A Year in Review

This is impossible to do….as I sat on the beach one evening with some friends (at 10pm and it was still light!), we were discussing the things we were going to miss and the others that we were happy to leave. It is quite difficult! You’ll see that many of mine are on both lists, indicated with ** and an explanation at the bottom when necessary.

Also, let me mention that this is a list of the insignificant things. I obviously am going to miss all of the people here that have made this experience what it has been. It’s weird saying goodbye to my students for the last time, knowing I literally will never see them again. (Though I thoroughly enjoyed having them sign a Galician flag…some of the messages are hysterical, some are inappropriate, some make no sense, some are chants for sports teams or celebrities, and they cover four different language: English, Spanish, Galician, and Chinese from one girl…it’s awesome). It was even weirder to say goodbye to the teachers, though I DO hope to see some of them again someday. Pobra do Caramiñal has become my home this year. It wasn’t only a temporary thing like in Ireland, where the end was always in sight. This has occupied a special place in my heart and taken a year of my life…I’ll never forget it.

Things I Will Miss:

  • Pimientos de Padrón
  • Buying my produce at the weekly market or little local fruit shops
  • Hanging my clothes out to dry**
  • The friends I’ve made
  • Going to the only Chinese restaurant in 50 km with other English-speakers and having the owner pull out 3 extra bottles of wine to chill when we walk in (no joke. She did this last time we went….probably because the previous time we accidentally went through 4 bottles between 3 of us….)
  • Cheap, good quality wine
  • Free tapas with every drink
  • Speaking Spanish**
  • The teachers I’ve become close to
  • Seeing my students around town every single day**
  • The proximity to the beach
  • The beautiful view and walk to school every morning**
  • Walking everywhere**
  • Greeting people with a double kiss on the cheeks…seems so much friendlier than a handshake
  • Baby Café’s con leche
  • Nutella being cheap**
  • My private lessons and watching them grow
  • Learning how to be patient and help people communicate, celebrating when we finally succeed
  • Being forced to speak slowly (I think you’ll all be interested to see that I DO speak more slowly now…Hillary noticed it when she came to visit, even when I was speaking with just her…a necessary change for me, the ole ‘Motor Mouth’ as my family used to call me when I was little J)
  • Looking out the window of some of the classrooms at school and seeing cows, mountains, the port, and water
  • Going for a run up to the mountain and visiting my dog friends I’ve made
  • Children and people running around the centre and sitting outside of all the café’s just soaking up the atmosphere
  • The laidback-ness of Spanish culture** (sometimes it made me frustrated)
  • My beautiful apartment with huge windows, hearing kids outside playing in the street, and constantly having them open to let in fresh air and sunshine**

Things I Won’t Miss:

  • Rain and humidity…all winter, I never felt completely dry.
  • Awful Internet
  • The lack of peanut butter and hummus
  • Hanging my clothes out to dry**
  • Speaking Spanish when I can’t communicate exactly what I want**
  • Being unable to wear yoga pants or Nike shorts around town without getting looked at strangely
  • Seeing my students around town every single day**
  • Walking to school every morning**
  • All the shops being closed on Sunday and every single day from about 2-4
  • Eating bread with every meal (not so good for the figure, but it’s a staple here…you even use it like a utensil to help you eat)
  • Walking everywhere**
  • Spanish public transportation
  • Listening to American music from last year and being behind on new hits
  • Nutella being cheap**
  • The laidback Spanish style**
  • My apartment with no heat

** — I enjoy hanging my clothes out to dry when it’s a beautiful sunny day and I’m not in a hurry. I do NOT enjoy hanging my clothes out to dry when it’s a shit day (more common), especially since it’s my only option, and I end up with clothes hanging all around my room for the next 3 days waiting to dry.

** — I realized I love speaking Spanish around town…it makes me feel accomplished and it’s more exciting when it’s a challenge! I know I’m going to miss having to use it everywhere I go. With that being said, it will be nice not to have to try so hard to understand everything and to get looked at like a fool when I pronounce something wrong.

