Monday, June 27, 2011

Ezkonberriak! (Newlyweds)

After tons of congratulations and seeing all of our guests, we stopped off at a bar for a pre-lunch drink.  My afternoon drink of choice was white wine - very fitting for a bride I suppose.  Soon after we took advantage of the sunny day and headed to the beach on foot.  Only about a 15 minute walk from the center of town, it was so strange to walk down the street with a white dress and a bouquet - pretty much every stares and smiles at you!

Bride and groom were last to reach the restaurant, and we came in with huge smiles on our faces.  No big grand entrance with clapping or fanfare music, just a happy couple entering Galerna, the place we'd chosen to celebrate the day.  The name means gale refers to a strong sea wind (about 40-50mph), and funny enough, it was quite windy that day.  The restaurant is right next to the beach in Orio and nestled into the mountain.  With an almost 360º view, we could see the mountains, sea and village all in one swoop.  On top of that, it felt almost like a private place just for us, seeing as the rain in the morning had probably discouraged most people from heading to the beach.

Inside, we wined and dined on a second round of pre-lunch drinks and some tasty pintxos to hold us until lunch.  With only about 30 minutes to wait, everyone was getting pretty jovial and talking to new poeple and making friends.  It was quite an international crowd.  First of all, it is a Basque-American wedding and included in the guests were: Basque family, my friends (Basques and some from Spain, London, Austrailia, Sweden and Catalunya), and Joseba's friends (Basque but one from Morroco).  If you walked into the restaurant you would have heard a mix of Spanish, Basque and English!

After the pintxos had been quickly grabbed, we started to head to the lunch table - all 30 of us.  Problem, be it minor, was that the restaurant had lost the seating chart Joseba and I had made.  We didn't really care where people sat, but with the language gaps, we wanted to make sure someone who didn't speak Spanish sat next to someone who spoke English, etc.  So, Joseba and I, with the only hiccup in the entire day, sketched out again what we remembered from the chart and although when everyone was seated it wasn't exactly how we had planned, it was fine and everyone was happy, including us.

At each place setting was a printed menu with our photo on it and our names at the date.  Inside, the scrumptous menu we had decided on.  For starters - a warm salad with cod and peppers.  Not exactly knowing what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised when it came out in a deep boat-like bowl with a delicious raspberry type of dressing to top it off.  Our next plate was a little pastry puff filled with leeks and prawns.  The main course was an entire fish.  It always puts me off to order this fish, because in Spanish it is called Rape, which I feel a bit odd ordering at my wedding, but in all actuality it is only Monkfish, which was fried and topped with some lemon and garlic and was oh-so-tasty.  Dessert and coffee and then after-lunch liquor came last.

As we sat down and started to get chatty, Joseba's mother stood up and caught everyone's attention.  She said, in Spanish, 'We are so happy everyone could be here to celebrate with us, but for Amanda, there is someone very special who couldn't make it and would like to be here, her Grammy.´ And she pulled a gorgeous silver frame from under the table and low-and-behold, a photo of Grammy, so pretty in a new jacket with a huge smile on her face in front of her blooming flowers.  With Maixus eyes filled with tears and mine basically overflowing, I placed the frame right next to my glass and knew it was like she was there with me (although it was 5am her time).  Now, knowing the whole story, it turns out Maixus knew how close Grammy and I are and had asked Joseba awhile back to get in contact with Grammy to have her send a photo.  She then printed it and got a frame so I could feel like we were sharing the day with her.  Amazinginly special, it was the perfect way to start the lunch.

Throughout every course, shouts of various types were heard.  There is 'que se bese', which means 'Kiss her' in Spanish, to which the obvious response is that Joseba and I kiss.  There was also 'muxu bat' (pronounced moo-shoe bat) which means 'A kiss' in Basque, and as you can imagine, a kiss is the only way to quiet that cheer.  There was also 'Gora ezkonberriak', which I guess would translate to something like 'Long live the newlyweds!', which merits another kiss.  Everyone at the table was asking me how to say 'gora ezkonberriak' in English, and they could hardly believe me that we don't have an exactly translated sentence we go around shouting throughout the wedding lunch.  Such a disappointment we are haha.  Speaking of kissing, it is also a very traditional that when the bride leaves the room, that all the women kiss the groom!  So, you can guess what happened one time when I went to the toilet!

Stuffed from lunch, Joseba and I had ordered martini cups with a chocolate pudding with all the works for dessert.  So, when they had taken our fish plates and the kitchen door flung open with a 3-layer cake with sparklers we were both utterly in shock.  Another Maixus surprise for the day!  Atop the sparkling cake was a couple riding a tandem bike and on the bottom tier, two flags made of confectioner's sugar - one Basque and one of the USA.  In the background a song that Joseba had written years ago and sung was playing.  In Basque the lyrics went something like - 'you are my paradise'.

