Monday, January 30, 2012

Hide and seek, cat version

Today is one of the days the cleaning lady comes to the house, and she usually leaves the door open. Since she comes when we are already at work, I never get to tell her why I leave the door closed: to keep the cat out. As you may remember, I like to keep the cat out because he may or may not chew everything in sight as well as get fur everywhere. And then he hides under the bed and makes it impossible to get him to leave.

I got home from work around 6:30 and went straight into my room to drop my bags and coat. I see the door is open and assume Gin is under the bed. I check and he isn't. And I also weirdly find that nothing is knocked off the dresser nor the bedstand.
He had to have been somewhere else in the house, so I shut my door.

So I am sitting on my bed, firing up my computer when I hear a "mew...MEOW." I am confused and somewhat panicked because Gin is nowhere to be found, and as you may remember, I have pretty minimal furniture for him to hide under. I hear it again and I call Gin's name.

I realize it's coming from the nightstand, and I open each drawer until I find him trapped inside the bottom drawer. He leaps out at the sight of daylight and bolts out of the room with a "REOWR!"

I look inside the drawer to find my cell phone package/box all chewed up, the string (hanging from the 2nd drawer) of my backpack gnawed on, and, of course, loads of loose cat hair.

I assume Mara (the cleaning lady) left my door open and possibly the drawer slightly open, and Gin found his way inside. The drawer shut from the momentum of him leaping inside, and stayed that way. I also assume the loads of cat hair were shed by trying to scratch his way out, or by pure stress.

Since Pichon's mom (who was babysitting the kids starting at 4pm) said she hadn't seen Gin the whole time she was over, we assume Gin had been in the drawer since Mara left. Which was about noon.

Gin was trapped inside a drawer today for six hours.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Children are our future!

Today was World Peace Day, and Lucia's school had a special concert.

They began the event with a handful of kids from each grade (1 through 6) and had them recite some writings they did in class, related to peace.
Grades 1 and 2: A sentence of "What is peaceful to me" (in English)
Grades 3 and 4: A brief idea or suggestion to make the world more peaceful (in English)
Grades 5 and 6: A poem recited by memory about peace (in Spanish)

The first kid in the youngest group said, "I feel peecefool when I am weeth my pah-reents." *cue awwws from audience*
The second kid says "I feel peecefool when I am een my house weeth my fah-mee-lee ahnd my brah-there." *cue awws from audience*
The third kid goes up and takes the mic, "I feel peecefool when I am watching TV awn thee couch." *cue roaring laughter from all children and parents*
Then the parents calmed down, but of course the little children are laughing and laughing and laughing until the Australian teacher takes the mic and says "We are WAITING..." in a stern voice until they calmed down.

Then the kids in grades 3 and 4 go up and say things that would make the world more peaceful. "There should be no war." "Eet ees bad that there are poor pee-oh-pole. I weesh that there are no more poor pe-oh-pull."

Then the kids in grades 5 and 6 recited some acrostic and rhyming poems in Spanish.

Then, the whole group of students, grades 1 through 6 (about 200 kids) sang "We Are the World."

Yes, that Michael Jackson (and friends) one.

The kids put their hands on each others' shoulders and swayed, while some threw their hands up and waved them to the music, and towards the end, they all clapped to the beat.

It was super cute and I of course wish I had my video camera. It was great because they'd all be mumbling most of the lyrics until the chorus when they would all clearly shout "WEE ARE THEE WOHRLD! WEE ARE THEE CHEELDREN!"

After that rousing performance, five children stood up, each holding giant 3-foot-diameter white balloons by a string. Next to each of them was another child, with a highly decorated poster with one of the continents written on it.
The kids went outside, and after a big "ONE TWO THREE!" They let go of the balloons to be symbolic of peace (or maybe of war, since they were getting rid of them?).
Let's stop there. Notice how I said five children? I'll get to that in a minute.

That was pretty much the end. The teachers got on the mic and thanked the parents for coming, and the kids waited for the parents to go outside. The parents congregated while the kids went to their classes and got their bags.

One of the moms, Marta, who we know from Lucia's basketball class (her daughter also is in the class), saw my purple sunglasses I was wearing outside and got all excited and started complimenting me like "Y Melissa! Me encantan las gafas! Super fashion! Very fashion!" As she grinned and did this hand wave head bob thing. She is one of my favorite friends of Cristina's.