** — At first, I hated seeing my students everywhere I went since it’s a small town, nowhere for them to go except the centre, and we all walk everywhere. But after awhile, it can be fun to embarrass them and say hi if they don’t say anything, or just to have groups of kids saying hi to you everywhere you go.

** — Some days I loved walking to school along the water…other days, when it’s windy and rainy and I feel like Mary Poppins about to get blown away while my shoes are getting soaked….not so fun.

** — I’m going to miss walking everywhere because it can be nice…sometimes…other times, I just wish I had my car! Especially so I could have explored more and not relied on our awful buses!

** — Nutella: My waistline is going to thank me for returning to normal eating habits again after a year and a half of traveling and a summer of working in a restaurant all day, every day. Intense summer diet, here I come!

** — I love how relaxed the Spanish are…it’s a “Don’t worry, be happy” type of culture. However, there are some days when it is more than a little frustrating when there isn’t consistency or nothing gets accomplished (this isn’t near as bad as it is in the south of Spain, from what I’m told…I can’t even imagine now how I would have reacted down there!)


Ultimately, this year has been a 9 month long roller coaster. I’ve had times where I felt lower than ever before and times when I’ve felt higher than ever before. In the end, the ride has ended at the top of a hill….I’m getting all sentimental and am now sad to leave. I hate goodbyes, but got through them, though if I’m being honest, as I reread some cards from teachers and my students messages on the flag, I did cry a bit. Now it’s time for the next chapter….

Anyways, I made this list about a week ago and meant to keep adding to it and editing it, but now I’ve run out of time!!! I’m waiting in my apartment all packed up and everything cleaned, waiting for a phone call from my teacher to go to her house. I’m spending the night at her place and my flight leaves tomorrow at 9am! (Saturday)…I go from Santiago to Barcelona, Barcelona to Vienna. Once I find the hostel and everything, I’ll go wait at the train station for my mom and grandma to arrive and then begins the tri-generational Eurotrip 2012. I’m sure it’ll be a great time, even though it’s bound to be a completely different experience from backpacking last year! I will try to update my Facebook status and post pictures off my iPod from time to time throughout the trip, so stay posted. 🙂


Dear USA, we meet again for good on June 23rd. Get ready! Love, Courtney

Una fiesta de cumpleaños

Saturday was fantastic. Saturday was simple. But Saturday made me happy. Perhaps it was the email update I read that morning while in bed from ‘Zen Habits’, a blog I follow with inspiring posts about living simply and happily. The post was about “Contentedness”, something I realized I’ve struggled with while in Spain. I am (generally) a positive person, but this year I’ve become quite pessimistic and have forgotten how to appreciate the little things. I’m always upset about this or frustrated with that or feeling lonely because of the other. Yes, it’s been a difficult year. But it’s also been a wonderful year and Saturday was one of those days where this fact was reiterated, especially with only two weeks left.

View from their front porch…I wouldn’t mind it!

I returned home that night after a wonderful afternoon and evening spent in the company of a Spanish family (and extended family and a whole class of kiddos invited over) for a 9th birthday party! The girl, Sara, is one of the sisters with whom I have private English lessons every Friday. I went to the younger girl’s birthday party in December as well, where I met much of the family the first time, and have been over a few times since then.  The family lives on the second floor of the husband’s mother’s home (did that make sense???). A very Spanish style of life…families are close and they often live in the same house, only separated by floors.  I went over a bit early to eat lunch and then spent a couple hours helping prepare for the birthday party…getting food ready, decorating with balloons, straightening the girls’ hair, etc. Bit by bit, the extended family arrived and many children from Sara’s class. This family has a beautiful home (and fabulous view!) with a large backyard, sports court, garden, and more. Although it had rained all morning, we were lucky when 5 o’clock rolled around and the kids could run and play outside all they wanted (though the wind was a bit chilly). I spent time catching up with the family members that were there, meeting new ones, and was the focus of attention for the little girls as they kept coming up to me…”¿Eres Americana? ¡Que guay! ¿Cómo te llamas? Cuurrrnieee…curnay….cutney….ya” hahah. My name is difficult for the Spaniards to pronounce and I’m quite accustomed to answering to “Corrrney” now (with a rolled ‘r’).

