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Archive for the ‘Spain’ Category

Done and Done

I am officially back in the land of the free and the home of the peanut butter! I made it back to the States after a 5:30 A.M. wake-up call, a 6:30 A.M. bus ride to Madrid, a hefty fee for an overweight bag (I blame the mazapan hostmom sent me home with…oh and maybe my shoe shopping habit), the worst security experience ever, a 9 hour flight, a 2 hour layover that turned into a 3.5 hour layover (this included my use of a payphone to contact the parents. It took me 15 minutes to figure out how to use it), another 2.5 hour flight, and a passage through the United tunnel of lights. This all led to the running embrace between me and my parents, both of whom were present after I requested they both be there. (Wouldn’t be bizarre if my parents weren’t divorced….gotta love a good joint custody guilt trip!)

I went straight to my grandparents house from there to see my Papa Jack who has been basically laying on his death bed since October. The man is a rockstar, continuing to rock the compression socks and requesting a glass of Manischewitz at every meal. I was so incredibly grateful to get to see him and celebrate the final night of Chanukah with the entire family. It was a wonderful homecoming.

My last few nights in Toledo were filled with hugs and final European moments. The last Spanish shower, meal, language barrier, tourist-y moment; all the good stuff. With a teary goodbye to my host mom and dad as they shoved me onto the bus bearing the prepared breakfast picnic (last moment of being force-fed) I was done with my abroad experience.

Me and Cristina

Three and a half months isn’t a very long time, but with all I managed to jam pack into those days of school and weekends of travel, I certainly made the most of it all. I have loved blogging and sharing my Spanish world with the people crazy enough to keep up with this little thang I’ve got going. I have no real reason to stop other than the fact that my American life is less that thrilling.

My next adventure is the job hunt- an equally terrifying quest upon which I am embarking. This phase of life will leave me with some culture shock I’m sure as the new environment I have to assimilate to is the real world!

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Just call me Sporty Spice

Being the competitive spirit I am, I couldn’t go the entire semester without engaging in some kind of sport. Thus, every Monday night at 10 P.M. I played futbol . As one of the few girls to rock it out, I did my best to bring something to the table. Unfortunately the only real contribution was an excessive amount of tripping over my own feet and a substantial amount of comic relief. While every week we played pick up games against each other, the final game of our little season was quite the event.

Chicas

Students again faculty went head to head. It was far and away the most intense of all the games played. There must be something in the water here because no matter how old, young, tall, short, strong, anything- Spaniards are just really good at soccer! Paco, one of the front desk receptionists was actually in the equivalent of the Spanish minor leagues! It was such a fun experience. I’d love to say that I improved over time but that would be a lie. I did get better at getting out of the way when I knew my teammates were trying to make a complex play. Naturally I was not involved but I always provided a high five after a GOOOOOOOL! (Not a type-o. They spell gol without the a here).

Futbol

I would consider my futbol experience a success. I managed to hold my own, not break any bones and I may not have scored any goals but I didn’t accidentally knock the ball into the other team’s net either. Success!

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Uniquely Spanish Things

This list is lengthy and I’m sure there are more that I’m forgetting. I’ll likely realize more when I get home in 6 days (6 DAYS) and make perpetual comparisons. But until that moment…

Kiwi yogurt and pear yogurt. It sounds weird but is surprisingly delicious.

Grapes with seeds. It’s a shock if you don’t know it’s coming but I kinda like the crunch now.

Heated tables- it’s a thing. Lift the tablecloth to find a heater underneath the table, it’s like a dream until you have to get up.

Heated Table

 

Digestive cookies. Keeps you regular and you get to eat a cookie! Win-win!

Have to pay for bags at the grocery store, you won’t forget the reusable ones at home that’s for sure.

Milk that doesn’t need to be refrigerated- still don’t wanna know what’s in there to make it possible. Lights on sensors, it’s really fun when you’re in a public restroom and all of a sudden you can’t see a thing.

Ketchup used as tomato sauce….it’s not the same thing. Trust me.

McDonald’s is a classy establishment. You need more than a dollar to get anything.

75 cent boxed wine exists.