My impression of Marta's reaction, wearing the so-called "high fashion" glasses:

gif maker
Gif maker

While outside with the parents, I asked Cristina, "So don't you think it's weird that they had only five continents? There are seven, right?"
I began to doubt myself because no one in the audience seemed to blink when the Australian said the five continents were represented by balloons. During that time, I was thinking "So, which five? Are we only picking favorites?" At that point I also noticed one of the posters (all were in English) that said "AUSTRALIASIA," and wondered if that was a typo or some invented combo of continents. But there was also an "ASIA" poster, which confused me even more.

So, as I was saying...Cristina thought for a moment, and was like "No, there are five." And Monica, her sister was there, as well as a couple other parents of kids in Lucia's class. We opened it up to discussion and they were like "Nope, there are only five. Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia, America." And I was like "Oh, in the US we learn that there's North America and South America." And one of the moms was like "Yeah, even though they are not attached, we still consider it one giant continent." (Which I find funny, since my whole life I've thought that Europe and Asia were too connected to be considered two different continents)

Then I was like, "Um, what about Antarctica?"

"We don't count that one."

"But why? It's a huge land mass!"

"I dunno." Then, jokingly, Monica was like "No one lives down there, so we might as well ignore it."

This was all news to me.

Then the moms called over Floren, Cloe (Lucia's friend)'s dad and Marta's husband, who is French (her mom is Spanish). He came over and they asked him what he learned in school back in France. And he also said five. I explained how we learned there were seven and he was just like "Oh you crazy Yankees (spelled, in Spanish, "Yanquis")!"

So that was that.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The difference is pretty simple.

If I haven't mentioned it before, there are some major differences between Lucas and his cousin Dani.

Mainly, Lucas is very crabby and always has "una cara de mala leche," whereas Dani is bubbly and giggly and, well, enjoyable to be around.

Don't get me wrong, Lucas has his cute moments. He just isn't the kind of kid who laughs very much. Or hugs. Or smiles.

The two videos below pretty much demonstrate the key differences between the two.

These videos were taken during the boys' Christmas concerts at school. As you can see, they were suuuuper adorable. Lucas' class dressed up as presents, and Dani's class dressed in jeans and "rock and roll(?)" clothes. Which explains the random leather jacket kid with the super cool attitude in Dani's class.

I think you'll figure out who is the focus of each video, but if not, Lucas is the sourpuss, and Dani is the bubbly one in a blue tie.



Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Oh hey, remember that?

Remember back when I mentioned the enormous hassle I had to go through to get my residence card?

And then after that, I mentioned how I had to wait 30 days for my card?

Well, exactly on the 30th day, I was there knocking at the police station. 

And guess what?

how to make gifs

Yeah, I am a resident. And resident gif-maker.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Did that really just happen?

Last week, Pichón told us this happened:

Lucas: Qué es esto? Pica! (What is this? It stings!)

 Lucas was holding a bottle of hand sanitizer that he had opened and taken a sip of.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

How big?

I took this photo a while back, but I somehow forgot to put it up on my blog.

It is a photo of a 5-foot long sausage, sitting on the kitchen counter. Yeah, that happened.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


I hear this song all the time on the radio. It's really catchy! It's called "Depende de ti" by the band El Sueño de Morfeo.

This cookie family is delicious.

If Dunkaroos

were part of a modern, multicultural family, then their delicious Spanish cousins would be Tosta Rica Choco Guay.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


One of the hardest things to get used to here in Spain, as with any country, is the food.

I wouldn't say my diet in the states is very healthy, but I take note of what I am eating, and I eat a pretty decent variety of foods.

