Thursday, November 26, 2009

Feliz Acción de Gracias (Thanksgiving)

Feliz Thanksgiving everyone! My Thanksgiving was action-packed, although it included noooo turkey. Shame.
I started my Thanksgiving out on Wednesday night, when my friend Madeline and I stayed up until 1am baking apple pies. With two pies worth of apples, I became an expert apple slicer! Madeline took over the crust-making and together we made a good team. We didn't have a pie pan, so instead baked the pies in this clay pot that is almost the size of a 9'' pie worked fine! I had never made a pie before, so it seemed odd to be making my first one in Spain, where basically no one even eats pie! I didn't miss the most important part though...the carving of the letter on the top of the pie. Normally you would put an A on the pie for apple, but since I am in Spain, I carved an M for manzana!

One pie went to my classroom and the other to the Thanksgiving dinner celebration I had with friends. The first pie was part of a presentation that I put on about Thanksgiving in America. In our Spanish class, on of our tasks is to present something special about your culture to the class. I decided on Thanksgiving and really tried to bring it to life! The presentation lasted about an hour...all in Spanish! I started out with the history of leaving English because of the religious persecution and then how the first celebration was more of a harvest festival and a thank you to God and the Indians that helped the pilgrims (peregrinos) survive the first though winter. Next, I presented what we normally have for Thanksgiving dinner...of course emphasizing the turkey! I had printed out some photos of turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, corn, pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce. The pictures were helpful when trying to describe what a marshallow (malvavisco) or cranberries (arádano) were. Try it...try explaining what a marshallow or a cranberry is in a different language - it's a challenge! This is where I busted out the pie and gave a plate of pie to everyone to enjoy some American goodness. It was a hit! I even had made a handout with the recipe on it in Spanish and gave it to a bunch of people who were interested in how to make thier own apple pies. Next on my Thanksgiving agenda was the other events that take place - Macy's Day Parade (desfile), Football games and Black Friday (Viernes Negro). People seemed to be amazed at the Macy's Parade and the fact that I had been to it before and brought photos, and I took some time to explain the meaning of Black Friday. Last but not least was arts & crafts turkeys. I had taken the time to make the turkeys...little feet and all, and brought feathers for people to write what they were thankful for on them. I told them that normally at Thanksgiving we each say something we are thankful for - and in Spanish it translates to 'Estoy agradecida por...'. My example was 'Estoy agradecida por la oportunidad a vivir en España'. Did you understand it?! I'm thankful for the opportunity to live in Spain! At the end of class, I asked if I could take a picture with everyone - saying that since my family will all be together for Turkey Day and I won't be there, I woudl like to show them what I did on my Thanksgiving. One classmate was so sad that I wasn't with my family that she started crying and said that she was happy she could spend such a special holiday with me. So sweet. In the end it was a GREAT presentation and I was really happy to teach people something special about America although it wasn't the same as having dinner with my family.

After class I rushed off to work. We aren't doing any Thanksgiving activities this week here because we are in the midst of watching movies. I am watching all British movies with my older kids - Billy Elliot, Love Actually and The Last King of Scotland. With the little kids, since they have seen all of the children's movies we have at the school, I bought Robin Hood, which I haven't seen in atleast 10 years. Watching it now I realize everyone has a British accent! While I love the movie, I am watching it with 6 different groups, so so far this week I have seen the first 25 minutes of Robin Hood 6 times. Woo hoo! Hahaha! Most of the kids haven't seen the Disney Classics so they are enchanted with the old movie as much as I am.

To top of my Thanksgiving, of course there was food. Heather, my American friend, hosted a Thanksgiving dinner at her house. She lives with about 7 other people - all from different nationalities. There were only 3 Americans and we did our best to show them a fabulous first Thanksgiving with sweet potatoes, stuffing, apple pie (thank you very much), mac and cheese, potatoes and gravy and more!

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving!


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Last days of good weather...

