Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"I'm Leavin' On a Jetplane..."

Trip home

First leg: Bus from Jerez to Madrid; June 21-22, 2010, 21:55 to 5:55

Almost didn’t make it. Waited until 3 hours before to buy my bus ticket, thinking…Monday night, no big deal. People should be working and not vacationing quite yet. HA forgot I was in Spain for a minute there. It was the last ticket. Booya (phew!)
Jessi 1 – Procrasination 0

My seat was in the back next to a Congolese man. He spoke French and his native Congolese tribal language. I speak English and Spanish. We communicated well enough for him to make a proposition – if I would be his Spanish girlfriend and accompany him through Madrid. Tempting, but I bought him a Coca-Cola instead.

Second leg: Barajas (Madrid airport); June 22, 6:30 to 11:05

The repressed memories are resurfacing. Not being able to find the baggage claim nor my parents that had come to visit me and the resulting shame from having to ask in English after 3 months of Spanish immersion (Study Abroad 2007). Arriving in Madrid, again, couldn’t find the baggage claim or where in the world – I mean, airport – I was supposed to be (Upon arrival for Teaching Assistant year 2009). Being homeless for a night and sleeping on the cold, hard airport floor before flight to Paris. Actually, the real homeless people had it better because they found the cardboard boxes, sigh. (Semana Santa 2010). 150 euros for my overweight luggage…pa-leeease! (Upon departure from Teaching Assistant year 2009) Barajas- ¿porqué me jodas siempre?

Third: Flight Madrid – Washington D.C., 11:05am to 2:50pm (calculate 7 hours for time change)

Went from lacking to luxury! I watched movies, tv shows (incl. Father Ted, mmhmm Emma, if you happen to read this ever), played computer games (not on my computer, either!), and stuffed my face full of airplane food (honestly, I don’t know why people complain about it). I sat next to someone who neither smelled nor proposed. It was probably the best 9 hours of this lengthy trip.

Fourth: Washington Dulles Airport, 2:50 to 6:06pm

For those of you who know the story about how disappointed I was when I got back from Salamanca underage (20 ½) and thirsty…I got my beer this time! Sam Adams summer ale – good, draught, and American. It came with an American price as well: $7.34, ahh, so expensive! (And don’t worry, I didn’t forget the tip) All the sudden the culture shock sets in. I keep saying ‘perdon’ to people I step on. I’m paying sales tax on my purchases. Not all is bad though. For example, I bought Skittles! And ate the whole bag within 5 minutes. American accents; so far I’ve racked up Texas southern, hick southern, ebonics, Latin American Spanish, western surfer-ish and everything in between. (I am notably lacking New England and the Northwest, though). And then there are the cultural nuances that I just can’t explain.

Fifth: Flight from Dulles to Charlotte, NC Douglas Airport, 6:06 to 7:31pm


Sixth: Charlotte Douglas Airport 7:31pm to present

More America, lo bueno: killed two birds with one stone (steak + quesadilla) and ate them for dinner.
Also FREE Wifi! And that is how I bring this blog to you in real time (almost).

I have been writing it as I go along today instead of from stale memory tomorrow, when all of this will feel like a weird dream. That’s my excuse, by the way, if some of the entries are a little off…I’m REALLY tired and currently in hour 30 of my trip, only 4 or 5 of which have been sleeping hours.

What I have to look forward to:
Flight Charlotte Douglas to LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS! 10:30 – 11:28pm.
*sigh of relief* that carries all the frustration, confusion, illusion, contentment, and excitement that I have felt for the past couple of days.

Trip TOTAL: 33 hours and more euros/dollars than I would like to count.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Tying up Loose Ends

Life is bittersweet in this summer heat and with all the goodbyes to left to say. In these last few days, before we all go our own way, we reflect on the good times and finish up the rest.

