Blog,  Travel

España: Holiday in Spain

Weeks 28, 29, 30 & 31

April 2018

I was talking to my Mom one Wednesday afternoon, our weekly time to chat, and she made a comment about how many holidays I have. “Do you ever work?” she asked. Well, it doesn’t seem like it. Spain has a ton of holidays and random days off. It’s so nice. Granted the teachers rarely and I mean like never take a day off. Not one of the teachers I’ve worked with has ever taken a sick day this whole year!

I spent week 27 in Southern France for their Holy week. Semana Santa in Spain is a huge deal, especially in Andalucía. Not many of the Spanish people are really religious but most of their holidays are religion based; it’s more about tradition now than a religious celebration. Make sure to check out the epic pictures in my Easter Sunday during Semana Santa photoblog.

I only had a three day school week after having more than a week off. And after so long away I craved, to my chagrin and surprise, Spanish food! I have my favorites after all. Tortilla, croquettes, and salmorejo are all easily obtainable sources of comfort.

We finally had beautiful weather after weeks of non-stop rain. It was nice enough that one of my student went home on a dirt bike with her dad. Holding on tight, her smile huge, eyes squinted into the sun, the bow in her hair bouncing with every rev of the engine, she flew off towards home. But the nice weather couldn’t last of course. Rain came again and just in time for the weekend. That means another calm and quiet weekend in. It was especially silent since Jane went to Cadiz. I relaxed and did nothing.

My German and Philly roots (not to be confused with Philadelphia German) missed soft pretzels in a bad way. I craved them so. I decided to try my hand at making them. Hailey, Patrick and I found a recipe and attempted to make them. I say attempt because it turned out to be a complete and utter failure. Making dough and forming the pretzels turned out surprisingly well, even if the pretzels were shaped a little funky. Our oven is a piece of shit and couldn’t bake them properly. I checked and checked and after over an hour in the oven they still weren’t done! The blame lies completely with the oven. Who knows when it died but it’s safe to say it’s out of commission and does nothing more than act as a warmer. What really put the cherry on top of our half-baked disaster, was watching “Nailed It.” A TV show where novice bakers attempt to make cakes and things. Let’s just say we cried at their attempts and some of them certainly did “nail it.” At least our pretzels weren’t that big of a mess.

We had some leftover dough from the pretzels that we made pizza with the next day. Our cooking skills rival our baking skills by a long shot. Hailey and I watched a movie and ate our pizza while cursing our oven. Our date weekend didn’t end there. The next morning we went out to brunch at a little spot that has great deals on toast. Again to my amazement, I craved the most Spanish toast on the menu: salorejo and ham. It was delicious and my only regret is that I may become addicted to it, just in time for me to leave Spain.

It was back to the grind and I had planning for school to do. But I had fun with my preparations for Monday. I had to make a presentation about my daily routine. And what better way to add some flair to the presentation than take pictures of yourself acting out your daily routine? I recruited Jane to capture “I wake up at 6:30 in the morning,” “I eat breakfast and drink tea,” “I go to school,” and many other basic sentences for classes to enjoy. It was a ridiculous presentation and it went over well. They chuckled at my completely natural and un-staged photos of my daily routine. The question my students asked the most was “Who took the photos?” and I explained that my American flat mate and fellow auxiliar took them. One of my fifth grade students asked, “Is she ugly?” Really, Diego? I then had to defend the honor of my friend to these eleven year olds.

The April showers cancelled the scheduled field trips that week. It wasn’t just raining but down pouring the week of the excursions. The trees bloomed green with spring buds singing that spring had officially arrived. Luckily, it was the last of the rain for a while. I made it my class who missed their field trip by doing a cool science experiment. I have always wanted to do this myself but we made string telephones! It was a great way to demonstrate sound vibration (sound energy too) and practice some telephone conversations in English. I’m the cool teacher.

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Trip to the Motherland

The second weekend of April I had yet another four day weekend. Only my pueblo had a holiday to celebrate their Nuestra Señora de la Antigua or the Patron of Hinojosa del Duque. In what can only be described as pure chance and a crazy set of circumstances, I met someone on my trip to the Canary Islands. In reality it was probably my sick dance moves that led to the exchange of phone numbers. We had been talking for weeks and when I casually mentioned my upcoming four day weekend, lack of plans, and mention that I had never been to the United Kingdom, with his reassurance that he’d show me around, I booked a flight for London.