Playing double dutch reminds me of my elementary days…they were playing one about liking some boy, which they changed the name every time and when the rope would pass, they’d go “Sí. No. Sí. No” etc and whichever they landed on meant that they liked or didn’t like that boy. haha

The boys playing ‘soccer’ or ‘fútbol’, whichever you prefer.

So much fun!

After awhile, we headed inside for snacks and the kid-friendly champagne. A bit later, the most fun cake ever….made of different types of candy! We had a real chocolate cake for the candles, too, but the kids only cared about the ‘chuces’. At one point, the two sisters were fighting and all the children were chanting ‘Pelea’, but in three syllables ‘Pe-le-a’, in place of ‘Fight, fight, fight’. Isn’t it amazing how kids are the same everywhere you go??? haha. Including with the gifts…so excited for some and they throw aside others. Being the teacher I am, I bought Sara some books and made a cute little handmade card. All the girls gathered around to read my card in English about nine pretty butterflies, but when Sara opened up books, they were all like “mehhh” and ran off to play. hahah. Sara is a sweet little girl, gave me a kiss on the cheek and said thank you, then asked me to take it inside while she continued playing. Oh, kids. 🙂

Adorable little one with Shirley Temple girls and chubby cheeks. 🙂 And the good ‘mommy’ helping her along!

When the kids had finished with their snacks/cake, it was time for the adults and we all sat around, snacking, chatting, playing with the tiny Chihuahua puppy, drinking their homemade wine, and laughing. I had a great time and also realized how far I’ve come! I actually understood the majority of everything around me, even when some was in Gallego, and contributed my own bits, making jokes and all. (At one point, I accidentally said something in gallego, too, making us laugh.) Granted, they are a wonderful family and I felt comfortable with them, but still….had a great time even while I wasn’t feeling well and told one of Bea’s sisters that I had a “catorro”…..she kept looking confused so I explained with a cough and nose sniffle….”catarro”, she exclaimed! “Catorro” doesn’t exist in the Spanish language…oops. And this was the same sister that only three hours past I was talking to about her eye surgery and asking about her “lentejas”……HAHAHA. let me explain for those of you that don’t know Spanish. I basically asked her about the lentils in her eyes. You know, the tiny beans? Yep….I tend to confuse contact lenses, “lentillas”, with lentils, “lentejas”. We all had a good laugh.  I played with the precious little one called “Irene” with those Shirley Temple curls and helped clean up….when it was time for me to go, we realized I probably wouldn’t see them again before I left and they kept asking when I was coming back. When I said I had no idea but hopefully soon, they demanded I make Galicia my honeymoon spot someday when I got married. I also was scolded by Geno’s mother (who owns the house) for not finding a Galician boyfriend while I was here. hahah.

The baby Chihuahua….or little rat.

Attacking the candy cake!

It felt like a family today. In truth, I barely know these people, yet they share love openly, as well as kisses…. (I’ve received more kisses in Spain than ever before in my life, I swear). I sat there at the table as the sun was going down outside over the water in the bay, with the mountains in the background, and listened to the Spanish chatter around me….which naturally turned to ‘fútbol’ (soccer) and whether Real Madrid or Barcelona was better. (I could care less…living in Spain for a year hasn’t made me a fanatic either way!) The craziness of children and adults everywhere, plus a little rat dog underfoot, made me feel like I was at one of my own family gatherings….though perhaps less chaotic to be honest. I don’t think anyone will ever top my family’s get-togethers! 🙂

The masterpiece

That’s my two cents for today. When I started with a positive attitude, I had a fantastic time and appreciated everything for what it was worth. Now to remember to do that every day and every minute, even when things aren’t so easy. That’s the hard part!!!

