Two weekends ago, I visited Córdoba, a town I had last seen in 2016 during my high school’s exchange trip. It was an incredible day. Córdoba is known for its stunning patios adorned with flowers galore. Every May, the citizens of Córdoba open up their patios to the public and compete for the most stunning patio in Córdoba.
From October 11th to October 21st, the 13 top ranked patios from last May opened up to the public once again. The day was accompanied by a floral art exhibit in the archaeological museum featuring two female artists, Inés Urquijo and Nuria Mora. You can read more about these incredible women and their unique styles here.
After stopping by Bar Santos for some tortilla de patata, we hit the patios. While talking to one patio owner, I learned that in order to be considered one of Córdoba’s “greats,” you must water all of your plants BY HAND. The upkeep of a beautiful patio is truly a full time job.
I’m back! After a brief stint in the U.S., I am back on Spanish soil & ready to begin my second year as an English Teaching Assistant, this time in the beautiful city of Fuengirola. So long my Canarian friends (Te echo de menos). I have headed to the peninsula this time around for another year of sunshine, paella, and fiestas in the South of Spain.
Yesterday, I visited the Stupa of Enlightenment in Benalmádena. In case you don’t know what a Stupa is (like me….I didn’t know), it is basically this structure that houses relics and sacred teachings of Buddhism within its walls. The Stupa in Benalmádena happens to be the tallest in all of Europe.
Along the inside walls of the Stupa is the story of Buddha told through pictures. Currently, there is a troupe of volunteers hanging out inside the Stupa telling the story of Buddha to onlookers. They are here for another month and a half until they move on to their next endeavor.
I learned a bit about Buddhism in college. One of my favorite classes hosted guest speakers: leaders from an array of religions, one of which was Buddhism. The volunteer in the Stupa reinforced some of what I already knew and provided new insights.
The most memorable lesson and my favorite part of Buddhism is the idea that well…put simply: nothing matters. That sounds pessimistic, but in fact if you look at it a certain way, it is very optimistic.
Buddhism teaches that attachment leads to suffering. Therefore, if we do not attach ourselves to any objects or people, we will not suffer. Obviously, this is easier said than done; hence why not many of us can claim to have reached “enlightenment.” However, the foundational idea that everything comes and goes is quite comforting. There is a kind of peace in accepting that nothing is permanent.
Similarly, Buddhism rejects the “Everything happens for a reason” mentality. In Buddhism, there is no reason. Good and bad things just happen all the time. However, because nothing is permanent, it doesn’t really matter. Do you see how accepting life’s highs and lows as ephemeral can result in less worries?
The volunteer said something that struck me; “Everyone knows they will die, but no one believes it.” When you accept the fact that you, me, and everyone you know will die, you don’t have to be afraid of death. It just is what it is. Even Buddha died. When you recognize and appreciate death as a part of reality, you begin to shift your focus to the present moment. This is what Buddhism is all about; living in the present and living with compassion. Doesn’t sound too bad to me.
Anyway, I found this experience interesting and wanted to share my thoughts. It is fun gaining new perspectives and thinking about life differently.
As my time in the Canary Islands came to an end, I was lucky enough to travel to the mainland and visit some friends (old & new). Here are some of my faves of Madrid:
THE PUEBLOS OF MADRID
Ok, so I know this isn’t technically part of the city, but… the villages surrounding Madrid are absolutely charming. In Spain, it is common for city dwellers to have separate houses in the countryside. My friend, Julia has a house in beautiful Rascafría, situated in the mountains outside of the city, a cozy escape from bustling city life.
While in Rascafría, we trekked Peñalara, the highest mountain peak in the Guadarrama mountain range and part of Sierra de Guadarrama National Park. I would rate this hike a 3/10 in terms of difficulty and a 10/10 in terms of beauty. The peak of Peñalara overlooks a lagoon that was left over from glaciers!
Another charming aspect of the pueblos is the abundance of cats. These street kitties are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen with piercing blue and green eyes; definitely not what comes to mind when I think of a feral cat in the U.S.
While we were wandering around Rascafría, Julia pointed out a bridge known as the “Puente de Perdón” or “Forgiveness Bridge.” According to Julia, people used to be brought to this bridge for their wrongdoings and given the chance to say sorry. If they did not apologize, they would be tossed into the river below (not a very treacherous fall, but humiliating nonetheless). I later found out, Julia had the story a little jumbled, and the bridge was actually where death sentences were handed out, but I like Julia’s version better, and you never ruin a good story with the truth, right?
FOOD OF MADRID
The best part of exploring new places is trying all the local food! Apparently, a Bocadillo de Calamare in Plaza Mayor is a MUST when visiting Madrid. I really wanted to add aioli and maybe a little lettuce to my sandwich, but my friends told me to eat like the locals, I had to order just the dry bocadillo with calamari, so that that’s what I did. 10/10 for experience, 7/10 taste (could have used a little aioli).
We followed our Bocadillo excursion with a trip to the Museo del Jamón for some 1 euro sandwiches and beer because can you really visit Madrid without having some jamón serrano?
While on my food tour, I learned seafood in Madrid is spectacular! I figured since Madrid is right in the center of Spain, seafood wouldn’t be super fresh, but because Madrid is the capital and a major hub, seafood on your plate was most likely caught same day.
One restaurant recommendation I have is Rosi La Loca. This place definitely gave me a touristy vibe, but the food was delicious, and the dining was an experience. I met with my Spanish sister, Nerea, from my high school Spanish exchange program. We had not seen each other in almost 6 years, so this was a special lunch. Basically everything the restaurant prepared came out on fire. The servers place a lot of trust in their customers leaving a flaming plate on their table. I also felt like this was one of those type of restaurants that was trying super hard to be unique with their menu items (and it worked!) My only critique is that I would prefer my cheesecake non liquid-fied.
Need a little break from the city? Head over to Parque Retiro. Just like Central Park is one of my favorite parts of NYC, Parque Retiro is one of my favorite spots in Madrid. The name translates to “Retirement Park” and used to be a green-space for only the Kings of Spain to enjoy. The place is kind of magical and the hedge designs looks like something you would see out of Bridgerton. You can find the Crystal Palace in Parque Retiro which is free to enter and houses unique art exhibits. When I visited, the art exhibit was some artistic interpretation of vegetables and feces that I was not cultured enough to appreicate.
