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Showing posts from November, 2012

10 Tips on How to Stay Warm in Your Apartment in Andalucía in the Winter

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We’re already almost finished with November, which means winter is here to stay in Andalucía, the region in the far south of Spain. You’d think its latitude on the globe would protect it from the bite of cold but, nevertheless, it does get cold here; I’ve heard many language assistant bloggers mention that the “coldest winter of my life” was experienced right here. Now, I think much of that is simply exaggeration (just compare Andalucía’s monthly temperature and precipitation averages with those of, say, Chicago or Fargo, N.D.) but a lot of it has to do with facing the weather head-on. In the U.S., many of us are blessed to have central heating in our homes and cars to drive anywhere we need, so we’re fairly insulated (pun intended) from the worst of the winter.

Here in Spain, however, most apartments or homes don’t have heating (calefacción), and people use their feet instead of their wheels to pick up the milk, meet up with friends, and go to work. Naturally, winter feels much more …

Thanksgiving 2012, Expat Edition

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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.


What was on the menu? If you’re not hungry yet, you will be after reading this list: roast whole chicken with onions, herbs, and olive oil…homemade gravy made from chicken drippings…buttery mashed potatoes…green beans cooked with bacon…pumpkin (butternut squash) pie made completely from scratch…sweet potato casserole with brown sugar & pecan topping…cranberry sauce (substitute) made from pomegranate seeds.

How did we do it? With an oven, stovetop, and a few pots, pans, and dishes, you, too, can enjoy an expat Thanksgiving next …

5 Things to Be Thankful for When Living Abroad in Spain

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We language assistants here in Spain can be a whiny bunch. From worrying about not getting paid on the first day of the month (despite being warned that our first paycheck would be delayed by a month or so), to being bored in a small town, we tend to voice any and all concerns in the program’s forum and its numerous Facebook groups.

But even though we do have a few legitimate reasons to complain (not getting paid is perhaps the most likely candidate), we language assistants still have a handful of things to be thankful for during our time in Spain. In light of our recently-celebrated American holiday of Thanksgiving, I thought I’d list five things I’m most grateful for while living abroad.


1) We get to live in Europe I know that living abroad either during or after college has been a longtime dream for many of us, and Europe pretty much takes the gold for Most Glamorous Place to Live. When week-long winter rains are keeping us indoors or disrespectful kiddos are discouraging our meage…

7 Helpful North American Language and Culture Assistant Blogs

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It’s about that time again—application period for Spain’s North American Language and Culture Assistant program!

This year I’m working as a language assistant in a bilingual elementary school in southern Spain. To be honest, there’s no way I could have made it to where I am today without the help of many informative, helpful, and quite funny bloggers who have chronicled their journeys from America, to Spain, and back (or not, if their romantic status changed over here). Below, I’m going to talk about the blogs that really helped prepare me for the program and life abroad as an American expat. I hope they help you as much as they did me!

Young Adventuress (Liz Carlson)
From 2010 to 2011, Liz worked in a pueblo just outside of Córdoba in Andalucía (southern Spain), and repeated the program for 2011-2012 up north in Logroño, the capital of La Rioja. Before going through the language assistant program, she spent a year in Salamanca and a summer in Madrid, so she definitely knows her stuff …

Albacete: or There and Back Again from Arabic to Spanish

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Tuesday afternoon I had to catch the bus from Villanueva del Arzobispo (where I work) back to Úbeda (where I live) because the teachers I carpool with had to stay late for parent-teacher conferences. Anyway, once I got to the bus station, I ran into a guy from Morocco who wanted to know where he could buy tickets to what I heard as “ahl-bah-SEE-tee” [al.baˈsi.ti]. Albasiti…where in the world? I thought. It didn’t help my confusion that we were two levels deep in foreign languages: I, a native English speaker using Spanish to talk to him, a native Moroccan Arabic speaker. At first, I struggled to figure out where exactly he was trying to go.

But then I remembered from the tiny bit of Arabic I studied in a course on Islam I took in college that Arabic only has 3 vowels, “ee ah oo” /i a u/, and it dawned on me that he wanted to go to the Spanish city of Albacete; he had raised the /e/ vowels in the city to the nearest one he could make, given his accent: /i/.

He ended up getting tickets …

Different Sets of Words for Olives and Olive Trees Across Andalucía

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The other day I was in one of my 3rd grade science classes and we were talking about reproduction in plants and animals. The teacher I help as a language assistant used olive trees as an example of asexual reproduction in plants, and as an aside, told me that there are two different words for the tree and the fruit in different parts of Andalucía, the southern region in Spain.

He told me that here in Jaén province and the east (the green highlighted region below) they use one set of words, but closer to Córdoba and Sevilla in the west of Andalucía (the gray part to the left of the green shape), they use another. I thought that was really interesting so I decided to do some brief research and summarize the findings here. Enjoy!


Olive treesEast Andalucía
Here in the eastern half of Andalucía—where the province of Jaén alone accounts for approximately a tenth of global olive oil production—the word la oliva means “olive tree.” This word comes from the Latin OLĪVA, “olive.”

West Andalucía

What the Catalan Language is NOT

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Sometimes when I hear people talking about the beautiful language that they speak in three regions of Spain—Cataluña, Valencia, and the Balearic Islands—they often describe it in a way that, to me, is like nails on a chalkboard. Let me explain:

* Catalan isn’t Spanish.

* It isn’t French.

* It isn’t a fusion/mixture/combination of French and Spanish.

* It isn’t a dialect of Spanish.

* It does look a lot like French, and Spanish, too; but it’s neither one of them.

* It is Catalan.

The Catalan language arose from the Latin spoken by the common people in the northeast corner of the Iberian peninsula, centuries after the Roman Empire had dissolved into the Mediterranean Sea, in just the same way as French, Italian, Spanish or Portuguese similarly developed. Although, like all Romance languages, it’s related to French and Spanish, it’s nevertheless individual and unique.

For example, here’s the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as spoken in Catalan:
Tots els éssers humans neixen lliures…

How to Dress Like a Spanish Grandpa

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Over the next couple of months or so, I’m going to try and provide a few tips for my fellow men on how to dress more like a native Spaniard. (Not that you have to if you visit here, by any means! This is just if you’re curious about how they dress.)

Here in Úbeda where I live, the ratio of older to younger people is pretty lopsided in favor of the former, so I get many chances each day to observe retired Spaniard fashion. So today, I want to give you some pointers on how to dress like a Spanish grandpa.


By “grandpa” I mean simply the older generation of men that, for lack of a better distinction, came of age well before the end of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship in 1975. In parts two and three of this little “Spanish menswear” series, I’m going to talk about adult Spaniards and teenagers. But for now, abuelos it is.

Whenever you see them walking around town (something I admire very much about the elderly here—even the slow, hunched-over, cane-using man will have his daily walk despite…

October Monthly Update: Getting Settled Edition

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So, I’ve decided to change up the format for my “update” posts from publishing them once every week to once per month for two reasons: First, there just isn’t enough material to justify a post every week only about my life; now that I have a routine it’s mainly working…cooking…reading…speaking Spanish…writing…sleeping. And when there is some variety—like traveling—I’ll be writing a separate post for a city trip. Second, publishing a weekly post every week for my entire stay in Spain would result in about 39 posts, which is simply too much. Therefore, I’m going to be publishing a monthly update either on the last day of the month or a few days later.


Getting settled I arrived in Spain on September 24th and spent the next two weeks settling in to the country. Some big things that I did to prepare for the next nine months abroad were: I got a pay-as-you-go cellphone, was approved for residency—my NIE (foreigner’s identification number), opened a bank account, received my health insurance…