Well, the weather forecast is in, and they basically say that winter will start tommorrow (sunday), so I made sure to take advantage of Friday and Saturday's sunny weather! Friday for class, we went to an art exposition. I wasn't such a fan because it was art from the creator of the movie Alien - HR Giger. Although it was not my type of art, it was quite moving (although it didn't move me to any happy thoughts) and the tour was in Spanish. The funny thing is that the tour guide was the same girl that led the group tour Theresa and I went on last weekend at the Basque painting museum. She recognized us and said she was suprised that we were in a language class because we seemed to have understood most of what she had said the weekend before.

After class we headed to FNAC - a store kind of like Best Buy - where I needed to look for some kid movies. Next week I am watching movies with my students and all of my young kids have seen the majority of movies we have at school. I wanted to show them something I didn't think they had memorized and would like - and in the end I picked Robin Hood. It's been AGES since I have seen it, so I am excited to show it and think the boys and girls will like it bunches! While at FNAC, we found a little room that had Ice Age 3 showing and 3 little kid chairs. We plopped down and watched about 30 minutes of the kids movie, seeing as we really had nothing more important to do. Only when the employee came in to show a customer something and we dissolved in laughter did we decide that 3 girls in thier 20's probably shouldn't be loitering in the kids theater!
After work and some dinner, I was a tired girl on Friday night and didn't get into anything exciting. Theresa and I got up Saturday morning and headed to a neighboring village called Zumaia (pronounced zoom-maya). We started there only because the town we actually wanted to go to didn't have a train stop and we figured it was the closest place and a 45 minute walk along the coast wouldn't kill us. Walking on a sidewalk along the highway right on the edge of the coast, it turned out to be a beautiful walk. We are used to seeing our beaches, which are gorgeous, but it is always nice to have a change of scenery! The water was so clear that on one beach the rocks underwater were perfectly visible. Also along the walk, we saw lots of goregoues flowers in bloom - bright yellow daisies, soft pink roses, shrubs with vibrant light blue pops of color and more - and here it is the end of November! The rain is coming, and although I don't want it to make an appearance, I guess I don't have much room to complain.

After two mandarins, an apple and a lot of talking and walking, we ended up in Getaria - our medival town destination! This picturesque fishing town is home to some pretty famous people, although the village only boasts 2500 people! Juan Sebastian Elcano, the first person to circumnavigate the Earth comes from here, along with Cristobal Balenciaga, probably the most famous Spanish clothing designer. Balenciaga actually opened up his first shop in San Sebastian and had the Spanish royalty wearing his designs!

The town is still very small and the stone roads wind around the massive church that started being built in the 15th century. At one point, instead of making a road that goes around the church, the villagers actually just built a tunnel that goes under the church! On on side of the tunnel is a restaurant where the chef cooks up the catches of the day on a massive outdoor stove and on the other side is the main road into the city, filled with pintxo bars, shops and of course tourists! After wandering around for a little bit we stopped into a small bar and ordered a delicious pintxo with chorizo, ham and fried potatoes. Tasttttty. I also made sure to order the famous Basque wine - txakoli (pronounced chack-oly). This white wine is specific to the Basque Country and Getaria is the biggest producer of it in our county - making 900,000 liters of it per year! The dry sparkling wine is deep within the Basque history, as it has been mentioned in Basque records since the 8th century. You can't come to Getaria and not try the famous wine - so of course I sipped the delicious drink with my pintxo.

Seeing as the town was so small, we decided to catch a quick bus to Zarautz, a surfer town 5 minutes away by bus. When we arrived the sun was trying peek out of the clouds onto the longest beach in Basque Country. Once a whale hunting village, the town now is most famous for surfing - as the world champion right now is from here. Along the beach, I couldn't help but thinking that it looks a lot like my beach in Gros. It is long and has a walkway stretching the entire beach with people strolling all day. The thing that seemed the most different is that the buildings that face the sea look like they were built in 1970, whereas in Gros, you can tell the buidings have been standing since the 1800s and they look classier. After gazing at the sea we headed into the center. In between stopping at shops we stumbled onto a beautiful church, lively plazas, winding stone roads and piles and piles of swirling leaves. Although it is the end of November and the leaves have fallen, it is still about 75º so it seemed like a silly contradiction to wear a light sweater as the leaves fly around your head. We got lost over and over until the 6pm sunset when we decided we were hungry and craving a sandwich from our favorite restaurant in San Sebastian and jumped on the bus and headed home. Twenty minutes later we were back in Donosti - and it kind of seems weird that for over a year I have lived here and I knew nothing about the two towns I had visited today. I think that is why I like living over here so much - there is always something new, somewhere to see.