Love the garden…I want one.

Where the homemade wine happens…the things covered with cloths are used for pressing (they do white first, then reds because of the stain….the big silver things on the left hold the wine and they also bottle them…)

Empty bottles waiting for this year’s harvest in September!

The ‘End of the World’, Barnacles, & Galician Palace Gardens…

Finisterre (or ‘Fisterre’)…”el fin del mundo” or “the end of the world”….in the past, people genuinely thought this was the end of the world, just as they thought the world was flat and you could sail off the end. Apparently there are other ‘finisterre’ points, too. One in Portugal, though the name has now changed, and another in northern France somewhere. Essentially, it’s a cliff that sticks out into the sea and appears to be the end for as far as you can see. Now, it’s also become a popular tourist point and extra trip for pilgrims on the “Camino de Santiago” or “Saint James’s Way”, which traditionally ends at the beautiful, huge cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. Many of them continue out to Finisterre at the end of their trip though and burn something….hiking boots, hats, jackets, etc. I thought this tradition sounded neat until I saw how much this “stuff” trashed the otherwise beautiful piece of land. It completely ruins it. (Side note: I was fascinated in Ireland by the lack of trash EVERYwhere….people genuinely appreciated the land and treated it well. Then being in Spain and the states, I notice how much we litter. It’s disgusting.)

A cross at Finisterre…you can see the clothes and burn spots nearby.


I made this trip with one of my teachers, Ana, her husband, José, and three-year-old son, Ramón. He is the most precious thing with the longest eyelashes ever. We had great fun and I even learned a Spanish (or rather, traditionally Galician) children’s song, with motions and all. I’ve been practicing so I can bring it back with me! haha. Upon arrival, it was 2:30pm and lunchtime for the Spaniards, so we hit a famous seafood restaurant that turned out to be very expensive but fantastic. The three of us shared the “gastronómico” meal generally for two people and it was plenty, along with fresh bread and a bottle of white Ribeiro wine. The first course was “percebes”….gooseneck barnacles. Here’s a picture after I’d already torn a few apart and eaten the meat out of the middle:

Percebes…gooseneck barnacles

They grow on rocks and José was explaining the process of ‘fishing’ them to me. It is extremely dangerous as they only grow on exposed rocks that have the sea splashing against them. One person goes in a boat and another person hops onto the rocks with a rope tied around his waist, connected to the boat. When the waves go out, the boat goes out. The workers have to know the sea like the back of their hand and anticipate its rhythm, or they could die. There are videos on youtube showing the process if you’d like to see…it’s really neat and made me appreciate these little things I was eating even more! (search “percebeiros” meaning barnacle hunters and “Galicia”). Anyways, to eat these, you have to grip the leathery-covered piece in one hand and the rock-hard piece in the other, twist and snap at the same time while being careful you don’t get squirted with the juice. It’s really difficult! Several times I had to use my teeth to tear a hole in the leathery part first. Once you get that skin off, there’s a little tube of meat that you bite off and discard the two sides. It has a very “seafood” taste, but I really liked them! And they’re a delicacy seafood, so I felt honored to have the chance. J The remaining courses were: navajas (‘razor clams’….tried them my first week and hated them because they reminded me of huge white worms, but by now, my tastes have adjusted and I enjoyed them), almejas (clams with some sauce on them that was delicious), and lubina (a large sea bass fish, brought out with the head and tail, though they did chop it into sections for us). The restaurant set-up was neat as well, because when you walk back into the dining area, you pass through the kitchen. I still find it so neat to see a huge grill with over 10 different types of fish completely whole cooking on them! It makes me smile. For dessert, we split fresh strawberries dipped in white and dark chocolate, decorated to look like a tux, and strips of pineapple rolled and filled with fresh cream mixed with chopped nuts and drizzled with some fruit sauce. Delectable. For the finale……a coffee, as always.