The last time I was in Madrid was 2016, for my high school’s exchange program, and I didn’t really have the opportunity to go off and explore on my own. This time around, I am happy to have seen a little more of what the region has to offer, from bustling city neighborhoods to quiet countryside cottages. Madrid, I look forward to seeing you again soon!
A friend recently told me that you are close to enlightenment when animals start to appear in your life. I did not know this fun fact, but someone is certainly close to enlightenment after the experience my friends and I had this past weekend.
Living in Fuerte for almost 8 months now, I can’t believe I haven’t yet visited the iconic Arco de Las Peñitas. However, I’m glad I saved this experience as something to look forward to.
If you don ‘t know…Fuerteventura is the land of goats. The capital, Puerto del Rosario (Port of Rosario) used to be named Puerto de Cabras (Port of Goats) Honestly, I want to be reincarnated as a goat in Fuerteventura. They are the happiest and chillest creatures, spend all day in the sun, and give zero fs; my spirit animal, truly. Whilst en route to Las Peñitas, a cohort of the aforementioned goats descended from the mountain we were driving on, plopping themselves right in the middle of the road. They leisurely made their way to the side of the road, but remained very close to our car in a staring-competition sort of way.
Goats weren’t the only animals we encountered on our drive. We took a pit stop at the Mirador de Betancuria, which I have stopped at quite a few times, and we saw the most beautiful crows (sounds weird, I know…but hear me out). I’ve seen these crows every single time I’ve stopped at the overlook since I arrived here in the fall. I always see just two crows, and I’m convinced that only these two crows live on the island. Usually, crows give me the ick (I think of the time my childhood dog chomped down on one in our backyard). But let me tell you…these crows are different…man, they are pretty. The overlook is about a thirty minute drive from our final destination, but guess who was in the parking lot to greet us when we arrived?…yep, TWO black crows.
We were also greeted in the parking lot by a black lab, probably no older than 2 years old. She came hurtling towards us, and I embraced her with open arms (probably not the best tactic when an unfamiliar dog approaches you), but I just couldn’t resist. We named her Betty. Betty was not a stray. She had a collar, and we think she came from the stand alone house by the parking lot. We let her come along on our journey, or more accurately, she let us come along on hers. The Arco de Las Peñitas is situated in the Barranco de Las Peñitas, and it is not the easiest thing to find if you don’t know where to look. In fact, we took the wrong path on our way up to the arc. Betty, being the local she is, knew exactly where we wanted to go and guided us in the exact direction of the arc. When we took our little detour, Betty forged a different path and patiently waited for us in the correct spot as we realized our mistake. After Betty guided us to the part of the trail that was unclimbable for a canine, we said our goodbyes, and she set off in the direction of home.
The Arco de Las Peñitas was as beautiful as I imagined, but I think my favorite part of the experience has to be all the unexpected animal interactions.
Last weekend, I visited Cofete, one of the most beautiful beaches in Fuerteventura which stretches for miles and miles and miles. Perched on a mountainous overlook, a mysterious mansion stands alone; Casa Winter.
While the beautiful castle-esque residence in such a unique location calls for intrigue, its story is even more fascinating.
The legend among locals is that Fuerteventura once served as a type of Nazi refuge during/after WWII. Spain’s then dictator, Franco allowed some of his Nazi pals to escape to the island and live at Casa Winter.
A family now resides in the house, but it is open to the public during certain hours and free to visit. The inside is filled with WWII memorabilia and documented military correspondence that fuels the rumors surrounding Casa Winter.
A Majorero (local) friend of mine told me that his Dad once flew a drone around Casa Winter and found old tank parts. If you mention Casa Winter to locals, you are likely to hear stories similar to this one.
I was recently talking to a friend (Hi Grace), and she pointed out that I have not posted in quite some time. The truth is, I have found myself pretty busy here in Fuerteventura…. and a bit uninspired. I guess it’s good that I’m spending more time living my life rather than just writing about it, but I’ve returned to my blog to push through this creative block and deliver you some quality content. Where are all my foodies? Today we are talking my favorite Canarian dishes:
Queso Frito (Fried Cheese)
Move aside mozzarella sticks. Fried cheese is my favorite appetizer to order at any Canarian restaurant. It is typically made with goat cheese and served with a drizzle of honey and a side of marmalade. You can also order this dish “a la plancha,” and the cheese will come grilled rather than fried. Super yummy. 10/10
Papas Arrugadas (Wrinkled Potatoes) with Mojo Picón
Did you even go to the Canary Islands if you haven’t tried papas arrugadas with Mojo Picón? You can not go anywhere here without encountering this popular dish. Mojo is a traditional sauce of the Canary Islands and comes in red and green. I prefer the green, but the red is more common. Each restaurant makes their mojo a bit different, but you can find it EVERYWHERE, even in the grocery stores. Mojo is also commonly served with bread. If you’re lucky, the restaurant will include garlic aioli with your papas as well.
Lapas with Green Mojo Picón
You betcha the Canary Islands has killer seafood. Lapas is my new favorite type of shellfish. I have never even heard of this dish before coming to the Canary Islands, but it is pretty easy to find here. I have even seen lapas shells while visiting some natural pools on the island. Think steamed clams but bigger and more flavorful. Served with green mojo, this dish is perfection.
If you come to the Canary Islands, it is a good idea to make friends with the locals. They will take you to cool hidden beaches where you can set up your own little BBQ. Grab some chicken, corn, and potatoes from the grocery store, and you are good to go!
Pescado del Día (Fish of the day) & Pulpo (Octopus)
You can not go to the Canary Islands without indulging in their delicious seafood. Fish & octopus are popular menu items. If you are like me, and you don’t know much about the differences between fish, you can request the “fish of the day” to share among your table. Usually, this is served with papas arrugadas and salad. Fish can be served various ways; “a la plancha” (grilled) “frito” (fried). Pictured on the right, is Barracuda, one of the more unique dishes I’ve tried… and very delicious!
