18 December 2010

Home for the holidays?

I'm about to get a little sentimental. This year will be the first time that I spend Christmas away from my family. I knew it was coming, but I don't think I realized what it would mean. I never understood why people talk about Christmas as being a depressing time, but I do now that I can't be with my family, friends and loved ones this year. I have always loved Christmas, not for the presents and all that, but for the sense of family. My immediate family lives in Pennsylvania, but practically every single one of my relatives on both sides of my family lives in California (and believe me, I have a ton of relatives, as my mom is the oldest of six siblings). Christmas many years means a trip to the West Coast and a chance to spend time with my relatives, with whom I am very close yet rarely get a chance to see, and all of the food, traditions, jam-packed house, and laughter and that generally go along with it.

A  small part of La Famiglia, circa 1993.  My apologies to any relatives reading this!

When I left for Spain, I had originally considered coming home for the Holidays. However, I thought, it's only one year, I won't mind. I didn't feel like spending the money and all the time traveling back and forth for such a short time. I thought it wouldn't phase me at all. Additionally, I didn't want to miss Christmas in Spain, a chance to experience the holiday in another country, and to take advantage of almost three weeks off from work to travel. However, as Christmas approaches, I'm wishing ever-so-slightly that I had decided to come home. This was probably spurred by my too-cool-for-school 18-year-old brother sending me a text saying that he missed me and wished I were coming home for Christmas. This never, I repeat, never happens, and thus made me pretty homesick. Despite all this, I'm here to stay, as it's a little too late to go home at this point.

Many Spaniards have asked me if I'm going home for the Holidays, and I always get a lot of sympathy from them when I tell them that I'm not. Spain is an extremely family-centered society, and a Christmas away from your family is almost inconceivable. Luckily, I've become close with one of the teachers at my school and her family, and they have invited me to spend Christmas with them and their relatives. I am definitely excited to see how the holidays are celebrated here, and am very thankful that I will be among good company. Santiago is looking very festive now with all of the lights at night and the store display windows beautifully and ornately decorated. As for the rest of my Christmas break, that remains to be seen, but I'm sure I will figure something out.

To all my friends and family back home (if there is anyone actually reading this), wishing you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Years from Spain! I'll have a Blue Christmas without you...

13 December 2010

puentes

The past (almost) two weeks, I have been traveling, thanks to the long puente, which allowed me to go to Barcelona and Sevilla. So here goes my really incoherent and jumbled update:

My trip to Barcelona was great, it's truly a beautiful city. I spent my time there with my hermana española and her family. As always when I'm with them, I had a great time. My time was mostly spent hanging out with them and their friends, shopping, and yelling at the TV because all of the air traffic controllers in Spain had gone on strike that weekend (almost the equivalent of Thanksgiving weekend in the US), which essentially meant that no plane could take off, land, or fly through Spain. This cost hundreds of millions of euros, and caused major frustrations for almost every Spaniard. It was so bad that Zapatero (the prime minister) had to call in the Spanish Guardia Civil to take control of the situation and declared for the first time in Spanish history an estado de alarma, and militarized the Spanish airspace. They were striking in protest of a 5% decrease in their salaries, even though they make on average over 600,000€ per year (now I know why the economic crisis in Spain is so bad!). Additionally, I went to the Mercat de la Boqueria, an amazingly awesome (mostly food) market, as well as a Christmas bazaar, and a pretty cool Basque restaurant. I was also forced by my oh-so-caring Spanish family from Barcelona to buy a better winter coat, because "I'll freeze to death in Santiago with the coat I have." Ah well, they were probably right! I also saw not one, but four Spanish celebrities while at the movies: Carles Puyol of FC Barça and his girlfriend Malena Costa, as well as Borja Thyssen (the Spanish male version of Paris Hilton) and his girlfriend Blanca Cuesta. Not too shabby!

Something in the Christmas bazaar that I found funny:

These are Catalan Christmas nativity-scene figurines called caganers in Català, or in English "shitters" which I found really hilarious. They are very satirical in nature, poking fun at politicians, athletes, celebrities, professions, etc. Spot Obama in the picture above!

I then returned to Santiago for about 36 hours to promptly leave again for Sevilla with some friends. Sevilla is probably one of the most enchanting cities I've ever been in, and it is what made me fall in love with Spain when I was here two and a half years ago. The weather there was incredible, sunny and about 76º. A wonderful change from the cold rainy days we've been having in Santiago. Sevillanos are awesome people, and it's hard not to enjoy yourself while there. If I had to give a word to Sevilla, it would be alegría. I am in love with the Arabic/ Moorish influence on southern Spain; the architecture and art in is remarkable.We also took advantage of the presence of more diverse restaurants, and ate at a really good Cuban restaurant one night, and at an amazing Mexican restaurant another. It was a much welcomed change from the food in Santiago, which is really good, but after 2 months straight, we were craving a little change.
view from la Girlada

So there you have it. A short description of my trip, not nearly enough to begin to do justice to these two remarkable cities, but alas me tengo que acostar. Being in Galicia, Catalunya and Andalucía in such a short period of time, it was so interesting to see how different all of these regions are. For as tiny as Spain may be, it is extremely diverse. I have a new goal to try to visit every comunidad autónoma of Spain. Lofty, but it would be awesome to achieve. Another thing that I found interesting, and that I hadn't expected, was that I missed Galicia while I was in other parts of Spain! I'm really starting to feel at home in Santiago.

Other than that, my three week Christmas break is coming up and I have absolutely NO idea what my plans are so far. I need to start planning! All I know is that I would like to leave Spain. Suggestions, anyone? Please??