Monday, November 30, 2009

A Madrid Thanksgiving

So last Thursday was Thanksgiving in the US and it was weird to have it be just a normal Thursday in Spain. However being Americans Tory, Allison and I decided we definitely wanted to celebrate by having our own Thanksgiving dinner in our apartment. We had to improvise on a lot of the typical Thanksgiving foods like pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce. We spend almost all week working to find all the ingredients for our feast. We made our pumpkin pie from an actual pumpkin which was quite the experience but actually turned out really well! We also found cranberry like sauce from Ikea of all places, hahaha thank goodness for the Swedes. We invited our friends Bethany from NC, Natalia from Canada, Jordan from Baltimore, Elena from Madrid, and Alberto from Burgos to come so we could show our international friends a traditional American holiday. When Thanksgiving day finally came, Tory and I spent all afternoon after school was over preparing the chickens (turkey is really expensive and hard to find) and stuffing for our feast. We had our dinner around 10 and it was so much fun! We had a mountain of food with 2 chickens, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, sweet potato balls, 2 pecan pies, and 2 pumpkin pies! Needless to say we have a ton of leftovers. All 7 of us spent the evening talking, eating and enjoying each others company. It was a perfect way to spend Thanksgiving away from home! Although I missed my family a lot on Thanksgiving, I was reminded of how thankful I am to have them. And of course as promised, here are pictures!

Our family photo!

Another pic of everyone!

Our pumpkin pie made from an actual pumpkin. I am so proud that it actually turned out to be delish.

The food! And our friend Jordan haha.

Friday, November 27, 2009

La Castanada= my first roasted chestnut!

Last week at school, we celebrated the coming of Autumn with La Castanada, or a chestnut festival. Every year the school celebrates autumn by having the kids recite autumn songs or poems. But instead of reciting them to the teachers, they have to recite them to the castaƱeras, or the chestnut harvesters. If they do a good job, the castaneras give the kids roasted chestnutes. The castaƱeras are usually mothers from school who want to help out and dress up like farmers. The kids had been practicing songs and poems in English and Spanish all week for the party. I had been working with all my classes on their English songs. I was really excited for the party Friday because I realized I had never eaten a roasted chestnut in my life! So on Friday afternoon, I went with all my classes to help with the songs and get my chestnuts! All of the kids did really well with the songs! I got my share of chestnuts and went to work on eating them. You can't eat a chestnut whole or it will be really gross, you have to peel it out of its shell which can be kind of difficult. After a lot of work and the kid's help, I got to eat my chestnuts and the were delish! It was cool to see a different way to celebrate Autumn. This week is Thanksgiving in the US and it will be weird to just have a normal Thursday. However, my house is planning a Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday! It will be a little different from traditional Thanksgiving because we have to improvise on some of the ingredients. But I am excited we will be doing something and I will be sure to post pictures of our Madrid Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Anna visits Spain!

This weekend in Madrid, my good friend Anna from UNC and Pleiades (my NC ultimate team) visited me in Madrid! She is studying in Florence right now for the semester and wanted to come visit me in Madrid. I was super excited to have my first visitor and I went to go get her from the airport on Thursday night. It was so good to see her and to have a friend from UNC. I had to work on Friday so she spent the day doing a walking tour around Madrid and went to the Prado with my roomies Tory and Allison. I met up with her after school and we went to dinner at the Mercado de San Migel which is a cute little market near my apartment. After fighting off the masses of people that were there we got some delicious mussels and cheeses topped off by chocolate cake...que rico! Then we went out for drinks and catching up in the Matalasana area of Madrid. The next day (Saturday) we slept in for a bit then went to the market near my apartment to get some fresh veggies for the Italian dinner Anna wanted to make. I was so excited to have some good Italian food we went all out. We got all the ingredients, bread, wine, the whole nine yards! After getting everything for dinner Anna and I went to El Tigre for lunch. El Tigre is a famous tapas place where if you order a beer or a glass of wine they give you at least 2 plates of tapas. It is amazing! On Saturday afternoons, I usually play pick up with the frisbee team and Anna really wanted to play since she hadn't played in forever. It was so much fun and nice to have an old teammate on the field with me! After an awesome game we went home and made a delicious Italian dinner with bruschetta, homemade tomato sauce and fried eggplant. Mmmmm I am still having dreams about how good it was. On Sunday Anna had to leave around 3 so we went to Parque Retiro to throw the frisbee and chill. We ate some doner kebap (really cheap and delicious turkish food) and she was on her way back to Florence! It was so nice having her here and showing someone my home!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