After our long day you would think we would have been tired but we fired up and went out dancing with friends until 5am! Today it is sunny again, although the weatherman insisted yesterday that it would be pouring all day, so we took advantage and ate lunch on the beach and lounged around all day. At one point, we had a drink in a bar where I had only been 12 hours earlier dancing! Haha! Going to sign off now for a little siesta!

Enjoy your Sunday and the last week of November! Hopefully some of my summer in fall weather will blow your way!


Sunday, November 15, 2009

A New Amanda!

Well, I finally had my quarter century life crisis. I though that turning 25 felt too easy and this weekend I felt the repucussions!

Saturday morning I woke up and made a hair appointment. When I arrived the hair lady (who I have been going to since I moved here) said 'Ok, the regular with your hair?' and I said I wanted a change and that today I wanted bangs! She was like WOW and said that I was going to look younger and I told her that's nice since I just turned 25 - cuarto siglo! She laughed and said I was having a quarter century life crisis and that's exactly why I want to change my hair! I laughed and agreed. When she cut the first part of the bangs I gasped and she said don't worry, don't worry, just keep reading your book. At the end she asked me if I loved it...and since it is so drastically different I couldn't really say anything, so I said thank you it is exactly what I asked for but it will take me some time to get used to it! I am pretty used to it now, but it is kind of shocking to see yourself in a photo or walk past a mirror and wonder who you are!

After a quick lunch I met up with some friends for a stroll along the beach. Turned out to be a 16km hike! For us Americans who don't use the kilometers, that's 9.9 miles! Yea! I went in cute tennis shoes, jeans and a sweater haaha. I wasn't so prepared, but it wasn't so bad. I was invited by my friend Theresa from Germany who I know from my Spanish Language classes. She invited another German girl, who then invited a Peruvian, Sweede and a Argentinian. Spanish was everyone's common language, so for the 5 hour excursion I got a lot of practice! We started in San Sebastian and after quite some walking ended in Orio. It's pronounced like Oreo haha. Although it was a very long walk, it was gorgeous with beautiful views of the countryside. With houses stranded in the middle of nowhere, cows roaming freely and the fall colors clashing with the blue of the sea, it was a pleasure to be able to have such a day in the middle of November! By time we got to Orio, it was 630pm and it was pretty dark. At one point, we got off the trail and onto the street to walk, only to find that we had to walk in a tunnel and then on a part of the highway that had no sidewalk. Pretty dangerous, but it was fun - we waited until no cars were coming and then SPRINTED to the sidewalk. After almost 10 miles it felt like heaven to sit on the train back. It was rather depressing to realize that you can get to Orio by train in 25 minutes and we just spent 5 hours walking there haha. It was a great way to spend the day in the sunshine and doing something different.

Tired as possible, I managed to go out to a bar that night to see a band play. It is a guy who is blind who is a really good singer and guitar player. It wasn't a huge concert, just a small show in a little bar by my house, but I was really impressed with the band and actually liked some of thier songs! Around 1am I had to call it a night and caught some sleep to prepare for my also busy Sunday.

