Fin

Faux- pas’ of the week: I thought I’d get the embarrassing bit out of the way early this week! No, that’s not a misplaced apostrophe; sadly there have been more than one this week and I’ve been making one of them all year!

On Friday, I (finally) learned that in Spanish, there is a personal a used before the names of people, pets and sometimes cities and countries, to show respect. This had never come up in my grammar lectures at Uni – or rather, I’m sure it must have been but since my grammar lectures were taught in Spanish and my Spanish was terrible before coming here, I probably just missed it! Not long after moving here all the way back in September, I did start to notice this a cropping up but assumed it just came before the object of the sentence (which isn’t really as stupid as it sounds – lots of things in languages “Just are!”) and tried to use it like that. It’s not really possible to translate because we don’t have anything similar in English but I suppose I’ve been saying things like “Have you seen my very respectable keys? (Has visto a mis llaves)” and “I’d like a respectable cup of coffee, please! (Quiero a una taza de café por favor)”

My second mistake did, thankfully, occur just this week and was only internally embarrassing! A colleague asked me if I was excited for my despedida. This comes from the verb despedir , which means to fire someone from a job.  I must have looked horrified for the split second it took me to consider that she definitely wouldn’t be so unprofessional or horrible as to say something like that, and as she continued I realised from the context that despedida actually means leaving party! There’s a word I won’t forget!

I’ve had not one, but four leaving parties … and my last day isn’t until Thursday! Of course, the Spanish are famous for knowing how to party and all of them involve good food, drink, sometimes music and (in the case of the one I had with the other teachers, mucho vino!)  The students brought in food and pop but the most touching thing is that all of them seemed to want to include me in their conversations! At this rate, by the time Friday comes, I’m going to have to wedge my hips into the airline seat! My diet has been temporarily abandoned because I don’t want to offend any of the students by not eating the food they’ve made (best excuse I’ve ever had!) and I need to eat as much tortilla as possible while I still can! I went out on both Friday and Saturday nights this weekend, and since Spanish parties are marathon nights out which can last until six or seven in the morning (the fame is well deserved!),  so much dancing must surely have burned off a lot of those extra calories …and don’t anyone tell me otherwise!

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2 It’s not too late for firsts! I tried snails for the first time at my leaving party with the teachers, and they were so good I wish I hadn’t been scared to try them before!

Whilst I’ve really enjoyed the leaving parties, having to say goodbye to people has been really sad. I felt a bit choked up today when I had my final class with one of my favourite groups (teachers shouldn’t have favourites, but they definitely do!) and a little boy presented me with this loaf of bread made especially for me at his father’s bakery. Don’t worry though, I might have spent the best part of a year here but I still have my British stiff upper lip!

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If you’d asked me if I spoke Spanish when I first came here, I’d have said something like “Not really” or “A little bit.” Now, I could answer quite confidently “Yes.” This weekend I was introduced to someone as “my English friend, but she speaks great Spanish” and a teacher said to a class “Madeleine speaks better Spanish than you do!” There were times I cried and times I felt homesick, out of my depth, and like a failure but in the end, it’s all been worth it.

I’ve enjoyed the last couple of months so much that it’s hard to remember those difficult times in October and January, although my less than cheery mood dominated my blog back then. I’m surprised that I still have readers and followers, or that anyone here wanted to be my friend! One girl told me she wasn’t sure I’d come back after my trip home in October, but I’m so glad I did! I’ll look back on my time in Spain with happy thoughts and that’s almost entirely thanks to the support from my friends here and to the teachers at school, as well and family and friends at home. When asked, I say I’d like to stay longer, and I really do mean it!