Not a Canarian food, but easy to find in the Canary Islands… With many immigrants living in the Canaries, you are likely to find authentic food from all over the world. These are arepas from my favorite Venezuelan restaurant in my neighborhood. Arepas Llaneras Venezolanas. Pictured is the super llanera especial (meat, beans, cheese, fried egg, fried banana, avocado)
Another staple in my diet has been this falafel pita from Doner Kebab. Because Fuerteventura is so close to Africa, we have some great Moroccan food here. Although kebab is not Canarian, it can be widely found on the islands.
As a self-proclaimed foodie, discovering new food has been one of my favorite parts of living in the Canary Islands. If you find yourself here, I definitely recommend you try some of the items I have highlighted above. I’d love to hear any of your own recommendations as well in the comments section.
I am a huge nerd for language if you didn’t already know. One of my favorite parts of being in Spain is discussing commonly used phrases with my Spanish friends and comparing them to their English counterpart. Some phrases don’t translate directly, and sometimes I find myself in situations where I just can’t find the words to express myself in English, and the Spanish language provides a more fitting response.
Let’s take a look at few of my favorite phrases:
TODO EL MUNDO
= “all the world”.
This phrase is commonly used in place of “everyone.” When I was in Spanish classes, I learned to use “todos” for “everyone,” but I think “Todo el mundo” just adds a little extra flair to this expression.
Ex. Todo el mundo va a la fiesta.
All the world is going to the party.
Honestly, I don’t know the direct translation for this word, but it’s along the lines of “liven up.”
This expression is used when you’re trying to cheer someone up or animate them to do something.
Ex. Estabas sentando en la sofa todo el dia. ¡Anima!
You’ve been sitting on the couch all day. Let’s go! Liven up! Cheer up! Animate yourself! etc. etc.
This is another expression that does not have a direct translation. It is something like, “all out,” “to the utmost,” “as much as possible.”
I’m not sure I always use it correctly, as it’s more of a colloquial expression. However, from my understanding, this is another way to animate a person or a group.
Ex. (tomando chupitos en una fiesta) ¡a tope!
(taking shots at a party) ¡a tope!
This expression is used when you are saying goodbye to someone but will see them later. I do not remember learning this phrase in Spanish class. I only remember “hasta luego,” or “see you later.” Hasta ahora and hasta luego can be used interchangeably. Needless to say, I was very confused the first time I heard this expression.
Ex. Voy al mercado. Hasta ahora.
I’m going to the market. See you later.
= “how strong”
This saying can be used for many situations. It has a positive connotation and indicates that you think something is cool or that you are surprised in a good way. This expression doesn’t always refer to strength like it’s direct translation suggests.
Ex. Mirra a las estrellas brillantes. Que fuerte.
Look at the bright stars. How cool.
This expression is special because it is unique to Fuerteventura. A teacher in my school taught me this phrase when I told her I studied negocios (business) in college. This saying is used when you make a good deal.
Ex. Yo compré esta cabra por solo 10 euros. ¡Que bisnes!
I bought this goat for only 10 euros. What a good deal!/What a steal!
These are only a few of the many phrases that I have learned here in the Canary Islands and the ones that come to the top of my head first. My arsenal of vocabulary is growing, and I am eager to keep learning.
Do you have any favorite phrases in Spanish or another language? I would love to hear them in the comments below! 🙂
In 2019, I celebrated Día de los Tres Reyes Magos aka Day of the Three Magic Kings with a picnic in Barcelona while overlooking the city from a perch in Park Güell. Two years later, and I have made it back to Spain to celebrate this special day.
Spaniards celebrate Three Kings Day on January 6th. I love this tradition because it extends the magic of Christmas just a little bit longer. The holiday recognizes the day the Three Wisemen showed up at the stable to give baby Jesus gifts. Nowadays, the Three Kings visit homes on the night of January 5th and leave presents for the children.
I know what you’re thinking…the three kings sound a lot like Santa Claus, right? Yup. But here is why the Spanish are really lucky, they get BOTH.
Santa Claus vs. Three Kings
According to some of my coworkers, Santa Claus aka Papa Noel did not always have a huge presence in Spain. In fact, some families still do not celebrate the tradition of Santa Claus, and most of my students have told me they prefer the Three Kings to Santa. (Three Kings = more presents vs. One Santa). However, in the past couple of generations Santa Claus has become more normalized, and he is known to leave a gift or two on Christmas Day. I have summarized some of the subtle differences between Santa Claus and the Three Kings:
While in the U.S., we leave out stockings for Santa, families in Spain leave out their shoes for the Three Kings.
Santa rides a sleigh pulled by reindeers. The Three Kings ride camels.
Americans leave out milk and cookies for Santa. Spanish people leave out sandwiches for the Three Kings.
Santa enters houses through the chimney. The Three Kings climb through the window. (A lot of houses in Spain do not have chimneys)
Santa takes photographs at the mall. Three Kings take photographs at the mall.
In every major city and even some towns, you are likely to find a cabalgata or parade on the night of January 5th. These parades welcome the Three Kings: Gaspar, Balthazar and Melchior as they ride through the streets on floats and throw candy at the crowds. Due to COVID-19, Spain has made adjustments to this years’ festivities, turning some parades into pre-recorded or virtual crowd-less events.
Because I will not experience a Canary Island parade this year, I thought I would reminisce on my experience from 2019. In Cataluña, the Three Kings arrive on January 5th by boat before the parade. During the parade, performers on stilts approach the crowds with long nets for children to place cards they have written to the Three Kings asking for presents. Countless people bring ladders from home to get a better view and even carry these ladders through the metro station. At the end of the parade, the Three Kings receive the keys to the city which will allow them to open every door to every home in Barcelona for one night only.
Roscon de Reyes
Another sweet tradition is the Roscon de Reyes or the King’s Cake. This cake is enjoyed by friends and family members on Three King’s Day. The cake has two hidden objects inside; a tiny king figurine and a bean. If you happen to be lucky enough to have the piece of cake with the king, well…. you win. You might even be given a paper crown to wear if you so please. However, if you find the bean, it’s your turn to buy the Roscon de Reyes the following year.
I feel very fortunate to now have spent two Three Kings Days in Spain, and it is a celebration I very much think the U.S. should consider adopting.
I can already imagine the day my future granddaughter comes home from school with the assignment to interview someone who has lived through the Corona Virus era.
