Tag Archives: paella

the last hurrah; el último olé

In an attempt to do something productive with my Sunday, I decided to get back on the blogging horse.  At least to make one more hurrah, to go out with a bang, to tie up the loose ends of this blogging/study abroad experience.  So today is brought to you by the letter F: Formentera, finalidad, fear, etc.

After school ended, K. and I were lucky enough to receive a personal invite to Formentera, the smallest and most rustic of the Balearic Islands.  Armed with R.’s dungarees and various degrees of SPF, we boarded the flight (followed by the ferry) to destination: Dirección Sur.  Just as we did in Barcelona, we immediately set out for an adventure (“you have to say you did something amazing your first night on the Island!”–R.).  We drove the to the southern-most tip of the island, marked by a beautiful lighthouse beneath which is a system of caves, one of which we descended into.  Placing candles in its crevices as we walked through it, we came upon the opening on the other side where we found ourselves feet from the high tide lapping relentlessly against the side of the cliff.  Shooting stars welcomed us to the island from above.

"baño en Illetes..."

The next day, after 12 hours of sleep (a fact R. would not let me live down) we headed to Illetes, a narrow strip of beach at the northern-most point of the island.  There we braved the freezing water of the early season with the help of wetsuits, breaking for a picnic and a walk afterward.  On the walk we met Johannsen, an older German gentleman who has been coming to Illetes for twenty years to embellish and expand his “castle”: a collection of rock sculptures he’s made from all items he’s found in the area (driftwood, rocks, old ship parts washed up on shore).  From there we went to meet more old guiri-hipis (foreign hippies), arriving at Diki’s house in time for tea and cookies.  Diki is a fixture in Formentera, squatting for more than thirty years on his patch of land, making amazing wooden sculptures and keeping a low profile.  When he’s not outdoors on his land or in his workshop, he’s sitting by the fire in his one-room hut.  He’s the prickly type that I end up grating on with my intensity, so when we broke for another walk I was relieved to have a chance to exhale.  Down to the cliffs we went, to further admire the aqua-blue water and incredible geology of the island.

X.

The next day was spiced up with the arrival of X., everyone’s favorite singer/songwriter who spends half the year physically living in Barcelona, while mentally living all twelve months in Formentera.  Another day at the beach was therefore planned, this time in a new location that required all swimmers to dive into the frigid waters from the side of a cliff.  Then it was back to R.’s incredible homestead (called l’Ermita, the hermitage, due to its resemblance to the architectural similarities it shares with Formentera’s churches) to clean ourselves up for the soccer game we were going to watch in town.  Barça won, and all was right with the world.

From this point on you can imagine the daily activities: beach, try not to burn, try not to get stung by the jellyfish that had invaded the island, amazing seaside lunches, further cave exploration, aiding in the construction of an addition the l’Ermita (okay bet you weren’t expecting that one.  But I’m positive I moved [read: pilfered] scaffolding material from the lot next door at least three times, while wearing a jersey dress), Spanish food workshops led by X., guitar strumming, etc.  It was truly an amazing vacation, the perfect ending to the perfect year abroad. [Suspend your disbelief].

So now we’ve covered the first of the aforementioned Fs (Formentera).  Now onto finalidad with a touch of fear.  I’m going to gloss over the hellish travel stories I have in my attempts to get home, all of which revolve around the f***ing (another F) volcano in Iceland that decided to disrupt all of my well-crafted (and expensive) plans.  But I made it home safe and sound, sana y salva, and that’s what counts.  Being home, however, is weird.  There’s no other way to describe it.  I feel as though I have been teleported into another world, and Spain could not feel farther away now.  All of the people, relationships, and events that used to be the center of my world are now 4000+ miles east, 6 hours ahead and complicated by a language barrier  which for nine months I attempted to overcome.  And things that I yearned for and missed while over there (driving the PT, Bodo’s, my queen-sized bed) are already losing some of their novelty, and life without Radio 3, paella and a metro system seems unmanageable and totally undesirable.  I know I’m suffering hard from the “grass-is-greener” syndrome, and that it’s all a process that I’ve hardly begun, but as M. says “es lo que hay” (“it’s all there is”; “it is what it is”).  And with that statement and the sentiment it conveys I will face the upcoming months, filled with summer jobs, a publishing internship at a local magazine, old friends and hopefully some productive soul-searching and maybe a few steps closer to entering the real world.

Y ya está.  Con eso, mi público, ¡me piro!

Besos from a broad abroad at home.

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past, present and future.

