Thursday, December 31, 2009
Given the fact that they missed a flight, we decided to head straight to Autol, my town, immediately instead of spending one evening Logroño. Our timing could not have been better, however, because before we even stepped foot into my apartment we were cheerfully greeted in the hallway by my landlord and his children with their families. It just so happened to be his wife’s birthday and they were preparing a massive lunch celebration. Of course we were invited.
So before my family could soak in my new hometown or even shower, they were tossed into the ridiculous and overwhelming tornado shit-show that is the Spanish birthday lunch. I was fortunate enough to know what to expect. I was fully aware that we were to be presented with numerous appetizers, a variety of main courses and, most certainly, countless desserts. Did I mention that it was Christmas Eve? That means that in addition to each of the visitors bringing a desert from home, which they of course would because they are going to a birthday lunch, these women have been preparing sweets for Christmas-they were most likely pulling baked goodies out of the oven earlier that afternoon.
While I was confident that the lunch to go down in this manner, my family was not prepared to say the least.
In addition to surely feeling a little out of place, being in a Spanish family’s home just after meeting them for a big birthday fiesta and not speaking the language and all, Kenny, Virg and Clay were immediately bombarded with foreign and exotic food. We literally sat down and ate for about a 3 hours. The next day my dad recounted what we ate and we realized that in a 24 hour period we had literally eaten more than 10 different kinds of animals. Afterward we decided to walk it off, so I showed them my town. I took them by the school and into the old part of Autol, where we ran into some of my students. I then took them to Picuezo Park, which is still beautiful to me. That evening-after the necessary siesta-I took them bar hopping, which of course is customary on Christmas Eve in Spain. We had a really good time, I got to show them my favorite watering holes and they were constantly being greeted and welcomed by the locals, who were openly enthusiastic about the quadrupling of Americans in Autol as well as intrigued by the similarities between Clay and I.
On Christmas morning I gave them some presents (mine were still in their luggage, probably in Amsterdam). I had got my dad an authentic bota-the traditional cow skin sack you drink wine out of. Rob has one. This bota, however, was made by hand by an old man who has been doing it for decades and lives in a small nearby town of about 2000 people named Quel. I had bought my mom a Palestinian-style scarf in Granada along with an olive oil pourer. For Clay, a small bota covered in bull hair and an Islamic proverb painting I had found in Granada. That afternoon I cooked them lunch, which was quite tasty, and then we joined Carlos (my landlord) and his family in their bodega for drinks and desert.
The next morning we set off for Pamplona, which brought back cool memories for me since I was there last summer for the San Fermin Festival. I even walked them along the route of the bull run, which was a cool experience. We later had drinks and pinchos at Tkoko, a bar that Ernest Hemingway used to frequently visit.
Our last stop was San Sebastian for two nights. We could not have picked a better place to end the trip; I am fairly certain that San Sebastian is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. It is a centuries-old port city with some of the most stunning beaches in Europe and, given the amount of wealth that exists in the city, the architecture is fancy and excellent. Words to not do San Sebastian justice, so pictures will be posted on Facebook soon (for family, I will e-mail my parents the pictures and have them send them out to everyone). Moreover, let us not leave out the fact that this wonderful city is also one of the culinary capitals in the world. For the past 5 years 2 restaurants in San Sebastian have been listed in the top ten restaurants in the world-food is an art to these people. And given that it is a city with a pinchos culture, we were able to try just about anything we wanted. (Again, a ‘pincho’ is a small, individual serving of food that you get for about 1-2 euro, many bars have as many as 15 out on display for you to choose from). In fact, there really isn’t anything not to like about San Sebastian, unless you have something against beauty, seafood, or funny hats.
All in all, my family and I had a really good time together. It had been the longest we had ever spent apart, and the fact that we got to experience Christmas from a different perspective in Spain made it more unique and special.
By the way, Kenny, Virg, and Clay still do not have their luggage, I just hope the airline wasn’t trying to send it back to Lafayette via Detroit on Christmas Day.