I want to start off by saying, I am extremely lucky. I am in good health. My loved ones are in good health. While this pandemic has touched everyone in some way, good fortune has been on my side, and I feel like I should not complain. However, the lesson I’ve learned through therapy and podcasts and self-help books is this; Just because your problems seem less significant than other people’s problems, doesn’t mean they aren’t important. The “well other people have it worse” mentality could go on forever and ever and ever in an endless cycle.
2020 started off rough, even pre-pandemic… it was ROUGH. Within the first month, we lost my best friend’s Dad to cancer. A few weeks later my Dad had triple by-pass surgery. This placed tremendous stress and anxiety on my family. Shout out to my Uncle Dave who came from Upstate New York to sit with my family through it all and probe the hospital staff with the questions on everyone’s minds. Also, MVP award goes to my Mom who stayed by my Dad’s side through everything and took care of him in his very needy and very loopy state after the surgery.
Around the same time of my Dad’s surgery, I found out the trip to China I had planned with my business school was cancelled due to the rapid spread of a new virus…you guessed it… the coronavirus. In hindsight, my disappointment about the cancellation seems silly.
Things turned around though. I had an exciting couple of months before the pandemic exploded in the U.S. I enjoyed my senior year of college and the perks of being 21. I went on a fun yet strange spring break trip to Galveston Texas and made some new friends. I fell in love for the first time, which maybe didn’t turn out so great for me in the end, but I became a better person by learning that my cold un-feeling heart is in fact capable of vulnerability.
I graduated college with a degree in Business Management and minors in Spanish and International Business. Graduation was prime Covid time, so I did not have the celebration I expected. However, my Honors College held a Zoom ceremony that was actually pretty heartfelt, and my parents organized a day that made me feel special.
I felt blue in my hometown, so I decided to spend the summer in North Carolina with my sister, Molly, and her kids. Because Molly and I grew up in different households, this is the longest period of time we have ever spent together which was refreshing and much needed. Bonus: she took me to get my first tattoo. Although I did my fair share of moping around this summer, my adorable niece and nephew never ceased to put a smile on my face.
Flash forward to now. I have been in the Canary Islands for the past three months, doing something I have dreamed of since I was 17. I feel more myself than ever, and I have hope about what’s ahead. Even though I can not travel through Europe as I had planned, I enjoy discovering the natural wonders of the Canary Islands. My island, Fuerteventura, is one of the safest places in terms of COVID. I am able to enjoy nice weather all year round. Most restaurants and stores are open, and the Canary Islands are the only part of Spain NOT experiencing a 6 month lockdown. I could not imagine a better place to round out my 2020.
I have spent a lot of time getting to know myself, and I finally figured out what career path I want to take which puts my mind at ease and literally makes my insides jump with joy. I have had free time to explore new hobbies like writing, video editing, and even rock climbing.
I have met some of the kindest and most interesting human beings in this little part of the world. I have spent a lot of intentional time talking to my friends and family members on FaceTime. In fact, I feel like my relationships have become stronger because I reach out more than I would have pre-pandemic.
I now look forward to every day and the possibilities that await. I still have bad days, negative thoughts, and anxiety, but I am more whole than I have been in a very long time. 2020 has tested me in all types of way, and I’ve come out the other side a little stronger, a little wiser, and a little bruised. Contrary to popular belief, a new year is not a new beginning or a clean slate. I do not want to forget this year. Life is a work in progress, and the lessons learned in 2020 will propel us forward into 2021 and beyond.
Today, I continue my interview series with my friend and roommate, Rocio. Rocio is a Montessori School teacher in Burgos, Spain. She spent the last two months in the Canary Islands teaching at a primary school and studying special education for Montessori schools. Montessori is a hands-on method of teaching in which the students interact with each other and the classroom. Students experience more freedom with this method than in a traditional classroom setting.
Rocio has taught me a lot in her short time here. She is the type of person you go to when you have a random question because she likely knows the answer. I have had the pleasure of exploring new places with her and our equipo de senderismo (trekking team) comprised of Rocio, me, and our friends, Laura and Nico. Rocio made living in the Canary Islands all the more fun with her fervor for life and her love of dancing.
Tell me about your home
I live in a small city in the North of the peninsula, called Palencia. It has lots of land and crops like wheat, barley, etc.. It’s called the Mar del campos (Ocean of farms). I know todo el mundo (everyone). The earth is clay and the traditional houses are made of adobe. It is a a simple and humble land, and it is large as well. It was a Roman City in the past of great importance. It is not so important now. It is a zone full of simple Roman Churches and poor territories.
I tell you all this to show that the people there are simple, conservative, and work very hard. People from my generation leave the city, but the generations before that stay for life.
Tell me about your travels
I started traveling when I was very young. I often visited my sister who lived in a different European city each year. I visited a lot of Europe when I was an adolescent in the summertime.
When I was 22 years old, I lived in the Netherlands. I worked in a center of innovation for sustainable pork after studying agricultural engineering. I designed toys, toilets, and feeders for the pigs. I also studied the effect of light on the pigs’ bathroom behaviors.
Later, I spent one year traveling in South America. I traveled to Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, and Ecuador. I went to visit my friends there.
How did you afford to live in these places?
I sold artisan work and food. I visited farms and sometimes I worked on them in exchange for food, like WWOOF(ing) (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms).
What was your favorite place in South America?
My favorite place was Iquitos, the Rainforest in Peru. It’s a very isolated zone where the Amazon River starts. It was my first time living in a place without capitalism and work animals. The people do everything by themselves and they are very connected with nature.
Where did you go after South America?
I spent a year traveling through Spain looking for an ecovillage to live. I was traveling for about 3-4 months when finally, I sat down with a guy who had a community on an organic farm in the North of Burgos.
Later, I came back to civilization, and I was working for a research center in agriculture at a University when I started my phD program. I was spending a lot of time in front of a computer, and I wanted to live a life real. I felt like I was living a virtual life so I left my job and phD program and started studying Montessori School. Now I’m studying Montessori for special education while I teach.
What is something you are thankful for?
For everything. For a country with resources. A family that gave me everything. Good capabilities, and the ability to take advantage of education.
If you could give advice to your 22 year old self, what would you say?
Relax. Slow down. Listen to your inner voice. Take care of your body.