The waitresses placed the cake in front of us and everyone cheered until the sparklers ran out.  Then came time to cut the cake.  Now, in the States, I know how this part of the day goes, but turns out I have no clue how to do it in Basque Country.  So, still somewhat in shock, we ask Joseba's brother, Iker, who was sitting in front of us, what to do, and he said we needed to cut a piece, which we did.  Our piece cutting was met with thunderous applause!  Next, Joseba cut a piece and at this point, I thought we would feed it to each other, but that's not how it works here.  At a Basque wedding, the newlyweds give these two cut pieces to the couple they think will get hitched next.  We passed them to Madeline and John, our friends who live in the UK.  Embarrassed with all the attention, they too tried to pass it off to Emma and Jon, but with no luck.  With lots of cheers, laughs, clapping and kisses, Maixus surprise was a great success and even tastier than I could have imagined!  A soft flaky pastry (think croissant) layered with sweet cream melted in our mouths, and then to our already full bellies!

To wash the cake down everyone ordered an after-drink cocktail, which Joseba's Uncle Ricardo and his boyfriend Jon livened up with some Elvis singing and groovy moves.  Then came another Maixus surprise.  She had purchased a long-stemmed rose for every woman in attendance, and for each boy, a little personal box of chocolates.  I guess your youngest son only gets married once, but this woman was breaking out every surprise in the book!  We passed out the flowers and chocolates together and got to spend a bit of time with every guest.  Upon giving the rose to one of my new aunts, Valentina, she broke down in tears...which to this day I still don't know the motive behind, but still hoping they were happy tears!

Since we were up and moving, after passing out the goodies we decided to have our first dance.  We picked Glady Knight and the Pips' 'Midnight Train to Georgia.'  If you listen to the lyrics, the chorus has one line that is quite special to us.  Months and months ago, when I had been accepted into DePaul for Grad School, I had to make a big decision - go home and study or stay here.  Joseba and I had only been dating a few months, but even at that time I knew there was something special with what we had.  And, in the song, which I listened to a lot during that time period, Gladys says 'I'd rather live in his world, that live without him in mine', which hits the nail right on the head.  So for us, this song is huge.  The problem is, every time I hear the chorus I can't help but cry.  The music started and for me, everyone just disappeared.  It was just me and Joseba dancing, talking and laughing, and me crying from time to time.  I have been told that our dance brought every woman in the room to tears (so I don't feel so bad it wasn't only me).  My friends told me that we looked so happy together, that Joseba held me with such love and that you could the song had such meaning for us.  Our slow-dancing skills might not have been the greatest and more than half the guests probably didn't even understand the lyrics, but for 3:14, I was more than overjoyed to be in the arms of the man I love.  Here is a LINK of our first dance and the second song.  And if you see a man in a blue shirt videotaping everything (even our butts), don't worry, it's only Uncle Ricardo!

The song ended, and I dried my eyes and tried to wipe the mascara stain I'd left on Joseba's white shirt, and then started the first song of the dance music - 'Sweet Soul Music' - which got people up and moving.    Uncle Ricardo was the first on the dance floor and did a knee-slide and a little Elvis shake for us, then came Madeline with a huge hug and then more and more friends.  For the next hour and a half or so, we danced it up, with Aretha, The Jackson 5, Elvis,  The Village People, Otis Redding, The Beatles, La Bamba (whoever sings that) and more fun dancing music.  It was an amazing atmosphere, because at this point, people who didn't know each other 3 hours ago had become friends and everyone was dancing with everyone.  Erika (my boss) dancing with Uncle Ricardo, me dancing with Uncle Jose Miguel, Joseba dancing with my friends - everyone mixed.  But 7pm rolled around quickly and with 'Shout' for our last song, everyone was jumping around and literally shouting!  We definitley worked up a sweat and were happy to have the wind hit us as we left the restaurant.  With a small photo shoot of the family - Maixus, Iker (brother-in-law), Ixaskun (sister-in-law), Irati (niece), Joseba and me with Orio's beach in the background.

Soon after the youngins headed to the Old Part to meet up with friends to continue the celebration and the family headed home or stayed at the restaurant for another.  We met up with another 20 friends at a bar right by the Plaza where we had gotten married earlier and spent the rest of the evening chatting to everyone.  Only at 3:30am did we head home.  Probably my longest party, but definitley this party beats the one I wrote about in my Spanish exam (which I found out I passed).  I went home wtih a smile just as big as the one I came with it, albeit a tired one.  I know a lot of couples are so stressed on thier wedding day that they maybe don't have the opportunity to enjoy it to the max, but we were lucky enough to have a low-key and unmess-upable wedding so we didn't really have a care in the world.  I would honestly do it over in an instant.  To me it was amazing beyond words.  And now, I am married to the man of my dreams.  Who could ask for anything more?!


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ezkonberriak! (Newlyweds)

It was a perfect wedding.  That I can tell you right off the bat.  Telling you all of the details and all of the little things that made it special will take more time, but you better believe you're going to get an in-depth account, just little by little.

The morning started off well, I got up and had my normal breakfast and still wasn't so nervous.  I headed to the hair salon to get my hair all pretty and the sky was pretty cloudy, but as long as there was no rain, I wasn't going to complain.  I got into the salon and for the umpteenth time, told the hairdresser that I wanted super plain hair - a bit curly, but natural and touchable.  After washing and blow-drying I was feeling quite pleased until BOOM it started pouring.  My heart sunk.  Then after she had finished styling my hair we headed to the make-up station and it kept raining.  Here I hadn't even brought an umbrella and I was going to have to walk home with my lovely hair in a downpour.  But for the moment I was more worried she was going to make me look like a hideous make-up freak, so just pressed the fact that like my hair, I wanted it very natural and that my fiancé likes my make-up plain jane.  I told her that Grammy used to tell me that you put make-up on to make it look like you don't have any on.  Seeing as the lady was all dolled up I was a bit worried I might have offended her, but in the end my make-up was nice and simple and I felt beautiful.  Even better, it had stopped raining so I rushed home while I caught a break and started getting dressed.

