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Thursday, January 29, 2015

17 Interesting Things This American Has Learned About the Spanish Language

Since I've been in Navarra a little over two months now, I am basically fluent in Spanish, as I know about 1.78% of the common words; but I know them really well. You will never hear anyone say 'hoe-lah' (hello) and 'ah-dee-yo-ss' (goodbye) as fluently as me! But, on my quest to learn the language, I have found some interesting things that really don't make sense in, or have no relation to, the English (or French) language. I'm sure a lot of these are specific to Navarra, but maybe some apply to Spanish in general. Most of these are not so much grammatical, but rather the manner in which the Spanish speak. Of course, some of the grammar is interesting too... Behold, the 17 most interesting things that I have learned thus far.

Check out part 2part 3part 4, part 5part 6, part 7, part 8

1. Whenever you see Ma written, it means Maria
You KNOW why this picture is here :-P

2. Molestar means "to bother". You could imagine my surprise when I first heard kids talking about being "molested" by their parents and other kids. 


Thursday, January 22, 2015

15 Interesting Foods This American Has Had While Eating in Navarra

My first two weeks here I could tell I was gaining weight. I couldn't help it since I had to try every new food that I saw and everyone around me was enabling this behavior. Now, I have finally realized that I will be here for a year and I can take my time trying all the new foods. So, until I go out and try more new foods, I will share the 15 most interesting foods I've tried while living in Navarra.

1. PintxosSo this is a pretty broad category of foods that many below fall into, but pintxos is the word used in Navarra and Pais Vasco for tapas which are small dishes, usually served at a bar. There are so many kinds and very few that I haven't liked. I had the opportunity to enjoy the Semana del Pincho de Navarra.



Thursday, January 15, 2015

First 10 Things This American Had to Get Used to in Navarra, Spain

Now that I've been living in Spain for over a month, I can finally comment on my environment and how I have been assimilating. It's been a great experience and I am learning so much. There are some things that I knew, from living in Germany and Belgium, that are specific to Europe and not in the U.S.; and now there are a bunch of new things that I have only encountered in Spain, specifically, the Navarra region. Here are 10 things that I had to get used to while living here.

1. Five meals a day, all with names

I like to eat just as much as the next American, but we only have names for three meals, and the rest are just snacks.  The interesting part is not that the Spanish eat five meals a day, but that each meal has a name.

-8:00am - desayuno - breakfast, magdalenas and coffee, or cereal, or yogurt and fruit.
-11:00am - almuerzo - a snack, a small sandwich or some fruit.
-2:00pm - comida - lunch is typically a large meal, and of course, followed by a siesta.
-6:00pm - merienda - an afternoon snack similar to almuerzo, possibly some tapas.
-9:00pm - cena - dinnertime, a large meal (same or smaller than comida) before relaxing and then going to bed.


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Battle of the Kitchens: España vs. USA

Now that I've lived here for over a month, I have raided Virginia's refrigerator enough times to know the differences in the staples that she keeps versus what I would normally have in my fridge. Some things are wonderful new additions that I will likely incorporate in my fridge, and others will stay in her repertoire only. I am beginning to understand that Virginia's fridge is not your typical Spanish fridge, since Maria Asun's fridge is more similar to mine. Here is the showdown and the 12 differences of Virginia's kitchen vs. Mine.

TMax's kitchen versus Virginia's kitchen


Friday, January 9, 2015

Forget Santa, the Three Kings are Coming to Town

Synopsis: So I had been hearing quite a bit about Three Kings Day, here in Spain, and not really understanding what it entailed. I knew the three kings were the three wise men from the Bible, and that was about all I knew of the tradition. I didn't realize there was an entire two-day tradition that went along with the celebration. But, I am always ready to find out, which is exactly what I did.

Night of January 5
We bundle up to go watch the cabalgata de los tres reyes, or parade of the Three Kings. When we arrive, there are already hordes of people lining both sides of the street for about 750m. There are drummers and bands playing music when we arrive, as well as different organizations, dressed in costumes, marching along the street. There are flag twirlers from Italy who are really good, doing tricks with their flags. Then, we hear a loud boom, and a one-minute fireworks display can be seen in the sky.

The parade continues, as real camels pass by, followed by the first float, which has a man and woman on it directing the chants of the children, who call out "Melchor, Gaspar, Baltasar", the names of the three kings. The first king, Melchor shows up on a giant turtle. He and his helpers are throwing candy into the crowd. Next is Gaspar, who is on a giant swan, and he and his helpers are also throwing out candy. The last king, Baltasar, has a float with a giant jaguar, but he is not on top, but rather on the street and greeting people up close and personal. His float is followed by fire twirlers, firefighters, and the end of the parade.