For example, during the week I went home for Christmas, I can tell you what some of my meals included:
home-made pizza: crust, tomato sauce, green peppers, onions, sausage, pepperoni, asiago, parmesan, mozzarella, spices
potato soup: soup made with potatoes, cheddar, onions, cream
christmas dinner: ham, turkey, caesar salad (tomatoes, cheese, lettuce, etc), cookies, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, hot chocolate, cheddar potatoes, hawaiian bread roll
korean BBQ: skirt steak, radishes in vinegar sauce, bean sprouts, and literally a gazillion other random things that I don't normally eat but ate anyways
Thai restaurant: Sushi (crab, tuna, rice, seaweed, avocado, etc), beef, red peppers, rice, onions, edamame,
meatloaf dinner: green beans, meatloaf (ground beef, ground pork, vegetables, ketchup, bbq sauce, tomato sauce, etc)

and this wasn't in my trip home, but instead before my trip here:
Thanksgiving dinner: potatoes, turkey, stuffing (cranberries, raisins, giblits [yes, GIBLETS], onion, celery, spices, more stuff I can't remember...), green beans (mushroom soup, green beans, crunchy onions), cranberry sauce, gravy, sweet potatoes, etc.

Ok, you get it. You don't want me to list my entire diet. And I won't. I simply want to make the point that I eat a lot of different things. I am not super picky. Like every normal human being, there are things I really cannot eat without gagging (seafood [but i like fish], chewy meat, gristle on meat), and things I prefer not to eat but will eat (mushrooms, very salty food) and things I am allergic to, or at least told I was allergic to, since such a young age that I still don't bother to eat them on their own (oranges, orange juice [although I really really like ).

But of course, in the setting I am in, I come off as a picky eater. Because guess what? Being on the Mediterranean Sea supposedly allows for very fresh and very good (so I am told) seafood. Like these little seashell things that are the size of a quarter, octopus,  clams, mussels, squid, squid ink (yeah, that's a thing you can eat, even though it's supposedly poisonous in large doses. Bon apetit.), shrimp, baby shrimp, eel,  and cuttlefish. Yes, cuttlefish is a thing people eat.

Don't you want to eat me?

Some of this may sound appetizing to some people. Like calamari, or shrimp. My parents love those. But I just hate being tricked. Not on purpose, but when you see a dish and it looks and maybe even smells appetizing then find out it's something you hate, it kind of makes me sick. Like this:
That's not spaghetti. That's some baby eels you're lookin' at. Yum...?

But what I am getting at is that the food here, to me, an outsider, seems very much the same. Cheese. Bread. Ham. Not this ham:
This ham, although familiar, goes in the previously mentioned category of foods I choose not to eat, but will if I must, like mushrooms.

No, not that ham. This ham, also known as jamon iberico or jamon serrano:

Yes, this...thing is sitting on our kitchen counter as we speak. And Spanish people across the nation drool when the word jamon is merely mentioned.

It's actually uncooked ham, but it's cured, like beef jerky. So you'd think I'd like it because I LOVE me some beef jerky. But this jamon is very salty. Like licking a brick of salt. That's slimy with fat. That white stuff on the edge of the ham (as well as in that pile of sliced meat) in the photo? That's fat. And there is plenty to go around.
So what else...cheese, bread, jamon, rice (paella), fish, blood sausage (yes, sausage that has blood in it. Again, I eat that too.), calamari, shrimp, pork chops, and other meats.

I love meat. Let me just declare my love for meat, as gross as that sentence sounds. I could never become a vegetarian. I love red meat. Steak: skirt steak, filet mignon...other steaks, they are all good to me. Beef: oh my god, if you gave me a pile of ground beef (that somehow was immune to expiration) to eat for the rest of my life, I could probably live off of it. Tacos, meatloaf, burgers, stuffed green peppers, lasagna with meat sauce, meatballs, etc. I could find a new way to cook it every week, and it would be delicious.

I also eat white meat, but not so much (much to my mother's dismay, as well as my arteries'). I love a turkey sandwich, roasted turkey, or turkey pot pie. Chicken: although I prefer it off the bone, I still like it. Asian chicken dishes, roasted chicken, jerk chicken, chicken fajitas, etc. Pork I am not too keen on, but I'll still eat a pork loin that's on my plate. I prefer my pork in the form of pulled pork sandwiches. Oh my. Pulled pork sandwiches. With extra BBQ sauce. On an onion roll. With crispy onions on top.

Whoa, sorry. I just got pulled into a day dream of pulled pork sandwiches there. I digress.

So I eat meat. But here, the meat is not the variety of which I am familiar. Instead it's a lotta that jamon (eaten almost 3 times a day, I swear), as well as good old gristle. If you don't know what gristle is, it's because you throw that part away, or your butcher cuts it off before selling meat to you. It's the really fatty part of meat. Like on a t-bone steak, that white chunk along the side. The reasons why it is icky to eat? It's not only gross (because essentially you are just eating a huge chunk of animal fat), but you are eating a flavorless piece of the unwanted part in a dish. Really, I am ordering a steak. Not fat. Thank you.