There are so many things I’m going to miss! Some of them are material, like the cheap coffee, the  pick and mix olive shop, the pinchos and the cheaper but beautiful clothes. (I had to add the clothes bit, or I would have been able to start that sentence “Some of them involve food!”) But other things I’ll miss are things money can’t buy and some are things I’ll never get back. There’s the great friends I’ve made, the feeling of satisfaction when I taught a student to pronounce his h’s… and the same feeling when I rolled my Spanish rr’s for the first time!  There’s having the time, freedom and money (at a squeeze) to spend my entire weekend travelling, partying, sitting in cafes gossiping or watching entire series! There’s the weather (as of about March) and the first view of the mountains as the bus leaves the city.

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There are, of course, things I won’t miss but these are much fewer. I absolutely hate living in a flat. Even if the walls weren’t paper thin and I could get a proper night’s sleep, I still feel cooped up and claustrophobic, like an ant in a little ant farm network.  My school is in a village town so I see the countryside every working day, but when I spend lots of time in Logrono I really miss open spaces. Finally, and it goes without saying that even though I’ve learned to fill it with indoor jobs like doing the washing or thinking of ideas for classes, I will not miss the siesta!

Fin, as I’m sure you all know, means the end. However, it’s not really the end of my European adventure as I’m heading to Germany next Thursday. Whilst I’m going with a fairly good level of German, (at least, compared with the level of Spanish I came to Spain with!) I’m sure there’ll be plenty more faux-pas’ to report!

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21, Spanish style!

 

Hola a todos, I hope you’ll all be pleased to read that I’m still managing to type with my aged fingers! I turned 21 on Thursday in Spanish style! I’m joking about being old but in the UK, 21 is considered a milestone birthday and the age at which, if there was any doubt at 18,you are definitely an adult! The Spanish have a very different view; when I told some colleagues how old I was, they cooed about how young I was and one man said “But you are just a child!”

I was a bit worried about whether I’d enjoy my birthday in a land far, far away (I think I must have seen Star wars and Shrek a few too many times!) from the people and things I love, but I had a really good day! It started well: I opened my cards and presents whilst eating my first birthday cake of the day for breakfast in bed, courtesy of my flatmates (thank you)! A big thank you also to everyone in their different parts of the world who sent birthday love in various ways, I really appreciated it!

Image A card in each of the languages I speak!

As I’ve mentioned before, I usually really enjoy work, so I wasn’t too sad to have to go in on my birthday. I enjoyed it even more than usual thanks to some lovely surprises! These began when I walked into the staffroom to find the other teachers singing happy birthday, which they’d practised in English! They also gave me cards and traditional La Riojan jewellery, which is so thoughtful and was completely unexpected, especially because the Spanish aren’t big card-givers like us!

Also unexpected was the party my sixth-form students threw for me! I walked into their class to find the lights turned off and all of them singing! Already, I thought this was really sweet of them, but when they turned the lights on I saw that they’d all brought in food from home. One boy had even home-made a cake, my second of the day!

A Spanish birthday tradition is to pull the birthday girl’s ears, and this is something I experienced first hand! My ears were pulled once for each of my 21 years! It was a lot less painful than birthday bumps but maybe they were just being nice!

ImageIf you’re interested, this type of party buffet is called a merendola

Perhaps the best suprise came halfway through the class (if I can call it that!) when I was delivered this beautiful bunch of flowers, almost half the size of me, from my family at home! They are looking even more beautiful now more of the lilies have come out!

ImageSadly after all this excitement I did have to take some proper classes!

I had my third and final birthday cake, this time in the form of muffins, at my after-school class. I was really touched that the mum had made them and bought a 21 candle especially! It was a backwards meal because I then went out for pizza and drinks with some friends!

I think it’s fair to say my birthday involved a lot of food, which was extra sweet because I’m supposed to be on a diet! I’d worried that I might feel a bit lonely but that was absolutely not the case!

ImageMy birthday weekend was hot, hot, hot! I spent it really embracing the Spanish siesta, fiesta lifestyle!

…Although I was upstaged by this bride in the club on my night out!Image

 

Un mes más…

I’m now back in Spain after a(nother!) lovely break at home. It was great to really relax and spend some time with family and friends, a lot of whom were at home from uni or working away for the holiday. I had a really great week catching up with them, celebrating my little brother’s birthday, and cheering on York City to a play off place!

