So after my first year teaching abroad I did a top 11 list of my favorite places I visited. This year I am going to change it up and make this a list of my Top 10 favorite memories of the year.
10. My goal this year was to make more Spanish friends, and I made some amazing friends with some practicos, or student teachers! One “American” thing they wanted to celebrate was Thanksgiving. So what did we do? We sure did celebrate it! We a whole 20 pound turkey and all the fixings! You can read about the experience here. It was great to share a holiday we people who have turned out to be some of my closest friends! When you are thousands of miles away from home, you do get lonely during the holiday times. Plus, the turkey wasn’t half bad either.
9. Although I hate cold weather and I’m not a fan of snow, I do enjoy a good Christmas Market. Europe is known for their amazing Christmas markets that show off a country’s culture and food. I truly enjoy exploring different markets. This year I took a day trip to Tallin, Estonia and spent the afternoon sipping hot mulled wine and eating reindeer jerky! It was great! Now how did these begin? Well it all started back in the German speaking parts of Europe. A street market was set up during the 4 weeks of Advent. Some German cities called them Christmas Children’s Market because they are known to sell little child toys and sweets.
8. When my brother and cousins came to visit, I loved showing them around and showing them off to my friends in Spain. It was so great to show them some traditional Spanish activities, like siesta. One thing about Spaniards that I love is that your family is automatically their family. So when Andy and Lauren came to visit, they were welcomes with open arms, kisses, plates of food, and no way out if they weren’t hungry.
7. Since it was my first year living next to the beach, I have to state how that is the one thing lacking in my life. There wasn’t one day that past by that I wasn’t walking along the beach. One paseo along the beach could change my whole day around. Now the Malaga region is called the Costa del Sol for a reason, 8 our of 10 days it’s a perfectly sunny day. It also helped that I had found my own personal thinking spot, cats included.
6. I also have to give credit to Spaniards are their delicious food. So many of my fondest memories have been surrounded by delicious food and drinks. It is normal to take time out of your day to tomar un café con su amigos or dar un paseo that ends at a cafeteria for some churros y chocolate. Sadly I do still have to continue working on my cooking skills because I cannot cook a single Spanish dish.
5. Although this year was full of some great times, there were a few bad times. One including the passing of my Spanish mom, Ana. I know I was super cryptic with my post about her, so I’ll do my best to explain. Ana was a victim of domestic abuse: her ex-boyfriend killed her when she told him she had moved on and started seeing someone new. No words can express how much it hurts that he did that he did what he did, when he had been a great Spanish dad to me. I know I can’t change what happened, but I can continue to celebrate Ana’s life and her spirit. Ana will forever be another strong woman I can look up to and continue to live my life as she told me: no regrets and to always be carefree. I am thankful I had my friends in Spain (and at home!) to help me get through this; and I can’t even begin to express my gratitude to Ana’s niece Cristina (whom I have become close with). As Cristina expressed: “He may have taken her life away, but he can’t kill her spirit.”
4. This brings me to my Spanish friends. I am so blessed to have made such a connection with some great kids in Malaga. They have opened so many doors and have pushed me to try sooo many new things. Most are all bilingual teachers, so they have also taught me so much too! I can always text someone to meet up for a café con leche to practice my Spanish and they can practice English. They are my “in” with the Spanish culture, so I have been able to cross experiences off my list! During my low times, they were the ones who never allowed me to wallow in my misery, siempre no pasa nada! I know my year in Spain would have been a lot different with out these crazy kids!
3. Mis malagueños, AKA my Americans who have been in Malaga the last two years. Just like my girls in Huelva, these people became some of my close friends. Like my Spanish friends, these guys were always down to do something, whether is was a beach day, or trying a new restaurant. I could always rely on them to cheer me up when I had a tough day with my little students or if I was missing home. Plus it was great just being ridiculous Americans some nights. Some of my fondest memories are being the ONLY Americans in a bar during the Spanish World Cup games, any night of Annie’s infamous pub crawls, and tapas at Matahambre.
2. Now it’s a show out to mis tias. Spanish lesson: tia really means aunt…but we have applied it to mean my b*tches. The reasoning behind that is that many Spanish guys will call their bros tios. So if guys can do that, why can’t we do the same? Anyways, I met these girls during my first year in Spain because we were all placed in the region of Huelva…which is known for being the ugly provenience of Spain. We quickly bonded during orientation, and I ended up spending a lot of my weekends up to no good with these girls (even going as far as Barcelona with them!). We are travel buddies, eating buddies, dancing buddies, adventure buddies, and even snuggle buddies. These girls have become my closest friends while in Spain, and will forever be a friend of mine.
1. I know I am repeating myself when I say I wanted to experience more Spanish things, with Spanish people, speaking only in Spanish. Well friends, I achieved that goal. Not only did I accomplish making some great friends, but I was able to participate in so many different Spanish traditions. I learned how to make paella, watched the Spanish football team play in the World Cup, learned to fly a real kite, hiked a huge mountain (OK it wasn’t really huge…), and the list goes on. It was during these times that I felt truly accepted into the Spanish culture and felt almost Spanish. Remember, I’m still tall, blonde haired, blue eyed, so I really will never fit in…