"That red part looks gross, but gimme a big plate of that white stuff!"--Spaniard

The dishes I eat are mostly composed of mystery meats. Today, for example, at lunch we ate something that looked like overcooked skirt steak. Overcooked as in "hey, leave it on the grill for another few hours, it's still not carcinogen-y enough!" And in the end what was served looked like thin crispy slices of skirt steak, but not crispy as in "mmm, pan fried!" but crispy as in "this fell through the grates of the grill and stuck there until it landed in the pile of ashes, but I dusted it off a little and here you go!"
And upon placing it on my plate, my host mom's mother told me "You have to chew it a lot!" Which is always what you want to hear. How much you need to chew meat. Because let's face it, America's cuisine portrays the best meat as tender meat. Which means fatty, yes, but fat that somewhat melts away and isn't 90% of what is on your plate.
So I ate it. And chewed. A lot. And it tasted like burnt...gristle. Oh my god, just before the gag reflex started kicking in, I bit down on some hard piece that had to have been a bone. I stealthily slipped the tooth-sized white chunk out of my mouth and into my napkin as I grabbed my bread and took a big bite to mask whatever I was eating. And then drank water. Thank god I am used to taking big vitamins which prepared me for the mouthful of burnt gristle I had to down without chewing. And my host mom's mother asked me how I liked it. I said, "Well, it's...different."

Notice how I haven't mentioned veggies that much? Well, that's because they don't show up on the dinner table too often. Or the lunch table. It is very common to have fruit for dessert, and my oh my how people eat their fruit (my coworkers often bring two or three small oranges to eat after lunch). We have salads once in a while, but usually with some seafood in it (which I don't mind, because if it's absolutely icky, like baby eel, I can pick it out). But only once in a while. Other than that, we eat onions and garlic quite often (what is garlic? An herb, probably, not a vegetable. Oh well). And I had grilled asparagus on Thursday night. Only 3 pieces though, since it was shared and a small portion.

Mayonnaise is a pretty common thing here, too. The first time I tried cuttlefish, it it was wearing so much mayonnaise that I thought it was just a plate of plain mayo. And the other day I had salmon with a nice bread crust that tasted quite soggy. Why is it so soggy? It didn't have a bread crust, that's why. It just had a thick layer of mayo that had gotten slightly crisp in the oven, enough to look like breaded fish. But it was pure mayo.

But hey, I am changing. I used to hate all seafood before my first trip to Spain. But now I eat hake (I know you are like "What is that?" It's a white fish. And tender, not chewy, like cod. And they love it here.) as well as cod (chewy at times, but I eat it). I don't know how I would've survived if I didn't eat any cod. It was practically the main course of everything we ever cooked in my cooking class in San Sebastian. And I already mentioned the thing about blood sausage, which I eat, but prefer not to. But I will at least eat SOME of it, which is a huge effort:
Extra black means extra bloody! Mmm!

And remember that cuttlefish that you imagined on your plate earlier in this post? Well I ate cuttlefish eggs today for lunch. They tasted like and had the texture of cod. And they looked like...well, like this:

Looking at this picture kind of makes me want to vomit.

So I am definitely making an effort. Hey, today I had burnt gristle and cuttlefish eggs! And I ate quail eggs the other day, and I eat foie gras when it's on some tapas (foie gras is another thing they eat a lot of, and it is overstuffed duck liver). And pate, but it's not a favorite (pate, for you people who still haven't thrown up by the various things mentioned in this post, is a paste made of meat and fat. Like...peanut butter, but instead of peanuts, it's meat!).
And today I ate rabbit, but I don't consider that something ridiculously gross because it's meat. And it didn't have a lot of gristle.

Meat-gristle=happy and not hungry Melissa.

And yes, there are things I like that Spaniards eat. Tortilla (egg omelet with potatoes) is wonderful, as well as fried eggplant with caramel sauce. And patatas bravas, or chopped potatoes with a red sauce and garlic sauce. And some beef stew my host dad made a couple weeks ago. And paella. And rabbit. And chorizo. Etc.