I love England and of course I’m glad I spent Easter there, but I do find trips home quite unsettling. I’m not at all unhappy living in Spain, but when I get back to England I forget that I’m contenta and settled here now. I’m reminded of things I forget to miss when I’m here!  It’s not just the people and carpets and the Robinsons squash (though I have lugged two big bottles back with me!) and it’s not just understanding every word on the radio or being served a proper cup of tea! It’s also cider and the Yorkshire accent and lush grass!

I’m from a really small town where everyone knows each other, and when I was younger I couldn’t wait to escape and have some privacy and anonymity. It’s a similar situation in Nottingham; the student community is close and you can play 6 degrees of separation. Now, I’m a very little fish in Logroño’s pond, and I really miss the care and familiarity (and the gossip) from home! The grass is always greener!

Wednesday was 30th April and marked the start of my last month here! Those of you who read my blog from the very beginning (thank you!) and saw my second ever post might be surprised that I’ve made it this far after such a rocky start. I spent a lot of time before Christmas feeling unsettled and a bit homesick and a lot of time after Christmas feeling sad about things that have nothing to do with my being here, and I’m a little bit ashamed of that now. I’m really fortunate to have had the opportunity to live and work in Spain this year, and whilst I think I’ve made the most of it -I’ve travelled and met different people and experienced and learned far more than I expected to, I don’t think I’ve always appreciated how lucky I am. Other than prepping classes and turning up to work to give them, and a minimal amount of uni work, I have very few commitments here. I doubt I’ll ever have so much freedom again, so I’m determined to live it up in my last month here!

Livin’ la vida española

Hola a todos! I’m drafting this late on a rainy Saturday afternoon in Logroño because I’m anticipating a busy week this week! I’m trying to perk myself up with a mug of coffee because I’ve drunk myself into a sleepy state this afternoon …I’ll tell you more about later! Although even if I hadn’t, I might still be drinking coffee because whilst I’m still loyal to tea, coffee has found a space in my life since I moved here. (Don’t worry, afternoon drinking sessions are still quite rare!)

It’s taken me almost six months, but I’ve finally noticed that I really have adapted to living here. I’m now living a strange life that’s not quite Spanish and not quite English either! Drinking coffee is just one of the changes I’ve made, but I don’t think it’s the main one.  Although, saying that, I am now drinking quite a lot of it! I’m a bit worried I’m developing a dependency because I usually have about two every day,  and before the first one I feel exhausted and sluggish. To be honest, I’m more concerned about gaining weight from it than the effects of caffeine, because it’s usually made with full fat milk and, at school, with a generous dash of cream too! I realise this probably makes me a horrible vain person. Here, drinking (always espresso-based) coffee is a social norm. In the same way that we Brits are flummoxed when someone rejects an offer of tea, not drinking coffee is a strange notion to Spaniards.

In the cafeteria at school, the only drinks served are juice cartons for children, weird types of tea in strange flavours like peppermint and fruit  that isn’t actually tea and, of course, coffee. So, really, it’s drink coffee or cry alone (an exaggeration, maybe!). Not only is coffee the social day-drink of choice, it’s also cheap. It’s neither of these things in Britain, so I’ll probably give it up when I come home!

ImageMy favourite coffee of the week because the waitor said “Mi corazón es para ti guapa/ my heart is for you, lovely” which at the time I though was quite sweet, but on reflection might be a little bit creepy!

I drink coffee out of choice, but my timetable has changed out of necessity! Those of you who know me will know how my day revolve around food! My day at school finishes at 3, which means I can’t eat until gone half past – which fits in nicely with siesta time. This puts my day back, so I’m not hungry again until 8 or 9 (actually, I’m always hungry; I have to judge hunger by when I absolutely have to eat again!).