Hope everyone had a good Christmas and has a Happy New Years
Friday, December 18, 2009
In other news, Spain is freezing over. A couple days ago, it snowed here in Autol, a rarity but something that is manifesting itself throughout the country. In fact, this weekend it is supposed to drop to about 10 degrees F. The snow makes the town take on a completely different appearance and the constant dodging of snowballs thrown by my students adds some adventure to my life.
Finally, my family will be arriving in Spain on Tuesday to spend Christmas with me...I am super excited about that.
pics from granada have been posted on facebook
Friday, December 11, 2009
We ended up finding a hostel in the Albacín, the oldest neighborhood in the city. The interesting aspect about Granada is that there is a historical Arab presence there that has lasted since the Moors controlled that region of Spain about 1200 years ago, and this old neighborhood was where the Moors resided after they were conquered by Spain. As a result, at times it felt as if we were not in Spain at all, but rather in a Muslim land. The food has an Arab flare, there are hookah and tea cafes everywhere, gypsies line the narrow and worn streets selling cultural goodies and even the Spanish language has an Arabic touch to it. It’s very unique and equally interesting and awesome.
Additionally, Granada is famous for its tapas culture. In a nutshell, a tapa is free food that one receives when they order a drink, anywhere. So if you go to a bar, for example, and order a beer you get free food, which is about the size of an appetizer. But, if you stay at the same bar, each time you get a tapa (which is to say, each time you order a drink) it is a larger portion than the previous one. I felt like I was in heaven, I am pretty sure the tapas tradition is among my favorite things in the world. For the whole weekend, David and I spent money on food twice.
Aside from David, Matt and my adventures, David and I met a few Americans at our hostel, three girls in the same program as us, who were also in Granada for the first time. We spent most of our time together, even staying up all night on Sunday walking around the city and ultimately deciding to go the Alhambra-a Moorish palace that overlooks the city and which is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Spain-at 5 am to wait in line to get tickets. That night we got 2 hrs of sleep before waking up and returning for the tour, which was incredible. This is after David and I had stayed up all night Saturday going to tapas bars and a club with people we had met and then deciding to go to the Mirador de San Nicolas in order to catch the sunrise. Needless to say, I am still exhausted, but it was well worth it. One of the best things about traveling is meeting fellow travelers and establishing friendships and contacts; I now have friends and places to stay in Toledo, Seville, and Madrid.
All in all, I am pretty certain that Granada is my favorite Spanish city and I would undoubtedly consider living there in the future. Given that there is an international university there, the city maintains a touristic presence (which can be a plus at times and a minus at times) yet successfully preserves its historical roots, both Spanish and Arab.
Pics will be posted next week on facebook.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Happy Turkey Day from Spain! Or, in my case: happy Scrambled Eggs and Red Wine Day!
Given that I am, in fact, an American and Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Spain, the school thought it would be an excellent opportunity to shed some light on the students of Autol about this wonderful American tradition. Needless to say, they left it up to me to come up with a lesson plan, a way of conveying the historical aspects and modern-day significance of a holiday in which the students only previously understood involves, in some form or fashion, a turkey.
I came to class with construction paper headbands and feathers, paper towels and face paint, and the rest is history. You see, I figured the easiest way to explain the story of the first Thanksgiving would be for the students to act it out themselves. So, I dressed up all of the boys like Native Americans (myself included) and the female teacher dressed up the girls as pilgrims (paper towel on the head, rosy cheeks). Next thing I knew the kids were running around the classroom like crazy until the boys realized that they were not meant to battle the pilgrims, but rather teach them how to hunt and cultivate food. Ultimately, we ended up sitting down at a table and pretending to eat plastic food.
I think it went well.
Whether or not they fully understand or appreciate this traditional American holiday, the bottom line is that we had a lot of fun. While many of the girls took their ‘costumes’ off after class, the boys were not about to cut their time as a Native American short. So for a whole day, in the school and around the town afterwards, boys were running around donning war paint and feather headbands, pretending to hunt and battle. I too, decided to leave my war paint on, so that when concerned parents saw me, I could explain that it was my fault their children were acting like wild savages, but not to worry, it was all part of a lesson to explain to them our wonderful American holiday: Thanksgiving.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
For one person, in a normal sized skillet, I would use one potato (about the size of your fist), 2 eggs and a proportional amount of onions, if you wish.
