Is this real life?

“Is this real life?” (no, I was not just at the dentist. If you have no clue what I’m referring to, please watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=txqiwrbYGrs)

This is a question I sometimes ask myself. It might sound strange, but there are moments when I’m having a conversation in Spanish and I get the sensation that the person actually knows English and is just pulling my leg. Clearly this is a ridiculous thought, but I feel it’s a testament to the idea that life is the same everywhere. Sometimes it feels just like the United States…friends hang out together, families argue, children laugh and play, teenagers hate school, and more.

Then there are the moments when I ask myself ‘is this real life?’ simply because it’s hard for me to believe that I’m currently living on a different continent, communicating daily in two languages (and partially three if you count my Gallego comprehension). For example, a few weeks back, I went to Santiago on a Friday night with some teachers to see one of the music teachers perform at her album release concert. She plays the Celtic harp and her band’s music was spell binding, especially as all of the Spanish/Gallego blended together, helping me to focus not on the words themselves, but simply the sounds. I sat in my seat, sipping on red wine, and asked myself…”is this real life?”

In other news, I know it’s been awhile since I’ve posted. I keep meaning to as things occur, but then I don’t write the actual post and the time continues to pass and now here we are! We’ve been having a lot of internet problems, but thank god I finally got my laptop figured out at the school and can connect to wifi from one of the teacher lounges. (I also learned more than I ever cared to know about static ip’s, dns servers, and routers in the process.)  For my classes at school, I have taken on more responsibility and am even putting together a blog project for my 4 ESO Bio/Geo students. In addition, I’ve picked up more private lessons, including a middle-aged woman starting at the very beginning of English. I can already tell she is going to challenge me as teaching adults is quite different from children!

I’ve had several fun evenings/nights with some other auxiliars/English speakers in the area, including a hiking exploration into the mountains one day where we also made some doggie friends. 🙂 We are figuring out plans for this weekend/early next week as it’s Carnaval! This celebration is essentially like Halloween for us, so I’m now stressing out about a costume. I hate the gaudiness of a store-bought costume, so naturally I’m going to make it more difficult on myself and try to make an Indian costume, I think. I’ve already found the fabric store, which was essentially a hole in the wall and rolls of fabric are LITERALLY piled to the ceiling in all areas of this tiny hole. It should be interesting trying to hand sew suede, but I think I’m going to attempt it because then I can just paint my face, wear leggings, braids, and a feather headband and I’m set! If only I had my giant costume box from home that I collected throughout my IUDM/college theme party years…pretty sure I could outfit this entire village with my collection. No joke.  Anyways, Carnaval should be fun….we’re planning on heading to this small town in Ourense that supposedly has the best celebration in Galicia. One thing I keep getting told, though, is that there are flour fights (awesome), but it’s become common to put “hormigas que se pican” in the flour….meaning biting ants (not awesome). So I was recommended to cover all the skin I possibly can while we’re in the streets. :/ Still should be fun.

There also was an…..interesting….day that occurred about a week ago. Not only was I running on 2 hours of sleep and had several things go wrong at school, but soon after arriving to my private lessons in Ribeira with three brothers, I receive a text message from my roommate letting me know there was a small fire in the living room of our flat. To be honest, I panicked a bit, not knowing exactly what “small” meant. However, as there was nothing that I could do about it, I went about my day and when walking home from the gym that night, a car literally backed into me and hit me. No, I wasn’t hurt seriously, but it was just one more thing on an insane day. I literally smacked the car’s trunk as hard as I could and said, “Are you kidding me?!” haha. When I arrived home, I finally got to see the damage….a chair was destroyed, a pillow, part of the sofa/covering, the rug, and some of the wood floor. Not so good. But things are getting taken care of now, so it should all work out. What a day though…what a day.

This past weekend, we had some people over to our flat and then on Sunday, I headed to Noia with the family of the two little girls with whom I have private lessons. We went to a wonderful market, where we of course ate churros (not the Mexican cinnamon-sugar kind you’re thinking of…these are a similar shape, but just fried dough and absolutely delicious when they’re hot and fresh!) and the little girls, Sara and Ana, teased me about all the pigs’ heads lying around. During Carnaval, the Spaniards eat pretty much every part of the pig you can imagine. I’m invited to a “cocido” with the teachers sometime next week and I’m pretty sure I just won’t ask what part of the pig it is from until AFTER it’s digested. (A “cocido” is essentially a big meal.)