I’ve also adapted my diet. I’m proud to say that I haven’t had any more food parcels recently, and I can’t remember the last time I ate gravy! Fruit and vegetables are incredibly cheap here and I get most of my protein from eggs and fish. I’m trying to learn to cook Spanish omelette (the one with potatoes) but all of my attempts have failed so far!

You, my friends and family, will probably be able to judge this from a better perspective, but I think my attitude to life and perhaps even my personality has changed too. I think I’m more self confident and assertive – if you can get by on a second (or in my case, third) language, you can do anything …and after you’ve made some of the mistakes I have, there’s not much that can embarrass you! Having the occasional shop or cafe worker try to overlook me or do me over (or worse, look down their nose at me) because  they think they can get away with it because I have a foreign accent and imperfect Spanish has taught me to stand up for myself and be more assertive.

So I’m not the doormat I perhaps was before, but in many ways I’m more relaxed. Although I can’t bear not to be punctual, I’ve realised that being five minutes late isn’t the end of the world, which everyone here almost always is and which is something that really grated on me to start with. When in Spain..! I’ve learned to let things go, too. Living in a cheaply-built flat means that I’m surrounded by noise from every angle. For months I nagged my flatmates to keep the doors shut and not speak loudly at night …they didn’t remember, so I bought some ear plugs. Although, when my neighbour downstairs was playing music really loudly with a window open, I opened my window and played the same song with a 5 second delay… HA.

And voila, I’m Spanish …not quite!

A potential fau-pas of the future might be calling the club the disco, which I’ve started to do when I speak Spanish! In Spanish, it’s la discoteca, which must be where it’s come from! This needs to be resolved before I get back to England – it’s embarrassing!

A lot of my spare time this week has been dedicated to my year abroad essay, but on Saturday a lovely teacher I work with invited me to a traditional Spanish lunch. She lives in a beautiful old house in the equally beautiful village of Navarette, which is just outside Logroño. It’s such a small thing but it was really nice to be in a house again. Logroño’s 7-storey flats make me feel cramped like a little ant in an ant hill sometimes.

We drank Vermouth outside a bar before it started raining. In Spain, Vermouth is not served as shots but in big cups! After two glasses, my Spanish was flowing very naturally, and then we went to her home for food and wine from her very own wine cellar! I’d mentioned that I hadn’t had Spain’s famous sangria (which no one actually drinks and is marketed to tourists!) since I came to La Rioja and she’d made me some specially, which was lovely. My friend and her boyfriend are great chefs and made some delicious tapas (which is my favourite type of food!) as well as a sort-of paella made with pasta. Needless to say, I didn’t need dinner on Saturday!

The group of people at the lunch were, like almost all the Spaniards I know, very friendly and accommodating. Although I know they probably spoke more slowly and clearly than normal for me, I was very proud because I was able to understand almost absolutely everything and comment exactly what and when I wanted.  This was one of the first situations I’ve felt completely comfortable in a group situation here, and where I’ve felt I was able to express the real me!

ImageImageThe pictures don’t do this justice- it spans half of the street! ImageImageImage

I’m going to finish by dishing out a dose of cuteness! My colleague and friend, whose name is Emi, recently took in a stray cat. She didn’t know it was pregnant and it’s since had kittens. As of Saturday they were just 5 days old. I don’t even like cats that much – I’m much more of a dog person – but these were just the tiniest and sweetest things!

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Beautiful Burgos

Hello and hola from sunny Spain! Since the beginning of the month, the weather has been getting ever better here. The Spaniards are saying that “Spring” has come but it hit 26 Celsius on Saturday, and we definitely don’t have a chance of feeling temperatures like that until the middle of summer in England!

I don’t want to make anyone at home jealous (sorry, not sorry!) but my guiri (non-Spanish) friends and I spent a lot of the last weekend in a sun-induced euphoria, lying out in sleeveless tops and shorts in the park, eating ice-cream and making daisy-chain headdresses (okay, that last one may have been just me!) ….

