Well I guess I'll just jump right in. To start off, the first afternoon of the break I hung out in Pontevedra with one of my best friends Jonah, another AFSer here from around Chicago, shopping for Christmas presents and eating frozen yogurt (yes, in December!). That was the first time I caught the bus all by myself! (Pontevedra is the bigger city about 15 minutes away from Marin and I am now officially capable of making the trip solo, so that was fun. )
|Neither of us took a good picture that day hahaha but the tree was festive|
Christmas eve came around, which here in Spain means dinner with the family and we ate lots of seafood, shrimp and lobster and things in shells, it was tasty but pretty different from home! The stores have been stocked for weeks with Turron (basically Spanish peanut brittle) and various candies just for Navidad.
|Yummy. Also the shells are a traditional musical instrument here.|
Then Christmas Day- we went to visit my host mom's parents in Ourense. I had never met them before, and it turned out that this was the year I got one single pair of socks as my Christmas present. (hahaha but not really of course because I later opened the wonderful package from home, and anyways here the 24th isn't the day for presents and celebrating.... that will wait until the Epiphany, aka three kings day, aka January 6th, aka my birthday). That day I also met yet another host brother I hadn't known before, and was reminded of the dangers of zoning out during conversations in a foreign language because when I tune back in I can find myself staring at raccoon photos without any idea what is happening... But all in all just a nice quiet Christmas day.
Next exciting thing that happened was going to Madrid! We were there about 4 days I think, in time for New Years. It was so exciting to be in the capitol of Spain for the New Year and get to see some of the city.
The weather happened to be a little foggy those days, I don't think I saw the sun once the whole time we were there and it gave the streets a slightly claustrophobic feel sometimes, but other than that I loved it!
|not of anything in particular but it's got all four of us|
|Antia and I in front of the royal palace|
|The giant Christmas tree in the center of Madrid (but you can't spin under it or anything, I missed the Trail of Lights)|
|It's an Egyptian Temple that was moved to Spain for safekeeping from flooding on the Nile.|
We went to see the Cirque du Soleil and also The Lion King broadway version (in Spanish of course) and they were so much fun! It was fascinating see the translation of the Lion King, for example if any of you know the part where Timon dances the hula? In Spain he dances the Flamenco.
New Years Eve- First we watched a bit of the San Silvestre, which is the race that takes place all over the country in different cities as the last run of the year. There were a lot of people and it was cool to see! I didn't actually run it, though. Then for the big countdown we went to the Puerta de Sol, which is where the giant clock counts down, like Times Square for Spain, but it was a little rainy and there were TONS of people so we ended up ducking into a restaurant/bar right around the corner for the actual countdown. Here as the clock strikes 12, you have to eat a grape for every ring. 12 seconds, 12 grapes, 12 months of luck. I did it, although it was surprisingly hard! (Another tradition here is to wear red underwear on New Years Eve. Of course as an exchange student I have to try out all the local customs, even when it means stopping in the streets of Madrid to buy red panties with my whole family).
And then we drove a few more hours and stopped for lunch and a little touring in the fantastic Segovia (and I got bored of the usual photos so please excuse the unusual poses):
|Mmm cochinillo... roast baby pig. Vegetarians look away.|
|Can't get enough historically amazing places|
And then we got home and had a couple days of rest and so on. Then came the "real" Christmas day here. The night before, January 5, there is the Cabalgata, a giant parade (or at least pretty big for Marin) in which the Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthasar (the three wise men who visit baby Jesus) arrive! Everyone is very festive and the little kids are so excited, because the Three Kings are their Santa Claus. The Wise Men all arrive to a living Nativity scene and the kids get to meet them. Then you go home and put your shoes out so they will leave presents. My family got me a new purse, watch, t-shirts, and my lovely koala pijamas in the other post, they were so sweet! Then we had lunch, and then cake for my birthday. It was great to hear from all of you who sent a message or posted, love you all!
|Since the family is big including several little kids, the final pile of presents got pretty large!|
Sometime in that last week of vacations I started to dream in Spanish! This was really exciting to me (even though no, it doesn't mean I'm fluent, just that the other language has gotten to my unconscious brain). I'm actually not entirely sure what it means to dream in another language though- most of the things that happen in my dreams aren't thought in terms of words in a specific language, it just happens. Like if there is a red wall, I'm not looking at it and describing in my head "oh look a red wall" in whichever language, it's just there being a wall and I see it. If that makes any sense... anyways so for me dreaming in Spanish means speaking Spanish during the dream. And that happens when I am having a conversation with someone I always speak Spanish with. So if my host family or friends here are in the dream, it'll be in Spanish. I don't know, weird brain things.
|Iceland, China, USA, Switzerland, Spain, Hungary, Finland = my best friends|
|the birthday girls!|
And that is how I spent my winter holidays in Spain! Thanks for sticking with me through that long post. You made it to the end. Love y'all!