Beach Boppin'

Lisbon (Fall)
Cadiz (Fall)
Valdelagrana- hop on the train, hop off...suddenly at the beach!
Cortadura- with the big waves
Conil- cozy up to the beautiful cliff-side...careful though, the rocks in the water hurt
Rota- sand, 100 montaditos, water, cien montaditos, who can say 1-euro jarra de cerveza??
Still to go:
Caños de Meca

Spring Tapas
Pimientos fritos- Fried peppers take the number one spot. Feria food, but I've made them at home since then.
Caracoles- yes, snails. Fish 'em outta the shell with a toothpick and suck 'em down
Fideos con Langostinos- noodles with jumbo shrimp..not so much springtime, but it was on the Ruta (route) de los Caracoles
Whatever that delicious specialty was in Sevilla that my coworkers introduced me to...fried fish platter (but not pescaito frito) Wish I could remember how it's called

Still to go:
pescaito frito- fried fish

Helado Favorites

Double scoop winner- Plátano con caramelo (caramel banana) and chocolate

The go-to when the choices are overwhelming- Tiramisú

When I'm in a nutty mood- Carapinos- caramel-pine nut

Only found in Rota- Chocolate with Chocolate cookie bits

La Cepa de Rosa, Jerez fav- Vainilla con brownie- Vanilla with brownie bits

Lived in Jerez all year and still haven't done that?!
>Real Escuela de Arte Ecuestre

Don't forget about the work that inevitably comes with play
Go to Correos and send Flamenco dress home
Prepare last English tutoring classes
Shopping for regalos/recuerdos
Throw useless stuff away (eeeek, I'm a packrat so this will be painful)

What I will miss most:
Stinky cheese- manchego, viejo, payoyo
Jamón (literally translated, "ham", but it's so much more)
Spanish green olives and cheap olive oil
Fanta limón
Dressing up beer and wine with lemon fanta
Surprise birthday parties
Andalusian flowers and wildlife
Spanlish, Franglish, and Españofrénglideutch
Sitting at a terraza for hours with one café con leche/cerveza/tinto
"Is this really true about your country?" conversations
Beer at the movie theater
Chuches in the chucherías (gummy candy)
Spaniards singing in the Streets (random or not)
El Mejor Piso

Re-adjustments upon return to the States:

(Picture: Arkansas River from Cajun's deck)

Practice political correctness
6:00 dinner time
Driving a car instead of walking
Remember not to call people and hang up before they answer
3:00pm? Yes, stores are open, and yes I can get things done
Keeping up with American efficiency (while retaining the virtue of patience I have acquired here in Spain)
-These are the ones I'm ready for at least-

Monday, May 10, 2010

Guest Post

Spring is winding down, days are getting hotter, Feria Jerez 2010 has come and gone. And now start the goodbye parties. The first one to whom we had to say farewell went home to France this past weekend. He recently revealed his writing skills when he let me read a poem he'd written about his Spanish adventure. And, as it fits with the theme of my posts and the waning phase of our year in Spain, it seemed appropriate to share here. It's a farewell to Andalucía:

Le vent tourne. Je quitte ce vent sableux pour la fraîcheur de l’océan. En te quittant Andalousie, je laisse dans les rues de Jerez une part de moi-même. Perdrais-je de ma mémoire la musique orientale de Jookoo ? Perdrais-je le souvenir des danses Gypsi des belles andalouses ? Je regarde pour la dernière fois ce soleil, meurtri et mélancolique. Il est le fruit tendre et mûr de ce pays, la chaleur envoûtante des longues nuits de fête et de plaisirs. Je quitte la belle du Sud, mes rêves de paradis s’assoupissent. Ce soir, des étoiles dans le ciel brillent dans mes yeux. Je me dis que je verrais les mêmes en France, ma chère andalouse. Te revoir et mourir avec toi, c’est une douce phrase qui bourdonne sans cesse en moi, une chanson d’amour, où l’on se sépare en larmes mais en se promettant de se revoir très vite.

Written by Sylvain Caillaud

Author Mini-bio:

Hailing from La Petite Boissière, a small town in Western France, Sylvain came to Jerez to do an internship. His career interest is eco-tourism, and the beaches and sierras of Andalucía provided a broad and beautiful stepping ground for his apprenticeship. In the two short months he was in Spain, he managed to strike a connection with an impressive portion of the melting pot of twenty-somethings in the city.