If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life what would it be?
Bread or some type of fruit, but I don’t know… Bread. Grapes. Cheese. Bread. We have an expression in my region, “Uvas, pan, y queso, saben un beso”(Grapes, bread, and cheese, taste like a kiss)
How has Covid-19 changed your outlook on life?
I have not changed much because I am a very introspective person. It makes me value joy and joyful people.
Anything to add?
What I’ve learned is to stay in the present, love, play, and have wisdom.
Sadly, Rocio returned to her home in Palencia this week, and I already miss my confident and worldly amiga. I am so glad, I met Rocio in this little corner of the world, and I am looking forward to the next adventure we have together.
Hearing bad news about a family member while I am so far away from home is one of my worst fears. This week, my Uncle Tom passed away suddenly from a heart attack. I don’t really know the best way to process this information, but because I can’t be with my family right now, I want to share with you one of my favorite Uncle Tom memories:
When my brother, Mike, and I were little, we would sometimes spend summer weeks with our Uncle Tom while my parents went on vacation by themselves (rude of them). We didn’t mind that my parents were away though because we always had fun when we were with Uncle Tom.
One summer day, Uncle Tom wanted to take me and Mike to the pool. For whatever reason, his swim club was closed when we arrived, so Uncle Tom cultivated a Plan B. He drove us to the nearest Hilton instead. Uncle Tom escorted us straight through the lobby of the Hilton and to the hotel’s pool. Because we were not Hilton residents, we did not have a room key to access the pool deck. However, there was an open notebook near the entrance of the pool that listed room numbers, and with his quick wit, Uncle Tom peeked at that list before telling the lifeguard on duty our “room number” and stating that his wife will be coming down shortly with the room key. I was so excited to join this acting expedition, but I think Mike almost peed his pants. The lifeguard let us into the pool area, no questions asked, and we swam for a while until my brother couldn’t take the pressure any longer. We eventually left the pool in fear of tarnishing his good conscious.
On our way out of the hotel, we must have made a wrong turn because we found ourselves, wrapped in our towels, with dripping wet bathing suits and squishy flip flops in the midst of a wedding reception.
I will always remember my Uncle Tom how he was on that day; adaptable, clever, and entertaining.
I only wish during the past couple of years, I spent more time with my Uncle Tom. He was a big part of my childhood, making the most delicious deep fried turkey on Thanksgiving (almost blowing the house up on numerous occasions) and always bringing the best dessert to Christmas Eve dinner. The week before I left for the Canary Islands, I had dinner with all of my Philadelphia relatives, including Uncle Tom. I sat next to my Uncle Tom, and we had intentional time to catch up after a busy 4 years of college with not too much time spent together. I’m lucky I had this moment, and I wish so much that it was not the last one.
Reach out to your loved ones you haven’t spoken to in a while. See how they are doing. Remind them you love them.
If anyone has been paying attention to the moon lately, it’s been wacky. A Full Beaver Moon and the penumbral lunar eclipse occurred on Monday. If you don’t know what that is….I didn’t either. The Farmers’ Almanac explains, “The November moon got its name for the time of year when beavers scurried to their shelters ahead of winter.” Below is a diagram I copped from USA Today to give a closer look at the penumbral lunar eclipse:
Long story short, the moon looked really freaking cool this week. I could even see it clear as day when I walked to school in the mornings. I don’t know much about astrology or the moon, but I really love pointing out of a car window, and saying, “The mooooon” as though no one in the car with me has ever seen the moon before. I only understand my own astrological sign (Leo), and I’m not 100% convinced I actually embody the characteristics of this sign, but I do think there is some depth and realness behind astrology, and I believe the moon can affect people in various ways.
With all the moon nonsense going on this week, my friends and I got on the subject of the lunar cycle and the menstrual cycle. How are the two similar? How do they interact with one another? My friend, Rocio, happens to be an expert on this subject, and she laid it all out for us. I love learning new things, and I found this mini-lesson at our dining-room table fascinating.
Below is the Menstrual/Lunar Cycle as drawn by Rocio:
Let me break this diagram down for you in English:
There are four phases in the Lunar Cycle and four phases in the Menstrual Cycle. This type of diagram was created to represent a world in which we live in complete darkness. For this reason and due to modern birth control, this chart is not a complete and accurate representation of how the moon and menstrual cycles interact, but it demonstrates the traditional ideas and beliefs surrounding this topic. It suggests that women embody four archetypes during the four different phases. This cycle follows a 28 day pattern.
Phase 1: PHASE OF THE WITCH/ WINTER
This is the phase to rest. The woman feels inspired and introspective. This is a time where the woman feels more in touch with her feelings. Menstruation occurs.
Phase 2: PHASE OF THE MAIDEN/ SPRING
First Quarter Moon
This phase is the moment to act. Clarity abounds. This is a good time for the woman to begin new projects, as her energy is heightened. Clear thoughts and a feeling of independence accompany this phase.
Phase 3: PHASE OF THE MOTHER/ SUMMER
This is the phase to just be. The woman feels secure, sexual, creative, and fertile. Ovulation occurs.
Phase 4: PHASE OF THE ENCHANTRESS/AUTUMN
Third Quarter Moon
This is basically the worst phase ever. It’s like falling off a cliff. You sleep and feel mentally groggy. This phase is a jump from high to low.
Of course, every woman and every body is different. Whether you subscribe to ancient beliefs or not, it is so important to be in tune with yourself! If you have the urge to track your cycle in relation to the lunar cycle, you can google “Moon Cycle Charts” and a myriad of options are available to you. You can also download apps to your phone (moon-related & not). I have been using the monthly cycles app for about a year, and I think it is a simple and easy tool to keep track of your period. I’ve never used a moon chart before, but maybe now I’ll give it a try. Let me know what tracking systems you have used or are curious about in the comments below!
So… I had this idea for my obligatory Thanksgiving blog post… I planned to write about the people I have met in the Canary Islands that I am thankful for. Novel idea. I know. I started my entrevistas or interviews with my roommate, Julia, and I immediately realized that this plan was insufficient. I don’t know how I could possibly fit the stories of fascinating people, like Julia, all in one blog post. Thus, begins my interview series! Name TBD. If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comment section. Although I know I can not widdle down the story of any one individual to a meager blog post, I will do my best to introduce you to Julia and others with my limited resources and amateur interview skills.