We explored several other areas that Saturday as well…stopping at the top of a mountain with beautiful views of La Carnota, the longest beach in Galicia, and a gorgeous waterfall caused by a manmade dam, called Embalse. You can go right down onto the rocks near the waterfall and there were a brother and sister all dressed up after their First Communion getting the endless family photos taken. I may or may not have snapped a few creepy shots on my own….

Brother & sister all dressed up for communion family photos…they looked so happy. Good thing Spaniards rarely smile in photos!


From the top of a mountain near Muros and La Carnota

That evening, we stopped in Muros, an ancient Roman village and seaport with many of the original tiny streets still intact. We had dinner of ‘zorza’ (a delicious pork dish cooked in paprika and other things), ‘tortilla de patata’ (typical, especially when you have a 3-year-old’s taste buds with you!), and ‘calamares’ (squid…yummmmmmmmmyyyyyyyy). Before heading in the car to go home, we wandered some of the streets, ran into a student and teacher from Pobra, and explored the port where I saw piles and piles of the traps they use to catch the smaller octopus and crabs and one of their huge ‘Coast Guard’ boats.  A great day.

Windmills on the top of every mountain in Galicia, it seems. But I love this photo!!!

However, on Sunday, Ana and José had even more adventures planned! After breakfast, we started out the day with a long walk in a nature preserve area called Catoira….it travels along the salt marsh caused by the mixing of the salt water bay and fresh water river. I learned plenty about plants and trees this weekend, too, since José is a research biologist and Ana is a biology/geology teacher. They know many of the words in English, too, so I was quite impressed (and ashamed of my lack of knowledge about the trees we have in America, while they could explain it all).

We made a fantastic lunch at home….José taught me two ways to cook fish since I’ve never done it before. Instead of getting fresh, whole fish as would be typical for them, he got some frozen pieces of ‘merluza’ (hake) so I could learn what to do once I’m back home in the states and don’t have access to all their fresh seafood. We also cooked up some zucchini, mushrooms, and asparagus, then made a salad with lettuce, green tomatoes, fresh cubes of goat cheese, and nectarine! I was surprised to add the fruit since my salads are typically overflowing with only vegetables, but it was fantastic. And the Spaniards don’t use dressing like Americans are used to…only extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, and salt. Afterward, we enjoyed a coffee and treats while relaxing in their living room listening to Galician music (quite similar to Celtic/Irish, with their own versions of bagpipes).

In the evening, we visited one of my favorite places yet: Pazo de Oca. (‘pazo’ is ‘palacio’ in Galego….’palace’ in English; ‘oca’ = goose). This is an old medieval palace now owned by some family. You can’t enter the palace itself, but the main attraction is the huge expanse of gardens. Things are a bit overgrown, but the wild nature gave it a beauty I can’t express. You walk through weaving little pathways surrounded by bushes, trees, and flowers, plus a vine with budding grapes over your head. There are areas that are rented out now to companies for growing plants, so there is fresh growth, too. There is even a labyrinth! Plus, it wouldn’t be complete without the ‘ocas’….there is a medieval dam system set up under the ground for watering the plants, creating little oases of water and the sound of running water in nearly all areas. There is also an ancient hut where the women used to do the laundry, using the water system. I absolutely enjoyed every second walking around, having a snack while sitting on moss-covered ancient stone benches, learning about all the trees/plants/flowers, and taking picture after picture. Throughout the 2.5 hours we were there, I also was thinking one thing…..I found the place where I want to have my wedding! It’s exactly how I imagine. Too bad it’s in Spain! haha

The entrance to the gardens

One of my favorite photos of the weekend, even though it’s only flowers, a stone wall, and old door.

I just love all of this.

Can’t have “The Palace of the Goose” without some geese!