But I am not the only one who doesn't eat everything. Everyone here, even the Spaniards, have dislikes. They are only human. There were family members at lunch today who didn't want calamari. Others who didn't want rabbit. But if I don't want something, it is misread as "ugh this foreigner hates ALL FOOD!" which is the part I hate, and feel most self-conscious about.

And what also surprises me is the "weird" things the kids will eat. Yes, weird is a loaded word and is subjective. Clearly I am imposing my own food standards on them. But in the states, a typical kids meal is a hot dog, or mac and cheese, or buttered noodles, or pizza. Maria (age 6) was eating octopus tentacles at lunch today. And all of the kids fight tooth and nail for a plate of freshly cut jamon (literally. It can get pretty ugly). It surprises me because stateside, the kids will eat noodles and would never DARE to eat something that looks like an octopus. Another thing I find odd is when I made pancakes, and Maria tried one and couldn't finish it because "it was gross" and she "didn't want anymore." It's a pancake! It barely has flavor! It's a basic starch. If you eat bread, how could you not like pancakes?! Although, maybe they think the same with me: "She eats tuna and hake, but why won't she eat any more of these cuttlefish eggs!?"

The reason I dislike seafood is the texture. It grosses me out to eat a slimy mussel or a chewy piece of cuttlefish. Or shrimp. Blech. This is similar to why I don't like alcohol: it tastes nasty. But when I mention that, it's no big deal. But mention a dislike for fish and suddenly it gets ugly.

Ok, so I ended up talking more about my entire diet here. But I had to get the point across.

And perhaps going into this post, you thought you were very open-minded about food. But there had to be at least one thing mentioned that grossed you out. Or maybe something else that grosses you out, that wasn't mentioned here. Now just imagine that you were served that gross thing every other day. And that you felt insecure because you don't want to impose, but at the same time your stomach couldn't possibly stand eating cow eyeballs for the 8th day straight. Maybe now you know how I feel.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Get ready for the Reyes!

Tomorrow is Reyes Magos, or Three Kings Day. We have the day off of work, and it's a day of presents!

Like I've said before, this is the big day for the kids, and officially the final big holiday of the season. You can tell because rebajas (sales) starts the next day, and it is insanity in the stores around town.

This is kind of like our Santa Claus tradition with leaving presents under the tree. The reyes are the guys who the kids tell what they want for presents, who they visit in the mall, and who in the end come during the night to drop off gifts.

Tonight the kids were as anxious as an American child on Christmas Eve...both wanting to go to sleep and not being able to do so due to the anticipation of the nighttime visitors.

Lucia burst into my room before bedtime to tell me that I needed to put a shoe (yes a shoe) under the tree so the reyes will leave me something. I left one of my brand new suede boatshoes, because I think they leave candy and I didn't want to eat food out of a dirty gym shoe. At least, I hope they leave candy. Actually...I think I hear the "reyes" putting candy under the tree right now...

And Cristina used the whole reyes thing to her advantage, getting the kids to pick up their toys downstairs by the tree. "You better pick up your toy trucks so that the reyes won't trip on them! If they do, they might not bother to come next year because this is the house in which they broke their ankles!"

Tonight we ate dinner with Monica and her kids while Jose Enrique went to the Valencia soccer game with friends for his birthday (and also just because they like going to the soccer games). Monica forgot to give Cristina a shoe each from Maria and Dani to put under the tree so that the presents will come for them (so maybe there isn't candy to fill the shoes, and this is just an indicator like "This house belongs to this many pairs of feet. Bring that many people's worth of gifts, please.") Because of this, Lucas put two of his shoes under the tree, and Lucia did as well. And Cristina said (in the presence of Lucas and Lucia) "We have to put two of their shoes under the tree for Dani and Maria. When we were upstairs we told (prayed? shouted?) the reyes to remember that the gym shoe is for Maria, and the brown tiny shoe is for Dani." I'm not really sure if they prey to these kings or what, since they are biblical figures after all. Not deities. But Lucia already mentioned once how Cristina needed to tell the kings she wanted an iPad when Pixon wasn't around so she'd get it despite him saying it was too expensive.

And Lucia and Lucas had already put the bowl of water outside for the camels (that is what the kings ride on, not reindeer, of course). "Outside is better," said Cristina, "since we don't want those big camels trotting all through the house." "I see," I replied.

