Monday, January 10, 2011

It's the final countdown.

I am officially in the full swing of finals in Spain. The semesters are different here, so today began the craziness of finals.  I am lucky:  I took one final early in December and one today, and the two that remain are spaced pretty far apart. My Theory and Criticism of Literature final is Friday, and the Literature of the Middle Ages final will be next Monday, the 17th. This is going to be a very long seven days of cramming.

The good news:  next Monday after I finish my finals I plan to go have some coffee with a friend and pack my bags for Paris! My dad is coming to visit me and we're planning to see Paris and Barcelona before coming back to Burgos so he can see how my life is here.

I'm nervous for finals and already anticipating the relief of finishing them, and excited to see my dad. It's going to be a good week.

Happy Monday everyone! :)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Christmas in Spain!

So..for all of you who may be wondering, Christmas is one holiday that Spain definitely has. The majority of the Spanish population claims Catholicism as their religion, although I think a much smaller number actually goes to church. I think all of this Catholicism has a lot to do with the era of Franco in Spain, but I am still woefully uninformed about Spain's history.

My Christmas here had a lot in common with the Christmases I have experienced in the US. The holiday was spent surrounded by my surrogate family. We have a Christmas tree, and the streets of Burgos are decorated with Christmas lights. People know about Santa Claus because of TV, but the children here have a different hero (or rather, three):  The Three Kings. Instead of exchanging gifts on Christmas Day, the Spanish get gifts from the Three Kings on January 6th. They spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with their families but without the gifts. I will admit, I was a little sad because we didn't get any snow for Christmas but the fact that I don't have to deal with snow the rest of the time makes up for it.

We spent Christmas Eve eating an enormous amount of food with Antonio's family, and Christmas Day at our house with María's extended family. The Christmas Eve meal with Antonio's family was pretty heavy on seafood, a lot of which I had never tried before. Most of it looked really weird, but I tasted almost everything. I had langostinos, which are a kind of prawn. Last time I tried prawns I thought they were disgusting, but the langostino turned out to taste much better. It reminded me a lot of crab.  We had some kind of small squid stuffed with ham in an absolutely black sauce that was made from the squid's ink. Squid is one of the things that has pleasantly surprised me here. I actually enjoy it, despite my aversion to seafood. Hands down, the thing that made my stomach turn the most was the stomach. The dish is called "callos," and I believe it was made up of cooked stomach and maybe intestines. They just translated it as "guts." I am assuming it was beef. When they told me what it was, I talked myself into eating it by remembering that my ancestors ate all the parts of the animal, and they certainly had to have eaten stomach. Not only that, but if the people at the table liked it, it couldn't be so bad. So I took two little pieces and braced myself. The initial taste was really good but the after-taste ..not so much. I swallowed the first piece quickly and the second one I barely chewed and just swallowed. The main dish was a giant chunk of halibut. I had no idea those fish could be so huge! It looked like only part of the fish but it had to have been almost a foot long. It was pretty good, as fish go. 

I expected our Christmas Day to be really laid-back because I thought we were just eating lunch at our house with Maria's mom and two sisters. Boy, was I wrong. I completely forgot that Maria's two cousins were coming over with their families, as well as all kinds of random relatives. All in all, there ended up being about twenty people in our house. That's a lot of people for an introvert like me. Still, they were all really nice and I enjoyed it. Later on in the day I slipped out to go skype with my family. That was the hardest part of my day: seeing my family together and not being able to be with them.

Overall, Christmas was good. I have finals starting January 10th, so I was worried about that, but good food and good people never fail to make me feel better.