CANARIAN CUISINE

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.

Barbacoa (Barbeque)

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!

Arepas

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)

Kebab

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.

Un abrazo,

Mags

SPANISH PHRASES I LOVE & ADORE

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.


¡ANIMA!

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.

¡A TOPE!

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!

HASTA AHORA

=”until now.”

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.

QUE FUERTE

= “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.

QUE BISNES

=”what business”

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! 🙂

Un Saludo,

Mags

Views from a recent trip to the south of Fuerteventura

THREE KINGS DAY: A MAGICAL SPANISH TRADITION

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.

You betcha my roommates and I left out our shoes for the Kings this year

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.

Cabalgatas

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.

Roscon de Reyes

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.

Un Saludo,

Mags

2021 WILL NOT BE A FRESH START AND THAT’S OK

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.

“Graduation” Day

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.

Thanks GK for the tat & great conversation

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.

My first time rock climbing. I made it to the top 🙂

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.

Un Saludo,

Mags

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!

MY FAVORITE MEMORY WITH MY UNCLE TOM

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.

Uncle Tom, my Mom, Mike, and me in Rittenhouse Square Park on the wedding day of my Aunt Heather and Uncle Chris.

Reach out to your loved ones you haven’t spoken to in a while. See how they are doing. Remind them you love them.

Un Saludo,

Mags

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 🙂

Un Saludo,

Mags