And the kids left a plate of cookies and some cups of milk for the kings as well. They can get pretty hungry.

The kids were too excited to go to bed, and of course shared with Cristina that they wanted to stay up late to see the kings. Cristina told them they had to go to sleep, and stay in bed, since she was putting the alarm and if they snuck downstairs, the alarm would go off and the cops would come (PS, did I mention that we had an alarm? We do, and it's only downstairs. So the kids can go to their hall bathroom but if they go down a floor to the kitchen or the basement where I am, it will go off. And yes, the security people call immediately. But the cops don't come. That's just a scare tactic.)

Me being me, I wonder how much of this is really that believable. As a child, I was very critical of the whole magical holiday thing. I analyzed the handwriting from Santa letters so much so that my dad went to the neighbor's house to have them write it instead. Although Lucia is a mere 5 years old, she's very smart. Like Cristina said when she made the Santa videos, Lucia probably would figure out that hers and Lucas' would be very similar in wording. Because of that, Cristina showed Lucas his video a day after, when Lucia wasn't around, so Lucia wouldn't be like "Hey, this looks like mine...could it be pre-recorded?"
So I have found four things that clearly Lucia hasn't caught on to, but I find pretty strange.
1. The alarm system. If she can't come downstairs due to the alarm system, how can three giant kings come inside to leave presents? Do they have their own alarm remote? I guess, though, if they supposedly drive flying camels, they could probably figure something out.
2. If we can communicate to the kings by just sitting in our room and talking aloud much like people pray to God, why do the kids write letters to the kings? Why do they need to visit them, in person, at the mall, to tell them what they want for a gift? Couldn't they save the hassle and just sit in their room and talk to their wall to do it?
3. If the night before Reyes Magos there is a parade in which all three kings show up to give out gifts and candy, but the parade exists in many places at once, who is it that we see in our local parade? Clearly they can't have out-of-body experiences, those kings. Although, again, with the flying camels theory. But I think that the kids would be attuned to the fact that the kings in their local parade look WAY different than the kings in the parades shown on TV, from Madrid or other places in Spain. Or maybe not.
4. In American movies and culture, we often talk about how Santa goes around the world leaving presents in every child's home. Obviously, looking back at that, that was not the case. There are religions that don't celebrate Christmas and therefore households that won't get a Santa visit, but also the people who do celebrate Christmas don't always believe in Santa. I haven't traveled everywhere in the world, but it'd be silly to assume that everywhere in the world that celebrates Christmas celebrates it the same way, with a visit from Santa being the most exciting part. Lucas and Lucia both have heard me say how I don't celebrate Reyes Magos in the USA, and if they haven't, they've clearly seen my confusion with how the holiday is celebrated. Like when I question putting a shoe under a plastic fir tree overnight to yield candy (think about that one for a minute). Even still, Lucia says "The three kings will be visiting all the children in the world tonight..." Clearly that's not the case. Not the case in the USA, at least. I think it's only in Spain. Maybe France too, but I am not sure. So these magical kings will be visiting all the children who live in a country that's the size of Texas? I guess that's a little more plausible than the myth of Santa going around the world. Maybe that leaves this magical tradition a little more sane than ours.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

What´s hot, DJ Roomba?

One of the people I work with was talking at lunch today about how she asked for a Roomba for Christmas. No one except for me knew what a Roomba was.

I then mentioned DJ Roomba and no one laughed. Either they didn´t understand that it was supposed to be funny, or they think I´m crazy.

Or they just still don´t get exactly what a Roomba is.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Luggage update

I forgot to mention that we picked up my luggage yesterday, that was lost in Paris.

Nothing was stolen. Nothing was broken.

And now I have my beloved video camera back.


While you were away...

Things that happened when I was gone:

 Lucia asked Cristina when they would get a chance to go visit Chicago. Lucia wanted to go to Chicago because she said “That is where Mickey Mouse lives, in Disneyworld.”

 Dani was drawing a picture one of the days I was gone, and it was an oval (face) with two wavy lines, one on each side (hair). When his mom, Monica, asked what he was drawing, he was like “Marissa!” Monica was like, “Ah, Marissa? Quién es Marissa?” (Oh, Marissa? Who is Marissa?”) And Dani replied “Marissa! La chica que vive en la casa de tía!” (“Duh, Marissa! The girl who lives in auntie´s house!”)

