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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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

La Comida Casera [Spanish Cooking Bucketlist]

I’ll admit that having to trek through the city to three different grocery stores to find one ingredient makes for good exercise (and a decent way to learn my way around!). But when “one quick grocery shop” turned into the marathon of all errands last semester, I decided that this semester I had to stop wasting my time perusing all the aisles of Huelva’s grocery stores and cook more like a Spaniard. So, here is my little bucket list of things I’d like to accomplish in la cocina– suggestions are more than welcome, and I’ll keep the list updated as we go. Hasta pronto!

Comida Casera– My Spanish Cooking Bucketlist

•Ajo blanco
•Tortilla (Spanish omelette)
•Espinacas con garbanzos
•Tarta de Santiago

That’s all for now…vamos a ver cómo va!



La vida en Huelva — Getting Settled


After almost three weeks in Huelva, I feel like I’ve settled in. This being the very first time I’ve lived away from home, it’s comforting to feel that way and at the same time it seems surreal every once in a while — some nights I go to bed smiling at the fact that I am actually living in Spain.

The first night I arrived I think I was a little shocked that I had actually flown across the ocean to live here for the next nine months. The stress of not knowing exactly where I was going to live, not knowing anyone here, and realizing how mediocre my Spanish was led me to a good little cry. I think if I could have snapped my fingers to go home on that first night I might have (the beating my pride would have taken after excitedly telling everyone I would be in Spain for the year was not appealing, though!).

But things happened fast. I moved into a flat right in the centre of town with a lovely British girl, and then two equally lovely girls from the States and the south of Spain moved in, too. I found my way around town and figured out my routine at the French high school and the English academy I will be teaching at.
I’ve been out and about; for a small city, we’ve found lots to do and have been busy! After the time taken up with work, we’ve been at yoga classes, salsa classes (followed by actual salsa dancing at the bar…still nerve wracking as a salsa/bachata beginner, but so much fun), language exchanges, bars, out for tapas, exploring the city and finding out favourite places.
When I found out I was placed in Huelva and immediately flipped to the corresponding page in my Lonely Planet Spain guide book, I was a little disheartened. This is what they say: “Blemished by factories and with its historical heritage smashed to pieces in the 1755 Lisbon earthquake (and not rebuilt), Huelva is never going to win any beauty contests.”

Christopher Columbus is kind of a big deal here — he started his voyage from Huelva way back when.

It’s true, there are parts of the city that are purely industrial and rather dirty (why doesn’t anyone pick up their dog poop?!) but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. The city centre is nicely laid out around pretty cobblestoned plazas, and I absolutely love that I can walk everywhere. The nightlife is fun and varied; it’s fun to see the patios and bars always busy, and there’s a good amount of students/language assistants here keeping things quite lively. And I certainly don’t mind the lack of tourists; it just means I get to practice my Spanish more.
So far, while I’d have to agree with the guidebooks’ “purely tourist” value of Huelva, I think I’m going to enjoy living here.

After those first stressful days, I suddenly woke up and realized how happy I was to be here. I’ve met some amazing people, am loving the exploring I’ve had the chance to do so far, and am learning a lot. I think this is the kind of little “adventure” I wanted.