Bodas, beach and the boy!

When I came to Spain just over 8 months ago, I came wanting to learn Spanish (debateable), travel a lot (accomplished) and find a man who would take me to football (soccer for you americans, jaja) games. Instead, I found one from the rival team who refuses to take me to games because he thinks I’ll cheer on whoever is playing Betis, but he did offer to take me to a wedding.Last Friday morning, we jetted off to the tropical island of Gran Canaria. I say jetted because the whole Scandinavian and German world hangs out in the Canary Islands, a chain of islands that constitutes one of the 17 autonomous regions of Spain. Located just off the coast of Morrocco, it’s constantly 25ºC degrees and sunny, making it popular for pale-skinned giuiris like me. Arriving at the capital (which happens to be right next to the AFB where Kike works all summer), we rented a car, drop our things at the hotel and went straight to the beach. The island is really tiny and mostly full of mountains, so it only took about 40 minutes to drive from the northern part of the island where we were staying to Maspalomas, where he stays in the summer, at the southern end. The beach is called, in English, English Beach for the swarms of foreigners who flock their every year. You can tell by the international menu just how popular the beach is, both with young people and old guarros. The beach is also famous for its sand dunes, which cover the whole 4km stretch of land. Actually, Gran Canaria is called the mini continent for its various land structures, from gorges and cliffs to mountains and beaches. In fact, much of the western coast is uninhabitable. Anyway, our beach time didn’t last long and someone (not me, Mom!) didn’t use sunscreen.We drove to the southern tip of the island to a town called Mogán. Although the town itself is located a bit further inland, the port is really famous and beautiful. Kike took me to a restaurant right next to the boats and we had typical Canario food and tons of fresh seafood. It was a bit romantic, I will say. From there, being sunburnt little puppies, we went back to the hotel for a nap and shower and some recovery! Exhausted from the sun and the early hour wake-up, we made it to the nearest restaurant and went to bed super early.The next morning, since we didn’t go to the beach, we walked around the promenade and I bee-lined for the city center while Kike studied for his Arabic exam. The city is mostly biult on a penninsula and a sand bar, so I walked for what seemed like two kilometers. I saw very little of the gritty town, which I might liken to Miami. It’s full of tourists, brightly painted houses and several languages. It didn’t feel like Spain, similar to the Costa del Sol or Barcelona. After a few hours of seeing very little and not even making it to the old town, I was bored and hot and hungry, so I enjoyed a nice meal at Burger King (barf) with Kike before we got ready for the wedding. In the past two years, nearly all of his buddy from his class in the air force have gotten married or engaged. All of the couples at our table at dinner were engaged! This, of course, kept the focus on my own future with Kike, and although I’m not a private person in any sense, I was not willing to take a decision on that just yet. (sidenote: apparently there is a rumor circulating at my former place of employment that has spread to all of my sorority sisters that I’m engaged! NOT TRUE!!!!).

The wedding was held in a gothic church in the mountain town of Arehucas, where the rum factory on the island is located. It was a bit funny having a massive stone cathedral amidst palm trees overlooking the ocean. The ceremony was short but I understood most of it and there was no mass, as is customary in Catholic weddings. Jose, the groom, later told me all he heard was his name, his wife’s name and the word ring and it was over. His bride, Patricia, looked gorgeous and I want my wedding gown to look like the one she wore – halter top, simple and perfect for her shape. The wedding was really small, but everyone took a big interest in me because I’m foreign and because Montero doesn’t keep girlfriend around for very long. For the reception, we piled into Gonzalo’s car and had to drive back down the mountains, into the city, up some more mountains only to find the highway the restaurant is on is closed all summer. Without a clear map and even less clear directions, we found ourselves in the middle of the countryside, between two valleys amidst sheep farms on narrow roads. It was like something out of the crossbreed of European Vacation and Life is Beautiful. We finally arrived at a gorgeous rural restaurant as the sun was setting, enjoying San Franciscos and tapas. Spanish weddings are more or less the same as American ones, with a few small modifications of cultural things (for instance, in the US, guests clink their glasses with a utensil to get the couple to kiss. In Spain, they sing a kooky song about being in love and kissing). I found I could converse to Kike’s friends and their fiancées better than I expected to, and I didn’t feel as left out as I thought I would. The dinner was delicious and the cake was AMAZING. I wish I hoarded some more. We were ushered into a small, glass room where the DJ played mostly all Spanish music, including a lot of song that were popular three years ago when I studied. I felt cool being able to sing, “Devuelveme la Vida” and dance the Chiki Chiki, Spain’s Eurovision Contest entry (sadly, it didn’t win).

The next morning, sufficiently hungover and exhausted from staying out all night, we left the hotel in our rental car and drove to the mountains, which start just outside the city. Driving past little villages perched over cliffs and flowers I’d never seen before reminded me a lot of Provence, where I traveled six years ago (geez, that makes me feel old!). But the going up and down and around sharp curves in a manual car made me really sick, and we had to stop a few times for me to get some air. The first time I also stepped in what I’m sure was donkey poop (and the Spaniards think that’s lucky! I should have found the ONCE man and bought a lottery ticket or something!) Our first real stop was Roque Nublo, one of the highest points on the island. Normally you can see Tenerife from that point, but the day was cloudy. I braved strange hissing noises to climb close to the rock, but didn’t bring shoes with enough sturdiness to make it past the end of the paved road. From there, it was back down the mountain and up yet another to Cruz de Tejada. Here, we stopped for a quick tapa and Kike tried to convince me to take a spin on a donkey named Margarita. I’m guessing she left me the poop to step in. By now, I felt like I’d seen most of the island, but instead we went to another town on the nearly barren western coast. Agaete is a really teeny town on the coast. Until three years ago, when tropical storm Delta rolled through, a strange rock formation called the Dedo de Dios (Finger of God) stood guarding a stone beach. Now, the city has literally nothing in it, save some seafood restaurants and vacation villas. It was beautiful and busy on a Sunday, with all of the blue and white colored streets full of people in bathsuits (most of them sunburnt foreigners like me!). We stopped to pause on a bench in the shade, where I fell asleep and Kike probably smoked a whole pack of cigarettes. Typical.

When I came home, Melissa asked me where I get all of this money to travel. While Kike paid the majority of everything, I told her that all of the money-making decisions I had to make last summer (aside from health insurance, car insurance, etc.) was put up against the question of, “Will this $3 be better spent in Spain?” and the answer was almost always yes. I didn’t move thousands of miles away to teach English because it sounded fun. In fact, it didn’t sound fun at all. I moved abroad to take advantage of cheap travel and see new parts of the world. Hell, I’ve lived in Spain collectively for more than 10 months and still have so much to see of one country! But I’ve taken advantage of every puente, every holiday and all the cheap flights I’ve found to explore. On my list for next year? First Amsterdam to visit Martin, back to the east side of Germany, perhaps Copenhagen to see Anette, London to visit my cousins and I’d love to still see Croatia, Prague, Vienna, Switzerland and France again (after all, it isn’t a trip to Europe if I haven’t been to France!). But, now I stash my passport away and relieve my wallet a bit until I’m back in the USA in two weeks.

Un fuerte abrazo to all of you who have kept up with me the last 8.5 months.

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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living amongst pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she works in higher education at an American university in Madrid and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.

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