Happiness…just imagine at the end of summer when all those vines are filled with bursting grapes! I wish I could see it!

So that’s my weekend….it was back to reality this week, but in actuality, I got sick instead. Had to miss school on Wednesday when the weather was absolutely beautiful. Today is a ‘día de festivo’, meaning we don’t have school, but the weather is cloudy and cold so I can’t hit the beach. 😦 And next week it’s supposed to rain again. Frustrating! Oh well. Only a couple more weeks, then I’ll be packing up my room and heading to Austria to meet my mom and grandmother. I’m getting excited!!!!


Things have been a bit busy lately as I finish some planning for my upcoming trip and am applying for teaching jobs back in Indiana. It’s definitely been a challenge, though, since my internet is awful at home and I spend much of my time in one of two cafes. I swear they think I’m crazy as I sit there for 4 hours and order first a ‘café con leche grande’ and after ‘agua de tiempo’…..every couple days. The Spanish just don’t DO that.

Anyways, a few fun things to share that I’ve laughed at (and remember) in recent weeks.

  •  If you’re a bus driver between small villages in Pobra, you’ve got the ideal job! Why not stop while on the route, pull over to the side and hop off for a few minutes, so you can run some errands? Yep, it happened. Twice.
  • The funniest (and crankiest) old man got on the same bus one day as I was making my trip home from Ribeira after private English lessons. The bus driver pulled over for this man who, mind you, was not at any stop whatsoever but the driver was apparently feeling friendly. The poor old man had purchased something at Lidl (a store that is set up kinda like Aldi’s, but it has tons of imported stuff often from Germany for really cheap). He had two bags, one of which had broken completely. As he climbs onto the bus and hoists this torn bag, he’s cursing up a storm in his gruff, deep Spanish voice. He leaves the bag sitting next to the door where it proceeds to fall over, as he keeps complaining to the bus driver about the terrible quality of these things, colored by several choice words. I couldn’t help but laugh, especially when it took him another 5 minutes (not really) to get back OFF the bus at some random area down the road.
  • Teaching the reproductive system to 15 year old Spanish students….interesting to say the least. I consider myself quite mature when it comes to things like this because it’s simple science, but when they start giggling because I have to correct their pronunciation and we repeat some words over and over again as a class, I can’t help but grin a little, too. “Penis, repeat after me. Penis. Penis. No, no…not /pay-nis/, /peeeee-nis/ like you have to go pee!” hahaha. What a class.
  • I made friends with a sweet old woman at her little cart in the Saturday market last week…she rambled at me for awhile in Galician before I told her I didn’t understand what she was saying. (I swear, it wasn’t even gallego it was so strange) In the end, I bought 6 of her fresh eggs from the hens in her backyard and a super sketch bottle of her homemade tinto wine for €1. Sweet woman; awful wine. The rest was poured down a drain. (Fantastic eggs though!)
  • The brief glimpse of sunshine for the first time in 5 weeks made me ecstatic the other day…I went and read in the sun for an hour. And on Thursday, it’s supposed to start getting nice again until I leave! Helloooo playa. (“beach”)
  • The Spaniards love their “pet names”. Perhaps occasionally in Warsaw, you’ll hear the woman at the cash register call you “hon” or “sweetie”, but it’s extremely common here. Just a few I’ve been called: hija (daughter), filliña (little daughter in Galician), chica (girl), tía (literally ‘aunt’, but often used like ‘girl’ informally), guapa (good-looking), hombre (man, kinda like we use ‘dude’), amor (love), cariña (kinda like sweetie more or less), cielo (sky), nena (like baby), corazón (heart), bollita (not sure exactly, but I’ve been called it by one of my teachers who enjoys her pet names more than anyone I know), chula (cutie, kinda…often used for objects too), mi vida (my life)….and they go on and on. The first time it really took me by surprise was when I was at the ‘carnicería’ (butcher) getting some ‘ternera picada’ (ground beef) to make chili. The woman called me ‘hija’…I paused suddenly and had to review the Spanish in my head, only to realize that yes, she DID just call me her daughter! Then afterward, she goes “¿Algo más, corazón?” (Anything else, heart?), and I just had to laugh. Oh, you Spaniards….
  •  Spinning class. Even though I’m pouring sweat and the instructor is shouting at me, half of which I can’t hear and half of which I can’t understand, I love every minute of it. Especially on 80’s music nights where he’s singing along….but not exactly with the correct words. Fun.