Then to dinner with Emilio's family around 9:30pm. I get to meet his parents, a lovely Peruvian woman and a well-versed-in-life Spanish man, both of whom are very friendly. Also, two of his sisters and their husbands and children attend. One big happy family. We eat dinner around 10:30pm. This is followed by roscón, a gigantic donut with cream filling, fruit on top, with a king inside - for the person who will have great luck for the year, and a bean inside - for the person who has to buy next year's roscón. We follow up a great meal with a very-typical-to-Navarra drink of Basarana, a sweet liquor. After lots of great conversation and food, we head home.

Before we go to bed, I am instructed to leave my shoes under the tree so one of the three kings can fill them with gifts. I wish I had bigger shoes.

Thoughts: It's worth mentioning, like the interesting holiday tradition with Zwarte Pete in Holland, Baltasar in the parade was a white man with black face paint on, since Baltasar was from Arabia or Northern Africa, and I guess they couldn't find a black guy to be in the parade. His helpers were also in black face, men and women.

I didn't even know the name of the three kings. Part of the tradition was explained to me, that you write a letter to your favorite king and ask for what you want them to bring you, and on January 6, it may be in your shoes that you left under the tree. Also, other people can write on your behalf.

The legions of people lined up for the parade

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A Day in San Sebastián

Synopsis: Take a day trip with the Linzoain's to San Sebastián, about an hour drive from Zuasti, where we live. 

Trip: Drive up into Basque country (Euskadi) through the mountains. It is a beautiful sunny day. San Sebastián is on the sea, so we can see the water as we drive downtown in the city. It's Saturday, it's really crowded, and all the parking garages are full. While driving around looking for a parking space, we see almost half of the city. Emilio is like a tour guide and knows everything about the city. He points out the Maria Cristina hotel, where celebrities stay for the festival de San Sebastián (a film festival like Cannes). 

After finding parking, we walk along the pier with an excellent view of the bay and the island in the middle of the bay. It's time for la comida, so we go to three different pintxos bars. At the bars you are supposed to throw your trash (toothpicks and napkins) on the floor, under the bar. I try all kinds of foods that are typical to the area, and I don't ask what any of it is until after I finish it. All the food I try, I like. After, we head to Constitution Square, where we have a coffee. 

From there, we walk along La Concha beach, named so because it is shaped like a shell (concha). We go back onto the boardwalk after passing La Perla, a royal summer house in the early 1900's, and now a public gym, spa, restaurant, and cafe, overlooking the beach. There, we have hot drinks while watching the sunset on the sea, capping off a great day.

"Selfi" is the word of the year in Spain for 2014. We are perpetuating its popularity here in front of the town hall and Monte Urgull 


Sunday, January 4, 2015

Lisbon, Portugal and Madrid, Spain: New Years 2015

Synopsis: Fresh off eating lots of Spanish food for the Christmas holidays, we hit the road again, this time headed to Lisbon, Portugal, before we celebrate New year's in Madrid, Spain.

Just a short drive

Trip Overview:
Day 1: Head out around midday after my parents say goodbye to Virginia and the boys. We said goodbye to Leo the night before since he had to wake up to go to work today. We make good time to Salamanca, listening to the Pentatonix. I didn't realize driving west meant having the sun blind you the whole time - thank God for sunglasses. There is absolutely no one else on the road, on either side of the highway, which makes it easier to disregard the speed limit. As soon as we cross into Portugal, we are suddenly overcome by intense fog.

When entering Portugal on the via verde, you have to use your Visa/Mastercard to register at the first toll, which simply takes a picture of your license plate and then bills your credit card directly, instead of you stopping to pay tolls.

Once we get to downtown, we drive around the block a few times and perform several illegal maneuvers before we find our hotel. As soon as we check-in, we leave the hotel to go to the pharmacy, and now my GPS is officially fired. She (because it's a female voice) has us all over the city and lost. And this isn't the first time on this trip. After we find the pharmacy on our own, like the settlers used to do, we want to stop for food on the way back to the hotel, but nothing is open. We end up ordering the least delicious pizza I've ever had. But I am hungry...

Thoughts: That was a looong drive, but between Portuguese coffee and talking with my parents, the 8 hours flew by quickly.

Almost there

I should email them a copy of this photo

Almost no visibility


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