First, I should tell you that in Spanish “Js” are pronounced like “Hs”, so instead of “Jul yah”, think “Hul yah”.
Julia is one of the first people I met here in the Canary Islands. She is 22 years old, and she is a naturally likable and friendly individual. Julia hails from Madrid but came to the Canary Islands to take her driving exam. She is a very introspective person who places meaningful connections with people over all else. I admire her calm demeanor and her unmatched optimism for life.
Tell me about your home
I like Madrid for the variety of open minded and friendly people. There are many places to go, old monuments, street art, and parties. Parties before COVID were really good. In Madrid you have lots of possibilities.
Tell me about your village
My village is where my family comes from. My grandmother, grandfather, and father come from a village called Rascafria, situated in the north of Madrid at the base of the mountains. In the winter, it is really cold, and I like to sit by the fire and relax. In the summer, the climate is pleasant. I spend time with my cousins and friends. We all know each other. The village is where I learned to rock climb. I enjoy riding my bike. There are natural swimming pools, and we have a lot of stray cats.The parties in the village are famous. The 15th of August is Fiesta Patronal. We have a whole week of parties with costume competitions, car racing, and a water party where kids play with soap and water. Rascafria has lots of animals, is agricultural, and we have a wood factory. The one thing I don’t like so much is the very traditional thinking. They are not very open minded. Some people stay in the village their whole life, but others leave and go to Madrid or other places to study. I know brothers; one who went to Madrid, and one who stayed home, and they think so differently. With COVID-19 and travel restrictions, more people than usual have been visiting Rascafria because it is within their zone of travel and they have nowhere else to go. They stay in hotels and rural houses. When 3, 4, 5, people from outside Rascafria arrive, you notice.
If you could do anything without limits, what would you do?
Travel around the world all the time. I want to have many houses…not houses..homes around the world. I also want to help other people. I want to have money and resources to help them, but I will never in my life be a politician. Volunteering and traveling. I want to learn about people and know cultures. I don’t mind where I go, as long as where I go is a learning place. I like traveling alone. It’s a good thing for you, and knowing yourself in many situations. I don’t care where I go.
What are you thankful for?
I am really thankful for my parents. They push me to do lots of things, without me knowing they are good things. For example, I didn’t know what to study. Instead of arguing with me, my mom told me to calm down, take my time, make my own decision. My mom is the first one who tells me to travel. She says do it without thinking of anything else. I am what I am because of them. I’m thankful for all of my friends, all of the people in my circle because they teach me lots of things. I am really thankful for myself. I am thankful for this house. I like good people in my life, and I think I have that.
If you could eat one food for the rest of your life what would it be?
Pasta. You can mix it with lots of different things. If I was a sporty person, pasta would be really nice. I am not, but I’m still going to say pasta. I’m not going to get bored with pasta. My favorite food is cuban rice. It is the best, but I would get bored of that.
How has COVID-19 changed your outlook on life?
I became more mature. In quarantine, I spent a lot of time alone. I realized many things about myself. I realized how I am. I have lots of different feelings about people. I want to think that we are a good planet. But I don’t know. I don’t really know. I think COVID changed a lot of people. People feel COVID in different ways. We do not all have the same perspective about COVID. I think COVID is a good thing to unify us. I think if we do that , it’ll go better.
Anything to add?
Now a days, I’m in a really good mood with lots of ganas de aprender.
With so much change recently, running is a constant. It’s hard to explain just how much this sport means to me, unless you are a runner yourself. In this case, you probably understand. If not, try to conjure up an image of your favorite pastime. Think of the feeling you get when you go fishing, bowling, watch golf on tv, or do whatever it is you’re passionate about.
1. Running allows you to FREE YOUR MIND
Whenever I have thoughts racing through my head (every day), I take to running to sort them out. I always come off a run feeling a bit lighter and with a sense of clarity. In this way, I keep unreasonable thoughts from running around my mind all day, ha.
2. Be the main character.
When I’m running, I pretend I’m a movie character. As cliché as it may be, I really like the “I’m the main character” mindset that has surfaced recently on social media. I recommend keeping a “my life as a movie” soundtrack featuring key songs such as Electric Light Orchestra’s, Mr. Blue Sky. Why not pretend you are in a movie about to have your great adventure?
3. Supportive community of runners
With a background of high school and collegiate running, I’ve experienced the community that the sport provides. Although running is considered individualistic, I have NEVER felt more of a team bond in any other sport. Even now, without a team behind me, I still consider fellow runners my teammates. Ya know when you pass another runner during a run and you give each other that ~look~ and you just feel that internal bond of “Yeah, you’re a badass? I’m a badass too. Keep up the badassery.” ? Love that moment.
4. Runners high
There is nothing like that post-run feeling.
5. I like to eat and drink a lot. Need I say more?
6. Bragging rights
“Yeah I’m a runner.” For some reason, people are impressed when you say you are a runner. (hint: anyone can be a runner)
Some days, I feel winded after 2 miles, and the next day I bust out 8 miles like nobody’s business. Sometimes my watch stops in the middle of a run. Sometimes I get lost. Sometimes it starts raining. Spontaneity keeps life interesting, amirite?
8. Passing boys on runs 😉
9. No equipment necessary!
Expensive gym memberships or COVID concerns keeping you from working out? Fear not! All you need to do is put one foot in front of the other. *Warning: your feet will likely end up looking like this:
10. You can do it ANYWHERE
Wherever you are, you can always run. It is an efficient way to explore new places and quicker than walking.
Anyway, those are just a few of the reasons why this sport brings a warm fuzzy feeling to my heart. I love running, yes I do, if I love running, so can you!
This year has been a shit show….no doubt about it; a fascist president, a global pandemic, police brutality, protests and riots… all resulting in a divided country causing strained relationships among friends, families, and neighbors. I could go on, but those are the basics.
This year has separated time into periods of “before 2020” and “after 2020”. I’ve heard people pleading for the end of 2020. To this, I ask, “Why? What changes when the clock strikes midnight on January 1st, 2021?” We will still be in the “after 2020” period. This life is still our reality. Adapt. Keep moving. But don’t wait until January 2021 for a magic spell that will transport us back to “normal” because I promise you, it ain’t coming. A vaccine though?? One can hope.