I woke up, drank my required coffee and headed off to meet Theresa again for another excursion. This time we went to a sculpture park of a famous Basque sculptor named Eduardo Chillida. In Donosti, there are sculptures from this man, and we had recently found out that there was a huge park with more than 20 of his sculptures only 15 minutes by bus. He makes these HUGE sculptures out of steel, granite, stones and alabaster. With the fall leaves leaping off thier trees, the sculptures were accentuated even more with the beauty of the park. Some of them have curves that you would never imagine for such a material, and some are carved and appear to be more than one peice but actually are one piece of stone and others emphasize a smooth part of the material juxtaposed next to the original texture. It was a relaxing afternoon and it was great to be outside for both days of the weekend. I am sure soon enough it will be pouring, so you have to take advantage of days like this when you can!

After that artsy excursion, we lunched on some delicious sandwiches and actually went to an art museum where they were having a free guided tour - in Spanish. Theresa and I were pretty impressed that we understood almost all of the tour! My Spanish is getting better hoooray! The art was of another Basque artist - this one with paintings though. His name is Gustavo de Maetzu and his brightly colored people in front of dull colored landscapes were goregous. We finished off our action-packed weekend with a lovely wine and now I am so tired I can't write anymore!

I hope you all had a great weekend. I have put up some pictures in the 'favorite pictures' on the right, since I have been slacking on that for awhile. Enjoy your week and I hope your Fall is starting off fabulous.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Cuarto Siglo - Quarter Century

Well, the dreaded 25th birthday finally came and went! I am officially a quarter century old now. How can it be!?
For my last day as a 24 year-old, I worked (of course) and then met my friend Heather at our regular bar by our house for a drink. Because we get coffee there almost every day, we know the bartenders like friends, and so we stayed there until it was midnight. They put some candles into a pastry they had and sang me happy birthday in English when the clock struck 12. The bartenders are Argentinian and Brazilian, so I was suprised they knew the whole song! I kept saying I feel so old, I feel so old (me siento tan vieja) but everyone there was older than me, so that was nice haha! This picture is of me, Heather and our favorite bartender - Ignacio - but he goes by Nacho haha.

It was an early night but still held a lot of action. My camera that I only bought in April all of a sudden had a Lens Error!! We all know my life is basically impossible without a camera, so the next morning, after talking to Cannon over the phone and them telling me I have to send it to the USA to fix it, I went and brought a new camera. Happy Birthday to me! I figure I will send me bad camera to be fixed and when I get back I can do something with an extra one, but since it was going to almost 2 months to fix and ship back and forth from here, it would just be better to get a new one. I made sure to buy it in the morning, so I could charge the battery all day, and have it ready for my big celebration on Friday night!

On Friday, I went to class and then after work met up with 12 friends to go to a sidreria. You might remember from an earlier blog, when my friend Dave came, we went to a sidreria - or a cider house. This is the place where they have cider in barrels and you help yourself to however much you want, and it comes straight out of the barrel and you catch it in your cup and drink it with your delicious steak dinner. About 10 of the 12 friends that came had never been to a sidreria before, so it was a blast to be with people who were experiencing it for the first time! It's always a blast!

It was quite a mix of people - me, Madeline (London), my friend Theresa from Spanish class (Germany), Madeline's roommates that I am friends with Mattias (Sweeden), Maxime (France) and Xavier (Guatemala) and my friend Arjen (Holland) and his friends. It was quite an international English-speaking party and everyone was really fun! Madeline, was so sweet and called ahead and ordered me a cake and they brought it out and every sang Happy Birthday and then we all said Cheers in our own respective languages! Cheers, Prost (German), Skol (Sweedish), Salud (Spanish), Proost (Dutch) and Sante (French). The best part about the cake was that the waitress, really worried, came to Madeline and said 'I'm so sorry, but we don't have numbers to make 25 on the cake. We only have numbers for 24 or 26...which do you want?!'. I overheard this and quickly made sure I got the 24. Don't want to make myself seem older than my already quarter century!

After the sidreria closed we took taxis to the old part and partied until 7am in the morning and then had a small party at my house and finally went to sleep at about 8am! See, 25 year olds can still have fun!! After falling asleep at 8am, I was pretty much dead for the entire day, but was happy to spend my first real day as a 25 year old in my bed watching movies with my friends! We made tacos and unsuccessfully tried to make rice pudding, which we eventually went to the bar and bought some ha. Today, however, was quite a different story. We had winds up to 50mph and my friend Heather and I decided it would be a great day to go for a walk to see the waves.