That’s all. I know I’ve been a bit pathetic since January with my blog posts. After awhile, everything has simply become ‘life’ and not so exciting to share anymore! Apologies. And special shout-out to my aunt Cindy who sent me a wonderful surprise care package with a few things, including Thin Mints! Nom nom. 🙂

A visit from home

Two weeks ago was “Semana Santa” or the Holy Week in Spain. Similar to the spring break of public schools in the states, all schools in Spain get this week off. Luckily for me, the spring break of Warsaw Community Schools and Semana Santa coincided and one of my good friends from high school, who is now a wonderful elementary school teacher, was able to come visit!

Hillary, Jodi, & I from senior year of high school at cheerleading nationals...the three of us also danced together for years.

After a grueling trip (on her part), we were supposed to meet a little after 7am at the train station in Padrón, a small town close to Santiago de Compostela where one of my teachers lives.  She was gracious enough to lend us her home during the week to stay the night in as a transfer point, since it is more accessible than my tiny town of Pobra off in the tip of nowhere, Spain. Unfortunately I got lost in twilight hours of early morning trying to find the train station stop, which I had never been to before. As I’m wandering tiny roads in the midst of farmlands, Hillary was getting closer and closer on the train. Finally I see the crossroads with train arms and begin speed walking even more. As I get closer, the train begins to pull away and I don’t see Hillary standing outside at the stop (not much there…can’t even buy tickets at it. You must buy them on the train if you depart from Padrón.) I search the train windows as it slowly gathers speed and I spy…..a pink adidas backpack. Aha! She was still on the train. ‘Well, what to do now?’ I thought to myself. She didn’t have a phone. I had no way to contact her. She had never been to Spain before. This was one of her first times on a train. Luckily, she knows a bit of Spanish and can get by perfectly fine. I told myself that she’s a smart girl and she would get off at the next stop, then come back on the reverse train an hour later.  Sure enough, with the roosters crowing around me as I huddled up on a cold metal bench outside in the early morn, there she comes on the next train! It was such a relief.

I won’t go into all the details of the week, but I had a great time sharing my new culture with her and getting to see all the differences again through new eyes. I have become accustomed to so many ‘strange’ things here, that I forget what it’s like when you’re fresh from the United States. We were blessed with good weather for most of the week, so we hit up the beach, hiked to the natural swimming pools in the mountain, walked in the countryside, made dinner, went out to traditional ‘menú del día’, visited markets, and more. I even convinced her to try “pulpo a feira”, which is the octopus! I’ve developed a liking for it (though you can’t think about it or run your tongue over the tentacles in your mouth, or you get weirded out). However, Hillary tried a few bites and decided to cut off the tentacles on the outside of each piece from then on. I can’t blame her. She was brave! We tried many traditional Spanish dishes, from the basics like ‘tortilla española’, ‘croquetas’, and ‘jamón’ (and chorizo, nom nom)….to Galician dishes like the ‘pulpo’, ‘queixo de tetilla’ (tit cheese!), and ‘revuelto de gambas con grelos’ (like scrambled eggs with shrimp and ‘grelos’—a green leafy vegetable found only in Galicia).  She even loved ‘clara de limón’, even though she’s not much of an alcohol drinker (similar to a summer shandy…half beer and half lemon soda).