It's the cliiiiimb

On Monday there was holiday in Madrid so Allison was at home with me so we decided to take a day trip! We took the Cercanias train to about an hour outside Madrid called San Lorenzo de El Escorial. El Escorial is famous for its monastery and palace. Since we went on Monday the Monastery was closed (it is only open Tuesday to Saturday) which was bummer but we got to walk around and see how cute the town was! It was really hilly and is near the mountains so Allison and I were looking for a good trail to hike on. I remembered that one of the teachers at the school mentioned something about a famous rock up in the mountains of El Escorial that King Felipe II built to be able to watch the monastery and the palace being built. We didn't know how to get to said seat so we decided to pop into a internet cafe to look up directions. After searching around for about 30 minutes we finally found some directions that seemed easy enough. We walked past the monastery into a park and after about 5 minutes of walking we found a sign pointing toward the Silla de Felipe II. Feeling confident and excited, Allison and I walked toward where we thought the sign was pointing. We went into a park and up a trail that we thought lead to the illustrious silla. After about 10 minutes of walking we reached a convent and realized that we had gone in the completely wrong way. So we backtracked to the sign on the road and saw some people walking toward us. They told us that the Silla de Felipe II was 2 km or about 1 mile walking on the road. Although we were nervous about walking along a winding road up a mountain, we really wanted to find this silla after looking for it all day. So we started on the trek up and oh boy, was it a steep climb. We almost gave up hope after about 15 minutes of walking that we had gone the wrong way. But we kept walking and we finally found it!!! There was an 2 seats carved into the rock where Felipe sat. The view of the mountains and El Escorial was absolutely amazing!! Definitely worth the climb to the top. I got exactly one picture of the view before my camera decided to die. However, I did get some really good pictures of monastery and the town!

My only picture from the Silla de Felipe II!

One side of the monastery with a swan lake. So pretty!

The front of the Monastery.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Field Trip Time!

So this Thursday my 3rd and 4th grade classes went on an excursion aka field trip to the Jardines Botanicos in Madrid to learn about leaves. After about an hour of class we all got onto to 2 charter buses and went into Madrid for the workshop. All the 3rd and 4th teachers went as well as myself and one of the other auxiliares Yasmin. The Botanical Gardens are right next to the Prado Museum and are really pretty. Not much was in bloom at this time of the year but it was nice to be able to walk around to see the grounds. I went with one of the classes and Maria Jesus to walk around with some of the gardeners to look at how to identify trees by looking at the properties the leaves have. I now know tons about simple v. compound leaves and veins etc. The kids really got into it and were "detectives" trying to figure out what tree we were looking at based on what the leaves looked like. After we had our session on leaves we went to Retiro Park to have a picnic lunch. Having about 80 kids in a park having lunch is a bit chaotic. After the kids ate they were running around chasing birds, picking up stuff of the ground and playing. We somehow rounded everyone up to take a quick walk around the lake to look at the massive orange fish that swim around there. Yasmin and I live very close to Retiro park and it was the end of the day so the bus driver dropped us at the nearest metro stop! It was nice to get out of school for a day and see the kids outside of class. Tomorrow Allison has a day off so I think we are going to take a day trip. I'll post pictures!