Dogs do not have to be on leashes and it is not a requirement to pick up their poop

. Word to the wise- look down while you walk.

Public make out sessions will make your eyes hurt. (Another reason to look down while you walk).

Spaniards love to go out to clubs but they don’t really dance. That’s how they can point out Americans…we’re the only ones dancing.

Botellon- drinking outside isn’t legal within the city walls. So everyone goes to the park just outside, sits on benches and sips.

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Ham- it’s everywhere. Hanging from the ceiling. On a stand being sliced in a market. EVERYWHERE.

Men working out in spandex. I have titled it mandex.

Spaniards don’t get dressed unless they have somewhere to be. And then they get all dolled up!

Communal salad bowls. No need to serve yourself, just grab your fork and dig in!

The TV is always on at dinner. This surprised me because I always thought of Spanish culture as familial. They love their TV.

Some good things, some bad but overall different. I wonder what Spaniards would point out in the States as different?

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In exactly one week from this moment, I will be lighting the final candle on the Menorah in America among family members. I have found something of an extended metaphor on this first night of the festival of lights. Not unlike the Maccabees thinking their oil would last a day, I too exceeded my own expectations of this whole Spanish immersion thing. Not only did I last a day, I lasted three and a half months.

To adequately celebrate Chanukah here in Toledo, I made my final trip to Santa Maria la Blanca- the church that is united with Israel. Where else in the world could you find monks and nuns doing the hora around a church in celebration? Not only did I capture this moment to remember the experience, I felt this required proof.

Chanukah

Why yes! That is a nun on the left. After the rousing round among the Spanish speaking participants, the leading monk blew the shofar (still not sure why…) and then my fellow American Jew friend, Anna, and I began to sing Sivivon. We caught two other kids’ attention only to find out they were students studying in Valencia, visiting Toledo for the weekend. Vera is from New Jersey and Dean is Israeli but lives in Canada now. We bonded over our general confusion of what we all just witnessed. It just goes to show you wherever you go, there’s always someone Jewish!

The holidays are in full force here in Spain and there is no absence of Christmas lights or decorations. Typical Christmas sweets are also quite present. If I thought my host mom was a food pusher before, tis the season to buy fat pants, fa la la la la la la la la.

Christmas Lights

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Footloose and France-y Free

Bon Jour! Yes that’s right, I am now officially tri-lingual. Maybe not quite but I now know how to say toilet in French. Spoiler alert- it’s toilette. Paris was on the absolutely do not miss list so I made a point of it to make it happen. Papa Jack said of all the places he was when he was hanging out over here, he loved Paris the most. I totally understand why.

While I was expecting everything to be quaint, back-alley, eat cheese and wine all day, listen to accordion players on each corner, stuff your face with crepes kind of experience…Paris is a huge city! So once I got that delusion out of my thick little head, I took the city of lights by storm. With a group of seven girls, we split up the days with sights and aimless wandering to ensure full coverage.

I made it to Le Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, the Latin Quarter, Champs-Élysées, Torre Eiffel, Basilica of the Sacré Cœur, an awesome museum of a ton of Salvador Dali’s work, Moulin Rouge, Monmatre, and all the little twists and turns in between. Let me break it down for you. Le Louvre is giant and the Mona Lisa is the size of a postage stamp. Musee d’Orsay had a fashion exhibit and there were way fewer people so I could soak in all the impressionism at my own pace without feeling claustrophobic  Being in Europe has made me really like art- I feel like a fancy cultural lady. The Arc de Triomphe has a better view than the Torre Eiffel because you actually get to see the Torre Eiffel from the top. The stairs were nauseatingly spiral-like but it was worth the near-vomit. Champ-Elysees is not nearly as magnificent as the Magnificent Mile. Sorry Paris, Chicago will always have a special place in my heart. Torre Eiffel is surreal to see up close and it’s even more fun when the ticket lady doesn’t make you pay to ride up to the top. Basilica of the Sacré Cœur was way cooler than Notre Dame- underrated for sure. Sure Notre Dame may have had a hunchback but the Basilica has a mosaic of a Jewish star! Don’t see that one too often. Salvador Dali’s exhibit was prompted by a friend who has something of a crush on Senor Dali but I am so happy I went. Some of the most bizarre work I’ve seen but all had a story or a meaning behind it. Moulin Rouge was in a fun area- when I say fun I mean sex shops out the wazoo but how could we not make it there? Plus there was a Starbucks across the street.