FINALLY, some new material. It has taken me probably 3 weeks to get this blog fully up and running, just an example of stubborn I’ve been about creating one in the first place.  But let’s face it, an aspiring travel journalist with nothing to share is hardly an aspiring travel journalist at all.  So that’s where this comes in, providing YOU, my future employers (?) (?) (?), my past friends and lovers, my long-time family, etc. with the annals of what exactly I’m getting into this semester.

The first few weeks back (post-European Christmas adventure, post-visit from Mom) were a hard adjustment, but things seem to be falling into place. New friends, new classes (Mass Media, Don Quijote, Civilization and Culture, and Linguistics, to be exact), new activities.  Also, new internships! I just found out that I’ll be working for Valencia’s fútbol (soccer) team doing some translations for their website.  This might prove difficult considering I know very little about soccer (who am I kidding: all sports), let alone its lexicon in English or Spanish.  Pues, vamos a ver…

I will say this about the newness of this semester: with the new crop of students we (the old guard) have been rejuvenated and are on the quest for the lesser-known, alternative places/activities around the city.  This search has led us to many interesting experiences, including the following:

  • taking a day-trip to Sagunto, the old Roman trade city north of Valencia, only to find it completely closed, a crisis we responded to by going on a hike all around the castle.

    Sagunto from above

  • Mexi[can food] Night in a somewhat forgotten part of town
  • the Madhatter’s Tea Party, to which showed up a crop of Spanish Lolita’s, a fashion style that is not only creepy but totally not in accordance with the Alice in Wonderland theme
  • a paella cooking class which began with me almost fainting at the sight and sound of rabbit and chicken being prepared (read: hacked apart violently) and ended with me chowing down on some delicious conejo

On top of these isolated events, I’ve picked up some new routines as well.  Starting with a 2 times a week pilates class, which is not only a stretch physically but mentally considering the language barrier.  I’m also still teaching English to Gonzalo, the adorable 7-year old who lives down the street.  Since winter break he has really come out of his shell, making a once-frustrating weekly appointment into something I look forward to.  Plus, this has given me some indication that I am not as horrible with children as I thought, and that he might actually like me!  A revelation for this child-phobic twenty-something.

So now we’ve covered the past, the present, and onto the future: our first long vacation is Fallas in mid-March, during which of course we’ll all be staying in town for our first Fallas experience.  But in April we’re given 2 weeks (thank you, Catholic holidays!) for travel and time off from school, during which I hope to be in Istanbul and the Grecian Isles (I just love the sound of that).  Obviously it’s still far off, and plans always change, but it’s still something to look forward to.

All in all, things are good in Valencia (how can you complain about a place where there’s 60 degree weather when you know your house is buried ankle-deep in snow and cold and gloom and doom?)

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Filed under schmoozing, school, spring semester, travel, Valencia

time flies, and apparently so does paella.

WOW how the time flies.  Two weeks left of my first semester in Spain.  Just as it is in the states, things are getting jam-packed as we near the end: exams to be taken, papers to be written, but also people and places to see and enjoy before saying goodbye.

In this spirit, a few of our Spanish friends organized a rather large fiesta in honor of Franco’s death which occurred on the 20th of November.  This day is not recognized nationally by any means, and it was barely even mentioned in school, so the fact that we attended a celebration of this was somewhat out of the ordinary.  It took place in the “OVNI CUADRADO” art gallery (which translates literally to the “Square UFO” gallery) that my friend Carlitos, a more than middle aged artist, runs.  More than a second apartment than an actual art gallery, its walls are covered in murals, out of place photos from magazines, and string lights.  General kitch is the theme.  After an interpretive dance performance, a few of our friends hit the stage to play some music, at one point asking me to come up and sing some jazz!  “When in Spain,” you could say.  The final spectacle of the night was just that: a live-action cooking show in the center of the dance floor, with Carlitos himself making an enormous paella right in front of our eyes.  Dressed in a sailor costume, and accompanied by a mock “faellera” girl (the equivalent of a “Little Miss” from American beauty pageants and parades) he started adding oil, peppers, garlic and onions to the pan.  All seemed to be running smoothly as he flung, dramatically, a passel of octopi and mussels into the mix, but things suddenly went south.  The paella pan starts tipping over (the physics behind this are still unclear to me) and seafood broth sloshes everywhere.  A close save, and a sigh of relief.  But again, it tips, this time definitively so, making the whole plate slip off the table and flip over, depositing sea creatures and green peppers everywhere.  It starts to smell.  Carlitos gets out his mop.  The police show up downstairs because of a noise complaint.  That’s when we made our exit, remembering the “Paella Bingo Show” party (as it was called) as one of the strangest events of the semester.