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… whilst most Spanish people walked past in thick winter coats, scarves and even hats, and looked at us as if were mad. Perhaps I still need some more to acclimatise, but I don’t think people here appreciate nice weather enough. They should know that many Brits pay a lot of money to go somewhere like Spain so they can take some clothes off!

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Logroño feels like a completely different ( or better!) city now that the sun has come out. Despite the weather giving my mood a huge lift and allowing me to spend more time outside, after almost three entire weeks here I felt the cabin fever starting to set in again so on Sunday I decided to adventure out to Burgos.

Because my friends were already busy or had already been, poor Maddie-no-mates (all together now, awww) went to Burgos alone, so please excuse me for the selfies I took to prove I went. You’ll have to let me off for the one above; I don’t have an excuse for that!

Burgos is a beautiful old walled city in Castile. People here had warned me that due to its high altitude, Burgos is famously cold. Some of you may remember the time I went to an incredibly rainy San Sebastian without an umbrella and spent majority of the trip trying to keep warm and dry in bars; determined not to make a repeat of this, I layered up with lots of jumpers, a scarf and gloves. Perhaps because it was so sunny there too, or perhaps because of the amount and pace of walking I did, I ended up lugging most of it around in my rucksack. Better safe than sorry, I suppose!

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First stop was the cathedral. As you’re about to see, it wasn’t difficult to find because it’s so big that it takes up most of the old town! It’s a very imposing building and looked really beautiful in the sunshine. When I was young, almost every family holiday involved a visit to a cathedral or old church, which at the time I didn’t appreciate as much as I should have and as I now, with the gift of hindsight, do. How my twelve or thirteen year old self would laugh if she knew I’d go voluntarily when I was a bit older!Excluding St Paul’s, of course, this is one of the biggest and most impressive cathedrals I’ve seen.

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Whilst my brother and I were fairly dispassionate towards many aspects of  many of the churches and cathedrals we visited, we had a strange, macabre fascination with the relics of dead saints in some of them, (I like to think that this is normal and human, or at least child-like!) and I now remember the buildings by who was there – so to speak! Particularly memorable is a trip to a church in Lucca, Italy, which is “home” to the entire, preserved body of St Zeta, who is actually taken out and paraded in her glass coffin once a year …but that’s a different story!

We (my brother and I, not Zeta) would have had a field day in Burgos cathedral; there are so many tombs! Most famously, the cathedral houses some of the remains of El Cid, a medieval military leader and heroic protagonist of many Spanish legends.

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The interior of the cathedral is beautiful so I’ve put a lot of pictures up! The Dome is said to be the most beautiful example of Renaissance architecture in all of Spain. Philip 2nd said it must the the work of angels, not men – see, I was listening to the audio guide!

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The altar piece is Classical and the chapel is Gothic (I 100% remember when these periods were…). The really colourful ceiling was remodelled in the 18th century in horror vacui baroque style, which, as we all of course know, means fear of emptiness. Have a look at the picture below – it is fitting!

If I’m honest, the vast majority of what I’ve writted above and was said in the audio guide was way above me, but I feel like you should at least pretend to know about what you blog about, so  I went to the effort of making notes just for you, lovely readers, so I hope you appreciate it!

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These are only a small selection from the photos I took; the cathedral is so big that I spent a larger-than-expected portion of the day there. However, this was only in part due to its size and in another (large) part to being made to walk through the museum and art-galleries before you could leave. The museum was filled mostly with these ancient stone heads. I tried very hard to maintain my interest but, let’s be honest, there are only so many time-ravaged faces you can marvel at before you they all start to look the same and boredom sets in.

ImageHow did they work out  who he was supposed to be?

There was an art gallery with some more tapestries and another final one with modern religious sculptures, which I quite liked:

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After eventually leaving the museum, I ventured further into the town to find some lunch. Burgos is famous for its morcilla, which is sausage made with blood and oatmeal – a bit like black pudding. I’m ashamed to say I didn’t try any, but I really don’t like black pudding, so I played it safe with patatas bravas!

