Turkeys, Visitors and the Return to my Spanish Life

I haven’t been spectacularly busy, but life is continuing as normal here. I really haven’t got news. No traveling, no more hit-and-runs (unless you count me falling off my bike last week), no detentions given at school. My life is wonderful – full of beers with friends, trying new food, discovering more about Sevilla and teaching – but it’s the same as always.

My dear, dear friend Cat’s best friend, Laila, came to visit Sevilla. I fell in love with her from the first moment I met her, and I feel like her two weeks in Spain was more like two months. It was really fun picnicking and gossiping and teaching her phrases in Spanish.

Laila, Cat and I at Bestiario

All of the sudden, I realized I’d been back in Spain for two and a half months. I knew I had forgotten I lived in a foreign country when I realized I didn’t know any of the popular Spanish songs. Most of them I hear just by riding around in Kike’s car, which sat in AFB Moron de la Frontera for two whole months. The last eleven days have reverted me back to my Spanish self – lazy, always cold and a connoisseur of the strangest foods imaginable.

I entered the week of Kike’s return with plans to get everything done – lessons, articles, cleaning – so I could go to his house and clean a little and not worry about anything the first weekend. His place was still set up for summer, with sheets on the bed and no curtains. Now that it’s December, it’s become dangerously cold out. David called me just shortly after I arrived to Kike’s to go shopping for a surprise BBQ we were having, and I realized I’d locked myself out. His keys were sitting on top of the coffee table, next to my coat and my French homework. I win. I was resigned to wait at my house, alone and BORED.
When he finally called me, I hobbled as fast as I could in heels to the bus stop and took two buses. Not pulling any Britneys and flashing the world my braguitas! When I got to his apartment, he was still wearing his flight suit. We unpacked his suitcase and then he said, “I’m taking you out to eat (he earned 11,000 euros, which is about $14,000, in two months, so I was going to let him!). “Let’s go to Burger King.” ……………………………. uh. From that moment on, we continued our normal Sevillian lives, the one I grew accustomed to last year. We stayed out until 7am, drinking half-liquor, half-coke drinks, then headed out for beers the next afternoon in Alameda. Everyone was calling, surprised I picked up and eager to meet the dude I’d been talking about (some believing he didn’t even exist!). I was happy to have him back in Sevilla, but even happier that he was safe and happy.
Mi nene

On Sunday morning, I waited for a call from David to ask Kike to come and get him from a country club because his car wouldn’t start. Kike believed we were going to his mom’s to eat a typical dish called puchero, so as we could keep the BBQ a surprise. We arrived to Dona Carmen’s and Kike began looking for the garbanzo beans and the meat. Carmen kind of laughed and asked why we were there, and I finally had to tell him there was no puchero, but we had ribs and pork loins and all kinds of meat waiting for him at the country club. He was really disappointed he wasn’t going to eat puchero, causing me to cry out of frustration and exhaustion. The party was a success. Kike had no clue we had planned something for him, and about 20 people in total showed up. Plus all of us got fed for about 8 euros a person.

Kike’s mom taught us how to make puchero the following week. Back when Spain was poor, people used to eat the most filling food they could think of, and often dumped anything and everything and made a big stew. Puchero is made by making a brother from garbanzo beans, several pig parts, a chicken thigh, sausages, tocino (hell, I don’t even know what that is!) and a salty ham bone. The greasy, grey fat is taken out and the broth set aside for curing hangovers (I couldn’t make this stuff up!), then Carmen dumped some vegetables in the pot and let it all stew. The consistency was were, but it was delicious. Kike tells me I’ll be a house wife in no time.

Our other events have included going to a horse show, planning a trip to Austria from Jan 1-6 (including SKIING!), cooking a lot in his oven, and introducing him to turkey and Thanksgiving. This is such a uniquely American holiday that I had to be with other Americans (and Spaniards, Germans, Argentinians, Belgians and an Austrian) to celebrate it. We all gathered at Jenna’s house for the turkey, corn, potatoes, yams, green bean casserole, macaroni and cheese and wine. Kike and I took care of bringing a kilo (2.2 lbs.) worth of shrimp, which greatly grossed the vegetarian host out because she proclaimed they were staring at her. Spanish shrimp is shipped directly from the Huelva province, not even peeled! It’s easy to blog about blessings around Thanksgiving time, and I’ve got plenty. While my kids listed fast food and their playstations, I’m finding even my choices are more grown up – health, job security, being surrounded by a wonderful city and wonderful friends. You too, family members!

Tia takes the turkey carving honors!

Another thing I’m really thankful for is my passport. In my classes, we’re beginning a year-long dialogue program. The project was run last year by my coworker, Martin, and I’ve been given the reins to start it again. We have a language village at the end of the year, complete with sets and props, in which the students must demonstrate their fluidity and the ability to use survival English. We began this week with “Customs”. To start with, I had to explain what customs is, as only a fraction of my students have passports, and far less have actually used them.

me: “What is ‘customs'”
Student 1: “Where you get your suitcase!”
Student 2: “A money exchange!”
me: “You show your passport at the currency exchange?”
Student 3: “No! La aduana!”
me: “Excellent. Now, what kind of information do we have in our passports?”
Students 4, 5, 6, 7….30 all at the same time: “ruylwebfv 248yti42kujbweivw.b !!!!!” at least this is what 30-some Spanish teenagers all shouting at once sounds like.

This type of dialogue usually implodes and becomes a Q&A session. “Cat, is it true that you can go to America if you say you’re going to kill George Bush?” “Uhhh, what?” “Someone in Tercero told me that. He’s been there.” “Um, no. You would go to jail.”

The kids are funny, though. They had to choose a destination and a reason for travel. One kid said he was from France and came to drink Spanish wine. Another said, “Welcome to Spain. Where are you coming from?” And the traveler replied, “My nationality is Spanish.” They continued with the dialogue until I pointed out that you didn’t need a passport to travel in Spain if you were Spanish. The traveler said to the customs agent, “Killo! If this is Spain, talk to me in Spanish!”

They’ve all been fascinated with my travels. Me too, really. 20 countries in 23 years isn’t bad, and I’ve only got more to see and do. My passport has been quite inactive this year compared with last, but for now, I’m enjoying my Spanish life: my recovered siesta hour, making the kiddos laugh with my awful drawings, ripeeeee oranges, my daily caffeine jolt and snuggling at bed time in a warm bed (hooray for central heat!). Life isn’t so fast-paced or exciting anymore. But it’s wonderful.

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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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