holiday

Thankful for 2012

In 2012, life changed. Life changed fast. I could say it all to you, in one breath, a rush of words and emotion that would leave you reeling. I could replay the year over in my head, wondering how I got to this point, this place right here—November 22, 2012.

In 2012 I did so many things. So many things changed in my life, in my family’s lives, in my friend’s lives. These things, there were good. They were wonderful and magical and joyful. So, dear 2012,now it’s my turn. Thank you. Thank you for:

  • July 7. On this day, I married Mario. I don’t have words for this day. It was a day full of sunshine and laughter and red scarves and dancing. It was rich with tears and photographs and the grasping of hands. I wore a white dress; he wore a suit. We joined hands, and we said yes.

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  • New family. I’ve gained some new family this year: in-laws, cousins, aunts, uncles. I’m no longer the American; I’m prima or hija. I’m part of this family here in Spain, a grand family who has taken me in without a second thought, who has taught me to cook, lavished me with presents and love and welcome. I couldn’t be more grateful for my mother-in-law, Pepita, who worries about me as if I were her daughter or my father-in-law, Jesús, who emails me to wish me a happy Thanksgiving in his newly acquired English. I am so grateful to them and for them.

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  • Old family. One is silver, but the other’s gold? I don’t really buy this saying, but I am aware that my family has always been there for me, ever since the rainy Monday almost twenty-six years ago. My family has supported me through my on-again, off-again relationship with Spain, and I don’t think I could have done it without them. They love Mario like their own son, and they would do anything for us and for my brother and his wife. You couldn’t ask for more dedicated parents, the kind that go to every single sports event in high school, the kind that never say a word about driving six hours there and back to pick you up at the airport, the kind that pay for a brother and future-sister-in-law’s plane tickets just so that they can all be together on the most important day of the bride’s life.

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  • Thanksgivings past. My extended family was never one to fight. Our holidays were filled with food, laughter, and kids’ tables. There was no yelling, no hurt feelings, no real problems. As a girl, I took this for granted. Now I couldn’t be more grateful for an extended family that knows the value of togetherness.
  • New friends. I’ve met some new people here in Madrid recently, and I’m really excited to see where these friendships lead. You cannot underestimate the value of a nearby friend.
  • Old friends. Where would I be without my constant source of encouragement and laughter, Hilary? Roommates in college, friends for life. I cannot say enough about my cousin Bailey, just seven months older than me and already on her way to having her second child. It’s hard to reconcile what was with what is, but our friendships will never shrivel and die, just change and grow as we do.
  • This blog. This blog has been a source of encouragement for me over the past few years. I started it without knowing what would come of it, and I am ever so grateful for the readers who comment, email, tweet, or Facebook me. Thank you, readers! Thanks for reading, for caring, for helping me see things in a new light. Without you, I know I wouldn’t keep writing. Thank you.

So happy Thanksgiving, dear friends! If you’re in the States, please eat some stuffing for me! And—oh yeah—give your mom and dad a hug! They’re the only ones you’ve got.

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2011–To Spain and Back Again

I started 2011 in good old Indiana—my home, my high school stomping ground, the place I always feel the most me.

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Even if it does entail a little snow.

In January, I returned to Zamora, where my high school students still refused to speak to me in English. Not long thereafter, though, Mario and I were off to Belgium.

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Although bitterly cold, it was a magical place full of chocolate, waffles, moules-frites, and French. Luckily, Mario speaks French. (Why can’t I speak four languages?!)

February went by slowly, especially as I was now living in Zamora instead of Salamanca, far away from my studious, always-has-his-nose-in-a-book boyfriend. My 30-minute walk to class could seem interminable. As I had received a Kindle, though, I walked to class reading. My fingers nearly froze off a few times!

March meant heading off to what Mario and his cousins referred to as a primada, a play off the Spanish word for cousins, primos. We headed to a casa rural, a rather common thing to do amongst groups of friends. Our casa was located in Gredos in Ávila.

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A cousin with the kids: A Sergio and two Marías.DSCN1910

We explored a cave.

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Visited a castle. You know, typical Spain stuff.

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Like a fairytale wonderland.

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And, of course, made jokes about smoking “el porro.” (Note: one is smoking a cigarette, one is “smoking” some straw, and the other one isn’t smoking at all.)

April brought sunshine and the first hints of warmth back to the mesetas of Castilla y León. Oh, and my parents stepped foot onto Spanish soil for the second time. My grandparents came along for the ride. And what a ride it was.

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We were “those people” who take photos while our waiter stands and watches.

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We visited Segovia and saw the castle.

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We couldn’t not see the aqueduct. My grandma brought along our local paper.

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Next came the coastal town of San Sebastián, home to some of the worlds best pintxos and food.

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Grandma learned how to sit on benches like any good Spaniard.

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We even got some hiking in.

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Next came Salamanca’s Plaza Mayor with my favorite guy in the whole world.

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We met the parents, too. It was an interesting experience, to say the least. Mario’s parents don’t speak English; my parents don’t speak Spanish. Mario and I were the intermediaries. Nonetheless, they hit it off. My dad even hugged them at the end of the trip – not really something Spanish people do, but it worked.

Next came Semana Santa, my first in Zamora. I got to see what it was like to be a member of a cofradía.

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Los dos hermanos.

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It’s not as frightening as it looks.

In June, Mario and I headed to a wedding held in the most gorgeous place.

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And yes, I’m one inch taller than Mario, but with my high heels I am an Amazon woman.

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We drank and ate lots of pork products. Claro, hombre.

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(L-R) Víctor, Jesús, Pepita, Mario…and me!

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Oh yeah, and we went to London. Typical American, that’s me.

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Mario took me to a hummus restaurant. The man gets me.