After the market, I went to their home where they were having a big family meal. The Spanish aren’t messing around with their lunches either. I’ve mentioned this before, I think, but I still am not accustomed to eating so much at once!  We began with “empanadas” (basically a filled flat pie) of some sort of “marisco” (shellfish…this one was something similar to clams, but they are also often filled with tuna, different types of meat, zamburinas, and more). Oh! And something I found neat is that we bought the fresh dough at the market for the empanada, then took it to the husband’s mother and she filled it and cooked it at home. How convenient. Anyways, we had empanadas and then the GIANT pot of “almejas” (clams) was brought out. They were quite delicious with the sauce they had on them, but still…every time I had to crack open the shell entirely, I jumped a little bit expecting it to jump out at ME! Haha. I filled about a third of my plate with the almejas, but I was so stuffed after churros, empanadas, bread, the homemade wine they were giving me, and because I got motion sickness in the car (typical). However, Berta (the mother of Geno, the girls’ dad) kept insisting that I eat. “Come, come! Más, más!” (Eat, eat! More, more!) So I tried to take a few more, but I thought I was going to die. Meanwhile, everyone around me had an overflowing plate of clam shells that they had already slurped the meat out of…even to the point where the plates were emptied and refilled (especially the men). Finally, I thought I was golden…only dessert and coffee to go before my stomach can rest! But nope….the children left the table and then the meat dish was brought out. Chicken and crinkle French fries (some of the kids ate this in place of the clams…those picky eaters. Not that I wasn’t picky as a child…). I couldn’t believe anyone else still had room! I ate barely two bites, then pushed it around on my plate so as to not make them feel bad. Haha.

After the main courses, Berta (did I mention that she lives on the bottom floor of this home, while Bea and Geno live on the floor above? That’s often how it works here because the families are so close.) took me out to one of the cellars to show me their homemade winery and wine cellar! It was so neat…I got lost in some of what she was saying as it was mostly Gallego, but she described the process they use, showed me the huge vats of both the red and white wines they make, then all the bottles…some are empty ready for this upcoming year’s harvest at the end of the summer, others are still full from past years as they age them to increase the quality. Both kinds were delicious, and I loved that we just took out a glass jug to fill it up ourselves! Then came dessert, where two types of “tartas” (cakes) were forced on me, along with champagne.  Finally, on to coffee (two cups) and some “chupitas” (shots) of the “aguardiente” or “caña” that they also make homemade from the leftover parts of the wine process. Berta kept telling me about it when we were in the cellar, but I wasn’t understanding, so she told me I had to try it. So three glass bottles/jugs were brought to the table…one hand labeled with “Caña” and the other two plain. The literal translation of “aguardiente” is “rough liquor”, so I’m sure you can imagine how that went. The clear one was ‘plain’, while the other two had been infused with different spices or things. Bea thought the whole thing was hysterical and took many videos and pictures. Oh, and to my family that didn’t believe me when I tried to explain that it is the norm to have the leg of a pig in the kitchen in order to cut off slices of “jamón” whenever you want….we took a picture. I’m just waiting for it to arrive in my email!

Okay, well that was a lot longer than I intended about all of the food, but it was a fun day and purely Spanish. I’ve been keeping a lot busier than before. I’ve even started training for a triathlon! I was super gungho about it at first, though, and pushed myself too hard to the point I got sick two weekends ago. So now I’m just doing it casually in hopes that I’ll be decently prepared for this summer sometime.

One last thing, I have decided not to reapply for the program. My last chance to retain preference status for placement is the end of this month, and I’m not sure it’s what I want for a second year. I’m ready for something with more commitment and responsibility, where I actually feel useful. As for exactly WHAT I’ll be doing next year, that’s still up for debate. It changes nearly weekly.

That’s all for now! We’ve had a Siberian cold front come through, so it’s been really chilly, but luckily we haven’t had much rain since I got back (knock on wood). I Hope everyone had a wonderful Valentine’s Day! I sure did, as I received my mother’s care package of peanut butter and seasonings to make meals. 🙂 Also, on that note, if anyone is planning on sending a note at all by mail in the next couple months, I’d love it if you threw in those chili seasoning packets…I made huge pots to share with people here and the ones I brought from home are already gone! And in regards to my cooking, I’ve become a crepe master in the past month, made pizza dough from scratch, garlic knots, chili multiple times, and strawberries are somehow already in season here (or must be, since they have them at the market again!), so I’ve been making smoothies. Nom nom.

“Why is this happening? Is this gonna be for forever?”

Ciao!

2 thoughts on “Is this real life?

  1. ellen earhart says:

    As usual I am jealous of the all the great experiences you are having. You will remember them forever! I just returned from a great trip to Arizona. We stayed in Phoenix but traveled to beautiful Sedona and took a really rough jeep trip through the mountains. I saw the copper mining town of Jerome and traveled up to historic Prescott, Arizona. The state celebrated its 100th birthday this week. We came down to Tuscon and stayed over night at the retirement area of Green Valley. There we visited the arts and craft village of Tubac. There is lots of hispanic and indian influence and many changes since I visited the area as a child. Weather was a little cool there too. Next I have to meet my sister in Orlando and catch up with my cousins who live there. I will send you some spice packages. Do you think you want to stay in Spain another year? There are probably many private schools that would love to have you. I know your family would love to have you close too. What do they do for carnival there?

    Like

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