Luckily, I had basically set everything out the night before, because when I got home, the nerves hit me!  I quickly got dressed and wrote the last blog really fast and then headed out with my roommate to get picked up by my witness, Emma. and her boyfriend down the street.  Waiting made me even more nervous and by time I got into the car I was almost shaking I was so excited!  Never was it a cold-feet nervous, just an oh-my-gosh-im-getting-married-in-1-hour-nervous.  An amazing feeling nonetheless.

We arrived to Orio no problem and parked and headed to the main square to meet Joseba.  Thankfully the sun had started to bless us with its presence.  At this point I was a ball of nerves and as I saw him walk down the staircase from the Old Part I got a big smile on my face.  Emma had been helping me stay calm by talking and such, but as soon as Joseba and I met eyes I just got a spark running through me and got all nervous again.  He was walking with his mother, Maixus (pronounced my-shoes) who was carrying a lovely bouquet of flowers and when they got to me, she handed me the bouquet with an equally big smile.  It was a gorgeous bouquet of 2 dozen short-stemmed deep red roses tied with a elegant cream ribbon with 3 beads on it.  And when I picked it up, I saw that she had clipped a photo of Grammy on the back, which of course made my eyes well up with tears.  It seems Grammy had been talking with Joseba for some time leading up to the wedding and since she couldn't be there, she wanted it to seem like she was.  Joseba did a great job of honoring her wishes and with her photo on the bouquet she was set to witness the whole day!

With about 20 minutes to spare, friends and family started trickling in and with the customary two-kisses, it seemed like I doled out a hundred kisses.  Joseba's family was all there and even friends of his family to congratulate us.  On top of that, my brother and sister-in-law just had thier daughter, Irati, last week, so people were coming up to all of us to kiss me and get a glimpse of the newborn!

In the meantime, Joseba had went to talk to the judge to ask if it would be possible to say atleast one line of the ceremony in English.  We had the option to have the ceremony in Basque, Spanish or both, but seeing as Basque is his first language, and Spanish is neither of ours, that Basque would be the only one we used.  But, being me, I wanted to atleast say 'I do' at some point in the ceremony to make it feel like MY wedding.  The judge (an old man with quite slurred speech) agreed and said to write it down phonetically so he would pronounce it right.

Then with about 1 minute to spare the judge called us up and we headed into the Town Hall with a crowd of family behind us.  Although the room is only about big enough for 6 people, we crowded all the family in, and left the door open for family in the hall to see it too, and then we entered and started the process.  At this point I was just shaking and holding Joseba's hand so tight!  Joseba took a second to write 'Do you take this man to be your husband' and 'Do you take this woman to be your wife' as it should be pronounced and then the judge came and we were ready!  He asked for the identity cards of our witnesses, Emma (my friend) and Iker (Joseba's brother) but it turned out that Iker had forgotten it because they had come walking, so in the end Joseba's mom took over as his witness.  Then the ceremony started.  I would love to tell you everything that was said, but I was 1) too nervous and 2) not far enough along in Basque classes to grasp it all.  But I did pick up on quite a lot and one thing I thought was quite funny, maybe we do it at home too, was a list of recommendations for a successful marriage.  One of those tips was sharing house work.  I kind of wanted to laugh but then doubted that maybe I had understood it wrong haha, but later asked and yes yes, the judge recommended we help each other with the domestic tasks!  We already do, but I thought it was an interesting part of a wedding ceremony.  When it got to the 'I do' part, we first did it in Basque, and just said 'Bai' (pronounced bye) when we were asked the questions.  Bai means yes in Basque.  Then we slipped the rings on each others hands and kissed and there were smiles all around and some clapping.  Then, he said he was ready to do our sentences in English, which I had already imagined was going to be pronounced horribly but didn't care.
So, he started with Joseba and pronounced it pretty well, except in the end, I'm not really a wife, but more of a Vife (like maybe I'm secretly Russian or something).  But more or less ok.  Then came him asking me the question.  Joseba has pretty good handwriting but his Ds of look like capital As, so when the judge asked me, I didn't agree to take Joseba as my husband.  No.  I agreed to take him as my husbana.  I wanted to laugh and corect him, but just said oh heck, I'll take a husbana hahhaah.  And then it was done and we kissed again, signed the paper and it was official!  Husband and wife! Or Husbana and Vife, depending who you ask.

When you get married in Spain, they give you something called a Family Book, which has your names and then when you have kids thier names go in it too.  The judge gave us a book with space for 6 kids and joked that we better get started.  Chuckle chuckle, but I doubt we will fill that book up!  Also here, the wife does not change her name, like we do in the States.  So I will remain Amanda Gonser and Joseba will remain Joseba Brit Elola.  If we had a child, it would be first name + joseba's first last name + my last name, so for example, Steve Brit Gonser would be our child.  The kids always take the father AND the mother's last name.

