Hasta luego, Huelva [Muchas gracias]

20130605-172512.jpgAnd so, just like that, eight months flew by. 20130605-172831.jpgI’m having a hard time avoiding clichés to describe how much I loved this past year (“time flies/it was the experience of a lifetime/unforgettable!”); the little adventure I wanted abroad surpassed all my expectations.20130605-173127.jpgThe last week or so was filled with despedidas, farewells and parties with my students, colleagues and friends. Every time we went somewhere we were aware that it was our last time (at least for now!). (Sidenote! one of the great things about living in Huelva is that it is actually financially feasible to eat lovely tapas on lovely terraces with lovely drinks everyday for a week…) Days at the beach, cocktails at sunset, dancing til sunrise; it was crazy, sleep deprived, and a perfect series of fiestas to say goodbye (for now!).20130605-222909.jpg20130605-222600.jpgHuelva quickly became a second home, and it was sad to leave. My wonderful amigos woke up early with me to have one last café con leche together and see me off (I almost made it onto the bus without any tears!). Like anything, the people make all the difference, and I feel so incredibly lucky to have met the friends I did.20130605-223334.jpgSigh. So this year saw me grow up a whole lot (I think!), and I’m leaving Huelva a little wiser, a little more confident in my adventurer abilities, with so many great friends, memories, muchísimas ganas to come back to España, a perma-smile and a happy heart.
20130605-223845.jpg20130605-223824.jpgAnd so, eight months flew by, and I couldn’t have asked for a better time. Muchas gracias to all my guiri friends and la buena gente española in Huelva for the chulo-est time, to all my friends and family back home for the love and support I could always count on across the ocean, everyone I traveled with along the way, and to you for following along. Now, I’m taking a scenic route back to Canada…the European fun isn’t quite over!
Hasta la próxima! Un beso!20130605-230159.jpg20130605-230206.jpg

Melancholic Mung Bean Monday [mung bean salad with roasted hazelnuts]

20130527-205206.jpg20130527-204908.jpgOur water heater has been broken for much too long (and our landlady has been terrible), so that doesn’t help anyone’s mood in our apartment. But the melancholy Monday came because change kind of freaks me out (and I sometimes think in alliterations). The first time I realized this was when I was graduating from high school (which was my super cozy comfort zone at the time)– I was excited about graduating and the “next chapter” of our lives, but I woke up a few days after prom and just felt a little mopey and unsure about life. Since then, like many young twenty something’s I’m sure (I hope), there’s been a ton of little bouts of uncertainty. Sometimes this spirals into a mini-existential crisis party for one. “What am I doing?” “Did I pick the wrong university program?” “Why are boys silly?” “Where am I going?” “Why can’t I just get all the skin off these hazelnuts?!”– you know, life’s typical big questions at my age.20130527-205150.jpgI leave Huelva in a week. We had a great weekend, but I woke up this morning feeling slightly hungover from all the fun (not the alcohol, mum). It was that same melancholy feeling I had after high school. I’ll soon be leaving this little city in which I was once so homesick (and now love, of course). But more importantly, I’ll be leaving the people I have seen almost every day for nine months –so you know, kind of like high school, right?20130527-205143.jpgLuckily, I’m usually pretty easy to cheer up. A few dances around my room, a quick run in the Spanish sun, packing with some TED talks in the background and I was ready to have some friends over for dinner. Unfortunately, along with that broken water heater, we have no gas for the stove, so cooking has to become slightly more creative. Thank goodness mung beans sprout on their own!20130527-204920.jpg

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El Rocío

20130527-133736.jpg20130527-133749.jpgEmpty for most of the year, the little town of El Rocío becomes flooded with millions of people and their horses, caravans, and guitars during the romería de el Rocío.20130527-133847.jpgIt feels like you’ve gone back in time, or have somehow stumbled upon Andalucía’s Wild West. Flamenco can be heard from every porch, and you have to keep your wits about you lest you be run over by a horse.20130527-134006.jpg20130527-134041.jpg20130527-134057.jpgI was in the town in October when it was sleepy and dusty and could hardly believe the difference when we were there last Sunday. Next time I live in Spain I’ll have to get a proper dress…

Saturday, Sunday, Spinach, Salsa [Espinacas con garbanzos]

A little tapas on the balcony and a protest down the street.

A little tapas on the balcony and a protest down the street.

Last night marked our salsa debut in Huelva (with another performance next Saturday!) as 11 of us girls shimmied and pranced around the dancefloor in tiny fluorescent costumes (not flattering on anyone, but funny, at least). It was the end of what ended up being my main “extracurricular” in Spain this year — it’s been so fun dancing with some of my best giri (North American) friends and meeting Spaniards with some of the best dance moves around.
Beer and bedazzling our teeny salsa dresses. A party, really.

Beer and bedazzling our teeny salsa dresses. A party, really.