Don't worry! I'm not going to leave you to butcher the poem by copying and pasting to translator.com. Here's the English version translated by the author himself:

The wind changed. I’m leaving this sandy wind for the coolness of the ocean. In leaving you Andalusia, I lost a part of myself in the labyrinth of Jerez… Would I lose the memory of oriental music of Jookoo? Would I remember Gypsi dancings of the lovely girls? I’m looking for the last time this Sun, wounded and melancholic. It’s the ripe and soft fruit of this land, the enchanting warmth of the long nights of parties and pleasures. I’m leaving the Beautiful of the south, my dreams of heaven are dulling. Tonight, stars in the sky are shining in my eyes. I say, I would watch the same in France, my dear Andalousian. To see you again and die with you, it’s a soft phrase ringing in me, a love song which we separate in crying but which we promise to meet you again, quickly.

Thanks, Sylvain! Te echamos de menos. Bisous

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Wake up and smell the Rebujitos!

One day, the sleepy, rain-exhausted citizens of Jerez woke up to discover that the clouds had finally dissipated. The sun was out, the town shone bright white and yellow once again. Spring had arrived! That was about a month ago.

It's actually amazing how much the sun affects daily life around here. Once it came out, people all of the sudden had a more optimistic outlook on life. The streets were buzzing, restaurants staying open several hours later than in winter, and the tourists came to town. For us foreigners here, we also all the sudden got the sense of panic that comes with the realization that our remaining time here is short. The feeling is certainly bittersweet. Above all this newfound energy and optimism, though, for Jerezan@s and foreign residents alike, talk of FeRiA began. Have you been learning your Sevillanas? What does your dress look like? Do you want to see my dress...it's really pretty isn't it? (Those Spaniards have no sense of humility...haha).

AND NOW THE TIME HAS ARRIVED. Feria officially starts tonight at dusk with the Alumbrado, the illumination of the fairgrounds. Of course, being the good partiers we are, feria actually started Thursday night in the dark with a little bit of botellon and a preview of the casetas (you gotta break in the dance floors beforehand).

These couple of weeks leading up to today have been all about finding the perfect dress, getting it altered, searching store after store for the right accessories. (Yes, we realized the prom analogy here, too). This entire year, the girls have all been considering whether to actually buy a dress or not. The first dress I looked at in the Spanish version of Dillard's was...wait for it...675 euros! No, not spending an entire month's salary on a Flamenco dress (that can only be worn for Halloween once back home). Luckily, it's really easy to be thrifty in Spain and find less expensive alternatives. So, after deciding that we weren't going to give into the dress hype, almost all of us eventually found one that fit our style (and our budgets...sort of) and couldn't resist. After all, who gets to go to prom wearing one of these...

Also, these same weeks, I personally started exploring the city more and getting exercise by jogging. I made sure, though, that my running route always passed the fairgrounds so that I could watch it's progress.
Puerta Principal

Not much to look at now, but wait 'til you see the after pictures!

En fin, the past month our lives have consisted of Feria talk, beach, feria preparations, an afternoon cerveza on the terrace, and finally now...FERIA! Us foreigners are struggling to keep up, but such is life in Spain.

Rebujito- fino sherry + Sprite; typical Feria cocktail
Feria- Fair
Puerta Principal- Main Gate to the fairgrounds
Sevillanas- a variety of Flamenco dance particular to this region
En fin- in sum

Thursday, March 18, 2010

FLASHBACK: Just before Christmas

Just to give you some background info since this post is a little out of place and context...I wrote this directly after the meet-and-greet luncheon with my co-workers at school. They put off scheduling it for so long that it ended up being a pre-Christmas luncheon instead. It lasted from 3pm until about 6:30 or 7pm and consisted of 3 courses, a few midday rounds of wine, and was topped off with a shot. Knowing the context it's in, it can still be a little confusing because of the references to the book I was reading at the time, the Spanish poet Garcia Lorca, and just my generally disconnected, stream-of-consciousness tone. Regardless, it's a memorable piece for me because I wrote it in the moment and it marks one of my "checkpoints" in my Spanish experience where I felt significantly more immersed and successful within this foreign language and culture.

Spain’s “Three Cups of Tea”: Copa de vino, café, chupito.