Let me tell you I love England. After all this time too, I finally got to return to the motherland. Along with my German heritage, I’m also a tad English. Plus America is the rebel child that got away. Best of all, it’s the land of literature. My passion is books (and writing) so a chance to go to the birthplace of my favorite writers wasn’t an opportunity I was going to pass up. Plus I got to visit Tom.

I arrived at Luton airport and had a personal chauffeur to pick me up and whisk me off to London. After parking, we took the tube into the center. What they say about the London underground is true; they really do say “Mind the gap,” at every stop. Having a look at the weather, we decided to explore all the parks on Friday. I had my top sights in mind of course– all literary related (who’s surprised? No one.)– including Hyde Park (for my love of Mrs. Dalloway). Through Kensington Gardens and Hyde park we walked and watched people feed the fowl that have taken permanent residence in the ponds.

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A stroll through Green Park took us to Buckingham Palace. I imagined it being a lot bigger but maybe watching The Crown has misinformed by perception. We passed Westminster Abbey and the scaffolding of Big Ben since the tower can’t even be seen with all it’s construction. With another tube north, we went to King’s Cross and, if you’ve been following along, had a literary stop at Platform nine and three quarters. I made Tom wait in line with me for over a half an hour. But now I can say I’ve officially say I’ve caught the Hogwarts express.

We headed back to Chiswick for dinner and a drink. After my insane travelling schedule (with my one in the morning bus from Córdoba to Madrid before my morning flight) I needed an early night. The next morning we took the bus into the center. The weather turned out to be beautiful. I guess I brought some warm Spanish air with me. We passed Hyde park from the top of a red double-decker bus and drove down Oxford Street. As we passed Hamleys toy store, Tom grabbed my hand and we jumped off to explore all five stories (especially the section with all the Legos).

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With another tube up to the British Library, I dragged Tom straight to their exhibition of treasures. The British Library has many treasures of course but once I spotted one of Jane Austen’s original notebooks, I froze on the spot with a gasp. I was so close to the handwriting of the mother of literature herself; I teared up.

There were other interesting and classic treasures but nothing compares to Jane Austen so I’ll leave it there. With a sunny walk up to Camden Market, I did the British thing (or the touristy thing) and got some fish and chips. A trip through the National Portrait Gallery finished our London exploring. The museum was another favorite of London with a unique narrative of Britain through portraits of both famous and less known people. I picked out some of my favorite authors including the Brontë sisters, Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, Shakespeare, and Virginia Woolf.

We drove west out of London towards Tom’s hometown. There I met his mom and stepdad who were unbelievably kind and welcoming to some random American that Tom had met in Tenerife only a month before. They served me dinner and we chatted about life. They hosted me at their house and the next morning Tom’s mom gave us a tour of St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.

As I write this I am currently watching the Royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. (It’s nice to watch it in a normal time zone.) Hailey and I are commenting away on the guests, dresses, and, of course, the hats. I feel more invested in this wedding than I ever have been in the royal family before. It’s also such a surreal experience to see the chapel where I was just a month before. (I’m not doing much writing to be honest. Mostly ogling the spectacle and splendor of a royal wedding.)

The chapel was insanely splendid in its detail and history. I was in awe with every careful step. The tour of the castle itself was equally impressive and grand with every turn of the corner. We were even lucky enough to catch the last part of the guards changing on the lawn because the queen was in residence in the apartments.

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We had lunch and walked around the quaint town of Windsor. Then we took the dogs for a walk where the severity of my dog allergy was revealed. I couldn’t walk up a small hill without bending over to catch my breath. With my inhaler back at the house, Tom got to witness me in full tomato faced glory. I had to reassure him (but maybe myself more) that I wasn’t this badly out of shape just he took my breath away, ha!

Then I had “tea” with his dad and stepmom. Which at first I thought just meant tea, drinking of the hot beverage but in this case it was dinner. Again I had an absolutely lovely time meeting them and chatting. I was surprised I met the whole family on just this quick weekend away yet if a British man came to visit me, my mom and dad would require me to bring him over for dinner too.

Sadly I had to fly back on Monday afternoon to real life and teaching the youths of Spain on Tuesday. It was agreed Sunday night that I should come back again and the plan is to stop by on my way back to the US after I hike el Camino de Santiago with my brother in June. I can tell you months later that we are still talking everyday. Hi Tom *waves.*

Hanging Out

That week went by normally and fast after just working three days. The weekend brought beautiful weather and what everyone imagines the weather of Spain to to be like. Orange blossoms exploded on every tree across the city and all of Córdoba smelt amazing and sweet.