The room started to empty out as everyone headed downstairs and outside, but Emma pulled me back and said she wanted to give me a little soemthing that she figured I might get a bit misty-eyed about and maybe better I read while less people were around.  So, I opened it and what was it?  A letter from Grammy with a photo.  I of course started crying and then started worrying about my make-up and tried dabbing the tears away but couldn't help it.  At seeing me cry, Joseba gave me a big hug along with his mother and my brother and sister-in-law started getting teary-eyed too!  The judge, not understanding what the note was said 'hey, you just got married, it's time to be happy' which made us all laugh and then we headed downstairs for our first presentation as a married couple.

After getting a bit lost in the double staircase of the Town Hall, Joseba and I finally saw the sun and low-and-behold when we stepped our the main doors, were Monste and a male dancer, in Basque costume next to a Basque musician gretting us.  As soon as we stepped into the threshold of the door, the Aurresku started.  The Aurresku is a traditional Basque dance that is performed at weddings.  With a male and female dancer (called dantzaris) alongside a txistulari (a Basque flute-player who also plays a small drum), the dance is very solomn and heart-felt.  I, being American, got a massive smile on my face when I saw one of my best-friends suited up to do this dance for me.  And Joseba got very serious, understanding the importance of this dance on this day and in his culture.  Our faces in the video show it all!
Monste had secretly learned the dance and practiced it while I wasn't at home for weeks.  She is a ballet teacher and our Basque teacher's husband is a Basque dance teacher, so Monste found the perfect way to learn this dance and give us a super memorable wedding present.  With kicks and turns and many complicated moves, I was mesmerized as was the crowd that had gathered and when they finally finished the crowd clapped loudly along with Joseba and I for thier dance and for the us, the ezkonberriak (newelyweds in Basque).  Monste rushed up to me to hug me as soon as she finished and I couldn't stop telling her what a wonderful surprise it had been and that I hadn't expected it in the LEAST!  If it works, here is a LINK to youtube where you can see the video.  I am still collecting the photos and videos of everyone who took them at the wedding, so I might put a better quality one up later, but just so you have an idea!

With the tough part out of the way, the next few minutes were just hugs and kisses all around and probably the biggest smile I have ever had.  Everyone cheered and threw paper confetti (which I still found stuck in  my dress at the end of the night!)  Soon after we headed to a bar to calm what were left of the nerves and start the party!  I of course will tell you all about the after-ceremony lunch and reception, but wanted to give you a little bit to chew on, because I have SO much to tell it's going to take me a bit to write it all down.  I also wanted to share some pics - I know you have been waiting patiently.  I plan to upload them ALL on the internet and will put a link on this website later (I'm going slowly but surely!). Thank you all for your well wishes via email, phone, etc on our special day.  Although you weren't here, I hope I can share it with you on the blog and through all the amazing pictures that were taken for us.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Here comes the novia (part 4)

Well, it's here.  I don't know how it came so fast.  Today is my wedding day.  I kind of can't believe it.  I am still not a bit stressed or nervous...just excited.  Woke up quite early this morning to prepare slowly without rushing.  And have been listening to our first dance song - Midnight Train to Georgia by Gladys Knight and the Pips.  It's quite an old song, but when I was deciding to stay here or to move back and do a Master's, I listened to it a lot.  And the line that stuck with me was one in the chorus that says 'I'd rather live his world, that live without him in mine' and that line made a big impact in my decision.  I am completely in love, and can't imagine living without this if I live in Basque Country or China or USA or Brazil, I know I will be happy if we are together.  The only problem with this song meaning so much to our relationship is that I guaranteed will cry during our first dance.  I guess that is to be expected at some point during the day.

So, my nails and hair are done, make-up put on (the girls suprised me with that too), dress and other accessories on and a big smile to go with it.  Now all I need is that wedding here I go.  Will be thinking of your all today, and wishing you could be here.  Thank you everyone for the kind emails - so nice to wake up to them! 


Friday, June 17, 2011

Here comes the novia (part 3)

How do Americans traditionally have weddings?  The bride pays for it all.  Am I right?  Well here, it is the opposite.  Like the extreme opposite.  Normally, to attend a wedding in Spain, you pay at least 150€ (about $200) per person.  That gets you lunch and drinks.  You are, of course, still expected to bring a gift.  And if the gift is below a 150€ value, you are considered cheap.  Basically, while people in the States go broke off thier wedding, couples in Spain make a profit off thiers.  And it's no mistake, it's completely planned that way!  Incredible.  So I guess all of you guys who can't come, should be happy you can't!  hahah just kidding.

Joseba and I don't agree with this money-making business, and instead decided that we didn't want to make our friends go broke just for celebrating with us.  So, our simple wedding turns out to be quite cost-friendly too.  We are getting married in the town hall, which is free.  Check.  Our lunch at the beach-side restaurant offered us a set menu at the price of 33€ (which would be about $40) - a good price for lunch and drinks here.  Check.  We have told all of our friends not to worry about bringing gifts - we already have everything we need, we just want to celebrate.  Check.  We are doing the music ourselves.  Check.  My dress was  bought at a one-off organic cotton store in Tenerife and was a steal.  Check.  My girlfriends gave me a gift certificate to get my hair done.  Check.  So you see, our costs for the wedding are slim to none.  I guess that's why I am not stressed at all - there is nothing to stress about.  It will be simple but perfect for us.