Finally, on June 15, I headed to Madrid, cried a ton, and boarded a plane. Landing in Indianapolis felt surreal. It’s become normal by now, but I still think about how, this time last year, I was an international. Now I’m just me, not foreign or different.

I helped my brother and his fiancee move to Houston, TX.

And celebrated the good ole USofA.

Went to a baby shower for my dear cousin, who now has a gorgeous baby girl.

We shared some of the world’s most delicious wine…in my humble opinion.

I started a temporary job teaching English to ESL students in my hometown. It was fine, but I needed more—namely, insurance.

My dog dressed up for Halloween. This is obviously important in my end-of-the-year recap.

In October, however, I was anticipating the arrival of none other than…Mario, of course! My blog posts dropped to about zero as I spent 24/7 with him.

He learned about “American rugby” from my dad. Yes, Indiana does suck at football, why do you ask?

We introduced him to the art of tailgating with pulled pork sandwiches, a vegetable tray, chips and salsa, guacamole, and mojitos. Living large.

He learned what the real sport is in Indiana – basketball. Hoosier basketball. Purdue does not matter.

He’s an expert at roasting hot dogs now.

We got to be all lovey dovey, too

When Mario left, I started a new job back in my hometown. I was lonely, so I got a kitty. His name is Sheldon.

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Bazinga!

I don’t have the Christmas photos at my disposal, but it was spent at home with my mother and father, brother, and his fiancee, Colleen. We made hot buttered rum, played Scattergories, exchanged presents, and saw a nice snowfall. All in all, a good holiday spent with great people.

In 2011, I was blessed. I went from Indiana to Spain to Belgium to Spain to London to Indiana to Texas to Indiana. I was in four countries and lived in four cities (Zamora, Salamanca, Crawfordsville, and now Bloomington). Mario visited me and was able to experience Halloween, football, tailgating, mojitos, and Thanksgiving. We ran many miles together and shared many glasses of (red) wine. He’s gone, and of course I miss him, but it’s a good kind of missing, knowing we’ll be back together soon enough and that we have our whole lives to be together, to annoy the other one, to make dinner together, and to watch The Penguins of Madagascar while laughing until we cry.

2011 was a hard year at times, but it it came with a lot of growth. Living in another country is not usually easy, and when it is, you’re lucky. I struggled at times, but came out better on the other side. I realized a lot of things when I came home, too—namely, that I can survive anywhere. I can and I have and I will again someday. Whatever the future brings for that Spanish boy of mine and me, I’m fine with it. I just know that we’ll be together and we’ll fight these battles together.

And if it takes me cursing in two languages, so be it.

Psst – some of my favorite posts from 2011:

And maybe my favorite post: Very Little. Check it out!

National Coffee Day

It’s no secret: I love a good cuppa.

In honor of National Coffee Day, September 29, I’d like to encourage you to take part in a very Spanish activity – go and tomar algo. And just because it’s national coffee day, that algo should be coffee. I hate to sound demanding (no, really, I do!), but it’s imperative that you go and get and/or make a steaming hot cup of coffee. Don’t forget the sugar.

(You could go to places like Krispy Kreme to get free cups, but I am wary of their quality. For a really good cup of coffee, I prefer my French Press and freshly ground beans from Trader Joe’s. Call me a snob, but I hate bad coffee.)

In Spain, the morning break for coffee is the norm. When I told Mario’s mother I got a half an hour for lunch, she was positively appalled. His dad chimed in to say that half an hour is the morning coffee break, not lunch!

Not all Spaniards eat pastries with theirs, though. Some eat tortilla de patata or jamón. You know, whatever floats their boat.

Coffee in Spain tends to be different than coffee in the U.S., though. It’s more what we would call “espresso.” Here are the types you can usually order.

  • Café solo. (Literally: only coffee.) It’s usually pretty tiny, more like a shot of espresso than anything.
  • Café con leche. (Literally: coffee with milk.) This is my choice. There’s usually a generous quantity of milk added to this. Whole milk. Why would you pollute it with skim? It’s definitely the most popular form in Spain.
  • Café cortado. (Literally: cut coffee.) It’s like the café solo with a tiny bit of milk. It’s also served in a very small glass.
  • Leche manchada. (Literally: stained milk.) It’s mainly milk, and I know some of Mario’s friends/relatives would order that. I think of it like coffee-flavored milk. It may sound gross, but think of coffee flavored ice cream and how good that is. Yum!
  • Café descafeinado. (Literally: decaffeinated coffee.) You usually get a cup of hot water and a packet of instant coffee with this.
  • Café con hielo. (Literally: coffee with ice.) This is obviously more popular in the summer months. I personally don’t like it because you are usually given a very large ice cube with roughly the same amount of liquid as your coffee cup. Thus, the coffee tastes very watered down.
  • Café bonbon. (I don’t know how to translate this literally.) It’s coffee with sweetened condensed milk instead of regular milk. Obviously quite sweet!
Now, those are just the basic ones. Often, the shop will sell cappucinos as well as alcoholic coffee drinks, like the carajillo, which combines coffee with brandy or rum. You should try it if you’re following the “hair of the dog” method. Or if you just like depressants + stimulants mixed together.
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In Spain, coffee (or at least tomando algo) is a daily part of life. However, it’s a way to sit down, to chat, to rest, to relax for a few minutes, whereas here I drink my coffee on my way to work or walking around. It’s not a break or a time to relax, although I do wish it were. That’s not to say coffee isn’t important to us. It is; it’s just different. I found this infographic on coffee rather interesting.
I apologize for this post being a little bit unfocused, but…please celebrate with me by having yourself a delicious, freshly brewed cup of coffee! A toast (with coffee)!