And so my second to last weekend in Spain (!! que pena) involved much fiesta-ing, booty shaking, this song (forever stuck in my head), waking up with rhinestones around my bed, and knocking another dish off my Spanish cooking bucket list.  Que buena vida.espnicasygarbanzos! Continue reading

Beach Clean in Mazagon

20130506-022125.jpgMy ninth graders and I spent Friday cleaning a beautiful beach, Cuesta De Maneli, in Mazagon. Although the area itself is stunning– a boardwalk winds through sand dunes to the beach below– there was a surprising amount of trash. We filled over twenty big garbage bags (as the students squealed in disgust when they found increasingly yucky things) and although it was hot, stinky work, the day went by quickly and we rewarded ourselves with an afternoon spent in the ocean and siesta-ing on the beach. Not bad for a school field trip…20130506-022800.jpg20130506-022828.jpgThe tricky part came when we had to lug the garbage bags two kilometres back over the sand dunes to the parking lot. I was informed by the students that it should be considered “explotación infantil”, but we made it.20130506-023420.jpg20130506-023449.jpg20130506-023736.jpg20130506-023751.jpg

Tortilla de Patatas

20130501-165552.jpg20130501-165602.jpgTortilla is ubiquitous in Spain and was at the top of my bucket list but it took me until last week to finally make it all on my own. (I think it was the flipping part that scared me away.) The bilingual coordinator at the school I work at showed me how to make tortilla my first weekend here in her beautiful country kitchen. Since then I’ve had it for breakfast, in sandwiches, in the woods for a picnic, as a fancy tapita, and recently we went out to try the best tortilla in Huelva. It’s versatile, and totally adaptable to your taste so whether you keep it traditional or spice things up a bit it is sure to please (and give you a taste of Spain!).20130501-170535.jpgAnd if you choose to smother it in mayonnaise, that seems to be very Spanish, too.

Tortilla de Patatas

May Day in the Mountains

20130501-232735.jpgWith people taking advantage of the day off (día del trabajador) in Spain to demonstrate and protest I went with a couple friends back to Aracena for the day. We left the palm trees and city streets behind in Huelva for the rolling green hills of the Sierra, spring blossoms, and the best ham in Spain.20130501-232930.jpgIt’s a short, and beautiful, drive up to la Sierra– and there’s lots to see out the window…I was mesmerized again by the landscapes at the Rio Tinto mines.20130501-233148.jpg20130501-233420.jpg20130501-233524.jpg20130501-233546.jpg

Aracena [Everything With Ham On It]

20130201-015305.jpgThe last weekend of January saw us take a lovely little road trip up the Sierra de Aracena; a little mountain town just north of Huelva. After a few scary moments as our intrepid driver got used to our standard rental car, we were off for a short drive through beautiful scenery up to the pueblo.

20130201-015258.jpgFamous for their ham and mushrooms, the food did not disappoint and we tried a lot of it in great, cozy restaurants. The sunny January weekend was perfect for exploring. Las Grutas de la Maravillas, the ham museum (where I bought a little cookbook…we’ll see if I can recreate any of the mountain specialties!), hiking up to an old castle, and wandering around the white washed town– it was all a lovely change from the city.

20130205-154227.jpgDespite an incredible amount of fog, we stopped to look in awe at the Rio Tinto mines on our drive back to Huelva. (This is where NASA is doing research on what life would be like on Mars!)

20130205-153948.jpg Thanks to my mum and dad for suggesting this gem, and to lovely Emma for the picture of me (you can see her fabulous photography here!). If you’re in the mood for some fresh air and the best ham in Spain, Aracena might just be your town!

Sautéed Garlic: The Cure for Homesickness?

garlictomatoAfter five days, I think I’ve shaken off the jetlag (I’ve been unlucky with my flights — delays and missed connections made for a tiring 28 hour trip from Ottawa to Huelva), and am getting back in to the swing of things in Spain (ie. getting back to my salsa classes!).

I’m not going to lie: after such a nice holiday at home I was having a hard time getting excited about coming back to Huelva. I kept a positive attitude on my way back, but upon arriving at my empty apartment on Saturday night I immediately felt incredibly homesick. (This may or may not have included a call home and a good cry…)

Sunny winter day in Christopher Columbus' Huelva.

Sunny winter day in Christopher Columbus’ Huelva.

I know I’m a homebody (and have probably written it too many times now, on this blog — you will all think that I am faking my love of travel! Damnit.), but I was surprised and kind of embarrassed by how homesick I felt the first few days I was here. I figured coming back would be way easier than when I first arrived in September, but I guess I still needed a few days to adjust after enjoying the cozy familiarity of being at home.

Industrial Huelva.

Industrial Huelva.

All the shops were closed when I arrived in Huelva on a holiday weekend but I had pasta, canned tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil on hand. I didn’t much feel like cooking (a sure sign that I am down in the dumps) — but the smell of sautéed garlic? Probably one of the best in the world. It’s a smell that carries the promise of something tasty and comforting on the way. Food has that magical way of evoking memories of times, places, and people. This tomato and garlic sauce is a way simplified version of the pasta sauce my parents always make at home. The smell of garlic on the stove with tomatoes will forever make me think of my Dad; this is the pasta he’d whip up for us when we would get back from a long day of sightseeing during our family travels. All you need is a can of tomatoes, a tablespoon of olive oil, a few cloves of garlic, and some pasta (I’d recommend some kind of cheese as well, herbs, olives, and any other veggies you like to throw in your sauce, but the results will be delicious even if your fridge is empty!).

Despite feeling a little rocky at the start, I know I have a lot to look forward to here and am looking forward to sticking with my resolution for 2013! I hope the year has gotten off to a great start for all of you! xo

Following my Dad's advice for a little bout of homesickness: cook and read a book.

Following my Dad’s advice for a little bout of homesickness: cook and read a book.

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Huelga a Huelva

20121029-004501.jpgHuelga means strike– at first I thought people were just spelling the name of the city I’m living in, Huelva, incorrectly. I’m not really sure who’s doing all the striking; since I’ve been here, I’ve seen a small demonstration due to frustration about the economic crisis, high school and university students went on strike to protest cuts to education programs, and teachers are on a “work to rule” strike in most places. In any case, until ‘la crisis’ passes, it seems like people will have reason to huelga.

20121029-004605.jpgHuelva is not unique in these strikes; some of these pictures were taken in Cordoba and Madrid, too.