enough you might be able to find some salvageable items. My friend Bre was made for this and has managed to find a good amount of decent sweaters, among other things. There’s also an open air market once or twice a week where you can find some good loot. The other day I finally found the one and only second hand clothing store in Santander, and, although it was absolutely nowhere near Revival, I was able to find a couple items. I told my roommate about the shop and she went to go check it out and fell in love with the dress in the window, but something I still can’t figure out is the fact that they told her she couldn’t buy it because they didn’t have anything that was as nice to put in its place… waaait a minute- isn’t that the point of putting things in windows? You know… to sell them?

Moving on to larger department stores… The truth is, I haven’t really been able to step foot in them since working at Revival because I know I can usually find better and more unique items elsewhere. Plus the overall shopping experience in those large stores that smell like they’ve been doused in perfume and have all of your least favorite songs playing is just not as enjoyable. Santander is a fairly homogenous place in terms of style of dress which can make it difficult to even find items that suit your personality. Everyone is usually wearing the latest thing from Zara, Stradivarius, Pull & Bear or some other chain. Unfortunately, the clothes there are usually overpriced, cheaply made and have studs on them.

Also, on average, people here are generally smaller and my shoe size (9.5) is rarely in stock.

I have to admit, I already knew I was spoiled working at Revival but now it’s even more obvious to me. I long for the days when I could sell my own clothes and buy other peoples’ and not feel like I was a horrible consumer of brand spankin’ new goods all the time, the days when anything vintage, hilarious, or just plain ‘out there’ was the prized possession of my closet, and the hours Shopgirl Teah and I would spend helping each other clean out our closets (usually in the middle of the night) because we knew one another’s style so well and only trusted each other’s opinion.

I miss walking into the store for work and being greeted by the other Shopgirls who are already hard at work and enjoying whatever awesome song is playing over the speakers (I could usually tell who chose it the instant I walked in), then popping back to say hello to Shopowner Sheila and check out the new merch. I even miss ringing people up at the counter, and I only recently stopped having dreams about working at the store, most of which involved me writing out a receipt or ringing someone up. Not kidding. It must be the lingering memory of selling beautiful vintage, new and second hand items to people who really appreciate them, and seeing how much they adore those good finds.

Although those days are over, I still carry the Shopgirl spirit with me wherever I go.

(Oh Shopgirl Hannah, those days are never over.  Once a Shopgirl, Always a Shopgirl.  Stay tuned for Shopgirl Hannah in Spain: Part 2: The Places She Goes!)  

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