“Here (In Pakistan and Afghanistan), we drink three cups of tea to do business; the first you are a stranger, the second you become a friend, and the third, you join our family, and for our family we are prepared to do anything…”

Quote from Haji Ali in Greg Mortenson’s book “Three Cups of Tea”

We’ll say it a little more relaxed for the Spanish version: Here in Spain, we drink así to get to know one another better; after a glass of wine you are an acquaintance, after a cup of coffee you are a friend, and after the post-luncheon shot, I guess, you are drinking buddies. Anyway, this is how the lunch with my fellow teachers went down.

We Americans have this idea that, with a glass of wine it is a little easier to speak Spanish. Therefore, with the growing friendship between my coworkers and I and the extra confidence boost that the ‘riojita’ offered, my Spanish was very good at lunch today, and that fact was confirmed by the rest of the teachers and is not just a figment of my imagination.

What’s more, I am that much closer to being a part of Spain. I don’t mean as a Spaniard, but as an essential part, nonetheless. I ate typical jerezano food and I enjoyed the beautiful sunset across the Spanish plains from the punto de vista of a viña, that is to say, the Spanish plains. It is the sight that Federico García Lorca epitomized in his poetry.

From now on, I will not avoid addressing teachers because I don’t know their names. I will no longer be intimidated in the teacher’s lounge when they are making announcements and I have no clue whether they apply to me or not. Because now I am, officially, a drinking buddy amongst my fellow teachers.

Spanglish translations:
Así- so, like this
Riojita- rioja (type of Spanish red wine) + -ita (diminutive)
Jerezano- typical of Jerez de la Frontera, the city I live in
Punto de vista- vantage point
Viña- vineyard

Monday, March 1, 2010

Carnaval: The Best of Both Worlds

Hamburgers, hot dogs, cotton candy, candied apples, and fried yumminess…sound familiar?

Carnaval in Cádiz had all the food, bright lights, and silly toys that American fairs have! So, on the surface, it was somewhat familiar. Walking around and diving into the Sunday afternoon festivities, though, brought out the Spanish in it. The cabalgatas, or parades, were not huge floats of Egyptian sphinxes like in New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Rather, they were just mini-bleachers on floats full of silly-clad people singing silly Spanish tunes. Also, in addition to the typical draught of beer, Spaniards love to carry around bottles of sherry during Carnaval…I think that would make me sick, but more power to you if that’s your flavor!

Carnaval, as opposed to Halloween in the U.S., is when all the Spanish people use their creativity for costumes! I saw lots of Avatars (maybe not so creative), Stewy from Family Guy, various insects (butterflies, bumblebees, ladybugs), various food items, green tea bags, and a complete bathroom. Yes, I’m still talking about people dressed up!
Among our group there were a couple of chickens, a mime, a superhero, Elvis, pink-wig chicas, and me, the fortune-teller. It was less creative thinking and more just an excuse to wear Mifalda…my beloved skirt.

So, we dressed up Saturday night, the following weekend from our Sunday day-time trip, and planned to stay in Cádiz until the last train back and maybe have a few drinks in Jerez. Well, we missed the 10pm train and the next one was at…8am! What’s more, it started raining around midnight. Very few of the bars were letting people inside, so we were stuck in the streets, no way out. With a little bit of luck, my roomie Monica, Emma, and I found a nice, warm Irish bar to hide out in until morning. Thank goodness bars in Spain stay open until 6am!

When we boarded the train 45 minutes early, it was dark and already full of sleeping pirates and beasts and inanimate objects. We each found a nook and nestled down with the rest of them. An absurd ending to what turned out to be a pretty normal night. That is…if all-night drinks with Elvis and a chicken could ever be considered ‘normal’.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Spain is more than traveling

So, I've told you where all I've been, but that doesn't mean I've been sitting on my bum all the days in between awaiting the next trip. Here are some of the good times we've had in Jerez thus far:

Soccer Saturdays
This is a relatively new tradition that some fellow auxiliares and Spanish soccer players (I know, "Spanish soccer player", redundant right?) started up a few weekends ago. It's a great way to meet new people, both Spanish and foreign, and to run off the tapas we know we are going to enjoy later!

Maddie's visit (Jan 7-27)
3 weeks...my best friend...what else can I say? A lot, actually, so I might have to dedicate a blog to this one...

