Sunday, November 25, 2012

a Spanish Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving happened last Thursday. It's the first Thanksgiving I've ever spent away from my family--even when I studied abroad in Portugal, my mom flew over and roasted me a chicken. I was expecting it to be a little weirder (/sadder/more-homesickness-inducing) than it was, so I guess that's a good thing.

A bunch of friends and I gathered in an apartment, cooked two chickens (whole turkeys have to be pre-ordered, and we missed the crucial window of opportunity) and a mountain of side dishes and desserts, and enjoyed Thanksgiving, Spanish-style. No turkey, no cranberry sauce, no gravy, no pumpkin pie, but I didn't care, since I was surrounded by people I feel genuinely thankful to have in my life.

carving the "turkey"
On that note, I thought I'd share five things about living here, that I'm thankful for.

1. Having this opportunity at all. I feel so incredibly blessed to be writing this post from my kitchen in Lugo. Outside of this program, it's virtually impossible for a post-collegiate American to legally live and work in Spain. I won't lie and say that I absolutely love every part of being an auxiliar at my school, but even on the bad days, I'm thankful that I have the chance to be here.

2. Having friends who I feel like I can rely on. When you're alone in a foreign country, a time zone or two away from your family and your best friends, you rely on the friends you make there. They become your support network, your strength, the people you can fall back on when you're having a rough time. I have been fortunate enough to find friends like that here in Lugo.

3. Having Gwen with me. (This is a gimme.) She is a constant source of comfort, love, and wet-nosed kisses. And a great motivation for getting outside and soaking up some Lucense air (sometimes rain) instead of vegetating in my apartment.

4. Living in Lugo. I love this place, from the Roman wall to the spiderwebs of trails to the tree-lined street I live on. It's not a great place to be a tourist, but to live? Hard to beat the low cost of living and free tapas. I can always go to museums somewhere else.

5. The shockingly cheap cost of produce. In Spain, food that's good for you is cheap. I got five apples for 1.08 last week, four oranges for 0.94. And both of them were the fancy varietals, not the bargain-basement ones. The same goes for fish and meat. This is unheard of in America.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

walk at night


I only discovered this square a week or so ago. While the massive, anonymous government building to the right is classic Lugo, I think the fountains are unique--they have a kind of playfulness that I haven't seen anywhere else. This is one of my favorite places to just sit, and watch the world.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

paisley and the pup

Confession time: I'm kind of a home-decor nut. I do things like sketch room designs, sew throw pillows, paint, and sand down chairs for fun. HGTV is my favorite channel (David Bromstad anyone?), and a not-small part of me wishes I'd studied design. I love making spaces beautiful.

My apartment here is not beautiful. Think blank white walls, mismatched furniture, scratched parquet floors, and rust stains on the side of the refrigerator. It's been difficult to balance my need to live in a space I think is beautiful, with the transiency of this position and my limited budget. So far, I've been leaning heavily to the don't-spend-money-you're-moving-in-a-year side.

But this weekend, I dared to step into Zara Home. With Gwen refusing to sleep on the floor (what is she, a dog or something?), my comforter was starting to look a little battered, and I decided that a duvet cover was a practical investment: first, I'd be able to wash it, without needing a week of line-drying; second, I could find something that would do a better job of camouflaging dog hair; and, third, gosh darn it, I just wanted something that made my room feel like home, like someplace I would choose to spend time.

Gwen approves
I ended up with paisley, which is my favorite print ever. It may sound silly--it's just a duvet cover, fer Chrissakes!--but I feel so happy every time I walk into my room now. So was it a bit of a splurge? Yes. But was it worth it? Definitely.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

drum solo

the Praza Maior, by the Círculo das Artes

Lugo’s 23rd annual Jazz Festival is going on right now (who knew jazz has such a venerable history here?). On Saturday night, some friends and I went to a show at the Círculo das Artes, or the Art Circle, a performing-arts venue in the city center.

inside the concert venue. it's a classy joint.
I’m no expert on jazz by any means, but it was nice to do something so different from my normal Lucense pastimes.  According to the program, the quintet we saw was touring in homage to Miles Davis, so it was understandably trumpet-solo-heavy. But the drummer stole the show! His final solo was one of the most impressive things I’ve ever heard. The entire venue seemed to be holding its breath until he finished, then erupted into whistles and applause. I love that about live music—the feeling that you, and three hundred other people, are just so incredibly focused on one moment, one performer.

After the show finished up, we reverted to form and headed out to grab a drink and a tapa. My friend Katie took us to a new bar, where they have—wait for it, wait for it—wings! No bourbon sauce, of course, but I was so happy to be standing in a bar in Spain, with wings to go along with my Estrella Galicia beer.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

for a change of pace

sky, river
On Friday, I showed another auxiliar and his girlfriend around my home away from home, the park. It was chilly and threatening rain when we started out, but soon enough the weather did one of its lightning changes, and it turned into the kind of golden-sun, soft-cloud, cold-cheeked fall day that I love so much. We ended up going farther than I'd been before, and made it all the way to the Rat River's big brother, the Minho.

sky, birch
Other than the requisite hiking, I think (fingers crossed, knock on wood) that I've finally beaten the sickness that's been keeping me down for the last couple of weeks. So I get to start running again, which has been wonderful. I don't do very well without running as a stable, centering force in my life.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

driveby photo Wednesday

photos from the park, continued
Wednesday and Thursday are long days. Wednesdays I work a half day at school, then have a two-hour private lesson. Thursdays I work the whole day at school (with only one period off! the horror! it's like I already forgot I've been working 40-60 hours a week for the last two years) and tomorrow I'll be adding another private class to my oh-so-packed schedule. So all I really feel up to right now is posting that photo, typing five sentences, and sipping my obligatory glass of wine.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


Thanks to its Celtic influences, Galicia takes Halloween pretty seriously. Lugo had a couple of city-wide events, both for children and ahem, us older folks. My school had a Samhain (the name of the Galician holiday, even though Halloween seems to be more colloquial) corner, complete with cut-outs of flying witches and jack-o'lanterns. Most of the kids planned to dress up and go to either parties, or one of the events in Lugo.

Even so, it isn't celebrated to the extent that Halloween is in the US. But my roommate Cindy and I still didn't have any problems finding plenty of festive swag for our living room. Because, of course, we hosted a Halloween party!

the charming hostesses
I had a lot of fun trying to explain my costume to our Spanish guests. (And they were all guys, so of course some of them were like, "But why would you need women in the government?" followed by some type of wink.)

After Halloween came All Saints' Day, which meant that we got Thursday and Friday off of school. We had grand plans of going hiking in a neighboring province, but those were wrecked by an abysmal weather forecast; and then our scaled-down plan to take a day trip to Santiago was nixed by my waking up to a disgusting virus on Friday, which continues to linger. Ugh.

Gwen dressed up as a loba (look for her costume inspiration around 1:54)
In other exciting news, as of Saturday morning, we have Internet at our apartment! We should probably throw another party just 'cause of that.