The last preparations are happening today - my manicure pedicure, make-up practice, earring selection, etc.  And, an unexpected preparation today - one of my good friend's Madeline and her boyfriend, from the UK are flying in tonight!  When they found out about our wedding date, they decided they couldn't miss it and found a cheap flight from London and will be here toast to our wedding!  Amazing surprise!

Then tomorrow morning I will wake up (after a lot of beauty sleep, I hope) and head to the hairdresser's.  With my hair and make-up done, I will get dressed and my friend and witness, Emma, and her boyfriend will pick me up and drive us to Orio, where finally I will see Joseba and we will enter into the Town Hall and start our marriage!  The majority of our wedding guests (about 30) have said they will be outisde Town Hall waiting for us when we leave.  Guaranteed I will walk out with a smile from ear-to-ear. 

The only thing left up in the air is the bouquet.  Joseba told me that if I like suprises (I do - no pun intended), to not buy flowers.  So, we will see what he has up his sleeve tomorrow.  I don't care what kind of flowers they are - they could be dandelions for all I care - I just already know I am going to be SO happy.  Luckily, I already bought waterproof mascara because I know that I will cry.  Without a doubt.

For those of you who live in Kelso/Longview, I put an announcement of our wedding in The Daily News and it should be coming out on Sunday.  And as soon as I get a moment after our wedding, you can bet your bottom dollar I will write a blog about our special day and share it with you.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Here comes the novia (part 2)

With our wedding date set, we are running around making sure everything is planned, but of course I wanetd to take some time out to tell you how it is all coming!  The government had told us that it could take up to two months to hear back about our paperwork to be processed, and then last week they called and said that June 18th could be our wedding date if we'd have it.  Overjoyed we said yes and started to throw things together for the day.  Now that you know the legal preparations we took, I am more excited to tell you about the more exciting details!

One cloudy day on our vacation in Tenerife, we did a bit of shopping and found a lovely white dress that I decided I would wear at the wedding.  It is a summery organic cotton dress, hand-sewn with some beautiful detail work.  With straps and a V-neck, it hits me just above the knee and looks great with  my tan wedge sandals and a little sweater I will wear.  Jewelery is still to be decided!  I think I might wear some of my friends' earrings - something borrowed!  My something new is obviously the dress.  The borrowed is a lovely pair of earring my friend, Enar, has lent me.  Seeing as I will wear a tan sweater, she has loaned me an elegant but my style pair of earrings that are long and have a shiny brown circle at the bottom.  They stand out from my hair and go great with the sweater and shoes!  The blue will be a dainty garter my mother-in-law-to-be had hand-made for me.  With a gorgeous sewn lace and a shiny blue ribbon running through it, it will be perfect.  And last but not least, my something old is a precious clutch purse Grammy gave to me some years ago.  It is a gorgeous beaded purse that Grandpa gave her, so not only is it old, but it has a lot of meaning to me.  And as I carry it, it will be like Grammy is there, seeing all the action alongside me.  Joseba has his outfit picked out too.  Seeing as I am dressed so summery, he will match me in casualness and sport black dress pants, a white dress shirt and a nice gray sweater.  We will see if I can convince him to wear a tie!  And, nice girlfriend that I am, he will keep his clean-cut beard that he loves to much.  I like it too, so it's not really a big sacrifice for me!  So we are set in the clothes department.

Anticipating the day, we had also picked out our rings as soon as we turned in the paperwork.  Two very simple silver bands.  Mine with a small diamond and two etchings that make the stone look like the bud of a flower and Joseba's a wide band.  Engraved in each will be our names and the date of our wedding. Funny thing is, that when you look at Joseba's engraving and mine, it will seem that we got married on different days.  For us, June 18th would be written like 6-18-2011.  Whereas, in Basque, it is written like this: 2011-6-18.  When we told the lady, she kind of chuckled and made sure to write it down, so as avoid any confusion!  On top of that, she was a bit thrown off as to why we were trying the rings on on the 'wrong' fingers.   Here, a wedding ring is called an alianza, which you translate to mean alliance, and is worn on the ring finger of the right hand.  However, I can't be married and wear it on my right hand, it needs to go on my left.  Joseba doesn't like wearing rings on his ring finger and instead will wear his band on his middle finger, and on the left hand to match me.  We are one crazy couple, who it seems don't do things conventionally. With outfits and rings ready,  really the only thing left to plan was the after-ceremony lunch. 

In Orio, it being such a small town, it was easy to book the restaurant next to the beach, invite our closest friends and hope for good weather! (fingers still crossed)  We selected a set menu of a warm salad, a small appetizer and fish.  Wine and champagne are givens!  The plan will be for everyone to meet at the restaurant after our 12:30pm ceremony and we will start with some pintxos and then later move onto lunch and then dancing!  With family and friend here, we have about 30 people coming - quite a good crowd for a small wedding. The night will continue with meeting more friends and then going out to party in a town nearby called Zarautz!  Simple, but with very special people which makes it great.

I have just come back from a massage that my girls suprised me with, and I am no where near being a Bridezilla.  I am completely calm, not nervous one bit.  I am however, very excited and counting down the hours until it all begins.  Tomorrow I will have a manicure and pedicure (thanks again girls) and then Saturday morning will get my hair done and head to my wedding!  It's incredible to say those words. 