We decided to walk to the big mountain in the old part so we could see the huge waves crashing into the side of the island. They had shut down the street that we normally walk and drive on because the waves are SO big that they pull cars off the road. From the mountain, it was a great view, however quite wet. The waves kept crashing and crashing, and we would get the leftover water debri, so now that I am home, my whole face tastes like salt water haha. The wind was SO strong that you could lean forward with all of your body weight and the wind would hold you up!

We hiked around a bit - in our winter jackets and boots of course - and everything was going great with a little mist from the waves and then BOOM thunder and a hail storm! After being pelted with little hail balls, we decided that our little windy excursion was over and headed to dry off and have some dinner!

I came home at about 9:30pm and was SO tired from all the walking against the wind that I was so sleepy that I actually took a two hour nap! I guess that's what 25 year olds do haha. Now it is 1:20am and I just got out of the shower and finishing up the blog and will go back to sleep. I just wanted to tell you about my birthday and my first days as a 25 year old! Thank you everyone for the birthday wishes :)


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Happy Halloween...a few days late!

Well, I know Halloween was last week, but I just finally getting around to writing about it! In Spain, they don't celebrate Halloween barely at all. There are enough foreigners that dress up that you can kind of tell it is Halloween, but really it is just an excuse to dress up and party. As for the school side of the holiday, the kids really look forward to Halloween because they know they
All last week was Halloweeny in my classroom. Most of the kids did get candy and they get to do arts and crafts!
word searches (sopa de letras) with Halloween vocab. Of course I put my American vocabulary, by mistake - we say candy and British people say sweets - so my kids were thrown a little bit by some of the words, but they enjoyed it anyways. With the young kings, we made pumpkin masks. I made one too to replace the fact that I haven't carved a pumpkin in over 3 years! So sad! With the older kids we made little lanterns and they drew Halloween designs on some orange tissue paper and then we put it around a jar. Pretty simple but it was a big hit! We also brushed up on our Halloween knowledge with the history of Halloween! Did you know that Halloween originally started out as a Celtic holiday called Samhaim, which meant end of summer. The Celtic people thought that the last day of summer was October 31st and that on this day the spirits could cross over into the real world - which is where all of the spooky stuff comes from!

The BEST part for the kids is when they got thier candy! I bought some chocolate that was wrapped in vampire teeth foil. The kids loved it and immediatley stuck it in thier mouths and ran around the class pretending to be vampires, a new vocabulary word for them! Between pumpkin mask making and candle lighting, Sean, my workmate, kept scaring my class by bursting into the classroom when the lights were off and making my kids scream like a horror film. It was quite amusing!

After all my educational Halloween time, I was ready to throw on my costume and celebrate! As of Friday, I still had no idea what I wanted to be! I kind of looked through the stuff I had and miraculously found a bag of fabric that the girl who stayed in my room over the summer had left. In in was an elastic peice of red and white fabric and an idea came to my head - PIRATE! I figured that I could sew a skirt with the material and then find a patch and a sword and I would be set! Here is the amazing part - I actually SEWED the skirt by hand and it looked great! It fit perfectly (I even made darts in the waste so that it fit there) and I cut the bottom a little to make it look more piratey. Every person I saw, I made sure to point out the hem and tell them a few times that I made it myself haha. So proud! I went to a costume party, where there were clowns, mariachi dancers, pumpkins, zombies and more! After the party, we headed into the Old Part of town - and sad but true, we were the only ones dressed up! Ohhhh well, it was fun anyways!

I hope you had a sweet Halloween and your November started off well! I spent all November 1st laying on the beach. Somehow it happened to be 80º on Sunday and I recovered from my Halloween evening by watching the waves and having a picnic on the sand. A perfect Sunday!