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After lunch I headed for the castle. The castle was, as you might expect, at the top of the hill! In the hot weather, with a heavy rucksack, it felt like a trek, so you can imagine the disappointment I felt when I got to the top and fount that it was closed for siesta! At least there was a cafe outside so I could revive myself with coffee while I waited!

ImageThat arrow is not used lightly!

You can imagine my even further disappointment when I entered to castle to find that it wasn’t worth the wait! The castle was destroyed by the moors, rebuilt, and they destroyed again buy the French in the Revolution, which is very interesting but meant that what’s left of the building is not very impressive! Since I’d walked all the way up there, and waited, I took some pictures. Here are the best ones:

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On the plus side, halfway up the mountain was a viewing platform which gave amazing views over the town. I chose a great day visibility-wise so I could see for miles! Underneath the platform was a glass-fronted nightclub with infinity views over the vista, which probably makes for a great night but sadly I didn’t stay the night to find out as I had to work on Monday. It’s probably the coolest nightclub I haven’t been to!

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Another week is now in full swing, but don’t worry – I’m won’t be working too hard tomorrow because we’re going to see an English play that’s touring Spain!

Hasta luego!

Lost in translation

I dedicate a lot – many people say the best bits (hmph) – of my blog to the embarrassing messes I make of trying to use the beautiful Spanish language. This week, I thought I’d show you how Spain returns the favour! Here are some pictures of things that have made me laugh, or at least smile, thanks to their use of language:

imageNot quite Banksy…

This graffiti near where I work

Punk is not …dead?

Apparently I need to work on spelling and pronunciation with my students -and good citizenship!

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This sign outside a cafe-bar advertising “Noches de coctel”

I’ve managed to keep it fairly light until now, but my blog is about to get educational! (Sorry)

Cóctel” is actually the legitimate translation for “Cocktail”, and is pronounced almost identically. However, the spelling has been changed so that it can be read phonetically in Spanish. It’s a fairly new loan-word,which is a word that was “invented” in English and is used in other languages too. Other examples are “Breikdans (breakdance)”, “Béicon (bacon)” and “Fútbol (you can work this one out yourselves)!”  It’s not that strange to see written, but it’s really funny when having a conversation with someone or listening to the radio in Spanish and up pops a heavily accented English word, so reading them makes me think of this and smile too!

(This also works vice versa, for example our use of the Spanish word “Siesta.” Also, it’s thought that “Alligator”comes from the Spanish “El lagarto.”)

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This cheese

Thank you to my friend Anna for finding this one. “The laughing cow” is translated into Spanish as “La vaca que ríe (the cow that laughs).” I don’t really think it has the same ring to it.

imageummmm, what?

This t-shirt

I think something got lost in translation here!

It seems to be a fashion here to wear t-shirts with English slogans on them. However, I don’t think the shops do very much research or proofing because I see some fairly strange combinations of words! (No photos, sorry, I don’t want to be a weirdo taking pictures of strangers!) I’m sometimes asked by children to translate the words on their t-shirts and have to make something up because I don’t have the heart to tell them that it doesn’t make sense or is grammatically wrong! I had a moral dilemma once as to whether I should tell a sweet little 11-year-old that her “Pop my cherry” t-shirt was entirely inappropriate! I decided against it because I couldn’t face explaining what it meant to her. I’m pretty sure her parents had no idea what it meant (I hope), and I doubt many other people around here do either.

photo (2)Sistem – SYstem!

 

The writing on the window of this hairdresser

If you are a Spanish hairdresser living in Spain and you don’t speak English well … why write on your show window in bad English!?

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This is off-topic, but there is a bread company called Bimbo here in Spain. It doesn’t have the same meaning in Spanish (in fact, it doesn’t have a meaning at all) but every time I see a van or a sign with Bimbo on it, it makes me smile!

Have a good week, pasalo bien!