Will of course keep you posted of the happenings, but wanted to share so far how the planning is coming!


Monday, June 13, 2011

Here comes the novia!

Here, the word novia can mean many a things.  One definition would be girlfriend.  Another, fiancé, and last but not least, bride.  On June 18th, I  will be a novia of the final sort - that's right, a bride.  If you haven't already heard the news from my oh-so-proud Grammy, or read it on my blog, Joseba and I are getting married.  Our wedding will be very simple and with his family and our close friends on the beach in his small fishing village.  And, although not a massive-wedding production like some weddings, this wedding was a production in itself.  For me, an American, to marry Joseba, a European, it is quite a web of paperwork, meetings and loopholes that we finally surpassed and we are finally able to celebrate with some wedding rings and a toast with champagne.  A long time in planning, I am so excited to share with you guys how this all came to be from the beginning to the 'I do', or as we will say in Euskera 'Nahi dut' (pronounced ny-doot).

We had been talking about getting married for some time now, but the clencher was when I spent Christmas with his family.  In the Basque culture, meeting the family is something that is done well into the relationship.  Spending a major hoilday is big news.  So, around December, it was decided and then we started looking into the rigorous process we had to start.  We did some research and established that the big church wedding was not so much our style and that we would more prefer a small wedding and then a party wtih the friends and family after - and a civil wedding is what we decided on.  Joseba contacted his local town hall and got some information about what papers we would have to turn in for the marriage application.  On his part it is easy - a copy of his identity card and his parents' names.  For me on the other hand, that's where the loop jumping comes in.

I would need to provide a copy of my passport (easy to get), a certificate that states I am a resident of San Sebastian (also quite easy to pass my town hall here and have them print me one), and then three trickier papers:  one that states I am not married in the USA and am able to get hitched here, one that states that the American Embassy verifies I truly AM Amanda Gonser and I am not on the America's Most Wanted list, and my birth certificate.  Now these things don't seem so intimidating to get on paper, but boy, to get them in my hands it was quite a chore.  Let me tell you!  For the 'I'm actually single and don't have a secret husband in the USA' paper, I had to go to the American Embassy in Madrid.  Remember the blog I wrote about how disappointed I was about that place?!  I had to fill out a few forms and swear I am single and then the Consular Office printed out and signed one measly paper that cost me $50.  Same thing went for the 'I am who I say I am' paper.  Another $50 bucks thank you very much.  But after shelling out that dinero, I wasn't finished.  I then had to run to the Spanish National Government Office to get a special stamp saying that my documents were valid.  After waiting about an hour there, a friendly woman quickly stamped my papers and told me that was it.  Basically, all she had to do was validate that the Consular who signed my paper was in fact the correct person to do such a job.  Reading it now, it doesn't sound like such a hassle, but you know how government building visits go - soooo much waiting for so little result.  But, I'll have you know, for these two leaves of paper, beside the cost, I spent about 5 hours too - super nervous hours on top of that.  Regardless, I had them and was so happy that I bought myself a Starbucks and did a little dance on the street.  Being it a big city, no one even noticed.

On the bus back to San Sebastian, I talked to Joseba who while I had been being a good government waiter, had sent my birth certificate to a translator via email.  I had had Grammy send me my original birth certificate a bit before - yellowing paper and creases that have been the same since 1984.  However, it is obviously in English, which is not acceptable here - so we needed to have it translated by an Official Translator (a little more money to add to the bill).  While at the Embassy however, the lady who helped me mentioned that my original birth certificate wasn't going to do - that I was going to need a 3-month new copy from my birth city and get a special seal from my Capitol.  No way!  Isn't the original always the best??  Apparently not.  In Spain, most legal things cannot be more than 3 months old to be valid.  Seeing as my birth certificate would be abouttttt 26 years old, it's a bit expired for this government.  So, I looked online at Cowlitz County Health Deparment and ordered a copy of the certificate to be rush delivered to Grammy's.  This alone cost about $48 (mostly the silly FedEx delivery charge).  Once it arrived Grammy had to write a special piece of paper with specific instructions about what to do with said document.  Another $12 had to be included for the Olympians to even look at the paper and give it it's special golden seal.  That process could have taken up to a month, but luckily it arrived after only a short two weeks.  THEN we had to translate it, which took about another week.

When we had dotted all of our Is and crossed all the Ts, we called the Orio (Joseba's town) town hall again to set up the appointment to turn it all in and get the ball rolling.  They told us that no appointment was needed but that they only work Tuesday and Thursdays from 9-1pm.  Amazing work schedule eh?  So, one Thursday morning we got there just as they opened and had everything organized perfectly, read to turn in.  Going on thier own schedule, the slowly looked over the documetns to make sure we had everything we needed, which thank God we did!  But, then they told us that there were a few more steps that we hadn't know about.  With these papers, they would need to send them to San Sebastian to get them completely approved before we could get married.  Also, we needed to do sign a lot of papers and do an interview.  They told us to give them about a half an hour to input all of the data into the computer and come back and hopefully there wouldn't be anyone else and we could just sign the papers so they could send them off that day.  So we doddled around for abotu 30 minutes and returned promptly and luckily didn't have to wait.  There were so many papers to sign it was out of control, and the worst was that the man, a bit older, had read my name wrong and wrote MAYER as my middle name instead of MAYE on all the papers.  So, we had to wait for him to correct them all first.