-First, slice the potato up into about half-dollar (or doubloons) size slices and throw them in a skillet with olive oil and slow cook them down.
-In the meantime, break your eggs into a large bowl and whip them, as if you were planning on scrambling them. Do not add milk.
-After the potatoes are finished cooking (probably about 15 minutes or so) put them into the bowl of whipped eggs to let them soak up the eggy goodness for about 12-15 minutes.
-While the potatoes are soaking throw your onions onto a skillet with olive oil and let them cook-try not to burn them, they cook fast. They'll probably be finished in a few minutes. When they are done, throw them in with the eggs and potatoes.
-After the potatoes have been in the eggs for about 12-15 minutes, pour the bowl into a skillet with olive oil (I usually just reuse the oil I have been using).
-You want to try to keep it in a circular form, like a pancake. Let it cook for a good 5-8 minutes or so, you almost want to burn the bottom. If anything, you want to make sure the bottom is hard and stuck together, not gooey, or the next step will not work.
-Once the bottom is hard and solidified, SLIDE the tortilla off of the skillet onto another plate. DO NOT TRY TO FLIP IT IN THE SKILLET, YOU WILL SEND EGG-POTATO-ONION GOO ALL OVER YOUR KITCHEN. TRUST ME.
-Now, hold the skillet upside down over the plate, and then flip them so that the soft side of the tortilla (which was facing up on the plate) is now facing down on the skillet.
-Finish cooking for about 5 minutes.
*Side note, to add some spice to this otherwise bland dish you can throw some tony's into the eggs, potatoes and onions while they soak. What I did, was took some spicy red chili peppers, chopped them up and threw them in a jar of olive oil and minced garlic, letting them chill in the fridge for a few days. Then, I poured it on the tortilla, super spicy but very delicious. Jalapenos or some kind of salsa would also be pretty tasty, I would imagine.
Should resemble this, but mine was not this pretty--->
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
I feel obliged to admit that one of the primary reasons I love Europe is that one is presented with ample opportunities to encounter individuals from around the world, a fact that certainly manifested itself this weekend. Our hostel roommates were from Australia, Italy and China, for starters. Friday night after drinking over-priced beer in Plaza Mayor, we met up with one of David’s American friends who found herself invested in a pub crawl with Ausies and a cool French kid named Jonathan. After tagging along for a couple of bars we split to meet up with two Turkish girls, one of whom David had met a couple weeks ago via Couch Surfing. They were not too much fun, however, and took us to a pretty lame bar in a very cool part of the city, so David and I made the prompt, executive decision to ditch them. It was a smart decision, because we ended up meeting a really cool group of older Spaniards who took us into their group for the rest of the night. Without going into details, we ended up at a hipster Socialist bar drinking mojitos til about 6 am; I spent my time at the bar talking to a very cute 29-yr-old who we were fairly certain was into me, while David discussed politics with her friends.
Our late-night debauchery resulted in the two of us sleeping until 5 o’clock the next afternoon, only to find ourselves hitting the ground running since it was Halloween night. Being on a budget coupled with a lack of options, David had the idea of wearing our outfits backwards with masks on the back of our heads as our costumes. My mask was Santa Clause, David’s was either Hitler or Charlie Chaplan. For the sake of not being controversial or offensive, we claimed Charlie Chaplan. As lame as the idea sounds from an American perspective, the costumes were actually a hit, many people found them to be hilarious.
After bar/tapas hopping for a few hours, we randomly met a couple Greek girls our age, named Annette and Maten, who live in Madrid and study tourism. We began chatting while enjoying the 1-euro beers Chinese people serve in the plazas around the city. Soon enough, the four of us were approached by two local Spanish girls, who enthusiastically took us to a dance club. Don’t think the Greek girls were really into it though, because they didn’t stay long, so David and I were left with Spanish dates for a couple of hours, which was fun.
