Tuesday, December 4, 2012

November Monthly Update: The Day of Giving of Thanks Edition

Well, another month has come and gone in Spain, which means I now “carry” (as they say in Spanish) two months in the country. A quarter of the way through my stay here already—unbelievable, but I can’t wait to see what comes next.

This month I did a lot of teaching about Thanksgiving, or in Spanish, el Día de Acción de Gracias, which I have literally translated in this post’s title. I guess sometimes English naming conventions are a bit more tidy than those in Spanish! Anyway, what follows is a little bit of what I’ve been up to lately.

The Alhambra, Spain
La Alhambra

Granada trip

The first weekend in November I took a weekend trip to the city of Granada during the puente (long weekend; literally “bridge”) for All Saints’ Day (Día de Todos los Santos). Granada is a beautiful provincial capital about two hours south of where I’m living in Úbeda, and was a welcome break from Month 1 of working and living abroad.

Nasrid Palaces, the Alhambra, Spain
Plasterwork, Nasrid Palaces, Alhambra
I’m going to publish a full post about the trip later this week, but it’s safe to say I was not disappointed by any means with Granada; this (excuse the cliché) magical city met all my expectations. I enjoyed exploring the Moorish palace complex of the Alhambra, the cozy, North African-themed neighborhood of the Albaicín, and even the city’s science museum.

Election 2012

By the time the first Tuesday of the month rolled around, I was getting really jittery and suspenseful about the U.S. presidential election’s outcome. I had been following Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight prediction blog—which ended up being 100% correct—but there were just so many wild cards involved, like voter ID requirements, Hurricane Sandy, and low voter turnout, that I didn’t really know what to expect.

For school that day, I dressed up with a red-and-blue striped repp tie and an American flag lapel pin; my school director was very impressed with my patriotism and commitment to voting! At night, I stayed up reading the blogs and news feeds until 1am, when only, say, Vermont and Maryland had been called. I woke up five hours later and turned on the MSNBC live feed and watched the final moments of the election. By 7am, Mitt Romney had conceded and Barack Obama was on his way to a second term. Literally everyone I spoke to about the election in Spain was happy about it. Woohoo!

Finalizing bank drama

At the beginning of October I opened an account with the Catalan bank La Caixa (sounds like “luh CAH-shuh”), and didn’t think much of it since I wasn’t due to get paid until November (I had no money anyway). November came around, I got paid, but I still had not received my debit card after waiting 40 days. It must have gotten lost in the mail. Anyways, I marched in to my local branch with a script in Spanish memorized, and after some ’splainin’, was able to have a new debit card sent directly to the branch itself. Five days later, it showed up—hooray!

But when I received my card, the bank teller didn’t print me off my PIN, so I just assumed I would use my online account password at the ATM. Wrong. After an embarrassing failed attempt to withdraw money, I waited my turn at the branch (again) and was able to learn my number. Finally! Now, to stop spending so much €€€ on food and travel…

Visiting Sabiote

On a weekday afternoon my bilingual coordinator, Pedro, took me and a few other teachers out to his pueblo (small hometown) of Sabiote. I rarely get too excited about tiny towns in Spain, but I was very pleasantly surprised with this place. I haven’t posted pictures yet, but let’s just say there was a castle involved. Yes—a stone fortress from the Renaissance.

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving feast, expat edition
Thanksgiving feast, expat edition
This year I celebrated my first Thanksgiving away from home, but more importantly, away from Mom’s cooking. However, I did not have a complete breakdown and resort to binge eating of Spanish tortilla, jamón serrano, and cold gazpacho soup for supper. Instead, two American girls, a girl from England, and I—all fellow language assistants in Spain—got together Thursday afternoon and prepared something close enough to a traditional American Thanksgiving feast.

Being a tour guide in Úbeda

Last weekend, new friend and fellow language assistant named Alissa wanted to visit Úbeda so I let her crash at my place for two days. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about being a tour guide in my adopted hometown, but I ended up thoroughly enjoying the city all over again. We visited some of my favorite haunts, sat in on a classical guitar recital, and even made french toast with contraband maple syrup that she brought from home in New England.

Picking up TIE in Jaén

Like my experience above with the debit card, I also had waited a month or so on my TIE to come in, my official foreigner’s ID card. One daytrip to the provincial capital of Jaén later, I can now use my debit card without having to lug around my passport and I can get student discounts since it’s got “estudiante” written all over it.

Jaén, Spain
Jaén
This weekend I went to the city of Córdoba and was enamored by its deep history and stunning architecture. A place I had read about and studied for years finally came to life as I frequently got lost among its streets that, oddly enough, have two names each. Expect a full blog post about it this month.

The monthly update for December may be delayed by a week or two as I will be spending Christmas vacation in France. Talk to y’all soon!
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