I can’t say I was all that surprised that the U.S. elections loom so large on the world stage. However, I was curious to gage the opinions of non-Americans on our current political climate. For the most part, the people I have met here are not big Trump supporters. The one outlier was an Italian man I spoke with who admitted his limited knowledge on the subject, but thought Trump was better for the global economy.
Even from 4000 miles away, I have seen countless news stories and heard people discussing election drama. On Friday, my roommates excitedly pulled up the Electoral College map to show me that my home state, Pennsylvania, had flipped to blue. Students in class have asked me who I predict winning the elections, and I subtly bragged that Joe Biden’s campaign team is awaiting results at the conference center where my Dad works. My boss has sent me memes of Donald Trump, and even the police officers at my TIE appointment recognized the state of Pennsylvania listed on my passport. My 9 year old tutee told me that he would vote for Biden. Todo el mundo has been paying attention.
It is certainly an interesting time to be an American abroad and witness the whole world hold their breath. This week, I will have some cool stories to share with my students about how my parents partied it up with The President Elect and U.S.’s first ever female VP over the weekend. There’s a lot of work to be done to mend relationships in such a polarized nation, but today, I feel proud to be an American and especially a Pennsylvanian 🙂
I never considered Halloween my favorite holiday. I never considered autumn my favorite season. But not-so surprisingly, missing out on these familiar realities, had me feeling some type of way. While there is not much I can do about the lack of changing leaves and sweater weather, I can prioritize Halloween.
As I have learned from my students, Halloween is not really a big deal here. It happens, but it is not a whole season of celebration, and it is certainly not ~spooky~. Yes, there is trick-or-treating and costumes, but that’s about it. One teacher told me that Halloween only arrived in the Canary Islands about 15 years ago, building on the customs seen in the U.S. (which we took from Ireland/Great Britain) centuries ago.
The Canarians do observe a holiday known as Finoas in which people eat chestnuts and pay respect to the dead, but this holiday is a little antiquated, and the younger generations know little of its origins. However, I did have many students tell me they partake in egg-throwing on Halloween, and I was an ever-so-gracious recipient of the tradition this year 🙂
So what did I do to get that Fall feeling? I made Halloween (or a version of it) happen. Pumpkins are not easy to find in the Canary Islands. Pumpkin Spiced lattes? Forget about it. The pumpkins aka “calabaza” here are what Americans call gourds. My roommate, Julia, and I considered what our success rate would be if we tried to carve gourds until a friend told us about a grocery store that was selling the “rounder pumpkins.” By a stroke of luck, we found candles in our house that were the perfect size to put in our tiny ashen pumpkins. I actually don’t think I’ve carved a Jack O’ Lantern in years, and it was exciting to watch Julia partake in an unfamiliar American custom. Because of my eagerness to share my country’s traditions, I tapped into my own child-like admiration for the simple things.
Not wanting to let any bit of Fall escape, I roasted the pumpkin seeds with a bit of olive oil and salt, and I used the pumpkin innards to bake a pumpkin cake with cream cheese icing. Believe me when I say, that the only pumpkin flavored treat in all of the Canary Islands can be found in our kitchen.
While I had trouble convincing my new friends to deck out in complete Halloween costumes, Julia painted some spooky makeup on our faces, and we celebrated the night with a bit of Sangria (typical Spanish) and some pong (typical American). It was not the Halloween I am used to, but it was a wonderful Halloween nonetheless. I can’t wait for Thanksgiving.
The longest amount of time I have ever been away from homeby myself was 20 days. I visited Barcelona during my winter break, junior year of college, and I did not know a soul there. However, I had the privilege of meeting a wonderful mix of American and Australian students through a travel abroad program (CIS Abroad) upon my arrival.
This time is a bit different. I have now crossed the threshold of my 20 days, and I have done so, for the most part, alone.There have been no organized activities or tours of the city, no excursions, no classes, and no three-course Spanish lunches followed by trips to see Gaudi’s most famous architectural designs. But, we are comparing apples to oranges here. And while apples are crisp and shiny, sometimes you crave a different flavor. You might have to get a little bit of rind underneath your fingernails to get to that sweet center.
This month has been slow and then fast and then slow again. I have spent a lot of quality time with my roommates, who I am extremely thankful for. Meeting Julia and Adrí my third day on the island was by no stretch of the imagination a blessing, and they have helped me keep some semblance of normalcy during such a transitional time. One night, as we were walking outside, Julia looked up at the moon and said, “We are all under the same moon. That’s what I like to think about when I’m missing my mom.” Later that week (and I don’t know how I didn’t notice it before), I was staring up at my ceiling, trying to fall asleep, and I noticed that my room has those scattered twinkling stars I always wanted as a kid…and of course.. a little sliver of a moon right dab in the center of the pattern.
I started teaching, and it is not unlike how I expected, but I do have a newfound appreciation for my American schooling and for teachers in general. Teaching, ladies and gentlemen, is not a job for those who can’t. My self-directed mission during week one of classes was to understand my students’ English abilities. How should I approach the different ESO (Secondary Education) levels? And will I be mistaken for a student? The answer to the later is yes, many times.
I arrived at school with a presentation about myself and a “Create your Instagram Profile” activity that I prayed would last the class period. My first week taught me I will have to adjust sessions for the more basic classes (alphabet, colors, greetings, etc). As, I went to college for Business (ha!), I have no idea how to make a lesson plan, so if anyone in the field of education wants to drop some knowledge, please do. So far, google drive and a plethora of dutifully named subfolders has been my approach.
I am teaching high school, and while I admit some of the students are intimidating, most are genuinely curious and kind. A highlight of my week was when a student approached me and asked me to join him and his friends in their football match. Another girl from my lower level classes proclaimed, “Hi. teacher. I love you!” when I walked into the room. The eagerness to learn English is evident in many of my students, but the classroom structure is so different from anything I’ve ever seen. The notion to raise your hand in class is quite literally a foreign concept, leaving the quieter students unable to fend for themselves in classroom discussion.