*Side note: many Spanish girls find it appropriate and acceptable to dance like Elaine from Seinfeld, which is something both hilariously disturbing while also irresistibly adorable.*
All in all, I must say it was quite a successful Halloween experience in the Spanish capital. Pics are up via Facebook
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
my school, "Villa de Autol"
This is my 'adoptive Spanish family' enjoying the Sunday tradition of a massive lunch in their bodega (wine cellar).
Walking through a local vineyard, i stumbled across a family picking grapes
and they were so kind as to give me some to take with me
view of Autol from a hill
The Picuezos (rock formations) with an old castle (to the right) and the local cathedral in the center.
...many many more pics via Facebook
Man, was I in for a surprise.
We had a couple of drinks before at a bar and then off to dinner we went at around 10:30. Due to some suffix-translating error on my part, I misunderstood the waiter when he was calling out our main course options. I thought I heard "patatitas" (which literally translates to 'little potatoes') when in reality he said "patitas" (pigs feet). Everyone got a laugh out of it and it became the running joke of the evening. I didn't mind, I have always wanted to try pigs feet anyway; besides, I told myself when I came here that I was going to venture into the culinary traditions of Spanish cuisine. They were actually very tasty, reminded me of chicken wings.
After 11 bottles of wine amongst 12 individuals, and an after dinner drink which was abruptly followed by a shot of herbal liquor that is supposedly good for the digestive system, the dinner was over by 1:15 am. I figured that the night had to be close to over as well, but I was dead wrong.
We ended up bar-hopping until about 4:30 and then it was off to the club (discotech) until about 6:30 in the morning. By the time we returned to our respective homes (well, I ended up sleeping at one of the teacher's homes) the sun was up.
Gotta love the Spanish night life.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
I Just finished eating dinner. My friends Emley and Alberto (who is Spanish) came in a couple nights ago, which was really nice. We all found it strange that the last time we saw each other was on the opposite end of the globe; and meeting up in a random, small, and seemingly insignificant town made it even more unordinary and special.
I took them out on the town, Autol style, and introduced them to Patricia (my landlords daughter), her family and local friends. Afterwards, I cooked them dinner at my place (pan-fried lamb filets, grilled potatoes and onions with dewitt’s seasoning, and a fresh salad) and we drank local wine before bar-hopping around the town and catching up with each others’ lives. Anyway, they were so grateful that the next day they went shopping and prepared a lunch for us to eat together before they left for Segovia. It was a delicious soup containing potatoes, onions, carrots, beef, red peppers and tomatoes. Alberto gave me his recipe. Anyway, they made enough for it to last, and it is what I just ate for dinner.
This week went well. I actually enjoy teaching the older kids, the class is more engaging and the older kids seem to look up to me, and yet they treat me like a buddy but respect me at the same time. I actually stopped by the local soccer field tonight because there was a practice going on and some of my students saw me and we played soccer, which was fun. I do not have vitamins; I may buy some. However I have been sleeping better, especially thanks to the Spanish national sport-the marvelous and unparalleled siesta.
My cord ought to be in any day now, as soon as I get it pics/vids will be posted…trust me I am as eager as you are.
I think tomorrow I will pass my day-off in a close by city called Arnedo, only about 10 minutes away by bus. It is about twice the size of Autol and is famous throughout Spain for the shoes manufactured there.By the way, did anybody see the Flaming Lips on Conan? Oh my, I wish I could go to Voodoo.
Monday, October 12, 2009
However, I think not attending the festival was a good move on my part. Instead, on Saturday I decided to walk to some vineyards close to the town. While walking through one, I came across a family picking grapes for winemaking. They were very kind, especially considering the fact that I was just strolling through their boss’ vineyard, and gave me some fresh grapes, which are still chillin’ in my fridge-they are sweeter than normal grapes and very tasty (I have pics, but you’ll have to wait). Also, my landlord, Carlos, introduced me to the manager of Autol’s local winery which produces a wine called “Marqués de Reinosa” (it’s very good) and he was so thrilled to meet an American that he decided to give me a private tour of the place. By the way, the winery is not open to the public except for a few times a year; you are not allowed to take pictures inside the premises (however I sneaked a few, and will display them in due time).