When we finally got to sign the papers, each signature was like the movies - when someone is signing thier mortgage loan or something, that with each signature or stamp you get it in your head more and more that WOW THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING!  With all the papers signed, they told us that they had some free time if we would just like to do the interviews that day as well.  Why not?!  We had already taken the morning off from work.  But then it hit me, these interviews were solo interviews.  Like a test to see if we we really a couple.  I mean, in the USA I imagine if you marry a foreigner, the process is the same, but I guess it hadn't hit me that I would have to give an official interview, in Spanish, to test my relationship.  I immediatley got super nervous and Joseba offered to go first.  He was in the room with the man about 10 minutes in which time I managed to do a lot of pacing and thumb twiddling until he came out.  With a desperate look I asked him what it was about he said no worries it just about us.  So, in I went.  And to my surprise the questions were quite simple.  Question 1 being - how did we meet?  Well that's easy as pie!  But the thing is, that when I get nervous I become a little motor boat speaker and just talk talk talk.  So after a few minutes of blabbing on about how his friend had tried to talk to me first in English and he was horrible and in swooped Joseba telling his friend sweet things to say in English that finally I started speaking with Joseba, blah blah blah, the guy stopped me and said...'So, what you mean is that you met at a party'.  Basically feeding me Joseba's answer, I said 'Yes, yes, that's how we met.'.  And it's TRUE but I just gave WAY more details that Joseba had.  Next question what day did we meet.  This was a tricky one.  That party we met at was on the 19th of February, but on the 20th we went out on our first date, but this year we celebrated our 1-year anniversary on the 22nd.  Worried I would say the wrong day I again blabbed about all these dates and in the end my response was: 'it was between the 19th and 22nd of February that we met', to which he said, 'oh, the 20th?' - Joseba's answer, and I agreed again.  Next question, how did we decide to get married.  Like I said earlier, there was no definite on-the-knee-question-popping moment, so this was a bit vague.  I told him that Joseba and I had been talking about it for some time and he offered Christmas as my answer, to which I agreed.  And the last question, at this point, I'm almost sweating I was so nervous, why do we want to get married.  Ohhhhh.  Main reason, we love each other but also a sub-reason is that as non-European there are a lot of things I am missing out on, and that being married to one would make our lives much more secure and easy.  His fed answer was 'to concrete the relationship and to establish a family'.  I guess that would have been a more appropriate answer, so I said yes.  Phew I passed, and signed the paper swearing what I said was true and then I ran to go get Joseba.

He had told me that when he was giving his interview, he was the exact opposite of my detailed explanations and had been very vague.  He also said he had tried to speak loudly so I could hear and be less nervous, but as we all know, I can't hear out of my left ear, so hearing through a door is a bit tough for me.  They told us that everything was finished and that they would send the paperwork to Donostia right away.  They asked us if we had selected a special date for the wedding, which we hadn't and just said we would like to get married as soon as possible.  They told us that as soon as the paperwork came back approved they would call us and let us know the date the Judge had open next.

And then, they called!  They asked us if June 18th (one week later) would be too soon!  We said heck no, and started planning!  And now it's only a few days away.  From the mounds of paperwork to this, I am SO overjoyed to be marrying the man of my dreams and can't believe I am so lucky to have found him.  I will tell you more about our plans as they happen and of course about the big day!


Just a sidenote

Hi everyone!  Just wanted to let everyone who reads the blog know that although I am posting all the details about our big day here, I am not putting them on facebook or anything.  We want the day to be very intimate and special for us, and don't want to go about announcing it online or anything.  So, if you read this and DO want to make a comment on Facebook for me, please keep it discreet.  I want to share this special moment with only the special people in my life (you guys), not the whole Facebook community.  Thanks in advance and more details to come soon!


Saturday, June 11, 2011

The best party of my life

Continuing with the language exams, I started the Spanish Exam last week.  On Wednesday I had the reading, writing and listening portions of the exam.  I wasn't as nervous for this exam as the Basque one, but still had put in time studying and trying to speak this language perfectly.  However, this week I am quite sick with a nasty cold.  The morning of the exam I woke up and felt like my head was in a cloud and the exam seemed to be a bit more difficult than I expected.  However it was a 2 hour exam, so I had ample time and read each question carefully and listened like an elephant!  When I finished the listening and reading parts, finally came the writing section.

Although I speak Spanish quite well, I hardly ever write in it - let alone formal letters and essays.  The first writing prompt was to write an email to a friend inviting her to a fashion show with me.  Super easy.  It was just like writing emails to my friends how.  Then came the essay, which I was not really looking forward to.  There were two options - 1) write about why pets are such great housemates and 2) the best party of my life. Seeing as I don't really love animals, I knew I couldn't exactly fake it and picked option two.  Not only was option two easier, but for me I already knew the answer as soon as I read the question!  I KNOW the best party of my life, and so I started to write....and it went a little something like this:

I can say, without a doubt, that the best party of my life was February 19th, 2010.  How can I say so surely that it was the best?  Well, that's easy, it was at that party that I met the man who will soon by my husband. 

It was a chilly night and my friend Miles had convinced me to go to this party (that I really didn't feel like going to).  We had been to many parties at this house - which was a student house and often had impromptu parties.  Everything seemed to be going like normal, but little did I know, that this night would be much different.