There seems to have been a lot to celebrate during the past few weeks, because shortly after the paella fiasco we were treated to a lovely Thanksgiving dinner at our school.  It was not easy to get off Skype with my parents, Aunt and Uncle after catching them at the start of the Thanksgiving festivities at home.  And I remember walking to the school thinking: this will not be fun.  It will just make me sadder.  But as the case often is when I start complaining required events, I was very pleasantly surprised (Mr. Kahuda: some things never change).  The supper was held in our school in the library, where the study desks had been converted into dining tables, beckoning us with a spread of various meats, cheeses, and drinks.  After a short moment of private reflection to think about what we are thankful for this year (there are so many things I don’t know if I could name them all.  But for me: this entire experience, Skype, the health and happiness of my family, the loving presence y’all provide me when you respond to these, Adela my Spanish madre, a break from economic hardships, etc.) we started to chow down on the incredible buffet that had been prepared: turkey, stuffing (actual bread stuffing! I couldn’t believe it), various potato dishes (but sadly, not the roasted garlic mashed potatoes my mom whipped up this year), veggies, canned cranberry sauce (brought straight from the US by a friend’s mom who was visiting) and sweet potatoes.  After supper we were served roasted pumpkin and whipped cream, an excellent and believable replacement for the pumpkin pie that cannot be found in this country.  Overall, it was a great night, and I was so happy to spend it with my new group of friends, my new family.

l'antiga universitat

More things gastronomic! This time the topic is cava, Spain’s equivalent to France’s champagne.  A few days after the Thanksgiving feast, a few friends and I met up to go to the first cava tasting held in Valencia at the old University of Valencia campus.  Stationed in the central patio of the building were dozens of wine makers and their work.  For 5€ we received four tastings of our choice, accompanied by various crackers and cheeses that were being promoted as well.  Not knowing anything about wine, my general plan of attack was to go over to any station manned by jovial-looking Spanish men and ask them: “¿cual es tu favorito?” (which one is your favorite?).  Using what I learned from the one wine tasting I’ve been to in Israel (a locale not exactly known for its wine), I swirled and swished and enjoyed myself thoroughly, crashing by 2 hours later at the extremely early hour of 12:30am.

Now that you’ve gotten the culinary side of things, it’s on to sports: the program also provided us with FREE tickets to a soccer game this weekend to see Valencia CF go up against Lille FC from France.  This activity was made possible by one of our professors who used to play for Valencia (or the minor leagues, we think) until an injury made him quit and dedicate himself to his second passion: writing poetry.  He is a personal friend of many of the players, and not only got us the great seats for free, but a special chance to go on the field after the game, meet the players and ogle.  Despite the rain and cold, it was a great night, made only sweeter by the promise that the next day some of these very fine jugadores (players) would join us Americans for a drink.  And they did just that.  Sort of.  We showed up last night at the meeting spot, a noisy bar that overcharged, ogling again in wonder at so many attractive athletes in one small space.  Although my friends and I did not end up leaving the club with any marriage proposals, it was still fun to rub elbows with these guys for a few hours.  And at least I can say I gave Mata (the #4 ranked soccer player in the world currently) the obligatory dos besos (two kisses, the typical European greeting or goodbye).

But the weekend shenanigans don’t stop there.  That was two days ago, whereas yesterday, on my way to the train station to catch a train to Madrid for the long weekend (we have another one of those lovely “puentes” which gives me 5 days off!), I got the call that the friend I was going to meet there has come down with the swine flu!  Needless to say, I did not get on that train.  Instead, I high-tailed it back to the school just in time to see the bi-annual theater production the students of our program put on.  This year they did Lorca’s Bodas de Sangre (Blood Weddings), a tragedy that was interpreted by the students here and that was lightened up by such scenes as when Death comes out from stage right, catches the eye of her best friend playing a widow, and they both burst out laughing.  You could call it a “loose” interpretation.

Besides that, I’d say y’all are all pretty well caught up now.  Things are for sure winding down now, and the general tone at school is getting pretty sentimental.  It seems so strange to me that only 4 months can bring people together and make them so close, but it really has.  I love the friends I’ve made here, and the group dynamic in general, and I don’t want to lose any of that!  But I can tell that the change is necessary and for the better; if things were to stay exactly as they are I think on some level I’d be bored.  I’m glad to have a few core friends staying next semester, to help with the transition (we’re doubling in size, for starters!) and a few months here under my belt.  Who knows what the next half of this year will bring!

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Filed under fall semester, travel, Valencia