Salsa Dancing on the weekends
Well, a couple of weekends, anyway. I'm not a very good salsa dancer, but I've been to one or two lessons here. The advantage of being female is that I don't really have to know how, I just have to find a strong lead who is willing to get his toe stepped on once or twice!

Kim got to salsa with the cute dance instructor!

Nochevieja (New Year's Eve)
This is when all the good looking men in suits come out...they all wear suits! The question is, where are they the rest of the year?

One of the traditions for Spanish New Year's Eve is to eat 12 grapes the last 12 seconds of the year for good luck...almost impossible to actually accomplish!

Zambombas (carol singing in bars) at Christmas
The word 'zambomba' actually refers to the instrument that is typical here in Jerez and surrounding areas, it's not a custom throughout all of Spain. A lot of the villancicos (christmas carols) that we sang had street names and places we recognized from living in Jerez!

Thanksgiving Dinner
Teaching non-Americans how to eat like Americans!
The most surprising thing to Europeans was pumpkin pie...pumpkin is savory here, not sweet.

Barbara and Eliane learn how to cook stuffing

Mark with his homemade pumpkin pie! (Homemade as in pie crusts and canned pumpkin do not exist in Spain)

Dinner guests (We had it at Danee, Kristen, and Rory's apartment. They live in the apartment right under mine)

In contrast to the big dress-up parties we have in the States, our Halloween party was a little smaller and more intimate, but we partied just as hard! We also dressed up. Prize went to: Kim as Tio Pepe!

Catching the rays in Cadiz
I've never lived near the beach before! Cadiz is an hour train ride away and has some beautiful beaches. I'm looking forward to the Spring and Summer months when the sun will finally come out and we can hit the sand again!

So that's the then and now. This weekend we are enjoying Carnaval in Cadiz (pictures to come soon) and waiting out the rain so that we can return to playing soccer and all that!

Monday, February 15, 2010

What?! Halfway over you tell me?

Alright, so I said that I would keep my blog up and I haven't. Shame on me. It's been about four and a half months now, and the only excuse I had was valid through October and no later...the fact that I didn't have a computer 'til then. I'm not really sure why I chose now to begin my blog again. Maybe because I don't want this year to pass by without jotting a few memories down...maybe I'm in need of something to keep me occupied before the rain kicks me into a serious SADS-type mood...or maybe it really is just better late than never. Whatever the motivation, here I am now!!

I'll start off with an incredibly brief synopsis of what has happened this year. Then, believe it or not, I did write some journal entries/blogs of specific events in anticipation of publishing them, so I'll go ahead and post those as well. After that, I promise I will write about my future experiences in a timely manner. Scout's honor. (And if I don't, well, I was never a girl scout anyway ;)

So, here are the places I have traveled so far, starting with the most recent:

Granada, Spain (Jan 15-18)
Barbara, Maddie, and I
at the Alhambra

Caceres, Spain (Dec 23-26)
Christmas Dinner with my roommate Monica's family

Barcelona, Spain (Dec 11-13)
Emily and I on top of Gaudi's Casa Battlo

Tangier, Morocco, Africa (Dec 4-6)
Zoco market in Morocco. I came back with a tea set, a blanket, and a few other handmade trinkets!

Gibraltar, British territory (Nov ??)
Can you guess which ones are Kim and I
and which one is the real monkey??

San Lucar, Spain (Oct 23-24)
The boardwalk along the coast

Lisbon and Fatima, Portugal (Oct 9-12)
The CIEE crew (minus Mark)
on the beach in Lisbon
Our first trip together!

I have also been, relatively frequently, to:
Cadiz, Sevilla, Arcos de la Frontera
All are cities in Andalucia and within an hour train/bus ride away from Jerez (my city).

Upcoming Trips:
Paris! (Easter week a.k.a. our Spring Break)

The Hopefuls:
Amsterdam (Easter week, in addition to Paris)
Ronda, Spain
Salamanca, Spain, to revisit my alma mater (well, I guess Spanish universities don't technically have alma maters)
Cordoba, Spain
Switzerland to visit Isabel
and Fez, Casablanca, and/or Marrakesh, Morocco

Alright, since I'm a working girl now, the rest of this will have to wait. I have to get to sleep so I have enough energy to work with the chil'rens tomorrow.

Buenas Noches