Sunday was relaxing; I was again invited to join Carlos, Fanie and their family for lunch at the bodega. Instead of bbq, which we ate last week, this meal consisted of seafood ranging from fish, mussels, clams, shrimp, fried sardines, eel, veggies and of course, wine. I think I may still be full, to be honest.
Today I did not have to teach; it’s Columbus Day, which in Spain is an excellent excuse to not go to work and thus a national holiday. Tomorrow I start teaching older kids, around 12-15 years old, which ought to be interesting…I must admit I am a bit nervous, kids that age tend to be difficult, but we’ll see. However I am really excited about tomorrow night, my friend from Vigo, Spain (Alberto, the one who gave me my sangria recipe) and his girlfriend Emley, a good friend of mine from LSU, are coming to visit me for the night, so I am sure it will be a good time, showing them my town and going out and everything.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
I have had a good time with the students thus far, and since i am the only teacher from the program in Autol, it looks like i will be teaching all levels, from 4 yrs old to 15 yrs old which should be interesting. The little kids are pretty easy to handle, teaching them songs, playing games,etc. However as the students get older we begin teaching letters, numbers and eventually grammer and conversational skills. Something i did not expect: a lot of immigrants from Morocco. Many of whom do not speak much spanish and thus no english, so that will certainly be a challenge.
In other news, i have internet in my flat, i am borrowing it wirelessly from my landlords who are not charging me so that was a pleasant surprise. And although the signal comes and goes at times, it was stong enough for me to skype with davey n shelbs, juice, and my family last night (my skype name is chriscrockett0).
I ordered a camera cord, but am not sure how long it takes to get things shipped to my location. However as soon as i get it, i will provide pics and vids.
Monday, October 5, 2009
Also, being the new person in town, the family has introduced me to just about everyone and their grandmother. It’s kind of crazy how literally everyone in the town knows each other; I have never witnessed a community as close as this before. In fact, I feel as though I already know half of the town, or at least half of the town knows who I am. And everyone is so generous and kind, it kind of throws me off. I’m really looking forward to becoming a part of this place for the next 8 months or so.
photos and vids coming as soon as I either find or replace my camera cord.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
After arriving in dublin i was immediately re-routed to london, which i must say has a pretty confusing and rather large airport, especially if one only has an hour to catch his flight (however i did get to finally experience what it feels like to be one of those assholes sprinting throughout the airport trying to reach his gate). so after a 26 hour trip that took me through 5 airports, 4 flights and 4 countryies i finally arrived in spain, only to realize that my luggage was stuck in london...but i have it now so everything is good. also, i have met many ppl in the program from all over europe so it looks like i will have contacts if i choose to travel not only throughout spain, but europe itself (well, so far only in france and germany).
tomorrow i leave for autol by train and i am really excited and quite curious to see what my home will look like for the next 8 months or so. i´ll keep ya´ll posted about it and hopefully upload some pics and vids for you guys.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Pico de Gallo:
-chopped tomatoes (I typically use roma tomatoes or tomatoes on the vine, they have less gunk juice in the middle).
-chopped onions (I usually put about 2/3 the amount of onions as I do tomatoes).
-chopped jalapenos (up to you, however spicy you want it to be).
-some people use cilantro, I do not.
-glaze it with equal parts jalapeno juice and olive oil, then half of a lime's worth of lime juice.
Sangria: (this is what I do per bottle of wine, and I use cheap wine)
-the evening before you plan to drink it, pour a bottle of wine into your cooler, pitcher, w/e.
-add 1 orange, sliced.
-add 1 pear, chopped up.
-add 1 apple, chopped up.
-using a dixie cup as a measuring cup, pour 1.5 cups of citrus juice (I would typically use Dole juice, for example 'strawberry, orange, and banana' or something, but any citrus juice would probably work).
-add 1.5 dixie cup's worth of rum.
-let it sit over night, this is because the fruit ferments to produce more alcohol.
-a couple hours before the party, add about 2 dixie cups of club soda.
-add about 2 tablespoons of sugar.
*For an idea as to how much this amounts to and how many people it will satisfy, for my party I made 3 batches.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Also, "Guys Eyes" mixed over "All I Wanna Do":
Some tasty, ear-tickling sounds if you ask me