I enjoyed the nice weather and walked my favorite path in my pueblo after classes one day. It was in preparation for an all you can eat sushi night at a local restaurant that night. We absolutely stuffed ourselves with sushi as we swapped stories of our spring break adventures.

Friday, Belinda, Hailey and I went shopping for our upcoming trip to Morocco! We all booked this trip through an agency months ago and none of us could believe our trip was finally almost here. We were on the hunt for more conservative clothes made of light weight material to wear in the country and in the Sahara desert. Also an ice cream shop opened right below our apartment building on the street level. Now this is dangerous. But of course I had to taste it and it was great after walking home in the hot sun.

When all of us are in residence at the apartment, family meals fill our weekends. Taco night Friday, wine on Saturday (no food just wine), and crepes on Sunday. As you can imagine, Saturday was a fun night with all wine and little food at Patrick’s apartment. We listened to music and sang “Everybody Wants to Be a Cat” on our way home in the middle of the night/morning.

On Sunday I convinced people to come with me to the mosque-cathedral for a visit. I hadn’t been since the first time I visited Córdoba with my mom and I’ve been living here for months! Plus Jane was certain we could get in for free with our resident cards. Visiting the courtyard of the mezquita alone made it worth it. The orange tree courtyard as bursting with jasmine and the whole place smelled of it, a favorite smell of mine. With every visit I’m awed by it’s amazing architecture. As you can see for yourself, I’m in raptures.

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On Being Forgotten

Monday was a bad day and it put me in quite the foul mood. My carpool forgot me. Yes, I was stuck in my small town until the next bus arrived close to five o’clock. Granted, I didn’t need to be picked up the week before and should have messaged her a whole two minutes earlier to remind her to pick me up. Yet I didn’t and she drove right on past as I sat in the school waiting to get her “I’m on my way” message. As the minutes trickled by I realized it was too late and I had missed the early bus home. I was stuck and sad.

I grew grumpier with every passing minute without food, starving as I am for food right after school everyday. My sandwich at recess just doesn’t cut it for my appetite. My laptop died, my phone was almost dead, and I had no chargers with me. After swatting in the school for as long as I could stand, I wandered the siesta deserted streets of my town. I got money out from the bank and then waited at the bus station, buying a soda to tie me over. I didn’t get home until after six and I avoided everyone not wanting to spread my negative energy. Seems by luck ran out that day.

But even in life, it sucks being left out. And as the newcomer in Córdoba after living in my village for half the school year, I sometimes felt like I didn’t fit in. I don’t have some of the same depth of relationships that comes with growing together during the toughest part: the transition.

Later that week I wasn’t left out in a school “field trip.” The whole school had an excursion across town to the town’s theater. There was a puppet show for all the elementary school students in town. So both my school and the one other elementary school in town adventured across town to go see the pirate themed show. Aptly called “Pirating.”

I was with my fourth grade class before recess and I stayed with them to all go to the theater together. The younger classes lined up and left before recess. Even the infant classes, kids ages three to five, went too. And I got to witness my absolute favorite thing: kids on a rope. All the little munchkins holding onto a rope being lead on the sidewalk in a line, precious! They just waddle along on their little legs after their teacher holding onto the rope. I endured the puppet show with prepared enthusiasm (yet I still couldn’t keep my eyes all the way open, pretending I wasn’t dozing at the end of the aisle). Don’t get me wrong, it was a great show and the kids loved it! So that’s what really matters.

It was another short week with yet another puente at the end of April and the beginning of May. There’s a break for Dia provincial and labor day, Dia de Trabajo. So even during that short week I was preparing for Morocco. Belinda, Hailey, Sam and I had a carpool to Seville on Wednesday evening. We had a place to stay in Seville before out five in the morning start to check off visiting another continent: Africa.

In the words of Counting Crows, “I may take a holiday in Spain.” Guess my mom was right in her inquiry: do I ever work? It’s only that instead of going to Spain for a holiday, Spain’s the one that has a lot of holidays. And I’m out of Spain at every opportunity traveling the world!

Happy Travels-

Signature with Gray

Holiday in Spain journal entry

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