Pancakes vs Parties

Happy Pancake day everyone! It’s been a while since my last blog post, but I’ve been busy celebrating the start of Lent the traditional English way at home, as well as the Spanish way back in Logroño this weekend. I’ve got two weeks’ worth of news so I’ll try to be concise!

Pancake day is probably my third favourite religious festival, closely following Christmas and Easter (though I’m still undecided as to whether or not chocolate trumps pancakes). For any non-English readers, Pancake Day (or Shrove Tuesday) is the last day before Lent. Traditionally, Christians would fast during Lent, so they would make pancakes the day before to use all the eggs and milk which would go-off. Nowadays, people don’t fast, but they still make pancakes!

Every year, my Dad mixes up and fries his famous (in our family, at least) batter and we race to eat as many as we can (…I really hope other families do this, and don’t think we’re greedy!) So I didn’t miss out this year, we held a “Shrove Monday” and held our  “Annual Pitkin Pancake Competition” (we don’t actually call it this… but we should!) while I was at home last weekend!Image

I had a lovely and relaxing time at home with my family. Aside from eating too many pancakes, I also managed to eat too much Mexican food with my friends, cheer York City on to a not-at-all-disappointing 0-0 draw and almost get blown off the moors.

ImageGirl vs Food (Food won)

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To beat the post-home blues I’ve had each time I’ve returned to Spain before, I’ve been keeping really busy since I got back here. On Friday, I treated myself to a session at the fantastically cheap municipal spa. It doesn’t have all the frills you’d expect at an expensive spa – the robes and slippers, champagne, fruit etc, but it did have steam rooms, a sauna and a jacuzzi and only cost 8 euros for two hours! A quick trip could become a frequent indulgence!

Going to the spa was quite an experience. Spanish ladies have a lot of body-confidence and absolutely no qualms about nudity. (Before anyone gets hopeful, there are no photos of my spa trip!) There are no individual changing or shower rooms, just one big wet room. Lots of women were strutting around in their birthday suits – and many of them certainly wouldn’t fit into Bershka jeans! Good for them, I thought, until one lady struck up conversation with me whilst changing and I had to struggle to keep eye contact. She completely forgot about getting dressed and looked at me pityingly as I tried to do the knicker-trick (anyone who ever swam competetively will know what this is, but for anyone else: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Knicker%20Trick).

So you don’t have to cover your body, but you do have to cover your head! It’s obligatory to wear a special silk spa hat, which I didn’t have so I worsened my Spanish and cried poor little foreign girl until I was taken pity on and lent one (I am a little bit ashamed of this)! I thought the reason might be to stop loose hair coming out in the swimming pool, but some women just wear their hair down and balance the hat on their heads. Strange.

Also, there is no queueing for the rooms and no one seems to follow the rule that once a room is full, you can’t use it. The sauna, in particular got very squashed, and even hotter than it would have otherwise been!

Saturday was the day of carnaval, which is probably Spain’s pancake day equivalent. Lent is welcomed here with a party, of course! Everyone dresses up (anything goes, literally!) to take part in or watch the parade and then it’s out to the bars and the clubs! I’d intended to watch the end of the parade and the prize giving, but because the weather was absolutely horrible the participants were speed-marched around the city and finished ahead of schedule, so I missed it. However, here’s a picture a friend sent me:

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My friends and I had an animal theme. I was a ladybird:

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My outfit got two outings because I was also invited to a carnaval dinner hosted by one of the teachers I work with. We had octopus (octopuses, octopi?), which I was a bit wary of but which were absolutely delicious! It’s encouraging that I was able to follow the majority of the conversation, even after a few glasses of vino!

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Faux-pas of the week: In between having all this fun, I’ve also had to go to work! In one of my classes of five students I held a competition where each child had to speak for as long as possible about a picture. I wrote their initials vertically on the board, ready to put the times next to: PINAS, which made them giggle. “Yes,” I said, thinking they hadn’t outsmarted me, “It says pineapples.” But no, I found out, piñas means pineapples and pinas is a slang term for something eleven year olds shouldn’t know very much about. Oops.