In other news, Pedro Sánchez, announced a 6 month (pending approval from the Congress of Deputires) State of Alarm due to COVID-19. The government set a 6am-11pm curfew, is limiting gatherings to 6 people, and setting travel restrictions. This state of alarm applies to all of Spain except the Canary Islands, due to its low amount of cases. In fact, the Canary Islands were just recently added to the UK’s safe travel list. When I applied to be an auxiliary (before anyone had ever heard the word coronavirus), I chose the Canary Islands on a whim. Live on an island? Sounds good. Maybe I should have done more research, but my good fortune in this particular situation proves sometimes you just have to follow your gut.
Like anything in life, my experience here will be a mixed bag. If I dig far enough and have just the right amount of luck, I may be able to pull out a small treasure. Or, I could live through a Charlie Brown scenario and repeatedly score some rocks. On that note, I will be introducing Halloween to my classes this week. What are you being for Halloween? How do you plan to celebrate Halloween in a COVID-19 world? Drop your answers in the comments below.
I am one lucky gal. Not only do my roommates share their Spanish language and culture with me, but they FEED ME. In turn, I introduced them to grilled cheese, peanut butter, chocolate chip cookies, and swear words in English.
I have learned there are three rules in Spanish cooking (or at least with my roommates’ cooking) : 1.Garlic 2.Oil 3.Onions These three words fit nicely into my vocabulary and don’t stray too far from my already basic knowledge of what makes food taste good.
Not only is the food buenísimo, but eating is an event. In the typical Spanish way, lunch is the largest meal of the day and requires the most work to prepare. I’ve been taking notes, watching Adrí and Julia in the kitchen as they prepare the food. So far, we’ve had a few pasta dishes, salmon and rice with homemade garlic aioli, and Spanish style lentil soup with blood sausage, chorizo, Canarian potatoes, and bacon (Spanish *beicon* is a thicker/fattier meat). Yesterday, we had a taco spread (provided by yours truly), but I let Adrí handle the cooking of the taco meat and veggies.
I have learned to forego my typical, and one may say boring, 12pm lunch for a more traditional Spanish lunch time of 3pm or 4pm full of flavorful food and great company, leading me straight into my siesta.
I have been writing down some of the recipes and styles of cooking to save for a later date when I want to remake these creations. Más para seguir 😉
This week, I feel like I have been all over the world, and I guess quite literally I have been. I’m glad I know a lick of Spanish because I don’t know how I would get by without it. My first revelation; no one here speaks English. Those who do have more of a Spanglish approach (like me). My past experiences in Madrid and Barcelona led me to believe that English was widely spoken in Spain. I was mistaken. I try my best to speak with locals in Spanish out of respect…I’m on their turf now. I want to become fluent in the language, so I guess diving right in is the best approach. Three university classes taken my freshman year and two years of tutoring basic Spanish have prepared me enough, but I’ve got a ways to go.
This brings me to my second revelation; people are really freaking nice and willing to help. I don’t know if it is because I am a young wide-eyed girl very far from home who looks like she needs some help (I’ve used this card a lot) or if it is the nature of the people here, but I am very thankful for the kindness I’ve received.
Here’s a short story:
While I was searching for a place to stay in Fuerteventura, I mentioned to one of the flat owners (Maximo) that I can not use my phone without WIFI. After showing me the flat, Maximo told me to follow him and walked with me a few blocks to a Locutorio (phone store). He proceeded to look up the best/most reasonably priced phone plan for EU roaming and llamadas nacionales (calling in-country) and explained to the woman behind the counter what I needed. If that wasn’t enough, he also put me in contact with his son who is fluent in English and lives on the island. Even after I decided not to rent Maximo’s flat, he told me his family was still there to help with anything I needed. *Cue the tears* This is only one example of the generosity I’ve experienced.
While I have been lucky with my encounters, I also have done more work than necessary trying to obtain my TIE (kinda like a green card). I still do not have it, and the process has been a massive headache, but I am taking things step by step.
For any auxiliaries reading this, here is what I wish I had known:
Step 1: Find a place to stay. This will be important because you need to put your address on all your documents.
Step 2: Make an appointment with your Ayuntamiento (town hall) to empadrar (register) in the country. You may have to make this appointment online or through the phone due to COVID. I made the mistake of going to the Comisario first before registering because I thought I had all of the paperwork I needed. Nope. I did not.
Step 3: After registering, you will have to come back to pick up your contracto de empadramiento.
Step 4: When you have your contract of empadramiento, make an appointment with the comisario. You will need to bring:
Contract of empadramiento
Tasa and receipt for the Tasa (I had no idea what this was, but the police officers pointed me in the direction of a local print shop, and I found out a tasa is like a money order. After obtaining my tasa, I had to go to the local bank and use an ATM machine to pay for the tasa and receive my receipt).
3 passport sized photos
Copies of your passport and visa (black & white)
Contract of employment
I hope these steps prove helpful. I wish I had known to go to the Ayuntamiento right away because their appointments are all booked up for the coming days. Spanish bureaucracy is sloooow moving especially with COVID, but I am making moves poco a poco and trying my best to find my way here with a little help from some friendly Spaniards.
I am coming to terms with the truth that life is unpredictable. Even as a kid, I abhorred change. As a very structured person, I like my routine; same bed time on repeat. While some routine is beneficial, at a certain point it becomes limiting. Little changes scare me more than big ones because the big ones happen so fast I can’t control them if I try….AKA CORONA…Massive changes force me to adjust, but consciously making small changes is f****ing hard, man.
What scares me more than anything is not knowing, and I DON’T KNOW SO MUCH (even though I pretend I do.) This age is so weird. At 22, I am young enough to take many different paths, but I am old enough that I have to be responsible about my decisions??? I feel off kilter. If there was a book detailing how to live life right, I think I would follow those instructions to a T… but where’s the fun in that?
A quote I have been thinking about a lot lately is,
“If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
Idk if Lao actually ever said this, but I probably found it on a Pinterest board or something, and the words really stuck with me. If I am honest with myself, I spend way more time than I would like in the past and future. I think most people spend their lives trying to reach that “peace,” but I wonder how many actually achieve it.
I’m not sure what the point of this post was, but as I am planning to leave home, these thoughts have been on my mind. I am hopeful for this new change, and I will try to stay in the present…practice mindfulness and all that blah blah blah.