ROCIO

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.

Nico, Me, and Rocio posing with El Diablo at Timanfaya National Park in Lanzarote

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.

Check out one of my favorite adventures with Rocio!

THE UNITED STATES ELECTION VIEWED FROM ABROAD

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.

Mom and Dad excited as heck at the election night celebration

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 馃檪

Un Saludo,

Mags

HALLOWEEN IN THE CANARY ISLANDS? DON’T COUNT ME OUT.

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 馃檪

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.

Bringing American Halloween traditions to the Canary Islands
Celebrating Halloween by carving Jack O’ Lanterns

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.

Halloween makeup
Not pictured: the tutu I got for a few euros at a store down the street.

Un Saludo,

Mags