Cookies, also known as head slaps.

When my host family picked me up from the airport on New Year´s Eve, the kids seemed excited to see me, but also shy because my absence made me a stranger to them yet again.

 Lucia happily told me what she got from Santa for Christmas: a Mickey suitcase and a little dolly. Pichón then turned to Lucas and told him to tell me what he got for Christmas. Lucas being Lucas, he refused, and Pichón said “Recibió galletas, dos!” (“He got cookies! Two!” And lightly slapped him on the head twice. I didn´t get it. But then I learned “galletas” means not only “cookies” but also “smacks.” Or, as my dad would say, “head slaps.”

Wait, WHO is calling the cops?!?!

On the night of New Years, while driving back from their grandparents´ house, my host family and I saw some kids sitting/playing on the edge of the highway (but not a busy highway like an interstate or something, it was more like a main road). There were about five kids outside at 7pm, and a couple were sitting on the curb. But we drove by them so quickly, I didn´t really see why they were there or what they were doing.

 Pichón was driving, and upon seeing this group at the last second, he swerved to get farther away from the curb so as not to hit them. Cristina wasn´t paying attention and asked him why he swerved, and he said “There are some stupid kids playing on the curb. I oughta call the police!”

 Apparently Pichón and I were the only ones who saw these kids, because 30 seconds after he said that, Lucia was like “What? Daddy´s calling the police? Why?” And Cristina was like “There are some kids playing outside on the side of the street.”

Then, Delayed-Reaction-Lucas says about three minutes later, “Wait, what did Daddy say about the police?” And Lucia´s like “He´s calling the police” and Lucas is like “Why is Daddy calling the police” And pretty much it was the entire conversation as we drove home, especially since it coincided with Cristina checking her phone for text messages, so the kids thought she was really calling the cops.

 All for some off-hand comment Pichón had made.

Girl Power!

I made a realization recently that the women that I´ve encountered and grown close to during my various adventures in Spain are strong, powerful women who are pretty great role models without even trying.

 It´s hard not to come across an example as I look back on my three trips to Spain.

 Elena, my host mom in San Sebastian, was a nurse. In true Basque fashion, she was a strong woman. She had strong political opinions that she often shared at the dinner table while sipping on a nice cold beer.

 Patricia, the San Sebastian program director, was not a force to be reckoned with. During the Madrid tour, she showed off a typical “worried mother” side where she instilled a fear that Spaniards will steal your stuff. Not may. Will. And she helped direct us all around Madrid, as well as our new “home town” of San Sebastian, all while effortlessly switching between fluent Spanish and English. Even though that is expected of an educational program director in Spain, I still find it absolutely amazing when someone can be so fluent in two languages and also toggle between the two with no problem at all. And I am pretty sure she also knew Basque.

 Speaking of Basque, my Basque language/culture professor, Natalia, was an amazing person as well. She knew Spanish, English, Basque, German and even some Mandarin. And she was only in her early 30s. She was mature from her worldly travels, yet had the childlike happiness of simply talking about her family and Basque culture. Her class was so exciting and fun because she thought the topic was exciting and fun, and she made us all want to learn more.

 My Alicante host mother, Rocío, was so generous and calm and smart and amazing. She always remained calm and caring towards Dante, never frustrated at even the most hair-greying moments of her 2-year-old´s actions (like jumping off a couch and smacking his forehead on the corner of a table). I never saw her stressed, or upset. She always seemed to be willing to learn, or be patient, or whatever was required of the situation. And when she gathered with friends, she lit up the room with her smile and carefree attitude. She was a professor at the university who provided for her child and boyfriend while he sought out employment. And even now that Carlos (or as Dante and she called him, Koki), has a job and lives in Torrevieja, I see by her emails that she still strives to keep the unity of their family a top priority, as difficult as it may be sometimes in that situation.

 Loly was the program director at the radio station I had an internship at during my semester in Alicante. She ran the office, but it never felt that way. It was a fun and casual atmosphere that was great to work in. She was friendly and approachable, just as you´d expect from an on-air personality.

 My host mom here in Valencia, Cristina, studied pharmaceutics in college and is the director of the microbiology water laboratory. Enough said.