Wednesday, September 8, 2010

“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.”- James Michener

I decided that instead of trying to think of something clever to put as the title to each blog, I am going to use a quote that accurately describes the post. And boy, does this one describe this past weekend!

I tried new food, joined in customs, went to mass, and met new people. It is a challenge to live this quote though, as sometimes it is just easier to stay where I am comfortable.

Friday, after my intensive Spanish class, I walked back home all depressed; missing my family and friends deeply. It was Friday night, and I had nothing to do other than sit on my computer or read. My host family was out seeing their respective friends, and I was just here. Back home, it would be the night that Ryan and I would go to the Turf and throw some darts while talking, flirting with each other, and enjoying each other's company. The though made me deeply homesick. I just wanted to be home.

However, God had some gifts in store for me. At supper, which is like 9 or 10pm here, my host mother, Begona and my host sister, Laura, and i were sitting at the table talking. Begona starts out a conversation with, "Dokie, would you like some work?" "Here? In Spain?" She kinda smiled, "Yes, here in Spain." "What kind of work?" I'm thinking something like selling pamphlets to tourists who don't know better or going along the river and saving baby turtles or something like that. "My friend, Elena, called me and is wondering if you would speak English with her 15 year old daughter so that she can practice what she learns in school." My heart jumped at the opportunity. After saying a silent, grateful prayer to God, I agreed. Since I teach in the States, it's perfect for me! Such a beautiful way for God to show me how much he takes care of me, even in unexpected ways.

The other gift came soon after. Laura, who is 20, suddenly asked me if I would like to join her and her friends to go out the next night with them. It is more of a cultural thing here to go out to bars, not to get drunk (I guess it depends on the person), but to be with friends and enjoy yourself. The Spanish people are very social, and love being with friends. Every night, one or all of them go out to see friends or have a drink or something. I agreed, since I want to experience all aspects of the Spanish culture. My first thought, though, was typical of a woman: "I have nothing to wear."

Saturday arrived, and I got ready to meet my new friend Polina to see some sights in Burgos together. I agreed with Begona to be back by 3pm to celebrate her birthday, which was on Tuesday. I found Polina near the Cathedral, and we decided to go inside and do the whole pay-for-entrance-to-see-beautiful-architecture thing.

It was totally worth it. Once I figure out how to post pictures, I will. If you are my friend on FB, there are pics on there too. This Cathedral, the most Gothic in Spain, is probably one of the most beautiful ones I have seen. Not overdone, it allows its architecture and richness in wood to display its beauty.

After going through the cathedral, which took about an hour and a half, Polina and I decided to have a little lunch. I knew I was eating at like 3, but it would be a while and I needed to eat. So what did I order? Calamares en su tinta. I knew it was squid, but i wasn't sure what tinta meant. I found out soon enough. It's squid cooked in its own ink. It was delicious, and a great experience, but I am not sure I will have it again. But I had a beer to wash it all down.

Apparently, it was Try New Food Weekend, and I missed the memo.

After walking around with Polina for a bit, I went back home at like 2 to shower and get ready for lunch. I knew that Begona's sister, brother-in-law and their two children were coming, so I didn't want to smell.

After getting ready, I went into the kitchen to see how it was all going. I got to watch them prepare the meal, which was fascinating. Earlier in the week, Begona taught me how to make Tortilla con patatas, or Tortilla espanola, which is kinda like a potato quiche, but so much better!

Anyway, I digress. Lunch consisted of fresh róbalo (sea bass), ensalada con queso de cabra (salad with goat cheese), thinly sliced pork with manchego (cheese with sheep and cow's milk [my favorite!]), bread, and white wine. I got to watch her cut the fish open (with the heads on!), clean them, and prepare them! It was fascinating. I loved it.

It was good for my Spanish too, since I got to keep up with the conversations and hear the different way people talk. Plus the two kids, Maria (8) and Jorge (6), are SO cute. Once they realized that I am not scary, they practiced their colors, numbers, and days in English. It was so cute.

After all this and cake and coffee, I needed a nap hard core. I slept for 2.5 hours. It was amazing.

I went with Laura to her friend's house at 11. I thought it was late, but that's okay. I wanted to do something different. We went, and sat at her place for like 2 hours talking. I guess we were waiting till the crowds died down more at the bars and stuff. We finally left her place at about 2, and by that time I was so tired. But I was going to keep plugging through. I told them that I was tired, and after once place I was going to go home. We went back to our Plaza, which is like party central apparently, and went someplace that serves mojitos, since they know they are my favorite. It was so crowded and smokey that we quickly downed the drinks. The bar was right next door to our place, so I said good night and came up to go to bed.

The next day, we left the house at like 10 to get to a monastery for Mass. They aren't practicing Catholics, but they know I am, and they knew that I would love it. So they make sure that I get to go to church and know mass times etc. It is so nice that they respect me like that. Anyway, we got there about an hour before Mass, so we got coffees and sat and chilled in the sun for a bit. It was SO hot on Sunday, like in the 90s.

Mass was beautiful. The Benedictine Monks sang chant and it was beautiful. However, I need to find a mass book in Spanish, since it was SO hard to follow, what with the acoustics and people and stuff.

After mass, we went to Lerma, a little town about 45 min from the monastery. We ate so well, and had so much! We had Ensalada Ruso (like a delicious fishy pasta salad), foccacia bread, croquettas (little balls of bechamel [gravy] and ham), morcillas (blood sausage with rice), a plate of different cuts of pork, potatoes with egg and ham, and cheese. It was all so good, but made us all SO tired. After tea, we headed back here, where we all crashed. We were exhausted.

I am so blessed to have such a wonderful host family. Begona just came in and asked if tomorrow night, I would like to do the "Ruta del Luz" which is like a route around town at night to see all the churches and historical buildings by night. I am SO excited. They have the same interests as me, and I love it!

More later, need to go to bed here.

It hit me yesterday that I will be here for 5 MONTHS, without seeing my loved ones for the most part. Constant homesickness, or constant missing of friends and family, has set in.

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