The octopus (aka: "pulpo") at the market in Padrón...probably shouldn't have let her see them whole before tasting it! It's a bit intimidating. 🙂

Pulpo a feira....nom nom nom. You eat it with toothpicks and crusty bread.

One day, we headed by train to Vigo, the largest city in Galicia to catch a ferry from the port to “Las Islas Cíes”….voted the Most Beautiful Beach in 2007 by the UK Guardian. Even though the day was windy and cloudy at first, it was an amazing place. It’s a natural reserve as well, so they don’t even have trash cans. You can hike all around, visit a lighthouse, small pools in the middle of the island, a large old stone building at the highest point, go snorkeling or scuba diving, kayaking, and more. We packed a lunch and ate on the beach after hiking all morning, then took naps in the sunshine, albeit while we were wrapped up in jackets and towels.

Beautiful beach where we ate lunch.

On the way home, we stopped in Pontevedra, a city which is a bit smaller than Vigo, but has a lovely old town. As it was Semana Santa, there were also traditional religious processions all week. While we were sitting enjoying some tapas in a café, we hear drum beats and look outside….down the narrow cobblestone streets come rows and rows of people in white robes and white cone masks, similar to the KKK. There are many types of processions to represent different religious aspects of the Holy Week, but usually we saw huge elaborate statues of Jesus or Mary or something similar, which was carried on the shoulders of 4-8 men. Music and candles were used, people in costume, and some people even walked barefoot! And let me tell you, it was quite cold especially to be walking around for two hours without shoes. I have a long video of one of the processions from Santiago de Compostela on Friday…I can show some of you when I get home.

Part of the procession in Santiago de Compostela on Friday. Those carrying the statue have their 'cones' of their hats pinned back, or you'd see the KKK resemblance! (of the white ones at least)

All in all, a great week with Hillary. It was comforting to have a taste of home and I was in sore need of a good friend, with whom I’m completely comfortable and even speak the same language…wow, the novelty in that!!! haha

As for now, time is passing week by week….at last count, I have six weeks left in Pobra before I embark on EuroTrip 2012 with my grandmother and mother! Austria, Switzerland, France, Spain, and England…three generations of women, here we come! I don’t know where the last four months have gone since I returned from Christmas Break. However, with the constant rain and wind for the past week and a half yet again, I can’t say I’ll miss the weather. 🙂 But what an experience these past 8 months have been!

EDIT: My internet was failing to work last night when I tried to post this, and I’m glad for it now! 1. I came to a café to skype with my friend Alex and also took the opportunity to add photos. 2. I went on a two hour solo hike/jog this morning up into the mountain where the natural pools are…when Hillary and I visited (in the photo below), they were nice and calm. This morning when I went out there, they were absolutely raging and the whole river was up much higher. After 20 minutes of reflection out there, I understand why artists like to be in nature to be inspired. I could have written any number of poems or analogies with the way my brain juices were flowing. 3. My hike also reminded me of a funny story when Hillary and I went…I was checking out an old abandoned house and looking into the gate, which surprisingly was open on this day. I had never noticed it open before. Then we faintly hear bells and many feet trampling the ground getting closer and closer….I look around the corner and up the road and see a stampede of sheep!!! Sprinting at us! We panicked (while laughing about the situation) as they covered the entire road, so we went into this gate to try and hide, while I also snapped a few photos. Then Hillary asks me, “What if this is where they’re heading to??” Sure enough, the sheep turn into the gate but were clearly scared of us and ran into  a corner off the side. We ran out as fast as we could and I slammed the gate shut….hahahaha. A bit further up the road was a little lamb that obviously got lost from the group. It just kept baa’ing at us….great fun. 🙂

"Las piscinas naturales"...the natural swimming pools when Hillary and I visited. Quite calm. When I went this morning, RAGING.

My best friends every time I run up in this area....a house has 5 different dogs (one isn't shown) and they come out all fierce....then we make friends. 🙂

Here they come! (At this moment, we're hiding in a "safe" place....which turned out to be their home)