Starbucks

 

What can I say? You can take the girl out of America but you can’t take America out of the girl…

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Ay Caramba- la Alhambra

After a teary goodbye to my final visitor, to Granada I went! The more I travel around Spain, the more I realize that every place has something completely different to offer. In this case- foliage and water!

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Granada is known for it’s fantastic fortress Alhambra which was taken over by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella after they kicked out anyone that wasn’t just like them. The entire sight is up overlooking the rest of Granada and couldn’t be more scenic. I got to tour the gardens, the castle and all its towers, the palace and everything else they managed to shove in this joint. Unbelievable how huge it is and how well maintained they keep it considering it is all kinds of old.

Alhambra

 

After touring what is considered to be the 13th wonder of the world- still workin on the other ones- we managed to get the full Granada experience. We went to a church where you ring a bell, wait for a nun to come to the window, ask for candy, she tells you how much and then there is an exchange. It’s more or less a Catholic drug deal of sorts but the outcome is better what with the candy and all. Kind of a funny little nugget of culture. Not sure why it is the way it is but a notable story nonetheless.

Granada was beautiful in every way including the streets! The designs in the cobblestone make me realize just how practical things are in the US. Why would anyone waste time making something pretty if it just gets stepped on? I thought the same thing- but it really does add to the beauty.

Jewish Cobblestones

After an authentic Andalusian dinner, we enjoyed a Flamenco show with some very passionate singers and dancers. It’s like tap dancing on crack. This would be the equivalent of an opera in Spain because of the stories and the passion that comes through. I have yet to figure out what any of these stories are but they exist. As my second to last trip, I can honestly say that I am not going to miss hostel life but the ability to soak up culture like it’s my job is something I won’t get to experience like I have here. But let’s not get sentimental just yet.

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t-Oigo

As part of my time here, I have volunteered working with Sara, a girl who has a hearing aide in one ear and a cochlear implant in the other. Sara is 13 and rocks at dancing. We dance it out to Beyonce all the time and she even taught me some Flamenco. She’s lucky we’re not the same shoe size, I would have stolen those tacones (high heels) in a hot minute if that were the case. Her family owns an olive oil factory- doesn’t get any more Spanish than that- and her dad gave me a tour. Pretty stinkin cool how much they make at once. I felt like I was on an episode of unwrapped. The organization t-Oigo is based out of Madrid and is meant to help kids with hearing problems learn English. I have helped Sara with some homework for her English class but she’s got it all down pretty well. I like to speak with her in Spanish because Lord knows I need the practice.

Sara y Yo

This past week, I thought I’d bring a little Christmas cheer into the picture. I wanted to bake Christmas cookies but felt bad making her mom go out an buy all the ingredients so I opted for another recipe that is a little easier but just as decadent. Oreo truffles! Turns out milk’s favorite cookie is Spain’s favorite too. Other fun facts- Philadelphia cream cheese is totally a thing here. They don’t call it cream cheese, they call it Philadelphia. Who knew? 3 ingredients and no baking required. Just call me G.I. Joe…..great American hero.

They turned out great. How could they not? Chocolate, cookies and cheese in cream form- a recipe for heaven if you ask me. As we indulged in the bites of decadence, I showed Sara Pinterest and she was fascinated to say the least, I mean who wouldn’t be. My timing couldn’t have been better, she was in the middle of exams. Pinterest = a procrastinator’s dream! We kept landing on the art that is nail polish designs and thus, the next step was nail painting. We attempted some of the trickier techniques. Needless to say our photos will not make anyone’s pin boards but it was a fun afternoon!

I loved my experience and have wonderful memories of yet another Spanish family that welcomed me into their home. After an exchange of emails, twitter handles, facebook friending and a big hug, I said goodbye with olive oil and mazapan in hand. Heaven forbid I leave empty handed from any Spanish household. They certainly know how to make a girl feel loved! Voy a echar de menos mi vida española

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