With a wine in hand, a Basque guy approached me and seeing that I was speaking English with Miles, he tried to tell me something in my native tongue.  But this pooooor boy couldn't speak English if his life depended on it.  He tried to tell me that I had beautiful eyes, but it came like this:  you have a beautiful eye.  Needless to say, I was not impressed.  He tried again and I coudln't help but chuckle and then, all of a sudden his friend behind him told him, in English, how to say it.  So, he finally said I had beautiful eyes, but by that point, I was already uninterested and had made eye contact with the friend.  We started chatting and turned out he knew a lot of English.  He had lived in Edinburgh and had worked as a chef there.  I couldn't believe I had found such a cute Basque guy who also spoke English.  We talked the night away and just hit it off.  

As the party was winding down and he was getting ready to go, I decided that I wanted to see him again for sure.  So, I proposed a bet.  The bet was to name the artist of the song that was playing at the time.  Seeing as I 100% knew the answer, I set up the parameters of the bet.  If I won, he had to buy me a coffee.  If he won, I'd have to buy him one.  A win-win if you ask me!  I of course won, and Joseba accepted his loss and we decided to meet the next day for him to repay me.  Perfect!  
After he left, he sent me a text message saying that he was happy to have met me and that we would see me tomorrow.  I was on cloud nine!  

So, that is how I can say that without a doubt it was the best party of my life.  It wasn't only the party of my life, it literally changed my life!

I just checked the results online and I have passed all 3 parts of the exam and now will have the oral exam next week.  Evenmore, we just got a call saying that all of the wedding paperwork went through and they asked us if (drumroll please)  June 18th is too soon to get married!  We said heck no, and are now one week again from the big day!  Apparently, my Spanish paper was good luck!  I will of course update you all of the plans and the process during the next weeks.  But until then, just imagine me with a massive smile plastered to my face!


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

What's in a name?

Well, it is official, I have passed the first year of Basque language class!  I had my written exam (reading, writing and listening) last week, and after passing that was given a slot for the oral exam.  Terrified to bits, I spoke easily and at the end, asked about signing up for the course next year and how to do it and my teacher told me how and that of course I should sign up for the next level because I passed with flying colors.  I was so excited that I did a little leap when I left the testing room.

After only 9 months, I am so overjoyed that I can understand and speak (somewhat) this crazy language!  Overjoyed as I was, Joseba was the first person I called after the good news.  He was equally excited.  My end goal is to someday be able to speak his language as well as he speaks mine.  It will take some time, that's for sure.

But, as the course went on this year, I learned quite a wealth of Euskera vocabulary.  Learning new words everyday, I started to realize that many names of my students are of words I had been learning.  Here, names like Sara and Brittney or Steve and Eric are basically non-existent.  Instead here, I have students named Arkaitz, Xabi, Zuhatz, Nerea, Iker, Izaskun, Itsaso and Patxi.  To me, these names are completely acceptable names now.  But when I arrived they were 1) incredibly strange to say and 2) terribly difficult to pronounce.  I have mastered the pronunciation of my students' names, but now that I am learning what they mean, a lot of them are quite odd.

For example, would you ever think to name your kid 'cloud'?  Because here, Hodei, the Basque word for cloud is a name.  Some other ones that struck me as a bit off-kilter are:
 - Arkaitz (boy name) = rock
 - Nerea (girl name) = mine
 - Itsaso (g) = sea
 - Lorea (g) = flower
 - Irati (g) = fern field
 - Aihnoa (g) = name of a town in French Basque Country
 - Aitor (b) = good father
 - Amaia (g) = the end
 - Amets (g) = dream
 - Ekaitz (b) = storm
 - Asier (b) = the beginning
 - Esti (g) = similar to the word for honey
 - Goizane = the morning
 - Haizea (g) = the wind
 - Ilargi (g) = moon
 - Irune (g) = trinity
 - Oihana (g) = forest
 - Oihane (g) = jungle
 - Usoa (g) = dove

But, some Basque names are just variations of names that we ARE used to...but take a little imagination to see the connections:
 - Jon (b) = John - that one was super obvious
 - Ander (b) = Andrew
 - Antxon (b) = Anthony
 - Beñat (b) = Bernard
 - Bixente (b) = Vincent
 - Esteben (b) = Steven
 - Gorka (b) = George
 - Maialen (g) = Madeline
 - Mikel (b) = Michael
 - Matias (b) = Matthew
 - Patxi (b) = Frank
 - Joseba (b) = Joseph

So, if you can't pronounce my boyfriend's name, you could always just call him Joseph and he will respond!  On the other hand, they think my name is quite funny.  Here they pronounce it uh-mun-duh instead of Amanda.  When I try to explain to them how to pronounce it correctly they laugh and struggle to say a-min-duh.  Apparently my name's pronounciation doesn't translate so well.  Even better, the students love when I say thier names in English.  So, Helene (silent H) cracks up laughing when I call  her Helen; or Ane (pronounced ann-ey) dies when I call her Ann or Annie.  A few classes ago, I shared with my 14-year old girls some common names in English and they couldn't believe them.  But, I guess the same goes for me with thier names.  But, atleast now I can understand what they mean!  Come on 2nd year of Basque class!